A Shattering Review At Neptune's OceanBy Fred Shedian
Posted at January 21, 2001 - 4:05 AM GMT
Looking at the two most recent adventures of the U.S.S. Voyager and the Andromeda Ascendant, I must say I am somewhat impressed. I am also equally puzzled by the reaction of many online columnists to the recent episode of Star Trek Series IV and left thinking that Andromeda's writers are about ready to either prove they can produce a quality show or create a flop. In this edition of the column, I will look at both areas.
Starting with the first universe created by Gene Roddenberry, I must say I found "Shattered" to be a very enjoyable episode. Being honest, this adventure was one of the first that I found myself holding high hopes for. As I have stated previously, the quality of writing we have seen in Season 7 of Voyager has been simply mind-blowing. Although not perfect in any way, the difference between the first five/six seasons and today is astounding. Looking at current TrekToday poll results, it appears many individuals agree that this mission was a very good one. In fact, I honestly cannot recall the last time I saw close to 50% of respondents rank a Voyager episode 9-10.
The integration of different time periods into one episode was done flawlessly. When "All Good Things" showed us the final small screen adventure of Captain Picard and crew, they had an advantage when attempting to portray different time periods. Being honest, it was a simple thing...the uniform. You could very clearly see the difference between the current uniform, the first season's setup and the futuristic version. However, on Voyager, this advantage doesn't exist outside of the first episode of the show. The writer's ability to quickly explain what time Chakotay and Janeway were in is what made this adventure work. Beyond built in suspense, it took no more than five seconds to figure out about what time period you were looking at.
In addition to the writing abilities, I am very pleased that Robert Beltran's character was chosen to play the primary role in this episode. The character itself was not so much developed any further than it already was, however what was already there was finally shown to the audience. Years of not having much screen time, in place of another female character, were caught up during this forty minute mission. For the first time in my memory, Commander Chakotay actually assumed the role of First Officer in a fashion similar Riker on The Next Generation. I could finally see him as a legitimate XO aboard the U.S.S. Voyager, not a "temporary replacement put in due to staff shortages." Perhaps most importantly, within the confines of the Trek universe, his portrayal of events and the character's actions seemed plausible. Unlike many episodes on Voyager, Chakotay took logical steps to try and determine what was going on. He then attempted to solve the problem the best way one could imagine. Even more of a surprise was the unique ending of this episode. By quarter til, I was thinking Chakotay and Janeway would be captured by Seska who would somehow manage to return from the dead. Instead, Kate Mulgrew's character comes up with something I personally didn't see coming. Perhaps this has something to do with the limited use of Seven of Nine?
The different twists in this episode really helped in two areas. First, it helped me come to realize how far this show has come since May of last year. This mission alone helped the audience see Janeway finally come to terms with what has happened, in a way that didn't make it appear she was having a mental breakdown. Second, the adventure showed that the current staff of Voyager have finally started to figure out what the audience has been wanting to see for six years. As I have said previously, missions like this make me wonder what took so long in getting to this stage.
With all these factors, I must say I am somewhat surprised by the many negative remarks quite a few sites have made about this episode. Although it indeed has a "similar" plotline to the final TNG episode, beyond the fact one character goes from time to time...I can see no other connection. The final Picard mission was an attempt to bring closure to the entire show. If anything, "Shattered" helped to try and round out the feelings of this ship's two senior officers. They were forced to face the past they had made. The writing was good, with quality acting and a well rounded use of characters...I must say I cannot find faults within this mission (outside of really getting nitpicky). Although I know coming from me it may sound somewhat hypocritical given my past remarks about this show, but is it possible many people simply cannot accept a quality Voyager adventure when it slaps them in the face? Does everyone now believe a good episode must involve the Borg, the Doctor, Barkley or Jeri Ryan as central figures?
I would sincerely hope the answer is no. With news that Series V may not come out in August of this year, I hope that a season break from new Star Trek will allow everyone to pause and review the past fifteen years of TV Trek. Although I do still believe Voyager has massive room for improvement and it's writers have squandered six seasons of potential, Season 7 has thus proven to be something worth looking at. I hope it will not take writers this long to figure out what they're doing in the next incarnation of this franchise.
Briefly changing gears to Gene Roddenberry's latest televised adventure, I believe Andromeda's writers are at a critical stage in the show's development. Successful shows do not forget their past adventures, rather build on them to create a successful series. Examples range from The Next Generation's use of Q and Borg to Babylon 5's many long running subplots. In the universe that was once the Commonwealth, there are now several planets signed on to this new charter. The question quickly becomes...are we as an audience going to see any signs of progress for Dylan Hunt and crew or is there going to be very little change?
Although I do not believe there should be a dramatic shift in the show's setup, I do think it would be appropriate for Andromeda to perhaps gain some crew members...maybe have a port to use in the event of repairs. Material along these lines can serve only to help better establish forward progress for Hunt's goal of restoring the Commonwealth. I believe it should still be a plausible idea to perhaps have the crew come across something tangible from the organization which built the ship they inhabit. Even if it was something as small as a long range sensor observatory (that doesn't explode), it would help get across that they are not fighting to restore a "ghost" from one's past. Instead, they are trying to restore a union of worlds that maintained peace under a system of freedom and justice. Somehow, the writers need to help get across that the Commonwealth isn't something as obsolete The Nights of the Roundtable, but something to be proud of that has a place in the modern "Andromeda" era.
To their credit, I have to say I like the way the special effects of the show have been developing as of late. Although I do still believe there is room for improvement, and that many shots appear rudimentary in design, things are slowly coming together. I only hope that the next battle sequence appears a little bit more realistic than the last one we observed.
If you have comments about this edition of A Take On Trek, feel free to submit them. Please transmit a self addressed, and stamped, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to include your name and the column you are referring to. Due to recent offline issues, the mailbag feature has once again been delayed. However, I maintain my promise to get it published as soon as possible.
Until next time...
Fred Shedian writes a weekly 'A Take On Trek' column for the Trek Nation.