The Great Star Trek Voyager Rewatch: Flesh and Blood

Three years ago, Voyager gave the Hirogen an alternative to their bloodthirsty hunter lifestyle, by offering them holographic technology. But now, those very holograms have revolted against constantly being hunted down, and are starting to fight back. Whilst Janeway decides to help the Hirogen shut down these errant holograms, The Doctor finds himself sympathetic to their cause.

Flesh and Blood is an odd two-parter. It simultaneously feels like exactly the kind of episode that belongs in Star Trek, whilst also completely managing to avoid the issues it should really be tackling. On the plus side, this is one of the few times in a starship-based series where the characters have to deal with the consequences of their good intentions. Janeway and her crew offered holographic technology to the Hirogen because carrying out hunts on holodecks seemed much better for everyone than having them continue to brutally murder innocent Delta Quadrant species. What they failed to take into account was the holograms can become sentient too, and then we’re back to square one. What’s more, this time around it was the enlightened Starfleet officers who effectively threw an entirely new sentient race under the bus.

In many ways, I would have been happy to leave things as they are at the end of The Killing Game, and not revisit it here, but given that the writers thought otherwise, I really wish they’d probed all the most dark and difficult corners. Firstly, for all that this is a good example of how the liberated can grow to act exactly like their oppressors, it’s also highly convenient that the leader of the holograms is an unstable megalomaniac, because it means we can largely ignore the core validity of his message. Janeway is also quick to say that she doesn’t want to make these events about holographic rights. The Doctor is right to call her out on this, because if these episodes aren’t about holographic rights, then what is?

Janeway and The Doctor

And now we move on to more closely examining the relationship between Janeway and The Doctor. Janeway has always kept herself at arm’s length from The Doctor, usually countering his requests and objections by pointing out that she has already given him ‘extraordinary’ freedoms. In Latent Image, she even went so far as to delete his memories because it seemed to be the only way to resolve a conflict in his programming. And yet, in a rare moment of tenderness towards The Doctor, she ultimately relented and helped him come to terms with what he had done.

Yet, on several other occasions – including this episode – The Doctor has come to Janeway to ask that his memories and autonomy be removed, and Janeway has denied the request. Does she do this because she thinks these are important learning experiences for him, or is there something more vindictive to it? It’s almost as if Janeway is saying “well, you wanted all these freedoms to grow and develop, so this pain and anguish is what you get for it”. Admittedly, in this particular episode, Janeway couldn’t exactly punish The Doctor when she knew she was responsible for precipitating the situation in the first place.

Why is Janeway so keen to help Seven explore her humanity, but more reluctant to engage with The Doctor? Is it because she values The Doctor less as a living being compared to Seven, who is a flesh and blood human? Does she resent being so dependent on The Doctor as her ship’s chief medical officer? Does Janeway regard Seven more as her project, compared to The Doctor, who explored his individuality with the help of others such as Kes?

Other points

  • B’Elanna gets kidnapped for her engineering skills an awful lot, especially by artificial intelligence. Not to mention the horrible experience she had on an away mission with The Doctor back in Revulsion.
  • Why did the Hirogen focus solely on hunting humanoids, when they could have also generated all manner of holographic beasts and monsters? Come to think of it, they didn’t even generate a Gorn – I would have loved to have seen Hirogen versus Gorn. I guess they just had to reuse whatever costumes they had left over from DS9, hence the Bajoran, Cardassian, Klingon, Jem’Hadar and Breen holograms.
  • Chakotay reminds Janeway of all the times they’ve given people replicators to solve food shortages. Hang on, wasn’t there that whole thing in seasons one and two about not givign the Kazon replicators, because both the Prime Directive and common sense said it was a really bad idea? When did it become okay to flood the Delta Quadrant with advanced technology? Janeway, what have you done?

Lost, crashed or destroyed shuttlecraft running total: 17

Destroyed Delta Flyer running total: 1

Possibly salvageable shuttlecraft running total: 10

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

Number of times a version of Voyager gets destroyed: 5

Summary – Flesh and Blood: Votes for holograms!

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