Monday, July 25, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Future's End, Part II"

“Future’s End, Part II” takes place right where we left off yesterday--an inconsequential cliffhanger. Voyager’s appearance on the evening news has no consequences whatsoever. Not a big deal, but one would have hoped for a more intense cliffhanger. The concluding episode is, in spite of a little socialistic preaching in the middle, about the best conclusion one could hope to see. The episode is a mostly slam bang, guns blazing action resolution,. It is far less talky and loaded with techno babble than the first part.

The plot revolves around the crew attempting to capture Henry Starling and search for the stolen time ship while he is out of the way. The entertainment value is in Starling’s ingenuity in evading permanent capture. For every plan they attempt to beam him away or take they time ship back, he has some 29th century technology that ultimately stymies their effert. Surprisingly, his constant one gunmanship using unexplainable technology does not come across as typical VOY techno babble nonsense solutions that take all the drama out of the situation. On fears the motifs success here might have promoted the idea it could be done repeatedly in future episodes. Too much of a good thing, you know?

Starling’s first attempt to block a transport results in a manufactured dramatic sequence in which Chakotay and torres crash land a shuttle in the Arizona desert and are captured by rightwing separatists. I say manufactured drama because the shuttle, which was severely damaged in the first place, is perfectly capable of flight without repairs two acts later. The sequence exists only to bring in the separatists for a little lecture on the evils of conservatism. Quite literally, in fact. There are two scenes back to back which feature Janeway and Starling, now successfully held for a time on Voyager, discussing the merits of capitalism and Chakotay and torres being given the verbal manifesto of the separatists.

The Starling/janeway confrontation is the one I find most interesting. While Janeway is motivated to keep Starling from using the time ship to inadvertently destroy the solar system in the 29th century, she clearly has nothing but contempt for what he represents in general. Starling argues the 29th century technology he usurped changed the world for the better. He is responsible for microchips, the internet, etc. His plan is to go into the 29th century and grab more technology in the hope of advancing the 20th century by leaps and bounds.

Certainly, Starling is a megalomaniac who believes the ends justifies the means, but janeway does not even see the value of his ends. She immediately scolds him that in her time, people care about bettering themselves and the world around them, not with making money. Starling counters--rightly so, if you ask me--that his innovations have improved the world. She is just mad he got rich in the process. That is true, because she storms off with the threat she is going to destroy all his assets in order to make certain the time ship has been eliminated.

Counter this with the lecture Chakotay and Torres, tied up in the basement of a heavily armed compound receive. The separatists proclaim there are two factions. One promotes collectivism. The pother espouses individualism. They accuse Chakotay and Torres of being collectivist operatives of the federal government. Chakotay replies--wait for it--that they are not collrctivists. Not only is it dumb on the surface to claim the Federation is not collectivist in the first place, Chakotay’s proclamation comes immediately after janeway has contemptuously lectured Starling over his capitalist philosophy and threatened to destroy everything he has. The sad part is I do not believe the writers intended for these two scenes to contradict one another as they did. Both Starling and the separatists are supposed to be unquestionably wrong in their beliefs. If the writers wanted that to be more obvious, they should have spaced the scenes out more. As it is, they shoot themselves in the foot while attempting to take aim at capitalism.

Aside from that little lesson into pinko economics, the rest of the episode is mindless action. There are firefights, car chases, explosions, and in the climax, janeway makes good on her promise and jury rigs a photon torpedo to blow starling and his time ship out of the sky before he can enter the time rift. No discussions about the morality of her action or whether she should just try to capture him again. Nope, he is a capitalist. Kill him. Oh, and yeah, we will save the solar system by doing so. That is important, too, I guess. Uh...take that, Starling!

Sarah Silverman’s Rain Robinson character has much more to do this time around, so I liked her much better. In the previous episode, she existed solely to create the only real action sequence in the episode. In this episode, she was a capable tech geek who actively assisted in saving the day. She would probably be considered a more popular side character in Star Trek if her treatment had not been so uneven episode to episode.

“Future’s End, Part II” is fun, but does not stand up to much scrutiny. Braxton returns at the end to claim he never experienced the time in which his ship was stolen, but he conveniently returns Voyager to the 24th century Delta Quadrant because of the Temporal Prime Directive. One wonsders, if they can detect Voyager out of place in time, why they could not have found the time ship Starling stole far sooner. Or why they have not shown up to correct time travel issues before ENT. Or why they will allow the doctor to keep 29th century technology that will now allow him to leave sickbay and travel about. It is best not to think about these tings. Jusy enjoy the fun episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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