Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Voyager, Season 1: Jetrel

Voyager, Season 1
Airdate: May 15, 1995
14 of 168 produced
14 of 168 aired


When a war criminal from the past of Neelix's homeworld seeks him out to make contact, Neelix must make peace with his own personal demons, while also deciding how best to deal with such a controversial figure.
Jetrel implores Neelix to allow him to test out new videogame controllers, which could save millions.


Matthew: A Neelix show at this point is a dicey proposition, given his creepiness towards Kes and his generally annoying demeanor thus far, but I think the writers succeed at making it both entertaining and character developing. The way Neelix was developed as being extremely snotty and nasty towards Jetrel really treaded a fine line between making sense for the character and going too far. The way they developed Neelix as a war deserter was also a good wrinkle for the character, and fits with the general theme of the show as having flawed characters. I thought his ultimate forgiveness of Jetrel was organically developed and was a good note for the character. So overall, this was a good Neelix rehab show.

Kevin:  I agree that Neelix is much better in this episode that he has been up to now. I remember thinking this was a good and interesting episode when I first watched it, but I wasn't in love with it. Watching it again now, I like it a lot more. I think at the time, it was my annoyance at Neelix and my feeling that this read too similar an idea to "Duet," that may have prejudiced me. The character development for Neelix alone makes this a good outing, and the ethical discussion on top of it is icing on the cake. Also, unlike say, "Dark Page", here the dark past of the obnoxiously effusive character actually adds a layer and doesn't destroy the character. We've had jokes in scenes all series long that hint that Neelix is just a lot of puffery in his professed skill sets, so the idea that there's a darker iteration of that in his character is great.

Matthew: I think it goes without saying that there is an obvious parallel here to the story of Robert Oppenheimer and the creation of the atomic bomb. Dr. Jetrel is presented as a scientist who recognizes the value of science in itself, regardless of its potential good or bad applications. I really liked how he was made more than just a poster-board hero or villain, though. It was clear that he actually cared about making reparations for the damage his invention caused, but it wasn't clear whether it was to salve his own conscience or to actually help people. He also was willing to engage in some pretty shady behavior to achieve his ends, such as lying to Neelix about his condition, and drugging him to keep him silent about his experiment. So it was just really complex, in an enjoyable way.

Kevin: Jetrel's speech about the inevitability of the discovery and how it fuels other positive discoveries, and even the idea that there was dissent for how the weapon was used was just great. A central theme of all of Star Trek is how humanity uses its advanced technology, so seeing the discussion point blank is always great. This felt similar to the real world arguments about the use of the atomic bombs in World War II, that shortening the war ultimately saved lives. There is an internally defensible argument on every side of the argument, and the show doesn't land too hard on picking a side, which is the best way to handle these complicated moral questions.

Matthew: The sci-fi aspect of the transporter collection of metreon victims was interesting, but was probably an unnecessary add-on to the story, which functioned just fine with only the disease aspect and attending emotional roller coaster. I found it rather odd that we see no other Talaxians in this story, in which they basically go back to Talax with their most wanted "war criminal." Where is Rinax in relation to Voyager's course? Chakotay calls it a "significant detour." How significant? Now, of course, it may have been further along in the direction Voyager was going anyway. It was just left unsaid. Jetrel ends the Doctor's program, but I thought the Doctor had control over his deactivation? Why would a guest be allowed to override such a program, even if he knew a code sequence?

Kevin: This is where the episode does still fall a little flat for me. The show has about one too many plot devices. Neelix's secret past, his impending death, Jetrel's impending death, his quest for the time we shoehorn the possibility of flatly undoing what he did, it's just a bit much. I also found the idea that a free floating cloud of atoms could be scanned to pick out the ones that used to belong to a person you could then reconstruct was just a bridge too far. I also agree that the lack of other Talaxians was a bit glaring.


Matthew: James Sloyan has had a litany of terrific guest turns, and this is up there with his best performances. He shows the layers of emotional defense he has built over time, but also gives us a glimpse at the pain underneath them. He delivers technobabble with emotion. The way he acted his death scene upon being forgiven was really excellent. All in all, this is the best guest acting the series has seen thus far.

Kevin: I would probably pick "The Defector" as his flat best, but I certainly can't fault him here. You can really feel the energy and desperation in his defense of his actions. His regret is real and not at all two-dimensional.

Matthew: Ethan Phillips plays nasty well, but, his turnaround is also believable. I thought he played his guilt over deserting well, too. He had good chemistry with Sloyan, and their scenes really crackled. Jennifer Lien played a good girlfriend, siding with her man despite the difficult time he was going through and his cowardly revelation. Kate Mulgrew played diplomatic really well, she was stern but sympathetic. So overall, this was a strong show for the main cast.

Kevin: For all my problems with Neelix, I have never had a problem with Ethan Phillips' acting. He is good, and has always committed to whatever was on the page. Given something more to do, he really shines. The scene with Kes was great as both sides came off as the real parts of a mature relationship, not a creepy case of hero worship.

Production Values

Matthew: Jetrel's vessel is a re-use of the Terellian vessel from "Haven. The metreon cascade after-effect was just OK, sort of a purple blob. The big visual effects were the blob in the test tube, which was pretty obviously CGI. The reintegration effect in the transporter was really well done. It was somewhat reminiscent of "Star Trek TMP," and overall it was kind of chilling and creepy.

Kevin: I liked the transporter effect the best, as you got just enough of a hint of a real person. I wish we had gotten a view of Talax. The CGI slug was not great. It looked like it wasn't in the room. The metreon cloud was a little flat. I would have preferred to see desolation on Rinax.

Matthew: There was a great music cue during the Neelix/Jetrel confrontation. It did a really good job of not beating us over the head, but really ramping up the emotion of the scene. The burn makeup on Kes was also quite effective at conveying horror.

Kevin: The burn make-up itself was really good. It looked like radiation burns, and I love that they put Kes in the make-up rather than a guest star. It is nightmarish in itself, and it gives a dimension of the Kes/Neelix relationship, in that his initial attraction or desire to help was an attempt to save the girl this time.


Matthew: It's very close between a 4 and a 5 on this. The acting is very good, the production values are very good, and the story has some really nice elements. The whole detour to Talax thing bugs me just a little bit, and it calls attention to aspects of the tale that were left untold. We could have gotten a real look at that world and its people. So I'm going to say this just misses a 5 by a fraction and sticks on a still very good 4.

Kevin: This episode is very good. Directly engaging the ethical implications of scientific advancement are what Star Trek does best, and the guest and main acting are great. I agree that the whiff on Talax combined with the one too many plot elements keep this barely out of a 5. I am also giving it a 4, for a total of 8.

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