Friday, November 9, 2012

When Janeway Takes On The Mantle Of “Bride Of Chaotica!,” Star Trek: Voyager Gets A Parody Without Finesse.

The Good: Funny, Cute, Most of the acting, Well-directed
The Bad: No character development, Pretty much steals from an earlier episode
The Basics: Voyager’s encounter with a photonic life form almost leads to disaster in “Bride Of Chaotica!”

While usually I kvetch repeatedly about how Star Trek: Voyager openly stole from Star Trek: The Next Generation, it did not take long before the series began to simply borrow from itself. This is a troubling trend that illustrated that the writers were rapidly running out of ideas and the fans were easily fooled by the window dressing the producers came up with. This became especially noticeable to me as I watched “Bride Of Chaotica!” “Bride Of Chaotica!,” on the surface, seems to merely be a continuation of the Captain Proton ridiculousness started by Tom Paris in “Night” (reviewed here!). But upon closer viewing, it bears uncomfortable parallels with the first season’s “Heroes And Demons” (reviewed here!).

Like “Heroes And Demons,” “Bride Of Chaotica!” features the appearance of photonic life forms on the holodeck, using a holodeck program as if it is reality. Despite utilizing a virtually identical plot structure (with a different character mix and a spatial anomaly thrown in) as “Heroes And Demons,” “Bride Of Chaotica!” holds up remarkably well as a parody of early 20th Century serials. Mimicking well the hammy qualities of those serials, it gives Star Trek: Voyager the chance to play in and parody cheesy science fiction serials for an entire episode.

Tom Paris and Harry Kim are playing on the Holodeck in their latest chapter of the Adventures Of Captain Proton when Voyager comes to an abrupt stop. Unable to leave the area or stop the holodeck program, Kim and Paris encounter an anomaly (in color in their black and white program) and beam out of the holodeck. The invaders are quickly revealed to be photonic beings coming from the area of space (a “cosmic sandbar”) where Voyager is lodged. When the characters in the Captain Proton simulation menace the explorers from photonic space, they begin an all-out war on the holodeck.

Seeing no other way out of the area of space and the conflict, Paris has Janeway assume the role of Chaotica, Queen Of The Spider People. Entering the holodeck, Janeway works to fool the conniving villain, Chaotica and make peace with the photonic life forms.

“Bride Of Chaotica!” works on several levels, but is far from flawless. On the plot front, there is an awkward scene of filler where Janeway and Neelix discuss a bathrooming problem Voyager. When Janeway leaves the problem in Neelix’s capable hands, there is no follow-up scene where, for example, Janeway runs into a line to use her private lavatory. Moreover, Paris seems surprised when the Captain Proton simulation is running after three days of Voyager being stuck, despite him and Harry having to beam out of the simulation and him not subsequently shutting it off.

Outside the utter lack of character development, the only real problems with character come from Janeway (within the episode) and Tom Paris (in the larger context of the series). Janeway is a diplomat and has illustrated finesse and the ability to deceive just an episode earlier in “Counterpoint” (reviewed here!). And yet, faced with the ridiculous notion of Chaotica, Janeway suddenly loses all subtlety and tact. When she infiltrates the holodeck, she has the mission of getting him to lower the energy shield. Alas, Janeway attempts this by repeatedly requesting this without using her charm or negotiation abilities.

Tom Paris does not work for me in “Bride Of Chaotica!” in the context of the season and series. In “Thirty Days” (reviewed here!), which was temporally proximate to this episode, Tom Paris took a stand and was put in solitary confinement for an entire month. That experience apparently has no real or lasting effect on him (outside a demotion to Ensign) as he is back to playing in the exact same simulation he was playing in before his incarceration. I just think that if prison was supposed to change Paris, not going back to Captain Proton would have been a realistic and good bit of character development.

Once the photonic life forms are defined, the Doctor is reasonably pressed into service. But when that happens and Paris defines the Death Ray of Chaotica as lethal to the photonic life forms, Chakotay is seen smirking and no one in the room actually points out that the photonic life forms are being killed by the simulation (something that one of the invaders has already explicitly told Paris and Tuvok). Both the compassionate diplomat in Janeway and the rebellious, yet ethical, nature of Paris (as defined only a few episodes prior) are absent.

What the viewer gets instead is a parody that works to make a parody of 1930s Flash Gordon-style serials. But in the context of something smart like Star Trek, this fails to work because in order to do the parody, the characters have to be fundamentally neglected. That weakens “Bride Of Chaotica!” to the point where it only has entertainment value, nothing more.

[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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