Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Equinox, Part II”

Equinox Part II”
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Directed by David Livingston
Season 6, Episode 1
Production episode 221
Original air date: September 22, 1999
Stardate: unknown

Captain’s log. After a summary of Part I, we see Janeway being attacked by one of the aliens, but she dodges it thanks to Chakotay’s warning. Chakotay’s not so lucky—he’s wounded by a creature. Janeway manages to juryrig a shield strengthening, but it’s only temporary.

Equinox is buggering off, with Ransom ordering them to maintain course even thought they see that Voyager is being assaulted by the creatures.

Neelix finds the mobile emitter on deck nine and gives it to Janeway, who brings it to sickbay and activates the EMH—or, rather, the Equinox EMH (let’s keep calling him EMH-E), who bluffs as the Voyager EMH, and treats Chakotay.

When Chakotay recovers, he wants to try to communicate with the creatures—something Ransom and his people never did—but Janeway is focused entirely on tracking Ransom down, and not just because he still has Seven hostage.

On the Equinox, Ransom tries to convince Seven to join their crew, but she refuses. Burke discovers that the Voyager EMH was left behind in Equinox’s systems, and activates him to treat Seven for her injuries. When Ransom orders the enhanced warp drive activated, it fails to do so—Gilmore realizes that Seven encoded it, and she refuses to give up the code. Ransom deletes the EMH’s ethical subroutines, and he then is suddenly willing to basically take Seven’s brain apart to get the information.

Chakotay’s first attempt to communicate results in a pause in the creatures’ attacks, but only that. Janeway is unwilling to make a second attempt as she is focused completely on hunting down Ransom, which she is seemingly obsessed with doing at all costs, no matter how long it takes.

Equinox is hiding in the upper atmosphere of a planet while they effect repairs. Voyager is unable to find them. Chakotay recommends contacting the Ankari, the species that introduced the Equinox to the creatures. Janeway refuses, as they’re too far away, instead sending him to astrometrics. She’s been studying Ransom’s service record, and he has a tendency to hide when he’s being pursued.

Chakotay is able to find them in the atmosphere they’re hiding in and Voyager heads there, polarizing their hull to hide from sensors. Ransom has sent an away team of Lessing and another crewperson to investigate some deuterium deposits on the planet. Chakotay and Paris beam down and take the two of them prisoner. However, the EMH-E contacts the Equinox to tell them what’s going on, and they get into a brief battle before Equinox runs off after luring Voyager into the atmosphere, which weakens their shields enough to allow the creatures to attack.

Janeway interrogates Lessing, showing a willingness to lower the shields in the cargo bay so that the creatures will get through and attack him. Chakotay is appalled, and rescues Lessing, who admits that there’s an Ankari vessel following them. Janeway agrees to go talk to them, but she also relieves Chakotay of duty for flouting her authority.

Star Trek: Voyager "Equinox, Part II"

Screenshot: CBS

When they rendezvous with the Ankari vessel, they don’t answer hails at first, so Janeway puts them in a tractor beam (to which Tuvok justifiably objects, and Janeway threatens to relieve him of duty as well). The Ankari are then willing to talk, and they agree to broker a conversation with the “spirits of good fortune.” The creatures insist on being allowed to take Equinox, and Janeway appalls Tuvok by agreeing to those terms.

On Equinox, Burke informs Ransom that they need more fuel, and Ransom finds himself annoyed by the euphemism. He goes to his quarters and uses the synaptic stimulator to pretend to be on a beach. To his surprise, a human version of Seven is there, which has never happened before—the stimulators only provide landscapes, not people. But Ransom is hallucinating Seven, which is not helping with his guilt.

Voyager catches up to Equinox. Ransom wants to surrender to her and try to achieve a rapprochement with the aliens. Burke says fuck that noise and assumes command, ordering Ransom to be put in the brig by Gilmore. Burke then engages Voyager. One of Equinox’s nacelles is destroyed, but then Gilmore reveals that she’s on Ransom’s side. She takes him to engineering where Ransom tries to take control of the ship. He also alerts Janeway to the fact that she has the wrong EMH on her ship.

With Ransom’s help, Janeway is able to transport a few of the crew off the ship, as well as Seven and their own EMH (with ethical subroutines restored). The EMH deletes the EMH-E, and now only Ransom, Burke, and a few others are left behind. Burke refuses to transport to Voyager. The aliens come on board and kill Ransom, Burke, and the remaining crew.

Star Trek: Voyager "Equinox, Part II"

Screenshot: CBS

Seven promises to help the EMH come up with safeguards to prevent his ethical subroutines from being removed again. The five remaining Equinox crew, which includes Gilmore and Lessing, have all been reduced in rank to crewperson (which Lessing already was, but never mind), and they will be the lowest-ranking people on Voyager. Janeway says it will take a lot for them to earn her trust.

Janeway reinstates Chakotay and admits she gave him reason to stage a Burke-like mutiny, but Chakotay says that would’ve crossed a line.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? A parthogenic atmosphere can apparently occlude sensors. Not sure how, since they just made that word up and it’s a type of atmosphere we’ll never see again.

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway inexplicably becomes completely obsessed with apprehending Ransom to the point where she throws all her ethics out the window.

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok is as appalled by Chakotay at Janeway’s actions, trying on several occasions to talk her down, to no avail.

Half and half. Torres tries to appeal to Burke based on their past relationship. She completely fails.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. Apparently, deleting the EMH’s ethical subroutines completely changes his personality. And his loyalty. He comments at the end at being disturbed that someone can flick a switch and turn him from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde, having apparently forgotten that that happened once before in “Darkling.”

Resistance is futile. Seven gets to sabotage Equinox, refuse Ransom’s offer of joining his crew, be tortured by the newly ethically challenged EMH, and sing a duet of “My Darling Clementine” with him.

What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. The last thing Ransom does before he dies is activate the synaptic stimulator for one last walk on the beach.

Do it.

“You know, once we get our enhanced warp drive back online, we’ll be on our way home. But it’ll still take months to get there. You can spend that time in the brig, or you can become part of this crew. I’d prefer the latter.”

“I’d prefer the brig.”

“You know, Janeway’s not the only captain who can help you explore your humanity.”

“You would be an inferior role model.”

–Ransom trying and failing to recruit Seven.

Welcome aboard. Back from Part I are John Savage as Ransom, Titus Welliver as Burke, Rick Worthy as Lessing, and Olivia Birkelund as Gilmore.

Trivial matters: For the first time since January 1993, there is now only one Star Trek show in production instead of two, as DS9 ended in May 1999. This will continue from this point until May 2005, when Enterprise is cancelled.

With DS9 ending production, Ronald D. Moore came over to Voyager as a co-executive producer, though it will only last two episodes. Initially excited about reuniting with his erstwhile writing partner Brannon Braga, now Voyager’s show-runner, Moore clashed with Braga and the rest of the writers room and quit in disgust. He has been very vocal about his dissatisfaction with the way the show was run, though he and Braga later buried the hatchet.

While five Equinox crew are seen to be joining Voyager as crewpeople, they are never really seen or mentioned again on screen for the remaining two seasons. (The extra who plays one of them is seen again, but that’s it.) They are mentioned in the novelization of the series finale Endgame by Diane Carey, and Ilsa J. Bick’s short story “Bottomless” in the Distant Shores anthology focuses on Gilmore.

I’m not even going to try to guess what the crew complement of the ship is at this point, but Kim says two more people die, and we also see Paris pulling a sheet over someone in sickbay, though it’s not clear if that’s one of the two Kim was talking about or not. We’re never given their names, nor any reason to care who they are, nor even verification of whether or not it’s two or three. There are now either twenty-one or twenty-two confirmed deaths among the crew, plus however many died in “The Killing Game, Part II.” Two others departed (Seska, Kes), and now seven folks have been added to their numbers (Seven, Naomi, and the five Equinox crew).

Star Trek: Voyager "Equinox, Part II"

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “What’s happened to you, Kathryn?” What a misbegotten piece of crap.

This should have been a great episode. There was a real chance here to show two parallel situations: Voyager’s captain and first officer clashing as the captain devolves into mania out of desperation and Equinox’s CO and XO doing likewise in the other direction. And we do get that, but it’s all surface with no depth, no rhyme, no reason.

It also requires three characters to make significant changes in character, and only one of those three is believable. John Savage sells Ransom’s change of heart, especially as he finds himself in a position to torture Seven for information, not to mention leaving Voyager at the mercy of the creatures.

But the other two are given no context, no reason, and no proper resolution. Burke suddenly goes full psychopath, relieving Ransom of duty and also not following the Evil Overlord Rules when he takes over. The charming, pleasant ex-boyfriend of Torres’ from Part I is gone, replaced by a hardened asshole, and we’re given no reason for the change, aside from the three-month gap in writing Part II after Part I.

However, the worst offender is the absurd behavior of Captain Janeway, who suddenly decides to go all crazypants on everyone. She rejects the notion of talking to the aliens, even though their animus against the crew is understandable, and also could be dealt with if they just talked to them. She relieves Chakotay of duty for disagreeing with her (and agreeing with the Starfleet principles that Janeway has steadfastly maintained most of the time for the past five years and, oh yeah, is mainly pissed at Ransom because he’s violated them). She threatens to do the same to Tuvok. She tractors a non-hostile ship just to get their attention. She agrees to condemn the Equinox crew to death in order to save her own ass.

Oh, and she also tortures Lessing.

I see what they were going for here, but it does not work because there is absolutely nothing anywhere in the episode that indicates that Janeway has been driven over the edge. We’ve seen Janeway losing it in a manner similar to this before, but it was in the “Year of Hell” two-parter after months of horrible-ness—and even then, the Janeway of that since-erased timeline was nowhere near as sociopathic as the one we get here. Being pissed at Ransom doesn’t go anywhere near enough to explain why she’s gone so far around the bend that her behavior is akin to Ransom’s.

And then in the end, she admits that Chakotay had reason to be pissed—she doesn’t even apologize—and then everything’s all back to normal. Oh, except they’ve got a few extra crew whom we’ll never see again.

In much the same way that I utterly despise the TNG episode “Homeward” because turned the Enterprise­-D crew in general and Picard in particular into murderers, I also utterly despise this episode, because it turns Janeway into a psychopath for no compellingly good reason, and then changes her back at the last minute. In much the same way that I had trouble sympathizing with the Equinox crew in Part I because they committed mass murder, I have trouble sympathizing with Janeway in Part II because she commits acts of torture, acts of war, and acts of depraved indifference to murder. I can see her anger at Ransom compromising her judgment up to a point, and maybe having her act irrationally. We’ve seen this before, with Kirk in “Obsession,” with Picard in First Contact, and (in a situation with significantly lower stakes) with Sisko in “Take Me Out to the Holosuite.” But in each case, there was good reason for it—in fact, it was kinda the same reason for all three, a past trauma (Kirk’s self-perceived failure on the Farragut, Picard’s being made into Locutus, Sisko’s being tormented by Solok) warping their present-day selves. Janeway has no such excuse, she’s just met an asshole, and it has turned her into the same kind of asshole because the script says so.

(I didn’t even get into all the other problems, like Tuvok just raising token objections to Janeway’s behavior, even though he’s been willing to go much further to kick her back in-bounds in the past, and especially the EMH’s entire personality changing when his ethical subroutines are removed. In particular, it makes no sense that the EMH would suddenly follow Ransom’s orders, nor that he would just blithely torture Seven. Sure, he has no ethics now, but he’s still the person we’ve seen develop over five years. Wouldn’t he at least still be loyal to his friends? Doesn’t he still carry a torch for Seven?)

Warp factor rating: 1

Keith R.A. DeCandido just turned 52 yesterday. Please wish him a happy birthday!

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