Jammer's Review

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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18 comments on this review

Rob in Michigan - Sun, Sep 21, 2008 - 4:58pm (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
"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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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.

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