Voyager rewatch 3.08 – “Future’s End”

It has been far too long since our last time travel nonsense.

“Future’s End” is a big, dumb romp, and with one exception, I love everything about its first part.

Okay, Liz, so what DON’T you love?

You probably won’t be shocked to learn that I have strong reservations about Tuvok’s 1996 costuming. Here we have Janeway and Chakotay, looking fantastic in linen suits, and Tom looking like a great big square — and then Tuvok in a do-rag and baggy clothes, looking like a white person’s idea of How Black People Dress.

I get that it’s a joke: straight-laced Tuvok in ultra-casual clothes. And I get the in-universe explanation: we need to hide his ears. I just think that the joke is a bit racist, and in a universe where a Cardassian can pass for a Bajoran, I start to wonder why the Doctor didn’t just do a bit of temporary plastic surgery if it was so important that Tuvok join the away team.

Also, on a purely aesthetic level, I’m a bit sad that we didn’t get to behold Tim Russ in a nice suit, even one that’s fashionably loose as per the 1996 aesthetic.

Everything else? Great.

So many people beam down to 1996 Earth that Harry and B’Elanna are left in charge. HARRY. CAPTAIN HARRY.

In a just universe, this would have marked the beginning of a “Harry gets promoted” subplot, but apparently Rick Berman hated Asians Garrett Wang the idea of promoting Harry. His loss and ours, but at least Harry’s brief tenure in command gives us great moments like Kes And Neelix Watch Daytime TV and Voyager Becomes A UFO For Plot Reasons.

Meanwhile, Janeway and Chakotay flirt a little, which is great, before going up against Evil Bill Gates, which is … not as great, but not bad.

#NotAllTechBros, probably

Speaking of Evil Bill Gates — or, as the show calls him, Henry Starling — I just want to point out that, where DS9’s “Past Tense” depicted a tech bro who is decent, generous and has a social conscience, Voyager’s tech bro stole his ideas, speaks dismissively of women, and almost destroys the whole solar system with his selfishness and greed. Which version feels more accurate?

A brief rhapsody about Rain Robinson

The other subplot follows Tom and Tuvok as they deal with the astronomer who has spotted Voyager in orbit. I still see a lot of derision in fandom at the idea that Sarah Silverman could play an astronomer, but at least now it’s more because she’s a well-known comedian than because she was a young woman whose costume revealed a flash of midriff.

You probably won’t be shocked to learn that I love Rain Robinson because she is a young, nerdy woman with cute clothes. She’s thinly sketched, but with enough detail that you can fill in the gaps: you just know she’s a dedicated fan of The X-Files and used to participate in flamewars on alt.fans.babylon-5. She’s a few years away from setting up a GeoCities page dedicated to explaining popular astronomy on the one hand, and Mulder/Skinner shipping on the other. (Her pseud: AstronomyGirl1013.)

I love her for all that, but also, when this first came out, I coveted her metal flower belt like anything. And you know what? It’s still cute. So there.

Oh wait! I thought of something else I didn’t love!

So this is obviously a weird time to consume any media featuring the police, but the scene where Janeway and Chakotay throw Braxton to the LAPD? Kind of … not great. Hardly egregious, but it’s difficult to enjoy a mentally ill homeless man pursued by the cops being played for laughs — even if the mentally ill homeless man is from the future, and is also kind of a dick.

Hair Watch

This episode marks the introduction of Janeway’s Ponytail, which will be with us until season 4 introduces The Hockey Mom Bob. It’s not my favourite of Janeway’s styles, but then, I’m never going to be a fan of that overstyled built-up front.

On the subject of hair, I wouldn’t have been at all sad if Chakotay had kept that Clooney-type Caesar for the rest of the series.

Other observations

  • “What does it mean? ‘Groovy’?” is a stupid piece of dialogue which delights my heart
  • Just going from the way he speaks about Rain, I’m going to bet that Henry Starling has a whole lot of sexual discrimination lawsuits in his past
  • Yes, yes, yes, Janeway claims to have no idea what her ancestors were up to in the late 20th century, but season 6 gives us a whole episode about an ancestress whose life she knows VERY well. Continuity is hard. Fic will fix it.
  • The Voyager writers will never learn the difference between uploading and downloading, and I in turn will never make peace with that.
  • It’s hard to believe that this silly two-parter introduced concepts that would ultimately be integral to Enterprise. AND YET.

In conclusion

Will this episode change your life? No! Is it worth 45 minutes of your time? Hell yes! Four stolen timeships out of five.

 

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