Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Repentance"

***

Air date: 1/31/2001
Teleplay by Robert Doherty
Story by Mike Sussman & Robert Doherty
Directed by Mike Vejar

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"How do you justify beating a defenseless man?"
"Violence is the only thing he understands."

— Janeway and Yediq

In brief: A reasonably thoughtful, if imperfect, issue episode.

I'm not a death penalty supporter. Such information might be relevant at the outset of this review of "Repentance," which is a Trekkian message show that examines a bizarre death penalty case.

I'm all for the occasional message episode. Earlier in the season we got "Critical Care," a brutal commentary on HMOs. And here we get a fairly even-handed treatment of the death penalty issue.

Well, of course this episode is against the death penalty. In the Federation, there is no death penalty. The supposed last capital offense under Federation law was explained back in TOS's "The Menagerie," but even there it was more like a dramatic contrivance than it was a believable consequence the Federation would be likely to impose.

If memory serves, "Repentance" might very well be the only straightforward death penalty analysis in the Trek canon. It makes its points. It's not particularly subtle, but it's not preachy either.

More than anything, this episode highlights what seems to me a fundamental truth about the death penalty, which is that the issue is more about feelings than it is about logic — maybe especially when it comes to defending the practice. I say this because when society puts someone to death, society is condoning that killing. In such cases there's always a lot of talk about deterrence and justice, but when it comes down to it, it's more about satisfying the victims' (and society's at large) collective emotional need to take as much as can be taken from the worst of offenders, without resorting to outright torture.

In "Repentance," we have the death penalty story with a sci-fi twist. We have a convicted murderer named Iko (Jeff Kober). He's a violent and thoroughly despicable specimen; even behind locked forcefield he makes threats he can't possibly carry out, as if he simply enjoys the idea of terrorizing others.

Iko and several other prisoners are beamed aboard Voyager when a ship transporting the prisoners to the Nygean homeworld to be executed is destroyed in an accident. The ship's warden, Yediq (Tim deZarn), warns Janeway that these dangerous convicts must be kept strictly in line. Janeway, in the interests of cooperation and complying with the Prime Directive, agrees to provide transport to a rendezvous point with another Nygean ship. Prison cells are set up in a cargo bay.

Yediq represents the hard and weary end of law enforcement; he's seen enough convicted murderers to last a lifetime and doesn't believe in kid gloves. When Iko makes a threat aimed at Yediq's children, Yediq and his men beat Iko within an inch of his life. (Janeway subsequently bans them from the cargo bay.)

Doc represents the outspoken anti-death penalty partisan. He finds the whole situation distasteful and essentially says, "Not on my watch," when Seven asks why resources should be spent to save a dying man who is scheduled to die in a few days anyway. Doc needs some of Seven's nanoprobes to repair damage to Iko's brain.

The story's turning point comes when Doc's treatments for Iko have an unexpected side effect: The nanoprobes repair a non-functioning area in Iko's brain which, according to further research, has been non-functional since his birth. It turns out that Iko was essentially born without a conscience. Now he has one. When he comes to, Iko is a very different person. He no longer makes threats; he's peaceful and, most interestingly, wracked with guilt over the murder he committed. He's never felt guilt before, or even close; he finds it overwhelming.

The implications here are interesting, because they raise questions of individual responsibility. Iko was a cold-blooded killer who thrived on terrorizing anyone and everyone (he threatens Janeway for apparently the sheer fun of it). Now he has become almost meekly pacifist. The transformation is nothing short of miraculous, and begs the question: Is this the same man, and does he still deserve to die?

Of course, the inevitable problem with stories like "Repentance" is that they are almost too metaphorical and hypothetical to be genuinely useful as commentary. Iko's very literal development of a conscience is an act of fantasy, not reality. It can be used as a metaphor for the violently mentally ill, perhaps, but it's far too extreme a case to be relative.

In the real world, mentally ill or unstable people also commit crimes. Are they less guilty than those who know full well that their actions are immoral and hurtful? Yes, because crime in our society generally stems from intent as well as from cause and effect. At the same time, we must hold individuals accountable for their crimes, regardless of their state of mind. State of mind is a mitigating factor but not simply an excuse.

Getting back to the death penalty issue, members of the Voyager crew make the case that Iko can now be reformed and that the death sentence is unnecessary. Seven begins to develop a rapport with Iko, whose guilt runs so deep that he says, "I deserve to die," and makes no initial attempt to even delay his forthcoming execution. Many of the Seven/Iko scenes work, featuring an understated sobriety that punctuates Iko's realization of how hurtful his past actions were. Still, I'm not always sure what to make of Jeff Kober's performance, which is flat and emotionless, having effects that range from perfectly appropriately disconnected to inexplicably lobotomized.

One thing that struck me as tired and obvious was the story's tendency to relate the issue to — once again — Seven's guilt over her Borg-life atrocities. The key Seven/Janeway discussion might as well be preceded with a title card that says, "OBVIOUS CHARACTER INSIGHT AHEAD," as Janeway informs Seven that her need to see Iko forgiven for his sins is equivalent to Seven's need to forgive herself for her sins as a Borg drone.

Not only has this gotten a bit old, I'm not so sure the situations are equivalent in a true sense. Seven was at the mercy of a collective where she was but a tiny unwilling participant; Iko was, in the most mitigating interpretation, at the mercy of his own internal pathology. One is clearly more directly responsible than the other.

I also could've done without a ship attacking Voyager, which conveniently sets a few too many plot pieces in motion, including the prisoners escaping the cargo bay and the deactivation of transporters that could restrain them.

On the other hand, I did find Yediq to be a believable character. Not to be mistaken as a needlessly stubborn plot device to butt heads with Janeway, Yediq has a point of view that seems to grow directly from long experience and cynicism, and an affirmed conviction that the system he works within does what it needs to do. Yes, he beats a defenseless prisoner quite brutally, which is wrong, but there's a ring of truth when he says, "Violence is the only thing he understands" (which at the show's outset seems pretty true of Iko). Yediq also is not unreasonable; ultimately he reluctantly agrees to Janeway's request to appeal to the family of Iko's victim.

There's another character here, a convict named Joleg (F.J. Rio) who represents another relevant issue, namely the disproportionate number of minorities on death row. He is a Benkaran, and he explains to the always-sympathetic Neelix how Benkarans are "known" by Nygeans to be criminals, and make up a large percentage of the prison population (and an even larger percentage of death row convicts) even though they only represent 10 percent of the general population. Sound like anything that can be said about the United States?

It's simultaneously truthfully ironic and yet savagely cruel to the larger issue at hand when the story finally reveals Joleg as a pathetic jailhouse liar trying to save his own skin. But because such people exist in the real world, it serves as a sad reflection of reality.

The Nygeans also have a rather strange sentencing policy, in that families of victims decide the punishment for those convicted of a murder. This is another example of something that exists far outside the reality of the issue being dissected, but in terms of the story it demonstrates very clearly (1) how sentencing can create a wide, unfair divide based on numerous personal biases or beliefs, or be influenced by how much money a defendant has available for restitution; and (2) how a victim's family members in a death penalty case are hardly the most objective when it comes to the death penalty issue. It's too easy to confuse revenge and justice when that close to a case; to ask for logic is merely wishful thinking.

Of course, for the story to work, Iko must die. It's wise that the story sees him not as an innocent victim but simply one convict who is sent through a system far larger than himself. He doesn't make excuses for what he did, but he's genuinely sorry. The family is undeterred in their sentencing decision — something that also strikes me as true to life.

Is "Repentance" a great episode? No. But it does make an effort to tackle a serious issue through observation while resisting the temptation of melodrama or sweeping changes. The sci-fi angle involving the nanoprobes is a double-edged sword, astutely highlighting certain arguments while burying others — and thus only further muddying the waters.

But it made me think a little. That's a good thing.

Next week: Klingons in the Delta Quadrant. Naturally.

Previous episode: Lineage
Next episode: Prophecy

Season Index

46 comments on this review

grumpy_otter - Wed, Sep 26, 2007 - 12:02pm (USA Central)
I think Jammer brilliantly pointed out the most glaring problems in this episode--the fact that this is a complete fantasy situation, and does not deal with the realities of mental illness (it seems nanoprobes can cure ANYTHING) and I agree with the 3 star assessment. Remove the fantasy elements and it could have been a 4-star outing.

I will disagree with his assessment of Jeff Kober's performance, however. I thought he was perfect. His portrayal of a man who was experiencing emotions he had never encountered before was brilliant. Guilt, for those of us who have experience with it, is a familiar companion. For Kober, it is new, and I thought his portrayal was spot-on. There very well might be moments when the surge of emotion was too much to bear--turning him into a virtual automaton.

I'd like to add that, regarding the death penalty issue (about which I am still undecided) I was reminded of Robert A. Heinlein's character, Juan Rico, from Starship Troopers. After a man who has killed a four-year-old girl has been executed, he ponders the rightness of the sentence. If the killer were insane, was it wrong to kill him? But if he could be made sane, how could he live with himself after his sanity returned, knowing what he had done?

Rico determines that all he can be sure of is that this man would never kill again, and he'll have to be satisfied with that.
indijo - Tue, Jan 8, 2008 - 8:48am (USA Central)
I don't think the nanoprobes cure was pure fantasy. To make that conclusion, one has to know exactly what the patient's neurological problem was to begin with, and that wasn't actually detailed.

There is some physiological connection between a past history of social problems and mental problems with neurological roots in some of the darker parts of the brain. For example, families with histories of alcoholism can be traced to past wars and uncontrolled violence is one of the worst symptoms.

We have no idea exactly what kind of neurological disorder Iko suffered from, but if it was isolated within a particular part of the brain, it could have been neutralized by nanoprobes. I thought that was one of the more scientifically interesting and speculative aspects of the episode.
Jakob M. Mokoru - Mon, Mar 31, 2008 - 7:38am (USA Central)
Well, well...

As a supporter of amnesty international, I always compliment producers for making episodes like "Repentance".

However, the conclusion of the episode hints that death penalty is alright, but that the Nygeans just execute the wrong alien (because of the mental illness at the time of the murder). I think that the episode would have made a stronger point, if it hadn't featured the "psychopath killer that has been cured and is now full of remorse" but the "killer that is undoubtetly guilty but also full of remorse". Then the debate would have been about death penalty in general and not death penalty in specific cases. Therefore it would have helped if the "racial minority-criminal" Neelix fancied wouldn't be dismissed as "bad guy that deserves what he gets".
EightofNine - Fri, May 23, 2008 - 7:29pm (USA Central)
A thoughtful episode which tackles some important topics. I liked the guest actor's performances, especially Yediq's and Iko's. I have to disagree with Jakob here though, I didn't get the feeling this episode condones the death penalty at all. If anything it seemed to point out it's driven more by feelings of revenge than objective justice. Also the storyline with Joleg is an altogether different but equally relevant issue. I guess the decision to reveal him in the end as a liar was to counterbalance the Iko story. They made Iko's plight sympathetic, so doing the same for Joleg would perhaps come off as a bit naive. While the fact of the overrepresentation of minorities in the general prison populace remains, some of the convicts, well, just simply are guilty. However I don't think it hurts the overall message.
This episode also made good use of Neelix, a character I quite like, but never really got fleshed out thoroughly (but then again, who did?). His interactions with the prisoners and contacting the Nygean authorities made sense, seeing he's cook, moral officer and ambassador.
Ofer Kalifon - Thu, Mar 5, 2009 - 3:40am (USA Central)
"Of course, the inevitable problem with stories like "Repentance" is that they are almost too metaphorical and hypothetical to be genuinely useful as commentary. Iko's very literal development of a conscience is an act of fantasy, not reality. It can be used as a metaphor for the violently mentally ill, perhaps, but it's far too extreme a case to be relative." - I seem to recall an episode of L&O:SVU where a teacher was having sex with her students couldn't control her urges. They discovered that she'd had a tumor all along that lowered her inhibitions and increased her sex drive. I think it's an apt metaphor and can happen in today's world under different circumstances. She was still punished BTW and registered as a sex offender.
Shane Anderson - Mon, May 11, 2009 - 8:02pm (USA Central)
I have to disagree with the review. This episode is far from even-handed. The deck is clearly stacked in favor of the anti-death penalty stance from the get-go. The guards transporting the prisoners are brutal thugs, thus creating a moral equivalence between the criminals and their captors. Seven and the Doctor recite pro and anti death penalty surface arguments at each other, but it's clear that the Doctor is the one with convictions, while to Seven it's an exercise in "seeing all sides". How "surprising" that Seven is the one that finds her views altered over the course of the story.

Then of course there's the "strawman political" moment when Neelix stuns Tom and B'Elanna into silence with his question about prisoners sentenced to death. I rolled my eyes at the utterly cliched nature of that scene.

All of this is topped off when we find that the magical Borg nanoprobes have repaired the convict's conscience? And turned him into a good man? As if the conscience is something physical rather than something intangible formed by belief and conviction.

This was not an even-handed treatment of the issue. It was a sledgehammer to the side of the viewer's head while the author and producers shout "teh deth penalty is badzzzz!" The episode may have its virtues, but balance is not one of them.

James - Thu, Sep 10, 2009 - 10:55am (USA Central)
Under Islam concept of Qisas the heirs of a murder victim could demand the execution of the murderer. Indeed traditionally the state couldn't kill without the family's permission.

I know this isn't the case in the US but it's not far outside of reality and, in fact, in certain countries continues to this day.
Lenny - Tue, Jan 12, 2010 - 11:00pm (USA Central)
I think the problem here is that everyone sees the episode as necessarily a commentary, and thus considers it a fault of the episode if it does something outside the realms of direct correlation with reality. Yes it has some commentary, but really that just allows us to relate to the story, which, being science fiction, is separate from reality. If you are looking for an essay on the life sentence in tv show form then this episode deserves 3 stars. If you want a good star trek story then it deserves 3 1/2.
Elliot Wilson - Tue, Feb 9, 2010 - 2:05pm (USA Central)

I wholeheartedly support the death sentence. So what? It's revenge? Big deal! It's more than the countless rapists, murderers, child abusers, and many more across America and the world deserve. To me though the crime has to be of great magnitude, not something piddly like theft or whatever. Fuck society when someone has intruded upon your home and done something wrong -- they've hurt YOU, not society. Society is a generic term -- we are millions, BILLIONS of families and units that make up the larger whole. Seriously, you scare me, Jammer. It's unnatural. Are you saying if someone, for example, came to your parents' home and murdered your family, robbed the place, and raped the female members, you wouldn't want to see them FRIED?? Sad. Jail is nothing more than sitting around. I GUARANTEE YOU, HALF the inmates in jail are CACKLING because they've done great wrong and are now punished only by staying someplace for life. Bah. But I suppose it can't be helped. I tend to take a more cynical and harsh view of the human race. I'm not naive. I see the truth: We're doomed, we've been doomed since the first moment we thought as a sentient race.
DeanGrr - Tue, Mar 2, 2010 - 11:08pm (USA Central)
This episode also raised the issue of what makes us who we are: how much of the way are brains are physically formed affects who we are, and how much is based on what we learn as we grow.

I thought the actor's performance of Iko was believable, in that the portion of his brain that enables conscience and guilt was damaged. I am not a neurologist, but my understanding is much of who I am, my emotions and my conscience, are directly linked to my genes and brain formation before birth: I can be born with some degree of conscience, or with so little as to be psychopathic.

This episode asks: if a person's brain could be re-formed to have a conscience, could we treat this as the same person, or a different sentient being in the same physical body? I disagreed with the victim's family that had Iko put to death: they saw the same face, not the evidence of a different mind.

As for Seven of Nine, it makes sense to me that we can revisit the same emotional issue (Seven's guilt at being a Borg) over the course of time, especially when a situation reminds us of the past.
Morphy - Sun, May 2, 2010 - 12:51am (USA Central)
This is Voyager's worst episode. It's nothing but a long, preachy rant. And what is there really new to say? Nothing. Very boring. Sorry, I disagree with Lenny - there is no "if you are looking for an essay" - it is ONLY an essay.

Voyager's worst episode in all seven seasons. Ran through the seasons again not long ago and this was the only one I skipped.
Lenny - Sun, May 2, 2010 - 5:57am (USA Central)
Surely not worse than Threshold?????
Paul - Tue, May 18, 2010 - 5:32pm (USA Central)
Strange message to this one. He did the right thing by handing his phaser over to the guard. Gave food to the hungry prisoner. Made a heartfelt appeal while stating 'if my death gives you peace, that's fine'. And he still gets executed! Moral of the story...good guys finish last. It could leave you 70000 light years from home, doing the right thing you know...

Why didn't Neelix check contents of letter? Surely even he would have spotted 'In ship called Voyager, come at once'.
alvinc - Thu, May 27, 2010 - 2:15am (USA Central)
I rather enjoyed this episode. I thought it was well acted, decently written, and for all of the obvious twists that I knew where coming; I didn't find it particularly contrived.

With regard to the episode's commentary about the death penalty... I think the episode sucessfully depicts the death penalty as a can of worms. Which I think it is.

My personal views on the death penalty are, in my view, rather simple. And I don't find the episode to be very contradictory of it.

I don't think the death penalty is justice. I think it's killing. And I think that sometimes, there is a really good reason to kill someone. It's a can of worms, but there it is.
Michael - Sun, Jul 18, 2010 - 7:34am (USA Central)
*rolls eyes*

Here we go again with yet another politically correct episode. This time the capital punishment found itself in the corsshairs. Naturally, and I say this not having read the review or comments yet and having viewed only the first five minutes of the show, I'm sure the accused will turn out to be either innocent (maybe they acted in self-defense or were framed!) or they were not in control of their faculties. Coz I'm sure we're not going to have a bunch of child-molesters, serial rapists and homicidal maniacs who knew exactly what they were doing being reprieved. And yes, I say being reprieved because I'm positive that's how the show will play out. They're bound to escape the gallows. If the authorities' eyes are opened abour the "cruelty" and "barbarism" of the death penalty in the process, why, so much the better!

All right, let's see how many of my predictions come to pass by the end of the episode. This'll be fun!

P.S. Even more annoying than that are the initial shots of Neelix wheeling in two pots full of his "old family recipe" slosh to give out to the detainees who, poor things, have to be treated with compassion and fed. That, after all, IS the enlightened way, isn't it!
Michael - Sun, Jul 18, 2010 - 11:56am (USA Central)
Well, I stand corrected. The episode turned out to be EVEN dumber than my worst fears would have me imagine. I'm astonished Janeway didn't give the inmates officer commissions, just to demonstrate how "progressive" and "enlightened" she is.

Basically, the show humanizes the criminals and portrays their guards as brutal thugs, so no prizes for guessing what the ultimate aim is. And all the "discourse" (if that's what blatant propaganda can be called) is driven in the direction of convincing the viewer the death penalty is wrong. It's so blatant that it's sickening. The show may as well have had a "Sponsored by Amnesty International" watermark. Pathetic. I'm always up for a good, informed debate but this is a flagrant attempt - indeed, an orgy - to force-feed an agendum to the viewer. I'm not even that gung-ho about the death penalty, but I found the show utterly unpalatable.

"Nausea could be a symptom of guilt." *puke*

One star.
jack - Tue, Aug 3, 2010 - 11:55am (USA Central)
Star Trek is is science-fiction, but it's a mark of ignorance to declare the cure as "fantasy". Unless you yourself have experienced insanity or some other brain disorder, it is morally irresponsible to deny the fact that some physical condition in the brain can plausibly cause someone to loose control of themselves. Insanity, after all, is a valid defense in court and rightly so.

Did you know that some people have a condition called synaesthesia can literally taste words and hear colors?

I might be self-righteous when I say this, but it doesn't mean I'm wrong - People who support the death penalty are either morally corrupt, incapable of logical thought, or incapable of sympathetic thought.
jack - Tue, Aug 3, 2010 - 12:08pm (USA Central)
It is amazing that the USA remains one of the few developed countries to retain the death penalty. It has been outlawed in the EU a long time ago, and now remains mostly a barbaric practice localized to 3rd world countries ... and the USA.

Some people who say things like "death penalty is revenge, so what?" are really disturbed in the head and probably need a nano-treatment ASAP.

It seems like only DeanGrr (commentator above me), got one of the main points of the episode - that "This episode also raised the issue of what makes us who we are: how much of the way are brains are physically formed affects who we are, and how much is based on what we learn as we grow."
Michael - Tue, Aug 3, 2010 - 1:30pm (USA Central)
Thanks for your OPINION, Jack. Should someone who committed a heinous crime knowing fully well what they were doing spend the next 30, 40, 50 or even more years being clothed and fed at the expense of, among others, his victim(s) and their relatives? I hardly thinks so. That's not justice, it's not enlightenment, it's not compassion; it's plain idiocy. If someone guilty of a capital crime is sent to the salt mines to do hard labor for a few decades, that's fine with me (though it'd be easier and cheaper to just dispatch them). But providing them accommodations and all modern facilities is beyond dumb. We are all taught or grow up innately knowing right from wrong (certainly in the case of capital offenses); if you choose to commit a wrong, you are no longer a person with rights and do not deserve the protection of the civil society. End of story.

Now, in the case of those with diminished responsibility, it's tough. On the one hand, they didn't know what they were doing at the time of committing the crime. On the other hand, their actions had a profound negative impact on the lives of at least several people. So what now: No death penalty if the actor was incalculable and administer a custodial sentence instead? What's the point? If the criminal has a warped perception of the reality, what's the use of incarcerating them, being that the imprisonment won't register with them? Put them in the booby hatch indefinitely? Wouldn't it be actually more humane - provided there's no treatment - to execute them?

Anyhow, I used to be against the death penalty and used to think that, because I'd find it impossible to kill someone in cold blood, no executioner should be allowed or forced to do the same. But the way some states, chiefly in Europe, are going, with providing unrepentant scumbags PlayStations and hookers in prison, made me turn around and say STRING 'EM UP!
Elliott - Thu, Aug 12, 2010 - 3:56am (USA Central)
This is adressed to Michael:

Your statement : "it humanises criminals" is enough for me to see that your ability to assess complex psychological situations is infantile. Committing a crime does not rob a person of his humanity, not completely, no matter how heinous the crime; to claim it does invites the real inhuman activity--turning people into dichotometric cartoons of good and evil, and treating them thusly.

Your observances of how societies that don't support the death penalty are is irrelevant--whether your observations are valid or not, one action does not inherently colour another simply because the same person commits both actions. Dumbass.
Procyon - Tue, Oct 26, 2010 - 5:57pm (USA Central)
I wholeheartedly agree with jack and Elliot. The death sentence is not something that should still occur in a modern society. The risk of justice murder alone, by killing purported but innocent "perpetrators", is good enough reason for any rational person to reject it.

Overall a fairly good episode, even if it's a bit obvious at times. It didn't take long to pin the calm and friendly prisoner as a probable manipulator, and the half-crazed unconscionable bastard as a likely candidate for "redemption."
Cloudane - Fri, Apr 8, 2011 - 7:48pm (USA Central)
Struggling to comment as I think everything has been said. It's an Issue Episode (a Trek staple) and does the job of demonstrating a side, whether you agree with it or not.

Without being involved to that level, it's hard to imagine. I suppose anyone close to the victim is bound to have an emotional reaction in the realms of wanting the criminal killed. But this takes the outside/observer angle and considers if a person can change.

Can they.. I don't know. I'll admit I'm more for locking them up - I'm not sure how many of you have been to prison (I haven't) but I suspect it's probably NOT the fluffy friendly comfortable place the Daily Mail or American equivalents would have you believe...

I hesitate to make the comment, and I'm not religious myself, but isn't America very heavily Christian? With all that forgiveness for sins malarkey? Ironic that the same country is also highly unforgiving (to the point of shooting people if they threaten their material possessions)
alvinc - Wed, May 4, 2011 - 2:24pm (USA Central)
Cloudane:

I think it's hard to quantify the US as "heavily Christian"; especially in light of the age-old struggle of practicing what one preaches.

I guess it would be more concise to say that, Christian or not, the US has issues with the principle of forgiveness.

I had mentioned earlier in this thread that in my view, the death penalty isn't justice. It's killing.

Although that said, sometimes there is a good reason to kill somebody.

It's a can of worms.
Jelendra - Fri, Jul 6, 2012 - 7:36am (USA Central)
I am pro capital punishment if the circumstances warrant and the evidence is irrefutable. Having said that I thought this was a very good episode. It brought up several issues, such as Seven's time with the Borg assimilating others, and the likelihood of Iko from mental illness due to a birth defect. The episode rang true for me...including the bit with Neelix and the other prisoner..
SpeedingSlowly - Sat, Sep 22, 2012 - 4:27pm (USA Central)
Ahhh the age old death penalty conundrum. I've never had a problem with the death penalty. Actually, in cases where it's applied appropriately, I find it to be the most logical form of justice there is. You take a life with intent, you lose your life. Seems pretty straightforward. Now obviously that doesn't apply for things like theft or what not.
The view that the death penalty isn't part of a civilized society is nothing but opinion. The age's dominant civilization defines the rules, and it has varied over time what the rules are. The only argument that attempts to validate this belief as a truth that surpasses ages, is the view that evolution is turning man into something that science fiction writers envisioned. But, it's cultural-based fiction... and it usually ends up being the opinion from self-righteous people who define themselves and others who share that view as 'enlightened'.

I can understand WHY someone would't be pro-death penalty, and I certainly don't hate them for it or think they're stupid. But it just irritates me when a view like this starts being espoused as an absolute, when it does not have the support to be so.
That being said, no, this was not a favorite episode of mine. It was hardly a balanced approach... This was a sunday school lesson from the church of starfleet.
Destructor - Sun, Dec 16, 2012 - 9:48pm (USA Central)
I enjoyed this episode for a lot of reasons, mainly because the thing that Jammer found so far-fetched (that you might be able to 'repair someone's psychosis) is not far-fetched at all. Don't we give violent offenders drugs to change their personality. Who is to say what is the 'real' them. If there was a surgery that could make a violent person more peaceful, would they opt to take it? After the change, Iko himself wanted to die. It's an interesting thought experiment.

I also enjoy it because it is so unashamedly against the death penalty. I don't care what you think of the death penalty in the real world- it clearly, obviously, shouldn't be legal in the made-up world of the Federation.
gogol - Tue, Jan 1, 2013 - 6:51pm (USA Central)
As an European I wonder how it is possible to argue about this. Nobody here beside some neo facists is even thinking about it. But I think the point of the sudden healing was that even the slightest possibility of resocialisation should lead to a punishment which upholds this option. This is the very nature of modern law.
Adara - Sat, May 11, 2013 - 3:07am (USA Central)
A lot of prisons in the US are either privately owned or benefit private companies by providing labor for them at near-slave wages. That's why they have no interest in rehabilitating people. After all, what's a business without repeat customers? To them, rehabilitation is a bad investment. It's a horrible and corrupt system.
Robbie - Sat, Jul 6, 2013 - 8:45am (USA Central)
I know it may sound excessively harsh, but this gets a ratings from me of zero stars.
The first thirty minutes of this show for me were one of the best Voyager episodes I've ever seen – maybe the best. Why? Because it did a great job of true science fiction by taking a serious moral issue and then using the setting of a science fiction future to examine one of its important aspects. It “evil” as we understand it were simply a disease, a chemical imbalance, and could be corrected by something like a serum released into the water supply, then wouldn't a “psychopath” be basically a malnourished person? What would be the appropriate punishment for their crime? Killing them even though they're not really the same person and the person they are now wasn't in control at the time? Should you withold the “cure” as punishment? It illustrates the philosophical emptiness of retributive justice. Is a person more than their physiology and their circumstances? If you precisely copied, as if in a computer program, every detail of person's mind and physiology as well as their complete external circumstances, down to every molecule and every single attribute of every person they would encounter, and then 'ran the program again,' would there be a different result? If so, what is the third missing factor? The problem is that, to a significant degree, religious tradition has left us with this nebulous notion of a “soul” distinct from physiology and cirumstance that makes us feel justified in using retributive justice which, ultimately, is just an act of animalistic violence to sooth our emotions.
To all the people commenting things like, “the criminals should die for what they did, so what if it's revenge!” or complaining about humanizing criminals, I really have nothing to say. It's just emotional venting, it's immature, and it's not thoughtful. I realize that there is a practical issue when it comes to what to do with a truly dangerous and unrepentant murderer, but this episode is examing the real question. If you don't have an answer to the above question, you're a waste of time to talk to.
Here's where the episode crashes and burns for me – the subplot about the racial minority alien criminal. They just HAD to insert “balance,” even if it was totally perfunctory and forced and largely undermines the story they were trying to tell. They should have been much more careful about who they chose to be the good-guy-turned-bad-guy to counter the bad-guy-turned-good-guy because the stakes here are important. By reaffirming the idea that the apparently innocent guy from the group seen to have criminal tendencies is a bad guy, they're glibly undermining the point they're making with the other criminal guest star.
Even worse - they're forgetting the fact that the intention of the Benkaran criminal to kill the warden DOESN'T prove he's a bad guy in the way they portray it here, as he may have simply been reacting to a lifetime of oppression. Does that make killing him right? No, but equating that, a reaction to circumstances, with being a psychopathic killer, is thoughtless and utterly destroys any attempt to make the point they're making here.
I often rip on episodes that are excessively preachy with the social commentary, but I also can tolerate it a bit more if I agree with the message, as I do with the one presented in the main plot. The subplot's utter failure to reflect any sense of social responsibility TOTALLY ruins it.
azcats - Mon, Aug 26, 2013 - 4:07pm (USA Central)
every prisoner who has been convicted of a crime 3 times should be put to death.

glad he died.
SpiceRak2 - Sat, Sep 14, 2013 - 8:16pm (USA Central)
@Robbie - - I agree with your assessment of the secondary plot. I was crushed that the storyline skewed in that direction. Any empathy for minorities that are singled out and disproportionately incarcerated and/or executed was washed away by this new "revelation." What a shame.

Additionally, I found something interesting about the primary plot (and I am surprised that no one has mentioned it out of this group): The story was not purely about the moral dilemma of capital punishment, but rather asks if justice should be applied to someone who commits a societal wrong AND has a neurological malady that may be the cause. It is a compelling argument; how much of our actions are based on the soul? Yet, no one on Voyager was fighting to save the prisoner from his punishment PRIOR to his nano-treatment. The Prime Directive was fitting when Iko was a dangerous lunatic. This wasn't about whether the death penalty was moral. It was about whether the death penalty is moral under specific circumstances.
Jo Jo Meastro - Tue, Oct 15, 2013 - 2:26pm (USA Central)
It didn't do much for me, I just couldn't connect much to the drama and as many have mentioned it's all too diluted and so circumstantial that very little of it feels valid as a relatable topical drama.

"Critical Care" had its own goals and its own convictions clearly marked out and as a natural progression of the plot. "Repentance" has none of these vital qualities to make a good social commentary episode.

Here, the episode seems extremely hesitant and contradictory to make any kind of statement at all except to say dispensing justice is sometimes complicated, which is hardly a news flash. It didn't help that I couldn't sympathise or care about the characters who were the just stock-standard prison movie clichés. It just wasn't interesting or dimensional enough to invest in this predictable plight.

The story itself never went anywhere interesting or do anything original. It played out almost exactly how I expected and even with Mike Vejars' solid direction; I just never was gripped. The only intriguing aspect I found was the way Seven had to reflect and deal with the blood that she feels is still on her hands, yet this has been explored one too many times before.

In the end, it wasn't bad as such but lackluster and I never felt compelled or connected to anything on the screen. I believe it failed to say anything substantial or even have a clear point behind it and worst of all, it wasn't very entertaining.

2/4 stars. However, I must admit that I am very impressed with season 7 so far. Only 2 episodes have been below average IMO which is a pretty impressive track record!
David Galvan - Fri, Oct 18, 2013 - 10:51am (USA Central)
Great review!

One point I'll add:
The idea of Iko's lack of conscience being a physiological trait that predisposed him to violence is not so "sci-fi" as we might originally think. I think it may be relatable beyond the idea of those who are "mentally ill".

From what I have heard/read about the psychology of "psychopaths", the distinguishing feature of a psychopath is that they do not feel empathy. That is, they cannot emotionally understand how their actions hurting other people really feel to those people. The idea that this lack of empathy may be linked to a neurological condition (or even a genetic trait) where a certain part of their brain is not active is within the realm of scientific plausibility. I saw this Voyager episode as exploring that possibility. (You might argue that a "psychopath" is someone classified as "mentally ill", but I think that is currently a gray area. Maybe in the future the psychological diagnosis of a lack of empathy will indeed be classified as "mentally ill".)

Anyway, I thought it was a very thought-provoking episode. Glad they made it!
Nissa - Wed, Jan 22, 2014 - 10:06pm (USA Central)
I'm not going to comment on the episode, but rather Jammer's statement above: "In such cases there's always a lot of talk about deterrence and justice, but when it comes down to it, it's more about satisfying the victims' (and society's at large) collective emotional need to take as much as can be taken from the worst of offenders, without resorting to outright torture."

This is asserting one's own opinion on the population at large. Simply put, how does Jammer KNOW that it's more about emotional need than deterrence? Granted, emotion is there, but there is no way to prove that one is more important than another. And even if the emotion is there, does that make it wrong? Does that entirely negate the quite valid notion of deterrence?

My view is that bad things need to happen to those who do bad because others need to feel that murdering and stealing will result in bad things for them. There are only three reasons a person won't do something bad: internal morals, fear of hurting others, and avoiding consequences. If someone doesn't have morals and doesn't care for others, then they need to be afraid that something will happen to themselves. They need to know there's a dark pit ahead of them so they can walk around it. Do I think the death penalty is necessary? From time to time, yes.

As far as the episode goes, I like the idea of fixing someone's mind and allowing them to see what they've done. The implication that all wrongdoing comes from mental errors is iffy, but hey, science fiction is all about playing with ideas, so cool.
Steinway - Mon, Feb 17, 2014 - 3:19pm (USA Central)
I really liked this episode. Like Jalandra, I'm one of those who believes that capital punishment can be used appropriately from time to time, but certainly not as a means of revenge, which would be wrong. I say that not to further fuel the fire, but just to say that a person who can see the appropriate application of capital punishment in some cases can also like this episode. I thought the characterizations were very good and the plot was well thought out. Yes, I knew that Iko was going to "prove himself" at the end of the episode, but I liked how it played out because I thought it was well acted and well conceived.

I knew that some would be offended by the subplot with the other prisoner, but it's a mistake to stereotype his situation. They highlighted the fact that these minorities take up more space in the presence that makes sense, but the point was that some of those people were justified in being there.

To me the episode was thoughtful, not preachy.
DLPB - Tue, Mar 18, 2014 - 2:40pm (USA Central)
This episode is among the ultimate truths that Trek is a left wing propaganda machine. It never does things fairly. You have a society that has the death penalty, but Starfleet (liberal writers who live in lovely areas away from crime and have all their lives) sees that as wrong, so it must be.

They then do what all good propaganda pieces do... LOAD THE DICE. The guards are shown to beat up the unarmed inmates, just so that the audience feels pity for the criminals. The whole thing is awash with these loaded dice moments, and from what I can see, a lot of people on this thread are thick and stupid, because they've been pulled right in.

This episode is deliberately lop-sided to have a go at people who believe in the death penalty. The funny thing is, the people who are against the death penalty are nearly always middle class- upper class people, who live miles away from real life.

DLPB - Tue, Mar 18, 2014 - 2:43pm (USA Central)
Also, although your lying media won't tell you it, the reason more blacks are executed is because... surprise surprise, by % of their population, they do more crime. And are far more likely to be involved with drugs and guns.
Andy's Friend - Tue, Mar 18, 2014 - 3:38pm (USA Central)
@DLPB:

"You have a society that has the death penalty, but Starfleet (liberal writers who live in lovely areas away from crime and have all their lives) sees that as wrong, so it must be."

"...the reason more blacks are executed is because... surprise surprise, by % of their population, they do more crime. And are far more likely to be involved with drugs and guns."

You know, I don't live in a society with the death penalty. Actually, in Western Europe we're about 400 million people who do not have the death penalty, who do not have easy access to guns, and do not have anything like the violent crime rates the United States have.

So the reason more people *in America* are prosecuted and punished for violent crimes than in Europe is because... "surprise surprise, by % of their population, they do more crime. And are far more likely to be involved with drugs and guns."

Wake up, DLPB. Travel. See the world. Study, work, live abroad. Learn other languages. Expand your horizons. It's good for you.



DLPB - Tue, Mar 18, 2014 - 5:18pm (USA Central)
Oh, look, don't debate the points, just take the argument to the person. Classic liberal trick.
DLPB - Tue, Mar 18, 2014 - 5:19pm (USA Central)
And I am from UK. Most people here support the death penalty but are ignored by elitist snob politicians who live in lala land, like Trek.
Jo Jo Meastro - Wed, Mar 19, 2014 - 10:09am (USA Central)
@ DLPB I'm sorry but you can't speak for all of us here in the UK. It is a hotly debated topic filled with grey areas and conflicting view points, it is nothing remotely resembling clear-cut as you make it out to be. If it was inclined in any way, it tends to be people from a older generation are most vocally in favour wheras the younger tend to either be proud we outlawed it or recognise it as the difficult issue that it is.

I will however agree about our snob politicians who range from misguided to clueless and greedy. A good, honest, hard working politician is sadly a rare thing in any part of the world.
DLPB - Mon, Mar 24, 2014 - 6:07pm (USA Central)
I didn't speak for "all", I spoke for the majority, and there are plenty of polls that back up a majority want it back. That's a fact.
Dzzt - Sun, May 4, 2014 - 9:27pm (USA Central)
@DPLB

What? I have no idea where you got the idea that the vast majority of UK citizens want to reinstate the death penalty.

It would be nice if, when bringing statistics into an argument, you could... substantiate your claims? You know... actually provide some sort of evidence? A link, a source, the name of the poll in question...

It's not enough to just pull something out of your backside. Especially when you claim to "speak for the majority".

Also, a little tip to improve your argumentative technique: "that's a fact" is not a valid statement in and of itself. Particularly when not actually backed up by a single fact.
dlpb - Sat, May 10, 2014 - 12:32pm (USA Central)
www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2023306/More-half-Britons-want-return-deat h-penalty-reveals-shock-poll.html

There have been dozens and dozens of studies showing support. Maybe you could, you know, use Google? It's your friend.

www.lawgazette.co.uk/analysis/bringing-back-the-death-penalty/70817.article
K'Elvis - Sat, Jun 14, 2014 - 7:19pm (USA Central)
The dice are only seem loaded because you aren't looking at all the dice. Iko is shown as a super-criminal, who is even dangerous inside a locked cell. That's a loaded dice right there.

Those complaining about this episode being "politically correct" are accusing Star Trek of engaging in a thought-crime. It's not propaganda, it's a perspective. If you don't like that perspective, there are plenty of programs that will provide you with the perspective you want to see.

I thought the episode tried to cover too much. If someone's crimes are caused by a brain defect, and that defect can be corrected, should that person be executed? It's a perfectly legitimate question. But they tried to cover too many other issues. There is disparity in the sentences people get for the same crime, and you get better justice if you can afford a better lawyer. These too are worthy issues, but there isn't enough time to cover them in one episode.
Ric - Thu, Jun 26, 2014 - 1:41am (USA Central)
I think I have never seen a more direct, less subtle, issue-episode in all Trek shows so far. This was almost not an allegory or metaphor, but a crude treatment of the issue being discussed.

I don't mean the episode itself is totally bad, or the moral debate is totally weak. It is an ok episode for me. However, what does not get off my mind is the feeling that this episode represents very well the decadence of Voyager's dexterity to shape episodes at this point of the show.

Voyager sometimes (and increasingly often at the end) pushed too hard and too artificially to look smart, to look profound, to look deep, rather than being so. This episode is the epitome of such process, where the moral issue being portrayed was so directly debated that it could almost be done without any known characters of Voyager being in it.

In a nutshell, this one was not Trek being a venue for a philosophical debate. It was a philosophical debate being an excuse for one more episode of Trek.

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