In the fifteenth episode of the fourth season of Voyager, the crew deals with the sudden influx of information from the relay stations, which includes a new enemy. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Oh, the heartbreak. THIS EPISODE WAS SO HURTFUL.
I’m curious about how the Hirogen will appear in further episodes because of the story I got here. While this episode did not introduce them, “Hunters” establishes the Hirogen race as one of brutal hunters. They thrive on the chase that leads them to pretty, so much so that they actually express disappointment towards Seven and Tuvok for being too “easy” to catch. We get a glimpse of their system of “relics,” which reminded me of a non-practical version of what the Borg do. Thus, my question: How will this be addressed in future episodes? Will Seven have to reckon with the fact that her own species does something similar to the Hirogen?
It’s fascinating, too, because this episode makes it clear that there’s no real morality to the Hirogen aside from their hierarchy of prey. They cannot be reasoned with at all; at no point is Janeway ever able to even attempt negotiation with them. That makes them a frightening adversary. Let’s complicate that even further: the Hirogen figured out how to trap and exploit MICRO-SINGULARITIES. BLACK HOLES. That’s a legitimate energy source for them, and not only that, they figured it all out over a hundred thousand years ago. What other ways are they technologically advanced? What did they use the relay network for? WHAT IF THE CREW GOT IT WRONG AND IT WAS FOR SOMETHING ELSE AND THAT’S WHY THEY WERE SO PROTECTIVE OF IT?
Letters from Home
It is quite impressive to me that the episode’s main conflict isn’t really about the Hirogens, despite how intimidating they are. They not inescapable, nor would I remove them from this plot; they’re vital to the story in “Hunters”! Instead, I found the continuation of the plot in “Message in a Bottle” to be the most compelling part of this episode.
And how could I not? The work done by the Doctor in that episode allowed Starfleet to send tons of letters to the crew from their friends and family, as well as some sort of coded message about… something? Maps? Plans? I HOPE IT’S GOOD. Through this, the writers explore the various ways in which a sudden contact with home is both bad and good for these characters.
The good: Tuvok discovers he is a grandfather. Hey, he might not show emotion, but I will interpret that short pause of reflection as ONE OF THE BIGGEST DISPLAYS OF EMOTION WE HAVE EVER SEEN FROM HIM. Many other members of the crew got positive letters that were full of joy and good news, and it’s not something I prepared myself for in any way. I honestly didn’t think something like this was gonna happen until the end of the show.
Which brings us to the not-so-good. The writing choices for “Hunters” felt so realistic to me, even if that means they were also utterly fucking heartbreaking. Chakotay and B’Elanna learn of the eradication of the Maquis by the hands of the Dominion and the Cardassians, which is such a strange idea because Deep Space Nine already dealt with that plot. Here, though, the choice to give this revelation to Chakotay and B’Elanna heightens the intensity of the letters. It allows us a greater sense of how much time has passed for them and how far away from home they are. It’s gut-wrenching, y’all! Practically all of their friends are dead. Not a few, not a lot, but all. How do you deal with that? How can you even conceptualize something so awful in the first place, and how is that further complicated by the distance? There was literally nothing B’Elanna or Chakotay could do. At all. You can see that sense of helplessness on both of their faces.
It is such a huge counter to the hope you see in people like Harry. That goes for Tom Paris, whose life on Earth and in Starfleet wasn’t exactly something to write home about. (Har har, get it?) Why would he hope for a good letter? And who would even send him one? Thus, I completely understood his reluctance to get excited about a letter, especially one from his father. I know very little about Owen Paris, but what I did get a sense of was his stubbornness and how Tom felt about it. That’s important to establish what might have been a devastating letter, too. What if his father didn’t express love and affection and longing, but instead scolded Tom for getting into this mess in the first place? It’s a believable idea, isn’t it?
Of course, I’ve saved Janeway for last. Janeway doesn’t cry in this episode, yet part of me believed that she was the most quietly devastated out of everyone. Yes, she had mentally considered that her fiancé had moved on, that he had believed she was dead and had accepted that. But actually reading that? And discovering that the man you’ve been waiting to get home to has also re-married? There’s a devastation there that’s almost hard to conceptualize, and so I appreciated that Mulgrew chose to play Janeway more reserved than bombastic. Mark moved on, and now Janeway can, too. But that doesn’t take the pain away. She had spent four years waiting for him, and he had not. Yeah, it’s understandable why that’s the case, yet it doesn’t take the sting away.
This is a complicated episode, but that’s a good thing. There’s a lot going on here, but it works so very well, both as a continuation of the last episode and as it’s own thing. If there are more Hirogen episodes coming up, I’m excited about those, too, but I’m also interested in Voyager finding another way for these people to reach home, or at least contact them. Is this going to be it for a while, or is it just the start?
The video for “Hunters” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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