Sunday, June 29, 2008

Star Trek 569: Dark Frontier

569. Dark Frontier

FORMULA: The Raven + First Contact + Infinite Regress

WHY WE LIKE IT: New Borg ships.

WHY WE DON'T: Continuity snafus. The new Queen.

REVIEW: The Borg Queen is back and with her, the promise of more Borg action. You know how we cleared Borg space in Scorpion? Well, Borg space ahead, kids. They really shouldn't have trusted a species who uses transwarp conduits to get everywhere in the galaxy. Janeway's reaction, however, is pretty arrogant. She gets greedy after winning a fight with a lowly probe and imagines a plan to steal a transwarp coil from the heart of a Borg Sphere. DESPITE the one Borg expert aboard telling her it's too dangerous.

And if the Borg Queen wasn't out to make a deal with Seven, they'd all have been assimilated. Yes, the Borg Queen returns, with Susanna Thompson (whom you may remember as Lenara Khan) in the role. Though she tries to approximate Alice Krige signature performance here and there, she never quite manages it. Her Queen is cold and boring, robotic even. And her plan doesn't make any more sense than Janeway's. We're not supposed to believe that she ALLOWED Seven to be cut off from the Collective in order to gain an insight into humanity that the Borg could then use to assimilate Earth. First, I'm not sure how Seven's insight would actually be an advantage when all you're gonna do is drop a ton of nanoprobes in the atmosphere and wait for people to get infected. Second, the Queen seems to consider Seven unique, and yet, there have been de-assimilated Borg before: Hugh and his gang, Locutus, and as we'll learn later, plenty of others. If the Collective is trying to create a new Queen who understands individuality, or if Seven is being groomed as a female version of Locutus, it's not expressly said here. Instead, we have a very convenient laxity on the Borg's part that allows Seven to remain Seven, the ship to rescue her, etc.

Against all this are flashbacks to when Seven was little Annika Hansen and her parents were filming a nature documentary starring the Borg. These sequences are problematic. On the one hand, we have the heavily rerun Q Who that shows us humanity's first encounter with the Borg. On the other, Generations had Guinan and her people escaping the Borg some 60 or 70 years earlier. So ok, the Hansens' were investigating rumors and had heard of the Borg. They do seem to know too much (as much as has EVER been revealed in Trek up to now), however, and if this much was at least rumored, then Picard appears to be quite a chump in TNG. While their investigation makes for interesting viewing, they are as irresponsible as Janeway, especially with a child aboard. On Voyager, that child is Naomi Wildman, which Seven associates with her younger self. Another Janeway tactical error: Trusting in the Hansens' methods to save her from the Borg. We're talking about methods that 1) didn't save them in the end and 2) were assimilated years ago by the Borg. No secrets there.

But that kind of faulty story logic is part and parcel of Voyager by now. I believe we're now heading into that era of the show that formed my rather negative opinion about it. The fifth season is definitely the turning point. Lazy scripts uplifted by beautiful effects, focus on only a few "cool" characters, an unreasonable Janeway, episodes that hardly star the crew at all, and playing fast and loose with established continuity (just like a comic book company!). So to distract us from the story's "logic", we get handed plenty of effects. New Borg structures abound: the Borg Lump, the Borg Diamond, the Borg City. Satisfying explosions, the Queen's usual brand of body-building, plenty of pretty graphics. It's all a bit video gamey to have won the Emmy that year over other Voyager nominations like Timeless and Thirty Days.

The climax is something of a battle for Seven's soul (already won by Voyager before Janeway walks into the room), and turns the whole Borg-Humanity conflict into a custody battle. From now on, when we see the Queen, she's Seven's adopted mom trying to get her back from Janeway, her "bio-mom". Or vice-versa, I'm not clear on the metaphor. What I AM clear on is that this weakens the Borg even further as an opponent race. I'm also not keen on their new lighting scheme, a stark, sickly green that eats up all the detail on screen. And as for Voyager, not only does it make its escape, it gets to use the transwarp coil to shave off another 15 years from its journey. This season has had how many big leaps now? 2 in Night, 10 more in Timeless... Definitely going to make any future appearance by the Hirogen or Malon suspect.

LESSON: Not to try to figure out how many crew members are still on the ship. This episode puts it back up to 144 (if I count the Doctor).

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: You can't dress up a pig and make me dance with it. Again, perfectly watchable, but falls short because it's more concerned with looking cool than making sense.


Jayunderscorezero said...

Voyager does indeed very much go off the rails a bit towards the end.

Ok, I know that this is pure superstitious nonsense, but I have this theory that states that Star Trek occasionally goes through these five-years periods where it is just on the whole no good. As far as I see it, this is roughly the beginning of one of these periods, which continues into Nemesis and early/nearly all of Enterprise. The other five-year period would of course be the early-TNG/Final Frontier era. Not a sensible theory by any means, I know, but it does explain how Trek can occasionally seem like it's being consistently bad.

Teebore said...

"it's more concerned with looking cool than making sense."

That's pretty much Voyager's unintentional mission statement at this point, isn't it?

Or maybe it was intentional...

Teebore said...

Also, I was expecting more of a rant :)

Siskoid said...

Jay: With exceptions like Undiscovered Country I hope! Hey, the same batch of people can't possibly produce high quality material year and year out, so there might be a cycle at work. Nice how DS9 doesn't fall into ang of the 5 years.

Teebore: They shouldn't have made us expect more by producing DS9 for 7 years.

Teebore again: Sorry to disappoint! :-D But I need stuff to say for the next 50 days. I can't let it all out at once.

Teebore said...

Fair Enough :)

And yeah, Voyager suffers all the more for following in the wake of DS9's splendidness.

Jayunderscorezero said...

siskoid: well of course Undiscovered Country is excepted. I may be superstitious, but I'm not an idiot. ;)