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Star Trek Voyager Unimatrix Zero Review

There are few things in life more insubstantial than a dream and few more artificial than the Borg. Ever since they were introduced in the Next Generation there isn’t a weapon that Starfleet hasn’t tried to use against them. Phasers, photon torpedoes, anti-matter spreads have all been tried and in the long run have failed. Whatever is thrown at the Borg, the Borg adapt to. Whatever weapon can be thought of the Borg can counter drawing from their seemingly infinite reserve of captive minds and stolen technologies. Yet there is no empire so strong it cannot fall from within and no dictatorship so totally in control of its subjects’ minds that it cannot fall prey to their desire for freedom. The Borg are the ultimate totalitarian state, the logical cybernetic extension of Zamyatin’s Science Fiction classic “We” where citizens are known by a number or Orwell’s “1984” in which the human mind is just another tool of the state. And so it is almost inevitable that despite all their conquests and their power the Borg fall prey to the one weapon they cannot resist, the weapon that totalitarian regimes throughout human history have fallen prey to, a dream.

The Borg are technology and power personified. They have no other identity besides technology and power and no goal besides gaining more and better technology and star trek voyager unimatrix zero 1power. There is no escape from such a society, not even the possibility of protest or dissent because if you cannot think, you cannot dissent. But much as people do in the real world, thousands of drones with a specific mutation have found an escape from their real lives through dreams or rather through a collective dream of freedom in an unspecified forest where they can be as they once were before the Borg assimilated them. While the collective holds their bodies in eternal slavery, the souls of those drones are for a time free. When everything has been taken from them, their freedom, their bodies and even their minds; they are rebelling in the only way that they can by finding a tiny space for themselves where they can for a moment be outside the control of the slave state. This rebellion of Unimatrix Zero though is a passive one and like many passive rebellions seems doomed from the start. The name itself too is a curiously Borg-like one for a group trying to rediscover their natural selves or perhaps not. Zero is at once seemingly empty and powerless to the Borg obsessed with acquiring quantities of things but in a sense contains all quantities of numbers within it. The name signifies that by tapping into the dream the drones have tapped into a source of power far greater then the collective, a source of power that unlike the Borg is unlimited because it contains within it all possibilities. This dream, the entire concept of finding possibilities through dreaming is what Star Trek has been all about.

Of course hope begins with hopelessness and so from the beginning we move about Borg corridors that seem darker and far more frightening without any human presence, no Starfleet crewmembers giving us hope of an escape or even a human perspective. We are in the home of the Borg the way it normally is, the way the drones exist in it day after day and year after year. No one to talk to, nothing to think about, nothing to see but the daily routine in the space going equivalent of an industrial plant with no home to go to or family or weekends to relieve the monotony of pure labor. Like a medieval castle the adobe of the Borg Queen is dark and gloomy, full of men in metal and black clothing walking their rounds and their ruler mysterious and cunning placed directly at the center of her web. At first the shots of the massive Borg complex seem to reinforce their invulnerability and their power but slowly as we learn of the rebellion within the complex it seems more like a precarious fortress isolated and under siege. As the Borg Queen marks drone position after drone we realize that a war is being fought, but unlike all wars the Borg have fought before, this one does not take place in reality but in a collective dream, the closest thing the Collective has to a soul. It is a showdown between technology and power against hope and freedom fought in the soul of the Borg for the soul of the Borg. The Borg have met the enemy and they are them.

Aboard Voyager Seven dreams for the first time and never having entirely left the Borg collective behind her, Seven fears the dream. Like the Borg she understands that the dream cannot be contained within the boundaries of sleep and contains revelations that threatens the integrity of the life she made for herself. Like the rebelling drones Seven is more human in the dream of Unimatrix Zero but she is also less human than they are, less prepared to completely free herself of everything the Borg have done to her. On Voyager Seven has accepted a modicum of humanity, she has come to care about people, learn to deal with them but she hasn’t really opened herself up to the possibilities of being human and so she remains suspended between being human and being Borg. Only in the dream can she allow herself to be called by her real name, Anika. Only in the dream can she experiment with reclaiming her human heritage. But when threatened with a real relationship she retreats from the dream and demands that she be called by her Borg name again. For the first time a plausible emotional relationship is presented for her and she predictably retreats. Seven is a character who for better or worse has developed right before our eyes. When comparing her with the Seven of “The Gift” she seems to have come very far, but among other things, Unimatrix shows us how far she has to go and that the potential is in a sense already being expressed within her.

While the drones are dreaming of a better life, everyone on Voyager is going about the very real business of surviving in the Delta Quadrant (occasionally) according to

star trek voyager unimatrix zero

Some Assembly Required

Starfleet ideals. Janeway answers a distress call to a destroyed colony that she has come too late to save. When she hears about the “distress call” from the Unimatrix drones she sees it as the chance to save all the colonies and the planets the Borg threaten. A weakness in the Borg can be exploited and possibly even the entire collective can be brought down and so mixing Starfleet ideals and her own special brand of cunning and vengeance Janeway comes up with a plan quite similar to the one she employed in her previous confrontation with the Borg Queen. (So similar in fact that the Queen comments on it before Janeway and Co. meet their untimely fates.) In a meeting managed through Tuvok’s unique version of AT&T Janeway meets with the closest thing the drone rebellion has to a leader and convinces him to change his rebellion from passive to active. Once again Janeway ventures into the Borg lair and though this time she knows enough to leave Seven behind, she seems to have discarded most of the techniques that worked somewhat in Dark Frontier. The result is her capture and assimilation and the assimilation of Torres and Tuvok. When we see Janeway, Torres and Tuvok at the end as drones their appearance is quite shocking but Chakotay’s planned getaway and Janeway’s original refusal to initially take them along robs this scene of the impact of Picard’s assimilation in Next Generation’s “Best of Both Worlds.”

In Best of Both Worlds, the Enterprise has been tricked, Picard mutilated and transformed and Earth doomed. The forces of good seemed and were confused and in disarray while in Unimatrix Zero it is clear that there is a plan operating here, a dangerous plan but one in which Janeway and Co. are in control for now. If the script had done a better job of hiding this, Unimatrix could have ended on a much stronger note than it did. That is a common problem for this episode that has the vision, the suspense and the plot but somehow seems a bit listless at times in comparison to Scorpion or Dark Frontier. A good deal of time is spent on Seven but she is excluded from any direct participation in the events of the final act, which makes those scenes seem like a waste of time. From the perspective of the two parter this will eventually become it might work, but here and now as a one hour episode the Seven material relegates her to the three P’s of the Kes role. Namely psychic powers, personal growth and passivity. It didn’t work that well with Kes and it works even worse with Seven of Nine who isn’t remotely built for that kind of role.

More problematically the Borg Queen is relegated to cartoon villain scenery chewing. While Thompson does an excellent job of maintaining ironic distance and the attitude of a powerful leader, the medieval castle analogy hits too crudely close to home when she paces the room, holds conversations with drones, threatens them and mutilates them. She seems not particularly in control or possessed of the kind of knowledge and power she radiated in Dark Frontier. All in all she’s much closer to the Queen Arachnia of Captain Proton and considering that Janeway had already duplicated the Captain Proton trick assault in Dark Frontier, repeating it with a few assimilations for shock value seems like a bad idea. The Queen’s offhand comment to Harry has so much more effect then all the scenes of the Queen examining mutilated Borg heads. This entire concept is based on demonstrating the complete cruelty and evil of the villain but with the Borg this is completely beside the point. The Borg are beyond good and evil, beyond petty ego trips or torture for fun and pleasure. These “Borg Yorrick” scenes take us back in a bad way to “First Contact” and Krige’s Borg Queen played as a refugee from the cast of Chicago or a Bond Movie.

Where Dark Frontier managed to merge the Seven story and the story of the Borg, to show the Borg Queen as the representation of a greater and powerful force with plans stretching into the past and the future; Unimatrix Zero gives us the strong story of the rebellion of the drones, a few brief and hurried scenes on Voyager and a Borg Queen about as plausible as Queen Arachnia. When comparing Seven’s experience in the assimilation chamber and what that did to make the Borg terrifying again with the Borg Queen pacing around and delivering stock evil empress lines to her subjects it is clear that the writers have once again made the mistake of humanizing the Borg too far and too fast. It is fascinating to look at a drone and wonder about his dreams, to see them as individuals hiding terrible secrets beyond even the reach of their own conscious minds, but this has to be combined with recognizing the power and dread of the Borg and the fact that we are dealing here with something that transcends normal regimes and rulers. The two can be combined but it requires careful work and steady steps.

In a very large sense all of the Borg stories have been leading up to this moment since Hugh innocently stepped on the screen in “I. Borg.” “Descent” parts 1 and 2 looked at Borg drones liberated from the collective and tried to merge that into an unfortunate Lore as Charles Manson story serving as one of the Borg’s worst moments yet and a perfect example of exactly what was to be avoided. In “Unity”, Voyager’s first Borg episode we looked at former drones forming a different kind of collective (something that may well be the long term outcome of Unimatrix.) In Scorpion we looked at the Borg taking a severe beating and their downfall seemed plausible even if Janeway’s actions were not. In “Dark Frontier” the Borg were somewhat reduced in stature but it was clear that Janeway’s overconfidence was a mistake and she paid the price only temporarily outwitting the Borg through ingenious gadgetry and desperation. In Unimatrix though Janeway seems far too casual about engaging the Borg, treating them like just another Delta Quadrant enemy. Even if her plan is to be assimilated that only adds to how casually she treats the matter. Her act can either be seen as foolhardy and contemptuous of the Borg’s power or a brave and risky sacrifice. With little focus on her plan beyond the usual meetings and Janeway-Chakotay bickering it seems more like the former than the latter. The Borg may have been weakened but are they really that weak? And if they are so much of the drama just leaks away.

All along a Borg revolution was in the pipeline and while Unimatrix handles the material far better then TNG’s Descent, Unimatrix Zero still leaves much to be desired. Common complaints about two part episodes and cliffhangers are that they come with a strong first part and a weak conclusion. Unimatrix though seems far more geared towards the conclusion then the first part and consequently seems rushed and sparse. The concept of Unimatrix Zero is probably the best possible idea for a Borg revolution anyone could have come up with. The rendering of Seven’s story and the Unimatrix is very well handled and would have worked much better in a different episode intended to set up Unimatrix and the Borg revolution. Voyager’s infiltration has a shocking cliffhanger to leave the fans with but overall seems like everything we’ve seen before. Janeway and Chakotay arguing about her safety and her initiative and their level of trust in each other. A mostly unnecessary trip by Janeway to the Unimatrix, material that would have worked better if Tuvok alone or the Doctor had made the trip. The scenes of the drones fleeing attacks by other drones seem a bit silly. (Since they can alter their appearances at will they should be able to easily defend themselves instead of behaving like extras in a horror movie.) A plan to infiltrate a Borg cube to do some damage, Voyager going head to head with a cube that looks suspiciously like a futuristic crate, a plan going horribly wrong inside the cube, people we care about falling into the hands of the Borg. This is all stuff we’ve seen before and weak direction and a haphazard script don’t manage to make it look fresh or new. In the end Unimatrix is a good episode, but not a great episode. Normally this might be enough but a story so many years in the making with such major implications for the whole Star Trek universe needed to be so much more.

Star Trek Voyager The Haunting of Deck Twelve review

Horror is the dark side of imagination and while Star Trek has a pretty good track record with imagination, it has a pretty weak one with horror. Original series episodes featuring witches and salt monsters were unintentionally funny. The Next Generation with its vast sterile sets and long space hospital corridors which had an eerie haunted hotel look ala The Shining, was long on unusual camera angles and filters and low on story and content. DS9 for all its gritty look and people possessed by glowing red-eyed demons never made a serious horror entry after the first season. Voyager with its own organ stealing aliens, a demonic clown, and the Doctor stalking Kes equipped with a set of bad false teeth did its best and had no shortage of genuinely disturbing moments but never managed to turn them into an entire episode.

By contrast “The Haunting of Deck Twelve” which references the Shirley Jackson novel in the title but actually seems more inspired by the Star Trek Voyager The Haunting of Deck Twelvedisappointing horror movie loosely based on the novel and the episode itself shows that it has learned both from the failure of that movie and the franchise’s failed previous attempts at horror and melds the material with more than a slight touch of comedy, alien encounter and yet another in-depth look at Voyager’s modus operandi. The origin of Haunting can really be found in a scene from an earlier Voyager episode “Dragon’s Teeth” that has Neelix researching ancient fairy tales with gruesome titles while the cooking fire burns in the foreground. While that scene was a minor moment in “Dragon’s Teeth”, Haunting centers the entire episode around it. If Haunting could be summed up in one sentence it is really this scene of Neelix letting his imagination run wild in the deserted mess hall while the fire burns… and having his nightmares come true.

Neelix has always been of questionable use on Voyager. He has many jobs but few of them are really vital in a crisis and so what is he assigned to do in a dangerous situation but babysit children. While unseen to us, Voyager resolves a still potentially dangerous situation, and Neelix is sent to go and make sure the children aren’t frightened by the darkness and the unexplained shutdown. The problem is that Neelix himself is frightened and in a short time his fear translates into a scary story he starts telling the children, a story that happens to be true. Here Voyager again returns to its common theme of highlighting the story within the Voyager story. Where “Muse” looked at Voyager’s story conventions from an alien perspective, Haunting looks at them from the perspective of a child… the actual Borgites and the man-child that is Neelix himself.

In one sense a flashback episode and yet not, Haunting occurs mostly in the past but it really plays out in the present as Neelix, frightened of Star Trek Voyager The Haunting of Deck Twelvewhat may be happening yet cut off from information as to what really is happening, turns to the past and to the origin of the crisis. He does what human beings sometimes do to take control of a dangerous situation beyond their physical control, he turns it into a story. “The Haunting of Deck Twelve,” which is really Neelix’s story, takes control of the situation by centering on the heroism and capability of Captain Janeway who really is in control right now; and in a minor way on the smaller heroism of Neelix who is afraid and isn’t in control. Unlike the common accusation made against Science Fiction and Star Trek, though the story is not escapist in the least, it is to the truth colored and transformed in a way that allows Neelix to come to grips with his fears. This is what horror is really all about: transforming real threats into unreal monsters and then conquering them and this is what “The Haunting of Deck Twelve” is also about.

In a story loaded with jabs at modern day horror movies (the children are smarter than Neelix and know everything ahead of him, Seven unhurriedly walking directly into danger as she is being stalked by truly awful special effects) and Star Trek conventions (so the alien takes over Seven’s neural circuitry and turns her against the crew?) and the entire process of storytelling (Chakotay was plummeting to his certain death… would anyone like more snacks?), Haunting also manages to look at Voyager’s encounter with an ambiguous alien entity who is neither good nor evil but (like Voyager) just wants to go home.

While after hundreds of Star Trek episodes the basic plot of Haunting might seem like a cliche, but through the eyes of the children and Star Trek Voyager The Haunting of Deck TwelveNeelix it takes on new and dangerous life. The entity they encounter never speaks to Voyager directly, instead using the interface of the ship’s computer for a disturbing inhuman effect. We never really see the entity either, unlike most Star Trek alien beings it never states its intents directly instead using the ship’s stock of command phrases to communicate in riddles. The children are right in that there is a monster on deck twelve, a monster who has been here all along with the power to destroy Voyager. We along with the children, in a sense, have been on Voyager all along and have never known it and together with the children we are Neelix’s intended audience. The revelation is disturbing to them as to us not so much because the entity is dangerous, but for the same reason Star Trek uses alien possession and ship haunting stories so frequently, because it turns something we thought was safe and familiar into something dangerous and alien.

There are many techniques here which should inform future Voyager episodes. Neelix’s fear and his complete helplessness combined with his small feats of bravery in coping with the problem makes the crisis more real and relevant for us then if it were seen through the eyes of a trained Starfleet Officer. There are times when Janeway too seems helpless and desperate herself rather then controlled and in command (an unusual risk for Voyager, one the writers hopefully repeat) of her ship, the one true and trusted confidante and ally which has betrayed her. The speed and precision with which the crew shuts down Voyager combined with the lack of an explanation is disturbing. Because Neelix handles all the build-up and the chills very little time is spent discussing the crisis and most of the effort is expended on just dealing with it and trying to stay alive.

Director David Livingston takes full advantage of Voyager’s damaged conditions and its TNGesque smooth surfaces and bright lighting to Star Trek Voyager The Haunting of Deck Twelveproduce effects that are sometimes comically over the top, sometimes creepy and sometimes both (never an easy task.) Voyager isn’t the Enterprise D and never quite manages to convey that feeling of a haunted hotel and the result is more like a haunted battleship, a place where people work and live temporarily turned dark and haunted. The Ensign serves nicely as a returning character who plausibly jumps at every shadow, the children again work very well standing in for the audience, at once sophisticated and disbelieving and nervous and terrified and enjoying the whole thing. Seeing Voyager through their eyes gives us a fresh perspective and a fresh reality and turns what would otherwise be a formula episode into something more in the off-beat quirky Voyager style.

Like a campfire story “The Haunting of Deck Twelve” isn’t particularly substantial but also like a campfire story, Haunting is fun. The episode knows where it’s going, manages to combine horror and humor while also taking a look at how Voyager functions, showing us the ship with fresh eyes and even including some nice character work on a usually neglected Voyager character. This is a lot in a small package but likely to be more appreciated by those who like the show to begin with than those watching just because they can’t find anything better on TV. And at two-percent of the budget and without the benefit of Liam Neeson, Michael Douglas’s girlfriend or a multimillion dollar FX budget, “The Haunting of Deck Twelve” manages to be a much better presentation then the actual “Haunting” movie and unlike the movie, this one comes free. More importantly it comes a lot closer to the true essence of what horror is and the psychology behind it. Horror is the dark side of imagination and imagination is the foundation of Star Trek. Haunting purges that dark side and the monster, leaving both Neelix and the crew, to appreciate the monster for what it truly is, a fascinating, amazing alien-being who is the product of human (or inhuman?) imagination.

Enjoy.

Star Trek Voyager Life-Line Review

Family relationships in Star Trek tend to be dysfunctional probably on the theory that watching a dysfunctional family is a lot more interesting than watching a functional one. Not to mention that father-son/mother-daughter/brother-brother conflicts are a cheap and easy way to add depth to a character and suck the audience in with soap opera, fighting and the eventual tearful reconciliation. It began with Spock and his father, Riker and his dad, Picard and his father figure of an older brother, Data and his brother, Troi and her mother, Odo and his mentor and Paris and his father to name a few. Science Fiction, especially Science Fiction on TV should be grounded in human drama that the audience can relate to and there’s nothing that more people can relate to than family problems. While Star Trek may not have taken the route of Lost in Space, the former competitor of the original Star Trek, there’s been no shortage of family drama and of substitute fathers and sons. Life Line is only the latest chapter in Star Trek’s troubled family saga, but unlike most of them it is a good one.

We last and only saw Dr. Zimmerman, the creator of Voyager’s Emergency Medical Hologram program, on a DS9 episode in which Bashr has star trek voyager life linebeen chosen to serve as the model for an updated version of the EMH. His role there was limited to comic relief and a minor bit of villainy as he tied together the main two storylines by exposing Bashir’s genetically engineered secret and tried to lure Leeta away to the Jupiter Station where Life-Line takes place. While Dr. Zimmerman in “Dr. Bashir I Presume” may have been a minor character, in Life-Line he quickly comes to dominate the story much as he dominates everyone in his life. Fortunately for him most of the people in his life are holograms, in a humorous twist on the horror movie mad doctor who populates his laboratory with his fiendish robotic and undead creations, Dr. Zimmerman has populated his laboratory and his life with holograms, holographic flies, holographic lizards and even a holographic companion. (Little wonder that he wanted Leeta so desperately.)

Taking this into account it of course makes perfect sense that he also has a holographic son in a distant land, a son he has already rejected but knows nothing about. In the ancient archetype of fairy tales and the continuation of the EMH’s six year exploration and growth the Doctor who has risen from a lowly position to prominence, he has sentient status, he has found love, a calling, he can paint, dance and sing and now what he needs to close the circle is to confront his father. Janeway isn’t likely to authorize a visit back to the Solar System just for the purposes of closure but an opportunity comes up. Dr. Zimmerman has the futuristic equivalent of cancer, he’s dying and there’s a chance for his son to save him and to get a little personal growth time in too.

Janeway’s first response is oddly callous. Voyager’s EMH clearly has access to new techniques beyond the abilities of the Federation’s doctors and it’s probable that he can do for Dr. Zimmerman’s fatal disease, which she brushes off unfeelingly as a small illness, what no other doctor can. It is only the EMH’s passionate plea to Janeway not as a doctor acting for Dr. Zimmerman’s pressing medical needs, but as a feeling person acting on behalf of his own psychological needs that Janeway agrees. This follows a questionable but commonplace pattern with Janeway placing personal and emotional issues above actual real and tangible problems. Meanwhile the Doctor giddy with the possibilities of the trip ignores Janeway’s warnings about Dr. Zimmerman’s personality and his head still swimming with his own needs and fantasy images of Dr. Zimmerman comes face to face with the reality of his father who doesn’t seem to care about him or anybody else.

This of course is where it gets interesting because the confrontation between Dr. Zimmerman and the EMH isn’t simply father and son as star trek voyager life linewith Spock and Sarek or even creator and machine as with Data and Dr. Soong. This is the practical core of the battle of wills between them and it is Counselor Troi, who unlike Pathfinder is finally given something useful to do here, who analyzes and acts to even the balance of power between them. The struggle between them may have underlying emotional issues but it’s the struggle of doctor against doctor with specialties that only apply to each other but not to themselves. But the only possible practical medical relationship is one way. The EMH cures Dr. Zimmerman, it’s what he wants to do, it’s what he came here to do but it would mean having Dr. Zimmerman admit that the medical and emotional balance of power is on the EMH’s side and that’s the one thing he can’t do.

Dr. Zimmerman rejects the EMH and the EMH responds by talking about his self-sacrifice in coming here and quickly becomes angry in turn. There’s a practical medical issue here but by starting out confusing the medical and emotional issues the Doctor has guaranteed that the analysis, probing and resolution of both are going to be intertwined throughout the episode. In other words the EMH can’t possibly cure Dr. Zimmerman until they deal with the emotional issues that brought the EMH here in the first place. Moving on to the second stage of the father-son confrontation, the EMH makes things worse by insisting on having Dr. Zimmerman submit to his authority and giving him orders. The Doctor is trying to dominate him and Dr. Zimmerman responds with even more anger and abuse. The EMH’s father is not meeting his emotional needs and every time Dr. Zimmerman looks at his holographic prodigy he is reminded of his personal egotistical failure.

Dr. Zimmerman is a man who has populated his emotional life with his own holographic creations. His pets are holograms, so is his companion and in the end so is his son. He is dying and it is painfully clear to him that his life can be summed up in his relationships with illusions he himself produced. His one shot at immortality, painting his face across thousands of holograms forever serving the Federation long after he himself is gone is a lost dream. The EMH is the reminder of his ultimate failure both as a scientist, and as a human being. As a scientist he couldn’t manage to create a functional organism built on solid principles. As a human being he tried to perpetuate himself through science rather than through humanity (a common enough theme in Star Trek) and his children turned out to be idiots. The return of the EMH has the potential to redeem him on both levels. The accomplishments of the EMH are an extension of his work and the humanity of the EMH is a testament to his own humanity to his ability to create human qualities in a machine and to even have it surpass him in this department.

This is the fundamental irony that underlies Life Line. Much like a Philip K. Dick novel, the EMH really is far more human than Dr.

star trek voyager life line

Zimmerman. In his compassion for others, his ability to feel and express those feelings, in his relationships with people he displays far more humanity than his creator. On a human scale Dr. Zimmerman, the inventor of holograms is much closer to being one himself. Pinocchio is not only a real boy but he’s achieved what Data never did, he’s far more of a real boy than his creator ever was or will be. When the EMH first confronts Dr. Zimmerman with this reality he can only feel threatened by it. He’s not a man who deals well with people. He likes holograms because probably like Janeway’s barkeep boyfriend they are controllable and predictable. It’s why he can let them and no one else near him. Now he is forced to deal with a hologram who has gotten near him but has the same emotional demands and needs as a real person. And the rebellion spreads to Haley, his companion forces him to acknowledge his feelings for her.

The inclusion of Barlcay in the triangle of Dr. Zimmerman’s household is no accident too. Like the master of the lab, Barclay suffers from problems he deals with by substituting holograms for people. Together with Haley he serves as Dr. Zimmerman’s surrogate family and paralleling the relationship between EMH and creator, Haley also seems far more human than Barclay to the point where we even initially mistake her for a human being. In the vein classic Science Fiction, Life-Line is the story of machines who feel more than people and both times Troi is brought in (Pathfinder and Life-Line) she is there to counsel the people. Barclay seems to have taken her advice to the point of finding himself a surrogate abusive father figure who shares several obvious traits with him so that two people unable to relate to the world at large form a family relationship. He is of course only marking time until the return of the “real son”, the one who can help save his father allowing Barclay to move on to the next stage of his emotional development.

Halfway through the episode we arrive at a stalemate. The EMH wants to save Dr. Zimmerman but also wants his respect and approval, his affirmation as a being. Dr. Zimmerman wants to be saved but doesn’t want to be helpless in the relationship and the forced recipient of the EMH’s emotional baggage and needs. The issue is a practical medical one. In this relationship the EMH matters and has all the power while Dr. Zimmerman has none and that she sees is one of the major sources of his resentment. She learns from Haley that Dr. Zimmerman once saw the EMH Mk1 as more than just a machine, but as a son too, the perpetuation of himself. The creation of the EMH was something he invested himself in emotionally and when that investment failed he cut himself off from it and the EMH’s independence and actualization is something he cannot accept unless he can have a part in it. The EMH may have been his creation but he has surpassed his original programming and Dr. Zimmerman himself. So there exists an emotional and medical stalemate.

The EMH wants emotional affirmation and offers medical assistance in return. Dr. Zimmerman wants both and can offer nothing in return because he can only care about those things which he feels are fully his creation and under his control. Role playing obviously won’t do it here so Troi cuts through the Gordian Knot by disabling the Doctor, forcing him to need Dr. Zimmerman medically and to be vulnerable which lets Dr. Zimmerman be vulnerable in return. By healing the EMH, Dr. Zimmerman reexperiences his failure and breaks through it by grappling with his original failure and recreating him in a sense. He now accepts the EMH as his creation and his prodigy but immediately and predictably tries to change him. This leads to the final confrontation and resolution of their relationship.

Meanwhile appropriately enough on Voyager Janeway and Co. face the threat of the ultimate big daddy in the form of the Federation and star trek voyager life lineAdmiral Hayes looking over their shoulders and threatening to shatter their happy little home. While the EMH has been off in the Alpha Quadrant renewing his family ties, Voyager will soon be forced to renew theirs and it might not be an entirely happy reunion or at the very least much like the EMH’s, it might be a problematic one. Voyager has desperately sought Earth, the Federation and home but soon enough they might get what they wanted and discover that maybe they didn’t really want it after all. in the DQ Voyager has independence, its crew have filled positions and taken on roles they might have trouble carrying on in the Alpha Quadrant. Like the EMH, the Voyager crew have carried an illusory ideal of big daddy and Life-Line suggests that like the EMH in upcoming episodes they may be due for a big disappointment.

All in all a good episode that offers us a nice look at the Federation and its scale against Voyager’s individual journey. After all Dr. Zimmerman can’t even remember Voyager’s name, let alone care about its crew. The Jupiter Station in the opening shot is beautiful and makes you wonder what the Federation might look like in Series V with top of the line special effects. Dr. Zimmerman is a bit too over the top and strikes some false grouchy notes as compared to his Ds9 appearance but Picardo is at the top of his game to the point that his Dr. Zimmerman, a guest star easily dominates everybody including Picardo’s own EMH in every science they’re in. Barclay and Troi are mostly outsiders in this story, supporting characters with practical roles to fill and through their familiarity also help us care about the story though little would change if they were gone. The single Voyager scene emphasizes possible coming frictions with the Federation nicely set against the background of the Doc’s own homecoming troubles. With few lines, Haley nevertheless manages to be an interesting and disturbing presence while the actress suggests depths and complications in her relationship with Doctor Z. that the episode never shows us. In and of itself Life-Line isn’t particularly ground-breaking but it’s a nice story told well which is more than good enough for your average Wednesday Night.

Star Trek Voyager Fury Review

What does God need with a Starship?

It was the question Kirk asked in ST5 and it was one question among many possible and obvious questions Janeway might have asked Kes in Fury but never did. Why does Kes need a starship since when we last saw her she was an energy being on a higher plane of existence. In Fury thought she’s merely a more powerful and demented version of Kes. It’s certainly a strange way to say goodbye to a beloved character, but then nothing about the Kes issue has ever been simple.

Like ST5, Fury has a strange plot with metaphysical twists that makes no real sense and like STV it takes us into the strange hall of mirrors star trek voyager furywhere fictional characters and plot lines meet real world actors and producers. It is inevitable that Fury will not be taken simply as just another Voyager episode but a commentary on Kes and Jennifer Lien the real world actress who plays her and her removal from the show.

From the start the return of Kes clearly boxes the writers into a corner. They had gotten rid of her through the expedient of sending her off to a higher plane of existence and giving her some amazing powers. There was no real plan to have her return because that would have raised the question of why she wouldn’t simply send the crew home and end the show as a result. Clearly there were two choices, to either take away Kes’s powers or to turn her into an antagonist so that the question of her sending Voyager home would never even come.

The obvious choice and the easy choice would be to deprive Kes of her powers and have her stay on Voyager temporarily until she recovers. That would have made for a feel good story in which Kes could have gotten back in touch with Neelix, Tuvok and the Doctor. You can almost see Neelix with the Welcome Back Kes cake and the entire crew hugging each other. There would be a nice moment between 7 of 9 and Kes to diffuse any lingering thoughts in the minds of the viewers on the subject of Lien’s departure and Voyager could have sailed on happily with everyone satisfied. But despite the common accusation that Voyager always makes the easy and obvious choice when telling a story, here Voyager took the most difficult and baffling road.

Instead of a warm homecoming Kes returns as an aged, crazed and violent specter haunting Voyager. She casually employs deceit and violence, betrays Voyager and plots to have everyone killed in a horrific and brutal manner. Unselfish and compulsively caring is the core description for the Kes character and this new version of Kes is completely selfish caring for nobody but herself. In short she seems to have nothing in common with the Kes anyone remembers.

When she wanders Voyager interacting with her former friends and crew mates her mind is clearly elsewhere and we almost see Paris, the EMH and Neelix as she sees them, a tiresome amalgamation of obvious repetitive traits that quickly wear on you. It takes all of her best acting abilities just to pretend that she likes these people and cares. What is disturbing here in not that she hates them which would show at least some emotional engagement but that she simply sees herself as a stranger among them and doesn’t care very much whether they live or die. The closest she comes to responding to them as human beings is her violent outburst when dealing with Neelix’s dinner arrangement.

Voyager’s escape from her plots comes through the form of Tuvok’s vision, premonitions of the future. At first there is a casual slip about the Delta Flyer, scenes of Naomi, 7 of 9 and the Borg and finally he sees the Kes Apocalypse itself in action. The timing is curious. Tuvok served as a kind of mentor to Kes and was passed on to serve that role to 7 of 9. In his vision he sees the unborn future Kes is here to destroy, Naomi, leading him to the image of 7 of 9 Kes’s successor. Tuvok’s premonition really is not only that Kes is here to destroy them all but that in the good version of the future, Voyager will be Kes-free. Aided by Tuvok’s vision and an oddly tech hobbled Kes who seems to be relying on transporters and computers like a more ordinary intruder, Janeway kills Kes who apparently isn’t on enough of a higher plane to survive a phaser set to kill. Above Chakotay freed from the suffocating moralizations of Janeway fights the good fight against the Vidians in a well executed battle scene from longtime James Cameron associate and director of Tinker Tailor, John Bruno. The battle scenes and the Vidians and John Bruno would have been better served by getting their own episode. With Kes dead, Janeway is as usual not satisfied until her opponents admit they’re wrong and so she covers up the entire encounter until Kes’s return with a brilliant plan involving old Kes chiding new Kes for being so nasty and mean. “It was your own choice to leave Ocampa.” old Kes sanctimoniously declares “and it was your own choice to leave Voyager.” (Though the extent to which these were really under her total control is questionable) And of course we can’t help but wonder if the last is really directed at the character or at Jennifer Lien or in some subtle way at the audience.

New Kes having already forgotten all about the time she was drugged and kidnapped by herself and then made a holorecording telling herself star trek voyager furyto get lost (wouldn’t you?) and though she seemed to remember everything else about Voyager instantly repents and realizes she doesn’t want to kill everybody after all. All she needed…well what was it she exactly needed? What was her motivation? She rants something about Voyager deluding her with ideas about exploration which isn’t particularly enlightening. If you have a sweeps episode dedicated to a returning cast member who tries to kill everybody, the least you can ask for is a coherent explanation. Too bad we don’t get that, instead we get the questionable sight of a senile, aged and slightly friendlier Kes flying away on her spaceship to potentially terrorize other life forms and civilizations.

As a means of neutralizing lingering issues about Kes’s departure, this episode was probably the worst possible way to go about it. Jennifer Lien might have enjoyed returning to kill everybody and the scenes of Kes striding around while things blow up all around her look good, but what’s the point? Fury might be seen as a way of acting out the suspicions of some viewers and then resolving them. Kes returns enraged at her abandonment, read firing, and begins to wreak havoc but is dismissed by a younger version of herself who points out that it was her decision to leave in the first place. As a resolution this is more then a little weak. And treating this episode on the level of a normal episode with a plot is completely pointless. So what are we left with? Director Bruno decided he had a comedy and just as in Tinker Tailor he does a great job of directing the EMH’s humorous scenes and Kes’s encounters from her perspective. The opening birthday scene works great as a way of spoofing Voyager’s tense openings and steely exchanges between Janeway and crew and its repetition reminds us of Voyager’s family feeling while the tension sets us up for the encounter with Kes that we know is coming. Lien does a great job as usual even if she has no idea of what she’s doing or why. Even Paris and Neelix have some nice scenes. Continuity is held up here with plenty of neat references and Voyager’s entire history is altered with a snap here. But beyond the gimmick of Wrath of Kes and Return of Kes, there’s no actual episode here just a bunch of scenes strung together which is what Voyager is often accused of being but rarely is.

Tuvok: “I have hallucinated but only under deep meditation.” One wonders if there was any deep meditation involved in the creation of this episode?

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