Monday, July 4, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Alliances"

“Alliances” is a Janeway-centric episode written by Jeri Taylor. Therefore, we know its theme is Janeway is awesome. Indeed, according to the script, she is. Feminist icon, defender of Federation principles, and one lucky old bitty since circumstances prove her correct even though her foresight could not have predicted it. In spite of Janeway’s apotheosis, the episode is quite good, as it establishes a new desperately on the run feeling to the show.

Voyager is coming under more frequent attacks lately by the Kazon. The latest attack proves fatal for a Maquis crewmember. His friends are becoming more inclined to give the Kazon the replica torts and transporter technology they want, but Janeway stands her ground. She will destroy the ship before allowing the Kazon any technology. Chakotay is more sympathetic to his Maquis cohorts. Perhaps an alliance with some Kazon sects is a good idea. While Janeway does not like the idea, she gives into Chakotay’s wishes and seeks an audience with various sects.

The attempt to negotiate with two sects fails before they opt to contact Seska and Culluh, whose name I have previously been misspelling Culloq. Hey, it sounded like that. Sue me. The possibility of an alliance is going great until Culluh insists on an exchange of crewmembers. Janeway will not budge on that and Seska insists he is an idiot right there at the bargaining table. Culluh asks to talk to a man instead, claiming he cannot be dictated terms by a woman. This is the first troublesome scene in the episode. Seska is pulling his strings at the same time his chauvinism demands he not negotiate with Janeway. Why make the only recurring villain thus far out to be an obvious moron just to celebrate girl power is an extremely bad idea.

Fortunately, Neelix has created some friends in the Trabe, an alien race that once subjugated the kazon, but have fallen on hard times in the decades since. The Kazon have chased them off every planet they have attempted to settle. Deciding an alliance with the Trabe is better than none, Janeway goes for it. To her surprise, the trabe leader proposes peace talks with all the Kazon sects.

It is all a ruse, however. The Trabe use the peace conference as an attempt to kill off the Kazon leadership. It fails, but the kazon blame Voyager for the assassination attempt. Now the crew is in more danger than ever, as they are the declared enemies of every Kazon sect. in the end, janeway gets to lecture the main staff on how she was right all along to maintain her Federation principles. None of this would have happened if she had. Of course, had the peace conference been genuine, a new federation might have been formed in the Delta Quadrant. We will skip that possibility since Janeway is awesome and never wrong , even when she makes polar opposite decisions in the same set of circumstances.

There are some odd bits in “Alliances.” I have already discussed Culluh’s gelding for the sake of feminism, which knocks out the main villain. Not that he was all that menacing in the first place. It is also revealed torres’ assistant in engineering is a traitor informing the Kazon of the ship’s location, which is how they can consistently attack. Why reveal his identity to the audience right off the bat when a future plot point is going to be the crew attempting to uncover the traitor? The mystery is gone even before suspicion of a traitor arises. How can Seska, pregnant with Chakotay’s kid, show up without that becoming a plot point? It is for the sake of convenience. Culluh does not know the kid is not his yet, and he is not supposed to know until the revelation can serve the storyline. It is very hard to swallow the situation is completely ignored.

I still have to point out Janeway’s inconsistency, too. Here she says she will destroy the ship before giving the Kazon any technology because she fears affecting the balance of power, yet she is convinced to change her mind. But two episodes ago, she gave aid to a rebel group opposing a fascist government in exchange for an energy source. In yesterday’s episode, she refused to prevent a genocide in the name of preserving the balance of power. It just so happens her decision is the correct one evety time, but at no point does she exhibit a consistent rationale. It is like the universe moves in order to make Janeway correct no matter what. It is unnerving. There is no growth or learning curve for the character. She just knows what to do even if it is hypocritical from what she chose to do in the previous episode. Dude, Janeway is awesome!

“Alliances” is a decent episode in spite of some big flaws. At least some effort is made for the Kazon to become formidable villains. They still do not resonate, but at least VOY is attempting to work with what they have on hand. The episode ends on a feeling of intense peril for the first time. That is a welcome change.

Tomorrow; the worst episode in the history of Star Trek. You have been warned.

Rating: *** (out of 5).

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