Star Trek: Voyager: Retrospect   Rewatch 
October 23, 2017 6:27 AM - Season 4, Episode 17 - Subscribe

This week on Star Trek: Afterschool Special: false memory syndrome--threat or menace?

Memory Alpha wants the cannon:

- Originally, the episode's story – as pitched by Andrew Shepard Price and Mark Gaberman – involved an alien computer dissecting Seven of Nine (similar to the plot of Demon Seed) to create an army of drones that it intended to use for galactic conquest. Although the story changed considerably from the original pitch, the writing staff of Star Trek: Voyager composed the plot's final version by essentially weaving the initial story idea together with a theme that comments on false memory syndrome. Staff writer Bryan Fuller remarked, "That's kind of what we had to fall back on for this one." Regarding false memories, he commented, "We hear so much about how they can essentially ruin peoples' lives, how well-respected and credited doctors have been completely dethroned, how teachers and parents have been humiliated."

- Before co-writing this episode's teleplay and joining Voyager's writing staff, both Bryan Fuller and Lisa Klink had attended the Star Trek Writer's Workshop at the Grand Slam convention in Pasadena, California and had made small contributions to the writing of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. They literally wrote every other scene of this episode, sharing the same anxieties as each other over the script. "I initially had my concerns," Fuller explained, "because we were trying to distinguish it from a TV movie about date rape [....] We [...] removed the sexual elements." Fuller believed that the turning point for the story's development was the addition of The Doctor to the plot.

- Ultimately, Bryan Fuller believed that he and Lisa Klink had successfully differentiated this episode from a television movie about date rape, and that the decision to remove the sexual aspects from the script had been made "wisely". He said, "I think it succeeded [...] and I think it's a solid episode." An element of the episode that Fuller especially liked was that it showed The Doctor was not infallible. "That's the great part of the story, that he screwed up," the writer opined. Nonetheless, Fuller also cited this episode as probably being his least favorite from those he wrote for Voyager's fourth season and related, "I found myself distanced from it. I'm always disappointed in a story when it turns out not to have happened, and it's based on some sort of illusion or memory wackiness."

"When I started helping you improve your social skills, I'm fairly certain I didn't include a boxing lesson."

- The Doctor, to Seven of Nine

Poster's Log:

Well, this is one that I didn't remember well, and people who had seen it more recently said that it was pretty bad, and yeah, it was pretty bad. The showrunners would have been better off working on a script that stuck to the weaponizing nanoprobes idea, but I think that there's something in a Trek writer's mental makeup that sometimes can't resist the idea of making an episode socially relevant and ends up after-school-specializing it instead. I mean, there's absolutely nothing wrong with making the point that racism is bad and stupid and will just end up with a lot of people being killed, or even that you shouldn't drink and drive a starship. But, you know, when you get all anvilicious with the subject, you run the risk of trivializing the subject, especially if you work as hard as this episode did to get the Doctor off the hook. It was painful nearly to the point of physical pain for a Doctor stan like me to witness the ricocheting between extremes that his character took in this episode:
"Welp, whatever is going on here is probably amenable to psychotherapy, so allow me, a physician whose personal manner is so atrocious that just last episode I shared with you some of the extremely basic lessons in manners that I was favored with, to dig deep into your psyche using a couple of random therapy methods that I just sort of mashed up on my lonesome."

"But captain! The truth of these assertions is proven by science! Science, I say!"

"Way-ul, could be that these amazingly detailed and disturbing memories of probing and extraction are just reflections of Seven's traumatic memories of assimilation, which I have never even started to try to help her deal with up until now, despite my staggering self-assurance that I'm qualified to synthesize psychotherapeutic techniques on the fly. Could be. Who can say?"

"Captain, please robolobotomize me."
Yeah, that's... that's just great, show. Just great. Combine with the arms dealer's refusal to let the crew fix their mistake by committing suicide-by-starship and Janeway's easy jeez-dude-everyone-makes-mistakes summary, and it's a multi-vehicle slo-mo car crash. There's no reason why someone couldn't have done something with the concept that made sense and had quite a bit more emotional heft behind it; instead, we got a story which bent over backwards so far to absolve the Doctor of any real blame (and also went way overboard with his mea culpa) that it fails to make any real impact at all; compare that with the therapist at the center of the McMartin preschool trial, who pretty much invented the "satanic panic". Sure, you don't want your characters to do something so bad that they're basically irredeemable--by the same token, Wesley Crusher didn't really drink and drive the starship, just got the space virus--but if you're going to let people off the hook that easily, why bother? There's also a huge missed opportunity with the implied analogy between Seven's assimilation and childhood sexual abuse--which does happen, in way larger numbers than false memory syndrome, just as Seven's childhood violation undeniably happened to her--that's shocking and sad. (It should also be said that the whole concept of false memory syndrome remains controversial, with some people insisting that it's invoked to protect abusers.)

Poster's Log, supplemental: no supplemental this time, I'm too bummed out by this train wreck of an episode. It makes the Hirogen look better, I guess. And I had fun playing Starfinder this weekend, so I've got that going for me, which is nice.
posted by Halloween Jack (13 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Trekkie Feminist did a good write up of this one. Ugh, so gross.
posted by chaiminda at 8:26 AM on October 23, 2017 [4 favorites]


Particle of the Week: Borg nanoprobes, although the redoubtable thoron gets name checked.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: The isokinetic cannon is available for player use.

Ongoing Counts: Rolled forward again.
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 17.
* Shuttles: Down 8.
* Crew: 141.
* Other: 46 bio-neural gelpacks remaining, maybe 25-50% of the escape pods should be gone at this point.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 9.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 1 game of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

Notes:
* This is so disgusting I barely finished it.

Indeed, I had to put it down last night and finish it up this afternoon in dribs and drabs.

The link to Trekkie Feminist that chaiminda provided covers most of my complaints better than I was liable to - whether they intended it to be so or not, this is a story about the dangers of believing women who say they've been assaulted.

I also agree with Jack about how awful it is that everyone's just... off the hook at the end. There's no real self-reflection. Seven eats a ton of blame. Janeway shrugs the whole thing off.

Other complaints:
* Jungian analysis?

"Welp, whatever is going on here is probably amenable to psychotherapy, so allow me, a physician whose personal manner is so atrocious that just last episode I shared with you some of the extremely basic lessons in manners that I was favored with, to dig deep into your psyche using a couple of random therapy methods that I just sort of mashed up on my lonesome."

Yeah. The early portion of the script reads like someone half-remembered a college intro course about psychology and just jammed something in the script. I'm no expert, but that would've been old fashioned when the script was written.

* Argh, the backstage stuff.
He said, "I think it succeeded [...] and I think it's a solid episode." An element of the episode that Fuller especially liked was that it showed The Doctor was not infallible. "
I just have no evens for this. Yes, Fuller, the important thing in this episode is what happened to the Doctor. At best, this is a rehash of lessons already supposedly learned in Darkling.

I haven't been this angry watching an episode of Voyager since Tattoo, and I feel like this one's worse because the Doctor is the one instigating the action instead of dumb aliens of the week that'll never be back. I believe it is the new winner of my least favorite episode of Voyager.
posted by mordax at 12:46 PM on October 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


I haven't been able to bring myself to rewatch it yet, though I will tonight at work when I can at least get paid to endure it, but I do wonder what Lisa Klink had to say about the episode since it certainly isn't much in line with the others she's written, aside from the B'Elanna bit and maybe some early stuff with Seven before the doctor is involved. How much was she involved and with what scenes I wonder? They alternated scenes according to Memory Alpha, which is weird in itself, so I have to suspect Klink took the Seven side and Fuller Kovin as an almost literal he said/she said account, but perhaps it was some other arrangement. It's something I'd like to hear more about though. Maybe I'll snoop around later and see if there's anything from Klink on the episode.

Oh, and even without rewatching it, I can say Fuller has absolutely nothing to be proud of for what they do to the doctor here. It's really a horrible direction to take the character, and one which they'll unfortunately keep returning to in different fashions.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:05 PM on October 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


I haven't been able to bring myself to rewatch it yet, though I will tonight at work when I can at least get paid to endure it

Good plan.

How much was she involved and with what scenes I wonder?

Huh. Fair question, I'll be curious to see if you turn anything up.
posted by mordax at 1:12 PM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]




I didn't watch the whole episode. It was uncomfortable to watch.

Seven of Nine: "I was violated by this jerk!"
Tuvok, Janeway: "Ackshully, we need scientific proof. Would mi'lady allow us to simulate a phaser blast?"

It's like some of this was written by reddit. :P
posted by hot_monster at 7:49 PM on October 23, 2017 [4 favorites]


Couldn't find anything from Lisa Klink on the episode, but I can't help but wonder why it is she left the show so soon after this one, with only one more episode to her credit. She departed with Taylor at the end of the season, making the show more of a boys club it seems.

The episode never answers why Seven responded so violently to Kovin and what the repressed memories the doctor first identified were, which leaves the ending lacking complete resolution in a way that is a bit strange. Given Klink's usual style of writing, I would have suspected the end would tie back to the open as that's kind of her thing. Fuller being involved may have changed that of course, but that still leaves unanswered the questions raised in the opening regarding Seven hitting Kovin. I have to wonder if there was a different resolution planned at some point, reversing the "judicial" understanding of events, which would align better with the idea of assault while drugged and the inquiries that follow.

The nanoprobe regenerating nonsense only tells us either Seven or Kovin could be telling the truth since either event could cause the spread they saw, evidently, so the absence of an examination table is the only other evidence of Kovin's side of events, matched against that is Seven not remembering the events as Kovin describes them or anything other than what she claims. Since we have no reason to doubt Seven's honesty, we have no resolution that makes sense, which is what makes me wonder about how this episode was developed.

As it is, it's shitty and offensive because the end connects so little to the beginning, where the story radically shifts from Seven's claim and the search for truth, or ordeals involved in that search, to shrugged assertions of Kovin's innocence, which Seven must bear given her accusation for reasons that are never made clear. It doesn't make a damn bit of sense other than as a way to avoid dealing with the very issues they raise in a way that aligns all too perfectly with our current system. That itself is another suggestion that something was changed or not thought through since a "message" that both recognizes and supports the fucked up nature of the system is no message at all.

Obviously I can see we all pretty much agree on the quality of the episode, I just wanted to try and figure out how it came about, how it was planned, and if it changed from that plan at a late stage. I think it did, but I can only guess as to how and why, but I hold Fuller, Braga, and UPN in some serious suspicion in how this turned out and why Klink and maybe Taylor didn't make it beyond this season.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:40 AM on October 24, 2017 [3 favorites]


So I'm almost a full season ahead of these posts on rewatch right now. Consequently, I watched this prior to the Weinstein floodgates opening, and I think that must be part of why I didn't at first put together how shitty the ending is w/r/t the initial "He violated me" setup. I'm sure another reason was that, almost immediately, I recalled this as being "one of those episodes where VOY recycles a formula that TNG already overused," namely the Troi-getting-violated installments, and on that basis I sort of checked out mentally from the rest of the episode because I figured at best it had attained afterschool-special profundity (since I'd have remembered anything more bold or progressive than that, like the one where Riker dates the androgynous alien). I couldn't even remember the plot of "Retrospect" until I opened the MA page; I seemed to have defaulted to watching solely for the main cast's performances.

But yeah, now that I look back on it: wow. It's difficult not to suspect some predator-apologia in here.

The episode never answers why Seven responded so violently to Kovin and what the repressed memories the doctor first identified were, which leaves the ending lacking complete resolution in a way that is a bit strange. [...] I have to wonder if there was a different resolution planned at some point

This suggests that was indeed the case:
Although the story changed considerably from the original pitch, the writing staff of Star Trek: Voyager composed the plot's final version by essentially weaving the initial story idea together with a theme that comments on false memory syndrome. Staff writer Bryan Fuller remarked, "That's kind of what we had to fall back on for this one."

The phrasing "had to fall back on" suggests one (charitable) explanation: that the episode simply got away from them. I was surprised by this other background tidbit:
both Bryan Fuller and Lisa Klink had attended the Star Trek Writer's Workshop at the Grand Slam convention in Pasadena [...] They literally wrote every other scene of this episode, sharing the same anxieties as each other over the script.

I mean, this sounds like a fun workshoppy activity for a couple of nerd writers to embark upon, but as a way to actually assemble a coherent hour of television—let alone a remotely respectful hour of television on a deadly serious topic—it's a disaster waiting to happen. I actually remember an activity I did at a writing workshop where we did the same thing on a sentence-by-sentence basis, and very quickly people started deliberately trying to throw off the next person in the circle; maybe that happened here.

Obviously I can see we all pretty much agree on the quality of the episode, I just wanted to try and figure out how it came about, how it was planned, and if it changed from that plan at a late stage. I think it did, but I can only guess as to how and why

Maybe, too, the writers didn't think things through because they perceived this episode (while writing it) the same way we do in terms of its place in the season: as one of those "marking time" installments between the Big Action Setpieces or other Event Episodes. In other words, and again looking at it charitably, it was rushed.

but I hold Fuller, Braga, and UPN in some serious suspicion in how this turned out and why Klink and maybe Taylor didn't make it beyond this season.

Yeah, and I'm not inclined to be charitable despite my remarks above. The Rick Berman factor alone points to the possible existence of a Good Ol' Boys culture behind-the-scenes; that Ira Behr claims not to have known about it could mean that it was far enough behind the scenes to not influence scriptwriting, and I guess we can hope that that was the case. But I just checked the season 5 producer/writing head roster and it really is a sausagefest. It'll be interesting/cringe-inducing to see how episodes like "Equinox" have aged (though the Seven-violation stuff in that one was more of a B-story IIRC). And then there was that icky one with Seven and the Doctor…or were there more than one of those? iiiihhhh.

I *am* pretty sure that Let's Violate Seven and Have Her Take the Blame episodes did not become a routine thing, because if they had, (A) I imagine I would have noticed and (B) I imagine Jeri Ryan would have left with Taylor and Klink.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:11 AM on October 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


And then there was that icky one with Seven and the Doctor…or were there more than one of those?

Sadly, yes, more than one where it gets ugly even if it isn't a main theme in all of them. Which is why I've been so comparatively lukewarm on the doctor's development even with liking Picardo.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:15 AM on October 24, 2017


Oh, and this quote: Ultimately, Bryan Fuller believed that he and Lisa Klink had successfully differentiated this episode from a television movie about date rape Kinda suggests the story had been more of a "TV movie about date rape" at one time which fits the opening.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:17 AM on October 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


It's difficult not to suspect some predator-apologia in here.

The thing that most seals that for me is Kovin's repeated assertions that 'even the accusation would ruin me!' followed by Janeway's bit about 'we've done enough to him already' and his suicide-by-cop.

There's no in-universe reason for this to make sense. Kovin engages in barter with random aliens. The odds of nobody ever even accusing a trader of wrongdoing on the basis of simple cultural misunderstanding is absolutely zero, especially given Kovin's attitude. His actions probably would've gotten him stabbed on a Klingon ship.

The plot point is idiotic in the context of five seconds of real worldbuilding - these guys would clearly have some kind of formal arbitration process to protect both their own people and the strangers they needed to do business with, especially since they're literally selling WMDs there.

However, it makes total sense as a defense of predators: 'you can't tell anyone about this' is the first refuge of the serial sex offender. I mean, it's afterschool special stuff right there - I think I first heard the trope on a very special episode of, like, Webster.

This can't really code as anything else to me. I mostly remembered it as generically icky before the rewatch, but goddamn.
posted by mordax at 8:20 AM on October 24, 2017 [6 favorites]


What makes it particularly galling is that it seems to have been decided on the fly, taking over an episode set up to be something other. That makes the accusation and reaction more meaningful, and gives even greater play to the ending, removing Kovin from suspicion. They purposefully set out to make Kovin creepy early on to place the weight of suspicion on him, only to then suggest that the real problem is judging creeps at face value when they could have their fee fees hurt. It goes beyond the idiocy of making a message show about the huge problem of repressed memories into not trusting any accusation without the kind of proof you just won't get from real assault cases. So the end becomes don't accuse or believe victims or you'll regret it. Classy.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:29 AM on October 24, 2017 [3 favorites]


I *am* pretty sure that Let's Violate Seven and Have Her Take the Blame episodes did not become a routine thing, because if they had, (A) I imagine I would have noticed and (B) I imagine Jeri Ryan would have left with Taylor and Klink.

I'm trying to remember if there's any episode to come that's anything like that, and I don't really think so--the closest that I can come to is "The Voyager Conspiracy", and that's nowhere near as offensive as this one. (It really comes off as an elaborate piss-take on far-fetched fan theories.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:56 AM on October 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


« Older Robot Wars: Series Ten, Episod...   |  Stan Against Evil: Know, Know,... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments