The afterlife is explored in the episode that originally aired on March 13, 1995. This is Emanations.
Captains Log Stardate 48623.5 Emanations
After investigating a new element, the crew of Voyager are shocked to discover that an asteroid field is filled with bodies. Soon however, they must search for their own crewman when he disappears in exchange for a dead alien woman who they are able to revive.
Detecting a new element The USS Voyager closes in on a ring of asteroids around an uninhabitable planet. Beaming down to investigate further, Chakotay, Torres and Harry Kim discover a cavern of dead bodies. Immediately Chakotay makes it known that they should leave as they are trespassing on what could be sacred ground but Harry disagrees siting anthropological significance. While Janeway agrees the bodies should be left alone, she allows for passive scans with tricorders in order to document the discovery. Once again Chakotay disagrees and insists on visual observation only. After discovering that the new element is in fact emanating from the bodies themselves, the team observe that this new race of beings bury their dead naked and all in the same position. Just as Chakotay begins to explain the significance of their findings a strange subspace vacuole appears forcing the team to beam back. Upon returning Chakotay and Torres are shocked to find Harry Kim is missing and in his place is a body of an alien. They are shocked to also learn that the body may be able to be revived.
Story A: Let’s Get Harry!
The Doctor resuscitates the dead woman healing the cancer that killed her hoping to learn what could have happened to Harry Kim. He indicates that the web formation on the bodies were a natural process that comes from their degradation. Waking her up, they find that Ptera is frightened and confused wondering where her brother is. Believing her to be confused, the Doctor sedates her hoping to ease her in to her new experience.
After doing further research, Janeway and Chakotay discover that bodies are delivered every 2-3 hours via subspace vacuoles and they may present an opportunity to retrieve Harry. Returning to sickbay, Janeway discusses the matter with their new friend, Ptera, who has regained consciousness and is much calmer than before. In return for the information, Ptera asks for help understanding what it means for the bodies of her people to be decaying on an asteroid. She is clearly upset that she will not see her brother and wonders what she is meant to do now that she is ‘dead’. Janeway tries to comfort the young woman and, as Kes offers to take their guest on a ships tour, a vacuole opens up depositing a body in Engineering.
Soon bodies begin appearing all over the ship and Janeway discovers that each body that appears releases some kind of neural energy that adds to the rings around the planet they are orbiting. Despite her discovery, the ship is in danger as the vacuoles threaten the integrity of their warp field and, if they don’t find a solution soon, the ship may be destroyed. Taking the ship from the area, Janeway commands Torres to find a way to protect the warp core from the vacuoles so that they can return and find Kim.
As Janeway works on the issues at hand, Kes comforts Ptera who worries that her entire belief system is broken. She is distraught that her family is not there and that she will never see them again. Knowing she is alone, Ptera begs Kes to send her home and Janeway agrees that she is doing all she can to get her there. Torres soon believes she can find a way to get Ptera home and Kim back using the transporter. Ptera agrees to participate if it means that she can get back home.
Attempting to send her back the experiment fails when the vacuole collapses resulting in Ptera’s death but no Harry Kim. With only two hours remaining before they have to leave, Janeway is desperate to find her missing Ensign.
Story B: The Afterlife with Harry Kim
On an alien world a funeral ceremony is being conducted when it is interrupted by knocking from within. Opening the cenotaph, the aliens find Harry Kim inside where their loved one once was.
Soon Harry is ushered into a secure room where the aliens believe him to have come from the ‘Next Emanation’ but they wish to wait for a Thanatologist to confirm it with them. Harry begins to explain what he saw on the asteroid to a man named Katil, who is awaiting his Emanation. When the Thanatologist, Neria, arrives he explains to Kim that the young ensign is in the world of the living having returned from their afterlife.
Harry soon learns that the Vhnori practice Euthanasia in an effort to ease the pain of their people before their expected demise. He learns that the site where they are is built there because of spectral ruptures that appear to take the dead to the next emanation. Neria is deeply concerned when Harry indicates that he saw bodies on an asteroid indicating that there is in fact no afterlife. Neria, not wanting to believe what Harry claims, indicates that Harry is stuck with them as he is their first glimpse of the afterlife.
Katil Garan begins to have second thoughts about going through with his Euthanasia. Doubting the afterlife due to Kim’s arrival, Katil’s wife is clearly upset. Kim soon learns from Katil that Euthanasia is a common practice for people who are dying, sick or simply lonely and that Katil’s family has chosen for him to die so that he will not be a burden upon them. Since Harry arrived, Katil has started to have second thoughts on his families decisions and is not sure he wishes to die after all.
Neria informs Harry that he is to be moved to a new location despite Harry’s insistence he not be moved in case Voyager is attempting to find him. Upset, Harry watches as Katil wraps himself in his own death shroud that has been passed down from generation to generation. When Katil indicates that he wants to disappear into the mountains but is unwilling to let his family down. Harry volunteers to take Katil’s place in the cenotaph allowing the man to fulfill both of his wishes. Katil agrees after warning Harry of the dangers and begins wrapping Harry in his place.
Sealing a wrapped Harry into the Cenotaph, Harry is soon transferred back to the asteroid where he hopes that Voyager detects his body before he dies. Back on Voyager, Janeway gives the order to depart just as a new Vacuole appears and deposits Harry Kim’s body on the ship. Although arriving dead, The Doctor is able to revive Harry Kim bringing him back to his people.
Afterward, Harry is joined in the mess hall by Janeway who informs him that he is to take a few days off duty to reflect on what has happened. She tells him that he needs to absorb what has happened to him before he no longer appreciates the extraordinary things that happen to him. She encourages him to find a way to accept and explore the experience knowing that he is distracted by the recent events. She tells him of her discovery that the neural energy the bodies release become part of the planets atmosphere acting in new and interesting ways. The Vhnori may in fact have an afterlife afterall.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
Star Trek has always been about exploring the possibilities across time and space. Sometimes, however, we get a chance to explore the metaphysical a bit making for some genuinely solid storytelling.
The core of this episode is about belief and faith, namely the Vhnori and their belief in a specific afterlife. When this core belief is challenged it begins to change the concept of the meaning of life for not only a single person, but for everyone around them. Imagine for a moment being at the funeral of a loved one. I know, it’s a hard thing to think about but humor me for a moment. Imagine now that, at the moment the casket is being lowered into the grave a knock comes from inside and, when opened, a strange alien being is discovered with news that the afterlife is just another dimension filled with people and your essence is just piled up with others on an asteroid. How daunting of a prospect would that be? I mean, no matter what your basic beliefs are most people have a vague feeling that there could be more after this and to discover that there is literally nothing would be jarring at best.
Now, let’s take this even further, what about the being from the afterlife? What could that person tell us about the other realm? Imagine the religious and even political implications this would have? I mean, this would be a monumentous world changing event. Now, think about what happened in this show? Yeah, Harry Kim inadvertently set an entire culture on end with his appearance and disappearance sewing seeds of doubt in the minds of those who interacted with him. In fact, Katil has fled to the mountains with the knowledge of where their bodies go when they die, do you think he kept that to himself? Of course not! So, even though we don’t ever find out what happened to these people, the story of Harry Kim and his influence over an entire culture is real and something that might have been responsible for some serious changes for the Vhnori people. What is even crazier, no one brings it up. Janeway, Tuvok, heck not even Chakotay and his ‘respect for other cultures’ brings up the potential damage Harry has done to the entire culture he just infected. No wonder Harry never gets promoted, maybe that was fates way of paying him back.
All in all this is a pretty solid episode that really give Ensign Kim a chance to shine. Additionally we get to see a little more of Janeway’s understanding for her crew as well as she encourages Kim to savor the moment instead of telling him to just ‘get back to work’. I also loved the brief moments we saw between Kes and Ptera showing that the little Ocampan has a pretty big heart.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- 0 photon torpedoes fired, 37 still remaining.
- we learn that there are 246 known elements at this point in history well, 247 due to the rotting body element we will call Vhnoria.
- Seska makes another appearance, this time as the transporter operator…I wonder if we will see her again…
- Harry Kim dies for the first time…implying more to come? maaaaybe
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Late To The Game 4/20/2020
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