Star Trek: Voyager once tackled J. Robert Oppenheimer’s work on nuclear bombs

Oppenheimer in theaters July 21, 2023© Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.
Oppenheimer in theaters July 21, 2023© Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved. /

Star Trek: Voyager tackled J. Robert Oppenheimer’s involvement with the nuclear bomb.

No, let’s be clear up front, Star Trek: Voyager never had a character named J. Robert Oppenheimer on their show. They did have someone play Amelia Airhart and had the real king of Jordan, (then a prince) Abdullah bin al-Hussein, but never an Oppenheimer. They did, however, have a character named Ma’Bor Jetrel. Jetrel was a Haakonian scientist, who would later run afoul with Voyager’s Neelix, after building a weapon that would cause mass casualties.

See, Neelix’s people, the Talaxians, were at war with the Haakonians, and to end the war quickly, the Haakoninans, and specifically Jetrel, created a bomb that would kill many people if it went off. The Haakonians picked the Talaxian moon Rinax, where Neelix’s family resided, to test and detonate the bomb.

Rinax was not a military installation of any type, making its involvement in the war even more shameful in the eyes of Neelix. Yet, the bomb did its job, creating a “Metreon Cascade” that would go on to kill many Talaxians. The resulting carnage was something Neelix had to deal with firsthand, going back to Rinax to look for survivors with other Talaxians. It was a moment that stayed with him and altered who he was as a person.

Star Trek: Voyager used Ma’Bor Jetrel as a stand-in for J. Robert Oppenheimer

It was clearly obvious that Jetrel was supposed to be a stand-in for Oppenheimer. Both the Jetrel character and the real-life Oppenheimer were both responsible for a mass-casualty event that happened at the tail-end of a war and changed the course of existence for all those involved.

Jetrel would end up dying from the same long-term illness that his bomb caused on Rinax, all after trying to reverse the effects of the bomb. Jetrel was plagued by the knowledge that his discoveries in science were used in such a way, at least long after the way ended. He sought Neelix out because he believed that Voyaer had the technology needed to reverse the effects of his bomb, and the ship almost did. Unfortunately, Voyager didn’t have the power needed to reverse the effects of Jetrel’s bomb.

Before he died, however, Jetrel and Neelix would make amends, thus giving Jetrel a small victory.

As for Oppenheimer, he followed a similar timeline. While it’s unclear if Oppenheimer’s death came about from working with the radiation, he died of cancer, a known illness that comes with being around high quantities of nuclear radiation. And while Jetrel didn’t begin advocating against his bomb, Oppenheimer did. Both men felt extreme regret for their creations and that was captured perfectly in the Voyager episode, “Jetrel”.

With the “Oppenheimer” movie coming out soon, I’d recommend watching the Voyager episode “Jetrel” as well, to compare the two and see how well Voyager did telling the story of Oppenheimer.

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