Star Trek: Voyager


2.5 stars

Air date: 1/15/1996
Written by Nicholas Corea
Directed by Jonathan Frakes

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Don't make me laugh Starfleet ... and don't make me pull rank on you either." — B'Elanna to Harry

Nutshell: A plot-oriented episode with few unexpected turns. Inoffensively standard.

When the crew finds a mysterious robot drifting in space, Lt. Torres takes it upon herself to repair the damaged unit. It's a longshot, but her adept engineering skills are up to the challenge, and when she repairs the unit, it turns out to be more than just interesting technology, but a sentient artificial being.

The unit has a name—or, more appropriately, a designation. It's called 3947, and it's just one of an entire line of sentient robots produced by a now-extinct race known as the "Builders." The units do not have the programming to repair or replace their power units—only the Builders have that capability. Since B'Elanna can successfully repair power units, 3947 thinks she is a Builder. He asks her to build a new prototype unit which could be copied in the future without the assistance of a Builder. This way his robot race could revitalize their waning population and avert their imminent extinction.

B'Elanna is drawn into 3947's situation, so she asks Captain Janeway to approve the building of this prototype. Janeway can not approve this, though, because it would clearly be interfering in their culture. That's right—"Prototype" is another Trekkian take on the Prime Directive Issue. But that's just the first cliché—the second is the Nature of Life Argument.

It's a credit to the writers that, although these are both fairly jaded premises in the Star Trek universe, they can still keep things entertaining. Even if watching Torres and Janeway argue these issues is not all that compelling, it is a pleasure to see their points of view come to the surface. Janeway's Prime Directive argument here is much better suited to the premise than in the pedestrian "Time and Again," and much more polemical than the seemingly arbitrary (and relatively ambiguous) decision she made in "Caretaker." At the same time, this gives Torres her best vehicle since "Faces," revealing a sense of creation in her character that we haven't seen until now.

B'Elanna tells 3947 she can't build the prototype. 3947 finds this unacceptable. So when the Voyager meets 3947's ship to return its lost unit, he kidnaps B'Elanna and beams onto his ship—holding her under the condition of building the prototype model. If she refuses, the commander of the robots' ship will kill her and destroy Voyager.

"Prototype" is a marginal Voyager episode. The premise is so-so, with some above-average execution. But there are some general elements about the season that are beginning to show their exhaustion here. Take, for example, nearly the entire third act. This is where Janeway tries to negotiate with the alien ship for B'Elanna's return. Where the alien ship refuses. Where Janeway opens fire. Where the aliens return fire and cause the bridge set to smoke and explode and the camera to shake.

We get another scene like this:

Chakotay: "They're firing some kind of quantum resonance charges, Captain."
Tuvok: "Our aft shields are down to 53 percent and dropping."
Kim: "Rerouting power to aft shields."

[Ship rocks]
Tuvok: "Down to 24 percent."

How many iterations of this dialogue has the series supplied, concurrent with the bridge rocking, the lights dimmed, and the red alerts flashing? I can name six instances this season alone containing such scenes: (1) The protozan beating in "Elogium," (2) the unidentified alien attack in "Parturition," (3) another unidentified alien attack in "Persistence of Vision," (4) the severe atmospheric storm in "Tattoo," (5) the Kazon bombardment in "Maneuvers," and (6) the Mokra planetary defense strike in "Resistance." The similarity in these scenes is startling. Tuvok usually makes some status report, Kim usually confirms it, Janeway gives an order, the bridge shakes and some circuits explode. I, for one, am sick of these variations of act three. Voyager has so many pointless, unimaginative battles, and the creators don't come up with any spin to make them fresh. Instead they use the same clichés that give Star Trek its reputation for inept space combat. I'm game for something new.

Then there's Paris, who I'm beginning to think is the Official Commentary Person on the Exchange of Dialogue on the Viewscreen. How many times this season has Janeway or Chakotay talked to the aliens on the other ship, and then after its over Pairs remarks something like "They're a friendly sort"? Granted, this isn't exactly a crucial element of the show or the series, but it's something that pops up enough that I thought I'd mention it for some trivial food for thought.

There's also a lot of unnecessary technobabble in the early acts. B'Elanna spouts so much technical gobbligook in act one that it begins to sound like a joke. Perhaps some of it is. One sarcastic response the Doctor has ("That's exactly what I was going to say") somewhat lessens the annoyance of the non-stop jargon, but one thing Voyager has entirely too much of is technobabble. To the producers: Decrease it. Please.

But I digress. Despite these annoyances, the story works, even while being one of those connect-the-dots type of stories where you can all-too-easily follow the progress from one anticipated step to the next. These steps include the arrival of another ship piloted by rival robot units, B'Elanna's successful construction of the prototype, and the revelation that these two warring robot races actually killed their Builders. B'Elanna realizes that by building this prototype she would be allowing one side to create an army and overwhelm the other—exactly what the Builders wanted to prevent by inhibiting their abilities. This gives B'Elanna no option but to destroy her prototype, despite the consequences to her or the Voyager. Fortunately, right after B'Elanna destroys the prototype, Paris comes to her rescue with his hotshot shuttlecraft piloting skills, and while the two robot ships are fighting, Voyager slips away.

How does this episode overcome a mediocre premise and a number of clichés? I'm not sure. Probably because, aside from a few isolated moments, the directing and acting is on-the-money. The writing supplies some good character moments and some nice touches, too. Best is Chakotay's line to Paris, "I'd hate to lose another shuttle." (After all the shuttles Voyager has lost, it's good to see the writers finally acknowledge it. Those things don't grow on trees in the Delta Quadrant, after all.) And Paris' response "Your concern for my welfare is heartwarming," is a good touch, reminding us of the history these two guys have. They never really liked one another. I can't remember the last time we had any character interaction between these two, and this little exchange is fun. Now it's time for a story putting these two on some mission together.

Well, enough about "Prototype." It's okay, never mind some hackneyed ideas. It makes a likable B'Elanna Torres show.

Previous episode: Resistance
Next episode: Alliances

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75 comments on this post

Christopher Alexander
Thu, Feb 7, 2008, 3:48pm (UTC -6)
While it is a Star Trek tradition that internal security is very poor, I felt this episode was ridiculous. It was OBVIOUS that the robot posed a grave threat - the survival of its race was at stake - but the crew seems totally oblivious and allows it to kidnap Torres with ease. At least they could have assigned a couple token redshirts to guard it!
David Forrest
Sat, Mar 8, 2008, 5:57pm (UTC -6)
I just re-watched this episode and while it did have some cliches in it, I did enjoy. I would given it a 3 star rating. The technobabble was a bit much, but it was okay in the sense they were discussing robotics and therefore there were going to be some long technological names. The story moves at a swift pace and the direction under Frakes was teriffic. Frakes did comment that the costumes for the Robots was awful and that could have been a little more creative, but I did enjoy the episode. The conversations between Torres and Janeway were great and we started to get a sense that Torres now respects Janeway and sees her as her captain. Overall, I defintely enjoyed this episode to recommend it.
Sun, Jun 29, 2008, 7:24pm (UTC -6)
You know, if the robot had told me that the builders were all dead, I think my first question would have been, "Oh? What happened to them?"

But that's just me.
Mon, Jul 7, 2008, 10:11pm (UTC -6)
I was bored to tears by this episode.

Reading the season 2 reviews, I realized that I was bored to tears with most of them. Not a good season.

Season 1 was the best season I think.
Tue, Sep 23, 2008, 9:21pm (UTC -6)
Totally agree with the 'internal security' comment. After the Kazon captured transporter technology in Maneuvers (all of 2 episodes ago), you'd think Voyager would stop all transports (or use of other ship technology) by non-crewmembers. Oh well.

Also, it appears that the writers were starting to realize that Voyager being the strongest ship in the Delta Quadrant was going to be bad for drama.

And Kes gets like 2 I give this episode 1/2 star for each Kes line.
Mon, Aug 3, 2009, 11:36am (UTC -6)
The "friendly sort" bit got old fast, and it was lame the first time.
Sun, Aug 8, 2010, 7:23pm (UTC -6)
Also a tiresome cliche:

CREW MEMBER: "There's an unauthorized transport in progress."
CAPTAIN: (after wasting a second looking shocked) "Block it!"
CREW MEMBER: "I can't!" or "It's too late!"

How about they add this to their copy of "Starfleet For Dummies": If there's an unauthorized transport in progress, block it!
Tue, Feb 8, 2011, 3:44am (UTC -6)
I thought the ship was supposed to be getting home? Why does the crew pick up stray piece of chunk in the galaxy on their way back for?

The premise of this episode just doesn't work. Tuvok was right - let the power drain and be on your way. Logic does in fact work.

I just don't understand what any of this has to do with getting home. B'Elanna talks about this challenge as if it's more important than getting back to the Alpha Quadrant.

I can understand investigating things that have a reasonable chance of getting them home, like in the episode "Cold Fire". But I have to draw the line when it comes to robotic beings, rusted iron, etc. Are there sensors even configured to detect this crap at warp 9.9? Absurd.

And then make it out to be a moral issue... and that's fine, but it doesn't work for this kind of series. We've had these kinds of episodes on TNG - a series built for that sort of thing.

For a crew that needs to get home, they certainly know how to waste their time.
Sat, Mar 19, 2011, 9:03pm (UTC -6)
@Ken- it's also part of the premise of the show that they are also trying to explore the Quadrant as they go- and it seems clear they're not constantly going at maximum warp- they're always stopping to check stuff out.

Anyway, I like this episode, it's a bit 'stock', but as stock VOY episodes go, it's enjoyable.
Sun, Apr 10, 2011, 4:52pm (UTC -6)
That's very hypocritical of Janeway to say she must do everything possible to get her crew home... and at the same time... check out every nook and cranny in the galaxy.

There has to be some standard of which to judge their exploration. If that exploration will help them stay alive, get the ship to move faster, investigate wormholes... fine. Those things support the premise of getting home.

I submit that investigating iron in space does not do this.
Thu, Apr 21, 2011, 10:32pm (UTC -6)
@Jammer I am so glad you brought up the Tom Paris bit! I was thinking the same thing while I was watching this episode. Tom said his "very polite, these automated units" line and I rolled my eyes so hard I think I might have sprained my eyeballs. This show take formulaic writing to the extreme.

You know, I watched Star Trek Enterprise in it's totality a few months ago and kept up with your reviews as I went along. You did a really funny (and very apt) review of "the xindi" where you went off on a tangent about Berman and Braga creating scripts using the F keys on their keyboard in the writers office for automatic script cues. I think you had pressing F12 as the "send Archer and Crewmate to jail" button. But, man, I feel like that scenario is even more plausible on Voyager.

F1 - the crew finds some random crap floating in space, stops to check it out.

F2 - Spatial anomaly, shields drop to 15% instantly

F3 - Hostile alien

F4 - Someone gets kidnaped

F5 - We found humans/an alpha quadrant alien! Again!

F6 - Tom Paris makes what some writer clearly thought was a witty remark

F7 - unauthorized transport

F8 - ten minute long space battle

F9 - something involving the *ugh* holodeck

F10 - pointless Neelix scene

You get the idea.

It bothers me so much how they never really show Voyager deal with all the beatings it takes. The ship loses it's shields, has hull breaches and generally takes a licking in almost every episode. And yet, in the next episode the ship is always fine. It doesn't even have a scratch on it! It's ridiculous.

I always know that whatever kind of thrashing the ship takes in a given episode won't ever really matter, because Voyager is a show that refuses to really think about consequences. It makes it very hard to care about all these fourth act space shoot outs.

@Ken I agree with you on this point. It always bothered me how Voyager seems to stop for every little thing. It's like going for a drive with my mom. When she's in a certain mood, she wants to stop for everything! If we pass near a neighborhood where someone she knows used to live, we have to go drive by. If we are near a place where someone she knows used to work, we are going to alter our course to go see how the place looks now. Suddenly what should have been an hour or two with mom has turned into an entire day. And that's fine, because I love my mom.

But, if we found ourselves suddenly stuck in, say, Mexico and discovered that we had to find a way to get my mom back to Detroit and she still wanted to stop at every little restaurant or bar she ever had a good memory at, that would be a different story. I would have to say "sorry, mom. But, I'm not stopping this car to see if that guy in Nuevo Laredo still sells those churros you like.", and that is pretty much how I would feel about Janeway stopping for every little particle of rust on the way back to the alpha quadrant if I were on her crew too.

Ok, about this specific episode, did anyone else think the robot kind of looked like Lal from TNG painted silver? That's some pretty disappointing costuming. Still, the story moved well and I always enjoy Be'lanna. I agree with Jammer on this one. It was definitely inoffensively standard.

Two stars from me.
Wed, Aug 3, 2011, 9:48am (UTC -6)
I really liked this episode. I consider it one of my favourites. It was really creepy at times.
Wed, Aug 17, 2011, 8:05am (UTC -6)
Ohoho Data is totally to blame for Torres and Janeway trusting creepy sentient robots.

I don't feel enough attention was paid to the fact that unlike your standard should-we-cure-the-virus-or-not prime directive ethical dilemma ROBOTS DON'T DIE and giving them the ability to procreate at will means they can expand their numbers exponentially until the galaxy runs out of metal ore.
Wed, Oct 19, 2011, 4:58am (UTC -6)
This episode was so-so. The roboter ideas didn't really look fresh for me, but then it hasn't been done in Star Trek I guess, at least not too often.

The technobabble in Voyager was annoying not only because it was too much, but also because it is often inconsistent and seemingly made up on the fly. The writers were doing a really bad job in that regard.

Space battles become really annoying after a while. No matter how technologically evolved the alien space ships are, Voyager will always be in mortal danger but it also has a fighting chance every time. Voyager is as powerful as the story needs it to be. Instead, the writers could have tried to adapt the story to Voyager's power more often.
Tue, Mar 13, 2012, 12:09am (UTC -6)
By-the-numbers sci-fi story + By-the-numbers Trek writing = mediocre episode. BUT add great acting and direction and it becomes a fun hour of television. I like this one.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012, 8:19pm (UTC -6)
This blog site has really influenced my Trek viewpoint. When they were first out, I hated (HATED) DS9 and its space cowtown premise, where every few days some local rowdies had to be rounded up and dealt with. I also hated Sisko and his "I'm having an anxiety attack" method of acting. But now I can appreciate its arc and character growth as superior to the Reset Button mentality of TNG and Voyager. Think of how great Voyager could have been if, instead of examining every nook and cranny of the Delta quadrant, in a paler version of TNG, we showed a ship growing progressively beaten down, held together with chewing gum and baling wire, where the focus was always on getting a few miles closer to home. The prime directive would have to be somewhat battered, and morality would take a back seat to forward momentum. Characters would grow more irascible, less Star Fleety, and there'd be a lot more pairing off. But it could have been a great series.
Sat, Dec 15, 2012, 7:16am (UTC -6)
@ duhknees

I couldn't agree more.

While I still really hate Sisko (To the point where, when I ran an RP in DS9 universe, Sisko was the first one to get... removed...), the *rest* of the universe is awesome!

On this: "Oh god what have I done?" WTF? Srsly?! wow...
Sat, May 18, 2013, 3:39am (UTC -6)
I'm convinced Weyland-Yutani was one of the founders of Starfleet. Why else do they never learn that studying obviously malicious aliens and technology should be done before you reactivate them on your ship?
Tue, May 21, 2013, 5:40am (UTC -6)
Janeway: "Unfortunately extinction is often the natural end of evolution."

Four words: WHAT THE FUCK, BITCH???
Tue, May 21, 2013, 5:49am (UTC -6)
"the Reset Button mentality of TNG"

Examples, please
Wed, May 22, 2013, 4:14pm (UTC -6)

In response, she says: "Two words. Dear Doctor."
Wed, May 29, 2013, 6:35am (UTC -6)

Is that supposed to be some kind of defense to what Janeway said?
Sat, Jun 1, 2013, 2:01pm (UTC -6)
No. Just pointing out that that her version of the Prime Directive is shamefully consistent with later Star Trek productions.
Thu, Aug 1, 2013, 12:48am (UTC -6)
The first unit was the voice of Dr. Theopolis from Buck Rogers by the way...
Fri, Oct 11, 2013, 7:39pm (UTC -6)
As an engineer, I could relate to B'elanna's drive to repair and create - it's a wonderful feeling when things are brought back to "life". But as an engineer I also watch lots of robot-apocalypse movies so I saw through this plot from minute one. Being the Chief engineer of a starship she should have known better and designed in some clever after-warranty destructor timer like Samsung engineers do today.
Mon, Oct 14, 2013, 3:24am (UTC -6)
"Janeway: "Unfortunately extinction is often the natural end of evolution."
Four words: WHAT THE FUCK, BITCH???"

As harsh as it sounds, she's right... species that don't adapt to their environment and such and thus evolve, more than likely will go extinct...

Natural Selection...

However, in the case of these robots, I'm not sure... but in a biological organism, it's true.
Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 8:53am (UTC -6)
That's two episodes I didn't watch in their entirety because the premise bored me to death.

This one, I want to slap B'Ellana, or more precisely slap the actress and her ridiculous over-acting. The way she's almost crying for the robot at the beginning, you'd think it's her husband!

Ridiculous. I love Voyager, I hope it's going to get better again...
Sun, Mar 2, 2014, 11:11pm (UTC -6)
Another solution would be to give the prototype robot new programming. 3947 seemed open to possibilities that the other robots were not. Create programming that is of a more peaceful nature, and hardwire it into the power source. Then, give it to both sides. Of course, there wasn't time for that.

But the robots should have enough information to get a head start, if they have been monitoring what Torres was doing.
Wed, Mar 12, 2014, 11:21am (UTC -6)
I'm a little confused by this episode. Aren't the robots passed warp technology? If so how is it interferring with their natural evolution.

1) Preventing a volcano from exploding and destroying developing civilzation violates the prime directive.

2)If the civilization has the technology to ask the federation for help it can they save them no violation of Prime Directive.

Janeway here I think needed to ask the question is this species Warp capable? If so then help them. The vulcans did for humans.
Thu, Mar 27, 2014, 3:33am (UTC -6)
Ha, pretty comendable premise. But in fact so many flaws that it gets on the nerves. One of them is precisely the inconsistente way they have used the Prime Directive in na episode heavily based on it. Like: "Torres my darling, we cannot interfere saving their lifes. Oh yes, but we have brought one of them to life like gods, and with my authorization! Holy crap!".

Another is pointed by Liam just above: ha, these robots migth have warp tech. What would be helpful as hell and also let officers much more free without stepping on the Prime Directive. But did someone thought of learning if they had before making decisions? Nope, who the hell needs warp, right?

Still, there was something powerfull in the oldschool way the look of these robots. And paradoxically, something juicy in the "lesson" Torres learns about why the heck there is a Prime Directive. This was quite interesting and a relief, considering how DS9 for instance seems to exist in a parallel world where there is no Prime Directive at all...

Finally, talking about DS9 and Voyager comparison, I have to congratulate the comment made by @duhknees. Well done! Although I still didn't watch Voyager to the end and although I still think DS9 got really bad from the end of season 5, Voyager totally had the potential do use a "shades of grey" tone, a darker tone, much better than DS9. Voyager would have been an ideal instalment to explore trully interesting dubious moralities that emerge when the crew becomes isolated for too long. When they have to fight and help others in a hopeless scenario. When they loose (btw they should loose sometimes) crew members all the time they find planets offering good live conditions. Officers like Sisko go crazy in DS9 (even becoming religious from the nowhere), start doing all sort of things that would be reason enough for going to prison (like destroying entire planets). And the lazy excuse is alway the high pressure they were under because of being in the eye of the confront. What means: by expieriencing what they were there in the station for... While Voyager had the true potential for a great Trek show powered by real moral ambiguity without having to completely disrespect usual Starfleet and Federation portrayal as DS9 did in the end. While in DS9 some viewers even seem "human condition" talking louder - what btw is philophically silli and the ultimate disrespect to Trek as it is in any other show - in Voyager, shades of grey cast by a real continuity could deliver the debate on how people individually sustein their values when they stay too far and for too long from the social environment where their ethics were forged.

Of course, I digress, because it was not what happened to Voyager. Unfortunatelly. Voyager missed a very good oportunity, and the fact the comendable premise of this episode in what regards Torres dealing with respecting the Prime Directive againm, ends up not having real significance in the next episodes. Sad.
Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 9:00am (UTC -6)
Pretty decent Torres stuff. Otherwise, it is typical filler that is watchable enough with a few nicely conveyed character moments and some by-the-numbers plotting.

2.5 stars.
Wed, Oct 8, 2014, 12:59pm (UTC -6)
Apart from the unsufferable character that is Belanna, I actually enjoyed this episode, and it is one I have remembered many years after I first saw it.

I thought the premise was very "old-star trek". But at least there was an attempt at creating new aliens, with an interesting backstory, and I thought it worked. I'd give it 3.5 stars.
Sat, Dec 6, 2014, 4:03pm (UTC -6)
I'm with Charles here; I wonder if the idea was specifically to mimic the era of the original series. I mean, the idea of robots who killed their inventors, only to continue on the war their inventors started is about as 50s or 60s style sci-fi cliche as you can get. Same with the look of the robots. I know a lot of people complain about it, but, well, it kinda fits the theme. Like I said, this has a very retro feel to it.

So it's a Torres episode, and how did it work? I'd say it did ok, but nothing spectacular. The first part of the episode, with her obsessing over the robot, came out of nowhere. Does she get this emotional about every new piece of technology? She was practically bawling over the dumb thing. Scientific curiosity I can see, but this seemed over the top. After that, however, things started to fall in place for her. Her initial willingness to try to create the prototype goes along is reasonable enough, and her sense of betrayal by her kidnapping is believable as well.

The best Torres scenes were while she was working on the prototype. It was pretty believable that she would lose herself in her work, and so the scenes where she was practically cheering over the work that she was being forced to do against her will actually worked despite being a bit disturbing. Given that the show was doing everything possible to declare that building the prototype was the "wrong" course of action, we had the hero of the show desperately trying to finish it. And when she completes her task, she's completely happy about it, despite the fact that she was forced to do it in the first place.

Which, of course, makes her "what have I done?" moment work as well. Like I said, it's believable that Torres would have ended up so wrapped up in the task, so single-minded in her pursuit of a technical problem that she would forget the ethical ramifications. And the sense of accomplishment at finishing such a task momentarily overrode her common sense. I mean, yeah, the matter-of-fact way the robot explained how they killed their inventors was a bit cheesy, but like I said, this whole episode felt old fashioned.

And so you feel a bit sorry for Torres, and for the prototype. It's not the prototype's fault that this perpetual war is ongoing, and yet Torres killed him anyway. Is this a case of murdering an innocent "for the greater good"? Does the episode consider such a dangerous ethical ramification? Of course not, that would be too meaty. But I did like the way that scene was portrayed. The prototype's innocent repetition asking for input worked to solidify the fact that, well, none of this was his fault. And the tension of the scene, with a battle going on and the robot's calm demeanor in explaining everything and the fact that Voyager was going to simply grab Torres and bug out (explicitly leaving behind the mess they helped create) meant that Torres really didn't have time to decide the best course of action. So she kills her own creation. Because that's all she could do to stop a perpetual war.

That could have been heavy material. But it's still decent material, at least. If only the first half of the episode was as good as the second half.
Fri, Feb 13, 2015, 7:36pm (UTC -6)
The problem with Voyager is that no one stops to think things over. Janeway took all of five seconds to decided that she wasn't going to allow helping the robots reproduce and that's that. She had good reasons... there was a lot they didn't know. But how about stopping for five minutes and asking the robots some questions (i know that ruins the SURPRISE that they killed their masters and were still at war but who didn't see that coming...)

Someone above mentioned that their first question after learning The Builders were dead would have been "what happened to them?" Even though the answer is pretty obvious in tv land, one could also see a scenario where The Builders died from war attrition and depletion of their resources. The next question should have been about what the robots had done since The Builders died. Maybe you find out they are fighting a never ending war with the other robots. Maybe you ask the robots what they expect would become of them if Voyager helps them reproduce and they win their war against their enemy... suddenly, the robots realize how empty their existence would be without their enemy. Without Builders to give them a new purpose what would be the logic in continuing to exist. Now you trade the tech to help the robots to reproduce and offer to become their New Buiders. stick around, help them destroy their enemy so that when they are done, you can step in and give them purpose... YOUR NEW ENEMY IS WHOEVER WE SAY IT IS. Now Janeway has an armada of ships crewed by killer robots to escort her all the way to the alpha quadrant. When you get to the alpha quadrant you offer them a some planets in the federation... they don't need M class atmospheres. Sure... there's some ethical and prime directive issues here. But it's Janeway. She's done far worse for less. Hell Janeway could have shown up in the final season of DS9 and have her killer robots wipe out the Breen, Dominion and more importantly Cardassians, thus the Maquis crew achieves vengeance against their enemy.
Sun, Feb 15, 2015, 1:58pm (UTC -6)
Hell Janeway could have shown up in the final season of DS9 and have her killer robots wipe out the Breen, Dominion and more importantly Cardassians, thus the Maquis crew achieves vengeance against their enemy.


HAHAHAHAHAHA! I love it! That definitely should have happened, what a missed opportunity!!!
Hal Berstram
Tue, Feb 24, 2015, 5:15pm (UTC -6)
If you can get past the ludicrous conceit that the Voyager crew would try to resuscitate an artificial life form they know absolutely *zilcho* about (Tuvok's "this is a security risk - understatement of the century!) then this was actually a good episode - maybe 3 stars. The robots looked reassuringly "Buck Rogers" - I kept expecting that little guy who went "biddledediddledediddlededeee" to pop his head round the door (Tweaky, was it?) one thing this episode proves is that the writers of "Nemesis" never watched Voyager. Mr Data is alive and well several decades after TNG in this timeline...
Mon, Aug 3, 2015, 1:20pm (UTC -6)
HAHA... I think the builders should have read Isaac Asimov's Three Rules of Robotics :-) They just might still be around. Thought the same thing watching Ex-machine.

I really enjoyed this episode. I thought B'Eleanna waited a little long to agree to build the prototype. Voyager was taking one hell of a beating while she was blabbing with 3947.

I also really enjoyed 3947's voice and verbal expression. I never in a million years would have guessed that it was Rick Worthy. - Bravo!

Interesting dilemma. I'm not really sure the prime directive applies here as Janeway insists, hell - Data (mentioned in this episode) isn't even recognized as being sentient - so how does the prime directive apply here? Both her and B'Elanna where both talking of robots as life-forms, not sure that's Starfleet's viewpoint.

I don't know that the costume was so bad... the "blah" nature kind of it added to it's uniqueness and diverted more attention to the face; which added to the episode I think.

Very interesting reveal at the end. That really added to this episode.

3.5 stars from me. I just watched this last night and enjoyed it as much as the first time I saw it.
Fri, Oct 9, 2015, 4:51pm (UTC -6)
"Trekkian take on the Prime Directive"
Hurr yase, that was a very Star Warsian take on the Force
Diamond Dave
Mon, Jan 11, 2016, 6:10am (UTC -6)
Fresh take on a fairly standard killer robot premise. From the inventive opening - one of the best yet in my watch through - to a nicely twist laden plot to some good action scenes this was a thoroughly enjoyable hour. Throw in some watchable performances and a slightly retro feel and we have a winner. "Cross your fingers" indeed. 3.5 stars.
Wed, Mar 16, 2016, 6:48pm (UTC -6)
The last thing Torres did before the prototype came on-line was adjust its flux capacitence. Too bad the technobable was about robotics instead of time travel :P
Thu, Mar 17, 2016, 9:22am (UTC -6)
I can't really figure out why Torres is so obsessed with the robot.

Also, Janeway *really* needs to be more on top of those quick transporter overrides. I think that's twice now that she could've saved Voyager a hell of a lot of trouble. (And really, shouldn't that be Tuvoks job anyways? Guess they never looked over those security protocol reports he was supposed to put together in the last espisode.)
Thu, Mar 17, 2016, 9:53am (UTC -6)
Frakes seems to have a knack for breathing life into even the most mundane of stories.
Thu, Mar 17, 2016, 12:19pm (UTC -6)

Agree WRT Frakes. "One Take Frakes" does an awesome job in the director's chair.
Mon, Jun 27, 2016, 8:21pm (UTC -6)
Heh, a lot of the annoying stuff Jammer notes about the episode — the excessive technobabble, the idiotic refrains of the same bridge battle scenes — this stuff didn't bother me as a kid. And I was wondering why the little kid version of me didn't mind.

Then I remembered: that's exactly the kind of stuff I made up when I played and used my imagination as a little kid and pretended I was a starship captain or whatever. If you have seen the Pixar movie Up, you'll remember that little Carl in the beginning plays with his toy airship in the exact same way.

So basically, my conclusion is that the VOY writers have the creative skills of preadolescents.
George Monet
Thu, Aug 18, 2016, 12:59am (UTC -6)
""Janeway: "Unfortunately extinction is often the natural end of evolution."
Four words: WHAT THE FUCK, BITCH???"

As harsh as it sounds, she's right... species that don't adapt to their environment and such and thus evolve, more than likely will go extinct...

Natural Selection...

However, in the case of these robots, I'm not sure... but in a biological organism, it's true."

Extinction is more often the result of external influences which alter the environment to something outside of the environment that the creature has adapted to. Thus extinction is the opposite of the natural end of evolution. Evolution has no natural end unless it ends in the ascension of a sentient species to a new type of existence. But extinction is never natural.

I gave up on this episode as soon as Tuvok proposed a great idea and then Janeway decided to be an idiot. I threw in the towel when Belana said, "but where do I get my hands on a polymer plasma composed of elements I didn't even know existed 24 hours ago." This is impossible. It is completely impossible for there to be elements that anyone is Starfleet does not know about. Furthermore, why can't they cool off some of the plasma, replicate the polymers (polymers can't exist as a highly energetic plasma as the molecules would break apart) and then heat the polymers up until they had a plasma again? This series had some of the worst technobabble ever. At least "iso" is used consistently as a derogatory word rather than taking its scientific meaning.
Peter G.
Thu, Aug 18, 2016, 2:02am (UTC -6)
"I threw in the towel when Belana said, "but where do I get my hands on a polymer plasma composed of elements I didn't even know existed 24 hours ago." This is impossible. It is completely impossible for there to be elements that anyone is Starfleet does not know about."

Why is that? New synthetic elements are being created/discovered all the time, some of which can only exist for a fraction of a second. Maybe there are some really advanced stable ones, who knows. It's not impossible. The odds that such heavy elements would be naturally occurring would seem to us to be astronomically low, but impossible goes too far since we know about zip about physics compared with what we don't know.
George Monet
Thu, Aug 18, 2016, 8:26pm (UTC -6)
"Why is that? New synthetic elements are being created/discovered all the time, some of which can only exist for a fraction of a second. Maybe there are some really advanced stable ones, who knows. It's not impossible. The odds that such heavy elements would be naturally occurring would seem to us to be astronomically low, but impossible goes too far since we know about zip about physics compared with what we don't know."

Yes, new synthetic elements to us in the 21st century. Voyager takes place in the 24th century. We in the 21st are only scratching the surface having just gained the ability to smash nuclei together fairly recently. Voyager takes place several hundred years in the future inside a galaxy with hundreds of different species on thousands of different planets, all doing AI assisted scientific research. That is why it is impossible. Plus, even if we don't have a sample of a new element, we can still postulate as to the element's properties. In several hundred years we will not only be able to postulate but to know with a fairly high degree of certainty what the properties of only hypothetical elements will be. That is why it is impossible for Belana to see a polymer created using elements she has never heard of. Because by that point in time, there won't be any elements left that those in Starfleet don't know of either because all of the plausible elements will have been synthesized or hypothesized. The Federation even knows about the existence of the Omega atom, something that the builders of these robots probably did not know about since they did not use Omega as an energy source. This means that in terms of scientific achievement in materials science, Starfleet has outpaced the Builders so it is really impossible for the robots to use elements that Starfleet doesn't know about.

Considering that the technology of the robots wasn't even that sophisticated, it is also impossible that the Builders were more technologically advanced to such a degree.

But all that aside, this episode just didn't work because these were robots, not people. They were built by people to perform a task so they aren't a new species. They are just computers running code written by an actual living species, nothing more. So every time the robots or Belana complained about the robots dying out, all I could say to the tv was "So what!?" These are robots, not people. They weren't even sentient robots considering the fact that all of their actions were explicitly stated to be directed solely by the programming they received from the Builders. If anything, Voyager should have hastened the destruction of all these defective machines in order to protect the actual people in the area.
Peter G.
Thu, Aug 18, 2016, 10:04pm (UTC -6)
"Voyager takes place several hundred years in the future inside a galaxy with hundreds of different species on thousands of different planets, all doing AI assisted scientific research. That is why it is impossible. Plus, even if we don't have a sample of a new element, we can still postulate as to the element's properties. In several hundred years we will not only be able to postulate but to know with a fairly high degree of certainty what the properties of only hypothetical elements will be. That is why it is impossible for Belana to see a polymer created using elements she has never heard of."

Yes - but. You are thinking of regular elements that consist of stacking together more protons, neutrons and electrons. Sure, maybe in 300 years we could conclusively assess all the possibilities there. But what about stacking together other particles into coherent elements? What about other types of space, like subspace? Apparently subspace has its own set of principles, and even has resident beings who live there. Does 24th century starfleet really know much about subspace at all, or what sorts of particles can exist there? They didn't even know warp drive damaged it, so we can imagine they've barely scratched the surface of understanding that, which in turn (since we assume subspace is a substrate of regular space) means understanding of space itself, being interrelation with subspace, is also incomplete. And then we get into other weirdo 'dimensions', like fluidic space and who knows what else. B'elanna never said what kind of element it was or where it might have come from. Maybe this species pilfered it from some extra-dimensional or advanced race that had access to it. My point is - who knows. I'm totally on your side to nitpick stupidities that take the place of actual plotting, but of all the nitpicks in the series to go after this one seems to me a little narrow.

"But all that aside, this episode just didn't work because these were robots, not people."

Yep, I'm with you on your general objection, the above nitpick-pick aside.
Sat, Aug 20, 2016, 4:57am (UTC -6)
This felt like a Dr. Who episode to me. The robots reminded me of the Daleks (***)
The Man
Sun, Feb 19, 2017, 1:20pm (UTC -6)
@Yanks Actually Data is recognized as a sentient being, the TNG did an episode confirming this when an attempt was made to dismantle him.
Mon, Apr 3, 2017, 8:59pm (UTC -6)
I tried perusing the whole six plus years of entries here but I think I saw no mention of how the backstory of these automated units smacked of the Children of Humanity?

I was expecting 3947 to look up at Torres and say "By your command!" DIdn't happen. Oh well.
Tue, Apr 4, 2017, 10:30am (UTC -6)
@ The Man
Sun, Feb 19, 2017, 1:20pm (UTC -5)
@Yanks Actually Data is recognized as a sentient being, the TNG did an episode confirming this when an attempt was made to dismantle him.
Negative. Data was given the right to choose; it was not deemed sentient.
Wed, Jul 19, 2017, 3:34pm (UTC -6)
2 stars. Total bore. The one bright spot--Torres' mention of Data
William B
Sat, Sep 16, 2017, 10:25pm (UTC -6)
I enjoyed this one despite its standard plotting. Yes, yes, the crew should have maybe thought earlier to ask about the Builders' death, and the endless-war SF cliche doesn't really have much resonance in this iteration. Still, Frakes' direction is solid. The way the robots' faces are frozen in place gives it a kind of nice, unusual feel of artificiality, which lets the the voice acting behind 3947 really shine. The act break where Torres talks to Janeway on the viewscreen and then 3947 glides its face into frame is so goofy-funny and I'm pretty unironically enthusiastic about it.

What really works is the interaction between Torres and 3947 over the episode, which sustains it, and leads to the series of betrayals, ending with Torres killing what is effectively "their" baby together. It's a darkly funny scene even as it's got some emotional punch; this is Torres' creation, and there's a kind of emotional charge between her and 3947, not "romantic" but with kindness. It's worth noting that 3947's friendliness and express admiration for Torres breaks down her defenses so easily; she really does need someone to believe in her. And I think that (SPOILER) this ends up being a way of Torres maybe starting to work out some of her maternity issues -- I like that Torres' creating a monster ends up being some of what she actually she fears she'll do when she gets pregnant, because of her various issues surrounding motherhood. Where I think the episode falls down on this score is in portraying Torres' *initial* overwhelming drive to fix 3947; I feel like there needed to be a bit more of an emotional hook at least for the audience for us to understand why Torres throws so much of herself into this at the beginning -- in particular, before it's even really clear whether these bots are sentient. (Maybe it was clear to Torres and I missed why, in which case I'll maybe retract it.)

While the plotting being a bit routine is something I can overlook easily, that the ending doesn't really make sense is worse. Torres' plan was to leave after having created the prototype. This means either that 3947 et al. would have been able to reproduce the prototype, in which case it doesn't really affect the robots' ability to reproduce that Torres "killed" it, or 3947 couldn't have reproduced it, in which case she would have had to stay on indefinitely anyway. It's not really a small problem when it's the whole plot. Anyway, I liked this overall with some caveats and I'd give it a high 2.5.
Mon, Oct 2, 2017, 11:34pm (UTC -6)
This highly advanced, nearly sentient war robot sees in black and white? wut?

Janeway authorizes activation of this thing they know nothing about, which could be a bomb, or may instantly go on a killing spree, or start teleporting demons from hell dimension X onto the ship, or who knows what. Once again the worst captain ever.

The robot guy says he's 150 years old. So the war has been going on for at least that long. He also says the builders were killed off decades ago. You would have thought someone would have won the war by now. :P

Not to cause an argument, but...

@George Monet

'Evolution has no natural end unless it ends in the ascension of a sentient species to a new type of existence. But extinction is never natural.'

That is a patently false statement. Extinction can happen for any number of natural reasons. Diseases, overpredation, interbreeding, competition for food, etc., etc., etc. are all natural processes that can result in the exinction of a species. It's not always an asteroid or people or robots killing them off. I'm no expert, but I would say that nearly all species that went extinct did so naturally.


A pretty generic episode. 2 stars from me.
Sun, Nov 19, 2017, 4:51pm (UTC -6)
William B, I loved that moment on the viewscreen too. I could just imagine that with all that drama going on he's suddenly like "I am sorry, Lieutenant B'Ellana Torres. I did not realise you were still talking to Captain Kathryn Janeway." If it was supposed to be menacing, it was even more hilarious!

Unlike most of the comments, I don't think it's weird that B'Ellana wanted to fix it. It's a cool robot in space just ripe for fixing. And that it was "dying" gave it more urgency. If it were already "dead" and it was a question of bringing it back, she could have put it in storage for something to do on a rainy afternoon. Isn't it normal to want to fix broken things? In any case, I would have been driven to have done the same as her, if I had her skills
Wed, Mar 7, 2018, 3:33pm (UTC -6)
Marginally better than mediocre Voyager here -- made me think of "I, Mudd", "Frankenstein" and "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" to varying extents. The idea of a robot "race" outliving or destroying its creators is an interesting one and I actually like the twist on it here as it brings about a PD examination. Torres realizes she'd be giving one race of robots an advantage over the other -- one that the creators of the robots deliberately did not give. So Janeway turns out to be right and Torres realizes the error of her ways. She should show no remorse in "killing" the prototype she was so happy to have created.

My issue is why was Torres so damn invested in the robot in the first place? The early part of the episode spends too much time on how she won't go to sleep until she figures out how to stabilize its power drain. A couple of smaller issues are how silly the robots look (a bit like C3P0 from "Star Wars") and how much technobabble gets spewed. A "flux capacitor" is even mentioned...ugh.

Torres is clearly an engineering geek -- she's more overjoyed at creating the prototype than it actually meaning she can go back to Voyager, which will be spared from destruction.

The idea of Voyager creating a diversion for the robot ship so Paris can navigate a shuttle through a weakness in the shielding seemed like a ridiculous idea to me -- it's a robot ship presumably scanning everywhere. Voyager shouldn't be able to create a distraction -- the situation should be all but hopeless to them, until the 2nd robot race's ship appears.

The robots sentience was interesting though -- clearly they are deceitful, cunning. When the robot kidnapped Torres, it really came out of nowhere -- "he" seemed like a nice guy (almost Data-like) and then he kidnaps Torres. Also, the part about not initially telling Torres how the Builders were killed but later saying the robots saw the Builders as enemies and killed them all is a pretty frightening thought. These robots are desperate to survive at all cost, have zero compassion, and are a major threat.

Barely 2.5 stars for "Prototype" -- at times the episode dragged and was mostly predictable although there were a few neat developments thanks to the implications of the deceitfulness of the robots. The 1 robot never mentioned the war they were in -- until Voyager found out for itself -- so that Torres could help them. But some of Torres' behavior is hard to explain/justify -- why did she feel such compassion for them? The robots themselves looked hokey -- VOY can surely do better. Turns out to be a heavy-handed PD examination at heart -- decent story but with a bit more than usual of the flaws in VOY episodes.
Tue, Apr 3, 2018, 1:17pm (UTC -6)
I liked this episode. I liked the "twist" about the robots killing the builders. I just felt like it ended very boringly. Like, oh yeah the other ships just ignored them. When the robots said they killed their enemies and then said B'Ellana was an enemy but yeah let's just let them go...
Tue, Apr 10, 2018, 10:09pm (UTC -6)
So the Builders can create sophisticated robots that baffle Torres, but can't create faces that don't look like cheap Halloween masks from the discount bin at Walmart.
Sean Hagins
Sun, Aug 19, 2018, 2:37pm (UTC -6)
I did like this episode, but am I the only one that noticed Voyager getting hit by the robot ship in the front, and Tuvok saying, "our aft shields are dropping"? Huh?

Also, I know they are by themselves, and can't "refuel" easily, but when they are being clobbered, and Janeway says "We've got to get out of here! Warp 3!" it seems illogical. When running away from death, why not go to Warp 9.9? All of Star Trek does this, and I don't get it

What should have happened is Torres should have kept the prototype operational so the robots could eventually cleanse the Delta Quadrant and soon the galaxy of all organic life. Then things would proceed in a logical and orderly method! (Just kidding)

Seriously though, I remember this episode when it aired and it was one of my favourites-I guess I'm just a softie for robots!
Wed, Dec 12, 2018, 3:11pm (UTC -6)
Teaser : ***, 5%

We begin with a POV of the Voyager transporting something aboard. The images are in black and white, but there's no corny noir dialogue this time, so that's a good sign. Torres, Tuvok and Janeway appear in the field of vision. Torres mentions that the whatever it is is quickly losing power and Janeway consents to allow Torres to try and repair it. She and Kim devise a stopgap and eventually, the whatever catches site of itself in a mirror. It's a robot! With clothes! Oh, and as you read this review internet people, you must hear the word “robot” as “roe-bit.”

Act 1 : **.5, 18%

Back in TECHNICOLOUR, Kim and Torres examine the robot's six-pack metallic abs. There's some technobabble that leads to the conclusion that they need to figure something out quickly or the thing will shut down and die. Harry even gets to be kind of funny as the two have some friendly sparring over what to do next. In the end, she sends him to bed and sends herself to the mess hall for some coffee. Neelix eventually cuts her off, because as we recall from “State of Flux,” Neelix is the master of all foodstuffs on the Voyager. He is here to explain why he's a terrible cook, believing salt to be a “spice” and somehow failing to include it in his food. In keeping with the theme, he sends her to bed. She gets as far as putting on some very unflattering pyjamas before hitting on some sort of breakthrough, taking her to sickbay. So, the plot and dialogue here is very minimal, borderline banal, but the production is rescuing the scenes from feeling tedious. The acting, directing and music fill in the gaps in characterisation we need to connect with Torres and her dilemma. There's a misconception amongst some viewers/reviewers that the text of a work is the most pivotal metric of its success. This can be true, and I love a good one-man play with no sets and mellifluous powerful dialogue, but I also love a Wagnerian epic with contrived plot and minimal dialogue. Storytellers get to set their own parameters for how their stories are conveyed.

Anyway, Torres activates the EMH to troubleshoot her tech issue. The robot is humanoid after all, so maybe there's a medical analogy that can inspire a solution. And what do you know, there is. So, she drags Harry and Janeway out of bed and sets up her plasma transfusion relays. It's nice to see a return of Janeway and Torres doing the science together. The robot finally comes to life and asks Torres (politely) to identify herself, and thanks her for re-activating it.

Act 2 : ***, 18%

The robot is friendly, very much like Data, but there's something off-putting about its face which is a fixed metallic shape. The robot is intrigued, maybe something like elated by the fact that Torres was able to repair his power module, something only “the Builders” are supposed to be able to manage. Maybe she could construct a new one?

See, the Builders are all dead (from a war), and without new power modules, the robots will eventually all perish as well. Torres lays this all out for Janeway, but the captain isn't willing to let her violate the PD and make fundamental alterations to this “species.”

JANEWAY: I feel for the robot's plight, but what you are proposing is exactly the kind of tampering the Prime Directive prohibits. We know almost nothing about these creatures or the race that built them. What would be the consequences of increasing their population, both to their own civilisation and others in this quadrant? Who are we to swoop in, play God and then continue on our way without the slightest consideration of the long term effects of our actions?

It isn't spelled out (thankfully), but I find Janeway's rigidity here consistent with what we've seen so far. In “Caretaker,” Janeway found herself inadvertently involved in the struggle between the Ocampa and the Kazon. She made what she believed was the most ethical choice available to her at the time, and the Kazon have been dogging the Voyager ever since, attempting to steal Federation technology. Given the fact that there's no way for her to confer with more experienced captains or the Federation Council or whomever, I think adhering to the PD, when there's no discernible benefit in getting the Voyager closer to home, is the right call.

What's also kind of interesting here is Torres:

3947: The automated units were not created naturally. We were built. You can help us build more.
TORRES: Captain Janeway doesn't think that's a good idea.
3947: But Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres does.
TORRES: Maybe. I don't know. I'd like to try, but I can't.
3947: Without your help, we will not survive. I thought Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres was a Builder.
TORRES: So did I.

If we go back to “Parallax,” we might remember that without her engineering skill, Torres is little more than an angry mess of a half-breed with no discernible direction or purpose. And of course, “Faces” explored the issue of self-hatred so endemic to the character. Being a “builder” is one of the few expressions, perhaps the only expression of Torres that doesn't make her feel shitty about herself. She can contribute positively to the world in this respect. Being denied the opportunity to do something like prevent the extinction of a species, well, that has to sting.

The robot's vessel makes contact with the Voyager and Torres sees the unit off in the transporter room. But the robot shocks her into unconsciousness, kills the transporter chief and kidnaps Torres.

Act 3 : **, 13% (short act)

The robot has decided that Torres is going to build the prototype power module anyway because the robots are quite desperate. The Voyager finds itself out-classed by the robots' weaponry and defences, so Torres is compelled to proceed. Most of this short act is just action BS. It's fine. Nothing terribly interesting, but competent.

Act 4 : **, 18%

Torres is given a pile of equipment and told to begin. The robots have replicated different power modules several times but all such efforts ended in failure. The leader robot enters after a few seconds to check on her progress. In a lot of ways, I think these robots get at what the Pakleds were supposed to represent. Their manners and succinctness present a placid veneer to a deadly-serious threat, much like how the Pakleds' bumbling stupidity masked their true nature. “If you fail, you and your people will die.”

A while later, Torres has managed to determine why the robots have failed thus far. Their power units a designed to work in one robot and one robot alone. It is impossible to simply recreate a unit exactly and stick it in another robot. So in a way, this distinction between power units provides these creatures something like a soul. Once one life is snuffed out, it can't simply be replaced.

Meanwhile, the senior staff are talking tactics:

PARIS: I don't need a diversion. Just give me a chance, I'll get her out of there.
CHAKOTAY: You don't mind if the rest of us give you a little help, do you, Paris? I'd hate to lose another shuttle.
PARIS: Your concern for my welfare is heartwarming.

Nice to see that rivalry still percolating in the background, and Janeway is amusing in her “can it, meatheads” reigning in of the conflict.

While they work, Torres and the robot explore robotic backstories. Data is name-dropped, which flirts dangerously close to fan-service, but there is a point here—drawing the parallel between Data and the automated units helps to create sympathy for this heretofore unheard of race of robots. That will be important later. With a little more effort, Torres succeeds in creating the prototype. Their celebration is cut short by the arrival of a nearly-identical vessel manned by gold-coloured robots.

Act 5 : **.5, 18%

Janeway takes advantage of the fight between the robots and sends Paris off in his shuttle to retrieve Torres. The robot explains to her that—TWIST—both robots come from civilisations which destroyed their Builders. Why did they do this? To continue the fighting of course! The Builders attempted to make peace, but had designed their robots to wage war.

3947: When it was anticipated that the war would end, the Builders no longer required our services and they intended to terminate us. In doing so, they became the enemy. We are programmed to destroy the enemy. It is necessary for our survival. Now that you have constructed a prototype, we will soon outnumber the Cravic units. We will achieve victory.

Torres realises that her breakthrough has bypassed a safety measure added by the Builders themselves specifically to prevent procreation. So, echoing Janeway's decision in “Caretaker,” she destroys the prototype, stabbing it right in the unit she designed. Paris beams her to safety and the Voyager escapes.

In the epilogue, Janeway herself offers her counsel, similarly to the way she counselled Kim after his ordeal in “Emanations.” If being prevented from exercising the creative forces which give your life some sort of meaning is difficult, succeeding in creation and being forced to destroy that fruit has got to be devastating.

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

If “Resistance” was an example of Voyager doing a typically strong unit of Star Trek, “Prototype” is an example of typically average Star Trek. The character material is pretty good, there's an okay moral dilemma to explore, the action pieces are fine, the production is a bit unconvincing, but the acting makes up for it. Personally, I would have scrapped the technobabble and action sequence for more time confronting Torres' feelings. I think the way this story maps onto her character arc works, but it's all a bit rushed and shallow. I needed a scene like the one in “Faces” where she talks about her painful childhood to Paris. Maybe when she was hiding from the bullies at school, she occupied herself building things in the science lab? Maybe when she was at the Academy, that professor who thought she showed promise allowed her access to his office so she could tinker instead of interacting with her fellow cadets? As it stands, the resolution feels a little weightless.

I think the Janeway material is at about the same level. It fits the arc, it makes sense and is well conveyed, but it's all too brief to feel significant. I was never bored, I was never angry, but I was never riveted. Do better, Voyager.

Final Score : **.5
Wed, Dec 12, 2018, 4:48pm (UTC -6)

"I was never bored, I was never angry, but I was never riveted. Do better, Voyager. "

So you DO understand my feelings toward the show! This is how I felt throughout its entire run. Voyager had all the pieces to be something truly special: top-of-the-line production values, well-respected writers, solid actors, and an intriguing premise. It could have been remarkable if only it reached for greatness more than twice a season.
William B
Wed, Dec 12, 2018, 5:23pm (UTC -6)

I was thinking while reading your review that the robots' continuing fighting some old, long-over battle might be a parallel for B'Elanna. B'Elanna is still angry over wounds that happened years ago (and indeed seems to be holding onto anger over things that weren't even related to her -- from her parents, from the Maquis injuries, etc.) and are no longer relevant to her current situation, and it's got the potential to ruin her life (and do damage to those around her). The episode makes sense of being about B'Elanna's fear that whatever she creates will pass along the cycle of anger, and here the fear extends into her professional life.
Sleeper Agent
Thu, Apr 25, 2019, 12:03pm (UTC -6)
Excellent episode. Sure, some dialog where somewhat lame/lazy, but the story was captivating and well directed. Stop nit picking', h8rs.

3 solid stars.
Fri, Oct 11, 2019, 7:27am (UTC -6)
I'm sure when activating an unknown alien device you'd at least put it in a containment force field?
Sarjenka's Brother
Thu, Mar 19, 2020, 7:43pm (UTC -6)
Very good intro and direction by Mr. Frakes.

I kind of liked the somewhat '50s, primitive look of the robots. I liked the episode overall.
Thu, Jul 1, 2021, 1:48pm (UTC -6)
This was certainly a well-directed episode, and I particularly liked Frakes' handling of the beginning (namely giving us the robot's point of view).

It got weaker farther in. The T-babble was staggering in its duration and my gott, Torres, why would you assume for one second that this thing would be at all friendly, let alone helpful?

No good deed goes unpunished!

Big missed opportunity in the scene with the Doctor. I thought immediately that the hologram had a strong human quality which was largely lacking from 3947. It would have worked rather well for Picardo to have said. "Pardon me lieutenant, I just ran the EEG on this object and I didn't see anything even remotely like you and I . You may want to exercise caution."

This would have scored some points with me in treating sentience in a deeper way than the episode actually did.

Although I didn't hate it, I can't give it more than 1 or 2 stars. Agree with Carbetarian (Apr. 21 2011) that the writers did this one using a set Function key. F13.
Fri, Sep 10, 2021, 5:16pm (UTC -6)
I found this one to be dull and almost unwatchable. The tropes here are familiar and well worn, and the few stylish directorial choices employed can't elevate the material.

For some reason this episode conjured up memories of TOS' "Changeling", "Doomsday Machine", "Return of the Archons" and "A Taste of Armageddon"; those tales of civilization-ending machines run amok had a pared down quality, yet also a mythic grandeur. They were succinct but felt big and expansive. Here we seem to be always stuck on a close-up of Torres, as she spews technobabble.
Thu, Jul 7, 2022, 5:01pm (UTC -6)
Name dropping Data was good since it fit though it did feel a bit fan servicey.

However, is Torres aware of Lore? I guess not. "There's only one sentient android in our society, Data. Of course there was another one, Lore, that the Enterprise found and foolishly reactivated despite knowing nothing about it and-- uhhh--"

I like how bizarre it looked and can't help but think that while it was built with a humanoid form factor, the builders wanted it to be damn obvious it's a robot.

A HUGE problem here is it all makes B'Elanna look dangerously incompetent as Chief Engineer. This may have been deliberate considering she dropped out of Starfleet Academy. An officer would have had extensive course work in the various ethical and safety issues at play here.

Also there's little reason she's so obsessed with this. This would have made a lot more sense as a Doctor vehicle, which we basically we get when he falls in love with that bomb.
Wed, Mar 29, 2023, 1:39am (UTC -6)
Is it possible we've stumbled into the middle of some sort of...robotic war?
Tue, May 23, 2023, 2:48pm (UTC -6)
I think "The Orville" took some inspiration from that episode
Robert II
Fri, Jun 23, 2023, 1:14pm (UTC -6)
I didn't mind this episode. The premise made sense and the conflict between the robots was believable. What I found hard to believable was the Voyager crew's lack of incredulity toward the robot and the ship's security measures -- especially with that darned transporter system that every invader seems to be able to override. Even Ops can never seem to block a transport in progress. What gives, Harry Kim? And why did nobody bother to ask the robot what happened to its creators? This question was not asked until the third act.

The requisite battle scene did have some novel elements. Janeway fired first, unprovoked, which almost never happens. The robot commander seemed civil toward her, if dismissive. Janeway's decision to use phasers to punch a hole through the shields for a transporter beam seemed a bit presumptuous given their lack of a tactical analysis of the alien ship. What was novel about the battle scene was that Voyager was facing imminent destruction and you could tell Janeway had no recourse. She just sat there while her ship was being destroyed. It was Torres that saved the day, through negotiation. Also, Voyager suffered so much damage that it took days to repair, illustrating the robots' superiority. Not that we could tell though since every external shot of the ship looked pristine. I found it interesting that the Voyager crew finally met its match in the Delta Quadrant. The show did a poor job of illustrating how small and under-powered an Intrepid class is compared to, say, a Galaxy class ship.

Other than that, this episode was lackluster. The dialogue between Torres and 3947 was painfully banal with many missed opportunities for philosophical exploration. The writers of the show demonstrated early on that they lacked gravitas and depth. Again, I wish Ronald Moore was on the team.
Fri, Jun 30, 2023, 12:38am (UTC -6)
Worst robot costume since Twiki.

“beedy-beedy-beedy that’s right B’Elanna”
Planet of Hats
Thu, Jul 6, 2023, 5:38pm (UTC -6)
I actually enjoyed this episode - it was a solid three stars in my book. It felt like a good Torres episode with an application of the Prime Directive that made sense, and the Automated Personnel Units made for a cool alien-of-the-week distinct from the usual rubber forehead people the ship tends to meet. I could see the blank costumes and delivery of the APUs falling flat with some viewers, but to me it gave them a kind of eerie uncanny-valley vibe that made their actions in the mid-to-late show quite effective.

Simple premise, yeah. Lots of common Trek gimmicks, yeah. But in my opinion it's Perfectly Acceptable Star Trek.
Sat, Nov 4, 2023, 7:16am (UTC -6)
@Planet of Hats

I agree the way the robots were depicted from appearance to delivery was so weird for Trek that it really worked well. Definitely an extreme and weird uncanny valley.

One could certainly argue they look/sound cheap and fake but there's literally no reason robots couldn't be made like this even today. And the creators might have deliberately made them look and sound extremely fake for a variety of reasons.

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