Star Trek 603: Life Line

603. Life Line

FORMULA: Pathfinder + Message in a Bottle + Brothers

WHY WE LIKE IT: Robert Picardo's dual jerks. More Barclay and Deanna.

WHY WE DON'T: Not enough of Voyager.

REVIEW: The first and only script (co-)written by a cast member, Life Line credits Robert Picardo in, I guess you'd say, a triple role. Despite the usual Voyager "something unbelievable happens so we can set up the premise" plotting strategy (this time: Janeway agrees to give up her EMH for an entire month and risks losing it forever), it's a sensitive character-driven story and one of the best for the Doctor.

Pathfinder has found a way to make monthly transgalactic phone calls to Voyager, which seems to mean Barclay will be appearing more regularly. Not a bad thing. In the first transmission, he sends along news that the EMH's creator (whom we met on DS9) is dying. The Doctor thinks he can adapt some Vidiian-related technique to help him and off we go. It becomes a father-son story for a character who really doesn't have family.

The dual performance by Picardo is good of course. Zimmerman's personality remains distinct from the Doctor's, though as Deanna Troi tells it (glad to see her again too), they're both jerks in their own ways. Even the holographic iguana agrees. Seems that the EMH Mark I has become obsolete in the Alpha Quadrant, in large part because of its irascible personality. Hidden behind Zimmerman's refusal to be treated by the Doctor is his own self-loathing and inability to look at his greatest failure in the face, a face that is his own. He even tries to change his disappointing son. This sort of stuff might as well be true of human fathers and sons. It's not a an ever-ending screaming match between the two either. There are comic bits as the Doctor tries to trick Zimmerman into getting treatment and a great scene where a man without friends writes his will. Throw in a holographic menagerie and TNG guest-stars winning the day and you have a really good Star Trek episode.

But is it an episode of Voyager? I don't mind a show spotlighting a single cast member, but there's a distracting subplot about Starfleet wanting to know about the "Maquis situation" that isn't ever resolved. Janeway and Chakotay go off to draft a response and we never hear from them again. It's not like these characters didn't already appear earlier and desperately needed a scene.

LESSON: If you don't do what your daddy says, he's gonna send you to work a radioactive garbage scow.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High: Funny and touching, with great performances from all involves. Even the iguana. ESPECIALLY the iguana. (Is it named after McCoy or Nimoy?)


De said...

This is easily a favorite of mine due to the sheer presence of Robert Picardo in the dual roles. I also really liked the Haley hologram.


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