Thursday, January 15, 2015

Star Trek Voyager (Season 1a)

Season 1b

As is the case in the other Trek spinoffs, we get a slow, weaker start here in season one. Things should get better. (That is the hope, anyway.) These initial episodes are trying to touch on interesting ideas in a provocative way, but the come across more like they are trying too hard with under-baked concepts.

Episodes 1, 2 “Caretaker”

In our double-length pilot the stage is set. A federation ship goes looking for a Maquis one. (Remember them from the end of TNG, beginning of DS9? Yeah, Trek barely does too.) It had gone missing with a federation spy on board. It turns out that it has been drawn farther away than anyone has ever traveled. The federation ship suffers the same fate.

The phenomenon that caused their trouble is not a natural one. It turns out that another one of the many so-powerful-they-appear-divine aliens that keep showing up in Trek has been pulling beings from all over the galaxy seeking someone for a special job.

It seems this alien negatively affected the life on a planet and out of a sense of guilt, has been caring for them like a god ever sense. As he is close to dying, he has been seeking someone to take over. He dies before he can send the federation and Maquis home, so they are stranded a lifetime journey away. Forced to join forces in the unknown space, we have our conflict-prone crew in place.

Both the religious implications and the conflict potential seem underdeveloped. The god story is mostly an afterthought to the series set-up, and the conflict only seems to last into the next episode. Or, that is the case in the first half of season one, where each episode tackles a classic sci-fi set-up in a cursory way:

Episode 3 “Parallax”

The crew find a ship trapped in a space-time anomaly, and—surprise!—it turns out to be themselves looking into a space-time mirror. The Maquis engineer proves to be a savant of sorts, and our biggest inter-crew conflict is settled pretty fast.

Episode 4 “Time and Again”

A time-travel paradox story where the crew come across the aftermath of a whole planet destroyed and race to prevent a disaster that they created… in the past.

Episode 5 “Phage”

An alien race harvest lungs from Nelix (an alien from that sector of the galaxy who has joined our crew) and Captain Janeway tries to save him like any other member of her crew. This alien species prolongs their own life by taking from other lifeforms. The whole ethical quandary is clear and obvious.

Episode 6 “The Cloud”

The Voyager explores a strange nebula, only to discover it is a lifeform and they have hurt it. They risk their own lives to set that wrong right.

Episode 7 “Eye of the Needle”

A wormhole is discovered that leads back home, only into Romulan (read enemy) territory. It is not big enough to fly through, but they do contact a ship there who agrees to get messages to their loved ones.

Problem number one: it is discovered that the hole doesn’t just reach through space, but time and they are speaking to the past. No problem, the Romulan captain agrees to wait until the right time to deliver the messages.

Problem number two: well, watch the show. This episode and its twists are pretty good.

Episode 8 “Ex Post Facto”

Paris (one of our main characters, the one with a “troubled past”) is convicted of murder on an alien planet through the recorded-memory-testimony of his supposed victim. It is up to Tuvak (the Vulcan chief of security on the Voyager) to find out the truth of what happened. This one is a fair episode, especially in an ironic/guilty pleasure fashion, but the bad guy is pretty obvious when you sit down and think about the logistics of the frame job.

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