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Star Trek Voyager (VOY) Season 1

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

 

The episode descriptions are given in normal text, my comments in small text. Rating: 0=worst, 10=best (rating system)

 

Caretaker 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 Starflet 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.

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 capabilties 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.
Nitpicking: I don't understand why Janeway invites the reluctant Maquis that accompanies Chakotay to the away team and even gives him a compression rifle. Relations are anything but good at this time. -- There is one thing that is still bugging me most: While it is already problematic that the outside world knows anything about the Ocampa, who escape and are usually captured by the Kazon-Ogla, how could Neelix ever fall in love with Kes? At most he could have briefly seen her in the Kazon-Ogla camp while doing business there, but that wouldn't be a mutual thing and wouldn't create the familiarity that is obviously between the two. -- Water is a valuable commodity in this part of the Delta Quadrant. This may be plausible if the Kazon-Ogla were bound to the barren Ocampa planet and if they had primitive technology only. But they possess warp-capable starships, and at least one of them dwarfs Voyager. No one can tell me they wouldn't find a better planet to settle on, or at least other supplies of water, or ways to synthesize it from hydrogen and oxygen. -- When Janeway gives Tom a field commission, she reinstates him as a Starfleet officer, although he was discharged, joined the Maquis, was captured and sentenced to prison. She also gives him a promotion to full lieutenant. On the other hand, the Maquis, including Chakotay, are only granted provisional ranks. This isn't consequential.
Remarkable dialogue: "Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager." - "A very impressive title. I have no idea what it means, but it sounds very impressive." (Janeway and Neelix)
Remarkable speech: "We're alone in an uncharted part of the galaxy. We have already made some friends here, and some enemies. We have no idea of the dangers we're going to face, but one thing is clear. Both crews are going to have to work together if we're to survive. That's why Commander Chakotay and I have agreed that this should be one crew. A Starfleet crew. And as the only Starfleet vessel assigned to the Delta Quadrant, we'll continue to follow our directive to seek out new worlds and explore space. But our primary goal is clear. Even at maximum speeds, it would take 75 years to reach the Federation, but I'm not willing to settle for that. There's another entity like the Caretaker out there somewhere who has the ability to get us there a lot faster. We'll be looking for her, and we'll be looking for wormholes, spatial rifts, or new technologies to help us. Somewhere along this journey, we'll find a way back. Mister Paris, set a course for home." (Janeway)
Remarkable sets: The Ocampa city is very impressive, and the extensive use of the Los Angeles Convention Center location proves much more realistic than the studio atmosphere of usual alien planets. -- The scenes on the surface were shot in the El Mirage Dry Lake, which had already appeared in TNG: "Final Mission".
Remarkable prop: the compression rifles with the fork-like muzzles
Remarkable facts: Voyager has a crew of 141, 15 decks, a sustainable top speed of Warp 9.975 and bioneural gel packs. These specs are subject to vary though. -- Janeway served with Admiral Paris on the Al-Batani and was his science officer during the Orias expedition.
Remarkable main title: I just love the Voyager title theme, and the spectacular imagery of the opening credits.
Remarkable opening sequence: The opener with the scrolling letters and the small Maquis fighter chased by the big Cardassian ship is a bit like the beginning of "Star Wars, Episode IV". The full text: "Unhappy with a new treaty, Federation Colonists along the Cardassian border have banded together. Calling themselves 'The Maquis', they continue to fight the Cardassians. Some consider them heroes, but to the governments of the Federation and Cardassia, they are outlaws."
Remarkable appearances: Jeff McCarthy, who plays the nameless chief medical officer, previously portrayed Roga Danar in "The Hunted". -- Robert Duncan McNeill previously played Cadet Nick Locarno in TNG: "The First Duty". Considering that Paris and Locarno look identical and have virtually the same history, I wonder why they still had to be different individuals.
Remarkable background fact: Geneviève Bujold was cast to play Captain Nicole Janeway, but she quit after one and a half days of filming.
Photon torpedoes used: 2, with tricobalt warheads
Crew losses: unspecified, at least 5
Current crew count: 141
Missed opportunity to get home: #1, and Janeway wouldn't even have violated the Prime Directive
Rating: 8

Parallax Stardate 48439.7: Voyager picks up a distress call from a ship that is apparently stuck within the event horizon of a black hole. It is noticed too late that the calls actually originate 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 and, in spite of her unrestrained manners she is promoted to chief engineer.

The episode is somewhat entertaining, although the depicted effects allegedly associated with a black hole are scientific nonsense. The time travel aspects are discussed on a separate page. Adding to these points of criticism, I wonder in how far it is useful to drain energy from the holodecks. There is no reason why they should have an independent power source and, moreover, an incompatible one. Furthermore, "warp particles" are mentioned for the first and last time, a particularly bad example of gratuitous technobabble. While the name makes sense in that it could be the particles equivalent to the warp field energy, they are not emitted from the warp nacelles where one would expect them, but from an obscure particle emitter at the ship's bottom.
Actually, the B-plot concerned with the Maquis-Federation quarrel is the much more interesting one. There is one powerful scene when Janeway and Chakotay discuss the situation of B'Elanna in particular and Maquis members in general. I have rarely heard such a pointed discussion in Star Trek, every argument followed by an equally valid counter-argument. Janeway and Chakotay cover virtually the whole range of problems on the ship 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 and is not susceptible to the Maquis plots against the captain.
Remarkable fact: The Doctor is programmed with 2000 references and the profiles of 47 medical officers.
Rating: 4

Time and Again Stardate not given: Voyager arrives at a planet, whose surface has recently been totally devastated and all life extinguished. 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 try to prevent a dangerous sabotage on a polaric power plant, but eventually they find out that their own interference has caused or will cause the global disaster in the first place. They stop the attempt of the Voyager crew to rescue them from the past, the timeline is reset, and no one remembers the incident - except for Kes who is relieved when Voyager passes by the now inconspicuous planet.

Perhaps it was not a very good idea to come up with another time travel and another predestination story just after "Parallax". Anyway, this time the writer did a better job and didn't just grab a few phenomena and put them together to a plot. "Time and Again" presents an intense and intelligent story, one that requires and deserves thinking while viewing it. It is a story where Janeway and Paris are alone with the Prime Directive and temporal paradoxes; secondary plots set on the ship would only have distracted.
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. More about the time travel problems on a separate page. I didn't like the kind of Kes's involvement in this episode, it was much like Deanna's little helpful comments in the first two TNG seasons. Another point of criticism is that the nameless civilization is too human, but I suppose this is intentional. It helps emphasize the parallel of polaric power to nuclear power. Also, only the coincidence of looking like the locals enables Janeway and Paris to disguise themselves as indigenous, the planet not having contact with any aliens.
Remarkable facts: The Delaney sisters are mentioned for the first time; they work in stellar cartography. -- In 2268, an experiment with polaric energy almost devastated a Romulan colony, and the technology was outlawed.
Rating: 6

Phage 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.

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.
Remarkable scene: Janeway finds Neelix's kitchen with ancient-looking pans and pots in her private dining room. I had the impression she was annoyed for the most part, but also a bit amused.
Remarkable maneuver: In the mirroring interior of the asteroid a weak phaser beam is fired and reflected from the walls until it hits and thereby reveals the real Vidiian ship.
Rating: 6

The Cloud 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.

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.
Remarkable quotes: "There's coffee inside that nebula." (Janeway), "Dismissed. That's Starfleet for 'get out'." (Janeway to Neelix)
Remarkable scene: The Doctor being switched to mute, he tries to get the attention of the bridge crew by waving from the main viewscreen in the background.
Photon torpedoes used: 1 out of 38 at this time
Rating: 3

Eye of the Needle 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.

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 Alpha Quadrant obsession 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.
Missed opportunity to get home: #2, since the past is as good as the present, and time travels are not that difficult
Rating: 8

Ex Post Facto 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.

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 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.
Remarkable maneuver: the "playing dead" trick of the Maquis, letting the enemy ships come close and then firing on them
Rating: 4

Emanations 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.

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 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.

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.
Remarkable quote: "My logic was not in error, but I was." (Tuvok)
Missed opportunity to get home: #3, which might have been possible with a bit more patience and diplomacy
Rating: 5

State of Flux 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.

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 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.

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.
Remarkable facts: The Doctor chooses to abandon his new name "Schweitzer" because it would sadly remind him of Freya's death. -- Photonic beings will return in "Bride of Chaotica!", again on the holodeck. I wonder how mere light can be a lifeform.
Rating: 5

Cathexis 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.

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").
Remarkable error: Tuvok's rank switches between lieutenant commander and lieutenant a couple of times during this episode. This would normally be rated as a simple instance of missing rank pips, but after this episode Tuvok consistently appears as a lieutenant.
Rating: 2

Faces 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.

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.
Crew losses: 1
Rating: 8

Jetrel 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.

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 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.

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.
Remarkable quote: "If you can learn to bend the rules, we can learn to follow them." (a Maquis)
Rating: 3

 


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