Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Muse"

***1/2

Air date: 4/26/2000
Written by Joe Menosky
Directed by Mike Vejar

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Find the truth of your story and you won't need all those tricks. I don't know how things are done across the Eastern Sea, but here poets have become lazy; they rely on manipulation to move their audience. It wasn't always that way." — Old man

Nutshell: Slow, self-reflective, and different. Not slam-bang excitement, but certainly one of the season's most interesting shows to ponder.

It helps knowing going in that "Muse" is Joe Menosky's farewell script to Voyager (since, as many know, the writer/producer will not be returning for the series' final season). The episode ends up being the ultimate Voyager self-reflective commentary on the process of writing for an audience. As I watched the show, I realized I wasn't so much watching people on the screen as I was watching a writer making comments through characters who were living out that same writing process. "Muse" is an allegory rolled into a Voyager tale which itself is rolled into a myth.

Menosky often uses themes of myth, legend, or history in his stories, like the society in "Blink of an Eye" or Janeway's past in "11:59" as recent examples, or the truly unique "Darmok" (a TNG classic) as a more distant one. Even bizarre power-play/mental-takeover premises like "Dramatis Personae" (DS9) or the failed "Masks" (TNG) revolved around the re-enactment of ancient conflicts that were more legendary than they were tangible.

"Muse," which centers on an alien playwright who vies to make a difference with the written word, is a return to the idea of myths while also being an oddly, almost pointedly self-aware Voyager episode. This is not an entertainment in the usual Voyager sense; it's slow-paced and cerebral, in a storytelling universe that generally prefers to be fast-paced, simple, and stylized. It's a story that seems more personal, and it refuses to supply the immediate-gratification type of payoffs.

I found it a compelling hour, simply because of the way the real writer's voice comes through as a melding of the fictional writer's experiences in telling his own story. That fictional story is of the starship Voyager and its travels, a story inspired by "actual" events. The playwright is a man on a primitive world. His name is Kelis (Joseph Will). As the episode begins, his troupe is performing the story of Voyager, as learned through the logs of the Delta Flyer, which along with its lone passenger, B'Elanna Torres, has crashed near Kelis' thinking grounds.

Might as well get the obvious gripe out of the way: Yes, "Muse" employs a major cliche by crashing the Delta Flyer—again. What's more is how by episode's end it's not even made clear whether it will be salvaged (one line of dialog would've sufficed), although we can obviously assume so simply because of the Law of the Reset Button [TM]. (Away missions in shuttles or the Flyer are more dangerous than they can possibly be worth; when was the last time one didn't end with a crisis or crash?)

Anyway, Torres has lay unconscious for eight days (isn't that pretty serious?), and when she awakens, Kelis wants her help. He needs to write a sequel play for his acting troupe to perform, and he needs Torres to supply him with new material about this ship called Voyager. Kelis' troupe performs for the local patron, the guy who holds the power in this particular clan in this society's caste system. The world is apparently a fragmented place of often-warring factions. Kelis' patron liked the first Voyager play and wants another, and has given Kelis one week to have it ready for performance. Kelis isn't sure what to do next; he needs his muse, as it were, and B'Elanna turns out to be it.

"Muse" is patient in a way that is rare these days for Voyager. There are a lot of scenes where we've just got B'Elanna and Kelis in a room talking, which is what a lot of Trek used to be about.

I found B'Elanna's approach to Kelis to be true in its pragmatism; she isn't very nice to him initially. Kelis believes B'Elanna is an "eternal," though given the situation and conversations I never quite understood the nature of this people's belief system concerning the eternals (do the apparently mortal gods routinely fall from the sky, and are they routinely nursed back to health by the people?). B'Elanna uses her influence as an eternal—and especially as Kelis' new muse—to obtain resources she needs to repair the Flyer's communication system. When Kelis says he'll be executed if caught trespassing on his patron's grounds while looking for B'Elanna's dilithium, B'Elanna responds with, well, don't get caught. So after Kelis helps B'Elanna, she has to spill her guts in the interests of fairness, and Kelis gets his new material. The next day he announces to his actors, "I've been visited by inspiration herself." Indeed.

The alien society is perhaps excessively humanesque, but no matter—the point here is the issue of storytelling, and that's where "Muse" is insightful. The story frequently employs the common Shakespearean device of the play within a play, and we see several rehearsals that are sort of funny in their truthful, understated way.

I liked the subtle take on the actor versus the writer, which certainly happens in television production. Kelis, trying to convey Tuvok truthfully, has written an emotionless part the actor doesn't want to perform. The buried dialog here is a take on the TV actor who says, "You don't understand my character," while the writer is saying, "No, you don't understand the character I'm writing for you." At the same time, the burden of responsibility lies on the writer; it's hard to completely blame an actor if the character as written truly doesn't make sense.

Perhaps the most intriguing moments are the direct reflections on writing for an audience on a weekly deadline. When you have to turn out a script in seven days (or even less), what happens if you have no idea how the story ends? I'm not sure how often that happens in real life for TV writers (considering a staff's story break process, etc.), but Kelis' problem is that he's writing on the fly, knowing he has to come up with something that's satisfying in its journey from A to B, all the while not knowing what exactly B is. That makes the process an exercise in non-scientific spur-of-the-moment improvisation.

Hence, standby elements and contrivances. Oh, we know all about Voyager's use of those (see crash of Delta Flyer above). But so do the writers. And there's almost a sense of lament in "Muse" that stories have to utilize formula and contrivances in order to get where they need to go. There's a point where Kelis is baffled as to where his story is going. He needs something to surprise the audience—a sudden twist, a reversal of fortune. What he needs is a mechanical contrivance that's entertaining (like Icheb turning out to be a bio-engineered time bomb in "Child's Play"; one of Kelis' twists here is that Seven is really the Borg Queen). A Wise Old Man emerges from the shadows to remind Kelis that success lies in finding the truth of the story, and he says that poets these days are looking for the quick gimmick to manipulate the audience. "It wasn't always that way," he muses. (And just which road into storytelling hell is Voyager—and all of us, for that matter—driving down, or should we ask if that's the subtext here?)

Menosky seems to be doing some jibing here. Jibing himself, jibing other writers, jibing the audience (for demanding certain qualities that lead shows like "Tsunkatse" to be the highest rated of the season for reasons that aren't about matters of the intellect), and maybe even jibing the studio (for dumb-down marketing of said products strictly in terms of their would-be visceral impact). When should entertainment be art, and when should it just be potboiler silliness for the masses? (Exercise: Juxtapose Hamlet and Titus Andronicus.)

There are plenty more interesting touches here, including the in-joke where Kelis scripts Janeway and Chakotay into kissing. This is a fan fantasy you will never see carried out on the real Voyager, and we're obviously getting major winkage on behalf of the writers. What's enlightening is the conversation afterward where B'Elanna doesn't see the point of all the frivolous kissing scenes. ("Harry kissing the Delaney sisters?") How is this relevant beyond getting an easy rise out of the audience? Of course, Voyager has its own version of this: Lately I've been calling it the Voyager Action Insert—an "action" scene that exists solely for the sake of action that might appeal to a mass audience but is fundamentally unnecessary to the story actually being told. (The VAI was most recently used in "Child's Play" and "Ashes to Ashes.")

Kelis says his hope is to use love as the language to instill peace into his patron's heart, doing his part to change the ways of the world. ("The perfect play might even stop a war," he says hopefully.) Pretty idealistic, but is it plausible? The story seems optimistic on this point, though it doesn't expect overnight results. Of course, today in our world, anyone expecting to change the world with a script is probably just delusional. Perhaps the best a screenwriter could hope for is a film like Titanic, which has appeal to every demographic conceivable. Sure, a lot of people appreciate it, but it doesn't change the world.

As we rise out of the subtext and back into the "text" for a moment, I'd like to say that the routine plot regarding the search for Torres and Kim was executed with an understated solemnity that was more effective than I had anticipated. There's a lot here conveyed with looks and pauses rather than dialog, and it seemed the crew actually for once believed the possibility that they'd lost two officers. The way the episode keeps Harry completely out of the show for the first few acts also carries with it a weird sense of uncertainty; the plot allows us to wonder exactly what happened while the story involving Kelis is kept at the forefront.

I also enjoyed Tuvok's silent quest through sleepless nights as he worked to figure out ways of tracking down the missing Flyer. It shows a humanistic concern for his fellow crew members in a Vulcan-like way, which is never spelled out in dialog. His scenes are intercut with scenes on the planet where an actor fears that the Tuvok character will come off as an unsympathetic monster if he isn't allowed to act out his emotions. (Ah, but not if the writing establishes the character well.) I also got a kick out of Tuvok falling asleep on the bridge after days without sleep. After all, he's a Vulcan, not Superman.

Other touches are subtle too, like the relationship between Kelis and one of his actresses, Layna (Kellie Waymire), which turns slightly messy when Layna becomes convinced Kelis is having an affair with the mysterious woman whom she suspects is an eternal, perhaps even B'Elanna Torres herself. There's a brief, nicely acted scene where Layna confronts B'Elanna in the Flyer and asks her to stay away. A scene that could've come across as forced comes across as sincere; Waymire does a good job with a small moment.

The central crisis of the story involves Kelis having no idea how he's going to end his B'Elanna-centered play, right up to opening night, and even as the play is being performed. He needs the answer from B'Elanna, who decides to help him in the eleventh hour, just as Voyager has located the survivors and is beginning its rescue operation. (Harry turns up not long before this, having landed on the same planet in an escape pod. His role here isn't that important.)

What I thought fell a bit short was the payoff, where the real world meets the poet's world. I see what Menosky was going for here, but there's some awkwardness in the execution. The end of Kelis' play is unscripted onstage improvisation, with the real B'Elanna deciding to write the end by making her actual departure the one that also supplies the play's (ending with the spectacular "special effect" of her beam-out). But there's some off-kilter-ness to the way Layna attempts to expose B'Elanna and the way the patron assumes it to be part of the act. And most notably, I didn't think B'Elanna's sentimentality here was believable. When she says goodbye she's practically breaking down into tears, which seems a bit much. This is too clearly Menosky's sentiment rather than B'Elanna's. I didn't buy it, although I did find the entire notion of fiction meeting reality to be clever.

The episode was directed by Mike Vejar, Trek's current best. He often shows a cinematic slickness to his approach, and isn't afraid to move cameras around or even occasionally go hand-held. Here he's content to underplay, go slow, and nail down the camera, which is exactly what the material warrants.

Ironically, "Muse" strikes me as something that's precisely what Voyager typically does not represent. It has no action, no explosions, very little use of sci-fi technology or jargon, and minimal FX used only for the purposes of advancing the story at hand. And frankly, if Voyager were like this every week, I suspect very few people would be tuning in, because we do want to see stuff gettin' blowed up (me as much as the next person). But that doesn't mean it can't be well thought out in the meantime. When something explodes and we care, that's a lot better than when we don't.

So what's the answer? Is television simply entertainment that shouldn't be scrutinized, analyzed, or held to a standard other than sheer, dumb entertainment value? Or should we demand more intellect, more patience, more depth in our stories and characters, even if it means ignoring the "wisdom" of demographics, abandoning quick payoffs, and hoping the sizable portion of us will stick it out and wait for the slower realizations? The subtext in "Muse" seems to argue that it's all about the balance between those two extremes. The hard part is finding it—week after week, on deadline.

Next week: The wrath of Kes.

Previous episode: Live Fast and Prosper
Next episode: Fury

Season Index

51 comments on this review

indijo - Sun, Jan 13, 2008 - 11:48am (USA Central)
I'll take a thoughtful story-line like this over the typical sensationalistic garbage every time. Well done, Menosky, Vejar, and all!
Josh - Fri, Mar 7, 2008 - 1:27pm (USA Central)
This is actually my favorite episode of Voyager. It's a great send-off for Menosky, who certainly wasn't shy about how he felt writing for Voyager.

This is also one of your best written reviews. After first watching this episode my wife didn't care for it, so I made her read you review and you swayed her.
Odon - Sat, Apr 5, 2008 - 8:14am (USA Central)
This episode clearly drew a lot of inspiration from Ancient Greece, so the idea of 'Eternals' having flaws (sickness, rivalry, love) like the Greek gods and demigods didn't seem strange. Similarly Kelis' belief that a play could bring about change is more plausible in an age that's less media-saturated than our own.
tonyinjapan - Tue, May 20, 2008 - 4:57am (USA Central)
Nice. I like the concluding speech by Kelis at the end, and the cast of the play bowing to the audience. Quite moving, especially given the context.
impronen - Mon, Sep 22, 2008 - 8:28am (USA Central)
It was fun how Kelis was also a clear "duplicate" of Shakespeare. Having to write to patrons, having his own party and writing shows that were under constant revision and rewriting. Not to mention that Seven being a Borg Queen would be exactly something he would have written, if he'd done Star Trek...
chuko - Thu, Jan 22, 2009 - 7:16pm (USA Central)
This is the one episode of Voyager that's really stuck with me since I first saw it. It's unique.
Zarm - Fri, Dec 4, 2009 - 12:06pm (USA Central)
Along with Tinker Tenor and Living Witness, I consider this one of Voyager's best. (Then again, I like Macrocosm, so take my opinion for what it's worth.) It's unconventional, an interesting look at the crew from an outside perspective (and perhaps, in some ways, subtly Belanna's view of her fellow crew), and a fantastic ending practically begging for a follow-up, but all the stronger for instead being left to the imagination and used as food for thought.
Ken Egervari - Mon, Dec 14, 2009 - 7:55pm (USA Central)
Surpringly a good episode, although a bit slow at parts. The ending was rather nice.

The one thing I don't get with this series... is how does this fit into the bigger picture? What is the point?

And more over... why does the episode happen at all? Why do any of these shuttle crash shows happen? Why are they out in shuttles in the first place? Isn't the point to go home? Why explore every nick and granny of the galaxy for?

I know the show has brought this point up... and sometimes, it makes sense. Other times, I just don't understand why Voyager is 10 light years away as they send their shuttles out in another direction for. Why doesn't voyager just go itself?

I just never understand this. I don't understand how shuttles have faster propulsion systems to go faster than Voyager. Makes no sense. I don't understand why Voyager can't do any of the things these shuttles do... I mean... what does Voyager do... sit around and do nothing while 2 or 4 crew members go off and do something "more important"?

Even if a shuttle was needed to explore something Voyager couldn't... why is Voyager so damn far away for? And then they lose track of the shuttles over and over again on these episodes... never questioning why they send the shuttles out in the first place. Rediculous.

And what's up Tuvok? Does his mini sleepless story have any point at all? Even a Vulvan thinks not sleeping for 10+ days is logical? Why isn't anyone else looking for B'Elanna and Harry? Why is it only Tuvok... where he has to spend his entire resources by himself to look for them? Don't they have a freaking crew to help?

While the episode is good... the premise on how it comes out to be is absurd... as are all the shuttle crash episodes. It makes no sense how they came to be. None at all.
Michael - Tue, Jul 13, 2010 - 2:15pm (USA Central)
3.5 stars; are you serious!?! Jammer, my friend, if this is 3.5 stars, then the last couple of episodes should be awarded THIRTY-FIVE stars!!! This show is totally devoid of both science and fiction (certainly 24th-century-relevant fiction); it's totally without nuance or a meaningful point. It's basically 38 minutes of Torres' interaction with a primitive thespian or about the primitive thespians themselves, with 2 minutes of her poking around the Delta Flier assaying to repair some of its functions. They may as well have shown a histrionic cast from ancient Greece rehearsing some crap from Euripides.

Torres ends up on a medieval planet one of whose knuckle-dragging inhabitants figured out how to play the log recordings that are part of the shuttle's computer. Yeah, like William Shakespeare would've been able to reformat a hard drive in the 1500s.

Jesus...

The majority of the show is mind-numbingly BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORIIIIIIIIIIIIIING to hell and back! Harry "Can't-Get-A-Lock" Kim turns up at a point - mercifully, near the end of the show - after trekking for 200km. I'm surprised he didn't sprain his ankle on a dandelion somewhere along the way. I was half expecting him to volunteer to act in the "play." Instead, it's Torres who does it. Oh, brother...

BTW, the "aliens" show their support for the actors by clapping, just like the humans. How likely is that? Neelix The Asspain strutting around with a pot of coffee and plonking himself down next to Tuvok to give him a pep-talk. Are such scenes really necessary?? Oh, there are SO many things stupid and ludicrous about this episode that it's futile to even attempt to critique it. This kind of trash belongs in the Chronicles of Narnia, NOT A SCI-FI SCHOW!!!!! PLEEEAAASE bring back that Fair Haven dreck: Even that's more interesting than this cerebral palsy of an episode.

The ONLY bit worth anything was the 20-second shot of Tuvok snoring on the bridge. It still has no redeeming value vis-a-vis the remaining 41 minutes.

Zero stars. And that's being extremely magnanimous. The guy who wrote it should be exiled to Cuba.
navamske - Fri, Oct 8, 2010 - 6:59pm (USA Central)
Only the execrable "Threshold" saves this from being the lamest episode of the series.
Procyon - Fri, Oct 8, 2010 - 7:59pm (USA Central)
I had no problem with this being a slow and quiet show. I liked the way the show made a reflection on the process of writing an episode. I was even slightly (to an infinitesimal degree) moved in some scenes.

Regardless of this I disliked this episode because of it's often absurdly cliche, and blatantly contrived nature. If the good elements had blended more seamlessly into a reasonable, believable whole I would probably really like it. Also; at this point there has been several consecutive "special", "outside in look" episodes. At least spread them out a bit and pay some attention to the main story. Unfortunately Voyager barely has a main story to pay attention to.

I guess I just don't like episodes that are obviously and completely constructed around a point that's trying to be made with very little subtlety or integration into the overall show. The plot is irrelevant and exists merely for the point, at least try to make the two coexist.
Then again, this might be demanding too much of the writers. I certainly couldn't have done it better myself.
Jay - Fri, Jan 28, 2011 - 12:10pm (USA Central)
This is easily the most tedious of Voyager episodes, and that's really, really saying something.
JGHali - Sun, Mar 20, 2011 - 11:42am (USA Central)
Well, if some of the comments to this review prove anything, it's that the Voyager writers knew their audience all too well.
Cloudane - Thu, Mar 31, 2011 - 6:46pm (USA Central)
Our resident 12 year old in "ranting about the episode having talking in it" shocker

A quiet and thoughtful episode and I didn't really give it the attention it deserved (was distracted with other things)
I didn't realise the story behind why this episode came about.

It seems very clever, to put forward all these thoughts and acknowledgements of a writer's weaknesses, a bit of fan service etc, whilst making the story itself work well enough that you don't realise unless you know already that it's more a commentary than an episode.

May re-watch.

Of course the Flyer will be absolutely spotless next episode :)
Michael - Thu, Mar 31, 2011 - 7:05pm (USA Central)
@Cloudane: Maybe some of us have a life outside Star Trek and go to Star Trek for a bit of sci-fi entertainment. Maybe some of us prefer to develop our characters and are interested in real-life real-world characters. Maybe some of us have a life, period.

If you want talking, try a talk-show or some emotional drama.

"Development" of fictional characters in a fictional world? What's the point!?

BTW, never watched DS9. Whenever I tuned in, it was showing a scene in a bar or somesuch with a few guys yapping on about the entanglements in their relationships. Wow, rivetting...
Cloudane - Thu, Mar 31, 2011 - 7:23pm (USA Central)
Michael - we're commenting on every episode of an old Star Trek series, and not a very good one at that. I don't think either of us can really make comment on how much of a life we have.

Having said that I do get out and have friends and listen to them etc. I'm guessing you probably tell them to shut up and drink, or whatever activity it may be.

Character development adds depth. What's the point in any theme (sci-fi, fantasy, you name it) if there's nothing to relate to? If you have stock characters with no personality, no thoughts, no insights? Seems pretty dull to me.

I could just as easily say if you want nothing but sci-fi, go and watch a documentary.
Michael - Fri, Apr 1, 2011 - 5:01am (USA Central)
Hehehe True re having a life! :D

No, real people I DO very much talk with and listen to. The keyword is REAL.

Star Trek I enjoy for the science (O.K., pseudoscience). If it didn't have that, it might as well be called Alice in the Delta Quadrant. SNOOZERS!

I simply don't like fiction and therefore don't care about fictional characters. I watch sitcoms for the humor, not characters. I watch action movie for the action, not the characters. I watch sci-fi for the "sci," not the "fi." It's my taste and, as the Romans used to say: De gustibus (et coloribus!) non est disputandum.

So yeah, I come across strongly in my comments. SO what? It's my opinion. You think I'm immature for not caring about Torres' netherworld barge nonsense and finding it irritating; I can't fathom that anyone but a dreamy kid without friends to engage in fantasy-world games would find that interesting in a sci-fi show.

If Torres had spent the 45 minutes in The Barge harping on about an ancestor of hers who was a descendant of Moses and then traversed the Biblical lineage, can you seriously tell me you'd find that enjoyable or in any way instructive?!?
dan - Fri, Apr 1, 2011 - 1:05pm (USA Central)
@ mike and claudaine ... red alert.. please take your meds...
Cloudane - Fri, Apr 1, 2011 - 3:42pm (USA Central)
No I just find the OMG LOTS OF CAPS AND EXCLAMATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just makes things come across as a little immature. To each his own taste in sci(-fi).. carry on
Ken - Fri, Apr 1, 2011 - 5:02pm (USA Central)
I've already had this debate with Michael. I already explained to him in another episode (I forget which one) that Science Fiction does in fact include "fiction". I also brought up the whole documentary point as well.

Like I said in my other post, the only problem with this episode is the premise. I simply don't understand why Voyager sends out so many shuttles for, only to have them get shot down, crash or be taken hostage repeatedly. You'd think Janeway would just learn her lesson and stop sending out shuttles.

One thing I'd like to know is what the hell Voyager is doing when all of this is going on. And not just in this episode - but in any of the episodes where Janeway decides to leave a shuttle and 1 or more crew members stranded somewhere many light years away from Voyager.

Let's think about the practicability here... Voyager needs to get home. Doesn't sending a shuttle off in some other far off location slow the entire mission down? Don't they eventually have to meet up? How the hell is the shuttle supposed to "catch up" with Voyager? Seems to me that Voyager will have to backtrack and waste time, or wait for the shuttle.

I just don't see any reason why Voyager can't do the things the shuttles do. I never understood this. And let's not forget, just about every time they send a shuttle somewhere, something bad happens. I mean really, how many times does the shit need to hit the fan where they finally say, "Okay, maybe we shouldn't be sending out defenseless shuttles 30 light years away from Voyager anymore."

It's just annoying. You'd think the writers could think up another premise, but they've been doing this crap since Season 1 or 2 constantly, like leaving Chakotay alone in the Delta Quandrant in Kazon space, as just an example.

You'd think the crew would just like to get home.

That's really the only blemish on otherwise good episode. If you take it in isolation, the show is good. But in the context of the series? It sucks.
Kieran - Thu, Apr 14, 2011 - 2:57am (USA Central)
Meh, this episode had its moments (the Chaokotay/Janeway scene for instance) and the rehearsal scenes were good. I've done a bit of acting and I empathise with the guy who thought playing Tuvok would make him look like a bad actor. But as a whole, I just wasn't that interested in it. Maybe if it had focused on another character than Torres - I must admit I just can't warm to her even though I think Dawson's one of the better Voyager actors.

Then again I loved Tsunkatse, so what do I know?
BlightedSight - Fri, Aug 26, 2011 - 11:39am (USA Central)
Jammer: Torres has lay unconscious for eight days (isn't that pretty serious?)

It depends on how long a day would be on this planet. For all you know, a day might be 2 earth hours long.
Iceblink - Thu, Sep 8, 2011 - 3:31am (USA Central)
Loved this ep!! A unique story (although slightly spoiled by the fact it's hot on the heels of another episode that's about people impersonating the Voyager crew...oopsie), well told and surprisingly self-aware. I think Joe Menosky was definitely taking a few parting shots at the nature of the TV beast, and perhaps Voyager in particular. I found it clever, insightful and compelling.

As Jammer said (great review btw), this style of storytelling is perhaps not aimed at Voyager's target demographic (exhibit A: Michael's response above!). But heck, this is what I'm looking for in my Trek. I love intelligent TV and that's one of the reasons I love the previous incarnations of Trek and struggle with Voyager and Enterprise. This episode seemed very Trekkian and I'm glad to see any break from the usual formula and mindless action scenes. Like the best television, it has a pertinent message and it makes you think.
jake t 7 - Tue, Sep 13, 2011 - 4:30am (USA Central)
great episode. 5 popcorns
Matt - Sun, Sep 18, 2011 - 11:13am (USA Central)
If Tuvok's snoring scene had been featured in the previews, it would be the most accurate teaser a Star Trek episode ever had.
Nathan - Sat, Nov 12, 2011 - 1:21pm (USA Central)
Good episode. I didn't really care for the end, but it certainly kept my interest.
Cappo - Fri, Mar 16, 2012 - 6:01pm (USA Central)
I thought it was a quiet but interesting episode. I admit I was also planting seeds in a tray to grow seedlings for my garden while I was watching it but I don't think that enhanced the experience in some actiony-adventurey way. lol

I do vaguely remember that when I was a kid, this episode coming off as booooring... but today I see some of the meaning behind it, instead of only looking at the surface.

As for the characters debate in the comments... personally, if I don't like the characters I won't be interested in a show. (Incidentally, that's exactly the problem with a book I'm currently reading. I have no interest in the characters so I'm not enjoying the book, even though it's filled with descriptions of sci-fi 'splosions. But I digress.) It's not because I don't have any friends or have no life, as Micheal would suggest, but because that's what pulls me into the story. I don't need it to go too far, (I gave up on Stargate Universe after a half a season) but I don't care if the characters live or die, I don't care how they get out of whatever mess they're in this week.

Seems Micheal would prefer watching a modern "remake" of Captain Proton, or a screensaver depicting robots shooting fireworks, but I'd get bored of that fast. To each their own, not everyone has the same taste, but Trek is generally supposed to be about more than things going 'splody. Might want to try another show, there's plenty more.
Patchwerk - Sun, Apr 1, 2012 - 8:01pm (USA Central)
Cappo - I agree with your point verbatim... if the audience doesn't feel that they would lose something if one of the characters is suddenly gone, then why would they care what happens at all? This is one of the reasons I loved Firefly so much, in that the series established their characters so well right out of the gate, it was a thoroughly captivating show.

I really liked this episode, as it felt more like a good TNG outing than standard Voyager fare... even better knowing what drove it into existence. Unfortunately there was one directorial flaw that sent my nitpicker into overdrive and actually distracted me WAY more than it should have... particularly in the first few scenes, the Flyer was supposedly lying at a sharp angle... this obviously would lend to the perception that it was a particularly nasty crash this time... but, why, oh WHY did they have all of those candles burning if they were just going to tilt the camera to bring this across? All of the flames being perpendicular to the deck and not to the "real" horizon completely destroyed the illusion, and my sub-conscious immediately started playing the theme to the 1960's Batman series in my head.
Captain Jim - Wed, Apr 25, 2012 - 9:36pm (USA Central)
Sheesh, if some of these comments prove anything, Jammer, it's that a lot of people evidently *do* watch Star Trek just to see things blow up. They evidently can't handle anything more thoughtful than that.
Rosario - Sat, Jun 9, 2012 - 4:11pm (USA Central)
I just want to say that the old man's improv during the final act was phenomonal. I was laughing and clapping with how he just completely "fixed" every scene for the Patron haha Same old man that lectured on lazy poets these days haha!
Jelendra - Mon, Jun 11, 2012 - 1:50pm (USA Central)
I really liked this episode, a bit far fetched on some things, but overall a great episode.
Justin - Thu, Jun 14, 2012 - 11:15pm (USA Central)
Jammer, I agree with Josh that this is one of your absolute BEST reviews that I've read, and you've got some damn good ones. Truly insightful, in-depth, and thought provoking. I don't recall that I particularly liked or disliked "Muse" when I first watched it, but now I am really looking forward to re-watching it armed with the perspective you've provided. Mucho kudos and thanks for the brain candy.
Destructor - Mon, Aug 20, 2012 - 9:55pm (USA Central)
I love this episode- it's definitely in my top five, if not my favourite VOY episode of all time. I am stunned by the posters above who gave it zero. It's whip-smart, meta-reflexive, funny, touching, amazing script and performance from Dawson. I just love it. It's almost an apologia for all the crap VOY has given us this season, but I think it's also about Star Trek itself- the 'play that can bring peace'. Star Trek really did change the world, and I think Menosky's swansong was a tribute to that idea. I love this episode. 4 Stars.
Jack - Sun, Dec 2, 2012 - 10:32pm (USA Central)
It's funny that DS9 and VOY both had episodes with the same name, and both were steaming piles.
Take it easy - Sat, Jan 5, 2013 - 2:17am (USA Central)
@BlightedSight

Tuvok hadn't slept for 10 days and I remember hearing Janeway saying they are looking for them for 2 weeks (I think). So she should have been out for 8 normal days or so at a minimum.

But how the alien saying "8 days" from his perspective will be translated to us in 'earth' days? Is it earth days? BTW when they talk about days in StarTrek is it earth days? What about Vulcans and Klingons, they follow earth days in the ship?
Take it easy - Sat, Jan 5, 2013 - 2:25am (USA Central)
About character development, etc, I watch Star Trek because of SCI-fi and it is fascinating about star ships, future technology, etc. I too love the characters but I don't need them talking forever to establish their character. It should be part of the story plot and not standalone scenes for the sake of character development.

I am not much of an action fan, just a little bit for story sake. But I like more science and technology.

Jammer's reviews are more about character development and most of the time I don't agree with the ratings. The only reason I am reading this is because I can read episode by episode since I am watching it for the first time and don't want to read or discuss about episodes I haven't seen. This and cynicscorner are two places I know which I can read episode by episode.
Starbuck - Tue, Feb 26, 2013 - 10:28am (USA Central)
Sometimes it burns when I tinkle.
stargazer - Sat, Mar 9, 2013 - 8:56am (USA Central)
B'Elanna beaming (read: disappearing) in front of the audience is clearly a violation of the Prime Directive.
ProgHead777 - Thu, Jun 27, 2013 - 1:47am (USA Central)
I enjoyed this episode quite a lot. It reminded me A LOT of TOS in its tone and story while simultaneously being one of the most original stories Voyager told in its entire run. I found the scene where Chakotay informs Janeway of the content of the Delta Flyer's distress call to be very real and Janeway's stifled sob after Chakotay leaves the room nearly brought tears to my eyes. It's that sort of realistic depiction of human emotions that Voyager, and actually Trek in general, could have used a lot more of. I also ADORED the whole classical Greek theater motif of Kelis' plays. I think it would be quite a treat to see a few of Trek's greatest stories depicted in that genre.
azcats - Mon, Aug 19, 2013 - 10:56am (USA Central)
I always enjoy reading Michael's comments. I tend to follow along his way of watching SCI FI. i like the temporal changes and mysteries and plots.

while i can enjoy shows like this episode, it is not my most favorite or memorable.

i like the "Macrocosm" shows better.

1.5 Stars for entertainment. 3 stars for depth of a show.
SpiceRak2 - Mon, Sep 9, 2013 - 12:13am (USA Central)
With a title like, "Muse," I fully expected this episode to be about Jeri Ryan's character, Seven of Nine.

Maybe the REAL difference with this episode is that Seven has no dialog for a change. (JK!)
Lt. Yarko - Mon, Sep 9, 2013 - 4:29am (USA Central)
(sigh) I remember when I was satisfied with sci-fi that had no real character development. It was back when I was 12 and Empire Strikes Back had just come out. To be young again...

I fell asleep during this episode. I guess that's all I have to say about it. :)
Caine - Tue, Jan 21, 2014 - 5:19pm (USA Central)
The comments about "earth days" are landing smack in the middle of one of my biggest gripes with Star Trek.

In a galaxy populated by thousands of sentient species, Earth customs seem to be suprisingly universal. This episode ("Muse") alone shows us a few of them: "a day" seems to universally be an Earth day, although we are quite frequently dealing with species from other planets; the customs of (from a human point of view) completely alien species are exactly the same as human cuatoms - in everything from using applause to show your appreciation (as seen in this episode), also including standing ovation; and the list goes on and on and on, from the "universal translator" (try coming up with a good explanation as to how THAT thing actually works) to aliens from worlds that have never heard of Earth calling a flower something like a "Talaxian Petunia" (or whatever).

An ENORMOUS amount os stuff in Star Trek doesn't make any sense. At all. And that's not even including the weird psudoscience.
While I aknowledge that it DOES seem necessary to ignore lots of the obstacles between cultures and species from entirely different planets in order to get the story moving along, a lot of it just seems so incredibly ludicrous, that I'm having a hard time ignoring it in order to enjoy the stories.

The funny thing is, that I (of course) had the same gripes with Next Generation and DS9 - but both of those shows frequently made me buy into the story and the characters in such a way, that I forgot the general shortcomings of the Star Trek universe.

I'm afraid Voyager very, very seldomly plays that same "trick" on me. This epsiode is an example of that. I kind of liked it. Nothing more, nothing less. I wasn't seduced, swept away or thoruoghly entertained. It's just ... kind of there. Meh.
Nick - Fri, Jan 31, 2014 - 1:19pm (USA Central)
I know what you mean Caine. More often than not, voyager aimed for lowest common denominator in terms of plot and challenging its audience, or lack there of. Other sci-fi shows of the day, such as Lexx, Farscape, and Babylon 5, didn't have the big budget of Star Trek, yet were able to push the boundaries of the genre to provide 45 minutes of thought provoking entertainment.

However, if one can accept the conceits of the voyager universe, that species are all bipedal and breath the same mixture of o2 ect... This episode stands on the shoulders of previous Star Trek plots --- STOS the conscious of the king, and stTNG Darmok --- all episodes dependant on dialogue and abstract human ideals, minus special effect.
Hook-Up - Thu, Feb 27, 2014 - 9:23am (USA Central)
I left out some episodes while watching the entire series on DVD:

If I watch a Sy-Fy Series I want to see new ideas, new technologies, new lifeforms, new places ....
What I don't want to see is the VOY-Cast playing WW2 scenes, or being part of a black/white movie, or becoming citizens of an old fake Irish town and I don't want to see any more aliens being the exact copy of humans from a certain era in world history!!!

That was my problem with this episode as well:
Torres having the hundredths or so shuttle-crash of the Voyager Bridge officers - playing theater with the local Greeks or Romans or what so ever.
I don't need that - so I passed it.

Then I reed this high rating here and thought I give it a second chance ... and you won't believe it but it was ... BORING !!! ;-)

Sorry ... maybe it's somehow interesting when you know the background of the writer ... but besides that it was meaningless for me!

Nathan - Tue, Apr 1, 2014 - 1:53am (USA Central)
Menosky does a good job with the story by creating good drama, and entertains well. Aside from them cut, copy, paste approach, shuttle crash, stranded 30 light years away, I enjoyed the thespian style. Contrite ending violating the Prime Directive by 'ascending' via the transporter. In front of a Bronze age culture no less. Aren't the writers ever look ing at a Star Trek encyclopedia or a writers bible?
This was one of the better episodes of Voyager.I certainl agree with Jammer on his ep. Review.
Trekker - Wed, Apr 2, 2014 - 8:55pm (USA Central)
MEta-fiction is hard to rate, some people like it and others hate it.

I am also a fan of the Scream series, because the producer understands the issues with horror story writing and the genre. For that movie series, you can enjoy the story and the meta references within it.

A story within a story is an ancient tool of writing; it is introspective, but entertaining for thought if you like to dig deeper in to minutia.

Star Trek is a hybrid of high thinking stories and low brow action, which our comments prove. Some of us do like high concept stories like these and others prefer action sequences with torpedoes, shields, and "It's a good day to die!" repeated a million times.

What Star Trek does well is blend both to create entertainment, look at the movie Star Trek: "First Contact", a perfect blend of action and higher ideals of our first meeting with an extra-terrestial species.

For me, I give this episode 9.5/10 as a meta story and 3.5/10 as an action story.
Nic - Thu, May 8, 2014 - 8:59pm (USA Central)
This episode isn’t a masterpiece (there are a few too many convenient events) but it’s pretty close. The novelty of hearing the captain’s log recited by a Greek chorus was itself worth the price of admission, but of course there is a lot more going on here.

Yes, writing is a constant tight-rope walk between pleasing your audience and actually saying what you want to say. It’s very difficult to wholly accomplish both, most of the time you end up falling on one side or the other. But then, that’s why when it actually happens, you can appreciate it for its genius — because it’s so rare.

It didn’t occur to me while I watched it that the « searching for lost cremates » scenes on the ship were more realistic than usual, but Jammer has a point. Why isn’t it always like this instead of the boring procedural scenes we usually get?
Ric - Tue, May 27, 2014 - 12:13am (USA Central)
This is certainly not a bad episode. But I really do not understand how much people seem to like it. More, I let a sudden laugh happen when I read Jammer saying:

"So what's the answer? Is television simply entertainment that shouldn't be scrutinized, analyzed, or held to a standard other than sheer, dumb entertainment value? Or should we demand more intellect, more patience, more depth in our stories and characters, even if it means ignoring the "wisdom" of demographics, abandoning quick payoffs, and hoping the sizable portion of us will stick it out and wait for the slower realizations? "

It makes you feel that this episode was super philosophically deep, intellectually challenging, intrinsically demanding. Well, it was not. I would not go as far as to stay it was dumb or flat, for sure. It had some good mind-food to offer. However, I fell that the evaluation Jammer did was caught in that trap that, in times of Hollywood action silliness, equalizes slow to deep. What is in line with the unfair critics he usually made (in this review as well) about Voyager lacking these paced thoughtful moments. Having a faster pace, more action, explosions or FX never refrained Voyager from delivering some of the best character development in all Trek. The problems this show perhaps had (an many of which correctly pointed by Jammer's reviews) have, however, nothing to do with such characteristics.

Sort of nice episode. No more than that.
Andy's Friend - Tue, Jun 24, 2014 - 6:08am (USA Central)
THE ODYSSEY

The opening lines:


“Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit, and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was acquainted; moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save his own life and bring his men safely home.”

― Samuel Butler (1900)


“Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy.
He saw the townlands
and learned the minds of many distant men,
and weathered many bitter nights and days
in his deep heart at sea, while he fought only
to save his life, to bring his shipmates home.”

― Robert Fitzgerald (1961)


“Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven
far journeys, after he had sacked Troy’s sacred citadel.
Many were they whose cities he saw, whose minds he learned of,
many the pains he suffered in his spirit on the wide sea,
struggling for his own life and the homecoming of his companions.”

― Richard Lattimore (1965)

...and Robert Fagles (1996):

“Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,
fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.”
Andy's Friend - Tue, Jun 24, 2014 - 8:14am (USA Central)
^
MUSE

The Opening lines:

CHORUS: “Captain’s log, stardate 53896.
B’Elanna Torres has requested permission to take the Delta Flyer and search for dilithium.

Shining Voyager, far from home,
far from the gleaming cities of Earth!
Headstrong B’Elanna Torres and
young Harry Kim speed away from Voyager
on the Delta Flyer in search of their treasures.”

YOUNG HARRY KIM: “I've timmed the sails,
but the sea is rough.
Maybe we should return.”
HEADSTRONG B’ELANNA TORRES: “I know
what I am doing.”

CHORUS: “A wave as high as a mountain
struck the Delta Flyer. […]
Young Harry Kim left her side,
and B’Elanna Torres was thrown against the rocks.
The rocks of our very shore.””

KELIS: “Which is where I, Kelis the poet, found her.
Broken, dying.
She told me her story.
And now I’ve told you.”

[Applause]

PATRON: “An excellent conceit, that you discovered her yourself. But now that B’Elanna Torres has come to our shore, what will happen? Does Captain Janeway come searching for her, or does she give her up for lost?”

… “Here the townsfolk on the shore of the sea were offering sacrifice of black bulls to the dark-haired Earth-shaker. Nine companies there were, and five hundred men sat in each, and in each they held nine bulls ready for sacrifice. Now when they had tasted the inner parts and were burning the thigh-pieces to the god, the others put straight in to the shore, and hauled up and furled the sail of the shapely ship, and moored her, and themselves stepped forth. Forth too from the ship stepped Telemachus, and Athena led the way. And the goddess, flashing-eyed Athena, spake first to him, and said: “Telemachus, no longer hast thou need to feel shame, no, not a whit. For to this end hast thou sailed over the sea, that thou mightest seek tidings of thy father ― where the earth covered him, and what fate he met…” (The Odyssey, Book III)

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