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Star Trek: Voyager – In the Flesh (Review)

In the Flesh is a curiously nostalgic episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

Nostalgic in a number of different ways. Most obviously, it opens on what appears to be Earth, bringing the Voyager crew to something resembling home. The campus recalls visits to Starfleet Command in earlier episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine like The First Duty, Homefront and Paradise Lost. There is even a prominent guest appearance from Boothby, the groundskeeper who was referenced as early as Final Mission. When it is eventually revealed to be a ruse, it is explained as a ruse orchestrated by old villains Species 8472.

Picture imperfect.

However, In the Flesh feels nostalgic in a deeper sense, extending even beyond the Star Trek canon. There is something very retro about the threat presented here, about a top secret facsimile of a distant world being used to train infiltrators in a deep space cold war. In the Flesh feels like a piece of fifties paranoia, with specific creative choices evoking film noir storytelling and even the aesthetic of Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Night of the Living Dead. The most prominent guest star is Ray Walston, a veteran of cult sixties sci-fi show My Favourite Martian.

To be fair, Voyager has always had a strong nostalgic streak for pulpy fifties and sixties science-fiction, but it is strange to see it so pronounced. In its own weird way, it fits with the general nostalgic tone of the fifth season as a whole.

Look at the “8” in their eyes.

In many ways, it is surprising that Voyager did not do more with Species 8472. The aliens had been introduced in Scorpion, Part I and Scorpion, Part II as the first major CGI alien species, building off earlier experiments in episodes like Macrocosm. Species 8472 were immediately distinctive, with their three legs, their purple skin, their distinct facial structure. Of course, their introductory episodes somewhat glossed over the notion of cultural identity or characterisation. They were introduced as a foil for the Borg, an omnicidal menace posed a serious threat to the galaxy as a whole.

However, once Voyager vanquished Species 8472 back into “fluidic space”, they largely disappeared from the series. Their only other appearance in the fourth season was Prey, an episode in which a grizzled Hirogen tracked down a straggler fleeing through the Delta Quadrant. Aside from that, Species 8472 faded into history. This was somewhat disappointing, given the regularity with which Voyager returned to the Kazon in episodes like Initiations, Manoeuvres, Alliances, Investigations, Basics, Part I and Basics, Part II, or to the Borg in Unity, Hope and Fear and Drone.

Snap decisions.

According to Nick Sagan, there was considerable debate about how best to bring Species 8472 back to Voyager, and In the Flesh had a long and storied development process:

The original idea was something quite different. It was an idea that they found a picture in some database of an 8472 in an ancient Earth culture, and it was that some of our legends of demons and devils were from 8472. That was sort of the initial way we got into it. It was kind of tricky, having Voyager on the opposite side of the galaxy from home. What are those guys doing with Earth? How does that fit together?

We went at it hammer and tongs for a while and we couldn’t find anything that we all liked, so I was able to try and reinvent it. So here 8472 are, and they’re clearly very threatened by and obsessed with us – we certainly dealt them a great blow – and here they are trying to have revenge on us. So I took the idea of paranoia, and that these things don’t understand what it is to be human, and I took the idea of Cold War fears, especially the way my dad tried to play a role in détente.

It is an interesting approach to the species, but a relatively clever one. Most obviously, it very cannily writes around the fact that Species 8472 would have been very expensive to render in their natural form for an entire episode.

“And there goes our special effects budget for the episode.”

In the Flesh wears its Cold War influences on its sleeve. When Chakotay returns from the recreation of Earth, Paris explicitly identifies the episode’s inspiration. “Back in the twentieth century, the Soviets used to build American towns to train their agents to infiltrate the United States,” he advises the staff, once again cementing his position on staff as “the twentieth century pop culture guy” that had been bubbling since The 37’s and which had been brought to the fore with episodes like Lifesigns, Future’s End, Part I and Future’s End, Part II.

In particular, the idea of the Soviet Union building eerie replicas of American small towns to train sleeper agents had a lot of cultural cache in the fifties and sixties. It resonated through popular cultures. It was the basis for Colony Three, an episode of the sixties action series Dangerman. It most likely influenced the tone and style of The Prisoner, with its own uncanny replica village operated by a sinister fascist force. Even later novels like Tool of the Trade by Joe Haldeman or The Charm School by Nelson DeMille would incorporate the premise.

Feels like going home.

There was reportedly some small basis for this trope in reality. There were reports of a replica community build near Vinnitsa in the Ukraine as “a top-secret finishing school for Soviet spies, made in an exact copy of a small American town.” In April 1959, Time reported:

Last week, in the Swedish military journal Contact with the Army, Swedish Major Per Lindgren, a man well regarded as a Soviet analyst, pieced together the available evidence about Vinnitsa. Hand-picked from the most promising Russian university students, the 1,000 “citizens” of Vinnitsa, he reports, lead American lives from morning to night for as long as ten years. They master American dialects, learn American history from U.S. textbooks, gossip about American movie stars, and swap hot-stove-league baseball statistics.

“Everything in Vinnitsa down to the smallest detail is pure American,” says Major Lindgren. “The bar serves American drinks, and the restaurant American food. The movies are Hollywood-made, and the stores sell everything from ready-made clothing to chewing gum.” The only authentic Communist touch is the high, barbed-wire fence that seals Vinnitsa off from the rest of Russia.

Of course, it is impossible to know exactly how much of this is accurate and exactly how much of it is just standard Cold War paranoia, but it is certainly and interesting image.

It is very cold in space.

(To be fair, this idea of the uncanny American small town in fifties and sixties pop culture arguably spoke to deeper anxieties than just the Cold War. It spoke to the fear of social change and the erosion of social norms, to anxieties about something uncanny lurking beneath an idealised surface. These “spy” replica towns were just one recurring trope in fifties and sixties genre fiction. The NSA was building its own towns to hone its own spying skills. The atomic bomb was tested on replica communities. In some ways, this prefigures the anxieties of films like Blue Velvet.)

Of course, this is far from the first time that Star Trek had embraced a Cold War aesthetic. The original show had suggested a state of perpetual cold war between the Federation and other powers like the Klingon Empire or the Romulan Star Empire in episodes like Balance of Terror, Errand of Mercy, Friday’s Child, The Trouble with Tribbles, A Private Little War and The Enterprise Incident. Even episodes without Klingons or Romulans leaned into the Cold War parallels, like A Taste of Armageddon or For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky.

No woman alive can resist Chakotay’s charms.

Even allowing for this historical and cultural context. his is a very curious point of reference for an episode of Star Trek that would be broadcast in early November 1998. The Cold War was long over. The United States had effectively won. It was a time of relative peace and prosperity, years before the outbreak of the War on Terror. With that in mind, returning to a deep space cold war feels particularly strange, especially given that Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country had worked so hard to move the franchise past it.

To be fair, this is not the first time that Voyager has cast its eyes wistfully back to old pulp fiction. While Voyager is arguably more firmly rooted in the nineties than Deep Space Nine, it clearly has an affection for the trappings of fifties and sixties genre fiction. This dates back to the earliest days of the series. Caretaker committed very strongly to the idea of Voyager as a “space western!”, right down to introducing a Native American tracker and introducing the Kazon as stock savages. Time and Again suggested that the cultures of the Delta Quadrant had a very sixties aesthetic.

By the book.

Voyager had a very trashy sensibility, particularly driven by Brannon Braga. Cathexis was a spin on those science-fiction and horror movies about hostile alien invaders disguising themselves as human, in the style of Invasion of the Body SnatchersThe 37’s was a stock alien abduction narrative suggesting Amelia Erhart had been secreted away to the Delta Quadrant. Cold Fire was a psychological horror story with mind-expanding trappings. Macrocosm was an old school b-movie thriller. Darkling was a campy gothic horror.

Indeed, the fifth season arguably embraces this retro sensibility through the recurring Captain Proton! holonovels. These stylised black-and-white adventures allow Tom Paris to step into the role of a mid-twentieth-century galactic adventurer in a world of jet packs and death rays. The Voyager writers loved the concept so much that they would build one of the season’s standout episodes (Bride of Chaotica!) around the core premise. With all of that in mind, it makes sense that In the Flesh should effectively fall back on a retro fifties and sixties premise.

A time to stand.

In the Flesh embraces this aesthetic in more than just plot. Several elements of the episode seem ported directly over from fifties cinema, particularly films worried about communist infiltration of the United States. At one point, Janeway begins asking Chakotay questions about his own time on Earth. “Kathryn, you think I might be one of them,” he observes. “You’re testing me.” When Chakotay is captured during his second trip to the habitat, the enemy descend on him like the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers or the zombies in Night of the Living Dead.

More than that, there is a very palpable nuclear anxiety threaded through the episode. In the Flesh is concerned about a deep space arms race between Voyager and Species 8472 in a way that recalls mid-twentieth-century anxieties about mutually assured destruction. “Throughout human history weapons of mass destruction were often designed in the hopes that they’d never be used,” the EMH reflects as he works on the nanoprobes. Seven replies, “And yet, in Earth’s Third World War, nuclear weapons accounted for six hundred million casualties.”

Bad bots.

Even the episode’s resolution is framed in terms of detenté between Voyager and Species 8472. “An armed conflict isn’t going to solve our problems,” Janeway appeals to 8472!Boothby. “We could go on making threats, spying on each other, risking a war between our species. Or we could try a more direct approach.” Eventually, the two sides agree on mutual disarmament. They agree to share their technology and dismantle their weapons, in a manner that quite heavily recalls attempts at nuclear disarmament in the real world.

Indeed, the ending to In the Flesh greatly softens Species 8472 as a recurring adversary. The episode’s conclusion is very much pitched a stock Star Trek conclusion, the story of how (through negotiation and compromise) two radically different alien species can learn to reconcile their differences and live in harmony. There is nothing really wrong with this, except that it happens far too quickly. It seems almost as though Janeway takes ten minutes to talk Species 8472 down from their omnicidal mania.

Flirting with the enemy.

On a purely pragmatic level, it clearly signals that Voyager is finished with Species 8472. In the Flesh signals that there is no other story to be told using this alien species. Any future encounter with Species 8472 is destined to be civilised and respectful. More than that, it seems likely that any future contact with Species 8472 would find them wearing human faces and walking around in human skin. In the Flesh is a story that signals the end of the arc of Species 8472, much like The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II wraps up the fourth season’s Hirogen arc.

There is so much more that could have been done with these aliens, so many other avenues that could have been explored. Like the Vidiians, Species 8472 feel underdeveloped and underexplored. Voyager often suffered from generic alien species, the classic “forehead of the week” syndrome; Species 8472 got around that. There are so many angles for interesting stories, so many compelling hooks for new adventures. Instead, In the Flesh seems to wrap Species 8472 up in a nice little bow, assuring the audience that they are now friends and allies.


According to Nick Sagan this was not part of his original pitch for the episode, which had a decidedly more ambiguous ending:

The original idea didn’t end quite so “happy happy”. The so-called neutering of 8472 wasn’t supposed to happen. I think they’re great villains, and the original story as I envisioned it had just kind of a moment of realisation of “maybe we’re not so different”, the hint that there could be some possibilities. But then reinforcements arrive, and Voyager has to escape, and who knows if we’ve actually done something good there. But once we got involved, I think Brannon actually wanted to resolve it.

Another factor had to be the incredible amount of money than 8472 cost to put on the screen. I remember going to a production meeting, and the original In The Flesh had a lot of great, amazing special effects, including a dream sequence of 8472 just razing Janeway’s home town on Earth, which would have been really cool. But you just sit around at the table and people go through and talk about how much money it will cost, and I was sitting right next to Brannon and he’d go, “Okay, scratch that off the list!” Even so I think it’s a very cool looking episode with 8472 morphing on the table and such.

The result is that Species 8472 are reduced to an afterthought and footnote with no real consideration and no real development.

Taste of defeat.

The ending of In the Flesh raises all manner of questions that are never really resolved. Like so many Voyager episodes, the closing scenes of In the Flesh gloss over the practical implications of the story on the larger arc of the series. In the Flesh repeatedly raises questions about how Species 8472 know about Earth. “Whoever they are, they’ve gathered incredibly accurate information about Starfleet headquarters,” Janeway reflects. Seven replies, “Perhaps they had access to a Federation database.” Chakotay speculates, “Or they’ve been to San Francisco.”

Alternatives are repeatedly suggested over the course of the episode: maybe they have an agent on board Voyager, maybe they stole the information from the Borg. There are a few subtle suggestions that Species 8472 might not be entirely up-to-speed with the Federation, from the use of old uniforms to the abundance of Ferengi to the missing coffee shop on Market Street. However, Janeway never seems to press Species 8472 for how they gather this information.

Kiss and tell.

After all, the implications are obvious. It is entirely possible that Species 8472 could get Voyager closer to home. After all, Boothby boasts that they have several similar installations hidden in the Delta Quadrant. “There are a dozen more scattered throughout the quadrant,” he boasts. “You’ll never find them all.” Even if this is a bluff, Species 8472 are still more than ten thousand light years from their incursion in Scorpion, Part I and Scorpion, Part II. There is a definite angle for Janeway to explore, given her détente with the aliens.

This is not a problem unique to In the Flesh. Janeway repeatedly befriends aliens with advanced technology, but never asks them to send her home. After she makes peace with Suspiria in Cold Fire, it should be easy to convince her to send the crew home. When Janeway helps win the Q Civil War in The Q and the Grey, it seems only reasonable to ask Q for a favour. There is something disappointing in how Janeway seems to have resigned herself to the journey taking as long as it takes, particularly considering her arc in Night.

Janeway is under-performing by an (astro)metric.

The ending is unsettling for other reasons. There is something strange in the speed with which 8472!Boothby goes from boldly threatening to blow Voyager out of the sky to politely inviting Janeway to spend a few more days in their facsimile. There is a strange undercurrent to the episode, as the audience tries to figure out why Species 8472 are so eager to compromise in In the Flesh after being so hardline in Scorpion, Part I and Scorpion, Part II. There is a subtle implication that Species 8472 are more agreeable in In the Flesh because they look more human.

To be fair, there is a reasonable point to be made here. In creating a duplicate of Earth, Species 8472 are inviting themselves to experience the world from humanity’s perspective, to walk a mile in their bipedal forms. 8472!Archer makes a similar point to Chakotay. “At first glance, they’re so primitive,” she explains of humanity. “Genetic impurities, no telepathy, violent and yet they’ve created so many beautiful ways to communicate their ideas. Literature, art, music. At times, I’ve actually enjoyed being in this form.”

Archer foe.

However, the decision to keep the Species 8472 characters in their human form reinforces the idea that peaceful discussion and conversation are only possible between people who look (and act) very similar to one another. “How do you shake hands with an 8472?” Janeway muses at one point, but it is a completely irrelevant point. Culturally, the engagement flows in only a single direction. Species 8472 take human form, build a human environment, grow human plants, read human books. None of the Voyager crew make a similar effort to engage with their new friends.

It is something of a recurring trend across Voyager, something that arguably sets it apart from the multicultural perspective of Deep Space Nine. It is impossible to imagine an episode of Voyager engaging with an alien culture in the same way that The Magnificent Ferengi is built around the Ferengi or Soldiers of the Empire is built around the Klingons. Ironically for a series that positions the Borg as a recurring antagonist, it often feels like Voyager is a show about the necessity of assimilation.

Inject a little drama.

This idea is reflected across the series, from the presentation of “monstrous” recurring aliens like the Malon or the Vidiians as antagonists through to the idea that Seven of Nine is redeemed through becoming (physically) more “human.” Boothby even alludes to this point during the negotiation sequence. “There’s a drone sitting at this very table. Look at her, all gussied up to look like a human being.” Although episodes like Nemesis might subvert this idea, Voyager repeatedly suggests that the best way to make peace with something monstrous is to make them human.

In its own way, this is a very retrograde theme, something lifted from the cultural attitudes of fifties Americana. It is an attitude that values assimilation above diversity, conformity above distinction. It is a very conservative interpretation of the Star Trek philosophy, one that values other cultures so long as they are willing to present themselves in forms that conform to our heroes’ cultural norms. Ironically enough, it is the flip side of those fifties sci-fi and horror films about communist infiltration, an anxiety about the dangers of conformity and repression.

No sex please, we’re Starfleet.

Even beyond these themes, In the Flesh indulges in a great deal of nostalgia. Kate Vernon plays 8472!Archer as a seductress from some forgotten fifties film noir. She is all arched eyebrows and coy flirtation, at once inviting and dangerous. Indeed, 8472!Archer makes an interesting contrast to Chakotay, seeming much more human than her love interest. Vernon plays the part very broad, but it is a stylistic choice that works very well. The performance owes a lot to Rita Hayworth or Veronica Lake. 8472!Archer is a sexually charged and potentially dangerous woman.

That said, it does lead to a delightfully absurd “let me slip into something more comfortable” moment when 8472!Archer escorts Chakotay back to her quarters for a nightcap. As is expected in these retro seduction scenes, the kind played entirely straight in The Enterprise Incident, 8472!Archer excuses herself for a costume change. This allows Chakotay some time for snooping, as he watches her sexy silhouette. However, when 8472!Archer emerges from her room, she is – if anything – even more dressed than she had been going in.

To be fair, it does look more comfortable.

This retro charm is only increased by the presence of Ray Walston, making an unlikely return to Star Trek following his guest appearance in The First Duty. Walston was the star of My Favourite Martian, a popular early sixties sci-fi sitcom, making him part and parcel of this large nostalgia within the episode. As Tim Russ explained to Star Trek Monthly, the cast were thrilled to have him:

During one of our episodes featuring the late Ray Walston – from [60s TV show] My Favorite Martian [and Boothby in Star Trek] – we were shooting a scene that was very heavy with dialogue. Ray was having a tough time with the lines, as were some of us regulars on the show. It took all day to shoot this one scene and during a short lighting break Ray spoke a line from Hamlet. Then Robert Beltran answered him with the next line from the play and the two of them continued on reciting the lines for about two or three minutes, perfectly. You could hear a pin drop on the set, and we all applauded afterwards.

Boothby is a very strange choice to appear in In the Flesh, particularly given the abundance of other characters who could have been used in the role; Admiral Alynna Nechayev, Admiral Bill Ross, President Jaresh-Inyo, Admiral Jeremiah Hayes, Admiral Owen Paris. The choice of Boothby is very telling, a way to include an acknowledgement of the franchise’s (and the genre’s) history.

Big fan.

As with Night, there is also a sense of reflection within Voyager itself. Most obviously, the discovery of a replica of San Francisco represents a metaphorical homecoming for the crew. However, the episode also provides the opportunity for characters to reflect on their history and the decisions that brought them to this point. Everybody seems to point to familiar landmarks and the history that goes with them, or remember stories about key figures like Boothby or Admiral Nimembeh.

Janeway even embarks upon a short journey down memory lane, recalling the events of Caretaker. As she studies the habitat in Astrometrics, she admits to Chakotay, “Brings back memories, even if it is just a re-creation. I remember my last visit there. I was given my general orders for Voyager’s first mission. Proceed to the Badlands and find the Maquis.” Chakotay nods, “The orders that brought us together.” Where Voyager a stronger series, this might tie back into Janeway’s depression in Night. Instead, it is just an expression of what was.

Ray of hope.

It is another expression of Brannon Braga’s renewed interest in the show’s history and the characters’ pasts, something that animates a lot of the fifth season. This nostalgia is never developed into a strong sense of continuity or momentum, instead focusing on the past as a far-away realm rather than something that motivates or informs these characters. The fifth season of Voyager is intrigued by what has happened before, but rarely considers how these events might influence the characters in the present day and beyond.

In the Flesh benefits from a strong supporting cast. Ray Walston, Kate Vernon and Tucker Smallwood all imbue their characters with more life and more personality than the script would suggest. Even as these members of Species 8472 play at being human, there is a clear sense of distinct individuality to their performances. These feel like very different people, with very different outlooks. Of course, these outlooks never seem truly alien, but they do feel distinct from one another.

It’s a Smallwood, after all.

Tucker Smallwood would go on to play a recurring role on the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise. He recalls that his guest appearance on Voyager was not necessarily a pleasant experience:

“The Voyager episode came about in a year (1998) that was very difficult for me physically. I contracted Bells palsy (Bells palsy is a condition that causes the facial muscles to weaken or become paralyzed but is not permanent with the proper treatment.). I woke up one morning and it looked like I’d had a stroke in the night. For some months, it was questionable whether I’d ever work again. I went through acupuncture, steroids, and all the rest of that”, Tucker explained.

“I had told my agent don’t submit me for anything, if they ever see me like this I’ll never work again because you cannot be damaged goods in this business, I’ll just lay low and stay with the therapy and keep a positive thought. He called me one day and said there’s a role here that sounds like it would really be good for you it’s on Star Trek: Voyager. I said, I could play an alien, I sound fine I just look bad but I could do that because they hide you in makeup, that would be great.”

The role of Admiral Bullock on Star Trek: Voyager in the fifth season episode In the Flesh was an alien, Species 8472, unfortunately an alien disguised in human form. “I went for it anyway and I got it and then people would say, you looked so stern and so implacable and I said that’s the only expression I had, if I tried to do anything else only one side of my face would work so I had this one expression and it was very rigid and stiff and arbitrary. Slowly after that I continued to regain control of my features and I began to work again.”

In spite of this significant physical limitation, Smallwood does good work in the role. He uses his paralysis very well, suggesting a character not entirely comfortable in his skin.

Giving those young recruits quite a bullocking.

In the Flesh is also notable as the first episode of Voyager to be written by Nick Sagan. Sagan was one of three young new writers to arrive on Voyager around. Bryan Fuller had joined the staff during the fourth season, and became a story editor at the start of the fifth season. Nick Sagan and Michael Taylor were recruited at the start of the fifth season, both having successfully pitched episodes to earlier iterations of the franchise. There was a clear sense that Brannon Braga was trying to put his own stamp on Voyager, following the departure of Jeri Taylor.

While Fuller and Taylor would work on Voyager through to the end of the show, with Ronald D. Moore describing how they “were treated very shabbily” by the rest of the staff during his time there, Sagan would depart Voyager after only spending a single season in the writers’ room. Nevertheless, Sagan contributes a number of impressive ideas and engaging episodes to the fifth season as a whole. His first three scripts – In the Flesh, Gravity and Course: Oblivion – are particularly impressive.

The sweet smell of success.

Sagan fondly recalls his work on Voyager, acknowledging that the show itself was a source of affectionate nostalgia for him:

Brannon came to me; he remembered me from Next Generation. It was his first year, all by himself, since Jeri Taylor had retired the previous year so he had the option of bringing in people. He brought in me and he brought in Mike Taylor. No one had ever asked me to do this before, and I had an interesting connection with the Voyager space programme. So I thought, “How cool would it be to go from Voyager to Voyager?”

After all, Sagan’s voice was included in the “golden record” on the real-life Voyager probes. Aside from that, his father had helped to popularise space exploration.

Keeping curfew.

As such, Nick Sagan’s tenure on Voyager was a homecoming of sorts. The Star Trek franchise had a long and rich history of cross-pollination with the real-life space programme, an expression of the same idealism and curiousity that had led the United States into outer space; Tomorrow is Yesterday famously predicted the moon landing that would arrive mere weeks after the broadcast of Turnabout Intruder, the first space shuttle had been named “Enterprise”, Mae Jemison cameoed on the franchise.

Nick Sagan provides a very strong connection between the Voyager probe and the Voyager show, between the real-life trek to the stars and Star Trek itself. In its own weird way, this fits with the affectionate nostalgia that permeates In the Flesh. In many ways, In the Flesh feels like a connection to the pulpy mid-twentieth century science-fiction, while Sagan provides a very firm connection to the mid-twentieth century race to the stars.

He ain’t heavy. He’s my soon-to-be-exposed Species 8472 infiltrator.

In the Flesh is a little too clumsy and broad to really resonate as one of Voyager‘s strongest episodes, but it is an endearing genre throwback. If Voyager is heading backwards, then there are worse stops to be made along the way.

18 Responses

  1. A strange little episode.

    I’ve always wondered that if Species 8472 ultimately turned out to be so reasonable, doesn’t that mean even the show admits Janeway was wrong to save the Borg? Yes they suffered a significant setback in ‘Scorpion, Part 2’ and as you point out they have spent significant time learning about humans… but the fact that they are able to change in a way the Borg (as a collective) seem unable and unwilling to do so does make Janeway’s actions more questionable.

    (I think if my first encounter with lifeforms from another dimension were the Borg I think I’d be paranoid to begin with too.)

    • It’s odd. Janeway strikes a deal with 8472 in a not-dissimilar way as Picard brokering a truce with the Borg.

      Of course, even if the Borg were serious about turning good, it wouldn’t take, because they are too profitable.

    • I think Voyager would have to be a bit more introspective to acknowledge that. It would certainly be an interesting idea, and would be a nice call back to Night. Unfortunately, it’s forgotten almost immediately.

  2. Stockholm syndrome. The story is lame, but visually this is the best Star Trek had looked in a while. Also it’s amazing what a soundtrack can do to elevate an episode. (I also liked the music in Bliss which is otherwise terrible.)

    I’ve heard it said here and elsewhere that Voyager is a throwback to early sci fi (or TOS). Vernon and Walston belong to another era of TV, which helps it go down a lot smoother.

    “Admiral Alynna Nechayev, Admiral Bill Ross, President Jaresh-Inyo”

    Ah, but you’re naming obscure characters. Hey, TNG fetishists! Here’s names you recognize from stuff you like!

  3. Oh my word, Voyager. In many ways, a criminally underrated series

    • I’m not sure I’d go so far as to suggest “criminally”, but certainly a little better than its reputation would suggest.

  4. I don’t know if you’ve mentioned this in your reviews, but Starfleet headquarters has a great view of the Golden Gate bridge. Looks great, but in real life there is no land there, just a rocky cliff face. As far as I know, “In the Flesh” is the only Star Trek story to address this. In the exterior shots, the HQ is built on stilts, like a giant dinner plate.

  5. An impressive analysis! I always loved Voyager and felt that the Species 8472 stories were woefully under used. Unfortunately I think they suffered from “How do we make them characters without making them human?” and I think science fiction in general is terrible at answering that question. This is just my opinion of course, but I think having more diverse backgrounds in the writer’s room really makes a difference in how to approach what it means to be a person, to have a culture, and to be alien in another’s eyes and to see others as aliens. I’m particularly reminded of the book Binti by Nnedi Okorafor which has some themes like that. That aside there’s this strong desire especially in Voyager to explore these themes, and what it means to survive….without being as serious as DS9. Its easy to appreciate why, but I really would love if Species 8472 was revisited in order to really push the Federation and a captain as cool as Janeway. They have so much potential.

    • Yeah, I think the Star Trek franchise really needed more diversity behind the scenes.

      • The series gets so into these very good and interesting themes sometimes, and I’m hoping the new series isn’t too JJ Abrams and is more DS9. Its sort of ironic though because it feels like, in some ways, the TOS did far more exploring of inhuman aliens than many of the later series despite later series having higher effects budgets

      • I don’t know. I don’t mind borrowing the visual language of the Abrams films, because television has evolved in terms of technique and technical investment. (Much like TNG borrowed a lot of TMP’s visual language.) But, yeah, a story more in keeping with Deep Space Nine would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Looks like Seven brushed up on her World Wars after the Hirogen commandeered Voyager. I seem to recall she knew nothing about WW II in that episode but sure knows about WW III in this one. 😉

  7. You raise a lot of good questions, Darren. I found this episode to be very incoherent regarding the former encounter with Species 8472 and the events of Scorpion and after that. Voyager did have contact with Starfleet after that – so why should Starfleet not prepare plans? Janeway seemed to have forgotten that or missed to mention it intentionally in the negotiations with Boothby et al.

  8. I think this episode just re-emphasizes just what a horrific selfish crime Janeway committed by siding with the Borg rather than letting the two super-powers fight it out. It’s a follow up to the very valid accusations of the alien in ‘Hope and Fear’. If anything, 8472 should be peppering Janeway with questions about the Prime Directive and her own selfishness.

    I see a lot of imitation of DS9 in this episode, with an attempt to have their own little changeling paranoia moment.

    I also see a subtle PG-rated homage to the 1995 film ‘Species’, with the hot alien lizard lady, the insinuation of a hybrid infiltrator.

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