Star Trek: Voyager
Air date: 2/12/1996
Written by Gary Holland
Directed by LeVar Burton
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"When a bomb starts talking about itself in the third person, I get worried." — Paris
Nutshell: A very "neutral" show. Some good moments, but not enough to turn this into anything more than a routine hardware show.
The crew comes across a forgotten Alpha Quadrant doomsday weapon named "Dreadnought," manufactured two years ago by the Cardassians to attack the Maquis, but captured and modified by then-Maquis B'Elanna Torres to destroy a Cardassian outpost. The missile had mysteriously disappeared into the Badlands—now presumed to have been brought to the Delta Quadrant the same way the Voyager was. Since that time it has gone berserk and found a new target—a populated planet. If it reaches its target, two million innocent people will die.
If you, like me, are willing to concede that in the vast infinitum of the Delta Quadrant the Voyager just happens to come across this lost missile flying on a random course, you've taken the first step in accepting the premise. "Dreadnought" is a decent, solid show with very little to scrutinize. There's nothing really bad about it, but there's nothing inherently compelling about it either. The show is basically five acts of setup that leads to a lackluster foregone conclusion.
Foregone conclusion settings aren't bad, but they do require expert handling to really be exciting. And, simply put, this episode is just not that exciting because nothing very unexpected happens. It's entertaining and reasonably paced, but it doesn't have the pressure-cooker sensation it really needs.
There are some good ideas here, like the idea of an unstoppable weapon programmed by Torres coming back to haunt her out of her past. The unstoppable weapon is an old but reliable idea (though I somewhat doubt that if the Cardassians had such an advanced weapon this would be the first we would hear of it).
There's the idea that Torres had reprogrammed the computer to speak in her voice, which is entertaining with its perverse undertones (I don't know if I would want a weapon of mass destruction to talk with my voice). As the Voyager tries to subdue the missile, it speaks back in a monotone B'Elanna voice indicating its catastrophic intentions. Everybody on the bridge turns and looks accusingly at B'Elanna as the Dreadnought speaks.
There's the idea of the missile heading toward Rakosan, a world inhabited by peaceful, friendly aliens. Janeway contacts the Rakosan First Minister Kellan (Dan Kern) and informs him of the situation. He responds with an answer that is becoming common to hear: "Your reputation proceeds you." It's rather unfortunate for Voyager that wherever they go, the message "Oh no, here comes the infernal Voyager!" follows them. It's intriguing that the Federation has become the bad guys in the face of the Delta Quadrant simply because of Kazon rumors.
Then there's traitorous Crewman Jonas (Raphael Sbarge) who makes his third appearance as the guy who wants to talk to Seska and supplies the Kazon Nistrim with information. (He was also in "Alliances" and "Threshold.") Just as in "Threshold," his presence here has no impact on the plot, but it sparks my interest on what the writers are going to eventually do with this guy. Hopefully there will be a payoff soon.
Despite the decent ideas, there's nothing standout in the execution. In fact, it's positively pedestrian. Everything about this show—from the opening teaser of pregnant Ensign Wildman (Nancy Hower) talking with Doc and Kes about a name for her baby (which, after some 13 months, still hasn't been born) to the Dreadnought's seemingly self-aware computer faking a shutdown procedure, to Janeway arming the auto-destruct sequence—has a ho-hum effect. I did, however, like Janeway's discussion with Kellan where she explains that she plans to stop the missile by blowing up the Voyager in its path. Kellan has a reassuring response, saying that Voyager's grim reputation isn't deserved.
The latter acts follow Torres as she beams aboard the missile and desperately tries to override the Dreadnought computer. While Biggs-Dawson is certainly watchable, this isn't exciting, and with the majority of the closing scenes confined inside the missile as Torres tries to fool the computer with hypothetical games and paradoxical puzzles, the circumstance begins to grow tedious. All of this would be fine, but the final answer to the problem is not as punchy as it could've been, and what should've been a heart-pounding countdown to disaster is instead a drawn-out underwhelming solution.
There's also one angle of the show that seems completely unfinished. This involves a scene between Paris and Torres which reveals that Paris has been having problems "fitting in" lately. He's been showing up to staff meetings late, and apparently even got into a fight with another officer over a trivial matter. What is the relevance of this? There's no follow-up scene so it seems like an abandoned idea. Perhaps something got cut.
"Dreadnought" is just a neutral, "okay" show. It's missing the momentum it needs to really be fun.