Voyager rewatch 4.11 – “Concerning Flight”

Must Star Trek be good? Is it not enough that Leonardo da Vinci is having an adventure?

Who is “Concerning Flight” for? Why was it made? Which characters does it serve?

Only the last question has a solid answer. “Concerning Flight” is about Leonardo da Vinci being confronted with his own dilettantism and finding a way out of creative burnout.

But — I don’t know if you’ve noticed — Leonardo is not a regular character. He’s not even a person. He’s a holodeck character who has appeared just once previously, who was conceived as a sounding board and inspiration for the captain.

Yet here, she is inspiring him — and he’s the only person who grows across the course of the story. It’s really a bit sexist when you think about it, but it’s also … like. What is the point?

The point is, apparently … well, I’ll let writer Joe Menosky tell the story:

Jimmy Diggs came in and he pitched something that had to do with The Doctor’s portable emitter and a character getting away with it. Because we had liked da Vinci in ‘Scorpion,’ when Brannon was listening to Jimmy’s pitch, he just thought this is a cool way to get da Vinci off the ship and have an adventure. The way we work collaboratively in a situation like that, where there is no real story except ‘da Vinci’s day out,’ we’ll sit around and talk about it, all of us as a staff.

Keywords: “there is no real story except ‘da Vinci’s day out’.

I mean. Guys.

According to Menosky — quoted at Memory Alpha — the other writers got caught in the weeds of what he considers minutiae like “how did da Vinci get off the ship”.  And I can see how that would be a problem, but it feels like maybe no one was asking, “And how does da Vinci’s adventure impact even one of our regulars?”

Don’t get me wrong, Janeway has some fun moments in “Concerning Flight”, and ‘Tuvok and Janeway go undercover at an arms dealer’s cocktail party’ is an outstanding concept, though utterly wasted.1  But none of the regulars learn or grow — unless you count Janeway belatedly realising that mixing work and LARPing was a bad idea. Which I don’t, because only Kate Mulgrew’s face tells that story.

I mean, Kate has found value here — she said, “[da Vinci] did indeed, in the end, give [her] the greatest gift of all, which was emotional flight and freedom.” I’m very happy for her, and Janeway’s expression as she and da Vinci take flight is just … free and open and joyful in a way that she rarely gets to be. But that does not make this a story about Janeway.

Just as I’m not a big fan of holodeck episodes, I’m also not a big fan of gimmicky holographic characters. The EMH is fine. The holographic Rioses on La Sirena: only annoying because Santiago Cabrera is not very good at accents.

On the other hand, I hate DS9’s Vic Fontaine the way Chakotay hates consistent characterisation, and for much the same reason that I don’t care for da Vinci here: you have this great ensemble … and we have to spend time with this guy?

Imagine if Seven of Nine really did dominate season 4

This week, Seven of Nine learns about tact. Not that she believes in it, but now she knows it exists.

I just don’t understand why we’re wasting time on da Vinci (again: he’s not a person!) when we have Seven of Nine in her first months of personhood. Why do we have to hear about her fight with B’Elanna secondhand? (Not that Seven isn’t a hilariously terrible storyteller.) Why does she seem annoyed with Harry? I feel like we’re missing something here, and whatever it is, it’s way more interesting than Da Vinci’s Day Out.

Other observations

  • I have a lot of questions about Janeway’s outfit
  • I do not apologise for this post being short
  • The worst bit is that I know this isn’t even the worst episode of season 4
  • I think I deserve an award for not making a single Da Vinci Code joke
  • I did enjoy the bit where they took a contemporary industrial site, changed absolutely nothing about it and went, “Look! A futuristic alien compound!” It’s not something Star Trek does much, but the location shoots were very nice.

In conclusion

This really isn’t a terrible episode, but I’m annoyed by its existence nonetheless. Two holographic da Vincis out of five.

  1. In the unlikely event that Simon & Schuster ever invited me to pitch a standalone Voyager novel, I’d be going, “When a deal to buy new photon torpedoes goes bad, Tuvok has to lead a heist. Shenanigans ensue. Now, you wanna hear my pitch for a Jett Reno-Katrina Cornwell backstory?”

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