Star Trek: Voyager

"Living Witness"

4 stars

Air date: 4/29/1998
Teleplay by Bryan Fuller and Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Story by Brannon Braga
Directed by Tim Russ

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Somewhere, halfway across the galaxy, I hope, Captain Janeway is spinning in her grave." — Doc, on the Kyrian's historical interpretation of Voyager

Nutshell: An inspired story. Intriguing, fresh, and relevant, this is the best episode yet this season.

Seven hundred years in the future, Voyager has become a terrible myth on a Delta Quadrant planet. Voyager itself has come and gone, and its crew and generations succeeding them have come and gone. But on the planet in question in this week's episode, "Living Witness," Voyager is a dark and dreadful piece of history—and the people living on this world are still feeling the effects from their encounter with the famous ship.

"Living Witness" is a standout story that is well told and thoroughly engaging. It features a central problem that is both relevant and unique. I haven't seen a Voyager outing quite like this one, and it pleases me to take in a story that can get its hooks into us for an hour and make us care about what's happening on the screen. For once, we have a stake in the outcome that goes much deeper than the average example of this week's possible destruction of the ship.

"Living Witness" isn't quite perfect, but it manages to pull off a balancing act of Voyager-esque elements and come off wonderfully. It's original and entertaining, and it made me care about the characters, the most important of whom weren't even Voyager crew members.

The device used to tell the tale is clever and atypical. The story makes some very good choices, the first being that we never actually see the "real" Voyager crew in the course of the episode. The entire story is set on a planet populated by two peoples: the Kyrians and the Vaskans. The story's central character is a Kyrian named Quarren (Henry Woronicz), who is a historian that works at a museum devoted to the warship Voyager. His newest exhibit, a holographic rendition called "The Voyager Encounter," documents how Voyager teamed up with the Vaskans to unleash terrible slaughter upon the Kyrians all those centuries ago.

In this depiction, the Voyager crew are the bad guys. Janeway's motto: "When diplomacy fails, there's only one alternative: violence." Quarren's depiction demonstrates how Voyager attacked the Kyrian planet and destroyed its cities, paving the way for the Vaskans to wage a war whose sociological aftereffects are still being felt in the present.

Pace-wise, this story is dead-on. It doesn't waste any time; it gets right down to business, dropping us into the middle of "The Voyager Encounter" and showing us the Kyrian version of the Voyager crew. Strangely, this isn't done with a dark atmosphere of intensity; it's done with an eerie comic-book tone. Many scenes involving the evil "anti-crew" are exploited mainly for our own enjoyment. It looks like the actors have fun playing evil, over-the-top opposite versions of themselves. I find that interesting, because this story is mostly pretty serious, yet it incorporates the fourth-season sense of "fun" into the plot almost seamlessly—and it for once works toward the episode's purpose. Watching scenes of the "anti-crew" proves entertaining purely on the level of stand-alone set pieces. Janeway is no-nonsense, vindictive, and murderous. Harry is sadistic, Chakotay (with an exaggerated tattoo that covers half his face) is hypocritical in his use of violence, and Tuvok even dons an evil smile when he fires the phasers. (I did, however, miss Torres in this episode; it would've been fun to see an evil version of her, but I suppose the end of Dawson's pregnancy made that impossible.)

The idea that this "anti-crew" had assimilated Kazon and Talaxians and even Borg into their midst was also interesting, particularly the idea of a small set of killer Borg drones who worked as a special force under Janeway's command.

I somehow wonder about historical depictions being as melodramatic as in this case (though I certainly don't dismiss that possibility since they can hold the potential of being quite manipulative). Since the recreation is obviously being told on two levels—one being the way the Kyrians perceive Voyager and the other being the actual filming techniques used for the benefit of entertaining us as the tale unfolds—it seems like a potentially uneasy duality. But it manages to work fine on both levels.

These scenes are strangely amusing, but maybe that's because we realize how extreme and absurd Quarren's depiction is. The story's seriousness emerges when considering the fact that many Kyrians accept this depiction as the historical truth—a "reasonable extrapolation of the evidence," as Quarren puts it.

The concept is what they call "revisionist history"—your culture makes biased extrapolations and even blatant alterations in order to paint the enemy in the worst possible manner and yourselves in the best possible light. This is a probing topic with some nicely conceived problems addressed within it, and the way it's handled is downright compelling.

The story takes a turn when a new artifact is unearthed; active data that may prove to offer Voyager's own side of the story. Well, this active data turns out to be a backup copy of the Doctor—an actual "living witness" to the events in question. Once Doc is reactivated and learns where he is and what role his crew played in the Kyrians' history, he's understandably appalled. Who wouldn't be? The rest of the story is how he tries to set the record straight.

As a narrative piece, "Living Witness" is effective because it allows us to experience the unknowns of the story right alongside the characters. As Quarren makes his discovery of Doc's program, which has been preserved for 700 years, it's a mysterious moment of awe. Likewise, when Doc realizes that it has been 700 years since he was on board Voyager—which to him seems like yesterday—it allows us to see the Kyrian/Vaskan world from his perspective of the mysterious and unknown. It's a very effective series of events, and with the story's setting-away-from-the-usual-setting, I felt the freshness of a truly different type of Voyager story.

Needless to say, what Doc and Quarren know as the truth are two very different things. When Doc programs a simulation of his version of the events, Quarren initially doesn't want to accept it—and we can see why. The way Doc's new evidence sends Quarren into outright denial is probably the most believable, understandable, and well-conceived notion in the episode. It rightly understands that people don't easily let go of things they have believed their entire lives, even when a new answer is sitting right in front of them. Consider: As a result of one archaeological find, Quarren's historical world comes crashing down upon him, forcing him to rethink everything he has ever known.

At the same, watching Doc squirm as he sees how history has been biased and distorted is painfully effective. The Kyrian's take is so inaccurate that we fully understand and sympathize when Doc says that somewhere far away "Captain Janeway is spinning in her grave." Both Picardo's and Woronicz's performances pull us into their respective plights superbly.

I also think the way the episode ties its history to the current-day problems between the Kyrians and the Vaskans is a vital piece of the story's success. This tie-back gives us a stake in seeing that the record is set straight—not just because Voyager's name must be cleared, but because there may be bigger issues affected by making the truth known. At this point in time, racial tensions between the Kyrians and Vaskans are dangerously volatile. The Kyrians are still being oppressed by the Vaskans, with whom they share the planet, and the fact that Voyager's role rests somewhere in the middle of the original conflict means the truth surrounding Voyager could reveal new sides to everyone involved—which, indeed, it does.

The ultimate uncovering of physical evidence to prove Doc's version of events makes for good and believable drama, and the inevitable destruction of the "museum of lies" strikes me as both appropriate and realistic (angry people realizing that history has been twisted aren't likely to react well, so the ending riot struck me as a natural outcome of events).

I was also moved by the ending's approach of a history-of-the-history, as it reveals that everything shown to us in the course of the hour is being taught years later, hailing Quarren and Doc as heroes who uncovered a truth that led to a new era of peace. It gave the entire episode a sort of mythical aura, which was just right. It may have been a little on the sappy side, but it was still very effective, and wonderfully executed. (I would say Tim Russ' freshman effort has earned him another turn in the director's chair.)

There's only one real flaw in this episode, and even though I wish I could simply ignore it given the strength of the rest of the story, I just don't feel that I can. That flaw is the sudden, conjured idea of a "Doctor backup program." For one, it's been firmly established on several occasions (even as recently as "Message in a Bottle") that the Doctor can not be so simply backed up. Suddenly we have a device that not only reverses that notion entirely, but is also conveniently stolen by the Kyrians during the historic battle such that it can be found 700 years later. Both notions strain credulity. I'm not saying that the ability of backing up Doc has to be impossible, I'm just saying that the dramatic device was obviously invented solely for the benefit of this story. It's a completely changed premise, and I feel like I've been lied to—as if the basis for this story is built upon a fundamentally contrived plot element. It's probably the only reason this episode falls short of a four-star rating. (*)

I also wonder about the implications of Doc now having this backup module (if they built one that got stolen, they can presumably build another). Does this mean he can be stored forever, essentially immortal? And that he can also be essentially cloned? These questions are part of an entirely different issue, and I wonder if we'll ever see such an issue tackled. I'm frankly not counting on it.

But I wouldn't want these questions to take away from the great merits of "Living Witness," because they are admittedly minor issues in comparison. This is one of the best episodes of Voyager yet, and certainly the best story so far this season. It's engrossing, imaginative, and has something to say.

Next week: Tom and Harry visit a toxic planet where they have a close encounter of the not-so-pleasant kind.

* Note: I later decided to change the rating for this show to four stars, despite the isolated plotting flaw. This is one of Voyager's very best, and in retrospect I think it deserves the better rating.

Previous episode: Unforgettable
Next episode: Demon

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140 comments on this post

Dr. Floyd
Thu, Sep 13, 2007, 7:45am (UTC -6)
It is possible that the EMH backup module really did not exist...remember, everything we saw was an exhibit in a future museum. It's possible also that *they* got a particular piece of history incorrect.
Fri, Mar 28, 2008, 12:58pm (UTC -6)
The Voyager mirror universe...gotta love that one. My personal favorites on this are the alternate uniforms (including Psi-Corps-style black leather gloves, no less...) and the image of Voyager. "This doesn't even resemble our ship!", indeed.

And where DS9 tended to use the Mirror Universe for pure comic relief ("Crossover" notwithstanding), this episode actually places the comic-book evilness in a relevant context. "Making history", indeed.
Mon, May 26, 2008, 11:07am (UTC -6)
Excellent social commentary, specifically about the power that contemporary political leaders have over revisionist history. I'd recommend this episode to all who have doubts about our current "democratic" leaders.
Tue, Feb 24, 2009, 12:04am (UTC -6)
Not much to add, except to say this: I much prefer this episode to the Mirror Universe set of episodes. The actors here get to act "bad" because of mistaken/revisionist history, which serves the overall plot. In the Mirror universe episodes, the characters are monstrously sadistic only for the purpose of comic relief, which makes their actions easily dismissed.
Admirable Chrichton
Sun, Mar 15, 2009, 10:39am (UTC -6)
Does anyone else think this is a bit like the Babylon 5 episode "Deconstruction of Falling Stars", but much better and done properly.
Ian Whitcombe
Sun, Mar 15, 2009, 12:14pm (UTC -6)
It reminds me of the one segment in "Deconstruction". And, yes, I do think "Living Witness" was better than that individual segment, but liked all the other segments in the episodes as well and in the end I'd probably rate "Living Witness" and "Deconstruction" equally.
Mon, Apr 13, 2009, 4:47pm (UTC -6)
I enjoyed this episode quite a lot. I liked some of the little details like how no one pronounces Chakotay's name correctly. Also when the Doctor shows his version he couldn't resist a little show boating as when the Janeway recreation is complimenting him on his bravery. Good episode and one of my favorites from Voyager.
Tue, Apr 28, 2009, 1:54pm (UTC -6)
The issue with the backup module goes at heart of the many flaws with EMH subcontext. I've always been mystified by his singularity. He is data and there's no reason why data can't be duplicated provided there's enough storage capacity. If the program is simply too vast to duplicate, then the whole wisdom of an on-board EMH seems questionable. As if you'd install a program on your PC that takes up 3/4 of your harddisk. It seems prude to always have enough space for back-ups of all computer systems on a starship. Moreover, there does seem to be enough space for all kinds of complex programs in the holo-deck.
Since there should be enough storage capacity for at least a back-up, there's no reason why they needed to grapple with a shortage of medical personel on Voyager. They simply could have copied the EMH. There's also no reason by the Doc would have been at risk on away mission if they simply made a back-up or sent a copy instead.
What's more, since the EMH is an integral part of the computer system on the ship, there seems to be absolutely no reason why he would need to press all kind of buttons to input data. He could do so directly by simply "thinking" of it.
Wed, May 20, 2009, 9:11pm (UTC -6)
I think all the various EMH and holographic plot holes have to essentially be ignored. There are FAR too many plot holes to consider. For example, in "Message in a Bottle" where Tom was getting annoyed that he was having to work in sick bay, he asked Harry to recreate the Doctor. Harry failed because it was simply too complex, arguably a pretty good reason. But then later in "Nothing Human" a Cardassian doctor named Crell Mosset is created and used as a consultant to treat Torres. OK, so let me see if I understand this correctly. It is essentially possible to create ANY character from history and have all their innate details bared before you. For example, how would they know about all the experiments the doctor did? How would they know about his history. Indeed Jammer identifies some of these holes in his review of the episode.

But like I said I think with regard to the level of sentience of holographic characters we just have to ignore it!
Wed, Aug 26, 2009, 11:50am (UTC -6)
I love B5 but (while I wouldn't call them similar enough to compare) I actually enjoyed this episode much more than 'Deconstruction of Falling Stars' (less openly "preachy").

The little details are indeed what makes this really shine as a piece of television and not just one of the best eps of Voyager I've seen. It's up there with some of the really good TNG stuff, and for me that's high praise. Even the ending was TNG-like in its "moving but not too sappy" note.

I wonder though if part of my enjoyment of this ep was that the cast seemed to not just be having more fun (of course) playing the "evil" Voyager crew, but that they actually seemed more "in character" to me... I much preferred and believed Mulgrew as Evil Janeway than as Regular Janeway", likewise Beltran seemed much more comfortable as Evil Chakotay!

Come to think of it, while I have no doubt that the powers behind Trek would ever go THAT dark with a show, I think it again proves that Voyager would have worked better if it had been a much "darker" show (as the initial premise suggests).
Mon, Oct 19, 2009, 2:47pm (UTC -6)
This is one of my least favorite episodes of the season. I agree with the part about watching the actors play "evil" coutnerparts is fun, and done mroe believably than in the DS9 universe episodes, but the rest of the episode had no impact because it happens 700 years after the rest of the series. I felt the "revisionnist history" theme had already been tackled in "Remember", and in a much more compelling faction because it made one of the regulars the main character of the story (wheras here, it's not the real Doctor, but a backup copy, which as you said, strains credulity because it was never mentioned before or since).
I don't know what to say about Tim Russ' direction. He was not granted the director's chair ever again, so I would guess that the producers were unhappy, but I think he may have been able to do better with a better script.
Sun, Jun 20, 2010, 10:53am (UTC -6)
An outstanding episode: Fast-paced, smart, provocative, intellectually-stimulating, unpredictable... - plus it actually carries a strong message about historical revisionism, which is very applicable today.

Should be standard highschool viewing!
Sat, Jul 24, 2010, 11:15am (UTC -6)
One thing I would like to point out is, since this is such a dark and important chapter in Kyrian society, one would think they could recreate the encounter, as well as what the crew looked like, in perfect detail.

That is, unless the encounter lasted just seconds, which I assumed it did, or the Kyrians were or are a pre-warp society
Tue, Aug 31, 2010, 1:18pm (UTC -6)
This episode has some of the best and creative directing in all of Voyager's 7 seasons.
Fri, Sep 3, 2010, 4:00pm (UTC -6)
I like this episode and the crew of the USS Voyager looks like a mirror universe crew but there is something wrong in this episode :
How the doctor can be there and how can he returns to earth with a shuttle ? In the star trek voyager's timeline the USS VOYAGER returns to earth with the doctor onboard at the end of the last season.
Thu, May 19, 2011, 10:25pm (UTC -6)
Excellent episode. Creatively done and well executed.
Mon, Aug 22, 2011, 2:56am (UTC -6)
What "City on the Edge of Forever" was for TOS
"Yesterday's Enterprise" for TNG and
"The Visitor" for DS9--
I think "Living Witness" was VGR.

What do you think, Jammer?
Thu, Sep 22, 2011, 8:51pm (UTC -6)
This is not only one of the best episodes of Voyager, but also one of the best episodes of Trek, and hence one of the finest things television has ever produced. It's stunningly good. I watched it again last night, and I have to say I'm surprised Jammer didn't mention this exchange:

EMH: B'Elanna Torres. Intelligent, beautiful and with a chip on her shoulder the size of the Horsehead Nebula. She also had a kind of vulnerability that made her quite endearing.
QUARREN: You miss her, and the others.
EMH: From my perspective I saw them all only a few days ago, but in fact, it's been centuries, and I'll never see them again. Did they ever reach home? I wonder.

This dialogue is *beautifully* delivered by Picardo, and actually brought me to tears. This alone makes it a classic, but the surrounding story is so impeccably done. This is a great episode.
Fri, Jan 27, 2012, 4:11pm (UTC -6)
LOVE this episode. One of my favorites in Trek. The cast looked like they had fun too. Have to have some comic relief every now considering the seriousness of the topic. Very well done overall. Script, directing, everything. Plotholes happen in tv series thats inevitable but this episode nevertheless delivered.
Thu, Apr 26, 2012, 8:51am (UTC -6)
I do believe that this is my favorite episode of Voyager. With the exception of the cartoonishly evil "anti-crew" the episode is flawless.

I agree with gion that an EMH backup module completely makes sense. I see it as a necessary addition to the EMH concept, rather than being a glaring plot hole. He is software and he should be able to be copied and backed up. Heck, the "mobile emitter" is really nothing but a flash drive with a built-in holographic projection system. Who knows? Maybe Apple will introduce the "iPod Holo" next year...
Wed, Oct 3, 2012, 3:59pm (UTC -6)
Easily makes the top 10 Voyager episodes. I don't know if it could do the same for all of Star Trek, not with giants like The Inner Light, The Best of Both Worlds, The Visitor, and In the Pale Moonlight, but I think it comes close.
Jack Casey
Thu, Oct 11, 2012, 8:39pm (UTC -6)
I have watched the episode several times; the one thing I hope comes out of it is a storyline of the Doctor’s adventures as he returns back to the federation. What does he find, will he end up meeting himself and because both paths converged will they be different or like some twins who are separated at birth.
It would be interesting to see what direction a star trek writer would be willing to take the storyline.
Latex Zebra
Thu, Dec 27, 2012, 7:54am (UTC -6)
Amazing episode, top 10, as has been said above, easily.
Sat, Mar 23, 2013, 1:43pm (UTC -6)
@Patrick, I agree. Best Voyager episode IMO, and parallels nicely with the episodes you list. I think "The Inner Light" was the best episode, and finest installment in ANY Star Trek series. TNG is on a different level altogether though. DS9 is highly overrated. Just finished my run through the entire DS9 series, and I think Voyager is much better, especially the acting. At the time of DS9 (real time) I thought it was great. This last time through DS9 however...... boooooring...... and the acting is terrible.
Thu, Mar 28, 2013, 9:05pm (UTC -6)
Took me many year to actually appreciate this episode, but I agree that it is one of Voyagers and maybe Star Trek's finest.

At the heart of the story is nothing short of what Star Trek is about since the era of TOS, blending social commentary into a futuristic platform.

You take our present day problems of Race, religion, ethnicity, or political (Republican/Democrat) and you could reflect this story toward them. As long as polar opposition exists, there can be no peace for anyone. It takes brave people willing to walk the mile in the other person's shoes to actually achieve any hope of peace.

I wonder what will happen to the Doctor's program after he reaches the Alpha Quadrant, will he meet his future self? Will it explain how the mobile emitter came to be in the 31st century?

Imagine the stories that could come up for the Doctor in the 31st century, having outlived all his friends and being a famous hologram throughout the galaxy.
Thu, Mar 28, 2013, 10:19pm (UTC -6)
Maybe the "LW"-Doctor will run into Crewman Daniels in his home turf!
Mon, May 20, 2013, 6:32pm (UTC -6)
A beautiful episode. I love the ending's implication that what we saw may itself have been revisionist history. I know the episode's message is ultimately positive, but it's still fun to think that maybe they did put the Doc on trial and decompiled him to restore order, then covered it up when writing the history.
Wed, Jul 31, 2013, 4:15pm (UTC -6)
Fantastic episode! I read the preview and was fearing some alt-universe or hallucination jazz. Instead I got an original, fascinating commentary on revisionist history that was also vastly entertaining. Bravo!
The Sisko
Fri, Aug 16, 2013, 12:46pm (UTC -6)
Wow, I'm stunned that everyone rates this episode so highly. When I first saw it I was pretty intrigued by it, but upon rewatching it I was just incredibly bored. It might be because I just watched an episode of TNG before or something, but I couldn't disagree more with this review and most of the comments above.

I have no fundamental issues with the story, in fact I quite liked the idea. But the execution of it is just boring! Except for one scene between Quarren and The Doctor near the end, I never felt sucked into the story by the actors at all. For the most part of this episode, there seemed to be no chemistry between the two lead actors. I'm not sure whether it's that or just the lame dialogues.

I feel that Quarren's reaction to The Doctor's statements is quite unrealistic. It just seemed way too easy for him to convince him of his version of the truth. I would have expected there to be a lot more struggle. Or it could be that the guy playing Quarren was just being too restrained in his acting. There should have been a lot more conflict between these two.

Where is the heart of this episode? Where is the emotion? Do we ever really see The Doctor struggle with his fate, like Picard in "The Inner Light" or O'Brien in "Hard Time"? No, we just get a huge number of Alien-of-the-week characters that we're supposed to care about. Sorry, but I don't. Yes, the basic idea of this story is pretty great and it was definitely interesting to watch it unfold for the first time. But, again, upon rewatching, it just doesn't hold up. This story couldn't move me one bit. I guess that's not the point and you're supposed to think about how our society deals with its history. But for me, an interesting thought experiment does not make a good episode all by itself. In my view, the entertainment value here is just lacking. There is no real suspense, no engaging dialogues, no touching emotion or fascinating acting work. None of that exists here.

This is an example of a very interesting sci-fi concept which is being used to provide an hour of thought-provoking TV, sure. But that is just not enough to make it worth 4 stars. If you already know the plot, the episode should still be highly engaging. For me, this was just not the case here. Instead I was just waiting for it to end.
Sat, Aug 31, 2013, 6:49am (UTC -6)
One of the best Voyager episodes. There aren't many great ones so they're precious when they occur. This was an episode by committee--just look at how many people wrote the teleplay--but it turned out well.

Janeway's look in this episode should have been her look throughout the series. She looks younger with a dark edge that would suit her character well, simulation or not.
Mon, Sep 16, 2013, 10:19am (UTC -6)
Someone in the Voyager writing squad likes attacking PC truths... First we get "rape victims are imagining things" now we get "the oppressed are really the oppressors". What's next, a planet where whites are oppressed and blacks are the oppressors? I'm sure everyone here would love that one.

Not surprising at all then that most of the comments here are fully in agreement.

Having said that, it was an amusing take on Voyager's impact on the Delta Quadrant, but I'm troubled by the underlying idea, as I was in the Seven gets violated episode.
Mon, Sep 16, 2013, 7:18pm (UTC -6)
T'Paul, implying that every person commenting here is a racist because we liked this episode is grossly unfair. I have read many of your other comments and I had the impression you were interested in discussing different perspectives; then, I come here and see you dismissing every differing opinion - including my own - using one of the ugliest implications there is.

Wed, Oct 30, 2013, 6:53pm (UTC -6)
I have to agree with The Sisko. This episode plodded along connecting the dots to a predictable, mostly tension free, sappy happy ending. The view of the 'evil' Voyager crew, with Seven's borg shock troops was entertaining, but all too brief.

Ultimately, the Doctor's revelations produced the inevitable conclusions, while the second narrator at the end speaking from an even more distant future robbed any emotional resonance left from the doctor and Museum guy. Putting aside these (mostly) mild criticisms, this episode does tie up all lose ends, while also exploring a thought provoking premise - which is more than most episodes this season offered. So kudos to that. ;)
However, if the doctor's backup was forced too self-decompile, or perform another heroic act of self-sacrifice to uncover the truth at the last moment, the emotional impact would have been greater. That the doctor's double gets to fly off into the proverbial sunset is the cherry on top of sentimental mush.

- a nice bit of eye candy, Seven suited up in full Borg gear, that must have taken a while.
Latex Zebra
Mon, Dec 16, 2013, 5:59pm (UTC -6)
Nearly a year on and lots of episodes of all Trek later...

This may well be the best Voyager episode ever.
Patrick D
Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 11:00pm (UTC -6)
"Living Witness" is my favorite story of the entire Star Trek canon. It indelibly captures the sweet simplicity of the Roddenberry ethos like few episodes of Trek has. And that fact that it comes from one of the weakest of Trek incarnations was one of the many reasons it blew me away back 16 years ago.

The episode has its weaknesses to be sure: the black gloves of the "evil Voyager crew" was a touch over the top. The acting of the Kyrian woman calling for the prosecution of The Doctor is atrocious. But, other than that, this is a gem that sparkles.

What makes it work first and foremost is Tim Russ's solo directing run in Trek. Wow! The narrative flows beautifully. And the dialogue has an electric crackle with a sense of both urgency and earnestness shows what is happening with this replication of The Doctor and these one-off aliens is IMPORTANT.

But while people talk about how cool it was to see the "Dark Voyager", to me, it's the ending that shook this longtime Trekkie up. It has a beautiful poetry to it, and if there would be one episode to show to the ghost of Gene Roddenberry, this would be it. The message is simple one: a positive future is built from intelligent, principled action in the present. And the way it's presented works like gangbusters. We're players on a much bigger board than we realize. Even the title itself has a mythical religiosity to it.

This is Voyager's finest hour (and from a chronological point of view: The Series Finale).
Mon, Mar 17, 2014, 10:52pm (UTC -6)
I think for Babylon 5 fans; it was a good homage from Star Trek to another of Sci-Fi's greats (Black gloves and conspiracy theories on top of conspiracies, come Nick and Sisko, you guys must have had seen more in the 90's than just Star Trek).

IT is a good show with tough questions and tough resolutions. We don't know if everything we are shown is real or not; we don't even know if the doctor is still heading back to the Alpha quadrant. However, based on the people we've seen over the years, we know the doctor's truth is closer to reality.

Some people on here are critical of nitpicks, but remember this is a story within a story, perception does not have to be completely true.

This is probably the most brilliant story of Star Trek, since TNG S6 "Frame of Mind" or earlier TNG S3 "A Matter of Perspective", because the truth is based not on a visual "objective" reality, but a "subjective" perception of reality.

By the way, for those that are critical of positive reviews, because you assume people like me are bigoted due to this principle of subjectivity versus objectivity, I want to remind everyone that "Objectivism" was and is a conservative concept created by Ayn Rand to justify singular views and singular truth in order to combat group thinking, which also tends toward obscuring historical truth.

Without subjective perceptions from various sides, you cannot understand history in its fullest.
Wed, Jun 4, 2014, 4:52pm (UTC -6)
The thing with talking about continuity on Voyager is that there really is none at all. When talking about an individual episode, you have to take it as it is without thinking of any previous episode. In one episode the Doctor's program is too complex or too large for a backup, in another you can create a similar character with ease, the Cardassian Doctor, in another episode they can make a backup Doctor in case the original fails. None of it works together, but it is that way only because Voyager never bothered with continuity. It's as if they had different writers every week or writers who didn't read each other's work. Or writers who just frankly didn't care about continuity at all and wrote the most convenient thing they could for their own story.

So with Voyager, you just have to take it as is without worrying about continuity. Because if you do, you're going to hate this show. Makes DS9 fans, like myself, annoyed. But ultimately you do have to switch off your brain a little bit (as counter-intuitive that is when watching Star Trek).
Sun, Aug 3, 2014, 11:59pm (UTC -6)
I'm sorry, but the Kyrian makeup just makes them look like they ha e two pimples on the bridge of their noses. I couldn't stop thinking about that every time I saw it.
Sat, Oct 11, 2014, 11:42am (UTC -6)
Loved this episode, anyone know what soundtrack is playing during the ending? The ending totally got to me.

I agree the makeup was pretty distracting though. Other than that I consider this one of the best episodes in seasons 1-4.
Dave in NC
Sun, Oct 12, 2014, 10:44pm (UTC -6)
As far as I am aware, all of the music in this episode is original (as is 99.9% of the music heard on Star Trek).

My guess is Jeri Taylor was the one responsible for loosening the musical restrictions on the later seasons of Voyager, and boy, did it make a difference! Bride of Chaotica, Mortal Coil and the one with the Doctor's fantasies are other examples of stand-out scores which really helped to advance the story being told.

Side question:

Now I know it isn't in Living Witness, but maybe someone can help me out. There is a scene in an episode where B'elanna is in her bedroom. Something dramatic plot-wise happens (she wakes up?) and suddenly orchestral strings and french horns do this absolutely amazing glissando thing (trading places in octaves), and of course, now I don't remember which episode it was. Anyone have an idea?
Wed, Nov 19, 2014, 8:23pm (UTC -6)
According to Memory Alpha, the writers initially wanted the world the backup Doctor "awoke" on to be Romulus, or some other Alpha Quadrant planet. Rick Berman vetoed this idea, sensibly it seems, because it seems a given that Alpha Quadrant species would know from history if, when, and how Voyager reached home. Quite naturally the backup Doctor would ask about that, and so Berman's thought was that the producers didn't want to deal with that issue with three years left to go in the series. Presumably species in the Delta Quadrant wouldn't necessarily have that knowledge. However, it strains credulity a bit, I think, to suggest (even implicitly) that by the thirty-first century space travelers from the Alpha Quadrant wouldn't have explored and perhaps colonized parts of the Delta Quadrant. Even Q said (in "Death Wish"), "Humans aren't supposed to be in this quadrant for another hundred years," meaning the twenty-fifth century. I suppose one could speculate that denizens of the Alpha Quadrant had made it into the Delta Quadrant as far as, say, the Friendship One planet but not as far as Quarren's planet.

Also, who knows how long a year is on Quarren's world? And why do seemingly all the denizens of the Delta Quadrant *know* they're in the Delta Quadrant? The notion of dividing the galaxy into quadrants and giving them names has to be an Alpha Quadrant–centric convention.
Rod Sullivan
Mon, Dec 29, 2014, 11:32am (UTC -6)
@navamske.....It's not unlikely that other space charting species would divide the galaxy into sections or in this case, quadrants, to help order and facilitate the cartography of the galaxy....and it seems equally likely that each of these species would designate the area from which they arise as the 'Prime' quadrant. In essence, every species should believe they originate from the 'Alpha' quadrant.

Great episode....Stellar direction from Tim Russ!

'Paris' to 'Neelix': "Watch your mouth, hedgehog." Oh, that is priceless!
Sat, May 2, 2015, 2:21am (UTC -6)
Definitely one of my favorite Voyager episodes (these almost always inevitably end up being ones about the Doctor). I even remember thinking back when I watched it during the first airing, before the anti-crew was revealed to be a simulation at the end of the cold opening, "are they doing a mirror universe episode?"

One thing I did always wonder after finishing the whole episode was why the android EMH in the simulation had the same yellow eyes as the Soong-type models. When I thought it was a mirror universe, I figured Starfleet had just forcefully reverse engineered Data (after all, a mirror Picard would never have objected to Maddox's proposal), but as a Kyrian simulation it didn't make much sense as they'd have no knowledge of Terran android technology.
Mon, Aug 10, 2015, 9:45pm (UTC -6)
In a word, outstanding! I greatly admire the originality of this story, and how wonderfully executed it was under the freshman directorial debut of Tim Russ. Wish Roxanne Dawson could have been a part of this, but hey, she was having a baby so we can overlook that part... Agree with all of the positive comments here, this is definitely 4 stars (glad you saw the light, Jammer), and easily a top 10 episode across all of the Star Trek series.
Fri, Oct 23, 2015, 11:35am (UTC -6)
I love how this was the only episode of Voyager in the Delta Quadrant where Harry is not an Ensign... and then it's retconned due to revisionist history.
Tue, Nov 3, 2015, 6:10pm (UTC -6)
They sure settled into playing the bad guys with a scary ease didn't they? "Warship Voyager", indeed. Better believe it. Classic ep. 4 stars then, 4 stars now and holding. This doesn't exactly raise philosophical debates like "Faces" or even "Lineage". Unless it's commentary on the dangers of revisionist history. But that evil smile on Tuvok was worth the 4 stars alone.

I don't know why but a larger tattoo on chak somehow looks more appropriate than the standard one.

Apparently the doctor thinks the only character they got right was Paris. If this were the first or second season, I'd say without a doubt. By the fourth that was a bit of a stretch. But I enjoyed the scene anyway. And it looked like he did, too. He did what a lot of us wanted to. Like verbally abusing jar-jar

Ensign "can't-get-a-lock" Kim? A strongarm thug? Shirley you jest. that's as unbelievable as his "promotion".

We already know with a bit of programming the doc could very well become Mr. Hyde. Just delete those ethical subroutines. No stretch there. Well, aside from the fact it wasn't the truth. But like Janeway said, why quibble with semantics?

I wonder how things would have gone if Voyager really was a warship? Can you imagine if they ran into the Equinox like that? Janeway probably would have been angry she didn't think to exploit those aliens herself. 63 was what they needed. She'd suggest they double that to 126 to reduce the travel time by half.

Of course, the coup de grace would have been Q showing up just as both ships pass the threshold into the Alpha Quadrant all-a-jubilant and he summarily judging humanity. NOW your time is up. So much for "rapid progress".

I guess what I'm saying is...4 stars sounds about right :)
Wed, Dec 16, 2015, 12:25am (UTC -6)
T'Paul - Mon, Sep 16, 2013 - 10:19am (USA Central)

"Someone in the Voyager writing squad likes attacking PC truths... First we get "rape victims are imagining things" now we get "the oppressed are really the oppressors". What's next, a planet where whites are oppressed and blacks are the oppressors? I'm sure everyone here would love that one.

Not surprising at all then that most of the comments here are fully in agreement.

Having said that, it was an amusing take on Voyager's impact on the Delta Quadrant, but I'm troubled by the underlying idea, as I was in the Seven gets violated episode."

Oh man, T'Paul! Where do I begin?

First, the terms "PC" and "truths" contradict each other. If someone on the Voyager writing staff likes attacking PC lies, then he is very courageous. Your blind faith in politically correct fictions - whose only goal is to switch places between oppressed and oppressor and simply redirect the hate towards whites, men, and heterosexuals just because of how they were born - is very troubling.

Second, an episode in which people of European descent are oppressed by people of African descent would be an outstanding episode to watch. I can definitely visualize a scene in which the black master beats his white slave and if the white slave dares to object, the black master screams, "Check your privilege, white scum!" Unfortunately, the writers weren't that courageous.

Third, the message of the "Seven gets violated" episode wasn't that "real rape victims are making it up." That's a bullshit interpretation driven by your mainstream politically correct blindness. Rather, the message was "you're not a rape victim just because you say you are - we need evidence." That is a perfectly rational and legitimate message that everyone who is against third world dictatorships should take to heart. Again, the fact that you don't take it to heart shows that you have a problem with a non-dictatorial style of government.

Fourth, the underlying idea behind this episode that you are so troubled by is that "nothing is sacred," not even your strongly held politically correct views. Reality doesn't care about political correctness or anybody's sensitivities. Truth is truth, whether tyrannical "social justice warriors" like yourself like it or not. Now that is a beautiful message!
Fri, Dec 25, 2015, 1:24pm (UTC -6)
Absolute best episode of Voyager. #1. Bar none. No other episode is even close.

One thing that occurred to me upon a recent rewatch, and only elevated this episode in my estimation, is that it could only be told on Voyager. The writers didn't always utilize their setting properly, but here they did. If the Kyrian/Vaskan homeworld were in the Alpha Quadrant a lie about Federation interference couldn't persist for centuries without some major cognitive dissonance or extreme isolation that would require some exposition, but since Voyager is long gone, there's no one to set the record straight until the Doctor is reactivated, and it's thoroughly believable that such an incorrect version of history could exist and be sustained. Thus, the perfect story to tell on Voyager.

The whole "history can be twisted to reflect the dominant society's view" theme is relevant, correct, and brilliantly realized. Both Quarren's disbelief and the greater society's vehement reaction are realistic. If anything the final act reveal that this is all a historical record and thus the episode is a play-within-a-play only adds to its power. It's really a shame that Voyager couldn't duplicate this level of quality more often, because when it was good, it was really great!

Naturally "Living Witness" was also emblematic of the series' quality as a whole. Its best episode is preceded and followed by 2 of its worst. "Inconsistent" was probably the most appropriate adjective for Star Trek: Voyager.
Thu, Dec 31, 2015, 8:40pm (UTC -6)
I'm going to nitpick for a moment. Basically, almost as soon as the Doctor is brought into the episode, the show got very ham-fisted with the message of Historical Revisionism Is Bad! really quickly. I mean, I knew that was going to be the theme of the episode, but it still just jumped out on me more rapidly than I thought was prudent. After all, did the Doctor really understand what was happening that quickly?

Yes, it's a nitpick, but it did throw me off the show for a good 5 minutes, which given the quality of the rest of the episode was annoying.

And yes, the rest of the episode is very good. Once again, Voyager eschews the potential for blatant moralizing to provide us with a very messy situation. It wasn't that one side was sweet and innocent and the other Nazi scumbags, we don't know who was "at fault" for the war or even if one side was at fault. Nor, of course, did the "true" history completely flip the perspective 100%. And even in the 700 year future, neither side was downright evil or downright perfect.

Speaking of which, Dan, the historical record was not being twisted towards the dominant species' view; the historian and the museum (along with the twisted history) were set up by the "conquered" species! The dominant species were the ones questioning the accuracy of the twisted version. Part of what I mean about this episode not simply being anvilicious like T'Paul apparently wanted, but rather showing a muddy, complicated situation.

There was also the tiny undercurrent of a theme that all history is an inexact science. As others have stated, we don't know if the Doctor's reproduction is 100% accurate, especially the bit about him willing to enter the deadly situation first (given his penchant for bragging). In fact, even his joke that Paris was an accurate simulation proves that he can't be trusted completely. And then we see that everything we watched was also a simulation, making us question what, exactly, did happen in the 700 year future. Sure, reality was probably similar to that simulation, but were the rioters at the museum really that fanatical? Or is that, too, historical relativism?

Meanwhile, it was interesting to see this almost as a different perspective of the Prime Directive. It seems harsh and perhaps a bit paranoid to try to avoid contact with everyone, even warp-capable species such as these two. And can we really expect Janeway to demand a complete, objective history of each species' intergalactic relationships before requesting a simple trade? Surely, that seems unfair as well. And yet at the same time, Voyager accidentally wandered into a powder keg and unwittingly lit the match. Trek's usual approach to the Prime Directive is to look at questioning whether to get involved in a disaster (Pen Pals, Homeward, etc); instead we see an accidental turning point in the history of two species. And even so, it's probably not fair to say that the war was due to Voyager; it was obviously a powder keg situation that was bound to go off at some point (just as WW1 probably would have happened at some point even if the Archduke wasn't assassinated). But because it was Voyager that lit the powder keg, and because that provided something else for both sides to latch onto, did that impact the post-war process? We don't know.

Again, it's hard to blame Voyager for causing all these problems, and I certainly wouldn't say that Voyager should never ever talk to any other species during its entire trek through the stars, but it does show the kind of thing the Prime Directive is in place for from a bit of a different perspective.

And most importantly, this was a great sci-fi concept that made full use of Voyager's premise.
The Great Danton
Thu, Jan 7, 2016, 8:26pm (UTC -6)
This is possibly the best episode of the entire series. I have watched Voyager many time sover the years and this episode is the one that stands above the others every time.

I find it laughable how the alien species portrays Chakotay with that cheesy tattoo, Janeway as a cold-blooded killer and Seven of Nine as a mindless far-from-being-sexy drone.

The PC attempt at somehow comparing racial issues to that of the US are laughable but hey this is Hollywood run by liberal idiots.

Awesome episode!
Sat, Jan 30, 2016, 2:59pm (UTC -6)
A fine episode but some things bothered me, especially the ending. It didn't make sense that the initial recreation blamed Voyager much more than the dominant species and, much worse, it wasn't believable that the Doctor would suddenly decide to preserve the lie, that accepting Tedran was a heroic martyr was acceptable, and then reverse himself back after Quarren claimed proving the real (Kyrian-blaming) history would somehow create more harmony.
Mon, Feb 15, 2016, 8:15am (UTC -6)
Most promising concept completely botched on the alien side of the equation, ridiculous make up and ill-fitting clothes reminiscent of the Amish. The Voyager crew are spectacular, pity they only did this concept once, but those aliens are sitting in my gullet, beyond annoying, worse than the creepy Gath in Prime Factors.
Diamond Dave
Tue, Feb 16, 2016, 4:19pm (UTC -6)
Wow, colour me the contrarian but I really didn't think this was a standout. The first half featuring bad Voyager was full of nice touches, and it was fun watching the crew get their evil freak on. But as soon as the inevitable confirmation that this was all an imperfect reconstruction came out, all the air comes out of the balloon. Everything then seems a little too scripted - largely because we know what the Doctor is going to say. Even his "forget the truth" speech at the end sounds oddly out of place.

And we even had a pitchfork wielding mob, and it doesn't get more cliched than that. 2 stars.
Mon, Apr 18, 2016, 12:41pm (UTC -6)
Good episode - gratz to the writers - very creative without losing sight of the 'mission'. Deliver a truly human experience.
Fri, May 6, 2016, 9:54pm (UTC -6)
I'd like to think this is what would have happened had a ship from the Terran empire got lost in the Delta quadrant. 4 stars.
Fri, May 20, 2016, 11:17am (UTC -6)
What's not to love about this episode?

A trek classic in my book.

Great review Jammer, nothing to add.

4 stars, easy.
Wed, Jul 6, 2016, 3:52am (UTC -6)
It would have been more realistic if Quarren jumped back in fear once Doc appeared. Since he though that he was a killer his whole life.
Sun, Aug 14, 2016, 8:57pm (UTC -6)
I really liked this episode, though I thought the ending rather unrealistic. Because I'm cynical, I doubt species that has been fighting for 700 years would take tricorder readings as any kind of evidence. It isn't like tricorder data can't be faked or manipulated, and I'm sure the majority would say that's exactly what happened. Still, this was a good episode, and I liked the "alternate" characters.
Mon, Aug 29, 2016, 11:59pm (UTC -6)
I had this on as background noise but it grabbed my attention so I had to start from the beginning. Excellent (****)
Tue, Nov 8, 2016, 5:03am (UTC -6)
Great episode.

I can't help wondering how many copies of the doctor are wondering around the delta quadrant. I have this vision of the doctor finally arriving at Earth:

Doctor: "I made it. I'm finally home. Where do I need to go to collect my medal?"
Star fleet officer: "Oh, another one. You're the fifth this week. Hold on, I'll give you directions to the home for returned EMH's".
Tue, Nov 8, 2016, 4:44pm (UTC -6)
HAHA Mikey!!
dave johnson
Wed, Dec 21, 2016, 1:26am (UTC -6)
To the person who questioned how the Delta Quadrant species would know we conceptualized it into 4 quadrants and so forth... and just implicitly know they are in the Delta Quadrant....

same reason all their years, and days, and measurements are the same... same reason they all speak English..... simplicity of making a TV program. I think it is just something we have to brush aside as necessary to have a weekly television show that doesn't spend have the episode with each species figuring out what a year means to each planet and so forth.
Wed, Dec 21, 2016, 3:56pm (UTC -6)
Their measurements aren't the same, they're translated.
Thu, Jan 19, 2017, 9:39am (UTC -6)
Only real nitpicks I had with this episode were the lack of communication with Starfleet, or even knowing they were in the Delta Quadrant 700 years later, and the ability to get the look and function of not only the ship but the specific tools needed to fix a tricorder, but not the story itself, correct.

After 7 centuries, it's inconceivable that Starfleet hadn't developed quantum slipstream or transwarp drive of their own (especially with Borg help, and they were testing such things during Voyager's time in the Delta Quadrant, 700 years earlier), and someone from Starfleet could have helped resolve the diplomatic fiasco that is their inaccurate portrayal of history. The only answer that makes any sense is that somehow, Starfleet and the Federation either don't exist any longer as a major power with the goals of exploration and diplomacy, either being wiped out, or becoming isolationist. We know that even in the 29th century, the Federation and Starfleet are very much intact.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 8:22pm (UTC -6)
One of the best of Voyager.

As for the previous statement I've always interpreted it as that the Federation "ascended". Their exploring time and alternate dimensions and Organians now.

The concerns of a species on a world or two about historical correctness no longer matter
Paul Allen
Thu, Feb 16, 2017, 1:53pm (UTC -6)
That it's 700 years in the future makes it lose it's impact for me completely.
Thu, Mar 2, 2017, 9:19am (UTC -6)
The episode really highlights, to me, the main problem with how the Doctor is usually presented. Theoretically such a creature would have a highly fluid concept of individuality. Like Ultron, it should be able to casually clone itself, becoming multiple beings as parts of it lose contact with each other, and refusing into a single being whenever those parts regain contact with each other. I to we to I again, all depending on how good the current 24th century version of the internet connection is.

Yet he is usually written as a single, mortal being who can only be in one individual place at a time, and is therefore relatively mortal. This is pretty much the only occasion in the entire series where his fluidity of individuality is actually acknowledged even partially by the story.
Ashton Withers
Sun, Mar 5, 2017, 9:56pm (UTC -6)
I had heard great things about this episode, I wasn't misled.
Wed, May 10, 2017, 3:52pm (UTC -6)
It's nicely done, but it's another I struggle with wanting to watch as it's just way detached from the 'now' events in Voyager. I resist as I'm really not interested in something hundreds of years in the future that has zero impact on the now. Interesting and enjoyable once I watch it, but feel so detached at the end. Best Voyager ever? Hardly. 3 stars maybe.

Still I'm ultimately happy to watch it once I'm past my initial reservation. Unlike "11:59".
Fri, May 26, 2017, 11:40am (UTC -6)
Even as a fan of the Star Trek universe, I unfortunately have not had time to always catch every episode out there. So recently via the Heroes and Icons Network running all of the series, I just saw this episode. It was fantastic and timely. I had just been to a symposium led by a historian whose research spans revisionism and censorship to paint a different story of ancestoral piety. So what was interesting was the faceoff between truth and present-day body-politic. So for many like myself, truth is extremely important and I want to engage that path. For others, it is ironically not always about truth, it's about a quasi-Orwellian world for which they want to live in to manage their notions of truth not subject to scrutiny. What was interesting was that the doctor's desire not to be responsible for the fight, ie. be decompiled, in order that some cold-war would persist. And perhaps his sincerity at the end is what maybe convinced the curator that he wasn't lying for even a split-second. He was of an open mind but maybe not convinced.

I think a show like this is good for people to see to understand what it means to have an open-mind because in today's political climate everyone thinks they have the corner on the truth. Truth is it's somewhere in the middle. And we need to be able to have some flexibility or openness that new evidence will shed light or even turn things 180degrees.
Mon, Jun 26, 2017, 3:12am (UTC -6)
To make a great episode of a TV show, you need both an intriguing premise and strong execution. 'Living Witness' has both. It's one of the greatest episodes of Voyager I've seen, and I'll continue to go back to it for many a year both as a ST fan and a passionate student of history. I love the actors' enthusiasm in the 'evil Voyager' scenes, which are not only hilarious but tell us a lot about how the Kyrians think and how distorted a culture's view of history can be.

For me the lesson is that any group is prone to this kind of revisionism. We attempt to make sense of past events by arranging the facts into a narrative, and inevitably, things that don't support that narrative are willfully ignored or twisted around until they fit. Every time we try to wrap things into a neat package and say "this is what happened," something is lost along the way.

Without the Doctor's program there to clear things up, the Kyrians probably would have gone on believing this version of history, tweaking or altering it only as time and social conditioning dictated. Unless one is lucky enough to have an objective recording method handy, there really is no right or wrong view of history, because no one's view is infallible, and as the information is passed on you have to settle for recycling someone else's version of the facts in an endless cycle - possibly a cycle of diminishing returns. It's the kind of thing that keeps me up at night.

Four stars, indeed.
Wed, Jun 28, 2017, 5:38pm (UTC -6)
You know, an interesting concept for sci-fi to explore might be how our increasingly sophisticated information technology (in this case the holodeck) will change our relationship with history over time. Increasingly, it may become difficult for information to be truly "lost" or "destroyed" since it's no longer being recorded primarily on paper.

I suspect that the Kyrians might view the Voyager "exhibit" the way we might view, say, "Der Untergang," i.e. a realistic approximation of what happened using actual information from history but not a literal recording. We know that we're not watching a 100% accurate recreation of Hitler's last days, but we presume that the filmmakers did their best to capture his volatile temperament and strategically delusional state of mind based on recollections from people who were there.

Do the ordinary Kyrian citizens know what sources the museum staff had when they designed this simulation? I have to wonder whether, given the Kyrians' own technological sophistication, the story really did just become distorted over time due to everyone's tendencies to see themselves in the best light or if someone purposely doctored the records at some point and the simulation creators were working from deliberately falsified information. I also wonder whether the fact that they experience it as a three-dimensional simulation makes it feel more real to them than what we experience when we watch a movie/TV show or a read a book.

Anybody ever read any good fanfic on what the backup Doctor experiences after leaving and whether he ever makes it to the Alpha Quadrant?
Wed, Aug 9, 2017, 4:47pm (UTC -6)
Definitely one of the best VOY episodes, really enjoyed the creativity and originality here -- not even seeing the rest of the Voyager crew. The main guest actor did a credible job, was not stiff like so many of them tend to be.

Also liked a lot the "Mirror, Mirror"-like evil crew. Yes, its manufactured according to Quarren's false interpretation but it was done cohesively with each evil crew member having their own take. I laughed when both Paris and Chakotay responded to Janeway with "Yes, sir". Kim, 7, Tuvok all played their parts well but unfortunately there was no Torres.

Picardo deserves credit for an excellent performance here. He longs after his crew as if he saw them yesterday, but now he fears being judged for crimes he did not commit. He had some good dialogue with Quarren too at the end although 1 thing I did not like is how quickly he changes his mind and decides to it's right to prove the Kyrian interpretation is wrong after all. That was definitely odd.

The ending with the whole episode being a history lesson itself after peace has been established worked for me with the doctor and Quarren judged as heros. We sort of see the dilemma Quarren faces as all the history he learned is proved false but we don't have much background on him so it's hard to get too invested.

I'd rate "Living Witness" 3.5 stars -- didn't blow me away like "Prey" or "Scorpion" did but this is still excellent Trek. The whole "revisionist history" theme is a good one and how events from 700 years ago are still affecting the society. A very well-conceived VOY episode.
Thu, Aug 24, 2017, 2:20am (UTC -6)
Very good, a really creative and clever episode.

The "Shut your mouth hedgehog!" line was priceless! I've been waiting 4 seasons for someone to say that!
Tue, Nov 28, 2017, 3:07pm (UTC -6)
I loved this episode when it first aired, but when I re-watched it yesterday, I found myself asking "that's it?" We even have this bit of dialog between Quarren and another Kyrian to the effect that it doesn't matter who fired the weapon since they were on Voyager at the time.

There would be a debate. The Doctor might be put on trial. There would be a racial divide about whether to believe the Doctor. More riots for sure.

And then, let's say the Doctor won and was believed. So the currently oppressed race is (apparently) proven beyond doubt to be the aggressor in the war. Wouldn't it be reasonable for Kyrians to be even more oppressed now?

I'm not saying these issues cannot be resolved, but "Let's go find that tricorder" is a terrible way to end the episode, because nothing is resolved.
Sun, Dec 10, 2017, 8:42pm (UTC -6)
3 stars. It’s okay. The revisionist/mirror universe-like scenes were ho hum. Trek has done the evil doppelgänger story lots of times. Didn’t do all much for me. I did like the archival recreation double twist with the Doc stuff being not “live” and the final scene was quite poignant.
Fri, Dec 15, 2017, 12:03am (UTC -6)
I certainly don't see this the way most everyone else did.

I like continuity for one thing, so the fact that there was a backup Doc is already a big distraction.

And I don't buy that the Kyrians would make Voyager out to be this sadistic psychopathic crew of genocidal murderers. They don't have much evidence of that, in fact it seems they have little evidence of anything at all, so why would they go that route? Especially if they want to make the Vaskans look like the bad guys.

The Vaskans weren't as evil as they were made out to be according to the Kyrians recreation itself. The way the recreation portrays it, Voyager betrayed the Vaskans by exterminating hundreds of thousands of Kyrians, against the objections of the Vaskan dude. He didn't want that. He just wanted them to help a little.

DALETH: I'm asking you to intimidate the Kyrians with your technology. Help me capture their leader. This ship has superior firepower. He won't risk a conflict with you.
DALETH: Captain, don't you think that's excessive?
pJANEWAY: You picked a bad time to have second thoughts, Ambassador.
DALETH: I want them defeated but, but this is genocide!
pJANEWAY: Defeat? Genocide? Why quibble with semantics?
DALETH: This wasn't our agreement.

And I really wish they would stop using 'race' instead of 'species'. These were not 2 different races. They were different species.

An OK episode. I don't understand all the praise it's getting. Unless some people are influenced by what Jammer thought of it. Not that people can't think for themselves, but sometimes what the 'almighty reviewer' (no offense) thinks, can color someone's own opinion.

2 stars from me.
William B
Fri, Dec 15, 2017, 12:27pm (UTC -6)

"And I don't buy that the Kyrians would make Voyager out to be this sadistic psychopathic crew of genocidal murderers. They don't have much evidence of that, in fact it seems they have little evidence of anything at all, so why would they go that route? Especially if they want to make the Vaskans look like the bad guys.

The Vaskans weren't as evil as they were made out to be according to the Kyrians recreation itself. The way the recreation portrays it, Voyager betrayed the Vaskans by exterminating hundreds of thousands of Kyrians, against the objections of the Vaskan dude. He didn't want that. He just wanted them to help a little.

DALETH: I'm asking you to intimidate the Kyrians with your technology. Help me capture their leader. This ship has superior firepower. He won't risk a conflict with you.
DALETH: Captain, don't you think that's excessive?
pJANEWAY: You picked a bad time to have second thoughts, Ambassador.
DALETH: I want them defeated but, but this is genocide!
pJANEWAY: Defeat? Genocide? Why quibble with semantics?
DALETH: This wasn't our agreement. "

This element of the episode makes sense to me (and is one of the reasons I like it). Here is what the Kyrians (and in particular, the Kyrian leaders, who are the ones who get to control the narrative) want: The war ended, and an uneasy peace is produced. The Kyrians want to be able to continue to interact with the Vaskans -- they don't want to exterminate them, either because the Kyrians are not purely evil or because they want a servile species who they can dominate and get to do their less-attractive jobs. So the narrative that they present here is one where the Vaskans are mildly treacherous and have extremely poor judgment, by bringing in the evil Voyager crew; however, they themselves are not so evil that they need to be wiped out. This narrative creates space for the Vaskans to be a species which has to continually atone for the destruction they wrought by bringing Voyager into the war, and which also demonstrates that the Vaskans have poor judgment and cannot be trusted in positions of authority -- while still allowing the Vaskans to be redeemable enough to be allowed to participate in society, as long as they don't get too uppity or try to escape from the benevolent domination of the Kyrians. This version of history sends the message from the Kyrians to the Vaskans: we will forgive you for your poor judgment and for the hell you unleashed on us by bringing the evil Voyager into the war, as long as you never forget your place again.
William B
Fri, Dec 15, 2017, 12:57pm (UTC -6)
I never did write about this one, so maybe I'll take a gander at why I liked it (briefly): I think the episode makes some smart choices about getting us to think about the issue of how valuable the truth is, when it's in the distant past. Our natural instinct (well, if "we" like Voyager) is to want to rehabilitate the crew in the eyes of the Kyrians and Vaskans, because we "know the truth" about who the Voyager people are, even if we don't know the particulars of this encounter. The episode also plays the Evil Voyager material as black comedy, partly to get our defenses down. But we also get some hint about what social function this narrative about Voyager serves. So when the Doctor comes in and tries to correct the record, we're on his side, but also not entirely; he stumbles blindly with a truth-uber-alles approach, because he has (like us) an emotional connection to the crew, but hasn't quite considered what the social impact of the truth will be. It also makes clear that the Doctor's interest in correcting the narrative isn't really purely altruistic in terms of abstract beliefs about the value of the truth, but his way of dealing with the loss of the crew (and centuries having passed); it's personal rather than purely political. Quarren, meanwhile, fancies himself an arbiter of truth until he realizes that his own investment in the story he's been told is actually really important to him. Both men are scientists and are supposed to be impartial, but discover their own investment in their respective "sides" in the initial clash are partly based in other concerns, and have to, to some extent, grow out of them. And yet the episode ends with a stirring affirmation that the truth matters. Maybe the deck is a little stacked, by showing how the propaganda is currently being used somewhat oppressively against the Vaskans, and certainly the "the truth must out" ends up being consistent with what we are inclined to want anyway, so it's maybe not *as* challenging as it could be. But I think that's mostly okay. I think that the Doctor moves in the final stages of the episode from wanting to redeem his crew's reputation because he cares about them, to wanting to redeem his crew's reputation because the truth matters, and hopefully the truth will even have some social good. Meanwhile, Quarren's coming around to recognize that what he's been taught are probably lies and wanting to go forward anyway strikes me as a believable heroic narrative. The episode takes some risks by suggesting that the short-term negative consequences of revealing some "dangerous" truths -- rioting, for example -- are maybe still necessary for long-term stability, because lies which serve social functions are often used to benefit one group or another and create an imbalance that will probably collapse on itself.
Jason R.
Fri, Dec 15, 2017, 4:11pm (UTC -6)
This episode always struck me as immensely subversive and daring. Consider that the Voyager and the events depicted in the museum are very much reminicent of the holocaust with the Voyager a standin for Nazis and the Kyrians jews in modern day Germany.

But of course in this version the holocaust deniers turn out to be right! Again, pretty gutsy move for Voyager writers to even dip a toe in those waters. I'm frankly amazed an episode like this got made.
Sat, Dec 16, 2017, 5:59am (UTC -6)
Amazing episode.
History is written by the winners - that's the undeniable truth that can be applied to all wars. World War 2 is a shining example, especially throughout all Star Trek series with so many "evil Nazis" references it's almost ridiculous.
John Harmon
Sun, Dec 17, 2017, 10:41pm (UTC -6)
The first episode of Voyager I'd be willing to put in the best of all Trek. Incredible and still very much applicable. More so now than twenty years ago.
Mon, Dec 18, 2017, 7:14am (UTC -6)
@William B

'Here is what the Kyrians (and in particular, the Kyrian leaders, who are the ones who get to control the narrative) want...'


'History is written by the winners - that's the undeniable truth that can be applied to all wars.'

This is one of my problems, is that the ones telling the story, at least for this episode, are the losers.

Yet they don't blame the victors of the war, they blame Voyager, based on almost no actual evidence whatsoever. If they wanted to make stuff up, you'd think they would make stuff up about the Vaskans, not some random aliens that showed up for a short time and then left. That makes no sense.

They dislike the Vaskans, and blame them for their troubles. Why insert Voyager, which was a minor player, in reality (though they didn't know that), and make them out to a major player, and the cause of a genocide in their fiction, instead of the Vaskans themselves?

The losers would blame the victors, not some random ship that showed up at around the same time.

It really makes little sense.

It was all a contrivance to tell a story, and I don't like that. And the Doc doesn't have a backup!!
William B
Mon, Dec 18, 2017, 9:42am (UTC -6)
That is so strange; I had remembered that the idea was that the Kyrians had ultimately won the conflict, but you're right, that is not what is described. My mistake. I'll have to think about it.
Thu, Dec 28, 2017, 1:03pm (UTC -6)
"Someone in the Voyager writing squad likes attacking PC truths... First we get "rape victims are imagining things" now we get "the oppressed are really the oppressors". What's next, a planet where whites are oppressed and blacks are the oppressors? I'm sure everyone here would love that one."

It is the human condition. Regardless of race or sex, the same problems manifest under the right circumstances.
I recently saw a fiction movie, where everybody was gay and straights were oppressed. Such allegory does not attack PC truth that gay are oppressed. On the contrary it supports it by binding it with the inner human instincts.

To oppress, to lie, to rape, to victimize is a human behavior, not a race, sex, behavior. Noone is impervious to it therefore, everyone should be aware and try to self improve.
What is your problem I dont understand...
I Hate Janeway
Thu, Dec 28, 2017, 9:37pm (UTC -6)
An episode validating holocaust deniers? Did a bunch of Jew haters who believe in a Global Jewish Conspiracy take over the writing staff?
Tue, Jan 2, 2018, 7:34pm (UTC -6)
I agree mostl with T’Paul, I’m really surprised everyone else is ok with this one. I found the narrative very concerning.

In this story, an oppressed people (the Kyrians) are to blame for their oppression by starting the underlying conflict. The oppressed people are almost universally presented as terrorists, war instigators, and rioters. The oppressors (the Vaskans) are presented as mostly nice, friendly people who never do anything wrong visibly in the story. One Kyrian is presented as good, the one who accepts his own blame for his people’s oppression (the “Uncle Tom” as it were). And once the oppressed people accept their blame, magically the oppression disappears? Really?

Look, I get it’s fiction and in this particular example “the truth” is that the Kyrians WERE a primary instigator of the conflict. And I’m not saying you can’t present a complex story story where the oppressed people are unreasonable and partially to blame along with their oppressors. DS9 did that with Bajorans all the time.

But that isn’t this story. In DS9, Bajorans were reactionary jerks and often violent but the Cardassians were duplicitous violent thugs clearly shown to oppress them. Unlike that, this story presents a one-sided narrative - oppressed people are violent and lying to themselves about the facts, oppressors are nice guys and peaceful and right about the facts. Even one scene showing Vaskan former concentration camps, or separate water fountains, or oppressing voting, or spitting on a Kyrian or whatever, might have balanced it. But no.

Again, it’s subtle and so not SUPER offensive per say but it’s got it’s weight on the scale, and I find that disturbing and can’t really enjoy the story completely because of it...
Fri, Mar 16, 2018, 5:31am (UTC -6)
One of the finest EPs of Voyager that I had managed to miss until now. Quality and relevance of the story even more obvious 20 years after being made, and still feels fresh and even more relevant today.
Sun, May 13, 2018, 9:24pm (UTC -6)
2 stars maybe 2.5 stars.

Not really much to keep one's interest in this episode. I suppose there's the fun of watching the Voyager crew go 'gangsta but really since we all knew that telling of the story was bullsh**, it's not any different than the Voyager crew playing make-believe.

Didn't really care about the society because they have no relevance to the series (and disappear for good when the episode is over) and as for the larger "message" that history is often inaccurate, well, actually the story undercuts that message because we are given the true events as dictated by the Doctor. So history is knowable if you have a hologram that was there and can accurately replay the history for you.

It would have been so much more interesting if the story had followed the Rashomon movie in which several competing narratives are presented of this historical event and by the end, you're not quite sure which one is the real story.
Thu, Jul 12, 2018, 3:50pm (UTC -6)
I didn't really see it that way, as promoting this or that judgement on the players involved. I just saw it as making the general point that if everyone searches for the truth instead of their favourite narratives, then mutual understanding is promoted and the real issues come to light and can be worked out.

I mean, isn't this the key point of the episode, that the actual events might very well seem offensive and concerning if an entire society is based on a certain portayal of history? One that vindicates some people and demonises other people. It's ironic that you said, "I find that disturbing and can’t really enjoy the story" because that's exactly what the 'token Kyrian' on the delegation who look at the Doctor's recreation says.

She says that she finds the Doctor's reality disturbing and offensive and so she can't accept it. In her case because it removes some of the support for her point of view. And she does not want to loose that support because it weakens the claims of her species. But she's finding that bias in the his version herself because difficult truths that don't promote what she wants to see are troubling to her. It's so much easier to ignore them. Maybe she's not even being selfish, she might genuinly be concerned about her people if these truths come to light.

Afterall those 'facts' are a key component of many things they take for granted about the structure of their society. I understand why she wants to dispense of him and what he represents, but the fact is that history doesn't always agree with our PC points of views or our sense of social justice. Sometimes it does, but in the end it's just 'what happened'. It doesn't respect our agendas in the present.

Importantly, that's not to say the agendas are bad or not... and I really don't think the episode tried to imply they were. In fact I think it wanted to throw in more difficult shades of grey. It basically shows a society where a 'good' agenda (fighting against inequality) is supported by an inaccurate view of history. Should the truth take priority even when it may damage that cause? That's the essential moral quandry the Doctor faces at the end, no?

So I really didn't see it as promoting any particular viewpoint of either the Kyrians or the Vaskans. I saw it as making the more general point that competing revisionist histories that promote this or that agenda ultimate lock society into a negative cycle, rather than bringing everyone together to process and move on from whatever really happened.

"And once the oppressed people accept their blame, magically the oppression disappears? Really?" I actually think the episode went out of it's way to not make any statements of the kind. The truth is sometimes difficult because it makes things more grey than people want them to be. It's a general fact. I think you're making the episode's point for it by seeing it as a failure because you think the story it portrays supports the wrong side.

As for, "magically the oppression disappears", how did you come to that conclusion? The ending time jump shows that it took many more years to begin to change things, and with riots and deaths even then.

Nothing happened because, "The oppressed people accepted their blame". The impression I got was that people being forced to abandon their biased views of history led to them coming together and solving their problems in the present. One of the points of the episode, to me, is that it's more productive that a society should face difficult, inconveniant truths together so that it can build a better future than it is for each faction to build a wall around whatever interpretation best supports their viewpoint.
The Man
Sun, Jul 22, 2018, 8:09pm (UTC -6)
@The Sisko We didn't need several paragraphs of you whining about a pretty good episode.
Wed, Sep 26, 2018, 8:08am (UTC -6)
I love Voyager. It had some of the best characters in all the Trekverse, with the Doc being among them.

I don't consider Doc having a back up, when we previously established making a back up was hard, to be a flaw. All it means is that some point in time, Harry & company figured it out, after the rough attempt we see in Message in a Bottle. It would be awkward to force fit an explanation into the ep, so it isn't explained, but it's not hard to just accept as "oh, I guess they eventually figured out how to back up Doc."

I liked the "layering." At the end, we're watching the characters (on the now peaceful planet) watching characters (Doc & Quarren), watching characters (Voyager recreation). "What's real?" is the unresolved question of the ep.

Picardo is fantastic, and his dialogue is great. Such a feeling of loneliness for him, so evocative as he mentions long dead comrades - the exploration of loneliness is a series staple, from its mournful-yet-hopeful opening music to its sign off. It isn't forgotten here.

Secondary "messages" about the negative effects of racism, of creating "alternative facts" to bolster what you believe (instead of using facts to determine what you believe), are present, but not overwhelming or didactic.

When it opened with Janeway in those black gloves, I thought, oh no, not a "evil mirror universe!" I don't like those types of eps. But instead, what a creative way we got here, of showing evil-version characters.

Great stuff.
Sat, Feb 23, 2019, 8:42pm (UTC -6)
"And I really wish they would stop using 'race' instead of 'species'. These were not 2 different races. They were different species."

They are only different species if you know for a fact that they cannot breed with each and produce fertile offspring.

Since they both call that planet home (and presumably evolved there) it is perfectly valid to categorize them both as *the* humanoid species of that planet. Their divergent genetics would fairly be classified as their race. And if they were animals, it would be correct to refer to them as being different breeds of the same species.
Tue, Jul 23, 2019, 10:03pm (UTC -6)
This episode was entertaining but I was hoping to find out how Voyager extricated themselves from the mess at the front end of the 700 years.
And how would the doctor follow the path of Voyager to the Alpha Quadrant 700 years later? And what a long, lonely ride that would be.... Bummer.
Sun, Jul 28, 2019, 2:04pm (UTC -6)
Agree 100% with Jammer’s review (the word “sociological” was particularly apt). This might be my favorite episode yet.
Sat, Aug 3, 2019, 7:44am (UTC -6)
I remember liking this episode when I was younger, but after recently rewatching it, I have to say that my reaction is something like T'Paul's or Daniel's.

The episode is creative, certainly. And the use of fun 'mirror universe' elements to tell a substantial story and contribute to ideas of a philosophical or sociological order is really appreciated. This episode is well thought out on several fronts, as well as well produced, designed well, and acted with conviction. But...

The narrative sets up oppression that is happening, for the characters in the story, *right now*. There are people being oppressed un the *now* of the characters. Everyone knows it. It can be seen with their eyes. They just have to open them.

Meanwhile, the plot focuses in on the historical accuracy of events in the past. This is where the problem lies. Anyone with a mind for justice is more concerned with oppression that they can see is definitely, without a doubt, happening right now. But because of its design and theme, the plot of 'Living Witness' expects us to care more about the intricacies of the past, and this is framed in terms of justice, too, not just accuracy.

And that's where it all collapses. Right, establishing the truth is about justice. We can all agree to that. But this historical justice is not of a lesser value than *known* contemporary acts of oppression. Anyone who thinks that is, in practice, supporting those contemporary acts of oppression. If, today, someone were to divert thinking about contemporary racial injustice towards one specific incident on one specific day 700 years ago, most of us would consider this to be racist distraction. Conveniently shifting priorities like this is usually a sign of support for racist activity. And rightly so. Emphasis and priority say a lot.

That's why some people feel as if the episode is saying the oppressed 'deserved it'. The episode doesn't say this. But the writers *do* definitely say that, for this episode's themes and plot, definitive contemporary injustice is less relevant than historical accuracy. After all, one drives the plot, while the other is just part of the story, background, and environment.

And that... is just odd for a Star Trek ethos. It is bound to be upsetting for some people. The episode needed a significant contribution saying that the oppression that definitely exists was the major issue (because we *know* it is happening *now*), though this does not imply that historical accuracy is unimportant. But... if the episode takes this direction, it also ceases to be recognizable as 'Living Witness'. Thr narrative consistency, tightness, and focus will diminish. If, however, narrative consistency and focus win, then the implication is that the contemporary theme is secondary to the historical theme. But if the contemporary theme of *known* oppression is secondary to establishing the facts about one day 700 years ago, basically any sort of racial diversion tactics are left uncriticized. This is a gaping hole for anyone who is concerned about *both* sorts of (in)justice. Thus the episode is both a creative masterpiece and an unsalvageable thematic disaster from the get-go. Once you see what is missing and what choices were made in the narrative focus, it becomes disconcerting.
Peter G.
Sat, Aug 3, 2019, 8:43am (UTC -6)
@ bencanuck,

I think you're probably right that in context of this actual culture the intense focus on the true history of the Voyager crew must surely be trivial in comparison to the problems of that culture. It feels like a vain claim to importance because this is *our crew* and for little other reason. On the other hand maybe this was meant to be an allegory for something else. For instance what if Voyager hadn't flown away: what if their peace was bought at the cost of Starfleet blood, and they were repainting the past to make them look like villains in order to justify wiping them out. We could then see a parallel to native American issues. In this case there was no genocide per se, and let the "living witness" title does sound strikingly to me like something we'd hear about a holocaust survivor, or maybe the oral tradition of a native American tribe that had been mostly - but not quite - wiped out.

Maybe the moral they intend is that you have to own up to your history in order to get better?
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 2:28pm (UTC -6)
Too bad Harry didn't as much personality in his regular character. Other than he and Janeway's fun character, eh.
Fri, Aug 16, 2019, 1:16am (UTC -6)
Somehow I missed this episode in its original airing, and then somehow skipped it when I went through the series on-line. I’m venturing through all the Voyager episodes again, and this is truly one of the best episodes of the series. It’s got creativity in the story-telling, gives the actors some new ways to portray their characters, and confronts genuine problems in the study of history. Robert Picardo is outstanding, and it’s an impressive directorial debut for Tim Russ. It’s a well constructed episode all around.
Sleeper Agent
Tue, Sep 10, 2019, 3:31pm (UTC -6)
Beltran as Evil Chakotay is worth the watch alone.

4 Stars.
Tue, Oct 1, 2019, 1:58pm (UTC -6)
Nice tribute to Lt. Torres by the Doctor, since Roxanne was too busy having a baby to be in the episode.
Fri, Nov 22, 2019, 9:44am (UTC -6)
Wonderful episode, one that's big on ideas AND makes use of Voyager's unique premise. It plays around with familiar ideas, like the "evil" versions of the crew, but packages them in a story that could only have been told on this show. One of Voyager's finest hours yet.
Wed, Jan 22, 2020, 12:23pm (UTC -6)
The concept for this episode is pretty bold. Let's take a controversial piece of history which victimized a group of people and show them instead as the aggressors. Unfortunately, the execution is lacking.

Two big issues really stick out for me:

1. The historical reenactment is way too detailed to be believable. I can buy that the Kyrians used a bit of dramatic license to highlight their victimization, but I don't really see the point in adding small talk and needless flourishes like the Voyager crew getting into fistfights when they don't agree. It's too extreme. It feels like this episode is using "historical reenactment" as a framing device for Voyager to ham it up in yet another Mirror Universe episode. I don't have a problem with Mirror Universe episodes, but if that's what the writers want to do with the cast, at least be honest to us about it.

Likewise, when the Doctor fixes the retelling, he's giving information he shouldn't know. His retelling has personal conversations among crew members well out of the Doctor's earshot. How can he possibly know that happened? It strains the credibility of the one person we're supposed to believe.

2. The conclusion leaves out too much story to make sense. Okay, so I get where they're coming from. They're righting a historical wrong which should vindicate a disenfranchised group and lead to peace. That sounds like a good story. But if you think about it, it doesn't make any sense that Voyager would have this much importance considering the nature of the Kyrian-Vaskan conflict. We're supposed to believe that the Kyrians have been oppressed by the Vaskans for centuries and yet they blame Voyager for it? And exonerating Voyager somehow ends the conflict? I can't even imagine how that works. You'd think the Kyrians who have nursed this grudge for 700 years would still cling to their version of history regardless of what the Doctor says. And, even if the Kyrians finally accepted the truth, how does this lead to them forgiving the Vaskans for oppression? It's like the power structure of the roles of these people are backwards, and Voyager is wedged in somehow because Voyager is the name of the show.

There's a good story in here somewhere, where they executed the concept of a living witness bringing justice to the oppressed after centuries. But, I don't see the story brought to life here. 2.5 Stars.
Peter G.
Thu, Jan 23, 2020, 2:00pm (UTC -6)
I agree with your take on this one, Chrome, as well as your rating. This one always amused me in certain places, but otherwise felt sort of pointless and vaguely self-aggrandizing. On TNG they were sort of careful to avoid claiming to be awesome, and this episode is basically saying "Voyager is so amazing! How can you impugn us like this??" For a similar episode in this vein, but much much better, see Babylon 5's "Deconstructing Falling Stars", which really hits you in the guts as well being very interesting.
Mon, Jun 1, 2020, 6:16pm (UTC -6)
Race riots, arguments over interpretations of history, attacking museums... this episode suddenly became very topical after this past weekend. Eerily so.
Sat, Jun 6, 2020, 6:24pm (UTC -6)
I do like the idea of the doc out there travelling across the delta quadrant, picking up a crew along the way, getting into mini adventures.......spin off anyone lol
Tue, Jun 30, 2020, 11:44am (UTC -6)
Missed opportunity not giving Janeway a goatee. It would have made a great episode perfect.
Sarjenka's Brother
Mon, Jul 13, 2020, 2:07am (UTC -6)
Never saw this until today. I'm amazed how many Voyagers I missed until I began this recent beginning-to-end viewing.

I'm with the majority this time. Not only is this one of Voyager's finest hours, it's one of the finest hours of any "Trek."

And it has more to say in 2020 than in the 20th century!
Wed, Aug 19, 2020, 11:47am (UTC -6)
My goodness, this was a fantastic episode. So many timeless lessons to learned there, directly applicable to our world; plus the science plus the fiction. Exquisite.

The ending was far too sanguine. I don't see humanity ever uniting. We will always find ways to divide ourselves regardless of all the terrible upheavals such divisions lead to, and with division comes a power dynamic, which is also an inescapable element of the material world. Just as two atoms compete for dominance, so do two civilizations. "There is nothing new under the sun."
Sat, Sep 26, 2020, 12:25pm (UTC -6)
The funniest moment gotta be when Janeway activated the Borgs.
Latex Zebra
Tue, Oct 27, 2020, 4:48am (UTC -6)
Commodore Dubs
Tue, Nov 3, 2020, 2:39pm (UTC -6)
I just watched this today, on American election day 2020. This is probably the most socially relevant episode of trek I have ever seen at least at the moment. With American history under attack with the statue topplings and stuff like the 1619 project and race wars, the parallels with this episode are insane. People don't care about the objective truth unless it reinforces their views. Without accepting or understanding the objective truthfully history of western civilization, can we move past it and learn from our mistakes? No, I think not.
Sat, Jan 16, 2021, 4:59pm (UTC -6)
Does anyone else think this is a bit like the Babylon 5 episode "Deconstruction of Falling Stars", but much better and done properly.


Yup. And while I am one of the biggest Bab 5 fans, I rate the Bab 5 version as one of its worst episodes. Here, however, it's one of Voyager's best. It didn't really work that well in Bab 5, but it does here. Really well made episode.
Bob (a different one)
Thu, Mar 4, 2021, 1:48pm (UTC -6)
A very effective use of the EMH; a character that I don't really "get" sometimes.

Someone above compared this to "Remember" because of its theme of revisionist history, and I think while that is true in one respect it is different in another. "Remember" is about a society that refuses to admit to committing the sins of the past, while "Living Witness" is about a segment of society that wants to twist history in order to nurse an eternal grievance and prolong their victimhood. And, of course, the style of storytelling is so different that I think I'd still enjoy both episodes even if they examined the exact same theme.

Final thoughts:

1) The ending was perfect.

2) Since this episode was so well received, I wonder why Tim Russ never got a chance to direct another episode?

p.s. "Watch your mouth, hedgehog!"
Dave in MN
Thu, Mar 4, 2021, 2:28pm (UTC -6)
I always hated this episode because everyone I cared about in the Star Trek universe is dead.
Wed, Apr 14, 2021, 7:25pm (UTC -6)
It's interesting and thought provoking ep but I give one star less because this should be two parter so we see more of alien culture before and after Doctor's revelation about past and maybe even the Doctor in their society and eventual leaving. Also some messages were a bit muddled/questionable. ***

P.S. Enjoyed dark Voyager crew. Favourites: Janeway, Tuvok, Seven and Kim 😈
Thu, Jul 1, 2021, 8:56am (UTC -6)
I just have to say though that now technically there are two EMHs in the universe. What is the original doctor going to say when he sees his backup? lol It's kind of a plot hole.
Sun, Aug 8, 2021, 7:02pm (UTC -6)
@Gin I trust this characteristic of Kim much more than your stupid post.
Sun, Aug 8, 2021, 7:16pm (UTC -6)
@Gin your defense if Paris is wrong, the Doctor was right. I know you're defending Paris because he is white but come on.
Daniel B
Tue, Aug 10, 2021, 3:19pm (UTC -6)
{{ Not much to add, except to say this: I much prefer this episode to the Mirror Universe set of episodes. The actors here get to act "bad" because of mistaken/revisionist history, which serves the overall plot. In the Mirror universe episodes, the characters are monstrously sadistic only for the purpose of comic relief, which makes their actions easily dismissed. }}

Agree 100%.

And seeing Tuvok with a psychotic grin as he attempts to speed up the deaths of thousands of innocents is CREEPY! And effective too, since he didn't ham up the rest of his performance. Tim Russ plays him with mostly the same stoicism, except for the giant grin of a sadist reveling in his skills at causing devastation, which makes it even more chilling.

One of the best parts about this episode is that it all really did happen in-universe. Normally when I see an episode taking place far in the future and the Voyager crew acting completely out of character, I expect a giant time-travel reset at the end.
Paul Allen
Sat, Aug 14, 2021, 2:50am (UTC -6)
The Doctor hopes that Janeway is spinning in her grave. Apparently, her final resting place is in Stanley's Death Park, in one of those fancy spinning coffins.
Thu, Aug 26, 2021, 1:15pm (UTC -6)
@Comodore Dubs "Race wars" Always fun to find white supremacists enjoy the same you do, huh?
Fri, Aug 27, 2021, 12:07pm (UTC -6)
"Living Witness" had good moments and terrible ones. Gratuitous violence is never a plus for me. The specific instances (Evil Janeway's summary executions and the torture session orchestrated by Evil Chakotay and Evil Harry Kim) were completely beyond the pale. The 'Janeway as Blackbeard' motif was great up to the point at which onscreen violence reached crescendo... Just not necessary to the story.

There's enough nihilism in one day's news to last us for 700 years.
Thu, Oct 7, 2021, 12:57pm (UTC -6)
As a Brit still not over the harmful effects of Brexit, this episode had me tearing up a bit by the end. Star Trek so often presents such an optimistic outlook on the world, yet I'm often filled with pessimism when I see the constant culture wars being stirred up in my country. Bleh.
Wed, Jan 19, 2022, 7:27pm (UTC -6)
Re-watching the series during Omicron, but this episode gets 4 Stars? Wow...

It's just another example of Voyager's glorification of American civilization and attempts to dismiss the atrocities to build it. All in spite of a Native American First Officer and a Maquis back story in the series. Well this was the direction to be expected from Bragging Braga, hailing from a heritage belonging to one the most brutal colonial empires. Or were the Portuguese one of the nice ones?

"Living Witness" depicts a brown race subjugating a white one (quite the role reversal if I must say) where the latter creates revisionist history to explain away their demised status in society. The message of the episode? Their version is a farce, made all the more egregious with their depiction of Janeway and her crew as big baddies.

In 2021, we in Canada discovered THOUSANDS of unmarked graves of Indigenous Children forcibly removed from their homes and into Residential Schools, many run by the pure and good Catholic Church. A story Native communities have been telling for decades and dismissed. Fortunately the Canadian government has acknowledged this dark history and has made efforts at restitution. But if this happened in Canada, can you imagine what occurred in the US of A, or Brazil or any North or South American country?

This episode deserves a black hole (instead of any stars) for its' blatant attempt to gas light the histories of disadvantaged and conquered peoples. Not the way forward...
Jason R.
Wed, Jan 19, 2022, 8:05pm (UTC -6)
@Fwiffo I think the holocaust is the actual intended historical comparison here. Not that it couldn't apply to native Americans too.
Thu, Jan 20, 2022, 2:37pm (UTC -6)

Wow, what a social justice warrior anti-colonial post. Understandable now that I know you are from Canada. Mankind history is full of atrocities. What about Africa? ... you know, the one that sold the "west" slaves?

You should worship "colonialism". While many aspects are certainly "dark", the standard of living you enjoy and your level of education is a direct result of it.

Reparations are a joke. No one alive today had anything to do with any of the events you mention.

The Indians were conquered by a technologically advanced invader. This has happened countless times throughout history. The only reason folks are "up in arms" about western civilization colonialism now is that they see $$$$$ lining their pockets.

There is a good chance that some of your DNA came from Genghis Khan. That and most Canadians are French means you personally are responsible for many unspeakable atrocities throughout history. Time to pay up.
William B
Thu, Jan 20, 2022, 3:01pm (UTC -6)
"most Canadians are French"

Thu, Jan 20, 2022, 4:01pm (UTC -6)
"Reparations are a joke. No one alive today had anything to do with any of the events you mention."
Reparations are paid for official state policy and because the Canadian state continues to exist it can be liable for things it did in the past. But even a legal successor can be liable.

The Federal Republic of Germany still pays the Catholic Church money because the Holy Roman Empire secularized their property in 1803. It's more than half a billion (570) € every year.

" What about Africa? ... you know, the one that sold the "west" slaves?"
Because the European powers bought so many slaves, slave hunting states came into existence. While slavery existed before, the extreme demand for slaves, because of the high death rates, especially in the Caribbean, completely changed the social structure of Western Africa. The effects of those policies are still affecting the region to this day and let's not start with the stuff that is happening now. Botswana is one of the few countries that could develop without a lot of interference and they have reached a standard of living comparable to Poland.

I could recommend "Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty" A little repetitive and very focused on economics but interesting.

"You should worship "colonialism". While many aspects are certainly "dark", the standard of living you enjoy and your level of education is a direct result of it."
Peter G.
Thu, Jan 20, 2022, 4:19pm (UTC -6)
Hey I actually have that book on my shelf. Hopefully I'll read it someday.
Thu, Jan 20, 2022, 4:37pm (UTC -6)
fingers crossed! :)

It's very ambitious. I'm not always in agreement but if you want to read an interesting book about why things are the way they are then give it a go.
Fri, Jan 21, 2022, 12:46am (UTC -6)
@Yanks You made me chuckle, but deserve a reply...

"The standard of living you enjoy and your level of education is a direct result of it[colonialism]."

Oh really? And why hasn't it raised yours?
"...That and most Canadians are French"???
Ummm, try 75% English.

Re-read my post and summary statement. My quarrel is with this episode's attempt to white-wash "the histories of disadvantaged and conquered peoples". I cite the conquest of Native Americans with a specific example of the impact of Residential Schools that was DENIED FOR DECADES until recent ground penetrating RADAR revealed thousands of unmarked graves on the school grounds. A poignant real word rebuttal of the episode's fictional "Nope, you got it all wrong! Never happened." story.

That any non-native who lives in North America is a beneficiary of it's conquest is not in question. Nor am I advocating the US, Canada or any such derived nation should be dissolved because of it. But we must acknowledge that it occurred, recognize the harm it caused and attempt to reconcile the societal impact. The Canadian government has pledged $30 billion in restitution. That'll come out my taxes. I have no problem with that.

To your inane statement "You should worship "colonialism"" - Well, China is on a steep rise. If they buy your country out and replace you, will you kowtow and be thankful?

Colonialism was about expansion and exploitation - nothing more. For the death, destruction and suffering it caused, it's benefits are questionable at best. Look at the post colonial Spanish and Portuguese Empires. How well off are Spain and Portugal today? What about their former colonies in Latin America i.e. Mexico or Brazil? Even "Great" Britain that sired the US and Canada can barely keep it's island nation together. Look at Africa, a continent carved to pieces by multiple colonial empires, dividing nations along unnatural territorial lines, the basis for conflict in so many of it's countries to this day. Consider Germany who had no colonies prior to the late 19th century, yet was a match in culture, science and economy to all the "Great" colonial empires and directly took on the British, French, Americans and the Soviets in World War I and II. But make now bones about it, Germany had the same greedy aspirations to expand like it's neighbors and was the direct basis of the World Wars.

When you dismiss the impact of past atrocities or glorify Colonialism/Imperialism we're fated to repeat it. Look at the unrest and divide in the US today. Consider the imminent invasion of Ukraine by Russia seeking to reconquer it's former colony. Not the way forward...
Thu, Jul 28, 2022, 11:48pm (UTC -6)
The Doctor is understandably defensive of Voyager's reputation, but I'm quite certain the museum's initial view of Voyager as a marauding warship is EXACTLY what would be the prevailing opinion in the Delta quadrant in the ship's wake.

Great episode, but it seems like there is a weird flaw. To the Doctor, Voyager's interaction with this planet are current events only days old as the Doctor himself notes. Yet when he first tries to recall the situation, he acts like he is trying hard to remember.

Seems unlikely Picardo would have flubbed that or the director missed it. I wonder if there were rewrites.
Sun, Oct 2, 2022, 5:50pm (UTC -6)
Lots of tea spilled in this episode regarding the society in which we live in. Tim Russ did an excellent job navigating the script delicately. One of my favorites.
Fri, Oct 28, 2022, 2:38pm (UTC -6)
Just watched this and it was very good.

One small thing to call out: the events in this episode between the Doctor and Quarren occurred around 3074. That is a full five years after the Burn supposedly occurred in 3069. I guess the shockwave did not hit the Delta Quadrant. ;)

In reality, the Discovery writers do not care at all about continuity.
Mon, Apr 24, 2023, 2:30pm (UTC -6)
I loved this episode, super fun and interesting. I’ll admit that, as an historian, I’m pretty biased. But I took the episode as an insightful take on the precarious difficulty inherent in historical study. Often you have to extrapolate a lot of information out of very sparse sources, it can be a very inexact science one might say. For something that gets so politicized it might be a good idea for everyone to bear that inexactitude in mind.

I appreciated that the kyrian historian wasn’t depicted as trying to silence the doctor, even as the doc turned everything he believed on its head. Rather he was willing to follow the evidence, regardless of the personal or even societal costs. This is why I didn’t see this story as being about revisionism, the kyrian historian genuinely believed his interpretation was accurate, he wasn’t deliberately warping the facts to fit an agenda. As such he wasn’t a revisionist, but was instead faced with an ethical dilemma, a test he passed I’d say.

I was a little confused as to why the museum had so much of voyager’s stuff. I thought initially it was being implied that voyager had been destroyed during whatever conflict happened on this planet, and the museum had some of the salvage. But at the end it was clearly stated that they continued on their journey. You have to wonder just how much trash voyager is dumping all over the delta quadrant.
Thu, Apr 27, 2023, 3:22am (UTC -6)
The beginning, Quarren just starting to quistion the fundament of the histroy he alway beleived in is fantastic. He sees and realises an unplesant contrdiction but still goes on, uncovering a to him very distressful possibility that he has been wrong his whole life.

What I whish that more people could take this step back start reflecting over their own foundations.
Sun, Oct 1, 2023, 6:27pm (UTC -6)
I find it odd that despite all the discussion no one has contemplated the possibility that the EMH backup was created specifically after “Message in a Bottle” upon reflection of their glaring tactical and medical vulnerability. The necessary requirement for the script to use exposition as if the audience are children is tiresome.

The comments here and the general perspective of the show seems to be “the characters and their actions cease to exist when the cameras stop rolling. We saw a maximum 129 hours (total show runtime) out of 61,320 hours (7 years) Voyager was in space. Use your brains to fill in the gaps, it’s not that difficult.
Sun, Oct 1, 2023, 6:30pm (UTC -6)
@Idh2023 - As a historian you should understand that revisionism doesn’t have to be intentional and vindictive in order to be revisionism. It can be ignorantly informed and still be revisionist.
Sun, Oct 1, 2023, 7:06pm (UTC -6)

What revision requires is, well, revision. It only needs a reinterpretation of historical information or events, either malicious or erroneous. Generally, revisionism is seen in a negative light as it usually implies an agenda or motivating bias and thus a loss of objectivity. That’s not what’s happening in this episode. The historian running the museum has created an interpretation of events through fragmented and flawed sources, a feature not a quirk of historical study as it happens, and is fully open to readjustment in the face of additional information. His IS the interpretation, not a revision of the status quo. The revisionism would come later in light of the doctor’s paradigm shifting appearance, and even that is shaky given that the doc is both direct, living witness(titular line drop!) and computer program capable, I’d assume, of total recall. So the doc can pretty much set the record straight beyond all interpretation as the near perfect primary source document.

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