Star Trek: Voyager: Worst Case Scenario   Rewatch 
August 21, 2017 9:48 PM - Season 3, Episode 25 - Subscribe

Even with the improvements in the current version of the game, sometimes it's fun to fire up Voyager 1.0 and give it a whirl, just for a little nostalgia for when things were new and rough around the edges... just watch out for that one end boss that was surprisingly tough to beat.

Memory Alpha is willing to grind as much as necessary in order to level up:

- While writing this episode, co-producer Kenneth Biller attempted to add a certain comedic flavor to the installment. He said of the episode, "I won't say it's an out-and-out comedy. It ultimately has some serious jeopardy to a couple of the characters, but it's a comic musing on the creative process. It operates on a lot of different levels. It's a little inside stuff about the creation of the show, the process of writing for Star Trek, and the interaction between the actors who we write for, and the writing staff. It was a lot of fun to write."

- Actress Martha Hackett appreciated the reappearance of her role of Seska in this episode, that character having recurred in Star Trek: Voyager's first two seasons. Hackett said of this episode, "Even when I had been off the show for a season and, you know, we pretty much thought Seska had disappeared, there she was. She came back to haunt them – in a very clever way, I thought – when they brought [her] back as a hologram. And [...] you know, it was kind of fun to go back to that, [to] bring all those storylines back up again." Hackett also commented, "I thought it was great that she thought ahead and planned something that would mess with people even after she wasn't around." Not only did Martha Hackett like the way in which this episode brought back the character of Seska, but the actress also enjoyed appearing in the installment. "I was really pleased when they invited me back. I thought it would be great fun," she remembered. "It was really nice to go back and the cast were all very welcoming. Also, it was enough time after I'd had my baby, so I felt myself again and was more free to work. I had worked just after I had my son, but a bit too soon afterwards, and it was a little stressful. This episode was good timing."

- When Paris and Tuvok are discussing new ideas for a holonovel, Torres and Janeway suggest a Western or a mystery. These suggestions may be in reference to Captain Picard's Dixon Hill (from Star Trek: First Contact as well as from episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation), a Western program that Worf and Alexander participate in (in TNG: "A Fistful of Datas") and the conceptual origins of the Gothic Janeway Lambda one mystery holonovel (which appears in "Cathexis", "Learning Curve", and "Persistence of Vision" but was originally intended to be a Western in "Eye of the Needle").

- This is the sixth and final episode to feature the recurring character of Michael Jonas. Although only his voice is heard here, he physically appears in each of the previous episodes that feature him. According to the unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 186), the performer who voiced Michael Jonas in this episode was not Raphael Sbarge – the actor who regularly portrayed Jonas.

"It's not like I caught you dancing the rumba with a naked Bolian!"

- Paris to Torres

"With all due respect, Mr. Tuvok, loosen up."

- Janeway

"You never should have crossed her, Tuvok."
"SHE has been dead for over a year! There was no way to predict this turn of events."
"I guess we should have known Seska wouldn't let a little thing like death stop her from getting even."

- Paris and Tuvok

Poster's Log:

This is a good, fun episode with a nice twist on the venerable holodeck malfunction plot; in this case, the "malfunction" is due in part to Insurrection Alpha being unfinished, and in part to Seska's hidden easter egg. It's also a great parody/tribute to the process of collaborative media in general and videogame development in particular, although the showrunners may have been reflecting more on their own process and the detours and roadblocks encountered in that process. In particular, the conflict between Tuvok, the program's original creator, who seeks to maintain some control over his creation even after he's stepped away from it, and Paris and the others suggesting changes, is strongly reminiscent of Gene Roddenberry's making suggestions and objections to various Trek projects even after his health started to fail and he withdrew from direct control of the movies and eventually TNG, and other people objecting to non-Roddenberryesque versions of Trek after his death. It will be especially fun to compare/contrast this to the Doctor's roman à clef Photons Be Free; as in this episode, Tom Paris gets involved, although not so much of a collaborator as a parodist (while making a necessary point). The comparison with videogames is furthered by the crew comparing playthroughs and sharing strategies. Tuvok may have intended it as the equivalent of a dry training film, but as with John Cleese's business training videos being entertaining in their own right, Tuvok has an unexpected hit on his hands.

Plus, it brings Seska back! Regular readers of these rewatch posts might remember my affection for the character, and it was just great to see Martha Hackett run through everyone's second-favorite Cardassian spy laying out her diabolical plans with a twinkle in her eye. There's also good work for Robert Beltran, particularly in the teaser with the great head fake of Chakotay finally coming around to seeming to think that everyone might be better off with him in charge, at least until he addresses B'Elanna as "Ensign" (but not by name) and you start to go hmmm.

Poster's Log, supplemental: I already mentioned this in a thread on the blue about Ready Player One, which I haven't read and probably won't, but I'd like to put in another plug for You by Austin Grossman; the relevance is due to the plot point of an easter egg in a game by a now-deceased developer with potentially disastrous real-life consequences. Plus, it's a corker of a read.

Also, apologies for the lateness of this; I went down south a bit for the eclipse, and had a very long drive back. It was pretty awesome to see, though, and reminds me of Voyager's crew marveling over new phenomena that they haven't seen before.
posted by Halloween Jack (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is a fun episode, but I have to admit I was a little confused at first. Who are these Maki people Chakotay was talking about? It would have been better if the show had used some group we'd actually seen in the show before.

I really liked the way they set this episode up. First making it seem like it was something actually occurring, as unlikely as it might be, then having the show go viral and trying to track down it's creator before adding the old switcheroo of the program being adapted without the author's permission by the evil queen of fanfic, Seska.

The episode does work like Biller wanted, it's funny, obviously metacommentary, but still an awfully enjoyable and exciting story as well. The argument between Paris and Tuvok over plot twists and character logic is amusing and the show mostly manages to pull off a balance between the two, as befitting the point of the argument, but without being too serious about it as Janeway's meeting room comments show. Her ready acceptance of the program is a bit too easy for the character, but it works well enough for the story to forgive it for the needed plot development.

It's also a lot of fun to see how they rewrite the cast from Tuvok's perspective in season one, more or less. My favorite moment is Neelix turning to team Maquis at the first opportunity since that is pretty much how he started out the series and is only more fitting for being seen as being an opportunist by Tuvok. The other holo versions of the characters were pretty fun too, with Janeway getting a nice essentialization of both her effervescent and grim determination sides in a way that would fit Tuvok's history with her, Chakotay actually being a dynamic figure, and Harry being Harry. I was sort of disappointed by not getting to see Harry's run through of the program instead of B'Elanna's in a way, since that could have been fun, but it works better with B'Elanna's history with Chakotay. (Oh, and speaking of slight disappointments, I can't help but offer my own "rewrite" where the first run through ends on B'Elanna seeing her "double" instead of that going to Paris in his run through. B'Elanna confronting her Maquis side would have been interesting to see.)

Nonetheless, it was still enjoyable to watch the differences between how B'Elanna and Paris played the role, with B'Elanna taking it more seriously and Tom looking for action. That in itself is a fine little metacommentary on gaming and the show.

Best of all perhaps is Tuvok actually gets to show off his chief of security skills and win for once! Almost as if the writers' realized how much they've screwed the poor guy over up until now...

There were lots of other enjoyable character moments and having Seska back even if only in hologram form was great. There's really nothing bad to say about this episode from my perspective. It's one of my favorite one off "fun" episodes in the series and likely the franchise.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:19 AM on August 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

In comparison with other "fun" episodes in the franchise, it does indeed score pretty highly in my book as well. One could argue that it loses a little bit of its punch if you're not already familiar with these characters and the show's backstory (e.g. the Maquis), but then, you could say the same thing about the crew's personalities in "Through a Glass Darkly" and Sisko's personality in "Take Me Out to the Holosuite."

This is definitely one of the top holodeck episodes; Paris in this is exactly how I would be with a holodeck program, messing with the NPCs and looking for ways to confound the quest scripting. I also thought it was, on the whole, a bit less contrived than a lot of holodeck episodes; the whole notion of Seska taking the time to plant this "jack-in-the-box" is kind of absurd, to be sure, but we do know that Seska had that streak in her. And the reactions of the crew and the captain to Tuvok's program all felt very natural to me: on any other Starfleet ship, there might have been some sort of reprimand for Tuvok (or, more likely, for the officers who find and "play with" the simulation). But by this point in Voyager's journey, it makes perfect sense that this small and intimate crew would be more comfortable with certain privacy barriers breaking down. Likewise, I can buy that everybody involved (with the possible exception of Tuvok) feels like the Maquis stuff was long enough ago that we can laugh about it now.

IIRC, fans (including us, in an earlier thread?) reference this as a major example of glimpsing what VOY could have been. On rewatch, I'm not so sure it quite qualifies, since everything has to escalate so quickly. And the past couple of seasons would likely have become tiresome if the ship had literally been occupied by two opposing factions, constantly vying for control (not to mention, how would that conflict be sustainable on any ship this small?).

Where this episode IS an example of what could have been is in the character of Chakotay. Beltran is so good here, and since he so rarely gets such opportunities on this show, I'm curious about his range as an actor; has anybody seen him in anything else?
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:52 AM on August 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh yeah, the Seska "jack-in-the-box" thing is maybe a bit tricky since it could have, conceivably, been set off while she was still pretending to be an adapted member of the crew, leaving her in a potentially bad spot had it been triggered at the wrong moment, but the concept is right up her alley, so I had no problem overlooking that.

I looked up Beltran on IMDb, and it appears he's been in eight movies I've seen, but I only remember him vaguely in a couple as the others must have been small roles. He was good in Eating Raoul, as Raoul, if memory serves, and in his role as Hector in Night of the Comet. He evidently started off getting fairly big roles after Eating Raoul, his second film, but soon fell back into supporting roles where he wasn't as noticeable. That doesn't surprise me either way since Hollywood didn't know what to do with him since they don't make many movies for Mexican-Native actors and Beltran's strengths aren't best used in minor roles, which is sometimes noticeable even on Voyager. He's clearly got range, and a host of different smiles to go with it, and should have found more starring roles than he did.

Still, 55 tv/movie credits isn't bad and there do appear to be a number of less seen films that he did get big roles in, often revolving around his ethnicity, which is undoubtedly why they weren't well known to the public at large. Just as one example, he was the star in a Haskell Wexler movie called Latino, but it only is rated by 138 users, a really low number for a US film from 1985. On the plus side, he is starring with Virginia Madsen in Resiliant 3D due out sometime soon, and also is in The Circuit with Tim Russ, Ethan Phillips and some other Trek folk. I have no idea what to make of that.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:39 AM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I suppose technically this is the final episode of "classic Voyager" before it comes The Seven of Nine Show. Now, granted, I prefer The Seven of Nine Show, but not everyone does. This episode has all of the pre-Seven pieces: Seska, Kes, the Maquis... I suppose that's it, really, but I really feel the turning point coming up and it's such an abrupt shift.
posted by Servo5678 at 10:09 AM on August 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

IIRC, fans (including us, in an earlier thread?) reference this as a major example of glimpsing what VOY could have been. On rewatch, I'm not so sure it quite qualifies, since everything has to escalate so quickly. And the past couple of seasons would likely have become tiresome if the ship had literally been occupied by two opposing factions, constantly vying for control (not to mention, how would that conflict be sustainable on any ship this small?).

I'm pretty sure that I was one of those people, and I meant it less in terms of open rebellion (with maybe a few incidents along the way) and more in terms of the Maquis crew simply being more Maquisish in wearing their civilian outfits and not going full Starfleet as quickly as they did. And then you'd get more of their people putting on the jumpsuits and taking the oath... and maybe some Starfleet going the other way (as was hinted in this episode).
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:53 AM on August 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just popping in to say that Martha Hackett is a woefully underrated actor. If you want an example of her range check out the very weird 2000 indie A Question of Faith, in which she plays a man at a monastery who mysteriously becomes a pregnant woman!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:41 PM on August 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you want an example of her range check out the very weird 2000 indie A Question of Faith, in which she plays a man at a monastery who mysteriously becomes a pregnant woman!

Ooh, and it's got Bernard "Theoden" Hill! Looks interesting, Ursula, I'm putting it on my Netflix queue.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:40 AM on August 23, 2017

Particle of the Week: Another week without. (Come back, thorons! Come back!)
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Many MMOs have a feature where you can replay stories to grind XP or loot. In Star Trek Online, the in-universe conceit about this is that if you redo a mission, you're actually replaying it on your ship's holodeck for tactical practice, the way that B'Ellana and Paris try Tuvok's program repeatedly.

Ongoing Counts: Rolled forward again.
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 22.
* Shuttles: Down 4.
* Crew: 142.
* Other: 46 bio-neural gelpacks remaining, maybe 25-50% of the escape pods should be gone at this point.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 8.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful.

* Minor quibbles.

First one: Chakotay sounds off in this. I mean, in terms of dialogue - his 'hey, how're you doing?' doesn't sound like how he usually talks, which seemed a little strange to me given that Tuvok spent probably months undercover with him and the other Maquis.

Second is, of course, that Seska had better command over the ship than anyone else. It's pretty farfetched that she would be able leave a booby trap like this one, much less actually choose to do so.

Finally, I'm surprised the holodeck couldn't extrapolate the scenario - the holodeck clearly writes its own material a lot of the time by just letting its characters continue a scenario in a logical fashion. Never seen a story just run out before, (or after, IIRC).

As I said though, those are minor quibbles. They didn't really interfere with my enjoyment of this episode.

* This is fun.

Like the rest of you, I enjoyed this one. Among other things, it's always nice to see Martha Hackett.

Just popping in to say that Martha Hackett is a woefully underrated actor.

If it's any consolation, I think we all love her here. Thanks for the tip about her other work. :)

In general, I'm in the 'this is a glimpse of better Voyager' camp. I agree with the idea that the show couldn't have escalated this fast, but I feel it's appropriate within the context of the episode, since it's explicitly a tactical exercise written by Tuvok instead of intended as either fully realistic or entertainment. He wanted to posit a reasonable scenario for the Maquis taking the ship, and this feels like a decent attempt.

Plus, the story itself is pretty funny. In particular, real cosplay Paris vs. Holo-Starfleet Paris was hilarious. (I enjoyed Paris' run the most simply because the program didn't compensate for Paris running the program, and left his character in instead of subbing him out for a random shuttle pilot.)

* I'm with Tuvok.

Like a lot of Mefites, I write. A lot. I'm very much in Tuvok's camp about the nature of narrative structure: I have the easiest time when I try to imagine how characters would logically interact with their environment. I actually sort of think of writing like playing a solo game like solitaire: the characters are like playing pieces and their environment is sort of like a board, and I try to imagine how the scenario would play out given everyone's motivations, abilities and information. (I picked up the approach storytelling running tabletop RP for years and years.)

Just making stuff up without some sort of nod to internal consistency - the way Paris posits - gives me absolute fits. So hey, Team Tuvok.

But yeah, fun episode.

Also: fun eclipse! I was out of town for it too, although not nearly so far.
posted by mordax at 10:07 AM on August 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Finally, I'm surprised the holodeck couldn't extrapolate the scenario

I imagine it could be a protective device where "locked by author" would prevent extrapolation. As we'll later see, holonovel authorship is a concern in Trek society.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:52 PM on August 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

I imagine it could be a protective device where "locked by author" would prevent extrapolation.

That's a fair explanation. Good thought. :)
posted by mordax at 2:09 PM on August 23, 2017

(To be clear, I'm not claiming A Question of Faith is good. I was mostly throwing it out there as an example of Hackett's range. It's an odd, interesting little movie, but I wouldn't call it a classic.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:50 PM on August 23, 2017

Hehe. I'll keep that in mind. :)

On a broader note: casting is a place where Voyager almost always seems to get it right. Upon rewatch, I've been consistently impressed with their choices both for actual cast members and guest stars. Even episodes I really didn't like often had some fantastic people on board.
posted by mordax at 9:47 AM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

"I need more access to the narrative subroutines" lol

It's too bad that the exigencies of writing for a weekly show did not give a primary writer time to really work out the metanarrative stuff here, I mean they really could have gone in a Paul Auster direction here instead of contenting themselves with a few writer's process jokes. Oh well!
posted by mwhybark at 1:12 PM on October 25, 2017

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