102 – Nothing Human

Grade: B+

Nothing Human (1998) on IMDb


Doctor is reviewing his slides and photos from his collection, but nobody wants to see any of it. Everyone is completely bored. Suddenly, the ship shakes violently, and everyone gets up immediately to see what caused it. Ultimately, nothing is damaged, but they receive a message full of sounds they can’t understand. The universal translator proves to be useless in this case – it can’t decipher a single item. Janeway decides to take the ship off course and trace the source of the signal, just in case it’s a distress call.

They find an alien ship with a single occupant. Without even thinking about it, they beam the alien to Sickbay so the Doctor can try to save its life (if it’s even dying anyway). While in Sickbay, the thing flies off the table and attacks B’Elanna Torres, attaching itself to her and connecting directly to her vital organs. Could she die from this? To what extremes should the Doctor go to help save her life? Should they kill the alien to save their Chief Engineer?


In order to like this episode, you have to excuse the rubber alien prop. I’ve seen sidewalk art that was more realistic and lifelike than the alien in this episode. Luckily for us, however, we don’t have to see this thing too many times. There is plenty of human drama here to ignore the really fake-looking alien. Still, if you demand a little more realism in your special effects, you probably will find this episode to be very ridiculous.

There are some excellent character moments here, as Doctor can only find one solution to help B’Elanna – with Harry’s help, he creates a hologram of a Cardassian doctor who is the Alpha Quadrant’s expert on exobiology. But B’Elanna isn’t too keen to allow a Cardassian to operate on her at all, and to make matters even worse, this particular doctor is notorious for having performed experiments on unwilling live Bajorans.

So there’s a good debate here about what scientific discoveries Voyager should accept, and what they should not accept, given the source and the means by which the discoveries were made. Is it ethical to accept research that was gained in unethical ways? This debate certainly is applicable today, as this story is an obvious reference to a certain Nazi doctor who was guilty of the same kinds of crimes. Some people fall on one side of the debate, and some fall on the other.

I’m not sure we will ever reach consensus in this discussion, but the episode itself actually avoids taking sides at all. I guess the best way to avoid offending anyone in particular is to just not say anything at all, but in Nothing Human, Voyager tries to have its cake and eat it too. They end up saving B’Elanna’s life despite the fact that she absolutely did not want the Cardassian hologram to operate on her. Doctors are not supposed to treat anyone against their will, but in this episode the doctor moves forward anyway. Then later, Doc feels terrible about it (don’t ask me how a hologram can have feelings), so he decides to delete the holographic Cardassian doctor from the ship’s database. But that was actually a decision that Janeway delegated down to him because she didn’t want to make the decision herself. So in the end, the episode really only served to bring up the question but not to provide any answers or take a stand at all.

Janeway has a frank conversation with B’Elanna in which her Chief Engineer adamantly says Janeway had no right to allow the Cardassian to operate on her. Janeway basically says that she had no choice but to require the Doctor to save her Chief Engineer’s life and B’Elanna will just need to go back to work. I really don’t like Janeway. Of all the Star Trek captains, she’s the most inconsistent, the most opinionated, and the most stubborn. With episodes like these, I wonder if the writers have ever met or even seen a human being before. There’s no consistency in Janeway’s character. She takes a stand only when she risks nothing, and when there is a time when she needs to stand up for the rights of her crew, she folds like a cheap tent and does what she feels is expedient.

She puts the life of aliens ahead of the lives of her crew almost every time. She has learned nothing since the first episode of this series. Later in Star Trek, we find out that Janeway has been promoted to Admiral, but I’m sure that’s because they recognized her weakness as a Captain and they wanted to get her as far away from an actual ship as possible.

OK, so back to this episode then. The script was excellent, actually, as was the acting. You may want to see this one, if only to hear the debates between the two doctors and among the ship’s senior staff. Just don’t expect this episode to actually stand for something or to draw any conclusions.

Of Note

With all of the re-programming of all these holodeck characters, why didn’t anyone think to re-program the Doctor’s personality so he wouldn’t be so boring? And why does a hologram need a personality at all? Well, whatever.

Speaking of holograms, why was it so easy to create one here when it was so difficult to create a second doctor back in Message in a Bottle?