Monday, July 11, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Deadlock"

Ack…two Janeways! As if one is not bad enough. It is mutual love at first sight. There are actually not only two Janeways, but two of everything thanks to some wacky new scientific theory. If there is a wacky new scientific theory around, it must be a script written by Brannon Braga. A mixed bag, but ultimately entertaining script by Braga, featuring the typical VOY trappings.

The episode begins with a very pregnant Wildman in the commissary. Neelix, being the jerk he is, requests she see to a couple of repairs in his kitchen. This being television, she begins having contractions as she struggles to check out various control panels for the inconsiderate little toad. Seven hours later, she delivers her baby, whom she names Naomi. Simultaneously, the bridge crew detects a well armed Vidiian ship ahead. Having no desire to suffer organ harvesting today, they duck Voyager into a plasma cloud to avoid detection. Here is where the phone begins. Braga slept through every science class he ever attended.

Entering the plasma cloud somehow splits Voyager into two ships, each occupying the same space. Whether they are duplicates or split like an amoeba is never clarified. How two solid objects can occupy the same space at the same time is likewise not clarified. The only thing we are clear on, and the crew figures this out way too clearly, all things considered, is the plasma cloud could duplicate matter, but not antimatter, so the two ships are drawing off the same power source. To compensate, in a time before they knew about each other’s existence, one ship uses some proton whatsis to compensate for the power drain, but the solution severely damages the other ship.

It is confusing, but it is “our” Voyager that suffers the damage. The bulk of the first act is an homage to The Poseidon Adventure in which the ship is nearly destroyed, a number of crewmembers are injured as parts of the ship catch fire, and Hard Luck Harry and newborn Naomi are killed. You are playing hardball when you will kill an infant for the sake of drama.

The ships discover each other when our Kes falls through a rift between the two and winds up on the other ship. The other ship is perfectly fine, with both Harry and Naomi still alive. If the whole concept of the two ships existing at the same place and time has not completely spun your head, the massive and meaningless technobabble solution spouted in earnest by the characters should make it explode. Kudos to the cast for making it all sound reasonable.

Thankfully, the resolution does not come down to pseudoscience. The plasma cloud turns out to not hide Voyager well, so the Vidiians attack the other, non-damaged ship. The boarding raid and subsequent harvesting of organs from main characters, not just extras, is quite exciting. For all VOY’s flaws, it does action well. There is a genuinely disturbing feel to watching crewmembers shot down then having their organs stolen while sprawling in the hallway. The scenes accentuate the desperate situations both crews face.

The other Janeway decides to kill two birds with one stone. There needs to be only one Voyager and she cannot let her entire crew be pillaged for organs, so she solves the problems the Janeway Way--she blows up the ship. But not before sending over Harry and newborn Naomi. It is only fair, since she already killed them on the other Voyager. The deed is done with action movie flair--Janeway welcomes the Vidiian boarding pary to the bridge, and they notice the self-destruct countdown too late to do anything to save themselves.

Admittedly, the conclusion makes for a pat ending. There is too much convenience. All the Vidiians are killed and their ship is also destroyed, but our Voyager remains intact. It just so happens only Harry and Naomi are dead on our Voyager, so the status quo is maintained when they swap ships. The ending also glosses over issues. Early on, Tuvok offers a status report which bleakly sounds as though the ship is permanently dead in the water. However, the crew is well on their way to repairing it with no lasting consequences by the final scene. Just what are Harry and Naomi, by the way? Copies? Split beings identical to their dead counterparts? It is not directly addressed. Our Wildman, who was naturally distraught over Naomi’s death, readily accepts the surviving child as her real daughter, so that is what we are supposed to do as well. All right. I will go along with it.

The concept is hard to swallow. The technobabble makes zero sense, as well. But if you excuse those points and focus on the action, “Deadlock” is a good episode with some fine character moments. Neelix is stil a jerk no matter the ship, but harry gets to be an action hero for once when he fights his way to sickbay to rescue Naomi from the Vidiians. The Doctor, too, does his part to heroically keep Naomi safe. I can also appreciate the undamaged Voyager is the one to sacrifice itself to save the other. I would have expected the 9apparently hopelessly0 damaged ship, with its dead Harry and naomi, to sacrifice itself instead. The status quo winds up maintained anyway, sans logic, but at least there is a twist of some sort to get us there.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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