Star Trek: Voyager
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.