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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.



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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Star Trek: Voyager – Emanations (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.

Emanations has a pretty effective set-up and solid premise. It is very clearly one of Star Trek: Voyager‘s “planet of the week” stories – like the show directly before it and the show directly following it – but it’s build around some vaguely interesting ideas. It’s very clearly an episode designed to function as social commentary in the grand Star Trek tradition, hitting on big ideas and bold concepts.

Unfortunately, it’s not the type of script that Brannon Braga is best suited to handle. It doesn’t feel so much an exploration of an important issue as a social treatise. It’s simplistic and heavy-handed while dealing with ideas that require a bit of nuance and sophistication. It feels under-developed, contrived and a little shallow. Despite an attempt at ambiguity in its closing scene, it feels like an episode driven primarily by an agenda rather than a strong story.

Emanations is a misfire, another example of the weird tendency in the first season of Voyager to assign the wrong writers to the wrong scripts.

Harry really got wrapped up in local culture...

Harry really got wrapped up in local culture…

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Doctor Who: The End of Time, Part I (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The End of Time, Part I originally aired in 2009.

The human race was always your favourite, Doctor. But now, there is no human race. There is only the Master race.

– the Master always did like a good pun

The problem with The End of Time isn’t a lack of good ideas. Indeed, there are far too many good ideas here. There are enough large concepts here to sustain an entire season of Davies’ Doctor Who, from the resurrection of the Master to the return of Gallifrey to the resurrection gate to Naismith to the Tenth Doctor’s impending mortality and quite a few more. The End of Time is bristling with so many ideas and concepts that only the truly outrageous examples really stick. Is that really the Tenth Doctor’s mother?

The End of Time is fundamentally flawed, but it remains intriguing. There’s a wealth of good ideas here that tend to get drowned out in the spectacle and fury of it all, a sense that Davies had a wealth of clever ideas but was unable to tie them into anything fully satisfying.

Ten cedes the floor...

Ten cedes the floor…

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