Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Voyager, Season 5: Someone To Watch Over Me

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlVoyager, Season 5
"Someone To Watch Over Me"
Airdate: April 28, 1999
114 of 168 produced
114 of 168 aired
Seven of Nine seeks out the Doctor's assistance as she explores the notions of dating and romance.

Oh, look! All they had to do was take down her hair and remove her glasses, and now she's Homecoming Queen!


So this is in many ways a classic twist on Shaw's Pygmalion (or My Fair Lady, if you prefer), in which a difficult woman is trained to be a fine romantic partner in polite society, but in which the trainer becomes infatuated with his trainee. Of course, there are significant differences. Eliza Doolittle was not an expatriate cybernetic zombie, nor was Henry Higgins a sophisticated AI hologram. This story also, for reasons of compression, dispenses with much of the training and reaches its conclusion relatively quickly. It focuses more on the Doctor's feelings. Does it work? Yes. Do I have questions? Oh, yes. Most of these revolve around the Doctor's level of sentience and emotion. Previous episodes have also failed to answer these questions, so I'm not going to penalize too harshly for this episode's failure to do so as well.

Kevin: I have all those questions about the Doctor, but we've seen him be romantic before, so that ship has sailed. I actually think the more profound unanswered questions are about Seven's identity. She clearly doesn't feel (or at least express) primary attraction to anyone, so I would like to see them drill down into why Seven is dating or what she expects to get out of it. I mean, her brain has been altered by the Borg and her physical maturation altered. I would have liked some exploration about whether it's even appropriate to expect Seven to experience sexual or romantic attraction in the same way. And I know it would never happen, but I would have LOVED to see her not have automatically limit her list to the men on the ship, and not even in a pervy, slashy way. At least at this point, she would be looking for a companionate relationship, not a passionately romantic one, so it would make sense that she would not exclude half the ship from consideration. This relates to the one real problem I have with this plot, and it ties into the My Fair Lady bit when they bet on Seven's progress. It underscores the idea that Seven is dating because it is what's next, so she should do it. We never really get a sense that Seven derives some benefit from this exercise. Coupled with the Doctor's early comments that progression is meeting then dating then marriage, it just feels all very heteronormative. It's a missed opportunity, really, not just for queer representation, but for straight people for whom marriage and kids are not what they want out of life. I would have appreciated at least a nod to idea that the Doctor was preparing her for what may be a common or even the most common path, but by no means the only one.

Matthew: The structure of "Doctor Teaches Seven About Romance" made for several quite successful bits. Seven spying on Tom and B'Elanna was good. The Doctor's lecture in the holodeck was funny. Their singing duet in the cargo bay was entertaining and affecting. Seven's first date was amusing for fish out of water reasons. Overall, the various bits did effectively portray Seven of Nine growing and being challenged, I think. The basic comedic beat of her thinking things would be easy was solid.

Kevin: Yeah, with my concerns above as the grain of salt, the experience itself was pretty solid. The actual conversations about relationship conventions was pretty funny and well mined.

Matthew: So. The Doctor falling for Seven. How do I feel about it? Ambivalent, I think. On the one hand, it makes a certain amount of sense. The Doctor has been guiding Seven through something he himself experienced (however questionably), moving from a different state of consciousness into one of traditional socially-minded sentience, and having a lot of trouble integrating into a complex social environment. So they have some things in common. But on the other hand, he is both teacher and physician to her. So it's a bit too far on the creepy end of things. The only thing that saves it is his relative innocence, his inability to take advantage in a malicious way. Thank goodness it didn't persist beyond this episode, though.

Kevin: I liked Seven's gesture of the tricorder at the end. It actually shows growth in a real, organic way. Season 4 Seven would not have thought to go out of her way to do something nice because of an offhand comment. It also gives some shading to the Doctor's deciding not to say anything. It could be he felt preemptively shot down by her declaration that she wasn't interested in any person on the crew. It could also be him affirmatively decided he values the friendship too much to risk it. It was a human reaction. I have a fuzzy recollection that the Doctor has the feels later on, but it's definitely not a plot thread, like Geordi's crush on Leah Brahms. 

Matthew: I almost forgot there was a B-plot when I was writing this. Do you know why? It's practically a straight-up ripoff of the TNG "Liaisons" B-plot, in which Troi entertains a different ambassador from a repressed culture who tests her limits. Ultimately, this was forgettable but not horrible.

Kevin: That clear plot rehash actually soured me a little on Voyager generally for a long while. It was one of the brief list I could shoot off about what I thought the problems with Voyager were. It wasn't the best or most interesting plot the first time, so if you're gonna plagiarize, why here?


Matthew: Look, for as much as a person might criticize Voyager for becoming "The Doctor and Seven Show," you can see why it's tempting to do so, right? The actors are individually excellent, and have great chemistry together, besides. Their interplay, with the Doctor teasing out subtle insights into Seven of Nine's emotional state, is excellent. And their comic timing is basically flawless, as well.

Kevin: I got into some of the fine grained writing choices for the arc in this episode above, but they really delivered. Picardo showed you him deciding not to say anything to Seven at the end and it's lightly heartbreaking. Ryan really sells her (justified) anger and it cooling when the Doctor apologizes. They really seem like actual humans in an actual relationship.

Matthew: Special mention needs to go out for the singing in this episode. Jeri Ryan has already shown her auditory mettle in "The Killing Game," but something about the spare arrangements and simple melodies really highlights the tonal purity of her voice. It's really quite affecting. Robert Picardo can carry a tune, too, and their harmony was excellent.

Kevin: She really is an amazing singer. Like, anyone can make a torch song sound good, but she really has the chops. A brief google search seems to confirm it's really her, but it actually sounds like her voice, so I wasn't really worried, I was just checking. Picardo is also a great singer. He can act while singing, which as a musical theater fan, I adore.

Matthew: I liked Brian McNamara a lot as Lt. Chapman, I thought he brought a nice everyman quality to the role of Seven's first date. Scott Thompson, from "Kids In The Hall," brings the same unpleasantly creepy vibe to this role that he did to that show. Ethan Phillips played a great harried host, which helped to ameliorate the story sin of ripping off a TNG subplot.

Kevin: I get what you are saying about Chapman, but I found him closer to bland than everyman. The lack of actual chemistry just made me not care about their date. And I have loved Thompson since Kids in the Hall for precisely that weird intensity. If anyone hasn't watched Hannibal, he has a recurring part at which he is genius.

Production Values

Matthew: This was a bottle show, so the highlights are Chez Sandrine's (which apparently is a standing set? They should use it more...) and the Doctor's holo-presentation, in which egg-sperm footage is apparently re-used from "Look Who's Talking."

Kevin: I weirdly enjoyed the bizarre stock photos he used. The Look Who's Talking still was such a needle scratch. And I don't care enough to actually go check, but I think they were using a different set for Sandrine's. I recall that set having my more windows and doors, and where was the pool table?


Matthew: I think this is a 4 all told. The performances are quite charming and the overall emotional tale works. Throw in some well-executed music, and you have a season highlight. With that said, the B-plot was disposable and held this back from going deeper with the issues and perhaps hitting a 5.

Kevin: I think this is a solid 3. It's a decent character story, and it's acted to the hilt. I just feel like for stealing both the ploys to My Fair Lady and a TNG episode, that's too big a hill to get over to the 4. I think for me is that it's such a straight forward retelling that makes me go "eh." Especially with Seven, there are so many options to explore what relationships are and what people want out of them that I think they left on the table. Still, it's an enjoyable episode certainly, and Picardo and Ryan have charm for days. That's a total of 7.

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