Star Trek 624: Author, Author

624. Author, Author

FORMULA: Worst Case Scenario + Living Witness + The Measure of a Man

WHY WE LIKE IT: Tom's moustache. Tom's version.

WHY WE DON'T: Holographic rights get strident.

REVIEW: Author, Author tries to be many things, probably too many things. It wants to be a comedy, a poignant "phone calls from home" episode (next on a very special Survivor), and a legal drama exploring what "person" means. The phone calls remind us that we're nearing the end of the series, as the Alpha Quadrant has never seemed closer. These bits - B'Elanna talking to her estranged father, Harry pulling the short straw of course then being cut off in the middle of his call, etc. - are a bit short to be of true value, but they do teach Seven a measure of empathy and drive her to make a call herself.

The comedy, for its part, works well enough. The Doctor's holonovel is self-indulgent and long-winded, just like he is, and the characters thinly veiled representations of the Voyager cast, although totally unbelievable as a Starfleet crew. It's a freakin' horror show, the closest Voyager has gotten to a Mirror Universe episode (the bearded Vulcan is the clue), and one I have a hard time believing would come from the Doctor's pen (compare to his reactions in Living Witness, even if he has no awareness of those events). Still, you can't help but smile at Lt. Marseille's moustache, just as B'Elanna does. You need this ridiculous exageration if you're going to make Tom's revenge play work though. To teach the good Doctor a lesson, he replaces "Photons Be Free" with yet another version of the story, this time aboard the USS Voyeur, in which the Doctor is evil. The chapter titles are hilarious and Robert Picardo has perfect comic timing parodying the Doctor. Best sequence in the show.

The irony is that a holonovel about holograms not having rights is stolen by a publisher on the basis that its author had no rights. A court battle ensues in the style of The Measure of a Man, but Author, Author isn't quite on that level. It's a nice chance for various characters to say how much the Doctor's meant to them and to show how far he's come though. The arbiter here comes to the same conclusion as Louvois in Measure ("I don't know!"), and though he can't grant holograms "person" status, he does make this one an "artist" able to control his own work.

Of course, the holonovel WAS distributed, defaming Voyager's crew in the process (unless you count Janeway's portrayal, which was dead on - I kid!), and at the end we see it's become an underground bootleg viewed by all those repurposed EMHs working mines and garbage scows. A message of hope for an oppressed people. But are they people? The whole question of holographic rights is tied to holographic sentience, and it's never been demonstrated just how that works. Only holodeck accidents (Moriarty) and holograms left on too long (the Doctor, maybe Vic Fontaine) should qualify, so we're not really enslaving computer programs, are we? Are the former EMHs sentient yet? Can we curtail the number of oppressed by simply putting a "best before" date on holograms? Or does that make them like Bladerunner's replicants and even more dangerous? Let's just say I'm more comfortable with a unique aberration like the Doctor (just as Data was fairly unique) than I am with the concept of a holographic society. This just gives the Federation slaves and I don't think that's a correct impression to give in Star Trek.

LESSON: An eye for an eye, a combover for a moustache.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: Though the bad Doctor routine is worth the price of admission, there are a lot of scenes where you'll wonder just what the Doctor was thinking.

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