Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Voyager, Season 5: Course: Oblivion, Season 5
"Course: Oblivion"
Airdate: March 3, 1999
111 of 168 produced
110 of 168 aired

Tom and B'Elanna enjoy the wedding and the crew uses an enhanced warp drive to get home faster than ever - until everything starts literally to fall apart.

Brace yourself: That's not rice!


Matthew: So look, there's no use dancing around this. This episode is not about the Voyager crew, which makes it difficult to care about what is going on. There is extra work to be done to make us care, and the end result will live or die on whether it does. If you go in not knowing that these are silver blood replicants, will you feel betrayed by the last twenty minutes or so? Will Tom and B'Elanna's wedding, and her death, feel cheap? Did this story need to be told? I think, unfortunately, the answers to these questions are Yes, Mostly, and Not really, respectively. Tom and B'Elanna getting married is a big event, as is her getting sick. These things would be very affecting in the regular crew's continuity. But, Yank! They're not real. I do think Tom's reaction to her death, and his becoming embittered and cynical, was the best part of this episode. Janeway trying to cling to her adopted values was interesting, but went on for a bit too long. The direction they ultimately went was mostly unsatisfying, trying to be "acknowledged" by the real crew. Overall, the story was unsatifying at best, irritating at worst. 

: I'm going to tackle the most obvious narrative crutch of this episode: the galactic reset button. We get a wedding and character deaths in the first two acts and then they are undone by the end. On the whole, I have been a vocal critic of the reset button, and it certainly is a problem that this is not the first time it was used. That said, I can almost let this one slide. In a way, the fact that the story is isolated from the crew makes it sadder. This group of people have experienced something tragic and no one will ever know they even existed let alone what happened to them. There's something poetically sad about that. So I think the argument can be made that essentially undoing the episodes narrative advancements by the end serves a purpose can be made. That all said, outside of the scenes with Tom and B'Elanna, I have to agree with Matt that I don't really latch on to any of it. Especially once they decide to turn around and go back the original Demon world, the story loses some steam. I also find it too cute that the real Voyager happens to be in just the right place at just the right time to see goo field. Shouldn't they be years past them already due to the boost they got from Timeless? It's too neat.

Matthew: I will now try to reverse engineer this into a better episode. Given the task of following up on the silver blood replicants, what would I have done? I think the big unexplored ethical question in "Demon" was the ethics of intentionally creating beings with human-level hopes and dreams, without knowing that they would be able to fulfill them. As such, I think a better angle would be that they know they're replicas from the start, and to look at how that knowledge might change their behavior. I think the best angle would be starting on the real ship, and having them come across systems that the replica crew had already visited. Did they do things differently? This idea was explored to better effect in the Season Six episode "Live Fast and Prosper," in which con artists impersonate Voyager. My episode, however, would have the silver blood crew confront the real crew and challenge their original decision - their lives are inherently unsatisfying because they can never be what their minds tell them they should be. Do they commit suicide? Do they revert to their original state? Do they somehow create a different culture, an amalgam of what thoughts they've gleaned and their true natures?

Kevin: The real problem is that these questions should have been answered back in Demon before the crew agreed to have sentient copies made of themselves. The episode doesn't quite have space, even operating at peak efficiency to explore these characters reacting to their deaths and to do a nuanced exploration of the ethics of their creation. If Demon had done the work in the first place, this could have been a fun follow-up rather than a clunky half-exploration of the issues.


Matthew: I kind of felt like the actors that truly engaged with the emotional meat of this story were Robert Duncan McNeill and Roxann Dawson. They had the best scenes, and McNeill in particular really went for it in Tom's depressive response to the events of the story.

Kevin: Agreed. Their scene in sickbay was pretty good. It almost makes the episode a success on its own. Almost.

Matthew: I found Kate Mulgrew a bit disengaged - though perhaps it was the makeup that prevented her from really emoting. Her eyes and facial muscles are very important to her style of acting, and they were covered by a bad rubber appliance for a good chunk of the show.

Production Values

Matthew: The makeup sucked. There, I said it. This makeup does exactly what makeup shouldn't do - it obscured the actors (particularly Kate Mulgrew) without adding anything to the emotional or idea impact of a given scene. Trek has done "melty face" before on DS9, and done it much better. This was a miss. As far as visual effects go, I thought the silver blood melting into the medical bed was pretty decent. The ship dissolving was not very good, however. 

Kevin: The latest stage iterations of it were the worst, just blobs of stuff over their faces. The final shot of the 'ship' also had the look of an early Windows screensaver, so not exactly the feather in the cap of the tech guys this time. Though I suppose a key difference between this and DS9 is they were probably purposefully trying to not look like DS9's changeling affect, and DS9 had several iterations to perfect the look. Still, that doesn't make it fun to watch, does it?


This is not a particularly good episode. It is hamstrung from the outset by a nearly insurmountable emotional barrier, and then it does not take the narrow paths that could make such a story interesting. The makeup also hampered my enjoyment of the performances. Still, there are a few interesting character dynamics, and nothing here destroys continuity or makes me want to delete this episode from human history. So I think it's a 2.

Kevin: On the strength of Tom and B'Elanna's performances and the oddly wistful feeling that no one else will know this crew's story, I could just about give this a three. But the episode taken as a whole is just too directionless and disjointed to merit it. I agree with the 2 for a total of 4.

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