Star Trek: Voyager

"Workforce"

Part I: ***1/2
Air date: 2/21/2001
Written by Kenneth Biller & Bryan Fuller
Directed by Allan Kroeker

Part II: ***
Air date: 2/28/2001
Teleplay by Kenneth Biller & Michael Taylor
Story by Kenneth Biller & Bryan Fuller
Directed by Roxann Dawson

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I'm still feeling kind of queasy from that nectar."
"I treated you days ago!"
"Whatever you did hasn't worked. Maybe all those command subroutines are compromising your medical abilities."
"Maybe all that sarcasm is compromising your natural charm."

— Harry and Doc

In brief: An intriguing and thoroughly entertaining premise, featuring an eerie take on the workplace and a plot that moves swiftly and confidently.

Perhaps the best thing about "Workforce" is that it's a refreshing escape from the reality (as it were) of the usual Voyager situation. Here's an episode that looks and feels like good, grander storytelling, taking us to an unfamiliar but relatable world where it gives the characters bizarre, unwanted vacations from themselves.

Simply put, the premise for this episode is a neat idea. We join the story already in progress, as Janeway begins her first day at work at a massive power plant on a mysterious industrialized world. She introduces herself as Kathryn Janeway, New Employee. What is she doing here? Other oddities pique our interest when we see that Seven of Nine and Tuvok also work at this plant.

Is this an undercover mission? We quickly learn no. Although the plot is gradual in giving us all the information, it's clear that our characters' memories have been tampered with. What's nice about this plot structure is that we have our suspicions even before the story reveals all its cards, the whats and hows. We quickly understand that the crew had been kidnapped specifically to be dropped into the labor force of this company, as new employees.

Talk about your extreme solutions to labor shortages.

How did this happen? Doc explains via flashback: Voyager had been ambushed in a unique way — with an invisible mine that unleashed toxic radiation. Forced to abandon ship, we see that the Voyager crew was "rescued" by the crews of nearby ships. The would-be rescuers were really the perpetrators, having put Voyager in this precarious situation to get their hands on its defenseless crew. (My only question, best ignored, is how economically viable it would be to hire or bribe the crews of armed starships so they can round up 100 or so people to work in your plant.)

It's to the story's credit that we learn these details only after we've been able to watch the crew interacting in new situations, unaware that their lives had just a few days ago been very different. It gets us drawn into the mystery from the very beginning, putting us on the same level of unawareness as the characters.

The only members of the crew not kidnapped are Chakotay, Harry, and Neelix — who were away on a Delta Flyer mission at the time of the kidnappings — and the Doctor, who was left in command to safeguard Voyager when the rest of the crew was forced to flee the radiation. (Can one person fly a whole starship and fire its phasers? Apparently so, but never mind.)

The idea of bringing back the ECH ("Emergency Command Hologram") — first explored as a comic daydream in "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy" — is a rational plot device, and a pretty smart course of action on Janeway's part. Once Chakotay's away team returns to Voyager, the mission is to go to this world, called Quarra, and track down the abducted Voyager crew.

The depiction of the Quarren world makes a big difference in the overall impact of the episode, and is nicely realized through effective visual effects. If Voyager has demonstrated anything the past few years, it's that a healthy budget and outstanding production values can make a difference in a story's persuasiveness. This show looks and feels like a million bucks (especially compared to lesser productions like Andromeda), which, along with Dennis McCarthy's more-awed-than-usual musical score, helps make this world seem real. Through CGI and mattes depicting large structures and lots of people, this mega-industrialized planet comes alive with motion and yet still seems appropriately arid, as most of that motion comes from hundreds of people walking to their workplaces like Borg drones.

Much of the story's fascination arises from our characters in their new identities. Janeway meets a co-worker named Jaffen (James Read), and before long they're dating and even living together. Meanwhile, back at the power distribution plant, we meet Annika Hansen (Seven of Nine), who holds the middle-management position of "efficiency monitor." If anyone is perfect for the job of efficiency monitor, it's Seven. And Paris, who couldn't keep his job at the plant (fired by aforementioned efficiency monitor), finds himself hired at the nearby bar. Appropriate, how his somewhat renegade nature still seems a part of his new personality. Torres frequents this bar to spend time alone, quietly studying engineering schematics — not unlike our actual Torres. Tuvok is different in that he laughs and cracks lame jokes — which seems contrary to the similarity that everyone else exhibits when compared to their actual selves — but since the writers reasonably make Tuvok the subject of the memory-control failure, I'm not going to complain.

After work, everyone hangs out at the same bar for happy hour to relax after a shift at the workplace. There's a subtext here on the subject of human happiness. As programmed into their memories, our characters — as primarily seen in the Janeway/Jaffen storyline — are kept in line mostly by the belief that their lives now are as good or better than they ever have been, and that having this job is the key to success and fulfillment. "I'm from a planet called Earth," Janeway says to Jaffen. "Overpopulated, polluted — very little work." They live in decent apartments afforded them specifically by, of course, their jobs.

Indeed, there's a point once Chakotay has found Janeway and is trying to figure out how to break the truth of her forgotten life to her. He asks her if she's happy. "I have a good job," she responds. Funny, how the quality of her job is the first thing she mentions when discussing the quality of her life. On this planet of industry, it would seem your job is the most important benchmark of your self-identity. Sounds kind of like America.

My favorite human aspect of "Workforce" is the subtly sweet Tom/B'Elanna subplot. Here are two characters whose memories have been changed so they now see each other as complete strangers ... and yet something prompts Tom to care for and try to protect B'Elanna after their chance meeting at the bar. Paris is not simply trying to "pick her up" (like his attempts on some of his other customers); rather, something makes him approach her with a higher respect and concern for her welfare. I liked this a lot; it's a quietly affecting story development that brings a human touch to the sci-fi theme of memory alteration. If you're one who believes in destiny, it might cross your mind here.

What's nice is how these humanistic subtexts grow out of the main drive of the story, which is a kidnapping-conspiracy plot that's surprisingly well executed. It involves a crooked brain surgeon named Kaden (Don Most) who conspires with administrators at the power plant to deliver fresh laborers who have implanted memories that will make them better appreciate their jobs. All of Voyager's crew has been assigned to this plant. But something in Tuvok's subconscious knows there's something wrong, and when he briefly mind-melds with Seven, her own suspicions begin to surface. Meanwhile, Chakotay, working from the other end of the game, goes undercover to expose the conspiracy and rescue the crew.

To go into much more of the plot's detail would be superfluous. There are a lot of apt little details (like computer records at the plant) that move the story from beat to beat and supply us and the characters with clues, respecting their intelligence and ours. It's all executed with a confidence that makes me wonder how aimless plots like "Prophecy" even happen. The story progress feels almost like a Law & Order episode, which is high praise, since the forward movement of complex plot elements on L&O is about as good as it gets on television.

I especially appreciated that the story featured a guest character working on the inside to find the truth, and who is therefore on our side. His name is Yerid (Robert Joy), and although bureaucracy often renders him powerless, he's no dummy (which is refreshing); with the help of some of the victims he slowly begins to chip away at the conspiracy. How he enters the story is interesting, and where and when Chakotay decides he can trust Yerid — in a moment of desperation while being rolled away in restraints on an operating table — reveals the story's villains as working on multiple levels of deception, thus making the plot even more compelling to watch unfold.

The second half of "Workforce" doesn't play as well on the themes of the workplace as part one does, but it probably couldn't have with so much plot in motion. There is, however, at least one dead end in part two that doesn't pay off, which is the friction between conspirator Kadan and his innocent assistant in the operating room, Ravok (Jay Harrington). Much is made of a scene (which is weakly performed, alas) where Ravok's suspicions about the conspiracy are awakened and Kadan justifies his actions as something necessary for society. The friction between the two is set up but never resolved. Similarly, John Aniston's role as the Quarren ambassador proves to be a mostly unnecessary walk-on that serves little purpose other than to conveniently bookend the two hours.

I also have some reservations about memory alterations being so easily reversed without the dialog necessary to explain that ease. There's a point where B'Elanna is rescued but doesn't know who she is. Doc describes the alterations as "radical," but wouldn't a few lines explaining that B'Elanna's real memories were intact but repressed with drugs have made this a little easier to swallow, and less like a miracle when she inexplicably seems to know who she is a few scenes later? (But don't get me wrong — the scene where she visits her Voyager quarters and realizes the waiter from the bar is actually her husband is a moment with true emotional resonance.)

Aside from the solid mechanics of its plot, "Workforce" covers a lot of ground in two hours. The relationship between Janeway and Jaffen is pleasantly depicted, and explores a "what-if" situation pretty nicely (until maybe Janeway's none-too-ambivalent last line to Chakotay in the final scene). Chakotay finally gets some solid screen time where he gets to take action and play hero without being saddled with a plotted mess (see "Shattered"). A comic subplot involving the tug-of-war for command between Harry and the Doctor is amusing, albeit hopelessly petty (and therefore appropriate for these characters). Everybody gets some good moments, making this one of the better ensemble shows on Voyager's record.

The technical credits are impressive, including the directing. Part one (Allan Kroeker) ends with dizzying crosscutting between characters that is jarringly effective, as Chakotay flees the authorities, Janeway has a romantic encounter, and Tuvok is about to undergo invasive surgery. Part two (Roxann Dawson) handles the increasing plot elements with expert pacing; Dawson shows she can direct a big show with a good script just as well as a small one with a mediocre script (last season's "Riddles").

The only thing missing from "Workforce" is a powerful ending. The first half shows the signs of a subtle message episode, highlighting ordinary issues of daily employment as filtered through a harrowing sci-fi premise. Part two is skillful, well-characterized plot wrap-up, but with an ending a little too routine for my tastes.

When I think about the bigger scope of my job, I like to think I'm doing something useful and worthwhile. Sometimes, by the end of my shift, I'm relieved I'm going home, and hardly thrilled about the fact I have to come back. Maybe my employer should tamper with my brain; I might appreciate my job more.

Next week: Seven and Chakotay get it on. Say what? (No, I'm not making this up.)

Previous episode: The Void
Next episode: Human Error

◄ Season Index

55 comments on this review

indijo
Sat, May 24, 2008, 5:21pm (UTC -6)
IMO, the best episode of the final season and quite possibly the very best episode of the entire series.
EightofNine
Mon, May 26, 2008, 5:57pm (UTC -6)
A very nice episode, it had quite a cinematic feel to it. Tuvok being dragged off kicking and screaming "We don't belong here!" reminded me of classics such as Soylent Green. I disagree about the 'dead end' to the Kadan/Ravok subplot though. At the end of the discussion, when Ravok leaves, Kadan asks him whether he'll join in on the conspiracy. Later when Seven and Yerid enter the operating room we see Ravok on one of the slabs, being treated for 'dysphoria syndrome', so it's pretty clear what he ended up choosing.
Aaron
Thu, Jul 31, 2008, 2:41pm (UTC -6)
One of the best. They should put this on the "Alternate Realities" Collective DVD set.
Jay
Sat, Sep 5, 2009, 11:21am (UTC -6)
A good two parter, but another of the "fortunately some of the crew was on an away mission while this happened so they could save us" contrivances (like Season 3's Macrocosm and TNG's Genesis) that get a little hard to stomach.
Zarm
Mon, Dec 7, 2009, 11:14am (UTC -6)
"Tuvok is different in that he laughs and cracks lame jokes -- which seems contrary to the similarity that everyone else exhibits when compared to their actual selves --"

But recall, this is a memory-wiped Tuvok who does not remember his Vulcan mental disciplines; this is the 'true' Tuvok- the emotional being- that lurks beneath the surface; this is, apparently, Tuvok as he would be if he did not have his Vulcan discipline, training, and upbringing.
Michael
Tue, Jul 20, 2010, 7:47pm (UTC -6)
Zarm: Your reasoning is based on the presupposition that Tuvok (and probably everybody else in the universe) is by default born being emotional and behaving like an average human. Why should that be the case?? Why could an alien race naturally NOT have emotions and emotional responses genetically encoded? I found the guffawing Tuvok jarring; he's probably my favorite character precisely because he is level-headed and not given to emotional drama.

Anyway, yeps, an AWESOME episode, one of the best of the entire Voyager series for sure. It gets slow (the Paris-at-the-bar angle and Torres recollections) and too soppy (Janeway getting laid and all the related frills) at times, and Neelix is really irritating on occasions, but it's great otherwise.

One major thing that doesn't make sense is how can the abductors have developed a memory-alteration method that works on EVERY single species. Voyager alone has several races as crewmembers; wouldn't their neural pathways and physiology be significantly different? How come Seven, with all her cybernetic implants, was as susceptible to the "reprogramming" as your run-of-the-mill human?

I'd give the second part 3.5 stars, too.
Zarm
Tue, Aug 31, 2010, 11:53am (UTC -6)
Michael- actually, this is not a presupposition; it has been established numerous times throughout Star Trek- including in Voyager, IIRC, that Vulcans are emotional beings who are in fact MORE passionate and emotional than humans. After being lead by these passions to the brink of destruction in numerous wars, the teachings of Surak became their salvation as a sort of backlash... rather than reigning in the passions that had all but destroyed them, the highly emotional Vulcans- naturally born more passionate in feelings than most others species- suppressed them completely by means of intentional discipline, adopting logic as their guide.

Episodes like Blood Fever (VOY), Riddles (VOY) The Naked Time (TOS), and Amok Time (TOS) show what happens when that discipline is shattered and the Vulcans become their natural, emotional selves (albeit in each case through artificial circumstances)... as does this one. :-) Vulcans are not emotionless because they have no emotions- but rather because they suppress them.

Well... that's my nerd lecture for the day. :-)

I agree with the implausibility of a memory-wipe technique that works universally across species, though! :-)
Apsara81Cloud
Sat, Dec 18, 2010, 3:17am (UTC -6)
If all the crew (except Chakotay, Neelix, Kim, EMH) were abducted, was Naomi Wildman placed in a child labor camp? :]
Cloudane
Sat, Apr 9, 2011, 12:43pm (UTC -6)
He probably slept through all the stuff about Vulcan emotions, citing something about "annoying touchy feely character crap" :-) Indeed, they aren't emotionless, but in fact trained from childhood to repress them.

" Funny, how the quality of her job is the first thing she mentions when discussing the quality of her life. On this planet of industry, it would seem your job is the most important benchmark of your self-identity. Sounds kind of like America."

Same in UK. It bugs me on TV when members of the public always have to introduce themselves as "My name is {Fred} and I'm a {Job Title} from {Location}". As if you're not a person with your own interests, views, beliefs etc. My name is Cloudane and I'm not my job title. I'm a nerd from England.

Anyway, the episode(s). Not sure what else to add, which is a good sign as it's usually to moan or nitpick hehe. It was an interesting and possibly unique (for Trek) story with beautifully done characterisation (e.g. Tom and B'llana as has been mentioned). Kept me hooked. Combined score of 3.5 for me.
Michael
Mon, Apr 11, 2011, 2:31pm (UTC -6)
@Cloudane:

Yeah, that IS interesting. I read an article a few years back on the subject. It contrasted the Western way of introductions to that found in, say, eastern Africa where people introduce themselves as "I'm XYZ, the son of ABC, from the tribe of N," emphasizing their ties of consanguinity.

I don't think there's anything wrong with that. We all have our priorities in life and it's a free country!
Cloudane
Mon, Apr 11, 2011, 7:02pm (UTC -6)
Yeah - it's just really on the TV shows where they HAVE to introduce themselves that way if they want to participate (what if they're between jobs... for shame!). If someone *wants* to introduce themselves as their job title it's entirely different and I'm all for that.

Of course, in fiction some are even named by their job title. There's the Doctor and The Doctor for starters :)

X son of A is very Klingon!
V
Tue, Feb 14, 2012, 12:28am (UTC -6)
I like ensemble stories. Trek is meant to be that way or should be. Hence why I am not a fan of the new Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise cause he destroyed all the characters, the team and just egocentrically focused on tom cruise. I love the action and adventure, but i care more if they're characters I relate to or aspire to, not just individually but also as a team working together.
Zero
Thu, Apr 12, 2012, 6:22pm (UTC -6)
OK so I really loved these couple of episodes but it really bugged me that the bat'leth on the wall in Torres' quarters was different. :P
Paul York
Sat, May 5, 2012, 5:37pm (UTC -6)
A recurring and important theme in all ST shows is ethics: good versus evil. Here we see it again in full force. It is evil to abduct people, wipe their memories and turn them into slaves, albeit willing slaves who think they are free citizens. They have the freedom to choose their jobs and their lives, but within the limited parameters of the economy they are inserted into. The violence is removing their original identities, for profit. I see this as a strong commentary on forced labour that occurs in our society, and how economic slaves are socially conditioned to identify with their new jobs. Human slavery is alive and well in the 21st century Earth, in various forms, with people of all kinds being tricked or coersed or forced into labour of various kinds, including prostitution; this two-part episode illustrates why it is wrong. I thought it was a powerful and compelling social commentary on a problem plaguing our society, whether or not viewers made the connection.
Chris
Sun, Oct 21, 2012, 2:05pm (UTC -6)
Chakotay must have vegetarianism that comes and goes, since he tucked into Beduvian quail in the episode right before this one...
Arachnea
Fri, Feb 1, 2013, 11:34pm (UTC -6)
I very much appreciated last episode - The Void - and this two-parters. While the first wasn't very subtle, this one was, in the decoupage, the little scenes, the characters interactions and the social allegory. I much agree with Cloudane, my job doesn't define me, even if it's an important part of my life. And I very much agree with Paul York about brainwashing, slavery and "half-slavery".

To answer Chris, I never understood why they said Chakotay was a vegetarian. It was established on TNG that they didn't kill animals anymore. What they eat is replicated meat, thus, not really meat. My question is (being a vegetarian myself), for what reason Chakotay wouldn't eat replicated fish and meat when no animal suffered ?
Cysta
Sat, Jul 6, 2013, 11:01am (UTC -6)
I find it funny, yet it troubles me aswell how the writer(s)...borrowed...ideas from other universes.
see warhammer and star wars universes for example. like my eyes popped out when Chakotay (if I remember correctly) said nar shadan.

well, these...resemblances aside, I pretty much enjoyed these episodes.

by the way, did anyone count how many panels blew up in the whole series?
or the other ones? I lost count around 400...

Leah
Sun, Jul 21, 2013, 3:24am (UTC -6)
Wonderful 2-parter! Not much to add that hasn't already been said, but good point on the vegetarian thing! That is completely out of left field. Eh, it was a relatively small thing considering how good everything else was.
skadoo
Mon, Jul 22, 2013, 10:45am (UTC -6)
OK, did anyone else wonder why Jaffen's race has (at least) two sexes if they reproduce without there being a Father. I mean, just what was he doing with Janeway?
Nancy
Wed, Aug 21, 2013, 3:29am (UTC -6)
Very interesting episode. It felt like a movie! Good to see John Aniston (aka Victor Kiriakis to Days of our Lives fans - wonder if DeLancie who used to be Eugene on that show put in a good word for him).
azcats
Wed, Aug 28, 2013, 2:00pm (UTC -6)
this is another episode that pops in my brain when i think of voyager.

great 2 parter. maybe the best one??

4 stars. very entertaining.

i am sad that NO ONE mentioned Harry Kim. he was essentially the captain of the Voyager and he was responsible for saving the whole crew.

but alas, he gets no kudos. but from me!

SpiceRak2
Mon, Sep 16, 2013, 9:20pm (UTC -6)
This was an entertaining two-part story.

Tuvok ended up kind of a "loose-end" though. It was anecdotal that the crew was transported back aboard Voyager and treated for their memory alteration but Tuvok was getting the "ultra" treatment when we saw him last. He says, "Help me!" And then we don't see him anymore. It would have been better if he were a part of the rescue and his suspicions were validated.

I wish they had left out the petty fighting for command between the Doctor and Harry. Both performed with exemplary skill when needed and yet, it was cheapened by their egos. Harry will find it hard to earn a pip like that.
Watching the reruns
Thu, Sep 26, 2013, 3:38am (UTC -6)
Yeah, a good episode, great to see the characters in another setting, a possible other life, taking 'unwanted vacations from themselves'. This was the premise of the travel agency in Total Recall too. (Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to take a vacation from oneself because, unfortunately, wherever you go, there YOU are.) Seven of Nine was a riot, too; a perfect alternative character.

Re the vegetarianism: it's a matter of principle and would make no difference that the meat is replicated and not real. For instance, I don't want to eat human flesh and would still find 'replicated' human flesh repugnant, even though it wasn't real.
Elliott
Thu, Sep 26, 2013, 9:50am (UTC -6)
@Rerun: it may not make a difference to YOU, but many people are vegetarians for ethical reasons which would be void with replicated meat. Frankly, I have a hard time imagining ethical vegetarians with 24th century animal husbandry and butchery either.
Jo Jo Meastro
Fri, Oct 18, 2013, 7:29am (UTC -6)
Excellent review for an excellent movie-like 2 parter!

It was great all round and I love the fact that the scope was there to bring the story to full fruitation while still having time for the charming litte details. This more than anything gave it the cinematic feel. It just had everything going for it.

There was a fantastic premise that lived up to its potential, the action was tensely executed, emotional meaningful moments are wonderfully touching, the whole atmosphere was perfectly realised and the characters were kept at the heart of it all. Even most of the one-time characters were given the right amounts of attention and complexity.

If I had anything bad to say is that perhaps it stumbled slightly in the last few acts. The aftermath in particular was neglectful except for that lovely scene between Tom and Torress.

However, this is still remarkably strong and gripping from start to finish. This is my favourite Voyager 2-parter, unless the finale happens to really blow me away!

Easily a 3.5!
Jo Jo Meastro
Fri, Oct 18, 2013, 7:36am (UTC -6)
One more thing which I'm surprised nobody has mentioned; there is an episode of Stargate SG1 with the exact same premise and a story which went around a similar route. While I love Stargate, I must say Voyager did it quite a lot better.
scram
Sun, Nov 3, 2013, 2:43pm (UTC -6)
"Much is made of a scene (which is weakly performed, alas) where Ravok's suspicions about the conspiracy are awakened and Kadan justifies his actions as something necessary for society. The friction between the two is set up but never resolved."

He is seen lying on a hospital bed in the same room as Tuvok and Chakotay. Seven comments on it.
Jack
Sat, Dec 14, 2013, 6:12pm (UTC -6)
Janeway describes Earth as "overpopulated and polluted", which is certainly not true of 24th century Earth...trashing one's home planet must be part of the brainwashing process.
Tricia
Sun, Jan 26, 2014, 7:29am (UTC -6)
I really enjoyed these episodes - it was interesting to see the crew in another light. Tom Paris was very endearing in his role as protector of B'lanna, even though he didn't know who she was. (Poor B'lanna, those brainwashers were really jerks to make her a single mom. Why not keep her and Tom together as a family?). It would have been nice if Seven had displayed a bit more of her human side.

The one part that really annoyed me - Chakotay betraying the crew when he was captured. His personality up until now never would have allowed him to help the enemy trap his crew... And from what they showed, it didn't seem as though he had been drugged or tortured. It just seemed as though they captured him and he gave in... Very out of character.
Adam
Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 7:59pm (UTC -6)
Vulcans are highly emotional under their veneer of logic. When we've seen Vulcans 'lose their shit', so to speak , they can become incredibly passionate, violent, and irrational. Hence why they have the Kolinahr discipline.
Nick
Wed, Feb 5, 2014, 6:26pm (UTC -6)
Once again with two parters, the climax did not live up to the build-up. The first hour was compelling, the completeness in vision of the 'labor city' had echoes from Soviet industrial towns. However...the inevitable part II lacked a similar compelling payoff plot wise.

I was hoping for something more sinister and far reaching than the simple need for an alien species to source cheap labor. As it was, the climax was all too predictable.

Plot holes...were the children of Voyager also put into forced labor? How exactly were the Aliens able to modify Seven without her Borg implants blocking the procedure? Indeed, if the Aliens were so sophisticated as able to brainwash borg, why not kidnap a few Borg cubes? Surely that would have been a much more sensible solution, and Borg drones don't need constant brainwashing.

As for 'coolness' factor, we got to see the Doc fulfill his role as emergency command program - Harry Kim obviously didn't learn much from his most recent opportunity at command, and spent most of the time criticizing the Doc's rather ingenious command decisions. Hiding out in the lunar crater was perhaps inspired by Star Wars II ;)

3/5 stars. Gotta give extra points for presenting a cohesive story for a two-parter. The alien backdrops and industrial city scapes were great eye-candy.
Paul
Thu, Feb 6, 2014, 3:27pm (UTC -6)
@Nick: Excellent points. I'll help ...

The other problem with this episode is that it's hard to understand why the alien laborers are even needed. Most of what Janeway and the others are shown doing is pretty pointless. And if there's such a shortage, how can Paris get fired/quit?

The best part of this two-parter are the scenes with Chakotay and Janeway. Janeway being truly happy off Voyager should have been explored more.
Amanda
Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 5:08pm (UTC -6)
This was the first time I thought, "To hell with the thought Janeway and Chakotay should get together on Earth." I liked Jaffin! They wrote him as her equal where they forgot with Chakotay. I was even rooting for him to stay on Voyager. Then his pathetic insecurity showed when he found out she was a Captain and he retreated inside. At least that's how I perceived it. zzzz Back to Chakotay dinners for her. Until he learns seven can cook better :-). haha.

I enjoyed this two partner even though I am tired of Janeway losing her ship theme.
Makes crew look dumb when she out wits Borg week after week.
BLUV
Sun, Jun 29, 2014, 12:52am (UTC -6)
Did anyone notice the wrong Klingon Bat'leth hanging in B'elanna's quarters? It was a regular one and not the one given to her in 'Prophecy'

Just sayin...:)
Paul M.
Sun, Jun 29, 2014, 4:08am (UTC -6)
@BLUV:

Nothing surprising when it comes to Voyager. Its sense of continuity is legendary, after all.
Sean
Sun, Aug 3, 2014, 4:04pm (UTC -6)
I really must say that I enjoyed this one. The one scene that got me was Janeway contacting Voyager and awed at its existence. I like those stories where you're going along in your life only to discover that you are actually something so much more then you thought. The way the story built it up was actually quite good as well as she slowly starts trusting Chakotay and indulging in the fantasy of her actually being a starship captain.
Jack
Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 3:02pm (UTC -6)
It's always convenient in these situations that the prior memories are merely blocked, but never erased outright. Why would the Quarren want to make it remotely possible that the people could ever be restored...why would they care?
John TY
Tue, Sep 2, 2014, 8:57am (UTC -6)
Ok but given all the positive comments above I expected something less... dull. And inconsequential.
John TY
Tue, Sep 2, 2014, 9:05am (UTC -6)
Agree with Paul and Jack's comments above.

I also found a lot of the 'relationship setup' (eg. Janeway/Jaffin, Paris/Torres) to be painfully tedious.
Shaen
Fri, Sep 19, 2014, 2:08pm (UTC -6)
I don't get why the Voyager writers were so amused with the stupid "Janeway burns replicated meals" bit they used about a dozen times throughout the series. Not only is it not even funny to begin with, it's based on something that doesn't even make sense.
Pluto-Nash
Mon, Dec 1, 2014, 4:01pm (UTC -6)
Was I the only viewer who thought Jaffin was a mole working for the bad guys?
Carl
Mon, Jan 5, 2015, 3:31am (UTC -6)
Re:vegetarianism, I think Arachnea's comment pretty much addresses the inconsistency raised by Chris. Chakotay ate the replicated quail served in 'The Void'; he didn't eat the nectar mentioned in this episode, which was presumably made using non-replicated meat by-product. This suggests that he is happy to eat replicated meat products but not actual ones.

I also agree with the comment about it making no difference whether the meat is replicated or not. I assumed that his vegetarianism was cultural and would not have been surprised if he did choose to observe it even in respect of replicated meat.
Robert
Wed, Aug 26, 2015, 7:02pm (UTC -6)
I must of watched Voyager all the way though at least 7 times now and I always look forward two this two parter, It feels almost like a movie at times, really interesting seeing some the characters playing different lives, especially Janeway.
Thorlief
Wed, Sep 2, 2015, 1:30am (UTC -6)
I haven't really watched Voyager much--my wife is addicted to anything Trek, though--but I've been reading Jammer's reviews off and on, as I hear episodes being played in the background. Something amusing has cropped up as I've read the reviews--as I noted under the review for "The Gift," that episode was directed by Anson Williams, formerly Potsie on "Happy Days." This episode features Don Most as Kaden--that's formerly Donnie Most, who played Potsie's sidekick Ralph Malph on "Happy Days."

Is Ron Howard in one of these? Is there a Vulcan version of Fonzie running around the Delta Quadrant?
Shannon
Sun, Sep 20, 2015, 9:52am (UTC -6)
Excellent two-part episode, well written, acted, and directed. Agree with Jammer, it plays out like a good L&O episode, which is high praise. I would have given 4 stars to part 1 and 3.5 stars to part 2, as I would have preferred a slightly more powerful ending instead of the usual "reset" button where all is well again. But overall, this is one of Voyager's finest moments, and I was glad to see that even in the 7th and final season, the writers were able to come up with fresh ideas.
Chrome
Fri, Feb 26, 2016, 11:22am (UTC -6)
I like this one, for all the reasons I didn't like "The Killing Game", which this is very similar too. Instead of shoehorning random Nazi parallels into a disjointed plot, this episode builds an interesting if not confusing world. It is fun to think that the Voyager crew would enjoy different lives after all the problems they've encountered in the DQ, and I liked how they teased irrepressible bits of characters personalities throughout from Paris' flirting, to Seven's organizational skills, and Janeway's intelligence.

But I agree with Jammer, part II falls flat. I don't think the writers could decide which thread of the story they liked the most and ended up stuffing too many threads that don't weave into the same picture. For example, Ensign Kim and the Doctor controlling Voyager on their own was interesting, but that plotline alone could've filled an hour. Seven of Nine as a security admin and Paris as a barkeep was also an interesting plotline, which could've easily filled an hour. It's like there are so many great setups but the resolution to these stories was never completed.

I'll agree with 3 stars.
TRIP
Fri, Mar 18, 2016, 9:39am (UTC -6)
I agree this was very much like what they used in Total Recall. They can give these people new memories, false memories, and even make them hate space travel. They give them completely new identities. But, they can't download actual knowledge? Tom gets fired after a few hours, and Janeway doesn't know how to use the console at first. She also has to read manuals. Couldn't this knowledge be downloaded into them as well like in the Matrix? Bam!!! You’re an Engineer. Get to work.

Customer complaint departments need this technology. "You like our product. You are satisfied with our product. You will buy our product again." Thank you, come again.

They took their com badges and all their Starfleet equipment. They have no universal translators, but everyone can talk to one another and read the consoles in their own languages. Huh?

Naomi Wildman – Hospital Assistant

I also thought it was mean that Tom and B’lanna weren’t made a family. Just give them a memory of coming to find work together, and to raise a family together. Clearly the DNA of the child would show him as the father anyway.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, I thought the burned meat gag was one of Tom’s/Kim’s practical jokes that Janeway hasn’t caught on to yet. However, now it is clear, Janeway is just stupid. Maybe she is requesting the wrong temperature. "Can I have a glass of water - 5 degrees celcius.", Mmmmm nice and cold. "Can I have a roast at 350 degrees celcius". (Should have been in Fahrenheit) The computer doesn't care and provides what is requested. Hence, the roast is charred to shit. To Janeway: Try asking for Medium-Rare.
Diamond Dave
Wed, Mar 23, 2016, 2:56pm (UTC -6)
Part I:

Lots of set up of course, given this is a 2-parter, but the plotting lets this breathe a bit and we're a quarter into the episode before we even have a clue what's going on. I very much liked the various strands running here, and the subtly different behaviour on the part of the workforce sets it apart from the usual out of character fare we sometimes get. The Tom and B'Elanna elements I found particularly effective, as were those with Tuvok. And Janeway gets her oats at long last!

The scenes back on Voyager were also enjoyable, and the little Harry/ECH ego clash fun indeed. 3.5 stars.
Diamond Dave
Thu, Mar 24, 2016, 8:38am (UTC -6)
Part II:

Doesn't quite manage to live up to the first part. It seems that the exposition was more interesting in the resolution, which seemed to spin its wheels for a bit as it meandered toward the conclusion. What I did enjoy was the use of 'good' aliens to help, which doesn't happen that often.

I couldn't help thinking that the final line undermined the emotional resonance of the Jaffen farewell scene - did Janeway care for him or not? You'd think yes, but is "not for one second" sorry Chakotay came after them. Strange choice. 2.5 stars.
Bryan
Fri, Apr 15, 2016, 12:36am (UTC -6)
This week's highlight: Kim unwittingly guzzles alien man-nectar, much to the amusement of all.
Skeptical
Wed, May 4, 2016, 7:48pm (UTC -6)
I don't really have too much to say about this episode. It is very well plotted piece as others have stated. It was also an enjoyable change of pace, similar to The Killing Game but without the flaws (albeit also without the big impact). Basically, it was just a pleasant two-parter.

It does seem weird to me that they chose this story of all stories to be a two-parter. It just doesn't mean anything. It's not a grab-you-by-the-seat, big dramatic story like Best of Both Worlds, nor is it a this-changes-everything story like Improbable Cause/Die is Cast, nor is it a cheap ratings ploy like Killing Game. It's just... there. Which isn't a bad thing, especially when they use the two parts wisely to make a well-executed story like this. But given Voyager's penchant for trying to make everything a cheap ratings ploy, it seems a surprising choice. There are plenty of other stories in the past couple seasons that may also have deserved a two-parter and were actually relevant to the characters, but oh well. At least they didn't waste it.

One aspect I liked was the variety in the random aliens of the week. Normally, they would just be the hard-headed aliens of the week who are here to be the bad guys. Instead, it was just a conspiracy of bad guys within a relatable, likeable, non-hard-headed alien world. Yelid was a competent investigator doing his job, who effortlessly switched from becoming an antagonist to a protagonist when he saw some of the oddities of what was going on. Jeffen, despite the show seeming to give hints that he may help out the conspiracy out of ignorance, never wavered and never betrayed the trust Janeway put in him. The young doctor thought he was doing good work in helping his patients, and refused to help when he learned the truth, even at risk to his own life. The power plant wasn't an evil exploiting company; they treated their workers well and it seemed a decent enough job opportunity. And in the resolution, the government didn't cover anything up nor shirk its responsibility; they worked to help out the victims of this conspiracy even though it would hurt their labor shortage more. Just ordinary, average people doing their job and behaving admirably in the face of evil.

Speaking of which, I disagree with Jammer that there should have been some sort of message here. Quite frankly, what sort of message can you give? Any anti-capitalist message (the sort you would expect from Trek) just wouldn't make sense, as the premise is just too sci-fi ish to work as an analogue. No nation, regardless of their politics, are kidnapping and brainwashing people in order to get workers. So how do you make a parallel with this premise? Likewise, if they did decide to make the power plant into some sort of evil capitalist straw man company, then it would just distract from the tightly-plotted intrigue that we saw. Yes, that makes this a relatively meaningless episode, but so what? It was a good meaningless episode, and that is plenty.
Joseph
Thu, May 12, 2016, 11:49am (UTC -6)
skadoo, I was wondering the same thing. If Jaffkin's people don't need us males, why would Jafkin exsist? I think they should have dropped that.
Yanks
Wed, Jul 6, 2016, 8:18pm (UTC -6)
So hard fpr part II to live up to part one.

Great NEW concept, executed very well.

Jammer and everyone else has said all that needs to be said.

Harry saves the day!!

I'll part with Jammer a bit and say the ending was fine.

3.5 from me too.
mephyve
Sun, Sep 25, 2016, 4:12am (UTC -6)
That was cool! (****)
Mikey
Mon, Nov 21, 2016, 5:32am (UTC -6)
@Skeptical: I had to laugh at your first line "I don't have much to say about this episode", since it was the prelude to a lengthy post! But once again I find myself in agreement. I thought this dragged a little, and could definitely have been a better single episode.

I knew I'd seen that Kaden character before, but I never would have picked him for Ralph Malph from Happy Days! And directed by Potsie no less.

3 stars

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