Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Voyager, Season 5: Bride of Chaotica!

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlVoyager, Season 5
"Bride of Chaotica!"
Airdate: January 27, 1999
106 of 168 produced
105 of 168 aired

Introduction

A race of aliens mistake Tom's Captain Proton holodeck stories for reality and attempt to enter it, stop Voyager in its tracks. Now the crew must work inside the story to defeat the villainous Chaotica!


 Chaotica penetrates the lightning shield for some inappropriate canoodling.




Writing

Kevin: This is a super fun episode, full stop. Unfortunately, just repeating, "Golly, this was fun!" is a boring review. I'm just prefacing that because my critique will appear harsher than I intend it to be. My critique of the episode centers on the that it takes a little too long for the fun to really get going, and that the thinness of the plot itself isn't quite compensated elsewhere as much as it should have been. It's almost halfway through the episode before we see Janeway in Chaotica drag, and the mechanics of the plot are just not enough to really sustain the episode on the way there. I draw a comparison to Rascals in the podcast, and I think it holds. Rascals has a PAINFULLY stupid set up, but it's dispensed with in the teaser. Once that's done, not only is the episode a delightful romp, the silliness is weighted by some great character work for those characters, verging on not just genuine character insight, but growth for Ro. I think had they managed to find a way to tell us something new about Paris or Janeway, it would really have bumped a delightful episode into a great episode.

Matthew: So yes, the first half of this episode is just pretty basic Voyager filler. They're caught in a region of space from which they can't move. This has been done several times in TNG (Booby Trap and The Loss spring to mind), and to better science fiction effect. It's not bad by any means, it's just ho-hum. The best bits are Tom and Harry playing Captain Proton. As you say, it really takes off when Janeway joins in (the whole conference room scene, in which Tom describes the scenario to a nonplussed Janeway, was gold). But overall the jokes and references are really excellent. Just to name a few: the "space acting" when Proton's ship is hit. The "same set" reference to Voyager's own "Planet Hell." The talk of recaps that are inaccurate (just like episode previews, yes?). So I don't think it should be said that the intro sequence is entirely bereft of fun.  It's only in comparison to the back half that it seems this way.

Kevin: I don't have that much to add to what I've already said. I draw some serious questions about what the hell a photonic light form could be. On some basic level, not even the doctor is a photonic life form. He's a digital one that manifests one element of the program as a hologram. The 'guts' of what make him alive are in the circuits, not the projection. These, however, are tiny complaints in the face of the very charming love letter to cheesy sci-fi.

Matthew: The mechanics of how the "photonic life forms" were manifesting were mystifying. They say they can't "see" matter-based life forms. Okay.... but then how so they see anything on the holodeck, which replicates matter? Do they see it in some sort of "Matrix" kind of way, as code or something? Even still, how did they see the flesh-and-blood crew members who most definitely are not made of light? Why did they manifest in costume? The concept could have been interesting (in a "Flatland" kind of way, hey another way in which "The Loss" is superior!) but was a bit half baked. At the end of the day, it kind of doesn't matter, because I was wholly interested and engaged in the mechanics of the Chaotica plot. Deactivating the lightning shield, uncorking the pheromones, using stylized speech, yeah, it was just all super entertaining.

Acting

Kevin: This was obviously a delightful opportunity for Kate Mulgrew to the chew the scenery. She clearly was having a ball, but actually managed to convey a little of what must be Janeway's ill-ease at being in this situation. The result was some pretty spectacular comedy. Martin Rayner seemed light he walked right out of one of these serials. There were notes for me of the old school Universal monsters, like Bela Legosi's Dracula, a kind of stateliness that was just compelling in how over the top it appears to modern eyes.

Matthew: What can be said about Kate Mulgrew that hasn't already been said? Here's something - she can vamp with the best early Hollywood femme fatale. She cuts an amazing figure in her Arachnia getup, from the hair to the dress to her hand gestures. But you're right, the way she sold it as "playing the character in character" really brought it to another level. Her chemistry with the amazing Martin Rayner was fabulous. It must have been a hilarious few days on set. His death scene, his line readings, his trilling R's, his casual cruelty to his subordinates (especially the excellent Lonzak, played nearly equally brilliantly by Nicholas Worth). It was SO FREAKING GOOD. I would watch Captain Proton as a standalone show, at least for a while, I really would. I think it would work even absent the Voyager framing (which is nice in itself).

Kevin: Some solid supporting work was done by the Doctor this time around. His President of Earth schtick was great and his eye-rolling at the conventions of the world were also fantastic. I also have to acknowledge MacNeil for really nailing the enthusiasm for the material that shined through even in the crisis.

Matthew: The actors that got a chance to be on holodeck really ran with it. Tim Russ was excellent in his sardonic dismissal of Tom Paris' frippery. Garrett Wang was good as the friend who wants to enjoy it as much as his buddy, and almost does. And yes, Robert Picardo nailed the unexpectedly enthusiastic LARP-er who finds a new calling in hamming it up. Another unsung hero - Tarik Ergin, who plays frequent extra Ayala, as Satan's Robot. The robot had some killer comic timing and funny movement.

Production Values

Kevin: This is definitely the star of the show. The use of the black and white sets was great, and the design people did a great job giving the textures enough variety to prevent it from looking too samey. They built the sets perfectly. They looked appropriately cheap. It was really a love letter to that era of sci-fi, The costumes are another highlight. Chaotica and Arachnia's costumes were appropriately ridiculous while looking completely authentic. The lightning bolts stitched into Chaotica's robe were perfect. And I think someone on RuPaul's Drag Race needs to recreate Arachnia's gown.

Matthew: More standouts - the ray guns and their visual effects. The sound design of the gadgetry in the holodeck. The Captain Proton music! The matte painting of Chaotica's castle, both damaged and undamaged. The knobs and dials in Proton's ship. The effect of the pheromone cloud. It was just delight after delight in this episode from a visual and auditory standpoint.

Kevin: The only bum note on this side was the rifts in the holodeck. The effects themselves were kind of soupy, non-entities, and making them pale purple against the black and white just didn't read at all.

Conclusion

Kevin: This is a 4. It's just so much damn fun, anything lower feels heartless. From the minute Janeway declares she a size 4, indicating she'll play along, the episode is just a non-stop delight. Sure, there are some plot problems that present themselves when you think about it, but when everyone is having that much of a ball, who stops to do that?

Matthew: There are episodes where people are having a ball that are too dumb or too pointless to enjoy (DS9's mirror episodes spring immediately to mind). This is not that. Is it the best comedy episode ever? No. That honor probably goes to Qpid. But this is top-shelf entertainment. The writing in the first half is pedestrian, but the second half, and the acting and production values, are truly excellent. So I agree with the 4 for a total of 8.

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