“Living Witness” is the 91st episode of the science fiction television series Star Trek: Voyager, the 23rd episode of the fourth season.
The events from Voyager’s time in the Delta Quadrant, in the 2370s, are viewed through the eyes of history as museum spectators observe recreations of the past, nearly 700 years after the initial events.
The Doctor’s programme is found and reactivated, allowing him to set the record straight.
At the end of the episode, we see that it was actually all a recreation from an even more distant future.
The episode opens with a scene on the “warship Voyager”, an unrealistic depiction of the ship which turns out to be a museum’s recreation of events. Although the brutality and detachment of the crew is chilling, there are several dark, campy elements of the alternative reality that provide comic relief: the crew wear altered versions of their uniforms with no combadges or rank insignia, but sport black gloves and turtlenecks. First Officer Chakotay (Robert Beltran)’s name is repeatedly mispronounced (as “Chak-ooo-tay”) by the crew and his tattoo has grown in size as to cover half of his face and appears in the design of Māori Tā moko markings. Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) sports a butch haircut and excessive schadenfreude. Meanwhile, the holographic Doctor (Robert Picardo) has become an android mass murderer and torturer with neon yellow-green eyes while Tactical Officer Tuvok (Tim Russ) has a sinister sense of humor; former drone Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) is a full Borg with several other Borg drones serving as shock troops aboard Voyager. The depiction also show violent Kazon members as part of the crew, mistaken to have joined in the same manner as the Borg. Neelix (Ethan Phillips) is not the cook, but a member of the bridge and a brutal henchman.
In the actual course of events, Captain Janeway had agreed to provide the Vaskans with medical supplies in exchange for dilithium crystals. The Kyrians, who were at war with the Vaskans, boarded Voyager to stop the deal, which they thought was a military alliance of some sort. During their time on the ship, they stole a data module carrying a backup copy of the Doctor. Seven hundred years later, this module was part of a Kyrian museum exhibit which showed their version of the encounter. This biased encounter showed Voyager as a warship with a savage and sadistic crew that was willing to commit genocide. Even the Vaskan in the simulation became horrified over the atrocities committed, but the simulated Janeway told him it was too late to stop now.
Quarren (Henry Woronicz), the curator at the museum and always fascinated by Voyager’s story even though they were “the bad guys”, had found (with the help from an archaeological team) the Doctor’s backup module three weeks prior. He was able to activate it using Voyager’s own tools. The Doctor, upon seeing this biased simulated version of history, is appalled and offers to show Quarren his own accurate version of events from 700 years ago aboard Voyager. Initially, the Doctor’s claims that Voyager was unfairly depicted by the Kyrians are ignored, and he is told he could be held accountable for war crimes when he presents his version of history before the Commission of Arbiters. The Doctor states, however, that a presently non-functional Starfleet medical tricorder would settle the issue of who killed Tedran, a Kyrian revolutionary hero who died during a raid on Voyager.
After fending off an angry mob of Vaskans intent on destroying what they now know to be a museum of false history, the Doctor initially wishes to abandon his quest to set the 700-year-old historical record straight and says that the truth may cause more harm and violence. Quarren objects, saying that the tension between the Kyrian and Vaskan cultures has already reached the breaking point. Quarren stresses that both races on his planet need to hear the truth about the real course of events on Voyager. This persuades the Doctor to continue searching for the tricorder.
The episode ends an indeterminate number of years later, as the museum’s new curator explains that the two species finally made peace thanks to the efforts of the Doctor and the information from the tricorder, although he always regretted that he would never see any of his friends again. It is revealed to the viewer that all the scenes that we had been witnessing were computer simulations revealing real life events which occurred in the past, such as the Kyrian-Vaskan conflict, Quarren’s discovery of The Doctor’s backup program, and Quarren and The Doctor’s proposal to the Commission of Arbiters. Following the peace, The Doctor served as the surgical chancellor for the Kyrians and Vaskans for many years, but eventually he took a ship and departed for Earth; he said that “he had a longing for home”. As for Quarren, it is stated that he lived only six years after seeing the Kyrian-Vaskan reconciliation.
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Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Tim Russ.
- Writer(s): Bryan Fuller, Brannon Braga, and Joe Menosky.
- Release Date: 29 April 1998.
- Running Time: 45 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.