"Scientific Method"

Season Four, Episode 7
Teleplay by Lisa Klink
Story by Sherry Klein and Harry Doc Kloor
Directed by David Livingston 
Main Cast:
Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway
Robert Beltran as Chakotay
Roxann Dawson as B'Elanna Torres
Robert Duncan McNeill as Tom Paris
Ethan Phillips as Neelix
Robert Picardo as The Doctor
Tim Russ as Tuvok
Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine
Garrett Wang as Harry Kim

Guest Cast:
Annette Helde as Takar
Rosemary Forsyth as Alzen 


The crew start experiencing strange symptoms -- severe headaches which won't budge, irritability, hormonal unbalances. Things get more serious when the crew start undergoing mutations. The Doctor and Seven discover that an alien race, invisible to the naked eye, has actually infiltrated the ship and is performing genetic experiments on the crew. Janeway takes the offensive to get rid of their unwanted guests by undergoing a daring bit of piloting which threatens to destroy the ship, calling their bluff.


Weeell, what have we here? Pretty much a re-tread of TNG's Schisms I'm afraid. Which in itself would have been forgivable had it been an effective episode in itself, but despite some nice touches Scientific Method is pretty darn dull.

I didn't much care for the transformation of the crew into circus freaks due to some unknown force tampering with their genetics. By now Voyager ought to be very wary of using any form of genetic-manipulation plots, because some of the worst episodes of Trek have fallen under that category (consider Threshold, Favourite Son and TNG's Genesis). The actual results were obviously meant to be shocking and disturbing, but I confess to finding them rather amusing; Chakotay looked like Skeletor and Neelix turned into a giraffe. Terrifying, huh?

What was genuinely chilling was the twist that there are actually aliens aboard the ship, invisible to the naked eye, who are carrying out horrific experiments on the crew. The shots of the crew going about their everyday business, but with their heads in vices (!) and aliens following them about monitoring these bizarre experiments is truly disconcerting and a very neat touch. As a matter of fact the very next day my sister complained of a headache and said (in these very words) "it's like there's a vice clamping into my head" I showed her a clip from this episode! (She didn't speak to me for a while afterwards, needless to say!).

But sadly this one interesting concept just isn't enough to sustain a whole episode that is laboured with technobabble (which was so bad, I was just lost. I usually manage to follow the gist of it, but not here) and is very poorly paced and plodding. There's just no spark, no energy to bind the episode together, rendering it a collection of one or two nice moments in amongst a bucket load of silly science and a technobabble overdose. I was very disappointed that the whole thing is resolved using technobabble (though not exactly surprised) and even the supposedly nerve-wracking climax where Janeway pilots the ship through two stars was too forced and stilted to have any effect.

I do admit to finding the scenes with Tom and B'Elanna quite fun. Don't know why. There's not much depth to their relationship yet, but at least it's fun and seeing them act like mischevious teenagers (only to be caught by Tuvok!) was quite refreshing. I still don't see what right Janeway has to play mommy and chastise Paris and Torres for their behaviour. Is the "alien influence" she's subjected to supposed to justify this? Thing is, it stuck me as typically Janeway. There's always been this fascist undertone in that Janey must control her "family". Me don't like.

Anyway, on the whole Scientific Method is pretty middle-of-the-road. There are some nice moments and interesting touches, but they are few and far between, sandwiched amongst a whole load of weird science, indecipherable technobabble and a severely lethargic pace.

Rating: 5

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