Star Trek: Voyager: Emanations   Rewatch 
January 30, 2017 7:27 AM - Season 1, Episode 9 - Subscribe

Some bright morning when this life is over, I'll beam away/ To that home in the Next Emanation, I'll beam away/ I'll beam away, oh glory/ I'll beam away, in the morning/ When I die, Hallelujah by and by/ I'll beam away

Memory Alpha is losing its religion:

- Brannon Braga intended to center the episode around some debatable philosophical and political issues. Of the direction he took the story in, Braga commented, "'Our reality as an alien afterlife' was [an] [...] idea that ended up affording [...] philosophical explorations, namely, what is life, could something really lie beyond, and a great deal of social commentary about euthanasia. I really tried to emphasize some of the euthanasia issues, that in a society where they know an afterlife exists because it's a scientific fact, some people would be eager to die. Sick people would be encouraged to die, and you start getting into some very tricky issues. Once euthanasia is approved, does the person who's 'deciding' really have a choice? There's so much pressure on that person to go to the next emanation that really there is no choice, and those are some of the things I was trying to say. I don't believe in euthanasia. I don't believe it's fair to say to someone who's sick, 'You may pull the plug,' because there are lots of pressures. What about the people who can't afford the medical treatment? A lot of guilt comes from making your family pay for all of it. So, I think there are some unseen pressures which accompany that choice that I really wanted to explore."

- Brannon Braga tried to imbue Voyager crew members with likable qualities, in scenes such as the early one wherein Chakotay expresses sensitivity to the rituals of other cultures and the penultimate scene, in which Janeway advises Kim to take some time to consider his recent experiences. Of the early scene, Braga remarked, "I thought it would be nice to show that this is a crew that has a lot of respect for alien cultures. To the point where they are not going to muss with anything. Certainly, that whole scene on the asteroid where they are discovering the bodies was an attempt to give Chakotay some character, to show that he's an expert in paleontological events... and that he's really smart." Braga continued by saying of the later scene between Janeway and Kim, "The moment at the end was a definite attempt to show a Captain who takes the time to appeal to the Human equation in all of this. She tells Kim to take some time off to think about–and in fact, encourages him to seek a creative outlet. It would be nice to see some of our crew members actually engage in some sort of artistic endeavor."

- To inspire his portrayal of the deceased Kim, Garrett Wang remembered having learned about ninjas. The actor reflected, "When I was pretending to be dead, I concentrated on trying to slow my heartbeat down and on physical things and manifestations. When I was young and on my martial-arts kick, I would read about ninjas who are going to attack and people won't know it because they've sucked in their aura. That's what I tried to do."

- This is the first time Harry Kim dies on Voyager. The next instance is during the episode "Deadlock".

- Voyager's crew discovers the first stable transuranic element, element 247; we learn here that the Federation previously knew of 246 elements and, since Voyager discovers a new element in this episode, that number is raised to 247. By comparison, there were merely 111 elements known to science when the episode first aired, with the 111th of these discovered a few months before the episode's initial broadcast (specifically, on 8 December 1994).

"I just want to give you a chance to reflect on what's happened. This may not make much sense to you now, a young man at the beginning of his career. But one of the things you'll learn as you move up the ranks and get a little older is that... you wish you had more time in your youth to really, absorb all the things that happened to you. It goes by so fast. It's so easy to become jaded, to treat the extraordinary like just another day at the office. But sometimes there are experiences which transcend all that. You've just had one, Mr. Kim, and I want you to live with it for a little while. Write about it, if you feel like it. Paint. Express yourself in some fashion. The bridge will still be there in two days."

- Janeway, to Harry Kim

Poster's Log:

In one sense, this is a very classic, Roddenberryesque take on religion in Star Trek, with the alien believers being shown up as suckers for believing in the afterlife when there's a perfectly logical and scientific explanation for their bodies being physically transported away. (There are a few hints that Neria--the "thanatologist" played by veteran character actor Jerry Hardin--might turn into a bit of a skeptic, and obviously Hatil, the disabled man who Harry talks to, becomes one, but in the best Planet of Hats fashion, there doesn't seem to be any community of skeptics, agnostics or atheists among the Vhnori.) This is mitigated a bit, though, by the obvious haplessness of the crew in even attempting to talk to the revived Ptera about her experience; only Kes (who seems to be taking on yet another de facto role as the ship's counselor) really has anything to say to her. (They'll get another crack at it in Season 4's "Mortal Coil.") Janeway even floats the possibility that the Vhnori may have an actual afterlife of sorts, although when Kes suggests something similar, Ptera is having none of it.

This is also a good Harry Kim episode, as he risks a transdimensional Hail Mary pass to get back. They kind of missed an opportunity for Tuvok to chime in about the Vulcan katra, though, unless it's one of those things like pon farr that they don't like to talk about with outsiders. I also liked how B'Elanna responded to Chakotay's interpretation of the Vhnori corpses with some skepticism regarding his assumptions; Chakotay is already being slotted into the role of Spiritual Guy too easily (and stereotypically) and I think that she's right in being critical.

Poster's Log, supplemental: I wonder what sort of thought process went through the head of the Vhnori person or people who decided that the subspace vacuole taking people away was some sort of bodily assumption into the afterlife instead of something else. The closest equivalent that I can think of in Terran religion is the Rapture, which signifies the beginning of something way more alarming.
posted by Halloween Jack (7 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I liked this one, mostly for Kim -- his death and revival scenes were moving.

It's funny, I'm mostly familiar with him from seeing him at DragonCon when/if I make it to a Trek panel, as he took over as director of the Trek track years ago and acts as moderator/guest throughout con. He seems like a nice guy and a good sport -- see Shatwow! ad for DCTV (DCTV runs the AV tech throughput con, and they film a bunch of fake ads, PSAs, bumpers, etc to play in the panel rooms while everyone is getting seated)
posted by oh yeah! at 8:26 AM on January 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Particle of the Week: Transuranic element 247.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Leaving loot on corpses may be good RP, but it's wasteful. A good player never leaves behind unique crafting materials. At this rate, it's no wonder that Voyager isn't upgrading any of its equipment.
Equipment Tally: No change to torpedoes, shuttles or - by the end - crew.

* This is a decent episode.

This story does indeed feel very TOS to me: the characters discuss a social issue through the lens of an encounter with aliens. I think that part worked - while it's true the aliens in the facility were all on board with the notion of the afterlife, the uniformity of their belief made sense to me in this case. It's unlikely that skeptics or protesters would be in the most sacred spaces of whatever religion that is, so it's easy to assume that Harry was only able to engage with believers. Also, because they had a physical manifestation of their belief, it makes sense that the religion would have pretty heavy support in the population. It is clear not everybody's down: Harry's reluctant new friend had some people in the mountains who were clearly okay with him not doing this.

I especially liked the fact that the crew were respectful of the aliens' beliefs, instead of dismissive. Janeway, Kes and Harry come across particularly well.

The one place I think they cheated was offering an out to argue that the religion had merit - the whole 'escaping neural energy' thing felt too pat. I would've preferred leaving that ambiguous, but letting the crew be sympathetic and open minded despite having zero evidence that the aliens were on the right track.

* This begins the 'weirdest shit happening to Harry' thing on Voyager.

I mentioned before that I think Harry Kim is Voyager's answer to Miles O'Brien, their everyday guy who gets put through the wringer because it's more interesting to see an *ordinary* person go through this, and his trials basically start here. (While it's true he was also one of the two lasting abductees in Caretaker, I'm not sure it counts because B'Ellana was along too.)

Garret Wang is good here. His performance inside the cenotaph was impressive: he really felt like a guy facing death in there. It amuses me that he was tapping into his childhood love of ninjas.

I also appreciated that while Harry wasn't perfect about the Prime Directive, he was at least trying to be mindful of it, and swiftly realized his mistake. It's a stark and telling contrast between him and Paris when flung into an alien culture, which shows that the writers were thinking of this at least some of the time. That's good.

* Chakotay's reaction in the caves is, indeed, not very good.

If he were following proper protocol, he should've been fine with tricorders on a passive scan mode, but *very* concerned about untrained people just tromping around an archaeological site disturbing stuff before positions have been recorded. You *do not* just walk around a place like that, nor do you want newbies along. He should also really, really want visual records of the place for later study, and he's the one who insisted on *not* doing that.

Also, I agree with Halloween Jack: B'Ellana's right to be critical of his leaps. Chakotay is making a lot of assumptions about the aliens, and someone with his training ought to know better.

All in all, I continue to feel bad for Robert Beltran.

* Janeway comes across well here.

I remember being pretty annoyed with Janeway later in the show's run, and now I'm curious if that impression will hold. So far, this season? She's being depicted as thoughtful and caring most of the time. I'm curious if that will change, or if I was just annoyed enough with the show that it rubbed off on everybody. (I'm liking most of these characters more than I remembered - the big exceptions are Chakotay and Neelix, both of whom the show already has some pretty bad ideas about.)

Her speech where she gives Harry a couple of days off is legitimately good, and something we don't see much in Trek.

So yeah, chalking this up as a success. I also didn't really notice any gigantic gaping plot holes this time, which was good.
posted by mordax at 9:31 AM on January 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

His performance inside the cenotaph was impressive: he really felt like a guy facing death in there. […] I also appreciated that while Harry wasn't perfect about the Prime Directive, he was at least trying to be mindful of it, and swiftly realized his mistake. It's a stark and telling contrast between him and Paris when flung into an alien culture, which shows that the writers were thinking of this at least some of the time. That's good.


Chakotay is making a lot of assumptions about the aliens, and someone with his training ought to know better.

All in all, I continue to feel bad for Robert Beltran.


So far, this season? She's being depicted as thoughtful and caring most of the time. I'm curious if that will change

Yes! In the very next episode!

I too like this one, though it has its corny and slow moments. It's a good solid Trek concept and solid execution. Too bad Jerry Hardin seems…not that into it. Or maybe that's just me comparing this performance to him as Mark Twain in TNG, which, well, how do you approach Twain in exuberance?
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:46 AM on January 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

I was surprised to see that this episode aired a full year before the discovery of Kennewick Man and the ensuing controversy. The discovery of the bodies seemed like an on-the-nose reflection of that 90s zeitgeist moment, and how Native American concerns were exaggerated and dismissed by the (White) media. Not just by making Chakotay obstinate about studying the bodies, but also by having the thanatologist undercut Chakotay's concerns by telling Harry "You found our bodies and didn't science them as much as possible? What are you, stupid?"

But, of course, White entitlement to Native remains didn't start with Kennewick Man and these are longstanding issues.
posted by Banknote of the year at 1:01 AM on January 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I didn't mind Chakotay's attitude in this episode, even if they did adhere pretty closely to the Native American in touch with the spirits stereotype they'll continue with. This time his concerns seemed reasonably in tune with what his character might be concerned about, and giving him some knowledge of archaeology rather than just making it a racial trait was a positive step. The tricorder issue was weird, and could have used some further explanation, something along the lines of some other situation where use of a tricorder caused issue with some peoples somehow. That his view wasn't allowed to stand completely unchallenged, to the point where Chakotay himself set it aside when hopes of reviving Ptera were thought to possibly lead to saving Harry also worked okay, giving Chakotay more of a hierarchy of concerns rather than a more dogmatic outlook. Still, that they couldn't find more to do with him other than that is unfortunate as this could have been an episode where he got a chance to do something. If he had been taken instead of Harry, for example, they could have broadened the discussion more, but I fear it's for the best that didn't happen since it would have most likely gone to even more of a stereotypical dialogue for him.

Besides, Harry getting messed with becomes one of my favorite reoccurring situations with the show, so I wouldn't want to rob Voyager of that. Wang has a nice naturalism that works well in his encounter. He says too much, but its understandable and his recovery is both slightly clumsy and more seemingly heartfelt for that. He is indeed the "everyman" of the show in that kind of way, where his values and reactions haven't been set in place as much as with the others, so his encounters always seem more "open" in that sense, where there isn't a need to use the encounter as a foil for his belief as much as use Harry more as a gauge of the situation. It's less dialetic and allows for more variables in how encounters play out as opposed to them being a kind of "test" or show of character virtues. That the writers really didn't seem to have much of an idea what to do with Harry, no pre-planned arc or what he was about in a way, no strong set of traits to work off of, is an advantage then.

The story is classic Trek, but falls a little more flat than it should in part, I think, due to the tone of the show not being completely compatible with the seriousness of some of the issues. Harry allowing himself to be killed, for example, could have resonated a lot more than it did. I put this partly on the director, Levar Burton, in the last episode, did a better job in working around Paris' lack of ability to exude a sense of danger or much daring about him, by having the camera do more of the work. here there wasn't much to draw one's attention away from the somewhat sill make up and not all that impressive of sets. The OS did a better job than Voyager in getting around their limitations by making the characters more volatile in some ways, particularly sexually, and by making the filming seem more urgent. Voyager is rather more placid than excitable, which makes an episode like this seem a little flat, even f the Ideas are decent.

Disappointed too in their sensors reading some force, or whatever, leaving the bodies after they arrive at the asteroid, and by the way, how many of those asteroids had class M atmospheres? It would have been better to be a little more vague about whether there might be any truth to the belief in an afterlife,

In a way, the show reminded me a bit of a more religion friendly version of Who Watches the Watchers from TNG. An episode which always amuses me to reflect on since the first time I saw it was during a syndication airing on Christmas Eve, which had to be someone's sneaky way of making a statement about the holiday. This episode also will have some thematic connection to the later two part story, Equinox, which also turns on "new" energy sources from unexpected sources, but takes rather a different path in exploring that idea.

One final thought for now is that this episode made good use of the cast as a working crew, with many different crew members getting a chance to share their perspectives on different things and not feeling like it was too strongly framed around any one of them, even with Harry getting scenes by himself. The show needed more of that at times, as that really goes a long way towards building a good feel for the crew as a group rather than just individuals.
posted by gusottertrout at 6:42 AM on January 31, 2017 [5 favorites]

Janeway's comments to Kim at the end seemed a little paternalistic to me. She's telling him what a significant experience he's had in a way that didn't really leave room for him to have different opinions about his own experience.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 9:59 PM on September 25, 2023

Hmm, I don't see that, but maybe it's because I can't believe he didn't have a significant experience. He died! He possibly went to another dimension or something! It's good to take a moment to reflect on that.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:18 AM on December 27, 2023

« Older Victoria: The Clockwork Prince...   |  The Young Pope: Fifth Episode... Newer »

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