MemorialBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 10:24 PM GMT
See Also: 'Memorial' Episode Guide
When Chakotay, Paris, Neelix, and Kim return from a two-week away mission looking for dilithium ore, they begin to experience post-traumatic stress as they recall fighting in a bloody massacre. Neelix hallucinates that he is still at war and takes Naomi Wildman hostage in the mess, while Paris sees himself on the screen of the television Torres built for him, fighting in an old war movie. When the four crewmembers agree that they volunteered for duty to evacuate a colony whose members were ultimately slaughtered, Janeway orders Voyager to retrace their steps and investigate.
Kim and Neelix suffer terrible survivor's guilt - the former because he killed two civilians, the latter because he couldn't protect the children. Paris lashes out at Torres, telling her he doesn't want to be comforted. Janeway tries to get Chakotay to joke about the success of the away mission, but as soon as the planet appears, she suddenly recalls having been there herself - she watched as the commander of their mission vaporized the bodies of the civilians they slaughtered. When she wakes from sedation, the captain learns that nearly half her crew are share similar memories.
Though Tuvok suggests getting Voyager away from the planet to protect the crew, Janeway insists that they all need to know the truth if they were responsible for the massacre. When they beam down, Kim leads Tuvok to the cave where he shot two people...but the bodies there are 300 years old. Meanwhile, Janeway and Chakotay discover an obelisk beaming information into space. When Seven of Nine helps them translate the writing on it, they learn that it is a memorial to serve as a warning about the horror of the planet's past. Chakotay demands that the device be disabled so that others won't have to experience the suffering of Voyager's crew, but Janeway ultimately agrees with Neelix that the events should not be forgotten. She places a warning beacon in orbit and orders the away team to help repair the aging memorial, then thanks them for helping pay tribute to those who died there.
Like most good Voyager episodes, "Memorial" was derivative - in this case of TNG's devastating "The Inner Light," in which Picard relived the memories of a man from a dead civilization, and of Voyager's own "Remember," in which Torres recalled living on a planet where a holocaust took place. But the similarities didn't detract from the power of "Memorial." As survivor stories go, "Memorial" gave more immediacy to the need for personal testimony than the excellent episode "Living Witness," in which the Doctor had to set history straight. Paris' black-and-white war movies can't compare to the bloody reality of slaughter.
The episode also featured powerful performances, in particular by Kate Mulgrew, Robert Beltran, and Ethan Phillips. But the writers failed to capitalize on a number of opportunities to develop the characters. Chakotay's and Neelix's opposing views about the value of the memorial make sense given their personal histories - Chakotay was brainwashed into taking part in an alien war in "Nemesis," while Neelix is the sole survivor of a planet whose inhabitants were exterminated. That was never mentioned in their debate, however. Instead the sole character-defining moment was given as usual to Seven of Nine, who told Neelix she frequently feels guilt and shame over her actions as a Borg, but those unpleasant emotions prevent her from taking the same wrongful actions again.
The scene was nicely played, but it's well past time for the other people on Voyager to get some development. Neelix was afraid he had terrified Naomi - and he should have. The poor kid grows up on a starship that faces destruction and invasion at least once a year. Paris once again responded to his girlfriend alternately by shouting at her and completely ignoring her - is it just me, or is it kind of strange for a guy who's been away for two weeks to choose television over affection? Then again, all Torres wanted to talk about was the warp core once she gave him the gift, and she responded to his anger in anti-Klingon style by slinking out rather than trying to help him confront it.
I thought this was a good Janeway episode because she expressed strong emotion yet made strong decisions, but at the same time, this is another example of the holodeck approach to life. I'm surprised the four members of the away team didn't retreat to the holodeck and try to recreate the battle from their memories, as TNG characters did more than once. It's both ironic and ridiculous that in their travels through the galaxy, this crew has experienced more emotion vicariously than in live interaction with one another and with other aliens. Remembering the Holocaust is a very important issue, but so is living life in the aftermath of death.
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.