The Cynics Corner

Star Trek: Voyager

"The Haunting of Deck Twelve"

by David E. Sluss

21 May 2000

 
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THE BOTTOM LINE
: Though derivative, this show somehow turns out quite a bit better than it should, thanks to a decent script and effective direction.

CYNICS CORNER RATING: 8.0 (B-)

RECYCLING OF THE WEEK: Find me something that wasn't recycled. For starters, we've got just about every horror movie schtick imaginable (darkness, scary story told, flashlight batteries burn out, good guy mistakenly attacks good guy out of fear, good guy inadvertently scares the crap out of good guy, etc.). To be fair, while Voyager is often a "horror show" in some sense, its use of the horror motif here, though unimaginative, is decent, and this show is certainly better than the last one that ventured into this genre, last year's "Juggernaut." Even if we confine ourselves to auto-cannibalism, i.e. Trek recycling Trek, we've got the use of "non-corporeal lifeform taking over the ship" for the twentieth time or so. We also got a full set of "standard ship malfunctions": replicators fail amusingly, doors open and close erratically, turbolifts behave contemptuously, and so forth.

ENCORE APPEARANCE OF THE WEEK: The unheralded return of nervous Ensign Seles from "Good Shepherd" actually fit pretty well in this show. I have to wonder though, why does Voyager need a female version of Barclay, when they can get the real thing any time the ratings need goosed?

CONTINUITY GLITCHES OF THE WEEK: The writers have found the perfect device to absolve them of all continuity errors, plot holes, and flawed characterization. They simply need to write every episode as a story told somewhat less than accurately by Neelix. Plot holes? Neelix left out some boring parts. Science and/or technical gaffes? Neelix says the technical details don't matter. Out-of-character behavior? Neelix knows some of these characters are humps and has to "spice them up" a bit. But even with this near-perfect scenario, the writers louse it up, by having Neelix tell his tale to kids who notice and correct every flaw, but who fail to notice an obvious one: Neelix relates that Voyager's initial entry into the nebula was for the purpose of finding the hated deuterium, but when things go awry, Janeway orders a halt to the "dilithium intake." And then you have Neelix telling the children how Tuvok tried to calm Neelix's fears. Tuvok tells him to imagine his lungs filling up with air. Imagine is right, considering that Neelix has only one lung, donated by Kes way back in the first season's "Phage." And of course, since Neelix was telling the story, that oversight should never have happened. Folks, I think we've got the most trivial nitpick!

NEW (OLD) TECHNOLOGY OF THE WEEK: After a lengthy absence, Voyager's infamous bioneural gelpacks have returned with a vengeance, first in "Live Fast and Prosper" a few weeks back, and now here. The only question is this: We know the gelpacks have caused trouble in the past (remember the infamous "cheese" incident?), but have they ever actually benefited anyone? They're almost as bad as the holodecks, which at least a person can use for sex if necessary...

LAME TECHNOLOGY OF THE WEEK: How about those Starfleet-issue lanterns, whose power cells last less than three hours, the time it took Neelix to tell his story? It's strangely comforting to know that in the seemingly clean, ethical and altogether perfect world of the 24th Century, the tradition of military contractor boondoggles has survived.

ONLY FOLLOWING ORDERS OF THE WEEK: Ensign Larry Kim pulls rank and orders everyone to their posts, and requires Neelix to remain in the mess hall in case he is needed there. Why exactly would anyone be "needed" in the mess hall if everyone else has been ordered to be elsewhere? Perhaps to attend to Neelix's wok, which seems to always be at full flame even when Neelix isn't cooking and when oxygen on the ship is being depleted...

COURT-MARTIAL OFFENSE OF THE WEEK: Janeway's "breakthrough," the hunch that the nebula creature is trying to communicate via the computer, results in a shocking security lapse, even by Voyager's standards. The first thing requested by the creature, who has partially inhabited the computer and whose intentions aren't known, is Janeway's command code, and Janeway gives it right up with no questions asked. Pardon me, but might that not mean that she just gave full control of the ship to the creature, when it only had partial control previously? Get the gallows ready...
  

Previous: "Life Line"
Next: "Unimatrix Zero"
NEXT WEEK: If it's the end of May, it must be time for another Borg cliffhanger, and this time the Captain gets assimilated. Boy, that's original...

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This review is copyright 2000 David E. Sluss
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