Monday, October 10, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"One Small Step"

Savor this review, folks. ‘One Small Step” is the best episode in a coming string of really bad installments. That is not saying much, either. Over the next week or so, we are going to be exposed to cheap moralizing over the belief in conspiracy theories, a rehash of a TNG character’s phobia, a holodeck malfunction, the blatant labialization of a not obscure enough novel to keep the theft hidden, and a misunderstanding between human and alien aesthetics before we get a breather, then start back up with seven fighting a Wwe wrestler, a bunch of kids join the cast, and the holodeck malfunctions--again. It is going to be a bumpy ride.

So is “One Small Step.” Always be afraid when multiple writers are credited for a script. If there is more than two, the episode is a dud. “One small step” has six--count ’em--six writers credited. The high number amazes me because so much of the story elements are recycled from past episodes. voyager just happens to run into an artifact from Earth again. Chakotay demonstrates another never before mentioned and hereafter ignored interest again. We flashback to the past again. Although the episode centers around another character, it becomes a seven learns about humanity episode again. There is nothing orginal here other than a main character’s obsession causes him to do something stupid and nearly get everyone killed. Again, I might add.

I mentioned “One Small Step” is supposed to be centered on a character other than Seven. At some point during the various rewrites, it obviously switched from Chakotay to her. Observing without knowing any specific behind the scenes drama other than Robert Beltran’s open complaints about the show, the final product comes across as a big knock on Chakotay. Save for playing janeway’s conscience in the season premiere, Chakotay has fallen into the background. He has had a line ort two here and there, but he has gotten around ten or fifteen minutes of screen time per episode and his performance in those has been incredibly dull. When he gets the chance to take center stage here, well…he is the one who does something stupid and nearly gets everyone killed. The remainder of the episode is seven saving the day and learning another lesson about humanity. That is what you get for whining, Beltran!

We open up in 2032 on the Ares II, one of the first manned missions to Mars. It is sort of melancholy to watch, considering outr space program has more or less mothballed these days. The Ares II, Piloted by John Kelly, gets lost within an anomaly. Lo and behold, three hundred years later, the same anomaly is in the Delta Quadrant and Voyager just happens to stumble across it. They discover the Ares II is inside. Chakotay, the boxing folklorist with a penchant for comparative religions and anthropology, suddenly announces he is an archeologist, too. He wants to recover the ship.

Janeway goes along with the idea out of her exploratory nature and the likelihood someone will get killed with Chakotay in charge. Seven cannot figure out why Janeway would risk her crewmembers’ lives to retrieve some space junk. Questioning Janeway’s wisdom inadvertently volunteers her for the mission. Story needs suggest Janeway orders seven on he mission for her to understand the importance of history, but come on. We both know Janeway is just punishing her.

Halfway through this excruciatingly slow episode, we actually get to the shuttle mission with Tom, Seven, and Chakotay. There is some techno babble problem with the electromagnetism of dark matter, which is total crap since dark matter does not give off electromagnetism. Diaster could be averted if Chakotay would drop the tractor beam so the shuttle can escape and come back later for the Ares II. chakotay refuses, so they get hit by a wave of..I dunno. Orange CGI. Whatever it is, Chakotay is injured and they all trapped.

The only way out is--wait for it--to use a part from the three hundred year old Areas II ro repair the shuttle. Seven is going to go over there, but not before she berates Chakotay for nearly getting them all killed in the name of old space junk. Take that, Beltran! It ain’t Beltran’s episode no more as seven enters the Ares II. she discovers Kelly’s logs and listens to them while getting the part she needs. His excitement being out here in space teaches her that both janeway and Chakotay were right to risk so much to retreive his ship. They escape on the shuttle. The episode ends with a proper funeral for Kelly.

What is wrong with ‘One Small Step?” For one, it is contrived with so many repeat elements from past episodes. After meeting Amerlia Earhart alive, a 21st century astronaut dead is quaint. The pacing is glacial. It takes half the episode just to get inside the Ares II. There is no reason why this ought to be a seven episode at all, much less switch gears from Chakotay to her. Granted, Beltran is just phoning it in at this point (you do not know how hard I am resiting a wooden cigar store Indian joke here) but it is not letting him have good moments with chakotay that are causing him to do that. “One Small Step’’ is meant to be a love letter to space exploration no matter the sacrifice, but there is nothing inspiring about it.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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