Airdate: February 11, 1998
82 of 168 produced
82 of 163 aired
Voyager picks up a transmission from Starfleet, but it is being cut off by one of the relay stations broadcasting it from the Alpha Quadrant. When they investigate, they run afoul of the Hirogen.
Congratulations, bondage fetishists. It only took you half a season to get Seven of Nine hog-tied in a leather harness.
Matthew: Perhaps it was inevitable that after such a consequential episode, another episode would be needed for follow-up on various plot ideas. The question is, is it a good episode in its own right, or just an addendum? Here we get two main plot ideas - letters from home and the Hirogen hunters. Despite the title, it seems to me that he letters get the majority of the focus, probably to good effect. We get the Maquis revelation (with a nice callback to the Dominion in DS9), Janeway gets dumped, Tuvok learns that he is a grandpa, Harry is homesick, and Paris doesn't get his long-awaited rapprochement from his dad. I think the Janeway letter is probably the best realized, writing-wise. The Maquis revelation is a pretty weak return to a story that has been all but abandoned for two seasons or more, but the acting (mentioned below) saved it. Janeway, however, is given some real grist for the emotional mill, and she grows as a result. I wish they had followed it up with a real Janeway/Chakotay romance, but I can't fault this episode for that future missed opportunity.
Kevin: I agree that the letters from home story is definitely the best part of the episode, and I like that they did a good job of showing how the world has changed while their gone. I like that they discussed the Dominion obliquely without letting it take over Voyager's story. I remember distinctly thinking that they had sent Mark packing so they could develop a relationship between Janeway and her bathtub manufacturer. I like what they will eventually do with B'Elanna and the loss of the Maquis, but it does seem to be a blip in the story here. If the lines between the Maquis and Starfleet crew had remained sharper, maybe it would have more of an oomph.
Matthew: The Hirogen are not yet interesting, based on what we get here. I think this owes mainly to the unanswered questions about them. Why is hunting so integral to their culture? How could a culture driven to eviscerate everyone they come across amass and master complex technology? Presumably, they used to hunt each other, which would seem to negate progress. Now, I get that their second appearance might not be expected to answer questions like these. But why not ask them, and hint at possible answers? We get none of that here. They end up coming off like a warmed-over mish-mash of the Klingons and the Jem'Hadar.
Kevin: Speaking of the Jem'Hadar, I think a slower burn with the Hirogen like they did with the Dominion would have served the story better. Especially for a race of skilled hunters, they seem to run into them in open space a lot. Maybe giving them a hint of the mythical building to a consequential meeting would have been more interesting. Moreso, the Hirogen just seem only martial. The Klingons get the conflicts created by their warrior desires with their samurai-like honor code, and the Jem'Hadar get the ethical layers of determining if their inborn obedience impacts how we treat them as sentient beings. The Hirogen are just...violent.
Matthew: The whole idea of a race that has created a galactic communications network is looked at ever so briefly here. Then it is dismissed forever. Who built these things? Where did they go? Sigh.
Kevin: I can't be too upset that they never revisit them. Is there anything they could concretely show that wouldn't feel like something or a let down?
Matthew: I think the two real standout performances were Kate Mulgrew and Roxann Dawson, here. They both, but particularly Dawson, did really interesting things with their voices and their body language, telegraphing the struggles the pains their characters were going through. Other actors got snippets of interesting scenes.
Kevin: I agree fully. Janeway's reaction felt really in character. She genuinely does understand why Mark moved on, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. There was a combination of maturity and vulnerability that really made her conversation with Chakotay sing.
Matthew: Robert Beltran was interesting - he seemed to be playing Janeway's "Dear John" scene as if he was carrying a torch. He did way better with this than with the revelation that the Maquis had been killed. I think this shows his greater affinity for emotional character stories than Trek Stuff. Robert Duncan McNiell may have overacted his big scene by just a tad, talking about how he has found himself on Voyager. Not awful by any means, but not up to his best.
Kevin: The acting choices of the Hirogen kind of drove home the "warmed over Jem'Hadar" vibe. It read like a slightly less interesting iteration of the bickering in "One Little Ship." I will give a separate shoutout to Tuvok's scene with Neelix. He's second only really to Nimoy in his ability to layer a reaction under the resolve.
Matthew: I was pretty underwhelmed by the Hirogen ship. It had less the look of a cohesive, well-thought out setting, than the look of "hey, this looks vaguely spacey, let's throw that in there." The trophies were unconvincing, and were just lying around in... hammocks? The Hirogen themselves were also uninspiring - their uniforms look like something from the Halo videogame - which is to say they looked like generic "space marines."
Kevin: This might be part of my problem with the Hirogen generally. The combination of the costume choices and the story ones makes the Hirogen a really generic video game villan.
Matthew: Space effects were mostly average this time around. The relay station was a dead ringer for the Caretaker array, and its implosion was just so-so. The various shuttles and ships looked fine but were nothing to write home about. I did like some of the green astronomical effects at the beginning of the episode.
Kevin: The relay I believe was in fact a studio model used as the Caretaker array. So good eye, there.
Matthew: This one lands pretty squarely in average territory. Had it just been about the characters, it might be a 4. Had it just been about the Hirogen, maybe a 2. The Hirogen plot is what holds this back - it is undercooked. But it's an unobtrusive, moderately entertaining trifle. I give it a 3.
Kevin: I agree with the 3. Janeway and B'Elanna alone would salvage almost any episode into a 3. I wish the Hirogen had been a little more interesting, but watching the bittersweet layers created by a faint contact with home were really well acheived.