Perchance to Dream

A Review of the Star Trek: Voyager Episode Remember

I have passed through a number of phases in my personal evaluation of Remeber. As an adolescent, I found it unremarkable. Dramatically intense, sure, but the Romeo and Juliet-style love story on its surface didn't resonate with me. Rewatching Voyager as an adult, I was able to focus my attention deeper elements of Remember's narrative arc, which is an call to ethical action and awareness.

Today, I have mixed feelings about Remember. I include it somewhat hesitantly in my top ten list of Voyager episodes. The power of its deeper story is undeniable. It is a rallying cry for us to pass on the memory of past crimes, so that they are never repeated. However, the love story that serves as the crucible for that message is, in my opinion, compromised by it and somewhat at odds with the goals of the episode overall.

By the events of Remember, the starship Voyager has traveled beyond Neelix's known region of space and the crew has begun meeting cultures that they know absolutely nothing about. The episode opens with the captain announcing that they have happened upon a colony of the planet Enaras. They offer to ferry a group of travelers from the colony to their homeworld, and it is during this trip that the bulk of the episode's action takes place.

The day that the Enarans arrive, the ship's chief engineer, B'ellana Torres, begins having vivid dreams, in which she is a young Enaran woman carrying on a relationship with a young man named Dathan, of whom her father deeply disapproves. The crux of that disapproval is Dathan's social status as a "regressive."

At first B'ellana merely enjoys the romantic portions of the dreams, but as they continue, they grow darker and more fraught, and it is then that she starts worrying about hostile intent amongst the Enarans, who possess telepathic abilities. The dreams continue, and in then, the dominant culture of Enara grows more and more hostile toward the regressives, and B'ellana, or rather, the woman whose memories B'ellana is receiving in her sleep, is increasingly pressured into choosing between obedience to her father and faithfulness to her lover.

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet works because of the ambiguity around the status of the lovers' feelings for one another. Romeo is infatuated with a woman named Rosaline, a love he quickly forgets after meeting Juliet. Both declare their eternal love for one another shortly after meeting. It is unclear whether their feelings for one another are deep enough to stand the test of years of marriage, and they die too quickly for that ever to answered definitively.

The love story in Remember presents many similar elements. The young Enaran woman of B'ellana's dreams cannot meet her lover in normal social situations, and so their opportunities for interaction are limited. And while the family members of Romeo and Juliet are merely self-serving, the father figure in Remember is a representative of a genocidal regime. The moral force of that theme forces the love story into a good/evil binary, which is unfortunate, because it is ambiguity which lends romance its real power.

Still, I have to admit that, judged solely on its realization of Enaran society, Remember is aesthetically successful. The narrative introduces us to crucial elements of their culture through their interactions with the crew aboard Voyager, setting up later discoveries about the nature of their disdain for the regressives and the means through which B'ellana is receiving Enaran memories.

The way in which those memories walk the viewer through the easy steps down the slippery slope to complicity is also impressive. We see all of the tiny surrenders, the little hesitations that become compliance rather than defiance. And then, unlike in human history, the bad guys actually win. For helping the viewer walk that particularly dark road, and then understand how to change their own (real) world view, Remember deserves to be itself remembered. Not all of its elements work together extraordinarily well, but it is a story worth considering, its charge fully worth heeding.

Categories: Television Narrative Analysis

Tags: Star Trek: Voyager