Saturday, September 29, 2012

Andre Bormanis Channels Brannon Braga For Star Trek: Voyager’s Dream/Inception Episode: “Waking Moments!”

The Good: Initially creative and interesting idea, None of the acting is bad
The Bad: No character development, Predictable reversals and plot
The Basics: When Voyager enters the space of a race of aliens who sleep and manipulate dreams, Chakotay is charged to stop them in his “Waking Moments.”

Star Trek (the franchise) was often ahead of the pop culture curve, even Star Trek: Voyager. So, while the masses may have found a story like Inception (reviewed here!) fascinating and original, to fans of Star Trek Voyager it was an old hat concept. One of the reasons for that was “Waking Moments.” “Waking Moments” was a Star Trek: Voyager episode that dealt with creatures that influenced dreams.

Unfortunately for Star Trek: Voyager, writer Andre Bormanis and director Alexander Singer, “Waking Thoughts” is pretty much spoiled for the audience by the expectations viewers have based on the works of Brannon Braga within the Star Trek franchise before this episode aired. In other words, Brannon Braga’s reality bending episodes within the Star Trek franchise not only raised the bar, they defined a pattern of reversals that quickly became predictable (some would say “one trick pony”). As Braga gained influence as an executive producer on Star Trek: Voyager, it seems like the writers tried to simply mimic his style and form to get work on the air and Bormanis’s “Waking Moments” is a prime example of that.

Tuvok, Kim, Janeway, and Paris all have nightmares that ultimately involve an alien that none of the crew have encountered before now. Tuvok appears on the bridge naked, Janeway sees images of the crew who died, Paris dreams of being in a shuttle accident and Kim has a sexual fantasy about Seven Of Nine. They all see a strange alien at the end of their dreams and when Kim does not awaken from his, the senior staff comes to believe they are under attack. Chakotay, having had experience with lucid dreaming, takes responsibility for communicating with the alien race. Told what the border to alien space is, Chakotay awakens and moves Voyager out of their space.

But when Voyager encounters an alien ship that outmatches the ship, Chakotay quickly realizes that he is still asleep. He and the Doctor team up to find the source of the alien’s powers to keep the crew asleep. If Chakotay can remain awake and the crew of Voyager can come to control their dream, they might survive!

The technique Chakotay utilizes to determine that he is still asleep is to see Earth’s moon. Given that, the seasoned viewer knows that with Star Trek: Voyager’s penchant for predictable reversals, Chakotay will continue to see the moon and what he assumes to be reality will continue to be upset. Unfortunately, “Waking Moments” fails to surprise because its attempt to surprise the audience is more obvious than impressive. Like so many episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, it uses the same pattern of reversals and, as a result, it becomes something terribly predictable.

“Waking Moments” is entirely plot-based, with no character development. In fact, some of the potential character elements are either obvious or eye-rollingly bad ideas for the characters to whom they are applied. Harry Kim has a thing for Seven Of Nine, so it is pretty obvious that he would have a fantasy about her. Similarly, every captain in the Star Trek franchise regrets the deaths that surround their decisions. So, that Janeway sees generic dead crewmen is also predictable. But Tuvok appearing on the bridge naked as an expression of his unconscious insecurities seems utterly ridiculous. There is no logic to a Vulcan being insecure about nakedness. Even more important, for that to be a subconscious insecurity of a security officer seems even less realistic.

So, Chakotay bears the brunt of the episode, but it is not even focused on his character. While the rest of the crew works to understand the plot device, Chakotay attempts to put an end to the same plot device. Neither of these threads requires the crew to grow or evolve. As a result, Chakotay is simply the one guy who can execute the plot. That Tuvok can realize he is in a dream and then not wake up from it is also inconsistent with established Vulcan abilities.

“Waking Moments” is not poorly acted, which is what saves it from the complete doldrums, but there are no superlative performances or concepts. The result is an unfortunately blasé and predictable episode that is not likely to leave fans or newbies at all satisfied.

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


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

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

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