"Hope and Fear"

Season Four, Episode 26
Teleplay by Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky
Story by Rick Berman, Brannon Braga and
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Main Cast:
Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway
Robert Beltran as Chakotay
Roxann Dawson as B'Elanna Torres
Robert Duncan McNeill as Tom Paris
Ethan Phillips as Neelix
Robert Picardo as The Doctor
Tim Russ as Tuvok
Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine
Garrett Wang as Harry Kim
  Plot:

An alien linguist, Arturis, helps Voyager decode the encrypted transmission they received from Starfleet Command several months back. It would seem their dreams have come true -- Starfleet has invented a new warp drive and sent over a state of the art starship that will take them home in a mere three months.


Review: 

Instead of wrapping the fourth season with a cliff-hanger, the writers wisely opt to bookend the season with some nice follow-up to Scorpion. It's great to finally see Janeway have to face the consequences of her often controversial (sometimes reckless) actions. Consequence is a notion that is largely unexplored, not to mention unacknowledged, by Star Trek: Voyager. Despite Janeway's fascist adherence to the Prime Directive, over the course of one year alone she's made decisions which have irrevocably shifted the balance of power in the Delta Quadrant, sometimes on a major scale (as with the Borg and Species 8472) and sometimes on a lesser scale (influencing individual races and societies, in episodes such as Random Thoughts, Year of Hell and The Killing Game). Heck, in Demon she was even responsible for the emergence of a new species and the cloning of her entire crew!

When and if Voyager ever gets back to the Alpha Quadrant, I'd imagine Janeway would have to do a lot of explaining to justify many of her decisions. Hope and Fear was a nice way to acknowledge that, although the ship can warp away at the end of the episode, actions invariably have consequences and repercussions, both positive and negative. In addition, this episode picks up on the Janeway/Seven quasi-mother/daughter relationship that has been a highlight of the season. The end result is an engaging, enjoyable piece that is sadly marred by a number of blatant contrivances, plot holes and inconsistent characterisation. I definitely enjoyed Hope and Fear -- it's a nice package -- but I simply can't overlook its numerous flaws.

For a start, the whole plot was one gigantic contrivance, composed of lots of little contrivances. The biggest question is actually this -- how the hell did Arturis and his people know about Janeway's alliance with the Borg? If his had been a neighbouring world, then maybe. But that was over ten thousand light years away. What, is there some sort of Delta Quadrant news channel or something? And even if, Lord forbid, there was -- how did word spread out? Did the Borg release an official press statement? In addition, the precision and perfection of Arturis's plan completely defied any sense of credulity. How did he manage to fabricate the message from Starfleet? How did he even know about it?! 

And how did he manage to build a ship that would pass so perfectly as a Federation starship? Given that his entire race has been assimilated, you wouldn't have thought he'd have had much help or resources to build it. In short, it was a nice idea, but I simply didn't buy it. Being set three hundred years in the future, Star Trek is a series that by nature calls for a fair amount of suspension of disbelief. But there are limits -- and this episode struck them repeatedly. Don't get me wrong, I liked the notion of Arturis and his motivations (it helps an adversary so much if they do have a believable motivation) but in practise, it didn't quite pan out. Strangely, Arturis didn't seem to hold any anger toward the Borg themselves, dismissing them as a "force of nature". I wonder if he'd even stopped to consider what 8472 would have done had they won the war? Given what happened to Harry Kim when he was attacked by one of them, I'd say 8472 are every bit as deadly as the Borg.

Again, a good, interesting concept, but reliant on far too many gaping contrivances and lapses of logic. I think the crew ought to have been more suspicious when they found a sparkling new Federation starship just sitting there, waiting for them. I don't know about you, but to me it just screamed out "traaaap"! I'm glad that Janeway did finally catch onto the plot, although confronting Arturis aboard his ship was a really, really dumb move. It's also exceptionally convenient that Voyager had managed to harness its own quantum slipstream just in time for it to chase Arturis (but, of course, we all knew it would be damaged and inoperable by the end of the episode). Other dubious details included the fact that Janeway was not the first person to be beamed off Arturis's ship (go figure!) and then we have Janeway using a piece of her comm badge to activate one of Seven's implants, thus enabling her to walk through the cell forcefield. Oh, come ON!! We're not stupid. Hope and Fear is an episode just riddled by conveniences and blatant contrivances. I was frequently aware that I was watching the crude machinations of writers desperately tring to get the plot from A to B.

The most effective part of the episode was the Janeway/Seven interplay and even that was a little shaky. Seven's behaviour isn't so much character development as it is regression. All of a sudden, she claims to want no part in helping the crew and even appears to be considering rejoining the Collective. Huh? I thought she'd gotten past this stage months ago. Her reticence at the possibility of returning to Earth is understandable but slightly overblown -- after all, she was accepted by the Voyager crew. And, after all, she is a victim of the Borg and is no more responsible for what happened to her than a rape victim is responsible for being raped. I certainly enjoyed her scenes with Janeway, but instead of covering new ground, they basically served only to cement the direction their relationship has already taken. So again, a nice thought but not entirely successful in execution.

Which pretty much sums up my feelings about this rather hit-and-miss finale. There are a lot of good ideas drifting around but clumsy, half-baked plotting and manipulative, inconsistent characterisation significantly de-rail the episode from achieving its full potential. Hope and Fear is entertaining but substantially flawed. 

Much like the series itself, really. 

Rating: 6.5


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