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The Trek Nation - Alter Ego

Alter Ego

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 2:31 PM GMT

See Also: 'Alter Ego' Episode Guide

Harry Kim has fallen in love with a hologram named Marena. Tuvok decides to pay the artificial a woman a visit to see whether he can help, and finds himself intrigued by her - she plays Vulcan games with great skill and engages him in conversation, plus she's a hot babe. Harry becomes wildly jealous and Tuvok assures the ensign that he has no real interest in Marena, but Marena has other plans.

After a shipwide luau, Marena appears in Tuvok's quarters, dressed in uniform plus the Doc's portable emitter and wanting to get to know him better. When he calls security, she disappears. Janeway realizes that there may be a connection between the volatile nebula they've been investigating and the mysteriously self-aware hologram, and some further research indicates that the real Marena lives on a hidden ship. She demands Tuvok as the price for the ship's safety. He beams aboard her vessel, but convinces the real woman that instead of needing him as an intellectual companion, she needs to return home and make some friends.

Analysis:

This episode was hollow drek--or maybe I should say holodrek, since the holodeck seems to represent everything terrible about Voyager and shows up in all the worst episodes. Paris' line about how everyone falls for a hologram sooner or later was priceless - that could be the theme of this show! These characters have no lives because they're too busy fooling around with substitutes - Paris does it, Janeway does it, Doc has little choice. And in this two-for-one episode, Tuvok and Harry fall for the same woman! Yes, even Vulcans get leied on the holodeck. Who'd have thought it?

Chakotay tried to draw a comparison to TNG's Moriarty problem, when a hologram attained sentience in order to experience life. Sorry, Chak, but "Alter Ego" was more like godawful "Liaisons" than superb "Elementary, Dear Data." Lonely, probably psychotic woman kidnaps important starship crewman for illusory fling, then nobly returns him to duty after learning an important lesson? If you're going to recycle, Joe Menosky, don't recycle crap. Moriarty wanted life off the holodeck for philosophical reasons; Marena wanted to live on the holodeck for - well, what do women ever crave on Trek, or in Fatal Attraction? Love, of course!

There's not much good I can say about this episode, except that they're doing a good job setting us up for B'Elanna's pon farr experience with Vorick and Tom Paris - an arc, who'd have thunk it? Too bad it's going to end with yet another Trek sex-violence equation. There was a time when I would have enjoyed seeing Janeway and Chakotay walk arm in arm to a party, but this season he's such a wuss and she's such an ice princess that I know this is just the producers playing the Picard/Crusher Seven Year Tease all over.

We did get to see Kes, Torres, and the Captain all wearing much less than usual! These days costume changes and new hairdos replace characterization. Garrett Wang's hair sticking up was bad, but no worse than his acting. Tim Russ, at least, had a good episode, even if he did have to spout Vulcan cliches. He has the great fortune to play a character who never goes over the top...or, at least, rarely.

There was a lesson in all this, and I don't want the producers to think I missed their little message to folks who enjoy spending time on our computers or in front of our televisions looking for a little escapism. Clearly, they think anyone who lets TV characters or cyber-relationships matter to them is equivalent to a lovelorn woman hiding on a space station. I don't know how to tell them that, from my vantage point, Hollywood writers who create alter egos with little depth or strength of character (not to mention getting their kids cameos on the show) look just as pathetic. Between the messages in shows like this begging fans to tune out and the overall dreadful quality of the episodes themselves, I find myself doing just that, more and more often.

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.