Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Another Banal “Possession” Episode Plagues Star Trek: Voyager’s “Alice!”

The Good: Moments of concept
The Bad: Continuity, Some of the acting, Character inconsistencies
The Basics: When Tom Paris becomes obsessed with a new shuttle and its holographic interface, he becomes its tool.

With Star Trek: Voyager, some of the bottle episodes – episodes that are entirely resolved within the scope of the episode and do not actually have lasting consequences – do not work as well as they should. Given that Star Trek: Voyager is basically Lost In Space in the Star Trek universe, the more serialized arcs often work better. The problem with the bottle episodes usually is that they rely upon or include character inconsistencies that make them stand out from other episodes and what is established in them.

Tom Paris is a character who had some serious issues when he was used in bottle episodes. “Thirty Days” (reviewed here!), for example, tried to reassert initial character aspects for Paris that he had since outgrown. In the grand tradition of Star Trek: Voyager episodes utilizing the “best of” concepts of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Alice” is basically a mash-up of “The Game” (reviewed here!) and “The Quality Of Life” (reviewed here!). Perhaps more accurately, “Alice” is a remix of the earlier Tom Paris episode “Vis A Vis” (reviewed here!) where instead of an alien possessing Paris, it is a ship.

When Voyager encounters a space junkyard, Neelix is given the chance to represent Voyager in negotiations with the trader, Abaddon. While investigating the junk, Tom Paris falls for a shuttle he sees and gets it added to the trade. Working with Harry Kim to restore the ship, Tom Paris names the shuttle Alice and discovers that it has an interface that connects directly to his nervous system. The link from the ship is not omni-directional and the ship develops a consciousness that begins to call out to Paris. Taking on the guise of Alice, the shuttle begins to manipulate Paris with hallucinations.

Cleaning the shuttle up, Tom Paris becomes obsessed with Alice and starts working on the ship constantly, even taking on a new flightsuit in his hours with the shuttle. When Paris begins cannibalizing Voyager to service his new shuttle, Alice tries to kill B’Elanna and the depth of Paris’s obsession is revealed.

The devil, as it always is, is in the details and “Alice” is one of the worst episodes in regard to paying attention to the details. On the basic sensibility front, “Alice” gets some pretty huge concepts wrong. It is laugh-out-loud funny for those who have been watching Star Trek: Voyager when Chakotay notes that Voyager has a full complement of shuttlecraft. By this point in the series, several of the shuttlecraft have been destroyed and/or abandoned. The only place Voyager could have possible gotten more would have been the U.S.S. Equinox, but that was never established in the episode with that ship and, given how dire the circumstances were at the time, it is doubtful that Voyager would have been able to take the shuttles.

When B’Elanna goes to rat out Paris to Janeway, Paris uses the opportunity to escape Voyager. Yet, in the conversation with Janeway, Torres mentions that Chakotay and Kim have noticed that Paris has been acting erratically. It is hard to imagine a more appropriate time for Torres to call over to Chakotay to say, “Hey, Tom’s gone off the deep end; I’m going to talk to the Captain. Please lock down the shuttle bay for me.”

On the character front, Tom Paris makes sense for the one who is influenced by the shuttle by virtue of his long established “grease monkey” traits. What does not make sense is how the obsession with Alice would get as far as it does. Paris and Torres have been building a very real relationship, but Tom neglects B’Elanna for a pretty significant amount of time before she actually notices. More than that odd oversight, it is a redundancy; Paris has been manipulated and gone rogue more than any other character on Voyager. “Alice” might have felt more original had Ensign Kim been the one whose brain was hacked.

On the acting front, “Alice” is not only problematic for its lack of superlative performances – though John Fleck is characteristically good as Abaddon – but has some moments that are just terrible for the acting. In one of Roxanne Dawson’s first scenes in the episode, she is uncharacteristically stiff and very un-“B’Elanna.” Robert Duncan McNeill phones in his performance as Paris, as if he is tired of playing the character brainwashed and manipulated, especially after a long streak of episodes where his character is actually finding comfort and happiness on Voyager.

Ultimately, “Alice” is completely forgettable, substandard Star Trek: Voyager and surprisingly dull television.

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

For other works with John Fleck, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Weeds - Season 6
"Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“The Search, Part 1” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“The Homecoming” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Babylon 5 - “The Gathering”
Star Trek: The Next Generation “The Mind’s Eye”


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.
| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment