Bride of Chaotica!By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 4:01 PM GMT
See Also: 'Bride of Chaotica!' Episode Guide
In the middle of a new chapter of Captain Proton, subspace rifts appear on the holodeck and Voyager shudders to a stop. Paris uses the holodeck controls to beam himself and Kim out of the program, but the bridge controls are frozen and the program keeps running. Two men in black suits appear in the simulation, where they are attacked by Chaotica's soldiers. Guards tell Chaotica that the prisoners are from the fifth dimension. The men claim that they are explorers who want to observe organic life forms, but Chaotica says, "We'll crush you like insects!" and shoots one of the men. The other transports away. Chaotica contacts Arachnia, Queen of the Spider People, to ask her help in raining destruction on the fifth dimension.
Three days later, Voyager is still stuck in subspace. Neelix warns the captain that only four lavatories are working, which is going to make things very uncomfortable for the crew. Janeway grabs her coffee, orders the morale officer to deal with the situation, and goes to the bridge, where Tuvok has discovered readings of weapons fire on holodeck two. Janeway sends the security officer and Paris to see whether they can turn Captain Proton off.
On the holodeck, the officers find buildings burning and Proton's secretary Miss Goodheart murdered. Paris warns Tuvok that something terrible must have happened because good guys never died in 1930s Hollywood. The broken robot informs the pair that intruders from the fifth dimension have invaded Chaotica's domain, showing them evidence of subspace rifts and photonic weapons. Paris says that Proton wasn't supposed to encounter aliens until the "Captain Proton vs. the Cosmic Creature" chapter and suspects real aliens. Tuvok wants to inform the captain immediately, but Paris says he can use his rocket's sensors to find out what has happened.
Seven of Nine interprets Kim's data: the attack on the holodeck is indeed from subspace. Chaotica has been firing the Death Ray and trying to summon Queen Arachnia for assistance. Seven scoffs at the infantile scenario while on the holodeck, Paris reads a tickertape message from "Earth" warning Captain Proton of the alien presence and advising him to disable Chaotica's death ray. The aliens enter the rocket; Tuvok tries to tell them that the scenario is just a simulation, but the aliens reveal that they are photonic and the Death Ray has killed over 50 of their people. Moreover, they insist that humanoids don't register as life forms on their equipment, meaning Paris and Tuvok are the illusions.
Paris briefs the senior staff, suggesting that they help the aliens defeat Chaotica so the program can run through. He explains the plot: Queen Arachnia is supposed to disable the lightning shield, a force field which protects the Death Ray. When Janeway asks who's supposed to play this role, she glares as everyone looks at her. Then she allows that she is a size four, and Paris briefs her on how to vamp appropriately for Chaotica so she can get under his guard to disable the shield (use grandiose language, call him Sire, uncork her pheremones). Seven suggests enlisting the Doctor since he is a photonic life form.
Entering Chaotica's fortress, Janeway manages to evade the mad scientist's initial flirtations and steals the vial of pheremones which Arachnia gave him as a gift, but insists that Chaotica should lower the lightning shield so that her spider ships can approach. Chaotica is suspicious, but agrees to do so if Arachnia will marry him first. "The day you always dreamed of has arrived - the day you become Bride of Chaotica!" he exclaims. Outside, the Doctor - dressed in a black suit like the fifth dimension aliens - informs the intruders that he is the President of Earth, seeking an alliance against their common enemy, Chaotica. He suggests letting Captain Proton, defender of the universe and competent medic to boot, attack and destroy the death ray. The aliens agree to stop shooting.
Paris tells Kim that he wants to delete the program, ridding himself of the annoying robot which repeats everything he says. The Doc arrives to declare his success - "My performance was unimpeachable" - leading Paris to hope that Janeway is giving a command performance. Inside, the spider queen asks Chaotica to lower the lightning shield himself, since she often has to do things for herself; Chaotica assumes Arachnia regrets the incompetence of her inferiors as he does, and says he has longed for someone who could understand his problems. Janeway parries that her people have a saying: "It's lonely at the top." Yet when she grabs a ray gun to demand that Proton lower the shield, he calls her an impetuous harlot and traps her in his confinement rings.
As Chaotica shoots at Paris/Proton's ship, Voyager is pulled deeper into subspace. Janeway is bound to the wall, but Chaotica assures her that he won't kill his bride until after the wedding night. She releases the pheremones, which cause a luststruck guard to free her, begging, "Entangle me in your web!" Chaotica pleads that with her passion and strength, she could rule the universe at his side, but Janeway is only interested in making him lower the lightning shield: "I don't know how to tell you this, but the wedding's off." When the shield is down, Paris makes the Death Ray overload, trapping Chaotica in the discharge.
Chakotay informs the captain that the subspace rifts are closing and they can move in normal space, but Janeway asks him to give her a minute on the holodeck. As Paris and crew enter, Chaotica tells her that death has no hold on him, as she knows: he shall return to seek revenge. Then he dies. Janeway and her men watch the closing credits of Captain Proton on Chaotica's imagizer, but after "The End," maniacal laughter is heard and a question mark appears on the screen.
This episode was admittedly more fun than any of The Next Generation's Sherlock Holmes mysteries or Deep Space Nine's James Bond ripoffs, but the gimmick was essentially the same, and my heart sank at the end when Chaotica threatened to return. If they didn't have anything original to say with this amusing but trivial diversion, why bother to revive it? The cast appeared to be having a great time and I loved seeing Kate Mulgrew vamp. I can't decide whether I loved seeing Kathryn Janeway vamp, however. There was a time when I would have, unreservedly, but given what this captain has become, I'm still sorting out my reactions. I'm not even sure I believe Janeway CAN vamp.
Picard never chewed scenery except when he was reciting Shakespeare or the Prime Directive, which don't count. Sisko chewed scenery magnificently in Dr. Bashir, I Presume and in that episode where Dax's unstable former host Joran borrowed his body, but in both cases, he was clearly possessed. Janeway came pretty darned close to the same level of hysteria in "Persistence of Vision" before she was possessed, but I'm not sure how to take the gusto with which she threw herself into Arachnia. Was she trying to save her ship, or was she reliving her Lord Burleigh fantasies, with a man who wanted to be called Sire and made vague rape threats?
I don't like the whole idea of Captain Proton, despite the cheesy humor aspects of the Flash Gordon visuals. Why do men like Bashir and Paris and Kim, in a universe with women like Kira and Torres and Seven - whose breasts are still bigger than Miss Goodheart's - want to relive sexist old literary conventions? Kim can't wait to meet the slave girls, Paris has an adoring secretary who screams for him to rescue her. Janeway has power over Proton, but it's based on a sexuality which is not even her own - it's Arachnia's, bottled in a vial and used to drug weak-minded men. Janeway's reaction to sex - in this episode as well as in "Tuvix" - is to snap, "I beg your pardon?" at its mere suggestion. Once more, the captain can't have a sex life...if she even smells like she has a sex life, she can't be the captain. It occurs to me watching Paris' fantasies that gender roles in the 24th century are as restrictive as the 1930s. Far in the future, women are still viewed in black and white.
It's not really very funny, and moreover it's not necessary. When old movies get remade in our own century, producers generally rectify their more egregious prejudices - it's easy to dismiss that as political correctness, but P.C. would never have come into vogue if it didn't reflect the desires of the consumer audience. People have a lot less tolerance nowadays for blatant racism and cultural insensitivity, though sex roles seem to be the final frontier (hence we have a female starship captain played by a woman who says that feminism has nothing to do with Captain Janeway, or her own career). The Trek producers may believe that their audience is largely young males, but they continue to alienate a large segment of progressive-minded women who enjoy the series precisely because it does NOT have to fall into 20th century gender traps.
If Paris wants to have flashback fantasies, how about being a superhero from Space Above and Beyond? Disney took the pickaninny centaurs out of the most recent print of Fantasia, this summer's Godzilla gave women at least nominally scientific roles - what is Star Trek's excuse for not doing the equivalent, or at least permitting the women a role-reversal equivalent in which Torres plays heroine to a bunch of incompetent, screaming men? All these role-playing games make Trek's woman captain seem less and less captainlike beside traditional definitions of macho captains...well, that and the fact that Janeway either snivels or snaps at everyone in just about every episode this season. In "Bride of Chaotica," she blew off a report on the failing state of the replicators to demand a cup of coffee. I'm sure she's stressed, but how does she think her engineers who are working round the clock on the failures feel? Pardon the phrase, but this woman sounds like she needs to uncork her pheremones.
I would be remiss if I failed to note how well-constructed the '30s dialogue is, and the directing was superb. By far my favorite Captain Proton character was the robot. I think Tom should construct one of those for Voyager. Listening to it yell, "Help, help" and clang around had me in hysterics. I also adored Tuvok's response when Paris told him about the Death Ray: "It's a shame we don't have one." And the Doc's entrance line as the President of Earth: "Isn't anyone going to sing 'Hail to the Chief?' My performance was unimpeachable!" The timing of that, at least, could not have been funnier.
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.