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[VOY] Jammer's Review: "Friendship One"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: Jammer s epsico.com e-mail address has become too unreliable. Effective immediately, please send all e-mail to jammer@st-hypertext.com instead. --
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 30, 2001
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      Note: Jammer's epsico.com e-mail address has become too unreliable.
      Effective immediately, please send all e-mail to jammer@...
      instead.


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


      In brief: A most middling affair.

      Plot description: The Voyager crew, on a mission to track down a historic
      Earth probe designed to contact intelligent life, finds the probe had
      indeed crossed paths with another civilization, but with catastrophic
      results.

      -----
      Star Trek: Voyager -- "Friendship One"

      Airdate: 4/25/2001 (USA)
      Written by Michael Taylor & Bryan Fuller
      Directed by Mike Vejar

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

      "They're not so bad once you get to know them. When I first met them I
      thought they were arrogant, self-righteous." -- Neelix on humans
      -----

      There are good things about "Friendship One," which is very insistent on
      its desire to say something and mean something and exhibit a lot of
      classic Trekkian thought. But the net result isn't much to speak of, its
      central hostage plot is on autopilot, and there are some deeply flawed
      arguments roaming around in the story. I didn't dislike this episode, but
      I didn't much like it either; it's one of those shows that's sometimes
      respectful but largely unmoving.

      And poor Lt. Joe "Red Shirt" Carey (Josh Clark). He's shot dead before
      it's all over here. There were so many years where this guy was relegated
      to the off-screen sidelines that many viewers assumed he'd simply died
      (most common was to erroneously recall him as being eaten in "Basics, Part
      II" -- but, no, that was Ensign Hogan). Now Carey gets his true farewell
      appearance less than a month from the end of the series. I guess his
      number had to be up one of these days, turning out to be later rather than
      sooner.

      The premise for "Friendship One" might've been more interesting had it
      been more in the vein of TNG's "First Contact" (the fifth-season episode,
      not the movie), which was *about* how humans make contact with an alien
      civilization. But since that episode has already been done, we instead
      have first contact as a warning of the dangers of misused technology.

      Friendship 1 was a human probe sent in the late 21st century, shortly
      after warp travel became a reality and humans realized they were not alone
      in the universe. It was intended to share knowledge with any other-worldly
      society that might comprehend its message. Starfleet, now having regular
      contact with Voyager, sends Janeway and her crew on an assignment to try
      to retrieve the probe, which had last been tracked over a century ago to
      somewhere in the Delta Quadrant ... not far, coincidentally (yeah, yeah),
      from Voyager's current position. Retrieving it would be a great historical
      find.

      Voyager tracks the probe to a devastated world polluted with toxic
      antimatter radiation. A Delta Flyer away team (including Joe "Dead Meat"
      Carey) finds the probe's remnants, but is surprised by the descendants of
      those who survived the antimatter catastrophe that left the planet
      poisoned a century and a half earlier. In short, Friendship 1 had indeed
      accomplished its goal of contacting alien life, but the aliens virtually
      destroyed themselves when they tried using the new information available
      to them.

      Plot Machinations 101 decrees that these aliens must instantly take the
      away team hostage, which they do. Their leader is Verin (Ken Land), who
      intends to hold the away team responsible for the sins of the
      generations-ago humans who sent this probe in the first place. I don't
      agree with his argument, which is that it's humanity's fault for
      unleashing dangerous technology upon a less advanced society. (It wasn't
      even war that destroyed this society; it was more of a Chernobyl-like
      accident, the blame of which, I submit, should be placed more on the
      people experimenting with the dangerous technology than the people who
      gave them access to it, undoubtedly with big WARNING signs attached.) Even
      more dubious is the notion that these people think it was *planned* this
      way as an invasion tactic, which makes even less sense to me than it does
      to Janeway. But the episode, strangely, often seems to hitch its wagon to
      Verin's cause.

      I agree even less with Verin's need to extract penance from the Voyager
      crew. They didn't have anything to do with what happened, and any
      reasonable person would see that. Verin isn't a reasonable person so much
      as a tortured soul scarred by his harsh surroundings. This reduces him to
      the status of your standard villain-like aggressor, and unfortunately
      makes much of the episode a routine standoff where Verin makes demands and
      threatens the hostages (Paris, Neelix, and Joe "Worm Food" Carey), while
      Janeway communicates from orbit her good intentions and desire to arrive
      at a peaceful resolution.

      Tempering the material are some nice scenes. I liked that Neelix tried to
      appeal to Verin's better nature by talking about his own losses at the
      hands of destructive technology (the episode invokes continuity by
      remembering Neelix's world was destroyed by a massive weapon). And there's
      also value to be found in the scenes where Paris talks with a pregnant
      woman who has tragically given birth to three stillborn children because
      of radiation poisoning, and hopes this won't be the fourth.

      But Verin's adamant distrust is a little hard to understand and thus seems
      forced, particularly in the latter passages after his own people have seen
      Janeway act on her promises of good will. One of these persons is
      reasonable scientist Otrin (John Prosky), who is cured of the radiation
      sickness and helps the Voyager crew devise a method to cleanse the planet.
      Another is the pregnant woman, whose baby is saved and returned to her,
      just as Paris promises. All this, despite the fact Verin kills Joe "Target
      Painted On My Chest" Carey in a particularly pointless act of violence.

      In the end, "Friendship One" is a reasonable example of the classic
      Trekkian formula in which the intrepid starship glides in, helps an alien
      society solve their problems, and then glides out. And like most episodes
      helmed by director Mike Vejar, it's well paced and skillfully implemented.
      But along the way are arguments that I don't buy. Janeway's final line is
      delivered with a quiet, earnest seriousness that screams "Think about me!"
      But as I thought about it, it only rang false. On exploring, she says, "It
      can't justify the loss of lives, whether it's millions -- or just one."
      Excuse me?

      Once upon a time, Captain James Kirk gave a famous and rousing (if hammy
      and portentous) speech where he exclaimed, "Risk is our business." Now we
      have Janeway saying that the cost of sharing the grand ideas of space
      exploration isn't worth lives, even if it's just one life like Lt. Carey.
      I find that argument depressing. Exploration takes courageous people and
      conviction. Of course there will be lives lost along the way. Does that
      mean we throw in the towel because it's too dangerous? I'm sorry -- that
      last line must've been written by the same sort of people who outlaw games
      of "tag" on grade-school playgrounds.

      --
      Next week: Return of the Shuttle Crash. Guess we won't make it through the
      season without one of those after all...

      Pointless Jammer trailer commentary: The trailer for next week's episode
      has got to be one of the most useless ever. We know the show isn't about
      what it says it's about (losing two crew members in a crash), so what is
      it actually about?

      -----
      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@...
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