Friday, January 12, 2018

Voyager, Season 5: Bliss, Season 5
Airdate: February 10, 1999
108 of 168 produced
107 of 168 aired


Voyager finds itself trapped by a space creature that can lure travelers with their fondest wishes.


Seven's fondest wish? Finally having an excuse to shoot things with the comically oversized phaser rifle.


Kevin: I recall this being one of those episode that reminded me too much of other episodes. I remember an interview with John Ritter talking about a problem in later seasons of Three's Company (go with me for a second) where they did an episode in season one where they had to hide a cat from Mr. Roper and then later in like season 6 they had to hide a dog from Mr. Furley. I bring it up because that's what this episode feels like. We've done illusion creating space creatures in "Where Silence Has Lease" in TNG. The solution of making themselves unpalatable reminded me of the very similar conversation of 'souring the milk' in "Galaxy's Child." The routine of Seven interacting alone with the potentially dubious alien while the rest of the crew is incapacitated felt very similar to One, but that's a less urgent problem. Most critically, Voyager has encountered an alien with the ability to create tempting visions in "Persistence of Vision," and the day is saved again by a crew member with the natural ability to resist them. I'll leave aside the questions about how such a creature could evolve or exist in space, and focus on my hang up with the mechanics. The creature seems capable of creating some super individualized fantasies. It's not just everyone yearning for home. Janeway gets her boyfriend back, Torres gets the Maquis. It seemed really perfunctory that the mere fact that Seven and Naomi would be immune because they did not have a strong desire to go to Earth. I mean, going to Earth would make her mother happy, or she'd get to meet her father, who presumably has been talked up Samantha Wildman. It just read a little too neat is all. Maybe if the illusion were purely a functional wormhole without all the extra would have made it work better.

Matthew: See, I agree with the parallels you've laid out, but they didn't bother me in the slightest, really, because I think this episode as a whole works better than any of those shows. I think this is because of the framing story featuring Qatai, as well as the depth to which it went in to various characters' personal fantasies. Qatai was a cool Captain Ahab figure, and his world-weariness contrasted nicely with our heroes' optimism. I was also fascinated by his backstory and would have liked a bit more of it. I agree that the mechanism of Seven and Naomi's immunity was a little clunky - given that the creature could later adapt to their particular desires simultaneously with the crew still being under. Anyhow, I thought the vignettes for each character were interesting. B'Elanna in particular got a fun scene to act out, that the Maquis were still alive. Neelix was liked and had a sense of belonging. Chakotay got to reset all of his choiced since leaving Starfleet. The only one that felt a little off was Janeway wanting to get back with Mark. Would she really still be on that? I wish we had gotten more of these sorts of stories.

Kevin: That said, the nuts and bolts of Seven working against but still for the crew are pretty good. It think the parts of the show that work the best are actually the teaser and button at the end. Paris letting Naomi fly the Delta Flyer is cute and I liked the conversation with Seven about how Earth is unremarkable in itself. That both consider Voyager their true home is a good character touch, and if the show were still on in Season 15, it would be an interesting wrinkle to see an older Naomi not drinking the Kool Aid quite so much on the mission.

Matthew: It's a rare episode of any show in which children are written or acted well, and Voyager has been on a roll with Naomi lately. They use her perfectly - precocious but not annoying, a good foil for scenes in which childhood naivete illuminates a situation, like having Chakotay order her to help subdue Seven of Nine.   


Kevin: In a different way than with Naomi and Neelix, but with equal vigor, Jeri Ryan and Scarlett Pomers have a real rapport. Trek has gone to the well of the human outsider and the child forming a bond and learning together, and it usually works like gangbusters, no less so here. Pomers tows a line that many a child actor has failed, in that she appears believably competent for her age, not a whiz kid granted powers by the script rather than the internal logic of the story.

Matthew: In a lot of ways, Seven of Nine has become the Spock of this show. Her discomfort with typical human emotional affect, but with an undercurrent (some times a surface current) of emotional turmoil, makes her the ideal foil for the crew acting crazy. Jeri Ryan plays it perfectly, of course. I liked Kate Mulgrew in particular, with her very distinct portrayals of skepticism and dewy-eyed optimism.

Kevin: Well...what can you say about W. Morgan Sheppard? He is the crotchety, cantankerous old man I hope to turn into some day, though I know I will never dismiss punk teenagers from the environs of my lawn with nearly the same vigor. Whatever my issues with the mechanics of the script, I can't fault his Ahab-like performance.

Matthew: I wonder what he's like in real life. He embodies "crusty" to such a degree that it is impossible to imagine him in any other way. I kind of doubt it, though. Apparently Lawrence Tierney (Cyrus Redblock) was so frightening in real life that Wil Wheaton almost had a panic attack on set. I actually envision Sheppard being unbelievably sweet in person. Anyway, yeah, he was amazing here. I would have happily watched a whole show with him in it.

Production Values

Kevin: This is definitely in the sweet spot of Voyager-era CGI. It has the smoothness and slightly muted color palette of the era, but most of the edges are actually really well defined. It's not the soup an effect like this would normally be. I also like that gave the interior sufficient variety. That ending shot of the ship going back into the belly of the beast was also really well achieved. Well executed and well staged artistically.

Matthew: A Standout shot for me was when Seven and Naomi were passing the bay of windows that showed the interior of the creature. It was the best "window CGI" moment I can recall in this era of Trek. The sound design of the music, and the strategically placed silences, were also really effective in heightening drama.


Kevin: On the strength of the acting, and some of the nice character notes between Seven and Naomi, this gets into a 3 for me, though I want it on the record that it was a tougher call than it should have been. We've discussed Voyager as a kind of structural TNG Season 8 in terms of types and structure of story, but here we see the downside. I'm not saying that even at its height, TNG never recycled a story, but the seams were really apparent on this one.

Matthew: I'm on a 4 for this. It was really entertaining and had really solid acting and effects. Some more ambitious storytelling could have allowed it to go even higher. That makes a 7 from the both of us.

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