Meanwhile back on the ship Janeway gets to do Harry’s role in reverse talking an obviously scared and shaken Vhnori woman and getting her to understand and comprehend the situation she is in. Mulgrew does a great job playing Janeway as commanding, decisive and tender all at once. A neat trick to pull off.
And Chakotay’s new-age style spiritualism gets to have an actual function in this episode and actually benefits the mission. His actions at the start where he describes burial practices and the importance of religious beliefs is very professorial and seems to help Harry when he is thrust into his difficult situation. Handled in this way Chakotay becomes a well rounded and deep character that gives a nice contrast to Janeway’s military/scientific way of doing things. If only this were to continue. I fear it will not.
But the real strength of this episode is the way in which it does not shy away from very difficult and taboo things like: What happens when you die? And is it okay to kill yourself?
The episode does not give an answer to these questions and does not try to moralize or preach. It does what good scifi does, it brings up the questions, provides alternate views and allows the viewer to come up with answers on their own. The bit where the Vhnori bodies send energies to the planet’s rings that can be seen as a kind of afterlife is a bit of a cop out; but it is not done in a heavy-handed manner so can be forgiven.
Overall another great episode of Voyager, and in the first season! Pleasantly surprised am I.