Is there EVER a bad time to watch Kate Mulgrew stab a virus in the face?
There are different types of conflict in the western storytelling tradition. Man versus man. Man versus self. And so forth. “Macrocosm” introduces a new variation: woman versus giant flying virus.
OKAY, LOOK. There’s not a lot to say about “Macrocosm”. Not because it’s a bad episode — on the contrary, it’s extremely enjoyable!
It’s just. You know. Insubstantial. An entire act is dedicated to Kate Mulgrew wearing a tank top and wielding a phaser rifle. Again, extremely enjoyable. But what is there to say?
(Save that it really bugs me that the Voyager turtlenecks zip up the back? Why do they even have a zip? Things like T-shirts and turtlenecks — you know, basics — seem really overdesigned in this series, as if the costume designers are so intent on being ~~~futuristic that they continually reinvent the wheel. I’m not saying we need to dress the entire cast from a Uniqlo sale catalogue — lookin’ at you, Star Trek: Picard — but we don’t need seams and zips when stretch cotton blends exist.)
“Macrocosm” might be insubstantial, but it’s not wholly self-contained — in fact, it develops existing plot threads and introduces new ones:
- Season 3 has seen Janeway wielding a phaser rifle to protect her officers twice already. Here, she goes full Ripley, but still manages to forge a diplomatic connection with a hostile alien who already dislikes her. It feels like the writers are finding that ideal balance between the various facets of her personality.
- The Doctor goes on his first away mission, and is also new enough to life outside sickbay that he needs directions to navigate the Jeffries tubes. I complain so much about Voyager being too episodic, and relying too heavily on the reset button, that I feel like I should highlight the exceptions.
- Tom and B’Elanna have a wee spat in the mess hall, which I think marks the official beginning of their slap-slap-kiss relationship. I’m not really into that dynamic, but they have a lot of chemistry, and the bickering builds on what has gone before.
- The concept of Neelix — whose value as a local guide is about to come to an overdue end — as ship’s ambassador is floated. This one’s interesting! One of the ideas for Deanna Troi, early in the planning for TNG, was that she would have an ongoing diplomatic role — but instead, that was sort of subsumed into Picard’s position as philosopher-king, and we only occasionally saw Deanna supporting him in diplomatic encounters. So a small part of me is like, “Oh, so the lady captain needs a bloke for the diplomacy, is that it?” But at the same time, Neelix is personable, and can handle the nitty gritty of trade negotiations and so forth.
- It’s nice to know that American Sign Language still exists in the 24th century, but now I’m overthinking how the universal translater would handle a sign language.
- Maybe not well, seeing how it goes with the Tak Tak.
- All that running around, fighting and sweating, and Janeway’s hair is barely disturbed. How much hairspray do we think went into that wig? A can a day? More? Did she leave a trail of bobby pins in her wake?
- We don’t get a close look at the painting Janeway is working on in the final scene, but it looks … bland. Smooth jazz to credits was an interesting choice.
Is this one of the great intellectual episodes of Star Trek? No. Is it a lot of fun? Hell yes. Sometimes you want a complicated moral dilemma — other times you want a dodgy CGI virus and a really big gun. Four virii out of five.