Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"The Killing Game, Part I/II"

Normally when there is a two part episode, I review each individually unless the story was originally aired as a two hour movie. “The Killing Game, Part I/II” throws me a curve. It was originally two episodes aired back to back on the same night. I do not recall whether UPN was struggling with cancelled shows and had to do that or if they realized the stoory for ’The Killing Game” was one episode’s worth stretched into two, but the latter circumstance helps make the decision to review both episodes as one. Believe me, you are not getting short changed by the combining.

We hit the ground running and have to figure things out as we go along. The Hirogen took over Voyager three weeks ago. They implanted neural thingamabobs in each crewmembers’ head so that he or she believes whichever holodeck simulation he or she is a part of is real. With the safety protocols cut off, the Hirogen have been hunting, shooting, stabbing, and otherwise maiming the crew for the duration. They have have mmade Harry their bee-otch--naturally--by forcing him to not only keep the holodecks running, but expand them to cover every inch of the ship. The Doctor is also active in repairing the wounds as best as possible before sending the hapless crew back into the holodecks.

The Hirogen are running two programs: a Klingon battle which gets little airplay and a World War II simulation involving the French Resistance--the original Maquis, composed mostly of Starfleet officers, ironically enough--sabotaging the Nazis to pave the way for the American invasion. The bulk of the action takes place in the World War II simulation. As a World War II history buff, I go for it. As one who is amused by the absurdities of television, I am amused the main SS officer assisting the Hirogen is actor J. Paul Boehmer from Ohio. I am also amused the stolen German weapons the resistance are using are American made are M1 Grand and Colt 1911. In all fairness, this was post D-Day. Germany was scraping the bottom of the barrel for men and materiel.

The main reason I have combined these two episodes into one review is because of the structure. The first episode is literally the crewmembers, convinced they are fighting Nazis, acting out the simulation. It is only at the cliffhanger when the doctor and harry have disabled the neural thingamabobs on Seven and Janeway the story shifts gears towards a resolution. Even then, it barely does. The second part is a spectacle not unlike the climax of Blazing Saddles in which the characters spill out into the real world of the filming studio. In the case of “The Killing Game,” it is French Resistance, American GI, and Klingons battling Hirogen and Nazis on the streets of a French city and the corridors of Voyager. There is not much substance to it, but it is neat to watch. The production values are generally fantastic, though some Cgi is clearly choppy 1998 era stuff.

Up until this point, we have been forced to accept Voyager was taken over off screen while spending time watching a holodeck simulation that we know has no real consequence. We even know, even though main characters are becoming graverly wounded far more often than normal, they will al survive. It is difficult to find any entertainment value beyond the mindless spectacle. The meager attempt to put some meat on the skeleton of a plot does not help.

The leader of the Hirogen has forbidden his men to hunt the crew outright. Instead, he orders them to play along with the simulations in order to study how humans survive perilous situations. He has an ulterior motive. He believes his people are hunting themselves into extinction by their nomadic hunting existence. He wants them to learn from humans how to survive and evolve against the odds and also convince them to settle down on a planet, rebuild their civilization, and use holodeck technology to simulate the hunt so they do not have to spend their entire lives engaged in one. You have to figure he was unaware of holodeck technology before taking over the ship, so he had to have had this change of heart and developed this plan to save his people in just a few minutes after conquering Voyager. In other words, this part of the plot feels thrown in without much forethought.

It gets worse. Once Janeway figures out his plan, she offers him holodeck technology. You may recall she did not want to do that when the kazon were also constantly attacking and killing her crew. You could argue she is in a tougher spot here, but the episode eliminates that argument for you. The Hirogen second in command, who was on board with the whole build a civilization and simulate the hunt bit, gets the master race pep talk from the Ohio Nazi. He become convinced it is the hirogen duty to hunt down inferior races. He continues the battle after janeway and his superior have called a truce. He kills his superior, so janeway kills him personally. Finally, it has been a while since she personally murdered someone. The deal is the third in command is ready to honor the truce and leave. He has no idea that Janeway has agreed with his now dead superior to hand over holodeck technology, so when she does, he does not want it. But she--wait for it--talks him into taking it anyway! She was completely off the hook, but decided to screw the prime directive and hand over technology to completely change the Hitrogen civilization--technology she said she would die before giving to the Kazon a couple years prior. That is Janeway for you.

There is not much to be said about “The Killing Game.” Its purpose is to be a mindless action episode. As that, it succeeds. It is a lot of fun watching the crew play different characters while fighting mismatched battles in different settings. The production values and sets are quite impressive. But the plot is embarrassing dumb. There is too much glossed over to make this a classic. Janeway changes her mind from a previous position that drove major plots for two seasons without any explanation and, for good measure, carries out her agreement even though she no longer has to do so. Of course, there is the Magic Reset Button. Voyager is severely damaged from battle, but will be perfectly fine at the beginning of the next episode.

I recommend ’The Killing Game.” It is fun to watch just for the juxtapositions. You will have to switch off you brain in order to enjoy most of it. Just follow Janeway’s lead in that regard. Fortunately, we will not see the Hirogen en masse again until the seventh season when we learn--surprise, surprise--Janeway giving them holodeck technology has lead to them killing each other. Maybe that was her plan all along. Her blood thirst is nigh unquenchable.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Retrospect"

Hossanah! We have reached the halfway point of VOY reviews! The finish line is now on the horizon. We celebrate in typical VOY fashion--a misguided moralization written by Lisa Klink which involves a subject matter she has all good intentions over, but clearly does not know a thing about. At least it is unique in that Seven is the catalyst for the story, yet she is not the focal point. From here on out, those roles will more often than not be reversed.

Seven is still on restriction from last episode’s incident in which she saved everyone’s life against Janeway’s humanitarian objection on behalf of something that is not human. Janeway has been giving her temporary reprieve whenever her expertise has been needed, so she is feeling exploited. Those feelings become quaint when she is ordered to assist an arms dealer named Kovin install new weaponry on the ship. Seven is uneasy about working with him. She met him before while shopping for weapons and does not like him. He is a jerk, and a particularly rude act prompts her to break his nose.

In sick bay, the Doctor discovers Seven is suffering from heightened anxiety and believes some suppressed memories from her time as a Borg may be emerging. He has been playing with pop psychology lately and thinks he can bring those memories out through a techno-hypnosis thingamabob. That is not to be confused with a techno-hypnosis thingamajiggy. Those are two completely different items. I cannot stress that enough.

During the procedure, Seven recalls heading to kovin’s lab where she was alone with him for two hours. She suddenly remembers being shot, strapped down on an operating table, and Kovin extracting Borg nanotech from her in order to use in developing new weapons. She remembers another man strapped down on a table beside her being injected with the nanotech and becoming a Borg himself. The doctor is convinced the incident really happened to her. Kovin must have violated her, then erased her memories through device that is neither a thingamabob, nor a thingamajiggy. The Doctor’s examination of Seven’s arm reveals that is a distinct possibility.

What you have here is the allegory of an overzealous psychologist helping a patient “recover” suppressed memories of past abuse which are then thrown in the face unquestionably at the alleged abuser. Recovered memories are not well accepted within psychology circles, but I am not versed in psychology enough to write intelligently about it. It is generally not accepted evidence in legal cases and when it has lead to a conviction at the trial level, appeals courts have struck down those convictions. That is language I can understand, so I appreciate the skepticism involved in the validity of repressed memories. The thing is, I cannot tell if Klink is making a commentary on the absurdity of repressed memory use to convict a person of a crime or if she is carrying out the allegory of a false sexual assault accusation to it fullest extent. It is difficult to ignore the latter.

Kovin’s defense is that a weapon he was working on went off accidentally. It injured seven’s Borg tech, which he repaired under her instructions. He says nothing else happened. In fact, Seven was cooperative and unfazed by the incident. Kovin is upset because the mere accusation he has done such a thing will inhibit his ability to legitimately do business. The incident is clearly a he said/she said situation. The heat intensifies as evidence seems to support seven’s story. Kovin, fearing the worst, escapes to avoid prosecution.

Evidence emerges that Kovin’s repair work on Seven’s arm has the same reaction as would surgery to remove nanotech. With his story supported, Voyager seeks him out to inform him of the culpatory evidence. When they find him, he thinks it is trap and attacks the ship. The attack overloads his ship’s system, causing it to explode. Case closed.

Well, not quite. Take a journey down memory lane with me. We do not have to go far. Just to yesterday’s episode. Janeway is upset that Seven’s actions to preserve the lives of the crew killed off a mortal enemy. She punishes Seven by relieving her of duty. Janeway must have awakened on the other side of the bed this morning, because when the Doctor requests she remove the program elements that allowed him to expreiment with recovering suppressed memories because it lead to an innocent man’s death, she refuses. Her rationale is literally that mistakes happen, but the doctor is too valuable to the crew to have his program limited in any way. If you are keeping track, that means if you kill an enemy to save your crew, you get punished except for when Janeway absolutely must have your expertise, but kill an innocent man in your haste, and that is just a simple mistake. Could happen to anyone. Carry on, because you are just too darn valuable. Janeway is crazy.

There are fans who maintain Kovin was guilty. They believe the rationale that Seven was recalling past assimilation she has participated in is not any more plausible than Kovin’s story of repairing her arm after accidental gunfire. They have a point that both explanations are less than credible. That is what you get with a Klink script. But I fall on the side that Seven is remembering past assimilation. There is too much in the “repressed memory” sequence that feels like the assimilation process.

Not that I recommend you watch “Retrospect” to find out for yourself. It is a terribly heavy-handed attempt to make a moral point that never becomes clear. The sequence wherein Seven recalls the suppressed memories runs an entire act. The Doctor plays his part so over the top, you already know he is wrong. Kovin flies off the handle at the accusation far too plausibly, too. Trying to destroy Voyager instead of examining evidence that says you are probably innocent is really dumb. Accidentally killing yourself in the process calls for a Darwin Award nomination. If you are a big Seven fan, by all means, watch. If you are a womyn who thinks Kovin was guilty and got what he deserved, this is all for you, too. Otherwise, skip it.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Prey"

The Hirogen return for their third of nine appearances. The first two have not exactly set the woods on fire, but “Prey” more than makes up for the lackluster start. It remains my favorite of the Hirogen episodes. The mood is dark and claustrophobic, with the right amount of action versus the patented Star Trek moral dilemma. More episodes of VOY should have been done in such a manner.

“Prey” begins with two Hirogen on the hunt for a species that is not revealed until the teaser’s end--one of Species 8472 left behind after their defeat by the Borg six months ago. The Hirogen appear to have killed the critter, but when Voyager encounters the Hirogen ship sometime later, they discover it survived, killed one Hirogen, severely wounded the other, and escaped. Sensing a chance to patch things up with the Hirogen, Janeway brings the wounded one on board for medical treatment.

As you can tell by the above photo, which is one of the neatest special effects shots of the series, Species 8472 invades Voyager. the crew is overwhelmed attempting to track it down through a deck in which it has destroyed life support and artificial gravity in order to safely barricade itself. The Hirogen hunter offers to hunt it down for the crew. Janeway is not thrilled with the idea, but with three other hirogen ships arriving soon, she has little choice. At this point, she believes the alien must be destroyed and the only way to avoid a hirogen attack is to let them complete their hunt.

As I said above, there is a very dark, claustrophobic mood as the Hirogen joins with spacesuit clad crewmembers in order to hunt Species 8472 through the damaged corridors while not knowing where it is or when it will attack. Things change quickly when Species 8472 forms a psychic link with Tuvok and informs him it no longer wants to fight, just go home.

Janeway locks the Hirogen hunter behind a force field in sickbay to keep him from killing Species 8472. She decides it is the humanitarian thing to do to send the alien home, even if it means fighting a battle with the approaching Hirogen ships. In order to send the alien home, she needs seven to use her Borg implants to open the portal. Seven refuses, saying not handing over species 8472 will compel the Hirogen to destroy Voyager. she will not be a party to that. Janeway angrily dismisses her of duty. Torres attempts to open the portal instead, with little success, as the Hirogen begin pounding Voyager. Seven is called back into action when Species 8472 seems to recover from much of its wounds and needs to be tranquilized by Borg nanoprobes. The Hirogen is sickbay has escaped and resumes the hunt. He and Species 8472 battle one another as Seven makes the decision to beam them both to a hirogen ship. With that done, they call off the attack on Voyager. seven is relieved of all suty as punishment for disobeying orders and condemning Species 8472 to death.

If there is a flaw to “Prey,” it is that very little attention is paid to the moral conflict between Janeway and Seven. Janeway is being a humanitarian in a situation in which her good deed would not only not be reciprocated if the roles were reversed, but dooms her crew, as they clearly cannot fight off the Hirogen ships. Seven was thinking in terms of their survival. Species 8472 had attacked them, therefore it forfeit any right of protection. Giving it up to the Hirogen who were about to destroy them is a prudent act of self-defense, even if morally dubious. Does anyone really want to die for this alien that was just trying to kill them a few hours ago? Are all their lives worth sacrificing for it? Seven has a better point than does Janeway. These are aliens without human values in the first place. Both are willing to kill everyone in their path. Let them kill each other instead and space us all. Janeway does not agree, but there is not much offered up to argue her point. Seven even gets in the last word--I saved the ship we you could not, and that is what is why I am being punished. Her rationale does not seem far from the truth.

“Prey” is a good episode. One of the best in the fourth season thus far. I am still not a fan of the Hirogen, but this is about the best they are ever going to be presented. Later, they are nothing more than a shallow hunter/gather species nearly hunting itself to extinction. One even wonders how they developed the high technology they have being such hunting obsessed nomads without so much as a home planet. Species 8472 was far more interesting here than its previous appearance, as well. Things will not get much better with them, either. Savor the good stuff while you can.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Hunters"

“Hunters“ is another VOY episode that suffers greatly from the Star Trek motif of requiring an A and B story in every episode. The two are very uneven. I much enjoyed the letters from home aspect, though there were some overly dramatic moments. The other half involved the first physical encounter between the crew and the Hirogen. It feels like the Hirogen were thrown in there just to have a generic battle with a villain. Still, they have to be introduced somehow. I guess this is as good a place as any.

Voyager is still hanging around the communications relay when Seven detects a large incoming message from the Alpha Quadrant. Starfleet has contacted crewmembers’ families and given them the opportunity to write letters. They can only trickle in thanks to some techno babble issue, so it is a slow going process that adds drama as crewmembers wonder if they have been remembered by someone from home.

There is a running gag about Hard Luck Harry waiting on pins and needles to see if his parents care enough to write him. I have joked quite a bit about harry’s frequent misfortunes, but there is a big difference between constantly being kidnapped, beaten by aliens, or infected with various illnesses and creating an estranged family for him. It is not until the end of the episode we find out his parents did write him. So basically the writers are putting harry through the emotional ringer just to please the audience’s notion that nothing good ever happens to Harry. Garrett wang already knows he was on the verge of being fired a few months ago, so his character does not mean much to the series. This whole waiting for a letter that may not come bit is cruel both in the real world and the show.

The shortcoming is made up by other letters. Chakotay learns the Maquis have all been killed by the Dominion. He shares an unusually genuine emotional moment over their deaths with Torres. Of course, this means the Maquis/Starfleet conflict on board the ship will become even less relevant than it has been as of late. It seems to exist only in the differing command philosophies of Janeway and Chakotay. Nevertheless, at least it receives a good send off.

Janeway’s reaction to her letter is another fine moment. She receives a letter from her fiance, Mark. I should say former fiance. He informs her he got married to another woman some time ago, so good luck with that whole making it back to the alpha quadrant. Do not call me, and I will not call you. I actually felt a lot of sympathy for her, but Janeway so quickly shrugged it off, I had to go back to thinking what a mentally disturbed woman she must be. She eventually became an admiral, so she obviously did not kill mark and his new wife upon her return--or did she?

Took is a grandfather. He took the news the same way as if you told him he can have the last dinner mint.

The final moving moment is between Torres and Tom, though it is open to interpretation. The only person who might possibly write to Tom is his estranged father. Tom is not excited about the prospect. His father rips him for being a constant disappointment. Torres informs him that she is downloading a letter from his father. That is when he reveals he does not expect anything good out of it. In the end, torres personally delivers Harry’s letter and informs Tom the one from his father is lost, but he expressed his love and pride. Here is the question--did Torres lie? I think so. Either the letter was lost, and she made up its content or she read it, realized tom’s father is every bit the jerk tom says he is, and destroyed it to make up something else. It just feels more right that torres was lying to spare Tom’s feelings. Personal hunch, that.

The B story involves Tuvok and Seven on a shuttle mission to boost the communications relay’s power when they are captured by the Hirogen, who are not happy their gizmo is being utilized by someone else. The Hirogen are established as brutal hunters who want to carve up the two in order to keep their bones as trophies. Janeway takes out her frustration over Mark on them, destroying three ships and rendering the entire communications relay. She definitely knows how to make friends. It is amusing Seven taunts the Hirogen that their large size is the only thing which makes them formidable. As it turns out, this is true. They are forgettable villains, after all. Is it not interesting the Borg have never heard of them, too?

As I said above, the episode halves are uneven. I would have been satisfied with a bottle show dealing with the letters from home and their aftermath. Why the episode had to be bogged down unnecessarily with the Hirogen incident is beyond me. At the very least, the hirogen encounter should have been paired elsewhere with a more complementary main story. Still, “hunters” is one of the more interesting episodes. It is one of the few episodes to make a real effort at personalizing the main characters.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Message in a Bottle"

Ugh…Andy Dick. It is like the powers that be at VOY made a conscious effort to lower their standards even more than casting Sarah Silverman as a guest star. Dick is a disgusting guy, and her was back in 1998 as well. Why anyone thought his making an appearance in Star Trek would be a highlight is beyond me. Oh, well. As with all of VOY, I review what I have to work with, for better or for worse.

Voyager runs across a message relay station seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Because it is in the middle of nowhere, the crew assumes it is free for general use by travelers. Seven manages to contact the Alpha Quadrant where she discovers a Federation ship. The effort to send a clear message fails, but somehow sending the Doctor’s entire program is easier. Figure that one out. In spite of the absurdity of the equivalent of a program being more easily sent than an instant message, the Doctor makes it to the Alpha Quadrant when the IM does not.

Unfortunately, he finds himself on an experimental vessel called the Prometheus which has been stolen by Romulans. The Doctor needs to commandeer the ship and take it back to Fderation space in order to inform Starfleet Voyager was not destroyed four years prior. To do that, he activates the ship’s EMH. Ugh…Andy Dick.

I was not a huge fan of NewsRadio period, but Dick was by far the worst element. I just do not get his shtick. I get him even less now that he is attempting to supplant tom Green in the obnoxious, gross out comedian department. He has recently gotten in legal trouble in Charleston. We tend to throw the book at people with attitudes like his, so south carolina may be responsible for putting him away for a while. If so, you are welcome in advance, America. More to the point, his brand of humor, subdued, but still present, is the worst part of “Message in a Bottle.”

Thankfully, it is not the biggest element. The episode wham moment is not any of Dick’s routines, but when the Prometheus shows what it can do--split into three, battle ready parts. The fight with attacking Romulan war birds is a CGI extravaganza. Such battles are something that have already become a huge part of DS9. I still cannot beat the impression the whole Prometheus bit was promotion for a new toy or feature in a computer game. The former never materialized, but the ship may very well have appeared in a game. I do not know.

The two Doctors defeat the Romulans, help Starfleet retake the ship, and gets into contact with headquarters to inform them of Voyager’s status. The Doctor returns to the Delta Quadrant with news they have reconnected in spirit, if nothing else. In the interim, the crew has learned the message relay belongs to an alien race called the Hirogem. They are not happy about sharing. Much more on that later.

Are there problems besides Dick? Yep. Roxanne Dawson’s pregnancy is not hidden very well. The Mark II EMH is supposed to be based on Bashir. Why is it not? I would have preferred Alexander Siddig to Andy Dick any day. Why has the Doctor never heard of the Dominion? The Jem Ha’dar had encounter Sisko seven months before Voyager was lost. Is it not dumb to send your only doctor away when he may be lost? It would be an unhealthy sixty years journey without him. How come we never see the Prometheus or anything like it again? Is not the Romulans stealing it an act of war? The answer to these questions is VOY is generally lazy about continuity. Just go with it, I guess.

“Message in a Bottle” is surprisingly weak for a Doctor-centric episode. Not that Robert Picardo is not great as usual. He is dragged down by dick’s unfunny clowning around. I imagine the powers that be were aware of this by some point, because the trifecta of Prometheus doing its thing, the introduction of the Hirogen, and the reconnection of Voyager to Starfleet all occur rapidly in the final act as a distraction from all that has gone on before. It is not entirely successful inflicting amnesia, but it will do.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Waking Moments"

“Waking Moments,” like so many VOY episodes, is only good if you do not think about it and just go with the flow. Otherwise, blood will splurt out of your nose as you attempt reconcile all the implausible scenarios and downright silliness. ’Waking Moments” is all about aliens who control dreams. Star Trek has never done the concept well.

“Waking Moments” begins with us viewing what appears to be routine activities for the bridge crew, sans Chakotay. We learn quickly they are actually dreaming. What dreams, too. While Tuvok and tom have typical nightmares of naked in public and dying in a vehicle accident respectively, Janeway and Harry have far more amusing night terrors. Janeway enters the mess hall to find her crew has died of old age. It is supposed to represent her fear of never getting the crew home, but you just know she is actually afraid they will all make it to a ripe old age without her killing them herself. As for poor Harry, he dreams Seven is making out with him. Seriously, folks. Harry fears a beautiful woman. He is as gay as a French horn. In the morning, our dreamers discover that not only has everyone suffered a nightmare, but there is a common element--the same green alien appears in every dream.

(The alien watches Seven and Harry make out and Tuvok get dressed. He is a pervert, one assumes.)

Several crewmembers, including harry, cannot be awakened in the morning. His make out session must have turned into a crazed lovemaking session. For Harry, terrified of his own erection, it must be torturous. The rest of us can only…well, dream of a night with Jeri Ryan. Surmising the alien in everyone’s dream must be real and inflicting all this on them, Chakotay offers to use some Native American artifacts he happens to have even though he originally beamed over to Voyager with nothing but the clothes he was wearing, to lucid dream in order to communicate with the alien. The alien interrupts derr hunting with a spear to explain to Chakotay he is part of a species that sleeps all the time while living in a dream state. Many enemies have found their sleeping bodies, so they now take the initiative to subdue waking species.

Here is where we get into the try not to think about this stuff too hard bit. How does a constantly hibernating species evolve? Eat? Keep hydrated/ Procreate? Develop technology? Develop anything, for that matter? While we do not get any explanation for how these aliens have survived so long, much less invented the technology they use to maintain their dream world, they deliberately point out that the permanent hibernation will be a problem for the crew because they will dehydrate in a few days. But this is not the worst bit about the aliens. More in a moment.

“Waking Moments” quickly becomes inception twelve years too early as we learn Chakotay is having a dream within a dream. While he is trying to decide what is real, the rest of the crew are in the aliens’ dream world wherein the aliens have taken over the ship. We know they are all having the same dream because the doctor points out their brain patterns are all identical, which would not actually happen, but all right. The Doctor forces Chakotay to stay awake and search for the aliens’ physical bodies while Janeway figures out if the crew engages in lucid dreaming, than can resist the aliens. Meanwhile, Chakotay finds the aliens, wakes one of them up, and channels Janeway by threatening to torpedo the cave killing them all if the crew is not released. The alien complies. The episodes ends with everyone suffering from insomnia.

You know what the big problem is? The aliens have no motivation. Chakotay had to look for the aliens hibernation cave on a distant planet. There is no way Voyager would have stumbled across them, much less been a threat. What is the point of taking over the ship in a dream? They gain nothing. They do not even awaken their physical bodies to take over the real ship or murder the sleeping crew. So what is the point? Near as I can tell, it is alleviating boredom. Why else watch naked people dressing or couples making out or play pirate commando or whatever the heck it is they are when taking over Voyager. The aliens’ intentions are not that well thought out. Then again, they are never given a name, either, so they are not well thought out period.

I have criticized “Waking Moments” for being dumb, but as I said above, it is entertaining if you do not think about it too hard. It is very moody. The aliens are neat looking even if they are nameless and dumb. A few of the nightmares are very amusing. There is even one big slip up in which a very pregnant Roxanne Dawson’s belly is unintentionally prominent. This is one of those episode in which the flaws are so hilariously bad, their entertainment value outweighs the detriment. “waking Moments” is not competent, but it is fun to watch.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Mortal Coil"

I have to give credit where credit is due. Voyager is not famous for its thought provoking episodes. Nor is it well known for making good use of Neelix Making him into a likable character, at least. “Mortal coil” manages to do both in a subtle, but highly entertaining way. It is no surprise the episode was written by Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller.

“Mortal Coil” features Neelix’s internal struggle after he is brought back to life by Seven’s Borg implants eighteen hours after an accident kills him. He has a crisis upon the realization his religious beliefs about the afterlife are invalid. He expected to meet family and friends who have passed on in paradise, but there was nothing. The thought of a happy afterlife had been a great comfort to him, but now he is forced to wonder the point of his existence.

It is not often Neelix is presented as a subtle, reflective character. He is usually the guy full of absurdly powerful, often inappropriate emotion and dumb ideas. Mostly the latter, but do not discount the annoyances of the former. It is a good change of pace to see him genuinely explore a serious subject in a serious manner. I cannot discount how much more complex and well written other characters who are pivotal in Neelix’s soul searching are written. Chakotay, whom I have heavily criticized in recent days, is a prime example. For once, he utilizes native American spirituality as a plausible aid rather than some politically correct multicultural experiment when he counsels Neelix during a vision quest and, eventually, is the one to bring him off the literal ledge. Seven, too, shows more concern than normal. She is a very limited character, particularly in her early episodes, but a skilled writer can help the audience look passed the tight catsuit and see a real person. No small feat, that.

Neelix’s despair leads him to eventually decide suicide is the option. He plans to beam himself off the ship into space. He is talked down by Chakotay, of all people. But it ultimately convinced to resume his life by his goddaughter, Naomi. The conclusion we are to draw is that Neelix has a family in his life of which he is a vital part, so there is little need to worry about his other family in the afterlife. The story leaves it open ended as to whether Neelix’s belief about the afterlife is correct or not, but I have a hunch Fuller’s script leans towards the atheist view.

No matter. ’Mortal Coil” is the best neelix-centric episode yet. If memory serves, it is the best we will ever get, but I am prepared for the unlikely feast of crow should the next three months--gasp--bring a surprise. ’Mortal Coil” is full of surprises. It turns the annoying Neelix sympathetic. It makes Seven more than boobs and sharp, curt dialogue. It allows Chakotay to be more than a bad stereotype. A near death experience is presented as much more than a journey down a dark tunnel towards the light. Spirituality is not presented as something the enlightened Starfleet crew consider cute in lesser species at best and flat out evil at worst. “Mortal Coil” stands out above a large number of VOY episodes. It is a definite must see, if for no other reason than to demonstrate what the show could have been with a competent writing staff.

Rating; **** (out of 5)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Concerning Flight"

It has been said VOY is closest in premise to TOS than either of the other two Star Trek series set in the 24th century. With the ship stranded in the far off Delta Quadrant, the series should theoretically explore strange, new worlds and seek out new civilizations without being bogged down the the established political landscape of TNG and DS9. It has, for the most part, worked out that way, save for some absurd episodes attempting to prop up flagging ratings by reminding us VOY is still a part of Star Trek. from time to time, episodes have been very reminiscent of TOS installments, for better or for worse. A prime case in point is ’Concerning Flight” in which Janeway hangs out with Leonardo da Vinci. A little less embarrassing than encountering Abraham Lincoln floating in space, but not by much.

I think the big problem with “Concerning Flight” is the writers could not figure out what to do with da Vinci. Not to say that is unusual. Remember Janeway’s ghost story governess holodeck program which petered out rapidly until it was thrown into a main storyline just plausibly get ridd of it? Da Vinci gets a better send off, but it has to manufacture cute and funny scenarios in order to do it. The episode winds up adequate because of it. Talk about killing with faint praise, but there is so much typical VOY illogical elements, I have no choice.

Voyager is attacked by a swarm of tiny ships equipped with transporter devices that beam through the shields. Very convenient. The purpose of the transporters is to steal various pieces of high technology. Among the items stolen are the doctor’s mobile emitter and the computer core. I find the latter amusing. Take the hard drive out of your computer and see how well it works. Since the ship’s computer controls everything, it is a wonder Voyager is not completely crippled. In another great convenience, it is not, so the crew is able to track down all the stolen technology to a planet which is a hub of mostly black market commerce. You will never guess that they inconveniently cannot find all the stolen technology, nor can they simply beam it out due to some techno babble dampening fields. Typical VOY. Everything works exactly as it should to further the plot

I am not trying to nitpick here, but are these circumstances not irritating? Some two bit thugs have technology that can penetrate VOY’s shields. First, that is a ridiculously powerful ability for thieves to have. I imagine military powers have been working on developing such a thing for decades. It does not make sense they are not the ones to wind up with it. If they do have this technology, though, why so small potatoes? Beam the entire crew off the ship and take everything. They do not have to be killed. Strand them somewhere. Yeah, you see where this is going, right? We had to suffer through this silliness about swiping advanced technology for two years with the Kazon. Now it is all thrown in during the teaser just to set up the episode. I count the frivolous handling of the plot as a tacit admission the whole Kazon arc, such that it was, fell flat. As for the transporters not working through a dampening field or other interference, that happens so often, one wonders why the crew even bothers with it.

While searching the planet for their missing stuff, Janeway and Tuvok learn da Vinci, whose program was running in the holodeck during the mugging, is out and about with the Doctor’s mobile emitter. He believes he has been kidnapped to America. He is unfazed by all the strange aliens for some reason. He has even earned a patron in one--the big boss who has stolen all the stuff from Voyager.

The episode becomes a caper at this point. Janeway and da Vinci do the whole mismatched buddy cop thing to track down the stolen technology and remove the dampening field so it can all be beamed away. Fish out of water hilarity ensues. Pointless fish out of water hilarity, however. There is no reason for janeway to keep da Vinci around. He has no special skill to offer and, particularly during the final chase from the villains, drags her down because he demands explanations for all the extraordinary things he seen. Chalk it up to the logic that exists solely on television and in movies that the hero must have someone to interact with for the sake of drama. In real life, no one would tolerate da Vinci’s confused foot dragging, but on television, we need him to successfully use his until now hanglider to help Janeway escape. To further the television/movie logic, the pursuing villains stop ten feet shy of the hanglider as it is taking off and decide to admire it in flight rather than shot at it with the huge rifles they are carrying. But, hey--it is not Will Smith and Kevin Kline soaring through the air, so that is a plus.

“Concerning Flight” is fun if you do not think about it much. That is difficult to do considering how dialogue heavy it is. Janeway and da Vinci that all amount to the same--yes, this is all extraordinary, but I do not have time to explain it to you right now. All that instead of just switching off the mobile emitter and resolving the whole episode in three minutes tops. The saving grace is John Rhys Davies as da vinci. He was fresh off his inglorious departure from Sliders and a welcome sight. Davies does bring a charm to da Vinci that someone less cynical than I might consider compensation for the his inexplicable continued use even when dragging janeway down in life or death situations. I have a hard time overlooking it and the two scenes featuring a cat suited Seven prominently displayed while learning lessons from Harry and the doctor on proper social interaction. Either the episode ran short or the T & A quotient had to be met. Take your pick.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Random Thoughts"

Sometimes screencapping these episodes is more than half the fun.

“Random Thoughts” is an interesting, though flawed episode that brings up some interesting ideas, but cannot quite decide what it wants to be. In some ways, it is a commentary on the negative influence of violent images on a person’s psyche. In other ways, it appears to be a morality tale about the use of narcotics, or perhaps the futility of the drug war. Kenneth Biller wrote it, so you can be certain of two things. One, there is a profound message within and two, Biller is such a poor writer, you cannot find said profound message with both hands and a flashlight.

Voyager meets a race of friendly telepaths called the Mari. They are a bunch of pacifists who have largely expelled violent thoughts from their minds. It is a serious crime to think violent thoughts. Anyone caught doing so is given a specific kind of lobotomy which removes those particular thoughts. It does not seem plausible that the crew would risk beaming down to such a planet considering how uncontrolled the random thoughts of humans can be, but there you go.

A merchant named Guill senses some extreme hostility buried not too far from the surface in Torres--surprise, surprise--and sets up an ’accidental’ encounter between her and his buddy, Frane, wherein Frane steps on her foot to elicit a violent thought. Unfortunately, Klingon emotions are a bit too strong for the weak-minded Mari. The thought prompts Frane to beat a man to a bloody pulp. The head of police, played by B’Ehtor herself, Gwyneth Walsh, discovers the thought came from torres and prepares her for the line item lobotomy.

Tuvok, who has until this point been an admirer of the mari justice system, starts his own investigation. He eventually uncovers the plot point I mentioned above. There is a black market in dark thoughts in which Guill is a major player. Guill becomes fascinated at the prospect of experiencing the dark thoughts vulcans possess, but a mind meld proves those thoughts are too much for him. Tuvok subdues guill, exposes the black market trade, and saves Torres from having her memories wiped.

So what is ’Random Thoughts” about? It might be able how television and movie violence affect susceptible minds, particularly children. The mari are definitely a weakened lot if the stray thought that torres wants to punch a guy from stepping on her foot can prompt a man’s beating and later, an unintentionally hilarious bit in which an old woman stabs a merchant to death from dropping fruit she was buying. The mari are so hopelessly impressionable, using them as a commentary an the influence of violent images on people’s psyche is too over the top to be taken seriously. It could also be a comment on the futility of the drug war. The Mari have banned violent thoughts, so people trade in them illegally. The illicit trade prompts violent crimes. With Biller writing the episode, you have no idea which is the message, if either is. For all I know, “Random Thoughts” is a warning to respect other cultures and a remembrance of Rosemary Kennedy’s lobotomy. Joseph Kennedy was attempting to save face for his family by eliminating her antisocial behavior.

In all seriousness, the episode has flaws. The chief of police goes on and on to Tuvok about her enlighten culture wherein no one has aggressive thoughts, yet she becomes visibly angry on several occasions. The policemen dragging Torres to the lobotomy chair had to cuff her and fight her the whole way. Surely they were not thinking and sunshine and roses for the duration. Or that could be subtle commentary, too. The ruling authority can indulge in violent thoughts, but they subdue any citizen who does as well. It is just not that clear.

“Random Thoughts” is passably entertaining, but it wants to be far more. I would not bother looking for any deep thoughts within it, but it is a good outing for Tuvok’s Sherlock Holmes skills. Vulcan’s playing detective are a minor running theme in Star Trek. while spock has always done it best, Tuvok is no slouch. If you can figure out what the episode is about otherwise, do enlighten me.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Year of Hell, Part II"

There was definitely going to be a reset button resolution for the “Year of Hell’ episodes. History has proven fans consider its use here to be the near the top in notoriety. I cannot argue with that assessment. Not only did the story ultimately not happen, the resolution gave the villain exactly what he wanted. But that leaves an important question--how come he never figured to that in 200 years of effort while Janeway merely played a hunch/ oh, I forgot. Janeway is awesome. never mind.

Aside from the cheap, predictable ending, I am disappointed by the contrast in Janeway and Chakotay’s actions. Last episode, the two nibbled at a Maquis v. Starfleet course of action to survive the Krenim onslaught. Chakotay wanted to split up the crew to increase their chances of survival, but janeway refused. Solidarity was paramount to her. Ultimately, Chakotay’s plan was followed after he and Tom were kidnapped, which set up different courses for he and Janeway to take.

Janeway’s is far more compelling. She has some very moving moments trying to hold her skeleton crew together on a ship that is rapidly falling apart. She becomes so obsessed with holding it all together, at one point the Doctor relieves her of command because her reckless behavior demonstrates an emotional breakdown. But since they cannot get by without her and have no way to stop her anyway, she remains in command despite. It is a very powerful confrontation between the Doctor and her. As are the goodbyes she offers the crew before she pilots Voyager alone against the Lrenim ship. I note the remaining crew--Tuvok, Harry, Seven, and Torres--are the ones considered closest to her emotionally. In fan fiction terms, the ones she has slept with in libraries of slash fiction. The thing is that although she gives a speech about how much she loves Voyager and must go down with the ship, her real concern is that none of them die along with her. She does not have the attachment Kirk had to the Enterprise. while that is usually a detriment, but here, it is a strength as we see right through her.

Chakotay is another story. After two months in solitary confinement, he is more than happy to hear Annerax out while Tom is still feisty and resistant. Annerax promises he can restore Voyager to its former self with Chakotay’s cooperation. He is sympathetic about the desire to return home, since that is all he really wants as well. Tom says Ammerax cannot be trusted. He will destroy anything in his path to restore time to his liking. Chakotay gives Annerax the benefit of the doubt and starts working with him to change time to keep Voyager away from Krenim space. Right off the bat, we know Chakotay is wrong to do this because the three are merrily munching on cruisine from cultures wiped from history by Annerax. Tom stops eating when he realizes this. The other two do not.

I have criticized Chakotay as a charater any number of times. At his core, he is an unrealistic lefty stereotype of a Native American which ought to be offensive. There have not been any improvements in him, either. Virtually every Chakotay-centric story has made him out to be weak and gullible. He has been deceived and/or manipulated by Tuvok, Seska, Janeway, and Tom among friends, and any number of enemies. It is terribly degrading for a character who ought to be an adventurer. I have suspected Chakotay is presented as weak in order to not upstage the female captain. That sounds like something the powers that be at Star Trek would do to prop up a feminist philosophy. Ironic, that has not worked well for three seasons, so a sexy blonde in a catsuit so tight you can tell she is an innie was added to the cast, but there you go. The point is the damage has been done with Chakotay. He is a bad character.

But in “Year of Hell, Part II,” he descends another level. He helps Annerax destroy an entire planet, justifying it by claiming the population was not killed. They just never existed in the first place. If you want to chalk his feelings up to Stockholm Syndrome, you might be onto something. Chakottay is sympathetic to Annerax’s quest to return his family to the point the end justifies the means. But even when Tom points out that everyone on Voyager has lost their families, too, but do not go wiping out whole civilizations over it, chakotay still does not budge. What are they trying to say about his character? Certainly, he objects to Annerax’s attack on inhabited planets, but not enough to forcefully align with tom and the mutinous crew to stop him. Chakotay comes across as very weak and amoral here.

It all ends when Janeway rams Annerax’s ship with what is left of Voyager. she surmises destroying the ship will restore the timeline back to normal, and she is right. Everything, including Annerax’s family, is returned as if nothing ever happened. Why, in 200 years of effort, did Annerax never figure that out himself? He is supposed to be the expert on time. Janeway was just playing a hunch. The ending leaves something to be desired.

The concluding part of “Year of Hell” is definitely eaker than the build up. The tension is still there on Janeway’s side in Part II, but Chakotay’s half is so bewildering, it drags down the story. While the ending is too pat--a correct guess on Janeway’s part means none of this ever happened--but there are enough moments to make this a good episode. Not the classic it could have been with some tweaks, but entertaining.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Year of Hell, Part I"

I am going to be upfront about a point I usually criticize about VOY, but will not attack in the “Year of Hell” storyline. One of the most consistent complaints I have about VOY outside of the off kilter characterization is the Magic Reset Button. Too often the show allows its characters to suffer insurmountable problems only to completely restore the status quo in the resolution or completely ignore said circumstances in the next episode. I find the former usually more frustrating than the latter, but both constitute poor storytelling technique. “Year of Hell” demands a reset button by necessity, and I am okay with that.

Brannon Braga (I am as shocked as you are) and Joe Menosky have turned a general weakness into a strength by fitting it logically within the story. I would almost suspect ’year of Hell’ is a response to fan complaints about the Magic Reset Button, but considering kes got the boot a few months ago as opposed to Neelix or Harry, I cannot give the powers that be credit for being that responsive to fan desires. The plot of ’Year of Hell’ involves a villain with a grudge against time itself. Annorex, played with both menace and sorrow by Kurtwood Smith, has developed a weapon that can wipe people out of time to set places and events as if the missing people never existed. Annorex is on a quest to restore his family back to life, and lis unconcerned with how the entire universe might be affected in the process. Naturally, if events are being changed from their normal course, the resolution is inevitably going to restore the status quo. When that is know from the beginning, the journey to that point becomes key.

It is the journey that makes the story so good. The first element I enjoy is the scope. The episode skips ahead over a period of nearly three months as Annorex’s people, restored to full imperial power by his weapon, brutally savage Voyager. What is interesting is that Braga and Menosky do not take the most obvious route of killing off main characters immediately. While such an act would be intended to elicit a strong emotional response from the audience, it would actually come across as a cheap stunt. Instead, there is a slow build up of desperation. Extras we have never seen ort heard of before are killed. The Doctor has to seal of a exploding section of the ship, killing a couple crewmembers, in order to save everyone else. Increasingly large sections of the ship are destroyed. These are all elements we would normally expect to see in an episode. Here they start to build up so that we feel a rising sense of dread that maybe the Magic Reset Button will not fix everything. It is just at the moment you begin to think that a main character suffers a permanent loss--Tuvok is blinded in an explosion. Certainly, that will not stand, but things have built up so logically to that point, there is a sense of tragedy gnawing

Secondly, I appreciate the crew is facing a dreadful enemy that is not the Borg. It would have been easy to feature a year of hell with Voyager constantly under attack by the Borg, losing crew to both battle and assimilation. It might have been exciting, but using another race is original and promotes the idea the Delta Quadrant is a very dangerous place.

Does “Year of Hell, Part I” have flaws? Yes, it does. The most glaring is that Kes, who once traveled through time to the Year of Hell and gave janeway every bit of knowledge she had gathered about the Krenim, is never mentioned, nor is any of the intelligence she gathered. It is a terribly glaring absence. Why does the name Krenim not ring a bell with anyone? Worse yet, the temporal torpedo that caused Kes to travel through time in the first place shows up. This time, it is dealt with by Seven instead. How about some acknowledgement here? Another big flaw is a minor dispute between Janeway and Chakotay on how to proceed. With the ship barely functioning, Chakotay thinks like a Maquis--split the crew up into shuttlecrafts and life pods with a plan to meet up on the other side of Krenim space. They will increase their chances of survival that that way. Janeway, thinking like Starfleet, refuses to split the crew up. The conflict echoes their disagreement over how to deal with entering Borg space earlier, but does not handle the tension nearly as effectively. Animosity between the two would have added extra drama, but instead falls flat.

Granted, in the end, Janeway makes a fateful decision which damages Voyager so badly, she has no choice but to order all but the senior officers to follow Chakotay’s plan. As a bonus, Chakotay is kidnapped by Annorex, so even though his idea won out, he is going to have to be rescued by Janeway, so she is still going to come out on top. But you knew that already. Even you are right and Janeway is wrong, her awesomeness has to assert itself by her eventually rescuing you. Jeri Taylor approves.

I approve of “Year of Hell, Part I” myself. It effectively tightens the screws throughout to the point the inevitable Magic Reset Button is out of your mind. It is very atmospheric, with the lights out all the time, heavy debris scattered throughout all the regular sets, and high and mighty federation principles taking a backseat to triage in the name of survival. It is an ambitious effort, and in spite of some flaws, a very good one. I cannot award more than three stars because of the flaws, but it is still a personal favorite.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Scientific Method"

I have noticed a pattern with VOY. More often than not, the longer the teaser, the worse the episode. Perhaps it has something to do with requiring a long time for story set up. Whatever it is, “Scientific method’ is a prominent example. The teaser lasts a shade under five minutes and mostly involves Tom and Torres going at it like two teenagers in the back of a primer colored Pacer. If that does not fill you in on the juvenile idiocy to come, realize this is another Fun with DNA story written by the notorious Lisa Klink.

The premise is that Voyager has been invaded by alien scientists who are secretly performing experiments on the crew. They remain invisible as they perform genetic mutations in the name of medical research. I will allow there is some atmosphere upon the aliens’ discovery via Seven’s Borg optic whatsis. The aliens are walking around, placing medical devices on members of the crew while they remain oblivious. No one overtly alludes to the sense that you are being followed with no one really there or the sensation of someone walking on your grave, but that is what I took from it. It is about the only thing I took from it.

The plot bounces around terribly in tone and form. When the mutations begin, the crewmembers earliest affected compare affliction like a bunch of old men comparing ailments. It is mildly amusing, though I think the situation would generate a more terrified reaction. Apparently, Klink agrees, because she switches part of the way through to a far darker reaction to the mutations once seven exposes the aliens’ existence.

I was afraid the debate between a captured alien and Janeway over the use of unwilling test subjects for medical research might degenerate into an argument over the use of animals as test subjects. Klink is not only a bad writer, but an over the top bleeding heart when it comes to social commentary. Nevertheless, we avoid the allusion. Thank heavens for small miracles.

If there is anything particularly amusing about ’Scientific Method,” it is that the aliens’ undoing is the experiment they are performing on Janeway. They--get this--increasing her aggressive tendencies. This is a woman who will murder a member of her own crew when the Doctor refuses to perform a medical procedure based on ethics. What were these dopes thinking? Have they not watched this show before? When one of her crewmembers finally dies from a mutation, she goes crazy. Well, crazier than usual. Anyway, she begins flying the ship towards a binary star, ready to kill everyone on board to stop the experiments. The aliens do not call her bluff. They leave, but their ship is destroyed as they and Voyager pass through the star. Why they died, but the Voyager crew survived can be chalked up to klink’s incompetence as a writer.

Unless you are really big into watching janeway’s loonier moments, skip “Scientific Method.” the science is bad, the reactions to the mutations goes from one silly extreme to the other, logical flow of how to deal with the situation is nonexistent, and Janeway’s solution to kill everyone is not all that heroic. At least she personally racks up a body count of sixty some aliens. Skip this one.

Rating; * (out of 5)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"The Raven"

Credit where credit is due: while VOY has an annoying habit of capitalizing on Seven’s popularity by tacking on a lesson in humanity for her in many, many episodes that are not overtly about the character, when an episode is a genuine exploration of Seven, it is generally good. Such is the case with “The Raven,’ an episode in which seven begins to recall the trauma of her assimilation as a child.

As Seven’s human physiology begins to reassert itself, she suffers of Borg chasing her and running into a raven. It plays out like a nightmare. The Doctor believes some of her implants have reactivated to serve as a homing beacon for a Borg Cube to pick her up. He is partially right, as Seven escapes Voyager and heads out into deep space in an effort to locate a cube she believes is waiting for her.

Her escapade could not happen at a worse time. Janeway is attempting to negotiate passage through Bomar space. The Bomar are a xenophobic race who monitor every particle that comes within their territory. They have already placed unreasonable demands on Voyager’s trip. They freak out when they learn there is not only a Borg onboard, but she has escaped into their territory, whereabouts otherwise unknown.

Tuvok and tom go looking for Seven. She disables their shuttle and holds Tuvok prisoner while looking for this cube she swears is out there what she finds instead his her father‘s ship, The Raven This is the spot at which she was assimilated twenty years ago. Those visions she had earlier where flashbacks. The Bomar track her down just as her memories are coming back, but she and Tuvok are rescued before either can be terminated. The doctor has a magic hypospray to keep Seven implants in line for the future, so that is that.

"The Raven” is effectively moody. The nightmare-like quality of seven’s returning memories are the best part of the episode. I also appreciate an effort is made to explain why seven is not a psychological basket case after spending so much time as a Borg” her human side has been so repressed, she does not know she has been traumatized. All right, that does resemble pop psychology, but this is television, so what do you expect? Dr. Phil does what he does in the name of ratings, not mental health. Hold VOY to an even lower standard.

If I have any big complaint, it is the inclusion of the Bomar. This should have been completely an episode involving the main cast with no guest stars. The bomar could have been removed, and the psychological elements of the story would have been front and center. Such would have made the episode much better. The bomar will never be seen again, either, so you cannot even chalk their appearance here as establishing a running conflict with Voyager. There is no point to them other than being an unnecessary distraction.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Revulsion"

“Revulsion” is adequate. Talk about killing with faint praise, but that is about the best I can say. What could have been a compelling exploration into the psyche of a hologram that has not achieved equal status like the Doctor is instead a generic action story with all the mystery taken out of it. On the other side, we have some mildly humorous social bonding between Harry and Seven. It is difficult to tell which of the two is more socially awkward.

Voyager receives a distress call from a sentient hologram whose crew he serves have all died. The hologram claims they contracted a virus on an away mission, but the teaser was him murdering and disposing of the bodies. We already know he is lying and is setting a trap for whoever comes to help him stabilize his program. There is no mystery to the episode.

The doctor and Torres arrive to help. Almost from the beginning, the hologram rants about how much he resents organic life. They literally imprisoned him in one room, never spoke to him socially, and worked him like a slave. Of course, that is what he is for. If it were not for a malfunction making him psychotic, there would be no problem. We already had an episode in which the Doctor faced a similar problem. Being a main character, his was reset at the end. Since this other hologram is a guest star, he gets deactivated permanently before he can murder Torres. End of problem.

The side story involves Harry working with Seven. He falls for her, so she asks if he wants to sleep with her. He refuses. The proper answer is, ’Yes, ma’am,” so the less said about the subplot the better. Harry is, I believe, a phobia regarding his own erections. But I am no psychologist.

So there you have an anemic episode. There is a promotion for took and a kiss shared between Tom and Torres to keep the episode from running short. Tom replaces Kes as the Doctor’s nurse without ever mentioning Kes’ name. that makes her sound persona non grata. The heart of the episode, such that it is, involves the Doctor being exposed to the bitter feelings of an “oppressed” hologram. The Doctor will have a story arc regarding the rights of holograms which will run towards the latter end of the series. Practically every episode involved will be far better than this one. I had no sympathy for this psychotic, creepy hologram. Considering we knew he was a murdered right off the bat, I am not certain I was ever supposed to care about his plight. So what is the point?

Rating; ** (out of 5)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Nemesis"

Even a blind bird catches a worm every now and then. Kenneth Biller does a fairly good job with this script. While it does suffer from some heavy handed social commentary-choosing the wrong character for it, if you ask me--and features a climactic twist that may make the viewer feel cheated over the other four acts, but it is an entertaining episode.

Chakotay crashes yet another shuttle on a planet while on a survey mission. It is well passed the point they should let him fly one of those things. He is picked up by a group of soldiers from the vori, a human looking species who are fighting a brutal war with the Kradin, a very blatant knock off the Predators. In fact, much of this episode channels famous action films. The ’nemesis” comes from Predator and Chakotay often channels Rambo as he finds himself deeper into the conflict.

The Vori explain the Kradin use biological weapons, slaughter civilians, ignore religious burial rituals, engage in slave labor, use women as sex slaves, too--every stereotype you can think of one side in a conflict would say to dehumanize the other. It takes a while for Chakotay to move from passive observer in the war to active combatant, but as he witnesses the soldiers he is with slaughtered and a village he takes refuge in be destroyed, the war with the kradin becomes his war.

The problem is that it is all an illusion. The kradin are--at least we are lead to believe,--the good guys in spite of their alien appearance. None of what Chakotay experienced was real. He was kidnapped, drugged, and put through a simulation to turn him into a soldier xenophobic against the Kradin until he is finally rescued by Tuvok. In the end, Chakotay confesses he still hates the Kradin for the atrocities he has seen them commit, even if they were not real.

I have a couple things to compliment before picking nits. One is the production values. “Nemesis’ is a small scale action movie that reminds me of those mid to late ’80’s action films wherein the reluctant hero is called to battle because his buddies or some innocents are killed by a ruthless enemy. This being over the top VOY, biller decides to throw in both. The second point is the use of wartime lingo. At first I was annoyed by it, but as I noticed Chakotasy beginning to use it, too, I figured out it was a deliberate bonding exercise. A way of allowing chakotay to connect with his new compatriots. By the end, I thought it was clever instead of annoying. Language is a very powerful tool for connecting people.

That said, I question whether Chakotay was the best choice. Throughout the first two acts, he is reluctant to fight or even accept the Kradin are as evil as the Vori claim. The idea is he has a firm grip on Federation ideals and therefore desires to seek a peaceful solution. But Chakotay is not Federation. He is Maquis. The maquis have taken up arms to defend their homes against the Cardassians. The Maquis describe the Cardassians in much the same terms as the Vori desribe the Kradin and rightfully so. So while Chakotay ought to be reluctant to become involved in a war that is not his, I doubt his maquis mindset would take a backseat to federation ideals when lecturing the Vori on how they need to view their enemy as people, too. Using another character would have been best. Tom or Harry, perhaps.

It is probably easy to feel unfairly manipulated by “Nemesis.” you realize in the final act all the death and destruction witnessed up until that point was imagined. Once you learn the Predator-looking aliens are the good guys, your are supposed to feel guilt over your prejudice. Chakotay’s illusion did present them as sadistic brutes. But I really hate when someone tries to force a guilt trip on me in order to push a social agenda. Such may not bug you, so make up your own mind. I like “Nemesis” overall, but it is still a middle of the pack episode when considering what it tries to do and how it goes about it.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Day of Honor"

“Day of Honor“ is Torres and the terrible, horrible, no good very bad day. But she should take heart. As will happen many times in the future, it will be seven that learns the moral lesson instead. But Torres gets the consolation prize of a budding romance with Tom. This is a key Tom/Torres shipper episode if you are into that sort of thing. Those who are tend to ignore the fact both were delirious from oxygen deprivation when they professed love for one another. Love is not in the air, so to speak.

Torres is suffering a string of bad luck on the Klingon Day of Honor, a day in which klingons are supposed to measure their worthiness over the past year. She is a conflicted soul, never having been comfortable with her Klingon half, so she has never been too thrilled to take part in those traditions. Tom, Mr. Sensitive that he is, pushes her anyway for what he decides is her own good. She pushes him away in return. I have a tough time arguing with her rationale. Who is Tom to force her to embrace a culture she is uncomfortable emersing herself?

While “Day of Honor” is a torres episode, it is still all about Seven. She is bored stuck in her alcove, so she requests an assignment to engineering in order to adapt transwarp technology to Voyager for faster speed. Chakotay agrees, and assigns her to work with Torres. Talk about a bad day, no? Torres has nothing but contempt for the Borg, which is exasperated by Seven’s complete lack of guilt over her past actions. Tensions grow far worse when the transwarp experiment fails and the warp core must be ejected.

If the episode is not crowded enough with all tha going on, the crew run into an alien race called the Cataati. Their species was almost completely assimilated by the Borg some time ago. There is only a few hundred of them living desperately as refugees. They request supplies from VoyagerVoyager crew are sacrificing, they are still quite comfortable. Just how obligated are they to give of their own resources to a people who have none?

Apparently, a lot. Torres and Tom go after the ejected warp core in a shuttlecraft only to discover the Cataati are attempting to steal it as a bargaining chip for more supplies. The lesson here is that impoverished people will resort to crime. It is not their fault, of course. Since it is not their fault, you should give them all your resources to avoid becoming victims of their crimes. There is no reason you should have plwnty when others do not, right? The whole situation is progressive thinking at its worst. The matter is resolved by Seven utilizing Borg knowledge to help the Cataati establish a renewable energy resource, but the lesson is still clear--the rich need to give up their luxuries to the poor or else they will become victims of brutal crime. Literal class warfare, courtesy of Star Trek’s 24th century enlightenment.

Seven’s moral lesson falls within those scenarios. She learns that humans are not so bad, because janeway believes she did not cause the accident which ejected the warp core. She learns innovative thinking when she saves the day by jury rigging the new energy source. She even learns to say someone is welcome when they thank her. Touching, no?

Am I forgetting something? Oh, yeah. This is a torrs episode. It is easy to lose sight of that. The shuttlecraft has an accident and explodes, leaving Torres and Tom adrift in space suits and running out of oxygen. They bond as their air runs out. Just before being rescued in the nick of time, they profess love for one another. I blame it on the lack of oxygen to the brain, but your mileage may vary. Did I mention for a brief moment, Tom tried to get in Seven’s pants during the period torres had pushed him away? His cad ways take much of what little emotion his relationahip with Torres can muster right out of it.

“Day of Honor” is an adequate episode. I do not think any of it is particularly compelling. Then again, I am not a fan of the Tom/Torres romance. I think much of the Seven learns more about being human stuff overshadows too many episodes like this one. I am certainly not into the class warfare message. It is just an ordinary, dial it down over some high excitement episodes installment.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"The Gift"

You know something is up when a regular cast member is listed as a guest star. “the Gift’ is Jennifer lien’s final regular appearance as Kes. She will show up once more in the sixth season, but the less said about that episode, the better. “The Gift” is also the first big outing for Jeri Ryan as Seven. As such, the episode sets a motif that will run throughout the rest of the series: even when an episode is centered on another character, the main point of interest will be seven standing around in a tight catsuit learning some new lesson about being human.

Look at it this way--instead of ignoring the Starfleet/Maquis conflict, the series is now going to ignore every conflict other than seven’s struggle to become more human. The journey towards her humanity will lack a lot of the charm Data’s similar journey, but ryan will be required to do just as much heavy lifting as Brent Spiner in the last couple seasons of TNG. The tall and the short of it is the final four seasons are all about Seven and the Doctor with everyone else along for the ride. Now is as good a time as any to reveal I liked the first three seasons of VOY much more than the final four. If you have been reading these reviews for a while, you ought to have a good idea of what that means for the future.

Did I mention Janeway is a lying, hypocritical fascist in ’The Gift?” Because that is really important. In case case, she actually switches positions on the same matter in back to back scenes with the only obvious motivation being she can completely control one person, but has no power over the other. If there is any other explanation for her behavior, I cannot come up with it.

The episode begins with seven, still very much a Borg, suffering from her human self emerging. Specifically, her immune system is rejecting the Borg implants. She is going to die if she does not have them removed. Seven declares she would rather die than become fully human. When janeway at least fakes consideration over allowing Seven to make her own decision, Chakotay reminds her that Seven, as he discovered conveniently last episode, was assimilated as a little girl and knows nothing else. It might be cruel to force her to live as something other than Borg. But this is Janeway we are talking about, so forget that noise. She orders the doctor to remove the implants.

There is a touch of medical drama involved and an interesection with Kes newfound powers developing that I will to in a moment. Like I said, this is only marginally a kes episode even though it is her swan song. In a lot of ways, it feels like the big screw you Denise Crosby received when Tasha yar was killed by an agitated oil slick in the third act of her final episode and is even more inexplicable. At least here the actress was not grumbling about her character development amid rumors Maurice Hurley was making a hobby out of goosing her rear end. But I digress. This episode is about the bonding of Janeway and Seven, though you have to have some incredibly low standards to call it that.

We can break it down into three points. One, Seven argues first she ought to be allowed to contact the collective and return home. Janeway nixes the idea because of the threat to Voyager. Then Seven suggests stranding her on a planet with a communication device so the Borg can find her. Janeway nixes that idea, too. Convenientiently for Janeway, Seven passes out from her immune system battle, so she can order the Doctor to remove the implants. When the Doctor is only partially done, that is to say he has removed anything that would make it easier for her to be reassimilated, Janeway forces the doctor to awaken Seven and requests she help remove the Borg adaptations to the shop she caused last episode. In other words, Seven could have used her help to repair the ship as a bargaining chip to return to the Borg, but janeway removed that possibility in order to force or to make the changes anyway.

Two, Janeway has Seven confined to the brig after she attempted to contact the Borg while making repairs. The two have a philosophical/moral debate over self-determination. Seven says as a human, she would be able to decide her own fate. Janeway has no right to take that away from her, even if she believes what seven will choose is not in her best interest. Janewasy disagrees without offering any rationale beyond seven is supposed to be human and that is what she is going to become, darn it!

Flashback to the second season when Voyager discovered Quinn imprisoned inside an asteroid. The Q Continuum had placed him there to keep him from committing suicide. Quinn requested janeway hold a hearing to decide on his ability to choose his own fate. She ruled that quinn had a right to decide for himself what he wanted to be or even if he wanted to kill himself. Now janeway has completely disregarded her own decision, imprisoned seven, and is forcing her to become what Janeway wants rather than allowing her own choice.

Three, during the debate, seven argues she will not handle being unassimilated well. It would be cruel to do it to her. Janeway counters by saying she has met unassimilated borg before, and while it was tough, they handled it fine. Which is a bald-faced lie. The only unassimilated borg she has ever met were the ones in “Unity.” You know, the ones who had to establish their own mini collective in order to get by and forced dissenters to join it, too? Yeah, those unassimilated Borg handled freedom just swell.

Fans often look to this episode fondly for either the maternal or lesbian ‘shipping, whichever may you want to look at it, but I do not see anything but another Janeway power trip over controlling someone under her far more than her powers should allow. That Seven acquiesces far too easily in the end to justify janeway;s behavior is a laughably pitiful resolution.

Now to the main point of the episode--Kes going all Dark Phoenix on us. Maybe it is because of her contact with Species 8472. Maybe it is some usually untapped Ocampa power emerging. Maybe joe Menosky was smoking the same stuff he smokes when he writes many of his high concept, existential episodes. Whatever it is, kes is demonstrating new powers that are disrupting matter at the subatomic level. She uses her new abilities to perform surgery on Seven and stop her from communicating with the borg, so we at least connect the two stories. She escapes the ship before evaporating into…well, something, but not before she propels Voyager ten thousand light years beyond borh space, thereby lopping a decade off the trip to the Alpha Quadrant in the process. What gets me about it is the scene in which Kes explains to Janeway she is going to leave even though Janeway does not want her to do so occurs right after Janeway refuses to allow Seven to do the same. Kes, who can now rip Janeway’s atoms apart, gets to decide her own fate. Seven, locked in a prison cell, does not. She really picks her battles, no?

I have mentioned a couple times someone was due to be fired from the series in order to shake things up. It was originally supposed to be Garrett Wang. A fair choice, really. Does Harry resonate with anyone? But Wangwas included in People’s fifty most beautiful people in the world. The powrs that be could not mess up the good publicity, so someone else had to go. Why Lien? I have no clue. It is not like fans would object to having two hot blondes on the show simultaneously. It is doubly inexplicable considering Neelix, her longtime romantic interest, is terribly unpopular, but still on the show. There is no justice.

‘The Gift’ serves its purpose well. That is to say, it gets seven out of the Borg getup and into something sexy for all those fourteen year old virgin eyeballs to ogle. The real implications of what would happen to a lifelong member of the collective suddenly finding herself alone are glossed over too quickly, but that is the nature of television. You have to squeeze a lifetime of institution zed therapy in four commercial breaks in order to have a usable character. Kes gets a fair send off, but there is a definite , Why are you still here? We have Jeri Ryan now,” vibe to it. Lien should not feel bad. The same will happen to the rest of the cast scores of times before the merciful end.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Scorpion, Part II"

“Scorpion, Part II” is the premiere episode of the far superior to season three season four. It is also the conclusion to what has thus far been the best story VOY has yet featured. The conclusion is weaker than its first part. Whether that can be blamed on the frequent habit of the writing staff preparing a cliffhanger with no idea how to resolve it. It is not as obvious with “Scorpion I/II” that is the case, but subsequent VOY cliffhangers have openly been so. Make up your own mind. “Scorpion, Part II” offers some quick resolutions, crazy and murderous Janeway, and a long introduction of Jeri Ryan to the cast as Seven.

We pick up exactly where we left off. In fact, Janeway contacts Voyager literally seconds after they and the Borg cube have fled Species 8472. They are no longer big on demands regarding the bioweapon, so they are willing to give Voyager anything they want in exchange. Janeway agrees to work on the cube because the lab there is more efficient. She has took beam over because the two of them pal around any time she is mad at Chakotay. The Borg force a communications device onto their necks which will temporarily link them with the collective. Janeway threatens to terminate the alliance over the issue. Remember this. It will be important in a minute. A compromise is reached in which a representative will speak on the Borg’s behalf--Seven.

Meanwhile on Voyager, Harry has become one of the fifty most beautiful people in the world according to People, so he is miraculously cured by the nanotechnology that is about to be used as a bioweapon. Lucky him, for once. What is unlucky is Species 8472 has strengthened their telepath tic link with Kes and learned of the bioweapon’s existence. Efficient critters that they are, Species 8472 sends one ship to destroy the cube.

The cube sacrifices itself to destroy the species 8472 ship in the attack, but beams over the entire lab and everyone in it to Voyager to continue working on the weapon. Janeway suffers a serious brain injury in the attack, perhaps offering up a get out of jail free card for future erratic behavior, and must be placed in an induced coma for surgery. She leaves Chakotay in charge with the admonition, should she never awaken, to do everything to get the crew home.

The first thing Chakotay does is break the alliance over seven’s demand to turn around for a five day’s journey to the nearest cube. That is too much for him even though the Borg sacrificed a cube, 100,000 lives, and saved took And Janeway in the name of preserving the alliance. He plans to dump Seven and the remaining Borg on the nearest planet along with the bioweapon research and wish them the best of luck. Seven says this is a crap idea, and opts to assimilate Voyager instead. All the Borg onboard get blown out into space, save for seven, because Jeri Ryan, because she not only has a contract, but is sleeping with Brannon Braga. Well, maybe not yet. But soon. The contract is definitely in place now.

Here is the kicker; Janeway awakens from her coma perfectly fine, but ticked off at Chakotay. He has severed the alliance because he refuses to hit reverse, killed all but one Borg, and has halted the crew’s work on the bioweapon. We he snaps at Janeway what she would have done under the circumstances, she says the exact opposite of everything he has done. Preserving the alliance is paramount. But wait…remember a few paragraphs back I told you to remember Janeway was ready to terminate the alliance over temporarily being connected to the collective? Basically, she is scolding Chakotay for doing exactly what she was going to do. As an added bonus, he is supposed to read her mind and just know what the breaking point would be in her estimation. What a narcissist!

With Janeway back in business, the alliance is back on. It should come as no surprise the plan to deliver the bioweapon via missiles is changed to one, big WMD. This is Janeway, after all. If there is any way to maximize casualties, she is going to find it. The episodes peters out a bit here as species 8472 begins to communicate through Kes in order to save money on CGI. The bioweapon works, destroying thirteen ships in one blow, and causing Species 8472 to retreat. Seven attempts to assimilate Voyager, but janeway and chakotay have kissed and made up conveniently, so they had a plan to disable her. Taking responsibility for her, they decide not to return her to the collective. More on that tomorrow. Voyager travels warily through Borg space with no guarantee they will not be assimilated. Ironically, that is exactly what they would have been doing in the first place. But who is counting, right?

The tension level of “Scorpion, Part II’ certainly does not match up with part I. Harry is saved during the first act with no fanfare at all. It is quite clear he was supposed to die for the sake of drama, but People caused a course correction. Instead, there is the telepathic connection affecting kes which will be the catalyst for Jennifer Lein’s departure instead. So much time is spent establishing seven, the resolution to the war between the borg and Species 8472 is rushed. Ditto the conflict between Janeway and Chakotay, which is patched up quickly for no other reason than the episode was running out of time. Still, it is a pivotal, must see episode. Not as good as the first, but the Borg are to Star Trek what the Daleks are to Doctor Who. even flawed episodes featuring them as villains are better than most.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Scorpion, Part I"

We have reached the end of the highly uneven third season. Fortunately, the season concludes on a very high note. In fact, it is the highest point of VOY thus far because it fulfills the promise of what the show was supposed to be--a ship, alone and desperate, attempting to survive against long odds when the crew has sharp philosophical differences on how to proceed. If only it had not taken nearly seventy episodes to fulfill that promise.

The biggest selling point is the return of the Borg. Say what you wish about “Unity,” the faux return of the Borg was a disappointment. More of a Borg hippie commune than the world conquering force of nature they are supposed to be. “Scorpion, Part I’ is a much needed course correction with the surprising twist of adding a new villain in Species 8472. They never quite caught on, as the Borg became the main villains of VOY instead, and it is not terribly hard to see why. There is not much there outside of their ability to easily mangle the Borg. There is also an underlying sense Species 8472 is too much like the Shadows from Babylon 5, but since I managed to avoid the B5 v. DS9 who ripped off who debate during my DS9 reviews, I would like to skip the comparison here, too.

Alas, this is still VOY. Therefore, its worst elements are still present. The most lighthearted--relatively speaking, of course--is Hard Luck Harry. The poor guy faces his worst fate yet, and perhaps the one that would have lead to Garrett Wang’s departure from the show. It is not really clue how all that came about other than the good publicity of People naming Wang among the fifty most beautiful people in the world. The other element is the most blatant example thus far of janeway’s hypocrisy and mental instability. Surely you saw that coming?

Voyager finds itself on the edge of Borg space when a probe they sent out months ago is captured by a cube. As luck would have it, they have also discovered a long patch of space through Borg territory in which there are no Borg cubes. Perhaps suffering from denial over their chances of escaping the Borg, they dub this area the Northwest Passage and assume it is their salvation. The real Northest Passage is an often unnavigable because of packed ice sea route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oeans by way of the Arctic. They should have chosen something more uplifting.

The atmosphere is wonderfully moody as the ship quietly sneaks through borg space in hopes of making it to the Northwest Passage undetected. The crew is on edge as they modift weapons to battle the quickly adapting Borg, prepare to stretch out meager supplies, and desperately brainstorm ways to battle assimilation. Matters are not helped when Kes begins having visions of piles of dead Borg and the destruction of Voyager. It turns out, she is in communication with Species 8472. They have been engaging in a brutally one-sided war in which the Borg are being wiped out.

The Borg are so distracted by the war, fifteen cubes pass by Voyager with little more than a quick scan before heading off to fight a new incursion. All fifteen are found disabled with most crew killed. Jjaneway, perhaps thinking the enemy of my enemy is my friend, opts to investigate what is left of the cubes. She orders chakotay, Tuvok, and Harry to beam over. If you have watched any Star Trek before, you know the least important guy on an away mission rarely makes it back. In this case, it is Hard Luck Harry.

I mentioned the overall dark mood is well done, but never quite so as when Chakotay, Tuvok, and Harry explore the disabled cube. Species 8472 has killed scores of them and stacked them up in piles of corpses. Surviving borg are minlesslessly attempting to assimilate organic material left over by the attack without success. The whole scene is apocalyptic. Kes has a prominition Harry is about to die--so did we, Kes--and urges their beam out. Janeway complies, but not before Harry gets punched in the stomach by a lone member of Species 8472.

The prognosis is grim. While he was not hit that hard, a few cells from Species 8472 imbeeded in his skin and a now literally eating Harry alive at the cellular level. It is the complexity of species 8472 that has kept the borg from assimilating them. However, the doctor has devised a way to modify Borg nanotechnology he took from the Borg corpse in “Unity” to allow them to sneak up on Species 8472 cells and assimilate them. But he may not be able to make enough to save harry in time. Worse yet, Torres discovers way the Borg have avoided the Northwest Passage--it is a long convoy of Species 8472 ships.

Here is where we switch from the Hard Luck Harry theme to Janeway coming unglued. There is not a good option other than turning around and looking for another way home from the Delta Quadrant. If they go forward, they either face assimilation by the Borg or destruction by Species 8472. Janeway refuses to accept that, so she comes up with an idea. She is going to offer the Bortg the modified nanotechnology that can destroy Species 8472 cells in exchange for safe passage across Borg space.

The crew unanimously thinks this is a bad idea. When the two are alone, Chakotay tells her the fable of the scorpion who talked a fox into swimming across the river with him on his back on the scorpion stung him so they both drowned because that is in his nature and whatnot. The fable is where the episode title originates. The point here, aside from the Starfleet v. maquis way of thinking conflict that ought to have been there all along, is that janeway has not only made up her mind to go through with the plan is spite of everyone’s objection, she demands Chakotay change his mind to agree with her. He says he will follow her orders, but thinks the plan is suicide. Janeway pouts that she is now truly alone. What level of narcissism do you have to suffer from to demand those under you not only cooperate with what you want, but acknowledge it is the only idea worth pursuing? That is how Janeway thinks.

Let us take a trip down memory lane while we are at it. Back in “Caretaker,”, Janewat stranded Voyager in the Delta Quadrant by destroying the array that could have gotten them home because she did not want the kazon to use it to commit genocide against the Ocampa. Theirs was a conflict she had no involvement in, but interjected herself because she thought it best to destroy a genocidal weapon. Here, she is going to give a genocidal weapon to one side of a war in exchange for a way to make getting home easier. Bonus points awarded for her planning to turn a medical treatment into such a weapon.

Flash ahead to the second season. In “Alliances,” Voyager has been repeatedly coming under attack by the Kazon because janeway refuses to share technology with them. The entire crew thinks perhaps negotiating with the kazon might be a good idea, even if it means giving them replicators and transporter technology. Janeway steadfastly thinks it is a bad idea, but she agrees based on keeping up crew morale. The matter blows up in her face when the side she chooses to negotiate with turns out treacherous, so she gets to arrogantly lecture everyone how she was right all along to eschew alliances with the enemy.

Now we have thrown both those points out the door with no explanation why Janeway has changed her mind other than which side of the bed she got up from this morning. This is how janeway makes her decisions. Her rationale and morals change daily, and she demands everyone not only cooperate with them, but agree wholeheartedly they are correct, even if she demanded everyone think the exact opposite yesterday. Janeway is crazy.

I doubt you need further proof, but if you do, consider the following. Rather than attempting to sneak through borg space as far as they can go, something which has proved successful until deciding to investigate the fifteen cube carnage, and use the bioweapon as a bargaining cghip if they get cornered, Janeway seeks out a cube to negotiate directly. Once she is on board, Species 8473 attacks and we go to the cliffhanger.

The latter half of my review sounds like I am down on ‘Scorpion, Part I.” Far from it. Janeway’s unhinged ways are so much a part of the show, it is difficult to hold it against the episode. Honestly, if this were any other show, the crew could mutiny against its captain and you would root for them as heroes. You just have to laugh as this point. The yuks do not stop here, either. Janeway is not quite done with being a looney tune just yet. We see that tomorrow. For now, “Scorpion, Part I” is the first VOY episode to earn five stars. It has flaws, but its triumphant return of the Borg is done as well as anyone could have hoped, and that is good enough.

Rating: ***** (out of 5)