Thursday, March 12, 2015

Star Trek Voyager (Season 2a)

Season 1bSeason 2b

Season 2 of Voyager gets off to a really good start. I’m used to waiting until around season 3 for these spin-off to hit their stride.

Episode 1 “The 37s”

The season kicks off with an old-timer pickup truck afloat in space. (For a crew stranded 70 years away from Earth at maximum warp, they sure run into Earth related things a lot.) Turns out, several “abductees” from the 30s are located on a near-by planet, held in suspended animation. (Why does anyone die in the Trek universe? From what we have seen multiple times you would think cryogenics would be standard procedure.) When they are revived, the Voyager crew comes under attack. But it turns out that the attackers are human decedents of the 37s. The alien abductors died out a long time ago. When offered the choice of a new life on the planet, everyone on the crew determines to continue the journey home.

There is a little bit of flirtation with some ideas, philosophy of religion and an interesting quandary of choice, but it is mostly just good entertainment.

Episode 2 “Initiations”

Chakotay learns more about the Kazon culture when he spares the life of a young Kazon sent to kill him. There is a lot of good discussion about value, respect, and earning a place in society. The Kazon sects require feats in battle before an honorable name can be earned. In human society we earn our places (and uniforms) through more skill and knowledge based accomplishments. Our names, though are a gift to which we attribute meaning with our lives. In the end, the Kazon predictably sees that our (or Star Fleet’s) system is better because, frankly, it is. That is the point of the story. And, there are still human cutures (and sects) that think like the Kazon.

Episode 3 “Projections”

This is one of those episodes of Trek (or even some other scifi shows) where we know the whole plot is merely a speculative “game” of sorts. As an audience, we are never taken in. In that sense these stories don’t really work, but they are highly entertaining. Philosophically, they raise many fun dilemmas about reality and perception. Those too, however, are only a “game” of sorts because most people are able to accept reality as reality. I did know a philosophy of religion professor once, though, who was so enamored with these sorts of riddles that he lost his grip. It is a scary thing to lose a foundation of reality in pursuit of being too clever.

Episode 4 “Elogium”

This is one of the sillier episodes, where the plots feel rather contrived. It is all done with the intent of exploring the decision to be a parent. But, since we presumably don’t want to carry forward more stories involving an infant, the decision is made to not have a child.

Episode 5 “Non Sequitur”

A “what if” story where Kim never made it onto the Voyager crew. Back on Earth things are incredibly dull. So much so that Kim goes to great lengths to be “back where he belongs,” separated from his family and loved ones. These stories always raise the question, “Why do people knocked out of their own time or reality know that something has happened?” Or, “How does one know that one hasn’t changed realities overnight?” (See Episode 3.)

Episode 6 “Twisted”

Messing with reality even more, this time we lose the ability to navigate space. Reality become untrustworthy. In this case, things are frustrating in the end because it feels like the writers gave up. The “solution” to the conundrum is to just let it run its course. There is no problem to avoid, but rather just another unexpected experience to have. That idea is very interesting, and worthy of exploring, but here it feels like an unforeseen desperate ending and not a purposeful study.

Episode 7 “Parturition”

A rivalry has been building up between Paris and Neelix, so naturally they are sent on an away mission together. And, of course, things do not go well. Along the way they learn to respect each other. That, ladies and gentlemen, is called a trope.

Episode 8 “Persistence of Vision”

An alien has the ability to alter peoples’ perceptions of reality. (Are we seeing a running theme here?) They simply go into a trance, but in their minds they continue to function. They see things as they wish them to be, people that they miss are once again there. The action here is pretty intense, and luckily Kes has a telepathic ability that can fight off the affects. (We could call her ability Chekov’s Telepathy.) I like this antagonist, though, and hope to see more of him.

Episode 9 “Tattoo”

In one of the more interesting stories so far, Chakotay runs into a tribe very, very similar to his own tribe back on Earth. They even have his face tattoo. Turns out that the aliens of the planet he has found had visited Earth multiple times, affecting human evolution and culture. The tribe Chakotay belonged to derived their religion and worldview from these more enlightened aliens. Secular Humanists do not have a problem with higher intelligence nor intelligent design, as long as it is couched in ways that look like science fiction and not religion or theology. What we see here is the logic, even the need, for such explanations in reality. It is clear that design and intelligence are in play in the universe.

Episode 10 “Cold Fire”

A thread left dangling in the pilot is finally addressed. Where is the mate of the being that brought Voyager so far from home? Well, she is clearly not as noble or benevolent as her mate was. In fact, she is pretty mean, maybe even evil. So, we aren’t going to get home easily and early in the second season. I was shocked. Oh, and there is some really good stuff where Kes has to resist the temptation of god-like power.

Episode 11 “Maneuvers”

Star Trek gets all action-y with the return of Seska. It is exciting and fun and, in a moment worthy of an old soap opera, she announces in the end that she has impregnated herself with Chakotay’s DNA. Looks like crazy fun ahead!

Episode 12 “Resistance”

In a “very special episode of Voyager” Janeway is aided by a crazy old, thespian—complete with dramatic soliloquys—in rescuing her away team that has been imprisoned. It is all so touching.

Episode 13 “Prototype”

A great story where Torres can’t resist the challenge to fix (or even heal) a damaged robot. In doing so, she realizes she can give the robotic race an ability they have lacked since their creation: the ability to reproduce. Treading where none in science fiction should dare, she aids them only to discover that it was not a design flaw, but a safe-guard. The robots are a warrior society determined to destroy another class of robots. Reproduction would perpetuate the war that has already seen the destruction of their creators. AI developers, take heed! (Skynet and all.)

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