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Star Trek: Voyager – Repentance (Review)

Repentance marks another example of the seventh season of Star Trek: Voyager groping clumsily and awkwardly towards an archetypal Star Trek plot.

The Star Trek franchise has cultivated a reputation for being a vehicle for progressive social commentary, largely on the back of episodes like Let That Be Your Last Battlefield or Plato’s Stepchildren. Of course, those episodes were decidedly less progressive and more complicated than the popular memory would allow, but there is an argument to be made that the idea of Star Trek as a voice for social progress is worth something even if the franchise did not always live up to those ideals. After all, the franchise also gave audiences The Omega Glory and Turnabout Intruder.

In the neck of time.

The seventh season of Voyager seems to recognise this social commentary as something essential to Star Trek‘s cultural identity, something that essentially defines Star Trek as Star Trek and distinguishes it from other popular science-fiction. This explains why the seventh season of Voyager is so preoccupied with the Prime Directive, which even gets name-dropped within Repentance; it is a major element in stories like Flesh and Blood, Part I, Flesh and Blood, Part II, Natural Law and Friendship One. It is seen as something identifiably Star-Trek-ian in nature.

The seventh season of Voyager builds a number of episodes around big social issues of the late nineties and the new millennium; Critical Care grappled with the healthcare crisis, while Lineage wrestled with anxieties about designer babies. Repentance is very much of a piece with those episodes, although it turns its gaze towards the issue of capital punishment. On paper, this is archetypal Star Trek storytelling, an allegorical exploration of a hot button issue through the prism of science-fiction. However, as with so many of these episodes, the archetypal Star Trek trappings feel superficial.

Hologram for a king’s ransom.

Repentance has very little to actually say about the death penalty. More than that, what it does have to say is deeply confused and unfocused. Voyager is perhaps the most consistently conservative of Star Trek shows in terms of political philosophy, which has led to a number of spectacularly poor decisions like the characterisation of the Kazon from Caretaker onwards or the false rape accusation paranoia underpinning Retrospect. It seems entirely predictable, if no less disappointing, that Voyager stumbles clumsily into an ill-judged take on the application of capital punishment in Repentance.

As with Critical Care and Lineage before it, Repentance is an episode that understands the importance of using a platform to say something important about one of the most pressing issues of the era while also extending a great deal of effort trying to avoid saying anything at all.

“Cue the women in prison fan-fic.”

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The X-Files – Fight Club (Review)

This September, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the seventh season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Harsh Realm.

Fight Club is an unpleasant episode of The X-Files.

It’s not “unpleasant” in a good way, like (arguably) Signs and Wonders or (definitely) Theef. It is “unpleasant” in a way that feels ill-judged and tone-deaf. Following on the charm and whimsy of Hollywood A.D., the script for Fight Club seems packed with forced charm and staged whimsy. At its most basic level, Fight Club is a comedy episode that simply isn’t funny. More than that, it’s an episode that isn’t particularly funny or clever to begin with, but then spends forty-five minutes insisting upon its own wit.

"Some of us are looking at the stars..."

“Some of us are looking at the stars…”

There is also a sense of unpleasantness about the themes and content of the episode in the context of the late seventh season. After all, it is no secret that the production team were facing considerable internal and external pressure. These pressures included a lawsuit involving the show’s lead actor and the show’s creator (not to mention the show’s network) and the fact that everybody on the production team was waiting for David Duchovny to determine if they would have a job the following season.

With all of this going on in the background, maybe an episode the implicitly features the show’s two lead actors knocking the stuffing out of each other for no good reason is not the best idea in the world.

"Hm..."

“Hm…”

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How Is Hollywood Dealing With Recession?

Hollywood. It’s the place where dreams come true. Where normal things like traffic don’t bother heroes like Jack Bauer, credit ratings and mortgage payments don’t halt Carrie’s spending spree and Bruce Willis never has to fill out an insurance claim form. No wonder they used to call it Hollywoodland, like some sort of fairytale kingdom (in actuality it was to advertise a housing development). This magical quality (or, if you’re cynical, ‘disengagement’) means that Hollywood can take its time in reflecting the tastes of the common people and the issues that really affect them.

High-flying corporate executive...

High-flying corporate executive...

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