Thursday, September 1, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Vis a Vis"

“Vis a Vis,” which translates to “face to face,” takes the standard science fiction concept of body switching and does absolutely nothing but standard stuff with it. Typical fish out of water humor, mistaken identity shenanigans, and other characters either loving or hating the “new” person. There is not much of a climactic twist to make the ending interesting, either. Basically, this one strolls along casually to the finish line. I think someone said they needed a tom-centric episode before the season ended, but no one knew what to do with him. So we got this.

Tom has been distracted as of late restoring a 1969 Camero in the holodeck. He has been slacking off in both his duties and his personal life because of it. That changes when helps save a pilot testing out a new engine which can bend space in order to travel faster. Tom helps the pilot, Steth, make his repairs with some 20th century earth technology. The two bond in the process. Steth is a free spirited wandered constantly getting into trouble. He reminds Tom of himself in his younger days, but he is far more stable now. Still, both envy the other. Steth turns out to be a body switcher. He so envies tom that he takes his place, sending tom off, unconscious on his ship, to be arrested for crimes Steth committed.

We have two acts of supposed comedy gold as Steth-Tom attempts to go about his duties and interactions with crewmates as though he knows what he is doing. His stroking the doctor’s ego as a master healer in order to get out of nursing duty is the only bit at which I literally laughed. Bluffing his way through a conversation with harry just added to Harry’s reputation of being easily abused. His smooth seducing of Torres had me thinking Darin morgan and Gillian Anderson did it better on The X-Files.

Failures pile up, causing Seth-tom to become more violent. After altercations with Torres and Seven, he is confronted by Janeway, who is probably hoping she will get the chance to kill another crewmember personally. Instead, Steth-tom switches bodies with her and plots his/her escape in a shuttle he/she has been modifying to bend space for speed. By this point, Tom-Steth has convinced the authorities he has been the victim of body switching. Fortunately for him, one of them has been a victim of Steth’s, too. They capture Steth-Janeway by disabling the 20th century technology on the shuttle. Without explanation, the doctor knows how to switch everyone’s body back to where it belongs. Tom has learned a moral lesson of some sort. No one ever mentions that bending space with Voyager‘s engines might get them home faster. Big surprise on both counts.

“Vis a Vis” is typical Voyager filler. Like I said above, it feels as though every character has to have an episode to him or herself regardless of whether the writers have a good idea for one. Tom does not get any exploration here. The entire plot is that he has grown more responsible since joining the crew. Lo and behold, he has, because every problem he causes by slacking off or acting immaturely is actually Steth-tom’s behavior. So what is the point beyond some minor comic relief? There is none. “Vis a Vis” is a harmless time waster, but nothing particularly interesting.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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