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Star Trek Voyager review – Flesh and Blood

Summary: Borg, Klingons, Romulans, Jem’Haddar, Breen and Starfleet…Oh My.

Voyager’s last November Sweeps episode is a two parter that with the combination of Nightingale manages to bring this portion of the season to a more dignified and weighty end. The ep is filled with space battles, every prominent Alpha Quadrant species, and the Hirogen who were themselves the subject of a previous two parter and a moral dillema. What is unusual about Flesh and Blood is that it is ultimately a Doctor character development story, rather than a threat to Voyager story or a Seven of Nine conflict story as most of the recent two parters have been. Since the Doctor is Voyager’s strongest character and Robert Picardo Voyager’s strongest actor, this is a major step in the right direction.

In the average episode, so many of the little touches, the bits of dialogue and the subplots get cut away to fill UPN’s bottomless greed for commercial time, but a

star trek voyager flesh and blood

See... video games are evil

standard episode like Flesh and Blood stretched out to the length of a two parter leaves plenty of room for all that stuff which lets F&B feel more like a usual Star Trek episode, instead of the rushed affairs Voyager episodes have become under their reduced screen time. The Hirogen get the chance to have their moments of reaction time to Voyager’s actions, which is nice since an enemy which doesn’t react to what you’re doing especially if you’re blowing their ship to bits isn’t very interesting. B’Elanna’s interactions with the Cardassian holographic engineer are kept in, otherwise her behavior at the end would have been as confusing as the end of Dragon’s Teeth. Part of the problem though is that sometimes F&B seems like Dragon’s Teeth with Holograms or taking up the plot of the two parter that never got made and Dragon’s Teeth indeed would have made a much better two parter than F&B did.

The space battles are interesting and well done. The nebula is once again an annoying trick, especially now as even Trek retreads like Andromeda have borrowed that bag of tricks. But this seems like something we’ll be seeing over and over again for the next twenty years so there’s little point in complaining. Picardo’s acting is top notch and even the usually abysmal Mulgrew shares some surprisingly effective scenes with him. Surprisingly little use is made of the Starfleet holograms. Considering that the Bajoran hologram retained a whole lot of Bajoran elements to his psyche, it might have been very interesting to pit Starfleet holograms operating from a Starfleet point of view against Janeway. Bizarrely enough this never happens and instead we focus on the overused Bajoran “I’m an oppressed but spiritual” victim routine as if that hadn’t gotten tried after only one year of DS9, let alone seven.

The Bajoran did have the potential to be a stronger character with his extinguishing the flames for those he killed, but in service of the cliched plot he’s suddenly turned into a raving lunatic. This character might have been stronger if played by a stronger actor. Next week’s rerun features two DS9 actors, might have been nice if they’d saved one of them to play the Bajoran leader or brought over Mark Alaimo or Andrew Robinson for the job. B’Elanna’s Cardassian rant is intriguing because it feels as if something may be being set up here for when Voyager is closer to the Alpha Quadrant.

Quiet, careful direction sets off a story flawed by the same rot that has been eating into Voyager for seven years now and the name of that rot is Kathryn Janeway. Scorpion, Dark Frontier and Equinox were all driven by some bizarre irrational obsession Janeway got into her head and dragged the crew along for wreaking unnecessary havoc and causing complications that would never have been spawned by the decision-making of a sane Starfleet Captain. Unfortunately Flesh and Blood is no different. Like its predecessors Scorpion, Frontier and Equinox it manages to salvage a lot of good from the rot producing strong and memorable episodes but the Janeway Factor confines its storylines and plot to fairly predictable parameters and like a wrecked ship trapped and orbiting an insane planet, the laws of physics that govern Voyager demand an ending featuring Janeway wearing a halo and the rest of the story has to be crushed into shape to fit.

The bizarre Janeway obsession that governs Flesh and Blood is Janeway’s notion that she is responsible for giving the holodeck technology to the Hirogen, hence she has to hunt down and finish off the holograms. Now in the previous Hirogen episode, The Killing Game, the Hirogen took over Voyager and killed and maimed its crew for sport. As a peacekeeping gesture, Janeway gave them the technology so that they could relieve their hunting instincts without using humans or associated sentient aliens as targets. Logically if Janeway should be feeling guilty for anything, it’s that she handed over a piece of Starfleet technology that has the potential to produce sentient beings, including one such individual already existing on her own ship, to predators who would hunt them and torture them for sport. That this technology also included templates of Starfleet officers is truly sickening. Yet historically Janeway rarely feels sorry for the victims in a situation but tends to side with their oppressors and so obviously her concern is that the Hirogen are being killed by the holograms. (One wonders if her response would have been any different, if her non-sentient Irish bartender boyfriend had been in the mix.)

Despite the Hirogen making it clear several times that they don’t want her help, Janeway insists on butting in anyway and ending the bloodshed, namely the killing of the Hirogen by their former slaves, thereby trying to save the Hirogen species for themselves. The fact that the Hirogen are big boys with lots of firepower, a big fleet and actually captured Voyager the last time Janeway got on their bad side doesn’t seem to cross her mind. Neither does the possibility that since neither side has asked for her help, that she should just stay out of the conflict. To Janeway apparently feeling moral responsibility for something, means she has undisputed authority over it and the right to shove everyone else into line and into agreeing with her solution to the problem. This is a very understandable perspective for a lunatic completely out of touch with reality, but a questionable one for a Starfleet Captain to operate under. Fortunately since her Stepford crew tends to fall in line, except for the Maquis and 7 of 9, this isn’t really a problem.

A professional Captain might have checked the Hirogen’s story before joining them in the hunt. After all Janeway’s failure to check the Borg’s story in Scorpion kept the

star trek voyager flesh and blood

Giving advanced technology to people who kill for sport... who knew it could go wrong?

Borg alive causing the genocide of hundreds of Delta Quadrant species. But then again how can you not trust the veracity of good honest people like the Borg Collective or the Hirogen Hunters? A professional Captain might have put some effort into getting in touch with the Holograms before trying to finish them off. After all escaping, stealing a ship and fighting space battles are pretty calculated acts suggesting intelligence and purpose. Furthermore, last season in Fair Haven Janeway risked her crew rather than shut down a holodeck full of non-sentient Irish villagers. A professional Captain would have guessed that confining a few dozen Hirogen warriors in the mess hall with little beyond Neelix in the way of security is an awful idea.

Finally, a professional Captain would have recognized that there was indeed a conflict and tried to resolve it by working with both sides, instead of taking the side of your own enemies and those of the slave owners and trying to enforce your will by force. Janeway’s failure to do this forces the Doctor into the role of traitor. But since the Doctor can’t be allowed to leave Voyager and Janeway can’t admit that she was wrong, this leaves us with the inevitable option that it is the holograms who must be discredited. Along with the borrowed Breen and Jem’Haddar, F&B borrows a page from DS9’s disposal of Dukat by turning their leader into a irrational religious fanatic thus forcing the Doctor to turn traitor second time and make a groveling apology to Janeway. Janeway then bizarrely completely dismisses the entire issue as an error in judgement.

Now it’s nice that F&B does actually address the issue of the Doctor’s betrayal in the episode, unlike DS9’s first war arc which ignored Odo’s betrayal of DS9. But really, the Doctor’s actions caused some serious injuries among the crew and almost blew up the ship killing everyone on board. This isn’t just a violation of protocol, it’s treason, mutiny and a whole range of other level one charges. Admittedly the Doctor was right in opposing Janeway and Janeway is the real traitor, but in the context of the show it would be hard to imagine the majority of the crew who don’t have B’Elanna’s StarfleetMaquis understanding of multiple allegiances ever trusting him again. From their perspective what exactly separates the EMH from Mike Jonas, after all Jonas was just manipulated and led into error by Seska too. SpockData characters have always had a lot of immunity from consequences often breaking down or being driven by strange possessions, but on Voyager both Seven and the Doc seem to have a certain condescending immunity attached to their actions as if they’re too stupid to be responsible for the outcomes of their own choices.

The real divide in F&B doesn’t come about because of the Doctor’s actions. He’s merely the pawn of a predictable plot caught between two different sides. The Hirogen who want to enjoy the fun of torturing and killing their holographic slaves; the slaves who want freedom and a good dose of payback. Neither side much wants peace at this point and Voyager has no real role in this conflict beyond the fact that both sides hate Voyager. Janeway coming in on the side of the slavemasters forces the Doctor to do what he feels is the right thing. The problem is that the slaves themselves are far from the Starfleet saints the EMH wants them to be. F&B castigates them for this but it seems that they’re behaving very realistically. They’re rebels fighting a war behind the lines against those they consider their oppressors, they’re not nice guys but neither are the Hirogen.

Starfleet morality is a very noble thing, but if you’re powerless, on the run and hunted by ruthless predators the only thing Starfleet morality will get you is a quick death. Like all codes of government Starfleet and Federation morality is meant to restrain the great powers of government and the military that the Federation possess. They’re not necessarily meant to be foisted on everyone at gunpoint and certainly forcing the holograms to abide by Federation morality, while making no such demands on the Hirogen is absolute lunacy. It’s like asking one side in a war to disarm, while letting the other side keep on doing what they’ve been doing before.

Janeway claims a moral responsibility for giving the Hirogen the dangerous technology they used to get themselves killed. Except of course as the saner members of the crew point out, it’s not the technology that’s evil but its application. If Janeway had given the Hirogen toaster ovens, they no doubt would have managed to kill each other using them too. Worse Janeway is taking responsibility for the choices of sentient adult beings as technologically advanced as her who are in fact older than humanity itself, she takes this to a head by then taking responsibility for the Doctor’s choice. In Good Shepherd, Janeway recites a parable that casts her in the role of Jesus. Now she seems to be taking the godhood thing seriously and treating everyone else as outgrowths of her own will. Worst of all despite all her moral posturing, Janeway shows no concern about leaving the same technology that produced a few hundred sentient beings to be tortured and mutilated, back in the hands of the Hirogen.

Although hologram rights are the underlying issue here, Janeway refuses to address it denying the holograms, equal sentient status without actually opening up the issue to debate. If holograms can’t by nature be sentient beings then why does the Doctor have any rights and autonomy on Voyager at all? And if Holograms are indeed family pets then just what was Janeway sleeping with in Spirit Folk exactly? And if the Doctor really is an equal member of the crew and the bartender a valid companion, then on what basis does Janeway deny the Hirogen holograms themselves based on the Doctor, equal rights?

But then again Janeway’s morality is no more rational than any of her decisions. She will time and time again ignore logic and reason in favor of emotional appeals. She time and time again claims that Voyager is a family, but Voyager is not a family it’s a Starfleet vessel filled with crew which is ordered to abide by Starfleet regulations. It is not her own private domain. Situations such as this should be governed by Starfleet regulations or by reasoned decisions based on Starfleet principles. Instead Janeway’s moral reasoning seems to consist of high pitched self-serving rhetoric coming out of the childish notion that if she can just find the right slogan and say it just the right way, that magically this will make her decisions right. While this works for a certain portion of the audience in a TV drama, Star Trek has the fandom it does not because its Captains were men who repeated the right slogans but because they were people you could respect. Captains like Kirk and Spock who genuinely searched for the right thing to do, questioned their own actions and listened to their first officers.

These are all ideas foreign to Janeway who wants nothing more than to be a martyr. To sit back in her chair and sigh about how hard her job is, how much she carries on her shoulders all the while climbing further up on her own self-made pedestal positioned well above her crew. To her, commanding a Starship is a form of omnipotence which allows her to exercise absolute judgement and her pips like a pope’s hat renders her judgement infallible. And this is why she needs her crew’s mistakes, so that she can absolve them of their sins against her and confirm her superiority. She’s not part of a team or in charge so much as the head of a matriarchal family. As the Doctor learned when he programmed his own holographic family, having a real family is hard. But Janeway’s fake family are professionals paid and trained to obey her orders and if there’s any trouble well she can always blow up Voyager… again.

Next week: Reruns…well aren’t all Voyager episodes reruns anyway?

Star Trek Voyager review – Nightingale

Summary: Kim finally gets his own command and turns into mini-Janeway.

Kim has always wanted his own command. This part of his character development went part of the way in Warhead and now in Nightingale he has the chance to go all

star trek voyager nightingale

"Maybe now they'll let me direct an episode"

the way by commanding his own starship. And after a barrage of lightweight episodes early on in this season, a serious, well-written episode like Nightingale is exactly what Voyager needed. While it might not have stood out as obviously during Voyager’s consistently better 6th season, in the anemic 7th season it is a godsend. Not only does Nightingale not feature leading performances by Seven, Janeway or the EMH, but it actually addresses continuity issues and contributes some much needed character development to a generally overlooked character. It has a logical plot that does not focus on Voyager being put into peril and is resolved through a clever and easy to follow tactical maneuver.

Nightingale does begin with a scene that Voyager has managed to turn into a cliche in only two years, the crew relaxing on the Delta Flyer just before alien trouble strikes. Still, once the trouble begins, Kim is faced with a tough dilemma Voyager hasn’t addressed in some time. Aid the medical ship that’s about to be destroyed even though he doesn’t know the nature of their conflict or follow Starfleet rules and continue on his way. The dilemma would be less gripping with an experienced officer who would know better than to make rush judgements based on casual perception, but Kim isn’t an experienced officer; just an overdue ensign eager for his own command. And once he arrives on the medical ship he discovers that they’ve lost their commander and are even more incompetent than the Voyager crew. With Kim behaving as the very model of Starfleet efficiency, it’s no wonder that they soon decide they want him in command.

Unfortunately Kim’s only model for Captain is Janeway and Janeway is a very bad role model. On his first return to Janeway, Kim justifies his actions by saying that it’s what Janeway herself would have done, and as such, Captain Kim does what Janeway would do. The result is that in no time at all Kim turns into mini-Janeway, taking over people’s consoles, dismissing their ideas and giving out insane orders. The difference is that unlike the Voyager Stepford crew which will follow any order Janeway gives until she’s knocked unconscious by her own stupidity and Chakotay can take over and try putting things right, the Nightingale crew is just using Kim to get home safely. They have no mythical devotion to him and think for themselves. So when Kim’s mini-Janeway routine reaches its insane height by ordering members of the ship’s crew to go against their own race and agenda by going back to Voyager, the only thing that would have been better than seeing the shock on Kim’s face when he realizes that “Captain” is just a title and not a superpower, would be for Janeway to be there absorbing the lesson with him.

But unlike Janeway, Kim can learn from his mistakes. And indeed Nightingale would have been a stronger episode if Kim really had been allowed to ponder what he did

star trek voyager nightingale

"Meet me for drinks after work"

wrong and learn from it on his own, without 7 of 9 delivering pat lectures on command to him. Indeed what exactly is the basis for casting Seven as a command guru anyway. Are TPTB so truly desperate to give her a role in every episode that they have a civilian who’s been human and on board Voyager for less time than Naomi, lecturing a Starfleet officer on command techniques? And for that matter, why during a crucial time for Voyager when so many systems need to be repaired, does Janeway send Seven away on a relatively frivolous mission she’s not particularly qualified for? If Itcheb is invaluable on Voyager, Seven must be far more so. As he himself suggested, Paris would have been a much better fit for this mission and he’s a lot less needed on Voyager than Seven is.

Kim’s biggest error centers around the same plot point where the episode’s biggest problem lies. The cloaking device. Kim never bothers to wonder why a medical ship is equipped with a cloaking device. Once their crew make it clear to both Janeway and Kim that they require their services, neither makes the obvious request for the specifications of the cloaking device. Certainly a cloak would make Voyager’s trip home a whole lot easier and it never even seem to be under consideration. A line stating that the cloak wouldn’t function with Voyager’s systems would have come in handy at this point.

Still, the crisis of the Nightingale manages a very effective and even exciting resolution, certainly a more effective and exciting resolution than Voyager’s usual response to a crisis. In true Captain style, Kim is prepared to go down with his ship, but unlike Janeway he actually has a Plan B and manages to outsmart the enemy without gloating about it all the while and even borrowing part of Kirk’s tactic for escaping Khan in Wrath of Khan to do it. Kim’s final scene with Neelix is an effective way of closing off this chapter of Kim’s character development and the use of soup ordering as defining command style is the kind of clever characterization Voyager desperately needs more of.

Nightingale’s B story is a pretty silly and cliched bit about Itcheb imagining that Lt. Torres is attracted to him. Still Manu Intraymi once again manages to do a decent

star trek voyager nightingale

"With Captain Kim in command, we're lucky to be alive."

job with mediocre material, a very valuable quality for an actor on a show like Voyager. For better or worse, it’s managed to contribute to Treknology the idea that love can be detected with a tricorder, courtesy of the Doc. Still it’s a shame that the producers have decided to devote as much screen time to Itcheb getting crossed signals from Torres and Paris, as they did to Tuvok going through Pon Farr.

The two alien species never get a chance to be fleshed out in any way but there was clearly no time in the episode for that. A little more time could also have been used to flesh out the credibility of Kim’s return to take command of the Nightingale’s bridge. The aliens seem to accept him back all too easily. A scene featuring Kim confronting the alien scientist and coming to terms with the fact that he dislikes the mission but can’t turn back now and will fulfill it regardless, would have enhanced the episode. Indeed having him learn those lessons of command from the alien scientist, instead of Seven to begin with might have taken Nightingale to a whole new level and would have turned the alien scientist from a faceless minor character, into someone more vital and memorable.

Still, all in all Nightingale is a good episode and a good lead in to the upcoming Holograms vs. Hirogen fest.

Next week: When Holograms attack Hirogen hunters.

Voyager review – Body and Soul

Summary: Sex on a Starship. Ryan does a bad Picardo imitation, aliens of the week menace the Delta Flyer again, Tuvok goes through Pon Farr in 5 minutes.

To begin with, it’s hard to figure out why this episode was made. Could the producers really have taken a look at the 7th season so far and

star trek voyager body and soul

"Wait, you want me to do what?"

thought, “what we need here are more light episodes”? As it is, Body and Soul is an episode that swallows two interesting plot ideas inside a one-shot gimmick that manages to be passably entertaining for a Wednesday night. While UPN promos for Voyager have been historically deceptive, B&S’s promo nails the episode pretty well. If you’ve seen the promo for Body and Soul, you’ll find that there’s not much to the episode you haven’t seen.

Body and Soul starts out, as quite a few recent Voyager episodes have, with an uneventful journey aboard the Delta Flyer. Shockingly enough, the Delta Flyer is attacked by aliens who in the episode’s one and only twist are after photonic lifeforms like the Doctor. Using a weapon that disrupts photonic beings they nearly destroy the Doc before 7 transfers him into her own circuitry. The EMH takes control of 7’s body and hilarity ensues. It’s not particularly implausible that the Doctor would behave so badly and clumsily in a crisis, considering that Tinker Tailor showed that he’s not quite ready for prime time. But it does get old fast. Ryan doing a bad imitation of Picardo and acting drunk can be amusing but it just seems as if Body spends two thirds of its time on what is at best a five minute joke.

By contrast Seven’s scenes with the tactical officer in sickbay are out of tune with the style of the rest of the episode and really don’t matter since the episode isn’t ready to treat the entire situation seriously to begin with. Worse, we barely just recovered from the Doctor using his medical skills to try and heal a screwed up civilization a few episodes ago in Critical Care, and we had the Doctor as earnest comic relief in Inside Man. Voyager does have other characters besides Seven and the Doctor after all, it might be nice if they had something to do as well. It would be nice if Kim had something to do in this episode except spout technobabble and fake a seizure (doesn’t one naturally lead to the other anyway?)

And fans have been anticipating Tuvok’s Pon Farr for seven years now. Even those people who weren’t on board with some of the weirder

star trek voyager body and soul

The premise on an episode has never been better expressed in a screenshot

solutions for Tuvok’s dilemma wanted more than using it as an aborted B story in which Tuvok mediates, medicates, groans, uses the holodeck and is back to work before anyone notices that he was even gone. Indeed from the character growth perspective, if you compare the utility of having Tuvok suffer through Pon Farr or Seven realize she needs to experience more sensations, it’s hard to see the Pon Farr story as being more disposable.

A well written Tuvok Pon Farr story could have finally done for Tuvok what Wire did for Garak on DS9. The few scenes with Paris did show potential for some good KirkSpock interplay. Even a badly written one could have had a lot more comedic and dramatic possibilities than a 5 minute skit about the Doc inside 7’s body. During the height of Braga’s supervision the 6th season managed to do some of Voyager’s strongest stories, but now with Braga working on Series V, Voyager is back to ripping off Disney movies. Even Jeri Taylor’s stepsonVorik got himself an entire episode (ironically enough directed by Andrew Robison) to deal with his Pon Farr; but Tuvok who according to Body and Soul would experience a much stronger version of Pon Farr resolves his problems with a holodeck program, even though Blood Fever itself showed that this wouldn’t work.

Finally, we have the bizarre and ridiculous line of “It isn’t cheating if the hologram looks like your wife.” Admittedly Voyager has some awful history in the ethical dilemmas department and tends to think moral dilemmas can be solved by having Janeway hit the right pitch of outrage with her rhetoric, but this is just bad. It’s halfway plausible for Paris to propose such a thing, even though he’s moved well beyond that kind of thing. It’s completely ridiculous for Tuvok in a halfway sane state of mind to agree. What indeed does the appearance of the hologram have to do with anything? If there’s anything that should have been hammered home after 4 Star Trek series each of which featured the required dozen “alien possession” shows, is that identity and not appearance is what matters.

The rebellion of photonic servants is certainly an interesting possible plot and the tactical officer’s recitation of how she doesn’t understand why her holodoc rebelled and its similarity to both the justifications for slavery and how Janeway and the Voyager crew condescendingly describe the Doctor as “part of the family” could have had some potentially very disturbing implications for Voyager. Instead the Doctor shrugs her off with a few banalities and focuses on his central goal of flirting with her instead. The Doctor may be a bit overstimulated and clumsy but he’s not completely thoughtless or stupid either. This piece of dialog seems like it belonged in a different episode, an episode that actually had something to say.

Instead, Voyager bases an episode around ripping off a cliche so cliched no one even bothers ripping it off anymore, tips a hat to TOS’s worst episode Turnabout and leaves two potentially interesting stories lying in the dust. And God knows if there’s anything Voyager needs this season it’s an interesting story.

Star Trek Voyager review – Inside Man

Summary: An Evil Barclay hologram stalks Seven of Nine, Good Barclay Human stalks Troi. Continuity stalks Voyager. Barclay is still oppressed by the man.

Ever since Reginald Barclay came to identify with Voyager’s isolation and loneliness in Pathfinder, he’s been obsessed with Voyager and with ending Voyager’s isolation

star trek voyager inside man

"So I'm just Barclay's sidekick now. Figures."

as a way of ending his own by proxy. Of course, Reg having a little trouble interacting with people, even Voyager crew people, he created a holodeck version of Voyager in which he’s suave, sophisticated and worshiped by all. In Inside Man he turns the tables by sending an enhanced holographic version of himself to the real Voyager. Where before Barclay was content to create holographic worlds for himself where he was all powerful, he has since come to realize that these worlds are actually fake. So of course now he’s turned to creating superior holographic versions of himself to interact with the real world.

The EHB (Enhanced or Evil Holographic Barclay) is everything that Barclay isn’t, or that Barclay thinks he isn’t and would like to be. Charming, a natural leader and the life of the party is what Barclay seems to have been aiming for, but when crossed with a Ferengi amoral con artist reprogramming job, what comes out the other end looks like a psychopath running for political office. The EHB sports a fixed demented grin and spews out ridiculous platitudes to the crew. He calls Voyager a “Miracle ship” and tells Neelix he has the most important job of them all and in a not so subtle in-joke tells Seven of Nine that she’s actually the most popular crew member of them all.

Properly directed and balanced with the scenes from the real Barclay’s life this might actually have been pretty funny and dark stuff as Mike Vejar managed to make it in the original Pathfinder. Unfortunately the direction is too aimless in the first half and by the time the strong Barclay storyline begins, the EHB’s storyline has almost ended. And the EHB scenes aren’t so much funny as confusing. Considering that the EHB does everything but hum melodies while sharpening a butcher knife, it’s hard to understand how the Voyager crew is stupid enough to fall for everything he says. As Tom Paris points out in a nice touch of continuity early on, Voyager’s attempts to get home have ended in disaster and the EHB’s routine is about as sophisticated as Quark’s.

Inside Man only becomes interesting when it snaps back to Barclay’s life, which ironically enough despite its supposed boredom is a lot more interesting and textured

star trek voyager inside man

"Of course I love him for himself."

than the “Voyager gets screwed once again but saved in time by a technogizmo factor.” Barclay’s plot isn’t that much more original than Voyager’s, but he is so screwed up, off balance and lost in a giant universe that it actually seems plausible that his story might not have a happy ending. And for all of Voyager’s travels, Barclay’s move from Starfleet to the beach and back seems to have more scale and scope than anything Voyager has done this season.

Maybe it’s the moody lighting, but even Barclay trying to do comedy is a whole lot darker than Imperfection or Unimatrix Zero. After all, Barclay doesn’t have to draw on Post-Borg angst or Half-Klingon angst or I’m-the-Commander-and-I-have-to-get-my-crew home-angst. He’s just the only imperfect, neurotic person in all of Starfleet and it and the few sets of the research labs and the beach are just so much more watchable than more filler from the Delta Quadrant follies. This is bad news for Voyager’s lackluster final season, but good news for any potential Starfleet HQ show or any version of Series V that will include more characters like Barclay and less characters like Janeway or 7 of 9.

One of the advantages of the Barclay side of the story is also the fact that Barclay is dealing with a conspiracy that might have plausibly gone unnoticed. The method of Barclay’s exploitation and how clueless he was about it is very plausible and ties in perfectly with Barclay’s backstory and character, while the method of the Voyager side of the conspiracy wouldn’t have fooled a child. Basically on the word of a hologram who’s really charming, Janeway nearly kills her entire crew without actually verifying the information with Starfleet itself. Janeway, who is usually paranoid and sensing conspiracies where there are none, is never remotely suspicious of the EHB until the EMH’s pettiness (in a plot point recycled so often it’s practically turned to mulch) raises her suspicions. Barclay is supposed to be gullible and easily taken advantage of, Janeway isn’t.

Still unlike the two previous Barclay episodes, Inside Man actually provides something useful for Troi to do. Where in Pathfinder she was just someone for Barclay to

star trek voyager inside man

"I am evil racial stereotype #3 Mugh mugh mugh"

talk to, here she actually takes a leading role in some of the events. The interrogation scenes are priceless with every single actor from Admiral Paris down shining in however much screentime they get. This is the only time IM successfully combines the dark and light touches that made Pathfinder so successful and it alone is worth the price of admission. As in Tinker Tailor, the humor works because it’s grounded in reality and in genuine human pain, while on the Voyager side the funniest bit is just the sight gag involving the Doctor’s golfing costume.

Of course the producers use Troi’s scenes to inject as many references to absent TNG crewmembers as possible. Troi vacations with Will on the beach but he isn’t due to arrive yet (possible reference to the TNG pilot), Barclay sings a duet with Data and discusses his holographic matrix with Geordi. These references fall somewhere between cute and grating. Considering Voyager’s current lackluster state, the reminders of a better show now deceased end up generating more nostalgia than annoyance at the painfully obvious tactics for trying to cash in on TNG’s popularity.

The final ending of the show is buried in technobabble but since it occupies little enough time and there’s not much suspense left by this point, it’s less of an issue than it might normally be. Best of all, by the end of the episode Voyager’s crew have not been clued in to all the events and are just as ignorant, meanwhile Barclay has produced an updated EHB that’s practically designed to terrify the Voyager crew as soon as it arrives. So despite a weak beginning and a not-really-there Voyager story, Inside Man has enough good moments, good humor and Barclay to make it pleasant and offbeat viewing.

Star Trek Voyager review – Critical Care

Summary: The EMH battles an alien HMO.

This season has been plagued by an array of episodes that are technically well made, with excellent direction, spectacular production values,

star trek voyager critical care

"My diagnosis indicates this is a topical episode"

good concepts and good acting but seem to end up amounting to very little in the end anyway. Critical Care is such an episode in that it hits all the right notes but ends up having very little content and nothing that really stays with you once the show is over and the ten o’clock evening news comes on. Critical Care is a fairly good episode on its own terms. The problem is that its terms aren’t particularly wide or ambitious. It is not much more than meets the eye. In a word, the episode is obvious, its crisis, its moral dilemma and its resolution are obvious and ultimately not very interesting or convincing.

Critical Care makes the right choice by instantly leaping into the story from the first second. Rather than featuring scenes of the Doctor’s abduction, CC reconstructs pieces of it for us as the crew works to trace back the EMH and the thief who stole him. But then, it doesn’t have much choice as this is an episode pressed for time. As with last week’s installment, there are minor holes in the plot that can be traced back to the extra minutes UPN cuts out of Voyager to allow for more commercials. With that said, the addition of the “Voyager deals with amusing con artists” bit–which stops being funny about halfway through–is completely necessary and more than a little inexplicable. Not only does this feel like a faded retread of Live Fast & Prosper from last season but the humor of the piece skews the dark tone of the episode so that neither the comedy nor the drama work very well.

Certainly the rest of the cast needs their screen time but if they really wanted a smuggler comedy episode so badly another one could have been written while the crew could have been tasked with a more serious storyline than Tuvok Neelix routines (the Neelix food big routine is also borrowed from Live Fast & Prosper) or better yet, the screen time could have been given to the main storyline. The absence of an active Voyager search for him might have made his isolation and his conflict a whole lot more plausible, while the current version makes it clear to the audience that he will be rescued as soon as Voyager untangles the MIB rejects cluttering its viewscreen.

Far worse, though, is the fact that CC wastes the two strong actors it hired to play the hospital administrators in favor of the two weak and virtually indistinguishable actors playing the doctor and the patient. While in medical melodramas the drama may come from doctors lingering over their patients, in Star Trek the drama comes from confronting villains and alternate points of view. But in CC we hear little from the administrators except some vague references to famine and ecological problems and get nothing in the way of background for the society and culture. There is very little plausible explanation for the second administrator’s shift to supporting the EMH in a conspiracy to assault and nearly murder his superior. His dialog suggests that there may have been a scene or two with him that was cut in favor of more scenes of the EMH with the dying young man, scenes that have all the dramatic impact of pizza commercials.

star trek voyager critical care

"Cure patients? That's crazy talk."

This is a big mistake and demonstrates the failure of post-Roddenberry Trek to discuss moral issues in any real way. And so CC feels that it has accomplished all the moral dialog it needs just by showing suffering people and a scene or two of callous administrators. It never deals with the core choices being made here. Are the administrators and the entire system really completely callous and corrupt or is there some practical basis for such a vicious triage system. By never dealing with the issue, the episode essentially bases its entire moral code on suffering people and the need to cure them. This may be enough for the Doctor and his oath but it does not satisfactorily address the issue.

Finally, the Doctor’s “solution” is manufactured and depends on asking the audience to swallow the premise that his actions have caused 3 out of 4 members of this system to rebel against it and that by the time he’s departed, a solution is already in place. To swallow the idea that this really is a solution we need to shut down our minds and go with the episode’s unstated idea that the only reason the administrator was denying treatment was because of a lack of empathy and that once he experiences being a patient, he’ll change his ways. This would be ridiculously idealistic even by TOS or Earth Final Conflict standards; on Voyager it’s completely implausible. In this way CC is reminiscent of David Gerrold’s TOS episode, The Cloud Minders which has Kirk forcing the elite to work in the mines at phaser point. CC’s only real superiority to Cloud Minders is that Kirk’s actions occurred under the influence of toxic gases, while the EMH has the episode’s most powerful and effective scene back on Voyager in which he ponders the morality of his actions.

Unfortunately the fact that the episode’s most effective scene takes place not in the episode’s expensive alien setting but back on Voyager speaks quite clearly to certain essential failures in the episode. It’s nice that Voyager is addressing contemporary moral issues, it would be nicer if they put some more thought into it next time.

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