"The Killing Game"
Airdate: March 4, 1998
86 of 168 produced
86 of 168 aired
With real explosions tearing though multiple decks, the holodeck war started by the Hirogen threatens to destroy Voyager. The few remaining crew members whose minds have not been compromised for the game must find a way to take control back before the ship is lost for good.
The Hirogen realize they have fatally miscalculated on their birthday party decoration purchase.
Matthew: So, I have been dragging my feet a bit on reviewing this. In addition to whatever other lazy excuse I might offer, this is in great part because this episode is so similar to its predecessor. Its strengths are basically the same. It's got Nazis, period costumes and sets, and a fair amount of action. I enjoyed juxtaposing the Nazi milieu with Klingon warriors. Some flaws are the same - we still get precious little about the Hirogen generally. But after ruminating for a bit, I can see that its other flaws are greater. There are two major problems - pacing, and character motivation. On the first score, this episode peters out about 30 minutes in when Janeway reaches a detente with the Commandant. After this, for murky reasons, the Hirogen 2nd in command goes rogue and keeps shooting people. This was substantially less interesting. I'd have rather seen Janeway outfitting the Hirogen ships with holodeck technology or something, with her crew chafing a bit at the task. And who was the casualty, anyway?
Kevin: I think a lot of what made the first so interesting just can't be repeated here. We can't wonder why the crew is dressed as Klingons or French people, since we already know. Since the locations are largely the same, there's less awe at the detail. The story must now survive on its own. As you point out, the pacing is a problem. Once the Hirogen mutiny, whatever interest the Hirogen story has peters out and it's just a lot of running and shooting. Also, once the crew uniformly has their memories restored, there's no more tension to mine between how their characters interact.
Matthew: The second flaw is character motivation. The aforementioned Hirogen 2nd in command is a guy who for the whole previous episode has disdained holodeck hunting. But then, he ends up listening to a hologram and somehow becomes suicidally motivated to betray his leader. Why? It would have been better perhaps if it were a coup against his leadeership, as opposed to mentally cracking or something. He also ends up threatening to shoot Seven of Nine to get her to sing - which he quite vocally found pointless last episode. On the crew side of things, once they lose their fictional personae, all of the previously interesting character building becomes moot, which just ends up feeling disappointing. I guess I would have liked to get more about the fight that lost the ship in the first place, if the fictional lives are gone. Or perhaps people remembering those lives and then continuing their feuds and loves? Maybe the Nazis should have been crewmen as well as the resistance fighters.
Kevin: The problem is that it all reads as generic villain behavior and since the story is supposed to be an insight into the Hirogen, that's particularly problematic. You could easily picture any 80s Eastern bloc baddie making a similar attempt to take out his boss and sexually harass the female leads. It doesn't help that especially by the time we get the speechifying in the bar, the comparisons of Hirogen and Nazi cultures start to feel really ham fisted and artificial.
Matthew: Maybe it's modern events intruding, but Janeway's gunshot wound irritates me. Being hit by a bullet does a heck of a lot more damage than giving you a slight limp, not to mention the blood loss. Not only for verisimilitude, but perhaps making Janeway's injury more realistically grievous could have added drama to the last third of the show. Also, why does a liberated Tom give two shits about a holographic Nazi's insult to B'Elanna's fictional sexual performance?
Kevin: I found the scene with Tom and Harry a bit off as well. I appreciate the balls to depict blatant racism on the part of an American character, but I don't buy that 'Tom' would buy Harry's obvious educated guess about legs. Maybe a more interesting solution is to have Tom pull the trigger but for some reason miss. It just felt like they wanted to add tension but then chickened out.
Matthew: On the main crew, the standout is Kate Mulgrew. She was effective while hunted, and getting her final "revenge" at the end. I also liked the way she played it when she was restored but her crew mates were not. Her scene giving the "optronic data core" at the end was good, too. The other standout was probably Ethan Phillips - he gave us the main comedy note of the episode, when he was turned from a Klingon warrior back into a cowardly hedgehog.
Kevin: Yeah, I have no complaints really about anyone. I liked Dawson mining her real life pregnancy for some light comic relief. All the Nazis and Hirogen did pretty good jobs as well, especially with some iffy material, but I can't say they phoned it in or anything.
Matthew: The sets remain visually interesting, and the firefight in areas of Voyager proper was also fun to look at. We got a clever visual holo-trick near the end, with Janeway hiding past the edge of emitter range. The disappearing legs and gun were well done. The look at the city from above, which appeared to be CGI, was well done.
Kevin: My only visual complaint is that a lot of the city stuff outside at night read as a little murky in standard definition and added to the pacing problem for me. Beyond that, I agree the trick at the edge of the holodeck was fun. Everyone looked fantastic in their black turtelneck.
Matthew: The conclusion gave us a re-use of the Moriarty memory module. I was OK with this. It's a neat prop and it looks the part of some sort of holographic doohickey that transfers the meat of the technology to someone else.
Kevin: I liked the holo-doodad too and wish they actually sold those. My only other quibble was with that weird Party City version of a Nazi emblem. Were they just carrying that around? What was with the tin foil trimming? Maybe it's more a plot problem since it was only there to give rise to a weak speech, but it's look and its construction were odd.
Matthew: The flaws her bring this down a notch from the prior show. The last third drags and none of my big questions receive an answer. It's still reasonably entertaining, and moves from A to B to C with enough purpose. So I think it's a 3.
Kevin: I agree. Without the novelty of the first half, the questions become more glaring, so it does take it down a notch. Again, had the Hirogen been better and longer developed, this could have been the apex of their story rather than a few more question marks. I also give this a 3 for a total of 6.