Star Trek 572: The Fight

572. The Fight

FORMULA: Night Terrors + Emissary + Twisted

WHY WE LIKE IT: Kid Chaos. Staccato Prophetspeak.

WHY WE DON'T: What the hell is going on?

REVIEW: Though The Fight has a pretty good SF idea behind it, that of aliens having to rewrite Chakotay's brain so that he can understand their message, but its storytelling is such a confused mess, nothing can be made of this idea. Sure, there are a couple of neat things, like Kid Chaos' appearance and the way the aliens edit words together from elsewhere in the show, but when the big revelation is a massive amount of technobabble, it's hard to make the story very engaging.

The episode also means to explore Chakotay's past. He's a character that's criminally ignored, and when he gets attention, this is how it turns out. Sad. The idea that his grandfather was a crazy old man who had hallucinations/visions, and that he is also genetically predisposed to the same is intriguing, but his "greatest fear" - of going mad like him - seems out of character. It might have served to explain why he showed no interest in the ways of his people back in the early days, but the older, wiser Chakotay of the show has embraced those ways, dared to unlock his "madness" in vision quests, and has hallucinated before (it's a Voyager trope) without any incident or mention of this.

The interest in boxing is new as well. Not improbable, as he's used his fists before, but Boothby's appearance as a boxing coach is a little suspect. Yes, yes, we love Ray Walston too, but wouldn't the Academy have its own hand-to-hand combat instructors? Plus, very recently, in In the Flesh, Chakotay said he'd never met the man! Anyway, the holodeck sequence treats Chakotay has if he never had any lessons and must hear Boothby's advice for the first time. But that's the least of The Fight's timeline problems. More egregious is the way the episode starts in medias res for no discernible reason other than create the usual Voyager teaser that makes the viewer ask "what the heck is going on here?" rather than "what happens next?". The entire episode goes on to recall just how we got there, including things Chakotay wasn't a party to, and totally deflating the investigative aspect of the story. When Janeway connects the dots and realizes aliens are trying to communicate with Chakotay, we already know this.

And as far as metaphors for communicating go, boxing isn't a very good one. It's certainly no "baseball as linear time" allegory. Sure, Chakotay is fighting his own fears, and therein lies the symbolism, but that confuses the issue tremendously. The surreal dream sequences are only that: surreal. Some clever transpositions of Voyager's or Chakotay's situations, but not truly relevant. It may look better than a floating Deanna Troi shouting "Who are you?", but it's less instructive. I'm not even sure what the other characters' motivations are, never mind the chaotic space aliens. They spend all their time convincing Chakotay to risk insanity by contacting the aliens, and then reject his solution when he brings it to the Bridge or in the Doctor's case, wake him up at the worst time. If the question is "what's going on?", the answer is "who cares?".

LESSON: Don't fight it.

REWATCHABILITY - Low: There are good ideas here, yearning to be free. That they never materialize makes this episode very frustrating indeed.


De said...

The concept of Boothby, despite my love for Ray Walston, was fine for Picard but became a very tired trope for Voyager. When did this guy ever get any gardening done if he was constantly dispensing advice to cadets?

Siskoid said...

There's enough of a gap between Picard and Chakotay, that he might take a new kid on, but it's a mighty big coincidence. And I can't see how the grounds could be kept so tidy if he spent all that time in the boxing arena.

But it's the usual Voyager justification: "Yeah but it would be cool."

Jayunderscorezero said...

"Surreal" is one thing, but this one goes overboard and into "frankly unwatchable." It's like the ugly-as-hell, bastard lovechild of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Last Year at Marienbad.

LiamKav said...

I recall an interview with Robert Beltran in SFX magazine where he mentioned/complained that he hadn't been given much prep time for this episode, and that if he had he would have gotten into much better shape for it. Which makes me think two things:

1. You're an actor! Surely you should be keeping yourself in shape anyway. And,
2. You're expecting Voyager writers to PLAN stuff in advance? HAHAHAHA.


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