Saturday, November 10, 2012

Classics: Voyager 2:10 / 2:11 - Cold Fire / Maneuvers

Editor's Note:

Up til now I've been reviewing one episode at a time, but you may have noticed that the themes in the "Let's Go With It!" section have started to blend together.  My recommendations for many mediocre Voyager episodes are similar - it's the characters, stupid, so quit focusing on the techno-magic and get to the real issues - moral/ethical dilemma episodes are lame if the resolution is a cop out!, etc.  Well Voyager's main problem isn't the hilariously bad episodes - those I still plan to review one at a time - but the vast sea of mediocrity that fills most of the rest of the franchise.  SO...unless I have something original and interesting to say about an episode, I'm going to start lumping the average episodes together and when I do, the format will be a little different.  I'm going to focus on the parts I like in these reviews - my suggestions for how to make their ideas work better and the bits in the episode that don't make sense that I can nitpick. :)

With that said:

Cold Fire Overall: 7.0

My general comment on this episode would be that Suspiria's motivations are never made clear.  We get some vague (and misplaced) vengeance thing over her (long since separated) lover's death, but really, why didn't we get the chance to understand why the pair split up in the first place?  There was obviously a disagreement over how to deal with the Ocampa - that would have made a more interesting story to serve as a backdrop for Kes' psycho-kinetic learning.  I mean think about this for a moment.  If the story is: Suspiria thought the two sporocystian aliens should take direct responsibility for the Ocampans by helping them reach their full potential, while the original caretaker thought they should keep them innocent and safe and cloistered, wouldn't that make Kes more likely to be drawn to Suspiria?  Wouldn't that give us an opportunity to explore that gilded cage principle we find so interesting in science fiction?  And wouldn't it have created some dramatic tension when Suspiria informed Kes through her Ocampan disciples that it was either her or Voyager (and probable death) because she blamed Voyager for her lover's passing, since, for a time, Kes might be tempted to go with Suspiria?  And shouldn't KES have been the one talking to the aggrieved widow to resolve the dispute - not Janeway?  It's her story, but she plays no role in its resolution beyond giving Janeway a convenient distraction (and appears to learn nothing other than that when she cuts loose, she can sear Vulcan flesh) - that makes no sense.  The episode treated her telepathic powers like a drug - I think that was a mistake.  It should have been an overwhelmingly POSITIVE thing...something she would feel DEEPLY drawn to...and giving that up to protect her friends should have been a hard pill to swallow, but one that she would swallow again, because her moral compass still functions.

I may sound like I'm carping a lot about a pretty decent episode - and it was at least somewhat entertaining - but this is the core problem with Voyager.  They don't write their stories with clear goals in mind for the characters or the audience.  They seem to stumble from one plot point to the next and hope that it will all make sense and work out well enough to keep us from revolting and abandoning the show.  That's not what I want in my science fiction.  And in this case, the sloppy plot construction and lack of character-driven motivation turn a potential bellwether episode for the series into just another story - on par with the likes of "Dax" on DS9, except without the pathos.

Maneuvers Overall: 5.6

Plot holes...plot holes...shall I list you all?

  • The initial raid on Voyager that begins this episode includes such spectacular precision strategy by Seska that Chakotay, at one point, barks "it's like they have our access codes!"  But they don't have our access codes, as we quickly establish when they try to get Chakotay to GIVE them the access codes during his interrogation. DID they carry out the raid?  One Kazon ship vs. the formidable, balance-of-power-altering Voyager?
  • Further on that note, they clearly showed the Kazon shuttle verrry sloooowwwly approaching Voyager's shield perimeter for the ram-run while Voyager sat idle.  We had enough time for Janeway to call for everyone to brace for impact, for the crew to frantically try to seal the gap in the shields, for the Kazon vessel to score several more hits on the shields etc and THEN the impact occurred which incapacitated Voyager.  Um...Voyager has guns, right?  SHOOT THE FUCKING SHUTTLE!  LOL
  • And one step FURTHER on that note...Seska manages to hack Voyager's transporter system to prevent further beaming and destabilize Voyager's tractor beam.  How?  We've already established that she does not have the access codes and no ship would be dumb enough to have someone defect and then NOT change the codes.
  • Why is Seska suddenly a giant whore-bomb?  They played her as more of an ice-queen when she was on Voyager, other than with Chakotay.  I get that they've decided that Seska uses sex to get what she needs to survive, but c'mon now...when she's interrogating Chakotay, there's no reason for the slut routine.  It doesn't make sense.  It makes even less sense that she would randomly impregnate herself with Chakotay's DNA ( need more than DNA for need a very specific half-breed found in sperm and egg, so unless the Kazon have mastered genetics, I don't see how a DNA sample would get the job done on a Kazon vessel.
  • Why did it take so long for the Voyager crew to come up with the plan to beam the Kazon leadership onto Voyager when it was clear that Chakotay was shielded?  And why did the Kazon know how to shield Chakotay with their limited technology and their total lack of understanding on transporters?
If they wanted to make this personal between Chakotay and Seska, they should have done that from the start - the episode in which she is caught and then defects to the Kazon is more of a confrontation between Janeway and Seska.  Therefore, this episode needs to show Seska in an untenable position - we need to feel BAD for her...and then we need her to confront Chakotay personally and demand to know why he didn't support her and therefore forced her to leave Voyager and join with a pack of wild dogs who repeatedly abuse her just so she could still have her freedom?  THEN it's personal.  Chakotay feels betrayed because, while in the Alpha Quadrant, she was working for the Cardassians to undermine his Maquis operations...and then she did it to him again on Voyager - while he's learning to appreciate Star Fleet and the leadership of Captain Janeway, she's fomenting rebellion and handing Federation technology over to the Kazon.  Seska feels betrayed because she really did love Chakotay (and his assumption that all she wanted was his secrets is hurtful to her) and because her dispute was with Janeway and Chakotay didn't have her back, forcing her into a very bad position with her Kazon allies.  Then some of her bizarre actions make more sense...she figures if she can't have Chakotay, she can have his baby.  He figures if he can't make the shame of his twice being betrayed by a woman from his past disappear, he can at least shield the rest of the crew from it.  See how that makes a hell of a lot more sense than the slapdash plot with which they festooned my television screen?

They made no real strides in creating real dramatic tension between Chakotay and Seska - and worse, they turned Seska into a caricature, not a real person.  But Voyager's good at that.  And that's why episodes like this that could be good turn out to be rather dull.

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