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[VOY] Jammer's Review: "The Fight"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for the episode The Fight. If you haven t seen the show yet, beware. Nutshell: Weird and atmospheric, but
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 1999
      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for the episode "The
      Fight." If you haven't seen the show yet, beware.

      Nutshell: Weird and atmospheric, but what does it all mean?

      Plot description: With the ship trapped in "chaotic space," where the laws
      of physics do not apply, Chakotay's contact with an alien presence may be
      the only hope for escape.

      Star Trek: Voyager -- "The Fight"

      Airdate: 3/24/1999 (USA)
      Teleplay by Joe Menosky
      Story by Michael Taylor
      Directed by Winrich Kolbe

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: **

      "It's hard to follow them. They go to strange places." -- Chakotay's
      grandfather, perfectly describing this story

      The lights are on, but who's at home? I'm trying to figure out if this
      episode is really worth any more than the value of its strangeness. When it
      comes to execution, this is an episode that pushes the envelope. Just where
      does that envelope get pushed? I dunno--out there, somewhere. Very, very
      far out.

      Voyager, alas, seems to be in a bit of a rut. I hope it gets out soon,
      because season five has been pretty solid until recently. "The Fight" is
      not an awful show, and it certainly won't be remembered as an episode that
      didn't try. But the episode, for all its enthusiasm for being different,
      left me very unsatisfied. It's a mess. The producers and director put so
      much energy into a show that's so unfocused. Clearly, if they'd put that
      kind of energy into a show that made sense, they'd have something here. But
      one thing is certain: I'm not on the same page as writers Menosky and
      Taylor, and I don't think it's for lack of trying.

      Despite the routine tech stuff, I can actually swallow the basics of the
      plot. Chakotay is having a very weird day, but, then again, so is the
      entire Voyager crew. This is the sort of day that would warrant Janeway
      saying, once again, "Weird is part of the job."

      Voyager ends up stuck (in an idea a bit too similar to the "subspace
      sandbar" in "Bride of Chaotica!"), this time in something known as "chaotic
      space," where the rules of physics simply do not apply. If the crew can't
      figure out how to escape very soon, Voyager will be destroyed (cue music of
      doom). About this time, Chakotay starts hallucinating. It turns out that a
      hereditary mental defect he has is being stimulated by aliens who live in
      chaotic space. They're inducing the hallucinations in an effort to
      communicate with him. Subsequently, Chakotay goes on a vision quest to
      figure out what these hallucinations mean.

      It's this vision quest that gives me the most trouble in "The Fight." The
      episode is consumed with stylistics and atmosphere--which in itself is
      fine. But I was amazed at how ineffective this vision quest was in terms of
      revealing something intriguing about the situation or Chakotay's character.
      I'm sure there are people out there who will try to analyze every last
      detail in search of some sort of symbolism. Me--I don't buy a lot of it.
      The writers' intent here is simply not interesting enough to warrant so
      much supposed "symbolism." This is an episode in need of a psychologist.
      I'm not a psychologist; I'm a reviewer.

      Of course, that's not to say I won't try. In the final analysis, what "The
      Fight" really comes down to is Chakotay's reluctant need to keep
      "fighting"--overcoming his fear in order to communicate with this alien
      presence. And no one said that everything has to be laid out for the viewer
      in concrete, absolute terms. The boxing metaphor is reasonable enough; the
      idea of Chakotay taking blows as the aliens talk to him has a pretty clear
      psychological intent.

      But what about the rest of this mess? Chakotay's vision quest not only has
      boxing, but also Boothby. Why did this episode need Boothby? Apparently to
      give Ray Walston another Voyager appearance. And also to expand the
      character into something he's not--namely Burgess Meredith. (I liked it
      better when Boothby was framed in his groundskeeper role and a mentor to
      mainly Picard; now the door is open to stick him in any episode or holodeck
      setting that has to do with the old academy days, where apparently everyone
      in Starfleet knew him. Bah.)

      Then there's Chakotay's grandfather (Ned Romero), the "crazy old man" whom
      the episode views as some sort of symbol of tradition that Chakotay
      struggles with.

      And there's all the murky dialog with other characters in Chakotay's
      vision, where style, not substance, is the point.

      Each of these elements in itself is okay, but the episode throws them all
      together in an over-baked stew that makes surprisingly little sense. It's
      excessive, and the story suffers as a result. I got the feeling that the
      creators were trying too hard to accomplish a goal that wasn't even
      remotely certain.

      When Sisko has visions on DS9, I get the feeling it means something,
      because such visions usually grow out of some significant story point or
      character history; it's a *part* of the character. That's perhaps the big
      problem with Chakotay having visions here: They don't reveal much about the
      character that we can really understand. Okay, so he knew Boothby back at
      the academy, and he was a boxer in his free time, and he has different
      opinions than his grandfather. None of this comes to fruition by the end of
      the episode, so I'm forced to ask: So what? Like with all too many Voyager
      concepts, these elements serve the needs of the tech plot first, and the
      character a distant second.

      Coherence is a lost virtue. One needs to look no further than the opening
      minutes for a prime example: Why does the story begin as a flashback?
      There's no dramatic basis for it, no reason not to simply start the story
      in a normal, chronological manner. Unless the writers were trying to
      confuse us with weirdness (which given the rest of this episode is a
      distinct possibility), I'm not understanding at all the reason behind the
      flashback structure (or lack thereof).

      What remains is execution. Winrich Kolbe is one of my favorite Trek
      directors, and he demonstrates here that he has a knack for the utterly
      weird. Unfortunately, he demonstrates this to a fault, pushing way too hard
      at times. In "Infinite Regress" earlier this season, David Livingston went
      pretty far into chaos in that show's final act, but he used technique in a
      way that still told the story. In "The Fight," Kolbe simply doesn't have
      enough story behind him, and it seems to me that he overcompensated as a
      result. Some of this is neither understandable nor relevant. Doc's role in
      Chakotay's vision is particularly hammy and strange without having much of
      a point.

      The other problem is that the "chaos" feels a bit too staged. I was
      convinced in "Infinite Regress" that Seven was overburdened by voices, but
      here I was convinced I was watching actors trying to project urgency.
      Beltran and Picardo have several scenes together where they're yelling in
      terse phrases that are supposed to be frighteningly important and urgent,
      but it comes off too much as "acting." I appreciate seeing Beltran in a
      little bit less of a wooden role, but he never really convinced me that he
      was Chakotay on the verge of going nuts.

      I'll give "The Fight" points for atmosphere and ambition, but I have
      serious problems with the story's lack of sensibility and tendency to
      resort to wretched excess. It's an episode like this that reveals Voyager's
      biggest weaknesses--a series that tends to get caught up in mechanical
      sci-fi concepts that lack the human interest they need to be compelling.

      All in all, this is mediocre Voyager. I was somewhat entertained by the
      visual ambition of "The Fight," but the underlying story simply did not
      engage me. At the end, we've faced and escaped another anomaly and logged
      another day at the office. Chakotay goes back into the holodeck to fight a
      few rounds. Nothing really wrong with that, but nothing interesting about
      it either.

      Next week: SERENITY NOW!!! (Jason Alexander is an alien that appears to be
      a lot more serene than George Costanza on his best days.)

      Copyright (c) 1999 by Jamahl Epsicokhan, all rights reserved. Unauthorized
      reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

      Star Trek: Hypertext - http://st-hypertext.trekseek.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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