Star Trek 658: Dead Stop

658. Dead Stop

FORMULA: Vox Sola + The Changeling + Spock's Brain + 2001

WHY WE LIKE IT: Still reeling from the last episode.

WHY WE DON'T: Why Travis?

REVIEW: After 7 years of Voyager magically repairing itself without a spacedock between episodes, Dead Stop starting where Minefield left off comes as something of a shock. There's still a large chunk of the hull missing and Malcolm is in therapy for his leg wound. The ship, like its Tactical Officer, has essentially been slowed to a crawl, and it's too far out to get repairs (10 years from Earth, in fact). Archer is right to try to trade on the good will Enterprise has generated in the last year, and after teasing us with the possibility of seeing refurbished Tellarites, he gets a tip to a magical spacedock that can fix whatever ails you for a low, low price of a few liters of warp plasma. Admittedly, the plot is convenient in repairing the ship, but the stakes are nonetheless well described: You get damaged this far from home, you're in real trouble.

The automated spacedock's interior has a wonderfully white retro look, ubiquitous in the 70s, but by design meant to remind you of 2001: A Space Odyssey. After all, it also features a polite computer with its own agenda to integrate a person into a computer network (if that is how Dave Bowman's monolith plunge is supposed to be interpreted). Another strong influence is the TOS episode The Changeling. Various situations reminded me of it - the computer's non sequiturs, a crew member temporarily dying, and the 'bot having the power to repair and heal both others and itself - and you'll also find a model of (pre-transformation) NOMAD in Travis' quarters as a clue. Was this spacedock "the Other" he claimed repaired and/or combined with him?
Of course, it's all too good to be true, and the spacedock's actual payment is a member of the crew. Travis is selected merely to give the character a role in the episode, I'm afraid, because the choice is not a sound one. Spacedock should pick someone that won't be so readily missed. Certainly not the ship's pilot or member of the bridge crew. Maybe it's never watched Star Trek. Travis' apparent death does offer Hoshi a good, human moment, though I do wish we'd SEEN the subject of her story rather than heard about it. If Travis is a prankster, it'd have been nice to see evidence of that before.

More doubtful characterization concerns Trip's dangerous foray into the bowels of the spacedock. I'm fine with Trip and Reed getting up to trouble whenever they're together, but they seem to be jeopardizing their careers here. While it does lead to a funny moment when they are transported to the bridge on all fours, their motivations are way too thin. As for the ending, the Enterprise crew once again uses a couple of their standby tricks: Fraud and blowing stuff up. I never get tired of the former, but the latter might be pushing it soon. At least the explosion doesn't quite get them out of trouble, as the ship remains trapped by a mechanical arm. Maybe firing torpedos this close to the ship should have been more dangerous, but it's an exciting little set piece.

LESSON: You don't want to stop at this spacedock in a one-man figther craft.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: Though I like a lot of moments in Dead Stop (as well as there being consequences to a previous episode), the plot has too many cheap coincidences folded into it.

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