|As an alternate Janeway will once say, "When diplomacy fails, |
there's only one alternative: violence."
The 1979 film Alien had a profound effect upon science fiction, establishing a darker genre in which alien hostility took on a personal nature, and space is populated by dusty-skinned space marines and women in vests. Our woman in a vest this week happens to be Captain Janeway, and this episode is a lengthy, if not entirely direct, tribute to Alien and its influence. Funnily enough, this was completely unintentional, the Voyager writers simply wanting an "action" episode without any moralising. I think it's a testament to both Alien and to Kate Mulgrew's biceps that Ellen Ripley is the first thing that comes to mind.
The plot, while very good at building suspense and drama, ends up feeling a little askew due to the ridiculousness of the aliens attacking Voyager. While Janeway and Neelix were away on a diplomatic mission, The Doctor attempted to play nurse to an alien colony crippled by a virus. He discovered that the virus is able to absorb the growth hormones of the host, increasing its size to a macroscopic level, first into irritating flies and then floating, stabby basketballs. Janeway and The Doctor end up the only two members of the crew unaffected, with The Doctor's cure fixing Janeway's initial infection upon entering the ship. Jacket off and gun in hand, she fights her way to environmental control, where she floods the ship with cure-gas and the day is saved.
In the real world, of course, viruses don't work that way. Most viruses are nothing more than a few strands of genetic information (RNA) surrounded by a protein shell, and absorbing a growth hormone intended for a multi-celled organism would do diddly-squat. I could have accepted a bacteria forming a multi-cellular organism, but viruses aren't even that complex; they're the simpletons of the microscopic world. This doesn't really harm the episode's effect, because the average viewer isn't assumed to know that much about microbiology, and this stuff is alien after all. Who knows, we might find something like this one day.
|Janeway splats one of the macro-viruses.|
The word Macrocosm, by the way, refers to the entirety of a system, as opposed to individual parts within it. Like many Voyager titles (Parturition, Parallax and Cathexis come to mind) it has a paper-thin connection to the actual episode itself. Which is an unfair connection, because for once the Voyager writers did exactly what they set out to do - a fun, tense action plot incorporated into Voyager's surroundings, giving Kate Mulgrew a chance to do something other than be the ship's captain/mother/inquisitor. So what if the science behind the macroviruses isn't right? Didn't anyone tell you that this was Star Trek? They let Neelix near food.
NEXT WEEK: Neelix gets in trouble when he meets an old friend... wait, Neelix has friends? That not a Fair Trade.