Star Trek Voyager: Distant Origin

"Did your eyes see the planet of our origin, the true home of our race?"

Chakotay is kidnapped by Dinosaur Aliens as a "human specimen".

As many of you know, I'm a British/Irish person living in England, so when I watched Voyager for the first time, as a British/Irish teenager, I sometimes missed some of the nuances or references made in some episodes because I wasn't aware of the US context. As I'm now married to an American/Brit (we have enough nationalities for a mini spy network in our household!), plus, you know, the Internet has come on since then, I have a much better sense of issues within US society and culture that are reflected in my favourite TV shows.

As a result, I can now see that this episode is basically trying to say something about Creationism vs Evolutionary Theory. This issue has become more and more prominent in American discourse in recent years, but it was around in the 1990s as well (though it was made light of more easily – Phoebe persuading Ross to admit a tiny smidgeon of doubt and declaring the the Overlords needed opposable thumbs to steer their spaceships on Friends is hilarious, but probably wouldn't have been written that way today as the issue has become even more heated).

But here in the UK, this really isn't a Thing, at least not to my knowledge. As far as I know (correct me if I'm wrong!) we teach evolutionary theory in science classes and Creationism in Religious Education classes, and it's not really a major topic of conversation. Or, if I'm wrong, I certainly wasn't aware of it being a major issue when I was a teenager! So without the real world analogy, I was just left with an episode focused on random Dinosaur Aliens and Chakotay (who is never very exciting when separated from Janeway) that made so little impression on me at the time, I tend to forget it exists until it pops up on my screen.

It's just really boring. Eleven minutes in, we still haven't seen a single member of Voyager's crew or anybody or anything we know, we've just listened to a bunch of aliens we've never met before argue about a "distant origin" theory that we don't yet fully realise relates to Earth. Our lead Dinosaur Alien is sympathetic enough, being a sort of Dinosaur Galileo (he's about to be imprisoned for questioning doctrine) and the idea of seeing Voyager from the outside is definitely an intriguing one (an idea we'll see much better executed next season, by the way, along with the "invisible alien observers" idea).

But it takes too long to get to the Voyager connection, and I'm afraid I just can't bring myself to care about these Dinosaurs and their attempts to publish their "distant origin" theory, no matter how good an analogy for real world issues or real world history (poor Galileo) it is.

Bits and pieces

 - This episode is based on the idea that some of the dinosaurs evolved and made it out into space, which does not seem especially plausible, but hey, it's Star Trek. And maybe Phoebe was right and they really did need opposable thumbs to steer their spaceships!

 - The design on the Dinosaur Aliens is rather nice and goes well beyond just a bumpy forehead. I've been re-watching Farscape lately, and the thought that's gone into both these aliens' appearance and features (like their tongues) reminds me of that show.

 - The shipping news: The Dinosaur Aliens observe Tom and B'Elanna as an example of "courting behaviour". They claim the "female" uses "feigned antagonism" to encourage the male "to mate" which... no. Just no. (Tom and B'Elanna's interactions are cute and fully in line with their particular characterisations, but this generalisation is beyond icky).

Quotes

Tom: Bring Your Own Bat'leth.

Odala: We are not immigrants! Another hint that this episode probably has more meaning for US audiences, considering everyone not Native American in the US is definitely descended from immigrants.

Eh. It's just boring. One and a half out of four dinosaurs.

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:

TJ said...

I love this one! I think it is one of the stronger episodes of early Voyager. I think the guest actors did a really good job here.

Creation vs Evolution is a non-topic for me. However, it is an important one as Creationists have plagued our history for centuries.