Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Innocence"

**

Air date: 4/8/1996
Teleplay by Lisa Klink
Story by Anthony Williams
Directed by James L. Conway

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"We could just skip pre-flight altogether."
"Definitely not recommended, but sometimes necessary."
"I'll remember that."

— Paris and Janeway demonstrating haste

Nutshell: A nice ending, but it hardly warrants the bland, plodding, and often-forced bulk of the episode.

When Tuvok crash-lands his shuttle on a moon (#1 Voyager cliche of the season) and his away team partner dies (an unimportant character we've never seen before who dies a dramatically pointless death), Tuvok encounters three children on the moon's surface who have also apparently crash-landed a shuttle. The children are from a xenophobic race known as the Drayans, and they're alone and scared. They believe that an entity known as the "Morrok" is going to kill them as soon as nightfall arrives. The Morrok has already caused the other children from their shuttle to vanish, they explain. So in response to the frightened kids' exasperating pleas, Tuvok accepts the role of protecting them.

But there's more (there had better be). As it happens, Janeway and the Voyager are making first contact with the Drayan officials, who haven't been in contact with anyone off their world for decades. Hopefully there can be a friendly, peaceful exchange of information such that Voyager will be permitted to mine materials from the Drayans' moons that are necessary to fuel the warp core.

Naturally, these two plot angles are connected. The episode slowly builds upon its plot until all is resolved in the closing five minutes of the episode, in which everything else in the story becomes clear. This last scene is a good one. Unfortunately, it hardly justifies the episode's first 40 minutes.

The way "Innocence's" plot quickly resolves itself is reminiscent of DS9's "Whispers," which also took 40 minutes of puzzling setup and turned it into a coherent story in its closing minutes. But there's a difference between the two episodes in that "Whispers" was interesting throughout. "Innocence," on the other hand, features lots and lots of pedestrian filler with little substance worthy of scrutiny. The show is tedious, repetitive, and boring—inducing a fair amount of clock-watching.

"Innocence" supplies never-ending scenes of the children doing obligatory child-like things. Often, the goal is obviously "cute" comedy (I know, I know—the Vulcan has to "baby-sit" emotional non-Vulcan children), but the scenes feel so worn out and predictable that they aren't funny or cute—they're just silly scenes that grate the nerves. The show supplies us with not one, not two, but three scenes of kids hugging Tuvok. Then there's also the scene that features Tuvok literally singing the kids a lullaby by a campfire so they'll fall asleep. In a word: yawn. In another word: gag. I'm not saying that I'm against cuteness (though I'll have to admit it's not a reason why I watch Star Trek), so much as that I found this particular attempt at being cute to be quite vexing instead.

Aside from the forays in cuteness, the plot takes way too long to progress. Consider, for example, when the children tell Tuvok that the Morrok is coming for them. It's obvious that the children are at least partially correct about their imminent doom, yet Tuvok continuously dismisses their feelings as imagination and fear getting the best of them—until two of the three children mysteriously disappear. This being the Star Trek universe (and, further, the Delta Quadrant) where anything can happen, shouldn't Tuvok have been a little more open to the possibilities, especially since he knows nothing about their culture?

Meanwhile, the writers waste most of the first act on a tour of the Voyager Janeway gives to Alcia (Marnie McPhail), the Drayan diplomat, and her aides. The tour is cut short, however, when Alcia learns of Tuvok's shuttle crash on the moon, which turns out to be a sacred haven for Drayans. She's appalled by the desecration of the sacred grounds, regrets having ever made contact with the outside universe, and orders Janeway to leave. But Janeway refuses to leave without her missing officer, and a series of misunderstandings has the Voyager and Drayans in a forced conflict where they're all but shooting at each other.

Since Janeway is left with no option but to team up with Paris and pilot a shuttle down to the moon herself (due to #2 cliche of the season: that the transporters can't beam through the interference), the Drayans send a shuttle after Janeway to prevent her from landing on the moon. By this time, Tuvok has repaired his shuttle and is preparing to take Tressa, the one remaining child (Tiffany Taubman), back to Voyager with him. The episode seems to be headed for a disjointed collision of plot angles, but, fortunately, a decent conclusion steps in to save some grace.

The closing reveals that the Drayans have a reversed life cycle, in which they turn into children as they grow older. The moon is a sacred place where the children go to live their final days and die. Surprisingly, this ending is the best that could possibly have come out of "Innocence." The episode ends with a mutual understanding between Janeway and the Drayans, when a hostile end to the conflict seemed imminent. The Drayans permit Tuvok to accompany Tressa in her final hours of life, which manages to exhibit some emotional power.

But like I said, this doesn't redeem the rest of the episode. The ending, while nice, demonstrates how unmotivated the rest of the show is. If you think about it, the story is just a series of forced character reactions and narrative cheats that don't allow the characters to realize what is happening until the audience does. Why, for example, doesn't Alcia just explain to Janeway that Drayans have reversed life cycles compared to humans? Well, simply because if she did, the episode would be over and the conflict resolved. Rather than doing that, the show simply turns the characters into brainless pawns forced by the script into performing thoughtless actions. Thanks, but no thanks.

I can see what the writers were going for here, but with all the pointless filler and retrospective contrivances, it just doesn't work at all.

Previous episode: Deadlock
Next episode: The Thaw

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16 comments on this review

Actor's Perspective - Sat, Feb 21, 2009 - 12:46pm (USA Central)
I certainly see your point, but this is the only Voyager episode in my memory that explored Tuvok's potential for heroic problem solving all on his own. I was a huge Tim Russ fan when this series was running - he seemed to be the only actor who could pull off the true spirit of "Vulcanism" a la Nimoy and Mark Lenard - yet I was constantly disappointed with what the writers did with his character. To be sure, there is a place for episodes where "the Vulcan goes crazy" and where someone, usually Nelix, cries out, "damn your green-blooded logic," and is proved right. But the cool-headed wryness that was Nimoy's trademark could have been claimed by Russ as well - this episode, particularly the lullaby scene, is proof of that. I, for one, did not yawn.
Jonathan - Sun, Nov 29, 2009 - 6:21am (USA Central)
I must agree with the other comment there. I thought this was an excellent episode - partly because of the clever and interesting ending, and partly because the standard trope of xenophobic aliens is made a little more interesting (these aliens are actually given reasons for being xenophobic, and despite their xenophobia don't just say "Leave this sector now" and start shooting like most of the others). But the main reason for liking this episode is the insight it gives us into Tuvok, partly through really good writing and partly through Tim Russ' barnstorming performance.

See, on paper Tuvok is a very two-dimensional character. He's a Vulcan, he doesn't have emotions, he's logical. He doesn't even have the interesting twist that Spock did of being half-human. But this episode shows why he's interesting nevertheless. Tuvok's description of what love means to him, of how he misses his children, of how Vulcans seek to control their emotions rather than lack them altogether - all combine to give him a lot of depth and make him a very sympathetic character. The writing of these scenes struck me as very good, conveying much in a few lines, and Russ inhabits the character so perfectly that he really conveys his personality. And, yes, the idea of the Vulcan having to babysit very non-Vulcan kids is a bit cutesy, but I thought it worked.

As I recall, in later series Tuvok gets very under-used and spends most episodes doing nothing but give damage reports. That's a shame since, as this episode shows, he has a lot more depth than you might expect.
Mal - Wed, Jan 20, 2010 - 12:17pm (USA Central)
What a difference 14 years makes.

Jammer, go back and watch the episode now - now that you're older - and see if you don't agree with the two comments above that this episode (well, the Tuvok part of this episode) was in fact something special: kids that may have seemed annoying to us when we were 14 years younger, today come across as remarkably well behaved (and, dare i say it, lovable); Tim Russ' performance is nuanced and compelling (Kate Mulgrew's is *not*); and just about the only boring part of the hour is the diplomatic tour of the ship.

Not exactly 3.5 star "Deathwish" or "Resistance" caliber, but certainly better than the 2.5 star-rated "Prototype" and "Dreadnaught" outings.
navamske - Sat, Aug 7, 2010 - 9:10pm (USA Central)
"Why, for example, doesn't Alcia just explain to Janeway that Drayans have reversed life cycles compared to humans?"

Probably because she lacks the frame of reference that we human viewers have and would no more think of pointing out that her species' life progresses in this manner than it would occur to Janeway to mention that humans' (and other Alpha Quadrant hunanoids') lives progress and conclude in the way that they do.
Elliott - Tue, Nov 30, 2010 - 8:16pm (USA Central)
There are two purposes to this episode; one is the character exploration of Tuvok, which you have acknowledged, but it also had the purpose of exploring life at the end of life. What makes the ending so moving is the retrospect upon the previous scenes which Jammer dismisses as boring. The fact that the children annoy Tuvok and depend on him and are seemingly illogically afraid of the Morok, which of course is their own death, is poignant and tragic when viewed from the perspective of the elderly reverting to a state of childhood. What I liked the most was how Tuvok's kindness and tenderness to the children at all points stems from his logical mind at work, demonstrating just how powerful the idea of Vulcans is. The only thing which I found rather perplexing is why when the children die, they simply evaporate rather than become embryonic corpses (I know, maybe that was too gross for prime time). It's easy to dismiss this least successful of Voyager's seven seasons, but episodes like these remind one of how good the show could be even in the early days.
john - Mon, Feb 28, 2011 - 11:06am (USA Central)
I really enjoyed this episode. It should have more starts
Matthias - Mon, Aug 22, 2011 - 7:15am (USA Central)
I agree there was some good Tuvok in there but it still dragged on forever. And Tuvok did a pretty terrible job of watching those kids considering two were able to wander into that cave even though he was working like two meters from the campfire.

The shuttle inadvertently landing on a sacred moon raises the issue that it's not very polite to just put boots on the ground wherever you like in an inhabited system without asking for permission.
Nathan - Sun, Oct 30, 2011 - 6:01pm (USA Central)
You'd think they wouldn't act like normal kids from other species - certainly with how the remaining kid talks about her grandson at the way end. It's like the writers wrote the majority of the episode before deciding how to end it, rather than having the kids actually act like old people with experience but perhaps a failing memory.
Jhoh - Tue, Dec 4, 2012 - 9:53pm (USA Central)
I think 2 stars is too fair to this one. This episode stunk. Just more typical early Voyager, bland and pointless, with another dumb twist at the end.
Mad - Sat, Jan 5, 2013 - 1:03pm (USA Central)
Ridiculously moronic ending. I still think it was just bullshit those aliens made up and Voyager sent that girl to her death.
Lt. Yarko - Thu, Jun 13, 2013 - 10:41am (USA Central)
Interesting idea at the end. Crappy set-up. I wish they had either done a smart episode about a reversed life span or a good episode about Tuvok helping some children. This seemed like two episodes at odds with each other - oh and throw in the obligatory solar interference and senselessly unreasonable and unfriendly aliens.

I agree that Tuvok was unrealistically dismissive of the kids' fear of the monster. Also, I felt cheated that the kids act like kids the entire time but then right at the end their immaturity is explained by saying that they are sort of senile, but then the last kid suddenly remembers her grandchildren. Eh. Lame.
Jack - Fri, Nov 22, 2013 - 4:12pm (USA Central)
The whole aging backwards concept is simply too absurd to entertain. Half a star.
Jack - Fri, Nov 22, 2013 - 4:17pm (USA Central)
And the hard-heaadedness of the aliens (A Trek staple) made no sense here. If the moon is so sacred that n one shoud lbe there, they sdhould have let them go and retreive Tuvok rather than let him stay on the moon who knows how long.
Jons - Fri, Nov 22, 2013 - 5:42pm (USA Central)
I liked that episode! I really like when Star Trek explores Alien cultures - it's actually my favourite thing about this show. And it's especially nice when they *try* to portray an Alien culture and life as actually different from that of humans, instead of making them humans with two horns on their head and Japanese kimonos.

I'm not saying it worked 100%, but I loved the ending (which would have worked better without the mention of the grandson which was silly). But I'd say 4 stars. It's an episode I'll remember (like the one with the dead sent to asteroids, for example) - instead of most "fight or flight" and "omg catastrophe" episodes which all look the same.
inline79 - Sat, Nov 23, 2013 - 10:48am (USA Central)
I wasn't a Tim Russ fan on the first run of Voyager. Now, after 15 years of other life experiences, I really appreciate his talent and what he brought to Vulcans.

Perhaps Jammer should also revisit this one now that he has a kid, maybe learn that Vulcan lullaby. ;)
Corey - Wed, Feb 26, 2014 - 6:44pm (USA Central)
To me, it was the FX work in the second half that spoiled things. I liked the twist ending and didn't find the kids too annoying. The climax packed an emotional punch, though I admit the direction throughout was cheesy (too much bad camera work and bad set design).

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