Voyager rewatch 4.19 – “The Killing Game” (part 2)

“It’s Klingons versus Nazis,” someone in the writers room definitely said, “what can go wrong?”

Truthfully, nothing much goes wrong with the second half of “The Killing Game”. It doesn’t offer much by way of surprise, but does it need to? It fulfills the promise of the first episode and tells a complete story, and that’s enough.

The downside, of course, is that maybe I said everything I have to say last week? Let’s see…

“It’s time we mount a resistance of our own.”

Voyager is still in its “make the subtext extremely text [except for Janeway/Chakotay]” phase, so Janeway gets a moment to explain for the slower members of the audience the parallels between the French resistance and her efforts to reclaim her ship. No one points out that the French resistance called themselves the Maquis, hence the name of Chakotay’s anti-Cardasssian resistance, because then we might start thinking the Maquis were right all along…

Better living through holodecks

Janeway quickly comes to an understanding with the Hirogen alpha, appreciating his desire to replace the hunt with a more symbolic holodeck approach. Which is great, I love how she builds connections. However, I have two notes:

1. she goes from zero to “hand over holodeck technology to the Hirogen” REAL fast, and it’s not that I disagree — I think it’s a smart move — but I feel like we could have trimmed some of Neelix and the Doctor’s scenes in favour of a cursory mention of the Prime Directive; and also

2. I just feel like maybe, if I were in Janeway’s shoes, I’d be asking more questions. Like, “So are you planning for your people to only hunt holograms, or am I giving you a means of torturing people you’ve kidnapped?” and also “What happens when the holograms develop sentience? Notice how I say ‘when’? It’s gonna happen and you’ll need a plan.”

Now, Janeway does not know she is a character in Star Trek, and it’s not as if anyone in the Federation ever wonders about the sentience of recreational holograms, but STILL. Ask more questions, Kathryn.

Hello, I am here to play with your action figures as if they’re dolls

Which is to say, yes, I absolutely ship “Katrine”/”Captain Miller”, and firmly believe they were endgame within the context of the holonovel. “You’re a gung-ho kind of gal, aren’t you?” Reader, I cringed. But in a happy way?

I had this thought back when I watched “Nemesis”, and it bears repeating: Chakotay should wear khaki more often.

I do not ship Bobby/Brigitte

Look, maybe they could have worked it out, but his ambiguous reaction on learning that Brigitte used sex to manipulate a Nazi and is carrying that Nazi’s child, accompanied by his frank racism on encountering Harry … I dunno, man. I don’t think Bobby deserves Brigitte, or indeed, anyone else.

Maybe the Hirogen are Trekkies?

Like, you have the leader going, “Guys, our culture is stagnating and we need to do new things and find new ways of being. Like serialisation and streaming and in-depth character studies!”

But his second in command goes, “No! I want everything to be as it has always been, in my fantasy version of the glorious Star Trek Hirogen past! It needs to be episodic! And have a straight white man in charge! And it should be subtle with its messaging so the bigots don’t get too mad!”

And neither survive, so Janeway sends the rest of the Hirogen on their way with the compromise of Strange New Worlds holodeck technology, but you have to wonder if the Trekkies Hirogen will stagnate and die or change and thrive.

This is a very bad metaphor.

Speaking of metaphors, I have questions

So Brigitte’s Nazi, whom I shall call Kapitan das Schlechteste (which Google tells me means The Worst), finally mentions the Jews and the Nazi’s genocidal agenda.

It comes weirdly late in the episode, well after Tom has described the Third Reich as “Totalitarian fanatics bent on world conquest. The Borg of their day.” (Technically true, yet missing a fairly key aspect of Nazism, and also unfair to the Borg?)

Anyway, Kapitan the Worst (I’m sorry, “schlechteste” takes too long to type) has a rant about Nazi superiority and destiny which inspires the Hirogen second-in-command to defy his leader, and I’m like, fine, I guess this was a time when we didn’t need to be explicit about the whole genocide business because just about everyone was on the same page about it being bad?

But then I got to thinking — first, why is this a holodeck program at all? Is it a game people enjoy playing? Why? This was a real conflict with, again, real death. I mean, spoilers, I don’t understand the appeal of any military re-enactment, but it seems like an especially sick topic for a game.

(See also: the Crusades, which the Doctor mentions the Hirogen also “played”.)

But second, why on earth are the Hirogen identifying with the Nazis?! They weren’t great hunters in the Hirogen sense. In terms of capturing their “prey” (people), they mostly relied on brute force and local informants. Their killing was mechanised and conducted on an industrial scale, which doesn’t seem to be the Hirogen way at all.

“The Killing Game” is a really good story, but maybe I should have watched both episodes together, as God UPN intended, so I wouldn’t have so much time to overthink…

Final observations

  • The Doctor was intensely concerned for his crew in part 1, but now he’s watching with detached amusement and not helping at all as they fight for their lives.
  • I mean, what a dick.
  • Tuvok in a flat cap. That’s the stuff.
  • Janeway fleeing the second-in-command through the ship is a great sequence loads of tension
  • This is one of those Voyager episodes that would particularly benefit from a HD remaster — like most of the SFX from this era, it all looks quite muddy and grainy on a modern TV

In conclusion

It’s not that I don’t have complaints, it’s just that I suspect they’re unfair. This is a good end to a strong, entertaining story. Four bottles of second-rate wine.

 

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