Saturday, February 9, 2013

“The Void” Sticks Voyager In A Spatial Bermuda Triangle!

The Good: Good philosophy, Moments of character
The Bad: Entirely derivative plot, Very predictable
The Basics: Taking a cue from the Star Trek Animated Series, Star Trek: Voyager presents a Bermuda Triangle style anomaly that the ship gets trapped in.

You know your Star Trek spinoff is truly doomed when you begin stealing episodes from Star Trek: The Animated Series. Star Trek: Voyager went to exactly that place with “The Void” and it seems somewhat fitting that I am reviewing it now. Guest actor Robin Sachs, who played General Valen in “The Void,” died early last week. Fortunately, Sachs has a number of other roles to his credit and this was by no means his final work.

“The Void,” as alluded to earlier, might be more enjoyable to those who are Star Trek neophytes. But for those who are fans of the franchise, it bears far too many troubling similarities to the animated Star Trek episode “The Timetrap” (reviewed here!). At least “The Void” does not explicitly mention the Bermuda Triangle, which is essentially what the anomaly in both episodes is.

Some of Voyager’s senior staff is enjoying a meal prepared by Seven Of Nine in the mess hall when the ship is pulled off course by a graviton surge that strands them in a starless place. They immediately come under attack and most of the ship’s deuterium (fuel) is stolen. After repelling two attacks, Voyager meets General Valen, who offers help for Voyager in exchange for photon torpedoes. Valen has been in the void with his crew for five years. After a disastrous attempt to leave the Void, Voyager is left in a much worse position.

After retaking some of what belongs to them from General Valen and rescuing an alien with no verbal abilities, Janeway begins assembling a Federation of her own within the Void. When Neelix vouches for her, she actually begins to make headway with the aliens she meets. By working together, Janeway works to get Voyager out of the Void with their principles intact.

After a slew of episodes where I’ve had a legitimate gripe about how anti-philosophical Captain Janeway is, “The Void” gives the character a chance to take a principled stand and it has her stick by them. Kate Mulgrew is able to very convincingly present the argument for not becoming killers and thieves while Voyager is stuck in the void, which makes the viewer wonder why Janeway has not been willing to have ethical arguments aboard her ship before.

“The Void” is also clever in how it establishes the potential age of the Void by including a Vadwaar ship. The Vadwaar from “Dragon’s Teeth” (reviewed here!) had been asleep for thousands of years, so a Vadwaar ship (even altered) in the rift means it has existed for at least that long. That cleverness is eliminated for die-hard fans by the distracting costume re-use for Garon’s species. The costumes are the very recognizable Hunters outfits from “Captive Pursuit” (reviewed here!) and die-hard fans are likely to gripe about how Gamma Quadrant costumes got into a Delta Quadrant anomaly, but for money, the problem is more that it is unimaginative and because the costumes were so distinct, they seem out of place here.

“The Void” has no real character development. Instead, it simply reasserts the character Janeway should have had (and, to be fair, she did have when she took the ethical stand in “Caretaker” that led to Voyager becoming stranded in the Delta Quadrant) all along. It also negates one of the earliest character traits of B’Elanna Torres, who once stated that she never inflates her work estimates (that the time quoted is the amount of time it will take her). In “The Void” she is given a minute to do two minutes worth of work and she makes it work.

The resolution to “The Void” is a pretty predictable “working together we can accomplish great things” plot, but it works. The wrap-up between Janeway and Chakotay might be the first on-screen hint for viewers of the impending Star Trek: Enterprise. “The Void” could have been much worse, but as it stands, it is just a very formulaic “everybody is trapped in the same situation” story that never rises to anything more than what the viewer expects of it.

[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!

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