June 19, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Weekend Trek “Distant Origin”

A race of reptilian aliens search Voyager to prove a scientific theory.

Huh.  I wasn’t expecting this sort of an episode.  Heck, the crew of Voyager doesn’t even show up until around the halfway point.

Instead, what we get here is an episode about the Voth, an alien race of reptiles.  These beings are, beyond a very impressive make-up job, the center of the action for the first half as Professor Gegen pursues evidence of something he called the “Distant Origin” theory.  Essentially, the Voth believe that they were the first sentient race in their part of the galaxy, mammals are inferior, and there’s a doctrine to prove it.  Gegen is part of a small faction that believes that the Voth came from a distant world originally and only settled in the Delta Quadrant later.  His proof is a skeleton of that guy who died in the season premier.  If so, nice callback.

Regardless, there are a number of common genetic markers between this human skeleton and the Voth for Gegen to conclude there is a common origin.  His superiors, more interested in maintaining doctrine, deny his requests for further study to at least locate the ship the skeleton came from and test them.  The being was a mammal, and they don’t like that, and it would disturb too many.

Essentially, the episode acts as a way of retelling the Galileo story with Gegen in the Galieo role.  He and an assistant go looking for Voyager anyway, merely out of scientific curiosity, and they not only find the ship, but they can sneak around on it in a personal cloaking field for a little while before the ship’s censors pick them up, during which Gegen manages to stun and kidnap Chakotay while the assistant is knocked out and taken to Sickbay.

As it is, Gegen is right, as Chakotay and Gegen realize on his ship and as Janeway figures out on her own on Voyager.  There is a common evolutionary ancestor to both humans and the Voth, and the Voth evolved from Hadrosaurs, a duck-billed dinosaur that was discovered near the part of New Jersey I grew up in.  Hey, this is really important news!

And then the rest of the Voth show up in a city-sized ship that beams all of Voyager inside of it.


Yes, part of the thing here that I found clever is a basic idea that if the Voth are evolved from dinosaurs, and if they found a means to leave Earth that was somehow buried deep underground or at the bottom of the ocean to the point where humans haven’t found the evidence yet, then they must be a far more technologically advanced race than the humans.  Not only do they capture Voyager, but they do so in such a way to shut down any and all offensive or defensive capabilities the ship has, right down to hand phasers.  Paris manages to almost do something thanks to the assistant’s personal cloaking field, but that doesn’t allow Janeway to do anything more than issue an ultimatum that she can’t back up.

All this leads to Gegen basically learning he has to recant his discoveries, and even with Chakotay by his side to offer a passionate defense of Gegen and what traveling across the stars can really mean for the Voth’s legacy and view of themselves…it doesn’t work as the Voth leadership not only threatens Gegen with permanent exile, but the crew of Voyager as well.  One of the nice moments in this episode is how Chakotay and Gegen basically work together to figure out if Gegen’s theory is correct.  I know the Voth don’t reappear–they end this episode basically threatening Janeway to never come back–but as much as Gegen will suffer himself to keep the truth alive, he won’t do so if it means innocent beings like the entire crew of Voyager will do so as well.  Voyager wasn’t even looking for the Voth, and their inclusion in everything that happened is pure coincidence.  They obviously shouldn’t have to suffer, and there was a sense for me that Chakotay really just got Gegen in ways that Janeway didn’t with her own Voth encounters.

Granted, none of the Voth Janeway met were exactly friendly.  They were either outright hostile or, in the case of Gegen’s assistant, unconscious by choice thanks to a voluntary hibernation.

What happened to Gegen is clearly not right, and it is a small shame that there won’t be a follow-up to this episode, if for no other reason than those really impressive make-up effects probably weren’t the sort of thing they could do all that regularly.  Besides, aside from Gegen, most of the Voth seemed at best haughty and indifferent.  The crew’s probably better off never seeing them again, especially as Gegen’s story was the only one I think I would be all that invested in.