Star Trek Voyager (VOY) Season 4
of HonorNemesisRevulsionThe RavenScientific
Year of Hell I/IIRandom Thoughts Concerning FlightMortal CoilWaking Moments
Message in a BottleHuntersPreyRetrospectThe Killing Game I/IIVis à Vis
The Omega DirectiveUnforgettableLiving WitnessDemonOneHope and Fear
See VOY season 3
Stardate not given: Janeway's crew works hard to get rid of the remaining Borg technology, which prevents the ship from going to warp. After Seven of Nine's link to the Borg Collective has been severed, her human immune system begins to fight her implants. Janeway decides to remove them, even as the drone vehemently protests. When she goes into a shock, Kes uses her greatly improved psychokinetic powers to detect and destroy the Borg implant in Seven of Nine's brain that is responsible for the condition. Seven of Nine agrees to help remove the Borg technology from Voyager, yet she tries to contact the Collective and can only be stopped with Kes's abilities. Tuvok tries to help Kes gain control of her new powers, but her transformation goes beyond his comprehension. Being in cellular flux and a danger for the ship, Kes leaves Voyager in a shuttle. Before she enters another realm of existence, she hurls the ship through the whole Borg territory, 9500 light years closer to the Alpha Quadrant. Meanwhile, Seven of Nine's Borg implants have been largely removed and her human appearance reestablished.
This is an episode of transition. It consists of two story threads with opposite developments. Seven of Nine returns to her human nature, whereas Kes approaches a new plane of existence. Seven of Nine's condition stabilizes in the course of the episode, whereas Kes's gets more and more uncontrollable. Seven of Nine becomes a new crew member in the end, whereas Kes leaves the ship for good.
I used to be dissatisfied with how the two threads were packed into one episode. In my view, Kes's as well as Seven of Nine's transformation would each have warranted an episode of their own, or could have taken a longer time. It felt contrived how both takes place simultaneously. Notwithstanding the real-world reason that a fast way for Jennifer Lien to leave the show was needed, it may have been separated from the Seven of Nine story.
After watching "The Gift" again, for the first time in many years, I changed my opinion. Even though it still feels a bit rushed and a bit contrived, it is a good idea that Seven's arrival on the ship mirrors Kes's departure. Also, "The Gift" successfully preserves some of the tension from "Scorpion" and does not simply wrap up the events of the exciting two-part episode.
Unfortunately there is no real discussion of how to deal with Kes's transformation because time is pressing. Regarding Seven of Nine, on the other hand, Janeway has the choice and faces an ethical problem. Should she send her back to the Collective, which is the former drone's explicit demand? Or should she make the decision for her, considering that Seven's judgment is impaired? Janeway's dilemma is very similar to Picard's in "Suddenly Human". Yet, she solves it quite differently. She rules that it is in the best interest of Seven of Nine as well as of Voyager that she remains aboard. This may seem selfish and like an irresponsible scientific experiment, but there are good reasons for her decision. Dropping Seven off the ship, with a subspace emitter, would draw the Borg's attention to Voyager again. And although it is not mentioned in the episode, it is well possible that the Borg either abandon or eliminate a drone that was damaged as severely as Seven.
It is clear that Seven of Nine directly replaces Kes in her role as the "attractive female character". In retrospect, Seven's arrival might even have been "prepared" by changing Kes's appearance in the last few episodes of season 3 (long hair, tight suits).
- Nitpicking: When Seven accesses the subspace transmitter, a security detail is on the way, but Tuvok is not informed at all.
- Remarkable quote: "It's acceptable." (Seven about her new appearance, I would tend to agree)
- Remarkable facts:
- Annika Hansen was born at the Tendara Colony on Stardate 25479. "Her parents were unconventional. They fancied themselves explorers, but wanted nothing to do with Starfleet or the Federation. Their names were last recorded at a remote outpost in the Omega sector. They refused to file a flight plan. Apparently, they aimed their small ship toward the Delta Quadrant and were never heard from again."
- The Borg assimilated autonomous regeneration sequencers from Species 259 in Galactic Cluster 3. "Galactic Cluster 3 is a transmaterial energy plane intersecting twenty two billion omnicordial lifeforms." Uhm, yes.
- Distance bridged: 9500ly
- Shuttles lost: 1
Stardate not given: Tom persuades B'Elanna Torres to celebrate the Klingon Day of Honor, but she is reluctant to undergo the ritual. In fact, it turns out to be an awful day for her. First B'Elanna has a lot of work on her hands while two of her staff are sick. Then Chakotay shows up, telling her that Seven of Nine is going to work in engineering, giving rise to her animosities toward the former Borg drone. When an experiment to enter transwarp fails, B'Elanna has to drop the warp core. She and Paris take a shuttle to search for the core, but the Caatati were faster and claim their right of salvage. An imminent hull breach forces B'Elanna and Tom to leave the shuttle in spacesuits. In the meantime Voyager is surrounded by Caatati vessels. Most of the Caatati were assimilated by the Borg, and besides the warp core and all kinds of supplies they also demand the extradition of Seven of Nine. Seven, however, succeeds in finding a solution for the energy shortage of the Caatati, who agree to return the warp core. When their oxygen has dropped to a minimum level, B'Elanna admits that she loves Tom. The two are beamed aboard in the nick of time.
This is the only episode of the season with special focus on B'Elanna, as Roxann Dawson was pregnant during the time. It's an intense story as already "Faces", "Prototype" and "Dreadnought". The special quality of "Day of Honor" is the underlying irony in the overall very serious story. It's like the catchphrase "Just when you thought it couldn't get worse" was extended to a whole story. I especially like how B'Elanna's problem mirrors the ship's crisis and vice versa. On other occasions in Voyager, characters often handle attacks and imminent warp core breaches with routine, while they despair of comparably insignificant personal problems in B-plots. "Day of Honor" skillfully combines both to one plot, to B'Elanna's "day of horror".
Although the solution that Seven helps the Caatati, who despise her, in "an unexpected act of kindness" is a bit simple, it demonstrates the spirit of Star Trek that also shines in Seven of Nine from now. Only the timing doesn't feel right. It may have been better for the series, had Seven shown this kindness at some later time. And speaking of bad timing, it is utterly unrealistic that the crew attempts to attain transwarp speed the very first day that Seven works with B'Elanna in engineering, while still a lot of repairs have to be done and two of the staff are sick! In light of this extreme hastiness and carelessness, the almost catastrophic failure of the "drive-of-the-week" experiment is well-deserved!
Rather than the failed transwarp experiment, the two long-term consequences of this episode are the "official" beginning of the relationship of B'Elanna and Tom, and the beginning of the animosities between B'Elanna and Seven. The latter seems like a good idea at this point of the series, considering that the Starfleet-Maquis conflict was buried (perhaps much too soon) in the first season. On the other hand, with Roxann Dawson taking a back seat because of her pregnancy, it was already foreseeable that the conflict would not be developed as consequentially as it may have been otherwise possible.
- Remarkable quote: "We've dumped the core. - Welcome to the worst day of my life." (B'Elanna)
- Remarkable VFX scene: the warp core ejection
- Remarkable costumes: For the first time since TOS we can see spacesuits in a Star Trek series. The model seen here previously appeared in "Star Trek: First Contact".
- Shuttles lost: 1
Stardate 51082.4: Chakotay's shuttle is shot down during a survey mission to an alien planet. He is rescued from the jungle by the Fourth Vori Defense Contingent led by a man named Brone. The Vori tell him that they are at war with a cruel enemy, the "Krady Beasts". When Chakotay and Namon, one of the Vori, try to find the shuttle, Namon is shot by a Kradin patrol. Chakotay trains the use of Vori weapons with Rafin, a soldier who used to be afraid of the war. Rafin gains more self-confidence. However, he is killed in a Kradin attack, and Chakotay barely escapes. He arrives at a village with Vori civilians. Here, Chakotay befriends a little girl named Karya. Karya asks him to take a message to her brother and Chakotay agrees, although he knows that her brother's whole unit was killed. The next day, the Kradin attack the village and intend to take the old and weak inhabitants to an extermination camp. The enraged Chakotay assaults the Kradin commandant. He finds himself with Brone in the war zone again and almost shoots a Kradin who identifies himself as Tuvok. In reality, Chakotay was manipulated by the Vori all the time, who created the whole scenario to train new soldiers to hate their enemy, the Kradins.
I never liked this episode because for 40 minutes it is like Chakotay in a Vietnam War movie, or playing a first-person shooter. It is all very one-dimensional and doesn't feel at all like a Star Trek story. Although exactly this is probably the writer's intention, it fails to captivate me. Chakotay starts off as a Starfleet officer, who remains rational and keeps an open mind as we should expect from him: "You know, sometimes people say terrible things about their enemies to make them seem worse than they really are." It is shocking to see how he totally loses his reservations in the following and how the circumstances prove him right. He also begins to speak the slang of the Vori. But it becomes just too obvious that this all has to be some kind of deception, and it takes too long until everything is resolved.
Rather than the story on the whole, I like its details. The Vori language is very metaphoric, replacing English words with more "poetic" terms that have a similar meaning. In some cases it doesn't become clear what the Vori mean, which made some lines hard to understand for me when I first watched it. Anyway, although the choice of words is rather a stylistic device than a realistic depiction of an alien language, I like the way how the Vori distinguish themselves from other humanoid aliens.
The Vori in Chakotay's training scenario are enraged that the Kradins "upturn" dead Vori and prevent them from entering the "wayafter", which Chakotay doesn't understand at first. Then Chakotay sees an "upturned" Vori, who is tied to the ground with the face up, so he can't "glimpse" the soil where the afterlife according to the Vori belief takes place. Rafin's last wish after he has been shot is to be turned around, which Chakotay fulfills. In many cultures, the desecration of bodies is the biggest taboo an enemy can possibly break, and spreading rumors about it is the possibly fastest way to demonize the enemy. So the "upturning" is a very realistic aspect of the story.
The idea that the Vori manipulate the minds of their soldiers during the training, rather than "only" indoctrinating them, is interesting. Even though countless Star Trek episodes already featured deceptive scenarios created through mind control or on the holodeck, in most cases they did not have a lasting effect. It is remarkable that at the end of "Nemesis" Chakotay doesn't simply return to business as usual: "I wish it were as easy to stop hating as it was to start." In this regard, "Nemesis" is similarly realistic as TNG: "The Mind's Eye" or TNG: "Frame of Mind".
What I don't like is the cliché that the ugly and ferocious aliens, namely the Kradins (who look like the eponymous "Predator" in the Schwarzenegger movie), turn out to be the good guys, while the human-looking Vori are evil. Considering that we never see any real Vori speak for themselves, it remains doubtful anyway whether the Kradin version that the Vori are the actual villains is true, or whether the scenario created by the Vori bears some truth after all.
- Remarkable slang: The Vori speak English (or something that is translated as English) with some special terms like "trunk" (jungle), "clash" (war), "sphere" (planet), "new light" (day), "nullify" (kill), "wayafter" (death, afterlife), "trembles" (fear), "backwalk" (retreat).
- Remarkable quote: "I wish it were as easy to stop hating as it was to start." (Chakotay)
- Shuttles lost: 1
Stardate 51186.2: Voyager receives a distress call from a Serosian ship, whose only survivor is an isomorphic projection (a hologram) named Dejaren. B'Elanna and the Doctor take a shuttle to assist him. In the meantime on Voyager, Harry works with Seven on improvements for the astrometric sensors. After his initial skepticism, Harry begins to appreciate Seven's work and gets a crush on her. On the Serosian ship, the Doctor talks to the fellow hologram, who is apparently unable to cope with the situation of being all alone on the vessel, while B'Elanna is doing repairs. The Doctor notices that Dejaren suffers from some kind of disorder but underestimates the hologram's deep-seated hatred for organic lifeforms. When B'Elanna discovers the bodies of the crew members that Dejaren murdered, he attacks her. B'Elanna deactivates his systems, but he rematerializes once again and disables the Doctor's mobile emitter. B'Elanna eventually destroys the holographic matrix using a uninsulated power cable.
The basic idea of "Revulsion" is not innovative at all and much like a new edition of the episode "Darkling" barely one year ago, when the Doctor temporarily mutated to an evil hologram. In consideration of this precedent, the Doctor of all people should have been wary of Dejaren's obvious disorder and his possible agenda. At latest when B'Elanna reports how much Dejaren despises organic beings, which is line with his own observations, he should have reacted and deactivated Dejaren. But he does the exact contrary and tries to find excuses for the fellow hologram's conduct and statements, rather than care for the welfare of the away team. By all means, this is an utter misconduct that borders on disloyalty! And it is not his only big mistake, considering how he neglects to protect his mobile emitter when Dejaren attacks him. We may argue that the Doctor still has to learn a lot about being on away missions, but he even fails in the very fundamental questions of a sound medical assessment and of appropriate self-protection. And regarding the fraternization with renegade holograms or disloyalty with his crew, it won't even be the last time. The Doctor will make essentially the same mistake once again in the double feature "Flesh and Blood" in the seventh season and, to lesser extent, in "Author, Author". So as much as I otherwise like the character, he appears in a bad light in "Revulsion".
Fortunately B'Elanna makes up for the Doctor's errors and thereby proves that biological lifeforms aren't all that inferior. But other than that, her role is rather unremarkable because she only does what we would expect from her, with a determination she has shown more impressively on previous occasions. For the story, it may have been somewhat more interesting, had there been more of a conflict between B'Elanna and the Doctor over Dejaren.
Overall, "Revulsion" remains rather uninteresting because the Doctor is so stupid and because B'Elanna's role is limited to the usual fight, as already mentioned. The probably biggest letdown, however, is the lack of emotional attachment to the alien hologram. He's a simple lunatic, whose intentions are clear from the very beginning and whose motivation doesn't really matter. We don't know why the Serosians construct a complex humanoid hologram with emotions(!?), only to clean the reactor. We don't know if this story is true at all, because it seems well possible that Dejaren was a full member of the crew and made up his alleged misery. He may be lying as well about the 59.2% of the ship's energy that allegedly goes into life support. He's a lunatic after all.
Despite all these deficiencies, "Revulsion" at least has a frightening atmosphere, unlike "Darkling".
The B-plot with Harry's and Seven's interaction is overall somewhat more interesting, although it is arguably too trivial to be in the focus. I only wish the would-be love story had continued through a few more episodes of the season.
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Report to Sickbay at 0600 hours. Bring a tricorder and a smile." (Doctor, to "Nurse" Paris)
- "I exist as pure energy, but you depend on food and water to survive. Frankly, I find it disgusting. Look at you! Look at you! Grinding up bits of plants and animals with your teeth. Secreting saliva to force it down your oesophagus into a pit of digestive acids. You can't even stand to think about it yourself. What a repulsive creature you are! Constantly shedding your skin and hair, leaving your oily sweat on everything you touch. You think that you are the height of intellect in the universe, but you are no better than any filthy animal and I am ashamed to be made in your image!" (Dejaren)
- "Nevertheless I am willing to explore my humanity. Take off your clothes!" (Seven to Harry)
- Remarkable scene: Chakotay orders Harry to carry on to work with Seven despite their problems. After dismissing Harry with the words "Have fun!" he is shown with a big grin on his face.
- Remarkable practical joke: Tom and Harry manipulated Tuvok's security console to display the same message all over again: "Live long and prosper."
- Remarkable fact: Tuvok is promoted to lieutenant commander (again).
Stardate not given: Seven of Nine slowly gets accustomed to her new life, yet she is plagued by nightmares about the Borg and about a big black bird. Captain Janeway tries to find an arrangement with the B'omar to pass though their territory, but they would only allow it on an indirect and strictly monitored course. Suddenly Seven receives a Borg signal and her dormant nanoprobes are reactivated. She reestablishes her Borg shields, steals a shuttle and heads straight into the forbidden B'omar territory. Paris and Tuvok follow her with another shuttle. Tuvok manages to beam over but is incapacitated by Seven. When the two arrive at a moon, he can convince her to let him accompany her to the surface. The two find an abandoned and partially assimilated Federation ship, the Raven, once owned by Annika Hansen's parents before the whole family was assimilated. A small fleet of B'omar vessels too arrives and attacks the wreck, with reinforcements on the way. Janeway launches a rescue mission and fends off the B'omar, at the expense of losing a possible shortcut on the voyage to the Alpha Quadrant.
Somehow we could expect that something like this story would happen during Seven of Nine's stay on Voyager, just like Data received his homing signal and escaped from the Enterprise in a similar fashion in TNG: "Brothers". It only happens very soon in Seven's case, and perhaps too soon to be a real surprise, seeing that so much Borg and so much imponderability is still left in her personality at this time.
It is an unlikely coincidence that Voyager's flight path is so close to the very ship where Seven was assimilated years ago. The story of "The Raven", on the other hand, wouldn't make much sense otherwise, because in the end it is all about Seven's past and not about Seven's possible wish to rejoin the Collective. The premium version of "Seven returns to the Collective" will be next season's "Dark Frontier" anyway. "The Raven" is entertaining but it doesn't get as exciting as it could. Janeway has quite a crisis on her hand with a former Borg drone out of control, in the territory of a xenophobic species, but she seems to resolve it with too much ease.
On the positive side, "The Raven" has several well played scenes with Seven and Tuvok. It becomes clear how Seven still trusts Tuvok in spite of everything, and how Tuvok's main goal is to help her, even though he doesn't have a good idea how to do that. Their common struggle to escape the B'omar attack leaves little time to elaborate on the resurfacing memories of her family and her assimilation. And it is a pity in hindsight that her past will never be of particular interest again until "Dark Frontier".
- Remarkable damage: Seven destroyed the shuttlebay door when she escaped. I think it was fixed pretty fast, as usual.
- Remarkable shuttle: Seven's shuttle seems to have an amazing cloaking device that switches it from Type 6 to Type 8 and back during the flight. :-o
- Remarkable ship: The Raven is nothing but a heap of duranium in this episode, but the basic features of a starship can be identified. It is a sign of great carefulness (of Rick Sternbach) how faithfully the undamaged ship in "Dark Frontier" will match this appearance.
- Remarkable facts:
- The Talaxians are Species 218. A small Talaxian freighter containing a crew of 39 was assimilated in the Dalmine Sector. "They were easily assimilated. Their dense musculature made them excellent drones."
- The Vulcans are Species 3259. "Your enlarged neocortex produces superior analytical abilities."
- Seven disables Tuvok with a Vulcan nerve pinch.
- Shuttles lost: 1 (probably)
Stardate 51244.3: Voyager approaches a binary pulsar, and Janeway decides to study the stellar phenomenon from a safe distance. Tom and B'Elanna neglect their duties over their love affair, and a very annoyed Janeway upbraids them. Janeway is on edge anyway because she is plagued by headaches for quite a while. Then Chakotay is taken to sickbay with signs of rapid aging, while Neelix develops traits of a Mylean, the species of his great-grandfather. The Doctor and B'Elanna scan the patients' DNA, which exhibit artificially generated tags that also emit a weak signal. As the two try to expose the aliens that are responsible and that must be slightly out of phase, the Doctor's program is deleted from the mobile emitter and B'Elanna is knocked out. The Doctor contacts Seven of Nine through her audio implants and secretly meets with her on the holodeck that is free of alien activities. He modifies her ocular implants so she can see the intruders. They devise a plan to use the EPS relays to cause a neuroleptic shock in all crew members that would incapacitate the alien devices. But Seven doesn't manage to complete the work. When aliens show up in Tuvok's presence, she takes a phaser and exposes one of them. The alien woman is taken to the brig. She tells Janeway that they are just conducting scientific research for the benefit of their people, and that they could kill the crew in an instant if they were forced to. After the death of a crew member Janeway decides to act and steers the ship right into the range of the pulsars. The aliens try to escape, but one of their ships breaks apart. With the aliens gone, the mutations to the crew can be reverted. Tom and B'Elanna muse whether their love affair was just a result of the alien experiment.
I have a soft spot for stories in which alien intruders don't use guns but rather more subtle means to gain control of the ship or the crew. And I think that the idea of someone performing cruel experiments in the name of science was not yet exhausted after 30 years of Star Trek. Although the plot is essentially recycled from TNG: "Where Silence Has Lease", "Schisms" and "Phantasms" (aliens performing experiments on the crew to satisfy their curiosity) as well as elements from VOY: "Distant Origin" (cloaked scientific investigation), "Scientific Method" is an exceptionally thrilling episode.
There were other invisible alien threats in Star Trek before. The fact that Seven has to act covertly likewise and pretend that she is not aware of the aliens, in order to save the ship, gives the old idea an intelligent new twist. Furthermore the atmosphere when Seven can suddenly see the aliens perform their experiments on the crew is very unsettling and creepy. I like the visualization that shows Seven's view of the aliens and of crew members with weird looking pieces of technology on their heads in a blurry greenish light. I also like how these shots are contrasted with the corresponding ones in which everything appears to be normal.
After she has been apprehended and put into the brig, the alien scientist does not put much effort in her defense. For her, it is a sufficient justification to gather useful data. The fate of her test subjects doesn't matter, or only in a statistical sense that few have to suffer for the benefit of millions. She would normally never speak with any of them anyway, so in terms of an argument she is probably unprepared and only relies on her better tactical position. Janeway, on the other hand, remains remarkably calm despite her increased dopamine levels, as the alien woman remarks. It is clear that Janeway must find a way to get rid of the aliens without risking the lives of many of her crew. It seems that Janeway still hopes to get some sort of an explanation or excuse. But she should know that nothing could excuse the experiments of SS physician Mengele, and the same applies to what these aliens are doing. Could it be an ironic twist that the names of the aliens and of their species remain unknown, in the same way that they don't care for their victims' names?
- Remarkable Vulcan humor:
- "You are security chief. Don't 13 department heads report to you every day?" - "Yes." - "Well, straighten them out." - "Shall I flog them as well?" (Janeway and Tuvok)
- "I never realized you thought of me as reckless, Tuvok." - "A poor choice of words. It was clearly an understatement." (Janeway and Tuvok)
- Remarkably awkward scene: Chakotay, who is subjected to from accelerated aging, and Neelix, who develops traits of a Mylean, argue over who suffers the most.
- Remarkable facts:
- Progeria, the rare genetic disorder that causes children to age rapidly, was eradicated two centuries ago.
- There appear to be 257 rooms on Voyager, according to the Doctor who says "one room down, 256 to go" after Seven confirms there are no aliens on the holodeck.
- Remarkable behind-the-scenes fact: The aliens remain nameless in the episode, they are called Srivani only in the script.
- Crew losses: 1
Stardate 51268.4/51425.4: The Krenim scientist Annorax alters history by means of "temporal incursion". When Voyager first encounters a small Krenim patrol ship, their territory is small. But Annorax's eradication of the Zahl homeworld restores the vast Krenim Imperium, without anyone outside his temporal weapon ship noticing the change. Voyager is now attacked by a powerful Krenim warship using chroniton torpedoes to penetrate the shields. The Starfleet ship suffers extreme damage. Seven of Nine devises a temporal shielding based on Borg technology as a countermeasure. Now protected against the chroniton torpedoes but also against changes in the timeline, the crew becomes aware of Annorax's following attempt to eradicate the Garenor homeworld. Annorax notices that Voyager's temporal shielding has disturbed his incursion and he strives to eradicate the Federation ship using his temporal weapon. With Tom and Chakotay captured by Annorax and the ship being damaged beyond repair, only Janeway and a skeletal crew remain on board. In the meantime, Chakotay gains the trust of Annorax. He learns that Annorax strives to restore the lives of his family on the Kyana Prime colony, for whose extinction he is responsible himself. Tom, on the other hand, is outraged about Annorax, and he allies himself with Obrist, one of Annorax's man who is tired of his mission that has been going on for 200 years. When it becomes clear that Annorax is not going to stand down, Chakotay agrees to Tom's plan to transmit a message to Captain Janeway and convince Obrist to get ready to disable the temporal shielding of the weapon ship. Meanwhile Janeway has assembled a fleet of the Nihydron and the Mawasi that conducts an attack on Annorax's ship. Obrist takes down the shields, and Janeway conducts a suicide attack with the badly damaged Voyager. The weapon ship eradicates itself. Since it has never existed, everything is restored to its original state.
Even after almost 20 years, "Year of Hell" still blows me away. It is among my absolute favorite episodes of all Star Trek. In any case it's one of the most intelligent and most sophisticated plots ever brought to the screen. I wonder if anyone is able to understand all the depicted or implied temporal changes after watching the episode just once. Actually, when "Year of Hell" was just released on VHS, I invited a couple of colleagues to watch it. So we spent one and a half hours to watch it, and a few more hours to discuss it. We were young and we still had the time.
In light of the complexity of the two-part episode, the good consistency of the time travel story is amazing. There are some small logical problems that were probably taken into account because they improve the flow of the story. For instance, the commander of the Krenim patrol vessel remains the same person, although his ship and the whole course of history have been radically altered in the meantime. I think this is rather easy to put up with, although it doesn't make much sense. Likewise, the inevitable paradox at the end of the episode when the weapon ship erases itself from time is something that is necessary to be able to tell the story. I know that many fans have a strong dislike for stories with built-in "reset buttons", but if one Voyager episode deserved to push its reset button, it is "Year of Hell".
I like the duality of events when Chakotay tries to understand Annorax's motivation, while Tom warms to Obrist who is tired of Annorax's ongoing obsession. The mission on the weapon ship lasts for 200 years, and it may be the first time that visitors are aboard, someone new to talk to. Well, the motive of a villain who is kind to the hero and lets him in on his plans in the moment of the triumph is taken from James Bond films, but it makes a lot of sense here. Annorax just needs someone who provides fresh input after 200 years of try-and-error, and for Obrist it is the only chance to find an ally to end the madness. The two Starfleet officers, on the other hand, were beamed aboard against their will and need to do something. And although it initially goes in opposite directions, both contribute what they are good at. Chakotay remains open-minded and sympathetic. He tries to convince Annorax to end the eradication of whole civilizations. Tom, in contrast, becomes rebellious. But that way he incites Obrist's spirit to resist Annorax. In the end, it seems that Tom's strategy was the better one, but it only worked with Chakotay's backing.
On Voyager, the condition of the ship and the morale of the crew deteriorate with every new defeat. It may have been good to incorporate a bit more of a struggle among the crew. The only remarkable scene in this regard is when the Doctor wants to relieve the reckless Captain Janeway of her duty, upon which she threatens to deactivate his program. While it would have been possible to show more conflicts or let principal characters die as it is almost customary in alternate reality episodes, I like how the story keeps up the possibility that there will be no reset button in the end, in a similar way as it was in "Deadlock" when the damaged ship and not the intact one was the one to survive against our expectations.
The final scene of "Year of Hell" is the arguably most ingenious ever seen in Star Trek. Not only does the scene show Annorax together with his beloved wife, whom he tried to get back for 200 years and, paradoxically, actually got back after his ultimate defeat. The scene also leaves multiple possibilities of interpretation what is actually happening. Annorax's talk with his wife could be a flashback of the time of his first calculations some 200 years ago, which could be a sign that he is about to build the incursion weapon and history will repeat. Or the fact that he drops the PADD with "a few more calculations" in order to care about his wife could be a sign that he is more sensible in the new timeline. Or the scene could take place in "our" present, i.e. at about the time when Voyager passes Krenim space. In this case it is obvious that history was altered and Annorax had a lucky life together with his family. Still, his PADD indicates that he might build his ship, fortunately too late to affect Voyager. In any case, I think this scene is immensely important for the episode.
Hardly any episode is so full of tidbits, as special effects, trivia and quotes are concerned. For quite some time after our already mentioned video showing, "a few more calculations" was a winged word in our university institute.
- Nitpicking: Janeway orders the crew to leave the ship in escape pods, as previously suggested by Chakotay. They are told to set a course for the other side of the Krenim territory. Since when do escape pods have warp capability? Moreover, the evacuation of the crew is supposedly for their own safety. However, just after most of the crew have left, the skeleton crew sets a course for a nebula where the ship is safe, arguably much safer than tiny escape pods in open space. And now the few people who are still aboard begin repairs that don't make sense. How should B'Elanna tend to the heavily damaged warp drive on her own?
- Continuity: A chroniton torpedo gets stuck in the exact same location in Voyager's hull at the exact same time as predicted in "Before and After", although the course of history has considerably changed since the latter episode. This time it is Seven and not Kes who scans the torpedo to get its temporal variance of 1.47 microseconds.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "I was inspired by an ancient steamship, the Titanic. The engineers of the day constructed a series of special bulkheads, sort of like a honeycomb, that would lower into place if they suffered a major hull breach. In theory, they could stay afloat even with half the ship filled with water." - "The Titanic? As I recall, it sank." - "Well, let's just say I've made a few improvements." (Paris and Janeway)
- "Join me for breakfast?" - "In a little while. I still have a few more calculations." - "There are always a few more calculations. It's a beautiful day. Spend it with me." - "I suppose I can make the time." (Annorax's wife and Annorax)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Who would have thought that this eclectic group of voyagers could actually become a family? Starfleet, Maquis, Klingon, Talaxian, hologram, Borg - even Mr. Paris." (Doctor)
- "The past, the present and the future. They all exist as one, they breathe together". (Annorax)
- "Time's up." (Janeway, just before ramming the weapon ship)
- Remarkable scene: Annorax serves a dinner of "lost histories" to Chakotay and Paris, composed of the edible remains of eradicated civilizations.
- Remarkable VFX scenes: Countless. For instance, the explosion of deck 5. Or, the hull panels getting ripped off at warp. Or, the free view of space after the bridge has been destroyed. Finally, Voyager ramming Annorax's weapon ship.
- Remarkable character: Annorax (Kurtwood Smith) is the possibly most contemplative villain ever featured on Star Trek, although and maybe just because his crimes are beyond imagination: "Only time can pronounce judgment against me."
- Remarkable facts:
- Kathryn Janeway's birthday is May 20th.
- This is the first episode in which we see the Janeway with the new regular hairstyle without the bun.
- The Astrometrics lab appears for the first time.
Stardate 51367.2: Some members of Voyager's crew spend time on the Mari homeworld. The Mari are a telepathic species and seem to have left behind their former aggressions. Crime practically doesn't exist, as Chief Examiner Nimira tells Tuvok. While negotiating on a Mari market with a man named Guill, another Mari bumps into B'Elanna. She is annoyed for a split second but recognizes that it must have been by accident. A bit later, the away team witness a violent attack on the market. The attacker is named Frane. He is the one who bumped into B'Elanna. Nimira surprisingly arrests B'Elanna for transferring her aggressive thoughts to Frane and sentences her to an engrammatic purge. Janeway and Tuvok have one day to find exonerating evidence. They discover that Frane was involved in previous offenses involving violent thoughts but was released as cured each time, which under Mari laws does not ease B'Elanna's guilt. On the Mari market, an old woman kills Talli, the woman Neelix was going to date, for no apparent reason. Nimira asks for Tuvok's help in the investigation of the homicide. Tuvok mind-melds with B'Elanna, and he becomes aware of a new suspect: Guill. He may have probed B'Elanna's mind to obtain her thoughts. Tuvok follows Guill and finds a black market for violent emotions. He agrees to sharing his thoughts with Guill and overwhelms the man with his mental powers. In light of the new evidence that she was probed against her will, Nimira agrees to stop the engrammatic purge on B'Elanna that has already started.
It is a general problem of Star Trek Voyager that many alien civilizations of the week are reduced to just one aspect of their society, and usually a dark one. The Mari are exemplary in this regard. Everything about them that is not related to their telepathy appears as a generic and almost bland: no alien-looking make-up, sets and props that we have all seen before, and a friendly and familiar atmosphere on their planet. It may all have been meant to save costs but arguably also to make the revelation more shocking that many Mari are aggression junkies. While the basic idea of the story is interesting, the writing and the execution is a tad too formulaic and too restrained.
The perhaps most noteworthy aspect about the story is that telepaths are likely to develop a law system to punish "thought crimes" in the same way as non-telepaths do it regarding violent language or actions. Knowing that violent and hence primitive thoughts have been widely eliminated on their planet, the Mari understand this as evidence of superiority and seem to look down on the Voyager crew except for Tuvok. It adds to their ability to read the aliens' minds. The Mari may be peaceful and open-minded, but only because they feel safe. In some way they are racists. They likely don't believe that all species are equal, still they impose their laws and regulations on "inferior" aliens as well. Well, at one time in the episode even Tuvok calls B'Elanna's Klingon thoughts "primitive". And ultimately his own Vulcan nature is full of suppressed dark emotions that he is not fond of. The fact that the Mari don't seem to have those emotions in the first place and can only acquire them from aliens seems like evidence of a better and more advanced society. But the Mari have essentially the same problem with violent thoughts as other societies with real violence, or with drug abuse. The fascination of the forbidden adds to the more obvious motives for crime.
The Mari give the away team the feeling of being welcome on their planet. As already mentioned, the Mari may feel safe because of their telepathic abilities. But it isn't credible that they never anticipated the problem of injecting aggressive thoughts into their minds until a half-Klingon woman with particularly primitive instincts came along. In a more realistic depiction, the Mari would have been rather xenophobic. If they don't want violent thoughts they should either ban all outworlders or at least inform them about their law system that would apply to non-telepathic aliens likewise. I just don't believe that Voyager is the first alien ship to visit the planet.
Although I have a few problems with the whitewashed depiction of the Mari, I like the character of Chief Examiner Nimira (Gwynyth Walsh, who previously played B'Etor). She is a person that is committed to following laws and orders by the letter. It is hard for her to recognize that in certain cases the laws or her own methods may be insufficient, and that some of her actions may be wrong. But she is not fanatic about it, and she eventually acknowledges that neither she nor the Mari law system are infallible.
Overall, this episode is only mildly interesting. I see the intention to play nice this time, and not to get Voyager into an armed conflict every week. But even Tuvok's mind meld with Guill, using his Vulcan mental powers against him, is not really exciting. And Guill's apprehension comes across as almost casual. Furthermore, nothing of importance is wrapped up in the end. We don't see how B'Elanna reunites with Tom, and Neelix simply disappears after Talli's death. The closing scene with Seven in Janeway's ready room is too obviously meant to give Jeri Ryan something more to do in the episode but does not resonate with me. Rather than with Seven, Janeway should have talked with B'Elanna or with Neelix.
- You can buy just everything on the Mari market: fruit, vegetables, resonator coils.
- Talking to Nimira, Tuvok insinuates that he would usually communicate telepathically if it were not for the many non-telepaths in Starfleet. But Vulcans were never known to use telepathic communication among their own species, although they may be capable of it. Well, Tuvok is just speaking of himself and he may have had special training.
- Remarkable scenery: The alien city is apparently a reuse of the Risa matte painting. And looking more closely, there is a lot more recycled stuff in this episode.
Stardate 51386.4: Janeway is on the holodeck with her Leonardo da Vinci program, when Voyager is attacked by small vessels. The attackers don't afflict much damage but manage to beam out valuable equipment, including the main computer core and the Doctor's mobile emitter. With limited computer capabilities, Voyager needs as long as ten days to arrive at an alien planet where the stolen equipment is stored in different places. Janeway and Tuvok beam down and are surprised to be greeted by Leonardo da Vinci, who is wearing the mobile emitter. Janeway enlists da Vinci's help to find the computer core. Overloading the device, she creates a signal strong enough for Voyager to beam the computer aboard again. But Tau, the leader of the pirates, is on her heels. She and da Vinci arrive at a precipice and use da Vinci's improved flying machine to escape the pirates.
I must concede that the episode has certain entertaining merits. But it is too much custom-built for the holographic Leonardo da Vinci (John Rhys-Davies). The repeated shift of focus on his petty problems of getting accustomed to life in "America" does not go along with the vital mission to retrieve the computer core. He distracts Janeway from her mission, and it almost seems that keeping up the illusion for da Vinci is just as important to her as saving the ship.
Frankly, Janeway could never expect da Vinci's support to be very helpful. Realistically, she should have beamed him up immediately after meeting him on the planet some ten minutes into the episode, to get hold at least of the mobile emitter, which the Doctor needs a great deal more urgently. Tuvok is dead right when he urges Janeway not to rely on da Vinci's help: "Inadvisable. Charming as your childhood hero may be, the program was not designed for use outside the holodeck." and "The program reproduces the entire range of da Vinci's behavior - his genius and his notorious unreliability." He sums up the whole episode quite nicely! I pity Tuvok when he is ordered to leave the two alone. He looks irritated, maybe even hurt. The climax of absurdity is when Janeway discusses the sense of his existence with da Vinci while they are pursued by the pirates. And as charming as da Vinci's gliding apparatus may look, using it to escape would realistically have been the least advisable option.
So it seems Janeway has to struggle with da Vinci all the time, rather than with the thieves of the computer. Janeway talks with the antagonist Tau just once in the episode, when she pretends to be a customer. I can't remember any other Star Trek villain with so little involvement in the story and so little character development. It also remains a mystery why he allowed the pointless Leonardo da Vinci program to run all the time. He may be interested in alien cultures after all, but we will never know.
Either plot, the computer theft and Leonardo's personality problems would have been much more believable, had they been separated. Esatto!
- The computer core is said to have an operational range "from 10 degrees Kelvin to 1790 degrees Kelvin". Aside from the fact that it's "Kelvin" and not "degrees Kelvin", the impressive range doesn't make sense. The computer is always in a more or less temperature-controlled environment. The core may even be cooled down close to 0K to operate with higher speed. But 10K ambient temperature would imply direct exposure to outer space, and even if this were a realistic form of operation, the self-heating would lead to much higher temperatures. 1970K, on the other hand, is much too high, considering that a good casing and cooling do a much better job than laying out every single component to extreme temperatures.
- Leonardo da Vinci knocks out Tau. Although he does it to save Janeway, since when are holographic characters programmed to harm biological lifeforms? Wouldn't it have to be a part of the safety protocols to prevent just that? On the other hand, we have to take into account that it doesn't happen on the holodeck where there are additional safety mechanisms and where real-life objects are usually not present. Also, the holodeck safety protocols may focus on possible serious injuries, while concussions and even fractures seem to be commonplace.
- Continuity: Janeway says that James T. Kirk "claimed he met him [da Vinci], although the evidence is less than conclusive." She refers to TOS: "Requiem for Metuselah".
- Remarkable dialogue: "Torres referred to me as an automaton. She also employed a series of profane Klingon insults. Shall I translate them for you?" - "By all means. I'd very much." (Seven and the Doctor, who is confined to sickbay and very curious about what happens on the ship)
- Remarkable quote: "Vulcans do not make 'small talk'." (Tuvok)
- Remarkable scene: "Catarina" and Leonardo on the flight machine, an unrealistic but nicely filmed scene
Stardate 51449.2: Chakotay, Tom and Neelix are on a shuttle mission to collect protomatter from a nebula. But the transport of the highly volatile substance into a containment cylinder goes awry and Neelix is killed by an energy burst. Upon their return to Voyager, Seven proposes to revive Neelix with the help of Borg nanoprobes. The procedure succeeds. Superficially Neelix is all well again. But having witnessed an empty and meaningless afterlife, he now questions the foundations of his belief that after his death he would meet all his deceased relatives in the "Great Forest". Neelix seeks help in a vision quest with Commander Chakotay, yet this experience only reaffirms his doubts, and he begins to question the meaning of his life just as well. Neelix prepares to commit suicide, by beaming himself into the nebula, where he thinks he should have died. Chakotay comes to the transporter room to stop Neelix, telling him how valuable he is for the crew, for his new family. Neelix finally comes around and tends to his duties as the godfather of young Naomi Wildman.
Ever since the "Unit Scott" was first killed and then "repaired" by Nomad in TOS: "The Changeling", Star Trek has continued to push the boundaries between life and death. Most notably Spock was killed in "Star Trek II" and returned from the dead in the next movie. However, the question what happened to Scott or Spock after their death and whether they were still the very same individuals after their resurrection was never posed. We never learned if, and which kind of near-death or even afterlife experiences they had and what it may have changed in them. On the contrary, in both cases the curiosity of the circumstances was in the focus. "Star Trek IV" initially still tried to show how Spock struggled with his new life ("How do you feel?"), but at latest in "Star Trek V" his resurrection had become Trek trivia ("I liked him better before he died.").
"Mortal Coil" makes up for this negligence. It is curious that of all crew members the so far rather comical character Neelix experiences a serious dilemma of the kind we may have expected to plague Spock. I did not care much for Neelix when I first watched Voyager, and so I never liked the episode a lot. It took several years until I discovered the special qualities of "Mortal Coil". It is a profound character study. It is daring in several ways. Yet, some things about the script and the execution could have been done better to make it a captivating episode as well.
I like how the story shows Neelix's struggle without sidetracking and with comparatively little technobabble. On the downside, it becomes boring after a while to follow the story from Neelix's point of view, which leads more or less straight to his attempted suicide. At some time, the story should have provided a fresh perspective. But rather than that, it comes up with a gratuitous complication, when the nanoprobes fail to adapt. Seven can resolve the problem quickly, it does not change anything about Neelix's dilemma and it only serves to spice up the otherwise predictable course of the story.
Everything in "Mortal Coil" is wonderfully in line with Neelix's back story and behavioral patterns, referring to the war that killed his family as established in "Jetrel", as well as to his fear that he could become useless as shown in "Fair Trade". There was no need to make up anything for this episode, except the Talaxian belief in the afterlife. Well, perhaps the fact that Neelix was never known as a religious person lessens the significance of his lack of the desired afterlife experience. But he may just have kept his hopes and desires to himself. And ultimately Neelix is concerned more about the meaning of his life than about the possible afterlife anyway. It seems to be the true motivation for his suicide attempt that he is afraid that he might not live up to the expectations of the crew that revived him. And this is a disappointing character trait because Neelix already made essentially the same big mistake in "Fair Trade", where he likewise jeopardized his life because of a feeling that no one needs him. Maybe it is only realistic that Neelix's sorrows resurface. Still, I would have hoped for a change of mind.
The story involves all members of the main cast, Neelix's new family in a manner of speaking. Each of them has a couple of good lines. But I am not sure whether it was a good idea that Neelix's principal go-to persons in this episode are Chakotay and Seven, none of whom he was ever really close to. (A note to Chakotay: It was not a wise idea to let Neelix join the simulation of his accident, the re-enactment of his own death!) Tom, Tuvok and perhaps Janeway would have been the more obvious choices. Also, Samantha and Naomi Wildman's return, as well as Neelix's emotional attachment to his godchild comes a bit out of the blue. Sure, the two must have been on the ship all along, but it feels a bit contrived that they show up only to underline that Neelix's life is valuable.
- The shuttle is Type 8 from the inside but Type 6 from the outside.
- Protomatter was established as highly unstable (and more or less illegal) in "Star Trek III" and DS9: "Second Sight". It was a very bad idea to try to harvest it from the nebula.
- Remarkable dialogue: "The Kazon - Species 329" - "You're familiar with them?" - "The Borg encountered a Kazon colony in the Gand Sector, Grid 6920" - "Were they assimilated?" - "Their biological and technological distinctiveness was unremarkable. They were unworthy of assimilation." (Seven and Neelix)
- Remarkable title: "Mortal Coil" is from Shakespeare's Hamlet: "To be or not to be, that is the question... when we have shuffled off this mortal coil..."
Stardate 51471.3: The crew is plagued by nightmares with one commonality: the appearance of an unknown alien. When Harry Kim and some other crew members fall asleep and the Doctor can't wake them, Chakotay comes up with a plan to use lucid dreaming to stay in control of his dream. He establishes Earth's Moon as a sign that he is asleep, and tapping his hand three times as a means to wake up. In his dream, he communicates with the alien and can convince him to allow the crew to wake up again once Voyager has passed their space. He taps his hand, wakes up and tells Janeway to proceed like discussed with the alien. But once Voyager has reached the edge of the aliens' space and everyone is awake again, the aliens attack and capture Voyager. Chakotay accesses a console in an attempt to retake the ship. The Moon appears, telling him he is still asleep. He taps his hand again and now awakes for real. The Doctor tells him everyone else is asleep now. It appears that all have the same dream of being prisoners of the aliens. The two track the neurogenic field that causes the dreams to a planet. Chakotay beams down to a spacious chamber with the sleeping aliens. He does not manage to destroy the neurogenic transmitter. Instead of taking the injection that would help him to stay awake, he gives it to one of the aliens, who disappears from the dream world. Chakotay then falls asleep himself, telling the leader of the aliens that the Doctor would destroy the chamber with a photon torpedo if he didn't call him. The aliens have no choice but to finally end the dream.
I used to underrate this episode for a long time, maybe because alien takeovers have become such a common theme in Star Trek Voyager. Most of what happens in "Waking Moments" is already known from previous installments. In particular, the idea to become impervious to illusory weapons is taken from TOS: "Spectre of the Gun", a concept similar to lucid dreaming was instrumental in TNG: "Schisms", aliens who create nightmares to control the crew appeared in VOY: "Persistence of Vision" and "The Thaw" and the question whether something is real or an illusion came up in numerous episodes, such as in VOY: "Projections", "Coda" or "Nemesis". Yet, "Waking Moments" is so thrilling and intriguing that now I wouldn't want to miss it.
Chakotay has not been among the most prolific Voyager characters as of late. It seems he is heavily involved every time aliens subject the crew to illusions or to unique forms of communication, such as in "Unity" (the only episode with focus on Chakotay in season 3) or "Nemesis" (the only one in season 4 so far). The typecasting of Chakotay as the resident Native American with his air of being almost an alien is a bit sad. His heritage was not considered to be more than an ironical side note in "Caretaker", but it was subsequently extended to include various knowledge and abilities that human beings shouldn't have. "Waking Moments" is no exception, but at least here Chakotay can make up for his previous failure to recognize what is true and what is not in "Nemesis". I like Chakotay, and it is enjoyable to see how he deals with this crisis, combining intuition and reason.
Overall, this is a quite conventional story in every respect, but one that is interesting to watch from the first to the last minute.
- Nitpicking: I wonder who supplies the aliens if they are asleep all the time.
- Remarkable dialogue: "I wonder what a Vulcan nightmare would be like." - "Alone, exiled on a planet where the only form of communication is laughter." (B'Elanna and Neelix, while Tuvok is listening)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Either I've become impervious to antimatter explosions, or we're still dreaming." (Janeway, after the illusory warp core breach)
- "And the next thing I knew, I was being boiled alive in a pot of my own leola root stew." (Neelix, about his nightmare)
- Remarkable scenes: Harry's "horrible" nightmare of being seduced by Seven in the Jefferies tube and Tuvok's equally embarrassing dream of entering the bridge - naked
Stardate not given: A Starfleet ship, the USS Prometheus, is detected in the Alpha Quadrant through an abandoned alien communication network. When no comm link can be established, Seven succeeds in transferring the Doctor's program to the Prometheus. There he discovers that the crew has been killed and the ship captured by the Romulans. Together with his counterpart, the enhanced medical hologram EMH-2, the Doctor manages to regain control of the ship. Back in the Delta Quadrant a race called the Hirogen claims the network is theirs.
This story is pure fun. Its predominant factors are the amazing USS Prometheus and the initially less amazing EMH-2. Of course, the whole episode must not be taken too seriously, but some nitpicking should be allowed. For instance, have the Voyager authors ever heard of the Beta Quadrant? If memory serves, this is the region that Voyager is supposed to cross before reaching the Alpha Quadrant and where the Romulan border and therefore the Prometheus is supposed to be. Another weak point of the story is the transfer of the Doctor. A very simple message didn't make its way, but the highly sophisticated EMH can be transferred without any loss. Frankly, regardless of the purportedly "strong" nature of the holographic data stream, this would be much like sending an e-mail of 1 gigabyte: futile.
- Remarkable quotes: "You're the Mark-1 EMH - the inferior program." (EMH-2), "You've killed him!" - "It was a mild shock. He will recover." (B'Elanna and Seven)
- Remarkable technobabble: "The secondary gyrodyne relays in the propulsion field matrix have just depolarized." - "In English!" - "I'm just reading what it says here." (EMH-2 and EMH-1)
- Remarkable ship: The USS Prometheus, the literal implementation of the bumper sticker joke "Our other starship separates into three parts."
- Remarkable facts:
- The pursuing Nebula-class ship is firing phasers while still at warp.
- After almost four years the USS Voyager is no longer listed as lost by Starfleet.
Stardate 51501.4: Voyager receives several messages from the Alpha Quadrant transmitted through the newly discovered alien relay system. Tuvok and Seven of Nine take a shuttle to retrieve the rest of the messages from one of the stations. However, they are captured, beamed aboard a vessel of the Hirogen, an alien race of ritual hunters to whom the two are nothing but a welcome prey. In the following battle, the artificial quantum singularity of the relay collapses and destroys the Hirogen ships just after Seven and Tuvok can be beamed out.
Besides the Borg and Species 8472 the Hirogen are the third enemy that is frightening not only because of their capabilities but also because of their way of living. The Hirogen fill their role as truly alien villains, nothing more and nothing less, in this successful action adventure. Impressive: The over 2m tall humanoids make Seven and Tuvok look like dwarfs. One inconsistency: The writers are obviously too fond of having the crew discover something radically new in each episode, otherwise they would have noticed that Romulan ships are known to be powered by artificial quantum singularities since TNG: "Timescape", so it should not be something so amazing on the alien station.
- Remarkable ship: I like the Hirogen ship. It lacks the typical sleek appearance of other CGI ships created for the show and looks much like a fortress in space.
Stardate 51652.3: A Hirogen ship is found adrift in space, with one dead and one critically wounded Hirogen hunter on board. The Hirogen were hunting the extremely dangerous Species 8472. The severely injured creature can be captured and Janeway wants to take it back to its realm. However, in the meantime Voyager is surrounded by vessels of the Hirogen who demand the extradition of their prey. Against Janeway's explicit orders, Seven beams the creature to the Hirogen, and Voyager is free.
No one honestly pities Species 8472 for being chased by the Hirogen at first. The Hirogen may be cruel and frightening, but they have faces and we can talk to them, while Species 8472 is about as sympathetic as a giant insect, only on three legs. However, human sympathy with the suffering creature gradually grows even though it is butt-ugly and hostile, while the appreciation of the Hirogen's hunting tradition dwindles away. This is the dilemma Janeway is facing, and fortunately Seven is there to make the hard but inevitable decision for her. In other words, she acts as the scapegoat. The course of action is somewhat reminiscent of the blatantly hypocritical TNG episode "Silicon Avatar", the worst of all TNG in my view, where Dr. Marr kills the deadly crystalline entity and the Enterprise crew who would have rather sacrificed their lives to save the monster are not grateful but upset about it. Fortunately, this time not a mental illness but Seven's predominance of reason and lack of compassion serves as the explanation. I think that Tuvok and many other crew members would have acted like Seven too, unlike Janeway whose interpretation of ethical principles is frequently subject change anyway.
- Remarkable fun scene: We see how the Doctor and Seven rehearse small talk to enhance her social skills.
- Remarkable VFX scene: Species 8472 on Voyager's hull
- Remarkable horror scene: "Looks like somebody lost their helmet", and Paris picks up a helmet with a severed head in it.
Stardate 51679.4: Janeway is about to purchase an impressive weapon from the arms dealer Kovin. Seven, however, has a very bad feeling about Kovin, and the Doctor finds the apparent cause: Kovin might have conducted experiments on Seven to extract Borg nanoprobes from her body. When this turns out a mistaken memory of her former life as a Borg, it is already too late to rehabilitate Kovin. The desperate weapons dealer dies in a suicide attack on Voyager.
An episode with few distinguishing marks. Seven needs to redeem herself. Seven has an identity crisis and/or hallucinations - we are getting used to it. This is why the only valuable contribution of this episode is to the development of Seven's personality. It was a ethical or moral failure in last week's episode "Prey", something that didn't bother her too much, but in "Retrospect" it is her perception and judgment that turns out impaired. While this is bad enough for a normal human being, for Seven on her persisting "pursuit of perfection" this is a serious crisis, especially since she is more or less responsible for Kovin's death. However, as I said, there are so many Seven-centered episodes still to come, trying to break her aura or her reputation, and this one does not excel.
- Remarkable VFX scene: The test shot with Kovin's weapon. Wow!
- Remarkable ship: The Flaxian ship from DS9: "Improbable Cause" was re-used without any modifications for Kovin's shuttle.
Stardate not given/51715.2: Hirogen hunters have boarded Voyager and are now running their deadly games on the holodecks. In one scenario the Hirogen impersonate SS officers who - with the security protocols turned off - are chasing members of the French Resistance in World War II. The latter are actually Voyager crew members, but because of subdermal transmitters they are not aware of the true whereabouts. The Doctor fortunately finds a way to disengage Janeway's and Seven's implants. By blowing up the sickbay, Janeway finally manages to disable all implants. Soon, the situation runs totally out of control of either side, and after many casualties and much of the ship destroyed, Janeway and the Hirogen leader agree on a cease-fire.
The Hirogen - a species like no other. They don't kill for a concrete or abstract goal, but just for their pleasure. It is their way. It wouldn't be Star Trek if they were just depicted as intolerable criminals or even as inhuman beasts. In spite of this good tradition the Hirogen Commandant that attempts to build a better future for his people's culture plays only a minor part, and unlike other villains in Star Trek his motivation can't really justify what he is doing - at least not by any human standards.
Unfortunately the theme of the episode is much like "Nazis in Space, part II", 30 years after the abominable "Patterns of Force". Certainly the Hirogen's pleasure in playing Nazis is a broad hint, their uniforms are unmistakable like signs saying "Evil Guy". But actually the Nazis are shown as still worse than the Hirogen here, since it's a Holonazi telling the Hirogen to carry on fighting with a racist speech that is probably more sophisticated trash than everything even Hitler said. Agreed, it's only a hologram, but I wonder whether Starfleet may have developed such a distorted histrionic view of history, or if the Hirogen have modified the program accordingly. Just on a side note, the colors of some of the Nazi pennants are wrong too, as they have the swastika on red instead of white background.
Anyway, I wouldn't have expected such a cheap and simplified version of real history in Star Trek, something like that should be left to the accordingly narrow-minded TV programs. The words "Nazis" and "Germans" are still too often used synonymously in American TV, and the only two times that something German was ever featured beyond mere trivia in over 30 years of Star Trek it was the Nazis. It should be a matter of honesty to correct this image soon.
I also wonder why Voyager frequently has to go to extremes, only to hit the rest button in the end. It's just not credible that everything can be repaired like the destroyed sickbay and dead crewmembers are buried and forgotten until the next episode, and his time there should have been at least a dozen fatalities for all the cruelty we have seen.
- Possible error: When the Nazi headquarters explodes, four decks are visible where the hologrid was destroyed. Voyager is very unlikely to have such a tall holodeck.
- Remarkable quote: "There are eccentric people living in the caves, but don't be alarmed." (Janeway to the American captain aka Chakotay about the Klingon holoprogram)
- Remarkable dialogue: "Boy or girl?" - "It's a holographic projection." - "Unfortunately a very good projection. I feel 20 kilos heavier. It even kicks." (Tom, Seven and B'Elanna about B'Elanna's holographic pregnancy)
- Remarkable fact: The name "Mademoiselle de Neuf" of Seven's character can be translated as "of Nine".
- Crew losses: 1 mentioned, definitely many more
Stardate 51762.4: Paris aids "Steth", the pilot of a coaxial warp drive test ship, in repairing the damaged engine. When "Steth" is about to leave, he switches bodies with Tom and returns to Voyager as "Tom". Meanwhile the real Tom finds help in a woman who turns out to be the real Steth. They manage to stop the body-switching alien who has assumed Janeway's shape in the meantime. The most recent transformations are reversed, while it still remains a problem to trace back the history of the alien and find the women whose body was stolen.
The episode was not as suspenseful as it could have been because neither the criminal motivation of "Steth" nor the miracle of body-switching nor the impact of the coaxial warp drive played an important role. I have rarely seen such a waste of opportunities in an episode. Instead of that, Tom's personal problems were obviously intended to be the focus of attention, an attempt of belated character development that utterly failed because of the much more interesting sub-plots. Actually, B'Elanna, Seven or maybe Harry would have been more competent in general engineering problems, so it is too obvious the exotic coaxial warp drive was especially invented by the author to give Tom a chance to prove himself. Furthermore, it was completely unnecessary to show that a Voyager shuttle can be equipped with this drive likewise (although we didn't see if it worked) and never ever use or only mention it again. In this respect the authors have learned nothing since "Threshold". An interesting detail: For a brief time, Janeway must have been trapped in Tom's body, which is never commented on. Still another wasted chance, at least in the eyes of J/P fans ;-)
- Remarkable ability: The body transformation obviously doesn't work by swapping consciousnesses (like in TOS: "Turnabout Intruder"), but by modifying the molecular structure so that the appearance of the very body is changed. It remains a total mystery though.
- Remarkable drive: The description of the coaxial warp drive of "folding the fabric of space" sounds much like what several people, including the renowned physicist and author Lawrence Krauss, claim that normal warp drive works. I only have a problem with the term "coaxial" for which there is no clue what it actually means.
Stardate 51871.2: When the large Greek letter omega appears on Voyager's displays, Janeway commits herself to a strange and strictly secret procedure. The Omega Molecule, a very powerful but highly instable substance, has been detected by the ship's sensors, and it's Janeway's foremost duty to destroy it at all cost before it can disrupt subspace. The Omega Directive overrules the Prime Directive, and Janeway takes the molecules away from the aliens who created them. Harnessing the Omega Molecules being an old obsession of the Borg, Seven makes every effort to persuade the captain not to destroy them, but Janeway proceeds. Only seconds before all molecules are extinguished, they eventually stabilize, but it is already too late to preserve them.
Well, this is obviously one of the most popular trivia sources among all Voyager episodes. The humor might be regarded as inappropriate, but I liked it. The serious part of the episode is essentially about a conflict between Seven and Janeway, which is somewhat less consequential than in previous episodes. Seven understands Janeway's responsibility to destroy Omega, and Janeway knows what Seven feels about it once she recognizes that Omega is some sort of religion to the Borg. Chakotay is the only character besides them who has a nice scene when he convinces Janeway to work together instead of letting her go on a potential suicide mission.
I have a problem with the Borg being more and more "humanized" in Star Trek. They started off so much different in TNG, but then they were given the Queen as a leader in "First Contact", they are suddenly willing to negotiate in "Scorpion", they even have something like fear, and now they disclose their "Holy Grail". It is also weird that a molecule is supposed to be the most powerful power source to exist. So far it was chemical reaction, nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, matter/antimatter reaction and (at least in the Star Trek Universe) zero point energy, in ascending order. The designation "molecule" implies that something like a chemical reaction is involved, but this is obviously not possible. Well, considering that there are other materials like dilithium or verterium cortenide with miraculous properties, this might apply to Omega likewise. The problem is where the energy supposed to be released comes from. If Omega is "synthesized" as mentioned, one would probably have to put the same amount of energy into the synthesis as can be obtained later. This can hardly be the solution of energy problems. As for Omega being the origin of the Big Bang, this makes a little bit of sense only in that the energy content is supposed to be higher than of any other form of matter.
- Remarkable log entry: "Daily log, Seven of Nine, stardate 15781.2. Today, Ensign Kim and I will conduct a comprehensive diagnostic of the aft sensor array. I have allocated three hours twenty minutes for the task, and additional seventeen minutes for Ensign Kim's usual conversational digressions. I am scheduled to take a nutritional supplement at 15:00 hours, engage in one hour of cardiovascular activity. Then I intend to review a text the Doctor recommended , entitled A Christmas Carol. He believes it will have educational value. End log." (Seven)
- Remarkable mistake: Even Jeri Ryan is sometimes wrong. It should be "stardate 51781.2" in the above logbook entry.
- Remarkable dialogue: "6 of 10, this is not your assignment." - "Please stop calling me that." - "You're compromising our productivity. I am reassigning you to chamber maintenance. Your new designation is 2 of 10." - "...Wait a minute. You're demoting me? Since when do the Borg pull rank?" - "A Starfleet protocol I adapted. I find it most useful." - "I'm glad you're not the captain." (Seven and Kim)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Omega is infinitely complex, yet harmonious. To the Borg it represents perfection. I wish to understand that perfection." (Seven)
- "The final frontier has some boundaries that shouldn't be crossed, and we're looking at one." (Janeway)
- "For 3.2 seconds I saw perfection." (Seven)
- Remarkable facts:
- The Borg have been investigating the Omega Molecule aka Particle 101 for centuries, beginning with the assimilation of Species 262 who described something that "burns the sky" and Species 263 for which it was a "drop of blood from their creator". The Borg managed to stabilize the molecule for a trillionth of a nanosecond (=10^-21s, I wonder how they could possibly measure this), before it ran out of control and destroyed 29 vessels and 600,000 drones.
- The Federation conducted experiments in the Lantaru sector which resulted in the death of 126 scientists and the disruption of subspace in that sector.
- Janeway wants to destroy Omega with a gravimetric charge of 80 isotons.
- Torpedoes used: 1
Stardate not given: Chakotay rescues a woman, Kellin, who claims that she has met him before. They fell in love with one another. Kellin belongs to a people who cannot be remembered by other species but for a few hours. Moreover, her home planet, Ramura, is a closed society that doesn't allow anyone to leave. Now Kellin has defected and is pursued by tracers. When a tracer manages to come aboard Voyager, he directs a weapon at Kellin that makes her forget everything about the outside world, including the relationship with Chakotay, and she prefers to return home.
Actually, I largely couldn't remember the contents of "Unforgettable", not even enough to write down a basic synopsis. Hence, I had to watch the episode again. Was my memory erased by the Ramurans?
The whole point of the plot is that at first Chakotay cannot remember Kellin (sad for Kellin), whereas it is the other way round at the end (sad for Chakotay). Sounds like a good story, but to make these mechanisms plausible is the chief problem of the episode. Biological and computer memories are frequently wiped in Star Trek without even an attempt to elucidate why and how it is done (most memorably in TNG: "Clues"). We have to be content with the non-explanation that something is inherent to the people of Ramura that erases biological and technological memories alike and, in addition, creates plausible new content to replace it. Moreover, how can it be ensured that it works for all alien species and all kind of technology? In other words, it is impossible. On the other hand, it is more credible that the tracers have a device to erase the memories of their fellow citizens.
Anyway, while technology played a minor role as far as screen time is concerned, the impact on the plot logic was entirely underestimated in the screenplay. And logic aside, it isn't that exciting an episode either.
700 years in the future: A Kyrian museum shows how the "warship Voyager" and its reckless crew caused a disastrous war between the "good" Kyrians and the "evil" Vaskans 700 years ago. After centuries of this feigned and misinterpreted history a Kyrian historian named Quarren succeeds in activating a copy of Voyager's EMH. The Doctor tells him the truth about Voyager and sets off another revolution that eventually leads to a mutual understanding between Vaskans and Kyrians.
The absurd caricatures of the crew and the ship the Kyrians have recreated are fortunately the only funny aspect in an overall very serious and unexpectedly credible plot. "Living Witness" treats the question "What is truth actually?" more comprehensively than "Remember" could do. It is impressively demonstrated how history is written by the (military or moral) victor and how ignorance and stubbornness can hold back the truth even without anyone consciously denying it. And that even in an open and democratic society the prevalent view of history may easily become the only truth. Especially the museum and the simulations the Kyrians as the alleged victims have created made me think. Not that similar institutions on Earth would likely provide an equally wrong view of history, but it becomes obvious that the selected and accordingly presented exhibits, be they relics or reconstructions, may easily be mistaken for or overestimated as proof of a certain version of history. People only believe what they see - or are inspired to see.
The episode is also unusual in that it has hardly anything to do with Voyager itself; it is an almost completely home-made alien thing. And not to its disadvantage. The end reveals that the whole story of Quarren and the Doctor has been presented as another simulation in the museum many years later - this time correctly reconstructed?
- The fake crew:
- Janeway - short hair and black gloves
- Chakotay - the tattoo covering half of his face
- Doctor - an android
- Seven - full Borg and head of a Borg assault team
- B'Elanna - transporter officer
- Neelix - security officer
- Tuvok - sadist with an evil grin
- Paris - ditto
- Kim - ditto
- A Kazon running around with a rifle all the time
- The fake ship: In the Kyrian reconstruction, Voyager has all kinds of additional guns and spikes mounted on the hull.
- Remarkable quotes: When diplomacy fails theres only one option - violence. Force must be applied without apology. Its the Starfleet way. (fake Janeway), "Granted, this looks like the briefing room, but these are not the people I knew, no one behaved like this..., well, aside from Mr. Paris." (Doctor)
- Possible inconsistency: Does the museum have holographic emitters outside the simulation chamber? The Doctor could walk around there.
- Photon torpedoes used: 1 (at least)
- Crew losses: 3
Stardate not given: Voyager runs out of deuterium, and the only chance of refueling the ship is on a nearby Class-Y or "Demon-class" planet with a very hostile environment. Harry and Kim go astray on their away mission, only to reappear some time later, now able to breathe the poisonous atmosphere. They have been "bioformed" by a conscious biomimetic fluid, "silver blood", which does not release the ship until the rest of the crew permits to be duplicated as well.
First of all, how ludicrously short-sighted is it to let the ship run out of fuel in interstellar space and to begin to save energy as late as the warp drive is not available any more and the ship is lost in all likelihood? What did Janeway expect? To find a deuterium source by chance, with impulse drive only? This may be the stupidest thing that ever happened in Star Trek. It has to be ignored for the story to make any sense. It would have been so easy for the writers to come up with a good reason why the ship is suddenly without fuel, such as an alien attack, an accident or something else that may have caused a leak in the deuterium tank. A single line would have sufficed. I try to imagine that someone said it.
Continuing my nitpicking, it is also unsettling that suddenly conventional sensors, whose normal range is several light years, wouldn't have detected the deuterium on the Demon-class planet no more than 0.4 light years away (what a coincidence anyway), as Seven stated. Furthermore, how could the real Paris and Kim survive so long, although life support failure was said to mean almost sudden death in this environment? Finally, how could the *bio*mimetic fluid recreate also the non-organic uniforms and even communicators and, not yet visible here, even the ship (see the sequel "Course Oblivion")?
The basic idea of trying to find fuel in a hostile environment that nobody would normally even come close to is fair. But there are just too many logical flaws in the plot e to achieve a better rating.
- Remarkable dialogue: "How did you reach that conclusion?" - "Footprints - I guess you never assimilated any Indian scouts." (Seven and Chakotay on the search for Harry and Tom)
- Remarkable scene: the Doctor and Neelix struggling for control of sickbay, each of them threatening to "cheer up" the other temporary residents with a musical performance (Neelix wins)
- Ship landing: #4
Stardate not given: Only Seven and the Doctor can survive the deadly radiation inside a Mutara-class nebula, while the rest of the crew has to spend the trip in stasis chambers. After a month, several ship systems, including the Doctor, begin to malfunction, and Seven hallucinates to be pursued by an alien intruder. Virtually in the last possible moment the ship escapes from the nebula, after Seven has disabled life support to maintain propulsion.
Hallucination is one of the most frequently recurring themes in Star Trek and is too habitually used to create menacing images when showing the plain reality would appear too boring. Unfortunately the episode "One" doesn't have very much real substance besides Seven's hallucinations. Seven is chased by an unknown man, something that may be a primal fear of even the strongest woman, and she feels inferior after leaving the Borg Collective. Her nightmares are the result of a malfunction of her implants together with her fright of being alone. The latter explanation may have sufficed.
While Seven's experience and its resolution are half-way plausible, it all doesn't strike me as particularly interesting. The only noteworthy and persistent aspect is Seven's newly emerged desire to have company. On a more positive note, "One" successfully creates an eerie atmosphere that never gets banal or silly, which accounts for extra points.
There are at least two inconsistencies: Why can't the Doctor simply be beamed or transferred to sickbay when his mobile emitter begins to fail and his program is about to be lost? And why does life support failure show up so quickly that Seven gets unconscious so fast - as if the breathable air would have been actively sucked out?
- Remarkable quote: "Describe the nature of your sexual relationship to Lt. Paris." (Seven to a -fortunately- holographic B'Elanna)
- Crew losses: 1
Stardate not given: The alien linguist Arturis decodes the last transmission from Starfleet, which leads Voyager to an unmanned Starfleet vessel, the USS Dauntless NX-01A, equipped with quantum slipstream drive, that was sent for their rescue. The ship, however, is a counterfeit created by Arturis, who wants to take revenge after most of his civilization has fallen victim to the Borg. With Seven and Janeway as hostages the Dauntless heads for Borg space to be assimilated. Voyager, meanwhile also equipped with slipstream drive, is in pursuit, and Janeway and Seven can be rescued in the nick of time while Arturis is facing his assimilation.
Wow indeed. "Hope and Fear" is a worthy season finale that keeps the promise of its title. This time it is not blatantly obvious that the crew is being fooled, although everything seems to be just too easy. The plot would have been productive enough to make a two-part episode of it. However, it became a solitary episode with an unusually fast pace, and packed with action. I enjoyed it a lot, and I am willing to overlook that the "Hope and Fear" goes over the top, with the incredible sophistication in Arturis's plan as well as with the dramatic ending.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "Wow." - "Wow indeed." (Tom and Tuvok on the bridge of the Dauntless)
- "I'm your captain and that means I can always be your friend, understood?" - "No. However, if we are assimilated our thoughts will become one and I'm sure I will understand you perfectly. - A joke, Captain. You yourself have encouraged me to use my sense of humor." (Seven and Janeway)
- Remarkable ship: the USS Dauntless NX-01 A, whose strange registry seems to suggest that this could have been the name of the very first Starfleet ship
- Remarkable facts: Arturis has created the Dauntless with particle synthesis, beyond our understanding. He speaks 4000 languages. Quantum slipstream is similar to Borg transwarp, as Seven remarks.
- Missed opportunity to get home: #11, with any more luck the Dauntless could have served its alleged purpose
- Photon torpedoes used: 4 (at least)
- Distance bridged: 300ly