Voyager rewatch 5.20 – “Think Tank”

You’re not gonna believe this, but it turns out that the self-styled smartest people in the room are a bunch of grifters

It feels like “Think Tank” came too early.

I remember it being heavily hyped (Jason Alexander’s first role since the end of Seinfeld!) and then landing to lukewarm praise. Alexander’s performance was very low-key compared with whoever he played in Seinfeld1 and the story was not remotely comedic.

Without the baggage of expectations, and with more distance between us and Seinfeld, it turns out that “Think Tank” is a solid Voyager episode in the best possible way. Alexander plays Kurros as an evil wizard, promising safety and wisdom in exchange for a priceless reward, while Janeway gets to be the trickster goddess, turning his trap against him.

This leaves Seven in an interesting position. She’s the object of the Think Tank’s desire, but not without agency — it’s her choice whether to stay on Voyager or leave with the Think Tank, and it’s her ability to deceive Kurros and his people which saves them all.

What’s notable to me is that this is the second time this season that Seven has faced pressure to leave Voyager in order to save it, and honestly? She seemed more tempted by the Borg Queen in “Dark Frontier” than by Kurros and his offer of unrestrained, amoral intellectualism.

Which is interesting, because while we’ve seen the teaser, and know the Think Tank are ruthless and overall sketchy, Seven is going by instinct, and her basic moral core.

Watching this and Oppenheimer in the same few days was a trip

As I write this, it is BARBENHEIMER TIME. I expect that will be a distant and faintly embarrassing memory by the time I actually publish this post, but I think it’s an interesting contrast — Star Trek is famously a franchise that loves digging into complex moral questions, and “what do intellectually gifted people owe to society/are they responsible for the consequences of their research and the use to which their creations are put” is a question which “Think Tank” barely touches.

But I think that Seven’s attitude to the Think Tank — initial curiosity developing into revulsion — is where those questions are alluded to. For all that she has been reduced to a Tough Woman With A Gun in recent years, Seven was introduced as a character who valued intellect above everything else. Yet we see here that by now she has learned to apply morality and ethics to her work; her life on Voyager may not be consistently stimulating, but she’s doing more good than harm, and that would not be the case if she joined the Think Tank.

She’s come a long way, is what I’m saying.

Obviously it’s not a great shock that the Think Tank hired the Hazari

Voyager is pursued by bounty hunters, and not the cool type who wear buckets on their heads and adopt baby Yodas. I appreciate the way the script nods at red herrings, but I think this twist is the weakest part of the episode — it’s just a little predictable. On the other hand, you can only fit so much into 44 minutes, and maybe I’d be more impressed if I didn’t have dim memories of watching “Think Tank” twenty-four years ago.

But this does give us the low-key hilarity of the Hazari joining the regular cast in the briefing room, and watching in confusion as this team of giant nerds attempts to solve a bunch of puzzles. They aren’t puzzle guys! That’s not their jam! They’re clearly great strategists, but if you put them in an escape room, they’d get out by breaking down the door.

(Please make a Voyager escape room, I am also bad at puzzles but would have so much fun trying.)

Michael Taylor continues to be the unsung genius of Voyager

According to the credits, the story came from Brannon Braga and Rick Berman, but the script is by Michael Taylor.

According to Memory Alpha, the story was in fact Braga’s alone, and there are no details as to why Berman is also credited, although “Berman is a complete jerk” is always a safe assumption.

But the important thing, as far as I’m concerned, is that Michael Taylor once again turns in a script with rich characters, lots of interactions between Janeway and A Creepy Dude With An Agenda, and a surprising amount of worldbuilding crammed into one episode, all dealing with people we will never see again. “Think Tank” also gives Chakotay a bit more screentime than he’s had lately, which is interesting, since Taylor is also credited with “The Fight”.

It’s a real shame, in my opinion, that it was Kenneth Biller and not Taylor who took over as showrunner in season 7. I’m only now realising how many of my favourite Voyager episodes Taylor wrote — along with such iconic DS9 eps as “The Visitor” and “In The Pale Moonlight”. I’m starting to realise I need to check out his more recent work.

Other observations

  • The jellyfish lifeform looks exactly like a Hanar in Mass Effect
  • The variety of aliens here, including an aquatic being and a non-humanoid who lives in a variable-gravity environment, feels like proof of concept for the Xindi in Enterprise
  • Janeway’s hair is once again very large. It’s full of special guest stars
  • For the sake of my sanity, I have chosen to embrace the scenes where Janeway gets an extremely cheesy line designed to go in the trailer

In conclusion

This is not the world-changing Voyager episode that some fans wanted it to be, but it’s very far from bad. “Solid” feels like faint praise, but with 26 episodes in a season, I’m calling it a win. Three and a half jellyfish aliens out of five, and you get to decide which half of the jellyfish is there.

  1. I watched, like, two episodes and didn’t get the hype. I’d defend myself by pointing out that I was a teenager at the time, but it turns out I was exactly the right age group to date Jerry Seinfeld, sooooooo…

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