Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Classics: Voyager 1:3 - Time and Again

Overall Rating: 4.8

In this episode, you will find an example of everything that is wrong with Voyager as a franchise.  This despite the plot being at least marginally entertaining.

Plot Synopsis:

The details may be found here, thanks to Memory Alpha.

The Skinny:

Isn't it a bit early in the evolution of this particular show to do a time-loop / causality paradox episode?  Usually you save tropes like that for later when you need filler because you're running out of ideas to do genuine character work.  Voyager's crew seems pretty darned harmonious already and their energy problems seem pretty well under control.  How did all of THAT happen?  Shouldn't we be doing episodes about that?


Alas, this isn't just a filler, this is a filler with techno-babble that makes no sense at all.  Here's a tip, guys...if you don't know how to explain why events are taking place in your plot and can't research a bit to come up with ideas that make sense to the audience, don't explain it.  Don't make the tech such a huge part of your plot!  Of course...in order to have the tech be less important to the plot, you'd have to think of a plot about the PEOPLE!  Eke!!

This is also a filler that introduces (for the first, but hardly the last time), Janeway's bullheadedness in "debate."  When she and Parris get stranded a day into the past, the question immediately comes up (by Tom) whether they should try to intervene to prevent the annihilation of a whole planet full of people.  The argument goes something like this:

PARRIS: We have to do something to help these people!
JANEWAY: The Prime Directive applies.  We have no idea what would happen if we prevented the explosion.
PARRIS: But, by definition, whatever it was that happened would have to be better than TOTAL ANNIHILATION, right, Captain?
JANEWAY: Shut up.

That isn't debate...that's being a bully.  It doesn't help when your position is untenable and you resort to bully tactics to make it stand up.  They were trying to make Janeway appear virtuous, but to stick with the position she stakes out in act two, you would have to craft a story that involves Janeway nobly standing by while millions of pepole die.  That wouldn't fly with fans because even the writers know such "noble" thoughts are completely EVIL, so they crafted a plot that, instead, allows Janeway to appear right and still results in the miraculous prevention of the apocalypse.  So the writers are cowards, as well as being just plain wrong.  And Janeway doesn't look virtuous there, she looks like a bully.

We have already discussed the Prime Directive at great length, so you know that we at RightFans think that it is a good basic guideline - a starting point in the discussion that prevents a lot of needless suffering and immorality - but should not be applied dogmatically and irrespective of the ramifications.  When lives are on the line, the PD does NOT apply in my world - not unless those lives are at stake due to a war or some other unnatural event of a people's own making.  Simply proclaiming yourself to be right and silencing dissent is the coward's way out and is most often applied by people who don't have a moral leg to stand on.

The convoluted (completely nonsensical) jargon fills the rest of the plot with pseudo-scientific mush and essentially no real character work is accomplished...which is unfortunate, because the episode does NOT suffer from the cornball insanity of Roddenbury's early Treks, nor the unevenness of early Enterprise or even DS9, and yet it is still a bad episode...brought down by the same cowardice and lack of imagination and psychological insight that will doom this franchise to mediocrity with a side-helping of sanctimonious assery aptly capped off by Neelix: "Of course...a most enlightened philosophy!"  Bite me, Neelix.  Bite me.

But all that aside...

Let's Go With It!

Let's try to figure how to take this essentially filler trope of time-looping for causality and turn it into something that would be a real character test for someone and therefore actually be about something.  Recall that, apart from the dogmatization of the PD I mentioned, the main problem with this plot is that it's horrendously bogged down by illogical babble to try to explain the events of the plot, rather than those events being hand-waved in favor of characterization.  We don't need a briefing room scene explaining some BS about subspace fractures that, rather than radiating forward in time, radiate backward (um...why? - and why would the subspace damage then get smaller into the future??) or a completely half-assed attempt to explain why Parris and Janeway are now trapped and how they're going to attempt to rescue them.  We need a reason to care.

I, therefore, propose that this episode should have been about the conflict between Parris and Janeway.  In my universe, that Prime Directive discussion would break down into an actual physical struggle between the two as Parris - stubborn and bullheaded himself - tries to warn people of the danger while Janeway tries to stop him...ending in the two of them, after the events of the episode are finished, coming to an uneasy truce.  Maybe you could show Janeway having her principles but ALSO being willing to bend a little and see the potential validity in Parris' position.  Maybe it isn't us that causes the big boom from the future but in Parris' efforts to warn them he triggers a riot that nearly causes the explosion.  They only traveled a day into the past, so rather than a BS method for extracting them from the fracture, they should simply have let time flow once the disaster had been averted?  Just saying...there was no need for all of that nonsense and an opportunity was missed for character intrigue.

Writing: 4.0

Sorry, but I am not impressed with Kemper and Pillar's attempts at hard-hitting debate, nor the "it's been done" political intrigue, nor the attempt at a sci-fi backdrop to the story.  It feels rushed, lazy and a bit on the cowardly side to me.

Acting: 7.5

The acting is solid, however - even the little boy playing Talika was pretty good for a child actor.  I especially enjoyed the early work of Robert Picardo, though...his little amusing huff over no one telling him when things are happening on the ship was hilarious.

Message: 3.0

PD = God's word!  Oh, but if the consequences of believing that would suck, we'll just find a BS way around it.  BOOOOOOOOO!!

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