Monday, June 30, 2008

Star Trek 570: The Disease

570. The Disease

FORMULA: The Perfect Mate + Retrospect + A Matter of Honor

WHY WE LIKE IT: Harry shows some balls.

WHY WE DON'T: Janeway's attitude again.

REVIEW: It's the one where Harry gets VD. Actually, that's a bit mean of me. The metaphor here is that love is essentially a disease, and the love bond is amplified in the story with some kind of sexually-transmitted chemical element. Things are made more complicated by this being a case of forbidden love, Harry breaking the rules to be with this girl (who's a right hottie, I agree). It's actually good to see Harry get off-spec, if you will, and show that he's more than just about duty and doing what he's told.

Of course, the way the conflict is engineered strains credulity (as per aforementioned Voyager laziness). We have this truly xenophobic race, the Varro, allowing themselves to be convinced to accept help from Voyager. Throughout, Janeway is desperate to help these people who do not want her help. Why? At some point, she mentions an off-chance that they might share some technology or be (short-term, surely!) allies. Her contention that they are spiritual cousins and that Voyager might become a generational ship has little weight considering that it can't have much more than 30 years to go, what with all its recent jumps. The Varro's xenophobia is really only to make Harry's affair more problematic.

Janeway's reaction to it is disproportionate in any case (even Chakotay says so). The Starfleet regulation requiring you to get permission from both your CO and CMO before engaging in relations with an alien makes sense (diplomatically and medically), but would have more weight if it had ever been referenced before. Sure, Kirk was probably his own CO, but did he get a lot of permissions from Bones? Did Picard and Sisko require their officers to conform to this as well? Even so, Janeway's attitude leaves a lot to be desired, and in fact, she pushes Harry to violate orders even more. Her warmer demeanor at the end of the episode manages to get the same points across without turning her into a fascist we can no longer agree with. Why can't she be more like that? The scene does reveal, perhaps, why Harry is stuck as an ensign over the course of the entire series: She sees him as her best and youngest son, and so, always as a child. Has she stalled his career with her motherly ways?

Harry's girlfriend Tal is appropriately exotic, with an odd accent (I don't know if it's part of Musetta Vander's native South African accent) and striking looks. Unfortunately, Charles Rocket is as white bread as they come, killing any real sense of the Varro's alienness. Tal is also part of a group of separatists aboard the generational ship, an interesting enough subplot that leads to some really cool effects sequences at the end. If she had such a wanderlust, I wonder why she never considered following Harry to Earth?

LESSON: Alien sex may require more than your basic condom.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: There have been lots of Star Trek romances where a character has been willing to jeopardize his or her career, but this is probably the most sensible and credible one. Shame about the Iron Maiden's reaction.


Teebore said...

At this point it almost seems like Harry's character is so nonexistent that the writers have shrugged and decided to just make him their whipping boy.

It seems like they are thinking "well, Harry's is the weakest character, so if anyone's going to get Space VD (and obviously, someone has to), it may as well be him."

Siskoid said...

Especially with Tom paired off and all but married.

Though imagine if Janeway got Space VD. Now THERE'S an episode!

Jeff R. said...

'Ensign' is possibly the worst job you can have in Starfleet. (Some say 'Security Officer', but you only can die horribly once, while Ensign-torture is eternal.)

You will never get promoted. Ever, no matter how long you serve. And Starfleet doesn't seem to have 'up or out', so there's no escape, either. You may, like Wesley well end up the most hated character on the show. You may end up, like Harry, a whipping boy. Or you may, like Mayweather end up getting so little screen time that you don't even qualify for residuals in half of the episodes*. Either way, at this point only the worst agent in the world is going to let an actor with any other prospects take the job...

*Actually, I have no idea if Trek actors have the 'standard' 'three lines minimum' for residuals, especially if their names are in the credits. But if they did...

snell said...

Kirk never had that rule, because his behavior was the reason Starfleet had to pass the rule. Do you know how many half-alien bastards he left lying around the galaxy?!?

Jayunderscorezero said...

re: jeff: Ah yes, Mayweather. The absolute nadir of useless ensign-type characters. Whenever I find myself defending the likes of Harry et al, I can always rely on a good "Well at least he isn't Mayweather." Thanks, Enterprise.

Word verification: emxkln - a severely corrupted emh, perhaps?

Siskoid said...

There are "regular extras" on TNG like Tess Allenby or Ensign Gates who left more of a mark than poor Mayweather.

It's too bad because the character bible could have made him an expert in "space living", the rookie who makes good because of it.

But I wonder sometimes if the writers or producers gave up on Mayweather or Harry because of the actor's inexperience, and a subsequent impression that the character's casting hadn't panned out.