Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Voyager, Season 7: Lineage

Voyager, Season 7
Airdate: 24 January 2001
155 of 168 produced
155 of 168 aired


Tom and B'Elanna learn that they are expecting a child, but B'Elanna has mixed emotions owing to her own difficult biracial childhood.

This "selfie" trend has gone way too far and needs to be STOPPED.


Matthew: This story has a lot going for it. Not only does it extensively explore a science fictional (but fast approaching science factual) issue in genetic engineering of babies, but it also tells a good emotional character story and deepens a character's back story to boot. I'll discuss the first element here. Star Trek takes place in an era where genetic engineering is relatively trivial, technologically. The question becomes, why not do it? With a Geordi LaForge, we have a clear example of parents opting not to alter a child with a serious congenital condition. So clearly there is some reticence within Federation society as a whole. With Doctor Bashir, we have a different take, in which parents of means did the best they could to create competitive advantages for their child. But this was frowned upon and kept secret. Then we have the whole "augment" idea, that genetic engineering is banned owing to lingering Eugenics Wars unpleasantness. This episode seems to posit a dividing line between procedures that cure defects (a curved spine) and those that alter "who he/she is." I would have appreciated a mention of the ban, but I can accept that couching it in medical necessity terms was enough to sideline that discussion. 

Kevin: I think the party line on "only for quality of life medical problems' is pretty well implied, though B'Elanna's surprise at the ability to alter the fetus genetically in utero makes me think that early and granular capacity is a relatively new development. In any case, I think it all works well to serve the emotional story. I'm always going to love a well developed character story even at the expense of a deeper dive in the sci-fi angles, but I think they balanced the dials well here. The exact question facing Paris and Torres is one only there because of the sci-fi development, but the impacts and resolution all take place in terms of the emotional relationships between them.

Matthew: The emotional character story is really gangbusters here. B'Elanna's trepidation makes total sense here. The flashback scenes did a great job of illustrating her childhood trauma and her relationship fears. The "trauma" of her childhood was portrayed realistically - teasing that seems innocuous to one person can truly be life-altering for someone else. They didn't strain to make it something over-the-top. Her discussion with Paris in the shuttle really excelled at pointing out his privileged position relative to non-human and biracial members of Starfleet. and Tom doesn't come off like a fool, either. He is understandably nonplussed when his wife proposes altering their child, their fights seem real and grounded, but he comes around to a position of empathy that really builds their relationship for the viewer. It's this ability to tell a good emotional character story while also exploring a sci-fi idea that sets this episode apart.

Kevin: This is the best part of the episode, hands down. All of the emotional beats land incredibly well. I think everyone's reactions were organic and it's both a showpiece for B'Elanna as a character and for their relationship. If nothing else, the episode, up until its needlessly dramatic climax, were all focused about two people deciding what kind of partner and what kind of parent they want to be, and explosions be damned, that is just more interesting than most other storylines to me.

Matthew: If I had to pick nits, one relatively big one for me is how B'Elanna is portrayed as a master manipulator. Now, this is consistent with episodes like "Real Life" and "Death Wish," in which she uses her technical prowess to manipulate others and escape their oversight, but when I think about relationships, I have a hard time seeing how you proceed with a partner like her. It was only Tom's checking with Icheb (smart move, I guess) that ended up derailing her otherwise completely successful plan to pull the wool over his eyes and proceed against his wishes.How good a wife and mother will she be, given this propensity?

Kevin: The bridge too far for me was making the kid blonde. I'm not denying the impact of Western beauty standards, but it just laid it on a little thick narratively. Sanding down the ridges was good metaphor. Making the kid blonde converts it from metaphor to a more leaden lesson. The emotional core of this episode remains incredibly strong. Any child, especially one in early adolescence would have a lot of complicated feelings about their parents separating. Pile on the identity issues that, rational or not, she blames for that separation among a list of other problems in her life, and that's a recipe for crackling personal drama. Focusing the resolution on this level of genetic (and emotional) manipulation just tries to ratchet the drama of the episode up too far. This is a quiet drama, not a 'nick of time' anything and keeping the focus on Tom and B'Elanna's personal relationship would have better served the episode.


Matthew: I don't know what needs to be said about Roxann Dawson's performance here. Whether quiet and pensive or animated and shouting at her husband, she completely inhabits and brings vitality to her character's inner life. McNeill is no slouch, either. His sensitivity to his wife's pain comes across as real, not just dictated by the script. Overall, a master class of two good to great actors playing off of one another.

Kevin: Yeah, not much to add here, except to say that this edges out "Barge of the Dead," a performance I also loved. It is definitely buoyed by better writing than in "Faces," but this is an epic performance on the subject of B'Elanna's identity.

Matthew: I also really liked the flashback scenes. Voyager's run of casting kid actors continues, with several very naturalistic youngsters who do nothing to derail their scenes and seem perfectly normal. Jessica Gaona was really pretty good as Young B'Elanna, and Juan Garcia totally nailed her father. As an extra aside, I want to single out Garrett Wang for praise. His scene delivering conflict resolution advice to Tom really worked for me.

Kevin: Gaona was just the right level of...whiny...for lack of a better term. Her feelings are valid and complicated, but she lacks the ability to express them in a more mature way and that's dead on for the age the character is supposed to be. Both Garcia and Gaona did a great job of making this read like a pretty ordinary blow up between a parent and a teenager. It helped to underscore how shattering B'Elanna found it, since from the outside, it was such a mundane fight.

Production Values

Matthew: So this was half bottle show and half flashback. The bottle elements worked pretty well. B'Elanna and Tom's quarters look like a place that real people might live in. I thought the holo-image of the baby was a little weird looking, but the spine looked great. The blond hair on the projection looked strange, to be sure, given that the kid's face didn't change at all.

Kevin: The resolution on the baby was a little fuzzy and the translucence was weird, but I generally agree.

Matthew: The flashback scenes were nearly convincing enough to make me think it was outdoors. I think I subconsciously caught one tree moving like it was foam. The casual fashions on the campers were also surprisingly normal looking, with just he slightest "futuristic" edge.

Kevin: This reminded me of the set and setting for the similarly doomed camping trip in the Gamma Quadrant in DS9's Jem'Hadar. Nothing was earth shattering, but it was all very good and served the story well.


Matthew: Although I want to give this a 5, I think the problematic aspects of B'Elanna's characterization drag me out of this just enough to keep it at a 4. I keep having a nagging thought of "should they really stay together?" Otherwise, it's a sterling Trek story that explores both characters and ideas.

Kevin: On the strength of the emotional acting alone, I am thiiiiiiiiiiiis close to a 5. That said, the resolution gets wrapped up in an attempt to increase the drama of an already dramatic situation and it ends up focusing on something other than the characters feelings a bit, and like Matt said, B'Elanna's actions come uncomfortably close to character assassination for a hot minute. That still makes it an enthusiastic 4 for a total of 8.

1 comment:

  1. Episodes like this is one reason I wish they could have pushed B'Ellana and Tom's relationship to start/develop about a season earlier than it did.

    I guess the demographic hadn't moved enough by then for us to really appreciate it? Too bad, B&T stories tend to go over very well.