Voyager rewatch 5.06 – “Timeless”

It’s Voyager‘s 100th episode! Does that mean it’s my 100th Voyager post? Do I get a sheetcake?

For the record, I took myself down to the shop and bought myself a wee cake. My therapist says it’s important to celebrate victories, and I’m pretty sure she had this exact scenario in mind.

UPDATE: I have eaten the cake.

Animated gif of Michael Burnham telling Tilly, "Cake is eternal."

OKAY, SO, it’s Voyager‘s 100th episode, and YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS!


It’s actually a nice, straightforward setup: the Voyager team have allegedly been working for months on a quantum slipstream drive that will get them home in a few hours. There’s a sliiiight problem with the maths, but Harry says he can get them through it. Only — he doesn’t. He and Chakotay get home, but Voyager and the rest of the crew are lost — buried beneath a glacier on the outer edge of the alpha quadrant. Fifteen years later, an embittered Harry and a Chakotay who is … there … set out to change history.

Harry Kim saves everyone

A season ago, Harry was sidelined in  “The Killing Game” because the writers didn’t find him interesting and didn’t consider Garrett Wang a particularly strong actor. (Um, did you try writing for him before you decided that? Evidently not.)

Ironically, his small roll in that two-parter was so good that now he’s the centre of a major anniversary episode. It really is just amazing what people and characters are capable of when they have a modicum of support from the writers and producers.

Do I sound bitter? I kind of am! I love Harry in this episode, and it’s depressing that this is basically a once-off — soon we’ll be back to Poor Old Harry, Can’t Get A Date (Because Asian Men Aren’t Sexy, Signed, Rick Berman, Expert On What Women Find Attractive).

However, just as I went out and bought that slice of cake, I am going to appreciate what I have: Harry being handsome, bitter, obsessive and greying. Did I mention that he is handsome? That fifteen year time jump comes with decided aesthetic benefits.

Possibly more importantly, I guess, Harry’s bitterness and obsession are fascinating and fun to watch. Next to Janeway, he’s always been the character most eager to get home, but without the guilt which drives the captain. “Timeless” goes, “Okay, let’s see what happens when he has to carry a LOT of guilt?”

The answer is handsomeness an obsessive need to change history to fix his mistake. Which is 100% pure Janeway, he has learned so well from his mentor, I love it. Yes, it’s probably bad. Definitely not healthy, at least. But it’s amazing. Wang knocks it out of the park — he gets to go big, but he also has smaller moments, like his letter to his past self. Great stuff.

Chakotay is also there

This is mean, but I feel like Chakotay was the other member of Team Time Heist because they needed a character who wouldn’t distract from Harry.

Chakotay has a lot to do in this future! Gazing mournfully at Janeway’s body, and looking mournful while his much-younger girlfriend tells him it’s totally fine that he’s going to erase their entire relationship, because she too is a J/C shipper! I just … have trouble understanding why he’s going along with Harry’s plan when he doesn’t seem to wholly believe in it. (This is the guy who has spent the entire series adapting to his circumstances!)

His best scene is the confrontation with Captain LaForge (yaaaaaaay Geordi!), where he actually seems engaged and determined. The rest of the episode, he’s kind of just floating along, clearly thinking that Harry is not okay, but not doing anything to hold him back, the way he would have with Janeway.

This is interesting as characterisation, I just … don’t know how intentional it is. And it makes me wish I’d written more interesting fic back in the day, instead of some nonsense about how Tessa was clearly not good enough for him.

We need to talk about Tessa

In a franchise full of underwritten female characters, Tessa … falls solidly in the middle. But she’s the only guest star who isn’t a TNG alumnus, so I’m gonna talk about her.

FIRST OF ALL, I feel bad for Christine Harnos, whose only other major role was equally thankless — she was Mark Green’s ex-wife in 28 episodes of ER, who was the archetypical “It’s 1993 and this career woman is a good mother … but a bad wife. And that’s terrible.”

Tessa doesn’t fit into such a neat box, which is maybe part of the problem. She’s The Girlfriend, but we never find out how she met Chakotay and Harry, or why she is throwing everything away for this suicidal mission to change history and ensure that her relationship with a man she seems to love never even happens. It’s thin writing, and Beltran and Harnos don’t exactly have enough chemistry to make up for it.

(“They’re having sex,” Harry spits, as if he’s offended that Chakotay is willing to set aside VENGEANCE CHANGING HISTORY long enough for a quick orgasm. But there doesn’t seem to be any particular attraction between them, so again, I ask, why?)

Tessa begins to explain, “Well, I was always very interested in Voyager,” before Harry cuts her off, see above. But I wish we had more, because as it is, I’m like … so is she an historian? A starship crash nerd? A conspiracy theorist? A Voyager groupie?

Here’s one thing we definitely know about Tessa, though: her hair and make-up, and even the way she speaks and holds herself, are very reminiscent of Seska in her Bajoran disguise. Chakotay continues to have A TYPE.

I apologise for using this Harry essay to talk about Chakotay’s sex life

I just wanna flag that Janeway and Chakotay continue to be EXTREMELY close in their body language and … everything. She invites him to dinner! Actually she makes it an order, which is workplace sexual harassment, Kathryn, but you’re adorable so I’ll let you get away with it.

Back in the day, there were a lot of J/C shippers who were one hundred percent certain that Janeway and Chakotay hooked up the night before the quantum slipstream experiment. I know, because I was one of them, and it turns out I still am. I mean, yes, it’s headcanon, but it’s my head, dammit.

It’s a bit sad that the 100th episode isn’t an ensemble piece

On the other hand, I feel like it’s a miracle it’s not a Seven episode.

Most of the cast get A Moment in “Timeless” — Harry, Chakotay and Janeway, of course, have a lot to do. Tom and B’Elanna mostly get technobabble, but with a gentle infusion of personality, like a flavoured sparkling water. Seven gets a cute drunk scene in addition to the climactic technobabble, and Neelix gets to wave a, um, plush fly around. And the Doctor gets a fairly big role in the future.

Tuvok gets almost nothing, and that is an injustice I cannot forgive. Imagine this episode but with Tuvok and T’Pel joining Harry in Operation: VENGEANCE AGAINST TIME ITSELF!

Other observations

  • Janeway’s hair continues enormous. It’s full of confetti and lost hope.
  • The old “she’s great at her job and is a feminist icon but she can’t cook lol” trope never ceases to be irritating.
  • Tom and Harry’s approaches to the simulation failures here are basically inversions of their approaches in “Threshold”.
  • Do you think the whole crew really would have died immediately from the crash? I feel like at least some should have survived at least a few days.
  • Because it’s the ’90s, the camera does have to lovingly pan over some female corpses, in this case Janeway and Seven’s.

In conclusion

Of course you should watch this episode. It’s iconic. It could have been a whole movie. Four and a half bottles of champagne out of five.

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