Star Trek: Voyager

"Concerning Flight"

2 stars

Air date: 11/26/1997
Teleplay by Joe Menosky
Story by Jimmy Diggs and Joe Menosky
Directed by Jesus Salvador Trevino

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Scandinavia." — Tuvok on his origin, proving he's bad at small talk and lying

Nutshell: An amiable but overwrought and unsatisfying hour of character interplay.

"Concerning Flight" is inoffensive, but it's also uncompelling. It's rather absurd, and the absurdity is exploited for surprisingly little purpose. What we have here is the so-called "high concept"; where else but on Star Trek could you have a story that can be summarized "Leonardo da Vinci finds himself on an alien world where he must help the captain of the USS Voyager retrieve the ship's main computer processor, which has been stolen by alien thieves"?

Sound laughable? Well, it's definitely not easy to take seriously, and by the end it's downright ludicrous. But, surprisingly enough, this premise does not reduce da Vinci to the status of a run-and-jump action hero (much to the contrary of the trailers). What it does do is supply a basic plot that is used as an excuse to give Captain Janeway and the holographic simulation of Leonardo da Vinci (John Rhys-Davies) a lot of time to talk to one another while embarking on their mission.

The plot: Alien pirates with "translocator" technology fly by Voyager and beam key devices off the ship (says Tom Paris, AKA Lt. One-Liner, "I feel like we've been mugged."), including the main computer and Doc's portable holo-emitter. Ten days later, after tracking the aliens to their homeworld, Janeway goes undercover to get the crucial technology back. As it turns out, da Vinci has somehow been downloaded into Doc's portable emitter and is living in a workshop owned by the leader of the space pirates, a guy named Tau (John Vargas). The fact that Tau has a name is hardly relevant; his primary purpose is to get hit on the head from behind—knocked unconscious by a sneaky Janeway or da Vinci. Anyway, a series of events causes Janeway and da Vinci to team up together to find the Voyager computer (which is stored away in a warehouse setting similar to where many B action movies are filmed). Da Vinci is an unwitting pawn in a plot larger than he can imagine. He still thinks he's in the 16th century and believes he has arrived in the New World, mistaking the alien planet and all its technological wonders as, well, "America."

The rest of the episode is pretty much about the Janeway/da Vinci relationship, so to speak, but I had a lot of trouble accepting it on the story's terms. For one, the whole idea of such a casually sentient hologram bothers me a little bit. The Doctor is a different story because he has been learning and coexisting with a human crew for years. But now, it appears any hologram can simply be downloaded into the portable emitter and carried around on away missions at will, whether it's Leonardo da Vinci, James T. Kirk, or William Shakespeare (maybe William could recruit some aliens to do a theater production of The Merchant of Venice before sneaking up and hitting the bad guy in the back of the head).

But fine; let's say I do accept this on the story's terms. There's still no reason that Janeway, at several points in the story once she knows where she is going—whether she's sneaking around the warehouse or climbing up a hill—couldn't simply turn off the program and put the emitter in her pocket to save time and get on with her mission.

I know, I'm nitpicking and poking fun, but there's no reason not to, because the scenes between Janeway and da Vinci just aren't worth the time spent on them. There's a lot of dialog between Janeway and da Vinci, but what in the world is it supposed to mean? This is an episode of overwrought and excessive exposition, with long stretches of "interesting" dialog and events that don't ring true. There's a point where Janeway and da Vinci stop to have a drawn-out conversation that's practically about the nature of existence, never mind that the two are supposedly fleeing from their alien pursuers. I might be willing to forgive the plot silliness if this dialog were truly effective, but it isn't. None of this benefits Janeway's character in any discernable way. I suppose it benefits da Vinci's character in a way, but who cares? This series is not about Leonardo da Vinci. In words Seven of Nine might use, "It is irrelevant."

John Rhys-Davies and Kate Mulgrew, for all their charms, cannot save this episode from its own sense of overly cute self-importance and excessive "cleverness." When the point came that Janeway and da Vinci were to escape their pursuers in da Vinci's flying device, it felt utterly, 100 percent contrived and gratuitous, as if to say "What Leonardo da Vinci 'epic' would be complete without a 'historic' flight in his craft?" I don't believe I've seen a sillier, more canned attempt at cuteness on such a "grand" scale than this illogical escape sequence provides. (How convenient that da Vinci happened to have earlier placed this contraption in the same vicinity where Janeway transports them to!)

I'm sorry—I don't mean to sound cynical, but this whole episode left me pretty cold, and came off as little more than a pointless (albeit amiably portrayed) exercise staged for the mere sake of doing it. Character- and dialog-wise the show goes into pretentious excess; plot-wise, the story is sometimes entertaining, but provides a poor means for framing the dialog and characterizations, which just don't belong within the confines of the premise.

I guess the writers felt da Vinci was a character the audience wanted to see, so they consequently structured a story around him. I have nothing against the da Vinci character, and I certainly don't have anything against Davies (on the contrary, I have a lot of respect for his screen presence), but he should stay in the holodeck and not be dropped into this goofy comic-book mayhem. There's a time and place for everything, but Leonardo da Vinci does not belong in the middle of a plot to help the Voyager heroine retrieve her 24th-century starship computer core.

Next week: From the looks of the preview, it's a rerun of "The Gift." No, wait; it's a rerun of "The Raven." No, wait; a rerun of "Revulsion." Oops, no; an immediate repeat of "Concerning Flight." Wait—the press release says "Displaced." Ah, the hell with it—I give up. It's not new, and that's all I need to know.

Previous episode: Random Thoughts
Next episode: Mortal Coil

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33 comments on this review

mlk
Fri, Jan 4, 2008, 8:46pm (UTC -6)
Why the heck didn't they just beam the stuff back up?
Cynic
Mon, Mar 17, 2008, 4:28pm (UTC -6)
Interference from a scattering field, or something. Perhaps a flock of starlings. Don't ask why when watching Voyager - they can come up with convenient technobabble to cover EVERYTHING.
Dirk Hartmann
Mon, Apr 28, 2008, 2:38pm (UTC -6)
... that's too true. The two "convenient" lines used most often are:

"There's too much interference, I can't get a lock on him."

and

"They bypassed security protocols."
Dirk Hartmann
Mon, Apr 28, 2008, 2:39pm (UTC -6)
Unfortunately, that's too true. The two lines most often used for convenience are:

"There's too much interference, I can't get a lock on him."

and

"They bypassed security protocols."
Russell
Fri, Aug 1, 2008, 1:52pm (UTC -6)
It was a bit stupid of them to shoot at and destroy one of the ships beaming away their technology. What if it was the ship with the computer core on board?
Nick
Tue, Aug 26, 2008, 4:37am (UTC -6)
Maybe I am not that smart - but how the hell can Voayger track the bad guys when their computer core is stolen? Doesn't everything on the ship depend on the computer? Hold on, let me take the hard drive out of my laptop here and see what
Derek
Fri, Oct 2, 2009, 10:20am (UTC -6)
Nick, that's the best comment I've seen on this site or any other in a long time. As they say, LOL LOL LOL etc.
Mal
Mon, Feb 8, 2010, 10:43am (UTC -6)
@Nick: LOL

I'm just glad the da Vinci program was running. Can you imagine if someone had been running a porno?!?
Kieran
Tue, Aug 24, 2010, 8:49am (UTC -6)
I think the writers didn't know what to do with this episode. At one stage Da Vinci is shot and was surprised that he wasn't hurt. I thought he would then realise he's a hologram and have a breakdown which might have been interesting. But no, he kept bumbling along to the finale. I like Rhys Davies but this is not why I watch Voyager.
Nic
Tue, Apr 26, 2011, 8:54am (UTC -6)
AH, STUPID CRIMINALS!

"Sure, I'll give da Vinci the resources he needs to build a flying contraption on the top of a hill, he's a hologram, he'll never try to escape with it!"

"Oops! They've escaped in the flying contraption! They're now 10 feet away, it's no use trying to shoot at them!"
V
Wed, Jan 25, 2012, 12:44am (UTC -6)
It started bothering me when Janeway didn't just beam the unconscious "prince" once he was knocked away and used him to negotiate getting all his stuff back. Then Chakotay won't fire on the 13 ships shooting at them... Normally I have a very good imagination and a great way to suspend my disbelief enough to enjoy a lot of things so long as I'm entertained. I had a hard time with this episode for a reason.
cracka
Mon, Mar 4, 2013, 10:07pm (UTC -6)
Awful episode. So full of contrivances. So they could beam the computer on board from their orbit, but even with it installed they had to go to a lower orbit to beam Janeway on board after the site to site transport? And it takes 5 minutes for voyager to get to a lower orbit?

Voyager transporters fail so much because they have to, to allow so many stupid plots to continue.
Jo Jo Meastro
Sun, Apr 7, 2013, 1:53pm (UTC -6)
For me, this was the worst episode so far in this season. Too boring, made too little sense, brought nothing to the table and was silly without being fun. There were perhaps some isolated moments that were entertaining, but overall it missed the mark and not very worthwhile. 1.5/4 from me.
Lt. Yarko
Sat, Jun 29, 2013, 6:51pm (UTC -6)
I'm sad that Mr. Rhys-Davies was not used in a more interesting episode. This one was senseless.
Caine
Fri, Nov 8, 2013, 5:11pm (UTC -6)
Was I the only one who enjoyed this silly, fun-loving kid's show of an episode? Anyone?
Ric
Tue, Apr 15, 2014, 10:47am (UTC -6)
@Nick LOL LOL

Awful episode. Implausible plot, childish story, cartoonish execution.

Besides, I am also one of those who just can't stand anymore "There's too much interference, I can't get a lock on him", not to mention "they bypassed security protocols". At this point, when I listen these lines, my mind already goes off the episode.
Vylora
Thu, Aug 28, 2014, 1:27pm (UTC -6)
I also very much like John Rhys-Davies and really enjoy what he brings to the da Vinci character. Unfortunately, this is not how I wanted to see him utilized. This is the first true clunker of this season (at least the utterly frustrating "The Raven" consisted of 50% awesome) as it serves absolutely no purpose other than seemingly being in love with itself and the aforementioned titular character. A few nice pieces of dialogue and reliable performances can't save this one.

Concerning flight? Ah...no thanks. I'll take the boat.

1 star.
Nonya
Mon, Sep 1, 2014, 10:49pm (UTC -6)
While Jammer's opinion is completely reasonable, I'm a bit more amused by this episode than him. If nothing else, it makes me smile.

Still, it's pretty improbable that the dude who keeps stealing technology wouldn't eventually shoot himself in the foot by angering so many/certain strong aliens when he takes their stuff. Eventually the passerby would know he was there and take violent action.

Also, and this is a problem I have with more episodes than just this one, how come all these variable technologies are compatible? Voyager is from the Delta Quadrant, and no aliens they meet would be able to automatically understand/use their stuff, much less know what stuff is best to steal.
Nonya
Mon, Sep 1, 2014, 10:50pm (UTC -6)
Lol, I meant Voyager is from the alpha quadrant.
Xylar
Mon, Apr 6, 2015, 7:59pm (UTC -6)
These aliens are some of the slowest, dimmest, most clueless criminals since the Kazon. 30 guards in one building and they can't prevent one intruder from beaming out key technology? Those guys need to be fired.
Shooting at an unaware Janeway from behind and STILL missing, despite having all the time in the world to take proper aim and only standing 10 feet behind her? Even a Stormtrooper would be ashamed of such a miss.
And in the end, when Janeway and Da Vinci escape on their flying machine (don't even get me started on that) they literally only shoot once, then apparently stand around doing nothing for a minute, watch the good guys take off, pointlessly run towards them and then look on helplessly and Janeway and Da Vinci glide to safety. Did they just forget they have guns?

On the bright side, I enjoyed the small tidbits between Seven and Harry and Seven and the Doctor. Doc going mental from getting locked up in his cage and Harry trying to teach Seven some manners. That was enjoyable at least. Completely irrelevant, but still fun little breaks in the 'action'.
Scubabadger
Mon, Apr 20, 2015, 5:34pm (UTC -6)
Nick - "how the hell can Voayger track the bad guys when their computer core is stolen" - I think they made some reference to backup systems coming online but that it would take a few minutes for everything to kick in. Cold standby so to speak.

Kieran - "at one stage Da Vinci is shot and was surprised that he wasn't hurt. I thought he would then realise he's a hologram and have a breakdown which might have been interesting" - there's a reference to the da vinci character interpreting his surroundings through the limited parameters of the programmed character e.g. he interprets the aliens and strange planet as people in "america". He's a hologram of a renaissance character so he couldn't possibly conclude from being shot and unharmed that he's a hologram - something he's never conceived of. Now if it was explained to him that he was an artificial man etc. etc., he could.

As terrible episodes go at least this one made efforts to explain the terribleness....and yes i'm answering 5 year old questions
Yanks
Mon, Oct 26, 2015, 9:49am (UTC -6)
Well, I guess we've had too many good Voyager episodes :-)

As much as I want to like this one, it's usually a skipper for me.

I truly LOVE John Rhys-Davies' Da Vinci and Janeway's interactions with him; but this episode is just nuts. It's clearly written for him, but I agree with Jammer, he should stay on the holo-deck or at the very most on Voyager.

There is however, a part of me that enjoyed watching Da Vinci seeing his machine work, albeit with some help.

1.5 stars.
Diamond Dave
Sat, Feb 13, 2016, 6:23am (UTC -6)
Not really much to say about this one, other than I thought it was serviceable enough and that it at least had a fairly fresh premise that took a decidedly different approach by having Leonardo be the lead. If you can get over that contrivance then everything else - including handily positioned flying machines - falls into place.

Ironically though, it was Seven who had the best scenes. 2.5 stars.
Dougie
Wed, Jun 8, 2016, 11:08pm (UTC -6)
Has anyone checked on Nick???
Adam
Sat, Jul 23, 2016, 2:13am (UTC -6)
This one is a guilty pleasure for me. For some reason I take great delight in seeing Da Vinci trying to comprehend all of this 24th century technology.
mephyve
Sat, Aug 27, 2016, 4:37pm (UTC -6)
watchable (*)
Kristi R
Sun, Oct 30, 2016, 9:04pm (UTC -6)
I Hated this episode. I kept fast-forwarding through the endless blah blah between Janeway and daVinci, but it still didn't help. Hated the premise, hated the dialog, hated the Dumb Criminal of the Week....I wouldn't give it more than a half star personally.
Paul Allen
Thu, Feb 2, 2017, 5:50pm (UTC -6)
Absolutely loved this episode, utterly charming. :)

John Rhys-Davies is majestic!
Reuben K.
Tue, Jun 6, 2017, 2:06am (UTC -6)
Too much tech to think simply. When Janeway and da Vinci were on their way to the storehouse, they could only detect the mobile emitter, and weren't sure if Janeway was there. They were literally walking to the storehouse over the Southern California Desert landscape. Are there no telescopes on Voyager? They can detect specific details of the borders of space-faring races (Year of hell) from parsecs away (or really far away), but can't magnify a view of the surface of the planet they're orbiting?! How hard is it to look out the !@#$% window?
Also, it's obvious why the bad guys only shot once when Janeway and da Vinci glided away. They were utterly shocked at how ridiculous the situation was. How would you react if the people you were chasing suddenly decided to skate away using Hot Wheels tied to their shoes?
Joe
Fri, Jul 21, 2017, 11:52pm (UTC -6)
Are holodeck characters as sentient as the Dr so easy to produce?
Doesn't this create some severe ethical issues in how the holodeck is used?
What does it say about the nature of life and sentience?

Or, alternatively, if the Da Vinci character (as sophisticated as he appears) is not sentient then doesn't it cast doubt on the validity of the Dr's supposed claim to sentience?

I'm confused!
Eli
Sun, Sep 3, 2017, 11:03pm (UTC -6)
I agree with Paul Allen, and others who praised the episode. It was delightful and refreshing.

Of course, there are some hiccups in the plot: how does the mobile emitter end up on da Vinci? Why does da Vinci appear to have weeks or months worth of memories of his time with the new "prince,"? By this year, the Federation has no anti-theft technology?

Nonetheless, the magic of the episode lies in the mix of the wonderment of da Vinci at 24th century technology, his clever attempts to render it intelligible, and the hilarity of Janeway carting da Vinci around as she does some high tech sleuthing. Minor dialogue is often winning,; for example, interactions between Seven and the Doctor, Harry and Tuvok in separate instances are nicely understated. The highlight of the episode is seeing Janeway and da Vinci gliding through the air and vanishing via transporter. The scene recalls ET, but with a touch of silliness. Overall, an endearing and entrancing episode.
RandomThoughts
Tue, Oct 17, 2017, 7:33pm (UTC -6)
Hello Everyone!

I liked the scenes with Seven and Doctor.

I found it interesting that Da Vinci's programming required him to get winded when running up hills (and needing help from Katarina).

Did Voyager lower their shields to beam them up, while being fired upon by 15 or so ships? Honestly, I always thought that while the shield emitters work together, it would be possible to shut one set off so they could beam through. This time, it'd be one of the lower emitters, because they were not being fired upon from the bottom. And I think this is not totally unreasonable, as they often have "aft shields are down/gone", so they turn the ship around. Turn off a set, beam, done. VoilĂ !

Enjoy the Day Everyone... RT
William B
Thu, Oct 19, 2017, 10:02am (UTC -6)
Janeway: "This is Leonardo da Vinci we're talking about. Simulation or not, he's one of the greatest creative minds in Earth's history." Oh, great. I'll remember that next time. "This is Napoleon Bonaparte we're talking about. Wikipedia article or not, he's one of the greatest military minds in Earth's history. I'm sure I'll be able to conquer the world with it in no time!" In all seriousness, this episode was dreadful and the worst of the season so far, despite John Rhys-Davies' (and Melgrew's and Russ') amiable performance. The mugging, which affects some but not all systems at random for what the plot needs, is there only to set up the Janeway/Leonardo stuff, but that is all painful to watch, which seems to be intended as a tribute but ends up making Leonardo da Vinci look like an idiot throughout. Oh, so he believes this is all America, does he? So he gets shot straight through but doesn't have to find out why and accepts it, huh? So much material comes down to Janeway trying to convince Leonardo to stop asking questions and to accept his limitations, and I'm not sure why we need to see the Leonardo hologram learning that he's out of his depth. The big emotional flight at the end is maybe meant to be some sort of cheer moment, but I'm not sure that "Leonardo da Vinci's flying machine succeeds, based on Janeway's advice to him and based on 24th century alien ultralight materials" is all that meaningful, especially when the cheer moment seems to be around proving that Leonardo da Vinci *was* smart, after all. Thanks, but I think we knew that. For comparison, Doctor Who's episode featuring Vincent Van Gogh (spoiler) managed to have an uplifting (if bittersweet) ending of having Van Gogh realize that he would eventually be appreciated, and it's given weight because of the tragedy of his life, and it's particularly about appreciation that actually happens, because of work he actually did, rather than an elaborate "well, I bet if he were alive in the future and had a cool best friend and had access to future tech he'd be able to accomplish his goals!" wish-fulfillment stories. Janeway should have just turned the damn mobile emitter off, of course. It's too bad John Rhys-Davies didn't get a better vehicle, I guess (and when I say "vehicle" I don't mean that glider). 1 star.

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