Spirit FolkBy Edward James Hines
Posted at February 23, 2000 - 6:00 AM GMT
"Spirit Folk" *
Written by Bryan Fuller
Directed by David Livingston
In this sequel to "Fair Haven," Tom Paris' realistic enhancements to his Irish holodeck program, coupled with its round-the-clock activation, result in damaged subroutines in all the character files. The malfunctioning perceptual filters negate the characters' obliviousness to events outside the program's parameters. Thus, the simple townsfolk of Fair Haven bear witness to such extraordinary events as Paris turning Maggie O'Halloran into a cow, Harry Kim changing the weather, the Doctor (as Father Mulligan) disappearing into thin air and Janeway effortlessly rescuing a little girl who had fallen down a well. Believing that "Tommy Boy" and his friends are practicing unholy magic, Seamus (Richard Riehle), Milo (Ian Abercrombie) and a mob capture Paris, Kim and the Doctor until Janeway appears with Michael Sullivan (Fintan McKeown) and explains the truth.
Coming home after a stressful day's work to an episode like this is very soothing. The characters and settings are familiar and the story doesn't tax the brain by being difficult to follow. However, for Star Trek, the show is terribly taxing in its brainlessness. It's so simple, straightforward and predictable that it could easily be mistaken for a first-season episode of something like The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. A sequel this close to the original could only have been intended from the start; the question is, what headquarters genius decided that "Fair Haven" needed a second installment?
"Spirit Folk" is truly vexing because the boys of the "Braga bunch" once again flout the conventions and continuity of Star Trek. It's bad enough that they unearthed the dreaded "holodeck malfunction" scenario again - as if this hasn't been done to death; what's worse is that this contrivance blatantly flies in the face of Star Trek technology conventions and even emasculates some of the main characters.
Voyager's 24th century technology continues to be selectively mutable in the impish hands of its creators. It's simply unbelievable that Paris and Kim should have to conduct clandestine repairs to the holodeck program while it is running. Why can't they tinker with it offline, as they did with Michael's matrix? The story wouldn't work that way, of course; and as we all know, on VGR, the story takes precedence to believability.
Next, when Paris and Kim are netted (but not gagged) by the mob, what is the first thing they should do? The same thing Janeway did when Michael started asking too many probing questions: "Computer, end program!" This, too, seems to slip the boys' minds as they fall victim to their own characters. Finally, because of their inaction, Milo takes a few shots at the holodeck's primary control port. The only problem is that holographic bullets cannot wreak havoc against actual hologrid technology - with or without the safety protocols engaged (and they were until after Milo shot off a few rounds).
B'Elanna Torres seems to be one of the few voices of reason during this debacle when she recommends cutting power to the hologrid to rescue Paris and Kim. She wears her contempt for the Fair Haven program boldly on her sleeve, but never as much as when she confronts a reluctant Janeway with the indisputable fact that Michael can be reprogrammed, but not Paris and Kim. Admittedly, Janeway makes a valid point about the reality of the crew's feelings for the Fair Haven characters - as well as the implied need for such unusual diversion during the long journey home - but her timing is bad. If some of the crew is in danger, then all bets are off. This, at least, was her feeling in "Fair Haven" when power from the holodeck was needed to help save the ship.
One other story discontinuity contradicts the belief that all Fair Haven characters are witnesses to strange events. When Maggie O'Halloran shimmers into existence on the street in broad daylight, the old man coming toward her takes no notice.
The show isn't all bad, however. Seamus and Milo prove to be quite a comical pair. Janeway's self-constructed "smarter Michael" from "Fair Haven" is still intact, displaying his learnedness with epic poetry and later almost fooling Paris and Kim with a show of obliviousness. Janeway's gift of Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and its parallelism to her relationship with Michael is a welcome reminder of Star Trek's long fellowship with literature.
The Doctor's fire-and-brimstone entrance into St. Mary's, shouting "Sinners!" and banging open the doors, was a delightful moment, as was his subsequent hypnotism. Michael's use of the Doctor's mobile emitter has its basis in "Concerning Flight," when the holographic Leonardo da Vinci used it on a planetside reconnaissance mission with Janeway. Michael's visit to Voyager, however, pales in comparison to a similar scene in TNG's "Who Watches the Watchers" with Picard and Nuria.
Ian Abercrombie appeared only last season as "Abbot" in "Someone to Watch Over Me."
Edward James Hines writes weekly reviews of Voyager episodes.