Sunday, January 20, 2013

Long-Anticipated, Underwhelming Execution, “Drive” Finally Unites Paris And Torres!

The Good: Good character progression, Decent acting, Decent plot development, Fine effects
The Bad: Initially odd premise, Predictable political b-plot.
The Basics: In an episode that could have been a throwaway racing episode, Star Trek: Voyager makes enough of a character-driven episode to make “Drive” worth watching.

The Star Trek franchise has made weddings a standard since Star Trek: The Next Generation, though that series did not do a major wedding in-series (Miles O’Brien and Keiko getting married was a pretty sudden thing and O’Brien was not a major character). Teased in “Course: Oblivion” (reviewed here!), Star Trek: Voyager has slowly moved toward a wedding between Paris and Torres. A year and a half later, the show gets around to it in “Drive.”

“Drive,” unfortunately, follows some of the same conceits as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s wedding episode, “You Are Cordially Invited” (reviewed here!) and a race/espionage episode. One almost has to wonder if “Drive” was Star Trek: Voyager’s attempt to court the NASCAR audience the way that “Tsunkatse” (reviewed here!) was an attempt to court WWE fans. Unfortunately, “Drive” has a few conceptual issues, the main one being that a race in space makes no real sense. Impulse drives, anything that travel under lightspeed, seem to have the same maximum speed. The ships that do not get to that infinite speed shy of lightspeed would have that limitation known before the race began. In other words, a race like the one in “Drive” is only a test of navigation ability, not ship speed (otherwise each and every ship would come in at the same finishing time. Despite that conceit, “Drive” is actually not a bad episode.

After the Delta Flyer, which Paris and Kim are out testing, races an alien vessel through an asteroid cluster, Paris convinces Janeway to let him enter the Delta Flyer in the Antarian Trans-Stellar Rally. The Rally comes at a time when Torres had managed to finagle a whole weekend on the Holodeck by trading with virtually every member of the crew and, after a conversation with Neelix, she comes clean with Paris about how upset his bailing on her has made her. Replacing Kim as his copilot, Torres joins Paris for the race.

Aboard Voyager, Neelix gets the entire crew excited about the race by announcing it better than Seven Of Nine, as the Delta Flyer moves into third place. When one of the competitors is knocked out of the race, the two main species hosting the Antarian Trans-Stellar Rally become tense and potentially explosive.

On the continuity front, “Drive” is pretty wonderful. The conflict between Paris and Torres is a bit forced, but the sudden friendship between Seven Of Nine and Torres that popped up abruptly in “Imperfection” (reviewed here!) is continued in a decent fashion. Neelix has a decent position and Torres has good character growth in that scene. It is refreshing to hear Torres talk about her feelings and be emotionally mature. Unfortunately, the attention to continuity works against the episode when Harry Kim joins Irina as her co-pilot. When Paris lists off the women Kim has gone after (yet again), it sets up the probability that Irina is not the woman Kim thinks.

Fortunately, “Drive” does not take a long time to make obvious the espionage elements of the episode and who the actual political dissident is.

Cyia Batten, who played Gul Dukat’s daughter for two episodes on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, appears as Irina and she has a very different role in this than she has played before. It is a refreshing bit of acting that is decent. Brian George similarly returns to the franchise with a performance that is different from the others he has had.

The latter quarter of “Drive” is a refreshing change for Star Trek: Voyager; instead of degenerating into a big special effects-driven or political statement episode, “Drive” spends a significant amount of time with Torres and Paris simply talking with one another. Reminiscent of “Day Of Honor” (reviewed here!) where Torres and Paris actually began their relationship, “Drive” takes an abrupt left turn to focus on the relationship between Torres and Paris and that is refreshing. It makes for one of the least predictable episodes of Star Trek: Voyager and one of the real gems of the show’s final season.

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

For other works with Cyia Batten, please visit my reviews of:
Charlie Wilson’s War
“Return To Grace” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“Indiscretion” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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