Friday, April 11, 2014

Voyager, Season 2: Dreadnought

Voyager, Season 2
Airdate: February 12, 1996
33 of 168 produced
32 of 168 aired


An errant missile from the Alpha Quadrant ends up haunting Voyager in the Delta Quadrant, when it threatens to detonate on a peaceful world of innocent beings. B'Elanna must wrestle with her own prior handiwork in an attempt to stop it.

Tonight, on Wheel... Of... Story... Recycling!


Matthew: One thing that this blog project has made apparent to me is how gadget oriented I've become. "Second screens" have become the norm for many, and they definitely compete for my attention when I am watching Trek, even though it is something I enjoy and cherish. Well, when this episode is on screen, I'm afraid that the second screen wins. It took me several hours to get through this episode. I kept pausing it and skipping back, when I realized that I hadn't been paying attention to it for the last 5 minutes or more. It's just a bit on the boring side. I think there are a few reasons for this - first off, it is unduly similar in story and execution to "Prototype" (not a barn-burner, either). Second, it hinges on a threat to an alien of the week, one we never really meet besides the one (budget friendly) minister at his desk (quickly becoming a disdained Trek trope for me). Third, the solutions to this already uninteresting problem rely on lots of technobabble and not much in the way of human drama.

Kevin: I enjoyed this one more than you did, apparently. I think it's on the strength of the acting, though, which we will get too. I agree the set up is somewhat bland and forced. It's also the first in a string of other ships in the Badlands being taken the Caretaker, and it starts to strain credulity that they all got there and them, despite being separated by years and wildly different courses, still encounter each other. I think the focus of the episode should have been it's most interesting part: the character conflict for B'Elanna. Maybe we could have had a nice juicy fight with Chakotay, and more of B'Elanna's guilt about what she is indirectly responsible for. The idea of B'Elanna being willing to not only disobey Chakotay but commandeer a doomsday weapon is in keeping with what we know of her character previously, so it was fun to see a little bit of how she reacted as the woman she is now. I would have loved more of it.

Matthew: The villain is a freighter. If that pitch won't set off alarm bells among the production staff, I don't know what would. I can imagine interesting things being done with the story. Maybe B'Elanna learns about herself given how she programmed the computer way back when. Maybe there could be some more pointed dilemma with the thing's destruction (I dunno... life on board? Someone needing it for parts?). What we got, though, was just "Voyager needs to destroy a freighter to save uninteresting alien race X. Task proves difficult." Much tension seemed to hinge on life support being terminated for B'Elanna. How does that pose a threat in the space of 45 minutes? Questions abound, and maybe they could have been answered... life support is actually a cooling system taking care of engine heat, or an air purification system, something! I liked, in an intellectual sense, that the self-destruct plan at least included the bulk of the crew using escape pods, though I didn't like that we don't get to see it happen.

Kevin: I agree that the threat to the random planet wasn't that scintillating. Maybe it could have picked a Kazon or Vidiian target, giving the crew a real choice. Do they sacrifice themselves to prevent even an enemy from being harmed? Particularly regarding the Vidiians, would B'Elanna work quite as hard to save them? Again, there was an opportunity here to really dig into the morals and decisions of the crew and B'Elanna in particular, but we only scratch the surface.

Matthew: The story threatened to get into interesting territory when B'Elanna was debating the computer with respect to probabilities. Arguments like that can be fun, and I think it could have gotten even better if the dialogue had been more explicit that B'Elanna's current position is improbable in the estimation of the computer. Roxann Dawson's own quotes about this episode indicate that this was on her mind while acting it, but it simply wasn't on the page as far as what we saw. There was a sequence quite reminiscent of the "2001 A Space Odyssey" deactivation of HAL, which I liked.

Kevin: I did enjoy watching the back and forth with the computer, and it's always fun to watch a character try to problem solve on the fly. I think it might be up there with Kirk out-talking a computer on TOS. I'm glad it wasn't the means by which the episode was solved though. That would have been ridiculous.


Matthew: Roxann Dawson can carry a show. We've seen it already, and she does her best to keep my interest here. She delivers technobabble with aplomb, and her emotional notes are always well modulated and never overbearing. I wonder if the engineers are cast for their ability to liven up dry jargon (Note: I have copied and pasted my comments from Prototype here. Why? Because we're given nothing new, just more of Dawson being competent in the role).

Kevin: I want to single out her computer voice acting for praise. She really has range, and it shows in the flat affect of the computerized voice. I really only think Mulgrew or Picardo could really compete in terms of giving such an interesting performance debating themselves. Overall, while I fully acknowledge the plot deficiencies, I was really engaged with the scenes on the dreadnought, as it was a lot of fun for me watch Dawson act.

Matthew: There were some nice scenes between Kate Mulgrew and a few of the other main cast members. She and McNeill had a nice note upon Tom Paris departing for his escape pod, and there was a similar bit with Tim Russ. Dan Kern as the alien minister was fine, and had as much rapport with Janeway as can be had over a viewscreen. The opening scene between Robert Picardo, Jennifer Lien, and Nancy Hower's Ensign Wildman was cute.

Production Values

Matthew: The dreadnought ship was a pretty uninspired bit of CGI. The interior was pretty bland, too. I would have preferred a more industrial, less clean look, personally, kind of what they did with some of the Malon sets later on. The interior afforded some decent camera angles and shots, but it just wasn't very interesting.

Kevin: I remember really liking a lot of the Cardassian paneling, as I had them fresh in my mind from DS9 airing earlier in the week. I agree it maybe should have looked so clean given that the whole thing was jury-rigged, but I liked that there were a lot of spaces and angles in the interior.

Matthew: Lots of things got mentioned on screen (e.g. escape pods, defense ships from the planet) that did not receive an actual visual on screen for us to enjoy. I thought that was pretty lame, personally.


Matthew: This is a 2. It is redeemed by another able performance by Roxann Dawson. But the main story is uninteresting and leaves a bunch of potential character work out of play. The production doesn't add anything to the mix, either, leaving me bored and checking Facebook while watching. Not a good sign.

Kevin: This just squeaks into a three for me based on Dawson's performance and me responding a little more enthusiastically to the scenes of B'Elanna's guilt over what she did. That makes a total of 5. I agree the episode is flawed, but I still enjoyed it overall just enough to make it to this side of the border with a 2.

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