Thursday, May 5, 2016

Voyager, Season 4: Concerning Flight, Season 4
Airdate: November 26, 1997
78 of 168 produced
78 of 168 aired


When dozens of Voyager's key systems are stolen by an arms dealer, Janeway enlists the help of a most unlikely collaborator - Leonardo DaVinci.

Also, Janeway settles into her good hair phase.


Matthew: I see two or three ways this episode could have gone - one, a look at Janeway, why Leonardo is her personal childhood hero; two, a look at what would happen to Voyager if key pieces of equipment were stolen; three, a look at the concept of artificial intelligence and "holographic life." I do feel as though the first got a bit of an examination. Janeway's scenes interacting with Leonardo were interesting. I liked the mention of Kirk's run-in with Leonardo, by the way, and the way that the historical question that episode brings up was elided.

Kevin: I agree with the basic three story ideas you lay out and that none of them get the fullest examination they could have. I think Janeway's admiration is probably the most developed of the story, if nothing else on Mulgrew and Rhys-Davies' performances. The hero worship that underlies Janeway's interactions is solid and well developed. It helps that they laid enough work with Janeway being both a professional scientist and someone whose been interested in science since childhood. Her admiration is not out of nowhere. I caught the dodge on "Requiem for Methuselah" and I enjoyed the attempt. Their interaction provide a lot of the enjoyment of the story, particularly in the flight scene and the goodbye in his workshop.

Matthew: The second story thread, Voyager being disabled or hobbled, was basically ignored, which called into question why all the fuss, anyway. If there is a backup that allows the ship to use its systems to prosecute attacks on the thieves, why do they need the primary systems? The way this plot progressed was very rote. The non-focus characters spew some technobabble, we get some visual effects of ships chasing things, and so on.

This was a non-story. They could have gone with a more sophisticated take on the Pakled idea, that not only were they stealing technology but that the theft would advance a society faster than they should be. Then you could have had fun questions about whether after securing their own stuff back, do they have the ability or even duty to destroy the other society altering technology the "Prince" obtained.

Matthew: I was disappointed by the lack of development in the third story area, artificial intelligence, because I think this is where the real science fiction was. Janeway seems convinced that, even as a simulation, the Leonardo program is valuable as a colleague because of his brilliance. Why is he brilliant? "Programs" in Star Trek are mysterious. Some treatments seem to indicate that the brilliance of the programmer is key, giving the program "algorithms" that allow it to surpass other programs (examples include Data and the Doctor). But who programmed Leonardo? Was it just something whipped up by Voyager's computer, or was it a program brought along from outside? Other treatments indicate that hardware is important, too ("The Schizoid Man," Star Trek Nemesis). Why can the Doctor apparently exhibit sentience? Does Leonardo? Does his being transferred from the computer to the mobile emitter affect this? This story could have added grist to this particular idea mill, and it failed to.

Kevin: I enjoyed the scene of Janeway asking Leonardo if there were things beyond his comprehension, but again, I think that's more of an acting note. Like most hologram stories, the story just takes it as read that they are not mere automatons. I also was a little annoyed at the idea that the Prince had conscripted Leonardo into service. Even if it were the real Leonardo, it would take years to get him up to speed on the basics of silicon chip computers, let alone bigger stuff. It's a classic and tired overbroad definition of "genius."


Matthew: Whatever you want to say about the story, there can be no fault found with the acting. John Rhys-Davies, who is also known from the Indiana Jones movies and as Gimli in LOTR, is absolutely superb as Leonardo. If anything, the depth of his acting performance exacerbates the questions that the script raises and fails to answer. He is funny, interesting, emotionally revealing, and just all around fabulous to watch.

Kevin: He was also in Sliders which I never got into, but the prior and subsequent science fiction and fantasy work show he really has the chops to engage the universe he's in head on. I totally bought, story issues aside, that this was DaVinci in the New World.

Matthew: Kate Mulgrew is almost as good as Rhys-Davies. I bought her childhood idolization as well as her desire to get things done in the present. Yet again, Tim Russ' chemistry with Mulgrew was superb. I also found John Vargas (who had a bit part in Star Trek II) to be excellent as Tau.

Kevin: Like I discussed above, I think her rapport with DaVinci floated the story a lot more than the script did. More than anything, even in the tense moments, Janeway appeared to be having a bit of fun, and it lends credulity to the idea that this program was part of her recreational life. It's a shame this is his last appearance. I wish she had let the program run. What would a DaVinci with such knowledge of the future do in Renaissance France. That could have been a really fun riff on the idea.

Production Values

Matthew: This was one of the better location shoots in the series, as well as probably the best marketplace, at least during the 90s. So many marketplaces seem claustrophobic and confined to a set, but this one was shot and lit in a way that made it feel expansive. Actually, sound design really helped here, too, with background conversation really adding to the scene.

Kevin: Whatever power plant they were using for the "fortress" was good, though some of the matte work showed in layering in the guards. I agree that overall, everything had the appropriate expansive field. I would not a fan of the transport effects at the top of the episode. Particularly for the biobed and the warp diagnostic assembly, I didn't like that there was nothing under them. Presumably they are attached to power supply and other systems in the ship, so it would have been fun to see a little of the guts of Voyager not in a Jeffries' tube.

Matthew: The flying scene was pretty obvious green screen work, but it wasn't half bad. The spaceships were pretty run of the mill at this point in the franchise. The matte work on the colony was not very good. Leonardo's workshop, though, in both iterations, was a welcome sight.


Matthew: We get a story with some key weaknesses, buoyed by superb guest acting, good ensemble work, and some nice scenes. I really wish there had been a deeper investigation into AI questions, or a deeper dive into Voyager losing its abilities. But I think it all averages out to be a 3.

Kevin: Janeway and DaVinci alone keep a 2 off the table. I wish the episode had done more with the component parts, but I was never really bored. So, I agree with the three for a total of 6.


1 comment:

  1. They did considerable research on da Vinci, his relationship with Louis XII brought up, he uses a phaser with his left hand... All the more so, it tears at me that they shoehorned 'America' in there. It would have made much more sense if he had assumed he was transported to the East. I'm not even certain da Vinci, even relatively late in his life, would be aware that this was a new continent to Europeans rather than Asia. I am pretty sure he died before it was understood that it is two continents, as he refers to it at least once.

    Oh well... I guess I must chalk this one, too, up to much being lost over the years.

    I agree wholeheartedly that we should have seen more of John Rhys-Davies and da Vinci.