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[VOY] Jammer's Review: "Repression"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager s Repression. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Why make this episode?
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 27, 2000
      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager's
      "Repression." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.

      In brief: Why make this episode? The story's destination is woefully
      contrived and completely pointless.

      Plot description: An investigation of mysterious attacks on members of the
      crew uncovers a buried plot involving Tuvok and a Maquis fanatic.

      Star Trek: Voyager -- "Repression"

      Airdate: 10/25/2000 (USA)
      Teleplay by Mark Haskell Smith
      Story by Kenneth Biller
      Directed by Winrich Kolbe

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

      "Let me get this straight: You've gone to all this trouble to program a
      three-dimensional environment that projects a two-dimensional image, and now
      you're asking me to wear these [3D glasses] to make it look
      three-dimensional again?"
      "Great, isn't it?"
      -- B'Elanna and Tom

      "Repression" is an hour of television that goes to great (and unlikely)
      lengths of plotting to accomplish basically nothing. It's one of the most
      artificial, pointless Voyager exercises in recent memory. I'm trying to
      think what the creators thought they were onto here by putting a story like
      this into production, but I'm at a loss. When the whole point of a show like
      this is to be a contrived mechanical exercise and absolutely nothing more,
      what exactly are we supposed to take from the experience?

      I'll tell you what I got: a cynical nod to the existence of a universe
      beyond Voyager's current mission statement (whatever that is) --
      specifically, a shallow, retroactive acknowledgement that the Maquis crew
      members, once upon a time, existed. The trailers for "Repression" alleged
      that there would be mutiny. I wasn't fooled, but I didn't think even a fake
      mutiny plot would be this starved for justification.

      I've complained in the past that Voyager tends to come up with plots that
      are at the expense of the characters. Well, "Repression" ranks among the
      most egregious examples -- an episode where the plot steamrollers right
      through the characters, who are nothing more than hollow vessels to be moved
      around by totally artificial, manufactured circumstances. Ostensibly, this
      is a Tuvok vehicle (one of the show's most overlooked characters), but Tuvok
      is just a writer's toy here -- his Vulcan mind powers are used to service an
      absurd plot while the character itself might as well be wallpaper.

      In a nutshell, the premise for the episode is what I'm terming
      "remote-controlled mutiny by proxy." Please do not laugh (yet). A Bajoran
      maniac in the Alpha Quadrant sends a hidden message in a letter to Tuvok
      which subconsciously triggers buried brainwashing that was therapeutically
      programmed into Tuvok seven years ago when he was an undercover infiltrator
      of the Maquis. This prompts Tuvok, unaware of his own actions, to engage in
      a mission to mind-program other former-Maquis members of the crew to seize
      control of Voyager. Yes.

      It begins as an investigation story when members of the crew are
      mysteriously attacked and left comatose. Doc can't explain the comas. Tuvok
      takes on the assignment of figuring out who attacked the victims and why.
      Admittedly, the one thing of value to be taken from the episode is the idea
      of Tuvok facing the frustration of an investigation full of dead ends. Of
      course, it turns out he's investigating his own attacks and unaware of it,
      but that's a "twist" that is surprisingly obvious from the outset. The
      writers, fortunately, don't keep the "character unwittingly investigates his
      own crimes" angle a huge mystery for so long as to completely sabotage the
      show. But not to worry -- they sabotage the show with the rest of the plot.

      As for the flow of the investigation, I won't get into details except to
      note that Tuvok's suspicions of Kim, as well as others, are pretty thin: If
      everyone with any kind of emotions is a suspect, how can an investigation
      possibly narrow down to find the perpetrator? Another clue involves a stored
      "afterimage" in the holodeck, which shows the mystery figure attacking one
      of the victims. I thought this visual clue wasn't nearly masked enough for
      the audience; I could almost tell it *was* Tuvok, though I already had my

      The investigation scenes are actually not badly handled for the most part.
      But once Tuvok realizes he's the culprit, the plot is pretty much a downhill
      slide. The question for Janeway is why Tuvok assaulted these people, and
      what's the significance of all the victims being former Maquis. The plot is
      obvious to us well before it is to Janeway & Co., and the Idiot Plot
      syndrome in action here revolves around the fact that once the comatose
      characters awaken, no one suspects that they might have been compromised the
      way Tuvok was. Shouldn't they be confined until the captain can get to the
      bottom of things? (Of course not, because then how could they take over the

      By far the biggest question I had was *why* in the world the Bajoran maniac,
      a guy named Teero (Keith Szarabajka), would even want to have the Maquis
      crew members seize control of Voyager in the first place. Dialog and
      flashbacks reveal that Teero was a Maquis fanatic who wanted to use extreme,
      experimental methods to further the Maquis cause. One of these methods was
      brainwashing/mind-programming. He had discovered Tuvok was a Starfleet
      officer infiltrating the Maquis. Rather than exposing him, Teero programmed
      Tuvok to be his secret weapon at some later date. That date is today, seven
      years later, and mayhem ensues. There are scenes where Tuvok and Teero face
      off inside Tuvok's hallucinations as Janeway tries help Tuvok regain focus
      of his mind. Such scenes are marked with plenty of urgent shouting, etc.,
      but none of it can overcome the banality of why it's all happening.

      I'm sorry, but Teero's motives here are beyond any sense of a useful purpose
      and venture into flat-out stupidity. I don't buy for one second that Teero
      is going to go to the trouble -- nearly four years after the Alpha Quadrant
      Maquis have been wiped out -- to send a message to Tuvok, who's on a ship
      35,000 light-years away. What can he possibly get out of it? What purpose
      does it serve that helps any Maquis or former Maquis in any way? The answers
      are nothing and none, so the story just supplies "he's fanatical" as the
      lame explanation. No. That's a cheap cop-out, not a motive. Since obviously
      Voyager's Starfleet and Maquis officers are *not* going to go at each
      other's throats under any normal circumstances (despite the trailer's
      attempts to convince us to the contrary), the only possible reason for us to
      care about this story is if the motivation of the character pulling the
      strings from afar has any sort of impact. It doesn't, so we don't care. It's
      a writer's wave of the hand, and frankly it's pretty insulting.

      The other big annoyance here is the writers' presumption that a Vulcan mind
      meld is equivalent to flipping an on/off switch in someone's brain. Based on
      what he's able to accomplish here, Tuvok should be registered as a very
      dangerous weapon. He melds with several Maquis members of the crew,
      including key people like Chakotay and Torres, and when he "activates" them,
      they suddenly become pro-Maquis and anti-Starfleet. "He's simply helped us
      remember who we are. We're Maquis. We've always been Maquis," says Chakotay.
      Sure. Just like that. (My, how handy a plot device the mind meld is.)

      And yet, the way the episode plays it, these people seem to know what
      they're doing and why. They aren't robots; it's more like their actual
      attitudes have been changed to make them different people. Unanswered is
      whether they know right from wrong or are struggling with their sudden
      change in mindset, or if anyone cares about the betrayals after the madness
      has been magically set right with reverse mind melds in the lame,
      simpleminded conclusion. No matter -- in reality there are no answers to
      such questions because the script is just jerking characters around to
      falsely manufacture a mutiny plot. It's almost as if the trailer about the
      mutiny was written *before* the episode, and the writers did whatever they
      could to concoct a story that would get them to this final act, no matter
      how implausible and lacking in motivation.

      This episode is, simply, a crock. It's an over-plotted, under-thought,
      meaningless hour-long contrivance -- all concept, no content. A hundred
      things happen in this episode, but none of them matter. It's depressing to
      watch so much plot written to advance a story to an end point that is so
      fundamentally false. Really, I doubt a mutiny on Voyager could've rung true
      in *any* conceivable form. A real mutiny would've been interesting years
      ago, but today it would've been just as inappropriate as "Repression"
      stands. So the question is, why pretend this could actually be a real issue
      on this series today? The writers must think we're a whole lot dumber than
      we are. Now there's a surprise.

      Next week: Doc vs. an alien HMO.

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

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      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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