Sunday, September 11, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"In the Flesh"

“In the Flesh” in a cold War brinkmanship allegory done in 1998. As such, it feels more like a history lesson than a ripped from the headlines type story. As a history buff with a penchant for Cold War era paranoia done well, I can dig it to a certain extent, but it is difficult to appreciate the tension at a time when I have to be more concerned with acts of terrorism from religious fanatics instead of bloc of totalitarian ideological regimes.

The episode maintains a air of mystery up until the final act when the largely implausible resolution nearly kills it. We hit the ground running with Chakotay at what appears to be Starfleet Academy taking photos of the grounds. He encounters various people, including a woman named Valerie Archer. Retroactively speaking, ENT fans are contorting themselves in order to connect her to the NX-01 captain. Chakotay hooks up with Tuvok, but the two are cornered as they attempt an escape and must beam away with another Starfleet officer. He is played by Zach Galligan, but no Gremlins are in sight.

The Starfleet Academy simulation has been created by aliens in order to train agents to infiltrate the real deal. By studying the captured alien, the crew learns it is Species 8472. Species 8472 fears Starfleet plans to annihilate them after their huge defeat last season, so they want to gather all the intelligence they can while undermining the command structure. Tensions boil over when Chakotay is captured on a second recon mission and Janeway plans to use an even more powerful Borg nanotech weapon to get him back.

But she blinks. Instead, she offers to meet with the leadership. As an offer of good faith, she disarms Voyager’s weapons. During the negotiations, we learn of Species 8472’s misconceptions, such as they are. They think the Federation is allied with the Borg and share the desire to annihilate Species 8472. Not a terrible assumption, really. Janeway did use a biological weapon against them while fighting alongside the Borg and just now threatened them with a larger one. Species 8472’s fear seems even more misguided considering how weak the Federation is compared to the Borg. Of course, that brings up the question of why the Borg have never invaded Earth en masses as opposed to one cube at a time, but it is probably best not to dwell on that.

The two sides clarify matters in the hopes the leadership of Species 8472 will accept the Federation is not it enemy. The strangest aspect of the plan is Janeway’s agreement to show Species 8472 the Wmd they were going to use to kill them all. That sounds more like it could backfire. You know, Species 8472 might look at this genocidal weapon and decide those Federation folks are even sicker than we thought. Invade now before they come up with something worse! But I do not have the peacenik mindset of a Star Trek writer, so perhaps I draw the wrong conclusion.

I will gran them this--Janeway being the one to make a peace overture calls to mind Spock;s line that, ’Only Nixon can go to China.” Nixon was a fierce opponent of communism. If he could show that someone like him was willing to make peace with communists, it meant more than someone who already willing to accept peace with them. Since Janeway is responsible for ending the war between Species 8472 and the Borg by use of a genocidal weapon against the former, it does make sense for her to be the one to give up the weapon and seek peace. It means more because, as we have established many times over, Janeway is crazy with bloodlust.

It is also worth noting that species 8472 sends Boothby the gardener, a commander who would rather be a librarian, and an admiral to negotiate. Boothby, the least of them, takes the lead in negotiating, backed by the commander, while the admiral remains a hard line. So the civilian and the wannabe civilian are on board, with Janeway giving up the farm, but the toughest military guy is not going for it. Translation: the military is going to get us all killed. Like I said, peacenik writers and their misconceptions. It is the military that is less likely to take the position leading to war. They have seen too many friends die for that to be the first option.

“In the Flesh” feels out of time and with an ending that is not very well thought through, but it is not a decent effort. Species 8472 rides off into the sunset as a less than stellar villain, but their exit does give the Borg a chance to come front and center. They never resonated with me, truth be told, so am not sorry to see them go, even if it is in a less than satisfying manner. As a Babylon 5 fan, I cannot help but draw parallels to the Shadows using humans for most of their exposition in order to save an CGI, but I have avoided the obvious comparisons between the Shadows and Species 8472 thus far, so I will stop there. Otherwise, ‘In the Flesh” is very well worth watching, but not great.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment