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Roundtable Voyager: S01E13 – Cathexis

In the yesteryears of the mid 90s, Paramount Pictures looked to continue the Star Trek boom begun by Star Trek: The Next Generation (which had recently ended) and expanded by Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Wishing to both return the series to its adventurous roots while breaking new social boundaries, they premiered the first episode of Star Trek: Voyager on January 16th, 1995. Featuring a female captain and a surprisingly diverse helping of crew members, Star Trek: Voyager would continue on for six years and offer the setting to one of the best Star Trek games ever released (Editor’s Note: This was not a part of the agreed introduction, Tim.) (Tim Response: Don’t care, my phasers are set to frag!).

Every Monday (shush, we’ve missed a few. But we’re back! We swear!) we share a roundtable discussion about a Voyager episode featuring experts pulled from the close group of friends we could easily bribe. This week’s group consists of Seth, film/tv critic Ryan and yours truly! Naturally, spoilers are a matter of course with this territory, and portions of our conversation drew on our knowledge of other episodes of both Voyager and other Star Trek shows. You have been warned. 

This week covers the thirteenth episode of Season 1, “Cathexis.” Given the length of time since our last roundtable, it took Tim a bit to remember where we were at exactly…

Tim – Time to remember what happened on this episode…OH WAIT! This was Chakotay’s spirited away episode, wasn’t it?

Seth – Yep.

Ryan – Yes, it was. So the premise for “The Thing” worked pretty well transposed onto Star Trek. It seems like it’s a pretty solid sci-fi premise to run with: alien presence that could be anyone, anywhere and you can’t tell who it is.

Tim – Yeah, you know- I thought so as well.

Seth – And you can’t even pin it down to one person because it can quickly move between hosts

Ryan – The benevolent counter-presence was an… interesting twist.

Tim – I also enjoyed the little bump twist at the end- that the “alien” was actually ChaGhostay – although I will admit I had it pegged about the time Tuvok was at the scene of a second attack.

Seth – Yeah, the scene where ChaGhostay rapidly jumped from person to person to attack Possessed!Tuvok clinched it for me. Because if the “alien” wanted to get rid of him, it could have just made him jump out an airlock.

Ryan – Now, by clinched, do you mean that sold the episode to you? Or that’s when you figured it was Chakotay? Wait, I think you guys lost me, can we back up a second?

Seth – Sure thing

Tim – Absolutely.

Seth – We were just talking about when we realized that Tuvok was being controlled by a being separate from the one jumping from crewmember to crewmember.

Ryan – So we know that there was in fact an alien traveling around the ship possessing people and that Chakotay was a second force – seemingly just as adept at mind control as the alien force – taking over crew members to try to thwart the alien’s efforts.

Tim – See, the way I read it was that the only Alien was the one possessing Tuvok. The force that was jumping around was ChaGhostay, who was trying to get the crew to not go into the Nebula.

Seth – Yeah, he was controlling Tuvok exclusively in order to lure the Voyager into the nebula.

Ryan – Oh, you know what, I think I missed that. So Paris was being possessed by Chakotay at the very beginning not the alien who was only in Tuvok?

Seth – Everything the jumping alien did was to stymie Voyager’s attempts to reach the nebula.

Tim – Yeah.

Seth – Exactly.

Ryan – So… in fact Chakotay was more adept at mind control then an alien species who seemed to survive by using it to lure life forms into their dark nebula… ho boy…

Seth – I don’t know if he was actually more adept. I think it would have been counter to the alien’s purpose to raise suspicions by jumping from Tuvok to other crewmembers.

Tim – Maybe this was just me, but I actually didn’t read Chakotay’s Ghost Powers as being related to the Aliens- I’d assumed they were generated through his strength of spirit.

Seth – I read them as a weird side-effect of whatever the alien did to him

Ryan – It didn’t strike anyone as a Native American analogue to Asian characters being naturally good at martial arts?

Tim – Yeah, that’s actually exactly how it struck me, but I think we might all agree that the execution makes it a bit vague if that were the case. It’s entirely possible that I was once again looking for ways to mutter, especially once they pulled out the medicine wheel.

Seth – The medicine wheel caught my attention for an entirely different reason: It demonstrates that the field of medicine has come to be somewhat comfortable with alternative medicine.

Tim – Aye, that was one of the positive points I was going to bring up.

Seth – I mean, this is still a controversial issue in 2014, as to whether doctors have any business prescribing or suggesting alternative treatments. But someone in Starfleet thought it was legitimate enough to code in their EMH, though to be fair, it looks like someone said “eh, storage space is massive in the future, let’s just give him EVERYTHING.”
Tim – Perhaps that’s why the Doctor is so appealing- he just knows. Unless it’s Beowulf.

Ryan – The Doctor, though he was familiar with it, didn’t prescribe the medicine wheel though, did he. He allowed the wheel to remain over Tuvok’s bed, in act I took to mean he was coming to realize emotional beings like humans needed such things to help them through difficult times, even if it had no medical effect.

Tim – Although, in writing that I realized that while the Medicine Wheel is considered spiritual by, say, Western perspectives, it would’ve been considered both spiritual and medicinal to the Native Cultures that used it, right? So to get back at what Seth was saying, the programmer may have just decided to include the history of all medicine, including non-western varieties.

Ryan – Though alternative medicine would conceivably be included in his databanks. No less believable than Star Fleet officers still knowing what Beowulf is…

Tim – I wouldn’t be surprised if we find out that the Doctor is familiar with acupuncture too, even if he doesn’t go that route when prescribing it.

Ryan – I think he mentioned he was programmed with a knowledge of alternative medicine’s in this episode.

Seth – Right, what I’m saying is, he was programmed with alternative medicine, but in the last episode he had to read Beowulf. Someone thought alternative medicine was important enough to program him with directly, as opposed to merely including in the Voyager’s computer somewhere.

Ryan – Ah, alright, I follow

Tim – In any case, it was a remarkable display of inclusion, if you think about it, and, I mean, he didn’t go right there and prescribe it, which at least kept it out of the realm of completely endorsing it.

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One thought on “Roundtable Voyager: S01E13 – Cathexis

  1. I thought their inclusion in this episode, like a lot of their attempts at inclusion, was hamfisted. “Hurr, it’s the nineties, if we scream ‘WE LOVE EVERYONE ALL WAYS’ at the top of our lungs, it will make it true!” Art, like life, doesn’t work like that. I kind of want to time warp and strongarm the writing staff into a room with Meg Jayanth and say, “Look. Cultures. There being different kinds. You’re doing it wrong. This girl will explain it to you so I don’t have to pretend I like you long enough to have a conversation.”

    With regard to why Janeway went the route of the gothic novel, this:

    ****
    Levine also points more specifically to the role of the monster in this link to later Realism in
    Frankenstein, as “the monster is also kin to the oppressed women and children of
    Victorian fiction: like Oliver Twist, Pip, Florence Dombey, and Little Nell, like Jane
    Eyre and Lucy Snowe, like Daniel Deronda, Henry Esmond, and Jude Fawley, the
    monster is an orphan, rejected by his father, uncertain of who he is or where he belongs. Naïve, well-intentioned, in danger of being led astray” (“The Pattern” 20-21). According to Levine, the “monster represents a kind of Dickensian reading (almost Carlylean, but that Carlyle could not believe in man’s natural goodness) of the French Revolution. Abused, abandoned, maltreated, deprived, he turns, unlike good Victorian children, in vengeance on his master and his master’s world” (“The Pattern” 21).
    Within the context of the humanistic and scientific realism of Frankenstein, it is
    Victor’s irresponsibility concerning his failure to fully consider the implications of his actions in his creation of the monster, as well as his failure to communicate with those around him as a result of his self-isolation, that stands as the moral to the story. Such transgressions on humanity and human fellowship will become consistent themes in the social concerns of the Realist novel later in the century. As Hammond observes of Shelley’s novel, “Frankenstein’s ‘being’ is produced under and into particular socionatural relations. Surely it is those relations, mixed, weaved, messy, that should catch our attention in Frankenstein, and prompt us to ask questions about what kind of socionature we want produced by whom, for what purposes and under what conditions” (195)
    From this dissertation: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1087&context=englishdiss
    ****
    I would say an isolated, self-contained ship (even its _air_ is separate from the rest of the world) in the middle of spacey nowhere counts as “particular socionatural relations” that are “mixed, weaved, messy,” and that should catch our attention. But the show cleans everything up, places everyone into a neat little box. “You’re the Native American so we’re going to put you into an episode where we get to advertise how spiritual you are. You there, you come from two different peoples, so we’re going to have an agonizingly trite episode about where we draw each race out of you into two different people and explain as if two four year olds why the real you is the best you!” It’s hamfisted. It’s nineties. It thinks that by embracing all categories it exonerates itself from its time, but this is not the case! It is the very categorization that does damage! And they weren’t bloody well thinking that way in 1995. “Let’s stick our smart capable captain in a Victorian novel written by a smart capable woman in an age when those traits didn’t necessarily count for much when held by women AND IT WILL BE SUBTLE, GUYS, IT WILL BE REAL SUBTLE.” Oh wait. Nope.

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