Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Not Quite As The Name Suggests, “Worst Case Scenario”’s Muddy Middle Makes For Average Star Trek: Voyager

The Good: Clever initial concept, Decent effects, Fair acting
The Bad: No real character development, Exceptionally weak middle results in a second half that is almost a completely different episode.
The Basics: “Worst Case Scenario” is by no means the worst of Star Trek: Voyager, but it is less incredible than some fans make it out to be!

One of the guest stars in the modern Star Trek era once made the crack at a convention that because the show was science fiction, they enjoyed the fact that their character being killed off still got them two more callbacks to reprise the character. That always amused me and I suspect that someone in the writing department of Star Trek: Voyager heard the remark and decided to apply it very literally to Martha Hackett’s character of Seska. The first of her two post-mortem appearances is “Worst Case Scenario.”

To the credit of director Alexander Singer and writer Kenneth Biller, they make decent use out of Martha Hackett as Seska. “Insurrection Alpha” is a pretty clever initial concept and the twist that involves the holographic Seska is a decent one.

B’Elanna Torres is walking the ship when Chakotay approaches her and leads her into a conversation that involves the idea of betraying Janeway and helping him take over the ship. As Janeway leaves the ship for the first time in the hands of Chakotay (the first explicit clue that not everything is exactly as it seems), Chakotay makes his move and Torres sides with him in the mutiny, stunning Harry Kim. As they work to subdue the StarFleet crew, Chakotay offers the crew the opportunity to join him or be put off the ship . . . when Paris joins her.

Paris is thrilled by the idea of the Holodeck program and he tries the scenario out on his own, immediately rebelling against Chakotay. But when Tuvok takes credit for the scenario, Paris is frustrated that the Holo-novel does not have a discernable end. In trying to conclude the story, Paris and Tuvok discover that Seska found the simulation while she was aboard and reprogrammed it, which may have mortal consequences for Paris and Tuvok!

Chakotay’s speech when he takes control and tries to enlist the StarFleet crew is a hilarious commentary on Star Trek: Voyager. The holographic Chakotay declares that he will not stop to investigate every spatial anomaly and that he won’t follow StarFleet regulations, prioritizing the trip home instead. Given how many of the spatial anomalies have not panned out for the crew and how many pointless encounters with alien races have only slowed the ship down, the speech is a pretty delightful lampoon of the actual series.

Tuvok’s attitude, as well as Janeway’s, is an intriguing one. The fact that Chakotay and Janeway are both amused by the program is a telling one and it’s enjoyable that by this point in the series both believe it is pretty harmless and entertaining. Moreover, the idea that Tuvok would have stopped writing the program because the two crews started working together is one of the more subtle lampoons Biller puts in. After all, by the second episode the two crews were working remarkably well together.

The episode gets into some trouble, though, when Tuvok and Paris begin debating the whole creative process. The middle section of “Worst Case Scenario” does more to illustrate that the episode could be a worst case episode and when Paris and Tuvok attempt to edit the program, the usual “Holodeck disaster conceits” apply. “Worst Case Scenario” goes from being something clever or audacious to a very trite, obvious and familiar style of episode originally pioneered in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

When the Holographic Seska takes over, the episode becomes banal and only Hackett really gives a good go of it. Robert Beltran, who starts the episode charismatically, becomes surprisingly monolithic in the latter half. While moments like the psychopathic Doctor within the program are instantly amusing, it is essentially the same thing Star Trek viewers have seen in Holodeck Disaster episodes before.

Tuvok taking an optimistic view late in the episode is somewhat out of character, though much of the episode has a reasonable view of Tuvok and his motivations. Tim Russ, despite the character inconsistencies, is very consistent with his performance throughout the episode. Russ plays Tuvok in one of him more delightfully logical and unemotive performances of the series.

Ultimately, “Worst Case Scenario” is erratic, but not unpleasant; it is like “escapist fiction” within the context of Star Trek: Voyager. In this regard, it comes out at average; it is fun while it is on, but ultimately less substantial than the best episodes of the series.

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


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

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

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