Nutshell: Fairly diverting, but slight.
"Revulsion" is of the breed of episode that's inoffensive and reasonably entertaining, but fundamentally nondescript. Sure, it has its moments of relevance, but overall there's not much meat to it. It works as an hour-long diversion, and then it's easily forgettable. The two key words of this week: "amiable" and "lightweight."
If you take "Revulsion" to its most basic level, that is, to look at it in the broadest of senses, it isn't very compelling. There's an A-plot, in which an alien hologram terrorizes Lt. Torres and the Doctor when they're on an away mission; and a B-plot, in which Harry is assigned to Seven of Nine for a ship project, and finds himself in a number of awkward personal situations.
On the surface it's somewhat bland. Rather, this is a show that relies on its little snippets of dialog and moments of in-context humor to get the job done. At its best, "Revulsion" is a slight and light comedy episode. At its worst, it's a superficial thriller.
Now, there's certainly nothing wrong with that. But given the last few episodes of Voyager—shows that featured situations where the characters had more pressing psychological or emotional issues to address—"Revulsion" provides a plot that is a little too perfunctory in the most important of ways, despite the fact that it manages to be enjoyable and relaxing in the process. It's like "Day of Honor" in that it's a largely "standard-issue" storyline, but it's unlike "Day of Honor" in that there's no real payoff.
The A-story seems promising on the surface, but as it progresses it unfortunately proves itself the weakest aspect of the episode. We have a holographic ship's servant program named Dejaren (much like the Doctor in design and physical capability), and he's in danger because his holo-system is damaged and the crew of his ship is dead. Enter Torres and Doc, who come to his ship to help him; continue with some relevant exposition between Doc and Dejaren on the nature of holographic existence and coexisting with biological people; move on to a scene where Dejaren loses his cool and relates to B'Elanna his manic contempt for "filthy, animalistic humanoids"; and then end with lots of cheap thrills, dark lighting, and several of Dejaren's attempted murders of B'Elanna Torres.
This plot is problematic, because it purports to make highbrow statements about the quality of life for an artificial lifeform (a well-traveled Trekkian theme, to be sure), but it only ends up being a half-witted thriller motif. Some of the scenes between Doc and Dejaren are nicely portrayed—I especially liked Doc's story of how he slowly earned the equal respect of the Voyager crew, and how he was granted the ability to turn his program on and off—but the story doesn't take the idea far enough. It's dropped in favor of the thriller angle, which has far too many extended moments of cliché for for my tastes.
Yes, I appreciated the fact that Klink's script made Dejaren a character who felt driven to murder out of revenge for his crew's apparent persecution and prejudice toward him. And Leland Orser's performance as the maniacal Dejaren is commendable in its energy. (It's also surprisingly similar to what he's done before. I've only seen him in one other role: a minor character in David Fincher's Seven, where he played a peripheral victim to a rather ghastly crime. He brought a severe sense of nervousness and torment to that role, and it's a characteristic that has carried over into Dejaren.)
But the way the plot unfolds leaves much to be desired. For starters, I don't think it was a good idea to reveal up front that Dejaren was a killer. Showing us in the teaser that he murdered his own crew made the rest of his actions mostly predictable. And, in defense of Torres' understandable skepticism, it's hard to look for character subtleties in a guy who comes at you with a hammer.
Ultimately, Dejaren is just your stock Mad Killer. The episode seems to acknowledge this by its final acts of predictable horror-movie terrorism, as Dejaren mercilessly stalks Torres through the ship before she can deactivate his program. No points for guessing that an exposed cable established early in the episode will eventually be used to "nullify" Dejaren (to use a "Nemesis" term) in the episode's finale; any genre devotee will have predicted this from the onset.
I'm most bothered that Dejaren's "death" means so little to the Doctor. Given how interested Doc was in learning about other sentient holographic beings, you'd think he would react to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Dejaren's necessary demise. But what reaction do we get? A non-reaction. The episode doesn't seem to care in the slightest what Doc thinks of the situation (that is, beyond the lighthearted joke of him "lightening up" around humans, which is too upbeat and, if you think about it, virtually a non sequitur under the circumstances.)
The B-story is light, but amusing and even somewhat relevant. Seven of Nine needs to develop a personality someday, and if ever there were someone more qualified to be relentlessly friendly to her and urge her to lighten up, it's Harry Kim. The twist, of course, is that Harry finds himself in over his head, especially when he realizes he has a crush on her complex personality.
Tom's argument to Harry (to be careful of a crush on a former-Borg, that is) makes a good amount of sense—although his snide comment about Seven having "assimilated enough people" seems to conflict with his attitude in "Day of Honor" when he said "everybody has a past." Consistency, anyone?
There are a few riotously funny scenes, like when Seven misinterprets Harry's friendly gestures as a human seduction. (The Borg are not one for wasting words, and "You wish to copulate?" is about as direct a phrase as any.) There's also a hilarious closing scene between Harry and Chakotay, that highlights a cruel sense of humor on the commander's part. Beltran's performances are really starting to make me sit up and take note; he was absolutely a joy to watch in this scene.
This plot is mostly light comedy, but there's a good scene when Seven cuts her hand and realizes that she actually needs medical attention. She's accustomed to the instant regeneration of the Borg Collective, but it's something that is no longer. When she murmurs "I am weak," it really hits home. You can tell she's frustrated and vulnerable inside, and it's easy to sympathize with her. Jeri Ryan continues to deliver credible performances of a character who is still quite lost in her new world.
Moving on to some enjoyable little tidbits that are off the main path of the two main stories:
- The episode follows up to "Day of Honor" with the awaited on-screen Tom/B'Elanna kiss, though the moment is ten seconds nearly lost in the rest of the unrelated story. (But at least the episode did let us know where Tom stands on the issue.) And for those wondering why it's only been "three days" since "Day of Honor" supposedly took place: You may want to keep in mind that last week's "Nemesis," which aired the week after "Day," was actually filmed first. "Day" was originally intended to air after "Nemesis"—one week before "Revulsion." Why the schedule was changed is beyond me, but such is the case with studio networks, I suppose.
- I liked the idea of Doc choosing Paris as the temporary medical assistant. It was good for some humor, and it made sense considering Paris was a temporary nurse back in the early moments of first season. It's also nice to have an acknowledgment that Kes needs to be replaced.
- Doc's dialog was amusingly acerbic and sharp-edged this week, along the lines of his earlier characterization. Picardo did a wonderful job of integrating this sharp-edged wit into Doc's lighter, amicable persona. He's a man full of sarcasm and insults, yet he says things in a way so the other characters know he's just kidding. We all know someone who's like that. I've always liked those types of people, and I like Doc as well.
- Tuvok's get-together for his promotion to lieutenant commander was fun—especially the anecdote about Paris & Co. programming the computer so that his press of every button would make it say "Live long and prosper." Cruel, but very amusing.
It's a shame that the story's main plot involving Dejaren wasn't handled with much apparent inspiration. I enjoyed much of this episode as a compilation of short little cuts of dialog and character interaction. But it just doesn't do much on the broad story terms.
Next week: The Borg are back—again—when Seven of Nine attempts to flee Voyager to return to the Collective. Maybe she'll even get to crash her first shuttle.