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[VOY] Jammer's Review: "Prophecy"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager s Prophecy. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: A mostly aimless story with
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 7, 2001
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager's
      "Prophecy." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.

      In brief: A mostly aimless story with the usual Klingon mumbo-jumbo.

      Plot description: The captain of a Klingon ship on a generational holy
      mission believes Torres' unborn child may lead them to a new era of

      Star Trek: Voyager -- "Prophecy"

      Airdate: 2/7/2001 (USA)
      Teleplay by Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong
      Story by Larry Nemecek & J. Kelley Burke
      and Raf Green & Kenneth Biller
      Directed by Terry Windell

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: **

      "I was hoping our daughter would be special, but I never dreamed she'd
      turn out to be the Klingon messiah." -- Paris

      "Prophecy" has the names of six writers on it, which might explain why it
      seems to go off in six directions in the course of an hour. What the heck
      is this really about? This has to be the first Klingon show in which a
      bat'leth battle between two combatants ends when one of the warriors
      collapses to the ground due to illness. This facilitates the story wildly
      heading off in another direction, but at least now I can say I've seen a
      Klingon fall ill while swinging a sword.

      The story is a hodgepodge stew characterized by a lot of portentous
      prophecy dialog. We've got (1) Klingons in the Delta Quadrant; (2) Torres'
      unborn baby elevated to the level of messiah; (3) ancient prophecies open
      to the widest of interpretations; (4) Neelix and Tuvok as roommates; (5)
      Harry being granted the interspecies sex-acts license he didn't get in
      "The Disease," except that he doesn't want it this time; (6) ideological
      friction; (7) a deadly genetic disease and the search for its cure; (8) a
      bat'leth battle (not) to the death; (9) the search for a new homeworld;
      (10) a Voyager takeover scenario; and last but not least, (11) Neelix
      getting some action. Yes, *that* kind of action.

      This looks like it was once three (or nine) stories before being grafted
      together into one. Even Klingon cultural expert Ronald D. Moore probably
      wouldn't have been able to make heads or tails of the story drafts.

      If I had to pick an episode this best resembles in its overall attempt
      (emphasis on "attempt"), it would be DS9's far-superior "Destiny" from
      1995. Interestingly, the casting directors managed to hire for their main
      Klingon guest star here a guy who sometimes sounds a lot like Avery
      Brooks, but I digress; I've fulfilled my DS9 comparison quota for the day.

      The episode pays homage to the most implausible yet reliable Voyager
      cliche, which is that anything or anyone from the Alpha Quadrant, if
      allowed to wander long enough in the Delta Quadrant, will inevitably run
      into Voyager in the infinite vastness of space. In this case, a Klingon
      vessel that has been on a holy mission for generations opens fire on
      Voyager (because the Federation is the Klingon Empire's sworn enemy
      according to the timeline this ship's crew is living by).

      After the initial phaser-firing, Janeway invites the Klingon captain,
      Kohlar (Wren T. Brown, the guy with the Avery Brooks voice), aboard
      Voyager, where Kohlar sees a pregnant B'Elanna Torres. He is immediately
      convinced she is the Kuva'Mach, a prophesied savior of his people.
      Subsequently, Kohlar self-destructs his own ship on a leap of faith in
      order to force Janeway to beam his crew aboard Voyager so they can follow
      the Kuva'Mach. Quite a leap of faith, that.

      Or maybe not. It turns out Kohlar has his own doubts, but he doesn't care;
      his intention is to end this drawn-out holy mission and find a new
      homeworld for his crew. He believes B'Elanna -- whether her child is the
      Kuva'Mach or not -- can be the symbol that will lead his people into a new

      There are, of course, skeptics among the Klingons. One is T'Greth (Sherman
      Howard), who is dismayed to learn the alleged mother of the Kuva'Mach is
      only half Klingon, and the father not at all. You'd think people like
      T'Greth would've grilled Kohlar a little harder on the facts before
      helping him blow up their own ship, but never mind.

      "Prophecy" is first and foremost a dialog episode, but it doesn't carry
      the weight it needs to be a good story. Most of the prophesying and
      Klingon mumbo-jumbo is overly generic. There's no sense in the language
      that there's much of an actual prophecy here we're supposed to be
      listening to or figuring out. Kohlar wants B'Elanna to help him avoid
      dissent by playing along and using wide latitude to interpret the
      prophecies so they fit her life. But really, this was more interesting
      when it involved Sisko and the Bajoran Prophets on DS9, where it felt like
      it mattered.

      We also have our fulfilled dose of male posturing and testosterone.
      Eventually T'Greth challenges Paris to a battle to the death (what else?)
      to prove he could be the father of the Kuva'Mach. Paris glares back
      menacingly to prove he's a real man. Haven't we been here and done this
      enough times? Janeway forbids a death match, so instead it's agreed that
      it will be a non-lethal knock-down contest. (I guess that's slightly new
      for a Klingon story.)

      About this "non-lethal" battle with "blunted" bat'leths -- I'm with Doc:
      Sharpened or not, if you're swinging thin, heavy sheets of metal
      full-speed trying to hit another person, you'd better be prepared to lose
      part of your face.

      Like I mentioned, though, the fight is interrupted when T'Greth collapses
      because of a disease known to these Klingons as the Nehret, which affects
      mainly the elderly. They all carry it, and it's transmittable only to
      other Klingons, meaning B'Elanna and her baby now carry it. My question
      is, how many problems does this story really need?

      Before it can finally find an ending that hints at some sort of
      storytelling purpose, "Prophecy" first turns into a free-for-all that
      betrays all signs of a show desperately seeking to appeal to a general
      action audience. I was growing restless by the time T'Greth decided the
      Klingons must seize Voyager for themselves. I guess the writers just ran
      out of ideas.

      The reason for the violence is that T'Greth's faction needs a ship to
      continue this holy mission. There's some fun with transporters when
      T'Greth's followers beam Voyager crew members down to a planet to get them
      out of the way. Janeway: "Cut power to the transporter." Paris: "Can't."
      I'm not sure whether it's refreshing or lame that the writers don't even
      bother anymore with a technobabble reason to explain why transporter power
      can't be cut. It just ... *can't*. We then have a phaser-fight on the
      bridge, which I suppose is mandatory for any Extreme February on UPN.

      All problems are all solved when Doc realizes that antibodies from
      B'Elanna's part-Klingon baby can neutralize the Nehret, which in turn
      convinces T'Greth that the baby is indeed the Kuva'Mach. None of this is
      particularly riveting (and it does resolve everything pretty easily), but
      the story does at least demonstrate the point that a sign does not have to
      be magical to be meaningful.

      Before arriving at this point, the overall problem with "Prophecy" is that
      the narrative is a mess. The plot careens off in too many different
      directions. Is this an action episode, a philosophy show, a Neelix sex
      comedy, or what? There are too many pointless elements and they all seem
      disruptive. The gold of this story (as well as its title) is obviously in
      the prophecy. But it's hard to take it seriously because the dialog is
      flat and disconnected and the Klingon stuff is too derivative. And the
      ship-takeover ploy is simply gratuitous.

      For a story to work, it must convince us that it knows what its point is.
      "Prophecy" spreads things out and tries to do a little of everything. In
      the process it ends up doing surprisingly little.

      Next week: The interstellar Roach Motel.

      Copyright 2001 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@... - j.epsico@...
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