Star Trek: Voyager: Equinox   Rewatch 
February 15, 2018 2:56 AM - Season 5, Episode 26 - Subscribe

(Part 1 of 2; season finale) I'm gonna start my OWN Starfleet! With blackjack! And hookers! …You know what: forget the Starfleet!

Don't you see? We're not so different, Memory Alpha and I…

- At the end of Star Trek: Voyager's fifth season, Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky required a season finale. The previous episodes of the season had tired them, however, and one of the few elements they knew they wanted to include in the forthcoming finale was a cliffhanger. Remembered Menosky, "We were all really exhausted. We didn't know what in the world we were going to do for the last episode. Brannon and Rick Berman worked out some of this episode. We probably had a week to go before prep, before Brannon came up with an idea that was workable." Braga himself recalled, "I had this image, a ship of people who were stuck in the Delta Quadrant almost as long as we have been, maybe a bit longer, but they have not responded the same way. They've done some very, very bad things, including mass murder."

- The idea was not initially appealing to Joe Menosky. "I just had no hope for it at all," he confessed. "It had the feeling of elements stitched together without a driving point of view [with a] haphazard and clunky structure and story." Menosky was attracted, however, to the prospect of introducing multiple new characters in the episode. "One thing this did have going for us is that we had four major speaking roles [....] As a result we could have interesting character dynamics. You could follow threaded, character arcs in a way that felt bigger than a single episode."

- Subsequently, the writers began to pen the script for the installment. "We clarified the structure of it halfway through the writing of it," Joe Menosky stated. "Instead of sitting down and outlining it, and then writing it, we just wrote it. We didn't even know really where we were headed. We would just write a scene and think what would be cool to come next."

- The experience of collaborating with Janeway actress Kate Mulgrew on this outing left Ransom actor John Savage with the impression that she would make a good director. "She was admirable with her focus," Savage noted. He also enjoyed working with Mulgrew. "I saw some wonderful possibilities and moments, like in the relationship with Captain Janeway, as man and woman, and also as captains, and as people," the actor related. "I just felt like I might have unfortunately overcomplicated myself, and had to be pulled straight by Kate. I didn't have to be. She was generous [....] It was a good experience [...] but we both had a lot of stuff going on."

- Titus Welliver (Burke) was delighted to appear in this episode. He fondly remembered, "My first day of work on 'Equinox' I thought, 'I've waited close to 30 years to be on a Star Trek set, and here I am.' I was like a little kid in a candy shop [....] I wish I had as much fun on all my jobs as I did on this one."

- As most producers and directors usually wanted Titus Welliver to play crazy characters, he found a notable contrast with the role of First Officer Burke, stating, "He's probably one of the most subtle characters that I've ever portrayed [....] I felt that in order to give Burke any sort of military presence I had to play him with an incredible stillness, and I found this made him appear that much stronger. It was a challenge to be present in scenes and have to remain calm and focused as opposed to being very animated and expressive."

- Titus Welliver noted that the timing of the installment's production facilitated certain festivities. "We filmed the first part of 'Equinox' around Saint Patrick's Day," he said, "and Kate [Mulgrew] threw a party and we all had a blast."

- Because this episode features a lot of members of a completely new alien species (specifically, the nucleogenic lifeforms), Visual Effects Supervisor Ronald B. Moore remarked, "This is probably the most ambitious show I have ever seen."

- The episode establishes that Voyager is now about 35,000 light years away from the Alpha Quadrant.

- The possibility of another Federation starship being in the Delta Quadrant is discussed in the first season episode "State of Flux".

- In the earlier fifth season outing "Relativity", we see Vice Admiral Patterson introducing Janeway to The Doctor for the first time, remarking that Starfleet was considering outfitting his program onto all Federation starships. The Equinox apparently was another test candidate for the EMH program, as it must have been in the Delta Quadrant at that time or shortly thereafter.


"I thought we were the only Humans in the Delta Quadrant."
"That's what we used to think."

- Marla Gilmore and Chakotay, upon first meeting each other


"May I ask you something, captain to captain? The Prime Directive: how often have you broken it for the sake of protecting your crew?"
"Broken it? Never. Bent it, on occasion. And even then, it was a difficult choice."

- Captain Ransom and Captain Janeway


"It's easy to cling to your principles when you're standing on a vessel with its bulkheads intact, manned by a crew that's not starving."
"It's never easy, but if we turn our backs on our principles, we stop being Human."

- Captain Ransom and Captain Janeway


"You said you wanted to learn more about Humanity. I guess we're not exactly prized examples. I'm sorry."
"On the contrary. You've taught me a great deal."

- Marla Gilmore and Seven of Nine


Poster's Log:
So here's another overall strong ensemble piece, where all of our main crew (and a whole second main crew!) gets moments to shine. And it's all hung on a nice big reveal (a second Starfleet ship in the DQ!), despite being another in mordax's tally of credulity-straining Alpha Quadrant contacts.

I feel like Ransom could have made a stronger case for his side. At one point, he basically says "I judged it OK to commit mass murder," which, I mean, jesus dude. Why not draw an analogy with the hunting of whales for whale oil? I.e., have him say something like "I judged it to not be mass murder." Even Spock said "We all feed on death, even vegetarians"; the Equinox crew could have convinced themselves, in spite of the nucleogenic beings' tactics suggesting sapience, that they're just animals. (And if he HAD mentioned whale oil, it would've had nifty resonance with this franchise's thing with whales.)

Halloween Jack will post Part II (which begins season six) next week, but I gotta say now that I feel like this episode is wayyyy better than Part II. It sets up lots of juicy, interesting stuff that Part II almost completely fails to stick the landing on. I won't go into more detail about that here, but the episodes feel like they were written by completely different staffs, IMO. Really, on rewatch, that fact causes Part II to make me enjoy Part I a little less. Still a cracking season-ender, though.

"Relativity" began it, but right around the end of season 5 and well into season 6 (e.g. "The Voyager Conspiracy"), VOY seems to be looking back on its pilot episode more frequently. It's a nice nod to continuity and I suspect that Ronald D. Moore, who joins the writing staff with the next episode, had some influence on that trend.

John Savage (Ransom) was in The Deer Hunter (which I haven't yet seen) and Do the Right Thing. Titus Welliver (Burke) has done a bunch of stuff but currently plays the credulity-strainingly-named Detective Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch on the Amazon series Bosch—he's a cop who, I assume, doesn't play by the rules. Olivia Birkelund (Gilmore) was on All My Children for a while, and of course we know Rick Worthy (Lessing) from DS9: "Soldiers of the Empire" (where he was the depressed, nihilistic Klingon) and BSG.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
According to MA, Voyager's fifth season ended on the same day that DS9: "The Dogs of War" aired—26 May 1999. Soon thereafter:
2 June – The last episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "What You Leave Behind", airs.
11 June – DeForest Kelley dies of stomach cancer.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (8 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Now I'm really interested in what you thought Part II didn't stick the landing on, because while I think that the second part could have done a couple of things much better, I also think that it did maybe the most important thing very well. But that's getting a bit ahead of the game. I do agree that the "whales" rationalization would have worked much better, especially as the franchise has made the point (in STIV) that whales are sentient, and there's also (in the semi-canon TNG Enterprise-D blueprints) quarters for cetacean crewmembers, at least on Galaxy-class ships.

But maybe the point is that they've lived with their murder-powered ship for so long that they no longer can really function on the level of regular Starfleet, even if they can fake it for a few days. We saw how constant stress and loss whittled away at the Voyager crew in "Year of Hell", even without the ethical trauma of using murder fuel; in DS9, we got to see the prolonged effects of war and isolation from the Federation in "Valiant" and "The Siege of AR-558." In fact, a quote from Quark in the latter is a pretty good summary of what the Equinox crew have been through: "Let me tell you something about humans, nephew. They're a wonderful, friendly people as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts, deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers, put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time, and those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people will become as nasty and as violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon. You don't believe me? Look at those faces. Look in their eyes. You know I'm right, don't you?" It's a reminder that Voyager has had things relatively easy for its long sojourn through the DQ (which Ron Moore would later complain about); Equinox is even physically smaller than Janeway's ship. (Fun fact: the Equinox design was one of the original designs for what would become the Defiant; there's a picture from the DS9 tech manual in the Memory Alpha article about the design that makes the influence more clear. The TNG tech manual also mentions a "Nova class" as one of the potential successors to the Galaxy class.)

Big ups to the guest stars. John Savage has done plenty of work, but The Deer Hunter is probably what he's still best known for; it's a great movie, but very tough sledding in parts--it makes Oliver Stone's Platoon seem almost sedate by comparison. Titus Welliver is pretty good; I keep meaning to catch Bosch because Jeri Ryan is also on it, as well as a couple of actors from The Wire. Birkelund and Worthy are also good; speaking of the latter, "Soldiers of the Empire" is another example of a hard-luck ship with a traumatized crew. And, finally, Robert Picardo gets some more good bits as both "our" EMH and the ethics-free version on the other ship; the matter-of-fact way that he slaps his doppelganger's mobile emitter to shut him down is a nice touch.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:18 AM on February 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


You can count me in on the "didn't stick the landing" side, finding some of it so bad as to be some of the worst of the series. But that's for next time and I'm still one behind already. Dagnabbit.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:54 AM on February 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


Particle of the Week: The blood of interspatial fishes.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: A Nova class science vessel is, indeed, tactically inferior to Voyager in Star Trek Online - it's a Tier 2 ship, while Voyager is Tier 4, (cap was T6 last time I checked - I haven't logged in in a couple of months).

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: -1.
* Crew: 134.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 11. I believe an encounter with the Equinox counts. It could be argued that both ships are taking roughly the same path back home, but this episode focuses on them encountering very different species along the way, (including the Equinox never encountering the Borg!), which means they were, at the very least, leapfrogging each other various ways, and that this is a chance encounter. (This is doubly true given how much faster the Equinox was going until we opened on it.)
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 2 games of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

Notes:
* It's Those Guys!

Big ups to the guest stars.

Right?

In addition to the notes above, Both Titus Welliver and Rick Worthy played boss-level monsters on Supernatural, (War and the very first vampire, respectively). John Savage was also Hack Scudder on Carnivale, a show I well and truly loved. Obligatory praise for Voyager's casting choices goes here - they picked some excellent character actors to portray Voyager's dark reflection.

* I didn't remember liking this one, but I did enjoy Part 1.

When we talked about coming up on Equinox, all I could remember was 'man, I hated that one,' so I guess I'm also in the 'hated the second half' camp. I did enjoy Part 1 here quite well. Going up against fellow Starfleet officers gone mad is a time honored TOS tradition that carried through every spinoff in the franchise, and this portion of the story is one of the better installments. Among touches I thought were pretty good:

- I believe their dilemma. The basic premise is 'this could've been Voyager,' and I broadly agree with that. We've seen Janeway about as close to the edge as Ransom in Year of Hell, as mentioned above.

- It really was fun seeing Titus Welliver play a sane bad guy instead of a loose cannon. Burke is methodical and calculating. I enjoyed him tricking B'Ellana in Engineering in particular.

- Gilmore's PTSD and moral conflict was handled pretty well. I liked her feeling out Chakotay about transferring to Voyager, her discomfort at entering a turbolift, (although I have to question having much more mobility in Jeffries' Tubes), and so on.

- I agree that Ransom really could've made his case better, but I liked his behavior until that point.

Jack's comparison of this installment to Valiant and The Siege of AR-558 are apt.

* The ending's a cheap shot.

Ending on 'maybe Janeway's dead' was silly. That and the 'I deemed it okay to murder the shit outta some aliens for their precious bodily fluids' were the only things that really bothered me this time around.

Per my usual for the first installment of a multi-part story, I don't want to dig in too deep here. I made a point of not watching both to preserve my reaction to this piece of the story, which was fun.

Also:
You can count me in on the "didn't stick the landing" side, finding some of it so bad as to be some of the worst of the series. But that's for next time and I'm still one behind already. Dagnabbit.

Don't worry, we'll come back and read your posts if you fall behind! I hope the weekend is a help there, and that you're recovering from dental work swiftly. :)
posted by mordax at 9:45 AM on February 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


It's mentioned in this episode that Captain Ransom was promoted to command of the Equinox after conducting first contact with the Yridians. Members of that species have shown up or been mentioned on 29 Star Trek episodes in four series (TNG, DS9, ENT and VOY.) The Memory Alpha entry on them is pretty extensive and notes that a "Yridian was briefly considered as a regular character on Star Trek: Voyager. (A Vision of the Future - Star Trek: Voyager, p. 177)"

Also, something mordax will appreciate: "In Star Trek Online, the Yridians are a minor non-playable race. They are currently in game as opponents in a few missions, or as crew on the player's ship."
At some point before the 2360s, the Federation believed that the Yridian race went extinct. This disappearance was so total that it even convinced the Borg, who designate the Yridians as Species 6291, that the species was no longer in existence. However, Rudolph Ransom, a Starfleet exobiologist, discovered that there were some still alive and carried out first contact. This act directly led to his promotion to the rank of captain.
The strange extinction of the Yridians can be explained by assuming that some natural (or unnatural) disaster befell the race sometime between the 2150s and the 2360s. It is possible that the group later encountered by Captain Ransom had not had previous contact with Humanity and therefore counted as a true first contact. Presumably the numbers of Yridians were still very low.

--
The Equinox dedication plaque includes a quote from English author Sir Thomas Browne "The night of time far surpasseth the day." This is from Chapter V of his book, Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial (e-text, Chapter V) which was published in 1658. The full quote is:
"Oblivion is not to be hired. The greater part must be content to be as though they had not been, to be found in the register of God, not in the record of man. Twenty seven names make up the first story before the flood, and the recorded names ever since contain not one living century. The number of the dead long exceedeth all that shall live. The night of time far surpasseth the day, and who knows when was the Æquinox? Every hour adds unto that current arithmetick, which scarce stands one moment."


An equinox, is of course the time or date that happens twice each year at which the sun crosses the celestial equator. It's when day and night are of equal length. Light and dark, mirrored. This fits the general theme of the show, where the Equinox crew has delved into darkness in order to try and get home.

But also, on the Gregorian calendar, the equinox happens every year around March 20 and September 22. The latter date is significant. Part one of "Equinox" first aired on May 26, 1999. Part two first aired on September 22, 1999. This is definitely not a coincidence.
posted by zarq at 12:44 PM on February 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


"In Star Trek Online, the Yridians are a minor non-playable race. They are currently in game as opponents in a few missions, or as crew on the player's ship."

I probably should've mentioned that. They play a few small but key roles in the Romulan tutorial, in particular. I'd have to look to cite specific episodes, but I remember them. Short, wrinkly skin, kinda high pitched voices. (And while they're not technically playable, it's not too hard to recreate most minor franchise species via the generic, custom Alien race option in chargen.)

Here's something else I dug up while peeking at 'where do I remember Ransom from?' Given the last update, I guess that's never happening, but I thought it was weird that this episode, of all things, would get that sort of continuation even in theory.
posted by mordax at 2:28 PM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


I have to wonder about that; one of the credits is Gary Lockwood as "Fleet Captain Gary Mitchell." It's actually the fleet captain part that I wonder about, since Mitchell's death in "Where No Man Has Gone Before" was always a little dubious (he had near-Q-level powers, versus a guy with a phaser rifle). And I think that fan (or fannish/semi-pro) projects like this one probably mostly depend on who they can get.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:06 PM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the encounter between Voyager and Equinox is decidedly credulity straining, but not unpromising as a story, with the crew of Equinox providing an added bonus of seeming really well imagined by the writers and actors, so there was a feeling the story could develop in a number of different ways as it went along. I'd even hoped that some of the Equinox crew would become part of the Voyager cast as they were so interesting, until events pretty much precluded that possibility for major roles.

The idea of Equinox resorting to inhuman measures to fuel their way home was also a good contrast to Voyager that at least hinted at an alternative path Voyager might have been presented with and that had some strong consequences worth exploring further.

If this had been made in our time with Voyager being treated as Discovery is in its series, then this encounter would have surely been stretched out over the course of many episodes with the two crews becoming more integrated before the truth of their methods were revealed. That could have allowed for a more gradual show of differences in values, where the ethics could have been explored more profitably and where the various characters could have been given more singular responses to the activities of the Equinox and the change or difference in life experienced on Voyager. That they couldn't do that in the Voyager we have is understandable, but it speaks to both the strength of the concept in how it could have been drawn out to even more compelling ends and to the limits of what Voyager was able to do with what they had in paring those possibilities down to two episodes.

As is often the case with the show, having good costars provides impetus for the main cast to show more of what they can do as actors, and this episode is fairly rare in giving so many different actors opportunity to do things set against a group of other actors rather than the more usual one or two that represent a whole. It lends a more interesting texture to the encounter, with the Equinox crew members each presenting a different face for their shared history. Janeway and Ransom's face off is quite satisfying in how it was played, even as the arguments could perhaps have been stronger. Gilmore and Lessing provide some added sympathy for Equinox in their stories and in how they were portrayed, with Worthy's brief scenes with Ryan showing more rapport and hints of chemistry than anything she had previously and would get again if memory serves, while Birkelund managed to suggest more depth to Gilmore than could be explored in her short time on screen, both in compassion and aggression. (I'm also pleased they found reason to bring in Naomi Wildman to aid in that, gives a better sense of life on Voyager, hints they could be integrated, but also highlights the weight of their decisions once they are made clear.)

This is the kind of episode Braga really excels at in many ways, the amount of information and action provided and the sharply realized quick character studies are a strong suit for him, as I've mentioned before, but as the Memory Alpha notes Cheeses quoted show, it also will show one of his major weaknesses in not planning out where the story will go or what the end result is intended to mean.

I won't nitpick some of the possibly questionable decisions made in writing how the Equinox crew as individuals respond to events since the limitations of the two episodes do account for the need to simplify the situation, but I will note that some greater variation in reaction to Ransom's decision to return to Equinox would have been more in keeping with what we'd seen of them and given more depth to their themes here. I also have to point to their doctor being notably different than Voyager's doctor in his "individualism" as something that again shows their ideas on the subject ill-formed and which the next episode will show more fully, and makes the doctor's connection to the mobile emitter even more difficult to understand than it already is. The alt-doc slaps it on as if it just physicalizes a hologram rather than contains him in it, while at other times the suggestion is it stores the doctor and other times gets goofier still. It's another thing that just tells me they haven't really bothered to think some of their own show elements through very thoroughly and don't care much about certain details if it gets in the way of the "cool" story they want to tell. It's not a major thing in itself, regarding the emitter, but that attitude infects a lot of things around the series at times in a way I find irritating.

Oh, and in regards to that, well, whatever it is on IMDb, yeah, I saw that before and wondered what the thought was behind it or if it was something that was ever really planned. It's a bit bizarre to think of a spin off/one off story based on a Voyager episode to begin with, and being about Ransom after events here makes it even weirder. I mean I can see why someone might be taken with Equinox and want to do explore something similar, but this isn't even that.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:24 PM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Note of possible interest to anyone still watching this thread:
Jerry O'Connell's character in the upcoming animated show Star Trek: Lower Decks is named Ransom.

Hmmmmmmmmm!
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:45 AM on July 31


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