Star Trek: Voyager: Persistence of Vision   Rewatch 
March 23, 2017 3:25 AM - Season 2, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Or: "A Little Doctor Goes a Long Way"

Many Bothans died to bring us this Memory Alpha summary:

- Executive producer Jeri Taylor had been eager to do this episode since the first season of Star Trek: Voyager but faced opposition from Paramount studio executives. She recalled, "It was a show that I had wanted to do since last year. I got a great deal of opposition from the studio, in both story and script form. They thought it was a very soft story and they just didn't get it. They want more fights and more aliens. They weren't high on this at all and didn't want it to appear as early in the year as it did."

- According to Jeri Taylor, this episode "began Janeway on a journey she needs to take, which is resolving the matter of her lover, Mark." Taylor added, "We cannot put her into romantic situations until she decides he has given her up for dead and moved on, and the only wise thing for her to do is the same."

- At least one of the reasons Torres and Kim work on fitting holoprojectors around Voyager in this episode is that the production team of Star Trek: Voyager had, by this point in the series' run, become fed up with The Doctor almost always being confined to sickbay.

- Torres actress Roxann Dawson did not interpret the fantasy scene as signifying that her character was in love with Chakotay. Indirectly referring to the Botha, Dawson related, "I felt that the strength of that alien, the way he could get to us as humans, was that he understands the deep need, whether you're a Vulcan, or a half-Klingon or whatever, that we all have to love and to be loved. The things that would put us into those trances were very deep needs. I think for B'Elanna, it wasn't a reflection of a direct attraction to Chakotay. He represents so much to her, a father figure, a mentor, her teacher, her coworker, and he is an attractive man. I think it was a desire to give in to a side that she does not give into easily, and that was what caused her particular trance. I don't think that necessarily means that he is always on her mind. It probably took her by surprise [....] It was more of a reflection of her need to please, to fulfill, all of these things are very real, very Human [....] I didn't read it [as an implication that Torres just desired Chakotay] when I read the script. It did say something about all of the characters who succumbed to those needs of wanting to love and to be loved, those things that we shove away, and push away, and don't want to deal with."

- The surreal quality of this episode was somewhat apt, considering that it first aired a day before Halloween.

- An element of this installment that did not garner much audience appreciation was Janeway's holonovel. In fact, the lack of appreciation for the Gothic simulation was the reason it did not continue after this episode. Jeri Taylor remarked, "That was one of those things that we were not getting the feedback from the fans that seemed to justify its continuing. A lot of people had problems with Janeway being in what would be considered a servile position. A lot of people just aren't fans, as I am, of Gothic novels and just sort of didn't get it." Taylor subsequently remarked that, although she had enjoyed the holonovel, she was "never afraid to cut our losses if something isn't working."

- Both Jeri Taylor and Michael Piller believed this episode had a positive impact on the success of subsequent episodes in Voyager's second season. Taylor reckoned, "I may be wrong about this, but it was the first show of the season that got a little buzz coming from the audience." At the end of the same season, Michael Piller said, "We needed anything we could get in the beginning of the season. It wasn't until Jeri's script 'Persistence of Vision' marked the beginning of the turn [....] We started building on that momentum and I think if you look from that show on we consistently started doing interesting things."

- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Hairstyling for a Series (along with DS9: "Our Man Bashir").

"I'd like to be able to accommodate you, but you see... I'm not really here."

- Bothan, when confronted by Captain Janeway

"It's not even tempting."

- Tom Paris to Captain Janeway when she urges him not to look at the viewscreen through which an image of his father is yelling at him

"He looks so harmless. It is hard to believe he almost destroyed us."

- Kes, on the Bothan

Poster's Log: I can't decide whether this is too similar to, or just dissimilar enough from, the TNG episode "The Game", wherein another alien used psychological manipulation of each crew member to try to take over the ship. I do think that one reason I personally find this one a little weak is that it's trying to be scary, and as a horror fan, I can't think of a single time that I found Trek scary—the franchise sometimes pulls off creepy and/or disturbing, but not scary. Whatever the case, the thesis that The Delta Quadrant Is Full of Weirdness is definitely supported by the concept of the Botha.

Poster's Log, Supplemental: The actor who plays Owen Paris, Warren Munson, will return in the role in season 5. It's not until season 6 that the character will be recast with a slightly more familiar face.

The Botha are suggested by the Star Trek Encyclopedia (an apparently official Trek source) to be named as an homage to the unseen Rebellion-allied species in Return of the Jedi. Remember: there are no Bothans in Rogue One.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (16 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I was sort of hoping that they would twist the Torres-Chakotay vision and we would find out at the end that it was actually Chakotay's. I like Roxann Dawson's interpretation.

Janeway's holonovel never worked for me. Not because it was out of character - all sorts of people like all sorts of different things, and I can see why it might make sense that someone in a command position wants to escape into Bronte or Austen. My problem is that a) it's boring and doesn't thematically fit with Trek like many of the other holodeck programs do and b) it just feels so... personal. Like we are really intruding by being there with Janeway.

Now the setting is perfect, if they turned it into a giant game of Star Trek Clue... that could be fun.
posted by 2ht at 4:40 AM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Particle of the Week: Uncharacteristically unnamed. They just talk about a 'psionic field' that can be disrupted by a 'warp resonance burst.' Tut, tut, guys.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: The Botha never make an appearance in Star Trek Online, although they bear a superficial similarity to (and may be distantly related to) the Letheans.

Thematically, Persistence of Vision resembles an STO mission called Mindscape, where the player enters Tuvok's mind to assist him in defeating a telepathic opponent within a genuinely surreal hallucination. (Neither Botha nor Letheans are behind the attack though, and the STO story is a lot more mindscrewy than this episode, but this really reminded me of it.)

Ongoing Equipment Tally: No changes this week.
* Photon Torpedoes: 37
* Shuttles: Down 3
* Crew: 151
* Bio-neural Gelpacks: 47
Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: still just 3.

* Ugh, Jeri Taylor.

So, part of what's interesting to me about this rewatch is finding out who was responsible for Voyager sucking so hard, besides the big names that I knew when it was airing - and when the Internet was shiny and new to me, rather than this gigantic repository of nerd history. For instance, the story of Jamake Highwater was absolutely fascinating, (and will matter next time, IIRC).

Jeri Taylor's hangups are another unexpected source of woe, something I've thought since Ex Post Facto, where this happened:
Jeri can forgive some flaws and she can't forgive other flaws. Infidelity is one that she can't forgive.
Paris is accused of murdering a guy, but the real problem for her there was apparently that he slept with a married woman.

Her opinion here seems consistent with that:
According to Jeri Taylor, this episode "began Janeway on a journey she needs to take, which is resolving the matter of her lover, Mark." Taylor added, "We cannot put her into romantic situations until she decides he has given her up for dead and moved on, and the only wise thing for her to do is the same."
As a viewer, I feel like that's so far off the mark that it's not even wrong. I don't care about Janeway's relationship with Mark back home. Indeed, she's the first starring Captain to begin with a living romantic partner, and I feel the whole thing was a misstep. I want to watch her lead and inspire in the fashion of Sisko or Picard, not make out with holograms or flirt with dumb aliens of the week.

I also hate hearing this sort of bullshit:
They thought it was a very soft story and they just didn't get it.
That was one of those things that we were not getting the feedback from the fans that seemed to justify its continuing. A lot of people had problems with Janeway being in what would be considered a servile position. A lot of people just aren't fans, as I am, of Gothic novels and just sort of didn't get it.
That's bad storytelling. It's not up to the audience to figure a story out. Speaking as someone who writes in a paid capacity, it's the other way around: it's the storyteller's job to make this shit clear to their audience, or entertaining enough that their audience doesn't care whether it makes sense (*waves to David Lynch*). That's why the storyteller is the one *getting paid*. It's *work*, and that's part of the job. If a handful of people 'just didn't get it,' sure, they just didn't get it. If pretty much nobody, including fellow writers, 'got it,' then it's not their problem.

Anyway, highlighting that because it comes around to my basic thesis that Voyager's biggest problem was laziness or incompetence behind the scenes, over and above external interference.

* Roxann Dawson's cool.

I'm another viewer who like her interpretation of the thing with Chakotay. They were close, but they didn't have a romantic vibe. Him being a fatherly figure to her makes a great deal of sense, and the alien twisting that in B'Ellana's desperation is also reasonable, moreso than 'secret crush.'

* I think of the Botha here as a bullshit enemy.

I don't really like characters with ill-defined superpowers and no consequences. They're not interesting - some stuff happens, but there are no rules to give it dramatic stakes, and there are no consequences to make it mean anything. The only meaningful thing that occurred in this episode was a little bit of insight into various characters that I didn't ask for. For my money, there's basically no difference in the overall course of Voyager between them telling this story and skipping it, and that means it needed to be fun to justify its existence.

I agree with CheesesofBrazil that it wanted to be scary, but it wasn't, so that was a bust.

Indeed, the only thing that I'm applauding here is the end of the Gothic sequences. I agree with 2ht about that: I believed them, but they were both boring and too intimate at the same time - that was well said.

All in all, I wasn't bothered by this episode or anything, but I am completely indifferent to the story, and you know what they say about indifference being the real opposite of love.
posted by mordax at 9:45 AM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm a little surprised to see that this episode is one they judged to mark a turnaround for the series since, on first viewings, I liked a number of the preceding episodes more than this. I'll be interested to see if my feelings on it change on this second go-around.

I've watched up to the opening credits and I'll say it starts off strongly enough, with some notably dynamic direction helping establish Janeway's agitation, and the bit in engineering with Harry's amusing himself with his "no pun intended" "small problem" with the doctor being holotranferred and the doctor chewing out Janeway were both good. So it looks like James L. Conway is a little more on the ball than in the last episode he directed.

This one did come off better for me this time, but it still isn't one I'd rate as being one of the stronger outings. Having Kes and the doctor save the day was a nice touch, and Lien as Kes gets a chance to hint at a more badass side to her character that we'll see again, but which should have led to a wider selection of opportunities for Kes from the start.

Harry, Chakotay, and Paris all come off pretty well in this episode, Chakotay mostly in the early scenes humored by Janeway's reluctance to rest and excessive worry in trying to pass on orders. He, though, once again gets a bit of the shaft when it comes to being in charge in a threat situation as the "fight with the three ships" shows him a little more ill at ease and lacking in ideas than it should in order to set up Janeway coming back to the bridge. Tuvok doesn't even get that, and doesn't count for much in the episode.

The writers found a good balance of actions and attitude for B'Elanna before the Chakotay vision, about which I have to disagree perhaps a bit with Dawson, not that I think B'Elanna's "in love" with Chakotay, but that it seemed pretty clear she's let's say interested in him as more than a commanding officer, but they are a little touchy on the subject of lust without love often, so I can't blame her on trying to differentiate B'Elanna's feelings a little bit there. They hinted at there being an attraction between the two of them a couple other times earlier as well, so I have to think they were pushing at least a little for things to go in that direction before changing their minds and pairing up Paris with her instead.

The episode does have a slightly weird plot structure, starting the hallucinations with the holodeck and tying it somewhat to that story, then abandoning it and the captain to give the ending to Kes and the doctor. It's an unusual narrative path to take since it's so much more common to try and keep the focus in one area from beginning to end and to tie up and loose ends arising from actions they've created. It makes the episode seem a little looser than expected in some ways, and doesn't allow for the same sort of feeling of satisfaction over character growth or understanding.

All in all, I liked this one well enough, but don't hold it as one of my favorites of the show's run.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:48 AM on March 23, 2017

The writers found a good balance of actions and attitude for B'Elanna before the Chakotay vision, about which I have to disagree perhaps a bit with Dawson, not that I think B'Elanna's "in love" with Chakotay, but that it seemed pretty clear she's let's say interested in him as more than a commanding officer, but they are a little touchy on the subject of lust without love often, so I can't blame her on trying to differentiate B'Elanna's feelings a little bit there.

That's why I liked her take too. The alternative is also believable, particularly in light of her actions in Cathexis. It could totally just be her crushing.

It is not, however, something I would trust the writers here with even a little. This is especially true given their more complex dynamics - her and Tom Paris are a pairing of relative equals*, while Chakotay is both older and her commanding officer. A relationship like that would be fraught, and these are the writers who gifted us with Elogium. I'm not even sure they should have relationships IRL.

I imagine she noticed all that behind the scenes too.

(* B'Ellana is clearly better than Paris, but they aren't in each others' direct chains of command.)
posted by mordax at 10:08 AM on March 23, 2017

Trek has boldly gone to this particular plot well before; "The Naked Time" had the crew enraptured by an alien lifeform (albeit a nonsentient one) that held them captive with their innermost desires and psychological hang-ups, and "This Side of Paradise" had the crew similarly mellowed-out by some symbiotic virus that only one crewmember (Kirk) managed to break free of in time. "The Game" and this episode are riffs off of that basic idea, as was Star Trek V, for that matter. Whether or not the alien life form is doing it as a means to an end, or is even sentient, may be largely beside the point, which is that something is using the crew's weaknesses against them and they have to shake it off, which in the old days usually meant that it was really up to Kirk. This time, it seemed to be ultimately up to Kes, via a sort of plot head-fake in which the episode initially focused on Janeway, then seemed to pivot to Tom as possibly being the person to pull things out, before settling on Kes. (Janeway et al. seemed to have forgotten the idea of transferring the command codes to the Doctor, because he'd be immune to psychic attacks, a la "Cathexis"; uh, whoops?) I liked her confrontation with the Botha/Neelix in light of our recent discussions of The Neelix Problem. Unfortunately, the showrunners didn't take the next step of having her potentially be the ship's designated psychic gunslinger, which could have been kind of cool.

Other observations:

- Yeah, the episode wasn't really scary, moppet-escaped-from-the-holodeck-running-through-the-corridor notwithstanding. We will get some decent scary moments later on in the season, though: "Deadlock" with the Vidiians, "Meld" with Brad Dourif as a psycho ex-Maquis, and "The Thaw", with Michael McKean as a creepy clown.

- Speaking of that holonovel, I'm not terribly sad to see it go, although I thought that there was some unrealized potential there. It was yet another one of those ideas that the showrunners seemed to have come up with without really thinking through the implications and possibilities of it, and ended up dropping out of embarrassment or just feeling that they'd somehow painted themselves into a corner with it. I thought that it was pretty interesting for Janeway to spend time in a scenario in which she wasn't the one in charge, and maybe had to negotiate for some power, including with someone who was openly hostile toward her. I also found the obviousness of the plot twist oddly charming; when the moppet just flat-out announced that her mother wasn't really dead, I literally yelled at the screen, "No shit, kid!"

- I kind of like that the Botha's true nature wasn't fully explicated at the end--fell back to some sort of psychic cloaking device to make it seem like they'd never really been there? Popped out to another dimension? A straight-up ghost?--as with the nature of the phenomenon in "Twisted." It makes a lot more sense to me, with their being in that unfamiliar quadrant, that there would be a bunch of things that had no tidy resolution, where all they could do is shrug, file the logs and sensor reports away, and move on.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:24 PM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I don't have very much to say about this one - other than there were a lot of women being forcefully kissed in it - and I couldn't figure out if that was intentionally coming off of the Gothic Romance holonovel or not.

As a hidden feelings and passions are revealed episode - eh? The only possible thing that we learned that was new is about B'Ellana, and that fact is rightfully rejected by anyone else around it (I also like the idea that she's just dealing with some mental detrius and has unfortunate lingering feelings on an ex). We're reminded about Mark, who I had forgotten about, but we weren't allowed to play with the irish setter, which honestly would have been more interesting (nothing against Mark, but we've all seen Jurassic Bark, right?). We're reminded of Paris's daddy issues, that Tuvok has a wife back home, and that Harry Kim had a girlfriend, but none of them really land or seem very affecting. It doesn't help that all of those characters are offscreen, and we don't care about those relationships.

Making the audience care about the offscreen SO is difficult in the first place, so setting them aside is really easy. I don't agree with Taylor that we needed an entire episode for this, and I also don't even really get that outcome from this script - maybe I stopped paying attention at a pivotal moment, I don't know.

As for the romance holonovels - yeah, they were never really well incorporated into the scripts, and I never really got a very good sense of Janeway when she was interacting with the holonovel - I think the closest was when she was trying to deal with the kids. The idea that it was supposed to be a western at first is really interesting, but I still think they could have done a better job of incorporating the holonovel.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:21 AM on March 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

The remarks Taylor made about the holonovel seem a little tailormade as an excuse rather than really understandable. I mean it's hard to believe this episode caused the end of the holonovel subplot since they couldn't really continue on with it as a ghost story after using it as the basis for this would-be ghost story as that'd be redundant and hard to imagine as a path they'd follow. At the same time, they'd hardly touched on it up to this point, so claiming fan reaction was the cause of it being written off in this episode seems awfully reactionary of them. If they had someplace they intended to go with that subplot other than this episode, you'd think they could have pushed it a bit further than they had thus far, which was barely an introduction to the story. I have to suspect that there was someone behind the scenes who didn't like the idea from the get go, or didn't like losing the western idea or something of that sort who then sought out negative fan voices from its brief appearances to bolster the chance to kill it.

I guess the story could have been leading somewhere more unexpected than dealing with the mother's ghost or, more likely, the mother herself in some quasi-hidden state, and thus avoided seeming redundant with this episode, but that seems unlikely too given the genre they were working with.

Given how little we saw of the holonovel I can't say I'm going to miss it, but I was rather curious to see if it was going to develop into something more interesting or telling about Janeway. Other than the fact of her liking gothic stories, I wasn't seeing that as yet, though I think see certainly showed her traits well enough in her holorole to not be thought of as servile either. At a little distance there are some fairly compelling links that could be made between Janeway and characters like Jane Eyre, potentially, but most of those notions are conceptual rather than something that would need to be played out at length I'd think.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:44 AM on March 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oops, cut off my last thought on the holonovel subject, which was: There is too the rather more touchy possibility that they intended to use the holonovel merely as a way to provide a mirror for Janeway. Where something like Lord Burliegh making advances to Janeway is supposed to signal her own desires for intimacy, but that then does really raise a warning flag over how they would then be approaching Janeway's romantic interests and how they viewed her desires. Since that is hardly a strength of the show, if that was their main intent, then it's probably for the best they didn't end up pursuing it any further.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:50 AM on March 24, 2017

we've all seen Jurassic Bark, right?

The ending of "Jurassic Bark" is a big red button on my emotional control panel with a clear flip cover over it; the button is marked CATHARTIC WEEPING.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:01 AM on March 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, mention the love interest waiting back home - whatever. Mention the dog that's waiting for her, not understanding why she can't come back - THIS IS NOT OKAY.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:04 AM on March 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

(nothing against Mark, but we've all seen Jurassic Bark, right?)

posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:10 AM on March 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm keeping up with this rewatch, doubtful I'll comment meaningfully through it's run. But why wreck me by bringing up that particular Futurama sequence. Like Halloween Jack, I can't even watch the lead-in to this without crying inconsolably.
posted by michswiss at 5:41 AM on March 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm crying now, damn you.
posted by michswiss at 5:48 AM on March 25, 2017

It's wild to me that this was Jeri Taylor's passion project because it just feels so half-baked.

They thought it was a very soft story and they just didn't get it. They want more fights and more aliens.

Like, it doesn't need to include more fights, but there's no motivation for our villain and that really undercuts it as a narrative.

We start the episode playing up the threat of the Botha. It's implied that we need to go through their space, which implies that they control a large area that would be inconvenient to go around. They don't like people going through their space. This is a good set up, and I believe one that Voyager will return to. So far so good.

We make contact with the Botha, and they're brusque and mysterious but not altogether unreasonable: You're in our space, we're coming to you to figure out if we'll allow your transit or not, and if so you can expect to be escorted the whole way. This builds some tension, but it makes sense without being a hard no.

Now the Botha are here, and negotiations quickly go to shit. Things *really* go to shit when Tuvok cuts off the transmission in the middle of the Bothans asking about their weapons. I think the show wants us to think that was reasonable on Tuvok's part? But it really doesn't come across that way.

Okay, you detected some cloaked ships; you should definitely find a way to tell Chakotay about that. Unceremoniously cutting off communications in the middle of a tense moment, however, seems to be thing that prompted them to attack you. And doing it without warning Chakotay is making a decision that takes control of the situation away from the person who is supposed to be in command at the moment. It's like Tuvok deciding to make the trade in Prime Factors all over again, but stupider and he said he wasn't going to do that kind of thing anymore. This is not addressed or followed-up on by anyone.

Now the hallucinations start in earnest. This is, I think, the part of the episode that Jeri Taylor was passionate about, and it's the meatiest part of the episode. We take the time to see what various members of the crew are ensnared with, and it's a good way to show us some of their buried fears or desires. This part is good!

The only thing is that they should have gotten Libby to come back for a quick appearance. We see everyone else that's mentioned during the "who do you see" sequence on the bridge except her, and that's particularly conspicuous after her role in Non Sequitur only three episodes ago. We don't need to spend time on Harry's vision: that would just be a repeat of Non Sequitur, and we know he beat it then (when there wasn't additional psychic compulsion involved). So we know what it is, but it would have been nice to see the actress briefly.

Anyway a bunch of stuff happens now and it's mostly good. Then we get to the end sequence and it's just bad. Actual dialogue: "Why are you doing this?" "Because I can."

And Janeway is like, well we could do all these things to stop you! "But I'm not really here..." and the alien and all his ships vanish.

That gives us absolutely nothing. Was he actually a representative of the Botha? It doesn't really seem like it. Are the Botha even a real thing? It's not clear. If it had worked, what was the next step in his plan? Kill them all and steal the ship? And do what with it? It doesn't seem like he needs a ship. Is he just doing this to fuck with people? That's kind of what it sounds like.

Why was Janeway seeing visions before they even made contact with the alien? Why was it only Janeway? Those visions were pretty different from the ensnarement visions that came later, what was that about?

If he's not even the Botha; if he was always going to psychic them to death (which fucking with Janeway ahead of time seems to suggest), why bother with the fake negotiation and cloaked ships? Why *any* of this?

There's no resolution, no answers, and no indication that the writers have even thought about these questions. The villain was just a vehicle by which to deliver the cool stuff in the middle, and once that was accomplished they lost interest in him. We get some good stuff with our characters out of it, but... please. Try a little harder. This is a recurring issue with Voyager a this point: We fans care about the whole story. We care about the science, and the setting, and the world of the show beyond just our main characters. The writers don't, or at least not consistently, and it really hurts the stories that they're trying to tell.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:12 PM on October 6, 2023

Oh and one other thing worth commenting on: Roxann Dawson did a fantastic job conveying B'Elanna's surprise at the content of her vision. I really appreciated her scene with Janeway at the end.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:19 PM on October 6, 2023 [1 favorite]

Why does Janeway have a sword in her quarters? That seems kind of out of character for her.

(Or does she? Those weren't really her quarters as she was actually hallucinating away in sickbay. But it seems reasonable to think that was an accurate representation of her quarters.)
posted by Naberius at 1:01 PM on May 1

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