In the eighteenth episode of the fourth season of Voyager, WHAT THE FUCK. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For nonconsensual medical procedures, Nazism and Nazi imagery, anti-semitism.
Holy shit, WHAT IS THIS EPISODE. I have lots to say, LET’S DO THIS.
The more I think back on this first half (I ASSUME IT’S TWO EPISODES BUT WHAT IF IT’S MORE) of “The Killing Game,” the more impressed I am with how the show handled the introduction of this hellish plot. Look, this isn’t even remotely the first time that the crew has had to re-take Voyager from invaders, and I’m willing to concede that this episode might even feel ridiculous because it’s such familiar ground. Sometimes, I just feel bad that Voyager can’t see to catch a break. Who will conquer them this week??? So yeah, if you thought this was too similar to other episodes, I don’t blame you.
However, I did not recognize Janeway in that opening scene, and that contributed to the shock and bewilderment that “The Killing Game” inspired in me. The writers reveal what happened aboard Voyager slowly and methodically, instead sticking us into an alternate version of France during World War II. It takes almost the entire episode to find out what the Hirogen did and to understand why’d they’d risk themselves in order to play out an innumerable set of fantasy games on the Holodeck. But I appreciated this framing; it made the episode a lot more thrilling.
This isn’t a subtle episode by any means. The Hirogens choose World War II for a reason, and you can easily how the writers want to draw parallels between Nazi Germany and the Hirogen belief that they are physically and morally superior to every species they come across. That includes the Nazis, too, who may have a similar belief system but the flawed bodies of humans. Still, it’s an utterly unnerving choice, one that made me deeply uncomfortable throughout. Of course the Hirogens would relate to Nazis, but why put the Voyager crew through that simulation? To torture them? To enjoy the thrill of the hunt? Why cycle them from one Holodeck disaster to another and force the Doctor to repair their bodies? It made no sense to me. If the Hirogen culture valued the hunt and the kill, why delay the kill so many times?
Y’all, they want the Holodeck technology so they can have a PERPETUAL HUNTING ARENA. Which is fucked up??? I mean, if the Hirogen were interested in developing a way to continue hunting without killing other species, I would have been super excited about this, but they still want to use REAL PEOPLE in the holodeck. THEY ARE THE WORST.
But there was one aspect of this alternate history that bothered me a lot. As frequently as the script itself evokes white supremacy, Nazism, and the concept of a master race, this episode scrubbed history of any mention of Jewish people or anti-semitism, and it’s really fucking weird. I think that scene where B’Elanna is spit upon is supposed to be a reference to that, but it’s never actually explained. Why are B’Elanna and the father of her child not supposed to be in a relationship? The reason I bring this up is because we really need to be careful not to practice this kind of erasure when talking of Nazism or Nazi Germany. Even in modern times, with the frightening rise of fascism in the United States, I see this same shit happen over and over: the invocation of Nazis and mention of the tie to anti-semitism. (On another note, this episode was also unfortunate to watch after my country’s election. Like… super, super eerie, and my god, that’s so disturbing to think about.)
My favorite aspect of this episode is Harry Kim, hands down. The resistance force – run by Harry, the Doctor, and the very few members of the crew who aren’t stuck with neural implants – parallels the resistance force in the actual Holodeck storyline. Like Seven, Harry is outwardly spiteful and hostile towards the invaders, taking numerous risks just to show them that in the end, he despises them. In the holodeck, Seven is impatient, eager to go after the Nazis and destroy them. In that context, you could easily see how the “original” personalities of these characters came through the programming that was forced on them.
But y’all, I just really love stories about resistance forces. (Surprise, I love Deep Space Nine. SURPRISE.) There is something deeply appealing to me about the underdog rising up against their oppressors or invaders or anyone exerting power in ways that harm others. Harry is a revelation here, and it was a treat to watch him act so boldly in the face of a species who could easily have destroyed him.
It was fun to watch the Doctor and Seven, too, and that scene where Janeway was finally freed from the Holodeck??? AH, IT WAS SO GOOD. And while the “alternate” versions of these characters was a treat, too, I am now super into the idea of Seven and Janeway slowly waking up the others. How are they going to do that? The Hirogen know what the Doctor and Harry did, so it’s not like they’ve got the element of surprise. Plus, there’s now a link between all the Holodeck simulations, so is the second half just going to be a massive, all-out war???
GIMME. I NEED IT NOW.
The video for “The Killing Game, Part I” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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