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Heroes and DemonsEdit

WARNING: The article below, while not containing any demons, does contain references to VOY's "Heroes and Demons". If such references are not to your taste, you are advised to depart the premises.

In brief: Some reasonable character moments where the doctor is concerned, but some classic TNG-style plot silliness to get there -- too much to really suit me.

Brief summary: When Kim disappears from inside his own holodeck program of "Beowulf", and others disappear in an attempt to find him, it falls to the doctor to solve the mystery of what is going on.

After two shows which did so much to break "Voyager" out of its "Trek Lite" cage (three, if you count "Emanations", which I think I would), the series has either taken a detour through or reverted back to serious "fluff" mode. "Heroes and Demons" let us see the doctor in a new setting, with generally good results -- but my, there was entirely too much fast talking necessary to make us swallow the way there.

Many plots are variations on a theme, but this particular show had two themes that, to put it mildly, are somewhat well-worn. On the one hand, there's the "holodeck goes berserk" concept, seen as early as TNG's "The Big Goodbye" and prevalent in at least half a dozen shows since then, probably more. On another front, we have the time-honored tradition of "the Enterprise/Voyager runs across a strange energy pattern which wreaks havoc on the ship, and eventually turns out to be connected to a lifeform" stories. "Home Soil", "Lonely Among Us", "Imaginary Friend", "Sub Rosa", "Emergence" [all TNG stories], DS9's "Q-Less" ... the list goes on. ("Emergence", in fact, combined both of these same two concepts in one, and "Heroes and Demons" was more than a bit reminiscent of it.) Both have been so frequently-trodden by past Trek work that they've become cliche -- and the fact that this time we had "Beowulf" and "photonic energy" as the latest models did nothing to keep the episode from seeming a bit tiresome.

Plot aside, the other thing that "Heroes and Demons" suffered from quite a bit was a gigantic dose of technobabble, more so than I think VOY has generally had from show to show. (Even more surprising to some extent is that Naren Shankar, who wrote the show, was partly or entirely responsible for writing two of late-era TNG's better stories, "The First Duty" and "Face of the Enemy", _without_ such technobabble.) When I heard in the opening few lines that the crew was investigating "high levels of photonic activity", I knew I was likely to be in for a long night -- gee, you mean it's *bright*? What a surprise for a protostar _that_ revelation is. (Then we had the "energy with biological components", which strikes me as totally nonsensical, but whatever.) I've maintained for a while that any story so dependent on made-up words to make its point is covering up weaknesses, and this episode did nothing to change that opinion for me.

On a character level, however, the show fared somewhat better. The only character who had any real development was the doctor, but he had some quite convincing moments, both negative and positive. His conversation with Kes was particularly good -- not only did the now- familiar "have you picked a name yet?" conversation actually have some relevance this time, but we were brought back to the realization of just how "innocent" the good doctor *is* about many things -- never having seen a sky or a tree, for instance.

His actions in the holodeck were also very true to the character, right down to occasionally being too annoying to watch for very long (his conversation about finding some vaccine or other, for instance, which could have made the same point in one quarter of the time). His slow warming to Freya was also intriguing (if expected), and his final actions within the fiction, threatening Unferth to within an inch of his life, made up probably the most powerful scene in the show. (The line "the only reason you won't die is that I've taken an oath -- to do no harm" is particularly strong.)

Being the most powerful scene, alas, was not a particularly difficult pinnacle to reach this time, as bits of the show dragged on longer than they probably should've. The scenes in the castle were, I suppose, intended to create a sense of atmosphere -- but several of them, particularly the conversation over the feast and the second time through the "greeting" scene, had me glancing at the clock. (The one exception in those two scenes was Hrothgar's line about the doctor "bringing honor to [his] father", which is likely to prove relevant in the doctor's hunt for a name.) Although most of the others worked well enough, I got a sense the whole time that the show was more or less meandering, trying to get 45 minutes out of a 20-minute story. That's not a comfortable feeling.

In terms of acting, I've no real complaints. The regulars were all fine, with Picardo being particularly good (which is no real surprise). As far as the guests go, Michael Keenan was reasonable (though not great) as Hrothgar; Christopher Neame (Unferth) was good, though I kept comparing the performance to Neame's role in B5's "And the Sky Full of Stars", where he was phenomenal; and Marjorie Monaghan was terrific. Freya's conversation with the doctor about "being alone in a crowd", despite being a somewhat forced love scene, worked extremely well, perhaps _because_ the doctor is still so innocent that it's somewhat believable.

That's about it. So, some short takes:

-- I liked the fact that Paris's "I'll give you a hand" was *not* milked for laughs, given that he'd just literally given the doctor one. One brief glance at the new hand was all that was required.

-- The funniest moment in the hour, however, wasn't in the show itself at all. At the end of an act, when everyone is calling out "Schweitzer's" name, Lisa turned to me and said, tongue firmly in cheek, "you realize that in Danish, 'Schweitzer' means 'bozo'." It tends to cast the scene in an entirely different light. :-)

-- The "track the entity through the ship" scene could have used a little more thought. It's trapped on three sides, but escapes through the fourth? Hmm ... sounds like someone's been thinking in two dimensions rather than three...

-- The one particularly good moment that didn't involve the doctor would have to be Chakotay's and Tuvok's conversation in the castle about demons in mythology. While it seemed a little unconnected to the rest of the show (particularly since Grendel *didn't* symbolize anything in this case), it still worked nicely.

That covers it. The show certainly had some nice character moments, but in general, I found "Heroes and Demons" decidedly ordinary. It was a story we'd seen many times before, and there weren't nearly enough new twists on the tale to make it much beyond a dressed-up rerun. Given things like "Prime Factors" and "State of Flux", I know the series can do better, and it's making things like this episode a little more difficult to be patient with.

So, wrapping up:


  • Writing: The closest thing to cookie-cutter "holodeck antics" VOY has come so far; hopefully it won't go past this.
  • Directing: Things tended to drag, though moments (such as the "death" of Tuvok and Chakotay) were well done.
  • Acting: Good work from Monaghan and Picardo, reasonable from everyone else.

OVERALL: Perhaps a 5. Not one of the show's best by any stretch.

NEXT WEEK: Possession.


Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
tlynch@alumni.caltech.edu
"You are truly a man of many talents, Lord Schweitzer.  Your people
	must value you greatly."
"You would think so..."
Copyright 1995, 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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