Star Trek: Voyager – S03E22, Real Life


I didn’t find Real Life very convincing. The episode is made up of two very distinct stories: one is predictable and based on a technobabble supported by special effects which, due to the usual budget limitations, didn’t particularly impress me. The protagonist of this story is the reckless Tom Paris who goes with a shuttle inside a few tornadoes that form between space and sub-space and naturally gets into trouble (but at the end Kim expressly says that he managed to recover the shuttle!). Not very interesting.

The second story has Robert Picardo and his Doctor as the protagonist. This is very profound and with a final message, that of not running away in the face of difficulties, which is absolutely acceptable and intelligent. However, the tone of this second story has left me a bit cold. Why?

The Doctor creates a holographic family to return to after the hard days of work aboard the USS Voyager. This is comical, initially, with his wife Charlene (Wendy Schaal) and their two children Jeffrey and Belle (Glenn Harris and Lindsay Haun) who are just perfect. So much so that B’Elanna, kindly invited to dinner by the Doctor, wants to puke. So, the half-Klingon offers to make the program more realistic… and this goes from comedy to tragedy in a second! It makes sense to me that the teenage male could have problematic friendships. And that the wife has other things to do than listen to all the medical tests done during the work shift by her husband (the Doctor calls himself Kenneth in this case). But… was it really necessary to have the daughter die in an accident? It seems to me that B’Elanna went too far in teaching the Doctor that family life can be hard!

In short, the abrupt change of tone seemed a bit excessive to me. Not that it didn’t work, I cried at the end (but now I cry with everything, the other day I cried again for the umpteenth time when Spock died in the finale of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), but from a narrative point of view Real Life seemed to me too discontinuous to be a great episode. Ciao!

PS: It seems that Star Trek: Voyager has taken the same turn that The Next Generation already took before, that of having episodes centered on single characters. This helps the development of the personalities of the various crew members, but I was quite fond of the choral stories of the first two seasons, they gave a good sense of “We are a big family in hostile territory, let’s try to go home“!

PPS: It becomes increasingly clear that the Doctor’s humanity research path is the same as that of Data in The Next Generation. However, I found The Offspring (season three) to be a far superior episode, it’s so tragic when Data becomes a father and then tragically loses his daughter Lal after fighting (along with Picard) to keep her with him against Starfleet!

PPPS: The Delta Flyers podcast shout out: Robert Duncan McNeill and Garrett Wang spoke highly of the episode’s director, Anson Williams, who’s none other than Happy Days’ Potsie Weber! Now I understand the feeling of a perfect 1950s’ American family created by the Doctor!

Previous episode: Before and After 

Next episode: Distant Origin


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