“Before and After”
Written by Kenneth Biller
Directed by Allen Kroeker
Season 3, Episode 21
Production episode 163
Original air date: April 9, 1997
Captain’s log. An elderly (nine-year-old) Kes is being placed by the EMH (who now has hair) into a biotemporal chamber in 2379. Kes is going through the morilogium, the final stages Ocampa go through before death, which includes significant memory loss.
A flash, and then Kes is in sickbay, but now surrounded by the EMH, a boy in civilian clothes, and a woman a Starfleet science uniform. Her only memory is of the EMH talking to her before putting her in the biotemporal chamber, but the confused EMH isn’t ready to put her into the chamber yet and denies saying what she says he said.
The other two are her daughter Linnis and her grandson Andrew, but Kes doesn’t recognize them. Andrew says he finally finished her birthday present and he’s sorry he didn’t give it to her at her ninth birthday party. Her body temperature starts to drop.
A flash, and then Kes is in her quarters. She sees a picture of herself much younger with a newborn infant. She goes into the common room to see Andrew and Linnis. Andrew says he’s still working on her birthday present. Kes learns that Linnis is her daughter, and she escorts her to sickbay. They assume it’s the onset of the morilogium. Paris and Kim come in, and we find out that Paris and Kes are now married, Linnis is their daughter, and Andrew is Linnis’ daughter by Kim.
Even as the EMH examines her, her temperature starts to drop. Another flash, and then Kes is in the mess hall. Neelix, who is now a full-time security officer, has dusted off his baking skills to make Kes a ninth birthday cake. Andrew also says he doesn’t have her present yet, but he’ll get to it when he has time and it’ll be great. After blowing out the candles, she takes the EMH aside. She still has no memory of her past, but she remembers all her future bits that she’s experienced. The EMH is shocked to see that she knows about the biotemporal chamber—which he had only come up with that morning and was going to tell her about at the party.
They go to sickbay, where the EMH reports to Captain Chakotay. Chakotay thinks it’s a temporal paradox, while the EMH thinks she may have precognitive abilities (which would track with her growing telepathic powers). She and Paris go off to try to find something in her past—which she doesn’t remember—that may explain what’s happening.
Kes finds a reference to Voyager being hit with a chroniton torpedo, during a fight against the Krenim that Paris refers to as the “year of hell,” during which many crew members were killed, including Janeway, Torres, and Carey. Given the temporal fuckery, the chroniton torpedo may be the answer. They were all inoculated against the chroniton radiation after they fought the Krenim, but the biotemporal chamber may have activated the residual radiation in Kes’ cells. This is confirmed after another time jump to right after Andrew was born, when Kes has to tell it all over again to the EMH. This after she jumps to when Kim took the picture of Kes and baby Andrew that was by her bed when she was nine years old in the future. (Time travel really messes with verb tenses…)
The EMH creates a force field in the hopes of being able to protect her from further time jumps, but it doesn’t work. They need to know the exact frequency of the chroniton torpedo that struck Voyager, but sensors were down during that attack, and they have no idea what that frequency might be.
Kes’ body temperature drops, a flash, and then she’s giving birth to Linnis on a shuttlecraft. It’s in the middle of the “year of hell,” and they get back to the ship with the newborn Linnis, but the ship is in terrible shape. The EMH is offline, the main computer is down, and there’s no way to try to cure Kes with the ship in the shape it’s in.
Then Kes jumps again, this time to the day of the first Krenim attack. A party in the holodeck is interrupted by red alert. Janeway and Torres (whom Kes, in essence, meets for the first time) are killed in the firefight, and Kes goes into a Jefferies Tube to get the frequency of the chroniton missile.
Another jump, this time to 2373 (the “present” of the late third season). She goes through the explanation all over again, and the EMH (who is now bald again) and Torres construct a biotemporal chamber. However, in the middle of his using the chamber to remove the chroniton radiation, she jumps again, this time to when Neelix convinced Janeway to let him and Kes remain on board after rescuing her from the Kazon and destroying the Caretaker’s array—and then she jumps again to her childhood, and she tries to convince her father of what’s happening. Her father, of course, thinks it’s just her overactive imagination.
Then she jumps back to the day she was born. Then to being a fetus inside her mother. Then to being a zygote. Then to being a cell.
Then time moves forward for her, and she is born, and then she jumps to the biotemporal chamber in 2373, as the EMH has removed all the chroniton radiation from her cells. She’s all better and back in sync.
A party is held on the holodeck. Tuvok reminds everyone that this is only a possible future, as Kes’ travelling back through her own life likely had an impact on the timelines. Janeway also says she’d like to know as much as she can about the Krenim, and Kes runs off to file a report, as this adventure has taught her that there’s no time like the present…
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? A biotemporal chamber may extend your life, but it will also activate any chroniton radiation that’s in your cells. So be careful of that…
There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway and Torres are both killed by that old Trek standby, the exploding console, which takes both of them out. After hearing the whole episode about how the pair of them were killed, it’s kind of hilarious that it’s so anticlimactic a death as getting blown up like some redshirt…
Mr. Vulcan. After Janeway’s death, Tuvok becomes first officer under Chakotay.
Forever an ensign. Kim becomes Paris’ son-in-law and makes him a grandfather. That’s not weird at all.
Half and half. Because Kes only remembers what happened in her future in the episode, the moment where she “first” encounters Torres (right before her and Janeway’s death) is hilarious. “You must be B’Elanna,” and Torres laughs her ass off at the ridiculous statement.
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. In the future, Neelix becomes a security officer. This means he has to trim his hair and wear a uniform, and also only have one duty on board, all of which are extremely unlikely.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. During the year of hell, the EMH is deactivated for several months, and some time after he comes back, he decides that he needs to have hair. Also some time around when Kes is eight years old, he takes on the name Vincent van Gogh.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Kim apparently marries and procreates with a woman whom he first meets as an infant shortly after she was born and who grows up within the space of a year. That’s not weird at all.
Torres and Paris are a couple by the time the year of hell rolls around, which accurately predicts the two characters’ future, though it’s not much of a future in this timeline, as Torres is killed, and Paris and Kes later wind up as a couple.
What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. We get three different parties, two of which, one to celebrate Kes being cured (the reason for the one the day of the Krenim attack is never given) are held in the Paxau Resort program. The other, for Kes’ ninth birthday, is in the mess hall.
“In approximately six months, I will apparently expose Kes to some type of biotemporal field in a highly experimental, but nonetheless brilliant attempt to stop her aging process.”
“However, some five years later, when I attempt an experimental and, I might add, ingenious procedure to extend her lifespan, the biotemporal field I expose her to will trigger dormant chroniton particles.”
–Two different quotes from the EMH in which he tells the crew what Kes told him about the future and making sure to throw in some self-aggrandizement for good measure.
Welcome aboard. Jessica Collins (who is actually older than Jennifer Lien) plays Linnis, while Christopher Aguilar plays Andrew. Janna Michaels is the child Kes, while Michael L. Maguire plays Kes’ father.
Trivial matters: Kenneth Biller’s primary inspiration for this episode was the Martin Amis novel Time’s Arrow, which is also about someone who experiences time in reverse.
This episode was the inspiration for the “Year of Hell” two-parter in the fourth season (which was originally intended as the season-spanning two-parter to end this season, but they went with the Borg-heavy “Scorpion” instead), as Brannon Braga loved the idea of portraying the year of hell described and briefly portrayed in this episode.
Starting with this episode, Jennifer Lien wears her natural, longer hair instead of the short blonde wig, mostly so she wouldn’t have to wear the prosthetic ears (now covered by her hair), which Lien had been reacting badly to.
Neelix mentions Kes’ single lung when she blows out the candle on her birthday cake, a reference to the fact that she donated a lung to Neelix in “The Phage.”
Joe Carey is mentioned as being killed during the year of hell, the first reference to the deputy chief engineer since his last appearance in “State of Flux.”
Kes jumps to the scene at the end of “Caretaker” when Neelix convinces Janeway to let him and Kes stay on board. “Caretaker” also established that the Ocampa all lived underground in hiding from the Kazon and protected by the Caretaker; Kes’ mother’s declaration that she’ll some day see the sun when Kes is born will prove prophetic.
Just as with Worf’s birthday party in TNG’s “Parallels,” the Voyager crew sings “For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow” to celebrate Kes’ birthday to avoid having to pay royalties to use “Happy Birthday.”
The only thing we see in the future that actually comes to pass is the Paris-Torres relationship. The biggie is, of course, that Kes won’t be on the ship for the next six years—she’ll only be on board for another couple three months. Also, Neelix will never become a security officer (or get a uniform); Janeway, Torres, and Carey will survive the fight against the Krenim; Paris and Kes will never get together and procreate, which means Kim will never marry their daughter and procreate; and (thank all the deities that exist) the EMH will not give himself hair (nor choose the name van Gogh).
This is the first Voyager episode directed by Allan Kroeker, who had already directed the DS9 episodes “The Assignment” and “The Ascent.” Kroeker will go on to direct the series finales of each of the two extant shows, and the next one, as he will helm DS9’s “What You Leave Behind,” Voyager’s “Endgame,” and Enterprise’s “These are the Voyages…”
Set a course for home. “Grandma, don’t look, you’ll spoil the surprise!” This is a brilliantly written episode. Kenneth Biller’s track record has been hit (“Jetrel,” “Initiations“) and miss (“Twisted,” “Maneuvers“), but he absolutely nails this one. It’s beautifully structured, reminding me favorably not just of Time’s Arrow, but also the Harold Pinter play Betrayal. But what’s particularly nifty about this is not just that Kes is moving backwards through her life, but she only remembers what happened to her “before,” which is always in the future for everyone around her. It’s wonderful to see Kes try to figure out what’s going on, based only on things that haven’t happened yet and with no memory of what happened before.
Jennifer Lien does superlative work here. She modulates seamlessly from an amnesiac elderly woman to someone who becomes more lucid as she figures out what’s going on—and grows younger. The book on Kes has always been her curiosity and eagerness to learn, and that serves her well even if she doesn’t entirely remember who she is. This is a very nifty little science fictional mystery, and it’s to Biller’s credit that it doesn’t bog down in repeated exposition each time Kes jumps to a new time where she has to explain stuff all over again. Credit also to Janna Michaels, who looks and sounds very much like someone who will grow up to become Lien.
Everything just clicks beautifully here, with so many nice touches, like the EMH having hair and picking a name, like Janeway and Torres being killed with Chakotay now in charge, Neelix formally joining Starfleet, and seeing both Paris and Kim raising families (well, the same family, really).
Having said that, the notion that Kim marries and has a kid with someone who was born on the ship just feels oogy to me for some reason. Of course, we don’t see the relationship develop, and apparently half-Ocampa develop as fast as full-blooded ones, but it’s still just odd. In addition, we see Neelix having already joined security before the Krenim’s first attack, which doesn’t quite track. Him joining the crew formally after the losses suffered during the year of hell makes sense—him doing so prior to that, not so much.
There are a few other head-scratchers, too. Kes fading out of sight right before one of her time jumps makes no sense except to needlessly draw out the scene—none of the other time jumps are like that. And then there’s the ending, where it’s all fixed by the EMH drawing out the chronitons in 2373—except she already jumped back several more times. So what was the point of watching her go all the way back to being a single cell?
Still, these are minor complaints about what is overall a superb episode that really gives Lien a chance to shine.
Warp factor rating: 9
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be doing a bunch of panels at the virtual version of Dragon Con this coming weekend. Keep an eye on his blog, his Facebook page, or his Twitter for his schedule, which should be finalized soonish.