Mark Watches ‘Voyager’: S02E13 – Prototype

In the thirteenth episode of the second season of Voyager, THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Gods, what a fascinating episode. THIS IS A JOURNEY, Y’ALL. I’m still in awe at how far the script goes in just forty minutes. This used to be an adorable episode about scientific curiosity and B’Elanna’s need to activate a mysterious robot and then ROBOT CIVIL WARS and KIDNAPPING and DEATH THREATS and WHAT DID THIS TURN INTO.

A goddamn spectacle, that’s what. When the Voyager team finds a robot floating in space, “Prototype” focuses entirely on one person: B’Elanna Torres. Her curiosity and interest fuels this whole thing, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. I swear, few things on Voyager make me happier than watching B’Elanna’s infectious excitement. Whenever she gets obsessed with something, her whole face lights up, and she bounces around the ship. I WANT THIS KIND OF ENERGY IN MY LIFE. Despite the apparent impossibility of the task before her, B’Elanna refuses to give up on this project of hers. I LOVE IT. I LOVE WHAT IT REPRESENTS. I LOVE THAT THIS SHOW GIVES B’ELANNA A STORY SO COMPLEX AND MEANINGFUL.

And seriously, it’s like every plot twist is another reminder that we have no clue what this show is willing to do to us. I had a sneaking suspicion that the robot was floating out in space for a reason, and I can’t believe I was technically right about that. The story is pitched into such a sad direction, though, once 3947 is awakened, and that’s why I forgot that I’d been wary about them. Initially, I balked at the assertion that helping these robots with their dying power source was a violation of the Prime Directive. How could that be considered a bad thing? They requested help! Plus, how could machines evolve? It didn’t make any sense to me. But as Janeway argued her point – namely that the Voyager crew had no business helping the robots and then leaving the very same part of space that would be most affected by what they’ve done – I gradually accepted that she was right. It was distressing, especially since 3947 was so sincere in their need for help.

AND THEN 3947 KIDNAPS B’ELANNA AND THREATENS TO DESTROY THE VOYAGER AND THIS IS NOT THE SAME EPISODE IT STARTED OUT AS. Every shred of cuteness or solidarity is obliterated in the span of five minutes, and ”Prototype” feels much more like a horror movie than anything else. THESE ROBOTS WERE NOT BUILT TO BE SERVANTS BUT AGENTS OF WAR. Do we realize their full potential even after B’Elanna is kidnapped? Nope. And in yet another distracting sequence, I am lulled into feeling good about the work B’Elanna does to create an interchangeable power source for the robots. It’s hard not to experience this emotion watching B’Elanna work, y’all! She’s just such an incredible source of joy! She’s resilient, and her refusal to thrown in the towel here REPEATEDLY is admirable.

Which is why the ending is so tragic. B’Elanna creates something incredible here, and right after she does, she learns that the two societies who built the robots went to war, made a truce with each other, AND THEN WERE MURDERED BY THEIR ROBOT SERVANTS/TROOPS BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T WANT TO BE DEACTIVATED. !!!!!! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THIS SHOW (It’s everything.) Thus, B’Elanna knows she cannot allow her creation to exist beyond her. She has every right to be proud of this creation, but she has to destroy it or she’ll be contributing to the continuation of this horrific war that they all get trapped into.

I can barely believe how heavy this episode got, y’all. It’s so innocent at first! I was filled with so much excitement! And then these creepy robots ruined everything. Let this stand as a lesson: if eerie, buff robots ask you to help them, TURN THEM DOWN.

The video for “Prototype” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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