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Star Trek: Voyager – Workforce, Part II (Review)

Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II form an interesting two-parter.

A large part of this is purely structural, and down to the role that they play within the larger arc of the seventh season of Star Trek: Voyager. One of the most common, and biggest, criticisms of Endgame is that the episode doesn’t actually offer any meaningful pay-off to the seven-year journey. The characters never actually get set foot on Earth, never get to come home. The final shot of the series is the ship itself approaching Earth, with no sense of what it was like for those characters to return to the home that they had sought for more than half a decade. To be fair to Endgame, the finale does open with a flash-forward that features a crew reunion decades after their return, but that timeline is erased by the events that follow.

Chakotay or the highway.

Season finales tend to offer some indication of what happens to the characters after the end of the television series, an assurance to the audience that their journey is over and that their lives will work out. On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, What You Leave Behind resolved the Dominion War in its opening sixty minutes before spending thirty minutes wrapping up various plot threads. On Star Trek: The Next Generation, the future timeline in All Good Things… hinted at potential futures for the characters. Even on Star Trek: Enterprise, the much-maligned These Are the Voyages… featured the characters bringing the ship home to be decommissioned so that Archer could lay the groundwork for the Federation.

In contrast, Voyager just stops. There is no real consideration of what happens to the crew; Admiral Owen Paris never gets to meet his granddaughter, the Maquis never get their pardons, Janeway never reunites with Mollie. There is no sense of how they settle into life after their adventure, no question of what happens to them when they aren’t defined by their seventy-thousand-light-year journey across the galaxy. Oddly enough, this complete absence in Endgame makes Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II feel much more important in the larger context of the season.

Over the moon about it.

The seventh season of Voyager does not have a clear arc in the same way that the seventh season of Deep Space Nine did, or even in the smaller sense of interconnected narratives and themes running through the final season of Enterprise. Notably, the one big story element that the producers did try to set up – the relationship between Chakotay and Seven of Nine – was a spectacular misfire. There is very little sense that the show is coming to an end. Many of the episodes from the seventh season could easily have been produced at almost any point in the show’s run. There is nothing especially conclusive about stories like Imperfection, Repression, Critical Care, Body and Soul, Nightingale or Repentance. These could be fourth, fifth or sixth season stories.

Still, there is a more subtle thematic shift in the stories that Voyager has been pushing to the fore during this final season. There are a number of decisions in the seventh season that largely make sense in the context of this being the final season; marrying Paris and Torres in Drive, having Torres become pregnant in Lineage. Even beyond that, there is a sense of the series feeling nostalgic in episodes like Shattered, Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II. There is also a sense of the series reflecting on its place within the Star Trek canon, with late season episodes designed to emphasise that connection like the Klingon-centric Prophecy or the Prime-Directive-driven Natural Law or the Measure of a Man remake Author, Author or the makeshift Federation in The Void.

Taking no Joy in this.

As such, there is a slightly funereal tone to the seventh season, a sense that the series is winding down. There is no sense that Voyager is actively working through that feeling in a meaningful way, but it still hangs over the seventh season. In this context, it is worth noting Bryan Fuller’s original pitch for the story that developed into Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II, which he discussed with Cinefantastique:

Fuller recalled initially pitching a story in which the first one or two acts would play out as Titanic, as the ship went down: “The ship is uninhabitable. They get into escape pods, and they launch. Everybody abandons ship. What we realise is that the escape pods all have microfractures in them, and they vent oxygen, and everybody in the escape pods – the entire crew – dies. It was dealing with all sorts of different issues in terms of identity and what happens after death, in a sci-fi context.”

Fuller imagined that the Kobali, from the sixth season episode Ashes to Ashes, would sweep down on the dead crew and reanimate them, which is the way the Kobali procreate. The crew would then have new Kobali lives. Of course, a few crew members, Chakotay, the Doctor, Neelix and Kim would have been on away missions, and then would have to either rescue the rest of the crew or decide to leave them in their new lives. The idea was not used in that form. Laughed Fuller about the idea of killing off most of the crew, “We were told that it was tasteless to do that.”

This is very much in keeping with Fuller’s thematic interests. Fuller famously wrote Mortal Coil, the episode in which Neelix confronted the black empty void that appeared to be waiting for him after death. Fuller had also co-written Course: Oblivion, which featured a slowly disintegrating version of the ship and its crew. Notably, Fuller would go on to work on shows like Pushing Daisies, Hannibal and American Gods, with their own morbid preoccupations with death.

A dark twist.

However, even in their finished form, Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II feel very much like final season stories in a way that is hard to quantify. Theoretically, Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II could have been neatly slotted into any season of Voyager. The character of Seven of Nine would have to be removed for the first three seasons, but in terms of basic plot mechanics Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II are fairly standard episodes of Voyager. The crew have spent the better part of seven seasons dealing with predatory and exploitative aliens. This isn’t even the first time that the crew has been taken from the ship and stranded on a hostile world; that was the plot of the series’ first two-parter – Basics, Part I and Basics, Part II – so there’s a weird symmetry here.

However, Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II fulfill an important function in the final season of Voyager, albeit indirectly. Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II allow the audience to get a sense of the characters on Voyager living a life outside of the ship and the journey, to allow them the opportunity to make a home together and settle down. Naturally, this is all the result of a sinister plan by a hostile alien conspiracy to exploit them as workers, but that is largely incidental. A large part of the appeal of Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II is watching familiar characters in unfamiliar situations, free from the burden of a seventy-year trip towards home. (Of course, Voyager very rarely made it feel like a burden in a meaningful sense, but the characters were still defined by it.)

Bringing these themes to a fore(head).

As noted, one of the more persistent criticisms of Endgame was that it declined to show “what happened next”, cutting to black before exploring any consequences or after-effects of the crew’s return to Earth. Actor Garret Wang articulated his frustration with the structure of the finale:

I think the first hour of the finale was fantastic, very exciting, well written, good pacing. Everything was great about the first hour, but then the second hour it just seemed like it tied up all of the loose ends very quickly. So, the second half of the finale I was not happy about, and I especially didn’t like the fact that we ended the series in Earth’s orbit. We don’t even step foot on Earth. Hello! After seven years, I think the fans wanted to see us actually step foot on terra firma.

Wang’s criticisms are entire fair. Voyager was a show about a crew searching desperately for a way “home”, and so it would make sense for Voyager to explain or articulate what “home” actually means to these characters. Endgame feels very much like a cheat on those grounds.

Fix-it Fic.

Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II belong to a rich and familiar tradition of final season episodes. Like Gambit, Part I and Gambit, Part II, these episodes allow the audience the opportunity to view these characters outside of their usual context. Gambit, Part I and Gambit, Part II featured Jean-Luc Picard reinventing himself as the swashbuckling space pirate Galen, allowing Patrick Stewart to step neatly outside of the role that The Next Generation had defined for him. Similarly, Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II allows the audience to see the cast of Voyager in unusual situations. Paris working at a bar, Janeway living in an apartment and striking up a romance with her coworker, Tuvok (inevitably) having a psychotic breakdown.

To a certain extent, Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II feel like fan fiction. More than that, they feel like a particular brand of fan fiction. Certain types of fan fiction will take characters out of their original context and imagine them in more mundane settings. “High school alternate universe” is a very familiar fan fiction setting, to the point that Clueless is essentially a “high school alternate universe” fan fiction version of Emma. However, the Voyager cast are a little old for that. As such, Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II play almost like variations on the “coffee shop” or “flower shop” alternate universe settings that are very common in fanfiction, imagining what it would be like to see familiar characters living different lives.

“I think this is the most time we’ve spent together in about five seasons.”

It should be noted that this is not the only time that Voyager has indulged in this sort of writing, heavily reminiscent of fan fiction. Near the end of the second season, Resolutions trapped Janeway and Chakotay alone together on an alien planet and asked them to make a new life together. As much as the story declined to develop this idea in any meaningful sense, there was something refreshing in Jeri Taylor’s willingness to craft a different sort of Star Trek story. There was an endearing gentleness to Resolutions. Despite a largely superfluous action subplot featuring a Vidiian ambush, Resolutions was largely willing to luxuriate in the mundanity of these two people trapped together in paradise.

These aren’t the kind of stories that Star Trek usually tells. With the obvious exception of something like Tapestry, most stories offering glimpses of potential and alternate lives for primary characters tend to focus on excitement and drama. The mirror universe is perhaps the most obvious example, populated with pirates and barbarians in stories like Mirror, Mirror, Crossover and Despite Yourself. Similarly, stories like Yesterday’s EnterpriseCourse: Oblivion and Twilight tend to be more solemn and grim affairs. Even episodes like Worst Case Scenario and Living Witness tend to lean into absurd extremes. In contrast, the alternate lives depicted in Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II are defined by their gentleness.

No quarters given.

There is something very comforting in this, in getting a sense of what the lives of these characters might be like if they had never ended up on the eponymous ship lost in a distant corner of the galaxy. It is notable, for example, that Workforce, Part I devotes a lot of time and energy to reuniting Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres. This is a rather contrived plot point, relying on all manner of warped logic. It seems a coincidence that both characters should end up at the same bar, with their schedules overlapping. More than that, it took Torres about three years to warm to Paris on the ship, so it seems strange that they should click so instantly after a chance encounter as two strangers in an alien bar.

However, this is the whole point of the exercise. Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II are designed to reassure audience members that these characters will be okay even without the shared bond of travelling together across the galaxy, that these characters will not drift apart or fall to pieces once their “mission” is complete. Even removed from their shared mission, Seven of Nine is still drawn towards Tuvok and is still sensitive to his plight. Even without a shared mission to hold them together, Paris and Torres are still destined to find love with one another. Perhaps most interestingly, even without her single-minded fixation on getting her crew home, Janeway is able to have a rich and fulfilling life on her own terms.

“This isn’t what I meant when I said my character arc could use a shot in the arm!”

Voyager often failed to offer a meaningful definition of “home”, outside of some vague nostalgic yearning to travel back to the start. This is a fundamental failing of the series as a whole, and one of the fundamental ways in which the production team betrayed their core premise. However, Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II offer a glimpse of something close to that idea of “home.” It isn’t nearly enough in the larger context of the seventh season, but that is a failure with Voyager more than a failure with Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II. This feels very much like an episode that belongs in the final season of the show, one that tackles abstract existential questions in an indirect manner.

Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II allow Voyager to ask “what happens to the crew if they were no longer journeying?” Other Star Trek series have asked similar questions in their own final seasons. Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges allowed Deep Space Nine to ask “what happens after the dust settles on the Dominion War?” Even more ambitiously, In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II do this both literally and figuratively in the final season of Enterprise. They do it literally in the sense of including biographical notes on the futures of Archer and his crew. However, they do it more figuratively by offering audiences a glimpse of what is at stake in Demons and Terra Prime, what Paxton’s “human-centric consciousness” might look like in action.

Doctoring records.

In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II offer an interesting point of comparison for Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II, because there is a sense in which the events of this final season two-parter are not “real” even as they offer a thematically important glimpse into the possible lives of the characters as the show enters its final stretch. Janeway acknowledges this function towards the end of Workforce, Part II, as the ship prepares to leave orbit of Quarra. “It may not have been real, Chakotay, but it felt like home,” she concedes. This is what “home” might look like and feel like to the crew, even if it is not “really” home.

Quarra is not exactly home. In fact, it is another example of the many facsimiles and simulacra that populate Voyager. Reflecting the late nineties anxieties of the series, Voyager is consciously and repeatedly preoccupied with the question of what is real and what is not. It is the first Star Trek series to feature a hologram as a credited lead. On Voyager, reality seems to constantly warp and shatter; the EMH’s crisis of identity in Projections, Seven of Nine’s breakdown in Infinite Regress, Janeway’s romance with the a computer simulation in Fair Haven. Appearing in Voyager is to invite a crisis of identity, traveling backwards and forwards in time in episodes like Relativity or encountering alternate universe duplicates in Deadlock or even creating clones in Demon.

Making it work.

Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II belong in this tradition, offering a narrative similar to contemporaneous millennial blockbusters like The Matrix, Dark City, The Thirteenth FlooreXistenz, The Truman Show. In Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II, the crew find themselves living lives that do not belong to them, their identities stolen in order to facilitate conformity. These stories are often explicitly anticapitalist, as Randy Laist argues of The Matrix:

The parallelism between Neo’s boss, himself supposedly another human battery dreaming in a pod, and the Agents, the personified enforcers of intramatrical behaviour, suggests that life for Neo as a worker in a simulated capitalist environment is identical to his life as an amniotic pod-person. Throughout this scene, workers are cleaning the windows outside Mr Rinehart’s office, the squeaking of their squeegees punctuating the dialogue. This obtrusive window washing seems intended to communicate an overt message to the audience, over the heads of the film’s characters, about how transparently the scene renders the metaphorical relationship between Neo’s job and his existential status as a slave of the machines. “Do I make myself clear?”, Rinehart asks at the end of the scene. “Yes, Mr Rinehart, perfectly clear”, answers Neo. But, because Neo’s world is a simulated version of our own, this winking gesture to the audience also clarifies the implication that the transparency of the metaphor cuts through three realities: 2199, the Matrix, and our own. The metaphoricity that links Neo’s job to his status as a human battery is itself a metaphor for the extent to which we ourselves in 1999 are immersed in power structures that are both simulacral and dehumanising.

In many of these late nineties stories, the simulacra is presented as an extension of a hyper-capitalist society; the human batteries of The Matrix, the use of Truman as a product (and to market products) in The Truman Show, the market forces driving the development of the virtual worlds in The Thirteenth Floor or eXistenZ.

She was never really here.

While Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II do not belabour this point, but they do fold Voyager‘s nineties anxieties about fractured reality into a set of broader cultural anxieties. The Quarra are not literally using the crew as living batteries like the corrupt systems of The Matrix, but they are exploiting them for commercial gain and it seems appropriate that the crew find themselves working at a “power distribution plant.” This is a remarkably pointed piece of commentary for Voyager, given how severely Critical Care fumbled its exploration of the issues with American healthcare while avoiding the impacts of capitalism on that system.

The false “home” offered by Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II is notable for other reasons. Owing to its premise and structure, Voyager has always had a significant thematic overlap with The Odyssey. There is a certain amount of pretension in this; Homer’s epic is the second oldest extant work of Western literature, and an important part of the western literary canon. To compare an episodic Star Trek spin-off of wildly variable quality to The Odyssey can seem a little indulgent. Nevertheless, it speaks to The Odyssey as a towering accomplishment, a text that codifies a variety of very basic and very common narrative tropes. It is no wonder that The Odyssey was named the most influential story in history by a BBC poll in May 2018.

Holding on to the memories.

While it seems highly unlikely that the Voyager writers would cite The Odyssey as a major influence on the series, the premise and structure of the show invites the comparison. This is another long-form story told in episodic chunks about a crew stranded a long way from home, trying to find a way back to familiar trappings and comforts. As Amy Spagna argues in Voyager and the Ancient Epic:

The whole premise of the series revolves around finding the way home. This is a common theme in the works of Homer and Vergil; the major themes of both the Odyssey and the Aeneid are about finding the way home despite difficult, numerous, and dangerous obstacles. Even Apollonius of Rhodes (Argonautica) deals with this while chronicling the adventures of Jason. While the crew has gotten less whiny about their predicament — as do the crews under Odysseus and Aeneas — the concept of reaching home does surface occasionally. The first occurance is in the first-season episode “Eye of the Needle,” in which the crew comes very close to finding the answer they are looking for. This happens often to the hapless Trojans; in the course of Aeneas’ telling his story, the reader learns that he too has often found what he thought was safe harbor, only to be told by one of the gods to move on. “Home” also has come to have the same meaning for the crew of the Voyager as it does for the Trojans. On the vast majority of the occasions on which it is mentioned, the Trojans do not have a clear idea of where their new home is located, or of what they will find there; it is the notion of eventually finding this place that keeps the Trojans’ journey and hopes alive. Similarly, “home” has become somewhat of an idea rather than an actuality for Voyager’s crew. The idea of it is by no means dead, though it is not often mentioned outside of the context of a wistful statement by Captain Janeway or one of her crew.

There are various points over the course of Voyager when the comparison feels particularly apt, where individual episodes overlap directly with The Odyssey. Both Favourite Son and Bliss over twists on the classic “siren” narrative, as a crew member (or the entire ship) is lured off course by something monstrous that has disguised itself as something appealing.

Characters remain static.

Voyager is an imperfect piece of television, but that does not mean that its virtues should be overlooked. Voyager often struggled to realise its core premise and to develop the ideas baked into the series set-up. However, to give Voyager some credit that it genuinely deserves, and to acknowledge a facet of the series that is often overlooked, one of the defining attributes of the series has been its emphasis on the idea of myths and legends. More than any other Star Trek series, Voyager grapples with the question of what it means to be a story. There are most likely a number of reasons for this, and none of them were necessarily conscious choices on the part of the production team.

Most obviously, the central metaphor of “the journey” runs through Voyager, and there is an extent to which that concept of the “journey” overlaps with the idea of “story.” Both have a beginning, a middle and an end; leaving the characters and audience (literally and figuratively) in a different place than they begin. More than that, narrative is a recurring fascination for writer Joe Menosky, who wrote episodes like Darmok and Masks for The Next Generation and Dramatis Personae for Deep Space Nine. Menosky wrote more frequently for Voyager than for The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine, so it makes sense that his own pet themes would have imprinted themselves more deeply on the series.

The Voyage Homer.

Voyager frequently and repeatedly presents its central characters and their journey as a Delta Quadrant legend, a story told time and time again; the myth in False Profits, the counter-history in Distant Origin, the fabricated narrative in Living Witness, the stage play in Muse, the elaborate con in Live Fast and Prosper, even the observed fantasies in Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy. The characters on Voyager frequently mythologise their own journeys and adventures, with characters authoring holographic adventures featuring the crew in Worst Case Scenario and Author, Author. Episodes like Remember and Memorial touch on the importance of storytelling and remembering to other alien cultures.

While Voyager never properly committed to serialisation or long-form storytelling, this thematic through line can be traced across the seven seasons of the show. Again, this strong thematic through line seems more accidental than intentional, but it makes the comparisons with The Odyssey a little easier to justify. If Voyager is about stories on a fundamental level, and if the series is about “the journey”, then it makes sense to compare the show to one of the oldest stories in western literature and the defining narrative about a weary crew making a journey home. It might be pretentious, it might be self-important, but it seems fair to give Voyager some small credit as it enters the (literal) home stretch.

Shadowplay.

Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II represent an interesting point in the crew’s journey. Structurally, the plot mirrors that of Basics, Part I and Basics, Part II; the crew are separated from their ship and stranded on an alien world, forced to endure an ideal in order to reclaim the ship so that they might continue their journey. However, there is one very big difference between the two stories. In Basics, Part I and Basics, Part II, the crew were marooned against their will and consciously trying to reunite with their ship. In Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II, the crew are incorporated into Quarran society. They have their identities taken from them. They build new lives on Quarra. They do not long to return to the stars or reunite with their ship.

Neelix has to kidnap Torres at the climax of Workforce, Part I, stealing her back to Voyager against her will. In Workforce, Part II, Chakotay finds himself confronted with the possibility that Janeway has found genuine happiness on Quarra and that bringing her back to Voyager would only cause pain. “You live onboard?” Janeway asks when Chakotay describes the ship. “Don’t you ever want to stay in one place?” Chakotay responds, “You seem happy here.” Janeway answers, “I’ve got a good job.” Chakotay asks, “Ever consider doing something more challenging?” He presses, “You monitor reactor coils, right? You’re obviously a very capable woman. You could probably run that power plant.” Janeway shrugs, “Why would I want all that responsibility?”

Time to pack it in?

Janeway has found peace. She found that peace through surrendering responsibility and identity. In the context of The Odyssey, this evokes the story of the “lotus-eaters.” Eduard Petiška summarises the story in Ancient Greek Legends:

The coast where the Greek ships had anchored was in the land of the Lotophagi or Lotus-Eaters. These people received every stranger kindly and offered him their food, the sweet fruit of the lotus. Whoever tasted this delectable food never wanted to go away, but only live the rest of his life in the land of the Lotophagi. The poor sailors whom Odysseus had sent out tasted the fruit and refused to return. They had to take them away by force, bind them and lay them at the bottom of the ship. They only removed their bonds when the land of the lotus-eaters was out of sight.

Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II finds the crew slipping into a soothing and satisfying fantasy, inviting them to surrender their responsibilities in favour of a more traditionally fulfilling life, to give up the journey “home” for a dream of “home.”

Feeding imagination.

To a certain extent, this is a familiar narrative trope. Ronald D. Moore’s rebooted Battlestar Galactica told a similar story at the end of its second season with Lay Down Your Burdens, Part I and Lay Down Your Burdens, Part II. In that second season finale, the refugees desperately journeying towards a dream of “Earth” gave up their quest to settle on a planet that they named “New Caprica.” Naturally, it did not end well, and the humans were forced back on their journey early in the third season. The sixth season of Deep Space Nine ended with Sisko rejecting both his Starfleet career and his role as the Emissary of the Prophets in Tears of the Prophets, before taking back both roles in Image in the Sand and Shadows and Symbols.

Perhaps owing to how heavily they lean into familiar story structures, superhero sequels are also fond of this basic plot structure. Superman renounces his power in Superman II, before making peace with his role and reclaiming his heritage. Peter Parker declares “Spider-Man no more!” in Spider-Man II, before eventually accepting the responsibility. Even Bruce Wayne considers retiring as Batman in The Dark Knight, handing his role over to Harvey Dent so that he might have a more conventional life. In each case, these characters are trying to refuse their role in the story, only to eventually accept the responsibilities and the obligations placed upon them.

Fun factor(y).

Treating these individual installments as parts of larger stories, these characters’ desire to escape the narrative in which they find themselves is a familiar dramatic device. Joseph Campbell defines it as “the refusal of the return” in The Hero of a Thousand Faces:

When the hero-quest has been accomplished, through penetration to the source, or through the grace of some male or female, human or animal, personification, the adventurer still must return with his life-transmuting trophy. The full round, the norm of the monomyth, requires that the hero shall now begin the labor of bringing the runes of wisdom, the Golden Fleece, or his sleeping princess, back into the kingdom of humanity, where the boon may redound to the renewing of the community, the nation, the planet or the ten thousand worlds. But the responsibility has been frequently refused. Even Gautama Buddha, after his triumph, doubted whether the message of realization could be communicated, and saints are reported to have died while in the supernal ecstasy. Numerous indeed are the heroes fabled to have taken up residence forever in the blessed isle of the unaging Goddess of Immortal Being.

It is notable that – in many of the above cases – the refusal comes at a point where the characters have either already completed their narrative journey (by becoming a superhero) or when they are closer to the end of that journey than to the beginning.

Body of evidence.

As such, Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II feel like an important part of the final season of Voyager. The crew are almost home. Any savvy audience member watching the show at the time would have realised that Janeway was only eight episodes or three months away from the culmination of her story in Endgame. Even within the world of the show, the crew are closer to home in a literal and figurative sense than they have ever been; they are halfway home in terms of distance, in regular contact with Earth, and are passing outbound traffic in stories like Prophecy and Friendship One. To any observer, the hard part of the journey is over. Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II form the series’ last two-parter, barring Endgame. It’s all plain sailing from here.

As a result, this feels like the perfect place for a story like this. Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II offer one last mythic hurdle for the crew to overcome as part of their seven year journey, a false stop rather than a false start. It is a dream of “home” that must be rejected in favour of something more concrete, it is a last-minute temptation to abandon the journey that must be ignored. Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II represent one last test of will for the crew, a moment of decision and action. Janeway must accept her role as the shepherd guiding her crew back home, even if that means turning away from a more comfortable and more satisfying life to fulfill that narrative obligation.

Emotional baggage.

One of the big innovations that Brannon Braga brought to Voyager was a sense of scale and spectacle, with the introduction of blockbuster stories like Future’s End, Part I and Future’s End, Part II, Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II, or Timeless. Despite being a big late-season two-parter, Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II are notably more restrained than stories like The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II or Dark Frontier, Part I and Dark Frontier, Part II. Nevertheless, even if Workforce, Part I and Workforce, Part II are relatively quiet and underplayed as such stories go, they provide a more mythic narrative framework to the troubled season around them. They deserve credit for that, at least.

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5 Responses

  1. Chakotay and Seven was ridiculous. Even the actors agreed.

    At least the novels told us about post Endgame life.

    I enjoyed these 2 eps. However, I always felt Janeway moving in with Jaffen so quickly was unrealistic. No matter what life she was living, I couldn’t see her jumping into something that fast. And I loved Steven’s character. It was spot on.

  2. I get the feeling that you are giving this much more thought than the people actually making Voyager ever did, since for the most part they appeared to be content to crank out seven seasons of Star Trek at its most generic.

    • That’s maybe fair, but I wanted to write something nice about Voyager in its final season, and I try to give credit where ever I can. I don’t want the reviews to be just angry shouting or complaining. And I do quite like these two episodes.

      (They are the strongest of the season, by some margin, but they’re not great. The pacing is off, the metaphor’s a bit muddled. Still, I do think there is a poetry to them that I genuinely admire.)

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