Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Juggernaut"

The Captain Planet-esque villains the Malon are back, even though they should be 25,000 light years behind Voyager. Does this show not have a story editor maintaining continuity, or do the powers that be just not care anymore? Whichever the case, the Malon’s return is the catalyst for a generic race against the clock story against the backdrop of Torres’ anger management issues.

A Malon toxic waste transport malfunctions. The leaking radiation kills most of the crew. The transport is going to explode in a few hours. The explosion will spew toxic waste across three light years of inhabited space. Voyager responds to the survivors’ distress call. The crew offers to help. Torres is the expert on the away team even though she is struggling with anger management issues. There is lot of crawling, running, and jumping through the severely damaged transport. There is a villain revealed towards the end--a Malon dying a radiation poisoning who wants to blow up the ship in revenge. Torrs tries to reason with him, realizes that will not work, and then cuts loose on him. The day is saved. Torres is conflicted because she has been told to keep her emotions in check, but it was her violent impulses that saved the day. As much angst as VOY writers can manage ensues. She is television friendly naked during said angst so you will not notice the lackluster presentation of emotional turmoil.

The above summary is short and punchy because that is the nature of the episode. It is a pure point A to B to C story that is not elevated beyond typical action movie scenario by Torres’ anger issues. For one thing, it is difficult to sympathize with torres at this point. The character progresses and regresses with her emotional problems as the current episode requires. Where is the character growth? Why should I care how she is dealing with her problems when they are going to disappear next week only to reemerge the wekk after, only worse and--ooh--side boob! Nice. Um…where was I?

You get the idea.

I am not a big fan of the Malon, either. The Captain Planet analogy is apt. The cartoon villains the hero faced were one dimensional maniacs who polluted the environment just to be evil. Contrary to lefty fantasy, real polluters do not affect the environment out of pure villainy. It is negligence or corner cutting. The Malon dump their toxic waste because they do not care about anyone else and have demonstrated a willingness to attack anyone attempting to stop them. I have difficult time getting into them because I do not accept they would really do such a thing. I cannot even chalk their actions up to an alien rationale because the VOY writers clearly mean for the malon to represent corporate polluters.

It is not good storytelling to introduce a villain in the final act, nor is it very original to have said villain seeking revenge for his impending death because of his exposure to toxic waste,. At least he is not the mustache twirling villain the rest of the Malon come off as. He has some motivation for his actions, insane though it may be. Given the four writers credited on the script and his seemingly last minute involvement in the resolution, I suspect he is a late rewrite inclusion. Oft rewritten scripts rarely turn out well.

What is “Juggernaut” about? I have no idea. The environmentalism plot is so paint by numbers, it says nothing about the issue of toxic waste disposal. If that is supposed to be secondary to torres’ inner conflict, it does not fly. Is torres supposed to cast her anger aside and be more diplomatic/ if so, then why have her loss of anger succeed where her diplomacy failed/ I will concede the writers probably hope the contradiction is dramatic and will generate audience sympathy for her. On a show with better writers, it might, but since Torres is going to be completely in control until another story requires or not to be, it is difficult to care.

Call this nitpicking if you wish, but Neelix goes along on the mission to the transport to serve as a field medic in case the radiation for which the away team has been inoculated has any unexpected effects. Why Neelix/ Because tom, the regular field medic, is in a romantic relationship--by Star Trek standards, at any rate--and might serve as a calming influence on her. It is manufactured drama made worse because…well, it is Neelix as his replacement. Like the episode can afford to lose anymore credibility.

“Juggernaut” is Sandra Bullock’s Speed 2 meets Adam Sandler’s Anger Management. The two do not go together like chocolate and peanut better. There is a lot of eye candy on screen--atmospheric sets and special effects, not just Roxann Dawson with no shirt--but style over substance cannot carry cannot carry an hour of dramatic television. This one is for the cheap date torres fans only. Which is a shame. She is a highly underused character.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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