VOY: S3E21: “Before and After”

In which an interesting time travel puzzle is created, and then ruined. 

In a hilarious bait-and-switch, the monster-of-the-week is not a temporal anomaly, but a holographic parasite that disguises itself as hair.

In a hilarious bait-and-switch, the monster-of-the-week is not a temporal anomaly, but a holographic parasite that disguises itself as hair.

The Doctor’s voice can be heard in the darkness. Something about a bio-temporal chamber. When ‘she’ (who is clearly Kes, for reasons I will mention in a moment) wakes up, there are new adult crew, including a science officer with Ocampa ears who says ‘she’ is her mother. Oh, and the Doctor has hair. When they bring the bio-temporal chamber online, there’s a white flash, and the youngest person present brings Grandma Kes a gift.

Sadly, Old Kes either has dementia, or is a victim of whatever weird time shenanigans necessitated the coining of the term ‘bio-temporal chamber, and does not recognize her grandson Andrew. Oh hey, the Doctor has a name now, as well. Doctor Van Gogh. She barely even recognizes Sick Bay, though, so dementia is clearly at play in some capacity. She also seems to be remembering bits and pieces of things out of order. Maybe she’s aging backwards. Also, Chakotay is captain and Kes is nine years old and at the end of her life, in rapid decay – she was perfectly healthy a few weeks ago, but the Ocampa end-0f-life decay is exceptionally rapid. Kes suddenly gets an intense anti-fever, has another flash, and wakes up in her bed with slightly less age-makeup on. So definitely aging backwards now.

She’s in her quarters, and her daughter and grandson are finishing their present. The mom sends Grandson Andrew to go get Kes’ husband and son-in-law, so we’re going to get to see which of the crew was willing to boink Kes’ daughter. Judging by Andrew, I’m guessing it was Harry Kim. And judging by Paris’ off-screen voice in an earlier scene, I’m guessing Linis is Tom’s daughter too. So since Kes is obviously aging backwards now because of the bio-temporal chamber, I’m sure we’ll get to see the scene where Tom is pointedly cleaning a phaser rifle while Harry asks his best friend for permission to date his four-year-old daughter.

Oh look I was right.

Among the indicators of aging, by the way, are that every scene, Doctor Van Gogh keeps talking about how she’s lost n% of her memory engrams, where n is a progressively lower number the farther back into the past we go. Now the Doctor starts to discuss his experimental treatment to use time travel to de-age her body and extend her life another year. Also, Harry tries to calm his wife down by explaining that if she was in the final stages of dementia, he wouldn’t respect her bodily autonomy either. She experiences another cold flash and vanishes back to her ninth birthday, at which Neelix is a Starfleet officer, or at least a full crewmember, and a security officer, now that Tuvok has been made Commander.

Yeah, you and me both, Kes.

Yeah, you and me both, Kes.

Kes is starting to move backwards into lucidity, and figuring out that something is going on. She gets the Doctor to believe her by mentioning the bio-temporal chamber, which the Doctor only came up with that morning. Based on the information at hand, they have to work hard to come up with an alternative hypothesis to the obvious one. Kes’ next plan is to backtrace through the records of her life to see if she can piece anything else together. She finds a trace of radiation poisoning that happened at the start of Voyager‘s Year of Hell, as it came to be known, when they were under constant attack by the Krenim and almost all died. A lot of people did die, including Torres. Her death sent Paris right into Kes’ arms, which gives us an increasingly narrowing timeline for when this happens, assuming Kes doesn’t alter the timeline when this entire episode gets erased from continuity once they fix the problem. Thus, I find it somewhat difficult to muster up enthusiasm for the events presented.

The Krenim attack used Chroniton Torpedoes, which passed through the shields because they were in a state of temporal flux, and she got chroniton-radiation poisoning. Right as they go to explain this to the Doctor, Kes flashes back to the birth of her grandson Andrew, and will have to explain the whole thing again. Thankfully, we skip the part where everyone doesn’t believe her. This is in part because too young to have dementia now and knows most of what’s going on. Now, Doctor Van Gogh finds residual chroniton radiation, which was activated by the bio-temporal chamber. Now that they know this, you’d think that the Doctor could decide not to continue with the treatment, but that’s not exciting, so instead they’ll purge Kes of the radiation using the specific setting and frequency of the torpedo radiation. Since they don’t have that information, Kes will just have to get it on her trip back and hope that she doesn’t overshoot Year of Hell completely. In the service of keeping Kes around until they can make some progress, Doctor Van Gogh (who doesn’t actually have his name yet, and may have just settled on it instead of Mozard because Kes blurted it out) shuts her up in a containment chamber. It doesn’t work, but this time we can watch her fade out, and wake up on a shuttlecraft, having her baby.

They are on their way back to Voyager, which is under attack and badly damaged. This is, in fact, the Year of Hell itself, which is super convenient. Assuming they can figure out how to get the right scans this time, they’ll be able to solve the issue on her next jump. But unfortunately, before that can happen, she makes her jump to the past, back to a time when Torres and Janeway were alive, right at the start of Year of Hell, and Kes gives them all the information she’s gained from the future. Oh, and I guess I spoke too soon when I said Torres and Janeway were alive. Kes brings a snippet back which allows Voyager to target the torpedo launcher and destroy it, only with more science.

Also, it’s worth noting now that if Kes hadn’t told them how to destroy the launcher, Voyager wouldn’t have survived. Which means that the first time around, Kes would have had to already been ‘overwritten’ by her future backwards-aging self in order for Voyager to have a future where she gets irradiated and sent backwards to deliver the message. And yet, every time she flashed forwards, she had to re-explain her temporal displacement to an increasingly-disbelieving audience even though by the end of it everyone should have been all “oh, this is when the temporal flashbacks that you’ve been having for your entire life start, isn’t it?” All I’m looking for is a little internal consistency here, is that too much to ask?

So, if this torpedo didn't have an explosive warhead, what's doing all the damage to the ship such that it couldn't have survived another hit?

So, if this torpedo didn’t have an explosive warhead, what’s doing all the damage to the ship such that it couldn’t have survived another hit?

The good news is that this is when Kes got irradiated, and she has a working tricorder and is therefore able to scan herself and memorize the readings, so we don’t have to rely on anything so banal as “tell Janeway to go around the territory full of hostile xenophobic time-travel murder aliens.” Instead, she’ll go towards the radiation, thereby exposing herself to the massive dose that the bio-temporal chamber will later trigger, and probably flash back to earlier right before she dies of radiation poisoning. Frankly, she should isntead just be lucky that the jeffries tube it’s in is plugged from vacuum by the torpedo, despite appearances to the contrary. The good news is that she gets the reading before passing out and flashing backwards. Now that they’re pre-Year of Hell, six years before her death, we get a recap of the whole thing, and Torres explains that they’re going to construct another bio-temporal chamber, blast her with calibrated anti-chronitons, and finally finish this massive gave of time-travel-pong where Kes is the ball.

Kes does take the opportunity to tell Janeway about the Krenim and the timetable (six months) when Voyager will enter that region. So look out for that. Also, in the bio-temporal chamber, the Doctor says that Kes’ body temperature is at 12 degrees. I’m assuming Celsius and that reflects a lowered body temperature for the anti-chroniton treatment (which would explain her suddenly lowered body temperature before the time-flashes, sort of) but I’ll let you do the conversion yourself. Even still, she should probably be out cold, not conscious and lucid, for the treatment.

The treatment almost works, but Kes flashes backwards before it can be completed, to when Neelix is bargaining for passage on Voyager. Before she can explain, she flashes again, and is back in the Ocampa compound, so young she has a different actress. Then back to her birth, leading to a 24th century revival of the 1989 ‘classic’ Look Who’s Talking. Her next series of flashes has her slowly going back to fetal development, then bouncing forwards again, only with events playing out slightly differently, until she comes to in sick bay again, finishing the treatment and her body temperature stabilizing at 16.3 degrees, and stable in time too.

In the aftermath, Neelix gets the idea, from Kes, to become a security officer. Most of the crew agree that they don’t want to know gossip about their personal lives, but she does agree to make a report on the Krenim, leaving the party to do so, because “there’s no time like the present.”

Did we miss something awesome?