Star Trek: Voyager: The Disease   Rewatch 
January 15, 2018 6:21 AM - Season 5, Episode 17 - Subscribe

Never know how much I love you, never know how much I care/ When you put your arms around me, I get a fever that's so hard to bear/ You give me fever - when you kiss me, fever when you hold me tight/ Fever - from an alien virus, fever through the cosmic night.

Memory Alpha has a fever--quick, replicate more cowbell!:

- This episode originated with Kenneth Biller inventing the storyline about Harry Kim's relationship with Tal. "I wanted to explore the notion that people will stay in relationships that they know are unhealthy for them, because they feel an almost physical need or compulsion to be with that other person," explained Biller. "The idea was that in the science fiction world you could explore that as a reality. A love affair with an alien literally could make you sick, and yet you felt the compulsion to go through with it." The B-story, regarding the aliens who want to separate from the rest of their people, was later added to the plot.

- Most of the episode's opening shot was created with CGI by Foundation Imaging. Visual effects supervisor Ronald B. Moore commented, "I got a call from Foundation that it was going to take something like four or five hours per frame [to render, even though] it was a 20 or 30 second shot [....] That was the most complex model that Foundation had ever made for TV. We had the roll, and that ship had all the little pieces to it that had to be able to separate. Mojo [at Foundation] went in and worked with the animator. We would never have made it at five hours a frame. They pulled off the stuff that you didn't see, like the backside of the ship, and just pulled all that out of the render. It only rendered what actually showed on the screen, and was able to knock it back down into reason. The shot connects up on the interior, and up to the point of the connect-up it was all CGI. We come through the window and see that room in CGI. It made the change just as the door opens." Although the workload involved in creating the effect was lessened, Foundation staffer David Morton – who digitally built the interior room for the shot – still felt that the length of the effect itself was extreme, describing it as "one of the longest shots I've ever had to do."

- Ken Biller appreciated the aspect of the episode about Kim experiencing actual illness, due to his affair with Tal, but continuing with the relationship, regardless. "I liked those parts of the episode, that exploration of love," Biller noted. "I thought that the scenes between Kim and Janeway were [also] great. That was really good character stuff that [script writer] Mike Taylor did a great job with." Biller did not like the subplot concerning the Varo revolution, however, remembering that he had "objected to [it] strenuously." He also remarked, "The whole subplot [...] just felt really clichéd and tacked on. The story that I wrote was a much more intimate story about these two people. I was more interested in the relationship and the repercussions that it has in Kim's life, and the way that it affects his relationship with the Captain, and other people."

"I'm violating about half a dozen regulations by just being in this room. And what we did earlier... (ironic chuckle) I don't know if Starfleet even has a regulation for that."

- Harry Kim

"Going after impossible women: a hologram, an ex-Borg, the wrong twin, and now a girl from a xenophobic species!"

- Tom Paris, to Harry Kim

"You are such a lousy liar! Haven't you learned anything from me after five years?"

- Tom Paris, to Harry Kim

"I assumed that romantic love was a Human weakness, but clearly it can also be a source of strength. Perhaps my analogy was flawed. Love is not a disease. Get well soon."

- Seven of Nine

"I give up."
"After only two minutes? Tuvok, how do you do it?"
"I wait until his own illogic overwhelms him."

- Tom Paris, Chakotay, and Tuvok, after Paris loses an argument

"Last night, I had an... encounter with one of the Varro."
"A... personal encounter."
"Sex. We had sex."
"You had intimate contact with an alien species without medical clearance?"
"It was in the heat of the moment."

- Harry Kim and The Doctor

Poster's Log:

Well, let me proceed with the customary Getting Out of the Way of the Glaring Flaw: it was a distraction--because it was cited more than once, and even described in detail during one of Janeway's chewing-out-Harry sessions--that they kept insisting that there were these lengthy, elaborate protocols that had to be followed to the letter before the crew could bump uglies with aliens. What what? In my space opera franchise? It's less likely than you'd think. I think that it's one of those things that they thought of well into the game that they decided to simply insist on without trying to spend even minimal effort to retcon in. The obvious way to have No-Prized this is that it's the sort of thing that could be done easily and even pretty unobtrusively with a tricorder, both for the compatibility/disease scan and also to refer to those unwieldy Starfleet regulations. (It happens so often, you'd think that they would have an app for that.) It makes a lot of sense, really. It's just nothing that the show had ever, ever bothered with before. Hell, the eighth episode in this very series had no such factor in it. Alternatively, they could have given up the joke about the thickness of the printed version of the regulation and simply had Janeway make an announcement that there would be no fraternizing with these people, period, because of their laws, and get Harry for violating that. I also have a minor quibble that there's this terrorist/freedom fighter group aboard the generational ship talking about how they're willing to do whatever it takes to gain their freedom--by any means necessary, if you will--and one of them is talking to Chakotay, and does Chakotay mention the M-word? Even once? Sheesh.

Righty-o, so despite all of that, it was a great show. Really. Lots of nice SF stuff about the generational ship and the virus that helped cement the emotional bond; Harry's speech to Janeway about how maybe all that the regular ol' human L-U-V is is "pheromones, endorphins, chemicals in our blood, changing our responses, physical discomfort", but, like, so what, was not only honest but valid IMO. I've talked before about Harry's primary characteristic being that he sticks to his post, but...what if he starts thinking that his real post is with Tal? (And if you're thinking, well, he didn't stick with Libby in "Non Sequitur", well, yeah... but maybe this is streets ahead of what he had with Libby.) Even the bit where he's all haven't you ever been like this with anyone to Janeway--when he probably knows damn well what the deal was with her Dear Jane letter from her ex-fiance--is plausible, because love can make people dumb as rocks. (I sure was.) Contra to Ken Biller above, I also thought that the Varo revolution fit in well with the love hurts plot, because it's a literal and figurative break-up of a relationship that worked once but may not be worth it any more, and has gone on too long. (Ditto.) Even Seven's comments make a lot of sense, as she may have come around to drawing an analogy to her own deassimilation as the mother of all dysfunctional relationships.

So: good episode, despite the distracting and easily fixable sore point. Musetta Vander (which is kind of an SF-ish sounding name) has been in bunches of stuff; I was tickled to find out that she was one of the Sirens in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (although the actual vocals are Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, and Gillian Welch). Charles Rocket has also been in a number of things, although his story is more tragic.

Poster's Log, supplemental: Generational ships are a venerable concept in SF, including in the TOS episode "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky", which has the longest title of any Trek episode.
posted by Halloween Jack (10 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Kinda sad when Musetta Vander sounds more sci-fi than Charles Rocket. Just shows you how far we've gone since the fifties when a name like Charlie Rocket would be at the height of sci-fi glory. Personally, I blame Star Wars for ruining science fiction naming conventions.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:01 AM on January 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I think I also disagree with Biller about the revolution being unnecessary. Cliched? Maybe, a bit. (It's the exact plot of Space Mutiny, after all.) But it does add a nifty dimension to the story, without which, I worry, the story could have been a bit of a snoozer.

I always struggle with installments like this because they really have to stick the landing to not feel like marking time (because we all know the Love Interest of the Week won't stick around). I'll say that this one would have probably been a lot weaker two or three seasons ago. I feel like I wouldn't include this one on my "duffer's list," though.

and does Chakotay mention the M-word? Even once?

Could be a sore spot for him!

Musetta Vander (which is kind of an SF-ish sounding name) has been in bunches of stuff

She memorably portrayed the mantis-woman in an early Buffy episode.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 11:20 AM on January 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Particle of the Week: The hull-destroying nanotech definitely wins.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Some aliens (notably Orions) have the unfortunately named power of 'seduce.' It is appropriately unsexy in the game.

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 1.
* Crew: 134.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 9.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 1 game of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

* I always like seeing Musetta Vander.

As Cheeses mentioned, I think I first saw her on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where she played the vampy evil teacher in Teacher's Pet. She's always a welcome addition to a show.

Personally, I blame Star Wars for ruining science fiction naming conventions.

Man, are you dissing on Savage Opress, Cad Bane or... okay, I can't even try to do this routine with a straight face. ;)

* This one doesn't land for me.

On the surface of it, I probably ought to like this. Like, I'm not surprised to see that you did, Jack: it does have a lot of old-school science fiction elements.

In my case, I think it's just the combination of things that rubbed me the wrong way. On the minor side, the ship's too small - if Vander's people have been all alone for so long, their ship can't hold a big enough population to maintain genetic diversity. It's possible they were coping with this via gene therapy or something though, since their tech is explicitly superior to that of Starfleet. Also, 400 years is one of those arbitrarily big nonsense numbers we see here so much - Voyager can't go one week without bumping into someone that hails them or shoots at them, and lacking cloaking tech, it's very implausible they could've remained isolated so long.

That's all possible to handwave.

More seriously, I'm bothered by:

- The regulations about sex.

. I think that it's one of those things that they thought of well into the game that they decided to simply insist on without trying to spend even minimal effort to retcon in.

Pretty much my take. I'm more bothered by it than you are because to me, it's another example of Voyager's writers not being in tune with their audience - of all the things Trek fans are liable to notice... I dunno if this is the single biggest possible continuity error to ram into a script, but it's gotta be up there. It's similar to me to the stuff going on in Dark Frontier, where I feel like they're just tossing whatever at the screen.

- I hate the 'love is a disease' analogy.

To be fair to Voyager, Star Trek has always offered us a pretty binary and simplistic take on emotion - this dates back to the old Spock/Bones days of 'emotions are BAD!' vs. 'emotions are GOOD!' Seven's talk about this is very Spock-ish. ('Disease' was a bad thing to go with though - 'design flaw' would've been more her speed, IMO.) This is a very Trekkish plotline.

It still chafed though, in much the same way I'm annoyed most of the times Tuvok talks about feelings.

(I once wrote about love, back when I was keeping a blog.)

- Now there are psychopharmacology remedies?

When B'Ellana was going to kill herself, there were no remedies in sight. Harry's got a bad limerance and there are? Argh, Voyager!

*shakes a fist theatrically*

- Janeway's petty again.

Of all the stuff wrong here, this is the one I can't get past or chalk up to #TrekWorldProblems. Janeway's behavior toward Harry is... petty. She claims he 'hasn't earned the right to question his decisions.' Her talk with him lacks empathy even though she knows what this is like from her time with Mark. She admits to letting her personal feelings impact her judgment of him, a punishment that is going on his permanent record.

It's yet another case of the writers making Janeway out to be a bad captain and/or human being, and it was a story-killer for me because it's such a running theme. Basically, her only healthy relationships are with Tuvok and maybe Neelix - everything else is either informed (Seven) or dysfunctional (Chakotay, Harry).

* On to the good.

The relationship itself feels about as real as it can in the limited space provided. Vander and Wong have good chemistry. Also, props to them for the shuttle ride - most romances displayed in Trek have them doing cliched rom-com crap like candlelit dinners. The shuttle ride is something I would personally do. It felt real, and her reaction was delightful.

I also agree that the rebellion was thematically appropriate, even necessary for the episode, so it at least clicked as an old school Trek 'plot guided by metaphor' installment.

So... hm. I feel curmudgeonly about this, but yeah. Annoyed by this one. No qualm with those of you that liked it though - this is definitely a case of opinions varying because of which elements stuck out to each of us.
posted by mordax at 11:38 AM on January 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

In case anybody missed it from the DS9 25th anniversary thread: 15 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets about Star Trek: Voyager, some of which have been mentioned in these threads, some of which have not.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:27 PM on January 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

the DS9 25th anniversary thread

posted by juiceCake at 6:18 PM on January 16, 2018

Here you go!
posted by mordax at 6:23 PM on January 16, 2018

mordax, I was going to give my gratitude to Gowron but now you have my gratitude.
posted by juiceCake at 7:39 PM on January 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I liked this one better on rewatch as I didn't care for it much on first viewing. I still don't count it as one of the better episodes of the series, but at least now I don't think of it as one of its weak spots.

The construction of the episode is kinda weird as they wanted to both look at the love angle and breaking up at the same time, where Harry's relationship is matched against the split of the Varro ship, with Tal being at the center of both events. She, in effect, is both carrying the concepts of coupling and uncoupling at the same time. It's a bit clumsy in some ways, or maybe a bit too easy given the minimal drama in the splits, both of the Varro and from Harry.

They toss out a few ideas on love, it being like a disease, causing irrational behavior, but don't look into that too deeply just as they don't really go into the feelings about breaking up very deeply either. Both things are looked at from a bit of distance, more as a concept than the kind of emotional state that the story claims for Harry or the Varro. It's a bit bloodless beyond the disobedience involved, but not bad in what it does sort of cover. The lighter romantic elements are handled better than usual for the series, though the "resistance movement" element isn't quite as successful.

The episode continues the changes in Harry's character that they looked at a bit in Timeless, so in that way I think it follows a good, though a bit underplayed, continuity in attempting to grow the characters some. I liked the way they showed Paris trying to help Harry and looking at that their relationship, albeit briefly, and the Janeway/Harry confrontation and resolution worked okay for me too given the circumstances of how it all was set up. As mentioned, none of this seems to really fit previous Trek lore on mating, but it makes some sense in suggesting that it should have been more considered before. Even in the difficulty or pleasure of "how" one might mate with a different species is hinted at a bit here, which isn't a bad thing. It all reminds me a bit of earlier Kes stuff they explored a little, both in having different physical needs and in setting up a relationship that might make the character leave the ship, though in the end it doesn't of course.

Trek's record with love/sex relationship episodes isn't something I'd consider a highlight of the franchise, its often a weak spot for a variety of reasons big and small that are too involved to go into here, but this one worked okay in the end, not really moving the sum tally up very much, but not lowering it, so I'm mildly satisfied.

Oy, some of that stuff in the behind the scenes link is just unpleasant. Not giving Garrett a chance to direct is just assholish and this quote from Ryan? "basically, until I started dating [Brannon Braga]. Once I was dating the boss, funny how things suddenly cleaned up!” Ugh. Frickiin' Hollywood. I feel for Beltran though since he was screwed by the show and some of the other things mentioned are no surprise at all given what we can see on screen. It's all just bizarre to think this is how a multi-million dollar business could be run, but that too I guess isn't as unusual as one would hope given what we know about behind the scenes life in Hollywood and elsewhere now.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:10 AM on January 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

In her "cousins" discussion with Jippeq, the Varo leader, Janeway suggests something like the Varo ship could be the future of Voyager. Maybe she's just exaggerating to make a connection, but if she's serious about Voyager being a generational ship (something I don't think has been really discussed on the show before), one birth in five years doesn't seem a sufficient birth rate to keep a generational ship going.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:01 AM on December 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Funny how (per Star Trek) interspecies hookups tend to be so successful. I mean, in the short term. There's no issue with pheromones smelling like swamp gas, genders are similar, everybody kisses the same way, no major surprises when the clothes come off, no "um, I'll just take my uniform back and let's not ever speak of this again." Harry says things were "different" but apparently just different enough to be intriguing.
posted by bunderful at 4:58 PM on February 2, 2019

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