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Deadlock

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Deadlock

WARNING: Not sure whether to read spoilers and be warned in advance, or save the surprise for later? Sounds like deadlock to me -- and spoilers for VOY's "Deadlock" are exactly what's ahead.

In brief: The first forty minutes are nothing particularly to speak of, but most of the last third is pretty good.

Written by: Brannon Braga Directed by: David Livingston Brief summary: A freak subspace accident causes Voyager to duplicate, with two ships occupying the same space and time.

I feel in something of a "deadlock" of my own where "Deadlock" is concerned. As with many VOY episodes, the show sprang from a potentially interesting premise -- in this case, a new riff on the "alternate/parallel crew" idea, along with a "disaster" storyline, which for this series should be more interesting than usual. Unfortunately, as is also the case with many VOY episodes, there was so much clunkiness, baggage, and technobabble gathered along with it that it left very little room for a plot or for the people.

The "disaster" aspect of the show (mostly its first third or so) is something that should have been far more powerful than it was. I've been down on shows like TNG's "Disaster" and DS9's "Starship Down" in the past, but a real problem on board Voyager should be far more significant; in this series' case, the ship can't just put in at a starbase for major repairs afterwards. As such, any damage that's irreparable with what's on board should be a gigantic, and potentially permanent issue -- and I wondered how the situation could possibly be resolved after Tuvok's lengthy litany of woes.

Unfortunately, how it was resolved was by a captain's voiceover: "repairs are continuing". Nonsense, guys; you have no power, you have no power *source* (considering how low the antimatter levels were by the time things were "healed"), a critical part of your engine is "fused and inoperable", your hull is Swiss cheese, and a large fraction of your crew is seriously injured. Kissing this is not going to make it better. Repairs should be "continuing" over the next several *seasons*, not the last five minutes of an episode. As with the warp engine problems or the friction between crewmembers in "Investigations" last week, the reset button has been hit, and with it any consequences vanished into the aether.

One of the attempts to make the disaster hit home from a character standpoint involved Ensign Wildman's long-awaited baby. I've been uninterested enough in that particular storyline that the impact was probably lost on me, but I could see where the early stages of the episode, with the doctor frantically trying to save the infant in a sickbay where nothing is working, could hit hard. I have to say, however, that whatever impact the baby's death might have had on me would be not only lost, but changed to indignation by the "oh, don't worry, here's an exact duplicate" nature of the ending. I can understand that at least some of the mother's feelings would be of relief -- but I suspect that if I were in that situation, some part of me would also be saying "that is *not* the child I gave birth to; get it the hell away from me!" There should have been layers there -- some sort of ambivalence to her reaction, and there wasn't. (Kim's ambivalence came through pretty well, but given that it was answered somewhat flippantly with "weird is part of the job", I'm not at all sure how seriously we were supposed to take it.)

The other major aspect of the show was the "duplication" story. The justification used for why the doubling occurred was actually okay for me: it's totally nuts and against any sort of laws of conservation of mass-energy, but invoking the holy name of "subspace" is enough hand-waving to blur the lines for occasions like this. I don't believe a word of it, but I don't have to -- I can just ignore it and move on. :-) Of greater concern was the way the entire idea was handled. One of the reasons "twin" or "alternate" shows work for me is that it's interesting to see the reactions when pairs meet each other, or interesting simply to examine the difference 'twixt one version of a crew and the other (a la "Yesterday's Enterprise" or the original "Mirror, Mirror"). In "Deadlock", though, no one particularly seemed to care that their individuality had been lost -- and as there were *no* differences between the two crews, there was no interest factor. The scene with the two Janeways conferring should have been one of the best scenes in the show (or potentially, if done really well, in the series to date); instead, it just sat there.

Lest people think I only disliked "Deadlock", though, I should say that the last act or so of the show drew me in. Bits of it don't hold up (Wildman's reaction to her baby, for instance, which I've already mentioned, and the fact that even though there are hundreds of Vidiians overrunning the ship, Kim can play Rambo and make it to and from sickbay without any problem), but it didn't much matter; once the Vidiians actually came on board and it was clear how the story was going to unfold, it wound up fairly engaging.

I don't buy the solution working as presented, though. Given that the problem was often referred to as a leak or a hemorrhage, and given Janeway's analogy to a pair of Siamese twins joined at the heart, I really don't see how blowing up one of those "twins" is going to stanch a leak or save the other twin.

Now, some smaller points:

-- This was not a good week for makeup. The Vidiian makeup was really poor this time around, I thought -- and I'm not even going to start on the Lee Press-On Horns for the baby. (Given how it looked, though, I wonder if this means Wildman's husband was part iguana. Good Lord, was he Spot? :-) )

-- I do like the idea of a fetal transport: much cleaner than a C-section, and something that feels very plausible as an alternate birthing method.

-- Point of order: the next time Neelix uses the word "veggies", he needs to get it right between the eyes. Just a thought.

-- I liked the attempts to communicate between the two Voyagers. The initial attempts were tech-heavy, but for once that made sense, since it was an engineering problem -- and it actually had me a bit curious.

That pretty much does it. "Deadlock" wasn't particularly bad -- but given what a "two-ships" situation *should* be, even "okay" is sort of disappointing. I'd put it in the "neutral" category, all told.

So, wrapping up:

Writing: An interesting premise and a few good moments, but no real character and a few logic problems. Directing: This came off a bit better; the assault on Voyager was particularly strong. Acting: No real complaints, aside from the Vidiians. OVERALL: An even 5, I think: "dead" neutral.

NEXT WEEK: Reruns.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) tlynch@alumni.caltech.edu "Weird is part of the job." -- Janeway Copyright 1996, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.

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