Friday, June 23, 2017

On Rewatching Star Trek: Voyager - Season 7

Because this is the final season, I'm flipping the script so this series of reviews ends on a more positive note. Positive-ish. Just remember, I'm a Voyager fan. It is possible to be a huge fan and see the flaws at the same time, though I realize that's a controversial stance.

Season 7 losers:

"Repression" - Eh, it's not truly terrible but I find the holographic detective work to be annoyingly convenient. It's the Star Trek version of "Can you zoom in on that?" It's The Manchurian Candidate in space.

"Lineage" - B'Elanna goes psycho. I don't care how traumatized you are that some kids were slightly mean to you as a child, you can't reprogram the Doctor (who we've established is a being deserving the same legal rights as any sentient being) to force him to reprogram your baby.

"Prophecy" - Wow, really seems like I hate B'Elanna, doesn't it? I don't - I just have never found the Klingons to be a very interesting species, so these kinds of episodes are a bit of a slog. (And pretty condescending to the intelligence of religious people, too.)

"Human Error" - Shouldn't there be a rule against using your fellow crew members as holographic templates to explore your sexual desires? It seems like a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen.

"Friendship One" - Why regret humanity's early mistakes when you can magic them away with the joy of technology? Also, the idea that a probe with diagrams and one Vivaldi song on it led to the destruction of a planet feels a bit disingenuous. The people living there had no responsibility for their own fates? Riight.

"Natural Law" - Star Trek often falls prey to the Noble Savage fallacy, and it's especially icky and condescending here. I have so many un-PC thoughts about this episode, I'd better leave it at that. Also, it highlights the supreme lack of any romantic sparkage between Seven and Chakotay.

Season 7 highlights:

"Inside Man" - Evil Reg? Yes please! Also, I appreciate that in this episode even Harry Kim knows better than to get his hopes up too far. Going home won't be that easy for at least another twenty episodes!

"Body and Soul" - Jeri Ryan does some first-class work here as the Doctor in Seven's body. I've always loved the body-switch storyline, which I think that Will Shakespeare would have milked for all it was worth.

"Flesh and Blood" - A two-parter about the results of sharing technology. The Hirogens have effed up majorly, and created a smart, self-aware race of holograms who can demolish them. When Voyager finally gets home, AI rights are going to have to be seriously revised, and the moral implications of the holodeck better examined by Star Fleet's lawyers.

"Repentance" - So, I put this in here because I like what they're going for. It's clunky and preachy, but Star Trek characters having to respect a culture that still has the death penalty is an idea worth exploring. It's not great, but it is interesting. What if we someday could cure people of criminality? Should we? Maybe that question would have made a better story....

"The Void" - This episode is in my Top Five. I love the way Janeway forges alliances by being open-handed when common sense and circumstances seem to call for more Machiavellian tactics. I even like the little void aliens who learn to communicate with data pads. This is an episode where I fully buy into the superiority of Star Fleet ethics.

"Author, Author" - Okay, I really like the Doctor. So sue me. When his fellow crewmates are goody-goodies, he can be refreshingly human and flawed. (I see the irony, yes.) Here he experiments with writing his own version of a social issue novel (like Black Beauty, but for holograms), putting his friends into a terrible light by using their likenesses and caricatured personalities. It's an ambitious episode that also manages to be fun.

"Renaissance Man" - So I REALLY like the Doctor. It's hilarious to see his lies grow exponentially as he basically starts replacing the command crew one by one - for reasons we don't fully understand at first.

"Endgame" - In an uncharitable mood, I might summarize the final double episode this way: "In which we discover the answer to the central theme of Voyager: who will Seven of Nine get with?" I wish they had just left her single and ready to mingle in the Alpha Quadrant. If anything, Chakotay should have gone with Janeway, where there was some actual chemistry and a believable history to draw from (remember "Resolutions" from Season 2?). Nonsensically pairing off all of your characters is the laziest kind of fanservice.


Further, I'm disappointed in the Doctor's inappropriately young, blonde wife - I wish they had cast an older woman to illustrate his maturity as a character.

But boy, it's nice to see these kids get home in one piece after 172 episodes that were by turns preachy, derivative, smart, fun.... I could go on. In "Endgame" I love elderly Janeway giving the finger to time cops everywhen to fulfill her greatest mission (cough - Ahab - cough). The Borg are a superior kind of enemy for her to fight, and a final faceoff with the Borg Queen was the only way to go.

Bravo. Here's to Voyager.

Friday, June 16, 2017

On Rewatching Star Trek: Voyager - Season 6

Season 6 highlights:

"Equinox, Part II" - A less episodic show would have made better use of the morally bankrupt crew of the Equinox and what they represent to Voyager's crew. Still, it's fun to see a Star Fleet ship who cling fast to their bad morals. And considering some of Janeway's later actions, I'm not sure she has much room to judge....

"Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy" - I'm not sure these bulky fish-like aliens were ever named in the show, but when they appear it's always with a semi-clever and completely greedy scheme. The poor Doctor gets no privacy even in his own head, which means that his Walter Mitty-esque daydreams get peered into by practically everyone.

"Dragon's Teeth" - The enemy of my enemy is my friend - except when your enemy's enemy is a species considered long-extinct that has a thirst for conquest. I always love an episode when those who have our full sympathy in the beginning become antagonists in the end - remember the Trabe in Season 2's "Alliance"?

"One Small Step" - The Star Trek universe is so cushy that it makes our current space program look like the difference between glamping and digging your own toilet hole. Which only reminds me of the incredible courage and curiosity of astronauts. Even Seven of Nine is moved by the story of a long-lost explorer hero, and his lonely fate.

"Blink of an Eye" - This is the kind of story that really needs a novel to tell. The idea of a planet so extremely out of sync with the rest of the galaxy is fascinating, and I love the wax-figure Voyager we get to see. (Also - the Doctor had a son and no one thinks that is important?!)

"Virtuoso" - This is one of my favorite Doctor-centric episodes, when he gets to be virtuoso and clown all in the same story. The tiny but intellectually arrogant Qomar are a great foil to the Doctor as he doesn't even bother resisting his own inborn arrogant impulses, encouraged by their adulation. He gets famous for 15 minutes, just like the rest of us.

"Ashes to Ashes" - What a fabulous premise - a species that reproduces by using the dead of other species. I was talking to some fellow Star Trek nerds, and we speculated that having one of these as a starship captain would be a great character setup for a series. We can dream.... Of course, Voyager uses this premise to shoehorn in a love story for Harry Kim. Poor Kim, he always got a raw deal.

"Live Fast and Prosper" - It is really, really fun to see the alternative universe version of the morally mighty Star Trek characters, even just for a moment. It's amusing that one of the con artists over-invests in his role as Tuvok, too.

"Life Line" - Counselor Troi tries some tricky head-shrinking to get the bickering "father" and "son" in the same room. I do love seeing her and Lt. Barclay pop up with frequency in these later season Voyager shows. (Though how sad is it that Troi's most enduring character trait is loving chocolate ice cream?)

Season 6 losers:

"Barge of the Dead" - Don't get me started on this Klingon religious bullshit. It also annoys me that in a later episode someone asks B'Elanna about her beliefs about the afterlife and she makes zero reference to this nonsense we all had to endure. *Huff.*

"Fair Haven" - Sorry, cute Irish-bartender-hologram-love-interest for Janeway. (It doesn't work on so many levels....) Though the scene where Janeway tweaks with his personality is pretty funny, the rest of this is just a lead-up to a slightly better Fair Haven episode, "Spirit Folk". I've never liked the depictions of the Irish in the Star Trek universe, where they're all basically alcoholic leprechauns with below-average IQs. (Winning most egregious: Enterprise's "Up the Long Ladder", which has a truly offensive portrayal.)

"Memorial" - Isn't forcing unwitting travelers to experience a massacre so intensely and personally that they not only suffer post-traumatic stress, but also misplaced guilt, seem....wrong? I would have blasted the damn thing out of existence and put up a nice plaque, but our super-moralists actually repair it and skip along on their self-congratulatory way.

"Tsunkatse" - This is a gladiator-cliche episode that doesn't add anything to the genre. Maybe if there was more of The Rock's eyebrow game, it would have been better?

"Fury" - While it is nice to see Kes, it's also very troubling that she's become so mentally unbalanced in her dotage. And these last few Voyager seasons rely WAAAY too much on time travel to clean up their messes.