Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Voyager, Season 4: Prey, Season 4
Airdate: February 18, 1998
83 of 168 produced
83 of 168 aired


Voyager finds a critically injured Hirogen who they take aboard in the hopes of mending a few fences. He is hunting an old foe...a Species 8472.

Honey, I don't think the Orkin Man is going to be able to handle this one...


Kevin: So, given the way they titled this episode and the last one, it's clear these are being offered as something related but shy of a two parter. The problem for me is that I think this episode inherits its predecessor's problems as well. Like last week, the Hirogen are the antagonist, but still not the focus of the episode. Fortunately, this episode also spends the majority of its time working on the characters and relationships of the crew. Last week, it was a pastiche of various crews' reactions to the letters. Here, the episode really puts the relationship between Seven and Janeway through its paces. It's a good choice, and it pays some real dramatic dividends. It helps that Seven has a pretty legitimate point, probably right up to the point where she beams the Hirogen and 8472 off the ship. After that, it's just rank insubordination and consigning a sentient being to a gruesome death. Still, even then it makes sense for the character. She's acting in what she thinks as the ship's best interests, even if her methods are not what Janeway would agree with. This is also the first time that Seven has pointed out an apparent contradiction in Janeway's instructions to be more of an individual but also function inside a command structure. I think they will eventually have this conversation way too many times, but for the first time, it's a good, tense scene.

Matthew: Not only does this put Janeway and Seven more squarely at odds, but this episode also introduces the Doctor/Seven dyad that we;ll get a lot of in coming seasons. I agree that the pairings work, and the argument really enlivens the episode. I wish that they had shown more destruction on the part of 8472, but I guess they felt that they had already been there in the season cliffhanger, and focused more on the Hirogen. Overall, including 8472 as a tension builder was still effective, inasmuch as the crew was tense because of it. I was engaged and interested in the plot from beginning to end.

Kevin: I also want to give this episode a shout-out for not chickening out in the end. Seven disobeyed an order and did a pretty shitty thing by human standards. The plot required more than a simple heart to heart in the cargo bay, and we got it. I don't think they take it to the extremes they could later, but you definitely leave this episode with the sense that the status quo has changed, and that's always going to catch my attention.

Matthew: I think the scene worked in a vacuum, but even after watching this episode, I remember thinking this wouldn't stick. It's not that Voyager has shied away too much from drastic character consequences (e.g. Suder, Seska), but Seven of Nine was just too obviously central to the show by this point. I don't know what could have remedied this within the confines of this episode, perhaps kicking her out of the cargo bay and making her share quarters? Throwing her in the brig? I think they should have "Lower Decked" her for a good many episodes to show that it was real. But I remember feeling, and experience bore this out, that she'd be back bantering with the bridge crew in no time.

Kevin: So the problem for me remains that in three episodes, the Hirogen have ostensibly been the main plot of two and a quarter of them, and we don't really know anything more about them or have a real reason to care about them, even enough to feel like they are a credible villain. Beyond some few biographical sketches, we don't really learn anything more about the Hirogen. They just seem like monocular jerks. For nomadic wolves, there were a bunch of them around on short notice, and I don't understand why they all high tailed it when they got the 8472 back. Why wouldn't they just also hunt Voyager? Like I said in the last episode review, there's no wrinkle to their hunting culture. Even if they tried to underpin the Alpha's focus as trying to avoid some catastrophic social consequence could have layered them a little.

Matthew: Later episodes will give us a little better look at the Hirogen as a people. But here, as you say, there isn't much to go on. There seems to be an obvious alpha/beta dynamic between the two hunters, and the alpha really wants to "finish the kill." Chakotay mentions data that show a ritualistic, nomadic hunting culture. Why? How? Where? Whom? This was a pretty classic "tell, don't show" moment, and it detracted from the story here.


Kevin: Jeri Ryan really knocks it out of the park. She had a lot of ground to cover in the various scenes and she managed to convey everything behind her veneer of control. I really bought how she subjectively believed she was doing the right thing, and it helped sell the story. All her scenes with Mulgrew really sing as well, and it should not be a surprise at this point that Mulgrew also nailed it. When she calmly declares that Seven has "crossed a line" you can really feel the temperature of the room change.

Matthew: If we're giving writers and show runners the benefit of the doubt, it's clear why they kept going back to the "when you liberated me from the collective" well - Jeri Ryan is fabulous at it. She has this perfect air of superiority that tells the viewer that she believes she's right, but infuses it with just he right amount of self-doubt. So basically, she's Janeway's teen-aged daughter. And Kate Mulgrew plays a heck of a stern mommy, too. So yeah, the key character conflict here worked in spades. Robert Picardo showed a nice comic touch with Jeri Ryan, too.

Kevin: I do love Tony Todd who by turns over his career has alternately terrified and charmed me. But he is sadly wasted here. The make up is so heavy that he can't act through it, and this is a guy who can act through the Klingon forehead like it's nothing. He doesn't have much of a motivation beyond the one he keeps stating over and over, so there wasn't a lot to go off of. Still, he has a killer voice. Second only to the dearly departed Majel Barret, I would love to have him be my GPS voice.

Matthew: In some ways, I like Tony Todd better here than as Kurn - forcing him to restrain himself boosts the menace in his line delivery. But you're right, the makeup is very restricting, and Todd is underutilized. He can totally carry off the sorts of lines that the story is missing - an explanation or defense of the Hirogen lifestyle.

Production Values

Kevin: The external shot of the 8472 on the outside of the ship was really well done. It was good CGI and the arc of the shot was really well done. Like "One Little Ship," the tight and unexpected view on the ship provides some variety and interest. The CGI on the 8472 is a little better, though aided by the fact he's always depicted in gloomy light.

Matthew: Yeah, either they've learned a fair amount since the season premiere, or they have new people working on it, because Species 8472 looks better in at least half the shots, especially the facial close-up. The ship exterior was the highlight of the show - I was disappointed that they donned environmental suits and didn't do an EVA on the ship exterior - even though I of course know why they didn't in the real world.

Kevin: A few of the scare notes succeeded, a few didn't. It might be more acting and camera work, but when B'Elanna looks up to see the 8472 on the warp core, it was really well done. The scene when Paris picks up the helmet to find the head didn't come off for me. A humanoid head weighs a fair amount. (I have a completely non-terrifying reason for knowing that.) It would have been obvious when he tried to pick it up it had a head in there... so the shock didn't work for me.

Matthew: Maybe it's a really heavy helmet? I thought there were some nice touches throughout the show. The Jeffries tube leading out to space was good (those force fields come in really handy!). The loss of gravity, where Tuvok begins to float, added to the verisimilitude of the scene. The use of the environment suits is always welcome, but I renew my objection to the grille holes on the front not being evenly spaced.


Kevin: For much the same reasons as Hunters, I am going with a 3. The hunt plot just doesn't have the layers to give the Hirogen the depth they need to be interesting. They're not the early Ferengi or the Kazon, but they continue to feel like a missed opportunity. On the other hand, some stellar acting and character work on the main cast keep this one interesting enough, so it balances again to the average.

Matthew: I think this one is pushing on the edges of a 4 because of some good conflict and some taut pacing. But in the end I think you're right that the lack of development on either the Hirogen or Species 8472 kind of keeps things down a tad. We'll get better outings for both races soon enough - just not here. That makes a total of 6.

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