Monday, August 29, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Prey"

The Hirogen return for their third of nine appearances. The first two have not exactly set the woods on fire, but “Prey” more than makes up for the lackluster start. It remains my favorite of the Hirogen episodes. The mood is dark and claustrophobic, with the right amount of action versus the patented Star Trek moral dilemma. More episodes of VOY should have been done in such a manner.

“Prey” begins with two Hirogen on the hunt for a species that is not revealed until the teaser’s end--one of Species 8472 left behind after their defeat by the Borg six months ago. The Hirogen appear to have killed the critter, but when Voyager encounters the Hirogen ship sometime later, they discover it survived, killed one Hirogen, severely wounded the other, and escaped. Sensing a chance to patch things up with the Hirogen, Janeway brings the wounded one on board for medical treatment.

As you can tell by the above photo, which is one of the neatest special effects shots of the series, Species 8472 invades Voyager. the crew is overwhelmed attempting to track it down through a deck in which it has destroyed life support and artificial gravity in order to safely barricade itself. The Hirogen hunter offers to hunt it down for the crew. Janeway is not thrilled with the idea, but with three other hirogen ships arriving soon, she has little choice. At this point, she believes the alien must be destroyed and the only way to avoid a hirogen attack is to let them complete their hunt.

As I said above, there is a very dark, claustrophobic mood as the Hirogen joins with spacesuit clad crewmembers in order to hunt Species 8472 through the damaged corridors while not knowing where it is or when it will attack. Things change quickly when Species 8472 forms a psychic link with Tuvok and informs him it no longer wants to fight, just go home.

Janeway locks the Hirogen hunter behind a force field in sickbay to keep him from killing Species 8472. She decides it is the humanitarian thing to do to send the alien home, even if it means fighting a battle with the approaching Hirogen ships. In order to send the alien home, she needs seven to use her Borg implants to open the portal. Seven refuses, saying not handing over species 8472 will compel the Hirogen to destroy Voyager. she will not be a party to that. Janeway angrily dismisses her of duty. Torres attempts to open the portal instead, with little success, as the Hirogen begin pounding Voyager. Seven is called back into action when Species 8472 seems to recover from much of its wounds and needs to be tranquilized by Borg nanoprobes. The Hirogen is sickbay has escaped and resumes the hunt. He and Species 8472 battle one another as Seven makes the decision to beam them both to a hirogen ship. With that done, they call off the attack on Voyager. seven is relieved of all suty as punishment for disobeying orders and condemning Species 8472 to death.

If there is a flaw to “Prey,” it is that very little attention is paid to the moral conflict between Janeway and Seven. Janeway is being a humanitarian in a situation in which her good deed would not only not be reciprocated if the roles were reversed, but dooms her crew, as they clearly cannot fight off the Hirogen ships. Seven was thinking in terms of their survival. Species 8472 had attacked them, therefore it forfeit any right of protection. Giving it up to the Hirogen who were about to destroy them is a prudent act of self-defense, even if morally dubious. Does anyone really want to die for this alien that was just trying to kill them a few hours ago? Are all their lives worth sacrificing for it? Seven has a better point than does Janeway. These are aliens without human values in the first place. Both are willing to kill everyone in their path. Let them kill each other instead and space us all. Janeway does not agree, but there is not much offered up to argue her point. Seven even gets in the last word--I saved the ship we you could not, and that is what is why I am being punished. Her rationale does not seem far from the truth.

“Prey” is a good episode. One of the best in the fourth season thus far. I am still not a fan of the Hirogen, but this is about the best they are ever going to be presented. Later, they are nothing more than a shallow hunter/gather species nearly hunting itself to extinction. One even wonders how they developed the high technology they have being such hunting obsessed nomads without so much as a home planet. Species 8472 was far more interesting here than its previous appearance, as well. Things will not get much better with them, either. Savor the good stuff while you can.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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