Star Trek: Voyager

“Bride of Chaotica!”

2 stars.

Air date: 1/27/1999
Teleplay by Bryan Fuller & Michael Taylor
Story by Bryan Fuller

"Think of it as Starfleet's first encounter with Planet X." — Seven to Janeway, advice on first-contact situations in the holodeck

Review Text

Nutshell: Schlocky is as schlocky does.

The last thing I expected from "Bride of Chaotica!" was for it to come off as routine. I mean, it's a throwback to the 1940s serials, shot in black and white, and the title even contains an exclamation mark, for heaven's sake. How can you have a title with an exclamation mark for an episode that plays itself nearly as straight as any other standard offering?

Simple style aesthetics and common sense insist that I write the title of this show "Bride of Chaotica!" Even so, I tend to think that the idea behind this episode was "BRIDE OF CHAOTICA!" The intentions behind what would warrant a cheerful, all-uppercase assault are clearly present. Unfortunately, the net result of this offering can never muster anything that deserves more than "Bride of Chaotica!" or perhaps just "Bride of Chaotica" sans exclamation mark.

Episodes like this one tear down that cinematic "fourth wall" in our minds. We're aware that this isn't a story being told so much as a meditation on much older cinema. The point of the episode is to show the cast and crew of Voyager paying homage to an idea, perhaps so we'll experience vicariously the fun they had in making an unconventional installment.

Well, I'm all for it. I loved the self-referential humor of "Trials and Tribble-ations" and got a great deal of enjoyment out of other holodeck comedies/spoofs like "Our Man Bashir" and "Take Me Out to the Holosuite." And although I'm no expert on 1940s serials, I am familiar with them, and they do appeal to my enjoyment of schlocky cinema: I've seen all 12 chapters of "King of the Rocket Men," and I still enjoy an occasional episode of MST3K on the Sci-Fi Channel.

All of which is why I find it so hard to believe "Bride of Chaotica!" struck me as so flat. What went wrong?

Well, to be an optimist, I'll first answer the question of what went right.

Item #1: A workable nod to the 20th century. Tom's been a history buff of sorts, even if he tends to look at old cars and entertainment as history in a more superficial and playful context (as opposed to, for instance, Sisko, who took interest in the 21st century for what was decidedly more socially relevant reasons). Old sci-fi is, like I said, something that might serve as a good source of juxtaposition for Trek in the '90s.

Item #2: Shot mostly in black and white. This was a good idea back when the Captain Proton holo-program first appeared in "Night," and it still is.

Item #3: Flawless re-creation. Although I'll admit that it looks like a lot of money went into some of the Captain Proton sets (which certainly wasn't the case with serials), the production team did a great job with props, costumes, and art design to make the setting look as cheesy as it should've. David Bell's tinny, bass-free score is also perfectly appropriate.

Unfortunately, the writing staff just couldn't trust the audience to enjoy the concept on its own terms. (It's the same sort of attitude that required a holodeck jeopardy premise be made out of "Worst Case Scenario," a story that would've stood just fine on its own.) Fuller and Taylor felt compelled to merge Captain Proton with a technobabble plot—which would've been okay if done carefully. But "Bride of Chaotica!" makes a fatal mistake by taking itself—and especially its tech plot—too seriously.

One could probably argue similarly about the crew-in-jeopardy setup of "Our Man Bashir," but the difference is that "Bashir" had the ability to embrace its own silliness and just go with the flow. Something about "Chaotica" just can't pick itself up and break free. The tech plot becomes a huge liability.

And about the technobabble—it's the epitome of annoyingly arbitrary Voyager technical gobbledygook. The basic premise is okay—Voyager is visited by aliens who exist as "photonic" (i.e., holographic) life forms, who mistake Tom's program for an actual planet. The idea could've been compelling if the aliens were permitted to have a more interesting and substantive perspective in this dilemma, which, alas, they aren't.

But all the flab concerning the ship being stuck in space and trapped by gravimetric forces (or whatever)—who freakin' cares? Not me. And I wouldn't have let it get in the way of my enjoying the rest of the episode if it weren't for the fact there's so much of it. Every time the episode seems to be building its momentum in the holodeck's black-and-white sessions, along comes color and technobabble to interrupt the flow.

What's particularly funny to note is that the "actual" plot of this episode is about as schlocky as the Captain Proton story; it's just more updated schlock. Unfortunately, the writers didn't seem to notice the fact enough to parody it. They simply present it as straight as any other Day at the Office.

And yet, these complaints would've been irrelevant if the holodeck games would've been hilarious. Simply put: They aren't. What this episode sets out to do is all too rarely realized. The gags are surprisingly tame.

As I watched this episode, I realized that what they did here was not easy. The careful mimicking, the attention to detail—all expertly done (Kroeker deserves kudos for the directorial effort). But what's missing is pure enjoyment and exhilaration. This episode never quite takes off. I wasn't laughing much. Occasionally I was chuckling. Some of the gags are perceptive, but they don't dare to be brashly satirical. The lesson to be learned here, I think, is that skillful imitation alone is not enough. There has to be an attitude, an edge, brought to the material. In "Our Man Bashir," a great deal of attitude arose from the sharp banter between Bashir and Garak. There was a sense—despite the alleged seriousness of the plot's situation—that the actors and characters knew their setting was ridiculous.

That isn't the case here, and as a result, the humor doesn't flow, although it drips occasionally. The holo-plot is absurd (as it should be): The evil, holographic Chaotica (Martin Rayner) opens war on the alien beings (because he is one-dimensional, programmed evil, you see), which means Janeway must enter the holodeck, pose as the irresistible Arachnia, and stop his evil plan. (Standard contrivance of course dictates that the holodeck cannot be simply turned off, but never mind.) The performances are good but somehow not all that funny. Mulgrew chews the scenery well, but her incessant twitching is merely bizarre near the end.

Doc looks at home in the role of "President of Earth," but his negotiation with the aliens is so brief that it feels like an opportunity wasted. There are some other good moments, particularly the nods to the familiar comic-book goofiness ("NOT THAT BUTTON!"), but given the potential, the show seems to play the whole game awfully safe. There are sarcastic side-comments, sure, but they don't push far enough into parody to make the episode funny. For an unconventional episode, it sure manages to be awfully conventional.

To me, the whole subtext of the Captain Proton holodeck series this season has been to analyze the difference between the corny science fiction aimed at kids in the '40s and '50s versus the post-Star Wars era of commercial science fiction that appeals to large audiences looking for something more magnificent and significant (or at the very least seeing something blow up more realistically).

But based on what this Voyager offering gives us, the lesson seems to be that science fiction has come so far that we don't need solid ideas beneath the slick, high-budget exterior. Schlock has evolved into an art form toward which we can throw money in mass quantities. We can't get to the center of why there's reason for juxtaposing today's sci-fi with the old stuff, but, doggone it, we can certainly replicate the old stuff down to the last detail if we want to.

That may perhaps be a harsh interpretation of "Bride of Chaotica!" Maybe I expected too much from this show; in its defense I must admit that it aspires to simply be light rather than significant. But it's somehow hard to laugh at schlock condescending to schlock. I suppose we can grin.

Next week: "Shuttle Crash, Part XXIV." Let's hope characterization is the key, 'cause it don't look like plot is.

Previous episode: Latent Image
Next episode: Gravity

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Comment Section

96 comments on this post

    I agree they didn't quite make this as good as it seems it ought to have been but it was still a lot of fun with some impressive production design.

    this episode was one of the most important along the course of star trek! we get to know that there are toilets on board (Neelix mentions that in the mess hall when the ship is stuck in this subspace rift)

    *sigh* The very opening shot has that RIDICULOUSLY STUPID Captain Proton business going again. A surefire indication we're in for a dumb and dull episode.

    WHY, WHY, WHY did the scriptwriters feel the need to come up with this entire Captain Proton nonsense??? *despair*

    This has put me off Voyager; I'll watch the remaining 44 minutes of the episode tomorrow.

    "Death ray," "fortress of doom," "dungeon of pain," "master of the universe," black-and-white mid-20th-century T.V. environment... WTF!?!

    Without a doubt, THE single worst episode of any Star Trek series, ever, period. I had to fast-forward through 90% of it; that's how idiotic it was. Nearly had a brain hemorrhage. It's too fatuous to even attempt to critique. Voyager really plumbed new depths with this abomination. Is it possible to give it MINUS five stars?

    Bride of Idiotica, more like.

    On a tangentially related notion, the entire holodeck concept should be dumped. Other than a few instances where it's employed for useful simulations, it's either a source of problems or shamelessly used by the scriptwriters to pad the episode with meaningless tripe. And when problems occur, guess what: "The controls are offline; we can't shut down the program."


    Geez you guys are such buzz kills, This is one of my favorite episodes to be honest. It was meant to be a homage to the early 1930's sci-fi and I thought they pulled it off very nicely. Janeway's performance as Arachnia was awesome, as she certainly pulled of the old school characterization. besides of which how many episodes of TNG was set on the holodeck? quite a few as I recall. It allowed the crew and actors to be able to play in roles that most certainly could not be attempted in space. You guys are party poopers to say the least. Go watch some of the early sci-fi and you will see that the episode was indeed quite the homage. I give it 5 stars, but I guess I am in the minority. Thats ok though I don't mean to be insulting, not everyone is going to like the same thing as someone else. I guess being an older viewer I can appreciate it more than those unfamiliar with the concept they were making :)

    Not as funny as I was hoping, but still brought a smile to my face. I loved that idiot robot. He should have replaced Neelix as a permanent character.

    Couldn't agree with PhonixFyre more! This episode had me laughing out loud at several moments. My personal favorite moments are when Chaotica calls Queen Arachnia an IMPETUOUS HARLOT and when Janeway graps the microphone and whips the cord! A truly groan inducing Voyager attempt at comedy in my opinion is "False Profits". An awful throwback to early TNG episodes like "Menage a Troi" and "The Last Outpost".

    There's no accounting for taste, but keep it out of your ratings would you? "Our Man Bashir" ticked me off, because to me there characters weren't remotely charming or endearing enough to warrant the goofy adventure. It came off as self-indulgent masturbatory fluff. The Voyager characters are like family to me and the fun of this episode was absolutely infectious. These characters have earned the right to this kind of episode. Does anyone care about the danger premises in any episode of ST? Do I actually fear the Dominion or the Borg? Of course not. This is mythology--the plots are relevant only as much as they suite the characters. I too would have liked to have heard more from the aliens, and that's this episode's true shortcoming, but everything else is perfect. Every scene outside the holodeck is useful at least (whether you buy the premise or not) and often as hilarious as what's going on on Planet X.

    I really enjoy a lot of the holodeck eps from TNG and DS9 (Our Man Bashir is one of my favourite DS9s - so incredibly fun!). Alas, the holodeck overusage in Voyager has sickened me by this point. Captain Proton is fun, but is best in very small doses and simply can't sustain an entire episode. I liked the idea of aliens mistaking a holodeck simulation as reality, but this absolutely lacks the sense of fun and humour it needs. It's a bit of a bore actually...

    Also, I don't know what's up with Janeway this season but she's becoming unbearable. She's become a sour-faced, gravel-voiced authoritarian monster - the boss from hell basically. And though I recently praised Mulgrew's acting, it can just as easily swing the opposite way. I wasn't impressed here. The scene in the conference room prior to her joining the simulation made me realise how fake Mulgrew's nuances can be at times, she very much comes across as an actor being an actor (in this scene trying to be funny - but it's too telegraphed to work). The coffee scene with Neelix was probably meant to be fun, but made me realised just how much I'm coming to despise the woman.

    "The point of the episode is to show the cast and crew of Voyager paying homage to an idea, perhaps so we'll experience vicariously the fun they had in making an unconventional installment."

    Absolutely wrong. The underlying self-referencial idea here screamed at me the first time I saw it, and that isn't it;

    In 60 years (well, now 50), Star Trek, Star Wars and all the rest will seem as schlocky as the 30s era "Proton"-esque sci-fi of our past. In fact, Star Wars already seems a bit schlocky to me. However, the charm and durability of the genre lies in its ability to tap into the core of our psyche the way only mythology can. There is something ineffably "true" about Star Trek and Captain Proton, in spite of, or perhaps because of their obvious naïvety. Things aren't as simple as we wish them to be (see the scene where Constance Goodheart is found dead--"she isn't supposed to die! Something's wrong here."). Roddenberrian economics and social conjectures are, perhaps, equally naïve and a symptom of wishful thinking. But that isn't the point; the power is not in plausibility (whether that be economical, technological or even *gasp* within a show's given continuity)--the power is in the hope, in the dream, in the myth which means more to us than the depressingly unimaginative reality of the world around us. That is art, my friends.

    Absolutely, Iceblink. In the coffee scene with Neelix, she is unnecessarily rude. She also puts her own desire for coffee above the energy needs of the community she is supposed to be guiding.

    Compare this to the enlightened scientist, and inspiring leader Janeway was in the first and second seasons.

    I liked this episode. It's as if showing star trek isn't quite as different as the b&w's. A lot of poking fun to itself. Our man bashir was awesome too. Both unfortunately has stupid Premises of how they got into the situation. I think TNG did better when they did i think the title is elementary my dear Data where Moriarty became sentient sort of. All of them fun nevertheless. Episodes like these arent supposed to be taken seriously. Don't be a party pooper ;) .

    Oh and yeah, they should've kept satan's robot as permanent cast member walking around voyager with the mobile emitter ;). He was an awesome robot that can be regenerated next to 7of9 lol.

    Glad to read that many posters liked this episode as much as I did, and more than Jammer (though that's a given at this point). I'm really tired of his denigrating Voyager while elevating the ponderous DS9 to mythic status, and critiquing the Voyager trailers as much as he does the episodes (which seems pretty silly now that a decade has passed and they are long forgotten). Anyway, this was a classic homage to sci-fi serials, wonderfully acted. And every time I watch the scene where the robot yells "Invaders!" and Tom punches him and says "quiet", only to have to robot repeat "Invaders" under its breath- for me it's the funniest scene in the series. Makes me laugh every time. I agree with the poster who would have exchanged the robot for Neelix.

    As I'm re-watching these episodes 13 years after they first aired, there aren't too many that I remember at all. This one stuck out in my mind for some reason. I didn't remember any of the details, but I had positive feelings associated with it. However, this time around, I found much of the episode (especially after Janeway entered the holodeck program) to be positively boring. I thought I'd come out appreciating this more than Jammer, but darned if I don't think he was right on the money.

    Invaders from the Fifth Dimension, but Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis were nowhere to be seen...

    This episode is an absolute riot. It's not annoying like the endless Ferengi DS9 episodes, repeating the same joke over and over. It's fun on its own terms and doesn't deserve to be picked apart because it was "too much of this" or "not enough of that." Quit raining on the parade, buzzkillers.

    I agree with David that it's a classic homage to '40s sci-fi cheese. I also agree that Satan's Robot dejectedly muttering "invaders" under its breath is the funniest moment of the episode.

    It's the kind of parody SCTV was so hilariously good at. Is it as funny? No, but I can just picture Joe Flaherty or Dave Thomas as Chaotica and Catherine O'Hara as Constance Goodheart. And of course, John Candy going in for the triple-take 3D closeup...

    @Jay, I guess the Moon was not in the Seventh House and Jupiter was not aligned with Mars.

    Well produced and well written episode. A very nice change of pace episode.

    This was indeed homage to Flash Gordon serials. Chaotica acting like, and looking like, Ming the Merciless; Constance Goodheart a copy of helpless, screaming Dale Arden, and of course Captain Proton being Flash.

    And Janeway getting a chance expand herself, and vamp, was a lot of fun.

    A most enjoyable episode.

    Couldnt they have pulled out the plug in the holodeck? :) An unconvincing, but fun episode.

    I haven't read every single comment, but i haven't seen it mentioned, and surprisingly not in the review:

    What killed this peisode for me is, THERE ARE ACTUAL SENTIENT BEINGS DYING HERE FOLKS. And the episode is supposed to be a comedy?

    I'm with those who really enjoyed this episode, however I do agree with the review that it would have benefited from letting its hair down even more and dwelled even deeper into the outrageous silly 1940s fun. Every time we got pulled away from the holodeck to give attention to the standard Voyager "crisis", I was impatiently waiting to get back to the goldmine of the episode which was Captian Proton. In the end it balanced out fine though. It had the potential to be a classic yet only reaches 3 stars IMO, if only the writers were willing to go one step further with the black and white glorious silliness!

    @Jay - LOL!

    I liked this episode, not as much as I wanted to but enough. It is a fun throwback to 1930's serials.

    Although does anyone else thing that the naem Chaotica sounds like a girl?

    A nearly 20 paragraph review of this incredibly weak holo-deck episode?

    A pale shadow of Data as Sherlock battling Moriarty .

    I absolutely loved this episode! A fun premise with lots of laugh-out-loud details, like Janeway as Arachcnia and the panicky robot.

    Sure, not everything worked (backing out of the anomally at an increasing speed of quite a few meters per second and STILL being stuck after a minute? Voyager is only supposed to be 344 meters long, right?!) - but the things that DID work worked extremely well, at least for me.

    On a sidenote: am I the only one who found Tom Paris seemed quite indifferent to what was going on whenever he was playing Captain Proton? It seems Harry Kim was much more into playing a part in the story than Tom was.

    @Caine: that always struck me as era-appropriate bravado from the star (John Dille, for example) more concerned with being handsome a flirting with the camera than committing to the rôle.

    Hated it. Hated it. HATED it. Worst episode ever. Absolute worst. If I wanted to see an old-timey black and white TV show I wouldn't be watching star trek I'd be watching I love lucy or andy griffith Stupid stupid episode. Hated it.

    I like cheesy 1950s SF (Invaders from Mars etc), liked this when it first aired, and usually agree with Elliott over Jammer re Voyager, but this episode just didn't connect with me second time around. I wanted more jokes and more Janeway chewing scenery.

    ROFL I just found this review I think it's crazy and speaks volumes that it took nearly 10 years for the first comment to be made.

    For the episode I think it's one of my favorites, considering I love Flash Gordon, this was great.

    Anyone remember the Captain Proton Poster from Star Trek Communicator?

    Quite funny one. As a comedy, it works well, achieving to amuse without having to push for it. Although, at the same time, in some moments it did just tried too hard to be funny.

    The black-and-white option is indeed still very smart and welcome. There were also some smart plays, like the fact that the aliens believe our reality is just as unreal as we believe the holograms are (what is, btw, a slap on the face of some comments'authors at the previous episode review).

    Also, I say once again. I agree with Elliot when he points that it does not matter whether or not the danger for Voyager's crew is credible. I always get bothered when I see someone, mostly Jammer, complaining that the danger didn't felt believable in an episode, since in all Trek it NEVER did or does. And so what?

    The other hand is that I don't think this episode achieved much more than fine amusement - what is ok. Fair entertainment may be enough sometimes. However, Voyager crew is not family for me and therefore they did not earn from me the right of having pointless episodes without receiving some criticism. So, here I am: it was a bit fun and certainly funny. But mostly too empty for my taste and a bit too forced here and there. Therefore, a bit wasted. A score of something around 7 out of 10 would be fairer than the underrated stars.

    Not a fan of Jammer's definition of 'history'. Even in the university, history has expanded to look at food and other things traditionally considered less 'relevant'.

    I both agree and disagree with Jammer.

    The agreement: We spent far too much time with the technobabbling Voyager crew. I didn't need the subspace sandbar metaphor. I also didn't need the extraneous, hackneyed "ship is in danger and running out of power" scenes. "We can't move the ship because CHAOTICA! is at war with photonic life forms and we can't turn off the holodeck AGAIN" should have been enough.

    The disagreement: I thought the humor was pretty darn good. The guest stars chewed black-and-white scenery with gusto, and Kate Mulgrew's expressions during her conference with Paris (and during her performance as Arachnea) were a scream.

    If anything, I wish we'd seen more interaction between President Doctor and the photonic aliens. I also would have liked more from Tuvok. Tim Russ was a scream as the Vulcan straight man to 1930s sci-fi cheese.

    My favorite part of this episode is the way Janeway swishes the microphone cord at the end. xD

    I don't know what all the negativity is about. Sure, I could've done without the Voyager is in danger bit, but it didn't exactly bother me. I simply enjoyed the cheesy, over the top throwback to the 30's complete with megalomaniacal ruler, clunky robot and ofcourse, the death ray.
    I loved this episode. Besides, if they hadn't done it this way, the only other way to go would have been the 'crewmembers are stuck in a holodeck program and can't get out because technobabble reasons' and that's been done to death before as well.
    So with that in mind, I kind of liked this. It's like a guilty pleasure. So long as it's only once in a while (say once per season. Two at most), I can enjoy this sort of episode. Would watch again, most likely with a goofy smile on my face.

    I'm with @Locke: The microphone cord swish was grandiose, in-character, unexpected, and made me laugh, genuinely.

    I think Janeway's "Captain Proton" performance counterbalanced the Delaney twins in that one can choose what to perform when in a fantasy setting, and it need not correspond to the accepted norm. It's okay to play "Boobs and Brainless" but when you leave the Holodeck, Megan is back to being competent and responsible. Its also okay to play seductress or savior of the cosmos, but when you leave the holodeck, you go back to being the captain under Federation ideals (completely ignoring the Prime Directive at will) or her Ensign pilot.

    I liked this episode. The reviewer is correct about the momentum of the black and white story being stopped by the "real life" story but I like that it pays hommage to old TV shows like Flash Gordon or Los in Space.

    This should have been the only episode to feature Captain Proton and it should have included the hot twin sisters shown in a different episode.

    The 1980 Flash Gordon movie is one of my favorites, so I had high hopes for this episode. After all, if I loved one cheesy reinterpretation of a cheesy old sci-fi show, why not a second one? And I guess I can say I wasn't disappointed; I think it worked well enough. The feel of the old serial is pretty faithful, I loved the inclusion of the 1930s-esque music every time they were in the evil lair, and the actor who plays Ming - I mean Chaotica - does a wonderful job.

    And unlike many people, I thought most of the "Voyager" scenes didn't drag and complemented the rest of the show well. Mainly because the cast treated the plot with all the reverence (or lack thereof!) that it deserved. Didn't anyone else see Tom's completely deadpanned "Yes Ma'am. His army of evil."? Didn't anyone else see Janeway's reaction looking at the Padd when she saw what she'd be wearing? Or all of Tuvok's overly sarcastic comments? Seeing the cast required to the absurdity of the situation was probably better than when they were acting along with the absurdity.

    There's a lot of comments here comparing these events to Our Man Bashir. Honestly, I think Trials and Tribble-ations is a better analogy. After all, both are love letters to sci-fi of the past. Both have the main cast being quite clearly bemused by their entire situation, with many of them outright enjoying it despite the danger. Of course, Trials is a better episode, in part because it is also homaging a franchise closer to our heart. And, in doing so, spent a fair amount of time having the characters fawn over their older counterpoints. And, well, the characters were having a far better time. So yeah, that one was a classic, while Voyager's episode was merely a pleasant diversion. But I still enjoyed this.

    Although its probably for the best that this is the end of the Chaotica gimmicks. It would be hard to keep going back to these holodeck scenes as flavor after we got this episode. Too bad, I think I'll miss them.

    As a random aside, does anyone else think the scene in the beginning where Tom and Harry scoff at the hyperbole of the teaser was a subtle dig from the writers to UPN's own promo team? Reading these reviews 20 years later, Jammer really seems to hate the teasers for the next episode, and I recall some of them were pretty awful as well. Wouldn't surprise me if this was the writers having a bit of revenge... Same with Kim's comment that Planet X looks an awful lot like the Mines of Mercury; that also has to be poking fun at Star Trek's recycled sets.

    Let's first consider what went right here - the recreation of the Flash Gordon-type serials is absolutely pitch perfect, including the glorious 1930s-style score, and the production quality is fantastic. The whole thing just looks gorgeous. It's also a wildly inventive idea.

    On the downside - it's just not that funny. Don't get me wrong, there are some really funny moments (Satan's robot's "invaders" in response to "Quiet!" being the second time the thing has stolen the show in a Captain Proton themed episode). But overall this takes its sweet old time getting anywhere (witness the first scene with Janeway and Chaotica that just goes on forever...), and there are large amounts of time spent doing nothing more than admiring the crew playing at dressing up. It's OK overall, but no more. 2.5 stars.

    Did anyone else catch the subtle jab at UPN's episode previews that Jammer has been complaining about at the start of the show? Harry and Tom talk about how the Proton recaps are always hyperbolic and over the top :P

    Similar to my feelings re: Dragons Tooth I like this one more than the reviewer and would vote 3 stars. Not unlike 'Tomorrow Land' in Disney World, there's something "future-retro" about contrasting an imagined future and the real one. In many instances tech such as the 'imagizer' and 'ray guns' have perfect parallels in the 'real world'. Paris was great. I enjoyed this like an old twilight zone episode and would watch again. In any event, thank you Jammers for guiding us through all the Star Trek episodes. You've done a fantastic job!

    @ Skeptical
    Mon, Jan 25, 2016, 9:05pm (UTC -5)

    Agree on all counts. (although I can't speak to the writer's/UPN thing)

    I loved this episode. The hammy-ness and how they merged it with a real-time dilemma.

    Good lord people, lighten up and have some fun. I enjoyed this as much as the hammy "Our Man Bashir" or any other "lets have some fun" Star Trek episode.

    The set folks should have won something here. Amazing work.

    I too noticed and enjoyed the old music.

    I just can't really knock this thing. It was fun and well done.

    4 stars.

    Excellent episode (****) Old fashioned Flash Gordon scifi at its corniest. Somebody said of the previous episode that those psychological, psyfy as I call them, episodes are where Star trek shines. Hogwash! If I wanted to ponder the psychological and ethical implications of A.I. I'd torture myself with Caprica.
    Star trek shines when it deals with scifi themes like time travel, alternate dimensions and universes, space anomalies not boring psydhobabble.

    I like Captain Proton and think it is a kick. They do not over do it and it fits well into the overall series. Watching it again in 2016, (binge watching it on Hulu), you can appreciate things better.
    This was a very well done series. There are a few clunkers, but there always are.

    @mephyve - it's possible to love both the psychological and the corny flash Gordon throwbacks. I loved this episode and the last.

    I think they did pretty much everything right in this episode. Just the right level of melodrama. Lots of fun.

    I actually cringed when I saw the name of this episode. What a nice surprise it turned out to be.

    3.5 stars

    "Full power to the Death Ray!!!"

    Oh Chaotica, that's your solution to everything isn't it.

    I loved this episode aka Buck Rogers in the 25th century tribute ..The sets used were so reminiscent of 40's TV, The acting also was great. Seeing Janeway overacting her role was suburb :)

    Good silly fun. I think my favorite part, though, is when Janeway and Paris are walking to the holodeck, Paris is explaining what J. will have to do as Arachnea, the discussion is going back and forth fast and furious, and all the while J. Is examining the datapad for the "parameters of (her) costume." The look on her face is priceless.

    A moment in an earlier scene may have been my imagination: Janeway's just asked, archly, who's going to play Arachnea and, just before she realizes it's her, I thought I saw her look teasingly ("yeah, it's you!") at Seven.

    @skeptical Yes! I noticed that too. That was something I found fun about the episode, that it was parodying not only old sci fi like Flash Gordon, but referencing and poking fun at itself. In addition to the things you mention:

    When Paris teaches Janeway about the rules and terminology of the Captain Proton Universe, and she rolls her eyes, it feels like they are also both poking fun at the Star Trek universe rules and terminology, which let's face it, is just as silly and made up.

    When they discover whatshername dead, which isn't supposed to happen, it could have been a reference to the death of Tasha on TNG, which also felt wrong.

    @Don Lee I noticed it too. Seven as Queen Arachnea would have been fun. But then we wouldn't have had her priceless "it's lonely at the top" line, another reference to the "real" universe.

    Well, as somebody who happens to be an old sci-fi serials fan (as in, watched shitton of them because of this episode so I knew what is it making fan of) I found this one to be very fun outing. But I do agree with Jammer to extent. There is this feeling writers aren't terribly comfortable with what they are doing here. Which is understandable, this is a big risk in and of itself. Still, one thing that irks me is that for an affectionate parody, there seems to be a certain lack of affection? I mean, I don't hold old serials as sacred or anything, of course there are going to be jabs at them. But the thing that made people love Galaxy Quest was that it was made with love-even for the dumb bits. Here, Paris has a moments when he talks about how he's done with Captain Proton and anywhere else, this would be a set up for him to realize how fun it is again by the end, which never happens. While there is fun with them, there is also a sense of "we are so above this". Like, guys, you had characters shoot their way out of event horizon and your current reoccuring bad guys are evil polluters. Shut up.

    Nit picks: The jab at cliffhangers is dumb. The thing about movie serial cliffhangers wasn't that the description lied about there being some, it was about them being resolved by changing the scene while showing in the next chapter, by having the hero suddenly jump out before the plane crashed or something. And where was the Friendly Scientist character? Come on, EVERY one of these had one. I thought Doctor was going to play one, but nope.

    Hello, PhoenixFyre... I greet you from 2,633 days in the future!

    Time has proven that your comment of August 17, 2010, was accurate; so do not despair! Your prophetic words were not lost to history, nay! Rather they *made* history... a history that we here in the future are the benificiaries of. We owe you a debt of gratitude, PhoenixFyre.

    For lo many of the commenters on this episode ARE buzz kills and party poopers... intellectual charlatans more enamored with their own keyboard-infused death rays than they are of enjoying Chaotica’s admittedly campy ones.

    Upon excreting their vapid review, they sit back and read it multiple times basking in their own derring-do with a firm belief that their place in the sci-fi universe is now assured.

    Oh, ok... perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh on the smug little buggers. Your phrasing was a lot nicer sounding. I guess even here in the future, we are still not perfect.

    To anyone quibbling about small details in the execution of this episode... sad. It's a fun romp, you aren't meant to take it seriously. IT's A JOKE, people! Laugh, or say you don't think it's funny, or say you don't get it... but to pretend it should be judged on the same standards as a serious work... I feel sorry for you.

    For a light-hearted episode, it was a little strange to juxtapose the parody with all those innocent life forms being murdered. It's a joke people!

    (I really liked both Counterpoint and Latent Image. More later, perhaps.)

    I agree with the two major observations people tend to have about this episode -- it's fun and effective at conveying the feel of early sci-fi serials, and it's maybe not quite fun enough to feel entirely right. Not everyone agrees (on either point!), but I think I land somewhere in the middle in my opinion on the ep. I think having the aliens *die* because of Chaotica was a bit of a mistake that made the whole thing seem more serious than it needed to be; the episode could have maybe gone for full black comedy to make it work, but it mostly remains in register of homage-farce, in which case it makes sense to have danger (and a lot of it!) but the fun gets kind of spoiled if lots of people actually do die. And we don't really learn anything about the aliens, when I think it really would have made some sense to at least better use the aliens as a way of probing the Captain Proton simulation -- if they believe that this is the Real World, what do they think of Earth culture? The running time is only an episode length, of course, but I thought of Galaxy Quest as a sort of model of how it could be interesting to follow aliens who really believe that the optimistic-and-silly sci-fi show is real, and how that can help/harm them, and (if the episode is mostly positive on the sci-fi serials) how that help them, even. As is, the Captain Proton simulation was purely a disaster for the aliens and it does tend to send the message that entertainment is entirely frivolous and destructive, without any positives that are sufficient to outweigh the negatives. If the point is something along the lines of what Elliott says above -- that the silliness and schlock are only superficial qualities, covering up the deeper optimism and mythic qualities of even the shallowest of the hopeful sci-fi genre -- which I think makes sense, I don't think the ep quite sells it, both because of the destruction caused by the program (which isn't even mitigated by Janeway, Tom et al.'s actions -- they just allow the danger to stop) and because of Tom's downbeat I'm-through-with-this-Proton-world conclusion which doesn't get countered, except very weakly.

    But still, it is pretty fun. Melgrew is a hoot chewing scenery as Arachnia, especially the way she gradually gets into the role. Satan's Robot's quiet "invaders" after Tom tells it to shut up is, as many others have mentioned, hilarious. And the off-holodeck scenes aren't wastes of time but are generally amusing, if not laugh-out-loud for the most part. Favourite moment: Janeway's assumption that Tom is going to want Seven to play the space femme fatale babe, with a kind of dripping cynicism, which reads to me as a bit of Melgrew's contempt for the cynical aspects of Ryan's casting dropping into the show. I think I'll go with 2.5 stars.

    3 stars. I thought this along with Dark Frontier, Think Tank and Equinox were the better episodes in a pretty awful fifth season

    It felt fresh and fun. It was just a good time action adventure back to basics outing

    One thing not really that relevant to this episode is how everyone always comes into the mess hall and asks Neelix for a cup of coffee or whatever, and he walks over to the replicator and asks for a cup of coffee and hands it to them. Why not go to the replicator yourself? Why tell Neelix, then have him tell the replicator? That annoys me every time it happens.

    They also seem to have forgotten that Seven can make 'anti-hologram' grenades (The Killing Game). Just take one of those into Chaotica's control room. The end.

    I too found it strange that they were all acting so silly when 53 (!) aliens had been slaughtered by their holodeck program. You think they would have been a bit more serious.

    Ignoring all the contrivances, plot-holes, and things that make no sense, it simply wasn't funny.

    1 star for trying.

    This was a fun episode! The idea of aliens who think that the holodeck is real but that the humans are fake, that's pretty creative!

    Too bad Janeway had to be involved in it, it would have been better if one of the Delaney sisters played Arachnia.

    My main gripe with this episode is the fact that they will go light years out of their way to explore new life and civilizations, yet when entities appear, *literally* inside their living room, they go out of their way to avoid any contact or investigation of them until after Ming The Merciless has taken out a handful of their people. Granted, it would have made for a short episode if they had made contact first, but it just goes against the whole concept of what they're doing out there in the first place.

    I'm not familiar with 40s and 50s sci-fi but can believe that this was a good recreation of it -- of course, not an episode to be taken seriously but certainly better than some of the DS9 Ferengi comedies and I also prefer it over "Our Man Bashir" slightly. It is also like "Trials and Tribble-ations" in that it is an exercise in technique with a near paper-thin plot (although there's more here than in that DS9 episode's plot).

    I really liked Janeway going to town as Arachnia -- yes it's all hokey and contrived and I didn't really laugh at any of the gags, but it didn't totally suck. The novelty had worn off pretty quickly since it wasn't the first Captain Proton on VOY, but getting Janeway and Doc involved helped greatly.

    What was a bit weird was seeing the holographic aliens manifesting themselves as human characters from the 40s/50s. Seems a bit of a stretch to me but ultimately, it's a pretty simplistic plot -- aside from the needless technobabble of the ship being stuck in subspace. Was it firmly established that the "5th dimensional" aliens were behind Voyager being trapped in subspace? Because it also seemed quite coincidental to me. Of course the holodeck malfunction is one of the oldest tricks in the Trek canon.

    I liked how the transition from scene to scene was done when in the holodeck program -- not just abrupt switches but different styles of transition. I admire the attention to detail in really trying to make it feel like those ancient sci-fi shows.

    At one point, Janeway/Arachnia gets "phasered" but is not affected -- how is this to be explained? Also was curious why she seemed to have some feelings for Chaotica after he got zapped when the death ray was destroyed. I suppose this is a throwback to the typical endings of those ancient sci-fi stories -- yes the bad guy never truly dies and will be back somehow.

    2 stars for "Bride of Chaotica!" -- enjoyed Mulgrew as Arachnia and some of her facial expressions even when just playing Janeway. Not sure why Harry Kim would want to take part in this Captain Proton stuff with Paris -- does he just want to get with holodeck girls in this program? But overall, I give credit to the tribute attempt here, although it's farfetched. The problems the ship faced were underwhelming and boring.

    This episode is fun as part of a binge session but was kind of brutal back in 2000 when I sat down, hungry for sci-fi at 11:00 PM, to watch the nightly CBS Star Trek episode. Perhaps that's where that 2009-2012 anger was coming from. It seems that people lightened up on this episode once Star Trek began streaming online.

    Very little sympathy for the aliens. The only victim was the one who got shot during the initial interrogation. Chaotica explicitly told the pair that he believed they had invaded his planet and he wondered if they were alone or part of an invading army. The alien stated that contact should be terminated. But after the first alien was killed, an invasion commenced. Chaotica was proven right.

    "You have killed 53 of my people (...who were invading your territory, intent to kill you, revenge in their photonic hearts)." The purest vintage of dipshits, these aliens. Their only danger was when they chose to invade someone else's territory and fly in front of the death ray. Hard to mourn. I think the Voyager crew realized this and decided to enjoy themselves, dragging out their scenes. Why cry over moths in a bug zapper when the party is so much fun?

    Wild power move by Janeway to put her hands on Neelix and bark "COFFEE. BLACK." eight inches from his face and make him use the replicator for her. The writers wrote such a wonderfully insane, unstable, and bipolar character.

    Harry ducking under the robot's arm as it clumsily turned to walk across the room was hilarious.

    Mostly silly, but kinda fun. Not a total loss, but unlike Tom, I'm not a big fan of old timey sci fi, so . . . eh. Not a huge stinker, but can't imagine wanting to watch it again.

    I loved watching the old 40s sci-fi serials, and I think this is a great homage to it! Between Seven's disdain of entertainment, and Tuvok's deadpan sarcastic comments, and Janeway's eyerolls, this show was great! It made fun of the genre, but still respected it. I personally love how the writers did this! Yes, it might have been fun to just have the holodeck adventure without the contrived plot (the fact that real holographic beings were dying in a war put cold water on the light tone the episode was going for), but besides that, I wouldn't change a thing! I also think that Paris is a good choice for Capt Proton. He's always been a kind of boyish character, and I could see him getting a kick playing the hero in a scenario like this. i just wish they utilised Harry Kim more.

    Going back to the holographic aliens-it is kind of sad that they never learn the "truth" of what was going on. They think they just won a war against real invaders. Yea, that whole subplot really did take the joy out of the light romp.

    Extremely well done episode, which balanced comedy, ingenuity and action drama in a quite remarkable way.

    Would've loved to see the Delaney Sisters as well as more of Tuvok and the Doctor. But that's the only things holding it back.

    3 solid stars.

    Nah, the episode is fun. I do wish the crux of the story about Voyager being trapped and ultra-serious photonic aliens going to war wasn't so stilted and full of technobabble, but the rest of the proceedings are a blast. It's a joy to see the cast loosen up and get to play up the camp, and the love put into the production design is infectious. Give me Captain Proton cheese over season 3's Club Med or the offensive and cloying Fair Haven any day of the week.

    Gosh, Trekkies, ya gotta get out more. You need some perspective. do know that Trek left science out of the fiction equation during the first season of TOS, don’t you? That it’s fantasy? As in...the Trek universe, Trek history, Trek characters, Treknobabble...aren’t REAL? (No matter how we might wish they were.)

    frantic, who posted above - somewhere in the timeline - has the secret decoder ring. Quoting: “When Paris teaches Janeway about the rules and terminology of the Captain Proton Universe, and she rolls her eyes, it feels like they are also both poking fun at the Star Trek universe rules and terminology, which let's face it, is just as silly and made up.”

    This is a purely pleasurable grand romp of an episode, as visually and aurally delicious as it is a love letter to ALL sci-fi (not just old stuff) - and a love fest for (and to) this cast.

    The color parts taking place in the “real” Trekiverse are absolutely crucial to any “point” the episode makes, which is that there’s no substantive difference between the fantasy weapons and tech of the Cap’n Photon program and its counterparts in the full-color “24th century” “reality.” (Unquote.)

    Hearing the technobabble in the holodeck program vividly illustrates that the usual Treknobabble is just as fatuous. Fergawdsake, Tom even exPLAINS this to the crew when they start to snicker at “death ray” and “rocket ship” and “ray gun” and “lightning guard,” and translates them to their Starfleet equivalents - at which point the crew grudgingly starts to take Chaotica’s realm more seriously.

    Captain Photon makes Star Trek look equally fantastic (in the literal sense of the word), in that both are complete and utter fictions, serving simultaneously as brain-tickle entertainment, mythopoetic storytelling, and more or less insightful and emotionally truthful meditations on myriad dimensions of the human experience.

    And of course the “death” of “photonic beings” in the context of this episode is treated with little Rodberrian hand-wringing, because it emphasizes what is literally true in every episode: everything we see on the screen - pacifists, killers, and killed - is a play of photons. No aliens were harmed in the making of this episode (or, you know, any other).

    I get that in many episodes we’re to take the humans, the aliens, the action, and the interactions seriously - that we can, and do, live with and make it “real” in our imaginations. (At least to the extent we can willingly suspend disbelief.)

    But not in this episode. In this episode, people who produce make-believe photoplays - who put on prosthetic makeup and dress up as aliens, who play let’s-pretend for a living, feigning fights amidst stage props - have stepped back to make a little loving meta fun of the whole, so to speak, enterprise. We’re surely meant to laugh with them, not prod for plot holes and violations of canon.

    Sometimes we forget that Trek - all Trek - is as much anthology as it is serial, or even situationally episodic. One week it may be hard-core speculative fiction with a philosophical bent, then barely disguised allegory, then space opera melodrama or close character study or mystery or science procedural or courtroom or medical drama or disaster flick or action-adventure derring-do, wartime drama, or light comedy - or gentle satire, parody, or farce.

    We can’t bring the same expectations, the same dour and reductive critical stance to every episode. And we certainly shouldn't take a fabulously frivolous outing like BRIDE OF CHAOTICA! more seriously than the people who clearly had so much fun making it.

    Sometimes I swar tew Gawd Trekkies don’t deserve nice things.

    One correction. None of the Star Trek shows are fantasy. It is science fiction which is a different genre.

    "Fantasy" is a broad term that needn't only refer to the genre, but here it seems to be used more or less as a synonym for "fiction."

    That was my thought Top Hat, that someone was equating "fantasy" with "fiction".

    There isn't a doubt that some overlap is going to occur between fantasy and science fiction and in some cases the line becomes blurry if not non-existent.

    But conceptually and stylistically, they are separate genres. There is a good reason why many of a generation of NASA scientists, astrophysicists and others who went on to real science careers attribute their professional inspiration to Star Trek and not, say, Lord of the Rings.

    Real engineers were inspired to develop real technologies like cell phones by Trek communicators but not by, say a Palantir.

    @ Proteus,

    We have some issue with terminology here, but since you bring it up:

    " do know that Trek left science out of the fiction equation during the first season of TOS, don’t you? That it’s fantasy?"

    I need to correct what you think "science fiction" means. It does *not* mean fiction involving real (as in, currently known) science. If it did then a story about Louis Pasteur that I wrote would be called science fiction, like you know, fiction about a scientist doing science. But that's not what it means. Science fiction means a story about fictitious science, meaning it's about science that does not exist but (if well-written) might possibly exist one day. That last clause isn't even necessary to quality but very often writers do try to guess about what will be. You can't say "but this stuff isn't real" and then claim it's not therefore science fiction. You are just misunderstanding what the genre is and what the term means.

    However I do find your write-up of this episode interesting, especially as it may shed light on how outsides (non-Trek fans?) might see Trek in general, rolling their eyes at all the 'rules' and contunuity bickering. Especially during the run of VOY, by which time I suspect the production team was already wary of the handcuffs set by continuity, there may have even been some of that sentiment on the inside. However taking your analsysis as valid, my interpretation of it is a bit more bleak: could it not just as soon mean that the writers of this episode basically thought that Trek rules are stupid and that insisting on their consistency is no more intelligent than the rules in Bride of Chaotica? My instinct would be to take this as a bad omen, that basically the production team sees Trek as little more than a silly 1950's serial, basically drek that sells, if we're going to take your reading of it seriously. And I'm not sure we shouldn't, because that's actually how I felt about the showrunners when this show was first on the air. I basically assumed they didn't care about very much and actually I quit watching at around this point and couldn't take any more for a season or so. IIRC I made myself tune back in to watch the final season or something like that. I've seen them all since then, but yeah - I can't say I disagree that this could be taken to mean the showrunners are making fun of Star Trek.

    Don’t take me wrong: I love sci-fi, and if we must slavishly observe hide-bound distinctions between academically defined genres, prefer it to “fantasy.” And I’ve been a Trek fan - and defender - since watching TOS episode one during its first TV run.

    That said, you gotta admit there’s a wide margin of overlap between the two, precisely in the region where Heinlein observed that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. One can easily imagine Trek presenting sentient mobile trees, magic rings of power, orc armies, elven species, and wizard staffs - but suggesting the enabling power is technology rather than magic. After all, what IS the difference between transporting and magically appearing there rather than here?

    I get that casting incredible power and other worlds in the physical trappings of technology rather than of sorcery can inspire and reinforce interest in science. It also makes mythic magic and godlike capabilities more palatable to modern tastes, and so sneaks the archetypes and wonder of mythology into minds which might otherwise be hostile to it.

    That’s all good, and no argument from me.

    But when virtually every technology which makes a fictional universe and its inner mechanics workable - FTL, transporting, replicating, universal translation, artificial gravity, solid holograms, et al - either ignore the laws of physics as we know them or require quantities of energy exceeding that available in the known universe - I can’t help but observe that there’s a fair dose of fantasy in our fiction.

    Science fantasy, maybe.

    Which isn’t intended as an insult. Trek’s “science” is only a part of its formula, part of its function, appeal, satisfaction, and value. As is frequently stressed, it’s also about human psychology and relationships, and a medium through which to explore moral and ethical issues, particularly in our relationship with science and tech as it evolves in the real world. (And among a myriad of other attractions, it’s possible to watch it - as my wife does - to enjoy the textures, weaves, patterns, colors, and details of Ferengi couture.)

    An episode like “Bride of Chaotica” is intended, I’m pretty sure - and should be taken - as pure fun. If by juxtaposing a 1930s take on sci-fi with a 90s take, it suggests that both are equally ludicrous in the context of what’s plausible in the “real universe” ... well, that’s a useful perspective.

    The real 25th century (if we get there) will be far different from either imaginary scenario. And not that I’ll ever know, but I’d be pleasantly surprised if human exploration even manages a manned/womanned Trek to the Alpha Centauri system, just 4 ly away.

    And shoot, Voyager can make that trip in a few weeks.

    @ Proteus,

    I'm not trying to be insulting or anything when I say you should really go out and read some "science of Trek" books, maybe by Krauss. I don't think you're aware of how many pains were taken in TNG for instance to have the show's science accord as much as humanly possible with either known science or else the cutting edge of science theory. I've known phycisits and engineers who *loved* TNG because of how many nods it makes to real theory. There's a reason Stephen Hawking appeared in an episode. What you're saying about science fantasy certainly applies to DISC and I frankly don't like that at all. VOY seems to teeter on that edge as well, and it's been a common critique of that series that it relies too heavily on technobabble to get the plots resolved. But don't lay that at the feet of Trek in general. Even TOS included a lot of ideas that have in fact been shown to have merit. Are you aware that the 'warp drive' is still NASA's best leading idea about how future space travel might be done? Are you aware that specially-aligned crystals really are a good method of shooting charged particles through (e.g. dilithium crystals)? Are you aware that positrinics was something posited by Asimov, which is no doubt what led TOS to come up with "duotronics" and so forth? And hey, The Cage had fax machines before we did :) This is interesting stuff, you should go read up about it.

    Small correction: I believe it was Arthur C. Clarke, not Heinlein, who said the thing about advanced technology resembling magic.

    In other words, I’m just peeved that the pokey speed of light (and other universal constraints) are going to limit all our fun before it ever starts.

    And, fond as I am of the notion, I don’t think the aliens (who surely don’t look like us anyway) are ever coming. I’m going to miss them.

    I’m not insulted, just amused you feel the need to point it out.

    I’m pretty aware of those correlations, and am in fact consistently impressed that Trek’s “technobabble” is as realistic and plausible as it is - given that we accept the technology as presented. Wave guides, magnetic containment, neural gel-packs, crystals, beam coherence, pattern buffers, etc are all logically conceivable concomitants of the proposed technology.

    My point - and it’s a dull one - is that those techs STILL violate practical constraints of even hypothetically attainable physics.

    Alcubierre‘s warp drive (indeed directly inspired by Trek) is a based on mathematically valid solutions of Einstein’s equations - but its actual realization requires either quantities of antimatter exponentially out of proportion to what mankind might be able to produce, and/or other forms of “exotic matter” as yet unproven and undetected. Not to mention actually achieving that magnetic containment - or controlling the reaction once initiated. And that leaves aside any consideration of achieving the warp miracle with a craft as massive as a Federation starship.

    Per my (admittedly incomplete and “lay”) understanding of the actual physical principles underpinning other key Trek tech - gravity plating, transporting, replicating, etc - they are equally unattainable, and for similar reasons. They may have theoretical bases consistent with some hypothetical application of known science - but it’s mighty hard to imagine how we get from that to something that actually works, much less on the scale required for ST.

    Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. We should. And it doesn’t mean ST shouldn’t depict such a future. (Though it would be nice if the writers tried to deploy the fantasy tech consistently, rather than magically as plotting demands.)

    On the other hand, from a pure entertainment perspective, they shouldn’t let tech stand in the way of a good story (as is the case in this ep).

    After all, it IS fiction.

    We can probably agree that if science fiction and fantasy are vemm diagrams there is probably an overlapping "neutral zone" (to borrow a Trek metaphor) where you'll find most Marvel movies, Star Wars and some Trek series on the sf side and maybe something like the Shattered Earth books or... boy I am having trouble thinking of fantasy genre examples that would be on the F side of the neutral zone - but you get my drift.

    But Peter is correct that Trek always at least attempted to ground its ideas in real science. Trek was never hard sf to be sure, but to flippantly compare it to Saturday morning serials or to just throw up your hands and shovel it into the fantasy box wholesale is really unfortunate.

    And yes, Clarke. Thanks for correcting my misremember! Old age brain sieve.

    For the record, it was indeed Arthur C. Clarke, whose third law is "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." There's a corollary: "Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology." One could certainly point to someone like Ursula LeGuin as a writer who works right on the margins of both concepts.

    I think it's possible to say this: Star Trek as a franchise is, in general, more interested in the appearance of fidelity to actual science than actual fidelity. That said, it is fundamentally ABOUT science -- as in, scientists and engineers are venerated as heroes, scientific solutions are taken seriously, the scientific process is explored -- in a way that affiliates it with science fiction more strongly than something like Star Wars, of which none of the above can be said and fictional technologies are treated as purely imaginary.

    “to flippantly compare it to Saturday morning serials or to just throw up your hands and shovel it into the fantasy box wholesale is really unfortunate.”

    Yesnomaybe. I’m not concerned to “correctly” put ST - or any other fiction - in a genre box, I’m just taking it as I find it. I didn’t mean to insult Trek; I seem to like more of it, more consistently, than most posters here.

    Maybe because I’m not concerned with genre constraints.

    Sez Top Hat: “One could certainly point to someone like Ursula LeGuin as a writer who works right on the margins of both concepts.”


    Furthermore, him sez: “I think it's possible to say this: Star Trek as a franchise is, in general, more interested in the appearance of fidelity to actual science than actual fidelity. That said, it is fundamentally ABOUT science -- as in, scientists and engineers are venerated as heroes, scientific solutions are taken seriously, the scientific process is explored -- in a way that affiliates it with science fiction more strongly than something like Star Wars, of which none of the above can be said and fictional technologies are treated as purely imaginary.”

    Very well articulated, and I agree 100%. ST is in every way a more thoughtful franchise than Star Wars, and I much prefer it for that reason.

    Trek is probably as much ABOUT science as a mass market audience would tolerate. There have been more space battles with hostile aliens than I would hope there would be in its imaginary future - not to mention wars - but we unevolved humans do thrive on conflict. ST depicts us as we are - as well as we might like to be.

    I normally can’t stand holodeck episodes. And honestly towards the end of this one I kept checking the clock to see how much time I had left (something this season of Voyager has drastically improved upon!) But dang if Satan’s Robot didn’t make the whole thing worth watching for me. Technobabble and slow pace aside, I’ll give it a 2/4 just for that robot.

    In our current age of political polarization, I am not surprised that some people love this episode and others hate it. I loved this episode. I thought it was hilarious and was laughing all the way through.

    Gotta disagree with Jammer, this episode is so much fun. It's often very silly, gloriously so, and I'm glad to see the writers and actors can do an episode where they don't have to take everything dead seriously. Both my daughter and I identified with Tom trying to explain his hobby to someone not into the same hobby, and having to deal with the "I can't believe you waste your time on THIS" attitude. Hammy villains can be a lot of fun, and Chaotica could give emperor Palpatine a run for his money. The whole Captain Proton scenario is absurd, and the writers and characters know it and have a great time playing along, and so do I.

    Second favorite line of the episode: Chaotica's enunciation of "Foooooooool!" which has to have four or five octaves and syllables in that one word. Hilarious. :)

    My favorite lines are where Janeway and Chaotica discuss "underlings", and the look on Janeway's face is priceless:

    CHAOTICA: Why this preoccupation with the Shield?
    JANEWAY: Oh, forgive me. It's just that, as a fellow ruler of the cosmos I often have to do things myself.
    CHAOTICA: Ah. Because of the incompetence of your inferiors, no doubt.
    JANEWAY: Something like that.

    Three and a half stars for this one. Love it!

    I'm with the crowd that wonders why we had to have the photonic aliens from subspace at all.

    Voyager was a long way from home. It would stand to reason that for every dramatic alien encounter, there would be long periods of just going though empty, boring space.

    The crew would need something to do to pass the time -- what better way than holodeck programs? I think two or three times a season, a nonperil storyline that examines the crews' cultural and social situation via the holodeck (or not the holodeck) would have been fine.

    You simply could have set the story up with a senior staff meeting with so little to report in the empty sector of space they are in that they simply start sharing ways they are passing the time.

    Harry Kim mentions Tom's "Captain Proton" story. Seven and Tuvok are skeptical and pronounce it a waste. But Neelix and Chakotay say it sounds like fun. They're in! (Fade to opening title).

    So Neelix and Chakotay join Tom and Harry for an "episode." They are delighted and at the next staff meeting talk about how much they liked it. Seven and Tuvok remain skeptical. They argue about the dubious merits of spending time that way with the Doctor siding with Tom and his Proton posse and B'Lanna and Janeway neutral about a 1940s sci-fi program but open minded.

    In the end, Janeway issues a challenge -- they'll all participate in a full Proton adventure. If Seven and Tuvok fail to see the value, Harry and Tom will have to do some boring odious chore mentioned in the intro. But if Seven and Tuvok (who cannot lie) see the value, they'll get stuck with the duty.

    "Bride of Chaotica!" plays out w. no aliens, no subspace. The only stakes are unwanted chores and bragging rights about being right. As the Proton adventure reaches its climax, Seven can't help herself but enjoy it and Tuvok cannot deny that the program had benefit for his emotional, bored crewmates. Team Proton gloats at the admission.

    When the episode ends, you see Tuvok and Seven engaging in the tedious chore in a Captain Proton motif. Laughs all around!

    In the end, Trek didn't have too many holodeck episodes. It had too many holodeck malfunction episodes. There were plenty of ways to utilize it without adding in needless peril.

    I dig how this episode -- and Janeway herself -- recognizes just how comfortable Janeway is as a megalomaniacal ruler. The nods to it throughout Arachnia's performance are hysterical, culminating in whipping that microphone cord like a boss. She's loving it. Watch her sit on the throne with her little comment about somehow liking that. Her expression is priceless.

    If you watch Janeway's little expressions of awareness about herself, it's an awesome bit of story meta. At this point in the series, Janeway is more or less written as a complete dictator with no accountability -- a fellow ruler of the cosmos indeed...

    The actors seem to be trying not to corpse throughout, and pass it off as the characters barely restraining their glee at the ridiculous situation. Janeway did what Picard really couldn't, and "bow to the absurd."

    I'd take Satan's Robot as a series regular too! At some point it looks like he is trying to cuddle Harry and Harry keeps trying to get the robot to leave him alone. What a hoot.

    A cute metatextual episode with enough levity to provide a respite from Voyager's more serious fare. Three stars.

    Just chiming in -- decades after the fact -- to add that this episode was stre-eee-etched out (far) beyond its original premise because of a fire on-set -- Voyager's bridge was unavailable for months, requiring a great deal of asynchronous post-facto filming. Chaotica 'suffered' (extensive rewrites) as a result; one imagines the initial plot wasn't quite so cookie-cutter "aliens take control of holodeck."

    I dreaded when we were first introduced to the Captain Proton Holoseries, knowing that at some point there would be an episode dedicated to defeating Chaotica because of some ridiculous holodeck plot design. Whatever it was bound to happen, I kept my bile down and got through it. My bigger question is around why the writers of every Star Trek focus the characters entertainment preferences on early 20th century. Captain Proton in Voyager, B movie horror movies in Enterprise, Private Eye dramas in TNG. I'm assuming there are copywrite considerations as well as not wanting to highlight contemporary entertainment in the fear that some scandal will tarnish the reputation of the series. A reference to relatively current entertainment that I believe will last until the 24th century would be a welcome touch. Let's have movie night be The Godfather, Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Shawshank Redemption. Let's have Naomi reading Harry Potter. Let's have a crew member reference Pink Floyd or Madonna.
    Finally, does anyone else cringe to see Ensign Kim playing the role of Sidekick. The minority playing second fiddle to the strong white male protagonist fits the Hollywood of the '30s but we would hope it is over in the 24th century.

    "Flawless re-creation. Although I'll admit that it looks like a lot of money went into some of the Captain Proton sets (which certainly wasn't the case with serials), the production team did a great job with props, costumes, and art design to make the setting look as cheesy as it should've. David Bell's tinny, bass-free score is also perfectly appropriate."

    "The careful mimicking, the attention to detail—all expertly done (Kroeker deserves kudos for the directorial effort). But what's missing is pure enjoyment and exhilaration. This episode never quite takes off. I wasn't laughing much. Occasionally I was chuckling. Some of the gags are perceptive, but they don't dare to be brashly satirical. The lesson to be learned here, I think, is that skillful imitation alone is not enough. There has to be an attitude, an edge, brought to the material."

    I agree with all of this, except that to me it is on the one hand a check the kind of overpraise it gets in some quarters ( gave the episode a ridiculous rating of 10/10), but the positive aspects still warrant at least two and a half stars. I tend to think more in terms of five star scales because that's what is used on Letterboxd, the Netflix disc-by-mail service (yes, it still exists and I still subscribe to it), and the TVTime app, where I gave the episode three stars out of five. Which I guess is about equivalent to 2.5 on Jammer's scale, although the latter seems harsher somehow.

    Like @Yanks (whom I've seen around here fairly recently), I liked the 2016 comment from @Skeptical (a moniker that doesn't ring a bell).

    The murder of the innocent photonic life forms feels like a weird juxtaposition with the silliness of the episode. It's all a jolly jape when people are getting killed by a half rate Ming.

    Episode is just about saved by by Kate Mulgrew giving it beans.

    This episode is watchable but it doesn't do much for me. I like the quirky comic book themes and the decision to go black and white for this one to add to the feel. Overall, I agree with Jammer's review. I think this could have been a great episode, but the writers couldn't pull it off. It ends with and old fashioned end card with ? Perhaps if this episode had been executed in a better manner we would have gotten a follow-up to this one. I do have to say, I like this holodeck program much better than that recurring beach one from a few seasons back.

    Did anyone else catch President of Earth Doc remarking that his performance was unimpeachable? This is 1999, remember.

    The production of the Flash Gordon type sets and costumes were very well done, but the characters and story seemed to just fall short of the mark. If I want a delicious twist on an existing character, give me Nana Visitor as Major Kira as The Intendant in the mirror episodes of DS9.

    This is one rating I can't agree with.

    Bride of Chaotica is, to me, one of those episodes that works best when you just turn off your brain a little and allow yourself to enjoy the hamminess of it. The technobabble aspects are by far secondary to the real substance of the episode, which is the love letter to hammy black-and-white spaceman shows and the gusto with which the cast jumps into it.

    The highlight of the episode is and always has been the briefing room scene, by the way. "Yes, ma'am. His Army of Evil." I have no idea how McNeill managed to keep a straight face dropping that one, much less the line about how the destructo-beam on his rocket ship can knock out the death ray if someone can get inside the Fortress of Doom and disable the lightning-shield. That last one seems like a self-aware jab at technobabble, which I appreciate.

    Quite liked it. Three stars.
    I thought the combination of 1930s sci-fi and the photonic aliens was ingenious. If anything the weakness for me resides in the underlying Captain Photon aspect. Its amusing but all the "characters" are basically just caricatures, and the amusement for me wears thin fairly soon. So the photonic aliens enriched the plot and I don't think they were meant to be taken seriously either.
    Wish there could have been more of the Doctor here (great fan of his character).

    Much prefer Voyager to DS9. which I find pretty banal. I don't think a show with an continuing story arc is inherently superior to one with standalone episodes. It all depends on the writers' creativity. And the writers of Voyager often demonstrate substantial creativity.

    @Brunojojo, your comment preferring Voyager to DS9 and claiming the writing in the former is more "creative" is ironic for so many reasons: 1) Bride of Chaotica is basically a ripoff of DS9's "Our Man Bashir" and 2) The latter is far superior to the Voyager counterpart for exactly the reason you stated: because in Voyager's version all we get are silly caricatures whereas in the better DS9 version we get a fun exploration of Garak's character through the vehicle of a silly holodeck romp / buddy adventure with his human friend. And of course Andrew Robinson hitting it out of the park as usual.

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