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Stardate 0012.04: Flesh and Blood

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

By Michelle Erica Green     December 04, 2000

WarningSpoilers Ahead!

As Star Trek: Voyager enters the home stretch, the writers and actors have become more vocal about what they expectand what they would liketo see on the series before it concludes. Last week, co-producer Bryan Fuller chatted with fans on startrek.com about his work this past season and confirmed some of the rumors recently leaked by TrekWeb.

'Ken Biller and I just wrote the story for our February two-parter called 'Workforce,' revealed Fuller, who said he and the executive producer were co-writing the teleplay for the first half, with Biller and Mike Taylor writing the second part. 'The episode's very much an ensemble show that will have the crew exploring new lives as laborers on an alien world,' he added, noting that he did not want to give away the plot but 'as with every good science fiction thriller, there's much more going on than meets the eye.'

Fuller also mentioned 'The Void,' which now has an official synopsis at startrek.com. In that episode, Voyager will become trapped in a dark region of space like the one in 'Night,' where survival is often dependent upon taking advantage of weaker vessels. As the crew's resources dwindle, Janeway must decide whether to uphold Starfleet principles or to do whatever is necessary to save her ship. 'The crew's survival depends solely upon her abilities as a Starfleet Captain and her reliance on the principles of the Federation,' explained Fuller, which gives us a pretty good idea what she'll choose. Sounds like 'Alliances' meets 'Equinox.'

A former story editor, Fuller said that he had hoped Kes would thwart Janeway at the end of 'Fury' to become a recurring villain, and said that the staff had talked about doing a multi-episode arc in which Voyager was severely damaged. 'We thought it might become tedious to do a series of episodes where the ship was in disarray,' he said, joking that if the crew can manufacture an endless supply of shuttlecraft, they should have no trouble fixing bulkheads and conduits.

Finally, Fuller spoke a bit about the series conclusion, which has not yet been scripted. 'It's very likely that we'll see Barclay again after 'Inside Man,'' he noted, admitting that the staff has considered making the Star Trek: The Next Generation character the driving force behind Voyager's return home. Fuller said the finale could encompass as many as four episodes or as little time as the two-hour finale. 'That's not to say that there won't be seeds planted in previous episodes that will come to fruition in the finale, it just won't be as serialized as the arc in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Star Trek Monthly's December issue features an interview with Robert Duncan McNeill in which the actor states, 'The final episode is going to be a two-hour movielots of excitement with us trying to get home.' The actor who plays Tom Paris, who has also directed several well-received episodes of Voyageradded that he believed the crew would not be successful in its quest to reach Earth 'until the last moment.' In another interview in Star Trek Monthly, Robert Picardo stated his belief that 'our exciting finale this season is going to bring extra interest to the Star Trek franchise.'

McNeill, who hopes to helm one more episode of Voyager, scoffed at rumors that he is slated to direct for the fifth Trek series. 'I certainly have talked to people here at the studio about directing on the next series, but first they have to get the series greenlit and in the works.' The actor said Voyager is scheduled to wrap on April 10, and he expects the fifth series to start shooting within a year of that date.

Trek News: Star Trek Will Go On Forever

The National Network announced last Tuesday that it has acquired the last three Star Trek series, plus five of the films starring the original series cast. 'Our commitment to re-brand TNN as a top-rated network includes significant investment in programming, including acquisition of hotly bidded properties like Star Trek,' said Diane Robina, the general manager of the network. The acquisition keeps Star Trek in the hands of a Viacom-owned network, which Robina said will use Trek to attract viewers to TNN's original programming slated to premiere in 2001.

TNN gains 179 episodes of The Next Generation, 176 episodes of Deep Space Nine, and 172 episodes of Voyager. Because of previous syndication deals, the TNG telecasts will begin in 2001, DS9 in 2004 and Voyager in 2006. TNN may broadcast the first five Star Trek films in 2001. TNN's program schedule will include 50 percent original programming by 2005.

The Star Trek Nielsens database at TrekNation reported good news last week, as 'Nightingale' drew a 4.5 rating, 7 sharea minimal drop from the week before, compared to large drops on most other networks as Thanksgiving travel caused limited television viewership across the United States. Voyager finished in fourth place, ahead of the WB's Felicity and Fox's The $treet. The West Wing experienced a more significant drop in viewers, but easily won the timeslot.

Trek People: The Doctor Is In

Though various Voyager actors have become increasingly vocal about their eagerness to get on with their lives, Robert Picardo can always be counted on for his humor and graciousness. Asked on startrek.com whether there are any aspects of the Doctor he's sorry not to have gotten the chance to explore, he replied, 'His irresistible sexuality!' He added that he would like to ask the Doctor about the holographic equivalent of Viagra. Still, the man seems to be dealing with frustration well. When asked what he would say if he met his alter ego, Picardo replied, 'God, you're cute!'

Picardo cited 'Latent Image' as his favorite among the many episodes in which the Doctor faced an ethical dilemmaunscrupulous experiments in 'Nothing Human,' revisionist history in 'Living Witness'because he makes a decision to save a friend's life over that of another crewmember. 'The Doctor discovers his human soul in that episode because he cannot reconcile that in choosing one life he took another. It's his 'Sophie's Choice' moment.'

Asked how he and Jeri Ryan prepared for scenes in which the Doctor shared Seven's physical form in 'Body and Soul,' Picardo joked, 'Jeri and I spent a week in the Caribbean together sharing a beautiful hotel room! She didn't see how that was going to necessarily help her prepare for the role.' He then explained that he tried to help her by demonstrating how he would perform certain lines, but Ryan went out on a limb in making her own choices, so that by the time they filmed the episode, the crew said, ''Boy, Jeri does you even better than you do you.'' (Guests at the Galaxy Ball revealed that McNeill, who helmed the episode, suggested that Ryan mimic Picardo by 'playing him gayer.')

Picardo said he wished they could do a show in which the Doctor began to acquire possessions, then became obsessed with collecting things. 'I thought it would be an interesting parallel for human life where we arrive, obviously with nothing, and then...we begin accumulating things and wealth and how people define themselves through everything that they surround themselves with.' He thinks the series should end with 'a tremendous emotional buildup...a very exciting, highly dramatic moment when we finally burst through and get home,' though he said he would be very sad if any of the crew were killed off. Since the Doctor can't be killed, only deleted, what would Picardo like to see happen to him when they return? 'I'm hoping he'll get a talk show.'

Picardo said he was proudest of having directed the technically demanding 'One Small Step' of anything he had done on Voyager. That episode concerned the discovery of an old Earth spacecraft that got lost while exploring the solar system. Does the actor believe there is intelligent life elsewhere in our galaxy? 'I have to believe,' he said. 'I go along with Carl Sagan's logic that if we are such an infinitesimal point in a universe that we can't even conceive of, then how preposterous that the accident of sentient life would have only happened once. It's a much more difficult hypothesis to defend, I think, than the opposite.'

Trek This Week: 'Flesh and Blood' Plot Summary

Voyager receives a distress call and finds Hirogen slaughtered by holograms created from the technology Janeway provided years before. The sentient holograms steal the Doctor's program, asking for his help creating a home for themselves. When Janeway balks at sharing more technology, the Doctor helps his fellow photonics escape by giving them Voyager's shield frequencies.

But Iden, the leader of the holograms, doesn't merely want freedom; he wants to turn the tables on the Hirogen and hunt them as prey. While Voyager tries to stop the Hirogen from causing more bloodshed, the Doctor and Torres try to convince a holographic Cardassian engineer that she can be more than the sum of her programming, and resist becoming like her creators. Once Iden is gone, the Doctor prepares to be punished for betraying Voyager, but Janeway feels just as responsible for letting him expand his programming into the realm of human fallibility as she does for giving holographic technology to the Hirogen.

Trek Analysis: Do Holograms Dream of Electric Sheep?

'Flesh and Blood' takes an issue that's been lurking since The Next Generation's 'Elementary, Dear Data,' asking: If humanoids can transcend their genetic legacy to become peaceful, logical beings, can't holograms transcend their algorithms to become sentient? The Hirogen in this episode seem much more limited than their holograms. They can't move beyond their self-image as hunters, though even the psychotic hologram Iden manages to grow beyond his programming. He merges the scariest features of the hunt mentality with the self-serving fanaticism we've seen in warped Bajoran religious figures like Kai Winn. Kejal, on the other hand, makes a choice to reject implanted Cardassian arrogance and accept Torres' advice, which ends up saving the rest of the holograms.

The Doctor and the captain have been arguing for years now over whether he is a person or property. Janeway has been willing to let him explore harmless hobbies, but there are limits on his autonomy. Chakotay tries to strike a balance by asking whether the holograms' violent subroutines could be removed, which the Doctor claims wouldn't be discussed if they were flesh and blood. The holograms are in essence a genetically engineered race. We've seen such races before on Star Trek, organic beings whose natural inheritances have been manipulated to favor desirable characteristics. The Doctor argues rightly that in this case, the holograms would be left defenseless, and under any circumstances it should be their choice now that they are capable of choosing.

Janeway refuses to respect Iden's choice not to accept her plan to shut them all down, a decision she promptly validates by threatening him and dismissing the Doctor. Yet by the end of the episode, she has come to accept her own responsibility for the Doctor's subsequent choice to leave the ship. It doesn't occur to her to try to reprogram the Doctor as she did in 'Latent Image.' They have come full circle from the first season episode in which Torres suggested that the Doctor modify his subroutines and he exclaimed, 'A hologram that programs itself! What would I do with such power? Create a family? Raise an army!' The moral dilemma about responsibility is as much Janeway's as the Doctor's.

Whatever Iden's faults as an individual, even if his revolution stems from a vision of personal glory, the issues he raises remain. Is it right for species across the galaxy to create holographic slave labor? Which is worse, allowing holograms to feel pain and know their limitations, or to create mindless drones that can't ever evolve into sentient beings? Is it any more fair to create a sentient EMH for every ship in Starfleet than it would be to breed babies specifically to become scientific geniuses? These sorts of questions lurk in the background, buried under the shoot-em-up production values of Voyager.

Trek Books: Star Trek: Voyager: Dark Matters #3: Shadow of Heaven

I enjoyed the final volume of Christie Golden's Dark Matters trilogy better than the first two volumes, and I hadn't believed that to be possible because the first two were excellent. She successfully resolves a complex scientific conundrum involving dark matter, unravels a tough political situation among the Romulans, and offers some interesting commentary on the Prime Directive by depicting the explosive relationship between a technologically advanced society and one that rejects technology sharing the same world. She also gives Harry Kim a lovely, doomed romance, and allows the vicious chairman of the Romulan Tal Shiar to redeem herself. There's not a single character neglected.

In the previous two novels, Golden had set up a situation in which Telek R'Mor, a Romulan known to the Voyager crew via his wormhole technology, discovered a deadly threat to the entire universe when a rogue from a race called the Shepherds encouraged the Romulans to use mutated dark matter to create cloaks for their ships. The planned catastrophic invasion of the Federation is the least of Voyager's worries, for the dark matter causes insanity and painful death in organic life forms and breaks down planets at the atomic level.

When we last saw our heroes, Captain Janeway had been taken prisoner, Jekri Kaleh of the Tal Shiar had been imprisoned with the complicity of her second in command, Chakotay and Paris were stranded on an alien world with two antagonistic cultures, and Telek R'Mor had just learned the universe's soon-to-be awful fate. In the early pages of Shadow of Heaven, Janeway and Kaleh are both freed, only to embark on the most difficult missions of their lives. Chakotay and Paris dwell in relative comfort, but they soon realize their bodies are not adjusting to the shift in their realities. Khala, Harry Kim's lover from the world where his crewmates have been taken, experiences similar problems aboard Voyager. The reason? As Telek R'Mor has learned, they reside in separate universes connected via dark matterthe substance being manipulated by the Shepherds with consequences for all life forms.

The quests that follow are personal as well as epic. Chakotay tries to reconcile the Culilann and Alilann cultures before a disaster unfolds similar to the slaughter of Native Americans by European settlers. Paris tries to support a Culilann leader who secretly works as an Alilann contact. Kim teaches Khala how to reconcile technology and respect for nature. Kaleh learns compassion from being a prisoner within the system she helped build. Janeway and R'Mor come to understand the building blocks of all the universes. Things don't work out perfectly on either an individual or galactic scale, but a surprising number of people get to live happily ever after.

One of Golden's greatest assets is that she doesn't require the characters to be paragons of virtue, yet they consistently rise above their limitations. Paris is tempted by a beautiful alien, yet sublimates that to help her people. Torres and Seven work together best when they're snapping at one another, inadvertently giving each other ideas. Kaleh comes from a background of scheming and manipulation, yet her honor requires that she protect her Empire and put aside personal desires, even when faced with death. Kes makes a surprise visit, only to learn that one of her humanoid incarnations has damaged her ability to help those she loves most.

Like Deep Space Nine: Millennium, the Voyager: Dark Matter trilogy joyously celebrates the characters and plot devices of an entire series while the fate of the universe hangs in the balance. For less than $21, readers can relive all the highlights of the early seasons and experience the show as it should have been all along.

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