Thursday, April 9, 2015

Voyager, Season 3: Rise

Voyager, Season 3
Airdate: February 26, 1997
59 of 168 produced
60 of 168 aired


Neelix and Tuvok find themselves in a precarious orbital elevator when they investigate the continuing destruction of an alien colony planet. Survival may hings upon their finally reaching an accord with each other.

Tuvok reenacts the infamous 21st century incident of Mitt Romney and his dog.


Matthew: This episode has some problems. First and perhaps most fatal is that I don't really care about the Neelix/Tuvok relationship at this point. It's already been done before this episode, in countless snippets of dialogue, as well as on a larger scale in "Tuvix," which was a significantly better episode. "One character gains respect for another" isn't exactly the most scintillating plotline, especially if it's already been done (Neelix had another story like this with Tom Paris in "Parturition," as well). At the end of the show, the only real growth the characters have experienced is Tuvok using Neelix's pet name for the carriage in motivating him. So basically, none at all. Also, the angle of Neelix having experience with orbital tethers, but then the experience turning out to have been with models, was a lame bit of character assassination, in a plot that was supposed to have increased the level of respect others had for him.

Kevin: The writers never figured out a way to make this pairing anything other than annoying. The closest they got to successful was that flower stem scene in "Learning Curve." There, Neelix's annoyingness felt self aware and aimed at a goal. Now that I am thinking of "Learning Curve," it occurs to me we've scene Tuvok in this exact position before, facing the clash of his logic against an antagonistic group of subordinates, which itself is a retread of "The Galileo Seven." I'm not saying it's a dry well, but they really need to find the new spin. I agree on making Neelix's 'experience' a punchline. In a character like Janeway, or even Paris, that kind of bravado would feel at least tactical, trading the future problem of being found out for the current problem of not having any kind of plan. In Neelix, it just reinforces the idea that he is not actually useful. Maybe if they had made Neelix actually experienced and still faced Tuvok's dismissal, it could have make the character drama more interesting.

Matthew: Another thing I don't care about is the planet under attack by the asteroid aliens. Maybe this could be a story idea that is told well, but it isn't here. There is a throwaway line about life being difficult for the past 3 weeks of bombardment. You know what? Show us that. Asteroid strikes are inherently interesting to most people. How bad could it get? What would the effects be on people, agriculture, technology? There was a chance for hard science fiction here, and it was skipped in favor of an uninteresting betrayal plot.

Kevin: I said this when I first watched Starship Troopers, and I'm saying it again: asteroids are the the dumbest method of planetary assault I can imagine. They travel at fractions of light speed, so would have to be launched in system and still take years to hit a target and the margin for error would be phenomenally small. As a matter of scale, it would be like trying to hit a golf ball with a sand grain in a space the size of the Super Dome. The resources and technology that would make this even possible let alone feasible would make them so powerful as to make direct assault for more easy.

Matthew: Speaking of hard sci-fi ideas that aren't developed effectively, the orbital elevator could have been used to generate real drama, as opposed to just being a backdrop for the two plot lines I don't care about. How about addressing some of the real questions we might have about such a piece of technology? One that immediately springs to my mind is - what if it fell down? Heck, you could have the alien terrorists behind it if you liked. But I for one would love to see the effect of a 300km long piece of future metal striking a planet.

Kevin: I found myself thinking in the other direction. The snapped cable on the other end would fly in a straight unstoppable line like swinging and releasing a slingshot, and that could cause all kinds of havoc. I do wonder what level of tech leaves this the practical option but otherwise allows spaceflight. There are ways to answer these questions, and boy would it have been fun to see them.


Matthew: Well, it's an Ethan Phillips and Tim Russ show. And they... do what they need to do. Frankly, Tuvok and Neelix getting prissy at each other was never going to lend itself to great scenes. And it doesn't here. They committed to their roles, and they deliver the plethora of technobabble with aplomb. But they never transcend the material.

Kevin:  Yeah. I have to say that while unsupported by the script, I liked Phillips' outburst on its own. The refrain for this season is really cementing itself at "Talented actors doing their best with a bland script." I should just have a stamp made.

Matthew: Perhaps it was the fact that they all looked so similar, or that they were all dressed so drably, but each and every one of the aliens blended into a sort of formless mass in my mind. If I had to pick one guest actor that really muffed it, it would be Tom Towles as Dr. Vatm. This guy was supposed to be the sort of unsung hero, but he came off as villainous. It made for a weird tonal lack of synchrony.

Kevin: Yeah, he never appeared like he was keeping his cards close to the vest, but that he was in fact a bad guy. None of the other guest actors really shone for me either. Everyone felt like they were just hitting their marks. Phillips really brought some heartbreak to talking about his sister, but Lillias felt like she was just mouthing cookie cutter disaster flick background.

Production Values

Matthew: The orbital elevator looked okay from the outside, but pretty lame on the inside. Using the old stellar cartography doo-dad? Come on. Outside the window was clearly a bedsheet and a fan standing in for cloudy atmosphere. The CGI on the carriage itself was OK, but the dude getting pushed out looked kind of silly. I will say that the roof of the carriage looked pretty good.

Kevin: This cried out for a new matte painting showing what it would look like in the elevator. The make-up, the aliens ships, a lot of things in the episode just felt...bland.


Matthew: This is perilously close to a 1, but I think there is a basic, zombie-like competency to how the plot progresses from one point to the other. Say this for Brannon Braga - he can get a story from point A to B to C. Nothing overtly stupid happens. This is just boring. So I give it a 2.

I agree with the 2 for a total of 4. Basically, the episode explicitly sets up half a dozen interesting story avenues, and focuses on the least interesting. I agree that the episode commits no egregious sins, but the end result is still pretty boring.


  1. Okay I did not read the review but I laughed at the caption of the photo.

  2. This is not at all just another Neelix/Tuvok episode. We never had anything like this
    before. In previous episodes, Tuvok would mostly scoff at whatever Neelix had to say, dismiss and correct him and Neelix would take it and turn it into a joke, not letting it bother him. In fact, he's been taking Tuvok's crap and insults for far too long and he never complained. Here he finally does. It was a pivotal moment. Whereas before one might have gotten the impression that Neelix was just too naive and too much of a simpleton to get how annoying he is to Tuvok, here we see a man who was aware all along but who chose to be a better and bigger person about it and not judge Tuvok. He even said he still likes him despite all the shit he's gotten.

    But I must say I dont understand all the disparaging remarks about Neelix being useless and essentially a waste of space. Have you guys not been paying any attention to this character since season 1?

    He is kind, honest, hard working and caring. How do you manage to hate on this guy? Would you like a puppy to kick while you are at it? LOL. Just sayin'

    Speaking of hating on someone: Tuvok was one annoying son of a bitch here and I repeatedly had the urge to punch him in the face. Neelix is really putting his all into being helpful and Tuvok just hectors him and gives him shit over and over again. I am amazed Neelix put up with him and stayed polite for as long as he did.

    I liked how Neelix confronted Tuvok in the end about his assholish behavior toward him and how the alien woman confirmed this assertion by calling out Tuvok for being dismissive of and condescending to Tuvok.

    1. *dismissive of Neelix, not Tuvok obviously.

      By the way, have you guys considered using Disqus for comments? It allows you to edit comment and is more fluid, if you so will. This commenting format that doesnt allow you to edit comments can be pretty annoying. Just a thought...

    2. I've never been a Neelix hater. I just hate what the writers did with Neelix for the first two seasons or so - making him a creepy, controlling lech with Kes. I've always liked Ethan Phillips' performance, and I think they go in some really nice directions with the character after Kes' departure.

  3. I just love that photo used is where Tuvok isn't wearing his ears