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Star Trek: Voyager – Bliss (Review)

Bliss is a textbook example of Star Trek: Voyager doing textbook Star Trek.

The episode feels like a stew composed primarily of leftovers, the residue of past meals thrown together to serve up something lukewarm and familiar. Bliss is not necessarily a bad episode of television, per se. It is rather lifeless and generic, but it is hardly the weakest episode of the season or the series. Instead, Bliss is the kind of episode that fades gently from memory, a hollow confection that doesn’t taste particularly nice, but which at least offers something to chew over.

Good Sheppard.

Bliss is a cocktail of familiar Star Trek plot elements. At the centre of the story is the sort of gigantic monstrous space entity that haunted earlier tales like The Immunity Syndrome or Datalore, a reminder of how weird and dangerous space can be. The “pitcher plant” in Bliss recalls the parasites from Operation — Annihilate! or the space vampire from The Man Trap. It feels like something almost Lovecraftian, a “beast” with tendrils that reach into the minds anybody near enough so that it might lure them to their doom. It is unfathomable to those caught within its grasp.

Qatai exists in opposition to this malign entity, caught in an immortal struggle with a force more vicious and more powerful than he could ever be. The EMH compares Qatai to Ahab, acknowledging the debt that Bliss owes to Moby Dick. Of course, the Star Trek franchise is populated with stories built upon that classic template; Obsession, The Doomsday Machine, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Nemesis, Star Trek. It is hard to think of a more generic source of inspiration for an episode of Star Trek.

The show could use a shot in the arm.

Even beyond that, Bliss touches on plot ideas and elements that will be familiar to most Voyager viewers. As with episodes like Eye of the Needle or False Profits, the crew are tempted by a phenomenon that seems to promise the possibility of getting the crew home quickly. As in Hope and Fear and The Voyager Conspiracy, Seven of Nine becomes preoccupied with the notion that she is the only member of the crew with an objective perspective that allows her to see the truth. As with The Cloud or One, this might be deemed an “anomaly of the week” episode.

The result is something the feels very much like a representative distillation of Voyager, the statistical mean of the series derived to a decimal point. Bliss is perhaps the perfect encapsulation of Voyager as a television show. It is neither truly great or truly awful, it is merely there.

Coming down to Earth.

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Vox Sola (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This January, we’re doing the first season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Vox Sola is a rather sedate late-season instalment of Star Trek: Enterprise. Largely designed as a bottle show, Vox Sola has a rake of interesting ideas, but doesn’t offer any particularly insightful exploration. The alien creature of the week is unique and distinctive, but the episode constructed around it feels rather lacklustre. There’s a sense of late-season fatigue at work here, with Vox Sola feeling rather like a more low-key variation on the strange-space-phenomena-of-the-week story template that Star Trek: Voyager would use routinely.

"It's alive!"

“It’s alive!”

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Star Trek: Voyager – Twisted (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

It’s easy to see why the decision was made to bury Twisted as deep into the second season of Star Trek: Voyager as possible. The third of four episodes carried over from the end of the show’s first production year, it was the sixth episode of the show’s second broadcast season. Not only did it air behind the last episode produced as part of that first year, it also aired behind the first two episodes produced during the second season.

To be fair, Twisted isn’t a bad episode. It has a whole host of problems, but the most fundamental issue with Twisted is that it is incredibly dull. It’s the most pointless sort of story imaginable, where a bunch of weird stuff happens to our characters and there’s no way to save the day so they just sit around and wait patiently until it stops. While the script to Twisted is comprised of irritating moments, they don’t add up to anything substantial.

Twisted is very much the equivalent of forty-five minutes of Star Trek themed dead air.

"Why, hello there..."

“Why, hello there…”

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Star Trek: Voyager – The Cloud (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Cloud feels more like a first season episode than Time and Again and Phage did. Star Trek: Voyager has ploughed fairly effectively into its first season, primarily by treating it as the eighth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, the first season has been falling into a regular pattern so fast that pausing for forty-five minutes to do some awkward and ill-defined character work doesn’t feel like a bad idea.

The Cloud is an awkwardly constructed piece of television that feels like it’s interested in building up this ensemble. As such, the pacing suffers, and the episode makes a number of awkward mistakes along the way, but it still feels like it is at least trying to do something worthwhile.

Shaking things up around here...

Shaking things up around here…

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Star Trek: Voyager – Parallax (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

Parallax feels like a seventh season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation nested inside a first season episode of Star Trek: Voyager. It’s Brannon Braga’s first script for the show, having opted to join Star Trek: Voyager rather than moving over to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Braga would go on to become one of the longest-serving creative forces on televised Star Trek, becoming an executive producer on Star Trek: Voyager and creating (and producing) Star Trek: Enterprise.

Braga is a fantastic high-concept science-fiction writer. His scripts for The Next Generation count among the best the show ever produced – Cause and Effect, Parallels, Frame of Mind. The team of Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore ranks as one of the most consistently great collaborations in the history of Star Trek. On his own, Braga writes fascinating sci-fi concepts. His scripts for the various shows support that.

The problem is that Braga isn’t the franchise’s strongest character writer. Indeed, among the staff writers working on the first season of Voyager, Braga seems like the worst candid to draft in to write the big “establishing character dynamics” episode directly following the pilot. The problem with Parallax is that it’s a nice premise featuring a bunch of characters we don’t care about yet, and the script is more interested in the anomaly of the week than it is in getting us to care about those characters.

"It's like looking into the future..."

“It’s like looking into the future…”

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