The Delta Flyer is intercepted by the USS Challenger, under the command of Captain Geordi La Forge. Chakotay hails the Challenger, hoping to buy some time, and La Forge tells him that Starfleet is willing to drop the charges if they stand down and return the stolen transmitter. Chakotay declines, and La Forge admits that he’d probably do the same thing if their roles were reversed but his hands are tied. The wish each other luck, raise shields and ready weapons. In the past, Voyager prepares for the slipstream flight. Not long after entering the slipstream, Seven begins to detect an increasing phase variance. Kim begins sending corrections from the Flyer, and it seems to work as the slipstream stabilizes. Suddenly it begins to increase again, more rapidly this time. The slipstream begins to destabilize. In the future, the Doctor gets the information he needs from Seven’s cortical array: her exact time of death. Kim prepares to send his transmission through time, to roughly four minutes before the crash. In the past, Seven reports that she is receiving a set of phase corrections through her cranial implants. She enters them, but the slipstream collapses. Voyager, now out of control and on the brink of structural collapse, crashes.
In the future, Kim realizes that the new phase corrections must not have worked. The Challenger, meanwhile, locks on a tractor beam. Chakotay and Tessa manage to buy a few more minutes, and Kim frantically calculates a fresh set of phase corrections. There’s just one problem: they’re about three minutes from a warp core breach. Kim begins to lose it. The Doctor snaps him out of his self-pity, suggesting that if they can’t correct the phase variance, maybe they can warn Voyager instead. Kim has a eureka moment, telling the Doctor that he can send “corrections” that will disperse the slipstream entirely. If they can’t get the crew home, at least they can keep them alive. As if all this wasn’t enough, the temporal transmitter begins to lose power, and the Doctor volunteers his mobile emitter to keep it running. Kim sends the signal, celebrating as the Flyer explodes. Back to Voyager. As before, Seven receives the signal and inputs the corrections. This time, the slipstream drive goes offline and they drop to impulse. The slipstream flight may not have taken them all the way home, but it did shave a decade off the trip. Given its unreliability, the slipstream drive is dismantled, but Janeway notes in her log that even if things didn’t go as planned, morale is high. As she puts it, the question is no longer they’ll get home, but when. Later, Kim is in the mess hall going over the phase corrections he sent. When Janeway enters, he tells her that he’s realized they were wrong, that they would have lead to disaster if Voyager had received them. She tells him that they’ve figured out the source of the message Seven received, that Voyager’s guardian angel is none other than… Harry Kim. She leaves the confused ensign with something else that Seven received: a heartfelt message from his future self.
Alright, let’s not mince words here. This is a satisfying hour of TV. It’s not the best ‘Star Trek’ episode – nor even necessarily the best of ‘Voyager’. But it doesn’t have to be. Like the best of ‘Star Trek’, it succeeds on the strength of the human element. So we’ve got a gripping, human story that holds its tension right up to the end. Sounds like a good way to mark a hundred episodes to me!
In fact, it’s impressive that the show is as gripping as it is, after all, it’s hardly the first time ‘Voyager’ has teased us with the possibility of getting home early. And really, we know going in that they’re probably not going to get home this week. But that’s not really what the episode’s stakes are built on. Sure, we’d like to see the crew get home, but the stakes of ‘Timeless’ instead hinge on whether or not they’ll even survive. Which would itself seem like a foregone conclusion in episodic television, and yet…
The first act, in particular, is just eerie, as Chakotay literally steps over the bodies of his friends and the familiar sets are rendered in uncharacteristically dark lighting and covered in snow. More than the potential of Voyager getting home, this emotional gut-punch is what invests you in the episode. Make no mistake. As short as my summary of the first act was, that’s a quarter of the episode. And while it’s not exactly what you’d expect from a show that’s throwing itself a hundredth episode party, it establishes the stakes right from the get-go. Actually, forget “establish,” it all but rubs our noses in the stakes.
But as I’ve said before, it doesn’t matter how high the stakes are or how wrenching the drama is. Even the best script is nothing without a strong cast to back it up. And make no mistake; this cast is up to it. Robert Picardo makes a splash right off the bat, though you’d expect no less if you’ve followed the show to this point. His horror at being activated in the desolate, devastated sickbay would be enough, but his speech to Kim at the end seals the deal. The other Robert (Beltran) is sadly underutilized, in that he’s not given much out of the usual to do. Chakotay is more or less the same guy in 2390 that he is in 2375, which essentially leaves him as the level-headed counterpoint to the driven and increasingly desperate Kim. And speaking of Kim…
Garrett Wang recently recalled ‘Timeless’ as being “the best Harry Kim focused episode,” and it’s hard to argue with him. But more than that, it may well be Wang’s finest hour on the show. Out of all the Voyager crew, Harry Kim was always the most fixated on the idea of getting home. So to not only see him get his wish in perhaps the most monkey’s paw way possible and to see what that does to him? Well, let’s just say he’s a far cry from the bright-eyed ensign we met in ‘Caretaker’, and Wang plays it for all it’s worth. He really is the episode’s MVP, and if he hadn’t been up to the task, ‘Timeless’ wouldn’t have worked half as well as it did.
What did you think of ‘Timeless’? Let me know in the comments and be sure to check back in two weeks for the next ‘Final Frontier Friday’