What if Dinosaurs evolved to become a dominant species in the galaxy? This and more is explored on the episode that originally aired on April 30, 1997. This is Distant Origin.
Captain’s Log Stardate Unknown: Distant Origin
Aliens who have descended from Dinosaurs find that they might share common ancestry with the human crew of Voyager…but the alien’s government refuse to believe that this could be possible.
Two Voth scientists, discover the remains of a Star Fleet officer during an archaeological expedition. Believing it to be a connection to their past, the pair submit their findings to the Ministry of Elders only to find it rebuked. Seemingly going against the Voth Doctrine, Gegen and Veer’s discovery is dismissed and they are instructed to not pursue this interest. Deciding to go against The Doctrine and find the truth for themselves, the two set out to find something called USS Voyager.
Following Voyager’s path, the two travel through the Nekrit Expanse catching up to the ship they are after. Boarding Voyager unseen, using interphase cloaking, they begin to observe the humans in their everyday lives. Watching everything from the courting behavior of Tom and B’Elanna to the matriarchy led by Katheryn Janeway, the two are soon discovered by the crew.
After a brief struggle, resulting in Veer being captured and Gegen escaping with Chakotay as a prisoner, Janeway attempts to find a way to communicate with the reptilian alien. Soon Veer goes into a protective hibernation forcing Janeway to investigate this new species without its assistance. Before long The Doctor indicates that this alien and humans have very similar DNA suggesting that Veer’s species may have evolved from dinosaurs on Earth, specifically the hadrosaur.
On the Voth ship, Gegen and Chakotay begin to communicate and they soon find that they are not a threat to one another. Agreeing to work together to find their mutual ancestry. It seems that the Voth did indeed evolve from Earth and it is possible that evidence of this evolved Dinosaur was simply never found by humans. Although the two have found common ground, Gegan refuses to return Chakotay to Voyager as he needs to prove to The Ministry that Humans do indeed exist.
Both ships soon find their activities interrupted when a Giant Voth City Ship decloaks nearby. Before Voyager has a chance to respond it is beamed into the City Ship’s Hanger where it is easily taken over. Heading toward Voth Space, Gegan is contacted by The Ministry insisting that he return or Voyager will be destroyed. Reluctantly returning, Gegan is asked to retract his findings as it is considered heretical and Gegan refuses. With no other option, Odala begins a trial with the sole purpose of refuting the evidence that humans existed and that the Voth originated on Earth.
After a lengthy trial, it is clear that the Ministry have no interest in the truth and force Gegan to refute his findings. With Voyager and it’s crew threatened, Gegan reluctantly agrees and is reassigned to metalurgical analysis. As they part, Chakotay gifts Gegan with a small globe of Earth in hopes that one day the Voth will recognize their mutual heritage. They part and Voyager continues on it’s way.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
I always love it when Star Trek takes a break from the ‘monster of the week’ and dives into some serious science fiction. This episode makes for an interesting take on a classic debate providing a view of humanity and evolution from the perception of an alien race. Much like that of the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 that brought human evolution into question, the Distant Origin Trial as depicted in this episode, brings into question the origin of a dinosaur descended species shaking the foundation of its very own government. This shakeup, of course, makes those in power nervous as it could challenge their system of government, religious beliefs and their very way of life. With this perceived threat it is no wonder that those in power rejected the very science in front of them but to what detriment?
To deny your past and not learn from it is to limit your chance at learning about yourself and your society as a whole. However, imagine that it was discovered that humans were not from Earth but transplanted here by something or someone else. Imagine the implications and impact this revelation would have on society as a whole? The very concept of religion and government would be thrown into question, even the purpose of our very own lives. It seems that for such a thing to create such disarray would indicate that we are a fragile people, but it is an unfortunate truth. To even question the foundation of life, as it was done when Darwin introduced the concept of evolution, is still a hot button topic for today. Even with the plethora of evidence that proves it’s validity, this theory is still considered heresy to some. Whether it is the entire truth or not is not a debate for today’s post, but it does raise some rather interesting discussion points, don’t you think?
While I love the concept of this episode, it does introduce some serious issues. First, if such a highly technologically evolved species existed in the Delta Quadrant, how is it that Neelix is not aware of them? I mean, it does establish from the start that they came from the other side of the Nekrit Expanse, or at least travel through it regularly, so there should have been some record of them in Voyager’s travels. Not only that, but, being so advanced, how have they not encountered the Borg, giving them the connection and evidence of Humanity before now? We just recently discovered that the Borg have been active in the quadrant for some time, even bringing along some humans with them, but despite the Voth’s technological distinctiveness, they don’t seem to have encountered them. Or, if they have, they have found a way to defeat them. Not only that but this species should have had some connection or contact with other upcoming species as well, especially if they have been flying around in these massive city ships.
The only explanation is that they have just floated around cloaked and hidden, which is quite possible seeing that they use it regularly in the episode. While it seems rather insane that the Voth have just floated around cloaked, hiding from everyone, it is not completely out of the question as they are a rather private and secretive society who refuse to interact with others unless they have to. What makes this worse is that we never see nor hear from the Voth again. It’s as if this magnificent and power species just vanished into the background never to be seen or heard from again. Shame really, such a great civilization established, never to be used again.
Overall, a great story and a wonderful fresh take for Star Trek, with little to no repercussions or influence on future episodes. While I did enjoy the story and appreciate it’s unique take on a classic debate, I wish more could have been done with this new and interesting race. Heck, if Gegan could have defected and joined the crew, that in and of itself would have been really cool. Great episode, but one that is filled with so many missed opportunities.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- 0 photon torpedoes fired, 27 remaining.
- 0 shuttlecraft lost or destroyed, 3 remaining.
- Ensign Hogan makes an appearance again this time as a set of bones studied by the Voth.
- It is interesting to note that the Voth Females had no sign of mammary glands which fits perfectly in with their reptilian nature. I do love when a scifi series is careful to avoid tropes such as lizard women with breasts.
- We get more of the budding relationship between Paris and Torres but this time from the vantage point of being observed for their ‘courting’ rituals.
- It is established that uniforms and gear are marked and serial coded for which ship they came from. Likely something to do with the replicator that was used allowing for items to be traced back to a single ship and crew.
- Interestingly, while Chakotay served as our human connection in the story, this is one of the rare Voyager episodes that is not about any one character on the crew, instead focusing on a whole other species.
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Displaced
more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and for more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here.
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Late To The Game 8/28/2020
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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