Star Trek 524: Real Life

524. Real Life

FORMULA: In Theory + The Offspring + The Outcast

WHY WE LIKE IT: The touching ending.

WHY WE DON'T: The technobabble B-plot.

REVIEW: The Doctor creates a perfect 1950s kind of family and hilarity ensues. It's all very ridiculous, with each family member fighting for his affections, if they have any flaw at all. Points of interest include his being called Kenneth, a surprisingly acceptable first name in this context, and Belle being played by the same holographic matrix as the haunted Burleigh girl from Janeway's holonovel. The reuse of an actor has never been so easy to explain.

Things get more amusing and more interesting once B'Elanna imbues the program with more real life variables, not that she's an expert on family life. In keeping with her own difficult upbringing, her input doesn't just cause realistic problems for the Doctor, but threatens to destroy the family. Belle throws tantrums, but is still daddy's little girl. Jeffrey is the rebellious son hanging out with a bad influence (Klingons!). And Charlene is suddenly a real woman with a schedule of her own. It's always nice to see the Doctor in a situation he can't quite handle, but it's all fun and games until somebody dies.

And someone does. Belle's death is heart-wrenching not once, but twice. Robert Picardo is immensely effective when he shuts down the program, unable to bear the pain of seeing his dying child. When he returns later to face the situation, and has to tell a child she is going to die, it becomes unbearable for the viewer as well. It's so harsh that I don't think they would ever script a situation like this with a real child. If there's a flaw in the episode, it's that the family story is under-developped. It's amazing that the emotion works based on the broad strokes presented here. The more you know these characters, the more punch the ending packs.

Especially since the B-plot is total dreck. It's a technobabble anomaly that does technobabble things and begs Voyager to technobabble around it instead of just taking pictures and moving on. It's largely irrelevant to the main story except to give the Doctor an excuse to overreact to Tom Paris' irresponsible behavior. Any minor accident would have worked. No need to hijack 15 minutes of the episode for it (and part of that is some of the WORST flirting in Star Trek history - and that's saying a lot about a show that's starred Kirk, Riker and Bashir). Tom does get to give the speech that sends the Doctor back to his ruined family, but he sells the punchline by overexplaining, a common problem in Star Trek writing. Still, it does underlie his own family troubles without putting a greasy finger on them (an actor's choice rather than a scriptwriter's, it seems to me).

LESSON: They're only cute between the ages of 4 and 11.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High: Almost on par with the devastating The Offspring, but the useless B-plot really holds it back.

0 comments:

 

Blog Archive

Category

5 Things to Like Activities Advice Alien Nation Aliens Say the Darndest Things Alpha Flight Amalgam Ambush Bug Animal Man anime Aquaman Archetypes Archie Heroes Arrowed Asterix Atom Avengers Awards Babylon 5 Batman Battle Shovel Battlestar Galactica Black Canary BnB 2-in1 Books Booster Gold Buffy Canada Captain America Captain Marvel Cat CCGs Charlton Circles of Hell Class Comics Comics Code Approved Conan Contest Cooking Crisis Daredevil Dating Kara Zor-El Dating Lois Lane Dating Lucy Lane Dating Princess Diana DCAU Deadman Dial H Dice Dinosaur Island Dinosaurs Director Profiles Doctor Who Doom Patrol Down the Rabbit Hole Dr. Strange Encyclopedia Fantastic Four Fashion Nightmares Fiasco Films Within Films Flash Flushpoint Foldees French Friday Night Fights Fun with Covers FW Team-Up Galleries Game design Gaming Geekly roundup Geeks Anonymous Geekwear Gimme That Star Trek Godzilla Golden Age Grant Morrison Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction Green Arrow Green Lantern Hawkman Hero Points Podcast Holidays House of Mystery Hulk Human Target Improv Inspiration Intersect Invasion Invasion Podcast Iron Man Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen JLA JSA Judge Dredd K9 the Series Kirby Motivationals Krypto Kung Fu Learning to Fly Legion Letters pages Liveblog Lonely Hearts Podcast Lord of the Rings Machine Man Motivationals Man-Thing Marquee Masters of the Universe Memes Memorable Moments Metal Men Metamorpho Micronauts Millennium Mini-Comics Monday Morning Macking Movies Mr. Terrific Music Nelvana of the Northern Lights Nightmare Fuel Number Ones Obituaries oHOTmu OR NOT? Old52 One Panel Orville Outsiders Panels from Sheena Paper Dolls Play Podcast Polls Questionable Fridays Radio Rants Reaganocomics Recollected Red Bee Red Tornado Reign Retro-Comics Reviews Rom RPGs Sandman Sapphire & Steel Sarah Jane Adventures Saturday Morning Cartoons SBG for Girls Seasons of DWAITAS Secret Origins Podcast Secret Wars SF Shut Up Star Boy Silver Age Siskoid as Editor Siskoid's Mailbox Space 1999 Spectre Spider-Man Spring Cleaning ST non-fiction ST novels: DS9 ST novels: S.C.E. ST novels: The Shat ST novels: TNG ST novels: TOS Star Trek Streaky Suicide Squad Supergirl Superman Supershill Swamp Thing Tales from Earth-Prime Team Horrible Teen Titans That Franchise I Never Talk About The Prisoner The Thing Then and Now Theory Thor Thursdays of Two Worlds Time Capsule Timeslip Tintin Torchwood Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms Toys Turnarounds TV V Waking Life Warehouse 13 Websites What If? Who's This? Whoniverse-B Wikileaked Wonder Woman X-Files X-Men Zero Hour Strikes Zine