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Star Trek: Voyager – Fury (Review)

Normally, the return of an old cast member to an established show is a cause for celebration, akin to a belated family reunion.

The obvious examples involve the appearances of cast members from other shows on later spin-offs. Think of the reverence and sincerity with which Star Trek: The Next Generation treated Spock and Scotty in episodes like Unification, Part I, Unification, Part II and Relics. Think about the delight with which Star Trek: Voyager greeted Geordi LaForge in Timeless or Deanna Troi in Pathfinder. Even when Star Trek: Deep Space Nine subverted expectations with Jonathan Frakes’ appearance in Defiant, it was still joyful. If anything, Star Trek: Enterprise went too far in accommodating Troi and Riker in These Are the Voyages…

Self-control.

Even within individual shows, the return of long-absent cast members is often treated as an opportunity to celebrate that character, and perhaps even to acknowledge past missteps involving them. Yesterday’s Enterprise brought back the character of Tasha Yar, and used the opportunity to rewrite her mean-spirited and pointless death in Skin of Evil. When mirror!Bareil visited in Resurrection, the episode became a meditation upon how the character’s intrinsic decency was strong enough to transcend dimensions and to define even the worst version of himself.

This approach to the return of established characters makes a great deal of sense for a wide variety of reasons. Most obviously, the production team have gone out of their way to recruit these actors for this specific purpose; it makes sense that these episodes should serve as a celebration of their contributions to the franchise. Even beyond that, it is safe to say that almost any lead character on a Star Trek series has something resembling a fan base; think about the ominously-named “Friends of Vedek Bareil.” Why bring back a character, and attract in those fans, just to do something horrific?

That healthy blue glow.

All of this serves to make Fury all the more perplexing. Fury is an episode of Voyager that effectively resurrects the character of Kes, a regular on the first three seasons of Voyager who departed the series in The Gift at the start of the fourth season. The return of Kes is a strange choice, in large part because the production team often struggled with what to do with the character while she was part of the core cast. Still, there are any number of interesting possibilities. And there is the possibility that, like Yesterday’s Enterprise or Resurrection, the production team might use the occasion to say something interesting about Kes.

Unfortunately, Fury is a spectacular mess of an episode with half-developed character motivations and a highly surreal premise that undercuts a lot of the appeal of bringing Kes back in the first place.

Having its cake and eating it too.

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Star Trek: Voyager – Parallax (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.

Parallax feels like a seventh season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation nested inside a first season episode of Star Trek: Voyager. It’s Brannon Braga’s first script for the show, having opted to join Star Trek: Voyager rather than moving over to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Braga would go on to become one of the longest-serving creative forces on televised Star Trek, becoming an executive producer on Star Trek: Voyager and creating (and producing) Star Trek: Enterprise.

Braga is a fantastic high-concept science-fiction writer. His scripts for The Next Generation count among the best the show ever produced – Cause and Effect, Parallels, Frame of Mind. The team of Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore ranks as one of the most consistently great collaborations in the history of Star Trek. On his own, Braga writes fascinating sci-fi concepts. His scripts for the various shows support that.

The problem is that Braga isn’t the franchise’s strongest character writer. Indeed, among the staff writers working on the first season of Voyager, Braga seems like the worst candid to draft in to write the big “establishing character dynamics” episode directly following the pilot. The problem with Parallax is that it’s a nice premise featuring a bunch of characters we don’t care about yet, and the script is more interested in the anomaly of the week than it is in getting us to care about those characters.

"It's like looking into the future..."

“It’s like looking into the future…”

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Non-Review Review: The Edge of Tomorrow

As with Oblivion, the last “Tom Cruise in the future” blockbuster, The Edge of Tomorrow feels like a gigantic big-budget episode of The Outer Limits. It’s low on character and high in concept. The film moves fast enough to gloss over the assorted problems that come with a typical time travel narrative. The script is witty enough to keep the audience engaged, and Tom Cruise is solid enough leading man to hold it all together.

The Edge of Tomorrow is wonderfully enjoyable high-concept thrill ride, and one of the stronger offerings of the summer so far.

It's not the end of the world...

It’s not the end of the world…

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