In the Flesh
Airdate: November 4, 1998
Written by: Nick Sagan
Directed by: David Livingston
Short Take: Voyager's best this year, with a nice twist and a wonderful message
Brief Summary: A simulated Starfleet Academy turns out to be an 8472 base
Review: You know, this really was a bad premise. Body snatcher 8472 fun that made no sense... why such an elaborate plan when you can just whip up on Earth?
Doom looked eminent. After all, they obviously spent a lot of money on the episode, with not only new sets but enough money to spare to have Zack Galligan of Gremlins fame. It shouted Sweeps Month Ratings Grabber.
Shucks, Voyager fooled me. "In the Flesh" threw a lot of money around, but it also threw a lot of good ideas around. It wasn't perfect, as there were places when those ideas could have been better stated, but all in all it was a very worthwhile hour.
It's good to see the follow up to 8472 not forget what happened in the past. "Scorpion" would have convinced 8472 that the Federation was indeed evil. While I don't buy the fact that 8472 knew so much, or that it was so concerned as to build numerous facilities to imitate a species they know nothing about, it still was a good idea, simply because it put 8472 in form, and that offers a lot of dramatic possibilities. Standing in the shoes of others will always help you understand them. Putting them in human form shows them to be another aspect of ourselves, making the message even stronger.
Many will complain that this guts 8472 as an enemy. It doesn't. These aren't boogeymen; indeed, the episode was showing just the opposite. They're an intelligent species, and any intelligent species doesn't run around eating everything. The X Files could learn how to do its aliens from Voyager.
It did it without making humanity looking good, either. I think many of us forget that the Federation way isn't the "human way" - just one way humanity can go, 8472 xenophobia being another. The lesson, schmaltzy as it may seem, is that we can get along - it only takes understanding.
With that said, a lot of it could have been better said. One way would have been to bring about the episode's big turn later... have Chakotay protest that humanity is good, all the while Janeway is turning her phasers on the base. To the show's defense, the episode ending with many possibilities... 8472's goonies at the top might not be so welcome to detente. The happy, joyful ending that included the exchange of technology may not be some happy come next sweeps month.
Still, sharply done. Sagan appears to be a welcome edition to the staff. His dialogue was sharp and natural; I enjoyed how he made the simple conversation between Chakotay and Alien Babe flirtatious yet not slopping with hormones. I was surprised how little scenes, like Chakotay talking about his date or Kim speculating on dating an alien, could feel so natural.
"In the Flesh" surprised me, a lot. It was a nifty concept with a good message... which is a great relief to me, since Braga in control had me worried. Voyager's been solid this year. As I'm oft to say, let's keep it up.
Some short takes:
- Pon Farr Night... nice
-Ray Walston was delightful as boothby. There should be a Trek spinoff about gardeners travellin' the galaxy.
-The Delta Flyer can evade sensors? Next week it survives a crash, too...
-I have no clue as to how 8472 knew about Starfleet Academy. Picard, via the Borg? Actually, the secret is that Voygaer can't afford the new uniforms...
1)In the Flesh
Next week: Storytime