Friday, October 21, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Child's Play"

I feel compelled to make screen caps like this one every now and then just to highlight how VOY frequently uses out of the ordinary camera angles just to emphasize Jeri Ryan’s anatomy. You cannot tell by the screen caps, but when Ryan is being shot from behind, she only allows a shot to hold for a second or two before clasping her hands behind her back, which offers some cover for her derriere. This happens so often, I wonder if it is a conscious act on her part to not be so exploited. Jolene Blalock would go on to complain her breasts were treated with the same odd angle shots on ENT. It seems to be a Star Trek motif to bring in the fourteen year old male eyeballs and hopefully distract from the awful scripts. It is just an observation that struck me as odd considering what a pivotal conversation the two characters are having above. It is not the conversation to which the viewer is paying attention.

Star Trek has a peculiar habit of maintaining a certain story for four acts, then offering up a twist in the final act that serves two purposes: shock value and the rendering of all previous acts mute. It is a risky storytelling technique. If the twist fails to satisfy, everything that went before, even if it was engrossing, feels like a waste. “child’s Play” is unique. It fit’s the formula of a wild twist negating the previous acts that boggles the mind, yet what went before was so well done, the episode is not a total wash. It is amazing. Voyager often fails by accident, but it rarely succeeds in spite of its incompetence.

It is a Seven episode, of course, but cleverly disguised as an Ichab episode. Voyager locates Ichab’s parents. How they do this is never established, but the poor kid is the progeny of Tracey Ellis, who played two different mentally ill characters on The X-Files, and Romo Lampkin himself, Mark Shephard, with a bloodline like that, we all should have seen something was up from the beginning.

“Child’s Play” appears to set up a cosmic custody battle. That aspect of the episode is done quite well. Seven has not only grown attached to Ichab as a member of her surrogate family, his imminent departure brings back strong emotions about her parents. Whether it was because of direct negligence or not, they allowed Ichab to be assimilated by the borg just as her parent’s did. They did not put their child first just as seven’s parents put their research goals ahead of her best interests. Seven rationalizes any excuse--it is a backward, agricultural planet, Ichab has special medical needs, and he is a genius as astrophysics, but there will be no resources for him to pursue that field of study--to convince his parents to give him up. She is bolstered early on by Ichab’s reluctance to remain with parents he does not remember. But he eventually warms up to them and decides to stay.

All the things I just described are what the episode does well. It is an interesting and emotional story about Seven coming to terms with childhood trauma, Ichab finding the place where he belongs, and a broken family reuniting. Then it gets blown all to smithereens by the twist.

Seven discovers, quite by accident, Ichab was not assimilated in a freak happenstance like his father told her, but was alone in a shuttlecraft at the time. As it turns out, Ichab’s people are geniuses with gentics and created him as a biological weapon. His home planet is less than a light year away from a Borg transwarp conduit. Anytime they detect new technology, they come through the conduit, kick some heinie, and assimilate the technology. The plan was for Ichab to be assimilated and introduce a pathogen which destroyed whichever borg Cube he was on. Keep in mind it is deliberately stated the pathogen will only destroy the Borg on the ship in which Ichab is traveling, not the whole Borg Collective. Now that he is back, Ichab’s parents plan to do it again before Voyager rescues him from a Borg Sphere.

So we go from an emotional drams wherein ichab’s parents appear desperate to reunite with a son they thought lost forever to learning the only thing they are happy about is getting a second shot at killing some Borg. Think about it. This is not really committing an evil act for the greater good argument, though I think the writer intended it to be. Ichab is only going to kill off the Borg on one ship. Not only will that not stop the borg from attacking the planet, but it is likely to bring on an armada to investigate. When the Borg do, will they not decide the people on the only inhabited planet nearby are responsible and wipe them out/ maybe the Borg would not go to that extreme, but they are not going to be discouraged from attacking, either. Ichab’s parents are essentially Al Qeada--destroy the World Trade Center and surely the united states will not retaliate with what would likely be a generational war, right?

Upon his rescue and permanent return to Voyager, Ichab laments that since was never intended to be anything but a weapon against the Borg, perhaps he has failed to fulfill his destiny. (Never mind that he already killed off an entire cube’s worth of Borg, minus the children.) The destiny angle is glossed over for the usual message of self-determination for ex-Borg who have been liberated from the Borg Collective. I am okay with that. As one who frequently measures the moral shades of gray in acts for the greater good on this blog, even I have to say having a kid to blow up a single ship is completely wrong. It reminds me of Hamas loading up their kids with dynamite and marching them off to murder as many Israelis as possible. That ain’t like dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, folks.

‘child’s play” is not a bad episode in spite of the weird climactic turn it takes. I still found Seven’s emotional turmoil interesting enough to overlook the cheap con job we were given with Icghab’s parents. If they had been genuine, too, the episode might have ranked as above average. Not great, mind you. The personal drama is not that significant, but the ending comes so far out of left field, one feels cheated by everything but the goings on with Seven. But in the otherwise terrible sixth season, that is enough to merit calling “Child’s Play” a highlight.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment