Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Muse”

“Muse”
Written by Joe Menosky
Directed by Mike Vejar
Season 6, Episode 22
Production episode 244
Original air date: April 26, 2000
Stardate: 53918.0

Captain’s log. On a pre-industrial planet, we see a very stylized theatrical performance that seems to be about Voyager, describing it as a sailing ship, and from which B’Elanna Torres and Harry Kim have been lost at sea, apparently. We later discover that the playwright, Kelis, found the crashed Delta Flyer, with an unconscious, bound Torres inside.

He used the recordings of Torres’ logs to create a play, imagining the crew of Voyager to be Eternals—godlike figures of power in this world’s mythology. Kelis’ sponsor enjoyed the play, and wishes another one within the week. Kelis returns to the Flyer, where Torres has regained consciousness. She is revolted to see that he made cuts in her arm in an attempt to cure her fever. She instructs him in the use of the dermal regenerator to fix her arm.

They haggle: he wants more stories of Voyager, she wants him to untie her. He does untie her, at which point she threatens him with a phaser and chases him off. Unfortunately, she’s unable to effect repairs on the Flyer, which is out of power. When she does finally get power back online, she can’t reactivate the subspace transmitter, as it’s too damaged to handle having power run through it. She convinced Kim to take an escape pod while she tried to land the ship, crashing it instead, and the damage is tremendous.

Kelis returns with a peace offering of food. Since the replicators aren’t working, either, she accepts, and also tells him a version of the events of “Caretaker,” adjusting for a world that doesn’t even have flight, much less space travel.

She also shows him an image of a dilithium crystal, which is what brought the away team to this region in the first place. Kelis recognizes it as “winter’s tears.” She promises more stories if he gets a crystal for her.

Back on Voyager, the crew has continued to search for the missing Torres and Kim. Tuvok has gone without sleep for ten days while examining sensor readings.

Star Trek: Voyager "Muse"

Screenshot: CBS

Kelis is writing his play, and rehearsing with his company. The characters are familiar, even if their actions aren’t (Seven is romantically involved with Paris, for a start). One rehearsal is interrupted by a message that their patron is about to go to war with another nobleman.

Returning to the Flyer, Kelis begs Torres to help him write a play that will convince their patron not to go to war. He tells her that the theatre where they perform used to be a temple, where human sacrifices would be made. But one day, plays took the place of the sacrifices, thus saving lives. Kelis is hoping that they can save more lives with his play.

Kelis’ play has several romances, including one between Janeway and Chakotay. One of the Chorus objects, saying that modern poets rely too much on manipulation and tricks to fool the audience instead of allowing the story to just be told. (These kids today, with their music and their hair…)

Finally, Kelis brings Torres to the theatre to consult more directly, saying that she’s an expert on the Voyager Eternals. One of her notes is that there’s too much romance, which people aren’t thinking about when they’re going to war. She also tells Kelis about the Borg.

One member of the company, Layna, who is obviously smitten with Kelis, follows the pair of them to the Flyer. Expecting a love nest, she’s surprised to find a secret Eternal. She threatens to expose Torres if she returns to the theatre.

Kim shows up at the Flyer, having landed his escape pod two hundred kilometers away, and having walked on foot the whole way. He also has some parts salvaged from the pod that can be used to fix the communications system. They contact Voyager, and they set course to rescue them.

Kelis launches the play, even though he doesn’t have an ending yet. He sends a messenger to Torres. Upon reading the note, Torres realizes that Kelis still doesn’t have an ending.

The play has Seven secretly being the Borg Queen and plotting against Janeway—but Janeway knowing her secret, and hoping she’ll come to her senses. They fight, and Janeway tries to convince Seven to lay down her weapons, for if they continue to fight, all they will have left is hatred.

Torres arrives and throws the play into chaos, but then she beams back to the Flyer in front of everyone, providing a quite spectacular ending to Kelis’ play.

Star Trek: Voyager "Muse"

Screenshot: CBS

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently, if you have a piece of metal that’s three parts tin to five parts bronze and with one side coated in gold, you can conduct power to your subspace transmitter. Since bronze is an alloy of tin, this doesn’t entirely make sense, but hey, subspace isn’t real, either.

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok stays up for ten straight days to try to find the away team, an action based not even a little bit in logic or sense. It does, however, provide an incredibly unfunny sight gag of Tuvok snoring on the bridge, so there’s that.

Half and half. Torres gets to be the inspiration for a play. At first, she barely goes along with it so she can get things out of Kelis, but by the end of the episode, she’s actually invested in the play she inspired. It’s kind of adorable. 

Forever an ensign. We spend most of the episode not having the first clue as to Kim’s fate, but his arrival at the end of Act 3 is a nice little surprise.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix tries to convince Tuvok to get some sleep. When that doesn’t work, he offers tea.

No sex please, we’re Starfleet. Layna thinks that Torres is sleeping with Kelis. If Kelis actually paid a micron of attention to her, she might not have made that assumption…

Do it.

“What are you doing? Is that a tear?”

“Yes.”

“Logical Tuvok doesn’t cry! That’s why they call him logical.”

Everybody cries.”

“The land of Vulcan has no laughter and it has no tears. It is a very quiet place—calm, just like Tuvok.”

“I can’t believe that.”

“You don’t have to, just don’t cry.”

“The audience won’t believe it either. They’ll either think Tuvok is an unfeeling monster or that I am a bad performer.”

“They’ll realize that beneath your unfeeling exterior is a heart that’s breaking silently, and in more pain than any of us can possibly understand—because that’s what it is to be Vulcan. Try it again.”

–Kelis giving Jero notes.

Star Trek: Voyager "Muse"

Screenshot: CBS

Welcome aboard. Huge roster of guests in this one. We’ve got Trek veteran John Schuck as one of the Chorus, who previously played the Klingon ambassador in The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country and Legate Parn in DS9’s “The Maquis, Part II,” and will go on to play Antaak in Enterprise‘s “Affliction” and “Divergence.” We’ve got character actors Stoney Westmoreland as the sponsor and Jack Axelrod as another of the Chorus. We’ve got Joseph Will as Kelis, who will return as a Quarren in “Workforce, Part II,” and have the recurring role of Rostov in Enterprise’s first two seasons. We’ve got Kellie Waymire as Layna, who will have the recurring role of Cutler on Enterprise. We’ve got Kathleen Garrett as Tanis, who previously played a Vulcan captain in DS9’s “Vortex.” We’ve got Michael Houston King as Jero.

And we’ve got our Robert Knepper moment, as I had totally missed that the great Tony Amendola, best known as Master Bra’tac on Stargate SG-1, played the third member of the Chorus.

Trivial matters: Joseph Will would later be a finalist for the role of Tucker on Enterprise, losing out to Connor Trinneer. He’d get the recurring role of Rostov as a make-good. Kellie Waymire’s performance here led to her having the recurring role of Cutler on Enterprise, which would be sadly cut short by Waymire’s tragic death at the too-young age of 36 of a cardiac arrhythmia in 2003.

Torres makes a reference to the Delaney sisters, who were mentioned several times and finally seen in “Thirty Days.” She also mentions that Janeway would ally with the Borg if she could, as she did, in fact, try in the “Scorpiontwo-parter.

The Delta Flyer is seemingly unsalvageable at the end of this episode, but it will appear again, intact, in “Unimatrix Zero” (where it will be destroyed for realsies).

Star Trek: Voyager "Muse"

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “Shining Voyager, far from home.” This really should be a great episode, and I get to the end of it and just am so damn frustrated.

The basic structure is brilliant. I love the whole setup of Kelis finding inspiration from the Flyer’s log entries, and Torres and Kelis bartering, her for dilithium and bronze, him for more stories. I absolutely adore the very Trekish message of using art to soothe the savage beast, as it were, hoping that a message of peace can stop a war.

But holy crap, is the execution botched sixteen ways from Sunday.

For starters, there are way too many characters in the team of actors, and we get very little sense of any of them. This is made more maddening by the casting of the three members of the chorus with three magnificent character actors in John Schuck, Jack Axelrod, and Tony Amendola, and barely even using them. Axelrod has one great bit when he goes all in-my-day-poets-were-real-poets-goddammit-kids-today-suck, but aside from that, they could’ve put anybody there to deliver their limp lines. Layna is an utter cliché, her mooning over Kelis is completely perfunctory, her jealous snit at Torres so paint-by-numbers as to be excruciating.

Worst is the cuts back to Voyager, which are either uninteresting or stupid. The former is mostly Paris shoving his jaw out and saying we have to do something, dagnabbit! The latter is Tuvok, whose entire plot sliver makes no sense. Where’s the logic in staying up for ten straight days? And it gives us the ridiculous scene of Tuvok snoring on the bridge, which isn’t nearly as funny as the script wants it to be.

Which is frustrating, because I love watching Torres find herself invested in the play despite herself, and I love the mythology that Joe Menosky creates for these people, and I really love the stylized production and dialogue of Kelis’ plays, complete with half-masks and asides to the audience.

This feels very much like a rushed first draft, and I wonder if this was a victim of the relentless scheduling needs of a weekly TV series and Menosky was forced to shove an unfinished script through production.

Warp factor rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be a guest at the virtual Shore Leave 41.6 this coming weekend, doing several Zoom panels. Keep an eye on the convention web site for the full schedule and to register for the panels.

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