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The Trek Nation - Relativity

Relativity

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 4:08 PM GMT

See Also: 'Relativity' Episode Guide

Voyager is in spacedock at the Utopia Planitia shipyards, where Janeway (wearing her hair up) boards and greets an admiral who gives her a final inspection tour. He tells her that Tuvok is apparently safe on Chakotay's ship, and she suggests that Tom Paris would make an excellent pilot for their first mission in the Badlands. On the bridge she passes Seven of Nine in a Starfleet science uniform without her cybernetic eyepiece. Seven ducks into the briefing room, reporting to an unknown party that there is no weapon on the bridge. When the captain and the admiral ask her opinion of the briefing room, she says that it appears to be efficient.

When she passes through engineering, Seven tells engineer Joe Carey that her name is Anna Jamison and she is on temporary assignment from Utopia Planitia. Then she enters a Jeffries Tube, where she finds a temporal distortion on Deck 4, Section 39. Removing a panel, she sees a temporal disruptor, but her work sets off an alarm in engineering and Janeway - who's itching to get her hands dirty - goes to see what the problem is. Seven tells her contact that she cannot deactivate the weapon as it is out of temporal phase with her own time, but they cannot beam her out because the temporal effects of the weapon are affecting their transporters. As Janeway closes in on her, reading a chronoton distortion, Captain Braxton of the Relativity orders her beamed out despite warnings from his second in command that her bionetic implants will be damaged. Seven disappears just as Janeway and the admiral access the Jeffries tube; her Borg implants fail, and she collapses and dies.

Braxton announces that they're going to have to recruit Seven again - now that they know where the weapon is, they need to figure out when it got there. He suggests taking her out just before an explosion so that no one notices she's gone. On Voyager, Seven is playing in a ping pong tournament, teamed with Paris against Torres and Kim. Several crewmembers, including the captain, have been in sickbay complaining of space sickness, but the Doctor assumes it has something to do with the inertial dampers until a ping pong ball stops in midair. Seven reads temporal distortions emanating from Deck 4, Section 39...distortions which Torres warns could destroy the ship.

As temporal problems plague the ship - Doc gets a message from Neelix before the Talaxian sent it, Chakotay appears to Janeway in slow-motion triplicate - Seven finds the disruptor with Torres, who cannot see the device because it is out of phase with this time period as well - only the cybernetic implants enable Seven to detect it. But she cannot beam it off the ship, and the hull goes out of phase just before a temporal explosion causes a hull breach. Kim detects a phase variance of .003 just as men from the Relativity beam aboard to retrieve Seven. Suddenly Janeway realizes that the flux is identical to the one she detected at the shipyards, and announces that it can't be a coincidence. But her discovery comes too late, and Voyager explodes after Seven is beamed away.

Braxton greets Seven aboard the Relativity and explains that she is on a 29th century ship. He tells her that someone his a temporal weapon on Voyager during a battle with the Kazon when the shields were down; they need Seven to find it, because her ocular implants and her knowledge of the vessel and its crew make her ideal for the job. He also explains that they have recruited her twice before, and a fourth trip will likely cause psychosis, so they need to succeed this time. During a quiz on temporal dilemmas (including the Dali Paradox or "Melting Clock" and the Pogo Paradox of causality encountered by the Enterprise in First Contact), Seven wonders how she herself will avoid impacting the timeline. She is warned by Braxton that Janeway has a habit of creating temporal problems which he has to fix, and advised to avoid the captain at all costs.

While Voyager is under attack by the Kazon, Seven sneaks around engineering to find the disruptor, but Kim gets a phase flux reading of .003 from the transporters. Janeway remembers seeing the same reading in spacedock and orders containment around Deck 4, Section 39. Meanwhile the Borg discovers that the weapon has not arrived yet, but she cannot contact the Relativity because of the forcefield. When Janeway arrives, she recognizes Seven as the ensign who called the breifing room efficient. Braxton listens to the conversation hoping that Seven will not corrupt the timeline by revealing her true identity, but when Tuvok recognizes her readings as Borg, she tells Janeway the entire story and begs the captain to trust her. The captain agrees, and the pair discover that an older Captain Braxton himself put the weapon on Voyager.

The senior Braxton agrees that he is suffering from temporal psychosis, but claims that it's Janeway's fault: all her incursions into the timeline made him end up in rehabilitation, destroying his career. Activating the disruptor, he announces that he needs to wipe Voyager out of the timeline, then beams away. Relativity tracks his readings to Utopia Planitia and Relativity sends Seven after him although both the second in command of Relativity and the ex-Borg herself know that she risks temporal psychosis by making another jump in time. This time Janeway and the admiral witness Seven chasing Braxton through the corridors of Voyager.

Cornered by Janeway's forcefields, Braxton transports to the present, where the ping pong game is in progress. Seven runs in after him, startling her own double. The time traveler collapses from the strain but asks her present-day duplicate to stop Braxton: "Your future depends on it." She is beamed back to Relativity, along with Janeway who is asked to clean up the temporal messes for which Braxton holds her responsible. The older Braxton tries to convince his younger self to join him in the destruction of Voyager, but Braxton's first officer takes command, sending Janeway to retrieve the crazy older man at the precise time he planted, or will plant, the weapon. "Let's get started before my headache gets worse," she groans.

Janeway successfully traps her nemesis in her own ship's past among the Kazon, then is beamed back to the Relativity where she learns that all the versions of Captain Braxton will be reintegrated to stand trial. The two Sevens will be reintegrated as well, but since all of Janeway's incursions were into the past, she will be allowed to remember them; she just can't ever discuss the experience with anyone. Janeway is all too happy to agree to forget about time paradoxes.

Analysis:

I enjoyed this story, just as I enjoyed it the first time I encountered it, in Vonda McIntyre's The Entropy Effect - the very first Star Trek novel from Pocket Books and one of the finest. In that book Spock chased a madman from the future whose double in the past had created a device similar to Captain Braxton's, causing similar chaos among past and present crews. Having read that novel, it was entirely too easy to predict all the twists and turns of this inferior copy, like Braxton himself becoming the psychotic saboteur. Still, it was fun to see Janeway wear the bun of steel again...and if it was less-than-fun to see Seven hailed again as the only person capable of setting the universe right, I guess that's the way it goes on this series.

Other than the blatant theft of a previously better-told story - hardly a new problem on Voyager, which gets most of its watchable episodes by recycling the previous Treks - my main criticisms of "Relativity" have to do with that pesky continuity issue. On the one hand, it was really nice to see Joe Carey for the first time in four years. On the other hand, the only thing we ever learned about Joe Carey (other than that Torres broke his nose in "Parallax") was that he had a wife and two sons he wanted to get home to, so badly that in "Prime Factors" he helped steal the Sikarian trajector to make an attempt. Here, he spends most of his screen time hitting on Seven of Nine. What's the point in resurrecting a character from the past if the writers are going to turn him into a different person?

One might ask the same about Captain Braxton, whose ship and uniform have changed so much that if his name wasn't hammered into our heads, I for one would never have guessed that he was the same guy from "Future's End." I liked the references to that episode and to First Contact, but if the writers think the temporal theme excuses the confusing plot circles, I'd have to disagree. My final complaint on this count is nitpicky but it's not minor. In "Caretaker" when Janeway requested that Paris accompany her on the mission to track down Chakotay and Tuvok, it was strictly as an observer: she made that point to him quite adamantly before reluctantly giving him the conn when Cavit and Stadi died. So why in heck does Janeway tell the admiral in "Relativity" that she must have Tom aboard as her pilot? It's just plain annoying that the writers couldn't read the script for "Caretaker" to remember the details I suppose we fans are meant to forget as well.

There were some nice humorous touches in here: Janeway's ongoing temporal headaches, the early, cranky Doc, Seven trying to win over her own trust. On the other hand, the speed with which Janeway trusted a Borg infiltrator on her ship before launch when she was about to head after Maquis saboteurs was almost comical itself. The pacing was good, but I'm not clear why present Captain Braxton could be arrested for crimes he hadn't yet committed - by that logic, Braxton was right to try to stop Janeway before she launched - and in general the amusing possibilities of time travel wiped out any scientific interest, since the timeline repair was turned into a joke.

I may as well admit that I had a few fantasies during this episode. Of course, one was that Seven would stay dead, but I'd be willing to concede her role on the ship if just once the writers would stop resorting to gimmicks using her Borg talents. Another was that we might actually see some second-season Janeway/Chakotay interaction during the scenes with the Kazon, but we barely saw Chakotay (other than that fun scene in triplicate) except to criticize the captain for chasing sensor ghosts which of course were no such thing. The final, specious fantasy was that we might see Kes. We COULD have seen Kes...just as we could have seen Suder, Jonas, Hogan, even Kulluh and Seska amidst the Kazon, like we saw Carey. But this was more of a throw-a-bone homage to earlier Voyagers than a genuine reunion like Deep Space Nine is in the midst of. I earnestly hope Voyager never gets back to the Alpha Quadrant to screw up all my good memories set there.

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.