Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Voyager 3x25 "Worst Case Scenario"

rating: ****

the story: Seska's final revenge against the crew is a booby-trapped holodeck program concerning a Maquis insurrection.

what it's all about: This is one of my favorite Voyager episodes, one of the ones I wish fans who never got what the series was all about would maybe pay more attention to.  Some fans never understood why the Maquis were able to integrate so completely into the Starfleet crew around them; this is one of the episodes that addresses this directly, and as about as cleverly as you can get.  Tuvok created a holodeck program in the early days, as the title suggests, in which the integration didn't go as well as it did in reality, to put it mildly.  Only, to make matters worse, the Maquis who did mutiny against the crew, Seska, who spent two seasons collaborating with the Kazon against it, found the program and rewrote it as a Trojan horse.  Seska in reality met her fate in the season premiere, "Basics, Part 2," but "Worst Case Scenario" is almost a better goodbye.

Seska not only embodied what the Maquis were "supposed" to do, but she was also an excellent model for why things didn't actually turn out the way fans expected.  Star Trek by definition is a hopeful concept.  It expects that the best in everyone will have a chance to surface (unless you're the villain).  The series did a pretty good job of explaining why all the key Maquis (Chakotay,B'Elanna, even Tuvok, who was quickly revealed to be a Starfleet infiltrator) were not irredeemable rebels but rather people with something that defined them other than their fight against the Cardassians.  Chakotay had dropped out of Starfleet, as had B'Elanna (in her case before completing the Academy), and both had long struggled with personal demons and alienation.  They weren't just people spoiling for a fight.  Seska, meanwhile, wasn't even the Bajoran she'd initially appeared to be, but rather a Cardassian infiltrator.

Another misfit who found his place in the crew, Tom Paris, is key to the episode working, too; the one-time Starfleet exile joins Tuvok in revisiting the program, in a turn that helped redefine the character, his interest in writing these things (later immortalized in Captain Proton's intrepid adventures) giving Paris new depth.  It gives two characters who normally didn't have much in common something to work on together.  In doing so, it pivots Seska away from Chakotay, with whom she'd been closely associated since her defection, and back to the crew at large, which is where her focus lies in the program anyway (since at the point she contrived all this, Seska was no doubt still convinced she could patch things over with Chakotay). 

It's a heck of a lot of fun to watch all this develop and play out, besides, which is one of the biggest things you need for a classic episode, which of course this one is.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - One of the all-time great holodeck episodes.
  • series - A perfect third season episode, capturing something that had made Voyager work previously and recontextualizing it.
  • character - Works extremely well for Tuvok, Paris, and Seska.
  • essential - A great way to explain the appeal of the whole series.
notable guest-stars:
Martha Hackett (Seska)

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