Friday, November 23, 2012

B’Elanna Torres Is Forced To Regress To Make “Juggernaut” At All Plausible!

The Good: Environmental plot
The Bad: Character work with Torres does not work at all.
The Basics: When Voyager encounters a Malon freighter that is leaking radiation, Torres is forced to use her anger productively, despite the fact that she has not been the angry engineer for a solid four years prior to this episode!

Sometimes, as I go through the series for review purposes, Star Trek: Voyager actually amuses me. After the past decade during which the phrase “liberal media” has become less and less of a reality (I, for one, miss it dearly!), it is sometimes refreshing to watch something from when the liberal Hollywood establishment was alive and well. For those who love the Star Trek franchise, there is no doubt that the show is based firmly in liberal principles (the heroes are Socialist and the most ridiculous adversaries, the Ferengi, are the unrestrained capitalists!). Star Trek: Voyager manages to present liberal theories with a wry sense of sarcasm very subtly. On Star Trek: Voyager, the anti-environmentalists are the most idiotic race in the Star Trek franchise (on par with the straight-out idiots, the Pakleds). The anti-environmental, heavily capitalist metaphor race is the Malon race and, after noting in “Think Tank” (reviewed here!) that Voyager has not encountered the race for some time, they pop back up in “Juggernaut.”

“Juggernaut” returns the idiotic Malon . . . and a B’Elanna Torres who suffers from exceptional anger and a short temper. This episode is another one of several in this season where the characters are written as if they have reverted to a dramatically less-evolved version of themselves. Tom Paris’s actions in “Thirty Days” are emblematic of a first or second season version of the character and, in a similar fashion, Torres reverts to a form significantly less-developed in “Juggernaut.” In fact, since “Faces” (reviewed here!) where Torres made peace with her Klingon side, she has not been nearly this erratic and guided by unrestrained anger. This reversion is almost as idiotic as the Malon.

A Malon freighter, hauling its usual toxic waste, suddenly goes into a crisis mode. Aboard Voyager, Tuvok is tutoring Torres on anger management following an incident between her and the EMH, which does not go terribly well. Voyager then takes aboard the survivors of the Malon freighter and, after healing them, they learn that they cannot escape the blast radius of the destabilized ship. With six hours until the Malon ship will detonate and make an area several lightyears in diameter toxic, a team of Neelix, Torres, and Chakotay journeys to the toxic ship to safely vent its toxic cargo.

Separated from the rest of the team, Torres and Fesek work to fix the problems aboard the Malon freighter, in the area of the ship leaking the most radiation. On the freighter, they discover that an ancient, mythical evil rumored to be on Malon ships may actually be real. Exposed to the high radiation, Torres begins to suffer serious health consequences as the team fights the unknown and the ticking clock to save the sector.

Because so much of the episode focuses on Torres being snarky, angry, and utterly irritated, it is hard for the bulk of “Juggernaut” to be taken seriously. Ron Canada, who appears as the Malon captain Fesek, whose performance style I tend to have a love-hate relationship with, does fine even with his moments of hammy overdramatic deliveries. Canada’s performance style comes across as vastly more natural and realistic compared to Roxanne Dawson’s suddenly aggressive portrayal of Torres.

Thematically, “Juggernaut” is good, but the strong environmentalist message is severely weakened by the somewhat ridiculous “beast in the dark” plot conceit. The revelation of what is running around the giant ship hurting the repair teams is hardly compelling or interesting enough to justify the episode. Moreover, the whole “radiation-soaked garbage scow” is yet another recycled element from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Despite the serious performance and plot problems, “Juggernaut” has some surprisingly smart lines that continue to promote the concept that environmental responsibility and compassion have a close relationship, just like greed and pollutions are closely related. Even that, though, makes “Juggernaut” a tougher sell than it ought to be.

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

For other works with Lee Arenberg, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Once Upon A Time - Season 1
Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl
Cradle Will Rock
“Bloodlines” - Star Trek: The Next Generation
“Force Of Nature” - Star Trek: The Next Generation
“The Nagus” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine


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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