Star Trek 594: Tsunkatse

594. Tsunkatse

FORMULA: The Most Toys + The Gamesters of Triskelion + WWF Smackdown

WHY WE LIKE IT: The martial arts.

WHY WE DON'T: The stunt casting. The abrupt ending.

REVIEW: UPN's attempt to combine its two cash cows - Trek and wrestling - is an absurd piece of fluff, even with the moral dilemma thrown in. Not only does it feature the Rock as an alien fighter, or more accurately as himself, People's Eyebrow and all, but it also digs up two of DS9's most popular guest actors, Jeffrey "Weyoun" Combs and J.G. "Martok" Hertzler, and hands them roles that are rather close to their DS9 personae, but of course, never as interesting. Oh and in case you're not watching yet, how about we make one of them a Hirogen far from home, bringing back a popular race from a previous season. Please watch us!!! It's sweeps week!

At least, that's what it feels like. Those two actors chew up the screen, but their voices are so distinctive that it's very hard not to hear their more established characters. Combs is essentially wasted as Peng, his least interesting Trek character ever (and that includes the alien that lusted after Kira). Hertzler fares better, as his Hirogen has more to do and feel. After 19 years of fighting, he trains Seven to kill him in the arena. Too bad he never even gets a name.

The gladiator idea is nothing new, but in contrast to The Gamesters of Triskelion, the fight choreography is leagues better. There's a fair bit of acrobatic wire work, some suitably alien-looking stances and moves, and well-conveyed brutality. Even if Tuvok gives her permission to kill in this instance, the twist of making her opponent her mentor makes it much harder on her. Sadly, the ending is one big cop-out, with the Tsunkatse ship, described as outmatching Voyager in every way including some fancy [technobabble] shields, turning out to be no match for Voyager's transporters. By beaming out both Seven and the Hirogen, even the moral dilemma is copped out of.

The thin plot makes for a lot of padding too. There's an odd scene where Tom won't shut up about B'Elanna while Seven overpacks. There's an entire subplot about Neelix catching sunburn. There's Chakotay uncharacteristically shirking his responsibilities to watch the fights. The only scene that has its place, to my mind, is Seven bonding with Tuvok over what they deem irrelevant.

LESSON: Wikied information tells me that the writers originally wanted to call this "Arena" until they found out it was already the title of a TOS episode. Yes, ONE OF THE BEST KNOWN TOS EPISODES! Only a few episodes ago, they almost called Blink of an Eye, "Wink of an Eye", likewise a TOS episode title. So I guess my lesson of the day is: If you're writing Star Trek, you really should be familiar with the original series.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: A thin plot inhabited by actors that might draw a crowd. Perfectly watchable fluff.


De said…
The promos for this episode were the absolute worst: "Wrestling's Greatest Warrior vs Voyager's Battlestar Babe!"

At a convention, Jeri Ryan recalled receiving a signed photo from The Rock with the odd inscription, "I can smell what you're cooking." Ryan had no idea what this meant, but her makeup person did (some wrestling thing).
Siskoid said…
Though I think the Star Trek DVDs are pretty poorly put together, one thing I don't miss is the promos. They were generally awful for all series.
hiikeeba said…
I think they were worse on Enterprise. I remember one preview that made it appear Travis was going to mutiny. In the episode it was just a heart to heart talk.
Anonymous said…
ZOMG! Reminds me how they tried to bring wrestling to SciFi channel in 2006.

Even though they're both fiction, doesn't mean they can be mixed!

LiamKav said…
The "you know wrestling isn't real" argument has about as much affect on wrestling fans as "Pft, Picard is stupid because he has no hair" would have on TNG fans.

Besides, if you were going to use any wrestler at all (and I'm not saying you should), The Rock was probably the one to do, since he appears to also be the only wrestler ever who might actually get a credible film career.

I'm sure I'll get it from a Mr Nanny fan now...