The Cynics Corner

Star Trek: Voyager

"Muse"

by David E. Sluss

30 April 2000

 
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THE BOTTOM LINE
: An interesting, somewhat subversive episode, best viewed as a meta-fictional indictment of Voyager's own storytelling problems, such as rushed, inexplicable endings, inconsistent characterization, and crude acting. But at least now we can "Bennie Russell-ize" some of Voyager's worst episodes as being plays written by Kellas the Poet.

CYNICS CORNER RATING: 8.0 (B-)

RECYCLING OF THE WEEK: The title, of course, was used just four years ago on DS9 (okay, so it was "The Muse," but close enough).

LAUGH LINE OF THE WEEK: "The Eternals are difficult to understand." Yes, the characterization on Voyager is a bit inconsistent, isn't it?

ALLEGORIES OF THE WEEK: One of Star Trek's strongest suits is often said to be its use of allegory to address timely issues in an indirect fashion, using sci-fi props to make controversial messages more palatable. The original series, for example, addressed racial intolerance ("Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"), the arms race ("A Private Little War"), and the Hippie Creep threat to American society ("The Way to Eden") in this manner. But this may be the first time that Star Trek has turned the "allegory thing" on itself, and the controversial message here seems to be "Star Trek is crap, and you're a sucker for watching it." All of the symbols are there, if you're willing to look for them. The Old-Timer complains about the New Poets and their reliance on storytelling tricks and manipulation to move an audience, things that are bread and butter on Star Trek in general, and Voyager in particular, for years. The bloated oaf of a Patron (representing Berman? Paramount? Hardcore couch-potato Trekkies? Hard to say.) demands that new episodes be produced, even if they have to be hacked out on short notice. Kellas the Poet (representing Braga, I guess) uses an incredibly half-assed writing process which relies on cliche and deus ex machina endings (and I'd also note for what its worth that Kellas seems to enjoy the company of beautiful women, especially when they are tied up). Kellas and his troupe also seem to represent the fringes of Star Trek fandom, as they play-act Voyager's journeys, create masturbatory fanfic such as the Janeway/Chakotay and Seven/Paris trysts, and genuinely believe that their "play" represents a mindset that can improve the condition of the real world.

CONTRIVANCES OF THE WEEK: The Delta Flyer crashes, and yet everything on the ship needed to advance this story, like the library computer and the transporter, still works. And again, like in last week's "Live Fast and Prosper," we see stupidity with regard to the Delta Flyer's computer, like a total lack of security (i.e. Kellas was able to get in even though the most sophisticated machine he'd ever seen is probably an abacus). Also, though it's consistent with last week's properties of the Delta Flyer computer, there's no good reason for Janeway's log, quoted by the Chorus in the teaser, to be there.

NEW LINGUISTICS OF THE WEEK: I know, I know, we have to accept the universal translator and its magical powers to instantly translate an unknown language and to know when a speaker intends for his or her language to be heard and then translated verbally (e.g. "I am experiencing Pl'ugh'Da'Rane -- constipation"). Still, I have to make note of Kellas writing a message to Torres in his alien language and Torres being able to read it without difficulty. UT contact lenses, anyone?

FILLER OF THE WEEK: Can anyone think of a legitimate purpose for the sub-sub-subplot of Tuvok getting fatigued and ultimately falling asleep, snoring on the bridge? I didn't think so. And while the use of Tuvok as comic relief in this manner is embarrassing on its face, the real tragedy is that Kellas' spot-on description of the Vulcans proves that Voyager's writers know how Tuvok ought to be presented; they just refuse to do it for some reason.

PRIME DIRECTIVE VIOLATIONS OF THE WEEK: It seems that Torres using a phaser, showing off the computer, and beaming off-stage in front of these combustible-engine-incapable rubes would be potential violations of the Prime Suggestion (as my fellow Usenet reviewer "Bozo the Proctologist" likes to call it). But no one seems to worry about that these days. I was actually a bit more disturbed to see Torres forcing her "servant" Kellas to risk his life getting dilithium. It hardly seems like the "Starfleet Way" (or even the "Maquis Way") to let civilians front for her in a life-threatening situation.
  

Previous: "Live Fast
and Prosper
"
Next: "Fury"
NEXT WEEK: A special guest star, time travel, and things blowing up? It must be Sweeps, but will it clean up like a good Hoover, or merely suck?

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This review is copyright 2000 David E. Sluss
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