HARRY KIM: It’s just an old rust bucket.
TOM PARIS: Are you kidding? Look at those lines, it’s a work of art. That ship wasn’t assembled, it was sculpted. I think I’m in love.
Voyager stumbles across a junkyard in space and Paris finds his latest love interest hidden among them in the form of a mean looking little shuttlecraft. He convinces Chakotay to buy the shuttle for him and he begins working on restoring it apparently with honourable interests. Soon however his work on the shuttle, which he names Alice after a lost love interest from his Academy days, becomes an obsession and he misses duty shifts and time with friends to keep working on getting Alice ready for flight. It becomes clear that there is more going on here than meets the eye but before Voyager can do anything about it Paris escapes aboard Alice before he is nearly killed by a particle fountain.
In a nutshell this is a Star Trek take on Stephen King’s “Christine” and it’s not just coincidental; Brannon Braga admitted that King’s work was a source of inspiration for this episode. If you are going to pay homage to the classic horror story about a possessed Cadillac then naturally it is going to be a Tom Paris focused episode. The montage of him fixing up the ship seem intentionally designed to resemble a mechanic working on a car with Paris on a trolley to slide underneath the ship (what could be sticking out of the hull to work on is anyone’s guess). I can’t help but feel this isn’t one of Robert Duncan McNeil’s best performances however and that’s a shame. In the similarly themed episode “Drive” (click here for my review) he seemed to have much more enthusiasm and I think the conflict with Torres in that episode made for a better story. I am not saying he doesn’t seem to be bothered but it just feels like he could do better. In fairness I think the script could have something to do with it also.
As for Alice; the little ship looked excellent. It was certainly a mean looking craft even though it was merely an extensive redress of the Type-9 shuttle. It is a testament to the skill of the art department that on such a tight budget as most TV shows like Voyager are that they could do so much. It does seem shockingly well armed however and it’s two shots against Voyager seem to be enough to blow up a few computer consoles on the bridge. As for the projection of Alice in Paris’ mind Claire Rankin managed to nail the creepy jealous girlfriend vibe down to a tee. She is genuinely unsettling and makes you feel awkward everytime she is on screen.
This was a premise that was wide open for a Star Trek homage. It is certainly an interesting one with enough technobabble in the first two acts to give us an explanation for what is happening without wondering if this is the first episode with a genuine ghost or demon. Sadly it is let down by a poor script that after a promising start can’t keep up the pace then goes in to fifth gear to wrap up quickly. Was it really necessary to waste minutes with Kim and Torres moaning to one another about Tom’s latest obsession? I would much rather devote that time to develop more of Alice’s motivation for going to the particle fountain which she calls “Home”. We never get an explanation as to why she wants to go there so desperately.
But perhaps the biggest thing that really gets on my nerves about this episode is Chakotay’s line;
We already have a full compliment of shuttles.
No you don’t! In the previous five years Voyager had lost numerous shuttles. Now, on a Galaxy-class ship like the Enterprise-D that wouldn’t really be a problem but for the relatively minuscule Intrepid-class Voyager still 50,000 light years from the Alpha Quadrant they must surely be on their last one or two shuttles by now. Why didn’t the writers proceed on the lines of they needed a new shuttle? It surely wouldn’t affect the story in anyway. This just reflects the biggest problem I had with Voyager during its entire run and that is the stories rarely reflect the fact that this is a crew far from home. Many of the stories are like TNG episodes in terms of resources used when the need for resupply should have been a recurring theme throughout the show and not just in the first series. To really balls it up though this episode later has Chakotay saying he cant spare certain resources because they are in short supply in the Delta Quadrant. Come on! Make up your mind. With regards to the shuttlecraft debacle the answer could be that if they could build the Delta Flyer then they could build new shuttles too but where is that in the dialogue – nowhere. Also where is Neelix’s ship?
There; rant over.
In conclusion this was a slightly below average Star Trek episode. It had an excellent premise and good start but it failed to keep it together. Its a real shame.