RETROSPECTIVE: "STAR TREK VOYAGER" (6.14) "Memorial"
I have never been a fan of "STAR TREK VOYAGER"’s Season Six. It is my second least favorite season of the series, following Season One. But I am not here to discuss the sixth season. Instead, I want to discuss one of the season’s episode – namely (6.14) "Memorial". Despite being part of a mediocre season, I consider this episode to be one of the series’ best.
"Memorial" is an excellent episode that seemed to be – at least in my opinion – misunderstood by many Trek fans. In this tense story, Chakotay, Tom Paris, Harry Kim and Neelix return to Voyager following a two-week Away mission in search for dilithium ore. Upon their return to the ship, the quartet begin experiencing flashbacks, anxiety attacks and hallucinations of a battle they had never fought. Investigations of their flashbacks eventually lead the crew to a planet called Tarakis on which a massacre of civilian settlers called the Nakan, occurred centuries ago. Upon Voyager’s approach to Tarakis, the majority of the crew began experiencing similar flashbacks. Including Janeway. The crew finds a memorial to the massacre on the now-deserted planet which transmits neurogenic pulses that create false memories, intended to make sure that those who came near would not forget what happened there. Because the memorial's transmitter is failing, Janeway considers letting it go offline to spare others the psychological trauma to which the crew was subjected. In the end, however, she decides to repair the memorial because the massacre is too important to forget.
Many fans have expressed dislike of the Tarakis sharing their guilt to passing strangers in such a forceful and unwanted manner, using the memorial. Many have also disagreed with Janeway’s decision to repair the memorial, instead of destroying it. On one level, I had shared their feelings. I commended the Tarakis for facing their crimes and guilt. But their decision to expose their guilt by forcing innocent travelers to relive their crimes with the neurogenic memorial made me wonder if the Tarakis ever truly learned anything from the massacre of the Nakan.
But what many Trek fans and critics had failed to realize that Neelix was the only one who had supported Janeway’s decision to keep the memorial operational and intact. I wondered if anyone had remembered that by the end of the episode, Chakotay, Paris and Kim had expressed dislike and disapproval of Janeway’s decision. They only helped to repair the memorial, because Janeway ordered them to do so. I suspect that the episode’s writers, Brannon Braga and Robin Burger, had ended it with two opposing views in order for the audience to form their own judgment.
Another matter had drawn a response from the fans. Many expressed negative reactions to the argument between Voyager’s lovebirds - the traumatized Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres. The fans criticized Paris for pushing B’Elanna away when she tried to help him deal with his memories from the memorial. Perhaps Paris had been wrong to push her away. On the other hand, I wish that someone had stopped Torres from seeking Tom out in the first place. Or at least convince her to leave him in peace for a while. I realize that B'Elanna only wanted to help the man she loved, but he was not ready to share his memories of the Tarakis massacre with anyone. Including her. His memories of the massacre were too traumatic and too soon for him to deal with. One cannot force another to deal with a trauma if he or she is not ready to do so. If Torres had attempted to talk with Chakotay or Harry, I suspect that she would have encountered a similar rebuff.
As I had stated before, "Memorial" is an excellent episode. Highlights include the quartet’s comedic return to Voyager, Torres’ surprise for Paris – a mid-20th century television set, their subsequent quarrel over Paris’ memories, Neelix’s breakdown in the Mess Hall, and his later conversation with Seven-of-Nine. I found Harry Kim’s memories of an encounter with a pair of Nakin refugees inside a cave the most chilling moment in the entire episode. The episode also benefited from some superb performances from the cast - especially Robert Duncan McNeill, Roxann Dawson, Garrett Wang and Ethan Phillps; and guest star Lindsay Ginter. However, "Memorial" does have a major flaw. The episode had never revealed what happened to Paris and Torres following their argument. Even worse, Berman and Braga’s writers had failed to follow up on this storyline in any of the following episodes. The series’ fans finally learned that the pair’s estrangement had ended by the later episode, (6.20) "Good Shepherd". Only they never learned how.
Despite this obvious flaw, I believe that "Memorial" is a first-rate episode. Not only do I consider it one of the best from Season Six, but also one of the best from the entire series.