Last night I watched the second half of the Star Trek Voyager episode called the Year of Hell.
In general I must say that the fourth season of Voyager is much better than the third one — I was about to dismiss Voyager as the worst of all the Star Trek series, but the replacement of Kes by Seven of Nine seems to have changed the dynamics and made it much more enjoyable.
This particular double episode was extraordinarily good. In short, it’s about how a Krenim scientist called Annorax constructs a weapon that can erase a whole species from history. Basically, he would be able to fire his weapon at Earth, and suddenly humans would never have developed past the Erectus stage.
Annorax’s goal is to make his own species, the Krenim, the dominant civilisation in their sector. However, his removal of species always has unintended side effects, and he ends up a bitter man because he has no ability to undo his erasures. (I won’t reveal the ending here.)
This episode made he think of a potential planet-scale equivalent: the time gun. Imagine if you could pull the trigger on this weapon, and Hitler would never have been born. Or Stalin. Or Mao Zhedong. Or Genghis Khan. However, once you’d fired it, there would be no way to undo the change.
Would you be brave enough ever to fire it? If for instance you killed Hitler, wouldn’t there be a risk the Nazi party would have been led instead by somebody who would have killed just as many Jews, gypsies and other non-Arians, but who would have postponed the invasion of Poland for a decade in order to keep the UK out of the war until it was to late? That potentially killing Hitler could have led to a fascist Europe because nobody would have been appalled enough to oppose the fascists? Of course it’s also completely possible that killing Hitler would have had absolutely wonderful consequences, but would you be brave enough to press the button if you couldn’t undo it? Would you potentially end up erasing every single member of the Nazi party from history?
I think it’s likely you’d end up bitter and twisted like Annorax, trying to erase more and more people from history in the hope that one day you’d manage to restore the world you grew up in. It’s a fascinating thought, and I highly recommend watching the Year of Hell.