Monday, June 20, 2011

Villains Of The Psychic Realm Are Responsible For "Violations!"

The Good: Decent acting, Good idea
The Bad: Predictable plot arc
The Basics: A disturbing episode of Star Trek The Next Generation puts a vengeful telepath among the crew, putting his adversaries into psychic comas.

When the previews for "Violations" were aired, many a Star Trek The Next Generation fan pined for the next episode of the series. Why? The preview showed Counselor Troi and Commander Riker having sex, which was pretty much one of the things anyone who stuck with the series was waiting for. The problem is, the fans - which include me - were woefully disappointed as Riker and Troi do not make love in the episode. In fact, those who watched with anticipation left in revulsion.

When a visiting alien race arrives on the Enterprise, they use their telepathic abilities to help the crew recall long lost memories. Keiko O'Brien opens the episode, having an experience with the Ullian ambassador whereby she remembers her childhood with her grandmother. Shortly thereafter, Counselor Troi is struck down by a telepathic attack wherein Commander Riker rapes her. Riker soon falls prey to a telepathic attack where he fails to save an engineering crew. Investigating the malaise, Dr. Crusher is wounded as well. The psychic attacks seem unstoppable when Troi suddenly reawakens. She attempts to point the finger at the instigator, unaware that she is under the influence of the real villain.

The Ullians make for an interesting villain and ally, but in the end they represent just another aspect of humanity. In this case, the Ullian story is one of father/son competition and it soon becomes evident that Jev, Ullian ambassador Tarmin's son, is living in the shadow of his father's talents. Tarmin comes across as more clueless and proud than malicious. Jev is a decent villain and his motivations are better than many of the villains that come up in the Star Trek universe.

The best acting in the episode does not come from the actor who plays Jev, nor even Marina Sirtis whose telepathic rape scene must have been very difficult to do. Instead, the episode is enhanced by the performances of David Sage and Rosalind Chao. Sage plays Tarmin and he immediately creates a proud, somewhat stodgy character who we believe in. When Sage puts his fingers to his temples, we intrinsically believe in his mental powers. His screen presence sells us right away on his character's abilities and his compassion and concern are evident throughout the episode.

Rosalind Chao similarly does a great job with her brief role in "Violations." Never a victim of the attacks, Chao convincingly brings us into the episode. Her performance opens up the episode and immediately provides the viewer with a very real interface to the episode. She provides a human tether that stretches us between what we experience in our lives and what Keiko is experiencing on the Enterprise.

The problem is the plot is obvious. From the beginning of the episode, we know who the perpetrator of the crimes is. The problem extends to the writers attempting to keep us on our toes when we know the truth. In the end, it is unsurprising and the journey is not terribly compelling. In short, the episode becomes disturbing as opposed to intriguing.

What is worth coming back to is the character play of "Violations." Very reasonably, the episode plays upon the fears of the characters. Troi, reasonably, fears rape - especially of the psychic kind and here she experiences the worst she could ever have. Dr. Crusher's fears about the death of her husband and Riker's fear of losing those under his command, are both things they have experienced as well. It's somewhat refreshing to see that their demons, like most people's do comeback to haunt them.

In the end, "Violations" is an episode about experiencing trauma and the lengths individuals will go to when frustrated over their place in life and that's a theme almost anyone can interface with. The futuristic setting is likely to not be bothersome to people who are not traditional fans of science fiction shows.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Fifth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the fifth season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode or DVD reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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