Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Hunters, Prey, Retrospect

I'm just gonna say up front, it's been a weird few days. Scott's working out of town and I elected to come with him so, for the fourth time in three months, I'm watching and blogging from a hotel. Actually, this one's pretty nice. It has a desk and I've suddenly been made to realize just how nice it is to have a big workspace and a chair. I usually sit in the floor. I've been doing a lot of art (Inktober has provided me with a great excuse to break out my pens) and watching a good deal of Voyager--when the hotel wifi is up to the task:

This one parks Voyager at a relay station while they try to retrieve a data dump from the Alpha Quadrant. Letters from home as well as important info from Starfleet is squeezing through the stream (slower than everyone would like--especially Harry) and everything is made worse when the Hirogen (who own the station) attack. We caught a glimpse of them in Message In A Bottle but here we see them up close and personal. Well, Seven and Tuvok do.
 I love the Hirogen. I think they're a great nemesis for Voyager and their design is beautiful. Where the Kazon were Voyager's Ferengi, the Hirogen are their Klingons. They're tough, war-like, and focused on the hunt. Their ships are stark and utilitarian. Also, they're huge. I love that they're huge. I realize the practical dilemma with recurring alien makeup on a budget--it takes forever, it's expensive, and guest actors often kind of suck once you put a pound of latex on their face and, of course, CGI (especially at this time) was worse. But the Hirogen design is glorious. Utilizing exceptionally tall actors (they tried not to cast anyone under 6'5" though this sort of fell apart later) is a smart move and it sets this species apart from the rest of Trek. They're a nice mix of Predator and Klingon and just the right kind of baddie for the diminutive Janeway and her single ship of puny, regular-sized folk.

Here, Voyager crosses paths with another Hirogen. This one's injured and, ignoring Seven's protestations, Janeway says they should try to be friends. Then the Hirogen wakes up and is all, "Where's my gun?!" and an intruder gets on-board and they let their new Hirogen friend out and holy crap it's Species 844530ujf093. Tuvok briefly makes a psychic connection with the intruder and Janeway's all, "Wait, can we be friends with him too?" But then the Hirogen shoots him and then Seven beams both aliens over to the Hirogen ship. She ends up getting grounded but since I'm a lot like Seven I'm here to tell you that, "Go to your room and be away from people for a week," isn't much of a punishment. Once again, I love all these Hirogen episodes and I love both Janeway's classic Starfleet optimism and Seven's realistic outlook and practical approach to "diplomacy."

 The 90's was a big time for latent memory recovery. All the cool kids were doing it: The X-Files, Buffy, TNG... Not to be outdone, The Doctor puts Seven (who's been acting super cagey) through a hypnotic process he casually read about somewhere and then gets some dodgy memories of abuse, theft, and violation out of her. Everyone rushes to Seven's aid but it turns out (and they have physical evidence to say so) she unintentionally made the whole thing up. By the time they realize their mistake, the man accused dies. For once, Voyager is wrong. Janeway is wrong. The Doctor is so wrong he feels nothing but remorse and offers to delete all the extra subroutines he's written into his program. But then, Janeway reminds him, how would he learn anything from this experience?
In a lot of ways, this episode is problematic. Looking at it through the lens of our current culture it's easy to see how this episode potentially promotes the kind of thinking that casts doubt on women who say they've been violated. And that's really not ok. But, on the other hand, this episode was written in the wake of the nation-wide hysteria surrounding both the day-care sex abuse panic and the satanic cult panic of the 80's and 90's. This kind of hysteria led to the life-ruining jail time (most of which was much later over-turned) of several innocent people. I actually knew someone who was wrapped up in all of this and even have my own story about a repressed (fake) memory. It's a real thing that really happens--especially with kids, who are easily coerced and led.
Of course, this is the problem when you're dealing with allegory. SciFi is often written as a commentary on the current culture. Even though the actual words or images don't change, its message seems to because we're seeing it through the lens formed by our society's current experiences, expectations, and feelings. Retrospect is, in many ways, a daring episode and it's one that only scratches the surface of a deep and complicated issue.

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