“Heroes and Demons” – VOY 1X12

I love holodeck malfunction episodes. Like, this is how I look when I realize it’s time to watch one:

Data smiles, excited

The malfunction in “Heroes and Demons” causes Kim to disappear in the holodeck, shortly after Janeway and Torres beam protostar samples on board for study.

When Tuvok and Chakotay go to investigate, they find Kim was in the middle of a holonovel where he was playing Beowulf. The first holocharacter they encounter is Freya, shield-maiden and daughter of King Hrothgar. She freaks them out first when she throws a spear at them in warning, and second, when she asks them if they are there to avenge Beowulf’s death.


She takes them back to Hrothgar’s castle, which is populated by a bunch of gloomy Vikings with epic beards. Unferth, one of the most epically-bearded, is mad and tries to challenge the newcomers to a swordfight, but Freya challenges him and he backs off.


Chakotay and Tuvok start scanning the place and Janeway asks them to relay the scans to the bridge so she can analyze the readings. Tuvok says they have to consider Kim might be dead. No one is very upset by this but shit gets real when “Grendel” appears and Tuvok and Chakotay disappear just like Harry did.

Janeway uses her super science skillz to figure out whatever “Grendel” is is converting matter (the crew members) to energy. She decides there’s only one crew member who can continue the holodeck investigation: The Doctor.

Before he goes on this, his “first away mission”, Kes-wise-beyond-her-years urges him to finally choose a name. When he arrives on the holodeck and encounters Freya he reveals his choice: Schweitzer, Doctor Schweitzer (an homage to famed, Nobel Prize-winning physician Albert Schweitzer). This makes for some of the most hilarious parts of the episode as Freya and the other Vikings hail “Lord Schweitzer”.

Doctor and Freya

At the castle, Unferth still has his furry tunic in a knot and goes after The Doctor with his sword. When the sword goes clean through him, Freya and the others cry they have found their champion. 

That night, Freya makes The Doctor/Schweitzer a fire while he waits for Grendel. 

“Perhaps I can help you. Before combat, it is most important to stay warm,” she says and kisses him. He says the fire is great but she’s not meaning that kind of warm.

“You know where I sleep,” she says.

After she exits, it’s not long before the door starts rattling and then bursts open. The Doctor finds himself facing a glowing orange mass. A tendril of photonic energy reaches out to him and grabs his arm. He calls to be transferred back to Sickbay and when Paris gets him there, he’s missing his arm. 

Janeway comes up with an ingenious hypothesis to explain everything: the proto-star residue they beamed up was actually three photonic life forms. To them, it was like being captured and they retaliated in kind. The Doctor, now with his arm restored, suggests he should go to the holodeck and give the remaining sample to “Grendel” as a peaceful gesture.


Almost immediately he meets up with Freya and they’re confronted by Unferth. It’s a problem this time because he has to remain solid while he’s carrying the lifeform in its container. He can’t just let a sword run through him again. Unferth goes to stab him and Freya ends up in between. Unferth runs and The Doctor is left with a dying Freya in his arms.

Freya: It is a good death. Take my sword. Stop Unferth, and Grendel.
Doctor: I won’t forget you
Freya: Then I die happily with your name on my lips. Farewell,…Schweitzer.

I think the writers did a decent job with Freya. It’s true she isn’t in the original Beowulf so they partly brought her in as a love-interest for The Doctor. But she wasn’t a stereotypical damsel in distress; she was also a renowned warrior who commanded the respect of her father’s men.

After Freya’s death The Doctor goes to the castle with the lifeform and presents the container to the orange energy mass. It absorbs the smaller form and disappears. At almost the same time, Chakotay, Tuvok and Kim reappear on the holodeck. 

The episode ends with The Doctor (having given up the Schweitzer name because of painful, Freya-related memories) and Janeway talking about what a momentous occasion this was:

“It’s one of the most exciting aspects of space exploration, meeting new species, establishing communication, sharing differences and similarities,” she says.

If I had to pick my dream boss it would obviously be Captain Janeway.

What we learn from this episode:

  • Janeway is hands-on when it comes to all things science
  • Janeway is great at making her crew members feel appreciated

Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass, right in the very first scene when Janeway and Torres are beaming over the protostar residue.

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