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.