Star Trek: Voyager
"One Small Step"
Air date: 11/17/1999
Teleplay by Mike Wollaeger & Jessica Scott and Bryan Fuller & Michael Taylor
Story by Mike Wollaeger & Jessica Scott
Directed by Robert Picardo
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"What I've seen proves we were right to come out here."
— Lt. John Kelley, Ares IV mission, 2032
Nutshell: The message might be as subtle as a sledgehammer, but it's also sincere and ultimately quite poignant.
There are moments during "One Small Step" when you can almost hear the writers screaming in the background: "Look! See? This is what Star Trek is about!" Yes, we understand, loud and clear.
Okay, so subtlety isn't this episode's strong suit. You can tell the people who made it were trying very hard for it to add up to something worthwhile. The under-the-surface projected self-aware sentimentality is abundantly evident.
Big deal. "One Small Step" is still a quality hour of Trek with some poignant, emotional moments and a solid story. It might not exhibit the most original themes ever scribed, but so what? It's sincere and well presented. I liked it. It says something. It means something. It shows evidence of knowing what Star Trek is about.
After last week's "Dragon's Teeth," which had a plot that obliviously steamrollered right over moral issues without any regard for (or awareness of) them, this episode is refreshing in that it stops to consider what it's about. It has dialog instead of mindless action, and it's actually about exploration.
In many ways, "One Small Step" is an episode that argues (from a thinly guised 20th century perspective) the necessity of a continued, expanding space program. These days, manned space missions seem to be covering well-traveled ground. Sure, the scientific analysis and technological advances are beneficial, but the question, I think, is when the next "great voyage" into space will begin. The moon missions were a towering achievement requiring great risk and human and financial expense. The new question: When will we go to Mars?
"One Small Step" is not of the same dramatic caliber as, say, Ron Howard's Apollo 13, but as an episode of Voyager it does some interesting things. It frames its questions within the terms of the usual Voyager plot formula. The formula itself isn't captivating per se (space anomalies, crew members in jeopardy, etc.), but the addition of the human questions of exploration makes all the difference in the world. Lesson of the week: Routine anomalies and jeopardy premises can work just fine when they're part of a bigger purpose.
October 19, 2032: Ares IV, one of NASA's early manned missions to Mars, is a partial success. Astronauts have landed on the surface while a single pilot, Lt. John Kelley (Phil Morris, whose last Trek appearance was in DS9's "Rocks and Shoals," where he portrayed the most understandable Jem'Hadar soldier of all time) maintains orbit. Suddenly a bizarre anomaly appears out of nowhere and swallows the craft. ("Mankind's first encounter with a spatial anomaly," Tuvok notes upon reviewing the history. It was obviously not to be the last.) The 21st century would never hear from Kelley again and would presume him dead. Weeks later, an emergency mission would rescue the marooned astronauts.
Three centuries later, Voyager happens upon the same anomaly, which emerges from subspace unexpectedly. It's an exceptionally rare phenomenon, known as a "graviton ellipse," which travels through subspace and emerges periodically (every few centuries). It's well worth studying, so the history research begins: How old is this phenomenon, and is it the same anomaly that swallowed the Mars orbiter?
Well, of course it's the same anomaly, otherwise we wouldn't be able to so literally join 300-year-old history with the current storyline. Naturally, I must point out that the chances of Voyager being in the right time and place to encounter this anomaly—the very same anomaly that swallowed a human-built spacecraft 300 years earlier halfway across the galaxy—has probably got to be approximately several quintillion to one. But no matter—this is fiction and I'm willing to suspend my disbelief given the strength of the underlying sentiments.
From a character standpoint, the show is mainly about Seven and Chakotay, with some Janeway sentiments thrown in for good measure. Chakotay is revealed as the story's honorary paleontologist, claiming such study was his first passion before "responsibility" forced him into Starfleet and the Maquis. With Paris and Seven comprising his away team, Chakotay volunteers to lead a Delta Flyer mission into the ellipse in hopes of retrieving the remains of the Mars orbiter (which, by the way, is not suspended in time; it's been sitting for three centuries and that means three centuries). While we haven't seen this aspect of Chakotay taken so far in the past, it does strike me as reasonable; he's a guy who has shown interest in legends and history.
Seven provides the counterpoint to Chakotay's earnest interest in the past, offering up such notions as "history is irrelevant." She doesn't understand why the crew would take on a dangerous mission for what she perceives as purely sentimental reasons. When she questions the sentiment, Janeway encourages Seven to volunteer for the salvage mission. After all, she might learn something from the experience.
I wonder if Seven was maybe written a little too strongly in the opposing position. Given all she knows, the notion of her believing "history is irrelevant" seems a little extreme, even for Seven. And given all she has learned in the past, it seemed a little bit like the writers turned back the clock somewhat and wrote Seven for the benefit of those who haven't been watching the past two years. It wasn't exactly out of character, but let's just say that if you've never seen Voyager before, you'll still instantly understand that Seven is the newest character who will be learning all the human lessons here.
So the Delta Flyer enters the graviton ellipse to search for Kelley's spacecraft. When they find it, it's an awe-filled moment where we see characters coming face to face with history, uncovering it with their own eyes. That's a big part of "One Small Step's" appeal; it's about the thrill of exploration and discovery. One of this series' biggest shortcomings is that it usually lacks that thrill, because what we find in the Delta Quadrant is rarely new or unique. But, for once, here's a spatial anomaly that isn't just something that will threaten the ship. It's like a floating galactic museum, filled with relics that are literally billions of years old. The ellipse itself is one of the oldest things a starship has ever encountered, perhaps not much younger than the universe itself. Chakotay says he could spend the rest of his life studying it. I believe him.
This story, of course, would not be complete without something in the mission going very wrong. What's nice is that what goes wrong can be attributed to human judgment error rather than arbitrary contrivance. The tech aspects of the plot, for once, don't impede the drama. The way the ellipse is attracted to objects that emit electromagnetic energy seems believable, and the script doesn't resort to technobabble excess. There's a plausible change in the ellipse's course, which sets in motion the bigger problem: an imminent collision with an asteroid that will cause severe turbulence in the ellipse that could damage the Flyer. This leads to the moment of human error, where Chakotay refuses to leave the ellipse without bringing the Mars spacecraft in tow, which slows them down enough that the likelihood of escape is decreased. It's a close call that Chakotay loses, and as a result the Flyer is damaged so severely as to prevent escape from the ellipse altogether, putting the away team in danger.
I particularly enjoyed the resulting Chakotay/Seven interaction. It's a character pair-up that we don't often see, and the dynamic proves to be a good one. Chakotay made a mistake, and Seven lets him have it in a scene where she's clearly angry at the commander for his following a sentimental "obsession." Seven's anger is understandable; she didn't want to be on this mission in the first place, let alone die for it. But Seven is overlooking the greater importance of the mission, and one can hardly blame Chakotay for his calculated risk. Given the importance of the discovery, you don't just give up on something like this when it's just within your clutches. I'd say Chakotay barely even had a choice. "Obsession" is too a strong word. He wanted to preserve a piece of history, almost had it, but lost on the roll of the dice.
So next it becomes a race against the clock: The Delta Flyer team must figure out how to repair the engines before the ellipse returns to subspace while they're still trapped inside. The only viable option is to beam over and salvage a component from the Mars orbiter and adapt it for use in the Flyer. With Chakotay injured and Paris needed as the expert pilot, the retrieval mission falls upon Seven.
Ultimately, the hardware aspects of the plot really aren't that important (although, because of the character interaction these scenes are more involving than a plot of this type usually is). What's important is how this all fits in with Lt. Kelley's 2032 mission. Kelley was not killed upon impact as was believed at the time. While Seven is working to retrieve the module, she plays Kelley's logs, which include recordings from after he entered the ellipse. (One wonders if so much of the equipment on board the orbiter would still work so well after being frozen for 300 years, but I won't be a stickler.)
Kelley's experience in the orbiter spanned several days. He explored the phenomenon that swallowed him, and through that exploration he came upon perhaps some of the biggest possible discoveries of the time, including proof of other intelligent life in the universe. Ironically, these discoveries wouldn't see the light of day for another 300 years. It became clear to Kelley he would not be able to escape the ellipse, but I particularly liked the writers' notion that he didn't consider the mission a failure—that "What I've seen proves we were right to come out here."
Watching Seven's gradual change in attitude as she views Kelley's logs reveals an uplifting poignancy, as if for the first time she understands the concept of a true explorer and hero. (And I liked that Jeri Ryan conveyed this change in attitude without a single line of dialog.) People like Kelley and the other Mars landers paved the way for greater things by forging ahead through the uncertain at great risk.
Even given the technology advances since the moon missions, it's hard to imagine that a manned mission to Mars could be anything short of extremely difficult and risky. Just as Apollo 13 showed us, there are any number of things that could go wrong with technology and machinery—which might be reliable but is definitely not infallible—and one small problem can start the domino effect of disaster. In the Star Trek universe, we're shown interstellar space travel as an aspect of life that's nearly as routine as, say, driving a car is today. If there's one thing "One Small Step" seems to realize, as Paris notes in one early scene, it's that space travel in the 20th and 21st centuries was anything but routine. The dangers were real and the unknowns were real. Even if a spatial anomaly didn't swallow you up, you were still alone, at the mercy of your technology. The space travelers of the 24th century have it easy by comparison.
There is no doubt "One Small Step" has a reverence for the space program and the astronauts who brave it. The message isn't subtle. But it is fairly inspiring. In Trek we take space travel for granted, and, especially with Voyager and its magical indestructibility, it has become easy to get jaded even though we're supposedly exploring the dangerous vastness of the other side of the galaxy. This is an episode that breaks free and explores the idea of what it means to be traveling that "final frontier" with no expectations. By turning back the clock and exploring Kelley's mission, we and the Voyager crew are able to make first-time discoveries of things that this fictional universe has long since accepted as routine. That's a sentiment I find well worth an hour.
Next week: The REAL reason Voyager is in the Delta Quadrant. (Paging Chris Carter...)
Previous episode: Dragon's Teeth
Next episode: The Voyager Conspiracy
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86 comments on this post
Tue, Jan 22, 2008, 9:02pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 30, 2009, 10:03am (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 30, 2009, 10:42am (UTC -5)
Fri, Apr 10, 2009, 7:54am (UTC -5)
But I cannot let a real zinger go by without comment. The anomaly zeros in on electromagnetic fields, so what do they come up with to explain the source of EM causing the anomaly to change course? Dark matter! Yep, the stuff that got its name because it doesn't interact with EM fields at all! It emits ZERO radiation - which is what makes it dark! Why on earth did they come up with that when they ran through some perfectly good sources of EM, like pulsars?
Wed, Dec 9, 2009, 3:58am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jul 8, 2010, 11:32am (UTC -5)
A third of the show was wasted on convincing Seven that she was somehow deficient for not ascribing value to historical excavation/exploration. I don't know why they insist on imbuing her with every single human value and principle, and can't just let her be. I don't want another Janeway/Acoushla Moya/Harry "Can't-Get-A-Lock" Kim/Paris clone. And then the corny ending... - spare me.
Next, the usual spiel of "we only have X minutes before the whole endeavor goes irretrievably south." (And of course, they make it by the skin of their teeth.)
Acoushla Moya's stubbornness that nearly cost three senior crew members' lives as well as the Delta Flier, and which does not get punished in any way. (I'd at the very least demote him or suspend him for six months for such insubordination.)
Lastly, several minutes of unnecessary, static monolog by Lt. Kelley.
Sorry but this episode was just... - average.
Wed, Oct 6, 2010, 7:21am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jan 23, 2011, 9:34pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 28, 2011, 12:07pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Mar 25, 2011, 7:00am (UTC -5)
I also didn't like how Seven was reprimanded by the others as being inhuman for having no interest in history. There's plenty of people who couldn't give a rat's ass about history. I guess such behaviour just doesn't fit with the Starfleet mould where everyone seems to have heroes from the past for some reason.
Fri, Mar 25, 2011, 1:54pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 23, 2011, 3:31am (UTC -5)
Sun, Sep 4, 2011, 8:13pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Sep 4, 2011, 8:16pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 27, 2012, 1:15pm (UTC -5)
He was selfish. He shouldn't have put his own interests above the safety of his subordinates (and friends). Morally inexcusable.
Sat, Feb 4, 2012, 8:21pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Mar 2, 2012, 4:34pm (UTC -5)
Thank you for that; yes, the true genius of the episode (which is ostensibly about the differences between earlier, though fictionalised, space travelling and TNG era same) is in the nature of Kelly's character: he is an evolutionary link between the humans of today and the humans of the 24th century--showing us how through courage and nobility of spirit, the now-dormant altruistic qualities which enable exploration and discovery can emerge as dominant traits in the human race. The honour guard for this man pays homage not primarily to his contributions to the furthering of man's venture into space, but to his status as a martyr to the cause of human betterment.
My only qualm with the episode is I wish Chakotay had been able to keep the spotlight. At least they gave it to someone worthy of attention on any day.
Wed, Apr 11, 2012, 9:31pm (UTC -5)
Seriously. What the heck was that all about? The only thing that didn't really make sense in this episode.
Michael said, "This is an O.K. episode but not way is it 3.5 stars. 2.5, more like."
I have to agree with this too. It was fine, but I really didn't think it was a stand-out episode. I was expecting more based on Jammer's high rating.
Wed, Jun 13, 2012, 11:05pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Oct 11, 2012, 10:24am (UTC -5)
Sat, Jul 27, 2013, 11:23am (UTC -5)
As you may have guessed, I was a fan! I felt it almost had a movie-like quality and its one of those Star Trek gems which resonate with everyone because its simply a wonderful human story.
Robert Picardo is a one to watch, his work in the directors' chair is always naturally charming and very impressive...much like his acting! An easy 4 stars from me.
Sun, Aug 11, 2013, 10:45pm (UTC -5)
I don't consider this a tragic episode, because Kelley gave his life for a higher purpose, one that is the center of the Star Trek mythos that I love. I found it uplifting, in fact.
BTW, I was sure Chakotay was going to be able to get out just in time with the module early in the episode. When he didn't, it was a nice splash of "realism" - sometimes gambles don't always pay off.
A beautiful episode.
Tue, Aug 13, 2013, 10:21am (UTC -5)
but i did like that the episode does show our astronauts are at the mercy of technology.
i liked Phil Morris acting. very entertaining episode.
Fri, Aug 16, 2013, 1:02pm (UTC -5)
Aside from that, this episode is a gem.
During this episode, Seven initially has a dismissive attitude towards LT Kelley and the "value" of his 300 year old accomplishments. She has no concept of the risk taken and what baby steps were hurdled as humans reached out to the stars. The Borg don't explore, they assimilate. Humans at this level of technology wouldn't have even interested them so the effort here doesn't register to her. As Seven listens to LT Kelley's tapes we see her gradually change her attitude. Normally a mission focused unemotional unit in a collective with no concept of risk, Seven begins to understand the concept of what it meant to be a true explorer and hero. She comes to appreciate sacrifice and selfless dedication exhibited by Kelley as he states his mission isn't a failure and continues to explore with the clear realization the fruits of his labor would never be seen as his life was going to end trapped in a little metal box with no windows. She comes to realize that Kelley was an individual that chose to take this risk for the betterment of humanity. He's not just a drone assigned a task in which he has no choice but to comply.
Seven's comment to Kelley "The Yankees, in six games" during his memorial service is the culmination of this growth. Another baby step in her quest to become human again and understand humanity.
Wonderful episode. 3.5 stars
Tue, Aug 20, 2013, 2:53am (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 23, 2013, 1:49am (UTC -5)
I wouldn't call it evil. More like emotionally immature. And, yeah, there are a couple of those who have been regular commenters. No biggie. We are all where we are in life. These people might eventually learn to appreciate true drama or they will just love 'slosions for the rest of their lives. To each his own. I just hate when people attack others who have differing opinions. That annoying jerk Elliott comes to mind who can't simply disagree, but has to accuse others of having "invalid" opinions. If people don't agree with him, they are WRONG.
Decent episode, but I found Chakotay and Seven's behavior to be out of character completely and totally inexcusable. As Jammer eluded to, it's weird how character personalities keep reverting back to the past. It's happened a number of times with several of them. I simply don't accept that Seven would be complaining about human fascination with history at this point. We've covered this ground.
3 stars because of the poignancy of the run in with the past. Docking a star because of the shaky character work and pointless ticking clock plot nonsense. Wouldn't it have been enough that they simply discover and retrieve the module without having to put their lives in danger? I guess not.
Tue, Sep 17, 2013, 1:32pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 17, 2013, 4:59pm (UTC -5)
Is this a typo? If anything, it's inspired too much by the Apollo approach -- two on the surface, command module pilot orbits solo* -- rather than any Mars missions currently speculated, which wouldn't waste an astronaut on an orbital mission that, unlike the Apollo era, can be (and is today) done by robotic spacecraft.
*Off the top of my head, seven men have flown solo around the Moon: John Young, Michael Collins, Dick Gordon, Stu Roosa, Al Worden, TK Mattingly, and Ron Evans.
Sat, Jan 4, 2014, 2:44pm (UTC -5)
Tue, May 6, 2014, 12:52am (UTC -5)
Fri, May 23, 2014, 10:04pm (UTC -5)
When Chakotay was told that he didn't have two minutes to adjust the tractor, he was told to return to Voyager, and that's what he did. He was not told not to tractor the ship, only that he didn't have time to adjust the tractors.
Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 1:28am (UTC -5)
The plot was contrived, the acting was terrible (especially Chakotay...albeit he was written poorly in the first place), and the drama was forced--and all this was wrapped up in the most pretentious package since Timeless.
Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 3:58pm (UTC -5)
To me, Star Trek is about intergalactic community. It serves as an inspiration to advance science in order to achieve a greater level of civilization. (This civilization ultimately would include... well, aliens). For many of us, looking at the stars can be a lonely venture. We can say with some confidence we'll never meet other intelligent life in our lifetime due to the level of scientific advancement required for such a feat. This is a lonely fact. We are, after all, a dot in a large galaxy (and a much larger universe). We would like to connect that dots to other dots. We can only do so theoretically, not through contact with other life.
The fellow depicted in this episode (from the past) is so far from the Star Trek I know that his mission has no bearing on it. Thus, his fate is more depressing to me than uplifting. I admire him. I just see the episode as a tangent not a main thread idea in the larger Star Trek picture.
Tue, Sep 23, 2014, 9:10pm (UTC -5)
"I too thought it was rather pointless retrieving the body only to shoot it into space again."
I wonder if after the later events of "Ashes to Ashes," Janeway thought, "Geez, I hope Kelley doesn't get turned into a Kobali."
Yes, this is a snarky comment. The Kobali probably couldn't get much use out of Kelley's dessicated body, though presumably he was very well preserved.
Tue, May 26, 2015, 8:05pm (UTC -5)
They already have a character who makes a hobby out of Earth's history. Paris. Oh, and look. He's sitting right there. Everything Chakotay said to change Seven's mind about the importance of history and preserving the past should have been said by Paris. He has long been established as being the resident history buff when it comes to the 19th and 20th centuries.
So yea, that was kinda weird, but I guess they can't just completely ignore Chakotay for 2 whole seasons and I don't think he's had an episode focused on his in this season yet, so might as well just copy/paste someone elses hobby onto him and force the thing, I guess. Aside from that, it was a fine episode. I like the guest actor. He did a pretty good job and Seven was good too. It was fine, but not awe inspiring or anything. Enjoyable hour but not very exciting. I actually like some mindless space action. Give me phaserfire and spacebattles any day. This episode isn't hurting for lack of that, but a man likes what a man likes, I suppose.
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 2:49am (UTC -5)
It always made me wonder - how is it that we've seen all sorts of ship failures - life support, ship-wide power failures, to near-total destruction.. yet.. the inertial dampeners *always* works? I mean FFS, the number of times they've re-routed power from even life support, you'd think they could do without the dampeners for just a bit? But "One Small Step" finally delivers a bit of realism that I felt was sorely lacking in Trek. Kudos to the Voyager team for pulling off this episode.
My rating: 4 stars (-1 for Chakotay's out-of-character behaviour. Seriously, what were they thinking?!)
Thu, Mar 3, 2016, 8:40pm (UTC -5)
I mean, Kelly's logs were good. But they were hardly anything special. Essentially, Kelly was presented as exactly the same as every other astronaut in existence. He was professional and calm in the face of death while still doing his job and keeping busy. Would you imagine Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin doing anything different? Of course not, they would be the same. Just as the Apollo 13 people were. Just as Mark Whately was in the Martian. Like I said, it was a good showing, but it was hardly awe-inspiring. Nothing different than anything else we would have expected.
But while that part is handled well, the rest of it was rather poor.
- So Chuckles always wanted to be a paleontologist now? So why was he an anthropologist instead? Was that really required? Just say he was interested in it because of his interest in space flight! We don't have to invent a new love this late in the series!
- It is infuriating that Seven's characterization regressed back to the fourth season. That was the theme all of the fourth season, Seven learns what it means to be a human. But by the fifth season, she was far more natural. And now she's back to being antagonistic toward everybody? About exploring? Wouldn't she have had to dealt with this by now? But no, we had to make her regress and act out of character just so she could learn her oh-so-touching little lesson.
- And what the heck kind of lesson was that? That there should be a love of exploring just because some dead guy had nothing better to do while waiting for death? Bleh. If it meant she gained more empathy for him, then fine, I get that. That she recognized that others are willing to sacrifice for learning the unknown, understandable. But that wasn't the lesson Janeway and Chuckles were trying to get her to learn. They wanted her (for some reason) to have her own love of exploring. To turn her into a little Janeway drone. Geez Janeway, shouldn't she get a little free will? Shouldn't she be allowed to find her own way?
- Chuckles knew exactly how long it would take to exit the graviton whatever. He knew that they weren't going to make it. And yet he kept tractoring the thingy anyway. Well done, bonehead. Normally he's the voice of reason while Janeway gets obsessive, but now it's the reverse. He should be docked a rank or two for that one. As should Paris, who ignored Janeway's orders. The chain of command doesn't go to whoever's closest... Seven's takedown of Chakotay was a thing of beauty and fully deserved.
In other words, the episode was simply there. It made a convoluted setup, giving characters poor decisions, all for the payoff of showing an astronaut behaving exactly like we would expect an astronaut to behave. It wasn't showing a glimpse into what we might "evolve" into as Elliott and V seemed to suggest; quite frankly Kelly seemed far more evolved than any of the Voyager crew here. So while there were some points of interest and it's always nice to see a Mars trip, the execution of this whole thing was simply flat.
Fri, Mar 4, 2016, 8:42am (UTC -5)
Aside from your comments concerning Chuckles, I think you are a liiiiiitle tough on this one. :-)
Check my above post out for what I see as her "lesson". I don't see this as a regression at all.
Sun, Mar 6, 2016, 7:37pm (UTC -5)
Part of my annoyance, besides the strange Chakotay behavior, is my annoyance at the transparency of Voyager's character pieces. Anyone with even the slightest skill at writing knows that in a story, the character should grow somehow. It's been the staple of Western literature for quite some time now. The events of the plot should push through a growth of the character. A great story, though, doesn't make it so simplistic. A great story can make the growth seem subtle, can make the reader grow at the same time as the character. A great story can hide this character growth until needed, and can make it feel a natural part of the story. And most importantly, a great story provides for a natural character growth as part of the plot, not with multiple contrivances to force the lesson out of the character.
Voyager, in many of their character pieces of late (Fight, Juggernaut, Extreme Risk, etc) don't do that. It's painfully transparent what the growth of the character will be, and the plot is railroaded to get to that point. We don't even see the natural flow of the character growth, don't experience it with the character. Instead, we realize we're 3/4 of the way through the episode and the climax is happening, so of course the character must change. There's a bit more subtlety here, as Seven doesn't announce her change all of a sudden. But I still don't see how she gets from her extreme antagonistic attitude early on to her touching empathy at the end just from those logs alone. She changes because the plot says so. Sorry, it just didn't work for me.
Mon, Mar 7, 2016, 12:12pm (UTC -5)
I can respect that. In response to your post, I don't believe this episode gave the impression at the outset that it was a "Seven" episode. It did progress to that though which I thought made this one even more special.
Thu, Mar 10, 2016, 3:35pm (UTC -5)
But it did hit on a very Trek theme and handle it nicely, and Seven's journey might have been somewhat contrived but did have some resonance too. 3 stars.
Sun, Mar 27, 2016, 8:28pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 3, 2016, 8:34am (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 16, 2016, 11:46am (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 16, 2016, 12:03pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 24, 2016, 5:35pm (UTC -5)
On top of that we have the standard "shuttle in trouble" storyline which you already know will end just fine because this is Voyager.
The episode's saving grace is Seven's story arc. The mention of the Yankees at the end of the episode was a nice touch. 2.5 stars from me.
Sun, Sep 4, 2016, 11:22pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Sep 8, 2016, 5:48pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Nov 15, 2016, 4:10am (UTC -5)
The only thing that annoyed me was the time limit. I can't stand it when there's an arbitrary time limit until certain death (in this case 82 minutes I believe) and then everyone stops to have a conversation. Just stupid. This episode would have been much better without any time constraints.
3 stars. (1/2 star demotion for the time limit)
Sun, Jan 15, 2017, 12:25pm (UTC -5)
Sidenote (spoilers) - I think there was a future episode this season where an alien race takes a dead body and reanimates it into their species - I always thougt that would have a better episode with Kelley instead of Ballard. Just a thought in hindsight.
Mon, Feb 13, 2017, 4:00pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Apr 7, 2017, 6:36pm (UTC -5)
For those who dislike Chakotay in this--I have been trying to think of what would be our modern-day equivalent of something SO amazing to find. Imagine you were the one to find Amelia Earhart's plane. There's a tidal wave coming, so your Captain orders you to abandon it. Do you? Or do you try to get it as long as you can--because you can see her log book in there though you can't reach it. . . That idea makes Chakotay's actions believable to me.
I agree with the others who think Kelley should have been brought back to Earth--but his funeral was a pretty good scene, so I'll let them have that one.
Thu, Apr 13, 2017, 3:39pm (UTC -5)
NO, YOU'RE CRYING!!!!!
Sat, Jun 17, 2017, 4:00pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 31, 2017, 4:04am (UTC -5)
I didn't care for this ep when it came out, or even on my second viewing, but my third watch moved me to tears.
Wed, Oct 11, 2017, 7:39pm (UTC -5)
The character of Kelley was really well done -- gave the impression of somebody who was a true explorer and dealing with things beyond his comprehension. The switches from 7 on the Mars spaceship to Kelley's logs coming to life was great. Getting to see what he could not transmit back to Earth and coming to grips with the history he recorded make this an impactful episode.
This is great sci-fi. The "graviton ellipse" sounded plausible to me as a cosmic phenomenon and while it is highly unlikely that Voyager would encounter it, so what?
As for Chakotay here, he should be disciplined for his actions -- but I'm sure he won't be. We see his rebellious side, commanding Paris to tractor beam Kelley's ship despite Janeway's orders. I guess for the average person, it's hard to see Chakotay's love for history (paleontology) but we can understand why he'd take the chance.
7 was also great here -- she has been a savior for Voyager since "taking over" for Kes. She undergoes another transformation from unemotional Borg to grasping the human desire for exploration through Kelley. And she's genuinely emotional in the final scene (which is poignant) of the funeral for Kelley.
3.5 stars -- Voyager is perfect for this kind of episode. Yes, there are some fortunate happenings like meeting the graviton ellipse in the 1st place, and escaping it. I like how Jammer puts it: a "floating galactic museum". And Kelley's realization that humans were meant to be out here -- it all touches on the fundamental things that give rise to Trek starting from the very basics of Mars exploration.
Sun, Mar 4, 2018, 5:18am (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 26, 2018, 8:34pm (UTC -5)
However, there is taking reasonable risks for exploration, and taking unreasonable ones. The Ares IV mission was the former, and Chakotay's stubborness about bringing back the Ares IV orbiter despite the slim chances of getting out of the graviton elipse in time was the latter. Especially since it eventually put not just the lives of the away team, but Voyager itself in danger. Seven was completely justified in being pissed at Chakotay for putting a historical novelty ahead of their lives. And her unique status made her just the person who would tear him a new one for doing so, insubordination be damned. I very much liked that part.
That, in turn, was why it didn't make sense for her to soften and come over to Chakotay's point of view. Far from her earlier dismissal of history as "irrelevant," *this* was the thing that was out of character for her. Listening to Lieutenant Kelly's logs might have been of some interest to her, but it would not have believably altered her conviction that Chakotay had royally screwed up - which was at least acknowledged by Janeway herself.
I cannot help but notice the similarities and contrasts of this episode to 2015's "The Martian". Both Mars missions had the same name, and it was the "MAV" of the Ares IV mission that was used to save Matt Damon's Mark Whatney character. And yet instead of the crew being marooned on Mars and one man being mysteriously swept away, it was the crew that escaped and one man that was left behind on the red planet. I don't know if the makers of the movie were "Voyager" fans, but I like to think that they were.
Wed, Aug 29, 2018, 11:19am (UTC -5)
Not a very interesting episode. Very slow and boring.
The anomaly was lame. The jeopardy had no tension. The plot was pretty standard fare. Chakotay was as annoying as ever. The actor playing the astronaut didn’t do much for me. The only scenes in the whole hour that made me sit up and take notice were the final memorial scene on the bridge and the tail end of the last flashback.
Otherwise episode slog to get through
Sat, Sep 1, 2018, 7:09pm (UTC -5)
I agree with the others here that he should be throttled.
Fri, Sep 27, 2019, 3:11pm (UTC -5)
I always cry at the end when Seven tells him who won the series.
Sun, Dec 15, 2019, 12:37pm (UTC -5)
We also know it's attracted to EM radiation and Voyager on its long lonely journey is probably the brightest object for lightyears around. (Not counting the stars, but if the anomaly were attracted to stars it would have been swallowed by one long ago)
Consider also that this EM-attracted object showed up around Mars, not around Earth which is much noisier in terms of emissions. So it might be that it's particularly attracted to EM sources that stand out against a silent background. This again makes Voyager a particularly likely target for it.
Don't mind me, I'm a professional plot hole filler just doing my job.
Mon, Mar 9, 2020, 5:27pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Apr 17, 2020, 12:00pm (UTC -5)
Wed, May 13, 2020, 5:58pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jul 11, 2020, 7:38pm (UTC -5)
They may have played up Chuckles’ sudden interest in history, but I think most of the crew and especially Janeway would have fought like hell to save the capsule. That’s practically a religious artifact to starfleet. I would have risked a lot for it.
Wed, Aug 26, 2020, 8:42am (UTC -5)
It had so much potential but instead it just got bogged in personal stories about characters no-one cares about. Could've all been said in done in less than half the time.
Tue, Sep 29, 2020, 11:42pm (UTC -5)
Max it out at 3 stars.
Mon, Nov 30, 2020, 11:17pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 15, 2020, 2:47pm (UTC -5)
Chakotay is way out of character (disobeying the captain, risking lives of his fellow crewman for a not so relevant artifact, they'd never missed had they never looked), the rest of the crew also ignores a direct order from the captain because 2nd in command says so.
The entire crew basis their decision "let's go in" on Steven's mere remark that the Borg invented a special shielding. Oh well, if the puny Borg could do it with their mini cube, sure we can retrofit the Deltaflyer within the hour. This reminded me of when they encountered that space beast pretending to be a wormhole to earth,making everyone franatic and thoughtless a few episodes earlier.
Archologists do not typically go on life threatening missions that include the risk over never being able to report their findings.
Everything about that command module can be found in Earth's history records minus its reading of the anormality which Voyager's probe already looked at much more than any 21st century would have.
we care not about sub space travel analysis or what to learn from metal organisms, we want a spaceship as interesting to us as the first macintosh to 20th century earthlings.
On a mission to Mars, we want to learn new things about space (travel) and Mars. No one would go there just to look at a rock for the rock's sake or to retrieve a probe from an earlier launch for purely sentimental value about the probe.
Tue, Mar 9, 2021, 10:16am (UTC -5)
Should he be punished for his actions? Sure. Are his actions completely understandable? Absolutely. He wouldn't be much of an explorer if he wasn't willing to take a chance for such an historically significant find.
One thing we are all in agreement about is the ending: shooting the astronauts corpse into space was a poor choice. When they find this poor guy who has been lost for hundreds of years in deep space what do they do? Shoot him right back into space! The whole premise of Voyager is that they are trying desperately to make it home to Earth, so you would think they would feel a little empathy. Take the man home for God's sake!
Jammer said: "I wonder if Seven was maybe written a little too strongly in the opposing position."
Yeah, they laid it on a little thick, didn't they?
Still, all in all, a very good episode, imo. I enjoy episodes like this one and Enterprise's "First Flight" that celebrate the spirit of exploration.
Sun, May 16, 2021, 10:30pm (UTC -5)
The episode reminds people of where mankind had come from and how far we still have yet to go in understanding the universe. Also, all exploration has immense risks and these include the lives of early explorers. The first martian explorers and colonist may go missing or die as early Spanish, French, Dutch, and British did, but it did not stop those who followed in their footsteps.
Also to the argument of anthropology being such an obsolete issue for 24th century with things like early mars modules being available in museums, I dare argue that viewers who argue such point forget that Star Trek takes place after Humanity has fought WWIII, a post apocalyptic Nuclear war that has destroyed many major cities and most likely our history as a result. We can recreate things based on computer records, but it is not the same as an actual piece of history.
Paris and Chakotay, along with the rest of the crew, are excited due to their joy of finding a trace of humanity's great history prior to our near extinction at our own hands.
It's like when Brunelleschi studied free standing domes of Roman Empire to recreate them for Florentine Cathedral, which ushered the Renaissance (or Rebirth) of Western Civilization. Knowing what came before and how people did what they did is important.
This deserves 9.0 out of 10, it's not perfect, but it is a great concept and the character cherished an ideal that should be held
Sun, Jul 18, 2021, 3:47pm (UTC -5)
I can't believe no one has mentioned a particular moment in the episode. When Kelly says he cannot blame it on pilot error, Tom silently winces. Such a sharp and subtle callback to Tom's introduction in the pilot, where he admits to Harry that his own pilot error killed three people.
Tue, Sep 7, 2021, 5:31pm (UTC -5)
Similar for me.
I wonder if that's largely because as you pointed out, a lot of the substance here is Seven's gradual and wordless attitude change, very well played by Ryan.
You really have to be paying close attention, and Voyager (and really most Trek) doesn't usually require or encourage that because things are usually loud and right in your face.
Tue, Nov 2, 2021, 6:46pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Nov 3, 2021, 7:31am (UTC -5)
"I can't believe no one has mentioned a particular moment in the episode. When Kelly says he cannot blame it on pilot error, Tom silently winces. Such a sharp and subtle callback to Tom's introduction in the pilot, where he admits to Harry that his own pilot error killed three people."
I thought it was Locarno who did that. I always get Locarno and Paris mixed up.
I may not be the only one. In "Pathfinder," I think it was, Barclay visits Admiral Paris, who has a photograph of Nick Locarno on his desk. Seriously, it’s an image of McNeill when he was playing Locarno.
Tue, Mar 8, 2022, 5:17pm (UTC -5)
What is it that makes people think they are immune from natural forces? I'll never know.
When an unpredictable energy phenomenon gives you maybe 20 seconds to do a complex tractor beam maneuver that takes 40 if you're lucky, it's wiser to just follow orders.....especially if 7's on board. :)
Tue, Mar 8, 2022, 5:32pm (UTC -5)
Deleted Scene showing Chakotay futzing with the tractor beam while profusely perspiring:
"I can do this....because it's me!"
Wed, Mar 16, 2022, 2:22pm (UTC -5)
0,5 out of 4 Stars.
Thu, Mar 17, 2022, 1:11am (UTC -5)
CHAKOTAY: This piece of rock is billions of years older than Earth, from a time when the galaxy was still forming. Here.
CHAKOTAY: Take it. You're holding a piece of history. Maybe even the beginnings of life itself.
Yes extremely! Thank you Seven. But it goes on...
CHAKOTAY: It's more likely than you think. This anomaly is as old as anything we've ever encountered. I could spend a lifetime studying the things it's collected.
SEVEN: And leave Voyager without a First Officer?
CHAKOTAY: They'd manage. Palaeontology was always my first love. It's the reason I joined Starfleet.
Excuse me? This doesn't make sense on so many levels it makes me laugh out loud. The dialogue throughout the episode is horrible, but this one takes the cake. Or wait, I almost forgot the first words in Janeway's eulogy:
JANEWAY: Space. Literally it means nothing, [...]
Well there you go, bull's eye.
And then there's this whole thing with idolizing this 300 year old astronaut, Mr Kelly.
CHAKOTAY: The Mars missions paved the way for the exploration of space. Kelly was one of my childhood heroes.
PARIS: Mine too.
Yeah right? Who has a hero that unexpectedly died three centuries ago while going to Mars? It's absolutely ridiculous. I'm willing to bet the majority of today's children wouldn't even be able to name an astronaut, with the occasional exception of Neil Armstrong. And even then, he sure as hell won't be their childhood hero.
CHAKOTAY: That's dedication. The man's life is about to end, but he won't stop taking readings.
PARIS: Makes you wonder [...]
if it was fake. Yes, it probably was; and that's why we haven't had any astronaut heroes the last 50 years and probably won't have for another 50.
Thu, Jun 30, 2022, 12:19am (UTC -5)
Kelly knows he will die, does everything he can to collect more data, and his last line
"I'm tired, I can't..."
Thu, Jun 30, 2022, 12:27am (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 4, 2022, 7:29am (UTC -5)
But the episode conveys well a certain Trek ethos. There's an infectious love for exploration (and a decent critique of it as well), and numerous excellent dialogue scenes involving Seven, Chakotay and Janeway. Like "Virtuoso", it also closes on a great scene with Seven, who seems particularly endearing this season. The bristly ex-Borg from the previous season has seemed to morph into someone who's softened, and begun to be assimilated by the Federation. And the way the show does this is really cool; it's a slow and subtle assimilation, not a Borg-like imposition, but one which involves Seven making a lot of little personal choices, and which involves the Federation and Starfleet simply leading by example.
Sun, Nov 27, 2022, 4:20pm (UTC -5)
I agree with many here that Chakotay seems written wildly out of character. Also: not sure about beaming the astronaut’s body aboard Voyager for an official send-off. Most people that respect history are against removing bodies from their final resting place. It would be akin to dredging up the remains of the passengers of the Titanic, to bury their remains. From my understanding, that’s a no-no. As fanatical about history as this episode paints the Voyager crew, the LAST thing you’d expect was for them to disturb the sanctity of a historic grave site.
Mon, May 1, 2023, 5:44pm (UTC -5)
I’ll admit I’m an easy sell when it comes to history oriented stories tho.
A couple of thoughts:
- as many commenters pointed out, Chakotay’s character was a little flexibly written for this episode. Having him suddenly be a paleontology buff was a bit out of nowhere. Particularly given that he mentions paleontology while examining an ancient rock(geology) and then becomes obsessed with recovering an ancient earth artifact(archeology), not sure why the writers chose to have him suddenly be into paleontology when they didn’t actually do any paleontology.
- watching the last 5 plus seasons of voyager, there is A LOT of alpha quadrant junk sprayed all over the delta quadrant. I don’t recall people constantly tripping over delta quadrant stuff in previous trek. I wonder if the alpha quadrant has a galactic reputation as that crazy neighbor with shit all over his yard who can’t seem to get his garbage into his garbage cans.
Fri, May 19, 2023, 3:06pm (UTC -5)
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