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William B
Mon, Dec 11, 2017, 12:53pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: The Fight

Yeah, I found this episode pretty incomprehensible, which either means I wasn't willing to meet it partway (possible) or that it's basically unable to stitch together any compelling narrative out of the idea fragments that we have here (likely). I don't really understand what this tells us about Chakotay; I'm not *that* down on revealing that he used to box, I guess, but fear of going crazy seems completely out of the blue and seems to be the central thrust of the story. He confronts that old fear that he's going to go crazy, I guess. Great. The idea that the aliens can only communicate to people by turning on some "crazy gene" or another is potentially intriguing, but I don't think much is made of it here. I feel like I should have something more to say but this one really went right through me. Probably 1 star, though I guess I could be talked up.
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William B
Mon, Dec 11, 2017, 12:46pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Think Tank

I was mostly set to say this episode was good. We get actually alien aliens for a change, and while I agree with some commenters that the episode's pace was a little slow, for the most part it seemed *controlled* rather than sluggish to me. The Think Tank's offer to Seven was intriguing and pays off the early moment of Seven telling Janeway that she could just solve that puzzle for her; she is slumming it, in some respects. The character story here is the question of whether it's better to be with a family that respects you but in which it's hard to realize one's full potential (intellectually), or to be with a cold and amoral "family" which allows for greater opportunities for growth. This recasts Seven's experience of falling into the Borg in new terms, with the possibility of her willingly joining a group pursuing perfection, and Kurros even makes a direct comparison (he was traded to the Think Tank at about the same age as Seven entered the Collective). I was a bit surprised that the episode didn't play up Seven's temptation more, and I think the episode would have been stronger if it did suggest for a longer time that Seven considered the offer more genuinely, but I think it basically makes sense and helps to show that Seven is pretty attached to Voyager at this point rather than intellectual pursuits *by themselves*. And further, given that the Think Tank was revealed as not just amoral but having actively engineered Voyager's plight, I appreciate that Seven's choice to stay with Voyager was made *before* this reveal, so that there's no sense of contrivance in her personal decision -- it was not forced by external factors for her to decide she'd rather be with Voyager, and indeed Janeway's willingness to put Voyager in danger to protect Seven helps seal her decision. I am not positive how I feel about Jason Alexander's performance here, but I think I like it. I'll also add that I didn't find the episode to be anti-intellectual, despite the villains being geniuses, so much as making the argument that, like all other valid pursuits, intellectual pursuits are not sufficient by themselves, without some sort of moral and interpersonal grounding.

And then comes the episode's end. The ease with which Janeway unravels the Think Tank's deception is maybe a necessary contrivance for the plot to advance, but it's mysterious to me why the Think Tank were unable to anticipate it. I get that they're arrogant, but the bigger problem is that if it was this easy to unravel their deception, why did nobody besides Janeway et al. every find out how to do it before? The "if you can't solve the puzzle, cheat" idea has some value (think-outside-the-box), but the actual solution found didn't seem all that interesting. Moreover, since we were told ahead of time what the plan was, watching it be executed wasn't particularly interesting, and there were no minor wrinkles in it that made it still fun despite us having seen it. It just makes Kurros and all look stupid for falling for such an obvious ploy. The ending, with Voyager rushing off and Janeway smiling smugly while the Think Tank ship seems to be about to be destroyed, was also a little hard to stomach. Yeah, these are bad guys, but it's a rather un-idealistic ending; I'd like for there to be some specification that the Hazari were going to take over the ship but not kill the Tank members on board.

Anyway, I dunno, the ending just seemed lukewarm and vaguely objectionable, though not terrible, and it spoiled what had been an interesting if not exceptional first couple of acts. I think maybe a high 2 stars (could go to low 2.5).
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William B
Thu, Dec 7, 2017, 4:43pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Dark Frontier

Thinking about it, I think that the plan to steal the transwarp coil in part 1 might have been less crazy, I guess, had it been presented in a different way. They did emphasize that the one sphere was limping and that it had limited capabilities, and they did make an effort to show that they were trying to be "careful."

The main problem is that we've seen repeatedly that the Borg do try to recover their technology. The idea that they might be able to board a Borg ship without being assimilated isn't that crazy because the Borg *sometimes* don't respond if they aren't interested, though even there they'd need to somehow either be sure the Borg didn't see them or that they wouldn't be interested, which is hard to determine. But would they allow someone to take their tech without recovering it? They recover lost drones and lost tech all the time. Maybe if the plan had been to get the specs on a piece of equipment to be able to replicate it or something, it would have been more plausible; or if there were some work establishing why this circumstance was special. I don't know; I think it'd be possible to more convincingly assert that there was a Special Opportunity with a small Borg target, and the episode didn't do that for me.

I'll add that one thing that might have helped (and did sort of help in the final episode) is this: there is no reason to expect that the Borg were setting a trap, because there was no reason to anticipate that the Borg would play some sort of game. Why would they need to "lure Voyager in" with all the deception? It's not their MO. And then the show could reveal that the reason they are playing the deception is because the Queen wants Seven to come back willingly. Probably in the AQ, they know that the Borg sometimes want willing participants (from Picard/Data's revelations in First Contact), but that might not have been told to Voyager in the scattered messages they got in season four.

(I'll also add that this episode would work better if not for Drone, which did show the Borg obsessively pursuing the ship because of One, and I'm not clear on why the Borg would have "forgotten" that, or that Voyager has 29th century tech on board. I don't consider that as big a deal because one could say it was just the freak occurrence of One's existence that led to the Borg's interest, but it should still be a concern for the Voyager crew.)
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William B
Thu, Dec 7, 2017, 4:31pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Dark Frontier

Part II:

So the big character piece in this two-parter, under the action, is about Seven's role in her three families, and what it means for her to be recovered by Voyager. The Borg Queen tells her that (apparently) she was actually only allowed to be recovered by Voyager as part of the Borg's plan to allow her to be some sort of double agent to eventually take over humanity. Huge if true, and it makes some sense of the Borg's relative disinterest in recovering Seven; it's a revelation, though, that the show doesn't make much of in the long-term, and one wonders if it makes sense for it to have been introduced.

(If she was a double agent, why not try to recover her again after this episode's end? It's not wholly inconsistent with what we know from, e.g., First Contact, that the Borg wanted some sort of willing counerpart representative from humanity. It's not stated explicitly, but implicit in the Borg Queen's run-through of human failings is that humans still avoided assimilation, and she wants to know why; that something about human resourcefulness, probably linked in some way to their individuality, is something the Borg know they lack, and so want to be able to incorporate with a willing counterpart ala a Picard/Locutus, a Data, or a Seven.)

Anyway, the idea that she was allowed to be on Voyager as part of a double-agent plan creates a weird push-pull; on the one hand, her Borg family never truly abandoned her, and always had plans for her, lending credence to the Queen's claim that Seven is still *essentially* Borg rather than human, and that her human time is mostly a bad dream and an illusion. On the other, it emphasizes the cruelty of the Borg that the Queen apparently allowed Seven to suffer and believe herself to be completely cut off from them merely because of the utility of some sort of double-agent drone with human experiences. There were parallels drawn between Janeway and the Hansens, especially in part one, and now there are parallels drawn between Janeway and the Queen, with some repeated dialogue (the Queen's line about maybe pushing Seven too fast repeats Janeway's line before), and there's an open question how much the Queen and Janeway as dueling mothers both insist on imposing their own values on Seven in order to use her for her skills.

Annika Hansen apparently when her family brought her to the Borg and they took her over and replaced her with Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero One, who no longer had to fear the destruction of self and loss of family that Annika went through because the Borg were invincible and total; the fact that she was a Borg True Believer is part of their programming, of course, but also on some level a psychological defense mechanism from someone whose family were destroyed and who then needed to believe absolutely in the new family, even if they were the ones who destroyed her old one. It's creepy that her family was even folded into the Borg, and also that the Queen seems to wait to deploy this until the last moment -- a trump card that she has apparently hidden from Seven, who maybe believed her parents were murdered despite having been linked to the hive mind and so should have known that her parents were alive. It's not very Borg, I guess, or what we know about them, but it's kind of classic psychological manipulation in a cult (or other authoritarian regime), withholding belonging except sprinkled in small doses, doling out tiny secret privilege carrots only as temptations to prevent a person from escaping when the stick is likely to fail. We actually know from I, Borg already that individual Borg who don't have quite Seven/Annika's history don't react the same way to threats to Borg-ness that Seven did, in The Gift (and, as we discover, in Survival Instinct), and it seems to be the result of the isolation and terror of having her whole family killed or assimilated.

Seven wanted to return to the Collective when Voyager got a hold of her, and only agreed to stay when Janeway started playing the Collective card -- telling her to comply and whatnot in The Gift. In The Raven, she still wanted to rejoin the Collective but was willing to allow that Tuvok and the others might not want to and to respect that. In Hope and Fear, Seven revealed that her preference would be to not rejoin the Collective. So we know that her preference would be to stay on Voyager, in this episode, but she's still ambivalent, and after deciding to give herself up in order to spare Voyager, Seven tries to make the most of her re-Borg-ification. So here we get a taste of what Seven has learned on Voyager. On Voyager she rejects Janeway's emphasis on individualism, but that rebellion took place in an environment which encouraged Seven's individualism to a degree, so here she resists the Queen's. We don't get much time on it, but Seven's allowing a handful of people to escape assimilation (in a really great, bravura sequence) is both her showing her Federation "corruption" and also showing the same spark of rebellion that Seven used to use against Janeway (in e.g. Prey), when she applied Borg philosophy to break against Starfleet, instead of Starfleet against Borg. What's interesting is the way the Queen seems to make some sort of allowances for Seven's rebellion, allowing the family to escape (the way, you know, the Raven wasn't allowed to escape), rather like the special privileges Seven occasionally enjoyed on Voyager.

Janeway's taking a big risk to rescue Seven for Seven's sake in spite of Seven's betrayal is what convinces Seven to return to Voyager, and also on some level releases her from the trauma of her family having endangered/destroyed her. She even declares that her name is Annika Hansen here, for the first time (after having rejected that name for a long time), and she seems to be progressing to the point of, on some level, regaining a kind of ability to trust that was destroyed all that time ago. And yet there's still that edge to it; Janeway orders her around. We know that Seven would prefer to follow Janeway's orders than the Queen's now. When will she be past having to "comply," with either? Janeway's role as parent comes up again in the final scene -- where she orders her to go to sleep and have sweet dreams. And it's weird and interesting that Seven has this ambivalence about her "parents"; trusting her own parents (and being unable to stop them) led to her destruction, and then her second family took her individuality away and then abandoned her, and then her third family was a bumpy ride. Is it good or bad that she's trusting Janeway enough to follow her orders for her own good, rather than rebel? Is it progress or is she regressing?

I like this episode a lot for the Seven side of things. But, and this is a big but, it's unbelievable that the rescue operation worked. It's one thing for Voyager to be able to win in a skirmish with some small sphere-shuttle, or something, but come on -- Borg HQ? Back in The Gift, the Borg's not trying to track them down indefinitely was explicable because they got the big distance-boost from Kes and, more to the point, Seven *wasn't that important*; she was just one drone. Here we learn she's a double-agent and also that the Borg are planning another assault on Earth, and it just dies on the vine because the Queen can't do anything but gape when Janeway shoots that one node thing? I don't buy it and it hurts the episode in a pretty major way.

So the problems with both parts come down to the same thing -- the show doesn't sufficiently justify how Janeway et al. could reasonably expect to survive a Borg encounter. In part one, they justify it by having it be a puny sphere, but even then reveal that OF COURSE the Borg are too powerful and Janeway et al. are foolish, but then part two then amps things up by having Janeway et al. go to Borg HQ and then, after having the Borg having had a years-long (if opaque) plan far beyond Voyager's reckoning, they're completely incompetent in the face of a rescue attempt. It's not that hard to overlook this flaw during the Seven scenes, but it becomes difficult during the Janeway scenes.

I think a high 3 stars for both parts -- but it's really a split rating, not between Part 1 and Part 2 but between different elements of the story (maybe 3.5/2.5? 4/2?).
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William B
Thu, Dec 7, 2017, 2:37pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: The Disease

Although, I agree with Peter G.'s comment above about the simplicity of some of the Harry/Tal scenes -- that the idea is basically just that he needs some human contact, and also that the show should have explicitly tied in his impulse to find someone with what Voyager should have been doing. That's sort of what I was trying to get at with my comment, on the second point. I said I don't find the Harry/Tal scenes convincing, and that's still true, but I appreciate the idea of them that there's no overwhelming mega-story but he is just looking for some connection and intimacy, and there are some moments of sweetness between them.

Another thing the episode did sort of all right is to show how being "the good one" can actually have an ironic effect. Janeway had Harry pegged as the good boy, so when he did defy her orders even for essentially harmless reasons she came down *very* hard on him, partly out of a sense of betrayal that Harry wasn't the person she thought he was. It's like she's angry that he deceived her, when it's her fault she got upset, for assuming that he'd always be the same guy. I think this dynamic where golden boys get hit hard when they "fall" and people end up being less sympathetic to them than they are to most people. I think it's part of the Wesley story over on TNG, to an extent; it's not so much that Wesley gets disproportionately unfairly treated in The First Duty, but I think Wesley really *fears* it, because his whole identity (and the identity that's formed by others about him) is so based around being the wunderkind that it's unclear who he even is (or if it would still be possible to hold the respect of his mother or Picard) if he suddenly was just a teenager. Somewhat similarly, maybe, Harry's identity as a schmuck and a loser seems to be relatively set by this point, and we get the annual "now I'm going to change!" episode and he never does, but it's partly that Harry gets slotted into this by other people and then nothing he does can change their mind. It's mostly affectionate *within* series, though it probably still annoys Harry, and outside the series it's mostly less affectionate (he gets a lot of character hate).

Probably a lot of the appeal of Tal is that she is someone who could look at Harry and see a dashing officer rather than a toy soldier or the perpetual butt of the joke. And the point there is how important it is to be able to meet new people, especially when going through changes in one's life, to explore new parts of one's identity.

I still think none of these elements were dealt with particularly well, but I can almost see how this episode could have worked. Anyway, right, I think I'll go to 1.5 stars instead of 1.
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William B
Thu, Dec 7, 2017, 2:16pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: The Disease

This episode is bad (and gave us one of the great Jammer reviews) but it's not quite as bad as I remembered. The sexual prime directive stuff is overplayed and both the Doctor's and Janeway's reactions read as over-the-top, but while exaggerated it doesn't seem wholly incredible that they'd be concerned about unauthorized intimate contact leading to the introduction of pathogens into one species or the other or that Harry's secret dalliance is going to ruin the delicate diplomatic balance that they've struck with these xenophobes. The problem I think is that the focus is a little too diffuse, because yeah, there's been enough precedent of one-off romances that it is weird to act as if Harry has broken an obvious cardinal rule that we've never heard of.

One of the big problems I remember with this episode was how lifeless and half-assed the "generation ship...time to break up!" subplot was, and that's still true-ish; Voyager doesn't even do anything except for following Harry's idea to extend the field or whatever to minimize the damage, and so we are vaguely disinterested witnesses to an internal rebellion. But I think I get the reason for it, which is more to reflect on the main story. Tal and the Generation Ship Captain Guy mirror Harry and Janeway. Captain Guy preserves the order of the ship, with a kind of assumption that they're one big village which he commands and which resists contact with outsiders, and Tal demands her freedom to explore her own life. Janeway's shock and chagrin is mostly that Harry would defy her orders, let alone to have a romantic affair, and the episode emphasizes again and again that Harry's a straight-up perfect officer and Janeway simply never would have expected him to defy an order for personal reasons.

This element is the most (only?) interesting thing in the show, because it hints at wider problems which we mostly don't get to see explored, but: let's consider how the Generational Ship compares to Voyager. Janeway draws the comparisons and even mentions that they might become a Generational Ship themselves. So Janeway maybe wants and expects her own crew to pair off at some point. Janeway has given up the possibility of love *off* Voyager, in Resolutions to come back and command the ship, and in Counterpoint when her only option was a reformed authoritarian thug who turned out not to be reformed. Since she's not planning on pursuing anything with Chakotay while on the ship (and would be far too high in rank to pursue with anyone else, since Tuvok is married and the next highest ranking officer is, what, B'Elanna?), the only way for her to have a family is if Voyager is her family, and they are her children, and she gets to be a Community Leader rather than just a captain. This is just a possibility, because there is *also* a distinct lack of encouragement of or planning for the crew pairing off; she seems okay with it, but I don't think the issue of whether they should start having families has come up since Elogium (or I guess in the alternate future in Before and After). Anyway, because of Voyager's particular situations, the only options if a person *wants* romantic love are another crew member from an extremely limited pool or aliens-of-the-week. And realistically, this should be causing problems, because people are probably getting lonely and restless, realizing that their loved ones have moved on in some cases, and if they find that they can't find someone that's compatible with them on the ship (or can't find someone who returns their affections), they are pretty out of luck for any long-term relationship, and if they additionally have to clear every alien one-night-stand with the captain, this will also cause some conflict.

One of the more surreal moments in the episode was Janeway asking Harry with shock why he was willing to risk his career over this thing with this woman. I mean, yeah, it's true that defying orders and stealing a shuttle (!) was an extreme action. But let's face it, what career? Harry is probably spending the rest of his life on Voyager, and on some level, Janeway is unlikely to remove him from bridge duty unless he does something bad -- Tom got away with an act of terrorism with a demotion and 30 days solitary. The whole idea of a "career" is a narrow and inappropriate way to look at what it means to live as part of a community of a hundred and forty or so for the rest of your life, and I'm amazed Janeway doesn't see that. But mostly, the point is that there are significantly fewer options and outlets. On the Enterprise-D, Riker did sleep with alien women apparently without permission, but let's say that Picard had the same rules at the time that Janeway has now. Riker could pursue one of the civilians on the ship, or go to the nearest starbase, or Risa, or whatever, and I'm sure he did, in order to find potential mates -- *including* long-term ones if that's what he wanted. It's still hard to find a compatible person, and one who would be willing to accept someone who prioritizes their career (hence the end to his relationship with Troi the first time), but the possibilities are there -- and, most importantly, if he really decided that he wanted love more than he wanted advancement, he could resign his commission, or accept worse assignments, or whatever. The whole idea of career vs. personal life as a framing falls apart when the only real options are stay on the ship or leave the ship, and at best Harry could get a transfer or a promotion, but these would represent motion within a tiny community rather than within a large, society-wide structure like Starfleet in the Alpha Quadrant. Let's remember that Harry did have a girlfriend on Earth (oddly forgotten about) and that this was not abnormal, because Starfleet isn't some sort of puritanical organization that forbids *having girlfriends*; the point is that it was not hard to have relationships when there are billions of Federation citizens and other Alpha Quadrant races that you have the possibility of seeing again.

I don't think Janeway can be totally ignorant of these factors, which is why I think that she comes down on Harry for a different reason -- probably that she's upset and disappointed that he prioritized a relationship over following *her* orders, not so much because she's a power-mad dictator as that it's a bit of a reminder that her "youngest child" (well, except Naomi) can't find all that he wants in the nest. And I think that's interesting.

I guess the way this can relate to everyday life of this is that it still does happen at some point that people who are really, really dedicated to their jobs (or their parents, or whatever else) grow up and realize they want other things out of life, too, and it's just particularly obvious in the specifics of Voyager's situation that they won't always be compatible.

As for the rest -- I dunno, I didn't find the romance convincing, and I felt the performances were weak, and the dialogue pretty bad, all the standard complaints. It's unclear why Tal couldn't tag along with Harry at the episode's end given that she gained her independence, and why that wasn't even considered. And the last couple scenes where people assure Harry that they were wrong to criticize him and his feelings were eye-rolling. Why exactly does Janeway claim that Harry is a "better man"? What has Harry done that makes him "better"? (He was willing to stand up for himself and his feelings, fine, and that maybe makes him a more complete person, but "better man" implies something else, that he's more morally upstanding or something.) And then Seven's line about how she's discovered now that love can be a source of great strength is total crap -- what exactly has she observed? Is it just that he did her astrometrics readings for her?

Anyway, the episode's interesting elements are there but they're both underwritten and not that well executed, and the rest is pretty much a wash. I guess I'd agree with 1 star.
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William B
Thu, Dec 7, 2017, 1:44pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Bliss

It's interesting to place this right before Dark Frontier, an episode in which (...spoiler for Dark Frontier) Janeway has a crazy plan and only Seven seems to realize how crazy it is -- but there is *unable to do anything about it* except finally agree to the Borg Queen's "deal." In particular, Dark Frontier draws out parallels between Seven's feelings of helplessness before Janeway's suicidal mission and her own experience with the Hansens. So maybe this episode is most valuable to show how Seven reacts when she's *not* reminded of her own experiences. Janeway and the crew are totally taken in by the monster because they want to get home; we've been here before and will be again. (While the "bioplasmic life form" has a "biogenic field" (or whatever, I'm not looking up the exact phrases used) that makes its fly trap more effective, it's basically the same principle as (again spoiler) the trap the Queen lays for Voyager, using Janeway's obsession with getting home to fool her, which is also the same trap laid in Hope and Fear.) Seven is not taken in, and/but she is not reminded of any past difficult experiences, and is sufficiently certain that the crew is out of their minds that she can just act on her own to save them from their foolhardy selves. The episode argues for skepticism about things which are too good to be true, but it avoids having too much investment in the crew's own reactions, which is probably wise; one wonders how they deal with this blow, and one could argue that this particular disappointment is part of what sets the stage for Janeway's reckless decision to mug the Borg in the next episode, though I dunno if that really makes sense. As a Seven (and the Doctor and Naomi) show, it's okay just in emphasizing the usefulness of her being a little out of step with the crew's obsessions and thus has some immunity to some damages. But it's a point that's been made before (Hope and Fear) and I'm not sure what this one adds, except as set-up for Dark Frontier where we see how much she regresses to childhood helplessness in the face of a more similar problem, and with a less overt "biogenic field"-style psychological trap affecting the crew.

Quick thought on that Qatai guy: he repeatedly emphasizes that he's mostly able to see through the Beast and he's psychologically stronger than it, etc., though he's still vulnerable. But of course, he goes right back in, without even bothering to repair the ship, right after emphasizing that Voyager set a course for home. Maybe the point is that the space monster has Qatai either way; Qatai is totally dependent on the monster for his identity, so he will never really escape it, and will presumably eventually be killed (though maybe he can succeed). Linking Qatai's obsession with the crew's desire to go home maybe highlights the foolish side of Janeway et al.'s continuing to pursue the apparently impossible goal. Maybe the episode's end is hopeful though, because Qatai *also* seems to enjoy the never-ending fight with the Beast, so maybe even if it's an illusion and he's never actually going to defeat it, it's good, just as maybe it's helpful for the crew to continue to be "trying to go home" even if getting there seems difficult or impossible. Maybe.

I think it's fun and well-executed enough for what it is, but I'm not really sold on the episode's value considering how much old Trek ground is retreated, both Voyager-specific and other series, and how much of a light, almost indifferent tone is given to the proceedings. I'm tempted to say 2 stars, but maybe I'll be generous and say 2.5.
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William B
Wed, Dec 6, 2017, 2:35pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Dark Frontier

A few thoughts on part one (more later):

Janeway stealing the Borg transwarp coil versus using the Moset program in Nothing Human: as pointed out above, Janeway was in favour of using the Moset program, so there's no contradiction there. But even if she was against it, I think the situations are different. Part of the issue is the concern that using Moset's research would normalize his methods, which is a risk since Moset is already a respected Alpha Quadrant figure/physician. He's been accepted. Now of course by this point, Cardassia is with the Dominion so things are a bit different, but Moset had already been accepted as part of Alpha Quadrant society, and so was basically rewarded for his tech. In this ep, Janeway is proposing an act of piracy to steal from the Borg, so her plan would both *hurt* the Borg and then gain something for her crew. It's a Robin Hood-type logic -- steal from the bad guys, which hurts the bad guys, and give to the good guys, which in this case is Janeway. The Borg don't benefit from Voyager stealing their technology against their will, is the idea.

On the other hand, yes I think Janeway stealing the transwarp coil was a crazy idea and I can't believe no one called her on it (except for Chakotay to some extent beforehand when talking about her fiddling her commbadge). Now, the episode actually *does* call Janeway out on it in the episode's structure. The episode (part I in particular) emphasizes parallels between Annika's experience on the Raven and Seven's current experience on Voyager; Janeway, like the Hansens, is obsessed with a particular goal (getting home for Janeway, scientific knowledge for the Hansens) and it's leading her to madness and arrogance which is going to lead to the crew's destruction and, in particular, Annika/Seven's. Seven is terrified and only she can really see how dangerous what they are doing is, but hse doesn't quite believe it, and partly it's because on some level she's *still a child*; the episode gives Seven three parents or sets of parents, the Hansens, Janeway, and the Borg Queen, and three extended families (the Hansens again, Voyager, and the Borg), and the episode (part one that is) is about Seven realizing she's about to re-experience a traumatic event and she is still unable to do anything about it. (This is a really fantastic episode for Seven, all around, I think, and I disagree with Jammer's suggesting that it didn't do much new for the character.) The most she manages to do is to save Voyager, but *not* herself, and her decision tends to indicate on some level that she sees her parents' destruction as her fault, even as she's also angry with them for their destruction of her. The Hansens' arrogance is understandable because they had not really fully reckoned with the Borg's destructive power up close (this was pre-Wolf 359), though still worth condemning -- they got their young daughter assimilated, and *even had that not happened*, they still took her away from Federation society by breaking the laws they broke in the desperation to find answers.

But I dunno -- Janeway finds out that the Borg knew about her transwarp stealing plan, and do she or the crew have a moment of reflection of, gee, maybe that was a stupid idea, taking on the Borg and assuming that we could pull off a heist against them in two weeks training, in retrospect it's obvious we were wrong and stupid? Well, no, of course not. It just seems weird to me that no one on the crew besides Seven seemed to realize how foolhardy Janeway's plan was, and there was very little internal justification. By contrast, in Scorpion, a lot of time was spent establishing both why Janeway thought her dangerous plan was the best option and Chakotay was given a voice to emphasize why he didn't believe in the risks. I know, I know, not every episode has to be Scorpion. But I just found Janeway's behaviour here hard to buy. Unlike the Hansens, I don't quite know why Janeway thought she could get away with this plan without being assimilated or destroyed. I guess here we could say it's part of Janeway's ongoing arc -- she's desperate to get home, and is taking bigger risks, but it's at the point now where the desperation is actually buried and so doesn't even show up except in her reckless behaviour, so that she does not seem to have the sadness that we saw in Scorpion or in the Year of Hell segments.
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William B
Mon, Dec 4, 2017, 10:10pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Gravity

I generally liked this one. I think the performances are good and the basic idea that Tuvok feels something for Noss, but cannot act on it for fear that it will consume him, is well-realized. The use of the SF weirdness as a way to allow Tuvok and Tom to spend a few months acclimatizing themselves to their new situation without putting the Voyager crew through the equivalent development is effective. The big open question is this. It's implied by the flashback structure and some of Tuvok's dialogue with Tom and Noss that he really is only using his marriage as an excuse to avoid pursuing something with Noss, and that the real reason is his fear of emotional engulfment. Not only that, but the total absence of T'Pel from the episode -- through Tuvok describing her, or through flashbacks depicting her -- tend to suggest that she doesn't significantly factor into Tuvok's emotional landscape. Does that mean that his relationship with his wife does *not* threaten him emotionally in the same way? Does he love her? It's kind of a big and obvious question and it seems like this episode is the obvious time to address it. I think the most likely answer is that he does love his wife, but that because she is also Vulcan, there is a kind of understanding between them that they keep their passions at bay as much as possible so as to avoid the complete dissolution of self that Tuvok fears; with a non-Vulcan woman, like Noss, it would not be possible to demand the same. But it's a guess, and I don't think the series ever really deals with this issue, even though it hits the "is Tuvok attracted to this woman?" note both here and in Alter Ego.

I think the episode is also held back a bit because the Tuvok/Noss relationship doesn't quite gel as much as it could before we're asked to see Tuvok as attracted to her, and we basically have Tom telling him (and us) about it rather than it passing by onscreen. I don't find the relationship implausible -- several months pass in near-complete isolation, and Vulcans have strong internal emotions -- but a little more of it to be shown on screen to sell the story (and the tragedy) would have helped. That said, I think that the material of Tuvok/Noss early and late in the episode worked well -- the meet cute in the desert after she's mugged Tom and their implicit, immediate bond, and the sadness of the last few scenes together. I like that Noss' qualities -- her pragmatic ability to survive, her intelligence (as evidenced by her quick command of language) -- do seem like ones that would attract security-and-intellect-minded Tuvok, and that the passage of time and the interpersonal communication are conveyed through Noss' ability to communicate. I also liked the dynamic between Tuvok and Tom, where the two reach a kind of understanding and work through several issues at once. A favourite moment is Tom telling Tuvok that he will never see his wife and kids again, and then later coming to apologize to him, at which point Tuvok tells him that he was not hurt by it, and that may well see B'Elanna again -- both deflecting the issue of his own pain, and showing some understanding of why Tom is so heavily projecting his own feelings of despair about his relationship onto Tuvok.

As usual, the shuttle number is a bit annoying and the stuff with the aggressive aliens is pretty pointless over on the Voyager side of things -- especially when the ticking clocks get doubled up (so the thing is going to collapse by itself AND ALSO the aliens are insisting on closing it). The aggressive aliens on the planet could maybe have been excised with a little tinkering, too, but at least have some benefit in the story. Probably a low 3 stars.
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William B
Mon, Dec 4, 2017, 11:52am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Bride of Chaotica!

(I really liked both Counterpoint and Latent Image. More later, perhaps.)

I agree with the two major observations people tend to have about this episode -- it's fun and effective at conveying the feel of early sci-fi serials, and it's maybe not quite fun enough to feel entirely right. Not everyone agrees (on either point!), but I think I land somewhere in the middle in my opinion on the ep. I think having the aliens *die* because of Chaotica was a bit of a mistake that made the whole thing seem more serious than it needed to be; the episode could have maybe gone for full black comedy to make it work, but it mostly remains in register of homage-farce, in which case it makes sense to have danger (and a lot of it!) but the fun gets kind of spoiled if lots of people actually do die. And we don't really learn anything about the aliens, when I think it really would have made some sense to at least better use the aliens as a way of probing the Captain Proton simulation -- if they believe that this is the Real World, what do they think of Earth culture? The running time is only an episode length, of course, but I thought of Galaxy Quest as a sort of model of how it could be interesting to follow aliens who really believe that the optimistic-and-silly sci-fi show is real, and how that can help/harm them, and (if the episode is mostly positive on the sci-fi serials) how that help them, even. As is, the Captain Proton simulation was purely a disaster for the aliens and it does tend to send the message that entertainment is entirely frivolous and destructive, without any positives that are sufficient to outweigh the negatives. If the point is something along the lines of what Elliott says above -- that the silliness and schlock are only superficial qualities, covering up the deeper optimism and mythic qualities of even the shallowest of the hopeful sci-fi genre -- which I think makes sense, I don't think the ep quite sells it, both because of the destruction caused by the program (which isn't even mitigated by Janeway, Tom et al.'s actions -- they just allow the danger to stop) and because of Tom's downbeat I'm-through-with-this-Proton-world conclusion which doesn't get countered, except very weakly.

But still, it is pretty fun. Melgrew is a hoot chewing scenery as Arachnia, especially the way she gradually gets into the role. Satan's Robot's quiet "invaders" after Tom tells it to shut up is, as many others have mentioned, hilarious. And the off-holodeck scenes aren't wastes of time but are generally amusing, if not laugh-out-loud for the most part. Favourite moment: Janeway's assumption that Tom is going to want Seven to play the space femme fatale babe, with a kind of dripping cynicism, which reads to me as a bit of Melgrew's contempt for the cynical aspects of Ryan's casting dropping into the show. I think I'll go with 2.5 stars.
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William B
Tue, Nov 28, 2017, 11:15am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Thirty Days

Sorry this gets a bit longer than usual -- I'm not even sure why, because it's not that it's *that* interesting an episode, but anyway.

Let's start with this. When Riker defied the Prime Directive and Picard's direct order to try to save Soren in The Outcast, it was for romantic love and compassion for another being. When O'Brien defied Sisko's orders and endangered diplomatic relations with new species to help Tosk escape in Captive Pursuit, it was for friendship and compassion for another being. Here, Tom defies Janeway's direct orders, maybe brings a conflict with a new species, and violates the spirit of the Prime Directive (though he tries to squeeze through on a technicality). His actions, if successful, could have helped save the Moean civilization from collapse and total evacuation in a few years; would have helped Riga in particular; and could also have saved the various undersea life forms (like that sea monster they run into in the action sequence), but Tom doesn't seem particularly interested in any of those. The bottom line is he cares about that ocean, and wants to save it. He likes Riga but otherwise doesn't seem interested in the civilization he's saving (and whose rules he's breaking), so it's not that Tom is acting out of a patriarchal belief that he knows better than them what is good for *their society*; it's that he sees them as abusing a beloved property. There is precedent for people to put other moral concerns over duty and Starfleet responsibility, but has anyone else done so pretty much primarily out of passion for a non-living beautiful thing? The closest place Paris comes to his "cause" being about a person is his desire to preserve the ocean in part because it was a great feat of engineering by a long-extinct civilization, and I think that on this point, as well as with his burgeoning friendship with Riga, Paris seems to feel he has common cause with people because they share his passion for the ocean, and wants to defend their passion as his own.

It reminds me of some studies done with children, where they got them to play with dolls or tonka trucks or some such, and they described it as person-orientation versus thing-orientation. I think the study was had mostly to do with evaluating gender differences in interest, but that's less relevant to what I'm talking about here as that it occurs to me that Tom is *very* "thing"-oriented, and has especially been characterized that way in the past year or so. He preferred spending time fixing up an old car in the holodeck than with his girlfriend in Vis a Vis; his big passion project was the construction of the Delta Flyer; his Captain Proton hobby is full of excitement for gizmos and gadgets. He's like a Tim Taylor-from-Home Improvement type guy. But whereas Geordi La Forge's difficulty relating to people as opposed to machines or machine/humanoid hybrids (the Enterprise, the Leah hologram, Hugh, Data) was framed as something that frustrated him, Tom was even something of a lothario before, and is extraverted and social, but on some level his biggest passions don't quite get directed toward people but to things he's obsessed with. Hence the flashback with his father where his father chastises him for playing with toys.

Anyway I find this all interesting because it makes Tom's rebellion particularly weird in comparison to how most others would behave. The main equivalent off hand is Seven's religious experience for a molecule in The Omega Directive, but otherwise Tom's viewing a ball of water/engineering monument from a dead civilization as something worth risking his life and sacrificing Federation principles for is really unusual. It's also worth noting that while humans occasionally take big risks and do industrial sabotage or whatever to protect the planet/the oceans/etc., it's generally at least got the justification that the planet is a shared resource, that we need to save the oceans because we need to *have* the oceans. (Note: not getting into the morality of industrial sabotage, just drawing a contrast with Paris here.) But Tom doesn't expect to "have" that ocean world, but is planning on leaving. He just wants that ocean world to continue existing, on some level, like it matters to him that there exists some perfect place in the universe, and he doesn't think that the Moneans have a right to destroy it. The letter to his father which is supposed to explain himself to him may inadvertently widen the gap; would Admiral Paris, who seems to dedicate himself to Federation principles, be able to understand the degree of Tom's passionate attachment to a ball of water?
So I agree that the Moeans are mishandling their situation, letting bureaucracy and myopia blind them to the catastrophe just around the corner, but I don't agree that makes Tom "right," not just because the Prime Directive would indicate that the Moeans' being right or wrong is irrelevant anyway, but because that's not Tom's motivation. I mean, they aren't wholly irrelevant; I think it's important that while Tom is defying the wishes of the Moean government, he is not really intending to permanently harm their civilization, just defy their will. But while I think Riga can be reasonably seen as heroically trying to protect his people from themselves, Tom barely factors the Moeans into his calculations at all.

It makes me think that Tom's values in some way really have to do with the idea of beauty -- beautiful things, beautiful accomplishments (like breaking speed barriers, like great flying, like beautiful engineering displays) -- as a source of meaning in life, and that these put him so out of sync with those around him who have more traditionally Federation values where beauty of things is important but comes far below happiness and abstract knowledge and well-being, that he has a hard time having relationships beyond shallow ones. Tom's desire to be a hero in a Captain Proton-esque story and his ongoing interest in the 20th century all seem to be his attempts to figure out how he can be heroic when he's already failed his father's definition of a hero, and in some way he wants to have some idea of heroism that emphasizes gizmos and daring-do that both is something he could achieve and also is something that he grasps, rather than the more high-falutin' Picard-style 24th century Renaissance Man scientist-philosopher idea man or Sisko-style Emissary people-oriented community or the Admiral Paris-style duty-bound rule-enforcer leader roles (with Janeway being something of a combination) that seem to be the main actual ways to be heroic in the Federation standards, none of which are really something that Tom can either be or even fully understand. This all makes Tom a sort of tragic character, being gradually redeemed, in that as we see, he's capable of incredible passion for something beautiful and is willing to risk his life for it, but it's somewhat out of step with values that can actually make the Federation function.

I think that's why the suddenness of Tom's obsession with the ocean sort of rankles a lot of viewers, including me to an extent; the obsession has to be a major hobby that is sufficient for him to defy orders to protect, without really any other reason besides that he loves the ocean. It's still consistent with his character that he'd buck authority and be unable to rein himself in by others' principles when his own passion is activated, and that he's still working toward something rather than peaceful rebellion is character growth as mentioned. I mostly understand Tom's reaction, too, especially the feeling of helplessness at the idea of something beautiful that has lasted a hundred thousand years being depleted by short-sightedness, and Tom's idea that the Moeans may claim property rights but that it's unjust for them to strikes me as the kind of thing that may even be true, but is totally unsustainable for Voyager to take as a guiding principle, hence why he necessarily has to break Janeway's orders to get to it.

I like that when Tom tells Janeway about his love of the ocean, he mentions reading Verne over and over again, but he does not mention that his father used to read it to him (as he does later in his letter); Tom seems to instinctively delete any positive experiences with his father from his telling of it, the pain of his father's rejection runs so deep.

As far as Janeway's actions: I agree that Tom defied orders and that Janeway had to deal with it. And frankly, yeah, in some ways he got off easy. I don't think he could have been executed (as Peter implies), but he's shown himself to be untrustworthy and committed acts that could have led to war, albeit one Voyager could have won. There's really no place in the Voyager chain of command for his actions. And yet, solitary is supposed to be pretty bad psychologically for people, and beyond punishment I think it probably will make Paris just more unruly and harder to control, rather than the reverse, as well as do some damage to him. When he starts yelling at the Doctor that he's going crazy, I can't quite understand why the Doctor is so blase about it; what I know about him would suggest he *would* be concerned (and might defy Janeway's orders to treat him psychologically). So what's funny is that I think that the solitary confinement -- which even Suder, who got visits from Tuvok, didn't get -- is a bad idea, but in other respects the punishment is too light. In a real way, Tom shouldn't be allowed near sensitive systems where he can get access to other civilizations lest this incident repeats itself, and I feel as if Janeway should maybe have simply taken him off conn altogether and made him be a permanent nurse, which they probably need anyway. Janeway doesn't want to do that, so I think she uses the solitary confinement (and the pain this causes him) as power play so that she doesn't have to do the hard work of replacing him from his everyday duties but can force him to see who's boss.

A minor point, but I find the use of the captain's log in the middle of the flashbacks representing Tom's letter to his father kind of on the goofy side. It seems as if the episode should just have flashbacks from Tom's POV, really.

I think the episode does end up being a bit thin, though it got me thinking about what makes Tom tick, which is good. The ocean-love being strong enough to defy orders and commit crimes is a huge buy and one I don't think the episode sufficiently sells. But it's got some interesting elements. 2.5 stars.
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William B
Mon, Nov 27, 2017, 1:24pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Tuvix

@Peter,

I see what you're saying. You know, I'm reminded of Kubrick's Paths of Glory. (Spoilers for those who haven't seen it.) After a pointless forward assault from the trenches in WWI, ordered by a French general purely for personal gain, a the entire force of soldiers retreats. Three soldiers are selected for execution as representatives. Kirk Douglas' Colonel Dax (an appropriately Star Trek-resonant name) defends them at the court-martial. Anyway, one of the things the film does well is to make absolutely clear its (i.e. Kubrick's) agreement with Dax, while keeping the three condemned men recognizably human. One is selected for execution by his company because he's a weirdo that they don't particularly like anyway. One of them keeps going on the night before his slated execution about his death and how a cockroach will outlive him. It all creates this image of people who are *not* brave before certain death. And we are reminded that they are representative of how people behave. One of the central themes of the movie is that it is wrong to condemn people for a lack of "bravery" which is ultimately a near-universal for humans -- whether it's the army choosing those men in particular for a retreat that all the men did, or the audience losing sympathy for them for reacting with exactly the kind of "lack of dignity" that almost everyone would have in the face of death. This dynamic gets repeated in the final scene, when Dax looks on to see his men leering at a German beauty/singer paraded on stage before them, and he looks disgusted and ashamed at their insensitivity, before she begins to sing and they manage to connect with her, and Dax is reminded of their essential humanity.

How this relates to Tuvix, I'm not sure. I guess that I'm not sure that the crew's turning their backs on Tuvix indicates that the writer and the director definitely agree with the crew's decision. I do think that the writer/director don't see the execution of Tuvix as being as horrible as you do, for example, and so I see your point. But I don't really think the episode leverages Tuvix' feelings and the crew's reaction to him against Tuvix the character.
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William B
Sun, Nov 26, 2017, 8:00pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Tuvix

*Data's ultra-cool, that is.
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William B
Sun, Nov 26, 2017, 7:57pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Tuvix

Just wading in slightly (not on all topics), but Peter,

"Bottom line, the episode didn't give a darn about Tuvix, his rights, or his wants. The moment Janeway decides he'll die the director of the show all but painted him as a villain"

I don't think I agree. I think they showed Tuvix begging to be allowed to live, and because he was asking for his own life rather than someone else's, it plays a little uncomfortably. I think his level of emotional anguish can be read as "undignified," in contrast to Data's ultra-call in Measure of a Man, which is maybe what might give the impression the director was painting him as wrong/a villain even if the vast majority of people would start begging in that situation. But he is also given the "You are all GOOD people" speech. We can see that as a way of sneaking in an out for the crew, that even Tuvix agrees they are not destroyed by what they do to him, and I think that is somewhat true. But I think it also restores Tuvix's dignity and allows him some Vulcan-like composure and Neelix-like compassion for his betrayers. That he forgives the people killing him gives his end a kind of tragic heroism. I guess what I am saying is that, to me, the writing, directing and acting of Tuvix himself remains respectful to me right until the end, even though a case can certainly be made that the way the direaction/scoring/etc remains ambivalent or even positive on Tuvix's killing indicates a lack of caring about Tuvix in other aspects of the episode's end.
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William B
Fri, Nov 24, 2017, 2:28pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Nothing Human

@Peter G., that's a good point. I don't want to do a lot of BSG comparisons for Voyager, because I don't think they're useful, but while reactions to it are mixed, I'm reminded of the third season BSG episode Dirty Hands, where Tyrol believes that there are unfair expectations for the "lower classes," and there is no clear path forward for how to change their situation because of the precarious nature of the fleet. What do you do when you want a change of job or responsibilities, or want to refuse duties that are unsafe or (as in the case of Nothing Human) morally objectionable, when you're in an isolated space ship? There are obvious reasons why "resigning" is less of an option; Voyager presumably needs all or most hands, and even if it doesn't, what options are there? Let the guy continue living on Voyager but not contributing? Drop him off at the next Class-M planet with some replicated seeds and a tricorder? Throw him in the brig until he agrees to whatever Janeway says? And of course, resignation really *is* the only viable option for someone who seriously morally objects to a superior's actions; they can refuse to carry out orders, and maybe get thrown in the brig for it, but if the captain does something he considers to be awful and he is not directly involved, that's the only real form of protest that he has. Chakotay refuses the crewman's resignation, but the scene ends on a kind of uncertain note and then it's entirely dropped even within the episode. And of course as you say it is another way of examining the Maquis issues again. These issues should come up with the *Starfleet* crew even, but the Maquis obviously didn't sign up for joining Starfleet, and they are only on Voyager because Chakotay sacrificed their ship.

I should add that the B'Elanna side of things, which I already said was too thinly dealt with, bothers me more the more I think about it. I don't really think the episode seriously addressed the scale of what was going on, for B'Elanna, the Doctor or Janeway. Was B'Elanna seriously willing to die to refuse treatment -- and if so, does that mean that she considers the fact that she's still alive, after all, a fate "worse than death"? The Doctor and Janeway explicitly ignored B'Elanna's direct wishes. One of the commenters above pointed out that it's not just B'Elanna but also that alien's life which was at stake, and since they couldn't communicate with the alien it makes sense to assume that it would prefer to live rather than to die as a result of how these mysterious aliens got their medical knowledge, and so that *might* trump B'Elanna's wishes (though maybe not, since the alien attached itself to B'Elanna in the first place), but it's not really the issue presented.

And here, I think, actually addressing the history of this season would have helped. Tom wants B'Elanna to live, so he starts indicating that B'Elanna is obviously not mentally fit to make the decision to refuse treatment. This would be the perfect place to have Tom bring up B'Elanna's months-long depressive phase, which may or may not actually be over. We could imagine Tom and Chakotay, for example, getting into a much bigger argument about how much to value B'Elanna's life over her express wishes when they are both talking out of love. Tom could argue that B'Elanna is completely blinded by not just mental health issues, but also continued irrational guilt over the death of the Maquis at the hands of the Cardassians' new allies, and that she is unable to think straight, and this is a delusion that Chakotay seems to want to encourage; Chakotay could shoot back that Tom loves B'Elanna but he does not respect her if he cannot understand why she wants to stick to her principles, maybe because Tom has none of his own. And it could raise the question of whether B'Elanna really is reacting from ethics or from hatred/fear/guilt/depression. It writes itself, basically, and seems a natural extension of the perspectives that they were already showing, but grounds it in long-term issues.

I think the best comparison for this episode is TNG's Ethics, another s5 Klingon crew member injured/medical ethics show. I remember when I first saw Ethics, I didn't think much of it; it just seemed confused and all over the place, and it bothered me that Beverly and Worf didn't seem to be talking to each other. Now I really like it, even though I have some of the same problems. Ethics as an episode takes a lot on, and sometimes it gets confusing -- if Worf is at risk of ritual suicide, Beverly really has to allow Russell's risky procedure; if there is a risky procedure, Worf should take it rather than risking suicide, and the episode isn't really explicit enough, IMO, on why they remain at the impasse as long as they are. But it still mostly makes sense, because I think the idea is that Beverly and Worf's principles really do dictate that no ethically dubious medical practices should be tolerated (Beverly) and that a spinal injury really should represent the end of a warrior's life, rather than using medical science to cheat fate (Worf), and both have to relent because of the reality of the culture clash. The episode works for me where Nothing Human doesn't, despite being a little overloaded, because it does have a number of fleshed-out perspectives (Worf, Beverly, Riker, Picard, Deanna, Alexander, Russell) and largely it all follows organically from the one inciting event of Worf's injury. Most of all, though, when Worf seems to be seriously considering dying rather than seeking any medical solutions, the episode takes it seriously -- of what that would mean for Worf's own perspective. While Tom cares very much and freaks out, I don't feel like this episode really emphasizes the severity of B'Elanna's decision, nor really has B'Elanna seem to contemplate dying. I'm not saying that her principles are wrong, or that her objection is wrong! But I don't really get the sense from her that she is worried about dying, and I can't tell if that's supposed to be denial or depression or steadfast moral courage, and all would be consistent with her character.
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William B
Fri, Nov 24, 2017, 2:00pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Investigations

@Ruth, you're right. I misunderstood whose "bait" Neelix was meant to have taken.

I'm still skeptical about many other elements of this episode, but looking again, it seems as if the primary (and perhaps only) reason for playing the Paris-as-malcontent plan was to get him onto the Kazon ship. Janeway and Tuvok don't state that they had any intention of smoking out the spy by having him frame Paris, and so it seems that it's a totally lucky coincidence that Neelix did get him to tip his hand. I think my problem was that in this scene, it seemed to me that Janeway largely acted as if it was her and Tuvok's brilliant plan that led to the spy inadvertently exposing himself in some small way. I thought that in this line, Janeway was making one "continuous" statement:

JANEWAY: Commander, the simple fact is, we needed a good performance. I'm afraid we used you to help Tom provide it. And you did a damn good job. Now it seems Mister Neelix's investigation has made someone nervous. Nervous enough to put a trail in the computer system for him to follow.

I.e., I read it as, "Chakotay, you gave a good performance. Now, CONSEQUENTLY, it seems Mister Neelix's investigation...," as if Neelix's investigation was caused by the whole Paris plan. But instead it was just a topic shift.
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William B
Thu, Nov 23, 2017, 12:21pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Nothing Human

Just want to add --

The creation of the Moset hologram is not so implausible given the rules of Trekdom; Leah Brahms, as mentioned above. The problem is that Booby Trap actually was fairly careful to make sure that only Geordi came up with the great ideas, though it's subtle; and this episode, the Doctor *himself* says that the Moset program would have to be almost as complex as him. There's sort of a particular mismatch. However I'm willing to grant a bit of slack on this particular can of worms, because it's not just this episode that skirted close to opening it. There are other problems of this ep of which I'm less forgiving.
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William B
Thu, Nov 23, 2017, 12:08pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Nothing Human

Also, that scene where Seven says "Ah, you all tell me that the Borg are awful because they don't respect life...but this one Cardassian also doesn't respect life! GOTCHA!" is annoying; Seven isn't that dumb. I don't think Janeway et al. ever claimed that there were no bad non-Borg.
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William B
Thu, Nov 23, 2017, 12:06pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Nothing Human

I'm basically with Jammer on this. I actually am a little softer on the *idea* of using the Moset hologram to explore what I think the episode's central issue is -- namely, whether it is morally acceptable to use medical knowledge which was gained through horrific, immoral means. In a way, it's a potentially great metaphor. As Jammer says, no one would have given a second thought to using knowledge gained from Moset if he didn't look the way he did, but that is sort of the point. Having the avatar for the knowledge gained from a butcher experimenter *look like* that experimenter forces people to reckon with where the knowledge came from in a way that doesn't usually happen. And had the episode emphasized this element, I think it could have worked quite well for me. Have someone point out that they wouldn't even be having this discussion if it weren't for the walking exobiology textbook *looking like* a specific unethical doctor-butcher, and then have someone else pause and say, "You're right -- and maybe that is a problem with how we normally operate. Maybe every time we use knowledge that was gained immorally, we should have to have a visceral reminder of where that came from." (Well, pithier than that, hopefully.) So the episode does have a good central metaphor, in that sense. Don't bury the question of whether people react differently to a hologram of a butcher than impersonal knowledge obtained by that butcher, but make it a central concern of the ep.

I guess what bothers me is that the episode seems to throw the kitchen sink into this episode and sacrifices a lot of the clarity of this metaphor. Look, life is complicated and it makes sense to have a lot of different perspectives. But a lot of this gets junked up by things which are not only irrelevant to the moral episode at hand, but irrelevant to our world. There's a lot of stuff on making the hologram, the Doctor insisting they need a personality, Harry having to make the program work, Moset learning that he's a program, the Doctor bonding with Moset and whether he's letting his personal like of the guy get in the way of his objectivity, the question of whether people are unfairly prejudiced against them, the question of whether the Moset-gram is responsible for the actions of the real person he's based on, whether that Bajoran officer has the right to resign his commission over their use of the Moset-gram, and so on. The episode also requires a whole lot of buys in order to accept what we got, not just the Moset-gram's creation but also the idea that the whole Federation database is ignorant of Moset's crimes but one of his victims happens to be on the tiny ship which seemingly has like three Bajorans on it, just so as to set up the idea that the moral issue hadn't come up before this moment. The Moset-gram is a walking contradiction; the Doctor says early on that he's got to be nearly as complex as the Doctor is in order to handle that data, which means that his super-fast creation is implausible and opens a can of worms, and also the Doctor bonds with him as a fellow colleague and person, but then the episode avoids the question of whether the Moset-gram has a right to continued existence, since he really does seem about equally sentient to the Doctor. The Moset-gram both emphasizes that he has no memory of his atrocities and then starts half-heartedly defending them, rather than (say) reacting with the Starfleet-computer-cooked up friendly personality, so that he'd react with horror at what the "real him" had done.

We also have to accept the idea that the Moset-gram is basically a whole series of exobiology textbooks from many authors, *including* Moset, but at no point does anyone consider whipping up an alternative consultant who uses exobiology knowledge from just the other authors. I think the idea is that there's something that only Moset can do, but I do think that needs to be established. And I think part of the general problem is that it's generally difficult, in the sciences, to sort out which accomplishments go to one person and which don't, especially since a lot of research gets quickly developed on top of research done by others. I think the episode needed to establish more strongly why Moset's *research* and techniques were particularly necessary and why there were no alternatives, or at least why it wasn't possible to start searching for alternatives.

Now, individually, a lot of the issues I mentioned would be worth exploring in greater depth -- could an officer resign their commission on Voyager if they felt a strong moral objection, and if so, would Voyager be "required" to continue to have them as passengers? (Would a Maquis who tried to resign his Starfleet commission then get sent to the brig for Maquis crimes?) The Doc/Moset bonding follows from the teaser, with the Doctor's attempt to drag the crew into his hobby and their clear disinterest, in which the Doctor is really quite desperate for the attention of others and feels himself unappreciated, and it raises a potentially important point about how much people are willing to overlook the flaws and crimes of colleagues when they are also friends, and maybe the only people who can otherwise understand you.

Most seriously, the way Janeway overrides B'Elanna's wishes is a huge issue that needed to be addressed more strongly than the episode did. I didn't list it as one of the "distractions" because it seems to me that the episode does try to make it important, but doesn't quite succeed. The tone is off in the Janeway/B'Elanna scene, where Janeway seems pissed off when she walks in there, and doesn't even seem to bother defending her decision all that much. In general the episode has Janeway mysteriously downplayed for most of the running time. Chakotay is the one who gets most of the "command officer interaction" scenes in the episode and stays out of the debate until she stands up and says "You're both right but we're doing this and there's no questions," and then she gives the Doctor the decision of whether to delete Moset or not with a kind of annoyed disinterest. I guess this is where someone might argue it's part of Janeway's ongoing character development, that she's becoming a harder-edged, more pragmatic, and more distant leader, and that sort of makes sense, but it still plays out very strangely to me in practice.

And this is to say nothing of the whole screeching-alien "can we find them" subplot which is dealt with in a perfunctory way after the intriguing initial signal. (I noticed Frank Whelker, who does a lot of animal voices in animation etc., was the voice of the screeching alien, which is neat.) Favourite moment: in the middle of the battle (?) with the aliens, Tuvok's matter-of-fact reminder to Janeway, "We *do* have weapons," maybe the funniest line Tuvok's ever had in a low-key way.

Anyway I think the episode is messy and uncomfortable -- but some of the discomfort is for the right reasons (because the moral issues are uncomfortable). Most of it probably isn't. I think I'll also go with 2 stars. It's sort of an honourable failure.
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William B
Tue, Nov 21, 2017, 11:23am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Drone

As with Timeless, I want to state outfront that I like this a lot and think highly of it. And yet I'm still going to go straight to criticisms, ha! I guess the main thing I want to talk about is the fact that I felt my emotional engagement is not where it "should have been" for this story, and I'm curious as to why that is. I don't know if I will, but I wouldn't mind revisiting this one to see how I feel on another viewing. But I think this time (and also the first time I saw it all those years ago), I found it interesting but too rushed to get as involved as I feel I should be. There isn't enough time for the full arc of One's creation, evolution, and death, as well as Seven's rapidly changing views of him, as well as the Borg threat which, let's note, is the first time the show has seriously played the card of the presence of the Borg for real since Kes got them out of Borg space in The Gift. It's a lot to take in, and the emotional beats feel a bit unearned because there just isn't time enough to relax with the characters and understand what "normal" actually constitutes for them, at least for me.

The episode has some I, Borg elements, but mostly I think it's strongly reminiscent of episodes like The Offspring in TNG and The Begotten on DS9. And I had a bit of a similar issue tracking The Offspring emotionally. I'd say though that the difference -- and why I think The Offspring is a great episode and I'm not so sure if I'd say that about Drone (though I know that Jammer's ratings are reversed) -- is that The Offspring is very forthright about the emotional distance that it creates. No one knows what to make of Lal and of Data's parenthood, and Data and Lal lack emotions, at least for most of the story's running time. The bizarreness of the situation, including the accelerated "growth" of Lal (emerging essentially fully formed once she chooses her appearance) is put front-and-centre, and also becomes part of the justification for Haftel's intervention -- how can we know what the parental bond between Data and Lal should look like? We are in totally uncharted territory, and I think we are led to feel uneasy about things (right from the beginning, where Geordi, Wesley and Deanna are a little spooked by Data's reveal of his private project, and it's hard to tell how much he recognizes the weight of what he is doing, though ultimately I think he does). And further, if I feel somewhat bewildered at the end of the episode and am not sure how to process all my feelings, this seems appropriate, and also further underscores what's unique about Data -- the way he somehow both is and is not changed by the event, that he's taken Lal completely into himself but can also plausibly outwardly go on as if nothing has happened, rather than having a long recovery arc for the loss of a child. The weirdness and uncomfortable speed with which all this takes place is part of the point, and gets to something that is at the core of Data's character and of what the main justification might be for objecting to Data procreating -- that he is unpredictable and hard for us mere humanoids to fully see and connect to, though I think the episode also strongly argues in favour of what he does for Lal. Now I won't deny that Drone also successfully emphasizes the weirdness of One's status and of Borg relationships, such as they are, and the uniqueness of his experience, but the way it comes about as a freak accident ends up meaning a little less about Seven, in comparison, and I'm not so sure that the hyper-speed movement through her essentially getting and losing a super-advanced adult child who can outmaneuver the Borg collective is necessary or organic to the character. The way The Begotten worked was by being less ambitious and covering less in the hour -- focusing on the Odo/Mora dynamic and the possibilities opened by the baby changeling, but without feeling the need to accelerate it to be an adult of Odo's that he bonds with and loses; the tragedy is still present, but it is somewhat muted because the story doesn't push us to see the baby changeling as a sentient, fully-formed being or to push Odo to interact with it as such.

The episode is in some ways more like TNG's The Child, an episode of which I'm not a fan, though having One be a freak accident is preferable to it being an experiment the way Troi's pregnancy and Ian Andrew's brief life was there. This episode is better executed in almost every way, but it does leave me similarly unsure how I feel, and maybe a little weird about feeling like I was manipulated. At the same time, I'm not *against* what the episode did (the way I was against The Child). I think if I can get into the episode's rhythms I might really enjoy it and be moved by it.
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William B
Tue, Nov 21, 2017, 9:47am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Infinite Regress

The episode does seem to exist to serve the high concept, which in turn is a way to show off Jeri Ryan's versatility as an actress. It's hard to begrudge them that, and she *is* great. When the episode is doing comedy, it is, if not laugh-out-loud funny, generally agreeable and entertaining and thus worth the price of admission. When it gets serious, it feels as if there's a much better episode inside this one waiting to get out. The episode eventually mostly gets to a "Seven realizes that they care about her enough to save her" place, which is fine, but not really the most interesting place to go. There are two angles in particular I'm thinking of, of how this episode could work very well with the "Borg multiple personality syndrome" conceit, and I think the episode kind of gestures to both but doesn't go deep enough:

1. This is the one the episode goes to more heavily, and this is: these are people who the Collective assimilated, and thus whose lives (and individuality) were destroyed. Seven experiencing their lives actually forces her to confront some guilt over what she did (was forced to do) as part of the Collective. Seven having her identity crowded out by all those other voices then sort of symbolizes her being dragged under the weight of the lives she feels some responsibility for ending, and Tuvok's efforts to reach and save her are a way of helping restore her recognition that she is a person who deserves her own life, tempting as it is to get bogged down in guilt and dismay at the number of people lost. This element works to a degree, but it short-circuits it a little by having Seven mostly seeming to forget her experiences being other people, rather than remembering them and then having to deal with them.

2. The personalities could reveal something about Seven -- something that she is missing in her own life. Maybe her own aggression is coming out when she goes into the Klingon mode, for instance. This would also work better if Seven remembered or were more aware of the different voices that came up. This one sort of pays off at the end, in which Seven seems to want to act out as herself some of what she did while playing the little girl character (playing Kadis-Kot with Naomi), but otherwise I can't think of any indications of it.

That the one element of her alternate personalities Seven seemed to want to use in her daily life was that one -- the girl -- makes me wonder what Annika's thoughts would actually be, and if they are still somewhere as part of the suppressed collective individual voices. The exact functioning (where are those thoughts coming from? who is thinking them? how much is Seven still connected to the collective?) is hazy and incoherent, but it seems as if the thoughts and personalities are mostly from people before their assimilation. It makes me wonder if that young girl might even have *been* Annika (though it probably doesn't fit with the way she's portrayed in [spoilers] Dark Frontier). But anyway, this maybe adds a (3): in experiencing how strongly people held onto their individuality before the Borg wiped it out, so that she still has an echo all this time later, Seven maybe gains a greater appreciation for it. And her pre-Borg growth was basically stunted as Annika as a child, and so her deciding to bond with Naomi to try to recreate what she'd lost makes sense.

The stuff with the aliens, culminating in the space battle, is pretty pedestrian. The idea of a species' attempt to take down the Borg affecting Seven inadvertently is a good one, I think, and worth further exploration at some point, but not much is done with it here. The big head-scratcher in the episode for me was in the Janeway/Chakotay bridge scene when she ponders aloud whether maybe it wasn't worth it to bring Seven along, that maybe it just wasn't possible to rehabilitate her. Huh? It'd be one thing if Janeway said this after Seven's insubordination in Prey, where it looked like Seven might be impossible to control; or after something like Drone, where it might be that Seven and her Borg technology might prove too big a risk to the ship, in that there's a risk of Borg attacks whenever she's discovered. But in this episode, Seven is sick, through no fault of her own (except very indirectly in that she was a member of the Borg Collective and the Borg are dangerous enough to have people trying to kill them with a virus), and after she's locked in sickbay, she's not a danger to anyone else but herself. Janeway does risk the ship to save Seven by fighting the aliens in the perfunctory weekly battle scene, I'll grant, but Janeway doesn't frame her concerns as a "I'm not sure if it's worth risking this ship to save one crew member" dilemma, but some vague sense that Seven getting infected with a Borg Multiple Personality Disorder virus that affects only her is some predictable moral failing. It's really bizarre.

This is the second time B'Elanna has had someone aggressively choose her as a mate in Engineering (also Vorik). Not the best workplace experience.

Anyway the episode is fun and has a bit of meat, but that much. Better than you'd expect it to be but not as good as it could be; 2.5 stars.
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William B
Tue, Nov 21, 2017, 9:27am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Timeless

I like this one a fair amount, but I have a few problems. For now, just the first one: Tessa. I don't mind the actress and I think that having someone besides the three Voyager crew leads in the future is a decent idea in terms of plausibly reminding us that the story is not *only* about Voyager. The problem is that her motivation for wanting to reset the timeline is extremely thin -- she loves Chakotay, okay, but that relationship will be erased, along with most of her life. The episode also tries to suggest she's some sort of Voyager groupie, which also doesn't work. She seems ultimately too well-adjusted in the scenes we see of her to really get why she's willing to throw out her entire life in order to do a hard reset for the sake of other people; granting for the moment that her life won't end with the reset, it's still unclear why she'd agree to this. And while Chakotay hems and haws a little, he's ultimately really blase about completely upturning his girlfriend's life. To be fair, I have some similar problems with the material between Jake and the aspiring writer/fan in The Visitor. (In All Good Things, the crew helps Picard to reset the timeline, but that's to save humanity.)

I was thinking, is there a way to keep the character (or some variation on her) in a way that makes more sense and has more resonance? And here's my idea: what if Tessa were replaced by a family member of someone on Voyager? One of Tuvok's children, perhaps (though the Vulcan-logical objection to the plan might need to be dealt with), or maybe Naomi's father (get out that Ktarian makeup from The Game!), or someone like that. And then their willingness to sacrifice the way their life has gone over the past 15 years would make total sense -- and also highlight the other, unseen cost of Voyager's destruction and the loss of its crew in addition to Harry and Chakotay's experience.

I'm getting more and more sidetracked, so at this point let's drop the pretense that this will be anything like an analysis or review and go into wild speculation and rewriting: what if the episode had also had Chakotay and Harry *opposed* to each other, with (say) Harry insisting on saving Voyager and Chakotay being part of the mission to try to stop him? Or alternatively, this could be moved to the "family member" material as well -- with (say) Admiral Paris (maybe the grand commander of Starfleet by this point?) pursuing on La Forge's ship (we can still have the Geordi cameo, I'm saying). I don't think the episode is really *about* the moral dilemma of whether to change time to save Voyager, so much as that this is an element the episode touches on, but I could imagine the episode really diving into that conflict with more than just a cameo-Geordi giving the primary voice of opposition. (And there, again, I like the cameo, I'm glad to see Burton in front of the camera as well as behind. Still, I kind of wish that he had taken a harder edge. I like the "mutual respect" angle, but I wish he didn't go as far as to say that in Chakotay's place he might do the same. No! Don't give him that much.)

Anyway, I'll add some more when I think of other things to say about this one.
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William B
Tue, Nov 21, 2017, 4:56am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Once Upon a Time

I don't mind the shuttle crash "cliche." Shuttles are going to crash sometimes. I'll grant that the crash rate seems high, but they're in unknown territory. I get the idea that this is a bit of a storytelling crutch, but unlike the Fun with DNA stuff, it's a crutch that basically makes sense.

Nor am I that opposed to the idea that Samantha doesn't die. I am all for the idea that Voyager could have been a "braver" show, but I'm not sure that orphaning the one child is the best step to take in that direction. In The Bonding, Jeremy still has extended family in addition to Worf, so while it's weird to emphasize his joining Worf's family when that element is getting dropped, it's still not so fundamentally surprising for the show not to have to carry around the considerable stress of having a child with no living, biologically-related caretakers running about. Even if Voyager were a consistently better show, I think it'd be a lot to take on.

And nor do I think that the episode "teasing" Wildman's death for angst for Naomi and Neelix is wrong. People almost die and don't, sometimes. The episode makes some good decisions on this, and places much of the emotional focus on Neelix and his still somewhat unprocessed grief over his own family's death; the possibility of Naomi losing her mother opens old wounds of Neelix's, and this prevents him from being able to be truthful with her. The episode's emphasis on Naomi's precociousness, curiosity and intelligence (but not Wesley-style prodigy-brilliance) makes it clear that Janeway is right that Neelix is not doing her any favours by keeping things from her, and that she can see through his and the others' deception, and that it's hurting her. But I don't think the episode cheats by having it look like Wildman might not make it, and/but she doesn't. We're reminded of Neelix's family's death (granted, when he was older than Naomi) and so the episode makes clear that sometimes the worst happens. But often it doesn't. Neelix's feeling that the worst is inevitable prevents him from properly helping Naomi through the uncertain time; if the worst did happen, she would also have to deal with feelings of betrayal that he kept her in the dark, and if the worst didn't happen (as we see here) he only made the temporary worry and confusion worse. It's got an emotional core that works for me, is what I'm saying; Neelix and Naomi are both understandable. And Scarlett Pomers is really great for a child actress (particularly on Trek), one of the best portrayals of children in the franchise.

But yeah, it's not a great show or even that good of one. The Naomi material is marred by the Flotter program, which is goofy-silly without having the (say) edge of Warner Brothers cartoons or Dr. Seuss entertaining to adults, or the logic-pretzels in Lewis Carroll. It's not disastrous, but the episode sort of grinds to a halt as those segments go on. And I think the episode's focus is a little mistaken. Skeptical's point earlier that the episode was hastily rewritten to pivot away from the idea of this being a Standard Crisis but from Naomi's perspective makes sense to me as an explanation of the ep's problems; I would have loved a Lower Decks-style POV-shifted episode from Naomi's POV, including one in which Samantha was endangered (as we got), and even in which Neelix's role in the story was the same but we got to feel both the betrayal and then the feeling of reconciliation without us being able to "know" Neelix's reasons for holding back until he reveals them (except, of course, for our knowledge of his character and history). More to the point, I think the episode misplays its cards, with regards to the shuttle. Not knowing at all whether Wildman is even alive might have been a stronger way to play things, in some senses, but the bigger problem is less that reveal than the fact of having Paris and Tuvok in the shuttle. We know that Paris and Tuvok aren't going to die, and in the unlikely event they *did* die, the episode wouldn't so completely de-emphasize the crew's emotional attachment to those characters, to the point of having no B'Elanna moment in the episode where she's worried about Tom. The episode tries to compensate by having Wildman also have a potentially life-threatening injury, but that seems like an unnecessary fix. The one advantage to having the two regulars in with her (besides giving the regulars some screen time) is Tuvok's lovely speech to Samantha about why he does not worry about his children, and why she should not either; in general the Tuvok material in the shuttle was nice. The episode's attempts to play the possibility that the shuttle won't be returned (and to create a ticking time clock with vague, inconsistent gas references and so on) don't feel credible and it would have been better to either de-emphasize this part of the story or (better) to have the shuttle's status remain a mystery through most of the ep's running time.

I'd say 2.5 stars.
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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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