Star Trek: Voyager
Air date: 5/6/1998
Teleplay by Kenneth Biller
Story by Andre Bormanis
Directed by Anson Williams
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"When I first came on board Voyager, I was pretty green, right?"
"A deep, almost-fluorescent green, if I remember correctly"
— Harry and Tom
Nutshell: Bizarre—in a weird, meaningless, and completely ineffective sort of way.
Jammer walks into the room on the third floor of the Illini Union. It is the first time he has decided to go to a meeting held by the campus' Star Trek: Voyager fan club. He has heard that these people usually have nothing but witless praise for the show, and that they do not like people who criticize it. Being that this is the last meeting before summer adjournment, Jammer decides that he wants to have some fun by sitting in and making some comments about the most recent Voyager episode, "Demon." He takes a seat at the back of the room.
Club president [banging a gavel]: All members, the meeting is now in session. We'll begin with the usual weekly commentary about this past Wednesday's episode, starting with our lead speaker and reviewer, Gary. Are you ready, Gary?
Gary [standing up]: Naturally. As you all know, I wouldn't miss an episode. It's my favorite TV show. The Bulls are in the playoffs, and I had to miss the end of the game, but one must have priorities, you know. [Some club members laugh.]
Jammer [from the back of the room, trying to incite trouble]: Are you kidding? Voyager is LAME. DS9 is a lot better.
[Gasps come from everywhere in the room. Murmurs from all the members blend together, filling the room with an air of appalled surprise.]
Bob [a member from the front of the room]: Oh, it's Jammer. We know all about you and your reviews. You really think you're the man, don't you?
[The room grows quiet, as members begin to realize a debate is about to begin.]
Jammer: No, I just write them. You don't have to agree with them.
Bob: Well, whatever. I've heard DS9 is just a rip-off of Babylon 5. I don't watch it much ... all that Prophets stuff gets on my nerves and is boring. Voyager is better because it takes place on a ship, the way a Trek series should. Plus, it has that Borg Babe.
[Some members start laughing. The mood lightens.]
Amanda [from the center of the room]: Bob, you're such a moron. Get over her. She deserves more credit than being reduced to a sex object. [The room grows quiet again.]
Bob: I'm not even going to start, Amanda. We had this discussion two weeks ago. Quit being so politically correct.
Gary: I'll admit, she's nice to look at, but I think we have more important discussion at hand.
Jammer: Yes, we do. What did you think of "Demon"?
Gary: Well, it was one demon of a planet. The place was really harsh. Five hundred degrees Kelvin!
Bob: Yep. Don't forget the poisonous gases.
Gary: The episode was really good. This is Voyager doing interesting exploration and also remembering that the ship is stranded. The deuterium supply was low, so the ship was running out of fuel. I was glad they brought that up, because we haven't seen anything like that since the second season when the crew would look for food.
Jammer: What? You bought into this?
Gary: Sure, why not?
Jammer: So you're saying that if you had a car and were running out of gas, you'd drive out to the middle of the Mojave Desert and not look for a gas station until AFTER the needle was dropping below "E"?
Gary: Well, I don't think that analogy...
Jammer: I suppose you'd leave the air conditioning running full blast, too. That was B.S. All this time in the Delta Quadrant, and all of a sudden Voyager is running low on fuel and conveniently couldn't find any deuterium? I just loved the way they didn't turn off the lights and the holodecks until the same day they ran out of energy. I mean, this came out of nowhere, for crying out loud! The crew must be a bunch of IDIOTS! The whole episode was based on a completely absurd, far-fetched, and unbelievable idea. And very, very artificially manufactured. Pulled out of the creators' rear, if I may say so.
Gary: Well, maybe a little, but...
Jammer: And what was up with Tuvok not letting Neelix keep his book and his blankets? Yeah, Neelix may have been a whining chump this week, but how does one book take up THAT much space?
Amanda: Yeah, what WAS that all about?
[Murmurs from all around the room begin again.]
Gary: Well maybe Tuvok wanted to be fair. After all, the entire crew couldn't bring their books and blankets if they were being put into general population. Tuvok probably didn't want to have to worry about books getting lost or stolen and stuff. [Laughs.] Who cares? It was all done for comedy.
Amanda: Yeah, but it was still trite, you have to admit.
Jammer: They sure padded this episode with a lot of stupid scenes. It was supposed to be funny, but it didn't work. All it did was break up the momentum. Wait—I take that back. There wasn't any momentum to break up.
Gary: Well, what about the subplot where Neelix decides to go to sickbay as his temporary "quarters," and then Neelix and the Holodoc get into a fight over it?
Jammer: That was the worst of it all. Absolutely horrendous. Did you actually think it was funny? It had to be one of the biggest wastes of screen time this entire season. Pointless scenes of Doc trying to annoy Neelix and vice versa. What was this supposed to be?
Gary: I'll admit that it was kinda goofy. But the whole thing of Doc not being able to stay up late so that Neelix could sleep reminded me of the roommate problems I had my freshman year.
Jammer: Did you act the way either Doc or Neelix was acting here? If so, I can see WHY you had roommate problems. This was just dumb; it had both of them acting like junior high kids. I thought even this show was way beyond this trivial crap.
[Murmurs fill the room again. Many people are obviously angry with Jammer.]
Bob: Why should we listen to you? You actually liked "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night"!
[Shouts of agreement fill the room, as it becomes obvious the meeting is turning into Jammer versus everyone else.]
Jammer [trying to avoid losing the floor to dissension]: Hey, but did you notice: B'Elanna's back, and she's not pregnant anymore.
Bob: Yeah, that's right. She's still wearing that engineering coat, though. That's okay; everyone knows Seven of Nine is the real engineer. They should get rid of B'Elanna and make Seven the chief. She has all that Borg knowledge and could run that department, and threaten to assimilate anyone who doesn't obey her orders. [Laughs.]
Amanda [with disdain]: The Seven worshiper speaks again.
Gary: Hey, did anyone try to win 100 bucks through the TV station with that Trek promo they have this month?
Unnamed member #1 [who is sitting near Jammer]: I actually got through, but I was the fourth caller.
Unnamed member #2 [from the front]: I tried the last few days, but I never get through. I've given up and don't bother anymore.
Jammer: Yeah, when the message came on the screen I tried to get through, but it was busy every time I dialed. Being the tenth caller is impossible. I usually tend to ignore it, but since the show was so boring and tedious, I just went ahead and tried to make some money off it.
Gary: Oh well, better luck next time.
Jammer: Anyway, I thought they were going to crash that shuttle at the beginning, but fortunately they didn't.
Gary: There! You see, they ARE managing to avoid using the standard cliches.
Jammer: Maybe, but considering the whole premise was based on a DNA-mimicking metallic fluid, I didn't feel too great about it. I also don't recall them taking the shuttle back to the ship, but that's not exactly a surprise; they never show that. It's not something worth complaining too much about.
Bob: I think you complain enough, anyway. You're just a nitpicker who hates the show. Anyway, you're missing the point. This was about Tom and Harry and how they got absorbed by that liquid metal stuff.
Jammer: Well, it was about them getting absorbed, but it certainly wasn't about Tom or Harry. Anyone could've been absorbed, including you or me. This whole show could've been done with a bunch of guest characters for all the good it did for the characters who were actually in the show!
Amanda: Well, I like Harry's character, and I thought the theme at the beginning was interesting—you know, where he decides to be more assertive—even though the DNA mumbo-jumbo was uninteresting.
Jammer: Harry's issue came completely out of the blue—just like the whole "out of fuel" thing. There's never any gradual drama on this series. Everything is conjured out of nowhere, and Harry's personality this week was a perfect example of this.
Amanda: Well, they had some references to other shows; that made for some good continuity.
Jammer: Too bad so many of the references were to BAD shows. The fact Harry attributes his most "worthwhile" experience to bizarre events, like turning into an alien in "Favorite Son" or coming back from the dead doesn't say much about his character. Hell, I was surprised he didn't mention his twin getting sucked out into space in "Deadlock." Now THERE'S something to put on your resume.
Gary: What about the way the plot explained the real reason for everything? It was reasonable science fiction, wasn't it? I liked the idea that it was a liquid lifeform that copies people's DNA.
Jammer: DNA, DNA, DNA. I'm not even going to start in. Voyager plays that DNA card way too much. I especially loved the way the copied DNA allowed the liquid lifeform to make replicated people, complete with uniforms and total memories of the past. [Shakes his head.] God-awful science. But what's the point in being critical of bad science anymore? Really—this episode was like a classic Seinfeld episode: a show about nothing. At least, for most of the way, it was. When it finally decided it was making a point, it pulled plot conveniences out of thin air.
Amanda: You're so harsh!
Jammer: Well, to be fair, it wasn't quite as bad as "Threshold." But it was incredibly slow and pointless, and had a plot that jumped around aimlessly. Easily the worst of the year.
Bob: Whadayamean? This story had the ship land! Blue alert! We haven't seen that since the second season. And then the liquid metal stuff started to go under the ship and make it sink. That was cool. I liked the way Janeway played the badass and shot the liquid stuff with the phasers until they agreed to let go of the ship.
Jammer: I thought that was a questionable moment, especially seeing how sincere the fake Harry was asking Janeway for help, but I guess you've got to protect your own first.
Gary: But you have to admit the way the story handled the fake Harry and fake Tom was done well. I didn't suspect a thing for the longest time.
Jammer: Yeah, except for that the plot cheats and is completely deceptive in order to do this. Just how is it the mimicking metal stuff remembered that Tom and Harry ran out of oxygen and passed out—which happened AFTER it had copied them? And we never even found out why they had leaks in their suits, or how they managed to survive for an hour with "no oxygen." And when it was all over with, what was the POINT? To fake out the audience? I was literally amazed at how little sense this made, and how many cheats they used to do it.
Bob [angrily]: Who even asked you, Jammer? You could at least give the show credit for being bizarre and different. It's a lot more interesting than a bunch of bratty kids piloting a Valiant-class starship, which isn't believable, either.
Jammer: Oh, come ON! Believable? You want to talk about BELIEVABLE? Okay, let's go. First, doesn't it seem silly that Tom and Harry would leave their shuttle door OPEN in 500-Kelvin weather? Seems like it'd be bad for the equipment, or at least the upholstery. Then again, they'd have to leave the environmental controls on full blast in order to keep the shuttle cool, anyway. Man, and I thought cooling my car down on a summer day was bad. And, by the way, the Valiant is a Defiant-class ship.
Bob: I'm warning you, Jammer, don't make me mad...
Jammer [testing the limits of Bob]: And didn't you think it was strange that later, after they found them with no enviro-suits, no one noticed that Harry and Tom were okay in that heat? Sure, they noticed that the two of them could breath the poisonous gasses, but no one seemed to notice that they hadn't become a nice, crispy, charred barbecue.
Bob: Just shut UP, already!
Jammer [having even more fun provoking Bob]: Oh yeah—tell me how much energy it would take to keep the starship Voyager habitable while it's sitting on the surface of a planet that's 500 Kelvin. Or how long it would take the ship to reach the planet from .4 light-years away at ONE-QUARTER IMPULSE POWER.
Bob: THAT'S IT! [He begins walking toward Jammer, looking particularly violent.]
Jammer [reveling inside]: And Janeway KILLED Tuvix!
[The room explodes into a fury of shouting and arguing. Bob becomes lost in the pack. One member even picks up a chair, as if he might throw it into the crowd. Jammer considers calling the police, but then realizes that the outbreak is his own fault.]
President [furiously banging his gavel]: Order! ORDER!
[The crowd slowly calms down, and back to normal. Everyone is uncomfortable. Bob is still fuming.]
President: Jammer, you may make your closing remarks, but then you have to leave. We cannot tolerate this sort of dissension.
Gary: I just want to say that this episode was different, which is worth respect.
Jammer: Well, I don't know what you saw in this. I'll grant you that it was bizarre and different, and wasn't bad in any typical way. Rather, it was bad in a way all of its OWN. They really tried pushing the envelope at the end, but it was a big flop that was merely mind-numbingly bland. None of what happened made any sense, and none of the characters seemed to care what was happening around them. Especially the ending, where the fake Harry started to suddenly realize the nature of his existence, was hopelessly contrived.
Gary: What about the final scene with the replicated crew standing around outside the ship? That was sort of poignant.
Jammer: It looked neat, but it was totally thoughtless and without regard to any consequences. Did you even think about the implications of Janeway allowing the entire crew to be replicated, with copied memories of everyone? Now THERE'S a cloning issue for you. What about security? Don't get me wrong; I'm glad this didn't turn out to be a simple example of killing the "bad alien lifeform," but it was almost as bad the way it unfolded. Very poorly thought out.
Bob [calmer]: You think about this show way too much. It's supposed to be entertainment. I watch it for the special effects, the exploration, and, of course, the Borg Babe.
Jammer: Maybe that's why you don't watch DS9—you watch TV you don't have to think about. I can understand that, I guess. I don't always want to think when I'm looking for entertainment. But at the same time, that certainly doesn't mean Voyager has to be completely without a brain. "Living Witness" last week was a great story—didn't you think so?
Gary [receiving agreement from others]: Yeah, it was. And I guess I didn't mind thinking about it after it was over.
Jammer: Well, there you go—living proof that this series won't alienate viewers simply by thinking every so often. I've said my piece. Thanks for letting me sit in on your meeting.
Bob [aside]: Don't you mean destroy it?
President: Please leave now, Jammer.
Jammer: No problem. Just one more thing...
Jammer: The Trek novels AREN'T CANON!
Jammer bolts out of the room as it explodes again. He walks down the hall, listening as the shouting and arguing echoes throughout the floor. As he exists the Union, he laughs to himself as he wonders how so many intelligent, college-educated people could enjoy such a lobotomized television episode. But, then again, everyone has their own opinions. Fearing for his life, Jammer takes the bus home, as he wouldn't want to be assaulted by a gang of Voyager viewers during a short but decidedly dangerous walk down Green Street.
Next week: Frozen crew. Guess that's better than a non-barbecued-at-500-Kelvin crew.