Thursday, 21 November 2013

Review: Voyager 1.13: Cathexis
This is kinda a Chakotay episode, even though Robert
Beltran gets to sleep for most of it.
Star Trek Voyager - Season One, Episode Thirteen - Cathexis
Written 16/6/13

Cathexis, joining the ranks of Voyager titles made up of single, hard-to-define words (Looking at you, Parallax), is a word which describes the mental energy put upon an object by a person. It is a title that brings us an oddly tense episode which uses several tropes I usually find annoying, and I can't really decide if I like it or not. It's an episode about paranoia and trust and it could quite possibly be something terrible that's just well-executed.
   Chakotay and Tuvok come back from an away mission severely injured, with Chakotay's mind having been extracted from his body, leaving him braindead. Tom Paris sends the ship away from a nebula that they'd been trying to go into, but can't remember doing it - other people keep reporting similar things across the ship. Suspicion falls upon a moving alien parasite that seems to be posessing people and not wanting to enter the nebula. The Doctor finds that the people affected have had their brain-waves replaced by another one. Paranoia sweeps the ship; especially for Neelix, who's on full asshole-mode this week. As things turn out, there are two possessing creatures - one that's taken over Tuvok permenantly and is trying to lead Voyager into the nebula to its doom, and the disembodied mind of Chakotay, which has been trying to help them out.
     The episode's execution is as muddled as its core premise, with one producer wanting to focus on the tension of the situation and the other wanting to make the episode a study of paranoia. The result is an exploitation of the tried-and-tested Posession trope, executed in a way which is quite muddled and garbled. And yet, I did enjoy it. The beginning of the episode runs along quite nicely, building the tension consistently, and once we reach the mind-fuck "what the hell is going on?" stage it's quite fun to see Tuvok as the possessed evil guy for a change. It's rare that Voyager delivers some honest-to-god tense drama, especially with its fondness for the reset button.
Also, we never see this haircut before or after this episode.
     An entertaining diversion came in the first appearance of a strange subplot surrounding Janeway's favourite Holonovel, wherin she takes on the role of a governess in a 19th Century manor. This storyline pops up for a while into the second season, but it unfortunately doesn't get to develop into much. It was originally supposed to be introduced in Eye of the Needle, and it feels as out-of-place here as it does there. It did perhaps have a minor connection to the episode's theme of paranoia, as the Lady of the House is suspicious of Janeway's intentions. But that's ridiculously tenuous, even for me.
     So, while its tension wasn't bound together with its plot, Cathexis was a decent outing. I had to call a little bullshit on the whole "Chakotay's flying mind" stuff, but otherwise the episode provided a few nice surprises and it ran together in a way that early Voyager doesn't tend to do very often. It lacked focus a little, and if it was really attempting to focus on paranoia I think I'd have put the odd beginning subplot somewhere else, but at this stage in the game you have to take what you can get.


NEXT WEEK: All around me are familiar aliens, worn out plot points, worn out Faces.

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