“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECTIVE: (3.25) “Worst Case Scenario”
Some time ago, I had posted a list of my top ten favorite episodes of “STAR TREK VOYAGER” (1995-2001). After re-examining my list, I was surprised to discover that the Season Three episode, (3.25) “Worst Case Scenario” was not on it.
In this penultimate episode of Season Three, B’Elanna Torres discovers a Holodeck program in which Commander Chakotay and the former Maquis crewmen stage a mutiny against Captain Janeway and the rest of Voyager’s crew. Torres’ participation in the program is interrupted by Tom Paris, who reminds her of their lunch date. He eventually becomes interested and participates in the program himself. After his first participation in the program, Paris and Torres discover that other members of the crew have also been enjoying it. But Paris’ second participation in the Holodeck program reveals that it had not been completed by its mysterious author. During a meeting, the senior staff discovers that Voyager’s Security Chief, Tuvok, had created the program (which he called “Insurrection Alpha”)as a training session for the junior members of his Security staff during the ship’s first months in the Delta Quadrant. As the Maquis and Starfleet factions of the crew began to merge, Tuvok decided to abandon the program.
Due to the crew’s enthusiasm toward “Insurrection Alpha”, Paris and Tuvok agree to expand the program into a complete holonovel. As the two officers begin to edit the original program, they suddenly find themselves trapped behind a forcefield in a simulation of the ship’s brig. A holographic version of the deceased Seska, a former Cardassian spy, appears and explains that before she had escaped the ship to join the Kazon back in Season One, she rewrote the simulation as a virtual deathtrap for Tuvok. Some of the real Voyager’s systems – like the transporter and communication systems, along with the Holodeck’s safety protocols) go offline. And Paris and Tuvok are forced to endure one hazardous situation after another as they try to stay alive.
After my recent viewing of both “Worst Case Scenario” and my top ten episode list, I discovered that I could not change the latter. However . . . if I had created a list of my twenty favorite “VOYAGER” episodes, “Worst Case Scenario” would have ranked at #11. Yes, it is that good. The Holodeck proved to be an excellent creation for STAR TREK writers to use for some first rate episodes. “STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION” had episodes like (2.03) “Elementary, Dear Data” and(3.21) “Hollow Pursuits”. “STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE” had the delicious (4.10) “Our Man Bashir” and (6.18) “Inquisition”. However, in my opinion, “STAR TREK VOYAGER” has aired some of the best Holodeck episodes I have ever come across. And one of those episodes is “Worst Case Scenario”.
Kenneth Biller did an excellent job of giving viewers a glimpse of the tenuous situation between the two factions aboard Voyager during its early months in the Delta Quadrant. Even more importantly, the “Insurrection Alpha” could be viewed as an ominous warning of what could have happened if the crew had failed to integrate during those early months. It is ironic that this episode aired over three years before Season Seven’s (7.04) “Repression” – which featured an actual Maquis rebellion unwittingly instigated by Tuvok, of all people. Tuvok’s program also featured the crew’s only Talaxian, Neelix, joining the rebellion. The real Neelix commented that Tuvok had incorrectly read his character during those early days. A reviewer named Jim Wright agreed. However, I have my doubts. I can recall Neelix’s numerous complaints about Janeway’s tendency to interrupt their journey for an exploration of planet or system. And I can recall one or two occasions in which the Talaxian cook and the Starfleet captain had clashed. I suspect that Tuvok had a pretty good jibe on Neelix’s character back in those days.
Normally, I could claim that “Worst Case Scenario” focused on the entire crew. After all, the episode began with Torres discovering the program and ended with Janeway declaring herself as more than a starship captain, but a community leader as well. However, I noticed that the ship’s chief pilot, Tom Paris, was featured in more scenes than any one else . . . which is why I tend to view him as the episode’s main character. I read somewhere that actor Robert Duncan McNeill considered “Worst Case Scenario” as one of his favorite episodes of the show’s first three seasons. And I can see why. Biller had produced a well written script that allowed McNeill to engage in some of his funniest work. I could also say the same for actor Tim Russ, who portrayed the stoic Tuvok. McNeill and Russ also proved that their screen teaming in (3.08-3.09) “Future’s End” was no mere fluke. They had a strong chemistry that allowed their characters to create one of the best comedic teams in science-fiction television.
But despite Robbie McNeill and Tim Russ’ dominance in this episode, other cast members were given the opportunity to shine. Ethan Phillips gave a charming performance as Neelix, whose enthusiasm for “Insurrection Alpha” almost seemed to bubble. Roxann Dawson provided one of the funniest moments in B’Elanna’s caustic reaction to Paris’ suggestion of a passionate romance between the ship’s chief engineer and chief pilot. Robert Baltran was able to capture both the holographic Chakotay’s determination to rebel against the holographic Janeway and the real Chakotay’s sly and humorous reaction to his role in Tuvok’s story. Bob Picardo was both funny and chilling as the Doctor in the holoprogram. Both Kate Mulgrew and Garrett Wang gave solid support as Captain Janeway and Harry Kim. But Martha Hackett’s return as Seska, the former Bajoran Maquis that turned out to be a Cardassian spy, proved to be a real pleasure. She was deliciously villainous as ever, confirming by belief that her Seska might be one of the best television villains around. And her holographic death in this episode proved to be more rewarding that her real death in (3.01) “Basics, Part II”.
I realize that “STAR TREK VOYAGER” is much reviled by many TREK fans. And I also realize that many would be very reluctant to accept my belief that the series had aired some of the best Holodeck episodes in the franchise. But whether they would agree with me or not, no one could ever convince me that an original episode like “Worst Case Scenario” was overrated, or at best, barely tolerable.