Live Fast and ProsperBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 10:28 PM GMT
See Also: 'Live Fast and Prosper' Episode Guide
A trio of aliens travel the Delta Quadrant pretending to be Captain Janeway, Commander Chakotay, and Commander Tuvok of the Federation starship Voyager. They know all about Voyager's technology and travels, even personal background information like Janeway's youth in Indiana. Unfortunately, they do business by pretending to be trying to help orphans and the less fortunate, offering valuable material like dilithium in exchange for less rare items like bolomite...then reneging on the deals and fleeing.
Meanwhile, Voyager has problems caused by a faulty heating coil acquired by Neelix in a trade with Sister Dala - a cleric who was trying to help orphans on a planet they stopped at a couple of weeks earlier. When a furious alien investigator castigates Janeway for claiming she was helping orphans, then ripping off his miners, the Voyager crew realizes Sister Dala has another profession.
Janeway gets Neelix to tell her about his encounter with Sister Dala, who came aboard the Delta Flyer with her associate Mobar. Dala, who seemed lovely and warm to Neelix, was excited to learn Voyager had a woman captain and wanted to know all about her. Before leaving, the clerics asked to perform a ritual blessing over the vessel. Realizing the shuttle's entire database was downloaded during that event, the captain shakes her head at gullible Paris and Neelix - once the ship's two most skilled gamblers.
While the fake crew offers to sell memberships in the Federation, Voyager tracks their ship down and has Dala beamed to the brig. Janeway offers to let Dala go free if she will make restitution to the people she has swindled, but she is unimpressed with her authentic counterpart. Then Neelix goes in with tea, explaining how being a part of Voyager has improved both his outlook and his prospects. Dala appears to be swayed, but then she fakes an injury so she can flee. She steals the real Delta Flyer, racing back to her own ship, where Mobar is in the midst of arguing with the first officer about whether they need their fake Janeway to continue their ruse.
As Dala asks her associates to lower the shields so she can beam aboard, Paris emerges from hiding on the Flyer and activates the Doctor's mobile emitter. Back on her ship, Dala says she wants to go retrieve their hidden stash of stolen goods. The alien vessel warps away, racing to the hoard, though the fake Janeway and Chakotay argue heatedly about who should be in charge of its recovery. When they arrive, Dala pulls a weapon, then hails Janeway on Voyager. Tuvok beams down and meets his duplicate, who makes a joke about the logic of a standoff...but the real Tuvok notes that the man's logic is flawed, and stuns him. With the enemy subdued, Dala transforms via holoemitter into the Doctor; the real Dala is still on the Delta Flyer with Tom Paris, who sarcastically calls her "Captain." Later Janeway reports in a log that all the stolen items have been returned, and she hopes the real Federation's reputation has not been tarnished. But Paris and Neelix worry their own reputations as grifters have been destroyed..
You know, the fun of a show about trickery is supposed to be that the viewer gets tricked too. We're supposed to be breathless with surprise when ruses within ruses are revealed - things we should have been able to figure out, but couldn't, because the writers were so darn clever.
Voyager did a silly, trite swindle story last season with "Counterpoint," in which it was all too easy to figure out that Janeway's boyfriend would turn out to be a bad guy and she would be one step ahead of him. Yet "Live Fast and Prosper" was even worse. The only surprise was the discovery that the Doctor, who cannot even make hair visible on his own head, can perfectly duplicate the appearance of an alien via his holoemitter.
And that's a real swindle - a cheap plot device requiring a break from previous canon, not even for a good reason. If the Doc could really take on the appearance of any alien or person on the crew, Voyager should have been able to send him aboard Borg vessels disguised as Janeway, or among aliens as one of their own when it was too dangerous to send a biological life-form. How cheap can you get? No wonder I found myself rooting for the fake Voyager crew.
Well, there were other reasons. I adored Dala, particularly as "Janeway." Oh, she was selfish and arrogant, but she was also tough and clever and versatile - her smile doesn't look like it's going to crack her face the way Janeway's does. And she doesn't buy into her own speeches about the nobility of the Federation when they're being used opportunistically. I howled at the discussions of her hair - first Dala yanking off a Janeway-like wig complaining about how uncomfortable it is, then the real Janeway saying "Nice hair" to Dala after her own Bad Hair Day caused by a malfunctioning sonic shower.
Tired as I am of Seven of Nine making Janeway look bad, I really enjoyed Dala's straightforward contempt - expecting the captain to be taller, saying, "I make a better you than you." Her seduction of the alien to get him to join the "Federation" - telling him he's a perfect candidate while demanding to share his resources - was just superb. The real Janeway should have tried that approach with Kulluh and the Kazon.
The actress playing Dala did a superb job sounding like Janeway even though she doesn't look like her, and the actor playing Mobar could do Tim Russ' voice in dubbing. The fake first officer, on the other hand, didn't sound a thing like Robert Beltran...but what personality! This guy is the diametric opposite of Chakotay, challenging his captain at every turn, reminding her they started out as equals, doubting that she really has his best interests at heart. If he'd made a move a moment faster, he could have shot Doc-as-Dala-as-Janeway and ruined all of Voyager's plans.
It might be in the real, smug, eye-rolling Janeway's best interests to recruit a first officer like that. Someone has to start keeping Voyager's crew on their toes.
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.