In which the best episode of Voyager so far gets erased from continuity with literally zero takeaway.
Last time on Voyager, Red Foreman / Annorax was in command of a weapon ship for the pathetic Krenim remnants, and by erasing rival civilizations, turned it into the mighty Krenim empire. Then, one of their calcualtions was messed up by a badly-beaten Voyager with some time shielding. Voyager barely escaped and Janeway ordered the crew to abandon ship and head for home, and the senior staff would attempt to keep the ship running and Save the Day.
It is now day 133 of the Year of Hell, and they’re hiding out in a nebula whose gasses are leaking into the ship through the ventilation system. Kim and Janeway barely manage to fix it, and get berated by the Doctor. They should really set something up so he can broadcast what he sees to an engineer, for situations where the only dangerous element is lack of air or something, because Janeway burned her lungs on nebular gasses, but if you think that’s going to stop her then you havee’t met Janeway.
You may recall that Chakotay and Paris were abducted by the Krenim to take a sample of their Temporal Signature. After fifty days in lockup (during which Chakotay has managed to grow about three-quarters of a five-o-clock shadow) but they let him shave before they take him to Annorax for hopefully-breakfast and an interrogation/debriefing. The breakfast includes unique foods, probably from deleted timelines, but neither Chakotay nor Tom are particularly grateful. Next, he offers to use the time weapon to send Voyager home, since he sees their mission to reach home as akin to his quest for temporal genocide to restore the colony where his family used to live. Or it’s a ruse to get enough information out of them to track down Voyager in order to destroy it. Amusingly, Tom takes the principled stand, and Chakotay checks in on the pragmatics of how to fix the timeline without harming anyone.
The current crew of Voyager includes what’s left of the senior staff, neelix, and Seven. Neelix has turned ration cubes into a nutrient shake, which is not enhanced by Talaxian spices. The ship is at least three weeks out from having a functioning warp drive, but Janeway decides that warp drive and defenses can go hang.
Janeway Seven points out that that’s the stupidest thing possible, and gets educated in shipboard etiquette. Obvious stupidity of the philosophy that ‘the captain is always right’ it’s fine as an introductory tool for someone who’s still learning to synthesize individuality with a hierarchical authority.
Chakotay is helping Annorax track what caused Voyager to enter Krenim space – a comet that they course-corrected to avoid (why?). The simulation vastly reorders the timeline to wipe out all live within 50 light-years, more-or-less confirming the panspermia theory for this part of space. For all his temporal genocide, Annorax is wise enough to learn from the past mistakes he made which led to him wiping out the timeline that contained his family. His use of it against their ancient enemy, the Rilnar, caused a disease that would otherwise have been stopped by a Rilnar antibody to wipe out a bunch of Krenim colonies. Butterfly effect in action. And there’s a run at making him sympathetic because at least the people he disappears don’t suffer, since they never existed. But the problem with building a weapon ship is that it can’t bring things back. For a surgical weapon, the temporal weapon ship is quite a bludgeon. But hey, good news – Chakotay’s become trusted enough to get a look inside the Temporal Core of the weapon.
Voyager, defenseless, is about to be taken out by micrometeors. This is the kind of thing that the Deflector would normally prevent beneath the level of notice, but since the Deflector is down and has no power, Janeway goes down to try to fix it. The room is on fire, so she’s got to brave the flames, and offers a little prayer to the ship. She manages to get the deflectors up, but suffers severe burns. She’s not dead and the Doctor can heal it all up except for a nasty/badass facial scar, but isn’t physically out of commission long enough to prevent terrible decision-making, so the Doctor has to medically ground her. In retaliation, she threatens to kill him. He officially relieves her of command, to which her response is ‘just try to enforce it.’ Here’s an idea – next time she does something reckless and needs medical attention, just keep her doped to the gills. She walks Neelix around taking stock of the damage, and they stop to weep silently over the damage to Chakotay’s quarters, including the damage to the gravity plating. She also finds the watch he gave her and which she ordered him to recycle.
Tom has learned to play the Krenim favorite board game Chess analog, using an endgame sequence that his partner’s brother used to favor, before said brother was killed by the plague and then wiped from existence. Tom and Chakotay still seem to be bent on resistance, but have settled in to cover for the time being. Tom wants to take out the Temporal Core in order to destroy the weapon ship, and even believes some of the crew might help based on their disconent with the two-century mission that’s going nowhere fast. Chakotay seems to have bought into collaboration, and even threatens to start punching again. However, Chakotay’s defense of Annorax as an enlightened man is immediately refuted as he goes to wipe out a civilization for a 52% restoration.
Oh, incidentally, from Annorax’s earlier exposition, we have an answer to the questions posed last episode, a feat and closed circle for which I commend the writers of this episode. The weak and scattered Krenim had temporal technology because that wasn’t their Prime timeline. They never ‘developed’ time weapons that weren’t powerful enough to win a war, but that timeline may have gotten some bootstrapping help from the Weapon Ship, in order to help them maintain resupply capacities while the next calculations were made. Anyway, now that Tom’s point is made, he gives Chakotay back the ultimatum.
Chakotay goes back to Annorax to discuss his real motivation – that one colony, which he’s never been able to restore. He’s now of the opinion that Time is a vengeful White Whale which is actively denying him his peace. Remember back when a 98% restoration would have been possible if they had only stopped? Now Annorax would be satisfied with the 52% if only it included that colony. And Chakotay is back on Annorax’s side.
Tom’s been making progress on fomenting mutiny. He’s got access to the communications relay and once they coordinate an attack with Voyager they’ll try to make an attack on the Temporal Core. Voyager, meanwhile, has recruited some allies who don’t particularly like the Krenim, and they’ve gotten the message from Paris and the attack plan. They’re also giving temporal shielding tech to the coalition, and Janeway will be piloting Voyager and all six of its torpedoes in the final fight.
Also incidentally, since this is clearly the end of Voyager in this timeline, we should start to consider how they’re going to reset from here. A riddle, then. How do reset after you’ve nearly been destroyed fighting a ship with the ability to erase things from the timeline entirely?
Another riddle, also: If Annorax had succeeded in erasing Voyager from the timeline, how would that have worked, exactly? The ship appears to be the prototype for at least one new tech (the bio-neural gel packs) and would have been the product of years of construction and tens- or hundreds of thousands of man-hours – did they build a starbase instead? Did captaincy just go to someone else since Janeway was never born? Did the Macquis miss out on all the intel brought to them by Chakotay? Even if we knew how the temporal erasure worked, these would be difficult questions to answer, so you can see why Annorax is struggling.
Coalition forces gear up for the final invasion, and Chakotay tries to stall and distract Annorax by reminding him that if Janeway has a fleet, then she’s given them the tech to protect the entire sector from temporal incursions. Annorax will have to erase Voyager and the other ships so that this never happened. Tom’s worked on his own job, but hasn’t taken out the temporal shielding yet. Meanwhile, Janeway seems to have taught Federation attack and evasion patterns to the fleet. Once the battle starts, Annorax’ lieutenant deactivates the shields to make the ship vulnerable, and all ships pivot to attack the temporal core as the Weapon Ship reconfigures to ceonventional weapons.
I’ll say this for Starfleet construction – even with Voyager basically a scaffolding with some engines tacked onto it, the ship still survived friendly collision. That’s a lot of momentum to absorb or deflect. It did take out the front of the bridge, though. We’re definitely going to need a reset, and also a radical redesign of the ship to make the bridge not a hood ornament. Then again, it took over four months of constant attack to get the ship in this shape and the emergency force fields are still working, so… call it a wash? Heck, Voyager is the last ship in the fight, so Janeway sets a collision course at as close to ramming speed as Voyager can muster and orders everyone to take their temporal shields offline. By destroying the time core and wiping the Weapon Ship from history (with all the complications of riddle 2 above) she’ll undo all the changes to the timeline, leaving a Krenim civilization poised on the brink of this technology.
Annorax gets a brief moment of the lock of his wife’s hair vanishing as its temporal shielding shatters before the weapon ship timeline is wiped out. Instead, the last year is wiped from existence with no relic of what happened, and we reset to Voyager‘s first encounter with the Krenim bureaucrat. He suggests they chart around Krenim space and Janeway agrees. Back on the fully restored colony, Annorax is bck at work, and the temporal calculations get a Horror Movie End Stinger. Oh, and Kes never showed up to get chroniton poisoning.