Thursday, July 21, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"False Profits"

“False Profits” is another of VOY’s attempts to boost its connection with the rest of Star Trek by bringing in a familiar element from the Alpha Quadrant. The show really stretches this time, which is quite an accomplishment considering I have to compare it to past efforts like Amelia Earhart being taken as a slave laborer, randomly stumbling across an imprisoned Q with a penchant for Earth history, and a Cardassian missile which did not explode while traveling through the same phenomena that nearly destroyed Voyager. this time around, we get a sequel to TNG’s “The Price” You were all clamoring for that, right?

If you do not recall “The Price,” I do not blame you. It is one of the Troi-centric episodes and therefore awful. The plot was a negotiation for the rights to use a wormhole. One of the negotiators was secretly a Betazed who used his empathic abilities as an unfair advantage. He and Troi made the beast with two backs in order to keep his secret. The wormhole turned out to be unstable, but the truth is not discovered until after two Ferengi travel through. The pair wound up in the Delta Quadrant. In an even worse fate, they wound up in an episode of VOY.

Voyager discovers the unstable wormhole. Harry and Toores far too easily devise a plan to lasso the wormhole and use it to get home which makes one wonder why it could not have been done seven years prior. While prepping the plan, sensors discover a replicator has been used recently on a Bronze Age like world. Upon covert investigation, the away team discovers the two missing Ferengi have usurped local religious lore to make themselves into gods in order to exploit the people. Janeway decides--of course--this cannot stand and plots to get rid of the ferengi and the contamination of the people’s culture.

“False Profits’ is meant to be comedy gold. What VOY writers find hilarious is Neelix antics, the evils of capitalism, and the ignorance of religious yokels. I will grant you there are the occasional laughs, but it is still difficult to get passed the Lucy and Ethel level plot of passing off Neelix as first a messenger of the Grand Nagus to fool the two ferengi, then a heralding angel to fool the people. In order for all this to be set up, the most logical plan--beam the Ferengi away and be done with it--is eliminated as an idea with the unconvincing argument that destroying the people’s faith in their religion would stymie their culture. I think they would adapt, but whatever.

The story is terribly contrived in order to create absurd comedy bits and false drama. In the climax, the people interpret their religious text too literally and decide to burn Neelix and the two Ferengi at the stake. The two had set up a dampening field to prevent them from being beamed out again, so Chakotay and Tom have to shut it off in order to save the three. They fiddle with the device, then decide they will just shoot it. Since Neelix is about to become medium well, why waste the time trying to shut the thing off? Just shoot it in the first place. Ah, but that would have resulted in less dramatic tension. I see.

But that is not the worst of it. We revisit Star Trek: Gilligan’s Island because we know the plan to use the wormhole has to be screwed up somehow. It is, by the ferengi escaping security, making it to the cargo bay where they were told their ship is, making an escape, getting sucked into the wormhole, and destroying it, all in less than two minutes. It should have taken more than two minutes for these dopes to even find the cargo bay, much less completely escape. What is with Voyager’s security, by the way? They really blew this one. Implausibly.

“False Profits” has some amusing points, but the plot is too much of a sitcom for it to be an episode of VOY. The contrivances are annoying as well. It is difficult to get into the story when I know the Ferengi are going to be disposed of and the wormhole is not going to send Voyager home. The comedy would have to be impressive enough to make me overlook the predictability. It is not. Skip this one with clean conscience.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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