Star Trek Voyager (VOY) Season 3
FlashbackThe ChuteThe SwarmFalse ProfitsRememberSacred Ground
Future's End I/IIWarlordThe Q and the GreyMacrocosmFair TradeAlter Ego
CodaBlood FeverUnityDarklingRiseFavorite SonBefore and After
Real LifeDistant OriginDisplacedWorst Case ScenarioScorpion I/II
See VOY season 2
Stardate 50126.4: Voyager is about to enter a nebula when Tuvok suddenly experiences dizziness and then a flashback of a girl falling from a precipice. The Doctor does not know how to treat the apparent repressed memory in a Vulcan brain. So Tuvok performs a mind-meld with Janeway, with the goal that she, as an observer of his memories, can help him repair the damage. After establishing the link, Tuvok and Janeway are surprised that they don't find themselves on the precipice but on the bridge of the USS Excelsior during the Praxis Crisis on Stardate 9521, 80 years ago. In the course of Captain Sulu's attempt to save Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy, the Excelsior traverses a nebula that looks much like the one in the Delta Quadrant, so the latter may have been the trigger for the memory to resurface. Still, the origin of the memory remains unknown. In a second mind-meld, Tuvok relives the death of his bunkmate Dmitri Valtane, who is killed in a Klingon attack after leaving that nebula. The Doctor and Kes are alarmed as brain damage to Tuvok and Janeway is imminent and they find no way to terminate the mind-meld. In the mind-meld, Tuvok's memory of the past gets distorted, and Janeway becomes an active participant. The two go back to a time before Valtane's death to get another chance to investigate what happened at that moment. It turns out that a viral parasite that inhabited Valtane transferred itself to Tuvok when Valtane died. It camouflaged itself as a traumatic memory in order not to be attacked by the body's immune system. The Doctor too notices what is going on and kills the virus with thoron radiation.
The Voyager producers were requested to create a tribute to Star Trek's 30th birthday in 1996. They came up with a story built upon the events in "Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country" that celebrates Captain Sulu and the Excelsior. The appearance of Captain Sulu alone makes this episode a pleasure to watch. And the fact that we learn that Sulu attempted to rescue his friends against his orders gives the story a relevance that goes beyond the isolated storyline of Voyager in the Delta Quadrant. It strengthens the idea of Star Trek as a coherent science fiction universe.
Unlike in DS9's "Trials and Tribble-ations" the Voyager producers created a 30th anniversary story that doesn't involve time travel, which is good for a change. And they accomplished to tell the story without the customary implausible twist that people or objects from the Alpha Quadrant suddenly show up in the depths of the Delta Quadrant. The way the homage was tied into the series is laudable. But the story about the repressed memory and the virus responsible for it leaves me unimpressed. It comes with just too much technobabble. It is implausible how Janeway and Tuvok are running around on a perfectly reconstructed Excelsior in Tuvok's mind. And the story is overall too small for the historical background of the events in "Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country". Overall, Tuvok's virus infection is not more than a plot device in the story.
We also learn a great deal about Tuvok's past in this episode. He used to be an even stricter proponent of logic in his younger years, and he had a clear lack of social skills. This led to Tuvok leaving Starfleet and undergoing the kolinahr on Vulcan. As late as his children were growing up, he felt that he should continue his career in Starfleet. Tuvok's personal history makes a lot of sense to me, not only for a Vulcan. I think we can find similar biographies among humans too, who are driven by doing "all the usual things" (job, marriage, children) in the first half of their life, only to discover that they neglected their former passions (hobby, art, science).
Overall, "Flashback" is an episode that is heavy on continuity, heavy on trivia but also heavy on technobabble. It is very enjoyable to watch but chiefly because Tuvok is back on the Excelsior and meets Captain Sulu, not because of the rather lame story about the repressed memory. The latter appears even a bit disruptive at times when we would like to know more about what really happened on the Excelsior.
- Continuity: I know it's just a small side note, but my favorite part of the episode is when Tuvok prepares exactly the cup of tea (a Vulcan blend) for Sulu that falls to the floor in "Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country", when the ship is hit by the subspace shockwave.
- It is worth mentioning that Tuvok refers to the other "Vulcans on the ship", while the later episode "Blood Fever" assumes there is no one except for Tuvok and Vorik. Actually, the matter of the Vulcan crew gets still more complicated in later seasons.
- The most obvious problem of this story is that Valtane who dies in "Flashback" apparently has a twin brother who can be seen well and alive at the end of the movie "Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country".
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "It was a very different time, Mister Kim. Captain Sulu, Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy. They all belonged to a different breed of Starfleet officer. Imagine the era they lived in. The Alpha Quadrant still largely unexplored. Humanity on verge of war with Klingons. Romulans hiding behind every nebula. Even the technology we take for granted was still in its early stages. No plasma weapons, no multiphasic shields. Their ships were half as fast." - "No replicators, no holodecks. You know, ever since I took Starfleet history at the academy, I always wondered what it would be like to live in those days." - "Space must have seemed a whole lot bigger back then. It's not surprising they had to bend the rules a little. They were a little slower to invoke the Prime Directive, and a little quicker to pull their phasers. Of course, the whole bunch of them would be booted out of Starfleet today. But I have to admit, I would have loved to ride shotgun at least once with a group of officers like that." (Janeway and Kim)
- "Mister Tuvok, if I didn't know you better, I'd say you miss those days on the Excelsior." - "On the contrary. I do not experience feelings of nostalgia. But there are times when I think back to those days of meeting Kirk, Spock and the others, and I am pleased that I was part of it." - "In a funny way, I feel like I was a part of it too." - "Then perhaps you can be nostalgic for both of us." (Janeway and Tuvok)
- Remarkable quote: "Those two men on trial, I served with them for a long time. I owe them my life, a dozen times over, and right now they're in trouble, and I'm going to help them. Let the regulations be damned." (Captain Sulu)
- Remarkable Vulcan humor(?): "The success rate of your culinary experiments has not been high.", "I would prefer not to hear the life history of my breakfast."
- Remarkable set: It is very impressive that the whole Excelsior bridge was reconstructed for the episode.
- Remarkable appearances: We can see Grace Lee Whitney as Commander Janice Rand and, in a cameo, Michael Ansara as Kang.
- Remarkable facts:
- Bolians have a tongue with a cartilaginous lining, protecting them against even the most corrosive acid, according to Tuvok.
- In Vulcan medicine, the t'lokan schism is the suppression of a traumatic memory. Unlike in human medicine, there is also a physical reaction to the battle between the conscious and the unconscious, and t'lokan can't be treated with normal therapeutic techniques.
- In therapeutic mind-melds, a pyllora is a counselor who relives the memory together with the patient but only as an observer. This way, the pyllora can help objectify the experience.
- A keethera is a Vulcan game, consisting of blocks that should be put together in a harmonious way and that represent the builder's state of mind.
- Remarkable Tuvok facts:
- Tuvok was 29 years old in 2293.
- Tuvok's father served aboard the USS Yorktown while Tuvok was on the Excelsior.
- Tuvok was out of Starfleet for as long as fifty years. His first assignment after his return to Starfleet was the Wyoming.
Stardate 50156.2: Harry and Tom find themselves in an Akritirian detention facility, surrounded by relentless prisoners. Janeway learns that they were sentenced to prison because of a bombing on Akritiri with trilithium, a material that is not available in the sector but that may be converted from Voyager's dilithium. As the Akritirian authorities threaten to seize the ship because of the alleged support for the terrorist group Open Sky, Janeway decides to retreat. In the prison, Paris is stabbed but he and Harry receive help from a man named Zio. An implant called the "clamp" in the head of every prisoner is designed to incite violence as it seems, but Zio says that he has learned to control it. Kim lets him in on a plan to escape through the "chute", the only apparent access to the prison that is secured by a forcefield. In order to find the people actually responsible for the bombing, Voyager investigates vessels using paralithium in their propulsion systems, a substance that too can be converted to trilithium. They capture an Akritirian freighter, manned by just a young man and his sister, and find evidence of trilithium. The man, Vel, is a member of Open Sky and offers to reveal the location of the detention facility, but Janeway decides to turn the alleged terrorists over to the Akritirian government in exchange for Paris and Kim. In the prison, Paris's condition deteriorates. Kim finally succeeds in disabling the forcefield and climbs up the chute together with Zio. But they end up at a hatch to open space. Kim continues to work on a way escape anyway, but gets infuriated when no one listens to him. When Paris rips apart the device Kim constructed to disable the forcefield, Kim almost kills him. Janeway's negotiation with the Akritirian government fails, and she decides to accept Vel's proposal. Using Neelix's ship, an away team breaks into the prison and frees Paris and Kim. The Doctor removes their implants, which indeed stimulated aggressive tendencies by the production of acetylcholine in the hypothalamus.
I can imagine how the idea of the episode came into being: "So we have those two handsome young men that everyone likes and that are best friends. What can we do with them?" - "I always wanted to do a prison episode. So what about this: We put them in a wretched alien prison like Rura Penthe, let them freak out and almost kill one another." - "But they have to be friends again in the end." - "Oh well, perhaps they are just mind-controlled. Everything will be fine once they are free again." - "Great. Let's go with that idea."
I genuinely don't like prison dramas. I don't like any movies with focus on people losing their morality and ultimately their humanity as they struggle to survive against others. For me, it is sufficient to be aware that even the most noble person may be driven by instincts and may become violent if it is necessary to survive. It is good enough if it is hinted at; I don't want to have to witness everything in detail. The dark and gritty style of "The Chute" is neither the one I am used to from nor the one I want to see in Star Trek anyway. These may be the principal reasons why "The Chute" rather puts me off. But there are still other explanations why this episode doesn't work for me.
"The Chute" may have been meant as a character study of Harry Kim (rather than of Tom Paris who is disabled most of the time). The story was intended to show that Starfleet's neat young ensign may become an animal just like all the other inmates. That he was even on the verge of killing his friend Tom. However, the aggression that Kim exhibits remains meaningless, considering that it is stimulated by the "clamp" in his head and is gone in an instant after its removal. We may argue that the "clamp" only intensifies an emotional response that is actually in Harry's mind, as opposed to mind control where it would be induced from the outside, and that he really has a latent desire to hurt or even kill Tom. But I think the ability to cope with one's instincts and emotions, and especially with aggression, is an essential part of human evolution and of a personality. Without this ability Harry is off-character, much like a Vulcan without mental discipline or the EMH without ethical subroutines. So I don't think it is the real Harry Kim who wants to kill Paris.
I think the story was also meant as a commentary on societies that lock up criminals in prisons where they are left on their own, without a chance of rehabilitation. The Akritirian authorities even intensify the immanent aggressive tendencies of their prisoners in a way that they would rather kill each other than cooperate in any fashion. It sounds paradoxical, but the chaos created by the permanent fights inside the prison serves as some kind of self-regulation that doesn't require an authority in the form of guards. Also, the Akritirian jurisdiction can relinquish the death penalty, as the prisoners conveniently kill each other. However, I don't think that the unique situation in the Akritirian space prison works as an analogy to present-day detention conditions. The actual social commentary that I see in the episode (albeit not quite the intended one) is that the prison destroys those who committed only minor offenses or who may even be innocent, if they are put together with those who have no future anyway.
The direction and the acting in "The Chute" is appropriately drastic for the dark story. Actually, I would have wished the same for some of the Kazon conflict episodes of the second season and especially for "Basics" whose story was much bigger but which could have been somewhat more dramatic at times. Still, "The Chute" became boring for me because after a while I grew tired of looking into Ensign Kim's sweaty and bloody face. After a while the whole "This isn't the friendly Ensign Kim any longer" theme was exhausted for me. And although the directing was overall good, it relied too much on louder music to indicate whenever something dramatic was about to happen.
On a positive note, I like the character of Zio, who appears as a lunatic to Harry, but mostly because Harry's own judgment is impaired. I think Zio really has found a way for himself to neutralize the "clamp". He stands for composure and for reason among the otherwise savage inmates, although his "manifesto" seems like a crazy idea and his attitude that Paris should be killed doesn't exactly make him sympathetic. Unfortunately, just as his character is contradictory, Zio also doesn't have a clear role in the story.
Another letdown of the episode is the extremely rushed resolution. The story repeatedly switches from the prison to Voyager and Janeway's attempts to find the true bombers and to negotiate the release of Harry and Tom. But the interesting part (or the one that would have been the interesting part in other episodes) is cut short. We don't see anything of the preparations for Harry and Tom's rescue. We don't see how Neelix's shuttle breaks through the security perimeter of the prison. Janeway and the away team just appear in the prison to release them. And Neelix's shuttle escapes the two well-armed patrol ships with ease, and against all reason. The way that Tom and Harry's rescue is shown is anticlimactic and also disproportionate in the story context. We may argue that it was never a Janeway story but rather one about Tom and Harry in the prison, but then it shouldn't have given Janeway and her boring talks so much screen time in the first place.
Speaking of a rushed ending, it is obvious that at the end of the episode Harry and Tom would recover and that they would stay friends in spite of everything. But all this happens much too fast and too easily. Some residual aggression and mutual mistrust in Harry and Tom in the end would have been more realistic and more appropriate for the story.
- Remarkable 47: Harry and Tom were convicted because of a bombing in which 47 off-duty patrollers were killed.
- Remarkable scene: the zoom-out from the hatch window, revealing that the prison is floating in space
- Remarkable ship: The Akritirian patrol ship is one of the first and one of the most often re-used CG vessels of Star Trek.
- Remarkable station: The Akritirian maximum detention facility is an impressive CG design.
Stardate 50252.3: During a shuttle mission Torres and Paris are attacked by an alien species that possesses transporter technology and neuro-electric weapons. Neelix warns that Voyager is approaching the territory apparently claimed by that species, a region in which ships have disappeared without a trace. Janeway decides to cross the border in spite of everything, because the shortcut would save 15 months of the journey home. Meanwhile in sickbay, the Doctor's program has started to degrade. Kes wants to avoid a total reset of the program, which would cause the Doctor to lose all his memories of the past two years since he was activated. So B'Elanna launches the diagnostic program, which turns out to be a holographic recreation of Doctor Zimmerman, who created the EMH at Jupiter Station. The diagnostic program tells her that the cause for the degradation is the accumulation of "nonsense" like friendships with the crew or singing arias in the Doctor's database. Voyager manages the evade the tachyon grid at the border of the alien species. Their ships form a large "Swarm" that so far doesn't react on Voyager's intrusion. Soon Voyager runs into a freighter that has been attacked by the Swarm, leaving only one heavily injured survivor. The amnesic Doctor is no help in treating the alien, who dies of his severe injuries. It turns out that one of the small Swarm ships has stayed behind. It attacks and causes a shift of Voyager's shield frequency that makes the ship visible to the Swarm. Kes tries her best to keep the EMH program running to slow down the degradation, but as the battle ensues no one is there to help her. She decides to expand the EMH using the matrix of the diagnostic program. Meanwhile, the Swarm has caught up with Voyager. Firing phasers on the Swarm is no use because the beam gets reflected. As Swarm ships attach themselves to the hull and drain energy from the ship, Janeway orders to destroy just one of the attackers while tuning the shields to the inverse harmonic. The other ships on the hull explode in a cascade reaction, and the Swarm retreats. After the repair it first seems that the EMH program has been reset, but then the Doctor begins to sing again.
The title of this episode is somewhat misleading because after a while it becomes clear that the degradation of the Doctor's program is the A-plot, rather than the fight against the Swarm. I looked it up, and found that the working title was "The Patient", which would have described it better. Anyway, when I first watched "The Swarm", I had not seen any trailers that would have given away anything about the Doctor's trouble, and so I rather liked the surprising shift of focus.
Only in hindsight it is my impression that the idea of the truly alien Swarm species could have been put to better use. Voyager runs into a formidable species whose technology is far superior to that of the Kazon, whose tactics are unique and whose language is incomprehensible as the universal translator doesn't work. It is a pity that in the story that unfolds the whole conflict boils down to a few of the usual Treknology tricks such as deflecting sensor rays, rotating the shield frequency or causing a chain reaction in the enemy's control system. In other words, it consists of concepts of the kind that would have been just side notes in a TNG story. Moreover, Janeway makes the highly questionable decision to enter their territory, against Starfleet protocols and against everything her advisors are saying. This should have led to character conflicts, but after expressing his concerns Tuvok gives up his resistance and merely comments on Janeway's orders with a skeptical facial expression. There could have been so much more about the "Swarm" sub-plot. It is clear that the Swarm was never meant to be more than a species-of-the-week, still it should have been given more weight because the idea of the Swarm has a lot of potential. Vice versa, the story about the Doctor may have been even better without the frequent distraction from the rudimentary Swarm plot. Summarizing, it looks to me like one really great and one at least promising story that could both have needed more time were mingled together in one episode.
The story about the Doctor's degrading program walks a fine line, considering that his almost fatal program failure has some bizarre aspects. The scene when the alien freighter crew member has just died, the Doctor doesn't recognize that, Kes hands him a device so he has something to do, and the Doctor uses it on the "sick man", could have turned out unintentionally funny. But it didn't miss the mark and almost made me sob. After a long time Kes is the key character in a story again, and Jennifer Lien delivers one of her best performances in her role. Kes is the one who intercedes for her friend when Janeway and B'Elanna want to reset the Doctor to his initial state. She keeps him busy in order to prevent further degradation of the program. She finally decides to repair him on her own when Janeway, during her unwisely provoked battle against the Swarm, can't spare anyone with technical expertise. Janeway should be very grateful that her crew and especially Kes make up for her errors.
In terms of continuity, "The Swarm" ties in with last season's "Projections", where the Doctor was led to believe he was Doctor Zimmerman. It is a wonderful idea to show Zimmerman in person, and if only as a hologram. Speaking of a holographic diagnosis, this is something already familiar from TNG: "Booby Trap". I see the re-use of the concept in "The Swarm" rather as a homage than as a rip-off.
Regarding the development of the Doctor's character, the "raw" state of the Lewis Zimmerman hologram makes it clear that the Doctor has come a long way since he was first activated, after initially behaving much like Zimmerman. Thanks to Kes this gets acknowledged, and the Doctor makes another important step towards emancipation. Maybe the decision that it wouldn't be right to simply reset him is even the key event that draws the line between a simple tool or software on one hand, and a sentient being on the other hand.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "I can see where you got your charming personality." - "Not to mention my hairline." (B'Elanna and the Doctor about the Zimmerman hologram)
- "You've filled your memory with nonsense." - "It was only during my off-hours." - "You're supposed to be off during your off-hours." (Zimmerman vs. the Doctor)
- Remarkable "sick humor": The alien who was attacked by the Swarm eventually dies. Kes: "His injuries were too severe." - the degrading Doctor: "He's a very sick man."
- Remarkable facts: The Doctor sings "O soave fanciulla" from La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini.
- Remarkable facts:
- The Doctor has "wasted" 15,000 gigaquads for personal subroutines. Didn't the entire Enterprise-D computer store only a few megaquads?
- The universal translator can't translate the Swarm's language.
Stardate 50074.3: Sensors indicate that an unstable wormhole has recently opened in a nearby star system. It is deemed possible that this wormhole leads to the Alpha Quadrant. One of the planets in the system is the home to a pre-industrial civilization, but Tuvok registers traces of replicator use. When Chakotay and Paris beam down to the planet named Takar, they find the two Ferengi Arridor and Kol, who got stranded at the far end of the Barzan Wormhole seven years ago. They now pose as Takar's "Holy Sages" as they are described in old tales, and are worshipped by the population. Janeway has the two beamed up, but Arridor explains that the planet would fall into chaos without the Sages. So Janeway beams them down again but sends Neelix, disguised as a messenger of the Grand Nagus, the Grand Proxy. Neelix orders Arridor and Kol to return with him, and he begins to give back some of their accumulated wealth to the Takarians. However, he has to reveal his true identity when the two attempt to kill him. Chakotay, who has learned how the tale from the Sages ends, sends Neelix back to pose as the "Holy Pilgrim" who has come to bring the Sages home "on the wings of fire". The Takarians take this all to literally - they prepare to burn Neelix, Arridor and Kol on the stake. Chakotay and Paris have to disable the Ferengi generator that blocks the transporter, so the three can be beamed up as late as the stake is already on fire, thereby fulfilling the prophecy. Aboard Voyager, everything is ready to enter the wormhole that has been temporarily stabilized. The Ferengi, however, escape from the ship. They emit a graviton burst from their shuttle that destabilizes the wormhole again. The Ferengi shuttle slips through the wormhole before it closes, leaving Voyager behind in the Delta Quadrant.
"False Profits" is the third in so far four episodes of the third season with wonderful continuity to previous Star Trek episodes. It ties in with the events from "The Price" that left the two Ferengi Arridor and Kol stranded in the Delta Quadrant after they unwisely waited too long on the far end of the unstable Barzan Wormhole. Of course, it is unlikely that the Voyager crew discovers the Delta Quadrant exit of the wormhole so close to the ship's flight path. But the fact that the Barzan Wormhole and the two Ferengi are already introduced makes the coincidence much easier to accept than the appearances of all kinds of people and things from the Alpha Quadrant that were and will be randomly made up for other Voyager episodes.
A Ferengi episode always has the problem that it can turn out either amusing or ludicrous. This one starts off as amusing. The basic plot is great. "False Prophets" are making "False Profits". The Ferengi pose as the gods of the primitive civilization on Takar, invoking an ancient legend. The legend of the "Sages", in addition to their advanced technology, gives them the opportunity to exploit the Takarians. It is both funny and frightening to see how condescending the Ferengi are to the planet's population. The "ear cult" is priceless. The Takarians appear to worship their "Sages" in spite of everything - but with a certain air of rebellion that we can perceive in the bard, the sandal maker and the servant Kafar. It is clear that it would take only a spark for them to overthrow their oppressors.
So far it is a really good story. But then the first of three major annoyances happens. Janeway has beamed up the two Ferengi to end their reign on Takar and to take them back to the Alpha Quadrant. Arridor laments that the departure of their Sages would bring "despair, fear, confusion" to the Takarians. And how does Janeway react on these so obviously self-serving speculations? She tells Tuvok to beam them back to the planet! Janeway shows an alarming lack of leadership here. She has discussed the issue with her crew. She has made her decision. And now she swiftly changes her mind because of the moaning of a Ferengi? Arridor may have mentioned a new aspect to be considered, but Janeway should at least have waited until a Plan B was available. Allowing the two Ferengi to return to Takar is the worst thing she could possibly do, because now the two are alerted. And so Arridor and Kol set up their generator to block Voyager's transporter.
However, the story gets still worse when Janeway tries to "out-Ferengi the Ferengi". Yes, she really says that, and it gets just as silly as it sounds. She sends down Neelix in the disguise of the Grand Proxy, a seemingly important person in the Ferengi society that was never mentioned in any of countless Ferengi-centered DS9 episodes though. Anyway, even if the Grand Proxy has the authority to order Arridor and Kol to return to Ferenginar, what is the chance that the two rogue Ferengi would comply? Not to mention that Neelix as someone from the Delta Quadrant is not likely to know anything about the Ferengi culture. The whole maneuver is doomed to fail from the outset. It may have been a good idea to beam only Neelix down instead of Arridor and Kol, to explain to the Takarians that the two have left, which would have been just as good as the two doing it themselves. But don't expect any such reasonable decisions from Janeway in this episode. Moreover, it is simply irresponsible that Janeway sends Neelix to apprehend two Ferengi criminals without the possibility to beam him out. They almost kill him. Two criminals that she released against all reason!
The pinnacle of absurdity is reached when the two Ferengi overwhelm two armed Starfleet guards, destroy the shuttlebay door, destabilize the wormhole and, unlike Voyager, escape to the Alpha Quadrant. This is so incredibly stupid that it hurts.
Overall, "False Profits" is an initially good story that gradually destroys its own credibility and ends with a big WTF moment. Four points for the great continuity and the entertaining first third of the episode.
- Remarkable dialogue: "We won! We won!" - "No, my friend, not exactly. To be precise, we won again!" (Kol and Arridor)
- (Fake) Rule of Acquisition #299: "Whenever you exploit someone, it never hurts to thank them. That way it's easier to exploit them the next time." (Neelix)
- Remarkable fact: The universal translator is capable of reproducing the alien rhymes of the tale of the Sages in English. More creative than I thought.
- Missed opportunity to get home: #8, had Janeway and some of her crew not been so incredibly stupid
Stardate 50203.1: Voyager transports a number of Enarans from a remote colony to their homeworld. While the guests are aboard, B'Elanna experiences intense dreams that almost feel real. In her dreams, she is a young Enaran woman named Korenna, whose boy-friend Dathan belongs to the so-called Regressives, a group that disagrees with the modern way of life on Enara. It appears that one of the Enarans, who are telepathic, taps into B'Elanna's unconscious while she is sleeping. The Doctor gives her an inhibitor to suppress the alien memories but B'Elanna decides not to use it, in order to learn more about what happened on Enara. After dreaming of Korenna once again, B'Elanna becomes aware that an older Enaran woman named Jora Mirell must be Korenna. She finds the dying Jora Mirell in her quarters. Instead of receiving medical aid the old woman insists to share the rest of the story with B'Elanna. Dathan and his people were allegedly relocated to a colony, but in reality they were executed by the government, and Korenna/Jora helped to cover up the genocide. After Korenna's death B'Elanna bursts in on the farewell party with the Enaran guests and accuses them of murdering the Regressives and Korenna. The Doctor, however, finds no evidence that Korenna could have been murdered. Janeway tells B'Elanna that it is a solely Enaran affair, so B'Elanna takes the last chance to pass on the memories to Jessen, one of the younger Enaran women.
It is quite obvious that this story is meant as a parable to genocides in Earth's history and specifically to the Holocaust. Keeping the memory alive is deemed important even and especially after so many years have passed, considering that eyewitnesses gradually die off and that Holocaust deniers spread their propaganda. The story of "Remember" is strong in its symbolism in this regard, with Korenna presumably being one of the last eyewitnesses of the genocide on Enara and present-day Enara being a planet full of deniers. However, I think that aside from this rather formulaic correspondence with the real world the story doesn't work so well. Perhaps the focus on the (telepathic) testimony of the eyewitness Korenna and the absence of any hard evidence lowers its impact, although the intention was just the opposite.
The outcome of the episode leaves me with a big deal of doubt. We don't see anyone doing any research on Enaran history. We can base our judgment solely on the memories of one Enaran woman, or more precisely, on the visualization of its telepathic representation in B'Elanna's mind, with all its possible errors and inaccuracies. I certainly can't tell whether a memory that is passed on telepathically is any more or less reliable than the written or spoken testimony of a witness. But we all know from psychological experiments or ultimately from wrongful convictions how unreliable the memory of an eyewitness may be. We also know how often aliens have manipulated the minds of the crew in Star Trek before. In the real world as well as in any other Star Trek story, it would be a perfectly reasonable assumption that the dreams that B'Elanna experiences are wrong or messed up in some fashion. Only the writer's intent that this is a Holocaust parable just doesn't allow anything that B'Elanna learns about the genocide on Enara to be untrue. We are expected to subscribe to Korenna's version of the genocide without any solid evidence. This mandatory outcome leaves me dissatisfied, especially in light of the otherwise open ending of the story.
One key statement of the episode is that if everyone ignores or even denies the existence of a genocide in Enara's history, it may happen again. While this is ethically correct and I totally agree with it regarding the Holocaust and other massacres in human history, it is too geocentric. All we know about the present-day Enaran society is that it values peace, friendship, progress and artistry. There are many commonalities with the Federation. Enara may have to endure the truth some day and may be ready for it now. But we can't really tell. The Enarans have built a better society in spite of and maybe partially even because of the wrongdoings in the past, and coming clean on them might lead them all the way back to those bad days. This dilemma (that Janeway at least briefly hints at) demonstrates that the Prime Directive exists for a good reason.
It is surprising to see B'Elanna Torres in the role of the recipient of the telepathic message. Actually, the story was originally written for a TNG episode with Deanna Troi as the key character. For the Voyager adaptation, Kes would have seemed to be the obvious choice, but it is possible that Roxann Dawson was preferred over Jennifer Lien because she is the more important character and generally delivers the stronger performances, especially in season 2. Also, the impact is naturally stronger if a usually technical person suddenly begins to argue on a very emotional level. However, this goes a bit too far in my opinion because B'Elanna effectively pushes aside all skepticism that would normally determine her judgment and her actions. The reason that B'Elanna doesn't feel quite right in this episode is the fault of the writing, rather than of Roxann Dawson who shows one of her best performances in the series so far. We can see her in a kind of second role as Korenna in B'Elanna's dreams, where she acts differently than as the real B'Elanna, with her voice and her gestures being more like those of the young girl that Korenna must have been at the time. Kudos to Roxann Dawson for her great versatility in this episode!
Regarding Korenna, as noble as her goals may be, I don't like at all what she is doing. She readily supported the execution of the Regressives and even of her friend Dathan. (If her cheering after the execution were a false memory out of remorse, it would only support my apprehension that many of her memories may be falsified.) In any case, one of Korenna's main motives seems to be to ease her own guilt in last-minute panic as the end of her life is near. She could and should have acted much sooner. She could have telepathically contacted other Enarans or she could have simply talked to someone of her people. It isn't credible that B'Elanna is the only person she could possibly trust. And it ultimately doesn't make sense that an alien woman who is supposed to leave Enara the very next day would convince the Enarans to rethink their history. Not to mention the emotional stress that Korenna causes in a non-telepathic person who may not be able to cope with the partially traumatic memories.
- Remarkable quote: "Whatever the Enarans have done, it's not our place to bring them to justice. If they've chosen to conceal part of their history from their own descendants, that's their decision, whether we approve of it or not." (Janeway)
Stardate 50063.2: A Voyager away team visits a monastery of the Nechisti Order on the Nechani homeworld. Kes is fascinated by a shrine, but when she steps in she is hit by a surge of biogenic energy and falls into a coma. The monks do not allow a further investigation of the energy field that could help the Doctor devise a treatment for Kes. Neelix finds an ancient Nechani legend about a king whose son was struck by energy much like Kes and who successfully requested from the Ancestral Spirits inside the shrine to return him to life. Janeway learns that the monks who enter the shrine undergo some sort of ritual to prepare themselves, and she suspects that their biochemistry may be altered in a way to withstand the biogenic energy. She asks to undergo this ritual, in order to find a cure for Kes. Janeway is assigned a guide, who tells her to wait in a room with three old people. But Janeway is eager to move on. Although the guide warns her that all she is going to do will be meaningless, Janeway undergoes a series of straining rituals. The Doctor, who monitors Janeway's lifesigns, finds a clue that may help Kes. But when he tries to revive her, Kes's condition deteriorates. Janeway asks the guide to undergo the ritual the way it was meant to be. This time she takes the time and talks with the old people, who in her opinion might be the Ancestral Spirits. They tell her to take Kes to the shrine again. Although it is against all reason, Janeway carries Kes through the gate, and Kes wakes up. It turns out that the ritual actually prepared Janeway, and that the Doctor's treatment protected Kes the second time she passed the energy field. Janeway, however, has doubts that everything that happened can be explained with science.
I watched "Sacred Ground" for the first time in more than a decade. While I still think that the story overall doesn't work, I discovered many new aspects in it.
I already wrote in my old review of the episode that this is one of the rare occasions in Star Trek that ends with a tie between science and faith. More precisely, there is an ongoing struggle between science and faith in the story in which the two alternatingly gain the upper hand. It is a crazy aspect about the story anyway that everything that seems to be reasonable at one time is invalidated later on but then makes sense again in a different fashion. In the end, there is a scientific explanation for nearly everything that has happened, but it is extremely complicated and it is made possible only by a series of unlikely coincidences. The outcome defies Occam's razor and leaves enough room for the myth to be true (if it were not for the questionable role of the Nechisti Order that I will comment on further down).
The outcome of Janeway's personal struggle between science and faith is a different one, however. Janeway starts off as the scientist who agrees to undergo the rituals only because she hopes to find scientific evidence that may help Kes. She goes through a series of ordeals that include holding a stone, finger painting, rock climbing, being bitten by a nesset (apparently some kind of snake) and being put into some kind of coffin. She expects a ritual with a good deal of mumbo-jumbo but also with some sort of training that may help her body withstand the biogenic field, and that is exactly the kind of ritual she gets. But as her guide already told her, it is all meaningless, and this seems to prove true when the Doctor's treatment of Kes based on the data gathered during the ritual fails. So Janeway decides to go for a second round. Now she listens to her guide and she talks to the old people instead of ignoring them. She begins to trust them and, seemingly in a leap of faith, follows their advice. So Janeway takes Kes back to the energy field, although she has no explanation how this could possibly help her. On the other hand, she has simply run out of options regarding a treatment for Kes, and trusting in someone's advice does not mean that she would adopt their religion too. Anyway, when the Doctor gives the recovered Kes and Janeway a scientific explanation, Janeway does not seem to be content with it. As already mentioned, from the viewpoint of the story it is a tie between science and faith, but personally for Janeway it seems to be a defeat as a scientist and perhaps the realization that the unknowable may exist.
When I first watched the episode many years ago I was bored by the flow of the story and by the dialogues, some of which seem to have been ripped off from an absurd stage play by Beckett or Ionesco. I find the episode somewhat more entertaining today and I appreciate the work that was put into the dialogues that are appropriately absurd when it comes to the explicitly "meaningless" ritual. But while the details are nicely worked out, the story overall doesn't make sense.
The biggest problem of the story lies in the lack of logic regarding the agenda of the Nechisti Order. The Nechisti Order may or may not understand how the shrine actually works and what the rituals are about, scientifically speaking. They may or may not have taken sufficient precautions that no one accidentally steps into the shrine. They may or may not have had cases like Kes's before. They may or may not care for people who are harmed by their technology. We don't know what they are up to.
In case the Nechisti Order really has no idea how to help Kes it is totally incredible that they could set up such a complicated ritual whose positive outcome is a result of many coincidences. Even if the ritual is described in detail in old writings, it is very unlikely that it could possibly work and save Kes. We have to keep in mind that Janeway is only protected against the effect of the field because of the ritual that she insisted on herself against her guide's advice, and that Kes only remains unharmed because of a treatment by the Doctor based on data gathered from Janeway, a treatment that almost killed her. Not to mention that Janeway and Kes are aliens, whose biochemistries likely work very differently than the one of the Nechani. On the other hand, if the Nechisti Order is aware how to help Kes, it is extremely cynical of them to offer their help so reluctantly, to leave Janeway in the dark, to have the old people sneer at her and to pass their science as a question of faith. There are clues in the story that the Nechisti are well aware what Janeway is trying to accomplish (they discover the subdermal transponder, for instance). I'm inclined to say they know what they are doing and unnecessarily prolong the suffering for Kes and the uncertainty for Neelix, Janeway and her crew. Maybe they even set up the shrine as some kind of trap, with the full awareness that only someone with friends as dedicated as Janeway can possibly be saved, as some sort of cruel game with the lives of their visitors?
- Remarkable dialogue: "Of course there's always the possibility that the Ancestral Spirits really do control what happens in the shrine." - "To each his own, Commander, but I imagine if we scratch deep enough we'd find a scientific basis for most religious doctrines." - "I remember when my mother taught me the science underlying the vision quest. In a way I felt disappointed. Some of the mystery was gone. Maybe the Nechani have chosen not to lose the mystery." (Chakotay and Janeway)
- Remarkable fact: "The shamans of the Karis tribe on Delios Seven practice a ritual that increases the electrical resistance of their skin. It protects them from plasma discharges in their sacred caves." (Janeway)
Stardate 50312.5: A small ship emerges from a temporal rift in Voyager's flight path. The pilot identifies himself as Capt. Braxton of the timeship Aeon from the 29th century. He is going to destroy Voyager because he blames the ship for a catastrophe in the 29th century that will destroy Earth's solar system. When Janeway activates countermeasures, the two ships get caught in the temporal rift. The Aeon crashes in the High Sierras on Earth in 1967. Voyager ends up in Earth's orbit in 1996. Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok and Paris beam down to investigate. While Tuvok and Paris follow a SETI welcome transmission that was directed at Voyager and sent from the office of the astronomer Rain Robinson in Los Angeles, Janeway and Chakotay track a subspace emission to a homeless man that turns out to be Braxton. In 1967, a hippie named Henry Starling took possession of the timeship, leaving Braxton stranded on Earth. With the future technology he found in the ship, Starling founded the company Chronowerx and initiated the computer revolution of the late 20th century. Braxton suspects that Starling will attempt to launch the timeship and thereby cause the disaster in the 29th century. Rain Robinson is working for Starling, unbeknownst of his true intentions. After she has reported the occurrence of a warp signature that reveals Voyager's presence in orbit and thereby warns Starling, Starling sends his henchman Dunbar to kill her, but she escapes with Tuvok and Paris. Janeway and Chakotay break into Starling's office and find the timeship, but Braxton has already been waiting for them. Kim manages to beam out the two officers, but Starling downloads parts of Voyager's database, including the EMH. -- Starling equips the Doctor with a mobile emitter that allows his program to work in environments without holographic systems. In an attempt to apprehend Starling, Rain Robinson calls him and tells him to meet her at Metro Plaza. Here, Tuvok and Paris are already waiting for him, as well as Chakotay and Torres in a shuttle. When he notices that they are going to beam him away, Starling activates a transport inhibitor. He can be beamed up to Voyager and the Doctor escapes. The shuttle with Chakotay and Torres, however, gets damaged and crashes in Arizona where they are captured by right-wing extremists fighting the US government. Janeway sends Tuvok and the Doctor to free them. In Los Angeles, Dunbar activates a satellite and beams back Starling from Voyager. A truck with tachyon emissions leaves the Chronowerx building, and Paris suspects that they are moving the timeship. When Chakotay and Torres blow up the truck, there is no sign of the timeship though. Starling launches the timeship from his building, and history is about to repeat. With Voyager's weapons systems being offline, Janeway prepares a torpedo for manual launch and destroys Starling's ship before it can enter the temporal rift. Another rift opens, and Captain Braxton appears, who in his timeline has no knowledge of the chain of events. He says he has scanned a time anomaly that he is going to fix by taking Voyager back to the 24th century, and to the Delta Quadrant.
This double feature comes with a lot of suspense, with a lot of fun and with an excellent balance between the two. On the fun side, we have got the Doctor on his first away mission, Tom applying his knowledge of 20th century Earth and Kes and Neelix being emotionally touched by a soap opera. The clash of the world of Starfleet with the crazy 20th century is reminiscent of "Star Trek: The Voyage Home" in many ways. Most notably the odd trio of Tuvok, Paris and Rain Robinson is much the same as Spock, Kirk and Gillian Taylor in the movie. I don't think the similarity is to the story's disadvantage, especially since I only noticed it in hindsight. Also, the fun part of the Voyager episode is a bit more decent than in the movie.
Voyager finds a formidable opponent in Starling, who is much more a ruthless 20th century entrepreneur than an awkward ex-hippie. Janeway underestimates him for a long time, thinking that at some point he would run out of options. But he always has something up his sleeve. Only with a bit of luck Voyager can defeat the man from the 20th century. Yet, Starling's goal to launch that timeship at all cost, without knowing enough about its technology, and against serious objections, doesn't really fit the picture. Starling must be a very calculating person in order to build and run his business and in order to prepare his various lines of defense against Voyager. And even if he doesn't care at all for the billions of people he might kill, why the impulse to do something that could easily cost his own life?
Most notably, however, Capt. Braxton would have deserved a more credible profile. The young Braxton is just a stubborn bureaucrat, the old one is a moron. At least he has one good scene when he runs around, hectically explaining the temporal paradox. A clear homage to Doc Brown of "Back to the Future" fame, maybe already a bit too obvious, but I like it.
Regarding the time travel aspects of the episode, the impression is created that without Chronowerx there would have been no microelectronic revolution since the late 1960s, which is contradicted by the real-world development. The destruction of the timeship with Starling aboard breaks the predestined timeline, and Starling never found the timeship. Yet, a browser called "Browser Hound" by the company Chronowerx shows up in VOY: "11:59". Also, it is mentioned in VOY: "Relativity" that Braxton (or one version of him) actually spent all the time in the 20th century, as if the timeline had not been repaired.
Another problem is that Starling could hardly have developed microelectronics on the basis of the hardware found in the timeship. Reverse engineering is not easy, and is impossible without having almost equally advanced analysis methods. There must have been detailed plans in the ship how to fabricate "ancient" microchips, rather than exotic 29th century hardware, for which neither the basic manufacturing processes nor the raw materials would be available in the 20th century. How could a hippie have built up a whole industry including all basic research from scratch? In this regard his plan to go to the 29th century to get more technology is idiotic, since there would be nothing to learn which could help him advance the technology of his own time and earn more money with it (not to mention that he may raise the suspicion of the time cops). Berlinghoff Rasmussen made the same mistake in TNG: "A Matter of Time".The fact that militant rednecks hold Chakotay and B'Elanna hostages may have been supposed to be a significant contribution to the plot and some sort of political statement. I see them as an overall unnecessary and rather distracting side aspect of the story. Ultimately they only serve to corroborate that people of the late 20th century are either freaky or criminal (or both).
- Remarkable dialogue: "Ah, this sun feels great." - "Thermal and ultraviolet radiation are at hazardous levels." (Tom and Tuvok)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Time travel. Ever since my first day as a Starfleet captain, I swore I'd never let myself get caught in one of these Godforsaken paradoxes. The past is the future, the future is the past, it all gives me a headache." (Janeway)
- "We could have worn our Starfleet uniforms. I doubt that anyone would have noticed." (Tuvok)
- "Your curves don't look so great." (Tom about Rain's Fourier analysis)
- "I'm curious, Lt., what does it mean, 'groovy'?" (Tuvok).
- Remarkable nicknames:
- "Mr. Leisure Suit" (Doctor)
- "Freakosaurus" (Tuvok)
- Remarkable facts:
- After the Hermosa Earthquake of 2047 the coastal region of Los Angeles sank and became one of the world's largest coral reefs.
- Starling is using his tricorder while caught in the transporter beam.
- Remarkable 47s:
- The Hermosa Earthquake of 2047
- "Fatal System Error - Error #0047" on Rain's computer
- SATCOM 47, one of Starling's satellites
- Remarkable prop: the 29th century mobile emitter, which will allow the Doctor to go an away missions in future episodes
- Missed opportunity to get home: #9, because with a bit more luck Janeway could have used the slingshot effect
- Photon torpedoes used: 1
Stardate 50348.1: Voyager beams over three Ilari with radiation burns from their damaged vessel just before it explodes. The Doctor and Kes can save two of them. When an Ilari representative is beamed aboard to welcome the two survivors, Kes takes a phaser and kills the representative and the transporter operator. She escapes in a shuttle, together with the two other Ilari. Demmas, the son of the Autarch, the ruler of Ilari, comes aboard. He tells Janeway that Tieran, a former ruthless dictator, has taken possession of Kes's body. Soon Tieran-Kes and his followers storm the Imperial Hall and kill the Autarch. Tieran-Kes spares the life of the Autarch's younger son Ameron, in the hope that he may join the rebellion. Demmas begs Janeway to help him destroy Tieran and retake his throne by force, but Janeway's primary goal is to save Kes. So she sends down Tuvok with a device that would drive Tieran's consciousness off her body. But Tuvok is apprehended before the device takes effect. Yet, inside Tieran-Kes the two personalities are struggling for control. Tieran-Kes announces his wedding with Ameron, much to the displeasure of his wife Nori. However, with Voyager's help, Demmas's troops occupy the Imperial Hall. Tieran still attempts to transfer himself into Ameron's body, but thanks to the Doctor's device he can be erased once and for all.
Kes has always been the Voyager writers' problem child. The so far only successful attempt to further develop her character was last season's "Cold Fire". The story established her psychokinetic powers, but for some reason they remained dormant although she could have used them in "Basics", for instance. The idea of Kes being possessed by an ancient dictator is anything but new, as we had similar stories in TNG: "Power Play" and DS9: "The Passenger". Yet, it must be seen as both an opportunity to revisit Kes's special abilities, as well as to let Jennifer Lien play someone very different than the ever kind and compassionate nurse.
Jennifer Lien's performance didn't really convince me when I first watched the episode many years ago. I would have expected Tieran-Kes to be more imposing and perhaps more violent, to speak and move more like the man inside. I thought Kieran-Kes was still too kind, too much like Kes. But I have to revise that expectation. I now think it is good that Tieran-Kes is not a man in a woman's body who does everything to appear as manly, because this could have come across as unintentionally funny crossdressing. Tieran-Kes is a person who has all the ambition and ruthlessness of Tieran, but in the body of a woman that Tieran learns to use for his goals. This is very obvious in the scene when he (or rather she) twists around Ameron like a snake in an attempt to bribe (and seduce) him. In this regard Jennifer Lien does better in her unusual role than I remembered. At times she reminds me of the Intendant of DS9's Mirror Universe.
Although it probably wasn't the intention, "Warlord" addresses transgender issues, rather than TOS: "Turnabout Intruder" or TNG: "Power Play", let alone the crossdressing farce DS9: "Profit and Lace". Although he says he likes it and learns to use it for his goals, Tieran struggles with his female host body. Kes's body is not meant for him. Moreover, there is the unanswered question whether Tieran-Kes should be classified as a man (married to Nori) or as a woman (engaged to Ameron). One might argue that the Ilari would accept transgender people as well as same-sex marriage, but my impression is that they only do it because it's their leader's wish. On a final note about gender issues, it is notable that Tieran-Kes does not kiss his/her wife Nori in this episode, but she/he kisses Tuvok as well as Ameron. The real-world morality of the time didn't allow two women kissing. My impression is that after the small "scandal" that the same-sex kiss in DS9: "Rejoined" caused the producers of Voyager abstained from doing the same, which is a pity.
Overall, "Warlord" isn't boring, but could have needed a better plot advancement. It has too many guest characters and too much verbosity. And after so much time is lost on the exposition and tactical discussions, the resolution is too quick and effortless.
- Continuity: The events of this episode may have been one reason for Kes and Neelix to break up later this season. At one point in the episode, Kes tells Neelix that she is unwilling to spend as much time with him as he may want. She is already under Tieran's influence at this time, but it is well possible that the real Kes did not revise her opinion on the issue.
- Remarkable quote: "I want my people to know I have their welfare at heart. Tomorrow we'll send out an edict. Every citizen must have a garden." (Tieran-Kes)
- Remarkable scenery: The episode features the first appearance of the Paxau Resort holoprogram that, after a few improvements like the addition of the female volleyball team, will appear several more times in the 4th season.
- Remarkable ship: Tieran's vessel is re-used stock footage of the alien ship from TNG: "Unification", and it explodes again.
- Crew losses: 1
Stardate 50384.2: The crew witness the formation of a supernova. When Janeway has returned to her quarters, Q appears and expects her to mate with him. She naturally refuses. Yet, Q continues his attempts to seduce Janeway, without success. A female member of the Q Continuum appears and claims she has been bonded to Q for billions of years. More supernovas form in the ship's vicinity, sending out shockwaves. Q takes Janeway to the Q Continuum, which appears as an American Civil War scenario, with Q being a "Union" officer. He explains that the death of Quinn caused a kind of civil war in the Continuum, and that he hopes that fresh human DNA may bring the war to an end. Janeway tries to negotiate with the "Confederate" faction but is captured just like Q. They are both up for execution. In the meantime, the female Q, who has lost her powers, has revealed a way for Voyager to enter the Continuum. The crew, equipped with "Q weapons" can save Janeway and Q and overwhelm the "Confederate" troops. Q and Q decide to mate, which they do in a rather unspectacular way. Some time later Q shows Janeway his son and asks her to be his "godmother".
"The Q and the Grey" is the sequel to "Death Wish". Like most Q episodes, it is governed by fun. And like in several previous Q stories, the initial silliness that comes with Q's appearance gradually makes way for a more serious theme. The seriousness of the situation, however, was worked out better in previous episodes, such as in TNG: "Déjà Q" (where the powerless Q learned a lesson about being human) and also in the direct precursor VOY: "Death Wish" (where fundamental questions of individual rights were in the focus). In this regard, "The Q and the Grey" only has a serious undertone. The American Civil War scenario remains overall rather playful and cliché-ridden, just like it were only a re-enactment. No one of the Q Continuum is killed when the Voyager crew attacks with "Q weapons" as it seems, and no inhabited planets are destroyed by the various supernovas (at least no one bothers to mention it).
This episode profits a lot from the great chemistry between Kate Mulgrew and John de Lancie. I also like Suzie Plakson as the female Q with her refreshing impertinence. Even after losing her powers, she remains condescending. It may have been an opportunity to show how she changes her mind, a bit like Q in "Déjà Q". But it is definitely more fun that she remains "Q-like", and the crew reacts to her with unusually strong sarcasm.
Notwithstanding my above reservations, I appreciate the effort that went into the American Civil War scenery. In my view it really pays to have scenes on location and in more elaborate sets than usual, even though in this case nothing is real.
- Remarkable dialogue: "What did he want?" - "Let's just say he had a personal request." (Chakotay and Janeway, after the incident with Q in her quarters)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Out of all the females of all the species in all the galaxies I have chosen you to be the mother of my child." (Q)
- "What are you doing with that dog? I'm not talking about the puppy." (Female Q, to Q, in the presence of Janeway and the puppy)
- "By the way, did I tell you how smart he is? I've already taught him how to knock small planets out of orbit." (Q, about his son)
- Remarkable scene: Q tries to impress Janeway with a tattoo that is bigger than Chakotay's.
- Remarkable appearance: The female Q is played by Suzie Plakson, who already portrayed Dr. Selar and K'Ehleyr on TNG.
- Missed opportunity to get home: #10, this time with countless Qs that could quite possibly help
Stardate 50425.1: Returning from a trade mission with the Tak Tak, Janeway and Neelix attempt in vain to contact Voyager. When they find the ship and land the shuttle, there is no sign of the crew, main power is offline and a bioelectrical field blocks the sensors. Alien lifeforms have taken control of the ship, and Neelix is incapacitated and dragged away by one of them. Janeway finds some of the crew unconscious in the mess hall. In sickbay, the Doctor tells her that the alien intruder is the macroscopic form of a virus that he unknowingly brought aboard after he tried to cure a virus outbreak on a Garan mining colony. The Doctor has synthesized an antigen, and in order to distribute it Janeway proceeds to the environmental control station. But an attack by the Tak Tak, who want to "purify" the ship, disables the environmental control system. Janeway decides to lure the viruses into the holodeck by creating holographic characters with infrared emissions as possible victims, and she releases an "antigen bomb" that eventually destroys the viruses.
The beginning of the episode is perhaps the still most original part. Janeway attempts to be kind as always to the ambassador of the Tak Tak. But the alien dignitary feels insulted. He obviously expected her to use highly formalized combination of phrases and gestures when talking to him. It is up to Neelix, who knows the rituals of the Tak Tak, to save the day. He makes Janeway look like a cadet who fails the diplomacy exam or, in a figurative sense, a student who fails the acting class.
The rest of "Macrocosm" is rather predictable. The plot is much like a crossover of TNG: "Starship Mine" (Picard's version of "Die Hard") and TNG: "Genesis" (the Barclay-to-spider de-evolution). The theme that two crew members return from an away mission and find the ship adrift in space is even exactly the same as in the latter episode, as is the revelation of how the disaster came about in the form of an anticlimactic flashback.
It is also obvious that the idea of Janeway running around with a phaser rifle, single-handedly fighting alien intruders on her ship, is inspired by Ridley Scott's "Alien". Well, "Macrocosm" has its moments. I like the eerie score and the CGI creatures that look truly disgusting. But after a while it isn't so thrilling any longer how Janeway runs through the corridors and crawls through Jefferies tubes. It is clear that the Voyager episode can't compete with the classic sci-fi movie. Perhaps it shouldn't have been attempted in the first place. But then again, the 1990s were the decade of action movies, and also on TV there was a trend towards more action-driven plots. In hindsight, it was not a bad choice to do a story like this, and it fits well into the series context and into Janeway's character profile.
All trends and all similarities to other sci-fi and action films or previous Star Trek episodes aside, this episode is let down most of all by a lack of intelligence in writing. In the category of scientific nonsense "Macrocosm" may be the runner-up, only surpassed by "Threshold". But there are many big plot holes and dangling threads as well. It doesn't look like Brannon Braga reflected a lot about what he was writing.
- How can the virus contained at the microscope grow without any nourishment? The air and water inside the forcefield is far from sufficient.
- A more fundamental problem is how the big virus can be a copy of the small one at all. There is the scaling paradox that would make the large version nearly immovable, but the big ones have even the miraculous ability to hover!
- The macroviruses as seen in the episode are obviously complex lifeforms that have nothing in common with single-celled viruses in a bloodstream. There would be no way to kill them with the same antigen (maybe unless the antigen had been scaled up to half a meter).
- When Janeway and Neelix find Voyager, they wonder why the escape pods are still in place and why no warning buoys were launched. This is still not plausible after the Doctor's renarration of the events. There would have been enough time to prepare for the breach of the quarantine, to save many of the crew, to launch all shuttles and to warn other ships.
- Why doesn't Neelix try to get rid of the alien goo on his jacket? Well, only now I notice that in science fiction movies (not only Star Trek) the characters are usually not worried that alien secretions could be toxic or contagious, and that it doesn't nauseate them very much.
- Neelix is never seen again in this episode. We can assume that he survived only because he appears in the next episode. Where did the virus drag him anyway?
- Considering that the crew is untraceable and that there is a medical emergency, why doesn't Janeway go to sickbay much sooner?
- Where does the "First Contact"-style phaser rifle come from that Janeway grabs from a locker in engineering? So far we could only see the compression rifles on several occasions. It is possible, though, that this particular phaser is a single non-standard piece.
- The original idea was to release the antigen through the environmental control in order to kill the viruses everywhere on the ship. The "antigen bomb", on the other hand, would only kill the macroviruses in the holodeck. So how could the whole ship be disinfected?
- Neelix still maintains his "Good Morning Voyager" program that Ensign Wildman likes to watch.
- Janeway notices that Neelix seems to have problems with his "lungs", and Neelix only replies "Lung." (see "The Phage").
- Remarkable dialogue: "I thought Klingons didn't get nauseated. You have a redundant stomach." - "Well, right now, they're both unhappy." (Paris and Torres)
Stardate not given: As Voyager approaches a vast region of space known as the Nekrit Expanse, Neelix keeps pestering Tuvok and B'Elanna about a position in security and engineering, respectively. The reason is that Neelix has no knowledge of the region ahead, and wants to remain useful. On a space station at the edge of the Nekrit Expanse Neelix runs into his old buddy Wixiban. Neelix asks Wixiban to help him find a map of the region. Wixiban lets Neelix in on a deal that he is going to make with a colony that needs medical supplies, in the course of which he may as well acquire the desired map. As Wixiban doesn't want to pay the 20 percent commission to Bahrat, the administrator of the station, they use a shuttle to beam down to the meeting place in a cargo bay. The medical supplies, however, turn out to be illegal drugs, and in self-defense Wixiban shoots one of the drug dealers with a Starfleet phaser. Bahrat investigates the case together with the Voyager crew. When he spots Tom and Chakotay talking to the drug dealer on a video recording, he arrests the two. Neelix makes up his mind and urges Wixiban to speak to Bahrat. The two persuade Bahrat to apprehend the Kolaati drug dealers and arrange another deal with them, this time delivering warp plasma, allegedly from Voyager. Neelix removes the safety node of the plasma container and demands that the Koolati surrender, as a weapon blast would ignite the plasma and kill everyone. When Bahrat's people arrive to apprehend them, one of the Koolati shoots nonetheless but kills only himself. Neelix wakes up in sickbay and learns that Wixiban has already left. He is ready to leave the ship but Janeway asks him to stay and wants him to clean exhaust manifolds as a sentence.
Neelix has come a long way from the resident clown to a respected member of the crew. I really liked him in more recent episodes except perhaps "False Profits". But in "Fair Trade" he gets annoying again, like the first-season Neelix. He keeps bugging crew members such as Tuvok, B'Elanna, Vorik and Paris with his strange requests, instead of telling them what he really wants from them. In a manner of speaking, Neelix is dishonest the whole time because he conceals his true motives. And Janeway and everyone else are unobservant because they should have noticed that in some fashion. I think this time Janeway is right to take the wrongdoings of a crew member personally in the end, because it is the result of someone of her crew not talking about his problems and of her not noticing the signs.
Some major plot points in this regard don't come across as plausible though. First of all, I would have expected much more self-confidence from Neelix than he shows in this episode. He should know that he is a part of the family after more than two years on the ship. Frankly, his cooking has become rather in demand than his abilities as a guide anyway. So why his sudden panic that he might not be useful any longer? Also, can't Janeway anticipate that Neelix doesn't know what is inside and beyond the Nekrit Expanse? Vice versa, can't Neelix anticipate that Janeway is well aware that his knowledge isn't endless? That she wouldn't simply drop him off the ship? And doesn't anyone notice Neelix's strange behavior before and during their stay at the Nekrit station? Doesn't anyone talk with anyone else? And what about Kes, who is discreetly absent from most of the episode for some unknown reason? Doesn't he even talk to her, or doesn't she notice anything? Perhaps they have already broken up at this time of the series. Still, Kes is another member of the crew who never attended Starfleet Academy and who is valuable just like Neelix. They are clearly in the same boat, but Neelix doesn't care. This all doesn't make much sense.
Neelix's motivation to engage in the alleged medicine deal is odd too. On one hand, Neelix owes Wixiban more that just a favor, since Wix was once arrested for him. On the other hand, even in this situation the map of the Nekrit Expanse to improve his situation is still Neelix's main concern. Some less selfishness would have suited Neelix well. Actually, this lets Wixiban almost appear like the better character. Although he is close to ruining his and Neelix's lives with the drug deal, he pays very much attention to Neelix's problems. Wix is definitely very glad so see his old pal Neelix again, although he had a lot of trouble because of him. When he persuades Neelix to participate in his business, he doesn't make it look like an opportunity for redemption, but rather like a deal among friends. He does everything to deliver the required supplies, he even praises Neelix's talents in the presence of Chakotay. When Neelix finally decides to report to the station administrator, Wix has no objections. Wix is still a small-time criminal, he may not have changed in all those years. But Neelix has obviously undergone a change for the better and another one for the worse again.
Overall, this story is average, mildly interesting and mildly enthralling. But it is impaired by the fact that Neelix's motivation and his actions are so stupid and everyone else on the ship is too stupid to notice it.
- As mentioned above, it doesn't make sense for Janeway to expect that Neelix knows the whole Delta Quadrant, or for Neelix to assume that this is her expectation. In this regard, there is even a clear contradiction in the dialogues. Neelix says about the Nekrit Expanse: "It's a vast territory. No one knows much about it." Only seconds later, Janeway turns to him: "Then we'll have to go through it. Looks like we'll be counting on your knowledge of the Delta quadrant even more than usual, Neelix." Janeway doesn't seem to have listened to what Neelix just said.
- After the evidence of the Starfleet phaser fired on the station has been found, Janeway and Tuvok investigate the case and begin to interrogate the visitors to the ship. It is laudable in some fashion that they never suspect any of their own crew. Still, they should have taken that into consideration, and if only to prove their fairness to Bahrat.
- Among the supplies needed on Voyager is biomimetic gel. Wasn't that still an illegal substance in DS9: "Distant Voices"?
- Remarkable appearance: Vulcan Ensign Vorik can be seen for the first time in this episode.
Stardate 50460.3: Voyager investigates the phenomenon of a stable inversion nebula. The plasma fires would normally cause a chain reaction, but somehow a dampening effect prevents that this particular nebula burns out. On the holodeck, Harry has recently fallen in love with a new character, Marayna. He asks Tuvok to show him Vulcan techniques to suppress his emotions that he thinks are wrong. When Tuvok joins Harry and Marayna on the holodeck, Marayna switches her attention to Tuvok, which makes Harry jealous. Tuvok deletes her character. After collecting data about the nebula, Janeway orders to leave, but the ship's engines don't react. While B'Elanna is working on the problem, Tuvok is surprised to find Marayna in his quarters, wearing the Doctor's mobile emitter. Marayna has control over the ship's systems. She asks him to stay with her but he refuses, upon which she threatens to destroy Voyager. On the holodeck, B'Elanna finds out that someone controls Marayna through a subspace signal from somewhere inside the nebula. Tuvok is transported to the origin of the signal where he finds the actual Marayna. She is an alien woman whose task is to control the plasma reactions in order to preserve the beauty of the nebula for her people. She is all alone on her station, and is pleased to have found a like-minded person in Tuvok. Tuvok, however, explains to Marayna that he wouldn't be able to return her feelings and that he has a mission and people who rely on him, whereupon she releases Voyager.
What I like very much about this episode is that it doesn't spice up a character story with a lame subplot about a space anomaly like it was done so many times before. "Alter Ego" looks like it would follow the beaten path, but then it becomes apparent that there is a common cause for the appearance of Marayna and for the stability of the nebula, which I find very satisfying.
Stories that involve the possible emotions of Vulcans always walk a fine line. It is obvious that Tuvok appreciates Marayna a bit more than it is becoming for a Vulcan. Yet, it also becomes clear that her attractiveness is rather intellectual than emotional, and least of all physical. Tuvok was never even close to being unfaithful to his wife. However, ultimately even a Vulcan is not immune to the "Minuet effect" as previously seen in TNG: "11001001" where first Riker and then Picard were smitten with a holographic character that was programmed by aliens to be more than just interactive but almost empathic. And speaking of an empathic person, Marayna also has traits of Kamala of TNG: "The Perfect Mate", considering that there is a real person behind the hologram.
Rather than with Tuvok, I have a problem with Harry's behavior in this story. Harry is still young, but a Starfleet officer is just not supposed to behave like a teenager in love: foolish, inattentive, easily embarrassed and jealous. When Geordi, who is just as inept regarding relationships with women, fell in love with the holographic Leah Brahms in TNG: "Booby Trap", he didn't make a complete idiot of himself. Harry, on the other hand, doesn't even manage to maintain his composure during a crisis, when the ship's engines fail and it would be up to him to support B'Elanna with his whole expertise and his full attention. All in all, Harry's character suffers an unnecessary setback here. This is a pity, looking back at his consequential development in the past two years. Regarding Garrett Wang's performance, I think that he appears too sulky for someone who is in love. This may have to do with the fact that Wang suffered from a flu when the episode was shot. I think no one looks good with a nose that feels like it's going to burst.
The bittersweet ending of the episode is somewhat reminscent of TOS: "All Our Yesterdays" in which another famous Vulcan had to leave behind a woman to whom he felt attracted. There are also some commonalities with VOY: "Lifesigns" in which the Doctor reconstructed the healthy body of Danara Pel but had no problem to accept her the way she really looks, just like Tuvok when he meets the true Marayna. Overall, I like "Alter Ego" despite Harry's inappropriate conduct and perhaps just because of the similarities to previous episodes. It is pleasant to watch, with a strong guest character, intelligent dialogues and a conciliatory outcome.
A particular detail that I appreciate from an engineering viewpoint is when Kim states it would take a few weeks to run simulations and modify the deflector accordingly to reproduce the dampening field in the nebula. Usually such things can be accomplished in a few minutes if we believe the Voyager writers.
- It should be "5000 Kelvin" and not "5000 degrees Kelvin".
- Torres says that Marayna "downloaded herself" from the mobile emitter into the computer, which should be "uploaded".
- Chakotay refers to an incident where "the Enterprise-D under Picard was once taken over by a holocharacter". That would be Moriarty.
- It is established that Ensign Vorik feels attracted to B'Elanna. This will be a major plot point in "Blood Fever".
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "That's kal-toh, isn't it? Vulcan chess?" - "Kal-toh is to chess as chess is to tic-tac-toe." (Kim and Tuvok)
- Marayna: "Are you two friends?" - Kim: "Yes." - Tuvok: (simultaneously) "No."
- Remarkable quote: "Vulcans do not hydrosail." (Tuvok)
- Remarkable scene: the Hawaiian nightmare in which B'Elanna gets strangled with a wreath of flowers. You shouldn't repeat my mistake and watch the episode just before leaving for Hawaii. ;-)
- Remarkable fact: Tuvok is apparently beamed through raised shields. Chakotay states that the shields are down to 47% (forty-seven!) just after the transport. It is possible that the shields were briefly dropped for the transport though.
- Remarkable Vulcan concepts:
- Shon-ha'lock, the engulfment: a "psychologically perilous" form of romantic love that impairs daily business and that can also be described as "love at first sight"
- Soo-lak: "the third party who, by his very lack of interest, trivializes your own" romantic interest in someone
- K'oh-nar: "the feeling of being completely exposed" in the presence of someone you are in love with
- T'san s'at: the deconstruction of emotional patterns, ultimately a lifelong process
Stardate 50518.6: As Janeway and Chakotay are approaching a planet, their shuttle crashes and they are killed by Vidiians. Suddenly they find themselves back in the shuttle on the way to the planet, and experience a déjà vu. This time they change course, but they run into a Vidiian vessel and are killed again. In the next cycle, two Vidiian ships prepare to attack and vanish when Janeway activates a tachyon burst. Back on Voyager, however, Chakotay doesn't remember any Vidiians. Moreover, Janeway has contracted the Vidiian phage, for which the Doctor fails to find a cure and sees no other solution but euthanasia. Janeway finds herself on the shuttle yet again, and this time a temporal anomaly destroys the shuttle. Next, Janeway reappears at the crash site of the first cycle, watching as Chakotay tries to revive her. After her "death" back on the ship, she can't interact with her environment but can give Kes an idea of her presence. The "ghost" of Janeway's father appears, telling her that she is dead and that she has to let go. But Janeway doesn't want to leave yet and reacts on his attempts to make her join him with growing distrust. Her "father" is actually the manifestation of an alien being in her brain, while Janeway is still on the planet after the shuttle crash. She recovers after her successful fight against the alien intruder.
There is probably no Star Trek episode about which I revised my opinion so often. This may have to do with the complex writing of "Coda" that makes more or less sense and is more or less entertaining depending on the viewer's expectations and advance knowledge - both of which is subject to change over the years. I can't tell what exactly made me change my mind each time, though. In any case, when I first saw "Coda", I was still young and more into legerdemain. I probably liked it because there were so many unexpected turning points and I thought that was quite entertaining. The second time, I found it unintentionally ludicrous because nothing really made sense. The third time I enjoyed it again, since I watched it with the knowledge in mind that everything crazy that happens actually reflects Janeway's thoughts, wishes and reason, and also a manifestation of her struggle with the alien organism. Therefore I deemed it quite revealing how Chakotay cares about her and cries when she dies, suggesting she is much more than the captain to him, and that she would love him to cry for her. The same goes for her idea of how Tuvok would mourn her the Vulcan way.
While I still agree with all of the above, after the fourth time several more aspects of the episode put me off. Not only do I feel that it all doesn't make much sense, I also think it's lackluster writing.
"Coda" plays around with different strange phenomena and other themes that were established in previous episodes and that are now amalgamated to one story. This doesn't have to be a bad idea. On the contrary, I always appreciate continuity, and especially in the case of strange phenomena it would be desirable if not each of them were encountered for the very first time. The idea of a temporal anomaly that resets time is the same as in TNG: "Cause and Effect". When Janeway and Chakotay experience a déjà vu almost exactly as in the TNG episode, it seems clear they would have to focus their efforts on breaking the time loop. But in reality it is one of several red herrings in the story. There is no temporal anomaly. There is no effect that would have shifted Janeway out of phase either, although B'Elanna explicitly refers to a phenomenon just like in TNG: "The Next Phase". These red herrings create continuity with established concepts at least in the form of verbal references but they sidetrack the story to an extent that is annoying. Janeway's mind effectively chases phantoms for some 70% or more of this episode's run time.
Well, unlike many other fans I am generally open for stories in which everything that happens turns out a dream or a hallucination. But the revelation that an alien parasite in Janeway's mind is responsible for the hallucination is the least original one the writer could possibly come up with. Moreover, a story with almost exactly the same outcome had aired just a couple of weeks ago. In "Flashback", the otherwise wonderfully nostalgic story of Tuvok being back on the Excelsior under Captain Sulu, the presence of the alien parasite in his mind was a big bummer. "Coda" doesn't try anything else and simply repeats this mistake. To make things worse, the only two aspects of the episode that are real are the alien parasite and the shuttle crash, two of the most overused clichés of Star Trek.
Coming back to the few things I still like about "Coda", I appreciate how it tells an increasingly absurd story without becoming silly. It plays out nicely how everyone, including Chakotay, looks at Janeway like she's a lunatic when she talks about Vidiians and time anomalies. Likewise, the euthanasia scene in which the Doctor kills the allegedly terminally ill Janeway with gas is appropriately frightening rather than cringeworthy. I also dig how the story shows Janeway as a person who would never give up. These are some nice details in an episode that (currently?) doesn't work for me.
- Remarkable quotes:
- "I would like the record to show that I have lost a good friend as well as one whom I can never replace." (Tuvok in Janeway's imagination)
- "That's more like it." (Janeway, when the crew calls her death into question)
- Remarkable scene: The memorial service. Maybe not only Janeway, but also some of the viewers had tears in their eyes.
Stardate 50537.2: An away team prepares to beam down into the caves of an apparently abandoned mining colony with gallicite deposits that may be used to replenish the ship's warp coils. B'Elanna Torres is working with Ensign Vorik, who suddenly proposes marriage to her. He grabs her head, upon which she knocks him down. In sickbay, the Doctor concludes that Vorik has entered the pon farr. In the caves on the planet, the away team climbs down a steep cliff. Neelix falls down, breaking his leg. B'Elanna apparently loses her nerve and runs away. Tuvok surmises that she too suffers from pon farr after a mind meld with Vorik. A search team catches up with B'Elanna, but suddenly they are surrounded by aliens that don't register on the tricorder. B'Elanna manages to overwhelm one of them when an earthquake strikes the cave. She and Tom are separated from the rest of the away team. B'Elanna wants to mate with Tom, but he initially refuses her advances, knowing that she would not normally behave this way. Tuvok and Chakotay learn from the aliens, the Sakari, that invaders overran their colony a long time ago, and that the survivors chose to hide in the caves ever since. On the ship, Vorik tries in vain to cope with his pon farr using a holographic mate. He beams down to the planet and challenges Tom to the koon-ut-kal-if-fee. B'Elanna accepts the challenge herself and fights with Vorik, until both of them have overcome the pon farr. Remains of the aggressors are found on the Sakari planet: the Borg.
A mentally or emotionally unstable character does not yet make for a good story. In "Blood Fever" it all boils down to Vorik and B'Elanna as two crew members in pon farr, who can't cope with the condition, who run around and cause all kinds of trouble, and who eventually fight it out. There is a good rationale for everything, if we accept that pon farr is somehow contagious and may be transferred to other species through a mind meld. The resolution is in line with the koon-ut-kal-if-fee as it was established in TOS: "Amok Time", and also by human medical and psychological standards physical exhaustion eliminates aggression. So the story makes sense, it just isn't interesting after a while to watch how B'Elanna and Vorik are out of their minds.
Rather than the actual story, I like several side aspects of the episode. Firstly, there is the already mentioned good continuity with the events shown in TOS: "Amok Time". It is surprising that it has taken Star Trek 30 years to revisit the topic of pon farr. Secondly, it is a nice idea to give one of the minor recurring characters, namely Vorik, a considerable part in the story, after some of them had been killed off in "Basics", or were good enough to survive as long as to the next Vidiian or Kazon attack. Thirdly, the mini-cliffhanger with the dead Borg instead of a customary closing scene like "Voyager warps into space" is a great surprise. So although "Blood Fever" is rather unremarkable in terms of the story, it will be remembered as the beginning of the big Borg arc on Voyager.
B'Elanna remains remarkably calm and polite when Vorik asks her to mate with him. I would have expected her to break his nose upon his request. Likewise, Tom is very kind to B'Elanna throughout the whole episode. We can notice that he cares a lot for her, too much to be violent or to have sex with her while she is not in control of her emotions, although it may have been the best choice. Actually, in a previous script version Tuvok was supposed to help B'Elanna through her pon farr. His role was given to Paris in a last-minute rewrite. It seems that the foundation for B'Elanna and Tom's relationship is laid here, although it will still take quite some time to emerge. At least, it is the first hint in the series that they could be more than just colleagues.
Overall, it is interesting how openly the crew discuss matters of sexuality in "Blood Fever". I miss the same open-mindedness on other occasions in Star Trek.
- Nitpicking: I wonder why the climbing gear with the obviously unsafe bolts is so 20th century compared to the high-tech equipment used in TNG: "Chain of Command". Also, isn't there anything like an antigrav sled to rescue the injured Neelix?
- Remarkable dialogue: "For such an intellectually enlightened race, the Vulcans have a remarkably Victorian attitude about sex." - "That is a very human judgment, Doctor." - "Then here's a Vulcan one: I fail to see the logic in perpetuating ignorance about a basic biological function." (the Doctor and Tuvok)
- Remarkable absence: Harry Kim doesn't show up a single time in the episode.
- Remarkable facts:
- Tuvok has an artificial elbow joint after an injury in a combat simulation.
- There are 73 male crew members.
Stardate 50622.4: In response to a distress call with a Federation signature, Commander Chakotay and Ensign Kaplan land their shuttle on a planet. Upon their arrival they are immediately attacked and Kaplan is killed. The injured Chakotay is rescued by an obviously human woman named Riley Frazier. Meanwhile, Voyager discovers an abandoned Borg cube, and Janeway decides to send an away team to investigate. The rivaling factions on the planet are actually all former Borg drones whose link to the Collective was severed in an electrokinetic storm five years ago. Riley Frazier belongs to a group, the Cooperative, who strive to work together instead of fighting each other, and who are linked through their neural implants to that end. Chakotay agrees to join their link temporarily, in order to repair his neural damage. When Voyager arrives, Frazier asks Janeway to reactivate the neuroelectric field generator on the Borg cube, to link all inhabitants of the planet together. Janeway refuses. Chakotay and B'Elanna leave the planet on a shuttle, and Chakotay suddenly receives commands from the Cooperative. He draws a phaser and heads for the Borg cube. An away team led by Tuvok attempts to stop him in vain before he reactivates the transmitter. Chakotay and the away team can be beamed out before the Borg cube explodes, which was set to self destruct by the Cooperative.
The Borg are back - almost. It wouldn't have been wise to let Voyager run into a fully operational Borg vessel because it would have been hard to justify that the ship could survive the encounter. So the abandoned cube was a fitting idea. Overall, "Unity" has nearly everything that a good story is made of, especially the frequent new revelations and turning points.
The arguably most interesting aspect about "Unity" is the motivation to link people together, to share their thoughts and ultimately to form a common mind. Here, the procedure is meant to establish peace, mutual understanding and cooperation among former Borg drones who fight each other. In this extreme situation it is absolutely understandable that the Cooperative employs an extreme measure. When Riley Frazier explains this to Chakotay it almost sounds like she is about the create a spin-off of the Federation in the Delta Quadrant. Her goals are the ones of the Federation, whereas the methods are those of the Borg. We get the impression that the contrast isn't as stark as it always seemed. If we put it positively, the Borg spirit of being one mind does not permit anything like distrust or contempt for other members of the Collective. This aspect was already worked out in the Borg episodes of TNG. What is new in "Unity" is that, if we put it negatively, the urge to get away with racism and other forms of hatred may be the first step to creating a Borg-like society that ultimately eliminates individuality. And so Chakotay closes the episode with his perhaps best line: "I wonder how long their ideals will last in the face of that kind of power."
Based on my observations in the episode, I can well imagine that the Borg originate in a society that was war-ridden or otherwise deeply divided, and that tried to overcome this condition using neural implants. At least, this theory is somewhat more plausible than the common notion that the original driving force of the Borg was to achieve perfection in a biological or technological sense.
I like the character of Riley Frazier, and I think I can understand why Chakotay is smitten with her, especially after sharing the neural link with her. For Chakotay, this is an all-new experience, whereas she is used to sharing her thoughts with others all the time. She may have been manipulating him to some extent, but I think much of the affection was genuine and mutual. Although it becomes obvious pretty soon that she would never leave the planet, it is a bit sad that Riley Frazier doesn't join the crew. On the other hand, her character sort of foreshadows the arrival of Seven of Nine on the ship.
- Nitpicking: There are numerous oddities.
- How can Chakotay find a faster route with a much slower shuttle (Warp 4), while Voyager must be assumed to be at high warp most of the time?
- It is incredibly careless to land the shuttle in what should have been identified as a war zone soon enough. Chakotay is at least partially responsible for the ensign's death.
- "You're human" is the first thing that Chakotay says to Riley Frazier before she tells him her name. How can he know, considering that countless aliens, also in the Delta Quadrant, are human look-alikes? On the other hand, since someone sent a Federation signal and Frazier saved him from savage aliens, the assumption doesn't seem to be too far-fetched.
- All of the former Borg seem to be from the Alpha Quadrant. It wouldn't have changed anything about the plot but would have increased credibility if many had been Delta Quadrant aliens.
- The crew wonders if there can be anyone "more powerful than the Borg"? Since this is not the case in this episode as the cube was disabled in an accident, why the false foreshadowing of the upcoming appearance of Species 8472?
- How could the Cooperative conceal their hidden agenda from Chakotay while they shared all other thoughts with him? Maybe they were just much better trained to hide their thoughts.
- Although I enjoy seeing Borg whenever they appear, the final five minutes become somewhat ludicrous. The Borg become fully functional again although the Doctor has clearly stated that this would be biologically impossible.
- Remarkable quote: "I must say, there's nothing like the vacuum of space to preserve a handsome corpse." (the Doctor)
- Remarkable 47: The Cooperative tells Chakotay to head for module 47 omega on the Borg ship. The Borg apparently assimilated Greek letters.
- Crew losses: 1
- Shuttles lost: 1
Stardate 50693.2: The Doctor attempts to improve his program by adding behavioral subroutines while Kes, after her break-up with Neelix, falls in love with Zahir, a Mikhal Traveler. The Doctor develops unexpected emotions, including jealousy, and he even attempts to kill Zahir. The evil Doctor suffers from a rapid decay of his program and he tortures B'Elanna to make her delete the original Doctor. When he does not succeed, he kidnaps Kes and threatens to kill her. Kes and the original Doctor can be saved in the very last moment.
This is a bland routine episode with very few interesting aspects. It is rather annoying that once again a holoprogram, namely the Doctor, goes berserk, adding to the impression that the technology is extremely dangerous despite all its undeniable benefits.
Kes's departure at the end of the season is apparently being prepared here. She doesn't seem to have much business on the ship any longer, and the attractive alien traveler is as much a possible opportunity to leave as he is a love affair. It is a letdown that Kes's recent break-up with Neelix is only casually mentioned instead of elucidated, at least it could have been hinted at that it may have something to do with the events in "Warlord". The way the story is developed, she just falls in love with the next best alien she meets, and this again is nothing more than the basis for the "evil Doc" plot. I usually don't like if a story focuses on the crew's personal affairs while more serious problems are imminent. This time, however, I would have wished to see a Kes-Neelix story. It seems all relationships on Federation starships are ill-fated, they hardly play a role in the storyline and they break up silently.
- Remarkable scene: the holograms of famous figures after being tortured by the "evil Doctor"
Stardate not given: While Voyager's crew strives to help a planet of the Nezu that is permanently struck by asteroids, a shuttle with Neelix, Tuvok and the Nezu scientist Sklar crashes on the planet. Not being able to contact the ship, they repair an orbital tether to climb up to a point from where a communication link can be established. Janeway finds out that the asteroids are actually remote-controlled by the Etanian Order and Tuvok and Neelix succeeds in unmasking Sklar, who is a spy working for them.
The essence of the plot didn't really touch me at first. Actually, I didn't like the episode at all when I first saw it, but subsequently I discovered the great moments of both Neelix and Tuvok. As a matter of fact, it's the first time that Neelix and Tuvok are confronted with one another in a non-humorous situation. After he had gone the wrong way in "Fair Trade", Neelix proves himself a valuable crew member in many respects. He is resourceful in doing repairs on the orbital lift (although I didn't like the technobabble about using Federation technology) and he is the one who feels that the dying doctor's remark that there is something on the roof (the plans of the Etanian ship) should be taken seriously. Moreover, his social skills turn out more appropriate than Tuvok's "I have the superior logic" attitude towards the other passengers. For once, Neelix feels like telling the Vulcan what he has always wanted to, that Tuvok is hiding behind his logic, relying only on his physical and mental strength and not caring about people's feelings. On the other hand, it wouldn't have been possible to regain control without Tuvok's Vulcan superiority. In some way, they complement each other much like Bones and Spock did. The closing scene in which they are teasing each other and each of them is trying to have the final say seems like a homage to the famous arguments in TOS.
- Remarkable quotes:
- "It's strange. I like him. I'd just wish the feeling were mutual." (Neelix)
- "Do it. Do it for Alixia. She would be proud of you." - "I'm glad to see your interpersonal skills are improving." (Tuvok and Neelix)
- Remarkable fact: Actually, Neelix has never built a real magnetic lift, but only models. This reminds me of the old movie "The Flight of the Phoenix" from the 1950s where Hardy Krüger plays an alleged aircraft engineer and actual model aircraft builder who devises a plan to rebuild the crashed plane. An excellent movie, by the way.
- Photon torpedoes used: 1
- Shuttles lost: 1 (most probably)
Stardate 50732.4: Ensign Kim fires on a Nasari ship without authorization, and he seems to be familiar with the current region of space. Moreover, he is suffering from an inexplicable DNA mutation. Voyager is welcomed on the Taresian homeworld, a planet seemingly populated by no one but beautiful women, where Harry is surprised to learn he is actually a Taresian. Harry decides to stay at least for a while, and Voyager leaves to deal with the Nasari. The Nasari claim the Taresians are dangerous and warn Janeway that they would fire at any ship with one of them on board. On Taresia Harry learns the truth about their culture: Taresian women kill their mating partners by virtually "sucking off" their lives. Since Taresian males are rare, they infect alien males like Harry with their DNA and let them come to their homeworld to preserve their species.
Harry in paradise! I would have understood if he had actually decided to stay on Taresia. Somehow I had wished that only this time everything was exactly as it appeared to be. However, it was easy to predict that this wouldn't be the case. The absurdity of the situation -beautiful women chasing Harry, eager to kill him- was interesting and was credibly presented.
- Nitpicking: I don't understand the Taresians. Their method of reproduction can hardly be natural. I wonder whether the women are consciously deceiving and finally killing their mates, or if they have to accept it as a necessary evil of their culture. I would rather tend to the first interpretation, seeing how Harry is chased by a horde of horny women. A discussion about their motivation would have been both better for the episode and more Trek-like. I also wonder how the Taresians can preserve their population with male space travelers, who will likely arrive only infrequently. There can hardly be more than only a few thousand Taresians.
- Remarkable quote: "Perhaps you are experiencing a paradoxial state-dependent associative phenomenon." - "A déjà vu." (Tuvok and Janeway about Harry's precognition)
- Remarkable scene: Harry thanks the Taresian woman by touching her cheek. Tom seems to be both upset and jealous about it.
- Remarkable ships: The Nasari use a Romulan science ship painted beige, the Taresian ship is a re-use of a Miradorn vessel. This episode obviously didn't have a big VFX budget.
Stardate not given: A few years into the future Kes has reached the morilogium, the final phase of her natural lifespan of nine years. The Doctor attempts to prolong her life with a biotemporal chamber. A few moments later she finds herself at an earlier time of her life. She has a husband, Tom, a daughter, Linnis, a son-in-law, Harry, and a grandson, Andrew. Kes experiences several more temporal leaps, which take her further to the past each time. It is found out that the phenomenon is caused by residual chronitons in Kes's body after a Krenim attack in the so-called "Year of Hell", but each time a treatment is attempted another leap occurs. Kes even reaches a time prior to her conception, but eventually she can be stabilized in "the present".
I liked the story very much, despite all the obvious oddities of the time travel, especially the fact that not Kes's body but only her consciousness is jumping. Few episodes have been equally dramatic, and this one is dramatic even in a literal sense, as it involves birth, life, marriage, children and death. Kes is growing very desperate as she experiences her life in reverse direction, especially since she has to tell the same story time and again, a bit like in TNG: "Cause and Effect" and TNG: "Parallels". Fortunately and surprisingly, there is enough time left in the episode to show emotions. It is a family story, comprising three generations.
Parallel realities are always an opportunity to show crew members in unusual roles, and this episode brims over with such tidbits. We see Doctor "Van Gogh" with lots of new hair, Chakotay as the captain, Neelix as a security officer, Tom as Kes's husband, Harry as Tom's son-in-law, Kes's cute daughter Linnis and Kes's grandson Andrew, who has inherited a lot from his father, Harry. Not to forget the long-missing Carey, who is at least mentioned as being dead in this reality. Moreover, we get to see not only one Ocampa birth, but even two of them.
- Continuity: The events of this episode will be picked up in the fourth-season episode "Year of Hell". It is obvious that the latter episode was already in the planning when "Before and After" was made. The Krenim are not yet shown in this episode though.
- Remarkable quotes: "I wish I had told you this before, but better late than never. You're the finest friend I've ever had." (the Doctor about Kes), "I think one day she'll see the sun." (Kes's mother)
- Remarkable in-joke: "It is good to see that old lung is still working, Kessie." (Neelix)
- Remarkable fact: The relationship between B'Elanna and Tom is anticipated, although it is only in a parallel reality. This reminds me of Deanna and Worf who were shown as a couple in TNG: "Parallels", before they became one in our reality.
Stardate 50836.2: While the crew is investigating the destruction of a Vostigye space station, the Doctor has created a holographic family to improve his social skills. B'Elanna visits his family for dinner. She finds that they are ridiculously perfect and reprograms them to behave like real human beings. The result is that henceforth the Doctor's wife has a life of her own, his son is under the bad influence of Klingon friends, and his daughter suffers a fatal sports accident. Unable to cope with this situation the Doctor interrupts the program. In the meantime Tom is trapped somewhere between space and subspace with his shuttle, and the only chance to escape is to follow one of the vortices that already destroyed the space station. Back in the sickbay on Voyager, he can convince the Doctor to end his holodeck program and say farewell to his deadly injured daughter.
I have rarely seen an installment with both so much fun and so much grief in it. Considering that the holodeck programs represent the ideas of their creators, the "ridiculously perfect" family is credible as the Doctor's vision, and so is the dysfunctional family that reflects B'Elanna's bad childhood experiences. On the other hand, while the Doctor's version is at least a nice place for recreation like a 24th century Disneyland, B'Elanna is not fair exaggerating the problems of a real family and burden too many problems at a time on the Doctor. I could have understood if the Doctor had ended the program when it seemed to become unbearable. Anyway, he is courageous enough to face the death of his daughter Belle, and Tom gets a nice scene when he convinces the Doctor to continue. It must be taken into account that, since the Doctor himself is a hologram too, Belle may be as real to him as an actual biological daughter. Her death scene makes it the most touching episode since TNG: "Inner Light" and DS9: "The Visitor". The opening credits should recommend to keep a box of Kleenex ready.
The secondary plot of Tom flying into the subspace eddy was completely unnecessary and didn't contribute anything of interest. It only served to keep Tom away until the end when his character finds better use.
- Remarkable quotes:
- "I want this home to be his sanctuary, the place he can come and have all the cares of the day disappear." (Charlene)
- "They are ridiculously perfect. This is a fantasy, You're not gonna learn anything from being with these...lollipops." (B'Elanna)
- "This whole meeting is a vulky idea and you can have it without me." (Jeffrey)
- Remarkable scene: The holofamily stands in a line, neatly dressed and unisonously saying "Good-bye, Daddy". Looks a lot like a TV commercial from the 60's.
Stardate not given: The scientist Forra Gegen finds the remains of a human Voyager crewman with a genetic pattern related to his own race, the saurian-like Voth. He knows this is the keystone to his theory that the Voth actually evolved on a planet far away from the Delta Quadrant - on Earth. He heads for Voyager and abducts Chakotay, who understands Gegen's motivation and helps him prove his theory. However, the Voth government, due to their strict doctrine that they are the "First Race" and superior to warm-blooded animals like humans, prohibit any further research in this field. Gegen refuses, but when the court threatens to destroy Voyager he eventually complies and retracts his Distant Origin Theory.
This is an outstanding story about Gegen/Galileo's daring yet unsuccessful struggle for his theory in particular and for the freedom of science in general. I can hardly remember an equally intellectual Star Trek episode. If there is still a proof necessary that the show has evolved beyond simple plots where the roles of good and evil are clear and the good always wins, I will most likely refer to "Distant Origin". Few other episodes are so full of vivid and pointed dialogues. This applies in particular to the dispute of the minister on one side and Chakotay and Gegen on the other side (I don't know if this was intentional, but "Gegen" is the German word for "against"). Gegen doesn't succeed, and to save Chakotay and Voyager he even has to completely retract his claims and give up his research. A change of mind for the records only. No, the truth doesn't prevail here, even though the minister neither manages to disprove Gegen nor seems to be very convinced herself of the doctrine she is lecturing. It is anything but a happy ending, still, there is hope that some day some Voth will insist on the truth again and will succeed.
There are several more things about the episode that I liked very much. Gegen's perspective remains predominant throughout the whole episode. It takes about 20 minutes until Voyager crew members play a role at all. It is obvious that such an "alien" kind of story wouldn't have been possible in the first season. To see a dinosaur excavate the bones of a human seems paradoxical, since we only know it the other way round; it was an ingenious idea. It is also funny to see how the saurians analyze the "mammalian mating ritual" of B'Elanna and Tom and that the first thing Gegen says to Chakotay is "Your instinct is to flee". I liked the continuity with the station at the Nekrit Expanse. It's a nice ironic detail that the Voth believe the green fake plasma is actually Voyager's warp plasma. The Voth are definitely the best aliens-of-the-week ever featured. I would love to see them again in some fashion, hopefully not as enemies of the Federation. Finally, I am somehow glad that Hogan's death on the savage planet in "Basics" was not entirely useless.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "Simple binary system - I've downloaded their database." (Gegen)
- "The males appear to be subordinate to that female. Perhaps a matriarchy." - "My conclusion exactly." (Veer and Gegen about Janeway being the captain)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Eyes open." (Gegen)
- "I know from the history of my own planet that change is difficult. New ideas are often greeted with skepticism, even fear. But sometimes those ideas are accepted, and when they are progress is made. Eyes are opened." (Chakotay)
- Remarkable scenes:
- Gegen stretches out his tongue to catch insects buzzing around a lamp.
- In the end, Chakotay hands a little globe to Gegen: "Some day, every Voth will see this as home."
- Remarkable facts:
- The Voth have transwarp, and their sensors cover a range of at least 90ly.
- According to their scans there are 140 lifeforms aboard Voyager.
- The Voth and the humans share 47 genetic markers.
- Remarkable ship: The Voth city ship seems to be some 10km long.
- Current crew count: 140, according to Voth sensors
Stardate 50912.4: Nyrians repeatedly appear on Voyager while rightful crew members disappear. Finally, the Nyrians have replaced the whole crew, who are now prisoners in an environment obviously especially created for their convenience on a huge ship with different habitats. The crew succeed in finding the control station, and they can transport the Nyrian leaders from Voyager to an arctic habitat, to force them to release all alien prisoners.
Insidious: The Nyrians appear to be awkward and harmless, but they manage to capture the ship largely without violence. The first act of the play is a nice "alien takeover" variant, but the initial thrill dwindles in the following, because our crew regains the upper hand with too much routine and with predictable tricks like using the mobile emitter. Thousands of other aliens have spent many years in their prison, until the resourceful Voyager crew comes along and resolves the situation in only one day. It is a routine episode in every respect, and therefore rather below average. I somehow like the way the Nyrians are characterized, because they are not entirely convinced of and consequent in what they are doing, unlike typical TV villains who become frantic when they are being cornered and who prefer to go down with their ship. When Janeway overwhelms them, they seem helpless like kids who have just been arrested for shoplifting.
Stardate 50953.4: A holonovel in which a Starfleet security officer has to decide whether to support a Maquis mutiny led by Chakotay and Seska or not has become popular among the crew. The program was created by Tuvok to train his crew for such a case, but later abandoned when Maquis and Starfleet were working well together. By popular demand, Tuvok and Tom start to write an ending for the program. Seska, however, detected the program prior to defecting to the Kazons and reprogrammed it in a way that the players would be killed. With Janeway's help from outside the holodeck and a number of quirks Tuvok and Tom can fool the holographic Seska and survive.
Yeah right. Renegade Starfleet officers such as Eddington (see DS9: "For the Uniform") or Seska in this case have nothing better to do than tamper with computer programs, in the hopes that perhaps some day it might happen that there could be a chance they would possibly be able to take potential revenge. I also wonder if it is quite customary to create holograms of the crew on Voyager, whereas such a big deal was still made of Barclay's holographic replicas in TNG: "Hollow Pursuits". In spite of everything the story is enthralling, and it's also interesting in that it's not until 20 or more minutes into the episode that the real idea of the plot is revealed, which is most often the case in or directly after the teaser. This leaves fewer time than usual to solve the problem and gives the story a fast pace.
Stardate 50984.3: When Voyager approaches Borg territory, there is the option to turn around and stay in the Delta Quadrant or to use the so-called "Northwest Passage", which appears to be devoid of Borg activity. Actually this passage is occupied by a new, even more dangerous enemy known to the Borg as Species 8472. The Borg do not succeed in assimilating Species 8472, whose bioships destroy whole armadas of Borg cubes. Kim is infected with their cells and the Doctor attempts to save his life with the help of modified Borg nanoprobes. Janeway develops a daring plan: giving the Borg a means to defeat their enemy in exchange for a free passage through Borg territory. Despite Chakotay's vehement objections she negotiates with a representative of the Borg, Seven of Nine, a formerly human female. When the Borg cube is destroyed by Species 8472, the work is continued on Voyager, but with Janeway being severely hurt Chakotay terminates the cooperation he never wanted. When Species 8472 attacks Voyager, Janeway uses the weapon. It proves successful. Seven of Nine stays on board, and Janeway decides to sever her from the Collective.
Not only because of the Borg this is an exciting two-part episode in the tradition of TNG: "Best of Both Worlds". When I first saw it I wondered if there was still any more suspense possible in the future. Frankly, my positive impression is mostly because of rather superficial "Wow!" effects such as "more Borg cubes than ever" or "someone more powerful than the Borg". Still, it does not go unnoticed that these elements are deliberately embedded in a story that otherwise focuses on the credibly presented Janeway-Chakotay controversies and gives new insight into the Borg civilization.
- The odd pile of Borg bodies in Kes's vision and its actual appearance exactly as predicted is pointless, an irritating detail that could easily have been omitted.
- The Borg vessels are destroyed 5.2 light years away, and Janeway orders to go there at Warp 2. Dear Kathryn, this trip would have taken around 7 months!
- There is a huge plot hole concerning the purpose of the Voyager-Borg alliance. When Janeway makes the proposal to the Borg, the only weapon she has is against the cells of Species 8472 itself. It is discovered later that accidentally the nanoprobes can be equally employed to destroy their bioships, which should have been the Borg's only concern.
- A minor mistake: How can Seven speak after the cargo bay has just been depressurized? Last time I checked I still needed air in my throat, but Borg may do it differently.
- Finally, there is one question: Why don't the crew try to salvage any Borg technology from the debris? This would have been a great opportunity, whereas they will engage in extremely risky and reckless attacks for exactly this purpose one year later ("Dark Frontier")?
- Remarkable quotes:
- "I'm reading two Borg vessels. Make that three, ...four, ...no, five. Fifteen Borg vessels." (Harry)
- "Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One, but you may call me Seven of Nine." (Seven)
- Remarkable cliffhanger: the Borg cube and the tractored Starfleet vessel drifting away, even better than the famous "Fire!" in BoBW
- Remarkable Okudagram: The diagram proposed "multikinetic neutronic mine" (Borg technobabble rules) actually depicts the Renegade Borg ship from TNG: "Descent".
- Remarkable fact: There must be very few human drones in the Collective. While it is already an unlikely coincidence that there is a (formerly) human, namely Seven, on the vessel at all, it is surprising that she appears within a few seconds when Janeway asks for a contact person. This mystery will be -partially- solved in "Dark Frontier" when the Queen tells Seven that she has been selected to infiltrate Voyager.
- Photon torpedoes used: 5 out of reportedly 32 at this time (actually there should be at most 38-20=18 torpedoes left according to my own count)