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)

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