Star Trek: Voyager

Season 5 Episode 8

Nothing Human

Aired Wednesday 8:00 PM Dec 02, 1998 on UPN
out of 10
User Rating
172 votes

By Users

Episode Summary


Stardate: Unknown
When an alien attaches itself to B'Elanna's nervous system, the Doctor enlists the help of a holographic recreation of an expert. However, when B'Elanna learns that the expert is a Cardassian that performed immoral medical experiments during the occupation, she refuses treatment.

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  • Medical ethics in fiction and fact!

    "Nothing Human" may have dealt with a hypothetical situation in the far distant future but it was obviously

    (in the shape of the Cardassian doctor Crell Moset and his inhumane experiments) based all too real life, not just German and Japanese doctors such as Joseph Mengele, Karl Brandt and Surgeon Commander Chisato Ueno IJN( the last were executed for their activities by the Allies after war crimes trials), but instances of inhumane and abusive experiments by American doctors such as not just the now notorious Tuskegee syphilis study in which a group of black men and their families suffering from syphilis between 1932 and 1972 were allowed to suffer and die hideous deaths even after a cure between available, but the "father of American gynaecology" Dr James Marion Sims who performed gynaecolical experiments on enslaved black women without anaesthetic and the late Albert Kligman who did much the same thing with African American (male) inmates at Philadelphia's Holmesburg Prison between 1951 and 1974( see Allen Hornblum's "Acres Of Skin: Human Experiments At Holmesburg Prison, Routledge, 1998 and Harriet Washington's "Medical Apartheid: The Dark History Of Experimentation On Black Americans From Colonial Times To The Present" , Doubleday, 2007). It is all too easy to smugly assume that "it couldn't happen here!"moreless
  • The cast and crew must have had a hoot with the completely phony-looking alien hanging around Roxann Dawson's (B'Elanna) neck for the better part of week while they filmed this episode.moreless

    The cast and crew must have had a hoot with the completely phony-looking alien hanging around Roxann Dawson's (B'Elanna) neck for the better part of week while they filmed this episode.

    At its core, this episode is one of those works to challenge us about contemporary issues. This is something Science Fiction does very well as long as the presentation is good and they don't have to compromise their own "science" in order to bring it about.

    In this case, the question is whether medical research (and its benefits) should be rejected and not used because the people who engaged in that research did so under what could be called "cruel/inhumane" circumstances. Our contemporary debate at the time this episode was filmed and even today is whether we should reap the benefits from tests for medical research being conducted on, and often killing, animals. Or should we ignore those benefits as a way protesting that practice. Voyager encounters an alien ship with one "non-humanoid" survivor. They beam it to sickbay. It looks like a green cockroach. The ungrateful alien launches itself through a force field and attaches itself to B'Elanna's neck, where it will spend the rest of the episode, apparently feeding off of her body. Think of the movie "Alien" but here the alien is always outside the body, fully in it. First up, the alien looks dreadfully fake. It looks like someone's warped idea of a stuffed toy for a kid. It's hard to suspend belief that this is a real creature. The problem here belongs to the people charged with making aliens believable. Second problem is that they sacrifice some science. It's immediately determined they can't transport the alien off of B'Elanna. Nonsense, that's exactly what the transporter would do. Split the two based on the B'Elanna's last transport record.

    Nevertheless, the Doctor, needing assistance, has a secondary hologram created to assist him. The hologram is based on sketchy Federation records of a Cardassian doctor known as Crell Moset. Supposedly, this man is the best expert on exoskeleton life forms. And, the Doctor is initially impressed and inclined to want to keep him around for future consultations. Turns out though that Crell has a bad reputation of having experimented directly on "humanoid" subjects. This sets off a series of debates between the Voyager crew. Even B'Elanna (periodically conscious) refuses to have him assist in the operation to save her. There's a lot of back and forth about the hologram being just a hologram and not the individual who actually preformed the atrocities. Eventually, Janeway says B'Elanna must be saved. An "operation" is preformed and both B'Elanna and the alien are saved. The Doctor decides that the Crell hologram must go. Does the episode work? I couldn't get past the silliness of the alien to appreciate the "stakes" involved. Also, the early elimination of using the transporter didn't work. If they had tried the transporter and it failed, I might have bought it. However, it makes the whole thing seem contrived to push the ultimate social point.

    The "debates" between the crew seemed overly repetitive. They all seemed to be saying the whole thing over and over and no new enlightenment comes of it. The audience "got it" without having to constantly beat us over the head with it. So, it was a good idea for a story but not well executed.moreless
  • Plastic looking Alien grabs and sucks B'Elana by the neck and pseudo moral dilemas

    The Alien is awful, but his ship is cool. That's it, frightened and needingto survive, what he does? Right! The same all of us would have done. Grab B'elana in a big hug and biting her on the neck to suck the life out of her. Seems more like some kind of symbiosys than killing the host. Anyway, there's the flaw regarding the use of teletranspot and then Doc decides to request support from data in their database related to a Cardassian Xenobyologist.

    Unfortunatelly he decides to summon also the Cardassian avatar and that spoils the trick as that Cardassian supposedly got many of his skills and knowledge from experiencing with Bajoreans. What a dilema! Should we accept using that knowlege?

    My question is, if the avie of the Xenodoc even though being cardassian was done to look like human or klingon or any other, would it have made any difference his past actions?

    And after all we are talking database here. Even though that knowledge aws related to a mass murdered, his victims are dead and if that served to any cause it would be that it helps to save lifes. In my oppinion this doesn't mean justify in any sense the deeds of the cardassian, long before dead.

    Nonetheless, the crew takes lots of time discussing like children the possible morality of using that knowledge. History of Medicine is full of examples of that. The nazi did experiments and also many english and american doctors to tell about some. Many times empiric, many times intentional like for examples sterilize people with mental handicap.

    If you like this kind of dilema so, that's for you.moreless
  • Unoriginal

    B'Elanna gets attacked by an alien lifeform and she needs medical treatment.

    The only who can treat her is a hologram version of a cardassian doctor who experimented on Bajorans.

    The dilemma presented in this episode is basically the same as in Jetrel (season 1) and Duet (DS9, season 1) where there is a confrontation of some sort between 2 archenemies (or a warcriminal and his victim), where one's life depends on the other's expertise.

    Basically the one redeeming factor to keep this episode from being a total stinker is the crew trying to find out how to communicate with the alienship.moreless
  • An interesting moral dilemma dismissed far too cavalierly. One of the worst episodes of Season 5.

    Should we use medical research derived from cruel experimentation on humans? Unlike other reviewers, I don't find this dilemma boring or uninteresting at all. It's quit real and quite important within the Trek universe. But the authors' treatment of it is bad, bad, bad.

    The solution, stated quite clearly by both Janeway and the Doctor, is to ignore morality and save B'Elanna. At one point Janeway gives a utilitarian reason for her decision ("we need B'Elanna"), but leaves it entirely undeveloped. The Doctor is even worse: at the episode's climax, when Moset accuses them all of being hypocrites, Doc silences him and just turns off his program. Really?!

    Whoever wrote this episode wouldn't pass my intro to ethics college course, or any such course for that matter. It's an offensive episode, not because of the position it takes on the issue, but because it refuses to take its responsibilities and motivate its choice. It's a deeply immoral script, just like its characters.

    One major reason I adore Voyager is its capacity to be philosophically thorough in 44 minutes, but this one is a major exception. Shame, shame, shame!moreless
Robert Picardo

Robert Picardo

The Doctor

Kate Mulgrew

Kate Mulgrew

Captain Kathryn Janeway

Robert Beltran

Robert Beltran

Commander Chakotay

Roxann Dawson

Roxann Dawson

Lt. B'Elanna Torres

Ethan Phillips

Ethan Phillips


Tim Russ

Tim Russ

Lt. Commander Tuvok

David Clennon

David Clennon

Dr. Crell Moset

Guest Star

Frank Welker

Frank Welker

Alien Voice

Guest Star

Jad Mager

Jad Mager

Ensign Tabor

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

  • QUOTES (3)

    • Paris: Fine. Let's just deactivate the evil hologram and let B'Elanna die. At least we'd have our morals intact.

    • Sean: It is curious. The Borg are accused of assimilating information with no regard for life. This Cardassian did the same; and yet, his behavior is tolerated.

    • The Doctor: Are we also going to tell them where you honed your surgical techniques? A footnote, perhaps? For further details, see Cardassian death camps.
      Moset: Those techniques were crucial this morning. Where was your sarcasm then?
      The Doctor: I didn't come here to debate the issue with you, Crell. I came here to inform you of my decision. (reads from PADD) 'It is my judgment that the Medical Consultant Program and all the algorithms contained therein shall be deleted from the database. In light of recent evidence I cannot in good conscience utilize research that was derived from such inhuman practices.'
      Moset: ' In good conscience'. What about the well-being of your crew? You're confronted by new forms of life every day, many of them dangerous. You need me. Delete my program and you violate the first oath you took as a physician: 'Do no harm.'
      The Doctor: 'Do no harm.' You have no right to say those words. Computer...
      Moset: You can erase my program, Doctor, but you can never change the fact that you've already used some of my research. Where was your conscience when B'Elanna was dying on that table? Ethics? Morality? Conscience? Funny how they all go out the airlock when we need something. Are you and I really so different?

  • NOTES (1)