Voyager rewatch 1.12 – “Heroes and Demons”

It’s a holodeck episode.

This episode has exactly two redeeming features:

  • Janeway is wearing her hair in a chignon and looks amazing.
  • Harry wears a cloak/floppy ’90s hair combo and is so handsome it hurts.

Everything else is … look, it’s not terrible. But it’s not good. And it’s definitely not new.

Praise of the prowess of people-kings

Apparently Naren Shankar wrote this episode because he loves Beowulf and wanted to share it with the world. So I guess it’s slightly sad that, watching as a teen, I found this episode so embarrassing that it killed any interest I had in epic poetry from anywhere further north than the Mediterranean.

Beowulf: I just don’t care, you guys. Recently on Galactic Suburbia, Alex reviewed The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley, and I was like, “This sounds so intresting! But … Beowulf.”

“Heroes and Demons” is Star Trek on autopilot. Something on the holodeck goes wrong, because those things are basically death traps. Could it possibly have something to do with the science experiments Janeway and B’Elanna are running? Yes. Have they accidentally injured a non-humanoid lifeform for the second time in a couple of months? Yes.

This time, the aliens are made of light, so they’re really into the holodeck. (This conceit will turn up again in the infinitely superior “Bride of Chaotica”.) The Doctor is also a hologram, so he’s sent off to make first contact.

It’s his first time out of sickbay, and the idea of an away mission on the holodeck is nifty, but … it’s all a bit by-the-numbers. We see the potential for physical comedy as the Doctor contends with sworldwielding warriors, but it never gels.

Much like this episode, for which I had to look up synonyms for “perfunctory”. Such as:

Cursory: the teaser ends on what I think is meant to be an ominous note as Chakotay and Tuvok walk into the holodeck and look at an unremarkable holographic forest.

Superficial: the Doctor has a “romance” with shieldmaiden Freya, until she heroically sacrifices her life to save his. I’ve thrown the quotes around “romance” because it seems pretty likely that she’s programmed to take a romantic interest in anyone who takes on the heroic role in this holonovel. The Doctor seems entirely untroubled by his interactions with a non-sapient, sexually available hologram.

Mechanical: I need to reiterate, this is the second time Janeway and B’Elanna have accidentally injured a lifeform in their quest to improve Voyager’s energy supplies. They are, of course, horrified by the realisation that the light thingo is alive, and immediately set out to recitfy their error and make amends.

But … shouldn’t there be more? More soul searching, as they wonder who or what else they’ve mistaken for an exploitable resource? More conflict as someone suggests that maybe this is a reasonable price to pay for Voyager’s ongoing security?

(Gee, it sure is a shame Seska’s not around to say what at least some people have to be thinking.)

Not that such a storyline would be particularly original. TOS and TNG did it. Voyager will revisit the concept in “Equinox”. Discovery will go on to give it a three-episode arc. But it’s another omission in an episode which is determined to avoid anything too complicated.

Other observations

  • Freya was played by Marjorie Monahan, who would go on to play the leader of the Martian resistance in Babylon 5. She was also apparently a runner-up for the part of T’Pol, which … I mean, she’s not the most talented actress around, you know?
  • Most of the warriors look like fairly young men wearing extremely artificial-looking grey beards.
  • Janeway’s hair is just amazing, though.

Would I recommend it?

Holy crap, no. Watch something else. Read a book. Cut your toenails. Watching paint dry would be less tedious.

On the other hand…

Here’s a stealth Enterprise review!

I’ve been watching Voyager and Enterprise back to back on Sunday nights, and I just got up to “The Andorian Incident”, which is almost … good?

I mean, I still hate Archer and Trip. They’re very much of the Bush 2.0 era, ugly Americans in space, determined to mock Vulcan intellectualism because they don’t understand it. I would very much like to see T’Pol introduce them to the quaint Earth custom of the discrimination lawsuit.

(I was saying to a friend that maybe the “Kirk and McCoy tease Spock” dynamic feels a lot different when “Spock” is a young woman — but then I found myself wondering if Berman and Braga might have seen that as a feature, not a bug.)

But “The Andorian Incident” has Vulcans and Andorians and SPACE POLITICS. And I’ve gone from thinking T’Pol was an inferior Seven of Nine knockoff to thinking I might die for her.

(I still think her whole appearance — the character design, not Blalock’s face — is off. She’s the only Vulcan we’ve ever seen with brown instead of black hair, her eyebrows are arched rather than pointy, her costume is entirely inconsistent with everything that has come before and will come after. It’s extremely “we need a sexy girl in a tight outfit and she can’t look too alien”. Michael Burnham looked more Vulcan than T’Pol when she rocked the Vulcan look.)

(On the other hand, exchanging the bowl cut for a pixie cut: excellent idea, very logical, all Vulcans should follow suit.)

So: Enterprise is improving, “The Andorian Incident” is a million times better than “Heroes and Demons” — probably only a B+ by a more reasonable metric, but, you know — and maybe one day there’ll be more than two women per episode.

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