Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Voyager, Season 2: Deadlock


Voyager, Season 2
Airdate: March 18, 1996
36 of 168 produced
36 of 168 aired


While evading the Vidiians, Voyager experiences a strange phenomenon that duplicates their entire ship - people and all, but pits those duplicates against each other in their desire to utilize the ship's power. Something has to give...

You look.... beautiful with your hair down. I'm going to use that if we survive. Also, let's make out.


Matthew: With every Brannon Braga show I watch, I ask myself: Is this the most Brannon Braga things can get? With "Deadlock," the argument for other shows gets quite a bit tougher. Most Braga shows seem to feature a fantastical situation which is unsettling emotionally to the main characters. I think splitting your ship into two replicas and having one suffer from a series of maladies fits this bill. But then, as with many Braga shows, things sort of go nuts in the final third. Here, we have not one but both Captains Janeway deciding unilaterally to kill themselves and their entire crew in order to save the other ship. I think this, like some of Braga's wackier outings, indicates either: 1. a lack of understanding of human behavior; 2. a rushed writing schedule that made writing nuanced characters impossible. As far as these human beings are concerned, they are the sole inheritors of their respective names and life histories. They have just as much hope of returning home, and pain at being so far away, as their replicas. Until a few hours prior, they were not aware that there were any other beings with similar claims - and even on becoming aware, their own claim is by no means diminished, not even by one iota. Therefore, the notion that Janeway, who is responsible for 150 other beings (including two Delta Quadrant natives), as well as each and every one of those other beings, blithely deciding upon self immolation to serve the needs of their replicas, is just ludicrous. Is there drama? Sure. Is there excitement? Of course. Braga giveth, Braga taketh away. He knows how to write a punchy scenario for characters. He just often fails to make his characters recognizably human in a crisis. But beyond this, I think some opportunity for drama and tension was blunted - by making the ultimate deciding factor to destroy one of the ships the Vidiian attack, we don't get to see a crew actually deciding on death and justifying that decision. Maybe there could have been a random element, like flipping a coin, or playing (gasp) a poker game. 

Kevin: I agree the set up is too neat. If nothing else, its creation is too perfect to feel like an actual problem. How are they both using the same antimatter? Why not the same oxygen? It just doesn't make sense that only overlap or don't overlap in the precise was necessary to advance the story. If using the anti-proton beam could impact the duplicate, why not the other ship's explosion? It's a neat concept sure, but it avoided the most interesting aspects of the story. Even by the end, Harry seems largely unfazed that he is not on the "same" ship. I can't imagine the mindfuck that losing your child than having a quantum duplicate of the child appear must be. That could have been a fun subplot. Would she bond with her child the same way? There's a gold mine of existential crises here. I think Jeri Taylor could have made hay with that, even for one final scene in the mess hall or conference room that really explores that part of the story.

Matthew: I had a fair number of problems with the baby/medical aspect of the plot. First of all - if fetal transport is a thing, why isn't it done all the time? I'm sure Kelly could back me up on this. But then, when things hit the fan, the Doctor doesn't seem terribly good at triage. He is treating a superficial injury to Neelix's face (as if anyone would notice) while the baby's health goes south. I have to imagine anyone in the room would say "stop treating me, and go look at the baby!" As such, the baby's death feels like a cheap way to manufacture drama. Later on, when hiding from the Vidiians, how did the baby stay nearly quiet enough? Why didn't the Doctor just sedate her? Harry's death felt similarly manufactured. How does "grab my hand" make any sense when the person is holding on to a solid metal rung? When is grabbing someone's hand ever a good idea when hanging from a precipice? It seems much more advisable for the person up top to grab you as opposed to removing your hand from whatever you're holding on to. I did like how B'Elanna sort of quickly moved on in crisis mode form his death, though.

Kevin: I remember figuring that they would just replace the lost crew with the duplicate by the end, or the universe Kim and Naomi died would be the one that survived on its own, so even as automatic drama, it wasn't that great, save for some top notch acting, noted below. You figure a starship crew should be trained to deal with the possibility of vacuum exposure. I like seeing the crew get put through the wringer. It's going to make "Year of Hell" an awesome watch, so a little flavor of that here was great.

Matthew: I've complained quite a bit, but there was a good amount of nice stuff here. There was a nice contrast between the crews early on, with one near death, while the other was annoyed by mere frippery. I would have liked a bit more hard science than just a "spatial scission" - because it was so fictional, all of the sort of "limits" which were there for dramatic purposes (only ten people can cross over... so why didn't they send ten instead of 2?) just seemed arbitrary. Also, how did the Vidiians, or the Voyager crew or that matter, end up avoiding the rift right in a hallway? Why was it in the hallway anyway? Did it have something to do with the warp core? An irritating writing note was the preponderance of 47s - it's becoming a distraction instead of being cute.

Kevin: Of all the sins you can lay at Braga's feet, "boring" is exceedingly rarely one of them. Watching the unstoppable force of Janeway's stubborn streak collide with the immovable object of Janeway's stubborn streak was fun, and I do enjoy watching the crew work together to suss out what is going on. One moment I enjoyed despite its artificiality was Janeway welcoming the Vidiians to the soon to be destroyed ship. It had notes of "The Search for Spock" for me.


Matthew: This episode is all about the main cast, which is nice to see now and again. Kate Mulgrew has some nice scenes in which she wrestles with her decisions insofar as destroying the ship. I didn't love the writing, but the actor delivered. Garret Wang got some nice action scenes and did well in them.

Kevin: Mulgrew can certainly carry a range of stories. I bought her internal determination at the idea of destroying the ship, even if it went undiscussed in the story with the rest of the crew. Particularly in an episode where she spends a lot of time talking to a viewscreen, she really connected with...herself...I guess. The ability to make those moments not seem canned is not one everyone shares, and it definitely helps here.

Matthew: The other acting axis of this show was Robert Picardo and Nancy Hower as Samantha Wildman. Hower in particular did a great job communicating labor and anxiety. Her acting for the baby's death was pretty wrenching. Picardo was fine but not great here.

Kevin: I agree on Hower in particular. She really looked exhausted during the birthing scenes and, like you said, her grief was palpable. I like the banter scene on the bridge before things went haywire. I liked Tuvok's contribution that his wife was in labor for 96 hours. Even in small moments, Russ, particularly when discussing Tuvok's family, can really add an undercurrent to the stoicism.

Production Values

Matthew: Overall this was a really nice show in terms of VFX. The split screen work looks as good as it ever has. Both Kes and Janeway shots were quite good with little of the obvious lighting problems that have plagues this type of shot in the past. The Harry death was not as good looking, but it was still competent. I also liked how the Vidiian ship looks like a larger version of their medical tool, and it was some nice CGI that gave it a sense of scale.

Kevin: Agreed. They also did a good job over the course of the episode keeping the crews in different places and nailing set dressing details to drive home which ship we were one. I liked the Vidiian ship as well. I wonder if they used the tricorder model in building the actual ship.

Matthew: The practical effects looked nice, too.  The damage on the ship was well done. The sets and lighting were all quite nicely realized and added a lot of tension and angst to the scenes. Makeup on the Vidiians and injured crew was typically nice.


Matthew: Someone unfamiliar with Braga's bag of tricks might like this more than I do. But I've seen him do so much better, both in collaboration and on his own, at fleshing out his stories for the characters. This one just felt like it was a bit too clever for its own good - a fitting epitaph, methinks. The acting and production held up their end quite well. I think this is a 3.

Kevin: I agree with the 3. A tighter focus on any of the character stories in here would actually have really elevated this. Picking a random contrived duplicate story out of a hat...let's go with "Second Chances"... proves the point. Sure, the idea of a transporter duplicate is absurd, but once that is dispensed with, we get a killer exploration of two main characters and their relationship and everyone demonstrates growth by the end of the episode. Lacking that, this is a good, but not great episode. That makes a total of 6.


  1. Everytime you have time travel and parallel universes and things like that involved, things are going to get murky and messed up and suffer from all the issues you guys mention. That is not the writer's - in this case Braga's fault - whose work and writing you apparently enjoy dissing every time - but just the nature of the issue.

    I find the idea of parallel selves existing at every single point in time before and after you to be complete and utter bullshit. I mean what, am I supposed to believe there are an infinite number of universes, running parallel and equally infinite versions of me in space time?

    Let's face it, that just doesnt make sense and doesnt sound plausible, no matter ho skilled of a writer you are. At some point you are going to end up in head-scratching mode.

    And if you turn that into some kind of a script, then you will inevitably run into the very issues we see here and that you guys find unbelievable, such as Janeway 1 wanting to sacrifice herself and her crew to help Janeway 2 and her crew, even though they are the same, yet also not...? Err... whatever.

    So every time i watch a story like this, be it this one or Eye of the Needle or Future's End in season 3 etc., I acknowledge that about the subject and instead of pissing my mood and hurting my brain try to bring logic into something so fantastic, I take it with a grain of salt and a big tall glass of suspending disbelief and enjoy the ride.

  2. Don't get us wrong, we enjoy many, many episodes he helmed, and I think he is a very good writer. I will say I think he, maybe more than other writers on the staff needs a co-writer to balance out his more extreme urges.

    And I frequently argue that an enjoyable episode shouldn't be overly penalized for a pitfall of the genre. A recent discussion on the impact of the " Where's the fleet?" issue on DS9 springs to mind. It is a narrative flaw, but I don't think every episode should individually bear the full brunt of that problem. I can suspend my disbelief plent is all I'm saying.

    Still, I think the contrived nature of the problem isn't quite wholly balanced by the rest of the episode. I mention "Second Chances" in my summary, and I think the comparison is apt. That episode is based on an insane premise, but since it focuses on first class character drama and an interesting resolve of the Troi-Riker relationship, that I can easily forgive that problem. This one spends more time on the mechanics of the problem and its solution, and because, as well all agree, the nature of the problem is somewhat ephemerally insane, it doesn't bear that much attention.