Scientific Method

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 3:15 PM GMT

See Also: 'Scientific Method' Episode Guide

When Tom sneaks off duty for a smooch with B'Elanna, they both have the feeling they're being watched. Meanwhile, Janeway's in sickbay with a headache, whining that work is getting to her. She snarls at the lieutenants for their public displays of affection and leaves Chakotay in charge, but then he gets the shakes and his hair starts falling out. A DNA scan tells the Doctor that they're dealing with something pretty insidious.

Though the Doctor is incapacitated by the aliens and hides on the holodeck, he is able to adapt Seven's Borg visual input device so that she can trace the unusual energy readings he's detected emanating from the afflicted DNA. She sees aliens all over the ship, conducting experiments on the crew. When she tries to stop them using the ships EPS power relays, her work attracts the attention of Tuvok; she shoots one of the aliens with a modified phaser so that everyone can see the invaders.

Janeway learns that the aliens are using the crew as lab rats for their own medical benefit, and flies the ship between binary pulsars to scare the aliens into departing. They flee, Voyager survives the gravity well, and Paris and Torres giggle about the possibility that their entire relationship could have been triggered by alien intervention. They decide to pursue it anyway.


"Scientific Method" is certainly in good company. It's one of those Trek episodes where nasty aliens manipulate the crew in the name of scientific experimentation, like TOS's "The Empath" or TNG's "Where Silence Has Lease" or Voyager's "Faces." It also involved an invisible threat which altered people's personalities and perceptions, like TOS's "Day of the Dove" or TNG's "Schisms" or DS9's "Dramatis Personae" or Voyager's "Persistence of Vision." Seven got to use her nifty technology to see things no one else could, like Data did in "Phantasms," and Janeway got to threaten to fly the ship into a star, like Kirk did in "Operation: Annihilate"...

Have I made it clear yet that "Scientific Method" is so derivative as to be utterly uninteresting, other than from a perverse desire to see what nasty things would happen next? The directing made good use of the sets and lighting, the effects were interesting (though not as much fun as having a crewmember turn into a cake), and the costumes and makeup were sublime - I particularly liked seeing the Doctor in leggings, not to mention Janeway in a towel. And it was a relief to know that Paris and Torres were not kissing openmouthed, as the mid-osculatory alien x-ray proved. But the plot...well, it was drivel.

Like Tom said, maybe the aliens tricked himself and B'Elanna into making out in public...but maybe they wanted to all along, considering that they practically did the same thing the first time they kissed. So maybe the evil aliens turned Janeway into a shrew with a nasty case of PMS...but considering that she acted similarly in "Persistence of Vision," maybe it's the show's writers who did that to her. They're obviously worried enough about her gender being a problem that they won't let her have a love life; when are they going to realize that they can't keep making her look incompetent, even if they can blame the aliens who take over her ship or her brain, if they want people to take her seriously in command? I'm starting to think that hysteria's her true personality, once that wall of repression comes crashing down. My favorite moment in the whole episode was when she growled to Tuvok that crewmembers were spending too much time on the holodeck, then, in the next breath, announced that she wanted a vacation there.

That's our Kathryn, demanding that everyone else give 110%, yet insisting that she needs to hide herself in ancient history for some down time. I was actually glad to witness Janeway's torture - at least she had an excuse for losing control this week! She tortures herself enough that I have to believe she enjoys it. She tests her own tolerance for misery all the time, refusing to bond with her crew, getting backrubs from her EMH instead of her Angry Warrior. She was reasonably tough gambling all their lives on a game of intergalactic chicken, but we've seen Kirk and Picard make similar decisions without having to be half-crazed. This woman scares me - I expect her to crack up at any moment, given the position the writers have put her in. And that makes me furious. If they can't give her a life, can't they at least give her a break?

In this episode, the fearless first officer was mostly wasted on dreadful comic relief which reflected the ageism of the series; no one in that universe is allowed to have decalcified bones or spotted skin, they're supposed to be lovely like Seven of Nine. Seven was not only curvaceous but quite good here, as she has been all season, but I am starting to resent the fact that she seems to have gotten all the brains and control which Janeway and Torres have lost, not to mention the Special Power which enables her to save the ship, just like Kes in "Persistence of Vision." I realize that Seven's the hot new babe whose body brings in the ratings, but (I reiterate for the hundredth time) I miss the old characters, and I suspect that not even Seven's figure will keep viewers watching without strong stories.

Next week's episode (note the time change, UPN viewers: Voyager's on at 8 p.m. EST from now on) is called "The Year Of Hell, Part One." I am trying to refrain from making a joke about how that phrase could describe the past year watching this series. Still, since this sweeps month two-parter is about aliens who use temporal manipulation to wipe out entire timelines - the same people from last season's "Before and After" - maybe they can wipe out certain bad episodes, and Janeway can wake up with Chakotay in her bathtub or something.

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.