Friday, 8 January 2016

Review: Voyager 3.25: Worst Case Scenario

Thank you, Tuvok. At least someone understands. *cough*
Star Trek Voyager - Season Three, Episode Twenty-Five - Worst Case Scenario
Written between 7th and 8th January 2016

Back when this show started, the main conflict set down by the writers was the struggle between Voyager's remaining crew and the Maquis rebels that they had been forced to work with. The Maquis were created and placed into Next Generation and Deep Space Nine just to set the show up, but the conflict between the crews was more or less dropped by the end of the first season. From then on, it would only be discussed in episodes that flashbacked to the first season, and this is the first time that happened. I don't know whether it's too early in the show's life for it to become self-aware, but the tone of the episode does feel slightly like it's closing the door on those old tensions, and throwing one last bone to the storylines that ran through the show's first two seasons.
     We open on what looks like Chakotay planning a mutiny, with B'Elanna playing the part of a Starfleet ensign going along with the rebellion. Janeway and Paris leave the ship in a shuttle, and Chakotay rounds up the remaining Starfleet crew and offers them an ultimatum. The real Paris then walks in and it turns out that this whole thing is a Holodeck program created by an unknown author. We see a couple of scenarios where Tom and B'Elanna try different things in the program, until eventually Tom reaches the end of the story. Tuvok reveals that the program was originally created by him as a security measure in the case of mutiny back in the early days of the show. With Tuvok's help, Tom is given permission to finish the program's story, but it turns out that the program had been booby-trapped by Voyager villain Seska before she died, and Tuvok and Tom are forced to explore the holographic Voyager and avoid being killed while Janeway works on getting them out.
     This is the first outing for two recurring types of Voyager episodes - "romp about in Voyager's past" episodes, and "Alternate Character Fun" episodes. Both of them happen about once a season, and allow the writers and cast to spend some time working with very different characters than they usually would. For what it's worth, I really enjoyed the segments set in Voyager's potential past, especially because for me it fit a lot more with the characters outlines in the pilot. We're given some hints in Resolutions as to why Chakotay basically just capitulated to Janeway straight away, but it never really made sense to me, and seeing him take the first opportunity to take control (and trying to do so without killing anyone) felt really satisfying. Also, despite how slightly one-note she can sometimes be, it was great to see Seska again, in her penultimate appearance on the show.
Oh, Seska. Don't remind me of the Kazon arc, please.
     Therein lies the episode's main appeal, then. What else is here though? There's a strange segment in the episode between the fun hypothetical scenarios and the finale with Seska's revenge in which Tuvok and Paris debate narrative method, and the difference between writing for the art and writing for an audience. It came out of nowhere but I actually found it really interesting, and I would have liked it if the episode had ran this theme throughout the episode. Usually episodes of TV Shows which are about writing are called cliché because it's writers who are writing them, but there's only one other story with that theme in all of Voyager so it wouldn't have gone amiss here. It might have been difficult to work it in with the episode's concept, but that's their job, not mine.
     Part of me doesn't want to find fault with Worst Case Scenario, because it's such a fun poke back at those early days of the show that it builds a lot of good will with me very quickly. At the same time though, the climax with the Seska hologram feels a little forced, and you end up taking a fairly interesting story about narrative structure and the rights of the author and turning it into a silly run-around. Despite this though, it just feels like an important event, and one episode before the arrival of the Borg as the show's main villains, it perhaps feels appropriate that the show finally leaves its old self behind in an entertaining and tongue-in-cheek way.


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