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Star Trek: Voyager – Fair Haven (Review)

Well, at least it’s better than Up the Long Ladder.

We’ll take what we can get.

Fair Haven is a pretty awful episode of Star Trek: Voyager by any measure, suffering from a lot of the series’ worst impulses and wrapping them up in a set of outdated and borderline offensive Irish stereotypes. It is strange to think that Fair Heaven was the first episode of Star Trek to air in the year 2000, making it possibly the first episode of a new millennium. Although, of course, 11:59 would argue that the honour fell to Shattered, which is another ironic choice for similar reasons.

Fair Haven is built around another of Tom Paris’ nostalgic holographic creations, like the old-world bar that populated first and second season episodes like The Cloud, Twisted or Lifesigns or the garage from Vis à Vis or the inventive and playful black-and-white b-movie fantasy that was introduced in Night and got a spotlight in Bride of Chaotica! Indeed, Paris would design another nostalgic retreat in the final season, creating a holographic model of the Palace Theatre in Repression.

Haven help us.

These surroundings are interesting of themselves, reflecting the nostalgia that lurks at the heart of Voyager and which seemed to take over the show as it approached the end of its run. Indeed, despite being set in a nineteenth century Irish village, Fair Haven is arguably less explicitly nostalgic than the three preceding episodes. One Small Step, The Voyager Conspiracy and Pathfinder all baked nostalgia into their core plot mechanics. Fair Haven simply chooses it as a background setting.

All of Paris’ holographic recreations are nostalgic, designed to evoke some lost romantic aesthetic. Allowing for the design (rather than the particulars) of Chez Sandríne, these surroundings are consciously nostalgic as much to the audience at home as to the characters inhabiting them. This also applies to other holographic simulations beyond those created by Paris, such as Janeway’s romantic fantasy in CathexisLearning Curve and Persistence of Vision or the workshop from Scorpion, Part I and the fourth season or even the old-timey gym from The Fight.

Tonight, of all nights, there’s gonna be a fight.

However, the setting in Fair Haven is not so much nostalgic as outdated. The portrayal of the Irish in Fair Haven might have advanced slightly in the years since Up the Long Ladder, but the episode still features all manner of offensive caricatures. “Tommy boy, you forgot the leprechauns,” Kim protests in the teaser, which not only feels like a sly wink to Colm Meaney’s objections to the original pitch of If Wishes Were Horses…, but also an acknowledgement of what Fair Haven expects the audience to want from this particular scenario.

There is, to be clear, a long-standing nostalgic obsession with Ireland in American popular culture. A lot of this is quite flattering to Ireland as a country, particularly as a small nation state on the outskirts of the European continent. Irish leaders get invited to dine at the White House once a year on a day that is celebrated across the United States. Occasionally, prominent American leaders trace their roots back to Ireland, forging a strong metaphorical connection between the two countries.

It is a little Pat.

As Christopher Dowd notes in The Irish and the Origins of American Popular Culture, there was a certain exoticism to the Irish in American popular culture:

What was appealing about the Irish in these amusements? To some degree, the Irish were voyeuristically interesting as figures of exotic origins. Many perceived them to be savages from a primitive island who had arcane beliefs and culture. There was pleasure in simply seeing such a walking anachronism. In addition, centuries of English stereotyping had constructed the Irish mirthful, musical clowns. The Irish character came prefigured as an object of amusement in a way that no other ethnic or racial group in America did. Finally, the Irish proved attractive because of their perceived essential behavioural differences. Whether true or not, many perceived the Irish as a more indulgent people, given to drink, sex, and general revelry, which stood in stark contrast to stifling influences of Protestantism, lingering Puritan habits, and conservative mores. The Irish were potentially alluring because of their breaking of cultural norms.

This perhaps explains why terrible Irish accents have been ubiquitous in American film and television. In fact, Gangs of New York would film that summer as a high-profile Irish immigrant tale.

My fair lady.

Of course, it should be noted that this romantic attitude extended to the Irish in American popular culture was largely down to the fact that the Irish immigrants were exotic enough to be interesting and white enough to be assimilated. There has been a great deal written about the “othering” of Irish immigrants in American culture, particularly the hardships that the early arrivals experienced, but should be acknowledged up front that the Irish were never oppressed as thoroughly nor as brutally as the dark-skinned slaves brought to American shores.

Fair Haven and Spirit Folk demonstrate this affectionate “othering” of the Irish in American popular culture, treating this holographic environment as if it were an alien society akin to the Klingons or the Ferengi. This is arguably more overt in Spirit Folk, which plays like a riff on “infiltrate primitive culture” episodes like Return of the Archons, Who Watches the Watchers?, Civilisation or The Communicator. However, it is also present in Fair Haven, with the crew embracing an anthropological study of these curious creations.

“Oh, I thought you meant the other Irish stereotype. I’m publican, not a republican.”

Janeway notes that the harp on the signage is backwards. Michael translates the unique Irish greetings. There are all manner of minor incongruities; store fronts rendered in Irish while road signs are written in English. The Irish in Fair Haven are a collection of stereotypes. They speak in a language that is loosely recognisable as English, with its own exaggerated verbal tics like “… are ya?” or “you’ve a nice way about you.” They drink a lot. The two major holographic characters are Seamus the town drunk and Michael the town publican.

More than that, the Irish in Fair Haven are a passionate and engaging lot. Seamus is quick to manipulate those around him to earn a quick shilling. An arm wrestling match at the local pub is rendered as a public spectacle. Inevitably, before the end of the episode, there is a heated pub brawl in which nobody is seriously injured and after which nobody seems to harbour any ill will. This is Ireland as imagined in films like Darby O’Gill and the Little People or Far and Away.

“Computer, programme Fintan McKeown to smile.”

At the same time, while the Irish in Fair Haven are alien, they are never too alien. After all, Janeway finds herself falling in love with Michael Sullivan. It is an absurd romance for multiple reasons, not least of which is the terrible miscasting of Fintan McKeown as Janeway’s potential love interest. Chemistry is hard to cast, particularly on a tight television schedule, so it is hard to complain too much about the lack of chemistry between McKeown and Mulgrew. Nevertheless, McKeown is far too intense for the show to convincing sell as a romantic lead.

There are several moments in the episode where the dynamic between Michael and Janeway is supposed to be flirtatious and charming, but instead comes across as downright creepy. “We’re all friends here,” he advises Janeway at one point, coming across as a serial killer with a sense of irony. “Do you know Jane Eldon?” he asks at one point, out of the blue. “She’s been dead seventy years.” He elaborates, “I was thinking about her poetry. It’s too pastoral for my taste, don’t you agree?” This is followed by another intense stare. There is clearly a correct answer to his question.

“She wasn’t to my… taste, you see.”

Still, ignoring issues of casting and setting, there is something potentially intriguing in the character of Michael Sullivan. After all, Janeway has had relatively few love interests over the course of Voyager‘s run, so it is interesting to build an episode around that fact. Bryan Fuller argued as much to Cinefantastique:

We kind of touched a little [in season five] with Kashyk in Counterpoint. That was a great episode, one of the finest last season. But it’s hard to do, because she is the captain and, as weird as it is, there is a double standard. Picard had a couple of dalliances. Janeway has had a couple of dalliances. Picard wasn’t big on the romance front either. But if Janeway was jumping into the sack with green aliens, then it definitely would be less becoming. I think it’s a different day, we are in a different age than the original series, so we can’t have the romances every week, at least for the Captain. There is a certain tragic quality to someone in her position who is so isolated.

Fuller is correct on a number of points there, most obviously the success of Counterpoint as a fifth season episode built around Janeway’s isolation and a potential romantic suitor. Of course, it helped that Kate Mulgrew had considerably more chemistry with Mark Harelik than she does with Fintan McKeown.

It is the counterpoint to Counterpoint.

Fuller also acknowledges the double-standard. As much as Fuller argues that it is impossible for a contemporary Star Trek character to enjoy the same sexual freedoms afforded James Tiberius Kirk, there is no denying that Janeway’s male counterparts are decidedly more sexually adventurous. Picard met an ex-girlfriend in We’ll Always Have Paris and embarked on a trip to a sexual paradise in Captain’s Holiday. Sisko was a widower, but still found romance in episodes like Second Sight or Family Business. Archer even got some romance in Civilisation.

In contrast, Voyager has always been wary of Janeway’s sexuality, despite Kate Mulgrew’s eagerness to camp it up in episodes like Bride of Chaotica! In the early seasons, episodes like Caretaker and Persistence of Vision made a point to insist that Janeway had a fiancé waiting on Earth, as if to subsume any sexual impulses. The series seemed to repeatedly suggest that Janeway’s sexuality was repressed and buried; the prudish Victorian surroundings of her early holonovel in Cathexis, or the sense that Gath was sexually manipulating her in Prime Factors.

Wife of the party.

To be fair to early writer and producer Jeri Taylor, at least early episodes suggested that Janeway had a sexual identity, even if it was buried. Taylor might have been decidedly ambiguous in pushing Janeway and Chakotay as a potential romantic couple in episodes like Resolutions or Coda, to the point that Resolutions is wilfully ambiguous about what happened between the two when stranded on a planet together for a few months.

However, once Taylor departed the series, the other writers made a point to strip even those small hints of a sexual identity away from Voyager. Episodes like Scorpion, Part I and Scorpion, Part II, Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II, Equinox, Part I and Equinox, Part II and even The Voyager Conspiracy were more likely to suggest that Janeway and Chakotay were forces in opposition rather than than attraction. Brannon Braga consciously made an effort to masculinise Janeway and position her as an action hero in episodes like Macrocosm.

As Tara Brabazon notes in Ladies who Lunge, this desexualisation of Janeway on Voyager was par for the course in contemporary culture:

The real difficulty face by women with power is that they are rarely operating in a context that affirms and welcomes their differences. That is why the images of women in power are jarring. Both Thatcher and Bhutto were rarely supported or pictured with other women, but were action-oriented. They were (de)gendered by the action of fighting a war. Contextualising women in power reveals systemic flaws in human resource management and access to information and education. Janeway remained a concerned, cool observer of love and sex, but could not balance power and romance. She had to focus on more important details, like choosing a hairstyle.

It is informative that Janeway became even less sexual following the departure of the series showrunner.

Shame me, shame you, Seamus.

In fact, it could reasonably be argued that Brannon Braga spent considerable time and effort during his tenure as showrunner on Voyager mocking the repressed identity that Jeri Taylor had cultivated for Janeway, replacing it with a more gung-ho and aggressive leader. The first episode of Braga’s tenure as showrunner was Night, an episode in which Janeway locked herself in her quarters away from the crew like a character from the sort of gothic novel that might have inspired her holonovel and reflecting Janeway’s retreat from her crew into those holonovels.

In some ways, Fair Haven extrapolates upon that trend, another example of Brannon Braga taking a cheap shot at the narrative and character choices made by his predecessor. Episodes like Persistence of Vision suggested that the holodeck might be the only place where Janeway could find sexual and romantic relief on the seventy-year journey home. Fair Haven takes that emotional angst and dials it up to eleven.

Sullying his fine establishment.

The decision to have Janeway fall in love with a hologram is an interesting one. The internal logic guiding the decision was that Janeway could not possibly fall in love with a member of her crew, as guest stat Richard Riehle noted:

For Voyager, they decided that they wanted Janeway to have a love interest, but it couldn’t really be somebody on the ship, so they created this Irish village on the holodeck, and they brought in this Irish guy [Fintan McKeown] who was just great. He had been the pig farmer in Waking Ned Devine, and he was a wonderful, wonderful guy. But it’s Star Trek, and it moves really, really fast, and you end up saying a lot of strange combinations of words. [Laughs.] And so the days were getting too long for them, and I know they were hoping to do a number more next year and sort of explore this relationship, but then the writers went an entirely different way, and there was no point in even attempting to bring back that holograph.


This makes a certain amount of sense on the surface, as Star Trek: The Next Generation had already done an episode built around that premise in Lessons. It might be lazy to repeat that story. Then again, when had Voyager ever shied away from repeating The Next Generation?

Captain of her enterprise… er, I mean voyage.

Even accepting that Janeway could not fall in love with a member of her crew, it is still a leap to “… so she falls in love with a hologram.” After all, the other Star Trek leads were bound by the same logic, glossing over the sexual tension between Picard and Crusher or the attempted sexual tension between Archer and T’Pol. The other Star Trek series got around this by allowing the lead to fall in love with somebody outside the cast.

Kirk had dalliances in Wink of an Eye, The Cloud Minders and The Mark of Gideon. Archer had one-and-done romances in Civilisation and Two Days and Two Nights. Picard had a holiday romance in Captain’s Holiday that ironically came back in QPid. Sisko actually forged a long-term relationship with a recurring guest star that led to them moving onto the station together in Indiscretion, working closely together in The Sound of Her Voice, coaching baseball together in Take Me Out to the Holosuite and getting married in ‘Til Death Do Us Part.

Talking rings around one another.

Indeed, Janeway arguably had one of the best one-and-done romances in the history of the franchise in Counterpoint, an episode built around the double-standard that has been applied to the franchise’s first female captain, with the episode suggesting that Janeway’s emotional attachment to the handsome male guest star of the week might lead her astray before cannily revealing that Janeway was always two steps ahead. Counterpoint is a clever, flirtatious, sexy piece of television. It demonstrates that it is entirely possible to give Janeway a romance without diminshing her.

It could also be argued that there is a fascinating story to be told about romance on Voyager, balancing Janeway’s devotion to the ideals of a rigid and logical command structure against the simple fact that everybody on the ship will be traveling for the rest of their natural lives. Even if Janeway’s duty prevents her from forming a relationship with a subordinate, if there room to bend that rule due to the unique situation in which Voyager finds itself? That is a major dramatic hook, even if it would mean asking tough questions that Voyager has spent years avoiding.

Inject a little excitement into her life.

Still, getting past all of these alternatives and accepting all of the tortured logic that leads Fair Haven to the inescapable conclusion that Janeway’s only avenue for a fulfilling romantic and sexual relationship during this seventy-year mission is with a man constructed of photons and force-fields, there is a potentially interesting story to be told here. Star Trek has often and repeatedly suggested that holodecks can be used for physical gratification, and so it is interesting to see that tackled head-on.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine made a point to emphasise that Quark was operating what amounted to a digital brothel. In A Man Alone, a guest character was murdered during a relaxation programme that resembled the early scenes of softcore pornography. Odo seemed disgusted that Quark would allow “Young Mister Sisko” to use the holosuites in If Wishes Were Horses…, and all that it implied. In Meridian, Quark tried to built a shady fantasy programme using the template of Major Kira. The Way of the Warrior suggested Dax made similar use of the holosuite.

All’s Fair Haven, in love and war…

Of course, characters on Star Trek tended to used the holodeck for other (more high-minded) purposes, but the idea always hung in the background. In hindsight, it is very hard to watch characters’ discussions of Barclay’s “holodeck addiction” in episodes like Hollow Pursuits and Pathfinder without thinking about “pornography addiction.” So, Fair Haven is a potentially interesting episode in that regard, in that it is very clearly about Janeway seeking emotional and sexual relief, and receiving it through technology.

However, the need to build an entire episode around Janeway seeking such release on the holodeck reflects Voyager‘s prudishness and conservatism. By way of contrast, Jadzia Dax was willing to embrace the possibilities of the technology in a throw-away scene in The Way of the Warrior; her colleague Kira expressed discomfort with the idea of finding such comfort in computer-generated fantasy men, but Deep Space Nine did not judge Dax for using the holosuite in such a manner. Bashir also canoodled with holograms in episodes like Our Man Bashir and A Simple Investigation.

“When I realised I was an Irish stereotype, I decided there there was nothing that I could do but drink and brood.”

(Of course, Deep Space Nine also had its more regress and knee-jerk moments as well, particularly when it came to Jadzia’s adventurous sexual identity. Rejoined deservedly receives a lot of credit for the franchise’s first same-gender kiss, but Let He Who Is Without Sin… comes dangerously close to presenting Jadzia as a deranged bisexual whose flirtations with an ex-girlfriend serve to justify Worf joining a terrorist cell. Also, the less said the better about the sexual politics of the mirror universe in episodes like The Emperor’s New Cloak.)

Pop culture can be very uneasy when discussing matters of female emotional and sexual satisfaction. Almost twenty years after the broadcast of Fair Haven, writers Kristen Cloke and Shannon Hamblin joked about the difficulties getting Dana Scully’s “prime-time vibrators” and “personal massagers” cleared by Broadcast Standards and Practices for a very quick shot in an episode of the revival of The X-Files. It would seem pop culture is still afraid of acknowledging female sexual desire, and in particular of female sexual self-satisfaction.

“Down with this sort of thing.”
“Careful now.”

There is something undeniably sordid and trashy about how big a deal Fair Haven makes of what is essentially an episode about Janeway masturbating. This panic is particularly pronounced following on directly from Pathfinder, an episode in which a recovering addict could sleep in the holodeck without relapsing. Why is Janeway’s use of Michael Sullivan so taboo? Mulgrew even acknowledged the sensationalism in an interview with Star Trek: Monthly:

“My love affair with the hologram!” says Kate. “I found that a bit dubious at first, and then I decided to commit myself to it. You know, one always struggles with one’s own humanity in this regard: after six years of this woman toeing the line in a rather solitary fashion, I had hoped that her first romance of any significance would be with a person. I think the writers also weighed that with great seriousness, and decided that it would probably be more provocative to this particular audience to go with the science fiction slant. It’s quite understandable that she just allows her fantasy to take over. She feels that it’s rather benign initially, and then, true to human nature, it catches up with her. I thought, ‘Well, this is an intriguing idea; let’s go for it,’ and I just threw myself into it.”

To be fair to Mulgrew, she does make an effort in Fair Haven. In the years since Voyager ended, Mulgrew has been a lot more candid about her opinion of the episode and its central romance, joking, “That thing with the hologram was the stupidest thing, when there was that gorgeous guy in Counterpoint not to mention my first officer.” Fair Haven has become a Star Trek punchline, and deservedly so.

“Man, books are so inconvenient. I could just read these on five different PADDs instead.”

There is a very clear push-and-pull within Fair Haven, with the script and the characters trying to insist that Janeway’s use of the holodeck in such a manner isn’t weird at all, despite the fact that Voyager has deemed it worthy of supporting a forty-five minute block of television. There is a sense of Voyager trying to have its cake and eat it; understanding that it Janeway’s desire for emotional and physical relief is not abnormal and unreasonable, while still giggling uncontrollable at the decision to package that relief with a stage Irish accent.

There is a sense of that in how the characters interact with Janeway about the news. Noting Janeway’s renewed interest in Ireland, Chakotay mocks, “It’s understandable. They’ve produced great writers for hundreds of years. Not to mention great bartenders.” He then tries to assure her, “You seemed embarrassed when I ran into you. There was no reason to be. It was nice to see you having a little fun.” The sentiment feels somewhat disingenuous, perhaps owing to Robert Beltran’s delivery of the earlier jibe.

“So… we’re still not talking about Resolutions, then?”

The EMH does something similar. Interrogating Janeway about her affair with Michael, he inquires, “Did you have intimate relations?” Janeway quite rightly responds, “That’s none of your business. Let’s just say it was a memorable three days.” It seems a particularly judgmental question given that the EMH had relations with holograms in Life Signs and possibly even in Real Life. However, the EMH then pivots to a more understanding perspective. “I don’t see the problem.”

There is a weird dissonance at play within Fair Haven, the episode caught between finding its plot sordid and unremarkable. Of course, the decision to build an episode around this premise insists that that the script treat it like “a big deal”, while there is also an understanding within the script that making it a big deal is sensationalist and trite. Fair Haven bounces between extremes, often in the context of a single scene.

Have faith. Of the heart.

This leaves a lot of underlying ideas relatively unarticulated, most notably questions about Michael Sullivan’s autonomy and individuality. The Star Trek franchise has repeatedly insisted that holographic creations can become self-aware, as demonstrated by the EMH’s arc in episodes like Eye of the Needle and even in the supporting character of Vic Fontaine in episodes like It’s Only a Paper Moon or Dejaren in Revulsion. In fact, the seventh season of Voyager would build a big event two-parter around that idea in Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II.

Treating such a self-aware character in the manner that Janeway treats Michael would be hugely problematic, as explored in episodes like Latent Image. However, the Star Trek franchise also suggests that most of these holographic characters lack that self-awareness and self-determination. Treating those holographic creations as pieces of useful technology is perfectly reasonable, and there is certainly nothing immoral or unjustifiable in Janeway choosing to provide her vibrator with two days of stubble or an additional few centimetres in height.

“Your horny scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

However, Fair Haven muddies the waters just enough to suggest something slightly creepy is at work. Most obviously, Voyager has reached a point where the audience has come to assume that holographic characters can have self-awareness; the EMH, Danara Pel in Lifesigns, Dejaren in Revulsion, Leonardo Da Vinci in Concerning Flight. In fact, Fair Haven even suggests that Michael is capable of exceeding the confines of his programming.

When Michael is heartbroken over Janeway’s departure, he nurses a pint in the pub. “That’s strange,” Paris notes. “I programmed him not to drink.” Neelix observes, “Must be a glitch in his subroutine.” However, the episode suggests otherwise. Michael is genuinely heartbroken. In fact, the climax of the episode builds to Michael telling Janeway, “There’s one thing I want you to know. I love you, Katie.” It is very clear that Fair Haven believes Michael, that it is convinced that the character has the capacity to love, not mere approximate love. This makes it all creepy.

“To be fair, maybe the stereotype is so strong that it overrode the parametres.”

Perhaps this ties back into the double-standard that shows like Voyager apply to their female leads. It is not enough for Janeway to have a meaningless affair, or to construct an elaborate romantic fantasy that she approaches as a fantasy to provide her own emotional satisfaction. Fair Haven seems to suggest that for the affair between Janeway and Michael to be valid, real love has to exist between them. And that love (not interest, not attraction, not emotional engagement) has to be validated by her partner, despite the fact that he is a collection of subroutines.

Janeway cannot simply be using a piece of technology to fulfill her needs, that use has to be justified to a much higher standard of proof than that applied to her male counterparts. Vash did not have to tell Picard that she loved him at the end of Captain’s Holiday. Riann and Archer make out at the end of Civilisation, both understanding that Archer will soon departing the planet and that neither character will see one another again.

Don’t think too hard about it.

Still, allowing for the creepy subtext suggested by Janeway’s manipulations of an entity self-aware enough to experience the emotion of “love”, Fair Haven plays into some of Voyager‘s broader preoccupations. Like a lot of the episodes around it, Fair Haven challenges its characters to determine what is real and what is not, what is authentic and what is artifice. In an interview with Star Trek: Monthly on the sixth season, Mulgrew conceded that this reflected contemporary anxieties about the internet:

One of the unintentional and ongoing threads woven through Star Trek: Voyager’s sixth season has been the way that the show plays with reality and identity. More so than any previous incarnation of Star Trek, the writers frequently explore stories in which we are dealing with an alternate version of the crew — episodes focusing on illusory, parallel, artificial, or even holographic doppelgangers. Is this a result of the increased presence of the Internet – a breaking down in society’s perceived barriers in what is real and what is virtual?

“Oh, absolutely,” states Mulgrew. “And what does that mean to our culture? What does that mean to our society? Are we all Frankensteins? I think that the physicists who I’ve been reading would posit that there is a very collective, natural instinct in man to be a Frankenstein. This, of course, can bite you on the you-know-what, but we have to wait and see how badly it bites us before we cease to [progress].”

Both Fair Haven and Spirit Folk touch upon the question of what is real, particularly from the perspective of the holographic inhabitants of the eponymous village. This fits with episodes like ProjectionsThe Thaw, Worst Case Scenario, Living Witness, Course: OblivionTinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy and Pathfinder, in which reality is readily distorted and bent. Voyager was a show very much rooted in its cultural moment, and this anxiety about reality and simulation reflected a lot of the mood at the turn of the millennium.

Taking the Mick.

There is also a sense in which Janeway’s romance with Michael taps into something very specific about the internet age. Janeway constructs a virtual lover for herself inside a simulated space, building an established template and projecting her needs on to her potential romantic partner. This is a universal human experience, as the EMH argues, “I’ve noticed that humans usually try to change the people they fall in love with. What’s the difference?” However, as Janeway responds, this is a much more literal process.

In some respects, Voyager seems prescient in its engagement with the internet and the damage that the internet caused to the idea of a shared reality. Voyager is populated by characters who rewrite and reinvent reality, whether through fiction in episodes like Author, Author or in history as in Remember or in memory as in Restrospect. In some ways, Janeway does something similar in her rewriting of Michael in Fair Haven, projecting just as much as the holo-emitters built into the wall.

You’ve got hologram.

It should be noted that Fair Haven was broadcast at a point in time when internet dating was entering the mainstream. Match.com was founded in 1995. In December 1998, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks updated The Shop Around the Corner for the digital age with You’ve Got Mail. A year prior to the broadcast of Fair Haven, Jennifer Wolcott reported on the explosion of online dating:

Unlike newspaper personals, often seen as the domain of the desperate, online dating appears to have entered the mainstream. Singles Web sites all report a dramatic rise in traffic within the past year. Since Nora Epron’s romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail” opened in movie theaters last month, some sites report as much as a 30 percent surge. The film’s attractive stars, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks (who meet in a singles chat room on America Online), make the online route to romance look downright appealing. Ultimately, anyway. So it’s no wonder “You’ve Got Mail” has been to online dating sites and chat groups what Oprah’s Book Club is to authors and publishers. But isn’t this just another case of Hollywood making love look easy? Can denizens from Mars and Venus really connect in cyberspace? There are no guarantees you’ll meet a man as successful as Hanks or a woman as adorable as Ryan. But you can get to know someone anonymously, in the comfort and privacy of your own home, and perhaps most important, from the inside-out, says Trish McDermott, dating expert at Match.com. Last week alone, 30,000 singles registered with this online site.

Online dating is undoubtedly a massive revolution in how people interact, and has allowed many people to find ideal romantic partners. However, studies suggest that there is often a gap between the virtual model of a potential partner and the reality of the individual; online daters “tend to fill in the information gaps with positive qualities in a potential partner” while many people using dating apps lie about details as simple as their height.

Tall tales.

Even glossing over the big problems with Fair Haven, the episode suffers from many of the recurring flaws in how Voyager tells stories. These issues are small, but they mount up rather quickly. One tiny example includes the revelation that Janeway is “quite an aficionado of Irish history.” This statement, uttered by the EMH, comes out of nowhere and is supported by nothing else in the franchise canon.

Indeed, to pick an example from within the episode, while Janeway knows enough about Ireland to name-drop Trinity College, she clearly doesn’t know enough to understand how giving Michael an education equivalent to that received at Trinity will affect the class dynamics at play in a nineteenth century Irish village. Michael would have had to receive a letter from the parish priest allowing him to study at Trinity, and attending a Protestant university would likely have generated some tension in a Catholic community, especially under British rule.

“Oh, so you created another holographic food and drink area, then? Oh, I’m not bitter.”

As ever, the existence of the holographic environment emphasises the absurdity of the use of the holodeck as a recurring element on Voyager. In terms of plot, what is the point in generating a holographic bar when the messhall serves the same narrative purpose? This is perhaps one reason why Voyager had such difficulty finding a common activity in which the characters might partake, opting to have Paris create virtual hang-out spots that were largely redundant when compared to the amenities already available on the ship.

Fair Haven repeatedly goes out of its way to have the primary characters state how wonderful the simulation is, which feels very defensive; it is telling, rather than showing. “You have outdone yourself this time,” Janeway tells Paris. “Even I have to admit Mister Paris’s latest effort is quite a tour de force,” the EMH concedes. Janeway responds, “Ooh, high praise from a hologram.” It seems like Fair Haven is unable to show the audience how wonderful this holographic environment is, so instead has the characters deliver over-earnest praise.

Holo praise.

In an earlier quote, Mulgrew made an interesting point, contextualising Michael Sullivan as an attempt to add a science-fiction high premise to what might otherwise be a solid character drama, much like Voyager had done in episodes like Real Life or The Swarm. There is a sense that Voyager is still afraid of telling stories that fall outside the wheelhouse of what might be considered “conventional Star Trek narratives”, even after Next Generation episodes like Family and Deep Space Nine episodes like Doctor Bashir, I Presume.

However, Fair Haven also suffers from the need to showhorn in an “anomaly of the week” into a subplot for the episode. The “particle density anomaly” is not as distracting as the “astral eddy” in Real Life or the eponymous alien menace in The Swarm, largely existing to provide a plot justification for leaving the simulation running continuously. (Notably, Deep Space Nine chose a character rather than plot motivation for leaving Vic Fontaine running continuously.) Nevertheless, the “anomaly of the week” provides stakes that Fair Haven really doesn’t need.

“I managed to find something that will keep the stereotypical ‘no romance’ crowd watching, I believe.”

After all, Fair Haven is supposed to be an episode about a light romance on the holodeck, perhaps in keeping with the softer tone of something like Someone to Watch Over Me. The stakes in this story should be personal, at best. However, the “particle density anomaly” theoretically poses a real danger to the ship and the crew. As a result, there is a clear imbalance between the two plots, which becomes very clear at the moment when the two threads overlap.

At one point, Voyager is hammered by the anomaly. Fair Haven offers the familiar “bridge turbulence” scene, dimming the lights and shaking the camera to present the possibility of a real and tangible threat to the crew. However, this is just window dressing the real purpose of the scene is revealed in awkward exposition. “The deflector beam,” Kim states. “We might be able to cut a path through the wavefront.” Tuvok responds, “It’s possible, but we’d have to route all available power to the emitters.” Kim replies, “That won’t be enough. Primary systems are down.”

Proof is in the pudding.

The real dramatic purpose of this crisis is revealed in Janeway’s next order, “Then transfer all secondary power sources. Transporters, replicators, holodecks.” Kim seems shocked, “Captain, there’s not enough time to go through the hologrid shutdown sequence. We’d lose most of Fair Haven.” There is an actual pause, a palpable moment of hesitation. These are the stakes. Janeway might have to shut down the holodeck at the centre of the story. There is a very real emotional weight to that decision.

Of course, that emotional weight means nothing in the context of the scene because Voyager will blow up if Janeway doesn’t actually do it. The personal stakes see tiny, particularly in the heat of the moment when any hesitation could easily lead to the destruction of Voyager and the death of her crew. (And, it should be pointed out, the destruction of the holodeck.) It is a horrible contrived dramatic beat, but one that feels particularly tone-deaf. There is no choice in the matter, even if this didn’t feel like a sadistic last-act twist to the episode.

Fading memory.

Fair Haven is a terrible episode of television, from top to bottom. It is clumsy, shallow, sensationalist, condescending, and cliché. It suffers from a lot of the familiar problems with the writing and plotting on Voyager, amplified by a number of other terrible narrative choices. Fair Haven suggests a potentially interesting story about female pleasure in the twenty-fourth century, but approaches that pleasure with the same puritanical eye as surrounding twentieth century pop culture.

12 Responses

  1. Since your Voyager reviews began, I have anticipated this entry. …Or was I just wincing?

    SFdebris tore into this one, particularly the scene where the Doctor argues for Sullivan to Janeway as though Sullivan were a real person. SFDebris notes that if Sullivan were a real person, then when Janeway erased his wife she was a murderer. The point should not be that Sullivan’s feelings for Janeway are real, the meatier point is that *Janeway* is a real person and *her* emotions are real.

  2. Nice article of the movie

  3. These episodes about the crew obsessing over a hologram construction, never mentions holo addiction, of which the entire crew seemed to have come down with.

    • If Deep Space Nine only had 4% or 11% holodeck episodes, these excrutiating episodes made it seem far higher. They were obsessed with holograms for all the wrong reasons. They didn’t trust sci-fi, maybe.

  4. The new millennium started in 2001.

    • That’s a fair point mathematically speaking – 11:59 even literally has that discussion. However, it’s notable that culturally the celebration of the millennium was the midnight going from 1999 to 2000.

      The review even literally acknowledges as much:

      It is strange to think that Fair Heaven was the first episode of Star Trek to air in the year 2000, making it possibly the first episode of a new millennium. Although, of course, 11:59 would argue that the honour fell to Shattered, which is another ironic choice for similar reasons.

      Italics around possibly from the original.

  5. A poor episode all the way around. With one exception: Janeway’s line, “I rarely lose.” I’d have loved to see this aspect of her personality (perhaps in flashbacks to the Academy?) explored further in subsequent eps.

  6. The first half of this episode is barely tolerable. The setting appears nice, the music fits well, the production value is okay. But the moment the actual story starts, it is a mess. On the one hand Janeway is suddenly an afficionado of Irish history and knows a harp is wrongThen, a few minutes later, she does not know an apparently common Irish saying. And watching Mulgrew here is awful. She appears to have no idea what to do with this stuff aside from her usual charming smile. It is a pain to watch. Especially this arm wrestling scene… Jesus! What the hell?!

    Still… I watched it. But I have seldomly felt a Voyager episode to last soooo long. Interestingly, I never heard of the script writer before, was he a one shot? The phenomenon of the week was a weak attempt to justify the waste of energy for this holo simulation. And I cannot believe that such a storm is so vast that you cannot simply fly around…

    That being said, I did enjoy some of the consequences of Janeways creation of a perfect mate, despite the awful setting and the repeat of the mildly succesful 19th century-nostalgic and puritanic Janeway. Nonetheless this mate-creation seems a bit out of character for her and seeing her pseudo-vulgar inner wishes revealed make her even more Victorian and conservative, not to say unlikeable than usual… And of course she could not risk the adventure of having an affair with Sullivan being married. It is like getting knowledge without being asked and that one does not wish to have. It appears that even the calm and honest Chakotay was simply too dumb, too tattooed and too vulgar for Janeway to really become a love interest. Still there is an uncanny resemblence in type between Sullivan and Chakotay which made me think Janeway just tried to create a better Chakotay in the holodeck, and one where there was no danger of really engaging with a real person.

    Then the Doctor saying to Janeway that a hologram can easily be altered without even considering his own being a hologram (though one with an advanced AI in the background) seemed quite… odd or rather unnuanced. At least the conversation between her and the Doc was the best part of the story, and the line that changing one’s partner on the Holodeck worked as opposed to real life was quite funny. Unfortunately, this dialogue could not help this episode over the line to qualify as recommended watching, not to speak of the mostly useless and technobabblish B-story. The stakes should have been more subtle, like Janeway having to choose between a rougher ride or a smoother one by letting the simulation run or shutting it down.

    Alright, I stop my rambling here. Enough said, and I guess I merely stressed and repeated most of the things you complained about yourself, Darren.

    • Robin Burger worked on both Memorial and Live Fast and Prosper, one of which is among the season’s best episodes and the other is at least better than this. She’s notable for working on a lot of the recent Hallmark movies like The Princess Switch.

  7. You know this is less Voyager’s idea of a simulated Ireland, than it is a Los Angeles perspective on an idealized cartoon Ireland. Paris insists it be sunny, because fog and rain are gloomy. This is quite clearly the Californian writers either making an excuse for the realities of where they film, or expressing their subjective opinions on weather. There are strong echoes of the Vegas imitations of European cities here, which in someways is believable in the virtual reality of a future Starship peopled by culturally American values.

    I found the scene where Janeway designs her holo-boyfriend to be one of the more realistic depictions of how such a recreational device would be used. If anything, most of the male crew would have virtual harems and programs so horrifyingly pornographic that they couldn’t be shown on HBO. Janeway’s activities mirror online dating (as you mention), as well as MMO video games and programs like Second Life. The idea of a digital avatar/boyfriend is reflected in her sex-doll boyfriend.

    I found the idea to make the Doctor into a priest a bit interesting yet also insulting. He is a caricature of a caricature, spouting vague phrases about moral norms. He alludes to giving a homily.

    Showing the doctor’s homily would probably be more explosively controversial than any sex scene they could have thought up. But these scenes also depict a future where all human faiths have become like D&D roles. This makes little to no sense.

    The episode opens up so many cans of worms that it’s hard for me to mentally keep up with them all.

    One final thought is how this holodeck program represents a sort of white American ideal of a civic paradise – the weird creation of an all-white world. As a non-American, I often get annoyed how everyone in the Trek future is from the US. At least in TOS, Chekhov was from the USSR and kept his home language, offering a future where the USA hasn’t simply conquered the earth through some sort of global cultural genocide.

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