Good ShepherdBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 10:27 PM GMT
See Also: 'Good Shepherd' Episode Guide
When Seven of Nine presents a report on crewmembers whose work is inefficient, Janeway realizes that her three most troubled crewmembers have never been on an away mission. Harren is more interested in quantum theory than space travel, Celes can't pass proficiency exams, and Telfer is a hypochondriac who spends much of his time in sickbay. Chakotay wonders whether the young officers should be relieved of duty, but Janeway says, "They're not drones; we can't deactivate them." Concerned that these three people have slipped through the cracks on her ship, Janeway orders the reluctant trio to accompany her on an away mission on the Delta Flyer.
Though the trip is supposed to be a routine survey, a spatial fluctuation rips a hole in the shuttle's hull, disrupting propulsion and communication. Harren - a theoretical cosmologist stuck being an engineer on Voyager - believes a dark matter comet is responsible.He wants to eject the warp core, but Janeway refuses to do so without more information, and asks Celes to help analyze the broken hull plate. As they work, Celes admits she only got through her training courses because Starfleet wanted Bajoran students so badly. Janeway says she chose Celes for her crew because the young woman showed evidence of unconventional thinking, but Celes insists the only post she's fit for is a waitress in the mess hall. "I don't deserve to be on your ship, Captain, and I'm not really a part of Voyager - I just live there." Meanwhile, Tefler demands to know how Harren can stand having no friends, spending all his time with his theories.
Seeing little evidence of a dark matter comet, Janeway takes the Flyer towards a nearby gas giant with radiogenic rings that could reinitialize the warp core. Suddenly Telfer disappears, then comes back with a creature in his bloodstream. "Maybe it's dark matter life form," suggests the captain, but Harren insists that can't be possible, and adds that they should never have left Voyager. Citing various menaces Voyager has overcome, Janeway suggests that Harren might have missed most of the excitement while he was hiding on Deck 15. He calls her deluded about their miserable mission, and adds, "You're the one hiding, not me."
Janeway is forced to stun Telfer when the creature inside him takes control of his body. The slug-like being bursts out of Telfer's neck and tries to tap into the ship's systems. Harren shoots the creature against Janeway's direct order. Soon other aliens pursue. The captain asks her crew to abandon ship so she can detonate a charge, but Celes and Telfer refuse to go. Harren takes an escape pod, then tries to buy the shuttle time by diverting the aliens. Janeway rescues him, fires the charge, and flees as the shock wave hits. She wakes with Chakotay leaning over her in sickbay, with the rest of the away team asleep. When he asks what happened, she says that the good shepherd went after her lost sheep and ran into a wolf, but she thinks that at least she found them.
For the most part, this episode was beautifully filmed. The first shot panned over Voyager, moving in from a distance to look into Janeway's ready room window as she gazed out at the stars. At the end of the opening sequence, the camera dropped away from Telfer working near a viewport at the bottom of the engineering section, moving away from the ship and into space in a reverse of the opening sequence. In general the shots were lively and creative, filming Harren's back over Janeway's shoulder to show a sense of distance, capturing Celes studying Janeway in the background, illustrating Harren's claustrophobic mindset by placing him in claustrophobic frames. It's easy to tell when Winrich Kolbe's directing.
Unfortunately, that's the only thing the episode really had going for it. Many of the same issues were brought up in first season's "Learning Curve" and the ones that weren't only made the captain look bad in "Good Shepherd." Janeway has a crew of merely 150, but she can't find junctions in engineering, and she's never noticed how isolated these three crewmembers have been for more than five years? Did it really take super-genius non-Starfleet officer Seven of Nine dressing down her senior officers to make Janeway realize there was a problem? Since Janeway turned over the training of incompetent Maquis to Tuvok in "Learning Curve," suggesting that she doesn't consider working with unfit officers her forte, how come the Starfleet officers get her personal attention at this late date - because they're Starfleet rather than Maquis?
"Good Shepherd" doesn't make Janeway look responsible and caring. Rather, it makes her look self-absorbed and irresponsible for not noticing for so long. Maybe if she spent less time with holographic men, she'd have more time for the junior crew. I admit I really enjoyed Harren's analysis of her level of denial about how much life in the Delta Quadrant sucks; I guess sex with a hologram has made her forget the depression she suffered from "Night" through "Equinox." I'm also starting to get concerned about the number of minor crewmembers who are misfits or incompetents, not to mention mutineers. Factor these three in with Dalby, Jonas, Suder, the various dead female crewmembers from "Unity," "Latent Image," and "Ashes To Ashes," and one starts to wonder whether anyone other than the command crew is still alive and following Janeway.
None of the minor crew's situations were really resolved except Telfer's hypochondria (very reminiscent of Barclay's transporter terror). We got no real indication that Harren learned anything, and while Celes appears to have the courage Janeway claimed, she's still got a problem working on sensors. So I'm unclear about the message of the episode - that it's OK to be incompetent if you have heart? - but since I'm pretty sure we won't see these people again, just as we haven't seen the adopted Equinox crewmembers or the three Maquis from "Learning Curve," I guess it doesn't matter.
Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.