509. Sacred Ground
FORMULA: Emissary + Darmok + Emanations
WHY WE LIKE IT: Janeway shaken if not stirred.
WHY WE DON'T: Another script for Voyager to ignore later.
REVIEW: Maybe I only like Voyager when it's trying to be Deep Space 9, but Sacred Ground just done surprised me with its zen Buddhist exploration of faith. Logically following from Basics' themes, Janeway is forced to confront the limits of her world view and reliance on technology and technobabble solutions (and by extension, the show's). A trained scientist, it's hard for her to accept the unknowable and unexplainable, and some viewers may well be uncomfortable at her brazen (and at times tactless atheism, humanistic though it may be). If I were unkind, I'd call it a product of her arrogance.
The Nechani have a pretty fun religion going. The episode could have been ponderous and dour, but everyone we meet is personable and tends to get a smile out of me. Without malice, they still delight in giving Janeway exactly what she expects: tests and challenges. That's what she's all about. Collecting data. Believing technobabble will get her (and a comatose Kes) out of this particular jam. And so it goes until she must return to the Triad with an open mind and no preconceived expectations.
In the end, the Doctor does explain her success with a dose of technobabble, but she's already made the leap of faith. Can she ever go back? That look on Janeway's face is priceless. She's exhausted, but she's also seen her very way of thinking brought down. In this Buddhist fable, she has shed the weight of her former self and has been reborn, but you know it won't matter one bit. Despite these "lessons", the show will return to bafflegab in due course and Janeway will return to her stubborn, reasoned self.
Kudos to Robert Duncan McNeill for his directorial debut too. He gets some nice vocals into the usual score and paces the test montage rather well.
LESSON: "If you can explain everything, what's left to believe in?"
REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High (wahh?): Because it's irrelevant to everything surrounding it, I incorrectly remembered this episode as a possible Low. It's actually one of the more thought-provoking episodes of Voyager and I love the psychologically ambiguous ending.