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

– Three Badges out of Four – “Sometimes all it takes to assimilate someone is a good salary and some perks.”

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!


Workforce Title Card
Workforce Pt 1 Title Card

WORKFORCE Constructs Somewhat Familar Yet Sturdy Setup With Consistent Writing and Wonderful Direction

Posted: 07:16:07 on February 22
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: Reviews – Voyager
Reviews Ex Deus
Written For TrekWeb by ‘O. Deus’

“Workforce”

Summary: A nicely arranged setup for an as yet unseen payoff.

It’s always hard to review the first part of a two part episode. Fortunately Voyager has gotten into the habit of airing both parts in one night. Workforce though is the exception and the task of reviewing it is made all the more difficult by the fact that Part 1 is mostly setup giving us the basics of the situation and shows us how it’s beginning to unravel. By this same point The Killing Game had already gone well into payoff territory but Workforce is playing out a more drawn out and complicated character oriented story and so it takes all this time just to set up the basics of the situation. The limitations and complexity do, however, produce a certain amount of creativity in the style of the episode. As in The Killing Game, we skip over the attack to begin with a scene that features the crew already in their altered reality but unlike Killing Game’s gratuitous “Janeway as Klingon warrior” scene, Workforce begins with a gorgeous opening shot of the alien city and a lift ride into the depths of a factory that’s there only to give us a sense of the setting. This is a smart move because it makes the entire situation feel deeper and more real, instead of just the Voyager crew wandering around some redressed alien sets. Also unlike Killing Game, the crew doesn’t have either their memories or personalities suppressed but instead are the same people they are but with twisted memories and a view of the world colored by those memories. The result is all the more disturbing because they’re the people we know but yet they aren’t, in an ‘of the Body Snatchers’ sort of way.

This is clearly a Janeway story and so Janeway finally gets a relationship and a setup for the choice that will come. Janeway has always complained about being overburdened and has spent seven years walking around with a martyr complex. In Workforce she gets the chance to put that complexity aside and function as an ordinary person. While the happiness of the rest of the crew seems artificial and Stepford empty, it seems as if Janeway’s happiness might have a certain dose of reality and depth to it. Perhaps she really is better off and certainly happier not being in command. The entire Paris storyline does seem a bit hollow and a waste of time, on the contrary. Paris finds work in a bar, frankly who really cares. Torres seems lonely and the two reconnect. I’m not even sure that counts as character development. The scenes on the ship with the ECH are a nice piece of continuity with Tinker Tailor and only add to the tension of the episode. And the other touches of continuity including Janeway’s cooking and her conversations with terminals fit it nicely as well.

Tuvok has some nicely eerie scenes, for once his breakdown is correctly handled and the decision to intercut scenes of him being brainwashed with Janeway and Co.’s daily routines and happy evenings makes for a decidedly creepy effect which turns up the already disturbing atmosphere up a few notches. The constantly vigilant guards patrolling in pairs, socialist realism posters and grey 21st century urban feel contrasted with the worker’s faux happiness are very effective. Allan Kroeker is one of Star Trek’s best directors, and in an episode mostly running on atmosphere, he does an amazing job of turning what could have been a fairly bland script into a dark and suspenseful episode. Between the brain washing disguised as immunizations and the happy multi-species work environment in which all workers are valued and the employers “really” care about their workers, this episode feels like a version of Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ updated for corporate America.

But it’s the human conventional touches rather than the SciFi stuff like the Minister’s view of the whole thing as a means of obtaining skilled labor and inability to comprehend Chakotay’s objections as anything except an attempt to obtain skilled labor for his own vessel that really makes this environment mirror the Borg circa TNG. But where the Borg concept put a lot of distance between us and them, Workforce hits disturbingly close to home. Where the Borg simply chose to represent the subservience of the individual to the group by completely erasing individuals and turning them into drones, the Workforce government instead chooses to sabotage the ships, pick up the refugees and brainwash them into believing they’re happy workers. In a sense they, like the Borg, are using similar tactics for a similar goal but they have no greater goals or greater inhuman ruthlessness; just petty mortal goals and the refusal to acknowledge the rights or even needs of the individuals they destroy. Like the Borg they insist the people are happier this way, like the Borg they refuse to see the evil of their actions but unlike the Borg they lack the excuse of being a cybernetic collective, instead they’re all too real and all too human and it’s difficult to describe which seems more horrific. And so Part 2 will depend on keeping up this atmosphere, something fairly amateur director Roxann Dawson will hopefully manage to do, and keep the focus on the general system instead of mistakenly selecting individual villains to be lecturers as Critical Care did. The way Janeway’s choice is handled will also be important as well as the way the transition of the crew back to their older memories occurs.

Having Seven act as the instigator is clumsy and overlooks the fun of having her as the antagonistic efficiency expert, plus it mirrors the Killing Game storyline a bit too closely. But after Seven’s mind meld it also seems pretty inevitable. Chakotay and Tuvok doing all the work would be more interesting but ultimately the suspense only exists for about as long as the crew are in their new lives. Once they’re back to being the Voyager crew and “The Heroes”, most of the suspense and tension will collapse back to nothingness. And a final hope that the Kim\EMH command bickering will be kept to a minimum. Despite Kim’s actions in Nightingale and the EMH’s occasional self-absorption it’s ridiculous to think that either of them would use this situation to bicker over who’s in command. And considering Kim’s behavior in Nightingale it’s almost certain that he would come looking out of this more childish than ever and with only a few episodes left until the end of Voyager he won’t have much time to grow up.

Next week: Part 2. Robert Beltran has fun with makeup, Voyager blows up alien ships, Janeway has to choose between an adult relationship and her martyr complex.


TREKWEB TALKBACK

Wow!
By mrsneed at 00:49:39 on February 25

Well, I loved this episode! Kinda reminiscent of the Original Series, but with better production values and an ensemble cast that takes the focus off of a Trek Trinity (a la’ Kirk-Spock-McCoy). It was engaging, and actually suspenseful. How will Voyager get out of this mess? I’m avoiding the spoilers as much as I can. The scenes with the Doctor, Kim and Chakotay? Superb. Especially the little barbs exchanged between Kim and the Doctor. Chakotay actually gets something to do, this time around. Of course, the special effects were wonderful as well. I’m one of those folks who likes Voyager anyway, and it does take a lot to make me not like an episode. That said, some of the entries this season have been on the rather light side. This is an episode that (I HOPE) will have some significance for Janeway and co. I can’t wait for next week!

No one else finds it
By Jason ‘Odo’ Boxman (jasonb@trekweb.com) at
17:42:37 on February 24

amusing that The Doctor was repairing an entire starship on his own, and was successful at it? Sure, it could happen, but that’s a big ship.

Still, it was nice to see the ECH again.


Curse of the Two-Parters?
By thefanemus (thefanemus@hotmail.com) at
14:21:48 on February 23

I thought this episode was great, all in all. But like with the Star Trek movies, the Voyager two-parter seem to run hot and cold. You’ll all recall how lame “Caretaker” was… Then the next cliffhanger at the end of season 3, “Basics,” was a fantastic pair of episodes. It was the only time the Kazon got their act together and it gave the Voyager crew a chance for some good ol’ action-adventure. Then came “Scorpion”–great 1st half, horrible 2nd half. Later on the was “Year of Hell.” These episodes had everything you could possibly want. “Killing Game” wasn’t that bad, but then then “Dark Frontier” wasn’t that good. Then you have “Equinox,” where I will disagree completely with Steve down below. That episode was just great, and it handled the ethical issues that Star Trek has faced better than any of the half-hearted morality plays of season seven. And then came “Unimatrix Zero.” Just like “Scorpion,” “UZ” had a great beginning that got you all fired-up to see the conclusion; and then the conclusion was so bad it made me want to kill myself for having spent the last three months fantasizing about it. Finally there was “Flesh and Blood,” by far the best that season seven has yet offered, and again, enough attention to the morality issue to make its successors “Critical Care,” “Repentance,” and “The Void” feel trite.

So, after that long introduction, we get to the point. “Workforce” lands on an odd number, which has proven to be unlucky for the Voyager cliffhangers. The first installment was great, but so were the first installments of “Scorpion” and “Unimatrix Zero.”

O. Deus hit the nail on the head here — this would normally not have been a very compelling script, but the first installment was directed beautifully by Alan Kroeker. But for some reason the powers that be find it necessary to switch directors in mid-stream.: the second installment will be directed by Roxann Dawson, who has only directed one other Episode, “Riddles.” This episode was fairly good, so for the time being I’m going to remain optimistic about Part II. But beware the curse…
-Thefanemus


It Wet’s The Appetite
By MacReady () at 21:31:25 on February 22

An interesting story that takes it’s time in the telling of why. Some points of note, the explanation is seen through Chakotay and Kim halfway through the episode. The unusual circumstance of the Doctor alone on Voyager trying to keep the ship in one piece. The crew evacuating the ship having experienced radiation poisoning only to be conditioned as “happy productive workers”on the planet below. The planet’s constant monitoring of the emotional state of it’s workers was reminiscent of TOS The Return of The Archons. “Are you not of the body?” It was also logical that Tuvok being Vulcan would be most resistant to the chemical persuasion.

I’m not used to a consistent quality of work from Voyager. But this past month has probably been some of the best work of the series overall. I’m certainly looking forward to next week’s offering.


On the plus side…
By Officer Barbrady () at 13:48:23 on February

good effects (the beginning kicked ass) & the Voyager version of Guinan/a.k.a. RuPaul/the Lady from Midnight In The Garden Of Good & Evil. I liked her! Tom’s uniform made him look like Dash Rendar; he had a nice look to him.

On the negative side, the cute Don Most cameo, the premier effort coming from the most recent graduate of the Paramount Studios welfare-to-work rehabilitation program. What should we expect next…Tom Bosley as Mr. Q? Pat Morita as Neelix’s crazy sidekick/cook?


Corporate Masters
By Imbarkus at
12:29:08 on February 22

I have no fear of causing any “hurt feelings” among corporations out there with my proudly-held left wing views. The most fascinating, creepy thing about the premise of this episode was that although the hidden SECRET of the “employers” was that their system was a capitalist system.

We saw no powerful government influence, in fact we saw none at all. Can you call a corporation a monarchy if its handed down through a family? No, because the term itself refers to gevernemental leadership. We saw no specific government here, anywhere, and even no indication that the securiry guards were government employes. Note that that line was immediately followed by Jaffen declaring the benefits of living in company housing–those were COMPANY RENT-A-COPS that sent them scuttling on their way.

So perhaps the government of this system was the ultimate capitalist, free market system–where corporatiuons aren’t even beheld to respect human rights at all.

And like it or not most megalithic multinational corporations deserve not only the bashing but a hell of a lot more scrutiny. It’s mostly our nationalistic pride that lets us ignore how much a reality this setting could be in Mexico… Why employ Americans when poverty has led many Mexicans to be willing to give up basic human dignity and rights to work for a fraction of what you need to pay an American! And you don’t even need the cost of maintaining a safe workplace…

But we’re not far behind. After all, there’s plenty of poverty in this country too…

The traditional American dream of success was an individual dream–the self-made man; the success of the entrepreneur and the small business; the opportunity for everyone to compete freely in an open market and to succeed based on merit. In some ways this dream, is still valid, in others its not. It was for Bill Gates but it will no longer be for his competitors. We’re all aiming for it but no one wants to flat out state the odds of achieving the American Dream in today’s day, for each individual man and woman, are about the same as the odds of winning Powerball.

So the American Dream and its path to success is not the reality most of us are dealing with. This episode is a cautionary tale about where we’re headed, and about how much personal freedom will be asked of us to give us a share of the dream that someone else has already achieved.

So tell a man in modern America he can work retail or food service and most likely live in poverty–or he can conform to the ethical, behavior, and dress code of the corporation, be prepared to be monitored or videotaped throughout his day, leave his suik children and put in unreasonably long hours, be required to sign gag orders and legal documents rerquiring him to hide questionable company activities from the public, and any number of other “choices” which sap the soul—for the chance to live well.

Then after he sells his soul to feed and clothe his children–tell him he lives in a “free” market. Corporate culture and the immediate visual metaphor for human monotony it provides with its emphasis on all those nearly identical “suits,” offer much more threat to my day-in day-out personal liberties than any government on the planet today, as far as I’m concerned.

Hell, I’d be a libertarian if I didn’t think that, without regulation, corporations would completely pollute the planet, conscript “news” reporting into organised propaganda, and start trying to find ways to bring slavery back to America in the 21st centuryt. I don’t trust a single damned one of them because for the most part they are still only capable of measuring profit in dollar signs–and are therefore inherently destructive to more ineffable things of worth, like freedom, family, peace, spirituality, clean air and a beautiful earth.

So feel free to rebut, and in doing so, seal your destiny as corporate butt-kisser and apologist. Me–even though the actual episode’s damnation was faint-hearted for me–I’m going to keep on smilin’ as Biller continues to take Voyager where no other Treks have gone in social comment.

Hey, why not! The ratings game was lost years ago, Brannon and his Big Ideas have moved on to the next show–time to use Voyager to say a couple of things that need to be said.


RE: Corporate Masters
By The Lovecats () at 15:31:26 on February 23

You may have a desire to live in a world when an employee’s job security and compensation are in no way linked to the quality of the product or service produced by said employee, but having had numerous dealings with the post office, the department of motor vehicles, and the bureaucracy of a large southwestern university that shall go nameless, I think capitalism has an awful lot going for it.

Society works best when forces are in balance. When power swings too far in either direction, misery ensues.

By the way, I re-checked the episode last night. Just before we see the minister talking about how happy the workers are, Chakotay says of the planet “Officials are not being very helpful.” Official probably means government.


RE: Corporate Masters
By Demarzule (demarzule@hotmail.com) at 12:53:03 on February 22
URL: http://demarzule.tripod.com/

Grinding servitude is the rule for the vast majority of humanity. Whether one submits to the will of capital or government makes not the slightest bit of difference, except for the particular wording of ambient government and/or corporate propaganda.

The best that anyone can EVER hope for is to make ones self useful to the powers that be. In my case it is the aerospace industry. As for biological offspring, hah! I make pretty good money at the moment, but there is no telling when my job will be shipped overseas to an Indian or Chinese PhD who will do it for a fraction of my salary. Taking care of myself is iffy enough, let alone a spouse and 2.3 children.

As for my politics? Well, I am not going to expound them here as I have no intention of trying to overturn 56 years of enemy propaganda on TrekWeb.

Za dom spremni!

Regards;

D.


RE: Corporate Masters
By Imbarkus at
11:47:44 on February 27

If you believe that each worker in our capitalist system is rewarded on merit then you are exactly the kind of sucker our systems exploits. Middle management in the corporate culture ALWAYS makes more money than blue collar workers, unless like my Teamster dad they have a worth while union to back them up. And there is no evidence that the work of all these wannabe CEO’s is more valuable or produces a better society than the efforts of those who teach our children, transport our goods, assemble our products, and prepare our food.

In fact it is my firm belief that the glut of useless, unskilled, politically-savvy management personnel in this country who spend most of their time protecting their own career path and passing on any actual work is what has made “the American Dream” an impossible one. It doesn’t take an organised fascist conspiracy. It just takes the proper environment where everyone ends up looking out for number one.

But I agree with you in that what would actually make capitalism WORK, and seem fair to the WORKFORCE, the WORKER CLASS in this country, is if advancement actually HAD something to do with the quality of duties performed.

Because right now, most folks end up right in the social class they were born into, and the hardships of growing up in poverty are usually enough to ensure that, once grown, a person doesn’t have the internal or external resources to escape.

You can call that a free market but it looks like a caste system hidden under a big lie to me.

And, as to the episode, the presence of an unhelpful “official” denotes the difference between government-sponsored fascism and a system where unregulated corporations make the rules? Please. What a stretch. What we are seeing is no sign of a “state,” a fascist figurehead, a dictator, any mention of the rule of law over the actions of these corporations. WHAT WE SAW was companies acting of their own accord for their own labor-force interests, in ways that indicated they had no fear of being monitored or held accountable.

What are you trying to convince me? That in this metaphorical world, the government has to REQUIRE a company to violate sentient rights in order for it to do so? Is your rosy view of our system so fragile that it cannot accept a Trek story where unrestrained capitalism is how one society went wrong?

I’m not arguing for communism. I believe a balanced system with checks for both business and government is best for everyone. But my problem with “capitalism” as a concept in this country is that it has been sold to us in media for so long, had its meaning muddled and mixed with the definition of democracy, marketed to us as all other systems have been vilified, that it has become dogma to most people. An imposed and instructed set of beliefs that people cling to like gospel when challenged.

If something takes that much work to sell it to you, there must be a lie hiding in it somewhere. That lie is “The American Dream.”


KG Redux?
By Edzo () at 12:12:26 on February 22

The only thing that struck me about “Workforce” was that it seems to be little more than “The Killing Game” redone. Both are two-part episodes. Both feature most of the crew being appropriated against their will, their Voyager memories suppressed. Both feature Harry Kim as exempt from abduction/forced conscription. Both feature Janeway and Seven butting heads. Both feature Paris and Torres finding romance with each other … again. Both feature Torres pregnant. Sheesh.

Who cares if Janeway finally has a meaningful relationship with a real man? It’s not really Janeway, after all, not with her Voyager memories suppressed. Just because she calls herself “Kathryn Janeway” doesn’t mean she’s the real McCoy.

Unfortunately, this seems like a waste of two episodes. I’ll withhold final judgment until after I see Part Two, but so far, I’m not impressed. Just MHO.


Good Start
By SteveR () at 09:18:55 on February 22

It’s a lot easier to respond to a negative review, but I’ll try to post what I think anyway.

Once again, the writers have proven they can set up a two part episode. I can’t remember the last time a two parter (or two hour) episode had a bad set up. Unlike the reviewer, I liked the scenes with Paris and Torres. And I was glad that Janeway finally found a real person to be with. All in all, a good episode. But, like the reviewer said, it’ll all come down to next week. We’ve seen some good endings (UZ, Scorpion), and some horrible ones (Dark Frontier, Equinox). I hope this falls into the good category.

-Steve


Let’s get one thing straight
By SpunkyMisunderstoodGenius (Queequeg@fool-cola.com) at 09:06:22 on February 22

I know corporate-bashing is a hip and fashionable position for the status-conscious lefty, but what’s going on in “Workforce” ain’t capitalism/corporatism, it’s socialism. Under capitalism, workers are free to choose their employer and the terms of their employment. What we have in “Workforce” is a government bureaucracy assigning workers to positions based on their aptitudes, making all personal choices on their behalf, brainwashing them with propaganda and behavioral modification, and all the while proclaiming it’s all being done in the best interest of the workers. The only thing missing is the denunciation of Chakotay and the Doctor as Right-Wing reactionary running dogs for wanting to take the workers back.

Apart from that, I tend to agree that “Workforce” was a surprisingly rich, satisfying story. It was engrossing. Usually, Voyager’s action sequences have had to compensate for its rather pedestrian story-telling. This story succeeds with very little action. These last two episodes show how good a show can be when the writers and producers aren’t just phoning it in.

This page of posts was saved as text from the original Trekweb forums. You can read the original saved text file here , a second one can be found here, and a third one can be found here. These files were saved with only top-level replies, but for this topic I went a bit deeper and included some nested replies as well.

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