Friday, October 7, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Alice"

While I cannot say I have come to dread tom-centric episodes, I can muster no enthusiasm for them. They do not explore anything beyond what e already know about him--he is a grease monkey looking for a purpose in life because he cannot make his father happy no matter what he does. Tom is willing to sacrifice everything in his life in order to find that purpose. It does not matter how foolish the particular venture seems. “Alice” is no exception in that regard. But at least story steals elements from Stephen King’s Christine, so at least the writers stole from something that works.

Voyager comes across a junkyard in space. They make deals with the eccentric owner for spare parts. While searching through the inventory, tom spots a derelict shuttle he wants to restore like a hotrod. He convince Chakotay to trade for it. Restoring the shuttle becomes an obsession because it is run by a malevolent program who has been searching for an ace pilot to take it home. It believes tom is the one, so it begins asserting control over his mind. He takes Alice homeward, but is stopped by Voyager. more specifically, Torres, as she convinces him their relationship is more meaningful than the one he has with the shuttle.

There is not much else to say beyond that. We know Tom is a pilot to his core and is constantly looking for the ultimate ride. But really, after evolving into a salamander and having a litter with Janeway, could any ride be more exciting? The whole plot has been done before. Tom builds or fixes something, becomes obsessed with it, it changes him somehow for the worse, but someone from Voyager convinces him he belongs with the crew. He is convinced, but not enough to keep from falling for the same trick again next season.

It is never explained what the malevolent program is, where it came from, or even if it called out to Tom to convince him to buy her or if it was just a television contrivance that brought them together. I suppose the lack of explanation is meant to preserve the mystery, but the episode is not good enough for that. Instead, it looks like as lazy a script as the other tom-centric stories which have told variations on the same story.

“Alice" is just sort of their. It is not bad enough to pan, nor is it good enough to recommend. It feels like it is filling a quota. The powers that be need an episode every season that centers on each character. This is Tom’s turn, but since the character is so one-dimensional, the same story is rehashed from several times before. With a few new elements, mind you, but swiped from Stephen King. One might enjoy the Christine homage if one is a more enthusiastic King fan than I, but the similarities do not elevate “Alice.”

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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