Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Good, Original, Idea Still Makes For Uninspired Star Trek: Voyager With “Live Fast And Prosper.”

The Good: Moments of performance, Moments of character, Basic plot concept.
The Bad: Very simple idea that plays out in a fairly mediocre way.
The Basics: “Live Fast And Prosper” has Voyager combating con artists who impersonated the command crew.

As Star Trek: Voyager wound down, it had a few episodes that actually stood out as more original than most on the show. Unfortunately, just because an episode is innovative in its plot, does not make it instantly successful. A good example of that from the sixth season of Star Trek: Voyager is “Live Fast And Prosper.” “Live Fast And Prosper” has a novel idea – that Voyager’s crew is scammed by impersonators who sully their name in advance of the ship visiting new star systems – but it lacks the real character punch that make it resonate beyond its end. The best episodes actually leave one thinking of the episode after it is done and have lasting effects for the characters. But, “Live Fast And Prosper” does not do that.

In fact, at its best – in scenes with Neelix and Paris - “Live Fast And Prosper” is an episode where the characters take stock. Neelix is, sadly, a tough character to care about after a certain point in Star Trek: Voyager. After the third season episode “Fair Trade” (reviewed here!), he was essentially a purposeless character. To keep him on, he continued as ship’s cook and then as “ambassador” (which would have been served better by someone who was actually from StarFleet). So, much of Neelix taking stock of the changes in his character in “Live Fast And Prosper” have been obvious to viewers long before he makes them explicit here. Sadly, the time the episode takes to have him articulate the changes he has made seems more obvious than audacious.

Two aliens, poorly impersonating Janeway and Tuvok, negotiate for 10 kilotons of bolomite ore from a struggling mining colony. The aliens then beam up the ore without beaming down the dilithium they promised in return. Shortly thereafter, the U.S.S. Voyager travels near the mining colony, where they are irately dealt with by an administrator, Orek, who demands the dilithium the miners were promised. This confrontation comes on the heels of systems breaking down on Voyager, including a cooling instrument in Neelix’s mess hall. A detail in Neelix’s story of how he acquired the burner rings as familiar to Janeway and she discusses with Neelix how they came to possess the equipment.

Neelix and Paris relay a story about how, on an away mission, they met two clerics who manipulated them into trading for the defective technology. Janeway realizes that while the “Sister Dala” and “Brother Mobar” were on the Delta Flyer, they downloaded the database and thus learned all they needed in order to impersonate the command crew of Voyager. As the alien con artists make another attempt to scam other aliens by posing as Voyager’s crew, Neelix and Paris fear they have lost their edge. With Voyager forced to rescue the con artists from Varn and his powerful ship, Janeway has the chance to stop the dopplegangers.

“Live Fast And Prosper” turns into a pretty typical con game episode – other shows have done them before and since – and there is little remarkable about this episode. The trio of con artists is hardly distinctive or formidable. In fact, the Chakotay impersonator (Zar) is so unimpressive that he does little in the episode but complain and then get shot. Dala does not make for a compelling adversary and “Live Fast And Prosper” does not actually explore her backstory to give her any real depth of character needed to make the viewer believe that she is anything other than a monolithic villain. For a bottle episode, that is as acceptable as it can be, but it is hardly intriguing or compelling.

On the acting front, “Live Fast And Prosper” does nothing exceptional for the main cast. Tuvok seems to be mischaracterized in the writing as a poor security chief the moment he admits that improvisation is not really in his skill set, but Tim Russ plays the line as credibly as he can. Robert Duncan McNeill and Ethan Phillips are relegated to using their screentime to have their characters whine about how they aren’t the men they used to be and their desire for that (especially from Paris) falls very flat. Even Kate Mulgrew seems to be phoning in her performance as Janeway, who never takes a stance firmly as amused or annoyed in “Live Fast And Prosper.”

That leaves Kaitlin Hopkins (Dala, the alternate Janeway) and Gregg Daniel (Mobar, the alternate Tuvok). Daniel does an amazing job recreating Tuvok and his performance is spot-on for mannerisms. Unfortunately, Mobar never drops the Tuvok act, so is seems like Daniel is only able to hit the one note of impersonation, which makes no real sense in the scenes where Dala’s crew is alone with itself. Hopkins was fair as Dala, but watching “Live Fast And Prosper” this time, it was exceptionally easy to see in Dala the slimy Vorta character Hopkins played in “The Ship” (reviewed here!). Hopkins was great as Kilana, but in “Live Fast And Prosper” she plays a tempered version of that, more than actually embodying Janeway. Her best performance comes at the episode’s climax, but to discuss that would spoil the surprise of the con game’s reversal.

The effects in “Live Fast And Prosper” are fair, though the costuming and make-up are decent. Still, they are not enough to redeem an otherwise utterly mediocre episode.

[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 Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page to see how this episode stacks up against others in the franchise!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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