Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Everyone Has A Change Of Heart With The Return Of Star Trek: Voyager In “Equinox, Part 2!”

The Good: Decent plot progression, Special effects, Concept
The Bad: Character changes make little sense, No superlative performances
The Basics: When Star Trek: Voyager has to resolve the elements left from “Equinox,” the result relies upon character reversals that make little rational sense.

Star Trek: Voyager was not known for having kick-ass season finales. However, on its way out of the fifth season, they managed to make a notable and generally clever one with “Equinox” (reviewed here!). Picking up where that episode left off, Star Trek: Voyager was forced to resolve a number of plotlines and, unfortunately, in order to do that writers Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky make character reversals that seem to be based on the hope that viewers have not watched the first part in proximity to the second.

In short, the fundamental problem with “Equinox, Part 2” is that in order to buy into it, one has to accept that Janeway would completely negate her beliefs from the first part – namely the explicit declaration that Voyager must adhere to the StarFleet ideals they have lived by or they will lose everything in favor of her openly pursuing a vendetta in part 2 – and Captain Ransom having a change of heart that was not hinted at in the first episode. In fact, Ransom and his first officer swap personalities at the key moments of “Equinox, Part 2” and that makes the episode seem sloppier than suavely created.

Managing to survive the attack by the Ankari “spirits,” Voyager sets to repairs while the Equinox escapes. The Equinox does not get very far, though, as its enhanced drive is off-line. Fleeing to a planet that has ore they need, the Equinox tries to evade detection from Voyager. While Janeway and Chakotay clash and Ransom and Burke delete the Doctor’s ethical subroutine in order to have him extract codes from Seven Of Nine, both crews brace themselves for attacks from the Ankari. Correctly divining Ransom’s strategy, Janeway manages to capture two of his crew.

But following the capture of Ransom’s people, Janeway becomes more erratic. She relieves Chakotay of duty and tries to torture information out of the captured crewman from the Equinox. With Seven Of Nine hiding some of her consciousness in Ransom’s relaxation program, the Doctor begins to experiment on her with increasing frequency to try to get Voyager’s plans. As the Equinox EMH helps betray Voyager, Janeway goes to a darker place.

“Equinox, Part 2” might not be bad television, but it is bad Star Trek and it truly hinges its credibility on the belief that Janeway would come unhinge so quickly and use tactics that no one in StarFleet would use. “Equinox, Part 2” is devoid of the familiar morals and liberal beliefs found in most Star Trek and that makes it all the more disturbing. Moreover, that the writers seem to have lost all grasp on the characters they created is especially troubling. Equally bothersome is that, for the first time in the franchise, torture yields truthful results from its victim.

As Janeway becomes obsessed with finding Ransom, she and Chakotay begin to butt heads in ways that feel entirely inorganic for the characters. Chakotay has been a tool for much of the season and his willingness to stand up to Janeway “reads” as unrealistic. Even less realistic is how quickly she disregards Chakotay and his advice. Notably absent from the episode is a scene between Chakotay and the Equinox EMH where Chakotay asks him to relieve Janeway of command and he has to come up with . . . hey, with such a scene, the EMH would have been an even greater asset to Ransom because he could help his Captain escape Janeway. That was an idea that took literally three seconds to realize; how did the writers and producers of the episode not figure that out?! Perhaps that is why no such scene is included, but it is a very sloppy oversight. Too bad; it could have easily taken the place of the musical number in the Equinox sickbay, which feels just like filler.

Until the very end of the episode, guest actor John Savage is used without the sense of gravitas that made his performance in the first half of “Equinox” memorable. Instead, he is relegated to a distant supporting character as the episode focuses on Janeway’s obsession. Kate Mulgrew plays her character’s change of character well-enough, even if it is not a particularly sensible choice on the writers and director’s part.

Ultimately, “Equinox, Part 2” is a good foreshadowing of what is to come for the series and the season. It is Seven Of Nine and the Doctor who work to resolve the actual conflict while Janeway is squeezed into the episode, even when her part is forced and makes less sense than usual.

[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 works with Rick Worthy, please visit my reviews of:
“Prototype” - Star Trek: Voyager
Star Trek: Insurrection
“Soldiers Of The Empire” - 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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