Nutshell: A nicely done allegory. Sensibly written and wonderfully acted.
Star Trek has always been known to venture into social commentary and allegorical content, and with "Remember" the Voyager team comes up with a winner—the best episode of Voyager so far this season.
Trek's best stories are usually those that add up to something beyond what lies on the surface—a story that works on the outside but also has lasting impact on the inside. DS9 attempted this the same week with "The Ship," a story about a crashed Jem'Hadar warship that also turned out to be an analysis of the consequences of mistrust and its resulting death. The problem with "The Ship" was that it just pushed too hard at the end; the conclusion was bluntly overwrought and devoid of the true lasting emotional effects it needed—in my opinion, anyway.
"Remember," on the other hand, is one of Voyager's better moments. It has more of an even hand, more believable character reactions, and a bit more genuine feeling than "The Ship" had—although even "Remember" tends to push its message into the realm of the obvious at times.
The story enters a group from a race called the Enarans, for whom the Voyager crew is providing quick transport to another colony in exchange for mining resources. The Enarans are a friendly telepathic race who can share their thoughts at will, as demonstrated by an early scene where one of the Enarans helps Janeway play a musical instrument by transmitting weeks of memories of lessons in mere seconds.
About this time, and obviously not coincidence, Lt. Torres begins having very sensual and realistic dreams. At first the dreams seem to be harmless—a torrid love affair with passionate nights. A disturbing image, however, appears on the second night—that of her lover being burned in front of her eyes. By this point, Torres' curiosity is too potent to deny, and before long, she realizes these dreams mean something—in the dreams she knows who the people are, and realizes that she herself is another person: a young Enaran woman named Kirina. The dreams begin to organize into a sort of "narrative."
One of the most compelling aspects of "Remember" is the way Torres gets so personally caught up in the plight of the "characters" in her dreams. I respect Torres a lot for her actions in this episode, because she takes a stand for something she believes in, and has the strong, stubborn intensity that originally made the character interesting. At the same time, Torres never comes across in this episode as remotely wrong-headed—something that sometimes becomes equated with such words as "impulsive" and "stubborn."
Torres realizes that Kirina is in the middle of a difficult situation, and refusing the treatment that would prevent her from having more dreams, Torres says she needs to know. "I don't know what I... what she's going to do," she says, with a line that very subtly but effectively indicates how caught up she has become in living the identity.
The dreams reveal that Kirina's lover Dathan (Charles Esten) is among a large groups of Enarans who don't embrace the direction technology is going. The Enaran populace has labeled this sub-group of their culture the "regressives," and have come up with a solution that is in the "best interests" of everyone—banishment of the regressives from the planet.
Dathan is wary of this promise by the Enarans. He has heard rumors of mass execution—rumors that Kirina naively states as completely untrue. But, Dathan points out, relatives that have supposedly been relocated have not been heard from since. Are the Enarans lying about their intentions? Every dream's clues brings B'Elanna closer to unlocking the Enarans' recent history—a history with a dark secret.
As the story continues to develop on both planes, the dark secret reveals itself as a commentary on the Holocaust (hardly less than obvious), but the microcosm here is about one woman—Kirina—and the way she is coerced into accepting mass murder in the interests of "progress." The story's central tragedy builds with a slow certainty as Kirina's father (Bruce Davison) explains the "rational" reasons that the regressives must be sent away—to which Kirina begins the slow but steady process of convincing herself into accepting this situation, marked with perhaps the most simultaneously pointed and subtle line in the episode: "So it's dangerous to have them living here." Whether or not that line ends in a question mark is the whole point of the scene.
When Torres realizes that these memories are being transmitted to her from an elderly Enaran named Jora Mirrel (Eve Brenner)—trying in her final hours of life to expose the truth from elsewhere on board the ship (the story reveals that Mirrel was really Kirina all those years ago), the point becomes clear. The Enarans have lied to their own children. They've covered up their own history. The next generation is completely unaware of their atrocious past. Torres is furious. In a moment of impulse she confronts the other Enarans on board the ship.
I liked Torres' actions (and particularly her point that "It's not just a matter of history. This could happen again if no one knows it happened before"). But Janeway's reactions to the delicate situation are good as well. There's a general sense that "no we really shouldn't interfere in their culture, but feel free to try to convince the skeptic Enarans who have been taught this never happened."
And that's exactly what Torres does. She tries to expose the secret Jora Mirell could never afford to—again, on a microcosmic level: word of mouth, just one person to another, repeating the cycle (as demonstrated with a final scene that repeats an early scene). She's not trying to start revolutions any more than Mirell was. As Torres aptly puts it, "She showed me everything—no apologies, no requests for forgiveness, just the truth." And that's precisely what Torres hopes to do as the episode ends.
As an allegory, "Remember" is quite nicely handled, but what really makes the episode a standout is the overall vision of the production when combined with the technical credits and the small details. Winrich Kolbe's direction is absolutely stellar. Here is a script that introduces an entire new world and culture, several characters tied together in different ways, and puts them within a series of dream sequences that exist inside their own reality. Yet Kolbe keeps a firm grip on what happens and where we are. In addition, his photography technique is absorbing; in fact, it's top-notch and feels quite cinematic.
Lisa Klink's teleplay deserves high praise as well. It creates its characters efficiently and draws them intelligently. Most of all, Klink develops the true narrative strength through B'Elanna's thoughts and actions. Klink seems to have a clear idea of what the character would do in this situation; so what happens, as a result, is credible.
Still, if one element truly carries "Remember" it has to be the performance of Roxann Dawson, because her work in the dual role is impressive. There are subtleties in the performance that should not be overlooked. The story allows Dawson to display an acting range that I haven't seen before. I can't put my finger on what is so right about her portrayal, but there's something about it that really works. I think it's because when I see Kirina, I think "Kirina" and not "B'Elanna." Dawson's ability to separate the two (with a subtle aura that resides somewhere in the subconscious) is the true standout quality of "Remember."
Another reason this works is because it proceeds quietly, for the most part. The show only hits us with a sledgehammer on maybe one or two circumstances, but even then those circumstances are warranted and effective. The scene where Kirina chants along "Yes! Yes! Yes!" with some other Enarans after the slaughter of a group of regressives (including her own Dathan) sent chills down my spine.
Perhaps the one detraction from the story are the way the ideas near the end of the "dream" aspect are a bit crammed together—the show's microcosm attempts to cover years in Enaran history within minutes of screen time—but that's not a very big problem. This story is still easily one of Voyager's most "mature" stories ever, and genuinely exhibits the Trekkian moral conscience.