Thursday, 27 March 2014

Review: Voyager 2.14: Alliances

http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20100123114760/memoryalpha/en/images/7/76/MabusJanewayKazons.jpg
Janeway gets pally with the Trabe, who need to check
their privilege. From Wikia
Star Trek Voyager - Season Two, Episode Fourteen - Alliances
Written 9/8/13

I've been very kind to Voyager over the apst few weeks, sining its praises and wondering what the hell of this negative air was about. And then I reached Alliances, and despite my excitement for yet another tiresome Kazon episode, I really had expected something to happen in the overall plot. In Alliances, Voyager has the opportunity to open up into a level of complexity that its sister DS9 wielded so well - a chance to open up to more stories that were politically relevant, relationships that were politically relevant and analogous to those in the other series but framed in a different way. And, as you can tell my by tone, Voyager squanders this not only thoroughly and completely, but with a strange sort of pride and gusto that left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.
     After another battering from the Kazon, a crew member dies, and several Maquis crewmembers chirp up again about needing to use different tactics. That includes Chakotay, who makes a personal appeal to the Captain that they have to ally themselves with one of the Kazon factions in order to secure themselves and prevent more attacks. Janeway, after some stubbornness, reluctantly agrees - she reaches out to the clan that Seska has allied herself with, while Neelix goes after one I've never heard of. Negotiations fail with Maje Cullah because he's a sexist bastard, while Neelix gets involved in a prison-break held by members of a race called the Trabe. A representative gets very pally with Janeway and reveals that his race used to hold the Kazon in ghettos before they rebelled - but that was a generation ago, and none of those alive now support their persecution. He suggests bringing all of the faction-leaders together for a meeting to discuss peace, but when they do get together, it turns out that the Trabe were being little treacherous shits and were trying to kill all of the Kazon leaders. Janeway gives up on politics and gives a "rousing" speech in which she says that they now have to stick to Federation principles no matter what.
      Alliances, in its concession towards Maquis ideas being used in Voyager's command structure, opens up a little peephole to a well of potential for the series to exploit. Having Maquis crewmembers makes it very easy to imagine a ship structure that straddled the lines between Federation morality and Maquis pragmatism, making allies and enemies in unknown territory and allowing us access then to a whole host of new races and then possibly new main characters as a result. It would be a more realistic scenario by far, and it would deliver a great big dollop of meaty moral ambiguity to a series currently stuck in lazy optimism. I hate the ending of this episode, I actually thoroughly hate it because it's so motherfucking predictable and it ends up painting Janeway in a bad light when just because some murderous assholes fucked up her plan, she's now going to ignore the very real fact that you can't run an efficient judicial hierarchy 70,000 lightyears away from home.
http://voy.trekcore.com/gallery/albums/2x14/alliances_141.jpg
Voyager attempts to ally with Cullah and Seska.
From Trekcore
     That said, I did admire the episode's attempts to try. Seska and Cullah always form a fun double act even if it feels like some kind of weird prime-time soap opera whenever they're on screen. Cullah's sexist bullshit was handled very well, with both Janeway and Seska verbally kicking his ass.The examination of the Trabe's persecution of the Kazon as a reason for their eventual uprising, while trying to fall analogous to the white persection of every other god-damn race on the planet, ended up being a little insulting. I mean, it sorta implied that all persecuted peoples who rebel against their persecutors are naturally violent, evil people. Which is a really quite horrible thing to imply, and it stinks of how little this episode was actually thought out.
     Voyager could have made revolutionary steps in plotting any time it wanted - that's not the issue here, even though I am slightly disappointed that in its early days the show very much felt like a take-off of Next Generation. The issue is that Voyager is so often adept at dangling good things in our faces and then throwing them away - it doesn't seem to know the value of change in its storyline and instead here glorifies the status quo as if it's this holy, wonderous thing instead of the bane of every viewer's existence. This episode was a bit like Merlin in that regard. Maybe that's why I was so angry and bitter at it. I should have to feel angry and bitter at Star Trek - I love Star Trek, but thi episode just pushed too many of the wrong buttons.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Fuck. It's the only non-canon episode in the entire Franchise. We do well not to try and cross Threshold.

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