Friday, May 25, 2012

Classics: Voyager 1:2 - Parallax

Overall Rating: 4.3

The interpersonal squabbles are intriguing in this episode...the main plot, and the pat resolution to said squabbles, however, are not.

Plot Synopsis:

Memory Alpha has the details here - sorry you have to read them, but I have to watch these episodes. :)

The Skinny:

Problem the first - these writers know not one gosh darned thing about quantum singularities.  If you're going to write an episode of a *science fiction* television series involving a particular aspect of science fiction, I am begging you...DO SOME RESEARCH.  A quantum singularity (or black hole in the more popular vernacular) is the phenomenon of a massive amount of "stuff" being crushed by its own gravity into a single point in space.  The event horizon of a quantum singularity is not an "energy barrier" nor does it have any actual definition.  You can't see it, touch it, or slam into it like a wall.  It's like the boundary of a state on your road atlas.  Doing some BS tech-the-tech to make that boundary change somehow makes no sense because it ISN'T REALLY THERE.  It is simple the threshold across which matter can never return.  Once Voyager fell into the event horizon of this black hole, they should have been torn apart and vaporized and never heard from again and there is not one piece of Trek tech that answers that problem.  Even TNG's writers did a better job explaining high concept sci fi.  BTW...when we looked at Voyager's quantum reflection horse-pucky for the purpose of suspense early in the episode...why couldn't we enlarge it like they always do in every other episode of Trek and instantly recognize that HEY...that's VOYAGER!  Hint: the plot wouldn't work if we could.

Problem the second - again, the writers fail to do their research.  Once they realize that Voyager is the ship caught in the singularity, Parris says the smartest thing in the room...namely, "WTF?  That's unpossible, stupid writers!"  And the rest of the crew stares blankly at him before Janeway gives a nonsensical answer about outcome preceding cause in the bullshitverse.  Hey guys...time is dilated within a quantum singularity, which means that it moves much more slowly inside the opening than outside...but it does NOT mean that events in the future inside the singularity get back to events outside the singularity in the past.  That's asinine.  Even more asinine is their idiotic answer about breaking through the ice of the pond (this is why SFDebris calls their briefing room the "magic meeting room" - they come up with bullshit answers to problems here that make no sense and then we are expected to simply turn off our minds and accept them).  This is no exception...the metaphor gets stretched beyond logic and common sense and my brain hurts even thinking about it.  Oh...and the way they see the supposed crack in the ice of this magical singularity is even sillier.  WTF are "warp particles"?  Warp drive is a process of folding space by creating a really big magnetic distortion using a very energetic reaction to power a big tesla-like coil (the warp core..that's why it's this big tall cylindrical's a coil, stupid)...the reaction doesn't generate generates ENERGY.  The dilithium in the warp engine is BLOWN UP.  Holy hell, this is a stupid plot device.  Hey...I have another question...if the course they set didn't matter and they were always still sliding further into the singularity...why could a shuttle (or Voyager) then drive back to the supposed hole in the event horizon?

Problem the third - Janeway's people skills BLOW.  When she talks to B'Elanna about whether she would be fit for command, the conversation starts out fairly enough.  She asks a valid question (are you ready?) and then she starts in with the accusatory tone and the "you'd better do it my way or else to hell with you" attitude and B'Elanna naturally gets pissed.  Janeway is trying to create a new order...that order must be based on the concept of a meritocracy.  Competence gets you promoted when you're trying to survive.  Kerry, sorry to say, is written like a complete asshole and doesn't seem all that creative or bright.  The choice, for now, is clear.  But Janeway isn't done being a bitch.  Next, she basically castrates Tom on the bridge, claiming he doesn't know diddly about temporal mechanics because he got the problem right (in the briefing room) and she was evidently embarrassed. :)  (kidding...I know they think Janeway was right there) And her handling of Chakotay was hilariously rough and unfair...this is so not the time for chest-thumping about the STARFLEET way.  There is no Starfleet.  There is only Voyager and 75,000 light years of "we're so fucked".

Problem the fourth - whatever it says on B'Elanna's file from the Academy, none of Janeway's concers from earlier change just because B'Elanna solved their little problem with the singularity.  For this to work, the Captain is going to need to abandon some of HER rigidness just as Torres needs to learn to loosen up, herself.  This can't just be a Starfleet crew...this needs to be a crew with a clear objective - survive and thrive in hostile territory and may the best people for that job lead us home.  Integrating Maquis into the crew and making them officers?  That's fine, but we need to see Starfleet officers accepting some of the Mquis attitudes about getting the job done, however they can too.

But all those problems aside...

Let's Go With It!

They wanted a really challenging science puzzle for Torres to prove her abilities...they wanted an apparent paradox where the events of the episode caused them to become ensnared in those very events?  You can accomplish that pretty easily, but you need to be a little better prepared with some research if such things don't come naturally to you.  You could, for example, have used a time loop (it's been done a dozen different ways in Trek, I know...but the point of this one is to give Torres some air time and let her character grow a bit)...catch them in a temporal anomaly.  Don't even fully explain the science, because our best and brightest minds in physics couldn't do that well.  They're caught in a temporal anomaly of some type and Torres needs to apply some engineering know-how to fly them out of there...perhaps they need Tom's navigation skill to move around temporal distortions that would alter the flow of time on the ship and get people killed.  Perhaps B'Elanna has to find a way to make those distortions visible...or even has to be the one to figure out what has them caught in the first place.  Point is...don't use a defined scientific phenomenon and then shit all over what it actually is with a nonsensical plot that most Trek fans will see right through.

Let's also assume that they wanted to establish that the Maquis crew may someday wish to mutiny and that Chakotay is the only one of them that agrees with Janeway that they need to work together to survive.  And that this episode is supposed to give us hope that these conflicts may some day be resolved.  Given Chakotay's uniqeuly difficult position (as, as he puts it, the token Maquis officer), and given the perfectly understandable reaction of Starfleet officers to integrating criminals into the crew, why should the episode center on Torres proving she can integrate?  Shouldn't we focus a bit on Chakotay?  On what he does to assuage Maquis concerns AND Starfleet concerns?  Shouldn't we show him talking to Kerry about Torres' abilities, and then talking to Torres about Kerry's leadership experience?  Shouldn't we show him putting down talk of Maquis rebellion and then also throttling a few Starfleet jerks who treat the Maquis unfairly?  That would have been interesting to watch.  Maybe his big victory would be convincing Kerry that Torres could handle the job of Chief Engineer...or at least convincing Kerry to play ball for now for the sake of the rest of his people.  The point is...they made it WAY too easy here.  Impress the Captain and you get accepted instanter?  I thinketh not.

Writing: 2.0

Lazy storytelling meets bad science meets corny humor (the Doctor shrinking)...bleh.

Acting: 6.0

No standout performances this week...the best is from Robert Picardo and Kate Mulgrew...the rest often come across way too strongly.

Message: 5.0

Life isn't as easy as they're making it here...this feels rather like an after-school special when you get the end.

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