46 – The Swarm

Grade: C-

The Swarm (1996) on IMDb


Torres and Paris are returning back to Voyager after having been sent on an away mission. Suddenly, they’re attacked by a couple of cheap-looking rubber-faced aliens who make clicking sounds when they speak. When they’re back in Sickbay, Torres notices there’s something wrong with the Doctor – he seems to be forgetting things.


As I’m sure you can tell from the summary, I’m just not impressed with this episode. The subplot (with the unintelligible aliens who attack Voyager) is really, really bland. I wasn’t interested in them at all. I’m sure it didn’t help that the aliens looked like cheap rubber props.

It also annoyed me that this episode copied the Next Generation episode when Geordi LaForge consults a Holodeck version of Dr Leah Brahms to help diagnose problems on the ship. One reason this bothered me is because you’d think it would use up way too many resources to keep a holographic diagnostic tool when all they’d really need to do is store a text-based database. Well, whatever.

The main story in this episode isn’t the strange aliens. In fact, you can tell that they didn’t put much of any emphasis of the story on this attack. In fact, it seems that the writers didn’t really care about what other story was taking place on the ship – they just didn’t want the viewers to spend too much time with the Doctor. Actually, I think we’re spending way too much time exploring the Doctor’s character already, and I wish they’d spend more time establishing some of the real characters.

Speaking of other characters, I think it’s about time that Neelix’s usefulness as a Delta Quadrant guide has completely worn out. Is it just me, or does it seem like he’s never known much about anything? In several episodes, Janeway asks him what he knows about the strange aliens or “this part of space”, and he never seems to know anything at all. At least in this episode, Neelix bases his opinion on “what I’ve heard”, which really isn’t much help.

During this discussion, Tuvok reminds Janeway that going through the known territory of an alien species is a violation of the Prime Directive, but before he can finish that statement, Janeway starts talking about how Voyager is 60,000 light years from the Federation and that they have to go home as fast as possible, so she doesn’t want to take an extra 6 weeks to go around. I can certainly understand Janeway’s decision here – she thinks getting home sooner is more important than the Prime Directive, but this is quite a different Janeway than the one we’ve seen before, and if I may be so bold, I bet we’ll see her change again later. But I also see the other side of the problem: the Prime Directive itself is far too broad and far too limiting. To me, it seems like the Federation wants to have it both ways. How is it possible to explore space without interfering with other species?

Well, I could go on a little longer here, but suffice it to say that this is just a very mixed bag. Some of the character development with the Doctor is actually fairly good, but not all of it is. The aliens themselves look like discarded props from a 1950s anti-nuclear bomb movie, and the script is horrendous in most places. Lastly, a version of the Reset Button appears as well, because by the end of the episode, they have to reset the Doctor anyway. Yeah, it’s sad that he’ll forget how to sing on the Holodeck, but that’s actually good news for us. Why would a holographic Doctor even want to sing, let alone develop a talent for it?

Of Note

This episode starts off with the rarely-heard “Helmsman’s Log” on the shuttlecraft. I don’t remember ever hearing Tom Paris leaving a log on the ship. This is also the first time we see any hints of a romance between Paris and Torres. Of all the Star Trek romances, I think this is the one I like the best, because it seems the most natural.

At one point, Janeway instructs Tuvok to “target the nearest ship” when there were dozens of ships attached to the outer hull of Voyager. Seemed pretty stupid to me. How could any of the ships be any closer than in direct contact with the ship?

Speaking of these aliens, I found it odd that they have transporter technology. I thought it had been established that transporters don’t exist in this part of the galaxy. And here’s something else that’s weird. Since these aliens can transport into Voyager, why do their ships need to be in contact with the outer hull? I probably just wasn’t paying close enough attention, because I really don’t know why they were sticking onto Voyager. Maybe they were trying to sap resources through the metal hull. It wouldn’t be the first time one of Starfleet’s ships was attacked in this way.

One last oddity: Before operating on Tom Paris, the Doctor “sterilizes” his hands in some weird laser machine thing. Then he touches buttons and surfaces and medical tools that haven’t been sterilized. I picked up on that right away, and then after I thought about it a while, I wonder why I’ve never seen him do this before. I also wonder why he would even need to do it at all. Isn’t he a hologram?