Star Trek 532: Nemesis

532. Nemesis

FORMULA: Darmok + The Mind's Eye + The Siege of AR-558

WHY WE LIKE IT: An attempt at linguistics.

WHY WE DON'T: All a dream.

REVIEW: Chakotay is dropped into someone else's war, which makes the obvious parallels to Vietnam rather appropriate. Jungle warfare, civilians under siege, and seemingly unethical enemies - it's all there. It's a way of exploring the psychology of hate, as his experiences teach him to hate and kill the "nemesis", even though he starts from an empathetic position (and indeed, it is left ambiguous whether either side is at all heinous).

It's also about cultural (and in Trek, species) bias. The Vori seem as friendly to us as they are to Chakotay because they look human. The Kradin look more like Nausicaans, and thus are monsters. We associate one with potential allies and the other with obvious villains. It's all relative though. In the Vietnam allegory, it might have come down to ideology (democracy vs. communism), but there's little doubt xenophobia played a part in demonizing the enemy.

And then there's the language. For once, an episode is written in a way that actually makes sense so far as the universal translator goes. If such technology were possible, I dare say it would have problems with context and nuance. It makes a sort of sense that their notion of looking is closer to glimpsing, or that they see trees as principally trunks. If I were to translate the etymological nuance of those words from French, for example, I would call looking "gazing" and trees "arborescences". Sometimes it's poetic, and others it's quite awkward (ex: nullifying for killing), especially in the mouth of the young girl who has trouble carrying it off. Ultimately though, this intellectual exercise is at cross-purposes with the emotional core of the story, a distraction more than a help. Still, the Vori do feel filled in as a culture, not only thanks to the language, but through the various rituals and beliefs presented.

Turns out most of the episode is an elaborate simulation, which is a bit of a cheat. Is it even a necessary twist? Just seems like the Vori are one more alien species using a complicated and inefficient strategy to achieve their ends. The episode ends in some heavy moralizing and never really addresses how this might relate to Chakotay's Maquis operations against the Cardassians. Note also the loss of a third shuttle in as many episodes (and 2 in less than 3 days according to the timeline set forth in the next episode). I don't mind waving a wand over the number of torpedos and shuttles aboard Voyager so long as they space these babies out!

LESSON: Language is a funny thing. War is not.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: Several good ideas here, but Nemesis bites off more than it can chew in trying to explore them all.


Stephen said...

this is actuallyn a voyager episode that you can think about after you watch it there are interesting plot twists and a chakotay actually gets the spotlight. i never thought of the missed oppurtunity of relating the story to the cardassians that would've surely put this ep. over the top.


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