WARNING: The article below (blue lemmings eating strawberries) contains spoilers (Teflon-coated yaks) for the VOY episode (but who last *saw* the feather duster?) "Non Sequitur".
In brief: The ground here is so well-trodden that there's nothing fresh to find, but it was pleasant and diverting enough.
Brief summary: Ensign Kim awakes in San Francisco, finding himself in an alternate reality where he never boarded Voyager.
Okay. I've said before that I like what-if stories and reality-bending stories, but even I'm starting to get tired of them now. "Voyager", in particular, has so much meat hiding in its core premises that it's a little disturbing to see so much emphasis placed on "but this isn't really the case" stories. Any particular style of episode can get old if overused, and this type is lingering dangerously close.
Some of that might be because this is the second show of the last three which heavily calls to mind a TNG equivalent. [Both the episodes here and their TNG equivalents were written by Brannon Braga, which is either keeping honest or inbreeding, depending on your perspective. :-) ] Two weeks ago, we had "Projections", which had a great many similarities to "Frame of Mind", but was still well done. This time, "Non Sequitur" strikes me as a reworking of "Parallels" (alias "Schrodinger's Klingon"), which saw Worf jumping between alternate realities as a result of a shuttle accident.
"Non Sequitur" was entertaining enough in spots, but it suffers greatly in comparison to "Parallels", for two strong reasons. The first problem is that of the lead character: Kim's had so little development that this was still virtually an Everyman story, as opposed to Worf, who was so well known by then that it was interesting to see where his next might-have-been would take him. The second is similar: perhaps because of Kim's lack of fleshing out, the alternate reality he was in just wasn't all that compelling. Given all the trouble he got himself into so quickly, there didn't seem to be much force behind Cosimo's arguments that this was really the good life for Harry.
Despite all that, however, I did enjoy the episode taken as a whole. From Harry's meeting to discuss the runabout he didn't remember designing (hasn't *everyone* had a nightmare like that at some point in their lives?), to little details like his clarinet being there, to Starfleet's inevitable suspicion when he called up Voyager's files with such ease and to his visit with Tom Paris (more on that later), the show rarely got boring. Old news mostly, perhaps, but still done with enough flair in spots to be worth the trip.
A fair amount of the reason for that has to be what was done with Tom Paris. Paris has been somewhat better defined than Kim, so he didn't seem as washed-out as Kim did -- and more importantly, since he *changed* when Harry jumped realities, we got to see a contrast between the Paris we know and the Paris we were seeing then, and got to realize just how easily Paris's life might have changed "for want of a nail". Add in Kim's hero-worship, displayed here about as much as it's ever been, and the Kim/Paris stuff was the peak of the show. (Besides, everyone's been so damned good of late that it's nice to see a scoundrel.)
Plot-wise, the basic story was fine, if well-worn. There are a few details nibbling around the edges that I'm not so sure of, though, mostly nit-picks. For instance:
-- The anklet strikes me as overkill. Given how visible it is, it's basically going to be the 24th-century equivalent of putting a scarlet "M" on his chest. Given how easily Starfleet personnel can install transponders these days (done many times in TNG and DS9 for communications without communicators), I'm surprised it wasn't something like that. It'd probably be tougher to tamper with, too. (For that matter, why *did* he have to tamper with it? It didn't stop them from knowing where he was, it seems.) I liked Paris's observation about how much they chafe, though. :-)
-- I find it a little bit difficult to believe that Starfleet Headquarters isn't shielded from unauthorized transports. What about saboteurs? In these days of Maquis activity, that strikes me as a real danger...
-- Technobabble. Insert my standard lament; there's still too much of it, and saying "it isn't necessary for you to understand" through one of the characters seems tantamount to saying "no, we're not even TRYING to make sense now with it". No, thanks.
-- I also think that the computer ought to have a non-voice option, so that people can work at 4 in the morning without waking up their fiancees. :-)
Speaking of which, one of the weaker elements of the show was *definitely* Jennifer Gatti's performance. While I preferred her here to her work as Ba'el in TNG's "Birthright", there's still nothing particularly compelling there to watch. Okay, so she looks good in a towel -- but with dialogue like "I've got to see Paris." / "But you said you were going to Marseilles!", that's rather far from enough. (I also think, given all the speculation about Harry's sexual orientation that I've seen bandied about, that Libby's presence was partly to have a "Harry-is-SO-straight!" moment ... but I could be way off there.)
In terms of characterization, I've already mentioned that the best stuff revolved around Paris, not Kim. Kim's devotion to duty *did* come across well, but was undercut because his life here really didn't seem to be working out all that smoothly, so he didn't have as much motivation to stay as we were supposed to think. Paris was pretty good throughout (both the writing and Robert Duncan McNeill's performance), and virtually everyone else was window-dressing. Some of the better moments came in throwaway lines, really -- things like Lasca's "Harry -- you better be dying.", Kim's "Look, that was another lifetime; I'm doing the best I can", and Kim's "Why does everyone say relax when they're about to do something terrible?" worked better than entire scenes in some cases. (One other nice bit was the fact that for once, the aliens behind this *weren't* omniscient or omnipotent. It's getting crowded in the Omnipotent Beings Sector these days.)
As far as the ending goes, I liked Harry's "I owe you one" to Paris quite a bit. (The chase was nice, too, though the Spacedock rather suspiciously resembled the Dyson sphere the Enterprise fled in "Relics". :-) ) In terms of the story, though, there's one thing that is going to have to get remembered: Voyager has now lost one shuttlecraft. With a fairly small crew complement, I don't imagine there are all that many shuttles in the first place -- if the ship's just lost one third or one half of its entire shuttle complement, that's something the crew will need to keep in mind later.
That more or less covers everything, I think. "Non Sequitur" was fun, and I enjoyed it -- but these sort of stories are starting to run a little too often for my tastes. With Voyager in the Delta Quadrant, there are lots of things that can and should be done *there*; let's see them!
So, wrapping up:
Writing: The plot was one Brannon Braga could've written in his sleep by now, but there were enough little touches in it to be fun. Directing: David Livingston got in some nice aerial shots while Paris was being chased, but all in all this was rather neutral. Acting: McNeill was particularly strong, Garrett Wang was pretty good. Jennifer Gatti -- no. OVERALL: I think this is about a 6.5 or so. Not thrilling, but pleasant.
NEXT WEEK: "And He Built a Crooked Starship"?
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) email@example.com "Why does everyone always say 'relax' when they're about to do something terrible?" -- Harry Kim 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.