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Star Trek Voyager review – Repression

For all the years Voyager has been in the Delta Quadrant, Tuvok has been suspicious of a Maquis revolt. In Worst Case Scenario it was Tuvok who even started a holographic simulation of what might happen if the Maquis attempted to take over Voyager. As the paranoid and borderline fascist security officer Tuvok has acted to protect Voyager from the Maquis threat and now ironically enough it turns out that the Maquis threat comes from Tuvok himself. This is an interesting notion and unfortunately it’s about the only interesting notion in the whole episode.

In part this is because the subject matter just isn’t all that gripping. Voyager’s premise of Maquis working together with Starfleet was a basic

star trek voyager repression

Put these on, the episode will look better

error because while the Maquis were relevant in the Alpha Quadrant where their politics vis a vis the Federation’s peacemaking with Cardassia meant something, in the Delta Quadrant they’re just guys who like to wear leather under their combadges. Without the Bajorans, Cardassians and the DMZ around, any episode involving the Maquis has a distant, remote feel to it. Worse yet, Repression feels like it should have been a first or second season episode, or as if it were written by someone whose impressions of Voyager are fixed from around those seasons. Its entire notion of Maquis paranoia and tension which might have served to smooth out a Maquis integration storyline years ago seems fairly retrograde by the seventh season. Finally, Repression makes the key, stunning mistake of being a detective story where the real culprit is out of reach, out of touch and out of communications range leaving the episode a story without any accessible villains and making it a generally uninvolving display.

From a charming beginning featuring Paris and Torres trying to watch 3D movies on the holodeck to the early investigation, Repression manages to generate a certain paranoid resonance by drawing out the mystery so that it actually seems intriguing. Voyager has never had a really good detective story, despite several lackluster attempts, and for the first twenty minutes Repression seems almost ready to provide one. The Maquis in the Delta Quadrant may not be the most compelling subject matter but the notion of buried tensions on board Voyager or some deep dark secrets in the Maquis past had plenty of potential for a good story. However once Repression begins to veer away from the actual mystery and towards yet another “Tuvok InnerConflict Story(TM)”, it becomes doomed to feature scenes of Tuvok desperately scrabbling at his face as if he is trying to dig his brain out with his fingernails. Twenty minutes of Tim Russ staggering about in a frenzy, twitching his face as if there are ants under his skin and wandering around with a glazed psychotic expression might be entertaining at a Halloween party but closeup shots of Tuvok’s frenzied expression don’t make good dinner entertainment and contrary to what Russ and the director may have thought, they make really poor drama.

In Star Trek, SpockData characters such as Spock, Data, Worf or Odo have been unique, intriguing but potentially dangerous. They were marked by their restraint contrasted with inner personal conflicts. They were also marked by a high standard of acting. Voyager on the theory that more is [more], has 3 SpockData characters on board and also has Tim Russ; and where Nimoy, Spiner or Auberjonois might have chosen restraint or dignity, Tim Russ chooses to act like a raving psycho for 15 minutes. Where a restrained performance from Russ might have helped redeem at least a portion of the episode, instead the suspense in Repression hinges on just when Tuvok will stop acting crazy and put an end to the whole mess.

While many of the early SpockData episodes that emphasized the potential of SpockData characters to go a little loony without being

star trek voyager repression

Mind rape whistle.... mind rape whistle

responsible for their actions were gripping and original, since then there seems to have been hundreds of episodes involving SpockData characters going nuts. ALL THREE of the last three TNG movies have featured a plot in which Data goes off his rocker in a way that makes him threatening or useless to the crew. In Generations, Data’s emotion chip prevents him from stopping Soran thereby allowing the kidnapping of Geordi and all the resulting events. In First Contact Data betraying the crew or not was the climax of the movie. In Insurrection it was the premise. We’ve had more than a few episodes in which the EMH went haywire and threatened Voyager. And now we have Repression, which rather than choosing to at least explore the Maquis or tensions on Voyager, instead hinges the plot on Tuvok going batty. Where TNG’s Manchurian Conspiracy pastiche had the sense to focus the plot not on Geordi overcoming himself, but the crew stopping him in time, Repression expects us to focus on what’s going on behind Tuvok’s face instead.

This worked halfway well with one of Voyager’s top actors, Robert Picardo in Warhead, but even there the onus was on the moral debate between him and Kim and the notion of Kim’s command abilities. Repression has nothing as tangible to pin Tuvok’s transition onto except Janeway tossing out meaningless cliches (and Mulgrew is Voyager’s worst actor). Are we really supposed to believe that the brainwashing that overcame the power of a Vulcan mind and of a Starfleet officer and forced him to commit numerous crimes and rebel against the Federation was completely snapped just by Janeway telling him that he’s in control of his own actions.

Admittedly the notion of using a Vulcan as a Manchurian Conspiracy brainwashing generator is interesting and Voyager has been teasing us with a Maquis revolt for quite some time, only to deliver one now in the seventh season. But ultimately characters who do things while brainwashed aren’t particularly interesting. They’re just robots who stride around and aren’t responsible for their actions and for the consequences of their actions. The Maquis rebellion isn’t remotely interesting because Chakotay and Torres aren’t themselves and aren’t responsible for what they’re doing. A real Maquis rebellion early on in Voyager’s history at the end of which Starfleet and Maquis would have been forced to realize that they need each other and must continue being allies for a common goal might have been interesting, but what Repression has to offer is silly.

On the plausibility front, are we really supposed to buy less than a dozen people taking over Voyager and subduing its crew… and two people then subduing them and taking it back all in a very short time. Janeway ignores Tuvok’s call to Chakotay even though she knows that Tuvok has been mind controlled into mind melding with them and that those crew have now seemingly recovered and are back on duty. Without so much as a struggle Janeway allows her ship to be taken over, herself to be imprisoned in the brig and nearly killed.

All said, the only good points of this episode are a demonstration of what Voyager might have been like commanded by Maquis and a competent Captain and the Maquis plan to dump the Starfleet personnel on a world to start their own colony.

Wonder what they would have called it.

Star Trek Voyager review – Drive

Voyager meets Dukes of Hazzard

Summary: Paris and Torres deal with their drives, Harry has another ill-fated romance and Voyager extras serve as comic relief.

After the Tragedy-of-the-Week feel of Imperfection and Voyager’s Big Borg season opener, Drive’s light comedic touch is a definite relief. The star trek voyager driveParis and Torres relationship has a rocky one-dimensional history so bad it often aspires to being a soap opera and while Drive doesn’t really break that trend it does a good job of making the process fun instead of childish and wearying in the way that episodes dedicated to the Paris/Torres relationship tend to be.

Paris has always been a 20th century kind of guy and so Drive abounds with 20th century references and material. The EMH plays golf, Neelix takes on the job of sportscaster and Paris has to win the race and get the girl at the same time. So while Drive is still completely predictable, it’s actually fun too. Rather than pursuing the Paris/Torres relationship with the usual grim determination of a Honda Accord heading uphill, Drive turns it into a screwball comedy while Harry (in keeping with the Torture Harry premise of Voyager) is tossed into a film noir as he unknowingly romances a female secret agent out to sabotage the race. Winrich Kolbe’s (one of Star Trek’s top directors) smooth direction moves the episode along keeping up the light atmosphere and Harry’s struggle with Eirina even features a few Noir effects. His intercutting between scenes of Paris and Torres and Harry and Eirina is one of the high points of the episode.

Most refreshing is the fact that Dawson gets to play something besides the angry, frustrated, one-note half-Klingon, and instead, a person

star trek voyager drive

Get ready, get set, get CG

whose responses aren’t all that simplistic or predictable and who does things for reasons other than the completely obvious. RDM is still mostly stuck with the same old Paris but the closing material allows him to play the kind of sincerity the actor is clearly much more at home with, than the flippant cliche he’s usually saddled with. While the pair doesn’t really have the kind of chemistry that makes on-screen relationships work, both try very hard and the effort bears a certain amount of fruit. By the time the episode ends their relationship is probably on a better footing than at any time before. Best of all Drive’s light note and focus on the race makes the entire thing feel less like a Paris/Torres episode and more like a Voyager episode with a Paris/Torres subplot.

Or at least that’s the way it’s supposed to feel because really, despite the waste of lots of FX dollars and some beautiful work by Foundation Imaging, the race itself doesn’t actually matter. On that point, at least Drive is pretty straight-forward from the outset. The entire thing begins with a drag race and the entire crew from Janeway down never treats it as anything other than a frivolous amusement. The threat to Paris

star trek voyager drive

"You know what this desperate voyage home needs? For two of its key officers to take some time off and participate in a space race."

and Torres and the peace is taken about as seriously as it would be on Captain Proton. But then as with the actual Captain Proton episode, the whole plot is besides the plot. Voyager has mostly given up doing straight-forward TNG episodes some time ago and where TNG would have focused on the politics of the alien races and the need to keep the peace, Voyager uses it as background for a romantic comedy. Still, you can’t help but wish that they’d saved the special effects for an episode where it would really count.

While the basic premise of diplomacy, betrayal, relationships and sabotage of Drive seem to come from TOS’ Journey to Babel, Drive isn’t going for originality or consistency or serious drama. As a comedic episode that moves along quickly and resolves a prickly character arc it works. It’s not a great episode, just a fun one and that’s all it was ever meant to be.

Next Week: Voyager crewmembers from the past and the future phaser each other a lot.

Star Trek Voyager Review – Imperfection

Seven needs an upgrade and Icheb’s Oil: Janeway takes up grave robbing

With Imperfection, Voyager ventures into ERmedical drama territory and emerges with an episode that has some good moments but really star trek voyager imperfection doesn’t have much to distinguish it from average medical drama filler. There have already been far too many Voyager episodes that hinge on 7 of 9 and her emotional well-being. Now, contrary to the various impolite rumors that make their way around, this is not because of who Jeri Ryan may be dating, but because she’s been cast as a SpockData character. SpockData characters tend to be the exotic other, the pivot of the show, the distinctive characters who refract and reinterpret humanity for human audiences. Plus 7 of 9 is also a new character and producers and writers have been known to respond to a feeling of ennui with existing characters by bringing in “exciting new characters” and devoting most of the attention to them. Combine the two with 7 of 9’s costume and demographic “appeal” and the result is a Frakenstein’s monster, a character guaranteed to be one of the worst screen hogs of all time.

That isn’t the problem though. There’s nothing wrong with an interesting character who takes up plenty of screen time and overlays the characters that don’t work as well. Spock, Data, Odo and the EMH are played by talented actors who have the routine down cold and are fun to watch on screen. They’re weird yet appealing, quirky yet deep and isolated yet emotionally vulnerable. 7 of 9 is all these things but she’s not particularly interesting mainly because 7 of 9 isn’t an alien, just a human being recovering from a cult-like experience who’s neurotic and somewhat more capable than the average person with pieces of molded tin sticking out of her head. This isn’t all that captivating by itself and worst of all as an actress Ryan isn’t anywhere in the ranks of Nimoy, Auberjonois or Picardo. Where Spock or Odo could reflect superhuman torment, Ryan can only manage ordinary human torment and so an episode about 7 of 9 facing death is in Borg terms, merely a dramatic interlude about a human female confronting her existence. With a stronger actress it might have worked better but ultimately all Imperfection could hope to be is an ordinary medical drama. At its heart it’s the kind of thing ER would have sandwiched between ongoing plot arcs about major characters. And as for its soul, fortunately for Voyager Icheb turns up as the soul of the episode.

Early on I was the first critic of the Borg Kiddie plot-line, but there’s no question that it has paid off in spades and Icheb himself has emerged star trek voyager imperfectionas the star of the group. Where episodes like Haunting made nice interludes, Prodigal Son was a dark and harrowing piece that upstaged the regular cast and was one of the high points of last season. And while the focus of Imperfection must remain blandly on Jeri Ryan’s acting class attempt at portraying a character torn by conflicting emotions, it’s Icheb’s character and David Livingston’s direction that pull back Imperfection from the brink of mediocrity. That’s not to say that Imperfection has no shortage of dull moments. In fact it’s mostly dull moments and no matter how hard Picardo channels Dr McCoy until it seems as if he might actually start chewing on pieces of the set, there’s only so much time we can spend watching Ryan’s mediocre rendition of “the dying patient routine” that the writers themselves have grown up watching.

See 7 of 9 staring blankly into space in sickbay, see 7 of 9 bravely trying to conceal her disease, see 7 of 9 engage in outbursts of frustration, see 7 of 9 try to come to terms with God, see 7 of 9 be manipulated by reverse psychology. It might be all very interesting assuming you had never watched television, seen a movie or read a book before. It might be very dynamic and heartfelt acting if you were deaf, dumb and blind. Furthermore, since unlike the medical drama patients we know damn well, 7 of 9 is not going to die by the end of the episode the entire thing reaches a new level of pointlessness becoming so trite it doesn’t even qualify as emotionally manipulative anymore. 7’s strongest scene is probably with Torres who finally gets to act like a professional adult and a human being around 7 instead of constantly being forced into catfights but it’s mainly because of Dawson’s abilities and the shock value of the moment.

Still Livingston breaks away at the first chance he gets to go grave robbing with Janeway and Co. 7 of 9 needs a node, so obviously Janeway star trek voyager imperfectionmust risk an encounter with the Borg to go get her a new one. Never mind that previously Janeway had ordered Tuvok to abandon both her and Chakotay rather than risk encountering the Vidians in search of a cure but obviously 7 of 9 is far more crucial to Voyager than the ship’s Captain and first officer. In a shockingly honest scene towards the end of the episode, 7 of 9 explains to Janeway exactly why Janeway places so much value on her and the answer is in keeping with Janeway’s control-freak personality. It also helps explain why in Imperfection, Janeway least resembles a Starfleet Captain. How many times do we need to go through this routine in which Janeway sets off to do something insane and foolhardy on her own and has to be talked out of it by Chakotay or at least talked into bringing backup with her. When was the last time it happened? Only in the last episode so that Imperfection manages to recreate nearly perfectly a scene in which Janeway’s crew badger her not to go on this suicide mission against the Borg alone. But of course Janeway being the best Starfleet Captain in the Delta Quadrant (since the death of Captain Ransom) and the worst Starfleet Captain in the known universe we are dragged through this same tried routine again.

Chakotay: Captain, won’t you please take some crew members with you to save your ass in case of trouble the way Starfleet regulations dictate.

Janeway: Well, being superhuman and capable of doing anything and everything on my own, I don’t actually need any of you lowly mortals but I’m touched by your expressions of loyalty and fidelity and will allow you to accompany my royal self for the purposes of light banter and food in case we get stranded.

Still, Livingston clearly has a lot of fun shooting Borg interiors and while Janeway goes to the gruesome task of dissecting corpses for parts in star trek voyager imperfectionthe Borg equivalent of a cemetery, she and her band of “Resurrection Men” are surprised by aliens who claim the Borg graveyard for itself. Janeway once again proves absolutely useless in a fight and when they get back, the whole thing turns out to have been for nothing. Well not for nothing. It does feature a great scene of the Delta Flyer dogfighting the alien craft amid gigantic orbiting piles of Borg rubble. That might have made a great episode. Too bad it didn’t. Still, Imperfection does pick up as Icheb’s part in all this picks up. Sure a good deal of this material feels recycled from Drone with Icheb as surrogate son and linking Borg language to emotional trauma but it works much better here mainly because we’ve grown to know Icheb and his emotions come across as that of a real person. The ending remains predictable and emotionally manipulative but it does provide character growth and while I’ll take a good reset button story over character growth any day, we do need a major life-changing experience to get 7 over the hump and over to the more human side and hopefully this is it. Hopefully this is it for the Seven emotional growth episodes for a while too.

After all last episode Seven finally fell in love. This episode she finally accepted her mortality. What would they do for a follow up, marry her off? No, apparently they intend that fate for Paris and Torres; coming up next.

Star Trek Voyager Unimatrix Zero II review

Frequently Star Trek two parters have suffered from the difficulty of having the second part deliver on the setup of the first part. The second part of Best of Both Worlds couldn’t quite live up to the first part and much the same could be said for other TNG Borg two parters such as Descent. While Unimatrix Zero doesn’t suffer from that particular problem in that UZII is actually superior to UZI, both parts suffer from a lack of cohesion in the basic episode structure. Like Best of Both Worlds, Unimatrix Zero was not properly planned out and like Best of Both Worlds the writers of Unimatrix Zero seemed to expect the episode to get by on the special effects, the Borg and the heroism of the characters but what worked for Best of Both Worlds once again fails to work for Voyager.

That’s not to say that Unimatrix Zero doesn’t have its share of effective character scenes, battle scenes and action scenes because it certainly star trek voyager unimatrix zero does. It also manages to fix most of the damage done to the Borg Queen’s character in UZI while setting up a Borg revolt story far superior to TNG’s own Descent. But like too many Voyager episodes it is troubled by a Seven storyline that doesn’t quite properly fit with the tone of the main story and takes away from the suspense and drama of the Borg struggle on far too many occasions. It’s just really hard to seriously accept the horror and danger of Janeway and Co. being assimilated and on the run in a Borg cube when the next scene features “Seven in Love” and it would have helped quite a bit if Janeway and Co. realized they were in terrible danger instead of behaving as if this was just a casual away mission on any alien spacecraft. This is a pervasive problem with Voyager and its failure to synchronize realistic character behavior with the situation.

Lt. Torres casually shoots Borg wires out of her wrist, Janeway walks around with a head full of flashlights and while their bodies have been pretty much ripped apart and filled with implants and gadgets inside and outside they have no particularly strong reaction to this. True they may be Starfleet officers but this is the kind of thing that would be extremely disturbing and mind-wrenching to just about anybody. And not only are they excessively casual about this but Chakotay and Co. shed little light on why they decided on such a desperate and suicidal set of measures. While there are some brief scenes in which Chakotay once again demonstrates why he’d make a better Captain than Janeway, too much time is expended on Seven learning to love again. Seven’s emotional development is a major part star trek voyager unimatrix zeroof Voyager’s arc to be certain and there are certain thematic parallels to the main story but it still feels like time wasted to have Seven and the Doc chatting about whether or not she loves Mr. Borg Right while the ultimate showdown with the Borg is about to begin.

Still the episode does pick up for its second half when the crisis does come to a head and Janeway and Co. are forced to make some tough choices. The Borg Queen after one movie and another two parter comes into her own as a villain. Her scenes confronting Janeway and those within Unimatrix Zero finally give her the motivation and depth that she’s never had before. Whether chillingly demonstrating the willingness of the Borg Collective to go to extreme lengths to cleanse itself of the infection of individuality or telling a little boy that being a drone is “just like having a lot of friends” it’s she who saves Unimatrix Zero from being just another Borg FX episode. That and the introduction of Voyager’s offbeat style featuring the Borg Klingon general who manages to demonstrate that assimilating Klingons just pisses them off.

The destruction of Unimatrix Zero is a shocking and unexpected solution but consistent with the theme of destroying paradise to save it. Seven’s final embrace is unrealistic and cliched but it’s not nearly as painful and annoying as most of Seven’s romance scenes coming before this. For those following the technical and strategic maneuvers in the last half, the destruction of Unimatrix Zero works as an effective payoff because while Mike Vejar’s direction might not have made Unimatrix Zero a coherent whole, he, along with the writers, did realize that for there to be suspense and an effective resolution to a crisis, things have to look pretty bad towards the end and the villain has to be developed and her motivations have to play a major role in the story. While this sounds pretty simple, the amount of times Star Trek episodes (and even worse movies) have failed to take it into account is simply mind-blowing. Unimatrix Zero doesn’t forget it and so the second half of the second part comes back to redeem the episode. And while in the final analysis this is far from a great Star Trek classic, it’s a good resolution, a watchable episode and sets up plenty of storylines for the rest of the season…something season openers should have been doing in Voyager all along.

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