Saturday, September 10, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Extreme Risk"

I have complained frequently that character development on VOY is non-existent. The writers cannot even pull it off well in a character-centric episode unless it is about Seven or the Doctor, and even then, it is not always that great. A prime case in point is “Extreme Risk.” While there is a lot of promise in Torres, who is normally an emotionally immature person, confronting her feelings regarding the deaths of her comrades in the Maquis, it heads into emo kids cutting themselves territory with emotional resolution coming with torres concocting a typical techno babble solution to a problem. Like I said, emotionally immature, obviously with no chance of improvement

Torres’ emotional issues, such as they are, happen against the backdrop of a second encounter with the Captain Planet villains, the Malon. They are attempting to steal a probe Voyager sent out because its advanced properties may be able to discover new spatial rifts in which to dump toxic waste. Voyager sends the probe into a gaseous giant to protect it from capture. This plotline becomes a Cold War space race allegory as the crew and the Malon compete in building a new shuttle capable of braving the gaseous giant to retrieve the probe.

Building the new Delta Flyer ought to be an engineer’s dream, but Torres is distracted by holodeck adventures in which she engages in the most dangerous activities imaginable--orbital skydiving, hand-to-hand combat with Cardassians, and testing the hull integrity of the Delta Flyer--with the safety protocols off. It seem obvious she wants to kill herself, but not to go down deliberately by her own hand. When Chakotay investigates, he learns she created a program that reenacts the slaughtering off the Maquis the day after she learned it happened. He confronts her over under the assumption she wants to die in order to join them.

He is off the mark, however. Turns out, she does not feel a thing about their deaths. Chakotay even confesses a death wish to have perished along with the Maquis upon viewing the program. But Torres feels nothing. She has been taking part in all these dangerous programs because physical pain lets her feel something. Anything. I should probably be more sympathetic, but with the way Torres is so often played emotionally, she comes across as a whiny emo girl cutting herself for attention.

No matter, though. She snaps out of it long enough to join the shuttle mission to retrieve the probe. During the mission, she improvises a repair for a hull breach which saves everyone. This fixes all her emotional issues. To make the resolution even more pointless, the Malon cannot escape the gaseous giant, so the tension of the space race was all for naught. When one side sputters from the beginning, where is the tension?

“Extreme Risk” is a lost opportunity. It would be far more poignant if torres actually did have to work through a death wish rather than doing all these crazy things as a cry for help. I will concede Torres has some abandonment issues, with her father leaving at a young age, being booted out of Starfleet, and now the Maquis all dying on her. So testing the waters to see if anyone cares about her makes some twisted sense. What it does not make is satisfactory drama. “Extreme Risk” is an example of VOY’s frequent problem of building up episodes well, only to have the last act deflate it all. What is really amazing is that both the A and b stories falter when they finally intersect.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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