Sunday, May 24, 2020

Voyager, Season 7: Imperfection, Season 7
Airdate: October 11, 2000
146 of 168 produced
146 of 168 aired


Seven suffers a life threatening malfunction and the crew rallies together to save her.

Hey look, it's a scene from a show I like to call "Good people doing rational things that are in character."


Kevin: Given that we just off a Borg episode, you'd think my first critique would be that it's going to the well too soon, but I think this one definitely clears the hurdle of justifying its own existence. It adds some specificity in the shape of the cortical node, but it's pretty well established that Seven remains dependent on some Borg technology in her body, so I don't feel like this is some watering down of the Borg. More importantly, the entire story hinges on the relationship between Seven and Icheb, and that kind of focused character work is always going to be more interesting than a more action focused story for me. Even the teaser of saying goodbye to the other Borg works since it frames the episode around Seven's growth and relationships. Sure, it's a little convenient they found a way to get rid of all the young kids at once (whatever happened to that baby, btw) but again, since it was in service of a first rate character story, it works.

Matthew: One thing I quite like about this episode is how it does not feel like a "Season 7" show. There's a certain quality that late season shows seem to take on in modern Trek, in which things feel like they're being "wrapped up" or are being done as a "change of pace." This story feels tight and fresh, comparatively.  I would have liked a bit more exploration of what it means to have a node vs. being an intact human, brain plasticity, and so on. There is a lot of good character work, as you say, so it isn't bad. It just feels a little light in the sci-fi realm in a way that, say, DS9's "Life Support" did. Some of the technobabble twists and turns felt a little convenient, like not being able to use a dead drone node, or the holodeck simulation being accurate and disposative, or the computer only being able to maintain her "cortical functions" for a set time limit.

Kevin: The stakes and reactions were very well calibrated here. Seven's resistance to acknowledging what is going on, Janeway low-key contemplating murder, and Icheb acting with rash disregard for his own well being feel like the natural endpoint of the increasingly likely possibility of Seven's death. Much like the outsiders that precede her in the franchise, she may have trouble with feelings, but she certainly inspires those feelings in others. Anchoring the episode on Icheb's sacrifice rather than a beat the clock to saving Seven's life really helps the episode. The backbone of the story is Seven's relationships with Janeway, the Doctor, and most importantly Icheb.

Matthew:  I thought everybody acted in character and was written well. Seven of Nine's resistance to relying on her crew mates, and her general anger with a terminal diagnosis, was pitched well. I even liked Neelix trying to goad Seven of Nine into a Kadis-Kot match.


Kevin: Jeri Ryan sold the fuck out of this episode, no two ways about it. Particularly when she begins to accept the inevitable, she was just amazing. Her scenes with Intiraymi work like gangbusters, and he did series best work here as well. The tearing up at the end could easily have gone maudlin, but it was extremely effective.

Matthew: Yeah, this was a really solid set of performances all around. Manu Intiraymi was already doing good work as Icheb but this performance really endeared Icheb to a lot of fans, I think (oh yes, we'll get to it). Kate Mulgrew was typically excellent, and was able to act through whatever personal beef she had with Jeri Ryan.

Production Values

Kevin: I'm going to assume they just use the Borg sets because they paid for them, damn it. Beyond that, this was a bottle episode, taking place largely in astrometrics and Sickbay. It has the quality of a one act play, and it serves the episode. The Okudagram of the casualty was a nice touch and one of those deep dives that fans eat up.

Matthew: Strobes piss me off. As far as the effects with the node and Seven's "symptoms," they were.... fine, I guess. For the late nineties. It was obvious they were rudimentary CGI composited onto the shot film. The node is huge, and looks like it displaces a good quarter of the brain's tissue! This is what I wanted more exploration of what this means for a person's "humanity."


Kevin: This is between a 4 and a 5, and on the strength of the acting an character work, I think this makes it to 5. I normally ding an episode for not having a broader point to discuss or some bigger question answered, but the intimacy of the story really serves the episode. The set up is a science fiction one, but the core of the story is a quiet exploration of a friendship facing the very human experience of loss. I've resisted to this point, but it's thinking about this episode that makes Icheb's appearance in Picard so galling. This is an orbit better story, and despite also being focused on a character dying, is a billion times for effective. Seven and Icheb's relationship, and Icheb himself deserved better. In an alternate world where Icheb doesn't survive the operation would have still felt like a better, more earned end. But, let's not dwell on that. This is a lovely episode, focused on great character work, and a real showcase for its actors.

Matthew: Yeah, I'm going to dwell.  Icheb is a really good character, and he deserved better. Hell, he deserved to die in this episode, as opposed to being fridged/mutilated for external character motivation in Picard. This episode is a perfect specimen of what Kurtzman Trek is utterly incapable of doing - making us feel anything at all for the characters on screen. Voyager has been able, in the space of a mere 5 appearances, to give Icheb a complete and recognizable inner life, to make us root for him, and to make us worried that he would not be able to achieve his personal goals or to survive. Can you point to, or possibly even imagine, Discovery or Picard doing the same? I can't. The closest either show has come is with Saru, and honestly he could get sucked out an airlock or replaced with a mirror villain, and I wouldn't bat an eyelash. Icheb's ignominious death rankles us so much because a character that we actually care about was used as prop in a cheap stunt to fulfill the sort of "drama" and "stakes" that talentless hacks like Kurtzman and Goldsman engage in, and yes, I will now add Beyer and Chabon to that shit-list. Their characters are disposable, almost by design. Icheb was not, and neither was Hugh, or Maddox, for that matter.

Annnnnyway.... I think this is a 4. I wanted a greater exploration of philosophical and sci-fi concepts. I agree that the emotional story is rock solid. I just think there was room for more. That brings our total to a 9.

No comments:

Post a Comment