Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Persistence of Vision"


Air date: 10/30/1995
Written by Jeri Taylor
Directed by James L. Conway

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"My programmers didn't clutter me up with pithy Earth trivia. They programmed me with far more important data." — The Doctor on proverbs

Nutshell: The alien sci-fi setup is reasonable and much of the imagery is clever, but the ending is unfocused and doesn't really work.

When the Voyager tries to pass through space claimed by xenophobic aliens, the crew suddenly finds itself in over its head with visions and illusions—but no explanations.

There's a sci-fi freshness to this story that I've only felt one other time so far this season on Voyager—that being the standout episode "Projections." Narratively speaking, however, Jeri Taylor's teleplay is uneven—lacking focus and direction while jumping from character to character as it tries to resolve itself. Still, "Persistence of Vision" is a vast improvement over the last four Voyager offerings.

The episode initially starts as a stressful day of scheduling for Captain Janeway, leading the Doctor to order her to run her holodeck relaxation program. But when Janeway begins seeing holodeck objects (and then later holodeck characters) outside the holodeck, the episode seems to be turning into a "Janeway goes insane" show, something which is quite entertaining for the first three acts.

Unfortunately, when the plot begins to take form in the latter two acts, the story suddenly shifts directions and tries to tackle every character by giving him or her something interesting to do. Taylor's script seems all over the map. However, thanks to some interesting imagery and a cool-headed direction by James Conway, the plot holds together and the story continues along at a reasonable pace.

The plot: Somehow, in an attempt to take over the Voyager, a mysterious alien presence is manipulating the thoughts of the crew; distracting them with elements of their own past. This causes any crew member who is unable to resist this mind control to fall into a useless, catatonic state. Such distractions include Janeway seeing her fiance Mark, Tuvok talking to his wife, Paris being called a loser by his father, and Torres allowing herself a passionate affair with Chakotay. Before long, the entire ship falls under the spell, except for Kes and the Doctor. Meanwhile, three ships come out of nowhere and surround the Voyager.

This leaves it up to Kes to attempt to reverse the alien's mind control by executing a technical procedure Torres had set up in engineering. Here, the mysterious alien takes the form of Neelix and tries to take over Kes' mind as well. Kes is able to fend off the alien's mind attack by turning it against him with her own mental powers. This causes the mysterious alien to fall unconscious long enough for Kes to revive the crew.

Once revived, Janeway goes to engineering to negotiate with the alien. "Why did you do this to us?" she asks him. He replies flatly, "Because I can." At that, Janeway threatens to lock him in the brig to prevent him from preying on other travelers. Here, the episode throws a rather unexpected and interestingly unsettling twist: The alien replies, "But, you see, I'm not really here," and then vanishes into thin air. The three ships vanish, too.

Now this kind of alien threat is fresh. It's bizarre and different—characteristic of what we should be seeing in the Delta Quadrant. It's just too bad the alien's motives are so vague and underwritten. It's also too bad Taylor's script doesn't see Janeway through the end as the episode's storytelling conduit. It should have been Janeway saving the ship in the episode's finale, not Kes. While this had the potential of being a really good Janeway episode, Taylor instead decides to spread it around. The result is a story that gives everybody some good material, but doesn't have a strong sense of narrative.

Nevertheless, I'll gladly accept "Persistence of Vision." It has some good sci-fi elements, and considering the long drought Voyager has been experiencing, this light rain is the first step to alleviating it.

Previous episode: Parturition
Next episode: Tattoo

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18 comments on this review

Mal - Thu, Oct 29, 2009 - 1:45am (USA Central)
I think you're forgetting to ask one very important question: how often do Star Trek characters go to the holodeck to masturbate?

At the end of this episode, Torres is surprised to see the Captain - isn't this the day you go to the holodeck - she asks. Clearly Janeway does this weekly.

Some people find all the role-play etc. unbelievable in a world where you can just call up an image of Jeri Ryan if you're feeling horny. But I like to analogize it to the Internet. Sure there is a ton of porn on the web, a ton of *free* porn, but still: how much of your time on the web do you actually spend on porn sites? Exactly. Not that much.

When this episode aired, less than 10 percent of Americans had access to the net. Today that number is over 80 percent! And the amount of porn on the web is exponentially more. Yet today porn is just about 1 percent of total commerce over the internet. That's right, a tiny, tiny 1 percent.

So it seems perfectly normal that a very small amount of holodeck time will be devoted in the future to masturbation (even by sexually frustrated female captains far from home). So more pool games in France (is there a french pool Facebook app?) and less porn. A starship is, after all, a place of work.
Jake - Sun, Apr 11, 2010 - 11:39am (USA Central)
I must admit, I did take delight in seeing Janeway go crazy. Too bad the episode couldn't end with her in a straightjacket-where she belongs.
Carbetarian - Sat, Apr 16, 2011 - 9:40pm (USA Central)
I liked the aliens, and I liked some of the character moments. I also enjoyed watching Janeway slowly lose her marbles. This episode also gets points for letting us watch Neelix suffer for a few minutes, even if it wasn't real.

HOWEVER, what is up with Janeway's ridiculous British nanny holonovel?!? I couldn't believe they used that concept the first time it showed up, let alone that they've made it a recurring theme! Are we to believe that in Janeway's deepest, most enjoyable, fantasies she is having an affair with some random widower while being a servant to his entitled brat children and facing daily shank eyes from his creepy... What is the other female character in the holonovel supposed to be, anyway? The head nanny? Janeway fantasizes about being the underling of a power hungry 40 year old virgin in the British countryside? Really? I'm not buying any of this.

It's almost as if the writers of this show are trying to say that even the most powerful women secretly want to be motherly types who are kept by rich men. I understand that they wanted Janeway to be more maternal captain than Kirk, Picard or Sisko. But, something about this approach feels vaguely sexist. I don't know; the British holonovel just sucks. Worst concept ever.

The rest of the episode was good though. I felt it was a little better than two and a half stars. But, it wasn't quite up to three either. So, I suppose I concur with Jammer's two and a half stars on this one.
Matthias - Mon, Aug 15, 2011 - 9:56am (USA Central)
Now now, lord Burly (it's very hard to even type out without laughing) isn't a virgin, he has totally gotten laid at least twice. Also he's a complete douche of a father and I wish Janeway would deck his muttonchopped ass for trying to bone the nanny instead of at least trying to console his daughter.

I guess they didn't go with the hot and steamy affair with an Italian underwear model holonovel because they didn't want to knock the ever-lucrative nerd demographic out of their comfort zone.

Speaking of nerds getting knocked out of their comfort zone: that scene where Kes is doing some science to a console only to suddenly emit a blood-curdling scream and develop gross pestilent sores all over nearly gave me a heart attack for just how quickly and unexpectedly it went from Trekbusiness as usual to things being horribly wrong. Not recommended viewing at one in the morning.
Elliott - Tue, Oct 11, 2011 - 12:29am (USA Central)
@Matthias: I think Carbetarian was referring to Mrs. Templeton, not Burleigh. I don't mind this holo-novel nearly as much as others seem to--in fact, Voyager's holographic creations number among the only fantasy worlds in Trek I myself might actually like to participate in : this one, Captain Proton, Fairhaven...

The other series' holodeck (or suite) programmes tended to rationalise their existence by their creators too blatantly--Data wants to learn about the complexities of human intrigue, so we get Doyle and Shakespeare; Bashir wishes he were a secret agent, so we get James Bond (more or less); Sisko likes baseball, so we get that dreck of an episode, "Take me out..."

Janeway isn't a secret masochist who enjoys being the victim of Victorian misogyny, she's interested in the quieter drama of household life--something denied her in "real" life.

@Carbetarian : Mrs. Templeton is the head maid. She's in charge of the house. Janeway's character is in charge of the kids, the nurse.
Nathan - Sat, Oct 29, 2011 - 4:37pm (USA Central)
The holonovel feels like a ghost story - the maybe-not-dead mother perhaps playing the piano. And two of the three episodes it's been in so far were supernatural stories of a sort (Cathexis and this). According to Memory Alpha this is the last episode with it, so I guess we'll never know.
Chris Harrison - Fri, Nov 11, 2011 - 2:38pm (USA Central)
It's all very simple, and mentioned in the dialogue: Templeton is the house keeper and Janeway is playing the governess.
chris - Fri, Mar 2, 2012 - 11:10am (USA Central)
I liked the part when Janeway wanted to exit her room, and the door didn't open, and she got panicked!
duhknees - Fri, Jun 8, 2012 - 11:05am (USA Central)
You guys should have paid more attention in your British lit classes. Janeway's holonovel is a poorly disguised allusion to Jane Eyre: Young governess who works for the mysterious Rochester, who has his crazy wife locked up in the attic. Eyre is a strong female character in a time when females had no rights. The novel appeals to women because there is mystery, romance, fancy dresses, and British accents. Not the same type of fantasy men seek, but educated women love it. It fits Janeway's character.
Sintek - Mon, May 27, 2013 - 5:17pm (USA Central)
Unlike most Star Trek fans, I've known many educated women, and they preferred more contemporary literature to masturbatory fantasies in the 19th century.
sapira - Wed, May 29, 2013 - 6:46pm (USA Central)
I am an educated woman (BA, BSc, MA, PhD) in history and math AND a Star Trek fan. However, anyone who would consider works by any of the Brontes merely "masturbatory fantasy" has not read them and is also being offensive. Perhaps you can consider them part romances, but its certainly not fantasy. I do not read them in a British accent, and the central characters (ie Jane Eyre, Lucy Snow, Heathcliff) are usually too poor to be wearing fancy dress. In these novels, usually a person is alone trying to survive in a grim, cruel world. Class conflict and the threat of poverty are front and center, but the writing is beautiful and plots very compelling. Perhaps some cheap gothic romance novels have been fashioned after these worlds, but the Bronte novels are true literature.
Michael - Sun, Jun 9, 2013 - 3:14pm (USA Central)
Damn! I gotaa say, the comments on this one trump both Jammer's review AND the episode itself!!
Nancy - Tue, Jul 16, 2013 - 7:44pm (USA Central)
Amen, sapira. I have a PhD in literature and I am currently teaching a university summer class on the Brontes' novels and poetry, with a focus on how their plots illustrate the complex interactions between gender and class structure in the 19th century.

Sintek, if you cannot be bothered to actually read literary works, at least read their Wikipedia summaries before making pronouncements about them. Otherwise, you run the risk of appearing very ignorant. (Also, please refrain from speaking for "educated women" in the future. We would rather speak for ourselves.)
inline79 - Sat, Sep 21, 2013 - 2:25am (USA Central)
Maybe this Bothan does this because he's angry at everyone over his many relatives that gave their lives to bring the Rebels the plans to the Second Death Star...

Awesome telepathy battle. The women rock this episode!
Jons - Thu, Nov 14, 2013 - 2:35pm (USA Central)
The only thing I could think about watching this is how everyone on the ship must snicker anytime someone goes to the holodeck, because EVERYBODY (ok, every man at least) HAS to be using for sex.
I know I would.
angry woman - Sun, Mar 16, 2014 - 11:06pm (USA Central)
" and is also being offensive."

the hell is this
Ric - Wed, Mar 19, 2014 - 12:00am (USA Central)
The mental control war was interesting, but came a bit late for me. I mean, I was already hopelessly bored/annoyed with the silly begining. I am with the ones who think the holodeck world created for the Captain plays out to be ridiculously executed. And for me, the captain-goes-crazy was not effective at all. We do not have the same formal impressions about her yet that we had towards Picard, so it was not strong.

Besides, although I love most of The Doctor plots so far, I am getting sick of him being the only one left: "This is The Doctor to anyone on this ship, if you can hear me please reply".
Not to mention that this episode's plot once again felt like reused plot from older Trek. Blah.
Vylora - Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - 11:58pm (USA Central)
Sometimes, in fiction, it is quite alright to not be given any answers. This is one of those times. I found most of the scenes to be quite effective in slowly building a sense of delusional paranoia. I agree with Jammer in that the spreading of the hallucinations among the crew slowed the dramatic momentum a bit. However, it also allowed for a few interesting scenes. Whether they were necessary additions or not is debatable.

This is a breath of fresh air after the last few clunkers and a pretty good showing in its own right. The whole "only the Doctor can save us" premise (with Kes in this instance) doesn't bother me when it's done as well as it is here. Only downside is the reasons for some of the crew slipping into a catatonic state showed a weaker willpower on their part than I would like to think that they should have.

3 stars.

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