Star Trek: Voyager

"Cathexis"

*1/2

Air date: 5/1/1995
Teleplay by Brannon Braga
Story by Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky
Directed by Kim Friedman

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I still have a series of tests to perform, but, other than his irritating lapses into nostalgia, I see nothing wrong with him." — Doctor

When Tuvok and Chakotay return from a brief shuttlecraft journey, the crew discovers that an alien presence may have returned with them as strange events begin threatening the ship. A new low for the series, "Cathexis" again stresses how much Voyager, unlike its DS9 counterpart, lacks story arc development along the series as a whole.

Beginning with an utterly pointless and unmotivated teaser in which Janeway takes some recreational time in the holodeck, this installment continues to offer scenes that offer virtually nothing in terms of character development. "Cathexis" does not choose one character to focus on, but throws them all together into a ridiculous plot that gives none of them enough to do.

When the shuttlecraft returns, both Chakotay and Tuvok have suffered injuries. Tuvok recovers quickly, but, alas, Chakotay is brain dead because his neural energy has been mysteriously "drained." Tuvok explains that they encountered an alien vessel which attacked them and then retreated into a nebula.

Janeway orders a return to the nebula to investigate. But en route, Paris apparently makes an unauthorized course correction to avoid it. The mysterious part is that he has no memory of ever doing so. A similar occurrence happens upon Torres in engineering when she shuts down the warp core but believes she did nothing of the sort. When the Doctor examines them in sickbay, he discovers brain wave patterns that suggest they were under an alien influence when carrying out these disputed actions. Apparently, the alien can occupy anybody's mind and control their actions. No one can be trusted.

From this point, "Cathexis" turns into a series of disjointed events with poorly executed plot handling. The third act manages to work in elements of what seem to be the beginnings of a paranoid thriller, but the idea never gets off the ground outside of the one scene which introduces it. Instead, we get some standard revelations and a number of weak contrivances, such as the gratuitous crashing of the main computer and the ejection of the warp core.

In order to prevent the ship from being seized via an alien takeover of her own mind, Janeway transfers the command codes to the Doctor, since the computer presumably cannot be affected by the alien's influence. But someone deactivates the Doctor's program and renders the plan useless. Janeway decides to divide the command codes and give half to Tuvok, but a bizarre scene in which the alien begins seizing the minds of any bridge officer it encounters and then specifically attacking Tuvok hints that he may be the key to part of the mystery. This scene is interestingly photographed, as the alien begins body jumping from one person to the next. Unfortunately, the way it ends—Tuvok stunning everyone on the bridge with his phaser set on wide beam—has an inappropriately comical effect.

As evidence mounts against Tuvok, suggesting that he lied about the shuttle incident, it becomes clear that he is directly under an alien's influence. The other body-jumping alien turns out not to be an alien at all, but Chakotay's missing neural energy "somehow displaced," as Janeway puts it. This allows Chakotay to take control of other people's minds (as a countermeasure to the Tuvok-alien) in an attempt to save the Voyager from nebula-inhabiting, neural energy-thieving alien baddies. The idea might have sounded good in a writer staff meeting, but is completely ridiculous on screen. Chakotay using Neelix to rearrange the stones on a medicine wheel to make a "map" that helps the crew escape the nebula is even more ridiculous (and really strains credulity).

An atypically weak direction by Kim Friedman doesn't help either, as this episode fails to produce the slightest amount of excitement or urgency at every turn. If Voyager wants to do mundane sci-fi concepts like alien body snatchers, it had better find a better angle to take than this one does.

Previous episode: Heroes and Demons
Next episode: Faces

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39 comments on this review

Rob in Michigan
Sun, Sep 21, 2008, 4:58pm (UTC -5)
I feel like this episode misses the boat because it's focus was on the wrong thing. The alien/Chakotay mind jumping was incidental... the real plot should have been the crew's discipline breaking down as they begin to trust each other less and less, especially when you add in the Maquis factor - they've lost THEIR commanding officer and they're facing an unknown danger aboard ship. Where were the crewmembers threatening to steal a warp shuttle and abandoning ship?
Jay
Sun, Aug 16, 2009, 5:24pm (UTC -5)
How did Chakotay survive long enough to get back to Voyager? The Doctor says he "can keep his heart beating and his lungs breathing", but even if so, how did these organs function before Tuvok and Chakotay got back to Voyager?
Will
Tue, Oct 13, 2009, 9:53am (UTC -5)
I thought this episode was terrible. One thing which pissed me off about the first season of Voyager was they felt the need to just give us a series of spatial anomalies as enemies, instead of the underused and extremely interesting Kazons and Vidiians. This episode is a perfect example of just that problem.
Nic
Fri, Nov 13, 2009, 5:32pm (UTC -5)
Am I the only one who likes this episode? I liked the fact that all the characters had something to do, and the revelation that the 'alien' was actually Chakotay boggled my mind when I first saw it. I'll admit the episode has its problems (like many season one episodes of any series) but it was an interesting way to explore the characters.
Russell
Fri, Nov 20, 2009, 10:41am (UTC -5)
I thought this episode was OK. I enjoyed the paranoia between the crew, and the twist that it was Chakotay taking over their bodies and not the alien, which was in Tuvok all along.
Jay
Sun, Feb 20, 2011, 3:27pm (UTC -5)
Maybe I'm missing something, but if Chakotay could hop from body to body, why didnt he just hop into his own?
Carbetarian
Fri, Apr 8, 2011, 10:47pm (UTC -5)
This one was a real loser. It was disjointed and boring, plus I saw the "plot twist" about Chakotay coming from a mile away. I popped on over to the memory alpha page for this episode to see if there was some explaination for this 45 minute snore fest, and saw the following quotes from Brannon Braga:


"I struggled with that script [....] It was a complex story–as many of mine are–but I never quite had a handle on the logic of what was going on"


At least he admits this one didn't go so well. But, man, I rolled my eyes so hard at that "as many of mine are" line. Then there was this one:


"Michael Piller wanted to make it a story about paranoia, which sounded good at the time, but it's hard to do a show about paranoia on a Starfleet vessel. People don't behave that way."


I wish Brannon had taken five minutes out of his daily routine of being too complex for the universe, to listen to Michael Pillar! Maybe the episode could have been saved if he had. Alas, it was not to be.

Even one star is generous for this one. But, this isn't a no star episode either. I reserve that honor for Threshold. So, all in all, this gets a half star from me.
Matthias
Fri, Aug 12, 2011, 5:52am (UTC -5)
Ha, yes, 'starfleet personnel don't behave that way'. If only we had a Trek series set aboard a lone ship far from the 'fleet, staffed by a volatile mix of starfleet and until recently openly hostile crew forced to work together to get home!

I have to say I didn't hate this episode, perhaps due in part because I was so grateful the Janeway running around in a bonnet drinking tea thing was only a teaser of horrors to come.

There's stupid stuff to pick apart (hey Chakotay how about possessing someone to pick up a pen and explain what the heck is going on) but man everything that gets Tuvok to shoot the bridge crew and neck pinch Kes so hard it looks like she had an encounter with space vampires is going to entertain me.

Von
Tue, Apr 17, 2012, 9:53pm (UTC -5)
I'm watching Voyager for the first time after having completed TNG, DS9 and ENT. I'm not hating it so far, but during this episode I noticed one irritating aspect of Mulgrew's acting: the wide-eyed, eyebrow-cocked stare while the music swells and we cut to commercial. The first time in this episode it was an overdramatic embellishment. The second time it was distracting. The third time it was just plain silly. Maybe a drinking game is in order?
Shane
Tue, Aug 7, 2012, 6:19pm (UTC -5)
The entire problem could have been solved if Chakotay simply inhabited himself and explained the issue.

Or if that's not possible because of some Tuvok-alien induced plot contrivance, Chakotay could have inhabited someone else and sent Janeway an intership email explaining the situation.
Bryan
Fri, Sep 28, 2012, 4:04am (UTC -5)
I'm surprised by the amount of people who didn't like this episode= I loved it. From my first season memories this episode always came to light. The story was something different but I love how the crew members got possessed and lost control- My Fav scene being when Janeway all of a sudden attacked Tuvok. Very entertaining!
eddie
Thu, Jun 13, 2013, 5:53pm (UTC -5)
I hated this one. And forget about the comments about Chakotay solving everythin by inhabiting himself. Let's just assume that his body was damaged and he couldn't. But instead of using the crew to turn the ship around and screw with propulsion, how about using someone to write a note that says: hey, it's me Chakotay... i'm body jumping through the ship. HELP! PS. Don't go back to that nebula.

And using neelix to draw a rough map on his medicine wheel! what was that about? walk the talaxian to a computer terminal and give your crew a real map.
Shawn Davis
Tue, Jul 23, 2013, 7:20am (UTC -5)
I agree with everyone that said that Chakotay, while being out of his body in a different form, should have done something different to warn the crew about that nebula instead of just taking over someone's body and start messing around with the computers such as stopping the warp core and changing the ship's direction. Like someone said, he could have either speak through someone while possessing that person, or write it on a datapad or pen with paper. If he couldn't do that, someone like Janeway or Tuvok could of ask why he didn't do those and he could have gave some explanation regarless whether it make sense or not toward the end of the episode.
inline79
Tue, Aug 6, 2013, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
This should be a borderline 2 star. It is no worse than Emanations or Ex Post Facto, the other disappointments of this season; but if we had to pick a loser of Season One, this isn't it. My vote would go to Emanations for it's total lack of pace. At least this episode had some suspense.

My only quibble being I wish Tuvok had told us just what exactly those aliens wanted, and to see him apologize for phasering everyone and neck pinching Kes.
Trent
Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 6:26pm (UTC -5)
Excellent, tense thriller episode. The only flaw is the way Chakotay "got his soul back". Jammer is way too harsh on Voyager.
Ric
Wed, Mar 5, 2014, 1:04am (UTC -5)
"But instead of using the crew to turn the ship around and screw with propulsion, how about using someone to write a note that says: hey, it's me Chakotay... i'm body jumping through"

Hahaha, exactly. An episode with a premise that is beyond silly. Chakotay, the Friendly Ghost.

Besides, it was a super boring episode, not tense or fun at all for me. I swear that I almost fell asleep.
Vylora
Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 11:36am (UTC -5)
A few genuinely entertaining scenes completely overshadowed by shoddy direction, mundane plotting, and a downright silly premise. This episode fails on almost every level.

1 star.
Skeptical
Sun, Nov 2, 2014, 10:18pm (UTC -5)
You know, I have to admit, this idea is at least unique. I don't think I've ever heard of a plot in which two ghosts on opposite sides are possessing the main characters, and the main characters have no idea what's going on. So, given how silly the premise is, there is still some potential here. I have to give this episode a little bit of a pass as a guilty pleasure because the idea is at least potentially useful. Unfortunately, it just didn't seem to be executed very well. Maybe because one of the ghosts was Chakotay, which caused too many plot holes (why he didn't try to tell anyone who he was, as everyone else has already pointed out). Maybe because we didn't know there were two ghosts until near the end. Perhaps it would have been more interesting if the crew knew there were two ghosts, and had to guess which one was which and which one was worth helping.

One thing I would have liked to see more of is the crews response to the whole situation. That doesn't mean looking at their paranoia, however. After all, most of the crew are highly trained professionals, and the rest are disciplined hardy soldiers. I don't think they would be succumbing to paranoia so easily. But rather, I think it would have been better to watch the crew work their way through the problem with more professionalism, trying to out-think the ghost while simultaneously trying to figure out what's going on. And some of Janeway's planning, such as giving the Doc the command codes and trying to work with Tuvok, were pretty good.

Unfortunately, Janeway did not implement a buddy system (nobody allowed to be alone), which one would think would be the first thing anyone would do. It was painfully obvious that Tuvok was up to no good when he went to sickbay, and a buddy system would have helped to get around that. Likewise, I could have done without the "mystery" of what happened to Kes; it seemed obviously to me that a possessed Tuvok neck-pinched her. Unfortunately, this seems to be a trend with Voyager; the writers are missing the blatantly obvious. It serves to make the plots more ridiculous than they need to be.

As for the episode itself, yeah, not very good. But I think there was potential there somewhere. Just needed another rewrite or two.
Amanda
Mon, Dec 22, 2014, 12:30am (UTC -5)
It's all been said. Boo, needs a rewrite.

I liked the dark bridge atmosphere of the ship to set the tone, LOVED Janeway back handing Tuvok, and I loved her hair.

I laughed at the multi stun. whoops.
Jen
Tue, Feb 24, 2015, 9:56am (UTC -5)
I agree with Skeptical. The potential was there for a good episode. Having two body jumpers was unique. However, having one of them be Chakotay was problematic for the reasons everyone already stated.

There were a couple of entertaining moments - when Harry was only daydreaming but everyone jumped up and looked like they were going to give him a beat down because they thought he was inhabited by the alien and when Tuvok shot at the bridge crew were good moments.

I also agree that the crew's reactions should have had more of a focus. I think there should have been more paranoia.

I am also mystified as to why the writers on Voyager seem to overlook REALLY big plot holes. Don't get me wrong, every series is going to have stories that don't work, but Voyager's writers seem to be the worst. Why can't Chakotay warn the crew? Who knows. I'm unclear as to why this wasn't the first question asked in the writer's room.
Yanks
Wed, Aug 5, 2015, 1:08pm (UTC -5)
I'll side with Skeptical too.

This one isn't that bad Jammer.

There is suspense, puzzlement, and humor. I think this could have been a better two-parter allowing for more of the crew paranoia/inter-reaction etc... this did seem rushed at times.

I too wanted to know what the two aliens wanted inline79.

Slightly above average episode for me.

2.5 stars.
petulant
Sun, Aug 9, 2015, 10:04pm (UTC -5)
I didn't remember this episode being bad when i first saw it, but after watching it recently i saw just how bad it is.
JC
Tue, Nov 10, 2015, 10:01am (UTC -5)
This was one episode from the 1st season I didn't get to see when it originally aired. It was suspenseful, that much I vaguely remembered. When I did watch it in it's entirety I wasn't all that disappointed.

1 and half stars is a bit harsh. Season 7's Natural Law I thought was worse. Heck, I thought False Prophets was less consequential.

I have to say I didn't know what to expect. It made sense chuckles would somehow be involved but the other twist I didn't see coming at all. It certainly held my attention till the very end. Just like a good mystery should.

And as always solid acting from Tim Russ and a bit of comic relief from Robert Picardo. I would have given this two and a half stars just for the suspense it generated. Didn't feel contrived or predicatble. It felt quite original. Nothing consequential beyond the story itself though, which just keeps it from reaching classic status.
Diamond Dave
Sun, Dec 13, 2015, 4:14pm (UTC -5)
I suppose Invasion of the Body Snatchers has been done often enough that having the twist of two competing ghosts is something of a novelty. But really, that twist doesn't come early enough in the game to save an episode that is fundamentally disjointed. Apparently major themes - such as crew paranoia - leap up and are then discarded. It's all a bit of a mess.

And what the heck was that holodeck intro? 1.5 stars.
MartinB
Sat, Dec 19, 2015, 12:09pm (UTC -5)
Say what you want about this episode, it taught me a valuable lesson; that native American medicine wheels contained magnets, you know, for those times when you feel like hanging it up in your sickbay...

Yeh this episode was dumb, not least because when the crew needed to be functioning at peak efficiency and keeping their eyes open for intruders... They turn all the lights off. Same goes for whenever the ship went into battle.

Tuvok group stunning the entire bridge was funny though and makes me wonder why that setting wasn't used more, like defending the ship from Kazon boarders or maybe defending a Dominion comm relay from advancing Jem'Hadar soldiers...
JC
Sun, Mar 13, 2016, 5:42pm (UTC -5)
Since when could a phaser split and take out an entire room full of people (and auto aim at each of them no less)?

PS I'm not the same JC as above, presuming an alien didn't take over my mind momentarily last November.
Nathan W.
Thu, Mar 31, 2016, 4:42am (UTC -5)
This was a great episode. I found it very enjoyable. Most of the Voyager episodes were. I am not sure why there are so many negative comments and reviews about every single episode in the series. Even this guy reviewing them seems to have a vendetta against Voyager. I have an idea. Why do you all just stop watching Star Trek all together? It does not seem that any of you enjoy it. Have a nice day.
Yanks
Thu, Mar 31, 2016, 12:17pm (UTC -5)
Nathan W.,

Jammer is a "niner", but he has us here to keep him in check :-)
Jagerbombastic
Sun, Jun 19, 2016, 5:37pm (UTC -5)
JC, Phasers have always been able to use that setting since TNG, it's just never used, probably because it's HAX and would spoil many firefight scenes.

One thing I've noticed however is that the maximum setting for a phaser seems to change with the wind, in some episodes of Trek it simply disintegrates one person, in others it's described as being able to destroy a small building.

It's a shame they had to make them look like electric razors though, the Federation has no style!
mephyve
Mon, Aug 15, 2016, 3:45pm (UTC -5)
As soon as the doctor said "He's brain dead" I knew it as another hospital show where we spend the episode waiting for a drew member5 to get better. No thanks, not watching that.
Rob
Sat, Nov 5, 2016, 7:24am (UTC -5)
Utterly tedious.

I've watched all of TOS and all of TNG. I've nearly finished Season 3 of Deep Space Nine. I'm not sure I'll ever make it to the end of Voyager - this is just dreadful, boring television that is really ruining my interest in the franchise.
Jim
Mon, Jan 16, 2017, 4:53pm (UTC -5)
> how about using someone to write a note

You mean with *paper*?? Don't you know - paper was made *totally obsolete* in the year 2156! (At the rate we're going, we probably will be there by 2027..)

> The only flaw is the way Chakotay "got his soul back"

Oh! But that gave us one of the best line in the episode - "I would consider writing a paper about it, if there were a convenient forum in which to publish it."

I would have like to see some sappy Chakotay-Janeway considering-the-deep-nature-of-reality moment at the end where Chakotay reflected on the experience and his conception of the afterlife. But that would have been far too much like (well, identical to actually) "The Next Phase" in TNG.
Caedus
Sun, Jan 22, 2017, 9:04pm (UTC -5)
Loved this and don't get Jammers psychotic anti-Voyager prejudice.
Connor
Wed, Jan 25, 2017, 12:11pm (UTC -5)
I thought this episode was excellent. Very reminiscent of the DS9 season 3 finale "The Adversary", where the Defiant crew also descend into paranoia when a Changeling takes their form. I especially liked the brief showdown on the bridge, and seeing Tuvok take everyone down with a wide-beam phaser (would have liked to see that setting used more often!). Honestly don't understand all the criticism this episode is getting, even though I don't usually rate Voyager that highly myself.

Probably my favourite Voyager episode so far; this or "Eye of the Needle".
JohnC
Fri, Jan 27, 2017, 1:49pm (UTC -5)
Von's comment: "I'm watching Voyager for the first time after having completed TNG, DS9 and ENT. I'm not hating it so far, but during this episode I noticed one irritating aspect of Mulgrew's acting: the wide-eyed, eyebrow-cocked stare while the music swells and we cut to commercial. The first time in this episode it was an overdramatic embellishment. The second time it was distracting. The third time it was just plain silly. Maybe a drinking game is in order?"

Dude, GET OUT OF MY HEAD. I was scanning the comments and getting ready to post my own and it was going to say this, almost verbatim, even down to suggesting a drinking game. The only thing I would disagree with is - it's not Mulgrew's fault that they keep using this hackneyed, lazy way of fading to commercial.

On the nitpicky side, I had a couple of issues with this one. I understand an alien could take over their bodies, but it was also privy to their thoughts and wealth of knowledge. Otherwise, Tuvok would not have been able to do the Vulcan neck pinch thing to Kes. An alien with that kind of power would not need to resort to having the people it controls take such obvious actions like sudden and arbitrary course changes that would be immediately noticed by everyone else.

And as for the ejection of the warp core - really? The chief engineer isn't authorized to eject the warp core in an emergency?

As has been noted, Chakotay is certainly needlessly enigmatic when he's inhabiting an alien. Sounds like there was some attempt to explain this at the end when he was telling Janeway there was a learning curve with how he could make his host do things, but still.... he got Torres to walk over and input his security code to eject the warp core. You'd think he could get her to walk up to the bridge and say "hey Captain, you've got a problem here."

Lastly - how does Chakotay know what the aliens are up to?

I'm normally not a stickler for these little plot holes and just want to be entertained, but this one was just too much. I had to take breaks watching this one I got so annoyed with it.
Other Chris
Sat, Feb 11, 2017, 2:03pm (UTC -5)
Another Voyager episode that, towards its end, makes me think "What the hell was the point?"
Ildaf
Sun, Feb 12, 2017, 4:18pm (UTC -5)
I think the idea is decent. But the execution is bad, well... really bad, it's all over the place. The whole crew act like having brain damage and there's airborne idiot virus plaguing on the ship.

* They suspect alien on board, no one suggest making communication/first contact?
* Turn out the 'alien' is Chakotay, well.. it's not really out of character for Chakotay to be dumb and not just say 'Hey... It's Me!. I entered my command code to prove who I am. Get out of that fricking Nebula!'
* Doc, care to explain how brain pattern can be exist in the air? Without actual brain to hold that 'neural pattern', computer device, or anything? That brain/consience whatever can just floating in the air and jump?
* Paris and Torres got possessed, but not suspect anything (you suddenly jump to another place and doing something else), that doesnt make you question yourself? You need Doc to pointing that out using biomolecular scan?
* Doc, thought you have 4 million something medical knowledge and 47 professional medical experience (including McCoy) , but you dont recognize Vulcan Neck Pinch right away. You need Paris to conclude that?
* Aah.. The perfect ensign wandering his mind on urgent senior staff meeting, okay
* No one suggesting to working on group and watch each other back, prevent them from do anything out of ordinary?
* No one suggesting or even try/thinking method how to prevent the alien to 'jump' on them?
* Btw, Tuvok-alien. You manage to incapacitated all bridge crewmember right (the phaser-HAX)? Why dont you just go straight away to the Nebula? Why reviving them back again?
* They finally found (strongly suspect) Tuvok is under alien influence, and scheming all of this, but none safety measures taken before confronting him? How about 'Computer, erect force field surround the tactical station and transfer all the control to Ops station'. Or just stun him, question later!
* Errr.. a Chief Engineer (Torres) don't have authorization to eject warp core? How dumb is that! Of course in later episodes (as it suppose) the chief engineer is able to eject warp core (Day of Honor). I don't recall Geordi ever need to ask authorization from bridge to dump warp core either.
* Gosh.. Chakotay, map using your medicine wagon? Why not just plotting course using one of the panel you can easily acces by posses someone.
* Why can't Chakotay back to his own body in the first place for that matter anyway, he can easily posses anyone but not back to himself? He don't have external injury or any live-threatening condition, aside from 'losing neural-pattern'
* Ah.. yes.. after all that stupidity we still treated with that cliche of saved in the nick of time... awwww, cute!
* BAMM!! The Doc suddenly can put back Chakotay conciousness out of thin air (literally). How Chakotay conciousness can exist in thin air? Ah well... better not question that. But Doc can explain you how to transfer it back to his body, It using a series of technobable that require 10 hours to explain it (yeaaaa... right!)

The absurd and ridiculous is way beyond suspension of disbelief. Only the idea is sound, but the plot and script need to be put in the trashbin.

1 (*) star for avoid be totally offending, and at least have some dumb entertainment value.
Ildaf
Sun, Feb 12, 2017, 4:36pm (UTC -5)
This is also the third time in season 1 we encounter "Anomaly/Phenomenon turn out to be a life-form"

Last, what's the holodeck scene have to do with any of this anyway?
Mertov
Sat, Mar 4, 2017, 9:48pm (UTC -5)
I have to join the few who said they enjoyed the episode, although I must admit that the denouement was a bit weak. I did enjoy the thriller aspect in the second half. I do agree with Jammer on the pointless teaser. And yes, as a couple of commenters have mentioned.. "the wide-eyed, eyebrow-cocked stare" by Janeway was a low for Mulgrew.. Overall, I still liked the episode for its classic ST themes (anomalies, crew members acting strange, feeling threatened by an alien force, etc.)

Did anyone else notice how dark the room was during the round-the-table meeting of the senior officers? Torres and Kim actually looked scary in the close-ups!

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