Sorry for the lack of a post last week, was getting this ready.
How I wanted to love you.
Show Notes (coming soon).
No really, back in the day I was looking forward to this and read what I could in every magazine about the upcoming show. (I think I still have those magazines.)
Rewatching the premiere of the show for this video, it was shocking to me just how sloppy the writing is (I was so young and ignorant back in the day). So much happens for no reason but because the script requires it. No really, watch it closely. The ship is brought to the Delta Quadrant (DQ) as a wreck. They barely keep it from blowing up then the Caretaker kidnaps everybody (emphasis on EVERYBODY). When they are returned, it’s established as 3 days later, yet despite a little bit of debris on the engineering section’s carpet, the ship will act completely functional for the rest of the episode. WHO REPAIRED IT? The holographic EMH? The Caretaker?
Then in the episode they go to a debris field because sensors detect another main character – I mean a ship in the area. Why are they seeking someone else? Of course, given this follows right after the Caretaker returns them, the characters COULD go to the space-junkyard because the ship is still wrecked from the journey and they need parts. It’s frustrating how the show will repeatedly pass up these easy, organic setups for plot advancement in favor of less sensible reasons.
For another example: In his review of the pilot episode, SFDebris talks about how the show wants to aim at Captain Janeway having agency in staying in the DQ. They want to kick off the show with the captain choosing her path, not because she was forced to. Well the problem is they set up her choice so it comes off as either really stupid or callous or because we need a show. The OBVIOUS SOLUTION to this is to have the option to return home available to Janeway but is risky. Then she has the agency to choose to stay in a way that’s understandable to the audience and organic to the plot.
From there the show just steadily goes downhill until Seven of Nine is introduced. You start to wonder if the writers had ever done anything outside of a committee. For example in the following episode, “Parallax” (which I rewatched), the principle conflict and challenge of the episode is a committee meeting over who gets to be in charge of engineering and who will get their feelings hurt based on that promotion. (You know I really don’t want to make some sexist jokes, but this show doesn’t make it easy on me.) It’s hard to tell why they bother choosing Torres except she gets her name in the credits. Again, a simple and obvious solution presents itself organically from the set up: have the existing engineer be too rigid minded for the situation. Carey would be a fine chief engineer if they were back in the Federation and he could get official starfleet parts overnighted to him by future amazon, but they’re not. Torres, for all her flaws, does know how to make an engine work from anything she can get her hands on (yes, like Kaylee). Less committee, more doing.
If you’re familiar much with Trek, you know that Roddenberry had a philosophy of what the show and future should be, a guideline called “the Roddenberry Box.” Looking back, it is pretty clear that TOS and TNG helped establish and define this box’s boundries.
The problem is, you can’t keep a franchise going within such strictures, eventually it will get old and stale. Eventually you have to push at the box and test it. DS9 did this in practical way, challenging the Federation and Utopia in a literal sense with the Dominion. With VOY, the show runners had the chance to push at the box in a metaphysical way. They say character is what you are in the dark. Likewise could the principles – the IDEALS – of the Federation survive outside of it? If you watched the show, you’ll notice the writers seem to nearly try this once in awhile, yet will often contrive reasons to have things work out in the end. They never really put things at risk, like an episode where Janeway has to go against the ideals and things work out or one where she holds to them and things go sideways. The closest would maybe be the 2 parter “Scorpion” (and it’s followup, “Hope & Fear”) which, you’ll note, is generally considered one of the best episodes of the series. If you want another example, watch the late season 7 episode “The Void,” in that we see the ideals reaffirmed.
Had the show runners actually tried with the show (following the rules and logic of the story) and taken a few risks, it probably wouldn’t be remembered as the stepping stone onto Star Trek’s slippery slope of quality.