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Stardate 0011.06: Critical Caring

Plus: Trek News, Trek People, Trek This Week, Trek Analysis

By Michelle Erica Green     November 06, 2000

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

Next week's Star Trek: Voyager installment 'Inside Man' serves yet another warning about the dangers of trusting Reginald Barclay's holograms. I'm sure most people remember that we met Reginald Barclay on Star Trek: The Next Generation playing with holographic images of his crewmates, including a romantic goddess version of Deanna Troi and a buffoonish Will Riker. During Voyager's second season episode 'Projections,' the Doctor trapped himself in a holographic fantasy in which a holographic Barclay tried to convince the EMH that he was really Louis Zimmerman, and would return to his real life if only he'd shut down his program.

Now, the Voyager crew gets great news in the form of a holographic Barclay, beamed to the Delta Quadrant with a plan to get them home. While the Doctor assists the engineer, the real Barclay discovers back at the Pathfinder laboratory that some unscrupulous Ferengi have stolen and reprogrammed his hologram. As in 'Pathfinder' and 'Life Line,' Barclay turns to Troi for help. (You can turn to www.startrek.com for advance photos of the episode.)

I don't think it will shock anyone to learn that Voyager won't get home during 'Inside Man.' That would deprive us of all the upcoming angst about being stranded potentially for life that Ken Biller recently told the official Star Trek magazine would begin to afflict all the characters this season. 'It could be years before the ship gets home,' Biller pointed out. 'I think the audience should not assume that the crew is going to simply keep flying the way that they are going and get themselves back to the Alpha Quadrant.'

The good news is that this means a focus on continuity. Biller wants the crew to have to rethink choices they've made in the Delta Quadrant. For Janeway, that means facing up to the consequences of her decision to give holographic technology to the Hirogen ('Flesh and Blood'), and to face her obsession with getting the ship home. For Kim, it means being faced with the prospect of being an ensign forever, and thinking about accepting an alien command instead ('Nightingale'). For Neelix, it might mean trying to return to Talaxian culture to help it rebuild.

For Paris and Torres, obviously, being stranded in the Delta Quadrant hasn't prevented the characters from getting on with their lives. They're married, and according to TrekWeb, the upcoming episode 'Lineage' will see them have a baby girl after a 30-week pregnancy. A set source tells me that the baby is conceived naturally, but genetic tests and computer models will reveal that the baby will be predominantly Klingon, to her mother's distress.

Naturally Tom decides he wants nature to take its course with their child, while B'Elanna wants to modify its DNA, based on her own self-hatred and unhappy childhood memories. One can't help but wonder whether Paris would feel the same way if his baby were going to inherit insanity from one side of the family, or whatever he might consider really hideous physical characteristics. I cannot help but shudder whenever I read about 'Lineage,' from the perspective of Torres still despising herself and her Klingon background and from the suggestion that fetuses need to be protected from their mothersrhetoric one often sees in anti-abortion propaganda. Forgive me if I don't trust Voyager to do a decent job on issues concerning genderthe track record's been spotty at best.

Biller has promised to try to remedy Chakotay's 'first officer syndrome,' in which the character isn't allowed to be too dominant for fear of detracting from the captain. In addition to last week's 'Repression,' which featured a mind-controlled Chakotay staging a mutiny, the upcoming 'Shattered' offers present-day Chakotay meeting Janeway more than seven years earlier, when she thought of him as a terrorist. 'He ends up taking her through a journey of what will be her future. That very much explores that relationship.' I wonder if he'll tell her he used to be in love with her, if he still remembers? Dare we hope for that much continuity?

Biller spoke a bit about a holographic episode yet to be titled (perhaps this is the one believed to be called 'Temple'), in which Paris acquires a holographic program based on an alien culture's mythology. 'It has to do with finding an icon of some sort in a maze of tunnels. It's a big logic problem. Chakotay has an interest in the game because it's a way to explore the anthropology of this culture. For Tuvok it's a challenge of logic. The two of them end up working on the puzzle together, and it turns out that the game is much more than they realized.'

Biller reiterated that Tuvok may help one of his daughters solve a mystery on Vulcan, and that live communication with the Alpha Quadrant may become possible instead of the current monthly dispatches. He would like to bring back Joe Carey as well as some of the Maquis and perhaps some Equinox crewmembers. Kes and Q are less likely visitors. Barclay will probably return in a couple of late-season episodes. There aren't yet plans for more Borg.

Nor are there plans to kill any major characters, contrary to Kate Mulgrew's expressed wishes to the contrary. 'I wouldn't mind if my character died,' she most recently told Kevin Thompson of The Palm Beach Post. Biller retorted, 'Kate has been telling everyone for months she wants her character to die...and Kate making that suggestion certainly wasn't the first time anyone has thought of that.' Sometimes one gets the feeling the writers want Mulgrew out of the franchise as badly as Mulgrew wants to leave.

Or maybe they'll keep Janeway alive, but deprive her of the credit for getting her ship home. A rumor from Warp 10 suggests that the captain may go on trial when she returns to the Alpha Quadrant. I have my doubts about whether Trek will kill off its first woman captain, especially so soon after killing off Sisko. Would the writers really deprive Janeway and the viewers of a homecoming triumph? We shall see.

Trek News: UPN Peeee-Ewwww!

Unfortunately, Voyager's excellent early season ratings have not continued. The best news from Greg Fuller at the Star Trek Nielsen Ratings Database is that 'Drive' didn't do any worse than 'Imperfection,' while 'Repression' did even more poorly since it had to compete with a World Series game. The 3.7 rating for 'Drive' is an improvement on the end of last season, but down from last season's comparable early numbers.

For what it's worth, TrekWeb reports that according to The Futon Critic Website, Voyager is 13th among the year's television offerings for most improved season average, and ninth for largest lead-in build, the latter at a whopping 48 percent.

With or without Voyager's ratings, UPN apparently expects to have an eighth year on the air. The network has ordered pilots for the fall 2001 television season, including a production by horror master Wes Craven. TrekToday reports that Craven will produce and direct the story of a pair of supernatural researchers, a wealthy mogul and a woman who specializes in artificial intelligence.

Moreover, UPN's new Friday night lineup of Freedom and Level 9 have gotten generally good reviews and even better ratings. Variety gave the latter show a very positive write-up and reported that the network scored its highest Friday night ratings ever among adult males the week before with its reality specials, thus attracting the attention of precisely the demographics desired for the new action shows.

UPN is losing an affiliate in Utah when it refused to pay the station to air its programming. According to The Washington Post, KJZZ objected to UPN's 'urban/ethnic' and demanded that the network promise not to add any additional shows in that genre. UPN president Tom Nunan made unsubtle suggestions that the station managers were racist in their demands, though the station retorted that it was only representing the interests of its viewers. According to Variety, KAZG will likely become the new Salt Lake City affiliate, so viewers will still be able to watch Trek in Utah.

Is Paramount worried about all this upheaval? Apparently not. Last week they offered to sell all three second-generation series for the record license fee of $364 million. Yow! Variety reported that both Barry Diller's Sci-Fi Channel and Sumner Redstone's TNN are expected to compete for the franchise. Time Warner's TNT, Rupert Murdoch's Fox Family and FX, and the Odyssey Channel might also get in on the bidding. Whoever purchases the package will have to pay a million bucks an episode for The Next Generation, which is even more than E.R. sold for.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Voyager can be acquired at the relatively bargain prices of $700,000 an episode, but because both shows currently run in syndication, a cable network wouldn't be able to air reruns until April 2004 and September 2006 respectively. Although Sci-Fi has done very well with reruns of the original Star Trek, one has to wonder whether the spin-offs would be worth as much to them. TNN, a country network interested in branching out, is owned by Viacom, which produced the shows.

The good news for Trek fans is that somebody will likely be airing the series five nights a week for years to come. And Paramount has told potential cable buyers that it plans to release another The Next Generation film starring Patrick Stewart to keep the franchise fresh and interesting. USA Today reported last week Stewart has signed for the tenth film, making him the first crewmember Paramount has put under contract. Gladiator screenwriter John Logan has worked on the script, but it is not expected to start shooting until after the writers and actors' strikes anticipated for next year are over.

Trek People: Own Spock's Ears! Watch Braga Eat Himself! We're Not Kidding!

According to E! Online, Christie's announced this week that its Los Angeles branch will be auctioning some rare Trek collectiblesincluding four pairs of Vulcan ears worn by Leonard Nimoy, plus the original mold used to make them. According to the auction house, the molds were made from a case of Nimoy's own ears, while the actual props 'were manufactured at Fred Phillips' kitchen table' and cooked in his home oven. The ears are expected to sell at around $2,000 a pair, with the mold fetching as much as $20,000, so you might want to consider buying the cheesy rubber ones for next Halloween instead.

However, if Spock's ears aren't enough: own Kirk's head! That's right, the plaster mask made from William Shatner's face for makeup tests is for sale, with an estimated sale price of $6000. The catalogue describes the piece as 'Captain Kirk, frozen in time, and exactly in his prime.'

You can also bid on other prosthetics, plus original scripts from the first two Trek movies, signed posters and photographs from the Phillips' estatethe make-up artist from the original television show. This lot of Trek memorabilia is open to viewing Nov. 3 at Christie's in Los Angeles, or online at Christies.com, until the auction on Nov. 15.

Speaking of Shatner, his official Website is reporting that the actor will write another trilogy of Trek novels along with collaborators Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens. Shatner has already written two series of books about Kirk, including The Ashes of Eden, The Return and Avenger, and Spectre, Dark Victory and Preserver.

Good news for Brannon Braga fans! For a limited time, the unofficial site brannonbraga.com is offering a glimpse into the Trek executive producer's past as a filmmaker and legendary weirdo. The site is offering a digitized version of a short film made by Braga in 1990, while he was a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz. 'System Error' tells the story of a man who devours himselfquite graphically, with lots of blood and gore. This is not for the squeamish and although it contains no sex or violence in the traditional sense, it is probably not appropriate for viewers under 18.

In addition to spoilers, that Kevin Thompson Palm Beach Post article mentioned above contains lots of giggles. 'In space, everyone can hear you...laugh,' the feature begins, describing clowning on the set like Robert Beltran rehearsing his lines in an Asian accent and Robert Duncan McNeill performing the musical version of Voyager. Mulgrew says that all the men 'make me wet my pants.' She reasserts her belief that it's too late for Janeway and Chakotay to 'get it on,' claiming they wouldn't even have time to get into bed, 'and you know it takes a whole season to get into bed on Voyager.'

Trek This Week: 'Critical Care' Plot Summary

The Doctor's program is stolen and sold to an administrator at a hospital where care is doled out based on social worth. There he befriends a young man, Tebbis, who is suffering from a disease that can be cured easily, but the medication has been reserved as a preventive measure to protect socially prominent individuals from coronary disease much later in life. The Doctor begins to steal the medicine from the exclusive upper level to treat the dying below, but when he is discovered, his program is linked to the hospital's computerized Allocator, trapping him.

While Voyager searches the area for the thief who stole the EMH, the Doctor fosters rebellion and eventually injects the hospital administrator with a deadly virus in order to give him a taste of his own medicine. Faced with death, the administrator agrees to allow the lower-caste patients to be treated. Back on Voyager, the Doctor asks Seven to check his ethical subroutines, believing he must have been compromised or he would not attacked the administrator, but she assures him they are working perfectly.

Trek Analysis: Bitter Medicine

Despite being a little obvious and over-the-top in its criticism of managed health care, this episode has snappy pacing and good performances by an extended list of guest stars. Picardo got to do a turn as McCoy among the barbariansno cracks about needles and sutures, but he did make a remark about leeches. Despite the advance hype, 'Critical Care' feels less like an original Trek ethics episode than one of the The Next Generation tales where Crusher or Data wound up in a less-civilized society and had to find some way to teach Federation values instantaneously.

The Doc doesn't have any Prime Directive angst about sharing medical knowledge and he certainly doesn't stop to fret over forcing change upon a society. He does what his ethical programming suggests. If the society falls apart because the engineers start dying while street sweepers are saved with medicine that would otherwise have been given to the engineers, Voyager won't be around to see. We don't know much about this society beyond what we see in the hospital, but euthanasia of the sick isn't unheard of among humans; surely Voyager has encountered it before. Not that I'm defending the horrific conditions on Level Red, but we get a very one-sided view of the social crisis that led to the institution of The Allocator.

The Doctor feels sure his subroutines must have been impaired if he deliberately made Chellick ill, but they're working fine. Apparently his system can tolerate that sort of trade-off. He also has no problem singling out Tebbis for treatment when he takes one injection of cytoglobin into a ward with hundreds of sick patients, some more critically ill than the boy. Has he changed since 'Latent Image,' when his program crashed because he had to choose one life to save over another?

Then there's a cute scene between Tuvok and Neelix in the brig, when Tuvok accuses the cook of unethical behavior for poisoning the broth, only to be reminded that he just threatened Gar with a mind-meld to extract information about the Doctor's whereabouts. Neelix, who blames himself for the kidnapping since his cooking caused Gar to meet the Doctor in the first place, has no qualms about using mild torture to remedy the situation. Ironically, 'Critical Care' does as much to point out the vicissitudes of ethical choices as to condemn rigid systems that attempt to dole out fairness.

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