Star Trek: Voyager: Concerning Flight   Rewatch 
October 2, 2017 6:40 AM - Season 4, Episode 11 - Subscribe

Well, you don't know what we can find/Why don't you come with me Janeway/On an ornithopter ride/You don't know what we can see/Why don't you 'splain your tech to me/Holoemitter will set us free

Machines that fly through the air! Lightning flung from one's hands! Mechanical women who live in boxes! These things Memory Alpha has seen!:

- A working title of this episode was "Da Vinci's Day Out". Initially, however, the plot did not include the holographic recreation of Leonardo da Vinci. Despite receiving no credit for contributing to the episode, it was co-executive producer Brannon Braga (one of many persons who added to the writing of the script) who had the idea of reusing the historical character herein; this possibility was inspired by the third season finale "Scorpion", an episode that features the Leonardo hologram and that Braga co-wrote (with Joe Menosky, another writer who worked on this episode). Joe Menosky recalled, "[Freelancer] Jimmy Diggs came in and he pitched something that had to do with The Doctor's portable emitter and a character getting away with it. Because we had liked da Vinci in 'Scorpion,' when Brannon was listening to Jimmy's pitch, he just thought this is a cool way to get da Vinci off the ship and have an adventure. The way we work collaboratively in a situation like that, where there is no real story except 'da Vinci's day out,' we'll sit around and talk about it, all of us as a staff. What could we do here?"

- For establishing shots of the city in this installment, the city was composited into footage of the Santa Monica hills. This usage of a location so close to the Paramount Pictures lot was influenced by the fact that, although the production team wanted to make the flying sequence a particular highlight of the installment, they were faced with geographical limitations for the scene. Director Jesús Salvador Treviño remembered, "We worked at making this a special moment [....] It was not easy to do because we had to find a hill-top that was close enough to Los Angeles for us to film in that wasn't going to take us hours and hours to get to, that was accessible by car so that we could drag up all our equipment, including the glider that we built for the scene, and then stage it in such a way that we were able to convey the idea that they took flight and they were in flight."

- It is revealed in this episode that James T. Kirk might have broken a promise that, in TOS: "Requiem for Methuselah", he made to Flint – an immortal Human male who was born in 3834 BC and who Kirk met in 2269 on Holberg 917G. The promise, specifically, was that Kirk would never reveal Flint's immortal nature nor the fact that he had lived under many historical aliases, one of which was Leonardo da Vinci. However, Janeway mentions here that Kirk claimed he had met Leonardo (although she also states that the evidence of their meeting was "less than conclusive"). Kirk may not have mentioned that Flint was Leonardo da Vinci, or where he himself had met an immortal claiming to be Leonardo. Another possibility is that Flint subsequently revealed himself to humanity when he learned that he was mortal, and that Kirk thereupon published a full account of his meeting with Flint. Alternately, Kirk may have made his records public after Flint's death, given that he was no longer immortal after leaving Earth.

"I must understand... Caterina To see objects disappear into thin air; to see lightning pass through my body; Caterina, are we spirits? Caterina, am I dead?"
"Let me ask you something. If you were something other than a Human being, if you are a different kind of animal, if you were a small bird, a sparrow, what would your world be like?"
"I shall make my home in a tree, in the branch of an elm. I shall hunt insects for food, straw for my nest, and in the spring time I should sing for a companion."
"Then you would know nothing of the politics of Florence, the cutting of marble or mathematics"
"Of course not."
"But why not?"
"My mind would be too small."
"As a sparrow your mind would be too small, even with the best of teachers."
"If Aristotle himself were to perch on my branch and lecture till he fell off from exhaustion, still the limits of my mind would prevent me from understanding."
"Can you accept that there may be certain realities beyond your comprehension?"
"If I cannot accept that, then I would be a fool."

- Captain Janeway and The Leonardo da Vinci Hologram

[The regular broadcast of Poster's Log has been pre-empted by this special presentation of Meeting of Minds. Tonight's guests will include the subjects of several paintings of the noted Renaissance inventor and artist, Leonardo da Vinci. And now here's your host, Steve Allen.]

SA: Tonight's topic is the Star Trek: Voyager episode, "Concerning Flight." Briefly, I'd like to hear your opinions, if I may. La Gioconda? You seem to be smiling, slightly...

LG: Well, why not? It was a light-hearted episode all around, and even if the premise was a bit thin, it was held together by the charisma of its guest star, John Rhys-Davies, probably best-known as Gimli from The Lord of the Rings, not to mention Sallah from the first and third Indiana Jones movies, although of course science fiction fans also know him from Sliders. This series, not to mention the Trek franchise in general, has benefited greatly from many of its guest stars, and Rhys-Davies really sinks his teeth into the part.

SA: Good points. Dama con l'ermellino, do you agree?

DCL'E: Basically, yeah, although you've also gotta give credit to--ow! Sorry, Whiskers nips my fingers a little when he's hungry--to the regular cast. Kate Mulgrew obviously shines here by showing Janeway's real affection for Leonardo, and her handling of his realization that there's something weird about ray-gun fire going right through him. Tim Russ has some nice bits as well. "Scandinavia." Heh. And I also appreciated that, instead of murderhoboes, we had thieves who just maxed out their Sleight of Hand ranks.

SA: Indeed. Any criticisms of the episode? Jesus?

JHC: Can it wait? I'm right in the middle of dinner, and I've got a big day tomorrow.

SA: Just a word or two, please.

JHC: Oh, alright. Yeah, I don't want to come down too hard on a fun episode, but I did find the bits with Seven kind of distracting; it seemed like maybe they had a bigger B story in mind, but ended up cutting it or something. What's left? Another reminder--don't worry, Judas, I'll get to you in a minute--that Seven still has some rough edges in terms of getting along with people? The Doctor going stir-crazy because he's stuck in sick bay for a couple of hours? Meh. On the other hand, I do have to say that holographic Leonardo is a lot more plausible than, you know, stumbling across Amelia Earhart in the Delta Quadrant. Also, I thought it was a nice touch that Tuvok was wearing the same outfit as Mirror-Tuvok from that DS9 episode; that's good continuity. I also wonder if maybe it was based on an alternative design for a Starfleet uniform, because it kind of looks like one. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got guests to get back to.

SA: Thanks for your time. That's all for now; next week, we'll discuss the character of Christine Chapel with our guests God and Adam from the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Poster's Log, Supplemental: I've gone on long enough, but I did want to mention that, for a version of Leonardo--of a sort--who did knowingly take part in space travel--of a sort--I can heartily recommend Terry Pratchett and Paul Kidby's The Last Hero, a profusely-illustrated Discworld adventure.
posted by Halloween Jack (6 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, well done on the Meeting of the Minds call back! I hadn't thought of that show in years. Bravo Sir Jack!
posted by gusottertrout at 8:49 AM on October 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

While watching this a couple of weeks ago, I realized I had completely forgotten that this episode existed. No memory of it at all. And this is my fourth rewatch. I can't explain it.

Anyway, Rhys-Davies is a treasure and the episode's cute and all, but meh. Da Vinci's big sendoff could have been more involving and exciting, like the similar Mark Twain TNG episode. This writing staff could have pulled it off. But it'd require a total rewrite, and sacrificing the obviously-high-priority glider scene, probably.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:37 AM on October 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Particle of the Week: This week's MacGuffin is the translocator instead of a particle. Translocators were last seen in Displaced, where I said Voyager should've taken/studied the tech. Learning enough to develop a defense against it would've been smart, bare minimum.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Flint's autonomous drone - a genuine piece of Da Vinci tech in Trek canon - is available for purchase and use in Star Trek Online.

Ongoing Counts: Muddled by this episode.
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 17, although this is the first reference that suggests they may be replacing them after all: Chakotay references the theft of 2 torpedo casings, meaning the main limiting factor in new torpedoes might be how much antimatter they presumably require to construct. (If Voyager were a little pickier about logistics, I would've assumed this from the get-go. Given the show we have, I'm going to keep counting.)
* Shuttles: Down 8.
* Crew: 141.
* Other: 46 bio-neural gelpacks remaining, maybe 25-50% of the escape pods should be gone at this point. The ship only ever reacquires its main core in this episode, but everything else that was stolen was small enough to rebuild, (or in the case of the emergency rations, replace with a substitute).
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 9.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 1 game of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

* Awesome post.

Seriously, that's some fun stuff, Jack! Also, the Kirk connection genuinely slipped my mind - I'd forgotten that was Flint, heh.

* This episode is dumb, but John Rhys-Davies is great generally, and great here in particular.

So, I guess I'll start with the complaints:
1) Bad science.

I don't usually complain about the science in Trek because it intends to rate low on the Moh scale, (warning: TVTropes). Trek doesn't pretend to be an extrapolation of real events or science, it's more about social commentary, so if people solve a lot of problems by reversing polarities, or someone talks about 'thermal protons,' I might poke some lighthearted fun at them, but I know to just shrug it off and let them get back to doing what they're actually here for.

However, holograms that supposedly recreate historical figures rankle because they feed into a bad notion of how we understand those people. Tuvok asserts that the recreation of Da Vinci is completely faithful, but... how? This bothered me in Darkling, too: the notion that we can psychoanalyze and generally know what historical figures were like is both impeded by limited access to the materials needed to do that, and deeply colored by the wish-fulfillment involved in filling in the blanks. This isn't the Da Vinci, this is who Janeway wants Da Vinci to be so she can be buddies with him. Understanding that isn't a science thing, it's more of a common sense thing.

Further, TNG addressed this to pretty good effect with Leah Brahms: Geordi creates and interacts with a holographic version of a real person who is still alive, and the computer tilts her attitude so they have a (sort of creepy) romantic vibe by the end of the episode. When the real Brahms shows up in a later episode, turns out the computer neglected to mention she was married, and Geordi isn't really her type. Anyway, this bugs me a lot on Voyager because they've gone to that well a few times.

I also wish they had a little more clarity on the difference between the Doctor, (who is supposed to be properly sapient), and the Da Vinci simulation, (who is not). This idea is played with here: the Doctor is going stir crazy, something that a purely functional simulation probably shouldn't be coded to do because it's annoying and interferes with his assigned purpose. Da Vinci, on the other hand, is unable to completely process what's happening, and sees it through the filter of events he's been programmed with instead of properly adjusting to the reality of his situation. This is intriguing, but not really enough, IMO - the ideas feel muddy, if that makes sense?

It mostly bugs me because I know the writers don't really have this stuff straight. I wouldn't mind being unclear in the audience if I thought they were clear on what was going on there.

2) For a rich dude, that guy has some terrible security.

I mean, Da Vinci - an artificial being whom he owns - is allowed to run around loose. We only ever see two guys guarding a warehouse where just the computer core is worth 'a warship,' (not an unfair price for Voyager's computer, IMO). I know this is because they blew the budget on the glider scene, but it really took me outta the moment.

3) Not really clear on how Voyager's backups work.

This is a minor nitpick, but it matters because I don't really understand the stakes of losing the main computer core. When the ship lost its warp drive, that was pretty clear cut. Here, they can still do stuff, but... slower, I guess? Poor stakes make for less tension, is mostly what I want to point out there.

* The episode is cute.

As mentioned above, I'm not giving this a bad rating mostly because Rhys-Davies is fun and charismatic, and both Mulgrew and Russ play off him well. Tuvok's attempt at distracting small talk was, indeed, hilarious. I particularly liked Da Vinci asking Tuvok if he'd ever been to Vulcan. Mulgrew being a Da Vinci fangirl makes sense, and the way she goes about it is fun, same as in Scorpion (even if it was badly outta place in that story, IMO).

Unfortunately, the interplay between 'fun' and 'nonsense' leaves this as a pretty forgettable filler episode for me. Unlike Cheeses, I remembered that it had happened, and even the broad strokes of the story, but... that's about it. I couldn't say I was really looking forward to it, despite the potential for the conceit of a Da Vinci adventure.
posted by mordax at 10:49 AM on October 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

WRT losing the computer core: as with the warp core loss in "Day of Honor", I'd go back to the Master Systems Display for Voyager. OK, we've got the main computer core, which is the light-colored cylindrical thing that's aft of the main deflector (and the unused spare warp core), and which, being three decks tall, is much larger and looks different from the computer as seen in this episode. (In case you're wondering how I know that that's the computer, it's the same as the computer shown in the TNG tech manual.) The MSD also shows a back-up core above the main deflector, so they should have been OK for a little while; I can understand their wanting to get the main core back (ditto for the warp core), but the situation shouldn't have been as dire as they were letting on--unless, of course, the back-up core had been damaged when the Caretaker yanked them to the DQ, which is possible.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:32 AM on October 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Heh, like CheesesOfBrazil I'd completely forgotten about this episode until it came up, then had only the faintest of memories of Rhys-Davies and the flying machine but that was about it. Happily though on rewatch I rather enjoyed it in a low key way. The thing that made it work for me is the connecting idea from the prologue to the epilogue about Janeway's concern over Leonardo giving up on things. It makes sense that would be part of the sympathy she has for Leonardo given her situation in command of Voyager. (Even more so perhaps given her occasionaly self-destructive urges.)

The story is pretty much fluff and I'm sure it either bugged me or barely gained my attention on first viewing, but this time I rather like its change of pace and lack of serious threat. There is something pleasing about seeing Janeway take such concern over her hologram DaVinci and his thinking. There isn't anything particularly deep about their exchanges perhaps, but Janeway's own attachment to them and gain from them is nice to see illustrated as part of her character development. Both Mulgrew and Rhys-Davies are enjoyable, if not exceptional given airiness of the situation, so to speak, but lightly pleasing is enough to make the episode work in this instance.

Tuvok is also enjoyable in this one, but the Seven interludes seemed a bit off. Braga seems to be insistent on trying to make Harry and Seven being together seem interesting after Harry's embarrassing attempt to woo her earlier, but it isn't paying off at all. Showing Seven having a hard time adjusting to the rest of the crew is both inconsistently followed through on and a little jarring in this otherwise genial episode. If it's intended to lead to something, that isn't being given enough shape, and if its just a more general notion of Seven's place, it needed to be finessed a little more to make it fit with the episode. Mostly it just seemed a waste.

The same for the doctor in this one, but to a lesser degree. They wanted to get everyone some screentime, it appears, but really didn't have much for most of them to do and there probably wasn't any need to add more to the Janeway and Leonardo bits either, so they ended up with filler that didn't quite work as they hoped I guess. I did like that the episode floated some possibilities and ideas regarding things like spare parts and the difference between the doctor and a holo-character in their perceptions and added a few other touches that at least allow the viewer to take some additional thoughts about the show away from it that might be applied later, even if the show itself doesn't really touch on them much again.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:58 AM on October 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Braga seems to be insistent on trying to make Harry and Seven being together seem interesting after Harry's embarrassing attempt to woo her earlier, but it isn't paying off at all.

Agreed. I'd be much more interested in Seven working with other members of the crew: that ensign from Displaced, Vorik, those Maquis misfits from Learning Curve... basically, it'd be interesting to see how the average person a Jeffries tube feels about having an ex-Borg drone on board.

Harry is fun when he's dumped into fish-out-of-water stories, but he's just too dull to be much fun playing off of her, and any interest he displays in her is sorta creepy, so...


Yeah, waste of screen time, that.
posted by mordax at 11:50 AM on October 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

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