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[VOY] Jammer's Review: "Body and Soul"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager s Body and Soul. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Enjoyable. Not deep,
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 26, 2000
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager's "Body and
      Soul." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.


      In brief: Enjoyable. Not deep, and the plot is primarily a means to an end,
      but there's nothing really wrong with that.

      Plot description: In a region of space where holograms are prohibited, the
      Doctor is forced to hide by transferring his program into Seven's mind, upon
      which he takes over control of her body.

      -----
      Star Trek: Voyager -- "Body and Soul"

      Airdate: 11/15/2000 (USA)
      Teleplay by Eric Morris and Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman
      Story by Michael Taylor
      Directed by Robert Duncan McNeill

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: ***

      "We're both reasonable people. I suggest a compromise. Your vessel will
      escort us through Lokirrim territory. That way you can keep an eye on us,
      make sure we don't reactivate our holodecks. The other alternative is, we
      destroy your ship." -- Janeway-style negotiation
      -----

      It looks like it's that time of the year -- time for the highest of high
      concepts. "Body and Soul" has what must be one of the most brilliantly
      simple high concepts in many a moon. How is it nobody on Voyager's writing
      staff thought of this episode before now? And if they or someone else
      already had, how could they possibly have been sitting on it for so long?

      In the tradition of shows like "Infinite Regress," the story is this year's
      edition of Jeri Ryan Uninhibited. Ryan is an actor afforded few
      opportunities on Voyager to go bananas, but when she gets one, look out.

      The basic premise is something so goofy and yet somehow so plausible that it
      makes perfect sense: Doc's program gets transferred into Seven's mind, and
      Doc takes over her body. The net result, essentially, is that Jeri Ryan
      plays the part of the Doctor. She gets Robert Picardo's role, and runs with
      it.

      Something like this can be very good or very bad. Executed badly, it can be
      an embarrassment. Played correctly, it can be a lot of fun. "Body and Soul"
      is largely an example of the latter. Seven of Nine is so self-inhibited that
      you wonder if Ryan would get tired of the character's limitations. Perhaps
      an opportunity like this might seem like a vacation at work.

      Of course, something like this could not happen because the characters
      wanted it to happen, so we have the plot force our characters into a
      situation where they must improvise the measure. In this case, it seems that
      the Delta Flyer has wandered into a territory of space inhabited by the
      Lokirrim, where holograms are assumed to be hostile members of a rebellion
      (they are referred to as "photonic insurgents"). Of course, I must ask why
      it would be assumed by any reasonable society that all holograms are
      automatically insurgents when they could just as easily be technology
      attached to those not involved in the conflict (as in this case). For that
      matter, why assume that just because certain biological materials could be
      used to make bio-weapons, they necessarily will? Because such an assumption
      must be used to justify our characters being taken prisoner, that's why. No
      matter; we can grant the story these silly details in the interests of its
      premise.

      So the Delta Flyer is tractored into a shuttle bay and Harry and Seven are
      thrown into the holding cell on a Lokirrim vessel. Unbeknownst to the
      Lokirrim crew, Doc has actually been uploaded into Seven's mind to hide. If
      he's caught he'll likely be decompiled. Hmmm -- in a society where holograms
      have apparently taken on a subculture of their own, there's no trial or
      hearing, and simply on-the-spot execution? Perhaps that's part of the
      problem with Lokirrim society.

      Never mind. It's perhaps best to put such questions on hold, since similar
      themes may resurface in the upcoming "Flesh and Blood," a storyline two
      episodes down the road that will involve holograms as a central issue. For
      now, "Body and Soul" concentrates on the idea of Doc taking over Seven's
      body.

      Some of this is quite funny. Take, for example, the cheesecake scene. One
      might not think that eating a piece of cheesecake could be the source of so
      much amusement, but here it is, simply because the person experiencing the
      consumption of cheesecake has never eaten *anything* before. And even worth
      a smile is the reaction of Ranek (Fritz Sperberg), the captain of the
      Lokirrim ship, upon tasting this cheesecake (apparently it truly is a good
      piece of cheesecake), which is the first of several bribes Doc/Seven feeds
      Ranek in an attempt to gain his trust.

      As for the drunk scene -- well, I'm always a sucker for a good drunk scene,
      and when you consider that Ryan is playing the part of Doc and then adding
      on top of that the fact Doc is drunk *and* trying to carefully manipulate
      Ranek, you've got yourself a situation that's as entertaining as it is
      silly, with layers to it that would require an actor be brave to underplay,
      and even braver not to.

      Ryan's performance is not one that holds back in favor of subtlety. She goes
      for broke. And of course she does, because that's the point. Doc's persona
      is built upon outgoing expressiveness, cheerful narcissism, and sudden
      ventures into melodrama. It's fun to watch because of the weirdness of the
      given situation, and fun because we try to picture Picardo playing the same
      notes, and realize that he pretty much would be. Doc isn't subtle, so
      therefore neither is Ryan's performance. But it contains a working knowledge
      of the full extent of Doc's body language and speech patterns, and on that
      level there are subtle nuances to note. The rendition is excellent.

      Doc is having a blast experiencing life in a real biological body, right
      down to the simple sensation of breathing air. The catch, of course, is when
      he learns that Seven has been aware of everything he has done while
      occupying her body. When he returns to his mobile emitter several times
      through the episode, she expresses her displeasure regarding his
      "overindulgence." This eventually leads to the best character discussion in
      the show, when Doc answers with a counter-argument. Given the circumstances,
      I'm with him: "We're quite a pair. Me, trapped by the limitations of photons
      and force fields. You, by a drone's obsession with efficiency. You'd make an
      excellent hologram." Life includes stopping to indulge yourself, otherwise
      what have you enjoyed when it's all over?

      Oh, yes -- Harry has the part of straight man to the lunacy, playing for
      reaction shots to Doc's personality as magnified through a situation that
      has Doc even more exuberant than usual.

      Do you care about the plot? I'm not sure whether it's a credit or a demerit
      that the writers decide to play the alien plot more or less straight.
      Granted, it's not the least bit heavy, but nor is it completely irreverent;
      the writers permit a halfway serious issue involving the nature of holograms
      in Lokirrim society to creep into the narrative. Such scenes ground the
      scenes respectably in a normal reality. This episode could just as easily
      have gone for zero seriousness and been a comic role-playing free-for-all. I
      honestly don't know if that would've been better, worse, or neither.

      But what we have isn't bad. The Lokirrim people are not depicted as one-note
      villains and instead more as people trying to do their jobs and follow the
      rules, screwed up as those rules might be. And it's nice that the resolution
      ultimately comes down to an agreement and some respect.

      In the meantime, worked into the plot is a would-be romance, where Ranek
      tries to put the moves on Seven, much to Doc's dismay. The idea is obvious
      but mildly amusing -- though wouldn't trying to woo your prisoner be a
      court-martial offense for a starship captain?

      The other key interaction here is between Doc/Seven and Jaryn (Megan
      Gallagher), one of the ship's officers. Doc obviously has a bit of a crush
      on her, though the whole idea seems like an afterthought.

      Really, the whole story could've been an afterthought. This is the sort of
      show that is more concept than content. What happens is far less important
      than how the actors convey it. It's a like a technical experiment. It is not
      inspired -- and given the premise, it could've been -- but it's at least
      entertaining.

      There was a Voyager episode a few years ago about body switching called "Vis
      A Vis." It was a superficial, mechanical bore. Given the right situation and
      actors, a high concept like this can be fun. "Body and Soul," while hardly
      groundbreaking, works as a solid hour that should keep you interested in the
      dynamics on display.

      --
      Next week: Harry Kim takes command. Uh-oh.

      -----
      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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