The following is an ALL-SPOILER Review. Teaser to closing credits, I give you the whole dang episode, blow-by-blow. If you want to be surprised when you finally see it, leave now. If you don't mind having the whole enchilada spelled out for you, pull up some shuttle debris and enjoy the ride.
I rate each episode based on how much I enjoyed it -- not necessarily on how good I think it is; I leave the objective takes to others. I don't claim to be accurate or objective, though only on rare occasion will I deliberately try not to be. But with luck, agree with me or not about the episode, you'll enjoy yourself along the way.
So kick back and crack open a Mountain Dew. Fatherly Uncle Jim's in a storytellin' mood.
Hirogen take a holiday.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Jump straight to the Analysis
A red-headed Klingon spitfire fights a valiant but losing battle against a trio of larger, better armed warriors. But their victory has been costly -- crossing a redhead is an E Ticket ride to the Afterlife, and this redhead is particularly formidable. She looks familiar, too...
Even knocked to the ground by a vicious bat'telh blow, she continues to fight -- and rises to send yet another warrior to Stovokor.
While locked in terminal embrace with the lone Klingon remaining, we hear a new voice. "Move away, coward. I want to make this kill." A figure steps into view, wielding a dagger.
The outfit may say Klingon, but the reptilian features, beady eyes and take-no-prisoners attitude reeking from every pore can only mean...Hirogen.
The Klingon woman -- Janeway, but not Janeway -- faces off with her Hirogen adversary, whom she sees as just another Klingon. "You should have killed me when my back was turned."
"I want to see the fear in your eyes," says the Hirogen, having the time of his life.
"Look closely and you'll see your own destruction!" she rages. Eyes ablaze, nasty teeth glistening, weapon sticky with the Pepto Bismol gore of her adversaries. Unfettered by Federation sensibilities, Janeway looks as happy as I've ever seen her.
"You are resilient Prey!" the Hirogen shouts, thrilled, as they continue to circle each other.
"I'm no one's prey!" Janeway growls, and raises her blade to strike.
And hesitates just a moment too long.
The Hirogen plunges the famous Klingon dagger deep into Janeway's gut. Her eyes go wide, and she falls to the earth. "You are mine -- now, and after death," the Hirogen says to the dying warrior babe. It's an odd thing to say.
And then the Hirogen does something unexpected. He clicks his thumb and forefinger together, activating a Federation communicator.
"Sickbay, this is Holodeck Two. Janeway requires medical assistance."
Ooh, baby. Happy Hirogen Holodeck Hunting Grounds? Strap in, kids. This could get wild...
* * *
Voyager flies along at impulse power. It is flanked by four Hirogen vessels.
In Sickbay, a mostly dead Janeway is surrounded by Hirogen. One -- apparently a doctor -- announces that she'll survive. He doesn't seem to care either way.
"What about her neural interface?" the guy with the distinctive voice who sling-bladed her -- let's call him Karl -- asks. Stable, the HiroDoc reports, after a rude twist of Janeway's head and a quick scan of a small three-pronged scar on her neck.
"Are you sure?" Karl asks. "There were times when she seemed...aware...of who she is."
"Impossible," says HiroDoc. "I was monitoring the crew during the entire simulation. She believes she's whoever we program her to be." O ho...in other words, anything is possible. Why, with a little personality reprogramming, even Harry and Neelix could look heroic. Torres could look pregnant! Chakotay might do something different with his hair!
The possibilities are mind-boggling.
"Shall I return her to the Klingon simulation?" HiroDoc asks.
"No," says Karl after some thought. "Bring her to Holodeck One. I've found another program I want to try. A conflict that took place on her own planet. It should prove...stimulating."
Hmm. Sentient guts for prom-night corsages, combat simulations for stimulation...maybe that's why they hunt. Those big guns they're so fond of may merely be, er, compensation for genetic (cough) shortcomings.
Don't worry--I don't make a running gag out of it.
Quick cut to a guy playing the piano.
Oh, krunk...not even Hunters could be so cruel...
No, wait. It's acoustic. And the song is public domain. Never mind.
Whoa..who is this? Glittery black-silver gown, tight as three frogs near a Budweiser sign...gams like Betty Grable...Jessica Rabbit torso split by a plunging neckline...a golden waterfall of lustrous hair cascading down her shoulders....starburst device on the right cheek, metallic left eyebrow...irresistible blue-grey eyes...
You remember "Darmok and Jelad at Tenagra"? Try "The Mask at the Coco Bongo." Yowsa! Tex Avery time. Seven of Nine has never looked better.
She's singing. "Would it be wrong to kiss..." When the camera finally pans out to show the rest of the club's interior, we have a better idea of what Holodeck Two is all about.
That's right, folks -- we got Nazis!
Hey, look -- Isaac your Bartender is played by Tuvok. He's decked out in a tony white tux. He takes a bottle of champagne from a waiter, polishes it up, and re-corks.
More Nazis enter, all in a jovial mood.
And then...there is Kate.
All white tux. Hair that hasn't looked this good since "Year of Hell." An expansive ringmaster's gesture. "Welcome to le coeur de lion! I'm Katrine. The first round is with my compliments, on one condition -- you leave the war outside." She laughs to accentuate her demand that the interior be a happy place.
Where are we...Casablanca?
She seats customers with a flourish. She sends escargot to table nine. (Must be France.) She asks a guy named Jaques why he's sitting all alone, and vows to rectify that deplorable situation with all speed...then promptly ignores him as she seats herself at a table in the corner. "Forgive my neglecting you. Now, where were we? Ah, yes, my latest adventure in Paris...."
She looks toward the bar. Tuvok, still polishing a champagne bottle, nods ever-so-slightly at the door.
Hey, look -- more Nazis. Only these two have Hirogen heads to go with the swastikas.
"I'm afraid I have to neglect you again," she says, excusing herself from the table. Katrine floats over to the bar, where she watches the two Hirogen Nazis stride by her.
Her features darken. She doesn't look at Tuvok, but her low voice is clearly intended for him. "Our new Kommandant?" she asks.
"British intelligence believes he's been sent to oversee the occupation of the city," Tuvok confirms. "He served with Rommel in North Africa and Schmidt in Poland. He is a formidable military strategist--notorious for his cruelty."
Shame on them -- they're not leaving the war outside. I assume this means they're part of the French Resistance. (Some trivia buffs tell me they were known as...the Maquis.)
Katrine tells Tuvok to "make him feel at home. Send him a bottle of Chateau latour. My compliments."
"The '29?" Tuvok asks.
"I hate to waste good wine. Give him the '36."
The camera returns to Seven just as she wraps up her song. The audience applauds politely.
"Merci. Be generous to Claude this evening," she says, gesturing to the pianist. "Without him, my voice is empty." She strides offstage, and passes by a table filled with Nazis.
A young Hirogen grabs her arm. "Sing," he says.
"Tonight's performance is over. Return tomorrow."
The youngster restrains her. "Now."
"Remove your hand," Seven says in her all-too-familiar voice.
"Obey me," says the young Hirogen, standing, "or I will hunt you down -- and your bones will adorn the bulkhead of my ship."
Karl -- the Klingon who offed Janeway in the Klingon simulation, now the Nazi Kommandant, the Über Hirogen -- tells the young buck to "Sit down and play the game. In this setting, we have no ships. We are an ancient race of soldiers intent upon conquering this world."
The youngster doesn't hear too good; his grip on Seven lingers. "Play. The. Game." Karl repeats dangerously.
Katrine, finely-tuned Hostess Radar zeroing in on the source of bad karma in her bar, approaches the table. She smoothly assures Junior that "Mademoiselle de neuf" -- Seven of Nine -- will be happy to sing another song. (Is "de neuf" French for "of Nine"?)
Tell that to the diva; Seven balks. Katrine tells her to "freshen up" in the same voice Janeway uses to call Battlestations. Seven backs down.
The more things change...
Katrine smiles disarmingly at Karl. "Kommandant Karr," she coos to his delight that she knows his name. "Your reputation precedes you," she says. "I'm Katrine. Le coeur de lion is my establishment. The first round is with my compliments, on one condition -- you leave the war outside." She smiles, but there's a steel edge to the voice that encourages compliance...for fear of the consequence.
Karl shoos away the groupies and underlings so he and Katrine can share some quality time.
He and she chat briefly about France, the Resistance, and the strategic value of this little town to the Reich -- any Allied invasion would have to go through here.
Karl has obviously done his homework. He's into "the game" in a big way. But then, the Hirogen are fabled for their preparations for the Hunt, for studying their Prey. The Hunt is far more than the kill; it's the totality of the experience.
For her part, Katrine doesn't see Hirogen. She sees Nazis. But those are bad enough as far as she's concerned. She's playing her own game. Both move expertly to the delicate dance.
"The Resistance will come here," Karl says at last. "If they do," Katrine smiles, "I'll tell them what I tell everyone...Leave the war outside."
Okay, we get it.
Another young Hirogen Nazi approaches the table. He breaks the rules by referring to a problem in Engineering. "The warp plasma network has become unstable."
Katrine, subsumed in the implant, doesn't understand. Karl smiles and says It's Technical. He raises his glass. "To the Hunt," he says.
"'The...Hunt'?" Katrine asks.
"For the Resistance. I shall take great pleasure in tracking them down...and making the kill."
Katrine's eyes go cold, but her smile never wavers. She has the satisfaction of watching the brute gulp down -- and compliment! -- the skunk-water '36 Chateau le pew.
Le coeur de lion is closed; Seven tallies up the receipts. It's a slow Saturday; they pulled in only "1,247 francs and 81 Reich marks." Katrine says it should be enough to buy a radio-extending oscillator; she gives Seven orders to head for the country to pick one up the next day.
Seven has other ideas. She wants to buy stuff that blows up Germans. "When the Americans arrive and the fighting begins I don't intend to be standing next to a piano singing 'Moonlight Becomes You,'" she says defiantly. She wants to turn terrorist, assassin. She wants Nazi blood. Katrine insists on lying low, keeping the Resistance a secret, and feeding the Americans with all the covert assistance they can until the invasion.
I'd say we've got us a personality conflict here. Even reprogrammed for a holo Hunt, these two just cannot get along. The redhead is still in le grande chair -- running the Resistance, making the decisions -- while the blonde chafes against her authority.
But this isn't the enlightened 24th-century aboard a civilized Starship. This is WWII-era occupied France. Katrine doesn't have the luxury of banishing the girl to the wine cellar until showtime. Cross her here, and Seven could end up wearing a cement beret.
After the unpleasant exchange ends and the diva goes off to look for German Shepherd puppies to kick, Tuvok enters the picture. "Again?" he asks.
"Again. Just why is she so adamant? What she's proposing would put us all at risk."
"Maybe that's her intention," Tuvok suggests.
"If you have suspicions, my old friend, let's hear them."
"From the beginning, she's been argumentative. And on more than a few occasions she's disobeyed your direct orders." And she does look like a German poster girl.
"She's headstrong -- typical of the underground," Katrine says in the diva's defense.
"Nevertheless, her behavior has threatened our identities."
"She's the only munitions expert we have -- and she can carry a tune," she says with a smirk. "We need her." But you don't rise to the rank of restauranteur without mastering a bit of pragmatic employee relations. "Let's keep our eye on her. Have her followed for the next few days. If she is a Nazi infiltrator...we'll have to eliminate her."
* * *
I apologize in advance to my French readers. Neelix -- peddling cheerfully on a bike in a sunny day in the small town of Sainte Claire, loaves of bread and fresh tomatoes and jugs of wine in the twin baskets over the rear tires -- blends perfectly into his surroundings.
He smiles at everyone he meets -- including the guys in the SS uniforms.
A Hirogen Nazi -- the one who threatened Seven the night before -- orders him to stop peddling and dismount. Neelix complies immediately. The Hirogen shreds a loaf of bread and empties the wine onto the cobblestone street. He tosses the bottle back into the basket. "Proceed to your destination," he sneers.
Neelix cheerfully complies -- but is halted again by the young, grouchy, unsportsmanlike Hirogen. "If the choice were mine you would already be dead."
And you thought Katrine had employee problems...Karl's got himself a wild one.
Torres (who looks way pregnant) transcribes what she hears over British radio, and complains when the signal weakens. Meanwhile, Tuvok holds up the picture of the naked woman that hangs over the bar, and turns it around. On the back is a map of the area, which he and Katrine peruse in light of their most recent intelligence -- which at 47 hours old (give or take an hour) is too outdated to be of much use.
Neelix knocks and announces Morning Delivery. "You're late. What happened?" Katrine asks. "Oh, a tete-a-tete with a member of the Master Race," Neelix says cheerfully.
Janeway notes that the patrols are increasing their inspections. Tuvok suggests that they change couriers, giving a nasty look in Neelix's direction. Neelix insists he's in no danger; he plays it safe, and is good buds with the Gestapo. "They just love my strudel."
The radio message repeats, and Torres grabs it all this time. She and Janeway decode it -- every fifth letter, every third vowel, the Sunday decryption sequence. It's a message from Allied High Command.
Neelix and Tuvok have a cute brief exchange. "I suppose you're right but do you have to be so logical about everything?" Neelix asks when Tuvok says something logical. "In any covert battle, logic is a potent weapon. You might try it sometime."
The message turns out thus: "'American Fourth Infantry...To invade Sainte-Claire...Tuesday dawn.' That's two days from now. 'Require assistance. Disable enemy communications. End message.'" [inconsistency warning: the Fifth actually shows up.]
The German transmitter is housed at German headquarters -- not an easy place to get into. But Torres has contacts: "I need to see my special 'friend,' even if it means bothering him at the office. I'll locate the radio, see where the guards are, examine the locks, gather enough information to get us inside." It turns out the "friend" is the father of her child.
Torres takes off for German headquarters.
On the way, Torres is spat upon as a "traitorous whore!" by some of the local women. This is clearly a reprogrammed Torres -- she cringes rather than attacks. It would seem her "friend" is not a popular guy in Sainte Claire, and by extension, neither is she.
On the curb near the entrance to the headquarters, she slumps against a lamppost in (feigned) distress. One of the guards checks on her, and she says she needs to speak with "Ihrem Hauptmann." Must be Nazi Boy. The guard gestures for her to follow.
Two Nazis -- Karl the Hirogen and a young True Believer holographic German -- admire a painting.
"Ever since my days at the university I've admired this painting...and now it's mine," Nazi Boy says. "Our fellow officers might prefer gold or land but for me the greatest prize of war is art."
Karl puts it into terms he can appreciate. "Trophies of the Hunt...but was the hunt fair?" Nazi Boy doesn't get it. Karl points out that German troops essentially waltzed into this town with far more firepower than necessary. "Do you really deserve these...prizes?"
But Nazi Boy has his rules. "We are German. The German people deserve Europe and everything in it."
"Why?" demands Karl. The Nazi Boy is confused: "You question our destiny?" Karl says he wants to hear it in his own words: "Why are we the 'Master Race'?" Nazi Boy knows the drill. "Our blood is pure. Our people lived and hunted on this land for a thousand years before the degenerate races brought their corruption. Europe must be purified."
Karl seems less than impressed. He happens to know how this story played out. "You, yourself...are you stronger than these 'degenerate' races? More cunning?" The boy holds those truths to be self-evident; he says Yes. "And if you were alone without an army supporting you, would you continue the hunt? If your Prey were armed instead of defenseless -- what then?" Karl demands.
Nazi Boy is thoroughly confused now. Karl clarifies by wrapping his meaty Hirogen fingers around the boy's throat. "You are superior to no one! Never underestimate your Prey or disrespect its abilities. If you do, you will become the Hunted. When the opposing army invades this city, remember my words."
I take it Karl is not a fan of the Reich.
While Karl is choking the snot out of Nazi Boy, Torres enters. (Her friends call her Brigitte.)
Karl excuses himself. Nazi Boy gives a crisp Heil Hitler salute, which Karl ignores on his way out the door, sparing only a lingering look at Torres.
Nazi Boy and Brigitte embrace, though she seems to treat it mostly as a formality. He expresses concern for her health, her reputation, and their child. He shows off his latest artistic acquisitions, the looting of millennia of Western culture. Well, at least he's got good taste in plunder.
Torres expresses her admiration for the art...but takes special note of the painting hanging over the head of the guy at the radio transmitter.
Two Hirogen Nazis stroll the streets of Sainte-Claire. One looks older and doesn't say anything (call him Harpo); the other is the young guy who grabbed Seven in the restaurant and hassled Neelix on the street. He can't shut up. Call him Groucho.
"The Kommandant would have us continue this simulation until we rot. It's pointless. We should begin the Hunt. He believes we must learn more about our Prey but I have learned enough."
The two spot Neelix walking his bike through town, not bothering anyone.
Groucho suggests they blow the little furball away. "Avoid the cranium," is his only nod to Karl's rules. Mostly Dead is as far as they're allowed to go, because not even Doc can repair obliterated grey matter.
They take aim. They fire. Neelix's bike, and its contents, get riddled with bullets. Including the latest message on a bottle, which shatters on the street, bleeding bordeaux red. But he manages to stay un-shot.
Then Seven shows up, handgun blazing in Neelix's defense, and things get interesting. She and Neelix run while she lays down cover fire, but she forces him to leave the label behind.
You know...even in a frumpy outfit with dull grey sweater, the girl looks good.
They hide briefly in a doorway, but the Hirogen are Born to Hunt. As soon as they re-enter the alley, they're cut down in a flurry of bullets. Groucho tells the computer to exit the Holodeck. A doorway to Voyager opens on the far end of the alley. "We'll take them to the medical bay."
* * *
In Sickbay, Doc and HiroDoc argue over the bodies of Neelix and Seven. Doc is at his wit's end after three weeks of putting his people back together just so they can be Hunted some more. Doc is particularly upset because one of the bullets that hit Seven grazed the base of her skull, and he was promised at the beginning of all this that they would avoid head shots and other terminal injuries.
HiroDoc's only concern is that they become decent Prey again. He could care less about their well-being. In Seven's case, the bullet to the head is an issue because the "neural interface" that keeps her unaware of who she really is has been damaged. He wants another installed ASAP. Doc says her other injuries (two fractured vertebrae and a punctured lung) take priority. HiroDoc grudgingly accepts the recommendation and takes Neelix's case.
Neelix is in a bit better shape, but Doc warns HiroDoc to pay a little more attention this time; his last patient was insufficiently cared for, and came back soon after with internal bleeding.
"Your crew is fragile. They fall too easily," growls HiroDoc.
"What do you expect?" shouts Doc. "They've been stabbed, shot, beaten, phasered and bat'telhed the past three weeks. Their bodies weren't designed for this kind of punishment!"
Karl, Alpha Hirogen and sometime Nazi Kommandant, enters in his SS uniform for an update on the newest patients. They're part of his simulation, after all.
"These Prey were hunted by Turanj," says HiroDoc, referring to Groucho. Doc lights into Karl about the sloppy hunting of his people, and insists that they put an end to all this if they can't be more careful. Karl refuses. Doc begs him to consider activating the safety protocols so nobody can be killed (including the Hirogen) but Karl will have none of that -- no challenge.
"I have had 28 wounded and one fatality in the past 12 hours. Even I can't keep up with that level of triage," Doc says earnestly.
"You will keep up or they will die," says Karl. "Their lives are in your hands, Doctor. Don't fail them."
Just when I was starting to like the guy, he has to go and act like this. Perhaps the Nazi uniform does suit him. The HiroDoc should be wearing one, too -- if ever the Mengele association was appropriate, it seems so here.
Karl points to Neelix and assigns him to Holodeck Two. "Let's see how he fares with the Klingons." As for Seven... "Send her back to Holodeck One. I like her voice."
If you've been wondering what happened to Harry Kim, we learn now. He's sweating over a hot access panel, looking as sweaty, filthy and haggard -- and defiant -- as he did in "The Chute."
Karl shows up and demands to know his progress. "By cutting through the bulkheads on decks four, five and six we've been able to expand both Holodeck grids by 5,000 square meters," Harry reports. "More," demands the Hirogen. Harry sighs. "I can't give you any more -- not without compromising Voyager's primary systems." Then compromise them, Karl says.
Harry stands his ground. "Look, Holodecks require a tremendous amount of energy. I've already rerouted power from all nonessential systems. Anything more, and we'll start losing propulsion, deflectors...even life support." It's hard to Hunt in a vacuum near Absolut [sic] Zero. The Hunters might be up for it...but the fragile Prey would not.
Karl groks. "I'll transfer a supply of power nodules from my vessel. Integrate them into your systems. I want to expand the holo-projectors into all surrounding sections. Replicate enough emitters for the task." He strides away.
Apparently he wants to turn the whole ship into a holographic hunting ground.
Harry watches the guy go, and grits his teeth. "Yes, sir," he mutters bitterly.
Harry and another young crewman -- who was also either deemed too scrawny to Hunt or too smart to not put to better use -- crack open another panel.
"The emitters in this corridor are stable," Harry says. "Let's start working on section 19..."
You can practically see the light bulb going off over his head. "But first, tell the guard to escort you to Engineering. Tell him we need more equipment -- specifically, a type-three isolinear emitter. If he gives you any trouble, say 'I can't complete the assignment without it.'" The crewman nods and walks over to the ever-present Hirogen guard, armed with the biggest, nastiest weapon this side of Terminator 2. The guard assents without argument, and the two head for the turbolift.
Harry taps in a series of commands at the wall panel, but waits for the lift door to close before punching the final button.
Doc appears, confused. Harry explains that the emitters in this section are online. Doc nods. "I assume you've got a plan?"
"Half a plan," Harry admits. "Before we can retake the ship we've got to get the crew back. That means disabling the neural interfaces." Doc says that won't be easy, but Harry's already on that. "I've found a way to tap into the Sickbay diagnostic console. The only catch is..."
The lift door opens again. Harry runs around the corner and tells them to stand by. He goes back around the corner and reactivates Doc.
The catch is, "somebody's got to be inside the Holodeck to engage the bridge control relays."
Doc solves that part of it. "We've got a Borg on board, don't we? Maybe we can put her to good use."
And thus, Operation Wake Up Call begins.
Janeway's ready room has been redecorated in a big way. Weapons, skulls and hammocks full of bones adorn the walls and ceiling.
But one thing never changes: there's a big steaming pot of coffee on the desk, and Karl is sucking it down like Evian. Groucho is also here. Both are still in their Holodeck SS uniforms.
Alien Nazis in Space. If they wanted to do a spinoff series, this would be my choice.
"I have been studying Voyager's database looking for our next simulation," Karl tells Groucho. "There are many to choose from. These people have a violent history." Feel proud, people. "I believe I found a worthy prey: the Borg. When World War II is over we will recreate a notorious battle known as 'Wolf 359.'" Karl shows Groucho the computer display of a Borg.
Frankly, that sounds more fun in theory than in practice. Wolf 359 may have been an epic battle, but it wasn't that much of a challenge for the Borg -- it happened mostly in space, ships blew up too darned easily, and the pieces were almost impossible to put back together. Sure, Wolf 359 may strike terror into Starfleet hearts, but for Karl it seems a silly choice.
If you want some kick butt killing games that you can enjoy on a down-and-funky visceral level, Hunt Boy, do a search on "Kirk: James T." Going mano a mano with big hair women while throbbing day-glo brains bet Quatloos on your chances; squaring off with lirpas with your best buddy over the fickle heart of his betrothed while his heart and mind are aflame with lust; Good vs. Evil with Lincoln and Surak in a steel cage grudge match of death while decadent lava chortles over the spectacle; gladiator matches on 20th-century Roman Empire TV; traipsing through the back woods and mountains of Los Angeles looking for organic cannon parts while a pissed-off Gorn hunts your toupeed bootie down....
Now THAT'S good Huntin'. Unravel some intestines from one of the great Kirk's personal battles and you've got yourself some guts guaranteed to make the girlies swoon.
But what do I know.
I have noticed an odd pattern. Nazis, the Borg -- they ended up losing their conflicts. Maybe the Hirogen are seeing if they can change history. Or maybe they just want to play the side that kills the most people, win or lose.
But I digress.
Groucho says he looks forward to the next simulation. "I thought you might," Karl says. "But if you continue to disobey me this is one hunt you will never see. You nearly destroyed two of my favored prey."
"I've become impatient. We penetrated this vessel, overcame their defenses, and in the moment of the Kill, you forced us to stop. Now we play these incessant games. It's time we took our trophies and moved on." Sheesh; kids today...
"Your lust for the kill has blinded you, like many young Hunters. If you took the time to study your prey -- to understand its behavior -- you might learn something."
"There is nothing to be learned," Groucho says sullenly.
"You're wrong. Each Prey exposes us to another way of life and makes us reevaluate our own. Have you considered our future? What will become of us when we have Hunted this territory to exhaustion?" Karl asks.
"We will travel to another part of space search for new Prey, as we have always done."
"A way of life that hasn't changed for a thousand years," says Karl.
"Why should it?"
"Species that don't change...die," Karl says. "We've lost our way. We've allowed our predatory instincts to dominate us. We disperse ourselves throughout the quadrant, sending ships in all directions. We've become a solitary race, isolated. We've spread ourselves too thin. We're no longer a culture. We have no identity. In another thousand years no one will remember the name 'Hirogen.' Our people must come back together -- combine forces, rebuild our civilization."
"What of the Hunt?" Groucho asks.
"The Hunt will always continue, but in a new way. I intend to transform this ship into a vast simulation, populated with a varied and endless supply of Prey. In time, this technology can be duplicated for other Hirogen. These Holodecks will allow us to hold onto our past while we face the future."
Groucho points out that even if he were persuaded, it's not likely to be an easy sell to the rest of their race. Karl asks if Groucho himself is persuaded -- and after some hesitation, gets a Yes.
"I must continue my research," Karl says. "I'll see you tomorrow on Holodeck One. The Americans are due to invade."
Scoff if you will...but the Hirogen leader's idea makes a whole lot of sense. While I abhor what he's doing to Our Crew, his idea of adapting the Hunt to new circumstances is brilliant in terms of bringing his people into a new age of civilization.
If the Hunt is necessary for survival, that's one thing. But mere survival does not mark a healthy culture. If that's all the Hirogen have, he's right -- their days are numbered. They need more.
The Hunt may always be a part of them, but it needs to adapt. It needs to be separated from the survival imperative. They need to settle down, get a nice 9 to 5 job, pay the bills, put a roof over their heads -- and Hunt on their off hours. The Holodeck makes perfect sense in that regard.
Heck, the Trek crewmen use it for the same purpose -- exercise, skills training, frustration venting, adrenaline-pumping fun. Tuvok's choked a holographic Neelix; the DS9 Holosuites are frequently used for violent entertainments (Bond-esque adventures, ancient earth wars, bat'telh practice, ad infinitum.) And it's not as though we don't get the same kicks ourselves from watching Saturday Nitro films and Movies for Guys Who Like Movies, the endless cavalcade of war films and horror films and Bruce Willis films and other gut-busting bloodfests where things explode, people die and life is a whole lot more interesting on screen than in the audience...thank goodness. Some thrills are best kept vicarious.
For those who like to participate in the carnage, games like Doom, Castle Wolfenstein, Duke Nukem, Quake II and Carmageddon fulfill part of that dark and apparently widespread need to kill something, without actually killing something. All we need is an excuse -- the target is a Nazi or a hell spawn or a mutant or a Redneck or something else that Needs Killin' Now.
And if those simulations aren't good enough -- we have Capture the Flag, paint ball, laser tag, football, hockey, boxing, wrestling, celebrity journalism, Ken Starr, and actual animal hunting.
Shall I go on?
Society frowns on killing people for real -- most of the time. But as long as it's Just Pretend, you can kill whatever the heck you want, as often as you want.
Just look at how well our society has turned out.
* * *
In Sickbay Doc revives Seven, still in her Shopping Day in Sainte-Claire attire, right down to the bobby sox and sensible shoes. "Remain calm and stay quiet," he whispers, hovering close to her ears at all times while he runs medical instruments over her. "There's a Hirogen working in the bio-lab. He might hear us. What's the last thing you remember?"
"An attack. Hirogen vessels -- they breached our hull and boarded the ship. I was in a phaser fight on deck three. I was struck several times. That's all I remember." She has no memory of the Holodeck simulations.
I'd hate to be around when those suppressed memories surface...
"The neural interface must be circumventing your memory centers," Doc explains. "A subdermal transmitter that links your neo-cortex to the Holodeck. It makes you believe you're a character within the program." He explains that she was wounded in the simulation, which is why she's here. "It's my job to patch you all up and send you back in. Half the crew is under lock and key. The rest are fighting for their lives on the Holodeck. This has been going on for 19 days -- dozens of battle scenarios, each more brutal than the last." He frowns. "You should see what a mess you were after the Crusades."
"Will I be sent into another simulation?" Seven asks.
"Yes, but this time...with an advantage. I have found a way to disable the interface by remodulating one of your Borg implants to emit a jamming signal. Once the Hirogen have brought you back to the Holodeck the jamming signal will activate within seconds."
"Find a control panel inside the Holodeck and engage the bridge access relays. That will enable Ensign Kim and me to deactivate all the neural interfaces. After Captain Janeway and the crew regain awareness you can work with them to mount a Resistance."
"What simulation will I be entering?"
"World War II -- a 20th century Earth conflict. Do you know anything about it?" She doesn't. "That could be a problem. Once the interface is disabled, you won't remember anything about your role in the simulation." He searches for words of advice. "Think of it as a new social setting. Do your best to fit in."
The HiroDoc tells Doc his services are needed replicating new neural interfaces. Doc gives Seven an encouraging smile, then sedates her.
Seven's back in silver attire, singing "That Old Black Magic" in le coeur de lion. It's a full house, and the crowd is attentive. Katrine in her white tux sits alone with Kommandant Karl at a side table.
Just as she's really getting into the song...she stops. She looks at herself. The lounge singing munitions expert makes way for the ex-Borg. It's a classic Quantum Leap "Oh boy" moment.
Claude the pianist stops and looks at her quizzically. "I must discontinue this activity," Seven says. "I am not well." She leaves the stage and heads for the bar, which she leans against trying to get her bearings.
Karl looks at Katrine. "If the entertainment is over, I'll be going."
Katrine's furious look at the singer changes to an indulgent wink at Karl. "You stay right there, Kommandant. I'm sure she's fine. Let me talk to her." She rises with a flourish and joins Seven at the bar.
Where her voice turns dangerous. "What's wrong?" she demands.
"I require a glass of water," says Seven, clearly no longer in character but trying her best.
"Make it a quick one. I promised the Kommandant you'd be singing till midnight. I want to get a lot of information out of him."
Seven says she is ill. "Look, I don't care if you're dying," Katrine whispers harshly. "Get back out there!"
"I won't," says Seven, and walks away.
Katrine sighs and looks at Tuvok. "Maybe you're right about her."
"The evidence is increasing," Tuvok says. "She was present today when our courier was shot down in the street -- yet somehow, she was unharmed. And now, on the eve of our liberation, she becomes uncooperative."
"Leave this to me," Katrine says, eyes smoldering.
Just when you thought we'd never see Chakotay and Paris...
The sound of tanks, a familiar portrait of FDR hanging on khaki canvas, and the camera pulls back to reveal a tattooed figure checking out maps by a propane lantern. Chakotay returns to his seat in the command tent. We get a look at his new, WWII-era GI Joe haircut. Yikes.
Paris pokes his head in through the flap, also wearing US Army fatigues and a First Lieutenant's bar on his helmet. "Captain..." he says, entering.
"At ease. What's the word?" None, he reports, "at least not from the Resistance in Sainte Claire."
"Then we'll get no support from inside the city," Chakotay says.
"You may be underestimating the good citizens of Sainte Claire," says Paris. "I spent a summer there when I was 18."
"Let me guess -- you ate a few snails, fell in love with a local girl and became an expert on the city."
Surely it couldn't be that easy. "Uh...Well...Yeah. Pretty much like that." This sounds like a Valentine's Day program to me.... "But believe me, Captain, those people love their town. They'll fight for it and die for it. Don't count them out yet."
Chakotay rises from his chair. "All right, but I won't count them in, either. We continue as planned -- an assault from the north at first light." He pours a tin cup of coffee and hands it to the grateful Lieutenant. "So...Who was the mademoiselle?"
Paris laughs softly. "Her name was Brigitte. Great gams. One hell of a temper." Chakotay smiles. "Sounds like your kind of girl."
"August 29, 1936...12:17 p.m. That's when my train pulled out of Sainte Claire. That's the last time I saw her. We wrote to each other every week for three years. Then the war broke out and I never heard from her again."
"Sainte Claire's not a big place. She shouldn't be too hard to find," the captain says.
The lieutenant's face grows earnest. "I'm counting on it."
The Resistance plans its next move. Torres -- Brigitte -- is the only one not decked out in all black. Janeway is wearing a tasteful number with black turtleneck and slacks (with a shiny belt buckle though -- bad move) and a black jacket. Seven just wears a form fitting black turtleneck, as does Tuvok.
Robert Palmer would love this.
They're planning an assault on the command post to take out the communications gear. Janeway barks orders and everyone listens attentively. Torres will stay behind; if anything goes wrong, she's to destroy all Resistance data. They break; the operation commences in an hour.
Seven, the munitions expert of the bunch, picks up a hand grenade and inspects it curiously.
Janeway notices that a lump of plastic explosive doesn't have a detonator in it. "This won't make much of a bang," she says suspiciously.
"I will correct the error," says Seven.
"It's lucky I found your little error. It might have undermined our mission. Are you having second thoughts about tonight?" Janeway asks, slapping a clip into a pistol and clicking the first round into place.
"No," says Seven carefully. "Good, because I don't want any more mistakes," Katrine says. "There won't be any," Seven assures her. "Let's hope not."
Janeway walks away, leaving Seven to wonder how the heck she's going to be able to pull off her real mission with an angry redhead and a stone-cold bartender-assassin questioning her every move.
* * *
Doc appears unexpected in a room; he noticed Harry. "We've got to stop meeting like this," he mutters.
They compare notes. Everything's clicking into place. Doc has access to the medical console for at least 20 more minutes, and Harry's on his way to the bridge.
A door slides open. Harry disappears Doc before they can see him. One unmasked officer type and one seriously armed-for-bear and armored-for-anything guard. The officer demands to know what Harry's doing in here.
"Trying to get the replicator system back on-line..unless you prefer the emergency rations. Personally, I'm getting tired of synthetic protein. You're supposed to be the finest hunters in the quadrant. Why don't you find us something a little more tasty?"
Man, Harry's getting cheeky these days...I like it. He looks like heck, and he's got a fresh shiner under his left eye, but he's as defiant as we've ever seen him. Even in the face of two guys who are at least a head taller than he is.
The Hirogen tell him an unauthorized transmission was sent from this room, and they regard Harry suspiciously. He comes up with some lame excuse, then he turns it around with an accusation that the Hunters have run roughshod over every system on board. "Accidents are bound to happen. Now, if you don't mind, I'm due on the bridge."
The talker wants proof. "Forget it," says Harry. "I don't have time." He tries to push past the Hirogen, but the strong-but-silent one knocks him flat on his back with a vicious backhanded swipe of his big gun. The officer repeats his demand.
"All right!" says Harry, breathing heavy as he struggles to get up. "But you'd better call the bridge and tell your superior I'm going to be late -- that I'm working under your orders now, not his." The officer hesitates. "Go ahead!" Harry presses. "Make the call. I don't want to take the blame for this."
"Report to the bridge," the sufficiently cowed officer says. Harry offers a brusque Thanks, then shoves both big boys out of the way on his way out the door. You go, boy!
It's night in Sainte Claire. Searchlights track every moving vehicle.
But they cannot reach the shadows, where the Resistance skulks ever closer to the Kommandant's headquarters.
Inside, a German corporal translates the incoming dits and dahs into meaningful text, oblivious to the three black-as-night commandos sneaking up behind him. By the time he notices, Janeway's already raised her bludgeon, which she brings down hard on the base of his skull.
Janeway tells Seven where to begin setting the explosive charges, while she intercepts the incoming message and begins taking notes.
While Janeway does her duty to the French Resistance and the advancing Americans, Seven -- free from Katrine's attention for a moment -- does her bit for Starfleet Resistance. You gotta love literary parallels.
The major task completed, Seven continues mucking about with the Holodeck controls, looking for more information...but forgetting all about the "French Resistance" mission.
On the bridge, Harry hears the beeping and moves silently to the station, while the Hirogen ignore him. A large blinking screen tells Harry that access to Holodeck One is now online. Harry taps in a few discrete commands.
Doc, working on yet another patient, sees blinking text and hears the announcing beeps. He skulks across Sickbay, trying not to catch HiroDoc's attention, and reads the panel: "Neural Interface Access Enabled." Doc smiles and taps in a few commands.
The screen changes. A list of crew names scroll by quickly. Doc highlights one and brings it up.
A name appears in big bold letters: Captain Kathryn Janeway. Her profile (medical?) appears on screen. (Anyone have a good enough VCR to transcribe any of that?)
Janeway realizes as she reads that the Nazis know about the Americans' arrival. "We've got to warn them somehow."
She turns around and notices that Seven is playing with a bit of unfamiliar equipment -- and hasn't set the charges as ordered. Her suspicion grows. "What is that?" she demands.
"I believe it is a transmitter," Seven says. "I'm attempting to disable it."
"You're sending a message to the Nazis!" Janeway accuses. Seven denies it.
Janeway pulls out her pistol. "Step away, or I'll kill you."
HiroDoc notices Doc at the controls and comes over, demanding to know what he's doing. "Just running a diagnostic," Doc says pleasantly.
"You've accessed the neural interface controls," HiroDoc notices. "Stop it immediately."
Doc presses a button just before HiroDoc throws him against a wall and puts a gun to his head.
But it's too late. Both of them see the blinking text:
"Neural Interface Disabled."
Janeway sneers. "I told you -- no more mistakes. You've just made your last one."
She cocks the pistol. She aims.
She cringes as something goes wacky inside her head. She gasps.
When she recovers, she's no longer Katrine of the Sainte Claire. She's Kathryn of Voyager. She recognizes Seven, calls her by name. Seven calls her Captain.
Janeway notices their very strange surroundings. And the gun in her hand.
Somehow she manages to restrain herself from shooting Seven anyway.
"Listen. A tarq just beyond that ridge." Wait -- that Klingon looks familiar.
By golly, it's Neelix! And he makes a pretty cool Klingon.
"You would hunt down a simple beast even in the midst of our enemies?" Karl the Hirogen asks, dressed once more in Klingon garb.
"There is no enemy as great as hunger!" Neelix says, scrambling down the high cliff.
Karl's entertainment is interrupted by the chirp of a communicator insignia. "Why am I being interrupted?"
From Sickbay, HiroDoc informs him that Doc has disabled Janeway's interface, and he can't reestablish the link. Doc is currently being restrained by a mountainous Hirogen guard.
"Send a team to Holodeck one. Remove her from the simulation," Karl orders.
Two Hirogen, dressed in their Hunter uniforms and bearing their huge weapons, march through Sainte Claire.
Tuvok notices them, and clicks off the safety on his machine gun.
Inside the building, Seven looks out the window and announces that Hirogen Hunters are on their way. Janeway, now manning the controls, says there are 13 of them on the Holodeck.
Tuvok takes aim and starts blasting away with the Tommy gun. The Hirogen fight back with their hand-held pulse cannons.
Nobody hits anything.
Tuvok hides behind a stairwell, and hears a mass of footfalls. "Need a hand, buddy?" he hears.
It's Chakotay and Paris, and a squad of holographic Americans. "Captain Miller, Fifth Armored Infantry," Chakotay says. (What happened to the Fourth?)
"Welcome to Sainte Claire," Tuvok says.
Hirogen advance on Harry on the bridge. "You circumvented our control! How?" they demand, pushing him into a corner of Ops.
"Go to hell!" Harry spits at them.
The battle commences. Air raid sirens blare.
Inside the Resistance Bar, Torres grabs a rifle and checks on the commotion. She hears a noise, swings her gun around -- and finds it pointing at an American soldier who's aiming right back at her.
Guess who it is.
"Bobby!" she says, surprised to see Paris.
"You owe me a postcard," he says when he regains his wits.
While Tuvok blasts away with his machine gun, Chakotay Miller barks orders into the command phone. "Distance: 800 yards. Correct for crosswinds. Fire at will."
No, I've done that joke enough.
"Take cover, boys! Charlie One isn't known for accuracy!"
Janeway tells Seven she can't access the ship's systems.
The building shakes as the night lights up in hellish red.
"Didn't you say this was Nazi headquarters?" Janeway asks. "I did," says Seven. "Then it would stand to reason this building is being targeted. Let's get out of here."
They run outside as the incoming fire gets closer to its desired target.
When bomb hits brick, everyone feels it. The command headquarters disintegrates most impressively.
They feel it all the way on the bridge.
"What happened?" Karl demands when he gets to his feet.
Harry rushes over to a console. "There was a simulated explosion in Holodeck One. Somehow it blew out the holo-grid across three decks."
"Is the program still running?" Karl asks.
Harry's eyes go wide. "Yes!"
When the dust settles, Captain Miller looks at a huge hole in Sainte Claire. Where the Nazi building stood, now stands a multi-floor complex unlike anything they've ever seen. They've blasted a hole right out of WWII, and into the 24th century. Rooms, corridors, quarters are visible on four decks.
Remember that half-nekkid guy in his quarters from "Twisted" Torres ran into when she opened a door that was supposed to lead somewhere else? We see his bedroom.
And yep, he's still waltzing around in his Jockeys.
The night sky lights up with static electricity, and where the lightning flashes, we see glimpses of yet other rooms on those decks.
The holographic and neural implanted characters are amazed at the sight.
To Seven and Janeway and the Hirogen, this has even more significance. "Oh, sh..." Janeway whispers, and she and Seven share a horrified look.
To Tuvok and Chakotay, still under the Hirogen's holographic spell, it's pay-dirt. "All units, listen up," Chakotay yells into the telephone. "We've just blown the lid off of some kind of secret Nazi compound. Converge on my position. We're going in."
On the bridge, Harry reports. "The breach opened the simulation into the surrounding sections. I'm picking up holographic soldiers moving onto deck five."
"Shut down the holo-emitters until we can regain control!" Karl the Klingon orders.
Harry tries. "I can't. The program controls are off-line."
Harry gets an amused look on his face. "You wanted a war? Looks like you've got one."
Karl's beady eyes go wide. He can feel things slipping out of his control.
If he didn't have grander plans, I bet he'd be happy -- he normally loves "resilient prey."
Resilient is one thing. But as if he'd ever forgotten, he's all too aware now that the Nazis were on the losing side...and he's beginning to understand why.
[TO BE CONTINUED...]
I'll save a more detailed analysis for Part II.
A few comments.
First: the use of the Holodeck by the Hirogen is a stroke of genius -- the first truly innovative dramatic use of it in years. For a hunting species like the Hirogen, Holodeck technology is the ultimate playground, and I'm thrilled beyond words that Braga and Menosky made use of it that way -- and amazed by how far they were willing to take the idea. It's about time an enemy understood and exploited the sadistic potential of Holodeck technology.
If it was occasionally cheesy, that can be forgiven -- the Holodeck encourages that sort of thing. It's no sillier than "Day of the Dove" on TOS, when Klingons and Starfleeters battled each other with swords, imagined atrocities as excuses to commit atrocities, and discovered that they could not die, or at least stay dead for long.
I don't see any obvious parallels between the Hirogen and the Nazis, except that I can see the appeal on a dramatic level. Nothing says Absolute Evil like Nazis. Half a century after the war, we're still hunting them down and putting them on trial; one was identified and arrested just this week. It wasn't just the degree of violence they perpetrated. It was the philosophy, which was hinted at here. The whole Master Race thing doesn't sit well with those who happen not to qualify.
The Hirogen are Hunters; the whole galaxy is their game preserve; anything with a pulse is fit for slaughter. But especially the ones that put up a good fight. Unlike the Nazis, they Hunt because that's how they stay alive. It's also their way of "assimilating" other cultures. They study it; they track it down; they kill it and gut it and adorn their walls with it and ingest it. They consume it utterly, and the better the Prey, the more alive they feel. One Prey at a time. In their own twisted way, they honor the species they Hunt. Heck, a lot of human societies began in much the same way.
The Nazis made death and dehumanization an industry.
The Hirogen were not as imposing, but far more textured this time out. The growl-by-numbers too-tall behemoths of "Hunters" are not around. The impressive but too-focused Tony Todd type of Hirogen was a vast improvement. But this week, we really get to know the Hirogen species.
And though we've seen some evidence of it in the past, with Alpha and Beta constantly bickering with each other over whether to Kill Now or Continue The Hunt...here we see Hirogen in a situation entirely new, and struggling to determine how best to proceed. And considering the implications, now and in the long term.
The Kommandant is a Hunter of the Old School. The hunt is meaningful in itself -- that is what defines them, determines their character. He studies; he assimilates; he applies. He alone recognizes the cultural revolution promised by the Holodeck, because he alone seems to understand that his people are in trouble. That Hunting until there's nothing left to Hunt is as bad for the Hunters as it is for the Prey.
The young Hirogen, on the other hand, just want to kill. They think all this playacting is a waste of time. It's clear from several scenes that they don't dare challenge him head-on, but they are not above petty infractions and rebellions.
Which sounds a bit like the relationship between a certain Captain and Borg.
The crew pretty much acts as we are used to seeing them, at least in the WWII simulation. The Klingon program, on the other hand, was a total kick. Watching Janeway and Neelix in full-throated Klingon mode was highly amusing.
In the main simulation, though, it's status quo. Tuvok is the right hand man to the formidable Janeway. Torres handles the technical stuff. Seven likes to blow things up. Neelix cooks, cheers everyone up, and performs less obvious courier duties. Tom and Chakotay get to play the grizzled American heroes.
The only major attitude change is Torres. Paris says she has a bit of a temper, but the Torres we see here is fairly passive. She endures the disdain of the locals; she isn't easily provoked. You can see the hint of the Torres underneath, but it's buried under four years of German occupation and the struggle to survive.
Paris and Chakotay seem to get along okay. Seven and Janeway are at each others' throats. And in this simulation, Janeway has no problem with disposing of anyone she thinks isn't 100% behind her. She comes within five seconds of putting a bullet in Seven's head for the good of the cause.
War is hell.
The true revelation in this episode, though, is Harry Kim.
Whatever they're feeding him this week, buy stock in it. Wang was terrific. Poise under pressure, devious and quick on his feet, and snorting like the littlest bull in the pasture out to make a point, he not only outsmarts the Hirogen, but he manages to win a couple of chest-thumping contests. Instead of being the frightened kid who gets eaten alive in "Scorpion," he's the ship's last best hope for a counterstrike, and he's actually up to the task. It's a thrill to see.
Normally the Doc leads the Resistance efforts in times like this, but this time out he actually defers to Harry -- wow. I can't say enough good about that dynamic. It makes sense; Doc is so distraught and busy from three weeks of non-stop surgery that he doesn't have the time or the energy to brainstorm. While Doc fixes the people, Harry tends to the ship. As it turns out, both are needed to launch the counterstrike.
The idea of expanding the emitter grid is interesting so far. The Hirogen idea is to take the ship as their own and turn it into a floating Hunting preserve; Hunt the crew to extinction and then bring in other creatures they find. It's nicely ironic that by doing what was never meant to be done, they jeopardize the ship itself. The simulations expand into the corridors -- and technology -- of the ship itself. By reprogramming the crew so they think they're in the middle of a war against Ultimate Evil, they unleash forces that are destined to be more virulent than they can control.
This episode does strain credulity, but so what? It's a whole lot of fun. The Sainte Claire setting is very nice, very good looking, if a tad surreal with all the Hirogen running around in it. The period costumes are fun -- we finally get to see Seven of Nine in "regular" clothing, Janeway gets to look as glamorous as she wants to be, and we even get some lounge singing.
Some have disparaged Jeri's voice. I'd say, comparing her singing to other Trek folks we've heard over the years, that she's got most of the TOS voices beat by a mile -- and is a bit easier on the ears than Brent Spiner -- who has a broad, brash Broadway voice. (Speaking of which, I recommend his cast recording of 1776, where he's a brash and braying John Adams.)
This is an "adventure" episode more than a "message" episode, though the message is introduced. I think Voyager generally handles the "adventure" episodes better, but that approach does have a tendency to alienate the viewers who expect Star Trek to stand for something. They want the characters to be the Best of the Best. They want Federation Principles to be not only lauded but adhered to, the Hopeful Future preserved, the ideas to be compelling and thought-provoking.
And for Voyager especially, the Captain MUST be the focus -- in a good way -- or the episode is a failure. For some folks, it's Star Trek: Janeway, or it's crap.
Fortunately for them, Janeway's all over the place in this one, and she's quite competent throughout.
The 0-10 scale seems to confuse more than anything, so as of now it's history.
The fifth star never really existed -- all five star reviews are really just four stars and a high five -- but I'll continue to use it where I feel like it.
On the Four Star scale, I give this one (* * * *).
Stay tuned for Part II.