The Star Trek franchise loves time travel. Some of the best episodes across the franchise’s many shows involve temporal hi-jinks, from heartbreaking episodes like “The City on the Edge of Forever” in the original series to hilarious ones like “Trials and Tribble-Ations” on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
20 years ago, Star Trek: Voyager came to an end with “Endgame”, a two-part finale that involved time travel. The Voyager crew were infamous for their temporal infractions, but at least they gave us plenty of great episodes to enjoy while breaking the temporal prime directive. In honor of the show’s swan song, here’s a look at the seven best time travel episodes on Star Trek: Voyager.
Season 1, Episode 3: “Time and Again”
The ship is hit by a shockwave and Kes (Jennifer Lien) believes she hears people crying out from a planet below. When an away team goes to investigate, Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) find themselves trapped in the planet’s past. As if that’s not bad enough, the clock is quickly ticking down to a planet-wide catastrophe.
“Time and Again” is only the third episode of Star Trek: Voyager, but it handles multiple issues deftly. While we’re invested in Captain Janeway and Tom’s retrieval, the planet’s politics are equally riveting, especially the conversation about the episode’s version of nuclear power. It’s also a great character study—Tom Paris begins the episode apathetic to the planet’s residents since there’s no way to save them, but along the way, he changes his mind.
Season 3, Episode 8-9: “Future’s End: Parts 1 & 2”
Voyager is attacked by a ship from the future and is accidentally sucked into the 20th century. The crew have to juggle numerous missions—find a way to return their ship to its time, stop an evil tech mogul from messing up the timeline, and save a young scientist from said mogul’s goons. Oh, and the Doctor (Robert Picardo) needs rescuing, as well.
This two-parter feels like a quintessential 90s film. There’s a little bit of everything in it, action, comedy and famous guest stars. The episodes add to Star Trek lore, while also taking the crew out of their regular Delta Quadrant setting. Given that they’re on Earth during “Future’s End”, the characters also have to contend with the philosophical question of whether to stay on Earth, even if it’s not their Earth.
Season 5, Episode 6: “Timeless”
A shuttlecraft lands on an icy planet and beneath the frozen surface is the familiar bow of Voyager. It’s the future and there are only two surviving members of the crew—Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) and Chakotay (Robert Beltran). Decades ago, Voyager thought they’d made a breakthrough to return home early, but instead, they’d met their doom. Now, Harry and Chakotay have the ability to save their friends. If they only had enough time.
“Timeless” is heartbreaking. Every time I watch it (and I’ve seen it several times), I can sympathize with Harry’s pain and guilt. It’s a layered episode that combines science-fiction elements with character development. The tension is heightened to the maximum. You’re genuinely left wondering if you’ll ever see the crew again.
Season 5, Episode 23: “Relativity”
“Relativity” begins on Captain Janeway’s first day aboard Voyager, but something’s not right. An ensign is snooping around the ship and to our surprise it’s none other than Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan). How is it possible when Seven didn’t even join the crew until years later? Turns out, Seven has been recruited by the temporal ship, Relativity, as part of a secret mission to locate a device that will destroy Voyager. But time is not on her side.
“Relativity” is part time travel heist and part Groundhog Day. Not only is the ship at stake, but so is Seven’s life. This episode is fun and entertaining and ties in with numerous past episodes of the show. There are so many twists and turns that you’ll be at the edge of your seat.
Season 6, Episode 12: “Blink of an Eye”
Voyager gets trapped in a planet’s orbit and accidentally influences its entire history. Unbeknownst to the crew, time moves at a different pace on the planet—in the blink of an eye, entire generations are born, grow old and die, all while looking up to the “sky ship”. We watch as the planet’s residents worship Voyager, then begin investigating what it is, before finally attempting to reach it. Voyager couldn’t avoid changing the planet’s mythology, but they will do everything they can to save it.
“Blink of an Eye” is classic science-fiction, but its wistful and almost tragic nature make it a memorable entry in the canon. The episode writers chart a planet’s evolution, echoing humanity’s own history and understanding of the universe around us. That final scene of Daniel Dae Kim’s character looking up at a departing Voyager will always make you tear up.
Season 7, Episode 10: “Shattered”
Chakotay is blasted by a shockwave and wakes up to an unrecognizable Voyager. The entire ship has been ‘shattered’ into different time periods, and Chakotay is the only one who can navigate through all of them. With friends and enemies all over the ship, how will Chakotay save the crew?
“Shattered” is a brilliant demonstration of how to use an old trope in a new way. Every time Chakotay enters a new timeline, you’re excited to see who’s there and how they’ll react to him. The episode builds a great deal of suspense along the way; you can’t guess how Chakotay is going to get the ship back together. And that denouement—it feels triumphant, but so emphatically in line with Star Trek ideology. “Shattered” takes place in the final season of the show, and the third act builds on everything we’ve learnt about these characters. The episode is compelling from start to finish.
Season 7, Episode 24: “Endgame”
“Endgame” begins with the celebration of Voyager’s 10th homecoming anniversary, but this is not a joyful time. The crew were stuck in the Delta Quadrant for over two decades, and they lost many of their friends along the way, while others have suffered a worse fate. This pain weighs heavily on Admiral Janeway and it’s no wonder that she is adamant to change her past to give her crew a better future.
This final chapter feels like an homage to the Star Trek: The Next Generation finale, “All Good Things …”, which also employed time travel in its storytelling, yet “Endgame” carves its own path. There’s a lot at stake here, not just the crew’s return home, but the possible end to the constant threat of Borg invasion. The start of the episode is heartbreaking, especially as we learn more about the losses Voyager has suffered. This may not have been the most unique use of time travel, but “Endgame” certainly was a satisfying one.
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