Whilst discussing Earth history, Captain Janeway finds herself reminiscing about one of her inspirational ancestors, Shannon O’Donnel. Although it was the stories of Shannon’s exploits that led Janeway to want to become a pioneering space explorer, what the captain doesn’t know is that the truth about O’Donnel’s life is far more prosaic.
Star Trek allows for a lot of latitude in the kinds of episodes one can tell within its framework – between the possibilities offered by time travel, alien civilisations and holodecks, there’s plenty of room to manoeuvre. And yet not since Assignment: Earth has an episode felt less like Star Trek.
11:59 feels like a story someone wanted to write for their portfolio, which they duly shoehorned into their current job, namely writing for Star Trek Voyager. The bulk of the episode takes place at the end of the year 2000, and follows Shannon O’Donnel (also played by Kaye Mulgrew), and her encounter with grumpy old bookstore owner Henry Janeway. Apart from the twist in which the beloved old bookshop doesn’t get to defy the march of progress and remain open (and hang on, that was already done in You’ve Got Mail anyway), it’s a pretty on the rails romantic drama, compressed into under forty minutes.
With that in mind, I don’t really care much for this episode. The only point I really appreciate is the disparity between Janeway’s perception of the past, and how things actually were. Janeway grew up hearing that Shannon O’Donnel was an inspirational hero, but when all’s said and done, she led a largely ordinary life. Not only is there nothing wrong with that, though, but perhaps what’s more important than reality is the effect she had on a young Kathryn Janeway. Just think, without Shannon O’Donnel, Voyager as we know it would not exist.
Point of Note
- Is the Class-Y cluster that Voyager is headed towards anything to do with Class-Y planets?
- Why is everyone on Voyager so obsessed with the minutiae of Earth history, especiall pre-21st century? It’s like the writers of this show were 20th century humans or something.
- We should note that Neelix’s amazing unconventional method for finding information on Shannon O’Donnel was simply to expand the search to cover non-Federation databases. Could Seven really not have thought of that on her own?
- Why does Voyager have all these random extra databases anyway? Did someone just download the entire 24th century internet before they left Federation space?
- Given that Kathryn Janeway and Shannon O’Donnel are only distantly related, it’s amazing that they look so similar.
- Are we really expected to believe that Shannon wanted to live with Henry and Jason forever after staying with them for just a couple of nights.
- Wouldn’t it be great if Kathryn Janeway was actually descended from Jason Janeway, and thus wasn’t related to Shannon at all?
- Shannon claims she can “email everyone within a hundred mile radius”. Given that this isn’t how email works – especially since Henry seems unlikely to have amassed a mailing list of such people – presumably this is just a poorly worded way of saying “I can email people much faster than you can write, photocopy and post letters to all of them”.
Lost, crashed or destroyed shuttlecraft running total: 15
Possibly salvageable shuttlecraft running total: 9
Number of times the entire crew gets enslaved or kicked off the ship: 3
Number of times a version of Voyager gets destroyed: 4
Summary – 11:59: Someone slipped a non Star Trek episode into Star Trek.