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Twisted

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Twisted

WARNING: This article, while not necessarily twisted in its own right, does contain spoilers for VOY's "Twisted". Be warned.

In brief: Ho-hum. Another day, another anomaly ... and another show boldly going nowhere.

Brief summary: An encounter with a "distortion ring" causes Voyager to begin imploding in on itself -- changing layouts, disabling systems, and trapping the crew.

"Twisted" was an interesting accomplishment in some respects. It managed to take yet another pointless anomaly, use one of the most annoying character issues Trek's ever used (that being Neelix's jealousy over Kes), command amazingly stiff performances from basically the entire cast (possibly excepting Robert Picardo, but I'm not even sure there), and wrap it all up in so many scenes of characters just walking around that one almost expects to see a "directed by Roger Corman" credit in there somewhere. As a result, although "Twisted" isn't the worst we've seen from "Voyager" this year ("Elogium" still has that honor, and hopefully will keep it), it's almost undeniably the most tedious.

"Twisted", I suspect (particularly given earlier rumors about staffers' and cast members' dissatisfaction with it), is a sterling example of what happens when something absolutely does not come off as planned. The concept of Voyager being reshaped and causing confusion is, while perhaps not stirring, certainly not fundamentally awful. The way the show worked out, though, most of the cast became dullards for at least a sizable fraction of the episode, tension was more or less minimal, and the ending made the show seem pointless. Even the best of concepts can be ruined by lousy execution, and this one shows what bad execution can do to a show that was so-so to start with.

First, let's take the moments of shining character idiocy. The first comes when Kim mentions that the distortion field has surrounded them "like a ring". Tuvok, ever the deep thinker, decides that if they can't go around they'll have to try to go through. Tuvok would be well reminded of the admonishments of one of his fellow Vulcans: "his tactics indicate two-dimensional thinking." It's a *ring*, folks -- go perpendicular to it, as in up or down. Sheesh. Given that the engines weren't going to work anyway, from a plot standpoint this isn't a serious objection; but as a sign of how little things were being thought through, I think it's significant. (I'm not so concerned about Tuvok leaving the bridge later; although it's not entirely bright, his concern is understandable. I have no problem with people doing dumb things if it's completely in character to do so.)

The other major "they only think of this *now*?" moment for me was when Harry suggested "maybe we could make a map." This has been going on for quite some time, it's clear that the ship's been rearranged, and no one's thought of trying to see what it looks like now? In retrospect, since Chakotay's suggestion to use tricorders as, effectively, map-makers came earlier, this isn't bad -- but oh, it could have been better phrased. Something like "we've all been getting so much data that we should be able to get a good map now" sounds a whole lot more intelligent than what was said.

There were other instances that had me questioning the crew's competence, B'Elanna's decision to beam herself and Paris up to the bridge without testing it on something inanimate first and Neelix just wandering off while corridors are changing being up there ... but suffice it to say that the show didn't leave me gasping with awe at the keen way the regulars thought through the problem. (Chakotay's argument with Tuvok about patterns would also qualify, however; he never even mentions the fact that the patterns are *changing* until after the issue's been "settled".)

Tuvok's objection to Chakotay about the shock pulse, however, is another objection. This one isn't an objection because of it being poorly thought out -- it's just that the circumstances were totally wrong for Tuvok to say that. Tuvok may be, as Chakotay pointed out, somewhat arrogant on occasion, but he has *never* gone so far out of line as to insist someone follow his recommendation in public, in front of other members of the bridge crew. Tuvok's such a stickler for protocol that such a move strikes me as pretty alien to his character, in fact.

Moving on to the plot, my major problem was that the show really lacked any overriding point. In other recent "anomaly" shows -- "Projections", "Non Sequitur", hell, even "Elogium" -- the anomaly at least caused something to happen which forced character decisions and thus character development (or at least definition) onto someone. Here, though, there was none of that to be found. Until the last couple of minutes, when it appeared that everyone was going to die, there was very little to even differentiate one character from another. (Actually, I should amend that to "very little of substance"; Janeway did have that compliment for Kim, after all, but it came so strongly out of left field that it felt like Leslie Nielsen was going to pop out from behind a door a la "Airplane!" and tell Harry that everyone was counting on him. :-) )

Unfortunately, the lack of a point wasn't the only problem with the plot. Given that the premise was apparently something slowly distorting the ship from the outside in, it would appear that connections between rooms are either fine or gone, not fluctuating back and forth; if this is a steady progression, that's the only sensible course. Well, then, I'm at something of a loss to explain how it is that Harry can get from the bridge to the holodeck, apparently without any problems whatsoever, while at the *same time* Janeway and company can't get from the holodeck to the bridge. We're not given any other indications that connections are one-way. (If this was presented as one more mystery, fine; but the explanation given doesn't support it, and no one mentioned it as odd.)

Apart from that, the plot wasn't bad so much as just very tedious -- until, that is, one gets to the ending. Then everything really starts to fall apart. Even leaving out such wonderful moments as the distortion wave making it to the holodeck door in virtually no time, then allowing a full five minutes or more to cover the last few meters, I disliked the ending primarily on the grounds that it made the show basically irrelevant. As is becoming all too common, there appear to be no consequences (aside from Kes wanting Neelix's picture) and no reason given. The consciousness behind the field also didn't make sense; the only way to get information into Voyager's computers was to effectively destroy and re-create the ship? Perhaps it could have been plausible had the "message" been clearer, or had someone besides simply Janeway heard it, or had *something* been done more effectively -- but as it is, all the ending said for me was "Reset; back to the next show", and I'm getting extremely tired of that.

As to the subplot, Neelix's jealousy ... I've little to say. Neelix is turning into a strutting, spluttering buffoon, and this plot was no exception. Chakotay's speech about how jealousy is fundamental and part of every relationship went over no better, really (though it did make me wonder if someone involved in the writing recently had a relationship go sour); it felt forced in, like much of the rest of the show. No more like this, please.

The one sequence that did work for me, at least in part, was the set of exchanges between characters at the end as the wave closed in. Most of what was done *there* worked well -- Tuvok's private gesture, Kim asking Paris if he was afraid, Tuvok's and Chakotay's candid appraisals of each other, and so forth. With luck, this *might* prove to have a few consequences down the line, as the slight opening up of opinions lets each person learn a little bit. I tend to doubt it, but at least taken in a vacuum the scene worked, and worked well.

That's pretty much all I need to say. "Twisted" was pretty solid MST3K fodder, but rather poor in any other respect. It wasn't as offensively in-your-face bad as "Elogium", no, but that's cold comfort in a very lean month for Trek. Now that we're through the last of the first-season holdovers, I hope we're in for some improvements.

So, wrapping up:

Writing: There were some sizable holes, but mostly it's the lack of a point that's getting to me here. Directing: Ouch. Utter tedium strikes me as a fairly major directing flaw. It's very hard to believe that this is the same Kim Friedman who did DS9's riveting "The Wire." Acting: Some mild bright spots at the end, but that's about it. Mulgrew was absolutely terrible, which is rare for her. OVERALL: A 2.5 -- on the level of last year's "Cathexis". Ow.

NEXT WEEK: Paris and Neelix fighting over Kes. I was saying something about improvements?

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) tlynch@alumni.caltech.edu Harry: "Maybe we could get to the bridge through a Jeffries tube. if I remember my ship's specs correctly -- " Us: "They go up." 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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