Thursday, September 8, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Night"

“Night” is the fifth season premiere. It is highly indicative of the fifth season as a whole, because it starts off strong, then peters out towards the end. I cannot help but feel the episode is supposed to be an hour long character study of the crew under the stress of long term isolation, but segues into an action/adventure in order to get away from all that static. The cynic in me thinks the characters as they have been presented thus far do not possess enough personality to carry an hour’s worth of insight into their psyches.

Want proof/ The premise of the episode is Voyager has been passing through a void in space for two months. There is are no planets, no stars, and o light. The crew is suffered from a severe case of cabin fever when news gets even worse--it will take two years to traverse the void. The crew does anything to occupy themselves. That translates to harry playing his flute, Tuvok staring at the stars, Neelix being sedated for panic attacks, and Tom, Mr. Sensitive himself, fighting with Torres over a board game. It amazes me how excited the shippers get over their romance when it is practically non-existent. The two do not even seem to like each other most of the time, much less be in love. But that is typical of VOY fans. They accept the tiniest things as character development. I was looking for all this to be an introduction to a deeper look, but then the episode switched gears to a generic alien encounter. So much for insight.

There is one exception that held some promise. Janeway has isolated herself in her quarters for a couple weeks now, leaving Chakotay in charge. The isolation of the void has given her time to soul search about her guilt over stranding the crew in the Delta Quadrant. It is a theme that should have been explored in the previous episode when Arturis accusation of Janeway’s self-righteous decision making not taking the consequences into account was blown off in favor keeping arturis as the definite villain. It would have been more interesting if Janeway’s motivation for moping about was Arturis instead of the void offering her time to think about other things, but that could just be me.

Regardless of the catalyst, it is promising to see Janeway have some doubts about her decisions for once rather than her usual motif of absolute certainty in her moral integrity that anyone who disagrees is too naïve to be taken seriously. It is also a nice touch, though I suspect not meant to be taken literally, that mean Chakotay confronts her for the first time, she appears intoxicated in that depressed drunk sort of way. Of course, Chakotay assures her the decision to destroy the Caretaker was the right one. The crew also rallies around her in the climax, so we still get the Janeway is Always Right Even When She is Wrong theme in full force. Jeri Taylor did even write this one, either.

As I said above, the personal stuff, such that it is, is quickly dumped for the aliens of the week. The ship is invaded by an alien whom the Doctor eventually discovers is dying of radiation poisoning. He discovers this after Janeway has recovered enough from her funk to shoot the thing with a rifle in order to halt his roaming about the ship. Because there is nothing that cheers her up more than shooting aliens. Or crewmembers, if no alien is available. The alien is the representative of the lone species who lives in the void. They are being poisoned by a Malon freighter captain who is illegally dumping toxic waste in the void to cut the overhead of his disposal business. Janeway intervenes, but the malon offer her a shortcut through the void if she will turn over the alien and keep quiet. Instead, she offers a method is safely disposing of the toxic waste. The method will put them out of business, so the captain refuses. Janeway destroys his ship and uses the shortcut anyway, thereby letting us all know she is back in fighting form.

"Night" is very much a run of the mill episode that winds up more disappointing because of its missed opportunities. A season premiere should be bigger than this, and the premise of a void forcing the crew to actually rely on each other for stimulation should have allowed for some good character moments. Instead, we retread old ground until aliens show up. Even the Janeway self-reflection falls short when she realizes she is every bit as awesome as she believes herself to be. I was bracing myself for a preachy environmental lesson which thankfully never came, so that is a relief. In all, “Night” is a typical VOY episode. There is not enough wrong with it to pan, but there is not enough good about to say it is anything but a watchable hour of television. You would think the powers that be would have kicked it up a notch for the season premiere, but no.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment