WARNING: The following article contains lengthy spoilers for the second season of "Star Trek: Voyager". Anyone wishing to stay clear of said spoilers had better leave now. Well, here we are again ... seems like ages. (Well, weeks, anyway.) As usual, this review is broken up into two parts: an episode-by- episode recap, followed by more general comments on the season as a whole -- including, in this case, an announcement. All set? Too bad; I'm starting anyway. :-)
Written by: Jeri Taylor & Brannon Braga Directed by: James L. Conway Initial rating: 3 Quotables: "I think you'll find that's manure." Janeway: "Put 'er down, Mr. Paris." Us, as Paris: "Okay; this ship sucks!" "Am I leading the crew on a forlorn mission with no real hope of success?" [Janeway, in an "up" mood.]
"The 37's", originally intended to be a first-season ending, was hardly an auspicious beginning. Although there was some promise in the Janeway/Earhart interactions and in the question of whether the crew would choose to stay on the planet, neither of those issues got more than a smattering of screen time. Instead, there was a hole-ridden alien abduction story and lots of bad planning, compounded by a wholly unbelievable ending. No, thank you.
Final rating: 3 [Note: I still think the most interesting choice would have been for Voyager to use the planet as a base of operations; scout out from there for anomalies and so forth, but let it be "home" much of the time.]
Written by: Kenneth Biller Directed by: Winrich Kolbe Initial rating: 7 Quotables: "You'd rather die in your sleep, a wrinkled old man?" "Sounds about right." "For the Kazon, live ammunition is a very effective teaching tool." "You think I'm gonna get much sleep around an Ogla warrior who wants to kill me?"
Most of the good in "Initiations" came from Chakotay: Robert Beltran gave a solid performance in showing Chakotay's calm yet annoyingly superior attitude towards Kar, and Chakotay generally kept his wits about him most of the time. Unfortunately, no one else seemed to: the Kazon were their usual warmed-over-Klingon selves, there were strange inconsistencies in the story (such as Chakotay's shuttle being able to contact the Kazon ship but not Voyager), the entire setup for Chakotay's premise made no sense, and Chakotay's calm "oh, don't worry about killing me; my ship will revive me" made my skin crawl. Thanks primarily to Beltran's work, the show's watchable, but not necessarily much past that.
Final rating: 5.5 [Note: for viewers of either "Babylon 5" or the late "Nowhere Man", look for Patrick Kilpatrick (a bomber on B5 and a paramilitary man named Knox on NM) as Razik.]
Written by: Brannon Braga Directed by: Jonathan Frakes Initial rating: 9.5 Quotables: Oh, a host of them, starting with a trio from Barclay: "Don't panic." [not a great quote by itself, but coming from *Barclay*, it's terrific] "You're starting to think that you're part of the program, and that's ... that's not good!" "... well ... I'm just NOT an alien." Doc and Barclay: "Did I program Mr. Paris to be so annoying?" "Actually, I programmed him; I modeled him after my cousin Frank." ... and Tuvok's dry, "In fact, except for the computer problems, it has been an uneventful day."
Is "Projections" an awful lot like TNG's "Frame of Mind"? Yep. Is there much of any logic backing up the main point? Not entirely. Is the twist at the very end of act 5 entirely fair? Probably not. Did I have a blast anyway? Absolutely. This may not have broken a lot of new ground, but with a plot like this and letting Robert Picardo and Dwight Schultz go nuts, it's still damned pleasant.
Final rating: 9
Written by: Kenneth Biller and Jeri Taylor (teleplay); Jimmy Diggs & Steve J. Kay (story) Directed by: Winrich Kolbe Initial rating: 1.5 Quotables: "I'd call it an example of indiscreet shipboard fraternization." "Really? Sorry I missed it." "In the future, if I have any questions about mating behavior, I'll know where to go." [Janeway to Chakotay; vaguely amusing in light of "Resolutions"]
Bleah. About the only thing this episode had going for it was actually mentioning the issue of kids on Voyager, and Tim Russ's work as Tuvok discussing his fatherhood. However, the other 90% of the show had such gems as Neelix's jealousy, Kes's insectivore tendencies (thus playing into major stereotyping about pregnancy), a reproductive cycle that should have led to the Ocampa's extinction long ago, what appeared to be giant space spermatozoa "flagellating" from place to place at 2% of the speed of light, a heavy-handed moral about teen pregnancy, and an ending that cheats and lets us go through all of it again in 2 or 3 seasons when Kes hits her "real" elogium. Have I missed anything?
Final rating: 1.5
Written by: Brannon Braga Directed by: David Livingston Initial rating: 6.5 Quotables: "Harry ... you better be dying." "It's not a game!" "Oh, it isn't? Oh, that's a shame ... I like games." [Harry and the alternate Paris] "Why does everyone say 'relax' when they're about to do something terrible?" [Harry, voicing a question I've wondered about myself] "Look, that was another lifetime; I'm doing the best I can."
As the first truly enjoyable episode filmed for season 2, "Non Sequitur" was something of a landmark. Although "a spatial anomaly alters reality" is entirely too common a crutch to be really useful here, and Jennifer Gatti was *terrible* as Libby, Garrett Wang earned his week's pay, and the alternate Paris was both well written and extremely well played. While it's perhaps telling that two of the most interesting episodes early in season 2 were both dealing with situations outside actual reality, that doesn't change the fact that this one was a relatively neat idea very well executed.
Final rating: 7
Written by: Kenneth Biller (teleplay); Arnold Rudnic & Rich Hosek (story) Directed by: Kim Friedman Initial rating: 2.5 Quotables: "Phenomenon ... phenomenon ..." "Do-DOO-da-do-do!" [Tuvok, and any Muppet fan on the face of the planet] "You have many wonderful attributes ... your sense of direction is not *one* of them ..."
When three of the four holdovers from season 1 has a rating of 3 or below, there's something wrong. Unfortunately, such was the case. While the basic premise had some meat to it (as any reader of Heinlein's "And He Built a Crooked House" could attest), that's all the episode had going for it until the final five minutes. The episode had still more of Neelix's jealousy, lots of pointless interplay in the holodeck pool hall, yet another case of the crew behaving like idiots, Kate Mulgrew being forced to babble incoherently, hosts of technobabble, and yet another spatial anomaly winding up as yet another way for some super-powerful race to communicate. There was some interesting characterization towards the very, very end ... but anyone watching would be advised to watch that and only that.
Final rating: 1.5
Written by: Tom Szollosi Directed by: Jonathan Frakes Initial rating: 5 Quotables: "Play something *different*." "But that's rude." "No, that's *smart*." "Am I discerning a personal problem here, gentlemen?" "Frankly, yes, Captain." "Solve it." [Janeway, cutting right to the heart of the matter] "No one has stronger survival skills than Neelix." [ranking right up there with early references to Rom as a mechanical genius, that one...] "B-minus? That's not very encouraging." "My father was teaching the class that year." "Mr. Kim, that's not an answer I can live with." "I'll try to get you a better one, Captain." "And you expect to take care of this thing until what, it graduates from high school? College?" [possibly an anachronism, but a great line] "If you hear muffled screams, consider that a request for a beam-out."
The best way to sum up "Parturition" is "mostly good on character, very weak on plot". Apart from the necessity of having to search for food, a good touch the likes of which we should see a lot more of, the story of Planet Hell was pretty dull and technobabble-ridden (eased somewhat by Neelix's comment on that fact). Character-wise, both Paris and Neelix got to grow, and McNeill did a stellar job with the material he had to work with. However, what character growth there was took place in just as much of a vacuum as did the Flagellators in "Elogium", which is a shame.
Final rating: 4.5
"Persistence of Vision"
Written by: Jeri Taylor Directed by: James L. Conway Initial rating: 5.5 Quotables: "I suggest you don't look at the viewscreen." "It's not even *tempting*." "Why did you do this to us?" "Because I can."
"Persistence of Vision"'s strength was its first half; it managed to establish a good, moody atmosphere and get things feeling appropriately creepy. (The "cucumber sandwiches" vision of Janeway's was particularly good at that.) Unfortunately, the second half of the show degenerated into "deep, dark secrets of the crew" week, and none of those secrets were really all that interesting. Perhaps more damning, by the end of the episode the focus had shifted from psychological horror to a more graphic sort, and even worse, the entire episode lacked the grounding in logic to have the Bothans' actions resonate at all with the viewer. It gets high marks for atmosphere and for some progress with Kes, but that's not enough to get it past "okay".
Final rating: 6
Written by: Michael Piller (teleplay); Larry Brody (story) Directed by: Alexander Singer Initial rating: 6 Quotables: "I don't have a life; I have a program." "I can give you an official Rubber-Tree-People theory if you like." "You'd think with warp technology, they wouldn't be living like this." [the quote itself isn't meaningful so much as the shockingly casual tone Chakotay uses] "For the record, I must take exception to these orders." "Noted." "The ship might make it without inertial dampers -- but we'd all just be stains on the back wall." "Yes, Father. I hear him. I *finally* hear him."
The two major negatives in "Tattoo" were the heavy-handed preachiness of the ending (up there with TNG's "Journey's End") and the utterly inane "Kes tricks Doc with the flu" subplot, which was a waste of film. However, what's left was really quite nice in a very quiet, understated way. Robert Beltran got to do magnificent work, we got to see Chakotay's attitudes really evolve over the course of the show, Henry Darrow was terrific in a series of superbly arranged flashbacks, and although the problems on the ship were pretty dumb, they mostly stayed out of the way. This one's growing on me a bit.
Final rating: 6.5
Written by: Brannon Braga (teleplay); Anthony Williams (story) Directed by: Cliff Bole Initial rating: 6 Quotables: "Your ship is known as a ship of death." "There are people [on Voyager], but there's so *little* life." "Focus on the *goal*, not the task." Tanis: "There is no liquid, there is no cup..." Us: "-- there is only Zuul." "If this experience proves anything, it is that you need further instruction." "Without the darkness, how would we recognize the light?"
"Cold Fire", on the other hand, is looking less and less impressive with each viewing. Here is an episode with tons of potential -- perhaps a little too much. Kes's temptation to "the dark side" of her mental abilities is an interesting topic, as is locating the Caretaker's mate. Instead of giving either one the treatment it deserves, however, we got a mishmash of the two, complete with cheesy let's-levitate- someone-to-prove-how-badass-we-are antics from Suspiria, lousy animation of "tea molecules" (snort), a truly one-sided characterization of Tanis, and a reset-button ending. The episode had some strengths, primarily in the Kes/Tuvok interactions and the *idea* behind Tanis's lessons -- but it turned its back on most of what it could have been.
Final rating: 4
Written by: Kenneth Biller Directed by: David Livingston Initial rating: 6.5 Quotables: "Perhaps Commander Chakotay could use his intimate knowledge of Seska to manipulate her in much the same way she manipulated *us*." "So now I'm getting advice about controlling my emotions from *you*." "I find it more than a little self-indulgent of Chakotay to believe that this is all about *him*." "We can worry about the discipline later." [Um...] "I thought all those months answering to Janeway would have made you soft. But all you needed was a little slap in the face to get that Maquis heart of yours beating again." "Just tell me something; what were you *thinking*?"
"Maneuvers" was damned frustrating, but despite a lousy ending managed to be of reasonable quality. Most of the episode dealt with dueling strategies -- Seska's, Chakotay's, Culluh's, Janeway's -- and on that level, just about everything worked. (The second act, where Chakotay manages to destroy the technology stolen from Voyager, was particularly strong.) Adding to that the fact that Neelix was actually of *use* suggests a miracle is in the offing. Unfortunately, the last five minutes undid a great deal -- between Janeway inexplicably giving Chakotay no more of a comeuppance than a meaningless reprimand (and both parties using nonsense arguments) and a frankly insulting "guess what, I used magic-tech DNA to give myself your kid" ending from Seska, the episode's power was immeasurably blunted. It wasn't enough to make the episode bad by any stretch -- but ignore the last five minutes if you can.
Final rating: 6.5
Written by: Lisa Klink (teleplay); Michael Jan Friedman & Kevin J. Ryan (story) Directed by: Winrich Kolbe Initial rating: 9.5 Quotables: "I'm not afraid." "And that could get both of us killed." "It's all right now ... they're gone." [sound plebeian? Not if you've seen the show.] "Give me some good news, Mr. Kim." "There's a disruption of the shields around the prison." "That qualifies."
This one's still magnificent, though. Oh, there are a few nagging annoyances -- Janeway's presence on the planet at all, transporting through shields (a Trek no-no that's been broken a lot when convenient these days), Kim's strategy with the storm being less than feasible, and a few other things. That pales, though, next to a story with a very solid emotional core that is *not* pulled away with a cheat by the end, a slow evolution of characters over the course of the show, good work by Kate Mulgrew, and a standout performance from the incomparable Joel Grey. This one's simple ... but quite effective.
Final rating: 9.5
Written by: Nicholas Corea Directed by: Jonathan Frakes Initial rating: 7.5 Quotables: [Harry lifts up the robot's arm to let it fall limply] Us, Pythonically: "Now that's what I call a dead robot." "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?" [Janeway, beautifully summing up the Prime Directive in a sentence] "It would be inadvisable for your captain to provoke us." "Any rescue attempt would no doubt necessitate a rapid departure." [Tuvok, stating the obvious] "You don't mind if the rest of us give you a little help, do you, Paris? I'd hate to lose another shuttle."
"Prototype" didn't try to be particularly deep -- which is good, because it wasn't. The novelty factor of a truly robotic race and of the altered perspective of the teaser are distinct bonuses, and the story on the whole was generally entertaining. What keeps it from being any more than that is the lack of depth, the technobabble -- and especially the overwhelming Frankenstein-complex aspect of the show. (It was also here that the "I'm a doctor" bit started getting past old and into annoying.) It was certainly amusing to watch B'Elanna try to drink nonexistent coffee, though. :-)
Final rating: 6
Written by: Jeri Taylor Directed by: Les Landau Initial rating: 7 Quotables: "Like it or not, it seems we're in a situation where the rules have changed." "This ship has taken so much damage, we'll be lucky to get warp drive online again." [a rare bow to realism; pity it's been ignored] "I don't think we can afford to keep doing business as usual." "I'll destroy this ship before I'll turn any part of it over to the Kazon." [Janeway, perhaps ill-advisedly saying this to an already disgruntled crewmember] "With all due respect ... maybe that's because your imagination is *limited* by Starfleet protocols." "Do I hear a 'however' coming?" "You can't have it both ways, Commander. If you want to get in the mud with the Kazon, you can't start complaining that you might get dirty." "... and believe me, the Tacrit are not known for their *art*." "How can this one ship hope to survive?" "Not by making deals with executioners."
Argh. "Alliances" started off with incredible potential; for the first third or more, it looked to be one of the best shows "Voyager" has ever had. Finally, there was an actual realization that perhaps the rules needed to change, and some actual conflict about How Things Should Be Done. Despite a few nagging problems (damage magically repaired early on, Neelix's adventure in the Cleavage Cafe, some slow scenes in the middle), it looked like there was going to be an episode with actual progress, actual debate, and actual long-term ramifications.
Silly me. Janeway's speech at the end has absolutely never been referred to since -- far from reading it as Janeway totally overreacting and being a massive hypocrite, we're apparently supposed to take it as *legit*. No way. Whatever strengths this episode had, Janeway's poor judgment and everyone else's blindness to that fact hurts a *lot*.
Final rating: 5.5
Written by: Brannon Braga (teleplay); Michael DeLuca (story) Directed by: Alexander Singer Initial rating: 2 Quotables: none.
I make it a policy to re-watch every episode before I do a season- ending review so that I can look at it in a new light.
I got 12 minutes into "Threshold" before I had to choose between fast- forwarding to the end and sticking my head into a fusion reactor.
Final rating: 0 (Congratulations to TNG's "The Royale", for years my benchmark for truly bad Trek. It's been displaced.)
Written by: Michael Piller (teleplay); Michael Sussman (story) Directed by: Cliff Bole Initial rating: 7 Quotables: "Do you have a criminal record?" "Now, that would be ... sort of difficult to check on, wouldn't it?" "Do you know what a mind-meld is?" "It's that ... Vulcan thing where you grab someone's head." "One mind, you and me? I wouldn't recommend that, Lieutenant." "I thought that was the program *everyone* used when they wanted to strangle Neelix." [no, it wasn't in the episode -- but someone mailed it to me and it was too good to pass up] "In a way, a mind-meld is almost an act of violence, isn't it?" "Sitting here, attempting to meditate, I have counted the number of ways I know of killing someone using just a finger, a hand, a foot ... I had reached 94 when you entered." "You are not a violent offender, Tuvok." "I *could* be." "... although I'm not sure how the word 'normal' applies to a species that suppresses all its emotions..."
Wow. Despite the lame let's-start-the-Paris-subterfuge subplot (unbelievable whether you know it's a subterfuge or you take it as legit), and despite the furious backpedaling the ending takes away from Tuvok's denunciations, "Meld" works pretty damn well. The plot is actually *sensible* (aside from Tuvok's ease of escape), and both Tim Russ and Brad Dourif put in absolutely fantastic performances to really make the story convincing. This one's improving with age, and is quite possibly the only show this season that breaks new ground in a way I'd have been sorry to miss.
Final rating: 8
Written by: Gary Holland Directed by: LeVar Burton Initial rating: 7 Quotables: "When a bomb starts talking about itself in the third person, I get worried." "Have you had a pleasant day?" "Oh, yeah, *swell* day." "To work, it would take more energy then all our photons put together." "Or more to the point, it would take a warp-core breach."
"Dreadnought" is fluff, and decent fluff as long as you don't think about it too much. The plausibility of such a weapon being built by the Cardassians seems low to me, and the plausibility of it being picked up by the Caretaker a full year before Voyager was seems *extremely* low to me. The continuing Paris subplot is actually at its best here, however, in a Paris/Torres scene -- and Torres is written fairly well. Some pleasant suspense, although the outcome's never really in doubt.
Final rating: 6 [Note: according to Dreadnought's statements, it was apparently built before the Maquis ever came into being. That seems slightly at odds with its stated purpose.]
Written by: Michael Piller (teleplay); Shawn Piller (story) Directed by: James L. Conway Initial rating: 7 Quotables: "I know, I know ... enigmatic, provocative. They'll understand." "Is this a ship of the Valkyries, or have you human women finally done away with your men altogether?" "Captain, there are no stars outside." "Well, that's partially accurate -- actually, there's no *universe* outside." "I am curious: have the Q always had an absence of manners, or is it the result of some natural evolutionary process that comes with omnipotence?" "Without Q, there would have been no William T. Riker at all, and I would have lost at least a dozen really *good* opportunities to insult him over the years." "There's nothing left to SAY."
That last quote is the real strength of "Death Wish". When I gave it "only" a 7 back in February, I made a lot of enemies -- but I'm afraid that it's only improved marginally with age. The core of the story is indeed very strong, with the renegade Q's arguments proving very compelling and Gerrit Graham giving a sterling performance as someone who wants to die mainly because it's the only thing left for him to do. But many of the little moments (the Newton/Ginsberg/Riker silliness, among others) and especially the incredible 20th-century sexism of the Q/Janeway interactions detract, and detract a lot. "Death Wish" is strong, and I will confess to renewed curiosity about what the Qontinuum will do now -- but "Q Who" or "Tapestry" it's not.
Final rating: 7.5
Written by: Kenneth Biller Directed by: Cliff Bole Initial rating: 5.5 Quotables: "What you [Torres] went through must have been very traumatic." "That is an understatement." "You're a computer simulation?" "An incredibly sophisticated computer simulation." "I assume you've had a great deal of experience being rejected by women."
"Lifesigns" has improved a bit with age. The Paris stuff, as ever, is annoying more than anything else, and some of the plot turns seem a bit difficult to swallow (such as Dinara's ability to poison herself without Kes's knowledge, and the doctor's ability to create a healthy Viidian body despite never having seen one) -- but despite all of that, the core story of Dinara's reactions and the doctor's first major romance works reasonably well. The closing scene in particular is excellent.
Final rating: 6.5 [Note: the constant references to McCoy are wearing well past thin. How about some other ones -- I'd perk up to see even one reference to Dr. M'Benga, for instance.]
Written by: Jeri Taylor (teleplay); Jeff Schnaufer & Ed Bond (story) Directed by: Les Landau Initial rating: 4 Quotables: "It's sort of like a steady diet of dessert, which is fine -- but pretty soon you want some meat and potatoes." "Frankly, I'd like to get out before I completely destroy my image."
"Investigations" was sixty minutes that would have been better spent on almost anything else this side of "Elogium" and "Threshold". The "Paris is a malcontent" plot was proved to be a ruse on the audience (which would have worked a lot better had it been believable, and had anyone really grown as a character before this), and the "traitor on board" plot was washed away with a burst of green flame. Add to that an episode centering on Neelix as a journalist (something which should make many members of the fourth estate break out in hives), and this one's a near-total loss.
Final rating: 2
Written by: Brannon Braga Directed by: David Livingston Initial rating: 5 Quotables: "Just make me a promise, Kathryn: get your crew home." "Mr. Kim, we're Starfleet officers; weird is part of the job."
That latter quote is a classic example of "we don't need no steenking plot logic" if I ever heard one, and unfortunately, "Deadlock" is another good example of an unbelievable story. It might have worked on TNG, where all they need to do is repair enough damage to limp to a starbase -- but not here. Lots of moments (such as Janeway seeing herself on the bridge) simply go unexplained, there's lots of needless technobabble, a recurrence of the auto-destruct being enabled by one person (which is simply nonsense planning on the part of the ship's designers), a poor reaction to the Viidian invasion, and a casual acceptance of the death of the crew by "oh, we can replace 'em from the other ship". There's lots of great "disaster" atmospherics, some good effects, and great suspense -- but it's all in a vacuum, just as much as Harry Kim was.
Final rating: 5.5
Written by: Lisa Klink (teleplay); Anthony Williams (story) Directed by: James L. Conway Initial rating: 5.5 Quotables: Kid, to Tuvok: "Why do your ears look like that?" Us, to kid: "Why do YOUR ears look like that?" "My attachment to my children cannot be described as an emotion. They are part of my identity -- and I am incomplete without them." "I bet they miss you, too."
As with "Meld", Tim Russ proved in "Innocence" that he was capable of doing superb work. Unlike "Meld", however, he had to do it without much help from the episode. Although Tuvok's parenting skills and attachment to his children came through nicely, the story of Drayans and their "children" neither made much sense nor resonated much with me. The anti-technology sentiment was unnecessary to the rest of the episode, the presentation of the "reverse aging" was somewhat dishonest (such as Tressa's lack of incredulity to Tuvok's question about her parents), and Alcia proved a woefully unsympathetic character right to the end. As was the case many times, Tim Russ managed to rise above his material -- but that's not enough.
Final rating: 6
Written by: Joe Menosky (teleplay); Richard Gadas (story) Directed by: Marvin V. Rush Initial rating: 3 Quotables: "Why talk, when we can *dance*?" "A virus, a virus, he thinks I am a virus!" "With us, he practices his ghastly art." Us: "Oh, *please*..." "How am I supposed to negotiate if I don't know what you're thinking?" "Who is *she* to tell me what I have to do?" "She's the one out there, with the 'off' switch in her hand." "Well, you certainly know how to bring a party to a halt."
"The Thaw" is better than I initially gave it credit for -- but that doesn't make it great. As with "Deadlock" and "Persistence of Vision", this one gets some high marks for atmosphere -- and Michael McKean did a generally laudatory job as the Clown. Those elements plus a nice ending twist helped shore up an episode that was, in the end, torn down by its own shopworn plot points (virtual reality? who *hasn't* used that?) and its own highly insipid dialogue. There were some nice moments and nice sequences, but not enough forethought.
Final rating: 5 [Note: for the Clown to continue existing, one person would have had to stay in there permanently. Wouldn't it have been interesting for someone to suggest Suder?]
Written by: Kenneth Biller (teleplay); Andrew Shepard Price & Mark Gaberna (story) Directed by: Cliff Bole Initial rating: 6.5 Quotables: "[Tuvix] also possesses Tuvok's irritating sense of intellectual superiority, and Neelix's annoying ebullience. I would be very grateful to you if would assign him *some* duty. Any duty ... somewhere else." "Sex!" "I BEG your pardon?" "It's the best theory I've heard so far ... it's the *only* theory I've heard so far." "All right, everybody out!" "On whose authority?" "Chief of security or head chef; take your pick." "Are you suggesting that this is *your* decision to make?" "Captain, Tuvix has asked me to speak to you on his behalf ... but I can't." "Each of you is going to have to live with this -- and I'm sorry for that, for you are all good, GOOD people."
"Tuvix" is a show that really did rise above its own premise. That premise was godawful, and no amount of technobabble justification did a damn bit of good about that. However, the rest of the story had a lot of potential in it. Tom Wright did a great job as Tuvix, and the episode's power lay in its lack of easy answers for Janeway or anyone else. It's harmed by its premise, by a certain lack of diversity in reactions to Tuvix, and especially by the subsequent lack of reaction to Janeway's decision -- but despite all of that, the episode's still enjoyable.
Final rating: 7 [Note: well, actually a question. Does anyone wonder how many lungs Tuvix had?]
Written by: Jeri Taylor Directed by: Alexander Singer Initial rating: 4.5 Quotables: "Roughing it? Let's see ... we have shelter, furniture, research equipment, tricorders, a replicator -- it's too rough for me." "That bit of sophistry is not terribly persuasive, Ensign." "Ensign: I'm going to say this once and once only. If you ever question my orders again, you will be relieved of duty *permanently*." "Is that really ... an ancient legend?" "No ... but that made it easier to say."
The heart of the show -- Kim's rebellion against Tuvok and some Janeway/Chakotay interaction -- was generally fine; Kim's reactions were plausible and Robert Beltran was tremendous. However, that heart was sometimes blunted -- by Tuvok's over-rigidity and the lack of a farewell from Chakotay, among other things -- and at other times was simply obscured by reams of bad technobabble, by emotional punches telegraphed way too much, by a tell-don't-show philosophy during the final battle, and by an ending which violates the Prime Directive without even a second thought. (And then there's that monkey ... but I promised myself I wouldn't get into that. :-) ) "Resolutions" isn't bad ... but nor is it all that good.
Final rating: 5.5
"Basics, Part I"
Written by: Michael Piller Directed by: Winrich Kolbe Initial rating: 6 Quotables: "Do I think Seska is capable of manipulating you and me with this? Oh, yes." "*He* knows nothing of deception; he is innocent." "Please, doctor, your suggestions on any subject are always welcome." "Really? In that case, you may expect several more on a variety of subjects in the near future." "Thank goodness he doesn't look *too* human; you all have such weak foreheads."
The best elements of "Basics, Part I" were the elements that weren't focused on: we got some excellent work with Chakotay wondering whether to go after the child, some good work from Brad Dourif (of course) as Suder, and at least a little forethought prior to the inevitable Big Battle [tm]. However, the rest of the episode simply made no sense: Culluh is his usual sexist and boorish self, the Kazon are far too adept with the ship, the logic of sending the entire ship after the child is questionable at best, and the technical problems with the self- destruct sequence make me think Voyager was built by the lowest bidder. Some of the action sequences were entertaining, sure; but if we're supposed to spend all summer wondering about the cliffhanger, I'm wondering why it got made in the first place.
Final rating: 4.5
And that ought to do it. Numbers-wise, the first season had an average in the upper 6's with a gigantic scatter; here, both the average (mid-5's) and the scatter are lower. This has not been a good year for "Voyager", to put it mildly. That said, on to the second half...
To start, I'd like to flash back to something I wrote last year. After reviewing Voyager's first season, I wrote:
"Or, to put it in slightly different terms: "Voyager" has done a magnificent job in its first season of treading water. The problem with treading water is that eventually you need to pick a destination and make progress ... or you drown."
Do the words "Davy Jones' locker" ring a bell?
That's not quite fair, I suppose. This season of "Voyager" has had glimmers of good material, so it hasn't quite drowned yet. It is, however, wandering around Davy Jones' first floor looking for the door to the basement ... and that's a shame.
Let me start off by saying where the fault does *not* lie. If "Voyager" continues to slide and eventually becomes a total ratings failure, I anticipate that some people marketing the show would say "well, I guess the whole female captain idea doesn't work". Nothing could be further from the truth. I see nothing wrong with Janeway being a woman; most of the time she's simply been "the captain". In fact, it's been some aspects which have a more 20th-century reaction to Janeway's gender ("Death Wish" and many Kazon shows, for instance) which have rung the most false notes. I don't think that's the problem.
I also don't think the cast is the problem. Some of the cast members -- Tim Russ, Robert Picardo, and Robert Duncan McNeill in particular -- have shown an astonishing facility to rise well above their material at times, and give nicely layered, or at least interesting performances, most of the time. Most members of the cast have managed to rise above their material at times -- but even those that haven't have done solid work when they've been given good material. That requires talent -- and I think "Voyager"'s cast has talent in abundance. (Even Ethan Phillips, whom I comment on negatively more than others, probably suffers from the fact that he's playing the single most annoying regular character I've ever seen on Trek -- and I don't know enough of his work outside of "Voyager" to really know whether the actor is contributing to the problem or simply unable to solve it.) On the guest side, while there have certainly been some weak guest stars, there have also been some phenomenal ones: any season that boasts the performances we've had from Joel Grey, Brad Dourif, Gerrit Graham and Tom Wright is not having a major problem with guest cast.
So what is the problem? The problem is a show that is boldly going absolutely nowhere."Voyager" is going nowhere on so many levels that it's hard to know where to start ... so let's try the physical.
If "Voyager" has been in the Delta Quadrant heading for home for two years now, there should be some evidence of that. Neelix should be growing gradually less familiar with the territory. They should be meeting new races and leaving old ones behind. Kazon territory should have been left behind ages ago -- and at the very least, if Kazon ships are still around they shouldn't *still be the same group*. Having Culluh and Seska around for over a year is absurd; I find it impossible to believe that the *leader* of the Kazon Nistrom sect can afford to spend a year chasing after the Flying Dutchman. Voyager isn't helping matters, though; if Culluh and Seska are that big a problem, let's have Janeway simply order the ship to zip towards home at warp 9 or so for two weeks. That should remove the problem, and free up story time for something that's actually interesting.
Also on the physical side, there's the continuing absurdity of having Voyager look like it just got out of the Utopia Planitia shipyards. On several occasions, Voyager has taken significant damage from its enemies -- and on at least two of those occasions ("Alliances" and especially "Deadlock"), that damage has been so significant that it would take major time in a starbase to repair. Chakotay even says in "Alliances" that it's tough to say whether they'll ever get warp drive back -- well, you could've fooled me. These are ideas that are caught in the TNG mentality; there, heavy damage is okay, since all you need to do is survive the crisis and you can call a starbase. Here, you *cannot do that* -- and as such, Voyager should be in deep, deep trouble. Things should be getting cobbled together out of spare parts. Shuttle missions should be at an absolute premium, what with three of them already destroyed and others clearly damaged. Anything requiring photon torpedoes should be a source of worry, since there are probably only a couple dozen left. Between the departures of Seska, Jonas, the crewman killed in "Alliances", Suder, and Darwin, engineering should be looking mighty shorthanded. "Voyager" was in a unique position to show a starship actually having to worry about the essentials of *keeping a ship running* -- but aside from occasional mentions of needing XYZ technobabble mineral, there's been no evidence that this isn't simply another TNG story. (Even the needs of the mineral could easily have been done on TNG; just make it necessary for a plague or something.) The starship Voyager should be looking like hell -- and since that's been ignored, the series looks like hell instead.
[This isn't even getting into the idea that "Threshold" should have been the show's ticket home. Given that "Threshold" is one of the handful of Trek episodes that I honestly think deserves to be expunged from the universe for the universe's own safety, I'm not going to get into the myriad implications of the show.]
But let's put the physical aside for a moment. Everything on board ship is going too smoothly from an emotional point of view, too. Neelix's protestations about morale notwithstanding, no one on board seems to have the slightest problem with the fact that they're trapped on a starship for 70 years. (The evidence for that would be "The 37's", where every single crewmember passes up a home.) Everyone just goes about their duties -- and more alarming from a dramatic point of view, everyone just accepts every decision made by a higher-up. I count at least seven episodes this season where Janeway makes decisions that are best described as "questionable":
-- "Maneuvers", where she punishes Chakotay's actions with (gasp!) putting him on report. Ooh, that's gotta hurt.
-- "Alliances", where she first promises self-destruction before any sort of compromise, *then* considers compromise, then after a couple of bad experiences decides that she's perfect after all and that no one should even think of suggesting otherwise.
-- "Meld", where she refuses to execute Suder. I'm sorry, but Darwin presumably had friends, and they'd want vengeance. They may understand that Federation justice isn't in the business of sanctioning revenge, but they should still react.
-- "Dreadnought", where she's prepared to sacrifice the ship to save a planet they've never dealt with before. She did at least let the crew escape, however; this is probably the least of the seven.
-- "Death Wish", where she rejects Q's bribe out of hand. Is that defensible? Probably, but that's not the point.
-- "Tuvix", where she "executes" Tuvix to bring back Tuvok and Neelix.
-- and "Basics, Part I", where she sends the ship into very dangerous territory to rescue one person.
Are these actions justifiable individually? Yes, perhaps -- but as I said above, that's not the point. Taken as a group, these examples provide substantial grounds for major, MAJOR dissent among the crew -- we're talking mutiny-level dissent, particularly among those people who weren't enchanted with Janeway before (such as Hogan, perhaps). I have no problem with Janeway taking those actions -- but I have a very large problem with the lack of reaction afterwards. That lack of reaction suggests that the crew uniformly sees Janeway's actions as fine -- and that suggests that we're supposed to see it that way as well. Not a chance, folks.
As it is, we've only seen three real cases of long-term dissent from any member of the crew. First, there was Seska -- whose reactions were presented well in "State of Flux", but who has since turned into a simple purring, cackling villain. Then we had Jonas -- but Jonas never appeared to have the slightest ounce of motivation for doing what he did. We know he didn't like something -- but for all the effort put into showing us what or why, he might as well have used Suder's "no reason" statement. Then we had Tom Paris -- oh, but wait. That one wasn't real; it was just a ruse to flush out Jonas. To that, I say this: When the only hint of actual, interesting long-term character conflict is a *trick*, a show is close to doomed from a dramatic standpoint. Now, Paris said in "Lifesigns" that he wasn't the only one with a problem with Chakotay. Any chance of us seeing it? Not so far as I can tell.
Basically, what we have in "Voyager" at this point is a Stepford crew -- all perfect, plastic people who never question anyone else's choices for longer than the next commercial break, all of whom firmly believe that Janeway is perfect and that their situation is tenable. This Stepford crew is aboard what I sarcastically termed the starship Cornucopia: despite all the claims of "replicator rations" and occasional mentions of problems, this ship never has any major difficulty unless the plot requires it.
With an unrealistic crew aboard an unrealistic ship, it is perhaps telling that some of the most entertaining shows, "Projections" and "Non Sequitur", focused on a lapse in reality -- and that others, such as "Resistance" and "Meld", dealt with people outside the normal range of crew behaviors.
This evidence is *saying something* -- but apparently, no one's listening. Instead, we've had episode after episode of spatial anomalies, Neelix jokes, technobabble, plots that buckle under close examination, and as I said at the outset, a ship boldly going nowhere.
I find this somewhat inexplicable. The premise of "Voyager" is interesting and goal-oriented, the cast is solid, the directors are solid, and many of these writers have done good work in the past on Trek (Piller on "The Best of Both Worlds" among others, Taylor on "The Drumhead", and Braga on "Frame of Mind", "Cause and Effect", "All Good Things", and many others). For whatever reason, though, those same writers aren't giving "Voyager" the stories it deserves.
Hence, the subtitle of this half of my review. Effective immediately, I'm giving up on reviewing "Voyager" as a matter of course. It's a show that no one's taking the time to really examine while creating it -- and as a result, it's not enjoyable to review week after week. I may review "Flashback" next season, and if I keep watching on occasion may do capsule reviews of half a dozen episodes at a time -- but frankly, I wouldn't bet on the latter.
I've never "abandoned" a Trek series I reviewed before, and I wish my decision here could be different. However, this season of "Voyager" has, I feel, abandoned everything about the series that made it potentially interesting, and replaced it with nothing I care to see. If a massive overhaul changes the show greatly for the better, I'm sure I'll hear about it eventually -- but without such a change, I expect "Voyager" to keep spiraling downhill, and I'm not planning to go down with this ship.
My best wishes to the "Voyager" staff and the still-existing fans of the show; all my hopes for an eventual improvement. Enjoy the break between seasons.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) firstname.lastname@example.org <*> "There's nothing left to SAY." -- "Death Wish" Copyright 1996, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.
Hans-Wolfgang Loidl <email@example.com> Last modified: Sun Aug 25 21:35:15 1996 Stardate: [-31]8019.28