Star Trek: Voyager: Unforgettable   Rewatch 
November 6, 2017 7:12 AM - Season 4, Episode 22 - Subscribe

Unforgettable/That's what you are/Unforgettable/Uh... wish on a star?/Da da da da da/That's inedible/Something something something unforgettable/Thinks that I am unforgettable too!

Memory Alpha wishes that it could forget, sometimes:

- Director Andrew Robinson was thrilled by the acting of his two lead performers in this episode. "They hired Virginia Madsen to play the alien woman," Robinson stated, shortly after having worked on this episode, "and that was great. Robert [Beltran] was great! [....] [Madsen] and Beltran will break your heart. They have this wonderful thing and it's an ill-fated love story. Get out the Kleenex! It broke my heart. They were sweet and honest and connected. There's a real charisma between them. It really was wonderful and I don't mind saying so myself, but I think it's some of Beltran's best work. I've never seen him better. The man has such a sensitivity and such a depth when he is given something to do."

- The romance between Chakotay and Kellin in this installment was facilitated by the fact that a potentially romantic facet of the relationship between Chakotay and Janeway – most substantially hinted at in the second season episode "Resolutions" – had been discarded by Star Trek: Voyager's writing staff. Robert Beltran noted, "They've pretty much dissolved the Janeway-Chakotay thing, and so they provided a romantic liaison for Chakotay [in the form of Kellin]."

- A race of people who can't be remembered first appeared in Neil Gaiman's 1996 BBC miniseries entitled Neverwhere; this episode appears to be partly inspired by that miniseries.(citation needed)

"Can I have your pudding?"
- Kellin telling Chakotay what he can do for her

"Basically, she was a security operative for her people. She is a trained expert in weaponry, surveillance fighting skills. Any idea where she might fit in?"
"Mr. Neelix could use an assistant in the Mess Hall."
- Chakotay and Tuvok

"Commander, I don't think you can analyze love. It's the greatest mystery of all. No one knows why it happens, or doesn't. Love is a chance combination of elements. Any one thing might be enough to keep it from igniting. Mood, glance, remark. And if we could define love, predict it, it would probably lose its power."
- Neelix to Chakotay

TVTropes page

Poster's Log:

Man, I had the best comment to start out this section with in my mind, but I just can't... sorry, just kidding. (There are a bunch of jokes that I'm going to refrain from making--well, no more than I already have--since I'm going to assume that others have been affected by the memory loss of a loved one, as I have. For that matter, I'm the one who repeatedly forgets to include the Memory Alpha link.) It's a pretty good episode with a fantastic guest star and a meaty premise and it almost sticks the landing... but not quite, for a couple of reasons. Still very worthwhile and very affecting, and with a sly poke at the infamous reset button.

Here's my main problem with the episode. Near the end, after Kellin has been hit by the memory wipe ray, she wants Chakotay to tell her what she's about to forget, including that she wanted to leave their society; when he eventually does so, she rejects that. I'm not sure why she doesn't just write everything down, so that she'll have her own testimony in her own handwriting. I can accept the space-magic aspect of the memory impermanence/cloaking field that the species has to the point that she may not have been able to simply make a video that Chakotay could play back later (although the bit about Voyager letting the Tracer use a virus to wipe all traces of the Ramurans from their records suggests that their records would be retained otherwise), but why couldn't Kellin herself write a letter to her future amnesiac self? Obviously the Ramurans must have a way of creating and keeping records, otherwise their tech couldn't possibly work. (For that matter, technology itself, of any sort, is a kind of record, so they wouldn't be able to permanently construct tools or shelter or even keep a fire going for very long. Having a race that had that sort of profound effect on reality would be a pretty incredible existential concept, but difficult to reconcile with spacefaring capacity.) The episode still would have worked, with her reading the letter that she wrote herself and simply deciding to reject it out of hand as possibly some sort of temporary insanity. (Bonus points if she threw it in the replicator to have it disassembled on a molecular level... and then finding out that replicators have the option of recreating a disassembled object, at least for a little while, like restoring a deleted file. Chakotay thinks of doing so... but decides to respect her privacy and decision.) This is a very minor quibble, not rising to the level of the ten-percent rule, and the episode still works with it; it's even debatable whether it would have been more effective coming from Chakotay or her own written testimony. The ep also could have had the Tracer give a better explanation for their actions besides "this is the way it's always been with us"; it occurs to me that they might otherwise be treated as the Founders from DS9 have been in the past, with hatred and fear from other societies who are apprehensive about their abilities.

But, like I said, still a great ep in a lot of ways. Speaking of forgetting things, I always forget what a great actress Virginia Madsen is; she's the best thing about the movie Sideways, for example. She just kind of glows. As noted above, by Andrew Robinson (!), Beltran is also in fine form, and I liked Neelix's bit about love, which I agree with--it is not inevitable. The still-kind-of-painful scenes with Harry and Seven support that; I think that the actors could have pulled that off, if they'd been written and directed better, but there's just something missing there. (One thing that's occurred to me in the past is that, if they'd wanted to do an AIDS analogy--which did eventually end up on Enterprise, done very clumsily IMO--they could have established that Seven was the equivalent of HIV+ because of her blood-borne nanoprobes, as was hinted in "Retrospect." I'm not sure that this writing staff would have handled it adequately, but with a better one, who knows.)

Poster's Log, supplemental: "Unforgettable." "Memories are Made of This." "Memories." "I Will Remember You." The Persistence of Memory.
posted by Halloween Jack (12 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"The man has such a sensitivity and such a depth when he is given something to do."

Damn, Garak.

why couldn't Kellin herself write a letter to her future amnesiac self?

I thought the same thing. Pen and paper would resolve this whole plot, just like how cell phones would resolve plots in a lot of pre-1980 thrillers and pre-2000 soaps.

Anyway, I agree that Virginia Madsen is good in this, but something about her performance felt weirdly restrained—like, above and beyond the extent to which the character might naturally BE restrained. Like Madsen wasn't sure she belonged on that set. Maybe I'm imagining things.

Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: The Ramurans appeared in a lengthy series of missions in a previous season of Star Trek Online, but mysteriously disappeared in a patch a few years ago, along with every mention of them on the STO wiki. Luckily, I took a Polaroid photo of a Ramuran NPC, and have scanned it and uploaded it here.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:11 AM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

I really hated the plot holes they included to further the plot in this episode.

No one can remember the Rumarans because of pheromones. Glossing over the idiocy of this concept, Kellin doesn't mention a computer virus when she says that tricorders can't detect her. But even assuming there is one, how is the doctor able to see and treat her, but not scan her? She says Rumarans are impervious to transporters. Because they can't be scanned? Because of computer viruses and/or pheromones which can't possibly come in contact with transporter machinery from kilometers away.

All of this is handwaved away

Chakotay helps Kellin track down and return a runaway Ramuran. Resket. Hello? Prime Directive? Hello? Asylum? Woman from an authoritarian society shows up to claim an escapee and Chakotay (A FORMER MAQUIS!) jumps to help her.

When Kellin says she wants asylum, everything suddenly changes.
Janeway: "We won't turn you over to anyone without knowing the whole story."


And then they jail Curneth. For trying to retrieve one of his own people. Which makes no sense, except that it gives him the opportunity to further the plot by escaping later on.

While he's in the brig, this happens:

Chakotay: "You have no right to do this."
Curneth: "I have every right. The laws on our world are very specific about that. No one may leave. No one may reveal anything about us to the outside world. Kellin has violated both of those edicts. Returning her will serve as a deterrent to others who might think of leaving."
Chakotay: "Did it ever occur to you that the fact that so many people want to leave might mean that there's something wrong with your society?"
Curneth: "We have a strong and cohesive society because of our efforts to keep it that way. A few runaways among millions hardly indicates a problem."
Chakotay: "If there are so few, why not let them go?"
Curneth: "That would suggest that we don't care about them. What a terrible message."
Chakotay: "You may have wiped her memory, but Kellin's not going back."
Curneth: "Maybe we should wait and see if that's what happens."
Chakotay: "She made it clear to me that she wants to stay here. So maybe you should start practising what you're going to tell your superiors."

That's what should have happened when Kellin arrived on Voyager to capture Resket!

This one was badly written and acted.
posted by zarq at 11:04 AM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Particle of the Week: Memory-erasing pheromones.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: In addition to Cheese's contribution:

Only one series of ships in Star Trek Online can fire energy weapons while cloaked: just the Romulan Scimitar, and only while using a special console. I personally prefer the style of cloak used in ST:VI though, since you can just leave it up all the time and stick to torpedoes.

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 17.
* Shuttles: Down 8.
* Crew: 139.
* 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.

* The Ramurans are too gimmicky.

You guys have already gone into this, so I'll be brief about where I agree: their own tech must be able to record them or it wouldn't work, Kellin could just use paper and the Doctor should be having more problems since he's not actually using his eyes to get any information.

On top of what's been covered, their memory-erasing nature shouldn't hit every species they meet in precisely the same way - like, I'd expect that some races would forget them as soon as they turned around (like The Silence in Doctor Who), while some would take weeks, and some might not at all. (Maybe Cardassians/Gorn/other lizard-y races.)

Also, I find it implausible that the crew would be willing to let an alien race they just met do who-knows-what to their computers with a virus. They've been through enough harmless looking aliens with bad intentions to know better, and it has to be against protocol. I mean, a similar thing happened on TNG, and it required a lot more pressing to get Picard on board.

* This is an intensely literal application of the reset button.

I don't like episodes where nobody even knows anything happened. Like... why tell the story if every consequence of it is removed and nobody will remember anything? I would've settled for Kellin remembering Chakotay - like, 'Voyager touched lives and doesn't know it' is okay. But having her get wiped too means nobody learned anything from this.

* Voyager based their decisions on blatant favoritism.

And this is the part that bothered me the most - the subject of zarq's post already covers this in good detail, but I wanted to back that up. I was deeply bothered by the idea that everybody would treat the situations between Kellin and Resket so differently. It shows poor ethics on the part of everyone involved, and a lack of clear policy since they do a 180 between Ramurans.

Additionally, I'm bothered that nobody's hesitant or judgmental of Kellin based on her background: she just quit a job kidnapping and brainwashing civilians. In her way, she's sort of like Seven, except that I'd expect her to feel remorse on that point. Like, 'oh I finally understand my former quarry, how horrible is it that I cost them their freedom?'

* I do like the message about love, mostly.

Love's a topic I wrote about on my blog when I kept up with one, and I'm linking it because I thought it was funny. I didn't touch on the topic of this episode that time, but I think about this a lot too, and like Jack, I mostly agree with Neelix. Love isn't guaranteed between two people just because they're compatible, it requires the right opportunity and timing. I've seen that again and again personally.

In principle, having a story about that is a good thing. I can see why some people like this story, and I can appreciate why Andrew Robinson was so excited to be a part of it because the message is a lot better than these things usually are.

So I guess at the end of the day, this is one of those ones where I'm personally pretty dissatisfied with how things turned out, but I don't think anybody who liked it was wrong to - it's mostly a question of 'did the good outweigh the bad for you personally?'
posted by mordax at 2:26 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Perhaps because I also rewatched Memento recently, I think there's the possibility of an interesting story hiding here around their different treatments of Kellin and Resket: not all of Voyager's crews' minds forget everything about them the same way at the same rate. So while they might have forgotten conscious factual knowledge about their first encounter with the Ramurans, maybe they still have feelings and reactions the second time around, subtle and unconscious but based on misgivings about their first encounter, and that tips their judgement in different ways?
posted by traveler_ at 9:25 PM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

maybe they still have feelings and reactions the second time around, subtle and unconscious but based on misgivings about their first encounter, and that tips their judgement in different ways?

It's plausible speculation, but I don't really feel like they were going for that in the writers' room because they didn't provide any hints in the story or mention of it in later interviews. (One impression I had during the original run that these threads has really reinforced is that they weren't going for subtle storytelling - both their best and worst outings all had pretty obvious intentions.)

Still fun to poke at the possibilities of a story like this though. One of our initial premises for these threads that we don't engage in often was 'how would we fix these stories?'
posted by mordax at 8:20 AM on November 7, 2017

'how would we fix these stories?'

Better writers.

Klingon Bloodwine.
posted by zarq at 8:49 AM on November 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

I seem to alway skip Chakotay episodes. This is the first time I've seen this. I thought it was pretty good overall. I had to rewind to figure out what Kellin was saying about her people. Lol. I like the concept. I can imagine their primordial ancestors. When the early Ramurans escaped a predator. The predator forgot them in the future. So every encounter was new for the predator. Making it difficult for predators to catch them. Bing bang boom. Ramurans evolve to become the dominant species on their planet.

I am a little disappointed in Voyager's anti-virus software. Wiping all info about the alien. Yeesh. Good thing the aliens aren't Nigerian Princes. I guess they haven't had a Norton Anti-virus update since they left dry dock like 4 years ago. :D

I realize reading these threads I'm such a trek...what's the word when you accept everything at face value? A simp? Sap? Sucker? I dunno. But I just watch this show and never realize that pen and paper would have solved all this. I need to be more critical of Trek.
posted by hot_monster at 5:31 PM on November 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

I realize reading these threads I'm such a trek...what's the word when you accept everything at face value? A simp? Sap? Sucker? I dunno. But I just watch this show and never realize that pen and paper would have solved all this. I need to be more critical of Trek.

If it sounds fun, you absolutely should. Personally, I don't really know another way to engage with media - the only reason I tend to restrict my lengthy comments to Voyager lately is time. I'm thinking about everything I watch in this manner.

But it's okay to just watch stuff and enjoy it, too. Like... that isn't an incorrect or lesser way to experience stuff. :)
posted by mordax at 6:51 PM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm in the set-your-suspension-of-disbelief-level-wherever-you-like school, although if you set it too high you'll find out pretty quickly that Trek hardly ever qualifies as hard SF, simply because of the number of things that are there purely as plot devices. In fact, I think that the real problem here is that they tried to explain too much with the pheromones nonsense. They could have simply said that the Ramurans automatically affect reality itself on some deep, Q-ish level, but in a very limited way, removing any trace of their being there, but with various workarounds--not applicable to records that they create, nor to records created by others after they're no longer physically proximate, but before the memory starts to fade. That lets Kellin and Chakotay write their own pre-amnesia records, gets rid of the pheromone nonsense and the extremely improbable notion of Voyager voluntarily erasing their records with a virus, and still preserves the central premise of the episode.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:28 PM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

This one was disappointing, not because it was all that bad exactly, but because it should have been better. It was a nice concept on a narrow theme which could have been the basis for a touching metaphor on its subject with their use of forgetting and remembering as an entry point. Unfortunately they didn't work out the details well enough, or as was mentioned, perhaps they worked on them too much, adding sci-fi gimmickry where they didn't need it. Either way, they ended up drowning out the more meaningful personal interactions with banalities about assignments, computer nonsense, shield modulations and so on. They lost the focus on what the episode was about in the interest of making it seem "plausible", even as their efforts made it less so for adding that focus to those elements.

This episode was reminiscent of the doctor's brief relationship with Danara, where they did a much better job developing the romance even as there were plenty of questions that could have been asked about the plausibility there too. (And some we did ask, but more as asides about what wasn't said than in complaint about what was.) It seems evident that they wanted to explore the ideas of the society Kellin came from as well as the romantic angle, but in starting the show with Kellin's return they shorted themselves the opportunity to provide a better footing for her cultural values, which she chooses to favor over Chakotay's invitation at the end of the show.

Michael Canavan as Curneth does a really commendable job with his brief role in selling the culture, not pushing too hard on their beliefs but being resolute in their rightness, but without Kellin providing more of an indication of her feelings on the subject, Curneth's talk isn't balanced against anything, either helping to rebuild the case for why Kellin would choose not to trust her former self because she cares about her world or in making it seem like more of a loss because she had doubts or anywhere between those points.

While I understand they only had so much time to provide all the info necessary to show Chakotay having forgotten and then falling in love again and Kellin forgetting and opting to leave, they didn't find the right balance to provide enough weight to the emotions behind the relationship. The pacing of the episode didn't help, scenes dragging on for longer than they had to, lacking concision in some scenes drained life out of the pairing as they spent time talking to Harry and Seven or Janeway. The computer virus thing was particularly annoying and pointless, taking up time from more interesting interactions for a really dumb idea that added nothing to the show other than distracting the audience over the WTFery of it all.

Beltran wasn't all that convincing here either. I partly blame this on the directing and pace, but there was also some lack of chemistry between Beltran and Madsen that seemed to come from some uncertainty over how much or which emotions they should show in some scenes. It almost felt like they were trying to make the viewers think it might all be a ruse rather than real since so much of the dialogue was about Kellin and Chakotay or in retelling unimportant details of Kellin's capture of runaway Whocares.

If they had used her capture of him to establish a contrast from how Kellin's capture played out they didn't do a very good job as there was nothing beyond the fact of the two captures to lend them any connection. I wasn't too thrilled with yet another invisible undetectable alien intruder encounter either, and it didn't play any better for being part of another Voyager forgets everything reset either, sorry, double reset. The Seven and Harry bits are weird too since they don't seem to have any clear idea of what exactly they're doing with those two, but keep acting like its meaningful. They aren't writing them towards building a relationship, but they act like they are. They can't figure out Harry much at all it seems.

Anyway, as I mentioned, it wasn't a bad episode exactly. Like last time the idea of the episode is better than the result, but its still okay if not exciting.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:52 AM on November 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have officially lapped you, having engaged quantum slipstream drive, and am 2/3 through S04E026, "Hope and Fear". With luck I will be able to leave time-bouys scattered about for you to encounter in these threads as we head for Terra.

I will note that pursuing the vetted list had dramatically improved my impression and experience of Voyager to date. In some ways, it increases my frustration with the series. In the past, when I have picked a random Voyager episode to watch I typically was sufficiently irritated with it to just stop watching the episode. In these vetted episodes, generally, I have found what I would consider to be real Trek; interesting, mostly thoughtful material, occasionally marred by lack of attention to detail or subtext and more often marred by a stubborn interest in a lack of consequences for the operatic events depicted. It seems to largely parallel the sense of the series this community is developing and writing about, which is interesting and I suppose unsurprising - the flaws of the worst episodes are also present in the best.

How frustrating and aggravating this must have been for some of the production crew, both behind the scenes and in front of the lens. I wonder if Tim Russ has ever written about his time on the show. My impression has been that he is as much a lifer as I am and his performances have been uniquely satisfying over the episodes I have seen so far.
posted by mwhybark at 1:08 AM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

A few notes:

The key difference between Resket and Kellin, as far as Voyager is concerned, is that Resket is a stowaway and Kellin asked to be there. But that's hardly enough to excuse the difference in treatment.

They make a lot of hay about how the Remoran ships use proton beams as weapons which go through the shields. But like, the answer to "how do I deflect a proton beam" is just magnets.

Chakotay really should have just tackled the guy when he was about to shoot Kellin with the memory gun. Instead, he slowly backs away to pick up his phaser, which would I guess make sense if the guy wasn't actively shooting Kellin already. The time for being sneaky is over at that point. Wasn't Chakotay a guerilla fighter?
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:24 AM on January 15

« Older Father Brown: Season Five of F...   |  Podcast: My Brother, My Brothe... Newer »

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