Star Trek Voyager (VOY) Season 4
of HonorNemesisRevulsionThe RavenScientific
Year of Hell I/IIRandom Thoughts Concerning FlightMortal CoilWaking Moments
Message in a BottleHuntersPreyRetrospectThe Killing Game I/IIVis à Vis
The Omega DirectiveUnforgettableLiving WitnessDemonOneHope and Fear
See VOY season 3
Stardate not given: Janeway's crew works hard to get rid of the remaining Borg technology, which prevents the ship from going to warp. After Seven of Nine's link to the Borg Collective has been severed, her human immune system begins to fight her implants. Janeway decides to remove them, even as the drone vehemently protests. When she goes into a shock, Kes uses her greatly improved psychokinetic powers to detect and destroy the Borg implant in Seven of Nine's brain that is responsible for the condition. Seven of Nine agrees to help remove the Borg technology from Voyager, yet she tries to contact the Collective and can only be stopped with Kes's abilities. Tuvok tries to help Kes gain control of her new powers, but her transformation goes beyond his comprehension. Being in cellular flux and a danger for the ship, Kes leaves Voyager in a shuttle. Before she enters another realm of existence, she hurls the ship through the whole Borg territory, 9500 light years closer to the Alpha Quadrant. Meanwhile, Seven of Nine's Borg implants have been largely removed and her human appearance reestablished.
This is an episode of transition. It consists of two story threads with opposite developments. Seven of Nine returns to her human nature, whereas Kes approaches a new plane of existence. Seven of Nine's condition stabilizes in the course of the episode, whereas Kes's gets more and more uncontrollable. Seven of Nine becomes a new crew member in the end, whereas Kes leaves the ship for good.
I used to be dissatisfied with how the two threads were packed into one episode. In my view, Kes's as well as Seven of Nine's transformation would each have warranted an episode of their own, or could have taken a longer time. It felt contrived how both takes place simultaneously. Notwithstanding the real-world reason that a fast way for Jennifer Lien to leave the show was needed, it may have been separated from the Seven of Nine story.
After watching "The Gift" again, for the first time in many years, I changed my opinion. Even though it still feels a bit rushed and a bit contrived, it is a good idea that Seven's arrival on the ship mirrors Kes's departure. Also, "The Gift" successfully preserves some of the tension from "Scorpion" and does not simply wrap up the events of the exciting two-part episode.
Unfortunately there is no real discussion of how to deal with Kes's transformation because time is pressing. Regarding Seven of Nine, on the other hand, Janeway has the choice and faces an ethical problem. Should she send her back to the Collective, which is the former drone's explicit demand? Or should she make the decision for her, considering that Seven's judgment is impaired? Janeway's dilemma is very similar to Picard's in "Suddenly Human". Yet, she solves it quite differently. She rules that it is in the best interest of Seven of Nine as well as of Voyager that she remains aboard. This may seem selfish and like an irresponsible scientific experiment, but there are good reasons for her decision. Dropping Seven off the ship, with a subspace emitter, would draw the Borg's attention to Voyager again. And although it is not mentioned in the episode, it is well possible that the Borg either abandon or eliminate a drone that was damaged as severely as Seven.
It is clear that Seven of Nine directly replaces Kes in her role as the "attractive female character". In retrospect, Seven's arrival might even have been "prepared" by changing Kes's appearance in the last few episodes of season 3 (long hair, tight suits).
- Nitpicking: When Seven accesses the subspace transmitter, a security detail is on the way, but Tuvok is not informed at all.
- Remarkable quote: "It's acceptable." (Seven about her new appearance, I would tend to agree)
- Remarkable facts:
- Annika Hansen was born at the Tendara Colony on Stardate 25479. "Her parents were unconventional. They fancied themselves explorers, but wanted nothing to do with Starfleet or the Federation. Their names were last recorded at a remote outpost in the Omega sector. They refused to file a flight plan. Apparently, they aimed their small ship toward the Delta Quadrant and were never heard from again."
- The Borg assimilated autonomous regeneration sequencers from Species 259 in Galactic Cluster 3. "Galactic Cluster 3 is a transmaterial energy plane intersecting twenty two billion omnicordial lifeforms." Uhm, yes.
- Distance bridged: 9500ly
- Shuttles lost: 1
Stardate not given: Tom persuades B'Elanna Torres to celebrate the Klingon Day of Honor, but she is reluctant to undergo the ritual. In fact, it turns out to be an awful day for her. First B'Elanna has a lot of work on her hands while two of her staff are sick. Then Chakotay shows up, telling her that Seven of Nine is going to work in engineering, giving rise to her animosities toward the former Borg drone. When an experiment to enter transwarp fails, B'Elanna has to drop the warp core. She and Paris take a shuttle to search for the core, but the Caatati were faster and claim their right of salvage. An imminent hull breach forces B'Elanna and Tom to leave the shuttle in spacesuits. In the meantime Voyager is surrounded by Caatati vessels. Most of the Caatati were assimilated by the Borg, and besides the warp core and all kinds of supplies they also demand the extradition of Seven of Nine. Seven, however, succeeds in finding a solution for the energy shortage of the Caatati, who agree to return the warp core. When their oxygen has dropped to a minimum level, B'Elanna admits that she loves Tom. The two are beamed aboard in the nick of time.
This is the only episode of the season with special focus on B'Elanna, as Roxann Dawson was pregnant during the time. It's an intense story as already "Faces", "Prototype" and "Dreadnought". The special quality of "Day of Honor" is the underlying irony in the overall very serious story. It's like the catchphrase "Just when you thought it couldn't get worse" was extended to a whole story. I especially like how B'Elanna's problem mirrors the ship's crisis and vice versa. On other occasions in Voyager, characters often handle attacks and imminent warp core breaches with routine, while they despair of comparably insignificant personal problems in B-plots. "Day of Honor" skillfully combines both to one plot, to B'Elanna's "day of horror".
Although the solution that Seven helps the Caatati, who despise her, in "an unexpected act of kindness" is a bit simple, it demonstrates the spirit of Star Trek that also shines in Seven of Nine from now. Only the timing doesn't feel right. It may have been better for the series, had Seven shown this kindness at some later time. And speaking of bad timing, it is utterly unrealistic that the crew attempts to attain transwarp speed the very first day that Seven works with B'Elanna in engineering, while still a lot of repairs have to be done and two of the staff are sick! In light of this extreme hastiness and carelessness, the almost catastrophic failure of the "drive-of-the-week" experiment is well-deserved!
Rather than the failed transwarp experiment, the two long-term consequences of this episode are the "official" beginning of the relationship of B'Elanna and Tom, and the beginning of the animosities between B'Elanna and Seven. The latter seems like a good idea at this point of the series, considering that the Starfleet-Maquis conflict was buried (perhaps much too soon) in the first season. On the other hand, with Roxann Dawson taking a back seat because of her pregnancy, it was already foreseeable that the conflict would not be developed as consequentially as it may have been otherwise possible.
- Remarkable quote: "We've dumped the core. - Welcome to the worst day of my life." (B'Elanna)
- Remarkable VFX scene: the warp core ejection
- Remarkable costumes: For the first time since TOS we can see spacesuits in a Star Trek series. The model seen here previously appeared in "Star Trek: First Contact".
- Shuttles lost: 1
Stardate 51082.4: Chakotay's shuttle is shot down during a survey mission to an alien planet. He is rescued from the jungle by the Fourth Vori Defense Contingent led by a man named Brone. The Vori tell him that they are at war with a cruel enemy, the "Krady Beasts". When Chakotay and Namon, one of the Vori, try to find the shuttle, Namon is shot by a Kradin patrol. Chakotay trains the use of Vori weapons with Rafin, a soldier who used to be afraid of the war. Rafin gains more self-confidence. However, he is killed in a Kradin attack, and Chakotay barely escapes. He arrives at a village with Vori civilians. Here, Chakotay befriends a little girl named Karya. Karya asks him to take a message to her brother and Chakotay agrees, although he knows that her brother's whole unit was killed. The next day, the Kradin attack the village and intend to take the old and weak inhabitants to an extermination camp. The enraged Chakotay assaults the Kradin commandant. He finds himself with Brone in the war zone again and almost shoots a Kradin who identifies himself as Tuvok. In reality, Chakotay was manipulated by the Vori all the time, who created the whole scenario to train new soldiers to hate their enemy, the Kradins.
I never liked this episode because for 40 minutes it is like Chakotay in a Vietnam War movie, or playing a first-person shooter. It is all very one-dimensional and doesn't feel at all like a Star Trek story. Although exactly this is probably the writer's intention, it fails to captivate me. Chakotay starts off as a Starfleet officer, who remains rational and keeps an open mind as we should expect from him: "You know, sometimes people say terrible things about their enemies to make them seem worse than they really are." It is shocking to see how he totally loses his reservations in the following and how the circumstances prove him right. He also begins to speak the slang of the Vori. But it becomes just too obvious that this all has to be some kind of deception, and it takes too long until everything is resolved.
Rather than the story on the whole, I like its details. The Vori language is very metaphoric, replacing English words with more "poetic" terms that have a similar meaning. In some cases it doesn't become clear what the Vori mean, which made some lines hard to understand for me when I first watched it. Anyway, although the choice of words is rather a stylistic device than a realistic depiction of an alien language, I like the way how the Vori distinguish themselves from other humanoid aliens.
The Vori in Chakotay's training scenario are enraged that the Kradins "upturn" dead Vori and prevent them from entering the "wayafter", which Chakotay doesn't understand at first. Then Chakotay sees an "upturned" Vori, who is tied to the ground with the face up, so he can't "glimpse" the soil where the afterlife according to the Vori belief takes place. Rafin's last wish after he has been shot is to be turned around, which Chakotay fulfills. In many cultures, the desecration of bodies is the biggest taboo an enemy can possibly break, and spreading rumors about it is the possibly fastest way to demonize the enemy. So the "upturning" is a very realistic aspect of the story.
The idea that the Vori manipulate the minds of their soldiers during the training, rather than "only" indoctrinating them, is interesting. Even though countless Star Trek episodes already featured deceptive scenarios created through mind control or on the holodeck, in most cases they did not have a lasting effect. It is remarkable that at the end of "Nemesis" Chakotay doesn't simply return to business as usual: "I wish it were as easy to stop hating as it was to start." In this regard, "Nemesis" is similarly realistic as TNG: "The Mind's Eye" or TNG: "Frame of Mind".
What I don't like is the cliché that the ugly and ferocious aliens, namely the Kradins (who look like the eponymous "Predator" in the Schwarzenegger movie), turn out to be the good guys, while the human-looking Vori are evil. Considering that we never see any real Vori speak for themselves, it remains doubtful anyway whether the Kradin version that the Vori are the actual villains is true, or whether the scenario created by the Vori bears some truth after all.
- Remarkable slang: The Vori speak English (or something that is translated as English) with some special terms like "trunk" (jungle), "clash" (war), "sphere" (planet), "new light" (day), "nullify" (kill), "wayafter" (death, afterlife), "trembles" (fear), "backwalk" (retreat).
- Remarkable quote: "I wish it were as easy to stop hating as it was to start." (Chakotay)
- Shuttles lost: 1
Stardate 51186.2: Voyager receives a distress call from a Serosian ship, whose only survivor is an isomorphic projection (a hologram) named Dejaren. B'Elanna and the Doctor take a shuttle to assist him. In the meantime on Voyager, Harry works with Seven on improvements for the astrometric sensors. After his initial skepticism, Harry begins to appreciate Seven's work and gets a crush on her. On the Serosian ship, the Doctor talks to the fellow hologram, who is apparently unable to cope with the situation of being all alone on the vessel, while B'Elanna is doing repairs. The Doctor notices that Dejaren suffers from some kind of disorder but underestimates the hologram's deep-seated hatred for organic lifeforms. When B'Elanna discovers the bodies of the crew members that Dejaren murdered, he attacks her. B'Elanna deactivates his systems, but he rematerializes once again and disables the Doctor's mobile emitter. B'Elanna eventually destroys the holographic matrix using a uninsulated power cable.
The basic idea of "Revulsion" is not innovative at all and much like a new edition of the episode "Darkling" barely one year ago, when the Doctor temporarily mutated to an evil hologram. In consideration of this precedent, the Doctor of all people should have been wary of Dejaren's obvious disorder and his possible agenda. At latest when B'Elanna reports how much Dejaren despises organic beings, which is in line with his own observations, he should have reacted and deactivated Dejaren. But he does the exact contrary and tries to find excuses for the fellow hologram's conduct and statements, rather than care for the welfare of the away team. By all means, this is an utter misconduct that borders on disloyalty! And it is not his only big mistake, considering how he neglects to protect his mobile emitter when Dejaren attacks him. We may argue that the Doctor still has to learn a lot about being on away missions, but he even fails in the very fundamental questions of a sound medical assessment and of appropriate self-protection. And regarding the fraternization with renegade holograms or disloyalty with his crew, it won't even be the last time. The Doctor will make essentially the same mistake once again in the double feature "Flesh and Blood" in the seventh season and, to lesser extent, in "Author, Author". So as much as I otherwise like the character, he appears in a bad light in "Revulsion".
Fortunately B'Elanna makes up for the Doctor's errors and thereby proves that biological lifeforms aren't all that inferior. But other than that, her role is rather unremarkable because she only does what we would expect from her, with a determination she has shown more impressively on previous occasions. For the story, it may have been somewhat more interesting, had there been more of a conflict between B'Elanna and the Doctor over Dejaren.
Overall, "Revulsion" remains rather uninteresting because the Doctor is so stupid and because B'Elanna's role is limited to the usual fight, as already mentioned. The probably biggest letdown, however, is the lack of emotional attachment to the alien hologram. He's a simple lunatic, whose intentions are clear from the very beginning and whose motivation doesn't really matter. We don't know why the Serosians construct a complex humanoid hologram with emotions(!?), only to clean the reactor. We don't know if this story is true at all, because it seems well possible that Dejaren was a full member of the crew and made up his alleged misery. He may be lying as well about the 59.2% of the ship's energy that allegedly goes into life support. He's a lunatic after all.
Despite all these deficiencies, "Revulsion" at least has a frightening atmosphere, unlike "Darkling".
The B-plot with Harry's and Seven's interaction is overall somewhat more interesting, although it is arguably too trivial to be in the focus. I only wish the would-be love story had continued through a few more episodes of the season.
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Report to Sickbay at 0600 hours. Bring a tricorder and a smile." (Doctor, to "Nurse" Paris)
- "I exist as pure energy, but you depend on food and water to survive. Frankly, I find it disgusting. Look at you! Look at you! Grinding up bits of plants and animals with your teeth. Secreting saliva to force it down your oesophagus into a pit of digestive acids. You can't even stand to think about it yourself. What a repulsive creature you are! Constantly shedding your skin and hair, leaving your oily sweat on everything you touch. You think that you are the height of intellect in the universe, but you are no better than any filthy animal and I am ashamed to be made in your image!" (Dejaren)
- "Nevertheless I am willing to explore my humanity. Take off your clothes!" (Seven to Harry)
- Remarkable scene: Chakotay orders Harry to carry on to work with Seven despite their problems. After dismissing Harry with the words "Have fun!" he is shown with a big grin on his face.
- Remarkable practical joke: Tom and Harry manipulated Tuvok's security console to display the same message all over again: "Live long and prosper."
- Remarkable fact: Tuvok is promoted to lieutenant commander (again).
Stardate not given: Seven of Nine slowly gets accustomed to her new life, yet she is plagued by nightmares about the Borg and about a big black bird. Captain Janeway tries to find an arrangement with the B'omar to pass though their territory, but they would only allow it on an indirect and strictly monitored course. Suddenly Seven receives a Borg signal and her dormant nanoprobes are reactivated. She reestablishes her Borg shields, steals a shuttle and heads straight into the forbidden B'omar territory. Paris and Tuvok follow her with another shuttle. Tuvok manages to beam over but is incapacitated by Seven. When the two arrive at a moon, he can convince her to let him accompany her to the surface. The two find an abandoned and partially assimilated Federation ship, the Raven, once owned by Annika Hansen's parents before the whole family was assimilated. A small fleet of B'omar vessels too arrives and attacks the wreck, with reinforcements on the way. Janeway launches a rescue mission and fends off the B'omar, at the expense of losing a possible shortcut on the voyage to the Alpha Quadrant.
Somehow we could expect that something like this story would happen during Seven of Nine's stay on Voyager, just like Data received his homing signal and escaped from the Enterprise in a similar fashion in TNG: "Brothers". It only happens very soon in Seven's case, and perhaps too soon to be a real surprise, seeing that so much Borg and so much imponderability is still left in her personality at this time.
It is an unlikely coincidence that Voyager's flight path is so close to the very ship where Seven was assimilated years ago. The story of "The Raven", on the other hand, wouldn't make much sense otherwise, because in the end it is all about Seven's past and not about Seven's possible wish to rejoin the Collective. The premium version of "Seven returns to the Collective" will be next season's "Dark Frontier" anyway. "The Raven" is entertaining but it doesn't get as exciting as it could. Janeway has quite a crisis on her hand with a former Borg drone out of control, in the territory of a xenophobic species, but she seems to resolve it with too much ease.
On the positive side, "The Raven" has several well played scenes with Seven and Tuvok. It becomes clear how Seven still trusts Tuvok in spite of everything, and how Tuvok's main goal is to help her, even though he doesn't have a good idea how to do that. Their common struggle to escape the B'omar attack leaves little time to elaborate on the resurfacing memories of her family and her assimilation. And it is a pity in hindsight that her past will never be of particular interest again until "Dark Frontier".
- Remarkable damage: Seven destroyed the shuttlebay door when she escaped. I think it was fixed pretty fast, as usual.
- Remarkable shuttle: Seven's shuttle seems to have an amazing cloaking device that switches it from Type 6 to Type 8 and back during the flight. :-o
- Remarkable ship: The Raven is nothing but a heap of duranium in this episode, but the basic features of a starship can be identified. It is a sign of great carefulness (of Rick Sternbach) how faithfully the undamaged ship in "Dark Frontier" will match this appearance.
- Remarkable facts:
- The Talaxians are Species 218. A small Talaxian freighter containing a crew of 39 was assimilated in the Dalmine Sector. "They were easily assimilated. Their dense musculature made them excellent drones."
- The Vulcans are Species 3259. "Your enlarged neocortex produces superior analytical abilities."
- Seven disables Tuvok with a Vulcan nerve pinch.
- Shuttles lost: 1 (probably)
Stardate 51244.3: Voyager approaches a binary pulsar, and Janeway decides to study the stellar phenomenon from a safe distance. Tom and B'Elanna neglect their duties over their love affair, and a very annoyed Janeway upbraids them. Janeway is on edge anyway because she is plagued by headaches for quite a while. Then Chakotay is taken to sickbay with signs of rapid aging, while Neelix develops traits of a Mylean, the species of his great-grandfather. The Doctor and B'Elanna scan the patients' DNA, which exhibit artificially generated tags that also emit a weak signal. As the two try to expose the aliens that are responsible and that must be slightly out of phase, the Doctor's program is deleted from the mobile emitter and B'Elanna is knocked out. The Doctor contacts Seven of Nine through her audio implants and secretly meets with her on the holodeck that is free of alien activities. He modifies her ocular implants so she can see the intruders. They devise a plan to use the EPS relays to cause a neuroleptic shock in all crew members that would incapacitate the alien devices. But Seven doesn't manage to complete the work. When aliens show up in Tuvok's presence, she takes a phaser and exposes one of them. The alien woman is taken to the brig. She tells Janeway that they are just conducting scientific research for the benefit of their people, and that they could kill the crew in an instant if they were forced to. After the death of a crew member Janeway decides to act and steers the ship right into the range of the pulsars. The aliens try to escape, but one of their ships breaks apart. With the aliens gone, the mutations to the crew can be reverted. Tom and B'Elanna muse whether their love affair was just a result of the alien experiment.
I have a soft spot for stories in which alien intruders don't use guns but rather more subtle means to gain control of the ship or the crew. And I think that the idea of someone performing cruel experiments in the name of science was not yet exhausted after 30 years of Star Trek. Although the plot is essentially recycled from TNG: "Where Silence Has Lease", "Schisms" and "Phantasms" (aliens performing experiments on the crew to satisfy their curiosity) as well as elements from VOY: "Distant Origin" (cloaked scientific investigation), "Scientific Method" is an exceptionally thrilling episode.
There were other invisible alien threats in Star Trek before. The fact that Seven has to act covertly likewise and pretend that she is not aware of the aliens, in order to save the ship, gives the old idea an intelligent new twist. Furthermore the atmosphere when Seven can suddenly see the aliens perform their experiments on the crew is very unsettling and creepy. I like the visualization that shows Seven's view of the aliens and of crew members with weird looking pieces of technology on their heads in a blurry greenish light. I also like how these shots are contrasted with the corresponding ones in which everything appears to be normal.
After she has been apprehended and put into the brig, the alien scientist does not put much effort in her defense. For her, it is a sufficient justification to gather useful data. The fate of her test subjects doesn't matter, or only in a statistical sense that few have to suffer for the benefit of millions. She would normally never speak with any of them anyway, so in terms of an argument she is probably unprepared and only relies on her better tactical position. Janeway, on the other hand, remains remarkably calm despite her increased dopamine levels, as the alien woman remarks. It is clear that Janeway must find a way to get rid of the aliens without risking the lives of many of her crew. It seems that Janeway still hopes to get some sort of an explanation or excuse. But she should know that nothing could excuse the experiments of SS physician Mengele, and the same applies to what these aliens are doing. Could it be an ironic twist that the names of the aliens and of their species remain unknown, in the same way that they don't care for their victims' names?
- Remarkable Vulcan humor:
- "You are security chief. Don't 13 department heads report to you every day?" - "Yes." - "Well, straighten them out." - "Shall I flog them as well?" (Janeway and Tuvok)
- "I never realized you thought of me as reckless, Tuvok." - "A poor choice of words. It was clearly an understatement." (Janeway and Tuvok)
- Remarkably awkward scene: Chakotay, who is subjected to from accelerated aging, and Neelix, who develops traits of a Mylean, argue over who suffers the most.
- Remarkable facts:
- Progeria, the rare genetic disorder that causes children to age rapidly, was eradicated two centuries ago.
- There appear to be 257 rooms on Voyager, according to the Doctor who says "one room down, 256 to go" after Seven confirms there are no aliens on the holodeck.
- Remarkable behind-the-scenes fact: The aliens remain nameless in the episode, they are called Srivani only in the script.
- Crew losses: 1
Stardate 51268.4/51425.4: The Krenim scientist Annorax alters history by means of "temporal incursion". When Voyager first encounters a small Krenim patrol ship, their territory is small. But Annorax's eradication of the Zahl homeworld restores the vast Krenim Imperium, without anyone outside his temporal weapon ship noticing the change. Voyager is now attacked by a powerful Krenim warship using chroniton torpedoes to penetrate the shields. The Starfleet ship suffers extreme damage. Seven of Nine devises a temporal shielding based on Borg technology as a countermeasure. Now protected against the chroniton torpedoes but also against changes in the timeline, the crew becomes aware of Annorax's following attempt to eradicate the Garenor homeworld. Annorax notices that Voyager's temporal shielding has disturbed his incursion and he strives to eradicate the Federation ship using his temporal weapon. With Tom and Chakotay captured by Annorax and the ship being damaged beyond repair, only Janeway and a skeletal crew remain on board. In the meantime, Chakotay gains the trust of Annorax. He learns that Annorax strives to restore the lives of his family on the Kyana Prime colony, for whose extinction he is responsible himself. Tom, on the other hand, is outraged about Annorax, and he allies himself with Obrist, one of Annorax's man who is tired of his mission that has been going on for 200 years. When it becomes clear that Annorax is not going to stand down, Chakotay agrees to Tom's plan to transmit a message to Captain Janeway and convince Obrist to get ready to disable the temporal shielding of the weapon ship. Meanwhile Janeway has assembled a fleet of the Nihydron and the Mawasi that conducts an attack on Annorax's ship. Obrist takes down the shields, and Janeway conducts a suicide attack with the badly damaged Voyager. The weapon ship eradicates itself. Since it has never existed, everything is restored to its original state.
Even after almost 20 years, "Year of Hell" still blows me away. It is among my absolute favorite episodes of all Star Trek. In any case it's one of the most intelligent and most sophisticated plots ever brought to the screen. I wonder if anyone is able to understand all the depicted or implied temporal changes after watching the episode just once. Actually, when "Year of Hell" was just released on VHS, I invited a couple of colleagues to watch it. So we spent one and a half hours to watch it, and a few more hours to discuss it. We were young and we still had the time.
In light of the complexity of the two-part episode, the good consistency of the time travel story is amazing. There are some small logical problems that were probably taken into account because they improve the flow of the story. For instance, the commander of the Krenim patrol vessel remains the same person, although his ship and the whole course of history have been radically altered in the meantime. I think this is rather easy to put up with, although it doesn't make much sense. Likewise, the inevitable paradox at the end of the episode when the weapon ship erases itself from time is something that is necessary to be able to tell the story. I know that many fans have a strong dislike for stories with built-in "reset buttons", but if one Voyager episode deserved to push its reset button, it is "Year of Hell".
I like the duality of events when Chakotay tries to understand Annorax's motivation, while Tom warms to Obrist who is tired of Annorax's ongoing obsession. The mission on the weapon ship lasts for 200 years, and it may be the first time that visitors are aboard, someone new to talk to. Well, the motive of a villain who is kind to the hero and lets him in on his plans in the moment of the triumph is taken from James Bond films, but it makes a lot of sense here. Annorax just needs someone who provides fresh input after 200 years of try-and-error, and for Obrist it is the only chance to find an ally to end the madness. The two Starfleet officers, on the other hand, were beamed aboard against their will and need to do something. And although it initially goes in opposite directions, both contribute what they are good at. Chakotay remains open-minded and sympathetic. He tries to convince Annorax to end the eradication of whole civilizations. Tom, in contrast, becomes rebellious. But that way he incites Obrist's spirit to resist Annorax. In the end, it seems that Tom's strategy was the better one, but it only worked with Chakotay's backing.
On Voyager, the condition of the ship and the morale of the crew deteriorate with every new defeat. It may have been good to incorporate a bit more of a struggle among the crew. The only remarkable scene in this regard is when the Doctor wants to relieve the reckless Captain Janeway of her duty, upon which she threatens to deactivate his program. While it would have been possible to show more conflicts or let principal characters die as it is almost customary in alternate reality episodes, I like how the story keeps up the possibility that there will be no reset button in the end, in a similar way as it was in "Deadlock" when the damaged ship and not the intact one was the one to survive against our expectations.
The final scene of "Year of Hell" is the arguably most ingenious ever seen in Star Trek. Not only does the scene show Annorax together with his beloved wife, whom he tried to get back for 200 years and, paradoxically, actually got back after his ultimate defeat. The scene also leaves multiple possibilities of interpretation what is actually happening. Annorax's talk with his wife could be a flashback of the time of his first calculations some 200 years ago, which could be a sign that he is about to build the incursion weapon and history will repeat. Or the fact that he drops the PADD with "a few more calculations" in order to care about his wife could be a sign that he is more sensible in the new timeline. Or the scene could take place in "our" present, i.e. at about the time when Voyager passes Krenim space. In this case it is obvious that history was altered and Annorax had a lucky life together with his family. Still, his PADD indicates that he might build his ship, fortunately too late to affect Voyager. In any case, I think this scene is immensely important for the episode.
Hardly any episode is so full of tidbits, as special effects, trivia and quotes are concerned. For quite some time after our already mentioned video showing, "a few more calculations" was a winged word in our university institute.
- Nitpicking: Janeway orders the crew to leave the ship in escape pods, as previously suggested by Chakotay. They are told to set a course for the other side of the Krenim territory. Since when do escape pods have warp capability? Moreover, the evacuation of the crew is supposedly for their own safety. However, just after most of the crew have left, the skeleton crew sets a course for a nebula where the ship is safe, arguably much safer than tiny escape pods in open space. And now the few people who are still aboard begin repairs that don't make sense. How should B'Elanna tend to the heavily damaged warp drive on her own?
- Continuity: A chroniton torpedo gets stuck in the exact same location in Voyager's hull at the exact same time as predicted in "Before and After", although the course of history has considerably changed since the latter episode. This time it is Seven and not Kes who scans the torpedo to get its temporal variance of 1.47 microseconds.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "I was inspired by an ancient steamship, the Titanic. The engineers of the day constructed a series of special bulkheads, sort of like a honeycomb, that would lower into place if they suffered a major hull breach. In theory, they could stay afloat even with half the ship filled with water." - "The Titanic? As I recall, it sank." - "Well, let's just say I've made a few improvements." (Paris and Janeway)
- "Join me for breakfast?" - "In a little while. I still have a few more calculations." - "There are always a few more calculations. It's a beautiful day. Spend it with me." - "I suppose I can make the time." (Annorax's wife and Annorax)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Who would have thought that this eclectic group of voyagers could actually become a family? Starfleet, Maquis, Klingon, Talaxian, hologram, Borg - even Mr. Paris." (Doctor)
- "The past, the present and the future. They all exist as one, they breathe together". (Annorax)
- "Time's up." (Janeway, just before ramming the weapon ship)
- Remarkable scene: Annorax serves a dinner of "lost histories" to Chakotay and Paris, composed of the edible remains of eradicated civilizations.
- Remarkable VFX scenes: Countless. For instance, the explosion of deck 5. Or, the hull panels getting ripped off at warp. Or, the free view of space after the bridge has been destroyed. Finally, Voyager ramming Annorax's weapon ship.
- Remarkable character: Annorax (Kurtwood Smith) is the possibly most contemplative villain ever featured on Star Trek, although and maybe just because his crimes are beyond imagination: "Only time can pronounce judgment against me."
- Remarkable facts:
- Kathryn Janeway's birthday is May 20th.
- This is the first episode in which we see the Janeway with the new regular hairstyle without the bun.
- The Astrometrics lab appears for the first time.
Stardate 51367.2: Some members of Voyager's crew spend time on the Mari homeworld. The Mari are a telepathic species and seem to have left behind their former aggressions. Crime practically doesn't exist, as Chief Examiner Nimira tells Tuvok. While negotiating on a Mari market with a man named Guill, another Mari bumps into B'Elanna. She is annoyed for a split second but recognizes that it must have been by accident. A bit later, the away team witness a violent attack on the market. The attacker is named Frane. He is the one who bumped into B'Elanna. Nimira surprisingly arrests B'Elanna for transferring her aggressive thoughts to Frane and sentences her to an engrammatic purge. Janeway and Tuvok have one day to find exonerating evidence. They discover that Frane was involved in previous offenses involving violent thoughts but was released as cured each time, which under Mari laws does not ease B'Elanna's guilt. On the Mari market, an old woman kills Talli, the woman Neelix was going to date, for no apparent reason. Nimira asks for Tuvok's help in the investigation of the homicide. Tuvok mind-melds with B'Elanna, and he becomes aware of a new suspect: Guill. He may have probed B'Elanna's mind to obtain her thoughts. Tuvok follows Guill and finds a black market for violent emotions. He agrees to sharing his thoughts with Guill and overwhelms the man with his mental powers. In light of the new evidence that she was probed against her will, Nimira agrees to stop the engrammatic purge on B'Elanna that has already started.
It is a general problem of Star Trek Voyager that many alien civilizations of the week are reduced to just one aspect of their society, and usually a dark one. The Mari are exemplary in this regard. Everything about them that is not related to their telepathy appears as generic and almost bland: no alien-looking make-up, sets and props that we have all seen before, and a friendly and familiar atmosphere on their planet. It may all have been meant to save costs but arguably also to make the revelation more shocking that many Mari are aggression junkies. While the basic idea of the story is interesting, the writing and the execution is a tad too formulaic and too restrained.
The perhaps most noteworthy aspect about the story is that telepaths are likely to develop a law system to punish "thought crimes" in the same way as non-telepaths do it regarding violent language or actions. Knowing that violent and hence primitive thoughts have been widely eliminated on their planet, the Mari understand this as evidence of superiority and seem to look down on the Voyager crew except for Tuvok. It adds to their ability to read the aliens' minds. The Mari may be peaceful and open-minded, but only because they feel safe. In some way they are racists. They likely don't believe that all species are equal, still they impose their laws and regulations on "inferior" aliens as well. Well, at one time in the episode even Tuvok calls B'Elanna's Klingon thoughts "primitive". And ultimately his own Vulcan nature is full of suppressed dark emotions that he is not fond of. The fact that the Mari don't seem to have those emotions in the first place and can only acquire them from aliens seems like evidence of a better and more advanced society. But the Mari have essentially the same problem with violent thoughts as other societies with real violence, or with drug abuse. The fascination of the forbidden adds to the more obvious motives for crime.
The Mari give the away team the feeling of being welcome on their planet. As already mentioned, the Mari may feel safe because of their telepathic abilities. But it isn't credible that they never anticipated the problem of injecting aggressive thoughts into their minds until a half-Klingon woman with particularly primitive instincts came along. In a more realistic depiction, the Mari would have been rather xenophobic. If they don't want violent thoughts they should either ban all outworlders or at least inform them about their law system that would apply to non-telepathic aliens likewise. I just don't believe that Voyager is the first alien ship to visit the planet.
Although I have a few problems with the whitewashed depiction of the Mari, I like the character of Chief Examiner Nimira (Gwynyth Walsh, who previously played B'Etor). She is a person that is committed to following laws and orders by the letter. It is hard for her to recognize that in certain cases the laws or her own methods may be insufficient, and that some of her actions may be wrong. But she is not fanatic about it, and she eventually acknowledges that neither she nor the Mari law system are infallible.
Overall, this episode is only mildly interesting. I see the intention to play nice this time, and not to get Voyager into an armed conflict every week. But even Tuvok's mind meld with Guill, using his Vulcan mental powers against him, is not really exciting. And Guill's apprehension comes across as almost casual. Furthermore, nothing of importance is wrapped up in the end. We don't see how B'Elanna reunites with Tom, and Neelix simply disappears after Talli's death. The closing scene with Seven in Janeway's ready room is too obviously meant to give Jeri Ryan something more to do in the episode but does not resonate with me. Rather than with Seven, Janeway should have talked with B'Elanna or with Neelix.
- You can buy just everything on the Mari market: fruit, vegetables, resonator coils.
- Talking to Nimira, Tuvok insinuates that he would usually communicate telepathically if it were not for the many non-telepaths in Starfleet. But Vulcans were never known to use telepathic communication among their own species, although they may be capable of it. Well, Tuvok is just speaking of himself and he may have had special training.
- Remarkable scenery: The alien city is apparently a reuse of the Risa matte painting. And looking more closely, there is a lot more recycled stuff in this episode.
Stardate 51386.4: Janeway is on the holodeck with her Leonardo da Vinci program, when Voyager is attacked by small vessels. The attackers don't afflict much damage but manage to beam out valuable equipment, including the main computer core and the Doctor's mobile emitter. With limited computer capabilities, Voyager needs as long as ten days to arrive at an alien planet where the stolen equipment is stored in different places. Janeway and Tuvok beam down and are surprised to be greeted by Leonardo da Vinci, who is wearing the mobile emitter. Janeway enlists da Vinci's help to find the computer core. Overloading the device, she creates a signal strong enough for Voyager to beam the computer aboard again. But Tau, the leader of the pirates, is on her heels. She and da Vinci arrive at a precipice and use da Vinci's improved flying machine to escape the pirates.
I must concede that the episode has certain entertaining merits. But it is too much custom-built for the holographic Leonardo da Vinci (John Rhys-Davies). The repeated shift of focus on his petty problems of getting accustomed to life in "America" does not go along with the vital mission to retrieve the computer core. He distracts Janeway from her mission, and it almost seems that keeping up the illusion for da Vinci is just as important to her as saving the ship.
Frankly, Janeway could never expect da Vinci's support to be very helpful. Realistically, she should have beamed him up immediately after meeting him on the planet some ten minutes into the episode, to get hold at least of the mobile emitter, which the Doctor needs a great deal more urgently. Tuvok is dead right when he urges Janeway not to rely on da Vinci's help: "Inadvisable. Charming as your childhood hero may be, the program was not designed for use outside the holodeck." and "The program reproduces the entire range of da Vinci's behavior - his genius and his notorious unreliability." He sums up the whole episode quite nicely! I pity Tuvok when he is ordered to leave the two alone. He looks irritated, maybe even hurt. The climax of absurdity is when Janeway discusses the sense of his existence with da Vinci while they are pursued by the pirates. And as charming as da Vinci's gliding apparatus may look, using it to escape would realistically have been the least advisable option.
So it seems Janeway has to struggle with da Vinci all the time, rather than with the thieves of the computer. Janeway talks with the antagonist Tau just once in the episode, when she pretends to be a customer. I can't remember any other Star Trek villain with so little involvement in the story and so little character development. It also remains a mystery why he allowed the pointless Leonardo da Vinci program to run all the time. He may be interested in alien cultures after all, but we will never know.
Either plot, the computer theft and Leonardo's personality problems would have been much more believable, had they been separated. Esatto!
- The computer core is said to have an operational range "from 10 degrees Kelvin to 1790 degrees Kelvin". Aside from the fact that it's "Kelvin" and not "degrees Kelvin", the impressive range doesn't make sense. The computer is always in a more or less temperature-controlled environment. The core may even be cooled down close to 0K to operate with higher speed. But 10K ambient temperature would imply direct exposure to outer space, and even if this were a realistic form of operation, the self-heating would lead to much higher temperatures. 1970K, on the other hand, is much too high, considering that a good casing and cooling do a much better job than laying out every single component to extreme temperatures.
- Leonardo da Vinci knocks out Tau. Although he does it to save Janeway, since when are holographic characters programmed to harm biological lifeforms? Wouldn't it have to be a part of the safety protocols to prevent just that? On the other hand, we have to take into account that it doesn't happen on the holodeck where there are additional safety mechanisms and where real-life objects are usually not present. Also, the holodeck safety protocols may focus on possible serious injuries, while concussions and even fractures seem to be commonplace.
- Continuity: Janeway says that James T. Kirk "claimed he met him [da Vinci], although the evidence is less than conclusive." She refers to TOS: "Requiem for Metuselah".
- Remarkable dialogue: "Torres referred to me as an automaton. She also employed a series of profane Klingon insults. Shall I translate them for you?" - "By all means. I'd very much." (Seven and the Doctor, who is confined to sickbay and very curious about what happens on the ship)
- Remarkable quote: "Vulcans do not make 'small talk'." (Tuvok)
- Remarkable scene: "Catarina" and Leonardo on the flight machine, an unrealistic but nicely filmed scene
Stardate 51449.2: Chakotay, Tom and Neelix are on a shuttle mission to collect protomatter from a nebula. But the transport of the highly volatile substance into a containment cylinder goes awry and Neelix is killed by an energy burst. Upon their return to Voyager, Seven proposes to revive Neelix with the help of Borg nanoprobes. The procedure succeeds. Superficially Neelix is all well again. But having witnessed an empty and meaningless afterlife, he now questions the foundations of his belief that after his death he would meet all his deceased relatives in the "Great Forest". Neelix seeks help in a vision quest with Commander Chakotay, yet this experience only reaffirms his doubts, and he begins to question the meaning of his life just as well. Neelix prepares to commit suicide, by beaming himself into the nebula, where he thinks he should have died. Chakotay comes to the transporter room to stop Neelix, telling him how valuable he is for the crew, for his new family. Neelix finally comes around and tends to his duties as the godfather of young Naomi Wildman.
Ever since the "Unit Scott" was first killed and then "repaired" by Nomad in TOS: "The Changeling", Star Trek has continued to push the boundaries between life and death. Most notably Spock died in "Star Trek II" and returned from the dead in the next movie. However, the question what happened to Scott or Spock after their death and whether they were still the very same individuals after their resurrection was never posed. We never learned if, and which kind of near-death or even afterlife experiences they had and what it may have changed in them. On the contrary, in both cases the curiosity of the circumstances was in the focus. "Star Trek IV" initially still tried to show how Spock struggled with his new life ("How do you feel?"), but at latest in "Star Trek V" his resurrection had become Trek trivia ("I liked him better before he died.").
"Mortal Coil" makes up for this negligence. It is curious that of all crew members the so far rather comical character Neelix experiences a serious dilemma of the kind we may have expected to plague Spock. I did not care much for Neelix when I first watched Voyager, and so I never liked the episode a lot. It took several years until I discovered the special qualities of "Mortal Coil". It is a profound character study. It is daring in several ways. Yet, some things about the script and the execution could have been done better to make it a captivating episode as well.
I like how the story shows Neelix's struggle without sidetracking and with comparatively little technobabble. On the downside, it becomes boring after a while to follow the story from Neelix's point of view, which leads more or less straight to his attempted suicide. At some time, the writing should have provided a fresh perspective. But rather than that, it comes up with a gratuitous complication, when the nanoprobes fail to adapt. Seven can resolve the problem quickly, it does not change anything about Neelix's dilemma and it only serves to spice up the otherwise predictable course of the story.
Everything in "Mortal Coil" is wonderfully in line with Neelix's back story and behavioral patterns, referring to the war that killed his family as established in "Jetrel", as well as to his fear that he could become useless as shown in "Fair Trade". There was no need to make up anything for this episode, except the Talaxian belief in the afterlife. Well, perhaps the fact that Neelix was never known as a religious person lessens the significance of his lack of the desired afterlife experience. But he may just have kept his hopes and desires to himself. And ultimately Neelix is concerned more about the meaning of his life than about the possible afterlife anyway. It seems to be the true motivation for his suicide attempt that he is afraid that he might not live up to the expectations of the crew that revived him. And this is a disappointing character trait because Neelix already made essentially the same big mistake in "Fair Trade", where he likewise jeopardized his life because of a feeling that no one needs him. Maybe it is only realistic that Neelix's sorrows resurface. Still, I would have hoped for him to change his mind sooner this time.
The story involves all members of the main cast, Neelix's new family in a manner of speaking. Each of them has a couple of good lines. But I am not sure whether it was a good idea that Neelix's principal go-to persons in this episode are Chakotay and Seven, none of whom he was ever really close to. (A note to Chakotay: It was not a wise idea to let Neelix join the simulation of his accident, the re-enactment of his own death!) Tom, Tuvok and perhaps Janeway would have been the more obvious choices. Also, Samantha and Naomi Wildman's return, as well as Neelix's emotional attachment to his godchild comes a bit out of the blue. Sure, the two must have been on the ship all along, but it feels a bit contrived that they show up only to underline that Neelix's life is valuable.
- The shuttle is Type 8 from the inside but Type 6 from the outside.
- Protomatter was established as highly unstable (and more or less illegal) in "Star Trek III" and DS9: "Second Sight". It was a very bad idea to try to harvest it from the nebula.
- Remarkable dialogue: "The Kazon - Species 329" - "You're familiar with them?" - "The Borg encountered a Kazon colony in the Gand Sector, Grid 6920" - "Were they assimilated?" - "Their biological and technological distinctiveness was unremarkable. They were unworthy of assimilation." (Seven and Neelix)
- Remarkable title: "Mortal Coil" is from Shakespeare's Hamlet: "To be or not to be, that is the question... when we have shuffled off this mortal coil..."
Stardate 51471.3: The crew is plagued by nightmares with one commonality: the appearance of an unknown alien. When Harry Kim and some other crew members fall asleep and the Doctor can't wake them, Chakotay comes up with a plan to use lucid dreaming to stay in control of his dream. He establishes Earth's Moon as a sign that he is asleep, and tapping his hand three times as a means to wake up. In his dream, he communicates with the alien and can convince him to allow the crew to wake up again once Voyager has passed their space. He taps his hand, wakes up and tells Janeway to proceed like discussed with the alien. But once Voyager has reached the edge of the aliens' space and everyone is awake again, the aliens attack and capture Voyager. Chakotay accesses a console in an attempt to retake the ship. The Moon appears, telling him he is still asleep. He taps his hand again and now awakes for real. The Doctor tells him everyone else is asleep now. It appears that all have the same dream of being prisoners of the aliens. The two track the neurogenic field that causes the dreams to a planet. Chakotay beams down to a spacious chamber with the sleeping aliens. He does not manage to destroy the neurogenic transmitter. Instead of taking the injection that would help him to stay awake, he gives it to one of the aliens, who disappears from the dream world. Chakotay then falls asleep himself, telling the leader of the aliens that the Doctor would destroy the chamber with a photon torpedo if he didn't call him. The aliens have no choice but to finally end the dream.
I used to underrate this episode for a long time, maybe because alien takeovers have become such a common theme in Star Trek Voyager. Most of what happens in "Waking Moments" is already known from previous installments. In particular, the idea to become impervious to illusory weapons is taken from TOS: "Spectre of the Gun", a concept similar to lucid dreaming was instrumental in TNG: "Schisms", aliens who create nightmares to control the crew appeared in VOY: "Persistence of Vision" and "The Thaw" and the question whether something is real or an illusion came up in numerous episodes, such as in VOY: "Projections", "Coda" or "Nemesis". Yet, "Waking Moments" is so thrilling and intriguing that now I wouldn't want to miss it.
Chakotay has not been among the most prolific Voyager characters as of late. It seems he is heavily involved every time aliens subject the crew to illusions or to unique forms of communication, such as in "Unity" (the only episode with focus on Chakotay in season 3) or "Nemesis" (the only one in season 4 so far). The typecasting of Chakotay as the resident Native American with his air of being almost an alien is a bit sad. His heritage was not considered to be more than an ironical side note in "Caretaker", but it was subsequently extended to include various knowledge and abilities that human beings shouldn't have. "Waking Moments" is no exception, but at least here Chakotay can make up for his previous failure to recognize what is true and what is not in "Nemesis". I like Chakotay, and it is enjoyable to see how he deals with this crisis, combining intuition and reason.
Overall, this is a quite conventional story in every respect, but one that is interesting to watch from the first to the last minute.
- Nitpicking: I wonder who supplies the aliens if they are asleep all the time.
- Remarkable dialogue: "I wonder what a Vulcan nightmare would be like." - "Alone, exiled on a planet where the only form of communication is laughter." (B'Elanna and Neelix, while Tuvok is listening)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Either I've become impervious to antimatter explosions, or we're still dreaming." (Janeway, after the illusory warp core breach)
- "And the next thing I knew, I was being boiled alive in a pot of my own leola root stew." (Neelix, about his nightmare)
- Remarkable scenes: Harry's "horrible" nightmare of being seduced by Seven in the Jefferies tube and Tuvok's equally embarrassing dream of entering the bridge - naked
Stardate not given: Seven of Nine taps into an ancient alien system of communication relays and discovers a Starfleet ship near the far end of the network in the Alpha Quadrant. Janeway tries in vain to establish a communication link, and decides to send the Doctor's program to the Starfleet vessel. Once the Doctor has arrived on the ship, the experimental prototype USS Prometheus, he discovers that no one of the crew is alive and that the Romulans are in control. After an unsuccessful attempt by Starfleet to stop the Prometheus, an injured Romulan is taken to sickbay, and the Doctor poses as the ship's EMH. He then activates the real EMH of the Prometheus, the EMH Mark II, and convinces the fellow hologram to try to overwhelm the Romulans. EMH-2 crawls through the Jefferies tubes to connect canisters of an anaesthetic to the ventilation system, while the Doctor heads for the bridge to activate the ventilation. The Romulan commander notices that something is wrong with the Doctor, but EMH-2 manages to open the ventilation on his own by simulating a shipwide biohazard. On Voyager, Seven attempts to re-establish the connection that has been severed by the Hirogen, the aliens who claim the network for themselves. She only succeeds when she disables the Hirogen operator with a feedback pulse through the sensor link. As the Prometheus approaches the Romulan border, three Warbirds arrive. To make things worse, three Starfleet ships appear and begin to fire on the Prometheus. EMH-2 activates the multivector attack mode of the Prometheus and decides the battle in favor of Starfleet. With a message from Starfleet Command, the Doctor safely returns to Voyager.
This story is pure fun. In particular, the design and the capabilities of the USS Prometheus are just amazing. I would have loved to see even more of it. The ship is much like an uncredited guest star of the episode, and perhaps even more important than Andy Dick as the EMH Mark II.
Well, I like the idea that our Doctor meets another medical hologram, one that is still in its raw state and has not collected any experiences, one that may have the superior technology but couldn't push the boundaries of its program the way our Doctor did in the past three years. After learning that he is "inferior", our EMH brags about his away missions and the additions to his program that allowed him to have sexual relations (although I wonder which particular relations he refers to). The EMH-2 comes across as a bit goofy quite on purpose, because that is how our Doctor too would have been like, had he been asked to perform anything else but medical procedures just after his first activation. The interaction of the two holograms is hilarious. However, the idea of the odd couple is exhausted after a while. At latest when the two are on the bridge during the battle, pushing random buttons, the humor becomes corny. The EMH-2 activates the multivector mode only by chance and thereby saves the ship. At this point of the story it has become just too obvious that the EMH-2 was written for a comedian to guest star on the show, rather than as a character to be taken in any way seriously.
The story was never meant to become too serious in the first place. The death of the Prometheus crew at the hands of the Romulans remains only a side note, and the battle between Starfleet and Romulans is spectacular and almost playful. This is okay with me because it serves to push the story forward. Yet, I would have liked to see at least a bit of reflection on what happened on the Prometheus.
The part of the episode that takes place on Voyager is more extensive than I remembered. I don't care for Tom and Harry's attempt to build a replacement hologram. They start with it after the Doctor is away for just a couple of hours, and before the Hirogen sever the network connection. The timing as well as their approach is just childish. On the other hand, I absolutely like the side plot about B'Elanna's problems with Seven's rudeness, and how the two find a common ground when Seven disables the Hirogen through a feedback in the network with "a mild shock", something that B'Elanna might have done too but wouldn't have dared after three years of Starfleet discipline. Overall, the fact that Voyager is in contact with the Alpha Quadrant for the first time since "Caretaker" evokes many emotional reactions in the crew that will fully unfold in next week's episode "Hunters".
- Have the Voyager authors ever heard of the Beta Quadrant? If memory serves, it is the region that Voyager is supposed to cross before reaching the Alpha Quadrant and where the Romulan border and therefore the Prometheus should be.
- Why was the Doctor transferred to the Alpha Quadrant, despite the high risk of losing him? A very simple message of at most a few megabytes didn't make its way, but the highly sophisticated EMH with probably a trillionfold of the data volume can be transferred without any loss. Seriously? How can the holographic data stream be so much "stronger" than normal data, because ultimately, on the physical layer, it has to consist of the same kind of signal that is sent through the extremely noisy channel?
- Data is "downloaded" twice in this episode when it should be "uploaded".
- The viewscreen of the Prometheus shows a stationary starfield at a time when the ship should be at warp.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "Stop breathing down my neck." - "My breathing is merely a simulation." - "So is my neck. Stop it anyway." (EMH-1 and EMH-2)
- "You've killed him!" - "It was a mild shock. He will recover." ... [Janeway leaves] "Mild shock? Not bad." - "Thank you." (B'Elanna and Seven, about the Hirogen whom Seven disabled)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "You're the Mark I EMH - the inferior program." (EMH-2)
- "60,000 light-years seems a little closer today." (Janeway)
- Remarkable technobabble: "The secondary gyrodyne relays in the propulsion field matrix have just depolarized." - "In English!" - "I'm just reading what it says here." (EMH-2 and EMH-1)
- Remarkable ship: The USS Prometheus: "experimental prototype designed for deep-space tactical assignments. Primary battle systems include regenerative shielding, ablative hull armor, multivector assault mode."
- Remarkable facts:
- The pursuing Nebula-class ship is firing phasers while still at warp.
- After over three years in the Delta Quadrant, USS Voyager is no longer listed as lost by Starfleet.
Stardate 51501.4: Voyager receives a data stream from the Alpha Quadrant through the alien relay network, containing personal letters for the crew as well as an encoded message from Starfleet. But much of it was intercepted and can only be retrieved in the vicinity of a nearby relay station. On their way, Voyager runs into a ship whose crew has been killed and eviscerated. It turns out that the station uses a quantum singularity as its power source, and generates gravimetric distortions. Seven and Tuvok take a shuttle closer to the station to receive the remaining messages. However, they are captured by the Hirogen, a race of ritualistic hunters who see other species as "prey". As three more Hirogen ships approach, Janeway orders to fire an antithoron burst at the station to weaken the shielding of the quantum singularity. The heavily armored Hirogen ships are more vulnerable to the gravimetric field, and they further weaken the containment of the singularity by continuing to fire. Kim manages to beam out Tuvok and Seven, and the Hirogen ships are destroyed in the implosion of the station.
"Hunters" continues the mini-arc with the Hirogen and answers the question how this obviously unpleasant race would react on Voyager's continued unauthorized use of their relay network. As it turns out, they are not displeased in the first place. They are a culture of hunters who see any other aliens as prey they want to hunt down and gut, especially if these aliens are interesting because they are very strong or because they were previously unknown. Besides the Borg and Species 8472 the Hirogen are the third adversaries in this season that are frightening not only because of their capabilities but also because of their way of living. The Hirogen fill their role as truly alien villains, nothing more and nothing less, in this suspenseful action episode. Their heavily armored ships are just impressive as the over two meter tall humanoids themselves that make Seven and Tuvok look like dwarfs.
The episode, however, also thrives on its character interactions as the Voyager crew anxiously awaits the news from the Alpha Quadrant and because of the different effects that the messages have on the single crew members. Actually, I can't remember a Voyager episode in a long time that works so well with all characters and their hopes and desires. Janeway is excited as everyone to receive her personal message. She is visibly frustrated after reading it, but tries to hide this from the crew. She eventually only tells Chakotay that her ex-fiancé Mark married another woman, and that she has to accept it because it is quite understandable. Chakotay, on the other hand, learns that the Maquis has been destroyed. He himself copes with it with his usual composure. His problem is how to tell it B'Elanna, who would likely react violently on the loss of her friends. B'Elanna, however, manages to suppress her feelings, much like Janeway. It only bursts out when Tom doesn't want to wait for a message from his father, Admiral Owen Paris. After losing the Maquis that was much like a family to her, it quite understandably makes her mad how little Tom cares for the welfare of his dad. Tom, on the other hand, just doesn't want to be reminded of his old life that brought him so much trouble. Harry too can't understand why Tom doesn't want to connect to his past. He is eager to get the letter from his family, as already on a few occasions in the first season.
- Remarkable error: The station is stated to have a power output of 4 terawatts (of "energy" as Kim says, which should be "power", of course). That's a lot, about 1,000 times as much as a really big present-day power plant. But later in the episode, Chakotay says something astonishing: "It's generating as much energy every minute as a typical star puts out in a year." Chakotay, unlike Kim, is right that it's "energy". But his math is way off, by as may as twenty(!) orders of magnitude. The sun, as a typical star, produces as much as 1.2*10^34 joules in a year, whereas the 4 terawatt station would generate no more than 2.4*10^14 joules in a minute. This may be the record holder for wrong math in Star Trek.
- Nitpicking: The writers are obviously too fond of having the crew discover something totally new in each episode, otherwise they would have noticed that Romulan ships are known to be powered by artificial quantum singularities since TNG: "Timescape", so it should not be something so amazing on the alien station. At least, someone could have mentioned that "it's like on Romulan ships".
- Remarkable quote: "Coffee. The finest organic suspension ever devised. It's gotten me through the worst of the past three years. I beat the Borg with it." (Janeway)
- Remarkable scene: Neelix comes to read the personal message to "Mr. Vulcan", who has become a grandfather. But Tuvok says he would read the rest later and puts down the PADD. After Neelix has left, he changes his mind and picks it up again to read what his wife is writing.
- Remarkable ship: The Hirogen ship is a great design. It lacks the typical sleek appearance of other CGI ships created for the show and looks much like a fortress in space.
- Remarkable fact: Members of Species 5174 were killed in the same fashion as the crew of the freighter, but Seven doesn't know that it was the Hirogen.
Stardate 51652.3: A Hirogen ship with a crew of two hunters follows an injured member of Species 8472 into an asteroid field. The creature leaves its ship and seeks refuge inside an asteroid, where the two hunters prepare to kill it. Some time later, Voyager finds the Hirogen ship adrift in space, with one of the crew dead and one critically wounded. While the Doctor treats the injuries of the survivor, Species 8472 breaks into the ship through the outer hull. Seven suggests to use nanoprobes that would kill the creature but Janeway insists on modifying them in a way they would not be lethal. Janeway allows the Hirogen to join the task force. When the creature has been captured, he sets out to finish his hunt, but Tuvok disables him. More Hirogen ships approach to claim their prey. The prisoner promises that Voyager will remained unharmed if Janeway releases the creature. But Janeway asks Seven to open a rift to Species 8472's realm to release it. Seven refuses and is confined to the cargo bay. When the hunter ships begin their attack on Voyager, the Hirogen prisoner manages to break free and once again approaches his prey to kill it. Species 8472 is still in confinement but has recovered, so Seven has come to disable it with another dose of nanoprobes. Seven tries to stop the Hirogen but eventually sees no other choice but to beam both the hunter and his prey to one of the Hirogen ships. Voyager is free to leave now. Janeway, however, takes away the privilege to access the ship's principal systems from Seven.
At first, no one would honestly pity Species 8472 for being chased by the Hirogen. The Hirogen may be cruel and frightening, but at least they have faces and we can talk to them. Species 8472, on the other hand, is about as relatable as a giant insect, only on three legs. Yet, as alien as it may be, in the course of this story the sympathy with the suffering creature grows. Conversely, our patience with the fellow humanoid species gradually dwindles because they are unable to feel this compassion.
Janeway has the choice to hand over Species 8472 to the Hirogen so Voyager can escape unscathed. Or she could grant Species 8472 asylum, with the consequence that probably no one on board would survive when the Hirogen attack. There is no chance to outrun the Hirogen for long, as Tom confirms. So if Janeway's idea is that once Species 8472 is back in its realm, the Hirogen may be open to reason again, she is incredibly naive. The Hirogen already made clear in last week's episode that the Voyager crew is nothing but prey for them, and after the loss of their ships and their relay network they have still less reason to be open for negotiations. On the contrary, the obvious resilience makes Voyager an even more valuable prey in their mindset. In some way, Janeway seems to think that her crew may have to make their stand and perhaps die for their principles, but at least the alien creature has a chance to survive. This is quite a paradigm shift considering how she provoked the whole conflict with the Hirogen for entirely self-serving goals, by tapping into the communications network to contact the Alpha Quadrant.
I don't mean to say that Janeway readily wants to sacrifice her crew and her ship for her principles. But if she has an idea how to deal with the Hirogen, it never becomes clear. As nice as her story about the Cardassian soldier she saved during the war sounds, as an example of compassion, it would be more relevant for Seven to know how to fight or to evade the Hirogen. I can only concur with Seven that "a lesson in compassion will do me little good if I am dead."
It is no surprise that Seven is the one to make the tough but inevitable decision for Janeway. In other words, Seven acts as the scapegoat. The course of the story is somewhat reminiscent of the blatantly hypocritical TNG episode "Silicon Avatar", the worst of all TNG in my view, in which the mad Dr. Marr killed the deadly crystalline entity just a few moments sooner than Picard would have had to do anyway. I am only glad that Seven's action is not in any way ascribed to a mental illness or some other defect but to her inherently predominant reason and lack of compassion. My impression is that Tuvok and many other crew members, probably even Chakotay, would have acted just like Seven too. And who knows what Janeway herself would have done down in that corridor. Seven of Nine has a very good reason to beam the Hirogen and Species 8472 over to one of the attacking ships because the situation is out of control. Her actual failure was when she refused to create the rift to Species 8472's realm, at a time when there may have been more options than the ones that were mentioned.
Overall, while it is not by far as hypocritical as "Silicon Avatar", it is unfortunate that "Prey" tries to serve us a black-and-white scenario with a black-and-white morality that realistically doesn't exist. Still, it is convincing as a thrilling action episode with amazing CGI sequences for its time.
- Nitpicking: Species 8472 is said to be impervious to scanners and can move through the ship without being detected. But everyone can see the creature. Doesn't the ship have anything like simple surveillance cameras?
- Remarkable fun scene: We see how the Doctor and Seven rehearse small talk to enhance her social skills.
- Remarkable VFX scene: Species 8472 on Voyager's hull
- Remarkable horror scene: "Looks like somebody lost their helmet", and Paris picks up a helmet with a severed head in it.
- Remarkable story: Janeway gives Seven an example of compassion. "I remember when I was a lieutenant. It was during a Cardassian border conflict. My away team was cut off while we were defending a Federation outpost. We'd been exchanging phaser fire with a group of Cardassians for about three days - a stalemate. One night, during a break in the fighting, we could hear this low moaning sound coming from somewhere in the brush. We knew that none of our people were out there, so it had to be a wounded Cardassian. You have to understand, we'd been killing each other for weeks on this planet. It was brutal. But our commanding officer decided that we couldn't just sit there and listen to that poor man suffer. So he ordered me and an ensign to crawl out there and bring that Cardassian back to our camp. I thought he was crazy. He was risking our lives for someone who would have shot us without hesitation. But we did it, and the Cardassian lived. Three days later we secured the outpost. It was a major victory. We were all decorated by Starfleet Command. But in retrospect, the thing I'm most proud of was the night we saved that man's life."
- Remarkable facts:
- The Hirogen don't need pressurized spacesuits. They wear just the additional breathing masks on the asteroid as well as on the deck without life support.
- We can see one of the very rare artificial gravity failures on a starship.
Stardate 51679.4: Janeway is about to purchase an impressive weapon, an isokinetic cannon, from Kovin, an Entharan arms dealer. Kovin agrees to stay aboard for some adjustments to Voyager's systems. When Seven of Nine works with him, she feels uneasy and suddenly knocks him down. The Doctor suspects that Seven has a suppressed memory and begins a regression therapy with her. According to her now resurfacing memories, Kovin rendered her unconscious with a weapon and restrained her to a table to extract Borg nanoprobes from her body. Kovin is upset about the allegations. He says that Seven was struck when the power cell of the weapon overloaded by accident. But he allows a team led by Tuvok to investigate his lab. Tuvok finds evidence in support of Seven's claims in the form of nanoprobes that were activated on purpose. Yet, the same could have been triggered by the overload of the weapon. Most likely Seven's specific memory about being mistreated by Kovin is actually an expression of a more general trauma of her life as a Borg, which the encounter with Kovin triggered only accidentally. In the meantime, Kovin has escaped from the planet on his ship. When he attacks Voyager, his weapon systems overload and his ship explodes.
"Retrospect" is an episode that plays with our predispositions. Kovin is a weapons dealer, a member of a guild that is unpopular in real life and whose depiction in fiction is unequivocally unfavorable. If a weapons dealer is accused of something unethical, especially if we can suspect it's solely for his own profit, it is usually true. Another cliché is that psychotherapy is often shown in the media as an exact method that always yields truthful results. Also, with TNG: "Schisms" and "Dark Page" we already have at least two Trek episodes in which suppressed memories were recovered that turned out true. Overall, it is a successful red herring that Seven's memories of her mistreatment are made a big deal but are not real in the end, especially since we wouldn't expect that after her failure last week she would be all wrong yet again. It surprised me the first time that I watched the episode. Nevertheless, the story overall failed to impress me.
One obvious point of criticism is that Seven is in the focus of a story yet again, without adding much to her character. It happens every two or three weeks (albeit with decreasing frequency until the last season) that Seven is in an identity crisis, suffers from hallucinations, misjudges a situation or has similar issues because of her past life as a Borg. Issues that always get herself and her shipmates in trouble. The only interesting aspect about her false memories in "Retrospect" in this regard is that it is her perception and judgment that is impaired. For a normal human being, such as Riker in TNG: "Frame of Mind", it is bad enough not to know what is an illusion and what is reality. For Seven, as someone pursuing perfection, it may be an even bigger crisis. And while the logical choice to condemn Species 8472 to death probably doesn't bother her too much, the unnecessary death of an innocent man is an error that should definitely change something in her. While it is clear that Seven feels remorse when she briefly talks with the Doctor about the case, the impact this may have on her development could have been worked out better.
Rather than Seven, it is the Doctor who is ready to face the consequences for his misjudgment. His failure is obvious because he not only mistook the psychotherapy he conducted for an exact science but also affirmed Seven of the truthfulness of her memories. And so he asks Janeway to reset his program, saying that he tried to be the ship's psychologist and counselor, tasks that he was not originally programmed for and in which he failed. But Janeway quickly recognizes that his request would also remove the experience the Doctor has just made from his program, an experience that will help improve his performance. And so she does the only right thing and denies the request. The Doctor will face a similar dilemma again in the next season, in "Latent Image".
One interesting aspect about the story is how everyone among the crew assures everyone else of being impartial. But only Tuvok is truly impartial because he insists that all evidence against Kovin is just circumstantial, and that Seven's memory may well be flawed. It seems that everyone else, and not just the Doctor, is perfectly content with the apparent explanation that a ruthless weapons dealer misused Seven because he wanted to boost his business. I have come to appreciate the thought-provoking story with its downbeat ending somewhat more over the years, and so the score rises from 3 to 5.
- Remarkable quote: "As a Borg, I was responsible for the destruction of countless millions and I felt nothing. But now, I regret the destruction of this single being." (Seven of Nine)
- Remarkable VFX scene: The test shot with Kovin's weapon. Wow!
- Remarkable ship: Stock footage of the Flaxian ship from DS9: "Improbable Cause" was re-used without any modifications for Kovin's shuttle.
Stardate not given/51715.2: Hirogen hunters have boarded Voyager and are now running deadly games on the holodecks, with the Voyager crew being their prey. The safety protocols are off. After she has been wounded in a Klingon battle simulation and treated in sickbay, Janeway is transferred to a World War II scenario, in which she impersonates Katrine, the owner of Le Coeur de Lion, a night club in the town of Sainte Claire in German-occupied France. Like Tuvok, Seven of Nine, B'Elanna and Neelix, who are also part of the program, she is not aware of her true identity because of a neural interface. Their characters all secretly work for the French Résistance and want to prepare the American invasion with acts of sabotage against the German occupiers. B'Elanna, whose character Brigitte is pregnant with a child from an SS officer, scouts the Nazi headquarters, where they plan to plant a bomb in the communications office. It is the plan of Karr, the Hirogen Alpha, to use the holodeck as a surrogate technology for a real hunt, in order to allow his people to "rebuild their civilization". However, Turanj, the Hirogen second-in-command, is tired of not finishing the hunt and shoots at Neelix and Seven against his orders. The two are taken to sickbay, where the Doctor manages to disable Seven's neural transmitter. He and Ensign Kim, who is one of the few crew members outside the holodecks and working on the expansion of the system to encompass the whole ship, plan to disable the transmitters, for which the holodeck control has to be accessed from inside. Seven is taken back to the Sainte Claire program, now fully aware of what is going on. The American troops, among them Tom and Chakotay, prepare to take Sainte Claire. Tom's character has a special motivation because he knows Brigitte from the time before the war. Meanwhile in the Nazi headquarters, Katrine notices how Seven's character, Mademoiselle de Neuf, operates the holographic control instead of placing the charges. She points her gun at Seven, but then the Doctor and Kim manage to disable the captain's neural interface too. The two barely escape an artillery barrage that obliterates the headquarters but also blows a huge hole into the holodeck wall, thereby exposing the decks of Voyager. -- Chakotay's character, Captain Miller, wants to destroy the alleged "secret Nazi munitions lab" outside the holodeck with an air strike. But Janeway persuades him to take on the power generator instead. Since the neural generators are controlled from a console in sickbay, the plan is to destroy that console. Chakotay places the charges in the deck below, while Janeway disables the forcefield around sickbay. Just as the remaining neural interfaces are disabled, the Hirogen and the Germans capture the night club with Tuvok, Seven, B'Elanna and Tom. Janeway is taken to her ready room, where Karr explains his plan for the future of his people. Janeway says this could be accomplished without further bloodshed, and that she would be willing to leave the technology to him. The American and German troops leave Sainte Claire as part of the cease fire. Turanj, however, is not content with losing his prey. Encouraged by the holographic Nazi officer, he orders his troops to resume the fight. Just as Karr and Janeway are about to end all holographic simulations, Turanj shoots Karr with his holographic German rifle. He tells Janeway to run, like prey is supposed to do. Seven works on disabling at least a part of the simulation, but she is wounded, and her photonic grenade only deletes her people's own holographic weapons. Janeway lures Turanj into a corridor where the holographic projectors don't work. When his rifle partially disappears, she knocks him down and takes the weapon. When Turanj refuses to end the hostilities, she kills him. The crew can enlist Klingon help against the Hirogen and Nazis, and finally come to a cease fire. The Hirogen leave the ship, and get an optronic data core that allows them to reconstruct the holographic technology.
The Hirogen are a species like no other. They apply violence for no apparent reason, unlike the Borg, who seek to perfect themselves. Unlike the Klingons, they don't seem to enjoy life besides the hunt. The Hirogen have no other goal but to kill the prey, they have no other life but the hunt, and that makes them particularly alien. Yet, it wouldn't be Star Trek if a recurring race were continually depicted as a pack of inhumane beasts, if not someone among them questioned their ways and gave rise to a change. Karr, the Hirogen Alpha, embodies this traditional role in the story of "The Killing Game". But I don't think Karr is very successful in this regard. Karr's intent to make his people appreciate the holographic hunt is in strong contrast to the actual violence that is going on in the holographic simulations, thanks to the deactivated safety protocols. While it may seem realistic that the Hirogen would only learn to give their instincts a new direction step by step, for someone who wants to end the hunt he is still incredibly cruel, as he essentially orders his people to "only" torture the prey and not kill them. I wonder anyway why Turanj and the other Hirogen were willing to play the holodeck games by Karr's rules for weeks. Sure, the Hirogen spend a lot of time to follow a worthy prey such as Species 8472, but on the holodeck they would just need to shoot to kill. Why does Karr think that the spy game and cosplay in the Sainte Claire simulation would excite them, rather than anything resembling a real hunt? Just because he himself takes an odd pleasure in the history of the prey?
The very idea of Hirogen playing holographic simulations is problematic. The Nazi theme makes things even worse, both on the visual side and in a figurative sense. The Nazis are the universal personification of evil. In a TV show, the mere sight of swastikas and SS runes evokes emotional reactions that are not rooted in the actual story but in the knowledge that these symbols once represented a genocidal regime. Nazi Germany fortunately doesn't exist any longer, but it is frequently resurrected for TV and movies. In my view, it is acceptable and may be instructional if done with historical accuracy. But many Nazi episodes or movies just ignore the historical context and present absurdities such as "superheroes against Nazis" or "Nazis in space".
I had hoped the makers of Star Trek had learned from the mistakes in "Patterns of Force" that had aired 30 years earlier, but it must have been just too tempting to reuse the theme of alien Nazis (or aliens playing Nazis in this case). It is obvious that once we see the Nazis, no one of them would change for the better, because Nazis on TV have only one purpose: to represent the absolutely evil, uncompromisingly until the bitter end. On various occasions in the double episode, the motivations and ideologies of the various "hunter races" are compared to each other. The Hirogen fare worse than the Klingons or even the Borg because, as already mentioned, they have no other goal but to kill the prey. But the Nazis trump the Hirogen as the ultimate villains with the least respect for their victims. It is a holographic SS officer who convinces Turanj to continue the hunt despite the cease fire. While I agree that the depiction of the Nazis as ruthless hunters may be adequate in a geocentric historical context, it makes no sense in the current situation on the holodeck, and realistically has no relevance for Turanj, an alien who just plays a Nazi and who is aware he is talking to a hologram.
It is clear that the SS officer has been programmed to be overly fanatic, and apparently by someone in Starfleet, rather than by Karr, who would hardly know enough about Earth's history to make any changes. Also, the Sainte Claire scenario just brims over with clichés, especially regarding the depiction of the Nazis. Everything is just as we know it from cheap Nazi-themed flicks, from the address as "Fraulein" in a fake German accent to the secret weapons lab. This gives the whole Nazi scenario an additional bad taste, because in-universe someone must have programmed it to cater to the lower instincts, rather than allow a half-way accurate reenactment.
The words "Nazis" and "Germans" are still too often used synonymously in the American mass media. I would have expected Star Trek of all series not to cling to the stereotypes. But the only two times that someone or something German beyond mere trivia was ever shown in over 30 years of Star Trek it was the Nazis. It should have been a matter of honesty to correct this image, but rather than that, Enterprise would add another instance of "Space Nazis".
Overall, this story is also way too complex. It suffers from too many warring factions, too many theaters, too many plot devices and too many clichéd character relationships that just don't work out. The romance that Tom's and B'Elanna's characters had before the war is exemplary in this regard. It has no further consequence for the story. Actually, I had to omit many things from the synopsis, otherwise it could easily have become twice as long. "The Killing Game" is enjoyable, but even if I didn't mind the idea of "Space Nazis", it feels like less would have been more.
I also wonder why Voyager frequently has to go to extremes, only to hit the reset button in the end. It's just not credible that everything can be always be repaired. The decks that were demolished for the holodeck, the destroyed sickbay and the dead crew members will be forgotten in the next episode. The time may not have been ripe for serialized stories in the 1990's, but that shouldn't mean that the series doesn't have to be consequential.
- Karr speaks of a French "province" but France is divided into départements since the revolution.
- We can see a post-war Citroen 2CV6 in the Sainte Claire simulation.
- The Nazi pennants in the episode are wrong. The eagle is strangely distorted, and the swastika should appear on white background, not on red.
- The city of Sainte Claire should be located in northern France, but actually doesn't exist. The street map of Sainte Claire is actually one of Toulouse.
- All crew members are absolutely in character on the holodeck, although they don't remember their actual identities. How could the Hirogen selectively suppress their memories and replace them with very specific ones of the holographic characters? Since when are memories created for holographic characters compatible with human (or Vulcan) brain patterns?
- So Janeway, Tuvok, Seven, Neelix and B'Elanna are all programmed to belong to the Résistance and may not be so easy a prey. Karr must know that. He apparently didn't tell his people about it. But would it really make a difference whether they fight back sooner or later? The hunters most likely know who is a projection and who is the real crew, so they focus their attention on them anyway.
- The Hirogen disable the safety protocols, so they shouldn't be surprised if the holographic artillery does extreme damage to their simulation.
- Just as it always happens when something goes wrong on the holodeck, it is not possible to shut it down, not even by cutting off the power.
- When the Nazi headquarters explodes, four decks are visible where the hologrid was destroyed. Voyager does not have such a tall holodeck. Harry and his colleagues are working on expanding the holodecks, but I doubt they would tear down so many walls and floors.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "The Résistance? In Paris perhaps. But this is a small city, defenseless. We've learned to be a little more diplomatic. When this war is over we want to remain on good terms with the victor." - "Whoever that may be." - "Whoever that may be." (Janeway as Katrine and Karr)
- "Boy or girl?" - "It's a holographic projection." - "Unfortunately a very good projection. I feel 20 kilos heavier. It even kicks." (Tom, Seven and B'Elanna about B'Elanna's holographic pregnancy)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "There are eccentric people living in the caves, but don't be alarmed." (Janeway to Chakotay as Captain Miller, about the Klingon holoprogram)
- "I guess my French is a little rusty." (Chakotay as Captain Miller, about the Klingon language)
- Remarkable songs: Mademoiselle de Neuf sings "It Can't Be Wrong" and "That Old Black Magic".
- Remarkable set: Sainte Claire was filmed in the Little Europe Set of Universal Studios.
- Remarkable fact: The name "Mademoiselle de Neuf" of Seven's character can be translated as "of Nine".
- Real-world fact: Roxann Dawson was actually pregnant when the episode was filmed.
- Crew losses: 1 mentioned, most likely many more, but the statistics require the number to be that low. On the other hand, at least five Hirogen were said to have been killed.
Stardate 51762.4: Voyager picks up spatial distortions and encounters a small vessel, whose engine core is about to blow up. Tom Paris identifies the engine as an experimental coaxial warp drive. He manages to contain the failure, thereby saving the life of the pilot, a man named Steth. Tom subsequently helps Steth in the repairs of the vessel, and suggests to use a "carburetor", actually a polaric modulator, to dilute the particle stream into the drive. When the repairs are finished, Steth switches bodies with Tom. He returns to Voyager as "Tom", whereas he sends the real Tom out of reach in the coaxial warp drive ship. Tom has been locked out of the controls and can't return to Voyager. Moreover, Benthan patrol ships manage to pinpoint the ship and want to retrieve it, but another vessel chases the Benthans away. A woman contacts Tom, who claims to be the real Steth and who wants his body back. Tom explains his situation. The two enable the ship again and set a course for Voyager. On Voyager, the false Tom has raised suspicion. He switches bodies with Janeway. In Janeway's disguise, the alien takes a shuttle that has been fitted with the coaxial drive and tries to escape. But Tom fires at the "carburetor" and disables the engine. Back on Voyager, the body switches are reverted. After Janeway, Tom and Steth have been restored, this leaves the unknown alien in the shape of the woman. This body is not his own, so it still remains a problem to trace back the history of the alien and find the women whose body was stolen.
"Vis à Vis" is only mildly interesting because a good premise was made into a contrived story. It exemplifies several recurring problems of Voyager's storytelling and working with the characters.
In "Vis à Vis", Tom suddenly behaves like a dick, he neglects his duties, he misses dates with B'Elanna and he clashes with Chakotay. It feels like Tom has been reverted to the person he was in the first and second seasons. There is no good rationale for his conduct. It all simply serves to set up a story in which he, the former rebel who has settled down, would encounter the adventurer Steth. In other words, it was deemed necessary to establish that Tom is not all that happy with his orderly life on Voyager, to make Steth's exciting life as a test pilot more enviable. This is not only odd in consideration of the many adventures that Tom has had on Voyager, it is also misleading in a dishonest fashion. Tom may be interested in Steth's proposal to join him on the upcoming flight and then return to Voyager, but he has no desire at all to leave the ship for good. Well, considering that we may have expected Tom to become rebellious again under Steth's influence, it comes as a surprise that Steth suddenly switches bodies with him. But then it shouldn't have been foreshadowed all the time that Steth is not the person he claims to be. This simply doesn't work for me.
There may be one further reason why Tom is shown as malcontent just in this one episode. Steth has trouble adapting to life on Voyager in his new body, which is only realistic considering that he may look up Tom's records but knows next to nothing about his actual duties and his private life. But Steth doesn't raise a lot of suspicion until he finally attacks Janeway. When he runs into problems, and essentially the same problems as the real Tom (of this episode!), he solves them with concessions that the real Tom (of this episode!) is not willing to make. Steth flatters the Doctor when he fails in his medical training, he apologizes to B'Elanna for being insensitive. It is good that the Voyager episode doesn't make a similar mistake as TNG: "Allegiance", where a fake Picard sang a drinking song. But it shouldn't have been done at the expense of Tom's character.
I can't really say whether this episode is more about Tom and his standing on Voyager in an attempt of belated character development, or about a body-switching alien, who keeps fooling the crew. Neither of the two plots is very interesting. The first does not work for all the reasons already mentioned, the second almost completely relies on plot devices. Both the miraculous body switching and the coaxial warp drive remain without further consequences, although the technologies are readily available now. One Voyager shuttle was even equipped with the coaxial warp drive, but is never used or only mentioned again. In this regard, the authors have learned nothing since "Threshold".
In order to wrap up the story, the motivation of "Steth" would have deserved to be explored. But we never learn why he or she keeps switching bodies, whether he or she does it to escape judicial persecution or whether it is perhaps the nature of this alien species. It may have been possible to simply ask the alien but he or she doesn't say a word after the bodies have been restored.
- Continuity: Going by the stardates, this episode takes place just two weeks after "The Killing Game". Not only is the ship completely repaired again, Tom also remarks that the worst medical emergency of the past several weeks was an ingrown toenail.
- Remarkable ability: The body transformation obviously doesn't work by swapping consciousnesses (like in TOS: "Turnabout Intruder"), but by modifying the molecular structure so that the appearance of the very body is changed. It remains a total mystery though.
- Remarkable drive: The description of the coaxial warp drive of "folding the fabric of space" sounds much like what several people, including the renowned physicist and author Lawrence Krauss, claim that "normal" warp drive works. I have a problem with the term "coaxial" for which there is no clue what it actually means.
- Remarkable facts:
- At the age of 16, Tom took his father's shuttle for a joy ride and "fried the relays". The shuttle ended up at the bottom of Lake Tahoe.
- In his program "Grease Monkey", Tom works on a 1969 Chevy Camaro. The grease is real, not holographic, as it seems.
Stardate 51871.2: When the large Greek letter omega appears on Voyager's bridge displays, Captain Janeway locks herself up in the ready room and commits herself to a strange and strictly secret procedure. The Omega Molecule, a very powerful but highly unstable substance, has been detected by the ship's sensors, and it is a Starfleet captain's foremost duty to destroy it at all cost before it can disrupt subspace. She initially only lets Seven of Nine in on what she is doing, considering that Seven has the knowledge of assimilated Starfleet captains. But when Janeway plans to go on a shuttle mission that could kill her, Chakotay advises her to rely on the capabilities of her ship and crew. Voyager finds a destroyed research outpost on a moon. After rescuing the survivors, Janeway investigates the remaining Omega Molecules. There are too many to simply destroy them with a detonation, so Janeway goes with Seven's suggestion to use a harmonic chamber. Harnessing the Omega Molecules is an old obsession of the Borg, so Seven makes every effort to persuade the captain not to destroy them, but Janeway orders to carry on with the procedure. When alien ships follow Voyager to retrieve the molecules, Janeway decides to decompress the cargo bay with the harmonic chamber and destroy the rest with a photon torpedo. Only seconds before the decompression, the molecules eventually stabilize, but it is already too late to preserve them.
I have a bit of a problem as the Borg are more and more "humanized" in Star Trek. They started off as a formidable and very alien enemy in TNG: "Q Who". It was clear that they would become the more familiar the more often they appeared. But the Borg gradually lost their air of being incomprehensible and uncompromising. Although the Collective was supposed to be without a hierarchy, they were given the Borg Queen as a leader in "First Contact". Although they previously wouldn't say anything but "Resistance is futile", they were suddenly willing to negotiate in "Scorpion". And now they disclose their "Holy Grail", a sort of religion that strives for perfection and that is more than the straightforward desire to be efficient that the Borg are known for. Perhaps Seven of Nine has a very personal view of the Omega Molecule, one that is influenced by her being human again. But from what she says it seems like the Borg are willing to make sacrifices to obtain Omega, sacrifices that defy the principle of efficiency.
Curiously, Starfleet is just as keen on destroying the Omega Molecule as the Borg are on keeping it intact. The Omega Directive even overrules the Prime Directive, and Janeway intends to follow it by the letter. This clash between Starfleet and the Borg, and between Janeway's and Seven's intentions, becomes clear as soon as Janeway lets Seven in on her orders and Seven protests that destroying Omega would be a mistake. But it doesn't play a big role in the following, it never escalates. The captain always discusses the options with Seven instead of simply giving orders to her reluctant crew member. Seven obeys her orders even when she has a chance to act on her own. I don't complain that the two play nice in this story, but it is anticlimactic in light of the big deal that was made of the conflict at first. This is particularly disappointing in consideration of the lacking participation of the other characters. Chakotay is the only one besides the two who has a nice scene, when he convinces Janeway to work together instead of letting her go on a potential suicide mission.
Overall, "The Omega Directive" has its flaws in the character interactions and on the scientific side, but it is a fun episode that has a bit of everything I love about Voyager, including lots of trivia.
- Science watch: It is bad science that a molecule is supposed to be the most powerful power source to exist. For all we know, it is chemical reaction, nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, matter/antimatter reaction and (at least in the Star Trek Universe) zero point energy, in ascending order. The designation of Omega as "molecule" implies that a chemical reaction is involved, the weakest power in the list. Well, considering that in Star Trek there are other materials like dilithium or verterium cortenide with miraculous properties, this might apply to Omega likewise. The problem is where the energy supposed to be released comes from. If Omega is "synthesized" as mentioned, one would probably have to put the same amount of energy into the synthesis as can be obtained later. This can hardly be the solution of energy problems. As for Omega being the origin of the Big Bang, this makes a little bit of sense only in that the energy content is supposed to be higher than of any other form of matter. But it certainly isn't possible that a molecule existed before there were any atoms.
- Remarkable mistake: Even Jeri Ryan is sometimes wrong. It should be "stardate 51781.2" in her logbook entry.
- Remarkable log entry: "Daily log, Seven of Nine, stardate 15781.2. Today, Ensign Kim and I will conduct a comprehensive diagnostic of the aft sensor array. I have allocated three hours twenty minutes for the task, and additional seventeen minutes for Ensign Kim's usual conversational digressions. I am scheduled to take a nutritional supplement at 15:00 hours, engage in one hour of cardiovascular activity. Then I intend to review a text the Doctor recommended , entitled A Christmas Carol. He believes it will have educational value. End log." (Seven)
- Remarkable dialogue: "6 of 10, this is not your assignment." - "Please stop calling me that." - "You're compromising our productivity. I am reassigning you to chamber maintenance. Your new designation is 2 of 10." - "...Wait a minute. You're demoting me? Since when do the Borg pull rank?" - "A Starfleet protocol I adapted. I find it most useful." - "I'm glad you're not the captain." (Seven and Kim)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Omega is infinitely complex, yet harmonious. To the Borg it represents perfection. I wish to understand that perfection." (Seven)
- "The final frontier has some boundaries that shouldn't be crossed, and we're looking at one." (Janeway)
- "For 3.2 seconds I saw perfection." (Seven)
- Remarkable facts:
- The Borg have been investigating the Omega Molecule aka Particle 010 for centuries, beginning with the assimilation of Species 262 who described something that "burns the sky" and Species 263 for which it was a "drop of blood from their creator". The Borg managed to stabilize the molecule for a trillionth of a nanosecond (=10^-21s, I wonder how they could possibly measure this), before it ran out of control and destroyed 29 vessels and 600,000 drones.
- The Federation conducted experiments in the Lantaru sector, which resulted in the death of 126 scientists and the disruption of subspace in that sector.
- Janeway wants to destroy Omega with a gravimetric charge of 80 isotons.
- Torpedoes used: 1
Stardate not given: During a battle between cloaked ships, Voyager receives a distress call from one of the combatants. Chakotay beams aboard and rescues a woman, Kellin, who claims that she has met him before. She tells him that they fell in love with one another when she was aboard Voyager to find a stowaway. Kellin belongs to a secluded people, the Ramurans, who would not allow anyone to leave their society. It is her task as a "tracer" to apprehend such runaways. It is part of the Ramuran biology that other races can't remember them after a couple of hours, a trait that the Ramurans have perfected by developing technology to erase computer memories to the same end. Now Kellin has defected herself and is pursued by other tracers. She and Chakotay fall in love again. When a tracer manages to board Voyager, he directs a weapon at Kellin that makes her forget everything about the outside world, including her feelings for Chakotay. On her explicit request, Chakotay tells Kellin about their relationship but she prefers to return to Ramura.
This episode is curious because every time I watch it again, after a couple of years have passed, I can't remember much of the story, and not even the major plot points are familiar any more. I wonder if my memory of the Ramurans is erased every time. But maybe the story just isn't very memorable.
The whole point of "Unforgettable" is that at first Chakotay cannot remember Kellin (sad for Kellin), whereas the roles are switched in the end (sad for Chakotay). Unfortunately, we don't see much of the love story that this was probably supposed to be. Too much time is spent on showing the efforts to verify Kellin's claims, on keeping her character mysterious and on creating doubts about her motives. Only when the other tracer shows up, we know that she was telling the truth all along and that this is not a far-fetched spy story along the lines of "The Enterprise Incident". This saves the episode for me because it would have been pointless, had everything about Kellin just been pretense, perhaps in an attempt to steal a few technological secrets. Yet, the rest of the actual story doesn't sit so well with me either because it is very rushed. Chakotay gives up after no more than two minutes of trying to convince Kellin that she could love him and that she should stay aboard. He and Janeway comply with her wish to return to Ramura, although they know she has been brainwashed. The ending may have been supposed to reminiscent of the one of TNG: "The Outcast" when Riker launched a rescue attempt but had to leave the already "re-educated" Soren behind for similar reasons. But Chakotay and Janeway don't even try to accomplish anything better for Kellin, which may just have required some more time. They take an easy road and surrender her to her pursuers, although she already had asylum on the ship. One saving grace, however, is that Chakotay writes down his memories of Kellin on paper so he wouldn't forget her.
Another issue is that the mechanisms of "forgetting" don't become plausible, although they are the key to the story. Well, biological and technological memories are routinely wiped in Star Trek without even an attempt to elucidate why and how exactly it is done (such as memorably in TNG: "Clues"). Yet, it is not satisfactory that the people of Ramura are capable of erasing the memories of people and of computers and, in addition, somehow create plausible new content to replace it. Moreover, how can it be ensured that it works for unknown alien species and unknown technology? On the other hand, it is more credible that the tracers have a device to erase the memories of their fellow citizens.
- Remarkable Vulcan joke: "Basically, she [Kellin] was a security operative for her people. She's a trained expert in weaponry, surveillance, fighting skills. Any idea where she might fit in?" - "Mister Neelix could use an assistant in the mess hall." (Chakotay and Tuvok)
- Remarkable quote: "Commander, I don't think you can analyze love. It's the greatest mystery of all. No one knows why it happens or doesn't. Love is a chance combination of elements. Any one thing might be enough to keep it from igniting. A mood, a glance, a remark. And if we could define love, predict it, it would probably lose its power." (Neelix)
700 years in the future: A Kyrian museum shows how the so-called "Warship Voyager" and its reckless crew caused a disastrous war between the Kyrians and the Vaskans 700 years ago. Captain Janeway is blamed for murdering the Kyrian leader Tedran, who is since revered as a martyr, and the EMH allegedly developed a bioweapon that killed millions of Kyrians. Dissatisfied Vaskan visitors of the museum question this reconstruction of history, but the Kyrian historian Quarren insists on his extrapolations being accurate. He begins to investigate an artifact from Voyager that has been found recently, which turns out to be a backup module of Voyager's EMH. After his activation, the Doctor protests against the depiction of the ship and crew in Quarren's simulation. The Doctor presents his reconstruction to a commission consisting of Kyrians and Vaskans. When the Vaskans protesters learn of the existence of the EMH, they attack the museum and a civil war is about to ensue. The Doctor agrees to being being decompiled, to avoid further hostilities, but Quarren insists on him telling the true story. Still further in the future: A museum speaker explains how a reconciliation between the Kyrians and Vaskans took place and how the Doctor eventually took a small craft and set course for the Alpha Quadrant.
The absurd caricatures of the crew and the ship the Kyrians have recreated are fortunately the only funny aspect in an overall very serious and unexpectedly credible plot. "Living Witness" handles the question "What is the historical truth and how can we find it?" more comprehensively and more satisfactorily than "Remember" could do. The story impressively demonstrates how history is written by the (military or moral) victor and how ignorance and stubbornness can hold back the truth even without anyone consciously denying it. And that even in an open and democratic society the prevalent view of history may easily become the only truth. The museum and the simulations the Kyrians as the alleged victims have created made me think. It becomes obvious that the selected and accordingly presented exhibits, be they relics or reconstructions, may easily be mistaken for or overestimated as proof of a certain version of history. People only believe what they see - or are inspired to see. Moreover, a lot of emotional significance is attached to everything related to the "Warship Voyager", which may further obstruct an objective evaluation of the facts, as even Quarren himself has to admit. He is fascinated by the history of the "Warship Voyager" since his childhood and may not quite have the required critical distance to the topic.
"Living Witness" is also unusual in that it has hardly anything to do with Voyager itself; Voyager just happens to be the subject of a homemade alien story that takes place in the far future. The ship and crew only appear in the form of initially very distorted and then increasingly correct holographic reconstructions. And this is not to the episode's disadvantage. The ingenious ending even reveals that the whole story of Quarren and the Doctor is presented as another simulation in the museum many years later. We only have to wonder if this time everything is correctly reconstructed.
The only aspect about the story that doesn't work so well is that as obvious as the truth may be to the Doctor and to leading historians, it is unlikely that it would ever be generally accepted by the Kyrians and that it would even foster a reconciliation with the Vaskans, rather than obstruct it. When it comes to enforcing national or racial interests, the truth is usually of secondary importance.
- Only a few episodes ago, in "Message in a Bottle", Harry and Tom utterly failed to create a backup for the EMH, but now there is a fully-fledged backup copy in that module?
- Does the museum have holographic emitters outside the simulation chamber? The Doctor could walk around there.
- The fake crew:
- Janeway - short hair and black gloves
- Chakotay - the tattoo covering half of his face
- Doctor - an android
- Seven - full Borg and head of a Borg assault team
- B'Elanna - transporter officer
- Neelix - security officer
- Tuvok - sadist with an evil grin
- Paris - ditto
- Kim - ditto
- A Kazon running around with a rifle all the time
- The fake ship: In the Kyrian reconstruction, Voyager has all kinds of additional guns and spikes mounted on the hull.
- Remarkable dialogue: "Yes, I know. Trying to get home, to Mars." - "Earth! You see, you couldn't even get that right." (Quarren and the Doctor)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "When diplomacy fails there's only one option - violence. Force must be applied without apology. It's the Starfleet way." (fake Janeway)
- "Granted, this looks like the briefing room, but these are not the people I knew, no one behaved like this..., well, aside from Mr. Paris." (Doctor)
- Photon torpedoes used: 1 (at least)
- Crew losses: 3
Stardate not given: Voyager runs out of deuterium in open space. Janeway orders to shut down many of the ship's systems to save energy, but Seven insists on keeping the astrometric lab online. She finds a source of deuterium on a nearby planetoid. Although it is a Class-Y or "Demon-class" planetoid with a very hostile environment, she can convince the captain to alter course because it is the only chance of refueling the ship. After an attempt to beam up deuterium has failed and the transporters are offline, Harry and Tom take a shuttle to the surface. Harry is dragged into a puddle of a silvery liquid he investigates, and the sealing of his spacesuit fails. Tom's spacesuit fails too, and the two are about to suffocate. Janeway decides to land the ship to rescue the two officers. Chakotay and Seven find Harry and Tom, who are alive and well - without their spacesuits! Aboard Voyager, the two are not able to breathe the normal air any longer. They have been "bioformed" to survive on the planet, which they feel connected to. Some time later another Tom and Harry are found on the surface - unconscious and still in their spacesuits. The two other individuals are duplicates created by the biomimetic fluid, the "Silver Blood". The Silver Blood is a lifeform that experiences sentience for the first time after duplicating the two officers. Now the fluid begins to submerge Voyager in an attempt to keep the ship and thereby the company from leaving. Janeway arranges a deal that the Silver Blood releases the ship under the condition that the rest of the crew permits to be duplicated as well.
It almost seems the writers didn't want "Demon" to be taken seriously. First of all, it took me some time to overcome the incredibly stupid plot twist that the ship suddenly runs out of fuel in open space because no one cared to have a look at the fuel gauge. With a little bit more diligence, a plausible reason could have been mentioned why the deuterium is gone and why Janeway didn't bother to watch out for refueling opportunities any sooner.
As laudable as it is that Harry Kim is supposed to receive some character development in this episode, it is done in a way that blatantly disregards the "show, don't tell" rule. Harry speaks to Tom about how he made up his mind to be more proactive, and he recounts the experiences he has gathered on the ship to that end. Other than that, his contribution to the story boils down to him teasing Tom and vice versa. Their Silver Blood duplicates are more important for the story and are more decent no less.
The overdone humor in this episode is a problem anyway. Voyager is a rather casual ship. Irony and teasing are commonplace. But in the first 20 minutes of "Demon", it seems that Harry, Tom, Tuvok, Neelix and the Doctor don't have a single serious scene. Harry and Tom get worked up about the running gag that a bicycle could be set up to power the ship and about volunteering for one another. Tuvok takes away the book with the collected works of Jirex and even the favorite blanket from Neelix because for some reason he is not allowed to have them in his emergency quarters. And finally Neelix moves into sickbay where he and the Doctor re-enact "The Odd Couple". It should have been clear that Voyager is neither a comedy series, nor that in their desperate situation the crew would be particularly prone to make jokes - except perhaps sarcastic ones.
I like the idea of how Voyager's crew explores a hostile environment that they would normally not even come close to, and its visualization and directing. There is also some merit in the story about the Silver Blood, although we already known the basic theme from TNG: "Aquiel". In the TNG episode, the coalescent lifeform turned out to be hostile and was simply killed in the end. VOY: "Demon" is more Trek-like as it further explores a similar alien lifeform and comes to a mutual agreement. Notwithstanding this outcome, nearly everything about the Silver Blood is very implausible. So "Demon" ends with unexplained inconsistencies just as it started with one.
- It is ludicrously short-sighted to allow the ship to run out of fuel in interstellar space and to start saving energy as late as the warp drive is not available any more and the ship is doomed in all likelihood. What did Janeway expect? To find a deuterium source by chance, with impulse drive only? It would have been so easy for the writers to come up with a good reason why the ship is suddenly without fuel, such as an alien attack, an accident or something else that may have caused a leak in the deuterium tank. A single line would have sufficed. We have to try to imagine that someone said it.
- Well, the Class-Y planetoid with deuterium that Seven finds is just .4 light-years away, which is exactly the unlikely coincidence that Janeway may have hoped for. At impulse speed, it would still take months to get there, though.
- Chakotay argues with Seven that conventional sensors must suffice to find a deuterium source. But only her improved astrometric sensors find the Class-Y planetoid. The conventional sensors that otherwise pinpoint specific lifesigns across a whole sector can't find a huge supply of deuterium in the immediate neighborhood?
- Twenty kilograms of deuterium doesn't sound like it's enough to get the ship operational again.
- How could the real Paris and Kim survive so long in the poisonous atmosphere after their spacesuits were broken?
- The Silver Blood is an organic fluid but is apparently capable of exactly duplicating non-organic matter just as well, even technology such as the crew's communicators (that are fully operational). How is this possible?
- We will learn in the sequel, "Course: Oblivion" that the Silver Blood not only duplicated the crew but even the ship. This is not only a miracle, it is not hinted at in any way in "Demon".
- It is not mentioned if and how Voyager's deuterium supply was eventually replenished.
- It should be "500 Kelvins", not "500 degrees Kelvin" as Tom says.
- Remarkable dialogue: "How did you reach that conclusion?" - "Footprints - I guess you never assimilated any Indian scouts." (Seven and Chakotay on the search for Harry and Tom)
- Remarkable scene: the Doctor and Neelix struggling for control of sickbay, each of them threatening to "cheer up" the other temporary residents with a musical performance (Neelix wins because his singing is worse)
- Remarkable 47: The annular confinement beam is set to 47THz.
- Ship landing: #4
Stardate not given: As Voyager approaches a Mutara-class nebula, the crew suddenly suffers heavy skin burns caused by subnucleonic radiation. One crew member dies. There is no other way but to reverse course. Going around the nebula would take more than a year, so Captain Janeway decides to put the crew into suspended animation for a trip right through the phenomenon. Besides the EMH, Seven of Nine is the only crew member that is apparently not affected by the radiation. She is ordered to monitor the lifesigns in the stasis chambers and to report to the Doctor. After almost a month, however, the ship's gel packs begin to malfunction, as well as the Doctor's mobile emitter. Seven is left on her own but soon hallucinates to be pursued by an alien intruder named Trajis. Only hours away from the far edge of the nebula, the engines are about to fail. Seven cuts power from some of the stasis chambers to save the rest of the crew but then decides to shut down life support on the ship, upon which she loses consciousness. Seven opens her eyes in sickbay and learns that the ship made it through the nebula, the Doctor came back online again and woke up the crew.
Seven of Nine's overall development, the rediscovery of her human nature, can be described as try and error. But in the particular case of socializing with the crew it is more like back and forth. It seems that every step she takes towards making friends or only getting better along with everyone is forgotten by the next episode. Or, in an in-universe interpretation, by the next regeneration cycle. The holodeck exercises that the Doctor arranges for Seven in "One" are symptomatic in this regard. Here, Seven is not willing, and apparently not even able, to engage into a simple conversation. She does not exhibit the slightest empathy, although we know that she has been curious about other people before and occasionally even tried to make jokes. The fact that it is just a holodeck scenario may excuse her. Yet, at some point we would expect some of her development to be sustainable.
The more important experience that Seven makes in this episode is that she hallucinates the alien intruder, the Borg that runs her down for leaving the Collective and the crew members that accuse her of not being trustworthy. However, hallucination is one of the most frequently recurring themes in Star Trek and is too habitually used to create menacing images when showing the plain reality would appear too boring. It doesn't have an impact on the story that Seven is not a normal human being and that her Borg implants are actually responsible for the false images. If Janeway or anyone else has hallucinations it doesn't look any different, as seen on various previous occasions, such as in "Persistence of Vision" or "Coda". Unfortunately the episode "One" doesn't have very much real substance. Still, I like how Seven's fright of being alone is worked out in the story, also in the scenes that we may deem real.
Overall, while the story of "One" is rather thin, I like the details of Seven's experience and the eerie atmosphere on the empty ship that never gets banal or silly, neither in the real nor in the hallucination sequences.
- No obvious reason is mentioned why the Doctor can't be transferred to sickbay immediately when his mobile emitter begins to fail and his program is about to be lost. The Doctor will find out that the electro-optic modulator of the device is damaged, rather than the interface or transmitter to sickbay.
- Seven reads out Tom's body temperature as "97.6 [degrees Fahrenheit]". I can understand Tom that he doesn't want to be put in such an ancient stasis chamber!
- When Seven cuts down life support, she becomes unconscious almost immediately, as if all air on the ship was actively sucked off.
- Remarkable quote: "Describe the nature of your sexual relationship to Lt. Paris." (Seven to a -fortunately- holographic B'Elanna)
- Remarkable 47: Seven adjusts the heading by .347 degrees starboard.
- Crew losses: 1
Stardate not given: Janeway and Seven of Nine attempt in vain to decrypt a garbled message from Starfleet. They receive help from a well-versed alien named Arturis. The message he extracts contains a set of coordinates to which Voyager proceeds. The crew finds an unmanned Starfleet vessel, the USS Dauntless NX-01-A, a prototype equipped with quantum slipstream drive that was sent for their rescue. As an away team investigates the ship, the drive is activated and the Dauntless enters the slipstream until Paris can finally stop it. Janeway decides to use the ship to return home, but not before trying to equip Voyager with the same technology, and only if a safe way is available to disable the slipstream drive. When Janeway sets out to decrypt the rest of the message on her own, using her intuition, she discovers that it really says that Starfleet is sorry not to be able to send a ship. Meanwhile aboard the Dauntless, Kim and Tuvok detect alien technology. Janeway beams over with a security team to apprehend Arturis, but he still manages to activate the slipstream auto pilot that would take the ship back to his homeworld, in Borg space. The rest of the away team can be beamed out, leaving Janeway and Seven trapped on the Dauntless. Arturis seeks revenge. He accuses Janeway of being responsible for his people's assimilation because she forged an alliance with the Borg against Species 8472, an enemy that would otherwise have been able to destroy the Borg. Voyager, meanwhile equipped with slipstream propulsion too, is in pursuit, so Janeway and Seven can be beamed out in the nick of time while Arturis is facing his assimilation.
Wow indeed. "Hope and Fear" is a rollercoaster ride that keeps the promise of its title. In retrospect, it may seem easy to object that the unexpected help from a multilingual alien genius and the ultrafast ship delivered to Voyager's doorstep were just too good to be true. But when I first watched it, I expected that the technology would fail or that someone would sabotage or steal the Dauntless, rather than that Arturis would have created this incredibly sophisticated deception to take revenge on the crew.
Overall, the plot would have had the potential to be made into a two-parter. I don't mind that it became a single episode with an unusually fast pace, and packed with excitement. But thinking further about it, it is a bit sad that the character interaction falls short of the action. Janeway and Seven have an argument about the former Borg drone's lacking desire to be among humans. Seven's refusal to return home with the rest of the crew creates the most serious conflict with her captain and mentor since she came aboard in "Scorpion". For a moment, it looks like Seven may be about to sabotage the mission or otherwise betray Janeway. However, in the end it doesn't seem to be more than a defiant reaction on Seven's part (perhaps even rather than the fear of the unknown that Janeway presumes as her motivation). While this is a bit disappointing, it is only logical because Seven needs her new family. She is only slow to recognize it. There are many parallels between her development and Data's attempts to become human in the first seasons of TNG. The difference is that Data often tries in vain to develop a grasp of concepts such as humor that Seven only needs to unearth.
On a further critical note, Arturis is correct that Janeway's reckless interference in "Scorpion" enabled the Borg to defeat Species 8472 and ultimately Arturis's people. Her defense is that she rated Species 8472 as more dangerous. Then again, who gave her the authority to play a decisive role in a war between two alien species in a remote region of the galaxy, except for her selfish desire to get a safe passage? Owing to the dramatic circumstances, their argument lasts only one some two minutes, which is inappropriate considering the gravity of the question. Furthermore, the issue is resolved very conveniently for Janeway when Arturis, like already most of his people, gets assimilated. Where there's no plaintiff, there's no judge (German proverb).
I enjoyed "Hope and Fear" a lot when it first aired, and still twenty years later. I gladly overlook that the episode goes over the top, with the unlikely sophistication in Arturis's plan as well as with the dramatic ending of him being tragically assimilated. "Hope and Fear" is a worthy finale season to Voyager's best season, also and especially because it picks up the storyline from "Scorpion".
- Nitpicking: It is contrived that Voyager can be modified in no time to achieve slipstream speed in the first place, and that the high risk is the only reason not to try it again.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "Wow." - "Wow indeed." (Tom and Tuvok on the bridge of the Dauntless)
- "I'm your captain and that means I can always be your friend, understood?" - "No. However, if we are assimilated our thoughts will become one and I'm sure I will understand you perfectly. - A joke, Captain. You yourself have encouraged me to use my sense of humor." (Seven and Janeway)
- Remarkable ship: the very streamlined USS Dauntless NX-01-A, whose strange registry seems to suggest that this could have been the name of the very first Starfleet ship
- Remarkable species: Species 116, Arturis's race
- Remarkable facts: Arturis has created the Dauntless with particle synthesis, which is "beyond our understanding". He speaks 4000 languages. Quantum slipstream is similar to Borg transwarp, as Seven remarks.
- Missed opportunity to get home: #11, because with a bit more luck the Dauntless could have served its alleged purpose
- Photon torpedoes used: 4 (at least)
- Distance bridged: 300ly