Voyager takes on Capital Punishment in the episode that originally aired on January 31, 2001. This is Repentance.
Captain’s Log Stardate 54474.6 Repentance
Voyager rescues a ship carrying prisoners only to learn that the prisoners are being taken to face execution. Now they must decide whether or not to intervene.
After Voyager rescues aliens from a prison transport, and the prisoners show that they are indeed dangerous by attempting a hostage situation, Janeway and crew learn that the prisoners are being taken to their execution. This causes a difficult situation for the crew as they should not interfere based on the Prime Directive, however, they will be allowing people to be killed by not acting. Soon one of the prisoners needs medical attention involving some of Seven’s nanoprobes. She begins to feel difficulty with saving a life that will only be taken away in the near future, and begins to question the morality at play. Things get more complicated when the violent patient becomes more reasonable and has a personality change thanks to Seven’s nanoprobes. Iko, the prisoner, finds himself truly repentant for his crimes causing Seven and the others to believe he should be given reprieve. In the end, despite the evidence that Iko is truly a better person, the family of the slain refuse to forgive him, certifying that he will be put to death no matter what.
In the end, Seven deals with the conundrum that Iko was executed for a single murder when she, herself, is responsible for thousands of deaths while a Borg and has never been punished. The Captain assures her, Seven’s time has more than been served.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
As I have said many times before, I love a Star Trek episode that takes on a Sociopolitical or Environmental issues. Repentance is one that, as I mentioned above, tackles the subject of Capital Punishment and the implications therein but in a way that is not only blunt but covers several aspects of an unjust Justice System.
The main issue at hand in this entry is one of Death Penalty vs Rehabilitation. In the story, Iko is shown to become rehabilitated due to Seven’s Nanoprobes. Although Iko does eventually genuinely feel remorse and has the potential for true rehabilitation, the families of his victims refuse to exonerate him resulting in his execution. This single event puts into question the legal systems of not only these alien species themselves but also our very own. Depending on the state you live in, the Death Penalty is a possibility. This is debated time and again whether putting someone to death for a crime is justice or simply revenge. That, however, is only the tip of the iceberg. The problem is, there have been many times where a person put to death was in fact innocent of the crime they were accused of. This is not the case in this circumstance but it is a serious issue due to the fact that our own legal system is far from perfect.
This episode not only tackles the Death Penalty, but also explores profiling and police brutality as well. Joleg, One of the criminals that Neelix befriends, claims that he was the victim of racial profiling because he was a Benkaran who was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. Whether this is true or not is never confirmed but the story heavily implies that Joleg is simply violent now due to his time in prison coupled with the fact that his species has been judged harshly their entire lives. This is also a massive issue in our world with racial profiling being a constant point of contention between citizens and police. In 2020 we saw this come to a head in the United States with the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Police Officers for the alleged crime of passing off a counterfeit bill. In cases like this one and many others the Police involved were harsher to their person in custody simply due to their race and their preconceptions based on the color of their skin. You have heard of the term ‘driving while black?’ I am sure, the sad fact of the matter is that it is not a myth, but something that people fear each and every day.
What is the solution? There are too many and too few with too many opinions in between. However we can start with understanding and the resistance to judge people based on skin color, creed, nationality or any of the millions of other variations an individual has. If everyone, no matter who they are, are treated like a human being first and foremost, then that is a start. This mindset can spread through education, through true reformation of the criminal justice system. It is not something that can happen over night but it has to start somewhere…so why not with you?
All in all, this is one of the best and most thoughtful episodes of Voyager this season. It is one that does what any great scifi does and opens the door for conversation beyond the hour long story that takes place on the screen. This is a prime example of what Star Trek can be when it places a mirror in front of the viewers, asking, what do you believe, how would you react, and why are you not doing that in your own world?
For more information on Criminal Law Reform, please visit the ACLU website here which has some terrific information about the issues at hand in the United States. Remember, While certainly prevalent here, these issues do not just apply to the US and are rampant throughout the world and all it takes is a single person to start making a change.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- 0 photon torpedoes fired, -24 remaining.
- 0 shuttlecraft lost or destroyed, -6 remaining
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: Prophecy
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Late To The Game 3/29/2021
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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