Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Parallax"

**1/2

Air date: 1/23/1995
Teleplay by Brannon Braga
Story by Jim Trombetta
Directed by Kim Friedman

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I'm not just a doctor. I've been designed with the information from 2,000 medical reference sources and the experience of 47 individual medical officers. I am the embodiment of modern medicine." — Doctor

On their way home from the Delta Quadrant at maximum warp, a journey that will take them some 75 years, the crew of the Voyager encounters its first adventure—becoming caught in a temporal singularity while trying to rescue a trapped ship. The trapped ship turns out to be a temporal reflection of the Voyager itself.

The technobabble-laden plot involving this singularity is something the Next Generation writers would probably only deliver if they were desperate for a story. Considering the Voyager is out in the middle of completely unknown territory with infinite possibilities of adventure and discovery, seeing a plot like this on the second episode is a letdown.

Fortunately, "Parallax" serves its purpose as the series' first one-hour episode by developing the characters in the genuine Trek style. Unlike the pilot, this one picks a few characters and works with them, rather than spreading it around so much. This makes an easier dramatic line to follow, as the story concentrates on just a couple of people, rather than trying to attack the whole ensemble.

The episode opens with an amusing teaser in which senior engineer Carey (Josh Clark) reports to sickbay with a broken nose after getting into a fight with hot-headed former Maquis B'Elanna Torres. This stresses what will hopefully be a conflict in the series for a while—the uneasy tension between the Starfleet officers and the Maquis. Tuvok wants to put Torres in the brig over the matter. Meanwhile, exaggerations of the incident lead some of the less conservative Maquis to come to Chakotay and tell him they will support him in a mutiny to take over the ship. (He refuses, of course, and tells them they will be in big trouble if they even think about it again.)

Janeway begins seeking replacements for the key officers lost in the pilot, including chief engineer and chief medical officer. After nominating Paris to train as a field doctor (since the holographic medic can't leave sickbay), Chakotay recommends Torres for chief engineer. The fight in engineering makes Janeway uncertain about Torres, but Chakotay tells Janeway to keep Torres in mind. The two are obviously separated on the matter, and when Chakotay goes over her head involving an engineering matter, Janeway calls him into the ready room. Here we get a relatively fiery scene between them regarding the Maquis' position and ranking on the ship. (The conversation ends with Chakotay forcefully saying "Permission to leave," without much of a question mark behind it.)

This is the setup for the somewhat cliched premise where Torres has to prove herself worthy to the captain. Fortunately, the writing is sincere, and scenes between Torres and the captain are on-target. In staff meeting, Torres solves the singularity's mystery in thirty seconds flat and partially wins Janeway over. Janeway, who could probably take on Geordi LaForge in a technobabble match, has some ideas on how to escape the singularity and realizes Torres has the experience to take on the serious technical situation. Janeway doesn't doubt Torres' ability to apply her engineering skills, but she needs to be sure Torres has the ability to give and take orders.

To escape the singularity, Torres and Janeway take a shuttlecraft out to open a crack in the field using technobabble procedures, etc., so the Voyager can fit through. When returning, the singularity's bizarre properties cause confusion when the temporal reflection of the Voyager reappears. The two can't tell which is the real ship. They must choose one to land on, as both ships show identical properties when scanned. With time to escape running out, they must make a decision. They both do—they choose different ships.

Neither the technobabble, nor even the big decision really matters here. What matters is seeing these two get to know one other and earn each other's respect. The interaction further defines each of these characters' personalities and attitudes, laying foundation for future episodes.

Of course, the Voyager just barely escapes the singularity. Janeway gives Torres the position of Chief Engineer—Torres has much to learn, but Janeway has the utmost confidence in her. As the Voyager resumes its journey back to the Alpha Quadrant, "Parallax" displays Voyager's promise to true Star Trek character interaction while establishing some backstory. Too bad the plot is so tired.

Previous episode: Caretaker
Next episode: Time and Again

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9 comments on this review

Mal - Fri, Oct 16, 2009 - 12:33pm (USA Central)
It's sad that so early in the show, VOY made so many mistakes. Maybe the seeds of its eventual mediocrity were sown in its very conception.

Caretaker was far too rushed in setting the show up. Parallax only compounds that error by neatly tying up the few loose threads remaining, so that by the end of the episode B'ellana is Chief.

Here's how it should have gone down:

- At the end of Caretaker, the Maqui should have kept their uniforms. It should have been at least a season until (after some seriously tough missions together) everyone decides they are really on the same team.

- This episode should have been about Janeway and Tuvok deciding how to incorporate the Maqui, and realizing that if they were going to have any chance, Chakotay would have to be First Officer. Only then can you hope to bring the likes of B'ellana around.

Remember Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda? Remember how long it took Dylan Hunt to get Captain Valentine and her crew (of mercenaries) to actually believe in the mission? Hunt was out of his time - his "Federation" was nowhere to help him. Sound a little like the Delta Quadrant? Its sad that any Trek would have something to learn from DROM!

Is it any wonder that VOY turned out to be such a pedestrian show? As I said before, the seeds of its mediocrity were sown in its first couple episodes....
Jake - Wed, Nov 25, 2009 - 2:41pm (USA Central)
"Remember Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda?"

I don't think anyone remembers it now.
Will - Mon, Jan 4, 2010 - 8:44am (USA Central)
@Mal, Mal, you and Jammer are exactly right. I remember getting the first season of VOY on DVD and being so excited because I'd read about it on the Internet, and it seemed so interesting. It had a hell of a premise.

Then I actually started looking at the blurbs on the back cover and my heart sank, because the blurb for the second episode read: "Voyager becomes trapped within a quantum singularity which will eventually crush the ship". Huh? That's the best you can give us as your second episode? What a waste. I didn't much enjoy the first season because of episodes like this, of which there were many.

No, I think the first season could've been so much better if they'd actually used any of the ample materials which were to be mined. But as it was, they just gave us a load of pedestrian plots centering around anomalies. How dull.
Carbetarian - Mon, Apr 4, 2011 - 11:53pm (USA Central)
I totally agree with everything Jammer, Mal and Will have already said. Oh, and I also agree with Jake. No one remembers Andromeda. I'm pretty sure most people weren't even aware of it when it was on. But, I digress.

This episode feels like something that could easily have been done by any other Star Trek series. That's disappointing for the second episode of a new show. But, if you want to go from feeling disappointed to indignant, take a peek at the background information on this episode on it's memory alpha page.

Branon Braga and the other writers all make comments on this plot by saying how it's "something we've never seen before" and "a new twist" on temporal whatever episodes. Everything they say is so self congratulatory, that it's like they are oblivious to the fact that we the audience have in fact seen Star Trek episodes like this a thousand times before. This is indeed where the seeds of mediocrity were planted.

The writers on Voyager had all put in so many years on Trek at this point, that I think they lost the ability to see things from any perspective but their own. Branon Braga in particular seemed to eventually get to a point where he felt his scripts were above criticism from Star Trek fans. The show really needed new blood and a staff that didn't feel they knew better than the audience. I mean, let's face it. There are some very obsessed Trekkies out there, and I would wager to bet that many of them DO know the show better than most of the writers. The writing staff needed to come out of their bubble and listen to outside opinions more often.

Over confidence and safety became the mainstays of voyager over the years and eventually the same lack of adventure continued on to the dull as dishwater Enterprise. I sincerely think a new writing staff would have helped with this, on both shows.

I think the case and point that proves that, is how much better Enterprise got when they brought in Manny Coto. I don't think he wrote a lot of truly stellar episodes. But, at least I wasn't bored to the verge of slipping into a coma during the stuff he helmed. That in and of itself was a vast improvement over the ambien like mess the show was before he came on.

Anyway, enough rambling, on to the positves here. Voyager premiered during a difficult time in my childhood. I had just moved and switched schools and I really didn't have any friends yet. So, needless to say, I watched a lot of television and looked for something to escape into. I remember really liking Voyager because I could empathize with the hopelessness of being a million miles away from home and having to start over with a volitale group of people in an unknown area. I still like Voyager, partly for nostalgia and partly because I genuinely like the crew. Ok, except for maybe Neelix. But, even he grew on me after awhile.

The likability and charisma of the actors on Voyager, for me, is what saved it from being Enterprise. Where I never really liked the crew of the NX-01 as a whole, I always liked the crew of Voyager. So, even if Voyager did episodes that were just as boring as the first two seasons of Enterprise, they were slightly redeemed by the fact that they crew had good chemistry and were easy to watch.

I enjoyed the subplot about Janeway and B'elanna in this episode. It was a nice bit of character development. However, the episode still manages sneak in some of Voyager's usual half assery with Senior Engineer Carey. I mean, B'elanna punched him in the face and by the end of the episode he's pledging his loyalty to her command without even a trace of sarcasm? That's either terrible acting or lazy writing, in my opinion.

Final conclusion: two and a half stars for this episode from me too.
Brian - Fri, Jul 15, 2011 - 11:43am (USA Central)
Just re-watched this on Netflix ... Garrett Wang's acting was particularly bad in this episode. Maybe it was just bad dialog, but still ... Ugh.
Shane - Thu, Jul 4, 2013 - 12:24am (USA Central)
Amazing how quickly Voyager abandoned its premise. This is only the second episode of the series and if it weren't for the plot thread of B'Elanna Torres and Joe Carey duking it out for chief engineer you could drop this episode at any almost point in the series and it would fit.

With TNG it's rather easy to differentiate a season 1 episode from a season 7 episode but in Voyager's case you could put "Parallax" right next to "Nightingale" in the schedule and not notice a difference in the characters. (Unless of course Janeway's hairstyle counts!)
inline79 - Thu, Jul 18, 2013 - 6:17pm (USA Central)
OK, I understand there was (is?) a syndication market to appeal to, but it's only Episode #2! Last week, at the end of the episode, our Bad Captain just stranded us 75 years from home. Everyone at home thinks we're dead. We're alone here with no Starbases... Is our ship going to last 75 yrs? Are we going to live that long? Should we have kids to take over the ship? etc etc... Yet everyone is acting like they're just out for a jaunt from Earth to Risa. If I were a crewmember, I'd be right mad.

Like many above, I enjoyed the Janeway/Torres development in this episode, but it could have done with a lot less running around black holes, and a lot more mutiny. Like really, a time travel/paradox episode for the second episode already? We barely know the crew or the ship.

I don't think this deserves 2.5 stars, because the technoplot is a write-off.
Caine - Wed, Oct 9, 2013 - 2:34pm (USA Central)
Right now (October 2013) I'm watching the whole series for the first time - big fan of the other Trek shows.

I agree that the premise of this show was awesome, but that it was handled very poorly by the writers in the first handfull of episodes (all I've watched so far).

In this particular episode there were two things that really made me cringe - o much so that they pretty much ruined the episode for me.

1) When Chakotay is approached by his fellow Maqui about starting a mutiny. he snaps her right into place so fast that her head spins. Wow, what a dull decission by the writers! If only Chakotay had been in two minds a bout it ... but no, he's all Starfleet officer already, loyalty to captain and crew at 100 %, yes sir! Blah! Missed opportunity for gorgeous coflict!

2) When Janeway and Torres find a solution in perfect harmony - even saying the same word at the same time. I half expected them to start giggling and talk about which movie star is just to DIE for ... awkward, painful, ridiculous moment!

After the two first episodes I was certainly not impressed - luckily, in my eyes, the show picked up and had some good episodes later on in the first season.
William - Thu, Jan 9, 2014 - 11:05am (USA Central)
This is a pretty great episode. It actually has the crew grabbling with problems of unity and acclimitization.

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