Star Trek 548: Vis à Vis

548. Vis à Vis

FORMULA: Turnabout Intruder + Revulsion

WHY WE LIKE IT: It's not easy to fake Starfleet.

WHY WE DON'T: What happens to B'Elanna.

REVIEW: Tom's mid-life crisis pretty much comes out of nowhere, without any kind of build-up, and this time, he's not faking it. The psychological reason, as presented, is that his life is so settled (job and girlfriend and respect) that he feels trapped. Sounds more like the Tom Paris from the series bible than the character he's since become. Perhaps the question I should be asking is why Tom's suddenly a subspace mechanics expert and helping Steth repair his ship's engine instead of either Seven, Harry or B'Elanna. I guess the chief engineer is too pregnant to get any scenes where she's not hidden behind a countertop. It's that interchangeability that makes me think the characters are essentially serving a plot, fitting their square pegs into its round holes as best they can, instead of the reverse. Tom needs to be rebellious, he needs to be a super-mechanic, and so he is.

Steth's magical body switching - because it is magic, I don't know why a psionic solution wasn't used - leads to perhaps the best and the worst of all "pretender" moments. In the past, pretenders have been able to function relatively easily within the Starfleet structure, often with explanation, sometimes not (think MacDuff in Conundrum). As he experiences a day in the life of Tom Paris, he sees that it isn't all fun and games (indeed, didn't Tom's malaise register at all?). So for once, we're shown a pretender who has difficulty fitting in. And realistically, that's what would happen. Where it goes astray, in my opinion, is that it's heavily inferred that he slept with B'Elanna during that time, essentially violating that character. Distasteful as it is, what's even worse is that this is never addressed. B'Elanna seems fine. Tom seems fine. More magic.

As for the rest of the plot, it goes pretty much exactly where you think it's going, and there's little surprise when Steth turns out to have taken Janeway's form. The Benthan ship design is really, really interesting, but sadly has to be a one-off. Though a coaxial warp drive system gets installed into a shuttle, it's a surprise that Janeway doesn't immediately ask if Steth can share it. Nor is it ever mentioned again. So much for adapting new technologies to get home. In the end, of course, Tom learns a valuable lesson about how good he has it on Voyager, but I thought he knew this already. Our lesson?

LESSON: You can spot a friend in crisis by the fact he stops combing his hair.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-Low: Oh, it's watchable, but I'm low-balling it because of the creepy implications and disregard for real characterization.



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