Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Retrospect”

“Retrospect”
Written by Andrew Shepard Price & Mark Gaberman and Bryan Fuller & Lisa Klink
Directed by Jesús Salvador Treviño
Season 4, Episode 17
Production episode 185
Original air date: February 25, 1998
Stardate: 51658.2

Captain’s log. Voyager has traveled to Enthara, where they have been negotiating with a weapons dealer named Kovin, trying to beef up Voyager‘s tactical specs in light of the ongoing Hirogen threat. Once they settle on terms, Janeway and Chakotay agree to let Seven out of the penalty box so she can help Torres and Kovin install the systems.

In engineering, Kovin is a condescending shit, and shoves Seven out of the way because he thinks she’s doing it wrong. Her response is to palm-heel him in the nose.

The EMH treats Kovin, who is livid, thinking he has done nothing to warrant this treatment. Seven herself can’t explain why she had such an extreme reaction to Kovin’s behavior, which was creepy, but not really worthy of assault and battery. And then when the EMH examines her, she flinches when he brings instruments near her. When he tries to examine her, she has an anxiety attack when he puts the diagnostic cover over her.

According to a brain scan, she has evidence of repressed memories. The EMH recommends a psychiatric treatment that will help bring those memories to the fore. He’s been adding therapy-based subroutines to his program, since Voyager doesn’t have a ship’s counselor. Janeway gives the okay, and he proceeds in the cargo bay—a familiar setting to make Seven comfortable.

The memories start to come back to Seven: she recalls Kovin demonstrating some weapons for Seven and Paris. They want to make an adjustment to a rifle. Seven and Kovin go to do that while Paris checks out some other weapons. Once they’re in the lab, Kovin turns his weapon on Seven and renders her unconscious, then puts her on a table and extracts several of her nanoprobes, then alters her memories so she forgets what happened. When she “wakes up,” Kovin says that the rifle overloaded and rendered her unconscious.

The EMH believes Seven’s story that she was violated. Tuvok cautions that human memories are not always reliable, but the EMH also has the evidence in Seven’s own nanoprobes that indicate tampering. Janeway agrees that they must investigate further.

Star Trek: Voyager "Retrospect"

Screenshot: CBS

Kovin vociferously denies any wrongdoing. He also says that Entharan culture is such that even the accusation would torpedo his career as a weapons dealer. He insists that the rifle overloaded, and it caused the change in Seven’s nanoprobes that the EMH saw. However, Janeway refuses to back down, and so Kovin allows his lab to be examined by Tuvok and the EMH, under the direction of an Entharan magistrate.

The biological evidence indicates that Seven is telling the truth, and the magistrate says it’s enough to hold Kovin and starting a formal inquiry. Kovin’s response to this is to transport to his ship and run away.

While Voyager goes after Kovin, Janeway and the EMH examine the evidence further, and in the lab they realize that the rifle overloading could indeed have caused the change to the nanoprobes that the EMH detected. When they catch up to Kovin, they tell him that they misread the evidence, and to please turn himself in. He instead fires on Voyager, and then his weapons array overloads and the ship blows up.

Seven is confused by her feelings of remorse, while the EMH is devastated by the fact that he jumped to conclusions, and offers to remove his program additions. Janeway refuses to let him.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Kovin is peddling isokinetic cannons. The prefix “iso” means “equal,” so apparently the weapons have equal kinetics? I guess?

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway is at her wit’s end with how to discipline Seven, as nothing seems to work. Of course, she was the one who thought it was a good idea to try to integrate an ex-Borg into the crew in the first place…

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok promises a thorough and impartial investigation, which only placates Kovin until that investigation doesn’t get the result Kovin wanted, at which point, he runs away.

Half and half. When reporting to Janeway on what went down in engineering when Seven decked Kovin, Torres is very obviously enjoying the fact that Kovin got socked in the face, and is almost admiring of how Seven hauled off and decked him. Given that it’s a method of disagreeing with a colleague that Torres herself used on Joe Carey way back when, this isn’t surprising…

Resistance is futile. Seven deals with repressed memories and anger and remorse. She also acts very much like someone who has survived a sexual assault in the early going.

Star Trek: Voyager "Retrospect"

Screenshot: CBS

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH has been tinkering with his program again, this time adding therapeutic and psychiatric treatments to his program. This has mostly better results than the last time he tinkered

Do it.

“When I started helping you improve your social skills, I’m fairly certain I didn’t include a boxing lesson.”

–The EMH’s response to Seven after she decked Kovin.

Welcome aboard. Michael Horton, who played Enterprise-E tactical officer Daniels in the movies First Contact and Insurrection, plays Kovin, while Adrian Sparks plays the magistrate.

Trivial matters: Bryan Fuller and Lisa Klink’s method of collaborating on this script was to each write every other scene.

Janeway refers to Seven having been behaving herself lately, a reference to Janeway having to confine her to the cargo bay and astrometrics at the end of “Prey.”

The last time the EMH altered his program, it was to improve his bedside manner, with disastrous results in “Darkling.”

The crew make reference to facing the Hirogen, whom they’ve had encounters with in each of the last three episodes, “Message in a Bottle,” “Hunters,” and “Prey,” and who will be back in the following two-parter.

Tuvok and the EMH discuss the last time Seven had repressed memories brought to the fore, in “The Raven.”

Star Trek: Voyager "Retrospect"

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “That guy is worse than a Ferengi.” I really have a deep-seated loathing for this episode. It fails on nearly every possible level, and provides a despicable message.

Okay, let’s start with the biggest problem, which is procedural. Yes, they do turn up evidence that supports Kovin’s account of what happens. But that, in and of itself, doesn’t negate Seven’s account! The fact that there are two possible conclusions to draw from the evidence doesn’t mean that one is automatically right and one is wrong. Yes, Occam’s Razor would indicate that Kovin’s story is more plausible, especially since Seven’s repressed memories included an Entharan being assimilated into a Borg, of which there’s no evidence (indeed it isn’t even mentioned again after the therapy session). But Kovin’s own behavior is indicative of guilt. Yes, just the accusation is damaging to his reputation, but so is running away from justice.

In an interview in the official Voyager magazine, Bryan Fuller said that he and Lisa Klink deliberately avoided there being anything sexual in the attack on Seven because they didn’t want it to be about rape. The notion that rape can only be sexual is a flawed one, which is probably why their intent so completely and totally failed. For one thing, Jeri Ryan 100% played Seven’s reactions to Kovin being creepy in the teaser and the EMH examining her in sickbay as someone who is suffering from PTSD after a sexual assault. If she didn’t really experience what she says Kovin did to her, why is she flinching at the EMH’s examination?

In 1998, this was very much an episode about the unreliability of human memory, and how repressed memories aren’t always dependable. But watching in 2020, all I see is a yet another woman who has been assaulted and nobody believes her once the slightest doubt is cast, plus there’s concern about the reputation of the man who is accused. I was appalled to watch this show turn into a colloquy on how horrible it is when women accuse men of rape because look at what that accusation does to the poor man, never mind that the woman was—to use the word the script itself uses—violated.

If the procedural elements had been better written, if it had been more clear that the evidence exonerated Kovin, that would be one thing. I’d still be unhappy about it, but at least it would’ve worked on its own terms. But everything in the episode points to doubt, and even if Kovin’s version of events is more plausible, he still ran away rather than face justice and fired on Voyager when they tracked him down. Whether or not he’s guilty of assaulting Seven, he’s definitely guilty of fleeing arrest and of assault on Voyager. And the fact that Janeway looks accusingly at Seven after Kovin blows himself up is absurd—it’s not Seven’s fault that this asshole went all fugitive on everyone. That was his choice, and if he paid the ultimate price for it, it’s of his own making, not Seven’s.

This had all the makings of a strong psychological thriller, and it has some excellent performances by Ryan as a traumatized Seven who doesn’t know what to do with the unfamiliar feelings she’s having, and by Robert Picardo as an EMH who’s trying out a new thing. But the execution is botched, and in a manner that is morally repugnant.

Warp factor rating: 3 

Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s next novel is Animal, a thriller he wrote with Dr. Munish K. Batra, about a serial killer who targets people who harm animals. It’s now available for preorder, and if you preorder it directly from WordFire Press before the 24th of December, you get a free urban fantasy short story by Keith.

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