Five Favorite Episodes of “STAR TREK VOYAGER” Season One (1995)

Below is a list of my five favorite episodes from Season One of “STAR TREK VOYAGER”. Created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor; the series starred Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway:

 

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “STAR TREK VOYAGER” SEASON ONE (1995)

1. (1.11) “State of Flux” – Captain Kathryn Janeway and other senior members of Voyager’s crew Janeway attempt to flush out a spy who is sending information to a group of aggressive Delta Quadrant species called the Kazon-Nistrim. Martha Hackett and Josh Clark guest-starred.

2. (1.14) “Faces” – When Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres, Lieutenant Tom Paris and Ensign Pete Durst are captured by Vidiians during an Away mission, Torres is split into her human and Klingon halves in order for her captors to use her DNA to find a cure for their species. Brian Markinson guest-starred.

3. (1.01-1.02) “Caretaker” – While searching for a Maquis ship with a Starfleet spy aboard in the series premiere, the U.S.S. Voyager is swept into the Delta Quadrant, more than 70,000 light-years from home, by an incredibly powerful being known as the “Caretaker”. Gavan O’Herlihy and Basil Langston guest-starred.

4. (1.04) “Time and Again” – While investigating a planet just devastated by a polaric explosion, Janeway and Paris are engulfed by a subspace fracture and transported in time to before the accident. Nicolas Surovy guest-starred.

5. (1.07) “Eye of the Needle” – Voyager’s crew discover a micro-wormhole leads to the Alpha Quadrant and makes contact with a Romulan ship on the other side with ironic consequences. Vaughn Armstrong guest-starred.

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“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECT: (7.21) “Friendship One”

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“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECT: (7.21) “Friendship One”

For such a quietly presented episode, the “STAR TREK VOYAGER” Season Seven episode, (7.21) “Friendship One”packed quite a powerful punch. For the first time . . . or perhaps not . . . audiences saw the dangers of exploration – not just for the explorers, but for also the explored.

The episode explored the impact of a late 21st century Earth deep space probe called “Friendship 1” that had made its way to a Delta Quadrant planet called Uxal over a century later. After being lost in the Delta Quadrant for three years, the U.S.S. Voyager managed to contact Starfleet after the crew used a Hirogen relay network to send their holographic Chief Medical Officer to the Alpha Quadrant in the Season Four episode, (4.14) “Message in a Bottle”.

Nearly two years later in the Season Six episode, (6.10) “Pathfinder”, Starfleet officer Reginald Barclay managed to contact the stranded Voyager using Starfleet’s Pathfinder project. This allowed Voyager and Starfleet to contact each other on a monthly basis. Over a year later, Starfleet assigned Captain Kathryn Janeway and her crew their first assignment – to retrieve the “Friendship 1” probe. The crew’s efforts to accomplish their mission led to their discovery that the probe had a negative effect upon Uxal. By the time of Voyager’s arrival, it was undergoing a nuclear winter, which had a major negative impact upon the Uxali inhabitants. When an Away team consisting of Lieutenant Tom Paris, ship’s cook/morale officer Neelix and Lieutenant Joe Carey landed on the planet, they were taken hostage by a group of Uxali led by someone named Verin. The latter demanded that Voyager’s crew transport his people to a safe planet . . . a process that would take at least three years. Naturally, Captain Janeway refused to capitulate to Verin’s demand and a tense standoff commenced that eventually led to tragedy.

During my recent viewing of “Friendship One”, I found myself remembering the 1993 movie, “JURASSIC PARK”. The episode especially reminded me of the comments made by Jeff Goldblum’s character about the dangers of exploration. Yes, some of you might be turning up your noses at such a comparison. But “JURASSIC PARK” and “Friendship One”provided some strong lessons. These lessons seemed to have gone over the heads of both Janeway and most of Voyager’s crew.

The crew’s attitude toward the planet’s inhabitants struck an interesting note within me. They seemed to be embarrassed by the destruction caused by “Friendship 1”, especially since it was an Earth probe. And at the same time, they were angered by Verin’s murder of Lieutenant Carey. Janeway seemed only concerned with saving the hostages and acquiring the probe. It took Tom Paris and Neelix – two individuals dismissed by the crew as worthless when the series first began, to remind her and other Voyager crewmen that as Humans (at least a majority of them) and representatives of Starfleet, they had a responsibility to help clean up the mess caused by their ancestors’ irresponsibility. If Starfleet had been in contact with “Friendship 1” up until the mid 23rd century, why they fail to recover it before it had disappeared? Especially if Starfleet had known about the probe’s antimatter, of which the Uxali were unfamiliar. The Uxali’s attitude also struck me as interesting. They were so full of bitterness at what happened to them. Then again, who could blame them? But due to this bitterness, the Uxali failed to realize that taking and killing hostages had only their situation even worse. The Uxali scientist, Otrin, had to remind his people that their bitterness and paranoia were keeping them from accepting the help they needed.

Someone had complained that the solution to Uxal’s radiation came too quick and easy. I disagree. Otrin had been working on a solution for years. Voyager’s technology, along with Seven’s comments to Otrin, finally provided a means to use that solution. But even providing the solution to Uxal brought danger upon Voyager’s crew, since the embittered Verin seemed determined to consider Janeway and her crew as the enemy and destroy them.
One of the episode’s surprises is that a small moment between Paris and his wife, Chief Engineer B’Elanna Torres would end up symbolizing the Chief Helmsman’s encounter with a pregnant mother named Brin. Even more surprising, his successful efforts to save Brin’s newborn baby from the radiation eventually save the hides of Voyager’s crew and Starfleet’s reputation. And despite this solution for the Uxali, Voyager still lost a valuable crew member. Also, the episode ended with Starfleet and the Federation’s reputations on a shaky ground.

The episode featured some solid performances, including those from Kate Mulgrew, Jeri Ryan, Robert Beltran, Tim Russ and Roxann Dawson. Among the guest stars, I was especially impressed by the performances of Ken Land as Verin, John Prosky as Otrin and Bari Hochwald as Brin. But I have to give special kudos to Robert Duncan McNeill for his performance as Tom Paris in this episode. He did an excellent job of portraying Paris’ quiet conflict between his desperation to live, his desire to help some of the Uxali – especially the pregnant Brin, and his quiet disapproval of the crew’s arrogant attitude toward the Uxali. I was also impressed by Ethan Phillips’ portrayal of Talaxian crewman, Neelix. The latter’s quiet recall of his homeworld’s destruction seemed even more powerful that the time we first heard about it in the Season One episode,(1.15) “Jetrel”. And I also enjoyed how Neelix pointed out the Humans’ flaws in a conversation with Verin:

NEELIX: “When I first met them, I thought they were arrogant and self-righteous.”
VERIN: “I suppose you’re going to tell me you’ve changed your mind.”
NEELIX: “Well, not completely.”

Joe Carey. I am quite certain that a good number of the show’s fans were upset by his death. To be honest, I thought his character had died a long time ago. Josh Clark’s last two previous appearances on the show – Season Five’s (5.24) “Relativity” and Season Six’s (6.23) “Fury” – had occurred in time travel episodes that featured his character during Voyager’s first year in existence. Someone had complained that his death would have been more relevant if he had appeared on “STAR TREK VOYAGER” a lot more often. Again, I disagree. The circumstances surrounding his death made the story dramatic enough. His death proved to be pointless and tragic, due to Earth’s carelessness and the aliens’ unwillingness to trust. I found Crewman Hogan’s death in (3.01) “Basic, Part II” and Ensign Marie Kaplan’s death in (3.17) “Unity” upsetting enough. And they were not as well known to “STAR TREK VOYAGER” fans as Carey. Anyway, it was good to see Josh Clark, who provided one last excellent performance before the series’ end.

I might as well be honest. “Friendship One” is not a big favorite of mine. My attitude has nothing to do with the episode’s quality. Frankly, I consider it to be one of the most interesting episodes of the series. But I did find it rather depressing. Some did not care about the arrogant or careless portrayal of both Voyager’s crew and Starfleet in general. I had no problem with that. Considering the franchise’s habit of nearly putting humanity on a pedestal, this portrayal of Starfleet and humanity as flawed – even in the late 24th century – struck me as refreshing.

Top Ten Favorite TIME TRAVEL Television Episodes

Below is a list of my top favorite television episodes that feature time travel:

 

TOP TEN FAVORITE TIME TRAVEL TELEVISION EPISODES

1. “Future’s End” (“Star Trek Voyager”; 1996) – A 29th century timeship causes a time paradox when it accidentally sends itself and Voyager to two different periods in 20th century Earth.

2. “Tempus Fugitive” (“Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”; 1995) – Lois Lane and Clark Kent are brought back to the past by H. G. Wells, in an attempt to stop the time-travelling villain Tempus from killing the infant Superman.

3. “Endgame” (“Star Trek Voyager; 2001) – Admiral Kathryn Janeway comes from the future to try and shorten Voyager’s trip home.

4. “War Without End” (Babylon Five; 1996) – Former Babylon 5 commander, Jeffrey Sinclair, returns with a mission vital to the survival of the station – travelling back in time to steal Babylon 4.

5. “LaFleur” (“Lost”; 2009) – The remaining survivors of Flight 815 and the freighter find themselves permanently in the 1970s and become part of the Dharma Initiative, following John Locke’s disappearance.

6. “The City on the Edge of Forever” (“Star Trek”; 1967) – After accidentally overdosing on a powerful stimulant, Dr. McCoy acts erratically and disappears through the Guardian of Forever, a newly-discovered time portal on a remote planet. Captain Kirk and Commander Spock follow after learning that McCoy somehow changed history. Arriving in the 1930s, the duo meet Edith Keeler, a New York social worker who gives them a place to stay. As the days pass, and McCoy is nowhere to be seen, Kirk finds himself falling in love with Keeler… but Spock discovers that Keeler must die to restore the timeline.

7. “Déjà Vu All Over Again” (“Charmed”; 1999) – As a demon makes plans for his attempt to kill the Charmed Ones, he receives a visit from another demon named Tempus, who will turn back time until the demon succeeds in killing all the sisters.

8. “Babylon Squared” (“Babylon Five”; 1994) – A previous station, Babylon 4, reappears at the same place it disappeared four years before; and Jeffrey Sinclair and Michael Garibaldi lead an expedition to evacuate its crew.

9. “Chris-Crossed” (“Charmed”; 2003) – A mysterious woman from the future named Bianca arrives to take Chris Halliwell’s powers and bring him back forcefully to the future.

10. “D.O.A.” (“Timecop”; 1998) – After Jack Logan and his boss, Gene Matuzek are murdered, Claire Hemmings takes an unauthorized trip back to the past to warn Logan.

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECTIVE: (3.25) “Worst Case Scenario”

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECTIVE: (3.25) “Worst Case Scenario”

Some time ago, I had posted a list of my top ten favorite episodes of “STAR TREK VOYAGER” (1995-2001). After re-examining my list, I was surprised to discover that the Season Three episode, (3.25) “Worst Case Scenario” was not on it.

In this penultimate episode of Season Three, B’Elanna Torres discovers a Holodeck program in which Commander Chakotay and the former Maquis crewmen stage a mutiny against Captain Janeway and the rest of Voyager’s crew. Torres’ participation in the program is interrupted by Tom Paris, who reminds her of their lunch date. He eventually becomes interested and participates in the program himself. After his first participation in the program, Paris and Torres discover that other members of the crew have also been enjoying it. But Paris’ second participation in the Holodeck program reveals that it had not been completed by its mysterious author. During a meeting, the senior staff discovers that Voyager’s Security Chief, Tuvok, had created the program (which he called “Insurrection Alpha”)as a training session for the junior members of his Security staff during the ship’s first months in the Delta Quadrant. As the Maquis and Starfleet factions of the crew began to merge, Tuvok decided to abandon the program.

Due to the crew’s enthusiasm toward “Insurrection Alpha”, Paris and Tuvok agree to expand the program into a complete holonovel. As the two officers begin to edit the original program, they suddenly find themselves trapped behind a forcefield in a simulation of the ship’s brig. A holographic version of the deceased Seska, a former Cardassian spy, appears and explains that before she had escaped the ship to join the Kazon back in Season One, she rewrote the simulation as a virtual deathtrap for Tuvok. Some of the real Voyager’s systems – like the transporter and communication systems, along with the Holodeck’s safety protocols) go offline. And Paris and Tuvok are forced to endure one hazardous situation after another as they try to stay alive.

After my recent viewing of both “Worst Case Scenario” and my top ten episode list, I discovered that I could not change the latter. However . . . if I had created a list of my twenty favorite “VOYAGER” episodes, “Worst Case Scenario” would have ranked at #11. Yes, it is that good. The Holodeck proved to be an excellent creation for STAR TREK writers to use for some first rate episodes. “STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION” had episodes like (2.03) “Elementary, Dear Data” and(3.21) “Hollow Pursuits”. “STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE” had the delicious (4.10) “Our Man Bashir” and (6.18) “Inquisition”. However, in my opinion, “STAR TREK VOYAGER” has aired some of the best Holodeck episodes I have ever come across. And one of those episodes is “Worst Case Scenario”.

Kenneth Biller did an excellent job of giving viewers a glimpse of the tenuous situation between the two factions aboard Voyager during its early months in the Delta Quadrant. Even more importantly, the “Insurrection Alpha” could be viewed as an ominous warning of what could have happened if the crew had failed to integrate during those early months. It is ironic that this episode aired over three years before Season Seven’s (7.04) “Repression” – which featured an actual Maquis rebellion unwittingly instigated by Tuvok, of all people. Tuvok’s program also featured the crew’s only Talaxian, Neelix, joining the rebellion. The real Neelix commented that Tuvok had incorrectly read his character during those early days. A reviewer named Jim Wright agreed. However, I have my doubts. I can recall Neelix’s numerous complaints about Janeway’s tendency to interrupt their journey for an exploration of planet or system. And I can recall one or two occasions in which the Talaxian cook and the Starfleet captain had clashed. I suspect that Tuvok had a pretty good jibe on Neelix’s character back in those days.

Normally, I could claim that “Worst Case Scenario” focused on the entire crew. After all, the episode began with Torres discovering the program and ended with Janeway declaring herself as more than a starship captain, but a community leader as well. However, I noticed that the ship’s chief pilot, Tom Paris, was featured in more scenes than any one else . . . which is why I tend to view him as the episode’s main character. I read somewhere that actor Robert Duncan McNeill considered “Worst Case Scenario” as one of his favorite episodes of the show’s first three seasons. And I can see why. Biller had produced a well written script that allowed McNeill to engage in some of his funniest work. I could also say the same for actor Tim Russ, who portrayed the stoic Tuvok. McNeill and Russ also proved that their screen teaming in (3.08-3.09) “Future’s End” was no mere fluke. They had a strong chemistry that allowed their characters to create one of the best comedic teams in science-fiction television.

But despite Robbie McNeill and Tim Russ’ dominance in this episode, other cast members were given the opportunity to shine. Ethan Phillips gave a charming performance as Neelix, whose enthusiasm for “Insurrection Alpha” almost seemed to bubble. Roxann Dawson provided one of the funniest moments in B’Elanna’s caustic reaction to Paris’ suggestion of a passionate romance between the ship’s chief engineer and chief pilot. Robert Baltran was able to capture both the holographic Chakotay’s determination to rebel against the holographic Janeway and the real Chakotay’s sly and humorous reaction to his role in Tuvok’s story. Bob Picardo was both funny and chilling as the Doctor in the holoprogram. Both Kate Mulgrew and Garrett Wang gave solid support as Captain Janeway and Harry Kim. But Martha Hackett’s return as Seska, the former Bajoran Maquis that turned out to be a Cardassian spy, proved to be a real pleasure. She was deliciously villainous as ever, confirming by belief that her Seska might be one of the best television villains around. And her holographic death in this episode proved to be more rewarding that her real death in (3.01) “Basics, Part II”.

I realize that “STAR TREK VOYAGER” is much reviled by many TREK fans. And I also realize that many would be very reluctant to accept my belief that the series had aired some of the best Holodeck episodes in the franchise. But whether they would agree with me or not, no one could ever convince me that an original episode like “Worst Case Scenario” was overrated, or at best, barely tolerable.

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECT: (5.24) “Relativity”

 

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECT: (5.24) “Relativity”

I am sure that many of you remember the late Season 5 episode – (5.24) “Relativity”. In it, Seven-of-Nine was “recruited” by 29th century Federation time cops to prevent the destruction of Voyager by an illegal time traveler. 

In this episode, Seven is recruited by Captain Braxton and Lieutenant Ducane of the 29th century timeship, Relativity, to stop a time traveling sabateur from placing a temporal weapon on Voyager to destroy it. Seven eventually discovers that a future Braxton is the sabateur. Suffering from temporal psychosis, the older Braxton wants to destroy Voyager in order to prevent Janeway and her crew from committing three temporal inversions that he had to fix . . . events that led to his illness.

As much as I found this episode mildly entertaining, there are two about “Relativity” that I found questionable. The first thing I found questionable had to do with Braxton’s memories. He should not have had memories of Voyager’s trip to late 20th century Earth in “Future’s End”. By stopping Henry Starling (guest star Ed Begley Jr.) from accidentally destroying Earth, Janeway and Voyager’s crew managed to change the timeline. When Braxton appeared to take them back to the 24th century Delta Quadrant, he had NO memories of his 29 years on Earth. And the Braxton of ”Relativity” should NOT have had those memories. And yet, he mentioned his time on Earth in this episode.

What really irritated me about this episode was the fate of the Captain Braxton who commanded the ship. To understand what I am talking about, read the following scenes:

BRAXTON [OC]: Seven of Nine, report.
SEVEN: I have located the saboteur.
BRAXTON [OC]: Who is it?
SEVEN: It’s you,
[Relativity]
SEVEN [OC]: Captain Braxton.
BRAXTON: Me?
[2372 Jefferies tube]
BRAXTON: More accurately, a future you.

Once everyone realized that a future Braxton was responsible for trying to sabotage Voyager, the following occurred:

[Relativity]
BRAXTON: Can you get a lock on him?
DUCANE: Negative. He’s activated a dispersal node. I should say, you’ve activated a dispersal node.
BRAXTON: Don’t be absurd. I have no wish to sabotage Voyager.
DUCANE: Not yet.
BRAXTON: Remodulate the transporters. Find a way to cut through the interference. I gave you an order, Lieutenant.
DUCANE: I’m sorry, sir. I’m taking command of this vessel, and I’m relieving you of duty for crimes you’re going to commit.
BRAXTON: I haven’t done anything.

For some reason, Captain Braxton’s first officer, Lieutenant Ducane (Jay Karnes) thought it was necessary to arrest him and assume command of the timeship. Why? What was his purpose? Braxton was right. He had done nothing wrong. Ducane should have been more concerned with the future Braxton, not the younger one. The first officer had no excuse to arrest someone who had done nothing wrong. What on earth were screenwriters Bryan Fuller, Nick Sagan and Michael Taylor thinking? As much as I liked this episode, this is sloppy writing of the first kind.

”Relativity” started out well. But once the older Braxton was revealed to be the saboteur attempting to destroy Voyager, the story went downhill. As I had pointed out earlier, Braxton should have never had memories of his 29 years on Earth. Even worse, the first officer of the timeship Relativity really had no excuse to arrest the younger Captain Braxton, who was not guilty of anything. What a waste of a potentially good story.

“STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS” (2013) Review

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“STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS” (2013) Review

Following the success of the 2009 movie, “STAR TREK”, producer/director J.J. Abrams continued the saga of this alternate STAR TREK with a sequel called “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS”. This latest film not only continued the adventures of Starfleet Captain James T. Kirk and his crew, but also re-introduced a well-known villain from the franchise’s past. 

Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS” begins a year following the events of the 2009 movie. The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise has been ordered to observe the volcanic activities of Nibiru, a class “M” planet that serves as home for its primitive inhabitants. Unfortunately, Kirk and his crew violate the Federation’s Prime Directive by using a cold fusion device to deactivate the volcano. Worse, in order to fetch Spoke from the volcano’s depth, the Enterprise rises out of the planet’s ocean and is seen by the Nibirians. Upon the starship’s return to Earth, both Kirk and his first officer, Spock, are chewed out by Admiral Christopher Pike for violating the Prime Directive on Nibiru. Spock is reassigned to another starship and Kirk has lost command of the Enterprise and ordered to finish Starfleet Academy.

Meanwhile, a mysterious man offers a vial of blood to a Starfleet officer named Thomas Harewood in order to save the life of the latter’s dying daughter. In exchange, Harewood used the mysterious ring to blow up the Kelvin Memorial Archives (a secret Section 31 facility) on the mysterious man’s behalf. This new emergency leads Starfleet to assign Admiral Pike as commander of the Enterprise. Pike manages to convince Marcus to assign Kirk as his new First Officer. The bombing of the Kelvin Archives leads to a meeting of starship commanders ordered to hunt down the mysterious perpetrator, revealed as rogue Starfleet agent John Harrison. However, an attack upon the meeting by a jumpship piloted by Harrison leaves several Starfleet officers dead – including Pike. Admiral Marcus reinstates Kirk as commander of the Enterprise and orders the latter to hunt down Harrison to the Klingon homeworld, Kronos, and destroy the rogue agent’s base with 72 prototype photon torpedoes placed aboard the Enterprise. However, the manhunt for Harrison ends up providing a good deal of surprises for Kirk and his crew – including the revelation of Harrison’s true identity.

When I first saw “STAR TREK” four years ago, my initial response to J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the franchise had been . . . somewhat positive, yet slightly uneasy. A second viewing of the movie made me realize that it was a piece of crap, thanks to a script riddled with plot holes. I still maintained hope that this new sequel would prove to be a improvement. And it did . . . to a certain extent. The plot for “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS” did not strike me as particularly original. Rogue Starfleet officers have been used in the franchise before – especially in “STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE” and the 1991 film, “STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY”. The John Harrison character proved to be none other than Khan Noonien Singh, originally portrayed by Ricardo Montalban in an episode of “STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES”and the 1982 movie, “STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN”. In fact, the screenwriters not only used the Khan character, but also Dr. Carol Marcus and put a different spin on a famous scene from the 1982 movie. Khan/Harrison’s attack on Admiral Marcus’ meeting bore a strong resemblance to a scene from a “STAR TREK VOYAGER” episode called(2.14) “Alliances”.

Despite the lack of originality that seemed to permeate the film, I must admit that I enjoyed a good deal of it. I found the conspiracy that surrounded Khan’s connections to Admiral Marcus rather interesting. This was especially the case in the jumpship attack scene, the phaser fight on Kronos, Carol Marcus’ rescue of Doctor McCoy from one of the photon torpedoes and finally Kirk and Khan’s transportation to Admiral Marcus’ ship U.S.S. Vengeance via a “space jump”. These scene proved to be very exciting, thanks to Abrams’ excellent direction. The chemistry between Zachary Quinto and Zoë Saldaña as lovers Spock and Nyota Uhura seemed to have vastly improved from the 2009 film. Perhaps the emotions between the two characters seemed more two-way and genuine the second time around. The chemistry between Quinto and Chris Pine’s James Kirk seemed stronger than ever. Bruce Greenwood gave an intense and superb performance as Admirable Christopher Pike, even if I found the character’s faith in Kirk rather questionable. On the other hand, I found Peter Weller’s portrayal as the warmongering Admiral Marcus a bit hammy. And Simon Pegg’s Scots accent became slightly more bearable in this film. But I do feel that Karl Urban, John Cho and Anton Yelchin had less to do in this film, than they did in “STAR TREK”. Benedict Cumberbatch struck me as effectively ambiguous and sinister at the same time. However, if J.J. Abrams needed someone to portray the Indian-born Khan, why did he not consider another actor he had worked with in the past? Namely “LOST” alumni Naveen Andrews. He would have been perfect.

Do I consider “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS” a vast improvement over “STAR TREK”? There are a good number of fans who view the first film as superior. I simply do not share this opinion. However, I would not exactly label “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS” as one of the better movies for the summer of 2013. In fact, I view it slightly better than the first film . . . and nothing more.

However, this movie did have its share of problems. And one of them proved to be the film’s opening sequence on Nibiru, which found Kirk and Dr. McCoy being chased through some kind of forest by some of the planet’s inhabitants. Apparently, Kirk had stolen some sacred scroll to led the Nibirians away from the volcano. This tactic proved to be unnecessary, considering there were only two means to save the Nibirians – Spock’s cold fusion device into the volcano’s core, or the physical removal of the planet’s inhabitants. In other words, this chase scene proved to be completely irrelevant. Another aspect of this sequence that proved to be irrelevant was Spock’s protests against Kirk raising the Enterprise from the planet’s ocean floor and exposing it to the Nibirians. One, what was the Enterprise doing below the ocean? Why not simply allow it to orbit the planet? And the Enterprise does not have the ability to land on the ocean floor, let alone on solid ground. It was never the 23rd century version of the U.S.S. Voyager. And why was Spock complaining about Kirk violating the Prime Directive in regard to the Enterprise’s exposure, when he was violating it by saving the planet with the cold fusion device? I suspect his decision to save Nibiru may have been related to the loss of Vulcan in the first movie. But why did he even bother to protest against Kirk’s actions, when he was just as guilty? And by the way, what happened to Earth’s defense system? This movie is set in the mid 23rd century. There is a defense system for early 21st century Washington D.C. Why was there not one for mid 23rd century San Francisco, the main location for the Federation and Starfleet? Khan’s ship could have been easily destroyed before it had a chance to enter Earth’s atmosphere. I would go on about the photon torpedoes that harbored members of Khan’s crew. But I found this scenario too confusing to discuss.

There were other problems. Why did Khan risk his hide to fire at the room of Starfleet captains and Admiral Marcus, when he could have easily achieved his goal with a bomb? What happened to the situation on Kronos? Marcus had sent the Enterprise to Kronos in order to hunt down Khan and start a war against the Klingons. Kirk, Spock, Uhura and Khan’s encounter with the Klingons proved to be violent and especially deadly for the latter. But no war manifested after the incident on Kronos. In fact, the screenwriters and Abrams completely forgot about the Klingons once Admiral Marcus appeared aboard the Vengeance. Many critics complained about Alice Eve (who portrayed Carol Marcus) being shown in her underwear, accusing Abrams of exploiting the actress. Where were these same critics, four years ago, when both Zoë Saldaña (as Uhura) and an actress who portrayed Uhura’s roommate stripped down to undies in “STAR TREK”? I found both Khan and Admiral Marcus’ plans somewhat convoluted. But I was willing to . . . tolerate them. What I could not tolerate was the movie’s last twenty to thirty minutes. Apparently, the screenwriters and Abrams decided it would be cool to pay some kind of “homage” to the famous Spock death scene in “STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN”. I wish to God they had not. I really do. I found it embarrassing to watch Kirk and Spock switch roles with the former sacrificing his life to prevent the Enterprise from crashing upon Earth. Listening to some of the titters from other members of the audience did not help. And when Zachary Quinto channeled William Shatner’s cry of “Khaaaannn!”, my inner mind screamed “Whhhhyyyy?” I have never been so embarrassed for any actor as I was for Quinto at that moment. To make matters worse – if that was possible – McCoy brought Kirk back to life by using Khan’s superpower blood. And all I can say is . . . “Whhhhyyyy?”

We come to the main problem of “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS”. James T. Kirk. I had no problem with Chris Pine’s performance. But I am still wondering why his Kirk is in command of a top-of-the-grade starship. Why? He never finished Starfleet Academy. He never even finished his third year. Yet, Christopher Pike not only saw fit to give him command of the Enterprise at the end of “STAR TREK”, but also prevent Kirk from being sent back to the Academy to finish it. Even after watching “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS”, it was plain to see that Kirk was not ready to be a starship commander. Yes, he sacrificed his life to save the Enterprise. Hell, anyone – crewman or officer – could have done this. It was Spock who discovered a way to damage the Vengeance . . . . and prevent it from destroying the Enterprise. He should be the one in command of the Enterprise, not Kirk. I wish I could say that Pike paid his decision to make Kirk a starship commander with his life. Unfortunately, Kirk’s command skills had nothing to do with his death. Only bad writing.

What else can I say about “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS”? I found it somewhat more bearable than 2009’s “STAR TREK”. I found the movie’s photography and special effects rather impressive – except for the lens flares, which I despise. And the movie did feature some solid direction by J.J. Abrams and very solid performances from a cast led by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. But in the end, I was not that impressed by the movie. If I must be honest, the screenplay by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof nearly sunk it in the end. Better luck next time, fellas.

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” Retrospect: (6.26-7.01) “Unimatrix Zero, Parts I and II”

 

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” Retrospect: (6.26-7.01) “Unimatrix Zero, Parts I and II”

This two-part episode of ”STAR TREK VOYAGER” centered around the Voyager crew’s attempt to save Borg drones who are trying to develop individuality. (6.26) “Unimatrix Zero, Part I” aired at the end of the series’ sixth season and (7.01) “Part II” aired as the premiere for the series’ seventh and final season. 

When Seven-of-Nine began having dreams about a beautiful forest, she eventually discovered that the forest is a real subconscious realm inhabited by the minds of certain Borg drones during regeneration periods. Few drones possess the recessive gene required to experience the realm called Unimatrix Zero. In Unimatrix Zero, Borg of various species and ages exist as their individual, unassimilated selves and interact with one another. While out of regeneration, they revert to normal drones and have no memory of their time spent together there. The Borg Queen knows about Unimatrix Zero, which she considers a disease. First, she destroys as many drones as she can, who are capable of visiting it. But the process of detecting affected drones turns out to be time consuming and she is eager to find a faster method of finding and deactivating them.

During a journey to Unimatrix Zero with Captain Janeway, Seven discovers that she used to have a lover named Axum. Both women also discover that Axum had deliberately contacted Seven, because he and other drones need their help. They had created a masking nanovirus which would inoculate them against being detected by the queen, but it can only be administered from the corporeal world. After Janeway and Seven witness the attack upon the Unimatrix Zero inhabitants by assimilated drones, they agree to help. In the end, Janeway came up with a plan to administer the nanovirus for the Unimatrix Zero. This plan involved a few members of Voyager’s crew to board a Borg cube, risk being assimilated and administer the nanovirus.

When I first saw the preview for ”Unimatrix Zero – Part I, my first thought was that it was a rehash of the ”STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION” episode, (3.26-4.01) “The Best of Both Worlds”. To my surprise . . . and delight, ”Unimatrix Zero” proved me wrong. Thanks to the script written by Mike Sussman, Brannon Braga, and Joe Menosky; I quite understood the story, despite the usual Trek technobabble. And I understood how previous episodes like (5.10) “Counterpoint” and(6.21)”Live Fast and Prosper” served this story. Both episodes established Captain Janeway’s talent for manipulation and scamming other. Considering the situation that she, B’Elanna Torres and Tuvok found themselves in ”Part II”, she found herself being forced to pull off a difficult confidence game against the Borg Queen.

”Unimatrix Zero” also featured the first time that Janeway and Chakotay learned to act as a fully effective command team in the face of one of her . . . more bizarre plots without succumbing to any conflict, which marred their relations in episodes like (2.14) “Alliances”(3.26-4.01) “Scorpion” and (6.01) “Equinox, Part II”. Although he had reservations, Chakotay seemed willing to go along with her plan to infiltrate a Borg drone to administer the nanovirus. And Janeway agreed to accept a few of his suggestions, in case the plan went wrong. And is it just me or did there seemed to be a lot of affection on Voyager in this episode? Seven discovered an old love in Unimatrix Zero. Tom Paris and Torres exchanged a few intimate moments after Paris received his old rank of lieutenant junior grade and when he expressed reservations about the chief engineer volunteering for the mission to the Borg cube. And one of the most blatant moments of sentimentality, Janeway and Chakotay engaged in a brief hand-lock on the Bridge before she left to begin her mission. I found myself almost inclined to burst into “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”

In the end, the screenwriters and directors Allan Kroeker and Mike Vejar almost produced a four-star episode in ”Unimatrix Zero”. I found the writers’ idea of using the Unimatrix Zero concept as a lead-in to an uprising in the Borg Collective very inventive. And there were moments in the story – especially in ”Part II” that I enjoyed. These moments included the use of neural suppressors by the Starfleet infiltrators to keep from being part of the Borg Collective, in case they ended up being assimilated. Janeway’s confrontations with the Borg Queen, thanks to performances by Kate Mulgrew and Susanna Thompson, were even more effective than they were in (5.15-5.16) “Dark Frontier”. I also have to give kudos to Robert Beltran and Robert Duncan MacNeill who gave excellent performances in a scene that featured an exchange between Chakotay and Paris about the latter being First Officer. I found myself wondering about the thoughts going in Chakotay’s mind, when Paris revealed his hang-ups about being Voyager’s First Office. The only aspect of ”Unimatrix Zero” that I did not care for was the romance between Seven-of-Nine and Axum. Their scenes struck me as a replay of many bad romance novels from the 1950s and 60s. And even the talented Jeri Ryan and actor Mark Deakins could not save this romance.

Thankfully, the Seven/Axum romance did not tarnish ”Unimatrix Zero” for me. More important, the episode set the stage for two episodes in Season Seven that revealed the diminished power of the Borg Collective. And it proved to be the second of three mind blowing personal encounters between Kathryn Janeway and the Borg Queen. In the end,”Unimatrix Zero” proved to be another example of why I have always enjoyed the numerous two-part episodes featured in ”STAR TREK VOYAGER”.