Star Trek: Voyager
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.