NemesisBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 3:09 PM GMT
See Also: 'Nemesis' Episode Guide
Chakotay's scout shuttle is shot down and he crashes in the midst of a bloody civil war. He is picked up by a group of human-looking young men called the Vori, who explain that the enemy, their Nemesis, are heartless beasts and who offer to help him contact Voyager. During the journey, the Vori encounter and engage the Nemesis Craydin, who kill ruthlessly and desecrate the bodies of the dead. As they approach Chakotay's destination, he watches young men and innocent civilians die, and grows to hate the jagged-toothed, well-armored Craydin.
Meanwhile, Voyager has tracked the shuttle and contacted allies on the surface who are fighting the Nemesis. When the allies beam aboard Voyager, it turns out that they've made contact with the Craydin. Not until Chakotay is rescued is the truth revealed: the Vori used mind-control techniques to involve him in their war. While the facts of the conflict remain in question, Chakotay finds that he still hates the Craydin more than he resents his brainwashers.
Voyager seems like two different television shows; just when I think it's a travesty of Star Trek, a worthless piece of cliched drivel, they go and do something like "Nemesis." Not that this was a fabulous episode; it had assorted flaws, some pretty large. But it reminded me a lot of the original Trek, particularly the Vietnam allegory episode "A Private Little War," in which Captain Kirk was manipulated into involvement in an alien conflict.
This one wasn't as complex--as with most Voyager episodes, it was too straightforward, with no deep questions about the broader politics of noninterference. Still, it was subtler than I expected from the Commando Chakotay previews, and surprisingly moving despite the transparent attempts to manipulate the audience by making us identify with Chakotay, when we could guess midway through that Voyager's allies were going to end up being the Craydin rather than the Vori.
That gimmick is undoubtedly the reason that we didn't even see the ship till after the halfway mark. For the second time ("Distant Origin" was the first), an episode did not center around Voyager's crew but an alien culture, and it works wonders to break up the monotony. This crew should go on away missions more often, no matter how much it costs to shoot on location. Since Voyager has an endless supply of shuttles - they've destroyed one three weeks in a row now! - it shouldn't be a problem to keep sending people down.
Chakotay's character stayed remarkably consistent with his behavior in previous episodes - both the ones I liked and the ones I hated. The scenes with the young soldiers and the little girl were almost redundant for anyone who's seen second season's "Initiations," in which Chakotay counseled and bonded with a young Kazon, but at least we know he's still the same guy in that respect.
The speed with which he became emotionally involved with the alien war also makes sense, given how quickly the ex-Borg in "Unity" assimilated him last season. But I wish it didn't. I wish he had a little more strength of character, and we got more glimpses of the righteous terrorist Janeway was sent out to arrest - if, as he keeps saying, he's always hated war, it makes little sense that he would adapt to the struggles of others so easily. For a gentle man from a gentle people, he learns to hate very quickly; he couldn't have been sincere when he said killing was one of the hardest things he ever had to do, considering that he killed Borg without qualms a few weeks ago. That pat ending about how it's easy to learn to hate didn't erase Chakotay's flaws. It was chilling that he took orders from an alien kid so well when told to pick up a gun. I have big concerns about Chakotay as first officer, the role of a leader, when he's been so hasty to follow on too many occasions.
The slang dialect of the aliens was another interesting gimmick, though it got cloying, especially when inconsistent - if "mother's mother" is the translation for "grandmother" according to the Universal Translator which hasn't done much of interest since Next Gen's "Darmok," then why did Chakotay hear the little girl say "grandfather"? And "nullified" seemed an awfully static verb for a crime which the Vori seemed to perceive as cold-blooded slaughter.
Those are nitpicks, though, compared to the illogic of the Vori culture as explained at the end of the episode: they use huge land masses and expend enormous resources to ensnare and brainwash aliens for their wars? Sounds highly inefficient, and completely implausible. Why don't they just brainwash the Craydin into laying down arms, or joining their cause? Why did they create a projection of a standard Alpha Quadrant patriarchy (which there are too many of in the Trek universe), and how did they adapt to Chakotay's belief systems?
That Janeway's allies would turn out to be the Craydin, who look a lot like The Next Generation's Nausicaans, was entirely predictable. Though we only learned the truth of Chakotay's brainwashing by sharing his experience of seeing Tuvok as a Craydin assassin, this episode would have been far more effective had we not seen Voyager at all until the very end - if we shared Chakotay's entire experience on the planet and believed in it, instead of receiving suggestions during the shipboard scenes that all was not as it seemed. The Voyager characters were largely wasted anyway; Tom seemed overzealous in his desperation to retrieve Chakotay, and why does Janeway treat Neelix as an expert on this war when they're ten thousand light years past the edge of his familiar space?
Robert Beltran carried the episode - in addition to his strong performance, he looks hot in fatigues. I think I should be allowed to notice that, since during next week's preview, I had to put up with Seven of Nine's catsuit and watch her decide she'd like to try sex. That was fast, but I guess I should be glad someone on Voyager wants a little spice in her life. Janeway's been out there for more than three years, and she's apparently still not interested.
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.