No one respects Tuvok’s creative process.
Know how I’ve been saying late season 3 marks a new confidence in Voyager, a willingness to rely on its own past and characters for stories? It all culminates here.
By coincidence, I watched “Worst Case Scenario” a couple of days after “Crisis Point”, the penultimate episode in Star Trek: Lower Decks‘ first season. That, too, features a violent holodeck simulation pitting the regulars against themselves and ultimately letting them grow through literal reflection.
It would be easy to overstate the similarities between “Crisis Point” and “Worst Case Scenario” — truthfully, the latter is primarily a parody of iconic visuals from the movies, and a chance for Beckett Mariner, The Greatest Character In The Series, to confront her greatest weakness (herself). I enjoyed a lot of its individual moments, but it didn’t quite come together for me as an episode.
Do violent holodeck games cause violence in real life?
It’s notable that “Crisis Point” highlights that a holodeck program where you enact violence against her colleagues for entertainment is actually quite disturbing. That hasn’t really come up in any of the holodeck-era Treks before, and it’s particularly relevant to “Worst Case Scenario”, where, whatever the player character’s choices, they’re taking a side.
Not that Insurrection-Alpha is offering Tarantino-levels of violence, or even Lower Decks levels. That’s not the type of writer Tuvok is. But it’s still an interesting issue to raise, along with Barclay and melded-with-Suder!Tuvok’s history of creating holographic colleagues to strangle.
I opened the season with a rant about how Seska’s death was anticlimactic, pointless, and generally a disappointing way for a significant villain to depart.
“Worst Case Scenario” makes up for it. Like, yes, this is a fun romp, but it does Seska the honour of restoring her to her original position as Janeway’s foil, and lets her take over the ship one last time before she’s hoisted on her own petard.
Also, in terms of costuming, she has never looked better. That brown lipstick? Peak mid-90s, I love it.
I also love that Seska, a Cardassian spy who no doubt intended to betray the Maquis and hand them over to her government, is truly outraged by the revelation that Tuvok was also a spy. How dare he betray the people she was planning to betray? This is absurd, but incredibly fun.
I will confess that, once Seska gains control of the program — and the ship — I sort of lose interest in every scene she’s not in. Sure, Tom and Tuvok have great banter, and it’s deeply fun to watch their verbal sparring and completely incompatible creative visions. But Seska and Janeway having their showdown via proxy is like a delicious chocolate sauce that overwhelms the rest of the dessert.
Truthfully, I wish their final encounter had been more direct — and that their proxy war had gone on just a little longer. Less Jeffreys tubes, more Janeway hacking her holographic crew. But that’s just me — and I’m certainly not sending a tasty dish back to the kitchen just because it’s not entirely perfect.
(Anyone else miss eating out?)
Pantsers versus plotters
I refer, of course, to the idea that there are two types of writers. You’ve got Tuvok, who carefully outlines and pays close attention to structure and “rules”. And then you’ve got Tom Paris, who … doesn’t.
As it happens, I’m more of the third type, the gardener — I plant some seeds, see what happens, and then start cultivating and planning based on that. But I have the greatest respect for plotters, and am very impressed that pantsers ever get anything finished.
And for the record, I think that Tuvok was on course for a really good story, and what he needed was for Tom to come in at the end and give it a final polish — maybe remove some of those hours-long waits in the brig, for example. (That cannot possibly happen in realtime, right?)
What neither of them need is input from every single audience member. Like, B’Elanna’s not wrong that an adventure story often benefits from a bit of romance, but, again, this is their colleagues. And the Doctor is only interested in himself.
(On the other hand, Neelix is quite correct to point out he would never betray Janeway. Tuvok needs to set his biases aside and refrain from character bashing.)
A little romance
“Worst Case Scenario” juggles a lot of balls, including the Paris/Torres relationship. B’Elanna blows off a lunch with Tom to play the game, and they have a lot of very charming interactions, but it’s her lobbying for a romance subplot that interests me.
Romance, as a genre, is widely dismissed — especially in the ’90s, an age when romantic interactions were perceived as weakening “strong female characters”. It’s notable, therefore, that we know B’Elanna reads romance novels and enjoys a kissing scene now and then.
But it makes sense, because the show is moving her into a romantic role. The first half of the season positioned her as a sexual character (“Remember”, “Blood Fever”), and now they’re adding this extra shade, and setting up a link between her personality and the very concept of romance.
This is a nice bit of layering, but what’s particularly impressive is that she’s not softened. B’Elanna’s still spiky and very private — this has expanded her character, not shrunk it.
- Janeway has 100% played this game, and I completely believe she took the Support Chakotay side
- Look, I know they call it a holonovel, but it is clearly a role-playing game, sorry
- I appreciate how Seska’s Maquis outfit uses the same imperial purple she wore when she was with the Kazon
- It’s a bit sweet that Tom thinks Chakotay wasn’t really attracted to Seska — a reminder that Chakotay is, as B’Elanna put it last season, very private
- Seska, you magnificent bastard, I miss you
A fun, character-driven romp ahead of the devastation of the season finale. Four secret defamatory holonovels out of five, and it would be higher if I weren’t grading on a bit of a scale.