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Star Trek Voyager (VOY) Season 1

Season 1 - Season 2 - Season 3 - Season 4 - Season 5 - Season 6 - Season 7

Caretaker - Parallax - Time and Again - Phage - The Cloud - Eye of the Needle - Emanations
Prime Factors - State of Flux - Heroes and Demons - Cathexis - Faces - Jetrel - Learning Curve

 

Caretaker

Synopsis

Stardate 48315.6: The Starfleet ship USS Voyager under the command of Captain Kathryn Janeway sets out to search for a Maquis ship missing in the Badlands. She enlists the help of Tom Paris, a former Starfleet officer who was expelled for causing an accident and who was briefly a member of the Maquis. The Maquis ship, commanded by another former Starfleet officer named Chakotay, was infiltrated by Tuvok, Voyager's tactical officer. However, inside the Badlands Voyager encounters a displacement wave and is dragged into the Delta Quadrant, just as previously the Maquis ship. Janeway's first officer, the helm officer, the chief medical officer, the nurse and the chief engineer are killed in the process. The surviving crew are held prisoners aboard a huge space station. After their release Ensign Harry Kim is still missing, as is B'Elanna Torres from the Maquis ship. They find themselves in the underground city of the Ocampa, suffering from a disease for which the Ocampa have no cure. Following the energy pulses that the station, called the Caretaker's Array, is sending out out, Janeway sets a course for the Ocampa planet. Voyager picks up a man named Neelix, who agrees to help the crew get back their missing people. But as an away team beams to the barren surface with water for the Kazon-Ogla living there, Neelix only cares to get Kes released, an Ocampa who has found her way to the surface and who he has fallen in love with. Kes persuades Neelix to further support the Starfleet crew. They find breaches in the security barrier that protects the Ocampa city from the outside world and beam down. The Caretaker, however, stops supplying the Ocampa and begins to seal the access to the city. The only way back to the surface for the away team, together with Kim and Torres, is through the ancient tunnels. Back at the Caretaker Array, Tuvok and Janeway find out that the Caretaker is dying. His race of extragalactic explorers once caused an ecological disaster on the Ocampa homeworld, and two of them have stayed behind, supplying the Ocampa with energy. The other Caretaker has abandoned her duty. Now that the remaining Caretaker is dying, his only worry is that the Kazon might take control of the Array and its technology, and overwhelm the Ocampa. This is why he activates the Array's self-destruct. Outside the Array a battle with the Kazon ensues, and Chakotay has to sacrifice his ship to disable a huge Kazon vessel. The Kazon vessel collides with the Array, disabling its self-destruct system. Janeway decides against a quick return and destroys the Array. The crews of the Federation ship and the destroyed Maquis ship join in their endeavor to find a way home, which would take 75 years at maximum warp. Neelix and Kes too join the crew of Voyager.

Commentary

Voyager's "Caretaker" is comparable to DS9's pilot episode "Emissary" in many ways. Both pilot episodes tell big stories on a familiar backdrop from the respective preceding series (the Borg and the Cardassian conflict were established in TNG, the Maquis was first shown in DS9). Both stories deal with superior non-corporeal entities that tend to a "primitive" civilization but don't really understand what their fosterlings need. Both episodes put Starfleet crews in an unusual situation that will become a permanent setting of the show.

What I like better about "Caretaker" is that it tells an exciting and well-rounded story, unlike the undecided plot development in "Emissary". On the other hand, "Caretaker" seems to take still a bit more pleasure in exposition. The plethora of facts and factoids about the ship and crew are sometimes more and sometimes less casually embedded in the story. Some of it is rather inefficient in hindsight, considering that a couple of people that were introduced would die a few minutes later. While Stadi may still count as some sort of a red herring because she looks like she could become Deanna II and Tom's love interest [insert joke about Betazoid helmswomen here], the two people with the most contempt for Tom Paris, namely Cavit and the nameless doctor, would die just as well. And just like already in "Emissary", some of the character relationships worked out in the pilot either don't work, or they would play no role in the following. In particular, I don't like the interaction between Tom and Chakotay. Tom only tells Janeway something like "He is such a mean man, he never gave me a chance". And just as to prove Tom right, Chakotay, who has learned only a second ago that Tuvok betrayed him, doesn't know anything better to do than spout insults at Tom, who was not involved with Tuvok's undercover mission at all. We never really learn why the two don't like one another, and since the writers don't manage to make sense of it either, they will forget about the animosity quickly.

On the other hand, "Caretaker" establishes many individual characteristics and interesting relationships that will persist, such as notably Janeway-Paris, Paris-Kim or Tuvok-Neelix, unlike it was the case in TNG and even DS9. The EMH, to name one more example, is simply deactivated by Janeway when he complains about the "conference" taking place in his sickbay. It is very satisfactory to see how his struggle for acceptance will continue throughout the following seasons, with growing success.

Since this pilot episode and especially its final minutes are rather action-heavy, the debate about how to proceed with the Caretaker Array gets a raw deal. Does it violate the Prime Directive to help the Ocampa? Or is it Janeway's duty to help them because, as she says herself, Voyager is already involved in the conflict? Is Janeway so anxious to do the right thing and not to appear as self-serving that she neglects the goal to return to the Alpha Quadrant? Whether or not it was the right decision to fulfill the Caretaker's last will and destroy the array, Janeway simply doesn't have the time to really consider the options. The Caretaker obviously underestimated the capabilities of the Ocampa. Perhaps they wouldn't be helpless after all? Perhaps the Kazon wouldn't even find out how to use the Array against the Ocampa? On the other hand, the Kazon reinforcements are already on the way.

Annotations

Rating: 8

 

Parallax

Synopsis

Stardate 48439.7: In engineering, B'Elanna Torres gets into an argument with Lieutenant Caery and breaks his nose. Still, Chakotay expects Janeway to consider Torres for the position of the ship's chief engineer. Voyager encounters a quantum singularity and picks up a message from another vessel that is apparently stuck within the event horizon of the anomaly. It is noticed too late that the call actually originates from Voyager itself at a time when the ship is already trapped in the singularity. B'Elanna turns out very helpful in finding a way out. In spite of her unrestrained manners she is promoted to chief engineer ahead of Carey.

Commentary

Rather than DS9, Star Trek Voyager carries on with TNG's tradition of showing the weird effects of spatial phenomena. The mere idea that Voyager could encounter a reflection of itself makes this story somewhat entertaining, although nearly all of the depicted effects allegedly associated with a quantum singularity are scientific nonsense. A real quantum singularity or black hole would never behave like in this episode. The event horizon is defined as the radius of a black hole inside which any energy or mass is inevitably trapped, but essentially only the word and not the concept is used in this episode. The real effect of a black hole would be that for an external observer time stands still on a starship near the event horizon, while it becomes invisible as soon as it is inside. There would be nothing like a "temporal reflection". Besides, it is highly questionable that the SIF could balance out the extreme gravity or spatial distortion near the event horizon, not to mention inside. The hallucination effect that the ship seems to leave the event horizon although it is still inside is just too odd and does not warrant further consideration. At least it is acceptable that Voyager can escape from the anomaly by means of Treknology (dekyon particles in this case). Overall, I would have expected a bit more plausibility in both the story and the science.

The other big topic of the episode and the perhaps more interesting one is the ongoing struggle between the former Maquis and the established Starfleet crew, which consists in more than just occasional disagreements at this time of the series. The competition between Carey and B'Elanna is just the tip of the iceberg. Several of the Maquis want more than just acceptance. Seska and another Maquis go as far as proposing to Chakotay to take over the ship. This creates a dilemma for Chakotay, whose self-imposed mission is to speak in favor of his people while remaining loyal to Captain Janeway. We can notice several times in this episode that the two not only respect but also like one another.

Still, Chakotay overstresses the emerging friendship when he asks B'Elanna what she can do to help the other ship in the anomaly and orders her to carry on, effectively passing over not only Carey but also Janeway. Janeway responds by calling the higher-ranking Carey and putting him in charge of the mission, although B'Elanna came up with the idea and would be more qualified. This disagreement entails a powerful scene in which Janeway and Chakotay discuss the situation of B'Elanna in particular and of the Maquis crew members in general. The two virtually cover the whole range of problems on the ship and with each other with the fewest possible words. They don't come to a definite solution. However, in case Janeway thought she could decide at will or strictly complying with Starfleet protocols, she now has to deal with diverging interests. Chakotay, on the other hand, has already learned his lesson at this point and is not susceptible to the Maquis plots against the captain any longer.

With the exception of this one scene (that is even a bit anticlimactic in hindsight), I have to say that the episode is devoid of real highlights. My impression is that problem with the anomnaly as well as the one with B'Elanna are solved a bit too quickly and too easily.

The "Incredibly Shrinking Doctor" (as a side effect of the anomaly) is only a side note in this episode, but I like how the embarrassment about the situation adds to the Doctor's personality.

Annotations

Rating: 4

 

Time and Again

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Voyager arrives at a planet on which a massive polaric explosion has recently devastated the surface and extinguished all life. While examining the phenomenon, Janeway and Paris step into a subspace rift and find themselves at a time when the planet is still intact and Voyager is still far away. They suspect that sabotage on a polaric power plant by oppenents of this technology was the cause of the global disaster, but Janeway orders Paris not to interfere because of the Prime Directive. Janeway, however, changes her strategy when she becomes aware that they have already interfered; their presence made the protesters change their plans. She now tries to prevent the sabotage. When she witnesses how a subspace rift opens, created by the Voyager crew in the future in an attempt to rescue her, she recognizes that this is the true cause of the disaster. Janeway uses her phaser to seal the rift, upon which the timeline is reset. The cycle is broken, the catastrophe never happened, and no one has any memory of it - except for Kes who is relieved when Voyager passes by the now inconspicuous planet.

Commentary

Perhaps it was not a good timing to come up with another time travel story governed by predestination just after "Parallax". Anyway, the writer did a better job with "Time and Again" and didn't just grab a few phenomena from a physics book and put them together to a plot. "Time and Again" comes with an intense and intelligent story, one that requires and deserves thinking while viewing it. It is a story in which Janeway and Paris are alone with the Prime Directive, with temporal paradoxes and with their own intuition and improvisation. I like how they put up with their new situation and try to come up with more or less plausible explanations regarding their look and their lack of knowledge about the civilization.

One point of criticism is that the unnamed civilization is just too human. Iit is quite a coincidence that the people on the planet conveniently look like humans, so Janeway and Paris don't strike anyone as aliens. Moreover, the clocks on the planet display Arabic numerals, which is a unique oddity in Star Trek so far. Well, in a way the fact that the civilization is very human has a symbolic meaning too, because it helps emphasize the parallel of polaric power and nuclear power. The leader of the protesters even mentions that they have found more support since the accident at Markov, which was the analogy to Chernobyl at the time the episode was made.

So the script combines the commentary on a real-world issue with an exciting science fiction story. It also nicely contrasts Paris and Janeway's investigation of the disaster with the "simultaneous" efforts of the Voyager crew to rescue the two missing officers, with the ironical outcome that the latter caused the first.

Well, I know there are many fans who hate stories with a built-in reset button, but I think "Time and Again" is among the better instances where this narrative technique is used. Perhaps not as extraordinary as TNG: "Cause and Effect" but commendable nonetheless. There are inevitable logical problems though. The predestination paradox that Voyager is responsible for an explosion that has already taken place when the ship arrives is already tough enough. It is even harder to explain, however, why this time loop is eventually interrupted when Janeway prevents the explosion.

I am glad that no B-plot is incorporated into the story because it would only have distracted. However, I don't really like the kind of Kes' involvement in this episode, as it reminds me a lot of Deanna's little helpful comments in the first two seasons of TNG. Kes has supernatural powers that not only include telepathy but also the power to experience the future and alternate timelines. But these powers play only a minor role in the story. Essentially it boils down to Kes being the only one who has any memory of the disaster that could have occurred on the planet, perhaps in an attempt to ease the effect of a total reset and the negative reactions of some viewers.

Annotations

Rating: 6

 

Phage

Synopsis

Stardate 48532.4: On an away mission Neelix's lungs are removed by the Vidiians who suffer from the "Phage", a terrible decay of their organisms that forces them to steal alien organs for their survival. Holographic lungs created by the Doctor can keep him alive for some time. As his own lungs have already been reused, two captured Vidiians agree to render one of Kes's lungs compatible for Neelix's organism.

Commentary

Fortunately this is not the sequel to TOS: "Spock's Brain", although the idea of some aliens stealing Neelix' lungs would have had all the potential for a silly episode. On the contrary, the Vidiian tragedy is very credibly depicted. They are rather shown as pitied victims of their ghastly disease than as relentless villains who just take what they want - be it from the dead or the living. Are they really evil? I wonder how humans would behave under similar circumstances.

Considering that the Vidiians will appear in some more episodes, it was perhaps too early to come to a more or less peaceful agreement. On the other hand, Janeway gets a chance to demonstrate her diplomatic skills - after she has failed to deal peacefully with the Kazons. The solution that the not-so-bad villains are not punished, but have to help their victims is very Trek-like. My regards to Kathryn. However, this is only possible because the Vidiians accidentally have the knowledge to adapt the organs of any species. What could have been done with them if they had not had anything to offer? On a different note, one thing I don't like is Neelix's childish jealousy about Tom and Kes.

Annotations

Rating: 6

 

The Cloud

Synopsis

Stardate 48546.2: Voyager is running out of energy, and Janeway decides to take the ship into a nebula to harvest omicron particles. The nebula, however, turns out a giant lifeform. Voyager's intrusion has hurt the creature, and despite the ship's scarce energy, Janeway decides to return and heal the "wound" using nucleonic radiation.

Commentary

For some reason, every promising discovery seems to turn out disadvantageous for Voyager in the end. Voyager starts off with scarce energy resources and ends up with still 20% less. The main plot doesn't present anything really new, for we have already seen dozens of nebulae and spaceborne creatures in Star Trek.

It is only the details and sub-plots that make this episode worth viewing. We see Chakotay and Janeway practice the old Indian meditation with the animal guide. Janeway's guide is a salamander, but she must not tell anyone. B'Elanna wanted to kill her animal guide. The Doctor's craving for acknowledgement continues. Harry gets admonished by Tuvok not to say "I've never seen anything like it" again. Only a few minutes later, Tuvok himself makes a similar statement, and Harry takes the opportunity to remind Tuvok of what he said. Neelix is upset about the irrational explorer mentality of Starfleet and that they only search for some "space anomaly that tears the ship apart". He is correct to some degree, however, he really gets embarrassing when he complains in Janeway's office and when he appears on the bridge in a critical situation, calling himself the new "morale officer" and serving some cookies - although I would appreciate the latter service. A clown is born; fortunately this image of his can be corrected in some of the later installments in which the character is more deeply explored.

Harry and Tom strengthen their friendship with their visits to Tom's newest holodeck creation, the Sandrine's. I don't like Tom's program at all. The characters, namely Sandrine, Ricky, the pool player and the gigolo are so blatantly stereotypical, so cheap; I wonder in how far they reflect Tom's thoughts and ideas, which would be really poor. It is no surprise the figures in the Sandrine's will gradually disappear from the bar in the subsequent episodes, and make way for the real crew. One thing that bugs me too is the way that unnecessary tension is created when Tom wakes up Harry to join him on the holodeck. It is shown in a way as if something dangerous or exciting is about to happen. Finally, the most important question is why plenty of energy may be consumed for the holodeck, whereas replicating a coffee is already regarded as a waste of energy. It seems the writers, like already in "Parallax", are very fond of the idea of an independent power source, although this is ridiculous.

Annotations

Rating: 3

 

Eye of the Needle

Synopsis

Stardate 48579.4: The crew is excited about the discovery of a wormhole leading to the Alpha Quadrant. Although it turns out too narrow for the ship to pass through, a communication with a Romulan ship on the other side can be established, and a beam-over is accomplished. The wormhole, however, leads back to the past and Janeway decides not to make use of it. And it is uncertain whether the Romulan commander would be able to report about the whereabouts of Voyager, since he would die prior to the ship's departure.

Commentary

Maybe it was not wise to come up with such a tempting opportunity to get home and an Alpha Quadrant story so early in the first season. Anyway, it was a fine story, unlike other wormhole and anomaly plots still to come. I especially liked the Romulan commander, who was both suspicious and compassionate, the latter quite unlike most other representatives of his species. It is good to still see the excitement (not only Harry's) about getting home or at least contacting the families as opposed to the "anomaly/drive-of-the-week" routine in later seasons. I also appreciated the secondary plot dealing with the Doctor's problems of being accepted - and choosing a name. It is obvious that he is about to become a valuable member of the crew, if only the crew recognizes him as such. Kes is the only one who has a good sense for his potential at first.

The only thing I disliked was the fixation on the Alpha Quadrant that will continue throughout the whole series. The Alpha Quadrant is very large and anything but a precise spatial coordinate, what if the signal had come from its far end, almost equally far away from the Federation as Voyager's current position? The Beta Quadrant would have been as good a place to go to. I also wondered why the Romulan explicitly but unnecessarily stated his position was in the Alpha Quadrant in the first place, even before Janeway said she was in the Delta Quadrant.

Annotations

Rating: 8

 

Ex Post Facto

Synopsis

Stardate not given: On the planet Banea, Tom Paris is found guilty of murdering a resident scientist. He is sentenced to see the crime with the eyes of his alleged victim every 14 hours. When Janeway and Tuvok engage in further investigations, they find out that the Numiri, enemies of the Baneans, have faked the memories to be implanted into Paris's brain, along with strategic information to be smuggled out.

Commentary

Although such things as starship maneuvers, memory engrams and mind-melds play a certain role, the story itself has not much to do with science fiction. It was a bit like "Murder, She Wrote", maybe a bit too much. I usually like episodes with a conclusion in which previously different problems (here the frequent Numiri attacks and Paris's alleged crime) turn out to have a common cause. Yet, it was too crazy to kill the professor, convict Paris of the crime, program the plans into his mind, get him released and hope that it might be possible to abduct him again. There are just too many variables to make this a viable plan. Just like in most murder mysteries. If it is possible to exchange messages between Banea and the Numiri, why can't they find a simpler way to smuggle the plans? Weird plots can only be uncovered by equally weird detectives. Thus, Tuvok behaves much like a 20th century TV detective. Fortunately, he gives a very logical performance nonetheless.

I also didn't like Paris and Lidell, whose vehement flirting was just not credible. Especially since femme fatale Lidell was deceiving him the whole time, he must have been a very easy prey.

Annotations

Rating: 4

 

Emanations

Synopsis

Stardate 48623.5: When an away team is beamed back from an asteroid that also serves as a kind of cemetery, an alien body has taken Harry's place, while Harry finds himself on the planet of its origin. The residents, the Vhnori, firmly believe they will transcend to the "next emanation", when they allow themselves to be killed and transferred to the asteroid. Harry takes the place of a skeptic who wants to live on, and can be revived back on Voyager.

Commentary

I don't know if it is better to leave out religion as it has mostly been done throughout ten years of TOS and TNG, or to scientifically get at the bottom of every supernatural phenomenon and thereby debunk the faith. We know this problem from the contradictory concepts of "wormhole entities" vs. "Prophets" in DS9. The profane explanation in the case of the Vhnori, however, is incomplete, so it may still leave the basic principles of the Vhnori intact. On the other hand, lack of technobabble does not render the many scientific oddities of this story more believable. The new chemical element, an asteroid with Class-M atmosphere and pleasant temperature, a subspace channel to the Vhnori planet, "neural energy" dispersed in space, all these things sum up to a quite unlikely scenario. It should have been attempted to explain at least a few of them, or link them in a way to have a common cause.

Apart from this, I just didn't like the Vhnori. They are a somewhat enlightened civilization, but their attitude towards death and afterlife seems rather primitive. The thing that irritated me most is that the crew tried to send the Vhnori woman, Ptera, back without much deliberation, which eventually killed her. Even if this was her wish, it would have required much more carefulness. And it came out a bit like in the hypocritical episode TNG: "Homeward", where one of the primitive villagers escaped from the holodeck and just had to die for his own welfare after his view of the world had been shattered.

The only thing I really liked was Garrett Wang's performance as Harry. He is confused at first which is understandable considering that he suddenly wakes up in a coffin on an alien planet, but gradually manages to regain control.

Rating: 3

 

Prime Factors

Synopsis

Stardate 48642.5: The Sikarians are not only known for their hospitality, they also possess an advanced transporter to send Voyager at least 40,000 light-years closer to Earth. On the other hand, their version of the Prime Directive prohibits any kind of technology transfer. Some of the Voyager crew nevertheless purchase the technology in exchange for a cultural database from Voyager. But the attempt to activate the system fails, and it has to be destroyed before it can do more damage.

Commentary

Sikaris is a paradise. Beautiful people doing beautiful things in a beautiful environment. And they just beam 40,000ly away if this indulgence should ever get boring. It is just too good to be true, especially since Star Trek has frequently shown worlds that wound up as false paradises such as the one in TNG: "Justice", where Wesley was facing death penalty for stepping into a flower-bed. Fortunately there is nothing really wrong with Sikaris, but the people are only protecting their technology, which Janeway, being in charge of preserving the Prime Directive, understands and respects very well. Her subordinates, on the other hand, feel that no one would be hurt if they could exchange stories for transporter technology. On the contrary, both sides could profit from this trade. It is satisfactory to see that the technology would have been incompatible with the ship's systems anyway, so the dwindling of morale is not as severe as if it would have been if the Sikarian transporter had almost worked. On the other hand, the complications with the planet's laws and Janeway's principles would have been even more definite if there had been a confirmed prospect that they could get home.

The episode should leave a rift through Voyager's crew, one which is not necessarily running between the Starfleet and the Maquis, but between Janeway's "respect local laws" and the "getting-home" faction. It is a pity that the main characters will find a common understanding as soon as in the next episode, and the only conflicts will be between the fundamentally virtuous crew and the traitors like Seska and Jonas. A word about Janeway: She should stop taking the crew's faults personally. If she is disappointed about their actions now, the next time she may be disappointed about them doing nothing.

Annotations

Rating: 5

 

State of Flux

Synopsis

Stardate not given: A Voyager away team is attacked by the Kazons. Some time later Voyager comes across a Kazon ship, on which an attempt to install Federation technology has caused a fatal accident. There must be someone on Voyager who gave the technology to the Kazon, and it is found out that the traitor is Seska, who is not even a Bajoran, but a surgically altered Cardassian spy. She eventually deserts to the Kazon.

Commentary

I liked the episode mainly because it presented a credible spy story. Two suspects, Carey and Seska, and not enough evidence. The situation is even more convoluted because Chakotay and Seska have been a couple for some time. The story skillfully delays the conclusion. With regard to the storyline, the Kazons are well-suited opponents. They are not just interested in blowing the ship to dust, which they could easily do, at least with combined forces. They want the technology at all cost and they need the ship intact. It is obvious that this strategy will be continued in further episodes.

The only thing that disturbed me was that Seska being a Cardassian is made such a big deal, as if this makes her a natural traitor in this case too. Or, vice versa, she is not only a traitor, but also a Cardassian. Shame on her. It is a general problem that Cardassians are consistently portrayed as being cruel, sinister and untrustworthy, as opposed to other alien races whose representatives are both usually more likable and much more diversified. It is interesting to see that Seska behaves much according to the standard Cardassian role pattern once her identity is revealed. Yet, I have that problem with Cardassians being used as universal villains. BTW, why wasn't it noticed earlier that she is Cardassian? Transporter logs, for instance, should have easily uncovered her disguise.

Rating: 7

 

Heroes and Demons

Synopsis

Stardate 48693.2: When Voyager beams a sample of photonic energy aboard, Harry, Chakotay and Tuvok vanish in Harry's holodeck program, the medieval tale of Beowulf. They were apparently "swallowed" by the holographic monster Grendel. The Doctor, being the only one immune to the phenomenon, seeks for the lost crew members in the still running holonovel where he plays the warrior (Dr.) Schweitzer. He becomes romantically involved with Freya, one of the holographic characters, but Freya is killed by one of the other "warriors". The Doctor finally hands the photonic sample to Grendel, actually the manifestation of photonic lifeforms, and the three officers are released.

Commentary

I loved to see that the Doctor got something more to do than waste his many talents for medical routine tasks and complain about not being switched off after use. If the Doctor evolved from a simple computer program to a real personality, then it was in this episode. Notwithstanding the good impression of the Doctor and his emotional involvement, I didn't like that the plot was so undemanding and predictable. As for the holodeck failure and the energy entity plots, we have seen much more original and plausible episodes along the same lines on TNG.

Annotations

Rating: 5

 

Cathexis

Synopsis

Stardate 48734.2: When Chakotay is brain-dead after an attack, an alien consciousness repeatedly takes over the crew's minds to make the ship enter a dark matter nebula. Another conscience, namely Chakotay's, strives to prevent the ship from doing exactly that. Inside the nebula, the alien conscience can be expelled, and the Doctor succeeds in reintegrating Chakotay's mind.

Commentary

The teaser shows Janeway in exactly the role I would have given her in a Victorian holonovel - as a governess. I don't know what this isolated sub-plot was deemed useful for, except for prolonging the meager episode to 45 minutes. It was pointless. Regarding the main plot, I must admit I didn't bother keeping track of which consciousness was occupying which crew member at what time and what was the ship's current course. The frequent changes exasperated me at some point. To see Chakotay's or an alien soul hover through the ship gets boring likewise. The revelation that aliens have been trying to take to lure the ship into the nebula is just too predictable and it is also clear that a way would be found to restore Chakotay. This is why the Doctor has to perform the first successful soul transplantation in history. A medical miracle that doesn't get more credible just because of the pleasant absence of technobabble ("It would take over ten hours just to explain it all").

Annotations

Rating: 2

 

Faces

Synopsis

Stardate 48784.2: The Vidiians take a Voyager away team prisoners. A scientist breaks up B'Elanna into one entirely human and one entirely Klingon person, since he thinks the Klingon DNA might help to find a cure for the phage. The two versions of B'Elanna have to work together in order to escape. The Klingon B'Elanna is killed by the Vidiians, and the human person needs Klingon DNA to survive, so B'Elanna will be restored as she was.

Commentary

The story is not entirely credible, but it is definitely the most intensive character study of the whole first season. B'Elanna gets split into two people by a Vidiian Frankenstein. Actually, neither her Klingon nor her human incarnation, but Frankenstein himself is the monster here. It is not only his horrible Vidiian appearance, but also his attempts to develop feelings and prove them which he has in common with the monster, the culmination being the use of the ill-fated Durst's face to "please" B'Elanna.

Actually, it is disturbing to see that in his eyes only the Klingon B'Elanna is valuable, while the human version is regarded as trash. Besides her usefulness for the experiments the Klingon woman has all the strength and the courage the human woman is lacking. I felt like hugging and comforting the latter B'Elanna, while I would prefer a more self-confident person like the Klingon version. In other words, only both of them combined yield the complete person, the best B'Elanna. It is the same problem as with the "bad" and "good" Kirk in TOS: "The Enemy Within", maybe a bit more plausible in the Voyager episode, since it is attributed to different DNA sequences this time. Anyway, there is no reason to assume that one version is better than the other, there is nothing like judging the value of a person at all, and this is impressively demonstrated when the two B'Elannas discuss how to escape from their prison and how to deal with each other. It is a excellent episode for B'Elanna.

On a side note, besides the Vidiian method to extract organs without surgery, the genatron, which is supposed to convert matter to energy, is another hint that they should have transporter technology just as well.

Annotations

Rating: 8

 

Jetrel

Synopsis

Stardate 48840.5: Jetrel is a Haakonian scientist, who was responsible for the development of a holocaustic weapon that once dissolved 300,000 Talaxians on a moon called Rinax, including Neelix's family. He claims that Neelix is suffering from a deadly disease, metremia, brought about by the weapon. Actually, while Jetrel is suffering from metremia himself, this is just a pretext to utilize Voyager's transporter technology in his effort to restore the dead in order to redeem himself. The attempt fails because the pattern decay is too strong.

Commentary

This episode is hard to classify and therefore hard to judge. To be honest, I just didn't like it very much despite its strong emotional impact. There are some points to back my opinion. I think that the character study "victim faces culprit" alone is not enough to make a good story. Neelix' preoccupation is easy to understand, and so is Jetrel's repentance. They could find sort of a common understanding (as it would be generally desirable and is rather likely in a Star Trek episode) or they could fail to do so. Not much of a story in either case. The author might have had the same thoughts, and might have decided to somehow beef it up. The result is the inept attempt to make a sci-fi story of it, by technobabbling it down to a question of transporter technology.

Another problem I have is that intentions unnecessarily turn out different than they appeared to be. Jetrel pretends that Neelix is suffering from metremia only to get access to Voyager and try his well-meant reviving of the dead. Why doesn't he tell the truth at the very beginning? The Starfleet crew would have gladly supported him, and he wouldn't have bothered and scared Neelix. Anyway, his intentions were clearly noble. The suspected villain, namely Jetrel, is not that evil; the hero, namely Neelix, has not always been that heroic, for he didn't report to the Talaxian Defense Force for personal reasons, or cowardice. While I basically like this tendency of Star Trek that not everything is plain black or white, it would not have been necessary to degrade Neelix. Finally, there is my general complaint that scientists tend to play too great a role in political or military decisions in TV and cinema - where they are usually depicted as either reckless, naive or mad - or everything at once. Fortunately there is some kind of discussion of Jetrel's real responsibility and motivation in the episode, that he wasn't actually the bad guy who pushed the red button. One extra point goes to Neelix for playing more than the ship's clown for the first time.

Rating: 4

 

Learning Curve

Synopsis

Stardate 48846.5: Tuvok is in charge of teaching Starfleet protocols to four reluctant Maquis - in the form of tough drills. In the meantime Neelix' cheese is causing an infection of the bioneural circuits, which leads to multiple system failures. Tuvok and three of the Maquis manage to escape from a cargo bay filling with deadly gas. Tuvok earns the respect of the Maquis when he goes back and rescues a crewmate who was left behind.

Commentary

I didn't like the story. It is just too simple an idea to confront the obstinate Maquis members with drill instructor Tuvok. The way the conflict unfolds is too obvious, its further development is too predictable. Furthermore, I disapprove of the typically American attitude that a boot camp where you are yelled at all the time and have to obey absolutely pointless orders (like scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush) is the right method to make someone a "valuable" person. It is easy to pretend that it is a good concept, just because humbled and exhausted recruits don't contradict easily, and broken personalities don't have the power to commit crimes any longer. Supporting such an ideology, Tuvok behaves anything but logically. Fortunately, they eventually find a mutual understanding instead of Tuvok just pounding Starfleet protocols into their heads. However, it requires a dangerous situation and the rather bizarre "cheesy" sub-plot with the gel pack infection to get them to work together and recognize that they have common goals. In spite of the bad taste that it leaves (and I'm not talking of the cheese) the episode has its hilarious moments, which account for two of the three points.

Annotations

Remarkable quote: "If you can learn to bend the rules, we can learn to follow them." (a Maquis)

Rating: 3

 


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