51 – Future’s End, Part 2

Grade: B

Future's End: Part II (1996) on IMDb


In this conclusion to Future’s End, Henry Starling has kidnapped Voyager’s Doctor and equipped him with a 29th Century mobile holographic emitter. He continues to evade capture and resumes his plan to go into the future to steal technology that he can claim to have invented.


Typically, the second half of a 2-part episode is weaker than the set-up episode that preceded it. I don’t think this second half is as good as the first half was, but there is one aspect of Part 2 that I actually liked quite a bit. At the conclusion, it becomes obvious that the timeline was restored to its proper place, but not everything is exactly the way that it was before. Specifically, the Doctor kept his mobile emitter, and everyone on Voyager still remembers their experiences in this episode. Captain Braxton, on the other hand, is not even aware of anything other than Voyager’s presence in the Alpha Quadrant in the 20th Century. As far as we know, Henry Starling’s computer empire was still responsible for creating the computer revolution of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. But I liked that this episode is not just another use of the dreaded Reset Button as so many time travel shows have become.

But as I wrote in my review of Part 1, I really have a problem with the idea of Federation Timeships that fly around correcting past mistakes for whatever reason. To me it seems completely unethical to do such a thing, and I don’t think even the most liberal interpretation of the Prime Directive would allow it. If the Prime Directive would not allow Data to save the life of a young girl he had befriended as a pen pal, why would it allow some future captain to destroy an entire starship, 900 years before the calamity supposedly happened? Technically, if you have the ability to change the past and influence the future, you can pretty much do anything you want. I doubt the Federation would allow that to happen. Remember, “just because we can do a thing, it does not necessarily follow that we must do that thing.”

I do like the way Henry Starling is portrayed – both Ed Begley’s acting as well as the character that the episode develops. Starling isn’t a garden-variety evil genius who is trying to take over the government, destroy the Rainforest, or create a Quantum Singularity to swallow up Earth. Instead, he’s an entrepreneur who saw an opportunity to sell technologies that hadn’t been invented yet. Obviously, this isn’t the way things work in the real world, where creative thinkers invent products then convince us that we can’t survive without them. Essentially, he’s cheating by stealing from the future rather than using more conventional methods. What Starling says (that he creates products that make people’s lives better) sounds no different than any CEO of any major corporation. We can relate to Starling because he reminds us of people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates – wildly successful businessmen who are both loved and hated. Begley gives an excellent performance and his character is really the best-developed villain we’ve seen in this series so far.

Speaking of Starling, I seriously doubt anyone would be able to de-code and figure out how to use technology from 900 years in the future. Remember the ship is from the 29th Century, but Starling lives in the 20th Century. Let’s take something like the iPad, for example. If you were to take one apart from 2012, would you learn how to make a 1997-style laptop? That’s just 15 years. Now multiply that by 60 times. Would there be anything at all on a ship from 900 years in the future that would help you make a computer operating system that would work on DOS like Windows 3.1 did?

I guess the problem I have with this story is simply that it’s so implausible. Technology from 900 years in the future is going to be so incredibly advanced beyond anything we can understand. Just figuring out how it works at all isn’t even the first step. We’d first have to know what it is intended to do.

Well, it’s not all bad, though. I enjoyed watching the story. It’s fun to see Paris, Tuvok and the Doctor interact with people in 1996. It actually makes this a very accessible episode – you don’t need to know very much (if anything) about Star Trek to really enjoy watching this episode. Pretty much anyone can relate to this storyline.

The concept is basically good, though it’s not completely original. The TNG episode “A Matter of Time” tells the story of Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a 22nd Century thief who stole a 26th Century shuttlecraft and took it into the future to steal technology that he would then claim to have invented. There are slight variations, of course, but it’s close enough that I docked it a few points.

It’s too bad they couldn’t find a way to keep using Sarah Silverman. I thought she played her role well – basically that of a 1996 non-Trekkie.

Of Note

Some of the people working on the series wanted to have Rain Robinson join the crew of Voyager. When I saw this episode, I was honestly hoping that she would at least ask to join Voyager, though I don’t think there would have been much for her to do on the ship. She has no 24th Century skills, would only be familiar with Alpha Quadrant stars, and she wouldn’t be able to do much of anything productive. About the only thing she could do on the ship is hang out with Tom Paris and get in the way. It might be nice to see how she would have reacted to 24th Century situations, but there’s not much of a benefit there for the viewer. On the other hand, I still think it would have been fun to have her show up every now and then on the ship. At the very least, it would have been something different instead of the same bland old stuff.