Tuesday, December 25, 2012

“Never Again” Is The Theme Of Yet Another Holocaust “Memorial” Episode Of Star Trek: Voyager

The Good: Good theme, Decent acting
The Bad: Belabors its own point, Inconsistent in its execution
The Basics: When an Away Team begins to exhibit post-traumatic stress disorder, they recall a war zone they were never at and a genocidal massacre they may never have participated in.

Few shows know how to beat a theme completely to death like Star Trek: Voyager. Episodes that explicitly create wartime conditions similar to World War II with a theme of “Never Forget” (or “Never Again”) include “Remember” (reviewed here!) and “Nemesis” (reviewed here!) and the message behind “Jetrel” (reviewed here!) is similar, though much more character-focused. So, by the time the sixth season’s episode “Memorial” comes around, it is hard not to feel like the starship Voyager took the Delta Quadrant Path of Interstellar Holocaust Memories Trail home. “Memorial” is not an inherently bad episode, but it is one that comes late enough in the series to make viewers feel like the writers are in a rut and they are simply using different characters to tell the same story they already have.

In fact, the biggest problems with “Memorial” are that the writers are not even trying to tell a story – they are expressing a theme through characters and an almost incidental story – and that they do not even use completely different characters to express that theme. Chakotay was the subject of the last alien race that conditioned crewmembers for genocide in “Nemesis,” so his inclusion in the main plot feels strikingly familiar and particularly banal. It is almost like writer Robin Bernheim saw Robert Beltran’s performance in “Nemesis” and said, “he did it once, I’ll throw Chakotay into my story the same way!” Familiarity breeds mediocrity with theme episodes and “Memorial” could have been more than mediocre had it come earlier in the series or mixed the characters/story elements up in a more original fashion.

Harry Kim, Tom Paris, Neelix, and Chakotay are returning from a two week expedition in the Delta Flyer that nets Voyager a huge haul of dilithium crystals. Despite the Doctor’s attempt to get the Away Team to Sickbay for routine examinations, the crew of the Delta Flyer goes their separate ways for the night. Paris returns to his quarters to discover Torres has created a television, replicated popcorn and a remote control for him. Paris is watching television, including commercials and cartoons, when he sees himself in a battle situation on television and then dreams of being in a war zone. He wakes up feeling afraid and turns off the television, but Harry Kim has an anxiety attack while doing work in a Jefferies Tube.

When Neelix has a similar hallucination while in the mess hall, one that results in him taking Naomi Wildman hostage, the Doctor discovers the Away Team members have memory engrams that indicate their participation in real events. Together, the quartet pieces together the events of a colony evacuation that involved the Nakan attempting to evacuate a colony when fighting breaks out. Harry Kim and Chakotay realize that they were involved in killing 82 civilians and Voyager attempts to retrace the path of the Delta Flyer to understand exactly what happened. When Janeway begin investigating, she too begins to recall the events of the tragedy and soon she comes to realize that the colony world is transmitting a series of memories that force them to remember participating in a colonial slaughter.

“Memorial” builds up well to the ultimate revelation of just what kind of phenomenon the ship is encountering. Bernheim’s script manages to keep focused on the characters and their struggles, as opposed to simply rehashing or replaying the plot events over and over again. The conversation between Neelix and Seven Of Nine, wherein Neelix asks Seven how she lives with herself having aided in the assimilation of millions is a poignant one and it helps “Memorial” stand a something a little more than a simple theme episode.

Unfortunately, “Memorial” is not much more than another statement of “never forget so genocide never happens again” and while the message is honorable, the episode is unfortunately mundane.

[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 Lindsey Ginter, please check out my reviews of:
Transformers: Dark Of The Moon
The X-Files - Season 1


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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