ST: Voyager Recap – S1, E7: Ex Post Facto

This week on STAR TREK: VOYAGER… what the fuck?

We open on a black-and-white shot of women’s shoes, and a voice asking “What do you see, Mr. Paris?” Paris, who is still insufferable, says that he sees shoes, muddy shoes, and then as the camera pans up, “the dog.” Cut to a color close-up of Paris’s eyes, and the voice saying: “Good. That’s exactly what you should see.” I would be more interested in the off-balance opening if I wasn’t confident that the explanation is going to be hella boring, but I’m going to be an optimist and wait and see.

Now we’re shaki-camming around something that looks like a 40s-era pad, maybe an LA mansion, in a sort of noir style, with alien subtitles hovering near the bottom of the screen. In the garden, in the rain, Tom is necking with an alien babe, à la J.T. Kirk stardate whothefuckknows, what does time even mean when time travel is practically de rigeur. (Now I’m wondering if Paris was intended to be a sort of proto-Kirk, a Kirk-that-took-a-wrong-turn, a there-but-for-Spock-goes-Kirk character. I hope I’m wrong, because if I’m right it’s a mediocre idea badly executed.)

“That isn’t possible,” says Paris about the necking, and 400 million women agree, but the voice thinks he’s talking about the disorientation of seeing himself through another man’s eyes. The wife sees the camera and says “Tolen!” Another voice confronts Paris and the alien woman, accusing Tom of stealing his wife. Because Tom is a ladies’ man, and we know this because the writers insist upon it, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Both present-tense Paris and false-memory Paris insist that this isn’t the way it happened, but the first voice says the trial is over, there’s no sense in denying anything now. The husband whines about Tom having been in prison and then threatens to report him to the captain. Black-and-white Paris says he can’t let him do that, and stabs him more or less in cold blood while the wife protests.

“Let the record show that the sentence of the court has been carried out,” says the first voice, and things better get less confusing soon or this recap is never going to end. The sentence, apparently, is that every 14 hours Paris is going to relive the last moments of his victim’s life. Back in color, Tom is all sweaty and vulnerable–Wrongly Accused is a good look for him, actually. He’s in a room that could be on Voyager, with two aliens. One of them leads Paris from the room while the other watches.

I didn't kill him, but I sure looked good not doing it

I didn’t kill him, but I sure looked good not doing it

End teaser, roll opening credits.

In sick bay, the Doctor is quizzing Kes on her medical studies. Kes is an excellent student. While they run through a tutorial on WebMD, Kes asks the Doctor if he’s chosen a name yet. He says he asked the Captain for one, but when Kes asks him why he doesn’t choose one himself, he gets uptight and says that holograms don’t make choices. She asks how diagnosis and treatment decisions are different from making choices, and he gradually sees her logic. She asks him about the names he has programmed into him, and he runs through some–including Dr. Spock–but says none of them quite fit.

Before anything can be resolved, because that is the nature of plot momentum, Janeway radios to the Doctor to prepare sick bay for either Paris or Harry, who are returning on a shuttle. Tuvok says there’s only one life sign on board. It’s Harry, and he’s severely dehydrated. “They made me leave without him,” he says at least twice, then tells them that the Baneans convicted Paris of murder, after which we go into a flashback.

Honest to god, and I say this with frustration but not malice, this is already the worst structured piece of shit I have ever watched. I feel like throwing a hardbound copy of Samuel Delany’s essay on chronological storytelling and false flashbacks at everyone involved.

So. False flashback. Harry and Paris meet the physicist Tolen Ren, who is going to help them repair some of the damage to Voyager. The Baneans appear to have large heads wrapped with different-colored cloths, or else the worst prosthetics ever on this show, which is saying something. Maybe they are feathers, except that Tolen has a beard, and it’s all so distracting, y’all.

ANYWAYS after that worthless scene Harry and Paris have dinner that evening at the professor’s home that night, while Harry gives the most listless voice-over I’ve ever heard outside of the stage directions at a table read where everyone is hungover. Are they trying to remind us that Harry is dehydrated? But why? ARGH. Harry ends his intro with “If we hadn’t gone with him that night, none of this would have happened,” but since we already know at least one version of what happened, this intonation carries little of the intended dramatic weight.

The physicist no shit has a little yappy dog, possibly a long-haired Chihuaha, which is the most apathetic example of unexplained convergent evolution ever on a Trek show, but also possibly a reference to Ren Hoëk? Maybe I’m giving the writers too much credit there for a change. Tolen Ren calls for his wife and basically acts like he’s hot shit, but then realizes he forgot to call ahead, and laments his terrible manners. His wife, Lidell, appears wearing what looks like a waist-length nightgown with tights and manages to say put-upon things without sounding put-upon. She’s quite lovely in spite of the bumpy forehead, and we’re meant to read into the looks she and Paris exchange. She feeds a scrap of meat to the dog, saying he wouldn’t eat it if it was spoiled.

Kind of looks like Paris, actually

Kind of looks like Paris, actually

At the dinner table, Tolen does that asshole disarming thing where he lists off his faults to his wife so that he doesn’t have to actually take responsibility for them. He’s rude, he’s antisocial, his wife is bored because he brings his work home. “Thanks for reminding me, honey, that I haven’t told you yet today what a condescending asshole you are!” she somehow manages not to say. Tolen says that it’s because they’re at war–with the Numiri, apparently–and asks how they got past the patrols, which is how it comes up that Paris is a hotshot pilot. It also explains why these two are here on a shuttlecraft while Voyager is off elsewhere; apparently Janeway didn’t want to involve Voyager in the conflict by orbiting the planet, so they sent the shuttlecraft. Paris brags a bit about how he managed it, and Tolen is impressed, but Lidell ends dinner awkwardly by saying the meat doesn’t taste right. OK?

Harry, Paris, and Tolen go to work, but we don’t see any more of it; Harry exposits that Tom got bored with the work and left the room, and that he thinks he spent some time with Lidell. He knows they saw each other the next day, and that night the professor was murdered. They interrogated him, thinking they were Numiri spies, and he never saw Tom after he was detained. Janeway decides they need to go to the Banean home world, and tells Chakotay to lay in a course. That’s all Chakotay ever gets to do, man. Him and Tuvok, coursifying and analyzing and theorizing. I bet they talk shit about the rest of the crew all the fucking time.

After the break, Neelix shows up at Janeway’s office. She picks his brain about the Numiri. Neelix says whenever he’s seen the Numiri, he left before their intimidation began, but that they have weapons similar to Voyager’s, and shields. The Numiri are also very covert, Neelix says, but can’t tell her more before Chakotay calls her to the bridge. They’ve encountered the Numiri already. It’s one patrol ship, which Neelix finds odd.

Janeway hails the ship, and a guy who looks a little browner than a Black Lectroid from Buckaroo Banzai asks them what their business is in the system. Janeway explains, and the Numirian gives her official notice that they’re entering a war zone and any attempt to give aid to the Baneans will be considered an act of war. Then he tells her to go on ahead, so obviously the Numiri are involved in all of this pretty directly, somehow.

Neelix is concerned, and thankfully Janeway takes those concerns seriously, putting the security teams on full alert and ordering continuing scans for patrols. Voyager moves into orbit, and on the surface Janeway and Tuvok are met by an official with a scaly beaver on his head. He tells her that Paris has already been convicted and punished, which we already knew, I’m just saying. Janeway is pissed and asks for the details and gets them. By the end of this conversation, Tuvok and Janeway look like they’re not sure what to believe.

They visit Paris in lockup, which, if the sentence is to relive the murder twice a day, why does he need to be locked up? Are we living in such a penitentiary-acclimated society that life in prison is just assumed, here? Fuck rehabilitation, let’s just make these fuckers eternally miserable. Anyway, Tom says he didn’t kill the guy, that the marriage was over, and nothing happened between him and Lidell–almost nothing.

The night before the murder, Tom wanders out of the science-ing and tries to flirt with Lidell, who is smoking. Tom tells us that Earth gave up smoking centuries ago, which is a pretty fucking utopian conceit, even for Star Trek. She says she’s smoking because she doesn’t have the guts to kill herself quickly. She’s got a chip on her shoulder about why she married the old guy. “He’s a good man,” she says. “I would never do anything to hurt him.” Paris, who is insufferable, takes this as an opportunity to make a move in on her. She turns away from him, though, and before we can see what else happened, Paris has his regularly scheduled flashback. Janeway gets some medical help, because Paris is in bad shape. Turns out they had some trouble integrating Banean engrams into Paris’s brain, but they went ahead and did it anyway because of reasons.

Janeway wants to take Paris back to Voyager so the Doctor can check him out. The justice minister reluctantly allows this after the Banean doctor recommends it. The minister tells them not to leave orbit, and Janeway tells him they aren’t leaving until they prove Paris’s innocence. Oh. Snap?

Commercial. Hey kids, want to look like a terrible Star Trek alien this Halloween? Drape some soggy spinach or fish scales over your head, paint glue over it, and then look miserable! Congratulations, you’re a Banean!

What have they done to this poor man

What have they done to this poor man

Back on Voyager the Doctor says that this advanced medicine has damaged Paris’s neural pathways, and the damage is progressive. Darned advanced medicine is always causing brain damage. Tuvok wants a copy of the Doctor’s analysis. Janeway and Tuvok discuss an appeal, but Tuvok already knows that the Banean punishment for murder before lethal brain damage used to be lethal injection, so maybe they need to concentrate on innocence first. The Doctor says Paris will regain consciousness, but his brain will be further damaged every time he relives the memory. Tuvok wants an autonomic response analysis next time Tom wakes up, and asks Janeway for permission to go back to the surface to investigate. Tuvok, P.I.! I hope he wears a Hawaiian shirt to blend in.

No such luck, but he does go to visit Lidell and her dog. Here’s where it becomes clear that the noir thing isn’t accidental; they’re trying to play her as the femme fatale, an approach that is stifled by her awful gray wardrobe, her prosthetics, and the awkward way she reclines onto the sofa. Tuvok reads her as dispassionate, and she smiles a black widow smile and says she thinks Tom Paris would say otherwise, which is so clearly a ploy that Tuvok doesn’t even bother calling it out. She pours herself a drink and explains what it’s like to end a marriage, which is how we find out that Tuvok has been married for 67 years.

Is this right? Do I look seductive?

Is this right? Do I look seductive?

Anyways Lidell says that ending a marriage is a quiet thing; the arguments are long over and there’s really nothing much left to say. Tuvok wants to know why now, and Lidell says she was attracted to another man, Paris. Tuvok says this seems odd, since Paris wasn’t going to stay. Tuvok establishes that she saw Tom at the Engineering Institute the day of the murder, and that they walked home in the rain, getting soaked. We transition to her version, in which she helps him take off his boots and they start getting squishy. (Their clothes are wet. What did you think I meant?) Tom has second thoughts, but she says her marriage is over, and mentions that her husband hasn’t treated her like a woman since the eclipse four years ago, which seems significant. Tom still isn’t sure, though, so she offers to make him some warm tea.

She tells Tuvok that she made tea, they talked, and then they went out to watch the storm, followed by the events from Toren’s memories. He asks her if she left the room at any time during the fight, and she says she saw Paris murder “my husband.” How odd that she would refer to him as that.

Chakotay calls Tuvok to tell him that Paris is conscious. As Tuvok leaves, Lidell tells him to tell Paris that she forgives him.

Paris confirms Lidell’s version, except he doesn’t remember anything after the tea. The Doctor confirms that he’s telling the truth, and that he hasn’t been drugged. Shaki-cam! The Numiri are attacking Voyager! Janeway and Chakotay treat this as pretty standard stuff, and Neelix feels smug about being right, even though he says otherwise. Neelix, we’re not stupid. Chakotay and Torres pull an old Maquis trick on the Numiri that involves making Voyager look distressed, then taking advantage of the Numiri approach to disable both their ships. Neelix promises that more ships will come, though.

Tuvok tells Janeway he has no evidence yet. He proposes a mind-meld with Paris. The Doctor hates this idea, but Tuvok believes it’s an acceptable risk. He convinces Janeway, and goes ahead, with Paris’s permission. Tuvok relives the murder. We don’t see anything different, but Tuvok thinks he’s figured something out; he needs to look at Ren’s research. He thinks something there will reveal why Paris was accused and convicted, and why the Numiri attacked Voyager.  when he’ll depart, that he’ll be traveling by shuttle, etc.–make it clear that this is a setup intended to flush out a spy.

Harry and Tom are on the shuttle. Tom tells Harry it’s his fault for not being conscience-y enough. Sure enough, the Numiri patrols show up on scans, and both the shuttle and Voyager are ready. The Numiri lock a tractor beam on the shuttle, and Janeway orders Harry not to resist, which coincidentally is the title of my favorite erotic fanfic: JANEWAY ORDERS HARRY NOT TO RESIST.

The Numiri board the shuttle, but Voyager beams Harry and Tom back. Janeway tells the captain that the shuttle is loaded with enough explosives to blow up the Numiri ship, so he gives it up. What has this accomplished? Tuvok is going to tell us all at the scene of the murder, with all interested parties attending.

Tuvok tells us that the engrams were altered, and that Lidell was lying and probably drugged the tea. When Lidell protests, he has her stand next to Paris, and points out that the man in the memory was equal in height to Lidell, while Paris is several centimeters taller. Also, whoever killed the professor was a Numiri agent. Tuvok knows this because–remember those alien subtitles? Those were equations from Professor Ren’s research, intended to be delivered via Paris, to the Numiri. So, the Banean doctor did it, which is… boring. He’s the same height as Lidell, and the dog knows him, so I guess that’s proof? Anyway the minister believes it, so that’s it.

At mealtime Paris thanks Tuvok for helping him. Tuvok is like “I work for justice.” Paris asks him why he always eats alone, and Tuvok says he would rather read than chat, which I am fully on board with when it comes to workplace meals. Paris says “You don’t make many friends that way” and then says that like it or not, Tuvok has made one today, and this is so boring, you guys, thank god it’s the end.

Honestly, the only good things about this episode were the parts where Tuvok and Chakotay Did Stuff; the rest was a waste of my time and goodwill.

NEXT WEEK: Get better, show. Please, please, please, get better.

ST: Voyager Recap — S1, E6: Eye of the Needle

Welcome to Star Trek: Parables, in which every week we retell one of Christ’s lessons through a sci-fi lens! Tonight, the Prodigal Son!

Harry’s found a wormhole, which just makes me miss Farscape. Tuvok says there’s a 75% chance it doesn’t lead to the Alpha Quadrant, which frankly seems low, and form what part of his ass exactly did he pull that number? Janeway’s all “1 in 4 ain’t bad odds.” She tells Paris to change course for the wormhole so that they can better scan it. Paris says if this pans out, they should petition Starfleet to designate the wormhole the Harry Kim Wormhole, which is nice and all, but from the proud looks on the bridge you’d think Harry was a seven-year-old who just spelled antidisestablishmentarianism right at a Spelling Bee, not potentially found them a shortcut home.

Credits. Pretty sure that planetary ring is made of skulls.

They reach the wormhole, but can’t see it. Janeway tells them to magnify the visual as much as they can, and they finally spot it. It’s teeny! It’s a baby wormhole! All right, everyone, line up single file, we’ll fire you through in torpedo tubes! Oh wait, it’s only about 30 centimeters in diameter. I guess they could beam everyone through one at a time?

Buuuut maybe they can send a message through, says Tuvok. He recommends launching a micro-probe into the wormhole, and I am fourteen years old, because every time someone says “micro-probe” I want to snicker. The probe wormholes on in and sends them back pictures, which sounds fake but OK. Everybody’s like “In my vast experience of wormholes this particular wormhole is unusual” and they decide it’s very old and in an advanced state of decay. Then the probe gets hung up in the gravitation eddies (“Er, who is Eddy exactly, then?”), and Harry says it’ll never break free, and he’s soooo emotional about it, and Janeway is soooo sympathetic, and what a WEIRD dynamic there is between these two. Does she think he is mentally challenged? I know he’s an ensign, but I don’t recall ensigns being treated like children in other Star Trek shows. Well, OK, Wesley, but that’s because HE WAS ACTUALLY A CHILD. Then the probe starts scanning, and finds something on the other side.

Kes is working with the Doctor in sick bay and it’s super boring. The guy they’re treating is rude to the Doctor, which frankly isn’t the worst thing, but it bothers Kes. Can we talk about how her new uniform is far inferior to the purple thing she was wearing a few episodes back? Or wait, maybe Kes will actually be getting wardrobe changes. That’d be revolutionary, considering that even Quark wore pretty much the same thing for seven years.

What even are you wearing Kes

What even are you wearing Kes

The Doctor doesn’t give a shit about being treated rudely, possibly because he is also sort of rude. Kes wants lots more homework, and she is polite to the Doctor when he gives it to her.

Senior staff briefing. Harry says someone on the other side is interested in the probe. Tuvok says they can’t rule out the possibility that a microscopic entity inside the wormhole is investigating the probe, which… sure, Tuvok, that’s possible. I dunno, writers, I’m not sure that Logical=”Hey I thought of this thing that might be happening in 0.3% of cases so I’m going to bring it up as some sort of weird counter-argument.”

Torres says the probe has 72 hours to live, or the way they’re anthropomorphizing, she may as well have said it like that. Meantime, Harry says, they can still use it. Janeway says they should use it to relay a message, so Harry and Torres start on it.

Tuvok is like “Harry has his hopes up blah blah failure” and again, Harry is not a child, just boring. Is this going to be a thing? This is going to be a thing, isn’t it? Fuck’s sake, people.

Torres and Kim are doing their reconfiguring, and Harry says the stakes aloud. “This has to work. It’s going to mean so much to the people back home, to know that we’re alive and heading for Federation space.” Then he talks about his folks and how he always called them at least once a week, and look, just because Harry misses his family doesn’t mean it’s OK to turn Janeway and Tuvok into his parents. Meanwhile Torres hasn’t seen her father since she was five, and has lost touch with her mother, because they didn’t get along. Wow, what a subtle nurture-equals-destiny throughline you’ve established there, you simplistic fuckwads. Harry is deeply disturbed that B’ellana doesn’t have anyone back home. To be fair, B’ellana plays it in a very poor-little-tough-girl way, but still, there are so many stupid assumptions in this scene, primary among them the idea that family is always good and desirable, and not something anyone feels a need to get the fuck away from.

Anyways the stupid probe is ready, and Harry notifies the bridge. They send a subharmonic test signal through, and everyone sits tense, waiting to see if there will be a response. It occurs to me that this episode is in some ways a good illustration of the scientific method–discovery, theory, test, theory, test, etc. Unlike an episode of Eureka, however, which at least for the first couple of seasons was both an exemplary demonstration of and celebration of the scientific method in action AND a hilarious skewering of scientific hubris, this episode is mostly pretty dull.

But! Someone responds to the signal in kind, and Tuvok is able to determine that the response is originating from the Alpha quadrant. HOW THE FUCK DO YOU KNOW THIS, TUVOK? SHOW YOUR FUCKING WORK.

Janeway exposits that Harry is going to try establishing a voice link now, then is interrupted in her quarters by a visit from Kes. Janeway replicates them some refreshments, which–I thought just last episode we were running out of whatever powers the replicators? Who’s the continuity supervisor on this?

Kes wants Janeway to do something about the way the Doctor is treated. Janeway says, well, the Doctor is rude and brusque. “He’s only a hologram,” Janeway says, but Kes disagrees. Janeway agrees to look into it.

Here follows some dramatic stuff with the co-variant isolator, and Janeway transmits a message. After a bit they get some static, and after a few passes at it, they find out they have made contact with a Romulan cargo ship, who doesn’t believe them, and breaks transmission. Tuvok says it’s actually a science vessel, and probably feared being discovered doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing. Janeway says they’re still their best bet for getting a message to the Federation, and tells Harry to keep hailing them until they pick up again.

Janeway leaves the bridge to Chakotay and goes down to sick bay to talk to the Doctor. She talks to him about the increased expectations on him and says that he’s now a full-fledged member of the crew. She wants to know if there’s anything she can do to help him. He says he just wants to be turned off when people leave. Janeway offers to give him control over his deactivation, and he says he might like that. She says they’ll look into it, and that he should think about whether he wants anything else.

Janeway is asleep in her quarters when Harry comms to say they’ve re-established communication with the Romulan ship. Janeway has the signal put through to her quarters, where she talks with the Romulan with the lights low, her hair down, and a satin-y pink nightie on. Regardless of intent (I could easily imagine that someone in the studio was pleading for them to “sex Janeway up” a little), this is actually a super feminist moment, and I am not joking in the slightest. She is also in charge when she chooses to be feminine, and that’s a good thing.

Feminist as fuck

Feminist as fuck

Anyways the Romulan is suspicious, because Romulans gotta Romulan. He wants to know what Voyager’s mission in the Delta quadrant is, and Janeway tries to reassure him that they are just lost. She asks him to relay a message–really a series of messages–to the Federation. The Romulan says he’d feel better if they could establish a visual link, and says he thinks he has the means to do so. He won’t promise that he’ll help them even if that works, though, and logs off after telling her to have her science officers contact him.

They are trying really hard to hit the emotional note of the Voyager crew’s isolation in this episode. They are providing us space to try to feel what the crew is feeling, and that’s wise. But there is other work that isn’t being done, and that is the work of showing us the private life that these Starfleet officers don’t have. In a way the entire history of Star Trek is working against them, because Star Trek has always been a workplace show, almost to the extreme of, say, the Law & Order franchise. Kirk’s friends were Bones and Spock; Data and Geordi hung out by choice; O’Brien and Bashir became best pals (still one of DS9’s biggest missteps; O’Brien should have hated Bashir through the entire run). So it’s hard for a longtime Trek viewer to feel the pathos of Harry not getting to call his parents or Janeway missing her dogs, because we never saw Harry’s parents, and the dogs haven’t been mentioned since the pilot, and this emptiness is entirely theoretical. I’m not saying it’d be easy to show this, but they’re not even trying; they’re telling us that everyone is sad, and expecting that to work. It doesn’t.

Back on the bridge they are ready for a visual link. The Romulan captain says his government is considering passing the message along. Janeway plays upon his sympathies by asking about the fact he’s been in space for over a year. He misses his daughter, who was born while he was in space. Janeway’s naked emotional appeal is kind of… gross. But I guess it works, because he says he’ll try to convince the Romulan senate to agree to Voyager’s proposal. The whole time he looks like having emotions is like constipation, which I guess is consistent for a Romulan, but is also very very silly.

Mustn't cry in front of the humans, mustn't cry in front of the humans, mustn't cry in front of the humans

Mustn’t cry in front of the humans, mustn’t cry in front of the humans, mustn’t cry in front of the humans

Janeway tell Chakotay to have everyone prepare personal messages, in the hopes that the Romulans will agree.

Torres is super-excited, because the visual contact whoozis is just a few megahertz from a viable transporter frequency. Hey, I said that way up in the 4th paragraph! It’s risky, but Janeway tells her to see if she can figure it out. Obviously it’s not going to work and probably the wormhole will collapse and maybe they won’t even get the messages out, because hubris, but home has to stay super far away forever, or they have to change the name of the show. Janeway has her hopes up, and looks at a photo of her man and their dog. Hey, I called that one too!

To Kes and the Doctor. Kes enjoys studying anatomy, and thinks it would be interesting to see an autopsy sometime. Also she’s dyed her hair black and is sewing lace onto all of her sleeves. OK, not yet. The Doctor quizzes her, and it’s totally flirty, at least on her part. She tells him about the possible return to the Alpha quadrant, and the Doctor goes full Eeyore and says he’s fully integrated into sick bay and can’t go. Kes kisses him on the cheek and thanks him for everything, which I don’t know whether to read as parent-child/mentor-student-y, or if she honestly does have a crush on the guy. I mean if you were with Neelix wouldn’t you be looking for a way out? Anyways she promises to deactivate him if she does leave the ship, which we know she isn’t going to, and the Doctor looks existential as she walks out of sick bay.

The Romulan captain agrees to allow Voyager to beam a test cylinder through the wormhole; he’s a science guy, and he’s even excited about it. It’s a rocky transport, and for some reason they beam it to right next to the guy’s face, which seems TOTALLY safe in case something does go wrong. WTF, Voyager. But it eventually goes through after some megajouling by Harry and Torres. The Romulan is fascinated. I want to write fanfic about how this encounter changed this guy’s life, y’all. He’s so impressed that he volunteers to be a test subject, and beam over to Voyager and then back. He says the Voyager crew can’t transport to his ship because security protocols, but he can get a troop transport ship that will accommodate them, assuming everything works. Janeway agrees.

After 20 test transports, they bring the Romulan aboard. It ain’t pretty, but it works. The Romulan’s name is Dr. Telek R’Mor, and he’s excited by the breakthrough. Janeway is ready to evacuate immediately, but Tuvok is like “Hold up” and asks the Romulan what year it is. He’s from 20 years ago, so the wormhole is a rift in time as well in space. (“Is he. Is he.”)

Senior staff debates going back anyway, but briefly. Janeway gives the can’t-change-history speech. Dr. R’Mor suggests telling Starfleet not to send them here in the first place, but that won’t work either. So they have to send him back and ask him to relay their messages in twenty years.

Y’all, I hate that this is being resolved with more time-travel laziness. I’m not saying wormholes can’t work that way, or that actually getting them back was a feasible story twist, but what about that unstable wormhole? Wasn’t that a better way of shutting this door? I think so.

Anyways Dr. R’Mor goes back and is dignified and dramatic about it, and I think we’re supposed to feel sad about the lost chance at contact for the crew. And I do, a little, but not enough for the episode to have rested on that emotional weight.

BUT THEN IT GETS EVEN WORSE because Tuvok reports that he’s checked ship records, and Dr. R’Mor died four years before Voyager’s mission. (I guess I could still write that fanfic. It’d be EXTRA poignant.) The crew speculates that maybe he passed the messages on to someone else, or gave them to the Romulan government, and so they were somehow delivered. Tuvok is like “It is possible,” which you know is Vulcan for “Humans like to believe good things can happen.” Janeway hates this, and she says they should get going.

Sick bay, and the same douchebag from above is complaining to Kes about his hamstring, which he injured because if he doesn’t work out he’ll go stir crazy. The Doctor asserts himself and tells the guy to address him directly, and to be more careful working out, or the Doctor will have to speak to his superior officer. The guy looks at Kes but is basically cowed by this, which sure is an easy resolution. Also Kes is wearing her purple top again, thank god. The Doctor says that Captain Janeway made him realize that he has to think of himself less as an emergency replacement and more as a member of the crew, and Kes approves. He has a list of requests that he’d like Kes to pass on to the captain. Also, he wants a name… and on that note, the episode ends.

This was intended, clearly, to be an emotional episode, and I applaud the intention, but for the most part Star Trek handles emotions badly, and this is an example of that rather than an exception. Between that and the muddle that is Harry Kim, this is another not-good episode, albeit less maddening than some of the others I’ve seen thus far.

NEXT: The Doctor gets a name, and it’s… STRANGE.

ST: Voyager Recap – S1, E5: The Cloud

“The Cloud”! In this episode, Janeway uploads her Bikini Kill collection to a third-party data center, then can’t get a connection strong enough to stream it. Out of frustration, she starts a band with Kes and Torres and writes a song that destroys the patriarchy, except that no one in the Federation can hear it, and in the end it turns out that the Patriarchy was Old Man Willoughby from the amusement park all along.

BUT FIRST.

Janeway gets contemplative in her personal log about how in the Delta Quadrant, the crew has to serve as each other’s family, and maybe she has to be more than a captain, but she’s not sure how to begin. This is illustrated by a nanosecond shot of a crew member looking out into space, and Janeway hesitating before getting all awkward-faced and walking away. WHAT. Why are they walking back the character who was so massively emotionally intelligent with Torres in Parallax? No sir, I don’t like it. You’ve already shown us that Janeway is confident and competent in these situations. Maybe if this was Chakotay or someone else not as used to being in command of a large crew, I’d buy it, but you are already on shaky ground (*Googles*), Tom Szollosi and Michael Piller (Teleplay) and Brannon Braga (Story). We are thirty seconds in, and I’m thinking that this premise is shit.

“At the Academy, we’re taught that a captain is supposed to maintain a certain distance,” she says. “Until now, I’ve always been comfortable with that distance.” OH MY GOD I HATE THIS EPISODE SO MUCH ALREADY.

As if on cue, she strolls through Engineering and Torres goes directly to Red Alert. “Oh hey captain um we’re almost back online with the warp drive and stuff please don’t fire me” or words and tone to that effect. Janeway is too busy continuing her narration to care. “Maybe this is just the way it works. Maybe the distance is necessary. Maybe more than ever now they need me to be larger than life.

“I only wish I felt larger than life,” she says, then tells the computer to delete that sentence.

Here’s why this bothers me. It bothers me because, aside from the tedium of a leader who worries about how to lead, aside from the fact that my own ideas of leadership are completely at odds with the “larger than life” idea, there is this: there was NEVER EVER NOT ONCE an episode of TOS or TNG or DS9 where Kirk or Picard or Sisko got all worried about whether they were good leaders. Whether intentional or not, this is coming across as a commentary on women in leadership: “Oh they have doubts! Maybe leadership is at odds with the feminine nature! Look, there’s a sale at Macy’s!” Goddammit, people, you put a woman in charge of a starship, now let her be in charge and spare us the hand-wringing. Fucking fucks.

In the dining room Janeway has an awkward conversation with Harry and Paris about Neelix’s gustatory attempts, and then Harry and Paris talk about how awkward that was, and the way Paris talks about it is weirdly gendered–captains are inscrutable! If she wanted to join us she’d have said so! Then Janeway goes looking for food in the kitchen and Neelix compliments her lipstick and tells her how beautiful she looks in this light and I’M JUST GOING TO RING A BELL EVERY TIME SOMETHING EGREGIOUSLY SEXIST HAPPENS TO THE CAPTAIN IN THIS EPISODE HOW DOES THAT SOUND?!?

Chakotay calls Janeway to the bridge, which means we finally have plot, thank fucking god. Chakotay says “We found a nebula.” My reaction: “For this you call me? YOU CALL THIS PLOT?” Janeway magnifies it and Tuvok scans it and finds unusually high levels of omicron particles, which could potentially be used as antimatter fuel reserves. Janeway calls the senior bridge officers for duty and sets a course for the nebula.

Credits. Why are the credits almost always the most-space-related part of all these Trek shows? “Here’s 45 seconds of what you really want! Now here is forty-three minutes of people walking around in fake rock tunnels and bracing for impact!” Doesn’t seem quite right, does it?

Janeway tells Chakotay she thinks that exploring the nebula will help with morale. Chakotay says yeah, morale is bad, and Janeway asks him to elaborate. (She also says that they have no ship’s counselor because the nature of their mission didn’t require one, which–riiiight. I’d have liked it better if they’d just killed off the counselors in the pilot rather than implying that counseling is some special privilege and not a routine necessity.)

Chakotay starts talking about his native beliefs, which would be great, except that no one has so far bothered to specify what tribe Chakotay is from, so it comes across like generalized spiritual babble rather than anything grounded and real. Not to get preachy, but this is textbook cultural-appropriation-done-badly, and it comes across as if someone thought “We haven’t put Indians in space yet!”, wrote a list of characteristics for Native Americans based on all the movies they’d seen, and changed NATIVE AMERICAN TYPE to CHAKOTAY at the last minute. Fucking do your research, jerks. Anyways Chakotay says they use animal guides, and Janeway is like all white people everywhere and wants one.

Tuvok interrupts to say they’re nearly at the nebula. They scan it and don’t find anything unusual, so Janeway has them set a course for a sizable concentration of omicron particles. (I Googled “Omicron (comics)” just to check, and yep, there’s a DC character with that name, because of course there is.) As they travel through the nebula, they start to attract some space dust, and then suddenly they stop completely. Janeway really wants those particles, though, so she tells them to power through. They come into some kind of open area in the middle of the nebula that no one can identify, and the breach closes behind them.

Cut to Neelix for some reason, yelling at Kes about Janeway getting them into trouble. Kes says the Federation people are natural-born explorers, and Neelix says they are natural-born idiots. Kes clearly admires the captain, though, and shuts Neelix up with some kissing.

RED ALERT. Blue lava-lamp globs are splooshing into Voyager. They go right through the shields, stick to the hull, and start drawing power from the ship, which for some reason Janeway is perplexed by. Federations ships are always losing power, that’s what they do! Janeway orders Paris to ram back out of the barrier, but it doesn’t work. Torres ramps up thruster power, but it does nothing. Phasers do nothing. They fire a photon torpedo, and it gets them through the barrier; they make it out of the nebula in one piece, and Janeway wants the lava lumps analyzed. Turns out they’re just wax, can you believe it? Trippy.

After the commercial Paris, who is insufferable, breaks into Harry’s quarters while he’s sleeping so he can drag him out of bed to go see a holodeck program. Oh Paris, you rebel you. In the conversation on the way it somehow comes out that Harry remembers being in his mother’s womb, which is by far the most interesting thing about either Harry or Paris, but never mind, we have to go to another damn holodeck. Come on, Voyager writers; you’re never going to equal Vic Fontaine, so why even try?

Paris’s holo-program is a bistro/pool parlor called Sandrine’s, because he has a thing about the French. All the women are all over him, and I think I can sum up my feelings about this entire scene with a brief performance art piece which I like to call Seizing the Nearest Receptacle and Barfing Until Dawn. Just, ish. The only good thing is that Harry’s boring-ness actually becomes the joke–Paris orders wine, and Harry’s like “I try not to drink this late at night, it gives me an acid heartburn.” Bless you, Harry Kim. Bless you.

Once that scene finally ends, we see B’ellana doing actual science, like, with-a-centrifuge science. She’s analyzing the hull goo, but she must need a second opinion, because she goes to sick bay and activates the Doctor. He’s crabby and he refutes her theory, but we don’t get to see what he thinks yet.

Cut to Janeway’s quarters. Chakotay comes in with his medicine bundle, which he’s never shown anyone before. Really? and Oh god. The scene that follows is just as bad as the bistro scene, except worse. Basically Janeway gets a vision quest with no trials or privations or anything that could be mistaken for actual investment or spirituality and it’s just such a lazy, short-cut exploitation of native beliefs that when Torres interrupts it it’s almost like the writers were embarrassed. Oh, they definitely were, because there’s an immediate joke about how Torres tried to kill her animal guide. I have gone from being mad at this episode to being tired and sad, y’all. Oh, and Janeway’s animal guide is apparently a gecko, which I hope is never mentioned again ever.

Fifteen minutes could save you 15% or more on starship insurance!

Fifteen minutes could save you 15% or more on starship insurance!

Torres says the hull-stuff is organic, and the nebula is alive. Dramatic music cue! Commercial!

Janeway asks the Doctor if they’ve done serious damage to the life-form. The Doctor snarks about all the things they’ve done to it, and Janeway cuts his audio, which is hilarious. Janeway takes a look at the concentration of omicron particles that they were trying to get to, and Tuvok says it’s a lot lower than it was originally, and they’re leaking out. Basically the thing is bleeding. Janeway wants to help it. The Doctor, who’s been on the viewscreen in the background cooking up some delicious ham, signals for attention. When his audio is restored, he mentions that the lifeform should have the capacity to regenerate with a little nucleonic radiation to get it started. They’ll have to head back in.

Chakotay calls a Yellow Alert, and Neelix sputters about it, and god so many tedious or facepalm-worthy subplots in this episode! He goes to complain to Janeway, and Janeway isn’t having it. Funny how she’s at her most likeable when she’s telling people to suck it up.

Into the nebula! The thing happens, and they do the thing! Things seem to be going well, and then the nebula sets its defense/immune systems on them with a vengeance. Inertial damping goes down, and Torres is forced to vent fuel to shut off the engines. Janeway reasons that the creature is wary of them now, and particularly their engines, so they decide to drift along with the omicron particles towards the wound.

Neelix comes onto the bridge and distributes refreshments, having appointed himself morale officer. Blah blah blah Neelix is annoying.

They reach the wound, and Torres fires the nucleonic radiation, but it’s not helping much. The Doctor suggests an energy suture; using the ship as a conduit across the wound should help it to heal. The problem being how to get into the wound (they keep calling it “the breach” but it’s a wound, dammit) without the creature attacking again. Paris says it’s like asking a wounded dog not to bite while you fix its teeth. And there’s a moment here of great acting from Mulgrew, as she asks Paris if he likes dogs, bonds with him over it for a second, and then remembers having to fix a cut on her own dog’s leg, and needing to distract him from it. There’s something that happens with Mulgrew’s face when Janeway has a great idea and she knows she’s got a great idea, something like what Lucy Lawless used to do whenever it was time for Xena to cut loose and kick ass, but different, because Janeway is not Xena, she’s just the fucking boss. This is what I like seeing, not Janeway-being-awkward-because-all-the-boys-who-write-for-this-show-are-uncomfortable-with-women-in-power.

Anyways Janeway distracts the life-form with a micro-probe, then sends Voyager into the breach, where Torres fires the beams. They hold position until the wound is nearly closed, then race out of the nebula without being attacked again.

So the mission to augment their power reserves ends up depleting them by 20%. They set course for a planet where Neelix says–“Neelix says,” my couch-bound ass–they might find some compatible energy sources. Janeway is all relaxed and makes conversation with Harry on the turbolift, and he invites her to Paris’s creepy bistro, where the entire command crew is chilling. Ish, again. Janeway laughs at the whole setup, and when one of the pool players hits on Torres, she gets the best lines of the episode.

“Paris, did you program this guy?” When Paris confirms it: “He’s a pig, and so are you.”

AND THEN Janeway pretends not to know pool from billiards and asks Chakotay for his stick, and then she breaks and she’s a total shark, and that almost makes up for the teaser. Almost.

I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, this was a really bad episode, but the character assassination that I was worried about in the beginning doesn’t seem to have taken hold, and Janeway is still awesome. Best forget it and move on, as we Buffy fans like to say about “Bad Eggs.”

NEXT UP: Kes takes on a fourth job, or a fifth, while Paris just slimes around the ship some more.

ST: Voyager Liveblog — S1, E4: Phage

Janeway logs (I’m verbing it. We use “blog,” don’t we? Deal) that Voyager is on its way to a rogue planetoid that Neelix says is a rich source of rare dilithium. Y’all I don’t know what a “rogue planetoid” is exactly but it sounds like that guy who shows up twenty minutes into the movie and beats up one of the good guys, then ends up fighting on their side in the final battle. Definitely this planetoid should have a skunk stripe in its hair. Janeway and Chakotay discuss how they’ll need a processing facility to refine the dilithium and wow, I’m already bored. SKIP TO THE END, as they say on “Spaced.”

Janeway walks into the officer’s mess expecting to have a breakfast of Ration Pack Number 5 and finds Neelix smoking up the place with a fancy breakfast made with veggies from the hydroponics bay. I like Neelix in this scene the best I’ve liked him so far, probably because he’s actually DOING something. But Janeway is annoyed, because–ohhh, this isn’t the officer’s mess: it’s the captain’s private dining room. Or it used to be, before Neelix requisitioned equipment from all over the ship and rerouted some of the power conduits. This misunderstanding is left unresolved, however (and the captain gets no breakfast), because they’ve reached the rogue planetoid. Janeway orders Neelix with her to the bridge.

The planetoid isn’t wearing a casual vest or sneering or playing with a butterfly knife (that might be slightly more hoodlum than rogue), but scans indicate that there is maybe 500-1000 metric tons of dilithium under its surface, and a series of caves that appear to have breathable air. Janeway orders Chakotay to take an away team down to geologize; he picks Harry, because Harry is as versatile in his way as he is boring. Neelix wants to go too, and Janeway agrees in a way that is both amused and condescending. Not that I blame her particularly, given what Neelix has done so far.

On–or really under–the surface, Chakotay, Harry, and Neelix split up to better survey the area. As Neelix wanders off in one direction, a cave wall behind him disappears to reveal a fancy corridor that’s quite reminiscent of DS9, and a shadowy figure appears from around a corner. I wonder if he’s a ROGUE?

Credits. Professional pilot on closed course; do not attempt to cruise your starship this close to solar flares.

Chakotay and Harry are finding dilithium signatures, but no actual dilithium. Man, I knew they should have tried to get some beryllium instead. Neelix beeps in to say that he’s found indications of a cavern nearby with a huge dilithium formation. Chakotay tells him not to go any further right now, but we already know how interdictions work in fiction, right? Neelix keeps going, but finds nothing. Chakotay is ready to abandon the search when Neelix gets a bio-organic signature off a rock face. “I think there’s something alive down here,” he says.

Chakotay’s all “uh-oh nope get back here,” but Neelix understandably thinks of Starfleet orders as more like suggestions, and keeps looking. Then our shadowy ROGUE opens up a corridor and slips out, leaving the corridor for Neelix to discover. He slips around Neelix while he’s distracted by the corridor and then shoots him with a nasty-looking gun. Positively rogueish!

Chakotay and Harry come to the rescue and find Neelix convulsing. Voyager beams them directly to sick bay, where the Doctor tells Chakotay to get the blood-gas infuser. He puts Neelix into an induced coma and announces that he’ll be dead after an hour, because HIS LUNGS HAVE BEEN REMOVED.

I really, really, really, really didn’t expect that.

Chakotay briefs Janeway. She’s like “Buh, wah?” or something similar–I might be projecting a little–and Chakotay says the Doctor believes someone used some sort of transporter to BEAM NEELIX’S LUNGS RIGHT OUT OF HIS BODY. Y’all, this is some spooky-ass plot development. I hope it’s not inspired by that urban legend about the organ thieves, though, because that shit was hella racist.

Kes shows up and stays in frame long enough to look vexed. Harry says Neelix’s tricorder picked up a class-three humanoid organism. Thanks, Harry, that really narrows it down. So you’re saying it has four limbs and a head, like every other bumpy-headed alien in Star Trek? Guess we can leave Del Toro’s Guide to Non-Bipedal Alien Types on the shelf under that half-meter of dust, then.

The Doctor says he can save Neelix if they get his lungs back, which now that the shock and horror has worn off, I am finding hilarious. “Bring Me the Lungs of Neelix the Talaxian” is my favorite Peckinpah.

Janeway decides she’s taking another away team to the planetoid to find the rogue. (See what I did there.) It sounds exasperating for a second, on account of what if the rogue is really after some Janeway lungs or liver or spleen, but she’s taking three security detachments, which sounds pretty serious. Paris, who is insufferable, stays in sick bay to “assist” the Doctor, while Kes hovers.

On the planetoid, Janeway notices that some of the rock is warmer than the rest, because Janeway finds everything. Seriously, why does she need all these idiots with her? She could run shit her own self. Then she’s like “Let’s shoot the wall and see if it gives up its secrets,” OK not verbatim, but I can dream.

Phaser fire reveals the corridor, and Tuvok exposits that there was a force field. Do I look stupid, Tuvok? WELL DO I?!?

Back to the ship, because someone wrote something in the show bible about intercutting, I guess. (That person is my nemesis.) Neelix’s cell toxicity levels are rising, which actually sounds like it could be a real thing. They need a cytoplasmic stimulator, which sounds less real, and in fact is not on board, but Paris, who is insufferable, replicates one. (I have no comment on the “comedy” of Paris being useless in Sick Bay because why is he there, then? And why make an actor do comedy who isn’t funny? Especially opposite Robert Picardo, who can certainly do comedy, but when all he has to bounce off of is Paris it just makes me sad?)

Anyways (thanks David Milch) the replicating and Kes’s offer of a lung transplant gets the Doctor thinking that maybe they can simulate-not-replicate some lungs for Neelix. It’s not really clear at first what he means, but then he says he wants to try to use Neelix’s last transporter signature to make some working HOLOGRAPHIC lungs. I know I am using my Caps Lock a lot for this episode but HOW COOL OF AN IDEA IS THAT? This episode is kind of batshit awesome. Also, to prove that the lungs could have something akin to solid matter, the Doctor slaps Paris, who is insufferable, across the face. Reader, I LOLed.

Not just that, but he can modulate the magnetic-holographic-whozit to allow air to pass into the bloodstream but otherwise be solid. Kes wants to know what this means, which is stupid. Kes is not stupid, I don’t think, but the questions she asks are, as is her deliberation, because obviously this is a crisis situation and a desperate gamble; either it will work and Neelix will live, or it won’t and he’ll die. The Doctor manages to communicate this in a way that is much nicer, with the additional information that if it does work, Neelix will have to be immobilized so that the holo-lungs match up to the rest of him.

Look obviously you have to pause now and again even in a story that moves at a breakneck pace to let the characters process something, or talk about why what they are doing matters, or just to be people, so that we care. But this is an example of the wrong pause in the wrong place, at least in my opinion.

On the planet, Tuvok leads Harry, Janeway, and anonymous goldshirt number 4 to a chamber powered by a dilithium matrix–the source of those misleading readings. The chamber is some sort of biological repository with tanks and such, which begs the question of what do a Talaxian’s lungs look like? They’re not there, anyway, and Janeway finds traces of a recent life sign, so they set off in pursuit through another door. They find the Rogue pretty quickly; Tuvok shoots him and he drops his weapon, but he runs off and escapes through a force-field with a rotating phase modulation, which makes me sort of angry to type.

Chakotay calls down to say that an alien ship is leaving the planet (it’s a planetOID, dammit). Janeway says tractor it, but Chakotay says they already went into warp. Janeway is so pissed. “Beam us back. As soon as we’re aboard, lay in a course for pursuit, maximum warp.” I really do love her decisiveness.

Meanwhile Neelix’s holo-lungs work, and he starts getting better.

After the commercial, Janeway reports that they’re in pursuit, but the alien ship (Is it a ROGUE SHIP?) is as fast as they are, so they’re just matching speed. In sickbay, Neelix and the Doctor discuss his condition. Neelix doesn’t like the sound of “indefinitely immobilized,” and who would. I just realized that his contraption looks like an iron lung, which feels very on-the-nose, but OK. “Well, if I’m gonna be in here a while,” he says, “now’s as good a time as any to tell you–your ceiling is hideous.” He asks for the lights to be lowered, and then he asks if the doctor is programmed to sing. I wish I could do justice to Picardo’s reaction shot.

Janeway calls Paris to the bridge, and because he and Kes speak to each other as he leaves, Neelix gets jealous and crazy and oh boy. Can we skip this scene? Yes, I’m skipping it. The Doctor kicks Kes out, and you are spared from the man-gets-scared-and-jealous-and-self-pitying scene I just watched.

On the bridge, Torres and Tuvok exposit that the alien weapon is also a medical scanner and surgical instrument. Janeway asks why develop such a sophisticated technology just to steal alien organs, but before anyone can ask “Was that a rhetorical question?” the alien ship drops out of warp and docks inside an asteroid–a ROGUE one, I assume. When Paris finds the entry point, Janeway asks how large it is, and Tuvok immediately says “Whoa hey don’t get crazy” and Janeway’s all “Who said I was gonna get crazy” and Tuvok comes back with “Girl I been watching you and I know how you work” and is it getting a little warm in here? Settle down, you two. Anyways Janeway is obviously planning on Entering the Asteroid, which coincidentally is the name of my hardcore spaceship sex e-book set in the Kuiper belt. Red alert, maximum shields, phasers at the ready, cut to commercial.

Remember commercials? I mean, I have Hulu, so obviously I remember commercials. TV is different now. Back in my day we had rabbit-ear antennas and UHF and VHF and oh shit I forgot to pause it just a sec

The passageway is getting tight and they can only scan 500 meters ahead and are they being scanned or probed and what is the difference between the two and why is space so damn porny anyway? Who cares, let’s just be glad that it is.

Back in sick bay someone, most likely Kes, has hung a little mobile over Neelix’s bed as if he’s an infant. He asks the doctor to scratch an itch for him, then says he feels like he’s all alone. “You are all alone,” says the Doctor. “I’m a holographic projection.” I would just like to savor this for a moment, because that is the funniest line this show has had yet. But Neelix is feeling claustrophobic. “I’m not sure what to do,” he says.

“There’s nothing you can do except lie there and be quiet,” says the Doctor, and OK funny but also mean. Julian has way better bedside manner than this, maybe they should have used him as the model after all. Neelix starts freaking out and demanding to be released. The Doctor’s like “Calm down” and that’s of course a stupid thing to say. Neelix starts hyperventilating, and finally the Doctor sedates him and then looks like he’s not sure he’s doing anything right. Oh, Robert Picardo, you are so good.

Dr. Zimmerman, I Presume

Dr. Zimmerman, I Presume

Paris pilots Voyager into a chamber somewhere deep in the asteroid, which turns out to be filled with projections of both Voyager and the alien ship they’ve been chasing. I assume that this is based on the hall of mirrors scene in “Enter the Dragon”–I honestly can’t think where else the idea came from. Tuvok says there’s too much interference to figure out which ship is the real one. These aliens are annoying, but they’re kind of dumb, aren’t they? What exactly is their endgame here? Paris is still picking up an ion trail, and although they could have faked one, Janeway decides to risk it. She tells Tuvok to extend the deflectors to maximum range. “Follow the ion trail, Mr. Paris… slowly.”

The Doctor invites Kes back to sick bay to help keep Neelix calm, but he’s still sleeping, so she ends up comforting the Doctor, who is overwhelmed. It really is kind of unbelievable that EVERY person on both ships with a medical background was killed, but if that hadn’t happened there wouldn’t be any Robert Picardo so I’m cool with it.

Something starts draining Voyager’s warp core. Janeway puts them on emergency power and asks Harry to pinpoint the source of the dampening field, which he conveniently does. Janeway asks about firing phasers at the source, but Tuvok says they would just reflect off the walls and possibly hit the ship. Chakotay suggests firing them at their lowest setting, so that they ricochet-reflect until they reveal the real alien ship. Lots of good ideas in this episode, y’all. It works; they find the ship, detect two life signs onboard, and then beam them aboard–although frankly, those last two things should probably be impossible with all the interference that Tuvok was talking about. Oh well.

The two ROGUES–the Vidiians–don’t look so menacing when you can see all of them; they look like they have several skin conditions. They explain that they’re stealing organs to fight the Phage, which is also the title of this episode, which is probably a coincidence. Their people have been suffering from this disease for two millenia, and–TWO MILLENIA?!? How are they not all dead?? So they run around harvesting organs from other races, which almost makes sense, except that if you think about it, most likely either there isn’t enough life in this part of space for them to harvest from to stay alive, or there is enough life, and at some point one or more civilizations would decide to hunt down and destroy those pesky organ harvesters. Which is to say, the universe-building here doesn’t really scan for me.

Janeway wants the lungs back, dammit, but the Vidiians have already transplanted them into themselves. These are horrible people and this is morally indefensible, OK? I don’t give a shit about their anguished explanations. They whine about their suffering for a bit, and Janeway isn’t sympathetic in the least. She lays into them and threatens them and then she–lets them go? But I guess the way she berates them maybe gets through, so they decide to try to help Neelix. That all seems a little odd, frankly, but OK.

Hi, I'm the worst, and it's not just because I look like death.

Hi, I’m the worst, and it’s not because I look like death.

Anyways the Vidiians are still awful but they have superior medical technology, and they transplant one of Kes’s lungs into Neelix. Janeway lets them go and lets Neelix keep his kitchen. Kes wakes up to the Doctor’s offer to train her as a medical assistant, since obviously Paris is worthless. And that’s the end.

One of the most consistent things about Star Trek, in my experience, is that few episodes are entirely good or entirely bad; this episode has some great WTFuckery up top, some cool SFnal ideas in the 2nd and 3rd acts, and then kind of falls apart at the end. I guess I’m OK with it, though, because up until that point I really enjoyed the ride. Wikipedia classifies this as a Neelix-centric episode, but I strongly disagree with that, since Neelix spends about half of the episode out of commission and a quarter of it in distress that is understandable but not character-significant. It’s more of a Doctor and maybe a Kes episode, with bonus Janeway being boss all throughout.

NEXT UP: Hey what happens when Tuvok goes into pon farr?

Some (Spoilery) Thoughts on Ant-Man and the MCU’s Female Characters

I just got back from seeing Ant-Man, which is a diverting if lesser film in the Marvel juggernaut. There are, of course, lots of things to pull apart and criticize, which is par for the course with most media. What Ant-Man invites most criticism on, though–at least to my mind–is Marvel’s foot-dragging on giving female superheroes the center stage. The entire film almost feels like a meta-commentary on that precise problem–the woman (Hope Van Dyne, the daughter of Hank Pym AKA the original Ant-Man, and Janet Van Dyne, the missing Wasp) wants to be in the suit; we wonder why she’s not in the suit; we’re given a not-very-satisfactory reason that she’s not going to be in the suit; and in the end, we see that if there’s a sequel, she probably will be in the suit. There is also the suggestion that Janet Van Dyne may not be a closed door in the MCU after all; that she may be retrievable, and that there may be plans to bring the original female Avenger into the films somewhere down the road.

All of which is hopeful, sure, but after all the waiting for a Black Widow film (maybe we’ll do that in Phase Two oh well maybe in Phase Three oh well maybe in Phase Four) and the way Captain Marvel was off-handedly pushed back four months after Spider-Man became available and the lack of merchandising of female characters, it sure makes a person feel like throwing up their hands and saying WHEN IS IT GOING TO BE TIME, MARVEL, WHEN IS IT GOING TO BE TIME?

Sigh. I’ll just be over here waiting for an airdate for Jessica Jones, I guess.

ST: Voyager Liveblog — S1, E3: Time and Again

Paris, who is insufferable, wants Harry, who is boring, to be his wingman for a date with a couple of cartographer twins. Harry says he has a girl back home, and rather optimistically says he thinks she’ll wait for him. Harry is annoyed that Paris, who is insufferable, has been telling lies about him to impress the girls, but before he can really get into it CAMERA TREMORS and WE HAVE PLOT. Tuvok reports to Janeway that Voyager is at the leading edge of a shockwave.

CUT TO: Kes, waking up in her bed with a really bad headache, it looks like. Seriously, she could be in an Excedrin commercial.

Back on the bridge, Janeway is trying to figure out the source of the shockwave. There is a debris cloud in the Red Dwarf system that they are heading toward, and Tuvok reports that it consists of differentially charged polaric ions, which means nothing in real life but Janeway interprets to mean that there was a massive detonation. After asking Neelix if he knows anything about this system and confirming that he doesn’t know anything about anything, she orders a course change so that they can investigate.

Kes comes onto the bridge wearing a snazzy purple pleated sort of top that looks like a Starfleet variation from someone’s Fashion Week “Inspired by” collection. I kind of love it.

Just because I'm frilly doesn't mean I'm not serious.

Just because I’m frilly doesn’t mean I’m not serious.

She enters as the Voyager is scanning the planet, and tells Neelix that she had to know. “Know what?” he asks, but she wisely ignore him and listens as the crew reports finding no vegetation, no satellites, no life signs. She says the last at the same time that Paris does. Kes is carrying a surprising amount of gravitas in this scene, actually.

Scans find artificial waterways and other traces of a civilization, so Janeway decides to take a team down. Tuvok, Paris, and Torres join her, and they beam down to find a whole lot of nothing, which incidentally is the title of the Oral History of Paris’s Love Life, as told by his exes.

Credits. Planets and comets and moons, oh my!

Torres says that the surface of the planet has been seared, and all organic life has been vaporized by a polaric ion explosion. Janeway calls her attention to some energy conduits, and theorizes that the now-destroyed civilization actually ran on polaric ion technology–a technology that had been banned in Federation space sometime before.

Cut to Kes back on Voyager, who is trying to explain to Neelix that she saw what happened. “It was almost telepathic,” she tells him, which is possibly the definition of imprecise. Apparently her ancestors were said to have unusual mental abilities. Neelix says no one believes those stories, but Kes says she always has.

Back on the surface, everyone’s walking slowly around looking at their tricorders, which is so much like life in 2015 that I am sucked into an endless loop of self-referentiality and am now typing this post from inside an episode of the fictional show “Galaxy Quest.” Paris finds a strange timepiece, and starts having flashes of the city before its destruction, with kids playing and people chatting. No one else notices it, and when Torres and Tuvok note that Tom’s nervous system shows a temporal flux and that the chain reaction has shattered subspace, Janeway IMMEDIATELY makes the prudent choice and orders Voyager to beam them all back onboard. THANK YOU FOR GIVING US A COMMANDING OFFICER WHO DOES NOT DRAG HER FEET ON MAKING REASONABLE AND IMPORTANT DECISIONS FOR THE SAKE OF SAFETY.

Buuuuuut it doesn’t work. Instead Janeway and Paris are both jumped back in time, without Tuvok or Torres, and they are spotted by a kid who immediately screams when he sees them materialize out of nowhere. An adult–all of these people look full human, BTW, without even any of the usual ST prosthetic silliness–immediately tells the kid he’s delusional, because that’s what you do with kids who notice things, you tell them that they’re crazy, because otherwise they might start noticing OTHER THINGS and then YOU might have to actually pay attention to things, and that’s too much work for hard-working adults who need to travel long distances to engage in activities that other people decide have value and who compensate you for your activities at a rate that is a fraction of the actual value of those activities and what I don’t have issues with people treating kids as though they are inconsequential, why do you ask?

Anyway Janeway and Paris (who is still insufferable, but I’m not going to type the epithet every goddamned time, OK? It’s not like he even deserves an epithet. He’s no clear-headed Telemachus) bullshit a security officer and make like they’re just in on a transport from Kalto province and need new clothes and new timepieces. The timepiece guy shows Paris one, and Paris deduces that they are only about a day before the cataclysm. NARRATIVE URGENCY, FIGURE ONE.

Also and I’m sorry but Janeway’s hair really looks like a crazy hat.

Back in real time Chakotay is logging Janeway and Paris’s disappearance into a subspace fracture. Harry Kim makes a boring Powerpoint presentation about how subspace fractures are neat little tunnels and he’s deduced that Janeway and Paris are trapped at the other end. B’ellana says that most shockwaves dissipate into the future but these are probably moving into the past. I know that liveblogging this show is making me think about all of this differently, but I cannot get over what a load of authorial-intrusive-gobbledy-suck this is. I said last time that I’m not going to take Trek seriously as SF, but MAN. At least show people scanning something instead of being like “Here’s the cool idea that I pitched this episode as it’s very neat and tidy.” This is a Les Landau episode, and he wrote a lot of my fave DS9s, and maybe the premise wasn’t even his, but UGHHHHHH.

Chakotay grabs his ear like Michael Kitchen in “Foyle’s War” and worries that if they don’t find them they’ll get blowed up. (“Blowed up” is a very technical term and obviously Chakotay wouldn’t use it as he is not a temporal engineer like I might be.) Yada yada the Captain will probably activate a beacon and then they’ll have to widen the fracture to get them back. (Last episode was all about widening and wedging and penetrating too. I AM ON TO YOUR SEX METAPHORS YOU HEATHENS.) They don’t know how they’re going to widen the fracture, though.

The Doctor is scanning Kes’s brain, but she’s not on file, and the Doctor is annoyed by bureaucratic inefficiency, but unlike Harry and B’ellana’s explanations, it is hilarious instead of boring. He doesn’t actually have anything of substance to tell Kes about her new psychic abilities, but it’s still the best scene of the episode so far.

Back on the Planet of the Doomed, Paris and Janeway are in local garb (they look RIDICULOUS) and Janeway is setting her combadge to emit a subspace beacon, just like everyone anticipated she would. Paris suggests stopping the explosion, and Janeway loses no time in tossing the Prime Directive at Paris. UGH the Prime Directive. I never realized, until this moment, that one of the reasons I love DS9 is that they never talk about the fucking Prime Directive. Look, I understand that the Prime Directive is meant to be a post-colonial safeguard and I think that is admirable, but Star Trek never actually remembers that; it just serves as a fulcrum for philosowank discussions and I sincerely loathe it.

JP

Orange is the new fashion crime.

OK, done ranting.

Anyway, Paris thinks the Prime Directive is crap in this situation, and whatever the consequences of interfering might be they would have to be better than mass destruction. Janeway orders him not to warn anyone, which… I was going to say that I disagree with her for the first time, but assuming that it could be a wait-and-see type of order, I’m going to give her that one too.

The Noticing Kid sees Janeway and Paris talking, and Janeway is like “Ugh I hate that kid” and drags Paris off. But the kid is Dennis the Evidence-Gathering Menace, and he’s already checked out their story about the transport and knows they’re lying. Paris scares the kid off and then thinks “Hey maybe we can use this horribly unstable technology that doesn’t exist to get us back to our own time” and Janeway for some reason thinks this sounds great so they head for the power plant.

Outside said power plant, security officers are trying to break up a demonstration, and Paris and Janeway are in the wrong place at the plot-appropriate time. The officers fire shots into the air and smack around a few demonstrators, including the Captain, who is hauled away by a leader of the demonstration, with Paris following. Also following is Dennis, who is sneaky and intrepid, kind of Audrey Horne if Audrey Horne were a small blond boy. You know what I mean.

Back on Voyager Torres and Harry are activating a device that uses the same polaric energy that destroyed the planet, which seems like A GREAT IDEA. They’ve just got it running like a fucking lava lamp, a lava lamp that might just get them all blowed up. (Again, don’t try this technical language unless you are trained.) Harry says this can create an opening for Janeway and Paris to return through, but it’ll burn out after thirty seconds due to the intensity required to power it. NARRATIVE URGENCY, FIGURE TWO. Completely arbitrary and bloodless narrative urgency, but, well. Everything can’t be “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” I guess. Also they can only do it once at any given location. NARRATIVE URGENCY, FIGURE THREE.

Kes wants to go along to the planet. Chakotay tells her there’s nothing she wants to see there, but she says she has to, and that’s… the end of the scene, oddly.

Janeway and Paris are talking to the protestors. One of them suspects that they were sent to infiltrate their movement, and reveals that they are protesting against polaric energy. See, it’s a nuclear energy parable–I guess? J and P are registering high levels of polaric energy, which must mean they’ve already been inside the power plant, and the protestors pull some very Earth-looking pistols on them to let them know that they would very much like an explanation, please.

Chakotay, Torres, Harry, Tuvok, and Kes are down on the planet, and Kes is sensing things. See Kes sense! Sense, Kes, Sense! Chakotay tries to relate to this for a minute, then decides that science is a little easier to get a handle on, and asks the crew what they’ve found. The subspace fractures are dissipating, but Harry picks up a combadge signal, and they all head off to investigate it.

Janeway tells the boss protestor her name, but his other questions all assume she has information she doesn’t. He’s asking around the fact that the protestors are planning something, and does the government know about it, and they’re getting nowhere until someone brings Dennis in, squirming and yelling like every annoying kid on TV ever. He was snooping. Maybe he’s more Veronica Mars than Audrey Horne? The boy tells the protestors that J and P are liars, which of course they are, so basically I’m rooting for him now I guess.

The Voyager crew find Paris and Janeway’s combadges in the wreckage, with no bodies, which means that as of now they are going to die in the ‘splosion. Tuvok gets all emotional, though–you know Vulcans–and says that it only means that their combadges were caught in the explosion, and they should search for more tangible evidence.

The intercutting here is getting seriously annoying, y’all. I’m not sure it serves a narrative purpose, either.

Boss protestor asks about the phaser and tricorder and what they’re used for. Meanwhile Paris talks to Dennis, who says that his dad is a journalist “And so am I.” OK, so he’s Lois Lane, then. Dennis’s real name is Latika, and when Paris learns it he has Prime Directive-related pangs of conscience. The boss tells his second that they need to move up the schedule and move on the plant the next morning, and when Janeway moves to tell him to stop, she and Kes are suddenly connected?

I guess the intercutting IS finally serving a purpose. For some reason this connection prompts Janeway to tell the Prime Directive to Get tae fuck and declare herself as Captain Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager. Kes tells Tuvok she doesn’t know how she can feel the captain’s presence, which you know has got to be the most exasperating thing a Vulcan can hear. It’s good enough for Chakotay, though, who first confirms that there’s a subspace fracture there, and then orders the equipment set up.

“You wanted the truth,” says Janeway. “Here’s the truth. We’re from the future. Exactly one day in the future.” She tells them exactly what happened while the Voyager crew sets up their return beam. Dude’s not convinced yet, though; he strips them of their combadges and orders them and the boy brought along on their assault. The Voyager crew opens a way through, but no one is there to see it or pass through it.

Janeway tells Paris that their interference caused the explosion and therefore a paradox has invalidated the Prime Directive. See? COMPLETE AND UTTER WANKERY. Oh Janeway you are better than this.

The Voyager crew decides to concentrate their extraction efforts on the source of the explosion. Meanwhile Janeway is told to facilitate negotiations with the power company, or they’ll shoot the kid. Instead she declares to the guard that she’s a hostage and the men are there to break into the plant. The protestors shoot the guard, Dennis runs, and Paris takes a bullet meant for the kid. Then it’s a firefight, and the protestors charge into the plant. After checking on Paris and asking the kid to stay with him, Janeway goes after them.

It’s unclear what these idiots are trying to do inside the plant, but it looks like sabotage. Janeway sneaks in to a spot near them to observe. Meanwhile the crew beams down to the flashpoint and start setting up their equipment. Janeway manages to get the drop on the idjits, while the crew finds no subspace beacon. Tuvok’s all like “Blah blah unlikely illogical” but Kes says the captain was there. “This is where she died,” she says. The idjits say they’re not stupid enough to detonate anything inside the plant, and nothing is going to go wrong unless Janeway fires the weapon. They’re at a stalemate, because she can’t shoot and smug protestor boss won’t hand over his tools. The Voyager crew aims for shortly before the explosion, so they can extract the captain. BUT when it starts to open, Janeway and the Idjits realize that the extraction attempt itself is going to cause the explosion. Janeway says her phaser can seal the hole, and to Chief Idjit’s credit he gives it to her. She shoots, the crew on the other side increases output, Janeway keeps shooting, the generator overloads–

–a white light dissolves everything–

–and all of a sudden we are back at the beginning, with Paris, who is insufferable, trying to talk Harry Kim into a double date.

But there’s no camera tremor this time. Chakotay reports detecting the M-Class planet. Kes comes to the bridge as before, expecting to find that the whole planet is dead, but not this time. So the Voyager just… keeps on going.

Sigh.

I’m trying SO HARD to restrain the impulse to go off right now, because time paradoxes and stories that erase themselves at the end are so fucking played and boring and inconsequential. And while there are one or two clever touches, and seeing Janeway in action by herself is pretty great, there is a lot to hate in this episode. The intercutting seems to make narrative sense once the Kes/Janeway connection comes clear, except that there’s no real tension on the Voyager side–they’re just choosing sites and setting up equipment and spewing exposition. Poor Kes makes a discovery about herself that is suddenly invalidated and erased. And all this tiresome Prime Directive bullshit gets thrown around in the process, to no good effect. Bleargh.

NEXT: Maybe Neelix explains why he’s useless? STAY TUNED.

ST: Voyager Liveblog — S1, E2: Parallax

(So I mentioned on FB that I was beginning a watch of Star Trek: Voyager. When the show first aired I watched the premiere, hated it, and never watched the show again, but some friends have convinced me to give it another shot. My FB friends suggested that I should liveblog my viewings. I mean, it was like, one person, and another chimed in and said it was a good idea, but I have decided to run with it. The premiere was both better and worse than I remembered, but I’m not going to rewatch it, so the liveblogging starts here, with the second episode, and will end whenever I lose interest, I guess.)

You guys B’elanna Torres has anger issues on account of Klingons. (Being mixed race is even harder when you live in a universe that has racial determinism; just ask Tanis Half-Elven!) Anyways Torres attacked some engineer in engineering over an engineering disagreement and boy is that engineer (his name is Lt. Carey, Engineer Esquire) mad. Chakotay’s like Dude chill I got this and then tells Torres she needs to make him look good by not murdering anybody for a little while because he wants her to be the new chief engineer. I am trying to imagine Geordi or O’Brien settling technical disagreements with fisticuffs. I guess maybe if they were shirtless. Is that sexist?

Also the ex-Maquis all want Chakotay to lead them in a mutiny because Torres might get punished. The way that this is presented reduces all the complexity of the Maquis situation that we saw in DS9 to a group of rebels with the psychology of three-year-olds–when someone tries to give you consequences, you throw stuff and refuse to listen to them. I hope we get a little deeper into the Maquis thinking than that.

Harry Kim is an ensign so it totally makes sense that he would be in a senior staff meeting, right? Oh, Harry. I can’t decide if the fact that Harry is the most boring character ever is a step forward in terms of racial representation–see, Asian people can be boring too!–or somehow plays into existing stereotypes. I’m sort of serious about this.

Suddenly Voyager is caught in some plot! An unidentified ship sends them a distress call; it’s getting hauled into a black hole, and Janeway wants to help them, because she hasn’t seen all those TNG episodes where causality is turned inside out and she doesn’t realize yet that it’s the Voyager. Torres and Lt. Carey disagree about how best to do this, but Carey’s tractor beam idea wins out.

Janeway doesn’t like Chakotay pushing Torres as the new chief, and he doesn’t want to be her token Maquis officer. The conversation they have about this is interesting, actually, and it gets at the very real problem of integrating the Maquis into the crew, and getting the Starfleet staff to accept them as peers or even superiors. The problem is that this episode started with the focus of “Torres has rage issues therefore the Maquis can’t be trusted,” so the conflict has been off-center from the word jump. But Janeway is being a boss, even if she can’t see Chakotay’s point that the Maquis can’t feel a part of the crew if they’re all relegated to low-tier assignments.

Kes is going to start a hydroponic farm and she needs soil samples, so she goes to sick bay to get some from the doctor. Picardo is pretty great in this role, not gonna lie, and the scene that follows has only tangential bearing on the A plot, but it’s a nice interaction. Kes is nice. Everyone likes Kes. That’s why they’re going to kill her SLOWLY.

Carey’s tractor beam is operational, but power fluctuations start pulling the Voyager into the event horizon. Carey has to manually shut down power to the tractor beam. Janeway gives up on this idea and heads for the Ilidaria system, where Neelix thinks they can get help.

Janeway has a meeting with Torres, who does everything possible to make the captain and the audience dislike her. She’s defensive and paranoid, and storms out after Janeway asks her why she left Starfleet Academy. “I didn’t want anything to do with Starfleet then, and I’m sorry that I have to now,” she says, while her eyebrows try and fail to make any sense with her prosthetic forehead.

The doctor calls Janeway to inform her that he’s been shrinking five centimeters every hour, something that Picardo plays with perfectly injured dignity, and that several crew members have been reporting headaches and dizzy spells. Janeway groks that this started at about the time they encountered the quantum singularity and its subspace distortions, which the doctor huffs that he should have been informed about this. Janeway agrees, but their convo is cut short by another camera tremor. They’ve encountered another black hole, except actually it’s the same one, because they never went anywhere.

After the commercial break they try again, with the same results. Janeway calls for analysis and diagnostics, because diagnostics are like bathroom breaks for Starfleet. When that’s all done they’re going to have another meeting. Chakotay asks who is going to represent engineering, and Janeway says Carey, but agrees to let Torres attend as well. Carey delivers this news to Torres and tells her not to talk at the meeting unless she’s asked a question. “Just remember that I speak for engineering,” he says, because he is the Lorax. The Borax. The Dilithorax. Who cares because hopefully by the end of this episode he will be dead or otherwise not matter. Carey leaves and another woman working in engineering tells Torres “You should have broken more than his nose,” so either she’s flirting or everybody hates Carey, or both.

Tuvok and Harry are talking about the singularity and the drama in engineering when Harry gets one of those sudden headache and dizzy spells. Tuvok takes him to sick bay, because senior officers do stuff like that, because who has time to delegate? Seriously, what does Harry Kim have on these people? Is his dad Q or something?

In the meeting, the doctor is two feet shorter and it gives B’elanna an idea about the subspace distortions. See blah blah blah you don’t really expect me to transcribe all this technobabble do you? Anyways she doesn’t break Carey’s rule about talking out of turn and Janeway’s like “Make it so” or whatever her catchphrase would be. As Chakotay leaves, he and Janeway exchange the slashiest look ever anywhere.

Torres does her magic and clears up the distress transmission and the visuals, and unsurprisingly it’s the Voyager. Dramatic music, cue commercial.

Torres says the other ship is just a reflection of them. Paris, who is insufferable, points out that this appears to violate the rules of causality, and Janeway patiently tells him that Yeah sometimes physics is like that, suck it up. Torres has an idea of how to get out, and Janeway’s all for it. They send warp particles out at the event horizon to try to rupture it; they make a crack, but it’s too small. They’re going to try to wedge it open, but they can’t send the beam from the distance they’re at, so they have to take a shuttle. Paris, who is insufferable, offers to pilot it, but Janeway’s like Thanks son, I got this.

On the shuttle, Torres tells Janeway she left Starfleet Academy because she knew she couldn’t make it. Janeway tells her that some of her professors thought she could. I don’t know if Torres is supposed to be some hard-luck inner city kid in this scenario or what, but it’s coming off a bit odd. She’s feisty! She’s argumentative! She has a bony forehead! All she needs is for someone to believe in her!

They get ready to fire their wedge beam, but there’s more subspace distortion. (Subspace Distortion is my favorite Mike Ness-fronted future punk band.) The shuttle and the Voyager are both affected, but Torres’s plan manages to widen the rupture to the point where the Voyager MIGHT fit through–Harry helpfully says they have less than two meters of clearance on either side. That means Paris, who is insufferable, is going to pilot the ship through as soon as the shuttle docks.

On the shuttle, Janeway and Torres are confronted with two Voyagers, and they’re not sure which one to dock with. This is a neat twist, I gotta admit. “Well, this is a problem,” says Torres. And here’s another situation where Janeway is a real captain, because they disagree about which one is the right one based on almost no evidence, and Janeway listens to Torres but trusts her own argument. “If you’re wrong,” Torres says, “We’re going to have a long time to debate it.”

Janeway’s not wrong, and she gets to make another command decision as soon as they get back to the bridge. The rupture’s collapsed to the point where it’s too small for the Voyager to pass through cleanly. “In command school,” Janeways says, “they taught us to always remember that maneuvering a starship is a very delicate process. But over the years I’ve learned that sometimes, you just have to punch your way through. Mr. Paris, full impulse power.”

So two episodes in, here is what I am impressed with: this show really knows who is in charge. Respect.

It works, which probably doesn’t even qualify as improbable, but I’m not going to spend much time on that quaint notion that Star Trek is science fiction in anything but the trappings. The point is that Janeway and Chakotay’s trust in Torres is validated, and she gets the engineering post. Carey is surprisingly gracious about it. Janeway tells Chakotay that two crew members have already filed complaints about the promotion, but she thinks Torres will do fine.

The show squanders a bit of my goodwill by having two cutesy tags. 1: Chakotay asks Janeway a hypothetical: if their positions had been reversed and they were on the Maquis ship, would she have served under him? She tells him that one of the perks of being captain is that you can keep some things to yourself. 2: The doctor calls to ask if anyone’s ever going to fix his projectors, and Paris, who is insufferable, comes in to find him sitting doll-sized on a chair. Paris, who is insufferable, tells him that he likes the doctor better like this, and not even Robert Picardo can conjure up an expression to make that anything but a groaner.

All in all? A pretty good episode after the rocky start. Janeway is indeed badass, and an interesting contrast in command to Picard or Sisko. Star Trek is always playing the Captain-as-parent angle, but already Mulgrew is pointing up how gendered that is–Picard and Sisko are all about the exasperated indulgence and the occasional yelling, while Janeway is all about the observing and the listening and the relating and then the DECIDING. That’s pretty awesome, in fact. Also Torres is fairly likable when she’s not having to play HULK SMASH or HULK AVOID FEELINGS.

Next up: Maybe Neelix matters or something? STAY TUNED.

Sense8

I can’t claim to have ever cared much for the work of the Wachowskis: the Matrix (the first one) was pretty but left me cold, and I frankly haven’t sat through the entirety of any of their films since. But Sense8 looked interesting, and oh my god it is.

It’s sort of a slow build, with a lot more focus on the characters and their connections in the first couple of episodes, but it pays off; I cared more about this cast than about the cast of any other recent show with the exception of Orphan Black. I was invested not just in their safety but their happiness and their relationships.

The relationships! I don’t know if I have ever seen a story like this that portrays love–romantic, platonic, and familial–in such an adorable, moving, believable, and non-cloying fashion. The handling of the queer characters is exceptional. There is a trans character played by a trans woman! Who is confronted with realistic resistance from family and other characters! But is in a loving and sexy relationship! And is defined by characteristics other than the fact of her being trans! I mean, one would have hoped that Lana Wachowski would handle this well, but you never know.

In fact, while the show does have lots of cool mind-talking and body-hopping and crazy shit, it’s as much if not more about the newly-forming connections between the leads, and the ways that they are forced to confront their secrets–there’s a neat safe motif (as in a big metal box that locks) early on that calls attention to the fact that nearly all of these people have something big locked away that is going to bubble up to the surface as a result of becoming bonded with one another.

There is also abundant action of a few varieties: sequences that poke fun at the Wachowski’s own signature operatic violence; action that solves short-term problems while creating longer-term ones; and your basic cathartic over-the-top violence-solving-problems action. One could wish for more of the former two and less of the latter, but there’s a lot going on with this action–each of the characters has different skills, and sometimes they can be there to help each other, and sometime they can’t, and sometimes they handle things in a pretty unconventional way. Shout out to the great Doona Bae, who gets to kick the most ass.

I am just gushing here, so I will stop, but come on! Gorgeous cinematography; amazing use of scoring and soundtrack; calling out and responding to verbal misogyny; hot kinky sex; just, like, ALL THE THINGS and ALL THE GOOD and I am in love with the cast and I can’t wait for another season. Y’ALL SHOULD WATCH.

Glitter & Mayhem Available!

Hi folks! Just wanted to let you know that a new anthology that I’m a part of, Glitter & Mayhem, edited by John Klima, Lynne M. Thomas, and Michael Damian Thomas, is now available! You can learn more about it here. My story, “Apex Jump,” concerns a rural Minnesota roller derby team who find themselves skating against a team from a long, long ways away. The early reviews are very positive, so check it out!