“Distant Origin” is truly one of the all-time great episodes of Star Trek. Of course, making such a claim is a big deal. So, it requires the position to be justified. SciFiPulse is here to do just that, and explain why this Star Trek: Voyager Season Three episode is so brilliant . . .
On the surface, “Distant Origin” is about what the dinosaurs on Earth became. The premise is that not all were wiped out, and so their evolution continued. On Earth, they eventually evolved into a race called the Voth. The Voth were an intelligent civilization, long before even human ancestry. They developed space flight and were able to span out, eventually reaching the Delta Quadrant. But the story is about much more than just their survival, and what became of the dinosaurs. The themes and ideas it explores give the story its power.
“Distant Origin” opens with two Voth, Professor Gegen (Henry Woronicz) and his assistant Veer (Christopher Liam Moore), making a discovery. It leads to them theorizing that the Voth origin is indeed Earth and the Alpha Quadrant. Their political and religious leaders are outraged and immediately challenge this. Essentially, they are labeled heretical. This is the episode’s main theme that’s explored.
Eventually, the two Voth covertly board Voyager and eventually take Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran) hostage. The pair have personal cloaking devices. But even when they present Chakotay, and he confirms that Voth DNA is in many earth species, their leaders refuse to back down. Essentially, what comes about is a story about how vital history is, and who gets to dictate that history.
There are many fine aspects to “Distant Origin”. For example, it’s a strong idea. A true example of “Science Fiction proper”. The story is very much about the human condition but centered on an alien civilization. In many ways, it is a take on religion vs. science. This idea is clear, despite the Voth authorities not being religious, overtly. What matters, is that the dogma is very much there, and the very real fear of facts. Perhaps, due to their power. There were parallels between the life of Galileo and his persecution. Furthermore, the episode is somewhat unique, as the Voth, Professor Gegen (Henry Woronicz) is the main character. And, his fine performance helps things, too.
In addition to everything mentioned, “Distant Origin” also featured some strong effects and superbly creative makeup. But what truly makes it memorable is an original story, that was shot in such a way to make it stand out. Consequently, we ended up with a superb piece of television, and an example of Star Trek at its very best. The episode easily stands up beside the likes of “City on the Edge of Forever”, “The Inner Light” and “Far Beyond The Stars”. Star Trek fans will know that that’s high praise indeed. It really seems that an episode such as this is exactly what the late, great Gene Rodenberry set out to do, originally. It’s such a shame he never got to see it.