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Star Trek Voy - Season 1 - Episode 15

Star Trek Voy - 1x15 - Jetrel

Originally Aired: 1995-5-15

Synopsis:
Neelix confronts his painful past. [DVD]

My Rating - 8

Fan Rating Average - 5.74

Rate episode?

Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 9 3 2 13 20 3 4 15 25 11 8

Problems
None

Factoids
None

Remarkable Scenes
- Tuvok's poor performance in the pool game with Neelix.
- Neelix describing returning to Rinax after the Metreon Cascade.
- The revelation that Jetrel is dying.
- Voyager arriving at Rinax.
- Neelix belittling himself for his failure to report for duty with the Talaxian defense forces. I like how Kes defended his decision because avoiding military service was just as dangerous as fighting; punishable by death.
- Jetrel caught in the transporter room.
- Jetrel pleading with Janeway for her to let him attempt his experiment to prove his theory.
- Janeway attempting Jetrel's plan and failing.
- Jetrel's death right after Neelix forgives him.

My Review
This one is a bit controversial. The parallels between the Metreon Cascade and the Earth atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are rather obvious. An episode like this makes you wonder what Albert Einstein must have thought about his work in nuclear fission. Granted the two wars are quite a bit different. I'd say the atomic bombings were much less destructive and much more appropriate than the Metreon Cascade described in this episode. Because of the severity of the event and Jetrel's importance to the project, now Jetrel is attempting to repent for his sins and makes a rather desperate attempt to save some of the people he killed. I really liked Jetrel in the end, he's not just some crazy scientist, he's not just another evil villain, he's a deeply tortured scientist who wants to do some good to make up for all the evil he's done. Neelix gets an equally good showing, naturally seeing as how the episode was designed to develop his character. I like that he's no longer a plot device for comic relief, but a serious character. Neelix never joined the Talaxian defense forces because he believed fighting in the war was wrong, but he also hated Jetrel's species for invading in the first place. This is a natural bit of hypocrisy, maybe Neelix was a coward. But the punishment for refusing to fight was death anyway, and as Kes pointed out, it takes quite a bit of courage to make either choice. Neelix refused to fight even though he ran the risk of a disgraceful death penalty. In the end, Neelix' hatred for Jetrel diminishes as he realizes what Jetrel was actually trying to do, which gives the episode a very emotional ending. Jetrel's death means something at this point, it resonates with the viewer. You truly feel sorry for Jetrel, and you feel sorry for Neelix too. I wonder how much of an ass Neelix felt like for bearing so much hatred toward Jetrel for no reason. I'm sure the events of this episode were very much a life changing experience for Neelix. The one thing I didn't like about this episode was all the pretense. Jetrel should have been upfront with his intentions. The only reason he wasn't was to create some manufactured emotional resonance with the audience. Despite this, the episode was certainly moving. I liked it.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From wartorn on 2011-08-17 at 10:40pm:
    I want to explore a few interesting things mentioned in the review. To start with, were the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki "much less destructive and much more appropriate than the Metreon Cascade?" Were the two wars "quite a bit different?" Well, there really isn't enough information in this episode about the Talaxian conflict to determine for sure, but there may be more similarities than differences.

    There are a few things to consider here, the first being the raw numbers. Neelix mentions that more than 300,000 were killed by the Cascade. The combined total from both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were roughly 250,000. So, going by the numbers alone, the Cascade did more damage, but the atomic bombings were in the same order of magnitude. It's not like comparing apples to oranges... maybe like comparing oranges and tangerines.

    Of course one has to take into account the environmental damage. The Cascade completely changed the atmosphere and climate of the colonized moon, leaving a poisonous cloud that lingered for at least 15 years. The atomic bombings affected the quality of the air, impaired agriculture, and created a long-term drinking water problem in the area. Significant, but not quite the same as a full-out nuclear winter.

    So here is another interesting question: were the U.S. atomic bombings of Japanese cities "more appropriate" than the deployment of the Cascade? It is really quite impossible to determine, but perhaps not... Although Jetrel's side was described as the "invaders," we don't know what circumstances precipitated the occupation. Indeed, Neelix explains that he thought his side's reasons for going to war in the first place were unjust, "not worth dying for," which makes one wonder about the supposed "invasion" they suffered as a consequence. We learn also that the "invasion" was actually an unconditional surrender, precipitated by the deployment of the Metreonic Cascade.

    There is also the matter of Jetrel's explanation for targeting civilian populations as opposed to military or deserted targets - "the full force of the weapon had to be demonstrated." We're not told explicitly why, but presumably to cause surrender and immediately end hostilities.

    All of this is pretty much a point by point description of the circumstances around the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It's quite possible that the Talaxian side was an aggressor, as Japan was, (hence Neelix' noble/cowardly draft dodging), and it's quite possible that the subsequent "invasion" by Jetrel's people was more like the U.S. occupation of Japan.

    All of this makes the episode even more poignant and fascinating. It's my personal opinion that America has long since thoroughly wiped the entire unpleasant episode from its collective memory. There is really very little remorse felt about it. It was necessary, it happened, it stopped the war, it helped stop Hitler, end of story. Of course, Japan never forgot it, and there remain deep sensitivities about what happened. Perhaps the difference in perspective is best demonstrated by Japan's censoring of the American action rpg game Fallout 3. Their objections were about a side-quest in which you explode a nuclear bomb in the middle of a city, and also about one of the regular weapons available to the player: a tactical nuclear weapon called "Fat Boy" - the same name given to the plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

    Perhaps we've put it all behind us a bit prematurely? This Voyager episode recalls our attention to those tragic events.

    - - -

    Most of the focus of the episode is actually on the question of the role of science, with Jetrel portraying a classic Ellulian technocratic scientist. At one point he presents an argument that usually goes unstated, but is very present in the modern world: "If it can be done, it must be done. Science is bigger than man, technological development is intricately tied with the search for truth and knowledge, and thus any scientific pursuit has a kind of intrinsic value. It is wrong, and in any case impossible, to try and control it."

    The way Jetrel states it, and the way Neelix responds to it, one is a bit torn and sees both sides of the picture. Good work on the part of the show's producers. The fact is, this is not a nutty, fringe mad scientist idea, and not something that is obviously true, but something humanity has been battling with for at least several hundred years. We've been wrestling with this question of science, technology, and its role and purpose internally, as individuals, in academia and in philosophic texts, and in various political arenas.

    Regrettably, I think Jetrel (and the Ellulian point of view he represents) is right about one thing: no matter what we think of it, no matter the moral arguments we bring to the table, no matter how guilty or righteous people feel about what they're doing, technological development is not really something we *do* - it's more like something that happens to us, more like an evolutionary process that we have little real direction over. "One discovery leads inevitably to the next." It's difficult to really argue with this reasoning, when you consider the history and sociology of science/technology.

    When scientific discoveries are made and technological innovations are born, no one can possibly foresee where they will lead eventually. It's really a much more complicated problem than the obvious questions of something like the Manhattan Project or human cloning. These things *seep* into society one tiny step at a time (linked with undeniable conveniences and amenities, outright improvements even, lifesaving advances in medicine, etc...) - by the time some kind of danger or threat or controversy is recognized, it is already here, it's already on the way down.

    There is some room for human agency, of course, but it has its limits. These things engender their own societal responses - for instance, 1) there are test ban treaties, 2) ozone depleting compounds are made illegal, and phased out, and so on. But we must admit to ourselves that our ability to truly understand and respond to what we ourselves create... is limited.

    To quote Jetrel, science is indeed much bigger than man, but this is something that should give us pause rather than glee. It would seem as if something has gone wrong, has gone quite thoroughly backwards. What started as a human project, something we do, engage in, for the sake of both our innate curiosity and our desire to improve our lives, has turned into something we really can't not do, something we serve, and worship, unknowingly, to ends and consequences we cannot possibly foresee.
  • From Jeff Browning on 2011-10-22 at 12:22pm:
    I enjoyed the comment bt wartorn on this episode, and I agree with much of it. I believe however that there is clear and convincing evidence that the attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not justified, and was actually an atrocity and a war crime.

    I say this despite the fact that my father served in WWII, much to my pride. I admired my father's service and I do not say this to denigrate the honorable service our soldiers gave in WWII.

    However, on the subject of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, history ie very clear. The Japanese emporer Hiro Hito had already transmitted his intention to unconditionally surrender to Allied forces prior to the American decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, much to our shame.

    Unfortunately, he issued his decision through the Soviet ambassador. The Soviets intentionally failed to transmit the message on to the Americans because they wanted the nuclear bomb to be deployed in combat as a live test to the weapon. The Soviets had spies at Alamagordo and were watching the Americans with great interest. They certainly did not want the Japanese offer of surrender to succeed.

    Nonetheless, we had many advisors to Pres. Truman, including Oppemheimer himself, who urged the President to not drop the bomb on the Japanese people. We had all of the intelligence we needed to know that dropping the bomb on Japan would accomplish nothing militarily.

    In this respect the events of Americans dropping the nuclear bomb is hauntingly similar to the Metroen Cascade described in this episode.
  • From Rick on 2012-12-26 at 6:13pm:
    I urge people reading the above post not to take it as the factual information that it purports to be. The majority view is that there was no surrender. People like the above poster are certainly free to argue to the contrary but to present that argument as the clear truth is reckless at best and disingenuous at worst.

    Aside from that, do you really think that if Japan was close to surrendering before the first bomb, they would wait for a second?
  • From Mike on 2017-07-25 at 9:32pm:
    Ethan Phillips said that he watched the first season of Voyager as it was airing and then didn't really watch it after that. He didn't say why (that I know of) but one wonders if he figured this was a good way to remember his character on screen. It's certainly one of the better, if not the best, Neelix episode in the series.

    James Sloyan, who plays Jetrel, is one of the better recurring guest stars in all of Star Trek. He plays Admiral Jarok in TNG: The Defector as well as future Alexander Rozhenko in TNG: Firstborn. He was also the Bajoran scientist Dr. Mora, who "discovered" and experimented with Odo, in a couple DS9 episodes.

    I agree the parallels with the atomic bomb dropping are a bit heavy handed. But, it raises that question people have discussed since the atomic bomb's invention, and even before with the invention of poison gas used in WW1: is it desirable, or even possible, to "cordon off" a branch of scientific knowledge because you're afraid of where it might lead? The implication that someone else would have invented the weapon eventually, and the reasoning that you do the research regardless of how some wish to apply it, were notions that added some depth to the issue.

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