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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I don't think it's quite a standout, but I think it's like the season overall -- a little unbalanced, some weaknesses, but a strong character core, for the characters that apparently matter. 3 stars.
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William B
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 1:46pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Day of Honor

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

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

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

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