Friday, July 6, 2012

Is It Punchy To Call My Review Of "Persistence Of Vision" "Persistence Of Boredom?"

The Good: Decent enough acting, Good effects, Moments of character revelation
The Bad: No genuine character development, Very stale plot, Overall dull tone
The Basics: When the U.S.S. Voyager encounters a race that telepathically manipulates the ship, all seems lost, but mostly it's just the viewer's interest that wanes.

Star Trek: Voyager, which I have critiqued as being rather derivative of earlier Star Trek series, began with a concept that predisposed it toward serialization. Being lost in space with the goal to return home set the show up to have consequences that built up episode by episode, especially with the combination of two opposing crews. This would have been brilliant save that the producers did not want a serialized show or a show with a lot of conflict, because they felt they already had that with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. As a result, Star Trek: Voyager quickly stagnated and began to simply rehash plots already done in the franchise with bottle episodes that rejected the serialized concept. This trend became quite obvious by the time "Persistence Of Vision" aired early in the second season.

The U.S.S. Voyager approaches Bothan space, where Neelix warns Janeway that ships do not return from, while Lieutenant Torres is attempting, yet again, to install holographic projectors in areas of the ship to allow the Doctor to leave Sickbay. In the process of such an experiment, the Doctor diagnoses Janeway as suffering from fatigue and he orders her to take a break. Janeway takes a trip to her holonovel where she is stabbed by one of the characters and soon begins to hallucinate outside the holodeck. Janeway turns the ship over to Chakotay but soon others begin to hallucinate and become incapacitated by them. While the ship falls victim to most of the officers staring off in the distance, Kes and the Doctor work to save the ship.

"Persistence of Vision" is one of those episodes that is derivative and feels that way. Throughout the Star Trek pantheon, the various starships have fallen prey to aliens that cause them to hallucinate. In Star Trek, the crew fell victim to children following Gorgon in "And The Children Shall Lead" (reviewed here!), in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the crew was manipulated by an alien game in "The Game" (reviewed here!) and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did it less maliciously in the first season episode "If Wishes Were Horses" (reviewed here!). In short, this is a concept whose idea has been mined pretty thoroughly. "Persistence Of Vision" fails because it does nothing terribly new with the idea.

The best twist on this idea ought to bring some level of character insight. In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the idea was used to present new information on several of the character. Unfortunately, this episode does not truly do that. Sure, the characters become incapacitated by visions that make statements about them, the problem is the statements have already been made.

So, for example, Janeway sees her boyfriend and dogs, but we knew about her interest in both from the beginning of the series. We saw them in the series premiere. Of course she pines for them, she's been separated from them! Similarly, Tuvok sees his wife and Vulcan, which seems strangely obvious that he could be so easily incapacitated, but he is. And Paris, characterized in the first episode as a disappointment to his father, an admiral in StarFleet, sees his dad long enough to be berated by him. In short, the episode adds nothing to the characters that viewers did not already know. We're not treated to the revelation that Kim has a deep seated fear of plants with thorns or a secret lust for Torres. No, it's all rehashing what we've seen before.

Moreover, the tone of the episode is slow and dull. The episode plods along between hallucinations while the viewer waits for something interesting to happen. The crew seems especially witless as they become incapacitated simply by staring off into the distance as the alien influence manipulates them.

What the episode does well enough is to sell the viewer on the reality of the situation. The actors present their character in such a way that when they become incapacitated the viewer believes the character is trapped somewhere compelling. The viewer is never left feeling like they are watching an acting exercise. Instead, when Janeway's hallucinations leave her incapacitated, the viewer feels like Janeway's mind is somewhere else.

That's good acting on Kate Mulgrew's part. As Janeway slips further and further into dementia, the viewer feels it. Mulgrew uses her body language, especially the expressiveness of her eyes, to convince the viewers that her character is losing her grasp on reality. It's a treat to watch.

Similarly, Robert Picardo is given the chance to play The Doctor as more authoritarian as opposed to his usual role of comic relief. Here, Picardo adds a sense of stern confidence to his character to progress the role. And Jennifer Lein is given a limited window to shine as the hero of the episode. Kes, often neglected when one looks at the series as a whole, rescues Voyager using her unique traits. Lein convinces us of her character's abilities and the tentative nature of them. Lein wonderfully embodies a hero in the process of becoming.

It's still not enough to find this tired plot worthwhile and ultimately, the episode fails as a result. Sadly, this is the first of a few Star Trek: Voyager episodes that goes exactly where the other series's have already gone before.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete Second Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the sophomore season here!

For other Star Trek (franchise) episodes with Carolyn Seymour, be sure to check out my reviews of:
“Face Of The Enemy”
“First Contact”


For other Star Trek reviews, be sure to check out my Star Trek Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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