Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Review: Voyager 3.14: Alter Ego

No-one will convince me that the "Paxau Resort"
holoprogram wasn't just an excuse for skimpier out
Star Trek Voyager - Season Three, Episode Thirteen - Alter Ego
Written between 13th and 19th September 2015

Last week, I described this episode as a Kim episode, which was half right, as this is a Tuvok episode which uses Kim as a plot device. This is an important distinction, because rather than singling out the magical mind of Harry "I remember being in my mother's womb" Kim, we're instead given focus on Tuvok, who Tim Russ employs with a brilliant mixture of comic Vulcan mannerisms and something hidden deep beneath the surface. It's that fact, along with a scattering of little character bits pointing towards future episodes in this season, that raises this episode from something run of the mill to something... well, slightly less run of the mill, but I'm trying to give some credit here.
   As Voyager heads into a volatile but stable nebula, Harry Kim goes to Tuvok for help, interrupting his game of Kal-Toh, a Vulcan logic game which makes its first appearance here. He wants Tuvok to teach him how to control his emotions, as he's fallen in love with a charismatic and buxom woman called Marayna - who exists solely on the holodeck. While Tuvok assists Harry in his endeavors, he soon finds himself drawn to Marayna, who in return seems to start falling in love with him. Kim gets pissy at Tuvok for this, and to resolve the situation Tuvok deletes Marayna from the system. It's later found, however, that Marayna isn't any old hologram - she's a projection being transmitted in from an external source, which is now preventing Voyager from leaving the nebula. Tuvok tracks her down and finds the real Marayna - an alien on an invisible ship, ensuring the nebula doesn't explode. He tells her that he cannot reciprocate her love, and that she should request a replacement so she can go out and meet people.
     As I've mentioned before, the love-interest-of-the-episode formula comes with a lot of its own particular ups and downs - it allows you to give a character a romantic subplot without major plot reprecussions, but it's hard to truly get a sense of why the relationship exists. This episode presents a nice twist on that theme, and works around the problem - Marayna falls for Tuvok so strongly because he's an outsider who actually engages her, and she's been alone for a long time. I also liked the way the episode created a red herring by making a reference back to some of the "Holodeck Character Comes To Life" episodes of TNG.
This episode is not about J/C. And yet, here it is. I love it.
     My problem with this episode on a base level is in its choice of characters. Tim Russ is fantastic and it was great to see Tuvok's mind work, but overall it comes back to a point about character development. By this point in the show, there have been some important character changes - Paris is more mature and less rebellious, Chakotay has fallen head over heels for Janeway (leave me and my shipper heart alone :P), B'elanna has become more sure of her abilities and less prone to anger. Harry "We were warned about the Ferengi at the Academy" Kim has not changed - he is just as naive and reckless as when he joined aboard, and Tuvok, as a pure-blood Vulcan, doesn't really have the capacity to change much as a character beyond learning to passively tolerate the rest of the crew. With no change in these characters, how are we meant to follow them on their journey through the show? Tuvok rides through the series on pure charisma and the immense talent of Tim Russ, while over time you start to just pity Harry and hope he feels better. (Although no disrespect to Garrett Wang, he's awesome.)
     Alter Ego marks the start of a point in Harry Kim's personal story (yes, he does have a personal story) in which from now on, all of his love affairs will be listed by Paris as a warning at the beginning of such episodes. The final list comes in somewhere in Season Six as "a hologram, the wrong twin, an ex-Borg and a girl from a xenophobic species". This is an odd trend, for, as we will discuss in a few months, this was meant to be Harry's last season on the show. Maybe those references in seasons after this one were just Harry counting his lucky stars that Kes got fired instead. Either way, it's perfectly representative of what Alter Ego is - ultimately, just another name on the list.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Bestill my shipper's heart! Kathryn Janeway must perpetually die in Chakotay's arms as he screams her name... it's Coda.

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