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Category Archives: Voyager Season 6

Star Trek Voyager Unimatrix Zero Review

There are few things in life more insubstantial than a dream and few more artificial than the Borg. Ever since they were introduced in the Next Generation there isn’t a weapon that Starfleet hasn’t tried to use against them. Phasers, photon torpedoes, anti-matter spreads have all been tried and in the long run have failed. Whatever is thrown at the Borg, the Borg adapt to. Whatever weapon can be thought of the Borg can counter drawing from their seemingly infinite reserve of captive minds and stolen technologies. Yet there is no empire so strong it cannot fall from within and no dictatorship so totally in control of its subjects’ minds that it cannot fall prey to their desire for freedom. The Borg are the ultimate totalitarian state, the logical cybernetic extension of Zamyatin’s Science Fiction classic “We” where citizens are known by a number or Orwell’s “1984” in which the human mind is just another tool of the state. And so it is almost inevitable that despite all their conquests and their power the Borg fall prey to the one weapon they cannot resist, the weapon that totalitarian regimes throughout human history have fallen prey to, a dream.

The Borg are technology and power personified. They have no other identity besides technology and power and no goal besides gaining more and better technology and star trek voyager unimatrix zero 1power. There is no escape from such a society, not even the possibility of protest or dissent because if you cannot think, you cannot dissent. But much as people do in the real world, thousands of drones with a specific mutation have found an escape from their real lives through dreams or rather through a collective dream of freedom in an unspecified forest where they can be as they once were before the Borg assimilated them. While the collective holds their bodies in eternal slavery, the souls of those drones are for a time free. When everything has been taken from them, their freedom, their bodies and even their minds; they are rebelling in the only way that they can by finding a tiny space for themselves where they can for a moment be outside the control of the slave state. This rebellion of Unimatrix Zero though is a passive one and like many passive rebellions seems doomed from the start. The name itself too is a curiously Borg-like one for a group trying to rediscover their natural selves or perhaps not. Zero is at once seemingly empty and powerless to the Borg obsessed with acquiring quantities of things but in a sense contains all quantities of numbers within it. The name signifies that by tapping into the dream the drones have tapped into a source of power far greater then the collective, a source of power that unlike the Borg is unlimited because it contains within it all possibilities. This dream, the entire concept of finding possibilities through dreaming is what Star Trek has been all about.

Of course hope begins with hopelessness and so from the beginning we move about Borg corridors that seem darker and far more frightening without any human presence, no Starfleet crewmembers giving us hope of an escape or even a human perspective. We are in the home of the Borg the way it normally is, the way the drones exist in it day after day and year after year. No one to talk to, nothing to think about, nothing to see but the daily routine in the space going equivalent of an industrial plant with no home to go to or family or weekends to relieve the monotony of pure labor. Like a medieval castle the adobe of the Borg Queen is dark and gloomy, full of men in metal and black clothing walking their rounds and their ruler mysterious and cunning placed directly at the center of her web. At first the shots of the massive Borg complex seem to reinforce their invulnerability and their power but slowly as we learn of the rebellion within the complex it seems more like a precarious fortress isolated and under siege. As the Borg Queen marks drone position after drone we realize that a war is being fought, but unlike all wars the Borg have fought before, this one does not take place in reality but in a collective dream, the closest thing the Collective has to a soul. It is a showdown between technology and power against hope and freedom fought in the soul of the Borg for the soul of the Borg. The Borg have met the enemy and they are them.

Aboard Voyager Seven dreams for the first time and never having entirely left the Borg collective behind her, Seven fears the dream. Like the Borg she understands that the dream cannot be contained within the boundaries of sleep and contains revelations that threatens the integrity of the life she made for herself. Like the rebelling drones Seven is more human in the dream of Unimatrix Zero but she is also less human than they are, less prepared to completely free herself of everything the Borg have done to her. On Voyager Seven has accepted a modicum of humanity, she has come to care about people, learn to deal with them but she hasn’t really opened herself up to the possibilities of being human and so she remains suspended between being human and being Borg. Only in the dream can she allow herself to be called by her real name, Anika. Only in the dream can she experiment with reclaiming her human heritage. But when threatened with a real relationship she retreats from the dream and demands that she be called by her Borg name again. For the first time a plausible emotional relationship is presented for her and she predictably retreats. Seven is a character who for better or worse has developed right before our eyes. When comparing her with the Seven of “The Gift” she seems to have come very far, but among other things, Unimatrix shows us how far she has to go and that the potential is in a sense already being expressed within her.

While the drones are dreaming of a better life, everyone on Voyager is going about the very real business of surviving in the Delta Quadrant (occasionally) according to

star trek voyager unimatrix zero

Some Assembly Required

Starfleet ideals. Janeway answers a distress call to a destroyed colony that she has come too late to save. When she hears about the “distress call” from the Unimatrix drones she sees it as the chance to save all the colonies and the planets the Borg threaten. A weakness in the Borg can be exploited and possibly even the entire collective can be brought down and so mixing Starfleet ideals and her own special brand of cunning and vengeance Janeway comes up with a plan quite similar to the one she employed in her previous confrontation with the Borg Queen. (So similar in fact that the Queen comments on it before Janeway and Co. meet their untimely fates.) In a meeting managed through Tuvok’s unique version of AT&T Janeway meets with the closest thing the drone rebellion has to a leader and convinces him to change his rebellion from passive to active. Once again Janeway ventures into the Borg lair and though this time she knows enough to leave Seven behind, she seems to have discarded most of the techniques that worked somewhat in Dark Frontier. The result is her capture and assimilation and the assimilation of Torres and Tuvok. When we see Janeway, Torres and Tuvok at the end as drones their appearance is quite shocking but Chakotay’s planned getaway and Janeway’s original refusal to initially take them along robs this scene of the impact of Picard’s assimilation in Next Generation’s “Best of Both Worlds.”

In Best of Both Worlds, the Enterprise has been tricked, Picard mutilated and transformed and Earth doomed. The forces of good seemed and were confused and in disarray while in Unimatrix Zero it is clear that there is a plan operating here, a dangerous plan but one in which Janeway and Co. are in control for now. If the script had done a better job of hiding this, Unimatrix could have ended on a much stronger note than it did. That is a common problem for this episode that has the vision, the suspense and the plot but somehow seems a bit listless at times in comparison to Scorpion or Dark Frontier. A good deal of time is spent on Seven but she is excluded from any direct participation in the events of the final act, which makes those scenes seem like a waste of time. From the perspective of the two parter this will eventually become it might work, but here and now as a one hour episode the Seven material relegates her to the three P’s of the Kes role. Namely psychic powers, personal growth and passivity. It didn’t work that well with Kes and it works even worse with Seven of Nine who isn’t remotely built for that kind of role.

More problematically the Borg Queen is relegated to cartoon villain scenery chewing. While Thompson does an excellent job of maintaining ironic distance and the attitude of a powerful leader, the medieval castle analogy hits too crudely close to home when she paces the room, holds conversations with drones, threatens them and mutilates them. She seems not particularly in control or possessed of the kind of knowledge and power she radiated in Dark Frontier. All in all she’s much closer to the Queen Arachnia of Captain Proton and considering that Janeway had already duplicated the Captain Proton trick assault in Dark Frontier, repeating it with a few assimilations for shock value seems like a bad idea. The Queen’s offhand comment to Harry has so much more effect then all the scenes of the Queen examining mutilated Borg heads. This entire concept is based on demonstrating the complete cruelty and evil of the villain but with the Borg this is completely beside the point. The Borg are beyond good and evil, beyond petty ego trips or torture for fun and pleasure. These “Borg Yorrick” scenes take us back in a bad way to “First Contact” and Krige’s Borg Queen played as a refugee from the cast of Chicago or a Bond Movie.

Where Dark Frontier managed to merge the Seven story and the story of the Borg, to show the Borg Queen as the representation of a greater and powerful force with plans stretching into the past and the future; Unimatrix Zero gives us the strong story of the rebellion of the drones, a few brief and hurried scenes on Voyager and a Borg Queen about as plausible as Queen Arachnia. When comparing Seven’s experience in the assimilation chamber and what that did to make the Borg terrifying again with the Borg Queen pacing around and delivering stock evil empress lines to her subjects it is clear that the writers have once again made the mistake of humanizing the Borg too far and too fast. It is fascinating to look at a drone and wonder about his dreams, to see them as individuals hiding terrible secrets beyond even the reach of their own conscious minds, but this has to be combined with recognizing the power and dread of the Borg and the fact that we are dealing here with something that transcends normal regimes and rulers. The two can be combined but it requires careful work and steady steps.

In a very large sense all of the Borg stories have been leading up to this moment since Hugh innocently stepped on the screen in “I. Borg.” “Descent” parts 1 and 2 looked at Borg drones liberated from the collective and tried to merge that into an unfortunate Lore as Charles Manson story serving as one of the Borg’s worst moments yet and a perfect example of exactly what was to be avoided. In “Unity”, Voyager’s first Borg episode we looked at former drones forming a different kind of collective (something that may well be the long term outcome of Unimatrix.) In Scorpion we looked at the Borg taking a severe beating and their downfall seemed plausible even if Janeway’s actions were not. In “Dark Frontier” the Borg were somewhat reduced in stature but it was clear that Janeway’s overconfidence was a mistake and she paid the price only temporarily outwitting the Borg through ingenious gadgetry and desperation. In Unimatrix though Janeway seems far too casual about engaging the Borg, treating them like just another Delta Quadrant enemy. Even if her plan is to be assimilated that only adds to how casually she treats the matter. Her act can either be seen as foolhardy and contemptuous of the Borg’s power or a brave and risky sacrifice. With little focus on her plan beyond the usual meetings and Janeway-Chakotay bickering it seems more like the former than the latter. The Borg may have been weakened but are they really that weak? And if they are so much of the drama just leaks away.

All along a Borg revolution was in the pipeline and while Unimatrix handles the material far better then TNG’s Descent, Unimatrix Zero still leaves much to be desired. Common complaints about two part episodes and cliffhangers are that they come with a strong first part and a weak conclusion. Unimatrix though seems far more geared towards the conclusion then the first part and consequently seems rushed and sparse. The concept of Unimatrix Zero is probably the best possible idea for a Borg revolution anyone could have come up with. The rendering of Seven’s story and the Unimatrix is very well handled and would have worked much better in a different episode intended to set up Unimatrix and the Borg revolution. Voyager’s infiltration has a shocking cliffhanger to leave the fans with but overall seems like everything we’ve seen before. Janeway and Chakotay arguing about her safety and her initiative and their level of trust in each other. A mostly unnecessary trip by Janeway to the Unimatrix, material that would have worked better if Tuvok alone or the Doctor had made the trip. The scenes of the drones fleeing attacks by other drones seem a bit silly. (Since they can alter their appearances at will they should be able to easily defend themselves instead of behaving like extras in a horror movie.) A plan to infiltrate a Borg cube to do some damage, Voyager going head to head with a cube that looks suspiciously like a futuristic crate, a plan going horribly wrong inside the cube, people we care about falling into the hands of the Borg. This is all stuff we’ve seen before and weak direction and a haphazard script don’t manage to make it look fresh or new. In the end Unimatrix is a good episode, but not a great episode. Normally this might be enough but a story so many years in the making with such major implications for the whole Star Trek universe needed to be so much more.

Star Trek Voyager The Haunting of Deck Twelve review

Horror is the dark side of imagination and while Star Trek has a pretty good track record with imagination, it has a pretty weak one with horror. Original series episodes featuring witches and salt monsters were unintentionally funny. The Next Generation with its vast sterile sets and long space hospital corridors which had an eerie haunted hotel look ala The Shining, was long on unusual camera angles and filters and low on story and content. DS9 for all its gritty look and people possessed by glowing red-eyed demons never made a serious horror entry after the first season. Voyager with its own organ stealing aliens, a demonic clown, and the Doctor stalking Kes equipped with a set of bad false teeth did its best and had no shortage of genuinely disturbing moments but never managed to turn them into an entire episode.

By contrast “The Haunting of Deck Twelve” which references the Shirley Jackson novel in the title but actually seems more inspired by the Star Trek Voyager The Haunting of Deck Twelvedisappointing horror movie loosely based on the novel and the episode itself shows that it has learned both from the failure of that movie and the franchise’s failed previous attempts at horror and melds the material with more than a slight touch of comedy, alien encounter and yet another in-depth look at Voyager’s modus operandi. The origin of Haunting can really be found in a scene from an earlier Voyager episode “Dragon’s Teeth” that has Neelix researching ancient fairy tales with gruesome titles while the cooking fire burns in the foreground. While that scene was a minor moment in “Dragon’s Teeth”, Haunting centers the entire episode around it. If Haunting could be summed up in one sentence it is really this scene of Neelix letting his imagination run wild in the deserted mess hall while the fire burns… and having his nightmares come true.

Neelix has always been of questionable use on Voyager. He has many jobs but few of them are really vital in a crisis and so what is he assigned to do in a dangerous situation but babysit children. While unseen to us, Voyager resolves a still potentially dangerous situation, and Neelix is sent to go and make sure the children aren’t frightened by the darkness and the unexplained shutdown. The problem is that Neelix himself is frightened and in a short time his fear translates into a scary story he starts telling the children, a story that happens to be true. Here Voyager again returns to its common theme of highlighting the story within the Voyager story. Where “Muse” looked at Voyager’s story conventions from an alien perspective, Haunting looks at them from the perspective of a child… the actual Borgites and the man-child that is Neelix himself.

In one sense a flashback episode and yet not, Haunting occurs mostly in the past but it really plays out in the present as Neelix, frightened of Star Trek Voyager The Haunting of Deck Twelvewhat may be happening yet cut off from information as to what really is happening, turns to the past and to the origin of the crisis. He does what human beings sometimes do to take control of a dangerous situation beyond their physical control, he turns it into a story. “The Haunting of Deck Twelve,” which is really Neelix’s story, takes control of the situation by centering on the heroism and capability of Captain Janeway who really is in control right now; and in a minor way on the smaller heroism of Neelix who is afraid and isn’t in control. Unlike the common accusation made against Science Fiction and Star Trek, though the story is not escapist in the least, it is to the truth colored and transformed in a way that allows Neelix to come to grips with his fears. This is what horror is really all about: transforming real threats into unreal monsters and then conquering them and this is what “The Haunting of Deck Twelve” is also about.

In a story loaded with jabs at modern day horror movies (the children are smarter than Neelix and know everything ahead of him, Seven unhurriedly walking directly into danger as she is being stalked by truly awful special effects) and Star Trek conventions (so the alien takes over Seven’s neural circuitry and turns her against the crew?) and the entire process of storytelling (Chakotay was plummeting to his certain death… would anyone like more snacks?), Haunting also manages to look at Voyager’s encounter with an ambiguous alien entity who is neither good nor evil but (like Voyager) just wants to go home.

While after hundreds of Star Trek episodes the basic plot of Haunting might seem like a cliche, but through the eyes of the children and Star Trek Voyager The Haunting of Deck TwelveNeelix it takes on new and dangerous life. The entity they encounter never speaks to Voyager directly, instead using the interface of the ship’s computer for a disturbing inhuman effect. We never really see the entity either, unlike most Star Trek alien beings it never states its intents directly instead using the ship’s stock of command phrases to communicate in riddles. The children are right in that there is a monster on deck twelve, a monster who has been here all along with the power to destroy Voyager. We along with the children, in a sense, have been on Voyager all along and have never known it and together with the children we are Neelix’s intended audience. The revelation is disturbing to them as to us not so much because the entity is dangerous, but for the same reason Star Trek uses alien possession and ship haunting stories so frequently, because it turns something we thought was safe and familiar into something dangerous and alien.

There are many techniques here which should inform future Voyager episodes. Neelix’s fear and his complete helplessness combined with his small feats of bravery in coping with the problem makes the crisis more real and relevant for us then if it were seen through the eyes of a trained Starfleet Officer. There are times when Janeway too seems helpless and desperate herself rather then controlled and in command (an unusual risk for Voyager, one the writers hopefully repeat) of her ship, the one true and trusted confidante and ally which has betrayed her. The speed and precision with which the crew shuts down Voyager combined with the lack of an explanation is disturbing. Because Neelix handles all the build-up and the chills very little time is spent discussing the crisis and most of the effort is expended on just dealing with it and trying to stay alive.

Director David Livingston takes full advantage of Voyager’s damaged conditions and its TNGesque smooth surfaces and bright lighting to Star Trek Voyager The Haunting of Deck Twelveproduce effects that are sometimes comically over the top, sometimes creepy and sometimes both (never an easy task.) Voyager isn’t the Enterprise D and never quite manages to convey that feeling of a haunted hotel and the result is more like a haunted battleship, a place where people work and live temporarily turned dark and haunted. The Ensign serves nicely as a returning character who plausibly jumps at every shadow, the children again work very well standing in for the audience, at once sophisticated and disbelieving and nervous and terrified and enjoying the whole thing. Seeing Voyager through their eyes gives us a fresh perspective and a fresh reality and turns what would otherwise be a formula episode into something more in the off-beat quirky Voyager style.

Like a campfire story “The Haunting of Deck Twelve” isn’t particularly substantial but also like a campfire story, Haunting is fun. The episode knows where it’s going, manages to combine horror and humor while also taking a look at how Voyager functions, showing us the ship with fresh eyes and even including some nice character work on a usually neglected Voyager character. This is a lot in a small package but likely to be more appreciated by those who like the show to begin with than those watching just because they can’t find anything better on TV. And at two-percent of the budget and without the benefit of Liam Neeson, Michael Douglas’s girlfriend or a multimillion dollar FX budget, “The Haunting of Deck Twelve” manages to be a much better presentation then the actual “Haunting” movie and unlike the movie, this one comes free. More importantly it comes a lot closer to the true essence of what horror is and the psychology behind it. Horror is the dark side of imagination and imagination is the foundation of Star Trek. Haunting purges that dark side and the monster, leaving both Neelix and the crew, to appreciate the monster for what it truly is, a fascinating, amazing alien-being who is the product of human (or inhuman?) imagination.


Star Trek Voyager Life-Line Review

Family relationships in Star Trek tend to be dysfunctional probably on the theory that watching a dysfunctional family is a lot more interesting than watching a functional one. Not to mention that father-son/mother-daughter/brother-brother conflicts are a cheap and easy way to add depth to a character and suck the audience in with soap opera, fighting and the eventual tearful reconciliation. It began with Spock and his father, Riker and his dad, Picard and his father figure of an older brother, Data and his brother, Troi and her mother, Odo and his mentor and Paris and his father to name a few. Science Fiction, especially Science Fiction on TV should be grounded in human drama that the audience can relate to and there’s nothing that more people can relate to than family problems. While Star Trek may not have taken the route of Lost in Space, the former competitor of the original Star Trek, there’s been no shortage of family drama and of substitute fathers and sons. Life Line is only the latest chapter in Star Trek’s troubled family saga, but unlike most of them it is a good one.

We last and only saw Dr. Zimmerman, the creator of Voyager’s Emergency Medical Hologram program, on a DS9 episode in which Bashr has star trek voyager life linebeen chosen to serve as the model for an updated version of the EMH. His role there was limited to comic relief and a minor bit of villainy as he tied together the main two storylines by exposing Bashir’s genetically engineered secret and tried to lure Leeta away to the Jupiter Station where Life-Line takes place. While Dr. Zimmerman in “Dr. Bashir I Presume” may have been a minor character, in Life-Line he quickly comes to dominate the story much as he dominates everyone in his life. Fortunately for him most of the people in his life are holograms, in a humorous twist on the horror movie mad doctor who populates his laboratory with his fiendish robotic and undead creations, Dr. Zimmerman has populated his laboratory and his life with holograms, holographic flies, holographic lizards and even a holographic companion. (Little wonder that he wanted Leeta so desperately.)

Taking this into account it of course makes perfect sense that he also has a holographic son in a distant land, a son he has already rejected but knows nothing about. In the ancient archetype of fairy tales and the continuation of the EMH’s six year exploration and growth the Doctor who has risen from a lowly position to prominence, he has sentient status, he has found love, a calling, he can paint, dance and sing and now what he needs to close the circle is to confront his father. Janeway isn’t likely to authorize a visit back to the Solar System just for the purposes of closure but an opportunity comes up. Dr. Zimmerman has the futuristic equivalent of cancer, he’s dying and there’s a chance for his son to save him and to get a little personal growth time in too.

Janeway’s first response is oddly callous. Voyager’s EMH clearly has access to new techniques beyond the abilities of the Federation’s doctors and it’s probable that he can do for Dr. Zimmerman’s fatal disease, which she brushes off unfeelingly as a small illness, what no other doctor can. It is only the EMH’s passionate plea to Janeway not as a doctor acting for Dr. Zimmerman’s pressing medical needs, but as a feeling person acting on behalf of his own psychological needs that Janeway agrees. This follows a questionable but commonplace pattern with Janeway placing personal and emotional issues above actual real and tangible problems. Meanwhile the Doctor giddy with the possibilities of the trip ignores Janeway’s warnings about Dr. Zimmerman’s personality and his head still swimming with his own needs and fantasy images of Dr. Zimmerman comes face to face with the reality of his father who doesn’t seem to care about him or anybody else.

This of course is where it gets interesting because the confrontation between Dr. Zimmerman and the EMH isn’t simply father and son as star trek voyager life linewith Spock and Sarek or even creator and machine as with Data and Dr. Soong. This is the practical core of the battle of wills between them and it is Counselor Troi, who unlike Pathfinder is finally given something useful to do here, who analyzes and acts to even the balance of power between them. The struggle between them may have underlying emotional issues but it’s the struggle of doctor against doctor with specialties that only apply to each other but not to themselves. But the only possible practical medical relationship is one way. The EMH cures Dr. Zimmerman, it’s what he wants to do, it’s what he came here to do but it would mean having Dr. Zimmerman admit that the medical and emotional balance of power is on the EMH’s side and that’s the one thing he can’t do.

Dr. Zimmerman rejects the EMH and the EMH responds by talking about his self-sacrifice in coming here and quickly becomes angry in turn. There’s a practical medical issue here but by starting out confusing the medical and emotional issues the Doctor has guaranteed that the analysis, probing and resolution of both are going to be intertwined throughout the episode. In other words the EMH can’t possibly cure Dr. Zimmerman until they deal with the emotional issues that brought the EMH here in the first place. Moving on to the second stage of the father-son confrontation, the EMH makes things worse by insisting on having Dr. Zimmerman submit to his authority and giving him orders. The Doctor is trying to dominate him and Dr. Zimmerman responds with even more anger and abuse. The EMH’s father is not meeting his emotional needs and every time Dr. Zimmerman looks at his holographic prodigy he is reminded of his personal egotistical failure.

Dr. Zimmerman is a man who has populated his emotional life with his own holographic creations. His pets are holograms, so is his companion and in the end so is his son. He is dying and it is painfully clear to him that his life can be summed up in his relationships with illusions he himself produced. His one shot at immortality, painting his face across thousands of holograms forever serving the Federation long after he himself is gone is a lost dream. The EMH is the reminder of his ultimate failure both as a scientist, and as a human being. As a scientist he couldn’t manage to create a functional organism built on solid principles. As a human being he tried to perpetuate himself through science rather than through humanity (a common enough theme in Star Trek) and his children turned out to be idiots. The return of the EMH has the potential to redeem him on both levels. The accomplishments of the EMH are an extension of his work and the humanity of the EMH is a testament to his own humanity to his ability to create human qualities in a machine and to even have it surpass him in this department.

This is the fundamental irony that underlies Life Line. Much like a Philip K. Dick novel, the EMH really is far more human than Dr.

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Zimmerman. In his compassion for others, his ability to feel and express those feelings, in his relationships with people he displays far more humanity than his creator. On a human scale Dr. Zimmerman, the inventor of holograms is much closer to being one himself. Pinocchio is not only a real boy but he’s achieved what Data never did, he’s far more of a real boy than his creator ever was or will be. When the EMH first confronts Dr. Zimmerman with this reality he can only feel threatened by it. He’s not a man who deals well with people. He likes holograms because probably like Janeway’s barkeep boyfriend they are controllable and predictable. It’s why he can let them and no one else near him. Now he is forced to deal with a hologram who has gotten near him but has the same emotional demands and needs as a real person. And the rebellion spreads to Haley, his companion forces him to acknowledge his feelings for her.

The inclusion of Barlcay in the triangle of Dr. Zimmerman’s household is no accident too. Like the master of the lab, Barclay suffers from problems he deals with by substituting holograms for people. Together with Haley he serves as Dr. Zimmerman’s surrogate family and paralleling the relationship between EMH and creator, Haley also seems far more human than Barclay to the point where we even initially mistake her for a human being. In the vein classic Science Fiction, Life-Line is the story of machines who feel more than people and both times Troi is brought in (Pathfinder and Life-Line) she is there to counsel the people. Barclay seems to have taken her advice to the point of finding himself a surrogate abusive father figure who shares several obvious traits with him so that two people unable to relate to the world at large form a family relationship. He is of course only marking time until the return of the “real son”, the one who can help save his father allowing Barclay to move on to the next stage of his emotional development.

Halfway through the episode we arrive at a stalemate. The EMH wants to save Dr. Zimmerman but also wants his respect and approval, his affirmation as a being. Dr. Zimmerman wants to be saved but doesn’t want to be helpless in the relationship and the forced recipient of the EMH’s emotional baggage and needs. The issue is a practical medical one. In this relationship the EMH matters and has all the power while Dr. Zimmerman has none and that she sees is one of the major sources of his resentment. She learns from Haley that Dr. Zimmerman once saw the EMH Mk1 as more than just a machine, but as a son too, the perpetuation of himself. The creation of the EMH was something he invested himself in emotionally and when that investment failed he cut himself off from it and the EMH’s independence and actualization is something he cannot accept unless he can have a part in it. The EMH may have been his creation but he has surpassed his original programming and Dr. Zimmerman himself. So there exists an emotional and medical stalemate.

The EMH wants emotional affirmation and offers medical assistance in return. Dr. Zimmerman wants both and can offer nothing in return because he can only care about those things which he feels are fully his creation and under his control. Role playing obviously won’t do it here so Troi cuts through the Gordian Knot by disabling the Doctor, forcing him to need Dr. Zimmerman medically and to be vulnerable which lets Dr. Zimmerman be vulnerable in return. By healing the EMH, Dr. Zimmerman reexperiences his failure and breaks through it by grappling with his original failure and recreating him in a sense. He now accepts the EMH as his creation and his prodigy but immediately and predictably tries to change him. This leads to the final confrontation and resolution of their relationship.

Meanwhile appropriately enough on Voyager Janeway and Co. face the threat of the ultimate big daddy in the form of the Federation and star trek voyager life lineAdmiral Hayes looking over their shoulders and threatening to shatter their happy little home. While the EMH has been off in the Alpha Quadrant renewing his family ties, Voyager will soon be forced to renew theirs and it might not be an entirely happy reunion or at the very least much like the EMH’s, it might be a problematic one. Voyager has desperately sought Earth, the Federation and home but soon enough they might get what they wanted and discover that maybe they didn’t really want it after all. in the DQ Voyager has independence, its crew have filled positions and taken on roles they might have trouble carrying on in the Alpha Quadrant. Like the EMH, the Voyager crew have carried an illusory ideal of big daddy and Life-Line suggests that like the EMH in upcoming episodes they may be due for a big disappointment.

All in all a good episode that offers us a nice look at the Federation and its scale against Voyager’s individual journey. After all Dr. Zimmerman can’t even remember Voyager’s name, let alone care about its crew. The Jupiter Station in the opening shot is beautiful and makes you wonder what the Federation might look like in Series V with top of the line special effects. Dr. Zimmerman is a bit too over the top and strikes some false grouchy notes as compared to his Ds9 appearance but Picardo is at the top of his game to the point that his Dr. Zimmerman, a guest star easily dominates everybody including Picardo’s own EMH in every science they’re in. Barclay and Troi are mostly outsiders in this story, supporting characters with practical roles to fill and through their familiarity also help us care about the story though little would change if they were gone. The single Voyager scene emphasizes possible coming frictions with the Federation nicely set against the background of the Doc’s own homecoming troubles. With few lines, Haley nevertheless manages to be an interesting and disturbing presence while the actress suggests depths and complications in her relationship with Doctor Z. that the episode never shows us. In and of itself Life-Line isn’t particularly ground-breaking but it’s a nice story told well which is more than good enough for your average Wednesday Night.

Star Trek Voyager Fury Review

What does God need with a Starship?

It was the question Kirk asked in ST5 and it was one question among many possible and obvious questions Janeway might have asked Kes in Fury but never did. Why does Kes need a starship since when we last saw her she was an energy being on a higher plane of existence. In Fury thought she’s merely a more powerful and demented version of Kes. It’s certainly a strange way to say goodbye to a beloved character, but then nothing about the Kes issue has ever been simple.

Like ST5, Fury has a strange plot with metaphysical twists that makes no real sense and like STV it takes us into the strange hall of mirrors star trek voyager furywhere fictional characters and plot lines meet real world actors and producers. It is inevitable that Fury will not be taken simply as just another Voyager episode but a commentary on Kes and Jennifer Lien the real world actress who plays her and her removal from the show.

From the start the return of Kes clearly boxes the writers into a corner. They had gotten rid of her through the expedient of sending her off to a higher plane of existence and giving her some amazing powers. There was no real plan to have her return because that would have raised the question of why she wouldn’t simply send the crew home and end the show as a result. Clearly there were two choices, to either take away Kes’s powers or to turn her into an antagonist so that the question of her sending Voyager home would never even come.

The obvious choice and the easy choice would be to deprive Kes of her powers and have her stay on Voyager temporarily until she recovers. That would have made for a feel good story in which Kes could have gotten back in touch with Neelix, Tuvok and the Doctor. You can almost see Neelix with the Welcome Back Kes cake and the entire crew hugging each other. There would be a nice moment between 7 of 9 and Kes to diffuse any lingering thoughts in the minds of the viewers on the subject of Lien’s departure and Voyager could have sailed on happily with everyone satisfied. But despite the common accusation that Voyager always makes the easy and obvious choice when telling a story, here Voyager took the most difficult and baffling road.

Instead of a warm homecoming Kes returns as an aged, crazed and violent specter haunting Voyager. She casually employs deceit and violence, betrays Voyager and plots to have everyone killed in a horrific and brutal manner. Unselfish and compulsively caring is the core description for the Kes character and this new version of Kes is completely selfish caring for nobody but herself. In short she seems to have nothing in common with the Kes anyone remembers.

When she wanders Voyager interacting with her former friends and crew mates her mind is clearly elsewhere and we almost see Paris, the EMH and Neelix as she sees them, a tiresome amalgamation of obvious repetitive traits that quickly wear on you. It takes all of her best acting abilities just to pretend that she likes these people and cares. What is disturbing here in not that she hates them which would show at least some emotional engagement but that she simply sees herself as a stranger among them and doesn’t care very much whether they live or die. The closest she comes to responding to them as human beings is her violent outburst when dealing with Neelix’s dinner arrangement.

Voyager’s escape from her plots comes through the form of Tuvok’s vision, premonitions of the future. At first there is a casual slip about the Delta Flyer, scenes of Naomi, 7 of 9 and the Borg and finally he sees the Kes Apocalypse itself in action. The timing is curious. Tuvok served as a kind of mentor to Kes and was passed on to serve that role to 7 of 9. In his vision he sees the unborn future Kes is here to destroy, Naomi, leading him to the image of 7 of 9 Kes’s successor. Tuvok’s premonition really is not only that Kes is here to destroy them all but that in the good version of the future, Voyager will be Kes-free. Aided by Tuvok’s vision and an oddly tech hobbled Kes who seems to be relying on transporters and computers like a more ordinary intruder, Janeway kills Kes who apparently isn’t on enough of a higher plane to survive a phaser set to kill. Above Chakotay freed from the suffocating moralizations of Janeway fights the good fight against the Vidians in a well executed battle scene from longtime James Cameron associate and director of Tinker Tailor, John Bruno. The battle scenes and the Vidians and John Bruno would have been better served by getting their own episode. With Kes dead, Janeway is as usual not satisfied until her opponents admit they’re wrong and so she covers up the entire encounter until Kes’s return with a brilliant plan involving old Kes chiding new Kes for being so nasty and mean. “It was your own choice to leave Ocampa.” old Kes sanctimoniously declares “and it was your own choice to leave Voyager.” (Though the extent to which these were really under her total control is questionable) And of course we can’t help but wonder if the last is really directed at the character or at Jennifer Lien or in some subtle way at the audience.

New Kes having already forgotten all about the time she was drugged and kidnapped by herself and then made a holorecording telling herself star trek voyager furyto get lost (wouldn’t you?) and though she seemed to remember everything else about Voyager instantly repents and realizes she doesn’t want to kill everybody after all. All she needed…well what was it she exactly needed? What was her motivation? She rants something about Voyager deluding her with ideas about exploration which isn’t particularly enlightening. If you have a sweeps episode dedicated to a returning cast member who tries to kill everybody, the least you can ask for is a coherent explanation. Too bad we don’t get that, instead we get the questionable sight of a senile, aged and slightly friendlier Kes flying away on her spaceship to potentially terrorize other life forms and civilizations.

As a means of neutralizing lingering issues about Kes’s departure, this episode was probably the worst possible way to go about it. Jennifer Lien might have enjoyed returning to kill everybody and the scenes of Kes striding around while things blow up all around her look good, but what’s the point? Fury might be seen as a way of acting out the suspicions of some viewers and then resolving them. Kes returns enraged at her abandonment, read firing, and begins to wreak havoc but is dismissed by a younger version of herself who points out that it was her decision to leave in the first place. As a resolution this is more then a little weak. And treating this episode on the level of a normal episode with a plot is completely pointless. So what are we left with? Director Bruno decided he had a comedy and just as in Tinker Tailor he does a great job of directing the EMH’s humorous scenes and Kes’s encounters from her perspective. The opening birthday scene works great as a way of spoofing Voyager’s tense openings and steely exchanges between Janeway and crew and its repetition reminds us of Voyager’s family feeling while the tension sets us up for the encounter with Kes that we know is coming. Lien does a great job as usual even if she has no idea of what she’s doing or why. Even Paris and Neelix have some nice scenes. Continuity is held up here with plenty of neat references and Voyager’s entire history is altered with a snap here. But beyond the gimmick of Wrath of Kes and Return of Kes, there’s no actual episode here just a bunch of scenes strung together which is what Voyager is often accused of being but rarely is.

Tuvok: “I have hallucinated but only under deep meditation.” One wonders if there was any deep meditation involved in the creation of this episode?

Star Trek Voyager: Muse review

Voyager in Love

Muse, the latest episode in Voyager’s sixth season deconstruction craze goes where no officially sanctioned Trek series has gone before, star trek voyager musefanfic. While, admittedly Voyager has addressed fanfic before in episodes like Worst Case Scenario and Pathfinder, Muse stands for now as the most explicit exploration of fanfic. The issue for Paramount is a lot less controversial these days what with Simon and Schuster having issued several volumes of fanfic through the New Worlds series and the Internet bringing fans and producers a lot closer than the latter might like. Still the general attitude remains one of amused condescension and while Muse doesn’t entirely get over that like Galaxy Quest it also takes a fonder and more idealistic view of fan interpretations of Voyager while taking the time to rebut some persistent fan requests.

First of all Muse has to get points for cleverness in that it dodges all of the obvious possible scenarios for spoofing fanfic that would have made it seem like little more than a ripoff of Galaxy Quest. Instead it heads straight for the Oscar winner, Shakespeare in Love, and borrows the basic scenario thereby turning Shakespeare into a fanfic writer and Voyager into a subject of his plays. This is a move that ranges somewhere between gutsy and clueless and on paper sounds like a horrible star trek voyager muse idea. Yet Voyager has had any number of episodes that sounded good on paper and ended up being horribly executed. In a turn of fate, this season Voyager has had some strong successes with episode like Tinker Tailor or the narrative of the Borg children that sounded like horrible ideas on paper but worked very well on screen. The difference lie in execution and Muse is nearly perfectly executed so that the comic and dramatic aspects melt together and the result is an enjoyable episode.

Joe Mensoky is one of Voyager’s better writers and he produces an amusing script with lots of in-jokes and references and navel gazing that never subtracts from the story and in a few touches conveys a neat pseudo-Elizabethan yet appropriately alien culture. The direction transforms the wrecked Delta flyer into a vast dark cave with far more presence and heft than Voyager itself while Dawson unencumbered by yet more doomed attempts at developing her “background and heritage” is simply given the chance to respond to the situation as a person and does a wonderful job.

The only real problem comes once again with the fact that these deconstruction episodes suggest that there is something about Voyager to deconstruct which is a somewhat questionable premise. Voyager is certainly nearing the end of its run but it doesn’t really seem as if there’s that much content to the show or if that much has been accomplished. Muse tries to overcome this by contrasting naive fanfic ideas with “deep dark” scenes of the Voyager regulars but even with this setting those scenes don’t really amount to very much. They’re touching, but all this is elementary material that’s been on the ground since the first season. And the question has to be asked, if there really is this wealth of character relationships in the Voyager crew to mine, why indeed aren’t they mining them instead of doing deconstruction episodes like this that don’t really feature the crew itself?

Muse’s plot in part provides the answer in that it is less a deconstruction of Voyager than of an average Star Trek episode circa TNG. There’s the standard equipment failure-driven episode, the resolution of which requires some equipment repair, a search by the mother ship driven by worry and concern, and eventually a happy reunion. We know this plot so well we can recite it in our sleep. Muse in turn tries to break down the elements of the episode by effectively having a crossover with a bard and an alien culture so that rather than seeing the standard cliched plot, we see it anew, refracted through their eyes with emphasis on them rather than on the standard plot elements. Like Galaxy Quest, Muse uses projected fan enthusiasm to enliven the material and make it seem fresh and exciting. Unlike Galaxy Quest, Muse puts its focus ultimately on the ideals behind Star Trek rather than the cheese.

In this context it is important to note that Muse’s beginning and end take place not on Voyager or even the wrecked Delta Flyer but on the stage version of Voyager. It is not any of the Voyager crew or even B’Elanna who are the main characters of this episodstar trek voyager musee but the aliens. And it is one of Muse’s neatest tricks in that it manages to make the aliens seem accessible, normal while it is the Voyager crew who seem unreal and strange. By making the story be about the story of Voyager, the Voyager crew come to seem more like characters in a story while the aliens seem all-together plausible despite the complete lack of decent sets or even alien makeup. Menosky’s script creates the alien culture as a somewhat pseudo-Elizabethan with mixed bits of ancient Greece while using references like “Winter’s Tears” and the story of the altar to skillfully suggest a much more complex culture behind the scenes.

When the bard discovers B’Elanna he takes her for an Eternal, which seems to be some local variation on the Olympian gods. The idea of Starfleet officers appearing as gods is not new but fortunately the aliens of Muse don’t put that much worship into their idea of Eternals and seem to see them merely as somewhat more powerful beings, but not so in a religious sense. While the bard attempts to pump her for material for his latest play, B’Elanna fairly, coldly, and casually uses him to gain supplies, including an episode that puts his life at risk. This isn’t the behavior of a Starfleet officer but she isn’t a Starfleet officer; she’s a Maquis serving on a Starfleet vessel. The Torres character is meant to be harder and darker than the average Starfleet officer and while this often shows up, here it plays quite nicely. Lt. Torres violates the Prime Directive numerous times in this episode and doesn’t subscribe to a particularly high ethical standard, acting as she thinks is necessary. The result is that she seems a lot more human than when she’s acting in cliched, frustrated, half-Klingon fashion. On Voyager she’s a special category of alien with her own cliched role to play while here she’s a person among other people.

B’Elanna’s stories to the bard reproduce the basic Voyager outline but all set on the sea and with the planets as islands and the Borg as a warrior race. What he does with the source material of the Star Trek universe is to churn out fairly crude approximations of the Voyager crew who enthrall to juvenile fanfic ideas about drama, mostly spend time romancing each other. This gives the producers a chance to rebut fan demands beginning with the demands for various kinds of relationships or more time spent on relationships. The core of it seems to consist of saying that relationships are stupid and there are higher forms of drama out there. Admittedly too, many relationships and weddings turn a show easily into a soap opera, but still it’s not much of a response. The rebuttal to that element of fandom which wants a Janeway/Chakotay relationship is to emphasize how deep and trusting their relationship is already so that romance would only ruin it. This would be slightly more plausible if every major crisis didn’t seem to involve a snit between the two of them in which Janeway makes it clear that she thinks that Chakotay should have exactly as much autonomy as a poodle.

Having exploited the bard in pursuit of repairing the transmitter, B’Elanna finally exhausts her resources (and his) and goes “into town” to see the rehearsals. This introduces us to the rules of drama, the in-jokes that will drive the rest of the plot. Just as Star Trek was driven by the ideals of having a part in creating a better world, the bard also wants to use his play to cause his ruler to seek peace instead of war. Soon enough he hits on the idea of using the Star Trek source material to compose a fairly simple moral tale about violence not solving anything that strongly resembles a number of TOS and TNG episodes. This elevates his work from fanfic character smooching to using Star Trek to spread constructive ideas about the world, which brings him to doing art instead of soap opera and justifies Torres’s title as the Muse who inspires art.

Back at the Delta Flyer, in a humorous jab at the standard plot cliches, Torres’s troubles with the transmitter turn out to be completely star trek voyager muse pointless because Harry Kim was here all along with a transmitter in his pocket. But now Torres has become caught up in the story and arrives at the play just as the bard struggles with his lack of an ending. Here the discovery that Torres is an Eternal combined with the sudden reversal comes into the equation. Finally Torres departs in a blaze of light with a tear trickling down her cheek which makes you wonder if that’s supposed to be Torres the person or Torres the actress playing a part on the stage. Or perhaps at this point there really is no distinction. What matters is not Torres herself but how the audience sees her and what the audience takes away from the play they have just seen. As the final words are recited and the real audience and the stage audience come together on the closing words describing a peaceful world where “hatred has no home.” This as much as anything else is the vision of Star Trek and you realize with a jolt that the possibility of its realization is as alien to us as it is to the aliens applauding. Despite the vast cultural and technological gap between them and us, neither of us is anywhere close; but what brings both the fictional and the real audience of Trek together is that we are both reaching for what is beyond us. Like Galaxy Quest, Muse ends on a hopeful note of belief in redemption through idealism, the idealism of its fans.

This is Muse’s theme and its focus on the way the audience refracts the material presented to it. Unlike Shakespeare in Love which focuses on the idea of actors playing parts and the joy of the theater, Muse focuses on the actual product and the creative process. The key difference between Shakespeare and Star Trek in this context (beyond many of the obvious differences) is that Star Trek seems to inspire people to duplicate it in some way whether that involves collecting merchandise, reading books or writing fanfic. Muse makes the distinction though between trying to duplicate the source material, namely the starships and the adventures and the weird aliens, as opposed to trying duplicate the ideas behind the source material. The bard’s progress comes when he learns to see past the setting and to placing ideas within that setting. Similarly what the writers may be trying to say in their own defense is that what matters about Voyager isn’t the settings or the relationships or the plot resolutions but the meanings and ideas behind it. This is likely to be a tough sell to fans.

Still the writers have made one point pretty clearly, whether intentionally or not. As bad as any present or future series might be, it’s still better than fanfic.

Star Trek Voyager: Live Fast and Prosper review

The Original Series had its Harry Mudd, the Next Generation had Vash (or arguably Q), Deep Space Nine had Quark; these are the recurring characters often cast as con men who befuddle the Captain and give an episode a lighter touch. The con men usually tend not to be particularly evil but cunning buffoons who want more than they can handle and whose misadventures produce amusing consequences while serving as a foil for our heroes. Initially it seemed that Neelix might play such a role but he was quickly turned into a dour but eager puppy dog. The main obstacle to having such a character on Voyager was once again the producers belief that Janeway was too fragile to be seriously opposed, undercut or mocked. The same rationale turned the Voyager crew into robots marching in lockstep with Janeway’s commands and Q’s appearances into pleas for help. Now at the end of the sixth season with episodes like Good Shepherd demonstrating that Janeway really isn’t made out of glass and can more than hold her own in a confrontation with humor and wit, comes Live Fast and Prosper.

If there’s one thing the sixth season has focused on it’s Voyager Deconstructed. We’ve had Voyager as seen from the perspective of a primitive

star trek voyager live fast and prosper

A better Janeway?

Shakespearean culture (Muse), Voyager from the perspective of the Doc’s fantasies as seen by an alien society (Tinker Tailor), Voyager as seen over the course of an alien civilization (Blink of an Eye), Voyager as seen by children (Haunting) and Voyager as seen by Barclay (Pathfinder) among others. Live Fast and Prosper gives us a sendup of the Voyager crew’s mission and fandom. Unlike the cons of earlier series, Voyager doesn’t focus on creating vivid guest stars but characters who are interesting mainly because they impersonate Voyager crew members. Like some members of fandom who take it too far, Dala and Mobar dress in Starfleet like uniforms, pretend to be Starfleet officers and get it almost right, but not quite. This provides opportunities for jokes about Janeway’s hair, replacing Janeway and fans who get too caught up in the show as exemplified by Mobar who doesn’t just impersonate Tuvok but comes to believe that he really is Tuvok.

Living off a standard story concept that was old when Bonanza was new, Live, Fast and Prosper is an entertaining enough episode. The problem is that like many of last season’s better episodes, it only works because rather than focusing on the regulars it turns its attention to amusing new characters created

star trek voyager live fast and prosper

We come with barely straight faces

only for this episode. And the bigger problem of which this is only a symptom, is that these characters whether they be the 3 dysfunctional crewmen of Good Shepherd, Lindsay of Ashes or the Borg Children work so much better than the regular characters. At least one of the major reasons Good Shepherd was enjoyable was because it didn’t feature Tom and Harry and Neelix and Chakotay going through their tried routines. Ditto for Live Fast and Prosper. Dala and Mobar are a breath of fresh air because they walk in, entertain us and leave when the episode is done and yet we know them better and like them better than quite a few Voyager regulars. The sections of Live Fast that dealt with their antics were the most entertaining and flew by while the sections featuring Tom and Neelix dealing with the possibility that they may not be as sharp as they used to be, made me want to switch the channel.

Live Fast and Prosper may be composed of tried gags and plot twists but in the end it’s characters that decide whether a story works. The reason Live Fast and Prosper works is also the reason so much of Voyager doesn’t. The sixth season’s emphasis on introspection, on looking to decide just what Voyager means and stands for seems like a good idea even if it comes a bit late to do any good. This episode may serve as a jab at fandom and Voyager’s own idiosyncrasies while testifying to the different style and quirky storytelling Voyager has brought to the Star Trek table, but it will be noted as yet another episode in which the writers took a long look at the Voyager cast and moved on to another menu.

Star Trek Voyager review – Good Shepherd

Toto, we’re not in the Alpha Quadrant anymore!

One of the things that has distinguished Voyager from other Star Trek series, is Voyager’s emphasis on its crew as a family. Unlike previous shows which were part of the greater network of the Federation, no matter how tenuous it might have seemed at times, Voyager is alone in the Delta Quadrant and the crew have nothing and no one to depend on but themselves. This emphasis on the crew as a family versus the crew as professional officers has ranged from the obnoxious to the somewhat acceptable. Ideally we want our characters to be professionals rather than a dysfunctional family sitcom. Still, at the end of the sixth season it is pretty clear that Voyager has been a family of sorts and in every family there are the black sheep and Good Shepherd focuses on the black sheep of the Voyager family.

When it came time to produce the post-TNG series, the first shows not created by Gene Roddenberry, one of the more “edgy” concepts had it Star Trek Voyager good shepherdthat they would feature conflict within the crew, something frowned upon in TNG. And so DS9 and Voyager both kicked off with “A House divided against itself” crews which were supposed to feature conflicts within command and crew. Soon enough those conflicts though vanished. Some speculated that this was because the mostly white male writers were uncomfortable with minority Captains and unsure of how far they could push antagonisms without making those Captains look weak. The results of this have not been pretty.

On Voyager specifically the lack of any real opposition aside from the occasional heart-felt protestation from Chakotay when Janeway is about to do something insane, immoral and illegal. Ironically enough this lack of opposition and conflict has made Janeway not stronger but weaker. Without being subjected to acid tests and cross-examinations, without being tested by conflict Janeway’s

Star Trek Voyager good shepherd

"I'm just like jesus"

decisions and actions seem to lack basis and the backing that a decision tested by conflict gives. This is why “Good Shepherd” is such a refreshing change of pace. Ideally on a SF show the dialogue should be far more shocking then the special effects and the “Good Shepherd” dialogue was fascinating not because it was particularly Shakespearean but because a crewmember was actually rude to Janeway and contrary to what the producers had been thinking for six years, she survived.

“Good Shepherd” is by no means a brilliant episode or a particularly stunning one. It is meant to be a minor supporting player in this season’s cast of episodes but sometimes the supporting player walks away with the role and so too “Good Shepherd” is amazing to watch simply because it does what Voyager has been doing all along. It doesn’t tell us that Janeway is a good Captain by casting her in the right aura and keeping her crew silent or giving them strawman arguments or showing Janeway doing everyone’s job at the same time. Instead it simply shows us what she does, command an imperfect crew and interact with them on a human level. Not the “human level” interaction in which Janeway the icon sympathizes with Tuvok or Chakotay while keeping an invisible wall around herself, but seemingly the kind of human interaction Mulgrew has been pushing for.

In what is almost certainly a first for Voyager, Shepherd’s Janeway is not an icon but an accessible, believable commander. She can

Star Trek Voyager good shepherd

The antisocial elitist

participate in a no-holds-barred give and take with people who don’t much like her without getting up on a pedestal. She can can contemplate solutions to problems as they pop up and handle people in a way that suggests that is what she does every day and that the events of “Good Shepherd” aren’t particularly notable. Of course the problem is that Janeway doesn’t behave this way every day or ever has behaved this way. “Good Shepherd” presents a likeable, believable Janeway which is almost enough to make us think we’re watching yet another cloned Voyager or an alternate universe Voyager.

From the beginning Winrich Kolbe, who usually directs more high firepower Trek episodes like Scorpion 2, actually gives us a sense of Voyager and the crew’s relationships to each other by pulling away from Voyager and moving around the ship thereby giving us a sense of place for the characters. It’s wonderful, so is the cramped section of Voyager that time forgot and the new Janeway (The only problem is it comes about six years too late). Seven of Nine conducts her

Star Trek Voyager good shepherd

The neurotic

crew evaluations and it turns out that in Voyager’s semi-perfect family three black sheep have been overlooked for six years (Possibly there were other black sheep on Voyager once, but they all died at one point or another during the journey).

Mortimer Hammer is a theorist who never puts anything into practice and is a loner on a forgotten deck of Voyager. He hates it here and spends most of his time theorizing about the origin of the universe. Celes is a Bajoran science officer who isn’t particularly competent and has become more so because the entire competent Voyager crew and especially the super-competent 7 of 9 never trusts her to get the job right. She has a neurotic connection to Telfer, a hypochondriac who constantly believes he has new and more interesting diseases. You can imagine how the first two got into Starfleet and the explanations for them being here are actually pretty plausible, but one supposes that Telfer developed his condition only once on board. Still as black sheep these three are not particularly terrible. Hammer is a potentially valuable crewmember with an attitude problem, Telfer and Celes are neurotic but not in ways that can’t be resolved. Casting herself in the role of Jesus, Janeway declares that she’s going to be the good shepherd who will lead them back to the flock and so off

Star Trek Voyager good shepherd

The ditz

we go on our three hour tour…

Of course once we’ve gotten past the bantering, Hammer bizarrely enough claims that nurture and society has no influence on who he is today (I can see 24th century science being altered in some radical ways, but none quite that radical) and has a rude exchange with Janeway that the Captain wins not by trying to dominate and crush her opponents or resorting to cheap rhetoric, but by actually trying to see her opponent’s point of view and responding to it; trouble strikes. A strange weird alien entity whose nature we never discover begins harassing Voyager.

This is the trial that Janeway and her charges have to go through. The Yellow Brick road with Janeway as Dorothy, Hammer as the tin man who needs a heart, Tefler as the cowardly lion who needs courage and Celes as the Scarecrow who wants brains. Modern audiences know that these characters need no wizard to grant them these things, we know that in true Disney fashion they already have them inside themselves and only need a crisis to bring them out. So Hammer Star Trek Voyager good shepherdshows he really has a heart by risking his life to save the crew, Tefler gets his courage by having his worst fears come true and coping with it while Celes finds that she’s not quite as stupid as she thinks.

In a nice touch the alien remains mysterious, Hammer’s action in shooting the alien feels very plausible and the more cliched elements of the crisis are overshadowed by realistic humorous touches such as Celes’s failed countdown. Even down to the end the interactions between Janeway and the trio feel far more real and believable than the usual Voyager interactions. In one sense this is a triumph but in another it also demonstrates the extent to which Voyager has failed to produce a likeable and cohesive cast and crew to be trumped by the hastily thrown together actors of a single episode.

In Good Shepherd, Janeway may be Dorothy the Midwestern girl thrown to a distant land and trying to find her way home back to Kansas, but in future episode it seems more likely than not that she’ll go back to being the wicked witch of the Delta Quadrant.

Star Trek Voyager: Child’s Play review

Compared to many competing SciFi shows, Star Trek has always excelled at doing is not simply showing weird aliens or giant alien star trek voyager child's playbattleships but instead focusing on relating those aliens to us on a very human level. We were introduced to the Cardassians, the enemy who would haunt and nearly take over DS9, not in an episode bristling with firepower but one that focused on Starfleet and Cardassian characters juxtaposed to each other leading to the revelation of the ultimate futility of the conflict. The first two TNG episodes that addressed the Romulan threat at full length, The Enemy and The Defector, also focused on individual Romulan characters driven by motives that hit very close to home.

In that tradition, Voyager’s Child’s Play is an episode that focuses on aliens doing horrific things for motives that are at once alien and human. Alien not because they’re incomprehensible but because we’d rather not comprehend them or imagine ourselves in a situation where we might act as they do. On the surface Child’s Play is yet another 7 of 9 character growth episode but in reality it is the story of Icheb and his parents, not only because of the amount of screen time they receive but because their acting and the issues on their end easily outweigh the Voyager aspects of the story. In a way it’s a shame because it indicates Voyager’s difficulties in finding stories that deal with their regular cast of characters on the same level of intensity. But in another way it’s a blessing because just as with the Romulan defector of The Defector or the Cardassian officer of The Wounded (played by Mark Alaimo who later went on to appear as a similar but far more prominent Cardassian, Gul Dukat) make the universe our characters explore a far more vivid place by populating it with disturbing characters who are at once human and yet not.

Falling between Ashes to Ashes and Good Shepherd, Child’s Play on the surface continues the running theme of Voyager’s crew straying from the fold. Unlike either of these two episodes where Voyager crew members must choose between being good Voyager officers or something else, Icheb really has no choice in the matter. Seven’s growth on Voyager has usually come down to Seven and Janeway struggling over some choice Seven wants to make. This is common enough for TV characters but what makes it different for Seven is that as a former Borg, coming from a system where the concept of individual choice was non-existent, making choices on her own was the way she reclaimed her humanity. The main emphasis of Child’s Play is to point out just how little of a choice Icheb has in any matter.

Before it aired, TNG’s Suddenly Human was rumored to address child abuse. In fact though, the actual episode glossed over the actual abuse in favor of a celebration of “cultural differences”. Child’s Play picks up where Suddenly Human failed and really does deal with abuse though – as is the habit of SF – in a slightly abstract form. Unlike Suddenly Human, Child’s Play doesn’t find its root in cultural differences but in motivations. Where Seven has had plenty of time to develop emotionally and intellectually before becoming entangled in any personal relationships, Icheb with only a short time of being free and independent of the Borg is torn between his real parents and his surrogate parent.

Ironically enough where Seven the Borg drone is motivated by emotional needs, Icheb’s parents are driven by practical exploitative considerations. Seven really cares about Icheb, Icheb’s parents love him but want to feed him to the Borg as poisoned bait. Icheb isn’t capable of really making a decision one way or another. When he is emotionally manipulated by his parents, Icheb moves towards them but more out of instinct than any rational decision making process. To the credit of the writers, the episode doesn’t end with Icheb making any final decision on the matter, but with confusion over the entire episode and a desire to explore his independence.

Still, despite Icheb’s prominence in Child’s Play, an episode built around him, it is not his character who really gets developed but 7 of 9 and star trek voyager child's playhis parents, whom we will likely never see again. Seven’s character development in this episode is easily superior to that of most of the more obvious and obnoxious “Seven grows in her humanity” episodes which again demonstrates that the best way to develop a character rests in the little things and not in the big showy “Let’s develop X this week.” Still it is Icheb’s parents who are brilliantly acted, that provide some of the most disturbing moments. Interestingly enough Child’s Play is an episode that works best on second viewing because the shocking nature of the interactions between Icheb and each other really doesn’t sink in until you’ve seen them in their final scene discussing using Icheb as a human sacrifice. More like a play then an episode, the real impact of Child’s Play lies in the conflicted tangle of motivations and emotions of Icheb’s parents. Depicted as neither evil or good, they are just ordinary people in a society and circumstances that drives them to do terrible things, which they try to justify in their own minds.

Seven meanwhile displays some of the truest and most genuine feelings since Drone which was also another Seven Motherhood episode, a subject that apparently resonates with Jeri Ryan. This ties in with Voyager’s general emphasis on Family, capital F, beginning with Janeway as Matriarch who mothered Seven and now it’s Seven’s turn. Voyager as a good family for Icheb is contrasted with the Brunali as a bad family for Icheb. Earlier on, the idea of Voyager as a family instead of a vessel of Starfleet professionals seemed obnoxious and insulting to the idea of a female Captain only being able to command in that way. Still, by now it’s become Voyager’s main theme, love it or leave it.

In the next episode Good Shepherd, Janeway pulls three crewmembers back into the family. In the previous episode Ashes to Ashes (which is strongly suggestive of TNG’s Suddenly Human) she has to let one go. Still all these are crewmembers. Icheb is a child. The Next Generation which has served as the origin for all the succeeding Berman-era spinoffs so far placed an emphasis on children binding the crew together. DS9 followed that up with Nog and Jake. For quite a while Voyager avoided the children route (though you have to wonder if Beltran would be complaining as much or as loudly today if instead of being completely eliminated from the picture, Seska’s baby would have been left for Chakotay to raise) but now for better or for worse Voyager has its own family.

In defense of his people’s ejection of him while still unformed, Odo pointed out that a society can be judged by the way it treats children. Child’s Play makes the same point quietly but subtly about Icheb’s parents and the Brunali and by making it also applicable towards Voyager itself.

Star Trek Voyager: Spirt Folk review

Bride of Holodeck

There’s no way of truly gauging how awful an episode that depends on the characters being threatened by malfunctioning technology is going to be. In the Trekverse, the malfunctioning technology is usually the transporter or the holodeck. The aim of both is much the same. To leave our heroes stranded in a bad situation with no easy way to rescue them for 10 or 15 minutes and thereby producing suspense and keeping the interest of the audience; or so the theory goes.

Some of these stories worked well enough in the early days of Star Trek but they were tiresome by mid-TNG and by the time Ds9 and Voyager

star trek voyager spirit folk

A screenshot that captures the experience of watching Spirit Folk

came along, they just needed to be taken out and shot. As David Gerrold pointed out, why would you continue using a technology that constantly breaks down in the first place? There may be some justification for the transporter which is critical technology that might be a bit hard to replace but the holodeck is the Trekverse equivalent of TV. It’s entertainment. If it has a bad habit of going berserk and trapping our characters in a room full of gangsters, criminal masterminds, or deranged villagers why keep using it? Worse, Star Trek writers have a habit of throwing what’s left of their brains overboard when a holodeck story is written.

A holodeck story has become the signal for camp, lots of in-jokes and a completely implausible plot. When this is kept grounded in reality as with The Killing Game which had its share of drama and mind-blowing sequences, it can work, but when that fails, the episode turns into a Vic Fontaine romp or Fair Haven. To its credit, Voyager’s most prominent transporter malfunction episode “Tuvix” was actually intriguing and original. And Voyager had managed to make some interesting and original uses of the holodeck. “Nothing Human” gave us a quite unethical but very memorable holodoc, “Killing Game” that famous Nazis vs. Klingons moment, “Real Life” had the EMH creating a family for himself, “Alter-Ego” a holographic take on internet chat rooms and “Pathfinder” as the best Barclay episode yet. Still when a Star Trek show goes decides its crew needs some time off from the real world to relax, the results tend to be horrific. Witness “Twisted” and “Fair Haven”, DS9’s “Holosuite” and Vic Fontaine series or VGR’s “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

Spirt Folk (the writers wisely avoid fairy folk) itself is a sequel to an episode that never should have been made. Still, since Fair Haven set up a relationship for Janeway with a hologram who doesn’t know he’s a hologram, that clearly had to be resolved somehow. Unfortunately Voyager falls back on the cliche of a holodeck malfunction. Some lessons have been learned by the writers. The holodeck malfunction is not sudden or unexpected. The safety protocols are not randomly disabled but damaged when hit by a shotgun blast (though you have to wonder how the shotgun blast could have done any damage if the protocols were online to begin with?) And most of what happens makes a certain amount of rational sense.

Paris has been running the Fair Haven holoresort program on a 24/7 basis while the crew have been using their omnipotent powers over the holodeck world to save babies from wells and turn Kim’s dates into cows (does that qualify as yet another doomed relationship for him?) and while Janeway struggles with a relationship in which her boyfriend isn’t real, the townfolk begin to suspect that the Voyager crew are spirit folk. What happens here is somewhat interesting mainly because Voyager’s writers and the writers of many TV shows turn out small town cliches of the perfect simple place; while Spirit Folk unintentionally takes the stereotype Fair Haven built up and shows the ugly reality underneath.

Under the picteresque mannerisms and scenery, most of the residents are ignorant, superstitious, violent and dangerous much as people of

star trek voyager spirit folk

The Voyager crew defeated by its greatest enemy... imaginary Irish villagers

that era really were. The writers insert repeated lines into the mouths of the characters excusing their actions by claiming that they are influenced by fear and ignorance, but that explains their behavior but hardly excuses it. One wonders how long it would have taken for the wonderful Fair Haven villagers to have permanently ‘disposed’ of Paris and Kim at the stake if Janeway’s boyfriend, modified with knowledge and culture he couldn’t have actually had, hadn’t gone for help. DS9’s “Badda Bing” tried to disingenuously wave away the divergence between the holographic fantasy and the historical reality much in the same way that modern day writers want to ignore a commitment to what things were actually like in favor of how things would look better on a picture postcard.

But then once again Spirt Folk, like Fair Haven completely ignores any of the real issues here in favor of worn out comedy routines (Oh wow, there’s a cow in the church!) and sugary speeches. When the crisis comes, we once again are faced with the same ridiculous premise that the entire problem is caused by the ship’s equivalent of a TV set which cannot be shut down. Why can’t it be shut down even when valued members of Janeway’s crew have their lives at risk? B’Elanna Torres helpfully points out to Janeway that unlike Janeway’s boyfriend, her boyfriend cannot be reprogrammed if he develops a sudden hole in the head. To this Janeway sagaciously responds that it doesn’t matter if the people of Fair Haven are real as long as our feelings for them are real. On the logical scale this is somewhat roughly the equivalent of completely insane.

After all if Janeway were to decide that a chair or a rock was her significant other and if the feelings she has for the chair or the rock are quite real, should they take precedence over the lives of actual real people? We may assign sentimental value to photographs of loved ones or to books or William Shatner’s toupee but that doesn’t put them nearly in the categories of people. The people of Fair Haven are not real. They are interactive ‘TV’ characters with some sophisticated programming. You cannot have a relationship with them anymore than you can have a relationship with a chair or a rock. That is you can love the chair but the chair can never love you back. Without a mutual exchange of feelings there is no relationships and there can be no mutual exchange here. Unlike the EMH, the Fair Haven holopeople are not at sentient level or no one on Voyager would be treating them as property. Literally they are the equivalent of a collection of tapes from a TV show. They should have been dumped at the first sign that human life was at risk. This of course would be taking the logical, moral and sane way out, not a very likely thing for Janeway to do.

So of course when Paris and Kim are trapped by a mob of irate villagers in the pub, Janeway decided to beam Paris and Kim off the holodeck. This in and of itself doesn’t actually solve any problems except for the one involving the safety of Paris and Kim. Even though she was warned that the villagers suspect members of her crew as being spirit folk, she nevertheless sends in the Doctor who is also the one member of her crew most likely to be vulnerable to a holodeck environment. The result of course is just another hostage. Janeway is left with egg on her face and it becomes clear that the situation cannot be resolved without a reunion between the two lovers. While many fans next objected to the hypnotism of the doctor, this actually makes perfect sense. With the emitter removed the EMH becomes part of the holodeck program and as a hologram he is subject to the rules and physics of the Fair Haven world. Using the EMH as an unwitting conduit to the Voyager data-link, something far more plausible than Moriarty’s method of having the holograms figure out where they are through taking control of the system, he figures out what to do and where to go in a way that is completely in keeping with his primitive mindset. This is again surprisingly reasonable.

Once together Janeway and holographic bartender tour the ship and she lies to him again implying that Voyager travels in time back to their

star trek voyager spirit folk

Millie the cow remains traumatized to this day from almost kissing Kim

era. Though supposedly a well educated man who has traveled to distant countries, the bartender doesn’t request a miracle cure for illnesses or any futuristic technology. Instead this leads in to a return by the pair to the pub where they give a wonderful speech about tolerance and togetherness that instantly makes the demented villagers tolerate the Voyager crew again not as spirit folk but as spacemen. Some people would argue as to how likely it is that the villagers could understand the concept of time travel or spacemen, let alone use it with such facility but then again it’s important to remember that these aren’t real villagers any more than Janeway is a real Starship Captain.

Voyager’s most successful holodeck episodes have been non-holodeck holodeck episodes in which holodeck like events were taking place but not within the confines or the agency of the holodeck. Episodes like “One”, “The Muse”, “Memorial” and “Tinker Tailor” did a great job of featuring fantastic story, unrealistic elements in a more realistic and less recreational setting. Braga himself pioneered a different kind of holodeck episode in TNG’s “Frame of Mind” and Voyager definitely represents the ultimate exploration of holodeck possibilities. But it just seems that enough might be enough.

For a parting gift Janeway hands him a copy of Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King’s Arthur’s Court,” a satire about a man who goes back in time to disease, poverty, and ignorance-ridden England and attempts to make constructive changes only to find them all in vain. Proving that Voyager writers are just as ignorant of Twain and this particular book as the TNG writers of “Time’s Arrow,” she describes it in somewhat more glowing terms. All in all if you’re dealing with someone who’s pretty suspicious of you to begin with it’s probably not too smart to give him a book about a man from the future who uses his abilities to take over your country. Then the program will remain along with their memories of how to damage holodeck equipment, kidnap and hold hostage Voyager crewmembers and even how to escape the holodeck itself in order to build relationships with those non-existent people. Ultimately though like “Alter-Ego”, “Muse” and many Voyager episodes this could be considered a commentary on fans and their relationships with fictional characters. After all there is no shortage of fans who wouldn’t pull the plug on Star Trek, even if it were time.

Star Trek Voyager: Tsunkatse review

UPN may never have been a first rate network but there was a time when Voyager ruled that particular roost. Not anymore. The World Wrestling Federation’s idiocy is the number one show on UPN and even though Voyager’s ratings have finally stabilized, that still hurts. Which of course adds to the complex stew of motivations behind “Tsunkatse” which in and of itself is not a particularly complex episode at all. That isn’t to say that “Tsunkatse” is a bad episode by any means, it is a mildly enjoyable repetition of a formula that was old a long time ago filled out by some good actors and entertaining view of interspecies existence outside the Federation. But ultimately most of the attention of the Voyager audience is not so much on the episode itself but what’s behind it. Is it a surrender to the UPN/WWF marketing machine? A principled rejection of violence and gladiatorial combat for entertainment’s sake? Or possibly neither and both?

Tsunkatse begins with what we saw often enough on TNG and have come to see far too little in the Berman spinoffs, interspecies co-existence

star trek voyager tsunkatse

The UPN network summed up in one photo

outside of the Federation. That is societies of different races existing, trading and working with each other in a way that vaguely resembles the modern day global village, instead of just isolated races of bad guys and victims for our heroes to battle and rescue. The Voyager crew arrive at a planet that is neither a totalitarian society or some sort of idealized hideout for people in robes with spiritual principles but is just an undefined planet and society that seems all the more genuine because no attempt is made to define and categorize it. It simply is.

Of course the problems begin when the crew takes shore leave. Shore leave on Star Trek tends to be a dangerous thing to do. Invariably someone gets kidnapped, hijacked or sidetracked by talking bunnies. While the crew becomes obsessed with a gladiatorial style of sport in which various aliens fight each other in a ritualized series of moves know as “Tsunkatse”, the Doctor takes the cliched civilized view and goes looking for culture and museums. They don’t however seem to realize that the sport they’ve become so enthused about is fought at times to the death, that its participants are not volunteers and that it does not occur live but is broadcast from a hidden location. Considering that they know every detail about every player it seems odd that they would fail to learn these things; but then again there is every possibility that as the Voyager crew travel through the Delta Quadrant they might become similarly obsessed with thousands of alien cultures and knowing that they’ll be on their way soon they only learn the surface details of what interests them rather than getting the big picture. Either way it doesn’t really matter because with this kind of formula it is understood that there are things that the rescuers can’t know until they run directly into them and the snappy and suspenseful work by one of Star Trek’s best directors makes the surprises shocking even if you can easily predict them ahead of time.

So in no time Seven and Tuvok are “drafted” British navy style into becoming fighters for the interstellar WWF organization that conducts

star trek voyager tsunkatse

"Could I possibly be the villain here? Nah"

these bouts. Some people may complain about this being another Seven episode, but really what other possible options are there? If you were recruiting gladiators from among the Voyager crew, who would you choose? Neelix, Kim, Paris, Janeway, the Doctor? There have been at least two episodes this season dealing with Torres’ rage issues and Chakotay has had an ill received boxing episode. Admittedly a Chakotay/Tuvok version of this episode in which Tuvok has to struggle with his rage and Chakotay with his spiritual principles while resolving lingering issues with each other would have been a lot better but neither of them are major characters and Seven is. Still however the episode might have made better use of Tuvok than as a bleeding crippled victim for Seven to rescue. But Tuvok as Seven’s mentor must be out of the way for the Hirogen hunter played by DS9’s Martok to take over.

Hertzler does turn in a moving performance as the gladiator training his unknowing replacement to eliminate him but he and Jeffrey Coombs, DS9’s Weyoun, as the sleazy fight promoter are just trimming. For the episode to be more than just a regurgitation of formula would require an extraordinary performance from Jeri Ryan, which unsurprisingly she’s not capable of. While Ryan is not just the T&A in a can many have accused her of being and is a capable enough actress, she’s not anywhere at the level of Star Trek’s best actors. Ryan does a good enough job of showing raw distress oozing through Seven’s steel exterior but she can’t take it any further to show a more complex character arc which is exactly what’s needed here. Without this, all that Tsunkatse can really showcase is Seven of Nine being bitter, afraid and desperate. That might be nice for one or two scenes but the problem is Ryan can’t do anything else and it shows.

As a Borg, Seven of Nine took part in assimilating and destroying races and individuals on a scale so vast that it boggles the mind. As an individual she has slowly moved from a more pragmatic and callous perspective to a more excessively humanistic center in her quest to become truly human again. As such she’s poorly prepared for such a contest which requires that she be neither Borg or human but some combination of the two. A combination that would allow her to physically and instinctively contest her opponent. Her human half is revolted by the contest and when the pragmatic necessity of it is forced on her by way of Tuvok, she responds by switching to her Borg half in a contest that requires her to combine the two. And here she ends up in the match that is the most discussed 30 seconds of the episode even though nothing climactic happens here and what does happen here seems to have been missed by most viewers.

There is a certain questionable daring in bashing and promoting your network at the same. Letterman and Leno both do it as often as

star trek voyager tsunkatse

Let the slash fiction begin

possible, denigrating shows on their network while getting viewers to remember them at the same time. The Simpsons and now Futurama won’t stop bashing Fox and Frasier follows the Paramount dictate to promote Star Trek by creating an offensive stereotypical Trek fan to ridicule. Voyager though here forms a more intellectually complex strike against its own network and the WWF by creating an episode dedicated to attacking violence as entertainment while trying to lure viewers from the WWF to Voyager through featuring one of their superstars in this action sequence. While the action sequence is clearly intended to demonstrate the evil of violence, the overall tactic seems to be the rough moral equivalent of cursing the company but cashing their checks. Voyager condemns the WWF but it’s more than happy to take their viewers and showcase their own material in a violent sequence taken as entertainment. There might be a moral behind it all but then the media has long specialized in showcasing prurient materials for the purposes of moral condemnation.

“Tsunkatse” itself is written so as to be subtle enough to prevent the average WWF viewer from understanding the thrust of the material while appeasing their regular fans with a “The More You Know” commentary thereby trying to have their cake and eat it too. Addressing violence as entertainment in the direction of the WWF is really a bit silly since unlike the violence of the Tsunkatse combats, the WWF is fake cartoonish violence as entertainment. In a time when war is entertainment and the average person is completely incapable of making basic moral distinctions, the WWF is mostly a target for humorless people defending what they see as civilized culture and is an unworthy target for Star Trek to engage. And while Voyager has never specialized in the kind of extreme choreographed martial arts popular on TV today or has pushed the boundaries of physical violence in the way that DS9’s infamous spine cracking sequence has, it still is an action show where the ship is put at risk in nearly every episode and violence usually has few consequences.

If Voyager episodes survive for as long as the original series, no one will know or understand or remember 30 years from now the WWF controversy. They will judge the episode on its own terms as a midly enjoyable repetition of a standard formula, with very little to offer beyond that. Tsunkatse is formula and the climax of Tsunkatse is classic formula too. Seven struggles to make the decision we know she won’t make, Voyager confronts the sleazy promoter and rescues both her and her opponent who looks forwards to rebuilding his life while Seven is concerned over how close she came to killing someone. From a better actor this kind of soul searching might actually be fascinating but from Ryan it’s just another chapter in Seven’s search for her lost humanity and about as interesting. Ironically enough for an episode dedicated to condemning violence as entertainment, Tsunkatse disproved its own point by making its own violence about as interesting as a cold cup of coffee. With no main character worth watching and talented actors on the sidelines to show you just what you’re missing, “Tsunkatse” has nothing to offer the audience past a single viewing. Like that which it condemns, it ends up just being disposable entertainment.

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