Airdate: October 1, 1997
72 of 168 produced
72 of 168 aired
The Doctor and B'Elanna visit an alien vessel to assist a lone hologram whose crew has suffered a calamity. Unfortunately for them, it turns out that the calamity was the hologram's doing.
The hologram, in the cargo bay, with the hammer!
Matthew: So, it seems like you have a few options with "where to go on hologram stories." You can either bite the bullet and explain how and why sentience can occur within an artificial intelligence, or you can try for a HAL story of holograms run amok. This episode is squarely in the latter class, and I wish it were a bit more firmly in the former. Why in heaven's name did the HD-25 become the sentient, crazy person that he is? Do all of them do this if left on for a certain time, or if "mistreated," or is there something that happened to this particular iteration? Why does the Doctor treat HD-25 as if he is a being with a wounded psyche, as opposed to programming? Why does this hologram, when it has a screw loose, manifest that insanity in a way fundamentally similar to a human being having a mental break? Why would his creators make him so annoying? Why does zapping the hologram with energy kill it? Wouldn't you need to destroy its computer, or emitters? Too many questions... damned few answers.
Kevin: I agree this is an ongoing problem with the show's conception of holograms. I really think they needed to explain why the Doctor was unique, because that opens up an avenue of storytelling which is fairly interesting. What if other holograms are simply structurally inferior to the doctor? An example would be humans and gorillas. We accept that they're similar but not similar enough to merit the same rights and abilities. The alternate is to establish that by virtue of some extended experience, the holograms achieve some level of increasing sentience. This would call into question the ethics of almost all holograms since theoretically any use could lead to this conundrum. The problem is the series as a whole tends to skip the intermediate step. Any hologram is treated as sufficiently similar to the Doctor as to merit the same rights and needs of the Doctor, and then the doctor defends the character on that basis. Of all the iterations, I think the most interesting version of this story is one where a complex hologram is malfunctioning in a dangerous way. If the program is sentient, then he merits treatment. If he is not, he needs to be disabled for everyone's safety and it would be fun to watch the Doctor grapple with where the line is.
Matthew: The B story is Seven and Harry. On the one hand, I understand that they should show Seven becoming friends with some of the crew, dramatizing the basic struggles we all have, but more so her struggles as an outsider. There is some decent romantic mismatch comedy here, but it veers waaaay into the exploitative when Seven goes straight to the adolescent fantasy of casually suggesting intercourse. It was almost the "I've never experienced human sexuality, please show me" trope. I can't believe that Seven of Nine is that flippant, or that ignorant. If anything, the realistic take should be someone trying very hard to convince her that it is a worthwhile thing at all, not the other way around.
Kevin: I completely agree with your analysis of the B plot. This is another avenue where I think the obvious ethical questions would be fun to more explicitly explore. Even though we accept that Seven is 24 years old she doesn't have 24 years of experience interacting with humans. She may be very intelligent but she obviously doesn't have a great deal of emotional experience and I think that raises some questions about even if we accept her offer to Harry at face value, does that mean it would be ethical for her to act on it? Based on her statements in earlier episodes, Seven doesn't exactly have the best relationship with her pre Borg body and sex is one of the most innately physical, human things we can do, so I wonder if there were a more mature way to explore Seven's increasing humanity and physical and emotional awareness while incorporating her sexuality in a way that wasn't done for laughs.
Matthew: The odds and ends of the story are Tuvok getting promoted... for some reason... to be equal in rank to Chakotay... as out of left field as this scene was, it was charming enough for what it was. The other bit was Paris and B'Elanna acknowledging their love. I'm glad they did this, as it lends a nice serial feel to the stories, to say it's been three days since their shuttle accident (how many shuttles have been destroyed of late?).
Kevin: I took the rest of the episode as a fair bit of character housekeeping, that by and large was successful. There's actually been a few noticeable instances in which Tuvok's rank insignia is incorrect so this seems to just resolve that problem going forward. I also like that they touch base with Tom and B'Elanna's relationships I think that's important to make it credible. I also like the little snippet of back story about how Tuvok and Janeway meet, though I found the leaning on the Live Long and Prosper joke/prank to cross the delicate line from friendly ribbing to quasi-racist mocking.
Matthew: Garret Wang and Jeri Ryan had good comic scenes. Wang in particular did a good job appearing uncomfortable. If only the writers had given them something beyond cliche to to, we might have gotten something really interesting.
Kevin: Even in the few episodes she's been in so far, Jeri Ryan has done an excellent job of pitching an array of emotions at just the right temperature to get the point across. As much as we didn't like the writing in the scene, her forthright attitude in the scene with Harry worked for the character as much as they have sketched it out to this point. And while Wang has never exactly blown me away with his acting, I found he was annoying in this episode only to the extent that he was supposed to be annoying from the script.
Matthew: Leland Orser's performance on Dejaren veered into the agitating and annoying. I think that's the way this was written, of course. But it was too "human" for my taste. I'd be much more frightened and much less annoyed by a HAL-style deadpan than by screaming.
Kevin: I think the problem for the hologram character is that he started out at psychotic killer. It made the increasing pitch of his insanity less dramatically interesting. Orser played the Romulan in the DS9 two-parter Improbable Cause and The Die is Cast and I think he shows he has the ability to pitch a quieter, more menacing character there and I wish he'd been able to do more of that here.
Matthew: Roxann Dawson turned in a competent "horror movie" performance, and this is what made the A story tolerable. I enjoyed her growing unease and her eventual injured push back. Robert Picardo was also competent, but I found him a bit too naive.
Kevin: Dawson always does a really good job of inhabiting whatever seems she's in. The episode could only have benefited from making her a note central part of a debate about the nature of the two different holograms.
Matthew: I thought the ship exterior was some really nice CGI. The interior was quite good as well, and it seemed like a real place, and added to the tension. B'Elanna's injuries were OK but nothing to write home about. The optical effects on the HD-25 were competent.
Kevin: The horror tropes at work were competently executed and I enjoy that. An example would be the opening scene of the body being dragged, leaving the trail of blood was sufficiently grisly, but not over the line for network television and it did set a good tone even if it tipped the episode's hand a little early.
Matthew: This isn't awful, but it's a bit of a bore. Interesting questions are never asked, and instead we get both an A and a B story that play out as mere tropes. This was a real wasted opportunity (which will be revisited to greater effect later) and I think it's a 2.
Kevin: I have to agree with the two which is sad because I think Picardo and Dawson's acting alone would normally get you at 3 in pretty much any episode. But the hologram plot isn't cookedlong enough and the Harry and Seven plot is just not interesting enough to really pull this episode up to a three. That's a total of 4.