Friday, January 31, 2014

Voyager, Season 2: The 37's

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.html
Voyager, Season 2
"The 37's"
Airdate: August 28, 1995
16 of 168 aired
19 of 168 produced

Introduction

Voyager comes across a strange artifact floating in space - a pickup truck from the 1930s. When they use its radio to trace an SOS signal back to its source, they find something (and someone) they would never have expected.
The manure still smells, too? Come on.

Writing

Matthew: In some ways this is a very TOS story. You've got historical figures mingling with our main characters, drawing contrasts and parallels. Of course the themes are much more "nineties" if you will, given the emphasis on strong and independent women. I think on this level, the themes of this story work. They don't beat any dead horses a la early TNG (e.g. in the twentieth century, people used to believe INSERT CRAZY THING X"). That said, the basic sci-fi nuts and bolts of this tale are pretty questionable. How could it possibly be more efficient to traverse 75,000 light years in search of slave labor (and their pickup trucks) than to look locally? If you had that level of technology, why would you need such labor? How did these backward rubes overpower such a technologically advanced race?

Kevin: The fact that we had twentieth century people in the episode while dodging that little gem deriding the twentieth century is enough to catapult this episode into the top quartile. On the one hand, leaving the aliens responsible for this unseen and largely unexplained I think improves them. I agree that the idea that they were grabbing random humans on the other side of the galaxy for labor seems really counterintuitive. Maybe they could have found a way to tie in and explore the Preserver race referenced in TOS. Overall though, between the rapport between Janeway and Earhart and the idea of a thriving human civilization is enough to give the idea enough life to cover its sins.

Matthew: Another story element I felt was left a little wanting was the discussion of people staying behind, and/or people joining the ship. We are told but not shown that these cities are fabulous and pleasant, and no one decides to jump ship? None of the Maquis farmers facing prosecution back home? For that matter, no one on the planet wants to ditch their backwater and see the homeworld, or to live in a place with warp drive, holodecks, and replicators? That said, it was a nice note for what was to be a season one finale - the crew elects to stay, because they feel like a family, or something. I just think that theme could have stood further development in dialogue.

Kevin: The biggest problem for me, and apparently one for Jeri Taylor and Brannon Braga in their only writing collaboration, was not showing the cities after mentioning them. It's extra annoying given that the crew got to see them. Janeway sells the awe at the city, but that's not enough to make me not want to see them for myself. I think the final moment in the cargo bay would have had more resonance had they done it as the season one finale. Since we know that no one left in the off season, there's less tension. For that matter, given that everyone who may have wanted to leave has to publicly cross an imaginary line, wouldn't that affect whether or not people left? Again, it's nice to see the one scene between Kim and Torres, but it's not as interesting an exploration as we might have gotten.

Matthew: On the plus side, the refusal to linger on certain aspects of the story (some of which needed it) did make for a brisk, entertaining teleplay. There were lots of neat scenes, such as finding the truck, landing the ship, opening cryo-tanks, sickbay and alcoholism, and the like. It was a consistently fresh variety of scenes than never bogged down.

Kevin: Where the episode really sings is the emotional rapport between Janeway and Earhart. For whatever else the episode lacks, it's a lovely look at how Janeway views her history and her place in her society. I am going out on a limb and suggesting this was Taylor's contribution, but there's a lovely balance between honoring the place Earhart has in women's progress, but also making that progress feel like a long done deal. Additional character scenes like the surprisingly effective scenes between Earhart and Noonan or Earhart on the bridge with Paris really help flesh out the story. Particularly for the scene at the helm, it reminds me, as I noted in last weeks review of First Contact, and how Lily called back to characters like Edith Keeler, of the lovely job Trek can do of showing modern humans just as capable of the curiosity and capacity of our heroes and how lovely that is.

Matthew: Can I just ask whether 400 year old gasoline would survive the cold and vacuum of space? Or motor oil, for that matter?

Kevin: As I type this review, Chicago is emerging from Polar Vortex II: The Wrath of Khan, and plenty of cars didn't start in -10, so I doubt they would start after centuries in the cold vacuum of space. I want to know how the car got there in the first place. That all said, the scene in the cargo bay easily reached the height of earlier twentieth century field trips, like TNG's The Big Goodbye.

Acting

Matthew: Kate Mulgrew is the highlight yet again, and she shades her now-stalwart captain with some new enthusiasm and a small twinge of hero-worship, and then plays the later scenes with a good mix of angst and hopefulness. I would single out Robert Duncan McNeill as another solid performer - he played his initial nostalgia scene really well - so well, that it probable led to it being picked up by the writers in later shows.

Kevin: Like I said above, there was a pretty much perfect pitch to Janeway's awe. There is a historical connection and appreciation, but she really manages to portray the longer sense of passed time that she would be aware of. Mulgrew really acts like Janeway lives in a world where her equality is so established it would not have occurred to her to question it, and she portrays it in how she praises Earhart's role in history.

Matthew: The period actors were all quite good. Sharon Lawrence totally inhabited the role of Earhart, and David "Tackleberry" Graf was also quite good as Noonan. They had a believable chemistry and their "Romance" was egaging, which is a nice accomplishment for two guest characters.

Kevin: We get into this in the podcast, but Earhart was a little more...Zefram Cochrane-like...than her historical image tends to indicate, and Lawrence is obviously playing that more perfect version, but I have to say, she hits it out of the park. Between both her interactions with Noonan and Janeway, she really gives life to the character. I liked Evansville a lot. Especially since we never get to see the damn cities, I really bought his care and pride in the world they had built.

Production Values

Matthew: There were some neat optical effects. The CGI of the ship landing was pretty good, especially for its vintage. The landing feet, I guess they should be there, but I do question how much space they'd take up in the hull. Anyhow, the digital matte of the ship next to the mountain looked fine, too. They were both very competent effects. The truck effect, too - it was a neat image, if not a perfect-looking one (because I'm quite familiar with how pickup trucks look floating in the vacuum).

Kevin: The landing effects were very cool. I still think there needs to be a strut coming out of the saucer, otherwise the ship should tip forward, and that's coming from years of experience of setting up the Playmates and Diamond Select models of Federation starships. Those puppies are top heavy, let me tell you. It's also cool that there's a Voyager specific skill, like the Enterprise D's saucer separation.

Matthew: There were some well realized sets. The airplane was a nice-looking relic. The cryo-chamber also looked good, though I do question the efficacy of standing your specimens up for preservation. There was a lot of nice lighting - the real sky outside the conference and ready rooms was really neat, and I liked the "blue alert" lighting, too. The period costumes looked good, but the human colonist costumes were ridiculous. Who can see a thing in that headgear? The firefight, which had fine effects, had some conspicuous rubber rocks.


Kevin: The lighting effects in the briefing room and the mess hall were great. Like the scenes in Generations, the external lighting really is a fun change for the sets. The helmets annoyed me, too. I really liked Earhart's jacket as far as costumes.

Conclusion

Matthew: I like this show quite a bit, and it never fails to entertain me. However, I think the inherent flaws in its story, both concept and execution, keep it in "average" territory, for a 3.

Kevin: I know my written review seems to focus on my critiques more than my praises, but the overall effect of the episode is extremely emotionally satisfying and entertaining, and I'll make my case more fully in the attached podcast, but the scenes between Mulgrew and Lawrence alone are so interesting to watch and so full of Star Trek goodness that I think this makes it safely into 4 territory. That's a total of 7.

Podcast



1 comment:

  1. Okay so I know I have brought this up before but the whole no knowledge of the 20th century really makes no sense to me. So I get that the records were destroyed blah blah blah. But come on you don't know what a gun is. Military men in the 20th century know what a mace or a morning star is! How could a star fleet officer who loves holo programs of the 20th century not know what a gun is! Also the whole car thing. Maybe I get the gas thing a bit. I mean I don't know if I know all the fuels people in the 17th and 18th centuries used but I think I would know about them using horses and wheels etc… I get it that allows Tom Paris to be the knowledgeable one but its still stupid and it happens in every series!!! And yet they still know the (un copyrighted) Shakespeare and Mozart!!!!

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