Star Trek 543: Hunters

543. Hunters

FORMULA: Captive Pursuit + False Profits + Survivor (any season)

WHY WE LIKE IT: The Hirogen. Letters from home.

WHY WE DON'T: That the Hirogen couldn't maintain their size after this.

REVIEW: Our first real peek at the Hirogen and they're a very impressive race. Visually, they are - I was going to say huge, but no - they are IMMENSE! Their chitinous armors and weapons are cool too, and while their ship design is just ok (reminding one of the Krenim), the interiors are weird and unusual. For once, an alien species doesn't have the usual flat consoles we so love to use. Their hunter culture is sketched broadly, but effectively, with war paints and rituals that beg to be fleshed out and explained. There's a lot of promise here, and you know a race is going to be trouble when they have to be defeated by "death by black hole"!

And most certainly, Voyager is going to be on their radar. Not only is the ship full of species none of the Hirogen have on their walls yet, Janeway and crew just blew the last fuse on their ancient relay network, making them lose contact with each other. Not cool. But while the episode does turn into Gilligan's Island in that they lose contact with Starfleet again, they do manage to receive a message before the whole thing goes kaput. There's a coded urgent message we'll address when it becomes relevant, but the "letters from home" are the true story here, and the Hirogen, no matter how engaging in this first appearance, are merely set dressing.

The letters bring with them a host of character moments that enjoy both good acting and finely written reactions. Harry is the least interesting with his expected home sickness and impatience, Chakotay gets bad news about the Maquis (what happened? Deep Space 9 happened!), and B'Elanna doesn't expect a thing. Seven isn't expecting anything either, but is disturbed at the notion she might anyway. Tom certainly doesn't want to get one, as it would be a piece of his old life, one he would rather forget. Not for the first time, we get a sense that he would rather the ship never get home. Neelix is quite good as the impromptu mailman too.

The character we most linger on, however, is Janeway. She had, after all, a fiancé waiting for her back home, and not only did he move on with his life, but 14 months after giving up on her, he's already remarried. Kate Mulgrew reminds me here why she's good at this job, at once holding it in and transparent as a sheet of glass. She's pragmatic about it, but can also laugh at herself and her "Dear John" letter. The ending of the episode does burst the balloon when it comes to Janeway and Chakotay's "secret romance" though. I guess she just treats him as the gay friend she always pals around with.

LESSON: Mark is a compulsive proposer.

REWATCHABILITY - High: The fact that the human story manages to beat out the really very cool first outing of the Hirogen puts this in my Voyager Top 5.


LiamKav said...

Part of me wished that the letters contained a note for the ship's seamstress on how to make the new grey uniforms. Yeah, I can understand that keeping them seperate from "home" make them stand out. But as the series goes on and they have more and more contact with Starfleet, Janeway must have noticed that the uniforms changed. And, being Ms Starfleet, I'm surprised she didn't make everyone update.

(Of course, part of this is because I loves the First Contact uniforms. Second favourite, and since Voyager wasn't going to start wearing the Wrath of Kahn uniforms, I'd accept the greys.)


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