Sunday, January 6, 2013

Classics: Voyager 3:13 to 3:15 - Alter Ego, Coda and Blood Fever

Back to group posts as the Voyager episodes get a little on the dull side for a few weeks.  Third season ends well, but in the middle, it just feels like I'm slogging through a valley filled with molasses trying to write reviews.

3:13 - Alter Ego - Overall Rating: 4.8

So basically, Harry Kim is (by the admission of the writers), so boring that an alien trapped alone in a nebula that shouldn't even exist whose only job is to keep it there so that her people have something pretty to look at would rather spend her eternity with Tuvok.  Ouch.  Just...ouch. :)

I don't know if the writers ever had any sort of plan to make Harry an interesting character, but whatever their initial intentions may have been (perhaps the fresh faced ensign who grows while helping to redeem the brash Mr. Paris...but...that doesn't sound that interesting, so...whatever), they whiffed.  All the fans agree - the DS9 fans who like character-driven stories and the TNG fans who like self-contained anthology-style stories that illuminate the human condition and in which the characters themselves matter a bit less.  Harry Kim is so boring and pointless that when they had to boot someone in favor of Seven of Boobs, it should be Kim.  And they were gonna do it, too!  They were gonna have Kim be a casualty of Species 8472 in the thrilling third season finale.  But then Garrett Wang inexplicably appeared in People Magazine's "sexiest men" edition and simultaneously, GQ profiled him.  In Hollywood terms, he was the sizzle in the steak - without the steak part.  For some bizarre reason, a lot of celebrity magazines decided he was sexy.  I don't get it, but I also don't understand why anyone would look at Snooki and think "gee, that's a good looking woman."  But I digress.  All the time, it's a bad habit.  So a man with a last name of Wang is rated as sexy - how could the staff that brought us Seven of Boobs in a catsuit turn that away?!  And their infinite wisdom, they fired the second best actor in the cast (Jennifer Lien - Kes), who also happened to inhabit a character that had REAL growth potential.  Goody...more episodes like this where Kim has a painful experience in love.  (sense my radiant excitement at that prospect).

This episode was almost interesting...the prospect of Kim being so disturbed that he was hot for a hologram that he'd try to become Vulcan was unintentionally hilarious and the Vulcan description of chemical romantic addiction was actually kind of thought provoking.  But...then they went and made the hologram real and gave her a tragic story and made her somehow fall for Tuvok and played at the silly jealousy thing for a's like they didn't know which story they wanted to write.  Is it "Kim likes a hologram, oh noes!!" or is it "Kim likes someone he shouldn't and in trying to help him, Tuvok ends up involved with that person" or perhaps "alien chick inhabits a hologram and holds Voyager hostage because she's so bored?"  You really can't do service to any of those stories if you're trying to do all three.  If I had my druthers, I'd have dropped the jealousy sidebar, the Kim as Vulcan refrain, and Tuvok as the alternate lover, and made this a Kim/Paris story in which Paris tries to help Kim get over a hologram by setting him up on a date with someone real, only to have Kim learn on said date that Paris went out with her already...make it a buddy comedy.  Seriously.  And I don't do buddy comedies that often, especially not in science fiction.  But if you're gonna do a filler episode, you might as well try something that Trek hasn't really done before and give Kim and Paris a little more screen time.

Kim/Tuvok doesn't make any sense, doesn't draw any interest, and just highlights how boring Kim really is.  You know you're messed up sexually when your reaction to liking porn (essentially what this's a non-real avatar through which Kim's fantasies flow) too much is to try to eschew ALL EMOTION!!  I mean, I'm no fan of porn these days, but I would never react to an unhealthy attraction to it by becoming a friggin' monk.  The correct answer is to try to understand why you are drawn to it and to figure out what you're REALLY looking for in life, and then go after that.  Not to try to deny your core identity.  That's just bizarre and unhealthy.

3:14 - Coda - Overall Rating: 7.4

The overall critical reaction to "Coda" is pretty blase - a fact I find a little surprising.  I think some folks are being a touch too literal with their interpretations or their expectations for this kind of story (notably, the author of the script - Jeri Taylor - and the show's more vocal critics, especially SFDebris and Jammer).  The concept for this one is simple.  Janeway has a near death experience during which her mind struggles with competing impulses to let go or to fight for life for the sake of her crew.  With the added twist that the voice for giving up is some kind of extra-dimensional being that, rather than acting out of love the way we think God might at the time of our death, lives by feeding on our souls when we die.  I don't agree with that philosophically, but it's certainly an interesting idea, and the near-death dream takes a number of interesting twists and turns that keep my attention.

The critics complain that the dream takes a long time to reach a real conflict.  The time loop bit seems tacked on and the false lead (the phage) to the first act-out, seems cheap.  They then argue that the conclusion seems tepid and that Janeway's imagined rendition of her own funeral seems self-serving.  I think they're off-base even when they're right.
  • A near-death dream SHOULD have a lot of false-starts, strange inserts that seem tacked on, fragmented plot points, etc.  The brain is experiencing a mortal threat, but perceiving it on a subconscious level.  How that would manifest in a comatose dream is far from certain, but I imagine it would be kind of nightmarish, with you on the brink of death and thus your dream expressing that feeling of being near death in frightening ways.  The scene with the Doc committing euthanasia, the scene with the shuttle blowing up, the scene with Janeway almost dead on the planet and barely revived, etc, all made sense to me from that perspective.
  • Janeway's own mind concocts a funeral...and this being JANEWAY - a woman who thinks her own version of "ethics" are more important than millions of lives, not to mention the safety of her own crew - I'm frankly thinking it's miraculous that Taylor didn't pen an epic "to know her was to love her was to know her" style eulogy as uttered by Harry Kim, followed by the entire crew spiraling into unshakable bouts of hysteria, depression and ritual suicide.  Actually, the funeral was pretty tame...and not all that out of proportion with what Janeway would HOPE her crew would think of her passing.
  • The ending was tepid, but only because they did not play it out as an epic battle of wills, they played it out as a technobabbled bit of buffoonery in which there's an "alien presence" in Janeway's mind, but she beats it by arguing for a few minutes and everything is cool again.  I would like to have seen this boil down to Janeway in hand to hand combat with her "father" and I would not like them to have explained precisely what was going on.  It should never have been a "matrix" and he shouldn't have barked "You have a very dangerous job - you'll be in my matrix sooner or later - your soul will feed me for a long time!  MWWWAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!!!!"  He might not have said that last bit there... :)  He should have always stayed POTENTIALLY good, leaving Janeway to legitimately wonder whether she passed up heaven to stay on Voyager and stay alive.
  • The script did run short according to production notes, so some of the repetition was indeed padding...but not the parts about which SFDebris complained, for example.  As it turns out, the padding was largely added to the final argument and the sequence where Janeway tried to convince Kes that someone was still there.  That was the part that didn't make sense to me.  Why would, in Janeway's own mind, she dream up the events of "The Next Phase" (TNG), complete with "I'm really can SENSE it!" and then dream of Kes failing to sense it after much effort.  That needed some kind of rewrite...perhaps explaining that Janeway ultimately doesn't believe her own excuses about this being reality and her still being there - some part of her suspecting this whole experience isn't real.
But...having said all of that, the major flaw here was that Jeri Taylor took an ethereal concept and made it concrete to the point of absurdity.  Turning the fight to stay alive and not go into the light into a fight against an alien that invaded her brain, complete with flashes of consciousness, is...well...lame.  Big, other-worldly things do not play well as linear objects.  And yet...I still respect many chunks of this script and think the show merits a second look from the critics.

3:15 - Blood Fever - Overall Rating: 3.5

Who had "Fuck or Die!!" on their "crack bingo" card?! this glorious installment we get a Klingon experiencing pon farr because a Vulcan put her in a mind meld...and then said Klingon ending up in an INCREDIBLY CONTRIVED AND STUPID situation where she must have sex with Tom Paris or die.  And then they wussed out of that stupidity and decided instead for a battle to the death...which ended with both sides almost looking bruised.  No one died in this battle to the death and yet that resolved the pon farr??  WTF????  Didn't we see otherwise in the TOS episode on this subject?  Also...since when do Vulcans meld with prospective mates to initiate pon farr fuckage?  I don't ever recall seeing that in the literature.


I'd let the canon inconsistencies go if the script weren't so filled with gigantic plot holes and seven jillion side plots, none of which really got finished, not ot mention the previously noted INCREDIBLY STUPID plot device that prevented the pon farr from being resolved is less cracktastic and forced ways.  Voyager writers...there's a better way to pair Paris and Torres and get them to admit they want each other.  It's called a real story.  Try it some time.

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