Monday, September 26, 2016

Voyager, Season 4: Hope and Fear, Season 4
"Hope and Fear"
Airdate: May 20, 1998
93 of 168 produced
93 of 168 aired

Voyager befriends a traveling merchant who helps them decode Starfleet's garbled message. It leads them to an almost too good to be true gift from Starfleet: a ship that can take them home in months, not decades.

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful, Captain.


Kevin: The underlying idea behind the episode is interesting. The first element is the crew's hope for getting home and the consequences, both for the crew and others. I liked the idea that Janeway's deal with the Borg had unintended consequences. I accept her explanation that 8472 is worse and circumstances precluded a democratic solution, but I like that they explore it a little. Voyager is in the Delta Quadrant because Janeway refused to interfere with a society, but even her trip home may do the same.

Matthew: I too am a fan of exploring the consequences of prior stories. I think it could have been a little better developed, with perhaps some greater insight into what Arturis' species was like before assimilation. Even a longer scene in which Janeway tries to convince Arturis of the rationale for her choice would be welcome. Nonetheless, it was exciting and engaging as a driver for the plot. I will say that Arturis' plan seems too clever by half. The ability to simulate not just the word content but the visual verisimilitude of a message from a real Starfleet admiral seem staggeringly difficult. How long had Arturis been listening, anyway? And if he has the ability to create this shape-chaning, ultra-advanced ship, how were his people ever captured by the Borg? Why didn't they just escape to the alpha quadrant? Speaking of his motivation, why was his race more sanguine with the prospect of dealing with 8472?

Kevin: The exploration of Seven's anxiety about returning to Earth is interesting, and in itself, well achieved. I accept her reaction and I like that it bubbles over into sparring with Janeway. My concerns are that, first, the connection to the A story is tenuous at best. The title feels like they think it is some familiar pairing linguistically, or at least that the audience does, and it doesn't. If there is a literary reference in there, it is lost on me. So, much like the title, the two halves of the episode kind of happen next to each other. Second, we're getting to what I think will be the typing point in the overuse of this plot thread. Here, it at least feels like the culmination of an arc. It's also like episode six or seven this season of this arc. I understand that the character needs to be brought up to speed, but it seems almost to the exclusion of other characters, and they never really let up on that throttle. I understand Jeri Ryan is a gifted actress but I think the character would have been better served by a shift in the nature of her conflict with Janeway.

Matthew: Whatever the meta-criticism is of over- or under-utilization of characters, I think it works in spades here. This was one of the more mature treatments of the Seven/Janeway conflict we'll get, in that it doesn't read as petulant or overbearing from either side. Both characters' motivations and emotional responses make sense, and Seven's journey from diffident fear to cautious acceptance worked really well for me. There were a bunch of nice, quiet scenes of dialogue between the two that made things clear for the viewer.


Kevin: Ray Wise, who played Liko in "Who Watches the Watchers," did a really good job here. Both characters filled a niche of ordinary, family men responding to forces beyond their control, and it's affecting. I got his sense of loss and could understand, if not condone, his latching onto Janeway as the easiest target.

Matthew: Ray Wise gave Arturis an interesting, halting lilt to his delivery. It added to the other-worldliness of the character. I didn't find him as engaging in the haranguing he gave Janeway near the end, though. The shouting and higher pitch to the voice didn't do it for me. 

Kevin: I suppose you can't blame them for leaning on Mulgrew and Ryan when they can make scenes work like that. The way Janeway lectures Seven about sportsmanship sounded just like my favorite history teacher in high school, caring but not in the mood for your(my) nonsense.

Matthew: We've praised Jeri Ryan quite a bit this season, and it's been deserved. She is really excellent again, here. The way she quietly admits that Janeway was right about her fear of facing social unknowns in the Alpha Quadrant was great, and it totally fit the theme they were going for - sensitive and intelligent adolescent chafing against the advice of a parent figure. And speaking of the parent, yeah, Mulgrew really nailed the sense of deep care mixed with annoyance.

Production Values

Kevin: The design of the Dauntless was interesting on the outside. They offered an in-story explanation for the bare sets inside but they left me flat a little. The engine also was a tad too "this is a plasma thingy got at Spencer's" for my taste.

Matthew: Engineering was a miss, I agree. I liked the bridge. And then... well, we saw nothing else of the ship, did we? The lighting and graphic shift was pretty effective when the alien nature of the ship was revealed, but I was kind of annoyed that button pressed retained the same sound effects.

Kevin: The make up wasn't great on Arturis. It looked voluminous but unfinished. It sent him into an uncanny valley that really gave away that he was the bad guy.

Matthew: I found his clothes to be very dowdy. The makeup I liked for the most part.

Kevin: I like the riff on the spartan phaser range in TNG with Velocity(TM). The outfits were extremely flattering while looking like sportswear. Kate Mulgrew should get that top in every color. And there should be a special Emmy for the person who clearly spent all day careful disheveling Jeri Ryan's coif for maximum effect. Well done.

Matthew: The CGI phaser target floaty thing was a bit... meh.


Kevin: I am going with a 4. Some small story issues aside, it's well acted and is as interesting a twist on the Gilligan's Island riff as we're likely to get. As unrelated as I found Seven's story, I will say it serves as a good capper to her time in Season 4.

Matthew: This is probably a borderline case between 3 and 4, but I think the overall entertainment value was there, and the Janeway/Seven dynamic was in peak form. So I agree with the 4 for a total of 8.


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