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Season Three:
-145: "Flashback"
-144: "False Profits"
-150/151: "Future's End"
-159: "Unity"
-163: "Before and After"
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Star Trek Voyager Season 3

Star Trek: Voyager
Season Three (1996-1997):

26 episodes @ 43 minutes.
Get your copy of this 7-disc DVD set from the links below:
Region 1, NTSC, U.S.
Region 1, NTSC, Canada
Region 2, PAL, U.K. (Slimline Edition)
Region 2, PAL, U.K. (regular)

On its initial broadcast, Voyager starts advertising at this point how it's got a different, hard-edged, off-format, take-no-prisoners style this season... which demonstrates how desperate the network was to boost ratings. Curious that when long-term audience retention is required, they resort to short-term attention-grabbing stunts, letting philosophical quality literally go down "The Chute". Most early episodes themselves are decidedly not an improvement over the previous season, with nothing remotely close to "The 37's" for quite some time.

"Flashback" is indeed one of the early highlights, not so much because of the stunt draw of revisiting Sulu, Rand, and Kang in the Star Trek 6 feature situation (which bizarrely takes a good 17 minutes before showing up in the episode), but because (1) it turns out to be a fairly well-presented exploration of memory, (2) the bridge of the Excelsior is still a better off-Voyager setting for a story than what most other episodes manage, and (3) this tale is clean in the time travel arena by not being a time travel story at all. Though slow to start, it does leave a pleasant aftertaste, and is a better Trek ride than most of its early season 3 rivals.

False Profits

(Star Trek - Voyager episode production code 144)
story by George A. Brozak
teleplay by Joe Menosky

Well, this one has a certain decent draw on our interest, as we get to find out what happened to the Barzan wormhole from the third season TNG episode "The Price", as well as the two Ferengi that got lost in it. Dan Shor, who had also been in the film "Tron", gets to come back and reprise his role as the taller of the two Ferengi, which provides a certain amount of fun. Curiously, though the Barzan wormhole deposited these two in the Delta Quadrant, it apparently did so a mere 200 light years from the Gamma Quadrant, according to "The Price". As our galaxy has a radius of some 50,000 light years, this says something about Voyager's journey now. Perhaps they aren't in the middle of Delta like many may have assumed. Perhaps they're traveling close to the border between Delta and Gamma, headed through the center of the galaxy. But of course, we don't get to see any maps on the show at this time. In fact, if they are so close to the Gamma Quadrant, maybe it's shorter to go to the far end of Deep Space Nine's stable wormhole?

Well, we've got a few Prime Directive backflips to look at today. The Ferengi would have violated it, had they subscribed to it, but since Janeway finds the Federation responsible for making it possible for them to be here in the first place, she figures it's her duty to police them and reset the situation, almost like Kirk had to do back in "The Omega Glory" (TOS season 2). Okay, I'll buy it.

Sadly, the episode devolves into silliness during the second half, albeit in a light-hearted and sometimes successfully humorous way. But there's not much positive philosophical wisdom on display here. The Ferengi employed deception and trickery to set themselves up here, and the Voyager crew merely employ counter-trickery and manipulation to try to undo it all. Ho hum. This is nowhere near the excellence of "Who Watches The Watchers?" (TNG season 3), where honesty was allowed to factor in so heavily.

And when that segment is done, we get some of the most contrived scientific gobbledygook in order to send this week's guests home from Gilligan's Island while keeping the regular characters locked into their format. Not really worth it. Perhaps it would have been better not to encounter these two in this episode, and better if the Delta Quadrant hadn't been such a small Quadrant after all.

Future's End

(Star Trek - Voyager episode production codes 150 & 151)
written by Joe Menosky and Brannon Braga
directed by David Livingston (part 1) and Cliff Bole (part 2)
music by Jay Chattaway

I'm actually quite pleasantly surprised at how well this story turned out. I like the characters, the setting and situation, the production value, and the long-term series' development on display here. Most surprising of all, the time travel aspects will scrape through with a passing grade today, as they sport the common Trek dichotomy of showing acceptable events on screen coupled with lame explanations in the dialogue.

Janeway expresses her distaste and avoidance of time travel conundrums, and she and Chakotay, with the rest of their crew, all seem keen to avoid any opinions on such matters, which helps them stay on my good side. The real fool on time travel matters today is Captain Braxton. It is sad that he apparently stems from a 29th century Starfleet, which would indicate that 500 more years of development for this organization has brought them no closer to truth or wisdom. He is clearly shown to be one to jump to the wrong conclusion, and to allow wrong conclusions to lead him to despicable acts. Who let this irresponsible twit near a time machine in the first place?

That said, the story does a number of things to put Braxton in his proper place dramatically. Firstly, Janeway is properly opposed to the crap he spouts at the beginning.

Secondly, his attitude and sloppy reasoning is shown to be the creative force behind his entire problem... and additionally this is laid out quite early in the story. Normally, we would find Brannon Braga writing this kind of profound A-to-B-to-C-to-A loop as the conclusion to an episode of discovery, and not find a believable way to break out of it, as a structure for anthology episodes was shoe-horned into a series with continuing characters. But here in "Future's End", we get this set-up nice and early, the Voyager crew have plenty of screen time left to tackle this challenge properly, and the solution is one that is perfectly believable.

Thirdly, Braxton is most memorable as a crazy old nut in this story, one who is deserving of the fate of being dragged back to the mental institution by police. This is a nice frame for his desperate and destructive take on time travel mechanics.

Fourthly is something present in the on-screen action that no character expresses or draws audience attention to. Braxton's double shows up at the end, a double from a version of history that had no disasters and did not experience the full conundrum. This is perfect and sweet in and of itself. There are so many different ways that the final conflict could play out, that I believe it would be very difficult to do everything just right to create the problem that crazy old Braxton was so afraid of with debris from Voyager in just the right time and place. Once we the audience follow the actions of the Voyager crew onto a new version of history, we are set to connect with more enlightened and pleasant versions of him. What might not occur to every audience member watching this is that these various versions of history all coexist, and even while encountering a decent double of Braxton in space, the crazy old Braxton is still on Earth at the same time, hopefully still headed for the insane asylum where he belongs. The fact that we don't have a scene of him winking out of existence in a magical effect, as Trek often feels inclined to show, is a remarkable bonus for this story, as it allows the more elegant view of time to be equally upheld. NICE! We can interpret this one with timelines branching into alternate universes, and don't need to restrict ourselves to the single-line rewrite model. Thank you so much!

New Braxton cites a "Temporal Prime Directive" as he denies Voyager's request to be returned to Earth in their own time, instead of the Delta Quadrant in their own time. This is obviously today's means of perpetuating the Gilligan's Island syndrome series arc, but since it actually is in good keeping with Starfleet character flaws, I'll give it a pass. It is also the most direct reference Star Trek has that its Time Travel and Prime Directive policies actually boil down to the same stance of a pretence of non-involvement, and this is a moment that has stuck with me ever since I first saw it.

Now, when all is said and done, I think the temporal ideas in the episode could have gone up another significant notch had Janeway and/or any of her crew have gone to bat for my interpretation of the temporal mechanics, but this was probably beyond Menosky and Braga at the time, and I'm just so grateful that what we did get here works well under either interpretation. Perhaps Braxton should not have been authorized to take-off in a timeship in the first place, but that of course might have replaced his double in the ending with a completely new character, which takes something away from the story.

The real heart of the story is in Sarah Silverman's astronomer character of Rain Robinson, and the bond she forms with Tom Paris throughout the adventure. Their on-screen chemistry is fun to watch, and it becomes a successful version of a story strand that Braga and Ron Moore had been trying to squeeze into
"Star Trek 8: First Contact" unsuccessfully. Though it wisely had to be abandoned for the feature, it has the characters and situation to breathe here in this story, and it works nicely.

Ed Begley Jr. seems a little odd for the role of an antagonist who can outsmart our 24th Century crew, but he makes the character work in the end. The concept of Bond-style secret agents in a complicated conflict using secret technologies is miles more successful here than in Roddenberry's attempted spin-off pilot "Assignment: Earth".

One thing I found most confusing was the camper in the opening teaser. Only by going back to it after having seen the rest of the story could I identify this as Begley's character, while I'm guessing the show's makers had intended this to be far less obscure. His identity is easily muddled in ways that do not help the story. When I first saw crazy old Braxton, I thought he was the camper who had aged. The camper scene seems devoid of a true essence - the character is not defined, he hasn't got dialogue with impact, it feels like it should be all about the optical shot of the crash which isn't there, and we aren't really sure what the camper is responding to.

The choices made in finding things for each regular cast-member to do seem a bit odd at times. The first away mission sees the ship's top three command officers (Janeway, Chakotay, and Tuvok) leave the ship together, despite the fact that our Vulcan will have to try to hide his identity the whole time. Meanwhile, back on the ship, Janeway has left a mere ensign in command? Are there really no officers of higher rank in the 130-person crew she has left? No lieutenant commanders or lieutenants on board? Is Torres not eligible for consideration? If it's going to be Harry Kim in charge, and maybe it should be, perhaps he deserves promotion to lieutenant about now.

Sadly the Doctor only shows up at the end of part one and has one line to deliver.... but he more than makes up for that in part two. His development here in gaining the mobile emitter and finally getting involved in a lot of non-holodeck action remains one of the biggest successes of this story. The EMH Doctor really is the breakout sci-fi character on this show, and following his development is one of its major attractions. I must say though that the introduction of the anti-government hicks in the last quarter of the story, while our heroes have our main antagonist in custody, feels a bit as though the story has derailed itself and is getting lost in an anti-climax... one with budgetary restrictions as well, since exteriors of the hicks' bunker are called for and conspicuous by their absence. But in terms of giving the Doctor a bit more action to showcase his new abilities, this section does earn its keep, and the story picks up again to deliver an exciting climax.

Though I really loved the previous story "The Swarm", I have to say I wasn't too keen on the concept of the Doctor's memory being reset, or to see that concept retained and expanded on in this story. Reset buttons are not really a draw in modern television series, and writers should keep their fingers off of them. Curious how that aspect of "The Swarm" was nearly an exact blueprint for what happens to Data in "Star Trek 10: Nemesis". I think the events of "The Swarm" work better when we treat the Doctor as having all his memories back and fully functioning in future episodes.

And though it won't show up until the next episode, this marks the point where the Marseilles bar holodeck hangout was traded in for the tropical resort. Though I might miss the pool table, the switch was otherwise well worth it.

Curious is that Rain and Tom Paris have a false goodbye scene, after which the story skips out on a real one. I'm curious to know what her last image of him was... beaming away magically? Launching off in a shuttle? Standing in the desert all alone waiting for her to drive far enough out of sight? The story feels somewhat incomplete without a final scene to sign off on these two.

Well, of all of Voyager's early season three episodes, I think "Future's End" pulls ahead as the clear leader, with events, developments, and production value far more intriguing and satisfying than anything else we've seen so far. Though "Basics" also featured a lot of development, it was forced, contrived, and fairly unbelievable.


(Star Trek - Voyager episode production code 159)
written by Kenneth Biller
directed by Robert Duncan McNeill
music by David Bell

One of my favourite sections of the Star Trek: Voyager series is the build-up to this crew's initial Borg confrontation, and this story "Unity" is at the heart of that excellence. Though it starts out with the same average quality as most surrounding episodes, it quickly provides a large number of reveals that generate true excitement for the future of the show.

And to be fair, I have to really love what was explored specifically in this episode itself. We get right back to the basics of individuality vs. the collective way of life, only this time the positive side of the collective has a great voice in addition to its building, disturbing side. The concept hasn't really been done this well since "The Best of Both Worlds", and the example here is far superior to "Q Who", which had many very goofy sections.

In fact, I'm quite upset that such a good, essential Borg episode like this wasn't included in the Borg DVD box set. It is far more deserving than clunkers like "Descent". What happened? Well, if fan voting had anything to do with the choices, it may simply be that Star Trek: The Next Generation has always been far more popular than Voyager, and fan voters remember all the TNG Borg encounters, while gems like "Unity" get forgotten. Even I couldn't remember which late season 3 stories were which until my recent second viewing now in 2013. But this is Voyager's first real encounter with the Borg, for heaven's sake.

In many ways, what this episode also touches on through its concepts and imagery of a more agreeable collective is a sense of New Age spirituality to which I subscribe, which helps hold my interest keenly. It's also a fine Chakotay episode, with two interesting guest stars. The imagery of the planet and surrounding space has stuck with me as the symbol of this excellent phase of Voyager's journey.

In short, this episode simply rises to the top of my season favourites, and is the first season 3 episode to top the best of season two. I'm liking it, and looking forward to what comes next.

Before and After

(Star Trek - Voyager episode production code 163)
written by Kenneth Biller
directed by Allan Kroeker
music by Jay Chattaway

Dual-direction narratives can be a real pain, as I found out the hard way when I tried to write one three years before "Before and After" was first broadcast. This episode is not a particularly good story, although it does have a number of points of merit.

In terms of having successful time-travel mechanics, this one is certainly problematic. I think the audience can spot the premise long before the characters figure it out, after which we have to endure scene after scene in which characters explain it to each other over and over again - not a great move dramatically speaking. This also indicates something important about the phenomenon: each time Kes moves backwards in time, she must also be sliding over to an alternate universe that didn't lead to the future she was on previously. If not, the beginning of the episode would feature a crew that had had this problem explained to them in detail several times already, and they would be able to tell Kes what was going on from the beginning. Tuvok somewhat addresses this in the coda, but couches it in the single-line-of-time rewrite idea that Starfleet and Star Trek writers seemed to be stuck on at the time, and says that Kes changed things each time she went further back. I prefer to think that each of those lines of time continues to exist afterwards, all co-existing with each other. Thankfully, the episode gives no hard evidence that Tuvok's interpretation needs to prevail over mine.

I also can't help wondering if there's a hole-punching effect at work here similar to that in the movie "The Butterfly Effect". In that film, as the main character grows up, he experiences bouts of "missing time", where he suddenly can't remember how he moved from one spot to another, how he ended up with a knife in his hand, or how some other disastrous things happened. Later, when he starts time traveling, his new experiences fit into those holes, as though his older consciousness displaced his younger one, did whatever it wanted, moving and picking up knives etc., and then vacated the scene allowing the younger consciousness to snap back in. Is Kes doing something similar here? Do the other members of Voyager witness her disappearing, or do they see her consciousness snap back with more normal memories?

This problem is even more acute if we try and think how all this starts.... particularly for our Kes in our universe at our "current" time of stardate 5074x.x. Is she just happily minding her own business when suddenly backwards-time-traveling Kes from an alternate future punches a hole here, plasters new memories over her current ones, and in the end takes over? Or is this entire thing in alternate universes that we have never seen before and will not follow as Voyager continues? This episode marks the first appearance of Kes's long curly hairdo in the current time period.... which aids the feeling that we end this time-bending journey in an alternate universe. It's particularly weird to think that it couldn't have really begun until another 6 years of unseen Voyager adventures had taken place.

We also have the bizarre idea of one of the triggers of this coming from a Krenim missile... which begs the question of how the phenomenon can continue with Kes retreating back in time to a point before she had encountered it. If she's taking the radiation poisoning with her as she goes backwards, surely she wouldn't survive the lethal dose she gets when crawling into the tube with the missile.

Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of this story in hindsight is the way it prefigures the "Year of Hell" two-part story from next season, and knowing the fact that Kes will NOT be a participant in that story makes her presence here all the more strange. But even after having another good look at "Year of Hell", I don't think the connections between the two stories work particularly well in supporting each other or putting forth truly worthy ideas about time.

But on to the dramatic merits of "Before and After", I don't think it's on great ground here either. We get to see snippets of the rest of Kes's life here, and a full acknowledgement of the strangeness of having it be a mere 9 "years". I suppose it's only natural with so many popular species in the Star Trek universe that have life spans far longer than humans that we should have one species with a shorter life-span represented on a regular crew, but 9 years is too short to be practical. Did they always know Voyager would end after 7 years? What if it had been a huge success lasting 12? Was Kes doomed from the beginning? I also have to stop and wonder exactly what length of time any alien is actually referring to when they use "years", as it seems Earthly-chauvinistic to assume they would count using the orbital period of our planet if they'd never been to it or heard of it before.

At any rate, apart from the "Year of Hell" material which will go on to become its own episode, what we see of Kes's all-too-short life remains some of the most generic and uninteresting material you could imagine. And this material is usually competing with further dull repeat explanations of the temporal phenomenon... meaning we rarely get to enjoy it breathing fully on its own.

Back at the beginning of broadcast season two, there was a bit of Kes-Paris dynamic that was fun to watch, with "Parturition" containing the highlight. But here, there isn't anything to really make their pairing compelling. What does work is the Paris-Torres dynamic, and the back-to-front way that Kes comes upon it. Now there's a good 30-seconds' worth of entertainment value. But really, nothing makes me want to invest in the relationships Kes is fleeting through in the alternate 6-years of future life that we see here.

And in some ways, this episode feels like the apology that the writers gave to the audience for putting Kes off of the show prematurely. It's a bit wet, and doesn't truly satisfy.

As for rewinding back through her birth... why? Apart from the threat of that being the end of her journey, it only gets negated by, I don't know, "magical timing" or something, and deflates the whole thing. We end up watching it twice, which makes it feel like a waste. Neither does it feel like Kes herself has enough of a hand in creating the solution to her temporal problem, or that she has any interpersonal or dramatic challenge to face. They definitely missed a trick or two here.

So while the initial concept has merit on both the time-travel and dramatic arenas, I don't think it really got fleshed out or dramatized particularly well. This is an okay foray into time travel for Star Trek, but definitely not a great one. I would recommend the feature film "Memento" as a far superior memory oriented dual-direction narrative.

Don't think that we've forgotten "Scorpion" - There's a full review for that one as it kicks off our most extensive series of reviews yet for Voyager season four.....

Voyager Season Three Rankings:

  1. Unity
  2. Scorpion
  3. Future's End
  4. The Q and the Grey (This one takes some time to grow beyond Q's irritating self-embarrassment, but the core concept of a [civil] war in the continuum is fascinating, and John de Lancie's character is much more interesting when members of his own race come into the mix to challenge him. The effective American-pioneer scenery is but a cypher that constantly triggered my imagination of what the actual interstellar pan-dimensional boundaries of the conflict were, which works as good sci-fi for my money.)

  5. The Swarm (tons of good stuff here: Paris-Torres banter, Kes going to bat for the Doc, Doctor and Zimmerman being classic, and some successful new big-bad aliens. Finally a season 3 winner! The downside is that a lot of it feels unrelated, and there isn't the long term drive into the ep as happened with many season two eps.)
  6. Worst Case Scenario (This does feel like a more definitive and satisfying end to the Maquis / Seska arcs. A nice final purge. But was Seska not prematurely tipping her hand making those adjustments AT THE TIME when she did it?)
  7. Distant Origin (strange to involve the crew so little, but this is ultimately an intriguing idea and a powerful drama. Nice.)
  8. Blood Fever (there are a few dry spots where it looks like the episode isn't going anywhere, but the long-term developments here make this a fairly interesting one.)
  9. Real Life (interesting idea, dramatics work, but family ending is sappy. Tom's final speech had the gold; its re-enactment not so much.)
  10. Coda (starts by repeating many clichés, but then it gets good, and has a decent point to it.)
  11. Basics (excess production value, disappointing end for some characters, dramatic threads not that good, but it does have moments & impact)

  12. Flashback (takes a LONG time to get to the point, and features 2 more Braga clouds [used better this time], but makes a decent non-time-travel episode)
  13. Warlord (Jennifer Lien is very powerful and surprising in this one, and carries the show through a decent thriller plot. Writer Lisa Klink goes dark a little too easily though, and doesn't nail the positive as well as she might think.)
  14. Before and After
  15. Darkling (Nice that both Kes and the Doctor have a focus this ep, but neither plot holds my interest. Kes's thoughts about leaving
    [& Janeway's response during the all-nighter scene] seem to be more about behind the scenes events than on-screen events, and I'm really not rooting for Kes's new romance, nor does the antagonist sustain any interest or investment once revealed. Besides, wasn't it the Warlord who broke up with Neelix? When did Kes decide to follow suit? When did Neelix find out that she had followed suit?)
  16. Rise (okay story, with a cool mag-lev tether concept, but it doesn't quite have the investment or long-term drive of many other tales. Neelix-Tuvok relationship is somewhat worthy though. Not bad. Should have beamed them up before the battle begins, as the drama doesn't benefit the other way around.)
  17. Macrocosm (concept of the Doctor's 1st away mission is worthy, the rest is kind of average middling decent whatever waiting for an improbable reset button to be pushed. Quite a large quantity of CGI creature shots though.)
  18. Alter Ego (this story is okay, but just hasn't got any DRIVE to it to make me want to know what's going to happen next.)
  19. Fair Trade (I loved the concepts of a mysterious border beyond which Neelix has never gone or learned anything about, and a kind of alien DS9. The point where Neelix learns he's deep in it and wants to confide everything to Janeway split the episode's fortunes. I wish they'd followed THAT story, where he does stick with some principles and tells her all. The story they did follow wasn't one I invested in, and Janeway's dumb speech at the end [asking great behaviour to derive from control-freak motivation] caps off a minor turkey of an episode.)
  20. Displaced (has a good stretch of discovery in the middle, but the beginning is blah, the end is quite average, and Kes is bizarrely ignored.)
  21. Favorite Son (some good bits in the set-up phase, but once the main planet's society is revealed, you can predict the dystopian qualities a mile off, and the resolution is quite blah.)
  22. Sacred Ground (dull contrived investigation of spirituality vs. science. End is okay, but episode too boring to sit through.)
  23. False Profits
  24. Remember (nice dramatic atmosphere, but the ending misguides everyone to re-live victimhood rather than transcend it.)
  25. The Chute (Has a few good moments: the reveal of the other side of the chute, reappearance of Neelix's ship, the final words between Tom and Harry, but sitting through the other 35 min. of utter rubbish makes repeat viewing a chore.)

These Star Trek Voyager Season Three stories are available on DVD.*
*"Basics part 1" can be found on the season two box set,
"Scorpion part 2" can be found on the season four box set.

Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for pricing and availability:

Star Trek: Voyager
Season Three (1996-1997):

26 episodes @ 43 minutes.

Get your copy of this 7-disc DVD set
from the links below:

DVD Extras include:

  • Time Capsule featurette: Kes
  • Time Capsule featurette: Neelix
  • Braving the Unknown: Season Three
  • the making of "Flashback" with George Takei
  • Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects
    with Ronald B. Moore
  • Real Science with André Bormanis
  • Lost Transmission cast & crew interviews
  • Photo Gallery


DVD Canada



Article written by Martin Izsak. Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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