VOY: S4E08: “Year of Hell: Part 1”

In which a throwaway line pays off, things develop differently, and Janeway masters the humblebrag. 

You can tell it's fiction because this claw machine actually held on to something.

You can tell it’s fiction because this claw machine actually held on to something.

Today is Day 1, and we are treated to a delightful vista of a civilization balancing urban development with green spaces pretty nicely until, overhead, an ominous claw-shaped weapon charges up and fires a bean that erases the whole city as if it had never been via temporal reversal. Red Foreman presides over the weapon, but the ‘target event’ has not been achieved by erasing this colony from time. They did some calculations to achieve this, but it wasn’t enough, so his plan is to go to that civilizaiton’s homeworld and erase them from time completely.

After the credits, Janeway and Chakotay speechify to Harry, Seven and for some reason Neelix about their brand new Stellar Cartography lab. It’s based on a combination of Starfleet and Borg technology that takes measurements from three billion stars at once and measures Voyager‘s distance from the center of the Galaxy, thus giving them a better measure of their absolute position. The new precision allows them to calculate a route that will shave an estimated five years off the journey, taking them down to about 55 years (after Kes’ boost). It’s worth noting that this route goes around the center of the galaxy, probably because nobody really wants to meet god.

The upcoming region of space is controlled by the Zahl, which is the species Mr. Foreman wanted to exterminate. The Zahl were prime targets for the Borg – advanced and non-military. They’re all saved from the Doctor giving a speech by a new vessel firing on Voyager with limited effect. He’s the same species as Red and therefore of the time weapon, and calls his people the Krenim. Sound familiar? Anyway, Janeway insults him by belittling his claim to the disputed space, then his ship and by extension his genitals. The Zahl, however, are indeed friendly and Federation-like. They fought a war with the Krenim, whose ships and science are all based on temporal science, and they won and took back the disputed space. When the Krenim show up to gloat at Janeway, it’s at the same time a massive, five-light-year distortion blinks the Zahl ships out of existence, the Krenim ship some massive upgrades, and Voyager some battle damage. At least one of the crew is already dead. The Krenim commandant is a lot more imperious and smug now that he’s a member of an Imperium instead of a few scattered nomads. Oh, and this act ends with Janeway  implying that it’s been a really bad week.

So I guess my real question, at this point, is as follows: How do you have ‘temporal-based’ technology good enough to classify as a weapon but not good enough to win a war outright? Was it just a particle-palette-swap of standard directed energy weapons? Chronitons instead of Nadions? That may be it, actually – the Krenim torpedoes  are passing through Voyager’s shields as though they weren’t there because of temporal flux. This should also sound familiar. Voyager is now in retreat, mostly flying blind.

Red Foreman is in his room on the weapon ship, despairing over a preserved lock of hair. He’s not satisfied with their success so far. The Krenim empire now spans just under a thousand worlds over sixteen thousand light-years. More to the point, they did so without incurring the apparent risk of temporal paradox. Hence the calculations, as opposed to just zapping things out of existence willy-nilly. Sadly, however, one particular colony wasn’t restored, as it’s outside the borders of the Imperium in this timeline. So the mission continues, despite coming so close to perfect success that further incursions are far more likely to tip the balance against them. Never put a grief-stricken maniac in charge of your temporal superweapon.

Another question I have at this point, based on their discussion of how ‘long’ it could take to restore the timeline. It sounds like they’ve been working this angle for longer than just two attempts, so there’s an epistomological rabbit trail we could follow here, in the question: How do we know the timeline Voyager ran into, with the Zahl in ascendancy, was the ‘prime’ timeline? The answer? The weapon ship is apparently insulated against the normal effects of the spacetime shifts, as it would need to be, so whichever timeline it was built in ought to be prime, as far as the Krenim are concerned.

"Can't you people clean up after yourselves?"

“Can’t you people clean up after yourselves?”

Voyager is on day 32 of its traversal of the Krenim Imperium, and things are not going well. There are several holes in the hull, they’ve never been able to modify the shields, and phasers are down. Janeway deploys four of the remaining 11 torpedoes like mines, and they manage to destroy the Krenim ship just as deck five, including Sick bay, are about to blow, and the Doctor has to kill two people to save the ship.

At least Chakotay can joke about it when he goes to consult with Janeway. His council is abandoning Voyagerfor shuttle and escape pods, and rendezvous outside Krenim space. Janeway absolutely refuses to break up the crew like this, although per recent experiences it’s clear she’d rather kill everyone than let them take their chances alone. How long that’s going to last is unclear, since two more Krenim warships show up to finish the job.

Day 47, and Torres is stuck in a broken turbolift with. Harry, playing trivia. 20th century movie trivia is a category, as is sports. Adding to the mystique of Paresis Squares, the only Klingon ever to play strangled a referee. Harry is either a sports and entertainment buff, or just a trivia dweeb. This has all been to distract Torres from a pretty bad wound. Bad enough that she can’t name the ship that led to First Contact. Seven gets the doors open eventually, and answers the question based on the Borg presence in Montana.

The next adaptation to save Voyager is bulkhead force fields, which seems a bit iffy to me. You’ve already got power going out all over the ship, but we think the force fields will hold up during another attack? I suppose it’s better than nothing and worth a try. Paris was inspired by the design of the Titanic. Meanwhile, Seven goes to check on a bulkhead to find an unexploded temporal torpedo. If you don’t remember by now, Kes once had a case of the back-in-time-plague because of radiation from this thing (which she wasn’t present for, apparently) and needed the readings from this torpedo to cure herself so she could go back to the right place in time instead of dying of old age with Memento Amensia at nine. Now, instead, Seven’s the one to examine it.

The Doctor schools Paris in emotional detachment once Torres is stabilized, and Tom has to counsel the Doctor about having to leave two crew behind in the Sick bay explosion. At about this time, Seven is getting readings off the torpedo to perfect the temporal shielding, and both she and Tuvok seem to die when the torpedo explodes. Don’t feel bad, though – there wasn’t time for them to enact Tuvok’s plan to save the deck anyway.

Days later, the replicators have been taken out, seven decks are out of comission, and everyone is bunking up and eating emergency rations on what remains of the ship. Today is Janeway’s birthday, and Chakotay got her a pocket-watch, a replica of a famous watch that some British naval officer had when he sailed what was left of his ship home after a typhoon wrecked it. Even though he replicated it months ago, Janeway still has to recycle it into a meal or a medical supply or something.

Tuvok is shaving with an honest-to-god blade, and also appears to have been blinded in the torpedo explosion. Seven is now his personal assitant in addition to her duties. She’s come up with an innovation that might work and which involves (of course) the deflector array. Seven is also learning to adapt to having a human roommate, and she and Tuvok bond over how slovenly humans are. More Krenim ships approach, and Tuvok goes to the bridge while Seven goes to Deflector control to bring the new shields online.

"I don't care if I get labeled as Ableist, I gotta say something about this eventually."

“I don’t care if I get labeled as Ableist, I gotta say something about this eventually.”

So… Tuvok is blind, but still runs Tactical. The console has a tactile interface that allows him to work. I imagine reconfigurable braille-type pins under the console, but it could just as easily be some sort of incredibly fine force field technology that conveys information through varying intensity and patterns of electrical tingling. Seven gets the shields up just in time to fend off the latest attack, and now Janeway decides she’s in a good enough position to start pushing back.

Meanwhile, the Krenim weapon ship is about to erase another species from existence. The temporal wave spreads outwards, and Red Foreman monitors the wave as it goes outwards. 20 light-years out, it hits Voyager. The new temporal shielding holds, and they watch the Krenim ship shrink back down to the lesser model. The temporal change seems to have de-escalated things, and now Janeway’s got a clue, so they need to get Astrometrics back up and running to study the changes.

On the weapon ship, the lieutenant indicates that the Krenim Imperium has reverted to a pre-warp state, which makes the existence of that Krenim ship out by Voyager very confusing indeed. They blame it on the anomalous presence of Voyager‘s temporal shielding, which messed with the Krenim calculations.

On Day 70, Seven gets Astrometics back up to study the changes to the timeline, and localize it to the Gariner homeworld, which in this timeline is no longer populated. This twigs our heroes to the nature of the changes. And although Janeway claims to be no expert in time travel, a direct contradiction to when she shot down Paris a few years earlier:

Getting there is the easy part, Mister Paris. We need someone who’s familiar with the finer points of temporal mechanics, and unless you’ve been hiding your credentials, I don’t think that’s you. B’Elanna, you’re with me. The Bridge is yours, Commander.

Anyway, now she’s thought better of it or maybe she’s just bragging, but she’s competent enough to teach a former Borg with the datalogs of the First Contact event a thing or two. Red Foreman’s Weapon Ship, meanwhile, swoops in to grab samples of the crew and the hull and ready another temporal incursion to remedy the problem posed by Voyager. Oh, and Red Foreman’s name is Annorax, which I will only use at this point because it’s shorter. He seems to be at least partially apologetic as he levels the weapon at Voyager to push them out of the timeline, and they have to scamper, risking widespread damage to the ship and abandoning Paris and Chakotay.

Three days later,  with the ship basically reduced to scaffolding, Janeway orders an abandon-ship for the crew. The Senior Staff will stay on board to try to rescue Tom and Chakotay, and to pick up the rest of the crew if they succeed. Voyager  is now, more or less, a hulk.

To Be Continued

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