In this episode, the half-Klingon, half-human B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) has a near-death experience and is sent to the Klingon version of Hell known as Gre'thor. There she encounters her Klingon mother Miral (Karen Austin), who is damned because of Torres' refusal to fully accept her own identity as a Klingon. After being resuscitated by the Voyager crew, Torres becomes intent on revisiting Gre'thor to save her mother. The episode also guest stars Eric Pierpoint as Kortar, who ferries the souls of the dishonored on the Barge of the Dead, and Sherman Augustus as the dead Klingon Hij'Qa.
Moore originally developed the episode as part of a pitch for the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Soldiers of the Empire". The idea was initially rejected, but was revisited for Star Trek: Voyager. Following the episode's completion, both Moore and Fuller left the series because of dissatisfaction with their lack of control over its direction, and the perceived absence of strong story arcs across multiple episodes. "Barge of the Dead" was one of several episodes that addressed Torres' strained relationship with her parents and her Klingon heritage. Scholars have offered a range of opinions on Gre'thor, with the setting and ideology compared to Norse mythology, Greek mythology, and Catholic theology. The episode received a Nielsen rating of 3.8/6 ratings share, meaning 3.8 percent of all households with a television viewed it and six percent of homes then viewing television were tuned to it. It was a drop from the episode broadcast the previous week. Critical response to the episode was mixed; some television critics commended the focus on Torres, and praised Dawson's performance, while others were critical of the representation of Klingon spirituality.
While returning from an away mission, B'Elanna Torres encounters interference from an ion storm which results in a concussion. Commander Chakotay finds a Klingon artifact lodged inside Torres' shuttlecraft, and Torres sees this emitting blood and hears voices speaking in the Klingon language. Since the USS Voyager is stranded in the Delta Quadrant, the ship is several thousand light-years away from Klingon-controlled space. Morale officerNeelix plans a celebration of the discovery of the object, believing it originates from the Alpha Quadrant and thus proves Voyager is getting closer to home; Torres resists the proposal for a party. She consults with Security Chief Tuvok, who believes her negative response to the object stems from her hatred of her Klingon heritage. Tuvok assaults Torres with a Klingon weapon called a bat'leth, saying she is not a true Klingon before dismissing her as dishonored. While attending the festivities in the mess hall, Torres notices the Doctor and Seven of Nine singing Klingon drinking songs and Tom Paris eating Klingon cuisine. After witnessing several Klingon warriors killing the crew, she falls and finds herself aboard a boat. Torres discovers she is being transported to Gre'thor on the Barge of the Dead, and that her mother Miral was placed aboard as a dishonored soul.
Torres, who was in a coma the entire time, is resuscitated by Paris and the Doctor; she had almost died from the accident in the ion storm. Chakotay believes Torres' encounter with her mother was a hallucination prompted from her near-death experience, but she believes that it was real. Torres believes her mother is being punished because of her daughter's dishonor, saying that she must return to the Barge of the Dead to rescue her. Captain Kathryn Janeway permits Torres to put herself in an induced coma, with the Doctor monitoring the procedure. After being placed in a coma, Torres successfully returns to the barge. She reunites with her mother, but they argue about whether or not she has truly embraced Klingon spirituality. Miral responds by telling her she does not understand what it truly means to be a Klingon. After their conversation, Torres decides to take her mother's place on the barge; even though Miral resists the transference, she is allowed to move on Sto-vo-kor (a version of the afterlife similar to the NorseValhalla) while Torres is escorted into Gre'thor. She discovers that Voyager is her version of Gre'thor, and is confronted by alternate versions of the crew. Miral returns to explain that she cannot fully be released into Sto-vo-kor until Torres completes her journey. Tuvok attacks Torres again with a bat'leth, but she surrenders rather than fighting back. Miral identifies this as the first step in her path. She informs Torres that they will reunite either in Sto-vo-kor or when Torres returns home. Torres is resuscitated and embraced by Janeway.