Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Journey Worth Avoiding Is Star Trek: Voyager's "Innocence."

The Good: Tim Russ keeps a straight face throughout the episode
The Bad: Acting, Plot, Lack of real character development, Pacing, Everything
The Basics: When Tuvok crashes on an alien moon, he finds whiny children there and the audience finds boredom.

There is an unfortunate tendency, in the experiences one does not enjoy, to rush through reviewing them because when something is truly terrible, analyzing it in too profound a depth begins to feel like kicking something weak when it is down. So it is with "Innocence," one of the last episodes in the second season of Star Trek: Voyager and one of those episodes of television that makes the strong argument for the idea that there's nothing new under the sun, certainly not in the Star Trek pantheon.

As the U.S.S. Voyager continues to amble home without any real sense of purpose or direction, Janeway opens up negotiations with the leader of the Drayans, an alien race that seems to be defined solely by the wearing of a veil. The negotiations are almost instantly complicated when a shuttlecraft carrying Lieutenant Tuvok crashes on one of the moons of Draya II. Unfortunately for Tuvok, it's a sacred place and the Drayans are pretty much furious that he is there.

Tuvok is not alone, though. He soon finds himself in the company of three children. The children, who have tattoos on their foreheads, fear for their lives, telling Tuvok that they, too, crashed on the moon. Tuvok seeks to protect them and assuage them of their fears of a monster in the woods (and in a nearby cave), which Tuvok cannot seem to find. Tuvok begins to protect them, without understanding quite what he is protecting them from.

Until the end. And the payoff is terrible and dull and it certainly does not justify the forty minutes that precede it. Yes, the Drayan sacred moon is there for a reason and when the children exhibit nothing but fear for the place, it would have helped the mood if 1. there were a credible sense of threat and 2. the children could act. Because there is neither, "Innocence" stagnates as a colossal waste of time wherein Tuvok finds himself lecturing to calm down and behave and I'm just about falling asleep writing about it.

It's only in the episode's first few moments that the show seems like it might have a purpose or a real direction, but ultimately "Innocence" plays out like a one-line pitch that sold an episode. "What if Voyager went to a planet where the people . . .?" "Sure, that sounds neat. Write it, we'll buy it!" Hmmm . . . . now I have to make that into a 43 minute episode, I have no idea how that's going to work. That's what "Innocence" feels like; one line about the "alien of the week" stretched (poorly) out for almost an hour until the viewer finally finds out how that sentence ends.

Sadly, the art department seems to take a similarly lazy approach to the episode. The adult Drayans, who Janeway and the crew of Voyager deal with, are characterized by charcoal gray outfits and veils that barely cover their faces. They have faint tattoos on their foreheads. The children that Tuvok deals with wear colorful outfits, but are only separated from being human by the tattoo that makes a widow's peak into their forehead. It's easily one of the dullest alien concepts to ever grace any of the Star Trek franchises.

That lack of creativity and vision that the script and effects suffer from is continued into the tone and the acting. The tone of the episode is dull. The viewer doesn't believe, care or even wonder about the presence of a monster in the woods. Unlike something like the creature in the woods on Lost (reviewed here!), there is no genuine suggestion of a menace outside the children's fears and they just seem . . . well, childish. In that way, the threat they suggest is vague, whiny and unreal. And for those watching a program intended for adults, this is just boring and a waste of time.

This entire problem is not helped at all by the child actors who perform the roles of the three Drayan children. There's a famous quote in show business about not working with children or animals if one wants to have a successful shoot and I suspect that the producers of Star Trek: Voyager never quite learned that lesson (there will later be a monkey to ruin an otherwise perfect episode and in later seasons, there are many more children on the ship). "Innocence" is the first nail in that coffin. None of the three children light the world on fire with their acting. In fact, none of the three amaze the viewer with anything even remotely belaying competence.

Sadly, this is not Tim Russ's finest hour either. Russ plays Tuvok the Vulcan security chief and "Innocence" attempts to remind the viewer that Tuvok has a wife and children back home that we might want to care about on some level. Russ portrays Tuvok with his usual emotional detachment, but there is nothing genuinely new in his performance in this episode to recommend him. Instead, his performance around the clunky children seems stiff and dull rather than passionless and insightful.

The ultimate result is that "Innocence" becomes one of the most forgettable episodes of Star Trek: Voyager and, indeed, one of the poorest examples of what Star Trek can do in the entire pantheon. Much of the episode is Tuvok and the children sitting around waiting while Tuvok tries to calm them down and the children whine about how scared they are. It's worth avoiding, and this is simply one of a hundred similar products not worth your time or attention.

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


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

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

No comments:

Post a Comment