Star Trek 601: Muse

601. Muse

FORMULA: Blink of an Eye + Who Watches the Watchers + lots of fanfic

WHY WE LIKE IT: The postmodern twists.

WHY WE DON'T: The community theater.

REVIEW: People have complained for years that Voyager just wasn't about anything. An episode like Muse makes me disagree with that. No, Voyager was the point at which Star Trek came to be about itself. The previous episode seemed to deal with the convention scene, and Muse is clearly about fanfic. Both are episodes that deal heavily with the "Voyagers legend", something the writers have been fascinated with for years. Voyager has to leave a culture-altering trail behind it, just as Star Trek did. Hate to break it to them, but the "Trek that changed the world" sure ain't Voyager. Harping on this idea only makes them look insecure about the show. "See? We're as good as TOS or TNG or DS9! Better in fact!"

In Muse, a playwright from a relatively primitive culture turns a shipwrecked B'Elanna's stories about Voyager into plays. The two of them have good interaction as he helps her repair the Delta Flyer so long as she tells him more about the "Eternals" from "Shining Voyager". She treads carefully, painting things with a myth and magic, only at the end indulgently inserting herself into the play to prevent her character's death. It's a little silly, and is there a good reason why no one notices her Klingon ridges?

On the surface, the plays have an interesting look, with a Greek chorus and half-masks. But the fact is, they're not very good. In fact, they're awful, which takes a lot of steam out of the concept of having the Star Trek stage play stop a war with its philosophy. Kelis is a very bad fanfic writer, hoping to melt his patron's warrior's heart with Janeway kissing Tuvok, and Seven kissing Tom Paris, etc. There are some weird postmodern twists that I appreciate as an outside observer - the chorus writing the patron's reactions into the play, the real B'Elanna showing up to interrupt the play - but it's very messy storytelling for the play's audience. Not that anyone could understand these many alien concepts devoid of context. There's also a damning sequence in which an older actor talks about how Kelis and all these young writers are lazy and use formulaic tricks to achieve their ends, like sudden reversals, etc. Is writer Joe Menosky pointing at someone else in the writer's room, or himself?

There's an odd subplot concerning Tuvok running himself ragged to find the missing away team, which seems a little out of character for him. Even worse is the bit where he falls asleep on the bridge. Ridiculous. And I'm struck by the appearance of Kellie Waymire as the jealous actress. She appeared as Elizabeth Cutler in Enterprise, a lovely character whose life got cut short when Waymire died suddenly at age 36. I'm always saddened by her loss.

LESSON: If you're going to make an episode that's about making the show, you might want to make sure you have something nice to say about it.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-Low: Some good B'Elanna bits, but ultimately a train wreck of an episode.


Andrew Gilbertson said...

Not really seeing all the symbolism here (and from the perspective that the Voyager-as-myth angle seems more aimed at the fact that they're the only... Equinox nonwithstanding... Starfleet presence in the Delta Quadrant, a unique entity that does affect many species across many sectors) I found this to be an excellent episode- on its own merit, as opposed to its symbolic fan-fic meaning.


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