Episode Guide/Review by Charlynn Schmiedt
Season 1, Episode 8
Stardate 48623.5 (2371)
Episode 8 of 168 Released in Star Trek: Voyager
Episode 8 of 168 Produced in Star Trek: Voyager
Production Number: 109
Original airdate: March 13, 1995
Directed by David Livingston
Story by Brannon Braga
While investigating mineral deposits in an asteroid belt, Chakotay, Kim and Torres discover dead bodies in varying states of decay. When they beam back, a dead body comes with them instead of Ensign Kim. Harry finds himself on the Vhnori homeworld, the source of the dead bodies found on the asteroid, and must find a way back to Voyager.
This episode takes on several issues dealing with death, but looks at euthanasia and the afterlife in particular. Both topics are addressed within the culture of the Vhnori.
The Vhnori believe in an afterlife where they reunite with their deceased loved ones, much in the same way many humans believe they will reunite with their dead friends and family in Heaven (and equivalents). The Vhnori are so comfortable with their belief in the “next Emanation,” as they call it, that Vhnori culture endorses euthanasia as a method of dealing with life-ending illness; instead of prolonging the illness as long as possible and incurring costs the family members cannot afford, the person with the illness removes the burden from his/her family by choosing to die shortly after the diagnosis. This aspect of death is explored through the Vhnori character Hatil.
The other aspect of death explored in this episode deals with Ptera, another Vhnori who was revived shortly after her death when she was accidentally beamed aboard Voyager. She is disturbed when she finds out she has not reached the next Emanation as she thought she would. Instead, she has found herself in a foreign world, feeling lost and alone.
The Voyager crew’s presence fractures the lifelong-held Vhnori belief in the afterlife for both alien characters. Harry’s description of the bodies he saw on the asteroid makes Hatil think twice about wanting to die. For Ptera, waking up to find that she had not entered the next Emanation is as disorienting as waking up in an alternate reality. She feels she has been robbed of the chance of reuniting with her deceased loved ones and has a difficult time coping with that. All she wants is to return to her home, where she can continue living her life in a place that makes sense, and perhaps make it to the next Emanation when she does die.
I give the writers credit for taking on a topic like death and asking questions such as “What happens to us after we die?” It’s powerful, thought-provoking Trek. However, see the Flaws section for more on this.
I like the conversation between Janeway and Kim at the end. Her statement of how fast things go and taking that for granted when you’re younger reminds me of her “I don’t seem to get to know any of them” when referring to her crew in “Caretaker.” Clearly, she’d like to embrace the present more fully, reflect, and get closer to her crew. We’ll see this happen as Voyager continues its journey home.
This episode is all over the place because of the amount of material it’s trying to cover. It has elements of questioning when someone should die (and should someone choose when they die?), as well as the afterlife. Instead of touching on both of these elements superficially, I would have chosen one and run with it. Either choice covered in greater depth would have made an even more powerful episode.
Harry is perhaps a little too eager to go on the away mission. You know he’s doomed because the camera gives him a close-up at the end of the teaser. Alternate title for this episode: “I see dead people in spider webs.”
“I just want to give you a chance to reflect on what’s happened. This may not make much sense to you now, a young man at the beginning of his career. But one of the things you’ll learn as you move up the ranks and get a little older is that… you wish you had more time in your youth to really, absorb all the things that happened to you. It goes by so fast. It’s so easy to become jaded, to treat the extraordinary like just another day at the office. But sometimes there are experiences which transcend all that. You’ve just had one, Mr. Kim, and I want you to live with it for a little while. Write about it, if you feel like it. Paint. Express yourself in some fashion. The Bridge will still be there in two days.”
—Janeway to Harry Kim
“No artifacts, no inscriptions… just some naked dead people.”
—B’Elanna Torres, while exploring an asteroid with Vhnori corpses
“I’m not certain, but I am certain about this. What we don’t know about death is far, far greater than what we do know.” —Janeway
Harry Kim. He likes to die.
This episode had the potential to be among Trek’s finest because it dealt with the heavy subject of death, but it tries doing too much. The result is a superficial glimpse at all the issues it covers and doesn’t reach its potential. It pans out into an average episode.
(5 out of 10)
Jerry Hardin as Neria
Jefrey Alan Chandler as Hatil Garan
Cecile Callan as Ptera
Martha Hackett as Seska
Robin Groves as Loria