In which we get a definitive answer about time travel.
Today we visit the shipyards of Mars, Utopia Planetia. Not that in comparison to the Dominion shipyards, UP contains several discrete drydocks unconnected from each other, where the Dominion-Cardassian shipyards were just a few megastructures perilously close to the system’s star. This,evidently, is a flashback to Janeway’s first steps aboard Voyager, complete with a reminder of her background in the sciences. I’d like to spend more time on the differences in shipyard design philosophy, but I’m not actually sure of the relative merits and I’m also wondering if a captain doesn’t find their chair comfortable if they can get it replaced. During this time, Tuvok is embedded with Chakotay, and Janeway’s trying to get Tom as her pilot to survive the Badlands. And Seven is there as a tech. Clearly this is not a flashback but… a simulation? A dream?
She’s apparently scanning for a weapon, and hasn’t found it yet. While Janeway tours Sick Bay, Seven scans Engineering and meets Lt Carey, who we haven’t seen around lately, and who might want to ask her to dinner, but she’s got a job to do. She’s found the source of a temporal distortion, which explains what we’re doing here and now. While she goes to disarm the device, Janeway decides to investigate the resultant power grid malfunction, and Seven can’t quite disarm it since she’s in slightly the wrong timephase. Now that Seven’s been detected, she has to temporally beam out, and this is being done by a very futur-y Federation ship concerned with preserving the timeline. Of course, by drawing PastJaneway’s attention to the area, they may already have done so. Meanwhile, the beamout is rough for Seven, destroying her bio implants and killing her.
The captain of the Timeship has an easy solution for this – recruit her again, a microsecond before Voyager explodes because of the weapon that was planted. The timeship apparently has no difficulty going across the galaxy in miniscule subjective time, either. I suppose once you master time travel, there’s a lot of ways to make mere space travel trivial. Do you think the Federation bothers with political borders at this point, or would they just start colonizing other galaxies if their neighbors get too close?
The version of Seven living in what we’ll refer to as ‘the present’ is having some trouble with her ocular implant. The suggestion from the previous scene is temporal nausia, but Seven has consulted WebMD and is convinced she has a rare degenerative neurological defect that hasn’t been observed in 200 years. We’ve also gotten a hit of the Doctor’s old personality, to allow us to remember just how far he’s come. On her way to her next appointment, Tom goads Seven into helping him out in a doubles ping-pong tournament. He’ll be playing against B’Elanna, which says a lot about their relationship. And Janeway’s also into Sick Bay complaining of space sickness – potentially anti-time fallout from the weapon? As is, I’m sure, the ping-pong ball frozen in midair.
The Doctor is dealing with illnesses from all over the ship, but gets called away by Neelix to deal with a violent illness from a crewman who hasn’t gotten sick yet. The temporal distortions are getting more pronounced – it’s 7 minutes earlier in the mess hall than in Sick Bay, and try not to think about whether there’s a sharp discontinuity or a gradient in between, particularly if that gradient has to span multiple decks.
Annoyingly, these anomalies seem to take several different forms, which makes it hard to pin down the exact effects. But Torres and PresentSeven have localized the source of the distortion. Only Seven can see it, as it’s out of phase. As such, it can’t be beamed out either, and starts to dematerialize the ship. Two temporal agents beam in, but since they’re already on the lookout for Weird Time Stuff, Harry spots the distortion that exactly matches Seven’s beamout earlier. Somehow, she remembers the readings from five years ago despite everything they’ve been through. That must be a really weird reading to stick in her mind that long. Janeway orders Abandon Ship, and Seven is taken by the temporal agents on her way to the escape pods, just before Voyager explodes in a blue burst of time energy.
Captain Braxton introduces Seven to the Relativity, somewhere in the 29th century. They’ve recruited Seven because Borg ocular implants are better than their sensors (go Borg assimilation) and she’ll also blend better. They’ve tracked the bomb’s entry point to a Kazon invasion, which the saboteur used to plant the bomb, but who they’re likely not affiliated with. In the future, Starfleet (or should I say Timefleet… no I should not) has named all the various temporal anomalies, even though Novikov self-determination paradoxes already have a name. Since Seven can’t disarm it, she’ll have to get to the bomb before the saboteur plants it, even though it’s present before the incursion when Voyager is in drydock. Evidently, once planted, it propagates backwards within its spatial reference frame. This is mere speculation mind you – the infiltrator could travel back to the construction of the ship and plant it then.
Braxton also warns Seven against involving Janeway, due to his personal grudge. Having given her the advice that Janeway is really unhelpful, he sends Seven back to a time before she was on the ship, to I guess hope that nobody notices the brand new face in the middle of an attack, and that nobody will recognize her when she comes aboard in the right timeline. Janeway also recognizes the chroniton flux, again, even though this is now only a few years before the explosion at which time she remembered it last from five years prior. Guys. You wrote the script. You had it all the way written down before filming. You could have fixed this.
The fact that it was not fixed suggests that the time travel available to the Federation in the 29th century is (I’ll make up a word here) metalinear. That is, their time travel is capable of causing paradox because it occurs in the reference frame of some objective viewer, most likely the time traveler – when Voyager exploded earlier, Janeway remembered drydock because this hadn’t ‘had happened’ yet. It’s amazing how a fundamental statement about the nature of temporal integrity can disguise itself as bad writing.
Anyway, Seven is here before the bomb was planted, and Janeway, having recognized the readings, puts up a force field and goes to investigate. That field has cut off her communication to the Relativity, and left her on her own. Trapped behind the force fields, Seven is forced to explain her mission to Janeway, over Braxton’s hair-rending, but it seems to get the job done.
The saboteur is none other than Captain Braxton. It’s Braxton from the future of the one aboard the Relativity. The murderous Braxton is suffering from temporal psychosis, which has caused him to lose his job and his mind, and wants to fix it by obliterating Voyager from the timeline. That’ll stop him from getting stranded in the past, as well as other infringements. Since his future self has gone crazy due to unemployment, Braxton’s LT relieves him of his duties for FutureCrime. Braxton then transports away, and Seven has to follow him back to the past, to drydock, where he’s going to plant the device but in so doing introduces a running firefight to Janeway’s initial tour. He then jumps five years ahead to the ping-pong game.
Present Seven gets to watch Agent Seven try to apprehend Braxton, and gets the mission from her future self, although no details about why. The actual apprehension is more or less uneventful – he gets pulled back to the Relativity, then they have to clean up the mess that Seven created. Since Seven can’t go back and Braxton’s LT has no animus against Janeway, he’s pulled her in to do the dirty work. Once the timeline is cleaned up, all the temporal duplicates will be reintegrated, but our buddy the LT lets them keep their memories. He also gives them a little foreshadowing about all the time travel they’re about to have to avoid. He’s a people person, but I feel like he’d royally cheese off Lucsly and Dulmer.