The Great Star Trek Voyager Rewatch: Nothing Human

When a parasitic alien life form latches on to B’Elanna, the Doctor is uncertain as to whether his medical knowledge will be sufficient to save her. Instead, the crew get to work on creating a specialist consultant to work with him – a Cardassian exobiologist named Crell Moset. Moset is undoubtedly brilliant, and the two holograms get along well – but one of the Maquis members of the crew has disturbing information about Moset’s past.

Star Trek delves headfirst into another of its trademark morality plays here, which examines the ethics of using medical knowledge gained through unlawful means. In a clear analogy to Nazi scientists performing horrific experiments on unwilling Jewish prisoners, Moset did unspeakable things to the Bajorans, and yet now B’Elanna’s life depends on the knowledge and expertise thus gained.

Is it wrong to use Moset’s knowledge, thus tacitly supporting his inhumane methods? Shouldn’t we honour the memory of those who died, and send a clear message that such research is unacceptable by simply deleting it all and refusing to profit from it? On the other hand, what’s done is done – shouldn’t we at least try to get something positive out of such terrible acts? Are we really in a position to examine the provenance of all our medical knowledge and throw out research which didn’t live up to contemporary ethical standards? Surely that would be an infeasible task – we should just take the body of knowledge that we have and ignore its origins.

It’s good that, after several  hundred episodes, Star Trek is still able to get us thinking about questions like this, but even so, Nothing Human is far from perfect. The framing plot device feels a little thin, with everything set up for convenient storytelling rather than because it makes sense in-universe.

But why?

  • Why is The Doctor unable to merely assimilate the exobiology database into his own program and learn how to treat B’Elanna that way? Is this maybe a limitation that has been set after his matrix started breaking down in The Swarm?
  • Why was knowledge of Moset’s actions not in the medical database? Sure, the Cardassians may have been reluctant to disclose it, but the Federation was allies with the Bajorans for several years before Voyager ended up in the Delta Quadrant.
  • In last season’s Message in a Bottle, Harry and Tom completely failed to create even a rudimentary medical hologram. Here, Harry is able to easily create a fully functional Moset hologram. Maybe Harry’s been practising over the last year for just such an eventuality, or maybe it was that magical “recursion algorithm” he installed.
  • Would anyone have cared so much if The Doctor had chosen a different face for his consultant? If he’d chosen an inoffensive human scientist who just happened to be using Moset’s research under the hood, it’s likely that no one would have noticed or cared.
  • B’Elanna is seen burning Klingon incense at the end of the episode, perhaps indicating that she is slowly coming to embrace her Klingon heritage.
  • Once again, we see Janeway ignore her Starfleet ethics and morality, because the lives of her crewmembers are what she cares about the most.
  • The Doctor accuses Moset of inhuman practices – well, of course, he’s not human! I assume this gets appropriately translated by the Universal Translator.

Lost, crashed or destroyed shuttlecraft running total: 11

Possibly salvageable shuttlecraft running total: 7

Number of times the entire crew gets enslaved or kicked off the ship: 3

Number of times Voyager gets destroyed: 3

Summary – Nothing Human: Who is the real monster in this episode?

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