Written by Brannon Braga and Robin Burger
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Season 6, Episode 14
Production episode 236
Original air date: February 2, 2000
Captain’s log. The Delta Flyer returns from a two-week mission of exploration and searching for dilithium ore. Chakotay, Kim, Paris, and Neelix are pretty much sick of the sight of each other, all blowing off their post-long-away-team physicals to relax. (During the two weeks, the sonic shower malfunctioned, so they’re all pretty stinky.)
Upon returning to Voyager, Torres has a surprise for Paris: a replica of a 1956 television set. They watch some old television shows (complete with commercials!), and she even replicated popcorn and beer. However, Paris becomes completely engrossed in the TV, ignoring Torres.
Suddenly, he sees, instead of old reruns, himself fighting a war in a jungle. It turns out he’s dreaming, but it’s a very distinctive dream, and Paris remembers fighting in a war recently.
While working in a Jefferies Tube, Kim starts hallucinating sounds of battle and has a panic attack. He immediately reports to sickbay, where the EMH diagnoses an anxiety attack brought on by the stress of the away mission. He prescribes a couple of days off.
In the mess hall, Neelix is sweaty and apprehensive as he chops vegetables, reacting in shock to a kettle whistling. When Naomi comes in to talk to him about one of her homework assignments, he blows her off, seeming nervous. When she burns her hand on a pot, he goes batshit, crying out for medical attention.
Chakotay has a nightmare about a battle in the same setting as the TV show Paris hallucinated. Chakotay is arguing with the commanding officer, a guy named Saavdra, saying that they have to stop shooting. These are civilians they’re supposed to be evacuating, not enemy combatants. But Saavdra insists they’re armed and dangerous.
Tuvok awakens Chakotay with a security alert: Neelix is holding Naomi hostage in the mess hall. Chakotay reports to the mess hall, and realizes that the details of the battle situation that Neelix imagines himself to be in is very similar to his dream. Chakotay tries something: He tells Neelix that Saavdra has ordered a cease-fire. This convinces Neelix to let Naomi go and stand down. Chakotay takes him to sickbay.
The EMH is forced to sedate Neelix, who is suffering PTSD. Chakotay says his dream matches what Neelix was hallucinating—except, according to the EMH’s scans, both Neelix and Chakotay are accessing memories. Belatedly, the EMH realizes that this may have been the cause of Kim’s anxiety attack.
Janeway has them retrace the away mission, since it must have happened there, given who’s being affected, though Chakotay recalls nothing untoward happening on the mission.
The away team meets in the briefing room with Janeway and Tuvok. Each member of the team remembers different bits, but the overall memory is the same: They were soldiers, serving under Saavdra. Their orders were to evacuate a colony, but then some resisted the evac and fired on the soldiers. Saavdra’s response was to fire indiscriminately on all the colonists. Neelix remembers trying to save some children, but they all ran away from him and were killed. Kim recalls getting lost in a cave system and coming across two scared colonists. He remembers offering to spare them, but then one of them reached for something, and Kim shot and killed them both, thinking they were going for weapons.
The four away team members are obviously devastated by these memories, and the EMH insists that they’re real memories. But there’s no other indication that any of this happened. Indeed, Paris distinctly remembers a shoulder wound, but there’s no sign of an injury on him.
Janeway and Chakotay join Seven in astrometrics and go over the fortnight the Delta Flyer was out. The first few planets and the ship they encountered are of no obvious relation, but then Janeway, of all people, recognizes a planet they orbited as Tarakis. Now Janeway starts to have memories of being on Tarakis and being appalled to see Saavdra ordering the bodies disintegrated so there’ll be no evidence of the massacre.
Janeway wakes up in the mess hall, hyperventilating. She’s been unconscious for hours, and now 39 more crewmembers have been debilitated by memories of Tarakis. She orders a course set for the planet.
Neelix is despondent, as he fears that Naomi hates him now. Seven brings him a dish of one of his favorite foods: Talaxian stew and terra nut soufflé. She has also added chocolate to the soufflé. Neelix isn’t really hungry, but then he talks to Seven about how she deals with all the atrocities she committed as a Borg drone. She points out that, while guilt can be awful, it can also serve to motivate her to become a better person. Neelix is comforted by that, and starts to eat his food.
Voyager arrives at Tarakis. Tuvok detects no life signs, but Kim finds a power source. An away team consisting of Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok, Paris, Kim, and a security guard beam down. (It’s not clear who’s in charge of the ship…)
It’s the same world that everyone remembers, only without all the fighting and stuff. Kim finds the cave system he went through, and almost loses his shit when he enters it, but he and Tuvok find the remains of the two people he remembers shooting right at the spot he recalls. The good news, though, is that the remains are three hundred years old.
Janeway and Chakotay find the power source: a giant obelisk. From astrometrics, Seven determines that it’s a synaptic transmitter that can send memories to anyone near the solar system. The words on the obelisk are a memorial to the Nakan Massacre, and also says that words are insufficient to convey the horror of what happened on Tarakis. The obelisk is also losing power, and will likely shut down soon. Indeed, its low power is probably why everyone has fragmented and different memories.
There’s another meeting in the briefing room. Chakotay wants to shut the thing down completely. His mind has been violated, and he’s disgusted with the notion that innocent people will be forced to have these memories thrust upon them against their will.
Neelix (who has actually lived through a war that claimed most of his family) takes the opposite tack: They can’t let the obelisk lose power. What happened here was so horrific, they can’t risk it being forgotten.
Tuvok agrees with Chakotay, but Janeway agrees with Neelix. She doesn’t want to shut it down; she wants to repair it so it’ll work right. They’ll also put in a warning buoy, which will address Chakotay’s very legitimate consent concern. They beam down and fix it all up nice, so that the Nakan will never be forgotten.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The EMH says that the memories that are implanted in the crew are permanent. At no point is Dr. Pulaski’s method of erasing memories (seen on TNG in “Pen Pals” and mentioned in “Who Watches the Watchers?“) mentioned as an option.
There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway’s memory focuses on Saavdra ordering the bodies vaporized. One of the things I’ve always hated about Star Trek is that phasers have a setting that allows you to, in essence, remove all evidence of your actions, and I like seeing it used here for that purpose.
Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok argues for shutting the obelisk down as the only logical course, which prompts Neelix to tell him that it isn’t about logic—it’s about remembering.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH is very bad at getting people who’ve been on an away mission for two weeks to report for their post-mission physical. Which is unfortunate, as that physical is there for a reason, as this episode proves…
Half and half. Torres replicated a 1956 TV set, 1956 remote control, popcorn, and beer for Paris, and also dug up some authentic video of the time period. She is a much better girlfriend than he is a boyfriend.
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix’s memories focus on children he tried to rescue, and because of that, he tries to “rescue” Naomi, thus scaring the shit out of her.
Forever an ensign. Kim spends the entire episode miserable, as he’s the one complaining the loudest about how the away mission went, and he has one of the absolute worst memories, getting lost in a cave and shooting two innocent people.
Resistance is futile. Seven’s discourse on guilt to Neelix is an understated bit of brilliance, and she shows her development by not only preparing Neelix’s favorite food, but adding chocolate to it.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Paris’ response to Torres doing nice things for him is to ignore her and fall asleep watching the television. Sigh. Again, she is a much better girlfriend than he is a boyfriend.
“Words alone cannot convey the suffering. Words alone cannot prevent what happened here from happening again. Beyond words lies experience. Beyond experience lies truth. Make this truth your own.”
–The translation of the inscription on the obelisk as read aloud by Chakotay.
Welcome aboard. L.L. Ginter, Fleming Brooks, Joe Mellis, Susan Savage, Maria Spassoff, and Robert Allen Colaizzi Jr. play the various people on Tarakis. Scarlett Pomers is also back as Naomi.
Trivial matters: This episode, like “One,” was based on a pitch by James Swallow, though he was again uncredited.
Paris dings Torres for including a remote control with the television, saying there were no remotes in the 1950s, but the remote she replicated is an actual model of a Zenith remote from 1956, the same vintage as the TV. Not the first time Paris has gotten details wrong on his area of expertise…
Janeway mentions that members of the crew have had their memories altered before, which has happened in “Flashback” to Tuvok, in “Nemesis” to Chakotay, in “Remember” to Torres (after a fashion), and to most of the crew in “The Killing Game” two-parter.
Set a course for home. “They always said television was a bad influence.” This is a nasty, powerful episode, which argues very passionately and semi-convincingly for the importance of remembering horrible things that have happened.
The “semi” before “convincingly” is there because I don’t think nearly enough time was spent on just what a horrible violation this is. Chakotay is right: Whoever built that obelisk is committing mental assault on every person who enters Tarakis’ star system, and that’s appalling. The fact that it’s in a noble cause doesn’t make it any less so, and that’s something that needed to be addressed as overtly as the rest of it. As it is, Janeway’s mention of the warning buoy is fobbed off in a quick line of dialogue, but that warning is what makes all the difference. Now people entering the star system can make an informed decision instead of having truly horrible memories downloaded into their brains willy nilly.
Robin Burger’s script and Allan Kroeker’s direction help a lot here, as the visuals, the acting, and the dialogue all combine to create a horrid picture of the mission to Tarakis that goes so incredibly wrong. I particularly love the scenes in the briefing room where the away team keeps modulating back and forth from four members of Voyager’s crew discussing what happened to four soldiers arguing about the morality of what they’ve done.
I want to single out Ethan Phillips for praise here, because he particularly plays Neelix’s PTSD supremely well, from his rapid-fire nervous chopping vegetables, to his losing it at the slightest noise, to his asking Seven about how she deals with what she did as a Borg, to his impassioned plea to not shut down the obelisk. It makes sense because, as established way back in “Jetrel,” Neelix’s own background is very similar to that of the Nakan, and as shown in that same first-season episode, Phillips can really bring it when dealing with his character’s trauma.
In many ways, this feels like Voyager wanting to do TNG’s “The Inner Light,” but (a) with more crew and (b) nastier. It also shares a lot of DNA with “Remember.” But it mostly works, though I would’ve liked to have seen more indication as to how this affected the rest of the ship. Thirty-nine other people got affected, but the only one we saw be affected was Janeway…
The importance of remembering awful things that happened in the past is a strong and important message, as the continued existence of Holocaust deniers can attest, and this episode delivers it nicely.
Warp factor rating: 9
Keith R.A. DeCandido has, with his wife Wrenn Simms, formed the very-small-press publisher Whysper Wude. Their first project is the anthology The Four ???? of the Apocalypse, which features alternate takes on the apocalyptic equestrians of yore. Among the authors are David Gerrold, Jonathan Maberry, Peter David, Jody Lynn Nye, David Mack, Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore, Michael Jan Friedman, Adam-Troy Castro, Laura Anne Gilman, Gail Z. Martin, and tons more. Read all about the four cats of the apocalypse! The four lawyers! The four opera singers! The four rock stars! The four cheerleaders! And more! The anthology is being crowdfunded on Kickstarter, and has tons of nifty bonuses and extras—check it out!