Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Novel Idea Almost Sells An “Unforgettable” Romance On Star Trek: Voyager

The Good: Interesting concept, Decent acting from the main cast
The Bad: No real character development, Little chemistry between the leads, Virginia Madsen is ridiculously stiff
The Basics: When Voyager takes on Kellin, a member of an alien race that causes others to forget their existence, Chakotay has an un-steamy romance with their tracker.

For all of my griping about Star Trek: Voyager and how unoriginal it was, there were some ideas that actually worked out fairly well. One was “Unforgettable,” which was penned by Greg Elliot and Michael Perricone. The idea is an intriguing one and one that makes the viewer almost wish was not simply a one-shot or that the producers had been clever enough to “seed” in prior episodes. Because of the nature of the “Alien Of The Week” in “Unforgettable,” the producers could have put Kellin or her target in the background of prior episodes and built a plausible and interesting mystery.

As it is, Elliot, Perricone, and director Andrew Robinson only manage to pull off a barely-plausible romance episode that focuses on Chakotay. Relying upon star power instead of actual chemistry, “Unforgettable” is an intriguing idea that utilizes Robert Beltran’s Chakotay opposite an alien played by Virginia Madsen that is seriously lacking in genuine chemistry.

Voyager is cruising through space when it encounters weapons fire in an area of space lacking any ships. When the starship is hailed, Chakotay is alarmed to be addressed by name by a woman who he does not believe he has ever met before. The woman is Kellin, a Ramoran tracer, who is hunting down a member of her race who has stowed away on Voyager. The Ramorans have a pheromone that prevents other races from keeping memories of them in their long-term memory. Kellin claims that she was aboard Voyager for weeks before and she and Chakotay fell in love.

Now, Kellin is seeking asylum and she wants Chakotay to keep her from falling victim to the tracers sent to hunt her. Questioning Kellin’s story, Chakotay soon finds himself nevertheless charmed by her and the two begin a new romance doomed to fall prey to the styles of the hour-long drama and the tracer sent to bring Kellin back.

“Unforgettable” is a solid idea for an episode that is plagued by Star Trek: Voyager’s style, the acting, and the direction (sorry Andrew!). First, the idea is an intriguing one and the writers covered their bases well. Kellin’s people have cloaking devices, pheromones and they utilize a computer virus, all of which have the net effect of no one knowing anything about their people. The structure of the episode, though, is a slave to the standard conceits of the bottle episodes of Star Trek: Voyager. As the episode reaches its halfway point, Kellin references the neurolytic inverter, a device that will “re-educate” the Ramorans who try to flee the justice of the tracers. While this might otherwise appear to be obvious foreshadowing, it actually works in “Unforgettable.” But knowing that everything will be resolved by the end of the episode, “Unforgettable” makes itself virtually impossible to become emotionally invested in.

On the acting front, “Unforgettable” is a mixed bag. Robert Beltran and the main cast of Star Trek: Voyager do fine with their performances. Garrett Wang is downright charming in his brief presentation of Ensign Kim in his interaction with Virginia Madsen’s Kellin. The main cast acts well, though without any extraordinary performances.

Unfortunately, the guest acting is not as vividly presented. Virginia Madsen is frequently stiff as Kellin. She and Beltran have less than no onscreen chemistry, so their characters courting is almost painful to watch for their rigidity. And while I usually think there is enough in the work to simply blame the actors, Virginia Madsen is not the only one to blame in “Unforgettable.”

Director Andrew Robinson clearly does not know how to get the best out of Madsen until near the end of their time working together. Madsen’s delivery of lines while Kellin and Chakotay are talking in the Jeffries Tube, near a ladder, are so stiff that Madsen sounds almost robotic. That moment is so bad it is virtually unforgivable that Robinson did not ask for another take. Yet, later in the episode, Madsen does not trip on any of her lines and she seems comfortable enough in the role. That indicates that the director simply did not get the performance he needed from the performers.

And it is almost enough to sink “Unforgettable.” Instead, though, the idea is presented just well enough to make it a lock and worth watching, despite the episode ultimately being inconsequential.

[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 works with Virginia Madsen, please check out my reviews of:
Red Riding Hood
Wonder Woman
A Prairie Home Companion
The Rainmaker


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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