Star Trek Voyager: Twisted

“I don’t suppose anyone here knows the way to the bridge?”

A mysterious Space Thing works its way through the ship, twisting Voyager’s structure and trapping several crew members on the holodeck. At least they’re in Sandrine’s, so presumably there’s synthehol…

I was at a Voyager convention celebrating the end of the show in 2001, and some of the cast were kind enough to actually answer the always awkward question ‘what was your least favourite episode?’ And several of them said ‘Twisted.’ To be fair, we got the impression that this was as much down to some problems they had while filming as to the episode itself. ‘Twisted’ is definitely not one of Voyager’s strongest hours, but it’s far from the weakest. In fact, I’ve always rather liked it.

I think the thing I liked about it was the idea of getting lost on your own ship, possibly due to my own legendary ability to get lost anywhere, in any situation. It’s like early Harry Potter stories, where the staircases move, which makes Hogwarts seem so exciting and mysterious (not to mention being a fantastic metaphor for those first few weeks of high school, when you have no idea where anything is). The idea of the ship mutating and trapping the crew in an endless circle, stuck on Deck 6 and unable to reach the bridge, is simultaneously horrifying and intriguing.

There’s also an interesting attempt to explore the crew’s reactions to an apparently unwinnable situation here. There’s no Kirk and his no-win-scenario-atheism (possibly because Janeway’s out of commission by this point) but B’Elanna wants to go down fighting, Tuvok is calm and logical (albeit optimistic) and Chakotay throws his weight around (a man who has to say 'I am the king' is no king…).

The trouble is, the episode doesn’t really have time to explore the ‘so this is it, we’re going to die’ character-drama aspect in detail, so in the end all we really get are some half-hearted apologies between Chakotay and Tuvok and bits of Paris/Kim, Doctor/Kes and Chakotay/Torres bonding (all established pairs with established relationships that this doesn't do much to deepen). To really get into this sort of thing, you need longer to draw it all out, and you need more emotion. As Paris points out, most of them did choose to join the military and are prepared to die in it if they have to, but still – there’s Stoic and there’s emotionless. One is dramatic and interesting, the other is not (unless you're a Vulcan). Still, this section is worth it for the moment when the Doctor hugs Kes, which must be the first time he’s hugged someone (unless he got further with Freya than we saw).

This is quite a good episode for Tuvok as well. His orders to Harry to inspect the holodeck power conduits, allowing Harry to go to Kes’ birthday party, are ever so sweet and show that, as everyone tries to keep it together in the confined situation they’ve ended up in, Tuvok is starting to unbend just a little and is capable of kindness. We are also reminded that Tuvok is absolutely the King of Snark several times – he sounds spectacularly annoyed, even in his Vulcan monotone, when Chakotay says there’s a flaw in his logic, and in the moment when B’Elanna says that they have to try his plan he brilliantly makes ‘there’s no longer time for that’ mean ‘I told you so’ in no uncertain terms. Best of all, though, is the moment when only he and an unconscious Janeway are left as the distortion wave comes towards them, and he puts his hand on the sofa just next to her head. Not actually touching her – that would be too emotional – but very close, in a gesture that’s both supportive and incredibly tender. That shot is their relationship in a nutshell.

Unfortunately the episode’s flaws tend to overwhelm its good points. There’s an awful lot of padding here, as everyone wanders endlessly around the corridors, unable to get to where they’re trying to go. I quite enjoy spending time with these characters and getting to know them, but the writing for these sections is rather bland and it's not helped by the fact that they literally aren’t going anywhere. The major conflict of the episode is Neelix’s endless jealousy, which is mildly annoying when it’s directed at Paris (though to be fair, a handsome single man giving your girlfriend a locket might be disconcerting) but utterly infuriating when he starts accusing Kes of sleeping with half the ship. The only other conflict is between Tuvok and Chakotay, but that seems to have been rather thrown in at the last minute – it comes out of nowhere and disappears almost as abruptly.

Beyond the structural problems, some of this episode is just bad. It’s hard to say whether the real low point is the Captain talking gibberish, her arm doing an impression of Mr Elastic, or Neelix whining at Chakotay. The ending is also very weak. The mysterious alien threat just… goes away. It gives the crew lots of lovely new data as a present and then just disappears, never to be heard from again. It’s the weirdest first contact ever and although some sense of mystery can be a good thing, this just feels like a waste of time, plus it makes the crew look rather inept. If the thing had been hostile or harmful they’d all be dead.

Bits ‘n’ pieces

 - When we hear the Doctor speaking from Janeway’s point of view and he sounds unintelligible, it’s actually his dialogue run backwards, recognisable from the use of this technique in Red Dwarf’s brilliant episode ‘Backwards.’

 - It’s less clear what everyone was going for with Janeway’s equally unintelligible but not backwards reply, which I swear sounds like she’s saying ‘Eat doggy doo!’

 - Janeway flirting watch: ‘Mr Kim, I’m with you. Let’s do it.’ As if that wasn’t alarming enough, while they’re crawling around in the Jeffries tubes she tells him he’s been one of the bright spots of the whole mission. It’s supposed to be heart-warming, but comes across as really creepy.

Quotes

Doctor: I’m a doctor, not a bartender!

Sandrine: If he won't play pool with you and he won't make love to me, then as far as I'm concerned, he can mop the floors.

Not great, but this is nowhere near Voyager’s worst episode. One and a half out of four inappropriate lockets.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.

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