In the first episode of the second season of Voyager, THIS WAS COOL AS HELL. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For slavery.
You know, this is one of those stories that kind of falls apart for me once I sit back and start analyzing it. At the same time, this was a whirlwind experience, a chance for Voyager to present us with an alternate history and to get me to feel A MILLION THINGS about the voyage that these people still have ahead of them. So, I’ll start this off by saying that I may pick apart “The 37’s,” but goddamn, I had a good time watching it.
This is a dense episode once you think about it, and I wonder if it was supposed to be longer. Thankfully, though, the script doesn’t linger in the mysterious nature of the discovery of a 1936 Ford in space. Seriously: how did it get there? Why is it just floating in space? Did someone on the planet eject it into the atmosphere? It’s a silly key to the greater story, but once the show moves on from it, I WAS READY FOR THE JOURNEY. And goddamn, what an eerie and unnerving journey that is. Nearly a hundred feet below the surface of this planet, the Voyager crew finds eight humans encased in cryogenic chambers. There’s evidence of other chambers in the same complex. And one of the people in a chamber?
Thus, “The 37’s” proposes that the alien conspiracy theory surrounding Earhart IS ACTUALLY TRUE. Not only that, but three hundred humans from around the globe were kidnapped in 1937. That in and of itself is a damn good premise for a story, but I loved that in this, the Voyager team realized that there might be a shred of hope. If an alien race kidnapped these people and brought them back to the Delta Quadrant, then perhaps there’s still a way to use that technology to return home.
From the point of discovery onwards, “The 37’s” splits into two separate stories, both of which I found interesting. The 37s themselves are faced with the reality that they are now 400 years into the future and about 69 years from home. Initially, the reject everything Janeway tells them. And who can blame them??? The last thing any of them remembered was being abducted while a bright light shone around them. Why should they believe such a ridiculous tale? Led by Earhart’s navigator, Fred Noonan, they refuse to leave the chamber and take everyone hostage, which is such a hilarious twist now that I’m thinking about it.
Janeway: Frees people held in cryogenic stasis for over four centuries
Drunk dude: FUCK YOU, HERE’S A GUN, GIMME WHAT I WANT.
But let’s also acknowledge that all the bonding between Earhart and Janeway is PERFECT. Two women who did the impossible for their time, y’all. Earhart defied misogynists in the early half of the 20th century, and Janeway defied misogynists in the 24th century as the first woman who captains a starship on Star Trek. YES. Y E S. If anything, I think one of the major flaws of this episode is that there is NOT ENOUGH OF THESE TWO. Just make Earhart a permanent cast member, this is a great idea, it’s here for the taking.
You know, this is the second time that Voyager has jammed a slavery reference into a script, and I really need writers to think through the implications of doing so. Prior to this, we somehow got a slavery aspect added to the Vidiians. Now, the Brior (who we never see) apparently kidnapped the 37s for slave labor, which makes zero sense. None. Are you telling me they couldn’t find a single species closer to them than humans? Why humans? Why these people/ Were they chosen at random or was there a purpose to nabbing these specific people?
But let’s move beyond that for a moment. I don’t understand how there are descendants of these people. Why were some of them in stasis? We know that the eight people unfrozen in this episode were definitely in stasis the entire time. What about the other chambers? Were some of them unfrozen? Why? Why freeze any of them at all? WHY BRING UP SLAVE LABOR AT ALL?
Well, that element of the story does give us another aspect of “The 37’s” that I enjoyed. It is tempting to many of the people on board Voyager to remain behind on this planet full of humans, many of whom look like them and act like them. It is a painful reminder of their home, but even more so, it makes the length of their journey seem even longer than it is. Indeed, it’s hard to conceptualize nearly 70 years worth of travel. Given that, I get why anyone on Voyager would have wanted to stay behind on this planet and begin living their life.
Seriously, the thought of being inside a starship for seventy years is pretty upsetting. And who knows if it’ll actually take that long? What if the crew can’t survive that long? Those are fair questions to ask, but the writers for this episode put them all on Captain Janeway. Not only does she have to respect the right of each crew member to stay behind or to continue traveling, but she must also accept the logistical problem this presents. What if the majority of the people remain behind? How can a starship run that way? There’s already an elaborate system of shifts and assignments that keeps the ship running 24/7, and losing too many people would be disastrous.
Janeway gets an excellent scene discussing this with Chakotay, but I also adored how emotional the scene was between Harry and B’Elanna. That’s where “The 37’s” really knocked it out of the park for me. These characters were honest about what this place brought out in them. It’s noble of them to keep going, but the wonder of this episode turns into a bittersweet longing by the time the credits roll. Janeway won’t get to learn more about Earhart, and the crew can’t entertain the notion of settling down anymore. It’s still sad to think about, but I appreciate the show for the experience regardless.
The video for “The 37s” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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