Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Voyager, Season 6: Fair Haven

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlVoyager, Season 6
"Fair Haven"
Airdate: January 12, 2000
129 of 168 produced
129 of 168 aired

Introduction

The crew is really showing off the results of Starfleet-mandated sensitivity training by creating a two-dimensional Irish village on the holodeck.


Star Trek finally creates the Irish Stereotype Sex Simulator we have all been clamoring for.






Writing

Kevin: I hate this episode. Just getting that out of the way now. My objections fall into two main categories. First, the setting is ridiculous and not in a good way. It's like Disney turned Up the Long Ladder into a second tier amusement park. It makes no sense that the crew would all enjoy this Lucky Charms commercial enough to leave it running in perpetuity. Sandrine's was probably not that much less of a stereotypical Mediterranean French bar, but at least they did the work to connect it to a character's actual personal history and it was just a bar, not the whole village from the opening sequence of Beauty and the Beast. And at least Sandrine's had a smoky charm. What is the appeal of this weird village of stereotypes? This episode felt like they turned the writers room over to the people who drink too much green beer on St. Patrick's Day. Even if I buy some Luddite yearning, there are a billion other ways to realize a bucolic retreat than this one.

Matthew: I love this episode. Just getting that out of the way now. I don't find it unbelievable at all that a writer six centuries hence would represent a culture from his distant past in such a stereotypical, shall we say "Disney-fied" way. I also love the fact that this episode is pretty straightforward about what the crew uses the holodeck for - having sex with simulated people in order to relieve tension. Harry basically admits it, Chakotay says it outright ("I'd never let it stand in my way"), and the Doctor and the Captain discuss it directly. Then, when the Captain's romance becomes known to Tom, he doesn't give her a hard time over it. The level of maturity here is really outstanding, especially for the time, and for Trek generally.

Kevin: The other problem is that it doubles down on a recurring and consistent problem for the holodeck. The idea that any character or creation can and will eventually achieve sentience. How is it even ethical to use this as a recreation device anymore? Moriarty, Vic, and the Doctor raise similar issues, but at least there was some attempt for each to mark why they are different than normal holograms, and some intention on the part of the creator to make them that way. Here, it just seems to be that any simulacrum will eventually achieve sentience by virtue of being left on. Both the existence of another holodeck malfunction and the specific shape it takes just makes me roll my eyes.

Matthew: I don't think it was implied that Michael Sullivan would gain sentience if left on. The Doctor said that he was worth having a relationship if Janeway's feelings for him were real. So I can agree that the episode punts on the question, but it didn't really raise it, either. 

Kevin: The closest the episode comes to interesting is the idea of Janeway finding a romance that isn't with a member of the crew. That has some legs, but it goes fairly unexplored, largely because the episode accepts Michael as a real being, and the question is the ethics of altering your partner to your tastes. ('Delete the wife' is the one good line and line reading in the episode.) The more interesting question for me is even if we accept that this is just a fantasy, is it acceptable for Janeway to allow it for herself since her options are otherwise nonexistent. That's a more character focused story, and one that I think would actually play out if the holodecks were a real thing. Even if I know and fully acknowledge it's just a fantasy, if indulging it makes me happy in a way I couldn't find elsewhere, is that actually a problem? How do you stop it from eventually becoming one?

Matthew: I think the episode actually explores those issues fairly well. Janeway's character is revealed by her interactions. She is a real human being with real desires. Not insatiable or crazy desires, but a normal, healthy sexuality.  I think this is really groundbreaking, actually - a female lead's sexuality is not treated as a subject for comedy, but as a truly worthwhile aspect of her humanity. She is also not made to fall for the alien of the week, but is exercising her own agency completely. Her trepidations reveal her feelings about self-indulgence and self-control. She doesn't like admitting her desire, and she doesn't like how easy the holodeck makes it to feel tempted into tailoring something that seems human just to fit her own desires. Janeway wants to be strong, and this interaction makes her feel weak.

Kevin: This is a tiny thing, but I'm adding it. The "Harry is bad with women" thing is really wearing thin. Like he's so awkward, he literally can't get any, even on the holodeck? Also, the cow joke was the worst. What is Tom, twelve? Does he really have nothing better to do with his time? Is this one of those things about straight men I'll never understand? It was tedious in first airing, but on rewatch, time makes it even worse, having rewatched how TNG treated Geordi and LeVar Burton talk about how it felt to have the android get more dates than the black man, you do start to see a pattern of the shows making the non-white man (LaForge, Bashir, Kim) incompetent to the point of pathology, and while I don't think it was intentional necessarily, the fact that they keep doing it, even if its inadvertent, starts to feel like a thing. That's less something you blame on this episode per se, but a pattern that has emerged in the rewatches.

Matthew: I think the show gets a pass on Kim, because it have him a smoking hot girlfriend on Earth in "Non Sequitur," and a smoking hot alien of the week in "The Disease" (in which Kim himself delivered a speech about how he should get some, too).  Personally, my problem with the episode was the filler. The Neutronic Wave Front plot was dumb, as was Tuvok's space sickness. It all took away from interesting character development. With that said, it still presented Janeway with an interesting choice to make in terms of saving the ship or saving Fair Haven. And she made the right choice. I was a bit mystified as to what the damage consists of. Don't they back things up? I would rather the damage had been pitched as more like losing your progress in a video game, and all the relationships that were built.

Acting

Kevin: The acting is...fine. I can't really even analyze it without the insipid story getting in the way. Richard Riehle is, as always, a character actor's character actor. Fintan McKeown is very Irish, which is basically what the part calls for. I wasn't bowled over by the chemistry with Mulgrew, but it wasn't bad. It was just there for me. I did like the end scene. It was the closest the episode got to being effective, and that was on the strength of Mulgrew's acting.

Matthew: I think Kate Mulgrew was amazing in this episode. She absolutely nailed the fine line of showing desire without slipping into parody. Her emotional life has rarely felt as real as it does in this episode. I also love the way she read lines like the ones in which she says she doesn't have a man waiting for her. We all know it's Mark, but she doesn't say it. It's clear Mulgrew remembers it. As far as the other actors go, Beltran did a great job of ribbing Janeway just a bit but showing great sensitivity. Same for McNeill. Robert Picardo was quite amusing as the priest, but also got to show his range when counseling the captain in their hallway scene. I liked Fintan McKeown quite a bit, too.

Production Values

Kevin: This was a redress of Paramount's "Little Europe" backlot, which also stood in for France in The Killing Game, which is why a few of those buildings look so familiar. Maybe part of my problem is that the set is so generically 'European' that it reinforces the notion of the town almost purposely being constructed as a pastiche.

Matthew: Indeed, the train station was nice, and the town was a bit familiar coming after Killing Game. But you know what? The production designers did their work well, with painting, sign work, and so on. What really kind of bugged me was the Californian foliage on the mountain in back of the main drag of the town. I thought the pub interior was well realized, too.


Conclusion

Kevin: This is a 2, saved from a one only by the final scene with Janeway and Sullivan, and the fact that I will need to be able to go lower when Spirit Folk rolls around. It's all of the worst tropes of holodeck malfunction and ill-formed holodeck metaphysics, centered around the least interesting, verging on offensive, setting of all the attempts at recreational facility for the show. This is not as bad as Spirit Folk but that is faint praise indeed.

Matthew: I'm somewhere in the 3-4 range on this one. It isn't perfect by any stretch, but I found myself completely involved in Janeway's emotional story, and tickled by sci-fi questions with respect to what this technology would do to us. I think, based on the strength of the acting, I'll go with a 4, which makes for a total of 6.

2 comments:

  1. Great divisive review, thank you. I like this episode because it really feels like they are getting away from the troubles of the Delta Quadrant and anomalous storms and such. Despite really liking it, I agree with it receiving a 6. Looking forward to the other escapism episode Spirit Folk. Please do try to keep an open mind on that one Kevin.

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