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[VOY] Jammer's Review: "Drive"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager s Drive. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: An average, amicable,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 24, 2000
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager's "Drive."
      If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.


      In brief: An average, amicable, marshmallow-consistency show in which
      some underused characters actually show up.

      Plot description: Torres and Paris' relationship takes a twist on the eve
      of a shuttle racing event Paris has entered, celebrating the anniversary
      of a peace treaty in a former war zone.

      -----
      Star Trek: Voyager -- "Drive"

      Airdate: 10/18/2000 (USA)
      Written by Michael Taylor
      Directed by Winrich Kolbe

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: **1/2

      "I was just going to congratulate you. She's not a Borg, she's not a
      hologram, and she's not dead. Looks like you might've finally found
      yourself the perfect woman." -- Tom to Harry
      -----

      If you're looking for something substantive, you'd best look elsewhere.
      "Drive" is a featherweight Voyager outing -- an amiable episode that will
      hopefully make you grin from time to time, hopefully make you glad that
      they've actually dealt with a character theme that has been largely
      ignored for the past three years, and hopefully remind you that the plot
      of last week's "Imperfection," while mired in overused Borg milieu, was a
      pretty meaty story -- which this is not. The plot details of "Drive" are
      an excuse to give us a relationship show on a series which the
      now-only-peripherally-involved Brannon Braga has always maintained "is
      not a relationship show."

      In other words, this is generally effective marshmallow fluff. Ambitious?
      Hardly. Reasonably well-executed on its terms? For the most part, yes. A
      pleasant, likable hour? I think so.

      It's a rare Paris/Torres episode, with a subplot involving Harry "I'm
      Such a Hapless but Lovable Chump" Kim. For once we have a story that is
      actually about the characters, and not about the plot. Well, sort of.
      Sure, the relationship story involving Tom and B'Elanna may be a fairly
      standard iteration on a formula -- but, hey, I'm glad the writers made
      the effort. Maybe Kenneth Biller, running the show from here on out, will
      actually deliver on some of those rumored reports of increased continuity
      and character development for Voyager's final season. "Drive" displays
      some possible signs of that.

      Regarding the plot -- it begins as a somewhat refreshing change of pace
      in that the aliens we meet aren't automatically shooting at us. On the
      contrary, Kim and Paris find themselves testing the new Delta Flyer and
      drag-racing another pilot in the episode's teaser. Shuttle drag racing --
      that's sort of an interesting idea. ("Imperfection" and "Drive" were
      flip-flopped from the originally intended air schedule, which I think is
      proven here as a dumb idea -- the whole idea of establishing the "new"
      Delta Flyer is at least made into something of a point here, whereas in
      "Imperfection" it was reduced to a lame joke.)

      The drag-racing opponent in the teaser is a woman named Irina (Cyia
      Batten, who was the first of three actors to play Dukat's daughter Ziyal
      on DS9), whom Harry very quickly attempts to befriend. (Place your bets
      now on whether Harry will hook up, but I urge you to consider his track
      record.) Irina informs Tom and Harry of a racing event taking place
      nearby. This region of space, you see, was once a big war zone, but now
      the formerly warring societies have established this shuttle race as a
      celebration for the anniversary of a peace treaty that is only a few
      years old.

      Paris is excited about this race. Very. It's a great opportunity for him
      to play up one of the two character traits he's known for: the Expert
      Pilot. (The other trait is of course Lt. One-Liner.) Janeway thinks a
      race in the interests of peace is a perfect way to take a breather and to
      exercise Federation diplomacy, so Paris is pleased as punch about the
      chance ... except that in his state of pilot's rapture he forgets all
      about the romantic weekend he and B'Elanna had planned in the holodeck.
      Doh!

      B'Elanna's reaction to Tom's apology is surprisingly restrained -- and
      she even encourages him to follow through on whatever "makes him happy."
      Okay, guys -- this is where a red flashing light and a buzzer should be
      going off in your head right now: RELATIONSHIP TROUBLE AHEAD. B'Elanna's
      response is a mix of understanding and hidden exasperation. But mostly
      masked disappointment. She begins to realize that perhaps she and Tom are
      too different to be together.

      I liked Dawson's less-is-more performance. When she sulks in the mess
      hall, it's underplayed in a way such that her disappointment shows
      through all the more. It reminded me of her detachment in "Extreme Risk,"
      an episode where her performance transcended the shallowness of the
      story.

      Tom also comes across reasonably. He obviously cares for B'Elanna, but
      what exists here is a failure of communication for these two to clearly
      reveal their perceived relationship problems. B'Elanna feels like Tom
      assigns her too low a priority, but hasn't told Tom she feels this way.
      Tom is more than willing to make B'Elanna his top priority, but isn't
      sure that she wants him to overwhelm her with "mushy stuff." The way all
      of this comes to a head is after B'Elanna becomes Tom's co-pilot in the
      race in order to spend time with him doing something he feels is
      important. This allows issues of control and possession of responsibility
      during the race to be melded into the psychology of these two and their
      relationship.

      This isn't the deepest material ever conceived, but I thought it was
      adequately conveyed by Michael Taylor's script and the actors. Dawson and
      McNeill do a good job with the material they have, but they still don't
      have a natural, unforced chemistry with each other that truly sells
      intimate scenes, especially concerning the "mushy stuff." I must confess
      a bit of a soft spot for relationship shows that give us a payoff after
      years of setup (or in the case of Voyager, occasionally acknowledged
      setup), so I found this mostly enjoyable even if a little hackneyed. One
      apt moment is when Tom stops the Flyer in mid-race to have an immediate,
      serious talk with B'Elanna.

      All of this segues into and out of a plot involving somebody trying to
      sabotage the race and tear down the uneasily maintained peace treaty.
      (The reasons for this, once revealed, are hopelessly perfunctory, but an
      even bigger question I had is why golf balls in the 24th century have
      blinking, bleeping lights inside them -- but forget it.) A sabotaged
      console on Irina's shuttle blows up, injuring her co-pilot. This leads
      Harry to volunteer as her replacement co-pilot. No points for guessing
      who the saboteur is; the Law of Economy of Characters basically gives you
      two choices: Irina herself, or gruff (red-herring) opponent Assan
      (Patrick Kilpatrick, who appeared as a hardened Starfleet soldier in
      DS9's "The Siege of AR-558"). If you didn't guess Irina, you obviously
      weren't paying attention to the implications of the Harry Kim attraction
      angle.

      This poor sap. I'm beginning to think the writers take some sadistic
      pleasure is teasing him with potential girlfriends who are, of course,
      not what they seem. Of course Irina is the saboteur. It's inevitable. If
      she weren't, Harry might stand a chance to hook up, which simply would go
      against everything about the Harry Kim (Not) Getting the Girl rule. (Hey,
      at least the writers are consistent!) If this guy isn't a walking poster
      boy for the theory "nice guys finish last," then I don't know who is.

      Structurally, I thought the way the climax was executed, with the
      crosscutting between the Tom/B'Elanna and Harry/Irina dialog scenes,
      worked pretty well, explaining the sabotage plot while Tom and B'Elanna
      face their communication barrier. I should probably point out that only
      on Voyager will you likely see a marriage proposal happen in the middle
      of a speeding attempt to move a bomb from A to B during a 30-second
      countdown. (This isn't the usual gratuitous Action Insert, but instead
      gratuitous full Action Integration.) Peace is maintained, Irina is
      exposed, Harry is still a chump, and Tom and B'Elanna live happily ever
      after.

      The episode ends with an off-screen wedding and then a scene on the Delta
      Flyer, in which an enormous conceit of cuteness was taken in having "JUST
      MARRIED" written on the back end of the Flyer. I sort of enjoyed the idea
      of the two teasing each other about the last name (marital struggle #1:
      "B'Elanna and Tom Torres" or "Tom and B'Elanna Paris"?). Whether or not
      you like this -- or any of it -- may simply depend on whether you've ever
      liked the idea of Tom and B'Elanna together. I'm one who always sort of
      liked it, but didn't find great insight in the way it was executed. Such
      are my feelings for "Drive."

      --
      Next week: The trailer claims mutiny, but somehow I doubt it. Maybe it's
      "Worst Case Scenario, Part II."

      -----
      Copyright 2000 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

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