Star Trek 552: Demon

552. Demon

FORMULA: Parturition + Aquiel + Deadlock

WHY WE LIKE IT: Gray mode.

WHY WE DON'T: Spawn of Voyager.

REVIEW: Before we get to the Demon Planet, a couple of notes... First, this is the first time the ship goes on gray mode, which seems strange to me. If Voyager is really a week away from coasting on fumes, it shows grossly negligent planning on their parts. The ship probably should have been on gray mode all trip long! And then there's Harry Kim who's decided to become more assertive through dialogue instead of action. I don't begrudge him the growth (and he's shown promise in the past), but why the need to treat it like a public amendment to the series bible? Because that's what it sounds like. "From now on, my character is THIS way..." instead of showing it gradually through a season. Lame.

As for the Demon (really just Planet Hell again, but with burnt orange lighting), it presents an interesting environmental challenge, though they play fast and loose with it. Sometimes the atmosphere is highly corrosive, sometimes Seven and Tuvok can walk miles and miles without a problem. And it's never properly explained how Harry and Tom survive half a day with their suits full of holes. But of course, the real antagonist is the silver blood, a mimetic creature that copies Harry and Tom and thus learns sentience.

It's an interesting idea, to be sure, though it's another example of magic on the show. But accepting the goo for what it is - including its ability to mimic memories and personality - we have an intriguing existential question. Is the imitation of sentience, of personality, of memory, actually equivalent to it? And what would a non-sentient creature do with sentience if it suddenly had access to it. We take it for granted, but it's a seductive idea for that which does not. Except the episode quickly ends after Janeway negotiates to give the silver blood the crew's DNA to copy. I think it's rather disturbing that most (if not all) of the crew chose to duplicate themselves on this alien planet. It's really creepy. Like, what's my duplicate doing RIGHT NOW? Never mind the fact that it's another major Prime Directive blunder.

Strangely, what's perhaps the best bit of the episode has nothing to do with the plot. What I first dismissed as a standard comedy subplot consisting of Neelix squating in sickbay during gray mode turned out to have a genuine character moment in it. The Doctor does his damnedest to make the play unlivable so that his unwanted tenants leave, but Neelix's graciousness makes shame flush his face for a moment. We don't linger on it or belabour it with a dialogue scene to spell it all out. Do I liked those 3-4 seconds fine.

LESSON: Harry and Tom just don't have enough sentience for anyone's appetite.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-Low: Only climbs to Medium if you want to have a context for Course: Oblivion, but otherwise, another Voyager episode that looks good and isn't unwatchable, but treats its ideas stupidly.

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