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Overview – Janeway and the senior officers receive an efficiency report from Seven of Nine, and three Starfleet crewmen are brought to the Captain’s attention. Crewmen Billy Teffler, Mortimer Harren, and Tal Celes are all, for various reasons, under-achievers. Janeway realizes that none of them have ever been on an away mission. Recognizing that life aboard Voyager makes it difficult to simply reassign them to a more suitable ship or star base, Janeway decides to take them on a routine survey mission in the Delta Flyer. Partway into the mission, however, they encounter a strange life form that soon puts all four of them in danger. As Janeway tries to motivate and inspire this group of misfits, the crewmen find that they are capable of more than anyone, themselves included, could have expected.
Score: 7/10 – There have been many comparisons made between this episode and TNG’s “Lower Decks”. While there are some similarities, I find “Good Shepherd” to be a different take on the story of some junior officers. In this case, these are those who just don’t fit in. Teffler, Celes, and Harren seem to have more in common with Barclay than with Sito Jaxa and Nurse Ogawa. So while in “Lower Decks” we still get to see Starfleet’s finest, “Good Shepherd” gives us a glimpse at the life of the misfits. They are even more screwed up then the former Maquis that are the main focus in “Learning Curve”. The dilemma that Janeway and this trio of misfits encounters is only a backdrop for the Captain in dealing with these difficult crewmen. The efficiency review that sets up this story does give us a new glimpse into the workings of the senior officers, and the opening sequence that takes us from an external shot to the interior of the ship, working our way down into the bowels of the ship and ending with an external view again is quite the scene. Where I find this episode lacking is the knowledge that these characters had some potential to be further developed, but weren’t. This is a reflection of one of Voyager’s weaknesses and based on Voyager’s past history I had little confidence that we would ever see these three crewmen again. There were plenty of opportunities to develop some great secondary characters throughout the series, much like Deep Space Nine did. The misfits in this episode join the ranks of former Maquis, Equinox survivors, and token Starfleet officers that just do not get development enough to make us invest much in them.
Relevance – 1 point. A point is scored for the first episode of Crewman Tal Celes, who we will see again in “The Haunting of Deck 12” and have mentioned again in “Workforce”. Beyond that, there is nothing much more to this episode that makes it importa
Continuity – 3 points. Story continuity is a go here. Nothing contradictory. Universe continuity could have been an issue. Crewman Celes in Bajoran, and it seems that her first name is Tal and listed first, where in traditional Bajoran customs the family name is given first (such as Kira Nerys and Ro Laren). However, in the episode “Ensign Ro”, Ro mentions that some Bajorans switch their name order to better fit in to Starfleet. This is a plausible explanation for Tal’s name, so I can give it a bye here. Character continuity also works well. Janeway definitely combines a mothering instinct with command responsibilities as she takes these three under her wing. I also found the reactions of the senior officers to be in line with their efficient review results. Even Seven grudgingly gives herself a poor score based on Crewman Celes and her inadequate performance, and her annoyance is fitting.
Character Development – 1 point. With the focus being on the Misfit Trio, it is understandable that the main characters are given a passing treatment. Really, while this episode highlights the Trio, this is really a story about Janeway, who is dismayed at the fact that these crewmen fell through the cracks on her watch. She takes it upon herself to assure these three that there is a place on Voyager for them. This category would have scored higher if it seemed that the Trio would have been featured in the future.
Social Commentary – 3 points. Each of the misfits had a different issue when it comes to not fitting in. Celes was incompetent, Teffler was insecure, and Harren was full of himself. We will always find people like them, and sometimes we may be that person. In this episode, we see Janeway make a personal effort to reach out to each of them, and this is a choice we often have to face in our lives. How do we reach out to those on the outside of the team? How do we, if we are the one on the outside, dig deep within ourselves to overcome our perceived inadequacies?
Cool Stuff – 2 points. I scored a point for the creature/alien that possessed Teffler on the away mission. Of course it was the hypochondriac that had the alien crawling around under his skin. I also scored a point for the introductory sequence that followed the various crewmembers from one part of the ship to another.
Rank – Captain (17 points). While I enjoyed “Lower Decks” more as a story that helps us get a glimpse into the lives of lower ranked officers on a starship, I do acknowledge that there is a certain charm to this episode. My only real complaint is that without anything else for these three misfit crewmen to do after this episode, we really have little reason to invest ourselves in them. Contrast to Sito Jaxa in “Lower Decks”, we had every reason to buy into her character because of her back story. Not that “Lower Decks” built their junior officers much more either, but I think this was an opportunity wasted here. Still, overall a good episode.
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