Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Voyager, Season 1: State of Flux


Voyager, Season 1
"State of Flux"
Airdate: April 10, 1995
10 of 168 produced
10 of 168 aired

Introduction

After discovering a Kazon ship has been secretly shadowing them and the presence of Federation technology at an accident site on a Kazon ship, the crew discovers someone is funneling technology to them. Suspicion falls on Maquis member Seska and Starfleet officer Carey, both having plausible motives and opportunity.

 Do you think I would give up my heart for a boring character like you? Of course I'm a Cardassian.


Writing

Kevin: There is much to like about this episode. I like returning to the idea that members of the crew, both Starfleet and Maquis might not be on board with Janeway's decision to strand them in the Delta Quadrant. As much as I regret the show dropping the Maquis/Starfleet tension, I also am sad that this thread largely disappeared. There's a lot of meat on the bone of the idea that the crew might be willing to go much farther than she is to get home.

Matthew: The best line in the episode was "If we were on a Cardassian ship, we'd be home already." Rarely has a character put so fine a point on what Janeway's ideals are costing everyone. Now, certainly, many of the Starfleet crew share them. Some of the Maquis crew may, also.I think this episode may have been better if there had been more sympathy for Seska (whether or not they knew it was her) among the crew. Later shows would introduce the Michael Jonas character to do just this.

Kevin: As far as the mystery itself, there are good and bad things. In the plus column, the character tension  is really well done. Seska's actions are easily viewed as both evidence of her guilt and her offense at being accused. I liked watching Chakotay question his relationship with Seska and his ability to command. His question, "Was anyone on that ship working for me?" and the final scene with Tuvok are great. I also liked realizing that the final conversation Chakotay has with her is a double cross and he already knows she is guilty and is setting her up. Layers of lying=lots of drama.

Matthew: There were certain elements of the mystery's progression that failed to make sense to me. How did Seska (spoiler alert) get material to the Kazon in the first place? Was the exchange supposed to have taken place on the planet in the teaser? I felt like that was implied, since it was the same ship that later turned up damaged. How did she beam down with a gel pack (or whatever) with no one detecting it? Later in the show, after making lots of bones about how they couldn't beam the equipment out of the ship's radiation, they beam Seska out... of the ship's radiation. Huh? OK, criticism aside, I agree that the basic structure of the mystery was solid. Chakotay's two sickbay scenes with Seska were great drama, and they were set up well by the romance stuff at the beginning.

Kevin: In the minus column, I don't think they did enough to credibly present Carey as an alternate suspect. The interview with him in Janeway's ready room was fantastic, but there wasn't really a lot to make him a believable suspect. By the time Seska goes over to the ship AND we have the convoluted story about her blood marrow history, it felt like the episode was tipping its hand a little. Still, these are largely minor complaints. The mystery overall had some great energy and tension, and I certainly enjoy watching it.

Matthew: The reveal at the end was a lot of fun, I agree. On the other hand, the episode ended on quite an anticlimax - Seska escapes, and nothing is resolved. I think the episode, and the overarching storyline, would have been better had Seska remained on the ship, with no one really knowing whether it was her or Carey.

Kevin: My last complaint is that given the idea that the Kazon apparently have neither replicators nor water, it really attacks the notion of them as a credible enemy. Replicators seem like a prerequisite for constructing and maintaining the ships they have. Especially given the nature of the accident, I would have far more easily bought that transporter technology was being traded.

Matthew: The Kazon were lame in Caretaker, and they're lame here. They are all bluster and no steel, so far as we can tell. The Nistrim are different than the Ogla... in ways that are impossible to tell. Voyager is really flubbing their intro. This episode could have established a lot more about them generally, and specifically could have made it plausible that Seska or anyone else would try to ally with them. Why exactly is that again? They can't get hem home (like the Sikarans) and they don't have any interesting technology (like the Vidiians). They're dramatically inert, and given what we've learned about then, terminally boring.

Acting

Kevin: I love Martha Hackett. Especially on her side, I bought the historical relationship with Chakotay, and their scene over the soup was lovely and layered. Her offense and deflection played well, and that final scene in Sickbay is just all kinds of awesome. You can actually watch her face shift to focus on her eyes. She seems to be holding her face like she was wearing Cardassian makeup. It's a tiny acting choice that really sells the reveal.

Matthew: She clearly is able to use her face as a serious acting tool. She has control over her expressions and can show lots of hidden emotions. The way she ate the soup made it seem luxuriant to the viewer. Her anger when Chakotay pulls her off the Engineering team was palpable. And she gave it just enough to have us thinking that, just maybe, she was still innocent by the end.

Kevin: Beltran did well this time. I think he does well with relationship stuff and action stuff, his technobabble delivery is always a little flat for me. I think he did a good job with set up and accusation with Hackett. De Longis begins a recurring stint as Maje Cullah, and it's probably the writing as much as anything, but he just never did it for me. He seems like a bully, and that's not terribly interesting.

Matthew: Chakotay has been written as sort of a moralizing stuffed shirt, which is a little weird, given his background. I think he had pretty good chemistry with Hackett, and the show could have benefited from some more heat between them. I thought Mulgrew showed her ability again to play against a male villain. Both in person and over the viewscreen, her line readings showed the captain's toughness quite well.

Production Values

Kevin: The scenes in Bronson caverns are wonderful. The little things like water dripping in the real caves really tie a scene together. The set on the Kazon ship looks a lot like the public square from Time and Again. The effects work on the melted Kazon was pretty good and pretty creepy.

Matthew: Brosnon canyon does it again. It becomes more and more clear why Hollywood productions, and Trek in particular, keep coming back. I would have loved to see even more scenes there.

Kevin: The Kazon uniforms always nagged me. For a ragtag band of gangs, they have an awfully homogenous look, with the tartan and whatnot, only the strip of shoulder fabric to identify faction. Like the Kazon themselves, it's kind of boring and uninteresting.

Matthew: Homogeneity is one thing, but boring is quite another. For as elaborate and kooky as they are, it all reads as just a blobby mess on screen, samey-looking upholstery material draped over people. I imagine they were going for a street gang crossed with Arabian tribal wear. They needed some bright colors. A Phillies cap turned sideways. Something.

Conclusion

Kevin: This is a solid 3. I like Martha Hackett's performance and the energy and tension of the mystery. The minor short comings of the mystery itself and the flatness of the Kazon as credible enemies hold this back from a higher rating, but I still enjoy rewatching it.

Matthew: I'm not as solid on the 3, but I agree nonetheless. The Kazon are lame and the mystery has some inexplicable bits, but the fundamentals of the mystery story are strong regardless of the enemy. I agree on the acting. So that's a mediocre/average 6 all told.

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