Voyager rewatch 6.10 – “Pathfinder”

Reg Barclay does it again (derogatory).

Here’s the problem with “Pathfinder”: it’s an incredibly important episode of Voyager, which establishes permanent changes in the ship’s situation.

Unfortunately, it’s also a Reg Barclay episode, so I hate it.

I was going to open this post with one of my sweeping and binary generalisations about fandom. I was going to say that Barclay is popular with neurotypical people and men, and wildly unpopular with neuroatypical people, especially women and non-binary people.

Then I wondered if that was really true, or if I was just assuming that my opinions and experiences are universal. So I tried to conduct some research via Mastodon poll, but forgot to account for gender because I’m an idiot. But as I draft this post, the results suggest that Barclay is more liked than not, but disliked specifically by neurodivergent people. Which is a result I like because it fits my prejudices, but here’s USSJoshuaNorton explaining her vote:

It may just be the whole female neurospicy experience of not getting the same slack that cishet men get that’s coloring my perspective here… but it feels like some of the stuff he was allowed to get away with with just an “oh you scamp” was stuff that needed stronger boundary setting…

And that’s how I’ve felt about Barclay for a long time. You know my rants about how the Doctor gets away with things he shouldn’t? Escalate that about a billion times with Barclay.

Reg Barclay is literally introduced in TNG using the holodeck to act out sexual fantasies with his female colleagues, and violent fantasies against the men. The consequence? Those co-workers are told they have to be nicer to him and include him more.

Now, that was 1990. Sexual harassment and workplace violence were punchlines, if they were discussed at all, and frankly Star Trek has always struggled with the idea that workplace sexual harassment should involve literally any consequences ever for the perpetrator. But as an adult woman in the workplace in 2024, who also hangs around in circles where predatory men have traditionally gotten a pass because they’re socially awkward and “probably autistic” and “don’t mean it”, it is really hard to¬† enjoy spending time with Reg Barclay.

And that’s before we consider that female characters like Seven of Nine, Sylvia Tilly and Agnes Jurati, or non-binary characters like Adira Tal, are expected (by fandom and often the shows themselves1) to pass themselves off as socially adept badasses, ideally while also being slim, sexy, well-dressed and gender conforming.

Anyway. Reg isn’t using the holodeck to act out sexual or violent fantasies this time. He’s using it to act out the fantasy of having friends, which is actually a lot sadder, and I have to assume he’s been blacklisted from every D&D group in Starfleet Headquarters. He has become obsessed with the USS Voyager, and I should be like, girl, same, but in the context of the show, it’s like being a true crime or unsolved mysteries fan with no boundaries.

More pertinent to the plot, Reg has also come up with a way to communicate with Voyager. But his theory is time sensitive, and frankly he doesn’t have much credit with his boss on account of certain other wild goose chase theories he’s come up with. He disobeys orders by bringing the theory to the attention of Admiral Tom Paris’s Dad, gets relieved of duty, breaks into the lab to run his experiment anyway, and then — when sprung — uses his holodeck Voyager friends to fight off security.

But his idea works, and Starfleet is able to communicate with Voyager — and will continue to do so in the future — and so Barclay is forgiven.

It feels like a tech bro fantasy. Yes, he caused physical and emotional harm, but he got the job done, so he doesn’t face any consequences! He gets to date his boss’s cute sister-in-law! I hate it!

Much of this takes place within a framing device where Barclay spills his guts to Deanna Troi, an always-welcome Marina Sirtis. And here I’m going to say some nice things about this episode: Sirtis does a great job in a typically fantastic role, and the set design for Barclay’s apartment is great. Also I like his cat.

Other observations

  • Aside from the final scenes, the Voyager crew only appear as Barclay’s holographic paper dolls, still dressed as they were in “Caretaker”. They’re not fawning over Barclay quite as much as in the Doctor’s fantasies earlier this season, but it’s close
  • If I had a dollar for every sixth season episode of Voyager where a fantasy version of B’Elanna is a compliant sex object for the fantasist, I’d have two dollars, which is actually kind of troubling
  • I assume that Barclay’s uniform is deliberately ill-fitting to highlight his awkwardness (again, this is something that women and non-binary characters don’t get away with), but on a modern TV it also looks incredibly badly made

In conclusion

Save yourself 44 minutes. Read the sentence “Voyager makes contact with the alpha quadrant and will have regular contact going forward” and move onto something else. One MIDAS Array out of five.

  1. This is specifically a Star Trek: Picard problem; Discovery is much, much, much better on every front.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *