Star Trek: Voyager



Air date: 9/24/1997
Written by Kenneth Biller
Directed by Alexander Singer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I wish it were as easy to stop hating as it was to start." — Chakotay

Nutshell: A reliable if derivative Trekkian theme, and pretty strong in execution.

During a survey mission, Chakotay's shuttle is shot down over a planet locked in warfare. He is discovered by a group of Vori soldiers, and in order to survive long enough to contact Voyager, Chakotay must travel through the landscapes in the middle of their war. Before long, Chakotay finds himself fighting on their side to survive.

But, further, Chakotay gets to know these soldiers and begins to sympathize with their plight. The Vori speak of the horrors of their enemy, the brutal Kradin, which they simply call the "nemesis." They have come to hate their enemy. They call their nemesis "beasts" and look forward to any battle where they can gain vengeance on their cruel adversaries.

Chakotay, the Federation type whose existence defines him to nonviolent intentions and a duty to try to understand people rather than hating them, finds his Starfleet values challenged by a situation of extremes. He's trapped in a forest environment with only these soldiers as a possible way home. The vegetation is thick; at any turn there could be a Kradin ambush of machine-gun fire.

"Nemesis" makes use of a fairly derivative Trekkian theme: The indictment of such ugly things as hate, violence, and killing. But this is probably among Trek's most reliable morals—one of the underlying values that, ideologically, makes Trek what it is. Despite a somewhat sluggish first two acts, "Nemesis's" approach to the issue is as relevant as any, and benefits from some fairly strong execution.

While the Shuttle Crash [TM] is, naturally, an absurdly laughable cliche used to launch the episode (it's the third shuttle to be lost in as many episodes), I'm forgiving it this time—for at least the situation it creates for Chakotay is the basis for some good drama. (Besides, at this point, after at least a dozen lost shuttles, I'm just assuming that the Voyager crew has come up with a way of building new ones out of raw materials.)

There's also the Vori speaking style. It's quite different, using metaphors and bizarrely constructed phrases to describe the mundane. The Vori say things like "the soon after" instead of "later," or "nullified," instead of "killed." The writers must've felt this dialog delivery would give the script an insightful dramatic edge. I can't say I was particularly impressed by it, but nor did it hurt any of the scenes. It was pretty much neutral for me, but I will give Kenneth Biller an A for effort in trying to be different in a sophisticated way.

The episode's guest characters prove reasonably good, and the story supplies them with enough depth to give them three dimensions. For some of them, we learn about their families, their losses, the atrocities of the enemy as they've experienced first-hand. The show gives them a reasonable amount of depth, such that we can understand what they've been through.

Chakotay finds himself absorbed into this plight, and before long he picks up a weapon and is fighting the Vori's fight. At one point, Chakotay is separated from the rest of his unit, and finds his way into a Vori village which has suffered its own losses in the war. A young girl in the village speaks highly of her older brother, who is also a soldier. The fate of the brother does not seem promising.

The show's most striking touch of wartime atrocity is the Kradin's desecration of the dead Vori. The Vori's beliefs require that the dead be turned on their faces, so they can see the "path to the way after." The Kradin have a hateful practice of tying captured soldiers to the ground face-up, and letting them die in the sun. This was a pretty realistic demonstration of cruelty, and therefore quite vivid.

Through all of this is Chakotay, who slowly but surely finds himself coming to hate these Kradin "beasts." The road of emotional torment that Chakotay travels from beginning to the end of the episode is a rather dark one. It begins first with his early sentiments to the Vori ("Killing is one of the worst things I've had to do"), and his acknowledgment that exaggeration often makes an enemy easier to hate. The episode ends on the other side of the spectrum, with Chakotay blindly firing a machine gun into the trees, hoping to hit any enemy he can. (When told to hold his fire, he shouts, "Not until I've nullified all of you!").

Chakotay's transformation into a Kradin-hater is understandable, if unfortunate. To think anyone from the Federation is, by definition, devoid of any possibility of hate or prejudice is naive. Back in DS9's second season episode, "The Collaborator," Odo said to Kira that even the best of people can be capable of terrible things given a difficult situation. "Nemesis" proves that with uncontested force.

On the surface, the story deliberately makes the Kradin look like ugly humanoid creatures, while making the Vori appear completely human. The reasons are obvious, albeit quite manipulative: The story tries to get us to side with the Vori immediately, while seeing the Kradin as vile, evil creatures. It's a sneaky approach, but, if you think about it, supports the story's grim argument: We're more likely to sympathize with people we feel are similar to us, and hate those who are different.

There's a twist ending to "Nemesis," however, that proves exactly how misguided that argument is. As Voyager searches for Chakotay and works with the planet's government, they deal with the only side willing to help—the Kradin. And, what's sure to strike people as "implausible" or "weak," it turns out that Chakotay's entire experience in serving in battle alongside the Vori is a simulated ruse of unreality designed to make him a more efficient killer. The revelation that the Vori have been "training" Chakotay to hate the Kradin—using mind control equipment and a host of other conjured stimuli—is a chilling and devious prospect. As "Nemesis" demonstrates, hate can certainly be an effective motivator in training one's soldiers to fight with such dedication, conviction, and fierceness.

I'll admit that it was a bit frustrating to learn that all the characters I had met in the course of the hour weren't real, and that everything Chakotay had done was part of an elaborate setup. And the denouement—in which Tuvok infiltrates the Vori battle site as an undercover Kradin and tells Chakotay what has happened—is a bit confusing in its portrayal and brings up some unresolved logistic problems.

But in the end it really doesn't matter, because the ends justify the means. The real key to this episode is how a culture transformed Chakotay into a man who hated with a passion he had never before known. The final scene is crucial to the episode's success; here a Kradin ambassador comes to greet Chakotay, who has been safely rescued and transported back to Voyager. But Chakotay can't look him in the eye, can't say a word. He can only walk away, muddled in confused hatred. Beltran's subtle performance is a true highlight.

This finale makes the episode work better than it might have without it. With this scene, we see that the Vori have taught—not simply forced—Chakotay to fear and despise the Kradin, for even after such mind-controlling agents have been removed and the situation has been explained from all points of view, Chakotay's feelings of animosity still prevail.

"Nemesis" takes awhile to get where it's going, and some of the plot manipulations tread on the edge of questionable logic. But in the end the episode makes some strong statements. It all may be a bit heavy-handed, but it works.

Next week: Harry introduces Seven of Nine to sexuality ... or maybe it's the other way around.

Previous episode: Day of Honor
Next episode: Revulsion

◄ Season Index

47 comments on this review

Tue, Dec 25, 2007, 9:59pm (UTC -5)
Awesome, Predators! My favorite aliens.

By the way shouldn't the crew be interested in 'aliens' that are clearly human like the Vori
Mon, May 26, 2008, 10:57am (UTC -5)
Xolent commentary and expose on military PSYOPS and the sheer antisocial, dysfunctional effects it has on our so-called 'humanitarian' nation-states that sponsor wars.
Fri, Apr 10, 2009, 4:56pm (UTC -5)
One comment about the stylized language spoken by the Vori. I think it was actually used to help dramatize Chakotay's brainwashing. As he becomes more sympathetic to the Vori, you'll notice he starts speaking more like them.
Tue, Aug 25, 2009, 1:23am (UTC -5)
Peter is correct. As George Orewell pointed out in 1984, language is a powerful thing. Corrupt the language, and you corrupt a person's ability to express ideas.

A person wasn't "killed" they were nullified. The enemy didn't have a name, they were simply nemesis. Brainwashing, pure and simple - and a sofisticated idea for Trek to play with.
Sun, Sep 13, 2009, 4:44pm (UTC -5)
I'd hate to nitpick but was anyone else bothered by the fact that Neelix seemed to be quite familiar with a planet well over a thousand light-years beyond the Nekirt expanse, more or less the boundary of his knowledge of the Delta quadrant?
Fri, Jan 29, 2010, 2:58am (UTC -5)
Very good episode - It had two twists. The 1st one being that Voyager crew are in contact with Chakotays 'enemy' - This was fairly easy to see coming.

The 2nd twist of the 'brain-washing' was very well hidden and very well executed. Not on up to 'Fight Club' levels, but still a nice surprise.

The seemingly inexhaustible supply of shuttles is a bit comical though.

As a closing note, I got a lot of "Vietnam Vibes" out of this episode - But I could just be mistaken...
Mon, Feb 1, 2010, 11:59pm (UTC -5)

Neelix was acting as Voyager's ambassador. He didn't have any prior information about the planet.
Tue, Nov 30, 2010, 5:27am (UTC -5)
Why do 80% of the aliens look like white people in their 20's and 30's?
Thu, Jan 27, 2011, 9:46am (UTC -5)
Four stars from me. This is classic Trek. It doesn't look any better than this, and re-watching it today, I can't help but be reminded of the war in Iraq and how American soldiers (and the public) were led to believe there were terrible weapons hidden in the country, when that was never the case. This episode works because of our own built-in prejudices. Even though in the final minutes Chakotay is acting compeltely out of character (because of the drugs) we BELIEVE it because we ourselves are more keen to feel sympathy towards creatures that resemble us and easier to hate those who are different.
Thu, Jan 27, 2011, 10:31am (UTC -5)
P.S. You said "The fate of the brother does not seem promising." It's pretty obvious that her brother is already dead by this scene. She mentions that he's with the seventh contigent, which Raffen reported was completely eliminated. Chakotay just couldn't bear to tell her as much, so he let her believe he might still be alive. Of course this is all part of a ploy to gain his sympathy.
Mon, Mar 7, 2011, 6:43pm (UTC -5)
Do we know the Vori actually look like humans? What would stop the manipulation from including a part of the "program" to ensure they look like the species of the recruit? (And hence gain sympathy, etc.)
Wed, Jul 6, 2011, 1:26am (UTC -5)
@mlk + tijn- I agreed with Philosopher-animal: I thought it was pretty clear from the episode that Chakotay was not seeing the Vori's true form- they probably looked no different than the Kradin, but convinced Chuckles they looked human so that he would sympathize with them- just as they manipulated Tuvok to look Kradin.

Decent episode, three stars seems about right.
Thu, Nov 3, 2011, 3:14pm (UTC -5)
I seem to have confused this with Memorial, so I was rather baffled when it cut to Voyager discussing the war.
Chris Harrison
Fri, Dec 2, 2011, 7:11am (UTC -5)
I'd like to know under what circumstances the universal translator would translate an alien language into such a bizarre form of English.
Tue, Apr 10, 2012, 1:53pm (UTC -5)
Another classic. Voyager started their 4th season with 4 in a row, IMO. Their best start yet. Yes it was derivative of past Trek, but in a fresh way. Hey, it's certainly better than the TNG movie of the same name...

I agree with Peter & Neil. The stylized dialogue served the plot well and made it more believable that Chakotay would begin to hate the nemesis and be properly brainwashed when he began to speak like the Vori.

I was not at all frustrated to find that the people he had been interacting with were not real. I found that revelation made the entire story more poignant.
Sat, Sep 29, 2012, 1:39am (UTC -5)
One thing that bugged me about this episode. Why was Tom Paris so anxious to save Chakotay? I don't remember him ever being established to have a close relationship with Chakotay.
Wed, Jan 16, 2013, 10:48am (UTC -5)
I really liked this episode, 4 star from me, it did a good job addressing the mirror image issue of vilifying your enemy.
Joe Joe Meastro
Sat, Mar 30, 2013, 7:07pm (UTC -5)
I agree this is a really strong episode. It was thought-provoking, stirred up plenty of emotion, very atmospheric and it's nicely memorable.

After recently reading the classic sci-fi novel '1984', I echo the above commentors who mention the clever use of language and how powerful a tool it can be in re-melting your mindscape as if it was merely a lump of play-doh (okay I fail at descriptive writing lol!).

The plot itself isn't the strongest in the typical sense, but it still holds plenty of merit for the way you get swept along with all that Chakotay goes through. The feel of the episode reminded me of Plattoon and other such powerful war films, which I say is in the episodes' favour (a job well done by the director).

The only thing which I'm a bit let down with is the way you're left hanging after the end of last episode. You're really wanting to see what's going to be happening next with Tom and Torres! At least it was put on hold instead of shoe-horned in, because it wouldn't have fitted well at all. But yeah, perhaps Nemesis was better saved for until we got some resolution from Day Of Honour.

Other than that, no big complaints. I was very much swept along and taken in by Nemesis which is more than what can be said for the ST film of the same name! 3.4/4 from me.
Tue, Apr 2, 2013, 12:23am (UTC -5)
I really enjoyed the stylized language in this episode - I'm surprised nobody commented on the dialogue's similarity to Firefly's stylized diction, which set a marvelous tone on that series. I could easily hear Mal Reynolds reading those lines. (I'd love to see Jammer review Firefly, as would many others, I'm sure.)

I'm currently rewatching Voyager, and I'm surprised how often I have enjoyed the Chakotay-centric episodes. I didn't warm up to the character much on the original run, perhaps because I saw the episodes in disjoint syndication. Now, watching frequently, and in order, I see his character much more as a man of peace who reluctantly took up the sword. Beltran communicates a great sense of dignity and thoughtfulness that I think would have made him an interesting alternative to Janeway as captain.

Indeed, now that I think of it, what an interesting series this would have been if Chakotay had taken on a more co-captain-like role, or even had commanded the ship with Janeway, somehow, as his first officer.
Tue, Apr 23, 2013, 6:36pm (UTC -5)
I quite liked the general execution and feel of the episode. And I thought the specialized language was great. Coming up with imaginary jargon is hard, I can’t remember hearing it done better and I’ve certainly heard it done a lot worse.

I’m not sure how to evaluate the surprise twist. On the one hand, it was totally surprising, yet logical, clever, and thought-provoking. On the other hand, it is just so disconnected from what happened earlier in the episode that in some sense it is never really explored on-screen. You’ve got this whole episode about Chikotay falling into the middle of a war zone and bonding with one side, then a revelation “It was just a dream!”, then Chikotay saying “Huh, it was just a dream?” and then the episode is over. So it is really clever in terms of setting up a mystery and then providing a surprise ending, but a bit odd that in terms of story and character development that the ending doesn’t really climax the story so much as suddenly change it to a different story.

I guess my overall reaction is “The story about Chikotay in a war zone is well-executed and interesting to watch. The idea of being tricked into hating an enemy, by being put through an elaborate virtual reality backstory that gives you good reason to hate the enemy, is a really interesting idea. Somebody should write a story that really explores that idea.”
Lt. Yarko
Thu, Jun 20, 2013, 10:55pm (UTC -5)
Dammit! Who left the Universal Translator in synonym mode?!

Seriously, though, do we even care about how communication happens between humans and other species in the DQ? It only matters when the plot needs it to.

The whole mind manipulation thing didn't make sense to me. I mean what was actually going on when Tuvok takes Chakotay to the village again? What was Tuvok seeing? I don't get it. The fact that the details of how Chakotay was brainwashed annoyed me.

I feel like the same message could have been addressed by simply having Chakotay being involved with real people. In any war, both sides see the other as evil no matter how good or evil each side might be. Oh well.
Lt. Yarko
Thu, Jun 20, 2013, 10:56pm (UTC -5)
*The fact that the details of how Chakotay was brainwashed were left out annoyed me.

Sun, Jul 28, 2013, 4:22pm (UTC -5)
Yarko - I think the village was supposed to be a big holographic simulation. That's why the "people" reacted the same way on Chakotay's second visit as opposed to Dotting the jig was up.

More problematic is Tuvok's knowledge of the camp when he seemed surprised at first that Chakotay didn't recognize him. How specific is the enemy's knowledge of the brainwashing?

I felt disappointed and cheated by the "it was all an illusion" ending. I think they might be overusing that plot device.

That said, it was effective in the sense that I too could not accept the Predator aliens as "misunderstood" even at the end after the reveal. I still distrusted them like Chakotay. Point made, writers.
Mon, Sep 2, 2013, 4:20pm (UTC -5)
This is actually one of my favorite episodes of "Voyager", along with "Remember" and "Memorial" from the third and sixth seasons respectively.

Everything just clicked for me in this episode: Chakotay's reluctance and eventual acceptance to becoming involved in the conflict, Namon's wrestling his trembles to rages, the Kradin's cruelty and malevolence. Easy to believe that this episode aired around the same time as the Occupation arc of DS9's sixth season.

Two questions I've always had about this episode... Is the planet the Vori and the Kradin are fighting over one species' homeworld or a colony? And what happened to Brone after the final battle? We see him being dragged away by two Kradin soldiers - was he was being fast-walked to an extermination facility?
Thu, Jan 2, 2014, 12:53pm (UTC -5)
I enjoyed this episode more than I expected to. The twists were nicely done. Regarding a couple of the questions that are in the comments, I agree that the simulation was probably customized for the particular race being brainwashed - that seems easy enough technically and makes bonding with the Vori easier. I may have imagined it, but the Kradin makeup seemed a bit more grotesque and intimidating on the simulated soldiers than on the ambassador - that may be my own imagination recasting them as good and bad guys, but it seemed to be a subtle difference.

As far as the language used, I thought it was well done. It's easy to start using stilted language and then drop it, I'm glad the writers were able to do it convincingly through the entire episode.

I understand that the language was part of the brainwashing, but realistically, we should hear stuff like this more often. The translator should have been rendering words and short phrases literally, sort of like Google translate. The translator is working with languages that it has never encountered before, and it should lose or misunderstand most of what is said, at least for the first few days of interaction with a species. Other Trek series had the advantage of working with more or less known species, but the entire run of Voyager should have really played with the idea of communication issues - that could have been fun.

Sun, Jan 5, 2014, 11:51pm (UTC -5)
I had three objections to this episode (rewatching all on Netflix at present); glad to see I'm not the only one:

OP: The never-ending supply of shuttles (3 in a row!) is very hard to swallow.

Robin is right in that Neelix should not have been able to offer any insight into this area/conflict. In the previous season, they had already reached the Nekrit Expanse, which marked the limit of Neelix's familiarity with that area of space. Add to that the 9500 light years that Kes threw them, and he shouldn't have known a thing about the planet or its people or its war (no, he was not limited to just ambassadorial duties; he actually was familiar with the conflict).

Elphaba, I agree that Paris's enthusiasm to go save Chakotay seemed out of place.

Love to see so many people interested in the details!!
Tue, Apr 22, 2014, 5:49pm (UTC -5)
There is no way Neelix would know about these people, he is nearly 10,000 light years from Talax, let alone the Nekrit Expanse which is the frontier for that area of the Delta Quadrant.

My suspicion is that this episode was supposed to take place sometime before Seven joined the cast and before Kes gave Voyager the gift.
Wed, Apr 30, 2014, 8:10am (UTC -5)
@Cass & Fernando: Neelix knows about the conflict though his discussions with the Kradin ambassador he spoke with, not because he has previously been in this region of space.
Fri, Aug 22, 2014, 1:18pm (UTC -5)
Not getting the confusion about Tom's motivation. He wanted to save Chakotay because he felt guilty for not flying the shuttle, which he feels would not have been shot down if he was flying. Seems good to me.

To me this is one of the strongest Voyager episodes so far. The weird language was way better than other Trek attempts at having altered speech. And the acting was really good by everyone in this episode.

My only criticism is that the entire propaganda plot twist, while mind blowing, literally comes out of nowhere. I don't think there are any clues that the viewer could have picked up on that what Chakotay was experiencing was not real.

The moral message seems kind of unclear to me but overall this is a strong episode.
Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 10:41am (UTC -5)
Fantastic episode that takes some well-worn Trekkian ideas and puts them to fresh use. It is a little long in the tooth at first but after complete viewing it seems necessary to get to "know" these people.

The brainwashing aspect of this episode mirrors (in an extreme form) the more subtle tendency of current cultures to utilize corporation, religion, and media together to rally enough masses in justifying illegal wars and other military actions (and even non-military aspects of culture). Either way, it's propaganda in some differing forms but both with the same chilling results. The episode obviously shows a more direct approach in its utilization.

The fact that this episode even made me feel anger towards the ambassador at the end shows that tremendous amount of credit is due on the part of the writing staff. Beltran's performance here was exemplary to say the least.

This is a standout installment of the franchise and, as far as ST war stories are concerned, it rivals even the best ones of DS9. Excellent job.

4 stars.
Rod Sullivan
Mon, Dec 29, 2014, 9:33am (UTC -5)
The merits of this episode have been more than adequately recognized by previous posters so I won't restate the many reasons that this is a highlight episode for Voyager and for the underused and underappreciated actor Robert Beltran.
I must, however, mention that the writers missed a great opportunity (and did Chakotay a great disservice) at the end of this episode when, after Janeway follows Chakotay into the corridor, the dialog leads our first officer to remark along the lines that he hopes it's as easy to stop hating as it was to start.
For Chakotay?
To hate?
Never mind that he's already well established as being a gentle spirit who reasons away hate as a reaction and eschews violence as a means or a response to even the most justifiable provocation at every opportunity, but it clearly took most of this episode of his absorbing a genuine Hollywood PoundingTM which included the rigors of what seemed to be days of jungle warfare, a bleeding gunshot wound, multiple blows to the head and, finally, being staked to the ground beneath a blazing sun and left for dead before his attitude and actions fully succumbed to the motivation of hate rather than those of defense of innocents and self preservation.
There was nothing easy about Chakotay's transformation whatsoever from a peaceful, tolerant man to a man who could betray his evolved and noble approach to such a challenge (and his allegiance to the PD); indeed he was still on his way to contact the Voyager until the attack on the Village of InnocentsTM. It's a cheap dismissal of the pains he endured in NOT giving in to hate.
Chakotay should have remarked that he hoped it wouldn't be as DIFFICULT to STOP hating as it as it was to start.

Um....also....if I may
The visual effect for the Tuvok reveal at the end was lame.
As far as I was shown, Chakotay wasn't brainwashed to recognize everyone he sees as a Kradin. Tuvok is Tuvok. Lazy writing made worse by poor effects.
Mon, Dec 29, 2014, 9:38am (UTC -5)
I think for Chakotay, the fact that any amount of trauma could make him hate an entire people was "too easy" for his taste.

I actually found the thought to be pretty well set with his character.

"As far as I was shown, Chakotay wasn't brainwashed to recognize everyone he sees as a Kradin. "

It's possible he was brainwashed to see people he knows as Kradin, since blasting somebody you know would be a great way to stop them from spoiling your brainwashing. Just a thought.
Mon, Mar 30, 2015, 8:12pm (UTC -5)
I was slightly bothered by the many Predator esque look alikes. The Kradin, the jungle setting, the weaponry. I don't know if they did so on purpose (although I have a hard time imagining it was all just by accident), but I found it harder to get into because of this.
The twist was nice though. Not only did it come unexpectedly, but it was believable and very well portrayed. I particularly liked the ending when Chakotay attempts to clarify what happened to him and Janeway replies that she doesn't know whether or not the Kradin subject the Vori to the atrocities Chakotay was brainwashed to believe or that it was the other way around.
No clear cut bad guys to be found. No black and white morality issues.

A few nitpick moments I had:
-Another shuttle lost. I'm starting to suspect they can replicate those things as easily as they can replicate a meal.
-Why did Janeway turn to Neelix for an explanation of their war? How would he know? Not only is their war taking place beyond the Nekrid expanse, it's taking place beyond Borg space and there's no way in hell Neelix ever passed through Borg space. Wouldn't she be better off hearing about it from the very people that are involved in the war? Neelix's role as their guide ended a while ago, didn't it?
-Why are the Vori so quick to conscript Chakotay, an alien, to their cause? If they crashed his shuttle, shouldn't they be wondering who he is and if his people are going to look for him? Shouldn't they wonder about his technology (which may or may not be more advanced then theirs) and try to use their brainwashing abilities to extract that information from him? Seems to me like knowledge abour more advanced tech is far more usefull then just another soldier in the fray.
Thu, Apr 16, 2015, 11:48pm (UTC -5)
I liked this episode. It had a meaning and it had a nice twist. That's usually a good sign. The idea of hating another side because of propaganda or treating beings on the opposite side differently has been done before, but it's done very nicely here too. 3 stars.

If you like this, check out the Twilight Zone episode: A Quality of Mercy.
Thu, Apr 16, 2015, 11:49pm (UTC -5)

Let me know what you think. I thought this was really well written and acted.
Fri, Oct 16, 2015, 11:35am (UTC -5)
Jammer's review here says it all I think.

Voyager is on a roll.

Beltran get another opportunity and does outstanding.

Chakotay get the wool pulled of his eyes again... :-)

Yet another 3.5 episode. wow, kicking it. Probably a 4.0 episode if it weren't for the Neelix thing.
Fri, Oct 16, 2015, 11:49am (UTC -5)
As much as I love a good Voyager plot hole, the Neelix thing isn't one. Neelix is Voyager's ambassador and has been in talks with Ambassador Treen. It's not totally spelled out but the dialog is clear enough.

JANEWAY: Neelix, what do you know about this war?
NEELIX: It's vicious. Ambassador Treen's people have been defending themselves against a particularly savage aggressor for more than a decade.
JANEWAY: Is the Ambassador willing to help us find Chakotay?
NEELIX: He's willing, but he may not be able.
Sun, Oct 18, 2015, 11:33am (UTC -5)
That makes sense Robert.
Thu, Oct 29, 2015, 7:51pm (UTC -5)
Huh. Guess I get to be the contrarian here. In fairness, though, Hollywood's long history of putting together preachy, thought-deprived anti-war shows has clearly brainwashed me into hating them with the heat of a thousand suns. So it's not my fault, right?

See, part of the problem is that it's just so darn predictable. As soon as we got the Vietnam War soldiers talking about how much they hated the enemy, I IMMEDIATELY knew that the Kradin would turn out to be the good guys and the Vori the bad guys. It was so obvious. It should have been obvious to anyone. The writers may think they're being clever with that twist, but that's the same twist they always do. Every single freaking time. It's not smart, it's not deep or thought provoking, it's just the same beating up of a straw man we've seen a dozen times over. So why do we need to watch one more show with this amazing twist? Was anyone surprised when the Kradin showed up on Voyager? I certainly wasn't.

OK, so I didn't see the brainwashing coming, so there was at least one thing clever. But was it really?

What is the message that this show is trying to give us? That wartime propaganda is bad? That you shouldn't hate your enemy? Yeah, but...

A) It wasn't propaganda, it was brainwashing. Chakotay wasn't buying any of it when the soldiers were telling him about how evil the Kradin were, or at least was willing to play Devil's advocate. It wasn't until he experienced the atrocities for himself that he started to feel the hate. So is the message that we shouldn't trust our senses? If I see someone assaulting another person, I should just walk on by and assume that it's just an act to make me hate the preferred identity group of the attacker? Well, that certainly can't be true. That can't be the message. But because they had to go to an extreme example (brainwashing) to hit the message (propaganda), it doesn't really work. Oh, and speaking of which...

B) Sometimes regimes really are that evil. The Nazis, the North Koreans (regardless of what Alan Alda thinks), ISIS, all these regimes really are that evil. It's not a matter of propaganda, it's the flat out truth; does anyone argue with that? So are we supposed to pretend otherwise? Are we supposed to bury our heads in the sand and say its not really true that ISIS throws people off cliffs? Are we supposed to tut tut and declare that, since we are not 100% saintly, we are not allowed to criticize or stand up against true evil when it appears? Or that we should just waggle our fingers if two peoples are fighting each other and say a pox on both your houses, even when one is clearly the aggressor and acts in inhumane ways? If so, that is a rather horrible message. I'm sure that's not what the writing crew meant, but this distinction is important, because....

C) The episode clearly shows one side in the wrong! It's a FACT that the Vori kidnap random passerbys, brainwash them, and force them to fight on their side. Now, besides how incredibly inefficient this is as a war strategy, we would consider that a gross violation of human rights. Amnesty International would be all over that. So, um, are we allowed to hate the Vori then? Even just a little bit? Are we allowed to condemn them? After all, Chakotay is in the wrong for hating the Kradin, right? But shouldn't he be a bit miffed, just a little bit, at the Vori for what they did to him? Picard is rather upset at the Borg, Kira doesn't seem to like the Cardassians. Both the Borg and the Cardassians have been known to have rather nasty activities; are the ones who were wronged the most by these enemies supposed to not care in the slightest? If someone killed your mother, are you allowed to hate the murderer? Perhaps it is admirable if you can forgive that person, but many cannot. And to condemn someone who cannot forgive the murderer? That seems rather unfair. And contradictory to every other Star Trek series in existence.

D) Well, is the argument that one should not necessarily hate every member of the enemy, even if the regime is evil and the soldiers cruel? OK, that's reasonable, and naturally consistent with a dozen other episodes. The only problem is that, well, is that really all that they have to say? Regardless of what all the little writers in their comfy chairs in California think, that's not what most people think in the army. Hate and anger doesn't work in the battlefield; a cool, calm head is required. Not to mention, as I said, something that a dozen other episodes have already done. It's hardly deep or novel, and doesn't really say anything we don't already know. So what was the point?

Why, pray tell, can't the writers ever come up with something new surrounding the military? They've been writing the same freaking story since 1970. And when it's so obvious what they are doing, when what they are saying is so trite, when it's ignoring reality (no matter how ugly reality is), I'm not going to praise it.

Diamond Dave
Tue, Feb 9, 2016, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
Chakotay vs Predators. OK, so I thought this had an exceptional twist (which clearly shows I'm slow as I never saw it coming). But honestly, the rest of it? As it was playing out I thought it was stilted, derivative and laboured. The fact that it took 22 minutes to see anything other than Chakotay and the cast of Platoon in a forest was far too long to hold my interest. Yes, it says some interesting things. But it takes its sweet old time to say them... 2 stars.
Wed, Aug 24, 2016, 9:06pm (UTC -5)
Chokroachkotay in a sleep inducing anti thriller (0)
Matthew Lindner
Tue, Oct 18, 2016, 10:00pm (UTC -5)
I'm surprised anyone can give this more than 2 stars. It's legendarily bad. Especially compared to the previous episode which was rather good at 3 to 3.5 stars.
Thu, Nov 3, 2016, 8:11am (UTC -5)
So if Chakotay was in a simulation, should my complaints be directed at the Vori programmers?

So the Vori leader sends one of his defenders to escort Chakotay to his crashed ship, some distance away. The two of them find some wreckage but they come under fire. Not five seconds later the whole squad materialize out of the jungle. Wtf?

Later they find out that the another squad has been massacred a short distance away (300 footfalls). Do they quietly scout the area for enemy? No, the leader gives a rousing motivational speech at the top of his lungs!

This is supposed to be training? More like the three stooges military academy.

Utter nonsense. 1 star.
Thu, Dec 29, 2016, 1:18am (UTC -5)
This one misses the mark. The plot holds almost no interest for me and the aliens' dialect is downright goofy. I knew there was some kind of brainwashing or manipulation involved but it was hard to care. Seeing a nice guy like Chakotay get swept up in violence again was kind of interesting, but I didn't enjoy anything else about this. It was just mind-numbing and unpleasant. Season 4 didn't really start to take off until 'Revulsion.'
Paul Allen
Mon, Jan 16, 2017, 4:23pm (UTC -5)
Good episode. Reminded me of the excellent Black Mirror episode called Men Against Fire, where augments were used to make soldiers believe their human enemy looked unhumanly beastly.

Dark Kirk
Mon, Jan 30, 2017, 11:38pm (UTC -5)
Vylora - good point about feeling anger toward the Kradin ambassador. But Chakotay asks if the Kradin could have committed atrocities and Janeway acknowledges she doesn't know. There seemed something really oily about the Kradin ambassador, and he has no love for the Vori. So it does make you wonder about the Kradin.

Boy, for a while I thought the Kradin were going to turn out to be Nausicans.
Fri, Mar 17, 2017, 10:17am (UTC -5)
Re: Dark Kirk, I thought they were Nausicans too initially!

This episode didn't do it for me. The brainwashing was effective and I didn't see the twist coming at all (despite being initially suspicious of the Vori), but I was practically dying of boredom. It's Voyager does Platoon but did not draw me in. Can't give it more than 1 star.

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