In the twenty-fourth episode of the fourth season of Voyager, wasn’t there an episode of The Next Generation about this but it was terrible? If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to watch Voyager.
IT WAS THE SPACE DOG ONE, WASN’T IT. Oh my god, I googled “Mark Watches Next Generation Space Dog” and it didn’t come up, my Google skills have failed me. Anyway, I swear there was some sort of substance on that show that was able to clone through DNA, but whatever, it’s not important. What is important is how much better this episode is than that one. It’s scarier, creepier, and the ending is a HUGE commitment to the premise that the writers bring up. The Prime Directive is not mentioned once in this episode, but “Demon” brings up a dilemma that is quintessentially about this very issue. What happens if Voyager ACCIDENTALLY gives sentience to a life form? Are they then obligated to respect that life form’s wishes, or is that a violation of the Prime Directive?
“Demon” takes a while to get to that conflict, and even I’ll admit that it’s not really explored all that much, especially when you consider how much time is spent on the mystery and body horror elements of the story. That stuff isn’t bad, though, and I enjoyed how fucked up this was. I knew something was going to go wrong on that planet. It had to! It was the first class-Y (or “demon”) planet that we were going to experience in any significant detail. SHIT WAS GONNA GET FUCKED UP, I KNEW IT.
But lord, I just didn’t expect this show to commit so fully to the ramifications of Harry and Tom’s actions. They are the first to interact with this fluid, and then THEY BOTH PROMPTLY RUN OUT OF OXYGEN AND NEARLY DIE. Of course, I just assumed that the fluid did something that made them behave strangely. I noticed how much they wanted to stay on the planet, how they wanted others to be brought down, and it felt so obvious to me. That fluid was compelling them to behave this way. As soon as they were cured of it, they could all be on their way, right?
Y’all, the reveal of the cloning was SO INCREDIBLY CREEPY. Bravo, Voyager, for exploiting this so well. Having Harry discover his own body was a trip, as was the scene where the fluid cloned B’Elanna’s finger. Both of them unfolding at the same time? Brilliant. But it is in the choices made after this that I was most impressed. Janeway is forced into a terrible problem: the fluid wants to “copy” all of Voyager and won’t let go of it until it does. We see yet again how determined Janeway is to save and protect her crew, but there was a huge, glaring issue I saw with this: how could she ethically destroy this organism or cause it extreme harm in order to better herself? It reminded me of the alternate history of Janeway in “Living Witness.” The reason that story was so disturbing is because Janeway would never kill people just to get home. So why would she hurt this organism just to escape?
The solution to this is haunting in a way because the fluid created clones of the Voyager crew with their memories intact. So… the crew got left behind on a class-Y planet, y’all. Except they didn’t? I respect that Janeway found a way to do this so that the crew could consent to giving up samples of their DNA. The fluid is not only given sentience, but a community is built. They can flourish, y’all! Like, I want an episode where someone comes back a generation later to see how these people have transformed the place. The unknown is exciting more so than it is haunting in the end because “Demon” is about possibility. Voyager accidentally did something wonderful for this place and that force, and Janeway’s decision only made it better.
THIS WAS AWESOME. STAY WEIRD, VOYAGER.
The video for “Demon” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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