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Star Trek Voyager review – Nightingale

Summary: Kim finally gets his own command and turns into mini-Janeway.

Kim has always wanted his own command. This part of his character development went part of the way in Warhead and now in Nightingale he has the chance to go all

star trek voyager nightingale

"Maybe now they'll let me direct an episode"

the way by commanding his own starship. And after a barrage of lightweight episodes early on in this season, a serious, well-written episode like Nightingale is exactly what Voyager needed. While it might not have stood out as obviously during Voyager’s consistently better 6th season, in the anemic 7th season it is a godsend. Not only does Nightingale not feature leading performances by Seven, Janeway or the EMH, but it actually addresses continuity issues and contributes some much needed character development to a generally overlooked character. It has a logical plot that does not focus on Voyager being put into peril and is resolved through a clever and easy to follow tactical maneuver.

Nightingale does begin with a scene that Voyager has managed to turn into a cliche in only two years, the crew relaxing on the Delta Flyer just before alien trouble strikes. Still, once the trouble begins, Kim is faced with a tough dilemma Voyager hasn’t addressed in some time. Aid the medical ship that’s about to be destroyed even though he doesn’t know the nature of their conflict or follow Starfleet rules and continue on his way. The dilemma would be less gripping with an experienced officer who would know better than to make rush judgements based on casual perception, but Kim isn’t an experienced officer; just an overdue ensign eager for his own command. And once he arrives on the medical ship he discovers that they’ve lost their commander and are even more incompetent than the Voyager crew. With Kim behaving as the very model of Starfleet efficiency, it’s no wonder that they soon decide they want him in command.

Unfortunately Kim’s only model for Captain is Janeway and Janeway is a very bad role model. On his first return to Janeway, Kim justifies his actions by saying that it’s what Janeway herself would have done, and as such, Captain Kim does what Janeway would do. The result is that in no time at all Kim turns into mini-Janeway, taking over people’s consoles, dismissing their ideas and giving out insane orders. The difference is that unlike the Voyager Stepford crew which will follow any order Janeway gives until she’s knocked unconscious by her own stupidity and Chakotay can take over and try putting things right, the Nightingale crew is just using Kim to get home safely. They have no mythical devotion to him and think for themselves. So when Kim’s mini-Janeway routine reaches its insane height by ordering members of the ship’s crew to go against their own race and agenda by going back to Voyager, the only thing that would have been better than seeing the shock on Kim’s face when he realizes that “Captain” is just a title and not a superpower, would be for Janeway to be there absorbing the lesson with him.

But unlike Janeway, Kim can learn from his mistakes. And indeed Nightingale would have been a stronger episode if Kim really had been allowed to ponder what he did

star trek voyager nightingale

"Meet me for drinks after work"

wrong and learn from it on his own, without 7 of 9 delivering pat lectures on command to him. Indeed what exactly is the basis for casting Seven as a command guru anyway. Are TPTB so truly desperate to give her a role in every episode that they have a civilian who’s been human and on board Voyager for less time than Naomi, lecturing a Starfleet officer on command techniques? And for that matter, why during a crucial time for Voyager when so many systems need to be repaired, does Janeway send Seven away on a relatively frivolous mission she’s not particularly qualified for? If Itcheb is invaluable on Voyager, Seven must be far more so. As he himself suggested, Paris would have been a much better fit for this mission and he’s a lot less needed on Voyager than Seven is.

Kim’s biggest error centers around the same plot point where the episode’s biggest problem lies. The cloaking device. Kim never bothers to wonder why a medical ship is equipped with a cloaking device. Once their crew make it clear to both Janeway and Kim that they require their services, neither makes the obvious request for the specifications of the cloaking device. Certainly a cloak would make Voyager’s trip home a whole lot easier and it never even seem to be under consideration. A line stating that the cloak wouldn’t function with Voyager’s systems would have come in handy at this point.

Still, the crisis of the Nightingale manages a very effective and even exciting resolution, certainly a more effective and exciting resolution than Voyager’s usual response to a crisis. In true Captain style, Kim is prepared to go down with his ship, but unlike Janeway he actually has a Plan B and manages to outsmart the enemy without gloating about it all the while and even borrowing part of Kirk’s tactic for escaping Khan in Wrath of Khan to do it. Kim’s final scene with Neelix is an effective way of closing off this chapter of Kim’s character development and the use of soup ordering as defining command style is the kind of clever characterization Voyager desperately needs more of.

Nightingale’s B story is a pretty silly and cliched bit about Itcheb imagining that Lt. Torres is attracted to him. Still Manu Intraymi once again manages to do a decent

star trek voyager nightingale

"With Captain Kim in command, we're lucky to be alive."

job with mediocre material, a very valuable quality for an actor on a show like Voyager. For better or worse, it’s managed to contribute to Treknology the idea that love can be detected with a tricorder, courtesy of the Doc. Still it’s a shame that the producers have decided to devote as much screen time to Itcheb getting crossed signals from Torres and Paris, as they did to Tuvok going through Pon Farr.

The two alien species never get a chance to be fleshed out in any way but there was clearly no time in the episode for that. A little more time could also have been used to flesh out the credibility of Kim’s return to take command of the Nightingale’s bridge. The aliens seem to accept him back all too easily. A scene featuring Kim confronting the alien scientist and coming to terms with the fact that he dislikes the mission but can’t turn back now and will fulfill it regardless, would have enhanced the episode. Indeed having him learn those lessons of command from the alien scientist, instead of Seven to begin with might have taken Nightingale to a whole new level and would have turned the alien scientist from a faceless minor character, into someone more vital and memorable.

Still, all in all Nightingale is a good episode and a good lead in to the upcoming Holograms vs. Hirogen fest.

Next week: When Holograms attack Hirogen hunters.

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