Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Voyager Season 4: One, Season 4
Airdate: May 13, 1998
93 of 168 produced
93 of 168 aired


A deadly radiation field spanning many light years puts the crew in a bind - spend a year going around or one month in hibernation going through? Seven of Nine must serve as the lone watchman when the crew decides to push through.

Harry and Tommy get ready for their sleepover.


Matthew: There's an old saw about writing that goes something like "characters should drive stories, not plots." What I take this to mean is not that plots don't matter, and we shouldn't just focus on who has a crush on whom, but that the characters and their attributes should set the direction of the tale instead of just being buffeted by the winds of fate. If you have an aggressive character, they will respond differently to an event than a meek one. I think I agree, and I think it's why "One" works. The event, cosmic radiation necessitating hibernation of the crew and radical isolation of a few exceptions, would play out totally different if a different character had been spotlighted. B'Elanna or Neelix would have been obvious choices due to alien physiology, or even just the Doctor. But choosing Seven of Nine allows the writers to investigate how she is adapting to her removal from the collective and her navigation of "alien" social mores. I think the emotional territory is covered effectively by the script. Her dreams and visions showed us her inner emotional life, and I also like how the "villain" is really an effect of radical isolation, and how he narrates the breakdowns on the ship.

Kevin: I agree they did a good job anchoring the story in the character as well. Even the fairly obvious reveal that Trajis was a hallucination doesn't feel like cheating, since its mere existence is important to analyzing Seven's reaction and the character actually seems to change a little after the experience. The scene in the Mess Hall was a nice touch at the end. It was played just lightly enough to feel authentic. I also liked the choice of leaving the Doctor on, at least to start. They had pitched their growing irritation with each other to crest just as he goes offline, so it's fun to watch her shift from "Ugh I don't want to see you anymore," to "Oh shit, you're really gone," and that helped add to the tension.

Matthew: Even if the plot did not center on Seven of Nine and her challenges, I think it would essentially work. There are two sources of tension - isolation and technological breakdown. Both are interesting, common fears that the viewer can identify with. It's annoying when a piece of technology breaking down drives a science fiction plot - why did you create that technology in-story, anyway? But the overall untrustworthiness of technology, or our reliance on it, is interesting. Isolation is a common fear, and many people prefer never to be alone. It would be nearly as interesting if B'Elanna could weather the radiation, or Tuvok, or Neelix. So the story just works on a basic level.

Kevin: I agree that it's a good twist on the failing tech/obstacle in space story. It works because the impact is not merely the one on their journey. If they were all awake and making a bunch of tense technobabble adjustments it would not be nearly as interesting. And I agree seeing the others react to extreme isolation would have been fun, but to me this feels like a story tailored to Seven. Other than Naomi Wildman, I can't imagine a character more innately vulnerable to this kind of isolation.

Matthew: Just because the story works doesn't mean there aren't nit picks - why does the radiation affect the ship so severely, but not the stasis units? Does no one else object or prefer the year around the nebula? They should have gone further into claustrophobia or hypnophobia/somniphobia. They hinted at it with Paris but it might have been a nice B story. Speaking of which, why wasn't Tom fried right when he got out of the stasis pod? Did Seven find him right away? Can't the pods be locked?

Kevin: The Tom stuff felt like their attempt at comic relief but it really falls flat. I understand claustrophobia, but the stasis-sleepwalking is weird and the humor falls flat. I also agree the radiation has an extremely specific nature tailored to produce just the story we got. It's not unforgivable since the story works, but it still nags.


Matthew: Well obviously this is a Seven episode, and Jeri Ryan turns in a nicely understated performance. She seems really annoyed and stressed out, which makes total sense for the effects of isolation on a person. Her rapport with Robert Picardo pays dividends again, to. He really needles her well, and her ripostes are amusing.

Kevin: As much as I will come to criticize an over-reliance on Seven/Doctor sparring, it's not hard to see why they go to the well so often. They have excellent chemistry and timing, like on the level of a Tracy/Hepburn movie. (There's the holodeck program I'd love to see...) I like that even the Doctor felt the affects of the isolation. It made both their testiness credible.

Matthew: The other interaction that seemed to make the most impact here was Janeway and Chakotay. Chakotay questions her play, and Janeway must explain her gut feeling that Seven can handle things. I wish we had more scenes like this, so that this one wouldn't stick out so much. The actors played it well.

Kevin: I liked the scene at the end a lot. Everyone played it very nicely and understated. And it displayed without having to be too expository the way the experience has changed Seven's relationship to the crew. She acknowledges a need for them, and they acknowledge her growing role in the crew, and it's nice to see.

Production Values

Matthew: Yet again, we get a really nice 3-D astrometric diagram of the nebula. What a great set and what a nice bevy of diagrams we've been getting! Speaking of sets, we've always enjoyed episodes that show deserted sets for effect, and it's done quite well here.The lighting is subdued but not mushy or boring.

Kevin: They've really found a way to insert the diagrams without the usually muddying of the whole frame and makes everything look lovely.

Matthew: We get some nice stasis units, with a neat digital matte of an apparently cavernous bay in the ship (just where is this room, anyway?) On the other hand, it was not a great-looking effect during Seven's dream, she definitely did not seem to be in the arctic realm, and the lighting and shadows just didn't work.

Kevin: I liked the makeup on Trajis. Something about it felt menacing and a notch above the standard Westmore head. I think it's the cheek details that make him look vaguely skeletal.


Matthew: I think this is a 3. I enjoyed it while it was on the screen, but it doesn't do anything particularly ambitious that makes it live in my mind after its finished. A deeper investigation of isolation psychology or claustrophobia probably would have made this a better episode.

Kevin: I agree with the 3 as well. It's a solid character story and a great job by the lead actress. If they had managed some deeper point about solitary confinement or some profound revelation about the exact nature of the person Seven is given that she was raised by then separated from the Collective as opposed to, say, Picard, who was assimilated as an established adult, that could have upped it to a four. As it stands, this is a total of 6.


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  2. Great job, as usual! Just one more nit to pick (unless you guys mentioned it in the podcast, which I can't listen to here at work, lol!): why does Star Trek (since after TNG's "The Last Outpost" anyways) always write that as soon as there's a life support failure, the crew begins to instantly asphyxiate? I mean, does the air circulation system go into negative mode and start pumping the air out of all compartments? I mean, when Seven diverted power, there was hours of breathable air for her, yet she passes out. Just something that always bugs me.

    1. Great observation. I always disliked how fast everyone was going to freeze to death after the ship shut off in Last Outpost. Did they not include any insulation in the hull? And yeah, Apollo 13 was like a tin bathtub for 3 people, and it lasted way longer that the city-sized Enterprise (or small-town sized Voyager) seems to.