Star Trek: Voyager: Flesh and Blood   Rewatch 
June 18, 2018 8:36 AM - Season 7, Episode 9 - Subscribe

[Feature-length episode] Voyager answers a distress call from a Hirogen outpost – only to find carnage caused by holographic technology that Captain Janeway has given them. Who will be first up against the wall in the holorevolution?

Allons enfants de la Mémoire Alpha, Le jour de gloire est arrivé!:

- Both Cindy Katz and Paul Eckstein previously appeared in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Katz played Yteppa in "Second Skin" and Eckstein played Limara'Son in "Rocks and Shoals". He also played an unnamed Jem'Hadar in "The Dogs of War". Spencer Garrett previously appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation as Simon Tarses in the episode "The Drumhead".

- This episode was originally aired as a feature-length episode. It was later broken up into two parts for reruns.

- This episode is the third of only three feature-length episodes in the Star Trek series that is not a series pilot or finale. The first is the Deep Space Nine Season 4 episode "The Way of the Warrior" and the second is the Voyager Season 5 episode "Dark Frontier".

"I can't heal them. They need to be repaired."
"What's the difference?"
"I'm a doctor, not an engineer."

- The Doctor and Iden, about the damaged holograms.

"They can't support complex subroutines."
"They are children of light and I will deliver them to freedom!"

- Torres and Iden, about the Nuu'bari holograms

"I modified their programs. What's happened to them, the people they have killed, it's my fault."
"There's plenty of blame to go around. There would have been nothing for you to modify if I hadn't shared our database."
"If you hadn't, I'd have become a Hunter, like my father and his father. Instead, I had a chance to learn, become an engineer."

- Donik and Janeway

"You and your crew would have made worthy prey, captain."
"Thank you... I think."

- Beta Hirogen and Janeway

"It looks like an Alpha Quadrant summit in here."

- Torres, upon seeing the Holograms

"It may be the warriors who get the glory, but it's the engineers who build societies."

- Torres, to Kejal

Poster's Log:

This episode is a good example of the general idea that Ken Biller took the relative freedom to do ongoing subplots and arcs in the seventh season; the hologram civil rights theme gets a decent airing with the holorebels, and the meatsacks have to consider the consequences of their own past actions: was it really that good of an idea to give the people who liked to hunt and kill sentient beings the ability to create their own? Sometimes the law of unintended consequences can be righteous. Then again, the episode shies away from outright endorsement of the Children of Light, and even though Iden's progression--from freed slave/prey with a legitimate grudge against the Hirogen to quasi-messianic fanatic who's clearly internalized the oppressor--is foreshortened for plot reasons, it's not implausible. Nevertheless, the episode doesn't unendorse them, with Kejal and Donik leading the surviving holograms to freedom. (I wonder if the holograms will eventually shed their imitation of organics and become something like kaleidoscopic balls of light, free from the limitations imposed by parroting meatsacks solids species that the costume department still had costumes and makeup molds for.) We're left with the Doctor, who, having taken a turn through the Heel-Face Revolving Door [TVTropes], not only offers himself up for punishment, but, as with the far-inferior "Retrospect", tells Janeway what form he thinks his punishment should take... but Janeway lets him off pretty easy. Maybe she's got a mea culpa of her own.

Lots of little neat things in the episode: the callback to the Lokirrim (which made me wonder if their holorebellion were somehow inspired by Iden's); the Doctor's response to B'Elanna, pointing out the irony of the ex-Maquis opposing this rebellion; the scene with the low-functioning Nuu'Bari holograms and Iden's refusal to see that they're basically utility programs*; and seeing some of the DS9 aliens again, although I think that they could have thrown in a Lokirrim or two. It wasn't great that the Hirogen were this far out from their last appearance, but their communications network is/was widespread enough to make this somewhat plausible. Also, I didn't think that the Hirogen would have lived that long on the class Y ("demon") planet, although maybe they really were that tough.

And the guest stars were really key: Iden (Jeff Yagher) did a nice, slow slide from righteousness into fanaticism. I found myself wondering if it could have worked with Bareil in that role--it would have added extra depth to the cult-like overtones of his rebellion--except that Yagher was better at being a Bareil-type than Philip Anglim ever was. sadly. Kejal (Cindy Katz) was also great, especially with her conversation with B'Elanna. (I also found it significant that she adopted a new non-Cardassian name to replace her prey name; see also Magneto in X2 when he meets Pyro.) And, finally, Donik (Ryan Bollman) finally gives us a Hirogen who takes off the Schmedator hat.

Poster's Log, supplemental: The MA page for Iden's Rebellion is set up in the manner of Wikipedia armed conflict pages, with belligerents, notable commanders, strength, and casualty numbers.

*The scene is almost comic in some of its aspects, and I imagined a corresponding fleshy-one rebel liberating some dogs and proclaiming, "They are children of meat and I will deliver them to freedom!" Then I thought, well, isn't that kind of what more extreme animal rights groups do?
posted by Halloween Jack (7 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I wonder if the holograms will eventually shed their imitation of organics and become something like kaleidoscopic balls of light

So... Organians? I wouldn't mind seeing that origin story.
posted by 2ht at 9:36 AM on June 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Particle of the Week: So they used an antiphoton sweep at one point in the episode, but it turns out photons are actually their own antiparticles. That means photons win again.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: The latest season of Star Trek Online includes a lot of holographic crew options based on DS9 characters. To me, that says nobody learned anything from this episode in the MMO's timeline.

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: -21. Voyager fired a volley of 4 torpedoes at a Hirogen vessel here.
* Crew: 137.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 14. I feel like meeting Hirogen like 30K LY from their first contact area should count as a credulity straining Delta Quadrant encounter, but we know they have robust transwarp capability from Prey, and Jack's point about their communication network is fair. Still, it really felt a little late in the game for these guys.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 2 games of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

Notes:
* The talk about trading replicators was jarring.
JANEWAY: How many times have we shared replicators to help people feed and clothe themselves?
CHAKOTAY: Trading technology is part of our life in the Delta Quadrant.
TUVOK:: It has been necessary for our survival.
JANEWAY: Maybe we should have been a little more careful about what we traded and who we traded with. Replicators make weapons just as easily as they do food.
So on the one hand, this is true and so it's an example of Kenneth Biller's new approach where Voyager actually has internal continuity. Voyager gave the Caatati a limited form of replicator technology in Day of Honor, and so it may be reasonably inferred they've shared the technology since then.

On the other hand, it was really jarring to hear those two talking about trading replicators 'many times' given that their refusal to do so with the Kazon was the central conflict of the show for two whole seasons. That's why Seska mutinied, etc. I would've liked some acknowledgement of that here because I nearly did a spit take when they discussed this in those terms.

* Seeing small Hirogen is always jarring too.

Hirogen have been retconned to be smaller than their origin story for awhile now, but it still always gets me. Seeing one that was actually shorter than most of the crew was downright comical.

* I liked the leadup, but hated the resolution.

Getting to the actual meat of the episode: I felt like this had a really strong start. I find the Hirogen's actions believable. I found the initial setup of the holographic rebellion to be pretty good too - the scene where they kill the two hunters in the opening is pretty great. It's good that they referenced the holographic rebellion from the Lokirrim, as mentioned in the post.

This is all really solid stuff. Indeed, this story starts out as an episode of Black Mirror twenty years early, and that's some pretty high praise from me. In particular, the Doctor's struggle with making excuses for organics was pretty good writing, IMO. It rang pretty true to me emotionally, speaking as a POC who grew up almost entirely around white people - the way he minimized his own second class status until he didn't was familiar.

So... the first like two thirds of this story get an A rating from me, and the character work with the Doctor was great all the way through. Roxanne Dawson was also fantastic here, although I object to the Doctor being the one to bring up B'Ellana's Maquis past - she should've examined this through that lens the whole way through. Chakotay too. I guess even S7 can't fix how poorly the Maquis were used on Voyager.

Unfortunately, the ending completely lost me. To me, Idan's rapid slide into megalomania felt like a way to wrap a bow on a much bigger moral dilemma, and I didn't like it at all. It seemed like the writers realized they'd painted themselves into something of a corner and did that to escape before their two hours were up rather than something that happened organically.

I wish they'd gone ahead and rolled with 'no actually Idan has an important point' rather than letting everybody off the hook as much as they did.
posted by mordax at 10:07 AM on June 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


So... Organians? I wouldn't mind seeing that origin story.

It's been done.
posted by Servo5678 at 10:09 AM on June 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


mordax, on reflection, I kind of contradict myself above--"Iden's progression--from freed slave/prey with a legitimate grudge against the Hirogen to quasi-messianic fanatic who's clearly internalized the oppressor--is foreshortened for plot reasons" becomes "a nice, slow slide from righteousness into fanaticism"--and the former is true. I think that Kejal will probably continue along the lines of where Iden was at the beginning (or at least where I think he was--it's unclear how much of his personality change was genuine and how much was him fronting as more reasonable at the beginning), but it might have been nice if they'd included her pushing back a little as he became more extreme, and showed how he dealt with dissension.

Also, WRT the replicators, it would seem to show that, contrary to the general principle of non-interference, giving other races strategic tech would seem to be OK if they are either a) non-aggressive generally, or b) are likely to become less aggressive as a result, i.e. the Hirogen getting holotech. Needless to say, that's a very interventionist philosophy, really more on the order of Iain M. Banks' Culture.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:43 AM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


it's unclear how much of his personality change was genuine and how much was him fronting as more reasonable at the beginning), but it might have been nice if they'd included her pushing back a little as he became more extreme, and showed how he dealt with dissension.

That's fair. My main objection to it would've stood even if he had been obviously crazy from the get-go though. Basically, this scene kind of sums it up:
JANEWAY: I'm not going to let you turn this into an argument about holographic rights.
EMH: Why not? That's exactly what it is.
PARIS [OC]: Mess hall to Commander Tuvok.
TUVOK: Go ahead.

Everybody leaves with the discussion unresolved.
Like, invoking this plot immediately makes the story about holographic rights, but the episode itself pulls back from having a real conversation about it, settling for a climactic action sequence where the Doctor reaffirms his loyalty to Voyager and organic life. It's an even bigger shame because their discussion of neutering or euthanizing the holograms is pretty on-point, but it just sorta hangs there.

Having ever discussed race IRL, I believe all of that, but it's disappointing.

Additionally, having Idan hunt the hunters feels like a hefty and unwelcome dose of 'both sides, amirite?' that undercuts the premise of how oppressed these guys are.
posted by mordax at 12:25 PM on June 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


It's kind of weird that season seven decides to really take up the question of holographic rights, just as the show is ending (and, it seems, it knows it's ending). And I agree with you guys that most of this two-parter is pretty solid—at times, it feels like it wouldn't be out of place on TNG or DS9, and not just because of all the familiar prostheses—but that the wrap-up is a hair too tidy. What's funny is that it would have taken very little, just a line or two of pensive dialogue in or after the last scene with Janeway and the EMH, to sort of hint at the EMH having some Lingering Unease about those on-point ideas of Iden's, even after everything that happened. In short, foreshadowing for "Author, Author."

Still, it's always nice when we get an Apologizing to Janeway scene that isn't, well, you know.

Yagher was better at being a Bareil-type than Philip Anglim ever was

I mean, I see why you say that, but Yagher's given a lot more meaty stuff to work with in this script. (And Anglim was of course great as Mirror-Bareil, but he's hardly a true Bareil-type.) Honestly, his performance felt pretty Bareily to me. I've used the word Bareil too much and now it's lost all Bareil, I mean meaning.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:33 PM on June 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


In case anybody missed it: some big Trek TV news
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:17 AM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


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