In the tenth episode of the fifth season of Voyager, HOT DAMN, JANEWAY IS AMAZING. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of anti-immigration sentiment.
The lesson of “Counterpoint”: Don’t fuck with Janeway.
The other lesson? This kind of wide-sweeping legislation usually ends terribly.
Like much of what I’ve watch this week for Star Trek, “Counterpoint” has a striking relevance to discussions we’ve been having all over the world about immigration. It was easy for me to see that parallel once Kashyk started droning on about how dangerous all telepathy are, how what he and the other Devore were doing was perfectly reasonable to them. After all, they’re just trying to protect themselves, right? What’s wrong with a little bit of self-preservation?
The problem here is one of perspective. Once you shift your empathy to the Voyager crew, it’s easy to see that the Devore’s safety comes at great expense to others. Just for merely passing through Devore space as a telepath, you are suddenly an illegal person. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or that you’ve done nothing else to harm another person. The very nature of your person is illegal, and all arguments to the contrary are dismissed and ignored. Then, anyone who associates with you or helps you cross Devore space for any reason is also punished, creating a system that is less about public safety and almost entirely about control and domination.
No one personifies that more than Kashyk, expertly portrayed by Mark Harelik throughout “Counterpoint.” At the start of the episode, he felt very much like a mustache-twirling villain, the kind arrogant enough to announce their plans or monologue about their brilliance or derive joy from the sheer act of being evil. It’s like he knew he was an asshole and thrived on it. Yet his long con of Janeway and Voyager revealed another side of him, one that deepened his intense obsession with control. It wasn’t enough for him to catch Voyager in the act; he had to insinuate himself into the crew, gain Janeway’s trust and affection, and then screw them all in the end… or so he thought.
There’s a clue to Janeway’s plan at the beginning of this episode, one I should have seen but did not. There’s that conversation she has with Kashyk about how trust is gained slowly; Kashyk insists it is not granted immediately. Thus, Janeway, throughout all her dealings with Kashyk, sought to live this out. Even if she tried to see optimism, even if she tried to believe in the best of Kashyk, she still protected herself and her crew.
And that is why she’s such a great captain and why this episode was so thrilling to watch. I didn’t trust Kashyk at all, but I also wanted to believe in a world where Janeway could help someone escape a repressive regime. However, Kashyk never fully articulated his reasons for defecting, and I saw that as suspicious. Why would he give up his whole life so easily? Perhaps that’s what Janeway latched on to throughout this; perhaps she kept that in mind when designing her endgame. If he was telling the truth the whole time, then there’d be no problem with the decoys, and Kashyk could join them on the other side of the wormhole. But if he lied? The telepaths would be safe, and even if Janeway was risking her own safety, at least she’d done the right thing.
I admire her so much for that. I also admire all of her beautiful sarcasm and wit at the end of “Counterpoint.” It was a treat to experience that, and I love that she got the last laugh. It’s a hell of a fun episode, and it provided a nice break from the moral intensity I’ve been getting lately. Bravo!
The video for “Counterpoint” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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