Monday, August 14, 2017

Voyager, Season 5: Extreme Risk, Season 5
"Extreme Risk"
Airdate: October 28, 1998
96 of 163 produced
96 of 163 aired


While the crew works to recover a stolen probe, B'Elanna seems disinterested and emotionally distant. But when her friends discover a propensity to self-harm, things get more serious.

B'Elanna shows a distinctly uncomfortable look while wearing James T. Kirk's skydiving hand-me-downs. Who knows where this has been?


Matthew: So there are a few things going on here, some more successfully than others. There is a character story, a topical look at psychology, and a space race tale. On the first score, I think this is pretty successful. Our much-praised Tom/B'Elanna relationship again shows us its organic believability, as she shuts down and rebuffs his attempts to get close to her and talk things out. Her basic reason for depression seems solid, and her interplay with Chakotay is pretty solid, too. The way the captain shows concern is good, though perhaps a tad problematic, as I will discuss below. But it certainly hits the motherly notes that she has already shown for the character. So all-in-all, it's a solid piece of work on the character side.

Kevin: I agree that the episode has issues, but overall, I really like the ambition. Other than dealing with Picard's post-assimilation trauma and O'Brien's post-imprisonment trauma, I don't think we've really explored long-term mental health issues. I appreciate the attempt to explore something deeper. I also enjoy the opportunity for the rest of the crew to show concern in ways that made sense for their characters.

Matthew: Now, I want to couch my criticism here in the acknowledgement that not a whole lot of TV work had been done on depression or PTSD by 1998. I think it's admirable that they are going here, and by and large things aren't so bad. But some details grate. The first, though already established, is the basic lack of privacy on a Starfleet vessel. They hang a lampshade on it by expressing their discomfort, but Janeway, Tom and Chakotay all sign on to perusing B'Elanna's holodeck usage, and her depression seems like no secret. Then, the Doctor feels that the "familiar environment" of her quarters will help speed B'Elanna's recovery. Ummm, isn't social isolation one of the basic symptoms of the disorder, not its cure? Then, the resolution is a bit too pat. Is Chakotay browbeating her for five minutes really enough to set her straight? Is getting the ship out of a scrape with some MacGuyver shit really enough of a buzz to ward off actual, deep depression? To be fair, she did not express a complete turnaround in dialogue. But she smiles at her banana pancakes and never speaks of it again, so I think we're supposed to take it as cured. I think there was a missed opportunity to delve into the lack of a counselor and the Doctor's shortcomings in terms of psychiatric medicine, as well as the topic of pharmaceutical treatment of depression, which had already hit the mainstream with Prozac by 1998.

Kevin: I think it's more the acting, but there's something small about the smile that I think is supposed to make us think that she may have had some kind of breakthrough but not being entirely cured, to the extent that is the right word here. But overall, I agree. Unless they wanted to explore it over several episodes, it was always going to have too neat a resolution. That said, I think the way her depression manifested, as risk taking verging on to almost deliberate self harm was really well done, and kind of ballsy for Star Trek. Overall, the internal emotional notes are there. I buy that a woman who has felt abandoned all her life feels a weird riff on survivor's guilt for not being there for her friends, even if her absence was involuntary. I think it also did a good job showing the disengagement with work and relationships that is a hallmark for depression. Janeway's line "Now I know something is wrong," was really effective for me.

Matthew: The Space Race story is a third fiddle here, and while the Delta Flyer construction scenes are fun, the overall plot element is pretty ho hum. The Malon just aren't interesting, and the bona fides for why we should care about a probe were not sufficiently established. Speaking of things that aren't well established, the physics of the holodeck were a bit mystifying here. Take skydiving. Can disabling the safeties really allow for a fatal collision between a (let's say) 130 pound woman and the deck at terminal velocity? That seems unsafe for the ship, let alone B'Elanna. And taking a ship into a high pressure atmosphere? Can the holodeck really simulate pressures that high, when the ship itself cannot withstand them?

Kevin: I certainly appreciate them reaching for something other than just a batleth fight or something, but the technical issues are a problem. Why does the holodeck even have a "non-safe" mode? The Malon story just didn't have any teeth. At worst, even if they got the probe, it seems like they would be able to destroy it remotely once the Malon got it clear of the atmosphere. A loss to be sure, but not the worst that could happen.


Matthew: To the extent that this episode works, a big chunk of credit has to go to Roxann Dawson, who absolutely nails the feeling of being detached, depressed, removed from emotional involvement with her daily life. She seems as if every stimulus she receives is on three second delay. It's a shame she wasn't given material with a bit more psychological heft. Kudos also go to Robert Duncan McNeill on his performance. He seemed concerned but not pushy or petulant, which is a delicate balance.

Kevin: She really nailed a combination of a thousand yard stare and a little raggedness to her voice, like she was just...exhausted all the time. You could see her folding in on herself and it was quite effective. She kept everything but a few key lines extremely quiet and it made it heartbreaking. The first scene where she asks for the pancakes was just shattering in its own way. It was as close to a cry for help as B'Elanna was going to allow herself, and Dawson just nailed it.  I liked both MacNeil and Mulgrew in their scenes. It's a weird tension trying to be there for someone going through something like this. You want to be present, but not overbearing. You want to be supportive and you want that person to get help, but you don't want to make it seem like your just telling them to get better already.

Matthew: The rest of the cast was fine in the roles they were given. Robert Beltran is a good yeller. You know, there are bad yellers, right? Having just finished DS9, two actors immediately spring to mind. Well, Beltran's yelling really adds to scenes, instead of pulling me out of them. I with he had been given more to do series-wide. The Malon guy is fine. Nothing more.

Kevin: As has happened before, when Chakotay's plots are the most grounded in human relationships, Beltran can deliver on those.

Production Values

Matthew: Hmm... I applaud the ambition involved in the Delta Flyer construction montage, creating a CG shuttle bay and people doing work on what would obviously be too big a model to build. But it wasn't the best CGI I've seen, not even on this show, by a fair margin. That said, the design is nice, and the exterior ship shots were well achieved. All in all, I would say the DF is "cool."

Kevin: I like the idea of the Delta Flyer, but as you say, the CGI was not the best. Also, I agree with Tuvok. The joystick controls ARE ridiculous. Does every pilot on board have to play Galaga until they rated on the controls? I also slightly questions about their ability to make a new ship without outside aide, but that's a relatively small complaint. I liked the attempt at the inside of a gas giant, though it was very clearly just CGI soup.


Matthew: This is a real mixed bag, but I think it just scrapes into 3 territory. It's certainly not embarrassing or awful, and I was pretty engaged for 2/3 of the run time (basically everything without Malon in it). That seems like mediocrity to me. It could have been much more, but wasn't.

Kevin: Dawson's acting alone would make this episode an easy 5. The too clean resolution to her problem and the unnecessary Malon plot pull this back down to a 3 for me as well, for a total of 6.

No comments:

Post a Comment