Star Trek: Voyager
Air date: 9/24/1997
Written by Kenneth Biller
Directed by Alexander Singer
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"I wish it were as easy to stop hating as it was to start." — Chakotay
Nutshell: A reliable if derivative Trekkian theme, and pretty strong in execution.
During a survey mission, Chakotay's shuttle is shot down over a planet locked in warfare. He is discovered by a group of Vori soldiers, and in order to survive long enough to contact Voyager, Chakotay must travel through the landscapes in the middle of their war. Before long, Chakotay finds himself fighting on their side to survive.
But, further, Chakotay gets to know these soldiers and begins to sympathize with their plight. The Vori speak of the horrors of their enemy, the brutal Kradin, which they simply call the "nemesis." They have come to hate their enemy. They call their nemesis "beasts" and look forward to any battle where they can gain vengeance on their cruel adversaries.
Chakotay, the Federation type whose existence defines him to nonviolent intentions and a duty to try to understand people rather than hating them, finds his Starfleet values challenged by a situation of extremes. He's trapped in a forest environment with only these soldiers as a possible way home. The vegetation is thick; at any turn there could be a Kradin ambush of machine-gun fire.
"Nemesis" makes use of a fairly derivative Trekkian theme: The indictment of such ugly things as hate, violence, and killing. But this is probably among Trek's most reliable morals—one of the underlying values that, ideologically, makes Trek what it is. Despite a somewhat sluggish first two acts, "Nemesis's" approach to the issue is as relevant as any, and benefits from some fairly strong execution.
While the Shuttle Crash™ is, naturally, an absurdly laughable cliché used to launch the episode (it's the third shuttle to be lost in as many episodes), I'm forgiving it this time—for at least the situation it creates for Chakotay is the basis for some good drama. (Besides, at this point, after at least a dozen lost shuttles, I'm just assuming that the Voyager crew has come up with a way of building new ones out of raw materials.)
There's also the Vori speaking style. It's quite different, using metaphors and bizarrely constructed phrases to describe the mundane. The Vori say things like "the soon after" instead of "later," or "nullified," instead of "killed." The writers must've felt this dialog delivery would give the script an insightful dramatic edge. I can't say I was particularly impressed by it, but nor did it hurt any of the scenes. It was pretty much neutral for me, but I will give Kenneth Biller an A for effort in trying to be different in a sophisticated way.
The episode's guest characters prove reasonably good, and the story supplies them with enough depth to give them three dimensions. For some of them, we learn about their families, their losses, the atrocities of the enemy as they've experienced first-hand. The show gives them a reasonable amount of depth, such that we can understand what they've been through.
Chakotay finds himself absorbed into this plight, and before long he picks up a weapon and is fighting the Vori's fight. At one point, Chakotay is separated from the rest of his unit, and finds his way into a Vori village which has suffered its own losses in the war. A young girl in the village speaks highly of her older brother, who is also a soldier. The fate of the brother does not seem promising.
The show's most striking touch of wartime atrocity is the Kradin's desecration of the dead Vori. The Vori's beliefs require that the dead be turned on their faces, so they can see the "path to the way after." The Kradin have a hateful practice of tying captured soldiers to the ground face-up, and letting them die in the sun. This was a pretty realistic demonstration of cruelty, and therefore quite vivid.
Through all of this is Chakotay, who slowly but surely finds himself coming to hate these Kradin "beasts." The road of emotional torment that Chakotay travels from beginning to the end of the episode is a rather dark one. It begins first with his early sentiments to the Vori ("Killing is one of the worst things I've had to do"), and his acknowledgment that exaggeration often makes an enemy easier to hate. The episode ends on the other side of the spectrum, with Chakotay blindly firing a machine gun into the trees, hoping to hit any enemy he can. (When told to hold his fire, he shouts, "Not until I've nullified all of you!").
Chakotay's transformation into a Kradin-hater is understandable, if unfortunate. To think anyone from the Federation is, by definition, devoid of any possibility of hate or prejudice is naive. Back in DS9's second season episode, "The Collaborator," Odo said to Kira that even the best of people can be capable of terrible things given a difficult situation. "Nemesis" proves that with uncontested force.
On the surface, the story deliberately makes the Kradin look like ugly humanoid creatures, while making the Vori appear completely human. The reasons are obvious, albeit quite manipulative: The story tries to get us to side with the Vori immediately, while seeing the Kradin as vile, evil creatures. It's a sneaky approach, but, if you think about it, supports the story's grim argument: We're more likely to sympathize with people we feel are similar to us, and hate those who are different.
There's a twist ending to "Nemesis," however, that proves exactly how misguided that argument is. As Voyager searches for Chakotay and works with the planet's government, they deal with the only side willing to help—the Kradin. And, what's sure to strike people as "implausible" or "weak," it turns out that Chakotay's entire experience in serving in battle alongside the Vori is a simulated ruse of unreality designed to make him a more efficient killer. The revelation that the Vori have been "training" Chakotay to hate the Kradin—using mind control equipment and a host of other conjured stimuli—is a chilling and devious prospect. As "Nemesis" demonstrates, hate can certainly be an effective motivator in training one's soldiers to fight with such dedication, conviction, and fierceness.
I'll admit that it was a bit frustrating to learn that all the characters I had met in the course of the hour weren't real, and that everything Chakotay had done was part of an elaborate setup. And the denouement—in which Tuvok infiltrates the Vori battle site as an undercover Kradin and tells Chakotay what has happened—is a bit confusing in its portrayal and brings up some unresolved logistic problems.
But in the end it really doesn't matter, because the ends justify the means. The real key to this episode is how a culture transformed Chakotay into a man who hated with a passion he had never before known. The final scene is crucial to the episode's success; here a Kradin ambassador comes to greet Chakotay, who has been safely rescued and transported back to Voyager. But Chakotay can't look him in the eye, can't say a word. He can only walk away, muddled in confused hatred. Beltran's subtle performance is a true highlight.
This finale makes the episode work better than it might have without it. With this scene, we see that the Vori have taught—not simply forced—Chakotay to fear and despise the Kradin, for even after such mind-controlling agents have been removed and the situation has been explained from all points of view, Chakotay's feelings of animosity still prevail.
"Nemesis" takes awhile to get where it's going, and some of the plot manipulations tread on the edge of questionable logic. But in the end the episode makes some strong statements. It all may be a bit heavy-handed, but it works.
Next week: Harry introduces Seven of Nine to sexuality ... or maybe it's the other way around.
Previous episode: Day of Honor
Next episode: Revulsion
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80 comments on this post
Tue, Dec 25, 2007, 9:59pm (UTC -5)
By the way shouldn't the crew be interested in 'aliens' that are clearly human like the Vori
Mon, May 26, 2008, 10:57am (UTC -5)
Fri, Apr 10, 2009, 4:56pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 25, 2009, 1:23am (UTC -5)
A person wasn't "killed" they were nullified. The enemy didn't have a name, they were simply nemesis. Brainwashing, pure and simple - and a sofisticated idea for Trek to play with.
Sun, Sep 13, 2009, 4:44pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 29, 2010, 2:58am (UTC -5)
The 2nd twist of the 'brain-washing' was very well hidden and very well executed. Not on up to 'Fight Club' levels, but still a nice surprise.
The seemingly inexhaustible supply of shuttles is a bit comical though.
As a closing note, I got a lot of "Vietnam Vibes" out of this episode - But I could just be mistaken...
Mon, Feb 1, 2010, 11:59pm (UTC -5)
Neelix was acting as Voyager's ambassador. He didn't have any prior information about the planet.
Tue, Nov 30, 2010, 5:27am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jan 27, 2011, 9:46am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jan 27, 2011, 10:31am (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 7, 2011, 6:43pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jul 6, 2011, 1:26am (UTC -5)
Decent episode, three stars seems about right.
Thu, Nov 3, 2011, 3:14pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Dec 2, 2011, 7:11am (UTC -5)
Tue, Apr 10, 2012, 1:53pm (UTC -5)
I agree with Peter & Neil. The stylized dialogue served the plot well and made it more believable that Chakotay would begin to hate the nemesis and be properly brainwashed when he began to speak like the Vori.
I was not at all frustrated to find that the people he had been interacting with were not real. I found that revelation made the entire story more poignant.
Sat, Sep 29, 2012, 1:39am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 16, 2013, 10:48am (UTC -5)
Sat, Mar 30, 2013, 7:07pm (UTC -5)
After recently reading the classic sci-fi novel '1984', I echo the above commentors who mention the clever use of language and how powerful a tool it can be in re-melting your mindscape as if it was merely a lump of play-doh (okay I fail at descriptive writing lol!).
The plot itself isn't the strongest in the typical sense, but it still holds plenty of merit for the way you get swept along with all that Chakotay goes through. The feel of the episode reminded me of Plattoon and other such powerful war films, which I say is in the episodes' favour (a job well done by the director).
The only thing which I'm a bit let down with is the way you're left hanging after the end of last episode. You're really wanting to see what's going to be happening next with Tom and Torres! At least it was put on hold instead of shoe-horned in, because it wouldn't have fitted well at all. But yeah, perhaps Nemesis was better saved for until we got some resolution from Day Of Honour.
Other than that, no big complaints. I was very much swept along and taken in by Nemesis which is more than what can be said for the ST film of the same name! 3.4/4 from me.
Tue, Apr 2, 2013, 12:23am (UTC -5)
I'm currently rewatching Voyager, and I'm surprised how often I have enjoyed the Chakotay-centric episodes. I didn't warm up to the character much on the original run, perhaps because I saw the episodes in disjoint syndication. Now, watching frequently, and in order, I see his character much more as a man of peace who reluctantly took up the sword. Beltran communicates a great sense of dignity and thoughtfulness that I think would have made him an interesting alternative to Janeway as captain.
Indeed, now that I think of it, what an interesting series this would have been if Chakotay had taken on a more co-captain-like role, or even had commanded the ship with Janeway, somehow, as his first officer.
Tue, Apr 23, 2013, 6:36pm (UTC -5)
I’m not sure how to evaluate the surprise twist. On the one hand, it was totally surprising, yet logical, clever, and thought-provoking. On the other hand, it is just so disconnected from what happened earlier in the episode that in some sense it is never really explored on-screen. You’ve got this whole episode about Chikotay falling into the middle of a war zone and bonding with one side, then a revelation “It was just a dream!”, then Chikotay saying “Huh, it was just a dream?” and then the episode is over. So it is really clever in terms of setting up a mystery and then providing a surprise ending, but a bit odd that in terms of story and character development that the ending doesn’t really climax the story so much as suddenly change it to a different story.
I guess my overall reaction is “The story about Chikotay in a war zone is well-executed and interesting to watch. The idea of being tricked into hating an enemy, by being put through an elaborate virtual reality backstory that gives you good reason to hate the enemy, is a really interesting idea. Somebody should write a story that really explores that idea.”
Thu, Jun 20, 2013, 10:55pm (UTC -5)
Seriously, though, do we even care about how communication happens between humans and other species in the DQ? It only matters when the plot needs it to.
The whole mind manipulation thing didn't make sense to me. I mean what was actually going on when Tuvok takes Chakotay to the village again? What was Tuvok seeing? I don't get it. The fact that the details of how Chakotay was brainwashed annoyed me.
I feel like the same message could have been addressed by simply having Chakotay being involved with real people. In any war, both sides see the other as evil no matter how good or evil each side might be. Oh well.
Thu, Jun 20, 2013, 10:56pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 28, 2013, 4:22pm (UTC -5)
More problematic is Tuvok's knowledge of the camp when he seemed surprised at first that Chakotay didn't recognize him. How specific is the enemy's knowledge of the brainwashing?
I felt disappointed and cheated by the "it was all an illusion" ending. I think they might be overusing that plot device.
That said, it was effective in the sense that I too could not accept the Predator aliens as "misunderstood" even at the end after the reveal. I still distrusted them like Chakotay. Point made, writers.
Mon, Sep 2, 2013, 4:20pm (UTC -5)
Everything just clicked for me in this episode: Chakotay's reluctance and eventual acceptance to becoming involved in the conflict, Namon's wrestling his trembles to rages, the Kradin's cruelty and malevolence. Easy to believe that this episode aired around the same time as the Occupation arc of DS9's sixth season.
Two questions I've always had about this episode... Is the planet the Vori and the Kradin are fighting over one species' homeworld or a colony? And what happened to Brone after the final battle? We see him being dragged away by two Kradin soldiers - was he was being fast-walked to an extermination facility?
Thu, Jan 2, 2014, 12:53pm (UTC -5)
As far as the language used, I thought it was well done. It's easy to start using stilted language and then drop it, I'm glad the writers were able to do it convincingly through the entire episode.
I understand that the language was part of the brainwashing, but realistically, we should hear stuff like this more often. The translator should have been rendering words and short phrases literally, sort of like Google translate. The translator is working with languages that it has never encountered before, and it should lose or misunderstand most of what is said, at least for the first few days of interaction with a species. Other Trek series had the advantage of working with more or less known species, but the entire run of Voyager should have really played with the idea of communication issues - that could have been fun.
Sun, Jan 5, 2014, 11:51pm (UTC -5)
OP: The never-ending supply of shuttles (3 in a row!) is very hard to swallow.
Robin is right in that Neelix should not have been able to offer any insight into this area/conflict. In the previous season, they had already reached the Nekrit Expanse, which marked the limit of Neelix's familiarity with that area of space. Add to that the 9500 light years that Kes threw them, and he shouldn't have known a thing about the planet or its people or its war (no, he was not limited to just ambassadorial duties; he actually was familiar with the conflict).
Elphaba, I agree that Paris's enthusiasm to go save Chakotay seemed out of place.
Love to see so many people interested in the details!!
Tue, Apr 22, 2014, 5:49pm (UTC -5)
My suspicion is that this episode was supposed to take place sometime before Seven joined the cast and before Kes gave Voyager the gift.
Wed, Apr 30, 2014, 8:10am (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 22, 2014, 1:18pm (UTC -5)
To me this is one of the strongest Voyager episodes so far. The weird language was way better than other Trek attempts at having altered speech. And the acting was really good by everyone in this episode.
My only criticism is that the entire propaganda plot twist, while mind blowing, literally comes out of nowhere. I don't think there are any clues that the viewer could have picked up on that what Chakotay was experiencing was not real.
The moral message seems kind of unclear to me but overall this is a strong episode.
Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 10:41am (UTC -5)
The brainwashing aspect of this episode mirrors (in an extreme form) the more subtle tendency of current cultures to utilize corporation, religion, and media together to rally enough masses in justifying illegal wars and other military actions (and even non-military aspects of culture). Either way, it's propaganda in some differing forms but both with the same chilling results. The episode obviously shows a more direct approach in its utilization.
The fact that this episode even made me feel anger towards the ambassador at the end shows that tremendous amount of credit is due on the part of the writing staff. Beltran's performance here was exemplary to say the least.
This is a standout installment of the franchise and, as far as ST war stories are concerned, it rivals even the best ones of DS9. Excellent job.
Mon, Dec 29, 2014, 9:33am (UTC -5)
I must, however, mention that the writers missed a great opportunity (and did Chakotay a great disservice) at the end of this episode when, after Janeway follows Chakotay into the corridor, the dialog leads our first officer to remark along the lines that he hopes it's as easy to stop hating as it was to start.
Never mind that he's already well established as being a gentle spirit who reasons away hate as a reaction and eschews violence as a means or a response to even the most justifiable provocation at every opportunity, but it clearly took most of this episode of his absorbing a genuine Hollywood PoundingTM which included the rigors of what seemed to be days of jungle warfare, a bleeding gunshot wound, multiple blows to the head and, finally, being staked to the ground beneath a blazing sun and left for dead before his attitude and actions fully succumbed to the motivation of hate rather than those of defense of innocents and self preservation.
There was nothing easy about Chakotay's transformation whatsoever from a peaceful, tolerant man to a man who could betray his evolved and noble approach to such a challenge (and his allegiance to the PD); indeed he was still on his way to contact the Voyager until the attack on the Village of InnocentsTM. It's a cheap dismissal of the pains he endured in NOT giving in to hate.
Chakotay should have remarked that he hoped it wouldn't be as DIFFICULT to STOP hating as it as it was to start.
Um....also....if I may
The visual effect for the Tuvok reveal at the end was lame.
As far as I was shown, Chakotay wasn't brainwashed to recognize everyone he sees as a Kradin. Tuvok is Tuvok. Lazy writing made worse by poor effects.
Mon, Dec 29, 2014, 9:38am (UTC -5)
I actually found the thought to be pretty well set with his character.
"As far as I was shown, Chakotay wasn't brainwashed to recognize everyone he sees as a Kradin. "
It's possible he was brainwashed to see people he knows as Kradin, since blasting somebody you know would be a great way to stop them from spoiling your brainwashing. Just a thought.
Mon, Mar 30, 2015, 8:12pm (UTC -5)
The twist was nice though. Not only did it come unexpectedly, but it was believable and very well portrayed. I particularly liked the ending when Chakotay attempts to clarify what happened to him and Janeway replies that she doesn't know whether or not the Kradin subject the Vori to the atrocities Chakotay was brainwashed to believe or that it was the other way around.
No clear cut bad guys to be found. No black and white morality issues.
A few nitpick moments I had:
-Another shuttle lost. I'm starting to suspect they can replicate those things as easily as they can replicate a meal.
-Why did Janeway turn to Neelix for an explanation of their war? How would he know? Not only is their war taking place beyond the Nekrid expanse, it's taking place beyond Borg space and there's no way in hell Neelix ever passed through Borg space. Wouldn't she be better off hearing about it from the very people that are involved in the war? Neelix's role as their guide ended a while ago, didn't it?
-Why are the Vori so quick to conscript Chakotay, an alien, to their cause? If they crashed his shuttle, shouldn't they be wondering who he is and if his people are going to look for him? Shouldn't they wonder about his technology (which may or may not be more advanced then theirs) and try to use their brainwashing abilities to extract that information from him? Seems to me like knowledge abour more advanced tech is far more usefull then just another soldier in the fray.
Thu, Apr 16, 2015, 11:48pm (UTC -5)
If you like this, check out the Twilight Zone episode: A Quality of Mercy.
Thu, Apr 16, 2015, 11:49pm (UTC -5)
Let me know what you think. I thought this was really well written and acted.
Fri, Oct 16, 2015, 11:35am (UTC -5)
Voyager is on a roll.
Beltran get another opportunity and does outstanding.
Chakotay get the wool pulled of his eyes again... :-)
Yet another 3.5 episode. wow, kicking it. Probably a 4.0 episode if it weren't for the Neelix thing.
Fri, Oct 16, 2015, 11:49am (UTC -5)
JANEWAY: Neelix, what do you know about this war?
NEELIX: It's vicious. Ambassador Treen's people have been defending themselves against a particularly savage aggressor for more than a decade.
JANEWAY: Is the Ambassador willing to help us find Chakotay?
NEELIX: He's willing, but he may not be able.
Sun, Oct 18, 2015, 11:33am (UTC -5)
Thu, Oct 29, 2015, 7:51pm (UTC -5)
See, part of the problem is that it's just so darn predictable. As soon as we got the Vietnam War soldiers talking about how much they hated the enemy, I IMMEDIATELY knew that the Kradin would turn out to be the good guys and the Vori the bad guys. It was so obvious. It should have been obvious to anyone. The writers may think they're being clever with that twist, but that's the same twist they always do. Every single freaking time. It's not smart, it's not deep or thought provoking, it's just the same beating up of a straw man we've seen a dozen times over. So why do we need to watch one more show with this amazing twist? Was anyone surprised when the Kradin showed up on Voyager? I certainly wasn't.
OK, so I didn't see the brainwashing coming, so there was at least one thing clever. But was it really?
What is the message that this show is trying to give us? That wartime propaganda is bad? That you shouldn't hate your enemy? Yeah, but...
A) It wasn't propaganda, it was brainwashing. Chakotay wasn't buying any of it when the soldiers were telling him about how evil the Kradin were, or at least was willing to play Devil's advocate. It wasn't until he experienced the atrocities for himself that he started to feel the hate. So is the message that we shouldn't trust our senses? If I see someone assaulting another person, I should just walk on by and assume that it's just an act to make me hate the preferred identity group of the attacker? Well, that certainly can't be true. That can't be the message. But because they had to go to an extreme example (brainwashing) to hit the message (propaganda), it doesn't really work. Oh, and speaking of which...
B) Sometimes regimes really are that evil. The Nazis, the North Koreans (regardless of what Alan Alda thinks), ISIS, all these regimes really are that evil. It's not a matter of propaganda, it's the flat out truth; does anyone argue with that? So are we supposed to pretend otherwise? Are we supposed to bury our heads in the sand and say its not really true that ISIS throws people off cliffs? Are we supposed to tut tut and declare that, since we are not 100% saintly, we are not allowed to criticize or stand up against true evil when it appears? Or that we should just waggle our fingers if two peoples are fighting each other and say a pox on both your houses, even when one is clearly the aggressor and acts in inhumane ways? If so, that is a rather horrible message. I'm sure that's not what the writing crew meant, but this distinction is important, because....
C) The episode clearly shows one side in the wrong! It's a FACT that the Vori kidnap random passerbys, brainwash them, and force them to fight on their side. Now, besides how incredibly inefficient this is as a war strategy, we would consider that a gross violation of human rights. Amnesty International would be all over that. So, um, are we allowed to hate the Vori then? Even just a little bit? Are we allowed to condemn them? After all, Chakotay is in the wrong for hating the Kradin, right? But shouldn't he be a bit miffed, just a little bit, at the Vori for what they did to him? Picard is rather upset at the Borg, Kira doesn't seem to like the Cardassians. Both the Borg and the Cardassians have been known to have rather nasty activities; are the ones who were wronged the most by these enemies supposed to not care in the slightest? If someone killed your mother, are you allowed to hate the murderer? Perhaps it is admirable if you can forgive that person, but many cannot. And to condemn someone who cannot forgive the murderer? That seems rather unfair. And contradictory to every other Star Trek series in existence.
D) Well, is the argument that one should not necessarily hate every member of the enemy, even if the regime is evil and the soldiers cruel? OK, that's reasonable, and naturally consistent with a dozen other episodes. The only problem is that, well, is that really all that they have to say? Regardless of what all the little writers in their comfy chairs in California think, that's not what most people think in the army. Hate and anger doesn't work in the battlefield; a cool, calm head is required. Not to mention, as I said, something that a dozen other episodes have already done. It's hardly deep or novel, and doesn't really say anything we don't already know. So what was the point?
Why, pray tell, can't the writers ever come up with something new surrounding the military? They've been writing the same freaking story since 1970. And when it's so obvious what they are doing, when what they are saying is so trite, when it's ignoring reality (no matter how ugly reality is), I'm not going to praise it.
Tue, Feb 9, 2016, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 24, 2016, 9:06pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Oct 18, 2016, 10:00pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Nov 3, 2016, 8:11am (UTC -5)
So the Vori leader sends one of his defenders to escort Chakotay to his crashed ship, some distance away. The two of them find some wreckage but they come under fire. Not five seconds later the whole squad materialize out of the jungle. Wtf?
Later they find out that the another squad has been massacred a short distance away (300 footfalls). Do they quietly scout the area for enemy? No, the leader gives a rousing motivational speech at the top of his lungs!
This is supposed to be training? More like the three stooges military academy.
Utter nonsense. 1 star.
Thu, Dec 29, 2016, 1:18am (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 16, 2017, 4:23pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 30, 2017, 11:38pm (UTC -5)
Boy, for a while I thought the Kradin were going to turn out to be Nausicans.
Fri, Mar 17, 2017, 10:17am (UTC -5)
This episode didn't do it for me. The brainwashing was effective and I didn't see the twist coming at all (despite being initially suspicious of the Vori), but I was practically dying of boredom. It's Voyager does Platoon but did not draw me in. Can't give it more than 1 star.
Wed, May 17, 2017, 8:20am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jul 5, 2017, 8:50pm (UTC -5)
"Nemesis" spent far too much time on basic jungle warfare and the kicker at the end wasn't worth the slog getting there.
So the point is being made about trusting those who look familiar to us and being able to hate those who look different or unpleasant. Clearly the Kradin are among the most hideous looking humanoids in Trek and the Vori are homo sapiens. The Vori have an interesting twist on the English language which I appreciated as a way of distinguishing them from Earth folks.
I too felt frustrated (like Jammer) that all of what I had witnessed between Chakotay and the Vori was fake. Hard to conceive the Vori coming up with such extensive mind manipulation -- how did they do it?
I actually personally know Michael Mahonen who played the head Vori dude - last I heard he was a filmmaker and had lost a lot of his muscle mass!
The part with Tuvok as a Kradin and the changing of his appearance was weird -- no explanation given about that.
But as a show focusing on Chakotay, I think Beltran did a good job. He showed how his hatred could come about despite sticking to his principles initially -- and yes, his reaction at the end in front of the Kradin diplomat was well portrayed.
Still, I can't justify more than 2 stars for "Nemesis" -- the episode tries to hit on some Trek ideals but I don't watch Trek to see 3/4 of the episode on jungle guerrilla warfare and machine guns etc. Just can't get excited about that for a payoff that was somewhat underwhelming. I would not watch this episode another time.
Thu, Aug 3, 2017, 1:24pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Sep 1, 2017, 6:40am (UTC -5)
Ultimately, my main problem with the episode is that the audience is not given the data to judge for themselves what might be occurring here. It seems to me the only data points we receive are: first culture attempts to brainwash Chakotay, second culture rescues him, and very little else of consequence.
Also, I agree with a lot of Skeptical's points.
I will say though, I like Beltran as an actor, and Chakotay as a character, and so the episode has some redeeming qualities as a psychological portrait of the first officer.
Fri, Sep 1, 2017, 6:50am (UTC -5)
Still, like I said, there are redeeming moments here due to some Chakotay character development.
Wed, Sep 6, 2017, 2:42am (UTC -5)
Then Bang... We see a young Picard waking up from a dream....
Yes? No,? .. hahaha.... Ok... Time for bed...
Mon, Sep 25, 2017, 2:45pm (UTC -5)
The end where a Kraden refers to the Vori as their Nemesis is intriguing but it's a decidedly half-hearted attempt at ambiguity, everything else suggests that the wrong and fault is entirely the Vori's. If there really were atrocities the training wouldn't be needed.
While Chakotay's growing identification with the group is pretty well-done the climax goes too far where he just wants to kill a lot of Kraden rather than try to contact his ship even if that can also help the Vori. Then him not initially recognizing Tuvok (but then being able to) is also too overdone and doesn't make sense.
Sun, Oct 8, 2017, 8:26pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Nov 7, 2017, 12:38pm (UTC -5)
The choice of Chakotay in particular makes sense since he's a basically peaceful guy but also someone who has himself been drawn into a major conflict in the past, which he references here; maybe the episode could have had a more explicit character core by comparing/contrasting his experience here with how he felt about the Cardassians, what the similarities and differences are/were. I get the impression that Chakotay-the-freedom-fighter maybe did some questionable things but never got to the frothing-with-hatred stage he gets to at the episode's end, and saw his cause of protecting his people (broadly, the DMZ ex-Federation people) as the motivating factor rather than actual hatred of Cardassians; we can't really be sure, but his reaction to the reveal about Seska, which was more about personal betrayal and romantic confusion, suggests to me that he doesn't have a deep race-hatred for them. So maybe this could be a way of underlining how insidious propaganda is, that someone who even has fought a war in the past against a basically fascistic enemy and still maintained a certain ability to see his enemy as people was turned around.
This contrast helps highlight something unusual about the episode's take on this material -- Chakotay is basically a third-party guy, dropped into a simulation where he eventually sides with one side of a conflict, and goes through the training program of one of the local elements. Since we learn that the Vori have a sophisticated propaganda system which is directed not only at their own soldiers, but to random third-parties who happen to pass through. It seems like a pretty inefficient system, especially since it seems as if there was a whole simulation which might not even have been a holodeck-type thing (the village is on, what, continuous loop? was that girl real? etc.). It doesn't really map onto the way members of a society are propagandized -- that's basically a lifetime practice, for a start, but even if it's something that happens more quickly, it's unusual to create this situation where an individual with no stake in the conflict, far from anyone he knows, to be thrown in and forced to bond with strangers and to hate the enemy. I mean, was there a big risk that Voyager *wouldn't* recover Chakotay and take him away? The episode's ending features Chakotay reacting with horror to the Kradin ambassador, and says that he wishes it were as easy to stop hating as to start, but, dude, you'll never see these guys again. Chakotay is obviously still traumatized and it may be that hating the Kradin will make it easier to hate other species in the future, but it's a particular case where the real-life "equivalent" consequences are much worse because it's not as easy to completely extricate oneself from an entire race or nationality or religion, including second- or third-generation descendants of same. Now, of course, American soldiers returning from Vietnam might be able to mostly avoid the Viet Cong in their everyday life, so it's not wholly a useless comparison, but it still feels a little empty in comparison to the way hatred can infect a whole society because of war.
So, there is Trek precedent for our heroes being drawn into a conflict, maybe through propaganda or mind control; think A Private Little War, with the proxy war and where Kirk was maybe bewitched, or Conundrum, where the crew's memory was wiped to dump them into a middle of a conflict. In the first case, though, the specific case of a proxy war between larger powers was clear; in the second case, it was also clear that the species with low weaponry but good memory-alteration (propaganda) technology targeted the Enterprise (the Federation) because they were really useful because of their huge ship and resources. In this case, it's not clear why Chakotay as a single individual would be so useful to kidnap and brainwash him, or what the real life analogy is. I guess we could think about "child soldiers," kidnapped and indoctrinated into a battle that they had no stake in, or something similar, but then the speed with which the simulation runs on Chakotay and Chakotay's own lifetime of experience make the comparison feel a little weak. I don't know. I think what I'm getting at is that Chakotay's neutrality is a really important distinction from how a lot of conflicts work, and I would have liked to see the benefits of the Vori expending resources on outsiders explored, as well as maybe some impression of how this might relate to Earth's history.
I also get the reason for the dialogue's unusual cadence -- to help the process of assimilating Chakotay (and the viewer) into the thinking of the people he gets dropped into, and for the most part I think it works. But there are times when the dialogue is too stilted; "They'll be fast walked to the extermination facility," which combines goofy "fast walk" dialogue with the seriousness of death camps. A lot of the episode is like that, having hokey elements in the middle of a sober reflection on war and propaganda. In terms of structure/pacing, I wonder if the reveal that Voyager is in touch with the Kradin ad B'Elanna's gee whiz, hope Chakotay didn't fall in with those brutal savages! line gives the game away a little too much, and the plot goes to a weird place at the end when Chakotay apparently sees Tuvok as the enemy because of...drugs?...but, uh, the enemy actually looked like that! How do the drugs know to have him see random people as the enemy? What?
So, a bit of a mixed bag, though more pluses than minuses. I'll say 2.5 stars.
Tue, Nov 21, 2017, 2:59am (UTC -5)
'I seem to have confused this with Memorial, so I was rather baffled when it cut to Voyager discussing the war.'
LOL, I did exactly the same thing. I was like 'oh yeah, the one with the mind raping monument', and then realized it was the one with the mind raping army guys.
This episode loses one star from me immediately because the alien dialogue grated on my nerves so terribly. I hated it.
And what was the point? Propaganda/brainwashing is bad? Prejudice is bad? Thanks Voyager, I had no idea.
I saw the twist coming because it was pretty obvious that everyone on Voyager was doing their best to never say Kradin or Vori the whole time. Always something ambiguous like 'The Ambassador's people' or 'their enemy' or 'their nemesis'.
so -1 for the stilted dialogue, and -1 for having no real point other than 'bad stuff is bad'
Sat, Feb 24, 2018, 1:20pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Mar 8, 2018, 7:22pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Mar 31, 2018, 11:18am (UTC -5)
But I did not like watching it. I guess the case that you could not relate to the other characters as they were unknown. The language itself. It was tiresome with the alliterations. English is not my mother tongue but I have also seen it synchronised. And it did not work for me there either. The ending and explanation is to fast. Tuvok just give a quick logical explanation. The ending phrase from Chakotay is really good. I just would have liked a more enjoyable time between the start and the ending.
It is a pity because in the current time it is important to reflect over what is true or not.
Fri, Sep 14, 2018, 5:31pm (UTC -5)
Good exploration of the nature of hate, of the way virulent negative passions can be inflamed by manipulation. Kind of timely here in 2018.
Thu, Nov 1, 2018, 2:45pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Dec 2, 2018, 9:07pm (UTC -5)
At first I thought the simulation was all in his mind, and he was sedated and plugged into some computer, but then Tuvok appears during what was apparently a real battle, and they both walk into the village together. So that can't be, Tuvok can't plug Chakotay back into the simulation and go in with him too.
If it was all a huge holodeck, then once again Tuvok wouldn't be able to take Chakotay back into the training facility from the real battlefield at the end. Those would be in two completely different locations anyway, or are we supposed to believe there's a big building in the middle of the jungle that isn't an obvious target, and that they both re-infiltrated it in the middle of a battle?
Is the training facility a holographic projection that's hidden in the woods immediately adjacent to the front line battlefields? That's the one plausible explanation I can come up with, since that's the only way Tuvok could intercept Chakotay during the real final battle and then just walk over to the village (which itself is more like a camp than any permanent settlement). Does that mean all the people were holograms, or were some of the soldiers actors?
This seems like an awfully risky endeavor. You don't want to be training potentially uncooperative recruits anywhere near the front lines. Such holographic (I think they used the term photometric) projectors seem like a level of technology that's beyond what the Vori or Kradin would possess too. While they are space-faring, I guess, their guns and the planes/ships that fly overhead don't look much more sophisticated than what we have today. It's just a mess really.
Mon, Dec 31, 2018, 1:50am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 7:16pm (UTC -5)
Was the village a hologram or were the buildings and/or people there a hallucination? Did Tuvok bring him to a known training area and know or assume the scene would kick in again? Did he see the scene?
Did the Vori really look like humans? I would have liked to see one of them revealed. I also would have liked Chakotay to ask the ambassador a few questions but we were out of time.
Fri, Jul 26, 2019, 1:54pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Sep 22, 2019, 8:39pm (UTC -5)
I am surprised that he hasn't had a bigger career, but I wish him the very best for the future.
Sun, Jan 26, 2020, 4:12am (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 22, 2020, 10:28am (UTC -5)
The problem with most of the acts was they lacked depth. It's just the same boring commando characters convincing Chakotay to hate the enemy...line after line...scene after scene. So one-dimensional and boring.
Maybe if this episode had a sub-plot to help pacing it could have worked...but it didn't and was a serious snooze-fest.
Fri, May 22, 2020, 5:59pm (UTC -5)
Sun, May 24, 2020, 11:38pm (UTC -5)
Neelix had the info he had because he is the ship's liaison in these matters sometimes and he had talked to the ambassador. It's not a big moment, but they do write that in.
Anyway, I thought it was a good but not great episode. Three stars felt just right. And going back to "Before and After," that makes 10 in row. Or 9 with one semi-weak one.
That's a good streak.
And I personally loved the colorful way of speaking they wrote for the group Chakotay encounters.
Fri, Aug 21, 2020, 11:33am (UTC -5)
Sun, Nov 15, 2020, 8:25am (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 3, 2021, 12:26pm (UTC -5)
Poster # 2: Actually, "X" is explained in scene Y
...two comments later...
Poster #3: Hey, did no one notice that "X" doesn't make sense? ZERO STARS!
I thought this was a good episode. The dialog was irritating, but when you find out why it was written that way it makes perfect sense. The concept was very clever, I thought. I also think the makeup for the "beasts" was suitably terrifying and loathsome. And I really like the ending; Chakotay doesn't just snap out of it, and there is no clear cut answer as to if there are any actual "good guys" in the war.
p.s, Would this have worked as a Harry Kim episode?
Fri, Aug 6, 2021, 5:14am (UTC -5)
thanks for expressing with humor the idea that posters have a tragic tendency to overlook crucial text, and return, lustfully to their 'plot hole discovery bias'.
The dialogue occurs deep into the episode,
JANEWAY: "Neelix, what do you know about this war?"
NEELIX: "It's vicious. Ambassador Treen's people have been defending themselves against a particularly savage agressor for more than a decade."
Ironically, the War of the Plot Hole has also been going on intermittently (but savagely) for more than a decade!
Mal solved the whole Neelix shouldn't-know anything-about-this-part-of-the-Delta-Quadrant problem back in February 2010.
Sarjenka's Brother has had to do the same thing in May 2020! and we shall go on, fighting valiantly against overwhelming odds.
I find this fascinating. While watching the episode, I too thought to myself: ' wait a minute Neelix can't know anything about this war', but the very next word is "Ambassador" and it became clear that Janeway had him do the initial meet and greet with someone who told him about it.
We're all so quick to find fault, and our thoughts about our own Sherlockian acumen make us kind of deaf.
I think that the writing could have been more explicit, such as:
JANEWAY: "Mr. Neelix, what did you learn from Ambassador Treen?"
NEELIX: "It's verkakte down there. From what Treen describes, relating it to my own experience, it's like nothing seen in the distant part of the quadrant that I called home, even with the Kazon and their perpetual warlike BS."
What it basically comes back to is: THERE IS NO PLOT HOLE INVOLVING NEELIX'S KNOWLEDGE OF THE DELTA QUADRANT IN THIS EPISODE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Fri, Aug 6, 2021, 11:52am (UTC -5)
NEELIX: "It's vicious. Ambassador Treen's people have been defending themselves against a particularly savage aggressor for more than a decade."
Hat's off to others who have won minor skirmishes in the War of the Plot Hole.
Nic April 30th, 2014
Robert October 16th, 2015
Thu, Oct 7, 2021, 11:14am (UTC -5)
I remember seeing this episode many years ago. I thought it was a bore. I disliked the phony sets, found the plot silly, the dialogue cartoonish- nothing about the episode worked for me.
Yesterday I rewatched it, however, mindful of some of the positive comments here, and the whole episode seemed to click in place. Like DS9's "Rocks and Shoals" - another episode I was slow to connect with, and slow to dump my preconceptions of - it played like a really minimalistic, stripped-down, scifi short story from the 1960s.
The jungle sets no longer seemed phony, but cleverly framed. The battles didn't seem "cheap" and "unrealistic", but stripped-down and minimalistic. The stylized dialogue - this episode plays great with the subtitles on - also worked powerfully for me, from the staccato speech of the aliens to Chakotay's hushed whispers.
There's also something beautifully shocking about the reveal that the "predator aliens" are who Janeway is negotiating with. It's a great visual, the aliens' grotesque faces clashing with their "prim" and "proper" ambassadorial clothing. Chakotay's final line is also a good, and thoughtful, little zinger to end on.
Like many other commenters, the "it was all a simulation" reveal didn't quite work for me. It seemed one twist too many. But otherwise, I'd say this is a excellent episode, and encourage those who don't like it to give it another shot. Try turning up the volume, putting the subtitles on (it's a fun episode to read along with), and maybe skip the unnecessary pre-credit sequence.
Thu, Oct 21, 2021, 5:42am (UTC -5)
I agree with Trent above. It has grown on me.
The language is a very good trick in getting you into 'another' space.
I watched a Black Mirror with a very similar theme. Goes to show there are no new stories, only the same told in a different way.
Tue, Feb 1, 2022, 4:19pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jul 8, 2022, 12:42am (UTC -5)
1) Makes them endearing because it's so quaint that it makes them sound like earnest simple folk fighting a war vastly above their ability
2) It could point to the whole thing being a simulation-- the aliens's tech has some "universal translator" that doesn't work nearly as well as Starfleet's
3) Basic mind control, with the "humans'" language being far more innocent sounding than that of the "aliens'"
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