Saturday, December 5, 2015

Star Trek Voyager (Season 7a)

Season 6b—Season 7a

One can really sense that things are winding down for Voyager. And yet, as with other Trak shows, these “weaker” episodes still have a lot to say. In some ways they are more focused than past stories:

Episode 1: “Unimatrix Zero Part 2” 

Well, except for this conclusion perhaps. Once the shock of seeing Janeway, Tuvok, and Torres assimilated in last season’s cliffhanger wears off this episode feels like a wait for the inevitable status quo to reemerge. Was anyone ever concerned that those characters would really die or remain Borg? Such shocks don’t really work in Trek anymore.

Episode 2: “Imperfection” 

The somewhat humdrum plot of Seven’s tech wearing out is put to good use in an ethical conundrum. Is it OK for one person to risk their well-being for the sake of another? Well, once you spell it out like that I guess this is a little bit of a silly episode.

Episode 3: “Drive” 

One never ceases to be amazed at (a) how full of life and culture the vastness of space is in Trek, and (b) how willing the Voyager crew is to play with others on their long way home. Here, Paris gets to indulge his love of fast vehicles in a space race. Along the way his relationship with Torres is tested and political intrigue in the form of space-terrorists is dealt with.

Episode 4: “Repression” 

Trek meets the Manchurian Candidate, and 1950s era cinema. The atmosphere of this episode is very well handled, even if the story is rather predictable. Today this story resonates rather well as radicalized religion is an ever-more present reality.

Episode 5: “Critical Care” 

The Doctor is stolen and sold to a culture where Obamacare has become the norm. In all seriousness it is a good parable-via-hyperbole about how bureaucratic practices quickly lose the ability to maintain the common sense that they were developed to ease.

Episode 6: “Inside Man” 

We all know the frustration of seeing hero worship aimed at ill deserving or even bad people. In this story the Doctor has reason to suspect another hologram that supposedly was sent to help the ship speed home more quickly. Since such stories are always set up this way we know that the hero is a bad guy, but it is still fun to see the characters figure the deception out and save the day. It is always wise to tread carefully in new relationships and dole trust out in small doses.

Episode 7: “Body and Soul” 

We have finally arrived at the classic sci-fi trope of the body swap. Surprisingly, Jeri Ryan is not just an attractive woman in a cat-suit, and she pulls off acting enough like Robert Picardo to make this episode convincing. So, two of our favorite characters get to play around in comical situations. Yeah!

Episode 8: “Nightingale” 

Harry Kim wants the power of command. He wants it so much, in fact , that he shows enough lack of judgement to make me think he might not need it again. One of the key qualities of great leadership in my book is that it should be thrust upon people with great potential and not sought out by people who crave it. Sort of like that parable of Jesus about party seating arrangements.

Episodes 9 & 10: “Flesh and Blood” 

Voyager continues its obsession with AI, and it continues to break under the constraints of disbelief suspension because Voyager has failed to give us “real” AI characters. Is this just another example in pop culture of “Selma envy”?

Episode 11: “Shattered” 

A fun story that harkens back to many of Voyagers past adventures; a nostalgia ride of sorts. That said, this example of time travel is so outrageous it is hard to begin to articulate just how implausible it is. Try to brainlessly enjoy. There is a message here too though, even if it was handled better in TNGs “Tapestry.”

Episode 12: “Lineage” 

Torres and Paris are about to have a daughter, and Torres once again gets to show us some realistic struggles as a character. Her own childhood struggles with being different cause her to nearly become a monster parent, attempting to customize a “perfect” child. This is a struggle that anyone who went through adolescence facing having a child go through the same awkwardness can identify with.

Episode 13: “Repentance” 

This episode is a perfect example of the power of science fiction. A damaged ship of criminals on route to execution are rescued by Voyager. The ship must then transport them to their destination (the Prime Directive and all). Along the way two fascinating scenarios unfold: (a) Neelix discovers that some of the prisoners are likely victims of racial profiling. (b) The Doctor tries to save another of the prisoners after a beating and inadvertently cures him of psychopathy. The way these two situations unfold, coupled with the strange justice system of the alien culture make for a thought provoking episode.

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