Thursday, August 9, 2012

Psychic Holocaust Memories Make It Worthwhile To "Remember" Star Trek: Voyager

The Good: Good concept, Decent acting, Good resolution
The Bad: No real character development, Not visually daring enough
The Basics: An episode that should be about memory surviving genocide is hijacked by an emphasis on sexuality and barely saved by Roxann Biggs-Dawson's performance.

Star Trek: Voyager was plagued by many problems, mostly because so much of the initial concept of the show was based on presenting the greatest hits of Star Trek: The Next Generation and because so much of the initial characterization was gutted and the show was made as an episodic (as opposed to serialized) series. As the third season progressed, the show was floundering as far as finding a direction and it seemed like it didn't know where the show (or the ship) was going. Then came "Remember," an episode that stepped up the stakes quite a bit and for forty-three minutes, it almost seemed like Star Trek: Voyager could be saved.

While the U.S.S. Voyager is heading home, it takes the time to transport a group of Enarans back to their homeworld. B'Elanna Torres begins to have increasingly erotic dreams and she soon comes to realize that she is not herself in the dreams. B'Elanna is taking the role of Korenna, an Enaran, and her memories are actual memories whose purpose is to keep alive the history of a people who were victimized by genocide by the dominant Enarans.

First off, a decent B'Elanna Torres episode has been a long time overdue. She hadn't been featured in a decent episode since the first season's "Faces" (reviewed here!) and she hadn't carried an episode since the second season dud "Prototype" (reviewed here!). "Remember" puts B'Elanna Torres back, front and center and it couldn't be more welcome for a change of pace for the show.

Only, it's not B'Elanna that is featured. There's no real character development for the Torres character. She is the object of the episode, a conduit for a story that has nothing to do with Torres. It's unfortunate and a real waste to have Torres used as an appendage for the plot. Torres is sublimated to Korenna and the more vital story here is certainly Korenna's story.

Similarly, for an episode in the Star Trek franchise that actually makes a stab at sexuality, the episode is remarkably non-confrontational on how graphic the genocide aspect of the story is. In other words, in a story where the survival of those victimized by genocide is the issue (i.e. keeping them alive through memories), the producers focus more on making the sexuality of the memories more explicit and important. Indeed, I easily recall the previews for this episode featuring steamy scenes of a lusty B'Elanna and in some ways, the episode strikes a grave imbalance.

The result is a somewhat uneven work that let's down the viewer who is watching hoping for something more meaningful. Instead of a strong story that illustrates the importance of storytelling and memory to allow a heritage to survive, the show leans toward sexuality and sensationalism (and I'm someone who LIKES sex in movies and television!). This waters down the message and the horrors of the genocide the memories are supposed to be surviving are never revealed. It's almost an afterthought that "yeah, these are memories from people who were wiped out."

That said, this is one of Roxann Biggs-Dawson's best performances. Dawson is able to emote in a way when playing the romantic scenes as Korenna in a way that the role of Torres never gives her the opportunity. She is distinctly feminine, physically looser and has no hint of the rigid posture or underlying hostility she is usually forced to play as a function of her character. Dawson plays the love scenes . . . loving and it works. She sells that whole aspect of the episode.

But more than that, Dawson saves an episode that would otherwise be just a collection of good intents, poorly executed, by saving some of the execution. How Torres resolves the encroaching memories is well-played by Dawson and it is her uncanny ability to play the quiet moments that is first revealed in this episode and she rises to the occasion. Dawson works better than the script and this is one of her shining performances.

It's barely enough to recommend the episode and the episode is mostly recommended to fans of science fiction, as opposed to those who only like hard drama. It's one of the episodes the third season of Star Trek: Voyager got right and despite its faults, it's worth at least one viewing.

[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 works with Bruce Davison, be sure to check out my reviews of:
X2: X-Men United


Check out how this episode stacks up against others in the franchise by visiting my Star Trek Index Review Page for a listing from Best To Worst!

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

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