Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Prophecy"

**

Air date: 2/7/2001
Teleplay by Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong
Story by Larry Nemecek & J. Kelley Burke and Raf Green & Kenneth Biller
Directed by Terry Windell

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I was hoping our daughter would be special, but I never dreamed she'd turn out to be the Klingon messiah." — Paris

In brief: A mostly aimless story with the usual Klingon mumbo-jumbo.

"Prophecy" has the names of six writers on it, which might explain why it seems to go off in six directions in the course of an hour. What the heck is this really about? This has to be the first Klingon show in which a bat'leth battle between two combatants ends when one of the warriors collapses to the ground due to illness. This facilitates the story wildly heading off in another direction, but at least now I can say I've seen a Klingon fall ill while swinging a sword.

The story is a hodgepodge stew characterized by a lot of portentous prophecy dialog. We've got (1) Klingons in the Delta Quadrant; (2) Torres' unborn baby elevated to the level of messiah; (3) ancient prophecies open to the widest of interpretations; (4) Neelix and Tuvok as roommates; (5) Harry being granted the interspecies sex-acts license he didn't get in "The Disease," except that he doesn't want it this time; (6) ideological friction; (7) a deadly genetic disease and the search for its cure; (8) a bat'leth battle (not) to the death; (9) the search for a new homeworld; (10) a Voyager takeover scenario; and last but not least, (11) Neelix getting some action. Yes, that kind of action.

This looks like it was once three (or nine) stories before being grafted together into one. Even Klingon cultural expert Ronald D. Moore probably wouldn't have been able to make heads or tails of the story drafts.

If I had to pick an episode this best resembles in its overall attempt (emphasis on "attempt"), it would be DS9's far-superior "Destiny" from 1995. Interestingly, the casting directors managed to hire for their main Klingon guest star here a guy who sometimes sounds a lot like Avery Brooks, but I digress; I've fulfilled my DS9 comparison quota for the day.

The episode pays homage to the most implausible yet reliable Voyager cliche, which is that anything or anyone from the Alpha Quadrant, if allowed to wander long enough in the Delta Quadrant, will inevitably run into Voyager in the infinite vastness of space. In this case, a Klingon vessel that has been on a holy mission for generations opens fire on Voyager (because the Federation is the Klingon Empire's sworn enemy according to the timeline this ship's crew is living by).

After the initial phaser-firing, Janeway invites the Klingon captain, Kohlar (Wren T. Brown, the guy with the Avery Brooks voice), aboard Voyager, where Kohlar sees a pregnant B'Elanna Torres. He is immediately convinced she is the Kuva'Mach, a prophesied savior of his people. Subsequently, Kohlar self-destructs his own ship on a leap of faith in order to force Janeway to beam his crew aboard Voyager so they can follow the Kuva'Mach. Quite a leap of faith, that.

Or maybe not. It turns out Kohlar has his own doubts, but he doesn't care; his intention is to end this drawn-out holy mission and find a new homeworld for his crew. He believes B'Elanna — whether her child is the Kuva'Mach or not — can be the symbol that will lead his people into a new era.

There are, of course, skeptics among the Klingons. One is T'Greth (Sherman Howard), who is dismayed to learn the alleged mother of the Kuva'Mach is only half Klingon, and the father not at all. You'd think people like T'Greth would've grilled Kohlar a little harder on the facts before helping him blow up their own ship, but never mind.

"Prophecy" is first and foremost a dialog episode, but it doesn't carry the weight it needs to be a good story. Most of the prophesying and Klingon mumbo-jumbo is overly generic. There's no sense in the language that there's much of an actual prophecy here we're supposed to be listening to or figuring out. Kohlar wants B'Elanna to help him avoid dissent by playing along and using wide latitude to interpret the prophecies so they fit her life. But really, this was more interesting when it involved Sisko and the Bajoran Prophets on DS9, where it felt like it mattered.

We also have our fulfilled dose of male posturing and testosterone. Eventually T'Greth challenges Paris to a battle to the death (what else?) to prove he could be the father of the Kuva'Mach. Paris glares back menacingly to prove he's a real man. Haven't we been here and done this enough times? Janeway forbids a death match, so instead it's agreed that it will be a non-lethal knock-down contest. (I guess that's slightly new for a Klingon story.)

About this "non-lethal" battle with "blunted" bat'leths — I'm with Doc: Sharpened or not, if you're swinging thin, heavy sheets of metal full-speed trying to hit another person, you'd better be prepared to lose part of your face.

Like I mentioned, though, the fight is interrupted when T'Greth collapses because of a disease known to these Klingons as the Nehret, which affects mainly the elderly. They all carry it, and it's transmittable only to other Klingons, meaning B'Elanna and her baby now carry it. My question is, how many problems does this story really need?

Before it can finally find an ending that hints at some sort of storytelling purpose, "Prophecy" first turns into a free-for-all that betrays all signs of a show desperately seeking to appeal to a general action audience. I was growing restless by the time T'Greth decided the Klingons must seize Voyager for themselves. I guess the writers just ran out of ideas.

The reason for the violence is that T'Greth's faction needs a ship to continue this holy mission. There's some fun with transporters when T'Greth's followers beam Voyager crew members down to a planet to get them out of the way. Janeway: "Cut power to the transporter." Paris: "Can't." I'm not sure whether it's refreshing or lame that the writers don't even bother anymore with a technobabble reason to explain why transporter power can't be cut. It just ... can't. We then have a phaser-fight on the bridge, which I suppose is mandatory for any Extreme February on UPN.

All problems are all solved when Doc realizes that antibodies from B'Elanna's part-Klingon baby can neutralize the Nehret, which in turn convinces T'Greth that the baby is indeed the Kuva'Mach. None of this is particularly riveting (and it does resolve everything pretty easily), but the story does at least demonstrate the point that a sign does not have to be magical to be meaningful.

Before arriving at this point, the overall problem with "Prophecy" is that the narrative is a mess. The plot careens off in too many different directions. Is this an action episode, a philosophy show, a Neelix sex comedy, or what? There are too many pointless elements and they all seem disruptive. The gold of this story (as well as its title) is obviously in the prophecy. But it's hard to take it seriously because the dialog is flat and disconnected and the Klingon stuff is too derivative. And the ship-takeover ploy is simply gratuitous.

For a story to work, it must convince us that it knows what its point is. "Prophecy" spreads things out and tries to do a little of everything. In the process it ends up doing surprisingly little.

Next week: The interstellar Roach Motel.

Previous episode: Repentance
Next episode: The Void

Season Index

30 comments on this review

indijo - Tue, Jan 8, 2008 - 8:57am (USA Central)
The writers love putting Tuvok in situations that test his tolerance to the limits. If I was him, I'd simply warn Neelix to back off. There's a bozo that has no sense of another's individuality, unless it laughs at his corny comical attitude. I liked him better before he became the bozo-babysitter of the Voyager crew.
Ospero - Thu, Feb 7, 2008 - 10:59pm (USA Central)
Sheesh. As if we really needed ANOTHER "Voyager-stumbles-across-something-from-the-Alpha-Quadrant" episode. That was one of the main problems for this series. Especially when the "something" is as trite and overused as Klingons.

"Lineage" was fine as it stood, folks. Why bother with this?
Jakob M. Mokoru - Mon, Mar 31, 2008 - 10:36am (USA Central)
*chuckle* That Klingon's voice had indeed a large resemblance to Avery Brooks'.

Quite mediocre episode...Some bad ideas, some better ideas...

I liked the bridge-fight, though! I'm not the inferno-fan but this one was good choreographed! However - a bunch of 200 Klingons trying to conquer Voyager could have been much more interesting! As usual, we're shown only four or five!
AJ Koravkrian - Wed, May 7, 2008 - 9:22pm (USA Central)
Apart from what you and other people said about this episode, I have a tiny comment. When there was a question about where to keep the 200 klingons, and whether to assign security to keep an eye on them, Neelix (seriously, why is he there) says, "but there are women and children there." Children, fine, but I thought that by Star Trek timeline, it was already established that women were quite equal to men in every respect, especially klingon women, when it comes to physical strength etc.
Brian O'Connell - Fri, Nov 21, 2008 - 10:30pm (USA Central)
Hes nothing like Sisko. No hyper-ventilating to convey emotion. Not once.
stallion - Fri, Jan 8, 2010 - 12:31am (USA Central)
One thing I liked about this episode is that Torres seem to embrace her klingon side a little bit more in that quarter scene with Kohlar. That was the best part of the episode.
Nic - Thu, Apr 22, 2010 - 2:17pm (USA Central)
Two words: Gilligan's Island.
Michael - Tue, Jul 20, 2010 - 9:12am (USA Central)
Oh, what a sin... This episode had SO much potential, judging by its first several minutes. (Think: Japanese Imperial soldiers found fifty years after the end of WWII hiding in the jungles of the Pacific believing the war is still going on.) And then they show these Klingons behaving in a manner that would make cavemen look like Harvard intellectuals.

Generally, the Klingons of Star Trek purport to be so dumb, violent, impulsive and primitive that it's a miracle they can operate a wheelbarrow without kicking it in a fit of rage! And they are warp-capable!?!

And as if THAT wasn't bad enough, now apparently they have "scrolls" with religious baloney of the type that most civilized humans stopped believing several centuries ago. Oy vey! Countless scenes squandered on Klingon religious crap. I wonder what the reaction would be if half an episode showed crewmembers doing Bible study and holding Xian prayer meetings! It would never happen because human/earthly religions do not exist in the 24th century... - apart, of course, from the New Agey drivel, what with scented candles, spirits, meditation and all that crock.

Anyway... Neelix: Annoying as hell. If I/d have been in Tuvok's shoes, I'd have been wiping off my fingerprints and rehearsing my alibi for the "fateful night in question."

Everything else in this episode that doesn't make sense, is inconsisten and illogical or just plain fatuous, I won't bother with. Liked the action sequences, which are the only redeeming feature of this show. Also liked the Klingon nymph :D

One star, barely.
Jeff - Wed, Sep 29, 2010 - 5:25pm (USA Central)
Just a few opinions.

1) Yes, it's ludicrous to expect Voyager to encounter these Klingons, but at least the writers acknowledged this fact in the dialogue.

2) Once again, Tuvok proves he displays more emotion than he probably thinks he does. He was clearly annoyed having Neelix as a roommate and justifiably upset upon seeing the conditions of his quarters once Neelix and his Klingon one night stand were finished.

3) I find it impossible to accept any Klingon female would find Harry or Neelix as desirable mates. Was she really so eager for some non-Klingon affection?

4) In a rare instance of VOY continuity the EMH approves interspecies mating. Too bad the writers chose to express continuity with a bad episode like "The Disease."

5) I would have thought B'Elanna would have mentioned the events of "Barge of the Dead" to Kohlar, or make the remembrance prayer to her mother. Oh well. Consider it a continuity dropped call.

6) McNeill really dropped the ball in his performance this time, IMHO. He read the lines, but I didn't believe the anger he was supposed to be showing. There was no anger in Paris's voice. Granted, the episode is difficult to take seriously but it doesn't help when the actors voice it through their performances as well.

7) In a totally un PC comment, Harry Kim, man up!
Paul - Tue, Mar 1, 2011 - 11:00am (USA Central)
"5) I would have thought B'Elanna would have mentioned the events of "Barge of the Dead" to Kohlar, or make the remembrance prayer to her mother. Oh well. Consider it a continuity dropped call."

I thought that the events of Barge of the Dead ended up establishing that B'Elanna's mother wasn't ACTUALLY dead at all.
Cloudane - Sat, Apr 9, 2011 - 7:09am (USA Central)
Ew. Did we need the "Neelix gets some" story... I wonder if that planet will be hearing the pitter patter of tiny half-Talaxian half-Klingon feet - now that's going to be one ugly beast!

The episode is all over the place, certainly not quality stuff but has the odd interesting (or lame) thing worth commenting on.

"Can't" must be the most oft-used word on the starship Voyager. Can't get a lock, can't cut through the interference / radiation, can't cut power to whatever, can't go to warp, can't stop the shuttle bay doors opening, can't disable (blah) because I'm locked out, can't end the holodeck program...
Who created Voyager's systems?! They should be sacked and sent off to scrub plasma conduits. The ship is an absolute joke. Microsoft could've done a better job.

Harry gets the girl and... doesn't want her. Figures.

I could've sworn the Klingon captain was Avery Brooks. The likeness is uncanny.

Something that grated at one point was "there are women and children in there". The sexist view of women being weak and vulnerable is alive and well in the 24th century I guess, which is made all the more ironic by the fact that these are Klingon women. I'm sure they can take sitting in a cargo bay - I'd be more worried about the cargo. (Looking through the comments before submitting mine I see AJ Koravkrian made the same observation).

Paris with "stay out of it" - ah the old 'this is MY fight' macho stupidity. Puhleeze.

Tuvok looked positively angry at his trashed quarters. Obviously they're intending that one of these days he'll lose control of his emotions and snap.. this would be potentially damaging to his character so I hope when it's done, it's done well.

My comments are a mess, but then so is the episode. It's not terrible, it's kind of entertaining at times, but 2 stars seems about right.
Kieran - Tue, May 10, 2011 - 7:28am (USA Central)
"Tuvok looked positively angry at his trashed quarters. Obviously they're intending that one of these days he'll lose control of his emotions and snap.. this would be potentially damaging to his character so I hope when it's done, it's done well."

At this point, I'm hoping the final episode focuses on a buck-naked Tuvok chasing Neelix artound the lower decks with a chainsaw.

Back on topic, I liked this episode - I thought it was fun. But I think I'm possibly part of that demographic Jammer's always complaining that Voyager pandered to.

Cloudane - Tue, May 10, 2011 - 5:45pm (USA Central)
Ooh new anti-spam.. TNG was almost featuring Captain Jean-Luc 47 for a moment there.

There is a final Neelix+Tuvok scene. That's all I'm saying about it. :)
Kristen - Thu, Oct 20, 2011 - 6:01pm (USA Central)
I also noticed the Avery Brooks-alike voice. But then I recognized the actor for who he was: the shuttle pilot that announces he's "got a passenger, a V. I. P. passenger" to bring aboard the Enterprise, just before Lwaxanna Troi cuts him off to coo at Picard herself.

If he'd been a few episodes earlier, he could have met up with Simon Tarses. Really, at this point, I'm watching the episodes partly just to see who they recycle. Voyager casts are like a Trek reunion!
Captain Jim - Sun, Jun 3, 2012 - 10:06pm (USA Central)
Interesting, I thought he sounded like Brooks too.

Not the best Voyager episode, but not the worst either. It was nice to see Klingons again.
Rosario - Thu, Oct 11, 2012 - 1:24pm (USA Central)
Micheal: "Oh, what a sin... This episode had SO much potential, judging by its first several minutes. (Think: Japanese Imperial soldiers found fifty years after the end of WWII hiding in the jungles of the Pacific believing the war is still going on.)"

I'm not sure a bunch of 70 year old soldiers could put up much of a fight. Ironically, Japanese holdouts are a historical fact and as best we can tell, the last 2 were recovered from the Phillipines and Indonesia in 1974. Can't recall every detail but some official from Japan had to be flown out to their locations to convince them that the war was really over and to come on home.
Sintek - Sun, May 26, 2013 - 2:07pm (USA Central)
Certainly not the best episode, but it was nice to see a somewhat different breed of Klingons. Voyager was the master of femifying things (borg, Q, even species it introduced) but still refreshing to see the thoughtful and pragmatic Klingon who just wanted to end their pointless journey.
ProgHead777 - Sun, Jun 30, 2013 - 11:30pm (USA Central)
It's funny that so many people find the "Neelix sex-comedy" sub-sub-plot to be ridiculous and off-putting. I'm not saying it's NOT those things but it's still the ONLY entertaining (meaning it made me chuckle... moderately) thing in this entire episode. It's a pretty bad episode when I cite Neelix as the best part. One and a half stars from me.
Leah - Sat, Jul 20, 2013 - 7:35pm (USA Central)
I didn't dislike this episode, though I didn't love it either. Still, kinda nice to see an Alpha-Quadrant species again. I've never had a problem with the Klingons or their way of life. Every species created for Star Trek had its own culture and belief-structure. The Klingons are one of the longest-standing of these, so of course there's going to be a feeling of old-hat to them after so many years. In the very least, they're mostly consistent. Take my opinion for what it's worth, but as someone who finds anthropology interesting, I enjoy the contrasts of all of the Trekian races.

As far as Neelix goes, he'd actually been toned down for quite a while and I found myself liking him for the most part. This return to obnoxious Neelix was not welcome at all. After all of the things he's been through with Tuvok, I was hoping to see a bit more mutual respect and understanding between them. Alas...I must keep reminding myself that this is Voyager and if the writers want to throw in some sophomoric humor, no pesky character development shall stand in the way.

This kind of thing really hurts the credibility of the rant I made in Lineage's comment section. All I can say to this is that my diatribe was intended to encompass all of Trek, not just Voyager. If I were to be honest, Voyager is the Trek show most aimed at those who enjoy action and contrivance over real substance, which explains why it is lamented as falling woefully short of what it could have been by long-standing Trek fans. Still, enough of the spirit of what Star Trek was meant to be is intermittently present in Voyager for my rant to remain applicable.

Last thought, I really liked Kohlar. He was less of a cartoon-version of a Klingon and more of what the Klingons are supposed to be: honorable, dedicated, traditional, cunning but fairly even-minded despite his warrior's spirit, and concerned with what's best for his people. Reminded me of what I loved about DS9's Martok.
Ash - Mon, Jul 22, 2013 - 7:40am (USA Central)
Why do they have to be bunkmates , if the can put an entire irish town on the holodeck, just holo some klingonhotel
ian - Thu, Aug 1, 2013 - 3:04am (USA Central)
Actually this was a very good episode, very similar to DS9 episode in many ways and the point is that ANY Klingon episode would be all crazy because Klingons ARE berzerkers, that is the whole point.
azcats - Tue, Aug 27, 2013 - 2:17pm (USA Central)
@Ash, great comment about the ridiculous space in a holodeck.

i too thought, man he sounds like avery brooks.

i did like his klingon character.

i dont know if you guys noticed, but neelix in the last couple seasons stopped being "comedy relief" and became more of a "wise counselor." this is what has made him more tolerable.

the paris vs klingon fight wasnt really believable. at least it mostly had paris avoiding contact.

not a boring episode, but not great.

1.5 to 2 stars.
SpiceRak2 - Sun, Sep 15, 2013 - 12:50am (USA Central)
Whether you like Neelix or not, I think the "One-Night-Stand" development was weirdly out of character. Neelix has been more of the Disney character on Voyager for some time now and this shift to "Basic Instincts" was abrupt and not very believable. If he were not bunking with Tuvok and was still engaging the Klingon female, it would have been creepy. This sub-sub-plot (as aptly named in a previous comment) was intended to exploit the Neelix/Tuvok oil and water relationship with humor and this disturbing tale was the result. Yikes.

The same can be said about Harry Kim in his own awkward situation. Intended to be humor with strange results.

The only thing I was hoping would happen in this episode involved B'Elanna finally embracing her Klingon side. Instead, she was nearly disgusted by the whole affair. I wish she didn't have the forehead as much as she wishes it. Her character does nothing to advance our appreciation of Klingon culture in Trek. Why did they bother?
Jo Jo Meastro - Tue, Oct 15, 2013 - 5:44pm (USA Central)
I actually liked this one, it was enjoyably goofy and fun despite the lack of much plausibility. Seeing the Klingons again was almost novel after all this time.

What I enjoyed about this episode was it had a TOS feel to it with the way it was plotted and the old school charm of casually tossing in things like a fight to the death or a deadly virus almost at whim. All that was needed was some outrageous background music! There isn't any meaning behind this, but it is very entertaining and a pleasure to watch unfold with a big grin.

I found the Neelix comedy quite funny, even though I can't believe he'd go as far as trash Tuvoks' room in a night of passion (at least take it to the holodeck!) and going off Kes it's hard to imagine he'd be into fierce Klingon women. But there was good characterisations all round, I especially liked the added focus to Tom and Torress and I also liked seeing Janeway desperately trying to manage all this madness!

Yet another season 7 episode I'd rate at 3 or 3 and a half stars!
Nick - Tue, Feb 4, 2014 - 8:29pm (USA Central)
I found the Neelix sex interlude hilarious...but also in character! The guy is supposed to be a cultural attache right? Well, he's just doing his part! Besides, who could resist having a go with such a voracious Klingon?

As for the rest of it, the plot depended on a seemingly endless series of convenient occurrences, but who cares, we got to see a bunch of Klingons! Lets face it, you either like Klingons or you don't. Frankly, I'd rather re-watch this episode a dozen times than endure five minutes of 'Lineage'. Bleh.

3 out of 5
Steinway - Tue, Feb 18, 2014 - 2:16pm (USA Central)
I don't know why they had to make Paris into such a schmuck this episode. I know he is kind of schmucky with his one-liners, but I know Duncan-McNeill can act, and when he's getting more than one line, it usually turns out pretty well. Someone above thought it was his acting that was the problem is this ep, but the lines he was given were so trite that I don't know how he possibly could've acted them well.

I could have happily done with some machosim on Paris' part, shoving the Klingons a little bit when they were trying to get his goat instead of just standing there and saying some truly pathetic lines. The combat scene wasn't too bad, and I thought B'Elanna's line was cute: "Today would be a very BAD day to die."

At any rate, this wasn't my favorite episode, but I did enjoy it. I'm one of those who likes the Klingons, with their honor and tradition. Seems like we should get one episode with them in the Voyager series, no matter how convoluted it has to be for them to show up :-)
Ric - Thu, Jun 26, 2014 - 2:26am (USA Central)
This episode is the supremely clear face of lack of imagination. And also annoying as hell in showing yet-another-alpha-quadrant-buddy showing up at the delta quadrant by chance. Not to mention the vast lazy writing shown at Paris' decision to fight. Why in the universe would he make such stupid decision to put his life at risk, from nowhere, if not only to give trigger the silly combat?

Worst than that, here we have yet another example of moral misbehavior in Voyager. After all, now the crew and, of course, the always misguided captain, agree to "stretch the truth"! Meaning, of course, to lie. To deceive other bluntly. And not being enough, they even establish that it is a bit different from lying.

Amazing. Now Voyager is increasing the frequency and severity of the moral missteps made by the crew. Maybe the show could had even got an award at this point: the right to be labeled with the twisted DS9-style "shades-of-grey" stamp...


Anyway, a very meh episode. With another offensive and out-of-franchise (im)moral step by the captain. And this time, also the crew.

PS: talking about DS9, Jammer's acid definition "usual Klingon mumbo-jumbo" is very right on the spot - although sure I regret that he wasn't that sensitive to DS9's Bajoran mumbo-jumbo.

PS2: I am another one who, at first, also thought the guy was played by Brooks.

PS3: Neelix finds a new mate in the show before Harry. Now, that is wicked!
Yanks - Thu, Jun 26, 2014 - 6:58am (USA Central)
I haven't seen this episode in quite some time.

A skipper for me. I'm not interested in another Klingon mumbo-stupid episode.

1 star because Jammer's review made me remember too much about this one.
Corey - Tue, Sep 2, 2014 - 4:01pm (USA Central)
Wow, surprised no one likes this one; I thought it was excellent.
Fenne - Tue, Sep 30, 2014 - 9:31am (USA Central)
No particular comment other than the fact that I was reading these comments on my smartphone before the episode was even finished. I didn't have the stomac to go through another round of cliché Klingon philosophy.

Except maybe, one more comment: before I started reading the comments I was looking for the name of the actor who played the leader of the Special K's. What do I know him from? Which series did he play in for me to recognise his voice. I was suprised to find a completely unfamiliar name and no series or movie to link him to. And then came the answer in Jammer's review. Funny how many people thought the same thing.

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