Star Trek Voyager (VOY) Season 2
The 37'sInitiationsProjectionsElogiumNon SequiturTwistedParturition
Persistence of VisionTattooCold FireManeuversResistancePrototype
DeadlockInnocenceThe ThawTuvixResolutionsBasics I/II
Stardate 48975.1: Voyager discovers an ancient automobile from Earth adrift in space, and picks up an old SOS signal coming from a nearby planet. Janeway decides to land the ship, since it is not possible to beam down or use shuttles. Inside a cave, the crew finds several stasis chambers with humans and revives them. Among them is flight pioneer Amelia Earhart, who mysteriously vanished in 1937. Suddenly the away team is attacked. But the attackers turn out to be human settlers, who live on the planet. Their ancestors were abducted by the Briori centuries ago just like Earhart and the other "37's", but eventually expelled their captors in a rebellion. Janeway leaves it to the crew to join the human civilization on the planet or return to the ship. Eventually all crew members decide to continue the journey home.
I have reservations against Star Trek stories that blend in urban myths or conspiracy theories. Fortunately, when I first watched this episode, I had not seen or read any spoilers, and so I could enjoy it unbiased. Because it is a great story, and Voyager's best one so far besides the pilot. In many ways the theme is reminiscent of TNG: "The Neutral Zone". But I don't mind the similarities, because "The 37's" corrects some grave mistakes of the TNG episode. Most importantly Voyager's crew treats the people from the 20th century with the respect they deserve, and not like the cavemen that Picard saw in them. We only have to wonder if the "37's" had received the same degree of attention if not Amelia Earhart had been among them. Well, and while the chemistry between Kate Mulgrew and guest star Sharon Lawrence as Amelia Earhart works very well and bears importance for the story, I think that the mutual admiration and pleasantries of the two women are a bit overdone.
Overall, this story plays very nice anyway. There are no conflicts with the sole exception of the initial confrontation with the human settlers that lasts only two or three minutes. I think that, as a two-part episode, "The 37's" would have been a perfect season 1 finale and season 2 premiere. I would have liked to see something of the human cities. I would have liked to see Janeway in doubt about her mission to return to the Alpha Quadrant at any cost. I would have liked to see conflicts among the crew about whether to stay or to leave. I would have liked to see Amelia Earhart fly the ship. I would have liked to see some sort of love affair, maybe Paris falling in love with a resident beauty. And perhaps it should have been criticized at one point in the story that the humans were unnecessarily cruel when they expelled the Briori (which will become a topic in an otherwise similar story in ENT: "North Star"). There was so much potential for more. Anyway, the episode as it was done is only 45 minutes long, of which not a single moment is wasted.
Coming back to my general apprehension, in "The 37's" Star Trek deals with the otherwise popular "alien abduction" theme for the very first time, and I appreciate that it is not mystified like in other sci-fi and mystery series of the time. There is a perfectly rational explanation for everything, although we are not shown any traces of the Briori.
The most important outcome of the episode in my view is that Voyager has become a hospitable place since the ship first arrived in the Delta Quadrant. No one leaves the ship despite the prospect of a pleasant life on the Briori planet. The crew makes a conscious and unanimous decision to continue the journey, unlike the one that Janeway made for the whole crew in "Caretaker". This should boost morale for the rest of the journey, however long it takes.
- What should be so strange about iron oxide (=rust) in space? There could be all kinds of compounds besides pure iron. Asteroids and other rocky objects contain considerable amounts of "rust", rather than iron. What's more, the truck isn't really that rusty and was only one year old when it was abducted from Earth.
- Due to inevitable internal leakage currents it is absolutely impossible that there would be enough charge left in a battery after 400 years. Unlike the airplane, whose transmitter featured a new battery, the truck was abandoned in space and not altered in any fashion. Otherwise Tom would have noticed that.
- How can a 20th century radio receiver pick up a signal sent with a 20th century radio transmitter over a distance of millions of kilometers? Only the power source of the aircraft radio was replaced with modern technology.
- Harry doesn't recognize a car and, despite the wheels with their obvious purpose, thinks this could be a hovercar. He is not joking.
- Remarkable quote: "The remarkable thing about the humans on this planet is that they evolved very much like the people on Earth. Tens of thousands of light-years apart both civilizations managed to create a world they could be proud of, one where war and poverty simply don't exist." (Janeway)
- Remarkable scene: Tuvok takes cover and pulls his phaser when the exhaust bangs upon starting the ancient engine.
- Remarkable location: The exterior shots were filmed at Bronson Canyon, only a few kilometers from the studio.
- Remarkable facts:
- The ship goes to blue alert when entering the atmosphere.
- The Briori planet is Class L - oxygen-argon atmosphere.
- Mars was colonized by humanity since 2103.
- Remarkable behind-the-scenes fact: This episode was produced for the first season of the show, just like "Projectins", "Elogium" and is "Twisted". It is quite obvious that, as Branoon Braga confirmed, "The 37's" would have been the season finale, had the season not be shortened.
- Ship landing: #1
- Current crew count: 152
Stardate 49005.3: Chakotay is alone on a shuttle when he is suddenly attacked by a small Kazon vessel. Chakotay manages to outmaneuver and destroy the attacking vessel and rescues its pilot, a teenage Kazon boy named Kar, who was attempting to earn his name in battle. The two are captured by the Kazon-Ogla, however. On the Kazon ship, First Maje Razik wants Chakotay to execute Kar for his failure. But Chakotay points the gun at Razik and escapes together with Kar. The two have to abandon the heavily damaged shuttle and beam themselves onto the surface of a moon that serves as a Kazon training ground. In the meantime Janeway has arrived with an away team, but Razik and his people lure them into a trap and find Chakotay and the boy first. Chakotay gives Kar the chance to earn Razik's respect by shooting at him in the front of Razik. Kar, however, chooses to kill Razik instead, thereby earning his Ogla name.
"Initiations" comes with a good deal of action, but I don't find this episode very compelling, although I can't tell exactly why. Maybe it's the repeated theme of Chakotay saving Kar's life and of the two running away. Maybe it's because Chakotay's composure and preachiness and Kar's sometimes overplayed defiance remain invariable throughout almost the complete episode and become bothersome after a while.
While I don't like Chakotay (in this episode) and Kar so much as single characters, their interaction works well though, just because Chakotay is so imperturbable that he finally manages to evoke some change in Kar. Chakotay probably isn't sure in the end whether he should rather congratulate Kar for having earned his name, or whether he should be sorry for an unnecessary death. For Chakotay the story has a satisfactory outcome because his efforts to save Kar and himself (in this order?) were successful, but it certainly isn't a peaceful one because Kar has made the first step to rise the ranks in the Ogla hierarchy, thanks to the Starfleet officer with an even clearer concept of friends and enemies than before. Chakotay would have preferred to convince the boy to leave the Kazon (a bit like Picard initially tried in TNG: "Suddenly Human"), but I think that goal was an unrealistic one in the first place.
Rather than the action, I appreciate how the story provides insight into the Kazon culture. The people in charge of Voyager tried hard to establish differences between the Kazon and their much better known cousins from the Alpha Quadrant, the Klingons. I think they finally managed in this story to give them disctinctiveness. The Kazon don't have a tradition as a proud warrior race; they were slaves of the Trabe until 26 years ago and they must still try to find their way. The Kazon have not managed to build anything like an empire; they are composed of various sects that fight each other and whose territorial claims change every day. And perhaps most notably, the Kazon idea of "honor" is a rather crude one. Kar has to kill an enemy to earn his name. Bad enough, but the enemy may be even his own maje, or is it only the gratitude of the new maje why it is accepted in his case? Anyway, the Kazon leave anything but a distinguished impression, which ultimately sets them apart from the Klingons.
- Nitpicking: Chakotay flies a loop with his shuttle like with a jet fighter. While this maneuver is (unfortunately) quite common in Star Trek, it looks particularly unrealistic here.
- Remarkable appearance: Kar is played by Aron Eisenberg aka Nog from Deep Space Nine. While the different make-up makes it a bit harder to recognize him, his unique voice and way of talking immediately gives away it's the same actor.
- Remarkable location: The location shootings took place at Vasquez Rocks.
- Remarkable ships: We can see the big Kazon carrier (which is identified as "raider" here) and the standard Kazon ship with the cockpit window, to insinuate it is only shuttle-sized.
- Remarkable fact: The Kazon were slaves of the Trabe until a rebellion 26 years ago.
- Shuttles lost: 1 (the first one in a long line)
Stardate 48892.1: The Doctor is activated during a Kazon attack, only to find that the crew has left the ship. B'Elanna, however, arrives in sickbay, telling the Doctor that Janeway needs medical aid on the bridge. She transfers his program to the bridge, which is possible thanks to newly installed holoemitters. He then helps Neelix to fend off a Kazon attacker in the mess hall, upon which he discovers that he is bleeding. The Doctor examines himself and registers as a lifeform on the tricorder, whereas everyone else doesn't. Lt. Barclay from Jupiter Station appears, telling the Doctor that he is actually Lewis Zimmerman, a human engineer working on the station and married to a woman named Kes. According to Barclay, Zimmerman is trapped in his holodeck creation of a starship named Voyager. Barclay tries to convince the Doctor that he can only escape the illusion if he ends the program by destroying the ship. On the real starship Voyager, the crew succeed in isolating the Doctor's program, which was trapped on the holodeck after a kinoplasmic radiation surge.
Unusual situations, sudden twists, unexpected revelations. That is what I always like to see in Star Trek and what this episode has plenty of. The story focuses on the Doctor. Other crew members have only few lines, if any. This is not a deficiency though.
The beginning points to a rather conventional plot. It seems that the Kazon have attacked the ship, and the Doctor doesn't manage to contact the other crew members who have apparently used the escape pods. At this point it all seems like a variation of TOS: "The Mark of Gideon" or TNG: "Remember" and draws suspense from the mystery of why everyone else is gone. There are some cues that the problem at hand is not the Kazon attack. Why isn't the tricorder working when the Doctor examines B'Elanna? Why are there suddenly holoemitters in other rooms besides sickbay? These cues are subtle enough not to impede the deception, neither for the Doctor nor for the viewer. The next hint that something is wrong is the Kazon in the mess hall. How could he get on the ship (without transporter), and if he managed to come aboard, why are there no other Kazon?
After about 13 minutes in which the Doctor tends to the problems of the crippled ship (with an atmosphere much like in TNG: "Disaster") and which are about to become boring, the story takes an unexpected turn when the Doctor bleeds, which is the most definite cue that this story isn't about a Kazon attack at all. Now the Doctor finds more and more evidence that he is a real human being and that everyone else is only a simulation. And the ultimate confirmation seems to come from Lt. Barclay (Dwight Schultz), who puts forward very good points that the Doctor is actually Lewis Zimmerman. I like how Barclay provides comic relief here. One might say that the whole idea of a hologram in an identity crisis has all the potential for a comedy, but this story deals with the Doctor's problems in a serious fashion and uses Barclay in a way not to detract from it. It was worthwhile to get Schultz for a guest appearance, and even a bit ironic, since his character Barclay himself had trouble distinguishing illusion and reality in TNG: "Hollow Pursuits".
Barclay draws the Doctor into a discussion that seems to revolve around technical aspects and that comes with the usual Technobabble. But ultimately their debate is about nothing less than the question of the Doctor's very nature, much like in the extraordinary TNG episode "Frame of Mind", where Riker's identity was challenged. The doubt about his own nature also raises the question if, in lack of evidence to the contrary, a simulation may be just as valid as the physical reality. In other words, since the Doctor, as a self-aware entity, can't tell in his current situation whether he is a hologram or a real human being, doesn't that automatically qualify him as a real lifeform? if this is so, the same should apply to Dr. Moriarty, who may still be exploring the galaxy as hinted at in "Ship in the Bottle", under the impression that his adventures are real (and whose being human was fostered by Reginald Barclay as well).
I just love how Barclay, in an effort to prove that it is just a simulation, rewinds the program to the events of "Caretaker". Attentive viewers immediately recognize this as a flashback, at latest when the Doctor requests a tricorder from Kim and the ensign hands him a standard device upon which the Doctor states more precisely, "Medical tricorder".
Another nice idea is to make Kes the Doctor's alleged wife in real life, possibly reflecting the Doctor's wishes at that time. What if all the formerly real people are actually holograms and vice versa? For some time, one could really believe that the whole Voyager story is only a holodeck program, similar as it would be done again in DS9: "Far Beyond the Stars". Chakotay's appearance marks another turning point. Just when the Doctor is almost convinced that he is Lewis Zimmerman, he is suddenly faced with a different, equally probable explanation. Much like Riker in "Frame of Mind". In a manner of speaking, the resolution in the Voyager episode is similar, since the difference between the manipulation of a human mind and of a computer program is not that big. Regarding the idea of a simulation inside the simulation, this is something we have seen before in the already mentioned TNG: "Ship in a Bottle". Although there is no actual second simulation, the very idea of it and the Doctor's confusion about it adds another level of complexity when it comes to destroying the simulation inside the simulation and its unknown outcome. This is all handled very skillfully in the story.
As I mentioned, the episode is full of twists, but the final one may have been one too many. The Doctor wakes up in sickbay and we are led to believe that everything is fine now - although a look at the clock reveals that the episode still lasts six or seven minutes. The way that Kes mutates from a caring nurse to Zimmerman's obsessive wife wasn't a good idea in my view. It adds a superfluous chapter to an episode that is well-rounded until now.
Another point of criticism is that once again the holodeck turns out to be a dangerous place for human beings and holograms alike. On the other hand, I have to admit that, considering that the holodeck safeties (for human beings!) do not malfunction this time, it is a bit like a parody on such a kind of stories.
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Don't panic, Mister Neelix. It looks superficial." (The Doctor, about a red stain on Neelix's shoulder, actually just tomato sauce)
- "Don't panic, Doctor. It looks superficial." (Neelix, on the Doctor's wound)
- Remarkable scenes:
- The Doctor is slapped by Barclay. Then Barclay vanishes and the Doctor slaps himself, muttering "Pain. Pain, why would I have pain?"
- The Doctor orders the computer to "shut down all holographic systems" and all the previously real persons disappear.
- The Doctor is called to a man in sickbay that needs help, only to find Lewis Zimmerman on the biobed, speaking with Janeway's voice
- In the closing scene, the Doctor stretches his arm out of sickbay. It disappears and thereby proves that he is a hologram.
- Remarkable illness:
- Holo transference dementia syndrome (HTDS), actually made up by Barclay
Stardate 48921.3: Voyager encounters a swarm of space-dwelling lifeforms. The electrophoretic activity in their presence triggers a premature elogium, the Ocampa maturation process, in Kes. It is the only phase in her short lifespan to conceive a child, and this puts Neelix under pressure too. The ship is trapped in the swarm, and Janeway decides against using violence to escape. It turns out that the members of the swarm mistake the ship for a mating partner, and as a bigger lifeform apparently of the other sex shows up, the situation is resolved by mimicking a gesture of humility. Kes's elogium was only a false alarm, and she will still be able to conceive a child at a later time.
The all-dominating theme of this episode is relationships, procreation and parenthood. It pervades all sub-plots of the story on various levels. And this becomes the more annoying the longer I watch the episode. The opening scene with the two crew members kissing in the turbolift is only the beginning. In the following, the story spotlights the so far underdeveloped relationship of Kes and Neelix, Kes's apparent elogium, the idea of having children on the ship in general, and finally Ensign Wildman's pregnancy. And on the top of everything the space-dwelling lifeforms apparently want to have sex with Voyager, in a plot thread that is almost a carbon copy of TNG: "Galaxy's Child", with the only difference that it's about mating instead of milking this time. There is way too much variation of the same theme packed into one contrived story.
While I generally like the idea that an aspect of one thread is mirrored in another one, everything is strangely entangled with each other in this episode, far beyond a reasonable and credible extent. The fact that Kes's fertile phase is triggered by the horny space lifeforms is only the most obvious example. The most annoying one is that Neelix is jealous about Kes spending time with Tom, while the big space-dwelling creature is jealous about Voyager attracting possible mating partners.
Neelix is a nuisance in this episode anyway. In the first season there were rather few occasions that showed Neelix as Kes's caring life partner. And now that the writers remember the couple they have Neelix mutate to an inveterate macho who is jealous about other men that only talk to his girl, who adheres to antiquated gender stereotypes and who wusses out when it comes to the decision of having a baby. We may argue that this behavior is in character, but it just doesn't suit the story and ultimately turns an episode that should rightfully focus on Kes into a Neelix show.
Regarding Kes herself and her condition, at some point it is not interesting any more to see and hear about the various unappetizing side effects of her elogium. And Jennifer Lien's acting comes across as unintentionally funny at times.
On the bright side, we learn a great deal about Kes and about Ocampa biology and culture. But it is not really credible that such a hurry is necessary to impregnate Kes and that the whole procedure is so awfully complicated. The idea of Ocampa procreation as put forward here is just as contrived as the whole story.
So I don't like "Elogium", and it was my least favorite Voyager episode for some time, even after the one arguably worse episode of the second season (guess which one!) had already aired.
- We have to wonder how the Ocampa civilization can possibly survive if their women live only 9 years, have only one phase of fertility and one pregnancy, if any, and it takes six days to ensure the conception. All Ocampa should be twins - at the very least.
- Considering that it would be more complicated in Kes's case anyway, since her mating partner would be a Talaxian, why doesn't the Doctor just combine their DNA in vitro? After all we're in the 24th century. Moreover, it is quite obvious that the act of begetting wouldn't have been pleasant, let alone romantic anyway.
- Remarkable scenes:
- Kes grabs beetles from a box and eats them. Eek!
- Chakotay refers to the space-dwelling creatures that collect particles at 3000km/s, saying "Not exactly leisurely dining, is it?" In the next scene we see Kes stuffing loads of food in her mouth.
- Remarkable facts:
- Tuvok has three sons and one daughter.
- "Among the Breen, pregnancy at a young age is a common event. The Breen, of course, are one the most warlike of species. And then there are the Scathos. Any woman who conceives a child before her fourth decade is summarily executed." (according to the EMH)
Stardate 49011.0: Harry Kim is on a shuttle whose hull is going to breach, waiting for an emergency beam-out. The next moment, he finds himself in San Francisco, in bed with his fiancée Libby. It appears Harry was transferred to a parallel reality where Voyager disappeared without him and in which he has developed the engines for a new type of runabout, the Yellowstone class. Harry tries to get accustomed with his situation but eventually decides to do something to change it. He uses his security code to access classified data on Voyager, and he finds out that Tom Paris too isn't on the ship. Harry visits Tom in Marseille, but Tom, who doesn't know Harry in this reality, isn't interested in joining him to get back to Voyager. Back in San Francisco, Harry is put under surveillance for breaking into the classified files. He finds support in Cosimo, an alien from a temporal anomaly who poses as a coffee shop owner. Cosimo hands Harry a storage chip with data on the anomaly that might take him back to his reality. While tampering with the monitoring device on his leg, Harry triggers an alarm. Tom unexpectedly appears as Harry is chased by Starfleet Security. The two steal the runabout prototype and head for the anomaly that caused the timeline change, in the hope of exactly reproducing the conditions that displaced Harry. They succeed when Tom beams out Harry just as the runabout is breaking apart. In the end, Harry is in the shuttle in the Delta Quadrant again and is rescued through an emergency beam-out.
Star Trek has a long history of putting characters into "what if" scenarios. So far these scenarios either turned out a fake (holodeck simulation or messing with the brain), or a temporal accident changed the life of the character for the worse in a way that there was an obvious need to fix it. "Non Sequitur" is a departure from this traditional pattern. In the new reality Harry finds what appears to be a better life than out in the Delta Quadrant, especially considering that the young ensign, fresh from the Academy, is usually the crew member with the most enthusiasm about any slim chance to return to the Alpha Quadrant. So what could be bad about him being in San Francisco again, with his girl-friend Libby and a pleasant life far from the dangers of the Starship Voyager?
At first it seems that the confused Harry, after the customary verification that everything is really happening and not an illusion created by aliens, just needs to adjust to his new life. He would have to catch up with eight months of work on the starship engines, and with eight months of his relationship with Libby. That doesn't seem to be too hard. But Harry feels remorse about those at whose expense he now has a better life: his friend Daniel Byrd, who went missing with Voyager in his place, and Tom Paris, who after his release from the penal colony ended up as a drunkard in Sandrine's Bar (the real one) instead of doing something useful with his new freedom.
Harry seems to care a lot about other people's well-being, which he cites as the main reason for him to go and fix the timeline. But thinking further about it, Harry may be doing it just as well and perhaps chiefly for himself. He wanted the job on Voyager but his request was turned down in this reality. The engine project was only his second choice, perhaps even as a defiant reaction. He wanted to go out into space and would have been away for months or even years anyway, so he may have taken into account a break-up instead of getting engaged with Libby. His palpable lack of familiarity and trust with Libby is probably only partly attributed to his confusion but also to the fact that being with her may not be quite that big a dream that has come true for him. At least, I could imagine other characters who would act very differently in this admittedly weird situation.
The story is successful in showing that Harry just doesn't belong in this reality, including his relationship with Libby. Still, I wish the character relationships, and especially the one with Libby had been worked out better. Libby comes across as pretty one-dimensional, reduced to saying lines such as "Harry, what's wrong with you?" Harry's unlikable colleague Lasca could have been removed from the story altogether. He only provides cues for the startled Harry. Also, Lasca's presence as a low-ranking engineer during Harry's interrogation on delicate security matters (perhaps in an effort to boost the importance of the character) makes absolutely no sense. Although Cosimo is a lot more pleasant and interesting, I am not very content with this character either. It is rather anticlimactic that after the revelation that he is an alien all he does is giving Harry a data chip, with the hint that he can't help him a lot. Also, too often in Star Trek mysterious aliens are responsible for something that could have been a natural phenomenon just as well.
Overall, the episode is not totally convincing, but the interesting premise and implications with the insight into Harry's potential "normal" life with his girl-friend in San Francisco more than compensates for the shortcomings of the narrative.
- How can Harry become a warp nacelle expert and earn the Cochrane Medal only eight months after leaving the Academy? An achievement award before he even finishes his very first engineering project?
- The allegedly new runabout of the Yellowstone class is visually identical to the Danube class (obviously for budgetary real-world reasons).
- How can there be already a prototype in such a short time and why didn't Harry and Lasca just present the prototype itself to the admirals, rather than only blueprints?
- Cosimo says he doesn't know if and how Harry can possibly get back to his reality, and that he could wind up anywhere and any time if he tried it nonetheless. And when he tries, Harry only manages to reproduce roughly the required conditions. Isn't this like "trying to hit a bullet with a smaller bullet while wearing a blindfold, riding a horse"?
- Cosimo's time stream "weaves through the galaxy", one thread being just a couple of minutes at warp from Earth, and the phenomenon was never discovered in 300 years of warp travel?
- Remarkable error: The runabout prototype passes the spacedock door, which can be easily recognized as the Dyson Sphere door from TNG: "Relics". This ought to be fixed, should the series ever be remastered.
- Remarkable dialogue: "Where are you going?" - "Marseille, France." - "What for?" - "I've got to see Paris." - "But you just said you were going to Marseille." (Libby and Harry)
- Remarkable set: The New York Streets set was turned into San Francisco's Mission District.
- Missed opportunity to get home: #4, although only for Harry
Stardate not given: While many of the bridge crew are on the holodeck to celebrate Kes's second birthday, Voyager runs into a spatial distortion. The anomaly causes the directions of corridors to change so no one can find the right way through the ship. The holodeck on deck 6 is still unaffected but the anomaly will soon pervade the whole ship. Captain Janeway suffers a shock when her arm gets caught in the advancing distortion field. Against Tuvok's advice, Chakotay decides to emit a warp pulse to repel the anomaly and restore the ship as it was. But this attempt is in vain. As all options are exhausted and the field has already entered the holodeck, Tuvok recommends to do nothing, and Chakotay agrees. The whole crew, including Janeway, remains unharmed as the anomaly passes through them. It turns out that it was the attempt of an unknown intelligence to communicate with the ship.
The story of "Twisted" is just as much about character relationships as about the spatial anomaly, and the former compensates a bit for the countless weaknesses of the latter. It is a true "family" episode in which every member of the cast has a couple of good scenes. I especially like the interaction between Janeway and Kim, between Tuvok and Chakotay and between the Doctor and Kes. Only Neelix's jealousy is once again immoderate (and will hit its low in the following episode, "Parturition"). Although it is clichéd how everyone plays nice in the face of their possible death, I find it touching how Chakotay tries to come to terms with Tuvok's logic, and B'Elanna with Chakotay's spirituality. Overall, I enjoy this part of the story, but it can't save the episode.
The idea that an anomaly may distort the ship without ripping it apart is weird to start with. Weird things happen in Star Trek all the time, and I usually enjoy them a lot. But in "Twisted" it just doesn't work for me. What's happening to Voyager is geometrically impossible no matter how much I twist my mind; I never really manage to suspend my disbelief. Also, after perhaps five or ten minutes the idea of crew members who are wandering about the ship and think they are getting mad isn't interesting any longer. Lines such as "It's reconfiguring the ship" are repeated ad nauseam, and the directing is bland considering that something outrageous is going on. and the directing is bland considering that something outrageous is going on. It never gives rise to real excitement. Finally, the revelation that the anomaly was created by a lifeform that doesn't know how to say hello to the crew (but how to operate the computer and re-engineer the ship) is extremely lame, considering that it is one of the most overused concepts in Star Trek and totally gratuitous here. So this part of the story fails on more than just the scientific and logical level.
The only redeeming quality of the anomaly story lies in the irony that for once doing nothing is the correct course of action, and that of all places on the ship the holodeck is safest one.
- No matter how much we twist the ship, corridors that suddenly lead somewhere else, or rooms on different decks that are suddenly located side by side are geometrically impossible without tearing the ship apart. And even if an "intelligent" anomaly made it possible, could it take care that corridors and rooms fit together seamlessly and look perfectly normal, that no hull breaches occur, that power and data conduits not only don't rupture but are reassembled in a way that they still work?
- No one can get to the bridge, no one can even locate where it is. But Tom and B'Elanna decide that trying to beam to the (former) coordinates of the bridge would be a good idea. They could have easily ended up in space instead of the pool table on the holodeck.
- The visualization of the twisted ship on the monitor shows only a mild distortion and can never remotely explain why nothing is located where it should be.
- The fake French accent of Sandrine makes me shudder.
- Remarkable dialogue: "You know, Tuvok, I may not get another chance to say this. Sometimes I find you arrogant and irritating, but you're a hell of an officer." - "Thank you, sir. And since we are speaking candidly, may I say, sir, that I have not always been particularly partial to your methods either." - "I suppose it must have been tough for you to accept my being elevated to first officer over you." - "I have always respected Captain Janeway's decisions. However, I suppose that particular decision did put me in a position I am unaccustomed to. If that ever caused me to make things more difficult for you, I must apologize." (Chakotay and Tuvok)
- Remarkable fact: The unknown entity uploads 20 million gigaquads of new information.
- Remarkable question: So the "intelligent distortion" uploaded 20 million gigaquads of data. This data is made a big deal for a moment but never heard of again.
Stardate not given: Neelix is increasingly jealous of Tom, who spends much time with Kes. Their conflict culminates in a fight involving hair pasta and sauce in the mess hall and is only stopped when Captain Janeway calls from her ready room. Janeway wants the two to take a shuttle to a Class-M planet that has a volatile atmosphere ("Planet Hell") but where she hopes to find rich food supplies. During their descent into the atmosphere Neelix and Paris lose contact with Voyager and crash onto the surface. They seek refuge in a nearby cave whose entrance they seal off because the vapors in the planet's atmosphere are harmful. In the meantime, Voyager is attacked by an unknown alien starship that remains in a position closer to the planet in a way to protect something on the surface. Inside the cave, Paris and Neelix witness the birth of a reptohumanoid alien. They decide to take care of the hatchling whose condition is deteriorating. Tom recognizes that the hatchling needs to breathe the vapors outside the cave. Using a transport window of just a couple of minutes, Tom and Neelix are beamed up to Voyager just as an adult reptohumamoid appears to tend to the baby.
I never liked this episode, mainly because of the childish "pasta battle" and other awkwardly comical situations. As I watch it again after several years I have to admit that there is a bit more seriousness to the story than I remembered. Besides the Paris-Neelix conflict we have also got Tom who speaks to Harry about his feelings for Kes, and Kes who unexpectedly receives advice on relationships from the Doctor. I like these single scenes, but overall everything is too episodic and too formulaic, a bit like in a sitcom. Only the canned laughter is missing.
The story and also the directing becomes better after the shuttle crash. I appreciate how Tom and Neelix behave like adult people from now on, although I'm usually not fond of the cliché that two opponents are isolated and are forced to talk out their differences. While the idea that they have to take care of an alien baby is too cutesy for my taste, I like how it is visualized and how the plot twist is incorporated that the hatchling needs exactly the vapor to survive that is harmful to Tom and Neelix.
Overall, this is an episode with an extremely poor start that still leaves me half-way satisfied in the end, also because Tom and Neelix's truce will persist.
- Nitpicking: It is a huge coincidence that Tom and Neelix stumble across the alien hatchling in a cave close to the crash site (well, unless there are millions of such caves with alien eggs on that planet).
- Remarkable quotes:
- "I'm a doctor, not a voyeur." (Doctor, as Janeway reminds him not to eavesdrop)
- "You don't need to impress me with your...technobabble." (Neelix, to Tom, during the shuttle ride)
- Remarkable scene: Paris and Neelix are summoned to the ready room, and they appear garnished all over with pasta and tomato sauce after their skirmish in the mess hall.
- Remarkable music: Harry plays Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A Major on the clarinet. The cheerful piece he performs on Tom's request for something "depressing" has not yet been identified.
- Remarkable hairstyle: This is the only early episode in which Janeway sports the shorter haircut as in seasons four to seven. By the time of "Persistence of Vision" it will already have grown back to allow the bun again.
- Remarkable ships:
- The Reptohumanoid vessel is a new CGI design, which will be reused a couple of times.
- We can see attacking Jem'Hadar vessels in Tom Paris's holodeck simulation.
- Remarkable fun fact: Alfarian hair pasta is made from the follicles of the mature Alfarian. I can understand Tom when he says he's grateful he didn't have to eat it.
- Shuttles lost: 1
Stardate not given: As Voyager is about to enter Bothan space, where starships are rumored to have disappeared, Janeway takes a break and runs her holonovel. Back on duty, she suddenly encounters objects and characters from the novel on the ship. Kes seems to share her hallucinations. While the Doctor runs further examinations on Janeway, Chakotay negotiates a possible right of passage with a Bothan official. But the Bothans appear with more ships and surround Voyager. In the following, more and more crew members are incapacitated by hallucinations induced by a psionic field created by the Bothans, leaving only the Doctor and Kes. In engineering, Kes works on completing the generation of a warp pulse that B'Elanna initiated to disrupt the psionic field. But "Neelix" appears and tries to stop her. Kes manages to reflect the psionic energy and thereby disables the Bothan posing as Neelix. Janeway threatens to lock up the Bothan, but he disappears without trace.
Rather than the idea of a crew that is subjected to mind control or hallucinations, as it happens just too frequently in Star Trek, it is interesting to witness what everyone's fears and desires are like.
Janeway is chased by the characters from her Victorian holonovel and then meets her fiancé Mark who tells her to relax, which ultimately incapacitates her. Paris encounters his father, who says that his son messes up everything, which is the trigger for Tom to lose control over his mind. Tuvok sees his wife on the viewscreen, which confounds him. Kim beholds his fiancée Libby (as he says, she is not actually shown). B'Elanna has a quite special hallucination, in which Chakotay confesses that he loves her and they have sex. We don't learn what kind of vision the true Chakotay has in this story, though. Finally, Kes imagines to see Tom as well as Neelix, and while the illusory Tom is injured and needs her help, the false Neelix wants to protect and patronize her.
What I really like is that it is up to Kes to save the ship, with a little help from the Doctor. She has the potential to evolve from the little girl to a valuable crew member, and for once her superior mental abilities are to Voyager's advantage.
Although it is obvious they wanted to take the ship, the Bothans remain mysterious. Maybe not a bad idea, since I'm tired of the type of villains whose motivation is either obvious or needs to be exhaustively explained by themselves until it makes sense. Also, without the need to care much about the Bothans, the episode turns out thrilling.
- Remarkable dialogue: "Why did you do this to us?" - "Because I can." (Janeway and the Bothan)
- Remarkable scene: B'Elanna and Harry have installed a holoemitter in engineering to allow the Doctor to be projected in this area. When he appears, he is just 20cm tall.
- Remarkable ship: The Bothan starship is a new design. it will later appear as the Serosian ship in "Revulsion". The Bothans also use a Kazon fighter design, which was obviously included to use unaltered battle footage from "Caretaker".
Stardate not given: On an uninhabited moon with polyferranide deposits Chakotay finds a symbol of the Rubber Tree People, the ancestors of his tribe. When he was 15 years old, Chakotay met the Rubber Tree People on an expedition with his father Kolopak in the Central American rainforest. At that time, Chakotay wasn't fond of his father's ways. Only after Kolopak had died, Chakotay embraced his father's ideas and got his tattoo that mimicks the facial features of the Rubber Tree People. Voyager follows a warp trail that leads away from the moon to a planet. Suddenly forming turbulences do not allow to use the transporter, so Chakotay, Tuvok, Neelix and B'Elanna take shuttle to the surface. Neelix is injured by a bird similar to a hawk and is beamed up to sickbay. When the other three crew members find traces of a civilization, a storm forms and separates Chakotay from the rest. Janeway orders to land Voyager in order to find Chakotay, but the ship gets caught in a huge cyclone. Chakotay finally meets the inhabitants of the planet, the "Sky Spirits". The Sky Spirits visited Earth 45,000 years ago and gave the Rubber Tree People an "inheritance" in the form of a genetic code. When they returned to Earth twelve generations ago, they found no trace of the Rubber Tree People and believed they had been extinguished. Chakotay tells the Sky Spirits that Voyager means no harm to his culture, and the aliens release the ship.
I like Indian culture in general and I am also glad about every human crew member who is not of British or Irish ancestry, as it appears to be the rule especially in the newer Star Trek series. The idea to explore Chakotay's cultural background is laudable, also considering that so far we learned about him that he is a composed and tolerant person, but rather little about his personal life except that he practices Native Indian rituals. I like the flashbacks of Chakotay's expedition with his father, and I can understand how young Chakotay, who is a rather rational person, defies Kolopak's attempts to make him embrace the culture of his forefathers. Unfortunately I have many issues with the story that was built around Chakotay's history.
It is a recurring problem of Voyager and will become one of the most prominent clichés of the series that every few weeks the ship runs into people and artifacts from the Alpha Quadrant, on the other side of the galaxy. Such a plot device may be justified to tell an exciting story like in "The 37's" earlier in this season or in "Dreadnought", a few episodes later. In the case of "Tattoo" there is no such excitement. At least, I don't mind the mumbo-jumbo of storms or animals that suddenly attack the crew and that were meant to beef up the story (well, and to demonstrate that nature, or the mastery of nature, may be stronger than technology). The revelation that the Sky Spirits came to Earth long ago and guided the Rubber Tree People is predictable and just too reminiscent of TOS: "The Paradise Syndrome". As much as I cherish how strongly Chakotay is involved with his personal history, it is lame and anticlimactic how it boils down to "aliens influence the development of Earth" and "Earth artifacts in the Delta Quadrant".
The thing that irks me most about the episode is the racist attitude of the Sky Spirits. When they first visited Earth some 45,000 years ago, they ruled that the Rubber Tree People (or those who should become the Rubber Tree People) "did have a respect for the land and for other living creatures that impressed us deeply", whereas they condemned the rest of humanity. They do have a point in hindsight, considering that "those with no respect for life or land" eventually destroyed the ancient culture they created. It is a recurring theme in the media that non-European cultures are romanticized as unequivocally wise, peaceful and eco-friendly, and that this is contrasted with all the bad things that allegedly only the white man brings forth. It is particularly insidious that in this Voyager story "wise" aliens maintain the same racial prejudices, although they don't explicitly mention the European conquest of America. And it is even worse that these aliens tamper with the genes of human beings in order to let them appear and act more like themselves. Agreed, there may be different opinions on if and how an endangered culture or genetic traits of a people should be protected or fostered. The Prime Directive of the Federation may not be the best solution in every case. Still, what the Sky Spirits are doing ("We help only those who comply with our ideas and make them become like us.") is determined by a kind of racism that is unbecoming of a highly evolved race, especially since it would be very unlikely if war and violence had never existed in their own history. And while the first humanoids in TNG: "The Chase" interfered with the evolution of life on a much larger scale, at least they didn't have a concept of racism that prefers one human or humanoid civilization over another. On the contrary, the ancient humanoids were naive enough to hope that the discovery of a common ancestry would promote peace among the humanoid races they created. The Sky Sprits, in contrast, adhere to a late 20th century style racism that appears as politically correct in the historical context of the criticism of colonialism but is wrong nonetheless. We also shouldn't forget that they were ready to kill members of the Voyager crew and even to destroy the ship because of those perpetuated prejudices, although they could have known better and although for someone with superior weapons talking should always be the first option. So although the Sky Spirits were meant as a charming race that cares for peace above all, this is not the impression they make on me.
It is also clear that the Sky Spirits have much the same role in the history and religion of the Rubber Tree People as the Judeo-Christian God in the Bible. There are several clear cues in the episode such as the creation of people "in their own image" and the existence of a "chosen people" and a "sacred land". It is interesting, however, that the religion of the Rubber Tree People is not criticized in the episode, although it bears many traits of a "false god" syndrome. Well, and if we decide to take the Old Testament literally, God would be just as racist as the Sky Spirits.
On another note about the Rubber Tree People, they are not a real tribe but made up for this episode. It is obvious that they must have been insignificant among America's native population even before the European conquerors arrived. So if the intention of the Sky Spirits (or of the writers) was to stigmatize white people in this particular case as "those with no respect for life or land", it doesn't work in the first place, considering that other Native Americans must have destroyed or absorbed the culture of the Rubber Tree People and all records of their existence.
Notwithstanding the above remarks "Tattoo" is a fine Chakotay episode. It is revealing that he was not that fond of his culture at first, but tried to catch up with it as late as after his father's death and, as he says, rather to honor his father than out of a spritual motivation. In some way, the alien influence on the Rubber Tree People and the overall indefinite cultural background (his own tribe is never named) make Chakotay an alien too. I only wish it had been possible to tell this story without Voyager accidentally encountering the aliens in the Delta Quadrant and without the racism and hypocrisy of the Sky Spirits.
In the B-plot the Doctor is criticized by Kes for not having enough compassion with his patients. He then infects himself with a simulated 29-hour Levodian flu, expecting that it would last exactly 29 hours. Kes, however, prolongs his suffering, thereby giving him the same uncertainty that patients normally feel about their illness. I find this sub-plot quite amusing, although the Doctor's sudden unkindness toward the pregnant Ensign Wildman is not plausible and feels like a setback in his development that would better fit into season 1. Anyway, the experience of an illness ultimately causes his character to progress.
- As the ancestors of present-day Indians spread across the Americas, they formed different tribes with considerably different cultures. How is it possible or how could the Sky Spirits expect that the Rubber Tree People would remain "genetically clean" and would still form a monolithic culture after so many millennia?
- So the Rubber Tree People of Central America remained undiscovered until the 24th century? Extremely unlikely.
- Remarkable fact: A Captain Sulu supported Chakotay's entry into Starfleet.
Stardate not given: When the remains of the Caretaker in a closet in sickbay suddenly resonate, the crew begins to search for what is apparently the other sporocystian lifeform that guarded the Ocampa homeworld, in the hope to acquire the technology that can take the ship home. They find a smaller version of the Caretaker Array, populated by over 2000 Ocampa, but no trace of the sporocystian lifeform. A man named Tanis beams over to Voyager. After talking with Kes, he agrees to assist in the search for the other member of the Nacene species named Suspiria. He also helps Kes develop the psychokinetic powers that apparently all Ocampa possess but that were largely unexplored on the Ocampa homeworld. When she demonstrates to Tuvok how to heat up a cup of water, she doesn't manage to stop the fire and injures Tuvok. Suspiria finally appears on the ship in the form of a little girl and all she wants is to take revenge for the alleged killing of her companion. Tanis tries to talk Kes into joining Suspiria and him, but when he hurts Neelix she turns her psychokinetic forces against Tanis, thereby distracting Suspiria. Janeway disables Suspiria with a weapon that Tuvok recommended to build for a possible confrontation with a sporocystian lifeform. In order to convince Suspiria of their good intentions, Janeway releases her. Suspiria vanishes into subspace, taking Tanis with her.
"Cold Fire" begins with a recap of the events of "Caretaker". This is unusual for an episode that isn't the second part of a two-part feature and not really necessary because all the essential information about the Caretaker is provided later in the episode. Actually, some of the Seska/Kazon episodes would have rather required a special intro for less frequent viewers.
I'm undecided whether or not Kes is a strong character in this story. On one hand, it is about time that Kes is given an important role, one that consists of more than saying something like "I sense fear/anger" like Deanna in the first seasons of TNG and the involvement in humorous B-plots. "Elogium" was merely an interlude without real consequences for herself and the rest of the crew, so "Cold Fire" is the first real chance to further develop her character. And it is quite a leap in this story, considering how impressive her newly discovered psychokinetic abilities are.
On the other hand, Kes is faced with a stereotypically female problem to make a decision between Tanis and Neelix and therefore between career and love. Unfortunately, the decision is made for her when Tanis's and Suspiria's real intentions are revealed and she recognizes that she has been a pawn in their game all along. At least she pays back Tanis in his own coin when she uses the powers that he taught her against him.
This episode is a further step in Kes's development. It is only a pity that her supernatural abilities come into play only on a few selected other occasions, in the past as well as in future episodes. It is like the writers still don't really know how to write for Kes, and how to involve her more than only in cutesy sub-plots. Kes's intention not to use her powers again is not a sufficient explanation for her abstinence. As Tuvok says, it is an important part of her that she should not deny. The writers shouldn't deny it either.
Overall, this is a better Kes-centered episode than "Elogium" but otherwise it could have been more exciting and more revealing. In particular, it is anticlimactic that the story first makes a big deal of Suspiria, but then Suspiria appears only briefly in the end, in a scene in engineering that is almost a carbon copy of the confrontation with the Bothan in "Persistence of Vision".
- Continuity: Tanis says that Exosia, something that could simply be described as a subspace layer, is "a place of pure thought, pure energy. A place of the mind." This complies with depictions of warp bubbles/subspace regions in TNG: "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and "Remember Me".
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Vulcans make the worst patients." (Doctor)
- "Without the darkness, how would you recognize the light? Do not fear your negative thoughts, they are part of you, they are part of every living being, even Vulcans." (Tuvok, to Kes)
- Remarkable scene: When Kes doesn't manage to harness her forces, Tuvok's eyes protrude and green blood runs from his head. An unusually horrible scene.
- Remarkable fact: The Caretaker's race is called "Nacene".
- Remarkable 47: Tanis says that Suspiria should respond to the subspace call within 47 hours.
- Missed opportunity to get home: #5, even though Suspiria didn't want to help, Janeway could have tried harder
- Current crew count: 150, according to Kes
Stardate: 49208.5: Voyager follows the transmission of a Federation signal, only to run into a trap set up by the Kazon-Nistrim. They break through Voyager's hull with an armored shuttle and steal a transporter module. It turns out that Maje Culluh of the Kazon-Nistrim received support from Seska. After Culluh's negotiations with the Kazon-Relora end with him beaming their representatives into space, Seska convinces him to forge an alliance with other Kazon sects. Chakotay, who feels guilty for Seska's treason, takes a shuttle and attempts to retrieve the technology on his own, but he is captured upon destroying the transporter module. Janeway sets a course to save Chakotay. When it is not possible to beam out Chakotay, Janeway has the Kazon leaders beamed aboard and Chakotay and his shuttle are returned in exchange for their freedom. Seska leaves another message for Chakotay, telling him that she secretly impregnated herself with his DNA.
This episode lives up to its title. It features various unusual maneuvers indeed: the Kazon attack with the armored shuttle, Chakotay's stealth approach of the Kazon ship, Janeway's idea to beam over the Kazon majes instead of Chakotay. I like the story of deception, betrayal and cunning very much. And although the directing is rather routine and doesn't create a real climax, it is never boring for a minute.
I see a few issues with the relationship between Culluh and Seska and with her motivation. In the first-season episode "State of Flux" I already didn't understand Seska's reasons to defect to the Kazon. She accused Janeway of getting the crew stranded in the Delta Quadrant, but she herself did everything to ensure she'd have to stay there for the rest of her life. She suggested that Janeway should have built a "base of power", but she allies herself with a rather unremarkable people, and even with one of the weakest of their factions as it seems. All this continues to make little sense in "Maneuvers". It is also very clear that she is not in love with Culluh either but that the two have just a limited purpose alliance. Seska has the knowledge of technology and strategic planning that Culluh obviously lacks, while Culluh throws in his determination and his standing in the Kazon society. At one point, Chakotay tells Culluh that she's using him, speaking of his own experience. Culluh replies that he is convinced that he is using her. I tend to agree with Culluh on long term because realistically Seska has no future in the Kazon society that is dominated by men, and no future at the side of a man who simply kills everyone who doesn't agree with him.
So Seska may have overestimated her ability to create a "base of power" with the Kazon. Still, her maneuvers in this episode work out well for the most part. This is also the fault of the Starfleet crew that appears rather naive and incompetent especially in the beginning. Why does no one suspect the defector Seska of sending the Federation signal? Why does no one anticipate that it could be a trap? Why does Janeway order to return fire so late after Culluh's sneak attack? Why is security ordered to the hull breach as late as the Kazon have already boarded the ship?
And speaking of the incompetent Starfleet crew, Chakotay clearly takes the cake. While his plan to use a shuttle to take back the transporter module is intelligent, it is incredibly stupid and irresponsible of him to try it on his own. Also, he should have known that with his message that no attempt should be made to rescue him he would only achieve the opposite. Overall, Tuvok seems to be the only one who remains reasonable in this episode: "If a rescue attempt forces us to engage the Kazon, there is always a possibility that more of our technology will fall into their hands."
- Culluh says: "I could be the most powerful Kazon in the quadrant." This is an odd statement, because it implies there are Kazon in one or more of the three other quadrants as well (that Culluh couldn't possibly know of).
- Chakotay says the shuttle is useless for the Kazon because he has wiped the computer memory. I disagree, because the hardware of the transporter and probably other pieces of technology should still be intact. It may be well possible to reconstruct the control software of the transporter.
- I have a general problem with how the Kazon get the transporter to work so quickly. It seems all they still needed was the transporter module, which doesn't seem to have anything to do with the matter conversion but is probably just a control module.
- Janeway orders to pursue Chkotay's shuttlecraft at maximum impulse. This doesn't make sense, considering that the shuttle can go to warp, and if only barely, and that Voyager's sensors have a range of a couple of light years.
- The "debris" can be identified as two Kazon bodies as late as they are clearly visible on screen. This is in contrast to many occasions where long-distance scans identified the composition of debris before anything was visible.
- Remarkable quote: "Hello, Chakotay. Congratulations on your victory. I look forward to our next meeting. Oh, and there's something you should know. While you were unconscious, I took the liberty of extracting a sample of your DNA. I impregnated myself with it. So, I guess more congratulations are in order. You're going to be a father." (Seska's transmission to Chakotay)
- Remarkable absence: Kes is missing from this episode.
- Remarkable maneuvers: the "Kazon torpedo" breaking through Voyager's hull, Chakotay's shuttle approaching the Kazon ship with all systems disengaged, Janeway's trick to beam the Kazon leaders aboard
- Remarkable technology fact: This episode confirms that beaming at warp is generally considered possible but only if both ships are moving at warp.
Stardate not given: Janeway, Tuvok, Torres and Neelix are on the Alsaurian homeworld to purchase tellerium, a substance urgently needed for the ship's warp drive. Soldiers of the Mokra Order appear and arrest Tuvok and Torres. Neelix escapes with the tellerium, whereas Janeway gets shot but is saved by the local resistance movement. She wakes up in the home of an old man named Caylem. Caylem insists on Janeway being his daughter Ralkana. He also believes that his wife is still imprisoned by the Mokra Order and dreams of freeing her. In reality, his wife has been dead for twelve years, and Ralkana was killed in an attempt to break into the prison. Caylem and Janeway decide to try it once again, albeit for different reasons. In the meantime, Chakotay and Harry, whose negotiations with the Mokra Order were unsuccessful, have forged a plan to beam out the missing crew members. Inside the prison, Caylem and Janeway run into Augris, Caylem's old enemy. Caylem stabs Augris, but he himself is killed when he protects his "daughter". Janeway, Tuvok and Torres are beamed back to the ship.
"Resistance is futile". Sorry for this awkward pun, but it summarizes what I think about this uninspiring and predictable episode.
One thing I like about "Resistance" is that it jumps straight into action, and spares us of a long exposition or of a trivial B-plot as it can be found in too many episodes. I also appreciate the efforts to create a credible alien world, with very diverse and detailed sets, and with the inclusion of some off-world aliens besides the dominant Alsaurians. The Mokra Order too comes across as unusually realistic, not overly cruel but determined to exert violence whenever someone is considered dangerous. The satellite grid and the planet-based defense (that more planets in Star Trek should have, not to mention Earth) are symptomatic of their wish to defend themselves against anyone they see as a threat.
However, after Janeway has been separated from the rest of the crew, it all boils down to her hanging around with Caylem becoming some kind of father figure. His character reminds me of Mullibok in the equally boring episode DS9: "Progress". The circumstances are different here and at least there is a reason for Janeway's prolonged stay on the planet, but just like Kira in the DS9 episode she develops an unlikely emotional attachment to the old man (of the kind that would never be written for a male main character). Tuvok and Torres have to suffer in the prison to no end, and Chakotay's and Kim's attempts to get them released are not interesting either.
I have a beef with Caylem's character anyway because he doesn't feel realistic. On one hand, he is a senile old man who lives in the past and who doesn't get the most obvious things right. On the other hand, he is energetic and even efficient in what he is doing here and now, always a bit like in the scene when he plays a lunatic to distract the Mokra Order to allow his fellow resistance member to escape. I really wonder whether Caylem may be aware that Janeway isn't his daughter all the time and is pulling her leg just like he fools the Mokra Order. The way he smiles sometimes looks like that. Joel Grey performs Caylem's part very well in the sense of acting, but Caylem was written in a way that doesn't feel right.
The story gains pace as late as in the final minutes but remains utterly predictable. Caylem gets the chance to exert revenge and finds deliverance in his own death. My two points are for the quality of the dialogues and for the good interaction of Janeway and Caylem, which can't really compensate for the meager plot though.
- Remarkable tactic: Kim suggests to "modify the main deflector to send out dozens of radion beams, which should penetrate the prison shields. One of them will carry our transporter signal but the sensor net won't be able to distinguish which one, so the Mokra won't know the exact location we're beaming to."
Stardate not given: Voyager picks up a damaged robot from space. After attempting in vain to restore the robot's power system, B'Elanna comes up with the idea to use modified warp plasma as a power source. The android wakes up and identifies himself as Automated Pralor Unit 3947, apparently the survivor of a global crisis in which the humanoid inhabitants of the Pralor homeworld, the "Creators", were all killed. Janeway refuses to develop a power module that would allow to build more Pralor androids. When he is going to be returned to his people, 3947 kidnaps B'Elanna and forces her to construct a prototype with a universal power module. When the Pralor ship is attacked by a similar vessel of the Cravic, 3947 reveals that the Pralor and Cravic civilizations had both built androids to fight each other, but the androids wound up killing their creators and continued the war on their own, whereupon B'Elanna destroys the prototype. Tom takes a shuttle and can use the diversion to rescue B'Elanna.
"Prototype" is the first of two excellent episodes in season 2 that focus on B'Elanna and that, unlike "Faces" in season 1, don't have anything to do with her partly Klingon heritage. It is pleasant that the writers work out her passion of being an engineer and her sense of duty, rather than exploiting all kinds of clichés about Klingons in a society dominated by humans. And although later episodes, beginning with "Extreme Risk", will spotlight B'Elanna's struggle with her Klingon nature again, by that time B'Elanna will have been established as a character with many facets that only happens to be half-Klingon. In a manner of speaking, B'Elanna is less clichéd than the roughly corresponding alien main characters from the previous Trek series, namely Spock, Worf and Odo.
Already the teaser of "Prototype", showing the events from the perspective of 3947, is very promising, and the rest of the episode keeps this promise. Although there is not much progress in B'Elanna's efforts to power up the robot until she has the idea to use modified warp plasma, there is not a single minute of boredom and not a single unnecessary filler scene in the whole episode.
One of the best scenes is B'Elanna's dispute with Janeway whether to provide the robots with new power modules or not. It is remarkable that it's not just the usual arguing about the Prime Directive, but touches very basic ethic problems. Are the robots actually lifeforms? If yes, do they have to be preserved from extinction, or is it right to deny them the requested reproduction? Would it be the same as helping a biological species that has become sterile, or is it relevant that the robots are just not designed to reproduce?
B'Elanna's dedication and excitement to get the apparently friendly robot running again is very personal, as is her disappointment about being deceived by Automated Unit 3947 more than once. As the plot unfolds, the suspense rises gradually up to the culmination when it is revealed that the Pralor and Cravic robots actually killed their creators.
At first, I didn't like the idea of having incompatible power modules, which seems to be a recurring problem in Star Trek. Is there no equivalent of a simple transformer for generating a suited type of power? Anyway, this time the power modules are a kind of copyright protection, which makes sense with regard to the dedicated warlike nature of the robots.
- Remarkable quote: "Prototype unit 0001 is ready to accept programming." (0001, repeatedly)
- Remarkable scene: The teaser is shown entirely from the perspective of Automated Unit 3947 as it is brought aboard and B'Elanna works hard to restore its power.
- Remarkable fun scene: B'Elanna tells 3947 to cross his fingers and the robot tries to do just that.
- Remarkable props: In the Pralor lab, we can see an arm of Johnny Five from the movie "Short Circuit". A foot looks like it is taken from "Terminator 2". Several of the shiny engineering tools of the Pralor can be rented from Modern Props and appeared in "Men in Black". Finally, there is a verbal reference to yet another science fiction film in the form of the "flux capacitance".
Stardate 49337.4: The death of former Maquis Kurt Bendera, the third fatality in a Kazon attack in two weeks, causes unrest especially among Chakotay's people. On Tuvok's suggestion Janeway decides to form an alliance with some of the Kazon factions. However, her negotiation with First Maje Culluh of the Kazon-Nistrim and former Voyager crew member Seska fails when Janeway refuses to exchange crew members. Neelix contacts a member of the Kazon-Pommar on the planet Sobras but is arrested in a camp where also a number of Trabe are prisoners of the Pommar, including a high-ranking official named Mabus. The Trabe once ruled over the Kazon until the Kazon rebelled and expelled the Trabe from their homeworld. After he has been freed by his people, Mabus assures Janeway that all he wants is to find a new planet for his people to settle down, without being attacked by the Kazon. Janeway decides to ally herself with the Trabe. She arranges a peace conference on Sobras and invites all the first majes of the Kazon. But Mabus has set up a trap, and a Trabe ship attacks the conference room. Disgusted by this attempt to assassinate his enemies, Janeway ends the alliance with Mabus.
The morale on the ship hits a low point when Kurt Bendera is killed. It is a clear mistake that Bendera never appeared in the series before, although he seems to have been a friend of B'Elanna and Chakotay. At least, the emotional impact could have been much greater in case a recurring character had died. Anyway, seeing that the laws of the Federation and most of all the Prime Directive get people killed for very little or no benefit as it seems, it is quite understandable that the former Maquis would question Janeway's policy. Chakotay tries to speak for his people but Janeway has to remind him that her ship isn't a democracy. It is quite obvious that Janeway, at this point of the series, is tired about Chakotay always trying to find a middle way and not unequivocally accepting rules and orders.
It is Tuvok who strikes a chord with Janeway. He shows her the hybrid plant that he says is stronger than any of the two different species it is composed of. And more to the point, he cites Spock's mission to seek peace with the Klingons in "Star Trek VI" as an example where an initially unpleasant alliance brought both sides peace and stability. I like Janeway's consultation with Tuvok very much, although his advice turns out to be a big mistake and, quite frankly, is doomed to fail from the outset.
I also think that Janeway is too much set on forming an alliance with a Kazon faction - she makes it sound like she would accept any faction that agreed not to attack Voyager any longer. Seeing that Janeway is quite impartial and probably too impartial about her choice of an ally, it seems to make sense what Harry and B'Elanna propose, and which is supported by Tom and Chakotay (didn't Janeway mention that her ship isn't a democracy?): Why not seek an alliance with Seska? But would Janeway have any reason to trust Seska and Culluh of all possible allies? Seska, who betrayed the crew in "State of Flux" and was apparently the mastermind behind the attack in "Maneuvers"? Culluh, who executed one of his men in "State of Flux" and the two representatives of another sect in "Maneuvers"? We may call it open-minded, but Janeway is too much smitten with Tuvok's idea that peace between former enemies is always possible and also with Chakotay's idea of democracy (or favoritism, regarding Seska?). She should rather trust her own instincts at this point of the episode.
And so when she invites Culluh and Seska with a serious proposal for an alliance, the inevitable happens. Culluh seems to agree on all points of the deal (including the non-proliferation of weapons and other technology), but the two disagree about the exchange of crew members. A point that, as Seska suggests, could well be postponed. But Culluh says: "I won't have a woman dictate terms to me." He particularly refers to Seska contradicting him but he certainly implies that he wouldn't feel bound to a deal with Janeway either. And so the deal fails because Culluh is such a macho and because Janeway hates nothing more than machos, rather than because of a legal, ethical or any other factual issue.
After this setback it is almost like a dream coming true when Janeway meets Mabus of the Trabe. In a manner of speaking, the Trabe are in a similar situation. They are also more civilized than the Kazon. They even wear Bajoran-style earrings. And above all Mabus seems to be a decent man who has learned his lesson from the Trabe's mistakes in history. We can notice that somehow an even greater picture forms in Janeway's mind. It is not only about safe passage for Voyager any longer, not only about some truce between single factions. Now Janeway wants the Kazon to make peace among each other and with their enemies. "Stability in this quadrant", as it is mentioned two or three times in the episode. This is too big a goal. And forging an alliance with the Trabe prior to talking with the Kazon about peace is an inexcusable mistake.
The conference with the majes never had any chance of success. Culluh and Seska only joined to obtain strategical information. Mabus, who set up the trap, only beat them to it. It is clear that Janeway would never want to deal with Mabus again. She has any right to be infuriated about how he misused her trust. On the other hand, this should be no reason not to deal with the Trabe again. And speaking of Janeway refusing to make "deals with executioners", she previously invited Culluh who, as already mentioned, is known to have executed people on two occasions.
Overall, everyone loses in this story, as the conflicts between the Kazon and the Trabe as well as between the Kazon and Voyager will likely intensify after the unprovoked attack on the majes. While it is not the best episode in the Kazon arc, I like the disillusionment and I only wish Janeway's solemn speech in the end to build up the morale on the ship again had been omitted. I don't think that her idea that the ideals of the Federation are "the best allies" would appease the Maquis. At least we know it has no effect on Michael Jonas who will keep transmitting information to Seska and whose motivation receives a boost from the total failure of the senior staff to achieve something for their ship.
- Remarkable quote: "I appreciate your concerns, crewman, but let me make it absolutely clear. I'll destroy this ship before I turn any part of it over to the Kazon. So that's how the Maquis would do it, hmm?" (Janeway, to Hogan)
- It doesn't seem to make much sense that Voyager takes so long to cross a region of space while the Kazon keep attacking all the time. Voyager's top speed is Warp 9.975 as mentioned in "Caretaker". Maybe the engines have to run in an economic mode so the ship is much slower, and the frequent attacks additionally slow down the ship so much that the Kazon can pursue Voyager. Still, it is not really credible that they never seem to run out of reinforcements. This implies that they have a huge number of ships in a huge region of space.
- How could Voyager possibly fulfill the requirements of an alliance? Would the ship turn round and take detours of hundreds of light years in order to support their allies? Also, couldn't the alliance oblige Voyager to fight against someone they would normally have no business with, and hence be a worse violation of the Prime Directive than just giving away some technology? In a modern-day analogy the deal sounds like "We'd never deliver weapons to [insert any rogue nation here], but throwing bombs on their enemies in [insert any other rogue nation here] is okay."
- Photon torpedoes used: 3
- Crew losses: 1 shown (Kurt Bendera), 2 mentioned
Stardate 49373.4: Tom, Paris B'Elanna Torres and Harry Kim are working on equipping a shuttle to reach Warp 10 - infinite speed! Although there is a slight chance that Tom could suffer brain damage, he pilots the shuttle. The experiment succeeds. Tom achieves Warp 10 and crosses the whole universe back and forth in just an instant. Some time after his safe return he doesn't feel well. He is taken to sickbay where the Doctor diagnoses a strange metamorphosis of his body. It appears that the Warp 10 flight accelerated Tom's natural evolution to a new, "more evolved" lifeform. During an unsuccessful attempt to restore Tom's original body using antiprotons, Tom breaks free. He kidnaps Janeway, takes the shuttle and goes to Warp 10 again. Voyager finds the two in a jungle on a nearby planet. They have "evolved" to amphibious creatures resembling newts and have children! The Doctor manages to restore their human nature, while their kids are left behind.
There is no other Star Trek Voyager episode that ever got such a bad rap as "Threshold". Many fans even consider this to be the worst episode of all Star Trek. I must admit that when I watched the first run (on VHS) some time in 1997, I didn't find it all that horrible. But I have to add it was on a video night with friends, and most likely the good mood, pizza and beer contributed to my comparably positive experience of "Threshold".
We don't have to dig deep to find the reasons why everyone, including myself by now, finds "Threshold" cringeworthy. It is quite obvious that a story in which Tom achieves an impossible speed, loses his tongue, evolves to some newt, kidnaps Janeway, has children with her and is completely restored in the end can hardly have any redeeming qualities that could save the episode. The countless violations of fundamental laws of logic, mathematics, physics, biology and engineering add insult to injury. Regular viewers of science fiction are ready to accept concepts such as warp drive, not only because they are well established but also because there are reasonable limitations to it. It seems that all the limitations and especially the rule "Warp 10 equals infinite speed and hence is impossible" were dropped for no good reason, essentially just for the curious note that during his Warp 10 flight Tom was everywhere at once (or rather nowhere at all?).
Ironically, the Kazon who is contacted by traitor Jonas is the most intelligent character in the whole episode: "Warp 10, that's impossible." Absolutely correct. So why didn't Braga simply stick to this fundamental law of Star Trek and of real science?
Even as we look past the blatant scientific failings of the story, there are massive plot holes, and hardly anything the characters say or do makes sense. It is symptomatic of the lazy writing how Tom, B'Elanna and Harry first explain a hypothetical and explicitly "impossible" scenario of a flight with infinite speed to Neelix (actually, to the viewer) - only to say in the very next sentence that they are working on it nonetheless! The same happens again when Tom states that he has crossed the Warp 10 "barrier", and then Harry is puzzled why the shuttle disappears from the sensors. Wasn't exactly that the very purpose or at least the expected result of the Warp 10 flight? And it happens yet again when B'Elanna muses about finding a way to "come out of transwarp at a specific point". She seems to have forgotten that Tom did come out at a specific point very close to Voyager, and he will repeat that feat when he kidnaps Janeway to a nearby planet.
"Threshold" also fails in terms of character relationships. The scene in which Janeway comes to Tom's quarters to tell him there's a risk of brain damage if he should make that flight was obviously supposed to get a bit of character development for Tom into this tech-heavy story. But in his reaction Tom is so obsessed that it's almost out of character, and a bit like it foreshadows his pretentiousness after the warp flight for no good reason. Furthermore it is a clear omission that we never learn how everyone besides Kes reacts to Tom's apparent death, because the next scene already shows his resurrection. This raises the question why Tom had to die at all, considering that the infamous scene in which he loses his tongue is shown as more dramatic (but also comes across as more ridiculous). It is like quite a couple of important scenes were cut from the episode. Something similar happens once again when the Doctor miraculously brings back Tom and Janeway, although he previously failed at a time when much more of the original Tom was left. Like already in "Cathexis" the reset button restores characters not only against all odds but also with absolutely no visible effort.
The only point is for the unintentional entertaining potential of the episode, of the kind that already "Spock's Brain" had.
- Errors and nitpicking:
- The episode begins with Tom, B'Elanna and Harry simulating the Warp 10 flight. How is this possible? You can't simulate something that you deem impossible, and for which you have no equations and models that could describe a physical reality.
- Millions of engineers in the Federation have been working in vain on the development of transwarp technology for at least a century. Yet, a small team of three, on a starship with limited resources that has gone astray in the Delta Quadrant and is frequently being attacked, succeeds in doing exactly this in their spare time. They work out a theory, design and build a prototype in a matter of one month.
- The dialogues in the episode unmistakably state that Warp 10 equals infinite speed and that it's impossible (even the Kazon are aware of that), still Tom achieves the impossible.
- It is nothing more than a myth (unfortunately a recurring one on Voyager) that it only needs enough power to achieve previously impossible speeds with the same basic hardware, like you could break the sound barrier with a VW Beetle if only you had the right fuel.
- If we nevertheless examine what would be necessary to reach Warp 10 in finite time, the acceleration would have to be infinite as well (with warp drive just as with any real technology). Infinite acceleration requires an infinite engine power output and, moreover, an infinitely strong IDF to keep the shuttle and passengers in one piece.
- The "barrier" or "threshold" is mentioned in the episode title as well as in several dialogues. If Warp 10 means infinite speed, there is no such thing as a barrier or threshold to be broken. What could be more than infinite?
- "Transwarp" is not used for a drive concept but equals "Warp 10" and "infinite speed" in just this one episode.
- Being everywhere at once (or at least everywhere along a straight flight path) Tom can reach a certain region of space only by chance - a chance that is practically zero. Tom, however, returns to a region of spece close to Voyager even twice after a Warp 10 flight.
- Tom also brings lots of sensor data with him. The faster he goes, however, the more will the incoming light and any other form of waves be shifted to smaller wavelengths and also its intensity will increase, until harsh x-rays will finally burn the sensors as well as the rest of the shuttle along with Tom.
- Tom, however, claims that he could even see what's happening on Voyager while he was at Warp 10. If this were true, his eyes and brain would have been able to isolate either a specific tiny portion from an infinitely big amount of visual impressions during the flight, or an infinitely small portion of a huge amount of impressions...
- Torres says that Tom's data "describes literally every cubic centimeter in this sector." Why suddenly only of this sector? Didn't Paris cross the whole universe during this flight? Wouldn't he have all the data for Voyager's complete voyage home if we believe for a moment that it was possible to record something?
- Tom and later Janeway are said to have "evolved" to newt-like creatures crawling on the floor. Apart from the fact that such a creature can hardly be a species more advanced than a human being, evolution is a process that takes place over thousands, if not millions of generations, through mutation and selection. There can be no evolution within the same generation.
- Why is Tom temporarily not able to breathe normal air during his metamorphosis, but only the strange poisonous gas? Why does he become allergic to water? This can hardly be a phase of his alleged evolution, since in nature there wouldn't be a well-equipped sickbay to support this.
- Agreed, we know similar procedures from TNG: "Identity Crisis", TNG: "Rascals", TNG: "Genesis" and VOY: "Faces". However, while the Doctor already had a hard time to restore Tom when he was only slightly mutated just after his Warp 10 flight, it is even more incredible that he succeeded to restore Tom and Janeway after virtually nothing of their DNA is left.
- In order to restore Paris, the Doctor has a fabulous idea - how about feeding antiprotons from the warp nacelles into his damaged cells? Antimatter has been used for all sorts of barely credible purposes in Star Trek before. But dear Doctor, please keep it off your patients, unless you want them to act as a spare warp core or a photon torpedo!
- Read the complete write-up on the scientific errors of the episode.
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Nothing in the universe can go Warp 10. It's a theoretical impossibility. In principle, if you ever reach Warp 10, you'd be traveling at infinite velocity." (Kim)
- "I have some tests I would like to run on Your Majesty before I release you into the realm of ordinary humans." (the Doctor)
- Remarkable dialogue: "What did he ingest?" - "Just a cup of Neelix's coffee." - "It's a miracle he's still alive." (the Doctor and B'Elanna)
- Remarkable shuttle: The Warp-10 shuttle is a more streamlined and elegant design than the usual shuttle boxes, and it's named for Zefram Cochrane. The spaceframe is not custom-built for the Warp-10 flight, but is a standard shuttle as we will see later.
- Missed opportunity to get home: #6, even if only a crew of salamanders arrives
Stardate not given: Crewman Darwin is found dead in an EPS conduit in engineering. The Doctor finds out that the contusion on Darwin's head was caused by a tool hitting his head. The man was murdered. The only other crew member working in engineering at that time was Ensign Suder, a Betazoid and former Maquis member. When the Doctor finds Suder's DNA on Darwin's head it is clear that Suder killed him. Tuvok seeks in vain for a motive or for any logical explanation of the crime. He mind-melds with Suder to understand why he killed the crewmate for no obvious reason. But after the procedure Tuvok develops violent tendencies himself. He demolishes his quarters and is taken to sickbay for a treatment that involves taking away Tuvok's control of his emotions. Tuvok breaks free and threatens to execute Suder. He attempts another mind meld and breaks down. Suder is locked up in secure quarters, where he will spend the rest of the journey.
It is one of the oldest controversies in psychology and in criminology whether criminal behavior (of a single offender or in general) is rather attributed to the milieu or rather inherited. The answer to this question has an impact on the penalty and on the possible rehabilitation of an offender. In the world of Star Trek the issue has a special significance because the absence of war and poverty in the Federation goes along with practically non-existent crime. Picard says: "The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force of our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity." Are the humans of the future so much better than we are today, or are just the circumstances of their lives so much better? And is it really true that there is almost no crime in the Federation, or is it only a convenient paraphrase for "almost no property crime rooted in poverty"?
"Meld" is extraordinary for two reasons. First of all, it demonstrates that neither the world of the Federation nor the people living in it are perfect, and that the origin of violence may lie within the Federation itself, and not always in an aggressive alien species. While I think it becomes clear that Suder is more or less violent by nature, it is slightly detrimental to his character that he used to be a Maquis and that he never had much sympathy with the Federation. I think that if the intention was to show the dark side of the society of the 24th century, the message could have been stronger if Suder had been one of Janeway's original crew.
Speaking of Suder's affiliation, it is disappointing anyway that neither he nor his victim ever previously appeared in the series. I understand the intention to show that anyone (Suder) could murder someone else (Darwin), and that still someone else (Tuvok) could be drawn into that crime to an extent that he gets too deeply involved in it, mentally and emotionally. Still, I think some introduction of Darwin and Suder would have been beneficial for the story.
The second reason why "Meld" stands out is that TV series and movies usually show us either the kind of "ordinary" criminals who kill for power, money or jealousy, or some kind of weird serial killers with a fetish. Suder is nothing like that. He doesn't have a motive, which is what puzzles Tuvok. But he also lacks the abnormal behavior of the stereotypical maniacal movie villain. Agreed, Suder is not a pleasant guy. We know what Chakotay means by "there was something in his eyes". But I think Brad Dourif plays Suder with an unexpected deal of decency. And notably without evil grinning, laughing or crying. Suder is not a character we would want to kill for what he has done but we wouldn't exonerate him either (such as with the defense that he had a violent childhood or, in this case, that he witnessed Cardassian atrocities). We don't learn what really drives Suder to kill people. And I think Tuvok doesn't find it out either, even after he experiences the violent tendencies himself. In this regard it may have been a good decision not to reveal more about Suder's background.
One question that bugs me about Tuvok's violent behavior after his mind meld is whether it is in Tuvok's very nature and resurfaces (as Tuvok suggests himself), or whether it rather comes from Suder (after all, the exchange of thoughts and emotions is what mind melds are about). This issue also has a more general significance. The idea that the mind meld only triggers something that already was in Tuvok himself (dormant or suppressed) would support the notion that everyone can become criminal under certain circumstances. This idea may have been included in order to avert the impression that some people (like Suder) are more prone to become criminal than others (Tuvok).
Overall, this is an episode with remarkable performances by Brad Dourif as the "decent maniac" and Tim Russ as the "Vulcan out of his mind". It shows an unusual but perhaps realistic type of a criminal, as well as new facets of the Vulcan way to suppress emotions. It doesn't answer the question whether someone becomes criminal because of his genes or rather because of experiences. The reason why I don't rate the episode higher is because it could have been a more exciting criminal case or a more revealing character study.
- Continuity: This episode includes a conflict between Chakotay and Paris (about the gambling activities on the holodeck) that will continue until Paris leaves the ship in "Investigations".
- Remarkable scene: After repeatedly being teased by Neelix, Tuvok grabs the neck of the Talaxian until he suffocates. This turns out to be just a simulation. But Tuvok couldn't have chosen a better victim for his stress relief exercise.
- Crew losses: 1 (Crewman Darwin)
Stardate 49447.8: Voyager runs into a debris field caused by a weapon of mass destruction of Cardassian origin. B'Elanna admits that back in her Maquis days, she reprogrammed a captured Cardassian weapon nicknamed "Dreadnought" to attack a Cardassian fuel depot on Aschelan V. Having been pulled into the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker, Dreadnought now believes the navigational data is a deception and heads for the densely populated planet Rakosa V. B'Elanna beams over to disable Dreadnought, and the weapon deactivates itself. But as she is back on Voyager, Dreadnought resumes its course for Rakosa V, under the opinion that B'Elanna has been coerced to work with the Cardassians. The armed forces of Rakosa V try in vain to stop Dreadnought. B'Elanna manages to beam over again. But after another fruitless attempt to convince Dreadnought not to attack Rakosa V, Dreadnought concludes that B'Elanna is its enemy and terminates life support. B'Elanna reactivates the original Cardassian programming of the weapon. This creates a distraction that allows her to try to disable Dreadnought's core. Janeway, however, decides she cannot wait any longer. She orders the crew to abandon the ship and activates Voyager's self-destruct. Only Tuvok remains at her side. Barely a minute before the ship explodes, B'Elanna reports that she has destroyed Dreadnought's computer core. She is beamed back just before the weapon detonates.
"Dreadnought" is one of the most exciting thrillers in Star Trek's history, comparable in many ways to TOS: "The Doomsday Machine". And just like the awesome TOS episode, it is exciting to watch from the first to the last minute.
It is obvious that the "stubborn computer/bomb" theme is nothing new in science fiction. It previously appeared in "2001: A Space Odyssey", in "Dark Star" and in TOS: "The Ultimate Computer". The behavior of Dreadnought's computer is awfully logical and inflexible. Yet, it sometimes seems that it protects and justifies its mission and ultimately its right to exist much like a human being would do: "The probability of being in the Delta Quadrant, 70,000 light-years from the last confirmed position, is negligible." Dreadnought seems to make up its own interpretation of what is negligible, and this is most unsettling. Moreover, Dreadnought deceives B'Elanna on her first visit and reverts its deactivation. Dreadnought also proposes a deal to B'Elanna when she takes a phaser to break through to its core, in an act of self-preservation or perhaps a last desperate attempt to achieve its goal.
The fact that the computer is speaking with B'Elanna's voice creates an odd situation. In some way she is threatened by herself, and perhaps she really added a bit of her personality to the weapon. The dialogues between Dreadnought and B'Elanna are a clear homage to HAL-9000, most obviously the irrelevant phrases like "Did you sleep well last night." I don't think this is a deficiency, at least I enjoyed it very much. An absolute tidbit is the dispute between the Maquis program and the obsolete Cardassian file that try to eliminate each other. It reminds me a bit of the communication between Windows and a program by a hardware manufacturer, which both simultaneously demand to get their drivers installed, once new hardware is detected.
For B'Elanna this is the third focus episode after "Faces" and "Prototype". The rest of the cast take a backseat. Still, the story successfully integrates bits about the ongoing struggle between Paris and Chakotay, Michael Jonas's contact with the Kazon and Ensign Wildman's pregnancy.
- Nitpicking: Why does Ensign Wildman take it for granted her baby is a boy? And why doesn't the Doctor tell her that it is actually a girl? Well, maybe he doesn't want to spoil the surprise.
- Remarkable dialogue: "What do you think of Cameron?" - "I like it." - "Cameron. From the ancient Celtic term for one whose nose is bent." - "What about Frederick?" - "Frederick. Very distinguished. However, it bares a close resemblance to a rather impolite term on the Bolian homeworld." - "It doesn't have to be a human name. I like Sural. It's Vulcan." - "Yes. Unfortunately it's also the name of a dictator on Sakura Prime, famed for beheading his enemies - and his parents." (Samantha Wildman and the Doctor discussing possible names for her child)
- Remarkable quote: "When a bomb starts talking about itself in the third person, I get worried." (Tom)
- Remarkable scene: Janeway orders all personnel to leave when she is about to self-destruct the ship, but Tuvok insists on joining her because it would be logical.
- Remarkable facts:
- Dreadnought carries a warhead of 1000kg matter and 1000kg antimatter, has quantum torpedoes and a plasma wave weapon, is virtually invulnerable through adaptive shielding and incredibly intelligent. It seems much too advanced and perfect for something Cardassian.
- Janeway is apparently the only captain allowed to activate the self-destruct single-handedly.
- Torpedoes used: 6
Stardate not given: B'Elanna beams aboard a sample from a comet with an anomalous trajectory. To her big surprise a man materializes on the transporter platform who says his name is Q. This Q is a dissenter of the Q Continuum, who was imprisoned on the comet for his desire to be mortal. The familiar Q appears and claims that if a Q were allowed to commit suicide, it would destabilize the Q Continuum. When the new Q requests asylum on the ship, it is up to Janeway to decide whether the new Q may become mortal or whether he would have to return to the Continuum. The familiar Q presents three witnesses, whose life the new Q has positively influenced: Isaac Newton, who discovered gravity when Q dropped an apple on his head; Maury Ginsberg, who thanks to Q arrived in time to fix a cable that otherwise would have ruined the Woodstock Festival; William Riker, whose ancestor Thaddius "Old Iron Boots" Riker was saved by a soldier who turns out to be Q. The new Q, however, convincingly demonstrates that his life is meaningless, as there is nothing to explore and nothing to talk about. Despite Q's offer to take the ship home if she favors his demand, she lets the new Q, who calls himself Quinn, stay aboard as a human crew member. His death wish, however, is so strong that he commits suicide briefly later, with a poison provided by the familiar Q.
It is amazing in hindsight how the writers of TNG managed to integrate the practical jokes of Q into otherwise serious stories, without letting them appear too silly. "Death Wish", Q's first appearance (of three) on Voyager continues this tradition. Well, there are a few things in the story that get really silly, like the hide-and-seek game that includes Voyager as Christmas tree decoration and being attacked by protons, or Q's wish to mate with Janeway. We enjoyed it a lot when we first watched it almost twenty years ago, so I won't complain about it now.
My impression is that the games the Qs like to play spring from their own nature, but are also a means to impress "primitive" humanoids in order to be worshipped or supported by them in some fashion. It is interesting to notice that the two Qs become more sensible once they realize that Janeway and her crew take the matter more seriously than they would like her to do. The Starfleet crew leave a very good impression anyway in how they handle the two eccentric omnipotent beings. And Tuvok hits the nail with his question: "I am curious. Have the Q always had an absence of manners, or is it the result of some natural evolutionary process that comes with omnipotence?" This is priceless.
I also think that the finger snapping of the two Qs is a fitting theme in the context of the hearing about Q's request for asylum. Trials on TV are always playful, and witnesses often appear out of thin air much like Isaac Newton, Maury Ginsberg and William Riker in this episode.
In spite of all the fanciful ideas of the two Qs, the episode successfully gets to the bottom of the question if an individual is allowed to commit suicide, and if a court may explicitly grant that right to anyone. It is obvious that the real-world analogy is assisted suicide, as it has been legalized in many countries to avoid unnecessary suffering of terminally ill patients. Q aka Quinn is not exactly ill, but his suffering is the central point of the hearing. While it may seem that the episode advocates a universal right of suicide, Janeway only rules in favor of Quinn's becoming mortal because she recognizes that his life as a Q has becoming unendurable. And she doesn't actually sanction his suicide but still hopes he would enjoy the limited life as a human being. Her attempt to convince Quinn that human life isn't that bad is very touching. On the other hand, no one can really expect Quinn to go on living as a mortal being, for every aspect of it can be supposed to be entirely included in his virtually eternal life as a Q. The only new experience would be death, and this is what he gets.
So far I can understand Janeway. However, Janeway decides in Quinn's favor despite Q's promise not to lock up Quinn again (a promise that Q would likely keep) and his offer to bring the ship home. She may have a talent to cling to her ethical values preferably when deciding otherwise would open a chance for the ship to return home. And while it may be laudable that Q's offer apparently did not influence Janeway's decision, I have the impression that Q's macho attitude towards her did play a role the process.
What I like about the episode is the many references and allusions that are consistent with previous events in Star Trek. It is stated that without Quinn there would be no Riker and the Federation would have been assimilated by the Borg. Q's punishment by the Continuum, as shown in TNG: "Déjà Q", is referred to. Janeway makes a very good point about executions of Q Continuum members, as mentioned in TNG: "True Q".
- Nitpicking: A Q episode is not a good time to care about physical oddities. I only wonder where and how the protons that attack the ship should occur without electrons. Maybe the ship got right into a beam weapon?
- Remarkable guest appearances: Q (John de Lancie) and Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes)
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "What did you do to him?" - "Nothing. He is still there, in the 24th century. I just took the rest of us to an old hiding place of mine." - "Report." - "Captain, there are no stars outside." - "Well, that's partially accurate. Actually, there's no universe outside." (Quinn, Janeway and Kim experience the Big Bang)
- "And you find nothing contradictory in a society that outlaws suicide, but practices capital punishment?" - "No." (Janeway and Q)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "This ship will not survive the formation of the cosmos." (B'Elanna)
- "I am curious. Have the Q always had an absence of manners, or is it the result of some natural evolutionary process that comes with omnipotence?" (Tuvok)
- Remarkable fact: Quinn started a "100 year war between the Romulans and the Vulcans". This is not necessarily a contradiction to the assumption that they didn't have contact (again) until the 22nd century, but it could be the war that already took place on Vulcan between Surak's logicians and the dissenters who later became the Romulans.
- Missed opportunity to get home: #7, with even two Qs to ask such a favor
Stardate 49504.3: Voyager picks up a distress call from a Vidiian spacecraft with a single female crew member. The Doctor saves the life of the woman by transferring her synaptic patterns into a holographic body. In the following the the Doctor develops romantic feelings for the woman, Danara Pel, and the two spend a lot of time on the holodeck. When it comes to re-integrating her brain patterns into her real body, it turns out that someone poisoned the body. The Doctor is about to call Tuvok to investigate the case, but Danara admits that she herself did it, in order not to have to return to her deformed body. The Doctor succeeds in convincing her that she can only survive in her real body. Meanwhile on the bridge, the conflict of Chakotay and Paris escalates, and Paris ends up in the brig.
I have a soft spot for this episode. The Doctor's uneasiness about Danara is just as touching as Danara's happiness about her healthy holographic body. Overall, if we count in the B-plot about the conflict between Paris and Chakotay, this episode accomplishes a lot in a very simple story. For better or worse, it feels like a bottle show although I don't think it is considered one. What I find particularly noteworthy is that there is few interaction among the principal characters. Unlike it would be usually the case when alien guests are aboard, Janeway or Chakotay don't go to sickbay or talk to Denara Pel once in this whole episode. They only tend to the issue of their defiant helm officer. Most of the time the Doctor is alone with his patient and even Kes is absent. I have the impression this was done on purpose, to give the Doctor more room for character development, as well as to lend weight to the B-plot about Tom Paris as a "matter for the captain".
Regarding the Vidiians, this episode possibly illustrates the whole impact of the phage better than previous installments, by concentrating on the personal tragedy of a single individual. We learn a bit about Danara Pel's life with the disease, and that she has never been healthy since her childhood. We can see what an attractive and charming person she could be without the terrible disease - and wants to be when she realizes it. Her desire to be pretty and healthy again is so strong that she poisons her real body, and the Doctor has to convince her to return there. Fortunately the episode doesn't close with a phrase like "real beauty is only inside you" or "life is what you make it". Danara won't have a great life with the phage, and the prospect that she can help her people if she returns is her only real driving force. This is only realistic. And it is the antithesis to a recurring theme in the media where it is purported that disabled or disfigured people are having such a great time that they never want to be healthy again. The latter is a cliché that I'm tired of and that I criticize because in its ultimate consequence it condemns all sick people to have boundless optimism and self-confidence in order to be socially accepted.
At one point, it seems as if B'Elanna, after her experience in VOY: "Faces", would deny Danara her help in the same way as Worf refused to donate blood for the injured Romulan in TNG: "The Enemy". Fortunately she can overcome her reservations and agrees to donate a brain tissue sample.
- Remarkable scene: the gradual holographic reconstruction of Danara Pel's healthy physiology, an amazing CGI sequence for its time
- Remarkable dialogue: Kes advises the Doctor: "You have to tell her how you feel." Cut. The Doctor is performing a surgery, casually turns to Danara and says: "By the way, Danara, I feel romantically attracted to you and I wanted to know if you feel the same." Camera pans to Kes. Note her facial expression: shocked!
- Remarkable misunderstanding: "What are you crying?" - "I'm sorry, I..." - "I thought you'd be pleased." - "I am. I just never expected to look healthy again. I've been sick for so long." (Doctor and Danara after the restoration of her body, reminds me of Data finding Spot in "Star Trek: Generations")
- Remarkable mistake: The Doctor once mispronounces the unit "terahertz" as "tetrahertz".
- Remarkable facts:
- The Doctor performs a procedure on Danara that was developed by Doctor Leonard McCoy in the year 2253.
- The Doctor's program comprises 50 million gigaquads of data, with the medical knowledge of 3000 cultures.
Stardate 49485.2: Neelix hat set up a shipwide daily video broadcast, "A Briefing With Neelix", in which he presents news about the ship and interviews with the crew. Kim tells him that for the program to remain interesting, he has to watch out for more exciting news. The big news comes sooner than Neelix thinks when Talaxian Commander Laxeth tells him that one of Voyager's crew is about to leave the ship and join his convoy. It turns out that this person is Tom Paris, who has been malcontent for quite a while. Just after Tom has left, an apparent malfunction disables Voyager's warp drive. Michael Jonas and two other engineers are hurt when a console explodes. Moreover, Tom is abducted by the Kazon when they attack the Talaxian convoy, obviously because Jonas was able to inform Seska of Paris's departure. Neelix investigates the subspace communication logs with Ensign Hogan's help. They find that portions were erased, and the trace leads to Tom Paris's quarters. After Neelix has publicly made Tom responsible in his broadcast, he is called to the ready room. Janeway reveals to Neelix and to the astonished Chakotay that Tom isn't the traitor. Actually, he misbehaved and eventually left the ship as a part of a plan devised by Tuvok and Janeway to find the true traitor from the Kazon ship. Indeed, on the Kazon ship, Tom finds out about Jonas's communication with Seska. He ignites an explosive device and escapes with a shuttle. On Voyager, Neelix is in engineering with Jonas who sabotages the ship's weapons but pretends to work on the transporter to be able to beam out Paris. Neelix gets into a fight with Jonas, and Jonas is killed when he falls into a plasma stream. Paris can be beamed out in time before the shuttle explodes, and Voyager's weapons come back online to fend off the Kazon ship. In the next episode of "A Briefing With Neelix" there is an exclusive interview with Tom Paris, who also apologizes for being a jerk.
"Investigations" is an overall exciting episode with a good deal of action, but it comes with several flaws. It's one of the few episodes that give me the impression how the script and direction should have been different while I'm still watching. Most notably the plan to use Tom Paris to unmask the traitor is idiotic, and realistically would have had zero chance of success. It actually reminds me a lot of the idea to let Kirk steal the Romulan cloaking cloaking device in TOS: "The Enterprise Incident", a story that has a very similar theme and that is utterly incredible for much the same reasons.
Ironically, Tom Paris contributes rather little to the unmasking of the traitor Jonas, despite all the huge efforts. Neelix finds out more about the secret transmissions in two days than Tuvok in a couple of months as it seems. In this light, I could imagine the episode would have worked better without Tom Paris (or at least without the plan to have him kidnapped by the Kazon). This is clearly Neelix's episode, and perhaps the best story for his character so far. I like the idea of "A Briefing With Neelix" very much. So it may have been a good idea to give Neelix even more screen time. We already knew it was Michael Jonas, so it may have been more exciting to watch how Jonas is always one step ahead of Neelix, in a cat-and-mouse game.
So while I'm not dissatisfied with "Investigations", I could imagine a story that could have worked better, with regard to plot logic and dramaturgy.
- Why can Tom be so sure to be kidnapped by the Kazon after joining the Talaxian convoy? He isn't really valuable for them except perhaps as a hostage. And the mere fact that he leaves Voyager doesn't mean that he would betray his former shipmates like Seska did.
- If Tom really is so valuable, it is totally irresponsible to put the Talaxian convoy at risk by making it a prime target for a Kazon attack, for a matter that concerns only Voyager and the Kazons.
- In order to get kidnapped, wouldn't it have been a much better idea to send Tom on an away mission and "accidentally" leave him behind? It would have saved him and everyone else the drama of him misbehaving over a course of several months.
- As a prisoner on any alien ship, the chance to snug in an explosive device, to find an unprotected computer terminal, to access the transmission logs (in the hope they haven't been deleted like on Voyager), to shake off the guards and to escape with a shuttle is so slim that no one would seriously consider going on such a useless suicide mission. And to put the ship at risk because of the inevitable confrontation with the Kazon.
- When the warp coils are burnt out, there is obviously a source of the rare material verterium cortenide in the range of the impulse drive. What a coincidence.
- Why does Neelix have access to Tom's logs through an engineering code that is even known to low-ranking crew members, and why is there no additional voice recognition?
- Remarkable dialogue: "I was the one who recommended to Captain Janeway that you not be told. I suspected that the spy was a Maquis, and felt it was wrong to put you in a position of setting a trap for someone who had once served under you." - "In other words, you didn't trust me." (Tuvok and Chakotay, who is understandably pissed)
- Remarkable scene: Tom is seen leaving the ship with the voiceover from Neelix's special issue of "A Briefing With Neelix" about his departure. This is touching without getting kitsch.
- Remarkable appearance: King Abdullah bin al-Hussein (then Prince) of Jordan can be seen as an extra in the teaser of this episode.
- Remarkable 47: the engineering security code "Omega 47"
- Remarkable fact: Neelix reads a log entry of a communication "Voyager to Catati" (sp.?). The Caatati from "Day of Honor"? Unlikely.
- Crew losses: 1 (Michael Jonas)
Stardate not given: As Ensign Wildman is going to give birth to her baby, Voyager enters a nebula to avoid Vidiian territory. Inside the nebula, the antimatter supply of the ship gets drained, and Janeway orders to fire proton bursts to infuse the ship's warp coils. But the ship itself gets hit by proton bursts of unknown origin that cause heavy casualties and damage. Ensign Wildman's baby and Ensign Kim die, and Kes vanishes in a spatial rift. As the attacks on the ship continue, Janeway has to abandon the bridge. Just as she leaves, she glimpses an intact bridge with another version of Janeway. On the other Voyager, everything is largely intact, only the antimatter supply has been depleted. And there is a guest from the other ship - Kes. It turns out that Voyager was doubled in a subspace divergence field, and now the two ships occupy the same spatial coordinates. The Janeway of the intact Voyager orders to stop the proton bursts that damage the other ship. The two Janeways establish a communication link and coordinate a plan to merge the ships again, by recreating the divergence field. But the plan fails and can't be repeated due to the low energy level on the damaged ship. Janeway and Kes enter the spatial rift to the damaged Voyager, whose captain decides to self-destruct her ship in order to save the one that is in better shape. But then a Vidiian ship approaches, and organ hunters board the intact Voyager. The Janeway of this ship sends Harry with Wildman's baby to the damaged Voyager and blows up her own vessel, together with the Vidiian attackers.
This episode works very well because of the breathless action and its appropriately uncompromising direction. There isn't anything like banter or filler scenes. And it seems that every time one shouldn't expect that it could get still worse for Voyager, the ship is damaged even more or someone dies. It is clear that there has to be some sort of reset button (at least for Harry Kim but also for the battered ship). Yet, it all turns out differently than I would have anticipated.
The story thrives on the many unexpected and often ironic twists. The switch from the battered ship to the other, tidy Voyager is definitely a big surprise (at least it was when I watched the episode for the first time). Once this second and still largely intact ship has been introduced, it makes the extreme damage and the deaths of Harry and Wildman's baby on the previously seen Voyager a bit more acceptable (along the lines, "it's just like another parallel universe"). It is ironic that the proton bursts from one Voyager are actually the cause of the damages and of Harry's and Naomi's death on the other ship. After the failed attempt to merge the ships it seems obvious that only the intact Voyager would survive in the end. But ironically, it's the undamaged Voyager that gets boarded by the Vidiians and has to be destroyed in order to save the damaged vessel. I like how Janeway quickly decides to save just Harry Kim and the baby in order to compensate for the losses on the other ship, although one might argue that everyone on the ship should have the same right to survive.
As for the theme of the story, damage to the ship and losses of life have become almost the weekly business of Voyager, but it has never been that grave so far. It is obvious that the crew and the ship can't go through such an ordeal and that Janeway can't face such hard decisions every few episodes. The motif would be quickly exhausted, not to mention the trouble to explain how the crew recovers and how the ship can be repaired each time. Anyway, it was worth the trouble this time. The chance to bring Janeway and her crew into a truly desperate situation was not wasted, and their distress was even emphasized by showing the second, largely intact ship at the same time. I like Janeway's interaction with Janeway. Even in Star Trek, instances of people talking to themselves (other than on the holodeck and in hallucinations) are comparably rare. I think both Janeways were in character when they didn't allow themselves to be confused by the situation ("Weird is part of the job").
One more thing to note is the extremely long teaser of this episode. It lasts as long as seven minutes. I personally would have made the cut prior to the first proton burst attack, or perhaps even prior to Naomi's birth.
- I must admit I don't bother too much about the fact that both ships still occupy the same point in space-time, yet they are separated. It can be explained with a phase variance. Yet, why is self-destruct an option if the two ships are that strongly coupled that crew transfer or division of antimatter would have been fatal? In this light, wouldn't the self-destruct of one Voyager be the ultimate way to blow up both ships?
- How is it possible and why is it deemed useful or necessary to merge the two Voyagers again? A similar procedure is considered a huge ethical problem in the later episode "Tuvix".
- The Vidiians are able to extract organs without surgery ("The Phage") and they can create two separate copies of the same person by DNA splitting ("Faces"). I would expect them to possess transporter technology, still they obviously don't have a transporter and enter the ship the old-fashioned way by cutting through the hull.
- Remarkable scene: The Janeway of the intact ship asks her Doctor "How is our other patient?", and the camera pans to the unconscious second Kes from the damaged ship. I like the casual way she is referred to.
- Remarkable ship: The Vidiian vessel in this episode is a reuse of the Reptohumanoid ship from "Parturition". We don't see in detail in this episode how the Vidiians cut through Voyager's hull. This will be shown in a sort of flashback in VOY: "Fury".
- Remarkable quote: "Mr. Kim, we're Starfleet officers, weird is part of the job." (Janeway)
Stardate not given: A shuttle with Tuvok and Ensign Bennet crashes on a moon in Drayan space. Bennet does not survive. Tuvok encounters three children, who tell him that they too are marooned. Meanwhile on Voyager, a delegation of the seclusive Drayans takes a tour of the ship, which is interrupted when they learn of the accident. But the Drayans refuse to work together with Voyager, and they forbid Janeway to send down a rescue team to the moon, which is a sacred ground. On the moon, the children are afraid that a creature called Morrok is coming to get them. Tuvok tries to ease their fear. The next morning, however, only one girl, Tressa, is left. Tuvok and Tressa repair the shuttle and take off, but they are forced to land by a Drayan shuttle. When Janeway arrives on the surface and offers asylum to Tressa, First Prelate Alcia of the Drayans explains that Tressa is actually not a child but a 96-year-old woman, who has come to the moon to die. It is the natural aging process of the Drayans that they become what other races would call children.
I never liked this episode. It has some redeeming qualities, but the story overall doesn't work for me.
Well, dubbing it "Tuvok's kindergarten" (as I did for quite a while) wouldn't do the only good part of the episode justice. I actually like how Tuvok, the perhaps most emotionally challenged of all Vulcans, gets a couple of very emotional scenes. After Tuvok's initial uneasiness he seems to recall how he loves his own children back on Vulcan, and perhaps he realizes that he could have done more to reaffirm his love to them. In any case he develops a strong fondness for his little friends without losing his impeccable logic. He becomes a father figure and remains one for Tressa even after the revelation of her true nature. One point for Tuvok, and one for the fact that the Drayan children are not as annoying as kids have been on some other occasions in Star Trek.
The rest of the story is crap. Those children look like children, they move like children, they talk like children. They are children. It has no impact on anything that has happened so far that they are actually old people. It doesn't invalidate Tuvok's attempts to protect and comfort them. It is only a sad twist that they are going to die. To me, the supposedly big revelation remains a small side note at the very end of the episode, without the need to reconsider anything.
And we really shouldn't even try to make sense of the Drayan aging. All lifeforms on all other planets and even inanimate objects look old because they are old. There is no such thing as "reversed aging" and there is no way that the Drayans could defy the second law of thermodynamics. Yet, if it were possible, I think I understand why the Drayans make such a big secret of their true nature. They are the only ones with reversed aging, and they may be afraid of racist reactions on it.
The episode begins with a shuttle crash. So far there haven't been too many of them in the series and there is not yet a reason to complain about it. But I generally dislike shuttle crashes as a lame standard plot device with the sole objective to get characters isolated. What's more, another "expendable" ensign has to die for the only purpose of having Tuvok alone with the children. Ensign Bennet at least had a touching death scene.
- Remarkable quote: "We don't often receive such distinguished guests here, unless there's been some sort of accident." (the Doctor to the Drayan representative about sickbay)
- Remarkable song: Tuvok sings the tale of Falor's Journey to the children.
Through storms he crossed the Voroth Sea
To reach the clouded shores of Raal
Where old T'Para offered truth.
He traveled through the windswept hills
And crossed the barren Fire Plains
To find the silent monks of Kir.
Still unfulfilled, he journeyed home
Told stories of the lessons learned
And gained true wisdom by the giving.
- Crew losses: 1 (Ensign Bennet)
Stardate not given: Voyager discovers hibernation chambers on a Kohl planet whose surface was devastated 19 years ago. An automated message says that the hibernation was scheduled to end after 15 years. Janeway decides to beam the five chambers and the control system aboard. Two individuals died of heart failure after a massive neural trauma, three more are still alive. It is not possible to wake them up because simply disconnecting them would cause neural damage. Harry and B'Elanna are hooked up to the system to terminate the program from within. What they encounter is an overall pleasant virtual environment that is ruled by an evil clown called "Fear". He can kill anyone connected to the system using mock executions. It turns out that Fear is a manifestation of the fears of the people in the chambers, and has developed a personality of his own. Fear allows B'Elanna to leave but keeps Harry as another hostage. Janeway sends in the Doctor as a negotiator, but the clown declines all offers. Fear kills one of the three Kohl, Viorsa, when B'Elanna attempts to shut down the environment piece by piece. Janeway then decides to send in the Doctor again with an ultimatum: Fear has to release all the hostages in exchange for Janeway, or she will pull the plug. Fear agrees, but then he notices that Janeway is just a holographic projection, upon which he disappears.
Like in several other episodes, Janeway gets the crew into trouble in the first place because of her curiosity and carelessness. I'm not sure what the Prime Directive has to say about resuscitating people on a deserted alien planet. But simply not interfering may have been an option. And hooking up my officers to an alien computer system that is known to perform mind manipulation is definitely a bad idea. Only if we forgive her these mistakes we can enjoy the rest of the episode.
I like how the story shows the impact of fear without using blatant horror clichés (well, except for "Fear", the "evil clown"). I also like how it criticizes torture (mock executions in this case) without any graphic violence.
It is worked out well in the episode that fear is a primitive yet strong emotion. An emotion that may even kill. But isn't this kind of horror something temporary, unlike the permanent character of "Fear", who was somehow created from the fear of the people in the chambers? We can compare "Fear" to other incarnations of emotions in Star Trek. In TOS: "Day of the Dove" there was an entity consuming hatred, but only in its explicitly shown form and not as a latent emotion. TNG: "Skin of Evil" featured Armus, a creature that was the incarnation of the bad emotions of a whole civilization and persisted even after everyone had died. DS9: "The Storyteller" showed the Dal'Rok, which could be appeased if people stuck together, very much like in "Day of the Dove". Overall, the manifestation named Fear is more believable than the other entities, since emotions are always inherent to a specific being, and are not likely to have a separate, let alone corporeal existence. On the other hand, in this case Fear would have lost or changed his personality when he agreed to accept Janeway as his only hostage. I would have liked to see Janeway's fears reflected in Fear but she was only holographic. ;-)
Regarding the use of the characters, the story was worked out only half-heartedly. It is a no-brainer that the EMH saves the day. He is immune to Fear's threats and not connected to his mind. Janeway excels likewise, when she explains that fear/Fear will eventually vanish. She is very self-confident, although she should have more of a bad conscience because she caused the whole dilemma in the first place. And the part of the poor victim falls to Harry once again.
Remarkable dialogue: "What will become of us? Of me?" - "Like all fear, you eventually vanish." - "I'm afraid." - "I know." - "Drat." (Fear and Janeway)
Remarkable music: Harry Kim plays a piece called "Jaz Impromptu" at the beginning of the episode.
Remarkable fact: Fear mentions Chulak of Romulus, who suffered a defeat at Galorndon Core.
Stardate 49655.2: Tuvok and Neelix collect plants on a planet. When they are being beamed up, their two patterns merge to one, creating a hybrid individual called "Tuvix". It turns out that enzymes of a flower they were carrying combined their DNA while they were in the matter stream. The Doctor is working on a procedure to split up Tuvix in order to retrieve Tuvok and Neelix, but so far without success. Tuvix is healthy, has the personalities, knowledge and abilities of both Neelix and Tuvok, and he fits perfectly into Voyager's crew. Only his relationship with Kes, who wants Neelix back, remains problematic. Two weeks later the Doctor comes up with a procedure to split up Tuvix again, using a radioisotope that selectively attaches itself to specific DNA sequences. But Tuvix refuses to undergo the procedure because he does not want to die. Janeway decides to go through with it and performs the procedure herself, restoring Tuvok and Neelix as they used to be.
"Tuvix" is one of the most controversial episodes of all Star Trek, and I admit it took me a couple of years to recognize the whole bandwidth of the ethical dilemma. When I first watched it in 1997, I found myself agreeing with Janeway's decision. The reset button at the end of the episode left me more comfortable than the idea that two people could be replaced by just one. After all, we could paraphrase a certain Vulcan saying, that the needs of the two outweigh the needs of Tuvix. I changed my mind a bit after several debates with other fans, several of whom were unequivocal: "Janeway killed Tuvix against his will, she committed a murder!"
But it is not as easy as that. To start with, the science of this episode is very shaky. Tuvok and Neelix were fused to one individual on one hand (as if they had a common child), yet they both still exist, or could come to life again if Tuvix were split up. This is genetically impossible for all I know, as you can't clone the two parents from their common child. Only the contrived setup that Tuvix stands in Tuvok's and Neelix's way creates the ethical dilemma, the choice between keeping Tuvix alive or killing him to retrieve Tuvok and Neelix. In a realistic story, the transporter accident should have been irreversible, and would not have left the option to restore Tuvix's "parents". Well, TOS: "The Enemy Within" set a precedent of some sort, although the order was reversed, as two Kirks were combined to one in the end.
As I see it now, different interpretations are possible of whether or not Janeway committed a crime when she retrieved Tuvok and Neelix at the expense of Tuvix. We have to recall that according to the premise, as scientifically dubious as it is, Tuvok and Neelix are alive and conscious inside Tuvix in some fashion. Retrieving them would bring the very two people back to life and not only replicate them. This appears to be a quite cold argument considering that it still means to kill a living and sentient being without his consent. I agree that Janeway killed Tuvix in some fashion, because he had a consciousness of his own that ceased to exist. But technically she may not have killed him, considering that the transporter routinely dissolves and reassembles a human body. Technically she may have just transformed the living body of Tuvix into the ones of Tuvok and Neelix.
So what is the worth of Tuvix's life? Let me play the advocatus diaboli. It is made a big deal in the episode that Tuvix is such a valuable person, one who could replace both Tuvok and Neelix. Now imagine that Tuvix had been a wholly different person than in the actual episode and had inherited only the worst from Tuvok and Neelix. It was an accident after all. Such a Tuvix could have been mentally unstable or seriously handicapped. Or he could have been a complete asshole, and not at all the charming person that everyone likes. Would Voyager's crew care as much for such an alternate Tuvix, or wouldn't they rather want Tuvok and Neelix back at all cost? Would fans still accuse Janeway of murder, had she killed such an unfavorable Tuvix? If you say "Janeway is a murderer!" you should give that a thought.
In any case, this episode remains controversial, and the outcome leaves a bad taste no matter if we rate Janeway's action as murder or only as a tough decision. In this regard the episode is successful in inciting a discussion on its ethics.
The one perhaps even bigger merit of "Tuvix" is that it remains serious, although the mere idea of the odd couple Tuvok and Neelix combined to just one person sounds very silly. There is nothing funny at all in the whole episode, except for the very moment we spot Tuvix on the transporter platform, with facial features, hairstyle and even the fabric of his clothes being a blend of Tuvok and Neelix. Tom Wright portrays Tuvix very credibly, carefully incorporating mannerisms of both Tuvok and Neelix. Yet, my impression is that it is primarily not Tuvix's but rather Kes's episode. She has many good scenes dealing with her attempts to cope with the situation. Both her embarrassment about the strange new crewmate Tuvix and the appreciation of his many abilities are absolutely convincing. I especially like her weakness after Tuvix has asked her to speak in his favor and thereby created a dilemma that she is unable to resolve.
This takes me back to the depiction of Tuvix. As already mentioned, he appears to have inherited only the best of both Tuvok and Neelix. He is a better cook than Neelix as it seems, and perhaps a better tactical officer than Tuvok. And this is just to good to be true. I think it becomes apparent in the course of the episode that Tuvix does have his flaws. He knows that he is some sort of genius and that he is popular. And so he develops a form of arrogance that I think can be found neither in Tuvok nor in Neelix. On the other hand, he may just try to compensate for his lovesickness with exaggerated ambition. In any case, Tuvix develops to a personality of his own (which may corroborate his right to live). Thereby it becomes clear that he is neither the simple sum of Tuvok and Neelix nor better than them (which eventually invalidates Tuvix's own argument that he could replace both). He is an individual who fights for his rights but is not totally likable in doing that, which becomes apparent when he tries to exert pressure on Kes and then on everyone else. I don't know if it was the intention to work out flaws in the so far perfect personality of Tuvix, but that was the impression on me.
- As mentioned above, it is genetically impossible to clone the two parents from their common child, which is what technically happens when Tuvok and Neelix are restored.
- How can Tuvok's and Neelix's consciousnesses survive besides the new merged version in Tuvix's body? How could the Doctor and Janeway be sure that it was actually the case? There could have been two mindless persons after the separation. One way to investigate this possibility would have been using Tuvok or Tuvix's or Kes's telepathic abilities, but this was not considered an option. It should have revealed if there was something left of Tuvok and Neelix.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "That 'lovely tune' is a traditional funeral dirge." - "I know, but it was the...the most cheerful song I could find in the Vulcan database." (Tuvok and Neelix)
- "I assure you, Mr. Tuvix. There's nothing to worry about. We've accounted for every variable." - "Except for one. In don't want to die." (the Doctor and Tuvix)
Remarkable music: Harry Kim plays the Clarinet Sonata No. 2 in E-flat major, Op. 120 by Johannes Brahms when he receives a call from the Doctor.
Stardate not given: Janeway and Chakotay contract a virus on the surface of a planet. The Doctor has to put them in stasis but after 17 days he has still not found a cure. Only the environmental conditions of the planet can keep the two alive. So Janeway makes the decision that she and Chakotay stay behind on the planet and Voyager continues its journey under the command of Tuvok. Tuvok has explicit order not contact the Vidiians with their advanced medical technology, and he enforces this order against the rest of the crew. On the bridge, Harry contradicts Tuvok's orders and suggests to obtain an antiviral agent from the Vidiians in exchange for a Klingon DNA sample, whereupon Tuvok temporarily relieves him of duty. On the planet, Janeway continues her research to find an antivirus, while Chakotay focuses on making it a more agreeable place to live. A plasma storm, however, destroys all of Janeway's research. Kes eventually convinces Tuvok to contact Danara Pel, the Vidiian woman who was romantically involved with the Doctor. Danara agrees to provide an antivirus, but is unaware that her people set up a trap and attack Voyager. As it is not possible for Voyager to survive without shields during the battle, Tuvok devises a maneuver that allows Voyager to disable the enemy ships after dropping the shields, by detonating an antimatter container with a photon torpedo. After securing the antivirus, Voyager returns to the planet where Janeway has just begun to put up with her situation.
It is easy to underrate this episode because "Resolutions" comes with some action but precedes the much more exciting double feature "Basics". The timing definitely could have been better, also considering that the theme of survival on an alien planet is similar in both cases. But overall "Resolutions" is a fine episode if we acknowledge that its significance doesn't lie in the dramatic circumstances themselves but rather in how differently everyone deals with them. It is a story about character conflicts in the first place, rather than about viruses and Vidiians.
On the ship, Tuvok's sense of duty clashes with Harry's determination to grasp an opportunity to help Janeway and Chakotay. When Harry spots the Vidiian ship and comes up with the idea to contact them for medical support, he develops much the same enthusiasm as in a couple of previous episodes whenever a wormhole or another shortcut to the Alpha Quadrant was discovered. For Tuvok, on the other hand, Captain Janeway's orders and his responsibility for the safety of the crew have absolute priority. His being Vulcan doesn't even seem to be a key factor why he upholds this somewhat cold stance against the will of Harry and of pretty much everyone else of Voyager's crew. On the contrary, my impression is that he was only waiting for a sign of widespread support among the crew to finally do something. And rather than by his Vulcan nature, he may be impeded by the experience he made in the first season episode "Prime Factors", which for him set a precedent for acting against orders and "out of popular request", and in doing which he failed miserably. I think the writers remembered that episode even though they didn't explicitly refer to it.
On the planet, we have Janeway's determination to find a cure that is contrasted with Chakotay's fatalism. Chakotay appears to put up with his new situation very quickly and easily. His main concern seems to be to please Janeway with home improvement and good cooking. He probably wouldn't be of much help in Janeway's scientific efforts anyway. Still, he silently assumes that she will fail, and so everything he does is aimed at alleviating her inevitable disappointment. Chakotay is seeking harmony, quite unlike Janeway, who can live with uncertainties or with lacking comfort. She appreciates Chakotay's attempts to improve their situation, although she probably knows very well that she doesn't really have his support in her own attempts to get away from the planet. Unlike Tuvok and Harry, Janeway and Chakotay never really clash. That may have to do with the fact that they have all the time in the world to resolve their issues, and no one else that they would have to care for or that they could ask for advice.
I wonder in how far Chakotay's letting go is influenced by his desire to stay with Janeway. He clearly enjoys caressing Janeway, and her statement "We have to define parameters." should be a clear sign she doesn't want the same thing. Really? Only a few moments later they seem to settle on an agreement, and this is apparently not about staying away from each other. I think this aspect of the story could have been developed further. But my impression is that the relationship between Janeway and Chakotay is deliberately kept ambiguous.
It is only disappointing that nothing is wrapped up at the end of the episode that shows us business as usual, as if nothing noteworthy had happened. We have to bear in mind that this whole episode spans a time of at least 15 weeks, in which Janeway and Chakotay are separated from the rest of the crew.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "I'm not sure I can define parameters. But I can tell you a story, an ancient legend among my people. It's about an angry warrior who lived his life in conflict with the rest of his tribe, a man who couldn't find peace, even with the help of his spirit guide. For years, he struggled with his discontent. But the only satisfaction he ever got came when he was in battle. This made him a hero among his tribe, but the warrior still longed for peace within himself. One day he and his war party were captured by a neighboring tribe led by a woman warrior. She called on him to join her because her tribe was too small and weak to defend itself from all its enemies. The woman warrior was brave and beautiful and very wise. The angry warrior swore to himself that he would stay by her side, doing whatever he could to make her burden lighter. From that point on, her needs would come first. And in that way, the warrior began to know the true meaning of peace." - "Is that really an ancient legend?" - "No. But that made it easier to say." (Chakotay, with a great parody of his usual ancient stories, and Janeway)
- (Chakotay sees that Janeway is obviously charmed by a primate) "Looking for a pet?" - "No, looking for a clue about primate physiology on this planet. They must have to contend with insect bites too."
- Remarkable maneuver: Tuvok Maneuver, ejecting an antimatter pod and igniting it with a photon torpedo
- Remarkable monkey: The primate on the planet is actually an ordinary spider monkey that was deemed to look sufficiently alien.
- Remarkable fact: A Type-9 shuttle has a top speed of Warp 4, according to Tom.
- Photon torpedoes used: 3
Stardate not given/50032.7: Seska transmits a message, begging Chakotay to rescue her and her son, his alleged child, from the Kazon. Although Chakotay believes it is a trap, Janeway decides to assume that Seska and the child are in actual danger. Voyager saves the injured Kazon Tierna from his shuttle. He has apparently fallen out of favor with Maje Culluh. Tierna says that Seska is dead and that the child was taken to a colony. He shows them a passage through Kazon territory, during which the ship endures only half-hearted attacks that damage the secondary command processor. Voyager then stands its grounds against large Kazon carrier vessels. However, when Tierna disrupts the power grid with a suicide bomb, the ship loses power. The self-destruct is disabled due to the damaged secondary command processor, and so Culluh and Seska can take over Voyager. The Kazon exile the Starfleet crew to a savage planet in the Hanon system. Paris escapes with a shuttle, and only the Doctor and Ensign Suder, who hides in the Jefferies tubes, stay on board. The rest of the crew strives to stay alive on the barren planet without any technology. Two crew members are killed by a predator. Ensign Wildman's daughter gets sick. The indigenous humanoid population appears to be primitive and hostile. Moreover, volcanic eruptions threaten to kill everyone. But when Chakotay saves one of the native women from a lava stream, their leader helps the Starfleet crew and provides medical aid for Ensign Wildman's baby. Paris enlists support from a Talaxian colony. He contacts the Doctor who, together with Suder, sabotages the ship. When the Talaxians and Paris attack Voyager, the phaser couplings overload, which disables the ship and its Kazon crew. Seska is killed and Culluh, the actual father, takes the child when he leaves together with his people. Voyager returns to the savage planet to pick up the marooned rightful crew.
This double feature comes with big changes and big emotions. It is a straightforward action-heavy story that doesn't spend too much time on subplots except for the one regarding Lon Suder's wish "to do something for the ship". Suder will do a lot for the ship in the second part, making him a perfect example of Chekhov's gun. The story also doesn't leave much of a mystery at any time. It is blindingly obvious that Seska's call for help would turn out a trap, and the fact that her child isn't Chakotay's son isn't much of a surprise either. All essential questions are already answered at the end of the first part, as it is no doubt that the crew would somehow manage to survive on the savage planet and eventually retake the ship. In the second part, the story lives up to the episode title and thrives on the crew's struggle to survive and to defeat the Kazon, rather than on the usual Starfleet comfort and pleasantries.
The perhaps most interesting observation in the first part is that Janeway and Chakotay seem to have switched their roles. Janeway, the always skeptical leader, trusts Seska too much and makes the irrational decision to help her at all cost. Chakotay, on the other hand, is suspicious like never before. But he may simply put the welfare of the ship above his personal interests - hoping that Janeway would make that decision for him.
Frankly, despite the many precautions and tricks such as sensor decoys and holographic ships, there isn't really a plan to free Seska and her child. Why is Janeway so confident they can take on eight massive Kazon ships, each of them a hundred times as large as Voyager? In "Caretaker" they had lots of trouble with only one of them.
Quite a few recurring characters are killed off in "Basics". The second part requires the fall of the tyrant. It is a bit of a surprise to see that it isn't Culluh but Seska who eventually dies. She would have been more likely to accompany the series as the resident villain than the technologically and tactically challenged Kazon who actually make their last regular appearance in "Basics". It's a pity that the characters of Hogan and Lon Suder are abandoned likewise. Especially Suder's character is fascinating, and it would have been worth at least another episode with a discussion whether he might be rehabilitated.
- Tierna tells Tuvok the security code of Maje Culluh, which includes his name "Culluh". Tuvok enters the code, and it shows on the tactical display, but with Culluh's name as "Cullah". So either Culluh's name is really spelled like this, or Tuvok mistyped it, and the similar spelling was accepted.
- The Kazon repair Voyager within a few hours and operate the ship without much trouble. Seska may have taught them a lot, still it comes across as much too easy.
- The Doctor asks the computer for the crew complement, and is told "89 Kazon and 1 Betazoid". Shouldn't that be "89 Kazon, 1 Cardassian and 1 Betazoid"?
- Remarkable dialogue: "You're more talented in the art of deception than you led me to believe." - "I was inspired by the presence of the master." (Seska and the Doctor)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Trapped on a barren planet and you're stuck with the only Indian in the universe who can't start a fire by rubbing two sticks together." (Chakotay)
- "I offer you a Vulcan prayer, Mister Suder. May your death bring you the peace you never found in life." (Tuvok)
- Remarkable maneuvers:
- Harry suggests to create decoy images of other ships using echo displacement.
- The Doctor comes up with the idea to project holographic ships into space with parabolic mirrors.
- The Kazon keep firing at the secondary command processor, which is is deemed non-essential by the Starfleet crew but actually disables the self-destruct so the Kazon can take over the ship.
- Paris tells the Doctor to block the backup phaser couplings of Voyager so they would overload when the Kazon need to activate them during his attack.
- Ship landings: #2 and #3
- Photon torpedoes used: 5 (at least)
- Crew losses: 3 (at least)