Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Rise And Fall Of The Romance Between The Doctor And Seven Of Nine Is Encapsulated In “Someone To Watch Over Me.”

The Good: Acting, Basic concept, Decent direction
The Bad: Too neat on the character development front, Incredibly predictable, Mires itself in a ridiculous rewrite of My Fair Lady.
The Basics: In “Someone To Watch Over Me,” Seven Of Nine learns to date while an uptight ambassador visits and turns out to be very different from what Neelix has prepared for.

I think what might be most regrettable about Star Trek: Voyager, outside it being exceptionally derivative of Star Trek: The Next Generation is that the writers and producers of the show seemed annoyingly afraid of committing the characters to long arcs. While Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres, by the fifth season, had finally entered into a romantic relationship, they represent the only real relationship that the producers developed. Also by the time “Someone To Watch Over Me” was released, the producers were desperate to keep the ratings on the show up and to do that, they were – as often as they could get away with – appealing to the lowest common denominator. That meant utilizing Seven Of Nine and actress Jeri Ryan in whatever way that resulted in the easiest use of her obvious sex appeal (her breasts).

As a result, “Someone To Watch Over Me” ends up as a cross between a teenage fanboy’s wet dream and a Star Trek: Voyager remake of My Fair Lady (reviewed here!). While the essential plot is not at all bad, director Robert Duncan McNeill seems to use the camera to lasciviously focus on Jeri Ryan’s breasts (shots from a lower angle looking up to accent her bust), legs (with a new outfit for her character’s date) and wide-eyed, open-mouthed innocent look when the Doctor lowers her hair. More than any prior episode, “Someone To Watch Over Me” works to imply the obvious (given that Annika Hansen was assimilated at a ridiculously young age): Seven Of Nine is a busty, blonde, model-like virgin whose inexperience is the stuff of fantasies. One suspects Ryan went along with it (outside being under contract) solely because she was able to showcase her singing, which was a highlight for her of “The Killing Game” (reviewed here!).

After Seven Of Nine annoys Torres (and to a lesser extent, Paris) by observing their relationship for her understanding of romantic love, Seven is advised by Captain Janeway to give romance a chance. While Janeway and Tuvok go off to a nearby colony on a diplomatic exchange, Neelix take on the task of showing the Kadi representative, Tomin, around. At her weekly medical exam, the Doctor volunteers to help teach Seven Of Nine how to develop dating skills. Together, they begin lessons on the Holodeck to introduce Seven Of Nine to dating.

When Paris walks in on the lesson, he and the Doctor strike up a wager that results in the Doctor having to get Seven Of Nine a date who she will take to the Kadi ceremony and leave with, as well. The Doctor and Seven of Nine begin practicing and singing together, resulting in the Doctor feeling more emotions for Seven Of Nine than he initially anticipated. While he wrestles with his new feelings for Seven, Neelix tries to keep Tomin from getting into too many hedonistic pursuits.

The moment that kills the episode is actually on the holodeck when Seven Of Nine walks up to the Doctor and Paris. When she is well within earshot, Paris makes a comment about potentially having more time off (when he wins the bet and does not have to work in Sickbay for a month). At that moment, Seven should have asked the Doctor what Paris meant. At that point, “Someone To Watch Over Me” could have done something exceptional and fairly original. The Doctor could have been honest with Seven Of Nine about the wager they made and admit that he has paired his desire to help her develop with a wager. The episode could have then gone into fairly bold new territory.

Instead, “Someone To Watch Over Me” drudges into familiar and obvious plot developments. The repressed ambassador quickly falls apart outside the strict rules of his society and Seven Of Nine learns of the wager at an inopportune time and becomes annoyed at the Doctor.

What saves the episode from what one might expect to be a very dismal rating and place in the Star Trek pantheon is the acting and the directing. Robert Duncan McNeill directed “Someone To Watch Over Me” and he appears in a good number of the scenes, which is quite impressive for the young director. “Someone To Watch Over Me” looks good and it moves along at a decent pace, even if the writing is troublingly predictable.

Robert Duncan McNeill also deserves a great deal of credit for the performances he manages to get out of the actors. Comedian Scott Thompson of Kids In The Hall fame guest stars as Tomin. He does a decent job playing Tomin both as reserved and as intoxicated. Jeri Ryan pulls off the porn-esque naïveté with proficiency. Robert Picardo also does a masterful job with his physical acting in one of the key scenes (as he sings to Ryan’s Seven Of Nine). He perfectly emotes in that moment and throughout the episode.

Unfortunately, the producers and writers turn toward the predictably gutless in the resolution. “Someone To Watch Over Me” is the archetypal one-hour drama romance episode and ultimately, it lets the viewer down for how utterly familiar it is.

[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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