Star Trek Voyager (VOY) Season 5

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

NightDroneExtreme RiskIn the FleshOnce Upon a TimeTimelessInfinite Regress
Nothing HumanThirty DaysCounterpointLatent ImageBride of Chaotica!Gravity
BlissDark FrontierThe DiseaseCourse: OblivionThe Fight Think Tank
JuggernautSomeone to Watch Over Me11:59RelativityWarheadEquinox I/II

 

Night

Synopsis

Stardate 52081.2: On the long way back to the Alpha Quadrant, Voyager has to cross the "Void", a region 2500 light-years across that is devoid of star systems. Additionally, theta radiation blocks any light from outside the Void. The morale on the ship hits a low, and Janeway, who is stricken with guilt for stranding her crew in the Delta Quadrant, locks herself up in her quarters. Suddenly Voyager loses power and drops out of warp. Alien intruders board the ship, one of whom is disabled by Seven of Nine. After firing a photon torpedo to illuminate the surrounding space, it becomes clear that Voyager has been surrounded by alien vessels. Then a different alien ship appears, upon which the attackers retreat. The commander of that ship introduces himself as Controller Emck of the Malon. He says that he is on a transport mission. He offers Voyager to lead them to a spatial vortex that could cut two years of the voyage through the void but demands the extradition of the intruder in return. The Doctor finds out that the alien in his sickbay is indigenous to the Void and that he is dying from theta radiation poisoning, radiation that is caused by antimatter waste that Emck dumps in his realm. Janeway returns the alien to his people and meets with Emck to offer him a solution to recycle the antimatter waste so no further harm is done to the aliens. But Emck refuses, as this would make his waste disposal business expendable. Janeway assembles the crew, to reveal a plan that would allow Voyager to escape through the vortex, while she herself would stay behind in a shuttle to close the vortex. The members of the bridge crew, however, do not follow her orders. Instead of leaving the captain behind, they propose to destroy the vortex while Voyager is already inside, and to enhance the aft shields to withstand the explosion. Emck, however, uses his ship to block the entrance and damages Voyager's warp drive. The indigenous aliens arrive and distract his vessel. Janeway orders to take the opportunity and target his cargo hold, whereupon the Malon ship explodes. Voyager proceeds to the vortex, and as the torpedoes detonate behind the ship, it reaches the far end even without warp drive, by "riding the shockwave".

Commentary

Watching it again after many years, I am surprised how multifaceted the season 5 opener is. Not only does the story make quite an effort to show the crew's difficulties to adapt to the boredom of the Void, culminating in the Doctor's assessment of Neelix's condition as "nihilophobia", the fear of nothingness. It also does a solid job to work out Janeway's remorse about her decision to stay in the Delta Quadrant in "Caretaker", now that she has a lot of time to ponder about it, thereby wrapping up the previous four years of the show. These two themes do not only serve to set up the conflict with the two alien species, they don't simply disappear along with the boredom but determine how everyone acts in the crisis. Janeway has made up her mind that she would never order her crew to stay behind again when there is a chance to escape, and she is ready to sacrifice her life for the safety of her people - and for her own redemption in their eyes as Tuvok and Chakotay correctly anticipate. The crew, on the other hand, are anxious to escape from the Void, but no one would want to do that at the expense of the lives of the indigenous aliens or of Janeway's safety.

The main plot thread begins as late as about ten minutes into the episode. The crew suddenly find themselves in the moral dilemma whether to follow Controller Emck through the spatial vortex and forget what they witnessed in the Void, or whether to help the aliens by shutting down Emck's business. The Prime Directive may not provide a clear course of action in this case, as Voyager was already involved and there was no chance to avoid interference any longer. Unlike it may have been the case in the earlier seasons of the show, there is no conflict among the crew whether to help the aliens in need or whether rather to help themselves. Well, the prospect of achieving the latter only with the support of the unethical and unlikable Emck facilitates the decision a lot.

The Malon and their ships look a bit too much like what they represent: dirty and ugly. The interesting aspect about their society is that they have the 24th-century equivalent of present-day underregulated capitalism that puts short-term profit above the preservation of our planet. In particular, the Malon Controller Emck, who refuses the offered refining technology because it would make his business dispensable, behaves much like present-day energy companies that cling to fossil fuel. Emck may be a one-dimensional character, but he is quite credible as such.

Although it is overall a bit contrived, as well as flawed in many details, everything that happens in this surprisingly contemplative episode makes sense and fits together to a bigger picture and a classic Trek story.

Annotations

Rating: 7

 

Drone

Synopsis

Stardate not given: B'Elanna, Tom, the Doctor and Seven take a shuttle to investigate the formation of a protonebula. The shuttle gets caught in a gravimetric shear, and the crew has to be beamed out. The transporter operator has trouble to get clear patterns but manages to materialize the four crew members on the platform. Then, however, the Doctor's mobile emitter malfunctions. B'Elanna transfers his program to sickbay and leaves the device in the science lab for further diagnostics. When Ensign Mulchaey enters the room the next morning, Borg injection tubules extend from the device and take genetic samples from him. The mobile emitter was infected with Seven's nanoprobes during the beam-out and now evolves to something like a 29th century Borg with the genetic material obtained from Mulchaey. Captain Janeway allows the new drone to mature and puts Seven in charge of supervising him and teaching him that he is not a part of the Collective but an individual. The drone, who names himself "One", learns very quickly and begins to develop a personality, the only apprehension being that he might want to join the Borg, which would make them even more powerful. Even though his transceiver was deactivated, a second one is created in his body without anyone noticing, which contacts the Collective. One agrees to support Voyager in the fight against the Borg. When a Borg vessel approaches, he remodulates Voyager's shields but his phaser modifications turn out useless. One says he can only disable the Borg from within. He beams over, using his internal transporter, and navigates the Borg ship into the protonebula where it is destroyed. Voyager can salvage the drone from the wreckage. But One believes that he is too great a danger, should the Borg ever get hold of him alive. He declines medical treatment and dies.

Commentary

The idea that the right of free development of the individual applies to everyone, including enemies of the Federation and artificial lifeforms, has a long tradition in Star Trek. The parallels in the story of "Drone" to Seven's own arrival on board one year ago (that is explicitly referenced) and also to the development of Hugh, the other "friendly Borg" in TNG: "I, Borg", are obvious and definitely intentional. "Drone" also reminds me very much of TNG: "The Offspring" and DS9: "The Begotten", where Data and Odo, respectively, raised someone of their own kind with a tragic outcome. Overall, the story relies on proven recipes but not to its disadvantage.

Most notably, "Drone" shows the next step on Seven of Nine's way to become human again when Janeway puts her in charge of One's development as an individual. The decision to choose Seven of all crew members absolutely makes sense, considering that she can speak from experience. Seven knows better than anyone else how to handle a Borg, who may become a valuable crew member just as well as he is a potential threat. On the other hand, there are a few cues in the episode that Seven herself may want to switch sides as the Borg approach. The story plays nice in this regard, as Seven refutes each of these red herrings almost immediately. But that would have been a reason not to insinuate Seven's possibly lacking loyalty in the first place (and only through the fourth wall, as Janeway is never shown to have any doubts). Actually, in hindsight I would have preferred if, rather than that, Seven's ability to tend to One had been called into question, possibly leading up to a conflict with Janeway.

But the impression that this may have been a good time for a character conflict is my only slight complaint about the story. Kudos to Jeri Ryan who once again delivers a strong performance as someone who has emotions but neither knows how to express them nor to deal with them. It is also good to see that Seven of Nine, after a season in which she repeatedly caused trouble because of regressive behavior or because of misjudgments, can prove herself in more than just technical matters.

Overall, "Drone" contains both thrilling and touching moments. It is exciting from the first to the last minute and it does a lot for Seven's character development. It comes with great visual effects that are still convincing today. My only criticism is about some inconsistencies on the technical side of the writing, but I don't think it impairs the story very much.

Annotations

Rating: 8

 

Extreme Risk

Synopsis

Stardate not given: B'Elanna Torres secretly runs holodeck programs such as orbital skydiving with the safety protocols off. She is dispassionate about her duties and relationships but wouldn't talk to anyone about it. Meanwhile, the Malon try to get hold of Voyager's multispatial sensor probe but Janeway manages to hide it in the atmosphere of a gas giant. The Malon freighter that attempts to follow the probe implodes, killing nine crew members. Tom Paris proposes to build a new shuttlecraft, the Delta Flyer, which could sustain the enormous pressure and which could be used to salvage the probe. Another Malon freighter appears on the scene, and it soon turns out that its crew has the same intention. Janeway reckons that the probe's data could be valuable for the Malon to find new dumping grounds for their radioactive waste, and she pushes the crew to get the Delta Flyer operational sooner. Only B'Elanna is not with the project with all her heart. Chakotay finds her unconscious in the holodeck after she disengaged the safety protocols yet again, allegedly to better investigate the effects of microfractures in the Delta Flyer. After the Doctor finds various old injuries that are unaccounted for, Janeway relieves B'Elanna of duty. But Chakotay wants to find out why she would want to hurt herself. He takes her to the holodeck and launches one of her programs, in which her fellow Maquis members are slaughtered by the Cardassians. It turns out that she didn't allow herself to mourn the loss of her friends and that she ran all the dangerous programs to be able to feel anything again. When Janeway orders to launch the Delta Flyer prematurely, to catch up with the Malon and despite the danger of microfractures, B'Elanna convinces Chakotay to let her join the mission. The Delta Flyer manages to disable the Malon shuttle, but after retrieving the probe a fracture forms in the hull. B'Elanna erects a makeshift forcefield that saves the crew.

Commentary

Although it is just one of several aspects of the story, "Extreme Risk" is remembered most of all for being the premiere of the Delta Flyer, Voyager's supershuttle and arguably one of the coolest innovations in the course of the show. But if its intention was to provide a back story for the Delta Flyer, the episode fails on many accounts. The most obvious mistake is that Tom proposes to build a versatile shuttle with all kinds of features, with specs he already has in his drawer, when all Janeway would need right now is something that could withstand the extreme pressure of a gas giant. That is the point the story loses me, and when I just think by myself that nothing in it happens for any obvious reason.

It would have been great to see the Delta Flyer designed and built with a plausible incentive, with realistic specs, taking the due time, and by people who care for (and perhaps clash about) the project and not something else. But everything in "Extreme Risk" revolves around B'Elanna's secret personal problems and on the uninteresting salvage operation, which are linked together in an awkward fashion. The setup is a bit like in last season's "Vis-à-Vis", where the story was supposed to focus on Tom and his temporary defiant phase and didn't succeed for similar reasons. Ironically, this time it would have been wiser to involve Tom more as usual, rather than B'Elanna. After all the Delta Flyer is his brainchild and not B'Elanna's.

Regarding B'Elanna, it is an interesting idea that, rather than openly mourn and deplore the loss of her friends after learning of the fate of the Maquis, she would bottle it up in a fashion that no one would expect from her. It makes some sense that, as she says herself, she couldn't bear the sorrow about the loss of the Maquis, after already losing her father and her Starfleet commission, so much that she wouldn't feel anything at all. But it is just not credible that after several months neither Chakotay nor Tom would have talked with her about the Maquis and would not have noticed that she is not herself - not to mention the unprofessional treatment of her wounds and bruises! It doesn't seem their relationship is all that close.

I like two aspects of B'Elanna's story though. The scene when she pays Neelix's kitchen a nightly visit resonates with me. B'Elanna seeks someone to talk to, and although she has never been close to Neelix, he shares her fate of losing a family he loved. The two understand each other, perhaps for the first time, but never speak out what they have in common. Moreover, B'Elanna doesn't run into Neelix again, against my expectations, when she orders banana pancakes again at the end of the episode. I have to concede that some things better remain unsaid, and left to our imagination and perhaps interpretation. The other thing I like about B'Elanna is how she respects Chakotay in this episode, the man who still knows best of all how to handle her, although this sheds a bad light on her relationship with Tom and her loyalty to Janeway.

The story about the multispatial probe is just implausible. This plot device was never mentioned before and will never appear again, but it is apparently so immensely valuable that it requires to put one's own crew at extreme risk and even to go to war for it. The conflict with the Malon over the probe is overdone for no good reason, except providing both sides with the motivation to launch a "space race".

Overall, this episode has an adolescent tone and themes, among which B'Elanna's tendency to hurt herself is still on the serious side, but everything related to the "space race" and Tom's "improvements" to the Delta Flyer feels rather silly.

Annotations

Rating: 3

 

In the Flesh

Synopsis

Stardate 52136.4: Chakotay and Tuvok investigate a space station with a perfect replica of Starfleet Headquarters, complete with a man who looks like groundkeeper Boothby, as well as many humans, Vulcans, Bolians, Ferengi and other Alpha Quadrant species. The two officers disable one of the "human" Starfleet officers and take him to Voyager. He commits suicide upon his exposure as an impostor. The Doctor manages to revert the dead alien to his actual form: Species 8472! After their heavy losses in the war against the Borg and Voyager one year ago, it seems that Species 8472 is planning a full-scale invasion of the Alpha Quadrant. In order to learn more about their intentions, Chakotay returns to the station where he has a date with a fake member of his species, Valerie Archer. Their good-night kiss, however, provides Species 8472 with the evidence that Chakotay is not one of them. They arrest Chakotay and take him to Boothby, their leader, for interrogation. In the meantime on Voyager, Janeway has Seven prepare nanoprobe-enhanced weapons to attack the station, but she remains open for negotiations. When Voyager approaches the station, she is greeted by Boothby. Both affirm that they could destroy the other side but Janeway proposes to negotiate a truce. To Species 8472's surprise, Janeway reveals that Voyager is Starfleet's only ship in the Delta Quadrant, and she deactivates her ship's weapons to prove her good will. Although Boothby is not certain he can convince his superiors of the peaceful intentions of the Federation, the war is averted for now.

Commentary

Aliens disguised as humans or humans disguised as aliens have a long tradition in science fiction in general and in Star Trek in particular. It is the spice of many spy stories that it is not possible to tell apart friend and foe by the look and behavior of a person. "In the Flesh" is definitely successful in this regard, and proves that the old trope is not yet exhausted.

Yet, I doubt that this is the way that Species 8472 of all aliens would proceed. In "Scorpion" they were introduced as lifeforms who have virtually nothing in common with humanoids, and this let them appear quite impressive and menacing. Not even communication with them was possible, except through Kes on a telepathic level. Their way of living and their technology was beyond our comprehension. This all doesn't seem to matter any longer. Species 8472 now pursues their goals with methods that would rather suit the Soviets (that were readily mentioned in the episode as building American-looking training cities) or the Romulans and are also reminiscent of the Founders (as in DS9: "Homefront"). The space station looks rather conventional as well and not biological, it could be just as well a Cardassian design.

We may argue that the extreme difference between everything Species 8472 and everything Federation could be their motivation to first investigate and then destroy the enemy, but wouldn't Species 8472 simply send a fleet of bioships? Wouldn't they rather do strategic simulations instead of irrelevant studies of humanoid behavior? In this regard they have previously been shown as even more ruthless than the Borg, who are at least interested in the "biological and technological distinctiveness" of a species. Summarizing, it is a pity that Species 8472 has to be entered into the list of "next-door races", as have been the Borg and perhaps even Q before.

There is one aspect of the disguise that I like: Species 8472 takes on humanoid shapes, and they begin to behave, to speak and to think like humanoids. They are so human that they wouldn't recognize a true human. This is a bit like in TOS: "By Any Other Name" where the Kelvans became the more sympathetic towards humans the longer they were in their human bodies. This is remarkable in so far as it disproves the idea that the soul rules over the mind that rules over the body and the soul/mind can be transferred into any body without consequences to a personality like it happened in TOS: "Return to Tomorrow". I prefer the first theory over the latter. And we can only muse about how Species 8472 in their actual form would have reacted on Janeway's proposal of a truce. I think there would have been no chance.

While "In the Flesh" is a bit let down by the revelation that Species 8472 are just conventional aliens, it is still a decent spy story with a Trek-like peaceful resolution, and is visually appealing as well.

Annotations

Rating: 6

 

Once upon a Time

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Tuvok, Tom Paris and Samantha Wildman are on a mission with the Delta Flyer when an ion storm hits the shuttle. Tom finds a planetoid to land on, but the Delta Flyer ends up buried in solid rock. Neelix, who takes care of Naomi Wildman, distracts her with all kinds of entertainment, including the Flotter holoprogram. Even though there is not much hope of finding her mother alive, Neelix holds back the truth from Naomi. But Naomi discovers what is going on on the ship and seeks refuge in her holoprogram. Just as another ion storm is approaching, the Delta Flyer and its crew can be salvaged in the nick of time, and Naomi is reunited with her mother.

Commentary

It is remarkable that the literally minor character Naomi gets a major part in this story. "Once Upon a Time", in my view, is all about family and about how it is to lose one's family, rather than about the shuttle crash and the rescue efforts. I think this episode would have worked better, had everything been shown from Naomi's perspective, and if the truth about the Delta Flyer and her mother had remained still more of a mystery, a bit like already in TNG: "Lower Decks". The way it was actually written and executed, it is rather undecided about its theme and spends too much time on the routine plot in my opinion.

I understand that one reason not to focus even more on Naomi is the intention to work up Neelix's personal history. His family was killed in the metreon cascade many years ago, and the possible death of Naomi's mum reminds him of his own loss. But this analogy is a bit fabricated. Neelix was already an adult when his family died, and he witnessed their deaths, so in his case there was neither doubt nor denial - except the one he imposed on himself. And, as Janeway adds, Naomi still has her godfather Neelix. Overall, linking a present situation on the ship to Neelix's past doesn't work as well as probably intended. "Jetrel" and "Mortal Coil" were far more impressive in this regard.

In some ways, Naomi is a more adult person than Neelix in this story. Not only does she understand concepts such as symbiosis. It also strikes me how she shows sympathy with Neelix, in spite of him being dishonest, which is not exactly a childlike reaction. She asks, "Do you ever pretend that nothing bad happened to your family?" This is an observation for which she would normally have to be a couple of years older. On this and several other occasions, Naomi steals the show from Neelix.

Overall, this story is pleasantly consistent, but aside from the routine rescue operation and the little conflict between Captain Janeway, Neelix and Naomi, nothing of note happens, and everything that does happen is predictable. Well, the series may need such an "easy" installment once in a while. Still, despite the simplicity some things don't fit together as well as they could. For instance, it has no further relevance for the story that Samantha Wildman is severely injured and would need immediate medical attention because no one on Voyager even knows about it. Also, besides the references to Neelix's past, some other analogies in the episode don't make much sense either, such as the "Ogre of Fire" on the holodeck as a symbol for the ion storm. Furthermore, I was waiting in vain for the concept of symbiosis (which is mentioned twice, by Naomi on the holodeck and later by the Doctor) to have a further significance.

Regarding the Flotter holoprogram, some fans may dislike the idea of a "Sesame Street in space", but it should be considered that the crew and their children must have an everyday life. Star Trek even faces frequent reproaches of showing this normalcy too seldom. The Flotter program is one of the things that makes this episode very relatable. I only doubt that the scary "Ogre of Fire" episode would be suitable for children. It looks like it should have the 24th century equivalent of a TV-PG rating.

Annotations

Rating: 4

 

Timeless

Synopsis

Stardate 52143.6: 15 years in the future, Harry Kim and Chakotay are the only survivors of USS Voyager. They find the ship buried in ice, salvage the Doctor's mobile emitter and Seven of Nine's body and take them to the Delta Flyer where an assistant named Tessa is waiting for them. The two are eager to change history. 15 years ago, a quantum slipstream drive was installed on Voyager. When Tom and Harry found a flaw in the design, Harry and Chakotay took the Delta Flyer to guide the ship through the slipstream by transmitting corrections to the phase variance. But Harry made an error, which caused Voyager to drop off uncontrollably and crash on an ice planet with no survivors. With the help of a stolen Borg temporal transmitter, Harry and the Doctor prepare to send a message back in time to Seven's cranial implant, containing corrected phase data. But the attempt fails. Although Seven receives the corrected data, the disaster happens anyway. Moreover, the USS Challenger under Captain Geordi La Forge is on their heels. The Delta Flyer takes damage, and the warp core is about to breach. Harry has no time to try out still other phase variances, and on the Doctor's advice he sends data that would collapse the slipstream field, thereby preventing the accident but also putting an end to this experimental drive on Voyager.

Commentary

Voyager's episode 100 is special in several ways. The storytelling departs from the usual focus on what happens here and now on Voyager, although this is something we already know from "Living Witness". Also, there is a guest appearance of a Galaxy-class vessel and of LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge. It is always a pleasure to see him. Finally, there are the fantastic visual effects of the crash on the ice planet, which were almost revolutionary for a TV series when they were produced and are totally credible still today. It seems that the producers saved the interesting plot idea and an unusually high budget for this special occasion, and I think it was worth it.

One particular quality of "Timeless" in my view is the dramatic presentation and the way it is directed by LeVar Burton. It is exciting from the very beginning. When we see the ship buried in ice, it is one of the few teasers of the show that really deserve this name. The flashback to the slipstream drive celebration is another very interesting scene. Although everyone except for Tom, the skeptic, is hilarious, a somber atmosphere is created through the camera pans and background music, foreshadowing that something is wrong. I also like how the story switches seamlessly from the events in the present (Delta Flyer being followed by Voyager) to those in the future (Delta Flyer suddenly pursued by Galaxy-class ship).

Chakotay could easily have been involved just as much, but this is Harry Kim's episode. High praise goes to Garrett Wang. He credibly portrays an older Harry, who is disillusioned, guilt-ridden and determined to correct the error he made 15 years ago. He is a different person now, and quite a contrast to the enthusiastic and optimistic young ensign that we see in the scenes set on present-day Voyager. The Doctor and Chakotay are at his side all the time but actually don't have much to say or to do, which is an unusual setup in this series.

I don't begrudge Harry his own episode, but I would have liked to see more of Chakotay and Tessa's relationship though, since once history has been changed they wouldn't ever have met in the first place. This sacrifice ought to have played a greater role in my view but was mentioned only in one brief scene. Maybe "Timeless" could have been an awesome 90-minutes episode for that matter. On the other hand, the fast pace would have been lost.

Although I like the fast pace, I think that in one respect it wasn't beneficial. I don't care that, just as in last week's "Once Upon a Time" there is a race against time, although without the rush there may have been more story opportunities. As the Doctor muses, normally a time traveler would have all the time in the world to try to change the past. What if he and Harry had gotten into an argument whether changing the past is the right thing to do? Or if Chakotay, after talking to Tessa about the impending end of their relationship, had changed his mind? It seems that the urgency to act before Geordi finds and destroys them kills any possible debate about the right course of action.

I like the more "technical" time travel aspects of this story very much, despite the obvious paradox that is even explicitly addressed by Harry, without getting an answer from Janeway.

Annotations

Rating: 8

 

Infinite Regress

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Under the influence of a vinculum, a Borg computer core, the consciousnesses of assimilated individuals begin to take hold of Seven's mind. When the Voyager crew try to deactivate the vinculum, they come under attack by Species 6339, who have infected the device on purpose to fight the Borg. Fortunately Seven's link to the vinculum can be severed in time, and the vinculum is returned to Species 6339.

Commentary

There are times the writers don't have better ideas than have a character go schizo. It is just too alluring to let the person exhibit unusual and crazy characteristics and spice it up with some eerie dream or hallucination sequences. It is just so effortless, as there is no need to stay in context or in character. While plot largely lacks originality, it has some cute and funny moments that prevent the episode from being a complete waste. For instance, there is the unique opportunity to see Seven as a Ferengi or the emerging friendship of Seven and Naomi.

A striking absurdity, however, is that nearly all the assimilated individuals in Seven are from the Alpha Quadrant, although they should amount to only a few thousand among trillions. It is also odd that the Doctor suddenly disagrees with mind melds, while he had no objections in "Flashback".

Annotations

Rating: 4

 

Nothing Human

Synopsis

Stardate not given: An alien parasite attaches itself to B'Elanna. The Doctor's knowledge about exobiology being limited, he creates a consulting program in the form of the Cardassian physician Crell Moset, but the man turns out to be a war criminal. Janeway decides that, although Moset's knowledge is from inhuman experiments on Bajoran prisoners, it should be applied to save B'Elanna and the program be deleted thereafter.

Commentary

I wonder whether the main reservation against using the medical database is that it was gained from inhuman experiments or merely that the appearance of the Cardassian war criminal Crell Moset serves as a representation. In any case the Moset hologram emphasizes the impression that the real Moset might be undeservedly honored by referring to his work in any fashion. I can understand this notion. Bu at times it seems the crew members dealing with him totally forget he is a hologram, and that he makes provocative statements just because he was programmed that way, be it authentic of the real Moset or not. He is not like the Doctor, he never had the time to develop a personality of his own.

It also plays too much of a role that Moset is Cardassian, as sad as this latent racism is among Starfleet personnel. B'Elanna and even Harry Kim are quite blunt when they refuse Moset, just saying that he is a Cardassian. Not only because of the many Maquis members who inherently despise them, but also since Cardassians are masters of disguise, the kind of car dealers who elaborate the benefits of a near-scrap car until the buyer really believes it. Fortunately, Janeway, with the support of Tom, makes the right decision, for it would not have helped anyone to deny Moset's work, least of all his victims.

Annotations

Rating: 4

 

Thirty Days

Synopsis

Stardate 52179.4: Lt. Paris is fascinated by a planet entirely consisting of water. On an exploration mission with the Delta Flyer it is discovered that the ocean is held together by gravity generators 600km beneath the surface, but the inhabitants impair their function with their industrial exploitation so that the planet is losing containment. Against orders Paris takes the Delta Flyer to sabotage the industrial facilities. Janeway stops him, and he is demoted to ensign and sentenced to 30 days of confinement.

Commentary

An underwater civilization is such a fascinating setting that it is astonishing it has never been featured in Star Trek before. The story of "Thirty Days" is a rather simple one, and a bit too obvious as it unfolds, not only because the teaser already anticipates much of what would happen. But the episode thrives on impressive special effects of the ocean planet. The most important aspect, however, is Tom's fascination for the sea - I only wonder why this was not hinted at earlier in the series. After the failure to tie Tom's private life into the main plot in last season's Vis-à-Vis, here is a story that involves him in a very plausible fashion.

As opposed to Tom, the rebel with a good cause, Janeway leaves a bad impression, because once again her actions are rigorous but very ,inconsequent. I wonder if Janeway has ever reflected on her own violations of the Prime Directive ("Night" anyone?) or B'Elanna's in "Remember", but this is the episode's outcome: In the absence of any admirals, Janeway is the boss of the Delta Quadrant, and she is the only one to break the rules or decide whether a rule has been broken.

Annotations

Rating: 6

 

Counterpoint

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Voyager hides telepathic refugees on their way through the Devore territory, which is frequently monitored by rigorous inspections. One of the inspectors, Kashyk, claims to defect and helps Janeway find a wormhole leading out of Devore territory. It turns out that his defection was only a deception, but Janeway has taken precautions and has sent the refugees to the real wormhole.

Commentary

"Counterpoint" is the art of combining different melodies or, in a figurative sense, of different opinions. This episode is remarkable because of its unusual, almost surrealistic atmosphere created by the classic music of Mahler and Tchaikovsky and the changing play of Janeway and Kashyk that the music corresponds with. At times Kashyk was triumphant, then again it was Janeway. Was there really an emotional attachment or even a romantic relationship emerging among the two or were both of them just pretending? Mutual mistrust may make a person appear very attractive. But neither of the two confessed their true feelings, not even in the end. And perhaps the question whether Janeway almost unwittingly surrendered to the Devore better remains unanswered.

What I disliked is that it was not even offhandedly elaborated why the Devore keep chasing telepaths. Kashyk makes a brief statement about how bad he feels in their presence, but other than that it plays no role in the episode. Possible inconsistency: I wonder why Lt. Stadi, the Betazoid woman at the helm, is not listed among the other deceased telepathic crew members. And what about Kes? Another one: What happened to the large shuttlebay where the Delta Flyer was built and is launched from? In this episode the shuttlebay is merely big enough to hold the small Devore shuttle, unless this is the infamous second shuttlebay.

Annotations

Rating: 7

 

Latent Image

Synopsis

Stardate not given: When taking photos with his holocamera, the Doctor notices that he has performed a surgery on Harry Kim he can't remember. Moreover, he discovers that someone has been tampering with his memories. It turns out that one and a half years ago he made a decision that entailed the death of Ensign Jetal, his program got out of control and to prevent him from self-destruction the connected events were erased from his memory. This is about to happen again, but this time Janeway decides to help him cope with it.

Commentary

There is a lot of tough stuff in this episode. Who is to decide which patient is to be treated with priority? Who is to decide whether to intervene when a person, real or hzolographic, shows self-destructive tendencies? In some way, both problems are related to each other, however, the Doctor had to find a quick solution. There is no such thing as blaming him for doing something wrong. Janeway and her crew, on the other hand, would have had far more time to try out a cure for the Doctor in the first place, and it is not clear in how far it was simple convenience to erase everything bad inside him. Surprisingly, it is Seven, the crew member from who we can generally least expect compassion, who defends the personal rights of the Doctor. Maybe this is partially because she didn't witness his madness 18 months ago, but she definitely shows a Borg-unlike sense for individual rights.

I liked and disliked at the same time that the eventual treatment was much the same as that of a human patient in psychiatry. It shows that the Doctor has evolved beyond the state of being a technical device. On the other hand, there should still be considerable differences, and I wonder why sitting on a couch was supposed to help. I don't know anyway why the Americans are so fond of their psychiatrists, a profession that is fairly unknown in Europe.

The episode exhibits a clear parallel to TNG: "Clues", where it was also tried to hide all evidence from both the computer and the biological memories. I wonder if Data has any problems to keep his secret. At some point, even if we suppose that all computer data has been deleted, someone should have been careless and could have mentioned Ensign Ahni Jetal in the Doctor's presence. It's a pity that she is dead. I have been missing such a cute and charming female crew member, the ideal date for Harry. :-)

Annotations

Rating: 6

 

Bride of Chaotica!

Synopsis

Stardate not given: While Tom's "Capt. Proton" program is running, photonic beings from subspace enter the holodeck, mistaking the simulation for the real world. The crew have to convince the aliens of their peaceful nature and support them in their struggle against the evil Dr. Chaotica, who fights them with holoweapons, deadly to photonic beings. Janeway aka Queen Arachnia and Tom aka Proton finally manage to defeat Chaotica and save the aliens.

Commentary

The parallel to "Heroes and Demons" is obvious. Still, I like this episode better, although it is just a remake in some fashion. This time the holonovel itself plays a greater role in the plot, and the photonic beings are conceded a greater role in the holodeck. The story is much more complex than the simple idea "Send the Holodoc to fix the holodeck". It may be unfair to prefer the re-issue over the original, but "Heroes and Demons" of the first season is rather an initial character-building episode for the Doctor, while "Bride of Chaotica!" makes much better use of the given 45 minutes, filling it with lots of character interaction, trivia, fun and unexpected twists. The only thing I really dislike is that there is not the slightest reference to the former episode, as if the whole situation and the existence of photonic beings were completely new. Once they maintain consistency, and they don't even proudly mention it! 

"Bride of Chaotica!" is a fun episode in the first place, and in some way it is a parody of Star Trek itself. The scene when Proton's rocket ship crashes could take place on a "real" Federation ship as well, and when Tom is repairing the fictitious technology of Satan's Robot it seems to allude to Star Trek fans caring about Treknology.

Annotations

Rating: 8

 

Gravity

Synopsis

Stardate not given: A shuttle with Tuvok, Paris and the Doctor gets sucked into a gravity well and crashes on a desert planet. The alien woman Noss helps them find shelter. During the following two months Noss falls in love with Tuvok. But the Vulcan is unable to return her feelings. Due to a temporal difference only few hours elapse on Voyager, and they manage to save the four people just before an alien starship closes the opening of the gravity well forever.

Commentary

Needless to say that I'm tired of shuttle crashes as plot devices. Once again some of our heroes are isolated in a hostile environment, besieged by equally hostile aliens, and a fast salvage is not possible. Fortunately the refreshing character of Noss saves the episode from complete boredom. It is quite obvious that Tuvok wouldn't feel the same. After all he is Vulcan and he is married, and maybe he didn't like her squeaking voice so much. ;-) At least I didn't. It is interesting to learn that once Tuvok was anything but a typical Vulcan. He only submitted to logic because his father wanted him to. Maybe this is why he is especially precautious. He once had unsuppressed emotions, and he might fear they could resurface again. I also like one scene with Tuvok and Tom, when Tom wants to convince Tuvok to yield to their present situation, just like Chakotay tried in "Resolutions". In only wonder if not rather Tom would be the one who would never give up, as illogical as it may seem.

Annotations

Rating: 3

 

Bliss

Synopsis

Stardate 52542.3: The crew is excited about the discovery of a wormhole directly leading to Earth. Only Seven is suspicious, and she finds out that something makes everyone see exactly what they want to see. Inside the alleged wormhole that is actually an enormous creature digesting ships, the crew except for Seven, Naomi and the Doctor fall asleep. With the help of the "monster hunter" Qatai they finally manage to escape.

Commentary

We know the very basic story from TNG: "The Game". The whole crew is under alien influence, and only very few of them are not affected. Even the roles are somehow the same. Seven is "Wesley Crusher" and arranges forcefields and emergency beam-outs whenever necessary, Naomi is "Robin Lefler" and relies on Seven's skills, the Doctor is "Data" and is deactivated, since he could find out the truth. It is not necessarily a deficiency that the underlying plot idea is largely the same and its execution is similar, because it is just too good to be used only once. The one aspect that makes "Bliss" special is that it is not just a device that suppresses independent thinking like in "The Game", but that the innermost desires of the crew are being exploited by the "monster" and turned against them. So the crew apparently act on their own, driven only by the force of imagination. In this respect I remember DS9: "If Wishes Were Horses" where an alien lifeform made the crew's dreams, albeit rather the silly and superficial ones, come true likewise.

The only thing I really disliked about "Bliss" was to see yet another space-dwelling creature. Qatai as the "local monster expert" was credible, always somewhere between completely mad and completely sensible. I also liked the unsettling atmosphere that was successfully created for the dream sequences of the crew, although the dreams themselves were very pleasant - and very amusing for the viewer. Fortunately this time it was not only Harry who was overly enthusiastic.

Annotations

Rating: 5

 

Dark Frontier

Synopsis

Stardate 52619.2: Despite her doubts about Seven's feelings about the Borg, Janeway takes her on a daring away mission to a damaged Borg vessel. They succeed is stealing a transwarp coil, but Seven decides to stay with the Collective. Back in the Unicomplex, the Borg Queen expects Seven to help her assimilate mankind. The Delta Flyer being equipped with the transwarp coil, Janeway, Tuvok, Paris and the Doctor head for the Unicomplex and manage to free Seven. The pursuing Queen's ship is destroyed when the transwarp channel collapses.

Commentary

Unlike the conventional two-part episodes, "Dark Frontier" was aired as a 90-minutes TV movie. The format might be one reason why the basic plot is rather straightforward, and much of the time is dedicated to character development, trivia and special effects. What could I want more? The focus is on Seven and her three "moms": her real mother, the Borg Queen and Janeway. The first one doesn't play such a great role, but it would have been just too obvious to involve her more. The other two moms are not only struggling for Seven's loyalty, they really care about her well-being or at least pretend to, as far as the Borg Queen is concerned. We have seen a similar story when the Queen tried to bribe Data in "Star Trek: First Contact". Anyway, Seven as the missing link between the Borg and humanity appears to be even more valuable. Still, it doesn't become obvious why exactly her support is supposed to be so crucial and why the Borg don't just abduct any other human. On the other hand, I wouldn't have expected the Queen to tell her everything.

I wonder when exactly Seven decides to rejoin the Borg. They obviously sent her subconscious messages all the time, threatening to destroy or assimilate Voyager, however, there is a definite moment when she seems to be aware of her dilemma. When she talks about her parents ("Because of their arrogance I was raised by Borg.") and tumbles out of sickbay, this may be rather a sign that she doesn't want to doom her new family, rather than a post-traumatic effect of her own assimilation.

As for the Hansens, I think they were incredibly naive and incautious. It was remarkable that they studied the Borg like wild animals and that the Borg came out as much too weak and harmless at that time. It seems a fundamental rule anyway that exciting episodes always have a great deal of continuity and plausibility problems, and this is the case here too. There are some oddities about Seven's age, the stardates during the Raven mission and the fact that the Raven is suddenly a Starfleet ship. However, one thing that bothered me more is the usual "drive-of-the-week" inconsistency. It is a stretch that a small part from a Borg cube, namely a transwarp coil, could make the big ship much more powerful and much faster. Moreover, considering that warp coils are huge components inside the warp nacelles, I expect nothing less of a transwarp coil. I also wonder why the idea to get hold of such a coil comes so late. They would have had much better opportunities twice, in "Unity" and in "Scorpion". Also, at the end of "Dark Frontier", it may have been possible to salvage a few more warp coils from the debris of the Queen's ship. Giving them exactly one coil seems too much like a trick to get the ship closer but not too close to home.

Finally, my biggest concern is the fact that the Hansens knew about the Borg long before the Enterprise was introduced to them by Q in "Q Who?". The Hansens didn't even accidentally run into a cube, they went searching for them and they had informed the Federation Council. If the Borg were more than just legends from the past, namely from Lily ("Star Trek: First Contact") or the El-Aurians ("Star Trek: Generations"), why didn't Picard know anything? Another related inconsistency: How can there be already a Ktarian drone when the Hansens examine the Borg ship in the 2350's?

Annotations

Rating: 9

 

The Disease

Synopsis

Stardate not given: While Voyager supports a 400-year-old generational ship with repairs, Harry gets involved with the resident alien woman Tal, against explicit orders. He is infected with some kind of disease which could also be described as a biochemical bond between Tal and him. Tal belongs to a group who sabotage the generational ship to break apart in order to go separate ways. Although there would be a cure, Harry decides to live with his love-sickness.

Commentary

"...and now a girl from a xenophobic species." Tom somehow takes pleasure in reminding Harry that he has had anything but luck with women during the past five years. It is no surprise that Harry gets into trouble once again. Fortunately it is not one of the usual plots where the alien femme fatale deceives the righteous Starfleet officer. Tal doesn't tell the whole truth, but their mutual feelings are real, and that is the most important thing. The secondary plot of the dissenter group trying to break the ship apart (at least this plot appears to be subordinate) neither improves nor ruins the love story, it is just unnecessary complexity.

It is remarkable that it has never been mentioned, let alone discussed in Star Trek before that sexual relationships with aliens have to be approved of in advance. Starfleet officers frequently get involved with alien species, but it seems that usually it doesn't go that far that a protocol or order would be violated. Have Kirk or Riker ever been sentenced for unauthorized relationships? It almost seems like the ban on sex with aliens was especially made up for the lowly ensign Harry Kim.

Anyway, Harry now has threefold problems due to the specific circumstances. Firstly, he should have let the Doctor check the "compatibility" in advance. Secondly, he disobeyed a direct order by Captain Janeway. Thirdly, he disrespected the wish of the aliens to get in contact with the Voyager crew as little as possible. Of all these problems, Harry's conflict with Janeway, his surrogate mother, seems to be the worst by far. Their dispute in Janeway's office is the most controversial we have seen on Voyager for a long time. It is interesting to see how Janeway nevertheless shows insight, even encourages Harry to further go his own way at the end of the episode. It is obvious that Harry and Tal would have to part, no matter if the generational ship separates or not. Still, why has the alternative of staying together on either of the ships never been discussed?

Overall, the well-written dialogues and the good acting of Mulgrew and Wang are the bright spots in this episode. Other than that, it only caters to the "unlucky Harry" cliché by getting him into trouble with the help of contrived twists, only in a more "adult" fashion as before.

Annotations

Rating: 3

 

Course: Oblivion

Synopsis

Stardate 52586.3: B'Elanna and Tom get married, and an "enhanced warp drive" has been installed on Voyager, capable of taking the ship home in only two years. It soon becomes obvious that this is not the real starship Voyager and crew though, but the bioformed "Silver Blood" duplicates from the Demon planet. However, the warp field begins to damage the molecular structures of both the ship and the crew, and just when the real Voyager picks up their distress call, the "Silver Blood" crew and their ship have completely dissolved.

Commentary

The sequel to "Demon" shows the fate of the bioformed duplicates and doesn't have anything to do with the real crew, except for the last few minutes. This is not necessarily a bad setting. Yet, it doesn't advance the storyline in any way. If at all, such a plot should only be allowed if it is very original. This might apply to "Course: Oblivion", however, I have problems with the episode's plausibility and credibility. I just can't believe that the *bio*mimetic gel can duplicate everything, including non-organic compounds like the ship, and even those materials which cannot be replicated, antimatter for instance. Even if we accept this, how could it remain unrecognized for more than nine months that the crew as well as the ship are not what they appear to be? Routine scans should have revealed that everyone and everything is composed of the "Silver Blood". The most important question, however, is why no one remembers their origin. The excuse that somehow they forgot it is very weak. Maybe this is what the episode title actually refers to ;-). Anyway, the primary meaning of the title, the fact that no one will ever take notice of the existence of the ship and crew copies is the most tragical one, even more than their destruction itself. The episode is definitely among the saddest. I have the impression that the crew duplicates are even more desperate than their originals would have been in this situation. This goes along with their physical decay, which is emphasized with an almost ridiculous yet convincing thick make-up. As opposed to other episodes where I hardly notice the background score (which is usually either of the "suspense" or of the "multi-purpose" type), this time it was very melancholic, suiting the overall depressive mood.

Annotations

Rating: 5

 

The Fight

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Voyager gets stuck in "chaotic space", a region where fundamental physical constants fluctuate. Resident aliens contact with Chakotay by activating a genetic disorder, which causes him to hallucinate that he is engaged in a boxing match. After a while he manages to sort out his visions, and he finds a way out of chaotic space.

Commentary

This is the recipe for a really bad episode: take a generic space anomaly, a few mysterious alien lifeforms and a crew member that suffers from hallucinations. Not only have we seen all these basic parts of the plot before, for instance in TNG: "Night Terrors". A more detailed view at "The Fight" doesn't show any interesting or new aspects either. There have been boring episodes before with at least good acting or a few pointed dialogues or trivia to remember, but here there are almost nothing of that. The hallucination sequences are out of place, pointless and just a pain to watch. Yes, I understand they are meant to represent Chakotay's confusion, and hence they do not need to make any sense. But it is simply too much, I expect a certain logic in a TV series that is missing here and not such a psycho trash. On the top of everything, the scene when Chakotay talks to the aliens, who appear as crew members, is an awkward imitation of Sisko's encounters with the Prophets in DS9.

The only remarkable thing is that a distress beacon is shown for the first time. Boothby has a guest appearance, on the other hand, he doesn't play much of a role. It is almost a total waste for him to appear in this episode. As if all of this were not bad enough, the teaser already anticipates virtually everything that would happen in the episode and is more of a spoiler. "The Fight" was definitely my least favorite of the whole series... until only four episodes later.

Annotations

Rating: 1

 

Think Tank

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Voyager is surrounded by apparently hostile Hazari mercenary ships, when Kurros appears. He is a member of a group of super-brains that Janeway dubs the "Think Tank". Kurros offers their help to escape the Hazari trap, but he demands that Seven of Nine would have to stay with his group. Their whole present situation being a plot by the Think Tank, Voyager finds allies in the Hazari who demand their payment, and with combined forces they can turn the tables on the Think Tank and escape.

Commentary

The situation is just too obvious: Voyager runs into a trap by the Hazari, who are notorious mercenaries, and accidentally somebody appears and offers their help. It does not come out as a big surprise that Kurros actually arranged the trap in the first place, only the reward he has in mind for his "kind help" is unusual. It is clear that Janeway would never agree to the deal "Seven for our safety", neither would she order Seven what to do. Nevertheless, I missed the old "Action Kate" spirit a bit, which was always strongest whenever a crew member was in danger. It is obvious that the prospect of staying with the brain-connected Think Tank "Collective" wouldn't be very tempting for Seven, who has just been freed from the Borg for the second time. Thus, unlike in "Scorpion", "Raven" or "Dark Frontier" there is not really a conflict in this episode, it is rather the consideration whether Seven served her crew better if she left or if she stayed.

The character development doesn't play a great role anyway. On the contrary, most of the time is dedicated to the solution of the "puzzle". I think the logical and systematic approach to a problem that depends on so many arbitrary, random or even unknown factors is vastly overestimated here. A tactical situation cannot be compared to a simple puzzle like the 24th century version of Rubik's Cube featured as a symbol for the greater dilemma. Yet, the plan to beat the arrogant Think Tank with their own weapons is a good idea. In this regard it is also a morally correct episode.

Annotations

Rating: 6

 

Juggernaut

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Voyager offers the Malon their help in sealing a radiation leak in an abandoned freighter that is about to poison a whole sector. The Malon, however, are reluctant to return, partially because of a mythical monster called "Vihaar" supposedly living in the radioactive waste. On the freighter, the Vihaar actually appears in the form of a poisoned subordinated core worker, and B'Elanna has to kill him in self-defense.

Commentary

It is hard to review and rate this episode, because there is not much special about it. What I really like was that we finally get some insight into the Malon culture. Thus far they were nothing but exasperating space-polluting aliens-of-a-few-weeks, but now their motivation and their hopes and fears are credibly presented for the first time. Unfortunately it will be the last time too, for we can't expect them to move even further beyond their borders. It is already hard to explain that the Malons are encountered thus far away from last time. Either their territory spans 15000 light years across, or they just used yet another wormhole. I have the impression the episode was originally scheduled for the early fifth season. This would also explain B'Elanna's violent behavior like in "Extreme Risk" that never showed up again in the meantime. I already had a problem with her behavior in the other episode, and I don't have a clue in "Juggernaut" either. Although this is a custom-tailored episode for B'Elanna, there is only a small amount of character development, as if a following episode, namely "Extreme Risk", were to further elucidate it.

Annotations

Rating: 4

 

Someone To Watch Over Me

Synopsis

Stardate 52648: While an ambassador fro the Kadi is visiting Voyager, the Doctor gives Seven lessons in "romantic relationships", but the success is lacking, until he takes on the role of her date himself. Against all diplomatic protocols the ambassador strives to taste all the enjoyments the Federation is able to offer. Drunk of synthehol he turns the official reception into a disaster. In the meantime, the Doctor has become aware that he himself feels attracted to Seven, but he never tells her.

Commentary

Well, the plot is one of the oldest to exist. Call it "Pygmalion", "My Fair Lady", or "Pretty Woman". Take a man with very distinguished manners and a girl who is lacking social skills, and you know what you'll get. Only the ending was different, and I felt a bit of pity that the Doctor wasn't successful. Apart from the more or less open ending, nothing really surprising happened. The Doctor and especially Seven behaved like they always do. Especially Seven's stereotypically sterile yet funny choice of words was rather used to cheer up the story than to show the character's emotions and attitudes. Nonetheless Picardo's and Ryan's performances were very good. They were up to impersonate two characters who are a little more than only working well together, and they worked out the necessary fine tones. The numerous quotes and tidbits like Seven and the Doctor singing together were fun, so the episode gets a much higher rating than it would deserve for the mere course of the story.

The secondary plot of the ambassador who behaves quite unlike his prude and restrictive culture was amusing, yet, also a bit distracting. It would have deserved either more or less screen time than it was conceded.

Annotations

Rating: 7

 

11:59

Synopsis

Stardate 31.12.2000: Kathryn Janeway explores the history of one of her ancestors, Shannon O'Donnell, who comes to a town in Indiana supposed to be demolished for a giant building, the "Millennium Gate". Only book shop owner Henry Janeway withstands the project until the last moment, but she can eventually convince him not to obstruct progress.

Commentary

I felt like writing only a brief rant about this utterly pointless and boring episode. However, I will try to elaborate my criticism. The story has nothing to do with Voyager. Neither is it science fiction, nor does it further advance the storyline in any way. Moreover, if it had not been for Kathryn Janeway or Janeway's clone, her equally caffeine-addicted token Irish ancestor Shannon O'Donnell, or Kate Mulgrew, it wouldn't have been recognizable as a Voyager episode at all. Agreed, all this is no reason to dismiss the episode. Yet, I don't watch Star Trek to see a story set in present-day America with very loose ties to the actual series. Abandoning all the basic settings is only justified for a very good plot. The one of "11:59", however, is very bad.

It is easy to see that almost the same story of a courageous woman and stubborn man who doesn't want to make way for progress has already been told in DS9: "Progress". The latter is among my least favorite DS9 episodes, so it is obvious that I didn't like to see it again, only with different actors in present-day Indiana. This takes me to another similarity with a DS9 episode. "11:59" obviously tries hard to repeat the success of DS9: "Far Beyond the Stars", whose basis was equally weak as described above but which presented an interesting story, involved profound criticism of racism and eventually asked us the thought-provoking question "What if all this (namely DS9) existed only in the imagination of Ben Russell?". There is nothing like that in "11:59". So what is the point here? What impact can the story have on Voyager? The only outcome in essence is that Janeway's ancestor was not quite the woman Janeway had taken her for. She used to be quite a loser for some time in her life. She didn't build the Millennium Gate, she merely contributed a small piece of work. History is not always as we see it, but this has already been much more impressively demonstrated in "Living Witness". Once again, what is the outcome? What is memorable about this episode? I can't tell.

The connection between the events in the past and Janeway's interest in her ancestors is awkward. Moreover, it is silly that suddenly the complete senior staff seems to be enthralled by genealogy, culminating in the awful "family photo" at the "Ancestor's Day". The visualization of situations and feelings can be best described as kitsch, on 24th-century Voyager and in the past alike. There are a lot of calm moments with good acting, but this can't compensate for the frequent corny lines. In the 24th century it is nothing more than a hollow celebration of family history and pioneer spirit, in Janeway's family in particular and the USA in general: "The first in a long line of Janeway explorers" ...blah blah blah.

There is also a disputable moral in the story. The longer I watched, the more I became convinced that the Millennium Gate wouldn't ever be more than what Henry Janeway disdainfully nicknamed it, a huge shopping mall. Given the recent failure of the biosphere experiment, I doubt that a self-sustaining building would be possible as early as 2000. It's not as simple as attaching a few solar panels to the outer surface. Nevertheless, everyone in the story, eventually even Henry Janeway himself, seems to leave aside these second thoughts. It was disturbing to see how the non-argument prevails that smart people have conceived this building and that it represents progress, so it can't be wrong. And even if the Millennium Gate were something new and inevitable, would it justify the destruction of the old? The episode definitely says yes. I wonder most of all why they didn't simply build the Millennium Gate outside the town, buying all the required land from a single farmer and avoiding all the fuss with obstinate people like Henry Janeway. Realistically, there would have been hundreds, maybe thousands like him. I would have joined them too.

Just a side notice: It is annoying that Star Trek joined the "Millennium" hype, as if the new date would be equivalent to a new age. During late 1999 I was so tired of reading and hearing the word "Millennium" everywhere that I largely avoided newspapers and TV. You can imagine how much I enjoyed to learn about the "Millennium Gate" in my otherwise favorite TV series. At least the episode anticipated that there would be no Millennium Bug, which almost conciliated me again.

Annotations

Rating: 0

 

Relativity

Synopsis

Stardate 52861.3: Seven of Nine is in charge of preventing Voyager's destruction by traveling back in time and finding its cause, a temporal device from the 29th century. Seven arrests the saboteur. It is Captain Braxton, a future self of the very man who hired her for the job! As Voyager has ruined his career by stranding him on 20th century Earth, he strives to erase the ship from the timeline. Upon preventing the disaster with several paradoxes as side-effects, the timeline is cleaned in a way that nothing harmful actually happened.

Commentary

This must have been the most complicated time travel story ever. There were lots of paradoxes, but who cares if the story is that exciting? Read on here. "Relativity" is a fun episode that ironically comments on the many problems of time travel. There was literally not much time for big emotions, but Seven and Janeway acted exactly according to their established characters - at all times. It was good to see Capt. Braxton return, although I didn't recognize him at first, because of his now larger uniform size.

As for the 29th century, we only saw the Relativity and a few officers, and it was not a place I liked too much. It was like Starfleet style preserved for 500 years, only a tad too sterile. On the other hand, it must have been difficult to create a time that is as far in the future than Voyager is from now. I enjoyed the continuity to "Caretaker". It is not an error that Voyager is shown at Utopia Planitia, although the dedication plaque indicates it was launched from Earth Station McKinley. It is possible that the ship only received additional equipment at Utopia Planitia. This must have happened a brief time prior to the beginning of "Caretaker", since Janeway made the proposal to get Paris for the job.

Annotations

Rating: 8

 

Warhead

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Harry and the Doctor salvage a device with a built-in artificial intelligence from a planet's surface. It turns out to be weapon of mass destruction that still believes in the need to destroy the assigned target, although the war is over by now. The Doctor can convince the weapon to abstain from the attack, and in an act of self-sacrifice it destroys the other weapons still approaching the former target.

Commentary

Agreed, superficially this episode is much like "Dreadnought", and it also shows similarities to the classic sci-fi movie "Dark Star" (right, the one with the psychotic talking bomb). There is also a clear parallel to "Crimson Tide" where Gene Hackman wants to launch the nuclear missiles without final confirmation, and Denzel Washington tries to hinder him. But it becomes clear that the "bomb that insists on going off" plot is not yet exhausted. The variant in "Warhead" is interesting because it doesn't just show the bomb as a stubborn mechanism that only does what it is programmed to do. Actually, "Warhead" reminds me still more of TNG: "The Quality of Life", where Data managed to prove Exocomps were sentient beings that have developed beyond their initial programming. The same applies to Data himself and to the Doctor, respectively, who try to protect their distant relatives. The main difference is that this time the consciousness belongs to a weapon and not a useful tool. Mass destruction is a good purpose according to the bomb's programming and, moreover, it is the only reason for its existence. Therefore it is even more remarkable that the bomb can be eventually convinced not to proceed to its target. Ironically, while one Exocomp in the TNG episode sacrificed itself to protect the other two of its kind, here the bomb explodes to disable the other weapons which have not evolved that far.

I wonder if the story would have been equally good without the old "evil twin" trick. Maybe they should have just given the bomb a voice instead of letting it take over the Doctor's matrix. Finally, there is one more thing I really liked: For the first time a distress call is picked up at night, and it is up to Harry to follow it who, besides the Doctor, gets a lot to do in this episode.

Annotations

Rating: 7

 

Equinox I/II

Synopsis

Stardate not given: The Equinox, a second Federation starship pulled into the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker, is under frequent attack by interspatial aliens that are able to penetrate the ship's shields. Janeway assures Captain Rudy Ransom of the Equinox of their full support. When the Doctor, however, discovers that the Equinox crew was killing the aliens to use antimatter emissions from the alien bodies to boost the performance of their warp drive, Janeway puts them under arrest. The Equinox EMH, whose ethical subroutines have been removed, frees his crew, while the Doctor and Seven are trapped on the Equinox. Ransom removes the Doctor's ethical subroutines too and lets him extract the code for the improved drive's power relays from Seven's brain. Janeway wants to stop Ransom at all cost, and she even relieves Chakotay of his post when he opposes her actions. An agreement with the aliens is found that the Equinox should be destroyed. In the following battle, Ransom changes his mind, but his first officer Max Burke takes command from him. Burke and the other mutineers are killed by the aliens; Ransom dies when the Equinox explodes after he has taken her to a safe distance; the four surviving Equinox crew members are demoted to crewmen and stay on Voyager.

Commentary

Ransom vs. nucleogenic aliens, Janeway vs. Ransom, Chakotay vs. Janeway, Burke vs. Ransom, evil Doctor vs. good Doctor, good Doctor vs. Seven. The story features multiple, maybe already too many conflicts. Anyway, this keeps the two parts of the episode thrilling for the complete 88 minutes. One of the key questions is what Janeway would have done in Ransom's place. If we don't count "Year of Hell" for obvious reasons, Voyager was never really as desperate as the Equinox has been for five years. Although there is definitely no excuse for Ransom's actions, could the judgment be more lenient upon further examination of the case? The flashback, when the first alien was inadvertently killed, had a close take of Ransom's face, and he looked really sorry. I took this as a first sign that he would finally change his mind. As for his crew, I don't understand why they always follow him blindly. I agree that their common destiny would likely lead to the tight combination of loyalty and familiarity shown among the Equinox crew, the crew calling their captain "Rudy" - I wonder when Tom will begin to call his captain "Kathy" ;-). Nevertheless, I would have expected Lessing (the black man in blue uniform) or Gilmore (the endearing blonde) who obviously had doubts to give up their loyalty rather sooner than later.

Interestingly, the main difference between Janeway and Ransom cannot be simply explained with Janeway being more of an explorer, for this would rather apply to the exobiologist Ransom. The real point is that Janeway always wants to do the right thing, complying with everyone's welfare, the Prime Directive (she sounded quite proud when she said she had never broken it, although we all know it must have been a lie) and, last but not least, the canon of her personal likes and dislikes. It is almost as if she bothers how she will be judged by history. Ransom, on the other hand, has very practical short-term goals, and his actions are accordingly short-sighted. Nevertheless, Janeway acts very emotionally and illogically too. The culmination point is definitely Janeway's interrogation of Lessing of the "enemy crew". What the hell is Janeway thinking when exposing the poor guy to the deadly aliens? Aside from breaking about every Starfleet regulation she is allegedly so proud of, is it moral to kill someone for whatever useful purpose? I'm quite sure that Lessing wouldn't have survived if Chakotay hadn't stopped her. This episode may have had the worst spirit of the whole series. I might give "Equinox" higher marks, but some of Star Trek's most valuable assets almost go down the drain.

Moreover, the scientific and technical plausibility of "Equinox" is awful. It is anything but credible that the alien bodies would be suited to increase the ship's power, let alone its speed. It is definitely the worst idea for a "drive-of-the-week". What is so special about the "nucleogenic" antimatter, making it more powerful than "normal" antimatter? If the aliens really emit antimatter, how can they exist in our matter universe at all? If the shown remains of one alien ("ten isograms") can enhance the Equinox's warp drive (maximum speed: Warp 8) by merely "0.03% for one month", how could they ever have traveled the mentioned 10,000ly distance which was obviously necessary to catch up with Voyager? Even if they had been using millions of aliens at a time to accomplish this, how could the power systems and nacelles of the Equinox have sustained the enormous power increase? Another question: What does the Ankari vessel do 10,000ly from their territory, but only 2ly from the Equinox? Wouldn't it have been worth a try to acquire their propulsion technology? I have also a problem with the fact that the Doctor behaves just like his "evil twin" after his ethical subroutines have been removed. If he is really that evolved, his loyalty, friendships and feelings should consist of much more than just a few certain lines in his original program that can be quickly deactivated. So many problems, so few reasonable answers.

Annotations

Rating: 7

 


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