Monday, May 16, 2005

"These are the Voyages" was fitting in its aspiration and sentiment as the apparent finale for Star Trek As We Know It, and in its chaotic attempt to tell at least 3 stories in 42 minutes, with the inexplicable rubbing up against the brilliant, and isolated moments of real feeling following the cringe-worthy, an unfortunately fitting finale, if not for this series, then for this part of the season.

As Steve Krutzler pointed out, the central event is very weak: Enterprise must rush back to earth so that Archer the planet from an alien probe? Battle the Borg for earth's future? No, no, nothing that...well, dramatic. It's to give a speech. Which he hasn't written. But which he absolutely can't be late for---why, getting him to the podium on time is worth dying for! I don't know about audience fatigue, but this is a prime illustration of creative fatigue.

I pretty much expected to enjoy the TNG parts, but even though Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis gave fine performances, it was a jarring and unconvincing element. Riker hanging around watching like a ghost took the reality out of the Enterprise crew scenes, which otherwise were well acted, befitting a finale. Riker interacting with the crew was much better---in talking about each other, we got some sense of how they'd changed over the years and became a crew--- but it was never clear to me exactly what he was looking for, or in fact, what he found that enabled him to make his decision.

I'm afraid I don't see the relevance of Trip's self-sacrifice to Riker's choosing to violate one of two pledges, to his old captain and to his current captain. Riker had plenty of instances in his own experience concerning following or not following orders. Data disobeyed an order in his first command in TNG's Redemption II, and Picard commended him for his initiative, saying "Starfleet doesn't want officers who follow orders blindly." As far as that goes, Kirk and his crew disobeyed orders to search for Spock---why wouldn't he view that simulation? I would---it's a much better movie.

The TNG actors were badly served by the premise. They were clearly older than their TV TNG selves. The writers could have made this credible if they had been on the Enterprise E just before Nemesis or on the Titan; if they had come up with a good thread connecting the two eras, these actors---of both casts--- would have given them a truly memorable episode. Sirtis and especially Frakes were excellent, but having them masquerade as their younger selves was infuriating: please honor who they have become. The lines under Riker's eyes mean something, and there are stories there.

The Shran subplot is a rushed, undramatic excuse for action sequences. T'Pol has a nice moment sniffing Trip's clothes, but then how many times have we seen this move since E.T.? Soon she gets to deliver one of the lamest lines in memory, telling Archer "You look very heroic." Which is immediately followed by perhaps the best moment of the entire episode, when Archer/Bacula turns and embraces T'Pol/Blalock---it's one of those moments that seems to be simultaneously about the characters and the actors, and it even looks spontaneous. This is followed by another nice moment, a Phlox grin reminiscent of the computer-enhanced exaggerated alien grin of the very first episode.

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