Voyager rewatch 4.21 – “The Omega Directive”

Seven of Nine meets God in Star Trek: Discovery prequel

Can I just say, I really, really like “The Omega Directive”.

I’m saying that upfront because I’m about to launch into a bit of a rant about how yes, I think the absence of religion in Star Trek is a problem, but this is not the solution. And I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. I think “The Omega Directive” is GREAT, and that’s why I want it to do better.

First of all, this episode has everything I love

  • Seven of Nine growing as a person
  • The Harry Kim-Tuvok bromance
  • Janeway going from zero to self-sacrifice in a blink
  • Chakotay calling her out on it
  • a bit of a Federation conspiracy
  • weird space shit

Hey, have you noticed how well they’re using the ensemble this season?

Save for B’Elanna, whose screen time has suffered since “The Killing Game” due to Roxann Dawson being extremely pregnant,1 I feel like everyone has had a moment or moments in season 4. Which is surprising — conventional wisdom has it that the second Seven turned up, everyone else was sidelined.

But no! Tom and Neelix play small parts in this ep, but they’ve had bigger roles very recently. Instead, though this is Seven and Janeway’s story, we still get some great moments with Harry and Tuvok, and also Chakotay gets a leadership role and a shippy moment.

(In fact, Robert Beltran’s performance was so good in this episode that I need to do some introspection — I think it was in season 5 that the jokes about him being a wooden actor started, and I’ve always believed that he basically stopped doing more than the bare minimum around that time. And that might be true, but I’m also wondering if maybe fandom wasn’t buying into stereotypes about “stoic Indians” and “lazy Mexicans”. And by “fandom” I mean “me”, though I wasn’t aware of those stereotypes on my first few Voyager watches.)

Look, I just need to put on my shipper hat for a minute

Chakotay calls Janeway out for choosing probable self-sacrifice as her Plan A, as he should, and also describes her as “my closest friend”, which (a) WOW, RIP the Chakotay-B’Elanna BFFery, I guess; (b) everyone knows is code for “person I love”.

THEN he goes and adds that she “is not always a reasonable woman”, and I’m like, it’s true but he shouldn’t say it.

I mean, first of all, no one is going to hear that and go, “You’re absolutely right and I am going to change my course of action accordingly,” and SECOND, dude, let’s not give the misogynistic dudebro fans ammunition. And third, I can’t believe Janeway doesn’t just murder him on the spot and display his body as a warning to any other officer who might accurately identify her flaws. I mean, it’s what I’d do.

In fact, Janeway does change her course of action, so she’s clearly a better woman than I. But if I were Chakotay, I’d be sleeping with one eye open all the way back to the alpha quadrant.

The Borg are, like, spiritual but not religious?

Okay, so this is my beef with “The Omega Directive”. I’m overall pretty cool with the post-TNG retcons to the Borg. I like the Borg Queen as a concept, and I think assimilation as a search for perfection is brilliant.

But apparently I draw the line at “the Borg basically have a religion, and this molecule is their god, and Seven is going to have a spiritual experience”. I realise that intellectual curiosity is a bit of a dry concept, and in fact, the religious aspect was introduced to the script because the writers were really struggling to introduce an emotional hook.

But this doesn’t remotely work for me. It diminishes the Borg, and honestly? I cannot believe I’m saying this, and I feel like a complete hypocrite, but it’s the same problem I had with “Mortal Coil” — Voyager needs more atheism.

Because an intellectual obsession on Seven’s part would be more understandable and interesting (to me) than a metaphor for religion, and would make more sense for her as an ex-Borg, with her natural curiosity and Collective-inspired desire to learn about the molecule. Maybe, as an individual, she now has trouble seeing the bigger picture and declaring something irrelevant. That could have been really interesting and original, instead of being yet another Voyager story about spirituality and religion, written by people who aren’t actually spiritual or religious.

But this is my only complaint about an episode I otherwise really admire. And it is, as always, easy to play the Monday morning quarterback from a distance of twenty years.

Who would have thought this would be a Discovery prequel?

I think it’s fairly common knowledge, at this point, that though it’s never stated on screen, the power source for Greg the DMA in Discovery‘s fourth season is an Omega molecule (and that is probably the cause of the massive subspace damage that comes from Greg’s mining operations), and in fact, Omega powers the entire Species Ten-C culture.

This is very, very cool. It’s just the sort of fan service I like — not getting into the nitty gritty technobabble that alienates new fans, but the backstory is there for people who are curious.

But I also think it must have been in the mind of Michelle Paradise and the other writers as early as when they were prepping season 3, because Janeway’s description of life if the Omega molecule makes warp drive impossible across the quadrant … is basically the set-up for the third season. The cause is different, but the outcome is the same.

And I know I just said it’s the subtle fan service that I enjoy, but if Strange New Worlds wanted to do an episode about that first Omega experiment and the effective destruction of a whole sector, I’d be into that. Really get into space-as-horror (without SNW’s problematic “the Gorn are monsters” thing).

I will even note for the record that the science station we see in Voyager’s records looks a LOT like Starbase One as depicted in SNW, so it’s not improbable that the 2250s is the relevant time period.

Other observations

  • Both Janeway and Tom have new, enormous, hairstyles. Tom has been rocking some fluffy hair for a while, but it’s just growing!
  • I am constantly distracted by Seven’s corset and high heels. The world’s aesthetic has changed so much since the 1990s that they’ve gone from “a bit silly, but okay” to “just wildly inappropriate and hard to look at”.
  • It feels unfair to say this when we’re not even a season into Seven’s journey, but the more I watch Voyager, the harder I find it to reconcile Voyager‘s Seven with the character in Picard. She has flat shoes and pockets, yet she seems somehow diminished. It’s difficult to imagine the Picard character having the same intellectual curiosity as the woman we see here.
  • I love that, with the prime directive temporarily suspended, Voyager’s crew goes for NO HOLDS BARRED SAVING PEOPLE
  • This is a Lisa Klink script — you can tell by the lack of B-plot. Sadly it’s her last for the franchise. I’m gonna miss her.

In conclusion

Look, this is great. A few weeks back, I said that Star Trek is a franchise about women having ethical debates. This week, I will say it’s a franchise about women having intellectual, scientific and ethical debates. Four Omega molecules out of five.

  1. She went into labour shortly after filming her one scene, meaning she had to be dropped from the briefing room scene

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