"Future's End" is a two-part episode from the third season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: Voyager, the eighth and ninth of the season and the 50th and 51st overall. "Future's End" made its debut on American television in November 1996 on the UPN network.
Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Federation starship Voyager during its journey home to Earth, having been stranded tens of thousands of light-years away. In this episode, Voyager is thrown back to 1996 Earth and must find a way back to the 24th century while making sure they don't cause a disaster in the 29th century in the process.
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A small ship with a Federation signature emerges from a temporal rift in front of the starship Voyager, and its pilot identifies himself as Captain Braxton (Allan G. Royal) from the 29th century. He explains that he believes Voyager to be the cause of a temporal explosion which would wipe out most of the Earth's solar system in his time; therefore he must destroy them. As proof, Braxton briefly states that debris from Voyager 's secondary hull will be found in the remains of the explosion. Voyager fights off Braxton's attack, resulting in the future captain being sent back through the rift to Earth in the year 1967. Voyager and its crew are also pulled into the rift and find themselves also at Earth, but in the year 1996. The starship is identified on Earth as a UFO and videotaped as such, placing the U.S. military on alert.
A young hippie hiker, Henry Starling (Ed Begley, Jr.), finds the timeship in 1967 and copies its technology, allowing him to create his own company, Chronowerx, and spark the micro-computer revolution. Meanwhile, a young astronomer named Rain Robinson (Sarah Silverman) who works at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles has discovered Voyager in high orbit through the ship's warp emissions and assumes it to be extraterrestrial life; against Starling's instructions—Starling funds her lab work—she attempts to contact Voyager, by transmitting a greeting to it which forces the crew to do some damage control. The Voyager crew tracks her location to the Observatory and Captain Janeway, Commander Chakotay, Lt. Tuvok (Tim Russ), and Lt. Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill), decide to beam down to Los Angeles. Tuvok and Paris try to find Rain, while Janeway and Chakotay attempt to investigate more on the ex-hippie and now multi-millionaire, Henry Starling. Tuvok and Paris successfully remove Rain out of the observatory before she can be harmed after Starling, who fears that Rain is a security risk, dispatches a hired gun to kill her.
In Los Angeles, Janeway and Chakotay identify a homeless man as Captain Braxton. Braxton explains that "he emerged from the time rift in 1967 and crash-landed in the desert, where a young Henry Starling found the timeship and utilized its technology" to begin his high-tech empire.
Ultimately, Janeway and Chakotay discover from Captain Braxton that Starling's planned attempt to travel into the 29th century using Braxton's timeship will be the true cause for the temporal explosion in the 29th century because Starling lacks the knowledge needed to properly operate the timeship. When Starling makes his trip to the future, the improperly configured temporal matrix will cause a temporal explosion that will destroy Earth's entire solar system. Braxton hypothesizes that Voyager 's debris will be found in the remains of the explosion because they will try—but fail—to stop Starling.
Janeway and Chakotay decide to secretly enter Starling's Chronowerx office where they find the timeship, just as Starling walks in on them. Starling ignores Janeway's warning not to use the timeship since its use will cause disaster and he tries to kill both Janeway and Chakotay. However, the latter two are beamed aboard Voyager just before he carries out the deed. When Voyager tries to beam up the timeship, Starling uses Voyager 's own transporter beam to access Voyager 's computer and study its systems before stealing the Doctor's program from Sickbay. Worse still, Voyager 's presence is detected and placed on the news media since the ship's crew had to dive the ship low into Earth's atmosphere to successfully beam aboard Janeway and Chakotay before Starling could kill them.
Janeway eventually manages to successfully abduct Starling and beam him aboard Voyager where he admits that he intends to travel into the future to steal more advanced technology. While Janeway believes that she has ended Starling's plans, one of Starling's henchmen uses his scavenged 29th century technology to transport Starling back to his office from where Starling launches the timeship to perform his intended time travel. After a failed attempt to convince Starling to stop his time travel before it's too late, Janeway destroys the timeship by manually firing a photon torpedo into it, destroying it just as it enters a temporal rift, and saving the future. An alternative Captain Braxton arrives, having detected their presence in the past, and returns them to their own time at the place they left it. He is unwilling to bring them to their Earth as that would violate the Temporal Prime Directive. In the process, the EMH now gains more freedom as he got one piece of 29th-Century technology of his own, a "Mobile Holo-Emitter", which allows him to move about without having to rely on fixed holo-emitters anymore.
Star Trek writer and producer, Bryan Fuller, who began his career on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, has stated that Brannon Braga, Voyager 's co-executive producer, considered making Sarah Silverman a member of the crew on the basis of her acting in this episode. Braga “liked writing for Silverman and the freshness she brought to the Voyager” show plus the possibilities for a Tom Paris romance with her. In the end, Braga abandoned the idea and instead chose Jeri Ryan to join the crew in season 4 of the show.