Future’s End is a fun double episode of Star Trek: Voyager in which the writers (Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky) decided to put aside profound concepts and positive messages. I had a lot of fun watching it, but it’s undeniable that there are lots of things that don’t add up… But I don’t really care about that: when time travel is involved, paradoxes should be expected, and until now the series only had two episodes playing with time (Time and Again and Eye of the Needle, both from Season 1), so it was time for a story in which the entire ship travelled through time!
The beginning is amazing: the USS Voyager encounters a space-time distortion from which a small 22nd Century Federation spacecraft emerges. Captain Braxton (Allan G. Royal) informs Janeway that he must destroy her ship to avoid a solar system explosion that occurred in his time and begins an attack. Our heroes do everything to resist, and in the ensuing chaos, Voyager finds herself on Earth in 1996! The only way to go back to your time is to find Braxton, but it soon turns out that the unfortunate captain of the future was catapulted into the sixties and is now a poor, delusional homeless man. His time ship was stolen by Henry Starling (Ed Begley Jr.), a business shark who, thanks to the knowledge obtained with the ship, began a real IT revolution, that is, the one that really took place starting from the seventies.
It would be useless to go into the details of the rest of the plot. It contains a million things including a love story between Tom Paris and Rain Robinson, the character played by the wonderful (and very young) Sarah Silverman; Steven Spielberg’s Duel (1971)-like car chases complete with a killer truck; Voyager being spotted in the sky above Los Angeles (a bit like Kirk’s Enterprise in Tomorrow Is Yesterday of The Original Series); Chakotay and Torres being kidnapped by anti-government thugs in Arizona; the Doctor going around thanks to future technology; Janeway manually launching a photon torpedo… Is that enough?
All these things make this episode fun although full of weaknesses. Above all, I was shocked by the finale: wasn’t any better solution than to disintegrate Starling’s aide with a phaser shot and to launch a torpedo at Starling’s ship to avoid a catastrophe? Maybe it’s acceptable to murder two horrible persons in order to save the lives of billions of people centuries into the future, but… was that the only possible solution? What if the torpedo launched at Starling itself would have caused the catastrophe in the future? Janeway couldn’t possibly know that!
And what about all the paradoxes created by the space-time incident? The ending with another Braxton bringing Voyager back to its time and space doesn’t shed light on that. Is the current future the one created by the IT revolution made by Starling, who then mysteriously disappeared? And how many Braxtons and how many Braxton ships can coexist in the same timeline? And was Braxton acting on personal impulse or was he sent by the 29th-Century Federation to destroy Janeway’s ship? It wasn’t the most elegant solution to avoid a catastrophe and, among other things, it created a problem instead of solving it (the famous temporal paradox of A that causes B that causes C that in turn causes A)!
Well… the plot doesn’t work very well, but there’s a lot of action, there’s suspense (the cliffhanger at the end of the first part is great, with everything that seems lost with little hope, unlike the season two finale), and there’s also a bit of healthy anti-capitalism with a critique of the need to make profits at all costs. To conclude, I enjoyed Future’s End quite a bit, ciao!
PS: the consistency award of the episode goes to Chakotay. After telling the anti-government people “I used to think that violence was the answer“, implying that he doesn’t anymore, he kills Starling’s bodyguard by disintegrating his truck that was about to destroy the EMPTY hippie van of Rain Robinson. Luckily he changed his mind about the use of violence!
PPS: The Delta Flyers podcast shout out: There are two episodes of The Delta Flyers Future’s End. In the first one, Garrett Wang enumerates all the references to previous Star Trek movies and episodes featured in the double episode of Star Trek: Voyager. I’m thinking of Tomorrow Is Yesterday, obviously, but even Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home! For example, Vulcans on past Earth always have questions (What does it mean, groovy / exact change?)…
Previous episode: Sacred Ground
Next episode: Warlord