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Con Artists Befuddle The Crew In Last Season's Light Entry "Live Fast and Prosper"

Posted: 06:50:41 on August 31
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: Reviews - Voyager

Reviews Ex Deus
Written for TrekWeb.COM by 'O. Deus'.

The Original Series had its Harry Mudd, the Next Generation had Vash (or arguably Q), Deep Space Nine had Quark; these are the recurring characters often cast as con men who befuddle the Captain and give an episode a lighter touch. The con men usually tend not to be particularly evil but cunning buffoons who want more than they can handle and whose misadventures produce amusing consequences while serving as a foil for our heroes. Initially it seemed that Neelix might play such a role but he was quickly turned into a dour but eager puppy dog. The main obstacle to having such a character on Voyager was once again the producers belief that Janeway was too fragile to be seriously opposed, undercut or mocked. The same rationale turned the Voyager crew into robots marching in lockstep with Janeway's commands and Q's appearances into pleas for help. Now at the end of the sixth season with episodes like Good Shepherd demonstrating that Janeway really isn't made out of glass and can more than hold her own in a confrontation with humor and wit, comes Live Fast and Prosper.

If there's one thing the sixth season has focused on it's Voyager Deconstructed. We've had Voyager as seen from the perspective of a primitive Shakespearean culture (Muse), Voyager from the perspective of the Doc's fantasies as seen by an alien society (Tinker Tailor), Voyager as seen over the course of an alien civilization (Blink of an Eye), Voyager as seen by children (Haunting) and Voyager as seen by Barclay (Pathfinder) among others. Live Fast and Prosper gives us a sendup of the Voyager crew's mission and fandom. Unlike the cons of earlier series, Voyager doesn't focus on creating vivid guest stars but characters who are interesting mainly because they impersonate Voyager crew members. Like some members of fandom who take it too far, Dala and Mobar dress in Starfleet like uniforms, pretend to be Starfleet officers and get it almost right, but not quite. This provides opportunities for jokes about Janeway's hair, replacing Janeway and fans who get too caught up in the show as exemplified by Mobar who doesn't just impersonate Tuvok but comes to believe that he really is Tuvok.

Living off a standard story concept that was old when Bonanza was new, Live, Fast and Prosper is an entertaining enough episode. The problem is that like many of last season's better episodes, it only works because rather than focusing on the regulars it turns its attention to amusing new characters created only for this episode. And the bigger problem of which this is only a symptom, is that these characters whether they be the 3 dysfunctional crewmen of Good Shepherd, Lindsay of Ashes or the Borg Children work so much better than the regular characters. At least one of the major reasons Good Shepherd was enjoyable was because it didn't feature Tom and Harry and Neelix and Chakotay going through their tried routines. Ditto for Live Fast and Prosper. Dala and Mobar are a breath of fresh air because they walk in, entertain us and leave when the episode is done and yet we know them better and like them better than quite a few Voyager regulars. The sections of Live Fast that dealt with their antics were the most entertaining and flew by while the sections featuring Tom and Neelix dealing with the possibility that they may not be as sharp as they used to be, made me want to switch the channel.

Live Fast and Prosper may be composed of tried gags and plot twists but in the end it's characters that decide whether a story works. The reason Live Fast and Prosper works is also the reason so much of Voyager doesn't. The sixth season's emphasis on introspection, on looking to decide just what Voyager means and stands for seems like a good idea even if it comes a bit late to do any good. This episode may serve as a jab at fandom and Voyager's own idiosyncrasies while testifying to the different style and quirky storytelling Voyager has brought to the Star Trek table, but it will be noted as yet another episode in which the writers took a long look at the Voyager cast and moved on to another menu.

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