Star Trek Voyager: Macrocosm

"Good health."

This episode is about an attack from a dangerous unknown virus that causes high fever and fluid in the lungs. Insert your own topically relevant remark here.

Well, watching this one during a global pandemic can't help but have an impact on the viewing experience! I've tended to keep references to outside events minimal in these reviews so that the reviews are readable whenever someone wants to watch the episode. But I can't ignore the fact that I'm writing and publishing this while in lockdown during a global pandemic the likes of which haven't been seen since 1918, not to mention one with broadly similar symptoms to the virus seen here in gigantic form. I always thought the gigantic viruses were a bit silly in the past, but right now, seeing them as a metaphor for how terrifying viruses can be and how aggressively they attack, I find myself taking them much more seriously.

Gigantic viruses aside, there are some horribly familiar themes here – Voyager has procedures designed to protect the ship from alien viruses, but something slipped through, and with everybody living on top of each other in a confined space, it's no wonder it spread through the whole crew so quickly. Thankfully the Tak Tak's proposed solution is one that in real life is usually carried out on animal populations, not human ones – their idea of containment being to wipe out anyone exposed to the virus. Hopefully no one will be suggesting that in real life.

Of course, also unlike in real life, the Doctor has managed to manufacture an antigen (which appears to be both vaccine and cure, because sci-fi) within about eleven hours. Scientific and medical research always moves a lot faster on TV than it ever can in reality, which can lead to unreasonably raised expectations of real scientists sometimes!

Beyond the virus-based plot, back in the 1990s when it was made, what this episode was really about was giving Janeway the chance to be an action heroine. Stripped down to a tank top – which I guess she wears underneath the polo neck that's underneath the jacket? How cold is it on Voyager?! – Janeway must run around the ship alone as everyone else has been compromised, sweating like mad, waving around a big gun. I believe this may fulfill the fantasies of some viewers. Honestly, it looks pretty hot to me, too. I've actually cosplayed as Janeway from this episode, 'cause honestly, it's awesome.

There is one more reason to be thankful to this episode as well – the Tak Tak and their fabulous combination of gesture and speech in their language. It's a brilliant idea for an alien language, as there are plenty of real world examples of the importance of gesture. It's also hilarious – Ethan Phillips and Albie Selznik (playing the Tak Tak) really give it their all and walk a fine line where what they're doing is very funny, but also just grounded enough not to take the viewer out of the show. And of course, Janeway having to stay silent because she accidentally insulted the Tak Tak by putting her hands on her hips is just funny. It's a shame the nature of Voyager's set-up means we can't revisit alien cultures like the Tak Tak, as the ship flies away from them and moves on.

Bits and pieces

 - When Janeway tells Neelix he has fluid in his lungs, he corrects her that he has only one lung – which is one reason he's much more vulnerable than she is.

 - The shipping news: Tom and B'Elanna spar a bit while arguing over whose fault it is that no one can get any dinner.

 - When I cosplayed as Janeway, I joined in a Guinness World Record attempt to get the most people dressed as Star Trek characters in one room. My costume – tank top, black trousers, comm badge – was so simple they nearly didn't let me in, but when I cited the exact episode and season I was cosplaying Janeway from, they took pity on me and my nerdiness and I got in!

Quotes

Janeway: I may never put my hands on my hips again.

The Doctor: One down, ten billion to go.

If only real world viruses could be defeated by Kate Mulgrew in a vest, with a gun. Three out of four amazingly quickly produced cure/vaccines.

Juliette Harrisson is a storyteller, freelance writer, Classicist and Trekkie. She runs the podcast Creepy Classics, re-telling and discussing ancient, medieval and early modern ghost stories. She tweets @ClassicalJG

1 comment:

HanakoGal said...

When I participated in a world record try For the most comic book characters in one place, the entry check person had a tablet to look up each person if they didn't know the character right away.
I'm surprised they didn't have a similar set up so they could be sure to get it right and to try to include all the people they could.