Star Trek: Voyager
Air date: 5/13/1996
Written by Jeri Taylor
Directed by Alexander Singer
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"We have to talk about this ... I think we need to define some parameters about us." — Janeway to Chakotay
Nutshell: A few good moments, but mostly a contrived premise that becomes a wasted opportunity with the blatant pressing of the Reset Button.
While scouting a planet for resources, an insect bite infects Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay with a virus for which Doc cannot find a cure. Somehow, by staying on the planet, they are protected from the virus' deadly effects. But leaving the planet would mean certain death and on-ship stasis could risk infection of the rest of the crew, so after weeks of searching for a cure without success, Janeway puts Tuvok in command of the ship and orders him to leave orbit and continue Voyager's journey to the Alpha Quadrant without them.
After Voyager beams down the necessary supplies for Janeway and Chakotay to build adequate shelter and the equipment to research their condition, Voyager heads on its way.
But, of course, not before Janeway makes a "poignant" good-bye speech to her crew. Sure, the speech is a decent concoction of cliches, but come on—do you really believe that this is it? That Janeway and Chakotay are going to have to live out their days on this planet that they name "New Earth"? As the trailers say, "Hold your breath for an entire hour for Janeway's farewell." Yeah, right. Funny how the previews don't even mention Chakotay's "farewell." (He doesn't even get to deliver a good-bye speech for the crew, which is too bad; it might have been interesting to hear a speech aimed at Voyager's Maquis population.)
Forgive my speech-bashing—I'm in a kind of cynical-sarcastic mood. But my mood has little to do with why "Resolutions" doesn't work as a show. The problem here is that this is yet another frustrating Voyager example of Reset Button Plotting: a show that wanders for an hour to a conclusion that means virtually nothing in terms of story or characters.
And the thing that's so disappointing is that this episode has every opportunity to do some effective character analysis and development, but it almost always refuses to take advantage of them. Consider the premise—it's a decent starting point (much better than, say, "Tuvix"). The idea of two characters forced to live alone and change their lives to fit their new situation is potentially compelling (although I thought the explanation of why they couldn't return to Voyager was quite weak. It's awfully convenient that the planet "protects them somehow" from all effects of this "incurable" disease. Also, why in the world would the ship's two highest-ranking officers both beam down and put themselves in such a position? It seems pretty silly to me. The set-up serves its purpose, but it could've been done better.)
But what does the episode do with its premise? Not nearly enough. There is entirely too much focus on scenes which, for lack of meaning, seem to be filler material, and there's not nearly enough focus on relevant characterization.
One big example: What in the world is the significance of the primate that Janeway keeps encountering in the forest? As far as I can tell, there is none. She sees it, tries to beckon it over to her, and then sighs when it runs back into the trees. Every scene involving this creature is utterly pointless. Maybe it could be helpful in finding a cure to the disease, Janeway says. After all, it has to deal with bug bites too. Well, I say, it's not leaving the planet is it? So it's probably just as safe as you are. (Janeway's reasoning here ranks alongside the 2D ring that "surrounded" Voyager in three-space in "Twisted," and the only-one-child-for-Ocampa-women notion in "Elogium.") In any case, the whole thread is a complete dramatic dead-end.
Then there's the Violent Plasma Storm Scene. Again, here's more filler that boldly goes nowhere. It seems more like an excuse for some green lightning effects and camera shaking. I guess one could argue (and I'm reaching here) that this conveys the sense that Janeway and Chakotay have to learn their new environment, but I'm not about to say that I found such an angle the least bit interesting.
And throughout the show, which spans at the very least six weeks, Janeway spends the majority of every day searching for a cure and denying that the possibility exists that a deus ex machina will, in fact, not save the day (even though we all know it will). What does she hope to achieve? Does she think she will actually find a cure even though Doc couldn't with better technology? And if she does, then what? As Paris said, it would take them about 700 years to get home in their shuttle. Would they find a neighboring society to help them? Could they contact Voyager? The episode doesn't care, simply because it knows the plot won't be going in that direction.
Chakotay's philosophy seems much more rational given the circumstances. He wants to build a home—accept that the disease is not curable and move on. And that's the one interesting question "Resolutions" brings up—the subject of moving on, and the nature of the relationship which will form between Janeway and Chakotay in their isolated society of two. After weeks of denial, Janeway realizes that they have to discuss the personal effects of their situation, and where the future will take them. Janeway's line, "I think we need to define some parameters about us," was one of the episode's few genuinely interesting moments, and Chakotay's response, "I'm not sure if I can define parameters, but I can tell you an ancient story," rang very true. Subsequently, Chakotay's "ancient story" was terrific—a standout in the episode. It was moving and personal—something we don't get to see much from the character, and Robert Beltran shined.
Unfortunately, the writers settle for a compromise with the ambiguity of showing Janeway and Chakotay holding hands and then fading to a commercial break, leaving much to the imagination in terms of subsequent discussion or otherwise. As ambiguous as this scene is, the matter does not feel closed or complete. The only idea conveyed here is that the series has a knack for raising intelligent, interesting questions, but that it can't effectively deal with them.
The B-story centers around Voyager's troubles adjusting to life without its captain and first officer. One option arises—contacting the Vidiians and asking for medical assistance in treating the disease. But given the destruction of one of their ships in "Deadlock," Tuvok doesn't think this would be prudent and abruptly closes the case. This leads to a conflict between Tuvok and Ensign Kim, who thinks they should at least try to contact the Vidiians through Dinara Pel, the Vidiian who Doc treated in "Lifesigns."
It's nice to see Kim actually do something for a change, and I appreciated that he actually fell into conflict with another character for probably the first time in the run of the series. Still, Tuvok's actions feel a tad overstated—he turns on a dime from an adamant "no" to "well, okay" after a two-minute discussion with Kes. And while it's also ironic that Tuvok's logical assertion of the situation turns out to be correct—that the Vidiians do indeed set a trap for Voyager after agreeing to help them—it allows for yet another routine, boring battle confrontation where Voyager is able to get the Vidiians' vaccination and escape overwhelming odds with the use of a convenient antimatter container that Torres improvises on cue.
This all amounts to very little. The filler is wearisome. The dialogue is mostly routine. The discovery of a cure is a foregone conclusion, as is Voyager's return to retrieve the captain and commander. So all the episode comes down to is characterization, but the creators botch it because they so carefully tiptoe around the interesting subjects for fear of having to actually deal with them later. The final closing in which Janeway and Chakotay are back on their bridge is completely unrevealing of anything except a return to the status quo. The biggest consequence seems to be that Voyager lost a couple months of travel time.
Push that reset button.