Thoughts on “From the Ashes”

Written by  on June 20, 2002 

Thoughts by Thomas Lee

By Thomas Lee

Throughout its run, and especially in its last seasons, Star Trek: Voyager was plagued by an abundance of poorly-conceived and -executed episodes that earned it a well-deserved reputation as the nadir of the franchise. Among embarrassments such as "The Voyager Conspiracy" and "Fury" was "Ashes to Ashes"—a story that, as with the aforementioned episodes, showed how clumsy the writers could be in writing retroactive continuity. Nonetheless, as with his writing of "Tempus Fugit," Jeffrey took what should have been an unsalvageable episode and not only updated "Ashes to Ashes" to exist within the Version 2.0 timeline, but also incorporated numerous revisions that transformed it into a far better story.

One of the more notable changes in "From the Ashes" involved its portrayal of Lyndsay Ballard’s life on Voyager. Gone is the unexpectedly weak-willed Lyndsay of "Ashes to Ashes"—in her place is an ex-Kobali who has the determination to fit back into human society that one would expect of someone who had planned her escape from Kobali society for over 2 years. In addition, the integrity of Lyndsay’s story is further strengthened by Jeffrey’s excision of the ill-conceived (especially from a continuity standpoint) notion of Harry Kim’s romantic attraction with Lyndsay Ballard. That Annika Kim is completely absent from "From the Ashes" in both character and conversation is itself an indication of how thoroughly Jeffrey had removed any romantic overtones from Harry’s interaction with Lyndsay in "From the Ashes"—the nature of their friendship is such that one of them being married would not significantly affect it, if at all. As such, by jettisoning a subplot whose only real purpose was to cause Harry Kim grief, along with the B-story of "Ashes to Ashes" involving Seven and the Borg Children (which could not be carried over into the Version 2.0 timeline anyway), "From the Ashes" was able to fully concentrate on the story of Lyndsay Ballard.

However, perhaps an even more significant change in "From the Ashes" involved how Voyager‘s being in the Alpha Quadrant was able to change the course of the plot of "Ashes to Ashes" to what the story’s concept – and its Kobali characters—truly required. It is ironic that, through Q’Ret’s defeat in "From the Ashes," the reader was able to see Q’Ret’s love for J’Hetlaya in a way that his victory in "Ashes to Ashes" could never adequately convey. Chakotay’s description of how Q’Ret’s ships were "vastly outmatched" by Voyager‘s reinforcements was a gross understatement—the Nebula-class Endeavour alone could have easily defeated the Kobali ships, but the Sovereign herself was overkill to the point where her involvement in the battle was primarily beneficial to Q’Ret and the Kobali in a plotwise sense. That the Kobali, despite their ships being individually no match for even an Intrepid-class starship, were willing to fight to their destruction against a Heavy Explorer that outmatched even the mightiest of Borg Cubes to an even greater degree than most starships outmatch their shuttlecraft was an impressive testament to how dearly J’Hetlaya meant to Q’Ret and his people. Still, as his final conversation with her proved, Q’Ret really did love J’Hetlaya as a daughter and not merely as a trophy member of Kobali society. It is particularly noteworthy that Q’Ret’s parting message for the woman he had loved as his daughter J’Hetlaya was addressed to "Lyndsay Ballard"—it conveyed not only Q’Ret’s acceptance of Lyndsay’s desire to be human again, but was in effect a promise to never again attempt to force her to return to Kobali society.

As a result of how "From the Ashes" unfolded differently from "Ashes to Ashes," Lyndsay Ballard was not only able to return to Earth and complete her transition back into humanity, but was able to be reunited with her human family. This stood in stark contrast to the "reset button ending" of "Ashes to Ashes"—a difference that is similarly reflected in the titles of the original episode and Jeffrey’s derivative of it. As such, Lyndsay Ballard’s story in "From the Ashes" became that of a determined woman’s journey home that overcame even her death—and thus, in retrospect, what "Ashes to Ashes" should have been all along.

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