Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Awkward Condition Of Having Your Character Return . . . Only To Be Killed! “Friendship One”

The Good: Decent concept
The Bad: Weak, unoriginal, plot, No real character development, No extraordinary acting.
The Basics: “Friendship One” serves largely to remind viewers of the existence of Joe Carey by putting him in an awkward hostage situation that lacks emotional resonance for the viewers and the crew.

It always surprises me when shows in the Star Trek franchise remake lesser episodes. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (reviewed here!) is essentially “The Changeling” (reviewed here!) remade on a larger scale. In a similar vein, “Friendship One” is basically “Thine Own Self” (reviewed here!) from Star Trek: The Next Generation blended with “The Quickening” (reviewed here!) from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Actually, while “Friendship One” is largely “Thine Own Self” in Star Trek: Voyager, it is mostly just an excuse to remind viewers that Joe Carey, Janeway’s original choice for Chief Engineer, managed to survive on Voyager until this point.

Unfortunately, the excuse to bring Josh Clark as Carey back is thinly veiled and “Friendship One” is a surprisingly unmemorable episode of Star Trek: Voyager, despite feeling very much like Star Trek. Despite its early dark moments, “Friendship One” has a very classic feel to it; there is an almost formulaic sense of optimism to it.

The reason “Friendship One” lacks punch – outside its ironic title that seems less clever with each viewing and how obviously it rewrites the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode – is that Joe Carey has been quietly below decks for the past several seasons. As a result of him disappearing from the narrative for so long, “Friendship One” strains to create character traits (married with a child, building a ship in a bottle, etc.) for the engineer in order to make him seem relevant and like he has been an active member of the crew all along. However, he has been absent . . . and hardly missed.

Shortly after Zephram Cochrane made his historic warp flight, Earth launched the Friendship One probe into deep space. StarFleet Command, now that Voyager is in regular contact with them, has determined that the probe ought to be in the area of space near where Voyager currently is and the ship is tasked with finding and recovering the probe. Harry Kim helps locate the probe on a nearby planet and Chakotay, Neelix, Joe Carey, Kim, and Paris take the Delta Flyer to what appears to be an abandoned planet in nuclear winter. They discover that the planet is not devoid of life and when part of the Away Team is kidnapped, Chakotay and Kim return to Voyager with an ailing inhabitant of the planet.

From Otrin, Voyager’s crew learns that Friendship One was recovered by the planet’s inhabitants, who learned about the antimatter technology the probe possessed to make warheads which devastated their planet. With generations suffering from radiation burns, the planet’s population has been almost entirely wiped out. While Janeway wants to be sympathetic, it is hard when Verin is holding three of her crew . . . and proves his resolve by killing Joe Carey. With time running out for the hostages, Janeway struggles to keep them safe while the Doctor, Otrin, and Seven Of Nine try to undo the damage to the planet and restore the faith of the people on the planet.

Thrown in, there is a subplot involving a pregnant woman whom Paris is able to empathize with and leads him to the rather obvious position of questioning Janeway. “Friendship One” is not bad, but it is Star Trek strictly by the numbers; Joe Carey is basically just a “red shirt” (though “gold shirt” never caught on as a saying for the Next Generation era of security guard, possibly because they were not killed each episode).

There is no real character advancement in “Friendship One.” Neelix, as he frequently does, advocates on behalf of the Voyager crew, Janeway looks exasperated when trying to be a diplomat, and Seven Of Nine and the Doctor go a long way to saving the day. One of the few chances to make a mark is missed by Harry Kim when Paris makes a crack about how the eager young ensign might be trying to curry favor with StarFleet by doing his job exceptionally well on this first assignment from home and Kim does not point out (again) how he has not been promoted.

“Friendship One” is very much a plot and theme-based episode and it serves its purpose, but it is hardly distinctive or memorable while it does.

[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 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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