Star Trek: Voyager

"Living Witness"


Air date: 4/29/1998
Teleplay by Bryan Fuller and Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Story by Brannon Braga
Directed by Tim Russ

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Somewhere, halfway across the galaxy, I hope, Captain Janeway is spinning in her grave." — Doc, on the Kyrian's historical interpretation of Voyager

Nutshell: An inspired story. Intriguing, fresh, and relevant, this is the best episode yet this season.

Seven hundred years in the future, Voyager has become a terrible myth on a Delta Quadrant planet. Voyager itself has come and gone, and its crew and generations succeeding them have come and gone. But on the planet in question in this week's episode, "Living Witness," Voyager is a dark and dreadful piece of history—and the people living on this world are still feeling the effects from their encounter with the famous ship.

"Living Witness" is a standout story that is well told and thoroughly engaging. It features a central problem that is both relevant and unique. I haven't seen a Voyager outing quite like this one, and it pleases me to take in a story that can get its hooks into us for an hour and make us care about what's happening on the screen. For once, we have a stake in the outcome that goes much deeper than the average example of this week's possible destruction of the ship.

"Living Witness" isn't quite perfect, but it manages to pull off a balancing act of Voyager-esque elements and come off wonderfully. It's original and entertaining, and it made me care about the characters, the most important of whom weren't even Voyager crew members.

The device used to tell the tale is clever and atypical. The story makes some very good choices, the first being that we never actually see the "real" Voyager crew in the course of the episode. The entire story is set on a planet populated by two peoples: the Kyrians and the Vaskans. The story's central character is a Kyrian named Quarren (Henry Woronicz), who is a historian that works at a museum devoted to the warship Voyager. His newest exhibit, a holographic rendition called "The Voyager Encounter," documents how Voyager teamed up with the Vaskans to unleash terrible slaughter upon the Kyrians all those centuries ago.

In this depiction, the Voyager crew are the bad guys. Janeway's motto: "When diplomacy fails, there's only one alternative: violence." Quarren's depiction demonstrates how Voyager attacked the Kyrian planet and destroyed its cities, paving the way for the Vaskans to wage a war whose sociological aftereffects are still being felt in the present.

Pace-wise, this story is dead-on. It doesn't waste any time; it gets right down to business, dropping us into the middle of "The Voyager Encounter" and showing us the Kyrian version of the Voyager crew. Strangely, this isn't done with a dark atmosphere of intensity; it's done with an eerie comic-book tone. Many scenes involving the evil "anti-crew" are exploited mainly for our own enjoyment. It looks like the actors have fun playing evil, over-the-top opposite versions of themselves. I find that interesting, because this story is mostly pretty serious, yet it incorporates the fourth-season sense of "fun" into the plot almost seamlessly—and it for once works toward the episode's purpose. Watching scenes of the "anti-crew" proves entertaining purely on the level of stand-alone set pieces. Janeway is no-nonsense, vindictive, and murderous. Harry is sadistic, Chakotay (with an exaggerated tattoo that covers half his face) is hypocritical in his use of violence, and Tuvok even dons an evil smile when he fires the phasers. (I did, however, miss Torres in this episode; it would've been fun to see an evil version of her, but I suppose the end of Dawson's pregnancy made that impossible.)

The idea that this "anti-crew" had assimilated Kazon and Talaxians and even Borg into their midst was also interesting, particularly the idea of a small set of killer Borg drones who worked as a special force under Janeway's command.

I somehow wonder about historical depictions being as melodramatic as in this case (though I certainly don't dismiss that possibility since they can hold the potential of being quite manipulative). Since the recreation is obviously being told on two levels—one being the way the Kyrians perceive Voyager and the other being the actual filming techniques used for the benefit of entertaining us as the tale unfolds—it seems like a potentially uneasy duality. But it manages to work fine on both levels.

These scenes are strangely amusing, but maybe that's because we realize how extreme and absurd Quarren's depiction is. The story's seriousness emerges when considering the fact that many Kyrians accept this depiction as the historical truth—a "reasonable extrapolation of the evidence," as Quarren puts it.

The concept is what they call "revisionist history"—your culture makes biased extrapolations and even blatant alterations in order to paint the enemy in the worst possible manner and yourselves in the best possible light. This is a probing topic with some nicely conceived problems addressed within it, and the way it's handled is downright compelling.

The story takes a turn when a new artifact is unearthed; active data that may prove to offer Voyager's own side of the story. Well, this active data turns out to be a backup copy of the Doctor—an actual "living witness" to the events in question. Once Doc is reactivated and learns where he is and what role his crew played in the Kyrians' history, he's understandably appalled. Who wouldn't be? The rest of the story is how he tries to set the record straight.

As a narrative piece, "Living Witness" is effective because it allows us to experience the unknowns of the story right alongside the characters. As Quarren makes his discovery of Doc's program, which has been preserved for 700 years, it's a mysterious moment of awe. Likewise, when Doc realizes that it has been 700 years since he was on board Voyager—which to him seems like yesterday—it allows us to see the Kyrian/Vaskan world from his perspective of the mysterious and unknown. It's a very effective series of events, and with the story's setting-away-from-the-usual-setting, I felt the freshness of a truly different type of Voyager story.

Needless to say, what Doc and Quarren know as the truth are two very different things. When Doc programs a simulation of his version of the events, Quarren initially doesn't want to accept it—and we can see why. The way Doc's new evidence sends Quarren into outright denial is probably the most believable, understandable, and well-conceived notion in the episode. It rightly understands that people don't easily let go of things they have believed their entire lives, even when a new answer is sitting right in front of them. Consider: As a result of one archaeological find, Quarren's historical world comes crashing down upon him, forcing him to rethink everything he has ever known.

At the same, watching Doc squirm as he sees how history has been biased and distorted is painfully effective. The Kyrian's take is so inaccurate that we fully understand and sympathize when Doc says that somewhere far away "Captain Janeway is spinning in her grave." Both Picardo's and Woronicz's performances pull us into their respective plights superbly.

I also think the way the episode ties its history to the current-day problems between the Kyrians and the Vaskans is a vital piece of the story's success. This tie-back gives us a stake in seeing that the record is set straight—not just because Voyager's name must be cleared, but because there may be bigger issues affected by making the truth known. At this point in time, racial tensions between the Kyrians and Vaskans are dangerously volatile. The Kyrians are still being oppressed by the Vaskans, with whom they share the planet, and the fact that Voyager's role rests somewhere in the middle of the original conflict means the truth surrounding Voyager could reveal new sides to everyone involved—which, indeed, it does.

The ultimate uncovering of physical evidence to prove Doc's version of events makes for good and believable drama, and the inevitable destruction of the "museum of lies" strikes me as both appropriate and realistic (angry people realizing that history has been twisted aren't likely to react well, so the ending riot struck me as a natural outcome of events).

I was also moved by the ending's approach of a history-of-the-history, as it reveals that everything shown to us in the course of the hour is being taught years later, hailing Quarren and Doc as heroes who uncovered a truth that led to a new era of peace. It gave the entire episode a sort of mythical aura, which was just right. It may have been a little on the sappy side, but it was still very effective, and wonderfully executed. (I would say Tim Russ' freshman effort has earned him another turn in the director's chair.)

There's only one real flaw in this episode, and even though I wish I could simply ignore it given the strength of the rest of the story, I just don't feel that I can. That flaw is the sudden, conjured idea of a "Doctor backup program." For one, it's been firmly established on several occasions (even as recently as "Message in a Bottle") that the Doctor can not be so simply backed up. Suddenly we have a device that not only reverses that notion entirely, but is also conveniently stolen by the Kyrians during the historic battle such that it can be found 700 years later. Both notions strain credulity. I'm not saying that the ability of backing up Doc has to be impossible, I'm just saying that the dramatic device was obviously invented solely for the benefit of this story. It's a completely changed premise, and I feel like I've been lied to—as if the basis for this story is built upon a fundamentally contrived plot element. It's probably the only reason this episode falls short of a four-star rating. (*)

I also wonder about the implications of Doc now having this backup module (if they built one that got stolen, they can presumably build another). Does this mean he can be stored forever, essentially immortal? And that he can also be essentially cloned? These questions are part of an entirely different issue, and I wonder if we'll ever see such an issue tackled. I'm frankly not counting on it.

But I wouldn't want these questions to take away from the great merits of "Living Witness," because they are admittedly minor issues in comparison. This is one of the best episodes of Voyager yet, and certainly the best story so far this season. It's engrossing, imaginative, and has something to say.

Next week: Tom and Harry visit a toxic planet where they have a close encounter of the not-so-pleasant kind.

* Note: I later decided to change the rating for this show to four stars, despite the isolated plotting flaw. This is one of Voyager's very best, and in retrospect I think it deserves the better rating.

Previous episode: Unforgettable
Next episode: Demon

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68 comments on this review

Dr. Floyd
Thu, Sep 13, 2007, 7:45am (UTC -5)
It is possible that the EMH backup module really did not exist...remember, everything we saw was an exhibit in a future museum. It's possible also that *they* got a particular piece of history incorrect.
Fri, Mar 28, 2008, 12:58pm (UTC -5)
The Voyager mirror universe...gotta love that one. My personal favorites on this are the alternate uniforms (including Psi-Corps-style black leather gloves, no less...) and the image of Voyager. "This doesn't even resemble our ship!", indeed.

And where DS9 tended to use the Mirror Universe for pure comic relief ("Crossover" notwithstanding), this episode actually places the comic-book evilness in a relevant context. "Making history", indeed.
Mon, May 26, 2008, 11:07am (UTC -5)
Excellent social commentary, specifically about the power that contemporary political leaders have over revisionist history. I'd recommend this episode to all who have doubts about our current "democratic" leaders.
Tue, Feb 24, 2009, 12:04am (UTC -5)
Not much to add, except to say this: I much prefer this episode to the Mirror Universe set of episodes. The actors here get to act "bad" because of mistaken/revisionist history, which serves the overall plot. In the Mirror universe episodes, the characters are monstrously sadistic only for the purpose of comic relief, which makes their actions easily dismissed.
Admirable Chrichton
Sun, Mar 15, 2009, 10:39am (UTC -5)
Does anyone else think this is a bit like the Babylon 5 episode "Deconstruction of Falling Stars", but much better and done properly.
Ian Whitcombe
Sun, Mar 15, 2009, 12:14pm (UTC -5)
It reminds me of the one segment in "Deconstruction". And, yes, I do think "Living Witness" was better than that individual segment, but liked all the other segments in the episodes as well and in the end I'd probably rate "Living Witness" and "Deconstruction" equally.
Mon, Apr 13, 2009, 4:47pm (UTC -5)
I enjoyed this episode quite a lot. I liked some of the little details like how no one pronounces Chakotay's name correctly. Also when the Doctor shows his version he couldn't resist a little show boating as when the Janeway recreation is complimenting him on his bravery. Good episode and one of my favorites from Voyager.
Tue, Apr 28, 2009, 1:54pm (UTC -5)
The issue with the backup module goes at heart of the many flaws with EMH subcontext. I've always been mystified by his singularity. He is data and there's no reason why data can't be duplicated provided there's enough storage capacity. If the program is simply too vast to duplicate, then the whole wisdom of an on-board EMH seems questionable. As if you'd install a program on your PC that takes up 3/4 of your harddisk. It seems prude to always have enough space for back-ups of all computer systems on a starship. Moreover, there does seem to be enough space for all kinds of complex programs in the holo-deck.
Since there should be enough storage capacity for at least a back-up, there's no reason why they needed to grapple with a shortage of medical personel on Voyager. They simply could have copied the EMH. There's also no reason by the Doc would have been at risk on away mission if they simply made a back-up or sent a copy instead.
What's more, since the EMH is an integral part of the computer system on the ship, there seems to be absolutely no reason why he would need to press all kind of buttons to input data. He could do so directly by simply "thinking" of it.
Wed, May 20, 2009, 9:11pm (UTC -5)
I think all the various EMH and holographic plot holes have to essentially be ignored. There are FAR too many plot holes to consider. For example, in "Message in a Bottle" where Tom was getting annoyed that he was having to work in sick bay, he asked Harry to recreate the Doctor. Harry failed because it was simply too complex, arguably a pretty good reason. But then later in "Nothing Human" a Cardassian doctor named Crell Mosset is created and used as a consultant to treat Torres. OK, so let me see if I understand this correctly. It is essentially possible to create ANY character from history and have all their innate details bared before you. For example, how would they know about all the experiments the doctor did? How would they know about his history. Indeed Jammer identifies some of these holes in his review of the episode.

But like I said I think with regard to the level of sentience of holographic characters we just have to ignore it!
Wed, Aug 26, 2009, 11:50am (UTC -5)
I love B5 but (while I wouldn't call them similar enough to compare) I actually enjoyed this episode much more than 'Deconstruction of Falling Stars' (less openly "preachy").

The little details are indeed what makes this really shine as a piece of television and not just one of the best eps of Voyager I've seen. It's up there with some of the really good TNG stuff, and for me that's high praise. Even the ending was TNG-like in its "moving but not too sappy" note.

I wonder though if part of my enjoyment of this ep was that the cast seemed to not just be having more fun (of course) playing the "evil" Voyager crew, but that they actually seemed more "in character" to me... I much preferred and believed Mulgrew as Evil Janeway than as Regular Janeway", likewise Beltran seemed much more comfortable as Evil Chakotay!

Come to think of it, while I have no doubt that the powers behind Trek would ever go THAT dark with a show, I think it again proves that Voyager would have worked better if it had been a much "darker" show (as the initial premise suggests).
Mon, Oct 19, 2009, 2:47pm (UTC -5)
This is one of my least favorite episodes of the season. I agree with the part about watching the actors play "evil" coutnerparts is fun, and done mroe believably than in the DS9 universe episodes, but the rest of the episode had no impact because it happens 700 years after the rest of the series. I felt the "revisionnist history" theme had already been tackled in "Remember", and in a much more compelling faction because it made one of the regulars the main character of the story (wheras here, it's not the real Doctor, but a backup copy, which as you said, strains credulity because it was never mentioned before or since).
I don't know what to say about Tim Russ' direction. He was not granted the director's chair ever again, so I would guess that the producers were unhappy, but I think he may have been able to do better with a better script.
Sun, Jun 20, 2010, 10:53am (UTC -5)
An outstanding episode: Fast-paced, smart, provocative, intellectually-stimulating, unpredictable... - plus it actually carries a strong message about historical revisionism, which is very applicable today.

Should be standard highschool viewing!
Sat, Jul 24, 2010, 11:15am (UTC -5)
One thing I would like to point out is, since this is such a dark and important chapter in Kyrian society, one would think they could recreate the encounter, as well as what the crew looked like, in perfect detail.

That is, unless the encounter lasted just seconds, which I assumed it did, or the Kyrians were or are a pre-warp society
Tue, Aug 31, 2010, 1:18pm (UTC -5)
This episode has some of the best and creative directing in all of Voyager's 7 seasons.
Fri, Sep 3, 2010, 4:00pm (UTC -5)
I like this episode and the crew of the USS Voyager looks like a mirror universe crew but there is something wrong in this episode :
How the doctor can be there and how can he returns to earth with a shuttle ? In the star trek voyager's timeline the USS VOYAGER returns to earth with the doctor onboard at the end of the last season.
Thu, May 19, 2011, 10:25pm (UTC -5)
Excellent episode. Creatively done and well executed.
Mon, Aug 22, 2011, 2:56am (UTC -5)
What "City on the Edge of Forever" was for TOS
"Yesterday's Enterprise" for TNG and
"The Visitor" for DS9--
I think "Living Witness" was VGR.

What do you think, Jammer?
Thu, Sep 22, 2011, 8:51pm (UTC -5)
This is not only one of the best episodes of Voyager, but also one of the best episodes of Trek, and hence one of the finest things television has ever produced. It's stunningly good. I watched it again last night, and I have to say I'm surprised Jammer didn't mention this exchange:

EMH: B'Elanna Torres. Intelligent, beautiful and with a chip on her shoulder the size of the Horsehead Nebula. She also had a kind of vulnerability that made her quite endearing.
QUARREN: You miss her, and the others.
EMH: From my perspective I saw them all only a few days ago, but in fact, it's been centuries, and I'll never see them again. Did they ever reach home? I wonder.

This dialogue is *beautifully* delivered by Picardo, and actually brought me to tears. This alone makes it a classic, but the surrounding story is so impeccably done. This is a great episode.
Fri, Jan 27, 2012, 4:11pm (UTC -5)
LOVE this episode. One of my favorites in Trek. The cast looked like they had fun too. Have to have some comic relief every now considering the seriousness of the topic. Very well done overall. Script, directing, everything. Plotholes happen in tv series thats inevitable but this episode nevertheless delivered.
Thu, Apr 26, 2012, 8:51am (UTC -5)
I do believe that this is my favorite episode of Voyager. With the exception of the cartoonishly evil "anti-crew" the episode is flawless.

I agree with gion that an EMH backup module completely makes sense. I see it as a necessary addition to the EMH concept, rather than being a glaring plot hole. He is software and he should be able to be copied and backed up. Heck, the "mobile emitter" is really nothing but a flash drive with a built-in holographic projection system. Who knows? Maybe Apple will introduce the "iPod Holo" next year...
Wed, Oct 3, 2012, 3:59pm (UTC -5)
Easily makes the top 10 Voyager episodes. I don't know if it could do the same for all of Star Trek, not with giants like The Inner Light, The Best of Both Worlds, The Visitor, and In the Pale Moonlight, but I think it comes close.
Jack Casey
Thu, Oct 11, 2012, 8:39pm (UTC -5)
I have watched the episode several times; the one thing I hope comes out of it is a storyline of the Doctor’s adventures as he returns back to the federation. What does he find, will he end up meeting himself and because both paths converged will they be different or like some twins who are separated at birth.
It would be interesting to see what direction a star trek writer would be willing to take the storyline.
Latex Zebra
Thu, Dec 27, 2012, 7:54am (UTC -5)
Amazing episode, top 10, as has been said above, easily.

Sat, Mar 23, 2013, 1:43pm (UTC -5)
@Patrick, I agree. Best Voyager episode IMO, and parallels nicely with the episodes you list. I think "The Inner Light" was the best episode, and finest installment in ANY Star Trek series. TNG is on a different level altogether though. DS9 is highly overrated. Just finished my run through the entire DS9 series, and I think Voyager is much better, especially the acting. At the time of DS9 (real time) I thought it was great. This last time through DS9 however...... boooooring...... and the acting is terrible.
Thu, Mar 28, 2013, 9:05pm (UTC -5)
Took me many year to actually appreciate this episode, but I agree that it is one of Voyagers and maybe Star Trek's finest.

At the heart of the story is nothing short of what Star Trek is about since the era of TOS, blending social commentary into a futuristic platform.

You take our present day problems of Race, religion, ethnicity, or political (Republican/Democrat) and you could reflect this story toward them. As long as polar opposition exists, there can be no peace for anyone. It takes brave people willing to walk the mile in the other person's shoes to actually achieve any hope of peace.

I wonder what will happen to the Doctor's program after he reaches the Alpha Quadrant, will he meet his future self? Will it explain how the mobile emitter came to be in the 31st century?

Imagine the stories that could come up for the Doctor in the 31st century, having outlived all his friends and being a famous hologram throughout the galaxy.
Thu, Mar 28, 2013, 10:19pm (UTC -5)
Maybe the "LW"-Doctor will run into Crewman Daniels in his home turf!
Mon, May 20, 2013, 6:32pm (UTC -5)
A beautiful episode. I love the ending's implication that what we saw may itself have been revisionist history. I know the episode's message is ultimately positive, but it's still fun to think that maybe they did put the Doc on trial and decompiled him to restore order, then covered it up when writing the history.
Wed, Jul 31, 2013, 4:15pm (UTC -5)
Fantastic episode! I read the preview and was fearing some alt-universe or hallucination jazz. Instead I got an original, fascinating commentary on revisionist history that was also vastly entertaining. Bravo!
The Sisko
Fri, Aug 16, 2013, 12:46pm (UTC -5)
Wow, I'm stunned that everyone rates this episode so highly. When I first saw it I was pretty intrigued by it, but upon rewatching it I was just incredibly bored. It might be because I just watched an episode of TNG before or something, but I couldn't disagree more with this review and most of the comments above.

I have no fundamental issues with the story, in fact I quite liked the idea. But the execution of it is just boring! Except for one scene between Quarren and The Doctor near the end, I never felt sucked into the story by the actors at all. For the most part of this episode, there seemed to be no chemistry between the two lead actors. I'm not sure whether it's that or just the lame dialogues.

I feel that Quarren's reaction to The Doctor's statements is quite unrealistic. It just seemed way too easy for him to convince him of his version of the truth. I would have expected there to be a lot more struggle. Or it could be that the guy playing Quarren was just being too restrained in his acting. There should have been a lot more conflict between these two.

Where is the heart of this episode? Where is the emotion? Do we ever really see The Doctor struggle with his fate, like Picard in "The Inner Light" or O'Brien in "Hard Time"? No, we just get a huge number of Alien-of-the-week characters that we're supposed to care about. Sorry, but I don't. Yes, the basic idea of this story is pretty great and it was definitely interesting to watch it unfold for the first time. But, again, upon rewatching, it just doesn't hold up. This story couldn't move me one bit. I guess that's not the point and you're supposed to think about how our society deals with its history. But for me, an interesting thought experiment does not make a good episode all by itself. In my view, the entertainment value here is just lacking. There is no real suspense, no engaging dialogues, no touching emotion or fascinating acting work. None of that exists here.

This is an example of a very interesting sci-fi concept which is being used to provide an hour of thought-provoking TV, sure. But that is just not enough to make it worth 4 stars. If you already know the plot, the episode should still be highly engaging. For me, this was just not the case here. Instead I was just waiting for it to end.
Sat, Aug 31, 2013, 6:49am (UTC -5)
One of the best Voyager episodes. There aren't many great ones so they're precious when they occur. This was an episode by committee--just look at how many people wrote the teleplay--but it turned out well.

Janeway's look in this episode should have been her look throughout the series. She looks younger with a dark edge that would suit her character well, simulation or not.
Mon, Sep 16, 2013, 10:19am (UTC -5)
Someone in the Voyager writing squad likes attacking PC truths... First we get "rape victims are imagining things" now we get "the oppressed are really the oppressors". What's next, a planet where whites are oppressed and blacks are the oppressors? I'm sure everyone here would love that one.

Not surprising at all then that most of the comments here are fully in agreement.

Having said that, it was an amusing take on Voyager's impact on the Delta Quadrant, but I'm troubled by the underlying idea, as I was in the Seven gets violated episode.
Mon, Sep 16, 2013, 7:18pm (UTC -5)
T'Paul, implying that every person commenting here is a racist because we liked this episode is grossly unfair. I have read many of your other comments and I had the impression you were interested in discussing different perspectives; then, I come here and see you dismissing every differing opinion - including my own - using one of the ugliest implications there is.

Wed, Oct 30, 2013, 6:53pm (UTC -5)
I have to agree with The Sisko. This episode plodded along connecting the dots to a predictable, mostly tension free, sappy happy ending. The view of the 'evil' Voyager crew, with Seven's borg shock troops was entertaining, but all too brief.

Ultimately, the Doctor's revelations produced the inevitable conclusions, while the second narrator at the end speaking from an even more distant future robbed any emotional resonance left from the doctor and Museum guy. Putting aside these (mostly) mild criticisms, this episode does tie up all lose ends, while also exploring a thought provoking premise - which is more than most episodes this season offered. So kudos to that. ;)
However, if the doctor's backup was forced too self-decompile, or perform another heroic act of self-sacrifice to uncover the truth at the last moment, the emotional impact would have been greater. That the doctor's double gets to fly off into the proverbial sunset is the cherry on top of sentimental mush.

- a nice bit of eye candy, Seven suited up in full Borg gear, that must have taken a while.
Latex Zebra
Mon, Dec 16, 2013, 5:59pm (UTC -5)
Nearly a year on and lots of episodes of all Trek later...

This may well be the best Voyager episode ever.
Patrick D
Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 11:00pm (UTC -5)
"Living Witness" is my favorite story of the entire Star Trek canon. It indelibly captures the sweet simplicity of the Roddenberry ethos like few episodes of Trek has. And that fact that it comes from one of the weakest of Trek incarnations was one of the many reasons it blew me away back 16 years ago.

The episode has its weaknesses to be sure: the black gloves of the "evil Voyager crew" was a touch over the top. The acting of the Kyrian woman calling for the prosecution of The Doctor is atrocious. But, other than that, this is a gem that sparkles.

What makes it work first and foremost is Tim Russ's solo directing run in Trek. Wow! The narrative flows beautifully. And the dialogue has an electric crackle with a sense of both urgency and earnestness shows what is happening with this replication of The Doctor and these one-off aliens is IMPORTANT.

But while people talk about how cool it was to see the "Dark Voyager", to me, it's the ending that shook this longtime Trekkie up. It has a beautiful poetry to it, and if there would be one episode to show to the ghost of Gene Roddenberry, this would be it. The message is simple one: a positive future is built from intelligent, principled action in the present. And the way it's presented works like gangbusters. We're players on a much bigger board than we realize. Even the title itself has a mythical religiosity to it.

This is Voyager's finest hour (and from a chronological point of view: The Series Finale).
Mon, Mar 17, 2014, 10:52pm (UTC -5)
I think for Babylon 5 fans; it was a good homage from Star Trek to another of Sci-Fi's greats (Black gloves and conspiracy theories on top of conspiracies, come Nick and Sisko, you guys must have had seen more in the 90's than just Star Trek).

IT is a good show with tough questions and tough resolutions. We don't know if everything we are shown is real or not; we don't even know if the doctor is still heading back to the Alpha quadrant. However, based on the people we've seen over the years, we know the doctor's truth is closer to reality.

Some people on here are critical of nitpicks, but remember this is a story within a story, perception does not have to be completely true.

This is probably the most brilliant story of Star Trek, since TNG S6 "Frame of Mind" or earlier TNG S3 "A Matter of Perspective", because the truth is based not on a visual "objective" reality, but a "subjective" perception of reality.

By the way, for those that are critical of positive reviews, because you assume people like me are bigoted due to this principle of subjectivity versus objectivity, I want to remind everyone that "Objectivism" was and is a conservative concept created by Ayn Rand to justify singular views and singular truth in order to combat group thinking, which also tends toward obscuring historical truth.

Without subjective perceptions from various sides, you cannot understand history in its fullest.
Wed, Jun 4, 2014, 4:52pm (UTC -5)
The thing with talking about continuity on Voyager is that there really is none at all. When talking about an individual episode, you have to take it as it is without thinking of any previous episode. In one episode the Doctor's program is too complex or too large for a backup, in another you can create a similar character with ease, the Cardassian Doctor, in another episode they can make a backup Doctor in case the original fails. None of it works together, but it is that way only because Voyager never bothered with continuity. It's as if they had different writers every week or writers who didn't read each other's work. Or writers who just frankly didn't care about continuity at all and wrote the most convenient thing they could for their own story.

So with Voyager, you just have to take it as is without worrying about continuity. Because if you do, you're going to hate this show. Makes DS9 fans, like myself, annoyed. But ultimately you do have to switch off your brain a little bit (as counter-intuitive that is when watching Star Trek).
Sun, Aug 3, 2014, 11:59pm (UTC -5)
I'm sorry, but the Kyrian makeup just makes them look like they ha e two pimples on the bridge of their noses. I couldn't stop thinking about that every time I saw it.
Sat, Oct 11, 2014, 11:42am (UTC -5)
Loved this episode, anyone know what soundtrack is playing during the ending? The ending totally got to me.

I agree the makeup was pretty distracting though. Other than that I consider this one of the best episodes in seasons 1-4.
Dave in NC
Sun, Oct 12, 2014, 10:44pm (UTC -5)
As far as I am aware, all of the music in this episode is original (as is 99.9% of the music heard on Star Trek).

My guess is Jeri Taylor was the one responsible for loosening the musical restrictions on the later seasons of Voyager, and boy, did it make a difference! Bride of Chaotica, Mortal Coil and the one with the Doctor's fantasies are other examples of stand-out scores which really helped to advance the story being told.

Side question:

Now I know it isn't in Living Witness, but maybe someone can help me out. There is a scene in an episode where B'elanna is in her bedroom. Something dramatic plot-wise happens (she wakes up?) and suddenly orchestral strings and french horns do this absolutely amazing glissando thing (trading places in octaves), and of course, now I don't remember which episode it was. Anyone have an idea?
Wed, Nov 19, 2014, 8:23pm (UTC -5)
According to Memory Alpha, the writers initially wanted the world the backup Doctor "awoke" on to be Romulus, or some other Alpha Quadrant planet. Rick Berman vetoed this idea, sensibly it seems, because it seems a given that Alpha Quadrant species would know from history if, when, and how Voyager reached home. Quite naturally the backup Doctor would ask about that, and so Berman's thought was that the producers didn't want to deal with that issue with three years left to go in the series. Presumably species in the Delta Quadrant wouldn't necessarily have that knowledge. However, it strains credulity a bit, I think, to suggest (even implicitly) that by the thirty-first century space travelers from the Alpha Quadrant wouldn't have explored and perhaps colonized parts of the Delta Quadrant. Even Q said (in "Death Wish"), "Humans aren't supposed to be in this quadrant for another hundred years," meaning the twenty-fifth century. I suppose one could speculate that denizens of the Alpha Quadrant had made it into the Delta Quadrant as far as, say, the Friendship One planet but not as far as Quarren's planet.

Also, who knows how long a year is on Quarren's world? And why do seemingly all the denizens of the Delta Quadrant *know* they're in the Delta Quadrant? The notion of dividing the galaxy into quadrants and giving them names has to be an Alpha Quadrant–centric convention.
Rod Sullivan
Mon, Dec 29, 2014, 11:32am (UTC -5)
@navamske.....It's not unlikely that other space charting species would divide the galaxy into sections or in this case, quadrants, to help order and facilitate the cartography of the galaxy....and it seems equally likely that each of these species would designate the area from which they arise as the 'Prime' quadrant. In essence, every species should believe they originate from the 'Alpha' quadrant.

Great episode....Stellar direction from Tim Russ!

'Paris' to 'Neelix': "Watch your mouth, hedgehog." Oh, that is priceless!
Sat, May 2, 2015, 2:21am (UTC -5)
Definitely one of my favorite Voyager episodes (these almost always inevitably end up being ones about the Doctor). I even remember thinking back when I watched it during the first airing, before the anti-crew was revealed to be a simulation at the end of the cold opening, "are they doing a mirror universe episode?"

One thing I did always wonder after finishing the whole episode was why the android EMH in the simulation had the same yellow eyes as the Soong-type models. When I thought it was a mirror universe, I figured Starfleet had just forcefully reverse engineered Data (after all, a mirror Picard would never have objected to Maddox's proposal), but as a Kyrian simulation it didn't make much sense as they'd have no knowledge of Terran android technology.
Mon, Aug 10, 2015, 9:45pm (UTC -5)
In a word, outstanding! I greatly admire the originality of this story, and how wonderfully executed it was under the freshman directorial debut of Tim Russ. Wish Roxanne Dawson could have been a part of this, but hey, she was having a baby so we can overlook that part... Agree with all of the positive comments here, this is definitely 4 stars (glad you saw the light, Jammer), and easily a top 10 episode across all of the Star Trek series.
Fri, Oct 23, 2015, 11:35am (UTC -5)
I love how this was the only episode of Voyager in the Delta Quadrant where Harry is not an Ensign... and then it's retconned due to revisionist history.
Tue, Nov 3, 2015, 6:10pm (UTC -5)
They sure settled into playing the bad guys with a scary ease didn't they? "Warship Voyager", indeed. Better believe it. Classic ep. 4 stars then, 4 stars now and holding. This doesn't exactly raise philosophical debates like "Faces" or even "Lineage". Unless it's commentary on the dangers of revisionist history. But that evil smile on Tuvok was worth the 4 stars alone.

I don't know why but a larger tattoo on chak somehow looks more appropriate than the standard one.

Apparently the doctor thinks the only character they got right was Paris. If this were the first or second season, I'd say without a doubt. By the fourth that was a bit of a stretch. But I enjoyed the scene anyway. And it looked like he did, too. He did what a lot of us wanted to. Like verbally abusing jar-jar

Ensign "can't-get-a-lock" Kim? A strongarm thug? Shirley you jest. that's as unbelievable as his "promotion".

We already know with a bit of programming the doc could very well become Mr. Hyde. Just delete those ethical subroutines. No stretch there. Well, aside from the fact it wasn't the truth. But like Janeway said, why quibble with semantics?

I wonder how things would have gone if Voyager really was a warship? Can you imagine if they ran into the Equinox like that? Janeway probably would have been angry she didn't think to exploit those aliens herself. 63 was what they needed. She'd suggest they double that to 126 to reduce the travel time by half.

Of course, the coup de grace would have been Q showing up just as both ships pass the threshold into the Alpha Quadrant all-a-jubilant and he summarily judging humanity. NOW your time is up. So much for "rapid progress".

I guess what I'm saying is...4 stars sounds about right :)
Wed, Dec 16, 2015, 12:25am (UTC -5)
T'Paul - Mon, Sep 16, 2013 - 10:19am (USA Central)

"Someone in the Voyager writing squad likes attacking PC truths... First we get "rape victims are imagining things" now we get "the oppressed are really the oppressors". What's next, a planet where whites are oppressed and blacks are the oppressors? I'm sure everyone here would love that one.

Not surprising at all then that most of the comments here are fully in agreement.

Having said that, it was an amusing take on Voyager's impact on the Delta Quadrant, but I'm troubled by the underlying idea, as I was in the Seven gets violated episode."

Oh man, T'Paul! Where do I begin?

First, the terms "PC" and "truths" contradict each other. If someone on the Voyager writing staff likes attacking PC lies, then he is very courageous. Your blind faith in politically correct fictions - whose only goal is to switch places between oppressed and oppressor and simply redirect the hate towards whites, men, and heterosexuals just because of how they were born - is very troubling.

Second, an episode in which people of European descent are oppressed by people of African descent would be an outstanding episode to watch. I can definitely visualize a scene in which the black master beats his white slave and if the white slave dares to object, the black master screams, "Check your privilege, white scum!" Unfortunately, the writers weren't that courageous.

Third, the message of the "Seven gets violated" episode wasn't that "real rape victims are making it up." That's a bullshit interpretation driven by your mainstream politically correct blindness. Rather, the message was "you're not a rape victim just because you say you are - we need evidence." That is a perfectly rational and legitimate message that everyone who is against third world dictatorships should take to heart. Again, the fact that you don't take it to heart shows that you have a problem with a non-dictatorial style of government.

Fourth, the underlying idea behind this episode that you are so troubled by is that "nothing is sacred," not even your strongly held politically correct views. Reality doesn't care about political correctness or anybody's sensitivities. Truth is truth, whether tyrannical "social justice warriors" like yourself like it or not. Now that is a beautiful message!
Fri, Dec 25, 2015, 1:24pm (UTC -5)
Absolute best episode of Voyager. #1. Bar none. No other episode is even close.

One thing that occurred to me upon a recent rewatch, and only elevated this episode in my estimation, is that it could only be told on Voyager. The writers didn't always utilize their setting properly, but here they did. If the Kyrian/Vaskan homeworld were in the Alpha Quadrant a lie about Federation interference couldn't persist for centuries without some major cognitive dissonance or extreme isolation that would require some exposition, but since Voyager is long gone, there's no one to set the record straight until the Doctor is reactivated, and it's thoroughly believable that such an incorrect version of history could exist and be sustained. Thus, the perfect story to tell on Voyager.

The whole "history can be twisted to reflect the dominant society's view" theme is relevant, correct, and brilliantly realized. Both Quarren's disbelief and the greater society's vehement reaction are realistic. If anything the final act reveal that this is all a historical record and thus the episode is a play-within-a-play only adds to its power. It's really a shame that Voyager couldn't duplicate this level of quality more often, because when it was good, it was really great!

Naturally "Living Witness" was also emblematic of the series' quality as a whole. Its best episode is preceded and followed by 2 of its worst. "Inconsistent" was probably the most appropriate adjective for Star Trek: Voyager.
Thu, Dec 31, 2015, 8:40pm (UTC -5)
I'm going to nitpick for a moment. Basically, almost as soon as the Doctor is brought into the episode, the show got very ham-fisted with the message of Historical Revisionism Is Bad! really quickly. I mean, I knew that was going to be the theme of the episode, but it still just jumped out on me more rapidly than I thought was prudent. After all, did the Doctor really understand what was happening that quickly?

Yes, it's a nitpick, but it did throw me off the show for a good 5 minutes, which given the quality of the rest of the episode was annoying.

And yes, the rest of the episode is very good. Once again, Voyager eschews the potential for blatant moralizing to provide us with a very messy situation. It wasn't that one side was sweet and innocent and the other Nazi scumbags, we don't know who was "at fault" for the war or even if one side was at fault. Nor, of course, did the "true" history completely flip the perspective 100%. And even in the 700 year future, neither side was downright evil or downright perfect.

Speaking of which, Dan, the historical record was not being twisted towards the dominant species' view; the historian and the museum (along with the twisted history) were set up by the "conquered" species! The dominant species were the ones questioning the accuracy of the twisted version. Part of what I mean about this episode not simply being anvilicious like T'Paul apparently wanted, but rather showing a muddy, complicated situation.

There was also the tiny undercurrent of a theme that all history is an inexact science. As others have stated, we don't know if the Doctor's reproduction is 100% accurate, especially the bit about him willing to enter the deadly situation first (given his penchant for bragging). In fact, even his joke that Paris was an accurate simulation proves that he can't be trusted completely. And then we see that everything we watched was also a simulation, making us question what, exactly, did happen in the 700 year future. Sure, reality was probably similar to that simulation, but were the rioters at the museum really that fanatical? Or is that, too, historical relativism?

Meanwhile, it was interesting to see this almost as a different perspective of the Prime Directive. It seems harsh and perhaps a bit paranoid to try to avoid contact with everyone, even warp-capable species such as these two. And can we really expect Janeway to demand a complete, objective history of each species' intergalactic relationships before requesting a simple trade? Surely, that seems unfair as well. And yet at the same time, Voyager accidentally wandered into a powder keg and unwittingly lit the match. Trek's usual approach to the Prime Directive is to look at questioning whether to get involved in a disaster (Pen Pals, Homeward, etc); instead we see an accidental turning point in the history of two species. And even so, it's probably not fair to say that the war was due to Voyager; it was obviously a powder keg situation that was bound to go off at some point (just as WW1 probably would have happened at some point even if the Archduke wasn't assassinated). But because it was Voyager that lit the powder keg, and because that provided something else for both sides to latch onto, did that impact the post-war process? We don't know.

Again, it's hard to blame Voyager for causing all these problems, and I certainly wouldn't say that Voyager should never ever talk to any other species during its entire trek through the stars, but it does show the kind of thing the Prime Directive is in place for from a bit of a different perspective.

And most importantly, this was a great sci-fi concept that made full use of Voyager's premise.
The Great Danton
Thu, Jan 7, 2016, 8:26pm (UTC -5)
This is possibly the best episode of the entire series. I have watched Voyager many time sover the years and this episode is the one that stands above the others every time.

I find it laughable how the alien species portrays Chakotay with that cheesy tattoo, Janeway as a cold-blooded killer and Seven of Nine as a mindless far-from-being-sexy drone.

The PC attempt at somehow comparing racial issues to that of the US are laughable but hey this is Hollywood run by liberal idiots.

Awesome episode!
Sat, Jan 30, 2016, 2:59pm (UTC -5)
A fine episode but some things bothered me, especially the ending. It didn't make sense that the initial recreation blamed Voyager much more than the dominant species and, much worse, it wasn't believable that the Doctor would suddenly decide to preserve the lie, that accepting Tedran was a heroic martyr was acceptable, and then reverse himself back after Quarren claimed proving the real (Kyrian-blaming) history would somehow create more harmony.
Mon, Feb 15, 2016, 8:15am (UTC -5)
Most promising concept completely botched on the alien side of the equation, ridiculous make up and ill-fitting clothes reminiscent of the Amish. The Voyager crew are spectacular, pity they only did this concept once, but those aliens are sitting in my gullet, beyond annoying, worse than the creepy Gath in Prime Factors.
Diamond Dave
Tue, Feb 16, 2016, 4:19pm (UTC -5)
Wow, colour me the contrarian but I really didn't think this was a standout. The first half featuring bad Voyager was full of nice touches, and it was fun watching the crew get their evil freak on. But as soon as the inevitable confirmation that this was all an imperfect reconstruction came out, all the air comes out of the balloon. Everything then seems a little too scripted - largely because we know what the Doctor is going to say. Even his "forget the truth" speech at the end sounds oddly out of place.

And we even had a pitchfork wielding mob, and it doesn't get more cliched than that. 2 stars.
Mon, Apr 18, 2016, 12:41pm (UTC -5)
Good episode - gratz to the writers - very creative without losing sight of the 'mission'. Deliver a truly human experience.
Fri, May 6, 2016, 9:54pm (UTC -5)
I'd like to think this is what would have happened had a ship from the Terran empire got lost in the Delta quadrant. 4 stars.
Fri, May 20, 2016, 11:17am (UTC -5)
What's not to love about this episode?

A trek classic in my book.

Great review Jammer, nothing to add.

4 stars, easy.
Wed, Jul 6, 2016, 3:52am (UTC -5)
It would have been more realistic if Quarren jumped back in fear once Doc appeared. Since he though that he was a killer his whole life.
Sun, Aug 14, 2016, 8:57pm (UTC -5)
I really liked this episode, though I thought the ending rather unrealistic. Because I'm cynical, I doubt species that has been fighting for 700 years would take tricorder readings as any kind of evidence. It isn't like tricorder data can't be faked or manipulated, and I'm sure the majority would say that's exactly what happened. Still, this was a good episode, and I liked the "alternate" characters.
Mon, Aug 29, 2016, 11:59pm (UTC -5)
I had this on as background noise but it grabbed my attention so I had to start from the beginning. Excellent (****)
Tue, Nov 8, 2016, 5:03am (UTC -5)
Great episode.

I can't help wondering how many copies of the doctor are wondering around the delta quadrant. I have this vision of the doctor finally arriving at Earth:

Doctor: "I made it. I'm finally home. Where do I need to go to collect my medal?"
Star fleet officer: "Oh, another one. You're the fifth this week. Hold on, I'll give you directions to the home for returned EMH's".
Tue, Nov 8, 2016, 4:44pm (UTC -5)
HAHA Mikey!!
dave johnson
Wed, Dec 21, 2016, 1:26am (UTC -5)
To the person who questioned how the Delta Quadrant species would know we conceptualized it into 4 quadrants and so forth... and just implicitly know they are in the Delta Quadrant....

same reason all their years, and days, and measurements are the same... same reason they all speak English..... simplicity of making a TV program. I think it is just something we have to brush aside as necessary to have a weekly television show that doesn't spend have the episode with each species figuring out what a year means to each planet and so forth.
Wed, Dec 21, 2016, 3:56pm (UTC -5)
Their measurements aren't the same, they're translated.
Thu, Jan 19, 2017, 9:39am (UTC -5)
Only real nitpicks I had with this episode were the lack of communication with Starfleet, or even knowing they were in the Delta Quadrant 700 years later, and the ability to get the look and function of not only the ship but the specific tools needed to fix a tricorder, but not the story itself, correct.

After 7 centuries, it's inconceivable that Starfleet hadn't developed quantum slipstream or transwarp drive of their own (especially with Borg help, and they were testing such things during Voyager's time in the Delta Quadrant, 700 years earlier), and someone from Starfleet could have helped resolve the diplomatic fiasco that is their inaccurate portrayal of history. The only answer that makes any sense is that somehow, Starfleet and the Federation either don't exist any longer as a major power with the goals of exploration and diplomacy, either being wiped out, or becoming isolationist. We know that even in the 29th century, the Federation and Starfleet are very much intact.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 8:22pm (UTC -5)
One of the best of Voyager.

As for the previous statement I've always interpreted it as that the Federation "ascended". Their exploring time and alternate dimensions and Organians now.

The concerns of a species on a world or two about historical correctness no longer matter
Paul Allen
Thu, Feb 16, 2017, 1:53pm (UTC -5)
That it's 700 years in the future makes it lose it's impact for me completely.

Thu, Mar 2, 2017, 9:19am (UTC -5)
The episode really highlights, to me, the main problem with how the Doctor is usually presented. Theoretically such a creature would have a highly fluid concept of individuality. Like Ultron, it should be able to casually clone itself, becoming multiple beings as parts of it lose contact with each other, and refusing into a single being whenever those parts regain contact with each other. I to we to I again, all depending on how good the current 24th century version of the internet connection is.

Yet he is usually written as a single, mortal being who can only be in one individual place at a time, and is therefore relatively mortal. This is pretty much the only occasion in the entire series where his fluidity of individuality is actually acknowledged even partially by the story.
Ashton Withers
Sun, Mar 5, 2017, 9:56pm (UTC -5)
I had heard great things about this episode, I wasn't misled.

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