In episode 24 of Voyager season 4 'Demon', the ship is running low on deuterium and they locate a Y class 'Demon' planet that has large deposits of the needed molecule. Harry and Tom visit the planet to locate and take samples. The planet is covered in a metallic liquid that creates copies of the two crewmen when they come into contact with it. At the end of the episode the Captain allows the crew to give DNA samples in order to create clones of any willing crew members and leave them there to colonize the planet with the new life-forms.

My question is whether or not you believe Janeway made a severe ethical breach by allowing this to happen. For one thing the clones (due to only being able to breathe the native atmosphere) must remain behind on the planet.

Throughout the episode, both Harry's and Tom's clones demonstrate their fond connection with the planet and desire to remain there. This, I believe, was done specifically to quell any concerns the audience might have for this exact question. But Janeway could not have known, for sure, that this would be uniform trait among ALL clones. What if Tom and Harry ended up being the exception to the rule?

Admittedly, Janeway let individual crew members decide if they were willing to clone themselves but the instant the clone is made, it is its own, sentient, life-form. What if the clone decided it didn't want to stay on the planet? Essentially, it would either be stranded on a miserable planet that it had no say in being on, or die. The clones' fates were decided for them before they even existed. For all we know, the planet might not even be able to sustain the new colonists long-term.

Additionally, there was no time to find out if there might be potential complications with the new clones that didn't yet have time to reveal themselves. I could think for hours of potential issues that were not even considered (at least on screen) or issues that could not be planned for until after the clones were made (by which time, there is no going back.) Basically, in the span of a 30-second conversation with clone Harry, Janeway made a decision that, very possibly, could result in her being responsible for slowly murdering and imprisoning (via stranding) almost 150 people.

Note: This question is not if Janeway violated Federation law or the Prime Directive, but human ethical notions.

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    I don't know that this sort of question fits the framework of StackExchange, but there is no certainty of happiness in life for anyone. Do we have the moral authority to procreate when we don't know that our children won't be born with a horrible debilitating illness and not survive past their first birthday? Additionally, the metallic substance had already tasted sentience. And it was begging Janeway's crew to allow it to experience the same degree of sentience as they'd been born with. I don't see how Janeway could be blamed for giving the mimetic entity the same opportunity as her crew had. Mar 4, 2014 at 3:02
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    Simply leaving the clones of Harry and Paris on the planet to spend the rest of eternity stranded and alone while the rest of the entity forever yearns for the quality of life it's gotten a taste for would be far crueler. Besides, at the end of it all, the doomed Voyager crew simply reverted back to the state that they were in before they were turned into clones. So what harm has been done? Surely, their brief existence as sentient beings is still preferable to never having experienced sentience at all. Mar 4, 2014 at 3:05
  • @Lese Majeste "Do we have the moral authority to procreate when we don't know that our children won't be born with a horrible debilitating illness and not survive past their first birthday?" Well, if there is almost no likely-hood of passing on an illness then yes we have the authority but if the mother has aids and would almost certainly pass it on to the child then I would say no. That's my point in this question. There was a very high chance of failure in this decision by Janeway. My question is if you think the likely-hood in this case was acceptable.
    – xXGrizZ
    Mar 4, 2014 at 3:29
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    @PaulD.Waite I wouldn't! Jan 4, 2018 at 18:48
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    And has nobody mentioned the TNG episode "Up the Long Ladder"? Riker finds his clone, murders it, and gives a speech about how his clone "diminishes [him] in ways [he] can't possibly imagine" Jan 4, 2018 at 18:53

3 Answers 3


Two corrections: There were never 400 people aboard the USS Voyager at any time during its travels. It launched with a crew of 141, added crew members from the Maquis,the Ocampa, the Borg collective and the birth of a child during its travels. A number of crew members were killed in a variety of fashions from one being murdered by another crew member to the several being killed during the takeover of the ship by the Hirogen. The ship had 146 crew members by the time it finally returned to the Alpha Quadrant.

Also Tom Paris and Harry Kim did not have a "fond connection" to the Demon Planet. They were clones constructed from the transmutative substances on the surface of the planet and they were unable to exist anywhere else but on a world with atmospheric and temperature conditions similar to that of the planet.

Ethically this was not a decision for Captain Janeway to make on her own and it had rather unfortunate effects because she chose to make it. As was shown in the episode Course: Oblivion, the Voyager clones decide to leave the "Demon Planet" and engage in star travels of their own. Since they are not humanoid, and their Voyager is not "real" but a construct of the cloning materials found on the Demon planet, it begins to disintegrate and slowly causes the demise of the cloned crew.

When the crew realizes that they are not the original Voyager and they attempt to land on a similar planet to save themselves, they are warded off by an alien race which has staked out territorial claims upon that world. This results in further degradation of the ship and finally results in the faux Voyager completely dissolving into a mass of chemicals when they attempt to send the data that they collected in their travels to the true Voyager which they have located.Their lives and deaths were meaningless as the original crew of Voyager never knows that they had left the planet.

Captain Janeway could have, and probably should have, foreseen the possibility that the cloned crew might leave the Demon Planet regardless of any agreement made with them that they would not. If nothing else, she should have realized that by cloning themselves to resemble the Voyager, the lifeforms would eventually take on the attributes of the real crew and represent themselves as being the crew Voyager. This could have had numerous unforeseeable consequences for not only Voyager's crew, but the Starfleet and the Federation as a whole.

From a strictly ethical standpoint, this was one of her least moral decisions as it results had such tragic effects for lifeforms which simply would have continued to exist had they been left in their former state on the Demon Planet and not been allowed to clone the Voyager crew.

  • They did have a "fond connection". Remember their description of all the hues of red they could see, when they were first found?
    – Izkata
    Mar 4, 2014 at 3:13
  • I will correct the crew total in the question. For some reason I was under the mistaken impression it was 400+. That being said, I don't think the difference has any bearing on the question.
    – xXGrizZ
    Mar 4, 2014 at 3:16
  • They were component organisms of the planet's unique biosphere. Thus were part of the planet. "Fondness" is a human emotion or an expression of pleasure by human beings. Giving them that attribute anthropomorphizes them and distracts from what they were and why they didn't want to (couldn't) leave.
    – Mistah Mix
    Mar 4, 2014 at 3:17
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    It might be irresponsible, but I don't know how it can be more immoral than arming the Borg with nanoweapons or letting a holographic clone of a war criminal experiment on an alien. Also, before contact with Voyager, the "lifeform" was in the same state as the clone of Voyager ended up being. So if that's existence, then it did continue to exist. Mar 4, 2014 at 3:40
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    The episode seems to imply that when the faux Voyager disintegrates that is the "death" of the transmutative matter. The sensors clearly do not register it as being from the Demon Planet or having the same or similar chemical composition.
    – Mistah Mix
    Mar 4, 2014 at 3:42

Does Janeway have the moral authority to ask her crew if they wish to allow the mimetic alien to clone them? What does moral authority have to do with the decision?

What is moral authority?

An individual or a body of people who are seen as communicators of such principles but which does not have the physical power to enforce them on the unwilling are spoken of as having moral authority. An example is the Catholic Church.

In this sense, moral authority has been defined as "the capacity to convince others how the world should be", as opposed to epistemic authority, "the capacity to convince others of how the world is".

  • At no point does she COMPEL anyone to be cloned. She does not use her actual authority as Captain to insist that anyone participate.

  • The decision she does make is to allow the mimetic alien to experience human level sentience and this is both within her dominion as Captain and as a Federation officer making a unique and unusual first contact.

  • She had no way of knowing the creature would be capable of creating an entire starship complete with data from Voyager, including the holographic Doctor and the ability to manipulate warp fields or that the entities would degraded after time away from the source host entity. Nor could she know the entity would recreate her entire ship in less than a few weeks after the Original Voyager crew had gone.

This has greater ramifications than initially realized by the OP:

  • Janeway's decision was made with the intent of promoting good will with an alien of unknown origins and unknown capacities. She made this decision in good faith and with gratitude for the entity allowing them to gather the resources they needed to continue.

  • This decision was rational, logical and yet inspired by a human curiosity for something far beyond what was at that point known to be life as they knew it. There was no way Janeway could possibly guess the end result of the clones and their ship construct.

  • If anything, it should be considered amazing the entity could create so much of what was Voyager from itself. The ability to do this level of replication is astounding and even exceeds the mimetic ability of the Founders from the Delta Quadrant.

  • There is also no indication that the faux Voyager was the only copy capable of being made. Since we are unaware of the cloning process, that Voyager could have simply been a copy and others could just as easily be made back at the source planet.

  • Curiously enough, the clones were once released into the Universe, completely unaware of their origin, which furthers the idea they were a copy released to see just how far they might get, what they might encounter and how they might react. They traveled and experienced over ten months of adventures before their construct began to fail.

  • It is completely possible the mimetic alien maintained a connection with the faux crew and used them as a remote to travel the stars in a fashion allowing it to interact at a level previously unavailable to it. If that was indeed the case, then Janeway gave to the alien a gift far greater than she realized.


The correct question is whether the crew who elected to do this committed an ethical breach -- asking whether the captain was wrong to allow it is simply adding a murky layer of indirection.

Lieutenant Smith, facing this decision, might think "I'll be leaving in a few hours anyway, and we'll never return, so there will be no consequences for me no matter what I decide". In that case the question reduces to "would you like to create a person like yourself, who will then live with 'Paris' and 'Kim' and the others, on a world which is a paradise to them?".

But there's another phrasing. Suppose the planet had offered to transform willing crewmen into versions that could survive there. Then there would be no ethical problem; anyone who volunteered would knowingly step out into a strange new homeworld. It's true that the fate of the new version would be decided for it by the old version, before the new version even existed, but in that respect it would be no different from any other life-altering choice; we decide the fates of our future selves every day. Before the choice, Smith would weigh the decision carefully, thinking "do I want to stay here?" and afterward "well, I chose this".

The existential difference between these two scenarios would not seem very great to people who routinely pass through the transporter and interact with quasi-sentient holograms. They might well recognize the choice as something like "say no and you'll depart with Voyager, say yes and you'll have a 50/50 chance of departing with Voyager or watching Voyager depart, with the knowledge that you are actually taking both paths".

  • interesting take on the question but I believe the captain is still the primarily involved party in decision. It is her job to decide what the crew can and cannot do in certain situations. It is a responsibility the captain takes on voluntarily when she takes on command. She is accountable for all actions of the crew whether she is aware of the action or not. When she decided to allow the offer to be presented to the crew, she took on the responsibility of what might happen.
    – xXGrizZ
    Mar 4, 2014 at 4:37

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