Voyager rewatch 5.12 – “Bride of Chaotica!”

The greatest episode of Star Trek ever made.

I suppose there’s an argument to be made that “Bride of Chaotica” is an imperfect episode. Some people1 might say the first half contains too much set-up and technobabble, and is overall a bit dry compared to the SHENANIGANS to come.

Those people are, I am sorry to say, wrong. This is not one of those Star Trek episodes where the wacky adventures have to sit alongside some po-faced technobabble. The real world side of the plot may not be as hilarious as the holodeck side, but it’s wittier and more engaging than the audience has been trained to expect.

This is mainly thanks to Kate Mulgrew and Robert Duncan McNeill. She vamps, he gets defensive about his extremely cool and normal hobbies, and everyone else plays it various degrees of straight.

The range goes from Harry “all in on the nonsense” Kim to — actually, you know what? This is why Canva was invented.

A graphic showing a spectrum from dark to light blue, and images of Voyager characters arranged by their approval of shenanigans in this episode. More detail in the text below.

Extremely anti-shenanigans: B’Elanna and Seven. I’d say B’Elanna is in Humourless Girlfriend Mode, except this is another episode where it’s not clear whether she and Tom are anything more than work colleagues who don’t outright hate each other.

Neelix: he’s usually up for hijinks, but Voyager only has a few working toilets, and guess who has to deal with that problem?

The Doctor: he gets a nice costume, but he has a very important job — preventing the annihilation of some innocent aliens — and he’s taking it seriously.

Chakotay: is he … still in this series? Did the writers forget Robert Beltran was part of the cast? He’s here to stand extremely close to Seven of Nine and have an awful lot of fun at Janeway and Paris’s expense.

Tuvok: oh, he’s having a ball. He gets to be judgemental AND hang with Satan’s Robot! Look at him. He’s thrilled.

Harry: I’m still not one hundred percent sure why he’s so into being Tom’s sidekick — except that there are harem girls — but he’s having a great day and looking extremely handsome in the process.

Tom: no one wants their boss to find out about their video game habits. But Tom powers through the humiliation because he knows that there are ANTICS on the other side.

Janeway: no one is having more fun than Janeway. I mean, people are dying here, Kathryn. Have a bit of respect.

Kenneth Biller considered it a flaw that Janeway never comes out of Arachnia mode — a poor acting choice on Mulgrew’s part. And full offence to Biller, but he’s as usual, he’s wrong. This is clearly Mulgrew-as-Janeway-playing-Arachnia. It’s just that she’s letting herself have fun. And why not? It’s been a rough season four and a half seasons. She deserves it.

Okay, it’s possible that this episode has two imperfections

One is the lack of B’Elanna, as discussed above. “My girlfriend is not the person I hang out and have fun with” just feels like a terribly old-fashioned construction of a relationship.

The other is the bit in the conference room where Janeway is clearly angling for Seven to be nominated as Arachnia. It doesn’t make sense for the situation; it feels like a too-overt nod to Jeri Ryan’s place as The Bombshell.

All right, three imperfections

Chakotay has been little more than an extra since “Timeless”.

I’m gonna say something harsh: if I could go back in time and make a single change to Voyager, I’d kill Chakotay off at the end of season 5. Move Tuvok to the first officer role, promote Harry to tactical, give Seven a uniform and Harry’s job. The character has all but run his course.2

In fairness, this is not a problem with “Bride of Chaotica!” specifically. It’s just the sort of thing that jumps out at you when you start making graphics to demonstrate every character’s attitude to the plot.

Oh damn, I thought of a fourth flaw

This is the first time Janeway and Paris have interacted since “Thirty Days”, and I feel like there was a missed opportunity to check in with their relationship and confirm that they’re okay with each other. Instead of just assuming.

Has anyone seen Dr Chaotica and the Master in the same place at the same time

I sometimes (often) think connections between Star Trek and Doctor Who are exaggerated. I do not for a minute believe that Annorax from “Year of Hell” was named after “anorak”, the British slang for the type of nerd who knows too much about Doctor Who.

Nor do I believe that Chaotica’s casting and costuming were designed with the Master in mind. Yes, Martin Rayner bears a passing resemblance to Anthony Ainley, and yes, he wears a silly little hat of the style worn by lesser Time Lords, and a very large collar. But I suspect Chaotica was consciously designed with Ming the Merciless in mind, minus the yellowface, and any resemblance to evil Gallifreyan masterminds is purely coincidental.

Also, Chaotica is clearly very heterosexual. So definitely no resemblance to the Master there.

Other observations

  • High definition TV is very kind to Arachnia’s costume
  • The scene on the holodeck where Tom, Tuvok and Satan’s Robot peer at a telegram print out is hilarious
  • I do feel slightly bad getting this much entertainment out of the massacre of unwitting photonic beings, but hey, what can you do?
  • So if the photonic dudes don’t register anyone except the Doctor as a life form, how do they recognise a planet? Just don’t think about it…

In conclusion

Okay, it may not be perfect, but it’s damn good and also unmissable. For the puns, if nothing else.

  1. not me
  2. It’s possible I’m repeating myself. I’ve been banging this drum for a while.

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