Torres must deal with a potential robot race who might not be all that they appear in the episode that originally aired on January 15, 1996. This is Prototype.
Captain’s Log Stardate undetermined: Prototype
Torres discovers a sentient robot who asks her help to restore it’s race. However it seems there was a reason it was abandoned in the first place.
After recovering a robot from deep space Torres and the crew begin to try to revive it. Discovering that it is a completely mechanical being, Torres, with the help of Harry Kim being to work on a way to revive this ‘extraordinary’ find.
Soon Torres realizes that she needs additional help and, after enlisting the aid of the EMH resulting in the revival of the classic ‘I’m a doctor not a….’ line, she finds that she needs to give the robot a transfusion of plasma. Getting the okay from Janeway, she uses some of the Warp Plasma to breath life back into the dying robot only to have it awaken and identify itself as Automated Unit #3947.
Explaining that he was involved in an asteroid mining accident, AU3947 Confirms that he is well on his way to repair, thanking Torres and her team for his revival. Referring to Torres as a ‘Builder’, the chief engineer soon learns that AU3947 may indeed be one of the last of his kind as his ‘Builder’s’ no longer exist.
Torres explains the situation to Janeway and asks permission to help AU3947 rebuild his race. Believing that this may be a direct violation to the Prime Directive, Janeway denies permission but Torres argues that by giving AU3947 a way to procreate on his own this will be essentially saving a civilization. Despite her argument, Janeway still refuses permission leaving Torres in a difficult situation.
Informing AU3947 of her inability to help him, causing him to inform her that his people will not survive without her assistance. She acknowledges this but is unable to help informing him that Voyager has located his original ship and expect to be there soon.
Arriving at his ship they soon find the ship to be populated by other robots similar to AU3947. Contacting Voyager, the crew come face to face with AU6263 who seems satisfied that they are returning one of their own to them. Torres goes to see AU3947 off to his home when he stuns her and beams out with her in his arms despite Chakotay’s efforts to prevent it.
Now on the Pralor ship Torres finds herself ‘encouraged’ to build a prototype Automated Unit that can reproduce. Unable to rescue Torres due to the Pralor ship being a superior opponent, Torres is given an ultimatum, make the Prototype or Voyager will be destroyed. Given access to parts and equipment but cut off from her ship, Torres begins working on the Prototype under duress.
As Torres begins work on the Prototype, she is informed that she has approximately 140 hours to compete her task as they expect Voyager to attempt a rescue at that time. AU6263 informs her that should she fail, she and her crew will be killed. Back on Voyager Janeway and crew determine that it could take 6 days to fully repair the ship but minimal repairs will take at least 72 hours. They go to work in hopes to get to B’Elanna before she completes her task. Paris soon thinks he has found a way to take a shuttle to the enemy ship undetected but is challenged by Chakotay concerning the plan. Janeway agrees that it might be an option but in order for it to work they will need a diversion.
Torres finds the reason that the AU’s have not been able to create more of their own but is not sure how she can fix that issue. It seems that their energy units are unique to each individual but she thinks she can find a method to make a universal version. As she works on the new prototype AU3947 begins to ask about her people and their use of artificial beings. She admits that most artificial beings are indeed used as servants but not many are as advanced as that of AU3947 and his people. She soon describes Data and the acceptance that he is an equal to her own people, something AU3947 finds interesting. Torres is soon able to get the experimental power unit functioning and begins the next phase of her test. Finishing the chassis for Prototype 0001, Torres installs the experimental unit to find that it works with P0001 indicating that it is ‘ready to accept programming’. pleased at their success their celebration is short lived when the ship is suddenly attacked.
As Torres works on the Prototype they are soon shocked when another vessel comes into long range sensor range. It seems someone has noticed that they are there. Soon Voyager sees an alien vessel approach the Pralor ship and begins attacking almost immediately. Detecting no signs of life aboard the new ship it soon becomes apparent that they have found themselves involved in a robot war of some sort. Knowing that this could result in the destruction of the Pralor ship, Janeway decides it is time to mount their rescue of Torres. Soon, however, they are contacted by the attacking vessel identifying itself as a Cravic vessel which soon asks Janeway to standby. Recognizing that they have their diversion, Janeway sends Paris to rescue B’Elanna in his shuttle.
On the Pralor ship AU3947 explains that the attackers are AU’s from Cravic who were programmed by their people to attack the Pralor units. Soon B’Elanna realizes that these robots are at war due to their creators and have been ever since even though their creators have been long extinct. It seems that the builders from each race came to peace and, when they attempted to end the war between the robot factions, the builders themselves were terminated in an attempt at self preservation. She has not only helped the Pralor reproduce…she has allowed the Pralor to have victory over the Cravic. Realizing her error, Torres destroys the prototype even though it may mean her death. AU3947 is shocked at her betrayal but before he can react B’Elanna is beamed safely aboard Paris’ shuttle.
Back on Voyager Torres and Janeway share a cup of coffee as they discuss the Engineer’s actions. Janeway acknowledges that Torres destroying the prototype had to be a difficult decision at which Torres agrees. She had created an artificial life, something only one other cyberneticist had been able to do in their lifetime, however she did what was necessary to prevent it from being used for evil.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
From the get go this episode looks like it is pulled directly out of the classic Doctor Who series. Throughout the episode I half expected Tom Baker to pop in and save the day from the rather 60’s looking robots. I mean, that would have been a pretty great crossover but man would that have caused some interesting complications. Thankfully I got my Trek/Who crossover later in life via the IDW comic so I can’t really complain.
The rather dated robots aside, this episode focuses on B’Elanna Torres and her skills not just as an engineer but also her skills as a person. So far Torres has really had a few solid episodes to shine and has vastly proved herself to be one of the finest Engineers we have seen yet. I have to say, if I were putting a crew together, she would certainly be one of the top picks for Chief Engineer. That being said, we really haven’t had a chance to dive into her abilities as a mechanic and, more appropriately, as an inventor.
Most people have side projects that use their work skills in unique and different ways. It many ways this is a way to decompress from the daily grind of using your talents for someone else’s gain. Most mechanics have a vehicle of some sort they are building at home, most toy-makers have a special hobby where they make their own prototypes, most journalists are working on their own book or essays. Many times these projects are of a very different style or theme than their daily efforts so when B’Elanna is confronted with a technological challenge to help create a living robot, she is eager to find out if she can. I mean, there is no doubt from the get go that, if anyone on Voyager can do it, it would be Torres.
Torres finds herself confronted with the classic conundrum of ‘while she can do it, should she do it?’ It is an age old question that has been followed by a great many and ignored by some at their peril. While Janeway makes a good argument against her assisting in creating a replicatable being, the moral quandary is much more than just a simple dismissal using the Prime Directive. In fact, B’Elanna makes a good point, If they were human would it be any different.
This is where the episode nearly falls apart. Sure it is shown that the AU’s just want to be able to do this to win a war but there is a certain quote used by Janeway that bothers me terribly. Especially when in the last episode she does exactly what she is arguing against. That quote?
“Who are we to swoop in, play god, and then continue on our way without the slightest consideration of the long-term effects of our actions?”
Yes. She actually says this and the fact that the crew of Voyager has done just that time and again in the past season and a half makes this one of the worst reasoning for not helping the robots. Don’t get me wrong, I love Janeway and Mulgrew’s portrayal of her but this is some seriously self righteous shit. Outside of Picard (for the most part) I don’t think there is a single Star Fleet Captain, okay maybe Pike as well, who could make this statement without coming across as a total hypocrite. Seriously, Voyager literally just left a planet in the state of a revolution that they helped cause and literally ‘continued on their way without the slightest consideration of the long term effects of their actions.’ I know this comes down to very uneven writing and a complete lack of a unified vision for the series, I mean you can see this in the manner of how the Doctor both is and isn’t sentient depending on the mood of the writers, but still let’s have a little consistency shall we?
That rather large nit for me aside, the story itself is a pretty neat idea. Voyager stumbles onto a centuries long robot war only to inadvertently ally themselves with one side. It’s classic scifi through and through with real repercussions…well real for this episode as in it is very much forgotten once they leave the sector. Seriously, there are killer Robots at war that will use any passerby as a means to an end…wait a minute shouldn’t Neelix have known about a rogue robots that were at war in the part of space.
Hey Neelix, are you familiar with this at all?
I rest my case.
Overall, not a bad episode if you don’t dive too deep into the plot and the lasting implications of it all. Plus it has some classic 60’s costume design. I for one love that.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- 0 photon torpedoes fired, 37 remaining.
- 0 shuttles lost/destroyed, 5 remaining.
- Frakes does a great job directing but even he can’t bat 1000 every time. Remember the rapey candle ghost….yeah….
- You get the first hints of Paris’ insubordination toward Chakotay and others. This is important. Watch for it.
- Data is mentioned in this episode. Pretty cool.
- This is the second time Harry Kim has been seen working in engineering. Is our intrepid little Ensign bucking for a promotion? Good luck Harry…
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Alliances
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Late To The Game 6/5/2020
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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