Star Trek Voyager: Worst Case Scenario

"You've just threatened the wrong woman, Chakotay."

B'Elanna agrees to join Chakotay in a mutiny – but something weird is going on, as Janeway and Chakotay barely know each other, and Seska is somehow alive and well...

This is another episode I really, really like and always enjoying re-watching. A lot of people have complained that Voyager never really developed the tensions inherent in its original set-up, with Maquis and Starfleet crew-members forced to work alongside each other. I've never really minded that so much as I enjoy watching these characters work together, but this episode does return, at least briefly, to that initial tension. The fact that everyone ends up finding the whole idea of Chakotay staging a mutiny entertaining and not in any way threatening emphasises the fact that such tensions are already long gone three years in, but the story does rely on that early tension for its set-up, and it's fun to revisit it.

The story is ingeniously set up in the cold open. The gold Security uniforms are the same colour as B'Elanna's Engineering uniform, so unlike Paris later we don't see her in a different outfit, and of course, she's a close friend of Chakotay and former member of the Maquis. So on first viewing, you have to wonder if Chakotay really is planning a mutiny and B'Elanna's joining in. But then, there are little clues in the dialogue that gradually make it more and more clear that whatever is going on is happening in the past – particularly the reference to this being the first time Chakotay has been left in charge. By the time, well into the episode, the real Paris comes in and reveals that B'Elanna is playing what she thinks is a new holo-novel, viewers have realised that something unreal is afoot.

When the programme is eventually revealed to be a security training programme, everyone is astonished, presumably because no mandatory work training programme has ever been this entertaining. Tuvok is, of course, absolutely right that this story could be inflammatory (not to mention insulting to anyone he included in the mutiny). On the other hand, after three months of lockdown and assuming that Voyager's literary database may be limited, I can understand now why Janeway might let everyone play with this new "novel" in the absence of anything new!

Tuvok and Paris's discussion about writing is wonderful. Paris is all for exciting plot twists, while Tuvok insists on staying true to character and logic. For a story to be really great, of course, as the writers well know, it needs both. This is the first time we've seen Paris express a strong interest in writing narrative holo-stories, but given his fondness for holodeck programme design, it's not surprising (and the Doctor's belief that he could do better is even less surprising!).

One of the interesting things is which people Tuvok thought might join a mutiny, and which he thought wouldn't. Harry is absolutely loyal, of course, but Tuvok also gets fake Paris out of the way, and depicts him as entirely loyal to Janeway. This may just be a logical assumption that if the Captain was away on a mission, Paris would be her pilot, but it's still interesting that he didn't include the ex-con in the mutiny, even early on.

He did correctly pin Seska as a keen mutineer, but was rather unfair to Neelix, whom he clearly saw as a scavenger who would turn on the crew if it suited him better (though Kes, Tuvok's close friend, is loyal and uninvolved). The real Neelix quite rightly points out that Tuvok doesn't understand his character very well (or, to be fair, he didn't when they first met). Tuvok also thinks Seska is smarter than Chakotay as well, as she's more suspicious of the "mole" protagonist, and he assumed B'Elanna would join Chakotay in a possible mutiny.

I would happily have watched an entire episode of everyone messing about with the holodeck programme, but of course, Star Trek is an action adventure show so the story had to introduce a new and dangerous element somewhere, and in the final sections it turns into a holodeck-gone-wrong story with a twist. Seska's re-write of Tuvok's training programme is remarkably elaborate, but it's a fun way to bring Seska back and Tuvok and Tom's predicament is a tense and entertaining pickle for them to have to think their way out of (and it's very satisfying that Tuvok beats Seska's game, rather than being rescued). It rounds off the episode nicely, even if it's not quite as fun as the first part – and it gives Janeway a chance to do some writing too, albeit without worrying about the Vulcan Dictates of Poetics!

Bits and pieces

 - The "senior officers" in the Brig include some randoms who presumably work random jobs in Engineering or Security.

 - Paris said he had to be on duty in less than an hour, and then complains that he's been in the Brig in the "holo-novel" for over an hour. Maybe it brought up an info bar informing him that over an hour has passed?

 - The shipping news: The fact that Janeway and Chakotay have worked so well together from the beginning is one of the reasons I ship them so much, but watching the fake Janeway and Chakotay threaten each other is rather fun all the same.

 - The further shipping news: B'Elanna wants more romance in the story (she really is a hopeless romantic) but suggests herself and Paris isn't realistic, so we're left wondering who exactly she thought the romance should involve.

 - The fact that the real Janeway and Chakotay find the whole thing hilarious says something about how happy and confident they all are together as well.

Quotes

Tom: It's not as if I caught you dancing the rumba with a naked Bolian. That was weirdly specific, Paris...

Tuvok: Logic is an integral part of narrative structure.

The Doctor: I have several brilliant ideas for upcoming chapters of your holo-novel, as well as a list of revisions and dialogue changes that I believe will improve the earlier instalments.

Tom: I guess we should have known Seska wouldn't let a little thing like death stop her from getting even.

B'Elanna (on Seska): What she lacked in loyalty, she made up for in ingenuity.

Chakoty (on future holo-novels): I don't care what kind of story it is, as long as I'm not the bad guy this time!

It's fun.

Juliette Harrisson is a storyteller, freelance writer, Classicist and Trekkie. She runs the podcast Creepy Classics, re-telling and discussing ancient, medieval and early modern ghost stories. She tweets @ClassicalJG

2 comments:

Heather1 said...

I have often wondered how Starfleet dealt with the Starfleet crew members who were former Maquis. After all, even though they would have read it in the logs, Starfleet Command would not have had the benefit of living through the experience(s) that Voyager did. Did they simply honour Janeway's designations and promotions?

TJ said...

Great review Juliette!

Yes, this is so much fun. It's a pity they didn't flesh out the Seska storyline more. She was such a great villain.