112 – Course: Oblivion

Grade: B-

Course: Oblivion (1999) on IMDb


Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres finally get married. However, not everything is going well with the ship. It seems to be falling apart. Then suddenly B’Elanna becomes very sick and weak. After she dies, Tuvok and Chakotay make the startling discovery that they are the duplicates from the Demon planet.


I remember how angry I was when I first saw this episode when it originally aired on TV. I felt like I was the unwilling victim of a terrible practical joke. At the time, I thought every episode between Demon and Course: Oblivion had taken place on the duplicate ship, and therefore, none of it really happened. Really, it was the ultimate Reset Button”, as if none of what we’ve invested into in the last 9 months or so has been real or mattered in the least. I already hated the Reset Button anyway, so when this episode ended, I really began to resent all the time and effort I had put into this series. Obviously, that’s not the kinds of feelings you want your dedicated and loyal fans to have regarding your show.

Since watching this episode again last night, I’ve softened my stance quite a bit. I’m not as angry about it anymore, but this is a long time to hold a grudge against this show. However, I do believe the series would have had a much greater impact if it had managed to say something relevant in the first place. I still don’t like this one because of how little respect for the audience the writers and producers seem to have.

One thing really bothers me about Course: Oblivion. Not only are all of these characters duplicates, but there’s never going to be any history whatsoever of these people and what they were able to accomplish in 10 months, because the story makes the point that the time capsule with all of the history of the duplicates is destroyed, despite the fact that Seven constructed it from materials that showed no sign of decay. I really wish they would have found a way to keep the history of this crew in the Star Trek universe. But once again, Braga sacrifices story continuity in favor of manufactured drama.

The Duplicates were able to get almost all the way back to Earth and were estimating to arrive there in just over 2 more years. That’s ridiculously fast and lucky. Of course we’d want the Real Voyager to get an enhanced warp drive like that. By all estimates, the Real Voyager is only about half-way home, so it would take about 30 more years for them to get there.

Remember, after Voyager leaves the Demon class planet, the ship travels at least 32,000 LY through the vortex in “Night”, with the slipstream in “Timeless”, and the transwarp in “Dark Frontier”. They were only able to make it that far because of these odd circumstances. The duplicates made it that far with an enhanced warp drive.

You know what would have been interesting? What if the Duplicates actually had made it all the way back to Earth? And what if nobody knew they were Duplicates or needed to go back to the Demon Planet until after they had been on Earth for a week or two? Like Harry finally gets back with Libby, Tom and Admiral Paris are finally able to reconcile, and he introduces him to his half-Klingon wife, and there’s a big celebration and everything. Then suddenly B’Elanna starts showing signs of this disease and they find out that all of them will die unless they get back to an environment where they can live. So they end up going to Venus since that’s the closest Demon Planet to Earth. I think I would have liked that better than what we ended up with.

So not only do we now have the question about which of the previous episodes were “Real” and which were “Duplicates”, but we also have a new version of the dreaded Reset Button: nothing that happened to these characters in this episode was real or actually took place. B’Elanna and Tom really didn’t get married. Nobody actually died. All we end up with is a bunch of goo stranded out in space and nobody knows why it’s there or what significance it has. There’s no record of its accomplishments or anything at all. It’s a new version of the “It was All a Dream” ending.

And what a shame, too, because this really could have been an excellent episode. There’s some good acting here. There’s yet another example of Stubborn Janeway making some really questionable decisions and not following a single bit of anyone’s sound advice. It’s too bad that not even the duplicate Janeway is smart enough to admit that someone else may have a better idea. And yet again, it doesn’t amount to anything, because when this episode ends, none of this history is saved. Wouldn’t it have been fantastic if Janeway could have read some of their experiences and learned from them? Maybe from that point forward, she doesn’t have to be such a stubborn boss. Eh, no such luck. This series is going to continue to do and say nothing of significance.

My grade on this episode is B-, but only because I actually enjoyed it for the first 40 minutes.

Of Note

Back when this episode aired, Nick Sagan actually thought it worked well in that viewers would wonder what episodes from this season had actually taken place on the duplicate ship. Personally, I think this question weakens the entire show in the first place. What they really should have done is use the scene when Tuvok and Chakotay are in astrometrics to refer to specific episodes in the past 9 months to show the viewers which ones did not take place on the Real Voyager. They mention the Vaskins, but that episode actually came before Demon, so Living Witness must have been the Real Voyager. What that fact alone tells me is that nobody thought this series through before they started filming it – they’re just making it all up as they go.