RetrospectBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 3:33 PM GMT
See Also: 'Retrospects' Episode Guide
While Voyager negotiates to buy weapons from an alien race, Seven, whom the captain has restored to full duty since she's behaved since last week, has flashbacks of having been violated by the man they are bargaining with. She recalls that he fired a weapon at her, then used laboratory equipment to extract her Borg nanoprobes so he could test the assimilation process on one of his own people. The man, Coven, claims that his weapon accidentally overloaded while he was demonstrating equipment to her, and her merely helped heal her injured hand.
Tuvok and Janeway launch an investigation, though Tuvok is inclined not to trust memory engrams. Coven informs them that even their accusations could ruin him, but says he trusts Tuvok to be impartial. The initial evidence in his laboratory seems to corroborate Seven's testimony, since there are active Borg nanoprobes in the laboratory which the Doctor would expect to be inactive if Seven had really been shot and disabled. Coven reiterates his innocence and flees in panic. Voyager pursues, but during the course of the chase, the Doctor and Janeway test a weapon like Coven's on some of Seven's nanoprobes. They discover that Coven could have been telling the truth when he said that his weapon and not an illegal experiment activated the nanoprobes.
Janeway hails Coven to tell him they made a mistake, but he believes it is a trap and fires on Voyager, ultimately overloading his weapons array which destroys his ship before Voyager can rescue him. Janeway gets teary and glares at Seven as she cancels the red alert. The Doctor tells her that he should never have tried to act as a counselor and seeks to have his additional programming removed, but Janeway says she won't turn back the clock over one mistake. She tells him that they let good intentions blind them, and sends him to sickbay to deal with the burden. Seven tells him that remorse is as distressing as anger, and he says he knows.
I feel like I'm watching the Anti-Trek. If the point of this episode was to slam home the way rape victims feel when they're disbelieved and ridiculed, to make us share their pain and anguish and disgust, it succeeded. But I didn't get any sense of irony. Instead I feel violated, and I share Seven's anger. I'd rather be stuck in Janeway's Victorian holonovel than on her nice, enlightened, misogynistic ship.
We saw Seven's memories in flashback. They were specific and detailed. We experienced them with her, and were never given a contradictory version of events to experience. Technobabble discussions of how her memories could have been distorted don't begin to compare to that initial, visceral sharing. "Retrospect" never gave us a reason to doubt Seven's recollections of abuse - the scientific evidence may have indicated that Coven's explanation was plausible, but no one ever said that it couldn't have happened as Seven believed. SHE WAS A VICTIM. We were all witnesses. Tuvok could have been a witness too, if he'd used his all-too-usual investigative tool, the mind meld.
Yes, I know that there have been documented cases of women persuaded by their therapists that they were raped when in fact they weren't. But such situations are exceedingly rare - except on television, which often seems to make a project of turning the tables on rape and harrassment cases by suggesting that most of the charges are really falsehoods by lying, scheming or deluded women, even though many instances of harrassment are never even reported because women don't expect to be believed.
It's possible Doc was correct that Seven was superimposing current faces on her past memories, but her hallucinations in "The Raven" (which we also experienced firsthand with her) were markedly different. I'm not arguing that Coven should have been prosecuted for a crime there wasn't enough evidence to convict him of, although it's not uncommon in rape cases for it to come down to the victim's word against the assailant's, since physical evidence can often lead to contradictory conclusions. In the 24th century, presumably that won't be a problem - physiological and physical probes should have been able to prove Coven's innocence completely if he were guiltless.
But Janeway and company still could have listened to Seven, validating her experiences while demonstrating that there was no means of punishment, no form of revenge which would negate her sense of violation. There is no doubt that in Seven's mind, she was abused by Coven, whatever the veracity of her memories - and we never got any indication that she was lying or that her memory was faulty, since we never saw her access the Borg memory engram which it was hypothesized was the real source of her anxiety. Even assuming they were right, she's been violated again by every single person on Voyager who dismissed or condemned her feelings. Seven ends up like a kid who gets molested by a neighbor and is told by her mother that it never happened. Her abuser's life is given more value than her own. Once again, in her great charge to "compassion," Janeway trampled all over a crewmember who genuinely needed her guidance.
Doc was gung-ho on getting Seven to remember her experiences of violation and to feel the anger and pain the memories caused when she was doing a decent job of repression. Where was he afterwards to help her put the pieces back together, when everyone around her announced that her memory wasn't to be trusted and she'd condemned an innocent man to death? He was off sulking because he realized that he was a bad counselor, instead of trying to remedy the situation. So much concern for Coven, not a word for Seven. I suppose that next week he'll go back to suggesting a flirtatious bedside manner - treating Seven like the boy toy this series seems to take it for granted is all she's good for.
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.