Retro Review: Deadlock

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An anomaly splits Voyager into two ships, slightly out of phase with one another but sharing the same warp core.

Plot Summary: While hiding from Vidiians, Voyager passes through an anomaly and immediately notices a power drain. As Torres prepares to initiate proton bursts to compensate, the ship is hit by proton bursts from elsewhere that cause damage all over the ship. Wildman’s newborn baby dies when Sickbay’s systems fail; Kim is sucked into the vacuum of space while trying to seal a breach; Kes disappears through a rift. Because the bridge is about to collapse, an injured Janeway orders all controls transferred to engineering and flees to a turbolift. At that precise moment, a healthy Janeway sees a ghostly, wounded version of herself cross her undamaged bridge. She realizes that when the ship entered the anomaly, every atom of matter was duplicated…though not antimatter, which is why both ships experienced a power drain as they began to share a single warp core. The uninjured Janeway and Torres attract the attention of their counterparts via a signal in engineering, and the two captains agree to suspend the proton bursts while they try to merge the ships back together. But the attempt fails, and both Janeways realize that they can neither exchange significant repair materials nor send the crew from the damaged ship onto the undamaged one without causing a matter imbalance that would destroy both ships. The Janeway on the damaged Voyager decides to self-destruct her ship before it drains the antimatter needed by the undamaged Voyager, but before she can do so, Vidiians capture and board the ship meant to be saved, killing crewmembers to harvest their organs. That Voyager’s captain contacts the other Janeway to tell her that she must now blow up the undamaged but captive Voyager, though first she plans to send Kim over with the healthy Wildman baby born on the undamaged ship. One Voyager and the Vidiian ship are destroyed in the self-destruct. The crew on the surviving Voyager begin to make repairs.

Analysis: “Deadlock” has always been one of my favorite Voyager episodes. I’m sure the science is iffy – Kent State experiment on replicating matter and all, named in honor of Brannon Braga’s alma mater – but watching the two Kathryns and two B’Elannas try to work the practical engineering issues is pure joy. And because the writers aren’t bending over backward to make the physics realistic, there’s not so much technobabble that is overwhelms the story; this is a fast-paced character drama, a bottle show that also features lots of visual theatrics. We get to learn a number of tidbits about Janeway from her conversations with her duplicate, like the story of how she walked home in the rain from a tennis match (which proves to the double that she’s not an evil alien clone), and her threats about how stubborn she can be add some levity to what is at the core a pretty dark story. Even on first viewing, we can guess that one crew or the other will have to disappear before the end. It makes sense that we think of the first crew we see as “our” Voyager crew, but once the baby and Harry both die, it starts to look like that group is unhappily going to be asked to sacrifice themselves to save the other crew. The twist when the Vidiians arrive is all the more complicated because we’re rooting for the survival of the scrappy Janeway who’s watched her ship fall apart and promised to destroy it for the greater good, meaning we feel guilty with relief when we learn that that won’t be the Janeway who dies after all. And we’re left with a dilemma rather like Harry Kim’s at the end: was the destroyed Voyager not “our” Voyager? If that’s the case, where does that leave Harry himself, not to mention baby Naomi Wildman? Does the few minutes they spent in a reality different from the one on the surviving Voyager mark them forever as not fully belonging, like Thomas Riker or a time-shifted Molly O’Brien?

We see heroics by many of the crew’s men, but “Deadlock” is really all about the women of Voyager. There’s Kes, who falls through the rift and is cared for by herself in the duplicate sickbay, plus Torres, who gets along superbly with herself despite having an inner Klingon troublemaker exposed previously by the Vidiians. Yet it’s really Janeway who dominates the drama even as she’s debating her methods with herself. Though the captain frequently makes suggestions to the crew, she doesn’t often have the opportunity to be the primary scientist working a problem, so what a treat for her to get to be commanding and science officer both – if only there had been a way to keep the second Janeway around in the latter capacity! Their command styles are so similar that they inevitably lock horns, and if it’s quite fun to hear Janeway threaten to throw her other self off the ship (“you know I’ll do it”), it’s equally a delight to witness them working a problem together, just as the two versions of Torres think in tandem, hunched over their respective engineering consoles, following the same chain of deductions to enable them to make contact with one another. But I have to confess that my personal favorite moments in “Deadlock” involve not Janeway with herself, but Janeway with Chakotay: first on the damaged Voyager, where the surviving Chakotay begs the surviving Janeway to get off the bridge while she ignores him to try to save half the ship, then on the intact but conquered Voyager, when they stand up in tandem to present a united front to the Vidiians while knowing that they’re about to die together. Chakotay reminds me of Spock in both those scenes, displaying emotion which he’ll later claim is just logical concern for his captain in the first, offering silent and absolute support to his captain in the second.

It’s not clear how the ship magically puts itself back together, especially since a lot of the shared antimatter should disappear in the warp core breach that destroys the second Voyager, but we’re expected to take it on faith that Voyager has spare parts or maybe is able to scavenge some after the explosion. Or maybe not, but it’s a good thing if the warp core breach causes utter destruction, since it leaves no possibility of crewmembers seeing ship or body parts floating outside the portholes – not even the body of the dead Harry Kim. I am a bit curious how the blast and the missing ship escape the attention of what sounds like a large nearby Vidiian colony, perhaps even the Vidiian home system, with two planets full of people desperate for new body parts. This is the last good look we get at how those aliens operate, which is a pity, since they’re back to being straight-up villains and not more complicated characters like Denara Pel. Here they appear to be very organized, not scavengers finding body parts where they can but a militarized group that goes looking for healthy people to murder. If any of them communicated with Pel – and considering that she’s a top doctor, you’d think they might have – they might realize they’d be served better by trying to find a way to steal the Doctor so he could work full time on a cure than by killing off crewmembers whose organs will decay inside sick Vidiians. Pel has told us that they still operate in family units. Does the whole species feel like one big family, the way the Voyager crew all feels proprietary about Samantha Wildman’s baby, or do Vidiians kill and scavenge from one another when they’re desperate enough? I keep thinking about the unnamed dead baby still aboard the ship; I’ve always wondered whether they had a funeral for her, or whether the Doctor discreetly destroyed the remains so they could pretend she never existed, like the show does from this point forward. Are Naomi and her dead doppelganger also like Siamese twins linked with only one heart, the one having to die that the other might live? I wonder whether anyone will ever tell Naomi her origin story.

What do you think? Chat with other fans in the Star Trek: Voyager forum at The Trek BBS.

Michelle Erica Green

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Michelle Erica Green

Writer, mother, reader, traveler, teacher, partner, photographer, activist, friend, fangirl, student, critic, citizen, environmentalist, feminist, vegetarian, enthusiast. TrekToday staffer for many years, former news reporter, current retro reviewer.

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