Sunday, July 3, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Prototype"

“Prototype” is a personal favorite, but for the same reason many of its critics dislike it. The premise of a race of beings created as expendable soldiers who eventually rebel against their creators has similarities to the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica and the Daleks of Doctor Who. Those are two of my favorites villains in science fiction, so I do not hold the lack of originality against “Prototype.” Your mileage may vary.

Voyager finds a damaged robot floating in space. Torres becomes obsessed with the idea of getting it working again. Janeway overrules Tuvok’s security concerns and allows her to repair the robot. Upon Torres’ success, the robot explains that Torres innovation to him can help propagate more like him. Otherwise, since their creators are extinct, they will die out.

Torrs is eager to help, but Janeway nixes the idea because of the Prime Directive. Brace yourself for more 24th century humanist compassion. Janeway’s rationale is that the Federation cannot interfere in the natural progression of a people. These robots are dying out, and that is what they are supposed to do according to her. Torres counters with the argument that if they could easily reverse the sterilization of a species, they would be monsters if they did not offer the help. Janeway disagrees because there is no way to predict how the people not going extinct like they are apparently supposed to would affect the future.

It is the same rationale Janeway offered Tom back in “Time and Again.” Yes, allowing a people to die off may be eliminating a potential cancer cure, but it is worth it if another Hitler is never born. Janeway’s interpretation of the Prime Directive is unspeakably horrible because it lacks any hint of humanity, yet in Star Trek philosophy, is still presented as enlightened. How can the Federation justify a definite genocide to prevent a possible future problem and still think of itself as a perfectly moral organization?

The amusing part is that Janeway turns out to have drawn the correct conclusion, but by accident. The robot kidnaps Torres and forces her to build a working prototype he can copy repeatedly in order to recreate his people. Another ship of robots attack them, and it is revealed they are continuing to fight a war their builders declared a truce over decades ago. Once the robots were threatened with deactivation, they turned on their creators and wiped them out. So Torres is helping prolong a perpetual war. Janeway had no way of knowing that, but as far as the episode is concerned, she was right all along. The message to take away from this is genocide is good because these people might fight a war at some point.

“Prototype” has a unique feel among Star Trek episodes. It is an effort to make the Delta Quadrant dynamics different from the other series set in the 24th century, so I have to give some kudos for that. I am obviously not keen on how Janeway’s brutal interpretation of the Prime directive wound up being the correct one, nor do I like how Torres is presented yet again as an idiot. But there is a lot of slam bang action in the episode as a distracvting factor that makes it entertaining. I use the word distracting deliberately. The episode is freeelance written by Nicholas Corea, a former Marine with a long history of writing for action and science fiction series of the ’70’s-’90’s. I suspect Janeway’s arguments were added by staff writers in order to make the script more Trek-like. I would like to see Corea’s first draft and compare. I will bet it is better than what wound up being filmed.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment