Year of Hell, Part TwoBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 3:16 PM GMT
See Also: 'Year of Hell, Part Two' Episode Guide
Day 133: Voyager hides in a nebula whose deadly gases are leaking onto the ship. Janeway risks injury to make repairs. At dinner with the six remaining crewmembers, she decides to leave the nebula to seek allies, though most of the crew agrees that this is folly until the ship is repaired. Meanwhile, Chakotay and Paris are taken out of confinement by Annorax, the Krenim leader, and treated to delicacies on his museum ship. He announces that he has decided to spare Voyager if Chakotay will provide information about the quadrant.
Day 180: While Chakotay studies quantum theories and debates philosophy with Annorax, Janeway risks her life to save the ship and is badly scarred. The Doctor threatens to take her off duty - then, when she tells him that she'll deactivate him if he tries, he takes it as evidence of her post-traumatic stress disorder and relieves her of command. She tells him he'll have to shoot her to keep her from working.
Day 207: During routine repairs, Janeway enters Chakotay's quarters and finds the watch he gave her. She wears it around her waist for the rest of the episode. On the Krenim ship, Tom bonds with the Krenim helmsman, Aubrist; he learns that the temporal core is weak and the crew on the verge of mutiny. But Chakotay warns Tom to leave Annorax alone. The Krenim leader lost his wife due to the effect of an early temporal incursion, and takes the morality of his actions very seriously. Chakotay really believes Annorax really will try to save Voyager and restore the original timeline. But then Annorax destroys another species, and Chakotay agrees to let Tom try to contact Voyager.
Day 257: Janeway sends her remaining crewmembers to the ships of allies and prepares to go down with Voyager. During the battle, Chakotay and Paris are rescued by Tuvok's ship, but Annorax damages Voyager with conventional weapons. Janeway sets a collision course for the Krenim vessel, realizing that if she destroys that ship, all of time may reset. The ships blow up, and we're back at Day 1, where Voyager is politely warned to steer clear of Krenim space. Meanwhile, Annorax - apparently living in the present on his home colony, although he was two hundred years old when Voyager met him in the other timeline - is reunited with his wife, the goal of his centuries of temporal manipulation.
This is an episode about two crazy captains. One of them is Annorax, leader of the Krenim. The other is Kathryn Janeway of the starship Voyager, who makes James T. Kirk in "The Naked Time" sound sane.
Annorax and Janeway are both chasing windmills across the decades. He wants to get back in time, she wants to get back in space. They're both obsessed, and in love with their mechanical monstrosities that they use to try to make the galaxy do their bidding. At the end of the episode, we're led to believe that the the insanity of Annorax isn't an inevitability - that his destiny can be altered through the agency of people who love him. One can only hope that this is true of Janeway, too.
I suppose I should talk about the curious decision to structure an episode on the model of a war between Captain Nemo and Captain Ahab. But I'm too disgusted to do that, too bogged down in the predictability of the plot, the heavy-handedness of the symbolism and the unoriginality of the ending. I'm going to ignore the ways this reminded me of a dozen other Reset Button Trek Tales, including Voyager's own "Time and Again." I'm not going to ask why no one ever mentioned the timeline in which Kes encountered the Krenim - has she been wiped out of history, or just out of the fourth season? OK, maybe I can't really ignore those things, but they're not what made this episode irredeemable for me. Janeway did that.
Voyager's writers accomplished something I had not believed possible. They had me cheering aloud when they killed Janeway off. I'm with the Doc: that woman was not fit to command, though I'd love to know whom he thought was going to take over in her absence. I suppose she saved the galaxy, but it was sheer coincidence, since she didn't understand anything about the temporal problems she was dealing with. If she had, she would have kept her ship in that nebula for a few extra days.
As Annorax said in last week's episode, the ability to alter time makes its linear progression irrelevant. Whether Janeway pursued him a day, a week, a decade later would not have mattered in the end, if she realized that resetting the clock would wipe out whatever came after the moment of incursion, and possibly what came before as well. She didn't have to risk her ship and remaining crew in her haste to engage the Krenim - if anything, her doing so could have led to their deaths before she stopped Annorax, thus permitting his timeline to succeed. Chakotay may have flunked quantum mechanics, but Janeway's the one who doesn't seem to have a clue.
I'm not even going to wonder why this Janeway didn't evacuate non-scientist Neelix and blind Tuvok along with the rest of her crew - couldn't she have made better use of a couple of engineering ensigns? I do have to ask why she didn't deactivate the Doc right after he treated her. Keeping his program running just to fight about her competence seems like a waste of energy which he should have noted. It makes no sense that Doc was functioning at all, considering that Sickbay and the holodecks had been destroyed and most of the computer was offline. Well, Trek's dependent on contrived science and technobabble, which can be tuned out when the people are compelling enough. So instead of worrying about plot holes, let's stick with characterization, which is what always makes or breaks an episode for me.
These characters? In "Year of Hell"'s alternate timeline, Seven sounded a lot like Tuvok being logical, and Tuvok sounded a lot like Chakotay slobbering over the captain. Chakotay sounded like himself, by which I mean pathetic...a pre-"Scorpion" version who still worships Janeway for reasons which momentarily escape me, who can be talked into anything by anyone in a position of authority - even a genocidal maniac who kept him imprisoned for months. Paris sounded like the old Paris, too - he was angry, he was rebellious, yet he had principles and was competent in a crunch. Hmm, that last part also sounds like the new Tom Paris, the guy who can pilot the ship while running sickbay and engineering singlehandedly. All his girlfriend B'Elanna can do lately is miss him. The characters were close but not quite there...which could be clever writing to tell us it's not our universe, or it could just be that the writers never get them consistently in the first place.
Ah, the heck with the cast. We're in an alternate timeline, so none of it counts. Right? Maybe.
About that watch, which Janeway was so coldhearted about last week and so nostalgic over this time around. Is it supposed to represent linear, old-fashioned time, which is here portrayed as "natural" while manipulation is supposed to be unnatural, even though we've learned from other Trek episodes that multiple timelines always exist simultaneously? Or, since it was a gift of affection from one person to another, is the watch supposed to represent the connections between people which transcend time, like Annorax's love for his wife? Chakotay said it's a replica of the watch of a British captain who brought his ship in after everyone had stopped knowing or caring that he was still out there. That's not how he said it, of course, but that's what I heard. I doubt the singlemindedness of Captain Cray would make an interesting subject for a serial television show. (Annorax, on the other hand, would fit right in on Sliders.)
Anyway, the watch can't possibly represent the connection between Janeway and Chakotay, since he doesn't seem to register on her emotional radar at all except when he's not around. She generally prefers holograms to live people. Maybe that's why she's so in love with her ship. Though Janeway keeps declaring that her crew is a family - she used that word about a half-dozen times in the two parts of this episode - she never shows that feeling. There are no subtle, compelling bonds between her and any other character. Oh, there's occasional chemistry between her and Chakotay when she's not playing the Ice Queen, and occasional warmth between her and Tuvok when he's not ridiculously over the top. Hugging on the bridge? And he's supposed to be a full Vulcan? If Chakotay's crush on Janeway seems misguided, Tuvok's is just embarrassing.
It's sad that Starfleet captains have to resort to a "family" analogy to indicate interpersonal feelings which transcend crew loyalties. But I don't believe it anyway. If there's one thing this episode makes amply clear, it's that Janeway loves nobody more than Voyager, even when the ship has no crew, no soul. I wonder what she'd think of Kirk blowing up the Enterprise in The Search For Spock, giving up his precious machine, and his Starfleet position, in a joint quest to save his best friend. Janeway seems to see Voyager as an extension of herself. She'll probably get it home, same as Annorax got his wife back, but that won't make her selfish means justify the ends.
At the end of the episode, the "real" Janeway didn't violate Kremin space. But she did do similar things in "The Swarm" and "The Raven" and various other episodes, so I can't say she was out of character. Maybe I should be pleased with how she held it together rather than worrying about her crazed devotion to her mission - we never saw Kirk or Picard get beat up this badly, perhaps she's really the strongest of the three. But Janeway wasn't working to restore the timeline for the good of the universe. She wasn't even working to reverse the deaths of her crew. She was as obsessed with her personal goals for the ship as Annorax was with a scrap of red hair, and we've seen her act that way in the so-called "real" timeline. If it were my life, my committment, my honor, I'm not sure I'd pledge them to this captain.
Oh yeah. The special effects were superb. Great CGI, wonderful interior shots. Kudos to the Voyager crew, if not the Voyager crew.
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.