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BOTH `VOYAGER’ AND `DS9' ARE AIRING TIMELY EPISODES

SHARE BOTH `VOYAGER’ AND `DS9' ARE AIRING TIMELY EPISODES

Both current "Star Trek" franchises are about to tread some familiar territory - time travel. And, somewhat surprisingly, Trekkers won't want to miss either show.

The biggest surprise comes out of "Star Trek: Voyager," which has had more than its share of creative problems during its two-plus seasons on the air. Week in and week out, this has been the weakest of the "Treks" since its debut.But this two-part episode (tonight and next Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Ch. 14) is ambitious, entertaining and - unlike so many "Voyager" episodes - comes up with a satisfying conclusion.

Capt. Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and her crew are trekkin' through the Delta quadrant when, suddenly, a rift in the space-time continuum opens before them. Out of the rift comes a Federation time ship from 500 years in the future - and that ship instantly opens fire on the Voyager.

The captain of the time ship orders Janeway to submit to destruction because she and the Voyager are somehow tied to a 29th century cataclysm that destroys Earth's solar system. Janeway isn't willing to go quietly, and in fending off the time ship the Voyager is sucked into the rift - and deposited in orbit over Earth in the year 1996.

What follows is more than a bit reminiscent of the movie "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home." Various members of the crew go incognito in present-day Los Angeles - a truly alien world.

(Next week's conclusion even has a pair of crew members running into paranoid militia members in Arizona.)

The plot involves that time ship, an evil industrialist (Ed Begley Jr.) and machinations involving saving the Earth of the future - not to mention Voyager and her crew.

It's the sort of slam-bang action and adventure that "Voyager" is sorely in need of.

Meanwhile, the other current "Trek" series, "Deep Space Nine," is doing some time traveling of its own this weekend. But while Capt. Sisko (Avery Brooks) and his crew travel into their past, they're still traveling into our future.

But, come to think of it, they're traveling into our past, too. (Confused yet?)

The episode opens when the 24th century crew encounters a relatively aged - and definitely embittered - Klingon. Turns out it's a Klingon who, back in the 23rd century, ran up against Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and a bunch of tribbles - and lost.

This episode of "DS9" does more than harken back to the classic "Trek" episode "The Trouble with Tribbles," it actually goes back to that 1967 installment of the show.

That mean ol' Klingon in question has a plot to go back in time and defeat Capt. Kirk and the crew of the original Starship Enterprise, and it's up to the "DS9" bunch to stop him.

Whether all of this is a good idea is somewhat questionable. "DS9" tries desperately to recreate the light-hearted fun of the original tribbles episode without entirely succeeding.

But, on the other hand, the incredible look of this "DS9" makes it more than worth spending an hour with. Using the same computer technology that allowed Forrest Gump to interact with dead presidents, DS9ers actually interact with Kirk, Spock, McCoy and other members of the original crew.

It's amazing.

Just one word of caution, however. Because this "Deep Space Nine" episode is scheduled for Sunday at 5 p.m. on Ch. 13 - and because Ch. 13 is airing a football game that afternoon at 2 - chances are that "DS9" might be joined in progress. (Feel free to call Ch. 13 and express an opinion if that happens again.)

But the tribbles episode of "DS9" is also scheduled to air Sunday, Nov. 17 at 10 p.m. on Ch. 13.

CBS NUKES WEDNESDAY: Well, not all of its Wednesday lineup, but two-thirds of the network's programming on that night has been sent into the netherworld of hiatus.

And it's too bad that two of the shows - the superior comedy "Almost Perfect" and the extremely promising drama "EZ Streets" - aren't going to be around for a while. They're both better than most of what's on network television today.

On the other hand, it's hard not to stand up and cheer that "Public Morals" has been yanked after airing a grand total of one - yes one - episode. This piece of junk should never have been scheduled in the first place.

(And maybe failure will be character building for co-creator/-exe-cutive producer Steven Bochco.)

CBS hasn't actually canceled any of these shows, and network executives have promised that "EZ Streets" will return after the first of the year. The outlook for "Perfect" and "Public" is unknown.

And the network hasn't decided what it's going to do on Wednesday nights, at least not on anything resembling a permanent basis. (Or as permanent as anything gets in network television.)

For the time being, CBS will fill the 8 to 10 p.m. time slot on Wednesdays with movies, beginning with a rebroadcast of "Sleepless in Seattle" tonight.

VIDBITS: On the late-night front, "Frasier" star Kelsey Grammer is scheduled to visit Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" on Friday. It's his first talk-show appearance since leaving the Betty Ford Center.

And over at the "Late Show," David Letterman will be entertaining the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, on Monday, Nov. 18.

- Current rumor at ABC is that the network is seriously considering rearranging its Wednesday-night lineup. Instead of airing "Ellen," "Townies," "Grace Under Fire" and "Drew Carey" in that order from 7-9 p.m., it would switch to "Grace," "Townies," "Drew" and "Ellen."

Part of the thinking, reportedly, is that the later time slot will make it easier for Ellen to come out of the closet and declare her lesbianism.