Monday, August 13, 2012

"Future's End 2:" One Of The Rare Occurrences Where The Second Part Tops The First!

The Good: Excellent acting, Good character development, Decent plot
The Bad: Resolution isn't great, Some of the plot contrivances
The Basics: When Voyager finds itself at the mercy of a man with 20th Century ambitions and 29th Century technology, Janeway must save the Doctor and the future of Earth!

Star Trek: Voyager's first major endeavor into time travel began with "Future's End," so if you've not read my review on the first part of "Future's End" (that’s here!) this review is somewhat pointless. "Future's End, Part II" is one of the rare occasions that a second part of a two part episode is better than the first (the only other one in the Star Trek pantheon that comes right to mind is "Chain Of Command, Part II" - reviewed here!). "Future's End, Part II" makes some ambitious changes to Star Trek: Voyager and it is certainly a welcome outing.

Henry Starling, billionaire industrialist on 1996 Earth has managed to outsmart and escape Captain Janeway. Using a decoy, he also manages to keep Chakotay, Torres and Tuvok from finding him as well. Starling, employing futuristic technology, has also managed to capture the Emergency Medical Hologram and the Doctor is put into a state of shock at being suddenly mobile on Earth. Janeway and her crew must thwart Starling, rescue the Doctor and prevent Earth from being destroyed in the future in the process . . .

Once one accepts all of the problems with returning to 1996 in the Star Trek timeline, which sticks in my craw when watching part one, "Future's End, Part II" is much freer to make good television. With the aid of Rain Robinson, Paris works to recover the Doctor and the episode relies far less on the "fish out of water" humor that mischaracterized part one. Almost entirely absent from the second part are Neelix and Kes and their obsession with a soap opera. Similarly, the consequences of the U.S.S. Voyager being caught on camera and put on the news is swept under the rug.

This leaves an episode that works on establishing a dramatic tension and building up with the story to leave a real question about how it will end. Sure, we have a pretty good feeling Voyager will end up back in the 24th Century, but other than that, the episode is pretty much up in the air as to how it will play out. If there was ever a scenario when some of the main crew might bite the dust, this improbable episode makes it seem so plausible.

This is essentially because of two things. The first is that Henry Starling is a great villain. Starling plays by his own rules, but he's smart and he's a good equal to the intrepid heroes of Star Trek: Voyager. He is a match for Janeway and he understands enough about the 29th Century technology he has salvaged to wield it effectively. The result is that the 1996 businessman is cunning enough to match wits with the 24th Century Janeway and his 29th century ship can outgun Voyager. That's a formidable foe and part of the brilliance of "Future's End" is that Janeway is truly not able to defeat him in a simple or traditional way. As a result, Starling sits on the verge of world domination when he powers up the Aeon and prepares to launch it.

The other aspect that sells the true menace of "Future's End, Part II" is the performance of Robert Picardo as the Doctor. The Doctor has been confined to Sickbay most of the series because he is a hologram and while he takes trips to the holodeck, most notably in "Heroes And Demons" (reviewed here!), most of his characterization has been somewhat stunted by his insular existence. In this episode, he suddenly finds himself in the real world, a place he was not truly prepared for.

Robert Picardo does a pretty amazing job emoting the shock and agoraphobia of the Doctor who finds himself hijacked by a 29th Century mobile emitter which essentially acts as a one-person holodeck. This convenient piece of technology insinuates much about the 29th Century StarFleet, where Starling stole his technology from. Picardo's presentation of the Doctor in shock and wide-eyed terror at being not tethered to anything is played out wonderfully in the course of the episode and the on-the-edge menace that the Doctor could be lost as a result of the unknown technology is pretty brilliant. It is Picardo who smartly adds much of the tension underlying the episode through his portrayal of the Doctor.

What Picardo adds in edginess, Ed Begley Jr. capitalizes on in confidence and arrogance. In the scenes Begley and Picardo share, Ed Begley Jr. plays up the maniacal brilliance of Henry Starling in a way that completely sells the viewer on his willingness to put his personal profits above the welfare of humanity. Begley is different here than anything else I've ever seen him in, exchanging his usual cool, quiet brilliance for a mercenaric ruthlessness that far exceeds the lines written on the page for him.

Those performances, along with the way the mobile emitter suddenly opens up the character of the Doctor, almost make the ultimate resolution of the episode forgivable. Instead of truly making the series take a right turn by providing something like Voyager doing a slingshot maneuver around the sun to return to the 24th Century, a safe way is concocted to resolve the plot. It's unfortunate because with the mobile emitter and the villainy of Henry Starling, Star Trek: Voyager finally proves it's willing to do some daring stuff.

"Future's End, Part II" is not entirely dependent upon seeing part one, but it is definitely more understandable when one has seen how Voyager ended up around 1996 Earth. That said, "Future's End, Part II" is likely to be enjoyed by anyone who likes a decent thriller as opposed to simply science fiction buffs who might just enjoy the time-travel elements.

This ends up being one of Star Trek: Voyager's high water marks, even if the first part wasn't.

[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 for an organized listing!

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