Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"The 37's"

**1/2

Air date: 8/28/1995
Written by Jeri Taylor and Brannon Braga
Directed by James L. Conway

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I suggest we increase the ventilation in the cargo bay before we are asphyxiated." — Tuvok on safety measures in the presence of a running 1936 Ford

Nutshell: Not bad, but surprisingly pointless. This installment's theme comes about five months too late.

Cruising through the Delta Quadrant on the ongoing journey home, the crew comes across a 20th century Earth automobile floating in space—an object whose impossible location in very distant space leads to the discovery of missing 20th century humans who somehow ended up on a planet on the other side of the galaxy.

These humans were abducted by an alien race in the year 1937 and put into cryo-stasis for over 400 years. Among the displaced humans is Amelia Earhart, whose mysterious, historic 1937 disappearance is explained in science-fiction terms by scripters Taylor and Braga. This idea is a bit atypical of New Star Trek style, resembling something that would've more likely taken place on The Original Series.

Unfortunately, there's a major flaw in the use of Amelia Earhart. Her role in the episode proves to be depressingly underwhelming, partly because the opening credits saying "Sharon Lawrence as Amelia Earhart" ruins the surprise factor from square one, but mostly because the character/historical figure is put to very little productive use. What's the point of using Earhart? It has to do with Janeway's respect of a woman who pioneered air flight, but there just isn't much depth or effort put into the idea.

Fortunately, the finding of these humans leads to an understandable story that addresses the frustration in the crew's realization that they may never see Federation space again. Through a series of plot twists and phaser fights, the Voyager crew discovers an entire human civilization on this planet. As explained by John Evansville, one of the Delta Quadrant humans (played by John Rubinstein, whose overacting leaves much to be desired), this civilization began after the descendants of the abductees revolted and overthrew their captors—an alien race called the Briori.

With an entire human civilization and their beautiful new cities on this planet, it feels a lot like Earth. Knowing the possibility exists that they may never again see Earth, some of Voyager's crew members begin thinking about staying behind on this planet. Now Janeway must decide whether the Voyager should continue, or whether the crew should end their mission and rebuild their lives in the Delta Quadrant.

"The 37's" has a fairly relevant theme in the context of Voyager being far, far from home. But shouldn't this episode have come earlier in the series? Considering we are some 16 episodes into the series, it's not really timely to do an episode like this. This is a problem that undermines the show. It's hard to care about the story, because we know the outcome: The crew will press on, because they really want to see Earth again, and there's just no comparison between Earth and this new isolated civilization.

But what about those beautiful cities Evansville speaks of? We never get to see them. Instead we get a scene in the Voyager conference room, a cut, and then a Captain's Log saying "Those were beautiful cities..." A matte painting could've made all the dramatic difference here. Apparently it wasn't in the budget. Instead there's a nifty but pointless special effects sequence of the ship landing on the planet. Why? Because this week there's too much interference to use the transporters or something. Whatever. Landing the ship has zero relevance to the story, but what the hey?

"The 37's" is not a bad story, so much as an untimely one. The cast feels sincere and genuine throughout the show. Heading into the second season, however, Voyager needs to get over being homesick.

Previous episode: Learning Curve
Next episode: Initiations

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33 comments on this review

AJ Koravkrian - Thu, Jan 24, 2008 - 3:14pm (USA Central)
I have a problem with landing the ship here. They don't really know what sort of civilization is down there. Surely this counts as a violation of prime directive, but hey, this is Voyager. They don't really care for that kinda thing.
Dirk Hartmann - Fri, Mar 21, 2008 - 5:27am (USA Central)
I mostly agree with the review, except that I think it makes sense to raise the issue "Should we abort the journey home and begin a new life here?" just now. Only on the background of having been on journey for quite a while without making much headway (wormholes etc.)the answer to that question is not a foregoing conclusion.

My big big problem with the landed ship was that because the special effects team didn't get the feel of distance right, the Voyager looked way too small, bordering on the ridiculous.
Nic - Thu, Oct 15, 2009 - 9:29am (USA Central)
It definitely would have been nice to see at least a matte painting of the cities, but I don't think it detracts too much from the story. The real story here is how the characters react to the possibility of starting a new life rather than spending the rest of their lives on a starship. The scene where Janeay walks into the cargo bay really had me going. As previously stated this would have worked better as a season finale, but that it aired as the season 2 opener is nobody's fault but UPN's.
As for landing the ship, well, it may not have been relevant to the main character story, but it's a great sequence to watch and I think it worked at least as well as it would have in any other episode.
Ken - Wed, Feb 2, 2011 - 11:54pm (USA Central)
This episode has all sorts of problems.

The whole premise of the story hinges on the Voyager stopping because they see rusted iron in space. Is that really something they should stop for? Is that really something their sensors would be configured to detect? And it just "happens" to be human?

The whole plot setup is just gimmicky, regardless of the explanation that was presented afterward.

There are other problems with the show too. How did Janeway get her phaser back once it was taken away from her when they were fired upon?

But that's nothing. Here's the big whopper: Why weren't the human cities even detected when they landed or from orbit? Are you telling me that the ship's sensors are set to pick up random, rusted trucks in space, but were not configured to find 100,000+ humans and 3 major cities on the planet after several hours of arriving?

One of Voyager's big problems was the logic of the stories. There are just so many cases where the premise of the show lacks logic - the show has its characters making decisions that are out of character or just don't make any sense. It's as if it's all for the sake of telling some random story. That's pretty much Voyager in a nutshell.

This is a terrible episode.
Destructor - Tue, Mar 8, 2011 - 6:35pm (USA Central)
I enjoyed this episode mainly because it had Amelia Earhart in it, but yes they should have kept the plot focused on her, rather than the completely random directions it kept spiraling.
Carbetarian - Sat, Apr 9, 2011 - 11:03pm (USA Central)
@Dirk I agree. The timing makes sense to me too. I think that after a year of trudging through space and making no real progress, people would be far more inclined to just stop and make a new life than they would in the beginning. I also cosign your observation about the size of the ship being totally out of proportion with the characters. The effects department really dropped the ball on that one.

@Ken I also completely agree with everything you said. This episode is totally ridiculous, on every level.

I'd also like to add to that list of problems with this episode, the glaringly obvious stupidity of landing voyager at all. If the atmosphere on this planet can tear a shuttle apart, why risk the same thing happening to Voyager? Is it worth possibly irreparably damaging the ship to satisfy some whimsical curiosity? I think not. Especially not when that ship is the only hope they have of getting home!

This episode gets one star from me.
Matthias - Sun, Aug 14, 2011 - 6:55am (USA Central)
Voyager is a whole lot tougher than a shuttlecraft, though I suspect the real reason they landed it was because it's cool and it's something a Galaxy class vessel can't do.

I really liked the shots of Janeway in in the ready room with some lovely blue skies outside and sunshine beaming in where there's usually endless blackness with maybe a (usually sentient) nebula outside. I also liked that for once the planet's inhabitants had taken care of their own problems a long time ago.

Don't get me started on the plot though (WHY WAS THAT TRUCK OUT IN SPACEFWAAARGHWRLBL
Jay - Sat, Sep 3, 2011 - 2:15pm (USA Central)
@ Dirk and Carb...yeah they never really got that right. In "Basics" and "Demon" it seems off as well...
Angular - Tue, Oct 18, 2011 - 2:12am (USA Central)
This story is nonsensical on so many levels, the writing is just disappointing. The truck in space is nothing but a plot device, someone with an old pistol captures an entire team equipped with phasers, and an entire civilization is hidden from Voyager.
David - Sun, Oct 23, 2011 - 1:27am (USA Central)
A lot of the points raised here are well-taken, but they shouldn't distract from the overall enjoyment of the episode, which made a bizarre premise more emotionally resonant than I expected. When it works from a character and emotional standpoint, I don't let the nit-picks bother me. I only had two issues - the billing of Sharon Lawrence that ruined the surprise, as someone already mentioned, and the decision to make the Fred character such a buffoon. But the climax- where Janeway and Chakotay hesitantly walk to the cargo bay, and Janeway chokes back some tears when she finds it empty - that's a great Star Trek moment. For me, this episode borders on classic.
Ken - Sun, Oct 23, 2011 - 4:57am (USA Central)
I simply can't ignore the premise though, and I don't many people could. There are just too many things we have to accept to even begin to enjoy a the story here. It is layered upon contradiction and stupidity - so much so that any redeeming qualities (and there aren't many honestly) come off as silly considering what came before.

The emotional pack that you speak of at the end in the cargo back is drastically diminished because we can't take the rational judgement of any of the characters on the show seriously. They are all incompetent - they all don't spot a civilization on the planet, yet they spotted some rusted iron from an earth vehicle in space.

Despite this total incompetence, we are expected that the crew can judge whether they should stay on Voyager or stay on the planet? Their rational faculties are compromised already - it doesn't matter what they chose any longer. The emotional impact is lost when the rational impact wasn't there to begin with. Premises come before emotions.
Chris Harrison - Mon, Nov 7, 2011 - 6:53am (USA Central)
First of all, I can't believe no one's mentioned the similarity of this episode to TNG's 'The Neutral Zone'.

Second of all, all of the plot holes mentioned above are trifling compared to the idea of Voyager happening across these abducted humans given there are are approx. 1 trillion planets in the Milky Way galaxy. 400 years later? It wouldn't happen in a billion years.
carpinteyrokxv - Thu, Nov 10, 2011 - 8:50pm (USA Central)
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Milica - Sun, Jul 22, 2012 - 10:30am (USA Central)
I find this episode very similar to the ENT North Star (abduction of humans, their subsequent rebellion, after which they continue to live and prosper on the distant planet).
The timing for making a decision of whether to settle or still keep trying is fine, I don't find any problems with it.
I find it unlikely that no one from the VOY crew wanted to stay on that planet and that no one from the '37s decided to come along. It seems odd, I though at least that the adventurous Amelia would come along.
Jeff Bedard - Mon, Sep 17, 2012 - 5:05pm (USA Central)
Just a few comments and questions.

1) The truck floating in space makes for a unique image, but in the end it seems almost sillier than seeing Abe Lincoln floating in space in TOS: "The Savage Curtain." And no explanation is ever offered for how it got there in the first place.

2) I realize we're dealing with people living in the 24th century, but would they really confuse a 1930s truck with an early version of hover car?

3) Referring to 20th century Earth as "ancient" seems silly to me. That would be like us referring to the Revolutionary War as being an ancient war.

4) Definitely crediting Sharon Lawrence as Amelia Earhart in the opening credits gives away the surprise, but I'm sure the UPN episode trailers did that for weeks prior to the episode airing.

5) It does seem hard to believe that no one would want to stay. One of the hardest things to believe on this series is the blind loyalty the noname crewmembers had for Janeway and the other main characters regardless of what Janeway,etc wanted to do. It's also hard to believe that Earhart wouldn't want to travel the stars and explore in a way she never could have imagine during her lifetime. But the reality of the situation is this is a TV series and clearly the writers and producers weren't going to have Earhart be a recurring character on the show. Pity. VOYAGER had so many chances to break the mold and shied away from almost all of them. Pity. I give it 2 stars on the low end.
Chris Harrison - Tue, Sep 18, 2012 - 12:59am (USA Central)
@Jeff Bedard

I couldn't agree more with all your points. Especially number 3. All of the Berman era Star Trek series suffered from this warped sense of the past. Anyone would think the crews in these shows were looking back at the 20th century as though the details and records were lost to antiquity. They refer to the events of the 20th century as though they occurred thousands of years ago and were as sketchy as ancient Greek history is to us. Another example of this, besides yours, is when Paris refers to a whoopee cushion as "ancient technology".

The educated and intrepid crews should have as much appreciation for the 20th century as we do for the 17th century. We know what technology they were capable of back then. We are even quite aware of their culture and attitudes. Why are these characters portrayed as so ignorant?
Jay - Sat, Oct 6, 2012 - 5:59pm (USA Central)
It's rather ridiculous that nobody decided to stay behind...I'd have thought surely some of the Maquis from "Learning Curve", and some of the misfits from "Good Shepherd".
xaaos - Fri, Mar 22, 2013 - 9:33am (USA Central)
Staying onboard Voyager and traveling thru space and stars > settling down in a planet, even Earth.
Strejda - Sat, May 25, 2013 - 11:58am (USA Central)
@xaaos

I don't think traveling on a ship where you are constantly in danger and someone dies every month is so much better. Maybe for some, but someone would decide to stay.
inline79 - Tue, Sep 3, 2013 - 3:52pm (USA Central)
Some parts of this episode were hard to ignore. Like the glorious "cities" we never see, that we spent too long negotiating with Fred The Jerk, and that in 400 years nobody invented telescopes on this planet so they could see that these people walking around in plain jumpsuits were human...

I side with some commenters that think this episode is at the right time - these people have been traveling together for 5-6 months now (had this aired at the end of Season One)... that's the right time to test integrity of the crew with a temptation of a new life. It would have really been nice to actually hear the Captain's Address at 1400h (did I miss it or did it get cut)?

But to those above who complained about the sensors - it was established that there was some magic interference in this atmosphere.

However, in the end, I am one who enjoyed this episode, and agree mostly with Jammer. The ethical dilemma of Janeway is well done, even though in the end nothing is really gained or lost. (At least steal some Briori tech for yourself, Voyager!)
Steve - Thu, Sep 5, 2013 - 1:48pm (USA Central)
I am bugged by the truck in other ways. A car or truck on Earth would be easily inoperable after, say, five years of inactivity; how, after 400 years of drifting in interstellar space are the tires not blown, the liquids and gas not frozen, the manure (and paint) not stripped by radiation, the glass not shattered by microfragments and absolute-zero temperatures, etc. etc., and how in the world did Paris get it to start so easily?
Steve - Thu, Sep 5, 2013 - 2:00pm (USA Central)
I do agree with the assertion that, for all of the illogic that takes place, there are few scenes in Star Trek comparable to Janeway not wanting to enter the cargo bay at the end, and then crying upon finding it empty.
Jons - Mon, Nov 11, 2013 - 4:20am (USA Central)
I liked the episode.

What I liked even more is Cpt Janeway's GIANT laptop with a tiny tiny screen and BIG buttons. Love love love the 90s view of technology.
inline79 - Mon, Dec 9, 2013 - 1:27am (USA Central)
Oh, just realized Fred the Jerk is Tackleberry! The aliens invaded Police Academy!
Chris Harrison - Mon, Dec 9, 2013 - 1:36am (USA Central)
@Jons: The flip-side of your observation is the Star Trek creation of the "padd" 15-20 years before the iPad.
Randy - Wed, Jan 1, 2014 - 9:46pm (USA Central)
Why didn't they share some technology so the colony could expand, and at least communicate?

And why didn't anyone want to go with Voyager?
Trent - Sat, Feb 8, 2014 - 9:05am (USA Central)
This is a excellent episode. Why do we need to see the city? It's dramatically more powerful not to have seen it.
K'Elvis - Mon, Feb 24, 2014 - 8:12am (USA Central)
The condition of the truck is highly implausible. The tires would be deflated, air would have leaked out. They would appear full in space, but they would be full of vacuum. Once in gravity, the tires would appear like any other flat tire. The gas in the tank and the water in the radiator would have evaporated. The rubber would have been degraded by sunlight - rubber degrades enough here on Earth, without a protective atmosphere, it would have degraded more quickly. The truck also appears too old. It's a 1936 Ford, and it was taken from Earth in 1937, but it appears to have been used for several years. It should still look relatively new.

Rust in space wouldn't be that remarkable. Asteroid impacts can throw material back into space, and if an asteroid struck in a region of iron ore, it could throw iron oxide into space. There wouldn't have been a trail, any trail of rust would have dissipated very quickly. But I can overlook that.

No explanation is given for why they didn't detect the cities. It's surprising that no one would have wanted to stay. The tensions on Voyager are still not totally eliminated, surely someone would want to leave. While it is plausible that none of the Voyager crew would want to stay and that none of the 37's would want to travel on Voyager, it's not plausible that NONE of the 100,000 people on this planet would want to go with Voyager. Voyager could have filled it's crew from the people of these cities.

I think this is another episode that would have been better served it it had aired later. This would have been a good opportunity to shake up the crew and bring in new faces. If one of the 37s had stayed on Voyager, it would have been a way to contrast the current (or relatively current) world with the world of the 24th century. The 37 could have represented the perspective of us watching from the present age. They often have to explain things to the audience, and this would prevent an "As you know, Bob..." explanation, where things are explained to characters who should already know these facts.
Ric - Sun, Mar 9, 2014 - 3:43am (USA Central)
Amazing background story!

But first, let put the weak parts clearly on the table. Ok, it is already too much of meeting humans by chance in the Delta Quadrant and I hope the show slows this nonsense down. It is also already too much of finding ways to get back home just to be suddenty and obviously frustrated. Gosh, didn't any writer notice how silly it was becoming? I fully agree that the receipt of Voyager finding a new way to almost-get-back home almost every week is tiring.

Anyway, that said, the story behind the humans getting there was quite smart and powerful. I mean, human lost in the space when abducted by aliens in the past gave birth to a differemt, parallel human civilization? Quite cool and quite full of possibilities to be explored here and in the future. Sadly, they were not, at least not in full capacity. Nobody from Voyager stays? And every single of the 37s stay? Comme on guys, this is lazy TV, huh? I just wished the writers went further and left someone from the main crew there or included some of the 37s in the Voyager crew. This could have been a nice way of introducing some continuity in the show. Anyway, this is story that can clearly be used in the future.

Lastly, I also enjoyed the dilema of staying or not staying: finally the writers properly introduced this debate. It is obvious that in the situation Voyager is in, the idea of staying at some new planet would popup often. And I really mean often: Jammer's points about the decision of staying or leaving were ilogical, absurd. He said: "but shouldn't this episode have come earlier in the series? Considering we are some 16 episodes into the series, it's not really timely to do an episode like this. This is a problem that undermines the show". What? The crew shouldn't face the dilema of maybe staying for good in some other planet because they have been in the adrift situation for a while? This is pure nonsense. On the contrary, the longer they are in the situation, the more they are expected to think about giving up. This is precisely the type of debate the crew should have - and more often than not. Voyager does not have to get over being homesick. Voyager has to get over the same plot structure every week. This a totally diferente thing.


.
Peter Bradfield - Mon, Apr 21, 2014 - 2:55pm (USA Central)
I agree with some who have said the biggest problem with this episode was that this should have been Voyager's first two-part episode with Sharon Lawrence's Amelia Earhart being an unintended and even unwittingly first true protagonist to Janeway in the Delta Quadrant -- perhaps even giving us shades into how Janeway would have to deal with Seven of Nine.

Just imagine if much of the the crew had wanted to stay on the planet -- with an actual view of that city -- instead of trying to get back to the Alpha Quadrant via some things Earhart says that she didn't intend or were taken out of context by much of the crew? I think that would have made a much more interesting story as well as good basis for Voyager's first two-parter, instead of waiting for season 2's finale and season 3's opener.
Vylora - Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - 6:30pm (USA Central)
There's a good portion of this episode that works, and works quite well. Unfortunately, too many logical gaffes and overplayed semantics bogs it down. All of the scenes involving the truck is one of the worst in Voyager's run. The actress that played Earhart should be commended, though, and the scenes involving her and Janeway are highlights.

2.5 stars.
Yanks - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 7:00am (USA Central)
I'll rate this later when I rewatch Voyager but damn, folks that are making a cow out of the truck need to get over yourselves. Seeing Tuvok draw his phasOr when it back-fires is worth it all :-)

Lighten up people! Have some fun! Every episode doesn't need to be Scorpion, or Inner Light...
Skeptical - Sun, Nov 9, 2014 - 4:50pm (USA Central)
Honestly, I don't really care all that much about the fact that they didn't show the cities, although I can see why others would find it rather silly. In any case, I remembered this episode to be really bad, so I was moderately and pleasantly surprised when I rewatched it. But only partly, since it still wasn't very good.

As others have mentioned, this episode takes all sense of logic and throws it out the window. Besides what has already been mentioned, what's with the SOS signal? Can someone explain why the aliens would bother to put a magic battery on the airplane for no reason? And can someone explain how the signal not only managed to reach across several light years, but also managed to get through Voyager's bulkhead? Heck, my AM radio dies if I drive under a bridge! And, of course, there's the question of why, if some random aliens wanted to abduct people for slaves, they would travel 70,000 light years away to grab them when the Delta Quadrant is filled with people just waiting to be abducted.

Sixty or so years ago, the comic book industry was run in a strange way. Someone would draw a cover of a Superman comic or whatever that they thought would get readers curious, and then give it off to the writers to come up with some convoluted plot that allows for the bizarre cover to fit in. I'm getting that same impression here. "Let's have an episode where Janeway meets Amelia Earhart; that would make a great preview!" "How is it remotely possible that Earhart is in the Delta Quadrant, and that Voyager would stumble across her?" "I don't know, make it work somehow." And thus, the episode appears.

But what I remembered was that this episode was completely pointless. But while the internal logic was absurd and the pacing abysmal (did we really need the intransigent co-pilot, or the lengthy discussion about the truck, or the overly long hostage situation?), there was a good reason for it. I'm with the other commentators that thought this was the right time to visit an episode like this. Janeway still isn't 100% sure about the crew's loyalty to her at this point, and the possibility that people would give up now is very real. While the crew has undoubtedly adapted to the reality of the situation, this has been a long enough time that they probably realize everyone at home thinks they are dead. This is about the time to wonder if it is time to give up.

So while the ending is cheesy (c'mon, didn't everyone expect the room to be empty? Either that or the rest of the senior staff would be there to give an inspirational speech...), the idea of doing this was ok. The conversations between Chakotay and Janeway were the highlight of the episode. The few conversations among the crew were fine as well. I'm not trying to oversell it here, because the overall episode was not that good, but I appreciate the effort, and there were a few scenes that I quite enjoyed. Which is better than an episode with as silly a premise as this deserves.

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