the story: The crew struggles to free itself from an alien world that has attempted to draft everyone into its, well, workforce.
what it's all about: The first half of "Workforce" evoked Next Generation's "Conundrum," the classic where Picard's crew's memory is wiped by an alien attempting to draft it into a war. The second half is reminiscent of another, "Frame of Mind," where Riker's mental state is questioned so that his mission is derailed. It's all about how exactly the crew breaks free from various efforts to keep them part of the workforce. Mostly, it's would-be hero Chakotay being sidelined by the aliens' efforts to thwart him.
The funny thing that happens along the way is that the aliens actually take over much of the narrative in this second half, between the ones helping the crew, the ones investigating things, and the ones trying to keep things running as they have been. Since these are aliens we'll never see again, it dampens some of the impact of the story, as does the possibility of one last great Janeway/Chakotay story, which seemed to have been set up but never happens, much like their relationship in the rest of the series. Well, maybe the producers were worried about confusing Chakotay's future prospects with Seven.
- franchise - Reminiscent of "Frame of Mind."
- series - Draws on the possibilities of Voyager's premise.
- character - Seven ends up the one driving the conclusion.
essential- Despite a solid conclusion, it also makes clear what might have been done differently.