Voyager Flashback: “In The Flesh” (s5e4)

With all the buzz surrounding the upcoming Voyager documentary, it’s hard not to feel the call of the Delta Quadrant. With four shows since it’s premiere, and at least two more on the way, it’s easy for fans to forget about The Little Ship That Could (And Did). Before we get caught up in the nostalgia, this series will note some of the significant yet rarely mentioned contributions of the USS Voyager and her crew.

This may be one of the most unpopular episodes of the series, but like most infamous facts from Voyager, “In The Flesh” serves to further validate the contributions of the Delta Quadrant mission throughout the Star Trek universe.

Jumping right into things: Chakotay serves as an undercover operative on a simulated version of Starfleet HQ constructed and facilitated by none other than the Undine, better known as Species 8472. In this simulation, Chakotay learns that the Undine have undergone molecular restructuring, appearing as myriad Starfleet personnel, including cadets, flag officers, and the Starfleet Academy’s beloved groundskeeper, Boothby. In conjunction with several other similar stations, this simulation was meant to serve as a training ground to prepare operatives to invade Earth. Alarmed by the accuracy of the installation, Janeway instructs her first officer to learn all he can about the project.

He’s eventually discovered, but Chakotay’s involvement sparks a particularly fragile flame of diplomacy. Citing Directive 010, Janeway begrudgingly invites each of the high-ranking Undine to the ship in an attempt to find a diplomatic resolution to the apparent problem. She orders Seven to develop a few extra batches of nanoprobes just in case negotiations go sour, but reluctantly opens up the briefing room to have a dialogue.

When we consider the fact that the Borg, the biggest baddies to ever ride a Cube, turned tail and fled an encounter with the Undine, it invites the obvious question: Why are they so afraid of humans? A cursory glance at human history could answer that relatively easily, but Starfleet and the Federation posed no real threat to the Undine, so why the concern with Starfleet operations? Why develop and build entire stations to recreate important landmarks in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants? Could the threat of a human-led invasion really be that terrifying to a race of beings that made light work of the Borg?

This discussion and the peaceful resolution that followed may have seemed lackluster to some, but in reality, we’re asked to understand that paranoia can be intrinsically detrimental to an entire species regardless of their strength.

Sure, the Undine were a more resilient, intelligent, and formidable opponent than any other species a human had interacted with. But their power did not prevent them from developing a healthy (and justifiable) fear of the atrocities humanity is capable of committing.

In fact, while the discussion Janeway had with those few Undine did not fall upon deaf ears, in other iterations of Star Trek, we find that news of Janeway’s diplomatic skills did not make it to the far reaches of fluidic space.

Those who have played Star Trek Online know that the subversive nature of the Undine plays an integral part of the complex and compelling storyline throughout the game, using disguise tactics illustrated for the first time in this very episode. So while there were no dazzling CG animated Udine in these discussions, their impact left enough of an impression that the mere suggestion of their presence was enough to rattle the crew. Considering how thoroughly the Undine were preparing themselves for a potential invasion from Earth, it’s safe to assume that Voyager left a strong impression of her own.

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