The following is a SPOILER Review for "Projections." If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.
The SASR [Short Attention Span Review] is the creation of Jim Wright, who watches the episode no more than twice before preparing the review. This gives me the opportunity to review and recap with a combination of memory and creativity (when memory fails). The result is an experience that is similar to, but not exactly the same as, the actual episode. Consider it a revival of the ancient oral traditions passed on through the generations. I make no claims as to accuracy, but I hope I got enough of it right to keep your attention.
See Holodoc's head hurt.
My head hurts too.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Holodoc is activated on a dark and empty Voyager. According to the ship's computer, everyone abandoned ship after a Kazon attack. Irritated that nobody bothered to tell him, and convinced that his work is done in the Delta Quadrant, and is about to deactivate himself for good when he hears a noise. Grabbing a tranquilizer, he hides by the doors as they are pried open.
When Torres comes through the Sickbay doors, Holodoc relaxes a bit. Torres tells him that the ship isn't completely abandoned, but that the computers can't detect internal life signs at the moment. She has come down for a medical emergency: Captain Janeway is trapped under a bulkhead, and needs a doctor. Holodoc is about to hand her the medikit when she tells him that he has to go instead, and when Holodoc argues that he can't leave the sickbay she informs him that they've been busily tweaking the ship's components to allow his hologram program to work in major areas of the ship now: bridge, engineering, mess hall, cargo bay. It's never been tried before, and Holodoc is irritated (as usual) that nobody bothered to tell him they'd been working on this. But the thought of traveling out of sickbay intrigues him, and a medical emergency awaits, so Torres makes the appropriate commands and off goes Holodoc to the bridge.
"It's larger than I expected," he murmers when he materializes in the very messy bridge.
He soon finds the captain and helps her out from under the debris and returns her to consciousness. Before they can talk much, Neelix puts in a distress call from the Mess hall, and Holodoc surfs the net into harm's way. Neelix is throwing stuff at a Kazon soldier (if he really wanted to hurt the guy, he should have made the guy eat his cooking) and carrying on like a Little Leaguer after a six-pack of Cherry Coke. (Well, that made sense to me....) Holodoc flanks the baddie and tackles him, only to get pounded on a tad before Neelix can frying-pan the evil one into unconsciousness--leaving a nice dent in the process. In the frying pan.
Neelix helps Holodoc to his feet, and Holodoc observes that Neelix seems to be bleeding. Neelix panics until Holodoc corrects himself: it's actually a condiment, and this causes Neelix consternation: that stuff stains. There's messy stuff on Holodoc as well, which turns out not to be a condiment, but...blood. On a hologram, you ask? So did Holodoc; he's not programmed to bleed. He asks to be projected back to sickbay.
When he gets back to his familiar doctoring grounds, Holodoc is surprised to discover that he has life signs. This is not supposed to happen, and he calls the captain. Everyone he scans--Janeway, Torres, Neelix--is not showing up on his medikit, but he--the only one who shouldn't register--does. Curiouser and curiouser. Janeway orders the holodoc program rebooted but the ship says there's no such program running. Janeway then says, "terminate all holo programs on the ship," and all the people in sickbay--except Holodoc--vanish.
Now holodoc is really confused. He orders a directory of all holoprograms in memory, and finds there is a program for each Voyager crew member except him. Who then, he wonders, is the ship's doctor? Lewis Zimmerman. But, you may ask, isn't that the guy who designed Holodoc, and after whose likeness Holodoc was programmed to appear as? Yup. Same guy. Only the ship's computer now says that the holodoc is actually Zimmerman.
Is there a ship's counselor in the house? We have one seriously identity-confused Holodoc here.
Before Holodoc can feel too confused, in comes a face familiar to Next Generation viewers: Reg Barclay, Enterprise underachiever and unwitting galactic menace/savior and holodeck copyright violator with great taste in women. What is he doing here?
"Dr. Zimmerman, I'm Reg Barclay, and we have to get you out of here." I wish he had been saying that to me so I could have turned the channel by this time.
Anyone still with me here?
Turns out, Barclay explains to Zimmerman, the whole first season was nothing more than a holodeck simulation. Zimmerman is actually on Jupiter, working on "what-if" scenarios with extreme distance and an attempt to return home. Unfortunately, the holodeck he is on has suffered a malfunction and the room is being flooded with radiation, and Holodoc--excuse me, Zimmerman--will die if he doesn't get out of there.
There's a catch, however, Barclay explains. The only way to end the simulation is to (1) bring the ship home, or (2) destroy the sucker. Since they're still several scores of thousands of lightyears from home, the latter option is the only one that Zimmerman can hope for.
Holodoc is a bit taken aback by this news. He still has a hard time believing what he's hearing. Barclay does everything he can to convince Zimmerman that what he's saying is true: he "restarts" the simulation so they're back to when Holodoc was first activated--shortly after Voyager had been sucked into the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker but before anyone knew any of this. It was a cool effect: a decent remake of the first episode from a different perspective, similar lines, etc.--until Holodoc gets deja vu and wonders what's going on. Tom Paris starts yelling at Holodoc to help the patient on the table, Holodoc asks Barclay if Paris is a simulation, Barclay nods, and Holodoc deactivates program Tom Paris.
Something I'm sure he's wanted to do for a very long time.
Harry Kim intercedes, and Holodoc disappears him as well. Now he's feeling kinda powerful and godlike, so they go to engineering where, Barclay tells him, he has to hose the warp core to end the simulation. Holodoc is still hesitant, but goes along...surprised to discover that he can leave sickbay without disappearing. "You're real, remember that," Barclay tells him. Barclay is also a holoprojection, but he's not in the system; he's being projected in from outside, so turning off simulations inside won't turn him off.
Soon they're in engineering, and Janeway has just finished saving the ship from a warp core breach. Holodoc and Barclay are unknown to Janeway at this point in Episode 1, so she is surprised to see them there. A brief argument, and then Janeway is ready to throw them in the brig when Holodoc says, "sorry. In a few seconds you're going to end up on the Array, so nobody's going to arrest me." Janeway is not amused, but before she can act she and the rest of the crew are disappeared as well.
"See?" says Barclay. Holodoc is still unsure. Barclay tells him to blow out the whole holo generator to see if he still exists afterwards; he does, and he does, but is now completely confused. "It's a holoprogram within a holoprogram, don't you see?" he says to Holodoc, who would argue but is too busy dying of a massive headache of a type I was at this point very familiar with.
Personal Interjection: This was a common theme in Next Generation, and occasionally Deep Space Nine episodes: the mind-@$&% episode. Riker in a virtual reality mental hospital. Riker waking up to a future version of himself. Worf hopping between alternate realities whenever Geordi's VISOR activates near him. Picard living out an entire lifetime while unconscious. Sisko and Company acting under the influence of aliens or Lwaxana Troi's hypercharged hormones.
"Things are not as they appear." Generally, I hate these episodes. The whole "it was just a dream" concept is too often a cheat, a "let's see how mean we can be to this character" kinda thing. It can work--I did like Picard's life-as-an-alien episode because of the character development--but most of the time I just get mad watching this kind of episode. If I want it, I'll watch old Outer Limits reruns.
Editorial flame mode off, for now.
Barclay becomes even more insistent. Blow up the ship, Dr. Zimmerman. It's the only way to survive. How many other ways can I prove it to you? Holodoc, in great pain and out of arguments, takes aim at the warp core as Barclay continues to urge him on.
Before he can fire, Chakotay appears and tells him not to. "If you do, you'll crash your own program and we won't be able to restart you," he says. What follows is a battle for the mind and soul for Holodoc, two conflicting and urgent visions of himself. Is he human, Dr. Lewis Zimmerman, stuck in a simulation on Jupiter and dying of radiation poisoning? Or is he, as he has insisted against all available evidence, a holographic creation? Does he follow Barclay and risk losing his programming in order to save his life? Or does he follow Chakotay's advice and do nothing, which will kill the flesh-and-blood human...or allow the crew to reboot his program before he disappears?
To further complicate things, in pops Kes...Kes Zimmerman, looking quite human and concerned for the welfare of her dying husband. She urges him to listen to Barclay. Zimmerman weakens further, and appears to be finally dying in the arms of Kes. She proclaims her love for him, and Zimmerman's final words are, "you are so very beautiful...."
And he awakes in sickbay, surrounded by Kes, Tuvok and Harry Kim. They heard him clearly, but decline to comment. Tuvok verifies Chakotay's side of the story; Holodoc had been on the Holodeck on captain's orders, getting some well-deserved R&R, when they passed through a radiation thingie which scrambled the holodeck programming. No Kazon attack, no mass evacuation, no jelly stains on Neelix's jacket. Aside from the holodeck madness, Tuvok says, it's been a pretty boring day.
The captain's on the bridge, the holodoc is back in sickbay, and all is right with the universe. Chakotay calls down, makes sure everything's okay, and then orders a staff meeting. As everyone but Kes leaves, Holodoc goes back to his work, with her hovering nearby.
"Do you really think I'm beautiful?" Kes asks him impishly.
"Well, I said some things in a stressful moment I may not actually believe..."
"So you don't think I'm beautiful." D'Oh!
"No, I didn't say that; you are attractive, in a platonic sort of way...."
"So...you don't love me?"
Pause. "So...I guess our marriage is over."
"Is this your idea of a joke?" Holodoc asks, about the same time I did.
She rushes into his arms. "Oh, Lewis! I know we've had our problems, but we can work this out, I know we can!" Looks like Holodoc's bogus journey isn't quite over yet. Incredulity leads to panic, and the desperately clinging Kes Zimmerman gives way to a phaser-wielding Barclay urging him to save himself before it's too late. Bouncing like a pinball between Kazon and wounded Voyager crewmen, Zimmerman is led to a table featuring the voice of Captain Janeway and the face of...who else.
Someone, please reduce the Prozac dosage in the writers' prescriptions.
Just before Holodoc goes completely nuts, we get a quick scene change, and Holodoc is on the holodeck, surrounded by Voyager crewpeople, including Captain Janeway. We hear for the umpteenth time that something screwy happened while Holodoc was on holodeck, and his program got buggy real quick. But all seemed back to normal, and Holodoc makes sure that he is who he believes himself to be, and that Kes is his assistant and not his wife (this comment gets a great double-take from Janeway). The adventure finally over, Holodoc asks to be scooted back to sickbay, and nobody argues.
Kes appears in sickbay. "We were married?"
This time, when Holodoc blusters through an explanation, Kes says, "well, just don't tell Neelix; he gets jealous." A much more predictable response than the "guess our marriage is over" of a few seconds before.
Holodoc is confused about one thing. "Why, when my programming was corrupted and I was on the verge of annihilation, did I get introspective? I don't think I'm programmed for that." Kes admits that she also gets introspective sometimes, and says aloud the three questions every missionary memorizes: who am I, where did I come from, what's my purpose in life? No answers from Kes, but plenty of fascinating questions.
Holodoc sighs and says he's just glad that things are back to normal and he's secure in his identity again. Kes gives him a look I'd pay a million bucks for some girl to give me and mean, and says, "are you sure about that?" before walking out with a smirk.
Holodoc looks after her and frowns. He gets up, goes to the door to sickbay, and sticks his hand
out the door. Pleased to see that his hand does not extend into the corridor, and once again
secure in his identity, he returns to work.
I had heard rumors that Barclay would make an appearance on Voyager, and they were right. Unfortunately, I didn't care for the role they gave him--and since I have a special place in my heart for Barclay (and Dwight Schultz), it was especially galling. Holo character or no, Barclay shouldn't be menacing to ship or crew, even unintentionally. Plus, he wasn't goofy enough; I expect Barclay to be used in ways that are consistent with his character. Dream sequence or not.
This was Robert Picardo's episode, so it really lives or dies on his performance. In a way, he succeeds well; he has established his character as gruff, cynical, impatient, truly warming up only to Kes, who has worked hard to establish the relationship of trust. There's a genuine chemistry between them that I'd like to see fostered further; as I've said before, Neelix and Kes don't make a convincing couple to me, but Kes and Holodoc melt the screen when they're interacting. That's why I was a bit irritated that they didn't do more with it here. Kes got to play up her part as the concerned wife of confused Zimmerman, but all we got by way of affectionate proclamations from Holodoc was a deathbed confession that he considered her devastatingly beautiful, which he then proceeded to deny when things seemed back to normal. It was like a bad Moonlighting episode, and I wanted to hurt someone. Color me sentimental, but I want to see Voyager turn into Beauty and the Bastard, with the grumpy Holodoc and the compassionate Kes sparking an official romance. If Troi and Worf can get together, dangit, why can't they?
I know, my opinion doesn't mean squat to the writers. But I can dream, can't I? Intentionally or not, I have a Harlequin Moment when Kes and Holodoc interact. So when they mess with that chemistry, I get peeved and I don't care who knows it.
[cough] Sorry, I'll shut up now.
As mentioned earlier, I hate the "mess-with-your-head" episodes. They can be a good vehicle for establishing an in-depth look at a character, but they can just as often blow chunks. Acting-wise, I thought Picardo did an excellent job showing his transformation from confident holoprogram to uncertain human to dying husband to psychotic episode sufferer. In a way, he has the liability of being too human; he hasn't crashed yet, for one thing. Let's see a darn GPF once in a while so they have to reboot him. He is AI, so he can learn and grow, but he should still be stumped now and then, have to "think" like a computer rather than a human.
Maybe it's just me. Don't get me wrong; I really like the character, and the way the actor handles him. He's likeable and unlikeable, depending on who he's talking to. He's funny, and poignant, and he does the job he's programmed for, and like the rest of us he flounders a bit when yanked out of his comfort zone. His identity crises to date have usually been at Kes' insistence that he is more than just a program, and treating him like a real person. Aside from the adventures in Holo-Beowulf territory, Kes has been the primary force behind his development as a character.
I guess that's what irritated me most about this episode. In his cyber-Gilgamesh nightmare, Holodoc didn't give Kes the kind of looks he usually does, and I sensed some serious denial (and I'm not even Betazoid). He did say she was beautiful and appeared to mean it sincerely, but...
No, I've ranted enough about that.
Let's see. Barclay was badly used in this; he was out of character. Holodoc was generally in character, except in the one area I was most hoping to see. Kes was beautiful and intriguing as always, both as the nightmare construct and as the Real Kes. I liked how she teased him at the end of the episode; it was consistent for her character to be both compassionate and a tiny bit playful. The rest of the characters were basically filler, though I give them points for recreating the look and feel of Episode 1 for this one. Disappearing Paris did get a good laugh out of me, and Janeway's double-take was perfect. Chakotay's argument with Barclay was also pretty darn good. Overall, though, I just didn't like the episode; I don't like having my mind played with like that, particularly with some of my favorite characters.
On a 0-10 scale, I'd give this an 5.00. It's a matter of taste, and I know several people who disagree with me, but this is currently my least favorite episode. I'd have rated it even lower, but there were some endearing and partially-redeeming Kes scenes to pull it up to an even 5.