“STAR TREK VOYAGER” Retrospective: (5.12 “Bride of Chaotica!”)
One of the aspects of ”STAR TREK VOYAGER” that I have truly enjoyed over the other ”TREK” shows were the holoprograms featured or the episodes centered in the two Holodecks. One such holo program was ”The Adventures of Captain Proton”stories created by Voyager’s Chief Pilot, Tom Paris. Captain Proton was featured in at least four episodes – three in Season Five and one in Season Seven. But without a doubt, my favorite happened to be the third Proton story titled, ”Bride of Chaotica!”.
In short, (5.12) ”Bride of Chaotica!” began when Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeil) and Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) are enjoying the latest chapter of his Captain Proton program in one of the Holodecks. They are forced to leave it running when spatial distortions trap the ship and disrupt their control over the computer. Voyager’s command staff attempted to discover a way to free the ship from the spatial distortions. Unfortunately, extra-dimensional aliens that exist in a photonic state cross over from their own dimension through a distortion located in the holodeck. They are detected and attacked by Proton’s archenemy, Dr. Chaotica (Martin Rayner), who believes them to be from the Fifth Dimension, and whose holographic (photonic) weaponry – though harmless to humans – is deadly to the aliens. Eventually, the crew discover the war being waged between Chaotica and the Fifth Dimension and must defeat him by playing out their roles as the fictional Captain Proton (played by Tom Paris), his sidekick Buster Kincaid (Harry Kim), and Arachnia, Queen of the Spider People. Paris convinced Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) to take on the latter role.
I might as well be frank. I LOVE ”Bride of Chaotica!”. I adore it. It is one of my favorite ”TREK” episodes of all time. What am I saying? It is my favorite ”TREK” episode of all time. Screenwriters Bryan Fuller (creator of ”DEAD LIKE ME” and ”PUSHING DAISIES”) and Michael Taylor created a first-rate episode filled with imagination, action and humor. Having the characters of Tom Paris’ Captain Proton holoprogram get drawn into a galactic war with an actual group of actual aliens that are photonic was a stroke of genius. And Fuller and Taylor, along with director Allan Kroeker, did an excellent job combining an original story with great characterization.
The cast was excellent, as always. Robbie McNeill and Garrett Wang revived their old magic as Tom and Harry – the two crewmembers who got more out of the Captain Proton holoprogram than anyone. Come to think of it, McNeill also managed to generate strong chemistry with Tim Russ (Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok) and Kate Mulgrew. The latter was superb as Queen Arachnia, although I think she may have been a little guilty of too much mugging, while expressing Janeway’s disregard for the Proton holoprogram. However, I loved her scene with Neelix (Ethan Phillips) that showcased Janeway’s caffine addiction. With that scene, she may have truly earned the nickname – Queen of the Delta Quadrant:
JANEWAY: “Coffee, black.”
NEELIX: “I’m sorry, Captain. We’ve lost another two replicators –”
JANEWAY: “Listen to me very carefully because I’m only going to say this once. Coffee – black.”
NEELIX: (To replicator)”Coffee, black. While I’ve got your attention there are –”
JANEWAY: (Holds up hand)”Coffee first.”(drinks/inhales)”…Now, what’s the problem?”
And then there is Dr. Chaotica, portrayed with great relish by Martin Rayner. The promise he had shown as a rich and over-the-top character in the Season Five premiere, ”Night” was fulfilled in this episode. The late Nicholas Worth ably supported both Mulgrew and Rayner as Chaotica’s ruthless, obsequious henchman, Lonzak.
As much as I love ”Bride of Chaotica!”, there is one aspect about it that disturbed me – namely the crew’s reaction to the Captain Proton hologram. It is quite apparent that they view it as nothing more than a childish piece of fiction for those of the immature mind. And it is quite apparent that they also view Tom Paris’ participation in it as childish. And they are not the only ones. I have read some reviews of the episodes. While most tend to sneer at it, along with anything labeled ”STAR TREK VOYAGER”, at least two of them did not. Julia Houston seemed to view the holoprogram not only as Tom Paris’ personal fantasy, but also as an example of his imagination. Like me, she seemed annoyed by the inability of others to appreciate Paris’ imagination . . . and his right to his own fantasy. Now Jim Wright did seem to enjoy the holoprogram and appreciate its uniqueness. But it also seemed that he viewed it as a sign of Paris’ immaturity . . . and as something that the Chief Pilot would have to give up in order to develop as an adult.
Quite frankly, I agree with Julia Houston. I was very annoyed by the other Voyager crewmen’s snobbish reaction to Captain Proton. Okay, perhaps they did not care for it very much. But was there really any need for them to openly sneer at what he considered recreation and fantasy? What law was there that Tom’s pursuit of recreation had to be culturally high-brow or meaningful? Janeway, of all people, had no business to sneer. This is a woman who had spent two seasons indulging in her Lambada One holoprogram – a ”Jane Eyre”/”Rebecca” Gothic romance. I must also admit that I was a little put-off by Jim Wright’s assumption that Tom needed to give up the Proton program in order to become more mature as an adult. To me, this attitude seemed like a clear lack of appreciation for Tom’s vivid imagination. Perhaps it was more important to him and other”VOYAGER” fans that Tom become the stand-up Starfleet officer that Owen Paris and Janeway wanted him to be. Happily, Tom never stuck to his declaration of giving up the Proton program. He and Harry were still using it in early Season Six (see”Alice”). And a late Season Seven episode called ”Homestead” revealed that Tom had created another B-movie style program called “Invaders from the Ninth Dimension.”
Personally, I like the idea that Tom Paris would eventually become that successful holonovelist sometime in his future. But in the VOYAGER relaunch novels, he became a permanent Starfleet officer, achieving the rank of Lieutenant-Commander and Voyager’s new first officer. Ugh. What a waste of a vivid imagination that created the likes of the Proton holoprograms. In real life, I would compare Tom to the likes of George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry, J. Michael Stracynski and the two writers who had created this wonderfully imaginative episode – Fuller and Taylor. A girl can imagine – can’t she?