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Star Trek Voy - Season 5 - Episode 23

Star Trek Voy - 5x23 - 11:59

Originally Aired: 1999-5-5

Janeway learns about her ancestor. [DVD]

My Rating - 1

Fan Rating Average - 4.16

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- Harry's story about his uncle Jack in 2210 contradicts much of established Star Trek history. But with all the historical misconceptions this episode shows us, I'm inclined to believe Harry got his history wrong.


Remarkable Scenes
- Shannon O'Donnell predicting that the Y2k bug is nonsense. Bold statement for an episode written in 1999.
- Seven of Nine eavesdropping on Tom's and Neelix' contest. When both could not provide an answer to what the seventh wonder of the world was, Seven recited it.
- The doctor: "I too come from a distinguished line." Paris: "His cousin is an electric shaver."
- Chakotay: "Ship status report." Janeway: "Let me guess. The holographic engineer is having problems with her program, Neelix, the Cardassian cook is low on supplies, Seven of Twelve is regenerating, and Captain Chakotay is doing just fine."

My Review
Well I'm not the only fan who found this episode distasteful. The fundamental problem with this episode is that it contributes nothing to the overall story of Voyager. It's nothing but a "feel good" episode for the crew; they all want to get together and tell stories of genealogy and feel good about themselves. There is no contention, other than Janeway's recollection of history isn't as accurate as she thought it was, nor would Kim's be as I would imagine from his tall tale! As for the story of Shannon O'Donnell, that's where the episode starts to get offensive. Henry Janeway is portrayed as a man against progress and for reasons not sufficiently explored, the Millennium Gate was regarded as an undisputed symbol of progress. To me, it seemed absurd that the whole town has to close down so that "progress" could be achieved. The US is a huge place, surely there were other locations available that didn't require bulldozing old buildings! Additionally, it's annoying that the writers just couldn't resist to make an episode exploiting the whole Y2k craze, virtually the only redeeming quality of its inclusion is Shannon's declaration that it was/will be/is total nonsense. This episode bears striking similarity to the similar waste of time that was DS9: Take Me Out to the Holosuite, but the differences is that DS9's version had contention, humor, fun, and a meaningful ending. Voy: 11:59 just didn't. It was mostly pointless and if it weren't for a few funny moments spread lightly across the plot, it would receive a de facto zero.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Pete Miller on 2006-12-04 at 2:43pm:
    I didn't think this episode was that bad. It was kind of stupid in a lot of parts, but the humor was great and the story was pretty cool. It added something about the self-sustaining ecosystems later used on Mars, so it's not like it doesn't contribute ANYTHING. Contributes more than "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" that's for sure.

    Voyager meets Fargo, minus murder
  • From Mike on 2008-08-10 at 8:46am:
    Yeah I think you missed the boat on this review.

    1) The theme of 'the negative impact of progress' is rarely shown on the generally optimistic ST. Here we see at least a bit of a human cost to building something like the "millennium gate".

    2) The 'its a self-sustaining city' vs. 'its just a mall' theme brings up another ST issue. This isn't the optimistic 60s anymore, and we're not going to get a massive government-funded space program. Progress is going to be done by corporations, or its not going to be done at all. So that means profit and exploitation, symbolized here by the destruction of the small town way of life.

    3) The theme of "revisionist history" is a rare one in popular culture. It also ties this episode to 'Living Witness'.

    The episode was FAR from perfect, and the ending was incredibly rushed (all of those ends tied up). But it's a very thoughtful and intelligent episode.
  • From Baronvonellis on 2011-09-28 at 11:36pm:
    I liked this alot. It was very well done and thoughtful. It was also a nice change of pace from all the explosions and "shields down to 20%" junk that is in every other episode.

    I feel like people are too critical of Voyager compared to TNG. This was very trek and explored alot of scientific and culturally issues in an entertaining story. What more do you want from it.
  • From Rick on 2013-01-10 at 3:48pm:
    Boy, this have to be a tough episode for a liberal to watch. Do you root for the large corporation or the conservative that its trying to bulldoze? Tough choice.

    I thought it was a very good episode for the reason that an above poster made. The liberalism going on now is mostly through large corporate entities looking to monetize any trend they can.
  • From Hugo Ahlenius on 2015-01-30 at 4:27pm:
    So he has a giant bookstore with no customers, in a small town - doesn't a buyout deal with a good price sound pretty decent? I didn't find their chemistry and connection worked out very well. The history/reveal stuff was a tad interesting though. Felt mostly like a soap/tv-movie otherwise...
  • From parkbench on 2016-02-20 at 2:57pm:
    I have to say I am really shocked at how negatively the site's author reacted to this episode. I'm glad some commentors came with a counterbalance, because this was one of the best episodes I have seen in awhile. Let me explain...

    I have gotten to a point w/ Voyager where I usually keep it on in the background, even when I'm watching a brand new episode--why? Because the writing is so consistently mediocre, there are so many missed opportunities, so many actors straightjacketed by milquetoast dialogue that they come off as outrageously corny or artificially human, that it's hard to watch sometimes. But I love Star Trek, so I power through--and perhaps this is what the site's author really had a problem with.

    Because having a "non-sequitur" episode isn't, in and of itself, a bad thing--what's bad is that Voyager is so aimless and so grasping for straws that when an episode like this comes along, all the storytelling could appear, to the untrained eye, to just be more meandering away from the plot.

    But if you pay attention, this was a very lovingly crafted episode with tons of real social & political themes which, though flawed, drives to the very heart of the scifi and Star Trek formula: reflecting on the fragile potential of mankind.

    If anyone--site author included--is surprised about the plotline, then they could do with some reading. Almost every major sporting event, from the NFL to the Olympics, major development project in the U.S. or elsewhere, major cultural site or monument, runs into this issue: and it's not pretty.

    In fact, though the episode sort of gives out its legs towards the end--pitching the story as one merely about "progress" vs. "tradition", "the future vs. the past"--this is often what the (real-life) script looks like. Major projects want the prime real estate, not just random land in the middle of nowhere, and they will often do anything they can to get it. I have been to a major park in Kentucky that is totally rustic except for 2 or 3 random houses smack dab in the middle that STILL have functioning mailboxes and families living in them because they refused to cede their land, so the park built around them.

    Hell, look at the railroads, the colonisation and destruction of indigenous lands that made most of this country possible, or even just any major fracking or resource-extraction project. Look at Appalachia, the health problems the majority of its residents face, the polluted water (a la Flint), the unemployment, joblessness, and total abandonment by the very powers that claimed they had come to save the area.

    And when it comes to Olympic stadiums, it has been shown time and again that the promise of "business", jobs, and cultural notoriety is short-lived, while the costs are consistently stacked against the poor: people are evicted and streets are cleansed of any hint of poverty or decay, rent is driven up, and a temporary luxury economic bubble is created mostly for people from out of town to come and be a part of a brief media spectacle. And then what? It all leaves and usually what's left is like a monorail in a dying, de-industrialised town: a big eyesore that has done nothing but contribute to the already-existing massive inequalities and disparities between people living very different realities in these urban landscapes.

    Or just look up the city of Shenzhen in China, which in the 1970s was a small fishing town. Through the incredible macro-social acrobatics of giant multinational firms and international finance capital, they systematically turned this tiny town into a (now eerily-familiar) post-apocalyptic landscape of a metropolis, hyper-polluted and hyper-segregated between the lower classes of workers and dagongmei and the business elites whose sole purpose in living there is to extract every bit of value they can from it before they leave. And I encourage you to do your own research if you don't believe me--have a look at any number of the problems facing the average citizen in Shenzhen, and tell me if the "progress" the town was granted was not a Pyrrhic victory.

    This is the actual world we live in. It's not sci-fi, it's horrific shit. So if sci-fi manages to even reflect a PIECE of that, I'm all ears, because it's rare and it's brave to have that kind of honesty.

    So my point is--the show, to a point, actually accurately depicts a lot of this dynamic, showing what community complacence OR resistance can look like (many people take the pay-out, while others launch grassroots media campaigns). It also hints at some kind of corporate exploitation, as some in the comments have noted; but as I said before, I wish this didn't end in a simple "past vs. future" morality tale. They bring up the idea of the "big shopping mall" and just leave it there; I wish more of the supposed benefits vs. deficits had really been teased out, so that if they really ultimately wanted Janeway to close his shop, it would be less an easy victory (we, the viewers, unconsciously want O'Donnell and Janeway to be together and a happy conclusion) and more of a melancholy turning-point, as the town's independence becomes subordinate to this massive social-engineering project--the times indeed they are a-changin'.

    And that's another thing--it was a really neat narrative trick to tell us the conclusion of the plot and then to reconstruct it. Not the first time we've ever seen this, but seeing how well Shannon O'Donnell and Janeway get along, but knowing what must happen according to "history", creates a lot of mystery and curiosity in how it's all going to go down.

    And speaking of narrative tricks, how about an "earth episode" that didn't boil down to some crazy holodeck caper but actually filled in, however messily (as ST is wont to do), the universe's actual timeline? That was very welcome for me.

    Again, hearing Harry talk about his family, or Janeway talking about the fragilities of reconstructing history was a huge breath of fresh air for me. This was a script with real pacing, with dialogue that actually expanded on the plot and enriched the story's world, and reflected real themes while deepening them through an imaginative thought-scenario. Its flaw is less in the episode itself than in the whole trajectory of Voyager that allows a gem like this to be buried so mercilessly under layers upon layers of colorless dust.

    And I suppose, coming to expect less than mediocrity from Voyager, I am willing to be forgiving about an offering that doesn't exactly "advance" the plot--I mean, this was the original idea of Voyager, wasn't it? "Return" to the old TOS style, have a "general missrion" peppered with vignettes? I will always think this is inferior to the DS9 formula, but as a one-off, it's mighty fine.

    I was amazed, too, when at one point I became lost in Kate Mulgrew's acting, during one of the later scenes where Shannon and Janeway are arguing in the library. And I found myself thinking, really? Her? Well, for starters, it's because she's rarely given the breathing room to use all the skills of her trade. That is, they actually wrote her a dynamic character! And she clearly has fun with it. It was a pleasure to see her as a true actress and not as a two-bit daytime space opera mouthpiece for once.

    Give this to me over any stupid episode about men and women and dating and uninspired gender stereotypes that plagues this series, any half-brained Buck Rogers adventure that thinks it's a parody of the past but is really a parody of itself, or overwrought melodrama filled with fake gravitas. This was a sensitive, if flawed, offering, and gives me a little faith that the Voyager series is not completely screwed, as long as they keep these writers on board somewhere in there.

    Thanks again to kethinov for maintaining the site.

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