Who Are You & Where Are Our Writers?By Fred Shedian
Posted at November 23, 2000 - 4:47 AM GMT
After watching the last three episodes of Voyager, and living in the state of Florida across the pond called the Atlantic, I cannot hold back my feelings any longer.
I demand a recount! Where have the real Voyager writers gone and who are these impostors?!?
After watching "Inside Man," "Body and Soul" and now "Nightingale" I have to ask the question...where did these episodes come from? I am absolutely astounded at the quality entertainment these three adventures provide. Has the change over from Brannon Braga to Kenneth Biller made that much of a difference? Looking at these episodes, they are indeed some of the first Biller is listed as Executive Producer for without Braga's name along side. Is it possible that the writing problems of Voyager have been pinpointed to one man?
Looking at the adventures, "Inside Man" was an episode that reminded me what Star Trek really is. This adventure had everything, from plot twists to greedy Ferengi. Every character fit into the puzzle perfectly, playing their roles to perfection. Dwight Schultz's performance was superb, with his portrayal of his holographic counterpart simply amazing. In addition, he provided the comedic/light hearted/loveable flavor we have often found lacking in Voyager. The scene on the beach introducing Troi to the episode is something which could have been a complete flop if the acting hadn't been there. With it present, the scene was very amusing...proving that sunscreen will fail to change much in two hundred years. When this adventure was over, I found myself holding two thoughts. First, how refreshing to see someone beyond Jeri Ryan be the hero...followed by the age old question, "Can they keep this quality up or is this a fluke?"
Looking to "Body and Soul" I initially thought it would be another fluke, something we have all seen many times during Series IV's run. However, instead, this episode was anything but. This adventure had such a comedic tone to it, I was caught completely by surprise. Using an old theme, I was shocked to find that the comedy was not predictable and the outcome completely unknown. I didn't know how they were going to get back to Voyager after watching the first twenty minutes. This refreshing change makes me wonder if those writers associated with the show are finally beginning to correct some of their mistakes.
This light hearted mission was followed by the most recent adventure "Nightingale." After reading some reports about this episode, I was expecting something a little bit more. I was initially concerned about the fact Seven of Nine appeared to be a critical part of the adventure. This thought came moments before I laughed at the preview, noticing how the advertising department slipped in the "Captain's dead" remark with a view of Voyager from "Year of Hell." Yet, after watching the episode, I must say I was very impressed. Resisting the temptation to make Seven a B plot, her role in this mission was similar to that of Worf during a regular TNG episode. The plot itself was very well done...proving that when Starfleet says "We can't get involved" there is indeed a reason behind it.
This episode was an excellent character developing adventure for Harry Kim. I was somewhat surprised to hear his remarks, however, about how he would "be a Lieutenant" if he was in the Alpha Quadrant. In this scene, I give the writers credit for maintaining Trek continuity...something they appear to be developing a new found respect for. The mention of the rank "Lieutenant Junior Grade" is something that hasn't been mentioned since TNG....but was indeed hinted at during this episode. Beyond this, I look forward to future developments dealing with this subplot. I sincerely hope that Harry Kim will end up beyond the rank of Ensign before May. On a show when a Maquis crew is given temporary commissions, a Vulcan is prompted, someone is demoted and then re-promoted...you can't but feel sorry for those few people who actually spent time at the Academy trying to "earn" their ranks.
In closing my review on this episode, I must say I loved the B plots associated with this mission. First, writers finally dealt with the issue many of us have been complaining about for years. Voyager has been away from a Starbase for seven years...why haven't they stopped or broken down on the side of a gas giant? I was pleased to see this issue handled, providing some excellent special effects (aka: actually seeing a warp coil). In addition, the manner in which this supposedly took place didn't toss continuity out the window. Instead, dialogue was littered with hints on how battered the ship had really become...from circuits which should have failed to micro-fractures in the starboard nacelle from constant use.
The second plot dealt with Icheb and a story I can't help but laugh at. The performance of Manu Intiraymi is wonderful, with the development of this character making me believe he has become the Wesley Crusher we always wish had existed. Unlike the counterpart, he is not the "all knowing" problem solver. He is knowledgeable, but "learning" at the same time....growing up a fashion most young adults can relate with. I commend him and the writers for developing this character in this fashion. I hope they continue to do so and keep Icheb a key part of the Voyager family through it's conclusion.
Looking at the upcoming two hour event "Flesh and Blood," I have to once again ask...what has happened to prompt this change aboard the U.S.S. Voyager? Unique story ideas, quality writing and excellent acting have me wondering if it isn't indeed possible that this Intrepid Class ship has finally come into focus? It is a question I am beginning to think has a positive answer...although does beg a follow up of "Why did it take this long?"
For a long time, many frequent readers of this column will know that I have remarked about the "missing character" from Voyager...Starfleet. The lack of a connection to "organized society" made an impact...cutting the ship off from everything. I must say I find it interesting that when this character is introduced into this show, the effects have only been positive. From Kim talking about what he would be in the Alpha Quadrant, to Mr. Baroquely's appearances to even holodeck images of aliens...a connection has once again been established. I think it has made a very positive impact on the show, turning even those of us critical of the show to take a moment and wish Season 7 was Season 1.
As always, I welcome your feedback. Please feel free to transmit a self addressed, stamped, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, please be sure to include your name...without any dimpled chads. Due to the holiday in the U.S., I will not be posting my Andromeda column this week. Look for an extended version next week.
Fred Shedian writes a weekly 'A Take On Trek' column for the Trek Nation.