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John P.
Mon, Jul 29, 2019, 4:18am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S6: Barge of the Dead

I truly felt this amounted to a one star episode of Voyager, a uniquely weak instalment of the series. When I first read the preview text, I said out loud, “I bet we’ll hear about targs, bloodwine, p’tahks, qaplah, bat’leth, Stovokor, honor, gagh, and Fek’lehr.”

As though the writers were reading their own Klingon wiki page, we get remarkably little new lore for the fan-favorite race, save that their dead ride a viking ship to an afterlife contained within the walls of a particularly bad miniature of Castle Grayskull.

For the record, I love Klingons. Some of the best hours of late DS9 centered on Worf and Martok and the Empire. I’m also one of those odd people that loves Ferengi; I’m a sucker for any Trek race beyond the standard humanoids with nasal ridges. My issue isn’t that we spent another hour with Klingons.

As many other commenters noted, this episode is derivative. Unlike the reviewer, I have been marathoning these episodes long after they initially aired sequentially along with TNG and DS9. Lazy Klingon tropes, half-baked musings on religion, what amounts to a full-episode dream sequence without even the courtesy of a technobabble explanation, odd character behavior, and unimpressive sets lead me to write my one and only comment so far (I have been a regular reader of these reviews during my marathon).

It’s no secret: Star Trek has never been able to write compelling stories about religion. Pah’wraiths and prophets, giant floating God heads in need of starships, Chakotay’s tech-enabled vision quests, or Tuvok’s bizarre role as ship’s zen master are part and parcel to the series. At best, the franchise leans into the mystery, doubt, and ambiguity of religion (take Sisko’s perspective on the validity of the Prophets to the Bajorans, for instance) . Here, we get a bizarre moral lesson: to barter with Satan for the souls of the damned, attempt a near-suicide.

Unlike Sisko and the Prophets, Janeway has no reason to believe Torres can access the afterlife. When her crewman exhibits sudden belief in Klingon spirituality AND believes herself to have traversed to the world of the damned, Janeway meekly protests and then consents. And so does the Doctor. And everyone else. Yes, Picard and Sisko allowed Worf to pursue certain physical risks in consideration for his cultural values, but Torres demands to engage in a likely death ritual to enter the realm of a magic Hell boat (why she thinks partial death will suffice or how the procedure results in her vision is left frustratingly unclear). Torres needed a counselor; her racial self-loathing having been suddenly transformed into zealous self-harm apparently elicited only minor concern (Jameway was much more worried when Harry Kim had sex that time...). A truly shabby episode.
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