The Star Trek Episode Inspired By Tragedy

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Because all the episodes and films take place in the far future, Star Trek doesn’t have too many episodes directly inspired by 20th-century history.

One of the biggest exceptions is “Time and Again,” a Voyager episode in which Captain Janeway and Tom Paris are transported to a doomed alien planet 24 hours before all life is wiped out. It’s a wild premise for a Trek episode with an equally wild historical premise: you see, this episode was pitched with the question, “what if you were in Dresden twenty-four hours before the firebombing and knew it was coming?

Time And Again

Before we can review the real history this Star Trek episode is based on, we need to briefly review what “Time and Again” is all about. The episode begins with Voyager encountering a planet where all life has been wiped out only the day before; Janeway and Paris are accidentally thrust into the past 24 hours before everyone dies. They must then figure out what they are going to do with their dark future knowledge, even as Voyager frantically works to retrieve them from the past.

An Ethical Dilemma

Now that you know what the Star Trek episode is about, we can turn our attention to the controversial historical event that “Time and Again” was based on. The Bombing of Dresden was an American and British attack on the titular German city near the end of World War II. Between February 13-15, Britain and America launched four air raids that created a hellish firestorm and killed up to 25,000 people.

A Controversial Day In History

To this day, the bombing is controversial because critics claim that the bombing was indiscriminate and targeted an area with very little strategic value. Proponents of the bombing point to the necessity of ending World War II and that the lives lost that day may ultimately have saved many more lives in the future.

With that in mind, someone who time-traveled to the day before the bombing started would have to decide whether they would try to save as many lives as possible by either trying to warn everyone or letting the bombing proceed.

Janeway And Paris Have The Debate Themselves

In the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Time and Again,” Janeway and Paris have the same debate regarding the doomed planet around them. As a good Starfleet captain, Janeway firmly argues that they need to uphold the Prime Directive. She has to order Paris (who is firmly of the opinion they need to try to save the planet) to not warn anyone what is going to happen.

Violating The Prime Directive

Eventually, this legendary Star Trek captain decides that the Prime Directive was already violated by accident when she and Paris landed in the past. To make matters worse, she eventually discovers the dark irony that it was her own crew’s attempts to rescue her that ultimately destroyed all life on the planet. Janeway closes the subspace fracture the ship was trying to open into the past, effectively resetting the timeline and saving the lives of everyone on the planet.

A Bold Episode For The Franchise

You may have noticed that this Star Trek episode inspired by the Bombing of Dresden didn’t necessarily take a firm side on the issue…after all, Janeway mostly saves the planet in “Time and Again” because she feels responsible for its destruction. However, it’s nice for a franchise as didactic as this to eventually throw out a question without a clear-cut answer. And having an episode with such crunchy moral complexity this early into Voyager was certainly a good omen for fans wondering whether or not the franchise was in good hands. 


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