Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Derivative Special Effect's Festival Sinks Star Trek: Voyager's "Macrocosm!"

The Good: Moments where it is simply fun to watch, It's cool and action packed.
The Bad: Special effects are lousy, No real character development, Lacking in real menace, Just disappointing
The Basics: Despite decent acting and pace, "Macrocosm" is more likely to bore science fiction and Star Trek viewers than entertain them.

Once upon a time, there was a little film called Aliens (reviewed here!) wherein a woman was given a big gun and she spent an hour running around blowing up all sorts of latex aliens that were scary looking and gross. The movie made a lot of money and is generally credited as starting the whole "summer blockbuster" thing. And . . . oh, wait, this is Star Trek: Voyager and not Aliens, it's almost hard to tell. After all, in "Macrocosm," Captain Janeway strips down to her tank top and runs around with a big honkin' phaser rifle shooting at flying baseball and basketball-sized viruses for an hour in a way that is clearly meant to imitate Ellen Ripley in Aliens.

When Captain Janeway and Neelix return from negotiations with the Tak Tak, they find the crew inert and the ship essentially adrift. Coming aboard, they discover that the U.S.S. Voyager has become infected by a macrovirus (a larger than normal virus several centimeters in diameter). Janeway, feeling her ship is threatened by these little monsters that are flying around the ship, makes it to SickBay where the Doctor provides her with an antigen weapon to use against them. Janeway then must shoot her way through the ship to get the antigen bomb to the optimum location to kill the beasties.

This is basically a poor redux of Aliens in a Star Trek: Voyager setting with the obvious attempt to garner an audience who will not see Janeway as a stuffy diplomat but rather a full-blooded action hero with the ability and willingness to do anything to save her ship. Regular viewers know that Janeway will do anything necessary to save her ship, other than ignoring a single obstacle that comes before Voyager to get her crew home, so the over-the-top firefight Janeway gets into with the macroviruses is more ridiculous than insightful. Janeway and her crew have fought more interesting battles, most notably in "Deadlock" (reviewed here!).

This is one of those sad attempts to make an episode that is exciting and special effects-filled on a television budget and it's embarrassing to watch now. The computer generated macroviruses fly around the ship lit from all angles in a way that screams "Look at me! A computer animator made me! Please, oh please, think I'm real!" Only the least discriminating viewer is likely to fall for these sloppy bugs.

Even more sad than the macrovirus being a basic reused science fiction element, this idea is not even new to the Star Trek franchise. The original Star Trek delved into the idea of giant single-celled organisms with the mother of all amoebas back in "The Immunity Syndrome" (reviewed here!). So the only fundamental difference here is that rather than encountering a virus so big it could attack the ship, we have viruses that act more like mosquitoes that look real bad.

It's a silly, simple plot and it is executed without finesse or intrigue, in a way that leaves the viewer ultimately feeling like "Oh, is that all?" Watching Janeway running around with a phaser rifle shooting these little pests is not terribly entertaining and for forty-three minutes Star Trek: Voyager does not even attempt any character development. As a result, the show does not add anything to the larger pantheon of Trek and it is hardly indispensable for viewers of Star Trek: Voyager.

And sure, it's entertaining in a kind of "boys night out," dumb entertainment way. I can even see a "girl power!" interpretation of it where it's exciting to watch a woman run around shooting things, but honestly, it's a concept that is easily described, simply and ridiculously executed and is barely entertaining.

What it does have going for it is the performance by Kate Mulgrew. Unlike a lot of early CGI shows, Mulgrew manages to keep an appropriate eye line for the little nasties that are hunting her, so the show looks right in that regard. It is easy enough to believe Mulgrew as an action hero running through the halls shooting the alien of the week. It might not do anything for her character, but she portrays Janeway with the same serious sense of investment that makes the viewer believe in her.

Outside Mulgrew, most of the main cast sits this one out and plays it wounded. This is very much a Janeway episode and it's a shame that this one - one of the last ones before the impending "Seven Of Nine Show" begins - is such a waste.

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


For other Star Trek 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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