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Star Trek: Voyager – Deadlock (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

In some ways, Deadlock is Star Trek: Voyager‘s original sin.

Of course, Deadlock is good. It is really good. It is a well-constructed piece of television that moves with an incredible momentum; it gathers speed and builds towards a suitably epic finalé. In many ways, Deadlock is one of the strongest episodes from the first two seasons of Voyager. There is a credible argument to be made that Deadlock belongs on any list of “best Voyager episodes ever”, thanks to the potent combination of Brannon Braga’s high-concept script and David Livingston’s dynamic direction.

Janeway²...

Janeway²…

At the same time, it is hard not to look at Deadlock in retrospect and see the shape of things to come. It is, perhaps, the ultimate “reset” button episode; it provides a clear template for later “blow up Voyager and kill Janeway” episodes like Year of Hell or Timeless. The trick works very well once; it loses any real impact when it is repeated several times over the course of the show’s run. More than that, the episode feels somewhat generic. Due to the nature of the high-concept premise, there is little room for detail specific to Voyager.

It seems that the end of the second season set the course for the next five years of Voyager. The production team had tried to tell an experimental story specific to Voyager with Investigations, only to fail spectacularly; it would be the last time that the show attempted anything so bold. In contrast, the production team managed to construct a fantastic episode around a generic premise in Deadlock, perhaps indicating that the future of the show lay in that direction. It is easy to see why that production team opted for safe and generic ahead of ambitious and experimental.

Ghost stories...

Ghost stories…

Deadlock seems to lend itself to this reading. Imagine, for a moment, two versions of Voyager coexisting perfectly; they look the same, they occupy the same space. They are functionally identical, right down to the smallest molecule. Now imagine that one of these shows had to be destroyed so that the other might live, that the ship could never be quite whole again; that the version of the ship riding off into the sunset would turn out to be nothing more than an echo, a copy, a duplicate.

The two versions of Janeway discuss their predicament. “Both engines have been trying to draw power from a single source of antimatter,” one states. The other continues the old-school Star Trek analogy, “Like Siamese twins linked at the chest, with only one heart.” It encapsulates a lot of what Voyager feels like at this point in the second season; there is one version of the show pushing towards trying new things, and another that is desperately clinging to the familiar. Neither can truly coexist with one another.

Baby on board...

Baby on board…

This is, perhaps, why Voyager is so fond of duplicates and copies. The idea of a duplicate ship or a duplicate self is something of a recurring motif in Voyager, making it remarkable that the show never produced a mirror universe episode. Since Janeway and Torres found themselves confronted by two versions of Voyager in Brannon Braga’s Parallax, the ship has been haunted by ghost versions of itself. Many of those versions seem fated to be destroyed, flawed copies that could not survive for more than the briefest of moments.

There is the duplicate Doctor in Living Witness, the duplication of the entire crew in Demon, the con artists from Live Fast and Prosper. That is to say nothing of all the alternate timelines and possible futures that span the series. (Even alternate narratives of Voyager in episodes like Worst Case Scenario or Author, Author.) Voyager seems obsessed with alternate versions of itself; what might have been in some other life. It is no wonder that Endgame closes the series with an act of erasure.

A pipe dream...

A pipe dream…

Indeed, Deadlock makes much of the idea of Voyager searching for itself, of both versions of the ship intersecting and trying to communicate with one another. “There’s another Voyager out there, and I intend to find it,” Janeway informs her crew; Voyager has had a great deal of trouble finding itself over the past two seasons. Deadlock seems to allow these internal conflicts to come to a head. Not only do the two Voyagers come into contact with one another, one sacrifices itself so that the other might live.

There is something quite telling that the Voyager that survives at the end of Deadlock is the broken and damaged version of the ship. Sure, everything is neatly repaired by the start of Innocence, but this ship has been through the wars. Although Deadlock has a handy reset button that minimises the impact of anything that happened over the course of the episode, this is a ship that lost two of its youngest crew members; Harry Kim has always represented the show’s innocence and idealism, and Naomi Wildman is obviously a child of Voyager.

Through the void...

Through the void…

“I mean, this isn’t really my ship, and you’re not really my captain, and yet you are, and there’s no difference,” Harry states in the closing scene. “But I know there’s a difference. Or is there?” There is a difference, and there is no difference. Both can be true. The fact that the two deaths on the surviving Voyager were its two youngest crew members is highly symbolic. Following on from Investigations, it seems that Deadlock might be the end of the line for anything new and exciting in Voyager.

The Voyager that is ultimately destroyed is the version of the ship that is assaulted by the Vidiians. That version of Voyager is the version most firmly anchored in the Delta Quadrant. The Vidiians are aliens unique to Voyager, it makes sense that they cannot see the broken and damaged version of the ship that survives Deadlock. The version of the ship that survives is the one that will chart a course into the third and fourth seasons, abandoning all the new ideas that were tried (and mostly failed) in the first two seasons. It literally leaves the Vidiians behind.

Face to... whatever the heck that is.

Face to… whatever the heck that is.

There is something very generic and universal about Deadlock. It is not an episode tailored specifically to Voyager, save for the fact that it features the birth of Naomi Wildman. Writer Brannon Braga acknowledged as much in his assessment of his script, “I thought Deadlock was classic Star Trek and whatever crew would have been in that episode, it would have been a good episode of Star Trek.” That is a very fair point. The Vidiians could be swapped out for any hostile alien race; Janeway could be any commanding officer.

As such, Deadlock is part of the conscious “generification” of Voyager as a television show. It is not a Star Trek show with a unique flavour, it is a Star Trek show that can be used to tell stories that could be integrated with just about any crew. Deadlock is certainly not the first episode of Voyager to feel this way; Death Wish had a similar vibe earlier in the season, bringing in Q to do a riff on The Measure of a Man. Given how spectacularly Alliances and Investigation failed to give Voyager a unique flavour, who could blame the team for wanting something generic?

Burning down the house...

Burning down the house…

(It is worth pausing to compare Deadlock to Visionary, an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that hit on many of the same beats; it destroyed a version of the station and replaced one of the leads with a functionally identical doppelganger. At the same time, it was an episode that was still unique to Deep Space Nine. It built off the events of The Search, Part I and The Search, Part II. It also set up the events of Improbable Cause and The Die is Cast, foreshadowing the Romulan response to the Dominion threat.)

Deadlock also codifies a lot of the tropes that would come to define Voyager, for better or worse. Many of the same criticisms that would be leveled at Voyager over the next five seasons can be validly made in relation to the plot of Deadlock. The episode strains to create drama with incredible stakes, only to ensure that there are absolutely no consequences for anything that happens. Main characters die, but the ensemble is in place at the end of the episode; the ship is destroyed, but it is back in business next week; the sets are trashed, but everything is in place for the next instalment.

Surgical precision...

Surgical precision…

It is, of course, not the first time that Voyager has done any of this. The ship was almost torn apart in Caretaker, but everything was back in place by the end of the episode. The show waited until the third episode of the first season, Time and Again, to deploy its first true “reset button” ending. There have been plenty of examples of that internal logic at work since them; the early scenes of Manoeuvres and Alliances found Voyager taking a pounding from Kazon ships, only for everything to be fully functional and in pristine condition almost immediately.

Deadlock is perhaps notable for escalating these trends to their logical conclusion. Voyager is not just crippled; one of the ships is crippled, the other is destroyed. It isn’t just extras who are killed to raise the stakes; Harry Kim bites the dust. It is harder to imagine a a way of escalating the wholescale damage and destruction wrought over the course of Deadlock, save actually blowing up the ship and cancelling the show without any warning three episodes into the third season. There is, quite simply, nowhere to go from here.

Engineering burndown...

Engineering burndown…

And, to be frank, the damage and destruction of Voyager becomes a something of a recurring joke from this point onwards. Janeway also mounts a suicide assault on a superior enemy at the climax of Year of Hell, Part II. Voyager is crippled by an off-screen attack before The Killing Game, Part I even starts. Voyager crashes into an ice planet in Timeless. A duplicate Voyager blows up at the end of a shaggy dog story in Course: Oblivion. Captain Braxton goes for broke and manages to blow up Voyager no less than three times in Relativity.

As such, Deadlock could be seen as the show crossing an event horizon; this is a point of no return. The benchmark has been set, audiences have been show what the stakes can be on Voyager. The show is no longer content to threaten recurring cast members or guest stars; red shirts are only marginally more at risk than regular cast members, but without the reassurance of a resurrection at the end of the hour. Voyager is a show where everything is continuously at stake, where everything can be lost.

Spaced out...

Spaced out…

Of course, the flipside is that when everything is always at stake, then nothing is at stake. The deaths of Lon Suder and Hogan in Basics, Part II are more meaningful than the deaths of Harry Kim and Naomi Wildman in Deadlock, because those deaths are not reversed at the end of the episode. After all, UPN was unlikely to let the production team actually destroy the ship or kill a regular cast member in the middle of the season, so everything was guaranteed to go back in place by the end of the episode.

This leaves Voyager feeling rather hollow; it is like a ship populated with paper characters. Those characters can be torn up and shredded on a weekly basis, but there is always another copy that can be printed before the start of the next episode. No matter what actually happens over the course of an episode, everything will be fine the following week. The self-destruct is conveniently wired into Janeway’s reset button, one simple command handily labelled “do over.” Nothing really matters; no matter how hard the writers might try, nothing can ever be lost.

Really? NEELIX is your priority...?

Really? NEELIX is your priority…?

Of course, it should be noted that Deadlock is very good on its own terms. It is a thrilling piece of television. Braga knows how to structure an episode of television like this, beautifully ramping up the tension through the first few acts before taking a delicious step sideways that wrong-foots the audience. David Livingston is one of the franchise’s best action directors, and he makes sure that Deadlock moves at a breathless pace. Any logical questions are brushed aside by a sense of urgency.

Deadlock moves incredibly fast. A lot of that comes from the script, with Braga pacing each of the show’s big events in a very meticulous and deliberate fashion. Just when it seems like Janeway has the situation under control on the bridge and is ready to visit Ensign Wildman, everything goes to hell. Just when it looks like the two ships might be able to find a solution, the Vidiians turn up. Deadlock is ruthlessly efficient in its pacing, constantly escalating the stakes and its intensity.

Shaking things up...

Shaking things up…

Even the decision to open on one version of Voyager before revealing the existence of the alternate version is quite clever. The first two acts skilfully amp up the tension, as things begin to go increasingly wrong. The loss of the baby is shocking; it is a very dark development for a Star Trek episode, but not outside the realm of possibility for Voyager. Then Harry Kim dies; without having seen Voyager do a story like this, the audience wonders how they show is going to get out of this one. Then Kes disappears.

Braga has always had a knack for trusting the audience to follow along with his science-fiction high concepts, never getting too bogged down in rational explanations for what is unfolding. Braga does stuff Deadlock with just a little bit too much technobabble – apparently any problem can be solved by “remodulating” some tech – but the internal logic of the script works on an intuitive level. The death of Harry Kim clues the audience into the idea that the story is broken, the disappearance of Kes seals the deal. A television literate audience reads the cues quite handily.

A surgical strike...

A surgical strike…

A televisually literate audience will be suspicious when Naomi Wildman dies; killing off an infant is a very ruthless move for a Star Trek show. Those suspicions will only be enhanced when Harry Kim is sucked out into space. With the exception of Tasha Yar, the Star Trek franchise is not in the habit of killing off credited regulars in the middle of a season; more than that, the departure of a series regular is likely to be a big enough deal that it would be the focus of the entire episode, rather than an early act break.

Once Harry Kim dies, the audience is smart enough to realise that this is a game. The question is no longer “how do the crew deal with this crisis?”, instead becoming “how does the show bounce back into a recognisable shape by the end of the episode?” It is a fun question, at least by this point in the show; the more often that Voyager relies on this storytelling trick, the more frustrating it becomes. Braga is very good at structuring these sorts of escalations, as he did with Cause and Effect. The audience gets it, even without technobabble exposition.

Born to be Wildman...

Born to be Wildman…

After all, buried beneath all the technobabble is the story of a ghost ship, a crew haunted by visions of their alternate self. Janeway first catches a glimpse of the alternate bridge through flames; they appear as transparent apparitions. The first hint of the existence of another Voyager has nothing to do with sensor readings or biodata; it is a vision whereby Janeway catches a glimpse of herself. “I just saw myself cross the Bridge and enter that turbolift,” the other Janeway explains to her crew. “It was very faint, almost like a ghost image.”

It is no coincidence that Kes is the first character to cross the rift successfully, even if she discovers it by accident. With her elfin ears, Kes has always been the member of the Voyager crew most firmly connected to the ethereal – the “maybes” and the “never weres.” It was Kes who felt the stir of echoes at the end of Time and Again, it is Kes who navigates the possible future of Before and After. Braga tends to emphasise this aspect of Kes, suggesting a deep connection between the Ocampans and the universe itself in Cold Fire.

One big happy family...

One big happy family…

To be fair, there is one aspect of Deadlock that does make it unique to Voyager. It is the episode where Ensign Wildman finally has her baby. The pregnancy was first confirmed in Elogium, and has been mentioned a few times over the course of the second season – Ensign Wildman appeared in the teaser to Dreadnought, and Tom Paris joked about the pregnancy in the teaser to Lifesigns. The arrival of the baby is a pretty big deal. It is much an example of internal continuity and serialised storytelling as anything involving Michael Jonas and Tom Paris.

Indeed, there is an argument to be made that this might have been a much more effective model of serialisation going forward than the whole Kazon arc. Certainly, the second season is populated with a larger roster of more frequently recurring characters than any other season of Voyager; Wildman, Jonas, Hogan, Seska, Cullah, and even Denara Pel. However, most of these characters never appeared outside of this season; Wildman appeared as frequently in the second season as in the four seasons following.

"Don't worry; some brass polish and a bit of paint, it'll be as good as new."

“Don’t worry; some brass polish and a bit of paint, it’ll be as good as new.”

The birth of Naomi Wildman should be a huge moment for the Voyager crew. It marks another transitory moment for the series, a point at which Voyager should become anything but a standard Starfleet ship as the crew became less of a bunch of people who work together on a starship and more of a wandering family. However, Voyager had a habit of botching these moments; after all, Caretaker should have been an episode that marked Voyager as something mroe than just a Starfleet ship, with the integration of the Maquis and the arrival of Neelix and Kes.

Deadlock makes a great fuss about how big a moment this is. Neelix and the EMH separately describe the baby as their own; the bridge crew await news with baited breath. “You know, I didn’t expect to be this nervous,” Chakotay remarks. “It’s not even my child.” Janeway responds, “In a way, this child belongs to all of us.” It is a very nice sentiment, one that feels like Voyager might finally be willing to embrace its unique status quo in some small way. This is not a conventional Starfleet mission, and this is not a conventional Starfleet crew.

Laboured metaphor...

Laboured metaphor…

Sadly, this is not to be. Even ignoring the cynicism of killing off a child as a sucker-punch to the audience, the decision to kill the baby on arrival feels like more than just a shock moment. In a way, the death of Samantha Wildman’s child is a symbolic expression of the show’s deep-seated fear of change or growth. If Naomi Wildman’s arrival should mark a point of transition for the show away from a conventional and generic Star Trek show, then killing her off almost immediately is a way of offsetting that change and arresting that development.

Of course, Naomi Wildman does not remain dead. Perhaps the producers thought that killing off a child was too provocative a plot point; after all, Rick Berman had refused to let Ronald D. Moore kill Toral at the end of Redemption, Part II. Instead, the dead child is replaced by a perfect duplicate. It seems like Voyager‘s love affair with the status quo almost cancels itself out. (The show is completely nonchalant about Samantha Wildman’s trauma; imagine knowing your child was a perfect duplicate of your dead baby?)

Are all the show's troubles borne of this episode?

Are all the show’s troubles borne of this episode?

In some respects, the generic nature of the script works to the advantage of the episode. The high-concept idea at the heart of Deadlock is so big that it tends to crowd out the actual plot. Deadlock makes great use of the Vidiians as stock Star Trek baddies, right down to their eagerness to harvest the organs of a newborn baby. “Where’s the infant?” the Vidiian surgeon demands. “Set your bio-probe to maximum. Find it!” Those newborn baby organs are particular sweet, dammit! (It’s those delicious stem cells.)

To be fair, this isn’t really a problem. Lifesigns did a lot to humanise and develop the Vidiians, and the climax of Deadlock needs a bunch of heavies to prevent the episode from getting too bogged down in magic technobabble solutions to a pretty goofy science-fiction concept. If anything, Deadlock suggests that Voyager really chose to focus on the wrong villains in its first two seasons; the Vidiian hijacking of Voyager is a lot more unsettling and horrifying than a Kazon hijacking might be. (Not least because the Vidiians actually kill the crew when taking the ship.)

Kathryn's core self...

Kathryn’s core self…

That said, a lot of the success of Deadlock comes down to David Livingston’s direction. In Captains’ Logs Supplemental, Jeri Taylor explained that Livingston actually managed to bring Deadlock in significantly under time:

It was like eight or nine minutes short, and we kept writing scenes, and they just kept getting gobbled up on those stages. It’s much better to be long than to be short. There’s never any accounting for it. Why is one seventy-page script eight minutes long and with this one, with the same director, we had seventy-five pages and had to shoot two extra days to get enough material to make it long enough? It was not an inexpensive show as a result, but what I was pleased about was I would defy anybody to know what the added material is. It is seamless. Some of the added scenes are some of the better scenes. They do not stand out as fill at all.

Taylor is quite right; the episode works well enough as a whole that the new material doesn’t stand out; the episode never feels like it stops moving for any extended period of time. Even the talky scenes on the bridge add a bit of personality to an episode that is largely action-driven.

"I hope you liked The Search for Spock."

“I hope you liked The Search for Spock.”

However, just because something is good does not mean that its legacy is also good. That is one of the more interesting aspects of examining something like the Star Trek franchise in retrospect; it is easier to assess the impact and consequences of certain creative decisions with the benefit of hindsight than it is in the moment. Creative decisions that work for particular stories can have a detrimental effect when applied to an entire franchise. A lot of bold ideas work because they seem new or fresh; that novelty is lost through repetition.

It could be argued that Christopher Nolan’s work on The Dark Knight had a detrimental impact on Warner Brothers’ superhero output (and even comic book movies in general) by establishing “gritty verisimilitude” as a tone that worked really well for the Caped Crusader. Going back further, Goldfinger is one of the most beloved Bond movies ever made; it is also the root of a whole host of the problems that would manifest themselves in the Roger Moore era. (It should be noted that Guy Hamilton also directed The Man with the Golden Gun.)

Empty victory...

Empty victory…

Deadlock marks the point at which the flaws with Voyager all coalesce and become a defining feature of the  show. They aren’t necessarily fatal flaws here, with Deadlock moving fast enough to compensate for any issues that the audience might have. None of the problems with Deadlock are new, but this is the point at which they all come sharply into focus and at which Voyager comes to rely on them so heavily that they are worn through the carpet and into the show’s foundations.

Of course, the reason for this is because Deadlock is a very enjoyable piece of television. Had Investigations been a massive success and Deadlock arrived as a wet blanket, Voyager might have turned out very differently. It is impossible to ever know what might have been, but it is fun to speculate.

You might be interested in our other reviews from the second season of Star Trek: Voyager:

Episodes produced during the second season, but carried over to the third:

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15 Responses

  1. Some of the most memorable TNG episodes were the ones where the Enterprise-D got blasted to plasma and then time rewound to save them. (“Time Squared”, “Cause and Effect”, “Yesterday’s Enterprise”)

    Your point about “Deadlock” being the Star Trek episode du jour is bang on. I’m just saying, I think the trend began long beforehand.

    “It could be argued that Christopher Nolan’s work on The Dark Knight had a detrimental impact”

    Now we’re opening up a can of worms. I hear it (and say it!) all the time. Every new James Bones movie is essentially GoldenEye, every Star Trek film is WoK, and every comic book eventually loops back around to Watchmen.

    This is one of those topics which tends to go around in circles. I’ll try to explain why.

    The truth is, things like James Bond, Star Trek, and comic books in general are gasping for relevancy in the 21st century, because they were crafted specifically for a certain audience and time. And we’re talking about really powerful brands, here. If we’re still producing Star Trek films, it’s because of branding, not necessarily because there are any new stories to tell. And yet, on a deeper level one can argue that *all* the stories are old, and brands like Star Trek simply tell the same stories with familiar faces. The Abrams movies are almost post-modern in how they shoved this reality in our faces.

    It’s like the Doctor says in “Deep Breath”. If you keep replacing all the parts of a broom, is it the same broom? Well, No.

    But by the same token, you can’t judge a Model T by a 2016 Fusion. They are completely different, and yet they are unequivocally of the same brand.

    • The difference between the TNG episodes and Deadlock is that there is a damaged Voyager that survives in Deadlock. In the TNG epsiodes usually everything returns to normal, it is not as if in Yesterday’s enterprise it is the battle damaged Enterprise D that survives.
      I would argue that Star Trek is still relevant, as Star Trek Into Darkness showed with its exploration of terrorism and drone culture. I agree that James Bond is not as culturally relevant, as it was in the 60s, but I do think Skyfall’s exploration of cyber terrorism was a good step forward. James Bond is a resiliant beast and has continuously adapted.

      • But he is, in the end, a romanticized Cold Warrior with a streak of commercialism in him. Nothing has really changed at all, his enemies are still vaguely eastern in origin, trying to chip away at the west–often times from within.

        Ditto for Star Trek, which is arguably even more retro than Bond. Just because the movies pay lip-service to important topics doesn’t really make it relevant. It sort of justifies the movie’s existence, which already is wrong-footing the franchise. Because it presumes that Star Trek has something to say about the War on Terror, which a) it doesn’t, and b) the message is badly garbled, as with every other film since V.

      • Ironically, I think that Abrams’ Star Trek circled back around into relevance with the resurgent fascination with sixties idealism and utopianism that coincided with Obama’s election, but which was perhaps gradually eroded over time. I think you can credit the same culutral moment as leading to other films like Interstellar, which was an ode to both space exploration as a concept and sixties science-fiction cinema. (Perhaps The Man from U.N.C.L.E. might be seen as the last gasp of that particular trend.)

        I like that Into Darkness tried to offer political commentary, even if I remain convinced that writing big-screen Star Trek is different than writing television Star Trek in a way that few fans will acknowledge. (Then again, I tend to be critical of several fan consensus opinions like the extent of the franchise’s “liberalism” or the credit that Star Trek deserves for making Uhura an inspiration to women like Whoopi Goldberg and Mae Jemison.)

      • I think the Bond movies are a nice capsule of where pop culture is at a given moment. The eighties seem to be bottled in the trilogy of A View to a Kill, The Living Daylights and License to Kill. The Brosnan movies speak at best (and worst) to the tastes and anxieties of the nineties. Even the aesthetic of the Daniel Craig movies is a freeze frame of contemporary narrative preferences. I’m not sure “relevence” is the term I’d use. Maybe “reflectiveness”?

        I know that’s a cop-out that can be applied to just about any film (which obviously captures its moment), but I think it’s particularly true of the Bond franchise which tends to aggressively and unflinchingly chase pop culture trends to a greater extent than other long-running franchises.

    • You’re right that Star Trek had done this sort of story before. Even Deep Space Nine did it in Visionary. In fact, as you point out, Braga had done this sort of story before.

      But I think Deadlock marks a point at which the production team kinda figures that this is the best (or at least one of the best) ways to tell a Voyager story. It is too much to say that it becomes the rule rather than the exception, but Deadlock very much standardises this approach to plotting for Voyager. (Deadlock, Year of Hell, Timeless, Relativity, Course Oblivion. I’m sure there are a few more. There’s certainly a higher density than TNG or DS9.)

      I really like your comment about the Abrams movies as postmodern story recycling; instead of doing the Wrath of Khan with the Borg or Shinzon or the Augments, it just goes back to the beginning and does it with Khan. A reference recreated using a replica of an original element rather than an original creation slotted into a familiar role.

    • It wasn’t helped that they got the writers for the idiotic Michael Bay Transformers movies to write for the new Star Trek movies. The reasons the new Star Trek movies fail completely at relevancy is because they write the explosions first, then the actions scene, then the references, then they somehow try to stitch it all together into a “plot” to tell a “story”, but the reason it’s incoherent stupid nonsense is because they aren’t trying to tell a story, they just want to get to the lasers and explosions. “Explosions are relevant right? We’ll just get Khan to be a terrorist! He’ll blow things up and kill people for no reason, terrorists don’t have valid reasons. And we’ll be sure to hire a white actor, he’d be perfect for our exiled Indian Warlord! We wouldn’t want our moron audience to start thinking foreigners are bad, would we?”

      I’d argue that Star Trek First Contact was a relevant story, because it gave the 30 year old franchise it’s first origin story. It’s just such a shame that we now live in a reboot/remake world now where half of everything now is an origin story. Star Trek was an amazing franchise that it had the patience to wait several decades before telling an origin story.

  2. “Janeway also mounts a suicide assault on a superior enemy at the climax of Year of Hell, Part II. Voyager is crippled by an off-screen attack before The Killing Game, Part I even starts. Voyager crashes into an ice planet in Timeless. A duplicate Voyager blows up at the end of a shaggy dog story in Course: Oblivion.”

    Great review, it really encapsulates just what the best parts of Voyager were, duplicates and the crew dying horribly. I hadn’t thought of it until now, but that really has been part of the best of Voyager, when it gets destroyed, or when we deal with duplicates/mirror versions. Even TNG’s best episodes often had the Enterprise exploding. This franchise has a morbid fascination with death.

    “The idea of a duplicate ship or a duplicate self is something of a recurring motif in Voyager, making it remarkable that the show never produced a mirror universe episode.”

    I’m actually glad Voyager never produced a Mirror Universe episode, Voyager as a series was above that and the Mirror Universe concept was very silly to begin with. It’s interesting that Voyager did get the cast have fun and to act like evil versions of themselves, but they did so in a way that told a meaningful story. Living Witness is a classic of the entire franchise, and you get to have the crew in SS inspired Starfleet uniforms beating prisoners and executing people, but that was all part of a commentary on revisionist history, a relevant topic (and perhaps a timeless one). And let’s not forget Author, Author which follows in the footsteps of The Measure Of A Man, while still having the fun of Janeway pointing a flintlock pistol at Neelix inside the most badass ready room in all of Star Trek (if Femshep ever had an office in Mass Effect, it’d look like that, that Henry Rifle pulls the room together!). Compare that to Mirror TOS! Which really had nothing to say other then “Oh noes! Evilz!”. Mirror ENT also had nothing to offer other then “Whee!~”. I suppose Mirror DS9 was trying to say something relevant, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what…”Lesbians are evil?”

    And that just sorta creates of weird paradox, Voyager just loves throw-back stories of the past for the brainless fun of it, so why did it manage to handle the evil! crew so well? With meaningful stories to boot?

    • I think Mirror, Mirror is more nuanced than most give it credit for. As with Bread and Circuses, there’s a lot of “what if modern day America is Rome?” subtext running through it, that also ties into the mirroring of the Federation and the Romulans in Balance of Terror. During Vietnam, the implications were quite pointed, asking whether the audience wanted to imagine the Federation (which has always been a United States proxy) as a liberal open-minded and benign superpower or as a would-be imperialist bully.

      I actually quite like the two Enterprise mirror universe episodes, coming as they do before Demons and Terra Prime. It’s very much a contrast that explains the stakes of that final episode. Paxton very much wants a future that looks like the mirror universe, while Archer represents more conventional Star Trek utopia. Again, at the time of Iraq and Afghanistan, it was quite a nice idea. And I didn’t mind the campness. More than that, I think it resonates a lot better today, in the era of resurgent nationalist sentiment. mirror!Archer and Paxton are very Trumpian/Farage-ian figures.

      As for the DS9 mirror episodes… eh. I like Crossover as a critique of the original Star Trek, and I think it’s important in laying out the show’s stall so to speak. “This is DS9 and we’re going to be looking critically at the franchise,” is an important statement for a late second season episode. And I like Resurrection, because the whole “this is your dead lover but not your dead lover” is a great metaphorical sci-fi premise that was admittedly underexplored.

      As for the rest? Meh. The other three mirror episodes felt like cast parties.

      But, yes, Living Witness was aces.

  3. One things that’s amusingly dark and morbid about this episode is the way the episode is framed, Naomi Wildman, the baby, is the first to die. Given Voyager’s deathly fear of internal continuity and serialized storytelling, AND that Braga killed off that unborn baby in “All Good Things”, there was a very real chance that that baby has died for real, and the episode uses Voyager’s fear of commitment to generate real tension. Which really paints Star Trek as really dark when you think “Oh thank god, they let the baby live…this time.” And just look what happens to that poor poor baby that actually died, it lost its cell cohesion, so in essence, it’s MELTING! Meanwhile, the “lucky” baby has her mother murdered in a hospital bed and harvested for organs and nearly having its own organs stolen. Dear god, not even Game of Thrones was this brutal… Why would anyone want to have children in this horrifying galaxy??
    The next to die is Harry Kim, the character the writers tried to kill off in Scorpion. It’s interesting that the episode has the most expendable characters die first, so it is never immediately obvious that everything is going to back to normal at the end, this could very well be a housecleaning episode to get rid of problem characters. Lord knows that if Neelix fell out into space next, I don’t think the audience would blink twice.

  4. Just once it might have been nice for a heavily damaged Voyager to carry over to the next episode. Like say in Innocence, we could have had a scene where Janeway and Chakotay tell Alcia that they can’t promise her a full tour of the ship because they’re still repairing the damage from Deadlock.

    Having the Vidiians show up in the final act is a masterstroke because with all the action and everything with duplicate crews, I think we’d forgotten about how close they were to Vidiian space so it makes sense that one of their ships would swoop in on the helpless Voyager(s).

    TNG could also be guilty of having an itchy reset finger. When Tasha Yar died in Skin of Evil, by the time of We’ll Always Have Paris, it’s almost as if she were never there, especially to a TNG novice. Whereas on DS9 when Jadzia died, the series took three whole episodes to deal with her loss.

    It’s funny that Chakotay is so nervous about the birth of Naomi Wildman that he’s forgotten about the impending birth of his own son. Richard Donner wanted verisimilitude when he made Superman: The Movie (although he did have to explain the word first to the crew). In Maneouvres, Voyager was attacked by the Kazon after the teaser. And I’m surprised you could resist an Invasion of the Body Snatchers joke Darren under the picture of the Vidiians about to steal some of Tuvok’s organs.

    • Ha! Truth be told, that’s a better gag than what I came up with.

      I like the observation abotu Chakotay’s son. In fact, I’d completely forgotten about it during that scene. It makes the “it’s not even my child” line seem slightly grimmer than the cast plays it, with big goofy grins.

      • Thanks Darren. I think these captions comes from watching episodes of Frasier and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr which liked to include humourous captions in between scenes. I wish I could think of more but they don’t always come to me right away.

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