Welcome back to Underrated Trek, where I take a special look at Star Trek episodes that I love…which may not be the most popular or even liked by most. I've done two or three of these now on episodes I strongly disagreed with, I mean so much so I refused to watch them again, and there is another out there it's time to discuss. We're back to Voayger as we look at...
After returning from an away mission members of the crew begin experiences vivid hallucinations of a war which they did not participate. And yet they appear to be on the front lines! These hallucinations become so vivid that Neelix even holds Naomi hostage convinced she is in danger.
The whole crew begins to experience these hallucinations, which are real memories of a massive forced evacuation on an alien planet. A very violent and deadly one. The crew track down a planet the memories are coming from and beam down to find no battle damage at all.
The crew do find a giant monument which was erected as a reminder of a real battle that took place there ages ago, The memorial feeds people the real memories of the battle, making whoever receives them relive the events. Recognizing the importance of the memorial Janeway decides to leave it as it is so that the battle that took place is never forgotten.
What I Liked:
The episode sets up its mystery very well. We know that the crew on the away mission did not participate in the battle but the way the crew are remembering and reacting makes us wonder just what is going on. And I like how it wasn't a villain of the week or some strange alien behind it using mind tricks. Nice to have a change of pace.
I have no firsthand experience of PTSD, nor will I pretend I do, but I think the episode portrays it very well. Whether it be Chakotay having nightmares or Harry wracked with guilt or Tom's misplaced rage or Neelix's flashbacks causing him to freak-out in a really good scene. These are really all things a person who engaged in battle (where innocents were slaughtered) would react. It doesn't sugarcoat it by making the officers better by the end they are still terribly affected even as the episode wraps up. Neelix and Seven have a great scene where Neelix asks how Seven handles her guilt from her time as Borg.
I love when episode films outside it makes the planet feel real. Though I couldn't find out where the episode was filmed. And I will go to my grave insisting that the memorial is the same one as in the old episode "The Paradise Syndrome"
What I Hated:
Ok so let's get into the meat of this. The thing that really pissed ne off. How it ended! This seems odd typing this after Memorial Day so just remember this is all opinion and I mean no disrespect. That being said, that ending was awful. The crew realize that the transmitter was malfunctioning, so do they fix it or shut it down? I mean the whole crew is suffering PTSD symptoms implanted in there heads without there consent about a battle they did not fight in. But it comes up that they have no right to shut it down. Someone put a lot of time and effort making the memorial so that what happened would never be forgotten. This is the point Janeway agrees with, saying they will launch a warning buoy so that people will be warned. The problem isn't that the memorial should remain intact, the problem is that it shouldn't forcing people to relive the events giving them serious psychological harm. That isn't learning about what happened it's been forced to experience it. Those are very different things. PTSD is very serious and not something that can be hand waved away. It isn't like having a toothache and you just fix the tooth, these things linger and stay with you. I imagine that most people with the level of PTSD shown here never really get over it they just learn to live with it. Forcing this on people is wrong, in my opinion. Now you can say that the memorial was not created by them and in a way they have no right to decide to deactivate, it's not there property to tamper with. What I never understood was, why not shut it down and just leave the memorial standing there as it is? That comes up but is rejected. Why not have the warning buoy explain what is on the planet and encourage people to check it out? Without the psychological assault! There are a lot of ethical debates you could have over this and in rewatching the episode I still think Janeway was wrong.
Now to be fair the other side of the argument is sound. Horrible events such as Vietnam and dozens of others needs to be remembered, and re experiencing them is a solid way to do that. But at the price of a person's psyche? Where do you draw the line? This episode brings up very difficult topics which as I have said before I am neither qualified or inclined to discuss. I understand why the memorial exists, as the words on the memorial state : "Words alone cannot convey the suffering. Words alone cannot prevent what happened here from happening again. Beyond words lies experience. Beyond experience lies truth. Make this truth your own."
So that was fun. Memorials are important but not at the expense of someone else's mental health. The episode mentions Gettysburg as an example of a memorial. Yes it is a very important place but no one is forced to go and/or literally act out what happened.
And while I liked how the episode shows what PTSD can do to a person, Tom being a jerk to Belanna never really worked for me. It is way to late in the series run for him to be treating her like that. The scene would have worked if he had accepted her support rather than yelling at her.
Fast Forward Moment:
The whole teaser where Belana gives Tom a vintage TV (circa 1950's) and the scenes of him watching it are dull until he starts hallucinating. Does anyone else find it weird Voyager has 1950's cartoons in its database?
Final Thoughts: As I have noted before Trek is at its best when it not only tackles an issue but evokes a reaction from its audience. And its portrayal of PTSD and why we need to never forget when people give up their lives in tragedy makes its point. Even if I disagree with the ending.