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[VOY] Jammer's Review: "Nightingale"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager s Nightingale. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: A nigh-perfect example
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2000
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager's
      "Nightingale." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.


      In brief: A nigh-perfect example of too little, too late.

      Plot description: Ensign Kim finds himself making the hard choices of
      mission commander when he agrees to help the crew of a ship in need.

      -----
      Star Trek: Voyager -- "Nightingale"

      Airdate: 11/22/2000 (USA)
      Teleplay by Andre Bormanis
      Story by Robert Lederman & Dave Long
      Directed by LeVar Burton

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: **

      "I scanned you."
      "You scanned me?"
      "In the Jeffries tube. Your blood pressure and neurotransmitter readings
      indicated a state of arousal."
      "It was hot!"
      -- Icheb and B'Elanna
      -----

      "Nightingale" didn't do much for me. I'm not entirely sure whether to blame
      the episode or the series as a whole, so I'll do the honorable thing and
      blame both.

      But in all seriousness, an episode like "Nightingale" suffers all the more
      because it's an example of the adage "too little, too late."

      Well, too bad.

      Ensign Harry Kim, as many people undoubtedly know, is by far not my favorite
      Voyager character. In my view, he's the best candidate for ripping apart and
      making fun. The writers apparently share that view, and frequently give him
      episodes where he's the butt of the joke. (The story break meetings must
      boil down to: "That darn Harry! He's such a funny, naive kid! How green can
      we make him this week?") Witness the very end of "Inside Man," for example,
      and you see Harry being the victim of a joke that seems to reinforce the
      fact that he hasn't advanced a step forward since day one. Besides, when the
      character is saddled with episodes like "Favorite Son" or "The Disease," how
      can we possibly believe the writers see him as anything more than the
      lovable goofball who gets some of the worst shows?

      Now we get "Nightingale," which seems to be a last-ditch effort by the
      writing staff to redeem themselves for years of Harry non-growth. Does it
      work? Not really. Could it have? I'm honestly not sure. The show wants us to
      accept Harry as a starship captain. That's sort of like asking us to accept
      Tuvok as a stand-up comedian.

      Harry ends up in command of a ship by complete accident, which is perhaps a
      telling sign. Wandering into an alien conflict by chance, Harry makes a
      choice while on a Delta Flyer mission with Seven and Neelix: He opts to stop
      one ship from firing on another. Strictly speaking as a matter of policy,
      the conflict is not his concern, but humanitarian instincts tell him that
      saving the crippled ship under attack is the right thing to do.

      The decision he makes is not a bad one, though it will raise complications
      later. When the Delta Flyer crew boards the vessel to tend to survivors,
      Harry finds that the ship's captain and senior officers have all been killed
      (how convenient!), and this crippled ship needs the help of experienced
      personnel to make repairs. They're called the Kraylor, and they say they're
      are on a mission of mercy to deliver medicine to their world. They need
      protection from the Annari, who are the ones who attacked them. They are
      particularly vulnerable without their cloaking device working.

      Harry offers them help in making repairs, after which they ask if he would
      be willing to take command of their ship and take them to safety. He routes
      them to Voyager's position and asks Janeway for an opportunity to see this
      mission through. There's a speech here where Harry makes his case for
      getting his first "real command" -- which is a relevant idea after all these
      years -- and he even makes mention of the fact he's been an ensign for the
      past six years ("If we were back home, I'd be a lieutenant by now -- maybe
      even a lieutenant commander"). Not that Janeway couldn't have given him a
      field promotion at any time; she gave rank to the Maquis officers and
      promoted Tuvok (and Paris, after demoting him), but never mind.

      So Janeway gives Harry his chance to sit in the big chair of this Kraylor
      vessel. Harry takes command of the Kraylor ship and quickly names it the
      Nightingale, hence the episode's title. There's a complication here: The
      Annari, the Kraylor's enemies, are in the middle of some trade negotiations
      with Voyager, so Harry's mission must be conducted outside their knowledge.

      The problem with "Nightingale" is that the crises are far too obvious and
      the story is not subtle enough. Harry takes command, and it's almost as if
      the power of the captain's chair instantly rushes straight to his head and
      turns him into a magnified version of his already blatantly naive self. As
      captain, he's an annoying micromanager, giving an order to his officer and
      then practically shoving the officer out of the way to do it himself, so
      it's done right.

      Also, Harry carries an air of arrogance that practically snuffs out our
      sympathy for him. He doesn't gain the respect of those under him and instead
      assumes he has it because he sits in the captain's chair. Frankly, if I were
      serving under him, he wouldn't have my respect either. (Does Harry have a
      single character trait besides being green?)

      The best scenes are probably the ones where Seven kicks Harry in the rear
      with her direct opinions ("There is a malfunction in one of the ship's
      systems -- it's captain.") whenever he makes a mistake. But he should
      already be realizing these mistakes if he ever commanded Voyager during the
      night shift. By throwing us such ham-fisted Harry actions, the story doesn't
      really give us a sampling of Harry's abilities but instead examples of why
      he shouldn't even be in the chair in the first place.

      There's some extra plotting to "Nightingale" involving the hidden motives of
      the Kraylor, as mostly filtered through the mysterious character of Dr.
      Loken (Ron Glass). They aren't trying to deliver medical supplies but
      instead the ship's prototype cloaking device. This exposed deception leads
      Harry to order the mission abandoned, at which point the crew answers in
      mutiny by refusing to follow his order to turn around. Harry decides it best
      to flee the ship in an escape pod rather than be a party to delivering
      military equipment. But then he changes his mind after getting dressed down
      by Seven and decides to see the mission through anyway, at which point I
      wondered if a crew would really accept him back. (Somewhat indulgent is the
      show's portrayal of Harry as heroic for coming to this decision, and making
      so much of his return to the bridge.)

      There's a B-story in "Nightingale" that goes down as one of the most
      disposable filler B-stories in some time. It involves Icheb coming to terms
      with an unexpected crush on B'Elanna. Being unfamiliar with romantic
      signals, he perceives simple friendliness as signs that B'Elanna has an
      interest in him. While not offensive, this subplot is the lightest of
      lightweight and not one bit necessary or interesting. The comic "twist" is
      when Icheb confuses the facts until *he's* telling B'Elanna they must "stop
      seeing each other." The story misses its lighthearted payoff moment by
      showing B'Elanna annoyed after the strange misunderstanding instead of
      smiling at the absurdity of it. (C'mon, 'Lanna -- lighten up!)

      Now that I think about it, I don't know that this show could've actually
      succeeded. It's probably unfair that "Nightingale" suffers from the mistakes
      that were made before -- and perhaps it reveals my bias against a character
      long reduced to a single joke. But this is a show that can't really work as
      entertainment unless we feel the central dilemma about Harry is worth our
      time. All the alien conflicts and hidden agendas are just stock McGuffin
      material (and too mediocre to be compelling); the real story is about Harry.
      And I can't really say that the real story is anything but mediocre either.
      The ending in particularly doesn't ring true, because it shows that Harry
      seems to think he's captain material. He's not. But the episode seems to
      want us to think he is, or at least might that he might be someday down the
      road.

      I dunno. By the end of the episode I didn't get the sense that Harry learned
      much of anything. What's more, I didn't really care.

      --
      Next week: Doc is pulled into the plight of a group of sentient holograms.

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

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