Monday, October 3, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Equinox, Part II"

“Equinox, Part II” is the sixth season premiere of VOY and the concluding chapter of the story begun in the fifth season finale. The two part story is notorious for the first part Having been written without a conclusion in mind. While Star Trek has often done that in the past, “Equinox, Part II” is well known for its radical departure from the opening episode.

It has been a running theme in these reviews, both serious and tongue in cheek, that Janeway is crazy. She has made many reckless, often morally contradictory decisions over the years which have often made her come across as a vicious madwoman. ‘Equinox, Part II’ is that version of Janeway on steroids. She is so over the top in her obsession to catch Ransom I would suspect her act is parody if I were not too busy wondering how bruised relationships are going to be patched up in the end.

Star Trek has done the theme of an obsessed captain many times and done it well. Think Kirk/Khan, Picard/Borg, and Sisko/Eddington. I do not think Archer ever managed to find himself in such a spot, did he? All three of those conflicts have their key moments of high emotion. They are not all created equal, but I can say Janeway/Ransom comes in dead last the problem is a combination of typical VOY and typical Janeway. For the former, it is bad writing. For the latter, she is an insane hypocrite yet again.

The lackluster cliffhanger is resolved in a likewise manner. All Janeway has to do is suck from the alien attacking her and raise the shields again. The sequence offers ransom enough time to establish some distance between the Equinox and Voyager to set up the chase. But not too much distance. Seven has locked ransom out of his warp drive technology, so it becomes a race for him to get the access codes out of her before Janeway finds him.

Let me preface the following discussion on Janeway’s subsequent behavior by acknowledging she has a right to be angry. Ransom has betrayed Starfleet, committed mass murder, kidnapped Seven, and left Voyager to the mercy of the aliens he has been killing. Those acts merit subduing him. The problem is Janeway abandons Starfleet principles herself. When she captures a member of the Equinox crew, she locks him in a cargo bay and threatens to lower the shields so the aliens can kill him if he does not talk. Chakotay thinks she is bluffing, but she is not. He has to go in and rescue the guy. It is an act which gets him relieved of duty and confined to quarters. Later, Janeway discovers how to communicate with the aliens. She offers to let them have the Equinox crew, which means certain death for them. When Tuvok objects, she threatens to relieve him of duty and confine him to quarters, too. Janeway is planning to allow mass murder in order to save her crew exactly as Ransom did, but refuses to listen to anyone who points that out.

Meanwhile, Ransom is having second thoughts. The catalyst for his soul searching is not so much guilt over the murders he has committed--that is only the starwa that breaks the camel’s back--but that removing the Doctor’s ethical program and forcing him to literally extract the codes from her implants is wrong. It is always about a pretty woman, is not?at least Ransom’s change of heart offers a stark contrast to Janeway’s plan to allow the aliens to rip him and his crew to shreds in order to put an end to the conflict.

In the end, Ransom returns the Doctor and seven, beams his crew safely to Voyager, and allows the aliens to kill him as a warped sense of justice without Janeway being culpable. Ransom’s sacrifice shakes her back to reality instead. It also resolves the issues of getting rid of actor John Savage and the aliens, neither of which are seen again. Not that it is necessary, since none of the Equinox crew who join Voyager are ever seen again, either. Janeway and Chakotay patch things up with a pot luck dinner (Yes, really) so there will be no lasting repercussions.

“Equinox, Part II’ is tough to rate. There is a definite feel a mess was dropped into the laps of the writers to figure out how to resolve. There are some good ideas here, but they are executed poorly. Janeway has a right to be angry and a duty to stop Ransom, but she goes too far, thereby negating her moral authority. Ransom ought to have a change of heart considering how adamantly he supposedly believes in federation principles, but for the sake of drama, there needs to be a plausible catalyst. Certainly, he does not want to hurt seven and her loyalty to Janeway ought to move him, but it is guilt over mass murder that ought to do it for him. It does not until the final act and that is solely because the resolution demands it. There is no logical personal journey for him. High emotions get wrapped up too fast in order for the status quo to return by the end.

If I had to nail it down, I would say the episode tries to do too much in too little time. It is worth watching, does not feel worthy of a season premiere. You really do not want to start a new season with the captain alienating her crew by going off half-cocked on a mission of revenge unless building their trust back up is going to be a theme of the season. But guess what? This is VOY, so all the powers that be are going to do is ignore the impact of it all. A particularly conspicuous problem considering the survivors of the Equinox are now Voyager crewmembers.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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