Star Trek: Voyager


2 stars

Air date: 5/19/1999
Teleplay by Michael Taylor & Kenneth Biller
Story by Brannon Braga
Directed by John Kretchmer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"When a bomb starts talking about itself in the third person, I get worried." — Paris (in second season's "Dreadnought")

"What about when it's talking about itself in the first person?" — Jammer (talking about this episode, and referring to himself in the third person)

Nutshell: Ho-hum.

It's moments like "Warhead" that make me wonder how much life the Star Trek franchise has left in it. With the end of DS9—the most challenging incarnation of the franchise—now upon us, I'm realizing that Voyager will be all that's left to speak for Trek—for a while, anyway. An episode like this makes me wonder how much is left to be said, because what's said here has been said many times before—and "Warhead" doesn't find a particularly riveting new spin on the material.

"Warhead" plays like an "all-new" remake of some lost TOS episode. True, it's updated with the Voyager quota of technical jargon and current production values. But it seems like we're covering ground that was covered back in 1967. There's a scene here where the Voyager away team beams down to a planet surface for investigation. This planet is obviously a set, much the way the TOS planets were obviously sets. It's like meeting an old friend—the fake-looking planet. And, theme-wise, it's almost as if a Trek script were put into a time capsule long ago and recently rediscovered and run through production. Are the themes "universal"? Maybe. Are they challenging? Not particularly. Are they familiar? You'd better believe it.

The high-concept phrase du jour might best be encapsulated by Janeway's clever tagline utterance: "outsmart the smart bomb." The plot develops in purely Trekkian formula fashion, as an away team brings back a lost, unknown life form. The life form is actually an artificial intelligence inside a metallic device. It's programmed with sentience. Unfortunate for Our Heroes, but fortunate for those interested in suspense-game plots, the metallic device is actually a weapon of mass destruction—a bomb guided by an intelligence but programmed to complete its mission at all costs. The bomb communicates by talking to the Doctor, who can translate its bleeps and bloops into useful words, thanks to his handy internal translation matrix. (The most obvious line of dialog that is, surprisingly, not present here: "I'm a Doctor, not an interpreter.")

The Smart Bomb is initially unaware of its purpose because of gaps in its memory. Suddenly, however, the Bomb realizes what it is—at which point it transfers its program into the Doctor's holographic matrix and hijacks Voyager, threatening to detonate if the crew doesn't help it complete its mission of mass destruction.

The bulk of the episode is about how the crew must attempt to negotiate with this Bomb and, ultimately, outsmart it. I should probably point out that it's late in the season, where the cumulative bore effect of these types of mechanical plots begins to take its toll on my brain. I certainly can't say I was wrapped up in the overall idea of the ship being threatened with a big explosion—again. (To boot, this makes back-to-back episodes about preventing bombs from detonating.)

The idea of trying to out-smart the smart bomb isn't ill-conceived, but nor does it have much zip to it. Everything about this episode feels like Just Another Day at the Office. There are some crew-concocted plans here, including one involving a "clever" distraction and Yet Another Use of Seven's Nanoprobes, those microscopic, miracle, all-purpose sabotage/medical/assimilation tools. (Order now! Operators are standing by.)

The substance of the episode arises from Harry's attempts to reason with the Smart Bomb, which was apparently programmed with a zero-patience personality harboring more paranoia than Richard Belzer.

Honestly, if this Bomb has been sitting inactive for two or three years, what's its big rush? What difference would another couple hours of reasonable investigation into its memory files make? If the Bomb is "sentient," it should have the capability to reason—but, conveniently, it must also answer to "destroy the enemy"-type directives that make it more uncontrollable than it need be. (Why give a doomsday device sentience if you're also giving it inconsistent logical directives?)

Again and again the Smart Bomb makes threats. Finally, when the Bomb says it's going to explode and kill everybody if Janeway doesn't help it complete its mission, I was thrilled when Janeway said, "Go ahead." It's good to see someone stand up to a bullying bomb.

The concluding dramatics are laid on entirely too heavily, as Harry and the Doc-Bomb get into shouting matches that are supposed to be exciting, I suppose, but really just don't have the punch they aspire to reach. Urgent histrionics just aren't Garrett Wang's specialty, and Robert Picardo's shouting goes overboard into thespian excess. The scene feels stilted rather than strong.

It also doesn't help that the Bomb pulls a complete 180 in the eleventh hour concerning its attitude. For most of the show the Bomb is completely unwilling to access its memory banks to find the truth, then suddenly, it comes to some realization that Violence Is Bad, and checks its memory to find it had been ordered to deactivate years ago. It concludes that it can trust the Voyager crew then cease and desist. Under the story's execution, the Bomb's change of mind is so jarring it simply isn't believable.

Subsequently, the Bomb goes on a suicide mission to destroy several dozen other bombs like itself that have also been floating around. Apparently, these other bombs cannot be reasoned with. Why? Superficially, because of some arbitrary plot point. Dramatically, it's because if these bombs could be reasoned with, we wouldn't have a nice tidy ending, a noble Bomb sacrifice, the satisfaction of our Starfleet philosophies triumphing yet again, and the huge explosion of dozens of bombs as icing on the cake. This is a good example of Trek succumbing to its own narcissism.

I don't mean to sound overly negative, because there are some positive aspects to "Warhead." First of all, I appreciated that it managed to be an ensemble show rather than a run-with-one-character showpiece. It was good that the story teamed up B'Elanna and Harry again, something we haven't seen in awhile. It's also nice to see the writers give Harry something to do (his night-shift command with the junior officers' perspective had an interesting feel to it)—even though, admittedly, the writers have cornered him into forever being the resident dork such that the character might be a lost cause.

What "Warhead" cannot do is sustain the tension. I've seen these Trekkian issues applied so many times through the years that the interest wanes without a fresh approach or a new set of questions. The underlying problem with much of "Warhead" is that the plot lives and dies on the execution of its threats and plot-twist dynamics, little of which are remotely original. As for the Trekkian themes, they're present in abundance: mutual trust, non-violence, cooperation, understanding, sacrifice for the greater good. But they all seem so obvious. It's nice that Star Trek overall still manages to avoid cynicism. But with a story so toothless and transparent, how useful are those themes?

For solid entertainment, not very.

Next week: Season finale. Voyager has an unexpected run-in with another Federation starship. (And this time it's real!)

Previous episode: Relativity
Next episode: Equinox, Part I

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66 comments on this post

Ken Egervari
Sun, Dec 6, 2009, 2:43pm (UTC -6)
The thing I couldn't understand is why in the hell did they not suspect it was a bomb from the start? I mean, why the hell is the crew so clueless for? Maybe the audience has a good idea because the title of the show is "Warhead"... but come on! The dialog and ignorance of the crew really makes the shows unbelievable and just downright stupid.

I commend the writers for *trying* to move ensign Kim's character forward... but really... why does Harry get all the really, really bad episodes for? Every character episode except for one that he's had has been terrible. The only good one was the time travel one where Voyager got stuck in the ice over the slipstream drive.

And you are right - this episode is just boring. It's all run of the mill, predictable drivel. And some aspects of the show just insult the intelligence of the viewer.
Mon, Jul 5, 2010, 10:51am (UTC -6)
They leave Harry, the guy who can't get a lock on his shoelaces, in charge of the bridge AND then let him lead an away-mission? You know that just can't POSSIBLY end well.

He screwed up so many times I'd not let him work as a souschef in the mess hall, never mind an ensign on the bridge.

A decent show; 2-2.5 stars is about right.
Tue, Aug 10, 2010, 4:36am (UTC -6)
I find it amusing that Voyager apparently always has a nice comfy place in engineering next to that matter-antimatter tube called the warp core, i.e. the heart of the vessel, were to examine unknown, hazardous and explosive objects, e.g. this bomb, the Borg thingy with the virus in it, evil robots, early 7 of 9, etc. Sure, it's a budget saving reason, but what about that nice redress of sickbay were One was born, among others. Was not that the science lab?
Sat, Dec 24, 2011, 8:17am (UTC -6)
So many logical inconsistencies in this episode. Did the Bomb-omb Doc say he was not peogrammed to negotiate? Yet he knew what negotiation was.
Mon, May 7, 2012, 8:48am (UTC -6)
Brannon Braga, the Two-Face of television writers pens another bomb (pun intended).
Fri, Jul 6, 2012, 1:13am (UTC -6)
Why is ENSIGN Kim in command of the ship at all? From what I can tell the ship command structure consists of a captain, a commander, a lieutenant commander, and a bunch of ensigns. What makes Kim a senior officer over the other ensigns? Why are there no lieutenants (besides Paris being stripped of one of his bars)? Perhaps this is rehashing old complaints, but episode really bothered me in that regard.
Mon, Sep 10, 2012, 3:21am (UTC -6)
I've skipping some of the low-ranked episodes, but ended up watching this after seeing the teaser, and thought it was an enjoyable episode. The Doc is my one of favorite characters, and this story gave Kim prominent role as well.

I get that this episode rehashes old themes and plot elements, but that's somewhat inevitable and shouldn't matter as much to audiences less familiar with earlier Treks. It also reminded me of "Dreadnought" from the Season 2.
W Smith
Tue, Jul 2, 2013, 10:28am (UTC -6)
Something of a rip-off of Iron Giant but without the emotional payoff. The warhead was so adamant to carry out its mission for the entire episode, and then had a sudden change of mind for really no good reason. Emblematic of Voyager that the writers never wanted to take any chances to do something different, just more derivative cliches.
Jo Jo Meastro
Tue, Jul 2, 2013, 6:02pm (UTC -6)
Completely agree with W Smith, this was one of those episodes which make you question why you still try to remain positive about Voyager. The Iron Giant is a striking, beautiful, organic, touching movie and puts this lifeless lazy dudd to shame.

Even Robert Picardo seems to be phoning it in, I kept forgetting he was supposed to be a whole other entity and not just the Doctor in one of his grumpy moods!
Wed, Aug 7, 2013, 3:13am (UTC -6)
So, nothing is expected to happen on the "night shift?"
No "night," in space, just various duty shifts.
Why is it only in episodes such as this that we ever hear from other of the crew? If even for a momement?
Thu, Aug 8, 2013, 2:40pm (UTC -6)
I still like this episode better than most character studies.
I do agree the doc and the bomb didnt seem much different in personality.
i enjoyed the "night shift," because it is fun when you hear from other crew members. I just assume the night shift is when nothing dangerous or ambassadorial is happening.

it is not like Kim was responsibile for the bomb being on the ship. everyone else agreed. however, i would have transported the bomb back on the planet and destroyed it as soon as i could.

cant believe there was only 10 comments on this. i guess it is not watched much.
Lt. Yarko
Mon, Aug 19, 2013, 1:44am (UTC -6)
If the bomb had been crashed on the planet for a couple of years, why were the other bombs still out in space? Wouldn't they have completed their mission or have been too far away to come back for the crashed one? Especially since the crashed one (and its partner) had to be behind the others so that it received the cancellation message in time to drive itself into the planet. That made no sense to me. At warp speed, they should have been long gone, and why oh why would they be programmed to go find lost ones? They would have had to backtrack for that! This episode was retarded.

I am going to finish watching this series, but at this point, if I were not such a completionist, I would dump out. The most recent episodes have been terrible duds. I never finished watching Enterprise because I simply lost interest. The same thing is happening to me with Voyager at this point.
Chris P
Wed, Feb 5, 2014, 1:10pm (UTC -6)
Ugh. Why did they beam a WMD onto their ship? This is one of the more unforgivably stupid episodes of Voyager. The plot/premise is fundamentally flawed from the outset and is degraded further by character decisions, behavior, and naivete.

For shame. 11:59 and this episode within a three episode stretch makes me sarcastically wonder if they were trying to kill off interest in the series.
Sgt. Steve
Tue, Mar 25, 2014, 8:04pm (UTC -6)
Funny how your reviews almost always are different from my view of the show.

But I guess that may be the difference between somebody who analyses every episode down to it's core where as I just watch the show and hope to be entertained.

@Chris P: They did not know it was a WMD when they beamed it aboard, maybe you should watch the episode again.
Fri, Apr 25, 2014, 12:40am (UTC -6)
"They leave Harry, the guy who can't get a lock on his shoelaces, in charge of the bridge AND then let him lead an away-mission? You know that just can't POSSIBLY end well"


The first 15 minutes of the episode are quite intriguing, with this sort of intriguing idea of an artificial living machine that does not realize it is a machine. I like that. But then it comes the rather odd idea of it being a mass-destruction device.

The question of "deactivating the weaponry is violating the artificial being's essence" certainly had some potential. But in the end it felt so forced and even more artificial than the missile' intelligence. Every attempt to be profound fails. The episode ends up being even a bit silly. And this without accounting the stupidity of the artificial-intelligence-warhead uploading itself to the Doc's body.

Oh yes, sure, I was almost forgetting. What about the often present and always infuriating "we lost the lock to beam it down"? Worse, this old plot trick was again crucial for the overall plot to become possible. Gosh... laziness is back on writers' ship. Hurrah!

Fairly silly episode. The two stars are the most this episode could ever dream of (if it had and AI too). I myself would maybe give a bit less, bur certainly not a cent more.
Mon, Nov 10, 2014, 2:18am (UTC -6)
"With the end of DS9—the most challenging incarnation of the franchise—now upon us, I'm realizing that Voyager will be all that's left to speak for Trek"

I finally understand your problem, Jammer. You don't like Star Trek. DS9 went as far as possible from what Star Trek (the original series, TNG, Voyager) is. It wasn't about exploration and discovery, it wasn't a utopian future, it reintroduced religion big-time, it was mostly a long-arch story. I liked DS9 and enjoyed it overall (I am actually planning on re-watching it after I'm done with my re-watching of Voyager). But it's not "Star Trek" - it's more like another (very 90s) sci-fi show that uses some elements of the Star Trek universe.

Episodes such as Warhead are what made and make Star Trek what it is. A one-hour episode that tells a story, gives an insight into an alien mind / alien culture, raises a few questions, brings drama and a satisfying resolution. I personally loved it. The questions it raises about artificial intelligence are certainly fascinating - yes AI can be good and can prosper (the doc) but if its programming has so restrictive as warhead's has been, then maybe we have the co-existence of AI (sense of self) and lack of free-will. What does it say about us? About our free-will? About brainwashing?
I also loved when the bomb asked "but did he ever stop being a doctor?". (And people who know m know I'm a staunch supporter of the view that AIs are people).

Anyway, 4 star episode to me.
Mon, Nov 10, 2014, 9:09am (UTC -6)
I'll disagree with you and Jammer. I think Jammer like Star Trek, but that the franchise should be evolving, not trying to be TOS v3. I didn't want VOY to be DS9 v2, but I didn't want it to be TNG v2 either. I wanted it to try to go it's own way.

That said, this episode is a TERRIBLE one to use as a case study for why Voyager sucks. I liked seeing Harry explore a bit of command (though why he hasn't even made Lt. Jg. yet is beyond me). I liked the parts the entire ensemble played, I thought they really all gelled together here. It wasn't like watching a pale imitation of TOS or TNG. It was just great TV. I'll also give it 4 stars.
Tue, Apr 21, 2015, 8:36pm (UTC -6)
I seem to be in the minority on this one, but I enjoyed Warhead. It is easily my favorite Harry Kim episode so far. If Harry would have felt more confident in his leadership position, he might have argued against transporting the unknown technology onto the ship. Whereas B'Elana has become a caricature of herself (always angry, always suspicious), the writers allowed Harry to engage in some smart dialogue to convince the Doctor/Warhead to abandon the original mission of destruction. It was also wonderful to see Harry *not* be lovesick for once, and *not* be flustered or irritated by 7 of 9. Maybe the Doctor/Warhead character bore some similarities to the real Doctor, but the menacing look after the transfer of the sentient being was pretty good!
Megan J
Thu, Aug 20, 2015, 7:36pm (UTC -6)
Had to comment just to say this episode lost all appeal when Janeway said "outsmart the smart bomb" five episodes after saying "out think the think tank"....her one liners kill me
Thu, Dec 31, 2015, 2:37am (UTC -6)
Kim took command more than any other bridge officer save for chuckles. Yet throughout it all he simply Ensign.
Not a whole lot more to say.

I didn't find this one to be as godawful as others did. It provided entertainment for 45 minutes. I didn't expect a whole lot more since standalones don't have any long term affect on the show. Exceptions off the top of my head were Future's End and The Gift.

I liked the beginning where Kim hands command over temporarily to
Ensign Jenkins. Her expression was priceless.

Still, despite those charming moments I don't think I could give this more than 2, 2.5 stars. Not a bad ep, just not a particularly memorable one.
Wed, Feb 17, 2016, 8:37am (UTC -6)
This episode didn't have a lot of urgency but I thought it had at least as much as "Bliss".
Diamond Dave
Sat, Mar 5, 2016, 3:07pm (UTC -6)
Starts off with an interesting premise, but from the moment the weapon takes over the Doctor it kind of spirals down into a repetitive sequence of weapon-Doc shouting at people and not much else happening. It's OK for what it does but it doesn't break any new ground.

Nice FX shot of the other weapons going to warp though. 2.5 stars.
Fri, May 20, 2016, 3:34pm (UTC -6)
ugh, I didn't like this episode at all. I mean, why did they beam that thing up to voyager in the first place, and then right into engineering?! I mean, they obviously needed that thing up on the ship, but they should have made it a little more believable.

And Janeway again threatening to sacrifice ship and crew in order to save others yaaaawn
Tue, May 31, 2016, 8:30am (UTC -6)
I will admit, I haven't watched this one in awhile, but I don't remember ever thinking it was a bad episode.

This is a very "trek" episode of Voyager.

Harry gets a leadership challenge, new form of intelligence, pretty good story with Voyager ready to sacrifice itself in an attempt to stop the smart weapon.

I don't think it's a 4 star episode, but a solid 3 star one for sure.
James Prohaska
Sat, Jun 11, 2016, 1:15pm (UTC -6)

JENKINS: Rumor has it you were the one who outsmarted the smart bomb.
KIM: Well, not exactly. I made First Contact with a sentient being. All I did was help it understand a few things. The rest was up to him.
JENKINS: Understood. Actually, I've been authorized by the junior staff to thank you for keeping us in one piece.
KIM: You're welcome. Any time. Do me a favor?
JENKINS: Of course, sir.
KIM: No more distress calls. At least not tonight.

(BEEP! of distress call)

JENKINS shuts off the distress signal, and smiles at acting-Captain Kim.


DYING HUMANOID ALIEN: I can't believe have a singularity drive that allows me to transport 80,000 light years at will, but I'm stuck here on a planet with highly treatable mortal wounds, with nothing but a distress call for my salvation.....auhgghh.....


KIM V.O.: God, Jenkins looks so hot tonight...but you're the captain, you've got professional distance to maintain. God, I'm going to be the best captain ever.
Wed, Sep 7, 2016, 3:42pm (UTC -6)
The crew argues with a bomb. Yes, really. (*)
Kristi R
Sun, Nov 6, 2016, 10:52pm (UTC -6)
I'm surprised at how many people think this episode is very "Trek." If your idea of Star Trek is a weak, boring story and bad writing, then you don't think much of the franchise. Once the bomb took over the Doc, I lost interest. I fast forwarded to the end to see what happened, and it was as dumb as I had expected. I'm glad I didn't waste my time watching the whole thing. One star at most from me.
Tue, Nov 8, 2016, 5:08pm (UTC -6)
Kristy R,

But the episode was strong, exciting and had excellent writing... seemed like good trek to me.
Sun, Nov 13, 2016, 4:25am (UTC -6)
2 stars sounds about right. Watchable if you don't think too much.
Fri, Jan 6, 2017, 12:23pm (UTC -6)
Why in the 24th century would they call it a weapon of mass destruction?
This was a good episode for Robert Picardo tho. Other than that, between Voyager and Enterprise I still get the feeling Star Trek should have stopped making episodes a loooong time ago.
Wed, Feb 1, 2017, 12:39pm (UTC -6)
I liked the idea actually, but we've already got AI bomb on 'Dreadnought', it feels like a complete rehearse, and having previous episode just before this is about a bomb too, make it less and less appealing (Relativity).

Fine, they dont know it was WMD when they beam it to the ship, i bite that.
But after they knew what it was, they still let the doctor try to outtalk the AI bomb on the ship?
We knew the Doctor gave several trouble and endangering crew by his facination to 'extend his program' (Darkling, Retrospect), 'defend fellow AI' (Revulsion) on previous episodes, yet they still let him go on his way? None of the crew can put reason on him?... heh....
(And it still go on in later episode.. the crew never learn the lessons, or it just the writer didn't care, huh). Really cheap way just for the sake of plot.

Fine, they go with helping the doctor in the sense of 'fellow sentient crewman'.
But why on earth, er.. space they trying to disarm it on the ship after know what it is?
Are they so sure the bomb will make a countdown before it detonate and they have a time to beam it out, not just go KABOOM instantly? (Janeway : "At the first sign of danger, we transport it off the ship").. gosh... lol
Why they dont transfer the bomb to the planet and try to disarm it there (Trek Movie - Into The Darkness), or disarm it on shuttle with safe distant (like isolating potential viral outbreak - TNG 'Unnatural Selection')

This kind of cheap trick just for the sake of creating false suspense really
made Janeway look so stupid (also having a bunch of incompetence crew to an extend), really frustating, insulting to audience, and hurt the show

I like the pace and performance by Piccardo though, Wang still not convincing and not as good as in 'Timeless'

2 star for me
dave johnson
Thu, Feb 2, 2017, 12:45am (UTC -6)
I actually forgot about this episode. I liked it (I cant remember what I felt during the first run).

Yeah it has its flaws like most episodes do.. I can drop it for this one.

I will nitpick this whole night shift garbage though. I assume they run their "day and night" on an earth clock , likely San Fran as that is where starfleet is. Cool. So I get why they say it is "night" for them.... however, why the hell is it somehow night for every planet in the delta quadrant so almost nothing happens during the night time of San Fran on earth. Blah.

The weapons change of heart at the end was believable to me. He was convinced as a sentient being, that he could "make his own choice"... which, is one of the tests of whether you are sentient or not, right? They got through to him many times during the episode before he got angry again, so this was a progression not a sudden change.
Sun, Feb 12, 2017, 1:02am (UTC -6)
"A bomb is made to explode. That's its meaning. Its purpose. Your life is empty because you spend it trying to stop the bomb... from becoming."
Mon, Feb 27, 2017, 7:27pm (UTC -6)
To me, Jammer is generous in his rating. I would only give this 1 or at the most 1.5 stars.

Of course, it doesn't help that the central premise - a bomb with sentience - is pretty silly. And while I normally think PIcardo is a good actor, I think here his acting is only adequate, if that.

As others having pointed out, the idea of an Ensign being in command of the bridge is also rather absurd. At one point, Harry Kim refers to himself as a senior officer, which is just flat out wrong. Ensign is the most junior of all the commissioned officer ranks. However, a couple of points to be made: The crew of Voyager is less than a normal starship (I don't remember the exact number, but it is under 200), so perhaps there aren't as many senior officers available as there would normally be. Also, maybe Starfleet follows a different rank structure that that which is currently followed by the U.S. Navy. However, all indications are that Starfleet follows a nearly identical, or at least very similar structure, to that followed by the Navy.
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 9:15am (UTC -6)

It didn't start off too badly actually, but from the point the bomb took over the Doc it went instantaneously downhill.
I’m With Reg
Wed, Oct 4, 2017, 2:34am (UTC -6)
I am just seeing this episode for the first time, being late to the Voyager party. I don’t think I need expand on all the comments here, but I do have an observation as an example of either lazy scripting or lazy effects. The fleet of missiles are in pursuit of Voyager. The view screen clearly shows them approaching from astern. Yet Paris tells Janeway that they are “off the port bow”. I know it’s pedantic but this kind of sloppiness always detracts from the action and our level of engagement (already somewhat strained).
Prince of Space
Tue, Jan 2, 2018, 3:13am (UTC -6)
HELLO 2018!!!

Ok, enough pleasantries. I like the person a few comments above that said they hated the episode so much they fast-forwarded to the end. haha... imagine hating a goofy sci-fi TV show sooooo much in the middle of it that you fast-forward it to see how it ends and then jump on the Internet to post about it.

Wow. That’s some serious episode hating. I can only imagine how much fun they’d be at a restaurant. “Excuse me, wait-person... is this water organic free-range??”

So yeah. I watched the whole episode without needing a safe space or comfort animal, and it was by no means great drama. But it was fun. Voyager doesn’t really aspire to much more than that, and I shall lose little sleep over it.

In the words of another show I dearly love, “Repeat to yourself it’s just a show, I should really just relax!”
Wed, Jan 3, 2018, 5:46pm (UTC -6)
Who said they hated it? They just wanted to move to the next episode and skip the dire writing. There's nothing the matter with that. Personally, I watch them all. Apart from Sub Rosa.
William B
Thu, Jan 4, 2018, 11:10am (UTC -6)
I'm with Jammer on this one. Picardo is Picardo and that's great, but the episode drags for most of its running time before the bomb's final 180, where it goes and suicide bombs its peers, who are not worth trying to reason with. I get that they are a danger and all, but it's frustrating to have this slow-paced "you are a person now!" bit only to have the other bomb-potential-people be wiped out without considering any other options, because, I guess, they didn't get Robert Picardo to play them for a while.

The piece of military machinery which cannot escape its primary function could map onto a soldier, to an extent, but soldiers would in general be able to realize that they shouldn't carry out their mission if evidence is provided that the conflict is over. I say "in general," because the story does remind me a bit of Japanese holdouts who refused to believe that WW2 was over, or were simply cut off for decades with official releases, and aspects of this story reminded me of what it would probably be like for them. Otherwise it does seem to be about AI and the dangers of putting too much faith in machinery to follow its code, when that code could reignite a war or do untold damage.

On a character level, I think both Harry and the Doctor map onto the bomb; the Doctor is an AI who expanded his program, but while Harry is human, I think he also identifies with the bomb. Rather than being the upright, boring ensign, he wants to be an upright, boring night commander, and make Important Decisions, which is a kind of expansion of his "programming" (training) and his overall identity. The episode is structured around this arc of sorts for Harry, with Janeway eventually putting full trust in Harry's judgment, whereas early on Harry wouldn't stand up to the Doctor despite his being in nominal command. As Harry shows go, it's not as bad as most, but it's still not particularly convincing; I get that command decisions are hard, but his gee-whiz attitude and various poor decisions early in the show seem a bit unbelievable and also make the turnaround that Harry is a good command officer now unsatisfying. Points for effort though, I guess.

A low 2 stars.
Mon, Jan 15, 2018, 2:40am (UTC -6)
I thought it was entertaining despite some of the obvious silliness. One thing that's always bugged me about this episode (other than if they had just followed standard protocol about not beaming anything aboard until it's identified and deemed safe....) is when the weapon detonates and we see all the other weapons detonate in turn. Wasn't the blast radius several hundred kilometers as observed by the crater on the planet? The others were all 'flying' in formation only a few dozen meters apart. The explosion of the first (and subsequent detonations of the others) looked like they had a blast radius of about 15 meters. They could have contained that by wrapping it in a wet blanket.
Sat, Apr 7, 2018, 4:12pm (UTC -6)
I feel this is the kind of episode that typifies (or plagues) VOY -- an interesting (although not original) idea with happenings that are implausible and some acting that fails to achieve the desired effect. It's not a bad episode but not a good one. It's just kind of there. The episode is far too similar to "Dreadnought" and maybe even "The Changeling".

One of the areas where this episode suffers if from having 2 characters have to act in completely different ways from how they normally act. Harry Kim is the main character I mean here -- I totally agree with Jammer: "Urgent histrionics just aren't Garrett Wang's specialty". When Harry is really trying to convince Doc/bomb that killing is wrong etc., it just felt a bit insincere to me even though it's really a valid tact on Kim's part -- I always got the feeling that Harry was somehow holding back a smile or something given that he'll always be the happy-go-lucky (junior) character. And as for Picardo's shouting, it was rather robotic and it didn't come across as very threatening.

As for the decision to bring the bomb on board, I have to question the intelligence of the crew -- could they not run some scans on it and disregard Doc's pleading? It's clear why Doc would develop some kind of affinity for a sentient machine but here's where the human qualities of the crew have to be more pragmatic.

The use of 7's nanoprobes is one area of ridiculousness -- what can't these things do? They can assimilate living beings, cure some ailments, and supposedly work on mechanical devices too?

But the part where Doc/bomb suddenly changes its tack and gets convinced that there's been a change in its programming and that it has to cancel its mission -- like why didn't it do that at the beginning? Can it not recheck its mission given all the scrutiny from the Voyager crew? Or did all of Harry Kim's arguments have some kind of effect? Either way this was totally jarring (and ultimately convenient for the writers).

But I liked that the writers are making an attempt at doing more with the Harry Kim character like running the night shift -- I just think Wang as an actor has his limitations. But at least Janeway/Chakotay seem to be willing to trust Harry Kim more and I think trust is one of the themes of this episode: Harry has to believe Doc/bomb that it will disarm and blow up all the other warheads and then Janeway has to trust Harry that this is, in fact, the case.

Barely 2.5 stars for "Warhead" -- a typical VOY episode in many respects with some suspension of disbelief needed. Thought Janeway's role here was pretty good as a negotiator and trying to hold onto StarFleet principles (PD). As for Wang -- there are certain roles he's not suited for but the writers have to throw him a bone now and then. This was one episode where Picardo's role wasn't suitable for him either. A different twist on an old concept that didn't catch fire.
Fri, Apr 20, 2018, 9:03pm (UTC -6)
I'm glad I'm watching on Amazon. I swore Jenkins looked familiar so I was able to quickly look it up. It's Mackenzie Westmore of 'Face Off' fame. She was so adorable back then. She really needs to slow down the plastic surgery. So-so episode.
Tue, May 29, 2018, 1:11pm (UTC -6)
Nice to see they recycled the face prosthetic of DS9's Tosk to give the alien trader of the week a "new" look.
Wed, Jun 20, 2018, 3:30am (UTC -6)
After rewatching a few times. Im in my 1 ep a night of voyaver at the moment, as soon as I finish the series I start on TOS then the cycle starts again. I think its a solid episode, sure the doc is a bit over the top and it's a bit of a rehash. I think there is fun to be had in the night shift element. I wouldn't put Harry in charge of a brewery piss up but hey Catherine must know something we don't. 2.5 to 3 stars for me.
Derek DiGiovanni
Sun, Jul 22, 2018, 3:22am (UTC -6)
I have a lot of problems with this episode and it's really not with the premise presented or the character involvement (which is nice to see the whole crew involved again) but with the sheer lack of intelligent and even idiotic responses which are done with this crew of supposedly highly educated and intelligent group of people.

First, this is yet another episode that makes me further despise the character of the Doctor. Again his superiority complex and complete contempt for the lowly organics he works with is in full force. He shows he fully thinks he's the one that should be making the decisions because his abilities are so more advanced than the animals he's surrounded by. He continues, especially, to show nothing but utmost contempt for Kim (which never changes even with what he says at the end). He's never had to earn anything in his "life" or work for anything, he just simply programs whatever knowledge or ability into himself that he wants and then holds it over everyone's head (another thing he continues to do). When you really think about it, his character goes through any true growth throughout the series. The only reason he changes at all is because of further and further additions to his program. As a comparison, Data had to earn most of his character growth, starting with having to graduate from the Academy. He could have just been programmed with the information too and made "the Emergency Command Android". But, he never demanded that kind of advancement just because he could be programmed, he tried to earn it just like everyone else (even though he could learn it faster).

This is yet another time the doctor's superiority complex and care for machines over people that are supposed to be his friends almost got them all killed. And, yet again, he's NEVER punished in the least for betraying his crew (something else that never changes). Tom Paris is now an ensign and spent 30 days in jail for acting on his moral beliefs, but the Doctor? Nahhhh, we can blame Harry for it all.

Harry gets lot of flak for always screwing up (he was completely inexperienced at first, so of course he's gonna make some mistakes), but if he did this time, its only because everyone decided to go along with the walking medical database. The one that essentially told him he wasn't fit to command an away team as soon as he found out and slapped him again by saying it didn't matter that he sucked so much because the real leader of the crew, the Doctor, would be there to decide everything for him.

I also kind of agree that it always seemed odd that an ensign was designated a senior officer immediately after graduating from the Academy (even though he was 1st in his class, I think?) and even more so that he never got a promotion. The reason they always give is that "there are only so many command positions", but that never made sense to me since he's ALREADY in a command position - he is the Operations Manager of Voyager, he's the command officer of the Operations division. They could promote him to any rank up to Lieutenant-Commander and there would be zero impact on the command structure of the ship.

Obviously, I didn't like this show mostly because it involved a lot of Doctor-Harry interactions, but there were some other WTH moments for me, too. Why didn't anyone conduct an intensive scan of the thing when they found it? Wouldn't they have detected explosives, or large amounts of antimatter, or triggering devices, or something to indicate it would make a big boom? Why not scan the surface for the other bomb BEFORE they beam it aboard? Why not first try to see if it could be worked on on the surface before bringing sentient unknown tech on board the ship? Try to download its navigation data and find where it came before moving it? Just feels like there are way too many logical oversights in this episode to make it fun to watch.

I'm so sorry that my comment turned more into a thesis, but my issues with the doctor have bothered me for a long time, it felt good to vent some of them. Thanks a ton if you bothered to read it all :)

tl;dr - it's all the Doctor's fault AGAIN, but of course the leader of the crew (in his own subroutines) keeps everyone from taking the proper steps and gets another pass for it.
Mon, Sep 17, 2018, 7:12am (UTC -6)
An episode with a couple of major plot holes:

1) They can detect viruses and weapons in transporter transit. How the hell did they not detect a WMD with huge amounts of explosive material??
2) Why keep the bomb on Voyager when transferring its intelligence to a holographic matrix? Do it on the planet surface, put some distance between Voyager and the bomb, then transfer it to the mobile emitter. At least then Voyager couldn't be destroyed.
Fri, Oct 19, 2018, 8:26am (UTC -6)
Well, some credit for the concept of rescuing a sentient bomb that downloads into Doc, but not that well realized. Harry Kim literally defusing a bomb with words . . . kinda cringe-inducing.

Fri, Oct 19, 2018, 9:18pm (UTC -6)
Having read review and comments:

--I thought the ep theme was about the challenges of both giving and receiving commands. When do you blindly follow orders, when do you fudge a bit, when do you disobey a command? What does personal responsibility fit in?

--Night Shift: I think the references to the night shift being quiet and boring have to do with the idea that most of the crew is asleep, so a lot less activity and everyday drama and chances of anyone doing some bonehead thing that screws something up. Of course, when it comes to emergencies or weird situations outside the ship, they are just as likely to happen day or night.
Sat, Nov 24, 2018, 4:47pm (UTC -6)
This is truly a heinous episode. Seven of Nine battling The Rock or Tom Paris turning into a giant lizard are far more entertaining. And if Harry Kim was really that worried about screwing up, a full episode of him in therapy with the Ship’s Counselor would be more entertaining than this mess.
Sat, Apr 20, 2019, 6:33pm (UTC -6)
Gee what's this bomb shaped object I wonder. Let's beam it on to our ship like a bunch of fucking regards and take half an episode to figure the bomb that looks like a bomb is a bomb.
Fri, Aug 9, 2019, 11:41am (UTC -6)
Apples are real life and oranges are fiction.
The above is what I always try to remember when watching any fiction tv show.
This episode clearly demonstrates what a sane captain would not do in a real-life situation. Firstly, Kim would not have the authority to make the call on anything as important as changing course of the ship. He is there only to pilot the ship and be a watchdog so the brass can rest. Real Captains train their subordinates to wake them in any important decision making.
Second, no captain in their right mind would be idiot enough to beam up a bomb of mass destruction, especially an alien one that they knew almost nothing about.
The safety of the crew and ship always comes first unless you are trying to defend your homes or allies in a war, etc.
Third. do you leave the decision to Kim?!! is this a democratic command? I am still scratching my head on this one. It is not of course, a big deal because shows like these are really about entertainment. However, as much as I try to give the writers a certain poetic license to make things work in a fifty minute episode, This one truly could have used just a little more believability. Still....a very entertaining episode!
Sleeper Agent
Fri, Oct 11, 2019, 3:50pm (UTC -6)
I have to admit I'm somewhat perplexed over the negative opinions that many seem to have about "Warhead".

I thought it was an interesting story, beautifully filmed and with strong performances by all - except Picardo. He was too similar to the Doctor, should've switched it up a bit more. I loved the sounds the warhead made to communicate btw.

3 very solid stars.
Tue, Nov 26, 2019, 12:17am (UTC -6)
I’m surprised no one has compared the Bomb and Doc to the dynamic duo of R2D2 and 3-CP0. Bomb did the cute bleeping and blooping, Doc in his manic, anxious-to-please mode handled the interpretation. I thought that by turning that lovable duo into something more menacing, ST was taking a sly tongue-in-cheek jab at Star Wars.

And I’m sorry, but 32 anti-matter bombs detonating in a full spread till they saturated the screen in the overload white of a supernova was well worth the (free!) price of admission.

My critical judgment is apparently impeded, but I continue to like most Voyager episodes better than y’all avid Trekophiles.

Whether we’ve seen similar plots and concept pieces before (how many kinds of stories can humans tell, anyway?), and despite obvious logical inconsistencies and plot conveniences, I found a lot going on conceptually to make this a worthwhile episode. There are the obvious meditations on our duties to other sentient life forms, the question of when AI can be considered sentient, and cautionary notes as to how (and if) we will control advanced AI. The tenor and immediacy of these questions change over time as our technology advances and the specific issues become clearer - so a sci-fi consideration from one decade deserves a follow-up years later.

The self-sacrifice of the newly-minted ethical AI seemed both too sudden and too pat - but on the other hand, as Bomby said, it was still fulfilling its purpose: only the target had changed. And if we buy the Dr Strangelove theme that an accidental launch might trigger a resumption of hostilities, the Bombs achieve their builders’ goal for them by keeping “their people” safe. So, plausible enough.

I also appreciated the command-structure questions Springy mentions.

AND, for my money, Harry grows as a commander in the course of the episode, taking responsibility for the questionable decision he let Doc talk him into, and turning it around. Did he sound a little desperate and over-the-top when trying to talk the bomb out of destroying Voyager, with seconds to do it?

Geez, I dunno. Wouldn’t you?

In the end, he got it done. Good character ep for Mr Nice Guy.

Not that it matters, but the 4-star rating system is just not granular enough to do justice. In strict letter grade equivalents, it’s essentially A (100%), C (75), F (50), you didn’t even show up (25), and just drop dead (0). This episode is far better than a 2-star 50% F to me, and better than a 3-star 75% C. It’s at least a low B, somewhere between 80 and 85.

I feel like I need at least 0-10 - and, if I’m feeling obsessive enough, 0-100 - to grade with enough discrimination.
William B
Tue, Nov 26, 2019, 7:43am (UTC -6)
@Proteus, I'm not sure how useful it is to translate Jammer's star ratings directly into (American-style?) percentages. First off, academic percentages aren't entirely standard - - in Canada, for instance, 50 is generally a D (well, D-), a marginal pass, and 75 is a B. Mostly though Jammer is going on his own system which isn't really meant to translate to academic percentages. My (educated?) guess is that it's mostly following movie star ratings, especially from Roger Ebert. So 2 stars is really not a *failure*, though it's definitely not a success. Certainly you do appear to line this episode more than Jammer, but his 2 star rating should be taken according to how his scale works.

OTOH, it is probably true that the movie critic style 4-star scale is a bit limiting. If a show is good or even tolerable then generally the 2-4 part of the range will get used a lot more than 0-2. A scale like the one SFDebris or Luke uses where 5 is taken to be a kind of Trek (or series) average maybe makes better use of the whole scale. I'm still pretty partial to the movie criticism 4-star scale, though largely because I'm used to it. And with half stars there's a decent amount of gradation.
Tue, Nov 26, 2019, 11:06am (UTC -6)
If anything, I’d read the stars more like:

**** = A Excellent
*** = B Above Average
** = C Average
* = D Below Average
no stars = F

And then you can +/- as needed. I think AV Club uses this letter system.
Top Hat
Tue, Nov 26, 2019, 12:03pm (UTC -6)
Of course, if you use four stars and allow half stars (or +/-) it's already pretty close to 0/10.

I find SFDebris's system particularly iffy, since it seems to acknowledge that a 5/10 in Series A might be worse than a 5/10 in Series B. So the idea is to work apart from some imaginary, objective standard of quality is laudable in a way but kind of muddies the waters by working a quantitative element into what is essentially a qualitative process.

There are plenty of review outlets that don't use any rating system (the L.A. Review of Books or the New Yorker for example), but ratings systems (stars, letter grades, numbers, whatever) are popular because they allow a sort of "at--a-glance" assessment that doesn't require scrutinizing the review. They were "TL:DR" long before Reddit.
Cody B
Mon, Apr 13, 2020, 9:27am (UTC -6)
Was reading some of the comments about the rating system. It would be nice if there was also a option for everyone to thumbs up or thumbs down every episode so that in addition to jammers score you could see a user score. This might come with some abuse issues but I’m not a tech/programmer guy. Just thought it would be nice to see a community score. As far as this episode goes I actually liked it. I am not the type who scrutinized if everything is logical and I just go by how overall enjoyable and well written an episode is. I’d give it 3 stars. Nice little four episode run. I hope Equinox keeps it going.
Andy in VA
Sat, Apr 25, 2020, 7:43pm (UTC -6)
Captain Janeway: That thing you guys brought aboard is a powerful bomb.

Holographic doctor: But it talks to me. We're friends. Can I keep it? Can I? Can I?

Captain Janeway: Alright, sure.

Wait! What?
Mon, Aug 24, 2020, 8:21am (UTC -6)
Good gods, more holes in the plot here than in a double sieve.

It's a cutesy little episode but you REALLY have to switch off your brain and its backup systems to get through it!
Mon, Nov 23, 2020, 5:30pm (UTC -6)
Meh, it was decent enough. Got a bit predictable, I suppose, after the Doc was possessed but to my mind it did what a Trek episode is meant to do - raise and explore an interesting 'What if' scenario. Which I'd say it did. I'm a bit bemused by all the negativity.

My only real quibbles are:

1. Why is a night shift considered a quiet period? Surely the chances of Voyager running into anything Dramatic are the same no matter what time of day?

2. Seriously, how long has Harry been awake?
Sun, Dec 13, 2020, 6:12pm (UTC -6)
A smart, kinda sentient warp capable bomb of that size and the marvel of it skips everyone's attention on Voyager. The doctor is relying on 29th century tech to carry his smarts around in an arm patch rather than having to rely on the huge spaceship computer.
Sounds akin to a warp capable Data (even if it wasn't as intelligent as Data).

And the way it disposes of the trader ship so easily should cause a "why have we never thought of that"-moment for voyager. Use a transporter beam to send a bit of antimatter over to the other ship and boom.
Thu, Feb 25, 2021, 3:54am (UTC -6)
Didn't they do this story in Dreadnaught?
Mon, May 10, 2021, 8:02pm (UTC -6)
Interesting concept but very shaky execution. I liked that this is Kim's episode - unlike, it seems the mayority of Voyager's watchers, I really like the guy and empathise with him a lot. **
Wed, Jun 8, 2022, 2:00am (UTC -6)
Like a lot of Voyager episodes, pretty meh but with little flashes of good poking out.

"Despite all of his achievements, did he ever stop being a doctor?" is a great line in a really good exchange.
Fri, Apr 28, 2023, 7:27am (UTC -6)
Nobody here mentioned John Carpenter's Dark Star?
That's required watching material!
Wed, Nov 8, 2023, 8:18pm (UTC -6)
Idk I loved this episode. The plot may not have entirely made sense but I thought Harry's and the doctor's acting was great. The sentient bomb makes me think of peanut hamper from lower decks. Thoroughly enjoyable.

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