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Overview – While trying to receive a message from Starfleet command, the crew of the USS Voyager encounter the Hirogen, a vicious species of hunters, intent on testing their limits by hunting the ultimate prey. Meanwhile, the crew are trying to access an ancient relay station that they discovered in their last adventure to obtain letters from their loved ones back home. Much of the story revolves around the crew coming to grips with the news that they received from home. Some get good news, while others are heart-broken.
Score: 8/10 – Following a fun episode in “Message in a Bottle”, we are given “Hunters”, which I found to be a slightly misleading title. Indeed, the Hirogen hunters are more like a secondary story to give a reason for disabling the communication array and again cut off Voyager from Starfleet. The primary focus of this episode is the letters that the crew receive from home, and the effect they have on the crew. Seeing how Torres, Kim, Chakotay, Paris, Tuvok, and Janeway react to their specific news is very interesting. The Hirogen angle does provide some strong and exciting action and lays some necessary foundations for the new adversaries of Janeway’s people. We learn a lot about their culture in the short amount of air time that they are given. I guess my biggest issue with this episode was that there wasn’t more Hirogen, but in hindsight I think it was a better call to give us a smaller introduction than what we received.
Relevance – 3 points. One point is scored for picking up from where the last episode, “Message in a Bottle”, left off. The Doctor briefly discusses his mission as he talks to Seven. Another point is scored for the first of the letters that the crew receives from home. This will become an important part of the crew’s routine for the rest of the season, although the connection to home is lost by the end of the episode. Thankfully, they are able to re-establish connection again. These letters in this episode provide some particularly important news for the crew (the fate of the Maquis in particular will hit Torres fairly hard in a future episode). We also score a point for the official meeting between the Hirogen and Voyager. There are many more things that can score points here, but suffice it to say that this episode, paired with the previous one, sets a new tone for the series.
Continuity – 2 points. Universe continuity gets a go here as this gives us the first chapter in the Hirogen (I consider the previous episode’s encounter with them to be more of a prologue). The Hirogen are kept fairly consistent from the introduction they are given here throughout the rest of the series. Story line is good as well. As far as character continuity, it was largely intact with one notable exception. When Tuvok and Seven are captured by the Hirogen, Tuvok uses threats to get the Hirogen to release them and leave Voyager alone. While it is logical to try to intimidate a formidable opponent, it really didn’t seem to work at first. I would have expected Tuvok to then get a good read on his new opponent and develop another strategy, perhaps try to use their arrogance and violent nature against them, but he continues to goad them. When I re-watched the episode, it just felt odd that he would act this way, so I have to take a point off for it.
Character Development – 3 points. While no character gets a full treatment, several do get some good attention. Superficially, Neelix gets a new duty as morale officer by taking on the role of mailman. More deeply, we see each crew member affected by the letters from home. Janeway receives a letter from her former fiancée, indicating that he has married someone else. Tuvok learns that he is a grandfather. Tom gets a letter from his father, which opens up old wounds. Harry waits for word from his parents, and is overjoyed when he receives one at the last minute. Torres gets the biggest shock when she learns that the vast majority of her friends among the Maquis are dead, and the lucky few who survived are in prison. We also see various members of the cast provide support to one another as they deal with the issues that the letters bring up. Meanwhile, the Hirogen add a different element to the mix. Janeway shows strong mettle against a superior adversary. Seven and Tuvok also make a strong stand against their captors. Lots to consider here, but I think the letters provide the greater source of growth for the main cast.
Social Commentary – 1 point. I am forced to admit that there is not a whole lot of social commentary in this episode, which does not detract from the overall enjoyment of the story. I suppose there is something to be said about letters from home and how a long absence can change things, but those ideas and thoughts will be further fleshed out in future episodes.
Cool Stuff – 2 points. I must give a point for the appearance of Tiny Ron (best known as Maihar’du, the giant servant of grand Nagus Zek. Here, he plays the alpha Hirogen hunter Idrin. It seems that he has more lines in this single episode with his character than he does in seven episodes of DS9. I am also scoring a point for the Hirogen and their ship. They have an intimidating look due to their large size and the use of the body parts of their prey as decorations.
Rank - Captain (19 points). While this episode is a bit of drop in energy levels from the really fun “Message in a Bottle”, it is still exciting and touching. It firmly establishes the new nemesis for Voyager and lays the foundations for some important character development that is to come in future episodes, most notably for B’Elana Torres.
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