Space Ramblings

Star Trek Voyager review – Drive

Voyager meets Dukes of Hazzard

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

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

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

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

star trek voyager drive

Get ready, get set, get CG

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

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

star trek voyager drive

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

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

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

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

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