Star Trek 538: Random Thoughts

538. Random Thoughts

FORMULA: Justice + Prime Factors + Meld

WHY WE LIKE IT: The last sighting of the old Janeway.

WHY WE DON'T: Gwynyth Walsh wasted.

REVIEW: The Voyager crew gets in trouble with the law while innocently trading with aliens?! Business as usual, I'd say. The fun twist is that Seven calls them on it, but unfortunately, they brush her off in the name of exploration. Yeah, ok, but what she was actually saying was "you don't do your homework before making footfall". Of course, it doesn't help that the Mari's legal system is run like a bad role-playing game where, no matter what you do, you can't win.

The Mari are one of those literary utopias that looks good on paper, but are a little ridiculous on film, a society where you can be arrested for THINKING. A Spanish Inquisition (I know you weren't expecting them) who can actually enforce this law with telepathy. Of course, if you outlaw something, it'll pop up on the black market, so despite everyone being a mind reader, a seamy underground manages to survive undetected by the authorities until Tuvok sheds the light of day on it. At times, it almost seems like an argument for Legalization, and certainly, B'Elanna is considered a "pusher" because she had a bad thought. But that's muddled at best.

Sadly, the Mari characters aren't very interesting. The evil Guill is creepy from the thought go, so there's not much mystery there. Neelix's date is pretty, but is basically there just to provide a victim. And Police Commissioner Nimira, though played by Gwynyth Walsh of B'Etor fame, is tedious at best. None of her scenes speak to me. At all. The supposedly clever multi-interview scene has been done better by both previous series (in Conspiracy and Inquisition). She has a strange mental conversation with Tuvok that miscasts Vulcans as broadcast telepaths who only speak to deal with non-telepaths. And everywhere else, she's quick to lobotomize and slow to do her job.

Tuvok has a much better role, going undercover and releasing some powerful Vulcan emotions on the emotionally primitive Mari. The violent images he conjures are surprising though. Who knew Tuvok had a bad experience with dogs, or that he watched Event Horizon? (Scenes from this Paramount Studios movie made it into his clip-o-rama before it came out... They're pretty gruesome for teatime viewing.) We might also wonder what footage from First Contact is doing in there (how does Tuvok know about the gray uniforms?). So not a great editing job, but it's quick enough that you don't notice. Speaking of editing, the pacing's a bit off in this one. There are back to back scenes that give out the same information (a post-climax recap, if you will), then a couple more epilogues. Running short?

That last epilogue has a good Seven-Janeway scene that pretty much represents the old Janeway's last hurrah (I may yet be proven wrong on this though). Not only did she uphold the Prime Directive in this episode, but her attitude with Seven isn't that of the petty despot who's been possessing her body lately. She takes things with humor and welcomes disagreements! And this despite her having a terrible hair day. Hopefully, this Janeway isn't completely forgotten in the coming seasons, but my recollection is that she mostly is.

LESSON: Thinking about violence can lead to acting violently. Well duh!

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: This kind of plot is nothing new, but the main characters are watchable enough. Not the guest stars though.


Jayunderscorezero said...

I really am going to have to re-watch Voyager someday, keeping in mind all of your comments about Janeway's shifting character. 'Cause I have to say, I really didn't notice all these changes the first time around. Then again, I guess I wasn't really looking for them.

Siskoid said...

I'd say it's an observation particular to watching an entire series daily and in sequence.

The cumulative impression I got from its 7 years the first time around was that Janeway was tyrannical all the way through. Either that happens more and more, or those instances were so memorable that they choked all other impressions of her.

Jayunderscorezero said...

The strange thing is, my first experience of Voyager actually was of watching the show daily and in sequence. I missed much of it on its first run, but caught the daily early-evening reruns on Sky One some years ago. Yet still I missed her "tyrannical" nature.

Either I'm crazy or myopic, or I must have simply chalked all of her actions up to her unique situation, and figured that many of the other featured captains would have acted similarly, given the circumstances, and so didn't see anything necessarily "wrong" with the way that she behaved.

Jayunderscorezero said...

Yeah, probably crazy. ;)

Siskoid said...

Don't sweat it, Jay! I really think there's a cumulative effect at work and I spent way too much time either thinking about, discussing or reading about all things Trek at some point.

If you hear enough Janeway bashing, it's bound to affect the way to remember and then perceive the character. Similarly, you see Picard in a good light even in early episodes when he wasn't so well characterized.


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