Saturday, July 14, 2012

Star Trek: Voyager's Hope Sinks More With "Prototype"

The Good: Acting is the best I can come up with
The Bad: Special effects, Lack of character development, Ridiculously simple and obvious plot
The Basics: When B'Elanna Torres is captured by a robot she saved from shutting down, the robot asks her to make more so its kind will survive in a witless outing.

I remember when Star Trek: Voyager was first airing. The second season had gotten off to a rocky start with the ratings and an even worse start with the critics. While the fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (reviewed here!) was surging forth with impressive ratings and a reinvigorated storyline, Star Trek: Voyager was floundering. After a brief hiatus, fans were told (at conventions) that the show would be returning stronger than ever with new episodes, the first of which was "Prototype." Sadly, "Prototype" was not a good harbinger of things to come, but also lucky for the show, it was not indicative of the quality of the episode that followed either.

The U.S.S. Voyager is continuing its aimless journey home when it encounters a wounded robot. Torres and Kim are interested in studying the robot, but Tuvok recommends letting its power supply run out before engaging it. After several failed attempts to re-energize the robot, Torres reactivates it using plasma from the warp engines. The robot then takes Torres hostage in an attempt to get Torres to make more of the same.

Yes, it's as campy as all that as Star Trek: Voyager takes on the reproductive cycle of robots who just want to live free. This episode features another Tom Paris rescue which will start to become problematic as the season goes on. Otherwise, the plot is drawn out and . . . bad. There's no other way to say it on this one. This is just a bad episode. The plot is dull, simple, and barely enough to fill a half hour episode, much less a full "hour long" episode.

The pacing is bad too, so the episode feels like it is a thin idea stretched out beyond a reasonable length. No, this while thing is slow and the moralizing is overdone and ultimately pointless based on the resolution of the episode.

Which leads us to the special effects. Campy plot worthy of a 1930's science fiction serial, effects worthy of same. The robots in this episode are basically plastic mask aliens of the week. The mask that defines the robot is reminiscent of one of those giant thin plastic Easter baskets that has been spray painted silver. This is easily one of the special effect department's worst outings yet (I've still yet to figure out why there are no eyes or why they bother with lips on the faceplate if it doesn't need to breathe and isn't attempting to mimic mouth movements) and one suspects that they threw something together for this episode because several of the preceding and following episodes were more effect-intense.

There is no genuine character development in this episode. The episode focuses more on the robots than it does on Torres and the truth is, the viewer learns nothing new about Torres through her captivity. At least in the first season episode "Faces" (reviewed here!) when Torres was captured and held by an enemy, it was used as an opportunity to explore the dual nature of her personality and heritage. Here, she's just a fairly generic hostage and her predicament is more dull than dangerous.

In fact, the best I can say about "Prototype" is that actress Roxann Biggs-Dawson played along. Up against a terrible prosthetic alien with no facial expressions to play off of, Biggs-Dawson holds her own and seems to make an effort to add to the suspension of disbelief in this week's ridiculous alien-of-the-week. But even her playing along does not yield a noteworthy performance. Indeed, it is barely adequate, though the fault is less Biggs-Dawson's and more the script. B'Elanna Torres is not treated like a person in captivity and she's not given any real compelling character aspects to wrestle with.

Usually, I try to flesh these episode reviews out, but occasionally, there comes an episode that lacks much that can be said. The worst episodes are thin ideas - like "robot is beamed aboard and captures a crewmember to make more of same" - that are stretched out for the length of an episode and feel that way. In the poorest of these examples, the viewer is subjected to something that utterly fails to impress in any meaningful way. That is "Prototype."

It's impossible to sell this episode even to a science fiction fan or fans of the Star Trek franchise. Even fans of Star Trek: Voyager are not missing anything by skipping over this episode.

[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 works with Rick Worthy, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Heroes - Seasons 3 & 4
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - “Soldiers Of The Empire”
Star Trek: Insurrection


Check out all the episodes and movies in the Star Trek pantheon that were better than this one (and the few that were worse!) by visiting my Star Trek Review Index Page!

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