In the yesteryears of the mid 90s, Paramount Pictures looked to continue the Star Trek boom begun by Star Trek: The Next Generation (which had recently ended) and expanded by Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Wishing to both return the series to its adventurous roots while breaking new social boundaries, they premiered the first episode of Star Trek: Voyager on January 16th, 1995. Featuring a female captain and a surprisingly diverse helping of crew members (by the end of this episode, at least), Star Trek: Voyager would continue on for six years and offer the setting to one of the best Star Trek games ever released (Editor’s Note: This was not a part of the agreed introduction, Tim.) (Tim Response: Don’t care, my phasers are set to frag!).
Every Monday we share a roundtable discussion about a Voyager episode featuring experts pulled from the close group of friends we could easily bribe. This week’s group consists of film/tv critic Ryan, the indomitable Seth and yours truly. Naturally, spoilers are a matter of course with this territory, and portions of our conversation drew on our knowledge of other episodes of both Voyager and other Star Trek shows. You have been warned.
This week covers the third episode of Season 1, “Parallax,” though Seth started us off with call-back to last week’s roundtable:
Seth – So I felt kind of bad that I missed the Captain Janeway love-in last week, so let me jump start things by saying that I love the scene where she and B’Ellana are geeking out over temporal mechanics. It just sort of occurred to me in that moment that we don’t often see the commanding officers in Star Trek showing any kind of enthusiasm for their job.
Ryan – I really liked that she was the expert on quantum singularities on the ship. That they don’t just make her captain, they show her having the skills and know-how that earned her that position.
Tim – Indeed.
Seth – I think it’s an interesting contrast to, say, Picard, who would generally have the science explained to him and pick from options presented by his officers. Janeway knows her science, so she’s figuring things out with B’Ellana instead of soliciting theories. The downside is that means that someone has to step in to have things explained so the audience knows what’s going on, which leads is to Paris being confused.
Tim – Which continues to establish Paris as the intended audience surrogate.
Ryan – I liked “Parallax,” it’s one of the few Voyager episodes I remember from having seen sometime as a child on some channel on TV. Maybe for that reason the quantam singularity plotline has always felt to me like a quintessential Star Trek story element.
Seth – Well, the starship being caught in some kind of weird, hard to escape anomaly is a fairly regular plot, and the series finale of TNG involved an anomaly that appeared before its cause, so it is drawing on some classic Trek ideas
Ryan – Yeah, that makes sense, Seth. It feels very Star Trek-y, to a casual Trek viewer. I did find the transitions to be really jarring (about as much as punching your starship through a tear in a quantum singularity, I’d imagine). It seemed like they were trying to jam in a whole like of disparate storylines.
Seth – I wasn’t too bothered by the transitions, but Paris continues to be pretty jarring. That scene where they finally spot their own temporal reflection and Paris immediately stands up and blocks the viewscreen is just so stupid
Ryan – I can tell Paris is going to in for a rough time with this group, though I’m going to chalk his standing up in front of the ship and the silly “punch right through, I’ll have to remember that” comment as bad choices on the director’s part.
Seth – It probably doesn’t help his popularity with this group that he seems to be there for the benefit of providing an occasion to explain the weirder science bits to the audience, which all of us don’t particular need, seeing as we’re all fairly well versed in science fiction
All was not roses and berries, however. One of the characters which had curried favor with our group, we felt, had been given the “short” (ha. ha ha.) end of the stick in this episode.
Ryan – This episode should be subtitled The Emasculation of a Digital Hologram, MD
Seth – It was kind of weird that they made the Doctor’s shrinking into a comic relief thing and everyone on board was so blase about it, given that it’s well established that he’s the only medical professional left on the ship. If a medical emergency comes up while he’s shrunken, there’s a very really chance that someone is screwed.
Tim – If nothing else (revolving the doctor), I took it as developing even further the idea that the Doctor is not considered an equal member of the crew just yet (something that gets addressed in a later episode)…though I am not certain if that was the intentional plot line going on. I think “comedic relief” is a far better description of what it was being treated as, especially towards the end.
Ryan – The Enshortening of the Doctor subplot was definitely the comic relief of the episode. That combined with his endearing catchphrase (and I’m paraphrasing) “doesn’t anyone ever remember to turn off my program” makes him one of the more immediately likable characters.
On the next page, we cover the quick resolution of a promising plot device, the challenges of running a starship far from the nearest Kwik-Stop, and science fiction minutiae.