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Non-Review Review: Passengers

Passengers is a super creepy tale of male entitlement.

The movie has an intriguing science-fiction premise. On a sleeper ship intended to ferry passengers to the colony world of Homestead II, a freak accident awakens James Preston. The only problem is that Preston awoke far too early. Preston awoke approximately thirty years into a one-hundred-and-twenty-year voyage. The engineer is now destined to spend the rest of his life as the only waking inhabitant of a gigantic city ship, living and dying completely alone. It is a horrifying thought.

"We need a little space."

“We need a little space.”

There are suggestions of a powerful science-fiction epic to be found in the film. Jim finds his every physical need has been anticipated. He can live a life of material luxury. He will never want for food or space or activity. He effectively has a gigantic space craft all to himself. And therein lies the rub. Feeling almost like a sadistic episode of The Twilight Zone, Jim grapples with the question of what he will or will not do in order to end his loneliness. In his desperation, Jim makes a horrifying (if entirely understandable) decision.

The biggest problem with Passengers is that it strains too hard to make that decision palatable instead of terrifying. It is a super creepy tale of male entitlement that brushes aside any of this issues in favour of a much more conventional action romance.

Peace in a pod.

Peace in a pod.

Note: Very minor spoilers for Passengers follow. If you know the cast list, you can probably deduce where the movie is going from the opening ten minutes.

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Exile (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 August, we’re doing the third season. Check back daily for the latest review.

If Impulse was Star Trek doing contemporary horror, then Exile is Star Trek doing gothic horror.

It is quite impressive how committed Exile is to its gothic horror trappings. Tarquin doesn’t just live alone in exile and project flattering images of himself; he lives in an honest-to-goodness gothic mansion lit by candles, where he dabbles in the occult while wearing what is a highly stylised dressing gown and between tending to the graves of his beloved(s). Exile does not skimp on its pulpy trappings. Like a lot of the early third season episodes, Exile would make for a satisfying dime-store paperback sci-fi novel; several images from the story would make a suitable cover.

It was a dark and stormy night...

It was a dark and stormy night…

That said, it is quite difficult to pull off gothic science-fiction. The original Star Trek pulled it off on a number of occasions – most obviously with The Squire of Gothos. The later spin-offs have struggled getting the right balance of po-faced seriousness with heightened absurdity. Star Trek: The Next Generation attempted Sub Rosa in its final season, while Star Trek: Voyager had some early experiments with Janeway’s gothic horror fantasy. Neither could be deemed a resounding success, and Exile stumbles a bit in the execution.

There are a number of leaps that the plot doesn’t quite articulate as well as it might. It is hard to believe that Archer would leave Hoshi alone with Tarquin, even with a phase pistol tucked under her pillow. The revelation of Tarquin’s powers should terrify the crew; having the ability to alter another person’s perception across lightyears is utterly unlike anything these exploreres have seen before. However, everybody seems to accept it at face value so that the plot can move along at a reasonable rate.

Somebody has a fixation...

Somebody has a fixation…

The way that Exile ties back into the larger arc is somewhat clumsy, right down to the convenient segue into The Shipment that comes in the final scene. In many ways, the structure of Exile recalls that of Extinction, an effectively stand-alone story that contains a very trite nods to the larger Xindi arc without any substantive connection. Despite the vital exposition that Tarquin provides in his final scene (and the subplot involving the spheres), Exile feels rather unnecessary in the larger scheme of things.

And yet, despite all that, Exile has something quite interesting to say. Written by Phyllis Strong, directed by Roxann Dawson and starring Linda Park, Exile is a very rare episode of Enterprise. It is a story with a very clear (and somewhat prescient) feminist subtext that has some very astute observations to make about certain facets of what might be deemed “nerd culture.” Specifically, male nerd culture.

He sees you when you're sleeping...

He sees you when you’re sleeping…

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