Star Trek: Voyager – S03E23, Distant Origin

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Distant Origin is one of those brave Star Trek installments that I can’t help but admire. Not only is there a very strong message to support the story, but the execution is brilliant in terms of script, narration and dialogue.

The story begins with a few scientists of a superior race called Voth, some Saurians who find the remains of poor dead Hogan (see Basics Part II). The theory of Professor Gegen (Henry Woronicz), who’s at the head of the expedition, is that the origin of his race is Planet Earth, which contradicts the current Doctrine which holds that the Saurians are ancient beings predestined to dominate the quadrant in which they are located.

Gegen and his assistant Veer (Christopher Liam Moore) travel aboard Voyager to observe the crew with personal cloaking devices but are discovered and must escape. Gegen takes Chakotay with him, while the assistant remains on board. Shortly after, Janeway and the Doctor discover that indeed the planet of origin of the Saurians is Earth (what a coincidence!), and that they are nothing more than the result of millions of years of evolution of ancient dinosaurs. In the meantime, however, the ship is captured by the Saurian rulers and Gegen is forced to abjure…

In short, the metaphor of religious absolutisms clashing with scientific evidence seems clear to me! And the trial of Gegen is similar to what happened to Galileo Galilei in 1633 because he dared to question the geocentric Ptolemaic system supported by the Catholic Church. Even poor Galileo was forced to renounce his theses, only to see his merits recognized posthumously.

And since religious beliefs and the imposition of theses and doctrines without scientific basis certainly didn’t end with the recognition of the fact that Galileo was right, an episode like Distant Origin still has a truly incredible force!

Not to mention how interesting it is, for once, to meet a race that is stronger and more evolved than those of the Federation, and to see things from their point of view! There are some things that don’t add up in the episode, such as the universal translator that initially doesn’t work and then as if by magic begins to do so, or the Voyager computer that manages to perfectly predict the millennial evolution of a species, but they are small details. The dialogues between Chakotay, Gegen and Minister Odala (Concetta Tomei) make the episode worth watching not just once, but several times, with all its powerful messages!

Reinvigorated by this episode that comes after a series of disappointments and half fiascos (of the last five episodes, I can only save the splendid Before and After), full speed ahead towards the season finale! Hello!

PS: The Delta Flyers podcast shout out: Garrett Wang said straight away that Distant Origin is one of his favorite episodes, but Robert Duncan McNeill wasn’t as enthusiastic just because he generally prefers stories where the whole recurring cast is at the center of the story.


Previous episode: Real Life

Next episode: Worst Case Scenario


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