Sunday, November 18, 2012

Star Trek: Voyager Fans Are Repeatedly Jerked Around By “Course: Oblivion!”

The Good: Interesting basic concept, Decent acting
The Bad: Belabored plot, No character development
The Basics: In “Course: Oblivion,” the U.S.S. Voyager begins falling apart and the reversal hardly justifies the episode.

As a series that adamantly refuses to be serialized, Star Trek: Voyager occasionally had to work exceptionally hard against itself. Sadly, that sometimes meant preposterous plots based almost entirely upon the reversal (usually inspired by Brannon Braga) that came in the last moments of an episode. “Course: Oblivion” is the episode that works hardest to ignore what came before to try to deny the past episodes . . . and in the process it becomes ridiculous.

“Course: Oblivion” also foreshadows quite a bit of what is to come, including the final arc between Seven Of Nine and Chakotay.

Following the wedding of B’Elanna Torres and Ensign Tom Paris, things on Voyager seem to be going well. Utilizing a new warp drive, the ship is scheduled to make it back to Earth in just two years. But rapidly the ship and the people aboard it begin to deteriorate in an unforeseen and unpredictable way. As the mystery deepens, Tuvok and Chakotay try to nail down the event that might have contaminated the ship. As the crew and ship fall apart, they go in search of what led to their destruction.

So much of “Course: Oblivion” is a simple drawing out of the investigation of why Voyager and its crew are abruptly falling apart and the experience of the episode is watching the various characters die, starting with Torres (because she worked in Engineering near the new warp core). Sadly, there is not much more than that and because the cause of the degradation is not revealed until the very end, it is hard to discuss the episode without revealing the big twist from the middle.

That said, despite Star Trek: Voyager trying hard not to be serialized, “Course: Oblivion” is revealed, at the twenty minute mark, to be a sequel to “Demon” (reviewed here!). Once the viewer knows that this version of Voyager is not actually real, the episode simply belabors itself and it becomes impossible to care about what is happening aboard the ship. Lacking the emotional resonance to the characters, “Course: Oblivion” simply plods on to its inevitable end.

Unfortunately, it ends up not making sense from the moment of the discovery. While the conceit of the new warp core almost justifies how Voyager has managed to traverse the incredible distances the real Voyager has traveled, “Course: Oblivion” has one incredible, obvious issue that makes the episode fail at the midpoint of the episode. To prove exactly what Torres is, Tuvok and Chakotay inject her with an enzyme. That enzyme reverts Torres to her natural form. The problem is, Torres and her biobed are made of the exact same stuff. The enzyme should have destabilized not only Torres, but the biobed, the floors, everything through the ship, like the way the acidic blood in Alien (reviewed here!) eats through the decks until it becomes inert.

That leaves the acting in “Course: Oblivion.” No one in the cast gives anything remotely remarkable to make the viewer care about the characters in “Course: Oblivion.” The result is that any potential emotional resonance from the episode is lost and the viewer simply sits through this utterly unremarkable episode.

[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 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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