Thursday, December 7, 2017

Voyager, Season 5: Counterpoint

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlVoyager, Season 5
"Counterpoint"
Airdate: December 16, 1998
103 of 168 produced
103 of 168 produced

Introduction

Captain Janeway must maintain control over her emotions as she wrestles with a charismatic but devious inspector who works for a totalitarian society.


Your musky masculinity has no effect on me, interloper!








Writing

Kevin: There's a lot going for this episode. I think it's an interesting twist on the hideout story that focuses on the bad guys. I think they did a good job of making the totalitarians seem appropriately...bureaucratic. They aren't raving lunatic bad guys; they're pedantic rule enforcer bad guys, which is actually scarier. Stuff like the monotony of complying with the search conditions was played well for the same reason. And as far as irrational xenophobia goes, focusing on telepaths is a good idea, since it feels pretty credible that even a level-headed people might be wary of telepaths.

Matthew: I ageree with everything you've put forward. The conflict is novel for the crew, being subject to the whims of a more powerful force, and essentially capitulating. As far as troubling the issue, the way the episode portrayed the kids really did illustrate how a group might find telepaths threatening. I wanted to cuff those little bastards when they were interrupting Neelix, too. So if anything, I would have liked more development on this angle - and this episode was rather slow in spots, so I think 3 or 4 minutes could have been spent troubling Janeway's decision to side with the refugees.

Kevin: The center of gravity for the story is the romance with Janeway and on this front, I think the episode really sings. We've discussed before how her relationship with Chakotay always felt like a missed opportunity, though it appears some of that was at Mulgrew's insistence and her not wanting the character bogged down in a traditional workplace romance arc. And by this point is the show, Chakotay is such a non-entity as a character, I probably wouldn't have cared. Kashyk (that has to be an intentional Star Wars reference, right?) does feel like her equal and opposite. So much of Janeway's character is seen through the lens of the burdens of leadership, that seeing her paired with someone else at the top of his food chain seems appropriate. I also enjoyed the multi-layered deception and counter-deception, and I think the story did a good job of coloring his duplicity with just a hint of genuineness, like he pondered really defecting if only for an instant. I believe he never really wavered in his plan, but I believe his attraction to Janeway was genuine.

Matthew: I bet this episode met Kate Mulgrew's (and any feminist's) requirements for a character like Janeway. She has emotions, but she is entirely in control and capable of sublimating them to her responsibilities as captain. It gives a nice depth to her character to see her making sacrifices. Anyone in her situation might well give in to desire for companionship and make unwise choices. She doesn't - and that's why she's the captain.

Kevin: The mechanics of the escape plot are a bit paint by numbers. The extremely convenient wormhole was laying it on a bit thick, but I liked some of the small touches, like using the Relics style transporter suspension. And even though his betrayal was completely inevitable, the mutual deceptions played well, and I particularly enjoyed him letting them get away with it rather than admit he was fooled to his superiors.

Matthew: Yeah, I didn't care about the telepathic aliens, and I wasn't particularly excited by their escape plot. The interesting aspect of the story was the complex web of hope and distrust between Janeway and Kashyk. The episode would have been stronger if one of the aliens had been memorable in the slightest.

Acting

Kevin: Mulgrew did her usual superb job. It gets increasingly difficult over the seasons to find new ways to say that. Has she really even had a bum note? I know we've questioned some of the words being put in her mouth, or what was clearly a dictate of the story, as it was with last week's bit of overreaction to Tom's screw up, but have we ever once thought she didn't bring it?

Matthew: This was an exceptionally good "Subtle Janeway" episode, which is really saying something, because a good 90% of her character is subtly rendered. This story in particular called for us being able to just barely make out emotional undercurrents, because the character had to play things close to the vest. Mulgrew is completely and totally in control of her face, voice, and overall craft.

Kevin: Mark Harelik was pretty good as Kashyk. (God, that name is hard to type without doubling letters reflexively) I think he was a good bad guy who had the right level of layers to his performance to complicate his inevitable betrayal just a little, and I think he had really good rapport with Mulgrew in the ready room scenes from beginning to end.

Matthew: I really liked Harelik. His voice and his look really lend themselves to "officious douche-bro with a complex emotional interior." He also plays, by the way, Julian Voorhees in "Kimmy Schmidt," and the college dean in "Big Bang Theory." The thing is, he's likable. And that's the key to those kinds of roles - you hate him for what he does, but sort of like him for who he is.

Production Values

Kevin: This is kind of a bottle episode, but it works well within the confines. The serial shots of the stop and searches was well done. I suppose the only other production item of note is the soundtrack which I enjoyed. It was well integrated into the story and a step above the somewhat generic use of classical music in Trek as merely avoiding copyrights.

Matthew: Yes to the classical music. Seeing the exterior space shots of the ships moving deliberately but beautifully, melded with the classical music, gives a very "2001" feel to things, in the best possible way. This is not of course to impugn the typical orchestral score of the show - we're just so accustomed to it that it dulls the impact. The music was very impactful here, both for its beauty and its novelty.

Conclusion

Kevin: I think in the balance, this makes a 4. It has good tension/espionage elements, but anchors the story in the emotional arc of the lead character. When she tells Kashyk that the offer of asylum was genuine, there's a wistfulness that was quite affecting. Her intellect knew better and she prepared for it, but the part of her that hoped he was also being genuine speaks to the kind of emotional complexity I really enjoy in captains.

Matthew: This is another borderline case for me. The acting is definitely worth a 4, but I found the story to be a bit draggy in spots. I think the complete lack of interest I had in the telepaths, as well as a few logic issues (how could these inspectors be so bad at their jobs?), puts this in solid, satisfying 3 territory for me. That makes it a total of 7.

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