The Cynics Corner

Star Trek: Voyager

"In the Flesh"

by David E. Sluss

7 November 1998

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: A reasonably well-executed episode, but the ideas behind it are suspect, to say the least.


EUNUCH OF THE WEEK: Species 8472, obviously. I know that Star Trek supposedly stands for high ideals like "negotiation is more productive than fighting," "everyone has redeeming qualities," and "merchandizing is where the real money is made," but does every alien race have to be neutered? The fall of Species 8472 was a lot farther than just about any other Star Trek race I can think of. Long-time readers will note that I've been documenting the ongoing emasculation of Species 8472 since my very first Cynics Corner Review, of "Scorpion, Part II," over a year ago. I wrote in my Season Four wrap-up: "Star Trek's villain races have been emasculated, weakened, and made to be sympathetic many times in the past, but never so quickly and never to such a great extent as Species 8472 was this season. In "Scorpion (Part I)," 8472 seemed unstoppable, destroying innumerable Borg cubes and an entire planet. By the time "Scorpion, Part II" rolled around, they could barely blow up one Borg cube. As of "Prey," they were cowering in hallways. How the mighty have fallen." And now we have them masquerading as humans and speaking in folksy homilies. I fully expect to see a Malon environmentalist tree-hugger type any week now...

POOR OBSERVATION SKILLS OF THE WEEK: It's not clear exactly when 8472 was clued in to the spy Chakotay, but given their attention to detail in creating the Starfleet simulation, how could they not have noticed the instant they first saw Chakotay that his Maquis rank insignia was wrong?

NEW GEOGRAPHY OF THE WEEK: Species 8472 was referred to at least twice in this episode as being "from another galaxy." Since when is fluidic space "another galaxy?"

NEW BIOLOGY OF THE WEEK: Clearly a large dose of Suspension of Disbelief (and often Milk of Magnesia) is required to swallow anything Star Trek does when it comes to genetics. But this episode is over the top. I'll grudgingly accept for story purposes, if I must, Species 8472's ability to genetically alter themselves into human form, but I can't accept the notion that The Doctor can inject a dead body with some goop and have the dead body metabolize it and return its DNA and appearance to normal. A line has to be drawn.

FINICKY TECHNOLOGY OF THE WEEK: Early in the show, Seven tells The Doctor that she is going to replicate some more nanoprobes. Later she tells the Captain that it will be impossible to replicate more nanoprobes. Why not? Did the replicator say "I don' wanna"? Speaking of which....

HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE OF THE WEEK: Janeway demands that Seven give up some of her own blood and nanoprobes, since they suddenly can't be replicated for whatever bizarre reason. Forcing people to give up their precious bodily fluids is hardly the "Starfleet Way," as witness Worf's refusal to donate blood for a Romulan patient in Next Generation's "The Enema."

NAME-DROPPING OF THE WEEK: As I noted in this week's Deep Space Nine review ("Treachery, Faith and the Great River"), both Voyager and DS9 mentioned Captain Picard this week. But in a couple of weeks, we'll find that TPTB can only afford Picard's name and had to settle for LaForge.

MYSTERY OF THE WEEK: So where did Species 8472 get their extensive knowledge of Starfleet anyway? Everyone seemed to stop caring about two-thirds of the way in, but you'd think it would be a major concern. Of the scenarios mentioned in the show, the only one that seems to fit the facts is that Species 8472 gained the knowledge from the Borg; the other theories don't hold up. The simulation can't be based a visit to Earth by Species 8472, since the characters in the simulation are all wearing the pre-First Contact uniforms, which were replaced long before 8472 even encountered Voyager. On the other hand, it can't be based on Voyager's database, because in that case 8472 would have known that Voyager was out of contact with Starfleet Command. It'd be nice to know one way or the other, wouldn't it?

QUESTIONABLE DIPLOMACY OF THE WEEK: Palestinians and Israelis who worry that their respective negotiation teams are selling them out at the peace table should watch Kathryn Janeway, graduate of the Yalta School of Diplomacy, in action. They'd see Janeway give up to Species 8472, a race which haven't proven themselves to be completely trustworthy, the one and only weapon capable of hurting them, and getting in return some genetic alteration techniques that are of dubious value to her. Now that's a sellout. Maybe there was an 8472 impersonator on Voyager after all: Janeway herself (I note that she didn't seem undergo the genetic test she made Chakotay and the rest of the crew go through...).

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This review is copyright 1998 David E. Sluss
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