472. Heroes and Demons
FORMULA: Emergence + Lost Among Us + Eric the Viking
WHY WE LIKE IT: The EMH gets an away mission.
WHY WE DON'T: Dumb technobabble. Cod beards. Janeway's new hair.
REVIEW: It's the old nugget where the crew captures energy and it turns out it's sentient, so it takes over the holodeck in order to communicate/wreak havoc. This time, it's "photonic energy"... so you mean, like, "light"? And so begins an episode that disappointed me greatly. After all, I don't think we've seen a viking holodeck program before, and Beowulf seemed like a fun and unusual choice back in 1995, more than 10 years before all the sucky movies started coming out. Alas, I found it really painful to sit through.
The main reason is that the Beowulf program is unconvincing. Fake beards and ham acting abound, and while it can be justified as a poorly designed "holo-novel", it's still not pleasant to look at or listen to. Unferth is an especially annoying character, whose last plot complication (the theft of the "lantern") is simply ignored. Freya and her father are better, but still have mannered speech patterns. And we have to sit through the same hammy set pieces more than once as the program more or less resets. At least the musical cues are properly heroic.
And it's all too bad, because it's the Doctor's first adventure outside sickbay - and a great idea for giving him the hero's role - and Robert Picardo does a good job of giving us the EMH's first reactions (to nature, to women, etc.). Unfortunately, the script insists on some lackluster comedy as well. His romance with Freya is somewhat sweet (the program seems altogether too raunchy though, Harry, you pervert), though doomed. I still don't see why he couldn't have resurrected her and continued it. At least it means he won't keep Schweitzer as a name. I don't think it would have worked.
So the Doctor's good, it's just everything else that's off. Chakotay comes off as a stuffy anthropology professor (though I like his opinion of Vulcan literature). The technobabble really gets out of control, contradicting everything we thought we knew about holodeck technology and throwing out terms like "energy mass". And the only thing worse than the cod beards is Janeway's new hairdo.
LESSON: Beowulf was better in the original Old English.
REWATCHABILITY - Low: Could and should have been a lot better. I was surprised at how stupid and dull it all was.