Friday, June 8, 2012

Wow, Is Star Trek: Voyager Tired Of Spatial Phenomenon Yet? ("Eye Of The Needle")

The Good: Moments of acting, Elements of concept
The Bad: Continuity, Predictable plot, Lack of genuine character development
The Basics: Guest acting pulls a dismal episode of Star Trek: Voyager out of absolute death status when the ship finds a microscopic wormhole that leads back to the Alpha Quadrant.

For all of my complaining about the first few post-pilot episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, an objective viewer might well ask what the U.S.S. Voyager would run into if not spatial phenomenon each week. Out of the first five post-pilot episodes, "Eye Of The Needle" is the fourth to deal with a spatial phenomenon. While fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine like myself would argue that a few strong character episodes, along with keeping the show more serialized would be what Star Trek: Voyager could have used in place of cheap "Spatial Phenomenon Of The Week" shows. But then, they didn't ask people like me for input (when they try later on to make things more serialized, they've already isolated people like me, so there!) and "Eye Of The Needle" is pretty much proof of that.

The U.S.S. Voyager is cruising through space when Ensign Kim discovers a wormhole that appears to lead back to the Alpha Quadrant and home. Excited, the crew tries to figure out how to get the big ship through what turns out to be a microscopic hole in space. When a probe from Voyager gets stuck in the wormhole, the bridge crew is astonished to find the probe is scanned by something or someone on the other side and they soon open a communications channel with the other side. It turns out that on the other end of the wormhole is a Romulan scientist and Torres, inventive as she is, manages to beam Dr. Telek R'Mor aboard. He mistrusts the Voyager crew and when Tuvok has him returned to the Alpha Quadrant, a sad truth is revealed about the scientist and the wormhole.

"Eye Of The Needle" is one of those "Come ON!" episodes of Star Trek: Voyager that simply defies the reason of the viewer. This is the sixth episode of a new series about a starship lost in a distant part of space. Because the show is set to run for years, even the most young or inexperienced television viewer can pretty much figure from the beginning that Voyager is not going home this week. I mean, it would pretty much gut the concept of the series if the U.S.S. Voyager returned home too soon. So, even though Voyager's crew does not know that they aren't getting home this week, the audience is smart enough to figure that out, so the job the writers and producers have is to entertain the viewers and allow us to suspend our disbelief long enough to kill an hour.

They fail.

First of all, "Eye Of The Needle" is almost completely devoid of character elements, not succeeding furthering any of the characters who are trapped on the U.S.S. Voyager. Instead, Tuvok is presented as surprisingly arrogant to counteract Kim's youthful enthusiasm. It is at this point in the series that the viewer has to be wondering how Ensign Harry Kim graduated from StarFleet Academy, he seems so very green.

Even more disappointing is the way Captain Janeway is treated in this outing. Janeway is a scientist turned captain and "Eye Of The Needle" strongly underplays Janeway's scientific knowledge and curiosity. Instead, she is treated like other captains, relying on her staff for information that she ought to be able to evaluate and reason much quicker than she does.

The special effects are as good as they can be considering the unfortunate reality of trying to create a microscopic wormhole to scale on a television screen. So, I'm actually forgiving of the conceit that allows a spatial body so small it shouldn't be able to be seen to be seen by the viewer, even briefly when the probe hits it.

The only acting of note in "Eye Of The Needle" comes in the form of guest actor Vaughn Armstrong. Armstrong made his Star Trek franchise debut back in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation as a renegade Klingon in "Heart Of Glory" (reviewed here!). Since then, he has appeared in all of the modern incarnations of Star Trek, including out of make-up in Star Trek Enterprise. Armstrong convincingly plays the Romulan scientist Dr. Telek R'Mor and he takes on the curt mannerisms of a Romulan perfectly, making the viewer believe both his natural curiosity and his innate suspicion of the Federation. Armstrong reminds the viewer of the quality a guest actor may have to actually embody a character even only for a brief time.

Sadly, none of the regulars match up this episode. Tim Russ is uncharacteristically curt - as if he had realized he was not the breakout character of the series like early reports thought he would be - and Roxann Biggs-Dawson is uncharacteristically flat in her scenes. Kate Mulgrew is given almost nothing to work with as Janeway and Garret Wang - who is a blast in real life - is stuck with a dismal script for Ensign Kim.

Moreover, the continuity of Star Trek pops its head up to bugger this episode for fans of the franchise. Dr. Telek R'Mor should not have been even willing to entertain the idea of contact with the Federation, given the events detailed in Star Trek The Next Generation's" "The Neutral Zone" (reviewed here!). I would say how that fits together here, but it would ruin the "surprise" of "Eye Of The Needle" and I respect you, the reader, too much for that.

Too bad the creative staff of Star Trek: Voyager did not respect its viewers enough to give them something truly original and well-rounded with this episode.

[Knowing that the season is a much better investment, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete First Season on DVD, which provides the full opening to the series. Read my review of the premiere season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode, movie or season reviews, be sure to check out my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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