April 20 2024


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Retro Review: Worst Case Scenario

5 min read


Torres discovers a holonovel set early in Voyager’s mission in which Chakotay leads a mutiny and takes over the ship.

Plot Summary: While purging deleted computer files, Torres comes across a holodeck simulation in which the user takes the role of an anonymous Starfleet ensign invited by Chakotay to join in a mutiny against Janeway. Torres tells Paris about it, and soon the program has become wildly popular with the crew. Tuvok admits that he wrote the program as a training exercise for security officers in the event of a Maquis mutiny early on in the voyage, but he never completed it, as the likelihood of insurrection seemed increasingly remote. Paris asks to try his hand at writing an ending and listens to suggestions from various crewmembers who want romance and adventure, but Tuvok finds the planned additions to be ludicrous and insists on contributing to the denouement. When the two officers open the narrative parameters file, an image of Seska appears and immediately takes them prisoner on the holodeck. Through the character, they learned that Seska found the program before she left Voyager and rewrote it to kill the main players one by one, sabotaging Voyager’s systems to prevent anyone from leaving the holodeck without setting off a reaction that would destroy the ship. Torres hacks into the program to leave weapons for Chakotay and Paris while Janeway rewrites the story to allow outside adversaries to appear. With the safeties off, Tuvok takes advantage of the holographic weapons, using one to backfire and kill Seska in the same way that she kills the holographic Janeway within the simulation. Tuvok promises that if he ever creates another holonovel, it will be set far from Voyager’s reality.

Analysis: “Worst Case Scenario” is one of my favorite Voyager episodes, as much for the fan fiction it generated as for the fan fiction Tuvok, Paris, and Seska write within the confines of the story. What a shame that it’s missing the all-important romantic additions for which Torres lobbies Paris. Where’s the one in which Chakotay uses his sparkling eyes and rare smirk to seduce the anonymous ensign (who can be either gender) to win over a loyal Starfleet officer to his cause, or the one in which the anonymous ensign walks in on Paris examining Torres’s sensor array, or the one in which Janeway lowers Chakotay’s shields by bringing his plasma injector online and dragging him into her subspace rift…all right, I’ll stop, I’m just saying that if I had the same access to the program as Paris, a lot more would go on between the time Seska finds herself hoist on her own plaser rifle and the time the program gets deleted. There would be nacelles lifting, thrusters firing, particle streams releasing, warp cores exploding, and like Torres, I’m not too hung up on what’s in or out of character…after all, before a couple of weeks ago, I would have found Torres expressing interest in romance novels to be out of character. Not to mention handing over her agency in a story that begins with her making a discovery and exploring it on her own to the boy she likes, who then gets to be far more involved than Torres herself gets to be, both within the holo-scenario and in the story about neutralizing its threat. But that’s a gripe, and what I feel when I watch “Worst Case Scenario” is mostly glee.

Ironic, isn’t it, that this was the best Janeway episode Ken Biller had written to date, considering that it’s about a mutiny? (Yes, that’s four times in this half-season that the writing staff played around with the idea of Janeway losing her ship, but who’s counting…oh wait, I am.) I will never be sorry that the show didn’t stage an actual mutiny or even have Chakotay putting Janeway on the defensive about Starfleet all the time, which would have weakened her position in command, but I’m equally not sorry that they play with the idea here and that both Janeway and Chakotay respond to the idea with winks and grins. Chakotay claims at the end that he doesn’t want to be the bad guy next time, but he definitely enjoys the notion that Tuvok finds him a strong and worrisome adversary capable of turning Starfleet crewmembers in addition to holding on to the loyalty of all the Maquis. It isn’t Chakotay but Seska who appears not to have planned for every eventuality, just as she didn’t when she defected to join the Kazon. The holographic versions of the characters seem even more two-dimensional than usual, but they also make me nostalgic, reminding me of how I saw them when we knew very little about them. Of course in those early days Tuvok would script Torres and Ayala as completely loyal to Chakotay, Kim as a by-the-book ensign in need of correction, Paris as an unknown quantity, and himself as too much of a prig to see what’s really going on.

If there’s a problem with “Worst Case Scenario” now, it’s the same as when it originally aired, which is that it points out how quickly the writers dropped the ball on what could have been many weeks of Starfleet-Maquis tensions that showed us over time why Starfleet’s is the better way. We don’t need a mutiny to see angry dissidents come to appreciate how certain kinds of hard compromise and negotiation make for a stronger position than “the Maquis way” aka a punch to the face, which is a vast oversimplification of the issues many crewmembers had, not only with the Federation policy in the zone that caused the creation of the Maquis, but with the way Starfleet principles are sometimes used as a cover for condescension, domination, even imperialism, and how a military structure might be considered an asset rather than unduly restrictive when people are going to be living and working in it conceivably every moment for the rest of their lives. These are things we should be shown rather than told, and a certain amount of compromise, on things like the dress code, where we never see anyone in the mess hall in casual clothes unless it’s a reception for aliens, would have added color to the show in more ways than one. As Paris says in this episode when he wants to script a Janeway who’s planning to execute half the crew for treason, sometimes a good story can come out of questionable characterization, and this is one of those times. We get scheming Bajoran Seska! We get smirking dominant Chakotay! I just wish the show did a better job of integrating who the characters become in their play time on the holodeck with who they are on duty.

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