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Star Trek: Voyager – Death Wish (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily Tuesday through Friday for the latest review.

Death Wish is an interesting beast.

On the one hand, it is a decidedly cynical cash-in. It is very much a crossover episode that exists to cement the ties between Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: The Next Generation, to the point where it not only features a beloved guest star who bookended the seven-year run of The Next Generation, but also a “special appearance” from the secondary lead of that show. It was also consciously moved around in the production order so it might air in February sweeps, and was heavily hyped as part of the network’s news cycle.

Qrossover!

Qrossover!

On the other hand, Death Wish is a fascinating episode on a number of levels. It is certainly the best of Q’s three appearances on Voyager, and certainly ranks among some of the character’s best work in general. Death Wish engages with a fairly hefty social issue of the nineties, as Janeway is embroiled in a debate about the morality of suicide. It also serves as a vehicle for writer Michael Piller to put his own version of Voyager on trial, with certain segments of the episode resonating quite clearly with the behind-the-scenes turmoil on the show.

Death Wish is a paradox of an episode. It is bold and daring on its own terms, but it is also cynical and coy. It is an example of Voyager actively steering into its reputation as “Next Generation Lite”, which will cause a lot of problems for the show down the line. This is a shame; Death Wish is actually quite interesting on its own merits.

The road to nowhere...

The road to nowhere…

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Millennium – Goodbye Charlie (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

Goodbye Charlie is an interesting oddity at this point in the season. It is the closest thing that the show has done to an old-fashioned “serial killer” story in quite some time, while still remaining quite unique and bizarre. It is a story about a man who may (or may not) be a serial killer, opening with shots of that (possible) killer serenading his victims with a dodgy karaoke version of the already dodgy Seasons in the Sun. It is memorable and striking, a strange hybrid of familiar trappings and completely bonkers absurdity.

There are points where Goodbye Charlie does not work. There are moments when the script seems a little too knowing or a little too heavy-handed. However, there moments are generally fleeting. When Goodbye Charlie falters, it is only a slight misstep; there is never a sense that it might implode in the same way that Sense and Antisense or A Single Blade of Grass threaten to collapse in on themselves. More than that, as with a lot of the bumps in the road during the second season, the show is generally ambitious and energetic enough that it’s hard not to get drawn in despite the flaws.

Sing with me now...

Sing with me now…

There are two elements of Goodbye Charlie that really sell it. The first is Richard Whiteley’s script. It is perhaps a little stilted in places – most notably in the way that it awkwardly plays up the ambiguity around the case by having Frank and Lara repeatedly draw attention to the ambiguity around the case – but it is clever, fast and witty. The episode also benefits from the casting of Tucker Smallwood as Steven Kiley, who turns in one of the best one-shot guest appearances of the season as a character who might be an altruistic helper or a manipulative sociopath.

Goodbye Charlie is perhaps a little too uneven to count among the very best of the season, but it is a fascinating little episode. It is also perhaps an indication of how profoundly the show has changed over this half-season that Goodbye Charlie manages to feel like one of the more conventional episodes of the year.

Nuts to that...

Nuts to that…

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