Star Trek: Voyager: Good Shepherd   Rewatch 
April 26, 2018 2:41 AM - Season 6, Episode 20 - Subscribe

Three low-ranking crew members' underwhelming job performance attracts the attention of Captain Janeway. Blessed is she for shepherding the weak through the valley of darkness!

The path of the righteous wiki is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the wiki vandals and the tyranny of evil trolls:

- Tom Morello, Grammy Award-winning founding member and lead guitarist of the alternative/hard rock band Rage Against the Machine, makes his second Star Trek cameo appearance here (his character, Crewman Mitchell, directs Janeway to junction room 16, "To the left, ma'am"). His first was as an uncredited Son'a officer in Star Trek: Insurrection, but because his character could barely be seen, Morello was asked to appear on an episode of Voyager.

- During a brief cut inside Crewman Harren's escape pod, he manipulates an LCARS terminal that looks like a conventional LCD computer monitor (instead of the back-lit overlays used for most LCARS set pieces). A black mouse cursor can be seen moving around the screen.

- Celes was referred to as Crewman Celes, implying "Celes" was her family name, and only Billy Telfer called her Tal, implying "Tal" is her personal name, therefore her name would be Celes Tal according to traditional Bajoran naming. In "Ensign Ro", it was noted that some Bajorans changed the order of their names for the benefit of relations with Humans.


"What does our Borg Queen want now?"

- B'Elanna Torres, as Tal Celes delivers a PADD with instructions from Seven of Nine


"Mortimer?"
"My mother didn't even call me that."

- Janeway and Mortimer Harren


"So pay attention to what we're doing here. You can check yourself into Sickbay when we get back."
"And you can go back to Deck 15."
"That's right, where I don't have to rely on you or your intellectually deficient friend!"
"At least I have a friend."

- Harren and Telfer


Poster's Log:
VOY has been to the "Lower Decks" well twice now (previously with "Learning Curve"), but I don't especially mind. Honestly, the franchise IMO has always needed more Lower Decks Episodes (which is one of the things I liked about the ~half-dozen DISCO episodes I saw). And VOY needed them all the more, since this crew must (sorry) somehow form a family.

I might've enjoyed this episode more if the inadequacies of the trio from Loser Decks weren't so overwritten. I seem to recall the Enterprise-D's Lower-Decks-icans being less intensely incompetent. OTOH, that was the flagship. Plus, it's not like the characterizations were completely implausible—based on my own work experience alone, I totally buy people like this slipping through the cracks of an otherwise highly professional organization for six years. I guess their quirks just felt less Starfleet-ish to me and more exaggerated and sitcom-ish. Bernd may have a point when he says that, had this episode appeared in an earlier season, it not only would have fit better continuity-wise, but quirks this quirky might've felt a little more plausible.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
If Celes looked familiar to you, it may be because you had the misfortune of seeing the first Dungeons and Dragons movie, in which her character was the token mage and woman of the adventuring group.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (5 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Particle of the Week: Lots of strong contenders, but I'm giving it to radiogenic particles. Guess that stellar nursery was rainy.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Star Trek Online features two kinds of recruitable crew: bridge officers that can actually assist the player on Away missions, and duty officers, who remain on the ship and can be slotted like gear on the ship for various bonuses. (For instance, my favorite ship features a handful of maximum skill torpedo officers so I can fire torpedoes way faster.)

An inattentive player might have very high quality BOFFs, but retain low quality DOFFs well into endgame. These guys are totally like that.

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: -8. As before, not really counting shuttle ones as they're not cross-compatible.
* Crew: 140.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 14.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 2 games of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

Notes:
* I'm mostly with Bernd: this would've been okay in S1.

My main takeaway from this episode is that there's no way it happens in S6. These guys have been through hell together: Borg attacks too numerous to directly list this morning, Kazon stranding them on a primitive planet, Hirogen kidnapping them all and brainwashing them to think they're in WWII, Neelix's cheese nearly killing everyone, put in an alien zoo by evil space pacifists...

These guys have seen some shit, much of it directly. Janeway lecturing them about all this within the script itself just calls attention to the fact that there's no way these characters exist as depicted in this part of the show's run. I'd buy some slackers, but they should have outright PTSD by this point, not cutesy 'we never get off the ship' issues. They've all been off the ship repeatedly at this point, by force.

Herren has totally had to sit around a handmade campfire with people. Telfer had to eat alien biomatter without scanning it. Celes... well, her issues are more believable, but she's too over-the-top incompetent, as Cheeses notes above.

* This depicts Janeway as a terrible captain.

So first up, Janeway should be aware of all these people already. Seven shouldn't have to tell anybody what's going on here. It's a small ship: everyone should know everyone pretty well.

Janeway coming at this relatively blind paints her in a poor light.

More than that... Away missions are dangerous. Just stuffing all the worst crew in a shuttle together is a very bad no good plan. Learning Curve had its share of problems, but at least 'make these guys train' checks out as a strategy for skill improvement. 'I will be their good shepherd' is a patronizing and ineffectual approach..

So yeah. Deeply annoyed by this one. As with last time: no qualms with anybody who enjoyed the change of pace. This isn't offensively bad. Just... this is a major WTF where it is in the run.
posted by mordax at 9:51 AM on April 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm with Cheeses; even though the characterization is a bit one-note, I've known all these people (the hypochondriac, the insecure impostor-syndromer, the overeducated and underutilized and bitter back-room worker). But, over time, they should have all had the chance to come to some kind of accommodation. I doubt that Harren would have been too obnoxious to work with Seven of Nine, Celes could have helped Neelix in the galley, and as for Telfer, well... on the one hand, we've already seen a number of unique diseases that afflicted various crewmembers (including, by implication, Telfer himself, in "Macrocosm"), so it's not like there couldn't possibly be an undetectable or undiagnosable disease at any given time, for real. On the other, he (and the other members of the Island of Misfit Toys) was kicked off the ship in "Basics", as well as the other incidents that mordax listed above, so, you know, it's not even their third time at the rodeo.

It would have made for a much more interesting episode if, say, the point was that they had all already found their niches on the ship... but had to be reassigned for some reason, and gave a lot of pushback because, damnit, they hadn't even expected to be in Starfleet this long, let alone possibly for the rest of their lives. (Harren gave a little of that.) Or they could have had them partnered up with the "Learning Curve" group and/or the Equinox refugees, neither of which we ever saw again. And, yeah, it's pretty dumb to have the captain of the ship take them on a field trip when they're this shaky. You want trust-building exercises, you take them on the holodeck and have them do firewalking or falling-backward-and-letting-them-catch-you with the safeties on.

Well, they gave it the old Academy try, regardless. Celes is unexpectedly popular among VOY fans; she's got about 21 entries in the Archive Of Our Own fanfic database at the moment. And the bit with Seven as the efficiency expert was cute. Oh, also the "Loser Decks" (heh) section of the ship was done well, generally being cramped and having more of the exposed-pipes feel that you occasionally got from the TOS Enterprise, as well as the ENT one. I do wonder about how big the Delta Flyer was inside, though; it almost seemed more in line with one of DS9's runabouts.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:02 AM on April 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


It would have made for a much more interesting episode if, say, the point was that they had all already found their niches on the ship... but had to be reassigned for some reason, and gave a lot of pushback because, damnit, they hadn't even expected to be in Starfleet this long, let alone possibly for the rest of their lives.

I would've been much more interested in this.

Alternately: I might have bought this story if these people had all been well-adjusted when they came aboard, but had cracked under the strain of all the shit they'd been through. (Like, maybe Celes has developed an anxiety disorder, and Telfer's ailment is a direct reaction to Macrocosm.)

Also, to be fair: Harren actually does mostly work. His reaction to Janeway was believable most of the time, just didn't really go far enough. Like, might've been worth mentioning why he had to ask 'what if you'd been wrong?' Leaving the 'again' off there did the story a disservice.

I do wonder about how big the Delta Flyer was inside, though; it almost seemed more in line with one of DS9's runabouts.

It's pretty much gotta be, from what we've seen.
posted by mordax at 11:48 AM on April 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Celes is unexpectedly popular among VOY fans; she's got about 21 entries in the Archive Of Our Own fanfic database at the moment.

That might be due in part to a bit of nice continuity that I forgot to mention: Celes appears again in just a few episodes ("The Haunting of Deck Twelve") and is mentioned in season seven's "Workforce."

Plus, ya know, people like Bajorans, and people like cute space cadet characters, so combine them both and there's built-in appeal. And come to think of it, we're so used to seeing hard-edged Bajoran characters that encountering somebody with Celes' personality seems to cry out for an explanation; enter the fanfic.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:41 PM on April 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


So first up, Janeway should be aware of all these people already. Seven shouldn't have to tell anybody what's going on here. It's a small ship: everyone should know everyone pretty well.

Exactly. 140 people is few enough that Janeway would know exactly who everyone is, where they work, and how good they are at it. The captain of a crew that small would see these people multiple times a week and exchange at least a few words with them.

Speaking from experience of serving on a crew that size, it's intensely difficult to "slip though the cracks". On US Navy ships the crew is split into Departments like Engineering and Weapons and Navigation, which are further split into divisions dedicating to handling specific aspects like electrical generation and distribution or maintaining and operating the weapons systems. On a crew of 140, these divisions are on average made up of 8-10 people, usually sized exactly as many as it takes to handle the workload. If you have someone in your division that isn't performing at the level expected, everyone else feels it by having to take up their workload. On a crew that small everyone has universal responsibilities, for instance damage control. Anyone on board that can't be trusted to take the right actions in a casualty isn't going to be shunted off and ignored, they're going to be hounded and pounded until they shape up.

Voyager doesn't get the luxury of replacements, so a good captain would make very sure everyone on board is contributing as much as they can. Maybe it's different on a highly automated and advanced ship like Voyager, but there are no small jobs in a small crew. Everyone is working hard all the time with their primary and collateral duties to make sure the ship keeps flying. They're contributing time to stand the watches necessary to fly the ship and monitor and operate equipment. When not on watch they're cleaning, training, qualifying to stand other watches, running drills, planning and performing maintenance, and taking care of personal matters. By this point, six years on, everyone should be well slotted into their positions, and be pretty significantly cross-trained too for that matter.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 2:23 PM on April 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


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