Thursday, 5 September 2013

Review: Voyager 1.1-2: Caretaker

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The Caretaker's Array
Star Trek Voyager - Season One, Episodes One and Two - Caretaker
Written 18/5/13

Voyager's feature-length premiere is almost perfectly representative of its future course. The show begins with an injection of pure promise, setting up the series' premise in the lacklustre way that the show does best. In the first story alone we find plot threads left hanging, actions from Janeway that make me baffled and several other delicious goodies. To be fair, Caretaker uses its feature-length to great use, and the story is decent enough to get the show off to a memorable start.
     A group of Maquis freedom fighters led by Native-American Chakotay, half-Klingon B'√©lanna and Vulcan Tuvok disappear in a region of space called The Badlands. Sent to search for them is the Federation USS Voyager on its maiden journey, headed up by Captain Kathryn Janeway. Also along for the ride are new ensign Harry Kim and streetwise disgraced ensign Tom Paris. They enter the Badlands and are pulled by an array over 70,000 light years from their home, to the other side of the Galaxy. They discover, after picking up the annoying Neelix and helping to rescue his Ocampa girlfriend Kes from the Kazon, that the Array is run by a powerful alien Caretaker who was pulling ships in to look for his mate. After rescuing B'elanna and Harry from Ocampa, where they had been sent by the Caretaker, Kazon attack ships prevent Janeway from using the Array to get home. Janeway chooses the blow up the Array and strand Voyager in the Delta Quadrant rather than let the Kazon get their hands on it. The two crews join up and head off on their way home.
     Our first impressions of the Delta Quadrant are less than impressive. It's understandable for the writers to want to use the other side of the galaxy as a good excuse for making first contact with all these different species, as they did with the Gamma Quadrant wormhole in DS9, but they could have perhaps chosen some better ones to start off with. Neelix is irritating from the off (although not as much as he would steadily but surely become), and the villains of the first two seasons, the Kazon, are somewhat ridiculous in the way their design and attitude mimics Klingons except without any of the general competence.
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Neelix's first act is to con Voyager, by the way. Just to make
him more endearing. Han Solo you ain't, brotha.
     After what feels like a pacey start as Voyager chases the Maquis ship's trail and then has to undergo the trauma of being pulled at trans-warp speeds across the Galaxy, the episode comes to a halt when the crews of both ships are kidnapped and placed inside a hologramatic scenario designed to mimic a Southern farm. One moment we're in sci-fi space funtimes, the next we're in Little House On The Prairie, with sinister old women offering holographic cookies. Then there's the whole B'elanna and Harry subplot, where they find themselves with strange growths on Ocampa. Their condition is never explained, and once they're rescued they live happily ever after for the next seven seasons, so I really don't know what that was about.
     As the journey home begins, the overwhelming message that spins off of Caretaker is of the strange and the unknown. The first episode has a great many pacing issues, and the core concepts the set the ship off on its voyage are a teensy bit pathetic.Despite that, though, there is the inkling here and there that if the show can carry out its premise in a semi-competent fashion and eventually develop beyond it, then it could have some real hope for the future. (Hint: This doesn't turn out well for anyone.)

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Bad Science galore as Voyager gets trapped in and then escapes from the Event Horizon of a Black Hole, in Parallax.

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