Friday, February 21, 2014

Voyager, Season 2: Twisted
Voyager, Season 2
Airdate: October 2, 1995
18 of 168 produced
21 of 168 aired


While celebrating Kes' birthday on the holodeck, the ship encounters a strange phenomenon. Crew members find themselves walking in circles, unable to find familiar locations. Rooms they can find are in the wrong place. The crew finds themselves cut off from each other, seemingly stuck in a constantly changing maze.

In the future, cake frosting is an unappetizing blue. Because nothing goes with brown fudge better than blue glop.


Kevin: This is not a good episode. I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt on rewatch in the name on intellectual integrity, but nope...still not good. I hesitate to call it bad because even that would have been an accomplishment. This episode just kind of lays there. Let's start with the first problem. It's another Anomaly of the Week, and given that this was was of the ones held back from the first season, it makes the third or fourth of that season, in a way. We have another encounter in which an alien being is really just saying hello despite the initial perception of hostility. And we don't even get to see or learn anything interesting about the creature. They also arrive at the "do nothing" solution because they got to that page in the script. It's the worse kind of mushy sci-fi/fantasy logic. The idea of the ship not looking the way you remember is a fun one, and that kind of discord can be mined effectively for drama, but they never really dig into that. If your quarters were not where you left them, wouldn't have a bit of a freak out? Neither the buildup or solution really have any tension or stakes.

Matthew: If Plato were to have spent his time doing really useless things, I think he would have arrived at this episode as the Form of the pointless Anomaly of the Week episode. As you say, it's got everything. Boredom, lack of follow through, meandering storytelling, and a solution so dumb that it calls into question why you chose to watch the preceding 44 minutes.

Kevin: More than anything, the mechanics of the twisting really bug me. How is it possible to twist the ship such that corridors are corridor-shaped but connect different parts of the ship? And by perfectly aligning the doors? That's not twisting the ship; it's breaking it up and rearranging it. Shouldn't conduits rupture or go nowhere, at least for a while? The internal logic was fuzzy and ill-explained. More than that, aside from a couple of scenes that had a little life to them, the show is reduced to people wandering around or standing still for a while. It's not really compelling, is it?

Matthew: Yeah, your point about the possibility of drama is well taken. Perhaps a character could worry about his or her sanity? Maybe the corridors go nowhere? Maybe a door opens into space and blows a crewman out to their death? Maybe everyone becomes so paranoid of this that they are forced to huddle together, exacerbating personality conflicts? But yeah. None of this happens. We get some of Neelix being a jealous tool again as he questions how Kes knows whose quarters are on which decks. At least the writers eventually realized what hey were doing to Neelix, and Michael Piller is quoted as saying that this episode was a turning point in the decision to rehab the character.

Kevin: The potential out for the episode was the character interactions, but again, the episode whiffs. Neelix getting counsel from Chakotay on jealousy was a nice scene, but the earlier scenes were downright upsettingly creepy. He's clearly upset if she has any interactions with a male crewmember, not just Paris. That's not jealousy in the face of Tom's obvious flirting, that's controlling, borderline abusive behavior. Especially on the heels of Elogium, it's pushing Neelix in a really bad direction. Beyond that, there's some pro forma "Logic dictates..." versus "My gut says..." debates between Chakotay and Tuvok. That could have really been pushed somewhere fun. Without Janeway's control of the situation, both sides would devolve quickly into fighting. Even if they had just locked crew in their quarters for an hour to see how they coped could have been fun. Episodes that are light on plot or the nature of the threat or otherwise end on an "everything's fine and like it was before" note can really be salvaged if the characters experience a lasting change, and there's none of that here. I could have tolerated all the creaky twisting mechanics if the focus were a "Data's Day" style slice-of-life story or somehow pushed the characters somewhere new.

Matthew: I was thoroughly annoyed by the "Janeway gets her brain scrambled" plotline. So was she scrambled because she didn't go all the way through, like an OS install that cancels midway? It's just... it's just stupid, really. If it were all so painful, why would it end up being a good thing?If it scrambled people's brains in such a way as to deliver a message, how could they go on living in relation to the rest of the universe? Does everyone speak gibberish now? The scene in which they steel themselves for the unknown at the end threatened to be interesting. But then it wasn't.


Kevin: I liked Chakotay and Neexlix talking about his jealousy, and I liked Tuvok's scene on the bridge well enough. Janeway's pain acting in the Jeffries tube was good, too. I will say I found her aphasia acting the one almost sour note in Mulgrew's otherwise sterling record. I am entirely happy to blame the writing. Beyond that, no one had to do anything other than walk around carrying a tricorder, so not really a challenge there.

Matthew: I don't know if there is an actor alive or dead who can make sci-fi aphasia acting any good whatsoever. And you are right, Mulgrew didn't. Gibberish is gibberish, and if it is also coupled with near unconsciousness divorced of emotional context, it's just pointless.

Kevin: I will add that Robert Picardo has Armin Shimerman's ability to make almost any joke land. His schtick with Sandrine was funny, and the "I'm a doctor..." line, while expected, was delivered with such skill, that I laughed.

Matthew: I agree - Picardo's scenes in Chez Sandrine's, while not transcendently good by any means, were competent and amusing.

Production Values

Kevin: The physical staging of some the twists were really good. I liked the tracking shots of Chakotay and Tuvok splitting up and then running into each other again. The CGI was more of a mixed bag. I liked the long shot of the Jeffries tube and the stretching effect on Janeway's arm. It reminded me a bit of the baryon sweep scene in "Starship Mine." The twisting effect elsewhere was...okay...but the funhouse mirror effect, particularly in the dark bar just made the visuals look muddy.

Matthew: The visual effects in this episode were competent, nothing more. As indicated above, I think there was a real opportunity to do interesting things - really rearranging the ship, twisting things, maybe creating some practical "twisted" sets. A scene similar to BoBW with something being blown out of the ship would have lifted this episode an entire point, if you ask me.

Kevin: The Okudagram showing the twists bothered me because it was a rare misstep where the diagram just did not match the dialogue. They described the twisting as going toward the center from the outside, and the diagram didn't show that; the entire ship was twisted, and the picture of the twist doesn't explain how different parts of the ship end up the wrong place. The ship was just stretched life taffy, not rearranged. I know it's nerdy to care about stuff like that, but many an episode has been enhanced by diagrams that follow or even better, further explain the plot.

Matthew: I'm with you on that diagram. I hate to blame Okuda, though, for as we know, it is an accepted axiom that he can do no wrong. So I'm going to blame the writers for not giving him enough to work with. Yeah, that'll stick.


Kevin: This is a 2. More than anything, this episode is boring. None of the character interactions really do anything for me, and there's no real tension or clarity to the danger. This isn't offensive enough to rate a one, though. Interestingly, though, several members of cast and crew really hate this episode, to the point that they seriously thought it would never air.

Matthew: I'm vacillating. On the one hand, this really sucks. But I guess there are a few redeeming moments (some of the conversations you mentioned), and the bad stuff is just boring, not offensive. That said, there is no redeeming sci-fi here, and the character moments also veer into very bad territory for Neelix. So I'm going to go with a 1. Something needs to fill the bottom decile of Star Trek. If it ain't this, I don't know what it is. Not everything can be as terrifically bad as "Move Along Home" or "Code of Honor." That makes our total a 3.

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