Sunday, October 9, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Dragon's Teeth"

I want to like “Dragon’s Teeth.” I honestly do. It has some highly thought provoking elements that work well through the first three acts. Then the final two, in true VOY fashion, completely destroy everything that went before with mindless action, techno babble, illogical behavior, and Janeway disregarding the Prime Directive in order in a way that allows for genocide. In other words, typical VOY.

Since Joe Menosky and Brannon Braga wrote “Dragon’s Teeth,” my cynical nature compels me to think Menosky wrote the first three acts and Braga drafted the final two. There is no proof for that beyond the respective acts fitting each writer’s thought processes. I do know the original plan was for the episode to be another movie, but the idea was nixed, and twhen it later felt like the original movie idea was a better one, too late to do so. The story has been compressed, so it has obviously lost something. Alas, I have to review what made it to the screen, not what might have been.

The episode begins with Voyager falling into a corridor in space. The corridor has numerous branches, so it is like a maze. The ship encounters a vessel of the Toral. The toral help Voyager escape, but demand all sensor data about the corridors. Janeway refuses to be boarded, so Voyager gets chased into a planet with an atmosphere that can hide it from detection. The planet turns out to be suffering nuclear winter for the last nine hundred years.

When they detect life signs below the surface, an away team beams down to find a couple in stasis. Seven, who has a newfound interest in rebuilding civilizations to alleviate her guilt for assimilating countless people as a Borg, revises the male, but the female is dead. Janeway ought to be angry about the prime directive violation, but she has opted to revive people from stasis on two previous occasions, so perhaps the hypocrisy would have been too much for her. Not that being a hypocrite has ever bothered her before.

The male is named Gedrin. His people were called the Vaadwaur. The Vaadwaur created the corridor Voyager accidentally fell into. Gedrin claims they used the corridor in order to explore space under the similar principles as the federation. They have been to Talaxia. The Talaxian even used Vaddwaur as an archaic term meaning foolish. That is a point that ought to send up alarm bells, but does not.

The Toral, unable to follow into the irradiated atmosphere, are gathering reinforcements to attack Voyager as it flees. Gedrin suggests reviving all the other Vaadwaur in stasis. They will fire up their old fighters and keep the Toral at bay while Voyager escapes. They want to be taken to a new homeworld in exchange. Janeway agrees, so screw the Prime Directive. There are only two hundred men, women, and children left of the Vaadwaur, but Janeway revives their entire civilization.

Remember there are children. In case you forget, there is a scene thrown in which features Naomi Wildman explaining to Neelix she does not want to play with the Vaadwaur children because they make fun of her. I have no idea what purpose the scene serves other than to empjasize there are Vaddwaur children and maybe that they are brats. Perhaps the latter is meant to ease your conscience as what Janeway is about to do to them.

The connection to the Talaxian language prompts Neelix to search through ancient literature for how Vaadwaur came to mean foolish. When he discovers the term is associated with invaders who appear in the skies from out of nowhere, he has seven cross reference all the species the Borg have assimilated. Sure enough, the Vaddwaur were busy little beavers nine hundred years ago. They used the corridor to sneak attack other planets until a coalition formed to nuke them into oblivion. Gedrin assures Janeway that they are not like that anymore, but his buddies have by this time realized they cannot do squat with weapons nearly a thousand years out of date, so they decide they want Voyager.

So Janeway decides to forge an alliance with the Toral fleet above. As an act of good faith, which in television logic gets him killed, Gedrin helps rewire a satellite in orbit so the Toral can target the Vaadwaur ships. There is a nifty CGI battle between the Vaadwaur and the Toral as Voyager speeds away, but the Vaadwaur are obviously no match with their ancient weapons. In case you could not fill in the blanks, the last scene involves seven informing Janeway only a few Vaadwaur ships have survived to make it into the corridor. For all intents and purposes, they are wiped out. Seven feels guilty that her attempt to restore the Vaadwaur resulted in their genocide. Janeway shrugs her off by implying since some survived, it is not a complete genocide. Ergo, Seven should not feel too guilty. We all know what Janeway means. Her decision not only lead to the deaths of men, women, and children, but an entire species thought extinct was revived, then massacred for good by a Janeway decision. Now there is a real feather in her cap.

I do not believe my review does justice to how schizo “Dragon’s Teeth” is. It is not until the fourth act we discover the truth about the Vaadwaur. Until that point, the story is a fascinating tale of a people far out of their time looking for a new home. Seven’s need to atone for her past acts of assimilation by helping them do so is wonderfully poignant for a character who shows about as much emotion as Tuvok. Even the final scene in which she expresses guilt her actions resulted in the end of yet another civilization is poignant in spite of janeway’s flippant behavior. But the last two acts..geez.

The end is othing but a CGI battle that has no good reason for being. Janeway switches allegiance to the Toral knowing full well they are going to kill every last Vaadwaur, because they told her they would. I understand the lives of her crew are at stake, but does it not seem likely Janeway would have some moral qualms about the impending slaughter? Is the fact the Vaadwaur lied to her enough to merit their doom in her eyes? The only thing supporting her callous viewe is that Gedrin agrees to help the Toral find and kill the remaining Vaadwaur, which means he thinks his own people need to be eliminated to save the Delta Quadrant. That is supposed to assure the audience it needs to be done, so Janeway is on the side of angels. But how are two hundred Vaadwaur using nine hundred year old weapons going to be a threat to anyone? The idea defies all logicIt does satisfy Janeway’s bloodlust, however, so there is that.

As I said above, I want to like “Dragon’s Teeth,” but I can only kill it with faint praise. No matter how good a set up is, a bad ending will negate it. The story falters badly after a promising start. The ending is a mindless battle in which none of the decisions which lead to it are questioned morally even though the consequence will be huge. I will give some points for the CGI, too. Voyager landing among city ruins within a nuclear winter setting is fantastic. So it the space battle, but a pretty sight does not overcome the idiocy that put it there.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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