Friday, November 2, 2012

An Ethical Dilemma Not Undone By Special Effects, “Nothing Human” Is Obvious, But Not Bad!

The Good: Decent acting, Interesting concept
The Bad: Belabors its dilemma through repetition
The Basics: When Lieutenant Torres is attacked by a parasitic alien life form, the Doctor stirs a controversy on Voyager when he gets assistance from a holographic Cardassian war criminal.

One of the things I enjoy about being a liberal in this particular moment in time is that the liberals actually have diversity in their ranks. We don’t discriminate against people for having different views and we tend to see the forest for the trees. In other words, on arguments that are complex, we tend to hear multiple views and do not isolate our own when there are those who hold a minority opinion (sounds pretty good right about now, eh, Pro-choice Republicans?!). So, the prevailing philosophy amongst many liberals pertaining to research performed by the Nazis is that it should forever be locked away, out of respect for the victims of Nazi atrocities.

I hold the opposite view.

No one (at least no one I know) condones the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews during World War II. However, it happened and the dead are dead. Unlike the millions of senseless deaths that occurred in gas chambers and forced labor camps, Nazi scientists documented their work exceptionally well and their experiments upon live human subjects, while unfortunate, are over. The dead are dead and remain that way. While the argument goes that to use such research condones the actions of the Nazis and encourages emulation in scientists now, I believe that it is possible to condemn the actions, legislate and enforce laws heavily to prevent scientists today from acting so unethically, and still use the research. Who the hell knows what those scientists discovered? I take the stance that it brings meaning to those otherwise senseless deaths to use the scientific research gleaned from the deaths.

This comes up at the outset of my review of “Nothing Human” because that is the very thinly veiled debate posed in this Star Trek: Voyager episode. Oddly, for an episode in the Star Trek franchise, the captain tries to shy away from the moral debate that the episode is preoccupied with. Moreover, the episode belabors its own point by including supplemental characters who have a greater emotional stake in the debate than the one who is wounded.

Following a long, boring presentation by the Doctor, the crew of Voyager goes to alert when the ship is knocked around by a shockwave. In the wake of the shockwave, Voyager discovers a badly damaged ship with a wounded creature that is much like a giant insect. While discussing the creature and how it interacts with its ship, Torres is attacked and incapacitated by it. Trapped in Sickbay with the entity attached to it, Torres lays near death while the Doctor struggles to find out how to extricate the alien from her.

The Doctor is aided by the galaxy’s premiere exobiologist. The exobiologist, Crell Moset, is a Cardassian and the holographic replication of it quickly illustrates brilliance and stirs a debate among the crew. Torres wants to refuse any treatment that involves the help of Crell Moset (simply because he is a Cardassian) and a Bajoran ensign, Tabor, claims Crell Moset tortured and killed his grandfather. As Chakotay and Janeway work to contact the entity’s race, the Doctor and Crell Moset work to save the life of Torres.

The debate is interesting, but Jeri Taylor’s script is just plain sloppy. When Ensign Tabor expresses outrage that a holographic Crell Moset is aboard the ship, he claims (rather improbably) that he remembers the sounds of Moset torturing his grandfather, which is followed by the Doctor rather stupidly asking if Tabor’s claim is anecdotal, as opposed to his own experience. There is a pretty sloppy series of conversations, where characters make statements (like the above) without a clear understanding of what each of them is actually saying and Janeway argues in favor of eliminating all debate.

The debate is a good one, the execution of it is absolutely stupid. The holographic Crell Moset is created when the Doctor makes the statement that he needs to brush up on his exobiology. The holographic Cardassian is created as a convenience. The moment the controversy strikes, it seems perfectly reasonable that one of the solutions would be to simply deactivate the hologram and integrate the exobiological database on Voyager into the Doctor’s program. Simple problem, simple solution. An interesting character aspect that Jeri Taylor completely neglects in her script is that when the Doctor encounters resistance from Crell Moset while treating Torres, the EMH threatens to eliminate Moset’s program, which is essentially killing him. After all the moralizing about what is ethical medically, the episode neglects to explore what it means when a holographic lifeform menaces another of its kind!

That said, “Nothing Human” is not bad, though the cytoplasmic organism that has assaulted B’Elanna is a pretty mediocre construct (the Cardassian voles on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine looked more real!).

Guest actor David Clennon, whose work on Once And Again Season Two (reviewed here!) impressed me, is wonderful as the holographic Crell Moset. He shines throughout the episode and plays off Robert Picardo’s Doctor exceptionally well. Clennon is able to bring a charismatic aspect to Crell Moset (especially at the outset of the episode) which makes perfect sense and is a nice, realistic touch (such villains as Crell Moset do not come to power without charismatic aspects).

“Nothing Human” features one of the stupidest character resolutions of any episode. Sure, the final conversation between the Doctor and Crell Moset is guarded, but it follows a ridiculous dialog exchange between Janeway and Torres that has such silliness as Janeway bitching about Torres burning incense in her quarters. “Nothing Numan” could have been a brilliant, controversial episode that distinguished Star Trek: Voyager, but it is too sloppily executed to succeed with all it tries.

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