If you could alter history to save your people….would you? What about just a single person? This is explored in the first of a two part episode that originally aired on November 5, 1997. This is Year of Hell.
Warning…this one involves a lot of time travel and jumping around to I will try to make the synopsis of the episode easy to follow. Apologies in advance.
Captain’s Log Stardate 51268.4 Year of Hell.
Voyager is caught up in a temporal war when the Krenim scientist tries to restore his Empire by manipulating history itself.
The story opens with an entire peaceful civilization being erased from time by a strange device. After wiping out the planet the scientist in charge is upset that history has not been altered satisfactorily. Running the numbers he sees that they must eliminate the Zahl from history itself in order to get their desired timeline back on course.
The Senior Staff gather to celebrate the opening of the new Astrometrics Lab on Voyager. With Seven of Nine now in charge of the lab, she and Harry show the team how they can use this new Borg infused technology to chart a course home. Pleased with the results they are saved from a lengthy speech from the Doctor when Janeway is notified that they are being hailed. Arriving on the bridge, she is shocked when a small ship is firing on them.
Identifying themselves as the Krenim, the Commandant of the ship demands that Voyager leaves Krenim space. Janeway retorts that she believed it to be Zahl space and refuses to alter course. The Krenim leave making it clear that they are not pleased in doing so. A few days later Voyager meets up with an Ambassador from the Zahl who assures them that the Krenim are not to be concerned with. They are a small contingent who were defeated some time ago although they did use Temporal Technology in their weapons. AS they discuss the situation the Krenim returns and accuses Janeway of allying with their enemy. The Zahl attempts to dismiss them but Kim notices a rather large spatial distortion heading their way. They watch on as a space-time shockwave emanates from the Krenim vessel near the Zahl planet erasing the Zahl ships as it expands. The shock wave hits Voyager and…
The ship is now in red alert status with clear damage to the ship and the Zahl ships and visitor have vanished. No one is aware anything has changed as the Krenim ship, now much more powerful, fires on Voyager. No match for the Krenim’s temporal torpedoes, Janeway takes the ship to warp in hopes to escape this enemy. With several crew-members hurt and the ship in terrible shape, Janeway orders Tuvok to find a way to modify their shields to prevent the Krenim’s temporal torpedoes from getting through.
On the Krenim time ship, Annorax learns from his officer Obrist that the annihilation of the Zahl from the timeline has restored 98% of the Krenim Imperium. Asking about a specific colony, while looking sadly at a lock of hair in a glass container, Annorax is dissapointed to learn that the Colony has never existed. Claiming that they have failed in their task, Annorax insists that they find a new target. Although they have been at this for two hundred years, he will not stop until he has the results he is after.
Weeks later Voyager finds itself under attack by the Krenim again. Unfortunately the shield modifications have failed and the ship is being torn apart. The battle rages on until Voyager is finally able to destroy the Krenim ship using Voyager’s own torpedoes as mines. Although they were successful several sections of the ship have been destroyed along with a number of crew-members. With a brief moment to breath, Janeway heads to her ready-room to prepare a strategy to survive this ongoing battle. Chakotay suggests abandoning ship but Janeway fears that this will only deliver the crew into the hands of the Krenim themselves. They come to an agreement only to be alerted to another attack.
Over a month since their meeting with then now non-existant Zahl and Voyager is in ruins. Kim and Torres find themselves stuck in a turbolift with Torres badly injured. After being rescued by Seven of Nine, Kim and Seven head on to fix the EPS relays as Torres is sent to Sickbay.
On the bridge Janeway, Chakotay and Paris discuss new tactics to survive the constant attacks from the Krenim with a plan of using transverse bulkheads almost like that of a shielding to help prevent further hull breaches. Paris heads off to implement this new technology but is called to the mess hall to assist the Doctor in triage.
As Paris helps the Doctor, Seven of Nine finds a temporal torpedo lodged in the side of the ship and begins to scan it to see if she can find a way to deactivate it. Tuvok arrives after warning Seven to not tamper with the torpedo but she believes she can discover it’s temporal variance so that they can safely modify the shields against this deadly weapon. As she is working the Torpedo activates and she manages to get the variance moments before it detonates. The blast hits Tuvok in the face moments before they can get away.
Several weeks later, Voyager is in even worse shape. With the replicators off line the crew must survive on emergency rations. Chakotay gifts Janeway with a pocket-watch he had replicated some time ago for her birthday but she asks him to recycle it so that they can use the material elsewhere. Elsewhere we find that Tuvok is now blind and Seven has become his partner assisting him in his every day duties. She feels guilty that he sacrificed his sight to save her life. The two head to deflector control in order to alter the deflector shield using the information she obtained just as Chakotay warns of an incoming attack. As Tuvok makes his way to the bridge, Seven rushes to implement the new shields. Just as the battle commences she is able to bring them online preventing further damage.
As Voyager battles the Krenim, Annorax attacks another planet wiping the Garenor from existence. After the shock-wave dissipates, Voyager finds that everything has changed. The Krenim ship has stopped firing and is no longer the warship it once was. Confused Chakotay scans the region and discover that the Krenim are no longer a vast empire but only a small group relegated to ships. Please that they are no longer being attacked, Janeway and crew decide to discover just what has happened that effectively changed the history of the entire quadrant.
Back on the Temporal War Ship Annorax is furious when Obrist informs him of the complete erasure of the Krenim Imperium. Although his calculations were precise he soon discovers the reason he can not alter time to his liking…it seems that Voyager itself is causing interference and that their new shields altered history in a way they could not predict. Annorax decides to pay Voyager a visit.
On Voyager Seven activates a severely damaged Astrometrics lab showing Janeway and Chakotay the changes that have been made to history. They are surprised when they learn that the Garenor civilization they saw three weeks earlier no longer exists and the Krenim Imperium has all but vanished. Although they know what happened…they still don’t know how it happened.
Annorax arrives near Voyager and instructs his crew to get samples so that they can create another temporal incursion against Voyager hoping to wipe it out of the timeline. On Voyager Kim reports that the newly arrived ship has a similar protection to the timeline changes as Voyager now does and is likely the cause of the changes being made. Suddenly Chakotay and Paris are beamed away with Voyager unable to retrieve them. Moments later Annorax hails Voyager. He and Janeway discuss what has happened and when she realizes that he is responsible for the time line changes he apologizes informing her that he holds no ill will to Voyager as he only wants to restore his people to their former glory. The time ship fires but is Voyager is temporarily protected by its shield allowing Voyager to flee at high warp despite leaving Paris and Chakotay behind and further damaging the ship.
Days away and safe Janeway informs the remaining crew of a harsh truth. The ship can no longer support life and they must leave. She orders the crew to abandon ship with the senior staff remaining behind in order to find a way to rescue their missing officers. Escape pods eject from the ship…
To be continued
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
I love a good time travel story and this one certainly fits the bill. Now normally, when Star Trek plays with Time Travel it either involves the ship or the crew travelling through time, to my knowledge we have never really had a situation where an enemy was manipulating time to change the universe. Sure there was Rasmussen in STNG and even Henry Starling in the earlier Voyager episode Future’s End but those were no where near using time itself as a weapon.
What intrigues me about this episode is the very idea that a single species can have such a significant impact on a solar system or galaxy that, if erased, their deletion radically changes events for so many people and cultures. Let’s take this to a smaller scale and look at our own world. Imagine if the United States was never founded to begin with, what cataclysmic shifts in the world would occur? Would the Native Americans have built up a massive society similar to ours now or would another country have settled this land changing the cultural dynamic of North America, not to mention so many key aspects in the history of the world? What if North and South Korea never split apart or if Germany had never been reunited? While there are a ton of speculative historical fiction in the market, the idea of altering just one thing or eliminating an entire culture from history is unfathomable.
Now, in the case of Annorax you have to ask, what would drive some one to go to such lengths as to obliterate entire cultures from existence. Not simply kill them but to make it so that they never even existed in the first place? While I do understand the drive to return your culture to it’s former glory, even when he is close to perfection he does not stop due to some personal matter. In a way, this small, almost insignificant part of his life has become his white whale, his singular drive to find no matter the cost. What that thing is..well there is a significant hint with the preserved lock of hair but I will not ruin it for you.
The main story aside, I love seeing Voyager go from being at it’s peak to at it’s worst and how the crew interact in these very different situations. In the ‘normal’ timeline it is business as usual, but in the (to borrow a term) ‘darkest timeline’ we see some dynamics that were somewhat unexpected. From Seven practically serving a blind Tuvok to even seeing Neelix again in uniform, this alternate history insinuates a very interesting future for our crew members.
While I really can’t over analyse this episode due to it only being half of the story, I love how the writers planted the seeds for this very story in one of the final episodes of Season three, the episode Before and After. If you remember Kes began travelling back in time due to her exposure to a certain chroniton torpedo lodged in deck 11, the very same torpedo that Seven of Nine scans and that inadvertently blinds Tuvok. She also mentioned that they faced what they called ‘The Year of Hell’ as they dealt with constant attacks from a people known as The Krenim. While this bit of information she shared and her obtaining the frequency of the torpedo itself should have assisted Voyager in this very adventure…in kinda makes sense that they do not use this information as The Krenim have already altered the timeline possibly making Kes’ adventure nullified. In fact, the fact that Kes herself is not there to be exposed to the Chroniton Torpedo creates a bit of a temporal paradox putting the very existence of that episode into question. Did Kes actually time travel or does Seven of Nine encountering the torpedo prevent those events from even happening?
Overall, great first part to a dynamic two part time travel extravaganza.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- 5 photon torpedoes fired, 17 remaining.
- 0 shuttlecraft lost or destroyed, -1 remaining
- The events of First Contact are mentioned with Seven of Nine acknowledging that the Borg were present. This indicates that Voyager is part of an alternate timeline created by Picard and his team going back to save Earth. Something that I will discuss later when we start talking about Star Trek Enterprise and how that series is essentially the results of the events of Star Trek First Contact. More on that later.
- We see the completed Astrometrics Lab for the first time. Trust me, this will become a regular spot for the crew.
- Not Janeway’s new doo. That short hair is here to stay for a while.
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Year of Hell Part II
more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and for more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here.
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Late To The Game 9/23/2020
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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