Friday, March 5, 2021

Voyager, Season 7: Workforce, Part II

 Voyager, Season 7
"Workforce, Part II"
Airdate: February 28, 2001
160 of 168 produced
160 of 168 aired

Introduction

Chakotay and Neelix beam down to the planet in an attempt to liberate Captain Janeway. But does she wish to be liberated?

Nothing beats Janeway Cooking Jokes. Nothing.


Writing

Kevin: Do I think this episode is less successful than the first part? Maybe a little, but it's more from a place of resolving a story is always a little more work and a little less flashy than setting up the story. Overall, I would say they do a good job of keeping the episodes pretty consistent. In the plus column, it is nice to watch the crew work together to solve problems. Whatever problems it raises about the metaphysics of it all, it is nice to see Janeway help Chakotay or Tom help B'Elanna. The episode mines the best relationships of the show quite well.

Matthew: I agree that this is probably slightly less fertile than the setup, because that portion of the story had the fun of seeing our characters in new situations and trying to suss out the details of the world. But I think there are a great many pleasures to be found. This is a classic "This Side of Paradise" dilemma episode, and nicely, the crew doesn't just decide to snap out of it. If they hadn't been rescued, they would have lived out their lives happily. This episode changes pace to become more of a detective/police procedural story, which gives the Voyager crew, Seven in particular, interesting things to do as well. Her character really fits this tone well, because she is very much the "straight man" in a police show. If anything, making Yerid more of the comedic policeman in the duo might have created an interesting tension. Anyway, the mystery they unravel is mostly pretty interesting. I liked the undertones of paranoia in a Doctor hiding his crimes under the guise of a psychiatric treatment. I also quite enjoyed the emotions at play with B'Elanna, her recovery (in which Neelix gets a very nice role) and her reunion with Tom.

Kevin: In the (relative) minus column, I think there are still a few too many subplots. Seven looking for answers and Tuvok looking for answers and B'Elanna getting reintroduced to Voyager and... It's not that any of them are bad, but I do think they crowd each other out a little. The obvious comparison for this episode is TNG's Conundrum, and I think that episode did balance it a little better. The actual war and MacDuff's machinations were fairly secondary and the episode spent the bulk of its time watching the characters personalities bounce off each other in ways that were authentic to their personalities, but not encumbered by the baggage of their actual relationship. So watching Tom and B'Elanna cautiously get to know each other or seeing Janeway play out an avatar of her relationship with Mark really works, where the investigation stuff just wasn't as compelling.

Matthew: I liked how Janeway was swayed by Jaffen's argument. We might expect her to just be convinced by Chakotay's argument, but Jaffen's emotional appeal and Jenway's betrayal of Chakotay really works, and makes her ultimate dilemma more keenly felt. For me the criticism of this episode lies in the action elements. The need for a pirate ship and crew to locate and kidnap other ship crews drew me out of things. That seems like an arrangement with loads of failure points. How powerful is this ship if they can overtake Voyager? Surely they can't be successful 100% of the time. None of them are prone to spilling the beans while frequenting pirate drinking haunts? Anyway, I found the various "clever" means by which Voyager escaped the pirates to strain credulity. What do all the other people on the ship do, anyway, if the Doctor can run the ship alone with the computer?

Acting

Kevin: Much like last episode, everyone does a great job. Mulgrew and Dawson in particular really get a chance to shine. It's nice to see B'Elanna without her guard up in quite the same way, and like we said last time, getting to see an at ease, professionally and personally satisfied Janeway is quite lovely.

Matthew: Kate Mulgrew played the role like someone who was trying their best to stay in a dream even as they knew they would be waking up. Robert Beltran even got some good scenes in here, both the action stuff on the catwalks and his entreaties to Janeway.

Kevin: In the guest column, Read does another very good job with Jaffen. He kept the character grounded. It's not some love for the ages, it's something much more realistic, and so when it ends, actually feels a little sadder. This isn't some whirlwind that would burn itself out anyway, this was something real, and Read did a good job inhabiting it. Don Most as Kadan hit the closest to a bum note. It's more the writing, but he veered closest to cartoonish supervillainy.

Matthew: Yeah, I would have liked a bit more in the script for Kadan to justify his position and tactics. There was a bit with his argument about the public good of full employment, but it should have been made more personal for him. Which is a long way of saying I don't really blame the actor. Speaking of the guest cast, I thought Robert Joy brought a really nice energy to the Investigator Yerid.

Production Values

Kevin: My comments from last week stand pretty much unaltered. They made good use of their outdoor sets where they could, and the CGI was perfectly fine for its day.

Matthew: I think the company housing was well done. It really did feel like a nondescript housing block that people try their best to personalize, but ultimately fail. The hospital set was also a good "bright, bland, corporate" room that contrasted nicely with the villainy that was afoot.

Conclusion:

Kevin: I'm going with a 3 for this one. Everything here is fine, it just never rises above that for me. There's one too many plot threads that diffuse the focus a little too much. As I said in the podcast, there was so much work, good work, on display here, that I should like it more, but I don't. I think a narrower focus on the character elements over the mystery might have made it land with a little more punch. That said, this is still a solid, enjoyable episode.

Matthew: I'm still on a 4, because I bought everyone's emotional journey, and I liked CSI:Seven of Nine. If they had put a sharper point on the ethical dilemmas (truth vs happiness for the crew; full employment vs kidnapping for the planet) things could have been elevated further. But it's solidly entertaining and always a 2-parter I look forward to. That brings our total to a 7.

Podcast

3 comments:

  1. It's pretty amazing that Voyager was able to churn out decidedly above average episodes on a recurring basis this late in the show's lifetime. It says a lot about the thought going into the characters and their relationships from the start, as well as how well they have been handled up to this point. The best-written episodes build on from this solid, well-placed foundation, and it allows everyone to do their stuff at levels close to their maximum potential.

    Thanks, guys.

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    1. I think your comment gets at what really makes Voyager work. You can ding the stories for revisiting old concepts (sure, some times) or for not going far enough (definitely a recurring issue) but the 3-dimensional characters, who grew from the beginning of the series and always felt consistent really make it a joy to watch.

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