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Star Trek: Voyager – One (Review)

One is a solid episode.

Indeed, One is so solid that it is the rare episode of Star Trek: Voyager to be repurposed for Star Trek: Enterprise. The prequel series tended to borrow stock Star Trek plots, but it tended to borrow most heavily from Star Trek: The Next Generation and even Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Oasis was Shadowplay, Vanishing Point was Realm of Fear, Dawn was Darmok. However, One would be reworked as Doctor’s Orders, another pseudo-horror bottle episode in which a member of the cast finds themselves driven insane by isolation.

Everything’s gone askew…

However, One has an in-built advantage over Doctor’s Orders, in that it is centred on a character who practically begs for this sort of treatment. Seven of Nine is effectively a reformed Borg drone. While Jean-Luc Picard was assimilated in The Best of Both Worlds, Part I and recovered in The Best of Both Worlds, Part II, and while Chakotay brushed up against a pseudo-collective in Unity, Seven of Nine is the first franchise regular to have spent the bulk of her life inside the Borg Collective. The nature of the Borg means that Seven is perfectly suited to a story about isolation.

One is a messy and clumsy episode in a number of ways, particularly in its drive for big action set pieces and tangible threats. In particular, the penultimate act of One feels awkward, as if the production team do not trust the audience to engage with a purer breed of psychological thriller. However, One leans very heavily on the character of Seven of Nine and on the performance of Jeri Ryan. Luckily, both character and actor are up to the task.

Voices in her head.

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The X-Files – Salvage (Review)

This October/November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the eighth season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of The Lone Gunmen.

Salvage is another mid-season “monster of the week” that doesn’t quite work.

As with Surekill, it is possible to imagine the interplay between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson elevating this episode had it been produced in the seventh season, as was originally planned. The Doggett and Scully pairing lacks that easy dynamic that made so many generic episodes flow so easily. That is not to say that Robert Patrick and Gillian Anderson don’t work well together, simply that they don’t replicate the once-in-a-lifetime chemistry that Randy Stone found with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

Testing his metal...

Testing his metal…

That said, Salvage has more severe problems than Badlaa or Medusa. In many respects, Salvage feels like a first season episode of the show that arrived seven years too late – in terms of tone, design and aesthetic. There is a clumsiness to the execution, an awkwardness to the presentation, that feels like the show has forgotten many of the lessons that it learned in its time on television. If it is fair to argue that the eighth season is as much the first season of a new show as the last season of the old one, Salvage is the most “first season” episode of the bunch.

Salvage has a host of interesting concepts and ideas, but it lacks the skill and confidence that the show would need to pull off a story like this. Salvage is one of the handful of season eight stories that would arguably have worked better in season seven, albeit only barely.

Scrap that...

Scrap that…

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Star Trek – The Ultimate Computer (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Ultimate Computer is the second classic produced by John Meredyth Lucas, following on from The Immunity Syndrome. (Although it is credited to him, Journey to Babel was actually overseen by Gene L. Coon.) Like The Immunity Syndrome before it, The Ultimate Computer is a bottle show, filmed on the show’s standing set. It features a relatively small guest cast, even trimming the number of extras appearing on the Enterprise sets.

It seems that these sorts of constraints and pressures brought out the best in Lucas. Lucas steps behind the camera on The Ultimate Computer, and helps to bring the show to life. Although he is using familiar sets, he often figures out ways to shoot them that feel original and fresh – no mean accomplishment two years into the show’s run. The guest cast that Lucas has assembled is superb – with William Marshall turning in one of the best one-shot guest appearances in the history of Star Trek.

Does not compute...

Does not compute…

However, what is most notable about The Ultimate Computer is the funereal atmosphere that haunts the episode. There is a solemn and reflective tone to the episode, particularly during the early tests of the M-5 computer. The Enterprise is dark, abandoned, empty. Kirk is reflective. As with Bread and Circuses at the end of Gene L. Coon’ tenure, Spock offers McCoy an olive branch. In many respects, The Ultimate Computer seems to hark forward to the film series, with Kirk wondering how he might define himself if he is not a starship captain.

Appropriately enough for a series staring down the barrel at cancellation, The Ultimate Computer would have made for a pretty great finalé.

"Dammit, I told you we should have used a surge protector..."

“Dammit, I told you we should have used a surge protector…”

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