Monday, September 19, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Bride of Chaotica"

Allow me to preface my review for “Bride of Chaotica” with an admission I have an odd affection for serials that dates back to my earliest days of attending comic book conventions. Back in the late 80’s and early ‘90’s, even the larger conventions had not yet become a tool for Hollywood to promote its upcoming television shows and movies. In those days, comic book conventions were still about--gasp--comic books. There were still side offerings--old action figures, non-sports trading cards, etc--but it was all old, obscure, and relatively cheap.

The bigger conventions often had at least one room for airing films and television shows. This stuff was generally o the level of the famous Star Trek blooper reel and the infamous Legend of the Super Heroes. There were loads of cartoons, especially banned Merry Melodies installments with racially insensitive content and/or World War II propaganda. I have already written about my experiences with the controversial film Freaks at these conventions. One thing conventions were loaded with is movie serials from the ’30’s and ’40’s. I had a healthy dose of Kurk Alyn as Superman and Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon.

Those were the days to be a fan, folks. In those pre-internet days, you felt like you were experiencing something special--or illicit, as in the case of some of those cartoons--because you could not find that stuff anywhere else. Do not get me wrong, I love being able to click on Youtube and find it all right now. The internet has made collecting much easier, too, even though it is killing off brick and mortar comic book and science fiction shops. But I have a nostalgia for the way those experiences felt back then.

All that to say, I like a good homage to serials of the ‘30’s and ‘40’s. but this is VOY, so how well can an homage be pulled off on a show on which nothing ever works all that well/ The answer is surprisingly good, though you have to look at it as the same dumb fun as the serials it is honoring. I can do that. Heck, it helps not to think too much about VOY period for the sake of your mental and emotional health.

Aliens from another dimension enter our dimension through a rift and discover tom’s Captain Proton serial running. They believe it is real, and fear the evil villain Dr. Chaotica has a Death Ray that is going to destroy their planet, so they launch an attack on his forces. While the attack rages, Voyager is trapped in stasis. Since the extra dimensional aliens think the program is real, but the crew is not, they decide to become characters in the serial to defeat Dr. Chaotica and end the war.

Oddly enough, this is not a tom-centric episode. Janeway takes front stage as queen Arachnia of the Spider People. Her job is to seduce Dr. Chaotica into lowering his force field so captain proton can destroy the Death Ray. What ensues is everyone hamming it up with over the top dialogue, booby traps, and a robot that looks like a hot water heater with limbs. Queen Arachnia is successful, and with the war over, the aliens go back to their dimension and Voyager is freed.

I liked “Bride of Chaotica” overall. The serial scenes were filmed in black and white, which is a nice touch. The production values are clearly far higher than any that could have been done in those days, but still has a cool looking retro style. Kate Mulgrew looks like she is having a great time with her over the top act, including an incredibly phallic scene in which Dr. Chaotica explains the power of his Death Ray while Queen Arachnia rubs the barrel. The creators of those original serials slipped some racy innuendo in at times, but nothing I have seen is quite like that. Maybe I have been watching the wrong stuff.

Are there flaws? Yes, the whole scenario is dub. Janeway goes from reluctant to play the Queen to relishing the role, even cracking bad jokes as her character would. In other words, she becomes far too comfortable, far too fast, in a character she only had a crash course in a few moments prior to entering the holodeck. But it is amusing, so who cares? Frankly, it fits in with the VOY motif of bad actors doing dumb things with as much sincerity as they can muster.

If memory serves, this is the last time the Captain Proton holodeck program appears. These season long holodeck themes usually get a big send off. I think “Bride of Chaotica” edges out the tiki bar’s swan song from the second season. Coming up soon is the Irish town of Fairhaven. Brace yourself for that. It is definitely a what were they smoking when the writers came up with that one deal. Regardless of that, ‘Bride of Chaotica” is good fun for a holodeck malfunction episode. I recommend it, but if you are not a fan of serials, you will probably find it far too flippant to enjoy.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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