Star Trek 576: 11:59

576. 11:59

FORMULA: Progress + Living Witness

WHY WE LIKE IT: Calls bullshit on the Y2K bug before it actually (didn't) happen.

WHY WE DON'T: What does this have to do with anything?

REVIEW: At the heart of 11:59 is the story of one of Janeway's ancestors, Shannon O'Donnell. It's a fine little story about progress coming to a small town, with the Last Hold-Out(TM) keeping Big Business(also TM) from making things happen. It's nothing we haven't seen before on other shows and in movies, with a sappy ending in deep opposition to the similar DS9 episode, Progress. I don't mind the show straying off the usual format. I just wish it had deeper relevance to the Star Trek universe, is all.

Progress, in this case, is the Millenium Gate, a combination biosphere, mall, and Dubai-style feat of engineering. We've never heard of it before, and it seems to have very little consequence to Star Trek history. Airing in 1999, it might have seemed current, plugging into Millenium fever (it at least predicts the un-advent of the Y2K bug). The links to Voyager are more thematic than anything. O'Donnell is an astronaut and engineer, like Janeway (though I wonder if a destitute aerospace engineer is really believable). Her station wagon is Voyager, and the Midwest, the Delta Quadrant. She even dictates a sort of captain's log, but I think that's overdoing it. Her story ends in very Voyager-ish fashion, with science trumping the arts (the classicism of Henry Janeway).

The framing sequence for this is the entire crew's exploration of their genealogy, which has its moments, but isn't very well done, I'm afraid. Obviously, most of it is done with talking, but that's not the problem (Kim's ancestor holds some interest, for example). The problem has to do with consistency. Not to play nitpicker, but in Journey's End, Janeway said she had no idea what her ancestors were doing in the 90s. That can't be true if O'Donnell was a childhood hero. Within the episode itself, Janeway recalls how her grandmother would talk about O'Donnell, but if O'Donnell married a Janeway, why is this story coming from the grandmother's side? And there's the matter of just how complete Voyager's database is. Early on, Janeway asks Seven to help her reconstruct the fragmentary information from the era, as a lot of it was lost over time. So does the Federation database have the original, degraded records? Maybe, since it also seems to have Ferengi and other cultures' databases. This is a plot point that might have worked in the Alpha Quadrant, but out in the sticks, I can't believe Voyager would have this kind of access. Stuff like this just drives me crazy. How hard is it to write a handful of 24th century scenes anyway? (Not that the 20th-century stuff makes that much sense either, if I go by how O'Donnell means to send emails to all addresses with 100 miles of her.)

Tom the trivia king Paris bursts Janeway's bubble and she finds out that her idol wasn't all she thought she was. Her reaction is the usual Janeway hubris - she becomes moody and ready to dismiss O'Donnell as irrelevant. I wonder how Picard would take it if he found out his explorer ancestors weren't all they were cracked up to be? In any case, the episode's lesson is one we already learned last season with Living Witness, and more entertainingly.

LESSON: There is a gene for pigheadedness.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-Low: Despite its writing problems, I might have given it a plain Medium, but the fact that it is so totally irrelevant to the Star Trek franchise makes it eminently skippable.


De said...

Greg Cox provides a semi-plausible reason for O'Donnell's economic situation in his second Eugenics Wars novel.

Siskoid said...

Thanks for the non-canon info, as usual, De.

I get the feeling a lot of Voyager fiction tried hard to explain the show's plot holes.


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