The following is a SPOILER Review. If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot (and everything else) given away, stop reading now. (But you probably know that by now.)
I reserve the right to be wrong, and to change my mind later. The following is my opinion at the moment I wrote it. Think of it as a tall tale told around a campfire. So snuggle close and perk them ears, 'cuz Uncle Jim's got a story for you. "A long time from now, in a quadrant far, far away...."
Paramount beats Steven Spielberg to the punch wfor the 47th sequel to Jurasssic Park: Hadrosaurs in Space. The Scopes Monkey Trial revisited...with the crew of Voyager as the monkeys.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Jump straight to the Analysis
It's sunrise on an alien planet. A familiar active volcano gurgles in the distance. And look--haven't we seen that cave entrance before? Let's take a look inside, shall we?
Whoah, it's dark. Better flick on that flashlight. Rocks litter the interior like speedbumps. Hold on a moment...this doesn't look like a rock.... (A three-fingered claw extends into the picture and lifts what turns out to be a filthy fragment of a yellow-and-gold Starfleet uniform. With Maquis rank insignia.)
Elsewhere, another flashlight reveals a large bone practically begging to be brushed off with an archaeologist's whisk. Sure enough, that's exactly what happens. It's a legbone, if I'm not mistaken.
We see two creatures--man-sized bipeds more reptilian than human, their hairless heads tapering back like the tops of summer squash--with flashlights, chittering at each other like overgrown starlings. Then the Universal Translator in my home theater system finally kicks in.
"Is there a genetic match?" The younger one (judging by their voices) asks the other. The older one confirms this. The younger asks if this is the proof they've sought. The elder, his voice cracking with emotion, says that if it's what he thinks it is, this could be the most important discovery in Voth history.
What have they discovered? We have some clues, but this one tears it--the flashlight points towards the floor of the cave...and the fossilized remains of a human skull. It looks familiar.
Alas, poor Hogan, we hardly recognized ye.
* * *
On the Voth ship, the two archaeologists (I'm guessing) assemble their new find. The younger places the bones of Hogan's fingers in their more-or-less proper order (only the alien's three-finger bias is showing--Hogan's two other fingers are in the Spare Parts bin). They've got the look mostly right, and we get to see Hogan's brittle skull from the side the Special Effect back in "Basics II" munched on to get to the chewy center.
"He's got opposable thumbs," the younger one notes, pleased. "We'd expect that from a technologically advanced culture."
The elder is studying Hogan's noggin. "His cranial capacity is 22% less than ours, and he seems to lack a Delitus Lobe." The younger wonders how a creature could live--or want to--without a sense of smell. "Oh, I'm sure he had some rudimentary form. But I doubt he would have appreciated the sulfur lagoons of Hokath." He chuckles softly. (I'm sure I speak for all of humanity when I say, "no kidding.") He also notes, consulting his scanner, that the creature whose remains lay before them was most likely warm-blooded.
"Non-saurian?" the younger one asks, disappointment in his voice. "Won't that weaken our case?" The elder dismisses the concerns. "The genetic markers are clear. We are related, however distantly. The question is, what's this endotherm doing out here?"
Whatever beings these creatures are, they are familiar with the scientific method. The younger alien asks the questions: did he have a ship? Was he alone? The elder consults the evidence. The clothing is made from synthetic polymers, and the molecular structure suggests replication technology. (They have dang good equipment, I must say.) He also notes its appearance--the solid colors, the crisp lines, the medallion on the collar. Was it decorative, symbolic, an indication of rank or status? Whichever, it's quite likely he was part of a clearly-defined social infrastructure, the elder one says. And that implies a ship.
Gingerly, the elder lifts the skull and stares at it, querying it like a Magic 8-Ball.
"Did your eyes see the planet of our origin? The true home of our race?
Was it ... beautiful? Was it covered by oceans, by sand?
Were there nine moons above your head? Were there none?"
(Not exactly Shakespeare, but oh well.)
Hogan, as usual, doesn't say much. The elder man sighs and sets it back in place. "He appears to be at a loss for words," he says with a hint of embarrassment, noting the younger being's look. Then he coughs and returns to his professional tone of voice. "This creatures ship and the people on it hold the key to where we came from. We've got to find it."
The younger agrees. "I'll contact our supporters at the Circle of Archaeology. Perhaps they can spare a research vessel and some assistants--"
"This isn't a field trip, Vir!" The elder's voice is sharp. "This news merits a fleet of ships! We need a sector-wide expedition! I'm going to contract the Ministry of Elders."
The younger--Vir--squirms a bit at this declaration. "Professor, don't you think that's a bit--precipitous?" He doesn't say "insane" or "suicidal." But he may have wanted to. One apparently does not approach the Ministry of Elders casually.
The Professor (I'm always happy when names or other titles are provided early) believes time is of the essence. "These remains are more than a year old. The ship could be thousands of lightyears away by now!" (They don't know Voyager very well. It's lucky to make one thousand lightyears in a year.) The Professor reminds Vir that since his initiation into the Professor's Circle, he's been committed to a pursuit of scientific truth. "Before, all we had was a theory. Now we have proof," he says, sweeping his hand over Hogan's remains. "We're going to the City Ship, present our friend here, and let him do the talking."
We get a good look at Hogan. Now...I'm no anatomy whiz, but it looks to me like their best guess as to its organization is...a nice try. It's nice to know that even non-human archaeologists have to endure a little trial-and-error.
The Professor's ship flies towards a much larger ship--the City Ship, no doubt.
The professor is in full swing, speaking with passion and poetry about his discovery and its import. "We have believed for millions of years that we were the first race to evolve in this region of space. This belief underlies everything that we hold dear. But that belief has been questioned recently--not only among the circles of science and philosophy, but among the common folks as well. My discovery proves the Distant Origin theory--that we evolved in a faraway section of space, on a distant planet traveled here millions of years go. Our true history...lost." He ends with a flourish, his dismantling of the status quo complete.
Seated on an ornate throne, a crimson-clad figure speaks with slow, articulate condescension. "A pile of bones. Impressive." She must be the leader of the Ministry of Elders. She has the voice and bearing of T'Pau of Vulcan...or Marge Schott of Cincinnati.
Undaunted, the professor continues. "These remains are just over a year old. They come from no species in known space. And yet--we share 47 genetic markers with this being." (The streak continues. If you're into Trek numerology, keep a lookout. If there's going to be a quantity of anything, chances are, "47" will be part of the value.) He has Vir put up the next slide, showing the genetic similarities. He goes on to say that in order to find the long lost planet, they need to find a living member of that species. He has Vir switch to the computer recreation, showing a bald, smiling albino in a Starfleet uniform, with reptilian features, three fingers and a snout the size of a Tic Tac. Not bad for a first try, but hardly to the quality level of a Steven Spielberg. (Then again, the sciences never do get enough funding....)
When the professor mentions that the species is endothermic, the throned Minister and a standing colleague regard him with contempt. "You're saying we're related to ... mammals?"
"Yes." He tries to say it as if it's only obvious, but it falls flat, given the august and pompous audience. He tries to get back to his request for a fleet of ships.
Nothing doing, says the chief minister. I got some questions. Such as, the colorful account of the quest for these remains. "I see you paid through the nose for them." The Professor--Gegen, she calls him, and none too soon (I was getting Gilligan's Island flashbacks)--acknowledges that he got the lead from some local traders, but he considered it worth the cost. She asks if he's considered he's been snookered by a hoax of some sort. Gegen bristles. He scanned every micron of the remains and deems them authentic.
The First Minister tries another tactic, which is probably the crux of the matter: the implications of Gegen's theory. "You're suggesting that our doctrine, our history, our sense of self, the authority of this very ministry (aye, there's the rub!) Is a lie." She eyes him dangerously; his theory is a threat to her people, and to her specifically. She is willing to defend the status quo, and vigorously.
Gegen suggests that the implications are staggering, though he has no wish to harm society. But, in light of his discovery, some of their beliefs may have to be...reevaluated.
"Reevaluated," the matriarch drawls, rolling the word over her tongue like a honey-glazed scorpion. After a moment's pause, her tone turns pleasant. Too pleasant. "We will consider your request," she says. The tone is clear, though, what the chances are: not bloody likely. The ministers exit.
"Well done, professor," Vir says, approaching from the back of the room. Hardly, says Gegen. "I underestimated the ignorance of my audience." (Given the nature of his audience, this seems perilously close to treason...or heresy.) He tells Vir to talk to the Circle of Exobiology, to drum up support. He needs some backing to get the Elders to open their eyes, he says.
Gegen's daughter has been waiting in the wings. She seems to question her father's discovery and its import--and its popularity--as much as the Elders did. She isn't quite as intelligent as her famous father, but she does seem to possess a level of common sense her too-bright-to-be-sound father appears to lack. "You never were very good at math, Dad; you overestimate your support." She's uncomfortable with the nearby mammalian bones, and what they suggest about her place in the universe. No sir, she doesn't like it. She is also concerned for her father, and urges him to back off a couple of steps.
But Gegen is a man on a mission. To cast open the windows and let the fresh air of truth into the myth-addled minds of his people. He feels he can't back down, because to do so is to deny themselves their true origin. As he sees it, not as the Circle of Elders promotes it.
This is the conflict: old versus new. The status quo, or revolution, for surely such ideas are the seed of upheaval. Paradigm shifts rarely come easily; those on the side of tradition have an awful lot to lose. And it must be noted that Vir's earlier question holds some validity: "isn't this precipitous?" Gegen, while clearly dedicated to the truth, could use a little perspective. Or at least some lessons in diplomacy.
Vir confirms this when he returns to Gegen's vessel with the bad news. The Circle of Exobiology won't support Gegen out of fear of the Ministry, which has seized his research and ordered him detained on charges of heresy against doctrine. In effect, Gegen stands alone against the entire Voth society. Well, almost; Vir will go wherever Gegen goes. Gegen is saddened by this news, but is determined to find this mammalian vessel. His computers have found something from the uniform, and translated a proper name to ask about in their search.
The name: Voyager.
* * *
Gegen's letter to his daughter: "Finding a single ship in a sea of stars isn't easy, and for weeks we had little luck. But then, Bona Fortuna smiled on us. We found a space station bordering the Nekrit Expanse, and some folks there remembered a ship called Voyager, and the strange people traveling in it. We got some clarification on their appearance" (the scene shows an alien correcting the fingers, pigmentation, nose and hair of the creature, resulting in something looking a lot more like a human male--though still nothing like Hogan). "We also picked up some souvenirs at the station--a beat-up Federation combadge, and a bit of warp plasma from--get this--a Tak Tak." (I could be wrong, but if I am--I don't care.) "We now have something concrete and obvious to scan for. This is getting fun, Frola. The game is afoot. Talk to you soon. Vir sends his regards."
Vir enters as Gegen completes his transmission, asking if it's wise to communicate with the city ship under their present circumstances. But as long as he's talking to his daughter, Vir adds, he hopes his regards were passed on as well. Gegen says he did.
Gegen's tone turns teasing. "I've seen the tint on your scales when she's around...I let you into my academic circle, and now you wish to enter my family as well?" Vir protests too much. "Traditionally, my family mates with the family of Towt. You should know your place, Vir." Vir lowers his head in acknowledgment. Gegen's tongue lashes out at the bug lantern on the table by which Vir stands, its sticky surface lapping up dozens of gnat-like beings orbiting the honey-gold glow. (Stunt tongue provided by Gene Simmons of KISS). Gegen then smiles; "but traditions are meant to be broken." He laughs; breaking tradition gives his life meaning, it would seem. Vir also laughs, but it's not as enthusiastic as Gegen's.
The console beeps. The scanners have found a warp plasma match, 90 lightyears distant. It's a ship, alright, with 148 life forms aboard, traveling at warp 6.2. (Let's do a little math. At best, Voyager can go 1000 lightyears in a year. It would take them, then, nearly 33 days at maximum cruising warp to get from there to where Gegen's ship is now. Keep that in mind.) Gegen tells Vir to turn on the Cloak of Invisibility, since they'll be there soon. Within seconds, they're jumping out of transwarp, and they find themselves nearly on top of the Starfleet vessel. (It's about time the namesake vessel finally showed up in this episode.)
Gegen says he doubts the puny late-blooming mammals will be able to detect them, so they'll be traveling incognito--looking for data storage banks, observing the humans (as they like to call themselves), etc. "Eyes open, Vir," he says with a smile.
Goodbye, archaeology. Hello, "Mutual of Voths' Wild Kingdom."
A lone crewman, wearing the same color uniform as Hogan, strolls through the corridors, right past the phase-shifted Voth. We see them; he doesn't. Vir's first observation about the ship: it smells. "Well," says Gegen, "they are mammals." Mammals who have been eating Neelix's cooking the last three years, to boot.
Gegen notes one of the wall terminals, guesses its function correctly, and says he wants to download the systems databases. He throws a switch on his hand computer.. "All done," he says less than a quarter of a second later. (All I can say is, gimme one of those.) Not only did he download the entire contents of the ship's computer systems, he did it non-intrusively, like a real download ought to (none of this pissant 20th-century Henry Starling "to download is to delete from the host system" crap).
Phase one: complete. Next stop: observe the humans in their natural habitat. And look: here come two of them now. And by golly, they're two folks we've been observing with similar interest this season: Paris and Torres. They're arguing. Which, as you'll recall, is flirting to a Klingon. Let's watch the Voth watch the human (and the half-Klingon):
"Anodyne relay," says Paris. "Plasma conduit," says Torres. "I checked the conduits myself," says Paris. "Exactly," says Torres, "You're not an engineer." She smirks and walks towards the turbolift. "I'll bet you," Paris calls after her. "Name it," says Torres.
"Male and female interacting," says Gegen. "Let's observe." They practically run after their subjects.
All five of Paris' mammalian fingers fly across the control panel. The final keystroke is stabbed like an exclamation point. Paris doesn't look at Torres. "Well?" he asks with feigned neutrality.
"Well...go ahead and gloat," says Torres, resigned to the fact that she lost.
"The anodyne relays...who would have guessed?" Paris asks to nobody in particular.
"It was a shot in the dark," Torres says, crossing her arms.
"And it hit the bulls-eye." They face each other. "Tonight, you pay up. Holodeck Two, Klingon martial arts program, no getting out of it this time." He smiles wickedly at the thought of her all hot and sweaty and pumped full of adrenaline. She gives him her best skunk-eye, which is not nearly as lethal as Janeway's yet. It only encourages him further.
"Courting behavior?" asks Vir. "Exactly, confirms Gegen. "Note how the female's feigned antagonism encourages the male in his attempt to mate." Vir notes there is no vasodilation (no change in skin color); Gegen says they must not have evolved the ability, and it may explain their reliance on "crude verbal interplay." (It's just a guess, but I imagine Chakotay and Janeway's "verbal interplay" isn't nearly as crude as Paris'. And Janeway, as a redhead, is now proven to be a being of advanced evolutionary character--just watch her blush. If that ain't vasodilation, I don't know what is.) Vir and Gegen continue to stare in fascination at the Dance O' Love playing out before them.
Paris finally leaves. "See you tonight...and BYOB." She repeats the acronym as a question. "Bring your own bat'telh," he says with a parting smirk. Vir watches Paris leave Engineering, while Gagan continues to monitor the reactions of the female, and boy does she react. Torres turns back to the console, leans on it heavily, and makes a face. "Bat'telh," she repeats snottily, making a face. (And, I just noticed, her hair is different--back to the way it was before "Real Life." Aargh.)
Speaking of readhead (which I do regularly), Janeway enters the bridge demanding a status report. Chakotay says they're coming up on a region of space heavy with tetryon radiation. Janeway asks what this means to their travels home. "A three month detour," Chakotay says. Janeway blinks twice, orders Tuvok to beef up the shields, and tells Chakotay to plow through that bad boy. (For those playing the home game, here's the first thing you need to know about Janeway: she hates the hell out of detours. She'd violate the prime directive, risk turning the ship into a spacefaring colander, and run over a puppy to stay on course. Seventy years is long enough to be traveling, without all these dang Construction signs popping up in front of her.)
While Janeway prepares the crew for the bumpy ride ahead, Vir and Gegen assess the social structure on the bridge. They determine that it's a highly stratified one, with the males subordinate to the female--most likely a matriarchy.
While they observe the humans in their almost-natural habitat, Kim notices something odd on his scans. (Who watches the watchers?) He reports that there's something on the bridge. Two somethings, in fact.
Janeway springs into action. She stands up, announces All Stop, and calls for an Intruder Alert. The Voth don't have their translators online yet, but they catch on quickly; they figure it's about them--especially when they find themselves unable to beam back to their ship. Vir, for the second time since they encountered the ship, suggests they just talk to the humans, but Gegen is a scientist, not a diplomat--he'd rather observe than interact. Though he says it may come to that if all else fails.
While Gegen's talon flies over his hand-held computer, Harry's hands fly over his own console, and he manages to give Janeway the approximate location of the invaders. Janeway pretty much walks into and through them, but they're out of phase so she doesn't notice. Her phaser, naturally, is drawn, and her trigger finger is itchy.
With some effort, Gegen manages to get them off the bridge, to another level. Fortuitously for Neelix, they appear in the mess hall, so he'll have some screen time. Harry has them located almost instantly. Tuvok and Chakotay head thataway, weapons drawn.
Before the turbolift spits them out on the proper deck, Kim gets the frequency, and Janeway tells them to adjust their phasers accordingly.
In sickbay, Neelix, holding a vegetable plate, looks in vain for intruders. But they're right in front of him. Gegen has just about got their escape route mapped when the security teams enter. Tuvok sweeps the room, points at Neelix, and says "There." Neelix, knowing Tuvok doesn't like him much, prepares to get blasted into the Daily Special.
Chakotay tells Neelix to duck. "Gladly," breathes Neelix, collapsing to the floor. Chakotay's weapon lashes out, disrupting the "interphase field" and revealing the two scientists for the first time.
They chitter incomprehensibly. The shorter one (Vir) points his hand at Chakotay, and an explosive charge sends a small ivory shard into the meaty part of his right shoulder. Chakotay, shocked, collapses.
Tuvok shoots Vir, who collapses with a very surprised look on his face. Gegen rushes to Chakotay, punches a few commands into his palmtop, and he and Chakotay both fade to green before Tuvok's next shot can do any damage. (Janeway should be thankful; the trajectory looked perilously close to the area just south of Chakotay's naval. Damn that Vulcan.)
Vir awakens to find a half-dozen humans standing over him. Most are armed. Neelix is holding dinner. Vir passes out from sheer terror.
* * *
If there's one thing Holodoc really, really loves, it's a patient who shuts up and lets him do his work with computer-like efficiency. Vir is conscious, but speechless. Perhaps the translator isn't working yet. But even the chittering is absent, so he's clearly not in a mood to talk.
Doc notes that he's got minor phaser burns, but nothing serious. He orders Kes to run molecular and DNA scans, both for medical and scientific reasons.
Janeway enters sickbay and marches straight to Vir's biobed. She rests one elbow on the mattress, leans in close and informal. She affixes him with her predatory glare. She once dropped a charging bull at Pomplona with those eyes. She's won staring contests with Nosferatu. It's spooky, I tell you.
Vir, being a highly advanced and intelligent being, is careful not to look directly at her.
She starts out with a friendly greeting. "A belated welcome aboard," she says cheerily. Then her voice lowers an octave. "Now who are you and what have you done with my cabin boy?" He looks at her quizzically. "My first officer," she says. "Tall, dark, nice butt, tattoo right here," she says, pointing to the left side of her forehead.
Vir nods, chitters something short and incomprehensible, and turns his head away from her even more.
Janeway leans over him, willing his eyes to meet with hers. "You have a ship. Is it cloaked?" her words are clipped so sharply Doc could use them to perform incisions. He refuses to look at her and chirps a bit more.
She changes tactics, assures him she won't hurt him, but she does want some answers.
Vir's eyes roll back into his head. He convulses twice, then slips into the silent comfort of a coma.
Can you teach Neelix that?
Tuvok asks if he's dead. Doc says it's more like a protective hibernation. Janeway tells Doc to treat his wounds, then revive him. In the meantime, she tells Tuvok to examine the alien technology; "I want to know what we're up against." She marches back out of sickbay.
Chakotay awakens on the same table Hogan's remains had been on, but it's in an inclined position rather than a lie-down state.
Gegen shows that his translators are capable of dealing with crude verbal interplay. He talks, and Chakotay understands.
"Don't be alarmed; you're on my research vessel."
He slaps his chest. "Chakotay to Voyager."
"I know your instinct is to flee, but there's a confinement field around you. Stay calm and you won't hurt yourself."
Chakotay doesn't flee. "Who are you? Why did you invade my ship?" He clutches the shoulder that got stabbed by the projectile ivory.
Gegen laughs; "It wasn't an invasion. We were on a field expedition, studying your species. I'm a molecular paleontologist; we meant no harm."
"Do you always harpoon the local wildlife?" Chakotay asks deliberately.
Gegen snuffles a bit. "Vir's my assistant; he's young, rash, and a little slow, if you know what I mean? Besides, your people shot first."
Gegen goes to the computer. He tells Chakotay he's downloaded their ship's databanks, and he's got lots of questions. He pulls up an image of Earth. "Is this your home planet?" Chakotay calls it Earth, and nods. Gegen asks if there are any of his kind there. "Who are you?" Chakotay asks. "Please," Gegen begs, "just answer the question."
Chakotay asks to be let go, and gives a number of reasons why. "Let's make a more civilized First Contact." (Fair enough.) "I'm a scientist, too," he says (I didn't know that); "Perhaps I can help you find the answers you're looking for." (Not bad for a mammal.) "I won't bite." (That's not what the Captain says....)
Gegen seems convinced Chakotay won't fight or take flight, so he lowers the force field. Chakotay leaps to the floor and takes two brisk strides towards his former captor.
"My name's Chakotay."
"Well, Gegen, let's talk about Earth."
Janeway rushes into Sickbay; "you sounded urgent," she says. Doc is urgent. He found the same 47 genetic similarities that Gegen did. "That's more than mere coincidence," Janeway notes.
Doc pulls up the computer analysis. What we see is a bunch of DNA. What Doc and Janeway see is that the 47 genetic markers are common to hundreds of earth species, dating back tens of millions of years. The import is obvious to the captain; "they evolved on Earth?" she asks. Doc says that's his guess. "In fact, I'd say you and our visitor are distant cousins."
Janeway stares down at her hibernating relative. "How distant, I wonder?" she asks to nobody in particular.
She bolts upright, tells Doc to transfer himself to Holodeck Two. "We're going to take a stroll through primaeval history," she says, her scientific hat plopped jauntily atop her head.
Doc transfers the data on the 47 genetic markers into the paleontological database. Janeway tells the computer to cross-reference the markers with humans and the creature in sickbay, and find a common ancestor in the earth fossil record. The computer quickly complies and finds a match. "Display," says Janeway.
Out pops something out of thin air, looking a little like a dog-faced crocodile. Calf-high, long tail, some nasty canine teeth, and a goofy grin. "Eryops, Devonian era. 400 million years ago," the computer reports. Doc says this is the "last common ancestor of cold blooded and warm blooded organisms."
Janeway asks the computer for the most highly-evolved cold-blooded descendent of the Eryops. The computer replies "Hadrosaur - Cretaceous era." Janeway asks for a display. The Eryops disappears, replaced by a creature a meter and a half, or so, taller than Janeway herself. It stands semi-upright, has a thick torso, and looks a lot like a reared-back, green-painted zebra with a squash on its head and a lizard's tail. It's got three-toed hooves, but the front paws are starting to look like they can -- or soon will -- be able to grasp things with them.
Janeway says the Hadrosaur was believed to have been wiped out in a mass extinction about 65 million years go. But What If.... Doc says the characteristics are there for a creature all set to climb to the top of the food chain.
Janeway asks the computer to do a genetic extrapolation and make a guess as to how the Hadrosaur would look after another 65 years of evolution. The computer answers immediately, as if just hoping to be asked that question. "Got it," the computer says.
The Hadrosaur morphs into a fully erect humanoid, with green scaly skin, eye ridges a Romulan would kill for, and a chin Jay Leno could sue over for trademark infringement.
Doc looks at the holoprojection, his voice filled with wonder. "That creature napping in sickbay...is a dinosaur."
Janeway is also staring at it. "So why haven't I seen him on display at the Smithsonian?"
On Gegen's ship, he and Chakotay are coming to a similar conclusion. And they're working out the Whys and Hows to boot. Chakotay posits that there have been countless natural disasters over the course of earth's history--earthquakes, volcanoes, asteroids, Kathy Lee Gifford Christmas specials--and it's quite possible all evidence of advanced saurian (from "dino-saur," get it?) and other civilizations are at the bottom of the ocean or buried under kilometers of rock.
Gegen says "that's why I had to find your ship." Chakotay points out that next time he should try a simple Hello. Gegen chuckles. "Eyes open," he says, a Voth euphemism for "I can see that clearly now." Or, in the imperative, "(keep your) eyes open." They seem to be getting along fine, Saurian and Mammal together again in peace and harmony, long lost cousins chewing the fat and talking shop.
Gegen admits his people's -- and his own -- prejudice. "We have never gotten along well with non-saurian races, particularly mammals. We've always considered them a ... lower life form. But I must admit I never got to know one before."
Chakotay stands, hands on hips, giving his best Janeway impression. "I hope I've made a good impression," he says warmly. Gegen's tone is warm in turn: "in fact, you have."
Chakotay says thanks for the memories, but thinks it's time he was heading back. He jokes that Vir is probably sick of "mammalian food" by now. (Tsk tsk, Chakotay--hang around with superior life forms for even a couple hours, and already you're making Mammal jokes.)
Gegen, unfortunately, isn't ready to let Chakotay go just yet. He points out his current troubles--the "heresy against doctrine" and their appointment with "the fourth colony." He needs to present living proof of his theory, to topple conventional wisdom, to put his people into a state of upheaval--you know, the usual science stuff. Chakotay doesn't like it, but he doesn't seem to have much choice. And, Gegen isn't a bad guy really. Except for his hospitality--those gnats taste awful, and he keeps getting his tongue shocked.
Tuvok places what looks like Vir's shoulder patch, a strip of circuitry, on top of an apple. Red delicious, I believe.
"An apple?" Tuvok asks Paris inquiringly.
"You said you wanted an organic test subject," Paris offers innocently.
"I was referring to a cylinder. But (he sighs) an apple will suffice."
Paris smirks. "Let's give it a try." He taps some commands on his tricorder, and the apple and the circuitry are shoved into invisibility.
"Fascinating," says Tuvok. "The apple got pushed just slightly out of phase with our space-time continuum."
"A personal cloaking device," says Paris.
"Far cooler than any cloaking device I've ever seen," admits Tuvok. (Apparently he wasn't paying attention when the secret of the Pegasus, which used pretty much this same technique, hit the newsfeeds. Granted, this design is a lot more portable. Let's hope they keep it; I approve of scavenging advanced alien technology for strategic use. Janeway even made it part of their charter way back in "Caretaker.")
As they banter, the ship starts to rumble.
On the bridge, Kim reports that a huge energy surge is coming up, dead ahead. From out of transwarp, a big-ass green ship, most likely the City Ship we saw earlier, screams to a stop. It immediately locks onto them. As if it mattered; it's already got a gravitational field big enough to yank Voyager toward them. It ignores their hails, mocks their shields, and beams them away.
Not just the crew. The whole dang ship.
Voyager appears inside the city ship. The camera pans back, back, back, back, and we're still inside the dang thing. City Ship, hell; this puppy's big as a planet. Yep, even inside the mothership there's plenty of open space for Voyager to maneuver.
Assuming they still had any control over the ship's systems. Which they don't.
Toto, we're in deep doodoo.
* * *
Janeway tries in vain to find solutions, but all she sees are new problems. Systems going down one by one. Kim locked out of command control. Power flickering out. Auxiliary not responding. Janeway, realizing they're in no position to negotiate, moves to her fallback position. "Grab the biggest guns you can find. Caddy, bring me my DeathMaster 3000. It's time me and Betsy kicked some dino-hiney." (I must say, this is a much nicer spectacle than last season's typical response to an impending invasion: "computer, double-click 'Shortcut to Self Destruct.'" I don't think Janeway's ordered it or even attempted it this year. Kudos all around for this, sez I.)
Tuvok hails the bridge and says he and Paris are locked and loaded. But there's no response. Turbolifts are also offline. Paris suggests the Jefferies tubes. They approach one in a darkened corridor, and hear now-familiar chirping. "Tuvok, I hope that's your stomach," Paris says. Their phasers are drawn. Paris works the manual override to the Jefferies tube.
Tuvok says his tricorder isn't working. He gets out the words "dampening fie" when a thumping sound drowns out the "ld." Tuvok's eyes go wide and he stiffens.
Paris runs to him. Tuvok reaches back and extracts an ivory harpoon. Paris grabs him, but Tuvok tells him to get to the tube. Paris argues, but Tuvok makes it a direct order. Paris sees an advancing Voth, and abandons further disagreement. He practically leaps into the tube and shuts it behind him, leaving Tuvok to slump into mammalian (are Vulcans mammals too?) slumber.
On the bridge, Kim yanks circuitry out of the wall, to no effect. He says they're completely locked out. Janeway says they can head to engineering, where there are manual overrides, and...
A bunch of Voth beam onto the bridge.
Janeway and the rest of the bridge crew whip around, weapons trained, Janeway's two-fisted death hammer the biggest of the bunch. They fire. All they get are clicks and chirps. The invaders laugh; the weapons speak better Voth than the mammals do. Janeway looks at her weapon in horror; Betsy has never let her down before.
The leader--one of the council of Elders, if I'm not mistaken, keeps it short and sweet. "Your vessel is under our control."
Gegen's ship screams through space at transwarp speeds. Gegen screams when he gets the message from the City Ship. He's been ordered back to it to stand trial for heresy against doctrine. If he does not, Voyager and all aboard her will be destroyed. (Apparently, the Ministry of Elders got its evidence-handling rulebook from Mark Fuhrman.)
Gegen finds himself facing a dilemma. He'd always intended to face his accusers, but he needed to drum up support first. Now he's at a severe disadvantage. He knows that the Ministry is willing to commit wholesale slaughter to suppress the truth. He isn't sure what to do.
Chakotay volunteers to go with him. "It's hard to ignore evidence standing right in front of them," he says. "Besides; it sounds like we're on trial as much as you are." Gegen bows to mammalian logic.
The Elder confronts Janeway. They are looking for two of their kind. One, they found in sickbay. He demands to know the whereabouts of the other. Janeway, her voice cold and even, says she doesn't know; he took her first officer and disappeared. It is the truth.
Our scans indicate you aren't from around here, he says. Where do you come from.
If you want my cooperation, I suggest you release my vessel.
She bores into him with her take-no-prisoners gaze.
He doesn't even blink.
"You are non-indigenous beings," he growls. "You have no rights under doctrine. Where do you come from?"
Janeway smirks. "Apparently, we're from the same place you are. Earth."
Her captor's eyes narrow. "I see that Gegen has already begun spreading his lies." Janeway, who was never properly introduced to Gegen, and came to the "distant origin" theory completely on her own (with the help of the good doctor and a helluva powerful shipboard database and system processor), bristles at the thought that her own research and conclusions would be deemed anything less than compelling. She sets her glare on maximum.
And sees her own reflection. This overevolved fossil is bad to the bone, and twice as dogmatic.
In Engineering, one of the Voth notes a change in status and moves to investigate. One of the control screens reads "weapons systems, manual override, authorization Paris Alpha 249." I'm not sure if he can read it, but the large flashing red letters to suggest it's something worth reporting.
He turns around, and watches Tom Paris enter normal space (he borrowed the personal cloaking device from the apple--good show, Tom!) And advance, carrying a slightly smaller version of Betsy. Paris seems to know the phasers aren't working, but nothing says Bludgeon like the Deathmaster 1800. The Voth takes a swing, but the evolved Hadrosaur (an herbivore, if I'm not mistaken--and I'm sure someone will tell me I am...but go with me on this, I'm on a roll) is no match for the evolved carnivore. Paris whups him upside the head, doing his part for Charles Darwin's reputation. Paris looks down on the fallen Voth. "Nobody steps to the front of the line on MY food chain, pal," he mutters.
Paris quickly activates the weapons systems, and arms a boatload of photon torpedoes. Then he forgets the primary rule of drama: show, don't tell. He hails Janeway, tells her what he's going to do. The old guy asks what's happening, Janeway says her helm boy is going to blow a very large hole in the side of their city ship. She tells him to fire at will, and tells her captor to find something to hold onto. He smiles and folds his arms.
But before I can do a cut-copy-paste of the last time I told the "fire at will" joke, Paris finds that the Voth have discovered and counteracted the command, and locked him out completely. The computer can't even tell him how it was done. He curses, then hails Janeway again with the bad news. "Nice try, Tom," she says. "You're fired." "Yes ma'am."
The old fart hails his own ship by tapping the cuff of his jacket. "Haluk to command," he says, finally giving his dang name 42 minutes into the show. He says the captain is proving uncooperative, and suggests they bring in the surgical interrogator. (Sounds painful. And not very nice. These Voth are not pleasant people.) He's told, however, that it won't be necessary. (Haluk seems disappointed.) Gegen is aboard the mothership, and ready to stand trial.
Chakotay and Gegen are escorted into the chamber of the Ministry of Elders by a single Voth. The same crimson-clad matriarch we saw before enters the room and sits on the austere yet impressive throne. A throne of power. A throne not used to brooking contention.
Without preamble, she calls him by his full name. "Professor Forra Gegen. You stand accused of heresy against doctrine. Do you wish to retract your claims regarding the Distant Origin theory?"
Gegen stands proudly. "I do not."
"Then we will proceed." She practically licks her chops at the prospect.
* * *
The Matriarch says that three months ago Gegen circulated a study, criticizing what he called "resistance to truth." Once again, disputing doctrine. And nothing chaps her hide like someone dissing doctrine.
Gegen apologizes for any misunderstanding; he had no wish to offend the Elders. But he protests that he never even mentioned the word "doctrine."
"You didn't have to," she says. "Your meaning was clear. For over ten years you've been spouting your Distant Origin theory, attacking and undermining the guiding principles of our society."
"Not so! I'm a scientist pursuing truth. I'm not concerned at all with doctrine!"
"My point exactly!" the matriarch roars, rising to her feet. She's old, but she's spry. "Your disregard for the effects of your casual theorizing is why you stand accused!" She urges him to recant...they'll show him leniency if he does.
"I can't. I can't hold my tongue when the truth is out there. When the truth is right here, standing beside me!"
The matriarch snorts. "The truth." Her minister hands her a datapad. "Our scientists have studied your data and we find no compelling evidence for your theory. We find the similarities in genetic tags to be random convergence, nothing more." (Johnny Cochrane couldn't have said it better. "If the genes don't fit....") (BTW, if I'm recycling jokes from previous reviews, don't tell me. I have a short-term memory; it wouldn't help.)
Chakotay asks to speak. The matriarch nods at the mammal. "Our data banks contain fossil records. Those 47 genetic markers appear in hundreds of species. Far more than mere 'random convergence' would account for. If you look at the data--"
"The data is not in question," she says dismissively, looking at Gegen. "Your interpretation is."
She changes gears. She sheathes the steely edge of her voice in a velvet scabbard. She praises him as one of their most venerable scientists, whose reputation she seeks to preserve in spite of himself. She asks if he would consider stating that there is even a possibility that his interpretation is wrong. "Will you at least do that?"
Gegen will not. "I am willing to admit that the picture is still incomplete. But I am convinced that the data states--indisputably--that we come from the planet that the humans call Earth!"
"There are those who disagree," says the Matriarch, suggesting that the facts are not so "indisputable" after all. She sits at her chair and pushes a button on the armrest.
In comes Vir, looking like he's just been flashed by the cast of The Golden Girls. "Tova Vir," the matriarch says formally, and lists his credentials, leading the witness through his resume. Admitted into the Circle of Archaeology with the highest of honors. Served with distinction under Gegen for the past six years. An eminent scholar in his own right, an expert in the field, she calls him, hyping his credentials to the point of absurdity. She asks the questions indulgently; he answers as if each word is a knife to his heart. His words are occasionally slurred. He stares with dead eyes; he may well have met the surgical interrogator that was meant to question Janeway.
They play their roles to perfection. She asks about the conclusions Gegen has reached. Vir admits, haltingly, that he considers them...flawed. His confession is delivered mechanically. He says he and Gegen now disagree on the import of the data from Voyager. He no longer sees any conclusive genetic link between the Voth and humans.
The matriarch's voice is almost playful as she gives Vir a warm smile. "Enthusiasm and passion are never wrong, Vir. Your only mistake was allowing them to distort your judgment. You may go." He somehow manages to keep his feet as he exits.
There's a Ferengi Rule of Acquisition: "When you've got 'em by the lobes, their hearts and their minds will follow." There is a human equivalent; I'm sure the Voth do as well. The Minister certainly understands the concept.
She asks again if he will recant. Gegen, angry now, demands to know what she did to his loyal apprentice and future son-in-law. He cannot believe Vir would betray him without some heavy-duty coercion. She repeats her query: will you recant? And repeats it again, her voice rising. "Respond to the question!" she finally shouts over his accusations about Vir.
Gegen succumbs to ten years' frustration dealing with this doctrinal dictator and her cohorts. "No! Why should I? You've already made up your mind! This inquiry isn't about evidence and truth! It's about keeping you in that chair!"
Even a mammal knows contempt of court when he sees it. "Gegen!" Chakotay hisses in warning. Gegen does not heed it. He's on a roll.
"It's about maintaining a myth that keeps the ministry in power! You'd do anything to silence me! Well, it won't work; I'll never retract my claims; I'd rather go to prison than help you perpetuate ignorance!"
"Your true scales are finally showing," she says dangerously.
"You're right, Minister, I was mistaken. I thought you might actually care about the truth, even if it called into question some of our deepest beliefs--"
"We are not immigrants!" she roars. "I will not deny 20 million years of history and doctrine just because one insignificant Saurian has a theory. One last time--could...you...be...mistaken?"
"It's you who are mistaken, Minister." This from Chakotay.
"What?" She doesn't look at him. Her voice is a Bud Frog croak. She can't believe the mammal is capable of such impertinence.
"You accuse Gegen of having his objectivity clouded by wishful thinking. But aren't you guilty of the same charge?
Her voice remains frightfully even. "I am not on trial here."
"I understand; but in a way your beliefs are. How you think about yourselves, and your place in the universe--that is on trial. And this isn't the first time."
"What do you mean?" the Minister demands.
"I've had the opportunity the last few days to learn something about your culture, and your great accomplishments. Consider your breakthrough into Transwarp--an incredible achievement! And yet, your ancient doctrine predicted terrible disasters if it were even attempted. That held your race back for millennia. Until someone took a chance and challenged that prediction. They succeeded, and your society entered a new chapter of exploration, and your doctrine was changed accordingly."
Chakotay begins walking towards the Minister. "I know from the history of my own planet that change is difficult. New ideas are often greeted with skepticism, even fear. But sometimes those ideas are accepted, and when they are progress is made. Eyes are opened."
The Minister's eyes are afire. "When I open my eyes to this theory, what I see appalls me. I see my race fleeing your wretched planet, a group of pathetic refugees crawling and scratching their way across the galaxy, stumbling into this domain. And I see a race with no birthright, no legacy. That is unacceptable!"
Chakotay's damnably calm voice doesn't skip a beat. "I see something very different, Minister. An ancient race of Saurians, probably the first intelligent life on Earth--surrounded by some of the most terrifying creatures that ever lived. And yet they thrived! Developed language and culture and technology! And when the planet was threatened with disaster, they boldly launched themselves into space. Crossed what must have seemed like unimaginable distances. Facing the unknown every day."
The Minister, the others, Gegen, listen with rapt attention. Their eyes glaze over a tad, as if visualizing their ancient ancestors in this new scenario.
"But somehow...they stayed together. Kept going, with the same courage that had served them before, until they reached this quadrant, where they laid the foundation of what has become the great Voth culture. Deny that past...and you deny the struggle and achievements of your ancestors. Deny your origins on Earth, and you deny your true heritage."
The matriarch is silent for a long moment. Gegen is deeply moved by Chakotay's impassioned revisionist history. And he doesn't seem to be the only one. The minister regards Chakotay, sentient being to sentient being. She gathers her robes about her, and returns to the chair. It's the moment of truth.
"Do you retract your claims?" (Nice try, Chakotay. You're fired.)
"No. I stand by them."
"Very well. It is my judgment that you will suffer the consequences of your obstinacy. Gegen, you are guilty of heresy against doctrine, and will be placed on a detention colony. For as long as you breathe you will never teach or engage in research. Your life as a scientist has ended."
Gegen expected this, and is ready to accept his fate. "As you wish."
The minister considers Gegen's proud acceptance. She turns to the mammal. "Chakotay of the Voyager starship. You, your captain and her crew will join Professor Gegen."
Gegen reacts as if struck. "Why?"
She ignores him now; his fate is sealed already. "You will spend the remainder or your lives on a detention colony. Your ship will be destroyed."
"Stop this, please!" Gegen pleads.
The Minister doesn't seem surprised to hear this. She turns to him expectantly. "Are you offering me an alternative?" She need not articulate the only alternative she will accept.
Gegen looks at Chakotay. Chakotay looks at Gegen. It's the scientist's decision.
Gegen sighs, a broken man. "I have...reconsidered. And I retract my claims regarding the Distant Origin theory. My analysis of the data was obviously flawed. I was...mistaken."
"You are prepared to refute your work publicly before the Circles of Science?"
The Minister's voice switches from hardass to helpful. "You will then be assigned to another area of research. Surely paleontology has become tiresome to you after so many years. Perhaps metallurgical analysis would be a more rewarding vocation for you."
"Perhaps." He can barely hear her.
The Minister turns to Chakotay. "I am not unreasonable. You were drawn into this...situation through no fault of your own. You are to be returned to your ship, where you will set course away from our territory." Her tone darkens. "It would be in your best interest if I never saw you again."
She tolls the bell, rises, and exits with her ministers, leaving Gegen and Chakotay alone.
Gegen is apparently assigned as Voyager's escort out of Voth territory. Now that his days as a paleontologist are over, tugboat captain is as good a job as any.
Gegen considers his fate aloud as Chakotay enters, carrying something. He expects he won't have a very distinguished new career; he slept through Chemistry in school, he laughs. He begins to beat himself up a bit for caving to the pressure. "I was foolish...arrogant. And I lost everything."
Chakotay steers him away from that line of thinking. "You were courageous, just as the Voth have always been. From the first time they left Earth."
"Chakotay, you've been a colleague, and a friend. I'll never forget you."
"There's something else I hope you never forget." Chakotay pulls a deep blue globe from a carrying case and hands it to Gegen as a parting gift. It's Earth.
Gegen handles it as the most precious gem in existence. His claw caresses Long Island, New York, a well known Hadrosaur hangout. "Someday, every Voth will see this as home."
Chakotay smiles. "Someday. Eyes Open."
Chakotay beams out, leaving Gegen lost in nostalgia for a planet unseen by his people in 65
Finally, "Threshold" is vindicated.
The Voth have transwarp capabilities.
Tom Paris broke Transwarp.
When he "evolved," he looked a whole lot like a Voth. (This was before the transformation that made him into the virile land-based catfish.)
And you people thought it made no sense. That'll learn ya.
But seriously, folks.
Dramatically, I liked this episode an awful lot. The Minister, in particular, played every hardnosed doctrinaire in history to perfection. She had the voice, the bearing, the eyes for it. She was born to play this role. I give her two (opposable) thumbs up.
Gegen was a bit whiny, and frankly he did deserve some of the brickbats about his methods and conclusions. He jumped the gun. He was so eager to prove himself NOW, that he ignored some very obvious next steps. It would have been a piece of cake, using his species' transwarp technology, to TRAVEL to Earth and do further research there. If anyone could find the needed data, it would be someone who knows exactly what to look for. And with a 20+ million year head start on technology, it's a fair guess the Voth could uncover some things that humans either couldn't find, or might overlook because they don't grok the significance of it.
Oh, and by the way, Professor--as long as you're going on your field trip to the old neighborhood--how about giving us a lift? Yes, once again Voyager misses a perfect opportunity to hitch a ride home. Granted, the Voth aren't in much of a mood to go there, and the Federation isn't in very good shape to handle the Minister when she's in the mood to destroy evidence. The whole planet could go the way of the--
I guess I can't say dinosaurs, now, can I? Damn them for taking away a perfectly good over-used cliche.
A lot of reviewers are pointing out one obvious parallel to this story: Galileo and the Catholic church. As you may know, the Church only recently (last two years or so) changed its mind officially and in writing about Galileo, who was forced to recant his theory that Earth wasn't the center of the universe.
Ironically, the trial of Gegen was just the reverse. He was in trouble with the Powers That Be because of his claim that the Earth WAS the center of their universe.
To quote Jean-luc Picard, speaking with Troi after his imprisonment by the Cardassian David Warner: "when he asked me whether I saw four lights or five, I could have sworn I saw five." Given the right circumstances, two plus two can equal anything the Powers That Be say it does.
It doesn't matter what the true answer is. It only matters what the acceptable answer is.
And often, those who first question the official answer are not around to see the fruits of their defiance. That was Chakotay's point, I think--people will see what they want to see. Eventually, the truth will be known, AND accepted, and the doctrine will change accordingly.
But judging from the response of the other Voth to Gegen's assertions, that time is not now. Just as Galileo didn't find a great deal of support in his own time. The Party Line is usually changed posthumously, after (sometimes long after) the question is rendered moot.
Another obvious parallel here is the debate launched since Charles Darwin published his Origin of Species. Evolution flew in the face of Creationism. That's an intellectual battle that is still being waged, even by Trekkers. (On www.tvguide.com, I even found a spirited debate prompted by this episode, that has ardent Creationists trotting out their own studies and facts attempting to prove a 6,000-10,000 year Earth, doing battle with Evolutionists arguing for an Earth with far more longevity. Whatever your opinion on the subject, I guarantee there is someone who disagrees with you.) The trial of Gegen smacks a lot of the Scopes Monkey Trial earlier this century, which paved the way for evolution to be taught in American schools. There was a lot of opposition to it then.
There still is. I frequently see references to "Scopes II" where suits are still being brought in this school district or that, attempting to have Creationism taught as an alternative theory. And the battle lines are drawn every time.
Part of it is about tradition, and belief. A lot of it, though, is about Power. Education is indoctrination. School is where we teach kids to become citizens. What we choose to teach, how we choose to teach, influences the citizens we produce twelve years later. And the younger we get to them, the better. So naturally, the battle over subject matter is a battle over the soul of the country. And a number of groups have high stakes in those outcomes.
Call it Doctrine. Call it Political Correctness. Call it Morality. Call it Common Sense. Call it liberal or conservative, Loopy Left or Ridiculous Right, call it any dang thing you want. It is all about Power, and exercising it.
If you exercise it unwisely, it will come back to haunt you. Might Makes Right only sounds good if you're the one with the Might. If you're on the business end of the blunt gun-butt of unrighteous dominion, told you can't be Right because you don't have the Might to back it up, and you're convinced the Mighty are Wrong...that's the stuff of which bloody revolutions are made.
What was Gegen doing? Looking for backing to support his theory. Powerful friends. You don't challenge the status quo without them. Even scientists do not give up cherished myths easily. Scientific revolutions may not be as bloody as real ones, but they can keep folks up nights just as easily.
Here's the thing. "Distant Origins" is the sort of stuff that TV GUIDE likes to call "cerebral," what separates Voyager from DS9, which is a more character-driven show. Compared to the still-infuriating "Real Life," this episode was a breath of fresh, if heavy air. Big ideas. Big, big ships. Big questions. Long speeches by Starfleet officers. Action. Words. Images.
And yet...this episode took a major departure from dramatic norms. With the exception of the skeletal remains of Hogan, the ill-fated Lieutenant from "Basics, Part II," we didn't see Voyager itself or its (living) crew until nearly halfway through the hour. If you've been paying close attention all season, you may have gotten a charge out of the bits and pieces they threw at you along the way. But mostly, this was an episode about Gagen, the Voth Galileo. The Starfleet people showed up, got the crud kicked out of them, were outclassed at every turn by the Voth, and ultimately found themselves owing their lives to a scientist who had to betray his life's work to do so. All because they didn't clean up after themselves, another Prime Directive no-no.
This episode wasn't about Voyager. It involved it, but it wasn't about the ship, its captain or crew. It was all about the Voth, who happen to be--maybe--our distant genetic cousins. And not very pleasant ones at that. (All the mammal bashing flies in the face of IDIC.) It was about THEIR big questions, not ours.
So here's the question: is this a good thing, or a bad thing? Can the crew legitimately become guest stars in their own series, even for a single episode, if the story's good enough? There are some folks who are trying to sell scripts to Paramount for whom this is a very real question. A few of them are furious.
At first, I had my reservations about this as well. Not just for the surface bashing of religion, for whose adherents "doctrine" is a word that means something important. The religious would like to believe that Trek has something to offer them as well, even though Gene Roddenberry believed that no existing Earth religion would make it all the way to Picard's time. (I read this from an exec at DS9, posting on AOL.) I decided, though, that the story was more about the eternal struggle between Right and Might, and Chakotay's speech at the end did a lot to make me feel better about this episode.
What Chakotay said was, in effect, Truth and Doctrine need not be in conflict. When Truth is established beyond all doubt, Doctrine can change if needed. I don't think that's an unreasonable statement. And given Gagen's lack of support even within his own family, it's a fair guess that the "truth" of the Distant Origin theory has not yet reached the level of undeniable Truth.
Bill Cosby liked to joke that "there's no way to win an argument with your wife. You can pull out the dictionary, the encyclopedia, and a letter from the Pope, and it won't do you any good." Nobody ever gets Truth rammed down their throats; they'll just cough it back up like a hairball. Denial is a powerful thing. And though I believe in ultimate truths, I don't believe just anyone who comes along claiming to have them. I pick and choose, testing each one against my beliefs, which are mine after a good deal of consideration. Where there's a conflict, my beliefs win out, unless there's no way to ignore the Truth of the new data.
This is the stuff of Paradigm Shift. Here's what I believe. I have no reason not to believe as I do. Until I have such reason. Then I go looking for something better, something that answers the question my current paradigms cannot. General calculus works great until you get to the subatomic level, or the galactic scale. The rules change. Newton doesn't work well with quarks (small q). The Watson-Crick double-helix model of DNA may give way to something else someday, if there arise questions that it cannot explain. I've heard a few challenges to it in recent years, in fact. But I'm a history major; I don't remember that stuff very well. I'm much more interested in pre-imperial Romans.
The boy's rambling again.
So anyway. Dramatically, this episode was a solid effort. Chakotay wins high marks; it may be the most he's said all season. And in the end, his contribution to the Voth may be greater than the immediate judgment suggests. It was an impassioned speech, and offered a new paradigm for the Voth to consider about the Distant Origin. Gegen certainly took it to heart.
He also took a symbol. If, as time goes on, the Voth begin to listen to Gegen as Europeans began to listen to Galileo, they now have the icon of the new age. They have an image, something that can be copied. And studied. And dreamed about. Chakotay's small act of kindness-giving Gegen a new appreciation for mammals, a new respect for non-Voth life, regardless of the age or grandeur of his race. It never hurts to be nice to people. In time, the Voth may become a more active member of the Delta Quadrant community of species, because of their contact with a tiny ship and a small but spunky crew.
Janeway didn't have a great deal to do in this, but she had some good moments. Her face-off with the Voth bad boy had her at her set-jawed best, and the look on her face when her weapon failed her was classic. She had a nice mixture of defiance, arrogance, and humor, as well as of the scientific curiosity that gets her face to beam more than just about anything else. She was practically helpless under the Voth onslaught, but she never lost her firmly-held conviction that they'd be back on the road, plowing through tetryon fields, soon enough.
For the humans, the cutest exchange was between Paris and Torres. The unique perspective of the episode allowed us to see their relationship from a neutral third party, observing them like zookeepers clucking their tongues at Ling Ling and Bing Bing, the fertility-challenged pandas. Not only do we get to see Paris and Torres bantering, we also see Paris win a bet, arm-twisting B'Elanna into a date on the Holodeck. It was cute, that's all I'm gonna say.
I mentioned this earlier, but I'll say it again. Voyager picks up a cool piece of technology in this episode. And uses it. The Interphase personal cloaking device used by the Voth and later by Paris is, conceivably, still in their hands. It's even possible they got more info, such as tips on Transwarp technology. (They still have Paris' souped-up shuttle; conceivably, with a little tweaking from the know-how of the Voth, they could make it safe to travel without turning into a dang lizard. And this could either get them home, or shorten the trip dramatically. The Voth are the THIRD species we know of who know about transwarp--the Borg are the third, and they're going to be featured prominently in the season finale (I'm not giving anything away here--it's in this week's TV GUIDE.) Gegen's enough of a radical at this point that he could well have given Chakotay a whole lotta scientific and engineering data that come from millions of years of cultural experience. Even if he didn't, we know Chakotay read about it. It's not inconceivable that he took notes.
Now...that said, I'm making a big assumption: that everyone's using the same word to mean the same thing. Perhaps the "Transwarp" used by the Voth is different from that used by the Borg, and attempted by the Federation (which has toyed with the effort ever since Excelsior and Star Trek III.)
I told some people I was going to trash this episode. Perhaps I'm just getting mean spirited in my old age. Perhaps it's a cry for help. I dunno. As I said, I did have some gripes with the show my first time through. But the more I watch it, the more I like it, and that's a huge reversal from the "okay the first time, ready to shoot the television by the time I finished the review" reaction I had to "Real Life" (which, incidentally, generated more reader response than even Blood Fever and Resolutions, the two prior champions). In truth, this episode made me think, and that's always a good thing. And I've noticed the strong and frequently contradictory reaction it's prompted among those not shy with their opinions. Some love it, some hate it, some scratch their heads and wonder what the fuss is about. This may not be a Trek Classic, but it is the sort of thing that Classic Trek did quite well, and quite often: look at another culture, and comment on it, and in the process think a little about our own. Sure, it's a bit preachy. But Kirk at his most eloquent was as well. In the end, there was no moral preached. There was plenty to consider, and you had to look to decide whether it was a happy ending, or a sad one, or a little of both. My one major complaint: they have a special guest star, and they never--not once!--mentioned her name on screen. Credits don't count. If I have a major beef, it's with small but significant omissions such as the names of major characters.
That pet peeve aside, I enjoyed this one. A lot.
On a 0-10 scale, I give this a 9.75, or (* * * *). A quarter point off for the name thing. If you're paying attention, Trek writers, pass the word along.
Next week: The crew lose the ship. Again. Third time this series. I think they do it just so they can fight to get it back. But it does provide an interesting backdrop for the ever-evolving Paris/Torres relationship.