"Distant Origin"

Season Three, Episode 23
Written by Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky
Directed by David Livingston
Main Cast:
Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway
Robert Beltran as Chakotay
Roxann Dawson as B'Elanna Torres
Jennifer Lien as Kes
Robert Duncan McNeill as Tom Paris
Ethan Phillips as Neelix
Robert Picardo as The Doctor
Tim Russ as Tuvok
Garrett Wang as Harry Kim

Guest Cast:
Henry Woronicz as Gagan
Christopher Liam Moore as Veer
Marshall Teague as Hulak
Concetta Tomei as Minister Odala 


Having found the remains of a Voyager crewman, the reptillian Voth set out to study the crew of Voyager. The Voth believe that they were the first intelligent beings to evolve in the Delta Quadrant, but having found a genetic pattern similar to their own in the human make-up, this is called into question. When Gagan, the chief researcher, suggests that based on these findings, the true origin of the Voth is Earth, their leader, Minister Odala, deems him a heretic. To prove his theory, Gagan tracks down Voyager, infiltrates the ship and takes their next research subject, Chakotay, hostage. 


I was out when this one aired and set the video, except the damned video missed the first six minutes or so. But I still think I'm reasonably well qualified to still pass opinion. This is another good episode, not without its problems, but overall I'd go so far as to say this was a definite season highlight.

Nice to have a change of format for once! It's so refreshing to finally get out of Voyager (hurrah!). Nothing against the sets, but to be blunt I'm sick of them! The focus on the aliens point-of-view was reminiscent of TNG's First Contact (the episode, not the film) and it works quite well -- though not as well as First Contact. In fact, so were the themes explored, but again they weren't handled as nearly deftly as that TNG episode.

What I liked was the look at a society on the verge of a great discovery about their own origins, but no one wants to know. No one wants to challenge years of old doctrine and Gagan, the Voth scientist who makes the discovery, is tried for what amounts to treason against orthodoxy. This is a very relevent, well-realised theme and it's put to good use. If we found out something about our own origin that didn't sit well with established belief, don't think for a moment that our "powers that be" wouldn't behave exactly the same way as the Voth do here.

I'll admit that the core concept of a race evolving from dinosaurs on Earth, developing warp drive and then emigrating to the Delta Quadrant is quite dumb. Actually it's very dumb. Between the Ferengi in False Profits, the trip to Earth in Future's End, the appearance of Q in The Q and the Grey and the Borg assimilated at Wolf 359 in Unity (not to mention Amelia Earhart in The 37's and many others) it seems that the universe is a very small place indeed. The writers ought to be emphasising how vast a place it is, but they do the opposite of that by having us constantly meet up with familiar faces. This must stop!!

But if you can swallow this unlikely connection to Earth, you have a splendid story. Things teetered on the brink, however, when Chakotay delivered his speech to the Voth prosecutor. My heart sank as I assumed that she would be won over by a good speech and everything would be resolved neatly. But that didn't happen! I cannot commend the writers enough for this. It may not be a happy, everything-is-wrapped-up ending but it's a realistic one and it lends the story much, much more impact this way. If I'm not mistaken I detect the influence of Voyager's sister series DS9 here. DS9 has a well-deserved reputation as the bravest of the Trek shows, and has demonstrated on numerous occassions that the writers will not shy from controversial, gutsy storytelling. They don't end an episode happily ever after if that is going to gut the story. Good to see Voyager picking up some tips.

Performances are alright. Robert Beltran does his typically strong job, and the guest stars were...alright. Nothing startling, but nothing at all bad. Highlight, though, is David Livingston's absolutely excellent directing. Immensely atmospheric and almost cinematic in scope, he does a stellar job and imbues the episode with a lot of "feel".

To sum up; I'm still not quite bought by the whole dinosaur connection, but apart from that it's a strong, thought-provoking treatment of some fascinating issues. Good work.

Rating: 8

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