Star Trek: Voyager: Twisted   Rewatch 
March 16, 2017 3:18 AM - Season 2, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Being stranded 70,000 light-years from home is pretty tough on a starship crew. Sooner or later, some of them are gonna get a little bent out of shape.

Forearm Lymphoma:

- The quick pacing and piecemeal nature of this episode meant that five extra scenes had to be written into it, after the rest of the episode had been shot, in order to fill out the episode's duration. Another method utilized to add enough time onto the episode was looping of additional dialogue. According to the unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant, the installment underran by eight minutes and the small character scenes that were added included at least some of the flirtatious banter when Sandrine is attempting to chat The Doctor up. Executive producer Jeri Taylor commented, "With something as extremely short as 'Twisted' we were forced, by the structure of the story, to add all these sequences in the corridors [....] What we ended up with were these endless wandering the corridors scenes and they just contributed to a general lethargy of pace, slowed the whole thing down, and weighted it rather than buoyed it."

- This episode is a bottle show. In fact, it was a budget-saving episode produced at a time when the series was running out of financial resources.

- Shortly after completing work on this installment, Tim Russ explained, "There's a line in an episode we just finished, 'I've always respected the Captain's decisions.' And that line was difficult to say." According to Russ, the reason he struggled with his problematic line of dialogue was that he believed the line was in contradiction with the earlier-produced first season installment "Prime Factors". He recalled, "[The] line was difficult to say when, in fact, we know he [...] violated protocols [in 'Prime Factors'] by taking matters into his own hands."

- This installment was one of four that, despite having been written and produced at the end of the first season, were held back by UPN to air in the second season, the other episodes being (in production order) "Projections", "Elogium" and "The 37's". Although this episode had been the third of the four to be produced, the episode was ultimately the last of the four to air, due to the fact that the production team considered this episode to be the worst of the lot.

- Prior to this episode's initial airing, rumors circulated – largely based on convention comments from Robert Duncan McNeill and Robert Picardo – that this episode was so bad, it would never be aired. Prognosticators speculated for months leading up to the episode's first broadcast. Some suggestions were that the installment was an incomprehensible script by supervising producer Brannon Braga, that the episode had been entirely rewritten by executive producer Michael Piller, that director Kim Friedman had been unable to understand the story, and that large portions of the episode had to be rewritten and reshot. As a result, the episode ended up with a notorious reputation. In 2012, Robert Picardo cited this episode as his least favorite from all of the Star Trek: Voyager segments.

- Michael Piller felt that this episode did some character damage that he would attempt to correct with the episode that ultimately aired next, "Parturition". He recalled, "After 'Twisted,' I was terribly concerned about Neelix. I was afraid we were going to destroy this character if we made him the buffoon of the ship. If all he is is comic relief, we're in trouble. The jealousy he was showing toward Kes was becoming irritating, so we wanted to put that to bed quickly." In fact, the final broadcast order seems to lessen Neelix' jealousy; if this episode had aired as originally intended, it would have been the second installment in a row (following "Elogium") in which Neelix acts jealous about the relationship between Paris and Kes.

"I'm a doctor, not a bartender!"

- The Doctor, to Sandrine

"Commander, I would imagine you've had some experience with women."

- Neelix and Chakotay

"If he won't play pool with you and he won't make love to me, then as far as I'm concerned, he can mop the floors."
"Do you see these hands? These are surgeon's hands, created by the most sophisticated computer-imaging technology available. They do not play games and they do not mop floors!"
"Then you are fired! I will find a new bartender."
"I really wish you would!"

- Sandrine about The Doctor, and The Doctor himself

"Nothing makes us more vulnerable than when we love someone. We can be hurt very easily but I've always believed that what you get when you love someone is greater than what you risk."

- Chakotay

"It's talking to me, do nothing!"

- Kathryn Janeway, in a twisted form of English to the officers present on the holodeck right after Tuvok elaborates his theory about doing nothing

Poster's Log: I've never not been annoyed by this episode, both due to the Kes-Neelix situation's awfulness coming into full bloom and due to my strong suspicion that the whole genesis of this A-story was "let's show off some neat new computer effects," which was what killed ST:TMP in the minds of most viewers. Add to that a weird plodding structure reminiscent of those marking-time TNG episodes and you have pretty much a dud. That said, this is another one that improves somewhat upon rewatches IMO, mainly because they gave their great cast the space to show these characters preparing for (what they believed to be) the slow march of an inevitable death, a death they couldn't fight against or science the shit out of. That tends to be affecting even in a series where you know they'll make it (which VOY will play with again, and with better results).

Poster's Log, Supplemental: So the guy from Sandrine's, Gaunt Gary? You know how that actor is usually really recognizable (e.g., he played the actor playing Kramer in the show-within-a-show on Seinfeld)? Guess who else he played? O.o
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (15 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I actually liked this one when I first watched it, but for the life of me I can't remember much of anything about it anymore, so I'm looking forward to rewatching it, though with some trepidation given the romantic sub plots. But then again, I liked ST:TMP because there was a lot of time spent on not much action, so I may be an outlier no matter what I think of this one on review.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:44 AM on March 16, 2017

It's interesting that they seemed to think this episode was so much worse than the others, because while it's not great, the problems it has seem to be problems a lot of Voyager episodes have, and the good things about it are at least a little novel.

Relationships: Kes/Neelix is as horrible as Kes/Neelix always is. At least Neelix seems to realize his jealousy is a problem in this one, and it's not passed off as a normal healthy relationship? It's certainly miles better than Elogium in that regard, which is a very low bar, I realize (hey look, this episode did not imply pedophilia in any way!)

The Doctor/Sandrine parts were also horrible, because apparently Star Trek thinks older women molesting men is hilarious (it's even more disturbing if you remember that Sandrine is only questionably sentient). But this is also nothing new.

Pacing: This was noticeable, but I chalked it up with expecting the audience to be only half paying attention and needing five scenes to show the one thing so they're sure the audience gets it.

Forgetting themselves: Tuvok just says whatever makes sense at the time, ignoring whatever came before. He's unused to working with Chakotay despite the fact that he was pretending to be his subordinate for months, Tuvok never questions Janeway's decisions, except when he totally does. Current theory: pilot took place in an alternate timeline, the delta quadrant's screwyness means that there was a timeline jump that we didn't even notice.

Good Parts
Pairing Shake-ups: Voyager has a tendency to have a character mainly interact with one or two characters - Tuvok and Janeway, Kim and Paris, Kes with either the Doctor or Neelix. This one seemed to have more prolonged interactions between characters that don't usually have much to do with each other - Kim with Janeway, Tuvok with B'Ellana, Tuvok and Chakotay, Neelix with Chakotay. It was nice! Neelix thinks Chakotay is dreamy, who knew.

Weird Alien thing: It didn't make much sense, but this one supports the theory that the Delta quadrant's thing is just filled with rips in the space time continuum and alternate universes and all that information.

Characters screwing up and conflict: B'Ellana tries something out and it doesn't work. Tuvok tries something and it doesn't work. Chakotay makes the wrong decision, not because of some personal flaw that he's work on by the end of the episode, but because there were two bad choices and he chose the wrong one. Nobody immediately understands that Janeway was trying to tell them something. Nobody was hit by the idiot stick too much (except, dude, Tuvok, maybe we should have not gone in and investigated the weird temporal thing in the first place? I understand Janeway is 'investigate all the things!', but you don't have to be), but it's nice to see the character not being hyper-competent every so often, either.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:35 AM on March 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Take out everything Neelix, and the doctor/Sandrine stuff, and I really love this episode. It hit the right notes of quirky, offbeat comedy with the looping corridors, intriguing sci-fi catastrophe of the week, unusual character pairings, and even threw in some heartstrings with the crew facing imminent death.

They may not have helped in this specific episode, but starships could really benefit from sound powered phones. This thought occurs to me at least twice a season of every Trek series ever. (And really, every sci-fi show. How many times have we seen someone running down a corridor to relay a message?)

Is this the first time we really see Paris and Torres interact?
posted by 2ht at 8:00 AM on March 16, 2017

"The Voyager crew can't deck the halls because the halls keep changing decks!" - original promo for this episode when it reran in December 1995. That narrator line has been stuck in my head for over twenty years and now I give it to you.
posted by Servo5678 at 8:06 AM on March 16, 2017 [8 favorites]

Is this the first time we really see Paris and Torres interact?

Well, Paris and human-Torres reacted a lot in the episode where Torres was split in two.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:23 AM on March 16, 2017

This was honestly not the worst episode, IMO, so it's interesting to read of the backstage drama and open disliking of the episode by the cast. Even after years of complaining about how UPN screwed up the franchise, it still flabbergasts me that the launch and development of Voyager was so messed up, starting with the very first episode--the Genevieve Bujold fiasco, then their reshooting part of the pilot again because some network exec didn't like Kate Mulgrew's first hairstyle, the expense of the pilot, and now finding out that they were so short on money that they had to lowball it even for a bottle show. (Just a reminder: VOY was supposed to be the anchor for an entire new network. And most of the people who had worked on this show had already cut their teeth on TNG and DS9; it wasn't like they were all high school buddies of the network head.)

But for all that, they could have done worse, and even though it's not great that they had such a dreamlike episode so soon after "Projections", it still works in the sense of the crew becoming more claustrophobic as the ship becomes increasingly Escheresque. (One of the more disquieting things about the episode is that part of the befuddlement of the crew is that it's hard to get lost on Voyager because the ship isn't that big to begin with, which doesn't necessarily bode well for such a potentially long voyage.) And, to their credit, they got Neelix out of the way early on. I'm getting to the point that, whenever I see Neelix and Kes together, I think to myself, "oh, goddamnit, how long until he has a shit fit." (In fact, the very next episode seems to have been done mostly to let Neelix and Tom have it out.) I don't begrudge Ethan Phillips this or any other role--he seems to have impressed the producers enough that he, along with Robert Picardo, will get a small part in the First Contact movie--but it's starting to bug me that Neelix is the one who eventually gets to stay on the ship, and not Kes. Also liked the Doctor's scenes with Sandrine; I think that it's likely that she's the one that he eventually loses his holo-cherry to.

One minor nitpick: the last-scene revelation that the whole thing was probably yet another alien encounter that they misunderstood at first. I wish that they'd done a little less hand-holding in Sandrine's and a little more getting behind that idea; my thinking was that the civilization doing the scanning might have been in a higher dimension (i.e. four- or five-dimensional), and that that was their version of a non-destructive, 5D-Prime-Directive-friendly scan, even though it scared the shit out of our guys.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:43 AM on March 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

it still flabbergasts me that the launch and development of Voyager was so messed up, starting with the very first episode--the Genevieve Bujold fiasco, then their reshooting part of the pilot again because some network exec didn't like Kate Mulgrew's first hairstyle, the expense of the pilot, and now finding out that they were so short on money that they had to lowball it even for a bottle show. (Just a reminder: VOY was supposed to be the anchor for an entire new network.

Well, I'm sure they've learned their lesson from that experience and would never muddle their way through a botched Star Trek series meant to be the anchor for a whole new network again. Right?
posted by Naberius at 12:56 PM on March 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

Particle of the Week: Photoplasmic tricorder trails. (Try scanning that ten times fast.)
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Another rare case of me coming up short here - the events from Twisted do not, to my grindy, old-timer knowledge of STO, ever have relevance in the metaplot.
Ongoing Equipment Tally: No changes this week.
* Photon Torpedoes: 37
* Shuttles: Down 2
* Crew: 151
* Bio-neural Gelpacks: 47
Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: still just 3.

Honestly, you guys have mostly already covered it. If the writers had cut the Doctor suffering the Federation's first case of hologram on hologram sexual harassment and ditched the awful 'Neelix is a jealous bastard' subplot, this is a perfectly acceptable bottle episode for me. Not great, not bad, just... you know, all right.

The only other thing I really noticed was Kes' birthday party: I thought that was a missed opportunity because they only did Earth traditions. I get that they wanted to do stuff based on other cultures, and I actually think in Kes' case that was thoughtful in spirit. She's an explorer, so showing her celebrations from other places is actually pretty nice. I just wish everybody had thrown something in from their home planet/culture - something Klingon, something Talaxian, some kind of nod to Vulcans and so on.

Oh, and I also do agree with this:
One minor nitpick: the last-scene revelation that the whole thing was probably yet another alien encounter that they misunderstood at first. I wish that they'd done a little less hand-holding in Sandrine's and a little more getting behind that idea; my thinking was that the civilization doing the scanning might have been in a higher dimension (i.e. four- or five-dimensional), and that that was their version of a non-destructive, 5D-Prime-Directive-friendly scan, even though it scared the shit out of our guys.

I thought it would've been cool to maybe tie them back to Kosimo the Coffee Alien from last week. Like, 'we're too different to just bounce ya home, but here's us trying to make friends.' Something like that. Voyager needed more legitimately friendly aliens, and it's a shame to see them dropped.
posted by mordax at 4:57 PM on March 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Well, I'm sure they've learned their lesson from that experience and would never muddle their way through a botched Star Trek series meant to be the anchor for a whole new network again. Right?

Now I'm not nervous about the indefinite hiatus to premiere at all . . .
posted by dinty_moore at 6:11 AM on March 17, 2017

Count me as another person surprised by how much the cast/crew disliked this episode; it seemed like another perfectly middling episode to me at this first watch.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:07 AM on March 17, 2017

Having ever sold fiction for money, that didn't surprise me - it's been my experience that creators and consumers are often judging work based on very different criteria.

I mean, these guys thought Neelix was a super important part of the show.
posted by mordax at 2:13 PM on March 17, 2017

On rewatch, I can see why the cast didn't like the episode, and many of them can barely hide that contempt in it, Picardo particularly seems to be somewhere between phoning it in and downright annoyed for most of the show. This is only the second show the story writers, Rudnick and Hosek, had successfully sold to a series, the first being an episode of The Fresh Prince of Belair, The Ol' Ball and Chain, which is summarized on IMDb as:

Jazz announces he's about to get married. And the woman he's about to marry was just recently released from prison. And when she's alone with Will, she makes a pass at him.

So jealousy and aggressive women seem to be their initial calling card. They pretty clearly didn't really know the Voyager characters all that well, or more accurately, they pared each one down to some base traits which they ended up over-emphasizing pretty strongly. Tuvok, for example, is a dour logicbot in ways that don't quite fit what we've seen from him exactly due to how heavily it's laid on. He has, what?, four, maybe five big "Logic dictates" moments? B'Elanna freaks out again for little clear reason and Chakotay gets aggro on Tuvok for even less. Neelix neelixes with abandon and so on. The traits each character shows are attitudes associated with them, but in generally milder form and where they have changed a bit since their initial development. This episode feels like it was written on spec early in the show's run before Voyager had fully developed, and then was cleaned up a bit by Biller in the teleplay for airing, probably at the last minute when they realized they needed a cheap episode as filler to keep under budget or something.

That said, one of the things I like about the episode is that it does this, in a weird way, as it makes the events seem not just like they're dealing with a spatial distortion where the available area of the ship is ever shrinking and distorted, but the characters too seem to suffer from a like condensement, coming across as if under some emotional influence as well as physical one from the anomalythingie. This makes their rather inexplicable decisions seem more telling than damning in a way, as if each was being forced to process the events using these core character traits. This is unplanned by the show I'm sure, but it makes the loopiness of it all seem somehow of a piece in a way, where even Neelix's jealousy doesn't bother me so much this time because of its excess. It calls too much attention to itself as a thing and ends up more commenting on itself than seeming "real" in a way. That he might wonder about Paris' intentions too seems not unreasonable in this instance, even if the excess of his response and treatment of Kes surely is.

The same too with Tuvok's odd decision making and logickiness, Janeway's bizarre little emotional boost to Harry, and Chakotay and B'Elanna gettn' all Maquis everyone. In a number of ways, I think there was an even better episode here than they seemed to realize when they were making it since it carries some overlapping analogies for the situation they find themselves in, Starfleet and Maquis sharing a ship in a stressful and unfamiliar situation, and the possibility for some further character development if they had made that emphasis more pronounced, rather than seeming to be an odd quirk of the episode. It could have been a good choice for an early exploration of the characters dilemma or, with some tweaking worked better even in this slot. It is though really an idea that might work better in a show with stronger continuity, where the character's heightened emotions from their brush with the anomaly could have some carry over effects.

So many oddities in this one that trying to cover them all would be tough. Some favorites would be Garrett Wang trying so hard not to be intrusive with Kate Mulgrew when he's grabbing her from behind, allegedly trying to pull her back from the rift or whatever. People use more force to pull their socks on in the morning than Harry was using to save the captain from the looks of it. The repeated, pointless, run ins with Lt. Walter Baxter on his way to the cargo bay also amused. Though it did make me worry the crew might be overstaffed with somewhat ineffectual looking white guys, what with the previous encounters with Lt. Durst, but I suppose that's just them, livin' 24th century dream without the kinds of hassle that would go along with being in the Marines or something nowadays. I didn't realize Sandrine was played by Judy Geeson, who first gained notice as one of the leads in To Sir with Love way back in 1967. Now I wish we had seen a little more of her, I mean with maybe less doctor groping involved, at least of the unwilling variety. B'Elanna's run in with the buff almost in the buff crewman (Kashimuro Nozawa according to Memory Alpha).

All in all, it's a really weird little episode. I still like it, but at times almost in spite of itself. The idea of the crew reacting aggressively to an ultimately harmless anomaly, with the climax being that of accepting one's fate is interesting and a nice change, though, yes, the idea of it being a fifth dimensional ship scan is really neat and does lend itself to a variety of possibilities that could have been pursued. The mention of this episode providing a lot of less familiar crew combinations is also a good one. It is interesting to get to see some pairings that aren't the usual. Oh, and speaking of pairings, of all the oddness, some of the ways the crew come together in the end seem awfully fraught with suggestion, Chakotay and B'Elanna holding hands and exchanging some dialogue that borders on some lingering feelings from their Maquis days that weren't acted on, Paris and Harry, of course, and Tuvok almost showing some feeling for Capt. Janeway with his hand reaching out. Interesting stuff, not really followed up on, other than Tom and Harry, and more professionally with the others. Just another example of this episode being an odd little outlier, sort of outside the flow of the rest of the series in its way.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:57 PM on March 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Catching up, and: I'd agree with pretty much all the critiques here -- the Doctor/Sandrine is not great, Kes/Neelix is a plot thread that should never have been, the inconstancy in characterization is weird.

But! I, too, am surprised that the cast dislike this so much; I really enjoyed it, once I adjusted for my baseline dislike of Neelix (& etc.), which runs through several episodes, although I can see how -- from the production end of things -- it might have been frustrating. It undercuts a lot of the normal Voyager premises in (to me) satisfying ways: they don't suddenly figure out a solution to their problem (although they do try); there isn't an easy techno-babble out of a situation (but they try to find one); they don't split the party unnecessarily (instead, they bunch up and worth together); they don't encounter an inexplicably hostile situation (but they think they do); and they aren't, in the end, the ultimate arbiters of how the episode ends.

Thinking on that: part of Star Trek's/Rodenberry's historical utopianism has often manifested as a belief in the ability of the ship's crew to effect real change; to decide, and to decide for others. That tendency particularly undercuts Voyager, since the show is nominally premised on the crew not being in charge -- on them being stranded and unable to fix that problem. And yet, in episode after episode, we've seen the crew take on and fix nearly everything they've come across; and when they haven't, it's also often been a conscious choice: for example, Voyager blew up the Caretaker's array -- the show was written to have them acting to strand themselves in the Delta quadrant, as a moral issue, and as a practical one. So it's refreshing, to me, to have an episode where Voyager isn't the driving force and isn't responsible for resolving everything; that feels very in line with how the ship's situation has been framed, even if its at variance with how other episodes have played out.

Having the crew, for once, directly respond to the idea that they may not be absolutely in control of their own destinies feels more emotionally accurate -- even when the specific responses to that situation aren't necessarily 'right,' or in line with other episodes -- than the framing for a lot of other episodes.
posted by cjelli at 11:54 AM on May 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Rewatching Voyager and thought I'd check for a FanFare thread.

One thing that stood out to me in this episode - Tom does give Kes a locket that costs 2 weeks worth of replicator rations, which seems to be a not-insignificant amount. This seems really out-of-left field. I can't think of any interaction between Tom and Kes that suggests that they're particularly close. And his manner when giving it to her seems kind of off-hand, not particularly warm or flirty or friendly; and we don't see any hint that he's randomly generous with other members of the crew (though honestly random and foolish generosity probably fits his character). If I was Kes, I'd be weirded out by the expense - probably return it. And I'd be pissed at Neelix because honestly I've always been annoyed by him even when I though I was an asshole for disliking such a nice guy.

Also, a 7-layer cake should be taller, unless it's made from crepes.
posted by bunderful at 7:20 PM on January 8, 2019

(Of course the opening of the next episode is Tom and Kes together in a flight simulation but still).
posted by bunderful at 7:27 PM on January 8, 2019

« Older Mystery Science Theater 3000: ...   |  Podcast: Freakonomics Radio: N... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments