April 24, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Weekend Trek “Sacred Ground”

Janeway undergoes an ancient ritual to save Kes.

Generally, I check Wikipedia before I watch an episode of Voyager to see if I remember the episode in question before I watch it.  I did tune in regularly for the first few seasons before the show gradually became less appointment TV than it was when it started.  I don’t really regret that, but honestly, I has no recollection of this episode, the plot summary suggested that Janeway and the Doctor might have a disagreement over faith vs science or something.  That could be cool.

Nothing like that happens in this episode.  It is, however, the first episode to be directed by a member of the cast.  In this case, that’s Robert Duncan McNeill.

The premise is a basic one:  while looking around the caves on the home world of some friendly aliens during shore leave, Kes and Neelix find some kind of glowing archway.  Kes thinks it’s beautiful and steps too close to it, getting hit with something that puts her into a coma.  Most of the residents have no idea how this temple works, but there are some reclusive monks that communicate with the spirits that may know things if they were inclined to speak.  There’s an old legend of a king whose son suffered from a similar illness or something as Kes, and Janeway offers to perform the ritual herself if it will allow her to cure Kes.  Essentially, this is Janeway’s performing of an ancient ritual to see if it can wake Kes up.

Janeway is an interesting choice here.  I’ve noted before that Janeway is basically her own science officer, but she’s on a ship where there’s hardly a lack of those.  Excluding the Doctor, both B’Elanna and Harry have some pretty good science aptitude in their respective fields (whatever Harry’s is), and Tuvok, despite being the security chief, is also pretty good with science when he needs to be.  Setting aside that the Doctor can’t go, all three of those characters would have issue similar to Janeway’s if they were to perform the ritual.  In terms of spirituality, Chakotay would make a good choice for that since, well, that’s basically his whole deal.  And Neelix, as Kes’s lover, would also make an interesting choice to go through the ritual.  The script, however, does set it up that it can only be Janeway because she is in a position similar to the king in the story as a starship captain.  Janeway is responsible for her crew, effectively being the parent.  So, she’ll go with a guide and see if she can cure Kes.

Let’s set aside that Kes herself with her growing telepathic power and gift for science would also make a good choice for the ritual, so there’s probably a reason that she’s the one in trouble.

As it is, this ritual doesn’t make much sense, and it isn’t supposed to.  Janeway meets the guide, a woman who initially seems to be maintenance type, but she’s the guide.  She’s fully aware that Janeway has a subcutaneous censor to monitor the captain’s life signs, and she doesn’t seem to mind.  If anything, all of Janeway’s questions about the proper way to do things is met with some general amusement.  Janeway doesn’t know what to expect, but the guide seems to just suggest over and over again that whatever Janeway expects and whatever happens doesn’t matter.  That means starting in a waiting room with a couple old timers, one of whom is played by Estelle Harris, and who wouldn’t want to spend time with Estelle Harris?

Besides this guy.

Except, the ritual doesn’t really work.  At least, I don’t think it does.  Janeway is bitten by an unseen, three-fanged snake at one point, but that isn’t what hit Kes.  Probably.  Janeway is cured, but the Doctor’s treatment doesn’t work on Kes.  The only thing that works is Janeway’s carrying Kes into the archway again.

Why does that work?  Beats me.  I think the idea here is Janeway, despite being incredibly open-minded the whole time, had to let go each and every one of her preconceived notions to cure Kes.  She just had to show concern for Kes, and that would move the spirits to cure her.  Or something.  It was never really clear what was wrong with Kes, and Janeway’s methods mostly involved asking questions without getting any answers.  She just needed faith.  Again, this is something that might have worked better for Chakotay, and given that this is Star Trek and the crew doesn’t, say, openly mock the beliefs of other cultures, there was less tension involved than there might have been if a more stubborn or pig-headed person of science had gone through.  The Doctor, as a programmed hologram, might fit that bill.  B’Elanna might have lost her temper, and Neelix his patience.  But instead, it was Janeway when she finally stopped asking questions.

That’s just kinda weird, isn’t it?