Delta Redux: A Voyager Rewatch: Cathexis

Chakotay is brain dead.

No, that’s not an insult it’s the opening plot point to Cathexis, a rather uneven but ultimately satisfying episode. It’s a mystery and a ghost story with just a dash of John Carpenter’s The Thing thrown in for good measure. There are some good character moments, some real tension at times and some interesting ideas throughout; however the “mystery” is a little too obvious, even with the pseudo-spiritual twist at the end.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the beginning and take this step by step.

Remember how last time I talked about holodeck episodes and how to do them right? Well Cathexis starts with Janeway in her holonovel pretending to be some kind of Jane Eyre/Mary Poppins nanny before being mercifully pulled out to join the real story. I know this is supposed to be a broadening of her character somehow – She’s what? Vulnerable? Romantic? Motherly? Subservient? – I really don’t know what this is going for. But I can feel a “holodeck malfunction” in the future. I foresee terrible things to come.

“I’m not defending him. I’m just pointing out that you’re acting a little paranoid. In fact, one could say you’re acting a little… too paranoid.”– The Doctor

Victorian weirdness aside, we then get into the meat of the episode with an as mentioned brain dead Chakotay and a non-corporeal alien with the ability to possess crew members. This on the surface is a fantastic idea and has some really great potential.

Starting off slow with Paris and Torres doing things they claim not to remember, then building the tension when the crew realizes that anyone could be possessed plays really well. But ultimately that tension is diminished with repeated use of a swoopy/blurry camera effect that telegraphs the alien presence and often times who is next in line to be taken over.

And that’s a shame because without it there would have been real confusion as to who was the alien. And the increasing paranoia of the crew causing distrust and suspicion would have been a fascinating way for the characters to grow and change the way they interact with one another not only in this episode but future episodes as well. Alas that is only hinted at and by the time the reveal of Tuvok as the primary alien focus we (the viewer) have already figured this out and are left wondering why the crew didn’t get it ages ago.

I mean c’mon…he was alone with Kess in the turbo lift with evidence of her being physically assaulted with a Vulcan neck pinch and…seriously what is wrong with you people? I mean…duh.

Anyway, I digress.

And ultimately the M. Night Shyamalan twisty, twisty ending of Chakotay being a spirit/soul wanderer/energy being/whatever (did you know he’s a space Indian with medicine power? It’s true!) and reverse possessing people isn’t really enough to save the plot, in fact it might have made it just a bit worse.

Now, everything I just said may sound like I didn’t enjoy the episode. This is not true. I actually found it very entertaining and it’s only in hindsight that the flaws begin to show. I guess what I take issue with is the potential of the premise that isn’t quite realized. So much could have been done but was left just kinda hanging there not being picked up. I suppose this is unfair – I should judge the show for what it is not what I would want it to be – but so far Voyager is so tantalizingly close to greatness but just falls ever so slightly short. It’s frustrating.

One final note: the Medicine Wheel scene with Torres and the Doctor was quite funny and charming. More of that please and less Victorian nannys.

Next Time On Star Trek Voyager

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About the Author:

Paul Matthew Carr
Paul is a writer, artist and designer. He spends an inordinate amount of time on the Internet blogging about silly things and even more time making things up and then attempting to convince people they are proper stories. He also talks into microphones from time to time.

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