Monday, December 17, 2012

A Simple Conceit Makes For An Intriguing Episode With “The Voyager Conspiracy!”

The Good: Interesting plot, Decent acting, Moments of what little character there is in the episode, Special effects
The Bad: Almost no character development in the episode.
The Basics: Using nitpicks from prior episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, “The Voyager Conspiracy” finds Seven Of Nine coming to believe that Voyager and the Maquis are part of an elaborate conspiracy.

In Star Trek: Voyager, there are very few episodes that are not derivative of episodes from Star Trek: The Next Generation. With “The Voyager Conspiracy,” the writers and producers managed to actually create something that feels fairly fresh. In fact, outside the tiresome re-use of footage from “Caretaker” (reviewed here!) and the almost entire lack of genuine character development, “The Voyager Conspiracy” is one of the more enjoyable episodes of the later seasons of Star Trek: Voyager!

In its tone, “The Voyager Conspiracy” mirrors “Clues” (reviewed here!) from Star Trek: The Next Generation. After a meandering opening, the episode manages to incorporate nitpicking gripes viewers might have had with “Caretaker” and several plot points that followed within the context of the show. Restoring the idea that Tuvok is an essential and important character to Star Trek: Voyager, “The Voyager Conspiracy” is a deeply ironic episode that has Seven Of Nine asking reasonable fanboy questions – why DID Voyager have tricobalt devices aboard when no other starship does and it had a full complement of photon torpedoes?! – and drawing appropriately preposterous conclusions as a result.

Tired of how humans have to read information, Seven Of Nine decides to use her Borg circuitry for her own good, namely faster assimilation of information. She decides to upload all of the information Voyager has collected – ships logs, astrometrics data, etc. – from before she came aboard using her Borg ability to essentially upload information to her brain. Around the same time, Voyager encounters Tash, an alien who has been building a device that works like a warp catapult. With Voyager’s help, he believes he can complete work on the catapult and his ship and Voyager can be flung many light years closer to home.

As Janeway slowly comes around to helping him, Seven Of Nine – who has recently gained Torres and Janway’s trust by accurately predicting a nest of photonic fleas birthing in the sensor array – begins to collate the data she has uploaded. Recognizing one of the pieces of technology that Tash is using in his device as being identical to something the Caretaker Array used to drag Voyager into the Delta Quadrant, Seven Of Nine begins to believe Voyager is the center of a vast conspiracy. Approaching Chakotay, she lays out a theory that Voyager has been sent to the Delta Quadrant to establish a Federation presence there. Shortly thereafter, she presents the same information to Janeway, but with the conclusion that Chakotay is using Voyager and the Caretaker’s technology to orchestrate a Maquis attack on the Alpha Quadrant. As Tash prepares to activate his new array, Janeway and Chakotay’s trust in one another is tested.

“The Voyager Conspiracy” is basically a chance, on screen, to posit that Voyager is not lost in the Delta Quadrant by accident. Smartly, writer Joe Menosky, takes the episode from a plot-based evaluation of nitpicks with prior Voyager episodes – calling out how improbable some of the events have been – to a character-focused story that creates a paranoia in Seven Of Nine that, in curing, will allow Janeway to strengthen her bond with the fledgling former-Borg.

The transition of the episode from a series of plot reversals where it appears Janeway is part of a conspiracy to Chakotay being a warlord to Seven of Nine herself being the victim of a Federation plot into a character study is very abrupt. From pretty much the moment Janeway walks in on Chakotay at Seven Of Nine’s regeneration alcove, the episode begins to focus more on the mounting distrust, first between Chakotay and Janeway and then from Seven Of Nine toward Janeway and the whole Federation. Menosky is also smart enough to make the problem obvious enough to Janeway and Chakotay to not keep that tension an unreasonable amount of time. The moment Chakotay mentions a “StarFleet mission,” Janeway smartly responds, “You’ve been talking with Seven Of Nine, haven’t you?” Fundamentally, by this point in Star Trek: Voyager, Janeway and Chakotay trust one another and it is nice to see that Seven Of Nine is not able to shake that for too long.

Ultimately, though, Seven Of Nine’s part in “The Voyager Conspiracy” – outside of acting as a mouthpiece for fanboy complaints dating back to the pilot episode – is to be the victim of, essentially, a mental illness. Jeri Ryan plays this most convincingly and her portrayal of paranoia is compelling. As Seven Of Nine, Ryan plays authoritative frequently and in “The Voyager Conspiracy,” she sounds equally convincing when selling her theories to Janeway as to Chakotay and her character’s ultimate breakdown would be laughable had Ryan not pulled it off. Fortunately, she executed it well.

“The Voyager Conspiracy” tries to illustrate many of Seven’s theories through brief clips from prior episodes, most notably “Caretaker.” The episode also strives retcon the effects dealing with the destruction of the array and continuity buffs will likely find that the biggest issue with the conspiracy theories – that the episode had to invent an element to allow Seven to shop her crazed ideas from. Fortunately, the episode – especially the way Seven implicates Tuvok as being at the heart of almost all of her conspiracy theories – holds up well with the long-established elements at the crux of her delusions. This helps make the potentially self-defeating bottle episode far more plausible and enjoyable.

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