(written from a Production point of view)
Trans-dimensional photonic lifeforms on an exploratory mission become entangled in a war with the characters from Tom Paris' "Captain Proton" program after mistaking Voyager's holodeck for reality.
Tom Paris and Harry Kim are enjoying a chapter of The Adventures of Captain Proton on the holodeck as Proton and Buster Kincaid respectively, trying to save Proton's secretary, Constance Goodheart. Things are going according to the script until a (colored) subspace distortion appears in the middle of their black-and-white program.
Unable to end the program or call the bridge, they try to exit the holodeck by finding a physical panel on the rocketship. Finally, they're able to leave via site-to-site transport. Meanwhile, the USS Voyager falls out of warp and loses control to several systems. Tuvok determines they have become trapped in a layer of subspace that is causing the loss of control. Unfortunately, they can't use warp drive, and upon trying the impulse drive, the ship shakes with no movement, so Captain Janeway goes to astrometrics to study the situation.
There, B'Elanna Torres and Seven of Nine inform Janeway that the subspace sandbar, as they call it, is a region of space where the interface between space and subspace is unstable, causing loss of control systems. Unfortunately, the computer core, tactical, holodecks and all but a few replicators are inaccessible. Recollecting a situation Janeway faced on the USS Al-Batani, the crew plans to shut down the warp core and use minimal thrusters so as not to increase the resistance to their movement.
In the holodeck, however, the program is still running. From the distortions, two photonic lifeforms appear in the form of two men in suits. They begin to explore the Planet X when they encounter Lonzak. He assumes they are there to invade, and captures them to bring to Doctor Chaotica. There, the beings attempt to explain they are explorers, but Chaotica doesn't believe them, believing they are from the Fifth dimension. He shoots one of them while the other escapes using his own teleportation device.
After three days of being stuck, the crew is on edge, especially Janeway. She gets some coffee in the mess hall and reluctantly listens to some of the ship's problems from Neelix, including only a few replicators and lavatories are now functional. She leaves that problem to him to draw up a schedule while she gets back to the bridge.
There, the crew try again to escape with their new plan, but are unsuccessful. Just then, weapons fire is detected on, surprisingly, the holodeck. Paris and Tuvok investigate and discover a war scene in which the Goodheart character has died (something that shouldn't be possible). Then, Paris finds Satan's Robot nearby, charred and barely operational, Paris fixes it and learns they believe invaders from the Fifth dimension have invaded. They go to the distortions and see the weapons fire coming from them. Paris brings Tuvok to the rocketship to get some more information, learning that Chaotica is at war with the aliens. Just then, the same being from before enters the rocketship and finds them. Paris doesn't recognize him.
Tuvok and Paris see that photonic lifeforms have mistaken the holodeck program for reality and are now at war with Doctor Chaotica. They try to explain to them that they are in a simulation but the aliens refuse to believe, oddly, as their "sensors" can't pick up "biochemical lifeforms", which they think are artificial. Suddenly, Satan's Robot barges in and knocks away the alien's weapon and he runs.
Paris and Tuvok brief the senior staff on what they've found. Janeway is in disbelief at the situation, as not only are they inadvertently fighting a war with aliens, but they can't communicate into or control the holodeck, nor do the aliens even detect Voyager itself. Paris suggests that the only way to end the conflict is to play along as the characters in Captain Proton, helping the aliens to defeat Chaotica and destroying his death ray. Paris details the plan, using all the terminology associated. The other crew smirk as they gradually catch on to the lingo and characters. Paris and Kim have their roles, but Paris suggests someone needs to play Queen Arachnia, who will be influential in dealing with Chaotica. Janeway looks to Seven, but Paris keeps his gaze on the captain. Janeway balks at the idea, but the rest of the crew join in to convince her.
Paris and Kim will resume their previous roles and, with some help from B'Elanna Torres, The Doctor will pose as the President of Earth. On the way to the holodeck, Paris briefs Janeway on the language she should use and how to interact with Chaotica, disturbing her a little. Her assignment is to get Doctor Chaotica to lower his lightning shield and disable the death ray. If she can't distract Chaotica, there's a vial of an irresistible potion she can use to put him under her spell.
Back in the program, Chaotica is informed of further defeat in his fight. He orders full power to the death ray and announces his warning. He gets a response, but it is Arachnia. Janeway makes her entrance as dramatic as she can, and Chaotica bows to her.
Chaotica is happy to show Arachnia around, and Janeway makes her character impressed with what she sees. She identifies the death ray and allows herself to be led to the throne, where she also identifies the potion. Janeway quickly makes up a story about her "spider ships" arriving to join the fight in an effort to get Chaotica to lower the shield. He's reluctant, and says she could prove her loyalty by becoming his queen. She agrees, asking that her fleet witness the event. Chaotica agrees to lower the shield once the troops arrive.
Meanwhile, The Doctor, as President, uses the alien's dropped device to signal him back into the holodeck. He arrives, and the President convinces him that they have a common enemy. Furthermore, Captain Proton is an agent of Earth and is not a threat to them, intent on destroying Chaotica's death ray. The alien agrees.
Proton and Kincaid ready the rocketship, still with Satan's Robot feebly looking like he's helping. Paris briefly promises to delete the whole program later, with the trouble it's caused. The President arrives, informing them he's been successful, so they take off.
Lonzak prepares Arachnia with the wedding when she turns to Chaotica for lowering the shield again, though he's still reluctant. Lonzak then sees Proton is preparing his attack, and Chaotica orders the death ray targeted on him. Janeway knocks out the operator and turns his ray gun on Chaotica. Lonzak tries to shoot him, but of course that doesn't hurt her, however, the "confinement rings" hold her, and she's unable to stop Chaotica from shooting Proton. They're hit, and the rocketship takes a dive.
On the bridge, Torres finds that the weapons fire is increasing, and the ship is being pulled deeper into subspace.
Proton's rocket is still airborne, and Chaotica continues to fire while Arachnia is chained against a wall. She unleashes the potion, and the smell reaches across the room, however, it reaches Lonzak instead. He comes over and unties her, making his ray gun available to her and she successfully forces Chaotica to lower the shield. After Proton's team destroys the death ray, the aliens retreat and Voyager is free again.
Chaotica is fatally wounded with the destruction of the death ray. As the others arrive, Chaotica declares that this isn't the last they will see of him.
- "Captain's log, supplemental. We've been spinning our wheels for three days now and still no progress in breaking free of the subspace layer."
"Um, sorry captain. We lost two more replicators this morning..."
"Listen to me very carefully because I'm only going to say this once. Coffee, black."
- - Janeway and Neelix
"Looks like he burned out a resistor.'"
- - Paris and Tuvok, as Paris repairs Satan's Robot
"Intercepted communications between Dr Chaotica and Arachnia. Stop. Chaotica at war with aliens from fifth dimension. Stop. Must strike now to disable death ray.'"
"Stop. Please summarize the message."
- - Paris, reading a telegram, and Tuvok
"Well, he's been attacking the aliens with his death ray."
"It's a shame we don't have one."
- - Paris and Tuvok
"This is how you've been spending your free time?"
"Well, I've, uh, been studying how past generations view the future."
"Well (chuckles), it didn't work out quite as black-and-white as they imagined."
- - Janeway and Paris, with an apparent pun on the monochromatic environment of Captain Proton.
"One more thing. If you have trouble with Chaotica, or you can't get to the death ray, you can always uncork the pheromones."
"I beg your pardon?"
- - Paris and Janeway
"Ah, I see you've kept my pheromones. I didn't realize you were the scent-imental type."
- - Janeway as Queen Arachnia
"Let me get this straight: trans-dimensional aliens have mistaken your Captain Proton simulation for reality."
"And now an armed conflict has broken out between these aliens, and Chaotica's holographic army."
"Yes ma'am. His army of evil."
- -Janeway and Paris
"The Destructo beam on my rocket ship can disable the death ray, but only if someone gets inside the Fortress of Doom and can shut down the lightning shield."
"Isn't anybody going to sing 'Hail to the Chief'?"
"Mr. President! How'd it go?"
"My performance was unimpeachable."
- - The Doctor and Kim
(locating the source of voice) "Satan's Robot!'"
- - Paris and Tuvok
"HAH! You're no match for Arachnia!"
- - Janeway, as Queen Arachnia after harmlessly absorbing a holographic blast from one of Chaotica's goons
" I don't know how to tell you this..." (shoots Chaotica with ray gun) "but the wedding's off!"
- - Janeway as Queen Arachnia, to Dr. Chaotica
- This episode's plot was conceived as a way to keep as much action as possible off the bridge, due to a fire which damaged that set (for more information, see VOY Season 5).
- The success of The Adventures of Captain Proton holodeck program, having been introduced earlier in the fifth season, was a prominent inspiration on the creation of this episode. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, pp. 44 & 48) The installment, in common with the holoprogram featured in it, was also meant as a parody of Flash Gordon. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 45; Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 103) Rick Berman recalled of the episode, "We decided to go high-camp [...] [and] black-and-white with it." (VOY Season 5 DVD, "Braving the Unknown: Season Five") Episode co-writer Bryan Fuller found the writing of the episode to be very enjoyable, later remarking, "'Bride of Chaotica!', which I wrote with Mike Taylor was just a blast to write [....] We watched hours of old Flash Gordon serials and just got into the genre and had some fun." (Star Trek Magazine issue 114, p. 36) The episode's development was also a thrill for supervising producer Kenneth Biller, who was involved in the episode's rewrite process in an uncredited capacity. He reminisced, "It was fun to write that inflated language, and come up with funny gags, and funny dialogue. It was fun to do a kind of comic romp." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 45)
- In the teaser, Harry Kim comments to Paris that the surface of Planet X looks suspiciously like the "Mines of Mercury" they had seen in a previous episode. This is an in-joke reference to the "Planet Hell" set used to depict many different subterranean or "cave" scenes since the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, including that very scene.
Cast and characters
- Having been very eager to work on the Captain Proton set, Tuvok actor Tim Russ was thrilled when the time came for him to do so. "It was very nice to be able to go in for a minute, under the auspices of investigating what was going on that wasn't quite right about it, and be able to work on the set, and be able to see it back in black and white. I thought it was very cool," Russ enthused. "I really enjoyed having an opportunity to do that." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 39)
- Tim Russ also appreciated that this episode allowed him to perform some comedy. He laughed, "Between the robot and Paris, there is a lot to play off of there, quite a bit actually [....] Paris is so careless and so off-center. It works very well against Tuvok's straight and linear way of doing things. 'Chaotica' was a prime example, and the writers gave me several zingers to throw him." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 39)
- Kate Mulgrew was delighted to perform Janeway's turn as Queen Arachnia, commenting, "That was the greatest fun. That was just wild fun. That was cut loose fun time. I mean those opportunities are few and far between for the captain. And I think everybody said, 'Oh well, let's just let Kate have a ball.' And I did." (Star Trek: Voyager Companion (p. 283)) Mulgrew also remarked, "I was the bride of Chaotica. Only the funniest man I have ever met in my life. When he electrocuted himself, I wet my pants. It was just outrageous. And I go to seduce him. It's a cartoon! [....] I was playing a '40s movie star. It was outrageous, it was so much fun and I hope the viewers liked it as much as I liked doing it. [I] loved the double punch, [I] loved the curve and when there was a little levity attached to it... Heaven!" (VOY Season 5 DVD, "Braving the Unknown: Season Five")
Production and effects
- Mitch Suskin, who supervised the visual effects of this outing, remembered that the lead-up to the making of the episode was an exciting time, saying, "I think everybody knew it was going to be really fun to work on, so that it emulates that 1940s serial look without being completely over the top." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 48)
- Set decorator James Mees found that the episode's production was highly enjoyable, later reminiscing, "We had a great time on Captain Proton and 'Bride of Chaotica!' [....] To rethink things so that they would photograph properly in black and white was amazing." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 3, p. 85)
- Chaotica's death ray was previously seen as a weapon in the forests of Minos in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Arsenal of Freedom".
- The Fortress of Doom's interior was designed to look highly expansive. Production Designer Richard James remarked, "When we did the palace, that gave us a chance to even do a bigger scale and everything. And of course, we went for as big a scale as we could achieve. I think we went pretty high with some of the columns and so forth." (VOY Season 5 DVD, "Braving the Unknown: Season Five")
- Chaotica's throne was previously used as Minister Odala's chair in "Distant Origin" (as well as the alien throne in the 1993 film Coneheads). (Star Trek: Voyager Companion (p. 284))
- The bridge scenes in this episode were actually shot weeks after the rest of the episode.
- Mitch Suskin noted that Captain Proton's rocket ship, which was designed by visual effects producer Dan Curry, looks much like the Flash Gordon ship and that the visual effects artists chose to represent the Fortress of Doom's exterior by intentionally making repeated reuses of a certain angle of the fortress, whose outside was actually a digital matte painting done by Eric Chauvin. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, pp. 48-49)
- The music for this episode was written by David Bell in the style of 1940s movie serials. A year after the episode was broadcast, selections of the score were released on The Best of Star Trek, Volume Two by GNP Crescendo Records. The four tracks are presented as suites totaling 12 minutes and 17 seconds of music.
- Tom Paris sarcastically suggests that the crew of Voyager all get out and push to get the ship out of the subspace sandbar, the same course of action he suggested in VOY: "Parallax", the second episode of the series. Scotty used the same phrase in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
- The Bride of Chaotica is also a science fiction film referenced in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Cogenitor".
- Just as Doctor Chaotica warns at the end of this episode, he makes a return appearance (specifically, in the Season 7 installment "Shattered").
- When Paris and Tuvok meet the photonic alien aboard Captain Proton's ship, he introduces Tuvok as a Lieutenant, even though he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander more than a year prior in "Revulsion".
- Rick Berman had words of high praise for this outing. "I thought it was a ball," he enthused. (VOY Season 5 DVD, "Braving the Unknown: Season Five")
- Ken Biller, however, had a problem with the installment. "I thought that, while Kate [Mulgrew]'s performance in the episode was, at certain points, a wonderful comic performance, I think that there was a mistake either in the performance choices or in the direction of it," Biller criticized. "Captain Janeway playing Queen Arachnia made sense, up to a certain point. There was a point at which, clearly, she had gotten what she needed to get. For some odd and, I thought, unexplained reason, she continued to assume this role, as opposed to being Captain Janeway wearing the costume, finishing up the mission. I just thought it got over-the-top." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 45)
- Contrastingly, James Mees was very enthusiastic about the episode. In a 2002 interview, he remarked, "We were really disappointed that that show didn't get nominated for an Emmy, because the art direction was spectacular [....] And then, of course, it was so over the top; I still watch that and laugh." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 3, p. 85)
- Writer Mike Sussman once praised this episode as "a great show." 
- The book Star Trek 101 (p. 175), by Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block, lists this episode as one of the "Ten Essential Episodes" from Star Trek: Voyager.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 5.6, 21 June 1999
- As part of the VOY Season 5 DVD collection
Links and references
- 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
- Andrew English as an operations division officer
- Erin Price as Renlay Sharr
- Tarik Ergin as
- Mark Hoffman as Lonzak's henchman
- Kirsten Turner as Constance Goodheart
- Unknown performers as
1930s; 'Adventures of Captain Proton, The; access port; "aground"; Al-Batani, USS; Arachnia; Army of Evil; biochemical lifeform; Bolians; brain probe; "break a leg"; calling card; Captain Proton; "Captain Proton Versus the Cosmic Creature"; carbon-based lifeform; cliffhanger; club; confinement rings; cosmetic surgery; Cradle of Persuasion; crocodile; death ray; Den of Crocodiles; destructo beam; deutronic circuitry; drawbridge; Dungeon of Pain; Earth; Earthling; ego; empire; fifth dimension; Fortress of Doom; generation; gravimetric force; "Hail to the Chief"; harem; holodeck; holographic character/holodeck character; Hollywood; hyperbole; imagizer; impulse reactor; intruder alert; Invaders from the Fifth Dimension; invader (aka invasion force); Kincaid, Buster; landing gear; lavatory; lightning shield; madman; megalomaniac; meters per second; microphone; mile; Mines of Mercury; pain modulator; pheromone; Planet X; President of Earth; protonebula; Photonic-Chaotica War; photonic charge; photonic lifeform; photonically-based projection; polarity; queen; Queen of the Spider People; question mark; ray gun; recap; resistor; rocket ship; science fiction; science officer; secret weapon; silk; sire; Site-to-site transport; slave; sonic shower; space drive; spell; "Spell of the Spider"; Spider People; Spider ship; steering jets; subject; subspace; subspace sandbar; telegram; Terran; trapdoor; vanguard; villain; weapon; wedding; wedding night; wedding ring; weep
- "Bride of Chaotica!" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Bride of Chaotica!" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Bride of Chaotica!" at Wikipedia
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