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Star Trek: Voyager – Hope and Fear (Review)

Hope and Fear is a reasonably solid conclusion to the fourth season of Star Trek: Voyager.

To be fair, the episode has a number of very clever ideas. There are a number of creative choices in Hope and Fear that feel entirely appropriate for the final episode of what has been a relatively strong season. Various concepts and ideas are brought back into play, from Janeway’s alliance with the Borg in Scorpion, Part II through to her conversion of Seven of Nine in The Gift and up to the secret coded message from Starfleet suggested in Hunters. It makes sense to bring all of these ideas back into play for the grand finale.

The fourth season comes to a head.

More than that, it makes sense to build the episode around the dynamic between Janeway and Seven. One of the recurring tensions in the fourth season, both behind the scenes and in front of the camera, has been the debate about the prominence of Seven of Nine. In the year since she was introduced, Seven has effectively become one of the three most important members of the cast. There is a credible argument to be made that she is the most important member of the cast, an anxiety played out in One. As such, it is logical to build Hope and Fear around Janeway and Seven.

At the same time, there is a certain clumsiness to the plotting of the episode. There is a very rushed quality to the story, which never really takes the time to develop or explore these big revelations and twists. Hope and Fear races towards its conclusion as if it has been sucked into quantum slipstream, a very disorienting and disjointed effect. Certain character arcs feel under-explored, and certain gaps in the plot logic are brushed aside. Hope and Fear feels like a story that deserved a bigger canvas.

The hard cell.

The fourth season is one of only two broadcast seasons of Voyager to close on a self-contained episode without a clear cliffhanger. Of course, the gap between production and broadcast seasons in the show’s first two years serves to complicate the issue. Does the first season conclude with Learning Curve or with The 37’s? Does the second season end on Basics, Part I or does it continue through to Basics, Part II? Things become a bit easier once the broadcast and production seasons line up, starting with the fourth season.

As such, Hope and Fear stands out. It is surrounded by epic two-part stories. Scorpion, Part I and Scorpion, Part II bridge the third and fourth seasons, while Equinox, Part I and Equinox, Part II bridge the fifth and sixth seasons. Even within the fourth season itself, Voyager has produced a couple of classic two-part stories; Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II in the first half of the season, The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II in the second half of the season.

Bridging the seasons.

In this context, Hope and Fear feels like a very small episode. It is very self-contained. It certain does not integrate well with Night, the fifth season premiere. Hope and Fear ends on an optimistic note, with the crew getting three hundred lightyears closer to home, while Janeway and Seven share a heart-to-heart. In contrast, Night opens with the crew in a state of relative depression; there are no stars to guide the ship, and Janeway has locked herself away in her quarters. There is a very sizable gap between these two stories.

Notably, Pocket Books chose to place the tenth anniversary String Theory trilogy into the lacuna between Hope and Fear and Night, a tacit acknowledgement of the empty narrative space between the two installments. Hope and Fear is not a bridge from the fourth season into the fifth, even on a broad thematic level. It does not set up ideas or concepts that will pay off, does not establish character arcs for the year ahead.

Harrying Seven.

Instead, Hope and Fear is very much an encapsulation of the fourth season as a whole. It is about wrapping up what had been the show’s most critically and creatively successful season. Writer and producer Brannon Braga acknowledged as much in Action!:

“I wanted to do a story about Janeway and Seven that would somehow recap the relationship over the past year and take it a step further,” he says. “A storyline that showed there were consequences to Janeway’s making a deal with the Borg, and to bringing in Seven of Nine. I wanted it to be a bittersweet retrospective of Season Four, and yet a good action story.”

There is a sense that Hope and Fear is about providing a sense of closure to everything that has come before, offering emotional and thematic closure to several miniature character and plot arcs that have played out across the season.

Intrusive by any (astro)metric.

This makes a certain amount of sense. Hope and Fear marks another transition for Voyager, another departure of a key creative figure. Voyager had already lost Michael Piller, twice. He departed approximately half-way through the first season to work on Legend, only to return to the fold to work on the second season. However, there was considerable creative friction upon his return to the writing staff. The second season was a turbulent year for all involved, and it shows on screen. Failing to push his vision of the show, Piller was effectively ousted at the end of the year.

Hope and Fear marks the departure of another executive producer. It would be the last episode overseen by Jeri Taylor. Taylor had been a producer on the Star Trek franchise since the fourth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Taylor had been one of the greatest creative influences on the franchise, a studying hand after a troubled third season. In fact, Taylor had been left in charge of the flagship while Michael Piller and Rick Berman were developing Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Pros and conns.

Taylor had been a huge influence on the young writers who had been drafted into the franchise, figures like Brannon Braga, Naren Shankar, and Ronald D. Moore. René Echevarria described her as his “mentor”, lamenting that he could not follow her to Voyager. Even writers who were never on the writing staff with Taylor sung her praises, like André Bormanis in The Fifty-Year Mission:

Jeri just makes everybody feel comfortable. She is the opposite of intimidating, whatever that would be. Nurturing, welcoming, open. It was great. I don’t know if I would have gotten as far as I did if it hadn’t been for Jeri. She was the first person I talked to on the staff when I was submitting for the science consultant job. We had a forty-five-minute conversation; it was when I was still in D.C. and it was just a phone call. That gave me great confidence.

If I had been pitching to Michael Piller or Rick or somebody else, I suspect it would have been a much harder and maybe impossible kind of journey for me, because they probably would have just been very pragmatic. Take it or leave it. She was more encouraging. For me, that makes all the difference. I am the kind of person who needs a mentor. I need somebody who is kind of going to encourage me a little bit more, and Jeri was certainly that person. In terms of running the show, I know that it was necessarily a different style than anybody else who ran the show that I worked with.

Everybody who worked with Taylor speaks highly of her, and she deserves a great deal of credit for stabilising Voyager after a very rocky first two seasons. Taylor was perhaps a little too conservative in how she ran Voyager, but the third and fourth seasons established a baseline of quality that had largely been absent during the Michael Piller years.

Something fishy is afoot.

More than that, the fourth season had been a very successful season for Voyager. The episodes were generally a lot stronger than they had been in the earlier years. The fourth season borrowed and improved upon many of the better ideas from the third season – the “epic two-parter” device of Future’s End, Part I and Future’s End, Part II or the “Voyager-lite” storytelling of Distant Origin – but it also avoided too many spectacular misfires like Alliances, Investigations, Threshold, False Profits, The Q and the Grey or Blood Fever. That was something worth celebrating.

Similarly, the fourth season had successfully introduced the character of Seven of Nine. Although her presence generated a lot of anxiety and animosity among the cast, it really galvinised the show. Seven of Nine was immediately one of the most compelling characters in the cast, and Jeri Ryan was one of the best actors in the ensemble. It is too much to insist that the fourth season marked the point at which Voyager really “clicked”, but the season did represent a very clear improvement on what had come before.

It doesn’t phaser in the slightest.

As a result, it makes sense that the production team would want to bring the season to a definitive close rather than setting up a story to be resolved at the start of the fifth season. Hope and Fear is clearly intended to draw a line under the season as a whole. Indeed, it is much more reflective and considerate than Voyager tends to be. Its story hinges on a collection of important plot beats from earlier episodes in the season, effectively wrapping up a number of arcs that have run across the year. (The 37’s arguably attempted to do the same thing, just in a clumsier way.)

There is nothing wrong with closing a season on a standalone episode. In fact, most of Deep Space Nine‘s season finales avoid the traditional cliffhanger structure. While those episodes often set up threads and ideas that might play into the following season, they tend to be relatively self-contained stories with a clear beginning, middle and end. In the Hands of the Prophets is about a religious crisis on the station. The Jem’Hadar finds Quark and Sisko kidnapped by a new alien menace. The Adversary has the crew hunt a shapeshifter who plots to start a war.

Begin again.

Hope and Fear differs from these Deep Space Nine finales in a number of interesting ways. Most obviously, it is a finale that is looking backwards rather than forwards. When the Founders exile Odo in Broken Link, they set in motion plot and character arcs that play into the following season through episodes like Apocalypse Rising or The Begotten. When Sisko is forced to abandon the station in Call To Arms, he begins an epic six-episode arc that leads back to the reclaiming of the station in Sacrifice of Angels and starts the Dominion War leading to What You Leave Behind…

However, there are other big differences between the single-episode season finales of Deep Space Nine and the story told in Hope and Fear. Those Deep Space Nine episodes tend to have relatively simple plots, luxuriating in the space afforded by the simple story rather than the intricacy of the plot. The Adversary is the most simple story that could be told using the Founders, but the episode even finds room to develop Michael Eddington as a character in his own right. Call to Arms builds with slow and steady certainty towards its climax.

Moving from plot-point-to-plot-point-to-plot-point.

In contrast, Hope and Fear rushes towards its plot points. It speeds along, never allowing any of its individual ideas to develop before throwing another curve ball. In some ways, this reflects a key difference between Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Plotting for Voyager usually relied on a plot-driven beat sheet, something Deep Space Nine eschewed, as Terry Erdmann explained in Action!:

One of the first things an observer might notice at a Deep Space Nine story-break session is that there is no preliminary beat sheet.

“We used them for the first couple of years,” Behr says. “But we’ve pretty much dispensed with them. We don’t have time. And, basically, at this point, it’s such a group activity. We’ll find it in the room,” he recites like a mantra. “We’ll find it in the room. Sometimes that bites you on the ass and sometimes it doesn’t, but sometimes having a beat sheet will still bite you on the ass.”

This difference in the creative process is very revealing. Deep Space Nine stories tend to be driven more by character than by plot, following an instigating action by looking at how it reveals character. In contrast, Voyager stories tend to follow one instigating action with another instigating action with another instigating action until the script is finished. Beat after beat after beat.

The voyage home.

Quite often, Voyager episodes will feel like story pileups, as if the writers had a whole bunch of half-finished ideas that they crammed together in order to fill out forty-five minutes of television. Displaced and Waking Moments both begin as weird mysteries before evolving into generic “ship under siege” narratives. Worst Case Scenario opens as a story about authorship and ownership, before descending into another of those “holodeck goes crazy!” stories. Alter Ego starts with Kim falling in love with a hologram and ends with Tuvok facing a stalker.

This plotting seems particular common towards the end of the season, as the production team reach a point of pure exhaustion. Demon is a great example, which is a story about how Voyager has a deuterium shortage and they discover a “demon class” planet and something on the planet transforms Paris and Kim but wait because it turns out that this something actually duplicated Paris and Kim and then Janeway decides to let the organism clone most of the crew. It more of a mad-lib than a Star Trek episode.

A (Ray) Wise old alien.

Even generally solid episodes like One suffer from this problem. One works very well as a tense psychological thriller about isolation and insanity, but there is still a strange set piece in the middle of the episode where Seven of Nine engages in a thrilling game of cat-and-mouse against a figment of her imagination. It is a sequence that feels very much at odds with the creepier and introspective tone of the rest of the episode, felling like it was jammed into the script in order to extend the runtime and add some action.

This is also a concern with Hope and Fear. The season finale hinges on all manner of contrivances that are required to get the episode from one plot point to the next. It just so happens that Janeway is working on decoding the secret message that she received from Starfleet in Hunters, at the same time that Neelix encounters an alien who can decypher anything, which just happens to lead the crew to a mysterious ship, which leads to a conflict between Janeway and Seven, before it is all revealed as an insanely convoluted revenge plot against Voyager by their alien linguist.

Keep her posted.

As documented in Action!, the writing staff struggled with the plotting of the episode and tried to crack it by filling out a plot-driven “beat sheet” for the story:

The beat sheet is not complete; it lists only a series of suggestions for the first two acts (of five). But at this point in the day, no one in Taylor’s office is worried. “We trust the chemistry that occurs in the room,” explains Jeri Taylor. “Many, many, many times, probably more times than not, we’ve had a germ of an idea, with no clear vision of how it’s going to be amplified into a story, and we get together in the room and the magic begins to happen. It may take several days; it may take ten minutes. You never know which idea that someone tosses out will lead you to something that leads to something else, and you start getting lightening in a bottle. And so we trusted that it would happen again.”

Taylor described a very familiar Voyager plot structure: an “idea that someone tosses out [that] will lead you to something that leads to something else.” This happens, then this happens.

“Setting mood to ominous.”

Hope and Fear has a very strong central idea. Janeway discovers something that might get Voyager home quicker, and has to consider what that might mean for her crew. There is an interesting story to be told here, maybe even focusing on Neelix as the only central character without a strong tie to the Alpha Quadrant. However, because this is the fourth season finale, Hope and Fear centres on the relationship between Janeway and Seven.

That is a tremendous story hook. The fourth season has largely been built around the addition of Seven of Nine to the cast. Seven has been the focus of an inordinate number of episodes, even taking prominent roles in episodes that are not explicitly about her, like Scientific Method or Mortal Coil. The fourth season has been, in many ways, about the journey that Seven has taken since Janeway separated her from the Borg Collective at the end of Scorpion, Part II.

“Mine is twice the weapon that yours is…”

To be fair, Voyager hasn’t always handled that journey particularly effectively. Most obviously, it feels like the production team front-loaded her character development in The Gift, compressing an arc that could easily have spanned the first half of the season. Nevertheless, Seven’s embrace of her humanity has provided a clear through-line for season; her memories as assimilation in The Raven, her disagreement with Janeway in Prey, and her near religious experience in The Omega Directive.

How does Seven feel about returning to Earth? Does she have any emotional attachment to the planet? Does she have any sense of “home” beyond the Collective from which she has been liberated? How will Seven react to Earth? How will Earth react to Seven? These are legitimately interesting questions, and Hope and Fear teases out a number of interesting debates as Janeway and Seven come into conflict over that potential journey home.

Holo promises.

“You think people are going to resent an ex-Maquis?” Torres challenges Seven at one point. “What about an ex-drone?” Torres immediately softens when Seven flinches, suggesting that she was joking. However, she raises a valid point. Given the Borg invasions of Federation space in The Best of Both Worlds, Part IThe Best of Both Worlds, Part II and Star Trek: First Contact, it seems like a fair question.

At one point, Seven of Nine makes a momentous decision. “Captain,” she advises Janeway. “I will not be going with you to the Alpha Quadrant.” That is an absolutely staggering plot beat, one that immediately generates an incredible tension between two fantastic actors, and which frames the episode around a very relatable conflict. In some ways, it reflects the use of Odo’s deterioration in Broken Link, a very simple character beat that can provide forty-five minutes of ripples and reactions to drive an interesting episode.

Warp-core-on-a-budget.

After all, how does Janeway react to this decision? How does Janeway respond to Seven’s declaration? It is in many ways an expression of a conflict that runs throughout the fourth season as a whole. If Janeway is teaching Seven to embrace her individuality, surely Janeway must respect that individuality? This paradox was broached in The Gift, when Seven wondered whether Janeway would respect her decision to return to the Borg Collective. It also came up in Prey, when Janeway confessed that she had a very rigid definition of who she wanted Seven to be.

Janeway pushes the point in Hope and Fear, insisting, “Whether you like it or not, you’re one of us. You’ve come a long way from that drone who stepped out of a Borg alcove nine months ago. Don’t turn your back on humanity now. Not when you’re about to take your biggest step.” That is a fantastic character beat, because it raises the question of how Janeway is any different than the Borg. Is Janeway right to impose her own perspective on Seven, to deny her autonomy, even if it is in Seven’s own best interests? Doesn’t Seven have the right to make that call?

To be fair, this was great reception, given both Voyager’s position in the Delta Quadrant and Janeway’s refusal to pay for HBO.

It also raises a number of interesting questions about Seven’s character arc, as Duncan and Michèle Barrett explain in The Human Frontier:

The relationship here between individuality and collectivity is not a simple one. In Hope and Fear, Seven is afraid of what will happen if Voyager succeeds in returning home to Earth. As the captain points out, “It’s been hard enough dealing with a crew of 150 individual humans – the prospect of an entire planet must be overwhelming.” Having grown to understand herself as an individual, the idea of so many other individuals in a larger collective is somewhat terrifying. One might be tempted to see this as a final rejection of Borg collectivity; Seven has come to understand what the Borg represent and fears anything that looks remotely similar. Alternatively, it is down to the fact that human communities embrace varying, plural ideas, whereas the Borg “hive mind” has a uniform mentality.

Is Seven expressing an ultimate form of individuality by deciding to stand apart from the crew? Is this a logical end point for her journey?

Seven’s heaven.

This is a very intriguing character dynamic, and it explains why Janeway and Seven become the strongest individual relationship on Voyager. While a lot of Voyager cast members could seem indistinct or generic, both Janeway and Seven have very unique voices and very strong wills. It makes sense to throw the two into conflict and watch the results. The best moments in Hope and Fear have little to do with the actual plot and more to do with the scenes between Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan.

More than that, the emphasis on conflict between Janeway and Seven on Voyager helps to differentiate the dynamic from the similar relationship between Picard and Data on The Next Generation. Data often seemed to be a child learning from a loving parent. He clearly respected Picard, often overtly emulating him in the way that a small child might imitate a parent. In contrast, the dynamic between Janeway and Seven is more tumultuous. However, it is just as much the relationship between a parent and child.

Seven shoots from the hip.

In an interview with Cinefantastique, Jeri Ryan likened the pair’s interactions to those between a mother and an unruly teenager:

“I love being the one to go nose to nose with the Captain. Nobody else can do it, because of the Starfleet protocols. The relationship between Seven and Janeway has developed into the mother and the unruly teenager. Seven emotionally was a little girl when she was detached from the Collective. She was still seven years old, and she’s sort of catching up. Now in the final episode, I think  she’s sort of the 13-year-old girl who doesn’t really fit in anywhere, doesn’t know where she belongs and  is impudent, and acting out and lashing out at mom.”

It is an excellent insight into the dynamic, and one that serves to differentiate their relationship from any of the logical antecedents in the Star Trek canon.

They’re locked together.

One of the nicer and smaller touches is the decision to bring the pair a full circle. Towards the climax of Hope and Fear, the two women find themselves standing in a makeshift Starfleet brig. It definitely evokes The Gift. The irony is not lost on Janeway. “Déjá-vu,” Janeway reflects. “As I recall, this is where our relationship began. In a brig, nine months ago. I severed you from the Collective and you weren’t exactly happy about it.” It is a nice callback, particularly in the context of an episode explicitly about the consequences of Janeway’s actions in Scorpion, Part II.

Of course, there is a deeper irony about the climax of Hope and Fear locking both Janeway and Seven in a cell together. Although the two actors would work very closely together, Kate Mulgrew actively resented Jeri Ryan’s addition to the cast. Ryan has talked about how toxic the environment was, and how she felt trapped by Mulgrew. As such, the imagery is very powerful. The two actors are stuck together and have to learn to get along.

A driving force.

In The Fifty-Year Mission, Garrett Wang argues that this symbolism was entirely intentional:

So if you watch the episodes of Janeway and Seven, all of the writing where Janeway is trying to teach a lesson to Seven, it’s the writers telling Kate Mulgrew you need to learn this when you’re dealing with Jeri Ryan. They knew the tension was there, too. If you watch Voyager again and watch those scenes, you’ll now know exactly what the writers were telling Kate; that you need to do this, do that, you need to be a better person about this.

The two were stuck in the same trap, and would be depending on one another.

Flight of fancy.

There are a number of other interesting ideas in Hope and Fear. Most obviously, the entire episode is full of small continuity callbacks to earlier installments. At the climax of the episode, it is revealed that Arturis has set an elaborate trap for Voyager as revenge for Janeway’s alliance with the Borg in Scorpion, Part II. It turns out that the Borg managed to assimilate his people, in large part because Janeway saved them from the invasion of Species 8472.

“Did it ever occur to you that there were those of us in the Delta Quadrant who had a vested interest in that war?” Arturis challenges Janeway, and he makes a fair point. “Victory would have meant the annihilation of the Borg, but you couldn’t see beyond the bow of your own ship!” Janeway responds, “In my estimation, Species eight four seven two posed a greater threat than the Borg.” Arturis counters, “Who are you to make that decision? A stranger to this Quadrant.”

“J’accuse, Madame Janeway!”

It is a clever plot in a number of ways. Most obviously, it plays into the idea that Voyager has become something of a Delta Quadrant urban legend. The residents of the quadrant speak about the ship in hushed towns, cultivating a mythology around the crew and elevating their journey to the status of legend. Voyager has touched on this idea in a number of episodes, from False Profits to Distant Origin to Living Witness to Muse to In the Blink of an Eye.

As such, it seems fair that Arturis should talk about Voyager in such a way, a ship full of outsiders that swept through the quadrant and kicked the “storm on the horizon.” After all, Arturis is a character with a gift for language, able to intuitively understand complex speech patterns and rhythms on an instinctive level. It makes sense that he should be drawn to the myth of Voyager, and that he should also construct an elaborate narrative in which he might trap them.

Operating behind the scenes.

More than that, it is a genuinely shocking twist. In general, Voyager has eschewed the long-form storytelling and serialisation seen on Deep Space Nine in favour of a more episodic format. As such, it is surprising that Arturis should bring up the events of Scorpion, Part II. That episode aired months earlier, and Voyager has traveled at least ten thousand light-years from the scene of the crime. The audience would expect for those events to be largely forgotten, like the plot of Nemesis or Revulsion. They certainly shouldn’t be brought up as motivation for a new character.

Arturis demonstrates that actions have weight, and that decisions have consequences. It is a rare piece of long-form storytelling within Voyager. However, it feels like an effective cap on a fourth season that had made some very gentle explorations into serialisation. The early stretch of the season made repeated references to the development of astrometrics in episodes like Revulsion, paying off in Year of Hell, Part I. There was a nice little running thread of continuity from Message in a Bottle to The Killing Game, Part II.

Dauntless is more.

This continuity was not particularly showy, especially when compared to what was happening on Deep Space Nine at the same time. However, it was a far more successful experiment that the disastrous attempt to thread a plot arc through the second season. Hope and Fear feels like a nice cap on that particular thread. It even offers some resolution to a dangling mystery from the middle of the season, as Janeway finally manages to crack the hidden message that she received from Starfleet in Hunters.

However, there is a sense that even these interesting elements clutter the narrative somewhat. There are a lot of twists and reversals in Hope and Fear, to the point that many of the bigger plot beats barely get room to breathe. Most notably, Seven’s decision to remain in the Delta Quadrant is immediately undercut by the revelation that Arturis is plotting against the crew. There is no time to unpack that character moment, because the next big event arrives hot on its heals.

High-energy episode.

Even moving at a frantic place, there are all manner of glaring plot holes. It has only been nine months since the events of Scorpion, Part II, but Arturis has had time to see his entire planet destroyed and to plot an insanely overly elaborate revenge. More than that, his revenge hinges on the coincidence of Voyager having received a message from Starfleet Command that they just can’t open and which he can conveniently manipulate to lead them into his trap.

“It took me months to find you,” he explains. “I watched and waited for my opportunity to make you pay for what you’d done. Then the Starfleet message, and I knew that your selfish desire to get home would surface again.” It all seems to rely on a lot of happenstance and coincidence to get the plot to where it needs to be. What if Janeway had decoded the real message before he came on board instead of shortly afterwards? What if he couldn’t convincingly fake Starfleet technology? What if Neelix didn’t invite him back on board the ship?

Janeway finally gets the message.

Hope and Fear moves very quickly, in the hope that the audience might gloss over all of these little contradictions and illogicalities. However, the speed of the plot only compounds the issue. It seems like Arturis leaps from one lucky guess to the next, to the point that Janeway looks like an idiot for being foolish enough to get trapped on the ship with Seven. It is jarring and distracting, disorienting and exhausting.

To be fair, Hope and Fear does make a point to paper over some of these cracks. It is quite clear that Arturis is insane, a point emphasised by Ray Wise’s performance and by the script. Arturis seemingly cannot wait to spring his trap, and refuses Janeway’s offer to save him. Even the mechanics of his scheme are handwaved. “How’d you create the Starfleet bridge?” Janeway wonders. “Holograms?” Arturis is dismissive. “Particle synthesis. Beyond your understanding.” The episode knows better than to dwell on the particulars.

Sleep deprivation can have a long-term impact on mental health.

However, those particulars are still distracting. Early in the episode, Chakotay stumbles across Janeway trying to crack the secret message from Starfleet in the wee hours of the morning. “We’ve found the treasure, I just can’t pick the lock,” Janeway remarks, underscoring the priority of the information. However, this is the first time that the message has been mentioned since Retrospect, eight episodes earlier. It seems strange that Janeway would just happen to be sitting up decoding the message right before Arturis springs his trap.

(Of course, it could be argued that Janeway has been staying up until five am trying to decode the message almost every evening since Hunters, but that it happened entirely off-screen. The audience just happens to see it in Hope and Fear because it happens to be relevant to the plot of this episode. That is a potentially interesting reading, if only because Janeway’s sleep deprivation might in some way account for her massive personality shift between the tenures of Jeri Taylor and Brannon Braga.)

Driving home his point.

However, reducing Arturis to a plot development rather than a character diminishes his character arc and his effectiveness in the story. In theory, Arturis is a variation on a familiar Voyager archetype. He is a character whose desire to go home is presented as inherently toxic and destructive, like Annorax in Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II or Captain Rudolph Ransom in Equinox, Part I and Equinox, Part II. Of course, Arturis’ desire to return home is literalised. “Where are you taking us?” Janeway demands. Arturis replies, “Home.”

At the climax of the episode, Arturis is using his ship to return to a home that no longer exists. In an act of dramatic irony, he will surrender Janeway and Seven to the Borg in the ruins of his homeworld. Arturis is living proof that a person cannot go home again, whose inability to let go of a lost homeworld has driven him to extremes. As with Annorax or Ransom, Arturis is clearly intended as a twisted mirror of Janeway. There is something heartbreaking in that final image, Arturis returning to what had been his home, alone and broken.

“I’d love to chat, but I’m busy navigating around plot holes.”

The idea works in theory, but the execution is diminished by the fact that Arturis never has the space to really develop as a fully-formed individual. He seems like a walking plot device, but one that eats up a lot of narrative space through betrayals and reversals and contrivances. He should be a character in his own right, but he ultimately ends up distracting from the heart of the episode between Janeway and Seven of Nine.

The rapid pace of Hope and Fear, along with the constantly-shifting plot, means that none of the events or decisions have the necessary substance. Most obviously, there is a nice little moment at the climax when Janeway and Seven have to figure out how to escape from the brig and take control of the ship, how to escape from the clutches of Arturis and avoid being assimilated by the Borg. As they sit in the brig, Janeway comes up with a clever plan to exploit Seven’s cybernetic implants to slip through the force field.

Seeing eye-to-eye-piece.

“A drone could walk through this forcefield like it was thin air,” Janeway reflects. “Is there enough Borg technology left in your body to let it adapt?” Seven responds, “If I activate the appropriate nanoprobes, I could alter my bio-electric field.” It is an interesting piece of dialogue, because it can be read in two ways. In the most superficial way, it is just a piece of convenient technobabble that allows the script to liberate Janeway and Seven from the brig so that the rest of the episode can continue.

However, it also suggests an intriguing character and thematic beat. Janeway has spent the fourth season trying to make Seven more human. Seven has spent a lot of the season caught between what she is and what Janeway wants her to be. Janeway has encouraged Seven to think of herself as an individual with her own agency and her own personality. As such, there is something delightfully ironic in building the climax of the season finale around Seven’s cybernetic enhancements.

Check out the big brain on Arturis.

However, there is more to it than that. Janeway has reacted with horror when Seven tried to embrace the Borg side of her nature, refusing to allow her to return to the Collective in The Gift and balked at her suggestion of remaining in the Delta Quadrant in Hope and Fear. However, Seven has also repeatedly argued, in episodes like The Gift and Prey, that Janeway is not really interested in Seven’s autonomy. In her more confrontational moments, Seven has suggested that Janeway is only interested in the former drone in as far as she validates Janeway’s perspective.

As such, Janeway reactiving Seven’s Borg implants should be a big character moment. Is Janeway reducing Seven to a tool fit for this specific purpose? Is she a hypocrite for exploiting the very technology that she tried to remove from Seven’s body? More than that, what are the consequences? What happens when Janeway reactivates dormant Borg technology inside Seven of Nine? Does it undermine an entire year of trying to make Seven more human? Does it represent a “reset” of her character in some fashion?

A (cyber)net gain?

Even on a superficial plotting and character level, what is the cost of this convenient escape mechanism? After all, if all Janeway has to do is to string a bunch of pseudo-scientific-sounding words together to break out of the brig, then the writers have handed her a literal “get out of jail free” card. It really doesn’t matter what exactly that cost might be, just that there is a cost. After all, Sisko had saved the day by appealing for divine intervention in Sacrifice of Angels, with the Prophets promising to exact an unspecified payment from him at an unspecified point.

However, Hope and Fear never engages with any of this. The episode never really explores the thematic or character implications of Janeway exploiting Seven’s cybernetic implants at the climax of an episode designed to bookend Seven’s season-long journey towards humanity. Instead, it is presented as a plot point designed to get Janeway to the bridge in time for a final confrontation with Arturis. It is a plot beat, rather than a character or thematic beat. In many ways, this is indicative of how Voyager approaches plotting.

“Another fine messhall you’ve gotten us into.”

Hope and Fear is a solid episode, packed with clever ideas and cool concepts. It just moves a little too quickly to truly capitalise on its strongest elements, bouncing from one plot point to the next without taking the time to properly appreciate its characters and themes. Hope and Fear is so busy rushing to get where it is going, it never stops to appreciate the journey.

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