I signed up for Netflix last week and they have tons of Star Trek and dinosaur shows. I am at peace.
I decided to go through the Star Trek: Voyager episode listings and found one I don’t remember ever seeing, which I guess is appropriate because it’s called “Unforgettable,” and it’s about the crew meeting an alien woman who claims they can’t remember meeting her before. It’s a weird thing for me to realize there’s a Star Trek episode I’ve never seen before, because I miss the style and format of the TV shows and this is as close as I’m going to get to bringing it back.
Unfortunately this episode sucks turds.
The concept is not so bad. Kellin is a Ramuran bounty hunter who visited the ship a month ago to recover a fugitive, and after she left the crew were made to forget about her in the interest of Ramuran security. Only trouble is that Kellin fell in love with Commander Chakotay, so now she has fled her society (the same high crime the earlier fugitive had committed) to seek asylum on Voyager. She’s there to continue her romance with Chakotay, but this just makes Chuckles all the more suspicious of her story. (Given Chakotay’s history with women I don’t blame him.)
The main problem is how they explain this memory-erasing stuff. Voyager‘s sensors can barely detect a Ramuran ship, even when it’s heavily damaged, and its transporters can only get a lock on Kellin for about two seconds at a time. (The transporter works fine on her when Chakotay goes down there and holds her in his arms, so I suppose it works best when it’s feeling sentimental.) The Doctor can scan her with his medical tricorder, but the readings disappear from the computer almost as soon as he takes them. Fortunately, the Doctor can diagnose her injuries with a simple visual analysis. Mind you, the Doctor is a tricorder (albeit an overgrown, huffy one), so his eyes shouldn’t work any better than his instruments.
Kellin explains that non-Ramurans are unable to form long-term memories of their experiences with Ramurans–once she left, the crew forgot about her within hours. Let me pull up the transcript:
CHAKOTAY: Is this done through technology? Telepathy?
KELLIN: It’s a factor of our biology. You see, our bodies produce a sort of pheromone which blocks the long-term memory engrams of others.
CHAKOTAY: Is that why the tricorder can’t scan you? Why we couldn’t get a transporter lock?
KELLIN: We’re impervious to those sort of devices.
I want to point out here that Chakotay is asking if a pheromone could interfere with the ship’s sensor readings. You might think this line would be delivered with sarcasm: “So your scent kept us from detecting your life signs through the vacuum of space?” But no, Robert Beltran is deadly earnest when he asks these questions–he’s concerned about the well being of their new guest and the mystery threatening his ship, and he wants to learn everything he can, so he just wants to be sure he knows what this pheromone can do.
None of this, of course, explains why the crew can’t remember talking to each other about Kellin. For example, B’Elanna doesn’t appear in this episode, so presumably she’s down in engineering the whole time and only hears about all of this secondhand. Maybe the idea is that Kellin is sweating all over any place she goes, so once she visits the mess hall the whole crew will inevitably be contaminated. I don’t know.
Does the pheromone erase all short-term memories that occurred during Kellin’s presence? Does the crew not remember doing anything at all that happened while she was aboard? Or do they remember everything except that this nice lady was standing around the whole time? I mean, let’s face it, Chakotay had sex with her. When he recalls the events of that evening, is it just a blank or does he remember jumping on top of empty space and having an awesome jerkoff session? Let’s say he gloated about it the next morning to Paris and Kim. I wonder how they remember it after this episode is over. “What’s up, broskis, guess who played with himself all night long!”
I don’t want to seem like I’m nitpicking the central conceit of a sci-fi story. I mean, I accept that these people eat and breathe, and other science facts, so I’m perfectly willing to believe there are mindwiping aliens. If Kellin hadn’t bothered to explain it, or muttered something about chroniton fields, I would have been fine with it. But the explanation given is profoundly stupid.
I came up with a better setup for the premise in about a minute. Goes like this: The Ramuran security force is armed with memory-wipey devices like in Men In Black, and computer viruses for purging alien records. Because they’re so secretive and xenophobic, operatives like Kellin are allowed to interact with outsiders but are required to destroy their memories and records of the interaction. (There was a Next Generation episode like this, and it worked better than this one.) If my idea sounds familiar then it’s because you watched this episode, since the Ramurans do have flashy-things and computer viruses. Which means the whole pheromone business is totally superfluous; it literally adds nothing to the story except plot holes and a reassurance that the people writing Star Trek: Voyager did not give a shit.
At the end, when Kellin has had her memory wiped and recants her request of asylum, Chakotay is left heartbroken and determined to make sure at least one of them remembers their romance. So we see him in the mess hall recording a personal log…with pen and paper, so the computer virus can’t get it. This is at once brilliant–ha ha, those aliens didn’t count on that!–and absurd–why didn’t the aliens think of that, and why didn’t you think of it the first time she left? Neelix goes out of his way to refer to “those ancient writing implements,” like some eight-year-old who doesn’t think he needs to learn cursive because he has an iPad. But I have run out of invective, because Voyager has taken me to the limit.
Next time, Neelix, next time.