3 – Parallax

Grade: B-

Parallax (1995) on IMDb


B’Elanna Torres has a disagreement with Lt Carey in Engineering. She hits him in the face so hard that she breaks his nose in three places. Despite this, Chakotay wants to recommend her as the chief engineer, much to the surprise of Captain Janeway. Meanwhile, Voyager passes a Black Hole and sees a ship near the Event Horizon. When they try to rescue the ship, they discover things aren’t quite what they seem to be.


It’s very early in the series, so it’s very important to establish these characters as quickly as possible. The strength of this episode is its character development. We have Maquis officers pledging their support for Chakotay, in case he wants to lead a mutiny. We see Torres battling her extremely fierce temper. We see Janeway and Chakotay battling each other. There’s the Doctor who has to deal with a bad holographic emitter – so it looks like he’s shrinking. We learn more about Torres from her time at Starfleet Academy. Plus we learn about Tuvok and his dedication to procedures and rules. Chakotay has some other great scenes as well.

Since I’m a fan of character development, you’d think I’d rate this episode higher. Actually, I’ll reserve the right to adjust my score later, but the main reason I rated this a little lower was because the storyline itself wasn’t terribly original. Too much of this episode reminded me of the Next Generation episode Cause and Effect. That’s the one where the Enterprise explodes right at the beginning of the show and the crew finds out that the voices they’re hearing are actually their own. They’re stuck in a time loop and they’re hearing evidence that they’ve been there before. Well, Parallax reminded me of that episode a little too much, so I marked it down a little. Still, the character development in this episode is the best part.

Two things stand out to me as poor writing in this episode. Both of them take place in the conference room. First, Tom Paris asks the question about how they could have been responsible for creating the problem if the problem existed before their action. He asks if he’s making sense, and Janeway says no. Actually, Tom makes sense. Quantum temporal mechanics don’t make sense. Janeway then explains that sometimes the effect can precede the cause. Only in Star Trek. Let’s call that “high concept” since Brannon Braga is so fond of that phrase.

The second item is earlier in the episode when they’re talking about needing new power sources. Janeway asks Kim if they can take power from the Holodeck. Then Kim says no, because the power signatures (or whatever) are not compatible with the ship’s systems. What the heck? First of all, why would Janeway think the Holodeck could be used as a power source? It’s a power consumer, not a power producer. Second, how is it even possible for the Holodeck to be on a different power signature? Kim should have said, “no, the Holodeck doesn’t generate power,” and leave it at that. Think about this – could you plug your phone into your microwave to charge the battery? Of course not. Even if you could connect the two, the microwave only consumes power – it doesn’t generate it. The power has to come from somewhere.

Something else that’s kind of crazy here is that at the end of the episode, Janeway and Torres take a shuttlecraft to a “crack” inside the quantum singularity in order to make it big enough for Voyager to get through. What I don’t understand is why the shuttle had to turn around and board the ship. Why didn’t they just fly the shuttle through the crack and board Voyager after both ships went through? It seems like a waste of time. Well, the answer became obvious in a few minutes. It’s because Janeway and Torres had to see two ships and then decide which one was the right one so that we could have some manufactured drama. This is one tactic that I really despise. Don’t manufacture drama. Make things happen organically and logically. Chakotay should have told Janeway to lead the way through the hole and then Voyager would follow. It makes zero sense for them to return to the ship first. It’s stupid and annoying.

Of Note

The title of this episode is “Parallax”, but I don’t think that’s what it should have been called. In this episode, we have two Voyager starships – one is a reflection of the other. But parallax is the apparent difference in the position of an object in space, based on the different positions of the observer. So in other words, the object looks like it’s in a different position because we ourselves have changed positions. That’s not happening here.

In this episode, Kes suggests creating a hydroponics area so they can grow their own vegetables. It’s decided to turn cargo bay #2 into the hydroponics area, but I’ll be interested to see if they ever use cargo bay 2 for anything else in future episodes.

Spoiler alert: It’s obviously Janeway’s voice that you hear at the very beginning of the episode, supposedly coming from that other ship. Sorry I don’t mean to ruin the episode, but it should have been obvious what was happening well before the rest of the crew figured it out.

Right at the end of this episode, Chakotay asks Janeway if she could have served under him if things had worked out differently. I wish the writers hadn’t put this into the script. I think it did need to be said, but it’s just a reminder that Voyager really could have been something totally different. Instead, we get basically a remake of TNG.