The not quite mirror universe episode of Star Trek Voyager…. originally broadcast on April 29, 1998 this is Living Witness.
Historical Document Museum of Kyrian Heritage: File date unknown: Living Witness
The Doctor finds himself far in the future and forced to re-educate a society of Voyager’s true intent.
After a rather dark and damning opening indicating that Janeway and the crew of Voyager used a biogenic weapon to assist an alien race kill another, it is soon revealed that this is nothing more than a historical recreation of the Warship Voyager that visited the Kyrian homeworld some seven hundred years prior. As the museum visitors ask questions about the evil Voyager crew, we are show a much darker and militaristic version of the ship we have come to know and love. Much of the crew are twisted versions of themselves, the Doctor is a dark and evil android, Seven is a full Borg with a small army of drones, Chakotay has half of his face covered in a tattoo and there are even other species serving on the ship such as Kazon. Janeway is portrayed as a totalitarian leader who will stop at nothing to reach her goals. The story continues showing how Voyager assisted in placing the Vaskans into power but told from a Kyrian point of view. This causes some uproar from one of the Vaskans who questions the authenticity of the story. Quarren, the museum guide, informs the Vaskan that they have extensively studied this information and have even more recently found a data storage device from Voyager that may give them even more insight into their mutual history.
That evening Quarren begins his work on the data device only to access a backup copy of the Doctor who is quite confused as to where…and when he is. After some convincing, Quarren gets the Doctor to understand his situation and that. as the only living witness from Voyager, that the Doctor may have to stand trial for Voyager’s crimes. The Doctor immediately points out some of the basic flaws in the recreated story of Voyager and, when Quarren offers to show The Doctor the full recreation, he gladly accepts.
The Doctor is soon dismayed at the perception they have of the Voyager crew, insisting that the recreation is nothing but a fictional account of actual history the Doctor is finally able to convince Quarren that their information is indeed false. In fact, one glaring bit of proof is that the Doctor is in fact a Hologram..not a sadistic android.
The Doctor creates a more accurate representation of history but, when it is shown to the leadership it is dismissed by the Kyrians as fiction, even though the Vaskans are interested in hearing more. The Doctor indicates that the medical tricorder on display in the museum will provide the needed proof so he and Quarren begin working on repairing it. Soon, however a mob arrives and, having heard that the museum has been providing lies about the Kyrian/Vaskan history, they begin to tear the place apart. It is soon apparent that the tense relationship between the two species have reached a point of collapse and the Doctor feels that he is responsible. Quarren convinces the Doctor to help reveal the truth of their history citing that history needs to be know so that they can all heal.
We pull back further and we discover that the entire narrative of The Doctor and Quarren was also a simulation that took place some time in the past. The tour guide informs the crowd that Quarren and The Doctor did reveal the truth and this ushered in a peace between Kyrians and Vaskans that has lasted to this day. Before leaving to find Voyager, the Doctor stayed and worked with the people on the planet even becoming the Surgical Chancellor. He is now remembered as a hero of their planet.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
When this first aired I was sure we were about to get yet another Mirror Universe story and, after DS9 pretty much fully explored that universe, I really wasn’t looking forward to more. Sure, DS9 did a great job but to revisit that world seemed a little redundant to me. Then..something happened, the writers took the mirror universe trope and flipped it on it’s head. Not only do we get to see a dark and evil version of the Voyager crew but we get a chance to see how a species perception of the ship and crew has been misinterpreted through history.
History has always been written by those that survive and, in such, our known history is up to much interpretation. The only way to know the real events is to either have actually lived them or find some way to experience them through artificial means. The thing is, even artificial means can be altered to fit the narrative of the governing force. We see this even today in our own countries as people claim obvious truths as false narratives and site falsehoods as fact. The term Fake News has cropped up over and over and is used by people everywhere further confusing facts with falsehoods. In fact we see this in our own history when it comes to major events such as The American Civil War, both World Wars and even further. No matter the truth, no matter the evidence, there are always people who claim that things did or did not happen a certain way. I mean, there are people who try to claim that the Holocaust never happened and that the American Civil War had nothing to do with Slavery. I guess history is in the eye of the historians. Man, I have to say I really pity students of our current history in the future, especially those who study 2020.
All this aside, I love this episode. Robert Picardo does a tremendous job as the Doctor’s EMH backup trying to Until the launch of Star Trek Discovery Season 3, this episode marks the furthest in the future Star Trek has taken place. While we don’t really get a chance to see what the Federation is like, it sets up something that could be explored on the new season of Discovery…especially if season three takes place 900 years after the original series. Think about it. If this episode takes place 700-800 years in the future from Voyager and Discovery Season 3 takes place around 900 years in after the Original series then….they could be taking place close to the same time frame. In fact, this episode really sets up an interesting connection that we might not have thought about yet. With the Picard series using cool moments in past series, including Voyager, as a platform, it is feasible for Discovery to do the same. Could this mean we will see The Doctor in Discovery? It’s not impossible as it is well known that Robert Picardo has voiced his willingness to return to Star Trek. Maybe it is The Holographic Doctor who is rebuilding the Federation that we saw hinted at in the extreme future…. Well, we won’t know until that season airs so who knows?
Overall, I do dig this episode and, while it doesn’t do anything to really further the narrative or even push the character development of any characters, it is one that challenges perceptions and even sets up a possible future we have yet to see. At least we know that The Doctor survives in the far flung future…even if the Federation itself doesn’t.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- 0 photon torpedoes fired, 19 remaining.
- 0 shuttlecraft lost or destroyed, -1 remaining
- It seems the only way Harry Kim gets a promotion is in a fictionalized historical recreation. He is referred to as Lt Harry Kim…poor guy.
- Note the ‘Evil’ Tuvok’s ears. They are pointier and have slight ridges on the sides. Pretty cool details.
- It is established that there is a backup module for the EMH but this is rather interesting as, when the Doctor was sent to the Alpha Quadrant, they did not have a backup for him. How did this backup come to be? Did the events of this episode come earlier in the series between episodes?
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:Demon
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Late To The Game 10/26/2020
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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