Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Prophecy”

“Prophecy”
Written by Larry Nemecek & J. Kelley Burke and Raf Green & Kenneth Biller and Michael Sussman & Phyllis Strong
Directed by Terry Windell
Season 7, Episode 14
Production episode 260
Original air date: February 7, 2001
Stardate: 54518.2

Captain’s log. Voyager is being fired upon by a cloaked ship. They get enough sensor readings when it briefly decloaks to fire to determine that it’s a Klingon ship, and one that’s almost a century out of date. Once they realize that, they’re able to penetrate the cloak and fire.

His ship now badly damaged, Captain Kohlar is willing to talk, if for no other reason than to give his crew time to fix the ship. He doesn’t believe Janeway’s assertion that the Klingon Empire and the Federation have been allies for eight decades, seeing only the ship of the empire’s enemy. Janeway insists that she has a Klingon in her crew, and a skeptical Kohlar agrees to beam over and meet her.

Upon meeting Torres and noting that she is pregnant, Kohlar is suddenly very urgent to return to his ship, just barely remembering to take a copy of the Khitomer Accords with him. He gives his word that he will not fire on Voyager again.

He informs his crew that their quest is finally ended: they have found the kuvah’magh, the prophesied child who will be the savior of the Klingon people. Kohlar’s great-grandfather set out a hundred years ago to seek the kuvah’magh, having unearthed some sacred texts containing prophecies about the savior.

Torres and Paris’ fetus matches several of those prophecies: the child was conceived in the right month, the mother is an offworlder who has suffered many hardships and who won a glorious victory against 10,000 warriors (she helped destroy a Borg Cube), and the father is an honorable warrior (stretching it with Paris, but what the hell). Also it is said that “You would know me before I know the world,” which tracks with encountering her before she’s born, and that she’ll be found after two warring Houses have made peace, for which the Khitomer Accords qualify.

The warp core on the Klingon ship breaches, and Voyager has to rescue all two hundred people on board of various ages before it goes boom. Janeway angrily asks why Kohlar scuttled his ship—sensor scans reveal that the breach was not due to Voyager’s weapons fire as he claimed—and Kohlar admits that their duty now is to follow the kuvah’magh.

Now Voyager has two hundred extra people on board. Crew members double up in quarters (including Tuvok stuck rooming with Neelix), and there are issues in the mess hall, with Kim and Neelix having to break up a fight over stolen food.

Star Trek: Voyager "Prophecy"

Screenshot: CBS

Torres needs a security escort, which doesn’t thrill her, and she’s constantly being hounded by Klingons to the point where she beams back to her quarters rather than walk from engineering.

Janeway then informs her and Paris that several Klingons have engaged in a hunger strike until they get to talk to the kuvah’magh‘s mother. Torres reluctantly agrees.

It isn’t until then that Kohlar’s second-in-command, T’Greth, learns that Torres is only half-Klingon and that her mate is fully human. (How he managed to miss this when Klingons have been stalking Torres for days is left as an exercise for the viewer.)

After T’Greth storms off in a huff, Kohlar speaks privately to Janeway, Paris, and Torres. It turns out that Kohlar himself isn’t entirely convinced that Torres’ daughter is the kuvah’magh, but at this point, he doesn’t care. He just wants their endless journey to end. He wants Torres to lead them to a planet where they can settle down and get on with their lives instead of bopping around a strange quadrant for decades on end.

Torres reluctantly agrees to study the texts to find ways to make it believable that she’s carrying the savior. (This is where they come up with the rationalization that helping destroy a Borg Cube counts as winning a glorious victory against 10,000 warriors.) She then tells tales of her grand victories and such (in a very exaggerated manner) to the gathered Klingons. T’Greth, however, is less than impressed, and he reminds everyone that the prophecies also say the kuvah’magh‘s father is an honorable warrior. Paris points out that he hasn’t turned down a challenge yet, and T’Greth says he hasn’t made one yet—but he is now. To Torres’ horror, Paris accepts T’Greth’s challenge to fight to the death.

Star Trek: Voyager "Prophecy"

Screenshot: CBS

In Janeway’s ready room, Torres castigates her husband and begs the captain to not let him go through with it—which Janeway absolutely agrees to. She will not have a death match on her ship. Kohlar proposes a compromise: a fight with blunted bat’leths, whoever falls three times loses. T’Greth calls it a coward’s fight, but apparently it was how Emperor Mur’eq insisted challenges play out during his reign so that warriors would only die in service of the empire instead of in petty duels. (Smart dude, was Mur’eq.) T’Greth reluctantly agrees.

After some quickie off-screen training by Kohlar, Paris faces off against T’Greth—but then the Klingon collapses. He’s suffering from nehret—indeed, all the Klingons have the dormant version of the virus. It’s also contagious, albeit only among Klingons, and Torres and the fetus now have it as well.

Seven has found a suitable planet for the Klingons to colonize. T’Greth—who refuses to remain in sickbay, preferring to die on his feet—conspires with several Klingons to seize Voyager. He doesn’t believe that Torres is carrying the kuvah’magh, and he wishes to strand Kohlar and his supporters on the planet along with Voyager’s crew, and then continue their search on the starship.

Their attempted takeover during the beam-down fails rather spectacularly, despite the fact that Janeway didn’t actually shut down all transporters the minute Tuvok detected weapons fire in the transporter room. T’Greth’s attempt to take over the bridge is stymied by Janeway and the rest of the bridge crew. (But not Paris—he mostly hides behind the helm console.)

The stunned T’Greth wakes up in sickbay only to be informed by the EMH that he’s not going to die. The stem cells from Torres’ fetus were able to cure nehret. T’Greth is gobsmacked to realize that the unborn child really is their savior…

The Klingons all beam down to the planet to live happily ever after. Kohlar gives his great-grandfather’s bat’leth to Torres as a present for her daughter. Torres promises to tell her all about Kohlar and his people.

Star Trek: Voyager "Prophecy"

Screenshot: CBS

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Amazingly, Kohlar’s hundred-year-old cloaking device is still effective against Voyager’s sensors—at least until Chakotay orders Seven to use metaphasic scanning, whatever that is.

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway kicks all the ass on the bridge, making T’Greth seriously regret trying to take over her ship.

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok gets to share his quarters with Neelix. Just when Neelix has learned a whole bunch of Klingon drinking songs, too!

Half and half. Torres is extremely uncomfortable with the notion of her unborn daughter being a messiah, and doesn’t like anything that happens in the episode—especially the deadly disease that the Klingons gave her. However, there is one moment that she appreciates, when Kohlar invites her to make a plea for the dead, honoring the sacrifices of their ancestors.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. When it is suggested that the Klingons be kept in the shuttle bay, it’s Neelix who has to remind them that they’re a generation ship of families. (Well, his exact words are “there are women and children,” yet more proof that Talax is exactly like the 1940s United States, since apparently women are all helpless and need to be saved…) He also prepares lots of Klingon food, to the rest of the crew’s chagrin.

Star Trek: Voyager "Prophecy"

Screenshot: CBS

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Kim breaks up a fight in the mess hall, and the woman who started it, Ch’rega, spends most of the rest of the episode pursuing him, to his agony. Neelix steps in and berates Kim publicly in front of Ch’rega, thus causing her to switch her pursuit to Neelix. Their subsequent liaison trashes Tuvok’s quarters.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH gets to give Kim permission to mate with an alien species, the same permission Kim never got in “The Disease.” Kim, however, doesn’t want permission. (He also tells the EMH that the wound on his cheek was from cutting himself shaving. The EMH is skeptical…)

What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. Paris and T’Greth fight in a cave on the holodeck, because apparently that’s the only place Klingons re-create on holodecks when they want to fight (cf. “The Killing Game,” “Day of Honor,” DS9’s “Blood Oath,” etc.).

Do it.

“I see fear in your eyes, human!”

“The only Klingon I’m afraid of is my wife after she’s worked a double shift.”

–T’Greth and Paris talking smack before their fight.

Star Trek: Voyager "Prophecy"

Screenshot: CBS

Welcome aboard. Several past Trek guests in this one: Wren T. Brown, last seen as the shuttle pilot in TNG’s “Manhunt,” plays Kohlar. Sherman Howard, last seen as Endar in TNG’s “Suddenly Human” and Syvar in DS9’s “Shakaar,” plays T’Greth. And Paul Eckstein, last seen as two different Jem’Hadar on DS9, two different Hirogen on Voyager, and Supervisor Yost in “Gravity,” plays Morak. Plus we have Peggy Jo Jacobs as Ch’rega.

Trivial matters: The original pitch for this story by the husband-and-wife team of Larry Nemecek and J. Kelley Burke was made in the early days of the show’s development, before “Caretaker” even aired. It was purchased and shelved, not used until this final season, when the story was rewritten by one set of staffers and the script written by another set.

Nemecek is a Trek historian and the author of The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (an official book he was hired to write after writing several TNG concordances on his own), which he updated twice, once after the show concluded, and again after Nemesis was released; The Making of Star Trek: First Contact, with Ian Spelling and Lou Anders; and Stellar Cartography. He has also written extensively for various Trek magazines, nonfiction works, and exhibits, and currently hosts The Trek Files podcast.

Janeway and Chakotay reference the Khitomer Accords, stated as being signed eighty years ago. That happened shortly after The Undiscovered Country (which was 84 years prior to this, but rounding off is definitely a thing), and the treaty was named in DS9’s “The Way of the Warrior.” (The treaty was also abrogated in that episode, but it was reinstated in “By Inferno’s Light,” and Voyager’s now-regular contact with Starfleet through Project: Pathfinder means they’re aware of the fact that, at this point, the treaty is intact.)

The Klingons’ ancestors set out a hundred years before, which would be during the time period between The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan. Not enough is known about that time period in Klingon history to indicate why they decided the empire was corrupt enough to warrant this long-term mission.

The notion that Torres and Paris’ daughter is the kuvah’magh will continue to be explored in the post-finale Voyager fiction, most notably in the Spirit Walk duology by Christie Golden, and the various novels by Kirsten Beyer, particularly Full Circle and The Eternal Tide. It’s also part of the Star Trek Online storyline, where the grown-up Miral Paris joins Starfleet, and her status as the kuvah’magh leads to many other Klingons joining Starfleet as well.

This is the only onscreen mention of the Emperor Mur’eq, though your humble rewatcher established that the recurring character of Kor was of the same House as that emperor in his novella “The Unhappy Ones” in Seven Deadly Sins. That family connection is also seen in regular commenter Christopher L. Bennett’s Enterprise novel Live by the Code.

Star Trek: Voyager "Prophecy"

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “There will be no death matches aboard my ship.” There’s a good episode buried under the muddle here, but it’s fighting to get out from all the nonsense. There are several different stories here, and none of them get enough room to breathe, and it makes it hard for any of them to be convincing.

We’ve got the Klingon messiah storyline. We’ve got the Klingon refugees all trying to fit on Voyager. We’ve got Tuvok and Neelix sharing quarters. We’ve got Kim being pursued by Ch’rega. We’ve got a disease-of-the-week. We’ve got T’Greth being an asshole and challenging Paris. And we’ve got the inevitable take-over-the-ship storyline.

That last is particularly ham-fisted. The minute phasers are fired in the transporter room, the transporters should be shut down, but Janeway doesn’t try that until minutes later, when the Klingons have locked them out. People are supposedly beamed off the ship, but we don’t see that, and then T’Greth beams onto the bridge where the Klingons only hit one person and the Starfleet crew hit everybody and it’s all over. It’s the most boring ship takeover sequence in the history of Trek, just full of idiocy on both sides.

Not that any of the rest of it is any good. This era of Trek wasn’t great at whimsy, and the Kim-Neelix-Ch’rega storyline needed the goofiness of a Tex Avery cartoon (“Little Rural Riding Hood” comes to mind), not the tiresome cliché we got. We’re promised some Odd Couple-style shenanigans with Neelix and Tuvok and then get precisely none of it, aside from a sock-on-the-door scene at the very end. Almost no attention is paid to the fact that Voyager has doubled its complement, aside from one lame mess-hall fight, which is only there to set the sexy hijinks plot in motion.

Also, the notion that T’Greth somehow missed that Torres was only half-Klingon until the end of Act II is hilariously ridiculous, and makes it really hard to take T’Greth seriously as a character. (It doesn’t help that Sherman Howard mistakes shouting for acting, for the most part.)

There are two aspects of this episode that work. One is Torres’s complete frustration with every nanosecond of this whole thing. She doesn’t want to be the Virgin Mary equivalent in a Klingon cult, she doesn’t want to have to have a security guard on her at all times, she doesn’t want her husband to fight to the death, and she especially doesn’t want a deadly disease. Even when she does go along with Kohlar’s plan, her recitation of her great deeds is somewhat less than convincing. Roxann Dawson plays it perfectly as someone who is incredibly uncomfortable with this manner of boasting but trying her best. (Contrast this with the story Kor tells at the top of DS9’s “The Sword of Kahless,” which John Colicos tells with verve and panache. But Kor is used to being a bombastic Klingon, Torres really really isn’t.)

The other is Kohlar himself. Wren T. Brown imbues the character with great gravity and also significant exhaustion. He wants very much for this quest to be over with, but he’s not being stupid about it. His plan is actually a good one, and he’s earnest in his desire to do right by his people, both by the terms of the prophecy and in terms of getting them to stop being nomads on a fruitless quest.

Warp factor rating: 5

Keith R.A. DeCandido is going to be part of The Gold Archive, a series of monographs on various episodes of Star Trek, from the original series to the current spate of programs on Paramount+. Keith will be writing about TNG‘s “Birthright” two-parter for the series, which will be out some time in 2022.

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