Thoughts on “Causality”

Written by  on July 13, 2000 

Thoughts by Thomas Lee

By Thomas Lee

As its summary proclaimed, "Causality" is very much a sequel to "Out of Time," and expands on that story’s look at the Department of Temporal Investigations as well as following the continuing adventures of Dan Phillips and Marla Gilmore. However, "Causality" also serves as a sequel to "Homecoming" with the return of Janeway, who, shall we say, is now tanned, rested, and more than ready to unleash a reality-shaking plan that’s been three years in the making.

One of the recurring themes of "Parallel Voyage" is the Federation’s ability to quickly acknowledge and reward those who accept responsibility for their actions and work towards personal redemption—and there are quite a few examples to chose from. The former Maquis and Equinox crewmembers who, in effect, dedicated themselves to their own imprisonment were rewarded with pardons and their brevet/original ranks (and later, even promotions). Chakotay, a former leader of the Maquis, was given the rank of Captain and command of Voyager. Thomas Paris, B’Elanna Paris, and Annika Kim, who would have been assessed as definite security threats when the Voyager audience first met them, are now entrusted along with a certain model Starfleet officer with the development of a ship that will represent the cutting edge of Alpha Quadrant starship technology. Rudy Ransom, former captain of the Equinox, is about to be paroled from Auckland after only three years of imprisonment in the minimum-security facility. Last, but definitely not least, Marla Gilmore has gone from a demoted, distrusted ex-Equinox survivor to a recently promoted starship operations officer now being offered one of the most sensitive positions in the entire Milky Way Galaxy.

In contrast, those who sought to evade responsibility for their actions and/or mistakes ended up bringing on themselves the fates that they had wished to avert. Max Burke tried to fake his redemption to get out of Auckland, and as a result probably tacked a few more years onto his sentence. By participating in Janeway’s sabotage ring, Clark Bowman brought upon himself the court martial that had he had feared (if not for the same cause). Likewise, the Maquis in Janeway’s conspiracy were punished primarily for their actions as conspirators, not Maquis. As for Janeway… her misreading of the Trabe’s intentions would never have caused her as much trouble as if she had lost Voyager in the Alpha Quadrant, let alone sought to delay its return home from the Delta Quadrant.

Janeway’s reminiscence near the start of "Causality" was very welcome, and not just because we were brought up to speed on what had become of Rudy Ransom and Max Burke (and how they had survived the destruction of the Equinox—what a difference Harry makes when he was allowed a real role in the story!). We now have a much better understanding of how Janeway (and her conspirators) had come to undertake an effort that, on the surface, appears to be so contrary to the way she has been presented on the show (much like how a strident public legislator is revealed to be an agent of the very organization (s)he publicly rails against). Indeed, out of all of the "Star Trek" series leads, Janeway was by far the most able to credibly carry off such a conspiracy against her own ship.

"Who is she to be making these decisions for all of us?!"
"She’s the Captain."
—B’Elanna Torres and Chakotay ("Caretaker Part 2" [VOY])

Throughout "Voyager," Janeway has been depicted as the most powerful of the Star Trek series leads in terms of how much power her say-so has over her crew—a dictatorship symbolized by her monopoly on the authorization codes for Voyager‘s autodestruct (in "The Adversary" [DS9], we learned that even the Defiant‘s autodestruct required a code from Kira—a non-Starfleet Officer—as well as Sisko). Given the practically unquestioned authority Janeway wields on Voyager, it’s not hard to imagine potentially suspicious reports being squelched solely on her say-so—indeed, in "Getting Home," Tuvok would likely have dismissed Seven’s marking of Janeway as a suspect were it not so soon after Janeway’s graphically poor judgment during the Equinox incident. When Kirk, Picard, or Sisko even starts to act oddly (or unhealthily), they are brought back into line and/or relieved of duty by their CMOs and/or their XOs. When Janeway is similarly challenged by her senior staff for odd behavior, she threatens the EMH with shutdown and/or relieves the offending staff member of duty—and they accept her defiance. In "First Contact," we witnessed that even a veteran starship captain who was entrusted with the Federation’s flagship could not wield such unquestioned authority without the possibility of abuse—and Janeway has far less experience (and reputation) than Picard did, to say nothing of their relative temperaments.

The inordinate amount of power that Janeway wields so often and casually, combined with the range of expertise that she has been given by TPTB to a greater degree than many of the experts on her own ship (as exemplified in "Parallax," "Think Tank," "Good Shepherd," and "Fury" to name a few), resulted in (to mangle a famous quote about U.S. Army procedures) three methods of dealing with a problem on Voyager: "The right way, the wrong way, and Janeway." Although this puts Janeway at the center of dealing with almost every major problem on Voyager, this also meant that, far too often, Janeway refused to consider advice from her senior staff—and thus what was done tended to hinge entirely on Janeway’s say-so (There are very good dramatical reasons why Spock, Data, and Dax were not made their respective series leads—which were ignored by TPTB at Voyager at their own peril). As a result, because Janeway has such an inordinate amount of decision-making power, any scrutiny of their actions—and mistakes—will fall primarily on her. As the saying goes, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"—and by the time Janeway had contacted the Trabe in the "Parallel Voyage" timeline, she was blurring the distinctions between what was she wanted, and what was good for her crew.

Between the incident with the Trabe and "Getting Home" (and with the exception of "Quentin"), Janeway probably has been on the verge of allowing a return home many times—only to be repeatedly tripped up by committing some glaring error(s) that robbed her of her nerve to go home (mistakes do tend to be more common when you don’t listen to advice). The incident with the Equinox might be such an example—after a few months without any major mistakes, Janeway may have felt that it was almost time to authorize another slipstream attempt when Voyager picked up the Equinox‘s distress signal (especially since returning home with another stranded starship would be a major plus). After the Equinox‘s destruction, Janeway finally calmed down—and realized just how poorly she had conducted herself during that incident. If Starfleet might have looked down upon her misreading of the Trabe, it would definitely send her to the stockade over her Captain Ahab impersonation (especially if the fallen dedication plaque was any symbolic indication). As such, Janeway lost her desire to return home again—and subsequently sent Clark Bowman on his fateful assignment to tamper with the EPS conduit.

In the end, though, the credibility of Jeffrey’s Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde depiction of Janeway was dependent to no small degree on (and perhaps even inspired by) the infamously inconsistent characterization of Janeway from Season 4 onward. As such, Jeffrey didn’t have to work especially hard to argue that Janeway was capable of having such a double life, since TPTB have already done that for him. However, as we would see in "Causality," the aforementioned range of skills and abilities that makes Janeway an unbalanced member of an ensemble cast would also make her a very powerful antagonist.

Regarding the devices that Janeway comes up with in order to enable her escape from Auckland and thwart the efforts of both Starfleet and DTI to stop her—they are not as far-fetched as one might suppose. During The Animated Series [TAS], the characters regularly relied on "life support belts" to generate personal shields when visiting hostile environments (such as the vacuum of space, or underwater). As such, the technology has been around for over a century and is well understood by Starfleet officers—in "A Fistful of Datas" [TNG], Worf, in a few minutes, assembles out of his communicator a personal forcefield that can defeat bullets (something that seems to be beyond the best efforts of the Borg)—and Janeway has had three years to work on her devices (not to mention a lot more in the way of 24th century technology to work with). About the shield belts, Jeffrey remarked,

I’m basing it partly on the life-support belts [seen in TAS] …as well as on the aforementioned "Away Team fields" [from the TNG Tech Manual]. It’s possible Janeway didn’t get the idea for the shield belts until after having spent a year in prison, possibly after having to use a life-support belt while working one day. I’m sure that they’ll be coming into use by Starfleet fairly shortly after this incident. (If nothing else, it’ll even things up with the Borg the next time they come knocking on Earth’s door)

As for the cloaking device—we know from "Profit and Loss" [DS9] that small, high-performance/limited-use starship cloaking devices are available on the black market. There do exist means of detecting cloaked ships—but all of them have been used against cloaks not of Federation origin. From what we saw in "Pegasus" [TNG], even a 2350s-era Federation cloaking device is decades, if not centuries, ahead of anything the rest of the known Milky Way Galaxy is capable of fielding. From that, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that a former Starfleet officer as skilled as Janeway (especially given the ‘rocks to replicators’ reputation of Starfleet engineers) can cook up a makeshift device that can outperform the best Romulan cloaks available—and adapt that technology to give her shield belts a sensor-defeating capability as well (needed if Janeway didn’t want to be discovered too early by her past-self).

Janeway’s plans to alter the timeline reminded me a lot of Red Squad’s attempt to destroy the Dominion Battleship prototype in "Valiant" [DS9]. Both plans were, by conventional wisdom, impossible missions devised by leaders with far more hubris than good sense. However, both plans were actually carefully thought out, and both sought to neutralize the tremendous advantage in conventional strength the opposition would have through special knowledge and/or weaponry. Furthermore, the devisors of both plans succeeded in fully executing their plans, and thus achieved their immediate goals despite the long odds against them. Red Squad succeeded in detonating the Battleship’s antimatter supply (with minimal casualties up to that point), and Janeway managed to reach the Guardian of Forever and go back to the time/place she desired to successfully alter the timeline.

However, both Janeway’s and Red Squad’s strategies were ultimately pre-destined to fail because of unknown factors that prevented their immediate successes from automatically bringing about the desired results. In the case of Red Squad, they had no idea that the Dominion Battleship was capable of surviving (in a condition to do battle, no less) the explosion of its antimatter supply. In Janeway’s case, she thought that, once she made the changes in the timeline, no one would ever know otherwise (from their ‘present’ perspective, the new timeline was now the normal one). It’s probably a common belief among Starfleet/Allied officers that the only way the DTI desk jockeys could ever find out about temporal incidents was if the officers in question actually tell DTI about them (and thus subject themselves to needless harassment solely out of their sense of duty). Since, of course, Janeway had no intention of telling DTI the truth about her actions when she returned through the Guardian, DTI would never realize the need to send someone back through the Guardian to stop her.

What trips up Janeway’s plans (and fortunately so for all parties involved, including Janeway) is that the primary reason why DTI set up its Headquarters on the Time Planet was so that it could be insulated from any timeline changes (as demonstrated in "The City on the Edge of Forever" [TOS]). As such, after Janeway went through the Guardian, DTI had a chance to catch its collective breath—and organize an effort to get her back and prevent the alteration.

In Star Trek, the subject of time travel tends to be treated in much the same way that nuclear weapons are in present-day franchises. Both posses potentially peaceful applications—during the 1960s, nuclear explosives were seriously proposed for a variety of large-scale constructive uses (such as digging harbors and canals) as well as spaceship propulsion, and time travel can be used by researchers to gather historical information for the insatiably knowledge-hungry Federation (as we saw in "Assignment: Earth" [TOS]). However, the misuse of either threatens an incredibly vast and indiscriminate result by a relatively small group of agents, one that a conventional military can find very difficult to prevent—or counter. Indeed, this applies even more strongly to timeline tampering than with nuclear weapons—in the case of the former, the victim(s) (not to mention the rest of the universe) would never realize the tampering had taken place, since from their perspective, the altered timeline had ‘always’ been the correct one. Nonetheless, like the destructive use of nuclear weapons in the modern day, deliberate attempts at timeline manipulation inevitably brings about undesirable consequences for the user that makes it decidedly unpopular among those who might consider it to further their aims.

"A strange game. The only winning move is not to play."
—The WOPR supercomputer about the ‘game’ "Global Thermonuclear War" in the movie "WarGames"

In "The Year of Hell," we witnessed Annorax’s desperate attempts to alter the timeline in order to bring about a greater Krenim Imperium. The irony of his efforts was that, as we saw at the end, the timeline in which the Krenim Imperium was at its most powerful… was the one in which he had never attempted to tamper with the timeline in the first place. It was a graphic demonstration of the folly of trying to reshape the timeline to one’s own ends, and as such, a common moral of timeline tampering is that it doesn’t pay to play dice with the universe, because even when you win—you lose (as Janeway would learn to her cost).

Although the strategic aims of Star Trek time tamperers may be ultimately unachievable, common sense still dictates that their efforts cannot be tolerated any more than one can be careless about the security of nuclear weapons. As we saw in the alternate timeline, Janeway may be fated to end up as the laughingstock of the Alpha Quadrant (in addition to being court-martialed for her sabotage ring as well), but that still meant that Voyager returned home later rather than sooner (if at all), to say nothing of Tommy Kim’s fate in the new timeline. In addition, there is a limit as to how much abuse the continuum can take before the damage manifests itself catastrophically, as we saw at the start of "Future’s End Part 1." As such, it is to detect—and repair—such damage that the Department of Temporal Investigations exists.

Although readers of "Parallel Voyage" were first introduced to the Department of Temporal Investigations in its present form back in "Out of Time," it was not until "Causality" that we really had a chance to see this special arm of the Federation in action. As I previously mentioned in my review of "Out of Time," Jeffrey has made an effort to depict the Federation’s ‘timecops’ as serious, competent professionals—and, now in "Causality," we see just how DTI is able to deliver on its mandate to protect the timeline, an ambition that is unachievable on the surface. Jeffrey remarked:

"Trials and Tribble-ations" came close to how I see the timecops doing their jobs, but it didn’t go into enough detail about what they DO with the information that they gather. As for "Relativity," I would like to think that it just didn’t happen in this timeline—it’s the worst portrayal of a timecop that I’ve ever seen.

The use of the Time Planet by DTI as its headquarters was a very smart move (and one that would be unexpected to Threat forces given the stereotypical Earth-centric reputation of the Federation). Not only does the Time Planet’s aforementioned immunity to timeline changes make it an ideal location for an organization concerned with maintaining the timeline, but the proximity of DTI’s headquarters to the Guardian of Forever yields ready access to one the most capable time portals in the Star Trek universe—and also makes it convenient for DTI to protect the Guardian from those who seek to misuse it.

Which, of course, brings us to Janeway’s successful breach of DTI’s security. It is very understandable that the Time Planet’s defenses, while substantial, do not approach that of a Federation core world or Klingon Military Headquarters, because the primary defense of the Time Planet is its secrecy. If the Time Planet were to be given heavy defenses and regular starship patrols, a foreign intelligence service would eventually notice the large concentration of Federation military might gathered there, and wonder just what was so important on that world to merit such protection (once that happens, it would only be—excuse the phrase—a matter of time before enemy agents would succeed in infiltrating the facility). "Causality" represented the only attempt at breaching the Time Planet’s defenses in the hundred-plus years that DTI has had its headquarters there—and even then, it was by an ex-Starfleet Captain who had been allowed to learn about the place at a time when she was one of Starfleet’s ‘best and brightest.’ Considering that Janeway would probably have succeeded against any other defense network in the Milky Way Galaxy, her one-time success against DTI’s security doesn’t make it look incompetent—just not omnipotent. Of course, one might have expected the blood to be figuratively ankle-deep at the Time Planet after "Causality," but then, Admiral Hayes was still a Starfleet Admiral after "First Contact."

As one might expect, when Janeway succeeded in preventing the exposure of her conspiracy, the post-Equinox "Parallel Voyage" timeline assumed a form similar to that of the "Bragaverse." Voyager remained over 30,000 light years from home—and eventually, the "Fair Haven" holoprogram came into existence as well.

"…You took advantage of our trust. You betrayed this crew."
—Janeway to the "Equinox Five." [Equinox Part 2]

For Marla Gilmore, seeing Janeway’s "Spirit Folk" actions in the Guardian’s display has got to bring back memories of Janeway’s ‘riot act’ read to her at the end of "Equinox Part 2." Back then, Janeway had told the "Equinox Five" that they had betrayed the trust of the Voyager crew—but several months later, that accusation could just as well apply to the starship captain who insisted on protecting a holoprogram at the risk of two of her crew (to say nothing about her sabotage ring). In addition, Dan and Marla were left wondering just what had Janeway done to cow her senior staff into submission. Understandably, they have a hard time reconciling the Tuvok who prosecuted Janeway with this meek excuse of a security chief, and Neelix, the ship’s official worrier about the crew, with this shallow individual who valued a holoprogram at the potential risk of his friends. Also, in this timeline, Annika Kim was still known as "Seven of Nine" (which underscores just how crucial Libby was in humanizing Seven during "Homecoming")—and then, there is the matter of Tommy Kim’s conspicuous absence.

Nonetheless, unlike Kirk and Spock over a century before, Dan and Marla will not have to pursue Janeway with only standard field equipment and no "dress rehearsals" of their mission. While the gear provided was not exactly as inconspicuous as one would wish for this mission (DTI standard issue would almost certainly be the 24th Century version of 007’s gadgetry, with the armbands and Type-1 phasers regarded as "heavy equipment"), it reflected the threat posed by Janeway’s phaser-resistant shielding. It’s a testament to the DTI techs that they not only managed to reverse-engineer three years of Janeway’s efforts in a few hours, but that they managed to devise both a superior version of her shield/sensor masking belts and a means of countering Janeway’s shield belt (given the "phaser alarms" on Federation starships, ‘silenced’ phasers are an absolute necessity for DTI operations. Even so, they would be limited to stun—otherwise, the result of a beam’s hit would itself set off alarms as we saw in "The Undiscovered Country"). Even more importantly, the ‘hardwired’ DTI code on Voyager‘s computer went a very long way to minimizing the impact future-Dan and -Marla would have on the past while retrieving Janeway, and thus helped ensure that they didn’t do anywhere near the amount of damage as they were trying to fix.

The startling reach and capabilities of DTI, while essential for its mission, nonetheless has some troubling implications. The presence of a "hardwire" code on Federation starships for the benefit of future DTI agents speaks volumes of the trust Starfleet has in DTI agents not to ever abuse such codes—and to keep them secure from Threat forces indefinitely. In addition, the Guardian itself represents the ultimate spying apparatus—it is capable of showing anything, anywhere, anytime in the past. Furthermore, in order for the Time Planet’s immunity to timeline alterations to be fully utilized, DTI has be able to operate autonomously from the central Federation government. The only external oversight that can be practically exercised over DTI is, ironically, the very same post-mission "Monday Morning Quarterbacking" that Starfleet Officers resent about DTI agents. As such, only the most ethical and competent people can be chosen as DTI personnel if the organization is not to become a greater threat to the timeline than its nonexistence.

Compared with other time-travel incidents in Star Trek (and sci-fi in general), Dan and Marla’s mission went relatively smoothly, and the efforts of DTI’s technicians were not only vindicated, but helped redress the insult to their professional pride by Janeway’s invasion of the Time Planet. This is as it should be—indeed, "Causality" pushes the limit on how much can ‘realistically’ be allowed to go wrong with such a mission, since repairing timeline tampering via counter-tampering is much like late 20th century brain surgery—mistakes (and unforeseen problems) are usually irreparable, and the less that has to be done, the better. Nonetheless, despite its relative quiet, their journey through 2376 Voyager serves a dramatic purpose in of itself—it shows what Marla’s early life was like on Voyager, and how it was different from what it is like now.

Dan and Marla’s encounter with Seven nicely elaborated on the early Marla-Seven interaction first described in "Out of Time." With less than a month after Marla Gilmore had figuratively mopped Equinox engineering with Seven’s hairdo, it’s not surprising that one of Seven’s greatest fears at this point would be to find herself within arm’s reach of Marla for a repeat performance—and Marla’s escort electing to stand back for a few seconds and watch Marla give an impromptu demonstration of ‘How to scrub deck carpeting with an ex-Borg’s facial implants’ (In retrospect, good relations with your crewmates are not irrelevant). Although Marla had told Dan about Seven’s early fear of her back in "Out of Time," it’s understandable that being told didn’t have quite the impact as actually seeing it for oneself (especially now that Dan, as well as Marla, know what to look for).

The subsequent encounter with Clark Bowman helped emphasize how ostracized and disrespected the ex-Equinox crewmembers were during their early post-Equinox days on Voyager—a common attitude hinted at in the beginning of "Getting Home," and one that contrasts with the easy trust and respect Marla has in her present life. It also represented no small degree of dramatic irony—a member of Janeway’s conspiracy, remarking on keeping an eye on an ex-Equinox crewmember in her presence, while that very same crewmember was on her way to help stop Janeway from preventing the exposure of said conspiracy.

As for the confrontation with Janeway itself—that came with a similarly high dose of irony. Shortly before the "past" in "Equinox Part 2," Janeway was the authority figure, and Marla was a fugitive. Now, in the "past," it is future-Janeway that is the fugitive—and it is Marla acting as a representative of the law to apprehend her.

That Janeway kept the lights off in her past-self’s quarters was hardly a bad judgment call on her part. Without DTI’s codes, she could hardly turn them on in the power-rationed Voyager without being detected (I mean, if the lights in the Captain’s quarters turn on while the Captain is on the bridge, someone’s bound to be sent to correct it). In addition, she was not expecting pursuit by DTI agents for previously discussed reasons.

As for Janeway’s surrender—it’s not unprecedented in Voyager for someone to voluntarily give up after three years of planning ("Ashes to Ashes" anyone?). It’s also consistent with how Jeffrey has portrayed Janeway’s fall from grace—after all, Janeway didn’t set out to delay Voyager‘s return for as long as she did. It was more of a creeping corruption that gradually set in over the years—and now, having learned of a future manifestation of that corruption, Janeway was still enough of a self-respecting Starfleet officer to recoil from it—and honest enough with herself to accept that the future that Dan and Marla had told her about could very well happen (a short story on ASC by "Sister Reynardine" titled "Shame" explored the theory that Janeway’s relationship with a hologram was part and parcel of her need for power and control). In addition, Janeway does have something to gain (or, at least, not lose so much) by giving up. In the altered timeline, the whole Alpha Quadrant will know about the starship captain who had an intimate relationship with a non-sentient hologram, and was ready to risk the lives of her crew to protect it. In the restored timeline, less than ten people will know about what might have happened in Fair Haven—and they’re not going to spread it around because, the secrecy around the Guardian aside, who in the proper timeline would believe them?

The committing of Janeway to the mental hospital at Tantalus V marked a new low point of Janeway’s adult life—once again, in attempting to escape responsibility for her actions, Janeway has brought upon herself a life less desirable than the previous status quo. However, as we last saw her, Janeway has now accepted her fate—and as such may finally be on the way to joining Ransom as a rehabilitated member of Federation society (though I wouldn’t expect a release for a few years, given her less-than-peaceful jailbreak from Auckland and her attempt to tamper with the timeline).

As for Rasmussen—he may be a talented con artist and thief, but Janeway definitely suckered him. If it hadn’t been for the Time Planet’s immunity to timeline changes, Rasmussen would never have been aware of Janeway’s promise in the first place. Even a little common sense should have warned Rasmussen that it’s pretty unlikely that, had she been successful in preventing her own downfall, Janeway could have then prevented Rasmussen’s imprisonment from the Delta Quadrant. Come to think of it, preventing his imprisonment at Auckland may not have been all that desirable, given what the Bajorans would have done to him in lieu of his imprisonment at a Federation facility (in "Homecoming," we learned that Rasmussen was at Auckland because he tried to pull off a scam involving the Bajoran religion). In addition, like Janeway, even if Rasmussen could somehow have been warned off from messing with the Bajorans, he likely would have ended up doing something else just as offensive. Once he gets around to thinking things through at Tantalus V, I expect Rasmussen to start kicking himself (figuratively, of course)—and, like Janeway, he’ll have a lot of time to think things through.

Regarding DTI’s request for Marla to become one of their agents—it was is hardly ‘out of the blue,’ as in many ways, Marla fits DTI’s needs for a field agent. As Jeffrey set up in "Out of Time," Marla possesses an above average understanding of temporal mechanics as well as engineering skills. In addition, Marla already has a few months of experience in tolerating disrespect from Starfleet officers on a daily basis (a necessary ability if "Trials and Tribble-ations" was any indication). Furthermore, although Marla is hardly aggressive, she is quite capable of looking after herself if pushed, as we saw in its rather decisive aftermath in "Equinox Part 1" (since Janeway had elected to attempt to rush Marla, one wonders if Seven had ever gotten around to telling Janeway about how easily Marla had KO’ed her).

However, the only way in which Marla falls short of DTI’s ‘wish list’ for a field agent should have been a showstopper—her past on the Equinox. In an organization where scrupulous ethics is even more essential than breathing, one would expect that DTI would have never considered Marla following her half-decade ordeal on the Equinox. It is a testament to the completeness of Marla’s redemption—to say nothing of the Federation’s forgiving nature—that DTI has chosen to overlook what should have been an automatic disqualifier and offer her a position that, more than any other, depends on the agent’s unyielding ethics. To borrow a famous quote from a cigarette advertisement, "You’ve come a long way, Marla."

Given that Dan Phillips just had his story in "Out of Time," it’s not unexpected that the spotlight has shifted a little off of him in "Causality." Even so, his role in "Causality" has helped illustrate some of Jeffrey’s strengths in writing. The revelation about Dan’s piloting skills (or the lack thereof), while humorous, points up an important aspect of Jeffrey’s original characters—in contrast to the Mary Sueish Janeway, Dan is depicted with a balance of skills—he may be a genius at temporal mechanics (a very difficult skill to pick up even in the well-educated Federation), but he’s hopeless at flying (a rather common skill in the Star Trek universe). In addition, Jeffrey was careful in the "division of action" between Dan and Marla—Marla was able to be helpful without being absolutely crucial to the mission’s success (as it should be, given that Dan was the professional DTI agent and Marla the talented novice).

As for Harry, Annika, and Tommy Kim—although they (aside from Annika’s alter ego Seven) never directly appeared in "Causality," they were definitely in the background, and helped to personalize what was at stake in restoring the timeline (and some of the difficulties thereof).

About the first letter—it was nice to get an update on how Tommy is doing. Given how different he is from a standard three-year old human boy, that Tommy’s current activities are so normal is very reassuring that Harry and Annika have done a very good job of raising him right, despite all of the potential pitfalls that his cybernetics might cause and/or make possible. It also emphasized, like Marla’s presence as the maid of honor at Seven’s wedding, how good a friend Marla was to Annika, and contrasted with the early Marla-Seven interaction seen during the mission.

Tommy’s disappearance in the altered timeline was likely more of an unintended consequence than the result of a deliberate act of malice. Given that Harry and Seven hadn’t set out to conceive Tommy, and Janeway had probably shuffled schedules around (and put her conspiracy’s activities on hold) in order to prevent the coincidences that resulted in her downfall, it’s not hard to imagine that what happened by sheer chance in the proper timeline didn’t come about when some of the variables were altered. Even with Tommy’s existence at stake, though, Harry and Seven served as the unwitting antagonists that timecops primarily have to deal with during counter-tampering missions. We witnessed Dan fast-talking Seven (with unspoken help from Marla)—and the threat of being accidentally discovered by Harry Kim, top-notch Operations Officer, constantly hanging over their heads.

As for the second letter—it served as an indicator that the timeline had indeed been properly restored, as symbolized by Tommy’s reappearance. In addition, it also served to tie in with the plot of the upcoming "Shattered Dreams."

Naturally, the restoration of Tommy Kim along with the preferred timeline in "Causality" didn’t come without a price tag (concealed as it was from Dan and Marla). Jeffrey told me that, in the altered timeline, Voyager picked up the ‘Borglets’ just as it did in the ‘Bragaverse.’ However, in the Parallel Voyage timeline, Voyager departed the Delta Quadrant months before they would have encountered a certain crippled Cube. I asked Jeffrey about what had become of the ‘Borglets’ in the ‘proper’ Parallel Voyage timeline, and he responded:

It was my understanding that they weren’t just floating out there and discarded by the Collective. That would be inefficient and potentially hazardous (should anyone, like, say, Voyager, pick them up and use them against the Collective). It’s my belief that there was at least one other cube coming to destroy their cube… (since) I think the Collective already knew about the "disease" that one of them was carrying, and didn’t want it to spread… (the ‘Borglets’) just happened to chance upon Voyager when they did. So, more than likely, in my timeline, they’ve all been terminated by the Collective.

It is noteworthy that the Guardian was careful to omit any mention of the ‘Borglets’ existence in the new timeline. It seems to indicate that the Guardian understood that Dan and Marla were going to have a nerve-wracking enough time as it was to restore the timeline even with a clear conscience—they didn’t need the specific burden of knowing that doing so would recondemn the ‘Borglets’ to death (as we saw in "City on the Edge of Forever," restoring the timeline means that the bad has to be accepted along with the good).

The inclusion of "Yesteryear" in "Causality" not only added to the post-TOS history of the Time Planet, but it reinforced the presence of The Animated Series in the "Parallel Voyage" timeline (which was initially done in Jeffrey’s "Merrimac" series). Despite the compromises forced by the 30-minute time slots of the TAS episodes, there were a number of classics such as "Yesteryear," and the writers of TAS arguably put more effort into maintaining consistency with the Star Trek universe than the current TPTB at Voyager do. For those who would like to learn more about the Animated Series, go to "The Guide to Animated Star Trek." Alan Dean Foster also wrote novelizations of all of the TAS Episodes under the "Star Trek Log" series (the novelization for "Yesteryear" was published in "Star Trek: Log One.")

With "Causality," Jeffrey wrote what could be the proper finale to (and explanation of) Janeway’s fall from grace—a descent made all the more visible by the corresponding ascent of Marla Gilmore, the formerly disgraced survivor of the Equinox. In the process, we’ve also gotten something that TPTB have never seriously attempted on Voyager: a time-travel story that makes sense.

Memorable Quotes from "Causality":

  • "I can fly this thing."
    "Don’t make me laugh, Dan. You couldn’t even pilot a shuttlecraft in a straight line with voice commands."
    —Dan Phillips and Marla Gilmore about the former’s piloting skills
  • "Did she change the timeline?"
    "If you can even ask that question, doesn’t that tell you something?"
    —Rasmussen and Phillips
  • "Find out what?"
    "You know damned well what I’m talking about. I’ve spent the last three years in prison because they found out."
    —past- and future-Janeway

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