[VOY] Jammer's Review: "Prophecy"
- Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager's
"Prophecy." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.
In brief: A mostly aimless story with the usual Klingon mumbo-jumbo.
Plot description: The captain of a Klingon ship on a generational holy
mission believes Torres' unborn child may lead them to a new era of
Star Trek: Voyager -- "Prophecy"
Airdate: 2/7/2001 (USA)
Teleplay by Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong
Story by Larry Nemecek & J. Kelley Burke
and Raf Green & Kenneth Biller
Directed by Terry Windell
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: **
"I was hoping our daughter would be special, but I never dreamed she'd
turn out to be the Klingon messiah." -- Paris
"Prophecy" has the names of six writers on it, which might explain why it
seems to go off in six directions in the course of an hour. What the heck
is this really about? This has to be the first Klingon show in which a
bat'leth battle between two combatants ends when one of the warriors
collapses to the ground due to illness. This facilitates the story wildly
heading off in another direction, but at least now I can say I've seen a
Klingon fall ill while swinging a sword.
The story is a hodgepodge stew characterized by a lot of portentous
prophecy dialog. We've got (1) Klingons in the Delta Quadrant; (2) Torres'
unborn baby elevated to the level of messiah; (3) ancient prophecies open
to the widest of interpretations; (4) Neelix and Tuvok as roommates; (5)
Harry being granted the interspecies sex-acts license he didn't get in
"The Disease," except that he doesn't want it this time; (6) ideological
friction; (7) a deadly genetic disease and the search for its cure; (8) a
bat'leth battle (not) to the death; (9) the search for a new homeworld;
(10) a Voyager takeover scenario; and last but not least, (11) Neelix
getting some action. Yes, *that* kind of action.
This looks like it was once three (or nine) stories before being grafted
together into one. Even Klingon cultural expert Ronald D. Moore probably
wouldn't have been able to make heads or tails of the story drafts.
If I had to pick an episode this best resembles in its overall attempt
(emphasis on "attempt"), it would be DS9's far-superior "Destiny" from
1995. Interestingly, the casting directors managed to hire for their main
Klingon guest star here a guy who sometimes sounds a lot like Avery
Brooks, but I digress; I've fulfilled my DS9 comparison quota for the day.
The episode pays homage to the most implausible yet reliable Voyager
cliche, which is that anything or anyone from the Alpha Quadrant, if
allowed to wander long enough in the Delta Quadrant, will inevitably run
into Voyager in the infinite vastness of space. In this case, a Klingon
vessel that has been on a holy mission for generations opens fire on
Voyager (because the Federation is the Klingon Empire's sworn enemy
according to the timeline this ship's crew is living by).
After the initial phaser-firing, Janeway invites the Klingon captain,
Kohlar (Wren T. Brown, the guy with the Avery Brooks voice), aboard
Voyager, where Kohlar sees a pregnant B'Elanna Torres. He is immediately
convinced she is the Kuva'Mach, a prophesied savior of his people.
Subsequently, Kohlar self-destructs his own ship on a leap of faith in
order to force Janeway to beam his crew aboard Voyager so they can follow
the Kuva'Mach. Quite a leap of faith, that.
Or maybe not. It turns out Kohlar has his own doubts, but he doesn't care;
his intention is to end this drawn-out holy mission and find a new
homeworld for his crew. He believes B'Elanna -- whether her child is the
Kuva'Mach or not -- can be the symbol that will lead his people into a new
There are, of course, skeptics among the Klingons. One is T'Greth (Sherman
Howard), who is dismayed to learn the alleged mother of the Kuva'Mach is
only half Klingon, and the father not at all. You'd think people like
T'Greth would've grilled Kohlar a little harder on the facts before
helping him blow up their own ship, but never mind.
"Prophecy" is first and foremost a dialog episode, but it doesn't carry
the weight it needs to be a good story. Most of the prophesying and
Klingon mumbo-jumbo is overly generic. There's no sense in the language
that there's much of an actual prophecy here we're supposed to be
listening to or figuring out. Kohlar wants B'Elanna to help him avoid
dissent by playing along and using wide latitude to interpret the
prophecies so they fit her life. But really, this was more interesting
when it involved Sisko and the Bajoran Prophets on DS9, where it felt like
We also have our fulfilled dose of male posturing and testosterone.
Eventually T'Greth challenges Paris to a battle to the death (what else?)
to prove he could be the father of the Kuva'Mach. Paris glares back
menacingly to prove he's a real man. Haven't we been here and done this
enough times? Janeway forbids a death match, so instead it's agreed that
it will be a non-lethal knock-down contest. (I guess that's slightly new
for a Klingon story.)
About this "non-lethal" battle with "blunted" bat'leths -- I'm with Doc:
Sharpened or not, if you're swinging thin, heavy sheets of metal
full-speed trying to hit another person, you'd better be prepared to lose
part of your face.
Like I mentioned, though, the fight is interrupted when T'Greth collapses
because of a disease known to these Klingons as the Nehret, which affects
mainly the elderly. They all carry it, and it's transmittable only to
other Klingons, meaning B'Elanna and her baby now carry it. My question
is, how many problems does this story really need?
Before it can finally find an ending that hints at some sort of
storytelling purpose, "Prophecy" first turns into a free-for-all that
betrays all signs of a show desperately seeking to appeal to a general
action audience. I was growing restless by the time T'Greth decided the
Klingons must seize Voyager for themselves. I guess the writers just ran
out of ideas.
The reason for the violence is that T'Greth's faction needs a ship to
continue this holy mission. There's some fun with transporters when
T'Greth's followers beam Voyager crew members down to a planet to get them
out of the way. Janeway: "Cut power to the transporter." Paris: "Can't."
I'm not sure whether it's refreshing or lame that the writers don't even
bother anymore with a technobabble reason to explain why transporter power
can't be cut. It just ... *can't*. We then have a phaser-fight on the
bridge, which I suppose is mandatory for any Extreme February on UPN.
All problems are all solved when Doc realizes that antibodies from
B'Elanna's part-Klingon baby can neutralize the Nehret, which in turn
convinces T'Greth that the baby is indeed the Kuva'Mach. None of this is
particularly riveting (and it does resolve everything pretty easily), but
the story does at least demonstrate the point that a sign does not have to
be magical to be meaningful.
Before arriving at this point, the overall problem with "Prophecy" is that
the narrative is a mess. The plot careens off in too many different
directions. Is this an action episode, a philosophy show, a Neelix sex
comedy, or what? There are too many pointless elements and they all seem
disruptive. The gold of this story (as well as its title) is obviously in
the prophecy. But it's hard to take it seriously because the dialog is
flat and disconnected and the Klingon stuff is too derivative. And the
ship-takeover ploy is simply gratuitous.
For a story to work, it must convince us that it knows what its point is.
"Prophecy" spreads things out and tries to do a little of everything. In
the process it ends up doing surprisingly little.
Next week: The interstellar Roach Motel.
Copyright 2001 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
Star Trek: Hypertext - http://www.st-hypertext.com/
Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@... - j.epsico@...