- "...this is one year I'd like to forget."
- — Kathryn Janeway, 2374
In at least two alternate timelines, "The Year of Hell" was the name that was given to the events of 2373 to 2374 by the crew of the USS Voyager, specifically a series of conflicts with the Krenim Imperium. In both timelines, the temporal weaponry of the Imperium inflicted critical damage on the starship.
In this timeline, first contact with the Krenim took place on stardate 50973, when a single vessel launched an attack on the starship. Voyager's weapons fire was ineffective against the attacking vessel, and chroniton torpedoes were able to penetrate the hull. Hull breaches were recorded on Deck 7, and the engineering station on the bridge exploded, killing Captain Kathryn Janeway and Chief Engineer B'Elanna Torres. Nine other casualties were recorded, with power down on Decks 4-12, The Doctor going offline as a result (he remained out of action for the remainder of the year). The mess hall was turned into a makeshift medical facility. Neelix was forced to wear an operations division uniform, eventually becoming a full-fledged security officer.
One torpedo failed to detonate during the battle, and became lodged in Voyager's hull on Deck 11, section 2. Fragments of the torpedo leaked chroniton radiation into the ship, irradiating a large proportion of the crew. As a result, the entire crew was inoculated, but residual chronitons remained dormant in those affected.
Following the initial battle, a protracted conflict took place, inflicting severe damage on Voyager. Chakotay took command of the ship, ultimately managing to escape Krenim space. During the year, B'Elanna Torres was killed, and Kes and Tom Paris became romantically involved, producing a child, Linnis. At the time of the birth, the main computer core had been off-line for several weeks, life support was restricted to three out of fourteen decks, and non-essential power had been rerouted to tactical systems.
This timeline was apparently eliminated when Kes' chroniton contamination was triggered by The Doctor's attempts to save her life with a bio-temporal chamber in 2378, resulting in her traveling backwards along her personal timeline to a point in early 2373, prior to the encounter with the Krenim. She later documented her knowledge of the Krenim in a report.
- According to the events of "The Gift", Kes pushed Voyager 9,500 light years through Borg space before they reached Krenim space. It is not explained in "Before and After" how the ship crossed this space without Kes' transformation. In the non-canon Myriad Universes novel Infinity's Prism, it is alleged that this timeline's Voyager crew completed their deal with the Borg and stole a transwarp coil in a Borg wreck, providing a solution to the problem.
In this timeline, first contact with the Krenim was significantly delayed, as Voyager first encountered the Nyrians and the Borg. These events resulted in the departure of Kes and the placing of Seven of Nine aboard the starship. This timeline continued to evolve very differently, culminating in the destruction of Voyager, and the eventual erasure of the timeline.
Two hundred years prior, Annorax, a Krenim scientist, had developed a temporal weapon ship capable of altering history. Using it to eliminate their greatest rivals, the Rilnar, Annorax failed to fully understand the complexities of the alteration, and a deadly virus devastated the Imperium. Trying again, Annorax was able to restore 98% of the Imperium, with the exception of Kyana Prime, home of his wife, who was erased from existence as a result. Annorax and his crew spent the next two centuries attempting to correct that mistake. In March of 2374, the Krenim's sector of space was dominated by the Zahl, who, in that timeline, had defeated the Imperium a number of years earlier.
In December of 2373, when attempting to evade a rogue comet, Voyager altered course to a heading that took the ship into Krenim space. In this timeline, first contact with the Krenim took place on 16 March (Day 1), when a single vessel launched an attack against the starship. Due to temporal interference from Annorax, the Krenim Imperium was non-existent and there was no significant damage. A few days later, during Voyager's meeting with a Zahl representative, Annorax altered time again to restore the Imperium and erase the Zahl. Voyager was significantly more damaged and on red alert, with shields failing. The second Year of Hell began.
On 17 April (Day 32), a Krenim attack resulted in the overload of EPS conduits across the starboard side of Deck 5, sections 10-53, killing two crew members. Voyager happened to take down the aft shields of the Krenim warship during the battle and destroyed it by releasing photon torpedos like mines, but apparently another ship took its place. Attempts to modify Voyager's shields to protect against the temporal flux of the chroniton torpedoes had proven unsuccessful, phaser banks were burned out, and torpedo launchers were off-line. 2 May (Day 47) saw nineteen main power relays severed, shutting down the turbolift network. Later, Seven of Nine discovered one chroniton torpedo that had failed to detonate in battle. The torpedo later detonated, blinding Lt. Commander Tuvok permanently. At the same time, Tom Paris came up with an idea to use transverse bulkheads in order to minimize damage.
By 20 May (Day 65), the power grid on Deck 11 had been completely destroyed, rendering the replicator system nearly inoperative, limited to emergency rations only. Seven decks had lost life support, forcing the surviving crew into close quarters. It was at this point that the temporal shielding came online, limiting further damage. At this time, Neelix was forced to wear an operations division uniform, eventually becoming a full-fledged security officer.
As Annorax attempted another temporal incursion at the Garenor homeworld, Voyager's new shields interfered with the event, reducing the Imperium to a pre-warp civilization. This brought the Federation starship in direct contact with the weapon ship, as Annorax sought to eliminate Voyager from time. The starship had a means of escape, its outer hull failing due to warp stresses, with Chakotay and Paris held as captives.
With life support failing and the ship no longer able to sustain its crew, Janeway ordered the evacuation of Voyager on 28 May (Day 73); the senior staff remained on board, and subsequently took refuge in a class-9 nebula. By 27 July (Day 133), only one warp nacelle was functional, and the ventilation system was failing, allowing nebular gas to penetrate the ship. The remaining crew (Janeway, Kim, Seven, Halliwell, Torres, Tuvok and Neelix) drank "the elixir of endurance" and kept on going.
On 12 September (Day 180), a micrometeoroid storm in open space almost caused the loss of one of the nacelle pylons, save for the last-second reinitializing of the navigational deflector, which brought the ship's inoperable shields online after Captain Janeway's emergency manual repairs fixed the deflector and the shields. Reactivating the deflector left Captain Janeway with severe burns.
Seeking allies to eliminate the weapon ship, Voyager was able to forge an alliance with the Nihydron and the Mawasi; a task force, led by Voyager, was dispatched to track down and destroy the vessel, finally locating it on 29 October (Day 226), thanks to a coded message from Paris. Voyager's crew was divided up among the taskforce, with Janeway remaining on Voyager to coordinate the attack. Engaging the ship on 29 November (Day 257), Voyager suffered the loss of several sections of the dorsal saucer, including the forward bulkhead of the bridge, when Annorax opened fire with conventional weapons, causing a Nihydron vessel to collide with the Starfleet ship. The weapon ship's temporal core was deactivated by Obrist, Annorax's first officer, leaving it vulnerable. But with the other vessels disabled or destroyed, and torpedo launchers off-line and Voyager itself mortally wounded from a massive hit, Janeway had no choice but to set a collision course with the weapon ship in order to destroy it. Voyager impacted over the temporal core (of which Paris had sent the location) and exploded. Voyager was destroyed and the temporal core started to destabilize.
The impact, and the resultant destabilization of the temporal core, caused a temporal incursion within the weapon ship, erasing all of its previous changes. As a result, Voyager was warned away from Krenim space on Day 1 by the same ship they originally encountered (with much less belligerency), and were able to plot a course around the Imperium.
- At the end of "Before and After", Janeway asks Kes to provide any information she has on the Krenim, which she had experienced in her time jumps, and she agrees to file a report. Even though the dialog from "Year of Hell" does not directly reflect on any of the knowledge Kes shared, Tuvok picked up on the Krenim torpedo being in temporal flux as soon as the first torpedo hit, thus suggesting that Kes' report was indeed put to good use, even though it was not actually acknowledged. However, the lack of any reaction on the part of the bridge crew to the species name "Krenim", during first contact with them, could suggest otherwise, unless the time ship's alterations somehow affected Kes' experiences traveling backwards through time, causing her to have never written a report.
In the Voyager relaunch novel A Pocket Full of Lies, the crew learn about the Year of Hell in the true timeline when they encounter an alternate version of Janeway created during the events of "Shattered" as the result of a Krenim attack; the Krenim manipulated Janeway into believing that she had been abducted by the Zah and rescued by the Rilnar to keep her confined. In the course of their investigation, the crew deduce that, in the 'original' timeline, Voyager used Seven of Nine's expertise to plant various transphasic log buoys throughout Krenim space that were protected from the changes in the timeline, with the Krenim recovering some of these probes and learning about Janeway's role in Annorax's defeat while the USS Vesta manages to recover one of the last probes while investigating the alternate-Janeway's existence. These probes include various log records of events such as Janeway ordering the rest of the crew to leave and the Doctor attempting to order Janeway to stand down due to being unfit to command, but naturally do not include the final outcome of this timeline, although the fact that they exist in this manner allows Janeway to confirm that she defeated the temporal weapon ship in some way.