While investigating the cause of an explosion which wiped out an entire planet's population, Janeway and Paris are caught in a time fissure which gives them the decidedly unwelcome opportunity to observe that tragedy at first hand.


Time And Again

Plot Synopsis

It's the end of Tom Paris's duty shift. He hands over the conn to his relief, and heads for the Operations station to try to talk Harry Kim out of some overtime and into a double date with the Delaney sisters from Stellar Cartography. But Kim has a girlfriend back on Earth, and still hopes that the trip home will be short enough that she won't have given up on him before they get back. He and the more pessimistic Paris are still bickering about the merits of the date when Voyager hits a shockwave.

Opting to put in a little overtime himself in consequence, Paris slides back into the seat he so recently vacated as the bridge crew try to pinpoint the source of the shockwave. Janeway erupted from her ready room at the first sign of trouble, Neelix at her heels, and she wants answers. Paris informs her that the scanners are picking up a debris cloud in the red dwarf system they are approaching, and Tuvok adds that it consists of differentially charged polaric ions. When Neelix pleads ignorance of the system, Janeway orders a course adjustment to investigate the massive explosion that must have caused it. As they enter the system, they are able to pinpoint the source as an M-class planet, with evidence of civilisation but at a pre-warp level. Or rather, a former civilisation, as all vegetation has been destroyed and there are no life signs. Kes, who has hurried on to the bridge without invitation after waking at the instant of the explosion, is certain of this even before Voyager's instruments confirm it.

As the radiation from the explosion is within acceptable limits, Janeway takes a landing party down to the planet's surface to investigate. They beam down into the middle of an urban settlement, where the buildings are essentially intact but the atmosphere is dark and smoky, blotting out the sun. Everything is very still and silent, with no signs of life. They pick up evidence of a chain reaction in subspace which vaporised everything organic on the planet, and theorise that the polaric detonation which caused it might have been the end of a war... before Janeway discovers an energy conduit that makes it clear that the entire civilisation used polaric ion energy as a source of power.

Back on Voyager, Kes is describing what she 'saw' to Neelix. She appears to have a clear mental image of the disaster from the point of view of the planet's population: the horror of people burning, leaving only ashes where they stood. Neelix tries to dismiss it as a bad dream, but she insists that it is more than that; that it was real. There were stories that in earlier generations the Ocampans had unusual mental abilities, and she ascribes her telepathic vision to that genetic heritage.

Down on the planet, Paris finds a time piece, stopped at the moment of the explosion. As he turns to tell the others of his discovery, for a few brief seconds he gets a glimpse of the city in sunlight, hears the noise of children playing. He queries it with the others, who saw and heard nothing. But as he tries to explain what he saw he experiences it again - an untouched city, trees in blossom, children playing in a square, people moving about their business... and no sign of his companions. Bewildered he turns, trying to make sense of his surroundings, and then Janeway lays a hand on his shoulder and he finds himself back in the bleak and barren wasteland that the sunny square has now become.

According to the others, he was there all the time. B'Elanna Torres runs a tricorder over him and reports that his central nervous system shows signs of temporal flux, rapidly returning to normal, and Tuvok tells them that the chain reaction has fractured subspace. Faced with the danger of free-floating temporal pockets which could entrap them at any moment, Janeway orders them all to stand absolutely still, and contacts Voyager to request a beam up. The words are hardly out of her mouth when she and Paris are caught in one of the subspace fractures and find themselves back in the pre-explosion city.

Presumably they know that it is a pointless gesture, but they go through the motions of trying to contact Tuvok and Torres anyway, only to be interrupted by the hysterical screams of a young boy. An official appears and asks him what's the matter, and the boy says that he saw Paris and Janeway appear out of nowhere, like demons. Fortunately for the Voyager crewmembers, with that final comment, he's blown his chances of being taken seriously, and Paris and Janeway put on their most innocent expressions and state that they just came round the corner and are sorry if they startled him. The boy insists that they are lying, but the official just assumes that he's been reading too much racy literature, advises him somewhat patronisingly that there are no such things as demons, and tells him to run along, have a confection bar, and calm down. He probably doesn't believe in aliens either, despite the fact that he's currently talking to two of them.

The aliens in question manage to pick up on enough cues from the official to be able to move on from claiming merely to be from somewhere else to having come in on the continental transport that morning from Calto Province. And when they express their desire to blend in with the local fashions, he even helpfully points out a nearby clothes shop to them. After he departs, Paris (who has been talking to the owner of the shop where he found the stopped time piece, currently ticking away quite nicely) gives Janeway some bad news: if he's understood this planet's time telling conventions correctly, the planet will be destroyed some time the following day.

One day in the future, Harry Kim and B'Elanna Torres are reporting their findings to Chakotay and Tuvok after having examined the subspace fractures with a magneton scan of the planet surface. Based partly on what Paris reported about his experiences, they theorise that the shockwave from the explosion is dissipating into the past. They believe that on those earlier occasions he was only partly inside a fracture, which explains why the others could still see him, and how he managed to return from it. They have no way of measuring how far back in time the fractures go, but contemplate the grim possibility that Janeway and Paris may be existing only hours before the explosion occurred. Chakotay wants to know how it is possible to rescue them, and is told that they need to locate a fracture in a place that Janeway and Paris have been... and that this relies heavily on the missing crewmembers activating a subspace beacon to assist them in their search.

In sickbay, the Doctor is examining Kes, somewhat peeved that her medical records are not on file. Neelix explains that they came aboard after the start of Voyager's current mission, which is apparently no excuse for not having their medical histories available for scrutiny, or for the Doctor not being told about new passengers. When he finds out that it isn't just these two but also the entire crew from a second ship, the Doctor throws a tantrum and tries to contact Captain Janeway to complain. He's less than impressed to be informed that she is missing. Kes's experiences he finds of much less significance, however. He tells her casually that she is just flexing certain mental muscles for the first time, and that living in space requires a variety of biological adjustments, and these embryonic mental powers are probably just a side effect of that process.

Janeway sets her comm badge to emit a subspace beacon, thereby making the lives of Torres and Kim that much easier. Having changed their clothing to blend in with the natives, Janeway and Paris are reflecting a little on what the future holds for them and the people of this planet. Since Paris is inclined to think that no consequence of interfering with the planet's natural course of events can be worse than annihilation, Janeway is giving him a lecture on the Prime Directive. She tells him that he's not to interfere and that's an order.

Then they catch sight of the young boy again. They try to avoid him, but he confronts them and announces smugly that he knows that they were lying. He's checked the story that they told the official and knows that they don't fit the description of any of the four people who came from Calto Province that day. To get rid of him, Paris tells him that they are demons, and that they eat children. It scares off the boy for the moment, but it also earns him an exasperated look from Janeway. Fortunately for him, it's not the Look.

He tries to redeem a few opinion points by examining the ducting that carried the polaric energy around the city, questioning whether there's any way that they can use polaric energy to get back to their own time. Janeway apparently thinks it worth further investigation, and that it might at least help them scan for a subspace fracture. Paris wonders where the conduits get their power from.

They trace the source to a power plant. With a little follower in tow, they arrive to find a demonstration going on outside. The plant's guards shoot into the air to encourage the crowd to disperse and although most run, some fighting breaks out. Janeway gets caught in the middle of it and is knocked down by a guard, who Paris promptly takes out in retaliation. One of the demonstrators helps Janeway to her feet and they flee.

Meanwhile, back in the future, Torres and Kim have developed a device to open a subspace fracture. There are two problems however: it burns out after a maximum of 30 seconds, and they still have to locate Janeway and Paris before it can be of any use. And, since it causes damage to subspace, they can only make one attempt at any given location. But they have managed to modify their tricorders to detect the dangerous fractures, and have come up with a device to emit an anti-polaric field and repel the fractures which will prevent any of the rescue party getting whisked away into the past themselves.

The environmental protestors have gone to ground and taken Paris and Janeway with them. As Paris tends to Janeway's cut forehead, their leader Makull apologises for involving them. Janeway gives the Calto Province story another outing, saying that they'd hoped to tour the power facility, but one of the environmentalists, Terla, is suspicious and refuses to fall for it. He says that he's never seen a Calton with their colour hair, and accuses them of being spies sent by the government to infiltrate them. When Paris points out that Janeway was injured, he suggests that they were just trying to put on a good show. But Makull is also inclined to disbelieve them. His radiation monitor registers five times the normal polaric energy reading from both of them, implying that they've either had free access to an energy plant or been at the site of a polaric disaster worse than any known in the history of the planet. Oops. Good guess. Cue a little gun waving from Terla and his friend.

In the future, the rescue party from Voyager have beamed down to the surface and are examining the area where Janeway and Paris disappeared. Kes, having insisted on being allowed to come along, tells them that she can sense the people who were there. Chakotay, obviously putting her reactions down to the general eerie atmosphere of the place, comments that it feels like walking through a graveyard, but Kes believes that it is more than just imagination. The others are more preoccupied with finding that there are no subspace fractures in the area now. And then Harry picks up the signal from a comm badge, in their current time frame. They follow its signal as far as the environmentalists' headquarters, now empty and devoid of life signs. The comm badges are found there, battered and melted, having activated automatically when their casing was destroyed. Torres believes that this means that the missing two must have been caught in the explosion; the more literal Tuvok points out that it proves only that the comm badges were caught in the explosion, and suggests that they search for more tangible evidence.

A gun is held on Paris while Janeway is interrogated by Makull, who is concerned to find out how much the government know about his plan. Then Terla comes in with the young boy, who he found sneaking about outside. The kid immediately starts bleating about Janeway and Paris not being who they say they are and lying about coming here on the continental transport, which doesn't exactly help their case. The environmentalists examine their tricorders and phasers, listen unmoved to Janeway's claim that they are devices for surveying property, and refuse to let her have them back in case either one is a weapon. Instead, Makull tries to sell his ideals to her. He calls himself a patriot, and says that he believes that polaric energy has the potential to destroy his world. His group are planning something, some form of protest, and Janeway and Paris's presence potentially threatens their plan. In consequence, he is changing the schedule, and bringing it forward to the following day.

For an instant Kes senses Paris and Janeway's presence... and Janeway senses her. Kes knows that they have been in the room, and continues to insist it as she gravitates slowly over to the step where Paris was sitting. More importantly to the others, they have located a subspace fracture in the room, and Chakotay orders the equipment to be set up.

Much to Paris's amazement, Janeway abruptly throws caution and the Prime Directive to the wind, and tells Makull who and what she really is. She tells him that she is from the future, that he is right about the likelihood of a polaric accident, and that one will happen in just a few hours time. She explains that their high radiation readings are because they were exposed when they came to investigate the accident. And she tells Makull that his plan will most likely be responsible for the tragedy. But Makull is sceptical of her story of interstellar ships and fractures in time, and is therefore unable to believe in the warning that she tries to give him.

As the rescue party in the future scan the fracture, their sensors pick up Janeway's subspace beacon. As they attempt to open the fracture, Chakotay tries to contact Janeway to tell her what is happening. But the instant that his garbled attempt at communication begins, Janeway and Paris's comm badges are seized by the wary environmentalists. They leave for the power plant, taking Janeway, Paris and the boy Latika... and leaving the comm badges behind on a table. The Voyager crew succeed in opening a portal in the subspace fracture, but it opens in an empty room.

As they are herded along, Paris questions Janeway about why she changed her mind and told these people everything, after all her earlier lectures about the Prime Directive, and she says that she altered her approach because she suddenly realised that their current actions were irrelevant, because they had already violated the Prime Directive just by being here. Makull's presumed sabotage had been planned for the following week, and was only brought forward because their presence had forced a change in his schedule. It would now take place at the exact time of the explosion, and if they hadn't been there it was very possible that the world wouldn't have been destroyed at all. Anything could have happened in that week. The conditions in the plant might have been different, or the saboteurs might all have been arrested before they had the opportunity to try anything. But because they effectively caused the explosion, she now believes that they have a responsibility to solve it.

Meanwhile in a different time period, a conference is taking place on Voyager. They are grimly aware that they are running out of time. Seventy per cent of the fractures have now closed, and in a last desperate attempt Torres and Kim propose to concentrate their search efforts at the flashpoint, on the assumption that Janeway and Paris may have sought the origin of the explosion in order to prevent it. Tuvok expresses his reservations, making a reasonable if incorrect assumption on the basis of his knowledge of Janeway's character and beliefs. Chakotay, who doesn't know her ways so well, goes with his own gut feeling about what he would do in her place, and approves the plan.

At the power plant the environmentalists, still assuming Janeway and Paris to be government spies, tell Janeway that it is her job to get them in past the guards. When she refuses to do anything to assist their plan, Makull tells her that Terla has a gun trained on young Latika and that he will be the first to die if shooting starts. At the gate he introduces Janeway as a government representative on official business. She turns to Paris, and he nods in unspoken approval, aware of what she plans to do. She tells the guard that she is a hostage, and that the men are here to break into the plant. Makull reacts by shooting the guard, and Latika ducks and runs. Paris chases after him and takes a hit shielding him from Terla's gun. The saboteurs shoot the rest of the guards and head into the plant, Makull turning back to tell Janeway that the lost lives are on her conscience. She turns back to check on Paris, who took a hit to the stomach which, while painful, appears to be less than fatal as he's able to do the don't worry about me, get after the bad guys routine. Janeway leaves him in the tender care of Latika, who seems to have had a change of heart about them since spending a little time together as fellow prisoners and having Paris save his life.

Some hours into the future, an away team from Voyager has beamed into the power station, to find the polaric levels higher here than anywhere else. They identify the flashpoint, and find that subspace fractures are still plentiful here. They set up their equipment one last time. They find a suitable fracture, scan for a beacon, but fail to find one. Well, we do know the fate of the comm badges. Tuvok is just starting to say again that it is unlikely Janeway would come there when Kes corrects him: Janeway did come here. In fact, she died here.

Meanwhile Janeway has been stalking the saboteurs with a gun borrowed from one of the dead guards, and gets the drop on them. She tells them that everybody on the planet has less than three minutes to live if they go through with their plan. Makull asks her what exactly she thinks they're planning to do? She says that she assumes they are sabotaging the plant in some way, probably by detonating some sort of device, and Makull tells her that they're not stupid enough to blow up anything in this place. Janeway concedes the point, but insists that however good their intentions something will go wrong. And Makull suggests that the most likely thing to go wrong is what will happen if Janeway fires her weapon anywhere near a polaric conduit. He suggests she puts it down. Janeway doesn't move. All she's interested in now is waiting.

The Voyager away team start to open their subspace fracture, taking their best guess in order to break through just prior to the explosion.

Janeway asks the time. Makull realises that she's referring to the time she claims for their annihilation, and makes fun of her prediction. For a moment he seems amused... and then as they see the subspace portal open the amusement turns to alarm. The widening opening threatens to intersect the conduit wall, and Janeway suddenly realises that it is the rescue attempt by Voyager that sets off the explosion. She tells Makull that her weapon may be able to seal the hole, and that it is their only chance. He trusts her enough to let her take her phaser back, and she fires at the subspace opening until the generator on the other side overloads.

Everybody fades out...

...and suddenly we're back on the bridge with Paris trying to talk Kim into a date with the Delaneys. Chakotay calls Janeway out of her ready room to tell her that they have identified an M-class planet in the nearby red dwarf system and asks if she wants to change course to investigate it. Neelix still has no knowledge of the system or its lifeforms. Kes walks onto the bridge, and talks of everybody on the planet being killed in a terrible explosion. Neelix suggests that she has had a bad dream; she disagrees. Janeway asks Tuvok if there is any evidence of trouble on the planet, and he reports that there isn't, although he does detect lifesigns, and a pre-warp civilisation. This decides Janeway, who explains to Neelix that this means that they will give this civilisation a wide berth as a matter of policy. Kes asks if she may see the planet on the viewscreen anyway, and Janeway grants her request. It looks a little less grey than before. Kes thanks the captain and exits.

Meanwhile, Tom Paris has succeeded in chivvying Harry Kim off duty and they also leave the bridge. And Janeway orders Chakotay to enter the planet's co-ordinates into the log and maintain their present heading.


Random Reflections

Kes's mental powers are given their first outing in this episode. It's interesting to see how little notice the rest of the crew take of them. They're all far too busy trying to find Paris and Janeway by technological means - the subspace beacon emitted by Janeway's comm badge - to give any credence to Kes's sensitivity to the missing crewmembers' presence at a given location in the past. The only person who seems to take her powers at all seriously in this episode is the Doctor, who is very matter of fact and medical about the whole thing. Everybody else seems to think that she is letting her imagination run away with her, and to tolerate her presence because she's not in the way rather than seize the opportunity to use whatever advantage her psychic link to the past can offer them in their search. Kes's powers have always been a somewhat underused feature in Voyager, dragged out and displayed only when they are necessary to the plot, but perhaps this dismissive attitude on the part of the crew goes some way toward explaining why that might be.

Of course, strictly speaking none of this happened... apart from Kes's little scene on the bridge at the end. But she has exhibited the powers, and the genie is out of the bottle. Doubtless shortly after the episode concluded an unscreened repeat of the scene where an anxious Neelix took her to sickbay will play itself out...

Effect precedes cause for the second week in a row. This time Voyager is responsible for an explosion which happens before they ever arrive at the planet where it took place. It is Janeway's contention that because they then travelled back in time to a point before the explosion they could be held accountable for it. But then, she takes this sort of temporal complication in her stride. I'm with Paris; it makes my head spin!

Paris falls very unconvincingly after Terla shoots him. That clutch at his stomach is just too stagey for words. But let's be fair; it is his first real injury (unless you count a cut finger at the end of Parallax). Robert Duncan McNeill gets a lot better with practice... and Paris is enough of an injury magnet to give him plenty of that!

I don't understand why the guards at the power plant would be issued with weapons that are unsafe to use in the environs of the plant itself. Seems crazy to me...

And it's never explained precisely what Makull and his band of merry saboteurs actually are up to in the power plant. Granted, their fears about the danger of polaric radiation make it unlikely that they would blow anything up, but why do they break in there? They only tell Janeway what they're not doing. I can only suppose that their sabotage is more of an inhibiting spanner in the works than anything else - perhaps putting the plant out of action for a time, whilst simultaneously demonstrating just how easy it would be for a less well intentioned band of terrorists to cause mass destruction. Their aim is to get the plants closed down, so creating public alarm and embarrassing those in charge of them would probably seem a worthwhile victory in itself.



Janeway is here shown to be a staunch champion of the Prime Directive, to the extent that she is willing to do nothing to save her own life if by so doing she might violate that principle. When Paris questions her thinking he gets a friendly but firm lecture. Janeway is clear in her own mind where she stands on the issue, enough so that when circumstances persuade her to change her actions it is Tuvok, who knows her best, who is unable to predict what she is likely to do. He cannot conceive of any circumstances under which she would risk interfering with the known course of events, even by accident, and is therefore certain that the point of origin of the explosion is the very last place she is likely to go. Other crew members, regarding the Prime Directive as an irritating inconvenience of altogether lesser importance than rescuing their missing fellows, manage to second guess her better, albeit more or less by accident. At the time perhaps Janeway's realisation that the interference had already taken place seemed justification enough for the change of heart that so misleads Tuvok, but hindsight suggests that perhaps she is less closely welded to the rulebook without Starfleet looking over her shoulder all the time. Certainly as time goes on, and survival instincts assert themselves over regulations, she finds it ever easier to dismiss the dictates of the Prime Directive if it gets in the way.

For Paris the lecture on the Prime Directive that she hands him is a little too close to the sermons on the same subject that his father used to give, but then it's not surprising that Janeway as both protégéé and admirer of Admiral Paris tends to think the same way. To his credit, Paris does at least listen to Janeway, rather than tune her out as he claims to have done his father's unwanted moral lectures, which probably reflects the more friendly and secure relationship that he has with his captain. Janeway has trusted and shown faith in him, and he gives it back in many ways, not least his openness in avowing opinions that she might not necessarily agree with. He seems to know that she can disagree with him without holding it against him. They've come a long way in a few short weeks. When Janeway first met Tom Paris in his New Zealand penal colony her low opinion of him was there in her eyes for all to see. Now, differences in rank aside, they might almost be friends.

With the captain absent, the senior officers are having to run the show, and it's interesting to see how Chakotay and Tuvok react in those circumstances. There's one fascinating moment where their respective ideologies clash head on, in the meeting where the merits of searching for Janeway and Paris at the source of the explosion are debated. It's only too plausible that Chakotay would think nothing of pushing the Prime Directive aside and making the rescue of the missing crewmembers a higher priority; he's already chosen people over principles once before, back when he resigned from Starfleet to join the Maquis. He listens to Torres and Kim's proposal with a reasonably neutral expression, although he nods his approval at their mention of the flashpoint. But it's part of a quiet and measured consideration of the options, until Tuvok sticks his oar in and quotes the Starfleet rulebook at them. Chakotay then instantly commits himself to the opposing viewpoint, and turns to Tuvok with a definite glare. There's both disapproval at being contradicted and an element of challenge in his gaze before he turns to Torres and Kim and gives them the go-ahead.

Tuvok is harder to read, since he's absolutely deadpan Vulcan until Chakotay dismisses the meeting. Then there's a definite pursing of lips in disapproval. But it's impossible to know from this whether he is just being by-the-book and giving logical and sensible (if unwelcome) advice, or whether it's personal. The one thing that seems to point to the latter is the way that the others present - Torres, Kim and Kes - keep silent and keep out of it, although Kes is practically pop-eyed at witnessing this quiet but deadly clash of wills. And whatever Tuvok's feelings on the matter, it certainly looks like Chakotay takes it personally. If nothing else, Tuvok is asserting a certain superiority of knowledge of the captain, and through it claiming an ascendancy over the First Officer.



It's difficult to know quite what to make of this episode. It offers neither extensive character insights nor a particularly inventive and original plot. The time travel plot perhaps comes a little too soon after Parallax, although there it's the solution and here the problem. The subspace fractures are a nice idea, and the gradual working towards the same point of the characters in the past and the present sets up the twist that it is Voyager's actions that caused the disaster reasonably well, but the suspense is mainly because you can see it coming rather than because you can't.

The things I like best about the episode now are mainly character driven, and most of them best appreciated in hindsight, such as the subtle but ever present friction between Chakotay and Tuvok. It's something that I originally didn't pick up on until midway through the first season, but it's there from the beginning if you look for it. Both are relatively minor players in this episode, but their actions are spot on. They show their bad qualities and their good ones, and demonstrate that Janeway really needs the skills and abilities of both. Chakotay's too inclined to grab at the solution of the moment, whatever was last suggested, to cure the problem... and Tuvok's far too wrapped up in his own logic. One is too flexible in his approach, and the other not flexible enough; they balance out nicely, although I doubt that they'd see it.

It's also interesting to see how comfortable Paris and Janeway are around each other when there's nobody else around to see or make judgements. On board Voyager, watched by a critical crew who aren't necessarily as ready to accept that he has made a fresh start as Janeway, Paris is always a little more on the defensive. There he's always playing to the gallery, but here he seems to feel free to be open and honest about what he thinks and feels. And he must have the patience of a saint; he even manages to tolerate the extremely annoying little boy.

Not a great episode... but not a terrible one either.