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Star Trek: Voyager – Shattered (Review)

Shattered was the first episode of Star Trek to be broadcast in the new millennium, premiering in January 2001.

Of course, there is some debate about when the new millennium actually began, even as Star Trek: Voyager mailed its colours to the mast with 11:59. However one might feel on the issue, Shattered seems more deserving of the claim than Fair Haven. This is an episode that captures a real sense of the moment that which the nineties technically gave way to the twenty-first century, a transition defined in very literal terms. It was a moment that was simultaneously about great cultural, social and technological change while also reflecting on how little had actually changed.

Say it, don’t hypospray it.

The nineties were (and remain) a paradox. They are easily defined by any chronological measure, with a neatly delineated start and end date. However, like any other decade, they are fuzzier when defined in a cultural sense. In some ways, the nineties began with the fall of the Berlin Wall and ended with the attack on the World Trade Centre. In another way, the nineties are still happening in terms of culture and fashion. They are at once present in the way that we make and consume art, but also something so absent that we long for the comfort of their trappings.

Shattered captures that weird fractured sense of time, the uncanny feeling that time is out of joint, that the past and the future are all overlapping in the same physical space without any sensation of linear progression. Shattered suggests that Voyager‘s past, present and future can all share the same physical space and that they can be navigated with relative ease. Despite the fact that this ship has been on a seven-year journey home, its past and its future are never distant.

“I am Commander Chakotay, and I endorse this cider.”

It should be conceded that the turn of the millennium, whether one places it between 1999 and 2000 or between 2000 and 2001, was something of an anticlimax. People could not even agree upon when the millennium actually began. Tourism and industry saw no significant increase as a result of the nominally momentous shift. Even the Millennium Bug turned out to be all whimper and no bang, although it should be noted that this was largely down to the hard work that was actually done to prevent a crisis. In the United Kingdom, there were even fewer arrests than in earlier years.

The millennium was a smooth and efficient affair, in marked contrast to all the hype leading into it. Religious groups believed that the turn of the millennium would herald the apocalypse. There were rumours spread online about a possible plot by the United States government to impose martial law. Certain people began liquidating their property into gold and silver to prepare for a radically changed set of circumstances. Survivalists prepared for “the end of the world as we know it”, a description that suggests a radical overhaul of existing social, economic and political systems.

Feelin’ blue…

A significant amount of the news coverage around the turn of the millennium tended to focus on this anxiety and uncertainty, on the individuals convinced that some great social change might be coming. Inevitably, accounts of these individuals’ response to the new millennium suggested that the transition was underwhelming. As Amy Harmon related in early January 2000:

By the time midnight struck in Maui, even the Internet’s most dedicated harbingers of millennium doom had to concede that things had turned out better than they had expected.

”Does anyone still think TEOTWAWKI will happen??” typed one presumably sleep-deprived Y2K watcher, using the favorite chat room shorthand for ”the end of the world as we know it.” Her virtual comrades on Timebomb2000.com were remarkably silent.

But as the year 2000 dawned in cyberspace, the sense of anticlimax was tempered by a new sense of faith not so much in technology but in humanity’s ability to harness it.

As it turned out, life in January 2000 was pretty much the same as life in December 1999. The same was true of January 2001 compared to December 2000. There was no great change, no massive disaster, no epoch-defining moment. Instead, the world remained largely unchanged and unaffected. Business continued as usual.

Day of Hell.

Pop culture towards the end of the nineties seemed particularly engaged with images of apocalypse and destruction. The disaster movie had a brief and unexpected resurgence, with films like Independence Day, Deep Impact, Armageddon, Volcano and Dante’s Peak all offering destruction on a massive scale for audiences. The apocalypse loomed large in films like The Matrix or even Fight Club. Religious anxieties rippled through movies like Stigmata or End of Days. On television, series like Millennium and The X-Files (and even Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) seemed to suggest that the end of days was coming.

Of course, it wasn’t just anxiety reflected in these fictional end of days. There was some yearning for radical reinvention and disruption. The nineties were a prosperous and successful decade by any measure, particularly for the United States. However, there was also a deep-seated sense of listlessness underpinning this, perhaps best articulated by Tyler Durden’s call to action in Fight Club, his warning that “our Great War is a spiritual war, our Great Depression is our lives.” On a certain level, the end of days would at least offer something that made this day different from all of the days before it.

Happy new millennium.

So, as Brian McHale and Randall Stevenson point out in 11 September 2001, New York: Two Y2Ks, the relative tranquility that marked the turning of the millennium was met with as much disappointment as relief:

The popular imagination seized on visions of modern technologised society grinding to a halt. Survivalists stockpiled goods and weapons, planning to retreat into the hills in expectation of a breakdown of social order. The post-apocalyptic scenarios of living on amid the ruins of the twentieth century, rehearsed so often in science-fiction novels (e.g., Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker) and Hollywood films (e.g., On the Beach, A Boy and His Dog, The Omega Man, the Mad Max trilogy), seemed on the verge of coming true. In the event, the survivalists were disappointed. In the years leading up to what, in computer-era jargon, we learned to call ‘Y2K’, many thousands of programmer man-hours and many millions of dollars were expended on forestalling the millennium bug. Apocalypse was narrowly averted – or so the engineers claimed, and who knew enough to contradict them? A sense of anti-climax set in, coloured by cynicism and resentment: were the catastrophic scenarios merely media hype? Even a marketing ploy? Nothing about Y2K was certain or unambiguous, except that nothing catastrophic happened.

In the new millennium, people still had to go to work in the morning and deal with all the same problems with which they had wrestled in every day leading up to it.

The next phase shift.

Of course, it’s worth remarking on how fundamentally absurd it was to expect such change to arrive on schedule. Why would anything change on an arbitrary date, counting forward from an arbitrary point. The entire calendar is a subjective human creation, reflecting no greater truth about the planet or the universe. Even the manner of counting is shaped by the society doing the counting; the whole “2000 or 2001?” debate is rooted in the fact that Europeans were appreciably slower to accept the number zero than Middle Eastern or Asian societies.

Even if one accepts that the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ could be an important year cultural and spiritually, the issue is compounded by a variety of arbitrary factors. There is some evident to suggest that Jesus was born between 4 and 6 B.C. Even the history of time-keeping is full of acknowledged flubs and distortions. Pope Gregory XIII famously issued a papal bull skipping ten days in October 1582. Interestingly, this created a situation where various other states operated in literal different times. Up until 1752, Britain was several days behind Europe.

past!Janeway needs a time out.

So why do these arbitrary numbers matter? Why does popular culture insist that 2000 and 2001 should be fundamentally different to 1998 and 1999? In Questioning the Millennium, Stephen Jay Gould argued that this fixation was due to need for the passage of time to mean something:

We need time’s arrow to assure us that sequences of events tell meaningful stories and promise hope for improvement. We need time’s cycle for an ordered rescue from the fear that history might feature no more than a random and senseless jumble of events without meaning or guidance–just one damn thing after another, in the old cliche. If events recur in predictable ways (as days must follow nights, and new births compensate old deaths), then life includes pattern amidst the flux.

As for time, so also for the dichotomy of change. We need a concept of gradual alteration to sustain hope that what we have built through struggle might persist and even augment–in short, to have some sense of continuity. But we also need the possibility of cataclysm, so that, when situations seem hopeless, and beyond the power of any natural force to amend, we may still anticipate salvation from a messiah, a conquering hero, a deus ex machina, or some other agent with power to fracture the unsupportable and institute the unobtainable.

The excitement around the turn of the millennium was just a way to acknowledge this, to argue that things were changing and that the world was dynamic rather than merely static.

In the neck of time.

In fact, it could (fairly) be pointed out that change did come, as it always comes. It just did not arrive at an arbitrarily scheduled point in the calendar, at a moment marked as significant by the broader culture. There is a credible and fair argument to be made that the nineties ended and the twenty-first century truly began with the destruction of the World Trade Centre, just as it might be argued that the seventies began with the election of Richard Nixon and the failure of the summer of love two years before the calendars properly turned.

However, that massive change lay ahead. The horror of the World Trade Centre attack and the War on Terror would haunt the entire run of the next Star Trek series, arguably generating an existential crisis for the larger franchise that was still being navigated in Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond. There was no way that anybody in January 2000 or January 2001 could have any idea what lay ahead. As far as Voyager was concerned, the nineties would continue indefinitely. Things would never change. The world would keep spinning. There was no future, only now.

“Mister Kim, I leave you in charge for one evening…”

In hindsight, this attitude appears like arrogance. At the time, it was understandable. There was a real sense of cultural and political stagnancy during the nineties, as best expressed in the idea of “the end of history.” Although Jean Baudrillard rejected the precise terminology in The Illusion of the End, he understood the anxiety simmering beneath it:

When we speak of the ‘end of history,’ ‘the end of the political,’ ‘the end of the social,’ ‘the end of ideologies,’ none of this is true. The worst of it all is precisely that there will be no end to anything, and all these things will continue to unfold slowly, tediously, recurrently, in that hysteresis of everything which, like nails and hair, continues to grow after death. Because, at bottom, all these things are already dead, and rather than to have a happy or tragic resolution, a destiny, we shall have a thwarted end, a homeopathic end, an end distilled into all the various metastases of the refusal of death.

This idea runs through Voyager, which is a show about literal and linear progress in which the characters seem to never actually get anywhere. Voyager is a show about a ship that is travelling in a straight line from the Delta Quadrant to the Alpha Quadrant. However, very little actually changes from one episode to the next.

An in-cider joke.

Interestingly, Voyager is the Star Trek series most engaged with its own history. The series repeatedly features characters attempting to navigate the show’s own history, much more often than Star Trek: The Next Generation or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This includes Seven’s journey back in time in Relativity, Kes’ trip back in Fury, and Chakotay and past!Janeway’s adventures in Shattered. Perhaps this prefigures the series’ own developing preoccupation with its own past, reflected in future iterations like Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek and Star Trek: Discovery.

However, central to all of these stories was the idea that relatively little had changed on Voyager in any meaningful sense over those seven seasons. Relativity and Fury both used the character of Joseph Carey and the style of Janeway’s hair as a way of marking the passage of time on the ship. Otherwise, though, characters and audience members could assume that things were largely the same. It is rooted in the idea that the only differences between the past and the present are aesthetic, they are not fundamental.

Belting out the classics.

Shattered is an example of this. Even in basic concept, the episode is built around the idea that all of Voyager‘s internal continuity can be positioned within a single physical location. Despite the fact that the ship was in the Alpha Quadrant at the time, the Bridge from Caretaker is only a turbolift ride away. The ship might have travelled forty thousand light years since Basics, Part I and Basics, Part II, but Seska and the Kazon are still in Engineering.

There is a very telling moment in Shattered, when past!Janeway and Chakotay navigate through a stretch of corridor in which several crew members lie incapacitated. past!Janeway is shocked by this. These are her crew. These are the people that she is supposed to protect. Chakotay is nonplussed. “I’m detecting an active neurogenic field,” he explains. “This could be the day the telepathic pitcher plant put us all into comas. Or it might be the time aliens invaded our dreams.”

Who has time to keep track of such things?

Implicit in this is an acknowledgement that so many of Voyager‘s adventures are interchangeable that Chakotay himself cannot determine whether he and past!Janeway have wandered into Waking Moments or Bliss. The moment plays as Chakotay awkwardly acknowledging the show’s “anomaly of the week” formula, the frequency with which the writing staff would build an episode around some strange interstellar phenomenon that caused some complication or another to the crew. They all blur together, when seen from a distance.

The time periods within Shattered roughly break down into two types. The Bridge and the Transporter Room are both set during the events of Caretaker, placing them firmly at the start of the series. past!Janeway has her hair in a bun, and past!Torres is still wearing her Maquis costume. As such, they serve as something of a pre-history of Voyager, unfolding before the show hit its weekly and episodic structure. This is a point at which the characters were still being defined, and the premise was only being established.

“I have a feeling that we’re going to really gel.”

As such, both past!Janeway and past!Torres are clearly and distinguishably different from their contemporary counterparts. They provide a clear contrast, if only because they look different and their circumstances are different. It would be much harder, for example, to contrast these two iterations of the characters after the events of Time and Again or Parallax, when they would be a great deal closer to the kinds of characters they were in Shattered. (Of course, Janeway’s characterisation varied dramatically across Voyager, but not as linear or organic character development.)

The other major type of time period featured in Shattered is episode-specific, with past!Janeway and Chakotay either wandering into a specific episode of Voyager or an environment strongly associated with a single episode of Voyager. At one point, they are menaced by the macrovirus from Macrocosm. At another point, they find the Cargo Bay as it appeared in Scorpion, Part II, allowing for a similar pre-history of Seven of Nine. Similarly, Engineering is stuck in Basics, Part I and Basics, Part II, at the point at which the Kazon had taken over the ship.

Chaotica reigns!

There are cases where this logic applies in a more indirect form. The holodeck scenes clearly take place after the events of Bride of Chaotica!, with the madman recognising Janeway as “the Queen of the Spider People.” More than that, the Captain Proton! holoprogram featured (and was discussed) in a selection of episodes across the fifth season, from Night to Thirty Days. However, the set-up featured in Shattered is very clearly a shout-out to Bride of Chaotica!, complete with Janeway being forced to use her wiles to seduce the eponymous supervillain.

As such, Shattered approaches the history of Voyager in a very interesting manner, demonstrating a keen awareness of how Voyager actually works as a television series. Very few of the vignettes in Shattered are designed to emphasise character growth or development over seven years. Indeed, the only sequence that accomplishes this is Chakotay’s interaction with the past!EMH, who is appreciably more anti-social than his contemporary counterpart. This makes sense, as the EMH is arguably the only character to truly develop and grow across the seven seasons of Voyager.

Early Medical Hologram.

In contrast, the vignettes within Shattered treat the history of Voyager as a selection of episodic and self-contained adventures. It seems like most of the spaces in Shattered are replaying particular episodes of Voyager rather than evoking particular points in the journey or demonstrating how much the characters and the show have evolved over the past seven years. Instead, Shattered is thrilled that it can bring Martha Hackett and Martin Rayner back, that it can reference the (at the time) groundbreaking macrovirus special effects, that it can lovingly homage fifties sci-fi once more.

Watching Shattered, it seems as though Voyager is more a series of discrete moments than a single cohesive journey. It is a selection of individual episodes that can be enjoyed on their own terms, with little logical progression between them. After all, past!Janeway has little sense of how the various incidents that she encounters fit together, whether the Kazon takeover in Basics, Part I and Basics, Part II came before or after the Borg infestation in Scorpion, Part II or the macrovirus contamination in Macrocosm.

“If Riker can act as second in command while being a functional alcoholic, I’m sure that I can do it too.”

past!Janeway can just take each revelation as it comes, piecing together a mosaic rather than a portrait. past!Janeway has no sense logical progression between the details that she encounters. Indeed, Shattered suggests that she remains oblivious about the ship getting stranded in the Delta Quadrant until the past!EMH accidentally gives the game away. By that point, she has already encountered past!Seven of Nine, met future!Icheb and future!Naomi, and discovered that the Maquis that she was hunting will become part of her crew.

Of course, the internal logic of Shattered is somewhat forced. past!Janeway is remarkably nonplussed with everything that she encounters during her adventure. Caretaker suggested that the ship was only intended for a short mission; Janeway was an inexperienced commanding officer, her mission parametres were very specific, and her crew included a convict who was meant to be returned to custody following completion of Janeway’s original objective. As such, the idea that the Maquis should be crewmembers on a ship that has repeatedly encountered the Borg should be strange.

Missing some Maquis details.

However, none of this seems strange to past!Janeway, because she navigates the ship in Shattered in much the same way that the audience watches Voyager. It is a collection of individual self-contained episodic adventures that have minimal relationship to one another in terms of chronology. It doesn’t matter to past!Janeway whether Seska takes control of the ship before or after Seven of Nine turns the Cargo Bay into a Borg enclave. Much like the individual episodes of the show itself, the history of Voyager can be experienced in any order and at any speed.

The structuring of Shattered reflects this. As with a lot of Voyager episodes, Shattered is not so much a single story as a collection of “… and then…” clauses, escalations and twists. This is how Voyager has tended to approach episodic plotting, trying to fill out the runtime with new developments and high concepts instead of simply working through the story material all ready hand. This is perhaps down to the way that the writers’ room on Voyager used to break stories, using beat sheets to map out the runtime.

Oh, Kazon.

There are any number of examples of this approach in action; the rapid-fire escalation Alter Ego from a story about Kim’s attraction to a hologram into a holographic Fatal Attraction for Tuvok, the way that meditation on authorship and writing in Worst Case Scenario gives way to a generic “holodeck tries to murder the crew” plot to pad out the runtime, the way that Demon burns through enough material for at least three different episodes. To be fair to Shattered, at least the concept of the episode lends itself to this fragmented approach.

There are a number of sequences in Shattered that do not exist in service of the larger story, but simply to extend the script to fill out the forty-five minutes allocated. The encounter with Chaotica in the holodeck is perhaps the most obvious example. It is a narratively inert piece of scripting; Chakotay and past!Janeway arrive, manage to outwit the hologram in the space of about five minutes, and then continue on to take care of other problems elsewhere. It is a sequence that could easily be cut from the episode, and which serves no purpose but to celebrate Bride of Chaotica!

“You’re going to take back the ship? Ses(ka) who?”

A stronger episode might find a way to integrate this with the emotional journey of the episode, but emphasising its contrast with the higher stakes of episodes like Macrocosm, Waking Moments/Bliss, Basics, Part I and Basics, Part II or Scorpion, Part II. As with the meeting with future!Naomi and future!Icheb, the sequence might underscore to past!Janeway that there is more to Voyager than the succinct summary that “the Delta Quadrant is a death trap.” It might serve to demonstrate to past!Janeway that the crew had good times together, as well as bad.

This does create some problems with the core themes of the episode. Shattered is interested in big “event” stories from the series’ history, and so subjects past!Janeway to a cavalcade of horrors. The episode shows the gigantic virus from Macrocosm and the Borg drones from Scorpion, Part II, but relies on Chakotay to tell all the other details. Interestingly, the episode largely avoids having Chakotay and past!Janeway encounter duplicates of the same characters. This means that Shattered only really presents a single iteration of each major character.

Droning on about it.

It might have been worthwhile, for example, to have past!Janeway encounter both past!Seven of Nine from Scorpion, Part II and a later (or even future) iteration of the same character so that she might see how the character has grown and evolved under her tutelage. The same is true of other characters like past!Torres or past!EMH. The way the episode is structured, past!Janeway never gets a sense of any real progress for these individuals. Instead, she gets a single snapshot.

As such, it falls to Chakotay to provide exposition about how each of these characters has changed. “All you’ve seen are bits and pieces,” he tells past!Janeway. “You’re not getting the whole picture.” He stresses the importance of “people like Seven of Nine, a Borg drone who’ll become a member of this crew after you help her recover her humanity. Or Tom Paris, a former convict, who’ll be our pilot, chief medic, and husband to B’Elanna Torres.”

Successful by any (astro)metrics.

Chakotay insists, “Two crews, Maquis and Starfleet, are going to become one. And they’ll make as big a mark on the Delta Quadrant as it’ll make on them by protecting people like the Ocampans, curing diseases, encouraging peace. Children like Naomi and Icheb are going to grow up on this ship and call it home.” The only issue with this is that almost none of it is actually shown. future!Naomi and future!Icheb are pretty much the only evidence that past!Janeway sees to support Chakotay’s argument. As such, his rhetoric seems hollow.

Again, to a certain extent, this is indicative of how Voyager approaches the concepts that Chakotay is discussing; growth, evolution, change, development. Voyager doesn’t really develop characters in an organic manner, it often has them just state that they are developed. This is perhaps most obvious with Chakotay’s ever-changing interests and personality; Shattered reveals he has a stash of “Antarian cider” in the cargo bay, which seems just as incongruous as his sudden interest in boxing in The Fight or his fascination with history in One Small Step.

Kidding around.

Similarly, it’s revealing that Voyager largely avoided having characters like Naomi or Icheb actually grow up on screen. Naomi was born in Deadlock, but kept off-screen until she could be reintroduced as a young child in Mortal Coil, and the show has locked her into that characterisation since. Collective skipped even that when it came to the character of Icheb. Deciding to bring children into the Voyager cast, the production team opted not to have the infants born and raised on the ship, but instead to skip all that inconvenience by introducing them at the age that the show wanted.

Again, this fits with the recurring notion of Voyager as a show that does not have a “before” or an “after”, only a perpetual “now.” As Shattered emphasises, the only time that most of the cast actually change is before they join the crew or after the show is over. The only point at which Torres is a recognisably different character to the one that Chakotay knows is before she joined the cast in Caretaker. The only point at which Seven is recognisably distinct is in Scorpion, Part II because she was already in the familiar catsuit by the closing scene of The Gift.

This is no time to argue about time. They don’t have the time.

To be clear, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It makes sense for Shattered to celebrate the episodic structure of Voyager, because that episodic structure is a large part of what makes Voyager what it is. While this has created a number of serious and foundational problems for Voyager as a television series, the structure can work well in individual cases. Many of the best episodes of Voyager are incredibly self-contained, leaning on that episodic structure to tell stories that are archetypally Star Trek; for example, Distant Origin, Nemesis, Living Witness, Gravity, Blink of an Eye.

As such, Shattered is very much a celebration of Voyager as it exists, for better and for worse. The episode is structured so as to simulate the experience that a viewer might have watching Voyager in syndication or on DVD or even much later Netflix, with Chakotay and past!Janeway hoping between episodes as easily as a viewer might flick between The Thaw and Counterpoint. For all the flaws with the episode and with Voyager itself, there is something very honest in how Shattered chooses to present Voyager to the audience.

This adventure has a very high (cof)fee.

This emphasis on Voyager‘s episodic structure is only heightened by hindsight. A significant portion of the episode’s emotional arc is given over to past!Janeway weighing the possibility of effectively “rebooting” the series, bringing the ship back in line with her timeline and preventing the decisions that lead to the stranding of the ship in the Delta Quadrant. However, Chakotay talks her down from this position, by arguing that she has no right to erase all the changes that Voyager as made in the lives of both those who serve on board and those who have encountered it.

“With all due respect, it’s a little presumptuous to think you have the right to change everyone’s future,” Chakotay tells her. past!Janeway responds, “From what I’ve seen, they’ll thank me.” Eventually, past!Janeway comes to accept that the ship has made a very real and tangible difference in the lives of countless people. While Shattered makes this point somewhat clumsily, there is an earnestness to it. Shattered genuinely believes that all the lives lost in stories like Alliances and The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II were worth it for what was gained in their stead.

Back to Basics.

Shattered places a lot of emphasis on the image of future!Naomi and future!Icheb working together in Astrometrics. Again, this is very revealing of itself. This sequence is set a significant distance in the future, so the extent that both past!Janeway and Chakotay have been dead for seventeen years. The chronology here is curious; future!Naomi implies that Chakotay and Janeway died at the same time as the fractures occurred. However, if they were killed by the fractures, surely past!Janeway would be twenty-four years dead? It is perhaps best not to worry about such things.

However, that sequence underscores the idea that nothing ever really changes on Voyager. future!Icheb and future!Naomi are still wearing Starfleet uniforms. Astrometrics looks exactly the same as it did when it was introduced in Year of Hell, Part I. The sequence even seems to imply that Voyager is still journeying home; future!Naomi makes no reference to Starfleet when discussing upgrading the sensors. There is something mildly depressing; Voyager got more than half-way home in its first seven years, only to spend the next seventeen just coasting.

The officers of tomorrow, today!

Of course, this is in keeping with how Voyager sees the future, which is very much an extension of that anxiety that Jean Baudrillard articulated. Like many people living through the nineties, Voyager was incapable of imagining a future that was substantively different from the present. This was reflected in episodes like Future’s End, Part I and Future’s End, Part II or Relativity, episodes that imagined a twenty-ninth century Starfleet patrolling time as well as space. So it is no surprise that future!Icheb and future!Naomi are wearing the same uniforms on the same sets.

This is in marked contrast to The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine. In those series, the future was suggested to be more volatile and more malleable. In All Good Things…, it is revealed that both the existing character relationships and the political framework of the Alpha Quadrant would change dramatically after the end of the series. In The Visitor, Jake Sisko lives through an alternate timeline in which the Klingons annex control of the station and of the wormhole, which would have represented a massive shift from the series’ status quo.

The issue isn’t black-and-white issue.

In contrast, Voyager seems more concerned with futures where things have changed. They are to be avoided and prevented. In Timeless, a future version of Harry Kim manipulates the time stream in order to prevent the deaths of the crew. In Endgame, a future version of Janeway travels back in time to prevent a version of history where the characters are actually changed by their journey home, instead creating an ending for Voyager were the series can cut to its closing credits with all of the characters in familiar positions right before a moment of actual change.

Of course, this creates a strange paradox in Shattered. This is a mid-seventh season episode in which past!Janeway is confronted with the high price of Voyager’s journey through the Delta Quadrant. Although understandably uncomfortable at all the death and destruction that she has witnessed, past!Janeway decides that she must preserve history; that the lives impacted by the crew’s journey to the Delta Quadrant are worth all of the suffering that they have endured.

“A lot can change in half-a-season.”

The big issue with this is that this is literally the exact opposite of the decision that future!Janeway makes in Endgame. In Endgamefuture!Janeway travels back in time to get the crew home quicker, thus negating a substantial portion of the journey as she experienced it. It is very much the literal opposite of the approach that past!Janeway adopts in Shattered, with future!Janeway effectively erasing any encounters with other alien societies or any relationships that might have developed among the crew past the point of her intervention.

A more serialised series might have been able to sell this as actual character development. After all, past!Janeway from Shattered is at a very different place in her life from future!Janeway in Endgame. They are the same person, but they are separated by more than three decades of experiences. Three decades is a long time. It can fundamentally change a person. Even on Deep Space Nine, it is clear that Sisko’s attitude towards Starfleet and the Prophets has dramatically evolved between Emissary and What You Leave Behind, by increments over time.

“So, wait, Doctor. This is my last character-centric episode. How many do you have left?”

However, Voyager has never been interested in that sort of character development. Instead, that two different versions of Janeway can wrestle with essentially the same moral question in two different episodes broadcast within six months of one another is just another reminder of how episodic Voyager is. Voyager is so episodic that the same character can be presented with what amounts to the same choice within fifteen episodes of one another and make a different decision each time. Shattered and Endgame are blank slates, as characterisation goes.

As such, Shattered feels very disconnected from its own future. By the time that Shattered went into production, producer Kenneth Biller must have understood that the seventh season would end with the ship returning home in the present day. Even if the particulars of Endgame had yet to be mapped out, there was only ever one way that a series like Voyager could end. As such, the production team knew that future!Icheb and future!Naomi could never have been an accurate depiction of the ship’s future. It is a future that could never actually exist.

A touching reunion.

It should be noted that Shattered has a similar relationship with show’s own past. As with episodes like Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II, there is a sense that Voyager is engaging with a history that never actually existed. As much as Chakotay and past!Janeway might journey through (what is from Chakotay’s perspective) the ship’s past, they are not actually moving through the past itself but a memory of the past. It is distorted and inaccurate. It is an approximation rather than a recreation.

This is reflected in small inconsistencies, such as the past!EMH asserting that he has been running for “almost three years” despite the fact that he is clearly from before Future’s End, Part I and Future’s End, Part II, a two-parter that unfolds only two-and-a-bit years after the end of Caretaker. It is similarly difficult to imagine when exactly past!Torres could have been left alone in the transporter room while dressed in her Maquis costume; it is clearly after the climax of Caretaker, but Torres is in a Starfleet uniform in a sequence very shortly after that point.

Rebels without a cause.

There are also larger inconsistencies, such as the characterisation of past!Seven. She is presented as perfectly reasonably in Shattered, to the point that she actively helps the characters retake engineering from Seska at the climax of the episode. (It is left somewhat ambiguous how past!Seven adapted so quickly to Seska’s weapon, but that is beside the point.) Seven was initially extremely adversarial towards Janeway and Chakotay. Indeed, during Scorpion, Part II, she even attempted to hijack the ship.

As such, it seems strange that Shattered presents past!Seven as an ally who can to be trusted, to the point that she comes up with the plan that brings the ship back into sync. She does suggest assimilation as a possible solution to the crisis, telling Chakotay and past!Janeway, “If I were to assimilate you into a small Borg Collective, you could then assimilate others. The work would proceed more rapidly.” However, she accepts past!Janeway’s polite refusal. She never forces the issue, and never tries to bring Voyager back into sync with her own timeline.

Why, Borg?

This is a very polite and romanticised depiction of Seven of Nine as a Borg drone. In many ways, it ports her present characterisation back to her introduction. The version of Seven of Nine featured in the fourth season was a lot less trustworthy and a lot more self-assured, whether linked to the Borg Collective or not. This is the character who sent a distress call to the Borg Collective in The Gift, who responded instinctively to a homing beacon in The Raven, and who defied Janeway’s orders to act in what she believed to be the best interests of the ship in Prey.

This is because Shattered is not interested in the past as it actually existed, merely in conjuring up the image of the past. Shattered evokes the memory of those early adventures, not the reality. As such, it doesn’t matter if the dates don’t line up for the sequences with the past!EMH or that it’s hard to imagine when past!Torres could have been in the transporter room in that outfit. It doesn’t matter that past!Seven of Nine would never have behaved in that manner, as long as she looks like the audience remembers her appearing.

Core friendship.

Shattered is about evoking the memory of Voyager‘s past, rather than trying to faithfully recreate it. As Martin Rayner notes, it was a welcome excuse to bring back some familiar faces for one last go-round:

It seemed like, “I’ve had my great episode, so what more can I expect?” So, “Shattered” was a bit of a nice, little bonus. The only thing was, I know they were talking about having an action figure and, again, the writers kept mentioning the idea of a spinoff. But I knew better than to expect anything to come from that.

This is similar to how What You Leave Behind made a point to include an extended sequence that doubled as a party for the cast and crew, a chance to celebrate seven years of making television.

Pour choices.

Of course, there is some small irony in all of this. So much of Voyager is built around the challenge of reconciling memory and history, of resisting the urge to mistake the cultural memory of the thing for the thing itself. Voyager was a product of the nineties, and so it reflected nineties anxieties about revisionist history and the erasure of the historical record in episodes as diverse as RememberDistant OriginLiving Witness and Memorial. Each of those episodes stressed the importance of keeping the reality of the past alive.

As such, it seems strange that Voyager should lose so much of its own past in episodes like Flesh and Blood, Part I, Flesh and Blood, Part II or Shattered. In its final season, Voyager succumbs to the very impulses that those episodes questioned, the desire to create a comforting and nostalgic depiction of its own history that has little relation to history itself. Voyager has become the Hirogen in The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II, living in distorted depictions of its own history. Arguably, the Star Trek franchise would soon be doing the same.

A shot in the dark.

Of course, this also speaks to how Shattered positions Voyager outside of any sense of linear time, removed from concepts like cause and effect. While Chakotay and past!Janeway move through the past, they cannot change it. As Martha Hackett mused, Shattered ends with Seska in a very different place than Basics, Part II:

“It was fun to come back,” she says. “I loved Worst Case Scenario and the idea that Seska left behind a computer virus to wreck havoc aboard Voyager. As for Shattered, I thought the concept of all the various timelines was neat, too. The interesting thing is that the story ended with Seska alive in a Jefferies tube, so what ever became of her?” muses the actress. “We’ll never know.”

There is no indication that Seska remembers being attacked by representatives of the ship’s past, present and future. As past!Janeway commends her allies after taking control of engineering, “If the time line is restored, the rest of us should have no memory of what’s happened here.” In the end, it will be like all of this never happened.

“I have been… and always shall be… a secondary supporting character.”

Chakotay makes a similar argument to past!Janeway after she watches Tuvok die in the mess hall. Chakotay assures her, “If Seven’s idea works, Tuvok and the other crewman will be fine.” Again, Shattered seems to be allowing Chakotay and past!Janeway to navigate between episodes of Voyager, with Chakotay understanding that at the end of every episode comes a reset button. Chakotay understands that no permanent damage can be done, and that a credited lead character cannot remain dead as the closing credits roll.

It also speaks to that broader nineties anxiety about how nothing ever really changes. Shattered presents a version of Voyager where absolutely everything is happening at once, from the ship’s launch in Caretaker to the far future with future!Naomi and future!Icheb. However, even though Chakotay can move through this geographical representation of the ship’s history, that history remains immutable. Voyager imagines all of history happening at once, but also fixed in stone. No matter what Chakotay does, nothing will actually change.

Engineering a fix.

Of course, this somewhat undercuts any attempt to generate tension within the episode. At the climax of the episode, Seska grabs hold of past!Janeway and holds a gun to her head. “Oh, your faithful First Officer isn’t going to let you die,” Seska taunts. “Are you?” The scene plays this beat entirely straight, as if Seska might have gained the upper hand by threatening past!Janeway. However, given the internal logic of the episode, surely the time line would just reset if past!Janeway were killed. Chakotay would seem to be the only invaluable character.

Similarly, the entire climax of Shattered is awkwardly staged, essentially relying on the same twist twice. When Chakotay returns to Engineering with past!Janeway, Seska inevitably betrays them and tries to take advantage of the situation for herself. (Of course, how exactly this would work is left somewhat ambiguous.) However, it is revealed that Chakotay and past!Janeway did not come alone. They enlisted the help of characters from various points in the show’s timeline, who swoop in and catch Seska off-guard.

Stuck in a State of Flux.

This is actually a pretty clever solution to the problem, one that works in terms of both theme and plot. After all, Shattered is very invested in the idea that the family created on Voyager is worth the trauma of stranding the ship in the Delta Quadrant, and bringing those characters together like that for the greater good underscores this point to past!Janeway. More than that, the idea that people are stronger together is an archetypal Star Trek theme, the kind of broad and archetypal Star Trek idea that seventh season of Voyager embraced in episodes like Drive.

The only issue with this is that the episode is so invested in this final twist that it essentially plays it twice. These characters all working together take control of Engineering. Seska seizes past!Janeway. Then the situation is resolved with the revelation that past!Seven of Nine is also there. It is a very strange beat. The climax of Shattered would work better if either beat were played separately. Playing them both together diminishes their impact. As it stands, Chakotay does a clever thing, it doesn’t quite work, so he does more of the same clever thing, and it works.

Enjoy it Chakotay, this is about as good as the seventh season gets for you.

Shattered is disjointed and uneven. Shattered is highly episodic and unfocused. Shattered has no tangible sense of stakes and distorted sense of its own history. However, all of that might also make it a perfect encapsulation of Voyager.

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4 Responses

  1. That last paragraph…ouch. Though I can’t say that Voyager did deserve it.

  2. I didn’t have a problem with Past 7 of 9’s characterization. She was probably willing to help Chakotay and Janeway because she wanted to get back to her own time and stop species 8472. Chakotay said it was to dangerous to bring Voyager into synch with the wrong time and the fact that 7 of 9 didn’t try to do that was probably proof of that.

    Also the final twist didn’t bother me. I never saw past 7 of 9’s appearance as a second plot twist but rather the culmination of the first.

    • Maybe, but it amounts to playingt he same reveal again. You got your big “ha! clever!” moment, and then when a challenge presents itself, the response is to do the exact same thing again, just with a different character? It didn’t work for me, I’m afraid.

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