Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Archive for July 2nd, 2007

Reaching Voyager Saturation

Posted by Trixter on July 2, 2007

In my last post, I mentioned that I was battling depression using several techniques, one of which was a mystery fourth ingredient.  That ingredient was the complete immersion into the world of Star Trek: Voyager.  To whit, I have completed the following:

  1. Watched seasons 1 through 5, in order
  2. Played and finished Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force
  3. Watched seasons 6 and 7, in order
  4. Played Elite Force II’s first mission (fills in some of the Endgame story)

On completing this, I have now seen every single Star Trek regular series episode (I did the same saturation with DS9 last year).  Actually, that’s not entirely true; I haven’t seen every Enterprise episode.  But I never will, due to its overwhelming suckitude (when the season finale is essentially a mediocre TNG episode and is one of the best episodes of the entire series, you know your series should have died on the vine a long time ago).

This complete immersion into all things Voyager has raised me to Grand Flaming Nerd Echelon 5 Alpha, where I’ve been enlightened by a few new pieces of information:

  • Voyager was better than most people credit it.  There was a little too much reliance on hologram technology as a major plot point, and the Borg weren’t nearly as threatening as they were in TNG (due to overexposure), but overall it wasn’t nearly as bad as the criticism it has received.  If you want to check Voyager out, I highly recommend renting (or downloading) entire seasons at a time, so that you can quickly skip past secondary plots you don’t care about, episodes you’ve already seen before, etc.
  • Like most Star Trek series, Voyager follows the “thirds rule” pretty faithfully:  One third of the episodes are best forgotten, one third are average entertainment, and one third kick ass in one or more ways.  (The only series to not follow this rule is Enterprise.  I leave it to you to figure out the percentages of good/avg/bad on that one.)
  • Jeri Ryan made the best of her situation (ie. “let’s bring in a sexpot to raise the flagging ratings”).  There are about five episodes where she genuinely acts — skillfully — and the story is much better as a result.  That’s about 5 percent of the episodes she appeared in, which sounds like a slam, but it’s not meant to be.  I don’t think any fan of the show was expecting her to hold her own with the other actors as well as she did.
  • With the exception of Kate Mulgrew, most of the actors had two basic categories of operation:  Flustered or Jovial.  This unfortunately caused some of the story progressions to become predictable, as the writers fed off of the actors’ portrayal of their characters.
  • Kate Mulgrew is a much better actress than most people realize.  She manages to find the right, subtle notes for almost every scene that requires her to say something more than the standard stock library of “Shields!”
  • Some stories should have been rejected as duplicates.  We have two stories where a bomb needs to be defused by reasoning with its computer A.I.; four (or more, I lost count) stories where characters on the holodeck either become aware of the holodeck, escape the holodeck, or both; multiple stories where characters are killed then revived; etc.
  • The attempt to fit some of the Endgame story in the Elite Force II game was a dismal failure.  The game’s portrayal of what happened inside the sphere lacks any sort of urgency or coherence.  It removes all skill from defeating the Borg (evidentally all you have to do is shoot power couplings here and there to defeat an entire Sphere) and there’s no consequences for taking too long to do something.  (It also didn’t help that the voice actor for Ensign Munroe is also the voice actor for the new animated The Batman series — it was unsettling playing Bruce Wayne disabling a Borg vessel).  In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t bothered.

Believe it or not, I’m not a die-hard ST fanboy; I don’t own any collectables, I’ve never been to a convention, and I never will.  I just like science fiction that, while sometimes average and predictable, explores areas that aren’t normally explored in conventional drama, including new takes on moral dilemmas.  Some of the episodes deal with things I can find in conventional fiction, like Neelix’s decision to commit suicide when his entire faith and belief system is dissolved (“Mortal Coil”, a showcase episode for Ethan Phillips), or how history is inevitably written by the victors (“Living Witness”, also excellent), or whether or not it is ethical to use data from experiments conducted by a war criminal to save the living (“Nothing Human”).  But where else can I experience fiction that deals with things like:

  • Trying to reason with a bomb to convince it not to explode (“Dreadnought”)
  • Being captured by a race of semi-sentient robots and being coerced to mass-produce them (“Prototype”)
  • Two people being merged into one by accident, and the ethical dilemma of whether it is right or wrong to seperate them again, since it means the death of the new individual (“Tuvix”)
  • A scientist unable to publish his new findings on the definitive origin of life for his species due to an oppressive regime (“Distant Origin”)
  • A holographic servant with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder who finds organics repulsive (“Revulsion”)
  • Experiments on a race where the race is sentient and doesn’t wish to participate, and how far they’ll go to stop being experimented on (“Scientific Method”)
  • Trying to prevent the loss of one race by committing genocide against another through the manipulation of history (“Year Of Hell”)
  • Selectively wiping a section of memory from a person to prevent them from going insane (“Latent Image”)
  • Being digested by a pitcher plant, from the perspective of the fly lured into it (“Bliss”)
  • Switching one personality for another due to an accident, and the moral implications of whether or not to switch it back (“Riddles”)
  • Whether it’s ethical to genetically engineer your unborn child’s appearance (“Lineage”)

I mean, come on, it’s not like I can get this stuff on the typical network dreck shoveled to the masses these days.

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