Friday, July 20, 2012

Far-fetched Voyager Theatre Engages With "Dreadnought"

The Good: Moments of Roxann Biggs-Dawson's acting
The Bad: Somewhat preposterous plot, Boring
The Basics: Fans of Roxann Biggs-Dawson might enjoy her performance opposite an inanimate object; others will feel like a tool for sitting through this episode.

Every now and then, it seems, a series forgets its own principles. There are moments in many of the worst television series' where it seems that the writers haven't seen the final cuts of the shows that have aired and what they write is preposterous given the established tenants of the universe they have created. Whenever I consider "Dreadnought," I find myself hoping that the writers never saw work on Star Trek: Voyager again.

The U.S.S. Voyager is ambling toward home when it encounters a Cardassian missile programmed by, of all people, Chakotay and Torres. Their pet missile is headed toward a heavily populated planet and Captain Janeway and the U.S.S. Voyager move to intercept and deactivate it. Torres beams over and tries to reason with the missile only to have the clever missile believe that she has been compromised. As the missile speeds towards the nearby planet, the crew of Voyager prepares to make the ultimate sacrifice to stop the missile.

Sigh, most viewers will just say "Who cares?!" Honestly, we know the conventions of television; if the U.S.S. Voyager is going to be destroyed, even to save another planet, it's not going to go from something that is automated. No, it's not much of a plot to put the ship in front of a missile or blow the ship up to detonate the strange warhead. It's dramatically unsatisfying for a series to sacrifice everything against an adversary that is not thinking on the same level, not fighting on the same terms as our heroes. Yes, it diminishes heroes when the whole lot is taken down by something that does not think; which is also why viral infection stories on Star Trek almost never convince the viewer of any sense of real peril.

In the case of "Dreadnought," the basic premise is almost too stupid to mention. Torres and Chakotay easily form the conjecture that Dreadnought was brought to the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker. For those unfamiliar with Star Trek: Voyager, the Caretaker opened the series with an episode called "Caretaker" (reviewed here!) wherein a powerful alien abducts various ships from across the galaxy in the attempt to find a species it may use to reproduce. As a result, both the U.S.S. Voyager and a Maquis ship are sucked into the Delta Quadrant where members of the crew are experimented upon by the Caretaker.

See the problem with "Dreadnought" yet? The writers of this particularly banal episode expect us to believe that a superpowerful being that is transporting species from across the galaxy to use as reproductive vessels cannot tell the difference between lifeforms and a giant armed vibrator. Moreover, even if we make the leap that the peaceful and benevolent Caretaker would mistake this war machine for something it could mate with, why would we believe that the being would release Dreadnought fully armed into the galaxy where it could hurt others? (This becomes even more ridiculous when one realizes, based on "Cold Fire" - reviewed here! - that the Caretaker shot the missile in the direction of his lover!) This is a cripplingly dumb premise and it sticks out to anyone who has seen the pilot episode.

Unfortunately, the other element of the plot seems equally uninspired; the viewer is asked to swallow the idea that Dreadnought has not run into anything in the year and a half since it was abducted into the Delta Quadrant. Considering that the Voyager is in Kazon space and they are technologically inferior to the Federation (and they have a Cardassian conspiring with them), it seems unlikely they would not have intercepted this Cardassian missile. In fact, one would think there would be a whole rush to capture the missile by forces in the Delta Quadrant (only the Vidiians would make sense to not be involved as their entire motivation is in biological components).

Now, if it seems like I am belaboring plot minutiae, there's a reason; this is a plot-intensive episode. "Missile is headed toward planet, must be stopped." That's the plot and it's dragged out for the whole forty-three minute episode and, sadly, it never truly develops beyond that. But more than that, there's no character development and the episode does nothing extraordinary. So, belaboring how the episode is set up is all we're truly left with.

That said, the thing that keeps this episode from being an utter waste of time is the acting of Roxann Biggs-Dawson as B'Elanna Torres. Biggs-Dawson is playing opposite a voice-over for much of the episode and she's convincing and in character the entire time. Never does Biggs-Dawson slip and appear like this is the most ridiculous thing she has ever been asked to do as an actress. No, she soldiers through, talking to a prop as if it were truly responding to her the entire episode. She sells us on the suspension of disbelief and she does it quite well.

This episode is accessible to all audiences, though I'm at a loss as to why anyone would want to watch it more than once. The plot is so simple and dull as to insult the intelligence of virtually all audiences. The only thing that might cause the viewer any trouble is the Michael Jonas scene. Jonas, introduced in "Alliances" (reviewed here!), has been spying for the Kazon-Nistrum and reporting to them. With that fact, the episode has nothing anyone just picking up this episode would find off-putting.

But that's it; the episode is ultimately a one line idea drawn out without any genuine sense of creativity or tension.

[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 reviews, be sure to visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

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