Voyager rewatch 2.21 – “Deadlock”

Weird is part of the job.

With “Deadlock”, Voyager gets back to what it does best: space doodads and weird stuff.

And it’s great. Well, good. Well, I had fun.

Sure, “Deadlock” maybe has a little too much technobabble and not quite enough emotional follow-through, but we’ve got Harry dying, Janeway being so stubborn she wins an argument against herself, and Ensign Wildman finally gives birth.

Actual saint Samantha Wildman

I don’t have kids myself, but I’m at that age where many of my friends are having children. They’ve all gone through pregnancy and childbirth with unique expectations and experiences, and I wouldn’t dare to generalise, except about one thing: they all found it really annoying when their uterus was treated as public property.

So I have to hand it to Samantha, who manages to go through labour and give birth without murdering Neelix or the Doctor for talking about “our” baby that “we” are having. She doesn’t even show irritation, which is how you can tell this script was written by a man without children of his own.

Other ways you can tell this was written by a bloke:

  • Samantha has one contraction, and that’s it, she’s definitely in labour
  • She was able to crouch down to examine an engineering thing thirty seconds earlier, which I imagine some heavily pregnant women could do, but the logistics seem challenging?
  • We cut from that one contraction to Samantha lying flat on her back with her knees up, being told to push
  • Yes, kids, it’s TV Childbirth Time!
  • The foetal transporter isn’t even mentioned until the last minute

That last one — look, I know the episode tells us that just beaming the foetus (but not the placenta?) out of the uterus can cause cellular damage to the infant, but this is a universe where motivated individuals have figured out how to beam through shields, or at high warp, or how to store their patterns in buffers or holodecks for days or even years.

So we’re two hundred years into transporter technology, and still trying to figure out a safe foetal transporter — suggesting that reproductive health is a low priority in the Federation, which is not at all in keeping with the utopia it claims to be. It’s not quite at “we have hyperspace and lightsabers but cannot conduct an ultrasound to recognise twins” levels of bad, but it’s on the same spectrum. It’s silly, and I reject it.

(I once asked a fannish midwife if recovery would be impeded by simply beaming the baby out of the uterus instead of forcing the mother to go through the whole business of a vaginal birth. Her answer was, well, childbirth triggers certain hormones and whatnot, but if Dr McCoy can give someone a pill which regrows a kidney, other Star Trek doctors can take care of that.)

The Kim is dead; long live the Kim

Space doodads! It feels like it’s been forever since we hit a nice, straightforward anomaly!

Duplicating the matter of the ship and its crew (but not the antimatter that powers said ship) is totally straightforward. By, you know, space doodad standards.

Doubles, duplicates, alternative interpretations, misremembered accounts, straight up fictionalisations — Voyager gets a lot of mileage out of this sort of doubling over the years. “Deadlock” is maybe notable for being one of the simplest. These aren’t different versions of characters, but the same people, twice over.

So I’m not one of the people complaining that we never revisit the fact that Harry Kim died, only to be replaced by his own duplicate. Yes, that’s weird, and in an ideal world Harry would get more in the way of therapy than Janeway’s throwaway “weird is part of the job”, but that’s the very least of the things Voyager could have given more time to. It’s not even the first time Harry has died, you know?

Whereas Samantha Wildman had to watch her newborn daughter die, only to be given a replacement goldfish baby. That is the story I want more of! How does Samantha deal with that trauma? Does it affect her ability to bond with the child she actually raises? In future seasons, where the child we come to know as Naomi Wildman is more or less raised by Seven of Nine, Neelix and the other regulars, is that because Samantha has trouble seeing her as her real child? Does Naomi know about this? (Will teenage!Naomi get to shout, “You’re not my real mom!” at Samantha?)

The two Harry Kims lived identical lives up to the last fifteen minutes before one died — but for one of the Naomis, that was a whole lifetime.

This week, Janeway is stubborn

Voyager gets a lot of criticism for writing Janeway inconsistently. And you know what? Sometimes, I agree. But I also think the inconsistency is vastly overstated, and pales in comparison to, say, the writing of Jonathan Archer. The emphasis on this as a Janeway problem is just a wee bit sexist, in my opinion.

But sometimes you do get the impression they spun a wheel, and wherever it landed, that’s Janeway’s personality for the episode. And this week, the wheel landed on Stubborn. But it’s in-character, and in line with what we know of her. Of course she bonds with her other self over stories of adolescent tantrums sulky walks through the rain.

And “Deadlock” gives us Round 2 of Voyager’s self-destruct sequence. Stubbornness is pointless without purpose, and Janeway’s purpose is to protect her crew, and anyone else she decides she’s responsible for.

This is a short post!

Apologies, but I’ve been sick for a week, now, with the sort of cold that makes a person extra grateful for the flu vaccine. I’ve spent more time asleep than awake in the last few days, and apparently used up all my energy thinking about Samantha Wildman’s traumatic childbirth experience.

[It turned out to be the same “flu-like virus” which hospitalised a bunch of people in my mother’s over-fifties community last month. Good times!]

In conclusion

Despite my running out of things to say about it — well, out of energy to think of things to say, at least — “Deadlock” is one of my favourite episodes of season 2. Two Janeways, no waiting! Three out of five Voyagers.

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