Sunday, November 18, 2012

Classics: Voyager 2:13 / 2:14 - Prototype / Alliances

These two episodes share one thing in common - they were excellent efforts where you can tell the creative team thought they had an outstanding idea and then did everything they could to make it effective for the viewers...but they fell short due to less-than-stellar writing.  And one other thing - they're both held up as examples of why the Prime Directive is a morally superior philosophy.

Prototype - Overall Rating: 6.8

 There are two main reasons this episode goes from fascinating and engaging cerebral dilemma to ordinary Trek episode for me.

First, the plot takes a good 25 minutes to begin.  For the first half of the episode, we are listening to a never-ending stream of technobabble and ludicrous metaphors that don't make any sense and don't add anything to the story other than making it science-y.  The writer chose to show us the entire process of getting the robot to function again so that we could...what?  Appreciate Torres' struggles and realize how important the task was to her?  If that's why they did that, why did they spend so much time on the technobabble and not enough time on people talking to Torres about why the project was so important to her?

And second, if you are sentient, then you have the capacity to learn from the world around you.  A sentient being, after failing multiple times to directly replicate a power core to build new robots, would have made observations about living units and realized the energy signature problem.  A sentient being would have been able to expand beyond its programming and do something besides fight a war with other machines after killing their creators.  Therefore, these beings are not sentient...they do not have a soul.  They are distinct from Data - that comparison is not valid.  And THEREFORE...there is no moral/ethical dilemma, and I, the viewer, feel nothing for B'Elanna after she is forced to kill her prototype.  It is just a does not have any particular claim to life.  The script needed to make these robots sentient and give them a fail-safe program that caused them to self-destruct when they tried to replicate (or something like that)...and the script needed to make their decision to kill their creators a deliberate action caused by a crisis of identity or by their realization that they were being used as property and then terminated when no longer needed.  They were made to kill and fight a war - if the war ends, why do they exist?  THAT...would have been both more believable and more interesting.

So this particular episode does not resonate or evoke emotions from me, and thus Janeway's bizarrely whispered scene in the finale just seems strange...almost funny.  Half the story is dull and nonsensical, the other half is internally inconsistent.  Every sentient AI that's ever existed in Trek has been able to exceed its programming.  The EMH on this very show routinely exceeds his own programming and makes himself a more complete hologram.  Data's whole character arc (until ruined by the magical emotion chip) was about how he evinced emotions without believing he could feel them - how he was entirely human in spirit despite his supposed technological limitations.  Even the smart bomb in another Voyager episode managed to stop his colleague bombs from needlessly slaughtering millions in violation of his programming.  So why do these robots fail to do the same if they are sentient?  Answer: they are not sentient.  And that fact ruins the episode.  It was an interesting try...but an ordinary episode as a result.  And BTW...if Janeway wants to think of this as proof that you shouldn't get involved with a culture even to save it from extinction...I call bullshitski on that...if they were sentient, they could be reasoned with and the tragic ending would have been less likely.

Alliances - Overall Rating: 7.5

They were SO CLOSE to making me happy at the core with this one.  We finally had members of the crew at each other's throats over Janeway's dogmatism, Chakotay demanding that the Captain be willing to compromise, a dire shortage of resources, and Janeway finally acceding to the wisdom of her colleagues and stepping out of her comfort zone.  The Maquis/Human divide finally MATTERED.  And Voyager was finally starting to behave like a ship well and truly stranded and desperate to survive.  Hell, even the ALIENS got more interesting.  Other than the annoying fact that the Kazon prison on the Komar home world was guarded by two guys and had no doors, the Kazons almost seemed competent as villains.  And the Trabe...those slimy bastards were fascinating!  It's a shame we never see them again in any prominent role.

I thoroughly enjoyed this episode...right up until Janeway made her last little speech and spread the Starfleet Gospel where it didn't belong.
  • Starfleet survives because it makes alliances with lots of neighbouring races for free trade, safe passage and mutual defence.
  • Voygaer is a one-ship version of Starfleet - it stands to reason that they would need to forge alliances.  There's no evidence (until some is provided) that the Trabe, or several of the Kazon sects necessarily are our enemies.  It would be STUPID not to try to forge alliances with them until we prove that they cannot be trusted.
  • Nothing in the Prime Directive says we can't deal diplomatically with other cultures...FACT: they are warp capable, so we're allowed to talk to them! FACT: as long as we're not giving them weapons or power, we're not interfering directly with their internal affairs.  FACT: We are "just passing through" - and our presence has ALREADY impacted the political climate of the Delta Quadrant.  We are justified in surviving!
  • And that is the biggest point - Voyager has the same right to survive that Wesley Crusher did in the first season TNG episode "Paradise" - a right that Picard recognized when he violated the Prime Directive to rescue him from execution.
So all of Janeway's dogmatism about the Starfleet way being the only way to go and about her being right that they needed to go it alone...that is absolute bullshit.  No, the lesson from this episode should have been "you can't make a good deal with bad people" and the corollary "you need to know someone well before you can bargain with them."  Janeway trusted the Trabe only because they were the enemy of the Kazon and Janeway knew she disliked the Kazon (especially since she's a female Captain and their hatred of women in authority is obvious).  In fact, the Trabe would never have had a chance to betray her if she hadn't gotten it into her thick skull that she could personally affect long term peace in the region just because she has big guns.  She should have insisted on her original deal - the one that actually made SENSE...she fucked up...and is viewing it as a lesson in why she was right in the first place.

Well FUCK YOU Captain High-horse!  I say the Maquis were right and you just suck at diplomacy.  And THAT...kept this otherwise intriguing episode from the higher scores it would otherwise have received.

Next up - the worst Star Trek episode of all time!

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