Thursday, 9 January 2014

Review: Voyager 2.3: Projections

To give you that authentic feel, I'll be writing these reviews out of order. This is the first of Season Two's episodes that I'll be reviewing, as in the production order (the order that roughly makes sense).

The final scene, which underscores the episode's themes of
self-identity perfectly, as the Doctor tests his own nature.
Star Trek Voyager - Season Two, Episode Three (Season One, Episode Seventeen) - Projections
Written 17/6/13.

Brannon Braga is a name we're gonna get used to on this blog, especially in the second season. Beginning as a writer half-way through the run of The Next Generation, he went on to become one of the head honchos on both Voyager and its successor series Enterprise, and is known perhaps unfairly for his more terrible outings. This, however, is not terrible - in fact, it's wonderful. Braga delivers his A-game as a mixture of profound character insights and a plot more twisty and turny than a very twisty-turny thing.
     The Doctor activates in sickbay to be told by the computer he's on an abandoned ship, attacked by the Kazon. B'elanna arrives in sickbay and fills him in, telling him that there are no projectors elsewhere on the ship. She sends him to the Bridge to help Janeway, and to the Mess Hall to help Neelix. Once he returns to sickbay, apparently bleeding, he finds that he is apparently a real person, and the rest of the crew holograms. A hologram of Barclay (a minor TNG character) appears and tells him that he's a real person in a simulation who has forgotten reality, which he demonstrates by affecting the space around them. Just as Barclay is convincing The Doctor to blow up the holographic Voyager to end the program and save his life, using a Kes-inspired Mrs. Zimmerman, Chakotay walks in and uses a similar story - except that it's The Doctor's program on Voyager malfunctioning. Eventually he is returned to reality and left to wonder the ramifications of the desires that his mind cooked up for him.
     The path of the episode takes a number of unexpected turns, but for the most part it works remarkably fluidly, the only difficult bump being a "dream-within-a-dream" fakeout near the end which feels a tad unnecessary. Before that, it's rather captivating as we move from the big and dramatic "99% of crew held by the Kazon" plotline to the equally awesome-sounding one in which the computer is expressing The Doctor's heart-felt desires through a simulation which we as viewers are unsure whether or not to believe. It's that suspension of disbelief through Voyager's tendency to hit reset that really makes it work for me.
Holo-Barclay tries to convince The Doctor of his coporeality.
     Plus, Robert Picardo is great as a man having an existential crisis without having existed in the first place. The central premise that The Doctor's desires are being played out is planted through the episode, first with the more mundane untitity of ship-wide movement and greater responsibility, and then with the ability to feel like a solid human and have a wife and family. The three 24th Century Treks all have a character like this (Data, Odo and The Doctor) and The Doctor is my favourite simply through Picardo's slow progression from the Doctor's normal self into someone with a great deal more emotional investment and conflict than he thought was possible.
     Projections is an episode for the show to be proud of. Following up the excellent but oh so slightly flawed Jetrel, Projections is similar in quality and barrelled me over with just how succinct it could be. Normally twists and bizzare scenarios ruin rewatch value because you know what's gonna happen, but like good script the little nods here and there to The Doctor's innermost desires make watching the episode that second time a much more powerful experience than it would be usually. To accomplish that in a season usually so reviled is something of an awesome accomplishment, and Projections is probably my favourite Season Two episode because of it.


NEXT WEEK: Let's talk about sex, baby, let's talk about rubbin' your feet, let's talk about crazy alien sperm, let's talk about... Elogium. Man, it's weird.

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