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[VOY] Jammer's Review: "Inside Man"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Notice, 11/14/00: E-MAIL PROBLEMS: Since approximately 11:30 a.m. CST (GMT -0500) on Monday (Nov. 13), my e-mail server has not been accepting incoming mail.
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      Notice, 11/14/00:

      E-MAIL PROBLEMS: Since approximately 11:30 a.m. CST (GMT -0500) on Monday
      (Nov. 13), my e-mail server has not been accepting incoming mail. All
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      and attempts to contact my hosting provider have so far been
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      jamahl@... until further notice as explained on my Web site
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      apologize; please try my backup address instead.


      --
      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager's "Inside
      Man." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.


      In brief: A watchable but ultimately unfulfilling take on the "Voyager
      crew as saps" episode.

      Plot description: The Voyager crew receives a transmission from the Alpha
      Quadrant that contains an interactive holographic program of Lieutenant
      Barclay, who informs them that Starfleet has found Voyager a way home.

      -----
      Star Trek: Voyager -- "Inside Man"

      Airdate: 11/8/2000 (USA)
      Written by Robert Doherty
      Directed by Allan Kroeker

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: **

      "I'm not *that* gullible." -- A Harry Kim lie
      -----

      "Inside Man" has a few things going for it, but one of those things,
      unfortunately, is not the bigger picture. That is to say, when you have
      at your disposal the entire Alpha Quadrant guest cast that made
      "Pathfinder" such a winner last year, why waste it on a silly caper plot
      that doesn't advance Voyager along the lines of the continuing saga of
      its search for a way home?

      Even worse, why waste it on yet another example of the crew being
      manipulated like sorry saps into believing that a shortcut home is
      actually going to work when in fact it would get them all killed, a la
      the deception in "Hope and Fear"? "Inside Man" is a collection of
      isolated bright ideas undercut by standard plotting and character
      stupidity.

      And a show of hands: Do we really *want* to see the Ferengi again?

      But I'm getting ahead of myself.

      The underlying premise is actually a very reasonable one -- the idea that
      Reg Barclay would transmit a hologram of himself to Voyager as an
      interactive program to assist in future coordination between Voyager and
      the Alpha Quadrant.

      Unfortunately, the problem with "Inside Man" is that it's heavy on
      gimmicks and alarmingly light on story. One admirable aspect of both
      "Pathfinder" and "Life Line" from last season -- both which featured
      Barclay and Troi and other characters from the Alpha Quadrant -- is that
      they were real stories with true appeal and meaning. They were *not*
      stunt episodes. "Inside Man," on the other hand, is just that -- a stunt
      episode that doesn't mean anything to any of its characters ... not the
      Voyager crew members in the Delta Quadrant nor Barclay back home in the
      Alpha Quadrant.

      The plot can basically be summarized in one sentence: Some scheming
      Ferengi intercept the transmission of Barclay's hologram and reprogram it
      to deceptively lure Voyager through a manufactured tech anomaly so they
      can get their hands on Seven of Nine's nanoprobes and sell them for huge
      profit. (No one on board Voyager, by the way, will survive the radiation
      when traveling through this anomaly, which makes me wonder if even
      Ferengi would resort to murdering 150 people to score a quick buck.)

      Aside from following this premise through to its inevitable conclusion,
      the rest of the episode is either (a) filler scenes or (b) rehashes of
      Barclay's character theme that were already covered in the far-superior
      "Pathfinder."

      Some of this is admittedly entertaining. For example, the most truthful
      and appropriate idea in the episode is the notion that the Reg hologram
      has such a confident swagger to him. It's a programmed personality that
      serves as the alter-ego to the programmer. (This is assuming its outgoing
      nature wasn't programmed by the Ferengi, of course.)

      And even if most of this is rehash, I still have to confess to enjoying
      Dwight Schultz as Barclay. Here he gets two very different riffs on
      Barclay -- as the real Barclay, and also as the holographic version he
      wishes he could be. The real Barclay is the same guy we knew from
      "Pathfinder" -- always sure his ideas will work but unable to totally
      convince his boss Harkins (Richard McGonagle) that he's on the right
      track. But even though this may be fun, we've been here and done this.
      When you have a rare opportunity to use these characters, why waste time
      doing everything over again?

      Sure, holo-Barclay is a personable fellow. But I still had to ask myself
      if having him do impressions in the Voyager mess hall was really the
      least bit necessary to the story.

      And take, for example, the extended scene between Barclay and Troi on the
      beach. It very well might be the longest dialog scene in the episode, and
      yet it doesn't need to be. The amount of information we get here is
      secondary to the setting, as if the scene had to be drawn out
      unnecessarily in order to justify the expense of shooting on location
      rather than on soundstages. (When I'm thinking of things like that, it's
      an indication the dialog isn't holding enough of my attention.) And
      Barclay comes close at times to being reduced to the status of a cartoon
      character, decked out in a hat and sunglasses designed to make him look
      awkward. The character analysis in "Pathfinder" was far less forced, and
      more truthful.

      The main drive of the plot hinges on some contrived facts that annoyed
      me. One is the idea that the Voyager crew, like brainless lemmings, would
      follow holo-Barclay so blindly. The proposed Instant Way Home [TM] in
      this episode is one mired in the typical invented technobabble, and one
      that would be very dangerous for our gallant Voyager crew. Radiation
      levels would be lethal, and yet the deceptive holo-Barclay explains away
      the danger as no longer a problem thanks to shield modifications and
      Doc's inoculations. Far too simplified, it seems the Voyager crew is
      prepared to follow Barclay straight to their doom. Meanwhile, we get the
      usual discussions among the crew about being excited about possibly
      getting home while also trying to keep optimism in check.

      Back in the Alpha Quadrant, we learn that the Ferengi gained access to
      Barclay's hologram thanks to Barclay's ex-girlfriend Leosa (Sharisse
      Baker-Bernard), who had played Barlcay for a fool specifically to obtain
      information about his transmissions to Voyager. I would say "poor Reg"
      here, the way he's a victim of his own trusting nature, but unlike
      "Pathfinder" the writers don't seem to be sympathizing with him nearly as
      much as they seem to be laughing at him behind his back.

      The conclusion is one of those races against the clock where Barclay must
      use his technical ingenuity to foil the Ferengi before the Voyager crew
      is lured through the anomaly and killed. Par for course (but I wanted a
      different course).

      And, no, I didn't really need to see the Ferengi again. Does a single one
      of them as portrayed here look like he has the intelligence to come up
      with a plan as brilliant as this one? If not, the explanation may be that
      the plan isn't brilliant so much as the victims of the plan -- in both
      the Alpha and Delta quadrants -- are gullible fools. At the very least,
      I'll give Barclay and his team, including Admiral Paris (Richard Herd),
      credit for figuring out the Ferengi plot without too much
      slow-wittedness.

      But that's not enough, because the bottom line is that "Inside Man"
      starts out as a promising idea that is quickly tossed aside in favor of
      something trivial and mundane. "Pathfinder" and "Life Line" showed true
      promise in telling a story arc that connected Voyager with the Alpha
      Quadrant, using Barclay as the common thread to hold it all together.
      "Inside Man" doesn't bother to be a story that we should care about; it
      seems convinced that Barclay and Troi are enough on their own to keep us
      interested. They're not.

      As far as the Voyager-characters-as-saps paradigm goes, the last scene
      aboard Voyager is perhaps the show's most telling, in which Tom and
      B'Elanna pull Harry's leg with a far-fetched premise that promises
      another way home. And there he is, Harry Kim, still, after all these
      years and the immediately preceding events of "Inside Man," playing the
      part of the hapless chump -- just as gullible and naive as he was when
      this series premiered nearly six years ago. Is this supposed to be a
      funny joke on the character? If we buy into it, I'm thinking the joke is
      on us.

      --
      Next week: "Being John Malkovich" -- Voyager style! (In other words,
      "Being Seven of Nine.")

      Junior-high question of the week: Why does a transwarp conduit (as
      depicted in animation in "Inside Man") look exactly like a condom?

      -----
      Copyright 2000 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

      Star Trek: Hypertext - http://www.st-hypertext.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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