Sunday, November 25, 2012

Classics: Voyager 2:16 / 2:17 - Meld / Dreadnaught

2:16 - Meld - Overall rating: 6.3

We'll give this one a stamp of "good try."  They gave us an idea of what kind of acting Tim Russ is capable of delivering when not scripted like a solid piece of lumber, and a little insight into his suppressed character - not to mention introducing us to a potentially interesting new minor character in Suder.  I'll even give them credit for considering the possibility that Maquis crew members weren't all hunky dory with their new life - that terrorist organizations often attract people who seek to do violence.  And it was a good effort at replicating the dangerous impacts of the Vulcan mind-meld that we saw in the classic TNG episode "Sarek." So it's not like it was tough to sit through or anything...but I have a couple of problems with it that cause me to feel underwhelmed when I watch it.
  • Insanity is not exclusively genetic.  In fact, our best understanding on the subject of mental illness is that it's about 30% inherited predispositions and neurological/structural defects and 70% environment and experience that forges sociopaths.  The EMH scans Suder's DNA and concludes that he is not bi-polar, therefore not insane.  To which I can only say "wwhhhhaaaaa????"  Bi-polar mania is not a form of sociopathy nor does it commonly produce psychopaths.  It's a mental illness, so I guess it would be better to spout that nonsense than to say "well his DNA proves he's not suffering from explosive fart disorder, therefore, he's not insane" but not by much.  His actions and his explanations for said actions actually suggest that he has borderline personality disorder or perhaps narcissism.  It's clearly an impulse control problem of some time, but it's not a completely normal brain here.  And by the 24th century, I would hope we'd have some treatments for impulse control disorders, not that that would absolve him of his crimes.
  • When Picard and Sarek melded, the cross-bleed impacts of their personalities were the heart of the drama...Picard got EXPLOSIVE emotions to suffer through while Sarek got the strength to do one more negotiation before his retirement and imminent death.  When Suder and Tuvok melded, some BS thing about melds sometimes backfiring for certain species and a neurological imbalance caused by Suder's Betazoid mind was the center of the drama.  It's not like Tuvok inherited Suder's violent urges and struggled to repress them - highlighting his own inner demons.  He was just ill and in need of treatment.
  • Janeway's hard-line stance against capital punishment is certainly defensible, but the total lack of real discussion about what should be done with dangerous criminals on Voyager was disappointing.  Unbalanced Tuvok disagreed with Janeway's decision, but her response was moral opprobrium and the pulling of rank.  They also failed to consider several possibilities that would have made more sense.  Put him off the ship on an uninhabited class M world or even give him a choice between confinement in the brig and exile if you're opposed to executing him.  But don't act like confinement in secured quarters is the only rational answer here (especially because it's NOT rational to leave open the possibility that Suder might escape on go on a killing spree if there's a ship-wide power failure.
  • They didn't show us what was in Suder's mind!  We do a mind meld with a crazy man...wouldn't it have been cool to see what that looked like?  Instead he just gives a boring report about it to Janeway.  Seriously...lame!
They tried to give us something thought provoking and entertaining, and we got a mediocre Star Trek thriller instead.  That's a failure, but at least it's not like Threshold.  That is gonna be my new catchphrase.  Well, Dad, I got a 20% on my last test, but at least I didn't pull a Threshold!  Well, Obamacare is causing employers everywhere to drop their healthcare plans and private premiums to increase...but at least we didn't pull a Threshold!  It could have been better if they'd focused more on the source of Suder's instability, studied Tuvok's obsession with logic in the discharging of his duties as security chief a bit more closely, or dealt more broadly with criminal policy aboard a marooned vessel.  And for God's, don't tell.  We needed to SEE Suder's mind...not just have Tuvok say "well, he was telling the truth, derp."

2:17 - Dreadnaught - Overall Rating: 8.0

On the other hand, this one is structured like a routine sci fi trope but ends up being a rock-solid and engaging action story with a satisfying character study and some excellent acting.  And they got there by pitting B'Elanna Torres against...B'Elanna Torres.  That was brilliant.  Of all the Maquis crew, Torres was the one who most changed between the pilot and this point in their forlorn mission.  She had an uncontrolled temper and a blood lust for her Maquis fight when this began, and now she's shouting down Maquis comrades who question Janeway's orders.  That's pretty heady stuff.  To be confronted with her previous willingness to use cruel and destructive means to exact vengeance, and then to have her own ingenuity so royally backfire (it's not just that she reprogrammed this doomsday bomb...she did it using her own intellect as a template - preparing it for various contingencies and helping it to adapt and learn in the service of its new mission and now, it, baring many similarities to her in the heat of battle, is thwarting her at every turn.  That's good stuff right there!

There are parts of this episode that get a little...erm...repetitive - Torres crawling around trying to break stuff and Dreadnaught blocking her off at the past, Torres trying to convince the weapon that it's in the Delta Quadrant and about to blow up the wrong planet and the program repeatedly insisting that the probability of that being true is remote...that kind of thing.  But, on the whole, this one is very entertaining and it keeps you guessing.  I especially found it amusing that Torres' revised program and the original back-up program duked it out after Torres found it in computer memory.  Kinda reminded me of a mash-up between two classic TOS episodes.  Except this bomb didn't blow itself up because the logic couldn't be resolved and it didn't look like a giant flying cigar. :)

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