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[VOY] Jammer's Review: "The Void"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager s The Void. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: A good episode, though I m
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 7, 2001
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager's "The
      Void." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.


      In brief: A good episode, though I'm almost choking on the irony outside
      the story.

      Plot description: Voyager is pulled into a barren spatial void where
      survival is based on preying upon others.

      -----
      Star Trek: Voyager -- "The Void"

      Airdate: 2/14/2001 (USA)
      Teleplay by Raf Green & James Kahn
      Story by Raf Green & Kenneth Biller
      Directed by Mike Vejar

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: ***

      "Why would anyone steal deuterium? You can find it anywhere." -- Paris
      (line doubles as writers' "we were previously stupid" acknowledgement)
      -----

      Strangely and ironically, we've come around to the point where the only
      way to use many of the themes of Voyager's original premise is to invent a
      plot that puts the ship in an extreme situation that would've been what
      the Delta Quadrant itself, in several important ways, might've represented
      all along had the writers permitted it.

      That premise is "The Void," which substitutes a barren spatial anomaly for
      the original presumed barrenness of the Delta Quadrant. Voyager is sucked
      inside, and they find that in here there's nothing but empty space and
      other ships -- no resources of any kind, and no known escape. These ships
      steal from and kill each other to survive. When new ships are sucked in,
      the waiting tigers pounce. It's survival of the fittest, and the meanest.

      I want to applaud "The Void" for its optimism. Those who called DS9 the
      anti-Trek because of its willingness to bend Federation morality can point
      to this as an example of Trek that sticks to the optimistic ideal and
      thrives off it. Is this episode as realistic as what might happen in a DS9
      extreme situation? Maybe not. But it does have a good message and works
      well as entertainment. It's pure Star Trek in the classic sense.

      The message isn't exactly subtle. It's like last year's "Memorial" in
      that, there we have it, Our Message for Today. That's okay; we like our
      messages made clear, which "Void" does without shoving it into our faces.

      This void, it is said, has No Escape. Funny how the crew takes it all in
      stride. Being sucked into a place whose residents claim escape has been
      attempted and failed for years is not something I would so calmly accept,
      but these Voyager crew members are made of sterner stuff -- they barely
      bat an eye and have an unspoken air of near-invincibility: If an escape
      hasn't been found, it's obviously because WE haven't been the ones looking
      for it. Maybe it's just bad-news denial. Or arrogance. But then, I suppose
      confidence is a hallmark of this crew.

      The ground rules are laid down by General Valen (Robin Sachs), who
      subscribes to the void's standing policy of Every Ship for Itself, but is
      also nice enough to give Janeway a heads-up on where they are and how
      things operate. (By the way, having barely been in the void for a minute,
      other ships open fire on Voyager, stealing food and supplies with stealth
      transporters.)

      After assessing the gravity of the situation (without external resources,
      power will be depleted within a week) the question becomes what to do
      about it. Do we adjust operating procedures to fit in? Become thieves
      ourselves to survive? It's a question that's worth asking, and "Void" at
      least knows that this is the question that deserves to be the center of
      the story.

      There's a point where Janeway has the chance to steal food from another
      ship -- one that earlier had stolen supplies from Voyager. She doesn't.
      When Tuvok and Chakotay come to her ready room to ask what the "operating
      procedure" will be now that they're in this void, Janeway tells them she's
      been giving it some thought. Ultimately, she decides to remain true to her
      Federation values: If we're only going to live for a week, we're going to
      live by high principle.

      At first, my mind went all the way back to second season's "Alliances," an
      episode that I erroneously awarded three stars based on initial
      entertainment value, but think of now as one of the biggest turning-point
      mistakes Voyager ever made. In that episode, a deal gone bad convinced
      Janeway that the Delta Quadrant was a socially turbulent and dangerous
      place. Her very naive solution was that staying the same would prevail
      over the prospect of changing.

      Now we have a decision where it seems history is repeating itself ...
      until we realize the crucial difference. In "Alliances" Janeway was
      dealing with societies who operated with treachery as a way of life. Here,
      Janeway is dealing with people pushed to extremes into operating with
      treachery as a way of life ... except that literally escaping this world
      is the best way of dealing with it. To escape will take a risk. The risk
      is taking Federation values and amplifying them to build bridges.

      Crazy? Janeway offers to other aliens supplies that would feed her crew,
      hoping to earn some trust. She hopes to build an alliance that can stand
      together against other aggressors while simultaneously pooling resources
      to make a daring escape. Amazingly, she is able to eventually bring some
      people into the fold.

      So, then, is Janeway clever or lucky, trusting or stupid, calculating or
      naive? I suppose this would be a prime example of the end result being
      what writes one's victory speech -- or epitaph. If you take an unpopular
      risk and die, you're a fool; if you take an unpopular risk and win, you're
      a genius.

      Interestingly, the plot device in "Void" is exactly what keeps it from
      becoming another shining example of sophistry like "Alliances." Everyone
      here is trapped with nowhere to go. Frankly, if I knew I was trapped in a
      finite void with nothing inside, I'd hardly see the point of repeated
      raids just to keep my ship operating. Hell, why *wouldn't* you try
      something different to escape, unless you've resigned yourself to a
      pointless existence of being the king pirate of a backyard swimming pool?

      What is a little odd, and perhaps a little arrogant and worn out from a
      story perspective, is the notion that after years trapped in the void, no
      one else comes up with the brilliant idea of trying to pull together to
      escape. Naturally, Voyager must represent the superior human intellect and
      sensibility that is the first to attempt civil tactics and cooperation.
      Naturally everyone else goes along once Janeway has drummed up a
      reasonable following.

      I guess that's okay. This show is, after all, called "Star Trek: Voyager,"
      not "Star Trek: Sensible Aliens." To tell it from Voyager's perspective is
      probably the only way to get the story to work and be about our people.
      Along the way, it has some nice touches, like some tension with a captain
      who joins the alliance but turns out to be a bigot and a killer, and how
      Janeway beats herself up for not paying more attention to his warning
      signs. There's also a somewhat incomplete subplot involving surveillance
      technology, and, best of all, the most fulfilling depiction of an alien
      race in a long time -- natives to the void who do not communicate with
      speech but learn to use musical notes on data pads to talk to the Doctor.
      These guys are the first truly intriguing aliens in awhile, with quirky
      and endearing mannerisms and a method of communication that for once isn't
      reduced to immediate English (excuse me -- I meant the Universal
      Translator).

      Of course the ship gets out of the void. But the depiction of how is what
      makes the show interesting and purely Star Trek in its sensibilities. The
      episode bests "Alliances" by doing it under more prudent and appropriate
      circumstances. It's an uplifting hour. Weird, how the plot plays almost
      like an experiment in turning back the clock to opportunities past.

      --
      Next week: Crew members kidnapped and forced to work for minimum wage! And
      during Extreme February, too! And you thought your job was bad...

      -----
      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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