Mark Watches ‘Voyager’: S03E22 – Real Life

In the twenty-second episode of the third season of Voyager, what the fuck. WHAT THE FUCK, VOYAGER. If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of death, death of a child.


Look, I gotta hand it to Voyager. I didn’t expect them to take this as far as they did. It’s a bold choice for the Doctor, but I appreciate the commitment to the premise. If the Doctor wanted to understand what it meant to be part of a family? What would that entail?

Strife, conflict, and DEATH.

Look, it’s understandable that I expected this to be a lighter episode. The initial sequences that we got of the Doctor’s life with his holographic family were hilarious. Initially, it’s like some horrible Stepford Wives parody. Each member of the Doctor’s family is designed to provide the maximum amount of support and happiness, and there is a distinct lack of any conflict. Now, it made a lot of sense to me that the Doctor wouldn’t even consider this; a family was a fantasy to him, so he created a fantasy. What other context did he have for one? Plus, his intention was pure: he wanted to be a good father, and thus, he created a family that allowed him to utilize his best qualities. He could mentor his children as they became genius students. His wife lectured at a university. Everyone was super smart and nice and, if I may be so bold, stroked the Doctor’s ego in just the right way.

Which makes me wonder: WHAT WAS B’ELANNA’S HOME LIFE LIKE. I REALLY WANT TO KNOW. She was furious that the Doctor’s family was so saccharine and sweet, and when she helped re-program it to be more realistic? CHAOS. BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL CHAOS. That whole sequence was one of the funniest things that Voyager has ever done. Shrieking children! Disobedient, Klingon-punk sons! Irresponsible daughters! IT WAS SO PERFECT, an incredible way to demonstrate the unpredictability of family life, which destroyed the Doctor’s notion that he could properly prepare in a ay to eliminate conflict. As Tom later put it, the Doctor viewed his family as a patient to be treated.

Of course, that’s not how families work. It took me until it was spelled out to understand that Tom’s role here was to provide another real-world parallel to what the Doctor was experiencing. You can’t control people, or at least you shouldn’t try to do so. Humans are complicated and layered and unpredictable by nature. The problem is that the Doctor tried to impose a rigid organizational framework to the life of his family, all without consulting them, and it completely backfired. Yet even then? He still got to experience the wonder of forgiveness, love, and understanding.

AND THEN EVERYTHING TURNS TO DUST AND THIS SHOW TAKES A NOSEDIVE INTO TRAGEDY. I get the point of “Real Life,” though, because the Doctor had to learn that he couldn’t just turn life off once it got challenging. I still never thought that the writers would actually kill the Doctor’s daughter off, and yes, it’s a hologram. Yes, she’s not “real,” but that doesn’t make the experience any less real, either. I knew the whole thing was part of the holodeck, and it still stung. HOW COULD THEY DO THIS TO THE DOCTOR? IT WAS HIS FIRST FAMILY.

“Real” life is often a messy, depressing affair. We’ve seen that on Voyager, too, and as much tragedy as these people have faced, there’s joy, too. It’s a fluctuating thing, but I’ll paraphrase Tom Paris again. It’s worth it in the end because the experience itself brought the Voyager crew closer together, just like the Doctor’s wife and son are closer because of tragedy. Humans often bond through pain, and that’s a lesson the Doctor needed to learn.


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

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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