Thursday, January 31, 2013

Consequences And Queer Captains: “Flesh And Blood” Raises The Debate Of Holographic Rights!

The Good: Great exploration of consequences, Decent character arc for the Doctor, Great special effects
The Bad: Terrible characterization for Janeway, Unconvincing adversaries, Continuity of Hirogen
The Basics: The first part of “Flesh And Blood” finds the Doctor lobbying for Voyager to aid holograms abused by the Hirogen.

I like works that explore consequences, perhaps that is why I enjoyed the serialized nature of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5. As a general rule, Star Trek: Voyager’s nature – or at least the execution of it – has not frequently given the show the opportunity to explore the consequences of their actions on the ship’s journey home. So, when the seventh season was progressing and The Doctor had a significant arc involving the argument in favor of holographic rights, it seemed somewhat natural that the series would explore the consequences of “The Killing Game.” “Flesh And Blood” is the episode where the consequences of “The Killing Game” is explored and progressed.

For those unfamiliar with it, at the climax of “The Killing Game Part 2” (reviewed here!), Janeway brokers peace with the invading Hirogen by giving them holographic technology. While all evidence suggests that Voyager has long ago left Hirogen space (there is the insinuation that the technology they are guarding in “Message In A Bottle” is an alien race’s that the Hirogen eventually conquered or whose technology they appropriated after that race was extinct), they pop back up in “Flesh And Blood.”

Following two Hirogen hunters being killed by what appear to be StarFleet officers on a jungle world, the Doctor finds himself in a debate with Chakotay about his ability to leave Voyager to attend a symposium. Their conversation is cut short when Voyager receives a distress call from a Hirogen outpost. Chakotay, Tuvok, Seven Of Nine and Paris recover a Hirogen engineer from the outpost where they discover replicated and modified StarFleet holodeck technology. Visited shortly thereafter by a Hirogen ship, Voyager’s crew learns that the Hirogen have created holographic prey that have become sentient and rebelled, killing the Hirogen who have hunted them.

After the Hirogen ship is incapacitated by a ship staffed by holograms, the Doctor is abducted by Iden, a hologram of a Bajoran freedom fighter who wants the Doctor’s help to repair holograms who are members of his crew. Iden’s people have fled Hirogen captivity and hunts and when the Doctor returns to Voyager, he makes an appeal to Janeway to aid the holograms. While the Doctor wants to help the holographic crew, Janeway has Torres prepare to incapacitate the hologram’s ship.

The Doctor, despite being abducted and tormented with the memories of a hunted hologram and the horrors the now-free holograms have endured, is rational and makes a compelling argument in favor of holographic rights. “Flesh And Blood” smartly alludes to “Body And Soul” (reviewed here!) which introduced the idea of a photonic insurgence on a planet earlier in the season. The Doctor continues a larger arc in “Flesh And Blood” that has been building for years. And, outside him experiencing being hunted (which he correctly identifies as a form of torture), his presentation in “Flesh And Blood” is very convincing.

Unfortunately, the arc is dulled some by Janeway. She spouts a strangely familiar mantra of not wanting to debate holographic rights. That makes Janeway arguably the least philosophical Star Trek franchise captain. Every other captain is deeply concerned with the rights of life forms they encounter and Janeway never seems to want to consider that, especially when it comes to holograms. This seems especially idiotic in the case of Janeway and holographic rights as she considers the Doctor a vital and important member of her crew. Why she never seems to want to step up and allow the Doctor a voice for presenting a philosophical point of view seems especially droll.

Just as Janeway seems problematic and banal as the commanding officer, once again the security section of Voyager is presented as utterly incompetent. As the Hirogen patients are kept in the mess hall, they gang up and cause a riot, knocking around Neelix, Paris, and the security guards who are on-site. How Tuvok does not keep a race of powerful hunters – especially ones who have, in the past, taken over Voyager – under better guard is disappointing for the incompetence it portrays.

In “Flesh And Blood,” the freedom fighting holograms are problematically rendered. Iden lacks charisma to be a viable leader and Kejal, the Cardassian hologram who self-taught herself “holographic medicine” is erratic. Neither seems to be viably created. In fact, given that Iden is programmed with a sense of Bajoran religion, it seems odd that he never makes the correlation with the Hirogen (not “organics”) being the villains. In other words if he is, for all intents and purposes, a Bajoran, he should have no inherent prejudice against the human captain.

“Flesh And Blood” is the first part of a two-parter and it is an engaging one, even with its problems. With the Doctor advocating helping the holograms set up their own planet and the Hirogen moving in, Janeway seems lame in forcing the conflict that stretches the episode out, but it is a good story with an engaging first part.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete Seventh Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the final season here!


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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  1. Hi !

    Personally, I wouldn't have said that Janeway is the less phylosophical captain of the Star Trek franchise, knowing the volatile nature of Benjamin Sisko's mood swings and Jim Kirk's cowboy style attitudes but you're so right when you say that Voyager's security section and Tuvok are as incompetent as they come. It made me laugh out loud but it is so true ! :)

    But it’s one of those things that we know, as regular Star Trek viewers, that are bound to happen very often. It’s like holodecks broking down and the shuttles crashing. How else can these shows would have lasted more than one or two seasons otherwise. ;)

    In Janeway’s defense, I can only say that she started very stiff and so sure of herself early on, but has soften a bit, as her hair (or wig, I don't exactly know) got loose starting by the end of Season 3 and the beginning of season 4 and like us, I guess, she was a little bit as surprised as we were, let’s admit it, how much a mere hologram has grown. It’s one thing starting to trust someone and another to give him complete control over his life and possibly yours (and the lives of your crew), I guess.

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      While Sisko had mood swings, he stood for something, especially human rights, even when he compromised his own principles for the greater good. For as much as Kirk was a cowboy, you do get him standing up for others and the occasional great speech ("Risk is our business") that Janeway never seems to want to engage with, especially in the realm of holographic rights.

      Thanks for reading!