Star Trek: Voyager
Originally Broadcast January 29th, 1997
Reviewed by Chakoteya
Neelix accosts Captain Janeway on her way to the shuttlebay, to congratulate her on her performance last night and ask if next time Tuvok can be kept busy elsewhere. She is sure something can be arranged. On board Shuttlecraft Sacajawea, Chakotay also compliments the Captain on her performance of the Dying Swan, and hopes that she’ll reprise it next Talent Night. Only once certain others have got up and performed in public, she ripostes. Then they hit atmospheric turbulence, and crash on a jungle planet. Janeway is knocked out, and stops breathing for a while, but Chakotay drags her out of the shuttle and revives her. He goes to get supplies and notices weapons burns on the hull. They were shot down by Vidiians, who trap them in a cave and kill them.
On board Shuttlecraft Sacajawea, Chakotay compliments the Captain on her performance of the Dying Swan, and then they both realise they have been here before. They check for temporal anomalies, and find none, but a Vidiian ship comes out of nowhere and attacks them. The warp core breaches before they can dump it.
Back on the shuttle again, they scan for ships and find two Vidiians coming after them this time. Janeway creates a tachyon burst to disrupt any temporal phenomenon nearby while Chakotay manages to contact Voyager. Their pursuers vanish and they return safely to the ship. On the bridge, no one knows about the temporal problems Janeway is talking about, not even Chakotay. Confused, she goes to sickbay where the EMH informs her that she has somehow managed to contract the Phage, the incurable disease that has ravaged Vidiian society and turned them into organ thieves. After a forty hour sleep, the EMH informs Janeway that he sees no hope for her, so to avoid her having to suffer a prolonged and painful death, he pumps a toxic gas into the containment area against her wishes, and kills her.
Once more in the shuttle with Chakotay, she sees an anomaly ahead of them, dragging them towards it. The little ship struggles to escape, and blows up under the strain. Then she is on the planet, watching as Chakotay tries in vain to revive her. Voyager has just arrived in orbit and sent a shuttle down to rescue them. On board in sickbay, Janeway watches as the EMH and Kes attempt to bring her back to life, and fail. Her death is recorded at 0320 hours.
Remembering that Kes could sense Chakotay’s spirit when he was disembodied for a while, Kathryn goes with her to the science lab, talking to her in the hope that she might feel her presence and alert the rest of the crew to her situation. She succeeds when Kes walks right through her. A meeting is called of the senior staff and they discuss various possible scenarios. Torres and Kim will scan sub-space while Tuvok works with Kes to increase her mental range. Neelix will keep the crew’s morale up as Chakotay and Paris keep the ship running. Pleased, Janeway goes to Engineering to monitor progress, but just before the scans begin, a light appears which only she can see, and a figure emerges from it. It’s her father!
Scientific scepticism reasserts itself, and she challenges the figure to identify itself. He claims that he really is Admiral Janeway, who drowned on Tau Ceti Prime over fifteen years ago, and whose presence the young Kathryn thought she had felt while she was grieving for him all that time ago. He tries to convince her that she really is a ghost too, and that it is time for her to let go and cross over to ‘heaven’, but she is not ready yet, and walks out of engineering to find out how Tuvok and Kes are getting on in his quarters.
Three days later, and no one has had any success in finding any trace of the Captain. Kes and Tuvok finally give up their mental search, and Tuvok makes a touching log entry about the loss of his irreplaceable friend. Admiral Janeway tells his daughter that after tomorrow it will be easier for her to accept the reality of her situation.
The memorial service is held in the mess hall, and Torres explains how Captain Janeway gave her a sense of self-worth and optimism about herself. Ensign Kim tells a story of an away mission, his voice cracking with emotion until he can’t go on. Kathryn watches, fighting back the tears herself, until her ‘coffin ‘ is launched into space and the service breaks up into a wake. Then her father tells her it is time to leave her crew to get on with their lives, but she still isn’t ready. She wants to stay with them on the journey, find out what lies ahead for her crew. A Captain doesn’t abandon ship. The Admiral becomes annoyed, and tells her the longer she stays, the harder it will be to cross over. His insistence angers Janeway then suddenly she has a vision of the EMH leaning over her on the planet surface, treating her injuries. Then she begins to realise that maybe that is the reality and this the hallucination. She presses the Admiral for his reasons for needing her to accompany him now. He sticks to his explanation of wanting to make it easier for her, which is something her father would not do. He insisted on her learning her own lessons and not protecting her from harsh reality.
Another flash gives her more information. Tuvok mentions an alien presence in her brain, and Chakotay keeps telling her to fight it. Now she is sure of her ground, the alien starts to tell some of the truth. That bright light is his Matrix, a place that can be whatever she wants it to be. Hers is a dangerous profession and one day she will come to his domain, where her strong will shall nourish him for a very long time. The white light has turned to red as he goes back into it and she is waking up properly on the planet surface. The three men explain what happened – the crash landing, the second shuttle coming to help, the alien presence that had to be pushed out of her brain before she could recover.
‘Captain’s log, stardate 50518.6. The Doctor has examined me thoroughly and pronounced me physically fit, but I’ll admit that it’ll take a little longer to work through the emotional impact of my experience.’
Physically recovered and back in her ready room, Captain Janeway is keeping busy rather than dwell on the experience. Chakotay doubts that the alien could be responsible for all the recorded ‘near-death’ experiences and Kathryn hopes that he is only indigenous to the Delta Quadrant. Then she decides to celebrate her cheating of death by replicating a bottle of champagne and taking Chakotay with her for a sail on Lake George.
There’s something vaguely unsatisfying about this episode. It begins as a potential time-loop, but that quickly gets torpedoed in favour of how many ways can we kill Janeway and still seem plausible. Then in comes the soul-sucking alien, in guise of her father. Frankly, he doesn’t come across very well as a kindly character who only wants the best for his daughter. Then again, maybe he isn’t meant to. In some ways he reminds me of Gorgon, the evil entity from the Original show ‘And the Children Shall Lead’.
What really gets me riled is the way Trek is determined portray any sense of afterlife in terms of alien influence. It isn’t the first time they’ve done this and I doubt it will be the last. The determinedly humanist legacy of Gene Roddenberry will be hard to get rid of, despite the inclusion of Vulcan or Bajoran [or even Native American] spirituality.
On the upside, I enjoyed the description of the Talent night, and the disparagement of Vulcan poetry. The relationship between Captain and First office isn’t just professional, they’re good friends too. Janeway is still channelling Kirk, fighting against her own death and refusing to let go of her family. I’m reliably informed that Jeri Taylor’s book Mosaic is a source for a fair bit of the Janeway back-story that we get here, and so this offering is a sort of cross media tie in for the author.
After the Neelix episode last week, this one falls slightly below that standard.