Thursday, 20 March 2014

Review: Voyager 2.13: Prototype

http://images.wikia.com/memoryalpha/en/images/7/75/Pralor_3947_eng.jpg
Why do birds, suddenly appear?
From Wikia
Star Trek Voyager - Season Two, Episode Thirteen - Prototype
Written 9/8/13

This week's episode is one that follows B'elanna Torres, a character who gets quite a fair amount of character development both in the right direction and in some odd ones. There's a lot to work with in her damaged psyche - anger issues, abandonment, obsessiveness, survivor guilt. All make for quite a few juicy episode premises to explore these issues, including this week's odd affair where she, totally implicitly, is kidnapped by the man she loves and is forced to bear a child by him. Except that the man is a robot. Like I said, the symbolism here is odd.
       Voyager finds an android floating through space, which looks like a cross between Kamelion and a shop-window dummy. While its technology is completely alien, B'elanna takes it upon herself to work night and day in order to try and fix it. Eventually she hits a rut and consults The Doctor, who helps her come up with a plasma transplant. When the machine awakens and Voyager returns it to its ship, it kidnaps B'elanna and takes her with it. The robot wants her to undo its creator's failsafe and allow them to reproduce again. Breaking the Prime Directive, she manages to create "new life", but immediately regrets it when she discovers that the robots, and their identical enemies, are the leftovers from a war between two races who called a truce but whose robots continued fighting and killed them in order to carry on. B'elanna destroys the prototype and is saved by Voyager, with B'elanna reeling from having to kill her "child".
     I was getting a lot of weird vibes from the episode's central concept, initially due to the very amourous way in which B'elanna converses with the robot, almost using it as a comforting presence during its inactivity and then sitting in abject awe of it once it awakened. Then, once she had made the prototype and was forced to kill it, I felt that the episode as trying to push for some kind of miscarriage or abortion metaphor that didn't really seem to fit. I'm probably reading too much into things, of course. Neither of these two things are bad - in fact, it's rather interesting. The way that B'elanna, after many years of anger and grief, is able to put that aside in order to have these mother-like instincts is quite fascinating. I do however think that it makes it slightly weird when those instincts are aimed towards robots and not other organic life forms. The idea that she can only confront her feelings on maternity by projecting them onto inorganic beings is for me something quite insulting, because we've seen B'elanna display emotional maturity before.
This scene was really cool. Go Jonathan Frakes!
      I was a little skeptical of the idea that the two alien races would have almost identical automaton soldiers, and that they wouldn't program these robots to never turn on them - the rules of robotics set down by Isaac Assimov are concessions to that. I also fail to believe that the robot in question has been alive for 150 years as he says - given just how vulnerable most ships are in Star Trek, and how much the two sides were bombarding each other, two sides with limited men would wipe themselves out in that time without ado.
     I think Prototype was trying to do a lot of things in a lot of area - on the one hand exploring the ethics of fertility treatments and possibly abortion, and on the other allowing B'elanna to explore her motherly instincts as she is forced to create a new life. The only problem is that it comes off as obsessiveness, more creepy than endearing, because she appears to have basically fallen in love with a robot. Had falling in love with a robot and the ethics surrounding it been the diamond-point focus of the episode, then it might have had something to say, but instead it became tangled in a technobabbley, creepy mess of shop-window-dummy robots and abortion metaphors where the mother stabs the newborn child in the chest with a screwdriver.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Watch your step, guys. I smell bullshit. We see a total waste of an episode in Alliances.

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