Monday, March 23, 2015

Voyager, Season 3: Alter Ego

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Voyager, Season 3
"Alter Ego"
Airdate: January 15, 1997
54 of 168 produced
55 of 168 aired

Introduction

Tuvok and Kim find themselves in a strange love triangle with a holodeck character.


Harry hopes that a spirited game of Vulcan Jenga will take his mind off of his inability to get laid.



Writing

Kevin: I apologize for the delay in getting this review up, but man, was it hard to sit myself down to watch it.  I have several issues with this episode. For starters, this is another instance of several TNG stories warmed over. We have a character falling in love with a holodeck character like "Booby Trap" and the creature who lives in a nebula manifesting as a real person, like "Imaginary Friend." Advice for life, never make me think of "Imaginary Friend""Booby Trap" manages to dodge this largely because as a fellow engineer, Leah Brahms is actually someone Geordi could fall for, and the actors' chemistry did the rest. Unlike that episode, I just don't buy why this woman is so enthralling, I will say I did like Paris discussing the idea that falling for a holodeck character is not an uncommon occurrence. It made me think of something I was reading recently about a specific paraphilia for statues (think Pygmalion) that is noted in antiquity, but almost never since. It makes sense, in an odd way, that humans would form romantic attachments on occasion to whatever the du jour art form is.

Matthew: Yeah, I'm sadly in agreement on the lack of inherent interest, here. For one thing, there are story angles left unexplored. We already know by this point that Harry has left his one true love, Libby, at home. Why not explore that? Heck, have Jennifer Gatti playing a simulacrum of herself on the holodeck, but have Marayna take her over, leading to Harry's falling for her. Why do the Tuvok angle at all? If there is going to be a love triangle, why not make it a real one, in which two (or more) suitors are really vying for Marayna's affections? I recently watched "Her," so perhaps I'm spoiled and looking for more.

Kevin: I get that this was supposed to be some interesting character work for Kim and Tuvok, but this fell flat for me, too. I find Kim asking to be taught Vulcan emotional control almost offensive. It's not a party trick for Tuvok; it's a way of life, and it's all or nothing. I also found Tuvok's advice to be a little on the nose. All that said, the episode got as close as it was going to get to good with scenes like Marayna and Tuvok's conversation on the holodeck. Those actually had some life. If my memory serves me, the episode "Gravity" will give this another stab and be more successful because it is freed of the absurd trappings of its set up. In the end, I still don't quite buy it, though. I get the appeal of why someone who could calmly and accurately analyze him would appeal to Tuvok, but I don't get the appeal for Marayna. Is she just attracted to whomever is talking to her? Why pick Tuvok to seduce over Kim? If she wants someone who is actually going to stay and that's all, Kim seems like the far more likely get, The end result of all this is that, a few interesting conversational tidbits between Marayna and Tuvok, I don't really care about the problem in the episode and don't quite buy everyone's reactions. Even Marayna's Fatal Attraction turn seemed to come out of nowhere.

Matthew: I think her attraction for Tuvok was supposed to be based on her perception of similarities between their characters - aloofness, desire for separation. That's all well and good, but it contradicts the prior 40 minutes or so of teleplay, in which Marayna is gregarious, even ingratiating, with practically everyone on the Voyager crew, to the extent of giving hydrosailing lessons to Kes. As such, I also agree on not buying the Fatal Attraction bit. But what really sunk this episode for me was the complete anticlimax. Tuvok goes to Marayna's station and... talks her into letting him go because his heart wouldn't be in staying? The conclusion was so toothless that it called into question why I just watched the preceding 43 minutes.

Kevin: A couple of little things that caught my attention: First, I liked the bit of ground work we are laying for Vorik's attraction to B'Elanna. I don't think the attraction works per se, but I appreciate that it did not come out of nowhere in "Blood Fever." And while I appreciate the Moriarty reference, I find their credulity that a nebula could have somehow spontaneously happened to be a bit much.

Matthew: The Moriarty reference is what disappointed me the most in terms of lost opportunity. A rigorous investigation of what it takes to be in independent consciousness would have been nice. Even if it were just undertaken by Tuvok, and even if it still turned out that Marayna was an avatar. The potential for a Turing test-style scene could have been really fun. 

Acting

Kevin: Wang was...adequate, I guess? I've said before, I've never really bought him at the emotional extremes. Tim Russ was giving it his all, and I certainly can't fault him for any part of his performance, I just don't think the script supported him as much as it could have.

Matthew: I think Wang does a pretty good job of portraying that sort of lovesick, annoying, not terribly mature approach to a love interest. I bought his irritation with Tuvok, and his embarrassment at being so transparent to others. Is it great work? No, but the script isn't great, either. Tim Russ stays in character and does what the episode needs, as per usual.

Kevin: Nelson did a good job as well, and I get that she has a certain allure. Whatever wasn't working in her story was certainly not her fault. I don't think she had any chemistry with Wang and that dinged his part of the story, though.

Matthew: Personally, I didn't find her to be particularly alluring. I think her line readings were fine, but some combination of makeup and wardrobe, and her own basic physical look just didn't work for me. I don't mean that to say she is unattractive, she isn't. I just feel like she was miscast in terms of physical type.

Production Values

Kevin: This was Robert Picardo's directorial debut, and he does a solid job. Most of my production complaints are about the look of the nebula, which was pretty flat, and the obvious greenscreens for the resort vistas. Beyond that, Picardo seemed to do a good job of moving the episode along and getting good performances out of the leads.

Matthew: I liked the look of the nebula, but I teld to agree that the various sets were pretty hum drum. Maybe some of that parasailing or beach volleyball would have livened things up - they must have easy access to such things in Los Angeles.

Conclusion

Kevin: This is a solid 2 for me. The performances by Russ and Nelson keep this from 1, certainly. I just don't care about the story enough to engage me. It's set up, development, and resolution all feel really inorganic. I like the idea of exploring Tuvok and how he processes relationships with a character that can match him intellectually, and had that been what we got, I would be giving a higher score. The B-plot elements of Lovesick Harry really just leave me bored enough to knock this a point below average.

Matthew: Definitely a 2 all the way, for a total of 4.  I think this should have gone high concept, whether into emotional territory for the characters, or into sci-fi territory with artificial intelligence. Instead, we get a warmed over Fatal Attraction with no sex or violence. That's a recipe for boredom, any way you slice it.

2 comments:

  1. I think Kim asking Tuvok to teach him how to suppress his emotions was en par with Kim's character and overall immaturity and youthful naivety. It was almost like a 12 year old asking his pilot dad if he could teach him. .The fact that Tuvok took it seriously and actually DID, is another story.

    The interaction of Voyager characters and their relationships with one another is always very interesting to me . I love watching these people interact. There is real camaraderie between them, it doesnt feel forced. Like when Kim is depressed and Paris replicates a Daddy-o Hawaii T shirt for him or whatever it was or when Paris is jealous that B'Elanna is going to have dinner with Vorrik or when Paris gives Kim shit for his choice of (unavailable) women etc. I enjoy this episode for these reasons. It is nice to see Trek characters be out of their stuffy uniforms and interact on a personal level.

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    1. Very much agreed on character interactions. It's what keeps a 1 off the table for me - because the plot itself is very weak.

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