Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"The Haunting of Deck Twelve"

*1/2

Air date: 5/17/2000
Teleplay by Mike Sussman and Kenneth Biller & Bryan Fuller
Story by Mike Sussman
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Did I ever tell you about the Salvoxia?"
"If I say yes, will it prevent you from telling the story?"

— Neelix and Tuvok

Nutshell: Mostly pointless, even when considering this series' attitude on the big picture.

Without Neelix's running narration, "The Haunting of Deck Twelve" would probably be the lamest Voyager outing of the year. With Neelix's narration, it fares a bit better, but it's still not nearly enough to redeem an hour of mechanical plot plodding.

This is an example of style over substance. Of course, that's assuming you equate style with a smattering of photographed flashlight beams, darkened corridors with constantly blinking lights, pervasive (and persistent) clouds of deadly gas, and Jay Chattaway pounding away at the score to manufacture intensity where there isn't any.

This episode features far too many bland, pointless scenes. I'm reminded somehow of second season's "Twisted," which was essentially about people wandering the ship's corridors for an hour. To be sure, "Haunting" isn't as bad as "Twisted"; it at least knows enough to darken the lights and move the camera around a lot. And in addition to wandering the ship, the characters run diagnostics and do other mechanical things. Unlike "Twisted," there's at least an ostensible purpose here, even if not a real one. And it may not be a particularly compelling example of technique, but there's an effort to punch up the action and atmosphere to compensate for the woeful lack of material worth caring about.

But even in a series with no real goals beyond giving the characters a problem to solve each week, "The Haunting of Deck Twelve" manages to come off as filler. Maybe that's because it has so many filler-like scenes that don't seem necessary, while the rest of the story is uninteresting dreck.

I mean come on, people. This is an episode on autopilot: Establish a bizarro alien of the week (in this case, one that is an "electromagnetic lifeform"), have it take over the ship, and exercise all the usual cliches in addressing the crisis. (Of course, don't kill it, because this is Star Trek.) But before we can address the crisis, we first must identify or find it, which seems to take most of the hour. In the meantime, we have lots of scenes where people are running diagnostics or roaming the corridors—things that just don't seem very important.

The sole saving grace here is the story's take on a "creepy campfire tale," which is occasionally cute with Neelix sitting in a darkened cargo bay with the four Borg children. (And while I don't expect babies to listen to campfire stories, I still do want to know—whatever happened to Borg Kid #5, the infant?) The episode's action is told in flashback by Neelix. The justification for why he is telling this story seems contrived, but that's okay. What's not okay is that the contrivance makes no sense as presented. Much is made of the fact that the ship is being completely shut down. Of course, we never really find out why this is necessary. It's a plot point lost in sketchy scripting. The whole idea of shutting down the ship exists for no dramatic purpose aside from the fact the story needs darkness around which to frame its narration device.

In a way, the idea here is another analysis on the concept of telling a story. This was done a few weeks ago in "Muse," and I assure you in that case it was done much better. If "Muse" was a reflection on the Star Trek ideal, then "Haunting" is a reflection on pure schlock (which itself was done last year—and more humorously—in "Bride of Chaotica!"). There's a whiff of self-mocking in the notion that Neelix's story is a campy one, but not nearly enough to overcome the fact that the story being told isn't interesting.

Back to the problem with this episode: Neelix's source for the story, or in other words, the real plot. Umm ... who cares? It features another random alien intruder, an EM intelligence that can exist inside the Voyager computer and take total control of the ship. Sure. Talk about your ghosts in the machine. It's a glorified plot device that serves to get the crew running aimlessly all over the ship.

I say, if we're going to have a ghost-in-the-machine episode, at least make the villain a bad villain. Not the case here. The villain is a displaced but allegedly sympathetic entity that blames the Voyager crew for destroying its home, a nebula that the ship had been inside in the interests of deuterium collection. All it really wants is to go home. In a scary story, it might at least want to kill everybody and then move on to its next ship full of prey—bwahahahaha. But I forgot—we need our Starfleet philosophy to shine through, as Janeway is determined to make First Contact with this Alien Lifeform. Unfortunately, the story wants to have it both ways. When Janeway's efforts to help fail, the alien gets Real Mad and decides now it's ready to kill everybody. Up until this point, the attitude is see no evil, hear no evil. And in this case, breathe no evil.

Except for the fact that Seven at one point in the action breathes the gas created by the lifeform. It's only defending itself, of course. But what I don't get is Seven's inability to run away from danger. She's determined to walk calmly away from danger. Sure, she may be a Borg, but don't you think running away from a potentially deadly cloud of gas might be prudent? I guess I forgot Borg Rule #1: drones don't run.

Whatever. This is an episode that's not built on flowing logic but rather a slew of disjointed scenes—some of which I'm guessing would've been on the cutting room floor if there'd been enough worthy material. I liked, for example, that they brought back Crewman Celes (Zoe McLellan from "Good Shepherd"), and even that Seven treats her like the screw-up she was established to be in that episode. But the writers go overboard with Celes' goofy dialog, and the character sinks. Her motormouthing in the corridor with Harry about the ship being taken over by aliens is an overlong, pointless scene that had me wondering why we stopped so long to bother with it. (One would hope Neelix didn't halt his story to explain this exchange in detail to the Borg children. They'd likely fall asleep.)

I could go on with the plot, but why? It's all laborious, arbitrary, and meaningless, and as what I'm sure comes as a huge surprise, Everything Is Okay at the End—but not until after an evacuation that seems so hastily and unnecessarily established that it leaves one's head spinning. Janeway is able to successfully convince the lifeform to be merciful and trusting (although its change of heart at the Last Possible Moment is not of much interest), the crew finds the lifeform a new home, and it's on with business as usual.

In the meantime, we get some more Tuvok/Neelix banter, which managed to do little but remind me how much more I cared when Spock and Bones had discussions. Also, we get our Invented One-Hour Character Trait—the notion that Captain Janeway talks to her ship. We've never seen this before, and we'll never see it again. It's this week's random quirk, but I'll give the writers credit for trying to inject some humanity into their characters. For that matter, we also get Seven looking 2 percent disheveled when we see via close-up that several dozen strands of her hair are out of place.

My favorite moment in this episode is when Neelix is wandering the corridor outside the mess hall. He's all alone in a weird, dark situation. At the end of the hall, the turbolift doors are opening and closing, oscillating rapidly like something out of a supernatural film. (It's goofy but somehow cool-looking.) He looks curiously at the doors, and then suddenly turns around and behind him is ... TUVOK WEARING AN OXYGEN MASK! (Gasp!) It's among the oddest, cheapest, goofiest horror-movie-inspired moments I've seen on this series. And, somehow, I think everyone involved in making the scene knew that. And even if they didn't, oh well—I laughed long and hard.

If only "Haunting" had realized it was a genre comedy and played up the fun rather than the boring corridor-traipsing and systems-tinkering, they might've had something here: Voyager does Scream. Now there you go. Alas, it was not to be. And too bad—the stage hands operating the pulley on those turbolift doors really put in the effort for that one scene. I hope they got paid time and a half.

Next week: Borg + VR = ? Find out in the season finale.

Previous episode: Life Line
Next episode: Unimatrix Zero, Part I

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25 comments on this review

Immanuel - Sat, Sep 15, 2007 - 2:28pm (USA Central)
Since Seven had her hands full with the other children + her normal duties, maybe Joe Carey offered to care for the Borg Baby. Off-screen, of course. ;-)

I'd give "The Haunting of Deck Twelve" a two-star rating, according to your system. Definite filler. But I can't say that it bored me, either. Plus it was great to see Celes again, even if she didn't get to do anything. It was also nice of the writers to remind us that Deuterium supplies are still a concern, and that Vorik still exists.
David Forrest - Tue, Feb 19, 2008 - 9:09pm (USA Central)
I actually just put this episode on again and when it first aired I didn't like it much, but after seeing it again I really did enjoy it, almost enough to give it a 3 star rating. Other reviewers online (most notably the Cynic) enjoyed this episode, and while I can defintely see your arguments, I found the episode enjoyable in the way they a spun an action sweeps episode. I thought David Livingston's directing was fantastic and Kate Mulgrew shined as always. She is defintely one of the best actors that Star Trek has ever seen.
Jakob M. Mokoru - Wed, Feb 20, 2008 - 2:18pm (USA Central)
I tend to agree with David Forrest.
EightofNine - Wed, May 7, 2008 - 7:37pm (USA Central)
I quite liked the set design, I thought it was rather effective in conveying an ominous atmosphere. I'm happy they continue the antagonistic Tuvok-Neelix friendship as well. And the Borg children have some funny lines: 'our cardiopulmonary systems are reinforced' and of course 'snacks are irrelevant'.
Will - Wed, Dec 2, 2009 - 3:10pm (USA Central)
Has there ever been a really GOOD penultimate episode to a Voyager season or do they just give us spatial anomalies?
Zarm - Fri, Dec 4, 2009 - 12:40pm (USA Central)
I have to disagree about this episode; while it was nowhere near Voyager's most stellar, I enjoyed it, in particular the confrontation between Janeway and the alien-as-Voyager's-computer.

Additionally,
"Of course, we never really find out why this is necessary. It's a plot point lost in sketchy scripting. The whole idea of shutting down the ship exists for no dramatic purpose aside from the fact the story needs darkness around which to frame its narration device."

I believe the story sufficiently establishes or implies that, as Voyager's power sources/engines disrupted the original nebula home of the alien, they must cruise through, powerless and on momentum, so as to return the lifeform to a similar nebula without dissipating it. This was clear to me, at least.
Jay - Sun, Feb 21, 2010 - 11:43am (USA Central)
@ Will...

I rather liked both Resolutions and Worst Case Scenario.
Michael - Wed, Jul 14, 2010 - 8:05am (USA Central)
I like the beginning: A complete Voyager shutdown without knowing the reason. Quite dramatic. It's kind of anti-climactic when we find out what it's all about, but it's a fun Halloween story with quite a bit of suspense, an alien unlike the usual Forehead-Of-The-Week, and - always a major plus - not too much philosophizing, psychological introspection and analyses or silly fantasies or recreations. This show is definitely a damn sight better than a number of abominations of this Season, such as that theater depravity of an episode.

Tuvok shone in this show; he is definitely one of the strongest characters of the series, and thank heavens no-one tried to assimilate him into the touchy-feely Dr. Phil Collective over the six years. He doesn't goof up, acts logically and professionally, thinks soberly, doesn't have a problematic relationship with his mother he needs to talk about every other episode, dabbles in some meditation crap but not too often... - in a word, a star.

As far as this episode, I'd give it 2.5 stars.
Cloudane - Sat, Apr 2, 2011 - 2:01pm (USA Central)
Kind of enjoyed this myself. It was far from special and doesn't seem worthy of much comment, but certainly not bad either in my view. Sometimes goofy / "comedy" Trek episodes can be absolute dross (see just about any Ferengi episode in DS9), but this one succeeded in just remaining pleasantly goofy.

It continues to be nice to see the return of continuity even in a very basic form, like the existence of Celes and the Borg children. (Apart from the baby, goodness knows what happened to that. Maybe it died off-screen.)

2 stars works for me.
Iceblink - Sun, Sep 11, 2011 - 4:01am (USA Central)
Pretty much agree with Jammer's assessment. A pretty 'meh' storyline (Voyager's version of a 'ghost' is basically a technobabble monster - figures!), although it is well directed and conjures a reasonable sense of atmosphere at times. Way too many tedious scenes of people wandering corridors, however and a plot that has virtually no purpose or payoff.
Jacob T. Teetertotter Seven - Thu, Sep 15, 2011 - 1:00am (USA Central)
Well, I for one enjoyed this fun little ride on the haunted house of deck 12. The starship Voyager meets any angry engery alien and befriends Capt. Janeway. It wasn't scary, but it might be for kids. All in all a nice happy ending and feel good episode some children might enjoy. 2point 5 popcorns.
Cappo - Sun, Mar 18, 2012 - 5:42am (USA Central)
Since probably everything of value has already been commented on, I'll throw in my nitpick for the episode: The Lights.

Now, I know the point of everything was the spooky atmosphere but I couldn't get over the fact that lights that huge in the 24th century not only put out so little lighting, but can't go a few hours without using up the battery? A phaser's power cell is how big and powers an energy weapon but apparently those lanterns the size of someone's head are using off-brand AAA's.

Yes, yes, atmosphere, I know, I get it... but it seemed so strange that 24th century emergency lighting is less advanced than early 21st. It stuck out like a sore thumb.
Captain Jim - Sun, Apr 29, 2012 - 11:49pm (USA Central)
While I pretty much agree with Jammer's assessment of this episode, what's this about it not being "as bad as Twisted"? I liked Twisted! (And I really don't see that much similarity between the two episodes.)
KL - Fri, Apr 12, 2013 - 9:47am (USA Central)
I didn't watch this episode after seeing Jammer's rather low opinion of it.

I kind of bit the bullet and watched it the other day and I found myself entertained by it.

Thus, Jammer's review on Voyager, for the most part, cannot be taken seriously.
Adara - Mon, May 6, 2013 - 1:22pm (USA Central)
@KL: I don't always agree with Jammer, but that doesn't mean he can't be taken seriously. It just means that different people like different things. Any review has to be taken with a grain of salt. If you routinely skip movies and TV shows because of bad reviews, you're probably missing out on a lot of good stuff.
Leah - Wed, Jul 10, 2013 - 10:57pm (USA Central)
"Snacks are irrelevant!" ROFLMAO!

Did anyone else notice that at one point Janeway mentioned collecting Dilithium instead of Deuterium as it was supposed to be? I half expected that to have been a Neelix story-telling mistake and the kids to call him out on it, until I realized it was the writers' story-telling mistake!

Didn't dislike it, kinda fun in a mindless sort of way.
azcats - Mon, Aug 19, 2013 - 2:36pm (USA Central)
Yeah, i liked twisted too. i like the sci...in my sci-fi.

this episode is why i like Voyager. they always had a lot of mysteries. i agree with michaels comments more than jammers review.

2.5 stars
SpiceRak2 - Mon, Sep 9, 2013 - 10:28pm (USA Central)
I fundamentally disagree with Jammer's review.

I was impressed with the direction and some of the plot techniques. It made the story much more enjoyable and less linear. The Flashback device was employed successfully with charming and sometimes clever dialog with the Borg children and Neelix. The episode progressed like it was a story being told around a campfire, complete with tangents and quirky interruptions. I think this episode was well executed. This was meant to be an engaging yarn - Voyager-style.
Nick - Fri, Jan 31, 2014 - 10:31am (USA Central)
15 minutes in I couldn't bare to watch anymore, and this saying a lot. There are a whole lot of better low-cost 'bottle-episodes' out there; the writers could have done MUCH better. Even that TNG episode of Picard helping those kids during a similar blackout (you remember the one) had more going for it.
Steinway - Sun, Feb 2, 2014 - 11:35am (USA Central)
I liked this one. The only thing that really bugged me was the cheesy showdown between Janrway and the alien. So lame! Her near-death grunting and yelling was just silly. And to lose her life rather than sacrifice her ship? I'm sorry, I know there's a little bit if captain-psychology there, but her life is worth more than the USS Voyager.
Steinway - Sun, Feb 2, 2014 - 11:48am (USA Central)
Oh, and I forgot to mention that as a mother, the disappearance of the Borg baby is very disturbing! I thought she was pretty cute. Why save the baby if it's just going to be ignored? Just one little scene in one episode to tie up the loose thread is all that was needed. I can't remember if this was mentioned on this site, but my favorite fan theory for what happened to the Borg baby is that she was assigned to the Torpedo and Shuttle Replacement Crew along with Lt. Carey, Samantha Wildman, and Vorik!

Great reviews, Jammer. Of course I don't always agree (VOY is my favorite series...I know, I know...) but, as they say - "in matters if taste, everyone is right."
Amanda - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 - 11:14pm (USA Central)
I like this episode. I didn't in its original airing because I knew there were only so many episodes left that I remember groaning. Now that I can only choose reruns I warmed up to it.
Nic - Sun, May 11, 2014 - 10:09am (USA Central)
Although I agree with your rating, I thought the actual story was far less bad than the framing device around it. Neelix’s narration is the worst part of this episode. It drags what little momentum the main story has down to a halt. So much of the dialogue so blatantly exists simply to fill up the episode’s running time, it’s literally painful to watch. The only interesting part was Icheb grating Neelix on getting the technical details of his story wrong, which is a nice jab at Trek fandom.

So I’d give the main story 2.5 stars (and I’ll admit I’m being generous here, mostly because David Livingston did his best given the material) and the narration 0.5 stars.
Ric - Thu, May 29, 2014 - 12:46am (USA Central)
Beyond the pointless and rather dumb narration, the story being narrated is, while far from superb, also quite better than Jammer painted it.

Actually, if it was portrayed without the narration and was played just as it was but in TNG, I can bet that many would praise it as being good. I even have the impression that it is in fact similar to something that already was portrayed in previous Trek (likely TNG), but I can recall exactly which episode it reminds of.

On average, however, this one was no more than a passable hour of Trek. Maybe 2 stars would be more accurate.
Shaen - Sun, Sep 14, 2014 - 2:12pm (USA Central)
This episode really drives home the fact that nearly every Star Trek writer had no idea what nebulas actually are.

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