Voyager rewatch 5.07 – “Infinite Regress”

Jeri Ryan earns her paycheque. And then some.

Star Trek does not deserve Jeri Ryan.

She was chosen because she was (and is) a bombshell,1 squeezed into an absurd catsuit — only for the writers to belatedly realise she was also a brilliant actress. She gets real clothes in Picard, but inferior writing.

Good writing but it takes twenty minutes to get out of your costume to pee? Or clothes with pockets but the dialogue sounds like it was generated by ChatGPT and your arc doesn’t actually hang together? What a choice. Jeri deserves better.

“Infinite Regress” sees her get what I’m gonna call the Brent Spiner treatment. You know, the sort of episode where they’ve realised they have a brilliant character actor on their hands, and by gum, they’re gonna write some characters!

Women almost never get this treatment in Star Trek. I mean, other than Jeri Ryan and, very occasionally, Sonequa Martin-Green, the opportunities to be silly and over-the-top and capital-A Act tend to be reserved for men.

For that alone, “Infinite Regress” is a standout.

It’s also a pretty decent episode in other ways, too

Sometimes I get to points in my rewatch where I’m … let’s say not excited to watch an episode. I have fuzzy memories of the VHS experience and a vague sense that I didn’t really have strong feelings about it as a teen. A feeling that it’s going to be challenging to generate enough thoughts for a whole blog post.

That was “Infinite Regress”. I’ve even forgotten most of the Greatest Generation recap, and that only came out a few weeks ago!2

But I watched this last night, and kept thinking, “This is actually good. Did I never realise? Was I taking Jeri Ryan for granted? Did I just daydream through all the scenes without Janeway?” (Hey, it happens!)

A brief list of things which pleased me

  • Naomi Wildman, rapidly becoming one of my all-time favourite kid characters
  • (I’m going to say something nice about the writing for child characters in the ’90s: I think Naomi is more convincing as a Slightly Precocious Child than Phoebe, Roy Kent’s niece in Ted Lasso. And I LOVE Phoebe!)
  • Janeway’s concern for Seven
  • Seven experiencing her first major medical crisis and NOT coping, but trying anyway
  • Chakotay conceding that he was wrong about Seven
  • The whole “poison the vinculum to destroy the Borg” scheme is smart
  • Also some Borg refugees who are small in number but heavily armed and not afraid to shoot you a lot
  • The wide range of personalities Seven experiences, more on that below
  • Tuvok gets to be Dadvok AND his solution to the problem is (as always) a mind meld

A slightly shorter list of things which did not please me

  • ONCE AGAIN B’Elanna Torres is sexually assaulted in her workplace
  • This incident is at least less overall traumatic than in “Blood Fever”, and is definitely not Seven’s fault at all
  • HOWEVER the whole tone of “sexy girl on girl action but also LOL as if two women would ever go on a date, that would NEVER happen” is gross
  • All the effects used to show the interior of Seven’s mind, but especially the mesmerizer lens — that’s the one that makes everything look flat and off-balance
  • It’s not the mesmerizer’s fault that it was used a lot in Babylon 5 and always in the most obnoxious and silly way
  • But it’s a bad lens and it should feel bad
  • (For what its worth, the various filmmaker subreddits and websites I browsed as I tried to find the name of the effect agree!)

A thing which amuses me

Janeway has the opportunity to go scavenging in the wreckage of a Borg cube, and doesn’t take it on account of how it’s unsafe. We are literally weeks away from her deciding to lead a heist on an active cube, so I have to assume she felt regrets.

(A Borg vinculum also plays a role in a Prodigy episode, in which Janeway’s young proteges also try stealing from the Collective. Some things are just meant to be!)

Seven’s personalities

First of all, I still see this episode described as “a multiple personality story”, and I think people should stop. Dissociative identity disorder is complicated enough without all the myths surrounding it.

SECOND, like I said, I loved the variety of characters Seven embodied, and the way Jeri Ryan played them all. But I especially enjoyed the humans, from the little girl with 12 brothers (please, please, please let me enjoy my belief that some sort of gestational technology was employed) to the young ensign, to the mother searching for her son at Wolf 359.

HOWEVER. It bugged me that Janeway described that personality as “a woman whose son was lost at Wolf 359”, because … that woman was also lost there. She was assimilated, and it’s somehow worse because she’s civilian.

It’s just a small thing, and no doubt it was an unconscious choice on the part of the writers, but it troubled me.

Other observations

  • I cannot imagine anything worse than having to deal with Neelix when you’re unwell. He is not a restful person.
  • On the other hand, the Doctor is lower-key than usual here, and I appreciate that.
  • Janeway’s hair is actually not that large this week, but it is full of personalities.
  • This week’s aliens look like they’re wearing some sort of Tron cosplay.
  • Tom is all, “A virus that affects technology???” like he isn’t on the very ship that got sick because of some cheese.

In conclusion

This is not a perfect episode, but it’s Solid Trek and should feel good about that. Three and a half personalities out of five.

  1. Consider how Berman and Braga cast Jolene Blalock, an underwear model with almost no acting experience, as T’Pol — only to belatedly realise she needed acting lessons. And that’s on them, not her — Blalock more than rose to the challenge once she had the support she needed.
  2. I knew they were going to overtake me, and I assumed that would make blogging harder, since I try not to plagiarise Ben and Adam TOO much. But my terrible memory has once again saved me.

One thought on “Voyager rewatch 5.07 – “Infinite Regress””

  1. I think there’s another lens suspect at play, the so-called ‘Squishy’, which director David Lingstone read about in a trade magazine and insisted Paramount hire for him. He then discovered that DP Marvin Rush had access to a Mesmerizer, and they used them both in tandem. Hence the squishly mesmerized result.
    Good revue.

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