Exploring the Holodeck: Revisiting Star Trek Voyager’s ‘Fair Haven’

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Exploring the Holodeck: Revisiting Star Trek Voyager’s ‘Fair Haven’

By Chris, Jodi, and Seo

The holodeck has been one of the great constructs in the Star Trek Universe. It has allowed the confinement of a starship to literally become virtually limitless. The holodeck provides a place for recreation, education, research and development and entertainment. It has also been a place where some of Star Trek’s most unique stories and characters have been built. Sometimes these holodeck tales cause a bit of controversy among Star Trek fans and Star Trek Voyager’s ‘Fair Haven’ is certainly one of those episodes, especially if you are Irish.

To help get a definitive take on ‘Fair Haven’ we asked Chris, Jodi, and Seo about their connection to Irish culture along with 10 questions about the ‘Fair Haven’ episode. It is our hope that we can finally determine if “Fair Haven” truly deserves to be recognized as a good holodeck episode.

What is your relationship to Irish heritage and/or culture?

CHRIS: To be honest, I do not feel like I have that strong a connection to my Irish roots. I am half Irish and half English, with family split across both islands. I have lived most of my life in Northern Ireland, with the exception of the two years I spent at university in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England. Culturally, I have always tended to lean in more to the British side of things but I do not consider myself to be either unionist or nationalist.

SEO: Well, I am as Irish as you can get! Born and reared in Limerick. My father was from Cork, Mother from Kerry. I’ve lived here my whole life and that won’t be changing anytime soon! I love our culture and heritage but I am not as up to date with it all as I really should be.

JODI: I am a fifth generation Irish American from my mother’s side of the family. My father’s side is Danish, and both sides also have some French ancestry. The Irish American side of my family has mainly been comprised of farmers through the generations. We are a large family as my mom is one of seven brothers and sisters. I have over 20 first cousins on that side of my family alone. We have always taken great pride in our Irish heritage and have always found a way to celebrate it when we gather.


Where does Fair Haven rank among holodeck episodes across the franchise?

CHRIS: Taking Voyager on its own, I would actually put ‘Fair Haven’ just below ‘Bride of Chaotica’ as one of my personal favourite holodeck/holosuite episodes. When it comes to Trek as a whole, I think there are episodes like ‘Our Man Bashir’, ‘It’s Only a Paper Moon’ and ‘Ship in a Bottle’ that are more entertaining and have a lot more to say. However, despite its imperfections, I believe that ‘Fair Haven’ stands out as one of the stronger episodes with a more romantic focus.

SEO: When I re-watched this, I was struck by how much of a filler episode it is, which isn’t a bad thing. I love filler episodes as anything could happen. I, possibly, have not watched this since it first aired all those years ago. I like the fact that its implications as personal and stretch beyond the confines of the Holodeck and it works really well as a Janeway story.

JODI: ‘Fair Haven’ is an important episode in the Voyager story, especially considering the insight it provides into the personal life of Captain Janeway. It definitely stands alongside ‘Bride of Chaotica’ and ‘The Killing Game’ as a strong holodeck episode for Voyager. ‘Fair Haven’ may not compare to the quality of holodeck stories we get from Deep Space Nine and The Next Generation, but the impact on the crew of Voyager is certainly visible. It is interesting to compare this to other holodeck episodes when you realize that the Voyager crew was responsible for creating their own new content for the holodeck without the benefit of outside resources that would have been available to the crews of Deep Space Nine and The Next Generation.

If ‘Fair Haven’ hadn’t been a Janeway-centric episode, which of the regulars would you have liked to have seen in the spotlight?

CHRIS: I think a Seven-centric ‘Fair Haven’ could have been quite interesting, based on the scene in the Ox and Lamb pub where Seamus tries flirting with Seven while playing a game of ring-toss. The way Seven responds to his remark about her beauty being enough to make a man faint, by inviting him to join her at a table, is quite funny and sweet. It also feels like an interesting connection point between the dating exercises that the Doctor put together for Seven in ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’, as well as her subsequent simulations in ‘Human Error’. With this one scene in the ‘Fair Haven’ environment, Seven appeared more confident and more at ease so it would have been fun to see how confidently she would have approached a hologram romance with a character like Michael Sullivan, as opposed to someone she already knew.

SEO: This is a tough question because, as Hollywood shows, “Irish” based stories usually just go into the stereotype and poke fun at Irish culture. So for something like that then, I think the Doctor would have been suited well for something like this if they wanted to go down a real comedic way. Not saying it would have been great but if that was their desire, the Doc would be the choice for me.

JODI: Allowing Seven of Nine to be the focus of the ‘Fair Haven’ episode would have been a great vehicle to move her story arc forward. Seven was progressing through her socialization education with the Doctor through various holodeck simulations. Allowing Seven to interact with the characters of ‘Fair Haven’ beyond tossing rings at the pub with the admiring Seamus would have provided for a number of tense and humorous interactions. It is fun to consider what Seven’s responses might have been to the colloquialisms of the towns people, their belief in superstitions, and to the constant inquiry as to her enhanced abilities.

Did ‘Fair Haven’ deserve a sequel episode or not?

CHRIS: It was interesting to see the ‘Fair Haven’ episode lay the foundations for a sequel so deliberately, there were opportunities to go in a different direction, given that up to 90% of the holoprogram had to be reconstructed. For example, references to Castle O’Dell could have been built on even further by having that be the focal point of the episode. Thinking about it now, the idea of an Irish horror-esque holodeck adventure with Janeway and Sullivan at its heart feels like it could have been a more welcome standout than the more farcical ‘Spirit Folk’ which was too focused on the other inhabitants of ‘Fair Haven’. Admittedly, the producers of Voyager would have been unable to predict that both ‘Fair Haven’ and ‘Spirit Folk’ would be two of the most poorly received episodes in Trek history when they were first conceived but, in hindsight, an entirely new story might have been better off filling the place of ‘Spirit Folk’ or another episode could have been reworked into a two-parter.

SEO: I can see why they went back to it. It was unique and gave Janeway an interesting conundrum. But going back and keeping that story largely absent didn’t make much sense to me. If they had kept the romance as the more main element then I’d have appreciated it more. Also, I’d be hesitant to see “Irish” episodes like this since they bash Irish culture so much (Although, to be fair, re-watching both episodes, I was surprised they weren’t as bad as I remembered!)

JODI: ‘Fair Haven’ definitely deserved a sequel episode, but it shouldn’t have been ‘Spirit Folk’. The show once again relied on the “somethings wrong with the ship/technology” trope to drive both ‘Fair Haven’ and ‘Spirit Folk’. It would have been a unique break in Voyager’s story if the powers that be had made both episodes completely character focused. It would have been a welcomed shift as a viewer to see the main cast allowing themselves to engage with the holodeck characters without any outside threats. Allowing the main cast to explore life outside of duty and dealing with the complications of attachments to holodeck characters is really something we saw more of in Deep Space Nine and The Next Generation and would have been beneficial to Voyager’s characters.

Why is ‘Delete the wife’ one of the best lines in Trek History?

CHRIS: Star Trek has a lot of classic moments of dialogue, ranging from the inspirational and the beautiful to the ridiculous. Undoubtedly, Janeway’s ‘Delete the wife’ line is one of the more ridiculous ones to have endured, as well as one of the funniest. I think that one of the reasons we are still talking about it, after nearly 25 years, is because of the way Kate Mulgrew delivers the line with a slight touch of malice. Its status as an iconic line is certainly bolstered by the ‘Twovix’ episode of Lower Decks, where the Michael Sullivan hologram was included in the homage to some of Voyager’s deepest cuts, with Sullivan’s ‘I miss my wife’ line being such a funny moment. The fact that there have been Trekkies cosplaying as the deleted wife at conventions in recent years is further proof that the line deserves its place as one of the best within Star Trek.

SEO: First off, it just sounds bonkers. And out of context, it makes zero sense of course. But in the bigger scale of things, it really shows that the character of Janeway likes to be in control. The Doctor pointing this all out to her is a great scene as well. It’s just a sentence you really wouldn’t be expecting to see in a Star Trek episode, let alone from a character like Janeway.

JODI: “Delete the wife” is iconic for several reasons, but it really is because of Kate Mulgrew’s delivery of this line that makes it truly unforgettable. Kate Mulgrew’s delivery of the line during the scene where Janeway is modifying Michael to fit her aesthetics is brilliant. We get to see a side of Janeway that is rarely, if ever, seen previously. Not only is she attracted to a holodeck character, but she is wanting to pursue her attraction without any obstacles. Mulgrew also delivered the line with just a hint of venom which has allowed the line to become such a favorite throughout the Trek fandom. If Kate Mulgrew had played the line too straight or even leaned too far into a vixen like delivery, I don’t think the line would have gained the notoriety it has.

Could a story like ‘Fair Haven’ work in the current era of Trek?

CHRIS: I think, for ‘Fair Haven’ to work in today’s era of Trek, there are a few things that would need to be considered. Since the live-action seasons are only ten episodes long, an episode like this would need to have greater ties to the ongoing story and character arcs in order to better justify its existence. It also would not hurt to have more Irish actors within the guest cast for an episode like this, since the fact that Fintan McKeown was Irish really helped to give ‘Fair Haven’ (and ‘Spirit Folk’) some much needed authenticity.

SEO: As surprising as it may be, I didn’t feel as much fun was poked at the Irish as I thought there would be. I cant say you couldn’t have an episode like this when “Irish Wish” has just landed on Netflix and the standard Irish stereotypes are trotted out. I could still see something like this, in some shape or form, being brought out.

JODI: I fear that our days of holodeck centric episodes are a thing of the past for live action Trek. With the streaming format limiting seasons and each season of Trek only being ten episodes it is impossible to imagine an entire episode being dedicated to a holodeck storyline like ‘Fair Haven’. Star Trek Picard has utilized the holodeck but mostly to serve as creating a place or location where the characters go for a scene rather than for an entire episode. Star Trek Lower Decks and Star Trek Prodigy have been the only shows in the current era of Trek to pull off holodeck centric episodes. The benefit of having two successful animated series as a part of the new era is that there is some greater flexibility in where the characters go to further the story. Luckily, the holodeck has been an important part of both series.

Does ‘Fair Haven’ rely too heavily on stereotypes?

CHRIS: From a visual standpoint, ‘Fair Haven’ is a reminder of when my class at school would go on trips to Cultra’s Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. However, it does feel like the town had been lifted out of a children’s storybook as opposed to a history book, with some inaccuracies that, to be fair, are pointed out within the episode. Aside from Michael Sullivan, a lot of the other Fair Haven characters are hampered somewhat by dodgy Irish accents. However, I will say that the episode comes out looking a lot better than the more cringeworthy (but still entertaining) ‘Up the Long Ladder’ and its Irish-inspired colonists.

SEO: You could scrape the cheese off the script for this alright. It’s an idolised storybook version of Ireland that appeals to people. It’s not unique, you’ve seen it a million times before. As I said earlier, I was actually surprised by how little I wanted to throw the tablet out the window when watching it. Not to say it isn’t littered with stereotypes of course! Maybe I am just de-sensitised to it!

JODI: When it comes to creating a story about a 19th century Irish town from the perspective of a 24th century Starfleet helmsman there are bound to be stereotypes. There was little to no depth given to many of the characters from the town which made them fall into generalized categories. What is interesting is that these characters could have been dropped into a 19th century rural American town and maintained many of their same characteristics. The only character that had any depth was Michael Sullivan and this was only because Janeway adjusted the parameters on his programming. So, yes there are definitely stereotypes at play, but the people of Fair Haven were only meant to be a supporting cast to a story focused on Janeway and her relationship to Michael Sulivan.

Why was ‘Fair Haven’ important to the Voyager story?

CHRIS: As well as continuing to show off Paris’ talent for creating holodeck environments for the rest of the crew to enjoy, ‘Fair Haven’ showed Janeway’s struggle in finding more of a romantic connection as a Starfleet captain in her position, following on from receiving the news from Earth (in the fourth season) that her partner had moved on and met someone else. However, this story, like many others, may have been better off happening earlier in Voyager’s run when the emotional impact might have been greater.

SEO: What I really appreciated with it was how Janeway learned something about herself and how she would just have to accept if Michael snored when having a nap instead of simply changing it. It took a simple filler episode and added a bit more depth to her character which I really enjoyed. Again, I hadn’t seen the episode in years so I forgot all about the love story really and how it went and was pleasantly surprised.

JODI: The ‘Fair Haven’ episode has always been about Janeway. This is really the first time we see her struggle with her role as Captain and her romantic interests as a woman. The entire Voyager series evolved around a Captain that carried tremendous guilt for the situation she put her crew in and her deep commitment to maintaining the principles of Starfleet to the best of her ability. Giving Janeway the opportunity to take off her Captain’s pips in ‘Fair Haven’ let viewers see a freer version of Kathrine Janeway and also how much the crew supported their Captain’s holo-romance with Michael Sullivan. ‘Fair Haven’ is ultimately important to the character development of Janeway and her interpersonal relationships with her crew.

What do you like most about the ‘Fair Haven’ episode?

CHRIS: The highlight of ‘Fair Haven’, for me, has to be Fintan McKeown’s performance as the Michael Sullivan hologram. Fintan brought plenty of charm to the role and every scene he was in was a joy to watch. I thought he handled the shifts in his character, post-‘Janeway altering his subroutines’, very well and he was a great scene partner for Kate Mulgrew. If I had to choose my favourite explicit love interest from Voyager, I would pick Michael Sullivan.

SEO: I suppose I cant say “Nothing” or that they didn’t stereotype the Irish all the way to the North Pole! It did what I always felt Voyager did really well, just tell a bloody bonkers story that you weren’t expecting to see. It had some humour, charm and character building for a character where you wouldn’t expect to see it come out. I was rooting for the destruction of the programme at every opportunity of course! And, adding in ‘Spirit Folk’ made me respect B’Elanna more as she never went in there and argued to finish the programme loads of times!

JODI: The development of the Janeway character during this episode is the real highlight for me. Kate Mulgrew played the conflicting sides of Janeway in this episode perfectly and seeing Janeway struggle with her personal feelings and emotions really provided great insight into the character. After the “Fair Haven” episode, Janeway was a bit more relaxed with her fellow bridge crew. She maintained a definite line between her role as Captain and her role as friend, but post ‘Fair Haven’ it felt like Janeway was more willing to explore her friendships rather than maintain distance from them.

What do you like least about the ‘Fair Haven’ episode?

CHRIS: Aside from the fact that Fintan McKeown is the only actor in the episode who is actually Irish, one thing I do not like about ‘Fair Haven’ is that one of the most important parts of the episode happens off-screen. After Janeway kisses Michael in his pub, the scene fades to black and the next one begins with her back in her Starfleet uniform, recycling her Irish books and not wanting to go back to Fair Haven. Although she does explain to the Doctor why she abandoned Michael later in the episode, it would have been nice to actually see the moment happen where Janeway remembers that she has fallen for a hologram and stops herself from deleting his snoring.

SEO: There’s a lot of fish in the barrel I could shoot here but, maybe oddly, there was little for me to dislike here. I actually had a laugh watching it. Maybe I was delirious watching it. But, as a I said, I love filler episodes at times, and this had enough to keep me going. I wasn’t rolling my eyes every 2 seconds or begging for it to be over. Maybe I’m changing in my older years than I was when I saw this 20 years ago.

JODI: It would have been great to have the episode focus entirely on the Voyager crew and their interactions with the characters from Fair Haven. The sub-storyline from the episode involves the ship encountering a neutronic wave front which interferes with the ship and the holodeck program. This would have been a more interesting storyline if it had focused more on the Janeway/Sullivan relationship and allowed more of the main cast to spend time interacting with the Fair Haven program. The scenes with Janeway struggling with her holo-romance that happen off the holodeck could have still happened without the need of an outside spacial anomaly causing unnecessary problems.

If you could change anything about the ‘Fair Haven’ episode, what would it be and why?

CHRIS: I would have removed the material surrounding the threat of the neutronic wavefront because I find it to be the least interesting part of the episode. In doing this, there would be more time that could be spent on building the relationship between Captain Janeway and Michael. If there had to be more of a threat, it should have been somehow tied more directly to their relationship, like if Michael had gained sentience here (and ‘Spirit Folk’ never existed).

SEO: The B story didn’t add much. Well, I was cheering for the wave front to destroy Fair Haven! Honestly, I wouldn’t change it. For good or bad, I actually enjoyed it despite its many flaws. The B story does take time away from the main experience of Fair Haven so that’s probably about it. So I wont be calling for this episode to be banned anytime soon!

JODI: “Delete the neutronic wave front” (see what I did there?). It would have been great to focus all of the ‘Fair Haven’ episode on the crew interacting with the holo-program. This would have allowed for some deeper character development and given more of the main cast time to interact with the characters from the holo-program. This change would have also allowed for the follow up episode to lose the ‘Spirit Folk’ ridiculousness and been more of a ‘Fair Haven Part 2’ episode. Then we could have seen more resolution with all of the characters and allowed our Voyager main cast to share a mutual experience that didn’t revolve around the potential destruction of Voyager or it’s systems.

See you at Sullivan’s Pub for a few games of ring toss?

Despite the bad reputation ‘Fair Haven’ typically gets, it seems that this holodeck episode has aged well and doesn’t sting those with Irish connections as much as previously thought. It is a filler episode, but one that serves to build on Captain Janeway’s character and story. There certainly could have been some changes to the story that may have impacted more of Voyager’s cast of characters, but, overall, ‘Fair Haven’ serves as a light-hearted holodeck episode worthy of a rewatch.

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