Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Persistence of Vision”

“Persistence of Vision”
Written by Jeri Taylor
Directed by James L. Conway
Season 2, Episode 8
Production episode 124
Original air date: October 30, 1995
Stardate: unknown

Captain’s log. Janeway is having a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. Voyager is about to enter Bothan space. Paris has a report for her, Tuvok wants to have a security briefing, Neelix wants to talk to her about the Bothans, and Torres and Kim are ready to test their first attempt to have the EMH function outside sickbay.

The latter almost works—the EMH is transferred to engineering, but is only about half a foot tall. However, he’s not so short that he doesn’t notice that Janeway is exhausted and stressed out, and he uses the chief medical officer’s authority over even the captain when it comes to medical matters to order her to relax on the holodeck.

She goes to her Gothic holonovel—pausing when she changes clothes to stare longingly at the picture of her, Mark Johnson, and Molly the Irish setter—but it’s interrupted by Chakotay informing her that the Bothans have hailed them.

After changing back into uniform, and a hasty consult with Neelix, she exchanges pleasantries with the Bothan, who does not show his face. They agree to meet and discuss terms of being able to cross Bothan space.

Once that’s done, she wishes to talk to Neelix further in her ready room—he suggests instead that they speak over lunch, as she hasn’t eaten in a while. While she checks out the buffet, she’s brought up short to see that one of the dishes looks like the cucumber sandwiches from the holonovel—and Neelix serves her tea in a cup that looks like one from the holonovel as well.

Later, she’s walking down a corridor and hears the voice of Lord Burleigh, from the holonovel, and sees Burleigh’s daughter Beatrice. The first thing she does is go to engineering to see if Torres and Kim’s experiments would result in holodeck characters in the corridors. They don’t think it will, but they run a diagnostic, with Janeway returning to the holodeck to run the holonovel. However, they find nothing—and when she returns to the mess hall, she discovers that what she thought were cucumber sandwiches and a fancy tea cup were just fried murt cakes and a standard Starfleet issue thermal mug.

Realizing it may well be a medical problem with her rather than a technical problem with the ship, she checks herself into sickbay. The EMH and Kes run several scans and find nothing—but then Janeway once again hallucinates Beatrice. To Janeway’s surprise, Kes also sees Beatrice, but then she seems to reflect off Kes and disappear into Janeway.

Kes has been working with Tuvok on her telepathic abilities, and she can apparently also see what Janeway is seeing. The EMH needs to run more tests, so he sends Janeway to her quarters to rest.

Once there, she hears Mark’s voice, and then Mrs. Templeton, the housekeeper from the holonovel, attacks her with a knife, drawing blood. She calls for security—and then we discover that she never left sickbay. Tuvok is there along with the EMH and Kes, trying to bring her out of a fugue state.

They succeed, and Janeway officially relinquishes command to Chakotay while she is in sickbay. The Bothans arrive, and are annoyed that they don’t get to talk to Janeway. They also have two other ships cloaked nearby, and Voyager quickly gets into a firefight, in which they are pretty badly spanked.

The Bothans contact them again, asking for terms of surrender, saying they’re damaged and their captain is indisposed. However, Janeway has checked herself out of sickbay, refusing to lay about while her ship is being pounded. But when she arrives on the bridge, the Bothan steps into the light and is revealed to be Mark—

—at least to Janeway. Paris sees his father Admiral Owen Paris, Kim sees his girlfriend Libby, and Tuvok sees his wife T’Pel.

Tuvok sees his lute and believes he’s back on Vulcan. He becomes completely catatonic and unresponsive, as is Kim and much of the bridge crew. Torres reports from engineering that her staff has also gone catatonic. Janeway sends Chakotay to help her modulate the warp core to give off a pulse that should snap them out of it.

Torres sees a hallucination of Chakotay who comes on to her and takes her to bed. Chakotay himself never made it out of the turbolift. Pretty soon, everyone on the ship goes catatonic except for the EMH and Kes. The latter goes to engineering to enact Torres’s plan with help from the EMH. A hallucination of Neelix tries to stop her, and then Kes suffers great pain and lesions on her skin. Kes, however, is able to fight back and “Neelix” changes into a Bothan, who collapses on the deck. Kes enacts the pulse and everyone wakes up. Torres holds a phaser on the Bothan, and Janeway threatens all kinds of things that turn out to be pointless, because the Bothan was apparently never there. He and the ships all disappear.

Voyager pootles through Bothan space unmolested the rest of the way. Janeway and Torres have a heart-to-heart, and Janeway admits that the holonovel holds less interest for her, as she would prefer reality for a while.

Screenshot: CBS

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Torres detects a psionic field when the Bothan is telepathically attacking, and she is able to use the warp core to block it. Or, at least, plan that, and it’s left to Kes and the EMH to execute it.

There’s coffee in that nebula! The hallucination of Mark taunts Janeway by saying he’s been faithful, and she insists she has been, despite the fact that Lord Burleigh on the holodeck kissed her.

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok is the one who is able to bring Janeway out of her fugue in sickbay, and he later believes he’s back on Vulcan.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. Torres and Kim are trying to make a reality what the EMH hallucinated in “Projections,” to wit, putting holoemitters elsewhere on the ship so the doctor can function outside sickbay and the holodeck. The first attempt fails rather hilariously…

The EMH (Robert Picardo) shrunken down in Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Half and half. Torres comes up with the solution to the problem, and it actually works!

Forever an ensign. Kim says he sees his girlfriend, but we don’t see his interactions with her because, I guess, they didn’t want to bring Jennifer Gatti back so soon?

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix has been in touch with some of his fellow scavengers for information about the Bothans, and it isn’t good, as many ships have been lost in their space.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. This episode proposes the notion that Torres secretly has the hots for Chakotay, a notion never mentioned before and which will not be mentioned again. Janeway is also smooched by Lord Burleigh in the holonovel, and she pines for Mark a lot.

What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. This is the last we see of the Gothic holonovel. So we’ll never know what’s on the fourth floor. (Okay, so it’s totally Lady Burleigh still alive and playing the piano. Still it would’ve been nice to see that…)

Do it.

“Well, this is certainly a brilliant feat of engineering…”

“What happened?”

“I’d guess the imaging interface wasn’t properly stabilized.”

“Just a small oversight—no pun intended.”

–The EMH being cranky about being six inches tall, Janeway being annoyed, Torres diagnosing the problem, and Kim making the obvious rejoinder.

Screenshot: CBS

Welcome aboard. Lotta recurring characters in this one. Stan Ivar returns from “Caretaker” as the image of Mark Johnson. Marva Hicks makes the first of two appearances as the image of T’Pel—she’ll return as a holodeck re-creation of T’Pel in “Body and Soul.” Warren Munson debuts the character of Owen Paris; Munson’s voice will be used for Owen in “Thirty Days,” but when the character is seen next in the sixth season’s “Pathfinder,” he’ll be played by Richard Herd (who will continue in the role through the final two seasons).

Michael Cumptsy, Carolyn Seymour, Thomas Dekker, and Lindsay Haun all make their final appearances as the characters in Janeway’s Gothic holonovel, previously seen in “Cathexis” and “Learning Curve.” (Haun will return as Belle in the third season’s “Real Life.”)

And Patrick Kerr plays the Bothan. Kerr is probably best known for playing Noel Shempsky on Frasier, who is a devoted Star Trek fan.

Trivial matters: It was established in “Cathexis” that Tuvok was working with Kes on her telepathy.

We learn Tuvok’s wife’s name in this episode, Paris sees his father, mentioned not-all-that-fondly by him in “Caretaker,” “Time and Again,” and “Parturition,” and Kim mentions the girlfriend established in “Time and Again” and seen in “Non Sequitur.”

The image of Vulcan that Tuvok sees is a matte painting used for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Torres’s secret lust for Chakotay was also part of both characters’ backstory as spelled out in the novel Pathways, which was also written by Jeri Taylor, who wrote this episode and was the show-runner for Voyager‘s first several seasons.

Your humble rewatcher wrote a story called “Letting Go” in the 2005 Voyager anthology Distant Shores that focused on the people left behind when Voyager went missing, and Mark was the POV character. The story also has appearances by Owen and T’Pel.

The oft-mentioned-but-never-seen Hargrove is mentioned once again by Neelix, and Ashmore—the name given to one of the regular extras—is also mentioned by the Bothan posing as Neelix.

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “You’re a powerful little thing.” It’s amusing to see the progression of starship captains who need R&R but won’t take it. In “Shore Leave,” Spock had to engage in rhetorical trickery to get Kirk to take leave on the pleasure planet they found. In “Captain’s Holiday” that same rhetorical trickery by Crusher didn’t actually work on Picard, but eventually the sheer weight of various crewmembers importuning him to take a vacation already got him to go.

And in “Persistence of Vision,” all it takes is the chief medical officer telling Janeway she needs a break, with all the authority he can muster while being six inches tall and a hologram.

It’s actually rather refreshing that Janeway doesn’t need to be tricked or bullied into taking a vacation, that she’s actually mature enough and self-aware enough to realize that she’s pushing herself to the point of exhaustion and needs a little Gothic romance/horror to reset her brain. It’s a welcome change from the tired machismo of Jim Kirk and the stoic idiocy of Jean-Luc Picard.

Of course, things go horribly wrong, because if they didn’t go horribly wrong, we wouldn’t have an episode. It’s good to have Janeway addressing how much she misses her boyfriend, and good to see Kes taking advantage of her nascent telepathy to save everyone’s asses, aided and abetted by the EMH, who has the same function here that Data did on TNG, to wit, the inorganic dude who isn’t affected by what messes with the organics.

I’m very grateful that this is really the only time we saw any hint of a Torres/Chakotay romance. The two of them have a strong bond as friends and fellow Maquis, especially given that they’re the only Maquis among the senior staff, and that bond has been shown to good end a few times, particularly in “Parallax,” “The Cloud,” and “Cathexis,” and grafting a romance onto that just feels boring and lazy. Having said that, I do like that, unlike everyone else—who all seem to see people they left behind in the Alpha Quadrant—what Torres sees is someone in the here-and-now, consistent with what she told Kim in “Eye of the Needle,” that she doesn’t really have anyone or anything important back home.

Two of my favorite moments in this episode are brief, but very effective. We see the Bothans’ attack on Tuvok only briefly, but Tim Russ with just subtle changes to his facial expressions beautifully sells both the rational Vulcan’s disbelief of what he sees, yet also the longing for what he does see, in only forty-two seconds of screen time. The other is Paris, who is very much not drawn in by the image of his father, and Robert Duncan McNeill puts a lot of fraught emotions into his assurances to Janeway that he’s not even tempted to look at the viewscreen.

As much fun as it is to dig into the characters’ psyches a bit, particularly Janeway’s, and as nice as it is to see Kes save the day, I find the Bothans themselves to be disappointing in the end, mostly because we don’t find out what they actually get out of their ability to put sentient beings into a coma. And what are they, really? Are they beings of energy like the Organians? Powerful creatures like the Metrons or the Q? Overly powerful telepaths like the Talosians whose physicality is atrophied?

Still, this is a fun character piece with lots of nice little touches, from the six-inch EMH to Janeway’s methodical attempts to figure out what’s happening, plus just a general reminder that the most of the crew has something to get home to. James L. Conway’s direction is superb, conveying the growing confusion and horror beautifully. I particularly liked the incredibly effective smash cut from Janeway being attacked by Mrs. Templeton in her cabin to sickbay with Tuvok trying desperately to get her out of it.

Warp factor rating: 8

Keith R.A. DeCandido hopes folks will consider supporting the crowdfund for his next novel, a collaboration with David Sherman entitled To Hell and Regroup, the third book in the “18th Race” trilogy of military science fiction novels. It’s being jointly crowdfunded with Christopher L. Bennett’s Arachne’s Crime, the first of a planned duology of science fiction novels. Check it out!

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