Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Holographic Rights Movement Is Made Explicit In “Author, Author.”

The Good: Wonderful acting, Good themes
The Bad: Derivative plot, Spends far too much time belaboring the alternate story before getting to its actual story.
The Basics: “Author, Author” is more than just an advertisement for various Star Trek: Voyager books released at the time!

One of the aspects of Star Trek: Voyager I respect is how the show began to evolve when the writing staff changed. Very late in the series, the writers added a subplot to the show focused on the Emergency Medical Hologram and his inherent rights. The subplot is one that took a surprising amount of time to develop and is a longer-running metaphor for basic human rights that is likely to be familiar to fans of the Star Trek franchise. After all, it is essentially the same plot with the same stance that Star Trek: The Next Generation used to establish and continue expanding the rights of Lieutenant Commander Data. “Author, Author” is good, but it is no “The Measure Of The Man” (reviewed here!).

In fact, “Author, Author” belabors itself in an unfortunate way before actually getting to the serious issues at hand. Immediately reminiscent of “Living Witness” (reviewed here!) where Voyager’s crew is grossly misinterpreted by an alien race hundreds of years after their contact with the ship and the Doctor has to set them straight, “Author, Author” spends a great deal of time establishing a warped view of the Doctor’s narrative in Photons Be Free. While it is entertaining, it is overkill for the purpose of the story and understanding the themes of the episode, which would be better served with more debate in the episode.

Opening with the Emergency Medical Hologram finishing the prologue to his holonovel, Voyager gets the first trans-galactic message from Earth, thanks to new technology from Reginald Barclay, Harry Kim, and Seven Of Nine. With the potential of the new technology becoming a more stable thing, the crew lines up for lots for three minutes of communications time each with the Alpha Quadrant. Much of the crew is surprised when The Doctor uses his time to contact someone other than Reginald Barclay. His message goes to the publishers of the Dixon Hill novels where his own work has been accepted for publication or production. Broad & Forrester accept Photons Be Free and the Doctor allows Tom Paris to view the holonovel.

Paris is deeply offended by how the characters on the U.S.S. Vortex (Voyager in Photons Be Free) and he urges his peers to experience it. Neelix, Torres, Kim, and Janeway go through the story which has the EMH treated harshly, threatened constantly, and forced to wear a bulky holo-emitter backpack. Janeway, pissed off by the holonovel, calls the Doctor onto the carpet, who tries to defend his work. Somewhat oblivious to the plight of the holograms in the Alpha Quadrant, the crew gets a lesson when the Doctor’s work is published without his approval and he is uncompensated for his work.

“Author, Author” has one decent character understanding, which is that Janeway has never been in touch with the whole idea of holographic rights. Janeway is largely oblivious to the Doctor’s struggle and has, consistently, treated him like a tool as opposed to an individual in the past. Outside that, “Author, Author” is all over the map as far as character goes. Harry Kim has a single scene where he talks with his mother and is treated like a child. Similarly, B’Elanna Torres has a single scene where she contacts her father and Seven Of Nine slowly comes to desire a bond with someone back at home.

By the time “Author, Author” gets around to the actual hearing, the episode has gotten fairly far off track. In the last part of the episode, Tuvok gets a decent role as a legal arbitrator, Seven of Nine and Harry Kim begin to illustrate that the Doctor has grown. When the episode finally gets beyond the novelty of the actors playing variations on their regular roles, the episode becomes an intellectual argument that is exceptionally familiar. By the point that Janeway makes her impassioned remarks on behalf of the Doctor, the viewer has to wonder where this version of Janeway has been all along!

As usual, the acting in this episode of Star Trek: Voyager is good. The alternate versions of Janeway, Paris, Tuvok, Kim, and Seven Of Nine give the performers a lot of fun ways to play. While it is entertaining and all of the actors rise to the occasion, this is nothing we have not seen from most of them before (in “Living Witness,” for example).

While the character of the Doctor takes a wonderful stand in favor of holographic rights, it is disappointing that none of his shipmates immediately leap to his side. Torres especially has been consistently characterized as someone who does not care what others think of her and has had some empathy for the Doctor and his condition. “Author, Author” might have been more compelling on the character front had she actually seen the holonovel and championed the Doctor’s right to produce the book the way he saw fit, as opposed to disappearing after Paris makes his changes and the trial begins. That lack of character insight – which puts the Doctor against virtually the entire crew – makes “Author, Author” feel a bit more like “Virtuoso” (reviewed here!) on the character front and the episode has a fractured quality that makes it less overall satisfying to viewers who consider the episode in the larger context of the series.

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


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

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