Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Classics: Voygaer 1:15 - Learning Curve

Overall Rating: 8.0

Great effort that falls short due to some pat Hollywood cliches and some really sloppy technical writing and plot blocking.

Plot Synopsis:

Memory Alpha has the details to this interesting, yet muddled tale.

The Skinny:

Ahem...I direct your attention to the second episode in Voyager history - a little ditty called Parallax.  In that episode, as an explanation for why they cannot take power from the holodeck to supplement key systems in order to survive (and why, therefore, everyone is still allowed to use that giant sucker of energy), we are told that the holodeck has a separate (INDEPENDENT!) power grid that is not compatible with the rest of Voyager's power grids.  I think that is idiotic and improbable, but that's the horse they brought to the race, so that's the horse they have to ride.  Why then do characters from Janeway's utterly pointless period piece disappear and the explanation proffered is "Unable to comply - there has been an interruption to power conduit J-17" - this interruption supposedly caused by a Maquis crewman removing a damaged bio-neural gel pack in order to replace it without prior authorization.  Is the holodeck connected to ship's power or not?  Make up your damned minds!  See, now I'm really annoyed at this technical problem with the script because I just had to sit through another 3 minutes of Jeri Taylor whacking off on camera (yes, I know, she didn't write it...but she's the one who wanted this inane drivel inserted at random into the show).  Oh, BTW, Janeway may not know Latin by heart, but she's wearing a universal translator capable of deciphering the languages of thousands of alien species simply by hearing a few lines of dialogue (as seen in DS9 2:10 - Sanctuary among other Trek episodes featuring the rapid learning curve of the amazing universal translator)...what, they forgot to program in Earth languages?  Especially the ones that were the BASIS FOR THE LANGUAGE SHE SPEAKS?!?!?!  Seriously...f*** you, Voyager writers.  You don't care one iota about preserving continuity and logic in your stories, do you?

*exasperated sigh*

I'll make it through the episode...I promise...just had to rant about the irresponsible nature of this production team for a while.  Gimme a break, will ya!  Anyway...Tuvok spreading the Starfleet Gospel isn't much better than Janeway pretending she's a backward 18th-century governess, so we're still not out of the woods.  Hey Tuvok...there might be a more diplomatic method for explaining to Dolby why his on the fly approach is bad on such a large and complicated vessel.  The rational ones among us realize that a crew of 160 needs to know when work is being done because they need time to reroute around potential interference and because you can't go scaring a bunch of security into thinking someone is tampering with the ship.  Maquis ships are small, constantly in need of repair, and generally insufficiently manned.  It makes sense to be proactive the way that Dolby was being here, but on Voyager, fixing one thing might break other things and people need a chance to plan around it.  Those protocols are not the Bible, however.  Saying "we have a protocol, you're not on a Maquis ship, so quit fucking things up, cowboy!" (in restrained Vulcan, of course) is not the way to handle this.  Illustrate what things Dolby broke and give him a pat on the back for his initiative, but suggest that, in the future, he needs to have some consideration for his fellow crew mates.  That's all.  Instead, we got a big yelling match because Tuvok acted like a dick.  The situation is, supposedly, tense, with Maquis personnel chafing at Federation rules.  Let's try DIPLOMACY...just a little goes a long way.  Asshat.

*heavy sigh #2*

I'll make it...I will...*deep breaths*...OK...things start improving at this point.  Tuvok tries to begin a training course designed to explain to Maquis personnel why Starfleet rules and protocols exist and make them feel like part of the team, but the Maquis (quite realistically) tell him to fuck off.  I do think Tuvok is being too hammer-headed in this first scene, but I am also the son of a military man and know that physical and psychological discipline like this is commonly used to break down recruits and form them into model officers, and what Voyager needs right now to survive is not lawlessness, but the chain of command.  Unlike SFDebris, who is a hard core libertarian and thus hates authority figures like Tuvok, I'm inclined to approve of his general methods - especially since he participates in the most grueling of assignments to demonstrate that a member of Starfleet should be able to handle them.  The rest of his course makes good sense to me.  These guys need to learn not to be rogues but to be part of a team.  A big star ship cannot run with 160 crewmen doing their own thing.  Structures matter.  Bottom line...Chell might mean well, but he's undisciplined and lazy.  Henley may be competent, but she's also mean and antisocial.  The same goes for Dalby.  And the fact that Gerron is "just a kid" is precisely WHY he needs to be singled out for training.  He'll never be happy on Voyager until he can contribute.  I also love LOVE LOOOOOOVE what Chakotay does to get his people into line.  We should have seen more of that from the start.  That was just flat out awesome watching him knock Dalby on his ass with a right cross - beautiful!  And the coup de gras...Torres calling Dalby out on the real reasons Maquis crewmen don't want to integrate.  They had things EASIER on those Maquis ships.  Voyager is a much more intimidating environment and the amount you need to know to thrive here is daunting.  Behind the most aggressive and undisciplined people the world over is a deep-seated lack of self-confidence.  This is good stuff all around.

Unfortunately, all of the good work the writers do comes apart a bit when Neelix sits down with Tuvok and insists that the only way to break these Maquis officers and make them better team players is to be flexible and bend to their needs.  This would be good advise under ordinary circumstances, but we're talking about survival training (essentially).  Life doesn't bend to fit your needs when you're always on the brink of having it end on you, which is, auspiciously, what Voyager's situation is supposed to be.  Any seasoned combat officer will tell you that Tuvok's brand of discipline is necessary in the functioning of a platoon, and, in fact, will make the men happier in the long run.  I could see if Neelix' advise were to undertake a more thorough psychological profile so that he might better understand how to reach these folks, but that's not what he said. He said bend to their needs.  The rest of the episode plays out according to a very standard Hollywood "feel good" story, and that's a bit disappointing.  As is this really REALLY obvious error:

"Every system on the main grid is down.  Helm control, navigation, communications, turbolifts and transporters...even life support"
"Bridge to Engineering"
"Torres here."

Um...WTF?!?!  LOL

Or...this one, keeping in mind what was said in the last quote:

"Mr. Parris, disengage the nacelle control system and prepare to engage the warp drive."
(and using the non-functional helm control, Tom does just this)


Things like that just irk me...I'm sorry.  As do nonsensical technical jargon resolutions given undue dramatic pauses and close-ups.  Anyway, back on point...the thing that brings the Maquis back into the fold is a life or death situation that makes them respect the Starfleet crew a little more and gives Tuvok a window into the on-the-fly thinking that helps Maquis soldiers survive.  It's all very wonderful and boring.  It just...doesn't finish the way it starts.  And that's a shame.  But there's a way to make the same basic plot concept work a little better, so...

Let's Go With It!

This one is actually an easy fix.  We don't need Neelix to tell Tuvok that he has to bend a little.  He knows that.  In a pressure situation, all of the best Starfleet officers ever to appear on film have known that they need to adjust to circumstances and make the rules fit the needs of the moment.  The rules are there to keep things running smoothly, not to serve as a religion.  I can't believe Tuvok didn't know this by now.  All you needed to do was have the Maquis officers see that Tuvok's rule-worship stops when necessity requires it and they would have come to respect the logical basis for the rules and Tuvok's ability to be just as innovative as a Maquis terrorist in a pinch.  Perhaps if we'd spent less time explaining the technobabble nonsense and more time seeing the disaster from their perspective, we'd have gotten the chance to see some more heroics from the Maquis and some team-building work by Tuvok.

Writing: 7.5

I really appreciate what they tried to do here.  The majority of the episode is surprisingly solid and fun to just feels a bit too convenient the way it all wraps up.

Acting: 8.0

Other than a bit of overacting by Armand Schultz (Dalby) and Tim Russ, the performances are generally solid.  Actually, there was one moment that irritated me.  Janeway, while explaining her idea for a training course for the struggling Maquis personnel, took this "gee, look at me, I'm so awesome and you shall not question my wisdom!" stance that radiated arrogance...I don't think that's what Mulgrew was going for there, so that's an acting failure.

Message: 8.5

They were close here...they ALMOST made some great points about the need for tough love to help people come to respect themselves (and thus feel happier and be more productive)...but they undermined themselves with Neelix' silly little Hollywood speech about needing to give a little ground.  Oh well...good effort at least.

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