Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for the episode
"Juggernaut." If you haven't seen the show yet, beware.
Nutshell: It looks good, but the needle on the think-o-meter maintains a
level very near zero.
Plot description: An accident on a Malon freighter becomes a countdown to
an explosive toxic-waste disaster, and preventing the explosion depends on
Torres' ability to take control of a volatile mission.
Star Trek: Voyager -- "Juggernaut"
Airdate: 4/26/1999 (USA)
Teleplay by Bryan Fuller & Nick Sagan and Kenneth Biller
Story by Bryan Fuller
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: **1/2
"I didn't think Vulcans believed in luck."
"As a rule, we don't. But serving with Captain Janeway has taught me
-- Seven and Tuvok
Roxann Dawson is an actress of enormous appeal: edgy, attractive,
energetic, convincing--and projecting lots of intelligence. It's too bad
the stories can't dig deeper into her character in a quest for finding
something new. The latest B'Elanna vehicle, "Juggernaut," seems for the
most part pitched to a crowd that doesn't want to be bothered with thinking
about anything unfolding on the screen. Not that that's necessarily a bad
thing, because "Juggernaut" exploits Dawson's talents nonetheless, even if
in primarily superficial ways.
This is the type of episode that's all atmosphere and minimal substance.
With perhaps one key exception, what substance we have is mostly
unmistakably obvious, with the lesson telegraphed far in advance.
But that doesn't really matter too much, because "Juggernaut" is an hour
sold almost completely on performance, direction, and production values.
The only real mystery here: How did it require three writers to come up
with such a bare-boned story?
"Juggernaut" isn't bad; it's just really, really simple. It's B-movie
action/adventure, with 20th-century themes that look like they were
purchased at a bargain store. Maybe I'm somewhat spoiled right now with the
deeply layered story arc of Deep Space Nine currently unfolding, but I
think Voyager can dig a little deeper than this.
Here lies the epitome of safe, mainstream appeal. Maybe that's why it was
made. Episodes like this make my job as a reviewer a cake walk. I'm
scarcely inspired to think about what I've seen (what you see is about all
you get), so all I really need to do is react. My reaction is something
along the lines of, "Nice sets, nice dirt, nice grime, nice smoky
atmosphere." And, of course, "Nice job, Roxann Dawson." Dawson gets a
chance to look real cool and badass-esque this week.
Anyway, to get the big gripe out of the way, I must ask: What the hell are
the Malon doing out here? Shouldn't they be about 25 years behind Voyager's
present position? Supposing they do have some form of ultra-fast
travel--which given past stories doesn't seem at all likely--why don't we
hear about it? I'm not trying to nitpick, but the presence of the Malon not
only seems incredibly dubious, but is indicative of a thinking pattern that
is frighteningly similar to encountering the Kazon again and again during
season two. One of the biggest appeals of season five is that we got two
giant leaps closer to the Alpha Quadrant, instilling a sense of progress in
the series. Now all of a sudden the writers bring back the Malon, so what
am I supposed to be thinking? That 25 years is just a joke to be utilized
when the producers feel like it? (Grrrr.)
Putting aside the continuity holes, however, the episode does manage to
make the Malon somewhat more interesting than past episodes ("Night,"
"Extreme Risk") have depicted them. These toxic-waste haulers, labeled
none-too-happily "the scourge of the quadrant" by Torres at one point in
the story, take on a certain depth here, mainly because the story has the
Voyager crew working with them rather than against them. The Malon here are
more fully defined people instead of cheap sources of conflict.
The lead Malon survivor, Fesek (Ron Canada), offers a sympathetic and
fairly interesting persona as a laborer who doesn't particularly like the
fact he has to haul around toxic waste to earn a living, but simply accepts
it as a simple fact of life (as well as all the permanent damage his body
takes because of radiation poisoning). The Malon come across as a
well-intentioned but flawed society with a toxic waste issue that
unfortunately seems to earn them that reputation, "scourge of the
quadrant." They dump their waste, but try to do so safely, in isolated
areas of space. Internal to their society, there are those who sacrifice
their well-being--the "core laborers," who work so close to the reactor
that they're likely setting themselves up for an early death--for the
benefit of the "greater good," hence the appropriate issue of the
The main premise is one of those race-against-the-clock machines: Malon
ship experiences mechanical catastrophe; Malon crew is mostly killed;
Voyager crew happens upon crippled Malon ship, rescues a few Malon
survivors; Malon tell Voyager crew that Malon vessel will blow up very
soon, laying waste to massive areas of space; Voyager crew--led by
engineering whiz Lt. Torres--must help quickly defuse Malon reactor before
occurrence of big explosion.
The rest of the story comprises the away team walking, crawling, or running
through Malon tunnels in an attempt to shut down the reactor (via loosely
story-defined "checkpoints") before it blows. There's a twist: A creature
might be looming in the tunnels. No maybe about it--one of the team, an
ill-fated Malon that should've been wearing a red shirt--gets attacked (to
death) by this "creature." We don't get a good look at the creature, of
course, until the end, when the "creature's" identity wraps up the story
(more on that in a moment).
Aside from the simple mechanics of the plot, the central character story is
about B'Elanna's emotional control problems. A scene early in the episode
has B'Elanna being counseled by Tuvok on the finer points of meditation,
etc., as Tuvok plays Yoda and offers B'Elanna insights like, "The rage
within you runs deep."
This isn't bad, but it's about as subtle as a brick--to the face. The whole
characterization is written and played up to an obviousness that requires
very little effort on the part of the viewer. And we can tell far in
advance that Torres' anger--which can also provide "a source of strength,"
as Tuvok says--will be used later in the story on the hardware side of the
plot (as a source of strength, naturally).
Character-wise, haven't we been here, and done this? Why is it we suddenly
have B'Elanna unable to control her emotions, in an overstated manner that
seems to regress her character back to season one? I like B'Elanna's fire,
but it's much better utilized as an aspect of the character (like her fury
concerning the genocide cover-up in third season's "Remember," for example)
rather than the embodiment of it.
Also, something in Dawson's contract this season apparently says she must
remove layers of clothing every time she becomes the anchor of a show.
(Pleading guilty, I'll note the trend, but I won't complain about it.) It's
nice to have female-driven action out here in TV land, but given the
character's history, couldn't this be worth more? I suppose my biggest
complaint is that we don't get enough B'Elanna episodes, and I hate to see
the few we get devoted to almost completely hardware-driven stories.
Synopsis of the hardware aspect of the story would be relatively pointless;
one can't convey atmosphere in a review (at least not in a way that would
be worth the space devoted to description). Suffice it to say the
corridor-traipsing is sufficiently well executed for what it sets out to
do. The ending has all the major characters trapped in the reactor room
while the "creature" is zeroing in on them ... as Seven, back aboard
Voyager, monitors a viewscreen with the floor plan of the Malon ship
denoting the location of Our Heroes and the "creature" in a cinematic
statement obviously inspired by "Alien" and a dozen other movies.
The "creature" turns out to be not a creature but a core laborer who has
gone insane with a quest for vengeance and has sabotaged his own ship, with
the new intention of killing everyone on board the vessel and blowing it
up. I have mixed feelings on the monster turning out to be a disgruntled
crewman. On one hand, it's not very interesting; but on the other, it does
make the juggernaut theme more solid.
That brings us to the hour's one moment of genuine thought--the moment
where B'Elanna is the last line of defense between the core laborer and his
plan to blow up the ship. The obviousness of B'Elanna's temper protecting
herself and her shipmates follows the pattern along the obvious line
established early in the episode, as she beats him into submission and is
able to delay the ship's destruction. However, the consequences of the
violence are briefly considered before and after the fact. B'Elanna tries
to first reason with the core laborer before resorting to the necessary
violence. And after the crisis is over, there's a good scene where she goes
back to her quarters and ponders the unfortunate nature of having to resort
to anger and violence--something I imagine she hoped to avoid when she
started the mission.
Other than this one scene, most of the plot is mechanical A-to-B plotting.
Still, though, I found "Juggernaut" appealing for all the superficial
reasons it probably set out to be. The production values made for good,
grimy eye-candy, and Dawson is extremely watchable in a physical role,
where ultimately she's fighting off toxic-waste Malon baddies with a pipe.
If I'm going to see characters in a potboiler story like this, B'Elanna is
a particularly good choice.
I'm a B'Elanna fan. I think she's the most unjustly underused character on
Voyager's ensemble (opposed to Neelix, who is generally a more justly
underused character--but that's just a cheap shot that I couldn't resist).
I was looking forward to "Juggernaut." Dawson doesn't disappoint. Nor does
the atmosphere. But the overall simplicity of the story doesn't give the
character what she's due.
Next episode: Seven takes some lessons on romance.
Copyright (c) 1999 by Jamahl Epsicokhan, all rights reserved. Unauthorized
reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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