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Star Trek: Voyager – Flesh and Blood, Part I (Review)

In its seventh season, Star Trek: Voyager gets nostalgic.

It happens naturally when long-running shows begin the process of wrapping up. It is inevitable that the production team will look back with affection and sincerity towards the early years of their shared adventures. The seventh season of Star Trek: The Next Generation made a conscious effort to tie up loose ends and to handle long-dangling plot threats. Daimon Bok made a surprise return in Bloodlines, seven years after his first appearance in The Battle. In fact, All Good Things… even sent Picard back in time to relive the events of Encounter at Farpoint.

Going off the grid.

That nostalgia simmers and bubbles through Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II. The two-parter is openly nostalgic, consciously harking back to the middle seasons of the show. Both parts were aired in a single evening, recalling the broadcast of The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II or Dark Frontier, Part I and Dark Frontier, Part II. More to the point, the two-parter brought back the Hirogen for their first appearance since the fourth season, acknowledging that they were perhaps Voyager‘s most successful recurring alien menace.

Unfortunately, Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II are a flawed recreation of the past. They are a fake, a simulation, an illusion. They are crafted from a fading memory of the show’s short-lived glory years, and rooted in a number of fundamental misunderstandings about what exactly worked when Voyager was at its best. The result is deeply unsatisfying and frustrating.

They were never really here.

The fourth season of Voyager was undoubtedly its strongest single year. The series had good episodes outside of that stretch, with the third season working hard to stabilise what had been a turbulent first two years, and the fifth season producing a number of classics even if it could not maintain as consistent a level of quality. There were a number of reasons why the fourth season worked so well, many of them rooted in behind the scenes factor. Brannon Braga was still a young and hungry writer, but Jeri Taylor was a stable and steady hand keeping the ship balanced.

Of course, the seventh season cannot meaningfully recapture that magic. Jeri Taylor contributed a single script to Voyager following her departure, Nothing Human in the fifth season, and there was every indication that Taylor was happy to enjoy her retirement. Indeed, there are no further television credits to her name. Brannon Braga had burned out on Voyager during the sixth season, and had stepped away from the series in its final year to work on what would become Star Trek: Enterprise. Neither Taylor nor Braga were coming back.

“Wait, are we doing The Killing Game or Year of Hell?”

Showrunner Kenneth Biller could not actually recreate that lost past, an era for which Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II overtly yearn. Instead, the production team can simply bring back the trappings of that era. Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II repeatedly introduce elements and concepts that evoke the fourth season of Voyager, that are familiar enough to stir up a distant fondness in the audience’s mind, without any real understanding of why these concepts worked so well in the first place.

This is most obvious in the format of the episode. Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II was broadcast as a television movie. It is packaged on both DVD and streaming services as a feature-length instalment of Voyager. There are relatively few Star Trek episodes, outside of pilots and finales, that air in this format. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had The Way of the Warrior. However, Voyager teased this format by airing The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II on the same night. Dark Frontier, Part I and Dark Frontier, Part II then aired as a single episode.

Fading memory.

Voyager is well-suited to this format. Writer Brannon Braga consciously and repeatedly pushed Voyager towards spectacle in a way rather distinct from the galactic war epic unfolding on Deep Space Nine. Braga pushed Voyager to be bigger and bolder in its storytelling; pushing for two-part adventures like Future’s End, Part I and Future’s End, Part II, ambitious special effects like those employed in Macrocosm, explosively high stakes like those in Deadlock or Timeless. Braga wanted Voyager to be a blockbuster on television, and so pushed the series in that direction.

However, “Star Trek on a blockbuster scale” is a challenging aesthetic. It requires a certain set of skills for a production team to execute; it requires both a sturdy script and a strong director, each with a strong understanding of what Voyager can do. Braga had his limitations as both a writer and a showrunner, but he tended to understand what Voyager could accomplish. Many of the highlights of Voyager are Braga’s blockbuster scripts co-written with Joe Menosky, such as Scorpion, Part I and Scorpion, Part II or Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II.

Rescued in the Donik of time.

Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II illustrate how easy it is to misunderstand the mechanics of the blockbuster aesthetic. Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II might look like The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II or Dark Frontier, Part I and Dark Frontier, Part II, but they are much sloppier in execution. Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II form the weakest of these mid-season “event” movies, even beyond the questionable story logic underpinning the two-parter.

Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II were broadcast as a television movie, but they never feel entirely cohesive. Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky tended to write both parts of their epic two-part stories together: Future’s End, Part I and Future’s End, Part II, Scorpion, Part I and Scorpion, Part IIYear of Hell, Part I `and Year of Hell, Part IIThe Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part IIEquinox, Part I and Equinox, Part IIUnimatrix Zero, Part I and Unimatrix Zero, Part II.

Wet work.

The directors on individual episodes might change, to be fair; David Livingston directed The Killing Game, Part I and Victor Lobl directed The Killing Game, Part II, while Cliff Bole directed Dark Frontier, Part I and Terry Windell directed Dark Frontier, Part II. There were, however, rare occasions where the director remained consistent, such as when David Livingston directed both Equinox, Part I and Equinox, Part II. However, a consistency on the writing staff ensured a consistency of vision to both halves of the story.

The writing credits on Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II are a mess. Jack Monaco has a story credit on Flesh and Blood, Part I, but not Flesh and Blood, Part II. While Bryan Fuller and Raf Green have a story credit on both parts, Fuller only has a teleplay credit on Flesh and Blood, Part I and Green only has a teleplay credit on Flesh and Blood, Part II. More than that, showrunner Ken Biller has a teleplay credit on Flesh and Blood, Part II, but not Flesh and Blood, Part I.

Quality father-son time.

The result is a story that is a mess. To be fair, these feature-length episodes often have a pivot around the mid-point, a clean break that can both support a cliffhanger on broadcast in syndication and provide the narrative with enough material to sustain another forty-odd minutes. The Killing Game, Part I ends with the holograms invading Voyager and the crew becoming aware of their predicament, while Dark Frontier, Part I ends with the raid on the Borg ship and Seven of Nine’s capture by the Borg Collective.

The issues with Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II are more fundamental in nature. Most obviously, Iden is not a consistent character between Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II, changing dramatically between the two halves of the story. In Flesh and Blood, Part I, Iden is willing to allow the EMH to return to Voyager and the cliffhanger to the episode hinges on the character keeping his promise to the EMH. However, in Flesh and Blood, Part II, he very quickly becomes a scenery-chewing sociopathic monster in a way barely foreshadowed.

And away (team) we go!

Of course, characterisation has been known to change in the space between two parts of a single story. Equinox, Part I and Equinox, Part II very heavily rewrite the character of Captain Rudolph Ransom in the space between the two episodes, in order to justify a redemption that feels largely unearned. That was a problem, even when those episodes were separated by the long summer hiatus. However, the problem in Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II is only amplified by the fact that the story is typically watched as a single ninety-minute episode.

The characterisation of Iden is only the most obvious example of the stark contrast that exists between Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part IIFlesh and Blood, Part I is by far the stronger of the two episodes, leaning heavily into ambiguity and uncertainty. In contrast, Flesh and Blood, Part II falls back on much more comfortable moral certainty, drawing much neater lines between various characters and providing much more trite conclusions. Again, this is similar to the issues with Equinox, Part I and Equinox, Part II, only amplified by the television movie format.

“We’ll have to make this quick. I’m due on Enterprise next year.”

To be fair, the difference in quality between Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II is perhaps to be expected. Bryan Fuller was one of the most promising young writers to come through the Voyager writing staff, and the writer with the most interesting career following his involvement with the franchise. Fuller never got to live up to his potential, but his credits include highlights like The RavenLiving WitnessBride of Chaotica! and Gravity. Ken Biller and Rafe Green cannot compete with that.

Even in terms of basic structure, it seems like the seventh season of Voyager clearly wants to create something as enjoyable as The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II or as epic in scope as Dark Frontier, Part I and Dark Frontier, Part II, but has forgotten the simple mechanics of how to construct a story that works on those terms. The seventh season of Voyager seems to be operating on a very loose memory of what the past was, but without any actual understanding of it.

“Do you know how rare these things are out here? Condition is used, but good.”

Perhaps the single strangest thing about Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II is the way in which the two-parter seems openly nostalgic for the Star Trek mythos beyond Voyager itself. The episode is populated by characters and concepts ported over from The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. When the EMH introduces Torres to Iden’s holographic crew, she gasps, “It looks like an Alpha Quadrant summit in here.” Chakotay finds a Klingon Bat’leth lodged in a tree. The most prominent holographic characters are a Starfleet officer, a Bajoran and a Cardassian.

Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II explain that these images were all taken from Voyager’s own database. However, it seems strange that Hirogen have little interest in hunting species encountered in the Delta Quadrant, like the Kazon or the Vidiians or the Malon or even Species 8472. (There is a holographic Borg drone, to be fair.) This is never suggested or discussed. Donik has been making serious alterations to the technology, but it seems like the Hirogen are happy with the pre-loaded data set.

“Apparently the Alpha doesn’t like the TNG Season One uniforms here. And that’s a good thing. Imagine staging a water ambush in those.”

In reality, this has little to do with the internal logic of the story, and more to do with a broader nostalgia within the seventh season of Voyager. Of course, Voyager has a long history of introducing classic Star Trek aliens into the Delta Quadrant, in stories like Eye of the Needle, Dreadnought, Death Wish and False Profits. The seventh season amplifies this trend. The Ferengi return in Inside Man. The crew encounter a Klingon ship in Prophecy. The presence of Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Breen and Bajorans in Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II is part of that.

The result is a vague and undefined sense that Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II are nostalgic for something beyond Voyager itself. This two-parter seems as nostalgic for Deep Space Nine as it does for Voyager, particularly given the attention paid to Iden’s Bajoran faith and the reasons that Torres is instinctively distrustful of Cardassians without any specific reference to Nothing Human. In fact, Voyager has spent so long trying to be generic Star Trek that it makes sense its nostalgia should be for a more generic type of Star Trek.

It’ll do in a pinch.

After all, this is a story that is steeped in continuity of Voyager in a way that makes absolutely no sense. Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II are intended as a direct sequel to The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II, exploring the consequences of Janeway’s decision to provide the Hirogen with holographic technology at the end of the fourth season two-parter. However, the episode never quite explains how exactly this story is supposed to work in terms of logistics.

Voyager has travelled more than thirty thousand light years since the events of The Killing Game, Part II. That is almost half the journey home. How are they still encountering the Hirogen? Of course, Message in a Bottle suggested that the Hirogen had control of a vast long-distance communications array, but the system was damaged beyond use at the climax of Hunters. Even allowing for the nomadic nature of the Hirogen as pack hunters, how could they possibly manage to share Federation technology so widely and build infrastructure so sturdy in so short a time?

“So, exactly how large was Kazon space?”

Even watching Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II, the internal logic seems fudged. When Chakotay is informed that the ship has received “a distress call on an Hirogen frequency”, he shrugs it off with a casual, “We haven’t heard from them in a while.” There is no other surprise at seeing the Hirogen this far out. Similarly, Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II make it seem like Janeway gave the Hirogen the technology more than three years earlier, if only because it seems to have already fundamentally altered Hirogen culture.

To be fair, these are standard problems on Voyager. The series has never really embraced the idea of long-form storytelling and continuity, aggressively rejecting the prospect in episodes like The Voyager Conspiracy. The series has always had a very elastic sense of distances. The crew spent two years travelling through Kazon space between Caretaker and Basics, Part II. The final encounter with the Malon in Juggernaut took place more than thirty thousand light years away from where the crew first encountered them in Night.

“The hunter has become the hunted.”

The irony, of course, is that Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II are trying to build a sense of continuity in the same way that other seventh season episodes like Shattered and Q2 try to stitch together a history of Voyager. The only problem is that Voyager has never been a show interested in acknowledging the passage of time. For a series about a very clearly marked out journey to a single fixed point, Voyager often seems to be stuck in one place without any sense of movement or momentum.

Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II measure the passage of time in a strange manner. The audience knows that approximately three years have passed since The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II, although it is very hard to find any substantive mark of those three years in terms of characterisation or appearance. However, watching Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II it seems like both more and less time has passed simultaneously. Less in the sense of the Hirogen being around, more in the sense of Hirogen culture having changed.

A cut above.

In an interview with Star Trek: The Magazine, Kenneth Biller made a strong case for Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II as episodes steeped in the show’s continuity:

Fans of continuity will be delighted to hear that Ken also wants to see how the characters deal with the consequences of their actions and that whatever decisions the Doctor makes won’t simply be forgotten the next week. He’s equally interested in dealing with the consequences of actions our characters took in the past, and adds that the story is also about how Janeway copes with finding out what the Hirogen have done with the technology she gave them.

“Flesh and Blood isn’t simply about the Doctor; it’s also about Janeway being forced to deal with the repercussions of the choices she’s made in the Delta Quadrant. What has she done to survive? She’s traded technology. Is she therefore responsible for this technology? We have the wonderful phrase that the NRA use: ‘Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.’ Well, Janeway has to ask herself, did she give the people guns, or was she trying to give them a database? Those are all big issues we’ll be dealing with.”

As with a lot of publicity, this is clearly a lie. The EMH’s actions are largely forgotten by the time Shattered starts, and only briefly discussed in Author, Author.

“I am the most popular cast member. What are you going to do, write me out?”

The amount of emphasis that Biller placed on continuity during the publicity lead-in to Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II is remarkable. After all, Voyager is one third of the way through its final season. It is highly unlikely that the series would suddenly and dramatically change direction this late in the game, even if it wanted to. More than that, there has been no indication in episodes like Repression and Nightingale that Biller is actually interested in telling long-form stories that develop over the course of the season.

Nevertheless, Biller’s repeated references to continuity and to long-form storytelling suggest that the production team were well aware that the audience expected a move away from the traditional episodic structure. Voyager aired at a point in time where American television radically changed, but it remained steadfast in its devotion to a style of television rooted in the late eighties. Biller is making promises on which the seventh season will not deliver, but those promise reveal an understanding of just how out of touch Voyager is with contemporary culture.

“On the other hand, would you really miss Neelix?”

In an interview with the official Star Trek website, Biller framed Flesh and Blood, Part I, Flesh and Blood, Part II and Shattered as stories about consequences:

Much of the overriding story arc planned for the concluding season of Star Trek: Voyager is Captain Janeway’s. Early in the season, staff writers plan to force Janeway to examine the consequences of her original decision to strand the crew in the Delta Quadrant. Several episodes will also deal specifically with the ramifications of choices Janeway has made along the way.

A November sweeps, two-part Voyager episode, Flesh and Blood, puts Janeway back in conflict with the Hirogen, for example, whose use of holodeck technology has gotten out of control. Later, in Shattered, time-travel will allow Chakotay to lead a pre-stranded Janeway around her ship, experiencing different slices of the crew’s story.

“She’ll face key moments in her past,” says ST: VOY executive producer Ken Biller, “and a few points in the future that will take place if they can’t escape the anomaly that time-shatters the ship.”

Indeed, the seventh season of Voyager is fascinated with the idea of the consequences of action and interference, as reflected in stories like Friendship One and Natural Law.

Fair game.

Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II returns time and time again to the question of Janeway’s responsibility for the current crisis. The two-parter leans very heavily on Janeway’s decision to provide the Hirogen with holographic technology at the end of The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II, using that gift as a way to explore Janeway’s culpability in the deaths of countless Hirogen at the hands of Iden’s holograms.

Reading about the massacre of the Hirogen, Janeway is shocked at the weapons used; they are all associated with Alpha Quadrant powers. “I think we’ll find they all came from the holotechnology we gave the Hirogen three years ago,” Chakotay helpfully explains. Janeway is horrified. “They obviously missed the point,” she insists. “We gave them that technology so they could hunt holographic prey, not get themselves killed.”

Hiro(gen) of her own story.

When Janeway introduces herself to Donik, he recognises her by name. “Janeway,” he repeats. Then he places it. “This is Voyager?” Chakotay observes, “Looks like our reputation preceded us.” Donik explains, “You’re the ones who gave us the technology to simulate our hunts.” Although Donik is not blaming Janeway for the massacre, he is contextualising this recent atrocity in terms of the crew’s interactions with the Delta Quadrant.

There are two big problems with this dangling plot thread. The first is that it relies on a very heavy distortion of Voyager‘s internal continuity, a heavily altered account of the crew’s time travelling through the wilderness. Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II presents the holographic rebellion in terms of chickens coming home to roost for Janeway, but this relies on a very heavy rewriting of the end of The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II.

“Of course we use the holodecks to simulate the brutal murder of sentient creatures. Wait, what else can you do in a holodeck?”

In a meeting with Tuvok and Chakotay, Janeway reflects, “I’d say we’re at least partly to blame. That was Starfleet technology that killed those hunters.” Chakotay responds, “There’s nothing inherently violent about holodeck technology. It’s what the Hirogen did with it that got them killed.” Janeway cuts across her second-in-command, “How many times have we shared replicators to help people feed and clothe themselves?”

The answer, based on what the audience has seen of Voyager, should be “very few.” The series has repeatedly and consciously argued against sharing technology with alien races. In Prime Factors, Janeway argued strongly against trading the ship’s library of literature for a possible shortcut home. The first two seasons had Janeway horrified at the thought that Federation technology might find its way into the hands of the Kazon in episodes like State of Flux and Alliances.

“Don’t worry. I won’t face any consequences for this. Have you watched this show?”

The crew have consistently worked hard to minimise their impact on alien societies in the Delta Quadrant. They attempted to undo the damage that two Ferengi had done to a primitive culture in False Profits, stole back hijacked technology in Concerning Flight and tracked down con artists posing as the crew in Live Fast and Prosper. If anything, Janeway is more likely to take technology from other societies than to offer it freely; whether for their own good in stories like The Omega Directive or for her own benefit in episodes like Dark Frontier, Part I and Dark Frontier, Part II.

The decision to provide the Hirogen with holodeck technology in The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II was very much the exception rather than the rule. The closing moments of The Killing Game, Part II are so striking because they seem so aggressively out-of-character for Janeway. It is a moment that exists largely in contrast to the characterisation of Janeway across the run of the series. Even then, the circumstances in The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II were exceptional. Janeway arguably made the trade in order to save the ship.

The episode’s politics are scattered, to say the least.

As such, the angst in Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II heavily mischaracterises Janeway’s behaviour both in The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II and across the entire seven-season run of Voyager. Chakotay argues, “Trading technology is part of our life in the Delta Quadrant.” Tuvok replies, “It has been necessary for our survival.” Janeway replies, “Maybe we should have been a little more careful about what we traded and who we traded with. Replicators make weapons just as easily as they do food.”

Many Voyager episodes deal with the idea of the crew trading and dealing in return for supplies, assistance and information. However, most of these trades are framed in material terms. In Nightingale, Janeway trades some “zeolitic ore” for “a new set of deuterium injectors.” In Alice, Neelix trades a beryllium crystal for information. Perhaps the closest that Janeway comes to trading technology in Think Tank, when she offers the crew’s research on “quantum slipstream technology” from Threshold to Kurros. However, Kurros is already a very advanced alien.

Beta to the max!

As a result, the angst that Janeway feels in Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II is very contrived. It is disingenuous. It is a plot point that supposed to feel rooted in a sense of history and continuity, but which is impossible to reconcile with any characterisation of Janeway that the audience has seen up to this point. Janeway never mentions that the holodeck technology was traded in desperation, as a way to stop the Hirogen from destroying the ship. An audience member watching Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II would think it was traded casually.

The second big issue with this angst is that Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II never finds a satisfying conclusion. The story about the holographic technology in Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II is painted largely as a cautionary tale. Notably, Janeway immediately sides with the Hirogen as the victimised party. Her guilt about the holographic technology is rooted in the idea that the Hirogen are innocent victims of technology that they do not understand, rather than having any responsibility rooted in their treatment of the holograms.

It’s like he’s not all there.

Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II plays like a story of two halves, with Janeway and the EMH largely trapped within two different narratives that never properly intersect. The EMH gets to spend time with Iden and the holograms, while Janeway never directly interacts with any holograms apart from Kejal. The only organic crewmember to interact with Iden is Torres. There is no indication of any communication between Voyager and the ship hijacked by the holograms, outside of a joke about how the projections should “hail Janeway. Thank her.”

The result is that it seems almost inhuman for Janeway to treat the crisis as a result of malfunctioning technology. Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II very clearly want to be an archetypal Star Trek story, in the way that episodes like Drive and The Void are designed to evoke archetypal utopian Star Trek themes. Janeway’s plot thread in Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II is a Prime Directive story, in all but name. There are several of those kinds of stories in the seventh season, including Friendship One and Natural Law.

“Wait, what do you mean I’m not getting a guest role on Enterprise?”

The Prime Directive was clumsily applied in classic Star Trek stories like The Apple or A Private Little War. In contrast, The Next Generation more consistently used the Prime Directive as a way to generate angst for the crew in stories like Justice or Pen Pals. This approach very quickly wore out its welcome. The Next Generation was telling these stories more than a decade prior. The preoccupation that the seventh season of Voyager has with these kinds of stories is exhausting, a feast of bland reheats.

The issue with Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II is that these problems are compounded by a complete lack of any singular perspective or convincing conclusion. At one point in Flesh and Blood, Part II, Donik tries to reassure Janeway that the holographic technology isn’t all bad. When she laments sharing the technology with the Hirogen, he objects, “If you hadn’t, I’d have become a hunter, like my father and his father. Instead, I had a chance to learn, become an engineer.”

Gotta have faith.

This would be an interesting angle to develop. After all, Karr made a similar argument in The Killing Game, Part I. Karr argued that Hirogen society needed to change, that their way of life was not sustainable. Karr argued that the holodeck might change that. Donik seems to be proof of this. After all, Donik doesn’t seem like he’s particularly well suited to big game hunts and wilderness pursuits. Instead, he found a calling and a purpose. However, Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II never really develop this angle.

More to the point, Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II end without any real conclusion on either of the two major plot threads. In terms of Janeway’s plot thread, it is never made clear whether the Hirogen will continue to use the holographic technology, and so it is never made clear how Janeway feels about that. If the Hirogen are going to use holographic technology, what safeguards will they put in place to stop the crisis from repeating? If the Hirogen aren’t going to use the holographic technology, is their society doomed?

“Gentlemen, you can’t make a mess in here, it’s the Mess!”

As with a lot of seventh season episodes, the issue isn’t that Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II make a poor or ill-advised choice in exploring these big ideas. The issue is that Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II never make any choices at all. Like Critical Care, the story works hard to avoid any actual substantive engagement with the issues raised. The seventh season of Voyager likes the superficial appearance of raising tough questions, but dislikes the hard work of actually following through on them.

The result is a two-parter that feels both unstarted and unfinished. Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II fabricate history and continuity in service of a plot with which they have no real engagement. Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II want to exist as markers of the passage of time on Voyager, cannot find the energy to look back over their shoulder nor plot a course to a definitive conclusion. The results are deeply, deeply unsatisfying.

Prey of light.

Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II long to evoke the past as it never actually existed while promising an ending that never arrives. Voyager can conjure up the rough outline of the past, but can never populate it with any real detail. The call of memory is all illusory, as hollow as Iden himself.

2 Responses

  1. It’s really remarkable how small the Hirogen are by this episode, the point where Neelix is able to take them on in a bar brawl by throwing fruit at them, lol.

    You would have thought the Cardassians the Hirogen would have programmed as prey would have been brutal Obsidian Order agents or something.

    By this point it is very clearly established: Holodeck tech is far, far too dangerous to be worth the effort of using. I would want to rip it out of all my systems if I was a Starfleet captain.

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