Star Trek: Voyager - Night and The Void

A Breakdown and Analysis


I, as well as many others, have noted the similarities between the Voyager episodes Night (s05e01) and The Void (s7e15). Both episodes have a very similar premise with a very similar ending. Both Night and The Void kick off with Voyager ending the teaser act becoming stuck in a totally empty pocket of space with no stars or planets. This sets up the stakes for the episode very quickly, namely pure survival. Voyager cannot provide power to her systems without antimatter or deuterium and with none in the Void, it’s only a matter of time before they run out. Additionally while being stuck in the Void, Voyager is making no progress on its overall mission to return to the Alpha Quadrant. The combination of these two roadblocks sets the stakes for survival and escape very high right off the bat.

There is also the question of who else is in the Void with Voyager? Both episodes address this question in similar manners, namely that there are Natives and Outsiders. The Natives are either defenseless or nearly defenseless. In Night, the Natives are a species with ships of their own but are defenseless against the Malon emitted theta radiation. In The Void, the Natives are Fantome’s race, a species of nomads who parasitically hide aboard other ships for survival, but are otherwise totally incapable of fending for themselves.

The Outsiders on the other hand directly oppose the Natives. In Night, the Malon are using the Void as their personal dumping ground, directly harming the Natives. In The Void, Fantome’s race is viewed as vermin. They are hunted down where possible and either ejected from ships or are killed outright. In both episodes, the Outsiders have good reasons for why they oppose the Natives.

Both episodes see Voyager drawn into the conflict between the Outsiders and the Natives either by choice or by circumstance. In Night, Janeway chooses to help the Natives defeat the Malon. In The Void, Janeway gives sanctuary to the Natives, choosing to protect them from the other ships in the Void. Both episodes present taking the Native’s side against the Outsiders as the proper moral choice.

Where these two episodes diverge however is in their execution. In my opinion, Night had a better thematic execution and The Void had a better dramatic execution. By thematic, I mean expressing the moral subtext of the episode through the characters. By dramatic, I mean creating a high stakes situation in which the viewers are glued to their seats because they see the threat of death as a very real possibility for the characters. Alone, these two episodes are decent as standalones; of which, I think The Void is more popular and is the one I personally like more. However, if we were to combine the thematic strengths of Night with the dramatic strengths of The Void into a single episode, I think they would work much better.

Below I will present my breakdown of the pros and cons of both Night and The Void. I will then present a short outline for what a combined episode would look like.

If you wish to read my full length story combining the two, Star Trek: Voyager - The Neverending Night, please click HERE.


Thematic pros

The thematic line of Night is very strong. Not only does the moral question posed by the episode resonate by itself, but it also presents a very interesting character study for Janeway herself. The central moral question asked is “do you put your own needs ahead of the native population even if it means stranding your ship and crew far from home?” If you notice, this moral question is the exact same one that was asked in the series opener The Caretaker. Janeway is faced with a similar situation in which she can either save the Ocampa and strand Voyager in the Delta Quadrant, or selfishly use the Array to get back home. Indeed, this is one of the huge moral questions asked over the course of the entire series as Voyager travels from situation to situation having to either stop their trip back to Earth or selfishly move on faster.

This moral question is presented very well right from the start of the episode. One of the primary questions raised in the first act of the episode is where is Janeway? Why has she chosen to lock herself up in her quarters? Why would she choose not to interact with her crew when they need her the most? We the audience ask this question through the characters before we even get to the primary inciting incident of the story which is Voyager losing power and being ambushed.

When Chakotay finally confronts Janeway at the end of the first act, we learn exactly why she has been avoiding the crew. She is heavily conflicted over the central moral question of the episode and the series: she feels guilt for stranding Voyager in the Delta Quadrant. She believes she took the selfish and immoral action by destroying the Caretaker’s Array. She never asked the crew if they agreed with her decision, she just did it. Chakotay tries to reassure her that she had made the right decision, but she rebuffs him. This sets up the thematic confrontation at the end of the episode.

After we have encountered the Malon, and the native inhabitants, and after we understand what the stakes of the episode are, we come to the resolution of the moral question. Janeway is again faced with a situation similar to what happened in The Caretaker. She can take the wormhole out of the Void, or she can close it and help the Natives prevent the Malon from continuing to poison their space. Ultimately she chooses to take a shuttlecraft alone to close the rift, letting Voyager escape while simultaneously helping the Natives.

This brings us to the thematic conclusion of the episode, which I will detail in the cons section because I think it was poorly executed.

Thematic cons

The main issue with the thematic line is in its conclusion. First, before we have the main thematic encounter with Janeway and all the other officers on the bridge, we have a conversation between Tuvok and Chakotay. If you go back and watch this episode, you may notice that this scene feels totally out of place. First off, these two characters rarely interact on their own. Chakotay even says to Tuvok they are often at arms length, owing to the fact that Chakotay superseded Tuvok in rank at the end of The Caretaker, not to mention Chakotay’s roots as a Maquis officer who left Starfleet behind. They talk purely about Janeway’s behavior and how Chakotay is concerned about it. But to me, the conversation just feels very flat, primarily because Janeway isn’t even in the scene at all. The episode requires this discussion because it has to set up the final confrontation between the senior officers and Janeway at the end of the episode. Which brings me to the final thematic confrontation, which is also a misfire in my opinion.

The final thematic confrontation comes just before the final battle in which Voyager has to close the rift. Janeway comes onto the bridge only to find that the entire senior staff are ready to disobey her orders. Janeway tries to tell them she’s making the right decision, but they disagree. They have a heart to heart chat about not abandoning Janeway in the Delta Quadrant. In the end they decide to come up with a new plan which does not involve Janeway potentially sacrificing her life. There are two critical missteps of this scene which make it fall flat.

First, at no point does the crew confront Janeway on why she feels like she needs to sacrifice her life. Remember, the central moral question in the episode is shown through Janeway’s guilt over the Caretaker. At no point does the crew mention the events of The Caretaker or what is really bothering Janeway, which is her decision to destroy the Array. By not addressing the central moral question through the events of the episode, we miss the actual moral confrontation that will force Janeway to reevaluate her position, which is that she had actually made the right choice and the crew agrees with what she did.

Second, the confrontation comes before the final battle. This is wrong. The confrontation must come either during or after the final battle. The main conflicted character must be directly confronted with their incorrect moral viewpoint through the events of the final battle. It is only after the final battle that the character actually learns their moral take on the question is incorrect and they learn to change their moral viewpoint. By having this confrontation take place early, it completely erases the moral stakes of the final battle.

Dramatic pros

The primary dramatic line of this episode is the conflict between the Malon commander Emck and the native aliens population. We encounter both of these forces before we learn of the full situation, which is that these two forces are actually opposed. This is a good step as we can piece together the puzzle like Janeway is as we are learning more about them. We learn that the Malon have a way out of the Void which prompts Voyager to want to follow them. We only later learn that the Malon are the ones releasing the theta radiation. We also learn later that the natives are dying to the theta radiation. This sets up the primary stakes of the final confrontation: to take the rift or to help the Natives.

The motivation for the Malon commander Emck is also well executed (as opposed to Valen, but I’ll get to that later). One thing that makes a villain a good villain is to give them reasonable motivation. Give them some good justification for taking the immoral action that they are taking. What also makes a villain a good villain is to be able to withhold the final goal from the heroes, which forces the two into conflict. Lastly, great villains have an opposed moral take to the heroes on the central moral question. Emck captures all of these aspects well. His motivation is totally understandable and totally opposed to Janeway. He wants to keep the rift open and continue to harm the natives. He also is the only person who knows the location of the rift, thus forcing Voyager to confront him if they want to escape. Emck makes for a good villain with a good motivation, which is further exemplified by the fact that he is the first Malon we see, and that the Malon will go on to be major villains throughout the last 3 seasons of Voyager.

Finally, Night gives us very good character building scenes at the start of the episode. We are introduced to Captain Proton for the first time. We have Kim practicing the clarinet while taking a shift in the command position. Neelix’s reaction to his Nihiliphobia is a little bit of a stretch to me, but his subsequent discussion with the Doctor is really good. Sometimes episodes don’t make enough room for these character moments, but they’re the stuff that sticks with the audience at the end of the day.

Dramatic cons

The drama in Night is not as good as it is in The Void. Primarily because the stakes aren’t shown to be high enough. Yes, Voyager is stranded and yes they need a way out. But they aren’t in desperate need of escape. They aren’t literally running out of deuterium in a week. They aren’t about to starve to death because their food stores got raided. Voyager is shown to be in decent shape and full strength in this episode, thus making it less dramatic for the audience to ask: will they survive.

The other major misstep of the episode is the choice of having the final battle take place around the rift. The main strength of the episode is Janeway being confronted by her decisions in The Caretaker. But she is not forced to relive those events during the final battle. Mainly, because there is no space station. The events of this episode, while similar to The Caretaker, are not close enough in my opinion. There should have been a station similar to the Caretaker’s Array over which Janeway and Emck would have fought over.

The Void

Thematic pros

The central moral question asked by The Void is slightly different from Night. The Void asks: is it better to stick together or to stay apart? Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? Or is it better to simply selfishly prey upon the defenseless? The core moral question is still close to Night through: do you put your own needs ahead of others? The Void showcases this moral question in several good ways.

First, we have the situation of the Void itself. Immediately after being sucked into the Void, Voyager is attacked. We soon find out that the Void is filled with ships either living or dead. We also find out soon that it’s kill or be killed in the Void. The ships within the Void take the selfish moral answer to the central question which is to attack those who cannot defend themselves.

Second, we have the Federation Charter. The fact that Janeway has to go back to her roots as a representative of the Federation was a good decision. It makes the episode feel like we’re getting a taste of the Alpha Quadrant once again. Janeway exemplifies this at the end of the episode by saying it felt like being part of a Federation again. The Federation Charter perfectly symbolically represents Janeway’s take on the moral question, which is that sticking together is superior to fending for oneself alone.

Third, we have the scene late in the episode in the mess hall with Bosaal and Fantome. Bosaal sees Fantome and goes on a racist tirade against the defenseless creature. Bosaal doesn’t see Fantome as another sentient being, he sees him as vermin, a plague to be exterminated. Instead of embracing those who are weaker, Bosaal opposes Janeway’s point of view by attempting to eliminate them. This sets up the next confrontation between the two in which Janeway throws Bosaal out of the Alliance for betraying the core moral principles of the Alliance and by extension the episode.

Fourth, we have Seven of Nine’s experience with the central moral question: her encounter with Fantome. Janeway and Seven have a good conversation in the corridor about helping others. Seven at first wants to selfishly keep her phase compensator which Janeway selflessly gave away. Janeway points out that Seven herself may be more of a moral person than she believes since she gave Fantome her spare replicator rations prior to the conversation. Seven then goes on to become a more selfless person by helping devise a method through which she and the Doctor can communicate with Fantome.

Thematic cons

The Void does a pretty good job thematically already. I can’t really think of that many things I would change about it thematically or any glaring thematic missteps. It’s probably why the episode plays out better than Night. However, the thematic line of Night is a superior one to The Void. Where The Void asks a moral question contained within the episode only, Night asks a question which encompasses the whole series and one which weighs heavily on Janeway herself. This makes the thematic stakes of Night higher than the thematic stakes of The Void, and a far more desirable thematic line to follow.

Dramatic pros

The drama in The Void is where the episode really shines. Voyager is pushed to its breaking point, further than we see in most episodes, except for Year of Hell (is it any wonder why that episode is so popular?). The Void saps energy away from ships, causing Voyager to run through its deuterium reserves faster than normal. Right off the bat, Voyager is attacked. The raiders steal food, equipment, deuterium, anything they can get their hands on. Even once Voyager finally does recover their stolen goods, they only get less than half back.

The stakes are set very high very fast in this episode. Almost immediately, Torres informs Janeway that they have about a week and a half before they are out of power. But it’s likely Voyager will be dead long before that as the other ships in the Void are stalking them, waiting for an opportune moment to strike. The first thing Janeway tries is to escape the Void, which only drains their power more. They are forced to turn all ship systems down to minimal levels, which is reflected by the low lighting that takes place throughout the episode. Even when they do find a new source of power, the alien warp core casing, it is still just trying to get by on the table scraps.

This forces Janeway into courses of action that seem insane to the crew. Not only is she going to try and convince a bunch of murderers and thieves to join the Alliance, but she is going to give away food and medicine freely to them. Not only does she refuse to prey upon other ships, but she is going to defend new ships which enter the Void against the raiders who are in a far superior position to Voyager. Janeway is on the correct moral side here and the main tension of the episode is drawn by Janeway trying to stick to her principles despite it continuously putting Voyager at a disadvantage.

Eventually her plan of action does come through in the end. On the brink of destruction by Valen, Janeway is able to rescue the Hierarchy ship and prove her honorable intentions to Garon. Through this, she is able to form the Alliance, which in turn prevents Voyager from succumbing to the stresses of the Void. She loses part of the Alliance to the same principles that helped her form it when she kicks Bosaal out. But in the end, her Alliance, and thus her principles, prevail in the final battle.

The Void does very well dramatically. It’s just a shame they couldn’t keep Garon and Loquar (the Hierarchy captain) around for more episodes.

Dramatic cons

In my opinion, there is only one big issue with The Void and that is its central villain: General Valen. Valen really does not come off to me as a good credible Villain. His motivation is simple and unnuanced, all he wants to do is survive. While this is an opposing take on the central moral question, it’s not a very complex one. The episode does make good use of Bosaal by having him betray the Alliance and joining Valen in their own armada. But the big problem with Valen is twofold.

First, he is passive. Yes he actively hunts other ships in the Void including Voyager. But he has no reason to be active against Voyager specifically. If the main villain has no reason to be active against the heroes, he does not pose as much of a threat. Emck was an active villain, taking steps to secure his position. For Valen, not only does his ship not pose a huge threat to the technologically superior Voyager, but his best course of action is to avoid conflict with Voyager. In other words, he has no goal through which to compete with Voyager, making him a passive player rather than an active one.

Second, and the main problem with him, is that he doesn’t have a good reason to come into contact with Voyager. With Emck, he knew where the exit to the Void was, thus Voyager was forced to confront him. Valen on the other hand does not have a goal to compete against Voyager for. Voyager can escape the Void with or without Valen. Likewise, if Valen wanted to, he could try to find a way to escape the Void without Voyager as well.

Thus, the final battle seems contrived. After all, even though Bosaal betrayed the Alliance, why do they have to fight Voyager? Just for resources? Wouldn’t Bosaal and Valen be better off just using their superior numbers to overwhelm other ships in the Void? Can’t they just use their stolen polaron modulator to escape the Void? Which, by the way, is never explained as to how the modulator is able to compensate for the gravimetric sheer of the funnels, mainly because we never get an explanation of where the funnels actually come from. Also, why does Valen not want to join Voyager and escape the Void? After all, you would think escape would be reason enough to set aside his dislike of Janeway.

Putting all the above together makes Valen a less threatening opposing force than Emck and thus a worse villain.

Combining the Two

So what would a combined episode look like? We would want to take the stronger thematic line from Night and combine it with the stronger dramatic line from The Void. It would probably look something like this:

  1. Voyager is stuck in the Void. The Void is filled with theta radiation for some reason which is draining the shields at an increasing rate.
  2. Janeway is conflicted by her actions during The Caretaker. She blames herself for stranding the crew in the Delta Quadrant.
  3. Voyager is attacked by a Raider in the Void. Their supplies are stolen.
  4. The crew discover Fantome on a nearby wreckage while searching for sources of power.
  5. The crew meet Valen who doesn’t seem hostile at first, but quickly proves that he is.
  6. Voyager tries to get back its stolen goods, but are unable to get them all back.
  7. Janeway seeks guidance in the Federation Charter; she decides to form an Alliance.
  8. Janeway tries to recruit members to the Alliance, but is not successful. Seven learns how to communicate with Fantome.
  9. Voyager encounters Valen preying upon the Hierachy ship. Janeway defends them, but is outmatched. Garon comes in at the last moment and saves Voyager.
  10. Voyager manages to form the Alliance. They recruit Emck as a new member.
  11. Janeway discovers that Fantome and his people are being killed by the increasing theta radiation. Janeway vows to find the source and eliminate it.
  12. Voyager discovers a space station within the Void.
  13. The crew investigate the station and find out that it is the source of the funnels but not the source of the theta radiation.
  14. Janeway wants to destroy the station since it is the reason why ships are being drawn into the Void.
  15. Emck contacts Valen, proposing a new alliance in exchange for sparing the station. Valen agrees to help Emck.
  16. Emck reveals he has betrayed Voyager and sided with Valen, Janeway figures out that he was the one emitting the theta radiation all along. Valen and Emck succeed in driving Voyager away from the station. They form a new alliance which is superior to Janeway’s.
  17. Janeway proposes a suicide mission to Chakotay. She will fly a shuttlecraft to the station, generate a funnel so Voyager can escape and then destroy the station herself. Chakotay sees through her intentions and confronts her on what is really bothering her, namely the events of The Caretaker. Chakotay tries to convince Janeway not to go, but he can’t.
  18. Janeway discovers that Fantome wants to help her. She, along with Fantome and the other remnant members of the Alliance decide to confront Valen and Emck at the station in one final battle.
  19. Janeway takes the shuttle on the suicide mission. She successfully opens a funnel leading out of the Void.
  20. Voyager battles its way past Valen and Emck. The Alliance members manage to escape, but now Chakotay has a choice. Rescue Janeway or take the funnel?
  21. Janeway tries to get off the station, but is stopped by Valen. The two have a final confrontation which leaves Janeway unable to leave the station. Feeling she has atoned for her sins by sacrificing her life in order to let Voyager escape, she is freed from her guilt over The Caretaker.
  22. Voyager rescues Janeway at the last moment. They make a break for the funnel and are just barely able to escape the Void with their lives.
  23. Janeway asks the senior staff why they came back for her. They say they would never abandon her. They also say that none of them blame Janeway for stranding Voyager in the Delta Quadrant, confirming that Janeway had made the correct decision all those years ago.
  24. Having escaped the Void, Voyager refuels and resupplies on a nearby planet. They then resume their course back to Earth.

To read the full story combining the two, Star Trek: Voyager - The Neverending Night, please click HERE