Star Trek Voyager: Eye of the Needle

“I knew when I accepted this assignment that there would be a price to pay. Perhaps I didn’t realise how high that price would be.”

Voyager finds a teeny tiny wormhole and tries to send a message back to the Alpha Quadrant with the help of a friendly neighbourhood Romulan. Unfortunately, there’s something about this particular wormhole that they don’t know.

Whereas last week’s episode was about having some fun with the characters, with science-fiction taking a backseat, this episode is all about a science-fiction premise and the fallout from it. Voyager makes contact with a ship in the Alpha Quadrant, but it turns out to be an enemy ship. Even once they’ve persuaded the cautious but sympathetic Telek R’Mor to help them, it turns out that the other end of the wormhole emerges, not just on the other side of the galaxy, but twenty years into the past.

There’s another first this week – this is the first episode built around a serious attempt to get home more quickly, and the first tantalising glimmer of a light at the end of the tunnel that turned out to be an oncoming train. Coming so early in the show, you’d think the crew would remain optimistic in the face of failure, but in fact this is one of the more gut-wrenching episodes on that particular theme. The nature of the story, in which it turns out that the man the crew have got to know is, essentially, a ghost (not literally, but thanks to Space-Time Weirdness, they’ve been interacting with a dead man) is deeply depressing, indeed, downright tragic.

The B story revolves around the Doctor and the question of whether or not he is a real person, i.e., it’s a classic Star Trek mistreatment-of-artificial-intelligence-as-racism-metaphor. There are times when I can’t help wondering if this metaphor really works, given that the characters in question can in fact be built, reprogrammed and switched on and off, but I think Star Trek established a long time ago that AIs, including sentient holograms, were indeed ‘real’ people. And so the Doctor’s problems with some rude crewmembers and even, occasionally, Janeway are something of a metaphor for on-going racial tensions. Sort of. Ish. Anyway, it’s an excuse for more scenes between the Doctor and Kes, and that’s always a good thing.

This is an interesting episode. In a way, it’s Star Trek does a ghost story, and I love ghost stories, plus it throws up some interesting ethical quandaries. The trouble is, both storylines are pretty heavy stuff and, as you can tell from the ‘quotes’ section, there’s almost nothing in the way of humour to provide some light relief. From B’Elanna insisting there’s no one back home who will know or care about what’s happened to her, to the Doctor asking Kes to make sure he’s deactivated if everyone abandons Voyager to Telek R’Mor trusting the crew with his name and hoping to see them again, which Tuvok reveals to be tragically impossible, the whole episode is so persistently downbeat it’s almost hard work to get through it. Full marks for coming up with an interesting concept, but next time, pair it with some warmth as well.

Bits n pieces

 - The Doctor gets racist abuse from some random unpleasant officer. The man is wearing a partially red uniform, which I like to think is code for ‘died horribly soon afterwards.’

 - In season 4, we find out that Telek R’Mor never did leave a message letting Starfleet know what had happened to Voyager. Whether the message was blocked due to poor Starfleet/Romulan relations or it just didn’t occur to him to include it in his will, we never find out.

 - Paris has introduced Kes to spinach juice with a touch of pear. That sounds disgusting.

 - No Janeway flirting this week, though we do get extended time with her in her quarters, in her rather elegant nightgown.

Quotes

Doctor: “If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that I am the last to be told about anything that happens on this ship.”

Janeway: “Let’s move on. We’ve got a long way to go.”

Doctor: “I would like a name.” Don’t hold your breath Doc…

Interesting story, but rather downbeat and lacking a funny-bone. Three out of four displaced Romulans.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.

4 comments:

CrazyCris said...

This one I remember as being kind of heartbreaking! The crew going through all the effort to convince the Romulan, pinning their hopes on him getting the message through... only to find out after the fact that he died to soon to help them out.

DebG. said...

Yes, an incredibly sad episode :(

Deborah

Juliette said...

I actually found it quite hard work to re-watch, it's so depressing!

Anonymous said...

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