Star Trek Voyager (VOY) Season 3

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

Flashback - The Chute - The Swarm - False Profits - Remember - Sacred Ground
Future's End I/II - Warlord - The Q and the Grey - Macrocosm - Fair Trade - Alter Ego
Coda - Blood Fever - Unity - Darkling - Rise - Favorite Son - Before and After
Real Life - Distant Origin - Displaced - Worst Case Scenario - Scorpion I/II

 

Basics II

See VOY season 2

 

Flashback

Synopsis

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.

Commentary

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. Tuvk's personal histories 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 of fact that 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.

Annotations

Rating: 7

 

The Chute

Synopsis

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 terrorisits over to the Akritirian government in exchange for Paris and Kim. In the prison, Paris' 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' 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.

Commentary

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' shuttle breaks through the security perimeter of the prison. Janeway and the away team just appear in the prison to release them. And Neelix' 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.

Annotations

Rating: 2

 

The Swarm

Synopsis

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.

Annotations

Rating: 7

 

False Profits

Synopsis

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.

Commentary

"False Profits" is the third of 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.

Annotations

Rating: 4

 

Remember

Synopsis

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.

Commentary

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.

Annotations

Rating: 4

 

Sacred Ground

Synopsis

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' 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.

Commentary

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. So there is 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 and 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' 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?

Annotations

Rating: 2

 

Future's End

Synopsis

Stardate 50312.5: Capt. Braxton of the Federation timeship Aeon is about to destroy Voyager because he makes the ship responsible for the destruction of the Sol system in the 29th century. The two ships, however, get caught in a temporal rift. The Aeon crashes on Earth in the 1960s and is found by Henry Starling. He scavenges its technology to start the microelectronic revolution and gain a fortune with his company Chronowerx. In the year 1996 the Voyager crew arrive on Earth too, and they have to prevent Starling from starting for a flight to the 29th century where he wants to acquire more new technology, which was or will be the actual reason for the disaster. Despite all warnings Starling lifts off, and there is no way but to destroy his ship. The old timeline is restored, but Voyager is transferred back to the Delta Quadrant by Braxton. The Doctor is now able to exist outside the sickbay thanks to his 29th century mobile emitter.

Commentary

Fun governs this episode, which features 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. One shouldn't ponder too much about the countless logical problems or even temporal paradoxes which, BTW, are further described here. Still, some comments should be allowed. Capt. Braxton would have deserved a more credible profile, the young one 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 liked it.

It seems the authors couldn't decide whether to make Henry Starling a formidable capitalist villain or an awkward ex-hippie. Janeway thinks the latter, but she is obviously mistaken. Starling does know enough about the technology to pose a serious threat to Voyager. Another problem is that he could hardly have developed microelectronics on the basis of the hardware found in the timeship. There must have been detailed plans 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 respect 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 contemporary technology and earn more money with it. The right-wing extremists holding Chakotay and B'Elanna hostages were probably supposed to be a significant contribution to the plot, but they wind up as an unnecessary and distracting detail, only corroborating that people of the late 20th century are either freaky or criminal (or both).

Annotations

Rating: 8

 

Warlord

Synopsis

Stardate 50348.1: The consciousness of Tieran, the former dictator of Ilari, takes over Kes's body. Kes/Tieran and his followers invade the capital of Ilari, kill the rightful ruler and try to persuade his weak younger son, Ameron, to back them. The older son, Demmas, has escaped and allies himself with Voyager. Janeway insists on saving Kes and sends Tuvok to try to bring Kes's consciousness back to the surface. When Demmas' troops occupy the palace, Tieran's consciousness has already been transferred to Ameron, and can be destroyed using a device developed by the Doctor.

Commentary

Kes as the cutest dictator ever. While this idea was obviously supposed to give Jennifer Lien the opportunity to play someone different than the ever kind and compassionate nurse, her performance largely fails to convince, as does the rest of the plot. The idea that crew members are possessed by criminal aliens is anything but new and has been done before most obviously in TNG: "Power Play" and DS9: "The Passenger". Although the contributions of the guest stars to the story are unusually important, they are too stereotypical to be credible, especially the contrasting brothers Demmas and Ameron. While it is a classic motive, it comes out as somewhat farcical in the context of a Star Trek episode.

Annotations

Rating: 3

 

The Q and the Grey

Synopsis

Stardate 50384.2: Q appears in Janeway's quarters and expects her to mate with him to rescue the Q Continuum. She naturally refuses. A female member of the Q Continuum claims she has been bonded to Q for billions of years. There is a riot in the Continuum, which is manifested in multiple supernovae endangering the ship. Q abducts Janeway to what looks like the American Civil War, while the female Q stays on board. Q and Janeway are captured by the Confederates, or the other Q faction. The female Q and the Voyager crew manage to enter the Continuum, and the conflict is resolved when Q and Q beget a child.

Commentary

I don't know if it's rather relieving or distressing to see that the other members of the Q Continuum are no more sensible than Q. Anyway, the sequel to "Death Wish" was fun, as have been all other Q episodes so far. Leaving aside Q's enormous powers, the most striking difference to humanoids seems to be that Q doesn't have any sense of decency, nothing can ever be too embarrassing, and this proves once again. I also liked the female Q with her refreshing impertinence.

Annotations

Rating: 6

 

Macrocosm

Synopsis

Stardate 50425.1: When Janeway and Neelix return from a diplomatic mission, they find Voyager occupied by alien viruses and the crew unconscious. The virus grows to a macroscopic version after leaving its victim's body. Janeway is attacked by a virus and infected herself, but with the help of the Doctor she manages to destroy all viruses with an antigen bomb.

Commentary

Voyager goes "Terminator II", Janeway gets a phaser rifle, you get the idea. Somehow the episode of this fight against nasty viruses is like a crossover of TNG: "Starship Mine" (Picard's version of "Die Hard") and TNG: "Genesis" (the Barclay-to-spider de-evolution) to me. There is not much of a unique plot, it's mostly a fierce struggle, but at least it's thrilling, and the viruses succeed in being disgusting.

Annotations

Rating: 5

 

Fair Trade

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Voyager arrives at a space station at the edge of the vast and unexplored Nekrit Expanse. Here Neelix meets his old buddy Wixiban who aids the crew in acquiring supplies. Neelix fears he might be useless for Voyager in the future, since he never traveled beyond this point. Hoping to get hold of a star chart, he takes part in an illegal drug deal arranged by Wixiban, who shoots one of the drug dealers in self-defense with Neelix's Starfleet phaser. When Tom and Chakotay are arrested for the crime, Neelix can convince Wixiban to go to the station administrator and confess.

Commentary

I would have conceded Neelix more self-confidence than he shows here. 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 he doesn't know what is inside and beyond the Nekrit Expanse? After he has become an appreciated member of the crew (and I really liked him in more recent episodes except perhaps "False Profits"), Neelix now gets annoying again. He bugs Tuvok, B'Elanna, Vorik and Paris with his wishes to perform more tasks. It could have been a more credible story if Neelix had developed a desire to return to the Talaxian homeworld, which would have seemed impossible once he had been beyond the Nekrit Expanse. Neelix's motivation to engage in the alleged medicine deal is a bit 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 his main concern. Some less selfishness would have suited Neelix better.

Wixiban almost appears like the better character. Although he was 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 supply and information, he even praises Neelix's talents in the presence of Chakotay. When Neelix finally decides to report to the station administrator, he has no objections. I think this time Janeway is correct to take the wrongdoings of a crew member personally, after all the cause is Neelix' personal problem which she should have been aware of.

Annotations

Rating: 3

 

Alter Ego

Synopsis

Stardate 50460.3: While Voyager is monitoring mysterious plasma explosions that seem to be constrained such that no chain reaction occurs, a new female holodeck character, Marayna, gains the attention of both Harry and Tuvok. To end their rivalry and the emotional confusion, Tuvok erases Marayna. Yet, she appears in his quarters briefly after and tells him she wants to stay with him. Marayna is actually a lonely woman in charge of controlling the plasma reactions. When she threatens Voyager to force Tuvok to stay with her, he can convince her that he would never be able to share her feelings and she releases him.

Commentary

What I liked most about the episode is that two plots are combined to one, and that two problems that are inexplicable as long as they remain separate suddenly become plausible. A very satisfactory episode for those who pay much attention to plot logic. I have a problem with Harry's behavior, rather than with Tuvok's. Agreed, Harry is quite young, but a Starfleet officer is just not supposed to behave like a teenager in love, foolish, inattentive, easily embarrassed and jealous. I think this is an unnecessary setback, and it is not exactly suited to expand the possibilities of Harry Kim as a character. Tuvok, on the other hand, is so eager to eliminate Harry's "bad" emotions that he seems to get emotional likewise. We know something like this from other Vulcans, and it is clear that our impression of the being emotional is wrong ;-). Anyway, he does fall for the "Minuet Effect". Minuet was the hologram in TNG: "11001001" where she was not just a software programmed to be interactive, but virtually read Riker's and Picard's minds, doing exactly what they expected. It's good to see that the nature of the holodeck phenomenon is different this time, and the "renegade hologram" twist is not used once again. Finally, there is sort of a parallel to TOS: "All Our Yesterdays" where the lonely woman was equally left behind by the Vulcan who wanted to rejoin his colleagues by all means. A detail I liked: Kim states that it would take a few weeks to run simulations and modify the deflector accordingly. Usually such things can be accomplished in a few minutes, according to technically challenged authors.

Annotations

Rating: 5

 

Coda

Synopsis

Stardate 50518.6: As Janeway and Chakotay are approaching a planet, their shuttle crashes and they are killed by the Vidiians. Suddenly they find themselves back in the shuttle on the way to the planet, and experience a kind of déjà vu. Several more apparent time loops occur, until Janeway remains dead as it seems. She can still perceive her environment, whereas the other people cannot see her. Janeway's long-deceased father appears and tries to convince her to leave her life behind. Her father is actually the manifestation of an alien being that has occupied her brain, while Janeway is still on the planet after the shuttle crash.

Commentary

A shuttle crash is probably the least promising thing to happen in a teaser, as it often foreshadows a rather boring "marooned" episode with dreary dialogues. However, the plot takes a quite different direction than expected. A time loop? This seems to be a reasonable explanation, and it is a nice homage to TNG: "Cause and Effect". There are first doubts when the continuity of the time loops is broken and everyone, including Chakotay, looks at Janeway like she's a lunatic. There is definitely something wrong when the Doctor sees euthanasia as the only solution of her alleged infection with the Vidiian phage. Agreed, the episode plays with unreal extreme situations, yet it largely succeeds in not getting silly. Another tip of the hat: B'Elanna mentions the possibility that Janeway might have undergone a phase shift (TNG: "The Next Phase"), this is exactly what I thought of as soon as she got invisible. A far less original idea, however, is the alien lifeform that behaves much like the virus in "Flashback".

When I first saw "Coda", I liked it because there were so many unexpected turning points and it was quite entertaining. The next 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 is actually Janeway's thoughts, wishes and reason, and also a manifestation of her struggle with the alien organism. Therefore it is quite revealing to see how Chakotay cares about her and cries when she is about to die, suggesting she is much more than the captain to him, and to hear what Tuvok has to say about her in her imagination. Finally, there is a definite parallel to "Resolutions". In both episodes Janeway is shown as a person who will never give up, even if the situation appears to be hopeless.

Annotations

Rating: 6

 

Blood Fever

Synopsis

Stardate 50537.2: Ensign Vorik enters the state of pon farr and also infects B'Elanna through a telepathic link. While Tuvok strives to help Vorik on Voyager, B'Elanna gets out of control on an away mission on the devastated Sakari planet. She wants to mate with Tom, but he refuses her advances, knowing that she would not normally behave this way. When he finally agrees, Vorik appears and challenges him to perform 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.

Commentary

Usually a story with crew members exhibiting erratic emotional unbalances is fair at most, but this one becomes special because of several small tidbits. Firstly, there is a good continuity to the events shown in TOS: "Amok Time", and it's surprising that it has taken 30 years before the topic is revisited. Secondly, it is a nice idea to give one of the minor recurring characters, namely Vorik, a considerable part in the story, after many 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 the usual closing scene "Voyager warps into space" is a nice surprise. 

Some more things I noticed: It is interesting how freely sexuality is discussed in the episode; I missed the same open-mindedness on other occasions. 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. I also wonder why the climbing gear with the obviously unsecure mechanical anchors is rather primitive compared to the high-tech equipment used in TNG: "Chain of Command".

Annotations

Rating: 5

 

Unity

Synopsis

Stardate 50622.4: In response to a distress call Chakotay lands his shuttle on a planet where he is immediately attacked and his accompanying ensign killed. He is rescued by an obviously human woman. Meanwhile, Voyager discovers an abandoned Borg cube. The rivaling factions on the planet are actually all former Borg whose link to the Collective has been severed. A group among them, the Cooperative, strives to establish a neural link again to achieve peace. They use a connection to Chakotay's mind to direct him to the cube and reactivate the neuroelectric generator.

Commentary

The Borg are back - almost. It wouldn't have been a good idea to let Voyager run into an operational Borg vessel, so the abandoned cube was a good idea. The episode has nearly everything that a good story is made of, especially the frequent new revelations and turning points. Interestingly, Riley Frazier is much like a prototype of Seven of Nine, who will show up a couple of episodes later. Could it be the producers wanted to test if such a character would be accepted?

Annotations

Rating: 6

 

Darkling

Synopsis

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.

Commentary

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' 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' 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.

Annotations

Rating: 3

 

Rise

Synopsis

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.

Commentary

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.

Annotations

Rating: 6

 

Favorite Son

Synopsis

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.

Commentary

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.

Annotations

Rating: 4

 

Before and After

Synopsis

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' 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".

Commentary

I liked the story very much, despite all the obvious oddities of the time travel, especially the fact that not Kes' 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' cute daughter Linnis and Kes' 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.

Annotations

Rating: 8

 

Real Life

Synopsis

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.

Commentary

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.

Annotations

Rating: 8

 

Distant Origin

Synopsis

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.

Commentary

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.

Annotations

Rating: 10

 

Displaced

Synopsis

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.

Commentary

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.

Rating: 4

 

Worst Case Scenario

Synopsis

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.

Commentary

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.

Rating: 7

 

Scorpion I/II

Synopsis

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.

Commentary

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.

Annotations

Rating: 9

 


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