Friday, October 19, 2012

Ending With Consequences From The Premiere, “Hope And Fear” Is Decent Star Trek: Voyager!

The Good: Interesting conflict, Good character development, Decent sense of serialization, Good effects, Decent acting
The Bad: Refusal to commit to the full premise
The Basics: “Hope And Fear” finds Voyager headed back the way it came when an alien translates the message StarFleet sent months ago.

In the commentary tracks for the Babylon 5 spin-off, Crusade (reviewed here!), the creator of the series admits that he had a plan to bamboozle the executives who greenlit the program. J. Michael Straczynski wanted to tell one type of show (the story of the rise of the Rangers in the galaxy and government building with the Interstellar Alliance), but he couldn’t sell the show, even to TNT. So, he came up with a premise they liked: Earth is bombed with a virus that will kill everyone in five years, so a ship goes out into the galaxy to find a cure. On the commentary track to one of the episodes, though, Straczynski admits that his plan for the series was to discover a cure about halfway through the second season (presumably after the network had committed to a few more seasons) then shift the focus to the story he wanted to tell all along. It’s clever and almost enough to make one wish the show had actually survived. “Hope And Fear” makes one wish that the executive producers of Star Trek: Voyager had thought to do something similar. Star Trek: Voyager is the Star Trek franchise’s version of Lost In Space and on the infrequent occasions that the writers and producers remember that the series is supposed to have something to do with a quest to get home, they invariably end up jerking the viewer around with one cockamamie plot or another that dangles the chance to get home in front of the viewer and the crew before yanking it away.

The show might have been better had one of those random attempts actually succeeded and Voyager made it home earlier, allowing for a series of episodes that actually had the crew dealing with the consequences of their voyage home. Instead, episodes like “Hope And Fear” exist that create preposterous plot devices that allow Voyager to make incredible leaps home (or in this case, back in the opposite direction and then back again) before utterly collapsing and leaving the crew once more bereft of hope. Unfortunately for “Hope And Fear,” which otherwise has a decent sense of continuity through its frequent references to the message left coded from “Hunters” (reviewed here!), by this point in the series, it is exceptionally hard for the viewer to take the “conceit of the week” seriously and honestly believe that the show might actually result in a long-term change for the series. Sadly, the mechanism in this episode makes for a reasonable and righteous anger for fans who are asked to suspend their disbelief to swallow it.

Following a phaser game that reveals to Janeway just what a poor sport Seven Of Nine can be, Janeway returns to the task of decoding the message sent from StarFleet. Help comes in the form of a new alien, Arturis, an alien brought aboard by Neelix and Paris following a trade mission. Arturis is a linguistics expert who has a knack for codes and translations.

Arturis is a member of a species that the Borg designated 116. For quite some time, the Borg have struggled to assimilate his people. Arturis’s ability to fix the garbled translation puts Voyager near the Federation starship Dauntless. The Dauntless is outfitted with a superior warp drive that will get the crew of Voyager home in three months. While Janeway is initially cautious, when the Dauntless’s quantum slipstream drive activates, they get a taste of what she little ship can do. But when Janeway and Seven Of Nine investigate further, Arturis reveals an unpleasant truth to them that is horrifying to them.

Arturis arrives on Voyager from a trade mission that helps restock Voyager and amid all of the conceit problems, one of the fundamental ones that has to make serious fans question is “what does Voyager have to trade at this point?!” I mean, outside of personal effects from killed crewmembers, there are no resources aboard Voyager that they should have in excess to trade, especially considering they almost never use the replicators and they have no industrial replicators for larger pieces.

Barring that, “Hope And Fear” has a compelling guest character that forces the crew of Voyager to wrestle with the consequences of their actions. “Scorpion, Part 2” (reviewed here!) had the crew of Voyager making a choice that had very real consequences and “Home And Fear” forces them to deal with those consequences. Arturis is a compelling guest character; his sense of loss is real and when he turns to thoughts of revenge, “Hope And Fear” becomes something more than the usual jerkaround episode that deal with the crew of Voyager getting home.

Arturis could have been a terribly hammy character, especially with the lines he was given to express his loss and anger, with Seven Of Nine bearing the brunt of his frustration and ennui. But Arturis is played by Ray Wise, who is an incredible actor and he makes the transitions from Arturis the altruist to the wounded alien exceptionally well.

But the main characters have equal measures of character expression that work in “Hope And Fear.” Harry Kim is appropriately eager and almost giddy for the thought of home. Seven Of Nine points out to Torres that the Maquis have little to look forward to and her smile to Kim is actually one that makes the viewer believe that the young ensign actually has a shot at romancing the Borg! But giving Torres and Seven Of Nine something in common is a nice bit of development. Only Seven Of Nine squaring off with Janeway in the middle of the episode truly does not fit the sense of character growth for the principle characters.

When Seven Of Nine and Janeway end up on the Dauntless headed back to Borg Space with the quantum slipstream drive, though, the episode takes a stroll into the conceptually preposterous. By that point, though, the viewer is invested enough to complete the episode and while this might not be the best season finale of the Star Trek franchise, it is not a horrible ending to the season. “Hope And Fear,” ultimately, is a jerkaround episode, but it is one that feels comparatively more satisfying than most.

[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 Ray Wise, be sure to check out my reviews of:
X-Men: First Class
The West Wing - Season Seven
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Twin Peaks
"Who Watches The Watcher"


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.

| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment