Friday, December 29, 2017

Voyager, Season 5: Gravity, Season 5
Airdate: February 3, 1999
104 of 168 produced
106 of 168 aired


When Tuvok, Tom, and the Doctor are stranded on a desert planet, they need the help of someone who has survived there for far longer.

 Just admit it, pointy! You ate the last of the Ding-Dongs!


Matthew: The planet-side scenes in this episode represent a "change of pace." We get a long term survival story with a time differential angle - Tom, the Doctor, and Tuvok are living more time down below than Voyager out in space. I wish they had pushed this angle a bit more, here it seems to be used mainly as a device to teach Noss English and let her develop a thing for Tuvok (and him in reverse). I would have liked some more time differential sci-fi, emotional impacts on the characters, and the like. Either way, I enjoyed the various scenes of them getting to know each other, and their fights with the other stranded victims. I think the relationship between Noss and Tuvok needed maybe one more scene for it to really feel like it worked.

Kevin: I liked the story a lot, and given the time in the story and the episode, it gets the space to breathe. Our normal complaint with any of these love stories is that they happen too quickly to be credible. Here, even if you accept it as a form of infatuation born out of the intensity of their situation, it still makes a modicum of sense. I also like Paris here. His defense of emotions and his argument that he has some obligation to Noss' well-being even if he doesn't return her feelings was interesting. Second maybe only to Janeway, who would have a different perspective based on their own intimate relationship, Paris was actually the best choice for foil here. I agree that they could have pushed things even further and reaped the benefits, but as it stands, this is a novel take on the stranded story. If nothing else, I was a little wistful that Noss didn't stick around and really stir the pot for a few episodes. That said, I found the mind meld at the end surprisingly moving. I've clocked Voyager for going to that well a few too many times, but here it felt earned. It was a conscious acknowledgment of intimacy of intimacy on Tuvok's part, and a deft way for the show to express the inexpressible.

Matthew: Tuvok's flashback story is pretty decent. It dovetails with Tuvok's relationship with Noss, and gives some insight into Tuvok's rebellious teen-aged years.I liked his interplay with the Vulcan Master quite a bit. The questions it asked of Vulcan culture were worthwhile. Why would they be born with emotions if they were supposed to deny them? What happens to children who reject the limits the prevailing philosophy places on them? I liked how the master catalogued young Tuvok's emotions. They eventually arrive at a pretty good demonstration of the benefits of Vulcan-style stoicism.

Kevin: I always like anything that paints a more three dimensional picture of Vulcan philosophy. I enjoy their stoicism much more as a journey than a destination. I always wanted them to dig in a little more an explicitly clarify that Vulcan emotions are more intense or volatile than other humanoid emotions, but as it stands, this episode definitely makes the case for Vulcan stoicism rather than setting it up as shortsighted or the butt of a joke.

Matthew: The Voyager-side story was fine. It only shows up a full half way into the episode. The basic tension of the other race wanting to close the anomaly was pretty solid, and I basically enjoyed the crew trying to rescue their comrades. Was it mind-expanding, scintillating Trek? Nah. But it was perfectly adequate and did not feature anything stupid.

Kevin: I kind of wish they had got all in and not had any scenes on Voyager until the very end. It would have been a fun inversion of the "bottle show." As it is, it was perfectly serviceable, though the fastidious bureaucrat creating the artificial time constraint was a little predictable. Had they stayed on the planet entirely, it would have heightened the sense of separation and made the reveal of the time de-synchronization more of a fun twist.


Matthew: So, Special Guest Star Lori Petty was pretty good. I thought her voice was kind of squeaky, not in a good way, when she delivered her lines. But her face and eyes were certainly interesting and expressive. I totally bought her feeling jilted by Tuvok. Speaking of which, Tim Russ got to be badass as well as sensitive here. He really nails the physical acting of fighting with the bad guys, and his tentative introduction to Noss was really nice, too.

Kevin: I liked Petty a lot. She plays hurt (but also angry) really well. It's such a weird character to have to tap into. It lacks even the normal touchstones of a guest character on Star Trek. She manages it nicely. Another ten minutes would have really sold the romantic angle, but as it stands, I think she really did a good job with a really difficult assignment. Both she and Russ nailed the final scene in the transporter room.

Matthew: Robert Duncan McNeill got to be an interesting foil to Tuvok, trying and failing to offer advice designed to spare Noss' feelings. Robert Picardo does what he has done so well, so many times, seeming put upon and mildly offended.

Kevin: McNeill kept the right lid on his bravado this time around. There was a maturity in the way he responded to the situation and when he confronted Tuvok. It really worked for me.

The late great Joseph Ruskin, who also played Galt in "The Gamesters of Triskellion," was positively wonderful as the Vulcan master.What a voice! What a face! And to think, he was doing it in both the sixties and the nineties. He really made the scenes set on Vulcan work.

Kevin: I love Ruskin. He has one of those voices that screams gravitas. I found LeRoy D. Brazile as young Tuvok somewhat annoying and over the top, but I suppose I find most teenagers annoying and over the top, so well done there.

Production Values

Matthew: The location shoot was the same spot used as Tyree in DS9's "Shadows and Symbols." It was augmented by some nice camera filters which made it look even hotter and more arid, and some digital mattes in which wrecked ships were superimposed on the sand. All in all it lent a nicely different feel to the episode. Speaking of feel, the early part of the show was pretty sparse with dialogue, and relied on some really nice music cues to telegraph the drama.

Kevin: They did a good job of using the outdoor sets, and having a different ship as opposed to a cave was a nice choice. Overall, the austerity really enhanced the story.

Matthew: As far as visual effects go, we got CGI spider creatures, which I have to say looked pretty nice. They really seemed to be on set with the actors. In space, the subspace sinkhole looked nice, and we got a killer Okudagram in Astrometrics that showed its shape.

Kevin: Yeah, the spiders were well done enough to trigger my mild arachnophobia. I guess you'd just have to tell yourself they're crabs to eat them. This wasn't a showcase for the effects people, but it was still a great effort that supported the story and never distracted from it.


Matthew: The only real knock I have on this episode is the somewhat slow pacing in the middle third. Watching this one while tired is not ideal. But, that said, the character drama works, and the look and feel is good. I think it's a 4. Some sharper sci-fi would have elevated it further.

Kevin: I agree with the 4 for a total of 8. The personal drama and character development was spot on. In a way, it's almost ballsy they kept it as low key as they did. A lesser show would have made Tuvok reciprocate and try to mine drama from a love triangle. As it is, this was an interesting, low-key story that showed off the acting chops of both main and guest stars.

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