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[VOY] Jammer's Review: "Juggernaut"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , May 8, 1999
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      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
      otherwise."
      -- 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
      "juggernaut."

      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.

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