Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Unforgettable”

“Unforgettable”
Written by Greg Elliot & Michael Perricone
Directed by Andrew J. Robinson
Season 4, Episode 22
Production episode 190
Original air date: April 22, 1998
Stardate: 51813.4

Captain’s log. Voyager finds itself proximate to a firefight, though they can only detect the results of the weapons fire, not the actual battle itself. Seven theorizes that the combatants are cloaked, which proves to be the case when one ship blows up the other one.

The surviving ship’s occupant is a woman named Kellin, who contacts Voyager and asks for Chakotay by name. They can’t get a transporter lock on her, and so Chakotay leads a team over to the ship. He rescues Kellin from being stuck under fallen debris and then transports back to Voyager with her. The EMH is able to treat her despite the fact that the tricorder and biobed don’t retain any information about her a second after she’s scanned.

Kellin explains that her people, the Ramurans, emit a pheromone that makes people forget them once they’re no longer proximate to them. She, in fact, spent a week on Voyager, but everyone forgot about that once she left. She has returned because she wants asylum on Voyager.

The thing is, the Ramurans are fanatically isolationist, to the point that they’re not allowed to leave their home system. Kellin, in fact, is a Tracer, charged with hunting down people who leave and bringing them back. She found one such fugitive stowing away on Voyager. She accidentally revealed herself to internal scans, and Chakotay captured her. Eventually, she explained herself, and they spent a week searching for the fugitive, finally tricking him into being in a particular location so they could deactivate his personal cloak.

But in that week, Kellin fell in love with Chakotay and now, a month later, she has decided to come to Voyager to be with him. Unfortunately, he remembers nothing of any of this, and he can’t bring himself to entirely trust her. However, as they talk, and as Kellin describes their time together that he no longer remembers, he starts to fall for her again. Eventually, they wind up smooching in his quarters.

Two cloaked Ramuran ships challenge Voyager, but Kellin helps them adjust sensors so they can get a weapons lock. The minute Voyager fires back, the two ships bugger off. Kellin is sure that they won’t give up this easily and they’ll be back.

Wanting to make herself useful, Kellin offers to become part of Tuvok’s security detail. Tuvok agrees to let her shadow one of his teams for a week and evaluate her.

A Tracer, Curneth, managed to get on board during the firefight with the two ships, and he captures Kellin in Chakotay’s quarters and uses a neurolytic emitter on her that will erase all her memories of the world outside the Ramuran homeworld. Chakotay places Curneth in the brig and brings Kellin to sickbay, but there’s nothing the EMH can do to stop the process. As her memories start to fade, Kellin begs Chakotay to do for her what she did for him: tell her about their relationship.

He does so, but she seems unmoved by it. If anything, her learning about this apparent lapse in judgment makes her more determined to go back home where she belongs. Reluctantly, Chakotay frees Curneth and lets him take her away. He then writes down what happened using pen and paper so it will be preserved after she’s gone.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Somehow, Ramuran pheromones are able to affect technology that the Ramurans have never encountered by erasing all trace of them. That’s totally plausible.

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway is surprisingly blasé about giving Kellin asylum, given that there’s a metric buttload of doubt and uncertainty regarding her.

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok considers allowing Kellin to be part of her security detail. He also makes, not one, but two jokes on the subject.

Forever an ensign. Kim laments to Chakotay that Seven’s upgrades to the astrometrics sensors are not yet compatible with regular ship’s sensors, and he is not happy when Chakotay orders him to work with Seven to make them compatible. (Paris also teases him on the subject.)

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix winds up serving as Chakotay’s sounding board, both when he’s uncertain about how to respond to Kellin and when he’s struggling with her having lost her memory.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH is confused by the fact that his scans of Kellin won’t stay in the computer. But, as he himself says: “Luckily, I’m a master of visual diagnosis.” How he visually diagnoses a concussion is left as an exercise for the viewer.

Resistance is futile. Seven notices twice that Chakotay and Kellin’s faces grow flush when they discuss the other. Kim gets to explain to her about courtship rituals and how important they are to humans. Seven listens very carefully and concludes that they’re stupid.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Kellin rejects her entire society for love of Chakotay, only to have him not believe it’s real. When he finally does, her memory is erased, so she no longer even is willing to take the chance of loving him. And then Chakotay forgets all about her after she leaves. Cha cha cha.

Do it.

“If Kellin’s going to be with us, the captain wants her to serve a function—to contribute in some way.”

“A reasonable expectation. What are her skills?”

“Basically, she was a security operative for her people. She’s a trained expert in weaponry, surveillance, fighting skills—any idea where she might fit in?”

“Mr. Neelix could use an assistant in the mess hall.”

“Tuvok, that was a joke. Don’t deny it, you were trying to be funny.”

“If you choose to interpret my remark as humorous, that is your decision.”

“I do and it was.”

“It’s perfectly logical. All the qualities you mentioned would help in defending Neelix against the periodic wrath of the crew.”

–Chakotay and Tuvok discussing Kellin’s potential role on the ship while also giving Tuvok a chance to make a funny (twice!) and troll Neelix.

Welcome aboard. The big guest is Oscar-nominated actor Virginia Madsen as Kellin. Madsen had previously acted alongside both Robert Beltran and Tim Russ in the movies Slam Dance and Fire With Fire, respectively.

Michael Canavan and Chuck Magnus play the other two Ramurans we see. Canavan previously appeared in DS9’s “Defiant” as a Maquis, and will play a Vulcan in Enterprise‘s “First Flight.”

Trivial matters: At the top of the episode, Kim mentions that Voyager is searching for a deuterium source. This foreshadows “Demon” two episodes hence, when Voyager finally finds such a source.

Torres doesn’t appear in this episode, as Roxann Dawson was busy giving birth.

Star Trek: Voyager "Unforgettable"

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “Since I can’t remember any of that, I don’t know if it’s true.” After almost four full years of watching this show very aggressively hit the metaphorical reset button, it’s amusing to see a script that has the reset button be part of the plot.

The problem is that, as nifty a general concept as the Ramurans’ memory-wiping pheromone is, it makes absolutely no sense in any practical way. I’ll buy that people forget about them, though it strains credulity that the pheromone would work exactly the same way on every species they encounter. But I don’t buy for a nanosecond that they also have the ability to wipe records of themselves from technology—especially not from technology they’re not familiar with. Also, how does the EMH not remember her? He doesn’t have a brain as such.

I might have been willing to buy it if Kellin had only been on board for a little while, but she was there for a week. There had to be significant evidence of her presence that would’ve been recorded by sensors in a variety of manners, and the gaps in people’s memories is something they would have investigated. I find myself reminded of TNG’s “Clues,” where they kept finding little things that showed evidence of something they didn’t remember, and they kept picking at it. Wouldn’t Voyager‘s crew do likewise?

The scripting is also pretty lackluster. Even with the problematic technical issues, the actual story is a good one, and Robert Beltran and Virginia Madsen convinced me of the relationship. I especially like that Chakotay is hugely mistrusting at first—after all, he’s been burned pretty badly on this front before with Seska—but he eventually realizes that she’s telling the truth, mostly because he falls in love with her all over again.

But the dialogue is incredibly clichéd and weak (a notable exception being Chakotay and Tuvok’s conversation about Kellin’s possible job on the ship), with the two conversations between Chakotay and Neelix being particularly cringe-worthy and sleep-inducing in their sappy cliché-ness.

The tragedy of this episode was pretty predictable from the moment we learned the Ramurans’ nature, and besides which, you knew Madsen wasn’t going to become a regular, and you knew that Chakotay would forget all about her as soon as she was gone. (Though at least they didn’t kill her off, which was a relief.) I did like the double whammy of Kellin also forgetting, and I really liked Chakotay mainlining coffee to stay up and write it all down on paper before he forgot it again.

But this was a strong concept that needed better execution on the script front. Ultimately, it’s distressingly, well, forgettable…

Warp factor rating: 5

Keith R.A. DeCandido’s 2021 output will start with the thriller Animal, a novel written with Dr. Munish K. Batra; continue with Feat of Clay, the second book in his urban fantasy series following 2019’s A Furnace Sealed; and also include the short stories “Unguarded” in the anthology Horns and Halos, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail & John L. French, and “In Earth and Sky and Sea Strange Things There Be” in Turning the Tied, edited by Jean Rabe & Robert Greenberger; with more still to be announced. In addition, his 2005 Spider-Man novel Down These Mean Streets will be reprinted by Titan as part of the Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours omnibus, alongside Spidey novels by Jim Butcher and Christopher L. Bennett.

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