"The Killing Game"
Airdate: March 4, 1998
85 of 168 produced
85 of 168 aired
Voyager has been captured by the Hirogen who have forced the crew to reenact various violent periods from various periods of history. Their own memories have been supressed leaving only the holodeck character in their place, to give the Hirogen hunters interesting prey. Most of the senior staff have been conscripted into a World War II simulation fighting as the Resistance against a Hirogen-staffed Third Reich. Only the Doctor and Harry remain outside the holodeck to find a way to restore the crew's memories and retake the ship.
We are the Borg. We are wearing a saucy beret. You will be assimilated.
Kevin: The surface elements of this episode work like gangbusters. Seeing our crew dropped into fighting the Nazis in a competently executed riff on Casablanca sounds like a hoot. Seven singing torch ballads? Janeway in an awesome Dietrich-style tux? I am here for all of that. I have some concerns about the episode that I will detail below, but the fun energy of the story is not one of them. I'll also say that from a purely entertainment perspective the internal story of the holodeck was fun. Janeway's riff on Rick from Casablanca coupled with some fun nods to the era like Radio Free Europe and enigma machines made for a watchable story.
Matthew: I found myself entertained and even a bit involved in the various character stories, here. Especially good were the Brigitte elements, with the pregnancy, the hatred of the villagers, and the manipulation of the Nazi officer. Speaking of Nazis, have there ever been more fun go-to villains for alternate universe science fiction? (I just want to be clear here, Nazis are atrocious and are most decidedly not fun in real life and history.) Some part of my brain is always tickled when Trek features Nazis. Anyway, the deluded crew's distrust of Seven of Nine was an effective dramatic device, too.
Kevin: I have some problems with both the general and specific set up of the Hirogen's plan. I just don't care enough or even know enough about Hirogen society to really care that they are seeking some revitalization through this game. Even the snippets about lone ships and some fading Hirogen diaspora don't quite get us to the interest I had for, say, Klingon religion in "Rightful Heir." Also, given that they programmed the people and the program, don't they know exactly who the Maquis (I see what you did there) are? How is that a challenge? As much as I hate to say it, if you wanted to test human's capacity for warfare and challenge yourself to a game of wits, make Voyager the Nazis and the Hirogen the plucky underground. It wouldn't have worked for a variety of other reasons, but they should have made the crew the bad guys in some scenario.
Matthew: I like that this story uses the holodeck for something different. Does it make sense? Hmmm.... maaaaybe (not). But trapping people in the holodeck and making it so that they can't distinguish fantasy from reality is inherently interesting. The neural device was a bit of a cheat, and it suffered from some logic issues. Are these fictional personal histories and skill sets just lying around in the computer, fully compatible with human psychology and anatomy? Why would they be? No prior holodeck programs have ever replaced the mentality of the participants. Just what is being replaced, anyway? Do the crew speak French, now? Do they remember engineering skills? How to use the potty and bathe? With respect to the Hirogen, I agree that we didn't get enough. But this is a better bit of backstory than we've gotten so far, and the comparison to Nazis was at least somewhat interesting. I think things would be better still if the Commandant had talked a bit about what the Hirogen were like before this diaspora, on their home world, whatever.
Kevin: Mulgrew and Ryan are the standouts of the episode. Who knew Ryan can sing? I kind of wish she got to be in character longer. She also pivoted well when she had to pretend to fit in. Her resolve pairs nicely with a black turtleneck and a secret mission. Mulgrew could have been in some remake of Casablanca. Most of the actors did a good job infusing their characters with notes of their true selves, but Mulgrew was the standout there. She felt like a Captain, but not quite like she was just Janeway on the holodeck.
Matthew: Of course I agree on Mulgrew and Ryan. Jeri Ryan can carry a tune, and it really added to the episode. I would single out Roxann Dawson and Robert Duncan McNeill, though. Dawson especially really gave us the inner emotional life of her character, and I totally bought her journey and choices. McNeill played the earnest doughboy really well, too.
Kevin: The Hirogen did a solid job adding some levels to the species this time. Tony Todd is a good actor but they made him to taciturn under a billion pounds of makeup to really add depth. These add a layer of racial megalomania to the mix. They still aren't the Klingons or even the Jem'Hadar, but they tried.
Matthew: All apologies to Tony Todd, but I think Danny Goldring's Commandant Karr is by far the best portrayal of a Hirogen we've gotten. His disdain for those who lack respect for prey, his questioning of his subordinates, were just excellent. Also, looking at J. Paul Boehmer's roles on Star Trek, it's obvious why they kept asking him back. He's a superb Nazi, Borg, Vulcan, and Cardassian. He just nails his roles and completely melts into the character he's given.
Kevin: Well, this may be the best part of the episode. I'm assuming they used some standing World War II backlot and it's looks pretty good. The bar is a great set, and everything is really fleshed out. The costumes are great. I can't help but love a good lady-tuxedo. That final shot of the multiple decks of Voyager looked really cool too.
Matthew: Set design was a real highlight. The art and sculpture in the Commandant's office looked rich. The bar, alleyways, and shops all exuded authenticity. The costumes and hair design, especially on the women, really sold the period feel.
Kevin: The makeup on the Hirogen has been softened a little and it helps them be more expressive. The Nazi uniforms looks oddly well paired. The Klingon set was a little ho-hum, but it was fun seeing Janeway in the Klingon makeup. They really nailed making her recognizable as a Klingon even before the voice gave it away.
Matthew: Yeah, the Klingon makeup was impressive on both Janeway and Neelix, even if the set was subpar. I thought the Hirogen looked by far their best here - they were recognizable as different individuals, which is a big boon to caring about them at least a little bit.
Kevin: I'm going with the 4. The lack of deeper depths for the Hirogen hold this back, but the gloss on an engaging story certainly bump this to higher score territory. Seven in a silver sequin dress belting out torch songs is worth the price of admission alone.
Matthew: Yeah, it really is the flash and sizzle that make this slightly more entertaining than the average episode of Star Trek. Dig too deep, and you might start wondering to yourself why you like this so much. There are logic questions to be sure, but none of them sabotage the overall experience, which I agree is a 4, for a total of 8.