Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Star Trek: Voyager Commits To The Hirogen In “Hunters!”

The Good: Moments of character, Decent acting, General continuity
The Bad: Hirogen not the most compelling villains, Easy resolution, Simplistic plot
The Basics: While “Hunters” is not bad, it puts Star Trek: Voyager on a path that it cannot keep up, so it simplistically resolves.

When Star Trek: Voyager produced the episode “Message In A Bottle” (reviewed here!) it committed the show to the Hirogen. While that episode implied that the massive sensor network that stretched from the Delta to Alpha Quadrants – a 100,000 year-old series of stations – was built by a dead alien race that then was utilized by the Hirogen, “Hunters” contains language from the Hirogen (and, incidentally, Chakotay) that implies the Hirogen themselves built it. That means that Hirogen space is, technically, larger than Borg space. “Hunters” has the U.S.S. Voyager come into what is fully Hirogen space then and it is the second part of a de facto three parter which (as a welcome change) makes Star Trek: Voyager serialized.

Unfortunately, “Hunters” dilutes the positive elements with aspects that are far less compelling for both the show and the franchise. Desperate to create the next popular race, Star Trek: Voyager essentially recasts the Klingons (as Hirogens) as a hunter species without as much distinction. Obviously, one cannot expect much out of the first or second outing, but “Hunters” makes the Hirogen violent and surprisingly similar to the first Klingons in their characterization.

Following the trail of a message from StarFleet, the U.S.S. Voyager heads toward another Hirogen outpost where most of the messages are lodged. Discovering that the outpost is powered by a singularity, Voyager hangs out while Seven Of Nine downloads all of the messages and Neelix delivers them. Chakotay learns that the Maquis have been wiped out and Janeway learns that Mark has moved on following the declared loss of Voyager.

To get the rest of the messages, Tuvok and Seven Of Nine head toward the outpost, where they are captured by the Hirogen. As Ensign Kim desperately waits for a letter of his own, Tuvok and Seven are tormented by the Hirogen and Janeway must launch a rescue operation.

The fact that the Hirogen outposts are powered by a quantum singularity is treated as a remarkable thing. This is utterly ridiculous, considering Romulan technology is similarly powered. In other words, StarFleet should have pretty firm ideas of how this technology is created and used, not necessitating any further study from Voyager. While director David Livingston clearly intends for the study to reflect Janeway’s change in priorities following her “dear John” letter from Mark, it seems like a pretty flimsy excuse and odd that Chakotay does not directly call her out on that.

In a similar fashion, the writing of “Hunters” seems sloppy in that Tuvok’s wife refers to praying, which is a pretty illogical activity. Jeri Taylor, for all of the wonderful contributions she has to the Star Trek franchise does not seem to understand Vulcans.

On the flip side, “Hunters” brings some decent continuity with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This episode follows on the heels of “By Inferno’s Light” (reviewed here!) and “Blaze Of Glory” (reviewed here!) where the viewers learn that the Maquis have been wiped out by the Dominion. “Hunters” reasonably has Torres and Chakotay – as the last major Maquis crewmembers – reacting to the news and that Torres takes it poorly sets up future character growth.

Ensign Kim is also well-utilized and he and Paris play off one another well. Implied in the prior episode that Tom Paris is indifferent to the idea of returning home, he and Ensign Kim have very different views of the messages that the crew is now receiving. Kim, characteristically young, is desperate for a letter from his parents. That fits Kim well, though that there is no mention of Libby (the girlfriend he left behind) seems a little sloppy.

“Hunters” is satisfying when it is focused on the characters, but in the last half, when the episode focuses on Tuvok and Seven Of Nine and their capture by the Hirogen, the episode becomes less compelling. This is ironic given that the Tuvok/Seven portion of the episode is the main plot of the episode. Livingston chickens out on the episode by not actually characterizing the Hirogen as vicious as they are implied to be. Seven Of Nine and Tuvok are not really tormented by the new aliens. Instead, they are bound up and the viewer sees a pretty wicked curved knife, but neither Tuvok nor Seven Of Nine are sliced up with it, which makes the episode feel like a tease and a very safe one at that.

The superlative performance of the episode actually comes from Robert Duncan McNeill. Jeri Taylor sensibly makes sure at least one character is innately happy on Voyager and Paris makes perfect sense for that. Robert Duncan McNeill sells Paris’s indifference in a perfectly compelling way. While Beltran plays off Kate Mulgrew in a way that is reminiscent of how they played in “Resolutions” (reviewed here!), he does not land it the way McNeill does. Chakotay and Janeway have moved away from their near-romance, so Beltran trying to play those aspects feels much more forced in “Hunters.” But Robert Duncan McNeill makes Paris’s lines about having life better on Voyager resonate and sound true.

“Hunters” is, ultimately, simplistic and the latter half serves only to give fans of Jeri Ryan a little bondage fetish action as she is bound up in a way that, in prior seasons, would have been B’Elanna. Roxann Dawson, who was pregnant at the time, has no character reason to not take the mission that Seven Of Nine embarks upon. Dawson is no longer the sex symbol for Star Trek: Voyager and so Seven Of Nine in her catsuit, is strung up with her breasts thrust out to act as a masturbatory fantasy for the less intellectual viewers.

The impressive moments of character in “Hunters” are, unfortunately, undone by the simple plot and obvious resolution that implies that the Hirogen will be much more important than they ultimately are. Still, this is part of the essential Star Trek: Voyager and not a bad hour of television.

[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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