Learning from “The Thaw”

If you’re reading this blog, then chances are you’re well aware of the philosophical gems tossed about in Star Trek. Tonight, I found myself rewatching the ST:Voyager episode “The Thaw” (s3e23) which is overall a pretty creepy episode, what with the circus of fear and such, but packed into the last few minutes of the episode, of course we have some well-played general badassery on Capt. Janeway’s part, but we also find some very real truths about humanity, specifically about fear.

Fear: “You’re here… you’re actually here. I don’t believe it.”
Janeway: “The arrangement was that the others would be released.”
Fear: “You show remarkable trust, Captain. How could you be so sure I would keep my word?”
Janeway: “I’ve known fear. It’s a very healthy thing most of the time. You warn us of danger, remind us of our limits, protect us from carelessness. I’ve learned to trust fear.”
Fear: “Finally, someone who appreciates me! Am I blushing?”
Janeway: “Let them go.”
Fear: “Yes, yes of course!” [turning toward hostages] “You may depart! Farewell, my friends. Do come back and visit, I’ll always be here.”

Janeway makes some very good points about fear in this little exchange. It’s true that fear can be a healthy thing, as long as it doesn’t become too powerful and overwhelming, as it did for the hostages. It makes us think twice before we take that jump, to consider whether or not we can realistically make it.
…but the truths continue after the hostages depart.

Janeway: “Would you be honest with me?”
Fear: “Fear is the most honest of all emotions, Captain.”
Janeway: “You really want this to end as much as I do, don’t you?”
Fear: “Now, now, don’t even think about leaving, I’m not going to let you go. Not after all this. Mirror?” [a mirror appears] “Don’t we make a beautiful couple, Captain?”
Janeway: “I’m not Captain Janeway.”
Fear: “Coulda fooled me.”
Janeway: “I’m afraid I did.”

Fear can indeed be frightfully honest, and it can hang on us and drag us down. I know a lot of us find the solution in either tricking our fear by going around the problem, or simply detaching ourselves from that fear long enough to find our solution. I suppose this sequence of dialog is simply a more literal interpretation of those methods. Once Janeway reveals that she is in fact a program designed to respond as the real captain would, she strikes at the heart of Fear, with some real words to remember.

Janeway: “You know as well as I do that fear only exists for one purpose: to be conquered.”
Fear: “She tricked me.”
Janeway: “Did she? Or was it part of you actually hoping to be defeated? Isn’t that why you allowed Captain Janeway to come here? Because you sensed she had the power to subdue you?”
Fear: “No. She lied. It was very un-Starfleet of her.”
Janeway: “Starfleet captains don’t easily succumb to fear.”
Fear: “What will become of us? … Of me?”
Janeway: “Like all fear, you eventually… vanish.”
Fear: “I’m afraid.”
Janeway: “I know.”

Did she just pull a Han Solo on Fear? At any rate, this is the portion of the conversation where she finishes out her prior statements. Yes, she has learned to trust fear because it is completely honest and reminds her of her limits, but it seems that fear only tells her when she needs to bring her A Game. After all, what good is something that reminds you of your limits, if not to help you push yourself to new heights? The Federation is a fantastic wonderland, but it’s still true that only the best among us are suited to lead, a fact that Janeway reminds us quite readily here. Whereas so many episodes end with a witty quip on the bridge, this one simply fades to black as Janeway and Fear drive home the point that eventually every fear will come to an end, somehow.

As I was writing this post, I was reminded that Halloween is fast approaching. I realize this post is a bit on the early side for that, but maybe this will help you get through all the horror movie marathons over the next month. Thanks for reading!


RDML Cam Wilkinson
Commanding Officer
Fleet 31