“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECTIVE: (3.25) “Worst Case Scenario”

“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.

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“STAR TREK VOYAGER: Love on a Starship”

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”STAR TREK VOYAGER: Love on a Starship”

I am not going to deceive myself and pretend that the relationship between Captain Kathryn Janeway and her First Officer, Commander Chakotay, lacked any chemistry. Of course there had been chemistry. Even a blind person could have sensed the chemistry between them just by listening to their dialogue. But while I will admit the enormous dynamics between the two characters, I never could see the possibility of a ”happily ever after” for them. Not while the pair served as the command team of the U.S.S. Voyager.

When many ”STAR TREK VOYAGER” fans had first started speculating upon the possible futures for the main characters during the series’ early Season Seven, for some reason I had foreseen a tragic ending in the Janeway/Chakotay relationship. I figured that the Captain or the First Officer would bite the dust in the finale, leaving the others to mourn and regret their decision not to pursue a romance during Voyager’s nearly seven years in the Delta Quadrant. This feeling was reinforced in the episode, (7.11) “Shattered”, when Season Seven Chakotay not only revealed the lack of romance in their relationship to the Season One Janeway, but also expressed regret in his words . . . and tone:

JANEWAY: Mind if I ask you one last question?
CHAKOTAY: Will I have to break the Temporal Prime Directive to answer it?
JANEWAY: Maybe, just a little. For two people who started off as enemies it seems we get to know each other pretty well, so I’ve been wondering. Just how close do we get?
CHAKOTAY: Let’s just say there are some barriers we never cross.

Both Kate Mulgrew (Kathryn Janeway) and the series’ producers had expressed opposition against an affair between Janeway and Chakotay. They have repeatedly stated that it would not be appropriate for the two to get involved in a romance. At first, I had believed that she, Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Jeri Taylor and later, Brannon Braga and Kenneth Biller were being obtuse. Now that I have had a chance to think about it, I have managed to see their point of view. They were right. A romance between Janeway and Chakotay could have lead to many problems.

I have never believed that a good idea for someone in a position of power to have a romance with a subordinate. If you think that it is difficult for equals to maintain a relationship, it might be doubly so for a superior and his/her subordinate. There is a great deal of potential for resentment from one partner, subjugation from the other and manipulation from both sides. Chakotay’s relationship with Voyager’s Chief Engineer, B’Elanna Torres, is a mild example of this. I had been one of those fans who had been relieved by the quiet death of B’Elanna’s infatuation with the First Officer by late Season Two. Do not get me wrong. Chakotay was a fine First Officer. Frankly, I have always felt that he was one of the best in the entire ”TREK” franchise. But he had an unfortunate habit of dealing with B’Elanna’s temperament by inflicting his will upon her, using his position as her superior officer. I am not saying that Chakotay did not have the right to behave this way toward B’Elanna. After all, he was Voyager’s First Officer. But he was also supposed to be one of B’Elanna’s closest friends. If he and B’Elanna had such moments during their ”friendship”, can you imagine how damaging this would have been to any romance that may have sprung between them? Remember when I had mentioned the possibility of resentment? Well, even B’Elanna eventually expressed her resentment of being chastised by Chakotay in the Season Five episode, (5.21) “Juggernaut”:

CHAKOTAY: Your concerns are noted. Get them inoculated. We’ll meet you in Transporter Room one. We’re trying to avoid explosions, remember?
TORRES: Not another lecture about my emotions.
CHAKOTAY: No, a lecture about how to treat guests aboard this ship.
TORRES: Guests? Chakotay, these people are the scourge of the quadrant.
CHAKOTAY: Agreed, but right now they’re our only hope of repairing that freighter, so I suggest you make friends.
TORRES: Diplomacy. Janeway’s answer to everything.
CHAKOTAY: This isn’t the Captain talking, it’s me, and I’m giving you an order. Keep your temper in check. Understood? Understood?
TORRES: Yeah.
CHAKOTAY: I didn’t hear you.
TORRES: Yes.
CHAKOTAY: B’Elanna, I need your expertise on this mission, not your bad mood.
TORRES: I’ll see what I can do.

Like Chakotay, Janeway was not above using her position to inflict her will upon the crew members under her command, regardless of whether she was right or wrong. And we have seen how Chakotay had reacted when he believed that she was wrong . . . especially in (3.26) “Scorpion I” and (4.01) “Scorpion II”:

CHAKOTAY: How much is our safety worth?
JANEWAY: What do you mean?
CHAKOTAY: We’d be giving an advantage to a race guilty of murdering billions. We’d be helping the Borg assimilate yet another species just to get ourselves back home. It’s wrong!
JANEWAY: Tell that to Harry Kim. He’s barely alive thanks to that species. Maybe helping to assimilate them isn’t such a bad idea. We could be doing the Delta Quadrant a favour.
CHAKOTAY: I don’t think you really believe that. I think you’re struggling to justify your plan, because your desire to get this crew home is blinding you to other options. I know you, Kathryn. Sometimes you don’t know when to step back.
JANEWAY: Do you trust me, Chakotay?
CHAKOTAY: That’s not the issue.
JANEWAY: Oh, but it is. Only yesterday you were saying that we’d face this together, that you’d be at my side.
CHAKOTAY: I still have to tell you what I believe. I’m no good to you if I don’t do that.
JANEWAY: I appreciate your insights but the time for debate is over. I’ve made my decision. Now, do I have your support?
CHAKOTAY: You’re the Captain. I’m the First Officer. I’ll follow your orders. That doesn’t change my belief that we’re making a fatal mistake.
JANEWAY: Then I guess I’m alone, after all. Dismissed.

Had there been any semblance of hope of a romance between Kathryn Janeway and Chakotay? Perhaps. If Chakotay’s Maquis ship had remained intact following the battle against the Kazon-Ogla in (1.02) “Caretaker II”. Both the Starfleet and the Maquis captains could have become allies in the Delta Quandrant. And they could have engaged in a romance as equals. They also could have begun a relationship if Voyager’s crew had never rescued them from New Earth in (2.25) “Resolutions”. To this day, I still wonder if Janeway had ever learned of Harry Kim’s role in that rescue. That would explain his inability to earn a promotion during those seven years in the Delta Quadrant. As for Janeway and Chakotay, there seemed to be a residual of flirtation between the two after their rescue from New Earth that lasted through most of Season Three. This flirtation eventually died after Chakotay’s romance with ex-Borg Riley Fraizer in (3.17) “Unity”.

In the end, Chakotay began a relationship with another former Borg drone, Voyager’s own Seven-of-Nine by late Season Seven. As for Janeway, she ended up in a relationship with Michael Sullivan, a holographic character created by Chief Helmsman Tom Paris’ for his Fair Haven program. She also had a relationship with Norvalian named Jaffen, after her memory was altered for work at a power plant on Quarren in the Season Seven episode, (7.16-7.17) “Workforce I & II”. When she regained her original memory she suggested that he join Voyager’s crew as an engineer. But she also pointed out that it would not be appropriate as they were romantically involved. Jaffen had decided to remain on Quarren.

Could Janeway and Chakotay have pursued a romance upon Voyager’s return to the Alpha Quadrant? I really do not how to answer this question. Chakotay had assumed command of Voyager, in the post-series ”VOYAGER” novels and Janeway was promoted to vice-admiral. On one hand, there was a chance that he might not have found himself under her direct command. Then again . . . he probably did. But the only way I could see a romance between Janeway and Chakotay was if they had both resigned their Starfleet commissions, one of them resigned from Starfleet or if Chakotay found himself at the same rank as Janeway. Other than the above, I can never see a serious romance between the two . . . even though I believe they were emotionally suited for one another.