Thursday, December 26, 2019

Voyager, Season 6: Muse, Season 6
Airdate: April 26, 2000
142 of 168 produced
140 of 168 aired


B'Elanna finds herself crashed upon a pre-industrial world, but she has to sing for her supper in order to get help for repairs.

 That actress looks eerily like her own mask...


Matthew: This is an episode I found boring when it aired, but has come to be one of my low-key favorites of the season in the years since. Is part of this because I became enamored of philosophy and ancient Greece in college? Sure. But part of it is because I have become more sensitive to the cleverness of conceits and meta messages in art. The play within a play is a classic device, and here it is used not only to make a point about the role of art in society, but to gently poke fun at Voyager's foibles. Jokes about how unrealistic Vulcans are, or pairing Janeway with Chakotay, really work for me.

I agree the episode didn't exactly sizzle when I first saw it, but it has grown on me in rewatching it. It is certainly a brainy episode, for lack of a better way to describe it. The beats of gently parodying Voyager characters really worked. The stakes of the episode are pretty low. We know B'Elanna will rescued, and beyond a twinge of regret for these people, their wars aren't really at the top of my list of things I care about in the show. But in a weird way, that kind of serves the episode. Even the choice of Greek drama works, since those are a little more freeform than what we call drama today. This episode is kind of like walking in the forest. It's not really about going somewhere, it's just about taking a nice walk.

Matthew: As far as the Ancient Greece conceit goes, I think they were squarely within the ballpark without being too precious. Star Trek has of course literally done "Ancient Greece In Space," and more than once. This is less literal, but it has the linguistic flavor, with the chorus, the Homeric narration, and the idea of patrons constantly at war with one another. I liked the overall theme of art tempering the worst impulses of a culture - moving from sacrifices to plays, and plays that tell the right stories quelling a lust for war. I think the scene in which Janeway spares Seven of Nine could have used a bit more oomph, maybe two more lines, but it still worked as is. I believed that the patron could be moved to reconsider his actions by it.

Kevin: I'm currently replaying Assasssin's Creed Odyssey, also set in Ancient Greece, so it was fortuitous timing. By and large I agree they kept the portrayal light enough to not feel silly. It helps that they only had to evoke Greece rather than replicate it. Though, and this is speaking as someone who loves the theater, I will say I still found the "power of theater" to be a little oversold. Maybe if they had given the conflict a little more sketching out than a generic squabble I could have bought that the play had this kind of transformative power.

Matthew: The overall plot of B'Elanna stuck on this planet (why was it Class L? Who the hell knows...) worked. She didn't have anyone to bounce prime directive talk off of for most of the story, but I would have liked it if Harry had busted her chops a bit. Either way, it kind of worked as a nice character story for her - showing she can appreciate the arts and not view it simple as a means to an end.

Kevin: I agree that having someone be a foil to B'Elanna's desire to intervene would have added some stakes. That said, it was nice to watch her problem solve on the fly. It suits her character and it was fun to watch.


Matthew: I liked Joseph Will as Kelis. I believed him as a real creative type who is a bit self absorbed, but who also has a broader social conscience. He really sold the world for me as something real and believable, but also not too much of a carbon copy of Ancient Greece. I liked his chemistry with Roxann Dawson, as well. Speaking of Dawson, she really excelled. She found just he right balance between annoyance and intrigue, and I think she gave B'Elanna an interesting journey by the end. As far as the other natives, Kellie Waymire was excellent as the jilted actress. She was utterly believable as a self-absorbed, emotionally vulnerable actress. She will go on to do great things in Enterprise, until her career is tragically cut short by illness, alas.

Kevin: Definitely agreed on both guest stars. They had a natural charm and chemistry both with each other and with B'Elanna that helped carry the episode. And Dawson herself is really great too. You've noted her character work, but I also want to single out her prop work. Her physical acting went a long way to making the Flyer feel like a real place and ship.

Matthew: Robert Duncan McNeill got some standout lines back on the ship, delivering his frustration with the rescue mission. Tim Russ did some good "tired" acting, too. Ethan Phillips continues to give Neelix just the right level of warmth, and at this point in the series, I actually look forward to Neelix scenes. That's really saying something, considering where the character started in my estimation.

Kevin: I thought Tuvok actually falling asleep was the gag too far, but I certainly can't fault the crew's performance overall.

Production Values

Matthew: I have one nitpick. When the shuttle set is "tilted," it is clear that the camera is the only thing askew, as the candle flames do not point straight up. With that nitpick out of the way, everything else about this episode is really quite sumptuous. I loved the theater design, the masks for the actors, the costumes on the audience and patron... it all just felt really real. I can see why this episode was nominated for outstanding costumes.

Kevin: The amphitheater was a great set and the costumes were great too. I particularly liked the masks for the actors as well. The extra attention to detail really helped keep the riff on Greek culture from descending into schlock.


Matthew: This episode really does it for me. The writing is solidly good, the acting excellent, and the set designs really involving. What's not to like? I mean, sure, if you want explosions or disembowelings or something, this isn't the Star Trek for you - CBS All Access has something to scratch that itch. But this is involving and well executed and I can't find a lot to fault. If the writing on the play within a play had been a bit more beautiful, I could even see it sniffing around 5 territory. But as it stands I think this is a 4.

Kevin: I find myself torn between a 3 and a 4. The episode is certainly entertaining, almost surprisingly so given that it's not really...about...anything in particular. The acting and costumes are good, and the whole episode has a pleasant gentle rhythm that is a pleasant counterbalance to more action oriented ones. I think for being an interesting change of pace, this makes it into 4 territory, for a total of 8.


  1. I also felt this episode growing on me, but there was one line that touched me from the beginning; the one about a heart breaking silently and in more pain then anyone can understand. "Because that's what it is to be Vulcan."

    Not only does this square with the best of Vulcans going all the way to Spock, but it also showed me that B'Elanna actually understands this. We don't hear her get mushy about it, that's left to our poet.

    I agree that Tuvok actually falling asleep was a bit much, but at least it did allow Tom to be nice to him for a change.

    1. Great comment. That was indeed a particularly good line.