Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Worst Case Scenario"

***

Air date: 5/14/1997
Written by Kenneth Biller
Directed by Alexander Singer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"All I'm saying is that there is room in every good story for a little bit of passion."
"You know, maybe you're onto something. I could add a steamy love scene between the Starfleet conn officer and the Maquis engineer."
"Oh, that's realistic."

— B'Elanna and Tom, discussing story ideas

Nutshell: Quite a bit of fun, but not nearly everything it could've been. The first half is superb; the second half is too typical, but features some clever ideas.

"Worst Case Scenario" has stretches of brilliant comic originality, and it could've been a real classic. I recommend this episode as it is anyway, but it could've been much more effective if it hadn't turned toward the more outlandish holodeck madness in its second half. By being more outlandish, "Worst Case Scenario" ends up, really, being all the more typical. But this is a good episode nonetheless, with some very clever scenes.

The first half of the episode is superb, as we're introduced to a brewing Maquis mutiny that turns out to be a holodeck simulation written by an anonymous author. Torres stumbles across the buried holo-novel while doing a routine purge of old files in the Voyager computer system. The program depicts a mutiny led by Chakotay and Seska, and is cleverly introduced. The show makes it appear as if the mutiny is really happening; Chakotay lets Torres in on the secret in the episode's teaser, and all hell breaks loose before the end of act one. Biller's script, however, subtly lets on that this is not really happening. Without completely giving away his hand, he drops hints, such as indications that this is early in Voyager's history (hence Janeway's reference to Chakotay taking command of the ship for the "first time"), and indications that this exists outside of reality (Chakotay inexplicably calling Torres "ensign").

It's the "what if" story of all "what if" stories on Voyager: What if the Maquis had really decided to take over Voyager back in the days of crew volatility? How would they have done it? Biller's script is interesting, because it plays with some of these questions, and even though it's obvious this is a simulation and not a real mutiny, the way events unfold still manages to be intriguing.

I also appreciated that Biller reveals the mutiny is really a holodeck simulation by the end of the second act. (It would've been fatal to play the joke as if it were real through the entire episode.) The story then begins asking who wrote this holo-novel and what their intentions were. And this is where "Worst Case Scenario" peaks in storytelling interest.

It's hard to keep a secret on a ship as small as Voyager, so it doesn't take long before half the crew is aware of—and individually participating in—the mutiny simulation program. The twist is that because of the controversial nature of the premise, no one wants to admit they're playing it. Janeway brings up the issue in staff meeting, where it's revealed that Tuvok wrote the simulation as a "worst case scenario" security training exercise. He had deleted it—or so he had thought—but it ended up getting buried in the system.

Now the holo-novel has a new meaning: Tuvok believes it could have a negative impact on the crew and the way they see each other. But Janeway disagrees. Being stranded in an isolated community means creating your own literary culture, so what's the harm in this self-depicting story of the crew if it's merely used for escapist entertainment?

Tuvok's holo-novel doesn't have an ending; it's incomplete, leaving everybody "hanging by a thread," as Paris remarks. Paris decides that he will pick up where the story left off and write his own ending to the story. In the episode's best and funniest scene, Paris begins brainstorming ideas in the mess hall, much to Tuvok's dismay. Paris' new ending: Janeway retakes the ship and decides to execute the mutineers. Tuvok's response (annoyed and shocked in a Tuvokian kind of way): "That is a completely implausible plot development."

Tuvok believes a story's events must flow from the actions of a character's established past. Paris thinks that if there's one thing that makes a story interesting, it's "unexpected plot twists." The beauty of this scene is the way it nods to the (extremely general) devices of writing a real story—like, say, a story for Star Trek: Voyager. I couldn't help but get the feeling that this scene was approaching elements of a self-parody.

The scene gets funnier when Torres enters the picture and tries to convince Paris and Tuvok to add some "passion"—to which Tuvok responds that they're not writing a "romance novel." Paris responds with a comment far more hilarious—because it's simultaneously obnoxious, sarcastic, and timely considering the past few weeks of Tom and B'Elanna's flirting.

Heck, even Neelix worked in most of his scenes, even if it was for the wrong reasons. Although I hate to say that it's a result of the character's own transparency, the way he makes story suggestions about his own character leads to moments of hilarity, because it displays other characters refusing to take him seriously. They just ignore his goofy remarks because they're not too important—which is surprisingly funny. When Neelix makes a suggestion "about the Neelix character," Tuvok can only dryly respond, "How surprising." I don't know why I found it so funny, but I did. I think it was Tim Russ' delivery of the line—I was just laughing so hard. (In a similar scene at the end of the episode, Neelix begins talking and all Captain Janeway can do is roll her eyes toward someone else in a look that screams of amused exasperation. I liked it a lot. Mulgrew, in fact, was a lot of fun to watch in this episode. Her expressions of restrained sarcasm and the laid-back attitude were thoroughly enjoyable.)

But I digress. It's around here that "Worst Case Scenario" becomes what might as well be a completely different story considering the massive shift in the direction of the narrative. The first half of the show is about the holo-novel and what it could mean to the crew. From here I hoped we would get more comedy continuing along the lines of what we'd already had. My hoped-for ending to the episode would've had Tuvok and/or Paris write the end of the program as planned. Then based on the story created, the crew would've been enlightened by the ideas that were conveyed. Perhaps Tuvok would've been proven right and the results of the story's mutiny would've challenged assumptions within the ship's crew, whether that be amongst the Starfleet crew, the Maquis crew, or both. Or subsets of either. I'm not saying the result would've had to lead to dissension or animosity. But it could've been funny, interesting, or even powerful.

No such luck.

Instead, we're given an all-too-typical "holodeck runs awry" paradigm, in which Tuvok and Paris become trapped in the holodeck (with the safeties off, naturally) because Seska had found and reprogrammed the simulation before she left the ship two years ago. She had set it to seal the holodeck and send her captors through a game of hell the next time it was accessed for a rewrite.

One thing that strains credulity is the reasoning behind Seska's preprogrammed takeover of the holodeck. In a word: Why? What possible motive could she have for this type of extreme programming effort? Pure sadism? Sure, Seska was deceitful, but I doubt she would take the effort to reprogram a holodeck simulation so that, in the unlikely event that Tuvok might reopen it for modification two years later, she could obtain some sort of elaborate revenge against him.

But I probably shouldn't ask such logical questions in such a preposterous plot. This half of the episode, though dramatically inept, is surprisingly entertaining. It's a series of set pieces featuring witty, sadistic humor, in which the Seska hologram sends Tuvok and Paris through a number of not-so-fun games. The "good guys" of the simulation aren't of much help—the holographic Janeway comes to the rescue with a phaser-rifle, which, due to Seska's manipulations, is prone to "malfunction." Janeway aims the phaser at Seska, pulls the trigger, and ends up vaporizing herself.

Still, my favorite (and I do mean favorite—it's so funny) is when Paris goes to the simulated sickbay to treat a wound for a simulated, safeties-off phaser shot. The Doctor of this sickbay isn't very nice. First he "treats" Paris with 20 cc's of nitric acid, and then he literally hurls Tuvok and Paris out of the sickbay. It's quite a scene—a mini-classic in my book.

Although I really could've done without this standard "crew members in jeopardy" motif, there's enough clever zip in this plot to make it worthwhile. One interesting idea is that in order to keep Tuvok and Paris from getting killed, Janeway and Torres must frantically alter small details in the program—changing the characters' personalities, adding convenient items to aid in crises. I rather liked the idea of Janeway as the literal deus ex machina.

Through all this, Martha Hackett's Seska still wears the evil grin better than anyone on the series I've seen. Her death this time around was much more interesting to see than her demise in "Basics, Part II," as Tuvok tricks her into firing a "malfunctioning" phaser. Still, Seska often suffers from the Fallacy of the Talking Killer—that is, all she has to do is order her followers to pull the trigger and she wins, but instead she delays just long enough (She says, "Fire on my order." Why "my order"? Why not just "Fire"?) to give Tuvok and Paris (and Janeway and Torres) time to act. Ah, well.

The two halves of "Worst Case Scenario," when you think about their intentions, are two completely different stories merely using a common plot device. The first half poses the question of what impact such a controversial holo-novel could have on the crew. The second half abandons all answers to those questions and becomes a thin, albeit fun, plot involving holodeck jeopardy. Overall it works surprisingly well, but it could've been so much more if it hadn't been so dumbed down.

Previous episode: Displaced
Next episode: Scorpion, Part I

Season Index

21 comments on this review

mlk - Mon, Dec 24, 2007 - 9:34pm (USA Central)
Ok, this episode would have been so good if it had just been about Paris and Tuvok making the Novel, nothing major, but a nice fun episode.

No such luck. The standard "holo suite with safeties off" is stupid, first off, Tuvok tells Paris only he can add to the novel, then just 5 mins later we find out Seska added things. How could she do that?

And why would Seska spend hours and hours on programming the novel when she could just have killed them instantly.

All in all the first part is a great nice family episode, the latter half is stupid. I would have loved to see Tuvok and Paris just write the holo novel, heck I could have watched a double episode of that.
Occuprice - Fri, Jul 4, 2008 - 1:42am (USA Central)
I love the character of Seska. Easily the most interesting villain on the show (funny how that honor tends to lie with Cardassians, a la Dukat- who, btw, makes even Seska look bad).

The episode was fun and I got to see Seska again. Works for me!
Tim - Sat, Aug 9, 2008 - 1:09am (USA Central)
Here's what I don't understand: Why was Seska so hellbent on getting revenge on Tuvok? She claims it was because he was a spy who infiltrated the Maquis. But then again...So was Seska!
Sloan - Tue, Oct 19, 2010 - 6:46pm (USA Central)
If only the plot of this holo-novel had been the actual second episode of Voyager... man this series would've been awesome. Too bad.
Nic - Wed, Jan 5, 2011 - 1:03pm (USA Central)
I agree 100%. The first three Acts were pure comedy and if they had continued along those lines we would've had a classic a long the lines of "In the Cards" (which, coincidentally or not, was also the penultimate episode of the 1996-97 season). Instead someone up top (I imagine) said this episode needed a "Jeopardy premise". I would have loved to see Tom finish the program by himself and see the crew's stunned reactions to his 'implausible plot developments'.
bigpale - Tue, Feb 22, 2011 - 11:34am (USA Central)
Once again, here is Voyager in a nutshell.

A great premise that the writers don't know what to do with.

The opening half of the show was brilliant, and in the hands of more skilled writers could have been a great hour of drama or, if they wanted, comedy.

Instead, not unlike the holonovel, they got halfway through and realized they didn't have an ending. I can just hear someone in the break-session yelling out "Just have it malfunction." "Brillian!" someone responds. "I'd never thought of that!"

Of course not.

It's only the single most overused cliche in Trek History.



Imagine a premise like this playing out in Battlestar Galactica. Think of how they would have played the drama, and not devolved into trite action...

On second thought, BSG DID do the mutiny story, only they had the balls to do it for real, and unlike Voyager, they played it out for almost half a season.


*sigh*
Destructor - Mon, Jun 20, 2011 - 12:43am (USA Central)
I love this episode! It's fun, funny, and really pushes the 'family' theme. I laughed pretty much the whole way through.

The holodeck didn't 'malfunction', it executed it's program as designed. I thought it was a fresh take.
bob - Thu, Aug 25, 2011 - 10:57pm (USA Central)
This episode showcases the lost potential of the first couple seasons of Voyager. A Starfleet/Maquis schism was toyed with for a while but faded quickly. A multi-season arc of strained comraderie ultimately descending into a battle would have been both ambitious and interesting, and wholly in keeping with the original premise of the show. But as usual they snatched mediocrity from the jaws of greatness.
Ken - Wed, Nov 9, 2011 - 6:12pm (USA Central)
This is one of those episodes that is surprisingly good for being a frivolous episode.

My one real complaint about the series is that there's a little too many frivolous episodes, one after the other this season: Blood Fever, Darkling, Real Life, etc.

Still, this episode is very entertaining for what it is. It's fun. I found myself smiling and laughing with the crew multiple times. It's genuine frivolousness at least.

I think the story starts off stronger than it ends. While the plot development with Seska taking control of the program is a bit unpredictable and interesting, it really doesn't come together to anything special. The conclusion is a bit anticlimactic.

The first half of this story though is really quite good.
Chris - Fri, Mar 23, 2012 - 11:49am (USA Central)
I believe the Voyager's producers should have given Mr. Tuvok the chance to write 5-6 episodes! :)
Justin - Wed, Apr 4, 2012 - 5:31pm (USA Central)
I loved Tuvok's line, "That is a completely implausible plot development." I love self-deprecating humor, and that line proved to me that the VOY writers were quite aware of their reputation for writing stinker episodes with silly plot contrivances.

The Doctor - how funny is that guy. "I have several brilliant ideas." That line kills me.

I was equal parts intrigued and annoyed when Seska turned out to be the villain. At the same time I thought, "hey great twist!" and "ugh! not her again." Not because I disliked Martha Hackett, but because Seska was inextricably linked to the Kazon, and I can't stand the Kazon. Thankfully, they were not involved with this episode.

I think the second half was stupid, but it was stupid on purpose. Seska was too obviously Bond Villain-esque as the "Talking Killer." I also think that by poking fun at themselves, the writers sort of gave themselves permission to conclude with a deus ex machina (Evil puppetmaster Seska) as well as a Trek cliche (holodeck runs awry with safeties off). I don't know, it just works. Maybe it's not a coincidence that the writing would get progressively better in season 4.
Arie - Sun, Aug 12, 2012 - 4:37pm (USA Central)
I've been rewatching all episodes after many years and found this one very good. I liked Tuvok lines in the mess hall. I agree with that the second part took a wrong turn. Somewhere before that I was really enjoying the episode and was asking myself, how will the novel end? Only to be disappointed with the typical.
Elphaba - Thu, Sep 27, 2012 - 3:31am (USA Central)
The ending wasn't terrible, but it could have been so much better. If we actually had Paris write the novel with Janeway executing all the Maquis rebels, it would have been very interesting. The ending was a typical plot device, but it was still done well.

Also the scene with the Doctor was just brilliant. 20 cc's of nitric acid. Awesome. Robert Picardo is a wonderful actor. As is Tim Russ. And Robert Duncan McNeill. And Kate Mulgrew. Those are probably the four best regulars on this show. All four of them had stand out performances on this episode. Even the Doctor who had one little scene in this episode made it an extremely memorable one.
Latex Zebra - Tue, Jan 15, 2013 - 6:47am (USA Central)
I didn't dislike the second half, it is still kind of fun.

I think a better second half would be a competition between Tuvok and Paris to see who makes the best resolution.
Actually the amount of choices for second half are huge. To go with Holodeck takeover is a bit lame.
Think Jammer's marks are fair.
smorter - Fri, Jul 5, 2013 - 8:09pm (USA Central)
I quite liked this episode! I reckon it was under-rated!

It was entertaining and good fun!
T'Paul - Wed, Sep 11, 2013 - 7:53pm (USA Central)
I don't usually get into Voyager bashing, but yes, it would have been interesting to see Tuvok implement the dictates of poetic logic versus Paris and even versus B'Elanna, something like a double mirror universe episode like they did near the end of Enterprise... Still though, the first half was gold.
DigificWriter - Wed, Nov 13, 2013 - 11:46am (USA Central)
In reading the review and the rest of the comments, I was struck by the feeling of everyone having missed the point re: Seska's reprogramming. She knew she was leaving Voyager and left behind something she could use to help her and her Kazon allies. It wasn't about getting revenge on anyone in particular.

I thought the episode was excellent from beginning to end, and particularly enjoyed the early interplay between the characters because it served as the perfect commentary on the rest of Season 3, and I was therefore disappointed that we didn't see all of the characters in the present.
Adam - Fri, Dec 13, 2013 - 2:16am (USA Central)
I really like this one. Good performances, good action, good humour. It would have been even better if the holodeck program was for real, and we actually did see a Maquis mutiny take place on the ship. But aside from a bit of silliness (why would Seska reprogram Tuvok's program, and when did she find the time to do it before 'State Of Flux' when she left the ship?) this is a really good installment.
Tricia - Sat, Jan 11, 2014 - 4:26am (USA Central)
I loved Janeway's comment at the end 'Who says deus ex machine is an outmoded literary device?'. Or something to that effect. I felt like the writers were poking fun at themselves since they use it so often. :)

Overall I thought it was a fun episode! Nothing spectacular, but it was interesting to see Tom and Tuvok working together. And I kind of liked seeing Seska again. (Although I don't know why she would have done this before being discovered as a spy, she didn't know when/if Tuvok would access the story again. What if he opened it before she was discovered?).
Ric - Sat, Apr 12, 2014 - 10:23am (USA Central)
How disappointing! What a waste of an episode!

Sure, the first 30 minutes were brilliant. But once again we have to see a failure that makes the holodeck alive, and... yah, dumb. So we have holodecks that do not use the ship's energy and that get alive and cause trouble all the time. Pifui.

Oh yes, the self-destruct sequence in the holodeck program will destroy the holodeck matrix which will call Paris and Tuvok. Lame.

Score: 9/10 for the first 30 minutes. 5/10 for last 15. Overall, 6/10.
Vylora - Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - 2:48am (USA Central)
The problem with using a plot-device (such as Holodecks Go Awry) too often in a series is it causes the few that actually work to be overlooked. Actually, in this case the holodeck didn't even malfunction. It did exactly as intended due to Seska's programming. As to the above comment, I saw no indication that the holodeck became "alive". It was simply programmed to do certain tasks under certain circumstances. Nothing more.

Ironic how the one time the holodeck actually runs smoothly it STILL translates into chaos for the crew. Can't win for trying.

Their was a lot of the writers obviously poking fun at themselves through some of the dialogue. I especially enjoyed how the logical Tuvok was standing for organic flow of character choices where the emotional Paris opted for plot twists for the sake of having them. Eventually, that is what this episode boils down to, but, in the end, comes to stand as a whole that is better than the sum of its parts.

Jammer mentioned one of my favorite scenes in perhaps all of VOY. The holographic sickbay where the Doctor tortures poor Paris and then literally throws him and Tuvok out on there ass like a bouncer on a 100 pound drunk. The scene was short, hilarious, and nothing short of perfect thanks to Picardo's dry wit and understated delivery.

Overall, it's a fun showing with a great setup and is just pure entertainment through and through. Could have the last fifteen minutes been written differently? Absolutely. However, I don't see what we did get as a negative impact. I feel almost as if the writers were speaking to us through the characters dialogue and then delivered what they intended based on those talking points. Whether they were serious with what they delivered or they were intentionally poking more fun at themselves is the mystery.

Perhaps I read too much into it. (:

3.5 stars.

Submit a comment

Above, type the last name of the captain on Star Trek: TNG
Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

Season Index

Copyright © 1994-2014, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of any review or article on this site is prohibited. Star Trek (in all its myriad forms), Battlestar Galactica, and Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc., NBC Universal, and Tribune Entertainment, respectively. This site is in no way affiliated with or authorized by any of those companies. | Copyright & Disclaimer