The return of a threat and a reminder of home. Originally broadcast on November 4, 1998 this is In The Flesh.
Voyager discovers an all too real space station containing a simulation of Star Fleet Academy run by none other than Species 8472.
Chakotay watches as a Starfleet Admiral welcomes a group of Academy graduates to Earth indicating that any issues with their stay should be directed at him and his staff. Soon Chakotay runs into the groundskeeper, Boothby, who seems amused by the Commander’s photography. After a quick chat, Chakotay visits the Quantum Cafe where he meets Commander Valerie Archer. The two converse until one of the Ensigns begins to gag and spasm. When no one reacts after the Ensign is taken away, Valerie states that Ensign O’Halloran is dangerously close to being removed from training.
Chakotay takes this all in stride, eventually making a date with Commander Archer. The two chat until Tuvok arrives informing Chakotay that they are due elsewhere. Arriving at their designated spot, the two are caught by an Ensign who is knocked out by Tuvok before he can raise an alarm. Beaming to the Delta Flyer, the two with the ensign in tow have Tom Paris fly them back to Voyager revealing that they had been on a space station all along.
On Voyager, the captured Ensign awakes in sickbay and immediately gets defensive only stating his name, rank and serial number. When the Doctor tries to get a genetic sample from the young man, he attempts to escape only to spasm and collapse to the ground. The doctor confirms that their frightened prisoner has released a cellular toxin into his own blood stream.
After a briefing on what Chakotay discovered on the Space Station, it is determined that someone has made a recreation of both Star Fleet Command and Star Fleet Academy, but to what end. Soon, however, the Doctor makes a starling discovery in Sick Bay. The dead Ensign is not only, not human but is a member of Species 8472.
Immediately Janeway begins working on a defense. It is clear that this is a training facility for what appears to be an invasion of Earth. Prepping the deadly Borg Nanoprobes and ordering the DNA testing of the crew to prevent imposters, Janeway begins preparing for the worst although she hopes to be able to solve their problems diplomatically. Chakotay heads back to the simulation to keep his date with Archer and learn all he can.
Back in the simulation, Chakotay learns more about the ‘humans’ on the station. There he learns that Archer and her people are studying this violent race preparing for their eventual encounter. The two soon become intimate and, after he manages to collect the data he needs, he leaves to ‘file tactical reports’. After he departs, Archer scans his cellar residue from their kiss confirming that Chakotay is indeed human. Contacting Boothby, Archer arranges to have Chakotay captured before he is able to escape.
Back on Voyager, Janeway grapples with the possibility that they will have to go to war with Species 8472 in order to protect the Federation. She desperately wants to find a way to make peace with them but knows that it may be impossible. Soon, her worst fears are realized when she learns that they have lost contact with Chakotay. Bringing the nano-probe warheads online, she prepares for battle.
On the space station, Chakotay is interrogated by Boothby who demands to know when the Humans plan their attack. Chakotay tries to assure them that there is no attack and that the Federation is not at war with them but to no avail. Soon Admiral Bullock arrives informing Boothby that Voyager is approaching. Boothby is sure that Voyager has come to wipe them all out.
Gearing up for an attack, Janeway is surprised when they are hailed by Boothby. Convinced they are up to no good, Boothby demands that Voyager retreat but Janeway informs the groundskeeper that she will not leave until Chakotay is returned. Informing them that she too has weapons that could destroy Boothby’s people, the two agree to meet under the flag of truce.
The diplomatic meeting goes rough with both sides clearly ready for a fight. Soon they share their stories and Janeway confides in Boothby that Voyager has not been in contact with the Federation as they are alone in the Delta Quadrant. She explains the situation that led to their attack on Species 8472. After more tense conversation, they finally come to an agreement sharing the information regarding each others defenses.
Boothby and his team invite the crew to tour the ground of the Star Fleet simulation where they learn more about the technology and their plans. There Janeway and Boothby talk about her time at the real Star Fleet Academy and her encounters with the real Boothby. While there, Boothby gifts Janeway with one of his roses like the real Boothby once did. Parting ways, both species agree that they will remain peaceful with one another and hope that this is the start to a more amicable future. Chakotay even gets a kiss and an offer to come visit Archer in the fluidic space some day.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
I love this episode but I also find it frustrating as it is the final time we encounter Species 8472 in the series. Sure, they will be referenced again, but even with this tremendous setup, the species is just dropped and forgotten after this. Here is one of Star Trek Voyager’s most original species not to mention one that is vastly non-humanoid. Sure, it’s true form is a bit of a CGI monstrosity but it works for this series and could have been so much more of a threat to the ship and crew.
Imagine if this had played out a little differently. Lets say that Species 8472 had actually managed to get one of the crewmen on Voyager replaced with one of their own. My candidate, Harry Kim. He was infected and ‘rescued’, but was he really? Imagine going this whole time with Harry actually part of this alien race, studying the human crew and quietly reporting back via his telepathic powers. They could have dropped hints along the way, subtle things where Harry disappears at strange moments, or forgets how to play the clarinet… THEN, Voyager finds the space station and he gets desperate. That would have added so much more to the story and could have even stretched it out into a cool two part finale for the season. Oh, and just so actor Garrett Wang didn’t have to leave the show, the real Harry has been captive with the aliens and is rescued, only he has no idea what has gone on the past year on the ship. BAM! Added level of complexity for the show. Unfortunately species 8472 is just another in a long line of wasted opportunities on Voyager. Seems to be the theme with this series.
Despite the lost opportunities of this episode, I do love it. It is such a cool concept and really makes you change your perspective on this alien race. Think about the Borg incursion from their point of view. An alien race tore into your space and attacked, you manage to beat them back but they keep trying over and over. Finally you say, heck with this, and attack them in their space. Only they get allies who find a way to hurt you. These allies are even more ruthless and pose a real threat to you and your kind. In fact, they not only beat you but infect your own space with a terrible virus that killed untold numbers. So, of course, you begin planning for the invasion that must be coming. How best to do that, well, become the enemy themselves.
Species 8470 is not, in any way, the aggressor in this situation, in fact, if anyone is guilty of being aggressive it would be Voyager and their unlikely union with the Borg. Janeway realizes this partway through the negotiations and tries to accept the fact that they have to take some of the responsibility in this . Taking the first step at peace, she disarms her weapons in a move right out of a Cold War debate. It is intense and poignant but…a little rushed, going from near hostilities to a peaceful tour of the alien space-station in moments.
Overall, As I mentioned earlier, while this is an excellent episode, it is fraught with unfulfilled promises and dangling threads. This episode not only sets up a potential return of Species 8472 that never comes to fruition, but teases us with the fact that there are other space stations like this one in the galaxy who are still planning to attack the Federation. Since this attack has never occurred, at least as far as we know, I doubt we will ever find out what happened to these people and their plans to infiltrate the Federation from within. Which, ironically wouldn’t be the first time an alien species had done just that.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- 0 photon torpedoes fired, 0 remaining.
- 0 shuttlecraft lost or destroyed, -1 remaining
- We learn that Harry has not dated outside of his own species….even though he did fall for a hologram woman that was really an alien at one point.
- Chakotay nearly hooks up with one of Species 8472. Imagine the kids from that relationship…
- Neelix is referred to as an Ambassador by Species 8472.
- Seven gets a little lesson in humanity in this one, realizing that she would have just go in guns blazing although it would not have been necessary.
- Boothby is once again played by Ray Walston who once played another alien in the series My Favorite Martian. Seems this man can not get away from space.
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Late To The Game 11/11/2020
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