The COVID19 pandemic is no laughing matter. If you’re reading this blog post, I don’t want you to think that I’m ignoring its widespread and global impact. The purpose of this post is to provide a short break from the monotony of #StayHome mandates, and bring a little Trek joy into your life. One of Star Trek’s overall messages is that of hope. Hope for a better future. There is still hope, and I’ll hold onto that with every ounce of my being.
Since the genre’s conception, Star Trek has offered up a myriad of themes throughout its fifty year history. With over 770 episodes within thirty-five series across the board, I won’t bore you with a Borg style analysis of them all. I’ll just focus on one of my favorite incarnations, Star Trek Voyager.
Voyager, which originally aired from January 1995 (I was ten) to May 2001, is the third series of the franchise established by Gene Roddenberry. As a fan for all my thirty-five years (just realized that number correlates with how many series there are), I can attest that it took Voyager a bit longer than most to stand on its own two feet. Unfortunately, many fellow Trek fans call it “a soap opera in space.” But I think they underestimate its potential. However, to this day I still cringe at one of its opening scenes between Captain Janeway and fallen-from-grace problem child, Tom Paris.
What were we talking about?
Now I’m not sure if this is a theme or a constantly rehashed plot device, but Voyager’s writers certainly loved throwing whatever disease they could at the crew. Let’s take a look at just five of them, and I’ll recommend episodes you can watch this weekend (all available on Netflix or CBS All Access – neither are sponsoring this post).
1. The Vidiian Phage
From their first encounter with the Delta Quadrant aliens, the Vidiians, in season one’s episode Phage to their last in Good Shepherd, Captain Janeway and the crew swing between wanting to help and wanting – no, needing – to escape a people whose pandemic reached the height of their bell curve long before Voyager entered the system. The classic struggle of keeping their humanity and values in check got the crew into trouble than they bargained for, as the Phage is one of the few, true pandemics in the Trek franchise. While the topic of pandemic is a sensitive one for today’s time, the lessons woven throughout these episodes are worth their weight in gold.
Episode Recommendations: Phage, Faces, Lifesigns, Deadlock, Coda, Resolutions
2. Janeway’s and Commander Chakotay’s Virus in “Resolutions“
And here we are with Voyager’s Season Three, Episode 25 titled Resolutions. Janeway and Chakotay are bitten by some alien insect (I’ve always thought of it akin to a mosquito) on an away mission. For weeks The Doctor tried to find a cure, but eventually they had to return to the planet of origin to leave their commanding officers behind. It’s a great “what if” episode showing human resilience and determination. Plus, a little “love story” doesn’t hurt either. I highly recommend you watch this.
3. The Caretaker’s Unnamed Disease
The first time we meet Lieutenant B’Ellana Torres’ Klingon temper is on the Ocampan home world, where she and Ensign Harry Kim are sent to be cared for by Kes’ people after contracting a mysterious disease brought on by The Caretaker’s medical tests. Every crew has to start somewhere. So as corny as you may feel some parts of this first episode is, you’re going to love the friendship between Kim and Torres. They’re very much so the definition of ying and yang, and both fierce in their own ways.
The Caretaker, as he’s called by the Ocampa and Kazon, brought ships from across the galaxy in order to find a mate. When certain humanoids proved highly incompatible, they contracted the disease. To this day I find the character immensely selfish. Let’s not be like the Caretaker, okay?
4. Favorite Son‘s Transformation Virus
The first two seasons of Voyager are riddled with awkward scenarios, and Favorite Son isn’t an exception. Okay, it was only awkward to a ten year old who harbored an immense crush on Harry Kim. There. I’ve admitted it. Imagine my dismay seeing my favorite character surrounded by women one Wednesday night.
Every man’s dream, right? (I’m not a man).
This scenario isn’t unique to Voyager. The Original Series and Next Gen writers loved using this particular plot device. But was Harry’s “disease” or “transformation” real or truly manufactured? You’ll just have to watch to find out!
5. Macrocosm‘s Giant “Insects”
Decidedly one of the creepier episodes for my past self, I HATED hearing the droning noise the SFX folks gave to the macrovirus’ invading the ship. If I’d been onboard, terror would’ve rendered me incapable of doing my duty. Early Trek writers loved including that “creep factor.” That aside, it was a great Janeway development episode, and showcased her resolve to get her whole crew home that she had throughout the entire series.
Just as Janeway reached a tipping point in this episode, humanity’s reached one as well. Everyone’s been affected by COVID19 in one way or another. What really counts is how we choose to handle ourselves. However, I don’t recommend suiting up like Captain Janeway and going after macro mutations.
1. Admiral Janeway’s Borg Virus in Endgame: Parts 1&2.
2. Ensign Lindsay Ballard’s Kobali transformation post mortem in Ashes to Ashes.
3. Lieutenant Tom Paris’ Warp Ten barrier transformation in Threshold.
4. Ensign Harry Kim’s, ahem, STD, via a crewmember of The Varro ship in The Disease.
5. The “computer virus” that kept Ensign Kim and Lt. Torres from leaving stasis pods in The Thaw.
6. Kes’ early elogium in Elogium.
7. Lieutenant Tuvok’s degenerative neurological disease in Endgame: Parts 1&2.
As you can see, my original thesis statement is correct – the Voyager writing room loved giving the crew travelling across the Delta Quadrant towards home a run for their money. Sometimes the story lines made sense. Sometimes they didn’t. But I can say for certain it made great Wednesday night viewing (then Friday nights when the show moved to UPN).
After I finished my homework, of course.
Here’s a little Voyager tour to brighten your day!