Star Trek: Voyager

"Emanations"

2 stars

Air date: 3/13/1995
Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"What we don't know about death is far, far greater than what we do know." — Janeway

Whoa, Janeway's above quote is some understatement. That's got to be one of the most insightful, meaningful quotes in the entire series. And excuse my sarcasm there.

One of the great mysteries of life is what happens to us when it all ends. It ranks right up there with "Why are we here?" "Emanations" is Star Trek's attempt at a provocative analysis of this question—a polemic on death and the afterlife. Unfortunately, five acts of repetitive, mundane pondering about a subject whose questions cannot be answered is all that comes out of this pretentious hour of hardly profound and unmoving drama.

When an away team discovers an alien burial ground on an asteroid, a subspace vacuole snatches Ensign Kim away and replaces him with a deceased alien woman (Cecile Callan) from a race that calls themselves the Uhnori. The crew beams the Uhnori aboard the Voyager. The Doctor is able to revive her since her death occurred just moments before. Upon awaking in sickbay, the Uhnori, who we learn is named Ptera, believes she has reached the afterlife.

Meanwhile, the subspace vacuole takes Kim to the Uhnori's planet. Simply put, Kim and Ptera have switched places. Ptera had just been sent to the "next emanation," as the Uhnori call it. By activating a device, the Uhnori send their dying people into what they believe is an afterlife where the deceased meet their fellow dead and evolve into a higher form of consciousness. In reality, the device forms a subspace vacuole that sends them to an asteroid where they instantly die and decompose.

Kim's evident appearance from the next emanation sparks a lot of excitement (as well as fear) on the Uhnori world. They believe he has returned from the dead, and his descriptions of what awaits at the next emanation—an asteroid with a bunch of bodies—don't exactly provide them with a comforting view of life after death.

While searching for a way back, Kim meets Hatil (Jefrey Alan Chandler), a disabled man whose family has persuaded him to commit suicide to ease their burden. Hatil has always been a little bit skeptical to "prematurely send himself into the next emanation" (i.e. kill himself), and Kim's appearance and descriptions of the afterlife lead Hatil to reconsider his options.

Back aboard the Voyager, the crew attempts to locate Kim, using Ptera as the best resource for answering questions about her home world. Ptera, however, has some understandable emotional problems. At first she thinks she's dead and her afterlife is not as it should be. After Janeway convinces Ptera she is still alive, Ptera begins to fear death, having lost confidence that waiting in the next emanation is a new existence.

What we've basically got here is the same question posed over and over again. It's neither compelling nor mystifying. Kim tells the people over and over that he doesn't know what death means. All he knows is that there were bodies on the asteroid. It is entirely possible that they have souls that exist outside their non-corporeal remains, he tells them. Ptera spends much of the B-story walking around the Voyager stating that she can't live out her life away from her people.

The resolution of Ptera's situation is so underwhelming it's appalling. The crew attempts to send her back through the subspace vacuole using the transporter and some reliable technobabble procedures. But her transporter pattern breaks down and she dies in the process, end of story.

Meanwhile, Kim faces being stuck on the Uhnori's world forever. They want to keep him for interrogation so he can solve the puzzle of death for them—something he can't do anyway.

Kim comes up with a plan to escape. He decides to help himself and Hatil by taking Hatil's place at his death ceremony. This way, Hatil can live out his life in the mountains without breaking tradition, and Kim can return to the asteroid and be rescued by the Voyager without the Uhnori suspecting he's gone. The ceremonial wrapping of a death shroud to hide Kim's body so no one can tell it's Kim and not Hatil being buried strains credulity. Nice to see the old switcharoo still works in the 24th century. Clever, Harry. Too clever.

There's not much in terms of interesting character interaction either. Again, Chakotay doesn't get the screen time he deserves. Neelix doesn't even make a single appearance. They put off giving the Doctor his name yet another week. And they miss a major opportunity with Paris, who should've been allowed to display some sort of emotion in dealing with the potential loss of his best friend. Janeway does come off rather nicely, remaining a pleasure to watch in action as ship's humanist. The reassuring closing scene between Janeway and Kim is more impacting than anything else in the episode.

Next week: Mutiny aboard the Voyager! Now that sounds interesting.

Previous episode: Ex Post Facto
Next episode: Prime Factors

◄ Season Index

58 comments on this review

Mal
Mon, Oct 19, 2009, 1:17pm (UTC -5)
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow...

-

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

-

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

-

Death is pretty important stuff. Maybe Star Trek isn't exactly the best forum for examining the afterlife - although I can hardly think of somewhere more scary to boldly go - still, TNG's The Next Phase at least tested Ro's faith a little bit, Transfigurations talked somewhat about evolving to the next phase, and in DS9's Shadows and Symbols, the gang goes on a mission to ensure Jadzia's place in Sto-vo-kor.

Not exactly Phaedo, but these still, evidence that Star Trek can be slightly more nuanced than this wasted hour...
Diederick
Mon, Jan 24, 2011, 5:16am (UTC -5)
I found Kim's solution for Hatil odd: wasn't the man a burden to his family for medical reasons? He even showed off his leg "braces". How could he survive on his own?

But what liked even less was the pseudo-scientific spirituality. What's there to know about death, in any practical sense? And what is neural energy, and how do you measure it's "activity?"
Elliott
Thu, Feb 3, 2011, 4:35pm (UTC -5)
Classic Trek has an unfortunate tendency of turning fans into Dawkins-style atheist a**holes. What I really like about this episode is how religious dogma so often blinds us to the real wonders of the Universe.

The story opens with a very tech-y interest in this new element and it turns out in the end that it is this element which allows for a remarkable change in energy state which may encompass a change in perception for an entire race. Having become bogged down in ritual (see the shroud), the Uhnori have lost any real sense of wonder about death or life. They see a life as dispensable if it becomes burdensome. In and out of religious contexts, this is a depression which is very real and to which admiring the strange beauties of nature can be a remedy.

It's a quiet story, but I think you severely underestimate it. There's perhaps a little too much whispering going on, but overall the direction and pacing were excellent. I particularly loved how the Uhnori's world was filmed in such a way as to appear distorted and other-dimension-like.
Destructor
Sun, Feb 27, 2011, 6:45pm (UTC -5)
It may not have been a success, but I certainly appreciated the effort to at least try and tell a story about death and what it means- a subject most American TV shows (Six Feet Under being the big exception) scrupulously avoid.
Carbetarian
Thu, Apr 7, 2011, 11:13pm (UTC -5)
This episode was all kinds of unenjoyable for me. Personally, I think two stars is mighty generous. Beyond my own admission that I don't want to think about death while watching Star Trek, this episode is unbelievably boring.

The episode starts off already rubbing me the wrong way when Chakotay starts getting uppity about poking around the bodies on the asteroid. Now, don't get me wrong, I entirely agree with him that they should leave the bodies be and avoid any accidental desecration of their graves. But, where I was left scratching my head is his insistence that they not use tricorders. Umm... Isn't it worse to go stomping around all over the place to investigate things by hand? Wouldn't it be less intrusive to just scan them from a distance? His logic makes no sense to me at all.

Then Harry gets pulled off to planet snooze button. I kid you not when I say I just watched this episode and yet can't remember a single thing of importance about these people other than that they are ok with committing euthanasia. I was bored to tears during all of Harry's scenes with the foreheads of the week.

Then there was Ptera, who was equally boring due to her basic repetition of the same boring stuff her fellow forehead of the week aliens were telling Harry. Jammer is absolutely right. The same questions asked over and over again, particularly one that none of us know the answer to, is frustrating, annoying and incredibly dull.

Jammer is also absolutely right about all the missed character opportunities. Was Tom Paris even in this episode? The only thing I might argue with Jammer about is his seeming disappointment that Neelix isn't in this episode. In my book, doing an episode without Neelix is never a bad thing.

This story tried to comment on euthanasia towards the end, and I do appreciate what they were going for. But, the whole thing just really wasn't nearly as deep or profound as what they wanted it to be. Likewise, their discovery of a specific radiation in the planets rings was a sort of half baked attempt to show that the afterlife the aliens were looking for could exist. But, I sort of felt like the show was trying to have it's cake and eat it too. It felt cheap and made the episode seem even more pointless to me than if they had just left the issue of whether or not an afterlife could be real completely alone.

In the end, the Janeway quote Jammer uses to head this article is, of course, true. I don't think any of us will ever know what happens to us when we die until we actually do. But, that's exactly what's wrong with this episode. An hour of asking the same unanswerable question does not make for an entertaining story.

This episode gets one star from me.
David H.
Sun, Oct 16, 2011, 12:33am (UTC -5)
Well, you may think that Janeway line is worthy of ridicule, Jammer, but for Star Trek, it's a positive revelation. As one of the earlier comments pointed out, the Roddenberry atheist rules are still in place, and religion only exists among the less evolved species, something that the enlightened Starfleet crews have long since outgrown - unless you're an Indian, of course. I'm not saying the episode is brilliant, but it's a refreshing change from the "Who Watches the Watchers" type of arrogance that is usually directed toward issues of faith.
Skeezyfish
Tue, Jan 22, 2013, 10:15am (UTC -5)
There is one slightly striking moment to this episode: the contrast between the dismay Ptera felt and the comfort Harry felt in awaking in sickbay, one in an alien environment and the other surrounded by friends. That contrast I think spoke well to the fact that our lives are defined so much by those with whom we choose to share it. Not terribly profound--and possibly not even intended--but charming for a moment.
navamske
Sat, Jun 1, 2013, 8:40pm (UTC -5)
@Carbetarian

"I kid you not when I say I just watched this episode and yet can't remember a single thing of importance about these people other than that they are ok with committing euthanasia."

Also, one of them was Mark Twain from TNG's "Time's Arrow."
inline79
Wed, Jul 31, 2013, 2:15pm (UTC -5)
To put a positive spin to all the above, fully justified, "bleh" attitude towards this episode, I want to call attention to the really nice space sequences. There are some shots of Voyager with the planets, rings, and rocks that are at angles, and levels of detail that we have never seen before on a Star Trek episode. Clearly there were no "reused" space objects. On the DVDs, the quality is excellent. If there is ever a blu-ray for Voyager, the justification to upgrade from the DVDs will be tough.
Jons
Sun, Nov 10, 2013, 8:07am (UTC -5)
As for me I liked that episode. Not the greatest, but I enjoyed it, as I always do with episodes about other cultures.

The one thing that made it "blah" instead of good for me however is the cop-out at the end. It would have been so much more powerful to indeed make these people realize that everything they've always believed is just wrong and there's nothing after death. Not only that would have been interesting (how would that society break up? what would happen?) but it would also have been a strong message by the show:

Yes, Christian heaven or any other Earthian "afterlife" fantasy is probably like this planet's afterlife beliefs: Just a stupid fantasy, wishful thinking that has no basis in reality or fact. But of course, that show is American, and it couldn't have afforded to potentially offend the religious in this country, so it had to cop out at the end, with a stupid suggestion that heaven is actually possible...
Jack
Wed, Nov 20, 2013, 12:18am (UTC -5)
Hatil says that the death shroud has been in his family for generations, but...how? If it's worn to get transferred to the asteroid...who is retrieving it afterwards?

Plus...Harry is like twice Hatil's size. Even wrapped, it's obvious that Harry was way too huge to be Hatil, and the others should have noticed it before sending "him" off.
Tricia
Sun, Dec 1, 2013, 2:30am (UTC -5)
Doesn't anyone on that planet ever die accidentally? Or all alone, where their body wouldn't be found for a while? It doesn't make sense that they're so shocked that their bodies decompose after they die.
Susan
Tue, Dec 10, 2013, 9:32pm (UTC -5)
Jack - who said "Hatil says that the death shroud has been in his family for generations, but...how? If it's worn to get transferred to the asteroid...who is retrieving it afterwards? "

I was going to say the same thing, but it occurs to me, maybe by "shroud" he doesn't mean that particular shroud, but "shroud" meaning that particular weave and color and perhaps the way it's wrapped, maybe other families used a different type/color material, and instead of ace-bandage type wrap for another family it would be a bag type shroud. I think that was the way it was meant to be taken anyway.
Trent
Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 11:50am (UTC -5)
Elliot's intelligent comments on Jammer's site have provoked me into finally watching Voyager episodes. I'm almost at the end of Season 1. You know what...it's actually a very good series once you ditch the preconceptions. I like the ethical bent some of the episodes have.
Trent
Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 7:48pm (UTC -5)
This was a botched opportunity I think. The writers had the potential to set up a very contemplative episode, perhaps in the vein of an Ingmar Bergman movie, but the hokiness of the alien race derails the whole thing.

This plot would work better without the aliens entirely. Why not create a small existential episode aorund the young Ensign Kim? No need for that silly looking planet at all.
K'Elvis
Sat, Feb 15, 2014, 1:02am (UTC -5)
The episode was OK, but it didn't seem to know what it wanted to talk about. It flirts with being about people pressured by their families into euthanasia, cover-ups, and the ability or inability to adapt to your worldview being overturned. The episode over and over repeats that just because this particular belief is incorrect - the belief that their bodies come out alive on the other side - that it doesn't mean that death is the end. It seems they realized that this episode had the potential to upset people.

I thought Ptera's story didn't work very well, except to provide information to the people in Voyager. It would have been interesting to send her back. When they wanted to send Harry to some lab to keep him "safe" it was pretty clear that he was coming back, he was going to be quietly tucked away where he wouldn't be inconvenient. Ptera may well have been tucked away just as easily.

It seemed odd that they let Kes declare Ptera dead, that's the sort of thing that you have a doctor do, not a semi-trained medic. But I suppose it saved time.
K'Elvis
Sat, Feb 15, 2014, 5:35pm (UTC -5)
I've had a chance to think about this more, and this is really something very much like ancient Egyptian funereal rites. The bodies look like mummies, and they go into something very much like a sarcophagus. Here on Earth, it's been thousands of years and the mummies haven't come back to life yet. The ancient Egyptians might have been just as disturbed to learn that the mummies would sit there for thousands of years.

BTW, when I wrote above "It was pretty clear he was coming back" I should have written "It was pretty clear he wasn't coming back".
Ric
Mon, Mar 3, 2014, 2:18am (UTC -5)
Nice episode, with deep debating underneath the surface.

But the blunt violation of the Prime Directive when they decide to revive the body of the alien was... disappointing. So far Voyager was making me happy, as I have watched the whole DS9 first and got mad with how much they corrupted the Federation and the Starfleet portrayal in the end. I was glad to see characters respecting the basic ideals in though moments. But here, crew just so easily decide to revive a dead alien to make a first contact even when they didn’t know if it would be violating the directive!

Worst, Kim seems to be completely untrained for his first mission. How the hell he starts talking to the aliens about his ship, where he came from and so on when he didn’t know whether he would be interfering in the new aliens’ usual beliefs? More, it was blunt that he would interfere and even though he first reaction was to give a damn, until too late realizing that it would be better to not talk freely anymore. Common, he deserves to be released from duty when they arrive home….
Peter
Fri, Mar 28, 2014, 3:12pm (UTC -5)
I just watched this episode and agree that it is kind of disruption of the season 1 episodes.

I also feel that even though I'm glad that a Star Trek show would have a show about death, I feel "Emanations" came along on Voyager way too early in the shows run. And I feel that is the basic problem with this episode and why it comes across at best rather fuzzy in terms of what the writers wanted to express in regards to death.

I would actually feel this episode might have worked better near the beginning of season 3 (before the two-parter "Future's End", before the doctor got the mobile emitter, but after the crue had dealt with others deaths -- this episode is very woeful when compared with the actual head-on episode about euthanasia season 2 episode "Death Wish".) I feel the timing of this episode was way off with season 1 being a shortened season (usually a major look at death doesn't occur in most shows, not specifically about the subject, until very late in a first full season or in one where the first season is shortened, the 2nd season -- see "The Next Generation" late season 1 episode "Skin of Evil" for that one.)

Also by the way this episode might have actually been better, and a rare exception on that for a season 1 and 2 episode of "Voyager" if Neelix had been one of the featured players. Don't forget Neelix actually deals with very many of the same issues in the 4th season episode, "Mortal Coil", when Neelix is brought back to life with the help of a technique developed by Seven of Nine and her Borg gained thought. In that episode both Ethan Phillips, the actor, and Neelix really were superb and you really felt for the character more than you normally would (Phillips also states that was one of his favorite acting shows on "Voyager".) Would have loved to have seen Neelix' reaction to them reviving a dead alien in "Emanations" and might have been interesting to see that tie-in to what would later happen on "Mortal Coil" (notice in that episode, that this episode gets totally forgotten about -- when if it had happened and aired later in the run -- as I write above in the early half of season 3, it might not have forgotten about.)
Vylora
Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 10:07pm (UTC -5)
Interesting enough in some pieces of the story. Especially the aliens belief in their afterlife allowing for support of euthanasia for reasons other than terminal illness. Could have been a great backdrop for how religions utilize their illogical beliefs to affect public and political opinion. Could have also been a great backdrop for the aliens questioning beliefs and looking for real answers. Could have been any number of things. Instead we get the cute "the aliens release neural energy that becomes all dynamic and stuff" ending with a one-cliche-fits-all speech by Janeway.

So the aliens are a bit different and have some pretty unique things that happen when their particular species dies. The speech at the end makes everything brought up before in the episode arbitrary. Everything brought up in the episode makes the ending condescending.

Just because our evolution has brought us to this level of consciousness and self-awareness does not mean an afterlife magically formed for our benefit. This episode should have focused on that or done something more interesting with the unique concept put forth at the very end. As it is, it's a pandering, jumbled mess. However, it's not a complete loss and on its own terms is a watchable hour with some decent character moments with the aliens. Harry Kim especially shows improvement here but is, up to this point, quite noticeably rough around the edges.

2 stars.
navamske
Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 9:27pm (UTC -5)
@Vylora

"So the aliens are a bit different"

Yeah, they have four nostrils. Do they live on The Planet of the Extra-large Handkerchiefs?
Jay
Wed, Oct 15, 2014, 11:04pm (UTC -5)
Paris took them 0.6 ly from the ring system in what apparently just less than a minute. At that speed, they should have been able to travel 70,000 light years in about 12 weeks...
Yanks
Tue, Aug 4, 2015, 1:42pm (UTC -5)
Wow, a Star Trek episode that doesn't spit on religion or religious beliefs. It actually dealt with them very respectfully here.

It's also a culture that has embraced the Doctor Jack Kevorkian as their role model! :-)

Wait, I'm in pain and a burden to my family, so let me end it all...

Interesting for a Trek episode.

I think Chakotay was right to respect the site as a burial site, but he might have went a little far with:

"The sanctity of these bodies should be respected. I recommend we make visual observations only. No tricorders"

As far as "sanctity" goes, what's the different between looking and conducting passive scans?

Love the exchange at the end where Janeway is telling Harry to take a couple days off and reflect.

Also, I was pleasantly surprised about this:

"JANEWAY: I wouldn't be so sure of that, if I were you. That neural energy their bodies release, it becomes part of the ambient electromagnetic field surrounding the planet. Our readings also indicate the energy's unusually dynamic. There's a great deal of variation and pattern complexity, quantum density.

KIM: Are you saying you think they do have an afterlife? That the energy field is where they exist at a higher level of consciousness, just like they believe?

JANEWAY: I'm not certain, but I am certain about this. What we don't know about death is far, far greater than what we do know. See you in two days, Ensign."

Can anyone hear Picard talking like this? Relating a possible scientific release of energy to confirming a religious belief? I like it, she's her own self/Captain.

I'll have to go a solid 3 stars here.
Robert
Wed, Aug 5, 2015, 7:24am (UTC -5)
@Yanks - I'd agree on all counts. Loved the episode. Loved the ending. THIS Janeway is what was missing from later seasons. She's SUCH a scientist that she's not willing to dismiss anything, even religious things.
Yanks
Wed, Aug 5, 2015, 11:04am (UTC -5)
That's TWO!! Write it down, Robert agrees with me on all counts!!

:-) :-)
Robert
Thu, Aug 6, 2015, 6:54am (UTC -5)
We may disagree on other stuff, but honestly you and I have very, very similar taste in Trek with a few exceptions. Enjoying your VOY reviews.
Yanks
Thu, Aug 6, 2015, 9:02am (UTC -5)
Robert,

No one agrees with anyone on everything. But, here like other sites I've been to, trek seems to find common ground for it's fans. One of the reasons I love trek.
Diamond Dave
Thu, Dec 10, 2015, 1:46pm (UTC -5)
Nothing really so much wrong with this episode apart from the fact it is just painfully, painfully slow and dull. For addressing such large philosophical questions the whole thing just seems very small. And even though it's probably appropriate that we don't get any answers, in some ways leaving the question open feels like a cop out.

Perhaps the best part was when the Doctor cheerfully pointed out they had been "strolling through dead bodies". 1.5 stars.
MartinB
Fri, Dec 18, 2015, 5:52pm (UTC -5)
Chakotay was prat in this episode. Yes let's not passively scan these dead bodies from a distance, let's walk around and touch and disturb them instead. The bodies were dumped unattended on a barren rock, why does he think there's are ritual element to it at all? The Klingons for one don't give a crap about the bodies after they die.

So Ptera dies, ends up on Voyager, is revived but the attempt to send her back kills her so... Janeway beams her body to the asteriod. Er... You revived her once just after she died already why aren't you doing it again? She Ptera died... Because Janeway was lazy!

And if the webby stuff is a by product of the aliens decomposition, why was Ptera covered it seconds after dying?

But to be honest, if I was Captain Janeway and my Ensign Kim disappeared and was replaced by a dead body, I'd be counting my blessings and warping out of there at Warp 9 hoping he doesn't find a way to come back. The dead body would have made a far more interesting character for the show anyway.
JC
Sat, Mar 12, 2016, 5:20pm (UTC -5)
I really, really liked the initial premise of this episode. I loved the concept of this entire races religious beliefs being challenged by the appearance of somebody from their "afterlife". I loved the idea of deaths unknowns being viewed from the other side and of the potential conflict it puts Kim and the Voyager crew in.

But then it took a different direction. None of this conflict was really that adequately explored. Valuable screen time was wasted by bodies appearing on the ship and an irrelevant jeopardy. (It was not interesting to focus on dangers to the ship from subspacd vacuules. We didn't need that. Far more interesting was the implications to Kim and this culture.) The episode turned into a fairly routine quest to trg and get Kim back.

I am reminded somewhat of the TNG episode First Contact and the way the Federations arrival challenged the Malcorian way of life; and the internal conflicts that society had and the weight of the compromise that was reached. Of course that was not about religion exactly - in that culture it was a challenge to the Malcorian view of their place in the universe - but the general concept of the core beliefs of a society being deeply shaken was handled well and with great depth. I was sad to not see this episode get a similarly in depth treatment. We didn't even get to see the impact Kim had here.

A strong start but went the wrong direction with an unremarkable finish.
icarus32soar
Tue, Apr 26, 2016, 11:19am (UTC -5)
One of the stupidest wastes of an hour's worth of TV, ST or not. Good grief is my only reaction to this inane nonsense.
Skywalker
Sun, May 22, 2016, 1:02pm (UTC -5)
I like that the actor who plays Mark Twain in TNG's "Time's Arrow" appears as the alien spiritual Doctor.
Belowzero
Wed, Jun 29, 2016, 7:12am (UTC -5)
I hate chakotays Stories...theres an old story my people....theres an old saying...
icarus32soar
Sat, Jul 16, 2016, 9:56am (UTC -5)
Is someone in this alien society designated as the Chief Thanatologist? How can anyone be an -ist on something you can't see, touch and experiment on empirically? And Janeway's blah blah blah to Harry at the end about what we don't know about death...Ya think?
George Monet
Mon, Aug 1, 2016, 7:06pm (UTC -5)
So Chakotay is all like "don't desecrate the dead bodies, don't use your tricorders around the dead bodies" but then has no problems whatsoever with bringing one of the dead bodies back to life even though that's a way larger desecration than scanning a dead body?
mephyve
Mon, Aug 15, 2016, 10:11am (UTC -5)
Well what are the odds. Another watchable episode. I know some may be looking for some sort of philosophical or theological angle to take from this. As for me it was just a story that didn't bore me.
Mikey
Wed, Oct 19, 2016, 7:49am (UTC -5)
I have one major problem with this episode. If the emanations detected by voyager were meant to indicate that there truly was an afterlife (next emanation) for these people, didn't Harry just steal the guys chance at immortality? I wonder if he would have been beamed to the asteroid belt after living out his life in the mountains.
Rob
Sat, Oct 29, 2016, 5:13am (UTC -5)
That was utterly tedious. I paused the episode at one point to see how long was left as I felt I had been watching a movie-length episode. Only 20 minutes had passed.

If this is a sign of episodes to come, I'm not optimistic about making it to Season 2, let alone Season 7.
Greg
Mon, Jan 16, 2017, 11:12pm (UTC -5)
This episode has one of the three necessary ingredients present in all the best Star Trek episodes (see my review of Blink of an Eye in Season 6) and for that it deserves to be watched.

But it is not a great episode and won't be on many people's list to watch over again (like the best are).

But it is canon for the simply reason that it shows how silly religious belief can be, especially when viewed as an outsider. It carries on the tradition of Gene Roddenberry's secular vision - episodes like Who Watches the Watchers' Devil's Due, and the excellent Voyager episode Distant Origin.

See it once for no other reason than to continue "breaking the spell" so we might one day actually live in a world like Roddenberry envisioned.
JohnC
Wed, Jan 25, 2017, 9:40am (UTC -5)
Greg - not sure I agree that the episode was meant to show how "silly" religious belief can be. On the contrary, it seems to me the writers approached the issues of faith and afterlife with some real respect. Yes, the Uhnoris' beliefs were revealed to them as being false - but there was a counterpoint to that with the emphasis (primarily through Janeway) that there is so much we do not yet know, and may never know, at least not using the tools that the physical world provides us to explore. (And I agree with the comment earlier that Jammer's snarkiness about the Janeway quote seems a bit harsh. It was meant, I think, to provide a focus for the episode, and did so effectively, IMO.)

To follow up on that thought - the thing that I find interesting about our relentless search for knowledge is that almost every time we open a door to a new discovery, we find more doors. I am loathe to get into a debate with atheists or secularists or skeptics about what I believe. I will say, however, that from what I've read of Roddenberry, I think he and I shared a belief - that of rejecting religion, but accepting the notion of "God". This episode circles around these issues and provides a platform to think about them. Yes, there are some huge plot-holes here, but on balance I really enjoyed this thought-provoking episode.
Strejda
Sun, Jan 29, 2017, 1:50am (UTC -5)
I do give credit to the episode for trying to be diplomatic and not blatantly "religion is evil man", but it's still nothing out of the ordinary and Jesus,
the first act with is terrible and makes Chakotay look like self-important dumbass.

@Greg See, I think it's precisely why these stories might be one of the least well-aged things about Star Trek. Admittedly, ST usually handles it with a lot more tact than it could, this episode in particular, but these "Silly aliens, you are worshipping a space hole" plots nowadays come across as arrogant and disdainful. Yeah, hate to break it, but "we must all unite in peace, as long as you realize your beliefs are stupid and agree with me" isn't message of tolerance.
Ildaf
Tue, Feb 7, 2017, 9:20pm (UTC -5)
@ Jay. In fairness, it never mention how long it takes to get that 0.6 ly. Could be 1 minutes, 5, 10, 30 minutes. Who knows? But I sure don't want to see a 5 min scene Voyager go to the distance.

---

I don't mind the afterlife episodes. Anything but the usual cliche episodes of Hard-Headed-Alien or Anomaly-of-the-Week i'm okay. But I'm not sure what this stories want to tell. We know nothing about death? Well, nothing new there, it's beaten to the death (pardon-the-pun)
The implication to the social/belief exposed and challange? Just barely scratch

This stories has the potential to be character growth episodes of Chakotay and Kim, but it wasted on them. Kim with his technical knowledge can be utilized to found a way communicate or locate where he is, Chakotay with his anthropology knowledge can be utilized to learn more depth about the alien culture. Then working from both side they can work on elaborate attempt for rescue Kim. Along the way we can get glimpse how the interference affect their culture and belief.

Instead, Chakotay insight on the burial site come as a bit silly and no use at all for the overall plot. Only used as a shallow prelude that the people on burial site trust after-life.
Kim is the same thing. Wang, this should be your show, but some of the guest star even perform better than you. Not that the script much help though. The writer made him completely useless, not able to point out where he is, nor do anything useful to investigate the problem, the culture, anything that can be useful. Naah.. He's just go along with the flow and hope luck will bring him back by using the cenotaph again.

BTW. Who's dumb idea to wake someone from death, surround it like somekind of ambush, then proceed to interrogate, and you suprised she's panicking Captain?
Kes declared death? Didn't she's just recently learn anatomy, not even qualified yet for medic? Don't we have Doctor for that?

Meh for that last second cliche arrival of Kim, just when Voyager about to leave. Damn Torres, you should said 'leave' a little earlier.. we don't lose anything here

Agree on 2 (**) stars
Mertov
Sun, Feb 26, 2017, 3:11pm (UTC -5)
An episode focusing on the two dullest regular Voyager crew members, Harry Kim and Chakotay, in the opening scenes was bound to be a dud. Luckily Chakotay's role diminishes after the first 5 minutes, but Kim's does not.

Some excellent performances by guest stars are not enough to save the day either.

Good actors can sometimes carry a badly written episode with their acting skills, but I don't (and shouldn't) expect that from Garrett Wang and Robert Beltran here, and this is despite the fact that the underlying story here did indeed have potential.

Just look at the opening scene with 4 of our regular characters (2 of whom are Kim and Chakotay) when they are talking over what they see in a screen. Wang delivers his lines as if he were reading them from that screen (sigh). And the conversation that ensues in the cave between Kim and Chakotay; no energy whatsoever even when Chakotay refuses to scan the bodies for ethical reasons (ummm.. I can think of at least 10 episodes in the Star Trek universe, if given the time, in which dead bodies discovered are scanned immediately. Nevermind anyway that Petra's dead body was revived without too much contemplation by anyone).

The most blatant examples of acting-skills contrast take place in those scenes that show Wang (Kim) and a seasoned actor like Jerry Hardin (or even a less-accomplished one like Jeffrey Chandler) holding one-on-one dialogs. I am also inclined to include the closing dialog between Kim and Janeway in the same breath. Wang is like a Chevette trying to keep up with a different Ferrari in each of these scenes.
Peter
Fri, Mar 10, 2017, 9:52pm (UTC -5)
So, 2 stars for this episode? The same score as the preceding one that spoofed "Double Indemnity" and married it to a really hokey spy plot that made no sense?

At least this one was a sensitive portrayal of a very heavy subject. I also liked seeing Harry Kim given some screen time, even though Jerry Hardin (Deep Throat from The X-Files!) and some of the other cast can indeed act circles around him.

I've got to love the supreme confidence of some of the commentators here, where just because some particular doctrine is exposed as mistaken must therefore mean that ANY spiritual beliefs whatsoever are laughably childish and wishful thinking. Is that really what Roddenberry was intending all along? I'm not so sure, but then I lack the smug self-assurance of both the militantly religious and the equally militantly anti-religious factions. To paraphrase what Janeway says, "who really knows?" Most of us just like to think we have all the answers.

I think that's the ultimate message of this episode -- that no one should be too sure of their knowledge of ultimate truth. The episode itself, far from being dull, was thoughtful and the pace made sense given the material.

A high point for me was the production design of the alien world: small, claustrophobic rooms with cold metal finishes, zero greenery of any sort, and industrial-looking egg crate foam as the only concession to soft surfaces. It fit well with a society obsessed with death and embracing euthanasia to the extent that simply being middle-ages and wearing leg braces makes one a "burden on his family." And it's no wonder Harry couldn't pinpoint his location -- he was never permitted to get a look at the sky. The aliens here seem to live as much underground as the mummified bodies of their dead inside those asteroids.

On the whole, it was a clever and thought provoking episode. A solid 3 stars from me.
William B
Sun, Aug 27, 2017, 12:56am (UTC -5)
I actually enjoyed this one -- I thought that the material for Uhnori was strong both on the ship and on the planet, and ended up finding it quite moving. The main issue with the episode is that placing Kim at the centre of it was maybe a mistake. What's interesting, maybe, is that Kim is Starfleet and a techy guy, so is hyper-rationalist, as established early on (by contrast with Chakotay), so he has no real thought as to "afterlife," and he's also young, relatively untouched by death of anyone close to him and far from death (from old age, anyway), and so he doesn't have as much incentive to believe in an afterlife as some others. This is something Janeway somewhat alludes to at the end -- part of Kim not letting things sink in is surely that his instinct is to ignore the implications of what has happened? This isn't a problem in and of itself, but it maybe weakens the episode because Kim ends up only having a strictly plot goal -- he wants to get back to Voyager -- and doesn't have much emotional arc, with the big feelings all going to the Uhnori. And on that score, the episode also misses an opportunity by having the Uhnori on the ship just die partway through in a transporter accident, rather than having to make a choice of how to live in the new world that's opened up to her; I could certainly see an ending in which she does die (for example, she chooses to die and have her body beamed to the asteroid to be with the rest of her people), but for her choice entirely to be taken away sort of blunts her mini-arc in the episode.

What I appreciated about the episode is its contemplative tone and the way it examines what the social function of religion is as well as the problems that develop with a too-literal interpretation of it. As others have pointed out, the idea here is not that there is definitely no afterlife; there is some possibility that there is something in the radiation field, which is maybe a have-cake-and-eat-it-too dodge, but I think works as a kind of spiritual metaphor. But overly literal conceptions of death as moving into another life in one's own body can lead to perverse outcomes -- in particular, a devaluing of *this* life, as we get to the euthanasia plot. I think the message is the replacement of religious dogma and literalism with a humbler, more uncertain spirituality; Kim's staunch rationalism comes under fire too by that ending (from Janeway), and Chakotay's somewhat pompous theorizing about what one can learn about the Unhari from their death rituals, too, gets implicit criticism since despite his confidence, he was extremely far off in his judgments. (This makes me feel a little better about the silliness of rejecting tricorders but allowing visuals because...why? Why is using your eyes better than using tricorders passively?) Hatil's arc seems to be about how to some extent, some fear of death (and uncertainty about whether there is an afterlife) is necessary in order to have the courage to live one's life, and take chances when life is unpleasant, and that story works for me. Despite the problems, I think this gets a shaky 3 stars from me.
William B
Sun, Aug 27, 2017, 1:01am (UTC -5)
Actually, thinking about it some more (mostly while writing), while I'm not necessarily sold on Garrett Wang's performance in the episode, I mostly am fine with Kim's lack of emotional investment in death as such in the way things play out; his lack of experience is part of why he lets slip so much about what he saw so early, and why he maintains a bit of smug detachment from the way his information from the beyond is destabilizing the Uhnari in general (and Hatil's family in particular) while also trying his darnedest not to let it show. That Kim can't entirely empathize with how shocking the news he brings is in part because of his own inexperience with death makes the ep a little drier emotionally than it could have been, maybe, but still is interesting in its own way. I find this one underrated.
William B
Sun, Aug 27, 2017, 1:10am (UTC -5)
Elliott's comment is really great here. The Uhnari's flaw is in believing that death only has meaning if it happens in a specific way, and they are basically unchanged by death. The "their souls are in the radiation field!" ending is, I know, maybe a stretch as science-fiction, but I think of it more in the way Kes describes how her society has beliefs about how souls are in some way preserved through the process of decomposition helping other life grow...which is a metaphorical way of saying that there are after-effects, in the lives of others, after we are gone, and that even if we live on in no other way, that is not nothing and forms a kind of after life that can provide comfort to the spirit. The radiation field ending is more meant as a mystery; it fits with the worldview of those who are more religious than I, but also works for me as metaphor, as well as a reminder of things that can inspire awe in the universe as a whole. If our bodies don't emerge whole in some other world, that doesn't mean there is nothing meaningful in life or death; that is the message of the episode. The decision to have Kim, who is outside any *religious* dogma but is maybe too much a rationalist and who is also at risk of being, as Janeway says, jaded to the wonder of the universe, be the centre of the episode and the one who inspires Hatil's personal renaissance is pretty important and meaningful.
Skinty
Sat, Sep 9, 2017, 5:05am (UTC -5)
For some of the people wondering how they use the shroud again, they say in the episode that the body comes to the asteroid naked, so I assume the shroud is left behind in the pod thing. That doesn't explain why Kim and that woman go through with their clothes on however.

And I know that Star Trek plays fast and loose with warp speeds and distances, but this episode is ridiculous with it. It should take about 8 hours to go .6 light years at warp 7. Not about 5 seconds like in the show. Even if it was supposedly longer than that, like 10 minutes, it certainly wasn't 8 hours.

Also Torres says 'It looks like most of these asteroids support Class M atmospheres'. Right, of course they would. I guess they didn't have enough in the budget for space suits this week.

Forgetting that stuff, still a pretty lame episode.

1 star
Silly
Wed, Sep 27, 2017, 5:52pm (UTC -5)
With regard to Ptera's transporter "accident", did anybody else think Janeway was relieved that they got rid of that uncomfortable little problem? They certainly didn't try hard to re-revive her, like perhaps having the doctor look at her.

Not a bad episode really.
TB
Mon, Oct 16, 2017, 8:44am (UTC -5)
There are a lot of things to criticise about this episode but I'd still give it a solid 3 stars.

There are some interesting concepts, unfortunately most go ignored or unexplored.

Harry basically breaks the prime directive by showing/telling a society that all their beliefs are nonsense and they just rot in a cave. It would have been better to show the society wide repercussions of that and how ridiculous it was that people were choosing to die for their blind faith.

Instead, we see this touched upon slightly but mostly ignored. The episode could have explored what it meant for the prime directive: Should Harry lie to them to avoid breaking the prime directive? Is lying to them about their religious beliefs moral? Alternatively it could have gone down the route of showing what happens when people realise what they had believed their whole life is wrong.

Either of these would have been more interesting than what we got. My biggest gripe, however, is the religious pandering at the end with "neural energy swirling". It would have been far more powerful if the episode had made it clear they they just decomposed in the cave and the society would need to deal with that.
Rahul
Wed, Jan 31, 2018, 5:29pm (UTC -5)
Here's a VOY episode that could have been better without too much effort. Great idea to focus on the afterlife and how another culture can interpret it and what it could mean for some good character development. Instead it winds up being mostly boring and Wang really doesn't convey the urgency of his situation being held captive by aliens who may not even be in the same dimension as Voyager. No real character development here, except for Janeway at the end with some mothering of Kim.

With the teaser, I initially thought the away team had beamed down to Shelob's lair complete with dead bodies in cocoons and spider webs hanging everywhere. But I thought Chakotay had some interesting comments on other cultures and rituals for the dead -- unfortunately that was about all he contributed to the episode.

Hard to really care anything for the aliens' rituals and how they kill their own prior to going to the next emanation. Just your random aliens of the week.

But what was somewhat clever is how all the switcheroos work out ultimately. The woman who gets brought aboard Voyager is eventually killed through the transporter when she finds out the afterlife is not what she thought it would be and agreed to Voyager's test. And Kim switches with the old man who doesn't want to die so he can go off and live with friends far away while his family thinks he's dead. And Kim goes through the aliens' emanation process, dies and gets revived when back on Voyager. It all works out quite nicely and conveniently.

2 stars for "Emanations" -- At least the episode leaves the afterlife as something nebulous -- the neural energy that surrounds the planet and the asteroids and a possibly higher level of consciousness. Janeway has her tidbit of wisdom about death, which is fine. Overall a kind of a slow-paced sterile episode.
Eskimo
Mon, Mar 26, 2018, 5:03pm (UTC -5)
I also found this episode overwhelming. I'm not sure why it got 2 stars. It was infuriatingly boring. As one commenter said, death is a really good place to boldly go. And because I'm coming off of DS9, interacting with an alien culture using space anomolies as part of their religious ritual should have been written much more nuanced. DS9 didn't cover The subject of death very much either. Maybe we will never get a good episode... The character plots (the aliens') didn't make sense the way they were written off. I'm very disappointed in this episode.
Elliott
Sat, Oct 13, 2018, 3:31pm (UTC -5)
Teaser : **.5, 5%

The Voyager has discovered a new element within the rings of a planet. Torres and Janeway continue their streak of nerding out over the discovery, excitedly speculating about its applicability. The asteroids in the rings support breathable atmospheres (of course they do), so Chakotay leads an away team back to the ol' cave set, which is now strewn with Hollowe'en prop spider webbing. Torres notes that the webbing is indeed organic. They stumble across several corpses wrapped up in this webbing, and at this point, I think they had better be on the lookout for Shelob. The production elements here are a bit goofy, reminding me of early TNG, but there are certainly a lot of directions the story can go from here. I'm neutral.

Act 1 : **, 17%

Chakotay reports their findings over the comm to Janeway. He speculates that the asteroid is a burial site, and Torres remarks that the webbing is the new element they discovered and is being excreted by the corpses, which manages to be even creepier than the giant spider idea. Chakotay and Kim disagree over how to proceed—Harry wants to examine the bodies, to learn as much as possible about this new species, whereas Chakotay doesn't want to desecrate the gravesite. Sigh...while Chakotay is entitled to his personal opinion about the “sanctity” of the dead bodies, Janeway choosing to humour him and ignore their Starfleet directive to investigate this phenomenon strikes me as ridiculous. Is she placating the commander for some reason? Honestly, this would have worked better if they hadn't contacted the Voyager, but just had Chakotay, recent Maquis, overrule the directive, backed up by Torres, leaving the green ensign to sheepishly accept this violation of protocol. A missed opportunity.

Instead, we get Chakotay being incredibly smug “you're looking, but you're not seeing.” Oh, fuck me. He speculates wildly about this culture's burial customs, and determines that they must be ritualistic, which is fair, and that they probably believe in an afterlife, which is baseless, as Torres is quick to remind him, citing Klingon customs. This tour of smug is thankfully cut short by the appearance of a “vacuole” in the cave. Chakotay calls for a beam out and Bajoran Ja-Rule attempts the transport. The vacuole distorts the beam and Torres, Chakotay and a fresh corpse materialise on the transporter pad. Torres determines the woman on the pad has only been dead for a few minutes, while BJ-Rule notes that Kim has been beamed through the vacuole to wherever these people come from. Chakotay gets one more dose of smug in, but finally relents to have the woman beamed to sickbay and revived so she can be questioned.

Somewhere else, a land of Dutch angles, a funeral rite is taking place. A priest says that the woman, Battering Ram or whatever, will thrive in “the Next Emanation.” The ceremony is interrupted by banging from within the space coffin and Kim is released, panicked.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

Elsewhere in Space Holland, an older couple is having a tearful goodbye. The husband is apparently about to die, and cross over to The Next Emanation, where he is expected to be able to interact with the family's other dead relatives. She makes sure to mention some Guerilla trees or something that his father had planted, suggesting the dead man will be pleased to know they're blooming. After the wife exits, Kim is led into the room by the priest and some other aliens. The dying man is intrigued by this person who has returned from Heaven, but his intrigue quickly turns to fear when Kim mentions all those corpses and spider webs. Before this can continue, a thanatologist (real thing, by the way) is brought in, who is equally horrified/confused by Kim's reports.

On the Voyager, the EMH reports to Janeway—he cured the alien woman's cancer and revived her, badda-bing. The Doctor manages to shame Chakotay a bit, which is most welcome, by informing him that, for all his sanctimonious effort to avoid desecrating a gravesite, the away team had been “strolling through” dead bodies which left behind those cobwebs. Kes, for her part, has become a full-fledged nurse for the EMH.

They awaken Battering Ram, which is wonderfully framed so that Janeway and the EMH appear like gods hovering above her. She asks after her brother and the rest of her family. Janeway's words explaining how they cured her, meant to comfort, horrify the woman who had expected to find the afterlife. She panics and the EMH sedates her. These two parallel scenes, in which the Voyager crew through the aliens' beliefs into doubt, are cleverly constructed; we get the cultural perspective from Kim's experience and the individual perspective from the woman in sickbay. Good setup.

Act 3 : ***.5, 17%

Kim and the thanatologist examine the space coffin together, where it is explained how the technology harnesses the vacuoles, which occur naturally, to allow the dead to pass on to the Next Emanation/spider asteroid. What I like about this is how the ritual associated with these people's belief is enhanced by sci-fi tech, but that it's perfectly plausible that this ritual predates modern technology. In ancient times, they probably just tossed the bodies through the ruptures. The tech just streamlines a conceivably pre-Enlightenment ritual.

The thanatologist questions Harry, deepening his horror when Harry explains that the aliens' bodies are on some asteroid decomposing instead of planting Guerilla Trees in Heaven. Harry is told that he will be analysed to help them better understand “life after death.”

On the Voyager, Mrs Butterworth or whatever has awoken and a bit calmer than before. She's able to provide Janeway with some answers about what has happened to Harry, but she is desperate for answers to her own questions. What happens when you die?

JANEWAY: I'm not sure what you mean.
PTERA: We're supposed to evolve into a higher level of consciousness when we die. We're supposed to gain a greater understanding of the universe. All of our questions are supposed to be answered.

Janeway is sympathetic to her fear, to her disappointment, but at no point does Janeway entertain her delusions about life and death. It's a wonderfully-written scene that reminds me of “Who Watches the Watchers” in its straightforward, empathetic but unapologetically-honest dialogue. A little boom interrupts them, and Torres reports that a vacuole has formed aboard the ship itself, depositing a new body in Engineering.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

In Dimension X or whatever, Harry's presence has thrown the dying man into doubt about his future in the Next Emanation. He and his wife argue about his indecision.

LORIA: Hatil, we know nothing about him, or why he's come here, or why he's spreading lies about the Next Emanation. All I know is, you can't throw away a lifetime of belief because of him. It doesn't make sense.

Except, it actually does make sense. When your beliefs centre around scientifically-measurable ideas, they are subject to the scientific method. I'm looking at you, Bajor. These aliens believe that their afterlife revolves around a physical transformation, an assumption made in ignorance about exactly what the vacuoles are. True, all they have is the word of one alien, Harry, to cast doubt on this system. Harry's word shouldn't necessarily be believed outright—he may very well have some sort of agenda—but *doubt* is not only justified, it's a sign of intelligence. Harry is upset with himself about inadvertently interfering in this culture, but Hatil is quite serious in confronting the possibility that death is...the end, which is admirable.

HATIL: My people have come to think of death as just another stage of our existence. There are some people who are even eager to die. If they feel depressed or lonely in this life, they simply move on to the next one.

Yeah, that's exactly why suicide is considered sinful in so many religions; the only way to keep people from leaping to their divine reward is to remind them that it's supposed to be a reward for enduring life on earth—only god can will a person's time to die and so forth. Anyway, it turns out Hatil has suffered an accident which has made him a burden to his family, which has led to the family decision to terminate him. Harry can't conceal his disgust for this practice, even though, quite unlike Lwaxana Troi, he tries.

Meanwhile, the Voyager is still collecting dead bodies; the warp core is attracting the vacuoles away from the asteroids, which is starting to destabilise the core itself. Janeway discovers that the corpses are releasing energy into the rings. Meanwhile, Kes has taken Bathsalts or whatever her name is to the mess hall, in an attempt to console her. Unlike Hatil, the confrontation with the fact that her beliefs are a lie are more cause for depression than doubt. Kes explains that the Ocampa believe in an afterlife, but like Enlightened species, their beliefs are spiritual—the Ocampa soul transcends the physical universe in some, undisclosed way. Beetroot or whatever her name is can't relate. Her people have always believed they know *exactly* what Heaven is. They have anthropomorphised the universe to such a degree that Heaven itself is just another physical existence. How tragically shallow.

To help resolve the situation, Torres suggests trying to re-create the transporter accident by sending Petrock or whatever her name is back through a vacuole with a transponder that they can use to locate Harry. Torres has also created a stopgap to protect the warp core, and Bajoran Ja-Rule attempts the transport, but there's an accident of some sort and she ends up dying again right on the transporter pad. This time, the death is permanent, with no brain activity to speak of—okay, then. This is really rather dark—the young woman was diagnosed with cancer, but promised an eternity of happiness with her family, only to awaken in an alien place full of nothing but disappointment. She attempts to return to her old life, to at least find comfort in familiar surroundings, only to be killed again, but this time she died a terrified and suicidal mess.

Act 5 : ***, 17%

Back in Holland, the thanatologist and Harry argue about what to do next. Harry wants to examine the space coffin, but the aliens are worried about the ripples of doubt flowing through their culture, so they want to move Harry to a more secure location where they can examine him more thoroughly. Hatil, meanwhile, is wrapping himself in a death shroud, a ceremonial part of their death rites.

KIM: So they make you wrap yourself in your own death shroud.
HATIL: It's something we look forward to, actually. I remember when my father used this shroud, his father before him. The difference is, when my father put this on there was no doubt in his mind about where he was going.

Hatil has considered just fleeing his family instead of going through with the ritual, and Harry seizes the opportunity to get himself back to the Voyager. He will swap places with Hatil so the latter can go into hiding and Harry can be sent back to the Next Emanation. He'll die of course, but Harry thinks it's possible the EMH will be able to revive him. Hatil points out that his revival is not a certainty, and Harry agrees but will go through with it anyways. It's okay to live without such comforting certainties about life and death.

So they, go ahead with the swap—unconvincingly as Harry is about 60 lbs heavier than Hatil, but whatever, it's TV. The death ritual is completed, with the wife actually pressing the death button. And Harry dies.

On the Voyager, there's some typical drama around the warp core being close to DOOM. Janeway reluctantly agrees to fly away, but right in the nick of time, Harry is vacuoled aboard. He's revived in Sickbay—try not to be so surprised.

In the epilogue, Janeway orders Kim to take some time off duty to “reflect” on his experience. Mulgrew shepherds Wang through a touching little scene:

JANEWAY: This may not make much sense to you now, a young man at the beginning of his career, but one of the things you'll learn as you move up the ranks and get a little older is that you wish you had more time in your youth to really absorb all the things that happened to you. It goes by so fast. It's so easy to become jaded, to treat the extraordinary like just another day at the office, but sometimes there are experiences which transcend all that. You've just had one, Mister Kim, and I want you to live with it for a little while. Write about it, if you feel like it. Paint. Express yourself in some fashion.

I absolutely love this speech. How do non-believers like the Federation express themselves spiritually? Through art, through reflection, through discussion. Janeway also shares the information about that energy which goes into the rings, a sign that *something* happens to these people when they die which they can't explain, and a little healthy agnosticism is not a bad space to inhabit.

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

The execution of this episode is rather uneven. Much of the cinematography and dialogue is actually quite breathtaking, but then there are oddly slow and tech-heavy bits, as well as a slightly underwhelming performance from the central character. The other major flaw was in not making the stakes personal for Kim in a way which would have fleshed out his character. Much like early Bashir, the writers seem a bit stuck in the etchings of Harry Kim instead of his soul, ironically enough.

That said, the way in which the message of the episode is conceived and delivered is brilliant. The parallel stories between Badminton or whatever and Hatil encapsulate the different manifestations of doubt, which are a real part of faith-based cultures, quite effectively—something sorely missing on DS9. The young woman, unable to reconcile her beliefs with a reality she is forced to confront, ends up dying tragically. The older man, in contrast, chooses to take the opportunity afforded him by this introduction of doubt and lead a new, more enlightened life instead of throwing it away to tradition. I like very much that it ends up being the older character, whom one would expect to hold the more stubborn and conservative beliefs, to be the one given a second chance at life.

Then there's Harry. He spends the first act eager to learn as much about the species as possible, only to get shut down by Commander smug. Then he becomes a source of revelatory information *to* that very species about their own existence, one with potentially devastating consequences. We have to imagine Bethany or whatever her name is wouldn't be the only person to want to kill themselves on their homeworld. Mulgrew's performance at the end was fantastic, but I think what would have really bumped up the quality of the message would have been for the conversation to take place between Harry and Chakotay: Chakotay, being allowed to be “the religious guy” because of Hollywood guilt, was just as certain in his evaluation of the corpses as the aliens were in their afterlife. Both were proven wrong here, and I think it would have been wonderful for the two men to grapple with this issue together. Exploring spirituality is good—through art, through ritual, through contemplation, through philosophy, even through religion—but when one begins to let faith intrude on matters of knowledge, one makes the Universe smaller, less mysterious and less inviting a place to explore with whatever lifespan one is lucky enough to live.

Final Score : ***
LT.BLT
Sat, Nov 24, 2018, 10:46pm (UTC -5)
I was an atheist asshole far before I heard of Star Trek, and a Trekhead long before I ever heard of Richard Dawkins. This does not stop me from being in love with Elliot.
Startrekwatcher
Fri, Dec 21, 2018, 11:46pm (UTC -5)
3 stars

My opinion improved of this episode from its initial airing in 95

I enjoyed how unique this episode felt and at times surreal. The ring system was beautiful. Enjoyed seeing the away team scene with Chakotay wanting to respect the remains and just make observations. The alien world Kim ends up was nicely Egyptian from the cenotaph to the garb to the shroud wrappings. Interesting an alien race sees an anomaly that litters their world is a gateway to the afterlife.

Liked the ending where the episode didn’t just crap all over the idea of an afterlife by suggesting possibly the neural energy continues on in the radiation of the ring system offering a possibility of more
Sleeper Agent
Tue, Mar 19, 2019, 9:25am (UTC -5)
Janeway steals the show in the last 2 minutes of the episode. Just remarkable. The first tear jerker in VOY for me.

3 Stars!
Cody B
Wed, Apr 3, 2019, 7:10am (UTC -5)
Those “aliens of the week” weren’t the brightest. Why could they not just accept that the asteroid was a graveyard when told about the bodies? That doesn’t ruin everything. I guess they just had to have their physical bodies in their heaven or no deal. Pretty weak episode. Like someone took mushrooms and got inspired but then just finished up the story 3 weeks later over the weekend instead.
SJU
Sat, May 4, 2019, 1:51pm (UTC -5)
Early Harry episode. Yawn.

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