A good episode was badly needed in this third season which was already showing worrying signs of weakness (the last three episodes had been one worse than the other: Darkling, Rise and Favorite Son). Before and After is yet another episode that plays with time travel but does it well and not only is it fun from start to finish, but it features my favorite character, Kes. The episode also allows the writers to play with a alternative future too dark to be what awaits us in the next four seasons, and it’s an interesting twist even if only for one episode!
At the beginning of Before and After I felt a bit confused with aging Kes and the rest of the crew looking exactly the same age as ever (except the Doctor who sports a terrifying toupee and calls himself with the names of great artists of the past like Mozart and Van Gogh!). But the Ocampas’ life span is very short, we know it since the first episode Caretaker, so it wasn’t difficult to understand that a few years had passed since the events of the previous episode (seven, to be precise).
Kes is about to die of old age and the Doctor has devised a bio-temporal device… and off we go, let’s jump back in time a few weeks. Kes, initially disoriented, little by little begins to take the reins of this situation that at irregular intervals makes her live her life in reverse, rejuvenating more and more. Fortunately, once she arrives a few years earlier she manages to have the time to make the Doctor start a procedure to stop this journey back in time… and let me stop here with the plot! I just applaud the funny and ingenious ending that arrives just when all seemed lost.
In this episode we have the opportunity to see Kes at different ages, a unique opportunity that I personally loved for the further development given to this splendid character (and played by an absolutely convincing Jennifer Lien here). Furthermore, the events of the Voyager of the future mentioned here are intriguing:
- A year of hell chased by the warships of a hostile and powerful race (the Krenim, who continue the tradition of aggressive races with names starting with K);
- newly-developed relationships (Tom Paris is an incurable ladykiller, you know);
- important characters who die in battle (the two people we see dying in Before and After are too important for this to be the official timeline of Star Trek: Voyager, I’m sure!);
- and Neelix who works for Tuvok in security (their relationship is always unstable, we saw it in Rise very recently)!
These are all very imaginative, plausible, and therefore compelling!
In short, the episode hits the mark across the board, including Kes’s new haircut! Okay, there are no great messages underneath, there’s no particularly deep moral, but i’s a breath of fresh air that this season really needed. Ciao!
PS: It would be a great touch if Voyager actually met the Krenim in the future and managed to escape their clutches thanks to the information learned in this episode! Is it too much to ask?
PPS: The Delta Flyers podcast shout out: Robert Duncan McNeill’s haiku seemed to me to be perfect to describe this episode (which the blond actor / director / producer didn’t like at all, by the way): Kes moving backwards / Alternate reality / Prepare for Krenim
Previous episode: Favorite Son
Next episode: Real Life