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William H
Wed, Nov 15, 2017, 6:42am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S7: Drive

Tom throwing the race annoys me. I know its the big romantic gesture to show how much Be'lanna means to him, but its not fair on the other people who worked on the Flyer to get it ready for the race, and, considering they're leading at the time, its disrespectful to the race and the other competitors
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William B
Sun, Nov 12, 2017, 5:06pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: In the Flesh

I tend to agree with the consensus that this is entertaining but goofy, shallow, and stupid. I guess I'm willing to put up with a certain amount of goofy/shallow/stupid depending on what the episode presents to counterbalance it, but the ep just seems ill-conceived. I don't really mind revealing that 8472 are not purely malevolent and that a peaceful solution is possible; "your galaxy will be purged" as an extreme defensive posture in light of the Borg's aggressive attack makes sense. But the draw of 8472 was how alien they were, and this episode jettisons that for a chance to see some more (pre-First Contact) Starfleet costumes and some of the Starfleet HQ set. I guess the idea is maybe that 8472 learned to be nice by being in Federation bodies for a while, sort of in the style of the way the aliens are corrupted/saved by becoming flesh in By Any Other Name, but that sort of goes counter to the fundamental "they think humans and other Feds are out to get them" narrative, anyway, and so the result doesn't hold together. The only real thought I had about what this story *could* be doing is that it's a bit of a take-off on the Founders material on DS9, and imagining whether it would be possible to use diplomacy on another race of shapeshifters set on infiltration/domination, but even if this one-episode ultra-light take on the Homefront problem were a good idea, why make it 8472? The Cold War stuff just doesn't feel credible in the way something like TNG's The Enemy did -- an episode from which this episode borrows both the "we'll disarm first" solution and the idea of the captain asking a crew member to give their "blood" (nanoprobes in Seven's case), though the implications of Janeway maybe ordering Seven to give up her own nanoprobes from her bloodstream are not examined. Chakotay is the lead for most of the episode, but his relationship with Archer doesn't seem *that* consequential in the negotiations as compared to Janeway's own material, so the amount of time taking up on the Chakotay/Archer stuff doesn't quite seem worth it, despite Vernon's fun performance with some proto-Ellen Tigh snarking and boozing.

The ending is especially weird if you stop to think about it. 8472 seem to believe that the Federation is a big enough threat to them that they must plan an elaborate subterfuge, not exactly their style. They don't believe Janeway that the Federation doesn't have weapons that could take them out. And so, when Janeway offers to turn over *her own ship's* weapons, they just accept that, even though the whole point is surely that if Janeway's lying, her drop-in-the-bucket weapons would have no real significance. And then Janeway shrugs off "Boothby's" prevaricating "well, we'll see, I'll put in a good word for not destroying Earth" and speeds on her way, not seeming particularly worried about the threat -- probably because the 8472's just look human and so not that scary. Whatever. The spy stuff early on, which takes up the bulk of the episode, is mostly fun and well executed, if shallow, as I said, and I don't mind the Classic Trekkian messaging, just that it's not handled with that much grace, and the ending is especially unsatisfying. 2 stars maybe?
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William B
Fri, Nov 10, 2017, 10:56am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Fourth Season Recap

Just another question while it's on my mind: so in the Taylor era (which I'll define as Flashback through Hope & Fear), are there any recurring members of the crew who appeared besides Vorik and the Wildmans (I know Naomi isn't a crew member, but...), and I guess Seska in Worst Case Scenario? (I guess technically Kes was not a main cast member in Scorpion II and The Gift, but I think it's obvious she's in a different category.) And moreover, were there any episodes in this period in which a one-episode crew member had a significant effect on the episode, in some way? These aren't meant to be purely rhetorical; I honestly can't think of any. This is sort of what I mean about what I think the show was trying to have (if imperfectly) in s1-2 that they mostly lost in s3. I'll grant Vorik, and the Wildmans do appear in Mortal Coil (and SPOILER Naomi becomes a significant character), but otherwise it's not just supporting players, but the whole world of Voyager seems to only be the main cast. I guess if we count the Leonardo da Vinci holoprogram as a "crew member" we could throw him in too....
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William B
Fri, Nov 10, 2017, 10:43am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Night

I enjoyed it more than any other premiere save Scorpion II, at any rate. (I will maybe revisit Caretaker at some point to see if it works better for me in a different mood, since it's so important an ep.) The episode's first half (two-thirds?) is very good -- lots of character moments followed by a Disaster-style set of unusual character pairings, with great, moody visuals and a good score. And then, yeah, it becomes pretty rote for a while. What was interesting about the first half was seeing the crew interact with no threat except themselves and darkness; the initial threat was interesting because it still emanated from the void and manifested itself as a total power shutdown -- so a more extreme version of what had already been going on. The environmental stuff with the Malon and the Void Lifeforms wasn't *bad* exactly but jettisons much of what had been interesting. If I force it I can probably come up with some thematic link here -- the Malon are the villains of the episode because they produce a lot of garbage and try to dump it in the Void where no one can see, but in fact you have to deal with your garbage, and Janeway's attempt to dump *herself* in the Void, and thus also her guilt, is misguided, because it's better to actually deal with it. Or something. I'm not sure what to say about the life forms there though.

As to the Malon characterization -- I agree that it seems that under most circumstances, Emck would prefer to have a ready-made working technology fall in his lap, since that surely would lead to greater profits. And it's especially true because it's not as if Emck seems to be the owner of the Malon garbage disposal technology, but the captain of a lowly freighter who happens to know a sweet shortcut, and so it seems obvious that he would be trading up within his society considerably. If they did want to go the "personal gains over society gains" route, though, they could have done so plausibly; Emck could have revealed, for instance, that his species does not have an intellectual property system, and only compensates people for services rendered (or something), and thus that any technology he brought to his people would lead to no personal gain for him and would also put him out of a job. Or, maybe another way is if either the government, or perhaps his corporation, owns the intellectual property of any discoveries he makes, so that he would basically end up with nothing as a result of it; the only reason he's able to do as well as he can right now is because no one else knows about the Void, but it'd be impossible to keep the *technology* secret, especially given the technical resources required to actually implement it. I think there are lots of ways in which the economic system could severely dis-incentivize progress plausibly, but it'd be nice to have at least another line of dialogue explaining why Emck wouldn't get the obvious potential financial benefit from the tech.

Anyway I found Janeway isolating herself, as we do see, a little sudden and extreme, even with the multi-month in darkness backstory, but basically plausible. I think had the episode more explicitly tied this to the end of Hope and Fear -- reveal that after the initial feeling of optimism from Seven's lack of desire to return to the Collective, the grief over another missed opportunity home and the shame over Arturis' accusations and the reveal of his world destroyed by the Borg might well have started to crush her, and then lead her back to the initial decision (mistake?) that stranded them all, back from Day One, and which also led to her dubious decisions taken to try to get them home. And absolutely, Jammer is entirely correct that actually mentioning the number of dead crew members would have strengthened this episode considerably. (I'm reminded of the BSG scene SPOILER in Scar, where Starbuck starts going through the lost crew members, and imagining an equivalent here.) I think Jammer's statement in the review that this seems to make Janeway a bad captain is maybe broadly "true," but that's not really the point, is it? Over on DS9 (SPOILERS for those who haven't seen it), Sisko was at this very moment taking months off from his position at the most strategically important station in the cataclysmic, quadrant-threatening war effort, because he was broken by recent events. Janeway continuing to run herself but isolating herself when the ship is completely out of crisis mode seems to me to be an appropriate equivalent for a long chance to catch up with years' worth of unprocessed baggage, in comparison to the sudden shocks at the end of DS9 s6.

Chakotay doesn't have that much good material these days, but I was impressed with most of his scenes this episode. The Tuvok scene I thought was strange -- are they really still at each others' throats? Really? -- but basically this episode does plausibly show a Chakotay who can handle command but also who does not want to go without Janeway, and recognizes his responsibility to help her. Most of the cast has some good scenes or moments -- for example, the Chaotica simulation was pretty funny, particularly Seven's neutralizing of the robot and Neelix' snapping at Tom and B'Elanna that they are SENIOR OFFICERS and need to behave like it was a great way to take him out of his usual benign persona in a character-specific way.

But anyway! The ending: the Caretaker dilemma repeats itself and Janeway realizes she can't go through with stranding the ship again, so she comes up with a new plan. I know that (SPOILER) this eventually sort of ends with the have-a-cake-and-eat-it-too solution in Endgame. I guess I'll see how things go with that, but I find it unsatisfying in Endgame, as a series finale. As much as I think Caretaker botched the execution, I think the idea there was that there was no third option where Janeway got to both protect the Ocampa and save her crew, not that she simply wasn't trying hard enough. Here, I'm not so sure. I think Janeway has isolated herself enough and gotten herself into enough of a funk that it makes sense she'd fail to consider all the options, and pick a way that protected the crew at the expense of herself as a kind of punishment rather than see that in this *particular* case they did have a better option. The crew's "mutiny" is cute, and emphasizes the idea that they have moved into a sort of family unit where there are things greater than the chain of command -- namely, the captain's life, and her membership in the family.

Of course this scene really strongly emphasizes how much the non-main cast do *not matter at all* anymore; the extras milling around on the bridge don't even pay attention, which is surely bad directing, but in general it basically remains that the entire crew is reduced to the main cast. I talked about this in the s4 recap post but I think what I'd add is that in season 1-2, it wasn't just that there were some recurring supporting players (Seska, Carey, Jonas, Hogan, Suder, Wildman, etc.), but that most of the time the ship just *felt* like there were other people on the ship besides the main cast who had opinions and thoughts and agendas, even if they didn't frequently come forward and sometimes those agendas were mishandled by the show. Maybe we didn't see them, but they were there. This is sort of similar to the Enterprise-D, where there were, yes, many recurring players, but in general the tone suggested a huge flagship with a lot going on at all times, of people transferring on and off the ship. Episodes like this one really emphasize the idea that the crew is a family, but ONLY a family of nine characters, and everyone else is basically irrelevant.

Wow, the destruction of the Malon vessel with all hands seems a bit extreme, huh? And "time to take out the garbage"!!! Oh well. I guess it couldn't be helped, maybe?

I guess I'll go with 2.5 stars too.
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William B
Thu, Nov 9, 2017, 2:48pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Extreme Risk

Last beat: I'm not sure which episode to blame this on, because I suspect that the relevant dialogue was thrown into Drone after Extreme Risk was written, but I find it very funny that in Drone, there was a little exchange about how bad class II shuttles are, and Seven makes a vague "you should design a NEW shuttle" and everyone looks at each other with interest, as if this idea had never occurred to anyone before; and then in this episode, when Tom brings up the Flyer, Chakotay and Harry complain that Tom has been bringing this up again and again, meeting after meeting. So the scene in Drone which was SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED to set up this episode gets contradicted. Oh well.
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William B
Thu, Nov 9, 2017, 2:38pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Extreme Risk

Anyway, I was all set to go to bat for this episode, and then I actually rewatched it. I don't think the B'Elanna material is bad at all and I have a lot of respect for what they were trying to do, and I can understand people who think it succeeded. To me, it sort of succeeded most of the episode and then fell apart at the end. And even there, I can, again, see what they were going for; I just don't think it worked.

The basic idea here that B'Elanna is that since the Maquis revelation, some parts of B'Elanna have shut down and she's had a sort of high-functioning depression with some extreme risk-taking self-harming behaviour in private, undertaken largely to help her maintain her daily functioning. I'm not sure if Dawson sells all the nuances here, but the attempt to generate fake enthusiasm over a flat affect more or less works and feels authentic, and (particularly because the tech plot is so boring) I think that the experience of feeling one has to fake enthusiasm and joy in order to avoid having to deal with others' concern and attempts to solve a problem which maybe can't (and maybe shouldn't) be solved felt very real and relatable to me. She feels nothing at the loss of the Maquis, so either means that she is on some level shutting down her feelings, in which case she can anticipate a huge surge of pain and loss once her defenses go down and she's terrified, or else she's simply become a terrible person who, as it turns out, didn't love her friends anyway, in which case she's also terrified. The way the episode tries to play things so as to be consistent with the portrayal of B'Elanna from Prey through Drone is to imply that she's been able to maintain a basically believable facade for several months, but it's finally starting to crack now. This does and doesn't work; honestly I didn't feel as if previous episodes portrayed her as all that emotionally numb, and the implication that she has been less irritable lately doesn't quite seem to work, although even within this episode there are moments in which we learn that B'Elanna actually still is quite irritable, but at random times. (I'm thinking specifically of the moment where she yells at Vorik to "turn that damn thing off.") The self-harming, risk-taking, addictive behaviour makes sense to me as someone whose only way of feeling comes from the survival instinct popping up when she encounters the possibility of death; and it's also a way to play with her own fear of death and loss in what seems like a setting that's just barely safe enough, but also dangerous enough to make her feel she's experiencing something of what her fellow Maquis may have encountered when they were mass-slaughtered. There's some survivor's guilt in there too, and in general a PTSD-type inability to adapt to a "normal" life where the reality of death is pushed to the background in order to focus on day-to-day functioning.

But it's not entirely implausible that she's been mostly externally functional in the intervening time, especially because in fact there was very little B'Elanna material after Hunters anyway, largely due to Dawson's pregnancy. I think had the episode emphasized that B'Elanna has been less able to maintain her composure *lately*, leading to more and more extreme behaviours on the holodeck culminating in her injury, would have given a greater sense of why exactly it's clear to everyone (including the audience) what is wrong in this episode, but was not clear at any point before now. The big question mark is the relationship with Tom; in Vis a Vis, the show went to big trouble to show B'Elanna trying to make things work and Tom pulling away, and this episode reverses it, while seemingly attempting to suggest that B'Elanna was already in this stage in this episode back in that episode. Vis a Vis was already unconvincing, and so to retcon that on top of that episode, B'Elanna was also already consciously feeling nothing for Tom and pulling away, but that this somehow didn't show up when she was trying to convince him to let her into his life, just seems especially unbelievable. Not only that, but the episode fails to have any real resolution for B'Elanna and Tom, besides I guess her saving him in the Flyer. It's not that their relationship has to be the most important thing to her, but Day of Honor was the main Torres episode the previous year and that really pushed the relationship front-and-centre, and the way in which this episode fails to resolve that aspect is overall disappointing. In general and with Tom specifically, the episode could easily have tied things into Night and emphasized that B'Elanna was managing to hold herself together until they hit the void, and then her ability to present herself in a functional way unraveled when crew morale in general started to fall apart.

I guess Janeway giving the go-ahead to investigate B'Elanna's holodeck programs isn't a grave violation of privacy under the circumstances; whereas in DS9, the Holosuites are private (and I think Julian even says something to Garak in Our Man Bashir about it being illegal to break into someone else's program without permission), the holodeck on Voyager seems to be one that people can walk into at all times, and anyway B'Elanna engaging in life-threatening behaviour does probably become Janeway's business. And I guess Chakotay is the first officer. That said, for her to encourage *Tom* to go with Chakotay to investigate B'Elanna's logs reads to me as particularly inappropriate. I think as her boyfriend, he maybe abstractly has a right to know what's going on with her, but that is something B'Elanna should decide (provided he's not in danger) -- or, if she refuses to tell him, he can leave her, but I don't think putting him in the position of investigating her makes sense, especially before the root of B'Elanna's problems become clear.

Chakotay's method of getting through to B'Elanna is not recommended to try at home, but I think it makes sense on a character level that Chakotay would make that call, and as Jammer says it fits with previous depictions of "the Maquis way." I don't think we need to "approve" to see that it's his judgment of how best to reach her, and to get her to admit what's going on with her and maybe examine it. The scene between the two does seem to me to be effective, and is sort of the emotional climax, and it mostly works -- her grief and and the suggestion of some of the underlying truth breaking through that she fears might lose her family again breaking through, and Chakotay's reassurance that he can't promise nothing bad will happen, but that she has to realize that she's not in the same kind of unstable situation she was in earlier in her life. And then --

And then, yeah, the ending. I think I get what they were going for. After talking to Chakotay, the spike of pain at confronting those feelings she's afraid of, after Chakotay gets through to her, sparks her to action. And the action involves an actual life-threatening, risky situation, and I think it also helps resolve some of her problem because she actually does get to experience "extreme risk" in an *appropriate* setting -- i.e. one in which she gets the chance to risk her life for her loved ones and even save them, rather than one in which she continually risks her life purely in order to satisfy some emotional needs she can't understand. Not only that, but the Flyer's "microfractures" causing a hull breach which B'Elanna can cover up using a force field is a metaphor for her own self-saving; the "microfractures" of despair finally lead, through Chakotay's forcing her to see her friends murdered again, to a whole part of her being forcibly blown out, and it's only then (and when their lives are threatened on the Flyer) that the omnipresent but invisible threat she feels becomes a problem she can go into problem-solving-mode to combat.

And yet -- first off, Voyager gets regularly threatened with destruction, and so I'm not sure why this particular event triggers the transformation for her; and on some level her sudden realization that she wants to go on this mission also strikes me as somehow forced. The main way it makes sense for me is if B'Elanna really believes that if she doesn't go on the mission, her friends will die, and she gets a chance to repeat the trauma of losing her Maquis friends but this time she can do something about it -- and that's probably what is intended, especially with B'Elanna's "if that hull breaches..." line. But just a few minutes prior, she was still intent on moping in the holodeck while Chakotay was called to the bridge. Was she listening in on the comm channel? How did she know where Chakotay was?

And maybe more importantly, this actually goes down to structural flaws in the script, which seems as prone to devastating "microfractures" as the Flyer is: if the Flyer is in such danger of the hull breaching, then they *shouldn't launch*. It makes Tom (in particular) and the crew in general look like idiots for going ahead. And the justification that they need to get the probe back remains flimsy at best -- without any particular reason to care. And even if we imagine what Janeway et al.'s reasons are to be willing to risk lives to get the probe back, it seems clear that Tom's reason is purely that he wants to test out his new ship, and is willing to take huge risks for *that* reason alone. That's really stupid and reckless -- and in fact, is actually much more reckless and self-destructive than anything B'Elanna does in the holodeck. The only way it works is if Tom and Janeway (at least) believe that the microfracture threat is not a real risk to the shuttle, and they happen to be wrong. But we know Tuvok considers it a grave risk, and I'm not sure what changes between the scene of Tuvok snarking about the Captain Proton elements of the ship's design and the actual launch that would override Tuvok's opinion, as the senior officer working on the project, whether it's Tom's baby or not. Really, given that the episode didn't supply a plausible reason for taking the risk to getting the probe back, it's necessary for the emotional arc of the episode to have Tom (as pilot), Janeway (as approver of the project) and the rest of the crew on the Flyer to believe that the microfractures are no grave risk, to be willing to go even with B'Elanna having been switched out, AND to have B'Elanna believe that the microfracture risk is potentially catastrophic and could destroy the ship. And then to buy that, we also have to believe that B'Elanna was so out of it that she didn't even say outright how risky the whole endeavour is until the very last minute, after Chakotay's pep talk, and also that Tom apparently doesn't let his discovery his girlfriend's months of self-harming behaviour interfere with the schedule of his vanity project. Further, the construction of the Flyer, already a difficult task, is not even halted when the chief engineer working on the project was revealed to be psychologically unfit throughout the period of time in which the ship was constructed. (I want to underline this. Shouldn't the crew have to go over all of B'Elanna's work to make sure that she didn't make a mistake because her mind has been elsewhere throughout the project?) The ending relies on the type of situation where her friends' lives depend on B'Elanna opting in AND B'ELANNA APPARENTLY KNOWS IT, but no one else seriously seems to think that B'Elanna's presence or absence is a significant change in the project's feasibility, including B'Elanna literally right before she decides she needs to go after all. And it's not impossible; we can say, for example, that perhaps all the simulations showed that the hull would not be damaged by the microfractures and Tom was confident, but wrong, and B'Elanna had some kind of "engineering instinct" that warned her that the shuttle wouldn't survive when she actually came around, and that B'Elanna was so depressed that before the shuttle launch was imminent her mind didn't even work through the actual likelihood of a hull breach, or something like that. Or, it's hard to evaluate the likelihood of a hull breach, and so B'Elanna went on the off chance that she would be needed, and it turns out she was; so in this case, it was actually really unlikely that the microfractures would cause hull problems, hence why it was just, like, that one panel that had a problem, and B'Elanna "got lucky" that her services were actually required so that she could get her necessary catharsis. The latter is probably what they were going for. But somehow the tone of it still feels wrong to me -- the stakes seem out of whack. The thing is, of course, having something higher-priority than a probe (like, say, a crew member) would make more sense of the absolute need to take risks to get it back...but then, that would have the effect of risking making B'Elanna look unsympathetic for being so blase and (apparently) uncaring about the shuttle. So I think the problem is that the show is attempting to play things two ways, which are mostly (though not entirely) contradictory -- starting with "mundane, non-life-threatening shuttle-building plot is too much for B'Elanna in her depressed state" and turning to "actually, the shuttle-building plot is life threatening and that allows her to get the emotional catharsis she needs to get better," and in the process just looking incoherent.

I think what the script maybe needed -- if they were going to go the route they did -- was some sort of escalation that transformed the Flyer project from a fun, semi-serious diversion where they might just have to not launch, into some sort of crisis where they absolutely needed to go. I'm thinking of something like TNG's Hollow Pursuits, where a slowly-brewing crisis only became unambiguously dangerous in the final act, and it's there that the protagonist's ability to solve the technical problem (which also mirrored his emotional problem) became important and gave some sense of resolution to the emotional plot through metaphor. The space race with the Malon kind of does that, but while the ticking clock provides urgency it doesn't provide any sense of why this is important, which is what we really needed. As is, either Tom et al. are reckless idiots, or B'Elanna got very "lucky" that something did go wrong, neither of which is satisfying.

Banana pancakes scenes: one of my favourite movies of the 2010's, if not exactly a "good time," is Lars von Trier's Melancholia, and in one scene, the depressed co-protagonist Justine gets her favourite dish and bites into it, and declares with horror, "it tastes like ashes!" We get something similar with B'Elanna's disinterest in her favourite dish early in the episode, but at the end, she orders it again...this time with maple syrup. Ah, so that was the missing ingredient all along! :) I kid, and I don't hate that final moment, and I don't think it necessarily implies she's "all better," and, yes, sometimes there are subtle signposts/shifts in the way people get out of depressive periods in their life that defy analysis. Mostly, though, I don't buy it, but it's not really the scene's fault; it's that I don't buy the Flyer scene, and so don't buy the joyous coda afterward.

This ended up getting really negative, I know, but it's mostly that the climax on the Delta Flyer was so unsatisfying. I'd actually maybe say 3 stars for the whole of the B'Elanna plot, and something like 1 for the probe plot; the former is clearly more important and has more screen time so I'd maybe give the whole episode a low 2.5.
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William B
Tue, Nov 7, 2017, 10:53pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Extreme Risk

I should clarify -- I like Skeptical's point that the probe is a mundane problem. My problem is that the continued treatment of he probe recovery as an unquestioned necessity, after the Delta Flyer was suggested, is bizarre and seems unfounded, especially once they get to the stage where they are clearly risking lots of lives over it. It was such a strange mundane/high stakes combination that I was finding myself both bored and frustrated. Which, again, maybe fits the B'Elanna plot; it is certainly the kind of tech plot that would be extremely difficult to keep oneself going through while in a depressive spiral.
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William B
Tue, Nov 7, 2017, 10:45pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Extreme Risk

More later, but I found the tech plot agony to sit through this episode. Who cares about the stupid probe? What possible reason is it worth risking the lives of four crew members by going in a rickety, untested ship to get it back? That's in addition to the dozen or so Malon who die over the course of the ep trying to get it, presumably including the crew of that shuttle they send in which apparently was unable to escape from the gas giant, leading to Janeway sociopathically smiling. Blow it up so the Malon don't get it and move on; surely they could shoot it or something, or have a self-destruct option or something? Strap a warhead to another probe and send it in if they genuinely have no other ideas. And even then, the no tech sharing rule has already been bent, and they attempted such with the Malon no less, so maybe they should just let them get it rather than throwing another shuttle and four senior staff members at it. I wondered watching this ep whether the grinding boredom and apathy and desperate need to feel anything else I experienced in every scene where they talked about the probe was a trick by Biller to get me to feel what B'Elanna was feeling. If so, very clever. I am joking and exaggerating, but not that much.
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William B
Tue, Nov 7, 2017, 4:20pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: Let That Be Your Last Battlefield

@Trent, thank you! I've been enjoying reading your comments of late.
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William B
Tue, Nov 7, 2017, 4:17pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Fourth Season Recap

That should read, "...building to something grand in a different way." Really "grand" is the wrong word; broad might be more like it, but I don't mean broad in the sense of "broad comedy." The season seems to be focusing in on a handful of characters with sharper focus, and also to some extent really going all in with the mythic qualities of the story (which works very well in some eps, like Living Witness), and that really is basically both a good and bad thing. I feel like it would have been possible for the show to balance both the strong new elements it included with some of the discarded elements from s1-2 (and sort of 3, the transitional year), in which case Voyager could actually have eventually become a much better show. But I think it's still taken a turn for the better this season and I'd largely say I enjoyed it.
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William B
Tue, Nov 7, 2017, 4:13pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Fourth Season Recap

I managed to catch up and write about most episodes this season, so I'm fairly happy; as always, I'll maybe go back and fill in the rest, or maybe this is it. Ratings, with differences from Jammer's rating in parentheses:

Scorpion, Part II: 3 (=) (I think I'll settle on 3, but I might have to really think about it; this is one I haven't written up)
The Gift: 2.5 (-0.5)
Day of Honor: 3 (+0.5)
Nemesis: 2.5 (-0.5)
Revulsion: 2 (-0.5)
The Raven: 2.5 (=)
Scientific Method: 2 (+0.5) (this is silly and not great and sometimes dumb, but fun enough to go above 1.5, despite what I said earlier, I think)
Year of Hell (both parts): 3.5 (+0.5 each)
Random Thoughts: 3 (=)
Concerning Flight: 1 (-1)
Mortal Coil: 3.5 (+0.5)
Waking Moments: 1.5 (-1)
Message in a Bottle: 3 (=)
Hunters: 3 (=)
Prey: 3.5 (=)
Retrospect: 3 (=)
The Killing Game, Part I: 2.5 (=)
The Killing Game, Part II: 1.5 (-0.5)
Vis a Vis: 1.5 (-0.5)
The Omega Directive: 3 (=)
Unforgettable: 1 (-0.5)
Living Witness: 4 (=)
Demon: 0.5 (=)
One: 3 (=)
Hope and Fear: 3 (+1)

So the average comes out to 2.56, which is a dramatic improvement on any of seasons 1-3 and is overall pretty good. I'd characterize this season in similar terms to Jammer, basically, but I think my overall feeling about it is better; I'm not really disappointed in the show most of the time, because I know what it is by now, and I think this season does involve a lot of honing of the show's strengths. I will say that the season started off with a sort of 2.5-average period from Scorpion II through Scientific Method that was comfortably in the 2-3 range throughout -- average with a decent run of quality -- and then from Year of Hell on was similar in average but much more variable in quality, with a fair number of standout shows and lots of very bad ones; the whiplash of (especially) Unforgettable/Living Witness/Demon, my favourite of the season sandwiched between my two least favourite, was pretty extreme. I agree with Jammer on Prey and Living Witness (neither of which I talked about) being season highlights, and I think I'd probably agree with them being the best of the season (certainly Living Witness), but I do think that Year of Hell is very good, as is Mortal Coil, as well. The end of the season went a little haywire -- The Killing Game II through Demon had one classic, one very good show, and four bad ones -- but overall the season is notable for its managing to get rid of many of the rough edges of s1-3, which were especially noticeable in s3 before the dark Before and After-and-after period. The quality control seems to be better, basically (though, again, it started conking out at the season's end, which produced lots of good shows but many bad ones).

And of course, Seven of Nine. So of course her introduction is a mixed blessing; while the suit is pretty distractingly silly, the writing and performance of the character were top-notch and she had a solid, well-written character arc for the season. The problem is that the movement to focus on Seven did leave much of the cast behind, and there is a sense in which many characters were left behind never to be fully recovered. Janeway and the Doctor are the only two characters who don't seem to take a hit *at all* from Seven's introduction, at least this season; Janeway is clearly still the centre of the show, and her relationship with Seven also gains prominence even if some of her other relationships wither a little bit over the season. The Doctor still has several key episodes and generally is better used than in season three and one (and to a lesser extent season two, which was his best season previously). It's worth pausing to note before continuing that the show is not *exactly* the Seven show. She is a frequent topic of conversation and an unstable element and does seem to have the most screentime save Janeway. However, the only episode in which Seven is sort of a full, unambiguous episode lead is One; before then, she was a key figure in an ensemble single main plot in several episodes (Scorpion II, Scientific Method, Year of Hell, The Killing Game, Prey -- which, yes, has Seven make the final call, but is mostly an ensemble piece with a lot of material for Chakotay), was a central figure in one of the plots in a fairly evenly split A/B episode in several cases (The Gift, Revulsion, The Raven -- which has a Seven focus but spends a *lot* of time on the Voyager side of things; this is the iffiest of these I think), and several episodes rely on Seven's interaction with another cast member, usually Janeway (The Gift, Prey, The Omega Directive, Hope and Fear) but also the Doctor (Retrospect, the first half of One). In the Janeway episodes I listed, Janeway arguably gets more focus in pretty much all of them, and the Doctor has more of an arc of sorts in Retrospect than Seven does. The season is still "the Seven show" insofar as many of the key character beats end up centring on how major characters react to Seven in addition to how she reacts herself, but it isn't *quite* a total takeover of the show.

What we do see, though, is how the cast besides those characters suffers. Chakotay actually still has a lot of material; Scorpion II, Nemesis, Waking Moments and Unforgettable are basically all vehicles where he's the lead or maybe co-lead in the case of Scorpion II. The problem is that besides Scorpion, the episodes don't really do that much with Chakotay himself, and Waking Moments and especially Unforgettable are actually bad. He does have big, important supporting roles in Year of Hell, Hunters and Prey, probably among others, and Year of Hell especially makes good use of him. B'Elanna does okay in the first half of the season, particularly with Day of Honor but also Revulsion, Scientific Method and Random Thoughts, and her relative disappearance in the second half of the season is partly a function of Dawson's pregnancy rather than the shift in the show's focus. But the rest of the men in the cast seem to mostly disappear: Neelix, apart from Mortal Coil (though this isn't a huge change from season three); Harry, apart from Demon (I guess?) and the occasional Seven scenes ala Revulsion; Tuvok outside Random Thoughts and the two stories where he's paired with Seven -- The Raven and Year of Hell; and Tom outside the early B'Elanna relationship episodes, that brief Message in a Bottle subplot, and the woebegotten Vis a Vis. One of the comic highlights of the season for me was the scuffle of the organic boys in the fake history in Living Witness, partly because in some ways I think it does represent accurately the way the show sort of reduced the large male non-AI supporting cast to a somewhat undifferentiated mass with very little material this year. For the record, I'm absolutely not claiming this was sexism against men or something like that, particularly given the amount of affection the show still holds for the Doctor (and how little impact Kes' ejection from the show really had), so much as that there are a whole lot of characters that seem out to sea. I'm hoping this will get better in future years, but from my memory of season five, the only character of this set who I recall getting significantly more and better material in season five than in season four is Tom. The main place where it's a big shame is with Tuvok; to some extent Seven has usurped Tuvok's role as both Janeway's confidante and as the stoic, efficient co-lead, and while some episodes like The Raven, Year of Hell, Unforgettable, and Hope and Fear (among others, probably) played up a bit of a compare/contrast between them in the way they both approach their different attitude from the more emotion-driven rest of the crew, I think that the show generally downplays this angle. This is a shame because of course the show manages to avoid having Seven step on the Doctor's arc by having the Doctor take a mentorship role with Seven as an "outsider commenting on humanity," and the differences in their responses in that particular role are highlighted throughout.

In fact, the real issue I think with the cast besides Seven, the Doctor and Janeway isn't just the amount of material but the quality of such, which is clearest in Chakotay's case. Most of the worst episodes of the season -- Concerning Flight, Waking Moments, Vis a Vis, Unforgettable, Demon -- are all ones that have very little Doctor or Seven material (I'll admit Waking Moments has a fair amount of Doc presence and so is maybe a marginal case). I'll add that Scientific Method and The Killing Game both have the odd property that the first and superior half of the story included some Doctor/Seven plotting which was mostly dropped partway through, at which point they didn't have a particularly significant role. Anyway with often only one or two episodes featuring a cast member in a significant way, the quality of that (those) one or two episode(s) has a big impact; I end the season feeling better about Neelix's story than Tom's because I thought Mortal Coil was great and Vis a Vis was bad, rather than because Neelix was better served by the other 25 episodes of the season than Tom was. Along those lines, the relative dearth of material for Tuvok is a shame but what material he has is good, and so I still feel happy about the character -- and besides, as the oldest and most stable one in the cast, it's not a big deal for him not to change very quickly.

And it is worth noting that the world on the ship seems to be shrinking. This was literalized at several points in the season -- the crew being sent off into escape pods at the end of Year of Hell I, the entire crew save Seven and the Doctor being put into stasis in One, the way only main characters seemed to be involved in the Killing Game scenarios we saw -- but really, besides the occasional appearance by Vorik and the Wildmans' role in Mortal Coil, there were no indications this season of a continuing world on Voyager outside the main cast. This was true in season three, too, for the most part, after Basics Part II, and in some ways it does feel a bit as if Jeri Taylor et al. severed themselves from most from the Piller era that wasn't baked into contract (Suder, Hogan and Seska were of coursed KILLED in Basics II, but Carey or other characters introduced in previous years are still around, no?).

Anyway, it's a bit disappointing that a lot of the cast is underserved, but the show really did get a burst of energy from Seven's introduction, as well as the exciting development in the Message in a Bottle/Hunters mini-arc. There's a sense in many episodes this season of a show gesturing toward the kind of long-form arc storytelling that DS9 was imperfectly executing over on the other channel, but with a somewhat looser approach, epitomized by Prey, one of the season's best, which grew out of ongoing storyarcs which were coming to a head -- interpersonal conflict between Janeway and Seven, the way the Hirogen and Species 8472 had been introduced and their role in the show thusfar, relying on the crew's experience with both species in terms of how they reacted to the situation. So there's a weird mixture where the show is becoming more committed to being episodic while also branching out into new territory. I think mostly what it is is that the show's focus is narrowing, and that leads to some clarity in the parts of the show that get focused on, but a feeling of the universe of the show closing in more tightly when it felt in previous years like the show had the potential to be...well, wider. The show is much better this season so I mostly won't complain about the choice (more than I already have), but I also get why people like Robert say that they felt a lot more attachment to ~s1-2 where the show seemed to be imperfectly building to something grand.
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William B
Tue, Nov 7, 2017, 12:38pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Nemesis

I wonder if I should revisit this, because it does seem to have a really intense following here and I agree that the episode has many strengths. I'd say I liked it, but didn't love it. I think the idea is generally good, and that while the subject of propaganda is not original (and the episode hits some beats so familiar as to be cliche), it's not as if humans have moved *passed* propaganda and forms of mind-control to stir citizens into hatred and violence. The specifics of the simulation seem to me to map onto false-flag attacks, which have their own history; I think usually it's not so blatant that a massacre will be completely fabricated (though maybe I'm being naive), but certainly attempts to stir hatred by using enemy attacks or even provoking them maps on pretty well to what Chakotay goes through. The use of psychotropic drugs can be taken as a metaphor for the way propaganda distorts the mind, but lots of governments *have* used drugs as a form of control in wartime, too, so it's not even much of a metaphor.

The choice of Chakotay in particular makes sense since he's a basically peaceful guy but also someone who has himself been drawn into a major conflict in the past, which he references here; maybe the episode could have had a more explicit character core by comparing/contrasting his experience here with how he felt about the Cardassians, what the similarities and differences are/were. I get the impression that Chakotay-the-freedom-fighter maybe did some questionable things but never got to the frothing-with-hatred stage he gets to at the episode's end, and saw his cause of protecting his people (broadly, the DMZ ex-Federation people) as the motivating factor rather than actual hatred of Cardassians; we can't really be sure, but his reaction to the reveal about Seska, which was more about personal betrayal and romantic confusion, suggests to me that he doesn't have a deep race-hatred for them. So maybe this could be a way of underlining how insidious propaganda is, that someone who even has fought a war in the past against a basically fascistic enemy and still maintained a certain ability to see his enemy as people was turned around.

This contrast helps highlight something unusual about the episode's take on this material -- Chakotay is basically a third-party guy, dropped into a simulation where he eventually sides with one side of a conflict, and goes through the training program of one of the local elements. Since we learn that the Vori have a sophisticated propaganda system which is directed not only at their own soldiers, but to random third-parties who happen to pass through. It seems like a pretty inefficient system, especially since it seems as if there was a whole simulation which might not even have been a holodeck-type thing (the village is on, what, continuous loop? was that girl real? etc.). It doesn't really map onto the way members of a society are propagandized -- that's basically a lifetime practice, for a start, but even if it's something that happens more quickly, it's unusual to create this situation where an individual with no stake in the conflict, far from anyone he knows, to be thrown in and forced to bond with strangers and to hate the enemy. I mean, was there a big risk that Voyager *wouldn't* recover Chakotay and take him away? The episode's ending features Chakotay reacting with horror to the Kradin ambassador, and says that he wishes it were as easy to stop hating as to start, but, dude, you'll never see these guys again. Chakotay is obviously still traumatized and it may be that hating the Kradin will make it easier to hate other species in the future, but it's a particular case where the real-life "equivalent" consequences are much worse because it's not as easy to completely extricate oneself from an entire race or nationality or religion, including second- or third-generation descendants of same. Now, of course, American soldiers returning from Vietnam might be able to mostly avoid the Viet Cong in their everyday life, so it's not wholly a useless comparison, but it still feels a little empty in comparison to the way hatred can infect a whole society because of war.

So, there is Trek precedent for our heroes being drawn into a conflict, maybe through propaganda or mind control; think A Private Little War, with the proxy war and where Kirk was maybe bewitched, or Conundrum, where the crew's memory was wiped to dump them into a middle of a conflict. In the first case, though, the specific case of a proxy war between larger powers was clear; in the second case, it was also clear that the species with low weaponry but good memory-alteration (propaganda) technology targeted the Enterprise (the Federation) because they were really useful because of their huge ship and resources. In this case, it's not clear why Chakotay as a single individual would be so useful to kidnap and brainwash him, or what the real life analogy is. I guess we could think about "child soldiers," kidnapped and indoctrinated into a battle that they had no stake in, or something similar, but then the speed with which the simulation runs on Chakotay and Chakotay's own lifetime of experience make the comparison feel a little weak. I don't know. I think what I'm getting at is that Chakotay's neutrality is a really important distinction from how a lot of conflicts work, and I would have liked to see the benefits of the Vori expending resources on outsiders explored, as well as maybe some impression of how this might relate to Earth's history.

I also get the reason for the dialogue's unusual cadence -- to help the process of assimilating Chakotay (and the viewer) into the thinking of the people he gets dropped into, and for the most part I think it works. But there are times when the dialogue is too stilted; "They'll be fast walked to the extermination facility," which combines goofy "fast walk" dialogue with the seriousness of death camps. A lot of the episode is like that, having hokey elements in the middle of a sober reflection on war and propaganda. In terms of structure/pacing, I wonder if the reveal that Voyager is in touch with the Kradin ad B'Elanna's gee whiz, hope Chakotay didn't fall in with those brutal savages! line gives the game away a little too much, and the plot goes to a weird place at the end when Chakotay apparently sees Tuvok as the enemy because of...drugs?...but, uh, the enemy actually looked like that! How do the drugs know to have him see random people as the enemy? What?

So, a bit of a mixed bag, though more pluses than minuses. I'll say 2.5 stars.
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William B
Mon, Nov 6, 2017, 1:05pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Hope and Fear

Count me among this episode's admirers -- to an extent. I admit that years after it aired and knowing its place in the series, I'm particularly prone to be forgiving of the qualities that so grated on Jammer -- the nth iteration of the bait-and-switch "will they get home" story, the endless promise and deferment of actual change to the show's status quo. But really, this isn't False Profits, or even Eye of the Needle (which is a great episode); the way that hope was dangled before the crew only to be grasped away at the last second was not just a cruel twist of fate (or the writers), but a direct consequence of the decision in Scorpion that actually did change the show in a fundamental way. The two major elements to this episode, which bookend Scorpion II (and The Gift), are Janeway's relationship to Seven and the ramifications outside the quadrant of Janeway's deal with the Borg, made to help her and her crew get home. And these two are not even separate, because the reason Seven is on board is because of that deal. My main problem with the episode's ending isn't that Arturis turned out to have a vengeance deal against Janeway and that the way home was a ruse, but that we don't get to see (within this episode) a more direct impact to the guilt trip he lays on her; Arturis may be a villain, but his whole people are dead or assimilated partly because of a choice Janeway made. I don't expect Janeway to crawl into a corner and die, but it feels a bit as if her reaction is a bit too understated. But anyway, having Arturis lure Janeway in with the promise of Getting Home, which he characterizes as a selfish desire, and tying it in with her earlier actions, is really the type of thing that critics like Jammer (correctly!) articulate the show should be doing -- following through on major events, re-examining the unstated and unexamined aspects of the show's premise, and so on. This generally works as a capstone to other elements of the season too, not just to Message in a Bottle/Hunters but also to the implication in Living Witness of an alternate interpretation of Voyager as a ship which destroys whole civilizations as part of Janeway and its crew's monomaniacal pursuit of home. (And for what it's worth, Janeway also *isn't* wrong that Species 8472, in the Borg's colourful language as Arturis says, did seem to be a threat beyond the Borg; the big issue is that the discovery in Part II that the Borg started the conflict didn't lead to a change in strategy, because Janeway was already in too deep, and only indirectly led to her attempt to somewhat make up for it in Prey by defending the 8472 before Seven made the call to ditch it.)

What occurred to me, thinking about the episode afterward, is this: I wonder if Janeway's intense attachment to Seven of Nine and her investment in bringing Seven closer to humanity (and maybe "redemption") is related to her deal with the Borg. If she can save Seven, and bring her closer to humanity, does that in some way create a sort of penance for the "deal with the devil" she made? Or is it a way to in some way convince herself that the Borg as a whole are not wholly beyond redemption, if a single Borg drone can be brought back to being a moral actor and an individual? Seven's repeated accusations that Janeway is attempting to bring Seven in line with Janeway's own values have some weight, as do Janeway's repeated assertions that she is attempting to do it for Seven's own sake as well as for the ship's. The underlying reason for Janeway's making Seven a personal project is left somewhat ambiguous in the season, and while it could be an instance of sloppy or incomplete writing (I never rule it out), it makes a certain amount of sense that it's Janeway attempting to own the consequences of her decision in Scorpion in a way that is manageable, so that she doesn't actually go insane.

The Janeway/Seven scenes in the episode really work for me overall, especially the one in cargo bay 2 where Seven insists she is not going back to Earth. It's an interesting ambiguity, in that I believe Janeway is essentially correct that Seven is dominated by fear (even before Seven acknowledges such, it's not hard to see in the writing and in Ryan's performance), but I also agree with Seven in almost every individual point -- that she has a right to leave the ship if she pleases, that she already *has* made a series of contributions to the ship and its crew, that her right to self-determination surely must include the right not to go to a place where she may well be hated and scorned, and to which she has no attachment anyway. The scene is electric. And I appreciate Seven's arc throughout the episode, beginning with frustration at her apparent limitations against humans in the velocity game against Janeway at the beginning, finding herself reluctant and eventually terrified when B'Elanna identifies what a whole world of humans against which Seven's need to be perfect and her falling fall short of human expectations would do to her, and longing in some respects for a place of genuine belonging with the Borg but rejecting it when the opportunity really presents itself.

What I think holds the episode back for me -- besides the sense of incompleteness in Janeway's reaction to the bombshell that Arturis drops -- is that it really is the Janeway & Seven show. I don't think that's *entirely* true of the season as a whole, but the notion that the rest of the crew besides Janeway, Seven and the Doctor (who doesn't get much material in this episode, which is fine -- he and Neelix are the two characters who have little direct attachment to the AQ) mostly drop out has *some* merit even if it's not entirely accurate. The way in which the majority of the cast's reaction is downplayed even to getting home, let alone abandoning Voyager, and let alone the eventual realization that it was all a trick and especially that it was a trick from a person from an assimilated species who blames Voyager, is kind of a problem, and suggests that, yes, many of the characters are somewhat reduced to props in the Janeway/Seven story, despite a few good moments here and there. Why *does* B'Elanna want to get back to Earth when the Maquis are all dead and she might well get jailed? How is Harry going to react when his hopes are dashed again? The scene where Janeway and Seven's logs overlap really underscores how much this episode is a Janeway/Seven show in intent and structure, and that would be fine if it weren't a story that obviously impacts the entire crew. This is in addition to other weirdness surrounding the plot that I think is attributable to the laser-sharp focus on the Janeway/Seven story (with Arturis as foil/villain), such as the idea that Starfleet sent a mega-encrypted message of Admiral Hayes (who seems to have died in First Contact anyway) saying "sorry"; I get that they didn't want everyone to be able to see the information about the Delta Quadrant they sent in the encrypted message, but surely they wanted the crew to be able to read the message and also not to get their hopes up.

So I don't think it's quite a standout, but I think it's like the season overall -- a little unbalanced, some weaknesses, but a strong character core, for the characters that apparently matter. 3 stars.
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will atlantic
Sat, Nov 4, 2017, 11:11pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S1: Into the Fold

This was a good character development vehicle for Isaac. An average show overall, perhaps a bit below average - I feel like the abductor's plot could have been a lot more interesting, like maybe if he figured out she was a doctor and forced her to work on a cure with what was on hand. It just ended with a thud of his body hitting the floor. The fact that the doctor had kids on board felt like it just came out of nowhere but I think this could have been a standout episode nevertheless.
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William B
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 1:46pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Day of Honor

I should add, Neelix offering himself to be B'Elanna's emotional punching bag is one of the sweetest things I can recall on this show, and one of Neelix's best moments.
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William B
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 1:45pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: The Raven

I mentioned this briefly in talking about One (obviously these comments are out of order), but I think the most interesting aspect of this episode is the way Seven seems to revert to little-girl Annika when she revisits the Raven and starts reliving her own assimilation and the destruction of her parents. It's not just the number of years she was in the Collective that lead Seven to see her Borg existence as so comforting, but unprocessed trauma from decades ago, which her existence as a Borg could help her avoid dealing with, and which still helps her avoid dealing with even now. As the first instance post-The Gift in which Seven goes rogue, I think this episode manages to keep the character seeming dangerous while also showing a sort of development that suggests why Janeway's project is worth trusting on some level; she initially goes to the comfortable Borg persona, but quickly rules out assimilating Tuvok and simply wants to return herself to the Collective, and Tuvok recognizes this and sees that Seven is mostly only a security threat to herself. (Mostly. Obviously she got Voyager in hot water with the run-of-the-mill xenophobic aliens.) Like other oppressive regimes or cults, the Borg ends up functioning (possibly partly unintentionally) by inflicting horrible damage on its victims and then providing the "cure"; the Scandinavian-sounding Annika Hansen has a sort of Stockholm syndrome. Her tricky relationship with the Borg isn't resolved here, but another wrinkle is added in a long-form unfolding story that's beyond most of what Voyager has accomplished so far.

Of course, yeah, the xenophobic aliens take up a lot of screentime, most of it wasted, outside the one moment when they show the route they suggest Voyager takes, which gave me a chuckle. I'd probably give 2.5 stars to the episode too.
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William B
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 1:39pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Day of Honor

A possible link between the emotional plot and the Voyager/aliens plot: people devastated by difficult experiences don't always behave the best. B'Elanna's response to a difficult upbringing has mostly been to shut down, with the occasional outburst of anger; she's having a great deal of difficulty realizing that she's now in a situation where she doesn't have to be on edge all the time, and can maybe let other people (like Tom) into her life. The aliens have been so broken by the Borg that they cannot set limits to their own behaviour, and view Voyager's mild efforts to help them as licence to take everything. In a sense their responses are opposite -- B'Elanna is unwilling to take what is being offered her, and the aliens are unable to restrain themselves. In defense of the aliens, though, it seems like they really are desperate and starving. I don't feel any particular malice at them for their survival-motivated actions, even though I don't think they are admirable and I do think Janeway should defend Voyager; but I do think that the solution at the end, while maybe implausible in some senses (I'm not sure why the Borg assimilating some of them would remove their knowledge) seems like a better solution than perpetual conflict. That the aliens are willing to accept a gift from Janeway and from Seven of Nine -- and that Seven finds herself willing to offer one -- similarly seems to me to have a bit of meaning over in the other plot, where B'Elanna is willing to both take a personal risk by saying she loves Tom (giving him a gift of sorts), and take maybe a greater risk in accepting the possibility of his love in return. The meaning of the Klingon Day of Honour ritual changes throughout the day; like most Klingon rituals it has some violent symbolism and seems to be about honor-as-fighting/glory, but by the end of the day B'Elanna recasts "honour" as something that she is missing in her life because she lacks a certain amount of courage to go after what she actually wants in life, and not to be so badly ruled by fear and irritation. I'm not really sold on what the rest of season four did with Tom/B'Elanna (...spoilers) but this episode strikes me as effective and plausible as a follow-up to what season three did with the two of them, and makes a good step forward in both their characters. It also is the first episode to showcase Seven of Nine in her mostly-settled form; the "random acts of kindness" theme is a little overplayed, especially with Janeway throwing it out there at her at the end when Seven's actions of giving out tech were obviously not motivated by random altruism but to shave the ship from capture and destruction. But still, she has a number of good scenes, and the way she plays into the central Torres material (as another frustrating element in an increasingly frustrating day) is a good use of the character in supporting capacity, using the friction resulting from introducing this radical, unstable element into the crew to further the stories of some of the already-existing cast. The episode isn't thrilling exactly and aspects of the alien plot feel rote but I think it's mostly a good character piece; 3 stars.
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William B
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 1:30pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: The Killing Game

Drafting off Elliott's comment above, I like that in part 1 at least, the episode seems to further some character arcs by playing them out within the Hirogen simulation, most obviously the Janeway/Seven (Katrine/LeNeuf) conflict, which comes to a head near the end of part one and which Tuvok makes clear is something which has existed in-story within the Resistance simulation, too. Others have noted that it's neat to have the layers of the crew playing resistance fighters when they are mounting a resistance against the more powerful Hirogen; we also get the way Tom and B'Elanna's separation gets played out as a much longer separation within the story. This stuff is fairly interesting. There are also, as in The Killing Game, some parallels between Janeway and the bad guy; the conversation between the Hirogen commandant and his lieutenant in which his lieutenant indicates that learning about the Voyager crew is a waste of time and they should stick to their primary objective, and where the commandant emphasizes the importance of taking risks to learn about other cultures, mirrors the Janeway/Seven conversations in a few episodes this season, particularly the one in I think Waking Moments. I think that Seven being the one who can see through the simulation is not just a rehash of Scientific Method but on some level a kind of development of it; there's something going on in some episodes like this where the Outsiders Commenting on Humanity are usually the least susceptible to particular forms of mind control (see also: various episodes of TNG with Data, things like Dramatis Personae with Odo), and Seven straddles the person/machine boundary and so can be both in and out of the world, and it's hard at times for Janeway to know if Seven's outsider perspective is valuable or simply wrong and an affront to her. The Commandant's idea of trying to move the Hirogen to a new paradigm where the hunt becomes a cultural tradition that helps to define them but is no longer leading them to hunt other species to extinction and to destroy their own habitat is also an interesting idea, and the way in which he tries to use myth -- using history or recreations of it to help them understand the reasons for their violent impulses, while finding a way to control them through the use of fiction and role-playing -- is interesting of itself and ties in with the broader use of Trek as mythos to examine and recast violent (or other "baser") impulses in a positive way. On that level, I love the mention of BOBW, one of the most famous Trek episodes, as one of the possible simulations.

So that's all interesting. It's also almost entirely in part one. Part two really just throws everything at the wall, and after the whole crew regain their memories, it even loses whatever is interesting about how the characters are recast in a historical setting. It's just a bad guy fight, but not only that, it's even a bad guy fight where the *ACTUAL* fight ends up happening off-screen after a whole hour of chaos (hence the "oh yeah, and then we spent three days fighting and it was a draw!" ending, which is unsatisfying. There are still some good moments in part II, mostly involving the commandant character who is at least somewhat interesting, and I liked Janeway's method of turning the tables on the lieutenant, but most of what was somewhat interesting about the first part just disappears in the drawn-out stuff in part two.

I'd agree mostly with Jammer's ratings on this, but would go a bit lower for part 2 -- 2.5 for p1, 1.5 for p2.
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William B
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 12:43pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: One

There are some episodes that seem like they are better suited to a half-hour episode format; this really feels like if it were an animated series-style episode, it could have been great. As is, it's okay. There just isn't enough material for a whole show in here. Skeptical mentioned Firefly's Out of Gas when talking about Demon, and that episode managed to make long sequences of isolation effective first of all through a beautiful musical score and great central performances, but also by layering in a complex flashback structure. Something like 2001: A Space Odyssey manages to make long sequences where nearly nothing "happens" interesting by focusing on the technical realities of what life on a space ship would mean for Bowman and Poole and by using the spectre of conflict with HAL to create a slow sense of dread, as well as (again) making the visuals and music do some heavy lifting. The episode here doesn't reach those heights, and nor should I really expect it to, but man, I think the ep either needed to have something else *happen* or to commit more fully to showing what Seven's daily routine is, both with and without the crew, to give some further context to how the experience of total isolation differs from her regular experience.

The thing that's interesting about Seven's plight in this episode is that Seven's time in the collective led to her never being alone, and always having a number of voices in her head, but ALSO led to her having no concept of "social skills." The Borg's emphasis on efficiency and utility and their collective nature eliminated the role of "inefficient" interpersonal communication and friendship; social needs were fulfilled by the mere fact of being hooked in with thousands of voices with a common goal, and so the way in which humans (or humanoids I guess, plus the Doctor) satisfy their needs for companionship in more indirect ways is hard for Seven to grasp. So Seven is already deeply isolated on Voyager, spending much of her time alone on an episode-to-episode basis. How does *that* loneliness affect her? Why does she find herself so unwilling to interact with other people on social terms, given that the way the Collective circumvented those social needs is gone? The episode sort of addresses those ideas, but I think it doesn't quite do so well enough; I think the idea is that Seven is so used to the Collective's form of social contact that she cannot adapt to the conversational social style favoured by the Voyager crew, and so she convinces herself that she doesn't need others, and only interacts with them in the standard way she does -- through work. But that contact was enough, for some time, combined with memories of the collective, to convince her that she was capable of operating as an individual without joining the rest of the crew. The time truly alone through this episode emphasizes how badly she needs other people, in a way that she had been completely unaware of, despite her already-present state of isolation. She thought she could continue placing the abstract good of the group and efficiency as ways to stave off loneliness and aloneness because those worked in the Collective, but they could only take her so far, and the small points of contact with other people which she had ignored before turn out to be very important.

Ryan is great and so is Picardo, of course, in these scenes, and I like the way the two grate on each other in isolation and the way Seven in particular seems to want to be rid of the Doctor before he disappears and then she is desperate to have him back. I also like the way there is some fear/desire mixture with the alien; I don't think her sexuality is exactly activated by him, but there is something in the attention he pays her (with a sort of leering quality) that seems to trigger both repulsion and a kind of attraction, because she also really *does* need someone, even an imaginary someone, to keep her company and keep her from going insane. I like the idea too that Seven has mostly thrown herself into her work, including work with other people, and it's only when totally alone and with no feedback from other crew members or the command structure whatsoever that she starts to feel something like guilt about what she did in the Collective, and to understand and process what some of the crew's feelings about her actually mean. I think in some ways that the "moral dilemma" where she has to choose where to cut power comes too late in the episode, and seems odd anyway (she seems to cut life support to the whole ship at once, rather than to, say, every room but the one she's in), but still makes an important point about Seven trying to figure out what it means to be moral partly by trying to figure out what other people would say about her. There's a childish quality to her loneliness, and it reminds me of the way The Raven suggested the unprocessed trauma of her assimilation as a child, and the way in some senses her emotional growth was stunted at the age she was when assimilated, despite her physical and intellectual maturity.

I find the idea that Tom can keep climbing out of the stasis chamber really unbelievable, especially with the idea that he keeps not getting horribly scarred. The hallucinations involving the alien have some benefits -- his articulating some of Seven's fears about herself, of whether she's effectively a mass murderer, seems worthwhile, for instance -- but mostly he seems like a weird, half-digested story idea, with a lot of hokiness. And as I said, I feel like the episode should have maybe been more incisive about how Seven is able to function as alone as she already *does* on the ship, a huge open question which the episode only really gestures at. (Maybe this is more a flaw with the season overall than the episode in particular.) Still, I like the episode and find it touching. I think like Jammer I'd say it just barely makes 3 stars.
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William B
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 12:26pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Hunters

First off, Melgrew KILLS it when she reads Mark's letter, and when she talks to Chakotay later, managing to maintain Janeway's emotional integrity even through the writers' apparent attempt to sabotage the scenes through Chakotay's dialogue --

JANEWAY: It was from Mark, the man I was engaged to. He told me about the litter of puppies my dog had, and how he found homes for them. How devastated he was when Voyager was lost. How he held out hopes we were alive longer than most people did until he realised that he was clinging to a fantasy. So he began living his life again. Meeting people, letting go of the past. About four months ago, he married a woman who works with him. He's very happy.
CHAKOTAY: How do you feel about that?

JANEWAY: It's all right. You can say it. On top of all that, I got a Dear John letter. It wasn't really a surprise. I guess I didn't really expect him to wait for me considering the circumstances. It made me realise that I was using him as a safety net, you know, as a way to avoid becoming involved with someone else.
CHAKOTAY: You don't have that safety net any more.

While I don't think Beltran did much with the scenes with Janeway -- maybe he couldn't, given how Chakotay was written as alternatively dense or a smirking opportunist in those scenes -- I think that he handled the Maquis-revelation scene with Torres/Dawson very well. The Maquis material feels incomplete, especially since we never do see Chakotay making a shipwide announcement, or talking with Janeway about what it means for him to know that he's in relative comfort and security, accepted back into the fold by Janeway, when the rest of his organization has been mostly slaughtered and a handful of the lucky ones are in prison. But the Chakotay/B'Elanna scene and her rant to Harry are good moments, and at least I know that (SPOILER), even if maybe too little too late, this *will* come up again (in Extreme Risk). Tuvok's quiet reaction to his family's message is also touching, and I like the ambiguity that remains in Tom's avoidance of hearing about his father's letter and then his uncertainty in dealing with it not coming in. I don't know if I agree with the theory mentioned earlier that B'Elanna deliberately deleted the message from Tom's father, though it's an interesting one; but what I like is the idea that Tom is so grateful for the miracle of his place on Voyager that he can't even handle the idea of looking back, that the disappointment of his father's view of him will be hard to control and contain even when among friends and loved ones. Parents, man. I like that a full range of reactions is shown from the main characters, and that most people end up with a sort of ambivalence about the news they've gotten, grateful to finally know what has been gnawing at them but maybe saddened by the way life has passed them by, and what they are just now discovering they really *have* lost. The quiet moment where Seven is reminded by Janeway that she might have family in the AQ is also powerful.

Anyway, yeah, Neelix is annoying, especially in the Tuvok scene. And Harry's going on about his parents' letter is hard to watch, less because it's that bad for Harry to want to hear from his folks, but because the scenes get highly repetitive and there are no new notes. The basic idea is that Harry has uncomplicated joy at hearing from home, and this contrasts with the ambivalence or heartbreak (or restraint, in the case of Tuvok) that everyone else has; it's important for the episode to have this kind of positivity be displayed in someone. I just wish it were done in a less one-note fashion. (Also, what about Libby? I guess he just assumes they're over.)

The Hirogen stuff is bad and boring and I just wanted to forward to the next scene. As others said above, I think Tuvok's simplistic threats weren't out of character but were indications that Tuvok was tailoring his approach to what he believed the Hirogen culture was, so that's fine on a character level but on an entertainment level it's unclear why we are supposed to care about these generic baddies. I might have had more to say immediately after the episode but I've already forgotten most about these scenes except for a general distaste and annoyance. I think this is an episode that could have simply ditched the action subplot and gone with straight drama (and probably comedy), but I know that this is Voyager we're talking about.

3 stars is fair, I think.
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William B
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 12:13pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Message in a Bottle

I think the episode isn't completely without meaning as it stands. The Doctor's role as counterinsurgent on the Prometheus with the EMH Mark II ties in with what it might mean for Voyager to eventually return to the Alpha Quadrant: should Voyager make it back, it will be behind the times, with out-of-date tech compared to newer Starfleet ships and at sea about the current political realities of the AQ, but the crew may also have unique experiences to contribute. The EMH1/EMH2 is a sort of microcosm of that, and the comic beats of the buddy doc movie feel somewhat appropriate in that sense. Still, I would only go as far as "somewhat." I don't really expect Voyager to hew too closely to the details of what's going on in DS9, but while a Romulan takeover of a Federation ship isn't wholly unbelievable, it doesn't quite fit in with their neutrality in the Dominion War at this point in time, and anyway the Romulans are only a generic baddie foil to get this comedy-adventure plot. It's a *good* comedy-adventure plot, with the Picardo/Andy Dick dynamic being fun and energetic, but I agree with Jammer that it mostly feels misplaced given how momentous the general occasion is. I feel in some ways like this exact story -- of the Doctor returning to the Alpha Quadrant and having an adventure which allows him to stretch out in the absence of the Voyager crew and in the presence of more up-to-date but also less experienced Starfleet denizens (or an EMH, even!) -- would have worked perfectly at some point like, say, around Life Line, where some degree of contact were already established as part of the new paradigm of the show and some inroads to bringing Voyager and the AQ in sync with each other were happening, and when the story wouldn't have to bear the weight of being the VERY FIRST contact with the AQ devolving into an admittedly very fun action-adventure yarn. It feels like a lack of imagination that the only thing they could think of to do with the Doctor in the AQ was to have some ship takeover plot, even if there is some thematic significance (that I mentioned above) and plays in with the Doctor's own arc. So the episode suffers mostly from being a missed opportunity, which (again) would have been mitigated if it weren't the only such story to be happening at this time.

The intro of the Hirogen passes by mostly without much going too wrong, the Seven stuff seems to be heating up (though I can't believe Janeway just lets Seven shocking that guy go without even saying anything about it) and the ending, with the crew finding out they are no longer alone, is quite touching. It's a very good episode that is held back by the feeling that it was not really the most appropriate use of this story opportunity. 3 stars.
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William B
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 11:58am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Year of Hell, Part II

Since I've just bashed a bunch of episodes, I want to talk about this two-parter, which I really loved. Just a few comments rather than a "full" analysis (as if that's what I ever do):

* The episode was careful to set up some interesting Janeway/Annorax parallels. Both become increasingly obsessive and unhinged, and there is the possibility of mutiny floated about, at least to some extent. The Doctor's attempt to relieve Janeway and her threat to him is an example of someone trying to go through official channels to point out that she's gone too far, and the impossibility of doing so when she still maintains most of the nominal power, which reflects Annorax's first officer's attempts to convince him to stick to what their goal should actually be rather than his personal obsession. Additionally, both characters had keepsakes from a lost loved one they are remembering -- Janeway keeps Chakotay's watch, and Annorax keeps his wife's lock of hair. Both start to anthropomorphize non-living things at the centre of their obsessions, Janeway with Voyager and Annorax with time itself. Both are motivated by guilt, particularly centred around the loss of that loved one, surrounding an initial act of hubris. Note that Janeway agrees to Chakotay's suggestion that they break the crew apart immediately after Chakotay is captured, suggesting that on some level she believed Chakotay had been right but was unable to face it.

The main guilt of Janeway here is a combination of the guilt from Caretaker -- of stranding her crew in the first place -- and then the more proximate guilt of entering Krenim space rather than avoiding it (say, by settling on some planet). That element of the story is a kind of indirect follow-up to Scorpion, and the Janeway/Chakotay difference of opinion is something of a development of that. Janeway is obsessed with getting her crew home, and while she briefly considers other options, she generally shuts them down even when they represent greater chances of survival. And that desire to get them home is something that stems in part not from what the crew actually wants and needs, but from what she thinks she owes them because she was responsible for stranding them in the first place, in Caretaker. Chakotay makes a suggestion that maximizes the crew's chance of survival but minimizes their chance of collectively making it home, and Janeway initially rejects it, until enough deaths happen that she responds to it; this is similar to the dynamic in Scorpion, where Janeway decides to take the risky option that has a higher chance of failure but where the gain is maximized. Annorax is similarly motivated by guilt around killing his wife (and crippling his people more generally), of course.

This raises the question also of how Tuvok's behaviour compares with Annorax's first officer, since Tuvok fills that function for Janeway in Chakotay's absence. Tuvok continues to support her no matter what, with Seven nudging him to recognizing that he might be wrong. Is Tuvok correctly valuing loyalty and faith in his captain, or his he (as Skeptical suggests) blindly following her orders?

* Similarly, there is some element of a parallel along Janeway/Tuvok/Seven and Annorax/Chakotay/Paris lines. As Janeway/Annorax become more erratic, Seven/Paris increasingly suggest that the leader has become unhinged to the person they are closest to currently -- Tuvok/Chakotay, who continue to maintain that it's possible to reach them and trust them. The differences, I think, are also crucial; Tuvok ultimately doesn't give up on Janeway because she has genuinely earned his trust (from before the Year of Hell), whereas Chakotay was really in a sense only fooled/taken in by Annorax, rather than someone whose loyalty was entirely earned, and so Chakotay eventually recognizes the situation and reluctantly betrays him. In a sense, what we are looking at in the difference between the function of the Krenim timeship and Voyager, through the differences in how the crews function, is the difference that loyalty based on love rather than based on fear produces; Janeway and Annorax are both unhinged and obsessive, but Janeway's obsession is still mostly directed toward her crew, whereas Annorax has largely lost interest in his own crew and his locus of obsession is outside them -- restoring his wife. Janeway's dedication to her crew is at times misguided, because she sometimes loses sight of what they actually need and focuses on what she thinks they need, but it's still a fair sight better than Annorax.

The contrast is especially interesting because the Krenim timeship is a place of comparative strength and safety. The Voyager is falling apart and people on board are dying; no one has died on the timeship, seemingly, for hundreds of years. And yet Janeway manages, albeit barely, to hold her crew together whereas Annorax fails. The closeness of the two to each other suggests how a combination of actual altruism (Janeway doesn't actually kill huge numbers of other people for her own or her species' benefit) and genuine loyalty to her crew allows her to maintain connections that Annorax gradually severs.

* Chakotay's role in the two-parter is very interesting. I can see the point that someone made above that having Chakotay the Native American be the one to fall under the sway of a genocidal maniac is a bad move; and I think that the episodes should maybe have spent more time showing Chakotay changing to get to the point where he starts accepting Annorax's premises, when it does seem that it should be against him. But basically Annorax presents Chakotay with a worldview in which peace really *is* held as a high good, and Chakotay's sympathy for someone having lost loved ones comes to the fore. Annorax's pitch that it's possible to find a solution that results in the least deaths and the maximum good is something that I can see appealing to Chakotay. And I think there is also some element of "seduction" (not in a sexual sense) where after living through the way Voyager fell apart, Annorax then throws Chakotay in solitary before bringing him out and plying him with good food and better conversation. He flatters Chakotay, as Paris notes. And while it's easy to say that Chakotay should be able to see through this, I think it also makes sense that some of his critical faculties have atrophied under the strain, and Paris is able to see it not so much because he is smarter than Chakotay but because he's less inclined to be drawn in by abstract spiritual discussions about the nature of time or of how to maximize good in the universe, and more to the point Annorax doesn't try. I like that Chakotay eventually starts to think like Annorax, not just in his attempt to bend the timestream to his will, but also in the way he eventually threatens Tom when Tom starts to get out of line. As stated, this is somewhat similar to how Janeway operates with the Doctor over on Voyager, but there is not quite the same apology-backtrack with Chakotay's "old fashioned way" threat to Paris as there is with Janeway's acknowledgment that she overstepped her bounds and should not have threatened him, even though she continues not to listen to the Doctor's requirements of her. On both Voyager and the Krenim ship, the dysfunction starts at the top and trickles down; Janeway inspires somewhat fanatical loyalty in Tuvok to match her own, whereas Annorax's intellectual detachment from everything but recovering his wife ends up sending similar shockwaves of distrust down through the "ranks," including between Chakotay and Paris, before Chakotay realizes that he's been somewhat taken in and reasserts himself as an independent actor.

* Yeah, I find Janeway's "THIS WILL RESET THE TIMESTREAM!" conclusion totally forced. I would have preferred it if she and the others on Voyager had identified this -- or perhaps found out about it from Paris' secret message -- and had made it part of the initial plan of attack, rather than it being some sort of last-minute instinct from Janeway. That said, the Janeway/Annorax parallels suggest why Janeway has to be the one to stop him in the end, and so I don't mind her being the one to come up with and execute the plan -- just that the way it was executed comes across as a lucky guess. I guess even there, it sort of works with the theme of madness, and I think had it been established that Janeway *was* taking a risk to restore the timeline (and thus her crew) but was willing to do so, in spite of logical objections, I would have been all for it. It still just seems forced in that it's unclear why Janeway would even believe destroying the ship would restore the timeline at all -- it is not an insight that seems to me to follow intuitively or rationally from what little she knows about the ship.

That said, I don't really find the reset in the ending that unsatisfying. We did learn something about the crew members during this time, even if it didn't "stick" in a direct way.

I'd give 3.5 stars to both parts.
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William B
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 11:29am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Demon

I'll add...if the episode had suggested some reason why the ship only shut down key systems when things got so dire, that major problem with the episode's set-up wouldn't be there. Skeptical for instance lists a few ways the deuterium shortage could have been set up in previous episodes, and mentions Firefly's Out of Gas as a model. I'll add that part of what made Out of Gas work is that it was a part breaking down, rather than literally suddenly being out of gas; Mal was warned by Kaylee about the part being in danger of breaking in previous episodes, and that certainly helped things out, but even if that hadn't been done, it would still be plausible that rickety ship could suddenly have a part which normally functions breaks down and for the time this happens to be basically unpredictable. If there were some indication that some recent battle led to the deuterium storage tanks (or whatever) were unexpectedly depleted (or something similar -- we could also compare the loss of water in BSG's Water), then again it would explain why the crew could only start to deal with the problem once it was nearly too late. I guess we can still read between the lines and assume that because the crew aren't totally incompetent, there was something unexpected about the deuterium depletion, but I feel like there has to be some sort of indication of how they got into this particular mess; it seems as if they are purely playing it as "well, Voyager is lost in the DQ; what do you expect?" when of course if they were in these dire straits the other episodes before this one would have been different.
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William B
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 11:17am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Demon

And yes, of course, the DNA magic is really extreme here, with the memories and apparently uniforms and communicators being replicated. As with the deuterium shortage, where it would have been better to say that it's some fake substance like dilithium that they needed to mine, couldn't they have dropped the pretense that this is about a substance with well-known properties and said instead that it's some sort of weird pool of shapeshifting goo that is able to completely reproduce a person, like the changelings, and the process allows them to also replicate memories? And yes it's a planet that's too hostile to orbit but they can land safely, etc. It's all madness and it's hard to even understand the point to it.
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William B
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 11:13am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Demon

I will forever be grateful to this episode for giving us this review of Jammer's. I'm tempted to say that that alone means it had a more positive contribution to the world than Unforgettable did.

But still, yeah, this episode is terrible and weirdly pointless. I guess if I put my desperate-analysis hat on, I guess I'd say that if we take this as a Kim episode, then Harry's initial desire to be a CONFIDENT PERSON and his newfound desire to hold onto his newfound confidence is mirrored in the way Metal-Goo-Kim is desperate to hold onto his newfound sentience; both Harry and Metal-Goo-Copy-Harry have suddenly gotten a taste of being "awake" after a long "slumber" (of being meek, or of being non-sentient) and are energized with an almost dangerous zeal to hold onto it. That's about as far as I can go, and even here I'll note that while, yes, Harry is still annoyingly presented as Green Ensign, I don't really see his act of...speaking up at a staff meeting as some sort of turning-over-a-new-leaf act, given that he seems to be willing to speak up every other week. When it comes to technical matters and when the show isn't deliberately portraying him as an eternal ensign chump, Harry is basically able to run the whole ship by himself (as in The Killing Game, where he takes point in a two-person resistance). And you know, Harry was speaking up about possible strategies from season one (see, e.g., Eye of the Needle, Prime Factors). His green-ness is more in terms of romance, command stuff rather than having good technical suggestions.

Anyway yeah. Deuterium is a rare substance that can only be found on weird, inhospitable planets? The idea that the ship only starts shutting down nonessential systems when it's basically hours away from total destruction? The 500K surviving skin? That whole Doc/Neelix subplot? The blatant Prime Directive violation at the episode's end, where an entire race of clones of the crew were left behind? Etc. It's all bad and weird and dumb and, most of all, boring. The only real points in the episode's favour are some mildly interesting atmosphere and the hilarity of that form-fitting space suit of Seven's. 0.5 stars seems reasonable enough.
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