Random Review: The Omega Directive (VOY)

Star Trek: Voyager

“The Omega Directive”

Season 4, Episode 21

First aired: April 15, 1998

Network: UPN

Teleplay by: Lisa Klink

Story by: Jimmy Diggs and Steve J. Kay

Directed by: Victor Lobi

Log line: Captain Janeway must carry out a top-secret Starfleet directive regarding the most powerful substance known to exist.

See Memory Alpha for a complete plot summary.

Non-spoiler review: An attempt to tell a character story inside a high-concept science fiction plot gives us some interesting insight into Seven of Nine’s journey towards humanity as well as her time with the Borg. However, the episode raises far too many questions that go completely unacknowledged by the script.

omega directive 2

Analysis:  As a character piece for Seven, who was introduced at the beginning of this season of Voyager, “The Omega Directive” does some interesting things. We see some of the values that her time with the Borg instilled in her as well as her coming to grips with the reality of her newfound humanity. She has to decide whether her own personal goals are more important than the ship’s and at the end she has the beginnings of a religious experience when she witnesses Omega come together spontaneously.

Around all this is a Starfleet captain and crew taking actions that are completely against many of the principles of the Federation and Star Trek in general. Janeway suspends the Prime Directive, invades an alien world, steals their technology and then destroys it. In a normal situation, that’s at least four violations of basic rules and principles that are well-established as Federation policy.

Janeway herself makes the case (through her standing orders from Starfleet) that the Omega substance is so deadly that it must be destroyed. That’s potentially a valid viewpoint — especially given that an Omega reaction could rob Voyager’s ability to go to warp — but Seven is the only character who questions the plan of attack. And she’s doing it for personal reasons, not because Janeway is asking the crew to temporarily throw away their principles. This feels like a first draft of a script that needs another scene or two in the middle to let the characters hash out the right thing to do.

Chakotay, for one, should at least question the idea of the Federation taking an almost paternalistic attitude toward the aliens who developed Omega. The idea that the Federation is so smart and good that it can go in and push these guys around should rub him the wrong way. I can imagine him eventually agreeing to Janeway’s plan, but not without an argument. His one good scene with Janeway is focused around his attempt to help her connect to the Voyager family as a whole. It’s not a bad scene, but this is one time where his character almost demands to be in conflict with her, at least for a little while.

Additionally, the alien scientist mentions that his people need Omega to save their planet. Janeway doesn’t even bother to explain why she’s stealing it from him and the episode spends no time exploring the consequences she just inflicted on an alien world.

It’s these lack of consequences that were so frustrating to many Voyager viewers while the show was on the air. It’s as if the writers were somehow held back from thinking through to the logical conclusion a given story. Or they just thought it was too complicated to deal with in 42 minutes.

Sure, this was the era of episodic TV and the reset button was always a part of Voyager’s DNA. But bringing up the question of when it’s OK to abandon your principles is the root of a lot of great drama. They had a good idea here when they presented a problem so big that Janeway must do ANYTHING to solve it. But they drop the ball so badly in addressing the consequences that the plot falls apart and the character work with Seven feels trivial.

Summary: Character-wise, this was an interesting exploration of Seven of Nine. But overall it was a frustrating example of missed chances at some real legitimate dramatic conflict. The plot raises several questions about ethics and principles and makes no effort to explore them.

Rating: 5 of 10

NEXT TIME ON RANDOM REVIEWS:

Star Trek: The Original Series, Season 1, Episode 12

“Miri”

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Coming Soon: The Random Review

With more than 700 classic Star Trek episodes to look at, we have much more than a five-year mission ahead of us. So we’re starting with a jump around from episode to episode. We will use a random number generator to pick an episode from the entire history of Star Trek.

Our first random number drawing is No. 545. That corresponds to a Voyager episode called “The Omega Directive.”

Voyager is available to stream on Amazon, Netflix, CBS All Access, YouTube and a few other services. Or, you can buy Season 4 on Amazon.