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Star Trek: Voyager

Kathryn Janeway

Kathryn Janeway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Star Trek: Voyager is a spin off from the original Star Trek TV program in which a Federation ship, Voyager, is transported to the distant delta quadrant, far from Earth. The plot centers on the crew’s attempts to return home.

The show ran for seven seasons (1995 to 2001) and contains significant innovations from previous series (Star Trek: The Original SeriesStar Trek: The Next Generation), most notably the woman captain, Kathryn Janeway; the holographic doctor who gained freedom from the holodeck by obtaining a mobile emitter from his future; and Seven of Nine.

Originally a human girl (Annika Hansen), Seven of Nine was transformed into a semi-cybernetic entity when assimilated by the Borg in her childhood. Seven’s humanity is restored when Commander Chakotay stimulates her human memories through a technologically assisted mind-link.

Actress Kate Mulgrew (Left) Stars As (Captain Kathryn Janeway) And Susanna Thompson Stars As (The Borg Queen) In United Paramount Network’s Sci-Fi Television Series ‘Star Trek: Voyager.’ Episode: ‘Unimatrix Zero, Part Two.’

Although Janeway is fully human, the doctor and Seven each try to learn what it’s like to be human through different means. The doctor receives new programming giving him more spatial freedom or, alternately, which allows him to feel human emotion. Seven learns about her human roots through trial and error and is rewired to feel emotion without the usual Borg constraints. This makes for interesting viewing. We learn afresh what it means to be human, vulnerable, and to take risks.

Janeway’s import lies in her character, played by actor Kate Mulgrew. A strong captain, she has moments of doubt where she relies on the counsel of her male Commander Chakotay. When the show first aired, the time was ripe for this inversion of traditional sex-role stereotypes.

Deutsch: Titel der Sci-Fi Serie Star Trek:Raum...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not unlike William Shatner (who plays Captain Kirk in the original series), Mulgrew’s acting is a little wooden here and there. What’s different, however, is that wooden acting was more common on TV in the 1960s than the 1990s. So this might have been one factor preventing Voyager from becoming a full-fledged pop phenomenon like The Original Series and The Next Generation.

By the time the Voyager makes it home, however, Mulgrew puts in a solid performance as her older self who travels back in time to ensure the safety of her crew as they jump through a Borg infested wormhole. In fact, I felt she played her older self far more convincingly than her present self.¹

¹ For some years there were rumors that Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan were at odds on the set. These have recently been confirmed. Apparently Ryan would feel nauseous just thinking about having to do a scene with Mulgrew. See This is surprising because Janeway often plays a concerned “mother” figure to Seven, and does so quite well.



The Abyss

Topiel aka Abyss (1917). Russian poster (via Tumblr)

The idea of an abyss (Greek, abyssos, Latin abyssus) or bottomless pit is found in most cultures, cropping up in myth, legend, folklore and the arts.¹

In biblical Judaism the abyss lies deep within the earth, a place where evil spirits of the dead are banished (Job 32:22, Psalm 6:5, 143:7). Whereas in ancient Greece the majority of the dead retire to a gloomy underworld, an abyss of “shades” where they are punished for worldly sins.

The ancient Greeks talked a lot about the underworld but the idea of heaven was not well developed. Only a few ancient Greek heroes pass on to the auspicious Blessed Isles.

However, after the 5th century BCE the belief that the dead reside among the stars appears in Greek thought. But this differs radically from the concept of heaven as articulated by Jesus Christ.

In Hindu lore, a popular version of the Ramayana epic portrays the heroine Sita being consumed by a great opening in the earth. And the Druidic tradition tells of evil foes tumbling down into bottomless caverns. Likewise, the biblical Satan is bound by an angel and cast into a bottomless pit (Rev. 20:3).

The Romanian scholar of myth and religion, Mircea Eliade, says that myths about “binding” evil beings are quite plentiful. It’s as if the evil ones must be bound up by chords or some magical force to prevent them from destroying everything.

In the Beowulf myth, an evil water-troll is slain in her underwater lair by use of a magical sword discovered by the hero, deep under the water’s surface.

Mircea Eliade

Mircea Eliade (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More recently, Victorian Fairy imagery depicts watery underworlds inhabited by ghoulish beings, from which fairies are protected by dwelling, often sleepily, within a sort of magical cocoon.

New Testament (NT) accounts of an abyss refer to a hellish region from which a wild beast emerges to temporarily destroy prophets after they have completed their mission. The Abyss in the NT is likewise described as a prison for evil spirits (Luke 8:31; Rev 9:1-2; 11; 11:7-8).

In the modern era, the invention of the bathysphere and the submarine opened the door for pulp fiction and Hollywood “B” movies about underwater horrors.

An underwater abyss is also found in the widely respected science fiction film, The Abyss.

Sci-fi also depicts the abyss motif in outer space. In several episodes, Star Trek Voyager’s Captain Janeway stands perilously above an almost bottomless cylinder within a Borg ship.

Likewise, Star Wars‘ Luke Skywalker perches on a ledge over an abyss in the evil Emperor’s Death Star. And Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace is chockablock full of strange subterranean beings.

In psychoanalytic terms, Freudians tend to see the abyss as a symbol of the mother’s womb or the tumultuous forces of the instinctual id.

Jungians tend to regard the abyss as an archetypal image of the collective unconscious.

Regardless of the psychological school or religious group one adhers to, generally speaking it seems that a fear of total destruction coexists with a hope for victory over, and order arising from, the dark chaos of the abyss.

Twilight Zone episode “The Shelter” (1961).

As Rod Serling put it in the close of the 1961 Twilight Zone episode “The Shelter,” in which apparently normal American neighbors go beserk during an atomic bomb scare:

For civilization to survive the human race has to remain civilized.

¹ Actually, the idea of the abyss runs throughout most aspects of modern culture, to include comics and gaming. See:


The Borg

The Borg Queen and Seven of Nine – Image via Tumblr

In the American TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Borg are a disturbing species of cybernetic organisms whose sole purpose is to increase their alleged perfection by assimilating the intelligence and technology of weaker life forms throughout the galaxy.

Their technology enables them to psychically connect to a collective like a termite colony. Individuality is unknown and the Borg exist in a dark synchrony of de-individualizing amalgamation.

Among other things, they arguably represent the Orwellian extreme of unreflective political, corporate and religious yesmen and yeswomen who do whatever they’re told by authoritarian figures without heeding their own conscience.

The Borg image is particularly effective as it recasts previous Frankenstein and zombie myths within a futuristic scenario of techno-gloom. An interesting and optimistic twist, however, appears with the character Seven of Nine (played by actor Jerry Ryan and introduced in Star Trek: Voyager) who was once abducted by the Borg but is gradually re-humanized among the supportive crew of the Federation starship Voyager.

In the feature film Star Trek: First Contact (1996) we’re introduced to the hideously compelling Borg Queen—again, not unlike the Queen of a termite colony. She’s a frightening but, for some, darkly attractive creature who in the TV series Voyager is jealous of Captain Katherine Janeway, arguably a symbol of American drive and determination. Indeed, heroic Federation starship captains like James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard and Katherine Janeway represent the very opposite of the Borg’s chilling refrain: “Resistance is Futile.”

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Commander Chakotay

English: Robert Beltran on Fedcon 15 Conventio...

Robert Beltran on Fedcon 15 Convention, May 2006 in Fulda, Germany – Photo credit: Wikipedia

Commander Chakotay is second in command in the science fiction TV show Star Trek: Voyager, played by actor Robert Beltran (Eating Raoul, 1982)

As one of the Maquis peoples, Chakotay is often sought for spiritual assistance, usually in the form of guided meditation based on Native American beliefs and practices, such as controlled dreaming.

The Maquis descend from a Native American tribe which, hoping to preserve its traditions, departed from Earth to settle on the planet Trebus. Chakotay was born on Trebus several hundred years later.

Chakotay, for the most part, plays a supportive, nurturing (yin type) role as confidant to the willful and strong (yang type) Captain Katherine Janeway. But once in a while he’ll challenge her command decisions if he believes he’s in the right, especially with regard to the Maquis crew members aboard the Enterprise.

This character dynamic between Chakotay and Janeway was interesting in the 90s (when the show first ran) because it inverted traditional sex role stereotypes. Sure, Cagney & Lacey were around in the 80s and The Bionic Woman in the 70s, but a “feminine” man standing behind a “masculine” woman was, perhaps, something of a first for big time TV.