Tuvok and Neelix are returning from a trade mission aboard the Delta Flyer when Tuvok is attacked by a mysterious cloaked intruder. The attack leaves Tuvok with amnesia and as such he develops emotion and new interests. Meanwhile Janeway with the help of an alien official goes in search of the cloaked aliens in order to find the weapon that hit Tuvok to help the Doctor develop a way to heal him and restore who he was. However Tuvok is unsure as to whether he wants to return to his old self.
The main purpose of this episode is to explore Neelix and Tuvok’s relationship by allowing Tuvok to close down his logical barriers and see things as Neelix does. I was uncertain how interested I would be with this but actually Tim Russ and Ethan Phillips both give wonderful performances that add real substance to the characters. It’s a testament to Ethan Phillips’ ability to emote despite the extensive prosthetics he is required to wear. The search for the aliens is relegated to a B-plot in this episode but is still interesting. All the way through however I suspected that Naroq’s people, the Kesat, were not as innocent as Naroq appears. This is something the writers of “Voyager” liked to do a lot but I was pleasantly surprised that for me at least the twist came that there wasn’t the twist I was expecting.
This is one of Star Trek’s more touching episodes and is an exploration of our characters rather than space. We are mostly exploring Neelix’s persistent efforts to befriend Tuvok over the previous six years and how they have achieved very little. I have to admit when Tuvok realizes how he has behaved toward Neelix Tim Russ gave a very emotional performance and I was a little choked up. It showed that Neelix was a true friend even if that friendship wasn’t wholly returned. I was then infuriated by Tuvok at the end when he returned to normal and treated Neelix like normal. I left this episode disliking Tuvok immensely. For someone who is supposed to be emotionless he displays irritation regularly. One touch I did like, intentional or not, was Tuvok’s new found interest in cooking which was a nod to the season two episode “Tuvix”.
Watching Naroq reminded me of Fox Mulder in the early episodes of “The X-Files” just far more annoying. That being said I have to say I was touched by his own sacrifice of his equipment at the end. The annoying enthusiasm we saw in the first half of the episode actually added weight to this sacrifice as I got the feeling he really was giving up his life’s work even after getting so close. Perhaps he had gone far enough with Voyager’s crew to satisfy his own curiosity.
For “Star Trek: Voyager” this was an above average episode with a deeply personal feel to it; I find that episodes that revolve around Neelix and the Doctor are usually emotional ones. There could have been a bit more action with the aliens and it would have been nice to see them fully rather than just an outline but that’s me just being picky.
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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.
Tony Wilkins looks at the danger involved in having a Pussycat Doll take part in a shuttle race
While testing the rebuilt Delta Flyer, Tom and Harry (everytime I say that I keep thinking “Where’s Dick?”) stumble across the beautiful Irina in her race oriented shuttle. Thus begins the story of how the crew of Voyager find themselves participating in a ceremonial race to celebrate peace amongst previously warring groups of factions but alas there is a plot afoot. At the same time B’Elaana starts questioning whether her relationship with Tom is worth saving.
This episode has been viewed in two ways. Firstly it has been called “NASCAR in space” for the race element and secondly it is known as being a sequel to the earlier Paris-shuttle-obsessed episode “Alice”. To be honest neither of those descriptions are accurate. The race, despite a high speed start, feels more like a yacht race than NASCAR despite the collisions which were supposed to be exciting. As for the similarity to the previous episode they both take place in shuttles and that’s it.
This is an enjoyable romp. I don’t think it was ever supposed to be taken as a serious episode despite the efforts to do so in the third act and beyond. I would never say that this is one of Star Trek Voyager’s best episodes but it is one I do like watching. I have always thought this episode was probably inspired by the pod racing in Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace and indeed when the racers set off it does look very similar. From there on it becomes more like the yacht racing I said earlier but that’s not a criticism. I think shuttle racing probably would be more like this. Neelix’s commentary was delightful although I thought the gag about Tuvork and his security report was a little contrived. I also have to give the episode credit for actually giving the race a bit of meaning with the history of conflict being replaced by sporting events. For a real world comparison the Olympics have always been events where politics (in theory at least) are put aside in the name of friendly competition.
The story of Tom and B’Elaana’s faltering relationship actually started to bore me after a while and I think is probably the weakest aspect of the episode. We start off learning what a bad boyfriend Tom is and because he threw the race away to prove he loved her they are married in the end? I think that was terrible. B’Elanna has a big scene with Neelix where she gives all the reasons in the Delta Quadrant for ending the relationship. I’d buy that their relationship was back on track by the end but B’Elaana should have said “Yes” but then given him a long engagement to make sure they are right for one another. The whole thing was rushed and I hate that.
Cyia Batten’s Irina joins the long list of beautiful women who Harry falls for right before she is found to be evil. Yes – the young Ensign is shockingly unlucky in love during his time in the Delta Quadrant. Irina’s sole purpose in this episode is eye candy for red blooded males who might be getting a bit tired of Jeri Ryan. She has almost no backstory and hence no established motive for why she wants to sabotage the race other than she is a racist. What she does have is yet another tight fitting bodysuit. The Voyager costume department went all out on their apparent bodysuit fetish in this episode having Irina, Tom, Harry, B’Elaana and the aliens all wearing clothes so tight that the actor’s sweat couldn’t even escape. I am sure being a Pussycat Doll Cyia Batten was used to such costumes.
In summary this is a fun episode at times but there is too much going on with effectively three different stories all clumsily interwoven. I do have a soft spot for it because I love the idea of space racing but I think it would have been better as an early DS9 story with Bajorans, Cardassians and a DS9 team racing. I think this because we would already know so much of the history and hostility it would add more weight to the story. That’s my two cents on it anyway.
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