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Why People Hate Star Trek Voyager

GiantFreakingRobot has a list of six reasons why he believes Voyager never really worked. His first mistake is pointing to Voyager as the beginning of the end for the franchise. Actually DS9 was the beginning of the end. It was the first TNG spinoff and its ratings plummeted badly requiring repeated reboots. Toward the end it had a fraction of its former ratings.

The reasons themselves? Janeway was more Kirk than Picard, at least a crazy unbalanced version of Kirk. She charged in a lot of the time and threw her weight around. Except for the last two reasons, the others are too stupid to comment on. The only one that matters is did Voyager really make full use of its premise. No it didn’t and the easiest way to see that is to compare it to Stargate Universe which took a similar premise and tried to live it. Or Enterprise’s third season. Neither of them were perfect but they were much more committed to the concept.

Some of Voyager’s best episodes used the premise, like The Void. But it also managed great standalone episodes that didn’t, like Blink of an Eye, which could have popped up on any of the Star Treks. Voyager doesn’t get enough credit for its good episodes, but at least unlike DS9 it wasn’t constantly being rebooted from Exploring the Wormhole to War Show to Sisko as the Chosen One Fighting the Red Devil Orbs.

Robot is close enough when he says that the problem was the characters. They were a big part of the problem. None of the post-TNG shows ever had a cast that really meshed together naturally. It was a bigger problem on Voyager, because unlike DS9 and Enterprise, not only didn’t the cast mesh, but most of the characters were either unlikable or not very interesting.

DS9 had actors who could carry the bad material. Enterprise’s actors were congenial enough that the bad stuff wasn’t as irritating. Voyager had few buffers except for the HoloDoc and Picardo’s prickly charm. Janeway, Chakotay, Paris, Kim, Tuvok, Seven and most of the cast were irritating one note characters and the actors couldn’t or wouldn’t bring anything to tone them down.

Robert Picardo and Ethan Philips seemed to be the only actors on the show trying to be sympathetic. Mulgrew went the other way. Beltran had occasional flashes of charm but mostly phoned it in. Robert Duncan McNeill decided to go as obnoxious as possible. Garret Wang couldn’t really act too well. Jeri Ryan was playing an emotionless sexbot with minimal nuance. Tim Russ has a great sense of humor, but chose to disregard a lot of what Nimoy did with Spock, and between the abrasive writing, made Tuvok as unlikable as possible.

It may not be completely fair to blame the actors for a show’s problems, the premise and the uneven writing were at fault, but the cast really did not step up to the task. Sure they mostly had one note characters, but they didn’t really try to bring any nuance to the material. They never made it come alive and they never made the show come alive.

DS9 didn’t really have great writing, but it had a supporting cast of people like Coombs, Robinson and Alaimo who would make the most of a single throwaway line. And that made up for Brooks and Visitor’s bad acting. It had Colm Meaney who could walk through the most banal material and still make you feel something. It had Rene Auberjonois who did with a similar character what Tim Russ failed to do, make him seem vulnerable despite his abrasiveness.

Imagine the actors switching places for a moment and suddenly Voyager would start looking better and DS9 would start looking worse.

Individual Rights and Collective Needs in Science Fiction, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica

In the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode “Thine Own Self”, Commander Riker presents Deanna Troi with a test of command she must pass in order to gain a promotion to Commander. The test requires finding a way to save the Enterprise from a catastrophic explosion. Every attempt Troi makes fails, until she finally understands the solution, to order the holographic version of Geordi LaForge to die repairing the ship. That Riker tells her is the basis of command. Sometimes you must sacrifice people.

In “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan” the Enterprise under Kirk, faces annihilation by the expansion of the Genesis effect from the Genesis Torpedo detonated by Khan, unless the ship can somehow manage to reach Warp Speed. Spock leaves the bridge and sacrifices his life to start the Enterprise allowing the ship to escape, but dying of the severe radiation. In his parting words to Captain Kirk, Spock informs him that his decision to die was logical, “The Needs of the Many Must Outweigh the Needs of the Few or the One.”

In the “Battlestar Galactica” episode “Dirty Hands”, the workers on board the refinery ship that refines the fuel that keeps the Galactica going function in miserable conditions, children working side by side with adults on dangerous and downright lethal assembly lines. The refinery ship is crucial for providing the rest of the fleet with the fuel it needs to continue onward toward Earth and escape the Cylon fleets following behind them.

Chief Tyrol attempts to hold a worker’s strike to demand better conditions and fairer labor assignments and in response Admiral Adama orders a gun held to Cally, his wife’s head, and informs Chief Tyrol that if the strike is not called off, Cally will be executed. The result is the following dialogue.

Adama: I’m gonna put her up against a bulkhead and I’m gonna shoot her as a mutineer.

Tyrol: Are you out of your frakking mind? Cally was just following my orders.

Adama: She’s a ringleader, so she goes first. And then the rest of your deck gang. Figurski, Seelix, Pollux.

Tyrol: You won’t do this. We have a son.

Adama: Understand me. The very survival of this ship may depend on someone getting an order that they don’t want to do. And if they hesitate, if they feel that orders are sometimes optional, then this ship will perish. And so will your son. The entire human race. I don’t want to do this, Chief, but I will put ten Callys up against a wall to make sure that this ship and this fleet are not destroyed.

While this position seems much more extreme than the one articulated by Riker or Spock, but it in fact is the logical extension of it. If the needs of the few can be sacrificed for the needs of the many, than in the name of the survival of the human race, the virtual enslavement of a group of people is perfectly justifiable.Once you accept the moral principle of the needs of the few over the needs of the many, then the equation inevitably continues rising. If you can sacrifice one person for a hundred, a hundred for ten thousand, ten thousand for a million, a million for a hundred million and so on and so forth.

By contrast the movie “Star Trek Insurrection” took the opposite position arguing that the needs of the many, the Federation and the Son’a did not justify abrogating the needs of the few, the Ba’ku. Instead Captain Picard confronted Admiral Doughtery with this ringing exchange over the needs of the few balanced against the needs of the many.

Jean-Luc Picard: We are betraying the principles upon which the Federation was founded. It’s an attack upon its very soul. And it will destroy the Ba’ku… just as cultures have been destroyed in every other forced relocations throughout history.

Admiral Matthew Dougherty: Jean-Luc, we’re only moving 600 people.

Jean-Luc Picard: How many people does it take, Admiral, before it becomes wrong? A thousand? Fifty thousand? A million? How many people does it take, Admiral?

Even with life itself at stake and having experienced what the Baku planet has to offer, Captain Picard still makes the argument that the rights of the individual cannot be sacrificed to the needs of the many.

In the “Star Trek Voyager” episode “Tuvix”, when Neelix and Tuvok, two crew members, were merged into one in a transporter accident, resulting in an entirely new being, who names himself Tuvix. Tuvix possesses his own personality and individuality. He joins the crew and works hard until a way is found to revert the original accident and restore Tuvok and Neelix, at the expense of the death of Tuvix. Tuvix refuses to undergo the procedure, wanting to live instead. Janeway and the crew force his death, with only the Emergency Medical Hologram refusing to participate in his murder. In this case the life of two, abrogated the life of one, even though the one was already living and the two could only potentially live.

In Ursulla LeGuin’s classic short story, “Those Who Walk Away From Omelas”, the moral dillema is posed of a utopia that is perfect in every way, except that its very existance requires that a child be caged and live in absolute and unrelenting misery. The residents of this utopia accept this state of affairs as part of the price of having a perfect way of life. By contrast those who walk away from Omelas in the title of the story are those who reject this sacrifice of the needs of the one for the needs of the many and instead depart leaving utopia behind.

By contrast in the classic short story, “The Cold Equations”, a girl who has snuck on board a space vessel delivering a desperately needed vaccine to a planet bound expedition in order to see her brother, has added an unacceptable amount of weight to a ship with only enough fuel to carry the specified amount of weight of the pilot and his cargo to the planetary destination. With the girl on board the ship must inevitably crash. The pilot cannot depart the ship without the ship crashing and the equation that must be solved requires the death of the girl by stepping out into space and dying horribly. The message of the story is that the cold equations of space are unforgiving and require a human sacrifice to be balanced. The mechanistic limitations of the universe itself enforces a cruelty that limits the rights of the few at the expense of the many.

The result is a moral breakdown between pragmatic ruthlessness and an idealism that respects human rights. The split cuts across moral and political philosophies in Science Fiction, transforming approaches into moral dilemmas. It raises the question of how much freedom we are willing to give up for safety and how many of our individual rights we are willing to sacrifice on the bloody altar of a collective welfare. It cannot ever be simply or easily resolved. There is no simple answer, only the attitude with which we approach the question, and that attitude also defines us.

Robert Beltran gives interview complaining about his role in “Unemployment Line”

(UEO)

Robert Beltran, famous Shakespearean actor noted for his Academy award nominated role in Night of the Comet and his starring roles in such hits as Models Inc and Models Inc, is at it again giving an interview criticizing his latest employer, the unemployment office.

“I mean I thought I had nothing to do on Voyager.” Beltran says. “But at the unemployment office, all I do is stand on line all day. And the facilities are terrible.”

Indeed the noted actor who once had a 5 second appearance in Oliver Stone’s Nixon chafed at both the lack of a makeup department and the fact that he now has to pay for his own food.

“I mean it’s bad enough that my weekly salary is ridiculously low and there are no residuals, but part of the check has to go to pay for food. And how am I supposed to stay in shape without an in-house gym” Beltran complained while in the background a video monitor played highlights from all his 3 appearances on Murder She Wrote, playing 3 different characters.

The noted actor who once played El Diablo in John Carpenter’s El Diablo has had trouble finding work since Star Trek Voyager ended.

“I really don’t know what it is.” Beltran says chewing on a stale donut. “I have amazing credits. I mean I guest starred on Murder She Wrote, three freaking times. Do you have any idea how much talent that takes? Three different characters, think of the range! The entire idea that an actor of my credentials and talents would be unemployed is so implausible that no one would believe it, if it wasn’t true.”

Indeed Beltran has found standing in line all day at the unemployment office to be very tedious and exhausting.

“I’m a Shakespearean actor, I mean I’ve always wanted to read something by Shakespeare but the words are all so big and funny.” Beltran said. “But at the unemployment line all my dialogue seems to have been cut. I tried improvising a scene from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf but it’s hard to play a drunken college professor when you’re surrounded by urine, crazed drug dealers and out of work Time Warner executives.”

The former star of TV’s Stormy Weathers is quite upset.

“I mean how am I expected to grow as an actor and a human being when I keep slipping on human waste and waiting for a small check to be handed to me through a glass window?” Beltran spews. “I don’t know who runs this unemployment office but I want to have a little talk with them. I mean I don’t even know who my character is supposed to be, do I even have a motivation beyond being talentless, unemployed and in need of a check to pay the rent and buy food for my cat?

Currently Beltran does not have an answer to that question but he has started a new foundation to raise money for himself.

“I call it Save the Actors.” Beltran states. “It’s dedicated to helping me direct a movie that would showcase my talents to Hollywood while showing that I won’t be typecast by my work with that Star Trek show or my performance as Bad Guy No.3 in Desperado.”

Information on this planned film is not currently available but Beltran describes it as an update of Richard the Third which instead of taking place in ancient Denmark, will take place on a futuristic starship, commanded by himself. Robert Duncan McNeil is set to direct.

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