49 – Sacred Ground

Grade: D-

Sacred Ground (1996) on IMDb


Voyager’s crew is invited to visit a planet with some religious activity. Kes and Neelix wander off into another room, away from the others. Kes gets zapped by some energy field of some kind. She falls comatose and we’re told she will die unless Janeway can get some answers about her condition.


Ugh. And I thought the last one was bad. This was one of the most contrived episodes that I’ve seen in a long time. Everything that happened in this episode seemed to be only because it had been written in the script to be that way. For example:

  1. This sacred shrine is out in the open and available to the uninitiated and unsuspecting wandering traveler. Not only that, but it appears the government actually takes aliens on semi-guided tours in areas that are potentially fatal. That is completely illogical and distracting.
  2. Nobody really knows what Kes’ condition is or why she’s going to die. All we know is that the Doctor says she will die if she isn’t treated immediately. But it’s not important enough for the audience to know or understand what’s going on. The writer just expects us to accept it on face value.
  3. This religion is very shallow and nonsensical. It’s obviously not based on anything at all. Janeway’s guide and the three people she meets inside the temple speak like fortune cookies. To me, their comments aren’t deep or enlightening in the least.
  4. During Janeway’s so-called Preparation Ritual, her guide says that everything that has been done there is meaningless, so Janeway has to go through it again. The second time, she is supposedly ready to accept anything that is presented to her. Then we’re told that the difference is that now she’s more ready to accept whatever happens. Unfortunately, we have to be told this because she was no different the first time than she was the second time. She talks to those three insane old people again who tell her she has to be willing to take Kes back into the ray, but this time she has to have no doubt that she will survive. It’s just ridiculous. When Kes entered the shrine, did she think she was going to die? Nothing should have happened to her the first time around, because she had no expectations whatsoever.

With all of that said, I admit I struggled with this review. Quite honestly, I thought this episode was the biggest waste of my time that I’ve had in a long time. Just like the guide told Janeway, nothing that has happened here really matters. Why? Because we’ll move on from this episode and never hear of these aliens or this experience again. Anything that happened here could have happened to anyone; the storyline is completely modular. We could have replaced Kes with Seven and Janeway with Chakotay and Neelix with Paris, and we’d have a Season 7 episode. That’s why this thing didn’t matter, and that’s why I can’t recommend it at all.

Honestly, I don’t need a lot of action or special effects in my Star Trek to make it work. I’m as big a fan of “heady” storylines as anyone is. Contact is one of my favorite movies of all time, and it had close to zero action scenes. I also really like Field of Dreams, which also deals with a character who has to believe in things he can’t understand. The difference between those films and this episode, however, is that they were actually substantive while this episode was so thin you could see through it. Just because someone says something that you don’t understand doesn’t mean it’s profound.

Of Note

Originally, Jonathan Frakes was supposed to direct this episode, but Robert Duncan McNeill directed it instead. Frakes became unavailable when Paramount asked him to direct Star Trek: First Contact.

This episode was supposed to be shown in the second season, but it was held back to the middle of the third season.