Thursday, 14 November 2013

Review: Voyager 1.12: Heroes And Demons

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The Doctor hits it off with Freya the Sheild Maiden.
Star Trek Voyager - Season One, Episode Twelve - Heroes and Demons
Written 14/6/13

This week delivers us a double whammy - a Doctor-centric episode and a holodeck episode. Holodeck episodes are generally cool because the holodeck allows the show to explore locales and characters that would otherwise be impossible in its futuristic sci-fi setting. While the cliche of "something going wrong on the Holodeck" is ever-present, this episode's use of The Doctor (for this episode calling himself Dr. Schweitzer) keeps things lively with Robert Picardo's sense of comic timing.
     Harry Kim goes missing on the Holodeck (ahem, Kim Death Count - 2) and is followed by Chakotay and Tuvok after they investigate. When it is discovered that they've been converted from matter to energy by the Holodeck's systems, The Doctor is sent into Kim's Beowulf program to attempt to discover where they've gone. Along the way he meets and forms a relationship with holodeck character Freya, and uses his hologram powers to appear like an invulnerable warrior. The Doctor discovers Grendel, the beast in the story, to have been replaced by a technobabble life-form angry at the fact that the energy it's made from has been scooped up by Voyager. The Doctor releases the life-forms, Freya sacrificing her life in the process, and the three crew members are reconstituted.
     A lot of the episode's humour comes from The Doctor's relative dryness. A later Doctor would be a lot more enthusiastic about getting in the Viking mood, but as we're in the early stages of his character development he reacts to the world of Norse legend with a kind of matter-of-factness that is mostly quite charming. The relationship with Freya, while a little too reminiscent of a hidden Women In Refrigerators for me, was at least a continuation of the feelings he appeared to share with Kes in Eye of the Needle. It was nice to see him out and about doing things instead of in his normal, claustrophobic surroundings. That I suppose is the problem with early Doctor episodes - they're mostly set in the same grey-lined set. (Most sets in Star Trek are grey; the weird architecture in Deep Space Nine is one of the reasons I love that series too.)
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The Doctor is badass in order to avenge Freya's death.
(Even though by rights it's a holoprogram and he could
just switch her back on if he wanted.)

     Other than that... the episode was a tad linear. I understood that it was probably an episode used to let the main cast get on with filming some other episodes, filming the on-location scenes with Picardo at the same time as other episodes' ship scenes, but it felt a little straightforward. The problem with stories like Beowulf in the modern era is that we're used to something a little more complex than the hero arriving, getting the girl and defeating the monster. Heck, the original Beowulf is more complex than that, it's all about temptation and regret and the story ends with him killing his son who happens to be a dragon.
     I never throught I'd be criticising Heroes and Demons for that, though. Because I think I enjoy the Doctor enough that despite the relative calling-it-in nature of the plot, Picardo's natural charm and some stellar writing for The Doctor's interactions with that world made it really quite captivating. I liked that Star Trek got a chance to be all olde-worlde and that pretty much everyone involved in the Holodeck scenario got to do old-timey-times overacting, which from experience is the most fun kind of acting there is. Indeed.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Who's possessing people? How many people are getting possessed? Who will save Chakotay? We ask these questions and more in Cathexis.

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