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Star Trek: Voyager – Alice (Review)

Alice is a misfire.

To be fair, the episode seemed doomed from its original set of premises. Star Trek: Voyager has never been particularly good at capturing the sense of Tom Paris as a restless unreliable rebel. The episodes of Voyager focusing on the character’s rebellious tendencies tend to be spectacular misfires; Ex Post Facto, Investigations, Vis à Vis, Thirty Days. These stories do not play to the strengths of either the writing staff or Robert Duncan McNeill, feeling largely incompatible with the character of Tom Paris as he developed in the wake of Caretaker.

I’ll never get used to not living inside of Alice.

However, Alice literally weds this familiar and unsuccessful premise to another recurring Voyager trope with a less-than-impressive rate of success. It is not enough for Alice to be another story about Tom Paris proving that he has a rebellious streak, that premise has to be woven into a broad science-fiction gothic horror in the style of Threshold or Macrocosm. Indeed, Alice is explicitly a psycho-sexual horror in the mode of Blood Fever or Darkling, inevitably butting up against the difficulties of constructing an episode that is about sex but can never discuss sex.

Alice is flawed from the ground-up, but those flaws are only further revealed in the clumsy execution and the disappointing storytelling. Alice is a very bad piece of television.

A deep-space dust-up.

It seems oddly appropriate that the sixth season of Voyager should grind to a halt with Alice, an episode about an evasive and manoeuvrable alien ship. Drafted back on to the show following the departure of Ronald D. Moore, Kenneth Biller confessed his disappointment to Cinefantastique:

Alice was something we had to whip into shape pretty quickly to fill a gap that we had. I didn’t think the episode came out very well. I think it was probably one of the worst of the year. Somehow in the production and the casting and the mounting of the episode, it got, I thought, very silly and broad.

In essence, it seems like the production difficulties that haunted the first four episodes of the season have finally caught up with Voyager. It seems remarkable that the sixth season of Voyager had taken this long to fall to pieces, considering the drama that had unfolded behind the scenes.

Pilot error.

The writing staff had coasted off the momentum of Equinox, Part I into Equinox, Part II, used Ronald D. Moore’s script to Survival Instinct, gotten lucky with Bryan Fuller’s script to Moore’s original story for Barge of the Dead and watched Joe Menosky hit a home run with Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy. These four episodes represent a fairly reasonable start to a season; Equinox, Part II is severely underwhelming given the premise, but Survival Instinct hints at a fresh approach to Voyager and Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy is a standalone classic.

Behind the scenes, there was chaos. Every season of Voyager seems to be defined by its own behind the scenes trauma, and the sixth season was marked by the arrival and sudden departure of Ronald D. Moore. A veteran of both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Moore was one of the most respected writers in Star Trek history. However, he left under a cloud very shortly after writing his first script and only a few weeks after the broadcast of What You Leave Behind.

Well, that’s not ominous at all.

As a result, Voyager was left scrambling to pick up the pieces. Kenneth Biller had departed Voyager at the end of the fifth season, but suddenly found himself being pulled back into the show after Moore’s departure. As Biller explained to The Fifty-Year Mission, the whole dynamic was awkward:

When Brannon took over the show, that was a little tricky for me, because he and I had very much been colleagues and friends and suddenly he was my boss and he had a very different style. He hadn’t really done it before, and that was a little tough. Then at the end of season five, I actually left the show, because they brought Ron in, basically above me. They didn’t fire me, but they didn’t come at me and offer me a big new contract. And, to be perfectly honest with you, I think I felt at the time like I was ready to do something else.

This has nothing to do with Ron, but I took a certain amount of pleasure in the fact that Rick called me, and asked me to come back and offered to make me an executive producer. They promised me that if I did this together with Brannon for season six, that I would get to be the guy in charge in season seven. And that turned out to be true. They honoured that.

By the time I got there, they were way, way behind. After the whole Ron debacle, they basically wanted me to come in and try to very quickly get more stories broken. So I had to put my head down and create a writers’ schedule and get everybody going.

A lot of early and mid sixth season episodes have this feeling of being rushed, as if the production team are desperately clutching at story ideas in order to get something in front of the cameras before the shoot is scheduled to begin; Alice, Riddles, One Small Step and Fair Haven.

Selling with wild Abaddon.

Alice is perhaps the most glaring of these examples, because it is the most transparently ridiculous. Although the episode inevitably couches its premise in technobabble and pseudo-science, Alice is essentially a psychological horror story about a haunted shuttle craft. In fact, the episode even uses a sharp cut to emphasise how absurd all of this is; the sequence cuts from Abaddon agreeing to provide information about the shuttle to Tuvok offering the Vulcan equivalent of a spit-take. “Haunted?” he asks, seemingly repeating a line so ridiculous that the episode kept it off-screen.

Of course, there is certainly room for a story about a haunted ship in the Star Trek canon. The franchise has a long history of constructing pseudo-horror stories, dating back to the original sixties series. The Man Trap was effectively about a vampire in space, while The Squire of Gothos rejoiced in its gothic trappings. Catspaw opened the second season of the original series with what amounted to a Halloween Special. Wolf in the Fold pit the crew against a disembodied Jack the Ripper. That Which Survives is an eerie siren story in a cold universe.

Charting a familiar course.

The Berman era toned down these horror elements, but writers like Brannon Braga and Bryan Fuller embraced the possibilities of the franchise for horror stories; Schisms, GenesisSub Rosa, Eye of the Beholder, The Darkness and the Light, Empok Nor. Of course, some of these horror-flavoured Star Trek stories were remarkably effective. Regeneration and Impulse are among the best episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise, and both are effectively space-age technology-driven zombie stories. However, these stories were occasionally prone to misfire in a spectacular fashion.

Still, Alice seems like the kind of story that would inevitably result from Bryan Fuller writing Voyager under the supervision of Brannon Braga. It is a gothic horror story about a man who is seduced by a ghost, even if the overtly supernatural elements are couched in familiar Star Trek pseudo-science. To be fair to, Alice at least avoids overly rationalising its surreal elements. The ship is shown to have manipulated the brain chemistry of both Paris and Abaddon, rationalising their obsession; but the script suggests that the ship is not merely technology run amok.

Not too particular about how she gets home.

It would be easy enough to rationalise the entity at the heart of Alice as a piece of technology run amok. The techno-zombie Borg were still horrifying in Q Who?, even if they were the result of cybernetic engineering. The uncanny invading androids in What Are Little Girls Made Of? were still unsettling despite being rationalised as the product of a long-extinct technologically-advanced civilisation. However, Alice maintains some sense of mystery about the object at the heart of the story, suggesting it exists beyond even the expansive twenty-fourth century human experience.

Indeed, it could be argued that the sixth season of Voyager has firmly embraced the idea of deep space exploration as mundane, perhaps reflecting a deep exhaustion with the burden of having told hundreds of Star Trek stories on a weekly basis for over a decade. Space appears mundane. Earlier seasons of Voyager introduced exotic aliens like the problem Kazon, the grotesque Vidiians, the big game hunting Hirogen and the reckless polluting Malon. In contrast, the sixth season of Voyager half-heartedly introduces the Vaadwaur in Dragon’s Teeth, but does nothing with them.

Crystal clear.

Instead, the sixth season of Voyager seems to fixate on threats mundane and irritating – as if to suggest that these are the low-key problems that any long-range space ship must confront. Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy introduces one of Voyager‘s last recurring alien threats in the Hierarchy, a race of unimaginative and voyeuristic bureaucrats. Live Fast and Prosper found the crew dealing with identity theft. Even Alice introduces Abaddon as a used car salesman in space. By the sixth season of Voyager, the Delta Quadrant seems populated by mild irritants rather than genuine threats.

That said, the eponymous entity in Alice comes from “beyond”, but not in any truly supernatural sense; Alice suggests that the creature somehow originated on the other side of a “particle fountain.” It is a refugee from a place where no man has gone before. Alice is never particularly specific about the ship, and that is probably for the best; it is not clear if the creature was build or born on the other side of the astral phenomenon, nor is it articulate how came to be stranded so far from “home.” The creature is a projection and manifestation, the implication that the ship itself is just a shell.

Fair trade.

There is something interesting in this idea, in the small hints peppered through the episode that the eponymous creature does not conform to human understandings of the universe – that it is some sort of vague Lovecraftian horror that just happens to resemble a shuttle craft. However, this uncanny quality is never properly developed. Alice could do better to play up the more uncanny aspects of the eponymous creature. It might not actually be a shuttle craft, but it looks and feels enough like a shuttle craft that it never seems new or compelling.

Although Alice repeatedly hints at something otherworldly about the ship, the narrative language employed is fairly rote. Voyager is a show with a holographic regular character, so a simulated embodiment of an external consciousness is a stock trope; episodes like Projections and Revulsion offer a more compelling and unsettling depiction of such projections as inherently “other.” Similarly, Paris’ new jumpsuit doesn’t look like anything particularly strange, given the franchise’s costuming.

“Look, only Seven gets to wear a custom shiny uniform.”

The fusion of man and machine at the climax of Alice is clearly meant to be unsettling, but instead feels almost tame. The image of Paris wired into the ship feels fairly conventional compared to the sorts of interfacing employed by Borg assimilation in Star Trek: First Contact, a comparison invited by Paris’ passive-aggressive reference to “the merging of man and machine” in conversation with Seven of Nine. It certainly seems less intensive than the merging endured by Geordi LaForge in episodes like Mind’s Eye or Interface.

The horror in Alice is too familiar to be terrifying. These sense of familiarity is compounded by what amounts to a direct lift of the plot from Stephen King’s eighties novel Christine, one of the author’s more (in)famous horror stories. Christine is the story of a haunted car that effectively manipulates and alters its own, a brutal commentary on masculinity and misogyny that remains on of King’s most notable and controversial works. The novel was adapted by John Carpenter in the same year that it was published, and has been cited as a major influence on a number of horror stories since.

“My safe word is ‘bonanza’.”

The production team acknowledged the similarities between Alice and Christine, right down to the female title that doubles as a name for the vehicle at the centre of the story. Bryan Fuller conceded to Cinefantastique:

Alice was my least favorite episode this season. Usually when we do an episode that’s an homage to another work — Christine — you make it your own, to keep the audience guessing. We did too direct of a translation. I thought Mike and I wrote the story as well as could be, but the story wasn’t that compelling.

Fuller is both right and wrong when it comes to honing in on the flaws with Alice as a space-aged adaptation of Christine. The story is far too familiar to be surprising, but Voyager also imposes limitations on its storytelling that pushed the bolder ideas of Christine outside of the episode’s grasp.

“Personally, I would have gone with The Shining myself.”

There is nothing wrong with using Star Trek to reimagine a familiar story. The franchise is full of these obvious lifts and references, to both classic and modern stories. There is an entire subgenre of “Star Trek stories based on Moby Dick” that includes Obsession, The Doomsday Machine, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Silicon Avatar and Bliss, among others. There is even a subgenre of “Star Trek stories based on The Wrath of Khan”, including Year of Hell, Part I, Year of Hell, Part II, First Contact, Equinox, Part II, Borderland, Cold Station 12 and The Augments.

In fact, Voyager is just bouncing off its own homage to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy. Indeed, Voyager is arguably better suited to adapt Christine than almost any other Stephen King story, because King’s “haunted car” narrative is built around a set of iconography that feels very comfortable and familiar to Voyager. Mid-twentieth-century nostalgia and masculinity are recurring themes in the work of Stephen King, but rarely as concentrated and overtly as in Christine.

We’re past this.

As Edward Madden argues in Girls Are Cars, it is almost impossible to separate Christine from the world in which it is set:

Stephen King’s 1983 horror novel Christine (as well as John Carpenter’s movie of the same name) is a curious amalgamation of so many stories we’ve heard before: the 1950s teen romance, the male coming-of-age narrative, the myth of the evil machine. It’s Pygmalion and Carrie and Frankenstein and American Graffiti all rolled into one narrative vehicle. Further, it’s a novel of nostalgia for a powerful American past and a novel marking the death of the American romance with the automobile, itself emblematic of American power and progress in 1950s postwar culture. The novel, in fact, seems a perverse echo of the nostalgic television series Happy Days. The names of the show’s lead character and soda shop proprietor, Richie Cunningham and Arnold respectively, are combined in the name of the novel’s main character, Arnold Richard Cunningham.

More than any other Star Trek series, including the original, Voyager is anchored in that fifties post-war haze. It is a show about journeying backwards, towards a nostalgic idea of “home.”

“Wait, this isn’t a soda fountain!”

This can be seen in a number of ways, from the wild west dynamics established by Caretaker to the recurring fascination with the Second World War. The Holocaust informs episodes like Phage, Faces, Remember and Memorial. The atomic bomb looms large in the background of Jetrel, The Omega Directive and Warhead. Tom Paris in particular is a vehicle for this nostalgia; consider his holographic date night in Lifesigns, the adventures of Captain Proton in Night, the retro 3D cinema in Repression.

As such, it makes sense that Paris would be at the centre of a story that exists to homage a story so firmly rooted in the fifties. The jumpsuit that Paris wears in Alice seems designed to evoke the overalls that the character wore in the holodeck “grease monkey” program in Vis à Vis. Even the eponymous space craft seems to evoke a very chaste and conservative fifties sexuality; the embodiment of the craft wears its hear neatly, the grey jumpsuit much less sexualised than that worn by Seven of Nine.

A torrid Torres love affair.

Of course, this is where Alice really runs into trouble, because there are limits to how faithfully the writing team can adapt a story like Christine. After all, Christine is not just a story about a murderous car, it is also a story about masculinity and about sex. This is obvious at several points in the narrative, but most obvious in how King describes the process of working on the car:

Inside, the world was full of the echoey, evocative bang of tools and the sound of men working on cars and hollering profanity at the rolling iron they were working on. Always the profanity, and always female in gender: come offa there you b!tch, come loose, you c%nt, come on over here, Rick, and help me get this tw@t off.

In the world of Christine, the act of fixing up a car is anchored in very masculine and misogynist imagery, something akin to a sexual assault in which men participated eagerly and almost cathartically. There are points in Christine where the inside of the car is almost likened to a vagina; warm, comforting, comfortable.

“It’ll be a tight squeeze.”
“Oh, Tom.”

It is worth comparing King’s description of the refit in Christine to the way in which the camera depicts Paris’ work in Alice. Despite the fact that even the most naive audience member understands that the shuttle will augur nothing good, Alice treats the obligatory “fix her up” montage as something disarmingly wholesome. There is an earnestness to the sequence, with Paris wiping dust of the window and running some sort de-rust-ify-ing machine over the hull while David Bell stops just short of putting whistling music on the soundtrack.

Alice simply cannot commit to the subversiveness inherent in Christine. Even if it could, Robert Duncan McNeill was never going to be an actor able to properly convey the necessary perversion. McNeill has acknowledged his frustration with the stock “bad boy Paris” plot beats in episodes like Ex Post Facto or Investigations, preferring a more mature and grounded approach to the character. The actor was never going to be willing nor able to properly convey that his character might want to have sexual intercourse with a shuttle craft.

Their relationship is toast.

Christine remains a deeply controversial part of the King canon, with critics arguing over whether the book is intended as a criticism of misogyny or as a straightforward example of it. However the reader decided to assess the narrative, sex is an undeniable force within the narrative. As Tony Magistrale argues in The Moral Voyages of Stephen King:

Christine, like the fog in “Strawberry Spring”, uses a disarming sexuality to entrap her men. This novel is built upon the fundamental masculine distrust of femininity. Christine is a male version of the American female as she is frequently portrayed in films and magazines: the Vamp – sexually alluring but nonetheless treacherous. Christine echoes the love/hate relationship that men have always had with women: “Oh he lover her and loathed her, he hated her and cherished her, he needed her and needed to run from her, she was his and he was hers…”

King ties up the horror of Christine in ideas of toxic masculinity and warped sexuality, which serves to give the horror a very potent subtext. Alice pitches as such a linear and direct translation of Christine that it cannot avoid these themes.

“Could you give us a moment alone?”

However, put simply, Alice cannot indulges these themes either. The Berman era of Star Trek is generally quite chaste. For all that Voyager might put Seven of Nine in a skintight catsuit, it has often awkwardly stumbled around the discussion of sex and sexuality. Episodes like Blood Fever and Darkling are prime examples of this, with the show sublimating sexual desire into brutal violence or grotesque horror, rather than tackling the idea directly. The result is that sexuality on Voyager can often seem quite juvenile and crass, as in Warlord or Revulsion.

To be fair to Voyager, this is not a problem unique to this series. Deep Space Nine was much more progressive and open-minded when it came to sex and sexuality, as demonstrated by episodes like Rejoined or Chimera. However, Deep Space Nine also suffered from a very juvenile attitude towards unconventional sexual politics; the series’ biggest misfires included Let He Who Is Without Sin…, Profit and Lace and The Emperor’s New Cloak. Nevertheless, Voyager was especially ill-suited to constructing a weird sexualised horror story.

A close shave.

Alice alludes to the idea of sex and sexuality in a very coy manner, populating the script with innuendos and winking lines. “I hear you’ve been sleeping here,” Torres remarks at one point. Paris responds, “When Alice lets me sleep.” When Kim discovers that Paris is wearing a strange jumpsuit, Paris explains, “This is a flight suit design I found in Alice’s database. Something her last pilot used to wear.” It feels almost like a kinky ritual.

Then, of course, there is this exchange as Paris tries to pilot Alice towards the “particle fountain”, but which reads like awkward Star Trek themed sexual roleplay. “I knew you were the one,” Alice tells Paris. “No one’s ever got me this close before.” Paris responds, “I’ll have you home in just a few minutes.” Alice assures him, “I promise you won’t be disappointed.” Sadly, neither Robert Duncan McNeill nor Claire Rankin commit to the obvious breatheless cybersex subtext to all this, so the deliver is disappointingly flat. Not a single photon heaves in an-tici-pation.

You leave me breathless.

Alice is afraid to embrace the pulpy absurdity of a space-age twist on David Cronenberg’s Crash. This is obvious in the way the episode skirts around the identity of its secondary character. If Alice is a story about Paris’ lust for some deep-space action, then the logical secondary character should be B’Elanna Torres. After all, Paris and Torres are in the show’s longest lasting relationship, and shifting emphasis to Torres as a major secondary character would underscore the idea that the alien ship is a rival for her affections.

Alice teases this idea. Paris and Torres fight inside the ship, suggesting deep-seated tension. Torres jokes about being “jealous” of the new ship, and talks with Kim about her boyfriend’s wandering eye. Ultimately, the ship attempts to suffocate Torres, an act with obvious sexual undertones. However, Alice is careful to keep Torres in the background of the episode, perhaps reflecting the production team’s general ambivalence towards the relationship. Notably, Torres does not appear until one third of the way through the episode, at which point the plot is already underway.

“I keep telling you, we’re totally photonic. I mean, platonic.”

Interestingly enough, the first character that Paris spurns for the shuttle is not B’Elanna Torres, but Harry Kim. The pair have an appointment in the holodeck, which Paris forgets about. There is something potentially cheeky and subversive in this – in the idea Paris’ most sexually-charged relationship on the ship might be with Kim. Indeed, the episode even suggests that Paris and Kim might be sublimating something into their holodeck activities. Their scheduled episode is “The Web of Pain”, suggesting some bondage with the feisty femme Queen Arachnia. “Give the queen my regards,” Paris tells Kim.

Of course, Voyager cannot possibly explore this angle. There is an interesting story to be told about Kim (rather than Torres) becoming jealous of Paris’ pseudo-romantic involvement with the shuttle, an exploration of the awkwardness that men feel about expressing emotions to one another inside the framework of modern masculinity. However, Alice quickly shuffles Kim out of focus in the second half of the episode. The primary reason for focusing on Kim early in the episode seems to be solely so that Alice does not have to contextualise this story in terms of Paris and Torres.

Body work.

Alice tries to diffuse the obvious sexual subtext of Paris’ relationship with the shuttle by suggesting that the ship is a rival for Paris’ familial love for his crewmates rather than for Paris’ sexual attraction to Torres. “I’ve spent the last six years with these people,” Paris states. “They’re like my family” Alice responds, “Sometimes you have to leave your family behind. They’re not like us. They’re trapped by rules and regulations. Velocity, freedom. They’ll never understand these things the way we do.”

There is some logic to this. Paris has always seemed more comfortable as asexual middle-aged man than as a rebel without a cause, reflecting both McNeill’s performance style and the writers’ interests. Paris’ interest in twentieth century pop culture has always been that of a nostalgic collector rather than a wayward teenager, and so it makes sense that Alice would present the lure of the eponymous shuttle as something approaching a mid-life crisis; Paris is a middle-aged man considering ditching his family for a Ferrari.

Deal with it.

There are several problems with this angle on Alice. The most obvious is that Voyager has already told this story about Tom Paris in Vis à Vis and Thirty Days, and those stories were already less than impressive. Voyager has abandoned any sense of long-term character development for the cast, and so it feels like the episodes focusing on the supporting ensemble are just retreading the same old ground. Paris is less affected than Torres, whose primary character plot seems to amount to “… is angry.” This plot drove Parallax, Faces, Random Thoughts, Extreme Risk, Juggernaut and Barge of the Dead.

There is simply nothing new or interesting in Alice, which is strange in an episode with a premise as delightfully gonzo. The concept at the heart of the story might be strange, but the actual trappings and the overall arc are both achingly familiar. Alice is afraid to get weird in the way that its basic premise demands, and instead insists on grafting a familiar story atop the more outlandish central conceit. This issue is compounded by the fact that this particular story had already been employed twice over the previous two seasons and had never produced a good episode of television.

Shuttlepod made for two.

There are other issues with Alice‘s evasion of the sexual subtext at heart of Christine and its focus on a more chaste familial dynamic. Most notably, the episode’s insistently wholesome aesthetic means that the dynamics involving the central ship often feel like outdated and sexist depictions of marriage. While critics might debate whether Christine is an example or an exploration of misogyny, the novel at least interrogated certain forms of toxic masculinity. In contrast, Alice plays various gendered and stereotyped depictions of marriage incredibly straight.

This is most notable in the sequence where Abaddon sells the shuttle to Paris. The sequence is framed in such a way as to play up the idea of the craft as a feminine object of Paris’ affection. On seeing the ship in the scrap heap, he gawks, “Look at those lines. It’s a work of art. That ship wasn’t assembled, it was sculpted. I think I’m in love.” In this scenario, Abaddon is cast as the potential father in law managing the dowry. “She doesn’t like being manhandled,” Abaddon warns Paris. Neelix responds, “Temperamental?” Abaddon corrects him, “Sensitive.”

Ladz bantz.

Abaddon elaborates, “She demands respect, like any fine piece of machinery.” Paris interjects, “Sounds like you’re sorry to let her go.” Abaddon acknowledges the subtext of the conversation, “Well, in some ways she’s like the daughter I couldn’t marry off. But that doesn’t mean I’d trade her to just anyone. I’ve got a feeling you’re the kind of pilot that she needs. Someone that’ll give her the proper care and attention.” Paris promises, “I’m your man.” However, none of this is particularly insightful or incisive, it is just an extended gag about how temperamental sensitive women are.

There is something deeply uncomfortable in this snickering “isn’t that just like marriage?” dialogue, which seems completely uncritical of the idea that Abaddon and Paris are trading in what is revealed to be a sentient ship – an indifference that Alice skirts around first by revealing that the ship is eeevil and subsequently by revealing the ship has actually been controlling Abaddon all along. Nevertheless, Paris is never even slightly troubled by the idea that he has been trading in a sentient entity and redesigning it for his own pleasure and amusement.

Robert Duncan McNeill had an… extreme reaction tot he script.

Indeed, Alice unironically plays into the idea of the eponymous ship as a particularly horrific stereotype of a possessive girlfriend. The eponymous ship seduces Paris, literally summoning him to the shuttle bay late at night in a sequence framed so as to leave what happens ambiguous. She manipulates Paris and bullies him, teasing him and controlling him. She turns him against his family, becoming a wedge between Paris and people who really care about him. The eponymous ship is a crass and misogynist stereotype that feels like the bitter rant of a jilted lover.

Then again, Voyager hardly has the most progressive feminism bona fides, despite featuring the franchise’s first female lead character. The show was indifferent to Neelix’s abusive and possessive behaviour towards Kes in episodes like Phage, Twisted and Parturition. During the third season, male crew members assaulted Torres in no fewer than three back-to-back episodes without facing any repercussions – Blood Fever, Unity and Darkling. This is to say nothing of the sexualisation of Seven of Nine that began with The Gift.

“Prepare for docking.”

It seems too much to hope that Alice might be able to carry over some of the explorations of toxic masculinity from Christine, given the combination of existing broadcast standards, the awkwardness of dealing with sex on Berman era Star Trek and the difficulties that Voyager had dealing with its primary female cast. Still, the result is frustrating. Alice ends up embracing a lot of the macho culture with which Christine at least engaged. The eponymous ship is cast as a seductive homewrecking minx, examined gendered stereotypes built off ideas of male ownership.

Alice is a serious misfire, all the more dissatisfying for the gonzo potential of its core premise. Alice is a story in which a regular character gets pulled into an affair with a sentient shuttle. It might be many things, but it certainly shouldn’t be boring.

4 Responses

  1. I still don’t understand why Alice couldn’t engage the autopilot and fly into the particle fountain herself. And why does the ship explode when it veers slightly of use? Did she self-destruct or did the fountain destroy her ship when it sensed a human pilot was no longer on board? Even the Wiki doesn’t answer this.

    What a flimsy ending to hang an episode on.

    • *slightly off course

    • I think there is some handwave justification that the anomaly cannot be navigated by computer but needs human instincts. Just don’t ask how the human brain can process information faster and clearer than a computer.

  2. I am almost surprised Stephen King or his publisher didn’t sue Paramount for this episode. The parallels are so screamingly obvious.

    I definitely see Braga’s hand in the rewrite of this script, with the bondage and femdom aspects ratcheted up, perhaps partly to compensate for the lack of actual sexuality they were allowed to show. We have another femme fatale – another machine/hybrid woman – like Seven, Queen Arachnea, the women on Favorite Son, etc. etc.

    One wonders how many people had a bdsm/dominatrix fetish awakened at a subliminal level by watching Voyager as a teen or pre-teen. (I have to wonder if it affect me even, since I would have been the prime age for it.)

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