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V_Is_For_Voyager
Wed, Dec 2, 2015, 7:39pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S6: Face of the Enemy

I'd just like to point out that this was the only episode of Star Trek to be scored by Don Davis, who is the composer of the excellent music to "The Matrix."
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V_Is_For_Voyager
Wed, Mar 18, 2015, 1:39pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Galaxy's Child

Jammer: "Priceless is Picard's devastated reaction when the phasers accidentally kill the creature. It's so wonderfully Picard: We came out here to study this wonderful creature and we have killed it"

I'm glad you noticed this; it seems everyone else commenting on this episode is caught up in debating whether or not Geordi is a creep.

I thought the scene where they first discovered the life-form and the subsequent disaster showcased some of Patrick Stewart's understated acting at its very best. If you watch his face, you can intensely feel his sense of childlike excitement at discovering the unknown object in space, then he waxes poetic about living between the stars when he discovers it is a living being. He then shows caution and great sensitivity for not upsetting or alarming it; this turns to concern at the problems start to develop. Then when he realizes he is forced to use phasers, he hesitates so long in giving Worf the command, it's like he doesn't want to believe what is happening. Finally when it happens, the worst thing possible results: the creature dies before their very eyes.

Picard's powerlessness to save it and the feeling of his childlike joy and wonder turning into horror at the realization at what he's done was so acute, I wanted to burst into tears. But he did all this just with a look in his eye and an expression on his face. Patrick Stewart really is a great A-level actor and his heavy duty dramatic presence is a huge part of why this show about space people in costumes and little models and CGI moves us so deeply. You can feel his character's great intelligence and sensitivity, his noble intentions, and he makes it all feel very real and believable.
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V_Is_For_Voyager
Sun, Sep 14, 2014, 2:40am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Coda

This episode is actually one of my favorites and I disagree with almost everyone here on at least one point: I think the less interesting part of the story was the repeating death scenes, and the show became most interesting when the "father figure" showed up. Len Cariou's acting was wonderful, especially the way he turned from genuinely warm and sympathetic to utterly evil, one of the best villains of the series. Also I want to point out that the music in the final confrontation scene was brilliantly subtle and effective, straight out of a horror movie. It starts out very faint and then gradually builds as the realization comes to Janeway about what is happening - it expresses all the creepiness of what the "father" character was trying to do, then it develops a deep - strong quality as Janeway begins to overcome him. I didn't think that scene was overstated or overacted, in fact, I thought it was one of Janeway's best and most satisfying confrontations of the series, because she is truly alone and has been through an unimaginably nightmarish ordeal, is feeling shattered and vulnerable, and yet must summon up all her redoubtable willpower and command power to resist.

Reading some of these reviews and the criticisms of them I'm beginning to understand why I enjoyed many of these Voyager episodes more than some people. In the first place, I saw this series before I saw TNG, so I was not constantly comparing these episodes to old episodes of the previous series (also, I think the production values and acting were of generally higher quality and the writing frequently tighter on Voyager, so while TNG may get the prize for originality, VOY beats it in terms of execution). In the second place, I don't overthink the internal logic of these plots, and I willingly suspend disbelief for the sake of enjoyment of the drama. Yes, it doesn't make sense that the Captain and First Officer would be on an away mission together - but rather than let that spoil the episode for me, I'd rather enjoy the fact that we get a glimpse in the crash scene of how fanatically devoted (and possibly romantically attached) the otherwise taciturn and reserved Chakotay is towards Janeway at this early point in the series, which is both moving and revealing in terms of what has been going on inside his character. I'd much rather have such a meaty slice of character insight and drama at the expense of perfectly consistent plot points. You might as well nitpick the fact that there aren't enough non-humanoid alien lifeforms on the show, or that 24th-century English would sound a lot different from English as we spoke it in the late 1980s and early 90s. There are endless little "unrealistic" points and elements which, if you want to nitpick, can easily reduce all of Star Trek to an absurdity. Suspension of disbelief involves, for instance, assuming there was some good reason why the Captain and First Officer were on that shuttle together - maybe because Janeway and Chakotay were feeling some chemistry at this point and she used the away mission as a chance for them to bend the rules and get some alone time together? It's just as easy to find reasons to explain these little inconsistencies instead of picking them full of holes, and for myself, I'd rather appreciate a piece of drama for the emotional payoff of the performance rather than for the intellectual satisfaction of picking it full of holes.

Anyway, good episode, great final scene, great guest performance, great music. Also, as Jammer pointed out, great acting by the rest of the cast.
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V_Is_For_Voyager
Thu, Jun 12, 2014, 4:08pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Where No One Has Gone Before

Dave in MN: Agreed completely about the music. I like Dennis McCarthy but I don't know what those other reviewers are talking about with this episode, I thought the score here was unusually impressive and cinematic.
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V_Is_For_Voyager
Tue, Jan 7, 2014, 4:43pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S5: Fifth Season Recap

@Robert: "As I said, it's not about serialization/soap opera plotting for me... it's just about the enjoyability of watching characters change/evolve. I don't necessarily wish S7 Torres was sooo different or in the middle of such an arc that it would affect the enjoyment of stand alone episodes... but let's face it... we could have solved the dilemma in 'Lineage' by just letting her watch 'Faces', 'Day of Honor' and 'Barge of the Dead'. 'Oh ya, I've made peace with the fact that being Klingon doesn't suck, thanks for reminding me! I'm totally cool with my baby now!'"

Torres changes and evolves enormously over the series. The episodes you cite specifically have to do with reconciling her conflicted Klingon-Human background, which was an issue deeply rooted in her childhood and relationship with her parents. I'm no psychologist, but I've known my share of human beings with identity or abandonment issues and mixed cultural background. Those aren't the kinds of issues that just get resolved, they stay with a person forever and continue to create problems and cause stress on relationships, as well as shaping and informing the development of character. Where B'Elanna really changes and evolves is in her attitude towards Starfleet, her transformation from an angry misfit to a responsible leader and member of the crew. One of the best later episodes which shows how much she has changed is "Muse," where she ends up helping a young poet to finish his play. It's a beautiful, understated episode but it shows how much B'Elanna has been influenced by her time on Voyager, how compassionate she has become, and how she has learned to get over her personal war with the universe to help someone in need.

It's easy to see character change in the Doctor and Seven, because both these characters are technological creations like Data who entered the show as basically a blank slate, but I think there is plenty of character development on Voyager to go round. Also, in real life some people don't change all that much, or rather the biggest changes in their lives happen during a certain period, and then they stay the same. Chakotay doesn't change all that much for the same reason O'Brian doesn't change that much on DS9: the great formative period of these character's lives is behind them, they are already fully developed when they first appear on the series. And I don't find anything wrong with it in either case.

@Grumpy: "V's point about Gunsmoke (and, similarly, TOS) overlooks an important aspect, I think. Non-serialized shows are (were) built for that purpose. To keep a show fresh with the same elements takes a well-tuned engine that can generate endless stories. Voyager borrowed TOS's 'Wagon Train' engine but was *not* built as a non-serialized show. The nature of its underlying premise - a voyage home - demanded progress & change."

I disagree. Wagon Train was about a group of people making one journey with a fixed destination: Missouri to California. How does a premise like that not demand as much progress and change as Voyager returning to Earth? The very nature of Voyager meant they were always going to be in a different part of space, with different worlds and aliens to encounter. It would be hard to think of a premise more suited to non-serialized storytelling.

@Josh: "Otherwise, regarding the 'soap opera' epithet lodged at those apparently low-brow 'serialized' TV shows, I'd suggest dropping it. Unless you'd have us believe that Breaking Bad is basically just Passions with blue meth."

I take it back, I didn't mean that to sound so derogatory. I'm a huge fan of serialized television, and I actually prefer to be much more tightly plotted and worked out than DS9. My point was not that one form of storytelling is better than the other, but that I enjoy the episodic emphasis of Voyager just as much as I enjoy the slightly-more-serialized storytelling in DS9, and I feel both storytelling forms suit the premise behind both shows.

@Latex Zebra: "The main problem with Voyager is that nothing had any consequence. Everything wrapped up nicely after one or maybe two episodes."

While this is somewhat true of Voyager, it is no less true of DS9. Where, for instance, in the entire final run of Kira/Damar/Garak episodes is mention ever made of the fact that it was Damar who killed Tora Ziyal -- and Garak was supposedly in love with her, while Kira was her best friend? What about the psychological consequences of O'Brian's 20-year prison term? What about the times when Quark seriously compromised station security and nearly got them all killed, only to be back happily tending bar in the next episode? What about the fact that Changelings had infiltrated Earth? There were plenty of times on that series where I found it frustrating that the characters did not seem to be reacting properly to past events, or did not seem to be changed by them. The writers on DS9 would often sacrifice realistic character development or the consequences of major events for the demands of TV plotting, budget limitations, acting contracts or even the whims of plotting or to highlight some particular issue. I don't think Voyager is particularly guilty of that, any more than any show from the 1990s.

@Elliot: "the irony in your list of 'bad' episodes (not that I disagree that many of them are at best questionable) is that the majority 'attended continuity' in the same way as the TNG episodes you mention"

This is a very good point and not one to be overlooked.

"One of DS9's ironies is that its secondary cast was, for the most part, far better developed and utilised than its main cast. DS9 was the only series (and this includes the mostly laughable ENT crew) which could never have sustained 7 seasons with primarily its main cast alone. How many of DS9's great episodes heavily featured guest characters or secondary cast members?"

Another good point -- and I might add, it doesn't detract from DS9's greatness. I watch DS9 primarily to see Garak, Dukat, Eddington, Winn, Sloan, even Vic Fontaine more than many of the regular cast members. And this goes back to what I was saying about why I enjoy Voyager so much: I really like the crew. I enjoy seeing what new adventure they get into from week to week, because I think they are a great group of heroic characters. I really like Captain Janeway and Benjamin Sisko gets on my nerves. But I really enjoy the political/religious issues explored on DS9, and I love its very entertaining group of guest characters and villains.

Looking back at both shows from 2014, I'd say they have far more in common than setting them apart. Neither one is wholly serialized or episodic, and both suffer from a lot of the same flaws, which have more to do with the era in which they were made and the level of sophistication in TV audiences at that time, than with major shortcomings particular to either show.

And give me the WORST of either Voyager or DS9 over this J.J. Abrams crap any day!!!
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V_Is_For_Voyager
Thu, Nov 21, 2013, 8:08am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: The Siege of AR-558

I agree this episode is overrated: it's not bad, but it is terribly clich├ęd. They didn't do a lot that hasn't been done much better in countless films and books. Quark's presence there was particularly contrived. The tactical and strategic plausibility of the whole situation was laughable.

On the plus side: the Quark scenes were strong, Ezri and her scenes with that engineer were moving (he was a nicely-developed character and seemed much more believably Starfleet than Rambo-man), and I thought the battle scene at the end was executed much better than the usual phaser battles (I wish Eddington's final fight was more like this!)

I thought "Nor the Battle To the Strong" was a much better look at this same general theme. Although I did appreciate some of the subtle homages to "Zulu" in this episode, while "Nor the Battle" is more "Red Badge of Courage."
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V_Is_For_Voyager
Fri, Nov 15, 2013, 1:05am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Covenant

I love this episode. I don't think it was ever intended to be a serious and probing look at religious cult leaders and their followers, but rather the final maturation of a supervillain. I mean, seriously, a leader who presides over a suicide cult -- and then tries to trick all his followers into killing themselves, while he escapes to safety? And all to cover up his adultery with one of his followers, whom he earlier tried to murder? This is larger-than-life, comic book level villainy in the best traditions of space opera. When did Darth Vader ever do something so despicable?? Although Voyager was and remains my first love with Star Trek, I must admit, DS9 beats them all in the villain department. And Dukat stands head and shoulder above them all!
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V_Is_For_Voyager
Sun, Nov 10, 2013, 3:05pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: The Sound of Her Voice

Frequently Jammer criticizes Voyager for plots too similar to older episodes of TNG, yet here he turns a blind eye to the fact that the central plot of this episode was handled much better in the first-season Voyager episode "Eye of the Needle."

Methinks if "Sound of Her Voice" had aired in 1995 and "Eye of the Needle" in 1998, Jammer would've pounced on the latter for ripping off the former with the same glee Odo took in citing Quark for violating regulations governing bar stools.

I liked this episode and found it moving, but I agree with the criticisms against it. It would've helped if we would have at least seen a picture of Captain Cusak at the end, or seen some of her friends and family at the memorial service. The absence of both, and the fact that we never learned any of the personal details of her life, (unlike the Romulan played by Vaughn Armstrong in "Eye of the Needle," whom we come to care about deeply) left her character feeling like nothing more than a shallow device to help the DS9 characters express their feelings.
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V_Is_For_Voyager
Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 5:49pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: In the Pale Moonlight

I agree with Elliot's comment from 2011 that this episode is a mixed bag. Avery Brooks' acting is at its all-time worst here, and he nearly sinks the episode for me. It's not just overacting, it's _bad_ acting... silted and painfully forced. Ironically, Andrew Robinson is at his very best here, so the two performances cancel each other out. I also agree with Elliot that merely showing a character violating his principles has no literary merit in itself, and as many others have pointed out, Sisko already crossed that line when he basically gassed an entire planet with biological weapons to get Eddington.

I felt this episode seriously violated the old "show, don't tell" principle of storytelling with Sisko's totally unnecessary narration. Avery Brooks is at his best in his quiet moments with his family, and I think this episode would've been much better if the audience was following events as they unfolded, with Jake or Cassidy there to act as a check on his conscience. Far better to _see_ a character actually dealing with his emotions than have him shouting directly into the camera about what he was supposed to be feeling after the fact.

Also, I felt the writers cheated a little bit (as they often do, in cases like this) by making the Romulan Senator and the alien forger so personally despicable and unlikeable. If you really want to make it tough, make the Romulan honorable and decent, or make the forger into an entertaining and amiable fellow. This is supposed to be such a tough moral decision, something so unthinkable, yet all we really have is Garak being his badass self and bumping off a few real jerks offscreen. Yes, it defies Roddenberry's vision, but aside from challenging the hallowed ideology of Trekdom, it doesn't actually take that many dramatic risks. Because the audience really doesn't like either of these obnoxious and highly disposable characters, and because Garak is cool enough to be considered the Cardassian James Bond, there is ever point where the audience actually feels even the slightest bit of genuine moral dilemma.

In the end I like this episode just because it's a great showcase for Garak and I appreciate what the writers were trying to do. If they had replaced Sisko's fourth-wall histrionics with some quiet character moments, and had push the moral queasiness a bit more, I think it would've been as great as many believe it to be.
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V_Is_For_Voyager
Mon, Sep 2, 2013, 12:45am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S5: Fifth Season Recap

@Robert (and others):

I'm in the process of discovering one of the great epics of classic television, Gunsmoke. What you said made me realize one thing so remarkable about that show, probably the longest-running adventure/drama in TV history, is the fact that the characters all stay exactly the same. The hero, Marshall Matt Dillon, was basically the same character for 20 years, along with Doc and Miss Kitty. And you know, it's one of the things that makes the show really enjoyable.

When you watch a Gunsmoke, you know you're getting the very opposite of serialized television. You're getting the same setting and the same two or three characters dropped into some new situation... some interesting guest characters, a new villain, and some other elements that appear in one episode and will disappear never to be heard from again. It's like a James Bond movie: you don't watch James Bond to see his character grow or evolve, you see it to see how his character will react to the latest villain's scheme to take over/destroy the world. And that's the beauty of it.

I like Voyager than any other Star Trek above all for the simple reason Jo Jo Meastro mentioned: the crew are enjoyable to watch. When I see Voyager, just like Gunsmoke or James Bond, I want Tuvok to be exactly the same and Neelix to be exactly the same. And I think the premise of the show perfectly suits that type of storytelling: the ship and crew are always the same, but they are always moving into a new point in space, with new aliens and new worlds. Basically the opposite of DS9, which has a stationary setting but the characters are always evolving via the serialized story.

I love DS9, and I also enjoy much more tightly plotted serialized fiction, like Game of Thrones. But if I had to just throw on a random episode of a show to be entertained, I'll pop on a Voyager, knowing that I won't have to worry about what point in the soap-opera plotting I'll find myself in the middle of, and instead I can just watch the always-enjoyable Voyager crew deal with whatever problem or situation they happen to have found themselves in that week.

To sum up, I think they are just two very different types of shows. I prefer Voyager because I like the characters better, but I can understand why someone would prefer DS9 for the more complex story arcs and strong supporting characters. But I wouldn't change either, and I'm very glad we were all treated to those two different kinds of shows in the same setting at the same time. A rare thing for TV science fiction, and something we're not likely to get again.
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V_is_for_Voyager
Wed, Mar 27, 2013, 3:28pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Non Sequitur

@Will: I agree Jammer nitpicks this episode unfairly (in a way he would never do for DS9, I might add!). Nitpicking over implausible technobabble is generally a bad idea with Star Trek, since each show succeeds or fails on the strength of its drama and the technobabble only exists to facilitate that. If you want believable science, watch a documentary on the Discovery channel. If you want good drama set in a highly imaginative universe, watch Star Trek.

I love this episode and I think it is much beloved by true fans of this show. If you hate Voyager or you don't already like the characters on the show, it isn't going to do much for you. If you watch Voyager not to bash it but actually because you prefer the Voyager cast to the rest of Star Trek, this is an especially gratifying episode. Let me explain why:

In the first place, it has one of the most intriguing openings of any episode of Voyager, with Harry's face lit up by the sun as he wakes up on planet Earth, with Captain Janeway's voice mysteriously echoing in his head, as if everything that has happened so far on the show has been only a dream. As others have said, its very refreshing to see an episode set on Earth, as it gives us a rare glimpse into life in the 24th-century.

The episode is even more interesting for suggesting a darker side to life in the Federation "utopia". There is a distinctly 1984-esque feeling to the whole setting, from the constant electronic surveillance of every living being on the planet and the artificial cleanliness and feeling of all-pervading control, to the Big Brother-like way Starfleet immediately comes down on Harry when he starts poking around and asking questions.

Many have commented that the actress who plays Libby leaves something to be desired, but I think she plays her character just right: there is something plastic and artificial even to Harry's relationship to his girlfriend, and this fits with what we know about his character. Harry was a goodie-goodie straight A student on the path to a successful and promising career, and it makes sense that this kind of guy would end up in a relationship with a status conscious, superficial and controlling girlfriend.

Not only that, but the fact that all her "love" for Harry immediately seems to fade as soon as he starts acting unpredictable (messing with his career) reinforces both the creepy, 1984 aspect to the story and also the fact that Harry belongs on Voyager. Reviewers who complain about the lack of passion between Harry and his girlfriend, and who go on to say he should've wanted to stay on Earth, miss the point entirely: Harry belongs on Voyager, not just out of a sense of duty and obligation (although these are some of Harry Kim's defining virtues) but also because he has found real warmth and the strength of a true community on Voyager in a way he never could've found in his sterile, by-the-numbers career or Earth.

Another great and subtle characterization is added by Harry's "friend" Lieutenant Lasca. This individual belongs to the same class of ultra-ambitious career climbing plastic slimeball who, like Libby, immediately turns on his friend the instant Harry begins to act unpredictable in a way that might become a career liability rather than an asset. The untrustworthy Lasca instantly spots an opportunity to turn the situation to his advantage, as he moves to ingratiate himself with Starfleet command by spearheading the investigation into Harry's unorthodox behavior. The accusations of alien influence or Maquis sympathies illustrate to what degree the Federation utopia (dystopia) lives under a subtly oppressive atmosphere of paranoia.

There is also, I must say, an even more subtle suggestion that Lasca would be moving in on Harry's girlfriend behind his back. Mark Kiely gives off a vibe very similar to Tony Goldwyn in "Ghost," as the kind of slimy yuppie whose outward virtuousness masks an ambitious ego-driven opportunist. Maybe this is the reason we hear no more of Libby later in the series: in the real timeline, Lasca moved in to "comfort" Libby and took her away from Harry. Maybe this is just me, but I definitely got this vibe from the whole situation.

Regardless, hypocritical insincerity and rigid conformity of the other characters up to this point are contrasted splendidly by the appearance of the unruly and rebellious Tom Paris. In many ways this is Rober Duncan McNeill's episode, since it reveals the most about his character and since it is he who ultimately saves the day. When we first see him, he has become a caricature of himself as he was at the beginning of the series -- and it's great to see some more of cavalier, cynical, antisocial Tom Paris from the beginning of Season 1. This scene includes a neat little reference to DS9 and also poignantly shows us, in "It's a Wonderful Life" style, the sad fate that would've befallen Tom Paris had he not met Harry Kim and been stranded on Voyager.

Indeed, it was a selfless interest to protect the young, naive Ensign Kim from being cheated which originally pulled Tom out of his self-absorbed cynical wallowing -- and in this episode it happens again, as an even more cynical and hard-bitten Tom Paris is once again redeemed by his sympathy for Harry Kim's plight. The best thing about the episode is the way it suggests that, even in a different lifetime on another world, Tom and Harry were destined to become best friends. Anyone who has ever had a friend who is like a brother will be moved by the moment when Harry, betrayed by the people he trusted and hunted animal by Starfleet security, is saved by an intervening fist thrown by the bar-brawler Paris which decks the Starfleet cop.

The technical details of the return home flight are irrelevant -- I actually applaud this episode for keeping the technobabble to a minimum by having it casually summarized by the entertaining and likable Cosimo character. It's not important that we know how or why any of it works -- what's important is how it affects the drama, how it pushes goodie-goodie Kim to defy everything he was taught to follow out of loyalty to his shipmates, and how it further cements the bond between Harry and Tom. The very exciting action climax neatly ties us back to the almost-forgotten ghost voice of Captain Janeway in the opening moments of the show, as Tom takes his greatest risk yet and actually gets killed trying to return Harry to his timeline.

When we finally see the Voyager bridge, like Harry we feel comforted by the familiar setting and are glad to be back. This ultimately explains why Harry would rather be on Voyager: his old life was hollow and phony, and he has only truly found himself in the comaradarie on Voyager. There is a nice little acknowledgement of his debt of gratitude to alternate-timeline Tom, and his faith in his friend is doubly renewed by the knowledge that even in an alternate reality, his friend comes through for him.

Trust and loyalty are the main themes of this show: the way Harry's girlfriend, his colleague and his superiors on Earth are untrustworthy and don't trust him, and the way he trusts his friends on Voyager and they trust him, even to the point of risking death -- Tom risking death to save Harry, and Harry risking his career and death in order to be back fighting shoulder to shoulder with his comrades lost in space.

"Non Sequitur" is one of Voyager's best episodes and in many ways acts as a dry run to the even more dramatic Season 5 episode "Timeless," which also features uses the character of Harry Kim to surprisingly dramatic effect and ends in a shuttle explosion resetting a fatal timeline. The atmosphere is very subtly dystopian, the show builds sympathy for its main character through isolation and confusion, there are some great guest appearances, the music is uniformly excellent, the whole story is intense and dreamlike, and it builds to a very tense conclusion which affirms some great things about the characters.

Four stars in my book.
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