Thursday, July 28, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Macrocosm"

“Macrocosm” marks a shift in VOY’s third season stories in two ways. They will now become darker and the Borg will be reintroduced as recurring villains. These changes are likely due to the recent success of Star Trek: First Contact Depending on your level of cynicism, you can either consider the shift in the back half of VOY’s third season waiting for Star Trek: First: Contact to have its tone and villains all to itself, or the show is cashing in to boost sagging ratings. I think it is a little of both, but mostly the latter.

We will deal with the Borg reintroduction a little later. “Macrocosm’ apes virtually all elements of Star Trek: First Contact but the inclusion of the Borg. Considering Brannon Braga co-write the film and penned “Macrocosm” as well, there is a feeling of a writer unsure of himself going back to the well he knows is spilling over. The film is not the only well he revisits, though the second is far more inexplicable.

Janeway and Neelix return from a three day trade mission to an alien race who communicate through interpretative dance--no, really--to find Voyager adrift in space. It is dark, environmental controls are going wild, and the crew is nowhere to be found at first. While searching for the crew, Neelix is attacked by a tentacled creature and immediately falls in. Janeway rdiscovers a large portion of the crew unconscious in the mess hall, obviously infected by what struck Neelix. Janeway is eventually attacked, and makes her way to sick bay in order to find the Doctor.

If you are thinking this set up sounds a lot like the awful “Genesis” from TNG, the similarities are striking. I will give Braga credit that he has at least learned from what went wrong with that episode. In “Genesis,” we knew something was happening to the Enterprise crew while Picard and Data were gone. The mystery only needed to be unraveled for them, and that was boring to watch. “Macrocosm” plays it better. We do not know anything about what is going on until the Doctor relates the story of how a virus that had infected a mining colony made its way to Voyager. Braga‘s understanding od science has not improved--the virus is microchopic when it initially strikes, then grows exponentially into a monstrous critter that physically attacks--but he has improved his narrative skills.

Make that improved his narrative skills somewhat. The bulk of the episode is a string of action movie clichés. Janeway even strips down to a tank top and carries a huge gun while roaming the halls looking for these little buggers a ala Die Hard. I also counted a direct dialogue lift from Outbreak. The entire plot is largely Alien. Throw in Janeway’s obsessive bloodlust like Picard’s in Star Trek: Contact, and you have a crazy quilt of action movie elements strung together to form something that sort of resembles a plot.

Near as I can tell, the virtue of “Macrocosm’ is supposed to be Janeway getting down and dirty as an action hero. I have a tough time with it. It was boring watching her sneak around, grimacing in pain from constantly being sneak attacked by the virus. She kills a number of the larger ones in hand to hand combat just to make it more exciting. They explode upon death, too. It is certainly not wise to disperse a contagion in such a manner, both they blowed up good, blowed up real good. Yee haw! Besides, janeway has not personally killed anyone since Henry Starling three episodes back. You know she gets anxious when there is too much time between kills.

She sets off a antigen bomb cure the doctor concocted in a few hours, and thereby saves the day.

If you are into dumb action movies, you will probably go for “Macrocosm.” It has all the paint by number elements you need to make such a film, as well as the usual predictable plot devices that get characters from point A to B to C. if you want to watch a sweaty, grunting, tank top wearing Janeway do her best psychopathic anti-hero, you are in luck there. But you are pretty much out of luck with everything else.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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