Thursday, December 31, 2015

To The Journey: Rewatching Voyager's Endgame

I wish I had more time. Or maybe an injection of chronexiline. I'd love to write about Lineage, Author, Author, or Workforce. But, I'm out of time. I'm watching Endgame as I write this and, at the moment, I feel like taking back the stuff I said about how Shattered should've been the Voyager finale. 

I still stand by what I said about Shattered being a fantastic episode but, even only twenty minutes in, I'm already feeling many emotions about the finale. The last time I watched this one I'd spent the prior eleven months storming through Trek. I'd watched about three episodes a day, every day, and I'd lived a life of Star Trek and, even though I wasn't aware of it, I was about to show the effects of Trek Burnout. I still loved Voyager and I still felt sad when it was over but I distinctly remember feeling not only the pressure of having to squeeze all of Enterprise into December but also the entire weight of My Year of Star Trek sort of hovering over me. 

That was 2013. Now, somehow, it's about six hours away from 2016. The last couple of years have been a whirlwind. 2015 has been especially ridiculous. I finished the Awesome Jones sequel and turned it in. Silver Tongue came out and on the same night someone very close to me attempted suicide. I took time away from basically everything. I wrote a new and unexpected book. I changed the way I eat and the way I lift. I got new personal records in bench and squat. I booked last minute travel arrangements so that we could be in Kentucky when my father-in-law had emergency heart surgery then I sat in his hospital room late at night watching Voyager while he slept. Three anxious weeks passed there. We came home and I resumed revisions on the new book then spent a month doing nothing but drawing for Inktober. I got sick. I pulled my intercostal muscles. I developed an infection. I came back. I started playing the violin. I saw Star Wars. I saw Star Wars. I saw Star Wars. I saw Star Wars with my dad and sisters. I saw Star Wars. I saw Star Wars on the Disney Lot--that was today. 

And now, suddenly, it's almost a new year and I'm watching Endgame. 

I still think mistakes were made. Seven and Chakotay still seem like a forced, unnecessary, sudden relationship. I still think it suffers from being easily compared to All Good Things. But, unlike TNG's storied finale, wherein Picard is an unwitting player, slipping through his own timestream at the hands of Q, Janeway is active. As in all of Voyager, Janeway takes charge of her own destiny--the destiny of her crew, her family. Janeway is on a mission. A mission to get her crew home earlier, to save Seven of Nine, her almost daughter. 

Janeway, twenty-five years after getting Voyager (sans Seven) home, she hatches a plan with Reg Barclay to go back and fix some of the stuff that's been nagging her all this time. She gets a special time-proof vaccine from the doc, grabs a shuttle, snatches a Klingon time deflector, and shoots herself back into her own timeline--with the help of Captain Harry Kim. Janeway pops into the timeline as we know it and tells her past Janeway she's come back with the purpose of getting them all home earlier but they have to fly into a recently passed nebula--a nebula crawling with Borg. 
Things I love about Endgame: 
-Seven playing kadis-kot with Neelix over Facetime. 
-Tom and B'Elanna readying themselves for a baby in the midst of all this and I love how far they've come as a couple. I love that they've gotten used to the idea of raising their daughter in the Delta Quadrant. 
-Captain Harry Kim is the most interesting version of Harry Kim so far and it makes me wish they'd found more to do with him besides just giving him terrible love interests 
-Future Reginald Barclay (like all versions of Barclay) is my BFF. 
-Miral Paris is a total BAMF and I love her. 
-Tuvok's emotional/mental struggle is heartbreaking but I wish there'd been more time to go into it. 
-I LOVE Voyager's kickass new shields. 
-The Borg Queen is a perfect final villain for Janeway and her ship. It might not be as perfectly cyclical as Q's seven-year-sparring match with Picard but the Janeway/Seven/Borg Queen trifecta is a good matchup and it's not only satisfying to see them face off one last time it also totally makes sense that their way home is a Borg transwarp hub. 
-The last senior officer meeting and Harry Kim's speech. 
-I love how dogged Admiral Janeway is. How ready she is to do anything for her crew.

In the end, Janeway does it. She finds a way to bring her crew home. The atmosphere on Voyager's bridge when they emerge in the Alpha Quadrant--that of almost disbelief--is perfect. The relief, the longheld anticipation, the realization of their goal is tangible and just rigiht.

I think the only thing missing here, for me, is the after-effect of their arrival. Voyager is so much about what it means to be a family but the last twenty minutes of the finale are all about Janeway's battle with the Borg Queen. I wish there'd been time, as in All Good Things, to take a breath and let this crew be a family together, in the Alpha Quadrant, having finally, after everything they've been through, succeeded. That's what I need, on this New Year's Eve, a moment of reflection, of peace. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Shattered

It's down to the wire. I watched eight episodes of Voyager yesterday and I have tonight and tomorrow to get through the last seven. I'm doing my best but there's plenty of other, actual, life stuff I need to do as well. Like, you know, eat and sleep and see Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the sixth time.
Anyway, yesterday I re-watched Shattered and thought I absolutely had to write about it because, in many ways, I feel Shattered should've been Voyager's finale.

SitRep: Voyager gets caught in a temporal rift (with Chakotay getting a good dose of it) and the ship is split into several slices of Voyager's past and future. Chakotay (thanks to the The Doc's treatment) can slip between each section of time while the rest of the crew is stuck in their respective eras. Eventually Chakotay and Janeway team up in what becomes a sort of tour through Voyager's past, present, and potential futures. It's a greatest hits album for Janeway & Co and even goes so far as to include the macro-virus, Seska's brief takeover, and the Captain Proton program.
Shattered has all the elements of a good Trek: rompy fun, sciency calamity, adventure, danger, and heart. And it has, in spades, what sets Voyager apart: Shattered is about what makes the crew a family. Season Seven Chakotay introduces Pilot Episode Janeway to the next several years of her life and, naturally, she questions whether or not she should ever have made the choice that stranded Voyager in the Delta Quadrant and it's easy to question the choice along with her. Chakotay points out how many lives have been changed for the better because of Janeway's choice.

I love Endgame and I'm looking forward to it but I remember that, watching it in 2013, I felt that it suffered from the too-easy comparison to the somewhat superior All Good Things. Shattered is also similar but it's smaller in scale, sweeter, and, in many ways, more representative of what sets Voyager apart from the rest of Trek. Voyager's crew is thrown together because of a choice Janeway made seven years ago. They've been through so much, seen so much, they've changed and grown and become a family together in a way that no other Trek crew has and Shattered makes this difference palpable. And beautiful.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch Body and Soul

I'm in Kentucky for Christmas and I'm freezing--because it's hot outside and my inlaws are running the AC. I don't even blame them. I went for a walk this morning wearing a tank top. It's actually much colder back in SoCal. What's happening?! 

I had a crazy day of travel yesterday--worthy of any "trying to get home for the holidays" Christmas flick. It wasn't without its perks though. We saw some snow: 
We nearly missed our second connection and had to run through the airport to make it. Once we got to Kentucky we had to get in a car and drive two hours through a flash flood to get home. We pulled in around 2am soggy and exhausted but, at least, here. 

Before I left for my very, very long day of holiday travel I watched Body and Soul wherein Seven transfers The Doctor's matrix into her Borg tech to save him from some holo-phobic aliens. This leads to The Doc actually inhabiting Seven's body which leads to comic hijinx--so you know I love it. 

Seven is usually so literal and severe that it can be surprising how finely tuned Jeri Ryan's comedy skills are. She absolutely shines in this one as The Doctor in Seven's body. Most of the time when an actor wants to flex their acting muscles they want something super dramatic so they can tear at their hair and rip their shirt and whatever and that's fine I suppose. But I think Jeri Ryan does more in Body and Soul and Imperfection (a few episodes before this one wherein she expresses emotion at the thought of losing Icheb) than most actors do in any movie or episode where there's a lot of screaming and wailing. 

Anyway, this ones worth a watch. I'm loving this seventh season all over again and I'm dreading the end of Voyager's journey. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Muse

Yep. I'm still going along. Basically, while I was sick I couldn't do anything--anything. And now that I've been back I've had about a million things to catch up on. Also Christmas is about to happen. Also I had to go to a Holiday Party last night. While it was fine and everyone was very pleasant I've pretty much filled my in-person social quota for the year--and Christmas (the season of speaking to other human beings) is only just beginning. Oh, also, I've been working on this weird sort of project since I got well. A friend suggested I do a coloring book for grown-ups and I played with a few ideas until I came up with "Dogs in Sweaters" (likely to be followed with Cats, Mythological Creatures, and Jane Austen in Sweaters) and if you're a coloring enthusiast you're more than welcome to check it out over on Etsy or Gumroad.

Ok so here's what I'm really here to talk about today: 
Though it looks like Antigone or Prometheus Bound, it's not a classical Greek play. It's Voyager's Muse. I love this one. I was telling Scott last night that it might actually be my favorite episode even though it always seems to fly under my radar and doesn't possess any of the stuff that usually goes into a recipe for AR's fav ST episodes. No Doctor, really. No Seven. No crazy rompy elements. 

In Muse, B'Elanna crashlands on a bronze age planet and finds herself the subject of a play about "The Immortals" thanks to the playwright's fairly logical assumption that she must be one of their gods. The entire story is about the basics and nuances of a story and, ultimately, the importance of storytelling. In this way it's very much like my favorite TNG (and possibly all-time fav Trek) episode, Darmok. Storytelling is entertainment. Stories evoke emotion. They make us cry; they make us laugh. We hand them down. We learn from them. We get our morals and our values from them. We cherish them. And they're completely intangible. We can't set hands on a story--not really. It exists as part of a shared cultural experience and that's where its value lies. I've thought a lot about this lately. Mostly because tonight I'm going to a (slightly) advance screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I've always been more into Star Trek than Star Wars. This is primarily a function of my childhood--my dad loved Star Wars but he grew up with Trek and was primarily a Trekkie. Same with my mom. Trekkie parents=Trekkie kids. It's all indoctrination. Still, I remember the day my dad brought out the Star Wars VHS tapes and I learned about Luke and Leia. I still remember freaking out over the revelation of Vader as Luke's father. I still remember the dreams I had about the forest moon of Endor. When the prequels came out we watched all the originals again, and all their commentaries and we loved the prequels in spite of their missteps.

Scott and I were dating when Revenge of the Sith was released. We saw it together on opening night and then the next night at our small town drive-in and six more times (and would've seen it more if we'd had the money.) Scott grew up a Star Wars kid. He loves Trek mightily (which contributed to our getting together) but he's a Star Wars super fan. So of course we were thrilled to get tickets to a local advance screening.

And then I got an email from the organizer which said: Due to recent events, there will be no masks or toy/replica weapons of any kind allowed in the theater.

"Recent events" weren't specified but we all know what they're talking about. When the "recent event" happened in a Batman showing, I was stunned. I couldn't even go about my day. I fell into despondency. It totally knocked me off course. Why?

Batman is a story. It's meant to entertain but also to inspire. To teach kids that you can change the world for the better even if you don't have superpowers. That you can stand up for people who can't stand up for themselves. That you can make a difference. As a kid, I loved Batman. I believed in him. The same way I believe in Trek. The same way I believe in Star Wars.

These stories are modern mythology. They're larger than life. Their plots are simple and their heroes and villains fall on one side or the other with little gray area. They're enjoyable and exciting and memorable and we show them to our kids not only because they're fun to watch, not only because they're part of our culture, part of our shared history, part of our greater human legacy, but also because we want our kids to be more like the heroes in these films. We want to give them good role models. We want them to grow up conscientious, caring people who would stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves, etc.

So, I guess the whole point of this is that it makes me really sad that there even has to be an email. That there have been any "recent events" at all. That the ideals--the rules--of these stories were so horrifyingly broken and that we all have to be nervous about sitting in a theater now. It makes me sad.

Still, I'm not giving up on the idea that stories can change lives, hearts, cultures. I believe in their power. I believe in the message that is so clearly spelled out in Voyager's Muse:
Kelis: Anger is like fire. Love can be the rain that extinguishes it. My patron is filled with hatred for his rival. So our play should be filled with love.
B'Elanna: You can't change somebody's way of life with a few lines of dialogue. 
Kelis: Yes, you can! It's been done before. Do you know what this place used to be, a hundred years ago? A temple. And this was the altar stone. Every year, a victim would be sacrificed on it, in honor of winter. And then, one year - nobody remembers exactly when or why - a play took the place of the ritual. And no one had to die here again. Why can't my play take the place of a war?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Back on Track

I'm still watching Voyager, just so you know. I mean, I don't want you getting all worried about that. The thing is, this kidney infection left me totally exhausted. Even after I finished the antibiotic I still felt like some kind of dried out sea creature that had wondered onto land. I've not really been able to do any art or work out or really much of anything besides slug around on the couch. One day I tried to take a walk and immediately had to lie down and then I crashed for two hours. Today is the first day I feel even remotely like myself.

So, of course I'm watching Voyager. I'm trucking along. Right this minute I'm watching Ashes to Ashes--the one where Lindsay Ballard (dead ensign) shows up after three years as a lovely violet alien who thinks she wants to eat fruit salad and crack jokes but mostly what she really wants to do is mope and eat gray paste.
I love this character design. I love the extra lobes of her brain shaping her skull, I love the coloring--especially the spiky coloring on her eyelids which make it seem as though she has extra-long eyelashes. I love the ears. I love the wardrobe. I feel like Voyager really gets into its alien-design stride somewhere in Season Five. Maybe with the Hirogen?

The other thing that occurs to me in this episode--and I've mentioned it before--is that you should never, ever, ever go anywhere in a shuttle. Always use the transporter. If you can't--you need to head right on down to sickbay and try to get yourself a doctor's note because that shuttle is pretty much your ticket to ride--in a torpedo casing. Because you'll die. Anyway, that's what happened to Lindsay and now she's back.

Of course, this is a Harry Kim episode which means he'll be having a brief, stormy romance before the girl dies/leaves. Tom Paris actually pokes fun at this trope when he cites all the doomed relationships Harry's gotten himself into. Lindsay goes back to her new people and Voyager goes on about its way.

I'm most of the way through Season Six of Voyager now and a third of the way through December. I feel like I'll be able to manage this--so, stick around, and hopefully I'll be able to get back on track.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Fairhaven

Please excuse any weird grammar/typos herein. I'm writing this on my phone because I simply can't be bothered to drag out my laptop because I still feel terrible. Honestly, what even is this? Kidney infections are shit. I'm just gonna say it. I'm exhausted, lethargic, confused, completely consumed with weird salt cravings (it was so bad yesterday that I wondered into the kitchen and just started eating olives out of the jar.) I'm feeling much better today. I even took a shower! Everyone in my house will benefit from that choice! Still, I've still got the brain cloud. I actually looked down at my body in the shower and thought, "Wait, am I ten feet tall? ... No...I'm pretty sure I'm normal size."  

I can only hope I'm not sitting here unknowingly writing this post in wing-dings or emojis. 

Anyway, I spent a lot of the last few days just staring at the ceiling or dozing restlessly but when I saw that Fairhaven was next up in my Voyager queue I had to go ahead and hit play. Fairhaven was just the mini-vacation I needed. 

I always think Fairhaven is introduced earlier than it is. And I always think it comes up more than it does. In fact, it only premiers in Season Six and appears in only two episodes. 

I've never considered this one of my favorites but I've always found it sort of charming. I like the idea of Janeway basically falling for what is essentially a character in a novel/tv show. Who among us hasn't had a similar experience? Whether it's Darcy or The Doctor, Thrandruil or Khan (my predilection for imperious, aloof, intellectual dudes is really showing here.) 

The thing I find most interesting--and never noticed before this re-watch--is that every change she makes to her holo-man, she already has in Chakotay. Outspoken, educated, tall, slightly rougeish, and provocative (that last one's debatable and subjective but whatever.) 
On top of all that this Irish bartender isn't a pale, freckled ginger--he's square jawed and tall with black hair. 
I literally cannot tell these men apart: 
The only thing separating these men is a face tattoo. 

Anyway, in poking around the Internet for these photos I noticed that people hate this one. HATE IT. And, as usual, I don't really get that. Is this one a classic? Probably not. But it's a romp full of our TV friends messing around on a sunny backlot and pretending it's Ireland. Voyager's gone through a lot of holo-programs and I like this one. Then again, I like period pieces and spend every night reading old timey novels (currently: The Turn of the Screw.) so maybe I'm biased.

I think the biggest travesty in this episode is that no one seemed to notice how very like Chakotay Janeway's new squeeze is.

 Alright. I'm going back to my sick bed. (sick couch) I'll be better soon. And back at it. 

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