Here begins the fifth season of Star Trek Voyager.  So far we have faced Predator Hirogen, Borg, Time Incursions, Space Vampires, Coffee Nebulae and much more.  However, this episode forces the crew to face something they have never faced before….nothing.  Literally, nothing.  Originally broadcast on October 14, 1998 this is Night.

The Episode:

Captain’s Log Stardate 52081.2: Night

The ship finds a sector of space devoid of everything and filled with only the blackness of space.  No planets, no stars, nothing.

The Story:

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Voyager enters a region of space the crew dub ‘the Void’.  Without any stars or planets for 2500 light years, the crew begin to determine how they will survive without the ability to replenish their supplies or even study interstellar objects.  They soon begin finding ways to occupy themselves what looks to be at least two years of travel in absolute darkness.

As the crew begin to acclimate to the dark of the void, the unthinkable occurs, the ship loses primary power casting much of the ship into further darkness.  All over the shop people rush to figure out how to see and find a way to restore the light.  On the holodeck, Paris and Seven find themselves in a frozen simulation of Tom’s retro Captain Proton holo-program forcing them to use the simulated flashlights to see. On the bridge Ensign Kim gets the sensors back on only to discover that Voyager has been hit by a dampening field emanating from somewhere outside of the ship.

As Tuvok and Harry try to find out who causing the problems, through the ship crew-members begin seeing creatures in the darkness.  On the Holodeck, Paris and Seven are accosted by a strange being while Neelix and Chakotay encounter something similar in the hallways.  Meanwhile Janeway has equipped herself with a phaser rifle determined to protect her ship and crew.

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Tuvok fires a warp flare and sees three ships nearby.  Soon Janeway and the team get the power back on and, after they are unable to contact the alien aggressors, Janeway orders Tuvok to attack. As the attack commences, Seven brings a wounded Paris to sickbay indicating that they have incapacitated one of the aliens on the holodeck as well. Soon another ship arrives chasing off the would-be aggressors just as the enemies begin to activate their dampening field again. Contacting the new ship, Tuvok is greeted by Controller Emck who inquires why they are in the Void.

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Attempting to bring Controller Emck aboard proves difficult due to the radiation he is emitting. Once he is on board, Janeway and team learn that he is the captain of a Malon export vessel and frequents the area.  After he suggests that they should turn around, Janeway informs Emck that that is not an option.  He soon invites them to follow him through a spatial vortex he uses to travel in and out of the void asking for the alien captive for payment.  When they ask what he is transporting and why he wants the alien, he gets a little hostile indicating that they can remain behind if they do not cooperate.

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Janeway visits sickbay to check on their alien captive only to find sickbay completely dark.  The Doctor explains that this species is extremely sensitive to the light and are suffering from extreme radiation poisoning.  Speaking to the alien, she learns that the Malon are poisoning them for no apparent reason.  Janeway agrees to try to help the Night Alien and he provides directions on how to find them.

On the bridge, Chakotay is concerned for Janeway as it seems she is purposely avoiding the crew during this crisis.  Confiding in Tuvok, Chakotay learns that the Captain is feeling guilty for leading the crew into the Delta quadrant with no way home and might take extreme measures to save them, similar to something she did on a previous command. aboard the USS Billings.  The two agree to provide the Captain with the support she needs knowing that she may try to sacrifice herself to rescue them all.’

Voyager drops the Night Alien with his people only to learn that they are the indigenous species living in the Void and Emck only recently appeared poisoning them. They tried to stop him but to no avail. Janeway promises to help even though doing so may mean they spend two years in the Void.

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The ship soon meets up with the Malon ship and watches as it expels a green gas into space.  Hailing Emck, Janeway asks why he is using the Void as a dumping ground as he is poisoning the local population.  The Emck makes it clear that he doesnt care as his people produce tons of waste and it has to go somewhere.   Janeway proposes a way for Emck to develop a clean method of disposing the waste and even offers to assist the Malon in producing this technology but Emck balks at the idea responding that this new technology would destroy his business and only by using the void is he able to make the kind of profits he is making. Emck warns that if they try to create this tech on their own he would essentially destroy them to prevent it.

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Realizing she only has one solution, Janeway chooses to destroy the vortex.  Pulling her staff together she lines out her plan.  She will send Voyager through the Vortex but stay behind in a shuttle to destroy it so that not only will the Malon not be able to use it, but Voyager will still get the benefit of the fast travel.  She soon finds that the crew is unwilling to let her remain behind and is forced to scrap her plans.  They propose leaving behind photon torpedoes that will detonate after their departure.  Janeway accepts the plan and they head toward the Vortex.

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Arriving at the Vortex, they are attacked by Emck who manages to damage their warp nacelles preventing them from warping out of the path of the explosion shock-wave once they go through the vortex.  They continue to fight and destroy his ship as Voyager slips into the Vortex.  Making it through the Vortex, the find nothing but more black space beyond and some begin to lose hope.   Soon, however they begin to see stars in the distance and before long they find a vast network of nebulae, stars and planets before them.   Voyager heads into this region ready for adventure.

Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:

I want to like this episode, I really do but something about it just doesn’t work for me.  I mean, there is nothing inherently wrong with it but it felt like such a throwaway episode that should not have been the fifth season premiere.  The premise is pretty solid, entering an area of space devoid of everything is an intriguing setup, it’s one that could have been explored more building on the interpersonal aspects of the crew allowing us to get some great character development but…no.  It’s just a filler that deals with pollution and not really in a clever way.  That’s really it in a nut shell.

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The first thing that rubs me wrong about this episode is the continued threat of the ship running out of supplies yet there is no apparent attempt by anyone to really conserve or ration energy.  In fact, the episode opens with Paris and Kim using the holodeck using much more power than necessary.  Especially after it was brought up previously that the Doctor himself uses a large amount of power.  If he does, wouldn’t it make sense to shut down or at least ration the use of the holodeck.  Maybe personal programs are banned and any programs must include a minimum occupancy or maybe they just find other means of entertainment? Chakotay mentions ‘holodeck rations’ but even that mention seems to be forced. While I get the need for the use of the holodeck for mental health, there is a bit of an inconsistency when it comes to the power consumption on the ship.  Heck, even Neelix mentions using the replicator which was established earlier in the series as a massive drain on power.

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My other nit has to do with Janeway and her sudden reluctance to be with the crew due to her guilt for getting the crew lost in the delta quadrant.  Apparently she had some traumatic experience as a Commander that makes her want to sacrifice herself but…where was this backstory the past four years?  Sorry guys, you can’t establish some surprise background for an established character in order to make them more interesting unless you alluded to that background earlier in the story.  It just doesn’t work.  If you do introduce a past event, it HAS to work with the established character and, well, so far Janeway has never been one to distance herself during a crunch, in fact she has always been one to step forward and lead the charge.  If, for some reason Janeway had this kind of trauma that came from the constant dark, it would only really work if it were established over the course of a few episodes.  Once again, a lost opportunity to give the ship a little more drama.

Overall, it is an okay episode that tries to do more than it was able to.  The main story is a really weak statement on pollution and, while I normally like a good sociopolitical story from Trek, even that part seemed to be put on the back burner.  To me, this is the weakest season premiere so far providing a rather unbalanced and uninteresting adventure to launch season five with.  Sad really because the cast really does a great job with what little they are given to work with.

Gleanings and Cool Bits:

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  • 15 photon torpedoes fired, 0 remaining.
  • 0 shuttlecraft lost or destroyed, -1 remaining
  • First appearance of Captain Proton. We will see this program again…trust me.
  • Harry Kim plays the clarinet again.  So there is that.
  • We meet the Malon for the first time.  Like Captain Proton…they will be back.
  • We never find out more about the Night Aliens despite the fact that they are the most interesting thing in the episode.  In fact, we never even see them again.

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 Season Five Premiere: Drone

For more reviews: check out the 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.

As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!

Late To The Game  11/4/2020

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Voyager introduces a budget friendly new enemy after buying the prop collection from the 60’s Doctor Who series. The Cybermen never looked so good.

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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