Saturday, January 14, 2012

Star Trek: Voyager, Season Five

It took me something like three weeks to get through the previous season of Voyager; this season took me about three days. It was like night and day; where the fourth season fell out of step and focused too much on Seven of Nine to the detriment of the other characters and the continuing momentum of the season, the fifth season got into a formula that fit the show a little better. Though I still wish the show was willing to follow in Deep Space Nine's footsteps and just serialize the damn thing so that the characters could grow, the formula here--sort of the Lost in Space method of encountering new aliens or problems every week and then just shuttling away--suits the sort of stories Voyager seems interested in telling. I think everything this show does, Farscape did better. But I do enjoy Voyager. So here we go.

1. Night (4/5)
This season starts off much stronger for not being the resolution of the cliffhanger. It's pretty bold to start off with such a dark, talky episode, but I think it really helps to re-establish the direction of the series. With this episode, we get a truly interesting space travel episode (with the ship traveling through a dark, starless expanse), an examination of ethics (an alien race dumping their toxic waste in a way that's killing an indigenous species), and some excellent character development, not only exploring Neelix's fear of the dark, but also Janeway's guilt over destroying the Caretaker's array in the pilot episode instead of using it to get home. I'm glad that was finally brought up. Also, I adore Tom's Captain Proton holonovel. And they've finally fixed Tom's hair problem (the poofy hairpieces were getting distracting).

2. Drone (4/5)
This is the kind of episode that's something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the premise is neat--Seven of Nine's nanoprobes merge with DNA from a male ensign and the Doctor's damaged holo-emitter to form One, essentially a 29th century Borg--and One is a great character. But on the other hand, every time there's a really interesting character on this show, you know you're never going to see them again and everyone's just sort of going to move on with no real effect on the overall show. But I enjoyed it.

3. Extreme Risk (1/5)
I just don't care about B'Elanna.

4. In the Flesh (3/5)
I just wish it had gone somewhere. The Species 8472 effects are neat, and I like the idea of them having something like those KGB training villages. It's an interesting exploration of post-contact paranoia, the idea that Species 8472 is trying to explore the potential threat humanity poses by training as humans. But I wish they hadn't put such a bow on it at the end. There's just not enough interesting development of them as a species, and I feel like here we're just leaving them all behind. And the ending's just a little too pat. But any excuse to see Ray Walston play Boothby, even though it's not really Boothby. I like Tucker Smallwood, too.

5. Once Upon a Time (4/5)
Now this is a perspective I've never seen before on Star Trek. I've been intrigued by the nature of the relationship between Neelix and Naomi Wildman, and here he has to care for her and attempts to distract her from her mother's disappearance while on an away mission. Where TNG was supposed to be a community in space, it never really did a good job of incorporating the perspective of children into the show. Here we get to see what it's like for someone who was born on Voyager and to whom this scout ship is home, and what her life is like while all of these other dangers are going on around them. It's also interesting to see the hard position Neelix is in, trying to figure out how much he should make Naomi aware of. Also, I love that Scarlett Pomers is playing Naomi, because I also loved her on Reba.

6. Timeless (4/5)
Some great action setpieces in this one--the shot of the Voyager under the ice, and the crash, are just great special effects. I'm getting a little weary of all the time travel on this show (again, it's becoming too routine to be believable), but this episode is well-paced and gripping. I love the older, harder, more cynical Harry Kim. And the cameo by Captain Geordi La Forge is fun. Another alternate future for the pile. And the Delta Flyer is a nifty little ship. Good idea to customize and make something new instead of just losing shuttle after shuttle. How many shuttles does the Intrepid class carry?

7. Infinite Regress (4/5)
This is a real tour-de-force for Jeri Ryan, as a number of personalities from beings she's assimilated in the past come to the fore. Not only do we get to see her acting as different character, but different races. My favorite is the Ferengi; Jeri has the walk down. That gave me a few laughs. And I love the friendship that develops and continues between Seven and Naomi Wildman. I find her friendship with Naomi--and with the Doctor--much more interesting than her troubled (and oft-ignored except when convenient to the plot) mentor-student thing with Janeway.

8. Nothing Human (3/5)
Another great character we'll only see once: the hologram of Cardassian doctor Crell Moset, played by another actor I like, David Clennon. His scenes with Robert Picardo, as Moset and the Doctor work to remove a parasite species from B'Elanna, are excitingly well-acted. Those scenes elevate what feels like a heavily padded episode to me. I wasn't the least bit interested in the moral debate this episode tries to deal in. Even if the real Crell Moset was the Dr. Mengele of the Bajoran Occupation, how does that apply to the situation of trying to save B'Elanna's life? It's not even a discussion for me. Maybe the knowledge was obtained by questionable means, but the fact is that you have it now and someone's life could be saved with it, so why is it even a debate? There's a much more interesting dilemma here regarding the sentience of the parasitic lifeform using B'Elanna to survive, and I wish the show was as interested in that as it is in B'Elanna's predictable racism.

9. Thirty Days (2/5)
Eh, Tom Paris story. That I rate it this highly is because I loved the whole setting and the Moneans. The idea of a world that's nothing but an ocean is such a neat image--the special effects on this episode are truly fantastic. Always enjoy seeing Willie Garson, too.

10. Counterpoint (5/5)
Absolutely fantastic episode, a real chess game between Janeway and Kashyk, a Devore Inspector looking for telepathic refugees being hidden by Voyager as well as a wormhole. Kashyk (played by Mark Harelik) is a very complex character, very well-acted and well-written, a perfect match for Janeway both romantically and adversarially. For her part, Kate Mulgrew practically glows in this episode; you can tell she's really enjoying having something to sink her teeth into. This is a tougher version of the Janeway from the first season that I really liked. And the series of twists at the end--my goodness, this is what the show should be aiming for every week! One of the best episodes of any Star Trek series.

11. Latent Image (3/5)
Doesn't work entirely for me, but I liked the idea of the Doctor's crisis of confidence. Good ending, too, even though we pretty much never see any effects from this on the Doctor in the future because there's no real character development.

12. Bride of Chaotica! (5/5)
Just tremendous fun. Sure, it's another killer holodeck episode, but it's a Flash Gordon killer holodeck episode. There's also an interesting premise here when it introduces the idea of photonic lifeforms who assume the holodeck characters are the actual inhabitants of Voyager. I hope whatever Trek series comes about in the future explores more of this kind of strange alien that's more than just bipeds with a skin rash on their heads. I want the Breen to really be a small fish floating in a containment suit, dammit! Anyway, love this one. Martin Rayner was a wonderful kick as Dr. Chaotica back in "Night," and it was absolutely the right choice to devote a whole episode to his villainy. Kate Mulgrew is especially hilarious in this episode. A fun break.

13. Gravity (2/5)
Slow-moving, marring a lovely, subtle romance between Tuvok and the alien Noss (Lori Petty; always like her). Her love for him, and his attempts to bury his attraction for her (partly born from loneliness; he's been away from his wife for a long, long time), are the heart of the story, but I don't know, the episode isn't quite focused enough. Beautiful ending, though.

14. Bliss (5/5)
Epic. I love this idea of these gigantic beasts in space, sending out signals that lure lifeforms to it so it can feed on starship energy. I also like that this is an episode where Seven and the Doctor (and Naomi Wildman) save the ship, since they're my three favorite characters right now. (Frankly, they can put these three in charge, keep Neelix and Tuvok, and just ditch everyone else at this point.) I also dig W. Morgan Sheppard as Qatai. One of my favorite episodes of Voyager.

15. Dark Frontier (5/5)
Voyager attempts to outdo Star Trek: First Contact, and even if they don't (no one here is the caliber of Patrick Stewart), they make one hell of a great feature-length episode. It was inevitable that Seven would be reacquired by the Borg, but I love how they play this, mixing the episode with flashbacks to Seven's youth as Annika Hansen, whose parents were studying the Borg up close, Dian Fossey-style, before they were eventually assimilated (though I'm not sure who the hell takes their children with them to study the Borg, but humans barely knew about them then... still...). So we have the pull of her human past and human future, as well as the pull between two mother figures, Captain Janeway and the Borg Queen (Susanna Thompson, very good). Whatever action goes on, this is 100% the story of Seven of Nine, and so far the best exploration of her Borg past they've ever done.

16. The Disease (2/5)
Harry Kim finally gets laid. And he can't get enough, but since it's Musetta Vander, who could blame him? The idea of taking a forbidden love and physically manifesting it as an alien health hazard is pretty heavy-handed though.

17. Course: Oblivion (2/5)
Well-acted, and it would be poignant if it made any impact on the series at all. You know where it's going right away, and it's not about the real crew anyway, but their mimetic doubles, so it just feels like it's a distraction from the business of getting home. This isn't the show that can pull this one off, because there's so little forward momentum in the first place.

18. The Fight (2/5)
The idea of chaotic space is interesting, and again we get to see Ray Walston as Boothby, but the whole boxing thing is realized in kind of a silly way.

19. Think Tank (4/5)
As predictable as the plot really was, this episode really won me over with the whole concept of the Think Tank. Also, it's nice to see Jason Alexander in such a different role. I liked the beings in the Think Tank--the artificial intelligence, for example, and the big jellyfish in the tube. It's so much more interesting to see these visions of alien beings instead of just a guy with a vagina on his forehead. Also, Jason Alexander's character has a pretty distracting vagina in his forehead. I also like how, even though it's predictable that the Think Tank would want Seven of Nine as payment for their help, Janeway leaves the choice up to Seven about whether or not to leave Voyager and join them. Nice to see Janeway is respecting Seven's autonomy more this season.

20. Juggernaut (2/5)
Too much B'Elanna. And I don't find the Malon interesting. Sort of like a lesser episode of Doctor Who.

21. Someone to Watch Over Me (5/5)
Yeah, they're doing My Fair Lady, but it's cute as hell and becomes quite a touching story about the Doctor nearly finding love. I would love to see the Doctor and Seven actually get together. Scott Thompson is utterly hilarious on this episode.

22. 11:59 (3/5)
Interesting idea; this is a better sort of break episode than some other attempts, so much of it taking place in 2000 in Indiana and with Mulgrew playing one of Janeway's ancestors. The love story's sweet, even if I can't quite shake Kevin Tighe as John Locke's father on Lost.

23. Relativity (1/5)
Ugh, more time travel, more stuff about the "right" timeline and the "wrong" timeline. There's been so much screwing around with the timeline, how do they even know which one is right or wrong anymore? Also, how exactly does Captain Braxton remember his time in 1996 when that timeline was reset? Oh well, they hit the reset button by the end, so all is well, I guess. I really don't care. I'm sick of the damn time travel.

24. Warhead (4/5)
Interesting idea of a weapon of mass destruction with a consciousness, and of course it takes over the Doctor, but Robert Picardo's awesome, so it's always interesting to see him getting to be out of character. I like Harry in this one, too. So much wasted potential...

26. Equinox, Part I (5/5)
I like how they explore the idea of what directions the Voyager might have gone in, by showing us another Starfleet crew who has been in the Delta Quadrant longer and has had to do horrible things in order to try and make their way back home. John Savage is excellent as Captain Ransom of the USS Equinox (with Titus Welliver as his first officer), his ship barely holding together and his crew stretched to breaking while being pursued by a nucleogenic species they've been killing to convert to energy. The last moments of the cliffhanger are kind of dorky, but the episode is exciting and, I think, a pretty necessary look at what the alternative might have been. It's nice: after all of these seasons of trying to adhere to the Prime Directive, we can really see what the moral alternative to that is.

Even with some lesser episodes (to be expected), I liked this season much better. Now that we've come through the transition, we're back on track.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Random Thoughts

It's hilarious to me that the media is still trying to force us to believe that the Iowa Caucus means anything. "The people have spoken," Mittens? If you meant 5% of the 20% of all eligible voters of a single state who gave you a .0006% margin of victory over Santorum, then yeah, hey, loud and clear. I mean, sure, it's going to be Mitt who loses to Obama but, really, who cares? They're all the same idiot with different (white) faces.

I'm just so sick of people running on the fact that they hate gay people and black people and poor people and, weirdly in Newt Gingrich's case, janitors. Was he molested by a janitor as a child? He fervently fucking hates janitors.

Stop running on hate and come up with some fucking ideas. Clearly the biggest problem in this country is not gay people marrying or children learning evolution, and if you think it is, you should absolutely not be in fucking office.

:: Wait, so Paula Deen has Type 2 Diabetes? And she's been telling everyone for years that it's okay to eat the garbage she makes? And she's waiting to make the official announcement until her endorsement deal with the pharmaceutical company that makes her diabetes medication is finalized? Hey, Paula Deen: fuck you! I mean, thank you for confirming everything I've been telling my mother about you for years--as if you needed someone to tell you that anyone who says it's okay to eat a burger with a donut instead of a bun is a fucking idiot (and thank god my mom never ate that shit)--but seriously, you opportunistic asshole, fuck you!

:: Congressman who wrote SOPA is violating a copyright. Everyone's an idiot.

:: David O. Russell is a creepy fuck. Also, blaming the victim? Another dude with Entitled White Guy Syndrome.

:: I hate when someone overweight loses some weight and then makes fun of other people for being overweight. Seriously, Kelly Osbourne? Calling Christina Aguilera fat? Wow, you're a cunt. Also, why is anyone talking about anything that Kelly Osbourne says? Slow post-holiday news?

:: I was kind of sad at first to hear that Hostess filed for Chapter 11, but then I realized that I hadn't eaten a Hostess product in a long, long time. Oh, well. If they go under this time, someone else will probably make Twinkies. Or not. It's really the nostalgia factor; there goes another thing I loved as a kid. I'll live. I loved them too much as a kid, anyway.

Wow, for some reason I really want a Little Debbie Nutty Bar right now, though...

:: Austerity is killing the Greek economy. It's hurting the German economy, too. Only a liar or an idiot would argue that austerity is good for the economy. We have a lot of liars and idiots in Congress willing to force America into further disaster. I don't even understand it, anymore, but like I said last year, I've given up on this country ever making good decisions.

:: Beyonce and Jay-Z... seriously? It's a baby, not the crown jewels. Ease up on the security and maybe, you know, let other people see their newborns. The world is not just you. And rich people wonder why we hate them so damn much... It's not jealousy, trust me. It's that you think the entire world is there to serve your tacky whims.

That is literally all I need from Beyonce. Just because she has a nice ass doesn't mean I have to take her seriously as an artist, person, or, ugh, celebrity.

:: For all of the demented, stupid things going on in the Twilight series, I never even considered the stupidity of a vampire baby. It really is the cherry on top of the sundae of stupid. Either that or Jacob falling in love with said baby, that's pretty fuckin' dumb, too.

:: I finished season 5 of Voyager and loved it more than any previous season. I'll get that post up in the next couple of days. I've already started season 6 and I'm really enjoying that one, too. So, much like my beloved Deep Space Nine, season 4 was a hiccup.

:: "Homophobia: the fear that gay men will treat you the way you treat women." -- Coyote Too

:: Kim Kardashian was replaced in the Skechers ads by a very cute dog. It begins. After Kim's whole fake marriage and divorce thing, I think that family reached way, waaaaay to far. Eat the rich.

:: Groo vs. Conan is coming. For reals. I am tremendously excited.

:: No, "chink in the armor" is not a racist phrase.

:: I saw a guy who described himself as a gay Republican ranting on Tumblr yesterday about how Democrats who insisted that someone gay and Republican had sold out their civil rights interests in order to protect their investment returns were brainwashed assholes. Mice rooting for the cats.

:: Scott Walker billboard brags about job creation…directly in front of a shuttered GM factory that sent 10,000 people to the unemployment line. Also, Rick Perry tried to call on a mannequin during a Q&A. (UPDATE 4:57PM: Apparently Perry was joking, one mannequin to another.)


:: Really we should just tax capital gains as income. Just saying. That noise about how it would cut down on investments is merely noise.

:: I will no longer be talking to Ron Paul supporters about Ron Paul. Paulites are like ultra-conservatives who believe in magic. Or they're just dumbass college kids who want marijuana legalized enough to not pay attention to the monstrous amount of racism and sexism this man spouts. I'm done with them. "Educate yourself" they always tell me. I have no choice but to assume this is meant as irony.

:: Also, someone needs to tell Herman Cain that it's past time to stop talking. No one is going to take your opinion of how a candidate's sexual activities shouldn't enter into politics seriously: you're a philanderer! We all know what you're really talking about! Jesus, did you actually think you were going to really ever be the president?

:: Another minute closer on the Doomsday Clock. Yup. I think the GOP debates deserved at least another minute closer. We're like a farce about a country that used to work.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Not as annoying as it looks, not as good as I've heard. Harmless mostly, somewhat saved by Melissa McCarthy, who is hilarious (and deserves a vehicle of her own that's better than this), and Chris O'Dowd, who is very good. Jon Hamm has a funny cameo role, too. It comes from the Judd Apatow School of Comedies That Are 30 Minutes Too Long. Also, you know I hate Kristen Wiig, like, a lot, but I realize after watching this movie how much that pales in comparison to how fucking irritating I find Maya Rudolph. ** stars.

Unwatchable. * star.

Fucking terrible. * star.

I don't know why, but I didn't expect Sabu to be as young as he is here. I like Sabu, though, and I love elephants, so as typically over-earnest as it is for a movie from this time period and this studio, I thought it was cute. **1/2 stars.

ARTHUR (2011)
Well, I liked it. Not a patch on the original, which is one of the greatest comedies ever made, but I found it mostly sincere rather than just a retread. I like Russell Brand, though. And I don't know who Greta Gerwig is, but I liked her in it, even if they went for a Zooey-esque puppy dog rather than the broad, quirky personality of Liza in the original. Is it necessary? No. But I think people wouldn't be so incensed over it if it weren't a remake. ***1/2 stars. Blow me if you don't like that.

PS I LOVE YOU (2007)
Surprising. Too bad the ads sold this as a silly, tired-looking romp, when it's quite a sincere movie about a young widow (Hilary Swank) who follows a series of letters left by her late husband (Gerard Butler, likable for a change) designed to ease her through her difficult transition. A nice, well-acted movie that had more depth than I was expecting, even if every actor is a noticeable five years older than their characters are supposed to me. Also, Nellie McKay is darling. Also, gratuitous naked Jeffrey Dean Morgan ass is welcome. **** stars.

DAISIES (1966)
Wonderfully bizarre Czechoslovak New Wave film about two teenage girls who engage in strange pranks, childish behavior, and little rebellions. There's really no plot, but like a lot of films from the time period, it's about its style and the state it conveys. It shows two girls caught between childhood and adulthood who live in a surrealistic whirl and butt up against a society that seemingly has little to offer them other than sexualization and creature comfort, and which they find supremely boring. **** stars.

Interesting, compelling film about a 9 year-old girl (Elle Fanning) who gets the lead role in her school's production of Alice in Wonderland. There's a lot I identified with in this movie, to a point. Phoebe clearly has a social anxiety that manifests itself as severe OCD (she broke my heart at one point when she broke down and told her teacher "I'm sorry I'm late. I have to wash my hands a certain number of times."), and then turns into Tourette syndrome. I recognized a bit of myself when she talks about always feeling on the edge of something with the urge to jump off, or the way she'll suddenly blurt out words or even defensively spit at people because she feels attacked and doesn't know how to process it. Compounding this, her unfulfilled mother (Felicity Huffman) refuses the idea that something could actually be wrong with Phoebe, unwilling to accept that it's more than just being creative or imaginative. Elle is so very good in this movie, never playing the character as cute or silly, but really giving Phoebe a depth and a sadness and moments of clarity. In the hands of a less talented child, it could have been a disaster. Hard enough to get through as it is; it's well made and ultimately rewarding, but the sense of impending tragedy is overwhelming. It reminds me of how I felt all the time--without realizing--before I got on Lexapro. ***1/2 stars.

A poignant drama based on the relationship between French-Romanian photographer Irina Ionesco and her young daughter Eva, directed by Eva herself. In the 1970s, Irina caused a stir when she began showing and selling erotic photos of her very underage daughter. In the film, we see how the progression of art (or perhaps a mother's amoral opportunism--the film takes a matter-of-fact approach) results in the deterioration of an already-strained mother-daughter relationship. While Hanna (Isabelle Huppert) reveals more and more of her daughter Violetta (Anamaria Vartolomei in a very brave performance), the two become more and more estranged. Though the film raises the issue of boundaries in artistic freedom, it also doesn't pretend that the situation isn't abusive; Eva Ionesco is working out feelings about her mother that are at once very complicated and very clear-cut. Beautifully made. **** stars.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Star Trek: Voyager, Season Four

I'll be honest right up front: I hated this season of Voyager. Not totally. Not completely. But at some point I really lost my faith in this one and just sort of limped through it. Whatever bright spots there were didn't do much to save a season that too often alternated between middling and flat-out stupid. It took me forever to finish it. Weeks. Here are my thoughts.

1. Scorpion, Part II (my rating: 5 out of 5)
Excellent payoff to an excellent cliffhanger. The series benefits from the costumes and sets leftover from Star Trek: First Contact, making the Borg look complex and alien. Species 8472 still looks less impressive, but it's nice to see the makers of a Trek series thinking about such very alien species design. Poor Harry Kim spends the whole episode in a coma. I also like the payoff of Chakotay's brief time as part of the former Borg collective in "Unity," although I was less pleased with the tension between he and Janeway. It's like someone made a conscious decision to put some distance between them. Too bad they don't just go ahead and explore the romantic possibilities, it's pretty obvious.

2. The Gift (3/5)
Okay, I think getting rid of Kes is a mistake. Consistently one of the most interesting characters and actors of seasons 2 and 3. If they really wanted to shove a character off this show to make room for Seven of Nine, I wouldn't miss Harry Kim or Tom Paris, and I'd frankly celebrate the loss of B'Elanna Torres. What a bad idea to get rid of Jennifer Lien. I'm very disappointed by this development. And let's talk about Seven for a minute. I know her arrival on the show ruffled a lot of feathers, but that I'm used to--honestly, in my opinion, it seems like the people who most wanted to do something interesting with Star Trek went over to the superior DS9, and the people who wanted to keep plugging away at the TNG formula went over to Voyager. And I understand the realities of the ratings that dictated the casting of a prime piece of cheesecake as 34 of DD in her body-hugging corset suit. I get that. I think one of the things that happens in this season, though, is that some of the writing and especially the performance of Jeri Ryan elevate the character from the realities of her creation. I actually like Seven as a character very much. What I don't like is that the show sacrificed Kes in favor of her, or that so much of the rest of the season is basically Star Trek: Seven of Nine. (I'll add here that I've already started season five, and I like it much better than this one.)

3. Day of Honor (1/5)
I really don't need any more episodes to establish that B'Elanna is kind of a raging bitch. I've got that. This episode seems to only exist to get B'Elanna and Tom sorta kinda together. Meh. I'd rather watch Worf romance episodes. Honestly, Worf!

4. Nemesis (1/5)

5. Revulsion (3/5)
I like how the writers explore the Doctor's humanity here by matching him with another hologram, one who has come to develop a hatred for biological life forms. The twist is predictable from the first few minutes, but Leland Orser is very good in this episode.

6. The Raven (3/5)
The inevitable Seven-flashes-back-to-her-assimilation episode. Not bad, just kind of routine. I like the smaller moments with Seven, like Neelix having to teach her how to eat.

7. Scientific Method (3/5)
Truly creepy episode with out-of-phase alien doctors performing medical experiments on an unsuspecting crew. Some fantastic horror imagery on this episode.

8. Year of Hell, Part I (3/5)
9. Year of Hell, Part II (3/5)
Some great imagery, and I give the producers a lot of credit for really going for the bleakness here, but I have a few problems with it. Besides seeing Seven plugged in to a lot of the stuff they teased last season for Kes, I also didn't like that this was basically one of those episodes of a science fiction series that just sort of goes through all of these changes and then hits the reset button via a time travel plot device and then none of it ever happened. It's like an Imaginary Story from DC's Silver Age--why am I going to invest all of these emotions in the situation if there are no consequences and nothing really has any bearing on the ongoing narrative or the characters? Also, does Kes' detailed report from her time traveling experience last season just not exist anymore? She had all of those chronoton readings they needed for this episode. Come on. Well, at least she doesn't have to marry Tom Paris. Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan are good and raw in this two-parter; did they hate each other, or what? I like alternate Janeway's final moments, too. She's formidable at her best. And I have to mention Kurtwood Smith here as Annorax. A fantastic character straight out of Jules Verne, very well-performed.

10. Random Thoughts (1/5)
B'Elanna is arrested on a world of violent telepaths because her violent thought causes violence. A ridiculous, heavy-handed comment on the media and whether it influences behavior. Kind of embarrassing in its obviousness.

11. Concerning Flight (2/5)
I quite enjoyed John Rhys-Davies and some of the imagery here, but I got lost in the story. Interesting idea of someone basically hacking into Voyager's computer and stealing their technology, but mostly it's just running around in the hills. Sorry that it's John Rhys-Davies' last time on the series as Da Vinci, but I guess there's nowhere else to go with him. It's an interesting idea that holograms can sort of make in-character decisions to no longer appear in a certain setting. I think the idea of Janeway as Seven's mentor is a little clumsy, though.

12. Mortal Coil (5/5)
Excellent episode; this is a really good exploration of faith in a science fiction setting. Here we have Neelix dying while attempting to extract proto-matter from a nebula, and then Seven using Borg nanoprobes to resurrect him. While dead for 19 hours, Neelix experiences nothing, including the Talaxian afterlife that he has so looked forward to, holding faith that he would be reunited with his long-dead sisters. So once you remove this essential component of Neelix's character--his faith--how does he recover? This episode doesn't cop out from its themes, and doesn't provide pat answers. It's an interesting discussion; there's a counterpoint in Chakotay, who encourages Neelix towards an open-minded agnosticism rather than a complete severing of an ideal that has meant so much. It doesn't come out and say it, so much, but it does allow for the idea that ideals can be separated from dogma, which is important to get at. Ethan Phillips is excellent in this episode. I love his role as Naomi Wildman's godfather, too.

13. Waking Moments (1/5)
Entirely too many episodes of Star Trek revolve around weird dreams.

14. Message in a Bottle (5/5)
I'm amazed to be saying that a Star Trek episode that features Andy Dick in a prominent role is excellent, but this episode is excellent. The Doctor is sent to an advanced Starfleet vessel in the Alpha Quadrant under Romulan control, and tries to retake the ship with the help of a Mark II EMH (played by Dick). It's a fine, tense episode, alternately gripping and hilarious. The USS Prometheus is an amazing ship, too; one of the more interesting Starfleet designs on the spin-off series. Always neat to see Judson Scott in Trek, too.

15. Hunters (3/5)
I think the Hirogen are very interesting villains. Trek really seems attracted to these hunter-warrior races, but they never quite do enough with them that's interesting. Although we really only see the Hirogen a couple of times, I like how they're explored; here we see this sort of faceless, overwhelming presence, and in the next episode we see them personalized through one major character, and finally we explore their main societal conflict in the two-parter "The Killing Game." Though I wouldn't be opposed to a future Hirogen appearance, I don't feel like they left us wanting.

16. Prey (3/5)
Tony Todd, ladies and gentlemen. I love Tony Todd, and seeing him as the sort of face of Hirogen culture is excellent. He's fantastic. That said, the whole attempted Alien rip-off with Species 8472--laced heavily with a particularly fatuous flavor of Star Trek preachiness--just doesn't do it for me. I find Janeway strongly out of character in this episode, and her whole conflict with Seven over the self-determination of 8472 doesn't quite ring in for me.

17. Retrospect (1/5)
Oh, boy. Here we go. DS9's "Sons of Mogh" is no longer the most offensive Star Trek episode to me. This one is beyond insulting. It's a gigantic narrative mistake. It's basically that Seven of Nine gets raped, but not really. They made a huge error in judgment here by couching an assault on Seven by an alien scientist in terms of a sexual assault. "I was violated," says Seven. Janeway's reaction to this is, I felt, cold and clinical. The investigation yields nothing, and then becomes an exercise in blaming-the-victim, debunking recovered memories, and apologizing to men whose reputations have been ruined by accusations of sexual assault. It's kind of horrifying, especially coming from a show with a reputation of being progressive in thought. I didn't buy this at all; the idea that Seven's freakout in sickbay is some kind of leftover from her many years as a Borg drone doesn't wash, because we've never seen this happen before (or since). It just happens to occur after she's supposedly-but-not-really had her bodily integrity violated by someone. This episode spends four-fifths of its running time wagging its finger at women, telling them that they have to be careful with their notions of assault in case someone innocent has his reputation ruined (and here the guy even dies because of Seven's apparently false accusation), and then suddenly turns into a persecution of overzealous investigators and finally a little message about how we learn from our mistakes so that we don't make the same mistakes in the future. It's the wrong episode to end on that note. This is a travesty.

18. The Killing Game, Part I (4/5)
19. The Killing Game, Part II (3/5)
Interesting premise--the crew is put inside holodeck simulations and given implants so they forget their true identities by the Hirogen, who have taken over Voyager and use the crew for hunting exercises. The first episode is really kind of epic and engaging, but like a lot of Trek two-parters, they don't really fill up the second episode and have to do a lot of padding. The World War II stuff is interesting, as is the examination of the possible degradation of the Hirogen race. It's interesting that there's so much focus on the villains and their lifestyle. Harry Kim is actually really good on this episode, as the Hirogen keep him to maintain Voyager's systems, and he and the Doctor are finally able to free the crew. Oh, and Robert Beltran looks much better with his World War II hair. They should've kept that. Ethan Phillips is hilarious on this episode once the Hirogen turn him into a Klingon; broad but funny.

20. Vis a Vis (1/5)
More eh.

21. The Omega Directive (1/5)
Mega eh. Seven of Nine had a religious experience? Eat my ass. It's like the writers just don't give a shit about this last bit of the season.

22. Unforgettable (2/5)
As typically tame Trek romances go, it's sure to please the cat ladies, but the real analysis of this episode is over at mightygodking. I agree with what Jim Smith has to say there. Oh, and props to Virginia Madsen, who is lovely on this episode.

23. Living Witness (2/5)
For a while it seems like the writers are going for some Holocaust-denial type of story here, but it's saved by a nice coda and the presence of the Doctor. Interesting idea--the Doctor's backup program activated in an alien museum 700 years in the future in order to help set the historical record straight. A lot of the earlier stuff with the museum's incorrect idea of Voyager as a warship is beyond silly. Chakotay's evil hair is absolutely hysterical.

24. Demon (1/5)
Eh all around. The idea of a sentient race based on "blood silver" (mercury?) and bio-matter is interesting, but it's all sorts of eh. Doesn't help that they've focused it so much on the always-unexciting team of Harry Kim and Tom Paris.

25. One (3/5)
Interesting premise, putting the crew in stasis while traveling through an irradiated nebula and leaving Seven and the Doctor--at this point, by far the two most interesting characters on the show--to pilot the ship to the other side. Still, it gets a bit heavy-handed in its exploration of Seven's innate humanity, by giving her all of these hallucinations, etc. I get where she would feel alone because of her severed connection to the Borg Collective, but still... I don't know, it just seems a little smug to me.

26. Hope and Fear (3/5)
I find the character Arturis interesting--and I always love to see Ray Wise--but the whole thing just kind of peters out by the end. I really hate the anger between Seven and Janeway here; Janeway can be so unconsciously imperialistic sometimes, so offended by the idea that Seven--whom they've basically forced into humanity--might not actually want to go to Earth and be part of the Federation. It's the same high-handedness she chose to put aside to accommodate Maquis crewmembers. She deals from the same stance when it comes to her rather inconsistent implementation of the Prime Directive: we want your technology in order to get home, but we don't want to give you any of ours because you might use it. Such a very (and disappointingly) American ideal--we want the benefit of your technology but we want to be secretive in our dealings. Interesting words when your EMH is walking around wearing technology from the 29th century. Too bad the USS Dauntless turns out to be a trap, because the ship itself is pretty badass. Kind of whimper to go out on, but at least this season is over.

I think this season was a hiccup; there's a change here in the focus of the show, and both the writers and the cast seem at a loss as to how to make it work. The fifth season is, so far, much more compelling and interesting than the fourth. Let's just put this season behind us and move on.

Monday, January 09, 2012

A Pacapella

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Happy 65th, David!

Song of the Week: "So Long, Marianne"

Because it's time that we began to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again.