Monday, September 26, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Think Tank"

No matter how brilliant the man, he can always be mesmerized by a pair of breasts. Even Janeway’s. I like her smug look. Yes, they are real--and they are spectacular!

“Think Tank" is the "special” episode in which Jason Alexander made his first big acting appearance after Seinfeld took its final bow nearly a year before. Alexander is known to be a Trekkie. I think it is generally neat when famous fans make a guest appearance. That said, I am not a big fan of Seinfeld, so the novelty of heorge Costanza as an alien is not going to be a factor in my review. I thought it would be wise to get that out of the way.

I have mixed emotions about “Think Tank.” I appreciate it because it is different. The Think Tank itself is a genuinely weird creation rather than some typical alien species with a ship comparable to Voyager to battle. Their appearance sets up an intriguing concept by offering Seven a chance to change her life completely in a far better way than by serving as the Borg Queen’s lackey. There is even a hint of nostalgia for how much the plot feels like a TOS episode. But “Think Tank” falls apart in its implausible resolution and glaring continuity errors along the way. I do I rate a cool concept that is rife with errors and peters out towards the end? It is a tough choice.

Voyager comes under attack by a species of bounty hunters known as the Hazari. The ship is completely surrounded, and the crew has no idea how to escape. Salvation arrives in the form of Kurros and the Think Tank. They are a bunch of misfit geniuses how offer solutions to problems in exchange for unique items. Janeway is skeptical, but she is eventually won over once she realizes Voyager cannot escape without their help. The Think Tank sets its price. It is mostly recipes and various cultural items they have never seen before, but janeway nixes the deal at their biggest request--Seven.

The scene between Kurros and Janeway is unintentionally funny if you have been following my view of Janeway. When she learns the Think Tank wants seven, she calls the whole deal off. But Kurros asks her if she ought not check with Seven to see if she would like to join the Think Tank willingly. It apparently never occurred to Janeway Seven might appreciate the opportunity because she is so accustomed to controlling every aspect of her crew’s lives, but Seven’s in particular. It is hilarious to watch janeway suddenly realize she cannot speak on behalf of Seven on such a matter.

“Think Tank” looks like it could take an interesting turn when the plot seems to shift to Seven’s decision. As Kurros points out, she is doing little more than tedious errands for ship’s operations on Voyager when she could be working through challenging problems whose solution could have huge impact. She is intrigued by the prospect, but turns Kurros down because she now feels like she belongs on Voyager. I would like to have seen her contemplation drawn out more. Honestly, the eccentric Think Tank feels like a better fit for her personality, but seven gives the offer virtually no thought.

The plot degrades from there as we learn the Think Tank orchestrated the whole plot with the Hazari in order to force seven to join them. Once the ruse has been uncovered, Voyager and the Hazari team up to con the Think Tank so they can all escape with seven still safely a member of the crew. The big problem here is the con job is not that clever--Seven pretends to join so she can disable the Think Tank’s shields and gets beamed out before the Hazari attack. The concept is to outthink the Think Tank by cheating, but surely they could have seen that coming. What kind of geniuses are these guys? Answer--the kind created by Brannon Braga and Rick Berman in a preview of the idiocy that will be ENT.

I mentioned glaring continuity errors. When talking about the Think Tank’s past good deeds, he says they cured the Phage. But the Vidiians are 40,000 light years away at this point. How did the Think tank pull that off? If they can travel that distance in far less than forty years, why does it not occur to Janeway to ask them how they pulled it off? Or ask for some other solution to get back to the alpha Quadrant? When speculating on who might have hired the Hazari, Chakotay suggests the Malon or Devore. However, Voyager has traveled some 25,000 light years since encountering either one. Just how far does their space expand? Or are we just throwing continuity out the window these days/ it is a well known fact Braga and Berman do not care much for the concept.

A final verdict is difficult to reach. “Think Tank” ought to earn a low score for it missed opportunities and errors any marginally astute fan could identify. The Think Tank is not all that bright if they can fall for Janeway’s “cheating” them. For that matter, have they really done enough to merit implied deaths at the hands of the Hazari? Janeway thinks so. You really should not mess with that woman. Death is her middle name. Yet in spite of all these issues, “Think Tank” is highly entertaining. I am not entirely certain why. Whatever its appeal, I recommend the episode. It is not great, but in spite of its careless flaws, it is not bad, either.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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