Monday, July 18, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Flashback"

“Flashback” is part of the 30th anniversary celebration of Star Trek. Along with its sister show DS9, VOY featured an episode which involved interacting with pivotal events from the past. In my humble opinion, DS9 got the better end of the deal with “Trials and Tribbleations’. “Flashback,” while possessing a certain nostalgia factor with the appearances of Hikaru Sulu, Janice Rand, and Kang, comes across as gimmicky considering how the three factor in.

When approaching a nebula that contains yet another possible new power source, Tuvok takes ill because of a recurring allegedly repressed memory from his childhood in which he is attempting to keep a little girl from falling from a cliff, but fails. Took does not recognize the setting or the little girl, but the effect of the memory is causing brain damage. To alleviate it, he must engage in a never before mentioned and hereafter ignored Vulcan procedure in which he and a confidant travel back in time to the memory. He chooses Janeway.

Instead of traveling back to where the memory originated, they wind up on the Excelsior during the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The story follows Sulu as he disobeys orders to attempt a rescue of Kirk and McCoy from Rua Penthe after they have been wrongly convicted of assassinating the Klingon chancellor. Took, an ensign fresh out of the academy, objects to the violation of orders and is lectured on loyalty by Sulu. The lecture prompts Tuvok to resign from Starfleet after the mission is complete because he cannot handle the illogic of humans. He explains to Janeway that he did eventually return once he wised up, which explains why it appeared he was an ensign for 80 years. See, he is not the Beetle Bailey of Starfleet. He just wandered off to do other things.

The only real action sequence involves a never before revealed confrontation between Sulu and Kang that helped stymie the attempt to rescue Kirk and McCoy. The real impediment is when the Excelsior runs into the same type nebula that Voyager does 80 years later. The encounter causes a cosole to explode, injuring a crewman friend of Tuvok’s. when Tuvok comes to his aid, he discovers the crewman is having the same memory of the little girl with himself in Tuvok’s position.

The memory turns out to be a virus living within the nebula . It disguises itself as a memory to avoid antibiotics or some such techno babble thing. The point is it nearly destroys took and janeway before the doctor bombards them with radiation to kill it. The two of them are, of course, unharmed.

The homage to past Star Trek feels small in comparison to DS9’s contribution. “Trials and Tribble-ations” took us back to a popular episode of TOS with all the old characters and had a plot with consequences--the Ds9 crew have to save Kirk’s life. It even answered the humorous question of why tribbles keep falling from the grain storage onto kirk’s head--Sisko and Dax are inside tossing them out of the way. ’Flashback” is lackluster. Yes, it is neat to see George Takei, Grace Lee Whitney, and Michael Ansara reprise their TOS roles, but it is in an inconsequential story we forgot to tell you five years ago sort of thing that serves only to explain how Tuvok contracts a virus.

The story leaves no impact on Star Trek history like the DS9 crew‘s actions did. Aside from the TOS character appearances, there is nothing here but reminiscing. Took talks about how he got to meet Kirk, mcCoy, et al at Khitomir, but that is it, but that is all he gets to do. We do not learn that he was pivotal to the events we already knew about. There is one unintentionally funny bit where janeway is researching the events surrounding Kirk and McCoy’s arrest. She longingly remarks to Harry how much she would appreciate living in the era when Kirk could flout the Prime directive and whip out a phasor at will. Geez, Janeway. You could not disregard the prime directive or be more trigger happy than you already are. Exactly how reckless do you dream of being?

On a personal level, I like that Tuvok’s rationale for quitting Starfleet is his irritation at the arrogance of the human dominated organization. He complains that humans insist every alien in the galaxy act exactly as they do. I have made the same criticism many times that gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future is perfect humans spreading the gospel of secular humanism and socialism to alien races who are doing everything wrong no matter how they are going about what they do. Of course, Tuvok returns to Starfleet once he realizes he is wrong, but for a brief moment, he had the major flaw of Star Trek philosophy pegged. Filthy alien eventually came around to the proper way of thinking, though.

“Flashback’ is not bad, it just does not feel like anything special. It could be a more plausible regular February or May sweeps “event” episode than a 39th anniversary celebration. Sure, it is neat to see old characters again, but the run of the mill story does not honor the occasion. I do not care to spend an anniversary celebration learning why Tuvok left Starfleet or how he got a virus. Nor do I want to hear how excited he and Janeway are about being in Kirk’s era without there being any consequences of them being there. It is a fun episode worth watching, but you will come away upset abut the missed opportunities.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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