Better Boxes for Boys and Girls HE SAID:
What are we to make of this new Voyager season? More precisely, what do they INTEND us to make of it? Was this ep written by three or four different people?
The opener, "Night," started with some character bits as everyone is affected by the darkness of a deep nebula. We got to see the Captain withdraw and the crew worry about her, and their own fates if Janeway cracked up (more on that below). And there was also a holodeck segment thrown in for no apparent reason.
Then there was a neat X-Files kinda thing where these aliens that look like melting chocolate sneak around in a suddenly-dark ship and attack people while they're separated from their buddies. This was the most effective of the segments; how often is any Trek show even the slightest bit spooky?
Then, however, we got into some negotiations with shifty aliens, in which it was immediately obvious which side was right and which was wrong. Say this for Janeway, too: she had no doubts that the aliens dumping poison antimatter (yeah, I know it makes no sense, but enough of the science already; this ain't science fiction here, kids, this is fantasy) were jerks who deserved to get their wrists slapped, at the very least. Actually, we see the garbage ship EXPLODE near the end, and must presume that snotty alien garbageman got killed in the explosion; that'll teach those ecological despoilers!
I jest; pollution is very bad, as anyone downwind of Chernobyl (or, worse, Kyshtym) can tell you. I wish we could deal with willful polluters the way Janeway does; kill 'em out of hand. That's what fantasy is for: to provide catharsis by solving problems we'd like to solve in real life.
Which is why the continuing dance among the Voyager command crew drives me absolutely wall-bouncing banana-burger insane! Janeway wants to sacrifice herself for the crew; they won't let her. Awww, hand me the Kleenex.
Suppose for the moment that Captain Janeway dies. Does it MATTER who takes her place, since every character, EVEN THE BORG CHARACTER, is EQUALLY well-suited to command? Everyone respects everyone else; I bet they'd even take suggestions from Neelix, if he happened to be the one who came up with the solution du jour before anyone else.
Not that there's anything wrong with a crew that all like each other. But then why do they have to give lip service to "tensions among the crew" when nothing ever comes of it?
I'll tell you why: because this show is written by committee. Okay, I'm bitter; I applied for a job on the writing staff and was politely told to tend my own garden, or words to that effect. But when Gene Roddenberry was at the helm, by God, his show was consistent; it wasn't one part soap opera, one part spooky drama and one part morality play, one after the other instead of all at the same time. Even when Gene was overseeing Next Gen, it had a certain consistency; I didn't like it, but it made sense within its own frame of reference.
And so does DS9, more or less. Why can't they get Voyager right?
Sigh. Perhaps later episodes will be written largely, or completely, by whoever it was who devised the "chase in the dark" sequence from "Night." See, then we can watch those few eps and ignore the rest.
It's interesting that Steve and I can both dislike an episode, but for completely different reasons. He thinks every character aboard Voyager is equally suited to command; I don't think any of them are. But then again, I can think of several episodes of Classic Trek, overseen by the Great Bird Himself, in which KIRK didn't seem suited to command. "And the Children Shall Lead"? "Elaan of Troyius"? "The Way To Eden"? Come on. I could do the same with Picard, particularly during the episodes when he went off on archaeological treasure hunts. Sometimes when new Trek sucks, it helps to remind myself that Trek has always sucked, at least a little.
For some inexplicable reason, Voyager chose to begin its season with an episode in which the crew is bored out of their skulls. I guess the writers do not understand that watching people being bored out of their skulls for fifteen minutes is boring to the viewer as well; I almost tuned out when Harry started in on his clarinet solo. I mean, I take it for granted that even if I find Tom's holonovel puerile and sexist, it doesn't matter because that's created for the young male demographic, just like Seven's costume and Chakotay's new authoritarian stance. But I can't imagine that anyone found the first twenty minutes of "Night" interesting.
The environmental subplot annoyed me because TNG did it to death with the no-high-warp business, and because it made no sense for Janeway to destroy the singularity if she also intended to destroy the ship which was making the singularity a danger for the inhabitants of the void. (I won't even get into the practicality of creatures living in a void with no stars who can nonetheless breathe the atmosphere on Voyager, etc.; like Steve said, this ain't science fiction.) But considering the number of incredibly idiotic decisions Janeway made during this episode, that one barely registered. So she feels guilty about stranding her crew, and admits that getting home is her obsession - good, that's progress, she's more in touch with her feelings than she was in last season's opener. But she deals with this by becoming a recluse, ignoring the needs of her crew while they are stranded, and then brushing off the old martyr complex? Sometimes I think Voyager is meant to be a cautionary tale about why women should NOT be captains. Thank god this one doesn't seem to be representative even for Trek; TNG and DS9 have a great many competent women.
I don't think the problem with Voyager is that it's written by committee. Deep Space Nine is written by committee and it's been fantastic for the past year. The problem is that Voyager's committee is made up of unscientific chauvinists who are willing to bow to network demands, headed by a guy who brags about the fact that he didn't even watch the original series and who advertises his degrading erotic fantasies about women. Of course they can't write a decent Janeway, or even a decent Seven of Nine; of course they find trekking in the void to be boring. They're not in this for the exploring strange new worlds or even exploring politics, relationships, values. They're just trying to make a buck. No matter how many bad episodes Roddenberry witnessed, at least I believe he had some goals higher than that.
This column was originally written for AnotherUniverse.com.