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[VOY] Jammer's Review: "Lineage"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: For information about delays and now this big update, visit http://www.st-hypertext.com. The temporarily skipped-over delay for Repentance will be
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 7, 2001
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      Note: For information about delays and now this big update, visit
      http://www.st-hypertext.com The temporarily skipped-over delay for
      "Repentance" will be posted in the next few days.

      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager's
      "Lineage." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.

      In brief: Some exceptionally good and believable character work, with an
      ending that falls a bit short.

      Plot description: When B'Elanna learns she is pregnant, she tries to
      proactively repress her child's Klingon heritage on the basis of her own
      troubled past.

      Star Trek: Voyager -- "Lineage"

      Airdate: 1/24/2001 (USA)
      Written by James Kahn
      Directed by Peter Lauritson

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

      "Offspring can be disturbingly illogical, yet profoundly fulfilling. You
      should anticipate paradox." -- Parental advice, Tuvok style

      "Lineage" is just about a perfect little straightforward character show
      for four acts before settling for some oversold melodrama at the last
      moment. For once, everything seems to be clicking -- the dialog, the
      characters, the acting, the directing, the editing. The ending pushes too
      hard, but I guess you can't have everything.

      Keeping in tune with what I hope is a final-season trend (evidenced this
      past fall by the marriage in "Drive"), this is an episode that shows the
      writers actually committing to a change in some of their characters.
      B'Elanna learns that she is pregnant, much to both her and Tom's surprise;
      despite their attempts, they weren't expecting to beat the odds against
      Klingon/human conception. But Doc has good news: B'Elanna is pregnant with
      a healthily developing baby girl.

      Once this information floats around the ship, everyone is offering their
      advice on parenting. One theme Voyager has often pushed is one of a
      ship-bound "family." That's sort of the way it works here, with B'Elanna
      and Tom taking in information from their shipmates, the extended family
      that exists where traditional family cannot because of a 30,000-light-year

      One thing "Lineage" gets very right is its single-minded focus on what's
      important. This is a B'Elanna and Tom show, and the script demonstrates
      that it's aware of that fact. Compare this to "Shattered" last week, which
      wanted to be and could've been a standout Janeway/Chakotay show, but
      wasn't because the story was such an over-plotted mess with umpteen
      unnecessary characters. This time the writers get it right; the plot is
      straightforward and the story runs with characterization and
      decision-making. There are no unnecessary twists or distractions. With a
      premise that probably could've taken about a hundred obvious wrong turns,
      "Lineage" has the courage to take none of them.

      Take, for example, the interaction between the characters, of which there
      is plenty. There's a short scene here between Paris and Tuvok. It's a
      scene that makes a great deal of sense and works because it respects the
      characters and the sincerity that would likely arise from such a
      discussion. Without being an ultra-serious message moment, this
      Paris/Tuvok scene manages to avoid poking any obvious jokes at Tuvok's
      overly serious Vulcan sensibility -- something this series has had a
      tendency to do. Instead, it remembers that Tuvok is a parent and simply
      has Tom take the prudent action of asking for Tuvok's advice. The scene
      ends with a nice Vulcan-like line of advice about raising children. It's
      an effective line because it reveals the truth in the characterization and
      is played with a note of simple pleasantness and sincerity.

      Or take the Janeway scene, once the show's main conflict between Tom and
      B'Elanna arises. B'Elanna wants Janeway to act as captain in a personal
      disagreement. Janeway will not. She tells them they must work it out
      themselves. Her dialog is level-headed and fair. Good for her.

      Or take the Harry Kim scene, where the writers have him say just enough
      without saying too much. Harry knows to help out a friend and give him
      some advice. But he knows when to pull back and stay out of things, simply
      telling Tom that until B'Elanna cools down, "My couch is your couch."

      Why are Tom and B'Elanna in disagreement? That's actually where the core
      of the episode becomes evident: B'Elanna wants to tamper with her baby's
      genes and remove Klingon biological traits, like redundant organs. This
      would also have the effect of giving the baby a human appearance. She
      argues her position to the Doctor by saying her baby's health would
      benefit and is the primary issue, but Tom sees right through this argument
      and calls her on it flat-out: "You don't want her to look Klingon."

      He's right, though it goes much deeper than that. "Lineage" has a
      flashback structure to it that goes back to B'Elanna's childhood. The
      flashbacks reveal a young B'Elanna (Jessica Gaona) at an age where her
      headstrong adolescence began crashing into her father's (Juan Garcia) own
      doubts about his shaky marriage. This comes to light gradually, eventually
      revealing that B'Elanna blames herself for the dissolution of her parents'
      relationship. As a child, she said and witnessed things at a time that
      would shape certain opinions for life.

      Now she hopes to keep history from repeating (she fears her Klingon side
      and the possibility that Tom, like her father, might not be able to deal
      with it), though getting her to admit the full truth is like pulling
      teeth. One thing I've always liked about B'Elanna is that she's got that
      element of self-torture and fallibility. She's flawed. She's perhaps the
      series' most complex character, and an episode like "Lineage" shows why.
      She goes to extremes here that eventually seem beyond any reason, except
      for that self-torment we know is there. She manipulates the situation --
      in ways that quite frankly seem to me as potentially relationship-damaging
      actions. Tom's cool head and ability to listen is admirable. He's upset
      but understanding that B'Elanna takes things so far, which she does here
      by altering Doc's program just enough to make him believe the gene
      alterations are in the baby's best health interests.

      For B'Elanna's character, this plays as a sort of companion episode to
      last season's "Barge of the Dead" (still one of favorite Voyager outings).
      It's like the flip side; last year we learned about her mother, and this
      year we learn about her father. In the middle has always been B'Elanna, a
      character torn between two very different cultures and, I suspect, not
      completely comfortable in either. In addition to bringing up interesting
      ethical questions about genetic manipulation, B'Elanna's actions also play
      on the issue of self-sensitivity along racial or cultural lines: How
      exactly do some of us fit into groups when we feel as if we must "choose"
      one over the other and don't automatically fall into one or both? The
      answer, of course, is in asserted individuality --while not denying who we
      are. B'Elanna is a character who has coped with an identity crisis
      probably all her life.

      As good as "Lineage" is as a character outing, it falls a little bit short
      with an ending that I found just a bit too melodramatic. Dennis McCarthy
      goes overboard with the violins while B'Elanna's tears come flowing, and
      the whole thing becomes a tad maudlin. It's credible given the depth of
      B'Elanna, and even effective to a degree, but for my tastes it seemed to
      be pushing it in trying to punctuate the Moment of Truth.

      No matter. "Lineage" is one of Voyager's best-characterized episodes in
      some time, showing a cast that comes across as well oiled and execution
      that for the most part is flawless. It's not the sort of sci-fi/action
      outing that many fans of the series may hope to get, but it shows the
      creators of this series still know how to tell good, truthful, understated
      stories about their characters.

      Next week: Interstellar convicts take Voyager hostage and hold a knife to
      Seven's throat. Don't just stand there and take it -- assimilate his sorry

      Copyright 2001 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

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      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@... - j.epsico@...
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