Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Voyager, Season 2: Alliances

Voyager, Season 2
Airdate: January 22, 1996
30 of 168 produced
29 of 168 aired


After a series of Kazon attacks, Janeway is faced with an uncomfortable proposition: that an alliance with a Kazon sect may be the only way to ensure Voyager makes it out of Kazon space in one piece.

I don't care who you are. No parking!


Kevin: This is one of those episodes that makes me miss what Ron Moore brings to the table in TNG and DS9, and more on point here, Battlestar Galactica. For all the hand-wringing about being a crew alone in the middle of nowhere, there was never more than a moment of urgency about actually running out of material or crew or being forced to make morally questionable decisions. The (first two seasons anyway) of BSG did a pretty damned good job of watching fundamentally moral people pushed over the edge by their desperate situation, and I think that if RDM had given this script a once over, I would have cared a bit more about the actual politics. The basic set up is sound, and it's well articulated by Chakotay. They don't have the luxury of only allying with people they like, and as long as they keep their eyes open and don't trade too much, it might actually help them get home. I liked Janeway's revulsion at the idea, and it's the closest the show has come thus far to really feeling like Voyager might break with Starfleet ideals in the name of survival. The memorial scene in the mess hall was particularly good in this regard.

Matthew: I think that this episode in a vacuum is exactly the kind of script you're longing for. But this episode isn't in a vacuum. It comes after a series of encounters that are less than life-or-death. So it does seem abrupt to suddenly play the "three crewmen have died in these attacks card." Nonetheless, the basic plotline is pretty satisfying. I might have liked to see Janeway hold out for a bit longer, but it is a good idea to have her be at odds with her crew, especially non-Starfleet personnel. It's just a good idea for her character and for the actors. The scene in the mess hall with Hogan was well written and acted.

Kevin: I like the idea of the Trabe. It's a credible thought as any as to the origins of the Kazon. That said, it is too little, too late and it doesn't really fit with the Kazon we've seen so far. There's no sense that they even view themselves as avenging a wrong. Their "gang culture" seems older than the timeline the Trabe timeline, as indicated in Initiations. Still, for itself, it's all an interesting idea. It doesn't go far enough though. Voyager's choice by the end of the episode is pretty clear cut. The Trabe are as deceptive and violent as the Kazon, just less powerful, and despite the more sympathetic back story, the Kazon still seem like nothing more than brutes. By the end of the episode, Chakotay's point seems to have been lost, and there are no consequences for Voyager. Shouldn't even being associated with the attack make them even more of a target? Again, the idea is interesting, but the execution was lacking.

Matthew: This was a case of too little, too late. Had we been given a series of episodes like this establishing the Kazon, they might have been pretty OK. This really should have been the second Kazon show in season one, not past the midpoint of season two. The Trabe aspect of the story is interesting, and if it had been pushed into interesting territory (the notion of a subjugated minority violently breaking away from majority rule and existing in a gang culture has a certain cultural resonance) it could have been really cool. But yeah, I agree that stakes weren't really raised in interesting ways here. Culluh was just a boor, so there was no temptation or conflict between choosing Trabe or Kazon. At least the Trabe ended up subverting expectations of both the characters and the viewer. I took the ease of getaway as being the result of the Kazon not having transporters.

Kevin: I liked the scene between Chakotay and Janeway in the turbolift, and I liked the scene with Tuvok. I did not like leaning again on the trope of using a hybrid flower to make a point. They've done it before on Voyager, and sci-fi in particular seems to trot that one out every so often. And while I enjoyed a couple of the character moments, there wasn't enough there either. Maybe this could have been the start of a more sustained change in Janeway's approach to their predicament. That would have made the episode more than worthwhile.'

Matthew: The concluding scene was a bit weak - Janeway delivering a sermon on how she was right all along, because everyone here in the Delta Quadrant are a bunch of dicks. That seems like a specious reading of the situation - just because one power dynamic doesn't lend itself to diplomacy and alliance doesn't mean all will fail, and it still doesn't show anyone that sticking to Federation principles is the only way. It was just a bit of a straw man, and I thought it was beneath the character.


Kevin: Everyone does a solid job. I don't have any complaints, certainly. Like I said above, I liked Janeway in her scenes with Tuvok and Chakotay. Beyond that, there wasn't a lot that was exactly challenging for the main cast.

Matthew: I agree that the performances were solid, and I think this was a credit to the story idea. Putting your main characters in conflict is a great way to give the actors challenges and juicy scenes. What's especially nice is how yelling and shouting figured in to basically none of the conflict scenes between characters. Beltran and Tuvok were convincing in their arguments to Mulgrew, but her resistance was convincing as well. 

Kevin: De Longis is trying with Cullah, but the writing is not helping. Especially in the scene with Seska and Janeway, he comes off like a petulant child. I understand that people adhere to their prejudices, but it makes me question his capacity as a leader when he so visibly shoots himself in the foot over them. Mabus was played by the same guy who played Alkar in "Man of the People." I got that same vibe from him, that the sincerity was an act, so either he's good at playing that, or that's what he can do well.

Matthew: Martha Hackett kind of went overboard with some of her yelling, if you ask me. De Longis came across as a tool, I agree. Charles Lucia was very effective as Mabus. I agree that it was very similar to Alkar - smooth, political, persuasive, with a dark undercurrent. Pretty much ideal casting for this role.

Production Values

Kevin: I will say, we had lots of set locations, and that was nice. In their attempt to make everything run down, a lot of it tends to come off as that same rusty brown color. I did like the external shot of the meeting room during the attack. That was a nicely handled shot. I also liked the number of extras among the Trabe.

Matthew: Yeah, the CGI of the exterior really added to the feeling of space, like this was a real room or a real bar on a real world. Having the window on set and the window represented in the exterior shot was great. The torpedo blasts against he ship didn't look superb, but they weren't awful.

Kevin: This is a random aside, but on the Netlfix streaming version of this episode, they have inexplicably added fanfare and applause to the scene with the majes enter, despite it being obvious that only Janeway and Mabus are in the room, and not applauding. I swear, I need to find out who is responsible and ask them why. I had to have Matt check his DVD copy and then also go on Netflix to make sure I wasn't the only one who heard it.

Matthew: It's a bar. It's the same bar set that we see earlier in the episode. Every angle of said bar indicates it is empty, as make sense for a meeting of gang leaders. The mind boggles at the possibilities of who was behind the altered audio cue, and why in the world they thought it was a good idea. Thankfully, this stupidity is not present in the original.


Kevin: I go back and forth. There is some thought here, and it's (finally) a look at some of the hard choices the crew should have to be making, but again, it falls short on execution. They really should have just abandoned the Kazon and gone with the Vidiians as the villains for the first seasons. That all said, I think the first twenty minutes focusing on the crew is just enough to pull this into 3 territory.

Matthew: I think this could have been a 4. The conflict was interesting and the duplicitous twists and turns were fun to watch. I think this is dragged down to a 3 because it doesn't solve the problems of past Kazon stories. So our total is a 6.

1 comment:

  1. I think this entire episode did not go anywhere because it seems as though everything was set to prove Janeway right about the Kazon being a bunch of untrustworthy outlaws that should not be engaged in any way. It sort of nullified everything Chakotay and Tuvok said about making peace with your enemies and the value of forging unlikely alliances.

    The other thing that I find perplexing is why Janeway, after all her talk about balance of power and Starfleet principles, really thought that siding with one of the Kazon factions that are so volatile with each other to provide them with aide and support, whatever the hell that means, was even remotely a good idea. I understand the concept of trying to make peace, but if you have gone out of your way to prevent tipping the balance of power, why would you jeopardize that in the most obvious way, namely by helping one faction against another and thus potentially creating even more enemies for yourself, in addition to having tipped the balance of power?

    Finally, why even bother? How slow is Voyager traveling exactly that they are still in the purview of the Kazon? This is almost season 3 and they are still there? For a species that the Borg did not find worthy of assimilation the Kazon sure seem to have wide range.