Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Voyager Rewatch: Prime Factors

First of all, my birthday was a couple days ago which I wouldn't mention except that I think it's kind of amazing that I've celebrated THREE birthdays with this blog:

I meant to write a post that day and talk about my cake and whatever but I got caught up working and playing Borderlands and watching Death Comes to Pemberley so the birthday post I was so excited about writing totally ran off the rails.

Anyway, I also recently watched the ninth episode of Voyager--Prime Factors. This one's kind of a beast and I mean that in a good way. It's an episode that made me cringe when I saw it the first time but I appreciate it more and more with each viewing.

Basic Story: Voyager encounters a planet full of folks who just like to hang out and enjoy life and they invite Janeway and her crew to chill with them and a guy with a shmancy accent gives Janeway a scarf while Harry Kim hangs out with some chick who's way into checking the weather. Harry finds out that these aliens have incredible transporter technology and, in theory, they could send the whole ship about 40K light years ahead on their journey. But the aliens won't do it because Starfleet isn't the only organization around with a Prime Directive. Moral dilemmas, bargaining, and treachery ensue.

So this one clearly has a lot going on. What stands out most to me is the idea of a Starfleet vessel running into a race of people who are more advanced than they are and yet not willing to share their technology. It totally puts a Trek crew on the other side of the privilege fence. This is a powerful idea and one that isn't explored that much in Trek. Though the TOS crew encounter beings more powerful than they are and TNG has Q problems and DS9 has all kinds of brush-ups with jerks from the Gamma Quadrant, none of those aliens are such a direct parallel to what Starfleet does every single day when aliens who aren't as advanced want their tech. And none of those crews are all alone in a strange and unfamiliar space without any backup.

The crew realize they could do a shady deal outside of the government's knowledge and essentially steal the transporter technology but they'd be compromising their ideals to do so. Ultimately the decision lies with Janeway and she can't go through with it. That's where the next really interesting bit comes in--Tuvok decides to take the burden of guilt from Janeway and steal the tech himself. At first this seems fairly out of character but the (beautifully played) conversation between Tuvok and Janeway at the end of the episode justifies his actions to me. This scene is an excellent example of what not only Voyager but all of Trek can do. It makes us question the logic we use all the time, the way we justify all kinds of things in our daily lives, and the way we chose to protect the ones we love.
"You can use logic to justify anything. That's its power and its flaw."
The friendship between Janeway and Tuvok is deep and hard-won and completely believable. It feels real. Watching Mulgrew and Russ, I believe they've known each other for years and that's why, when Tuvok betrays Janeway, we feel her heartbreak.

All of this, in the past, tended to be overshadowed for me though. Mostly because of this guy:
The whole idea of a planet where everyone's focused on having a good time isn't a bad idea in itself. But, smooshed into an episode where you're dealing with really heavy issues, it makes the episode feel like a Frankenstein. This guy (and all the people on his planet) are way into pleasure. They talk about pleasure all the time. All. The. Time. And, again, it's not that this is necessarily a problem--if it were in another episode. I just can't help wondering how a culture whose sole ambition is to experience pleasure (and who get bored quickly and easily) had the drive and determination to come up with a transporter technology far beyond anything the Federation has ever encountered. I'm not saying that a hedonistic culture doesn't come up with some legit amazing inventions. I mean, the same culture that went around putting nudie mosaics and dong graffiti all over the place whilst scheduling orgies and drinking wine morning noon and night and also built this:

And this:

So it's hard to say. Still, I find the pleasure culture an unfortunate distraction.

Anyway, this episode has a lot going for it. Even if this slimy Belgian alien guy won't shut up about pleasure.

Bonus Points:
-Seska is a bad-ass lady villain and I can't wait to see her go all-out evil later on.
-I love how interested in everything Janeway is. This girl can put away some hors d'oevours and pecan pie.
-The way Roxanne Dawson plays B'Elanna's failure and the decision to tell Janeway the truth about her betrayal is pitch-perfect.
-In the mess hall scene toward the beginning we see a woman that looks like Samantha Wildman. It's not her. But it still makes me happy for some reason.

1 comment:

  1. I agree on the contradiction between the pleasure-centered culture and their super advanced technology.

    Maybe the Romans were more into Stoicism than hedonism.


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