Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Classics: Voyager 2:2 - Initiations

Overall Rating: 3.5

Spreading the Starfleet and bogus-Native gospels in the most annoying way imaginable and dealing with an enemy that is as stupid as the TNG-era Ferengi while being played to be as threatening as the TOS-era Klingons, minus the subtlety or the honor.  Not my favorite form of Trek entertainment.

Plot Synopsis:

Memory Alpha has a good summary of this very ungood episode.

The Skinny:

Question the first: has Chakotay never heard of a lock?  He needs a whole shuttlecraft to have privacy for his ritual?  Why not just land on the planet that's so obviously nearby if you're that picky about distractions or hate your shipmates that much?

Question the second: why must the Kazon be so fracking STUPID?  Chakotay's brilliant tactical maneuver that defeats Kar is to very slowly do a loop and circle around behind the kid's ship, then issue a stern warning, then wait to get shot at again, then fire ONCE with his phasers and blow the kid to hell but beam him out before that happens).  He's been training for years, theoretically, and they never taught him to...um...NOT let the enemy very slowly circle around behind you and see the soft, incredibly vulnerable part of your piece of crap ship?  I mean, the Starfleet shuttlecraft is built like a Kia or a Suzuki (i.e. it's ugly, boxy, and sluggish)...it ain't exactly the Delta Flier.  That's all I'm saying.

Question the third: I know the Kazon are supposed to be all about glorious victory and the "honor" of battle (think of them as the stupider version of Klingons), but the Kazon KNEW that Kar wasn't ready and when he failed, they still immediately turned their back on himand threatened to murder him?  Imagine if a society really did that consistently?  Every time a child fails even once, they're EXECUTED?  A culture this stupid can't possibly have made it out into the stars, even by stealing other technology.  SFDebris is fond of pointing out that Kazon jail is an imaginary line you are asked not to cross, which is spectacularly stupid, but their whole culture makes no sense.  The Voyager writers have ZERO understanding of the samurai heritage upon which Klingons were, at one time, loosely based and NEGATIVE understanding about how and why cultural norms form.  I especially love when Razik proudly proclaims that the Kazon have no use for maps.  And yet expect everyone to know what regions are their territories.  That's just...special.

Question the fourth: why did they pick Chakotay for this episode at all?  They have him giving this grandiose speech about how proud he is of his Starfleet uniform and how much he cherishes it every day.  Um...hi...did this writer just MISS the whole first season...including the part where Chakotay was WORKING WITH THE MAQUIS AGAINST STARFLEET at the start of the series?  I know we need to find ways to get Chakotay into the show, but really?  You're super-proud of your Starfleet uniform?  That would explain why you abandoned it in the name of terrorism?  They needed to pick a different Voyager representative for this story.

Question the fifth: do the Voyager writers know ANYTHING about Native American customs and the sheer variety that can found within?  It would seem not from the contents of this episode.  Especially the incredibly cliche Hollywood bullshit about how Chakotay's tribe didn't believe you could own land because it wsa sacred.  Maybe...if you look REAL hard...you might find ONE tribe somewhere that had this belief, but in general, Native peoples DID own land...and the ones that did not, the most common reason was that it was impractical to do so, because they did not have the means to defend it or because they did not stay in one place very long.  It had nothing to do with spiritual matters in most cases.  That's something right out of freakin' Pocahontas and has no place being uttered.  What's more...Chakotay is supposed to be Starfleet...the Federation CLEARLY believes you can and should own and defend land.  They claim Federation "territory" rights all the time.  It's STUPID not to.  So yeah...how about f*** you very much for your sanctimonious platitudes with no basis in historical fact.

Oh...and while we're at it...in the contest of the stupid made up people...the winner almost has to be Chakotay...for pretending to be asleep with his frequent enemy STILL ARMED and unrestrained...and his Federation technology SITTING IN PLAIN SIGHT!  And on a Kazon training moon!  If I didn't know any better, I'd say the writers were just messing with us.  They couldn't possibly be THIS stupid...could they?  I mean, he let the boy get to point blank range with the gun cocked...if he guessed wrong about Kar's willingness to murder him, what was he going to do, dodge the phaser blast??  Jesus!

Alas...from strange beginning to pat, Hollywood end, this episode is full of holes and written poorly enough that all of those holes are obvious and painful.  There are few angles I could take, given how poorly the Kazon have been designed by the Voyager writers, to resuscitate this one, but I think I can do better than this tripe.

Let's Go With It!

If you wanted to do a story involving the finding of common ground between on of ours and a young Kazon which accomplished the establishment of a more detailed history and cultural landscape for the Kazon race, you would have to do several things a bit differently to make it work.

  • The sects would need to be unique.  We've met the Nistrom and found them to be brutal and savage. The Ogla, while maintaining a warrior mentality, should have been different in some way.  I need to respect an adversary, even if I find him distasteful.  Perhaps the Ogla could have been more predisposed to work peacefully and form alliances to fight the warlord Cullah and the Nistrom sect, but we stepped on their spiritual toes.  Perhaps their Maj could have turned against us only because he wanted to see his son reclaim his name.  Either way, this sect needed to have its own character.
  • The Kazon story had potential to be intriguing.  They're not that savvy in space yet, and perhaps it's because they're new to it, since they just won their independence some 26 years ago.  But that story needed more than a five-second telling...there needed to be something in it that explained the workings of their culture, and they needed to invest more energy in getting the audience to care.
  • Chakotay and the whole faux-native cultural comparison BS needed to be dropped in favor of someone who actually had the right to speak on behalf of the Federation way of life to Kar.  I would argue that the most compelling choice would have been either Kes or Neelix.  They have a personal history doing things the Kazon way and the Federation way and they are now loyal to the Federation because they liked what they've found.  They also have the moral authority to criticize Kazon culture (since they've observed it for longer).  But if you wanted someone in Starfleet, then I'd have gone with Janeway...certainly not the insultingly banal Native American hoo-ha and phony, unearned Starfleet loyalty of Chakotay.
The details of how the boy and the Federation witness end up on the planet need to be better thought out.  I'd bypass the whole part on the Kazon vessel because if you make the Kazon worthy of or respect by not making them retarded, then the pot fails once they're on board and the Starfleet representative dies practically instantly..  I'd have had the Starfleet person scramble to this training moon while rescuing the boy and I'd have spent the entire episode here, listening to the boy's side of the story and doing a little less sanctimonious Federation chest-thumping.  This one needs a LOT of work, but DS9 has done stories like this and done them well.  Alas...this is Voyager...where perfectly good pitches go to die.

Writing: 1.0

The biggest weakness with this episode is the hackneyed writing and half-assed swiss-cheese plot.  The rest is mediocre at best, but the actual writing is phenomenally lousy.

Acting: 6.5

I like Aaron Eisenberg, but Nog != fierce warrior...it just ain't workin' for me.  The regulars are pretty average...nothing horrid of note.

Message: 3.0

Please...know what you're writing about before you write it.  Don't pretend you have the moral and spiritual high ground while bullshitting so much the pages turned brown.  OY!

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