Friday, January 4, 2019

Voyager, Season 6: Equinox, Part II, Season 6
"Equinox, Part II"
Airdate: September 22, 1999
119 of 168 produced
119 of 168 aired


Captain Ransom has left Voyager to be attacked the by the nucelogenic lifeforms as he escapes with Seven and the Doctor. Janeway finds herself taking increasingly questionable actions to hunt him down.

Captain's prerogative: two phasers. Sorry, Blue Shirt!


Kevin: This episode is definitely more action focused, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. My only complaint is it gives short shrift to what I think could have been some deeper explorations of Janeway's actions in comparison to Ransom's. Her whole point is that Ransom abandoned the rules when it was convenient, and particularly in the 'enhanced interrogation' scene, I think Janeway doesn't just cross, she obliterates that same line. Getting his crew home is a good, and Ransom chose to prioritize it over Starfleet (and basic human) ethics. By the same token, Janeway thinks stopping Ransom is a moral good, but that doesn't excuse her cutting corners in violating whatever the equivalent of the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendments are in the Federation's Fundamental Principles or whatever they call them. I'm not saying it's not believable and Janeway's goal is more urgently necessary than Ransom's, but for an episode that did such a good job laying out the moral lines in the first half, I would have liked to have seen the same discussion here. We get Chakotay pushing back, but even that falls a little flat for me. He literally left Starfleet to use violence to stop the Cardassians. He should be at least sympathetic to Janeway, or even Ransom's point of view, but because Janeway needs a foil, it's going to be Chakotay. In the end, it felt a little like a redux of the same fight they had in Scorpion.

Matthew: I appreciate going to enhanced interrogation. It was prescient in the same way "Homefront/Paradise Lost" was for mid to late 90s TV. I agree it came a bit out of left field for the Janeway character. I buy Chakotay's motivation, because I take his character to have joined the Maquis for what he deems a violation of universal moral values, not upholding them in a way which inconvenienced him and his relatives. I think the main issue with caring about both Ransom's and Janeway's ethical transgressions is that we don't care much about the nucleogenic life forms. They're just portrayed as screeching CGI attack thingies. Yes, we're told that they are sentient, but we all know the old writing adage. In the way "In the Flesh" made Species 8472 more understandable, this two-parter fails to do so for these aliens.

Kevin: The Doctor is the real weak point of the story. We discussed this in the last review so I won't belabor the point here, but this is just another misunderstanding of what ethics are. Ethical concerns may be what stops me from doing whatever I want, but their presence alone is not what determines what I want to do. Freed from his ethical restrictions, the Doctor should suddenly be fine murdering people to protect Seven. If they wanted to do this story, they should have dug in more to what the Doctor is and how altering his basic wants or desires speaks to his personhood.

Matthew: This episode really suffers by comparison with an episode in which an unscrupulous doctor does what an unscrupulous doctor might do when untethered by ethical concerns: TNG's "Ethics." Heck, we've even already seen an episode in which a holographic doctor without ethical concerns violates norms: VOY's "Nothing Human." Both give us better investigations into these issues. I think it would have been far better for the story and the characters if the dumb Doctor Switch had not occurred, and instead the Equinox version of the Doctor is the one that experiments on Seven of Nine. It would have given Robert Picardo a better acting challenge, and been less out of character for our Doctor. This is more of a general criticism for Doctor stories, but the problems are here as well, so here it is: we never get even an outline of what it means and how it happened for the Doctor to become conscious and sentient. I take it to be a confluence of factors - the complexity of the code, and the capability of the hardware. The Doctor needs both to be sentient. But what if one or both fluctuate? It sounds as though Ransom and his cronies altered the code. What effects does that have on the whole? And does the Equinox computer itself have the same capability as Voyager's? If not, what's the difference? What does it mean to be transferred from one to another? If my "consciousness" were transferred into Hitler's body (which I believe is impossible even in principle, but whatever), would I be a nice guy or a jerk? And if the latter, could I overcome it through force of "will?" The answer to that question has a lot of potential drama in it.

Kevin: We've critiqued a lot, but this is still a good episode. The chase story is pretty well paced after it really gets going and Angry Janeway is always Fun Janeway. I thought Ransom coming around was as thoroughly achieved as it could be in the time allotted. I also liked the fakeout with Marla Gilmore was well done. Matt and I both thought it was odd she would go with Max in the mutiny given her reticence in the last episode so revealing a scene later that was a fakeout was a nice payoff of the character work done in the last episode. Overall, it is a good action story, I just wish they had dug into the questions they raised a little more deeply.

Matthew: I think Ransom's parts were the most effective here. Showing him using the neural device and wrestling with his conscience worked for me. It made him less of a mustache twirler and more of a human being.The overall effect of the two episode arc was good for the main Equinox characters, especially Ransom and Gilmore. The character who didn't get enough investigation was Max. Why is he the way he is? Is he just a congenital jerk? Nonetheless, I was involved from start to finish, even as I was left unsatisfied in parts.


Kevin: Mulgrew was excellent, unsurprisingly. She definitely nailed the icy rage that is scarier than yelling. Savage portrayed his arc to almost redemption well, and you bought his remorse to the extent the story allowed. Picardo tends to go broad when he goes EEEEVIL, but I honestly think that's as much direction and writing than acting ability. Because the Doctor turning EEEVIL is almost always  a poor writing choice, it means it's never really going to work, but by the time we got to singing folk music, I was a little annoyed.

Matthew: Kate Mulgrew delivers one of the ultimate "if looks could kill" sequences in the ready room meeting. Damn, woman. As far as Picardo goes, this is nowhere near the scenery chewing, glowering awfulness of "Darkling" (ugh). I think, overall, the episode's focus on action undermined the ability of the various actors to really delve into the depths of their characters. This is a knock on writing, not acting.

Production Values

Kevin: The space battles were good and though they look their age twenty years down the line, it's not at all bad to watch. The textures on the nucleogenic lifeforms do read much closer to video game than I would like. Nothing here really stood out, but everything here was definitely competent.

Matthew: I think some mention should be made of the set bashing they did on the standing Voyager sets - which was good enough to obscure their origins and to make the Equinox feel like a real place. Kudos are due on that.


Kevin: I'm going with the 3 here. It's a good, solid, entertaining hour and even if it doesn't dig in as deeply as I would like, it certainly delivers a pretty good show. Little touches like the plaque scene pay off, and the end result is always enjoyable on a rewatch.

Matthew: Yep. The two parter was basically effective as a piece of entertainment, even while it punted on the most interesting questions, which are always about characters and concepts, as opposed to "will the heroes survive this ordeal?" (Answer: yes) So I think there was some drop off here, but not into below average territory. I agree with the 3 for a total of 6.

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