Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Review: Voyager 3.19: Rise

Now... kiss
Star Trek Voyager - Season Three, Episode Nineteen - Rise
Written 4/10/15

This is not a bad episode. The distinction between a good and bad episode of Voyager goes thusly: A good episode makes me cheer in the middle of the story, and a bad episode makes me cheer at the end. Rise did not make me cheer, or feel much else for that matter - an episode squarely in the middle. It had some okay character work, but the dynamic isn't anything we haven't seen before. The plot was kind of interesting, but the twist was predictable. This is as close that I've seen Voyager come to Doctor Who's Base-Under-Siege format - although I may just be thinking that because I'm going through Cybermen Month and my brain is somewhat saturated.
     Voyager is helping an alien species to destroy asteroids that have been impacting their planet, killing thousands. A respected astrophysicist Dr. Vatm goes missing on the surface, and so Voyager sends shuttles down to the planet to go look for him, as he has information about the asteroids. Tuvok ends up being assigned Neelix, who wants to learn more about away missions, and they crash-land on the planet, conveniently not far away from where Vatm happened to be. Together they discover a Tether lift, a shuttle designed to lift people to a low-orbit space-station along a giant space-rope, which Neelix claims to have expertise in piloting. Despite revealing later that he's only seen models, he proves to be the only one capable of using it. Vatm is murdered, and it's soon revealed that the alien ambassador sent with the party, Sklar, was a traitor for another species who wished to conquer that planet for their own.
     The episode was another outing for Voyager's go-to Odd Couple dynamic, Tuvok and Neelix, although for some reason their interactions felt incredibly muted. In the past, Neelix was an unending source of constant irritation, and Tuvok's bouncing off of him was actually quite amusing as well as cathartic, especially in Meld. Here, though, Neelix has calmed down a little and speaks to Tuvok as a respected superior, merely suggesting he find better ways of motivating and understanding people rather than trying to bludgeon him with overbearing silliness. I'm not sure whether this worked in the episode's favour or not - I was surprised to find that I actually really liked Neelix in this episode, and got a little pissed off at Tuvok for a few of his more condescending put-downs. I'd think this was decent character development if I hadn't watched the rest of the series.
Neelix bullshits his way into a position of power again, but
at least this time he's actually quite competant. 
     I think the fact that the dynamic was taken into such a... pleasant direction meant that it lost a little bit of the spark that made it work in the first place, and when you bundle that in with a political plot about a group of people we've only just met there's not a lot to latch on to. Of course the trusted advisor is going to be the traitor, of course the asteroids are arriving deliberately. (That one just seems borrowed from Frontios.) We know absolutely nothing about the Nezu society that Voyager is helping beyond the patterns of bumps on their forehead, other than the fact they're a people and some of them are dying and it's all very sad. Had we been given some insight into who they are, we might have felt something at the fact that they were being attacked, but that plot never really came into its own.
     As I say in my introduction, I can't bring myself to call this a bad Voyager episode - there's nothing particularly wrong with the execution, and it does one or two things which are fairly interesting. There are the sci-fi ideas there that I'm always craving, and there was character development. But it felt so self-contained and irrelevant, the story so predictable in its twists and turns, that at the end of the episode you're left wondering how the previous 42 minutes passed you by. Despite it's title, this episode really failed to rise to expectations.
     I'll get my coat.


NEXT WEEK: Harry Kim is secretly a member of an alien species, who wish nothing but to whisk him away and mate with him, forever. Jammy git. He's the Favorite Son.

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