Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Star Trek: Voyager's Near Miss With Perfection Comes In The Form Of "Resolutions"

The Good: Excellent character story, Intriguing concept, Good plot, Exceptional acting
The Bad: The monkey, yes, there's a monkey!
The Basics: With Star Trek Voyager's near miss of "Resolutions," Janeway and Chakotay start a relationship on a distant world they become stranded on.

Every now and again, television series' will team up and coordinate an idea around whatever the anticipated summer blockbuster is. Trends rise and fall, experiments on television and media occur all of the time and sometimes, there are some serious lemons that reverberate through pop culture. After Ross lost his monkey on Friends, the monkey seemed to pop up for episodes on other shows and whether or not it is the same monkey that appears in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Resolutions," it is irrelevant; the episode aired around the same time as the post-Ross monkey-cameos on television and as a result, it suffers from that.

The U.S.S. Voyager finds itself stopped in orbit around an alien planet where Janeway and Chakotay are being kept in suspended animation. It seems that they've both been bitten by an insect and now are unable to leave the planet lest they die from an environmentally-specific toxin that is now in their systems. The Doctor, baffled by this medical mystery, is reluctantly forced to concede his inadequacy and admit that he has no solution to the problem.

Captain Janeway does, though. Captain Janeway prioritizes the lives of her crew, turns Voyager over to Tuvok and sends the ship on its merry way. Janeway and Chakotay are left with enough supplies to survive and they begin a life anew on this alien world, where Janeway promptly begins her own scientific research into trying to find a cure. Aboard the U.S.S. Voyager, Tuvok finds Harry Kim to be a thorn in his side when the Ensign suggests a bold strategy; contacting the Vidiians to enlist their aid in finding a cure. As Tuvok becomes accustomed to commanding the ship, Janeway and Chakotay become closer in their new home.

"Resolutions" is a quiet episode of Star Trek: Voyager that does what too few episodes of this series even attempts; it creates and maintains a strong, character-driven story that involves characters interacting. Problems are met through characters discussing ideas, agreeing and disagreeing and they are not solved through weapons or cheap special effects shots. No, this is an episode of Star Trek: Voyager where the writers are given the opportunity to write something engaging on how the principle characters interact and the episode flies.

There are two essential character relationships focused on in "Resolutions:" Janeway and Chakotay and Tuvok and the U.S.S. Voyager's crew. Tuvok is put in command, which makes sense as he is Janeway's most trusted and oldest confident aboard the lost ship. Tuvok makes for a great dramatic choice as he is a Vulcan, unused to dealing with an emotional crew like the StarFleet/Maquis crew of Voyager. Tuvok is a strong, reasoned character left in charge of a group of very illogical people who are ruled by their emotions.

That Tuvok's primary foil is Harry Kim, the eager young ensign, plays extraordinarily well. The debates that rage between the two of them remain focused on youthful optimism and the wisdom of experience. As Kim lobbies heavily for Tuvok to approach the Vidiians, Tuvok wisely counters with recent precedents (like "Deadlock" - reviewed here!) and the realities of the horrific enemy the Vidiians represent. Ultimately, though, the humanity of the Doctor's romance with the Vidiian Dr. Pel (in "Lifesigns" - reviewed here!) comes into play. This makes for a nice, tight plot that utilizes a sense of consequences to recent episodes and it plays well with the fans. Even without seeing those two prior episodes, the viewer will not be lost at all; the episodes references the relevant contexts and events of those episodes.

The real story of "Resolutions" is the planetbound one and it works wonderfully! As Janeway adapts to rediscovering her origins as a scientist, Chakotay seeks to serve her as a companion and potential lover/partner. Chakotay's aid and advances create the creature comforts Janeway quickly becomes accustomed to in her new role as a private citizen. In short, "Resolutions" becomes a love story between Janeway and Chakotay and the tension and romance between them is very real and quite strong.

Ironically, this episode represents the peak of their relationship. Last weekend, I was in Las Vegas for a giant Star Trek convention and Kate Mulgrew (who played Janeway) talked about how the Janeway/Chakotay relationship simply could not last and she apologized to Robert Beltran (the actor who played Chakotay) for his part declining in the later years of the series. This episode flies in contrast to the actresses notion that the relationship simply could not work and it also represents the peak of the Chakotay character.

What brings this episode to the brink of perfection is that the character elements are kept front and center. Tuvok does not simply become a pushover for the crew's whining, Janeway does not give up trying to find a cure and Chakotay does not give up pursuing Janeway. It's a strong, character-driven story and it does everything a great character study and romance ought to do.

And on their planet, Janeway and Chakotay find a little monkey. The idea for its presence is not a bad one. Janeway seeks to capture the monkey to find out how it survives the same toxins that keep Janeway and Chakotay bound to the planet. But there's at least one scene too many featuring the mammal and it causes one to cringe even years later. But then, no one is rewatching "Resolutions" for the trendy monkey.

Not every series has a perfect hour of television, indeed, most do not. Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (which had arguably the greatest hour of television of all time with "Duet" - reviewed here!) set the bar high by each having at least one perfect hour of television. The assumption seemed to be that Star Trek: Voyager would just inherit greatness as a result of being a part of that franchise. "Resolutions" is the closest it comes and it robs the viewer of the potential perfect hour of television with a trendy appearance by a small, cute monkey that could have been better used resolving some of the character aspects of the Janeway/Chakotay relationship.

[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 check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing.

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