April 24, 2024

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

Weekend Trek “The Thaw”

Janeway needs to rescue hostages from a clown that represents fear.

Hey, here’s a guest star I know!  John Oliver’s Catheter Cowboy!

Oh, and Michael McKean as the Clown.

So, here’s an interesting idea:  the ship finds a planet that was badly damaged by an environmental catastrophe, but there were a handful of survivors in stasis pods.  These folks should have been released four years earlier, and two of them have since died of a heart attack.  Sending Harry and B’Elanna in reveals an artificial environment in the form of a circus.  And in the middle of it all is McKean’s Clown.  The Clown, he can tell what someone is thinking within a few minutes, and he has some plans for Harry and B’Elanna.

He’s essentially the subconscious creation of the three survivors, the representation of their deepest anxieties and concerns.  He is, as Janeway puts it, fear in a humanoid form.

Oh, and he’s essentially a god in there.  He knows what people are thinking, and he’s more than willing to scare them out of their minds to maintain power with his collection of circus performers and others that, quite frankly, would probably make this setting a hellscape even if they weren’t trying to scare their hostages all the time.  Janeway can’t just disconnect everybody without the possibility of brain damage.  And anyone she sends in becomes just another hostage.

Well, there is one she can send in to negotiate, and he appears at just the right time to criticize the Clown’s scalpel technique because Harry is afraid of hospitals or something:  the Doctor can go in.  He’s just a holographic program, an artificial intelligence, and there’s nothing there for the Clown to read for fresh material.  Besides, the Doctor has probably one of my personal favorite lines of his, when asked by the Clown, why he should trust this new guy, and the Doctor replies, “I have a trustworthy face” in a tone that suggests, well, of course he does.

This is, of course, before McKean would go on to show off his dramatic chops with Better Call Saulbut there is a comedic undertone to the character.  He’s darkly funny, and pairing him with Robert Picardo as much as the episode does is a really nice touch.

Of course, the thing is, the Clown doesn’t make people feel fear.  He basically is fear.  Janeway has to figure out how to negotiate with an emotion, and she can’t do a lot of things without hurting the hostages, including Harry (B’Elanna is let out early to let the others know what’s going on).  Does Fear want to feel better relief?  Does he want it to end?  Can you shut down the program before he can start killing hostages?  That one is a “no.”  Can you offer him an artificial intelligence?  He’s not interested because it isn’t the same.  Can the Doctor keep him distracted long enough to shut the program down?  Again, that’s a no.

Will he take Janeway as a replacement?  Actually, yes.

Too bad for him it takes a few minutes to get everything synced up, or else he would have know that “Janeway” was another programmed hologram.

And that is why you don’t mess with Catherine Janeway.  If she shows up somewhere scowling, you’re a dead man…or a soon-to-be-nonexistent computer program.  Either works.