And after a great episode like Remember, it was probably inevitable to get a weak episode. It doesn’t help that I’m not particularly fond of the character who’s the protagonist of the story, but I doubt that with any other character things would have improved particularly, given the shaky plot of Sacred Ground. Things are terrible from the beginning, with some of the Voyager crew visiting a temple on the planet Nechani and an accident involving Kes who enters a very dangerous area and is hit by an energy burst that sends her into a coma. If the area was so dangerous, I wonder, why didn’t anybody warn the Starfleet personnel? Or at least put a guard somewhere! To make matters worse, the Nechani consider everything as a punishment from the spirits and therefore do nothing to help curing poor Kes. What to do?
Neelix finds the solution: there’s a ritual that can be followed, and Janeway decides to be the one to mediate with the spirits and heal Kes. Here things could get interesting, with Janeway who as a good scientist embarks on this adventure thinking that the ritual will simply be a physical preparation for her to resist the kind of energy that reduced Kes to a comatose state. She hopes that the study of the effects of the ritual will help the Doctor to heal Kes. The problem is that the whole part of the ritual is very slow and even if it makes fun of the classic Star Trek rituals, it’s not that different from them. For example, the guide (played by Becky Ann Baker) is the standard spiritual guide of the standard religious planet (think of the Bajorans of Deep Space Nine). Also, even if the physical tests of endurance ultimately turns out to be just a game created to fulfil Janeway’s expectations, the fact remains that seeing them on the screen is boring.
And as if that wasn’t enough, after the Doctor’s first attempt based on Janeway’s physical evidence fails, the captain returns to the planet and continues with the ritual! Luckily, it doesn’t last long and the finale shows us Janeway who’s no longer so sure of her faith in science while she doubts the Doctor’s explanation of how Kes was cured. So, the message isn’t very interesting, the episode is boring… I would say that the only thing worthy of note about it is that the director is Robert Duncan McNeill, aka Tom Paris, and that he began here his career as a director, which is what he still does in these days. In fact, he hasn’t worked as an actor in the last fifteen years, but he has worked on more than 40 TV shows as a director. Ciao!
PS: The Delta Flyers podcast shout out: what a fantastic episode, with McNeill explaining in detail how he prepared for his directorial debut! With a lot of self-criticism, he recognizes the slightly too bland rhythm of Sacred Ground, due to the fact that he wanted his actors (and colleagues) to have all the time they needed to act out each scene and convey their characters’ feelings. It’s fantastic to know how for each scene there were motivations for all the participants, there was a message to convey, and even a specific character with whom the audience could identify! And then I couldn’t help but appreciate the reference to The X-Files regarding the ending which leaves the explanation open between scientific evidence and faith / paranormal phenomena…
Previous episode: Remember
Next episode: Future’s End