Saturday, October 22, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Good Shepherd"

“Good Shepherd” is a nice change of pace from the type of episodes we have suffered through as of late. It is not a particularly involved or original story, but it is a pleasant hour of VOY without any of the usual pronounce flaws. It is a sad state of affairs when such faint praise is considered a high compliment, but that is late season VOY for you.

“Good Shepherd” has hints of TNG’s ”Lower Decks” with its emphasis on junior crewmen in over their heads. We even get the same feel of Picard’s clique being far separated from the lower deck characters with some nifty camera angles and long shots comparing Janeway’s position on the ship--above everyone else, naturally--and those of our misfit characters, who are at the lowest of the low. The plot brings them all together as Janeway leads a routine away mission to get them more involved in ship’s operations.

The three junior crewmembers include a jittery screw up, a hypochondriac, and a loner who needed a year’s worth of deep space experience in order to get into an astrophysics study program. These three are the kind of crewmembers who would have either washed out or been reassigned by now to find be suitable places for them, but stranded in the Delta Quadrant, Janeway as little recourse but whip them into shape the best way she can. I use the term whip deliberately. She winds up shooting the hypochondriac before the episode’s end. Granted, he was possessed by an alien, but you just know she was itching to seriously injure one of them as a message to the other two she means business. The sad part is that it works, though it had to work that quickly as time was running out.

It is the timing that is “Good Shepherd”’s biggest flaw. We spend a lot of time getting to know the crewmember’s and their trouble’s. The only one who goes beyond stereotype is the loner. As I said above, he never wanted to join Starfleet. He had to have a year of space service to continue his studies. Now he is stranded in the Delta Quadrant for likely decades. He is extremely angry at Janeway for ruining his life. It should come as no surprise Janeway is flippant about his complaints, which I am not entirely convinced is not a passive-aggressive response to his general insubordination. Or maybe she feeds of the broken lives of others. Who knows? What I do know is that when antimatter aliens appear in the fourth act to finally get the action started, it all ends with an explosoion and everything turning out all right in the end.

What were those antimatter aliens and what did they want? We do not know. They were just ghrow in there in order to have a science fiction element added to the personal drama. There is no point to them being there, and the time spent on what little involvement there was with them caused time to run short for a decent resolution to the crewmembers’ stories. In short, everything is all right because the writers say it is. We will never see any of these characters again, anyway.

In the grand scheme of things, “Good Shepherd” is a missed opportunity. The conflict of VOY was supposed to be about Starfleet and Maquis personnel forced to work together even though they resent each other exasperated by the cabin fever inherent of being trapped in a flying tin can for 75 years. There ought to be a lot more drama bording on mutiny. But not only are these crewmen not maquis, they are not even the amoral Equinox crew. There was an opportunity here to revisit old themes in a moment of rare continuity, but it gets thrown out the window in favor of three characters we have never seen before who are just having a hard time fitting in. If the narrative goes the Voyager crew has held together all this time because Janeway has firmly maintained the chain of command, why is she noe acting like everyone’s buddy? The away mission feels at times like a teenage slumber party. Janeway is surprisingly subdued even when she is being berated for stranding them in the Delta Quadrant. Then again, I do think much of her response was passive aggressive. She did get to shoot one of them, too, and that was the catalyst for everything falling into place with them. Maybe janeway is being consistent here after all.

“Good Shepherd” is not great, bt it is different enough to merit viewer interest. We do not get to know or care about these junior crewmembers like we did in “Lower Decks,’ nor do we come away with any new perspective on Janeway. The alien encounter is ridiculously abrupt and leaves us hanging. Nevertheless, the episode has fewer flaws than most of the entries in the sixth season, so it wins a passable grade.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment