I am a social pariah. I am a “Trekkie” (someone who likes Star Trek lore). Also, I am a fan of the Star Trek series “Voyager”, which is maligned by most Trekkies. This makes me an outcast amongst outcasts.
That said, I will not back down from my praise of the Voyager episode “Year of Hell” (even most Voyager haters admit that one is good). The plot summary is as simple as it’s execution is deep: An advanced alien species manipulates space-time to “de-exist” their enemies from the timeline. The starship USS Voyager gets in the way. Time to load-up the never-ending supply of Photon Torpedoes and Shuttlecraft (Trekkies got that reference. And please get over it).
The Krenim are an advanced race, but still possess humanoid frailties, including hubris. The Captain of the TimeShip screws-up, and reduces his mighty Imperium to a weak scattering of colonies. The rest of the two-part episode, he tries to hunt Voyager down (whose presence is messing with their calculations), so he can restore the correct timeline, his mighty empire, and most importantly: His wife’s very existence.
The crew of the TimeShip perform weeks of calculations, executes, then holds their collective breath. Sometimes, they get closer to a “full restoration” of their Imperium, but are still off. An few outposts missing here, a colony there. One time, their chrono-navigator checks after their temporal incursion. He excitedly announces a 99.5% restoration. That’s the closest they’ve gotten in a long, long time. The captain’s crew is tired. They miss their families. They just want to go home.
That 0.5% variance? A small moon colony on the outskirts of Krenim space. That moon was where the Captain’s wife lived. She still does not exist in this timeline. He orders the crew to make new calculations for another temporal jump, leaving this nearly-perfect universe behind.
This is what makes for great science fiction: The exploration of the space within mankind’s soul. Who gets to wear the White Hat, and who gets the Black Hat? Is it right, or even just, to love someone so deeply that you literally risk the lives and existence of your crew? Or forsake an entire empire? Will you wander forever trying to get back to her? How much are you willing to leave behind, or destroy to rejoin the one you love?
The episode is titled “Year of Hell”, ostensively because of the beating Voyager and her crew suffers at the hands of Krenim warships. Janeway, this time this isn’t about you, and your “family” aboard Voyager trying to get home. No, this is about a tragic Captain Ahab that did not lose his leg to a whale, but who lost his wife to existence itself. Voyager had it rough, but the Krenim Captain was truly the one in a Year of Hell.
I’ve enjoyed that episode on many levels over the years. But this year I understand.