Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Review: Voyager 3.6: Remember

B'elanna tries to explain the events of the Regressive genocide
to a disbelieving Enaran crowd.
Star Trek Voyager - Season Three, Episode Six - Remember
Written 17/8/15

This year, the world marked the seventieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, and with it the effective end of the Holocaust. While not the only great massacre in history, it was the systematic nature of the killings, the scale and the way that propaganda played a role that makes it stand out as a devastating and important event. This story, while not an exact analogue for those events, attempts to place one of our characters in the position of someone affected by similar propaganda. And, for the most part, it succeeds, not pulling any punches with its message but still standing as a captivating experience.
     As Voyager escorts a group of telepathic aliens called the Enarans, B'Elanna starts getting weird dreams which place her in the position of an Enaran woman in love with a member of a group called Regressives, a group who once resisted technology. As her waking life surrounds finding the source of these dreams, the dream narrative explores how the Regressives were discriminated against, forced to relocate from their homes and eventually exterminated, with B'Elanna's dream character joining the mob rallying against them. She discovers that one of the members of the Enaran party has been projecting these memories too her, hoping to uncover the historic injustice through a third party. B'elanna tries to confront the rest of the Enarans over this issue, but due to non-interferance rules the only thing she can do is share her memories with a single Enaran engineer.
     Remember was written by Joe Menosky for TNG, and that really shows in the way that it avoids a lot of Voyager tropes. B'elanna's history with oppression as both a Maquis and as half-Klingon isn't directly mentioned, but it does seem to inform her anger and frustration at the injustice she experiences in her dreams - making her a much more appropriate choice for the lead than Troi would have in TNG. We also see yet another side of Janeway's character, acting with responsibility and resolve, not entirely blowing B'elanna's concerns off but reluctantly telling her that beyond trade sanctions with the Enarans, it's not really their place to go wading into an alien society and telling them what to do.
B'elanna, as Korenna in her dreams, finds herself cheering
on at the execution of her Regressive lover.
     Obviously the episode didn't have very long to get its entire message across, with time dedicated to the real-world story and to building up the relationship between B'elanna's dream persona, Korenna, and her Regressive lover Daathan. In true Trek fashion, the Regressives aren't modelled after one particular culture; while there are elements of the persecution of the First Nations cultures ("There are some who resist progress"), the main comparisons I find are with the Jews (as was intended), but most pertinently, the Romani. Persecution based on culture rather than race is something often overlooked in Americentric social ideas, and is a much more European phenomenon. I personally love that we're never shown what actually makes the "Regressives" different from the rest of the Enarans, if anything, as that highlights the absurdity inherant within the propaganda that Korenna's own father continues to spew.
     Unlike the previous message episodes along these lines, Jetrel and Resistance, Remember isn't an examination of a situation in hindsight, attempting to pre-empt the historical wrong as it happens rather than simply condemn it after the fact. It didn't have a lot of time to fully explore these issues, granted, but the few choice lines it did use and the considerable time spent examining the effect bringing these issues up years later makes a fitting and thorough tribute to the many persecuted people in reality, and may just act as a warning - don't believe everything people tell you just to gain someone's approval. And that kind of message actually working makes a fine change.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: An episode that thinks it's being daring and different by "questioning science", and in the process completely fails to understand what Science actually is. I'm going to be tearing it a new one. Be careful not to set foot on Sacred Ground.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

FTA: Doctor Who Classic: Spearhead From Space, The Androids of Tara, Full Circle and Logopolis

This second volume of articles from Celebrate, Regenerate! covers the Third and Fourth Doctors. (See here for more on this project.)

Spearhead From Space (120 Words)

Spearhead From Space is the definition of an archetypal Doctor Who story, and it defines the Tom Pertwee era almost as much as Inferno and Planet of the Spiders simply through a combination of luck, skill and what really feels like hard work. The story’s greatest blessing comes directly from the initial strike which prevented them from using video, and while it does start the Colour Era off very grainily, it also makes sure that the beginning of Pertwee’s time on the program looks and feels epic. Adding to that is the absolute wunderkind that is Robert Holmes, whose script mixes humour, scares and interesting concepts to provide not only a great opener, but also a monster that would be remembered by children around the country for the rest of their lives. 

The Androids of Tara

So often these days, The Doctor is off saving the Universe time and time again. I remember the good old days. When The Doctor wasn’t saving a galaxy, or even a planet, but a small feudal kingdom on a planet of humanlike aliens far away from everything we know. The Androids of Tara, a barefaced if loving adaptation of The Prisoner of Zenda, takes Doctor Who the furthest it has ever been into the realm of fantasy, facing us with Princes, Princesses, Counts and Peasants, as well as the odd robot dog. What I love most about Androids is simply that the story not only adapts the fantasy setting to a more Doctor Who world, but that the transition is completely seamless. Only Doctor Who could take entire scenes from another work word for word and mess around with it enough for it to feel like a bona-fide Who classic.
     The story’s most memorable feature is by far the erstwhile Count Grendel, a villain whose villainy extends to such epic proportion that by the end he’s given up all pretence and is simply telling the officials around him to abide by his evil plans for the sake of common decency. His goatee, his incredibly potent voice – Grendel is, after maybe Count Scarlioni, one of the Classic Series’ most fun standalone villains simply for how much he gets away with. My favourites of his scenes are the scene in which he casually tells the Archimandrite that he needs a Wedding, a Funeral and another Wedding in quick succession, and his final words – “Next time, I will not be so lenient!”
     The story also allows us some fun with doppelgangers, allowing Mary Tamm a whopping four credits as Romana, Princess Strella and the android duplicates of both. Luckily, the story avoids playing this device for comedy, and thus it’s an actual shock when The Doctor appears to strike Romana down at the end of part Two. On that. This story’s cliffhangers are great too. First our heroes randomly start to fall unconscious, then The Doctor bludgeons Romana in the back of the head, and then Grendel manages to steal Romana from under The Doctor’s nose. It all ties together to produce a story that, while derivative in the extreme, is fun from start to finish in all of the good ways. 

Full Circle

My first encounter with this story came due to the wondrous popularity of my name, which informed me as a child that this was the story that apparently I had written. That had always made me excited to see it, even when I learnt about (and experienced) Adric’s bad turns. For me, this was a sign that surely this JNT guy was great – hey, he allowed fans to write for the series. I think I secretly hoped that one day I’d be able to write for the revived series, and while that hasn’t quite come true I do spend a lot of my free time writing articles, like this, about my favourite TV show.
     What, then, of the story? What Full Circle does exceedingly well is to take a sci-fi idea and make it work in lots of different directions. The story’s main boasting point (and its biggest spoiler, don’t say I didn’t warn you) is the reveal near the end, where it’s discovered that the suspiciously-human-looking Alzarians are not the descendants of settlers from Terradon, but instead the hyper-evolved descendants of the planets’ native Marshmen, who had rushed to fill in the void when the crew of the Terradonian ship had died. There are subtle hints as to this throughout the story, presenting the idea of hyper-evolution and, unlike a lot of its bedfellows in Season 18, executing it properly.
     The story’s biggest contribution to the series is probably Adric, named after influential particle-physicist Paul Dirac (who predicted the existence of Antimatter) and possibly one of the least-liked companions in the show’s history. Of course most people will tell you that he’s not as bad as the stereotype says, and I’m one of those people. Despite how whiney and annoying he can be sometimes, at heart Adric is just a perfect representation of a troubled teenage boy trying to fit in. He’s flawed, sure, but those flaws fluctuated with his writers and in his initial story he’s actually one of the highlights.
     Narratively, Full Circle presents a strange turn for Classic Who, at least in this stage of its life. Two seasons prior had seen a big arc in the form of The Key To Time, but this was the first time that a narrative arc (or, more commonly for the JNT Era, a trilogy) had been dropped in the middle of a season. I’m strange, really, in that I think that Full Circle is perhaps the most entertaining story of the three in the E-Space Trilogy. It has cool monsters, an interesting and well-executed sci-fi idea, and proof of sorts that fans can actually write good Doctor Who. Which is always a nice thing to hear.

Logopolis
(Main article.)

It was the end of an era that had lasted seven years. The Tom Baker years are often heralded as the show’s Golden Age, featuring classics like Genesis of the Daleks, The Pyramids of Mars, The Hand of Fear and The City of Death. It’s strange then, that Baker’s final story in the role doesn’t hearken back to those halcyon days but instead chooses to look forward to the style that would be prevalent in the rest of the JNT era.
     The first outing of the Ainley Master shows off both sides of his character – the cackling, scheming madman and the clueless panto villain. One gets the feeling that this Master has bitten off more than he can chew, but he always manages to adapt his schemes to cause the most pain and suffering as is possible. In fact, going by death count, this accidental scheme is the Master’s most profitable, managing to destroy one quarter of the entire Universe. It’s amazing how his first serial manages to be so representative of his tenure – bumbling and incompetent most of the time, but dangerous when he manages to succeed.
     Logopolis is rather unique, in a way. There’s no setup, no normal, “The Doctor lands on planet X, meets villain Y, defeats villain Y and pops on his way.” No, the story (for the most part) feels a lot more fluid and refreshing. And while in some parts this manifests as Tegan trying to blow up a spare tyre, elsewhere it provides insights into The Doctor and Adric’s characterisations. This structure provides the story with that unique feeling that Tom’s swan-song needs, as well as facilitating the wonderful sense of forboding that the character of The Watcher creates.
     Important to note is that Logopolis not only ends the Tom Baker era, but also the wonderful Season 18. I like the storyline running through the season, but I tend to get bogged down when it comes to the individual story. Bidmead’s vast supply of technobabble doesn’t make this story any different, but what it does do is tie together the season’s themes of entropy and loss together into a single thesis.
     And so the era of Tom Baker is over. But don’t worry. For the moment has been prepared for, especially by JNT. At the end of this story, the TARDIS is stuffed with three companions, two of which have arrived somewhat traditionally and one which doesn’t really need to be here. Together, they advance into Doctor Who’s uncertain future – the true beginning of Eighties Who. It may be the end of one era. But there’s another still to come.

Thanks

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Review: Voyager 3.5: False Profits

Previously, on TNG: The USS Enterprise supervises negotiations over a stable wormhole. Two Ferengi, Arridor and Kol, attempt to hijack the proceedings by crossing over to the other side. Unknown to them, the wormhole is unstable at one end, and they are stranded - in the Delta Quadrant. The story continues...

Arridor and Kol.
Star Trek Voyager - Season Three, Episode Five - False Profits
Written 13/8/15

The Ferengi are the first of many recurring aliens introduced in Star Trek's revival in the late Eighties. Originally intended to be The Next Generation's overarching villains, they were later reduced to comic relief when the producers realised that they were ridiculous. Deep Space Nine gave them some room to flesh out and really examined their philosophy in all lights, balancing comic relief and fascinating sci-fi ideas. This is the first of two Ferengi episodes in Voyager (not counting the Quark cameo in Caretaker), and it's clear from the off that this show is definitely not ready for that kind of approach. So instead, in place of that, we have a continuity-driven comic relief episode! Yay.
     Voyager finds the opening to a wormhole which appears to lead to the Alpha Quadrant, but which will only open at their end for a limited period of time. Nearby they find evidence of Alpha Quadrant aliens, and upon landing on the planet they discover a culture in reverence to the two Ferengi, Arridor and Kol. While usually The Prime Directive would stop them from interfering with primitive societies, Janeway decides in her infinite wisdom that it's partially the Federation's fault that The Ferengi are there in the first place. After using the tried-and-tested "dress Neelix in a disguise" method, they eventually exploit the local culture's own creation myth in order to beam the two Ferengi out. However, to Voyager's chagrin, the two are easily able to escape their custody and fly off in a shuttle through the wormhole to the Alpha Quadrant, destabilising it along the way and once again stranding Voyager.
     The Ferengi were Gene Roddenberry's caricature of venture capitalists - vicious goblin-like creatures whose entire society (and religion) surrounds the aquisition and maintenance of capital. In TNG this wasn't really explored much, with the Ferengi usually just sitting in a traditional villain role (usually with some comic relief surrounding their appearance and beliefs), but in Deep Space Nine we had Quark as one of the focus characters, and we were able to fully explore their society. That show's blend of moral greyness meant that the show's three main Ferengi characters became some of the most sympathetic characters in the cast. This episode went out in the middle of said "Ferengi renaissance", and quite disappointingly it uses them as bland, one-note villains.
Neelix makes a surprisngly good Ferengi. Who knew?
     There is something to be said for the way that Voyager attempts to remove the Ferengi from the planet. Neelix's impression of "The Grand Proxy" is surprisingly convincing, with Ethan Phillips having previously played a Ferengi scientist in TNG's Ménage à Troi. I also enjoyed the way that Janeway, now free of pesky rules, was able to manipulate the local mythology in order to afford the people their freedom from Ferengi tyranny. In true Voyager style, the main issue that the actual crew have with doing this is whether they can pass it by their own Federation rulebook, and this is a clear case where Janeway decides its applicability as she goes along.
     It's was a logical move to carry on the events of TNG's The Price into Voyager, especially as that episode was the first one to clearly define the idea of "Quadrants", the idea which more or less allowed Star Trek Voyager to come into being. I'm just not sure that it was a sequel that anyone particular asked for - even with the recap within the episode's exposition, it isn't the smoothest transition in the world. That combined with a fairly standard Voyager plot and a disappointly boring use of the Ferengi, and False Profits turns out to not be of any profit after all.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: B'elanna is forced to experience life in a dystopian world... well, more dystopian than usual. It's Remember.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

FTA: Doctor Who Classic: Edge of Destruction, Galaxy Four and Tomb of the Cybermen

When I was involved in Lewis Christian's amazing fan-created book Celebrate, Regenerate, I submitted 29 articles, a whopping 25 of which got published within the beautiful, non-profit book. Unfortunately, very soon after the book was published on Lulu, Christian's website was taken over and the book disappeared from Lulu altogether. Since the book, both digital and physical, is effectively out of print, I thought I'd publish all of the articles that I have stored away in my archives, staggered across the weeks (due to the sheer amount of text involved.) I hope you enjoy them, and I hope that through this, the spirit of Celebrate, Regenerate lives on. I'll also be including "See More" links to where I've previously written a full review of that story, and images to break up the text. Enjoy. :D

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The Edge of Destruction (Extra words)
By Andrew Smith

Doctor Who proves to be incredibly divisive as early as its third story. Granted, The Edge of Destruction’s rather odd plot and performance does mean that it doesn’t attract a lot of followers, but at heart it’s the finale to a 13-episode long arc that cements the personalities of our initial TARDIS team as well as introducing us to the concept of a sentient time machine. Its slightly stage-play like construction allows us a wonderful amount of tension compared with the speed of its production, and the solution is a wonderfully unassuming joke that relieves the tension of the instalment with incredible ease. The Edge of Destruction, despite the way it was cobbled together on an almost absent budget, is a masterpiece that perfectly caps the series’ opening arc and ensured the success of the series for years to come. (See more.)

Galaxy Four
By Andrew Smith

Perhaps I'm not an expert here. My first interaction with Galaxy Four came just after I'd started looking into the Classic Series, when I bought the Titan Books publishing of the serial's script. The idea of the Chumblies fascinated me; the first time in my experience where there had been a deliberate dissonance between the idea that the most alien looking ones were the baddies. I was fascinated by the commanding female presence in the Drahvins, held my breath as Steven Taylor suffocated in the air lock, and felt slightly sad when the Drahvins were left to die on the exploding planet. Imagine my disappointment, then, when I learnt for the first time about the great burnings, and that the story had been entirely destroyed.
     Until the very recent discovery of the third episode, this was something of a Ghost story, one which had very little record at all post-transmission. It wasn't alone, of course, but it wasn't exactly a high-profile loss. People were more concerned with William Hartnell's last episode, or Troughton's first story. The Highlanders, The Macra Terror, The Web of Fear. Why should anyone care about a little old story with Amazonian aliens and cute little robots, when so much of Doctor Who's most important moments are completely missing? Well, for a very good reason. What's left of Galaxy Four is a decent little story, and one that packs a lot of great sci-fi ideas into an interesting premise. For a bit.
     Ok, the elephant in the room time. Galaxy Four is a tiny bit tedious in its way, and for the experienced viewer who knows the ins and outs of TV, this is pretty much the equivalent of watching an episode of Merlin where they try to spring the surprise that Morgana is evil. But for me as a child, reading this wonderful old script... everything was fresh, everything was new. Suddenly the black and white era wasn't this impenetrable fog, but this exciting and wonderful series of stories that were just as good as the stuff I was used to. Galaxy Four was the story that let me go one step further to becoming a Doctor Who fan, and for that I am truly grateful.

Tomb of the Cybermen
By Andrew Smith

The story of Tomb of the Cybermen and it’s history in Who fandom is the result of a long saga that began and ended many years before I was even born, but it never stopped me from appreciating the story in new light. At the end of the day, when we look at Tomb, we have to wonder why exactly it’s so special. After all, it’s a fairly standard story of that era. It takes character roles from previous Cyberman stories, with the confident expedition leader, the nervous guy on the edge, and the base under siege story is almost endemic. So what makes it so… so memorable? 
     Aside from the story’s size, which is the perfect configuration for most Classic Who fans, the story is also famous for having been fully recovered after the great burnings of the 1970s. As well as large swathes of Doctor Who, shows like Dad’s Army and nearly Monty Python had their master tapes burnt. For years, even after the program ended, people lamented the fate of Tomb of the Cybermen, oft remembered for the scenes in the second episode in which the Cybermen awaken from their sleep. And then, when all hope was lost, the entire story was recovered in 1992 from a Chinese TV station. Despite sharing a lot of the Second Doctor’s era’s tropes, the story feels more modern and the four-part structure means that it might as well be a Pertwee story someone lost the colour spots for.
     The Cybermen were always one of my favourite monsters because of the fact that they weren’t fundamentally malicious in nature. Modern media often feels the need to distinguish goodies and baddies, right and wrong, the compassionate and the evil. As a child, I loved the fact that the Cybermen were the product of a society, not unlike ours, whose desperation to survive turned them into a force of evil. The fear that they provoke is not from their appearance, nor their voice, but their motives. “You will become like us.” This story takes the more conceptual Cybermen from their first story and compacts it into a more public-friendly form, creating the monster that would go on to become the Daleks’ main competition as the series’ most well known monster.
     There’s been a lot of backlash to Tomb of the Cybermen’s popularity over the years, as you’d expect. The (human) villains are all minorities, the only black man is a mute who sacrifices himself at the end to save the day, and the only reason anything happens is because The Doctor is a bit too nosy. But people are able to ignore that with Tomb of the Cybermen in a way that other stories don’t manage. And that’s simply because Tomb, if you ignore all of the rascism, is a very well crafted Who story that takes the Cybermen and shoves them into a better, scarier new direction. It’s got Cybermen, Cybercontrollers, Cybermats and even a Cyber-manakin, and if I wanted to introduce a Not-We to my favourite monster, this would be the story I’d choose. (See more.)

Thanks.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Back in action?

Any readers (as rare and elusive as you are) may have noticed that Star Trek Voyager reviews have resumed. Working with my revision and, eventually, my Uni work, I aim to at least finish Season Three, eventually moving onto Season Four. That much is in the bag, and trying to get all the way through Voyager at least gives me something to aim for. I will also do my best to review the new episodes of Doctor Who Season 35/9, which starts next month.
      I've been thinking about finishing off and/or revisiting several areas. I've been meaning to discuss Moffat's older work from a current perspective, and so I'm thinking about revisiting Doctor Who Season 31/5, starting from where I originally started live Doctor Who reviews for The Hungry Earth.
     A few months ago I was also planning out an essay about the portrayal of Women in Red Dwarf, as a late revisitation to the ideas I mentioned in "The Problem with Kochanski." Except this time without the unintentional misogyny.

Thanks.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Review: Voyager 3.4: The Swarm

I'm a Doctor/Kes shipper, of course I giffed this moment.
Star Trek: Voyager - Season Three, Episode Four - The Swarm
Written 8/8/15

Something I've mentioned before, when I did my run-through of Voyager last year, is my shipping of The Doctor and Kes. This came up most prominently in Projections, where The Doctor's subconscious posed Kes as his loyal wife. I know this really isn't something I'd usually start a review off with, but one of the key features of The Swarm is The Doctor and Kes' relationship, either as friends, as teacher/student or in a parental way. Or a romantic way. (It's possible!) And given how interesting that main plot is, it's disappointing that, as often happens on Voyager, the excuse plot to tie it all together is breathtakingly dull.
     Best buds B'elanna and Tom are off scouting on some mission, until they're suddenly attacked by two aliens, knocking Tom unconscious. The Doctor, who has been practising his opera, suddenly finds himself forgetting the words. When he later tries to perform the procedure to save Tom, he deteriorates to the point that Kes basically has to do it for him. As Voyager encounters a race of aliens known locally as The Swarm, Kes and B'elanna realise that The Doctor's program is breaking down after having been active for so long, only having been developed as a temporary medical substitute. They activate a diagnostic program (played by Picardo himself) who lambastes Kes for "allowing" The Doctor to fill his program with things like opera in the first place. As the rest of the crew use technobabble to fight off The Swarm, Kes convinces the diagnostic hologram to sacrifice himself to allow The Doctor some more memory, which he does so.
     The plotline with the titular Swarm is so dull that I literally had to look up who they were after I watched it. Due to either incompetence or just simple laziness, the "main" plotline that they feature in is a mess of technobabble and confusing facts. Introduced near the beginning episode as a mysterious race with an untranslatable language who owned a large region of space, their potential importance is whisked away at the end when they're technobabbled away by Harry Kim of all people, after which they suddenly decide to leave Voyager alone. Unlike my expectation, their attacks had nothing to do with The Doctor's sudden deterioration, and as such they could have been left out of the overall plot with no real loss to the episode or to the show.
"Well, there's nothing more I can do; either reinitialise
it or live with the knowledge that eventually this EMH
will end up with the intellectual capacity of a parsnip."
      As I mentioned above, the shining parts of this episode were centred around Kes and her dogged attempts to save The Doctor's life. Flipping the roles from Projections, where The Doctor deals with, among other things, his subconscious appreciation of Kes, here we see Kes put into a position where she must help The Doctor and test her own beliefs about their friendship. Despite my non-canon shipping fun, there is something to be said for the relationship between the two characters, and the many forms it takes - she helps The Doctor to see himself as a worthy individual, and he helps her explore her mental potential and fulfill her desire to help out and be a worthwhile member of the crew. This episode presented that relationship in a tragic light, with Kes now the carer for a mentally fading Doctor, in a clear and biting comparison towards Alzheimer's and Dementia.
     The Swarm is a decent idea trying to work alongside the Voyager auto-pilot. Seeing Picardo work alongside himself for the first time (and not the last) was certainly fun, with the diagnostic program shedding an insight into the EMH's creator Lewis Zimmerman (a character who this same year made his first appearance, over in DS9.) The few minutes actually devoted to the titular story were really quite tedious, but they were more than made up for by the exploration of the Doctor/Kes relationship - even if the real nature of their friendship was, as ever, left with a certain ambiguity.

Thanks.

NEXT TIME: To read next week's episode, please deposit two strips of gold-pressed latinum into the box in front of you. Either that or give Ethan Phillips new prosthetics - it's False Profits.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Review: Voyager 3.3: The Chute

Don't cross Harry Kim, he knows karaté.
Star Trek Voyager - Season Three, Episode Three - The Chute
Written between 31st July and 2nd August 2015

Harry Kim is a complete and total dweeb. He's forever ending up in the wrong relationship situations. He claims to remember what it was like in his mother's womb. His only real passion seems to be playing the clarinet, badly, and despite spending seven years of the show as one of the ship's main crew, he's still at the basic rank of Ensign. Nothing more sums up the pointlessness of Harry than his centric episodes, which don't really benefit from him being the focus. However, there is a trend as Voyager goes on to try and use these centric to present a different image of Harry, and some of them do actually end up delivering some of his best moments. The Chute is an attempt at one of these, and while a lot of its success is down to sharing the centric with Tom Paris, it's still a win for Harry.
     Harry and Tom find themselves in a brutal alien prison, the crew being blamed for a terrorist explosion apparently created using material from Voyager's engines. Everyone in the prison has been given an implant which makes them angry and paranoid, meaning tensions are frayed across the board. Harry and Tom, forced to fight their own urges, group up with another prisoner called Zio in order to bypass the security on The Chute - the only entrance to the prison, through which their food arrives. Harry manages to climb up, but discovers that the prison is not underground, but in fact a Space Station. On Voyager, the crew track down the terrorist group actually responsble for the bombings, and attempt to trade them for Tom and Harry. This offer refused, Janeway instead takes the pragmatic option, approaching the prison in Neelix's trading vessel and storming the place.
     This story's character work follows a common format - put characters into a lot of stress, and/or some kind of mind-control, and see if they can keep true to themselves and their commitments. And applying this idea to Harry and Tom is not too bad of a concept - the friendship between the two forms a good part of the early show's levity. How din would it be to test Kim's tolerance of the arrogant Paris, or Paris' patience when looking out for Kim? The episode begins strongly with the latter and ends up weakly soldiering on with the former,  when Paris is not injured and Kim insists upon trying to care for him despite Zio's protestations. There's one scene near the end which is meant to be a pivotal character moment where Kim nearly kills Paris over something petty before snapping himself out of it which was effective even if coming out of left field.
♫ It's guy love, that's what it is...
     Other than that, the episode felt a little bland and mediocre. Alien political terrorists are not a new idea in Star Trek or even in Voyager, and that particular idea would go on to be covered with a lot more panache in Season Four's "Living Witness". Unlike in DS9, where we often needed a Bashir/O'Brien show because of all of the other competing plotlines, Kim and Paris' friendship is so omnipresent in this show that we really don't need to give it any particular focus. I suppose the main benefit of the episode was the focus on Kim as a character, giving one of the first examples of him overcoming his innate dweebiness and actually with competence and confidence - something I'm sure that both Garrett Wang and the audience appreciated at the time.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Voyager adds fuel to the Doctor/Kes ship in The Swarm.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Take2Guide to Lost!

Cover from Take2Publishing
Back in October, I was approached by the wonderful John Pruzanski to have some of the Lost articles on this blog published in an e-book. That book, the Take2Guide to Lost, is due to be published online on September 18th 2015, and will include 45 of my articles as well as hundreds of other pieces from over 50 bloggers and writers.

If you're interested, then bookmark this link and buy it when it becomes avaliable. Each sale goes to helping a poor student blogger. :D

Thanks.