Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Star Trek: Voyager Reasserts Itself As Knock-Off Next Generation Theatre With “Scientific Method.”

The Good: Decent acting, Decent special effects
The Bad: No character development, Very familiar plot
The Basics: In “Scientific Method,” the crew of Voyager is experimented upon and fans of the entire franchise feel a nauseating sense of déjà vu.

I have long, and continually, asserted that while Star Trek: Voyager might have had an ambitious original plot concept, the fact that the writers and producers quickly did away with the bulk of the fundamental character conflict and refused to make the series a heavily serialized show quickly resulted in the show becoming a very cheap retread of Star Trek: The Next Generation. From character designs that were obvious rip-offs of the most popular Star Trek: The Next Generation characters (B’Elanna Torres is K’Ehleyr, Tom Paris is Nick Locarno, etc.) to plots that were obvious reworks of Star Trek: The Next Generation plots. One of the most compelling examples of Star Trek: Voyager reusing material from Star Trek: The Next Generation and hoping the audience will not notice is “Scientific Method.”

“Scientific Method” is “Schisms” (reviewed here!) up until its climax, where it becomes “Allegiance” (reviewed here!). And I wish that is all I had to write for a full review of it.

After Torres finds Seven Of Nine rerouting power for her new Astrometrics lab, she and Paris meet in the Jeffries tubes for a clandestine meeting where they are surveilled by an alien presence that Torres instinctually feels. As Janeway experiences headaches, Torres and Paris navigate their relationship, which Tuvok discovers. After Janeway reams the pair out for their recent behavior, Chakotay suddenly suffers from all the effects of rapid aging.

When Neelix suddenly falls ill, the result of hyperstimulation of his DNA as well, the Doctor discovers that the alterations to their DNA is anything but random. In discovering a bar code on the altered DNA, Torres finds the altered DNA is actually out of phase with Voyager. When the Doctor’s program is almost deleted by an external force, he contacts Seven Of Nine directly through her implants and the two work together to discover who is attacking Voyager. With her Borg implants retuned, Seven Of Nine is able to see the invaders and a confrontation between Janeway and the alien leader reveals that the crew is being used as lab rats!

By this point in the series, Seven Of Nine is already beginning to take on the role of Wesley Crusher for Star Trek: Voyager. By that, I mean that Wesley Crusher had the tendency to save the U.S.S. Enterprise through his intelligence, ingenuity, and the fact that he was just written into situations that he managed to provide the way out of. But the running joke became that, more often than not, the kid would save the day, putting to shame the much more experienced adults. Seven Of Nine rapidly becomes the solution to all of Voyager’s problems and “Scientific Method” starts that trend, and the one where she is paired more frequently with the Doctor.

Oddly for a plot that so closely mirror one from Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Scientific Method” is oddly illiterate for the lore of the 24th Century. In the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Dr. Crusher makes a huge deal out of Captain Picard having a headache in “The Battle” (reviewed here!). Yet The Doctor writes off Janeway’s recurring headaches as something very normal. By 20th Century standards, of course, they are. But by the 24th Century, headaches should be a real anomaly. Moreover, when the alien leader reveals that they have been upping Janeway’s dopamine levels over the course of the past several weeks, it creates a flaw that seems utterly ridiculous; that the Doctor is unable to read the raised dopamine levels is odd, to say the least.

The high point of “Scientific Method” is a comic relief scene where Chakotay and Neelix compare their ailments. As they suffer the effects of their genes being tampered with, the result is a scene that puts them attempting to one-up one another.

“Scientific Method” could have been scary or creepy or clever, but all of the elements of the episode, at least as far as the principle plot goes, had been done before.

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