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Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Macrocosm”


Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Macrocosm”

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Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Macrocosm”


Published on July 30, 2020

Screenshot: CBS
Star Trek: Voyager
Screenshot: CBS

Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by Alexander Singer
Season 3, Episode 12
Production episode 154
Original air date: December 11, 1996
Stardate: 50425.1

Captain’s log. Neelix and Janeway are concluding a trading mission with the Tak Tak, who speak in very ritualistic manners that include not just words but gestures and body language. (Janeway greatly insults them by putting her hands on her hips, and Neelix has to go through a lengthy apology to fix it.)

They return to Voyager on their shuttlecraft only to find it out of position and not responding to hails, with life signs impossible to detect. They board to find nobody around, the computer down, and no sign of anybody. They find work on a control panel abandoned in midstream, with the toolbox open. Janeway detects a signal from the Wildman quarters, but it turns out to be Neelix’s talk show on her com terminal. There’s no sign of Wildman or her daughter.

They follow a buzzing sound in the corridor to a transporter room, where they find a hole punched in the transporter pad and some slime around it. Then main power goes down.

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They try to take a turbolift to the bridge, but find the way blocked by something that bursts through the bulkhead and hits Neelix. When Janeway goes for an emergency medikit, Neelix screams, and when she goes back, he’s gone.

She goes to engineering to raid a weapons locker. (The ship doesn’t have an armory? They store weapons in a locker next to the warp core?) Armed with a bunch of stuff, including a knife and a phaser rifle—and also stripping down to a tank top due to the extreme heat, as main power being down means the heat from the warp engines isn’t venting—she heads to the bridge. She manages to get a distress call out, but unbeknownst to her, something hits her arm.

She gets enough of internal sensors online to find life signs in the mess hall. Heading there, she finds several crew members unconscious, including Kim and Chakotay. She also notices a growth on their necks, and a small organism exits from the wound as Janeway watches. Then a large creature attacks Janeway, which she manages to kill, but it also wounds her. She’s also starting to experience the same symptoms Neelix showed.

Stumbling to sickbay, she meets the EMH, who greets her with a phaser before realizing who she is.

He fills her in on what happened while he mends her wounds from the creature’s attack. Voyager received a distress call from a mining colony that was suffering from a virus. The EMH beams down to investigate, since he’s immune to viruses and can do that now with his mobile emitter. The virus appears to be literally growing so that it exists macroscopically, not just microscopically like most viruses. At this point, he needs his lab to synthesize a cure.

Chakotay refuses to allow him to beam a sample of the virus back, he’ll just have to settle for the data on his tricorder. He beams back, and the biofilter detects some of the virus and purges it. However, some of the virus got into the ship’s systems before the purge happened. It infects one of the bioneural gelpacks in the mess hall. When Torres goes to fix it, the gelpack explodes and she’s hit with slime—the same stuff Janeway and Neelix found on the transporter pad—and gets sick. The EMH quarantines the mess hall and takes a specimen back to sickbay. However, it grows before their eyes, and breaks out of the force field Kes put on it. But the EMH hits it with the antigen he’s synthesized and it kills it.

Star Trek: Voyager
Screenshot: CBS

The problem is, the virus has spread all around the ship. They can detect the EMH’s holomatrix, so every time he tries to spread the antigen, he’s attacked by the big-ass version of the virus, the same way Janeway was. The viruses themselves are herding all the crew (who are all unconscious) into either the mess hall or one of the cargo bays.

The good news is, the EMH tests the antigen on Janeway, and it cures her, so it does work. They have to figure out how to get it to the rest of the crew. They each take a sample with them and head toward environmental control on deck twelve. If the EMH makes it first, she’ll talk him through how to send it through the vents; if she makes it first, she’ll do it.

The EMH is ambushed by the macrovirus en route, and has to take refuge in a shuttlecraft. And while on the way there, the ship is attacked. The Tak Tak heard Janeway’s distress signal, but they’re familiar with the virus and they have no cure, so they’re “purifying” Voyager by destroying it. Janeway urges them to stop firing as they do have a cure, and will share it. The Tak Tak gives her an hour.

Unfortunately, the attack trashed environmental control. So Janeway instead constructs an antigen bomb and then activates Holodeck 2 with the Paxau Resort program. Since the virus is attracted to holomatrices, they all head there. The EMH now has a clear path to the mess hall and cargo bays to administer the cure. Janeway heads to Holodeck 2 with the antigen bomb and—after being forced to kill one macrovirus with her knife—tosses it in and kills all the viruses.

The Tak Tak gratefully accept the cure, and Voyager is on its way, making repairs. Janeway authorizes R&R for the crew; Chakotay invites her to go skiing on the holodeck, but she prefers to stay in her ready room and work on a painting, having had enough physical activity for a while.

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway gets to roam the corridors of Voyager while carrying a massive gun and basically play action hero for an hour. It’s actually kinda cool.

Her habit of standing with her hands on her hips also gets her in trouble with the Tak Tak. After her last talk with them, she pointedly waits until the channel is closed before she puts her hands on her hips again.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. After Neelix gets her out of hot water with the Tak Tak, Janeway talks about the possibility of making him an ambassador. It’s not clear if she’s kidding or not, but Neelix certainly takes the notion seriously.

Star Trek: Voyager
Screenshot: CBS

Half and half. Torres is patient zero for the virus’s infection of Voyager, and the sickness that results from it is enough to make her queasy—no mean feat for someone of Klingon heritage like her who has two stomachs, and she’s nauseous in both

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH is the one responsible for bringing the virus on board, but he’s also the only one immune to it and the one who cures it, so there’s that.

What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. Janeway uses the holodeck to gather all the viruses in one place and then wipe them out. It’s Holodeck 2, which means there’s at least one more holodeck on board, which means this doesn’t destroy the holodeck forever, sadly. (They probably fixed #2, too…)

Do it.

“How do I get there from here?”

“Jefferies Tube 11, take a left to Section 31 and straight down past the tractor-beam emitter until you hit Deck 10. Get out at Section 3 and follow the corridor all the way around until—”

“—until I hit the shuttlebay. Then I crawl through Access Port 9, go past three airlocks, and then two decks down. Environmental Control is at the end of the hall. Now I remember! Who designed this ship anyway?”

–The EMH asking Janeway for directions

Welcome aboard. Albie Selznick, who is also a movement coach and choreographer, plays the Tak Tak representative. He previously appeared in TNG‘s “Cost of Living” as the juggler, and he’ll return on “The Voyager Conspiracy” as Tash. His choreography will also be used in “Natural Law.”

Michael Fiske plays the sick miner.

Trivial matters: Brannon Braga’s original concept was to do an episode that was very low on dialogue, with Janeway bad-ass-ing her way through the ship with a phaser rifle and fighting the virus, but the need to explain what was going on meant there had to be scenes with extensive dialogue, to his disappointment.

The macrovirus creatures were created entirely using CGI, still a very new technology at the time. The success of these creatures would lead to the introduction of the more ambitious all-CG Species 8472 in the season-ending “Scorpion.”

When Janeway says there’s fluid in Neelix’s lungs, he corrects her to “lung,” as Neelix only has the one, it a transplant from Kes, which happened in “Phage” when the Vidiians stole Neelix’s original lungs.

Samantha Wildman doesn’t appear, but is mentioned, as is her daughter, and we get to see her playmat with toys in the Wildman quarters.

Neelix’s talk show from “Investigations” has apparently been renamed Good Morning, Voyager and Wildman is an avid viewer. Ensign Kaplan was a guest on the episode that aired the day Neelix and Janeway returned.

The Tak Tak being insulted by the gesture of someone putting their hands on their hips was a good-natured dig at Kate Mulgrew’s habit of standing in that particular pose.

Star Trek: Voyager
Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “I may never put my hands on my hips again.” It only took another ten years, but Star Trek finally got their Vasquez.

Okay, so the original conception of the character that eventually became Tasha Yar was a character named Macha Hernandez, who was patterned after Jenette Goldstein’s badass character in Aliens. But then they cast the incredibly blonde Denise Crosby, and changed the character’s name.

However, a decade later, we get Captain Janeway in a tank top and carrying a big-ass phaser rifle looking for all the world like Vasquez, and it’s pretty fabulous.

I want to like this episode more than I do, mainly because the opening is so promising. This is what I was hoping for in “Projections” when the EMH thought he was stranded alone on the ship, and it goes along beautifully for quite a while. It’s a nice action mystery, where Janeway is trying to figure out what happened.

But then we do find out what happened, and it all becomes significantly less interesting—and, more to the point, less sensible.

Okay, when Janeway and Neelix arrive, the computer’s down, environmental control is shot, internal sensors are out, communications are down—all this points to some very sophisticated sabotage.

Except then we find out that it’s just a very very big virus. One that is obviously not sentient, but acts only on instinct to propagate. That part explains why the crew is all gathered in the mess hall or the cargo bays, since new spores of the virus are created in infected people, and it makes sense to gather them all in groups to make things easier.

But how the hell did the macroviruses trash the computer? Or the sensors? Or environmental control? Or communications? It makes no sense that they would trash just those systems that would keep Janeway and Neelix from finding out what’s happening. Plus the virus isn’t instantaneous, so why was Wildman’s com terminal and the work in the corridor abandoned midstream like that? It’s a cheap, stupid way to create artificial suspense.

On top of that, the Tak Tak then attack—which is fine, in and of itself, but their weapons fire just happens to fry the exact system they need to spread the antigen. It wouldn’t be so bad except every other bit of damage in the episode is exactly what’s needed to drag the plot out. It’s never good when you can see the strings the writer is pulling.

It’s too bad, because the episode is still tremendous fun, mostly because the vast majority of the screen time is either Janeway being a badass or the EMH being awesome and taking his mobile emitter out for a stroll. It just suffers from way too many stupid writer tricks.

Warp factor rating: 5

Keith R.A. DeCandido can be seen talking about his upcoming work for eSpec Books on one of the “Hot Off the Press” panels from Con-Tinual: The Con that Never Ends on Facebook, alongside Danielle Ackley-McPhail, James Chambers, Megan Mackie, and Robert E. Waters. He was also interviewed at Pensacon in February for “Got a Minute.”

About the Author

Keith R.A. DeCandido


Keith R.A. DeCandido has been writing about popular culture for this site since 2011, primarily but not exclusively writing about Star Trek and screen adaptations of superhero comics. He is also the author of more than 60 novels, more than 100 short stories, and around 50 comic books, both in a variety of licensed universes from Alien to Zorro, as well as in worlds of his own creation. Read his blog, follow him on Facebook, The Site Formerly Known As Twitter, Instagram, Threads, and Blue Sky, and follow him on YouTube and Patreon.
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