The performance of Joel Gray is truly stunning. He plays Caylen, a disturbed and delusional man who believes Janeway to be his daughter and his wife to be imprisoned. We are not told what exactly Caylen is suffering from – whether it be dementia or PTSD or some other unknown ailment – but it truly does not matter. Gray conveys all we need to know about this person in the way he speaks, his gestures and movements and the way his eyes seem to plead with Janeway to provide something, anything – even if he himself has no idea what that something is. He is damaged, he is broken. But he still has enough intelligence and glimmers of reality to understand this. When he allows himself to be humiliated by guards in order for a prisoner to escape it is heartbreaking while at the same time heroic. Joel Gray takes a character that could have been a caricature and turns him into a realistic portrayal of a man who is hurting. Like I said, stunning.
And playing off this is Kate Mulgrew’s nuanced performance as Janeway. She plays Janeway as commanding and just a bit irritated – this is understandable given the circumstances. Voyager has no real stake in the politics of this planet and the old, reliable Prime Directive prohibits her from becoming involved even if she did. No, her only responsibility is the get her people safely back to the ship and she acts accordingly. But given Caylen’s sympathetic and broken nature this could have come off as abrupt and cold, even cruel. But Mulgrew avoids this by allowing Janeway to remain commanding while at the same time being tender. As such her actions toward Caylen do not seem manipulative even when she is using his generosity to her own benefit. It is a truly subtle and deft performance that, combined with Gray’s, turns what could have been a rather average episode into what is arguably the best Voyager has produced so far.
Similarly the pairing of Tuvok and B’Elanna is surprising. Well, surprising in the fact that it hasn’t been used so far in the series. The Vulcan calm combined with the Klingon rage should have been obvious. And they work nicely off each other. This allows the interrogation/torture scenes – again something that could have been played poorly – to walk a fine balance between disturbing and poignant. Tim Russ’ performance is one of the finest I’ve seen from him so far in the series. In fact everyone is on point here to be honest.
But it is the ending that sets this episode apart from others. Janeway comforts Caylen as he dies. She allows him in his final moments to believe that she is indeed his daughter and that they succeeded in rescuing his wife from prison. She gives him, finally, what he always needed – contentment. After so much had been taken from him Caylen is allowed to die with dignity. It is an incredibly moving scene.
This is by far the best I’ve seen of Voyager. I found this episode to be extraordinary and should be regarded as a classic, not just of Voyager – but of Star Trek in general.
The journey continues.