Monday, May 17, 2021

Voyager, Season 7: Friendship One

 Voyager, Season 7
"Friendship One"
Airdate: April 25, 2001
163 of 168 produced
164 of 168 aired


Introduction

A probe sent out by pre-Federation Earthlings turns out to have caused devastation on a Delta Quadrant world. The crew of Voyager must decide how much they're willing to sacrifice in order to clean up that mess.


Ats-a nice-a ship-a design. Mwah!

 


Writing

Kevin: In the plus column, this is a very Star Trek story in several ways. Parable about unintended consequences? Check. Layered, sympathetic villains? Check. Advocating for a diplomatic solution past the point where you would reasonably expect someone to? Oh yeah. I do think if anything, it's slightly too neat a parable. I certainly get that the introduction of technology of unimaginable destructive power would threaten even the society that slowly developed it, let alone one that had it fall into their laps, but the people (who it turns out aren't ever named in the episode) seemed a little too innocent and their ills a little too exclusively caused by the probe. My other problem is that for being tens of thousands of light years from home, this is like the tenth time they have encountered something from the Alpha Quadrant. I'm not overly annoyed at too neat setups, since drama wouldn't happen without them, it's just that it's a well they've returned to a few times now.

Matthew: Yeah, I definitely agree with all of the "stereotypical" (in a good way) Star Trek attributes that are present here. Can you imagine a story like this being told today on any show but The Orville? I think there should also be some recognition of the dilemma aspect, which works to create at least a little bit of question - why shouldn't the crew of the Voyager spend 3 years relocating people harmed by the people of Earth?  Personally, I thought they should have, and I disliked that a miraculous sciencey solution was dangled. The mechanism by which the planet was devastated was also a bit "meh" for me.

Kevin: The action itself proceeds well, if somewhat predictably. All the crew walks a good line of genuinely trying to help while also get themselves out of their predicament. The crew eventually figures out how to to leverage their technology and their morals to save the day. Tom's rapport with Brin was good and it was enough to justify her actions by the end of the episode. All the parts were there, thought I wasn't quite invested enough in them to find either their specific predicament or the Federation's unintentional role in creating it particularly compelling.

Matthew: The baby subplot was fairly good. It gave Tom Paris a nice chance to show his paternal side, and it added a nice post-apocalyptic air to the proceedings, reminiscent of 1980s nuclear war dystopian films. Even Neelix's homily about trusting the humans' intentions was pretty good.

Kevin: My major beef with the episode is the somewhat gratuitous killing of Joe Carey. According to Memory Alpha, Michael Taylor and Bryan Fuller asked Kenneth Biller for permission to kill a recurring character, contemplating Vorik and Samantha Wildman before landing on Carey, and therein lies the problem. His death was simply checking a box. Because the show is coming to an end, there's some license, if not outright expectation, that you can do stuff like kill a familiar character on the way out the door. And the fact that we haven't seen him in ages only highlights that it's coming and makes it feel all the more arbitrary. Even the ending in his quarters in which we learn about a hobby for the first time felt paint-by-numbers in terms of emotional manipulation.

Matthew: I agree on the manipulation, and am uncomfortably reminded of post-2009 Star Trek in that respect. But even more than that, what bugged me about this storytelling choice is that it made the antagonist villainous. The best Trek antagonists are ones we can identify with and even agree with to some degree. Someone like, say, Finn in "The High Ground." We are only really challenged to reevaluate our own positions if we are faced with someone who does the challenging in a semi-reasonable way. Verin crosses the line into irrational villainy, and the only thing to hang our sympathy hat on is "well, I guess I might go crazy too given the circumstances." But the fact that many other people have not done so does little to rescue his character.

Acting

Kevin: Here, I have no complaints. The set up is a tad creaky, but the performances were pretty polished across the board. The main cast did their usual good job, and the guest cast was good as well. Bari Hochwald's Brin had a weary humor that made her scenes with Tom work. Verin was the closest to cartoonish, but I think it had enough notes of a person driven to the edge by circumstance rather than enjoying cruelty for its own sake.

Matthew: I think Ken Land's Verin was on the other side of the line, comeing off as too villainous. He was, of course, let down by the script - but the actor didn't pull it back for me. I totally agree that Hockwald and McNeill made those Brin/Tom Paris scenes really work.

Production Values

Kevin: The teaser with the probe was really good, to the point that I'd rather have seen that society grapple with the probe when it landed rather than the bombed out society we spent time with. The probe itself was really nicely done, too. The nuclear winter scenes were well done with the usual caveats for 90s CGI. The cave scenes were not revolutionary, but were well done too.

Matthew: I wish the episode we had gotten was one in which the existence of alien life disrupted the society ideologically, instead of with a technological disaster. Anyway, yes, the probe looked really nice, and it's what "Enterprise" should have looked like. I disliked the cave set/bunker that the aliens holed up in. It lacked visual interest and was too dark.

Conclusion

Kevin: This episode is fine. I am annoyed by the explicitly arbitrary decision to kill Joe Carey, and the set up is a little too neat. That said, the action itself proceeds well and the guest actors are all good. I'm not in love with this episode. But I can't really build an argument for a 2. This falls squarely into average territory and gets a firm, if not exactly rapturous 3.

Matthew: I'm with you on the 3 for a total of 6. It is a perfectly cromulent Star Trek story, with story elements straight out of a textbook for writing "real Star Trek." With that said, its deficiencies prevent it from going higher. The cheap death and the simplistic villainy keep this firmly in mediocre territory. Something about the pacing and set design in the middle act also really dragged.

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