Friday, June 14, 2024

Star Trek: Eye of the Needle

Episode: "Eye of the Needle"
Series: Star Trek: Voyager
Season 1, Episode 7
Original Air Date: February 20, 1995

The Voyager crew discover a wormhole, one that leads back to the Alpha Quadrant!  Could it be a way home?  There are two problems (initially): the opening is only a few centimeters wide, obviously not enough for the ship to get through.  Also, it connects directly to the heart of Romulan space.  Even so, a plan is hatched.  Using a probe as a relay, they should be able to transport the entire crew to a Romulan ship on the other side.

Without a doubt, this is Voyager's best story so far, perhaps even the first great episode of the series.  Even (especially?) in speculative fiction, the most effective narratives connect with the audience on an emotional level.  "Eye of the Needle" toys with a particularly vulnerable emotion: hope.  It's the first episode to deal meaningfully with the toll taken on a group of people lost and far from home.  Even though I, as the viewer, know perfectly well there are still six more seasons to go after this one and the gang doesn't actually make it back until the end (spoiler), the characters don't know that.  We see the hope on their faces - even for Torres, who professes not to care - and we see it snatched away.  100% relatable and perfectly executed.

There's more.  Their contact on the other side of the wormhole is the captain of a Romulan science vessel named Telek R'Mor.  At first, he is skeptical and really, who can blame him?  Once Janeway convinces him they are who they say they are and, more importantly, they are where they say they are, he reluctantly agrees to help them.  The encounter is a welcome and likely intentional contrast with the Enterprise's experience in "Balance of Terror."  Telek R'Mor is a multi-dimensional Romulan.  As a scientist, he is genuinely impressed by our heroes' technological achievements.  Janeway is ultimately able to win him over partly by appealing to his devotion to family.  By the end of the story, he is willing - perhaps even proud - to serve as their champion.

As if that weren't enough, there's a rewarding Kes-Doctor story, too.  To say Kes has quickly become a capable medical assistant would be a gross understatement.  She has a remarkable memory and is eager to learn.  She has also noticed how disrespectful the rest of the crew is towards the Doctor and brings the problem to the captain.  Janeway is at first reluctant to take on the problem but Kes convinces her.  The Kes-Doctor relationship is the first on the show to exhibit genuine warmth.  Full credit to both actors.  In a touching moment, the episode ends with the Doctor expressing a desire for a name.  The idea evolves into a running gag over the course of the series but in the moment, it's very sweet.

It's a solid episode, first minute to last.

Acting Notes

Robert Picardo (Doctor) was born in Philadelphia, October 27, 1953.  He went to Yale, initially for pre-med but he ultimately graduated with a degree in drama.  He has solid music credentials, too.  He sang with the prestigious Society of Orpheus and Bacchus at Yale and also performed a major role in the European premiere of Leonard Bernstein's "Mass."  

Picardo hit Broadway in 1977, first in Gemini, then in Tribute.  Among the Voyager principals, he probably had the best on-screen resume coming into the gig with a regular cast role on China Beach and recurring roles on Alice and The Wonder Years.  Pre-Trek films included Innerspace, Gremlins 2 and Total Recall (voice role).


  1. This is a great episode and fine acting from all involved. It's a shame what they did with the chara ter of Kes later on. It didn't work for me.