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)

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