Star Trek: Voyager


3 stars

Air date: 1/31/2001
Teleplay by Robert Doherty
Story by Mike Sussman & Robert Doherty
Directed by Mike Vejar

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"How do you justify beating a defenseless man?"
"Violence is the only thing he understands."

— Janeway and Yediq

In brief: A reasonably thoughtful, if imperfect, issue episode.

I'm not a death penalty supporter. Such information might be relevant at the outset of this review of "Repentance," which is a Trekkian message show that examines a bizarre death penalty case.

I'm all for the occasional message episode. Earlier in the season we got "Critical Care," a brutal commentary on HMOs. And here we get a fairly even-handed treatment of the death penalty issue.

Well, of course this episode is against the death penalty. In the Federation, there is no death penalty. The supposed last capital offense under Federation law was explained back in TOS's "The Menagerie," but even there it was more like a dramatic contrivance than it was a believable consequence the Federation would be likely to impose.

If memory serves, "Repentance" might very well be the only straightforward death penalty analysis in the Trek canon. It makes its points. It's not particularly subtle, but it's not preachy either.

More than anything, this episode highlights what seems to me a fundamental truth about the death penalty, which is that the issue is more about feelings than it is about logic — maybe especially when it comes to defending the practice. I say this because when society puts someone to death, society is condoning that killing. In such cases there's always a lot of talk about deterrence and justice, but when it comes down to it, it's more about satisfying the victims' (and society's at large) collective emotional need to take as much as can be taken from the worst of offenders, without resorting to outright torture.

In "Repentance," we have the death penalty story with a sci-fi twist. We have a convicted murderer named Iko (Jeff Kober). He's a violent and thoroughly despicable specimen; even behind locked forcefield he makes threats he can't possibly carry out, as if he simply enjoys the idea of terrorizing others.

Iko and several other prisoners are beamed aboard Voyager when a ship transporting the prisoners to the Nygean homeworld to be executed is destroyed in an accident. The ship's warden, Yediq (Tim deZarn), warns Janeway that these dangerous convicts must be kept strictly in line. Janeway, in the interests of cooperation and complying with the Prime Directive, agrees to provide transport to a rendezvous point with another Nygean ship. Prison cells are set up in a cargo bay.

Yediq represents the hard and weary end of law enforcement; he's seen enough convicted murderers to last a lifetime and doesn't believe in kid gloves. When Iko makes a threat aimed at Yediq's children, Yediq and his men beat Iko within an inch of his life. (Janeway subsequently bans them from the cargo bay.)

Doc represents the outspoken anti-death penalty partisan. He finds the whole situation distasteful and essentially says, "Not on my watch," when Seven asks why resources should be spent to save a dying man who is scheduled to die in a few days anyway. Doc needs some of Seven's nanoprobes to repair damage to Iko's brain.

The story's turning point comes when Doc's treatments for Iko have an unexpected side effect: The nanoprobes repair a non-functioning area in Iko's brain which, according to further research, has been non-functional since his birth. It turns out that Iko was essentially born without a conscience. Now he has one. When he comes to, Iko is a very different person. He no longer makes threats; he's peaceful and, most interestingly, wracked with guilt over the murder he committed. He's never felt guilt before, or even close; he finds it overwhelming.

The implications here are interesting, because they raise questions of individual responsibility. Iko was a cold-blooded killer who thrived on terrorizing anyone and everyone (he threatens Janeway for apparently the sheer fun of it). Now he has become almost meekly pacifist. The transformation is nothing short of miraculous, and begs the question: Is this the same man, and does he still deserve to die?

Of course, the inevitable problem with stories like "Repentance" is that they are almost too metaphorical and hypothetical to be genuinely useful as commentary. Iko's very literal development of a conscience is an act of fantasy, not reality. It can be used as a metaphor for the violently mentally ill, perhaps, but it's far too extreme a case to be relative.

In the real world, mentally ill or unstable people also commit crimes. Are they less guilty than those who know full well that their actions are immoral and hurtful? Yes, because crime in our society generally stems from intent as well as from cause and effect. At the same time, we must hold individuals accountable for their crimes, regardless of their state of mind. State of mind is a mitigating factor but not simply an excuse.

Getting back to the death penalty issue, members of the Voyager crew make the case that Iko can now be reformed and that the death sentence is unnecessary. Seven begins to develop a rapport with Iko, whose guilt runs so deep that he says, "I deserve to die," and makes no initial attempt to even delay his forthcoming execution. Many of the Seven/Iko scenes work, featuring an understated sobriety that punctuates Iko's realization of how hurtful his past actions were. Still, I'm not always sure what to make of Jeff Kober's performance, which is flat and emotionless, having effects that range from perfectly appropriately disconnected to inexplicably lobotomized.

One thing that struck me as tired and obvious was the story's tendency to relate the issue to — once again — Seven's guilt over her Borg-life atrocities. The key Seven/Janeway discussion might as well be preceded with a title card that says, "OBVIOUS CHARACTER INSIGHT AHEAD," as Janeway informs Seven that her need to see Iko forgiven for his sins is equivalent to Seven's need to forgive herself for her sins as a Borg drone.

Not only has this gotten a bit old, I'm not so sure the situations are equivalent in a true sense. Seven was at the mercy of a collective where she was but a tiny unwilling participant; Iko was, in the most mitigating interpretation, at the mercy of his own internal pathology. One is clearly more directly responsible than the other.

I also could've done without a ship attacking Voyager, which conveniently sets a few too many plot pieces in motion, including the prisoners escaping the cargo bay and the deactivation of transporters that could restrain them.

On the other hand, I did find Yediq to be a believable character. Not to be mistaken as a needlessly stubborn plot device to butt heads with Janeway, Yediq has a point of view that seems to grow directly from long experience and cynicism, and an affirmed conviction that the system he works within does what it needs to do. Yes, he beats a defenseless prisoner quite brutally, which is wrong, but there's a ring of truth when he says, "Violence is the only thing he understands" (which at the show's outset seems pretty true of Iko). Yediq also is not unreasonable; ultimately he reluctantly agrees to Janeway's request to appeal to the family of Iko's victim.

There's another character here, a convict named Joleg (F.J. Rio) who represents another relevant issue, namely the disproportionate number of minorities on death row. He is a Benkaran, and he explains to the always-sympathetic Neelix how Benkarans are "known" by Nygeans to be criminals, and make up a large percentage of the prison population (and an even larger percentage of death row convicts) even though they only represent 10 percent of the general population. Sound like anything that can be said about the United States?

It's simultaneously truthfully ironic and yet savagely cruel to the larger issue at hand when the story finally reveals Joleg as a pathetic jailhouse liar trying to save his own skin. But because such people exist in the real world, it serves as a sad reflection of reality.

The Nygeans also have a rather strange sentencing policy, in that families of victims decide the punishment for those convicted of a murder. This is another example of something that exists far outside the reality of the issue being dissected, but in terms of the story it demonstrates very clearly (1) how sentencing can create a wide, unfair divide based on numerous personal biases or beliefs, or be influenced by how much money a defendant has available for restitution; and (2) how a victim's family members in a death penalty case are hardly the most objective when it comes to the death penalty issue. It's too easy to confuse revenge and justice when that close to a case; to ask for logic is merely wishful thinking.

Of course, for the story to work, Iko must die. It's wise that the story sees him not as an innocent victim but simply one convict who is sent through a system far larger than himself. He doesn't make excuses for what he did, but he's genuinely sorry. The family is undeterred in their sentencing decision — something that also strikes me as true to life.

Is "Repentance" a great episode? No. But it does make an effort to tackle a serious issue through observation while resisting the temptation of melodrama or sweeping changes. The sci-fi angle involving the nanoprobes is a double-edged sword, astutely highlighting certain arguments while burying others — and thus only further muddying the waters.

But it made me think a little. That's a good thing.

Next week: Klingons in the Delta Quadrant. Naturally.

Previous episode: Lineage
Next episode: Prophecy

Like this site? Support it by buying Jammer a coffee.

◄ Season Index

107 comments on this post

Wed, Sep 26, 2007, 12:02pm (UTC -6)
I think Jammer brilliantly pointed out the most glaring problems in this episode--the fact that this is a complete fantasy situation, and does not deal with the realities of mental illness (it seems nanoprobes can cure ANYTHING) and I agree with the 3 star assessment. Remove the fantasy elements and it could have been a 4-star outing.

I will disagree with his assessment of Jeff Kober's performance, however. I thought he was perfect. His portrayal of a man who was experiencing emotions he had never encountered before was brilliant. Guilt, for those of us who have experience with it, is a familiar companion. For Kober, it is new, and I thought his portrayal was spot-on. There very well might be moments when the surge of emotion was too much to bear--turning him into a virtual automaton.

I'd like to add that, regarding the death penalty issue (about which I am still undecided) I was reminded of Robert A. Heinlein's character, Juan Rico, from Starship Troopers. After a man who has killed a four-year-old girl has been executed, he ponders the rightness of the sentence. If the killer were insane, was it wrong to kill him? But if he could be made sane, how could he live with himself after his sanity returned, knowing what he had done?

Rico determines that all he can be sure of is that this man would never kill again, and he'll have to be satisfied with that.
Tue, Jan 8, 2008, 8:48am (UTC -6)
I don't think the nanoprobes cure was pure fantasy. To make that conclusion, one has to know exactly what the patient's neurological problem was to begin with, and that wasn't actually detailed.

There is some physiological connection between a past history of social problems and mental problems with neurological roots in some of the darker parts of the brain. For example, families with histories of alcoholism can be traced to past wars and uncontrolled violence is one of the worst symptoms.

We have no idea exactly what kind of neurological disorder Iko suffered from, but if it was isolated within a particular part of the brain, it could have been neutralized by nanoprobes. I thought that was one of the more scientifically interesting and speculative aspects of the episode.
Jakob M. Mokoru
Mon, Mar 31, 2008, 7:38am (UTC -6)
Well, well...

As a supporter of amnesty international, I always compliment producers for making episodes like "Repentance".

However, the conclusion of the episode hints that death penalty is alright, but that the Nygeans just execute the wrong alien (because of the mental illness at the time of the murder). I think that the episode would have made a stronger point, if it hadn't featured the "psychopath killer that has been cured and is now full of remorse" but the "killer that is undoubtetly guilty but also full of remorse". Then the debate would have been about death penalty in general and not death penalty in specific cases. Therefore it would have helped if the "racial minority-criminal" Neelix fancied wouldn't be dismissed as "bad guy that deserves what he gets".
Fri, May 23, 2008, 7:29pm (UTC -6)
A thoughtful episode which tackles some important topics. I liked the guest actor's performances, especially Yediq's and Iko's. I have to disagree with Jakob here though, I didn't get the feeling this episode condones the death penalty at all. If anything it seemed to point out it's driven more by feelings of revenge than objective justice. Also the storyline with Joleg is an altogether different but equally relevant issue. I guess the decision to reveal him in the end as a liar was to counterbalance the Iko story. They made Iko's plight sympathetic, so doing the same for Joleg would perhaps come off as a bit naive. While the fact of the overrepresentation of minorities in the general prison populace remains, some of the convicts, well, just simply are guilty. However I don't think it hurts the overall message.
This episode also made good use of Neelix, a character I quite like, but never really got fleshed out thoroughly (but then again, who did?). His interactions with the prisoners and contacting the Nygean authorities made sense, seeing he's cook, moral officer and ambassador.
Ofer Kalifon
Thu, Mar 5, 2009, 3:40am (UTC -6)
"Of course, the inevitable problem with stories like "Repentance" is that they are almost too metaphorical and hypothetical to be genuinely useful as commentary. Iko's very literal development of a conscience is an act of fantasy, not reality. It can be used as a metaphor for the violently mentally ill, perhaps, but it's far too extreme a case to be relative." - I seem to recall an episode of L&O:SVU where a teacher was having sex with her students couldn't control her urges. They discovered that she'd had a tumor all along that lowered her inhibitions and increased her sex drive. I think it's an apt metaphor and can happen in today's world under different circumstances. She was still punished BTW and registered as a sex offender.
Shane Anderson
Mon, May 11, 2009, 8:02pm (UTC -6)
I have to disagree with the review. This episode is far from even-handed. The deck is clearly stacked in favor of the anti-death penalty stance from the get-go. The guards transporting the prisoners are brutal thugs, thus creating a moral equivalence between the criminals and their captors. Seven and the Doctor recite pro and anti death penalty surface arguments at each other, but it's clear that the Doctor is the one with convictions, while to Seven it's an exercise in "seeing all sides". How "surprising" that Seven is the one that finds her views altered over the course of the story.

Then of course there's the "strawman political" moment when Neelix stuns Tom and B'Elanna into silence with his question about prisoners sentenced to death. I rolled my eyes at the utterly cliched nature of that scene.

All of this is topped off when we find that the magical Borg nanoprobes have repaired the convict's conscience? And turned him into a good man? As if the conscience is something physical rather than something intangible formed by belief and conviction.

This was not an even-handed treatment of the issue. It was a sledgehammer to the side of the viewer's head while the author and producers shout "teh deth penalty is badzzzz!" The episode may have its virtues, but balance is not one of them.
Thu, Sep 10, 2009, 10:55am (UTC -6)
Under Islam concept of Qisas the heirs of a murder victim could demand the execution of the murderer. Indeed traditionally the state couldn't kill without the family's permission.

I know this isn't the case in the US but it's not far outside of reality and, in fact, in certain countries continues to this day.
Tue, Jan 12, 2010, 11:00pm (UTC -6)
I think the problem here is that everyone sees the episode as necessarily a commentary, and thus considers it a fault of the episode if it does something outside the realms of direct correlation with reality. Yes it has some commentary, but really that just allows us to relate to the story, which, being science fiction, is separate from reality. If you are looking for an essay on the life sentence in tv show form then this episode deserves 3 stars. If you want a good star trek story then it deserves 3 1/2.
Elliot Wilson
Tue, Feb 9, 2010, 2:05pm (UTC -6)
I wholeheartedly support the death sentence. So what? It's revenge? Big deal! It's more than the countless rapists, murderers, child abusers, and many more across America and the world deserve. To me though the crime has to be of great magnitude, not something piddly like theft or whatever. Fuck society when someone has intruded upon your home and done something wrong -- they've hurt YOU, not society. Society is a generic term -- we are millions, BILLIONS of families and units that make up the larger whole. Seriously, you scare me, Jammer. It's unnatural. Are you saying if someone, for example, came to your parents' home and murdered your family, robbed the place, and raped the female members, you wouldn't want to see them FRIED?? Sad. Jail is nothing more than sitting around. I GUARANTEE YOU, HALF the inmates in jail are CACKLING because they've done great wrong and are now punished only by staying someplace for life. Bah. But I suppose it can't be helped. I tend to take a more cynical and harsh view of the human race. I'm not naive. I see the truth: We're doomed, we've been doomed since the first moment we thought as a sentient race.
Tue, Mar 2, 2010, 11:08pm (UTC -6)
This episode also raised the issue of what makes us who we are: how much of the way are brains are physically formed affects who we are, and how much is based on what we learn as we grow.

I thought the actor's performance of Iko was believable, in that the portion of his brain that enables conscience and guilt was damaged. I am not a neurologist, but my understanding is much of who I am, my emotions and my conscience, are directly linked to my genes and brain formation before birth: I can be born with some degree of conscience, or with so little as to be psychopathic.

This episode asks: if a person's brain could be re-formed to have a conscience, could we treat this as the same person, or a different sentient being in the same physical body? I disagreed with the victim's family that had Iko put to death: they saw the same face, not the evidence of a different mind.

As for Seven of Nine, it makes sense to me that we can revisit the same emotional issue (Seven's guilt at being a Borg) over the course of time, especially when a situation reminds us of the past.
Sun, May 2, 2010, 12:51am (UTC -6)
This is Voyager's worst episode. It's nothing but a long, preachy rant. And what is there really new to say? Nothing. Very boring. Sorry, I disagree with Lenny - there is no "if you are looking for an essay" - it is ONLY an essay.

Voyager's worst episode in all seven seasons. Ran through the seasons again not long ago and this was the only one I skipped.
Sun, May 2, 2010, 5:57am (UTC -6)
Surely not worse than Threshold?????
Tue, May 18, 2010, 5:32pm (UTC -6)
Strange message to this one. He did the right thing by handing his phaser over to the guard. Gave food to the hungry prisoner. Made a heartfelt appeal while stating 'if my death gives you peace, that's fine'. And he still gets executed! Moral of the story...good guys finish last. It could leave you 70000 light years from home, doing the right thing you know...

Why didn't Neelix check contents of letter? Surely even he would have spotted 'In ship called Voyager, come at once'.
Thu, May 27, 2010, 2:15am (UTC -6)
I rather enjoyed this episode. I thought it was well acted, decently written, and for all of the obvious twists that I knew where coming; I didn't find it particularly contrived.

With regard to the episode's commentary about the death penalty... I think the episode sucessfully depicts the death penalty as a can of worms. Which I think it is.

My personal views on the death penalty are, in my view, rather simple. And I don't find the episode to be very contradictory of it.

I don't think the death penalty is justice. I think it's killing. And I think that sometimes, there is a really good reason to kill someone. It's a can of worms, but there it is.
Sun, Jul 18, 2010, 7:34am (UTC -6)
*rolls eyes*

Here we go again with yet another politically correct episode. This time the capital punishment found itself in the corsshairs. Naturally, and I say this not having read the review or comments yet and having viewed only the first five minutes of the show, I'm sure the accused will turn out to be either innocent (maybe they acted in self-defense or were framed!) or they were not in control of their faculties. Coz I'm sure we're not going to have a bunch of child-molesters, serial rapists and homicidal maniacs who knew exactly what they were doing being reprieved. And yes, I say being reprieved because I'm positive that's how the show will play out. They're bound to escape the gallows. If the authorities' eyes are opened abour the "cruelty" and "barbarism" of the death penalty in the process, why, so much the better!

All right, let's see how many of my predictions come to pass by the end of the episode. This'll be fun!

P.S. Even more annoying than that are the initial shots of Neelix wheeling in two pots full of his "old family recipe" slosh to give out to the detainees who, poor things, have to be treated with compassion and fed. That, after all, IS the enlightened way, isn't it!
Sun, Jul 18, 2010, 11:56am (UTC -6)
Well, I stand corrected. The episode turned out to be EVEN dumber than my worst fears would have me imagine. I'm astonished Janeway didn't give the inmates officer commissions, just to demonstrate how "progressive" and "enlightened" she is.

Basically, the show humanizes the criminals and portrays their guards as brutal thugs, so no prizes for guessing what the ultimate aim is. And all the "discourse" (if that's what blatant propaganda can be called) is driven in the direction of convincing the viewer the death penalty is wrong. It's so blatant that it's sickening. The show may as well have had a "Sponsored by Amnesty International" watermark. Pathetic. I'm always up for a good, informed debate but this is a flagrant attempt - indeed, an orgy - to force-feed an agendum to the viewer. I'm not even that gung-ho about the death penalty, but I found the show utterly unpalatable.

"Nausea could be a symptom of guilt." *puke*

One star.
Tue, Aug 3, 2010, 11:55am (UTC -6)
Star Trek is is science-fiction, but it's a mark of ignorance to declare the cure as "fantasy". Unless you yourself have experienced insanity or some other brain disorder, it is morally irresponsible to deny the fact that some physical condition in the brain can plausibly cause someone to loose control of themselves. Insanity, after all, is a valid defense in court and rightly so.

Did you know that some people have a condition called synaesthesia can literally taste words and hear colors?

I might be self-righteous when I say this, but it doesn't mean I'm wrong - People who support the death penalty are either morally corrupt, incapable of logical thought, or incapable of sympathetic thought.
Tue, Aug 3, 2010, 12:08pm (UTC -6)
It is amazing that the USA remains one of the few developed countries to retain the death penalty. It has been outlawed in the EU a long time ago, and now remains mostly a barbaric practice localized to 3rd world countries ... and the USA.

Some people who say things like "death penalty is revenge, so what?" are really disturbed in the head and probably need a nano-treatment ASAP.

It seems like only DeanGrr (commentator above me), got one of the main points of the episode - that "This episode also raised the issue of what makes us who we are: how much of the way are brains are physically formed affects who we are, and how much is based on what we learn as we grow."
Tue, Aug 3, 2010, 1:30pm (UTC -6)
Thanks for your OPINION, Jack. Should someone who committed a heinous crime knowing fully well what they were doing spend the next 30, 40, 50 or even more years being clothed and fed at the expense of, among others, his victim(s) and their relatives? I hardly thinks so. That's not justice, it's not enlightenment, it's not compassion; it's plain idiocy. If someone guilty of a capital crime is sent to the salt mines to do hard labor for a few decades, that's fine with me (though it'd be easier and cheaper to just dispatch them). But providing them accommodations and all modern facilities is beyond dumb. We are all taught or grow up innately knowing right from wrong (certainly in the case of capital offenses); if you choose to commit a wrong, you are no longer a person with rights and do not deserve the protection of the civil society. End of story.

Now, in the case of those with diminished responsibility, it's tough. On the one hand, they didn't know what they were doing at the time of committing the crime. On the other hand, their actions had a profound negative impact on the lives of at least several people. So what now: No death penalty if the actor was incalculable and administer a custodial sentence instead? What's the point? If the criminal has a warped perception of the reality, what's the use of incarcerating them, being that the imprisonment won't register with them? Put them in the booby hatch indefinitely? Wouldn't it be actually more humane - provided there's no treatment - to execute them?

Anyhow, I used to be against the death penalty and used to think that, because I'd find it impossible to kill someone in cold blood, no executioner should be allowed or forced to do the same. But the way some states, chiefly in Europe, are going, with providing unrepentant scumbags PlayStations and hookers in prison, made me turn around and say STRING 'EM UP!
Thu, Aug 12, 2010, 3:56am (UTC -6)
This is adressed to Michael:

Your statement : "it humanises criminals" is enough for me to see that your ability to assess complex psychological situations is infantile. Committing a crime does not rob a person of his humanity, not completely, no matter how heinous the crime; to claim it does invites the real inhuman activity--turning people into dichotometric cartoons of good and evil, and treating them thusly.

Your observances of how societies that don't support the death penalty are is irrelevant--whether your observations are valid or not, one action does not inherently colour another simply because the same person commits both actions. Dumbass.
Tue, Oct 26, 2010, 5:57pm (UTC -6)
I wholeheartedly agree with jack and Elliot. The death sentence is not something that should still occur in a modern society. The risk of justice murder alone, by killing purported but innocent "perpetrators", is good enough reason for any rational person to reject it.

Overall a fairly good episode, even if it's a bit obvious at times. It didn't take long to pin the calm and friendly prisoner as a probable manipulator, and the half-crazed unconscionable bastard as a likely candidate for "redemption."
Fri, Apr 8, 2011, 7:48pm (UTC -6)
Struggling to comment as I think everything has been said. It's an Issue Episode (a Trek staple) and does the job of demonstrating a side, whether you agree with it or not.

Without being involved to that level, it's hard to imagine. I suppose anyone close to the victim is bound to have an emotional reaction in the realms of wanting the criminal killed. But this takes the outside/observer angle and considers if a person can change.

Can they.. I don't know. I'll admit I'm more for locking them up - I'm not sure how many of you have been to prison (I haven't) but I suspect it's probably NOT the fluffy friendly comfortable place the Daily Mail or American equivalents would have you believe...

I hesitate to make the comment, and I'm not religious myself, but isn't America very heavily Christian? With all that forgiveness for sins malarkey? Ironic that the same country is also highly unforgiving (to the point of shooting people if they threaten their material possessions)
Wed, May 4, 2011, 2:24pm (UTC -6)

I think it's hard to quantify the US as "heavily Christian"; especially in light of the age-old struggle of practicing what one preaches.

I guess it would be more concise to say that, Christian or not, the US has issues with the principle of forgiveness.

I had mentioned earlier in this thread that in my view, the death penalty isn't justice. It's killing.

Although that said, sometimes there is a good reason to kill somebody.

It's a can of worms.
Fri, Jul 6, 2012, 7:36am (UTC -6)
I am pro capital punishment if the circumstances warrant and the evidence is irrefutable. Having said that I thought this was a very good episode. It brought up several issues, such as Seven's time with the Borg assimilating others, and the likelihood of Iko from mental illness due to a birth defect. The episode rang true for me...including the bit with Neelix and the other prisoner..
Sat, Sep 22, 2012, 4:27pm (UTC -6)
Ahhh the age old death penalty conundrum. I've never had a problem with the death penalty. Actually, in cases where it's applied appropriately, I find it to be the most logical form of justice there is. You take a life with intent, you lose your life. Seems pretty straightforward. Now obviously that doesn't apply for things like theft or what not.
The view that the death penalty isn't part of a civilized society is nothing but opinion. The age's dominant civilization defines the rules, and it has varied over time what the rules are. The only argument that attempts to validate this belief as a truth that surpasses ages, is the view that evolution is turning man into something that science fiction writers envisioned. But, it's cultural-based fiction... and it usually ends up being the opinion from self-righteous people who define themselves and others who share that view as 'enlightened'.

I can understand WHY someone would't be pro-death penalty, and I certainly don't hate them for it or think they're stupid. But it just irritates me when a view like this starts being espoused as an absolute, when it does not have the support to be so.
That being said, no, this was not a favorite episode of mine. It was hardly a balanced approach... This was a sunday school lesson from the church of starfleet.
Sun, Dec 16, 2012, 9:48pm (UTC -6)
I enjoyed this episode for a lot of reasons, mainly because the thing that Jammer found so far-fetched (that you might be able to 'repair someone's psychosis) is not far-fetched at all. Don't we give violent offenders drugs to change their personality. Who is to say what is the 'real' them. If there was a surgery that could make a violent person more peaceful, would they opt to take it? After the change, Iko himself wanted to die. It's an interesting thought experiment.

I also enjoy it because it is so unashamedly against the death penalty. I don't care what you think of the death penalty in the real world- it clearly, obviously, shouldn't be legal in the made-up world of the Federation.
Tue, Jan 1, 2013, 6:51pm (UTC -6)
As an European I wonder how it is possible to argue about this. Nobody here beside some neo facists is even thinking about it. But I think the point of the sudden healing was that even the slightest possibility of resocialisation should lead to a punishment which upholds this option. This is the very nature of modern law.
Sat, May 11, 2013, 3:07am (UTC -6)
A lot of prisons in the US are either privately owned or benefit private companies by providing labor for them at near-slave wages. That's why they have no interest in rehabilitating people. After all, what's a business without repeat customers? To them, rehabilitation is a bad investment. It's a horrible and corrupt system.
Sat, Jul 6, 2013, 8:45am (UTC -6)
I know it may sound excessively harsh, but this gets a ratings from me of zero stars.
The first thirty minutes of this show for me were one of the best Voyager episodes I've ever seen – maybe the best. Why? Because it did a great job of true science fiction by taking a serious moral issue and then using the setting of a science fiction future to examine one of its important aspects. It “evil” as we understand it were simply a disease, a chemical imbalance, and could be corrected by something like a serum released into the water supply, then wouldn't a “psychopath” be basically a malnourished person? What would be the appropriate punishment for their crime? Killing them even though they're not really the same person and the person they are now wasn't in control at the time? Should you withold the “cure” as punishment? It illustrates the philosophical emptiness of retributive justice. Is a person more than their physiology and their circumstances? If you precisely copied, as if in a computer program, every detail of person's mind and physiology as well as their complete external circumstances, down to every molecule and every single attribute of every person they would encounter, and then 'ran the program again,' would there be a different result? If so, what is the third missing factor? The problem is that, to a significant degree, religious tradition has left us with this nebulous notion of a “soul” distinct from physiology and cirumstance that makes us feel justified in using retributive justice which, ultimately, is just an act of animalistic violence to sooth our emotions.
To all the people commenting things like, “the criminals should die for what they did, so what if it's revenge!” or complaining about humanizing criminals, I really have nothing to say. It's just emotional venting, it's immature, and it's not thoughtful. I realize that there is a practical issue when it comes to what to do with a truly dangerous and unrepentant murderer, but this episode is examing the real question. If you don't have an answer to the above question, you're a waste of time to talk to.
Here's where the episode crashes and burns for me – the subplot about the racial minority alien criminal. They just HAD to insert “balance,” even if it was totally perfunctory and forced and largely undermines the story they were trying to tell. They should have been much more careful about who they chose to be the good-guy-turned-bad-guy to counter the bad-guy-turned-good-guy because the stakes here are important. By reaffirming the idea that the apparently innocent guy from the group seen to have criminal tendencies is a bad guy, they're glibly undermining the point they're making with the other criminal guest star.
Even worse - they're forgetting the fact that the intention of the Benkaran criminal to kill the warden DOESN'T prove he's a bad guy in the way they portray it here, as he may have simply been reacting to a lifetime of oppression. Does that make killing him right? No, but equating that, a reaction to circumstances, with being a psychopathic killer, is thoughtless and utterly destroys any attempt to make the point they're making here.
I often rip on episodes that are excessively preachy with the social commentary, but I also can tolerate it a bit more if I agree with the message, as I do with the one presented in the main plot. The subplot's utter failure to reflect any sense of social responsibility TOTALLY ruins it.
Mon, Aug 26, 2013, 4:07pm (UTC -6)
every prisoner who has been convicted of a crime 3 times should be put to death.

glad he died.
Sat, Sep 14, 2013, 8:16pm (UTC -6)
@Robbie - - I agree with your assessment of the secondary plot. I was crushed that the storyline skewed in that direction. Any empathy for minorities that are singled out and disproportionately incarcerated and/or executed was washed away by this new "revelation." What a shame.

Additionally, I found something interesting about the primary plot (and I am surprised that no one has mentioned it out of this group): The story was not purely about the moral dilemma of capital punishment, but rather asks if justice should be applied to someone who commits a societal wrong AND has a neurological malady that may be the cause. It is a compelling argument; how much of our actions are based on the soul? Yet, no one on Voyager was fighting to save the prisoner from his punishment PRIOR to his nano-treatment. The Prime Directive was fitting when Iko was a dangerous lunatic. This wasn't about whether the death penalty was moral. It was about whether the death penalty is moral under specific circumstances.
Jo Jo Meastro
Tue, Oct 15, 2013, 2:26pm (UTC -6)
It didn't do much for me, I just couldn't connect much to the drama and as many have mentioned it's all too diluted and so circumstantial that very little of it feels valid as a relatable topical drama.

"Critical Care" had its own goals and its own convictions clearly marked out and as a natural progression of the plot. "Repentance" has none of these vital qualities to make a good social commentary episode.

Here, the episode seems extremely hesitant and contradictory to make any kind of statement at all except to say dispensing justice is sometimes complicated, which is hardly a news flash. It didn't help that I couldn't sympathise or care about the characters who were the just stock-standard prison movie clichés. It just wasn't interesting or dimensional enough to invest in this predictable plight.

The story itself never went anywhere interesting or do anything original. It played out almost exactly how I expected and even with Mike Vejars' solid direction; I just never was gripped. The only intriguing aspect I found was the way Seven had to reflect and deal with the blood that she feels is still on her hands, yet this has been explored one too many times before.

In the end, it wasn't bad as such but lackluster and I never felt compelled or connected to anything on the screen. I believe it failed to say anything substantial or even have a clear point behind it and worst of all, it wasn't very entertaining.

2/4 stars. However, I must admit that I am very impressed with season 7 so far. Only 2 episodes have been below average IMO which is a pretty impressive track record!
David Galvan
Fri, Oct 18, 2013, 10:51am (UTC -6)
Great review!

One point I'll add:
The idea of Iko's lack of conscience being a physiological trait that predisposed him to violence is not so "sci-fi" as we might originally think. I think it may be relatable beyond the idea of those who are "mentally ill".

From what I have heard/read about the psychology of "psychopaths", the distinguishing feature of a psychopath is that they do not feel empathy. That is, they cannot emotionally understand how their actions hurting other people really feel to those people. The idea that this lack of empathy may be linked to a neurological condition (or even a genetic trait) where a certain part of their brain is not active is within the realm of scientific plausibility. I saw this Voyager episode as exploring that possibility. (You might argue that a "psychopath" is someone classified as "mentally ill", but I think that is currently a gray area. Maybe in the future the psychological diagnosis of a lack of empathy will indeed be classified as "mentally ill".)

Anyway, I thought it was a very thought-provoking episode. Glad they made it!
Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 10:06pm (UTC -6)
I'm not going to comment on the episode, but rather Jammer's statement above: "In such cases there's always a lot of talk about deterrence and justice, but when it comes down to it, it's more about satisfying the victims' (and society's at large) collective emotional need to take as much as can be taken from the worst of offenders, without resorting to outright torture."

This is asserting one's own opinion on the population at large. Simply put, how does Jammer KNOW that it's more about emotional need than deterrence? Granted, emotion is there, but there is no way to prove that one is more important than another. And even if the emotion is there, does that make it wrong? Does that entirely negate the quite valid notion of deterrence?

My view is that bad things need to happen to those who do bad because others need to feel that murdering and stealing will result in bad things for them. There are only three reasons a person won't do something bad: internal morals, fear of hurting others, and avoiding consequences. If someone doesn't have morals and doesn't care for others, then they need to be afraid that something will happen to themselves. They need to know there's a dark pit ahead of them so they can walk around it. Do I think the death penalty is necessary? From time to time, yes.

As far as the episode goes, I like the idea of fixing someone's mind and allowing them to see what they've done. The implication that all wrongdoing comes from mental errors is iffy, but hey, science fiction is all about playing with ideas, so cool.
Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 3:19pm (UTC -6)
I really liked this episode. Like Jalandra, I'm one of those who believes that capital punishment can be used appropriately from time to time, but certainly not as a means of revenge, which would be wrong. I say that not to further fuel the fire, but just to say that a person who can see the appropriate application of capital punishment in some cases can also like this episode. I thought the characterizations were very good and the plot was well thought out. Yes, I knew that Iko was going to "prove himself" at the end of the episode, but I liked how it played out because I thought it was well acted and well conceived.

I knew that some would be offended by the subplot with the other prisoner, but it's a mistake to stereotype his situation. They highlighted the fact that these minorities take up more space in the presence that makes sense, but the point was that some of those people were justified in being there.

To me the episode was thoughtful, not preachy.
Tue, Mar 18, 2014, 2:40pm (UTC -6)
This episode is among the ultimate truths that Trek is a left wing propaganda machine. It never does things fairly. You have a society that has the death penalty, but Starfleet (liberal writers who live in lovely areas away from crime and have all their lives) sees that as wrong, so it must be.

They then do what all good propaganda pieces do... LOAD THE DICE. The guards are shown to beat up the unarmed inmates, just so that the audience feels pity for the criminals. The whole thing is awash with these loaded dice moments, and from what I can see, a lot of people on this thread are thick and stupid, because they've been pulled right in.

This episode is deliberately lop-sided to have a go at people who believe in the death penalty. The funny thing is, the people who are against the death penalty are nearly always middle class- upper class people, who live miles away from real life.
Tue, Mar 18, 2014, 2:43pm (UTC -6)
Also, although your lying media won't tell you it, the reason more blacks are executed is because... surprise surprise, by % of their population, they do more crime. And are far more likely to be involved with drugs and guns.
Andy's Friend
Tue, Mar 18, 2014, 3:38pm (UTC -6)

"You have a society that has the death penalty, but Starfleet (liberal writers who live in lovely areas away from crime and have all their lives) sees that as wrong, so it must be."

"...the reason more blacks are executed is because... surprise surprise, by % of their population, they do more crime. And are far more likely to be involved with drugs and guns."

You know, I don't live in a society with the death penalty. Actually, in Western Europe we're about 400 million people who do not have the death penalty, who do not have easy access to guns, and do not have anything like the violent crime rates the United States have.

So the reason more people *in America* are prosecuted and punished for violent crimes than in Europe is because... "surprise surprise, by % of their population, they do more crime. And are far more likely to be involved with drugs and guns."

Wake up, DLPB. Travel. See the world. Study, work, live abroad. Learn other languages. Expand your horizons. It's good for you.
Tue, Mar 18, 2014, 5:18pm (UTC -6)
Oh, look, don't debate the points, just take the argument to the person. Classic liberal trick.
Tue, Mar 18, 2014, 5:19pm (UTC -6)
And I am from UK. Most people here support the death penalty but are ignored by elitist snob politicians who live in lala land, like Trek.
Jo Jo Meastro
Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 10:09am (UTC -6)
@ DLPB I'm sorry but you can't speak for all of us here in the UK. It is a hotly debated topic filled with grey areas and conflicting view points, it is nothing remotely resembling clear-cut as you make it out to be. If it was inclined in any way, it tends to be people from a older generation are most vocally in favour wheras the younger tend to either be proud we outlawed it or recognise it as the difficult issue that it is.

I will however agree about our snob politicians who range from misguided to clueless and greedy. A good, honest, hard working politician is sadly a rare thing in any part of the world.
Mon, Mar 24, 2014, 6:07pm (UTC -6)
I didn't speak for "all", I spoke for the majority, and there are plenty of polls that back up a majority want it back. That's a fact.
Sun, May 4, 2014, 9:27pm (UTC -6)

What? I have no idea where you got the idea that the vast majority of UK citizens want to reinstate the death penalty.

It would be nice if, when bringing statistics into an argument, you could... substantiate your claims? You know... actually provide some sort of evidence? A link, a source, the name of the poll in question...

It's not enough to just pull something out of your backside. Especially when you claim to "speak for the majority".

Also, a little tip to improve your argumentative technique: "that's a fact" is not a valid statement in and of itself. Particularly when not actually backed up by a single fact.
Sat, May 10, 2014, 12:32pm (UTC -6)

There have been dozens and dozens of studies showing support. Maybe you could, you know, use Google? It's your friend.
Sat, Jun 14, 2014, 7:19pm (UTC -6)
The dice are only seem loaded because you aren't looking at all the dice. Iko is shown as a super-criminal, who is even dangerous inside a locked cell. That's a loaded dice right there.

Those complaining about this episode being "politically correct" are accusing Star Trek of engaging in a thought-crime. It's not propaganda, it's a perspective. If you don't like that perspective, there are plenty of programs that will provide you with the perspective you want to see.

I thought the episode tried to cover too much. If someone's crimes are caused by a brain defect, and that defect can be corrected, should that person be executed? It's a perfectly legitimate question. But they tried to cover too many other issues. There is disparity in the sentences people get for the same crime, and you get better justice if you can afford a better lawyer. These too are worthy issues, but there isn't enough time to cover them in one episode.
Thu, Jun 26, 2014, 1:41am (UTC -6)
I think I have never seen a more direct, less subtle, issue-episode in all Trek shows so far. This was almost not an allegory or metaphor, but a crude treatment of the issue being discussed.

I don't mean the episode itself is totally bad, or the moral debate is totally weak. It is an ok episode for me. However, what does not get off my mind is the feeling that this episode represents very well the decadence of Voyager's dexterity to shape episodes at this point of the show.

Voyager sometimes (and increasingly often at the end) pushed too hard and too artificially to look smart, to look profound, to look deep, rather than being so. This episode is the epitome of such process, where the moral issue being portrayed was so directly debated that it could almost be done without any known characters of Voyager being in it.

In a nutshell, this one was not Trek being a venue for a philosophical debate. It was a philosophical debate being an excuse for one more episode of Trek.
Michael Wallis
Wed, Mar 4, 2015, 2:24pm (UTC -6)
A lousy episode pushing a conformist late 20th century agenda. However, the ending was enjoyable i.e. the murderers received their death sentences.
Fri, Apr 17, 2015, 3:29pm (UTC -6)
Very thoughtful and well-balanced episode. Contrary to some of you, I think the story was neither pro or con death penalty. Rather, I was left with the impression the writers wanted us to question our opinions toward this issue. With regards to those of you voicing their stance on the matter quite loudly, I feel the writers have accomplished their mission. 3.5 stars.
Fri, Apr 17, 2015, 7:07pm (UTC -6)
Actually, what's interesting about this episode is that I feel it takes viewpoints that usually don't go together and many characters change their views. The criminal is reformed, quite literally and magically, but their crime system is about punishment, not really reform our public safety. I think in the end the episode is more about WHY we punish than how. And Neelix, presented as the "social justice warrior" gets taken. And several characters change their views and several don't. I loved this one.
Sat, Apr 18, 2015, 12:41am (UTC -6)
If it wanted us to ask questions, it wouldn't need to or implement a loading of the dice. Which is certainly did.
Mon, May 4, 2015, 1:05pm (UTC -6)
While the Doctor is strongly anti-death penalty and the episode overall basically is, I thought it was interesting that Seven was more motivated, even in the end, from her belief in the unfairness that Iko would be punished and she wouldn't. I think that addresses an interesting sub-topic within the death penalty, that if we have to have it for the worst crimes there can easily be a lot of subjectivity about what are the worst crimes and who are the worst offenders.
Sat, Jun 27, 2015, 8:04pm (UTC -6)
Could've done without the Neelix subplot. Just because a Starfleet vessel saved them, doesn't mean the prisoners fall under Starfleet regulations.
They are still Nygean prisoners and, in order to follow the prime directive as much as possible, should be treated as such. Which is to say, the Nygeans call the shots on what rights the prisoners do and do not have.
I understand that Voyager had to interfere to save the crew from their malfunctioning ship, especially because they didn't know who was on board at the time. I understand that, while they are on Voyager, the crew has a right to keep an eye on their 'guests'.
But that's about as far as their interference should be allowed to go, if they truly intended to follow the prime directive.

Ofcourse, the guy turned out to be a rotten apple all along. Anyone with half a brain could've seen that one coming a mile away. How else are they supposed to hammer their point home? Had Neelix just butted out and minded his own business, we wouldn't have learned this 'valuable lesson'.

I really disliked that subplot. It had all the subtlety of a truck barrelling down on an innocent deer caught in its headlights.
Mon, Jun 29, 2015, 6:49am (UTC -6)
The subplot was a necessary counter-point though. At the start, Neelix is a bleeding heart-liberal who thinks that most criminals are victims of their own circumstance. And Neelix, being a shady character that was in fact a victim of his own circumstances that turned into an upstanding guy when his circumstances switch is the perfect person to espouse this view.

Seven meanwhile is the hardened conservative. The death penalty is necessary sometimes and who cares about the prisoners as long as we maintain order. By the end of the episode the prisoner she was ready to ship off to die is someone she's mourning over and Neelix got taken by his bleeding-heart. Subtle? No. Is there good stuff here? I think so.

In the end the only lesson here is a condemnation of revenge-sentencing and the idea that one should take a second look at ones own views on crime. In regards to the revenge sentencing I just think it was meant to make us think about why we punish criminals (deterrent, revenge, good of society, efficiency, order, etc.)

Maybe it loses a drop of points for not being subtle, but it was a good episode and all the pieces came together for a greater whole.
Sun, Jul 12, 2015, 8:07am (UTC -6)
I think the point of this story is that the death penalty removes permanently any potential for rehabilitation. I also found it interesting that Seven sees herself as a murderer. If i remember correctly she was taken as a child, so if anything she was a child soldier who grew to adulthood. International law treats child soldiers differently than adult soldiers when it comes to crimes , war crimes. So then the question would be could she be seen as a victim for part of the time when she committed the murders, or is her guilt derived from all?
Thu, Sep 17, 2015, 4:06pm (UTC -6)
I have to disagree, I thought the episode was very preachy. To make their point that the death penalty is wrong, the writers twisted the plot to fit their agenda. Oh look at how the mighty nanoprobes reconfigured this guy's brain, and now he's a saint. Picardo was way over-the-top, and I'm getting tired of the Seven Feels Guilty (TM) plot device. I did like Janeway's restraint, and her adherence to the Prime Directive. It's not our place to tell other cultures how to punish their criminals... For the record, I'm for the death penalty in extreme cases where the evidence is overwhelming... I would have given this episode 2.5 stars. Good concept, but it was too one-sided.
Thu, Oct 8, 2015, 10:43pm (UTC -6)
I think the point of this story is that the death penalty removes permanently any potential for rehabilitation.

But interestingly the angle of never re-offending never comes up ;)
Dan Wilson
Thu, Oct 15, 2015, 10:32pm (UTC -6)
Too bad Iko couldn't have stayed on Voyager. He would've made a much better love interest for Seven than Chakotay ; )
Thu, Jan 28, 2016, 12:21am (UTC -6)
Jack said:

"I might be self-righteous when I say this, but it doesn't mean I'm wrong - People who support the death penalty are either morally corrupt, incapable of logical thought, or incapable of sympathetic thought."

Self righteous AND an idiot.

1. Morally corrupt? Slitting a baby's throat is morally corrupt. Killing the bastard who did it is morally enlightened.

2. Incapable of logical thought? A person who thinks that a monster who raped 20 children under age 6 and then drowned them in a bathtub should have his right to live absolutely guaranteed is a person incapable of logical thought (hint: you).

3. Incapable of sympathy? On the contrary, it is my overabundance of sympathy that motivates my pro-death penalty position......sympathy for the victims of the crime, that is. So I say I am your moral superior in the sympathy department.
Thu, Jan 28, 2016, 12:30am (UTC -6)
More snobbish rambling from Jack:

"It is amazing that the USA remains one of the few developed countries to retain the death penalty. It has been outlawed in the EU a long time ago, and now remains mostly a barbaric practice localized to 3rd world countries ... and the USA."

1. And Japan.

2. There are 198 countries in this world. All 198 of them - repeat - all 198 of them still have the death penalty for Treason. Sadly, Treason is rarely, if ever, prosecuted.

3. The majority of European nations want the death penalty and never outlawed it. It was outlawed by the European Court of "Human Rights" against the wishes of the European majority. That's not impressive. It just demonstrates that Europe is run by anti-democratic elitist trash!

Jack continues his latte drinking snobbery:

"Some people who say things like "death penalty is revenge, so what?" are really disturbed in the head and probably need a nano-treatment ASAP."

No, you are the one who is disturbed in the head for believing that victims don't deserve revenge. You and your snobbish kind are anti-civilization and belong nowhere near the corridors of power. If anyone needs a nano-probe treatment to activate your conscience it is you, since you are obviously incapable of sympathizing with dead babies, which leads me to wonder whether or not you're brain damaged.
Sat, Jan 30, 2016, 8:38pm (UTC -6)
No death penalty for treason in UK. Tony Blair outlawed it. Was probably thinking of the future when tried for war crimes and flooding Britain with millions of immigrants.
Fri, Feb 19, 2016, 4:40am (UTC -6)
As some ppl sayed it right, a blatantly politically-corect epoisode b-shit. And not even plausible in plot-execution (like that part vhen the bad guy had a phazer to the warden's head, and instead turned it over to him, and let him shoot his friends and keep him at gunpoint... yeaaa riiight. In a utopian world maybe. In reality, the warden guy wuld have been a pile of ash). And the anti-death penalty propaganda is stupid as well. Not to mention the notion that nanoprobes can repair a person's conscience, and make the hardened criminal scum "good" again.

Utter crap.
Wed, Mar 16, 2016, 4:59pm (UTC -6)
Karla Homolka was convicted of manslaughter following a PLEA BARGAIN in the 1991 and 1992 rape-murders of two Ontario, Canada teenage girls, Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, as well as the rape and death of her sister Tammy. She was only sentenced to 12 years in prison, but, she served her full sentence, and is now free, and has 3 children of her own. Did she deserve death? I say no.

I believe in the Death Penalty only for those who will spend their entire life in prison with absolutely no chance of parole. Cases where the charges are consecutive, so they get 250 years in prison for example. These people will never get out, and never have the chance at rehabilitation and starting a new life. Why waste resources on these people?

My dad always said they should put a noose in every cell, and leave it there for their full term. Let those who don't want to live, end their own lives. Should criminals be allowed to choose death, rather than serve time in prison?

P.S. The doctor almost killed a man to save twelve people in Critical Care. He also just recently committed treason. If one the criminals permanently destroyed his Mobile Emitter, the Doctor would’ve not only changed his mind on the death penalty, but performed the act as well.
Diamond Dave
Tue, Mar 22, 2016, 3:12pm (UTC -6)
One of the clunkier issue episodes, and overall not a spectacularly successful one. Indeed, if you ticked off the number of cliches here you would have an impressive tally by the end. Nevertheless, I thought this seemed to be a fairly even handed treatment, even if the twists were telegraphed a long way off. And I could have done without Seven's somewhat self-pitying storyline too. 2 stars.
Wed, Apr 13, 2016, 6:17pm (UTC -6)
The issues raised by this episode are gradually becoming more pertinent to real life and less exclusively in the realm of drama or science fiction as more and more cases of criminal behavior are discovered to be directly attributable to certain kinds of brain abnormalities and defects that were previously hidden or unknown. These insights are relevant to even the most heinous cases perpetrated by those we are most likely to perceive as unredeemable monsters, such as pedophiles. It's only a matter of time before treatment options catch up with our understanding and we'll have a lot more 'Iko's to contend with.
Wed, Apr 27, 2016, 10:01pm (UTC -6)
Hooray, a message show... or something. I mean, I guess I have to give them credit for not making it blatantly biased in one direction and trying to show nuance, but in the end it just made the whole thing muddled. Which is the problem with message shows; when the plot is made to service the allegory or point you are trying to make rather than, y'know, be entertaining or logical. But honestly, I don't really care to talk about what Trek wants me to talk about. There were two other problems I had.

First, it's rather insulting how Iko's complete personality changed due to the nanoprobes. Actually, let me rephrase that, it's insulting to say that Iko was innocent of his crimes just because his empathy center was broken. Fine, so he doesn't feel empathy for other people. Why does that necessarily mean that he will turn into a psychopath? Perhaps he would simply be a narcissist? Or perhaps he would study philosophy, consider the needs of society, and be an upstanding citizen due to his interest in advancing society in general? Why does it have to be a sociopath?

That's why the parallel between Seven and Iko simply doesn't work. Seven absolutely had no choice in terms of being a Borg. Iko, however, did have a choice in everything he did, even if he was mentally crippled. It may have been harder for him, but he could have been a good guy anyway. And yes, maybe after his nanoprobe treatment he felt guilty, and at that point he wouldn't kill anymore, but that doesn't excuse what he did before. Seven trying to claim that Iko was not responsible is an affront to the idea of free will and personal responsibility. The plot could have continued without this silly idea that Iko was always innocent, and it distracted me every time it came up.

The second issue is Seven's obsession with this. Jammer mentioned that this deals "once again" with her guilt of being a Borg. My question is, why? When she first became human again, she didn't seem to care about what she did back then. She didn't mind being a Borg. Yes, as she grew to become more human, she left more and more of her Borgness behind. But I never really saw her as needing to be guilty about what she did. And I never really noticed it before. Given her acerbic nature, and given her Borg nature of declaring things irrelevant, I think she would declare the idea of guilt regarding what she did as a Borg as irrelevant. What did she have to feel guilty about? And when did she ever feel the need to atone? This just seemed to come up out of the blue.

All told, a muddled episode. It wasn't bad per se, but not one I really cared for.
Sun, May 1, 2016, 2:21pm (UTC -6)
Tried to watch it - got to Doc's BS anti death penalty BS and skipped to the next episode.

If they were already sentenced, then they should have been dead already - time wasting and drawing it out is torture - just kill them and be done with it.

This BS about rehabilitation .. bah .. society is forced to pay for the crimes once .. just kill them cheaply and quickly and move on.
Wed, Jun 8, 2016, 11:33pm (UTC -6)
I liked it, and I didn't think the episode came to any conclusions about the death penalty. It just presented various viewpoints and left me thinking. The argument that some killers act out of a physical compulsion they can't control is a very good one. It's what makes drug addiction so powerful a cause of criminal behaviour. I did some stupid stuff as an 11-14 year old because of a medical problem: a doctor diagnosed it, and as soon as I went on the medication the compulsion ended. Sometimes change is that quick. But of course I can still understand the family's point of view: they've lost a loved one, who's never coming back regardless of what happens to the criminal. And all that money spent on life imprisonment (20-30-40 years of it) could go on schools and hospitals. So I'd call this episode Trek at it's best. Oh yes, did I say Jeff Kober rocked. As usual.
Thu, Jun 23, 2016, 5:56pm (UTC -6)
When I first commented on this episode 9 years ago, I indicated that I was undecided about the death penalty. No longer, and I fight it every chance I get. It is a symptom of a barbarous and misguided society. But I do not think this for the reason you might suppose.

I have no fundamental objection to killing someone; if a person were trying to hurt my family, I might try to kill them, and they might deserve it. But that is in the category of self-defense, and happens quickly--it is not killing for revenge or punishment.

When a society decides that execution is to be punishment for a crime, that society must either find or create someone who is willing to kill. Someone has to pull the trigger or flip the switch. No civilized society should be involved in the business of creating killers.

I began to come to this view when I saw an interview with a death-row guard. He indicated he had carried out countless executions over decades, and one day he woke up insane. Horrible guilt wracked him, to the point that he could not function. By the time of the interview he had gotten somewhat better, but I imagine he will never be fully whole. I realized when watching the interview that I had done this to him. I had driven him insane because I allow my country to continue to execute people. No longer. I will never vote for someone who supports the death penalty again.

This is the same reason I am against torture; in order to carry it out, we must find or create someone who is willing to torture another human being, and I will NOT condone that by my society.

In this episode, it is the victim's family who carry much of that responsibility, and the satisfaction they feel from the revenge will not be enough to comfort their guilt, which WILL come.
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 10:27pm (UTC -6)
Let me unburden all your guilt. I'll pull the lever for you - and I will do it knowing that the ends justify the means.
Tue, Jul 5, 2016, 12:22pm (UTC -6)
I think of two things when I watch this one.

The Green Mile.

BAB5: Passing Through Gethsemane

It doesn't hold a candle to either.

It does make you think. What did I think? Those damn nano-probes can frellin fix EVERYTHING! (slaps forehead)

Yanks opinion of the Death Penalty? Shoot them in the court room immediately upon conviction.

A skipper for me.

2 stars I guess.
Mon, Sep 5, 2016, 12:01am (UTC -6)
In 2016, after years of Terrorist threat and countless murderous rampages in the US, is the Death Penalty issue is less about should we do it, but rather at what degree should we accept it?

This problem will be poking its head up again sooner rather than later, personally, I think the death penalty is Justified for people like Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the young Boston Marathon Bomber, or Mateen if he had lived after the rampage in Orlando.

They are threats to society, mass murderers, and ideologically motivated to their actions based on a "perception" of justice that warps the value of human life.

Does that mean I support executing every person on Death Row? No, for instance gangland killers, who killed rival gang members over territory, are a social issue, not a existential issue as Terrorism; in my view, they should be rehabilitated and reformed to perform a decent role in society. Running a drug/prostitution ring takes business sense and organizational skills, which can be used for the betterment of society.

I do believe in the death penalty, just not a panacea version.
Sat, Sep 24, 2016, 6:53pm (UTC -6)
An alien criminal gets a lobotomy. big deal (*)
Mon, Nov 21, 2016, 1:40am (UTC -6)
@John: I'm with you buddy. Jacks post is typical of the far left pc crowd. Basically if anybody doesn't agree with them its because they're intellectually inferior or morally corrupt. What a fuckwit. At least he has the decency to admit he "might be self-righteous". I would also add arrogant.

In Australia we executed our last criminal in the late 60s. Personally I would like to see it reinstated for the most extreme cases. What I would like more though, is mandatory chemical (or physical) castration for rapists and paedophiles. I would be interested to hear what jack thinks of that...

Did enjoy the episode though. 3 stars sounds about right.
Joao Sousa
Fri, Feb 24, 2017, 3:05am (UTC -6)
I find amusing how so many people think of themselves as enlightened when they condemn someone to prison for the rest of their lives. They can't seem to understand how "barbaric" their beliefs are, putting people in cages for 40 years.

Not that killing someone is more enlightened, I just pity the people who dogmatically believe (and this is the problem, dogma) putting people in jail for 40 years is the only real acceptable choice.
Fri, Mar 24, 2017, 3:54pm (UTC -6)
@Joao Sousa, you're so right. Even worse, these things aren't absolute, and come in and out of fashion. Take solitary confinement, it started out as back in the day by Quakers as a humane way of rehabilitating the criminals. The theory bring that the solitude would bring penitence (hence the term "penitentiary"). Back when Voyager was being filmed, it apparently wasn't considered to be cruel by the writers, who sent Tom Paris sent to solitary for a whole month (!!!) for disobeying an order. Now, in 2017, it's considered cruel. I just wish people had some sense of the uncertainty that exists just under the surface of their beliefs.
Fri, Mar 24, 2017, 4:01pm (UTC -6)
Neelix's gullibity keeps getting voyager into trouble. They need to revoke his privileges to contact anyone other than VOY crew.
Fri, Mar 24, 2017, 4:38pm (UTC -6)
This is an amazing point. When the Founding Fathers were making this country it was ok to own slaves.

When my Grandpa was born it was ok that women couldn't vote.

When my father was born it was ok to not want black kids in your school.

When I was born it was ok to think gay people shouldn't be allowed to marry.

What is ok today that isn't?

For the record I'm conflicted about crime/punishment because nobody will discuss why we do it. If it's to deter crime it doesn't work. If it's to keep us safe at all costs than lock em up and toss the key is ok. If it's about revenge... well I hope it isn't. At least not legally. If it's about rehabilitation than life sentences make no sense.
Sun, Sep 10, 2017, 12:38pm (UTC -6)
Perhaps if you'd ever had one of your loved ones killed or raped or battered, you wouldn't ask such a ridiculous question. I've had my home robbed 3 times, and all I wish on the people who did it is what they deserve - HARD LABOUR. We do it for justice. Revenge. To stop them doing it while in prison. And, yes, punishment does work if it isn't hampered by left wing obstructors and their army of lawyers - and when the punishment fits the crime. That means no TV/video games/pool tables. Prison is meant to be miserable.

Also, people who are sentenced to death and who actually get that sentence quickly (unlike America where, again, the left deliberately draw the process out to wreck it) save the taxpayer an absolute fortune with the added bonus that

a. They will not be able to appeal forever
b. They will not be in the news tormenting their victims' family
c. They will not be able to ever do it again
Sun, Oct 29, 2017, 4:41pm (UTC -6)
I hate what they did with the Benkarans here. Obviously the over-representation of minorities in prisons in the United States is a huge issue and all the writers did here was reinforce stereotypes. Very disappointed.
William H
Tue, Nov 28, 2017, 1:36pm (UTC -6)
I pretty much hate this episode. It makes Voyager complicit in murder in the name of the Prime Directive. Its preachy yet lacks the courage to preach anything beyond the utterly asinine "maybe don't execute mentally ill people if they've been cured".

Also, its just rather dull.
Wed, Dec 6, 2017, 6:13pm (UTC -6)
I liked this episode for its balanced examination of the death penalty and, once again, 7's role in providing the counterpoint. Decent guest performances for Iko, the reformed murderer, and Yediq the hardened "cop". The start of the episode was a bit abrupt but there was no padding in this episode.

Thought it was creatively written to produce the scenario under which Iko is reformed and feels guilt. I can live with the nanoprobes doing this kind of thing. Yediq needed to believe Iko was reformed so the scene where the reformed prisoner hands over his phaser was good -- I thought Iko might phaser himself as he wanted to die for his guilt.

But the one gripe with the scene in which Voyager is attacked is why did Janeway take so long to react? There should have been no reason to allow the enemy fire to cause the prisoners to escape -- ultimately, this is a plot device I suppose.

I think the strength of the episode is 7 (once again) with her emotions "learning". The ending with Iko being taken away to die hits the right notes. Janeway have their usual "mother/daughter" talk which worked better than in some prior episodes.

7 being a Borg and "killing" so many innocent people and then feeling guilt and something in common with Iko -- I thought that part was a bit manufactured since it is an entirely different situation than Iko and his brain condition. But in the end, she's a great character and maybe her feelings aren't so unrealistic or unjustified.

Neelix had a role to play here that is well-suited for him -- taken advantage of by a true criminal even though his race is discriminated against. It was another dynamic that surely rings true for some cases of criminal and "sympathizer".

3 stars for "Repentance" -- somewhat predictable (you knew there would be a prison break or revolt) and that Iko and 7 would develop some kind of bond. But it's a good episode for sure -- Voyager is capable of producing these meaningful dramas (like "Lineage") well. Looking at the death penalty through sci-fi and alien cultures is perfect for Trek.
Mon, Jan 1, 2018, 1:11pm (UTC -6)
The episode is clearly in favor of death penalty under specific circumstances.
Neelix last ironic look to the second prisoner, who was trying to save his life through manipulation is all the money.
Prince of Space
Fri, Feb 2, 2018, 3:41am (UTC -6)
Perhaps I’m dense, but why is a justice system having a death penalty that serves a modicum of revenge automatically a bad thing?

Everyone here discussing this is coming from the perspective of never having had a loved one murdered. So it’s just hypothetical posturing.

But for someone who HAS had it happen, I can try and empathize and it’s easy to see why an eye for an eye might be comforting.

1) You don’t wake up every day and know your loved one is dead while the person that did it is cared for, fed, and given medical treatment when needed. And oh yeah, every paycheck when your taxes are deducted you know you’re paying for it.

2) Every parole hearing, every occasional news story referencing the crime, you have to relive it. Life sentences are not always that; even Charles Manson had parole hearings. It’s easy for us to say that’s just how it works, but I can’t even begin to imagine the horror compounded on top of the original crime that as long as they live, I’m never really free of them.

Now that said, I can think outside my box and understand those who advocate for life imprisonment. IF it was truly life imprisonment, no regular parole hearings or time off for good behavior BS.

It’s a complicated issue for sure, but I would tend to err on the side of the victims and in that regard I don’t entirely see why revenge is automatically wrong. If someone brutally murdered one of my loved ones, I would find it much easier to eventually “move on” knowing the person responsible was gone. And wouldn’t I deserve that comfort, whether we call it revenge or peace of mind?
Sun, Apr 29, 2018, 7:32am (UTC -6)
Oh, dear. Oh, dear. Oh dear, oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear. Agh !

Seven, Seven, Seven, usually I agree with you, and you are definitely one of my favourite characters - but, when you are wrong, boy, are you wrong ! Keep to science - which you are a whiz at - but, leave ethics to others. It isn’t your forte.

Janeway, I appreciate that you are a humane person, which is a good thing to be; but sometimes, you really need to Mind Your Own Bee’swax, and not be an interfering prig.

Where to start ?

1. OK, so Iko has some redeeming features. But that is the point. A very nice person who goes wrong only by committing one murder, is as truly guilty of murder as a genocidal tyrant who kills millions over many years. It is immaterial to the reality of having incurred the guilt of committing murder, that the one-time murderer is in all other respects a very nice and good person. The fact of his having committed murder, suggests that his good qualities may after all not be as good or solid as they seem to be. The reality of his being a murderer cannot be hand-waved into non-existence by an appeal to his having unmurderous characteristics. So it is perfectly fair to expect the otherwise good person to pay for what he has done.

2. A second very dubious proposition: if Iko’s murderousness has a medical basis, he is not a murderer.

This is equally false, and for a similar reason. It tries to hand-wave away moral responsibility and guilt, by pointing to physiological factors. IOW, it evades the moral issues, by trying to explain them away as issues of physiology. But in that case, why punish anyone ? If serial murderers have health problems, it is absurd to punish them - for the argument abolishes moral responsibility, by explaining it as malfunctioning physiology.

Why reward people, when their seeming goodness is apparently to be ascribed to nothing more than a socially convenient interplay of the sub-atomic particles of which their physiology is made ? They are lucky, not good.

The mistake is to treat one factor in human action - physiological well-being - in human actions - as the only significant one. Issues of health influence moral responsibility, and can diminish or increase one’s *capacity to be responsible* ; but they cannot replace responsibility. Moral responsibility, if it exists at all, has moral significance for how people behave. Seven and Janeway failed to consider the possibility that maybe Iko’s brain physiology made him more, not less, responsible for his actions, and therefore, more and not less guilty.

Such comments are about human ethics - but Voyager presents us with no others. We Terran viewers are invited to make moral judgements about the behaviour of Vaadwaur, Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Ferengi, Borg, Ocampans, Brunali, and many others - but always on the basis of Terran ethics of some sort. If a race is alien, why should the optimistic liberal humanism of ST’s creators be relevant to it ? Maybe, for aliens to execute murderers and seeming murderers is an act of supreme civic virtue, which it would be monstrous negligence of said aliens to omit. But does ST ever consider that possibility ? Insofar as its writers fail to do so, they are reducing aliens from being genuinely “other”, to being Rubber-Headed Aliens of the Week.

This episode was well-presented, but let down by its morally-confused message. Since its message was its heart, the episode had feet of clay. 2.5 stars seems fair.
Elliot Wilson
Tue, May 8, 2018, 5:40pm (UTC -6)
Wow, it's been eight years since then, and what a few years can do to a guy, eh? I'd like to apologize for being so harsh to everyone who saw that. I've matured more than a little bit, mostly thanks to my friends guiding me along the way, but I still support the death penalty, and can articulate my thoughts better. I think that some crimes are despicable that death is the only choice. When you look at something like the raw rape statistics and how the offenders who get the punishment they deserve is only a small fraction of the whole, considering how damaging and offensive rape is, it becomes discouraging. Look at all the mass rapes of WWII. Those inhuman animals certainly didn't deserve to live, to go home and marry and have kids and live a normal life. Adam Lanza, that sick puppy, in the time since I first wrote that, butchered 20 innocent kids and teachers. Ripped them into shreds. While denying us justice was cowardly, I still believe if he had lived, he would have deserved death. Let's not pretend that crime doesn't have an emotional component to it, especially something vicious and evil like rape and murder.
Mon, Sep 10, 2018, 1:53pm (UTC -6)
@ james04
" Why reward people, when their seeming goodness is apparently to be ascribed to nothing more than a socially convenient interplay of the sub-atomic particles of which their physiology is made ? They are lucky, not good. "

Well, 24th Century Starfleet/humanity does seem to have pretty much done away with unequal monetary/material rewards/statuses. Even now it's an at least somewhat reasonable view that good characteristics are inherited and so, if they do deserve some rewards, don't deserve as great rewards and greater statuses as they currently lead to.
Sun, Oct 14, 2018, 4:38pm (UTC -6)
I won't comment on the ethical issues, but on a couple of practical ones:

Some rinky-dink private ship attacks Voyager, knocks out power to several decks and the transporters? Yeah, sure. No backup power supply for the cells? Sure. That would make a lot more sense than a separate power system for the bloody holodeck.

And then... cells with only forcefields blocking the door. Here's a reasonable solution: have a physical, barred door, reinforced with a forcefield.

Or here's a much more effective one: have no door. That's what transporters are for. In the case of catastrophe, either (1) live with the fact the prisoners are going down with the ship or (2) use sealed escape pods as your cells, with no internal controls.

And even with all the cells opened, three armed guards at the end of that corridor should have had no trouble whatsoever stopping the escape of fewer than a dozen prisoners. I did have to laugh when Janeway lauded Tuvok's security credentials, since we all knew an escape was inevitable.
Sun, Nov 11, 2018, 12:10am (UTC -6)
Well done and not as crazy-preachy as it might have been. Voyager is usually good at keeping the truly heavy handed preachiness at bay.

The guest actors did a good job selling their parts.

The analogies to our Earthly justice system were extremely obvious, but other than definitely condemning the unnecessary beatings and cruelty, the ep didn't really try to tell us what to think about capital punishment, it just threw it all out there for consideration. Good job covering all the bases while still telling an interesting story and getting Seven talking about her own guilt.
Sun, May 26, 2019, 3:58pm (UTC -6)
Dear Jammer you said, “The Nygeans also have a rather strange sentencing policy, in that families of victims decide the punishment for those convicted of a murder. This is another example of something that exists far outside the reality of the issue being dissected”. But I am afraid you are wrong on that and this is because you are not aware of the traditional Islamic criminal jurisprudence called “Qisas” which is a rule (right or wrong) in many Islamic countries on this very planet we call Earth.
Qisas is “"eye for an eye", or retributive justice. In traditional Islamic law (sharia), the doctrine of qisas provides for a punishment analogous to the crime. Qisas is available to the victim or victim's heirs against a convicted perpetrator of murder or intentional bodily injury. In the case of murder, qisas gives the right to take the life of the killer, if the latter is convicted and the court approves. Those who are entitled to qisas have the option of receiving monetary compensation (diyya) or granting pardon to the perpetrator instead.
Qisas is one of several forms of punishment in traditional Islamic criminal jurisprudence, the others being Hududand Ta'zir.
The legal systems of Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and some Nigerian states currently provide for qisas.”
And as usual Voyager is so right on that point. A great story I personally loved it.
hats off to the knowledgeable writers of Voyager.
Sun, Dec 22, 2019, 4:10pm (UTC -6)
The good: Seven at her usual best acting talents.

The bad: The ending was a bummer.
Sleeper Agent
Thu, Jan 9, 2020, 12:01pm (UTC -6)
I didn't want to comment on this episode as I find it somewhat mediocre; but instead I would like to comment on the comments, in particular those who support the death penalty.

1. Statistics prove that the death penalty does not deter people from committing violent crimes. This is a fact, nothing to argue about.

2. Innocent people have been, and are continuing to be, executed because of wrongful convictions. Fact.

3. Executions (in the USA at least) often cost more tax money than a life time in prison. Once again, fact, nothing to argue about.

4. How can you execute somebody without committing murder yourself?

5. We as humans decide how much a human life is worth. Why would you decide that a human life is fundamentally disposable? This is deliberately giving your own life less value. How can we as humankind hope to one day reach the stars if we do not first start seeing all life, not the least ourselves, as sacred?

Ultimately it's not political, but rather a philosophical question with some solid facts to boost.
Mike G
Sat, Feb 8, 2020, 6:07pm (UTC -6)
I just watched this episode and found it interesting but the moment when the victims family refused to consider the evidence then chose to continue their insistence on the death penalty, in that moment they in my view lost their right to call themselves victims and are in reality just bloodthirsty bastards.
Thu, Mar 5, 2020, 2:31pm (UTC -6)
Fact: we as a society have murdered innocent people in our practice of the death penalty. Who is to pay for those injustices?
Wed, Apr 29, 2020, 5:48am (UTC -6)
Anyone else get the impression that Iko had been genetically born to be violent criminals?
Sun, Jun 28, 2020, 2:07pm (UTC -6)
Another quiet winner of an episode from Voyager’s final season. Too bad TNG didn’t have more of these Trekkian morality plays in its final season instead of their endless fun with DNA/fun with Holodeck weirdness/fun with spatial anomaly episodes. Voyager has had its share of those and then some but their final season came together nicely and quietly.
Sun, Jul 12, 2020, 9:40pm (UTC -6)
A deeply frustrating episode that sets out some difficult questions and features some well-played scenes between Seven and Iko, but ultimately trips itself up when it's time to actually say something about the issues at hand. Iko's plight is an interesting one, but his very literal developing of a conscience feels like a very easy way to sidestep the more difficult question of whether a person can change, and what good killing them for their crimes actually accomplishes. And then there's the B-plot, which speaks very plainly to the issue of mass incarceration. It starts off well enough but completely undermines everything that came before when the episode opts for a cynical, and frankly quite racist, "he actually did deserve it" ending. Sure, it made me think, but the more I actually thought about this episode, the more frustrating I wound up finding it.
Fri, Oct 9, 2020, 8:40pm (UTC -6)
It is late 2020. We still do not know why criminals commit their crimes. Our system isn't totally dissimilar from the Nygeans' in terms giving the victim's family a say. Almost 30 years ago, our Supreme Court held so-called "victim impact" statements can be introduced in a prosecution. Previously, the Court had held that the only relevant sentencing factors were those aggravating and mitigating factors relating to the defendant - the brutality of the crime, remorse, etc.

The Fifth Amendment presupposes the constitutionality of the death penalty, by stating a person cannot be "deprived of life" without "due process of law." At the time of the Framers, the death penalty literally, by the terms of Constitutional text, ok.

Some members of the Supreme Court have pointed out a very serious problem with today's application of the death penalty. On the one hand, the Court has said there must be "uniformity" in its admistration-to provide a sense of predictability and rationality. On the other hand, the Court has also stated that the jury or judge must give individualized consideration in each case. Reasonable juries can disagree, on the same set of facts, as to the death penalty is justified. Justice Harry Blackmun, at the end of his career, changed course re: his position on the death penalty, stating the need for uniformity and the need for individualized considerartiob were fundamentally at loggerheads. "I shall no longer tinker with the machinery of death," he said.

Some of the more liberal Justices have stated that the death penalty is cruel and unusual - cruel in the fact that people are kept on death row for decades. Some of the conservatives have countered with the fact that a defendant can draw out an appeals process, by challenging the sentence first in state court, then by way of habeas relief under AEDPA, and then, if those efforts fail, by asserting ineffective assistance of counsel.

This is all a lot to parse. But, as Jammer said, people - and Supreme Court judges - tend to place the visceral over the logical when making anti- and pro-death penalty arguments.

Personally, I would not feel comfortable living in a a state that operated its death row as a machine assembly line, brushing aside tough facts.The number of these states is now only a handful. In part because these states pant for death so viscerally, other states have recoiled from its use, especially in the face of compelling evidence of actual innocence in some cases. Is it, as Blackstone said, better to let ten guilty men go free than tl let one innocent man go to his death? I think so. The pro-death-penalty states aren't even asking the question, which would be a start
Sarjenka's Brother
Sat, Dec 5, 2020, 5:59pm (UTC -6)
Good three-star "issue" episode. These kinds of shows make for a good one-hour, contained episode.

I always liked Jeff Kober on "China Beach," so nice to see him turn up here. Co-star Megan Gallagher (Wayloo) has been on "Voyager," too. (Also in an "issue" episode.)
Tue, Feb 9, 2021, 1:02am (UTC -6)
I really enjoy this episode, but even these good ones fall into the Voyager trap of lazy writing. And it's rarely even necessarily.

"Our home is only 13 light years away, could you take us home?" "Oh sorry, we're headed in the other direction." "Oh, ok, we'll have a ship come here then - it'll take several days, and you'll have to set up a prison" "Sounds good".

Oh come on. This is Voyager. We know they can make 13 light years in a matter of anywhere between half a day an a couple of days, depending on the episode. But when as Janeway EVER refused to help someone whose ship just blew up? They can't go two days out of their way to help these people? So they'll just sit in place and way for several days anyway? This was a completely pointless piece of writing. They could have been much farther from home, or the fastest drop off point could have just been a rendezvous with another ship in the first place. There was simply no need for the comment that makes Janeway look stingy, and it's uncharacteristic.

At warp 8.5, they could have been there and back in
Michael Miller
Wed, Oct 13, 2021, 3:18pm (UTC -6)
Is it a true scientific fact that the Pineal Gland is what lets you feel guilt and other moral feelings? Is that the biological basis of altruism?
Wed, Oct 13, 2021, 8:38pm (UTC -6)
@Michael Miller
I think the pineal gland thing is a load of pseudo-scientific nonsense. Having said that the episode has great philosophical value and brings up serious questions about criminality. Curiously the prisoner who said he was being racially profiled turned out to be guilty, an unusual stance for the producers given their political leanings.

Over all score: 8/10
Mon, Oct 18, 2021, 5:36am (UTC -6)
The episode had some interesting aspects. At this point Doc is a bit of a loose cannon. So much goes on in this episode without asking Janeway for permission.

@TH agree on the lazy writing thing: "Set up a prison"..."Sounds good" Lol

Taking on a packet of condemned prisoners is a new one....madness to begin with, but it did allow a variety of situations to develop. 3 stars

By now I think that somebody in the crew would have figured out a connection between the transporter's pattern buffer and group stasis. Just get'em in there and press "storage-mode". Tuvok can be in charge, and deliver lines like "Approaching capacity, 62% chance of buffer overload" (to build tension) or "System shut down imminent, Captain. We may need Mr. Neelix to prepare extra Leola root compote."
Sun, Dec 12, 2021, 12:22am (UTC -6)
So... the takeway here is that people who commit crimes do so because they're born that way and have no power to stop themselves from doing so? If that's true then I don't see how the Nygeans are wrong in policing the Benkarans more than others in their society. The writers vindicated the Nygeans when the same guy who whined about getting profiled was the one who led the escape plot, shot down guards with pleasure, and showed no remorse in his conversation with Neelix.

This episode was a complete disaster. The writers were trying to create a bleeding heart plea against the death penalty but instead advocated for racial/species profiling, the concept of predestination, and paternalism.

Thu, Jul 14, 2022, 5:42pm (UTC -6)
HotDog said: “...advocated for racial/species profiling, the concept of predestination, and paternalism.”

Yes, on one hand we have a “racial profiling is warranted” subplot, in which the race that is biologically essentialized as “criminals” and “animals” turns out to really be untrustworthy and violent. And on the other hand we have a “guy commits crime because he's neurologically predisposed to” story.

This episode gets touted as being “anti capital punishment”, but these two subplots sell the two biggest tropes used to justify capital punishment: certain people are naturally predisposed to crime, and cannot be realistically reformed.

The episode obviously intends its two subplots to mirror each other. In one story we're meant to learn the dangers of trusting, and in the other we're meant to learn the benefits of trusting, with each of these subplots designed to seduce a certain type of audience member (“See the system really is prejudicial!”, “See, some people are born criminal!”) before showing them why their prejudices are wrong (“See, the system works!”, “See, criminals can be reformed!”). But the episode has the opposite effect. The “dangers of trusting” story is loaded with nods to black Americans (it has its own version of the 13/50 meme), and the “benefits of trusting” story turns criminality into a biological thing.

Note too that the episode places most of its “anti capital punishment” dialogue in the mouth of the Doctor, who is bound by the Hippocratic oath and his professional duty to “do no harm”. This is a kind of get-out-of-jail free card for the episode; the biggest voice against capital punishment in the episode can be dismissed, because he's literally a guy incapable of thinking or acting otherwise.

A braver episode would make Janeway the focus, and use her as a mouthpiece to justify the Federation's long-standing opposition to the death penalty (the Feds had no death penalty in the TNG era, and generally had no death penalty in the TOS era, though it used the threat of death to maintain the sequestering of Talos IV, and allowed some alien worlds to uphold the practice)

In the real world, in most countries, most people instinctively favor capital punishment. It's a knee-jerk, lizard-brain thing. Intellectual types and social scientists, meanwhile, tend to oppose it. With the bias of courts being so huge, and wrongful conviction rates being high, they see the death penalty as immoral because it leads to lots of innocent deaths. And from a utilitarian standpoint it doesn't deter crime, is more expensive (due to the numerous appeals and retrials), tends to lead to more violent crime and make criminals more violent, and arguably has a brutalizing effect on society (society begins to value life less according to some IMO dubious studies). Throw in the fact that the death penalty is inconsistently applied (poor people get hit with it more, can't afford the legal representation etc etc), disproportionately targets minorities and lower classes, and hinges on a belief in hard free will (criminality's less a choice than a product of socioeconomic and biological causal chains), and it would make sense for a utopian organization like the Federation to be against it.

Indeed, Thomas Moore, who coined the term “utopia” in the book “Utopia”, the granddaddy of utopian fiction, said explicitly: “For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”

Moore was getting at the idea that civilizations largely create their own criminals. So imagine Janeway defending the Federation's anti capital punishment stance along scientific grounds. The Federation has no poverty or class exploitation, so that's the largest percentage of criminality erased (and the erasing of the neurological problems poverty causes- eg alienated, poorly socialised people who are “nurtured” into picking up antisocial personality disorders etc). For the extremely small number of criminals produced by tumors, genes, brain problems or chemical imbalances, the Feds can “designer baby” these problems away. They may even be able to screen for psychopathy before birth. And on the rare occasion criminals are produced, the Feds have unlimited funds to sequester criminals and reform them.

Or for a more interesting angle, revolve the episode around whether or not we can have true moral responsibility without hard free will. Make Janeway a semi-compatibilist, and pit her against an alien determinist.

Or go the other direction. The chief argument for capital punishment is that vengeance is justified, provides closure and makes victims (or the families of victims) feel better. So why not make an episode focused on the science of vengeance? Spiritual and religious types have always been for forgiveness and against vengeance (“an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" etc etc), but we have a lot of behavioral science showing that vengeance prolongs the unpleasantly of the original offense, makes victims feel worse and so on. You can do a cool “death penalty” episode with Janeway preaching forgiveness for some massively evil crime, like a Christian or Buddhist, only done from a more scientific perspective.

Anyway, this episode wastes a good topic. Season 7 had more "social issues" episodes than any other Voyager season, most of them very good, but this one seems a little bit too muddled.
Sun, Jan 8, 2023, 1:32am (UTC -6)
My only issue here is that a space faring civilization would not know that some of its people have in-born neurological differences which affect their moral and ethical capacity, driving them to be violent. In the 21st century, we know that psychopaths (now called anti-social personality disorder) have physiological brain structures different than those who aren't. Yet we don't let that stop them from being punished for violent crimes because psychopathy does not in of itself mean that somebody is going to become a violent criminal. There are lots of psychopaths in our society who have never committed crimes. Many know, factually, that they are psychopaths from an early age.

Because "Repetentance" is dealing with a hypothetical alien scenario, it's not quite clear if we can draw the same conclusions; but presumably this is all meant to be a metaphor for humanity, so I have to look at the parallels. Since psychopaths can live full lives without ever harming anybody, then it would likely be irrelevant to guilt if a murderous psychopath could have their neurological structures recalibrated to that of a neurotypical human being. The reason is that psychopathy in of itself does not guarantee the propensity for crime, but other factors, such as free will.

The main aspect of the episode that I found the most flawed is that the family gets to decide the sentence. In what reality is that objective justice? So, the issue of Iko's brain matters less to me than the fact that people who aren't qualified legal professionals get to decide sentencing. Furthermore, Janeway agrees with the medical evidence that Iko is essentially not the same person who committed the crime, yet refuses to consider asylum under the Prime Directive. Was it not Voyager's medical technology which unknowingly interfered and transformed Iko into a different person? A feat that the Nygeans would not have been able to accomplish on their own?
Mon, Dec 4, 2023, 8:19pm (UTC -6)
Jurors are not qualified legal professionals, and yet they routinely are called upon to impose the sentence in death penalty cases. In some states, only a jury can impose a sentence of death; a judge cannot.
Dirty Dancer
Tue, Dec 5, 2023, 9:11pm (UTC -6)
Caloceptri - so you want a single individual to decide if you live or die?

Submit a comment

I agree to the terms of use

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2023 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. Terms of use.