It’s as simple as that: Robert Picardo makes everything better. Projections is yet another episode in which the holodeck malfunctions and endangers the lives of the crew. Been there, done that. Do you remember Heroes and Demons? This time the episode works a little better, both thanks to Picardo and to the numerous plot twists. Jonathan Frakes’s direction is also remarkable and I loved the humor of the episode. For instance, think of the Doctor who, annoyed by Tom Paris, says: “Computer, delete Paris.” Funny.
Here’s the plot. The Doctor automatically activates in a deserted USS Voyager. He quickly discovers that there has been a Kazon attack (the same villains we saw in Caretaker, State of Flux and Initiations) and that the ship has been evacuated. He then resigns himself to self-terminating when B’Elanna Torres suddenly enters the infirmary! Someone’s still alive on board! The Doctor goes out of his way to help B’Elanna, Captain Janeway and even a frightened Neelix, but there’s something wrong… and indeed Reginald Barclay appears out of nowhere (played by Dwight Schultz – see The Next Generation’s The Nth Degree, Season 4, and Ship in a Bottle, Season 6, for example). Apparently, the Doctor is not the EMH we know well, but Lewis Zimmerman, the creator of the program we saw in the Season 5 of Deep Space Nine in the episode Dr. Bashir, I Presume?. Barclay explains to the Doctor / Zimmerman that there has been a malfunction in the holodeck and that if he doesn’t end the program by destroying the ship, he’ll die from brain damage caused by the malfunction itself.
What to do? Of course, the Doctor doesn’t feel like doing what Barclay suggests, even if only in a holographic program. And then things are further complicated by a continuous series of twists that confuse both the Doctor and us the viewers. In the end, the explanation and the solution of the problem are both based on a great technobabble so there’s little else to say… Projections is a pleasant episode to watch and live the nightmare story without asking too many questions. I rate it among the best holodeck episodes ever in the Star Trek universe, also because it takes place on Voyager and not in a bar in Marseille (see The Cloud) or in Victorian England (see Cathexis)! Hello!
PS: at first I thought that everything was a simulation made by Janeway to test the Doctor’s reaction in the event of a crisis on board… but I was wrong! By the way, in case it was a test, the Doctor would have failed miserably because its first instinct was to shut down straight away!
PPS: The Delta Flyers podcast shout out: Robert Duncan McNeill praised the work of Jonathan Frakes saying that he managed to make the story dynamic even though it took place for the most part in one room (for example, think of the 360 degrees rotation of the camera around Picardo in which the Doctor is sitting in front of the computer in order to convey a feeling of loneliness). As Rick Berman used to say, “They’re called motion pictures for a reason“, which means that something has to move on the screen, whether it’s the camera or the actors. Frakes applied that lesson perfectly here!
Previous episode: Initiations
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