First of all the structure of the show is set up as a mystery. The crew gradually finds more about the wormhole bit by bit in a very believable way; incrementally and scientifically through observation. And first contact with the Romulans is cold and guarded, bordering on hostile as you’d expect. Then a trust has to be gained gradually over the course of the episode. But the thing is that it plays out deliberately and convincingly, there is no pat ‘ah ha!’ moment where everyone just decides to work together. And when the twist ending comes it feels earned. All the clues were there, seeded through the episode, but not in a signposted or self-indulgent way, instead they are woven through the story seamlessly.
Also woven through the story is an overwhelming feeling of loneliness and loss and alienation. This is done in obvious ways like the conversation between Harry and B’Elanna about family. Or the story the Romulan commander, R’Mor’s story about not ever seeing his daughter. I say these are obvious but I don’t mean to imply that they are not well done. In fact B’Elanna’s offhand admission that essentially her family doesn’t love her is actually quite moving.
In less obvious ways there are things like when Kes notices that crewmembers are treating the Doctor as if he were not there, because he is a hologram therefore he is not a person. And when Janeway offers him the ability to have control over activation and deactivation there is look of confusion and gratitude on the Doctor’s face that is some of the best acting I’ve seen on the show. And again when he learns the crew may be leaving the ship and he cannot the Doctor tells Kes to be sure he is deactivated – implying he does not want to be alone – is again actually quite moving.
The real stand up moment for me was when Janeway attempts to convince R’Mor to trust her. The scene is in Janeway’s private quarters where she has been woken from sleep. The room is dark, she is in her night clothes, she has literally let her hair down. She is not on the Bridge, she is not seen by the crew or by the person she is talking to; so she is unguarded and we can see her moving about the room authoritatively or crouched in anger or slumped in frustration. She is commanding and vulnerable. This was the first time I said to myself, oh so that’s who Captain Janeway is. Up till this point I simply saw her as an analog of all the other Captains. This was the first time I saw her as her own person. And it’s quite good.
And then the end. It is obvious that they can’t get home; it would be a quick series if they did, but the resolution was gut wrenching. Not only because of the time difference keeping them from physically getting home but then the realization that R’Mor has died and has never even delivered the messages to their families was heartbreaking.
Star Trek usually ends with a triumphant moment, with a win. This time it was a stifled tear and the determination to go on.
This episode was really quite good.