Thursday, May 24, 2018

Voyager, Season 5: Think Tank, Season 5
"Think Tank"
Airdate: March 31, 1999
112 of 168 produced
112 of 168 aired

IntroductionA wandering group of problem solvers offers Seven of Nine a position within their ranks. Their unwillingness to take "no" for an answer creates a raft of new problems for Voyager.

"Your generous donation to The Human Fund will be rewarded with this delightful brain-teaser, Lights Out 24th Century Edition."


So there are some very nice aspects to this story. The idea of a "think tank" offering to solve problems on a planetary scale is a novel one. Add into this the character beat of Seven not being stretched, and being offered a position with said think tank, and you have the ingredients for a pretty good episode. I think much of this suffers from a bit of underdevelopment. On the Seven of Nine character story, for instance, we never really wonder whether she will take them up on their offer. An episode like "The Omega Directive" did a better job at presenting her interior emotional side of the story, that she wanted desperately to investigate. More of that here would have raised the stakes.

Kevin: I agree. We didn't get anything on the ship showing her boredom, and the Think Tank itself wasn't fleshed out enough to make their offer tempting. Even the intro kind of kills it. I get wanting to get paid, but they were kind of jerks about it. We may know from a practical standpoint she's not leaving the show, but we should be able to entertain the idea a little more seriously. Maybe the Omega particle could have been the bait. That would have been a fun call back.

Matthew: Pacing was kind of a problem for significant stretches of this story. This may have been due in part to some acting choices on the part of Jason Alexander, who read... his... lines... very slowly and softly. But I think there was probably time for two more short scenes than we got, that could have fleshed things out better. With that said, the conclusion felt somewhat rushed, and cut out right in the middle of the action. So I think this was a draft away from being really taut.

Kevin: The episode kind of happened in a haze. The motivations of all the actors was never really displayed, and while I appreciate trying to show non-humanoid aliens, it didn't give the viewer a lot to grab onto. Like I said above, I think the story tips its hand too early on the moral grayness of the think tank. It kind of makes everything a foregone conclusion.
For as slow as the pacing was, there were some pretty big unanswered questions. When did the Think Tank decide upon acquiring the services of Seven of Nine? They had to set up the bounty hunter trap before they encountered the ship in person. That's the biggest plot hole per se, but there are other aspects of the story I felt could use more development. How did the Think Tank form? Are they all dedicated to evil and profit, or do they believe they are doing good in the universe? And if they do, don't they kind of have a point? None of the other calamities seems to have been deliberately caused by them, and they have delivered solutions to them. Is it wrong for them to profit from this? I guess I would have liked to see a better argument for their side of things.

Kevin: I think a more nuanced view of their work could have served the story. Since they think on such large scales with such stakes, maybe it blinds them to things like individual needs. Certainly "brilliant" equally "emotionally distant" is a well worn scientist trope for a reason. And the compensation did seem to be a little...odd. They can't really have material needs they haven't solved for, and it can't really be a model to solve only the problems of people with big problems but also intellectual curiosities for trade.

Although I criticize Alexander's pacing above, overall I really like him for this role. He is cast somewhat against "villain" type, and it really adds to things. He is short and nerdy, but can also be unctuous. The other actors in the tank weren't really actors, well, I guess except for the guy wearing the rubber mask. The Hazari were fine, but not more than fine.

Kevin: It's clear Alexander is having a good time, and that helps a lot, but I wish they had given him more to chew on. I feel in a weird way like they pitched him low key to prevent any sense that it was George Constanza on the ship, but come on...he's a very good actor in his own right and I would have liked to see him stretch a little more.

Matthew: Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan got the lion's share of the rest of the parts in this episode, and they were very good as per usual. I wish Jeri Ryan had been given a meatier part to dig into. I would say the best laugh lines were delivered by Tim Russ and Robert Picardo, during the hologram unveiling scene.

Production Values
I liked the various designs of the think tank aliens. I would have liked to see more of Bevoxx, but I get that it is likely an expensive effect. The jellyfish and AI were nice to look at. I do think the think tank ship, though it looked nice from the exterior, was a bit underwhelming on the inside. It was very generic and gave no indication of their special mission. Maybe showing us quarters would have helped, crammed with trophies of past successes or something.

Kevin: It's always a problem when a huge ship apparently consists of one room. Why not be a base? Is their physical presence really necessary? I agree the attempt at differing aliens was fun, but not as compelling as they might have been with human actors. We're just not there yet in terms of effects budgets.


This is pretty much a prototypical 3. There is enough to keep a person entertained despite some laggy pacing. Performances are fine. It's thoroughly mediocre, which is a bit of disappointment given the potential of its premise.

Kevin: Yeah, we criticize a lot in print here, but the episode itself is enjoyable enough to watch and tickles enough ideas to be solid, but not more. I think one more swing at the story and letting Alexander emote a little more would have elevated this. Still, a solid episode with a total of 6.


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