Star Trek: Voyager – Season 7: “Lineage” – O. Deus and the Devil’s Advocate

– Three Badges out of Four – “Whether you call it a no-clip clip show or a bottle episode, Shattered is a time-hopping highlight reel of all of the various passengers, invaders, and personalities that have occupied Voyager. Therefore your mileage varies based on whether or not you’ve actually enjoyed the ride we’re revisiting.”

2021 UPDATE – Twenty years ago the Trekweb.com forums used to have semi-official Star Trek reviews posted by a user who went by ‘O. Deus’  and had all his reviews posted by the site owner Steve Krutzler. I often had contrasting views to the official reviewer’s, especially since I felt he had a strong bias against Star Trek: Voyager and the character of Kathryn Janeway in particular. In a way, this forum and these reviews set the tone for the overall internet “consensus” for both the show and the character, for the first couple of decades of fan response on the internet.

Now that chatty internet Star Trek fans have a new generation of Star Trek to pick apart and freak out about, a new generation of people are looking back on Deep Space Nine and Voyager with new eyes, and googling the discussions of the episode only to find their new eyes provide less judgment and derision for those old Star Trek shows and characters. I’m here to continue to provide the “Devil’s Advocate” viewpoint in argument with Deus, sharing the fact that the negative opinion of Star Trek: Voyager and Kathryn Janeway was never unanimous… even among early internet-enabled Star Trek nerds!

They say history is written by the victor. Well, the Trekweb site went down pretty definitively around 2014, and the forums themselves had degraded and lost significant segments of posts and data long before that. They say the internet never forgets, but I’m old enough to remember times when it actually has. But since I still happened to have saved and retained text versions of certain O.Deus reviews along with my responses, I guess history is written by me! I am the victor!

Star Trek Voyager Lineage Title Card

‘Voyager’ Goes Back to the Moral High Ground With “Lineage”

Posted: 07:09:24 on January 25
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: Reviews – Voyager
Reviews Ex Deus
Written for TrekWeb by ‘O. Deus’

“Lineage”

Summary: B’Elanna is infected with a parasitic lifeform, namely a baby and learns to overcome feelings of Klingon inadequacy. Nothing much else happens until next week. There are Voyager episodes that are criticized for poor writing and weak acting, but Lineage certainly won’t be one of them. It’s a well written and finely acted episode that knows what it wants to say and gets it across with no problems. Dawson, Picardo and McNeil do their usual nice work and even the minor moments with Tuvok, Chakotay and Neelix are nice sentimental touches. There are major errors or gaping flaws here that need to be addressed and if you love those marriage episodes and couldn’t get enough of O’Brien’s baby problem arc on DS9, you’ll love this episode. But all in all it feels less like a Star Trek episode and more like an episode of Providence or Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.

That is to say it’s a Voyager episode that really doesn’t involve “Voyager the Starship” or Voyager’s mission but “Voyager the close knit family” that Captain Janeway every now and then sings hymns to. And it focuses claustrophobically on the relationship of two people who aren’t all that interesting of a couple to begin with, dealing with a problem that felt uninvolving and ultimately trivial. This may just be a matter of personal opinion since after all I’m the kind of person who avoids medical dramas like the plague. I’m probably the only living American who’s never watched a complete episode of ER and I just can’t summon up much interest in these emotional melodramas over medical problems. And Lineage has little innate complexity to recommend itself. Essentially 10 minutes into the show we know that B’Elanna is wrong and Paris is right. There’s no collision of ideas or struggle over ethics as the promos suggested but a “What’s bugging B’Elanna Torres” psychological production ensues. So the rest of the time then is inevitably dedicated to Paris struggling to prove to her that she’s wrong and to understand why she’s trying to do what she’s trying to do. And the resulting answer is based around childhood neurosis making it look pretty childish and making Voyager’s chief engineer look pretty childish by extension.

Like Far Beyond the Stars or Ties of Blood and Water, Lineage plays out like a stage play but unlike these episodes there’s little drama or real darkness here or useable character development. Even tonight’s Voyager rerun of Extreme Risk, a commonly overlooked major Torres character development episode, has the genuine edge and character growth that gives us a new understanding of Torres. But ultimately what does Lineage tell us about her, that she’s afraid humans are going to leave her because she’s half Klingon? This does little for the character and is a character development worthy of Wesley Crusher and not of one of Voyager’s strongest personalities who’s actually shown a strong set of values and understanding of responsibility.

So much of this episode ultimately comes down to responsibility and the lack of any real sense of responsibility on the part of most of the players in this little melodrama. Torres drives half the crew nuts with her obsession over the welfare of her child but her real focus is predictably enough on her own problems, for which she’s willing to alter her child’s genes so she can feel better. Worse the ending combined with her last camping trip flashback can lead to the sexist and offensive interpretation that she was trying to edit her child’s genes in order to keep her man. More bizarrely she tampers with the EMH’s program, subverts Voyager’s security and violates orders and all is forgotten and forgiven. Her biology may have unhinged her mental state a bit but it’s not much of a defense. Certainly there should have been some sort of restriction to quarters, demotion or at least a note in the official file, but then responsibility is obviously not the theme of the episode. Emotional healing is. Self-validation, self-esteem and just plain feeling good about yourself, responsibility be damned.

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Paris and Torres decide to start a family which is cute and heartwarming as heck but not very smart. After all Naomi Wildman was conceived aboard Deep Space Nine while Voyager was still in the Alpha Quadrant. This is the Delta Quadrant, an unpredictable place where Voyager, a starship shorthanded on crew, constantly faced danger and menace. And Torres is its chief engineer, Paris is its helmsman and chief medic. Together they comprise three crucial jobs Voyager can’t go without. Ensign Wildman’s job is pretty minor and no one would really miss her if she took plenty of time off, on the other hand what happens when the warp core is overloading, a dozen hostile alien warships are firing on Voyager and casualties are filling up the triage center in the mess hall…but the new parents are unavailable. Sure there are replacements but they’re substitutes and not as good as the people whose full time job this is supposed to be.

In the past Paris and Torres were so overworked they barely saw each other. Under this state of affairs something is going to have to give, family or work. So we either end up with Paris and Torres taking a leave of absence which is impossible or the baby being raised by Neelix which isn’t particularly wonderful parenting. It would made a lot more sense to wait till they were back home on earth to start a family and to take precautions until then, so they didn’t accidentally start one prematurely. It would have also demonstrated a lot more responsibility to their child and their jobs as Starfleet Officers. Furthermore it’s odd that no one in this episode from Janeway to Chakotay to Tuvok raise this simple objection. As heartless as it may seem, Voyager is a quasi-military vessel and the middle of a constant struggle to survive is a poor time and place for two of the people without whom this starship might not survive to be setting up a family circle.

But then this episode doesn’t allow anything to interfere with its theme of “Voyager, Happy Family” even it makes little realistic sense. And being a happy family, everyone must be assimilated into the happy family so it’s fitting that Lineage hinges on the linked and equally trivial and saccharine theme of having Torres learn to accept being accepted. It’s almost like a Hallmark Gold Crown store threw up on Ken Biller’s I-Mac. Consider how the far superior Jeri Taylor episode “One” handled the same material with 7 of 9 by showing the horrors and madness of isolation and the need to rely on other people for inner strength. Lineage meanwhile torments us with horrifying scenes from the family picnic that look like drunken outtakes from Lassie the Movie. And then there are the twelve minutes of Dawson looking worriedly at the camera while sitting in a darkened room. God knows its impossible to get enough of that. I can’t wait for the DVD edition for bonus footage of more staring. If only UPN could give back Voyager that extra three minutes, we could have had 180 more seconds of Dawson anxiously contemplating a wall.

As much as I usually object to irrelevant or annoying B stories, this is one episode that could have used them. A contrast with some member of an alien civilization or even more of the brief Tuvok moment we had. A relief from the claustrophobic focus of “What’s bothering B’Elanna.” Indeed some outside perspective on this whole psychological mess might have made this seem more like a Star Trek episode and less like a Lifetime movie of the week. Instead in order to produce this week’s required dose of UPN action, we have the artificial crisis scene in sickbay that completely clashes with everything the rest of the episode is doing. It’s a shame too because the concept of genetic alterations of fetuses had no shortage of potential for moral controversy and the ethical questions to be debated could have really made this a standout episode. But that would have been thinking big and using science fiction to explore ideas instead of domestic problems. That would have been Star Trek, instead we got a well written, well acted episode of Providence in Space.

Next week: Voyager does Con Air. Unfortunately it looks like John Malkovich will sit this one out.


TREKWEB TALKBACK

Anti-Review
By Imbarkus at
11:41:57 on January 25

Well this review, not surprisingly, was completely uncharitable and, in typical fashion, attacks the episode for giving you some of the things you’ve asked for from Voyager. Character development that DOES matter, and have lasting effects of the individuals and their relationships. Now you praise “Extreme Risk” but I bet if you were reviewing at the time you would have taken shots for the lack of Paris’ involvement in her dilemma. Now you’re taking shots because Paris is involved, their exchange is heated and like that of a real couple, and you don’t like it because they are not Miles and Keiko.

Ya know, you state you just couldn’t get in to the episode because it maksed the true conflict under a “medical drama,” whioch instantly turns you off. Well then why not end the review there? Why ramble for WAAAYYYY too long in ways that only reveal your personal cynicism and lack of investment in a show that (mind bogglingly) you have VOLUNTEERED to review each and every week?

My wife and I felt this was a great episode. We appreciated the focus on the conflict at hand and the lack of some ridiculous B-story involving some other gaseous anomaly. We felt that the reactions of Tom and B’Elanna in this episode were very real, and we felt this from personal experience. The revelation that B’Elanna felt responsible for her father leaving was very effective, a powerful dramatic moment for anyone who has cared at all about the character. It went a long way to explain some of the things I never knew about B’Elanna–like why she was so standoffish to Tom in early seasons if she was attracted to him. I thought the casting was great–anyone else notice how much her father looked like a young Chakotay?

This episode was not at all a medical drama, though it did use the trappings as red herring. I thought it was a good approach to have B’Elanna try to justify the changes as medically necessary–trying to sidestep the ethical kaibosh on splicing set up in “Dr. Bashir, I Presume.”

Finally, O Deus rags on the fact that B’Elanna’s ultimate goal in the episode seemed to be to alter her child to keep her man. He calls it sexist and insulting. I call it the wrong-headed path B’Elanna went down due to her feelings of self-blame. That it was unfair and not right is part of the point that apparently sailed over O Deus’ head while he was busy thinking of clever wordy ways to chip away at the “medical drama” he was watching. Should B’Elanna have been less sexist in the irrational last gasp of her self-blame?

My feeling is that everything has gone right this year on Voyager, especially in the character department. You have ragged and whined and complained for character development since I’ve been reading you, and yet the only thing that gets a positive nod from you is over the top stuff like in Unimatrix Zero. It is now my firm and entrenched belief that you BELIEVE you have a set of standards that Voyager can meet to get a good review, but apparently without your own knowledge you will raise alter or erase those standards to ensure your next Voyager review comes out as cleverly insulting as the last.

With Andromeda you’ve been more on-point, but probably since it’s not Trek you can be more subjective. But dig this, I’m thinking that you’d better turn out to be CAPABLE of actually LIKING an episode of EITHER show, or I’m going to become quite certain that you are no reviewer but simply just another verbose, grouchy Trek fan on Trekweb, like me!

This page of posts was saved as text from the original Trekweb forums. You can read the original saved text file here.

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