Overall Rating: 7.0
The one and only thing that Brannon Braga is good at - a mind-fuck episode. This is a bad idea done fairly well, despite the logical flaws (which can be dismissed with the simple fan-wank hand-wave of "it was all a simulation anyway").
The full summary of this plot is here: thanks, Memory Alpha!
This feels like another one of those episodes whose pitch was no better thought out than a one-line "what if" question and a few opening images. I'm guessing someone - possibly the script's author Brannon Braga - pitched the idea like this: "Remember that awesome episode I wrote for TNG (sixth season's "Frame of Mind")? What if that episode from TNG could be combined with the mental gymnastics in the episode with Moriarty in that cube - and the victim is the EMH? Then he'd have to play out some crazy scenario where the doctor got the ability to move around the ship, only to discover that his whole Voyager experience was a holodeck fantasy. Ooh...and I can get Jonathan Frakes to direct since he knows what a good Braga script looks like!" And the Voyager writers - starved for good ideas - said "well it worked before...let's hope it works again!"
There is absolutely NOTHING original about this story...the predictably unpredictable and random twists, the goofy zip-pans and slow-zooms behind the camera, the impossible things happening (right down to the cut that won't go away, just like in Frame of Mind!). The only reason this episode works - the ONLY reason - is that the central figure is the EMH and the EMH is played by Robert Picardo. I enjoy his performances at every turn, including the fluffy mind-fuck episodes written by Brannon Braga. It is an interesting question the Doctor raises at the end of the episode. When our mind is in crisis, why do we tend to fixate on meta and psychoanalysis (our life flashing before our eyes, asking ourselves the meaning of life kinds of questions, that sort of thing), rather than on the logical reality of the situation and how we might survive it? I suppose that little bit of depth right at the end there was Braga's attempt to wonder, just a little bit, at the nature of the mind and its connection to something greater.
Naaahhhh...he's just fucking with us. :)
As I said...Braga is not a good writer and this script only gets away with being as repetitive of old concepts as it is, and as flawed as it is, because we like being mind-fucked sometimes just to keep us on our toes. It's the same reason we like watching horror movies.
Well...that...and Robert Picardo is awesome and they got Barkley in there too - who is also awesome.
Sorry...this one is message free...it's fluffy, cooky, and fun. And that's all.