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165. Hallmark Trek (VOY 5.22)

Anika and Liz fire up the ancestry.com subscription and do a deep dive into an episode which does a deep dive into Kathryn Janeway’s heritage. Yes, we’re watching “11:59”, an episode which has aged badly but maybe wasn’t ever good to start with.

  • This is ostensibly the sort of filler episode that people now say they want more of, but it mistakes trivia for character development
  • “Small town business owner who hates progress and reveres the past” is a type that hits different in 2024
  • Henry Janeway voted for Mike Pence
  • Why are so many (white) starship captains from small town America? 
  • “11:59” is not interested in exploring the forces that would drive a woman out of STEM and into homelessness
  • Has any problem in the history of humanity ever been solved by a benevolent corporation? 
  • At 26:06, Liz says “dystopian” when she means “utopian”, please be assured this will keep her up at night for the foreseeable future
  • We debate the benefits and otherwise of genealogy (content warning: from 34:03 to 34:27, this includes revelations about incest)

Transcript

Liz: Welcome to Antimatter Pod, a Star Trek podcast where we discuss fashion, feminism, subtext and subspace, hosted by Anika and Liz. Today, we are discussing the Star Trek: Voyager episode 11:59, an episode which I think we can safely say has aged really badly.

Anika: So spoiler alert, I hate this episode. I used to just not have any strong feelings…

Liz: It’s definitely one of those episodes that I think was intended to be romantic. And you look at it now, and even without the way the world has changed on a geopolitical level since 1999 or 2000, it’s just kind of like, eww, eww.

Anika: It’s just all bad all the way. We have this problem with rom-coms, now, where you watch a rom-com from the 80s or the 90s and you’re like, hmm, kind of stalkery, a little bit creepy, some real bad boundary issues, but they’re still sort of charming and there’s nostalgia involved.

Liz: And I think that goes with romance from any era. Last year, I rewatched The Philadelphia Story, with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. And there’s a scene very early on where he hits her. And to me, that is shocking and unacceptable and makes it hard to root for their characters to get together. But at the time it was being made, Hepburn demanded that scene because she felt it was the only way that her character would be likable to women.

Anika: Yeah, that’s a really good example because The Philadelphia Story is really good.

Liz: Oh yeah, I love that movie.

Anika: It’s a wonderful movie. But there are things that happen that’s like, ooooh, that was a red flag. That was many, many red flags. But I still like how things work out.

Liz: I would absolutely watch a remake of The Philadelphia Story with modern stars.

Anika: The journalists would totally be like TikTok influencers.

Liz: Oh, yeah.

Anika: And I would love that. Please, let’s make this happen. Can we ask Michael McMahan?

Liz: Call us, Hollywood, we have some ideas for you. [laughs] Let’s talk about 11:59. And I have to once again confess that I didn’t rewatch it for our talk today because I watched it again late last year. And if you go to my blog, squiddishly.net, I am probably just going to rehash all the arguments that I wrote out last year.

Anika: I rewatched it last night after I remembered what episode we were doing.

Liz: Thank you for your service.

Anika: And like legitimately 15 minutes in, I texted you, I’m going to be really salty on this podcast because I hate everything involved. I have very strong opinions.

Liz: The funny thing is that on the Voyager end of the story, I think this is the sort of quote unquote filler episode that people say we need more of.

Anika: So true.

Liz: The crew sitting around talking and learning things about themselves. And I don’t miss filler. And this episode is not about character development, it’s about trivia.

Anika: Yes, right.

Liz: Voyager has this theme that it keeps coming back to where, “oh my god, did you know that history is not written in stone? It’s a narrative that we assemble from fragments of evidence? Our understanding of history can change?”

Anika: I wrote a post about this, I believe, for Women at Warp. We can put it in the notes.

Liz: It’s a really interesting theme that Voyager comes back to over and over again. And I like that — you know, usually they’re dealing with genocide, and I like that they’re pointing that scrutiny towards personal history and family history. But at the same time, this episode, it really feels like it’s the end of the season and they needed to fill a slot and Kate wanted to stretch her acting muscles.

Anika: I love the idea of revisiting who gets to tell your story.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: That is an amazing concept that I want to see in all of fiction and all of nonfiction. But this doesn’t work for me, and I can delineate all of the reasons why. But the basic problem is that none of the people in the past are like, nope. And Janeway has this crisis about how the person that she followed into her dreams and like achieved all of these things based on isn’t real.And that’s a really interesting concept that we do nothing with. We do not delve into that at all. She’s just sad about it, and then they have a party.

Liz: In fairness, that is the Voyager way. You have feelings, and then Neelix will resolve your feelings with a social event. I think part of the problem with this episode is that so much of it does take place in the year 2000. New Year’s 2000. And this episode was made in 1999. And I can’t fault the writers for not knowing that the world would dramatically change in September 2001, but looking at this episode from 2023 or 2024, it’s impossible to escape the fact that Shannon O’Donnell probably spent the 2000s designing drones, and Henry Janeway was … Look, he was probably dead of COVID by January 2021. But if not, I can see him at the Capitol.

Anika: So let’s talk about Henry Janeway and how he’s the worst. Because he is the worst. And I cannot, but yes, absolutely, he is supposed to be a romantic lead. But he … you mentioned here that he would have a Roman statue avatar if he was on Twitter.

Liz: Absolutely.

Anika: And he is literally the Roman Empire dude.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: Like that’s who he is.

Anika: He was that guy 20 years ago, apparently.

Liz: The problem for me is that because I did a history degree, I did know, in the early 2000s, lots of older men who revered history and analog things, and the Roman Empire and their Roman Empire was the Roman Empire, and all of that. They were not perfect, but they were decent guys. You know, they didn’t own televisions. They read books. They listened to the radio. And I look them up now and 100% of them are basically alt-right trolls. They’re all on Twitter. Somehow, without owning a television or being in America, they have been radicalized by Fox News.

Anika: Right. So here, not to bring real world politics into it, but we’re going to bring real world politics into it. I listened recently to the rundown, the New York Times election podcast. And they did an interview with RFK Jr. And number one, that man shouldn’t be in charge of anything. Ever. But number two, he’s a Kennedy. And he takes that very seriously, and he thinks it matters. And he thinks it means that he is a Democrat, that he can’t not be a Democrat, even though he is currently an independent, because he thinks that the Democrat Party has gone away from reality instead of him. In truth, he has definitely gone away from reality. 

But that’s what Henry here reminds me of, is that he thinks that he’s an elitist liberal Democrat, but in fact, he is an anti-choice, anti-trans, anti-vax, anti-immigration, pro-RFK junior, crazy person, who is fully in this belief that his small town elitism and snobbery is how the whole run.

Liz: This is a guy who has literally never left Indiana and is proud of that.

Anika: Everyone is raising his son to be the same.

Liz: Oh, look, we can get into Jason Janeway further down, but Jason is totally gay, right?

Anika: He’s not going to tell his dad.

Anika: Oh no.

Liz: The closest they will come to having a conversation about it is something oblique about Alexander the Great.

Anika: Everything about Henry is patriarchy and I want to punch it in the face. He is that unassuming, small businessman with a college degree in whatever, English, literature and classics and he’s never going to change, except for becoming more the worst person.

Liz: Yeah, yeah. He is already a crotchety old man in 2000, and that’s not going to change. At some point when we were talking about doing this episode, you compared it to a Hallmark movie.

Anika: I stand by that.

Liz: I think you’re completely right. That’s the thing with those movies, is that you have this vibrant career woman who moves to small town America and hooks up with the most basic guy you ever meet.

Anika: And she has eight children.

Liz: Yes. And this is the middle-aged Star Trek version of that.

Anika: And look, Shannon O’Donnell, she could have been someone … if she wanted to give it all up to have Henry Janeway’s babies because she really liked Indiana that much. Okay, that’s fine. That’s her choice. I’m not going to shame her for it, but girl, you deserve better.

Liz: Oh, honey. I think one of the many problems with this episode is that it very much has a rosy-eyed view of Indiana and the Midwest. For my blog, I hit up an older friend who has lived in Indiana all her life. Liz: And she confirmed that, yes, the 90s were the era of the rust belt and the decline in industry, which I actually think this episode captures really well. But this is also the opioid epidemic and the beginning of the circumstances that would give rise to Mike Pence as governor of Indiana.

Anika: Exactly.

Liz: Why is it that I can name a former governor of Indiana? Why do I have that knowledge?

Anika: He was, unfortunately, Vice President of the United States.

Liz: Yes, but I’d heard of him before that.

Anika: Because he’s the worst. I even wrote down here that the only person worse than Henry Janeway from Indiana is Mike Pence.

Liz: Yeah, I’m going to sign off on that.

Anika: I admit that Mike Pence, the real person, is worse than Henry Janeway.

Liz: Absolutely.

Anika: However, Henry voted for Mike Pence.

Liz: Oh, he 100% did. He regrets the lack of intellectual rigor in the Republican Party, but nevertheless, he’s never going to vote for a Democrat.

Anika: He believes in that. And yes, you’re right. And the thing is, so Janeway, Kathryn Janeway, Captain Kathryn Janeway, our Janeway is canonically from Indiana.

Liz: Yes.

Anika: So like, they stayed in Indiana for 400 years.

Liz: This, to me, is horrifying.

Anika: That means she didn’t get to go on all of her vacations. She didn’t get to go work on anything. She was just in Indiana for the rest of her life and then all of her descendants, all of them. Until, I guess, Edward and Kathryn.

Liz: Yeah. It’s kind of wild. I don’t think Jeri Taylor literally wrote this episode and she was like gone from production by the time season five rolled around. But to me, this is a Jeri Taylor-esque episode because it’s extremely narrow in its domesticity and its concerns and it’s very parochial in a way that Taylor’s writing often is. And Taylor gave us ‘Janeway’s from Indiana’. Taylor gave us Janeway’s backstory.

Anika: Just to continue my ranting about Star Trek captains, I will never not be angry that they are all from small town USA because I can’t.

Liz: Do we know where Michael was born?

Anika: No, I don’t think we do.

Liz: No, Michael and Carol, I think, are the exceptions. [Editor’s note: don’t worry, we remember about Sisko later on. And, you know, Picard.]

Anika: So this is why Seven needs to be captain.

I can’t get behind Henry Janeway and I can’t root for him as I am not a small businessman. I am not a Republican.

Liz: We’ve noticed!

Anika: I am not from Indiana. I’ve been to Indiana once in my life and we left to have dinner in Kentucky. Because they don’t even have good food.

Liz: Yeah, I went through Indiana on the Amtrak from Chicago to Detroit. And literally all I saw of it was some very pretty woodland and a whole lot of MAGA signs.

Anika: Yeah, I have been. It was before this episode aired that I was in Indiana. And it was for a family reunion with the side of my family that I don’t see or know of. That was the last time. And it was very clear that I did not belong to that family. I grew up in an extremely blue bubble. And they were not my people. They were Henry Janeways and worse. I’m sure there are good people in Indiana. We say that all the time, that there are people who are voting against all of this nonsense.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: And just can’t leave because they make it really, really hard to escape.

Liz: And you know, you have family ties, you have obligations, you have careers. Like, I completely understand why you wouldn’t just up and leave Indiana, but for 400 years?

Anika: So let’s talk about Shannon O’Donnell and how she is different from Kathryn Janeway.

Liz: She’s a very passive character. She has the same core of strength that she’s really been beaten down by life and capitalism. She ends up in this small town in Indiana and she crashes her car and her car needs repairs and she just seems so ashamed to take up space in the world. And I think this is a great performance by Kate Mulgrew. It really does capture something about being the educated poor in America.

Anika: Yeah, I will say, it’s very real. It is very real. Right now, I have a very secure job that I really like, that I’m proud of. And I’m still living basically paycheck to paycheck and trying to figure out, you know, which thing am I going to pay for this week? It’s one disaster that ruins you, and you end up living out of your car and driving through Indiana and not wanting to be there in any way, but just being stuck and latching on to the one nice person that you find because at least you let you in the door and gave you some coffee.

Liz: Yeah, Shannon is incredibly vulnerable, both physically and emotionally. And I kind of like that about her. She is so not the stereotype of an astronaut candidate. 

I actually think Shannon as a character has really, really suffered because in the years since this episode came out, we had the incident with the former astronaut who was fixated on her ex-lover and allegedly put on adult diapers to drive across the country to stalk him. And I thought it was just me that thought of that woman when I thought of Shannon O’Donnell, but then Ben and Adam made the same reference when they’d recapped this episode on The Greatest Generation. And I was like, this is not that episode’s fault. It is purely our brains. And yet.

Anika: Right. But the problem is that there are not enough women astronauts.

Liz: No, that’s it.

Anika: That we get this one story and that’s it. And so she’s an aerospace engineer, which is a physicist. And like, okay, so first of all, aerospace is actually a really, really difficult specialty. Because there are not enough projects to work on in aerospace. We are not at the place where we’re building, you know, ships that are going to go to Mars and colonize or whatever. We’re not doing that. And so there’s not enough for people to do. So you can be really good at aerospace, but if you are a shy, shrinkin, violent like Shannon, you’re not going to get the job.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: And that’s not because she’s not smart enough to be good at it. It’s because she just doesn’t have the personality to make it in an extremely male-dominated field.

Liz: A lot of aerospace engineers go into, you know, they end up working for Raytheon or Lockheed Martin. Boeing. (“If it’s Boeing, I’m not going.”) And, you know, these companies that are tied up in the military industrial complex. And this century, it is more military than space exploration.

Temember a few years ago in 2021, there was a big to-do because Raytheon sponsored the Hugo Awards ceremony. And way too many people in fandom said that was okay because they were involved in space programs. And I was like, they’re also making the missiles! 

Anika: Yeah, it is like, I’m just going to put it out there, the military industrial complex is bad, actually, and they shouldn’t be involved in anything. And frankly, I promise you that Raytheon and all of their ilk are only involved in the space program so that they can colonize space and turn it into more of a military.

Liz: Yes, yes.

Anika: They’re not going into space for exploration. That’s not a thing. That’s not what they’re doing. They want to own space and they want to dominate space.

Liz: I would really like to run a panel at my convention in May about the links between science fiction and fandom and the military industrial complex. So if you’re in Melbourne and you can talk intelligently about that, please hit me up. I will put you on a panel. Anyway, yes, this is why I think that for the 21st century, Shannon is not going to be an unemployed aerospace engineer. She is going to be designing drones.

Anika: Right, but physics is an extremely hard field for women. There are very few women. It’s in the single digits. And they work hard to try to combat that and highlight and boost women in physics. And I know some of these women and one of them left physics and chose a different discipline or chose to call themselves after a different discipline because it was a better situation. And another one, she’s the only astrophysicist student in the entire university. And she’s decided that she’s going to become a doctor.

Liz: Oh, no, that’s going to be much easier.

Anika: Because that’s better. They really root people out.

Liz: Yeah, yeah.

Anika: And no matter how many programs you have to try to convince people that it’s a good thing. When Thor, the second Thor movie was out, Natalie Portman, part of her contract to be in that movie was that Marvel and Disney would give her money to create a scholarship to send girls to be astrophysicists.

Liz: Oh, wow.

Anika: And she had trouble finding candidates to give money to.

Liz: Yep, yep.

Anika: Because they make it sound like it’s impossible.  There are no mentors to pass down their knowledge. They don’t make any concessions for family or having any kind of a life outside of being this thing. And they just are sexist, horrible people. I mean, you talked about the NASA woman. What about the NASA guy who was wearing the blouse full of naked women?

Liz: Oh my god, yeah, yeah.

Anika: And I feel like there’s more than one of them.

Liz: Look, we want astronauts to be great heroes, but the sad fact is they’re just guys. (And they are mostly guys.) And in a way, that’s good. Like, we don’t want to put people on a pedestal, but at the same time, it’s just such a high bar to clear and it’s higher for women. And because Voyager is kind of a neoliberal series, it’s framing Shannon’s failure as too much competition and she wasn’t good enough and not, “Right, these are the systematic problems that have a woman living out of her car.” And similarly, it’s like the solution to this town’s industrial decline is a benevolent corporation.

Anika: Okay, so now we’re going to talk about that guy. I call him Elon Musk. I stand by that because he is like this ridiculous plan for the Millennium Gate, which is basically a mall, but also somewhere to live and is a school and is going to be like a new town. But in a tower this reaches to the sky and is all self-sustaining. And it’s like, no, none of that is good. We don’t want any of it. That is unnecessary. The reason I think of Elon Musk is because he wants to reinvent trains. 

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: And it’s like, dude, trains exist. We already have those. You can make good trains. You could put money into having trains. And then that would be amazing. That would create a better infrastructure for more of the world. But instead, you’re like creating your own tunnel for trains and calling them something else.

Liz: I actually really like the Millennium Gate Project. I think that it is something that would be, you know, valuable in a time of climate crisis to have this research into a self-sustaining biosphere that people can live in. But it’s just presented as this utopian capitalist commercial project.

Anika: Isn’t it what Amazon is building in San Francisco?

Liz: Something like that, yeah.

Anika: Seattle, maybe.

Liz: Yes, Seattle. Somewhere on the West Coast.

Anika: So that exists, but it’s literally branded by Amazon.

Anika: Yeah. And it’s these futurists, you know, who think that they’re going to solve all the problems through technology. And it’s like, yes, you can solve a lot of problems with technology. I’m going to go and say, yeah, every factory worker can be replaced by a robot, and that’s actually a good thing. We should replace all the factory workers with robots. And then we should get the factory workers like other jobs that are better, that they won’t want to like, you know, cry at the end of every night because their life is so tedious and boring.

Liz: I disagree. But I also think what if we just made factory work better?

Anika: Well, yes. Obviously, like right now, because we don’t have the robots, we should definitely make factory work better. But also we should just make it so that everybody has a living wage, a baseline, here’s money, have some money, and it’ll cover your rent and a week’s worth of food. And then you have another job for the rest of it. And let people work four days a week and choose what they want to work at. If we all had the time to devote to the things that we cared about, and then like two days out of the week had to do something stupid, but necessary, like pick up the trash or fix pipes or work at a factory, then we would be happier as a society.

Liz: I agree, but I also think your view is too utopian, and some people are always going to want more. However, in the context of the Millennium Gate, my beef with the project is basically, one, you can’t make a town dependent on one thing for its survival. And two, the problem with private-public partnerships is that the private does tend to take over. And so you start out with this, you know, biosphere and laboratories and a library, and over the years, the retail space is just, you know, there’s going to be a Starbucks on every floor.

Anika: It’s just very clear to me that that guy is creating his biosphere in order to prove that he can and then make money off of it.

Liz: I don’t think he — like, it’s not his project. He’s just middle management. And that’s the other thing. Like this episode is so utopian that middle management are the good guys.

Anika: And I think maybe he is not a good guy. What makes you think that that guy is a good guy? The only good person in this entire episode is Jason.

Liz: I think Shannon is a good person. I just think that she is so broken down that she doesn’t really know what to fight for.

Anika: Yeah, I have nothing against Shannon other than that she is a Hallmark movie heroine.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: And then I can’t handle those. But maybe, I don’t know, am I against romance? Am I just like, — again, I don’t actually have a problem with her deciding that she wants to marry Henry and work in the bookstore and have four kids and eight grandkids and be happy with that. That’s fine.

Liz: She’s not going to work in the bookstore, she’s going to be an engineer working on the Millennium Gate project. So she does, in a sense, get to have it all. It’s just that ‘all’ includes Henry Janeway, and I don’t think he’s the nappy changing, sorry, diaper changing type.

Anika: I don’t know. This idea that, like you just said, she gets to have everything, and that’s not what I get out of it. Because the episode tells me that she didn’t fulfill her dreams, and that that’s why Kathryn Janeway is upset. And that Kathryn Janeway fulfilling Shannon O’Donnell’s dreams is somehow good enough, and that we should be happy with all of them. I don’t think that’s fair to either of them.

Liz: It leaves Janeway in the position of living for someone else. And with Shannon, it’s like, you know, she had babies, so her life has purpose.

Anika: Yeah. I mean, I’m just really … And I say this as a mother, who will freely admit that having my children is the best thing I’ve done.

Liz: Absolutely! You’ve made human beings! They’re people!

Anika: So I’m not saying that motherhood is bad. Motherhood is wonderful.

Liz: But it’s just one facet of your life.

Anika: Yes. And that idea that if you do one or the other, then you’re worthwhile. Kathryn Janeway succeeded as a scientist and a leader, and Shannon O’Donnell succeeded as a mother and a grandmother, and therefore they are good. Like, no, they’re good just because they’re good.

Liz: I really wish that in the photo at the end — like, we saw that Shannon, you know, she’s in her 40s. What if she did not have biological children and Janeway is descended from the son she adopted? The implication…

Anika: That’s a whole other problem.

Liz: I just don’t like the implication that Jason is a starter kid who doesn’t really count genetically.

Anika: Yeah, exactly.ason, again, the one person that I like is sweet little Jason, who deserves so much better, who has Shannon for like an hour and is like, actually, this should be my mom.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: Because my dad is bad and she will understand me, even though there is nothing, she does nothing to get that from him, but she is the person that he goes to.

Liz: I think she does. She speaks to him respectfully and she takes an interest in what he wants. And I don’t think Henry is abusive or even neglectful, but Henry takes it for granted that Jason is going to live in town forever and take over the bookstore. And maybe he’ll go to college, but he’ll go to college in-state. And Shannon sees more for Jason.

Anika: So he gloms onto this idea that…

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: I like that.

Liz: She brings out her laptop and his world gets bigger.

Anika: Okay. So genealogy as a thing is already bad. And again, I’ve been having these conversations with people in person recently, and so it’s on my mind. But the idea of generational wealth, it causes the disparity between people going forward. Because if someone starts out wealthy, and I mean, you know, hey, just owning a house that you don’t have to pay for yourself, is enough.

Liz: So you think genealogy as a field contributes to this?

Anika: Yes, because it’s based in this idea of finding out who your ancestors are, and deciding if that makes you more or less worthy as a person.

Liz: I can see that, but I kind of disagree, because I think genealogy is a way of learning about the lives of ordinary people. Because most of us, you know, our ancestors are pretty ordinary. And that’s a field of history that is hard to access. And genealogy is a way for people like African Americans and Indigenous people and people who have been alienated from their heritage by white supremacy to find their roots. So I can see how genealogy can be used in the negative way you’re implying, but I also think it can be a more … I think genealogy as a field is morally neutral. Except possibly when DNA companies are selling your records to, you know, whatever.

Anika: There are these two episodes of CSI. Sorry to bring up CSI. There’s these two episodes of CSI where they have a genealogist played by the woman who is in Kindergarten Cop, not Patricia Arquette, but the other woman, his partner.

Liz: Also not Jayne Brook.

Anika: Not Jayne Book.

Liz: Because I would have heard.

Anika: And I really like those episodes because they sort of tease out exactly what you’re saying. It’s like, don’t care about it, you know, what important people you’re related to. Like, who are the people that are the salt of the earth? And I will say this, I am someone who doesn’t have this. And the most I’ve done is taken one of those DNA tests and found out that I was like 99% Scandinavian and 1% Brazilian. Which is like, okay.

Liz: That sounds like a rounding error.

Anika: I was like, I don’t think that’s real. [laughs] Anyway, so again, I’m biased. I’m biased against it because it is something that has held me back. It is something that in my birth family, I never belonged to. And in my adoptive family, we are very close and I love them. But there was always this feeling that I was other.

Liz: Yeah. And that’s the other thing. Genealogy, especially the way we do it with DNA now, is very alienating to people who are adopted, who have estranged family members, who — I was reading an article the other day about how DNA testing has revealed massive amounts of incest in American families. Way, way, way more than people had realized. And that’s just like cases that produced a person. So that’s very, very ugly. 

And so I do think if you go into genealogy, you kind of do have to be prepared that you will find maybe things you didn’t want to learn. My grandmother started doing a family history, and then she discovered one of our ancestors might have been Aboriginal. And she didn’t pursue that at all. She just threw out all her research because she was super racist. (And by saying that, I am not claiming any Aboriginal heritage. I grew up in a white racist family, and any connection with that culture has been long erased. So, just to be clear, this is not like a Cherokee princess situation.)

Anika: My adoptive name is De Boer.

Liz: Oh.

Anika: Which is bad.

Liz: The South African…

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: Yes, like the Dutch Boers.

Liz: I’m so sorry.

Anika: It means the farmer.

Anika: So, it’s a descriptive name, very common in Holland, but not great.

Liz: Yeah, no, I understand. So yeah, I think genealogy can be fraught, and people just sign up for ancestry.com, maybe not really prepared for what they might learn, or they send away for a DNA kit. And I think that’s Janeway’s story here, and she gets a very gentle version of it. “Oh no, the ancestor you thought was a hero was something else.” Not even not a hero, just a regular person.

Anika: Can I rant about Tom Paris now?

Liz: Please.

Anika: I am so angry about the Tom Paris subplot. It’s not a subplot, it’s like a moment. But basically, the TLDR is that Tom Paris’ ancestor really did work on Mars, but Kathryn Janeway’s ancestor did not. And everything about that is just extreme sexism and classism and privilege and no. And I say this as someone who ships Janeway Paris like fully and completely. That is part of their story. That the Paris dynasty is a better version of the Janeway dynasty. It is just straight up presented that way. And the thing is that no one questions that Tom Paris obviously knows everything about all of these ancestors, because he’s like, I studied this stuff. And I was like, you know, source, please, whatever. It’s just so, again, the patriarchy. And I want to punch it in the face.

Liz: They’re both nepo babies, but it’s like the difference between Drew Barrymore and Jack Quaid.

Anika: Yes, exactly, exactly.

Liz: But also, you know, whose ancestor really was an astronaut? Jean-Luc Picard. Because once again, Mr. Landed Gentry, his ancestors were explorers and once sort of did a genocide against Native American people….

Anika: Exactly, exactly. And yeah, you’re right. Picard is not small town America. You know what he is? He’s a freaking French aristocrat. That is worse, actually, everyone.

Liz: I’m just picturing Q like hauling out a little guillotine. As a treat. It’s also the thing we do to women where it’s like, “oh, that woman you find inspiring? She’s problematic, actually.”

Anika: I hate that. I hate it. And that’s what I’m saying when it’s like, you know, so Shannon O’Donnell wasn’t good at playing politics.And so we’re just going to dismiss anything she ever did in her life.

Liz: Yeah, yeah. 

Anika: That’s basically what happens.

Liz: Her primary achievement is babies. Biological babies from her own body.

Anika: Oh, my God.

Liz: Look, I choose to believe that Jason went away to college and eventually married a nice man and they had a baby by surrogacy. And that’s who Janeway is descended from.

Anika: I hope so. So the crux of the episode is this idea that it doesn’t matter what Shannon O’Donnell actually did. What Shannon O’Donnell re Is this a positive message, Liz?

Liz: I guess, but we talked about Hallmark movies, and that’s a bit of a Hallmark card of a message.

Anika: I struggle. I’m like, OK, so who inspired me? And I guess it’s my mom. I guess, but it’s more like — this is going to sound horrible, I apologize to everyone. But my mother dying inspired me more than my mother’s life.

Liz: No, that makes sense. My mother has said similar things about her parents.

Anika: And so, you know, it’s hard. It’s like, it’s legitimately hard for me to connect with this concept of your hero. Are they your hero because they’re a hero and that’s enough? Like, I want to believe that’s true, but I am the person who peels away the curtain and wants to know the reality. Because I think that existing is actually enough. I think that surviving in reality is enough to make you a valid person. That like, you being here, that’s all you have to do. And you don’t have to inspire anyone to be good enough.

Liz: All you have to do is try to leave the world a better place than you found it. And I’m sure Shannon O’Donnell did that. Not so convinced about Henry Janeway. But it’s very commodifying, this idea that our ancestors have to serve a purpose.

Anika: That’s it. You’re right. Exactly. They have to be productive in some way.

Liz: We need to put them to work. You know, I compare it to like Chinese and East Asian traditions where ancestors are part of your heritage, they’re part of your life, but you make offerings to them. They’re not here to work for you.

Anika: So the movie Coco, the Disney movie Coco, beautiful, absolutely amazing movie, absolutely visually stunning. So Coco is this amazing, gorgeous movie about Mexico and Mexican culture and Mexican religion and concepts. And one of them is the ofrenda, which is a shrine to your ancestors. And the people who made Coco had an ofrenda on set the entire time, and they invited everyone who was involved in the production. It didn’t matter if you were the caterer, you still got to be invited to put something on the ofrenda. And everyone — it was huge. This is the behind the scenes stuff on the DVD or whatever.

And so my son and I were like, we want one. We have a bookshelf that we made two shelves into our own personal ofrenda. Even though we are not Mexican, we are not any part of that culture. And you could call it appropriation, but it’s because we’re connected.

Liz: Lots of cultures have the ancestral shrine.

Anika: This is a fully a thing that was true in Indonesia and Bali when I went there. And I would always give an offering again to my mother when we went there. Catholics do this. They light a candle in a church. So we have this ofrenda, and it’s meaningful and beautiful to us. And that is giving something. We lost my son’s great grandmother during the pandemic. And she was the first person that we added to the ofrenda since we created it. We started it with my parents and people who had already passed. And that was so meaningful. And lighting it on November 1st every year is so meaningful. So this connection to ancestors, I fully buy into that. I just think that it’s the power that you give it instead of this something that comes down on you. And it’s like, this is what’s important. 

And I think that in the end, that is actually what the party at the end of this episode is actually about is sort of like saying, you can honor these people for what they gave to you. And that’s what matters more than who they really were. And I think that is okay. But I just want to believe that everyone is valid already.

Liz: No, I completely understand.

Anika: Like check off little boxes. You’re like, they’re okay. They did it.

Liz: I have a shelf where I keep a photo of my racist nana and her rosary beads. So I completely get it.And she certainly doesn’t inspire me. I think she was a genuinely terrible person, but she’s part of my heritage. And I don’t need her to be more than that. I’ve sort of made my peace with the fact that my grandparents were not good people, but I still carry a piece of them with me. And maybe they inspire me to try to be a better person. But sometimes they don’t inspire me at all. And that’s okay too.

Anika: And also you can be inspired by Kathryn Janeway, who is like not a person. I’m just saying. It is okay. You can have a hero that is not even real. And that is still valid. Because if they inspire you to be a better person, to do good in your life, then who cares where they come from?

Liz: It’s possible we’ve overthought this again, the overthinking podcast.  But this is an interestingly bad episode in that way that really only Voyager can do.

Anika: So true. This episode wouldn’t exist on Next Generation.

Liz: No, no.

Liz: Because, okay, first of all, everyone on the Enterprise knows their ancestry.

Liz: Like, that’s how you get on board.

Anika: You’re so right.

Liz: Data is the only one learning more about his family. They have children on that ship, but they don’t want family entanglements. And Deep Space Nine has too much going on. This has to be a Voyager episode. For better, and so very much for worse.

Anika: Thank you for listening to Antimatter Pod. You can find our show notes at antimatterpod.com, including links to our social media, credits for our theme music, and transcripts of our episodes. You can follow us on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and Blue Sky, all at antimatterpod. And on Mastodon at antimatterpod@tenforward.social. 

If you like us, leave a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you consume your podcasts. If you, like me, use Spotify, I’m sorry, we’re working on it.

Liz: Oh shoot, I keep needing to fix that.

Anika: The more reviews, the easier it is for new listeners to find us. Join us in two weeks when we will be discussing the fifth and final season premiere of Star Trek: Discovery.

Anika: I am very excited.

Liz: I’m excited, but I also don’t want to lose my friends.