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Old February 22 2011, 06:48 AM   #1
erastus25
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Watching and reviewing the 2nd half of Voyager

For the past few years I’ve been slowly working my way through all the Star Trek series in chronological order. I’ve made my way up to the mid-point of season 4 of Voyager /season 6 of DS9. I’m looking forward to this stretch because I stopped watching Voyager’s initial run shortly after season 5 started. I have probably seen most of the episodes in rerun and I have a vague idea of the general plots, but for the most part I’m unfamiliar with the second half of Voyager. In contrast, I have seen every episode of TOS, TNG and DS9 MANY times, so I am very familiar with the Star Trek universe.


As I watch the episodes I plan to post mini-reviews in this thread. In general, I’ll be judging Voyager independently of the other series, but I will keep the general “attitude” of Star Trek in mind as I go. I will also assume the people reading the reviews have recently seen the episodes so I won’t spend a lot of time recapping plot points. I hope some of you find my reviews interesting and we can have some debate about the episodes in the thread. At the very least, it’ll give me a chance to practice my writing while bored at work. ;-) Also, feel free to point out any errors/oversights/problems in my posts. I welcome the feedback.


I’ll also rate each episode on a “Poor, Below Average, Average, Above Average, Excellent” scale. The episodes will be rated only against other Voyager episodes and I’ll weight the ratings to the middle (i.e. there will be many average episodes, some above average and very few excellent) so the truly good or bad can stand out.


Here we go…


Season 4, episode 16 “Prey”


To me, the most compelling eliminates of "Prey" are the characters Alpha (no, I didn’t recognize Tony Todd in the Hirogen makeup), Janeway and 7. Speaking first of Alpha, he succeeds in giving viewers the first glimpse into the Hirogen mindset. Previously, the species had been little more than grunting ruffians hell-bent on pointlessly causing conflict whenever possible. Alpha manages to convey the cultural and social values of his people and he convinces the viewer that his character is a unique entity rather than just an anonymous foot soldier. The audience now understands why the Hirogen are acting the way they do and understanding the motivations means that watchers can accept them as something more than just another “Alien of the Week.” Further, by creating an individual the viewer can now start to differentiate between the Hirogens so that more complex and rewarding storylines utilizing the Hirogen as characters, rather than plot devices, can be told. This episode restored my faith in the Hirogen a bit after a couple less than stellar introductory outings. I could see them following a similar arch in development as the TNG Klingons who similarly went from being grunting buffoons with no individuality to a very complex and rewarding element of 24th Century ST.


However, despite Alpha’s importance, the real key players in this episode are 7 and Janeway. At its simplest, the episode can be described as a struggle between them to determine who is morally correct in regards to the fate of the wounded Species 8472. The key final scene leaves the viewer debating who was actually right on this matter. In general, this is a departure for ST as the humanistic side to the argument is almost always presented as the right way to go. Suggesting that 7’s decision is one that could be made and defended, despite the fact she has been presented with Janeway’s argument, and despite the fact that she has been coached in Janeway’s version of humanity in the past, makes it all the more effective as it sets the two up for future disagreements which could deviate from the usual ST ideology and present the viewer with more inspired take home messages. At the very least, 7’s decision is the first sign that she genuinely does want to explore her individuality rather than just parrot the ideals of humanity espoused by Janeway, which could also lead to some good storytelling.


When considering 7’s decision, I wondered if she reached her conclusion because of affection for the crew or out of self preservation? We see in the beginning of the episode her burgeoning efforts to understand social courtesy via lessons from the Doctor. That scene implies that she is starting to feel compassion for her fellow crewmembers and wants to interact with them more personally. If so, it’s possible seem that her decision was based on a desire to save those close to her, and not entirely a simple matter of the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the one. Interestingly, if that is the case, then her actions are in line with Janeways central tenet of getting the crew home at any cost, and also with Janeway’s hope that 7 explores her emotions enough to make friends on the ship. If my presumptions are correct, then it’s somewhat ironic that Janeway’s reaction is to admonish 7’s decision. Ultimately, this episode will become even more effective if there is follow up to what exactly 7’s motivations are and also to the idea that she can choose a path other than the one Janeway has laid out for her. At the very least, I hope that the consequences of 7’s punishments are mentioned in the future and not immediately written out of future stories.

There were a few fun continuity pieces in this episode as well. First, we see Tuvok get a similar vision as Kes when she’s contacted by Species 8472. This makes sense as they did work together telepathically last season. We also see the environmental suits from FC, which are the second coolest in ST history. As an additional bonus, the scene featuring the environment suits is a much better directed suspense moment than most in ST. My only complaint is the now horrible CG effects used to create 8472.


I’ll give this episode an above average rating. The inspired take home message, added dimensionality of characters and above average suspense scenes make it one to watch.


Season 4 episode “Retrospect”


“Retrospect” falters most obviously because it is completely predictable. From the very beginning, the nature of the plot development makes it clear that the alien “villain” is not actually guilty. Kovin is simply too much of a jerk, the Doctor is too presumptuous in his diagnoses and the evidence is too perfect, yet circumstantial, for the viewer to ever believe Kovin is the perpetrator. One watches the second half waiting the entire time for the other shoe to drop and Kovin to be vindicated. I got the impression the writers/producers felt the same way as the pointless death of Kovin seemed to be written in more to shock the audience than to actually develop the plot or make a point. And it’s unfortunate that Kovin’s story of persecution was so quickly glossed over as it had a great deal of potential. A number of questions about how to proceed while respecting his culture could have been raised, but were ultimately outside the scope of the script. Hopefully a future episode can be written that analyzes investigative methodology with respect to protecting the accused.

Predictability aside, the general ideas behind “Retrospect” showed some promise. I was interested with the Doctor’s additions to his program resulting in an error that, presumably, a first year clinical psychology student would have caught. His guilt over the matter and attempt to walk away from the new programming were the most human aspect of the episode and raised good points about the doctor’s future evolution.


I also enjoyed Jeri Ryan’s performance. She plays the part of victim beautifully, but I was unsure whether we were supposed to draw an analogy to rape or child molestation. The character of 7 often takes on child-like tendencies, as she is just now becoming conscious of her own personality, but the scenes with Kovin seemed to suggest more date rape than anything. I mention this point because if the episode is an attempt to criticize psychologists’ historic tendencies to accidentally fabricate stories of abuse, especially with children, then it needed to make that more clear and seem less like a case of rape. On the other hand, if it’s just an attempt to criticize psychology in general, and they used rape as an example, then it’s a very poor choice.Rape is already a much underreported crime and more media suggesting that some accusations are cases of female hysteria/bad psychology will only add to the problem. Overall, there is certainly room to criticize psychology but, in this case, the subject matter was inappropriate and the execution overly simplified. Despite these problems, Jeri Ryan nearly saves the entire episode. Her evolution through feelings of confusion, violation, rage and more confusion were perfectly played. The viewer can't help but sympathize for her throughout the hour. It's unfortunate she couldn't have played this part after an actual assault was made on her character.

Regardless of the fumbling of this particular plot, I’m really starting to like the interactions between 7 and the Doctor. As mentioned above, despite being an adult woman with far more knowledge than anyone else on board, 7 is going through many of the emotional transitions that a teenager would. Similarly, despite having nearly infinite wisdom at his disposal the Doctor lacks the real life experience to properly apply that knowledge. The Doctor and 7 are both essentially adolescents stuck in adult bodies, with adult responsibilities and a wealth of information. This makes them a good pair to explore social interactions together as what may be obvious to many, will be a novelty/problem to them.


Finally, Janeway’s closing reaction in this episode is inexplicable and completely contradictory. When Kovin dies as a direct result of Voyager’s arguably inappropriate actions Janeway essentially says “my bad, shit happens” and moves on. This is one episode after she was willing to sacrifice Voyager for the life of a single person. I know the viewer is supposed to understand that Janeway likes 7 and will do anything to stand up for one of her crew members, even one that’s out of favor, but she’s way too indifferent to Kovin’s death. Even worse, Janeway's reaction overshadows the guilt being displayed by 7 and wrecks what could have been a nice moment.

Final rating: average. Retrospect has some very nice character moments for 7 and the Doctor and introduces some compelling questions/themes, but is ultimately too predictable and insensitive in its execution to be considered better than average.
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Old February 23 2011, 10:52 AM   #2
Jeff O'Connor
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Re: Watching and reviewing the 2nd half of Voyager

A promising start indeed. I enjoyed reading these reviews and have tagged this thread!
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Old March 14 2011, 05:35 PM   #3
erastus25
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Re: Watching and reviewing the 2nd half of Voyager

Well here's my review of The Killing Game Pt. 1. I'll post The Killing Game pt. 2 and if there's still nobody interested then I'll move on.

Mods, if this is inappropriate bumping of a thread I apologize. Please just let me know and I won't do it again.

The Killing Game Part 2

The teaser to The Killing Game Part 1 opens with a lot of promise and succeeded in sucking me into the premise. Unfortunately the rest of the episode was an uneven affair that, despite an action-adventure style, came off as rather bland.
I’ll admit, despite the hints, I was fooled at the beginning of this one and didn’t realize that Janeway was under the Klingon makeup. It was quite jarring to see her stabbed and sent to sickbay like some anonymous redshirt. That set the stakes of the episode very high. The viewer knows from the beginning that this is an episode/enemy that won’t be afraid to injure anyway – even the captain. It is probably as close as we will come to believing a series regular could actually die.
From there, the story moves to the Holodeck simulation set in WWII France – and it’s all downhill from there. The first problem is that the choice of the occupied French town for a simulation was somewhat contrived. It seems like every sci-fi show out there tries to come up with some way to do the “Space Nazis” gimmick and I think at this point it has just been too overdone to be any good without some exceptional writing. In this case, the WWII setting is an excuse to dress the characters up in “cool” costumes and have them rehash the same conflict/characterizations that they’re always exploring (e.g. Janeway struggling with 7, Janeway and Tuvok being BFF). If the circumstances of the WWII simulation had somehow given the viewer a new perspective on the relationship between the regulars, or forced them to develop their relationships further it would have been forgivable. But it didn’t even try. The viewer is instead stuck with tired dialogue that, I guess, is supposed to be “clever” because the characters fall into the same roles they always do despite the neural inhibitions and strange settings. The bottom line is that we have seen the “fish out of water” thing on the Holodeck before and it’s just not that interesting, by itself, anymore. The closing scene on the Holodeck really drives this point home when they apparently try to shock the viewer with the special effect of the huge hole in the French countryside looking into the ship. I find myself asking, why do I care? Unlike the holographic characters, I already know “France” is a Holodeck so this really isn’t that interesting.
It also annoyed me that the Holodeck plot could have easily been saved, yet the writers chose the lazy route instead. As I implied above, despite the neural inhibitions the characters gravitated to, and maintained their usual roles. There was room here for exploration into what makes these people act the way they do after their past experiences have been stripped away. Their inherent natures could have been examined, and thus shed more light on how they interact. It would also have been very natural to insert some messages about the importance of experience in interactions. But none of that was done and a good opportunity was lost.
The main subplot with Harry Kim being forced to install holo-emitters throughout the ship while mounting a resistance with the Doctor was passable, but nothing we haven’t seen before. Harry also seemed to integrate the technology rather seamlessly so it made me wonder why they haven’t already done that so the Doctor could have had more movement through the ship. They also could have used the technology previously to project extra security guards who would have been useful in hand to hand combat.
Finally, the most intriguing scene/plot of the entire episode was the discussion of the Hirogen future between the captain and the first officer. From a practical standpoint, it kind of explained that the Hirogen haven’t always been nomadic hunters and helped satisfy viewers that a ritual driven, single minded people, could get into space. It also provided the existential exchange between the younger, bloodthirsty first officer and the older, wiser captain about the future of the Hirogen and what needs to be done to keep them alive. It reminded me of the conflict between Decius and the Romulan Commander in Balance of Terror, and I hope that this relationship/idea gets a little more airtime in the concluding part.
Short summary: I have no problem with Voyager entering into the realm of action-adventure, as it has been wont to do this season. But in this case, despite a valiant effort to raise the stakes, the episode just isn’t exciting enough and doesn’t have any interesting themes/questions to bring it up to an average rating. Final rating: Below average.
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Old March 15 2011, 08:37 PM   #4
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Re: Watching and reviewing the 2nd half of Voyager

erastus25 wrote: View Post
There was room here for exploration into what makes these people act the way they do after their past experiences have been stripped away.
If you're interested in that particular idea, you might not be disappointed later on
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Old March 15 2011, 10:29 PM   #5
heavylids
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Re: Watching and reviewing the 2nd half of Voyager

This is going to be a good thread. I just finished season 3 of VOY and will start season 4 when it's available to watch instantly on Netflix. I have only seen every episode from seasons 1-3 so I'm looking forward to experiencing some for the first time. This thread will be a great discussion.
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Old March 16 2011, 12:00 AM   #6
froot
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Re: Watching and reviewing the 2nd half of Voyager

heavylids wrote: View Post
This is going to be a good thread. I just finished season 3 of VOY and will start season 4 when it's available to watch instantly on Netflix. I have only seen every episode from seasons 1-3 so I'm looking forward to experiencing some for the first time. This thread will be a great discussion.
A friend was telling me that only "select" Trek episodes will be available on instant queue... I hope this will not be the case. I was looking forward to re-watching all of TNG.
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Old March 16 2011, 12:24 AM   #7
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Re: Watching and reviewing the 2nd half of Voyager

Noob here but been active at Bridge Commander (game) community for few years. Been (re)watching all trek series for research - recently created Nova bridge set - and found with passing of time interesting changed reactions. Voyager was first Trek series I loved (apart from TOS). Always felt got better as went along, but rewatching have changed opinion. Only character who really improves with age is Janeway. And maybe the Doctor. Now realise the best written/most interesting episodes are in Seasons 1-3 (though a fair few clunkers as well) as we get to know to cast. From season 4 onwards it feels like they're treading water, revisiting greatest hits and Seven starts to over-influence storylines. Which results in Phillips and Russ being criminally wasted. Voyager had disappointing villains (Kazon, Borg, etc) and I think never found its 'soul' compared to TOS, DS9 and ENT. But still think had the best under-utilised characters: Tuvok (the best Vulcan after Spock) and Kes (Seven may have been considered 'sexier' but not in my book, and a great loss).
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Old March 16 2011, 06:25 AM   #8
heavylids
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Re: Watching and reviewing the 2nd half of Voyager

froot wrote: View Post
heavylids wrote: View Post
This is going to be a good thread. I just finished season 3 of VOY and will start season 4 when it's available to watch instantly on Netflix. I have only seen every episode from seasons 1-3 so I'm looking forward to experiencing some for the first time. This thread will be a great discussion.
A friend was telling me that only "select" Trek episodes will be available on instant queue... I hope this will not be the case. I was looking forward to re-watching all of TNG.
I don't think so. Every other tv show on Netflix that is available to watch instantly has every episode of a season. They may not have every season, but from what I've read every Trek series in it's entirety will be available to watch instantly.
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Old March 17 2011, 07:07 PM   #9
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Re: Watching and reviewing the 2nd half of Voyager

heavylids wrote: View Post

I have only seen every episode from seasons 1-3 so I'm looking forward to experiencing some for the first time.
There's nothing like crushing disappointment.
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