Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Voyager, Season 5: Latent Image

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlVoyager, Season 5
"Latent Image"
Airdate: January 20, 1999
105 of 168 produced
104 of 168 produced

Introduction

The Doctor must face a crisis of conscience when he rediscovers an unfortunate triage situation from his past.

The Doctor sets up his new Selfie-Tron 5000, a state of the art and incredibly miniature digital camera







Writing

Matthew: I like a lot of what is going on here. This episode touches on a few big ideas. 1. Do we have free will or are we predestined in our actions? 2. What does it mean to be a person? 3. Can a machine ever be a person? 4. Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? This list shows what reach an episode like this can have, if it delivers on the themes. So does it? Hmm. I think it basically punts on all four questions, after giving us a few interesting plays on the field for each one. On number 1, the Doctor asks whether he could ever have made another choice during his triage situation. He seems to indicate no, from the standpoint of the universe unfolding, but then the question is tabled. For number 2, the episode gets into the question by means of Seven of Nine. She is becoming a person in a much more meaningful way than she had as a Borg, and she is disturbed by what she sees as Janeway squelching that same process in the Doctor. Janeway essentially relents, coming around to her position. This informs number 4, showing us that while she sided with the needs of the many initially, this was based upon her biases in viewing the Doctor as a non-person. The best treatment of the bunch is probably number 3. The Doctor makes a choice that he feels guilt over. This is a very "person" sort of move. At the end of the episode, he is left to wrestle with becoming OK with himself, which is something that all of us have had to do at some time or other. We are limited beings with limited information about the world, and our actions have unknowable consequences, both positive and negative, going forward. This is a paralyzing situation to comprehend fully. As humans, we sort of ignore it and distract ourselves to move past it. But the Doctor doesn't have the luxury of doing so - he has a perfect memory. Still, the episode sort of just ends, without answering how the Doctor can move forward. I guess he had an existential breakthrough off camera before the next episode? Nonetheless, I enjoyed the use of poetry and just he image of the Doctor wrestling with his existential demons on a couch in the holodeck. Lord knows I've done the same in my living room.

Kevin: Given that the choice would have traumatized a flesh and blood doctor, I think the question is certainly well presented. It's a little too neat that there is literally no basis on which to make a triage decision beyond the Doctor's friendship with Harry, but it serves the episode. I actually kind of like there wasn't a clean resolution because for questions like these, there aren't. There's just living with it, and that's what I took from the ending. It's not about epiphanies; it's about managing to go on without one. Also, as the Inferno is literally my single favorite piece of literature regardless of genre of all time, I will always be happy with a Dante reference.

Matthew: I enjoyed the drama between the characters. Janeway's position makes perfect sense, as does Seven's and the Doctor's. Having people proceed from sensible beliefs and preferences really amps up drama in a way that worse scripts with random actions or unexplained motivations do not. Now: was the Seven scene with Janeway yet another iteration of "When you liberated me from the collective?" Yes. But was it bad? No. It makes total sense that Seven would play this card in her advocacy for the Doctor.

Kevin: I think the problem for me was that it feels too late in the Doctor's evolution to be having this discussion. Maybe if the episode had happened earlier in the series Janeway's position would feel less like a needle scratch. That said, even if she accepts the Doctor's personhood, I think there's still an interesting way forward to keep Janeway making the same choice. She made a similar one for B'Elanna a few episodes back, and I would have been delighted if they had discussed it.

Matthew: The mechanics of the plot were pretty good. I liked the use of the holo-imager to discover the mystery. I liked it also being used to catch Janeway in the act. We have to believe that the choice was absolutely necessary, that there was no way to forestall it and save both crew members. I do of course wonder why Jetal couldn't have been suspended in the transporter for a few minutes (you know, like the telepaths in the episode immediately prior), but overall the dilemma was good enough. I do wish we had gotten a little more narrative on why the Doctor chose Kim. He alludes to being closer to him. Is he? How does that manifest itself? Isn't that counter to his programming? I wanted more.


Kevin: I would have liked to see some fallout from the crew. Maybe someone who is close to Jetal who resents the Doctor. Maybe even Harry himself feeling a mix of survivor's guilt. I can forgive the too neat nature of the problem since it serves the story. I mean, do we ever ask how the hell you find yourself on the trolley barreling at two sets of tracks with people in the way? The episode is a thought experiment, so I can allow a certain latitude in the setup.

Acting

Matthew: Nancy Bell gets to play the retconned redshirt in this episode. I think she did a pretty good job with what the script gave her (which was considerable). She has to seem like a human being with an inner life, and she succeeds. Garrett Wang also had a lot of nice, low key scenes. And he gave a nice, very subtle look at the beginning when the Doctor was discovering the scarring on his spine, which said "uh oh."

Kevin: I agree she seemed really nice and engaging. I do kind of wish they had used a recurring character we hadn't seen in a while, just to give the audience some skin in the decision. That said, she had a difficult hurdle to clear to make her character engaging, and I think she definitely succeeded.

Matthew: Kate Mulgrew has to play the bad cop and make her come off as reasonable. She is given the toughest line to deliver, one I really don't believe the character agrees with, that the Doctor is like the replicator. She sells it. She also sells her evolution in thinking by the end of the episode.

Kevin: I was put in mind of Picard in Measure of a Man and much more so in The Offspring. Some character needs an arc, and they can certainly carry it, but I agree that it feels slightly out of character. Like I said, I think if the episode had come in season 2 instead of season 5, I could buy it a little more easily. Still, you can't fault Mulgrew for not delivering what was asked of her.

Matthew: I found Robert Picardo a bit too shouty in bits, here. The lower key scenes of him cracking up worked really well. I just wish he had restrained the volume when he really got going. Overall, though, I believed his character's struggles and changes, so it's not all bad by any means.


Kevin: I didn't find him too shouty, personally. I really liked the final scenes in the holodeck, and I think he actually managed to find the fairway on a "does not compute" moment that didn't read as too easy or literal. He had to portray a decision that would stump a flesh and blood doctor, and add a layer of his inability to process it, and I think he did that in spades.

Production Values

Matthew: As a bottle show, the only real visual flair was on the shuttle craft, and in sickbay. The CGI used to look at Kim's scans was really cool, pretty seamlessly done. It looks a lot like we might think of "augmented reality" glasses today. The shuttle stuff featured some relatively generic aliens, ships, and weapon effects. They were fine, but nothing more.

Kevin: The blossoming layers of tissue were really cool to watch, and the transitions were really well achieved. All the medical privacy people must have died in the Eugenics Wars or something, but it's still pretty cool as a visual.

Conclusion

Matthew: I think this is a 4 owing to its ambition and to some fine performances. It would have been a 5 if it had followed through and delivered a satisfying conclusion on even one of the four questions I laid out above.


Kevin: I agree with the four, for a total of 8. This is ethical dilemma of the first water, and the actors turn in solid to above average performances across the board. Of all the ethical questions of the Doctor's existence, I think this is one of the more juicy. It's not perfectly realized, but it's still solidly above average.

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