The Cynics Corner

Star Trek: Voyager

"Spirit Folk"

by David E. Sluss

26 February 2000

 
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THE BOTTOM LINE
: As this episode lacks even a smidgen of intelligence, logic, quality storytelling, respectable acting, and anything resembling a point, I am hereby declaring this the worst Star Trek episode ever made, beating out the old standbys like "Spock's Brain," "Shades of Grey," "Threshold," and even the previous holder of the worst episode title, Deep Space Nine's "One Little Ship," awarded that honor just two years ago.

CYNICS CORNER RATING: 0.3 (F---)

MYSTERY OF THE WEEK: What were they thinking? Scratch that -- what were they smoking? An entire episode devoted to fixing a malfunctioning holoprogram in such a way that the characters in that program are not harmed? An episode in which the Captain is more concerned with protecting her relationship with a hologram than with protecting the lives of real crew members? An episode whose message is that people can learn to accept one another, even when one group of people is fictional? A sequel to "Fair Haven," previously the worst episode of the season? We all know that Voyager's writers are fresh out of ideas, but are they really this out to lunch?

GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK: Finding anything good in this episode is a difficult chore, and perhaps the only one to be found is the portrayal of B'Elanna this week. Since she's the only character who showed up with a brain, I know that seems like damning with faint praise. But she is perhaps the only character in Star Trek history to have even suggested that the power be cut off to a malfunctioning holodeck. She was also the only member of the senior staff concerned with the safety of real people more than preserving the crew's "relationships" with the fictional people of Fair Haven. This is the only reason the episode received any points at all. Well, that and the fact that I need a little room at the bottom of the scale in case things get any worse.

POOR SCIENCE OF THE WEEK: While talking to Moe on the bridge, Janeway characterizes Michael as a "300-deciwatt hologram." Either she's slamming Michael's manhood, such as it is, or Voyager's writers don't know what they're talking about (a shocking notion, I know). A deciwatt is a tenth of a watt; so Mikey uses only 30 watts of power, half of what the lamp on my desk does? Right. Maybe Voyager should go back to the iso-units...

ATHIESM OF THE WEEK: The Star Trek Powers That Be, are so fearful (or contemptuous) of religion that they can't even portray it in a holodeck scenario. The Doctor portrays a Catholic priest, one who mentions harmony, loving one's neighbor, and all that jazz, but never God or Jesus Christ in his sermons. The church itself doesn't have any religious icons or pictures on display. For a holo-program that is wonderfully accurate (per Janeway's remarks in "Fair Haven"), this doesn't seem very convincing at all.

WASTE OF THE WEEK: Besides the two hours of my life spent watching this episode (twice, for accuracy's sake, I'm afraid), I'd have to go with "Larry" Kim's replication of real flowers for his holographic date. What's wrong with getting the holodeck to produce holographic flowers? And what happened to replicator rationing?

CONTRIVANCES OF THE WEEK: Where, oh where do we start? Even by holodeck show standards, this one is the pits when it comes to the contrived manner in which the holotechnology "functions." Among the gems this week:

  • A holocharacter has to be "on" in the lab before one can adjust his settings. Didn't Janeway adjust Michael's settings at the end of "Fair Haven" without him being on (when she told the computer not to allow her to change anything about him in the future)? How about: "Computer, change all Fair Haven characters so that they are unaware of changes to the program made by crew members?"
  • The holo-program has to be on in order to be repaired, and the real people have to stumble around the bar looking for a terminal. I can edit, for instance, my web page without it being displayed in production form; shouldn't Larry and Curly be able to do something similar?
  • Under the above assumption, that the Fair Haven program had to be on, why couldn't it have been frozen, so that Larry and Curly could do their work without interference from the locals, who were known to be getting surly and suspicious?
  • The Doctor can be hypnotized? Emitter or not, wouldn't that have to have part of the Doctor's programming? If so, why was it? The Doctor becoming "integrated" into the program, I can buy to an extent (indeed, it might have been better if this had happened sooner, as the potential loss of the Doctor's program could have been used to justify not pulling the plug on the program), but the hypnotism bit is pushing it, to say the least.
  • And the biggest contrivance of all: How is it that before the holodeck safeties were inevitably shut off, the local holograms were able to shoot out the real holodeck computer with their holographic bullets?

DISCONTINUITY OF THE WEEK: Proving that they can't keep things straight within a single show, much less maintain continuity between episodes, the writers tell us that the Fair Haven program has been running for "weeks," while later, Janeway tells Mikey that Voyager's crew have been visiting Fair Haven for "months." Relatively minor, given all of the other gaffes, but it's another symptom of Voyager's real problem: the lack of giving a shit on the part of the Powers That Be, made plain almost every week.
  

Previous: "Collective"
Next: "Ashes to Ashes"
NEXT WEEK: An exercise in retrocontinuity as another redshirt is implanted in Voyager's history.

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This review is copyright 2000 David E. Sluss
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