Friday, February 20, 2015

Voyager, Season 3: Future's End, Part II

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.html

Voyager, Season 3
"Future's End Part II"
Airdate: November 13, 1996
50 of 168 produced
50 of 168 aired

Introduction

Voyager has been sighted flying over 1990s Los Angeles. The Doctor has been taken from the ship. Paris and Tuvok work to lure Starling into Voyager custody while protecting Rain Robinson. Can the crew stop him before he launches his stolen timeship, to disastrous future consequences?

Fred, Velma, Mr. Leisure Suit and Fiddy Cent ride around in the Mystery Van solving crimes...





Writing

Matthew: Ah, the second part conundrum. Is it possible to follow a good first part in Trek? If so, what are the features of the good follow-up? I think to some degree that the strength of much of Trek is the characters, not the plots. As such, when you stretch a plot to two episodes, and create a bunch of threads that need resolving, you detract from the character stories in the second parts of extended tales. I don't know. I just know that there have been many a lackluster plot resolution in prior stories (BoBW, Descent, and Gambit spring to mind). Anyway, how does one  surmount this obstacle? I guess you can either try to double down on excitement, to make sure you don't lose narrative momentum, or you can try your best to ensure that the characters don't get lost in all the plotting. I think the second is in evidence here. Scenes that really stick out are ones between Paris/Tuvok/Rain, Starling and Janeway, Starling and The Doctor, and Chakotay/B'Elanna. I think Braga and Menosky do a really good job of giving us scenes that showcase the characters, as opposed to simply moving them from point A to B to C in order to "finish" the story. Starling argues that he is benefiting humanity, not endangering it. Paris must negotiate between his attraction for Rain and his dedication to the mission. The Doctor sees real character growth as he acclimates himself to freedom of movement, and resists Starling.

Kevin: I agree that this is definitely one of the most consistent two-parters in series, excluding the episodes conceived as a single two hour outing. No one's thread is mysteriously dropped, nor is there a noticeable change in tone and focus. All of that is good, since the first was so much fun, that as long as they focus on tying up the stories they started, we should at least be 'fine' if not more than that. I remember being cautiously optimistic about the Doctor in this episode. On the one hand, you are taking away one of his defining traits, on the other, for both the character and the actor, it wears a little thin that he only exists in one room or in a tortured reason to be on the holodeck.

Matthew: All the aforementioned said, this is still a breezy, well-paced action tale. This episode is never boring. Each vignette is interesting in and of itself, and everything fits together logically. Starling didn't escape Voyager due to any incompetence, instead it was owing to his timeship's advanced transporters. Personally (I know Kevin disagrees with me somewhat), I really like the right wing nut compound that Chakotay and B'Elanna crash land in. It entertained me. I do think it's a story idea deserving of a larger treatment (i.e. how 20th century earthlings respond to a crashed spaceship, on a spectrum from welcome to paranoia), but the scenes were basically entertaining. I love the line "A black man and some bald guy."

Kevin: Yeah...the rednecks. It just struck an odd chord for me. Kelly commented on this in the podcast and I agree, the whole thing kind of feels like a prelude to B'Elanna getting raped and that just turns me off on a scene. It just all felt a bit too far. Something like TNG's "First Contact" gave Krola's paranoia a little more depth. That scene aside, everything continued the buoyancy of the first half for me as well. The comedy, especially the physical comedy like the scene in the limo was pitched really well.

Matthew: As a plot, this episode does what it needs to do. It satisfactorily resolves the setup of the first half. The setup was flawed, of course, as we indicated previously. My big question here is whether there really a ship with a 29th century computer that would allow itself to rip the space time continuum of the solar system in two. Seriously? No safety shutdown circuit for the "Destroy Universe" Engine? Since this is driving the plot in terms of the Voyager crew's motivation, it ends up weakening the story a bit. I think I would have preferred to see B'Elanna's question about "what if we can't get back" to be explored a bit more. Doesn't anyone on the ship want to stay? They could at least have done more work establishing why they couldn't. Damage to the timeline, the impending Eugenics wars and World War III, and so on. Heck, I know it's breaking format, but why not really stick them there for a few more episodes? The Deus Ex Machina of Braxton whisking them back to the Delta Quadrant isn't totally satisfying.

Kevin: Yeah, if your car can destroy the universe, you probably shouldn't have a car. The episode ended kind of abruptly for me. The torpedo manages to destroy Starling but in a way that also triggers a cataclysm, so it makes the cataclysm seem even more contrived. Also, given that they were willing to destroy Voyager two hours ago (from the viewer's perspective, of course), citing the Temporal Prime Directive now feels hollow. Why not send Voyager back to Alpha Quadrant right before they do whatever it is they would have done to trigger the disaster and sidestep the whole thing in the first place?

Matthew: At the end of the episode, Braxton says "I never experienced that time-line." I think this implies that the timeship incursion is effectively negated by Voyager's actions in destroying Starling's shuttle. Since they prevent the explosion, they prevent Homeless Braxton's ship from ever falling into Starling's hands. This obviates your concerns about future tech being responsible for human advancement instead of contemporary human ingenuity.

Kevin: If they want to go that route, they needed to indicate that what Starling had done was in excess of the computer revolution we were then living through. I get what you're saying, but it still feels muddled.

Matthew: I agree that the idea, though implied, lacks follow through.

Acting

Matthew: Ed Begley Jr. really shone again. His exchanges with Janeway and the Doctor really elevated his character f4c[ stupid villain to believable, menacing bad guy with an inner life. If anything, I would have liked for him to get more lines, giving us more of his history and emotions. But he really brought to life what he was given. Sarah Silverman continued her very natural acting from the first part, as well.

Kevin: His delivery of "uh-oh" seemed kind of odd, but I don't think there's a way to deliver that organically. Other than that, I really liked him. His scene in Sickbay was great.

Matthew: Robert Picardo had a good number of laugh lines, but he also did a good job of seeming 1. somewhat overwhelmed by his new freedom; 2. hiding the fact that he was somewhat overwhelmed from Starling. Kate Mulgrew and Robert Duncan McNeill were also excellent, yet again. In a lot of ways, the performances here didn't vary at all from the first half, which is good.

Production Values

Matthew: The location shots again shine here. I liked the performing arts center location quite a bit. The fountain was visually interesting, as were the pillars. There were loads of extras who filled out the world. Whatever you want to say about the survivalist scene, their basement shed was really well realized as a set, too.

Kevin: I suppose I have to grant you that. The plaza scene with the Doctor was very well done. Maybe Angelinos are just used to location shooting. Nothing felt like prepped extras told to walk in the background.

Matthew: On the one hand, they got a nice looking truck and did some pretty decent stunt driving with it. There were some CG opticals that were... very nineties.  The shuttle crash landing was pretty OK. The shuttle flying in to destroy the truck looked pretty good, too. But the actual truck explosion? Eh, not so much.  It looked rather fake. The temporal rift and timeship looked really nice.

Kevin: Yeah, the truck explosion was not great. I was also not the biggest fan of the ship breaking out of the building. I did like the rift, though.

Conclusion


Matthew: Overall, I think this is a 4, which makes it one of the more successful second parts in Trek. The plot moves briskly and the characters get lots of development. Only a slightly wonky Plot MacGuffin holds this back. With a bit more of an airtight plot driver (perhaps an undesirably changed future, as opposed to "ship whose engine destroys solar system"), and a few scenes exploring its ins and outs, this could easily have been a 5.


Kevin: I agree with the 4 for a total of 8. The episode remains super fun, though is held back by the slightly creaky set up and lack of a reach for something grander. Still, I can't fault a show for being roundly entertaining. This remains one of Voyager's better outings, and a pleasant change after a run of "almost but not quite" episodes earlier this season.

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