Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Voyager, Season 5: The Fight

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlVoyager, Season 5
"The Fight"
Airdate: March 24, 1999
107 of 168 produced
111 of 168 aired


Um...there is some really heavy handed boxing imagery. The end.

Kevin's synopsis doesn't do this episode justice. There are plenty of meme-worthy screenshots of Chakotay screaming while other crew members are uncomfortably close to him.


Kevin: There are two episodes this puts me in mind of. First, is TNG's "Night Terrors," where we also have an alien race trying to help the ship escape through telepathy that causes harm to the recipient. Second, I am reminded of "Parallax," another story about an alien communicating with the ship with problematic consequences in the short term, but not much else in terms of story. Both of these reminders are unpleasant, since the "Eyes in the dark...one moon...circles" was the most boring part of an episode with some real thriller potential. "Parallax" was just not about anything. No character experienced anything of note nor were we presented with an interesting idea and the plot just kind of resolves itself. You can even hipcheck into a reminder of a MUCH better episode, "The Nth Degree," where an alien is trying to teach a crewmember something they are not equipped naturally to understand. That episode was good in no small part to the actual exploration of what it meant for the character his relationships. This is episode is a bunch of shouting, a bunch more shouting, some tedious boxing discussions...and that's it.

Matthew: I think this actually starts out reasonably well. Yes, chaotic space is a mushy concept which is not well developed here. But Chakotay's emotional story is pretty good initially, wanting to avoid the dementia that runs in his family. Communicating with an alien species has been done before, yes. Things kind of go off the rails once we get to about minute 27, when we're "in the vision." Some of the imagery was interesting (like the non square boxing ring), but Chakotay's motivation just became very hard to follow. Why were the crew members in his vision trying to stop him? He goes from wanting the fight to not wanting it, being afraid, being courageous - and it just gets to be too hard to follow.

Kevin: One of my least favorite lines in all of science fiction is "The laws of physics don't apply here." That's a stupid sentence. The whole point of a law of physics is that it applies everywhere. When we discovered that at the atomic scale, Newtonian physics did not account for our observations, it is not that the laws of physics don't apply; it was that our understand of them was incomplete or inaccurate. The reason this biff on science gets me more than others is that it raises flags in the most vibrant shades of red that lazy writing is coming. What even was chaotic space? Beyond a blur filter, what made it different than normal space. At least 8472's fluidic space was at least novel to think about.

Matthew: I agree, the topology of chaotic space was severely lacking in development. Why does it exist? What is its natural outcome? How can a species evolve and thrive there? Is it some sort of higher dimensionality? Who are these aliens? How can they determine whether a humanoid from our realm is receptive to their communication? A lot of questions, damned few answers.

Kevin: And...the boxing. I think it's some common thread of TV writers that they think boxing is a more interesting sport than it is, at least for metaphor purposes. "This character is fighting something metaphorically...I know! We'll portray a physical fight as an allegory!" Ugh. It will be boring in ten years on BSG and it was boring hear. I appreciate that there is a sufficient nexus of people who enjoy the sport for itself and I don't deny there is strategy or tactics beyond brute force involved, but I think literally any other activity could have produced a more interesting hour of television. And why the hell is Boothby here?

Matthew: I guess in addition to being gardener and counselor, he was also boxing coach. It was kind of a toss-in, and they didn't do much with Boothby as a character, which is a real shame given the age of the actor. Was the boxing metaphor chosen simply because Chakotay happened to be doing it when they entered the region, or was there some other thematic reason for it? Why does communication propagate itself as a vision of pugilism?


Kevin: Beltran is an actor that I would argue needs to feel some genuine connection to the material to pull it off. In episodes like Unforgettable, or scenes he has with B'Elanna that mine their relationship. He does not do so here. That said, I don't think Mulgrew, Picardo, and Ryan all acting in unison could have coaxed life out of this one. I just didn't particularly buy his 'craziness' or his fear about going crazy.

Matthew: I think he committed emotionally, but he leaned too much on "shouty" and the script didn't give him the dialogue to really show his character's evolution. He didn't want to "fight," and was afraid of going insane... until he wasn't. So I can't fault Beltran too much in this case.

Production Values

Kevin: This episode was one long, extended Prophet vision. Just interminable and mushy and boring. I really don't have anything else to add. They filmed a bottle episode and put in the world's worst Instagram filter.

Matthew: To be fair, it was really only the last third that devolved into prophet-vision-levels of badness. With that said, I have always, always been annoyed by strobing light effects in an episode, and the swinging light above the ring was nearly as bad. Add a gauzy camera filter and you've lost me. As far as VFX go, the chaotic effect was pretty cheap. Would a better effect have fixed this story? No. But it wouldn't have hurt.


Kevin: This is a 1 for me. Normally an episode that is fatally dull but otherwise inoffensive can usually pull out the 2 and I reserve my ones for the glorious train wrecks. But this one is incomprehensible and dull. If they told me it was an experiment to replicate what it is like to try to focus your thoughts through the fog of a mental illness, it would get a 5 for that.

Matthew: I don't think this sinks to the level of a 1. It didn't actively infuriate me. There were some decent story threads. It was all just totally under-baked. This was probably three drafts away from being good (hey, kind of like "Masks," another "classic" Joe Menosky joint). The demands of weekly television production show eventually, right? They're showing in this episode, indeed this last little stretch. So my 2 makes it a 3 in total.

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