Star Trek 558: In the Flesh

558. In the Flesh

FORMULA: The First Duty + Conspiracy + Any MMORPG

WHY WE LIKE IT: Who doesn't love Ray Walston?

WHY WE DON'T: Taking the guts out of Species 8472.

REVIEW: We're back on Earth, Starfleet Command, and someone's watching us and taking pictures. Reverse shot: It's a bug-eyed face - no, it's the camera - and the alien is revealed to be Chakotay. An opening not without some visual flair though we might question the premise. I mean, to what lengths do you go to bring back Ray Walston's Boothby? A fine character, but this is the Delta Quadrant here!

But bring him back, they do, and he makes a rather genial leader for Species 8472, saddled as he is with the personality of the person he's impersonating. It's never explained where they got the means to recreate Starfleet Command and play this massive role-playing game, and the technology doesn't look biological, perhaps to keep us in the dark longer as to the mysterious aliens' identity. Taking on human traits seems to have made 8472 more human and thus more accepting of our species, and I'm really surprised that we never get a follow-up to this episode where these 8472 have become too human to rejoin their society peaceably.

Despite the wonky premise, Voyager's crew comes off as very competent. The usual paranoid shenanigans are replaced with sound and thrifty precautions like wide genetic testing (though Chakotay's story about leaving Starfleet to join the Maquis a good 2 years before the DMZ was established got by Janeway... imagine if he was an 8472 from then on...). Using the Delta Flyer as a half-way point for transport, keeping the ship off the radar is likewise a smart thing to do.

Of course, the somewhat refreshing twist is that it's all a grand misunderstanding and 8472 aren't really the bad guys. They think Starfleet is in with the Borg and planning to attack fluidic space. But there's no fleet out there, there's no Borg alliance, and Starfleet command doesn't even know Species 8472 exists. I'm liking it as a change of pace (though their information seems too complete to make this grave a mistake), though it IS a paradigm shift for these aliens who once declared that our galaxy should be purged of life. And with the air taken out of this particular balloon, the epilogues just seem to whimper along.

New crew head count, according to the Doctor: 128. So I guess a lot of people died in the Hirogen simulations. That's 15 unexplained deaths.

LESSON: Humans/8472 can't be all bad if they kiss this good.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: Dodgy premise (that's nothing new in this era of Voyager), but good acting and smart strategies.



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