I love the idea of getting unstuck in time. My favorite novel is Slaughterhouse Five. And while, Kes' adventure isn't really very much like Billy Pilgrim's, there are some similarities. Acting as a tourist in your own timeline, the confusion of seeing your life play out without context, the loss of control (or loss of the delusion of control) of one's day to day life. I guess I saw this episode well before I found Vonnegut's famous novel but, when you're unstuck in time, does it really matter which came first?
To catch you up:
Kes wakes up as an old lady (she's nine) in the future and The Doctor is telling her she's his BFF and her grandson is there and then she zaps back to a few weeks prior, at her b-day party, where she sees her daughter (a grown woman married to Harry Kim) and her husband (Tom Paris) and she realizes something weird is going on because she doesn't know any of these damn people. She keeps zapping backward, along her own timeline, trying to figure out what's happened to her, who she is, how she fits into this whirlwind and we see one possible timeline for Kes in reverse. Eventually she quits zapping and we get our regular Kes back, with all the memories of her unstuck-ness, in tact.
Alternate History/Future Tear Jerkers and, while this one might not have the heart-ripping brute strength of The Inner Light, I think that's only because of its more ponderous, more mysterious nature. This episode is as much about Kes solving a problem as it is about what might have been. In The Inner Light, Picard knows who he is but eventually gives up on trying to get back to his starship (and it's a beautiful moment when he does) but Kes starts out as a blank slate. This episode is as much about figuring out who she is as it is trying to "get back." She doesn't really even know what she's getting back to. But, each time she jumps, she learns more and more about her family, her crew, her life on-board Voyager, and she knows she has to find a way to get that life, that crew, that family back. We're just along for the ride.
Of course, one of the most provocative things in this episode is only barely mentioned. The Year of Hell--in which Janeway dies (along with a fair part of the crew) and everything changes. It's such a brilliant idea and one that ultimately does pay off--though maybe not in the way one would expect.
This is the last great Kes episode before her departure in The Gift and I'm so glad they did it. Jennifer Lien is amazing in this one and she really was just beginning to come into her own as Kes.
-The Doctor has a few names in this one, including Van Gogh and Mozart
-I love that they kept the Okampan language consistent: Elogium/Moralogium
-Love the Tom/B'Elanna stuff here
-Neelix is a security officer in the future and he looks great in gold
-All the Janeway/Kes stuff in this one is fantastic