“The Killing Game”
Written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Directed by David Livingston
Season 4, Episode 18
Production episode 186
Original air date: March 4, 1998
Captain’s log. The Hirogen have attacked and boarded Voyager, subduing the entire crew. Rather than hunt them, as is traditional, the alpha, Karr, has imprisoned much of the crew, and used others to participate in holodeck scenarios designed to learn more about their prey.
We open with a cave on a Klingon world, where Janeway has been surgically altered to look like a Klingon. Hirogen neural interfaces suppress people’s memories and superimpose a new personality. In this case, Janeway is a Klingon warrior, who does not surrender, though she is defeated by a knife to the gut. She’s brought to sickbay, where the EMH and the Hirogen medic are able to heal her. Karr then instructs her to be sent to Holodeck 1, where he has set up an Earth scenario, specifically World War II France.
Janeway is Katrine, the owner of Le Coeur de Lion, a bistro in Sainte Claire, a town in Nazi-occupied France. Tuvok is her bartender, Seven of Nine is Mademoiselle de Neuf, the singer, and Torres is Brigitte, who is pregnant by one of the German military. Ostensibly, Le Coeur de Lion is open to all, the first drink is on the house, and you must leave the war outside. In truth, it’s the central point for the local cell of the French Resistance, and they’re gathering intelligence to help American forces advance through the town to liberate it before moving on to Germany.
Neelix is serving as a courier, and he brings the keys to the cipher in radio messages to Brigitte. The Americans will be arriving within a few days, and Katrine and her people must disable the Nazi communications.
The Hirogen beta, Turanj, doesn’t understand why Karr is doing all this nonsense. Karr and Turanj have been posing as a Nazi commandant and his aide-de-camp, but Turanj, fed up with all of this, shoots Neelix and Seven in the back.
They’re taken to sickbay. The EMH is appalled and begs the Hirogen medic to reinstate the holodeck safety protocols, but Karr’s orders are to keep them disengaged. While Seven is to be returned to Sainte Claire, Neelix is sent to the Klingon simulation. Meanwhile, Karr instructs Kim—one of the few crew members who isn’t either locked away or performing in a holodeck simulation—to expand the holoemitters to a wider field on the ship. At this point, the holodecks take up several decks.
When he’s alone, Kim uses the expanded holoemitters to bring the EMH to talk to him. He’s worked out a way to disable the neural interfaces, but it requires someone in the holodeck to engage the bridge control relays. The EMH can use Seven’s Borg implants to disable her neural interface, and then she can engage the bridge control relays. The only problem is that she’ll have no memory of what she was doing on the holodeck, so she’ll have to bluff her way through being Mademoiselle de Neuf.
Karr explains to Turanj that it’s important to know your prey, which is why he’s been doing all these historical simulations on the holodeck. He also feels that the Hirogen culture is disintegrating, overwhelmed by pure predatory instinct. Karr feels it’s important to learn about prey, not just blithely hunt it, hence the holodeck simulations.
Seven’s neural interface futzes out while de Neuf is mid-song. Seven doesn’t actually know any songs, so she excuses herself, saying she’s sick. Katrine orders her to go back onstage—she’s pumping Karr for information, and he likes her singing—but Seven refuses. Tuvok and Katrine have been suspicious of de Neuf, thinking she might be a Nazi sympathizer, and Seven’s behavior is only feeding that paranoia.
Chakotay and Paris are two American soldiers, Captain Miller and Lieutenant Davis, respectively. Davis has been to Sainte Claire before, and had a relationship with Brigitte, though he hasn’t heard from her recently. As they advance on the town, Katrine, Tuvok, and de Neuf go to Nazi headquarters to plant explosives. Tuvok stands guard while Katrine and de Neuf go inside. However, Seven isn’t familiar with such primitive explosives and screws up setting them, making Katrine more suspicious. Then Seven starts messing with a holodeck control. This gives Kim the ability to access sickbay systems and give the EMH the ability to neutralize the neural interfaces. However, he’s only able to neutralize Janeway’s before he’s caught and deactivated.
His timing is good, as Katrine was about to shoot de Neuf. Seven brings Janeway up to speed even as Miller and Davis arrive. They attack Nazi HQ, but their holographic artillery is enough to blow a big-ass hole in the bulkhead, which is what happens when you disengage the safeties. Miller, assuming this is some secret Nazi installation, sends his people into Voyager’s corridors. The damage is such that Kim no longer has control over the holodeck and can’t shut it down. Now Karr has a real war on his hands…
To be continued…
There’s coffee in that nebula! Katrine dressed in a white suit and looks and acts very much like Rick Blaine in Casablanca, though she’s much more of a dedicated resistance fighter than the more laissez-faire Rick. Janeway also makes a dandy Klingon at the top of the episode.
Mr. Vulcan. If Tuvok’s character has an alternate name, we don’t get it. But he’s pretty much Katrine’s security chief anyhow, so it’s not much of a stretch for him.
Half and half. Brigitte develops a relationship with one of the Nazi captains—going so far as to have a baby with him—in order to get access for the resistance. (This also enabled Roxann Dawson’s pregnancy not to be hidden for a couple of episodes…)
Resistance is futile. Once again, it’s Borg implants to the rescue! The EMH is able to use the magical mystery nanoprobes to futz out the neural interface.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH is stuck having to heal the crew every time they’re injured on the holodeck. He does, at least, convince the Hirogen to avoid head shots, as those are harder to fix, and he has lost at least one patient in the three weeks the Hirogen have been on board.
Forever an ensign. Poor Kim isn’t allowed to cosplay with the rest of the gang, instead stuck on the bridge being tech support…
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Fittingly, Neelix’s task in Sainte Claire is to deliver food. After he’s shot, he gets to think he’s a Klingon. (And poor Ethan Phillps had to wear both Talaxian and Klingon makeup, for which one hopes he got combat pay…)
What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. The Hirogen pretty much turn half the ship into a couple of big-ass holodecks. And once again the safeties are disengaged, and once again I must ask WHY THE FUCK AREN’T THOSE HARDWIRED especially since it means that holographic explosives can blow a hole in the bulkheads…
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Even in the Hirogen-created simulation, Paris and Torres are a couple, as Davis and Brigitte had a thing in the past.
“When the Americans arrive and the fighting begins, I don’t intend to be standing next to a piano, singing ‘Moonlight Becomes You’.”
–Seven as Mademoiselle de Neuf, bitching about her role in the resistance.
Welcome aboard. By appearing as Karr in this two-parter, Danny Goldring plays his third of five Trek roles, having previously been on DS9 as a Cardassian politician in “Civil Defense” and a human soldier in “Nor the Battle to the Strong.” He’ll appear twice on Enterprise, once as a Nausicaan captain in “Fortunate Son,” once as a Takret captain in “The Catwalk.”
Other Hirogen are played by Mark Deakins, Mark Metcalf, and Paul Eckstein.
Deakins will return in the “Unimatrix Zero” two-parter, and also appear in Insurrection.
Eckstein, having played two different Jem’Hadar in DS9’s “Rocks and Shoals” and “The Dogs of War,” will return to Voyager to play a different Hirogen in “Flesh and Blood,” Supervisor Yost in “Gravity,” and a Klingon in “Prophecy.”
This is Metcalf’s only Trek appearance. He’s best known for playing Neidermeyer in Animal House, the pissed-off Dad in Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” music video, and the Master in the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Finally, the Nazi captain is played by J. Paul Boehmer. He’ll return in “Drone” as a Borg, and play a different Nazi in Enterprise‘s “Zero Hour” and “Storm Front.” He’ll also appear in DS9’s “Tacking Into the Wind” as a Cardassian and Enterprise‘s “Carbon Creek” as Mestral.
All five will return for Part 2.
Trivial matters: Though this and Part 2 were produced and filmed as two separate episodes, complete with different directors, they were aired in a single two-hour block on the 4th of March 1998. They have remained as single episodes in syndication and home video, however. The success of this stunt would lead to UPN doing it again in season five with “Dark Frontier” and season seven with “Flesh and Blood.”
While we only see the Klingon and World War II scenarios, others are mentioned, notably the Crusades as one that had already been done, and Karr also mentions wanting to do the Battle of Wolf 359 between the Federation and the Borg, as seen in TNG’s “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II” and DS9’s “Emissary.”
This two-parter is the only time that Roxann Dawson’s pregnancy is visible, as it’s written into the storyline that her holodeck character is pregnant.
Joe Menosky had wanted to do a World War II episode ever since he returned to the U.S. after spending time in Europe.
As Mademoiselle de Neuf (which means “of Nine”), Seven sings two 1940s ditties, “It Can’t be Wrong” and “That Old Black Magic.” The latter song will be heard again in “Virtuoso.” Jeri Ryan did her own singing.
The EMH mentions that one crewmember has died in the three weeks since the Hirogen took over. This brings the crew’s death count up to fifteen, and the crew complement should be at 140, despite the inexplicably higher number given in “Displaced” and “Distant Origin.” They had 155 when they destroyed the Caretaker’s array. (Seska and Kes also left, but Seven joined and Naomi Wildman was born, so that’s a wash.)
Set a course for home. “You wanted a war? Look like you got one.” In 1987, TNG pioneered the holodeck cosplay episode with “The Big Goodbye.” Little more than an opportunity for the actors to play dress-up, and often with a nonsensical actual plot, it’s a well that the 24th-century Star Trek shows dipped into repeatedly. From the Dashiell Hammett pastiche of “…Goodbye,” we progress to Sherlock Holmes (“Elementary, Dear Data,” “Ship in a Bottle”), Westerns (“A Fistful of Datas”), James Bond and his ilk (“Our Man Bashir“), Beowulf (“Heroes and Demons“), Renaissance Italy (“Scorpion,” “Concerning Flight”), etc. (Picard has not done so yet, thank heavens.)
“The Killing Game” fits right in. In fact, it’s pretty much the same plot as “Our Man Bashir,” except the stakes are way higher for our heroes, as the whole ship is in danger.
Ultimately, it’s ridiculous, but it’s a fun kind of ridiculous. It starts out with the absurd hilarity of Janeway as a Klingon—and points to Kate Mulgrew for attacking the role with gusto, as she totally throws herself into the part—and continues with a mix between Casablanca and ‘Allo ‘Allo. Seeing Seven as a chanteuse, Janeway as Rick Blaine, Chakotay and Paris as 1940s soldiers, Torres as a Mata Hari-style spy is all a delight. Honestly, I wish they’d gone further with it, as too much of it is folks in roles that are similar to their existing ones, and I’d have loved them a bit further afield from their usual personalities. At one point, Neelix bitches to Tuvok about him being so logical, and Tuvok bitches back, and I’m thinking, “Really? You can’t come up with a new argument?” And it might have been fun to see Seven and Tuvok be a bit looser and more emotional, and maybe have Chakotay’s Miller be a cigar-chomping Sergeant Fury type. I mean, you’re gonna have them play characters, have them play characters, dangit!
There’s a certain appeal to Karr’s idealism, of his wanting to reform Hirogen society, though it’s hard to get behind it too enthusiastically given that (a) we’ve only known about the Hirogen for five minutes, so a call for reforming it is of very little moment and (b) it’s really just an excuse for WWII cosplay anyhow, so who cares? Having said that, his rant at the Nazi captain following his master-race colloquy is brilliantly done. In fact, that scene is a masterpiece, with J. Paul Boehmer selling the white supremacist bullshit he spews, and Danny Goldring beautifully puncturing it.
Most of this is just a fun acting exercise. Which is good, because you’re certainly not watching it for the plot. When the Nazi building blows up and we see multiple decks on the other side of the bulkhead we know that scientific rigor—never Voyager’s strong suit—isn’t going to be the order of the day, and you just gotta roll with it.
Warp factor rating: 6
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.