Voyager borrows the neighbours’ wi-fi to download a really big file.
This? Is a good episode.
Is it groundbreaking, special or in any way outstanding? Not really! But the structure is great, it balances plot with character and provides a showcase for every single member of the ensemble (except the Doctor, who got his spotlight last week) and tells us more about the Hirogen. Though it falls down in some moments, it does so in a way I find silly and entertaining, not tedious.
So. Thanks to the ancient alien communications array, Voyager has received a massive file from the alpha quadrant. It seems to be entirely text, so that’s, I dunno, a few megabytes? Hush, it has to travel a long way. While Seven and B’Elanna download letters from home — and an encrypted message from Starfleet command — the Hirogen notice an unauthorised presence on their network and take action.
This is an ensemble piece, so let’s just go through the character list…
Welcome to Dumpsville, population: Janeway
Janeway receives a letter from her (former) fiance, The Most Boring Man Alive, letting her know that her dog had puppies, and also he has moved on and gotten married.
Janeway is totally bummed while also recognising that he did the right thing, and I love that for her. She just sits with her feelings, because she is a mature adult who understands that just because something is right doesn’t mean it’s easy. (See also: killing Tuvix, which for some reason she seemed to feel bad about.)
Then she goes and takes it out on an innocent quantum singularity and some less-than-innocent Hirogen. Look, sometimes you need catharsis, and it’s not like she can go belt “Let It Go” in holodeck karaoke, can she?
Chakotay has just learned that all his friends are dead, and also the captain is single
I mean, that’s how it went down. He gets his letter, shares the bad news with B’Elanna, then hears that the captain got dumped and offers his dimples and a sympathetic shoulder.
In seriousness, this is where the episode falls down for me. Chakotay’s behaviour here only makes sense if he’s a master of compartmentalisation (and … we’ve met him — he’s not) or if he never cared that much about the Maquis at all. (And an argument can be made!) Or he has the emotional depth of my .5 teaspoon measuring cup. (Ding ding ding ding!)
Now, it’s salvageable. Let’s pretend that Chakotay really is trying for the sake of the crew and his own sanity to pretend that he’s okay. Or that he’s flirting with Janeway to distract himself from his grief, or because it’s a source of genuine joy on an otherwise terrible day. I’m pretty sure I read a lot of fics with those exact premises back in the day.
Please don’t think for a moment that I’m objecting to this quality J/C content, by the way! I’m totally into it! I just think this is one of those moments where Chakotay’s shallowness as a character becomes clear — and it’s a shame, because if Jeri Taylor had taken just a scene to address the emotional swings, he might have become a lot more interesting.
Vulcan’s Best Dad is now Vulcan’s Best Granddad
And he’s so overcome with emotion that he totally forgets to chew Neelix out for reading his mail! In fact, he’s so excited to get his mail that he allows Neelix to read it to him!
But the interesting bit of Tuvok’s piece of the story — for me — is actually a detail about Vulcan culture: T’Pel mentions that she had the priests at the Temple of Amonak say prayers for his safe return.
My reaction has always been, “Wait, the logic bros have priests?” And that’s common throughout Star Trek fandom.
But I shouldn’t be so surprised — ever since ye olde days of TOS, Vulcan culture has been a blend of the futuristic with the wholly archaic. And Vulcans, thanks to Leonard Nimoy, have Judaism in their DNA — a religion which has space for atheists who still practice the rituals and ancient traditions of those people.
I don’t know much about Jewish theology, save that is extremely complex and intellectual, but if my understanding is correct, it explains a lot about Vulcan society, and how they can claim to live lives of pure logic, and also have priests offer prayers, without seeing a contradiction.
Seven has fantastic intestines, apparently
Or so the Hirogen says.
More importantly, she has hit an important milestone in human emotional development: having a normal conversation with someone, then walking away worried that they’re fighting.
I don’t completely understand why Seven jumps to this conclusion, but when I do it, it’s because I’m anxious and not always good at reading social cues, so–
Okay, yeah. This is why fans tell Jeri Ryan they regard Seven as an icon for neuroatypical women. I get it.
Fortunately, Seven has Tuvok to consult for a reality check whenever Irrational Human Nonsense gets too much. The Logic And Efficiency Roadtrip is cut short, but I’m delighted that he remains a low-key mentor and guide.
I’m kind of annoyed by Tom even though he did nothing wrong
He has a lot to say about his awful dad and his fears that his father’s “hey, you’re not dead” letter will express something other than joy and relief. And I get it, his dad is a legit terrible person, and he doesn’t know (until B’Elanna tells him) that she is mourning all her friends and allies in the Maquis. And when she does tell him, he immediately puts his own nonsense aside.
All this is perfectly valid, but part of me is like, B’Elanna is also on bad terms with her parents! It’s reasonable to surmise that she is feeling exactly the same way as him! Just … include her in your anxiety, you know, Tom? Can you do that?
I can’t blame Tom, because the writers have also forgotten that B’Elanna has parents
Like. Guys. I get that she’s grieving for her friends, but maybe also throw in a line about how she’s kind of relieved there didn’t seem to be a letter for her at all?
But no, this is a Maquis plot. And it’s a decent one! B’Elanna’s grief will come up again — she’s not the dealing-with-feelings-and-moving-on type — but I kind of wish we’d gotten to see more people react to the news. Like, the episode ends with Neelix throwing a party, but what if some people were holding a small memorial instead? What if this was how Seven learned about the old division in the crew?
This is a pretty great episode, but what I’m suggesting is, maybe it would have been even better with More B’Elanna.
Harry Kim is an uncomplicated person who just wants to hear from his parents
His subplot is very straightforward: he really hopes there’s a letter for him. His hopes are raised and dashed repeatedly until the very end, when he finally gets his letter.
I actually found this pretty frustrating — I knew exactly what Harry was going through (we’ve all been there, right?), but we don’t learn anything new about our boy. In fact, he has played this exact note over and over again since season one. Garrett Wang does it very well, but I wish he’d get something new to do.
Neelix, tampering with the mail is a federal offence
I don’t know what the Federation Mail Service is like, but I bet they come down hard on this sort of thing.
Nevertheless, as an inveterate stickybeak … look, I get it, man, I really do, but you need to exercise a bit of self-control here.
The Doctor only has a small role, but he had his time last week, and he at least gets to go all Forensic Files on an interesting body. That’s not nothing!
- It’s a widely accepted fact on Tumblr that the final scene in this episode included a Janeway/Chakotay kiss, but the producers baulked and it was re-shot. For the record, I can’t find any official source of this rumour anywhere, and it’s not a widely received fact in other fan spaces, eg Reddit. I even had a dig around Usenet archives for a contemporaneous account, and found nothing. Part of me believes that this cannot possibly be true because my shipper senses would have been tingling way back in 1998, but the rest of me knows the lack of reliable evidence is the real reason it’s a myth.
- Janeway distracts herself from sadness by doing a monologue about the glories of coffee. Girl, I know.
- I know it was the ’90s and we all had a lot of strange ideas, but I do not remotely understand how this was considered subpar while “Message in a Bottle” was universally acclaimed. I suspect this is one of those times when what I want in a Star Trek is not what most other people want in a Star Trek.
- The Hirogen use
antlersalien skulls in all of their decorating, and I respect that.
We got a lot of character stuff and even a bit of an arc. I don’t care what anyone else says, I’m giving this four alien skulls out of five.