The Swarm (**)
TUVOK: Would it affect your decision if I pointed out that encroaching on the territory of an alien species is prohibited by starfleet regulations?
JANEWAY: No, it wouldn't.
TUVOK: Captain, you have managed to surprise me.
JANEWAY: We're a long way from starfleet, Lieutenant.
Finally! It has been a long time coming but at long last she comes around to my way of looking at things. But will it last? Every time from now on when Janeway falls back on pointless regulations I can point my finger at this episode as evidence of character regression.
There's two stories in this episode and both get equal air-time, at least it seems that way. The story revolving around the swarm is fairly rubbish and I have numerous problems with it. My main problem is with how blatant this episode is about being an alien of the week story; going around the swarm's territory would take 15 months, but there is a nearby region where they can get through it in 4 days. How convenient. The solution of the week is technobabble, so that doesn't help.
The story with Shmullus is better and it is nice to see two Picardos on screen, but the problem is very sudden and it doesn't get much of a chance to grow. I don't know much about 24th century holograms, but file degradation tends take a long time. There is a great parallel here to Alzheimer's disease and I would have loved to have seen this play out over multiple episodes, but here the solution is found by episode's end. The episode also ends on an ambiguous note by suggesting that Shmullus may have lost most of his memories, but I don't remember this being an issue in later episodes. This is a serious issue, if it is not addressed in the next few episodes then points will have to be deducted.
If you want to have an ending like this then you must follow it up, if you want to do episodic television then you must never end an episode like this.
1 star for the story about the swarm, 3 stars for the story about Shmullus, add them up and divide by 2.