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In the Voyager episode 7x15, Voyager is sucked into an anomaly known as The Void (not to be confused with the region of space of the same name). The point of the episode is to show that ideals can be maintained even in dire situation and even help one overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, I get that.

However, Janeway must realise that the ships who attacked Voyager inside the anomaly, were acting in existential despair. In addition it ought to be palpably obvious that future ships falling into the void would suffer the same fate as most ships that previously fell into it. Now, I see two things that Janeway could have done here. At least she could have placed warning buoys all around the anomaly (it was only a couple light years large, nothing she couldn't have done in a matter of days, maybe hours, with Voyager and two shuttles). But I would have actually expected for her to sit down with Seven, Harry and B'Elanna (the only people who seem to have any grasp of physics, whatsoever) and figure out a way to help the people who are still trapped in the anomaly—yes, those pesky pirates; They weren't pirates and murderers for fun, they were trying to survive.
For instance, dumping supplies and specs in there, so those ships could free themselves. Just for starters?

OoU: Anyhow, I guess either the writers didn't think of it, or there was simply no time left to show or mention it before the credits.

IU: What I'm asking is, is there any consistent way to reconcile her behaviour after getting out with the Federation ethos of helping anybody in distress and even helping abstract strangers avoid potentially dangerous situations? Has there maybe been some further discussion of this anomaly in other works?

  • I thought I recognized this plot! It's very similar to Archer's experience in the Expanse in Enterprise. – PiousVenom Oct 16 '13 at 21:07
  • @MyCodeSucks: Yes, ENT cannibalised a lot from previous series'. However, Archer didn't nearly have the moral standards of the 24th century. – bitmask Oct 17 '13 at 6:08
  • you're correct, he didn't. Though he certainly tried. That season was definitely a weird one for his character though. – PiousVenom Oct 17 '13 at 13:07
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I had a similar reaction to this episode of despair for those trapped inside. However as far as Janeway's character and principles are concerned, she acted consistently.

Consider the episode "Friendship One" when an entire race of people fell victim to technological interference from an old Earth probe. Feeling the disaster that befell their civilization was a prelude to invasion, they reacted to Voyager's presence out of similar "existential despair." Instead of a void, they wanted to escape an irradiated planet, but the result is the same. They took several member's of Voyager's crew hostage, killed one, and threatened to kill more in an effort to get Voyager to transport them out. Janeway had already offered to help them combat the radiation, but they refused in favor of more aggressive tactics. Once Janeway rescued her crew, she wanted to turn around and leave.

She did not consider dropping a warning buoy or leaving behind information that would help those people neutralize the radiation. Paris and Neelix pleaded with Janeway to stay and help, but she said, "they didn't want our help. I can't force it on them." Neelix suggests that maybe she should. Janeway adds, "I will not risk any more lives to help murderers."

Paris and Neelix persist. "Don't you understand how desperate they are," they say. They eventually win over Janeway by convincing her that Earth was partly responsible for putting them in that mess to begin with and they had to do everything they could to help get them out. There is no analog for "The Void."

Starfleet's Prime Directive is noninterference in the internal affairs of other civilizations. It is meant to prevent exactly such disasters as originally befell the civilization in "Friendship One." Since Earth had already interfered with that civilization, Janeway has less of a reason to uphold the Prime Directive. One can say it was already violated and the damage has been done.

The Void anomaly is a force of nature and does not have its origins in interference. So Janeway faces a purely natural setting where she has a duty to uphold the Prime Directive. The Void is like a big sinkhole that traps passing ships and separates them from the universe outside. However, human nature does not change inside the anomaly. What results is a microcosm of the outer universe. You have bullies and thieves, but also innocent victims and bystanders. Janeway is convinced that her Starfleet principles can guide her just as well inside the anomaly as outside.

Once she and her allies leave the anomaly, she has no reason to interfere with those left inside the anomaly who refused her help. In "Friendship One" the Prime Directive was already violated, but in "The Void" there was no such violation and therefore no supporting argument to force her interference on those who were expressly unwilling.

  • That makes some shockingly consistent sense. But it still doesn't seem very starfleety for her to behave that way. So, the question persists; How can we reconcile her behaviour? Behaviour regarding the Void and Intentions regarding Friendship One. – bitmask Dec 15 '13 at 16:53
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    The most Starfleet-y thing is noninterference, though, according to the Prime Directive. Aside from illustrating how ideals can be maintained in dire situations, "The Void" challenges our assumptions about how much aggressive behavior we can attribute to despair and how much is plain antisocial behavior by people who should really be left alone. – AtlasMickey Dec 15 '13 at 17:12
  • No, the prime directive only applies to pre-warp civilisations. It is of no relevance in the Void situation. – bitmask Dec 15 '13 at 17:14
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    That's simply not true. The Prime Directive applies to all civilizations as a general prohibition against meddling with their internal affairs. Picard uses it as his reason for abandoning Worf in the heat of battle during the Klingon Civil War in "Redemption." There are many other invocations against warp-capable civilizations throughout the seres, be they friend or foe. – AtlasMickey Dec 15 '13 at 17:20
  • Okay, yeah. You're right, I was being overly simplistic. However, meddling in the affairs of a species to an extreme amount usually implies some sort timey wimey time-anomaly (which is where the temporal prime directive usually kicks in), but there are a few incidents where it's of relevance even in the light of non-time-travel, you're correct. At any rate, I don't see at all, how you want to apply the Prime Directive to the people in the Void anomaly. Neither are they entire civilisations nor do we have the stability of a sector at stake or something of the sorts. – bitmask Dec 15 '13 at 17:25
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Voyager escaped the void with two other ships that apparently were native to the Delta quadrant. Janeway could in good conscience leave the job of spreading the word to the crews of those vessels.

Warning buoys only work if they are understood as warnings, otherwise the buoys might attract the curious who could then stumble into the void. There are ways to get around the language problems (bitmapped images using prime dimensions, language primers based on universal mathematical concepts), but the unwary would have to figure out the puzzle before the void reached out and touched them. The best strategy might be to do nothing; i.e. leave nothing to draw attention to the area. Space is big, most ships aren't going to fall in the hole.

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    Even if so, she didn't even consider helping the people inside the void. If you say putting buoys outside the anomaly would be dangerous, what about launching them into the anomaly and fill them with information on how to escape? I'm not saying "Why didn't she do X?", I'm wondering why she wouldn't even consider holding a meeting to figure out if they could do something. – bitmask Oct 16 '13 at 6:49
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You really expect way too much here. First, according to the memory alpha, the anomaly is 9 light years in circumference. That's twice the distance between the Earth and Proxima Centauri. Second, I don't think it is that easy to just "dump" stuff into the anomaly, without endangering the ship. Not to mention, that Voyager has already lost half of its supplies. Finally, even the advanced and enlightened ethics of the Federation do not compel you to risk your life to save somebody who has just tried to kill you.

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    That's both wrong. First, even at warp 9.9 (which Voyager can do easily), leaving a light year of safety distance to the anomaly you can travel around it in 0.2 days. Voyager could easily replenish its supplies and then return to the anomaly. And finally, yes, it has been shown several times, that the Federation helps aggressors. – bitmask Oct 16 '13 at 6:44
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Janeway has been known to leave warnings, like in the case of the Telepathic Pitcher Plant in "Bliss", but in the case of the Void, there were native Delta Quadrant people that also escaped with her. As a stranger passing through their quadrant, I think the onus would more fall on them to protect their native species from the void than on Janeway. As for helping the people inside the Void, it is consistent with previous episodes that she not help them. In "The Chute" when she rescued Harry and Tom from prison she wasn't concerned how inhumane the prison was for the other prisoners. That wasn't her responsibility. In "Child's Play" she was interested in saving Icheb from the Borg. If his people wanted to live at the mouth of a transwarp conduit that was their prerogative, as long as they weren't endangering a member of her crew. She told them they weren't safe and they chose to stay. That's the same thing that happened in the Void. She told the trapped people that they would get nowhere by continuing their looting. She recommended another way and most refused. That was their prerogative, and as long as they didn't endanger her crew, she had no problem leaving them to the existence they chose. Like Icheb's people, we could understand what drove them to do what they were doing but if you present someone with an alternate path and they don't accept, it's not your responsibility to force a better life upon them, that's what the Borg Queen does (or how she rationalizes what she does)

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Perhaps it was just too big risk (or seemed to be), even with ethic concerns, she decided the ship or crew cant do it at the moment, another factor is how would others (ships) react, if voyager would stay at anomaly in order to help those guys inside.

I think it can be presumed that as a federation ship they would share the info about anomaly with anyone interested,

as for warning buoys, with subspace communication capabilities it does not need to be next to anomaly, but it would have to be in almost every direction, so traveling to one closest to you would not take you over the anomaly

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