It was 20 years ago this week that the bridge set of Voyager caught fire and lucky for all of us, the result was the classic episode Bride of Chaotica!
Star Trek, in all its various forms, has never shied away from taking on the issues of the day. From The Original Series to Deep Space Nine all the way to the new kid on the block Discovery, Star Trek has always told stories that worked on multiple levels. They usually tried to teach us something about ourselves and our humanity.
It’s what makes Star Trek so much more than phasers, explosions and one action sequence after another. It’s what makes the franchise special in the eyes of so many fans.
That all being said, there are times when Star Trek has let its hair down and tried for something a bit different. When getting a laugh was more important than a deeper understanding.
“The Trouble with Tribbles.” “Ménage à Troi.” “Take Me Out to the Holosuite.” All example of episodes where there was no grand meaning, no greater message to be learned. Just an excuse to have fun and laugh for a bit.
And if we’re talking about the silly side of Star Trek, then there is perhaps no better example than Star Trek: Voyager‘s “Bride of Chaotica!”
“Bride of Chaotica!” aired 20 years ago this week, part of Voyager‘s fifth season. The plot revolved around the holodeck and the Captain Photon program, which became necessary after a fire broke out on the bridge set and it couldn’t be used for a period of time.
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In the episode, which is almost entirely in black and white, the crew has to deal with photonic beings who have gone to war with Prince Chaotica, a Ming the Merciless clone from Captain Proton. There are some other things going on, but none of it really matters. The joy of “Bride of Chaotica!” is seeing Robert Duncan McNeill, Garrett Wang and Robert Picardo having a blast while playing Flash Gordon and getting paid to do it.
But the crown jewel of “Bride of Chaotica!” and why it is a classic is without a doubt Kate Mulgrew as Arachnia, Queen of the Spider People. For reasons that aren’t important, Captain Janeway has to enter the holodeck as Arachnia to help stop Chaotica. The result is the kind of performance that I doubt we’ll ever see again on Star Trek.
Mulgrew just crews up the scenery as Arachnia, channeling her inner Shatner and going completely over the top, seemingly loving every minute of it. I don’t think any other actor could have brought what Mulgrew did to that performance.
“Bride of Chaotica!” is regularly listed among the best episodes from the seven-year run of Star Trek: Voyager and with good reason. It was Star Trek at its silliest, most fun and totally absurd. Which is something you need every once in a while in even the best science-fiction universes.
Happy birthday “Bride of Chaotica!” We’re very happy you came into our lives, gave us a laugh or two and taught us to always use grandiose language.