"The Omega Directive"
Airdate: April 15, 1998
88 of 168 produced
88 of 168 aired
Mystery abounds when Voyager encounters a mysterious energy reading. But Captain Janeway will soon be forced to bring everyone in on the secret as she faces an existential threat to the quadrant - the powerful but destructive Omega molecule.
Consarn it, Tuvok, why didn't you remind me to pack my BluBlockers?
Matthew: Argh. Appreciating this episode depends on being able to move past nit-picking science concerns - if it existed at the moment of the Big Bang, it shouldn't be called a molecule. There were no molecules before the age of baryonic matter. Heck, it shouldn't even really be called a particle (more like quark-gluon plasma), but I'd be much more OK with it if it were. Anyway, there is just a sort of looseness with science that irritates me. But the basic sci-fi concept (thing of ULTIMATE POWER is dangerous) is sound. It's fun to see the crew react to this, the secret directive angle was cool, and the idea precipitates a lot of nice-looking sets.
Kevin: I think they could have tweaked the language to more mirror even the then current understanding of the Big Bang to give it a little more of an accurate flavor. My thing was given the rules on conserving matter and energy, creating even a little of this stuff should be beyond even the Federation's abilities. I agree that I like the implications of the particle's effects. The threat to the very possibility of warp travel is a neat one. Even if the post-scarcity Federation, warp travel is still required for the economy to function, to get the infinite materials from where they're made to where they are used. It would be like asking us to stop using fossil feuls outright.
Matthew: Another major theme is Seven of Nine's spiritual experience. I found myself a bit perplexed. I understand why the Borg were interested in Omega, since it would provide unlimited power for their various projects. I also can see how each individual drone would contain the information in their "programming" so as to identify it. Where I got a little lost was how this transferred to a post-recovery Seven of Nine in the sense of proto-religious awe or numinous experience. Does she remember everything from her drone days and has now added emotional layers to it? Were those emotional notes present in the Borg as well (e.g. "It represents perfection")?
Kevin: This felt slight tacked on, and just another avenue for Seven to disagree with the captain. How could a society with only an oral tradition have any information about this? I also agree that the quasi-religious elements are not the best. I am not opposed per se to the Borg have attachment to things as a Collective, but we've seen nothing of that, certainly in these terms, from the Borg before.
Matthew: The sort of action-thriller plot was good. The prior exposition had sufficiently played up the threat posed by Omega so that the viewer could form real opinions on the best way to proceed, and could then root for or against protagonists and antagonists. The ways the plot gave us to look at Omega and destroy it or save it were effective dramatizations of the ideas in play. Janeway's resolute belief that Omega was too dangerous was a nice play against type for her, juxtaposed with Seven of Nine's play against her own rational coolness.
Kevin: I liked the cloak and dagger stuff, and it was super fun watching Janeway start out trying to do this alone and eventually come around on informing the crew. I also loved when she coolly tells Tuvok that the Prime Directive is rescinded. It's a great way to shorthand the scale of the threat. Other PD violations come after much hand-wringing and moralizing. This time, it's taken as a given that it's necessary. It also doesn't come off as cheap. Even in the touchy-feely Federation, this seems pretty rational.
Matthew: Kate Mulgrew did the heavy lifting selling this story. We have to believe that this vague thing is dangerous. Well, she did it. I especially liked her physical choices when she was staring intot he Omega chamber on the planet. She was working against a blue light, basically, but had me believing that she was genuinely fearful of the consequences that blue light posed to the quadrant.
Kevin: I think she did her best work with the crew. By turns steamrolling the Doctor and then coming around to Chakotay's argument were good. As much as we will eventually criticize the repetitive arguments between Seven and Janeway, it had a novel energy here.
Mathew: Robert Beltran had some nice moments appealing to Janeway to let him (and the crew) in. He also counseled Seven of Nine well on her spiritual journey. Speaking of Seven, Jeri Ryan sold me on her character's emotional investment in Omega.
Kevin: Agreed. The guest actors did some good work too. I believed the scientist's sincerity about the scope and need for the project.
Matthew: As far as visual effects go, we got a devastated planet surface, which looked so-so. The Omega Molecule itself was a somewhat vage visualization, but it looked nice enough. In terms of physical effects, I liked the wrecked lab interior more than its exterior painting, and the blue light was very evocative. The Omega chamber on the ship was a nice looking prop. The alien ships were pretty mundane CGI creations.
Kevin: I liked the long shot of the crater. The chamber reminded me of the one from The Child. Overall, the prop work was good, and I also liked the destroyed lab set. It reminded me of the Kazon ship in the episode where Seska sneaked them replicator parts.
Matthew: As much as I hate that it was called a molecule, the basic nuts and bolts of the story are really solid, and are animated by the character conflict between Janeway and Seven of Nine. I was consistently entertained and the ethical dilemma got me thinking. Good acting seals the deal for a 4 in my book.
Kevin: The episode has a brisk energy and tension that does manage to hit both grand and personal stakes well, and I always really enjoy watching it. The mushiness of the science keeps it from the five, but I agree with the four for a total of eight.