Friday, June 8, 2018

Voyager, Season 5: 11:59

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlVoyager, Season 5
"11:59"
Airdate: May 5, 1999
115 of 168 produced
115 of 168 aired

Introduction

While exploring her family's history, Janeway discovers a new story regarding a relative she has looked up to her whole life.

One of the many scintillating scenes in this episode. Newspapers! Messy book shops!




Writing

Kevin: I want to like this episode more than I do. My first problem is that I'm not sure what the point of this story is for the crew. It feels like "Living Witness" without any of the political bite. Nothing really changes for anyone as a result of this new information. Even the moral feels a little squishy. Is it that history is less important for its accuracy than what inspiration we draw? I would have liked something a little better formed. Separate question: how big is that freaking database that it has 400-year-old press clippings? I could understand if they were still on Starfleet's wifi, but that element did strain credulity.

Matthew: As far as incredulity goes, the database thing didn't bug me. Computer memory expands exponentially it seems, and whatever a Gigaquad is, it probably can store a whole hell of a lot of microfiche. What bugged me is the timeline. O'Donnell explicitly states she was 11 when she watched the first moon landing on TV. That makes her 42 when she meets Henry Janeway. When did they start having kids again? Like, I get that Mulgrew can't really play 30 convincingly any more. It just stuck out, and they created the problem in dialogue that could just as easily been axed. But yes, the story, while mildly enjoyable, lacked a certain something. "Living Witness" has the shock value of making our heroes the villains, and making them responsible for a great crime against sentient beings, to boot. This story has nowhere near the shock value. Now, to be sure, many people misunderstand their progenitors' pasts. But the disparity wasn't all that great here. Even Janeway herself is like "I'm over it."

Kevin: I think I could have been more on board with this if the past story had had more oomph. Everyone is nice enough, but I don't really engage with their story. Part of it is that "A Christmas Story" has a less saccharine view of the past. Presumably, the town would not be willing to sell itself if it were in at least okay shape, so maybe there could have been some conflict there, letting us see some of the people really depending in an urgent way on what to them is a stroke of good fortune. In the end, it was a bit one-dimensional casting tradition vs. progress is such stark terms.

Matthew: Yeah, they mentioned people being upset, but they didn't show them being upset. I didn't quite understand how this giant book store stayed in business, either.  It would have been much stronger if something actually worth preserving had been threatened. Henry Janeway just seemed to oppose the project, because. It made his side of the argument much weaker, which sapped some of the drama. As we always say, we like it when both sides are "right."

Kevin: I was this close to finding Shannon an interesting enough character to buoy the episode. She seemed genuinely conflicted in accepting the offer of a job in exchange for her help, but I didn't quite buy 'romance' from Henry and Shannon. A rapport? Sure, but it just never clicked that an engineer with wanderlust would settle down for the life shown here. In the end, nothing in the episode was bad, per se, but nothing really stood out as good.

Matthew: Indeed, he seemed charming enough, though I again have my doubts about how this old guy and Shannon (old eggs) O'Donnell became the progenitors of this massive clan. I did like how their fight seemed pretty organic in terms of dialogue. His kid Jason was a bit precious, though. What teenager asks a strange adult woman whether giving birth is among her priorities?

Acting

Kevin: For whatever concerns I have about the story, Mulgrew was really good here. I suppose consciously, there are supposed to be notes of Janeway in O'Donnell. I thought it would have been more fun to make her more different, or at least draw different similarities. O'Donnell is basically Sad Janeway, and I would have liked a little more contrast. I did enjoy her rattling off the hypothetical mistakes about Voyager's history. That line really stood out.

Matthew: I think they should have changed her appearance a bit more. It almost read like a time travel story as it was. She certainly gave her different shades, a non-command vibe, a more twentieth century femininity. I thought Captain Janeway's interactions with the crew were very good, too. Robert Beltran had a great line, giving O'Donnell some pity because she didn't know she had to live up to the Captain's standards. I kind of wish that aspect of the show had been expanded, especially since Chakotay has quite an affinity for ancestors as well. Of course this might have lent itself to the temptation to link ancestor stories, which was wisely avoided.

Kevin:
I liked John Carroll Lynch as Gerald Moss, a lot actually. He gave some life to the standard "corporate stooge" and I believe that he believed he was doing the right thing, and actually kind of agree he was doing the right thing. He played Drew Carey's brother on his show and the scary as hell clown in American Horror Story, so the dude has range. I kind of wish the episode had just cast Mulgrew as the holdout Luddite against Lynch's not entirely unsympathetic pragmatism. I think that would have had a little more of the oomph I felt was missing.

Matthew: Kevin Tighe is a perennial "That Guy," but it's obvious why he keeps getting work. He has an "almost leading man" quality, a lot of charm, and inhabited his role quite well. I believed his character's positions, even when they weren't supported by a lot of the episode text. If this episode had pitted him against O'Donnell for a bit longer and with a greater pitch, we might have seen even more.

Production Values

Kevin: The CGI shots of the Millennium Gate (which know makes me think of Chicago's Cloud Gate and God I would have loved that to be the narrative crux of the episode) were fine. Whatever backlot at Paramount they used for small Midwest town was solid. I liked the interiors of the bar and the bookstore, but the constant the universal candlelight ambiance ends up contributing to the slightly soporific feel of the episode.

Matthew: I was very impressed by the production design of the "midwestern" town. Apparently it was a redress of the "New York" backlot in LA, and they trucked in snow for the outdoor scenes. Had I not looked it up, I would never have known. The interiors were also pretty fabulous with lived-in detail. The CGI was basically an arcology from Sim City 2000. I'm OK with that any day of the week.

Conclusion

Kevin: I think there is a fun idea at the core of this, but it all ends up a little pointless. The revelation doesn't really alter the status quo that much for Janeway, and the past story line just never gets any teeth. On the strength of the acting, I think this lands inside a 3.

Matthew: I agree with the three for a total of 6. As I ponder how I would improve it, I think O'Donnell should have been already working with the company, and been really put into conflict with Janeway. Then they could have a "I hated them but now I love them" romantic arc, which done well is far more satisfying than "my car broke down and this feels cozy."

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