Friday, February 7, 2014

Voyager, Season 2: Projections

Voyager, Season 2
Airdate: September 11, 1995
16of 168 produced
18of 168 released

The Doctor wakes up in the sickbay to discover that no one else is left on the ship. Things get curiouser, however, when a few crew members show up, relate a tale of the ship's capture, and then begin disappearing as if they were the holograms while the Doctor was the real human being.



Matthew: Does it get more Braga than this? It's got the Twilight Zone sort of twist teaser, the general feeling of unease throughout, the tenuous sanity and crumbling of reality for the protagonist, and the isolation of individual characters away from a milieu populated with extras. The creepier moments were quite effective, such as his isolation, his painful emotional climax, and Kes' sudden, expectation-defying switch to weird "wife" from normal assistant.

Kevin: Watching this, I was put in mind of both "Frame of Mind" and "Remember Me." I think those episodes were more successful. The former committed more fully to creepy feeling and the latter had a more interesting, complete mystery and solution. By the second or third layer of "No, this is the real Voyager," it became pretty obvious the solution would be some sort "none of it was real" story. In both those episodes, even as a long time viewer who knew that the eventual solution would come. There are sharp moments where you for a split second genuinely share the characters' "What if.....?" moments. This episode doesn't quite reach that level.

Matthew: I was tickled by the basic philosophical question, "how do I know what's real?" Making the Doctor think he is a human is a novel hook, and they do some near things with it, such as the flashback to the premiere, which I really enjoyed. The way that Barclay and Lewis Zimmerman were woven into the plot was clever, and told us interesting things about the Doctor. It was a good and knowing touch that Barclay was hired on for a holo-development team, and kind of funny that he was charged with testing interpersonal skills. I did feel however that the notion that the Doctor has a thing for Kes was a bit artificial. I liked many of the scenes during the Doctor's fantasy, but the Neelix scene was rather annoying - playing into the worst tendencies of the character "nyah nyah, missed meee" and the like. It was an almost Jar-Jar level moment in an otherwise tonally quite fun show. Also, there are things I just don't understand here. How could the Doctor/Zimmerman have memories of six months, if he is a human stuck in a holodeck? I could understand losing your memories due to a radiation surge. But gaining new ones, and gaining memories of many hundreds of multiples of the time you are purported to have spent in the simulation? I don't see how the Doctor could ever have been convinced by this.

Kevin: I didn't get why telling the computer to stop all holograms on an allegedly holographic Voyager would delete the crew. The internal story was not that the crew was holographic, so why would telling the holographic ship to shut down the characters that are, inside the narrative, holograms turn off the crew, but not the ship as well. This element of the episode reminds of "Ship in a Bottle," and again, this episode comes up a little wanting. The story felt a bit out of control by the end when we were layering reveals on reveals. On the positive side, the thought of using Caretaker as the backdrop to test the reality of the story was inspired.

Matthew: Overall, like many Braga plots, the setup is more tantalizing than the resolution is satisfying. The back and forth between "surprise" plots is a bit distracting - with Barclay serving as a disappointing red herring while the actual explanation ends up being somewhat mundane, sort of like "it was all a dream." A better and more satisfying version of this Doctor story was told in Season 5's "Latent Image," where the Doctor has to confront his nature as an ethical being and consider the possibility of resetting himself for the good of the crew, leading to similar crises of consciousness. That said, I still enjoyed the Doctor wrestling with metaphysical questions, even if the overall cause ended up being kind of lame.

Kevin: I enjoyed those elements as well, and I think it's where the episode could have taken it up a notch. The show has kind of taken the Doctor's sentience as read at this point. Had they built that a little slower, maybe this could have been the moment the crew realizes that, or maybe categorize this chaotic imagining as the result of the Doctor's increased capacity. Alternately, I feel the Doctor should have changed or learned something. Maybe he could assert or become aware of a meaningful connection to the crew, beyond his programming as their caretaker. In any case, the way out of making sure "It was all a dream" doesn't invalidate the episode is to have the dream impact something real.


Matthew: Robert Picardo does not have a hard time carrying an episode. It's what makes his casting as the Doctor somewhat strange. He is so human and identifiable, with all of his foibles, that being cast as a computer program ends up being restrictive. Good thing, then, that the writers essentially make him a human within an episode or two.

Kevin: I agree. I would put Picardo right up there with Andrew Robinson or particularly Armin Shimerman who can just take any script and give it internal life, whatever the external problems are. His acting surprised at pain and hunger were really well done. I was reminded of Q's similar journey in "Deja Q," and this time the show stands toe to toe with its predecessors.

Matthew: Dwayne Schultz shows very good chemistry with Picardo, and I would say, some nice development for the Barclay character (fictional though he may be) insofar as his confidence and presence. They had some good comic timing, especially when they slapped each other.

Kevin: I like this Barclay a bit better than the one who eventually shows up, particularly because he seems to have grown. It appears that he took his greatest personal fault and turned it into a positive career move. If nothing else, it's a credit to both actors that what could easily be painfully cheesy comedy was really funny.

Matthew: The main cast did a fine job of reprising their roles and shading them just a tad differently in spots. I'd say Jennifer Lien was the most interesting, with her more "human" wife role, and then her creepy quick turn from assistant back to wife. And she looked good in normal hair and ears, too.

Kevin: I liked Janeway's curious outrage at the Doctor, and Lien, like you say, nailed the "twists." Mulgrew's concussion acting on the bridge was really good. It's an odd thing to praise, but it's fine detail work like that that really sets actors apart.

Production Values

Matthew: This is a bottle show, no doubt designed to save money. Nonetheless, Jonathan Frakes directed it well and chose interesting camera angles and shot compositions to keep things lively. The dark lighting scheme played in well to the scenes of isolation and unease. I do believe this is the introduction of the blank holo-grid, and it's a neat looking set.

Kevin: The transitions were well handled and I would be hard pressed to point to any green screening that pulled me out, as such a transition heavy show might. Kes' human hair should have been Kes' regular hair. It's the best that pixie cut has ever looked.


Matthew: I want to go with a 4 based on tone, but I think the lack of really interesting resolution, and the unanswered questions, conspire to keep this in average territory. It's a solid and entertaining 3.

Kevin: Yeah. There are a few places either in tone or substance that this episode could have been beefed up. That being said, Picardo is definitely on the short list of actors who I would watch silently do a crossword puzzle, so with limited exceptions, a Doctor episode is going to land on at least "average." I agree with the 3 for a total of six.

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