Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Voyager, Season 6: Good Shepherd

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlVoyager, Season 6
"Good Shepherd"
Airdate: March 15, 2000
137 of 168 produced
137 of 168 aired

Introduction

Captain Janeway finds an away mission that will allow her to draw out and challenge some of her more recalcitrant crew members. Away missions always go well, right?


These tricorder readings indicate that you got swole, Billy.


Writing

Matthew: So, I can imagine the rap on this episode being "It's like Lower Decks, but with losers!" I think that's selling this short a bit. This story does get into the specifics of Voyager being a place you can't transfer from, one in which there is an accidental element to who is onboard. And yes, they're officers who are struggling, which is interesting territory. So if there is any comparison to make, it's sort of a cross between "Lower Decks" and "Hollow Pursuits."

Kevin: You took the comparison right out of my mouth. It sketches out the ship in the way they tried last in "Learning Curve." I particularly enjoy the idea that the ship is not comprised of the cream of the crop the way the Enterprise is presumed to be. And it's not that any of them are bumbling idiots, it's just that they aren't literally The Best. It's the kind of world building that I really enjoy.

Matthew: I liked the three spotlight characters here. I liked the energy of someone in Tal Celes who feels like it's tough to keep up with all of these super-high achievers in Starfleet.  Her story had an interesting element of ethnic set-asides, too. I especially liked the character of Mortimer Harren - I think the script avoided the pitfall of making him yet another super genius. He is a cosmologist, and intelligent to be sure, but he is much more a young, socially maladroit academic as opposed to the next Einstein. This is far more believable and even, if you're really putting your empathy goggles on today, relatable. Billy Telfer was a little more "meh" for me. He didn't seem like much more than a psychological quirk in character form.

Kevin: I was sanguine on the characters. I think they were just a hair over the line of being caricature rather than character. Maybe it's again that we haven't really seen these characters before or since, except for a brief cameo by Celes that makes me care a little less. Barclay made a bigger splash, and was seen after which puts a bit of a retroactive shine on Hollow Pursuits. And in Lower Decks, Ogawa was an already recurring character and Sito was a fun return when it was revealed. Here, they are all a little too customized. The "Lower Decks" crew felt like a more real balance of talent, ambition and inexperience. I think for all three of Janeway's flock, they each veer more into their bigger issue being an undiagnosed anxiety or personality disorder rather than being unqualified for their job. That all said, for Teles in particular there was some nice shading in her self assessment. As its own scene, her sad acknowledgement she would have been reposted is quietly sad and affecting.

Matthew: The overall plot was interesting from a character angle, but not terribly interesting from a sci-fi one. We get a vague "dark matter" phenomenon, an alien that may or may not be hostile (we never really learn) and then an escape. I was underwhelmed.

Kevin: Yeah. The actual plot just kind of laid there. I think the lack of focus really hurts the overall goal. I wasn't actually left with the impression that the crew really learned something. They experienced something, but I didn't get the connective tissue to Janeway's goal of growing. To compare "Hollow Pursuits," the plot was this and full of MacGuffins, but it had clarity. Barclay folded even under normal pressures. The plot, as contrived as it was, presented a clear extraordinary pressure that Barclay eventually stepped up to. That kind of focus is definitely lacking here.



Acting

Matthew: Viewers of a certain age may recognize Mortimer Harren actor Jay Underwood from his Disney Channel days as "Chip" in "Not Quite Human." He literally played Data in the 20th century. Here he is quite different, and gives Harren a dark edge that covers vulnerability. I liked the performance, even as I disliked the character. That's the mark of a good actor. The other two guest stars were adequate.

Kevin: To go in the other temporal direction, I see him as a proto-Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. In any case, I agree he plays the part he was asked to play well, and I like that he didn't end by revealing that he secretly wanted a friend. He's a bit of a misanthrope with no real motivation or need to change as far as he was concerned, and that came through. I wish Celes had ended up with a bit more to do, because I think she would have been capable.

Matthew: How many ways can we praise Kate Mulgrew? I totally believed that she wanted to nurture her lost sheep, draw them out, get them to participate, turn them into their best selves -- just as much as I was able to believe she could be convinced to strangle them at times. I would like a commanding officer like Captain Janeway.  

Kevin: She definitely anchored the two act play going on in the Delta Flyer, no two ways about it.

Production Values

Matthew: The Delta Flyer set is a good one, and it's clear why they built it. It's more interesting than the runabout and it creates interesting spaces for drama. The creature effects were OK. The asteroid field.... well, I guess that's what "dark matter" is supposed to look like. For me, it looked cheap. 

Kevin: I thought some of the space scapes were pretty solid, but overall, yeah, nothing to write home about. I slightly disagree on the Flyer. I get that it has levels and depth and all that, but it always looked a little too much like a space designed for actors and camera work rather than an actual shuttle craft. I don't dislike it, but also found it, particularly the 'manual controls' a tad over-designed.

Conclusion

Matthew: I think this is a reasonably solid character story, and a nice showcase for Captain Janeway's leadership style. But "Lower Decks" it ain't. It didn't develeop the young characters quite as well, and the "B story" was not nearly as compelling. Still, I think this is in the mushy middle of episodes, for a 3.


Kevin: I agree this gets into a three, though maybe not by much. I like the idea of the story a lot, but the execution is just a little flat in how it all comes together. Still, I don't think it trips into 'bad' by any stretch, just not 'great' either. So that's a total of 6.

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