“Equinox”

Woah, this episode is really crappy.
“Whoa, this episode is really crappy.”

Voyager rescues another Starfleet ship, the Equinox — a small science vessel that is critically damaged after attacks by some supposedly unknown aliens. We later learn that the ship has had a rougher go of it than Voyager after being swept across the galaxy, and eventually resorted to killing some weird aliens from another realm to fuel an enhanced warp drive. After Janeway learns of this, Equinox Captain Ransom (John Savage) steals some equipment from Voyager and escapes with Seven and the Doctor, leaving Voyager open to attacks from the aliens. Voyager repels the attacks (after two no-name crew members kick the bucket, naturally) and Janeway goes crazy to find the Equinox. She nearly kills a captured Equinox crew member in hopes of gaining information, relieves Chakotay of duty after he objects and later promises the aliens that she’ll hand over the Equinox in exchange for stopping the attacks. Eventually, Ransom realizes he’s in the wrong and helps Voyager, despite objections from some of his crew — but he and most of the Equinoxers are killed in the process and the ship itself is destroyed. Voyager resumes course, with a few Equinox crew members now on board and Janeway and Chakotay (sigh) back to business as usual.

Why it’s important

As we’ve discussed elsewhere, Voyager and Starfleet have a pretty bad reputation in the Delta Quadrant. Even though the damage portrayed in this episode wasn’t all Voyager’s fault, some of it was — so we figured it made sense to include. Also, this episode is important in understanding some of Voyager’s key failings.

Despite me performing unethical procedures on you, I imagine we'll continue our friendship next week as if nothing has happened.
“Despite me performing unethical procedures on you, I imagine we’ll continue our friendship next week as if nothing has happened.”

What doesn’t hold up

Pardon my French, but this two-parter is just a shit show — mostly because of what we don’t see after it and because of Janeway’s unhinged actions. Let’s start with what’s wrong in the two-parter itself.

Much of the badness comes in part two, with Janeway just losing her mind. Given that she called out Ransom’s decisions — questioning whether he continued being a human — her decisions to nearly kill an Equinox crew member and offer to trade the Equinox for Voyager’s safety are, frankly, not in keeping with Starfleet or Federation principles and appallingly hypocritical for the main hero of a Star Trek series. A show that was smarter and that had not pissed away its main premise from nearly day one would have done better on these counts (check out DS9’s controversial but smarter “In the Pale Moonlight”). As it is, this — and “Year from Hell”“Deadlock” and the series finale — are the four best examples of Voyager’s main failings.

A smaller issue in this episode happens when the Doctor, after Ransom deletes his ethical subroutines, is cool with conducting a dangerous procedure on Seven to extract some information. The whole thing was FAR too easy, and the Doctor is portrayed as pleased with himself that he’s now unencumbered and can take actions that might kill Seven! Shouldn’t a medical program, even without ethical subroutines, be concerned with doing no harm? This is sort of like how holographic bullets can kill if holodeck safeties are disengaged. Why make the holograms potentially lethal in the first place?

Another smaller point is that Voyager and the Equinox would even have found each other after both were swept into the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker (as discussed in part one). Given all the times Voyager jumped ahead — and all the times Equinox jumped ahead using the technology in this episode — it’s implausible that the two ships would run into each other. It’s too bad the creators didn’t just have the Equinox get to the Delta Quadrant in a different way with a different starting point.

Then, there’s the whole matter with Janeway and Chakotay. Chakotay plays (effectively) the voice of reason in this episode (which is ironic, given that he was the Starfleet-officer-turned-terrorist when the series began). In a better example of showing a schism between Janeway and Chakotay (in “Scorpion”) the two ultimately worked together to defeat the Borg after a major disagreement — but one that was more tactical than philosophical. Here, there’s no resolution, even though the disagreement between them is FAR more troubling. They simply shrug off the fact that Chakotay was relieved of duty and that Janeway nearly committed crimes. And that’s just ridiculous. Even Ronald D. Moore — who briefly came over from DS9 at this time — is on record as questioning the creators here.

Finally, why don’t we ever see the Equinox crew members who joined Voyager after this episode? Obviously, there’s an easy answer — because the Voyager creators, almost ALWAYS took the easy way out in situations like this. What a waste.

Captain... captain. Are you playing Words with Friends instead of listening to me?!
“Captain? Captain? Are you playing Words with Friends instead of listening to me?!”

Final thoughts

Yeesh. What a mess. The two-parter is somewhat compelling — and part one is much less objectionable — but when you look at Janeway’s actions, the missed opportunities and the complete lack of continuity afterward, it makes you shake your head. Actually, that’s more of how Voyager could be described, overall. Is it time for “Enterprise” yet?

Coming next week …

That guy who played Murdock on the “A-Team” returns to Trek.

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