Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Random Thoughts"

***

Air date: 11/19/1997
Written by Kenneth Biller
Directed by Alexander Singer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"We seek out new races because we want to, not because we're following protocols. We have an insatiable curiosity about the universe." — Janeway to Seven, perhaps reiterating the Voyager mission statement

Nutshell: Some evident flaws, but a surprisingly probing hour overall.

The exterior plot sketch of "Random Thoughts" may very well exemplify what Star Trek: Voyager is now all about: a relatively unchanging story setting where the ship and crew can fly in, meet some people, encounter and subsequently solve a problem, and then fly out. In a way, the setting of Voyager has turned into what TOS and TNG originally set out to be. I know this isn't exactly a news flash; Voyager's setting has always made it more TOS-like than the other Trek series of the decade. But after watching the original Voyager ideology disintegrate through two disappointing seasons followed by a wandering third, and now witnessing the first consistently entertaining opening stretch of a Voyager season (if a little on the slight side) that I can remember, I find myself realizing that perhaps this series can reconceptualize the TOS mentality for the 1990s—while simultaneously framing it within the Voyager alone-in-the-Delta-Quadrant premise.

There are two very nice things about "Random Thoughts" that elevate it above the average Voyager (or TOS) premise:

  1. This story deals with the Voyager condition in terms of a statement of purpose.
  2. This story brings up some interesting questions about individual responsibility, using an effective device surrounding on the idea of "thought control."

Now, I personally prefer the building of compelling situations and characters over time the way DS9 has so successfully done (and I still hope Voyager will try doing it again, regardless of the precedent the creators have set). But the above two key strengths go a long way toward making "Random Thoughts" a very capable single-shot installment, featuring one of the most certain themes so far this season. While we still haven't had a real groundbreaker yet this season, the series does seem to be pulling itself together with a solid streak of good shows (with the exception of "Scientific Method," that is).

This week, Voyager makes friends with a race of telepaths called the Mari, a peaceful race which has eliminated violence from its society. A problem arises, however, when a Mari named Frane (Bobby Burns) "accidentally" steps on B'Elanna's foot. She's angry, but there's no harm done. But later Frane goes off and beats a man. An investigation by a Mari official named Nimira (Gwynyth Walsh, who played the scheming B'Etor of the Duras house on TNG) leads to the conclusion that B'Elanna had a violent thought, which she inadvertently passed to Frane, causing him to beat the defenseless man. B'Elanna is arrested and sentenced to an irreversible procedure that would remove the violent thoughts from her brain. Tuvok takes on the investigation to prove B'Elanna's innocence, in a strangely effective mix of "Meld" and "Ex Post Facto."

Okay, I'll go ahead and get my qualms out of the way: First, I find it very unlikely that Janeway and the Voyager crew would not have been made aware that violent thoughts could lead to this sort of eruption in the first place. The Mari officials must be awfully stupid not to warn aliens who are not as "enlightened" as they are about the serious repercussions something so simple as a subconscious violent thought could cause. Sorry, I just don't buy it. Second, I wasn't totally convinced of the impetus behind the urgent "need" to have the violent thoughts purged from B'Elanna mind (something about preventing a recurrence of the incident?). How exactly would this help? If it is so important one wonders why the Mari would risk hosting alien visitors in the first place (which brings me back to my first complaint).

I have some other plausibility questions, like how the Mari could force B'Elanna into a restraining chair without being affected by more violent thoughts B'Elanna would be thinking—thoughts which any person would certainly have under the circumstances. But never mind, because the debate over this fictional element is probably futile (although the show didn't always seem to be playing by its own set of rules), and I'd rather look at the story the idea conveys.

Ah, how I love psychological analysis. It's not every day the dark themes of violence and the perverse fascination with it crosses the path of Trekkian mythos. It's intriguing here because the Mari's solution of eliminating violence comes at another price: the inability to think freely. Granted, free thought means something completely different to a race of telepaths, but its denial still has consequences, as evidenced by a "black market" of violent thoughts and images, which is uncovered by the end. (We'll get to that momentarily.)

The use of Tuvok for investigating this sort of thing is very appropriate, especially considering his role in "Meld." I usually dislike situations that put Trek crew members at the mercy of alien legal systems (often because such systems create a forced conflict, a subset of the Hard-Headed Aliens of the Week syndrome). But here it works because the story's alien legal system comes in the form of Nimira—a surprisingly fair character who is truly worried about repairing the unfortunate situation that has unfolded. Gwynyth Walsh turns in a strong, believable performance (transcending her stylized, one-note turns as B'Etor), creating a character we can sympathize with, even though her intended course of action is certain to violate B'Elanna's rights. There's an engaging chemistry between Tuvok and Nimira—a respect each has for the other in the way their respective societies have eliminated violence—both Walsh and Russ deserve praise in creating this believable working relationship.

Tuvok's eventual uncovering of the "black market" is also handled adeptly for the most part. A series of well-documented plot developments reveals that violent images are commonly shared in the "back alleys" by people who want to illegally experience what they've apparently become incapable of imagining. Guill, the man Tuvok uncovers as the reason why B'Elanna's rouge impulse is running awry in the telepathic public (he conspired with Frane to provoke and "capture" the thought, but the plan backfired on them when they lost control of the image), is revealed as a "dealer" in violent contraband images—an interesting idea. I only wish Wayne Pere (who played Guill) had been a little more effective; his performance is a tad bland.

Admittedly, I also could've completely done without the second incident that sets Tuvok's investigation in motion, namely, the script's less-than-effective murder of Neelix's new "friend" Talli (Rebecca McFarland) and Neelix's totally misconceived and dramatically unfulfilling reaction to her death. I also wonder if Tuvok was so smart to conduct his subsequent investigation without first reporting to Voyager (effectively "calling for backup"). His plan backfires on him, which I think he should've anticipated. The plot could've been tighter without some of the silliness.

Nevertheless, the payoff works. The underlying question that "Random Thoughts" wrestles out of the plot is whether or not violence can truly be controlled or eliminated. Even by outlawing violent thought, the Mari find themselves with a disturbing problem in the realization that it hasn't truly gone away. Nimira's stunned disbelief that "peaceful Mari citizens" would want to subject themselves to such darkness is the story's most pointed social commentary, and I rather liked it. The question of who is responsible for this mess is a difficult one; sanctioning thought is a ghastly idea for us, but the Mari ideology doesn't see it a problem—yet the issue of violence still hasn't eluded them.

What also works in "Random Thoughts's" favor is a wonderful closing scene between Janeway and Seven that successfully reiterates the series' "mission statement" verbally. Seven's clear-cut declaration that Voyager's goal to get home and the attempt to meet new races in the meantime are inherently incompatible strikes me as a very Seven-like appraisal of Voyager's mission. I very much liked Janeway's response that "We seek out new races because we want to." The most important outcome for the Voyager crew, despite the fact Tuvok and Torres were endangered as a result of the encounter, is that meeting the Mari offered an insight to another culture, hopefully teaching the crew about themselves in the meantime. Janeway's well-conveyed confidence in stating what may very well embody the new "Voyager manifesto" is extremely refreshing, offering what I suspect Voyager hopes to accomplish as a series from this point on. Dialog exchanges like this one are what make Trek what it is, and that's probably the highest praise I can give "Random Thoughts." If the series can keep going and push just a little harder with the storylines, I think we'll find a direction and have the best season of Voyager yet.

Next week: Forget about Schwarzenegger and Stallone. We have LEONARDO DA VINCI: ACTION HERO!

Previous episode: Year of Hell, Part II
Next episode: Concerning Flight

Season Index

31 comments on this review

indijo - Mon, May 26, 2008 - 10:50am (USA Central)
Purging B'Ellana's mind for containing such violent thoughts was a bit extreme, after all, she's not a Mari, she's a human from another race. It would have been much more civilized and logical for them to simply deny her further contact with their species. Can't recall if Tuvok pointed this out but he should have.
Christian Hengstermann - Wed, Jun 10, 2009 - 1:31pm (USA Central)
A great review as usual. I'm currently rewachting the whole series and find this episode is well-done Star Trek: Though hardly outstanding itself, it does manage both to show fine character interaction and deal with a deeper issue.
Jason - Fri, Feb 5, 2010 - 6:08am (USA Central)
Anyone else notice the clips from "Event Horizon" during the violent images montage?
Nic - Tue, Apr 5, 2011 - 9:20am (USA Central)
This episode brought some interesting ideas to the table, and that alone makes it a winner. But it didn't quite go far enough to make it a classic. Sometimes it's good to just ask questions, but other times it's more interesting to actually provide answers (which often make you think just as much as the question). One of the reasons I loved "The Thaw" so much was the revelation that 'fear exists for one purpose... to be conquered.' Here, all Tuvok says is "You don't understand the truth of violence. Its darkness. Its power". Duh!
Destructor - Sun, Jul 17, 2011 - 8:59pm (USA Central)
I really liked this one, and I think the idea that the Voyager crew weren't aware of all the Mari laws actually was addressed- when Seven pointed out, quite rightly, that Voyager stumbles into new cultures with insufficient knowledge.
Dave - Tue, Jan 10, 2012 - 8:37pm (USA Central)
I saw Event Horizon, Halloween, Predator.. all in Tuvoks mind meld violent image montage. Took me out of context of Star Trek, so that was really weird.
Chris - Sun, Apr 1, 2012 - 4:19pm (USA Central)
I think there was no Predator in Tuvok's mind, but the aliens from the Nemesis episode. :)
Justin - Sun, Apr 15, 2012 - 3:39pm (USA Central)
On a nitpicky note, I don't like the precedent this episode sets that Vulcans can communicate telepathically without initiating a mind meld. I hate it when writers take liberties with canon, especially when they serve no purpose. Tuvok and Nimira are just casually strolling down the corridors and start having a telepathic conversation. Why? Seemed kind of pointless...
Michael - Wed, Apr 3, 2013 - 12:23am (USA Central)
I don't have a problem with Tuvok communicating telepathically without physically touching the strong telepathic alien. All that would need to take place would be for her to 'plant' her thoughts in his mind and then 'read' his responses. It could be done in a one-way manner quite simply, requiring little or no effort on his part.
Kevin - Mon, Jan 6, 2014 - 1:17am (USA Central)
Justin, non-touch telepathy in Vulcans was established canon before Voyager - I direct you to Memory Alpha:

Stronger minds were capable of non-contact telepathic projection and scanning, usually over short distances, (TOS: "The Devil in the Dark", "The Omega Glory"; VOY: "Random Thoughts", "Prey") but sometimes even over interstellar distances. (TOS: "The Immunity Syndrome"; Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

Also, it's important to remember that, like it or not, Voyager was an officially sanctioned Trek property, and thus, it's stories ARE canon.

Susan - Fri, Jan 17, 2014 - 11:00pm (USA Central)
I generally liked this episode even if the premise was really stupid, every time I heard them talk about 'the thought' I cringed. But other than that it was ok.
Chris P - Thu, Jan 30, 2014 - 3:33pm (USA Central)
"Your brig is barbaric."

*12 hour later*

"Put the Klingon woman in chains and lock her up."


Another interesting example of the hypocrisy of thought policing. I sometimes can't tell if the writers of ST:Voyager are contemptuous of the notion of continuity and logical storytelling or if they're just kinda bad. In this case I think the usual inanity of character actions works in their favor because of the subject matter and I enjoyed watching an episode where the plot holes could be justified.

I appreciated Seven coming into Janeway's ready room and giving her a piece of my mind. Voyager suffers from contrivances that rely upon the crew intentionally putting themselves into harm's way in order to create a conflict/mystery to resolve and, finally, Janeway was forced to answer on behalf of the writers why it is that they do this.
K'Elvis - Mon, Apr 14, 2014 - 11:39pm (USA Central)
Non-touch telepathy among Vulcans has been shown ro exist, but is also shown as being very limited, but this episode makes it appear that speaking telepathically is common among Vulcans, but Tuvok chooses to use spoken words to deal with humans. There's little indication that Tuvok has substantially greater telepathic gifts than other Vulcans, and so rather than throw out the rest of canon to accommodate this episode, I choose to interpret it as he is able to communicate telepathically with someone who is a strong telepath.

I'm not sure what to think of this episode, because it requires judging this society, and we really don't know that much about it. It makes sense that a species of telepaths would have to control their violent thoughts. Are there better methods available? Perhaps they could work on shielding themselves from negative emotions rather than forcing them not to have such emotions. The Vulcans are even less open to emotions than these people are. While I don't think they would force you to have memories erased, they expect Vulcans to control both positive and negative emotions, and a Vulcan who went about expressing emotions would be treated as mentally ill.
Vylora - Thu, Aug 28, 2014 - 1:00pm (USA Central)
A few notable flaws, mainly the ones that Jammer mentioned; but overall a nice allegory of how restricting personal freedoms can (and usually does) have unintended negative consequences. A good Tuvok vehicle with some decent enough guest star performances.

As to Chris P.: Holding Torres until everything is ready for the ingramatic purge is fundamentally different than any actual short or long term incarceration. Probably partially explains why the Mari were adamant about getting it started as soon as it was ready. They didn't want to hold Torres any longer than what was necessary. Also, one of the huge aspects of a lot of humanity in Star Trek is that of exploration, learning from other cultures, and bettering themselves from it. Janeway's answer wasn't "forced" by the writers as some sort of apology for Voyager's continued exploration. I do agree at times that there's a lot of contrivances in many episodes, however, but I understand the insatiable curiosity. Hell, I'll bet that a lot of the crew would be rather upset if Voyager did nothing BUT travel straight home. (:

All in all, it's not without its downsides but it is intriguing enough. Some food for thought supplied by meaty dialogue interspersed with great character interplay among the cast makes this a recommended viewing.

3 stars.
Yanks - Thu, Aug 28, 2014 - 4:13pm (USA Central)
Vylora,

I enjoy reading your reviews.
Vylora - Fri, Aug 29, 2014 - 11:48am (USA Central)
Thanks, Yanks. :D

(couldn't help myself)
Ian - Mon, Oct 20, 2014 - 12:26am (USA Central)
I do not like how Tuvok comes off very weak , at first, in his confrontation with the thought criminals.
Also, why did not the ship simply not be allowed to leave and take their bad thoughts with them?
Charles - Wed, Oct 29, 2014 - 12:25am (USA Central)
I love the double standards used for Voyager and TOS... TOS is the perfect, amazing series, and each of its episodes is thought-provoking, and a classic, while Voyager is supposedly aimless and limited.

I'm sorry but that's complete bullshit. Once you accept Voyager is NOT DS9 and was never meant to be, and you compare it to TNG and TOS, it fares quite well. TNG had it fair share of doozies, and TOS well don't get me started on TOS.
Robert - Wed, Oct 29, 2014 - 2:49pm (USA Central)
Voyager is being judged by it's time. Pretty much all shows by this point, including sitcoms, had some amount of character development, continuity and do not fully reset at the end of each episode. DS9 had "serial" elements. I don't judge Voyager for not having them. I judge Voyager for needing to end the episode in the same "state" it began it. If it wanted to be judged by the same standards as "Lost in Space" and "TOS" it needed to be made 30 years earlier. And if it wanted to be judged as "TNG" it needed to be made 10 years earlier.

That's not to say some of Voyager doesn't do really well. I recently touted the Doctor's personal arc as excellent and relatively reset button free. And this episode was a great showing for Tuvok, Vulcans in general and Voyager.

But Voyager, like every other show, needs to be judged as a product of it's time.
Elliott - Wed, Oct 29, 2014 - 5:28pm (USA Central)
@Robert :

"But Voyager, like every other show, needs to be judged as a product of it's time."

I have to fundamentally disagree here. While some aspects of TV production may naturally evolve (read: improve) over time, such as special effects in an objective manner, there is no standard which says that story-telling formats are automatically better the more tightly they follow (or lead in DS9's case) trends. It can be of historical interest to note how show well shows capture the spirit or styles of their time, but it is not a measure of quality. Otherwise, the soap opera would an evolutionary highpoint of storytelling with its uninterrupted continuous narrative.

Several artists have been considered out of step and old-fashioned in their day (Vermeer, Bach, Pushkin), while others were cutting-edge (Hemingway, Wagner, Monet, Shakespeare). This does not diminish the greatness of any artist or work of art, it is simply a stylistic choice. The Voyager authors apparently felt it was easier to stick to the Trek ethos by embracing the Trek format of yesteryear (be it 1960s or 80s). This retro-style had little to no impact on the quality of the writing. Judge that as you wish, but I for one reject the notion that "timeliness" accounts for calibre.
Robert - Thu, Oct 30, 2014 - 9:10am (USA Central)
While you are right about art.... being old fashioned on purpose can be charming. Being old fashioned because you refuse to adapt is... sad?

TV shows were crippled in the past by the requirement from networks that the episodes be able to be shown out of order. I'm not aware of any TV writer that laments the fact that now you can have characters develop (even if that wasn't the focus) because the shows are more likely to live on in DVD than to be watching in 30 years of TV reruns.

Refusing to grow up with the times is not always a sign of being old fashioned, sometimes it's just a sign of being dense. Like I said, I don't judge Voyager for not being a serial (I actually liked House M.D. to use an example LESS when it got more serialized, I preferred the patient of the week stories... but either way the characters were still developing), I just judge it because the network pressure to make it something lesser than it could have been is sad.

Whereas TNG was literally as good as it could have been at the time.
Robert - Thu, Oct 30, 2014 - 9:11am (USA Central)
It'd be like TOS doing "Angel One" or "Code of Honour". I'd be MUCH less judgey about a show in the 60s doing that. TNG should have grown up enough to have never tried that nonsense.
Robert - Thu, Oct 30, 2014 - 9:16am (USA Central)
For a lot of it's run Voyager did not much concern itself with how it would be viewed if you were marathoning it on Netflix, and it doesn't really hold up. Things like Kes breaking up with Neelix while possessed, Janeway not following through with her threats to the Vidiians, the Doctor's memory wipe barely being addressed again, Kim forgetting about Libby nearly entirely without it ever being mentioned again, and a whole slew of other things shows a casual disregard for continuity that keeps it from being great under a lens of how TV is viewed today.

And while you can forgive TNG some of those things I think it's harder to forgive Voyager. They DID try this a few times, and I thought it mostly worked (the Doctor's story holds up well over a Netflix marathon, the continuing growth of the Borg kids, Naomi growing up, Torres&Paris' relationship). I give credit where credit was due, but I swear a lot of times it seemed like the guy writing the episode of the week was barely familiar with the canon.
Elliott - Thu, Oct 30, 2014 - 12:11pm (USA Central)
Are you saying you have a filter in your brain which silences criticisms over continuity, etc. based on when the show was produced? Are you saying that TV shows of our time are automatically better (or held to a higher standard) than shows of the past because our format has changed? I find this rather difficult to accept. I don't watch "2001" and think, "Boy this is great...for 1968," I just love the film for everything it is. True, I can analyse features of the film and account for how "of," "ahead of," or "behind" the times it was, but that doesn't affect my enjoyment of the film. The same is true for me of Star Trek. I don't hold a higher suspension of disbelief with TOS than I do for ENT; I've said before that I think Trek is best absorbed as mythology, anyway, but that's another discussion.
Robert - Thu, Oct 30, 2014 - 1:26pm (USA Central)
I'm saying that if Final Fantasy 15 looked like Final Fantasy 7 I wouldn't play it h t t p://www.kotaku.com.au/2014/10/final-fantasy-xv-as-a-playstation-1-game/

That doesn't mean the original isn't one of my favorite games or that I won't break it out again the next time I miss it. It just means that the blockheads don't bother me because at the time you couldn't do better.

Just like I'd not give my time, energy or money to a television show capable of producing the sexist DRECK that is "The Turnabout Intruder", but since it's a product of it's time and made some really brilliant sci-fi I'm willing to look past the flaws.

I like Voyager (and have actually been saying a lot of nice things about it recently as I look over my comment history) but it just can't sit up there with TNG because TNG was a product of it's time and Voyager could have been better. The specific comment I was replying to was

"Once you accept Voyager is NOT DS9 and was never meant to be, and you compare it to TNG and TOS, it fares quite well. TNG had it fair share of doozies, and TOS well don't get me started on TOS. "

Saying it fares well in a DIRECT comparison to TNG or TOS is just not really a fair fight (it's like comparing the graphics of FF7 to FF15). Want to know what TOS is like with continuity? See ST2, ST3 and ST4. On going themes, story lines and continuity. The result? REALLY FREAKING AWESOME. Why were they brave enough to try that? Because Star Wars was doing it.

Voyager could have done these things AND played it safe. They didn't have to trail blaze. They could have just followed DS9. You don't have to agree with my assessment of Voyagers flaws. You don't have to agree that I won't cut Voyager slack against TNG and TOS. But I can't see it any other way.

Let me put it to you this way. Do you roll your eyes when Lucy and Ricky sleep in separate beds? Would you eye roll if Ross and Rachel did? I sure would......
Robert - Thu, Oct 30, 2014 - 1:27pm (USA Central)
So I guess the reality is, no I don't think "I Love Lucy" is great.... for 1950. I think it's just great.

But it sure does make it easier to overlook certain flaws.
William B - Thu, Oct 30, 2014 - 2:41pm (USA Central)
I can sort of see both sides in this Robert/Elliott conversation. A few quick thoughts:

I do think it's worth distinguishing between *format* and, uh, *cultural assumptions*. It is true that over the past half-century, sexism and racism have become less extreme. I can find "The Enemy Within" quite a good episode, even though Spock basically jokes that Rand really must have enjoyed Evil-Kirk almost raping her. And it's not that it wasn't sexist then; it was wrong then. And it is a real failure of imagination that *Spock* would regard sexual assault as a great time to make jabs. However, on some level I am aware that people are not wholly separate from their culture, and while I find it disappointing that they were not able to break out of certain styles of thinking (and while I have my suspicions that Grace Lee Whitney's having a very rough time on the show and her departure may have something to do with the fairly crappy treatment her character gets, especially if you imagine that offscreen follows onscreen at all) I find it easier to let it slide while watching than sexism in TNG or post-TNG Trek.

Along similar lines, while it doesn't affect my enjoyment of TOS that much on an episode-to-episode basis, the presence of Uhura especially, and to a lesser extent Sulu and Chekov, does endear me to the show and to Roddenberry's vision in a big way. Uhura was a revolutionary character. She would not be now, because she very seldom has a big role, but she inspired a generation of women and black people, ala Whoopi Goldberg. That is huge, and it is an example of the show, on a meta-level, "putting its money where its mouth is," picking specific examples of things that were lacking in 1960's America and putting them in the imagined future. Uhura would not be a revolutionary character today, which is good -- because representation has changed over time. I'm not sure if I could say for sure that it would affect my *enjoyment* of the series, but it does in some senses affect my evaluation of the show.

The difference between that and the fabled continuity is that I don't think there's any rule that says that continuity is automatically better than not-continuity. Most of my favourite shows are continuity-heavy. I think that it is a very good use of the television medium, which allows for long-form storytelling in a way that films can't, and in some senses even in a way individual novels can't (though novel series can). As such, television *can* benefit from continuity in storytelling -- which allows for the possibility of seeing people change over a long period of time and as a result of key events, with some of the rhythms of life. Now, Elliott has made a good case that this still happens in Voyager, just without that many explicit references to individual events, so, you know, good if that's the case (my memory of Voyager is still kinda foggy). I do think Voyager wasn't using all the tools that it "had available" in terms of the benefits of continuity, though, of course, no series use *all* the tools that are available, including all the Treks.

If we do include an assumption that continuity is automatically better, then I think it is possible to construct an argument about why it's easy to let the earlier shows off the hook. For one thing, it really is true that continuity, even on DS9, was to some degree discouraged by the execs out of fear that viewers would be lost. I'm pretty sure that a Dominion Occupation arc of longer than six episodes was suggested by the writing team and axed. I can't say for sure how much resistance there was to TNG's small bouts of continuity, if any; the continuity in TNG is well integrated into episodic stories for the most part. With Voyager, I do think that there is some degree of network interference preventing the show from having greater amounts of continuity, etc. This goes back to "network interference" as the reason we couldn't have a female first officer in TOS (though TNG, alas, killed its only female line officer within the first year). On some level, recognizing that it's impossible for a series to show a certain something because of network requirements does factor into my view of the work. But then, is there a difference between NBC making demands in the 1960's and UPN making demands in the 90's/2000's?

I do think that there is something of a rebellion, at least in some quarters, against the ultra-heavy continuity. "Louie" is a pretty cutting-edge comedy/drama which overtly eschews episode-to-episode continuity often -- ending one two-parter with the title character apparently caring for his niece for the immediate future, and then dropping her in the next episode. In its case, the show is clearly experimenting, because it's an experimental kind of existential comedy. However, I think in there is a recognition that excessive dwelling on continuity can be stifling to creativity, that these stories aren't actually real, and that it may be that making something of a loose anthology consisting of several great stories featuring the main character, along with certain long-running arcs following more "traditional" recent modes of continuity, is a better option for telling as many great stories, packing the most punch. I think it may be possible that a new age of standalone or even anthology shows will eventually develop and the idea that it's automatically better for shows to be continuity-heavy will fade in proportion. On the other hand, it may also just be that the television medium works best when taking advantage of the long-form medium to tell, well, long-form stories.
Robert - Thu, Oct 30, 2014 - 4:10pm (USA Central)
@WilliamB

"The difference between that and the fabled continuity is that I don't think there's any rule that says that continuity is automatically better than not-continuity."

I will MOSTLY agree with this. There is no rule. That being said, the REASON most shows didn't have any continuity (the way Friends does but say Lucy doesn't) is because networks didn't like continuity.

If a writer decided their show would be better without continuity, that'd be an artistic choice. The choice to scrape away continuity to a point where episodes can function in any order is rarely an artistic one and almost always a business one. That said, continuity != serial. I LIKE that DS9 had serial aspects, but I do enjoy many shows that focus on "episode of the week". But the characters often do grow and continuity is present.

So when I compare lack of continuity to sexism I don't mean to equate them at all, but they are both more forgivable in the past because they are both relics of an older era of television. It's why I used the example of Lucy and Desi sleeping in the same bed because that level of conservativeness (ridiculous levels) is also a relic.

"I do think Voyager wasn't using all the tools that it "had available" in terms of the benefits of continuity, though, of course, no series use *all* the tools that are available, including all the Treks."

This is really what I meant. Not that Voyager doesn't have continuity but that the fear of change and the need to return to the status quo (which was a very real thing in most networks) hampered Voyager at a time that it should have felt bolder to make some real changes. It was missing a tool it should have had in it's shed and as such is a bigger disappointment than TNG, even if many of the episodes are of comparable quality.

"But then, is there a difference between NBC making demands in the 1960's and UPN making demands in the 90's/2000's? "

Probably not. Maybe it is unrealistic to expect that just because DS9 was trailblazing that VOY would follow it... but UPN making those demands in the later 90s was probably pretty anachronistic.

I do appreciate your last paragraph. I think I disagree pretty strongly with the possibility that abandoning continuity could ever be desirable, but perhaps there will eventually be a backlash to heavy serialization. Although maybe the extreme popularity of CSI/NCIS type shows are already that. They are VERY episodic (even if they do have continuity).
Peremensoe - Thu, Oct 30, 2014 - 9:38pm (USA Central)
William B and Robert, are you aware that Grace Lee Whitney said she was sexually assaulted by a Desilu producer during that time period?
William B - Thu, Oct 30, 2014 - 10:05pm (USA Central)
@Peremensoe, I was not aware of that -- I recall hearing that Grace Lee Whitney found the environment very difficult, but I didn't know more than that. That's really awful (and makes that "Enemy Within" moment harder to stomach, somehow).
Peremensoe - Fri, Oct 31, 2014 - 11:43am (USA Central)
Yep. She mentions it in this interview, www.startrek.com/article/grace-lee-whitney-on-trek-life-part-i

For more, see her book The Longest Trek.

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