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5/10
Decent premise, decent effects, unacceptable screenwriting
16 February 2020
Warning: Spoilers
The premise of this movie certainly seems intriguing, though the end result is less Twilight Zone than straight-up formula thriller.

Here's the problem: the filmmakers introduce us to a premise where the protagonist (we are assuming he's the protagonist, at least) seems to be suffering from living multiple lives, a new one each day, that he's starting to vaguely remember, with attendant horrifying imagery as each "life" ends. Fair enough. Intriguing. But as the reveal starts to unfold and we learn the nature of the protagonist and what he's supposed to be doing, the script seems to abandon any pretense at coherent world-building. To wit:

1) WHAT are the harvesters doing this to him, and what informs their choices of "lives"? That's never explained in any way that makes much sense. This is a very specific way of treating their wayward son, and the rationale behind it needs to be equally specific. It doesn't appear to be geared simply to punish -- they're trying to bring him back, which doesn't seem to follow logically from whatever pattern or plan they're using. The only ones that seemed to have any significance was the heroin addict life (the Exposition Man draws the connection to the addiction to pain and death) and the hospital one (they're torturing him and confining him.) And what exactly do they think it is about their process of torturing, terrifying, and murdering him regularly that will convince him they're his buddies and belongs with them?

2) HOW are they doing it? They're remaking the world. That's not a minor thing. It's clearly not just him because other unrelated people get involved, and, just as tellingly, they're apparently altering Jenny without realizing her importance until late in the movie. And how are they able to so thoroughly control and manipulate the guy, including wiping his memory?

3) WHY does the ability to "feed" on love (cheesy, but I'll give it a pass, even though the basic idea is a rather creepy metaphor for relationships) make our protagonist so powerful, and why does it allow him to straight-up murder other harvesters with minimal effort? Why can't they kill each other, since they can clearly affect each other quite thoroughly.

4) What's the deal with giving new life? Because he can "harvest" love, he has magical healing abilities? He can inseminate a nice young lady like Jenny? He can now create new realities/lives? and why couldn't he do it before, since the others clearly could?

And so on. It's jut really lazy writing, creating a premise and hoping nobody looks too closely at it and starts asking questions about the execution.

But the effects weren't too bad, mostly. The shiny pleather guys were laughable though.
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The Fare (I) (2018)
7/10
You know...
16 February 2020
I'm actually glad I took the plunge and decided to go ahead and give this movie a shot. I'm always looking for hidden gems, especially ones with interesting-sounding premises, but I generally avoid low-rated ones with hundreds of votes and high-rated ones with only dozens. Not the most intellectually-rigorous approach, granted, but I think I avoid more bad ones than miss out on good ones with this approach. A 5.8 with 450+ votes stood just on the edge of what I was willing to risk wasting time on, but a quick glance at the reviews gave me a couple keywords that pushed me over into taking the chance.

First things first, in case others are doing what I did and glancing over the reviews: this is very much not an action-packed movie. Indeed, most of it occurs inside a single location, with dialogue being the primary way to pass the time. So if that sort of thing bothers you, I'd suggest moving on.

That said, I rather enjoyed the movie. Aspects of it were sort of telegraphed by the dialogue (In a weird irony, I actually figured out part of the twist because I momentarily got a name wrong, which turned out to be who the person was after all. Sometimes we all stupid our way into the right answer. I'd be more specific, but that would definitely be spoiler territory.) While the acting was uneven on occasion, it never went too far off base to be a distraction. And the basic plot had a certain charm about it, even if you're not into rom-com (which this movie was, in part) and I found the resolution fairly satisfying, if a weeeeeee bit sappy/overwrought. I consider this 82 minutes well-spent, and might even watch it again someday. What more can you ask of a movie, especially a low-budget indie? It had a solid conceit, an interesting mystery, and just enough gas to keep it running smoothly the entire time.
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6/10
It was...okay
8 February 2020
After the second annoyingly teen-angst musical number, I decided to give it until the next musical number to stop being so annoying. When the third (not counting the Christmas play, of course) started, I reached for the button to turn it off but just as I did, the scene turned the musical number from pointless ebullience to ironic contrast. The concept in this was clearly a rip-off of the same "first morning of the apocalypse" scene in "Shaun of the Dead," but if you're going to rip off a scene, might as well rip off from the very best, and the ironic musical number did add a little something unique to this film. (Actually, from this part onwards, the film rips off a considerable number of basic ideas and situations from "Shaun.") Granted, I almost turned it off again during the dancing in the cemetery, because, as Lovecraft taught us, some things just too terrible for the rational mind to bear seeing.

On the whole, it wasn't a bad movie. It had standard zombie horror/thriller aspects, and actually stopped being much of a comedy and started to be primarily a drama/thriller about 2/3rds of the way through, which generally indicates/ensures that the movie suffers from some significant inherent flaws. One could regard the headmaster's storyline and behavior as darkly comedic, certainly, but the comedic elements kind of got obscured by the dramatic ones as well as by the commentary on modern culture. The downbeat aspects toward the end do kind of reflect a tendency in Brit- and Euro-cinema that borders on self-parody nowadays. Filmmakers in the region really need to stop being so...predictable. It's getting sad.

On the other hand, no matter how many times I've heard it, and I've heard it many times outside of this movie, "Olive the other reindeer" is still one of the best really stupid jokes around and I never get tired of hearing it. So there's that...
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6/10
Well....
2 February 2020
I would say my reaction to this short was that it was...okay. Either as a satire or parody, it didn't break much, if any, new comic ground. Or even evoke a chuckle, really.

I'd call myself a fan of Lynch, though not a superfan. I enjoy most of his work but don't really consider this a particularly good example. One major problem I did have with it was that he did a bad job editing it in places, especially in the unnecessarily long pauses between the backs-and-forths in the dialogue. It was just annoying. There were a couple places toward the end where they were appropriate to suggest classic noir self-reflection, but for most of the early running time, these pauses just held on a little too long to work in a professionally-edited piece.

Also, the integration of the mouth with the monkey was very well-done...except during the musical number, where it became distractingly obvious.
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7/10
Hadn't watched this since I was a kid
2 February 2020
Not quite how I remember it, but, really, how many things from childhood are?

It was a fun watch, though nostalgia played a large part. Despite the novelty of the setting, it didn't seem to be as good as other Peanuts specials and movies from the era. One problem was the relatively frequently repetition of the same jokes over and over, presumably to pad out the run-time. And I'm not on board with inserting actual adult representations and adults speaking comprehensibly -- the jokes and plot development could easily have been done with a bit of rewriting to keep the focus on the kids.

One part that did weird me out -- Peppermint Pattie going on and on about giving Pierre "a tumble." Given that the term comes from "a tumble in the hay" i.e. sex, it seemed a little off that a six or seven year old girl is talking about the possibility of giving the kid one. Eeesh.
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The Woods (2006)
7/10
I was trying to figure out what to make of this movie...
1 February 2020
...when it hit me: if seen as a somewhat inferior 4th entry into the Evil Dead series, the movie makes perfect sense. Ash traveled to 1940s New England after reading the Necronomicon again, married, had a daughter, sent her out to a cabin in the woods (remember, the headmistress told them that it started as a one-room schoolhouse) and his daughter has her own adventures. The faculty bore striking resemblances to the Deadites, if you'll noticed. The fact that Ash grabbed an axe instead of his trusty chainsaw and boomstick was just a character error that needs to be added to the goofs section.

So all-in-all, this movie wasn't quite up to the standards of the first three, but it was a solid "Evil Dead, The Next Generation" flick. It's probably for the best that Raimi wasn't involved with this one. Imagine what he'd do with evil rape trees and an entire school filled with women. One shudders to think.
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7/10
Nice little family drama...
28 January 2020
Sure, they were a clan of murdering cannibals, but they were just so spunky. It was them against the world and you just had to root for them to win out and live their lives in peace. It's a saga of familial tradition and the ties that bind, and while I'm sure the Doc and the deputy and all were well-intentioned, you just had to root for the underdog, which made the ending all the more satisfying.

The slow-burn threatened to drag in places, but never quite ground to a halt. It's not for everyone, and if you're looking for high-octane horror, you're going to be disappointed because only a small fraction of the movie kicks into high gear, a bit in the middle and a bit at the end.
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Star Trek: Voyager: Renaissance Man (2001)
Season 7, Episode 24
4/10
In the World of Tomorrow...
27 January 2020
...we will have no means of communication except talking. No keyboards, no writing implements or writing surfaces. No ability to use either (were they to exist) without looking directly at them and/or announcing to everyone listening (including nosy obese aliens) what's happening so you can't do anything surreptitiously.

I get the intention here. Create an exciting caper with elements of a comedy of errors. But the entire episode hinges on the fact that it made no sense whatsoever unless you assume one of (or both of) two things:

1) the Doctor is a complete idiot who can't possibly think of any alternatives than doing everything he's ordered (except, of course, when the orders come from someone who actually has the right and responsibility to give him orders) and can only come up with the most abstruse way to leave a relatively minor clue of very limited usefulness

2) In the World of Tomorrow, humanity (and the occasional representatives of vulcanity and klingoninity) has forgotten the concept of the written word and does everything a starship is capable of doing by pressing pretty pictures on a screen

It was just too distracting to suspend disbelief here long enough to relax and enjoy the caper plot. The actual events weren't uninteresting, as such. The fact that the viewer has to wrestle with the overwhelming impulse to cry out "Oh, for the love of God, is he stupid as fu...?" at the screen kind of neutralizes any interesting aspects to said events.

And in the end, at the very least, the Doctor should have been stripped of his ECH powers. Happy ending or not, he demonstrated quite ably that he could easily represent an existential danger to Voyager even when his program is technically performing properly. He also demonstrates why real command officers are chosen from people with experience -- he has thousands of tactical subroutines but has no idea how to act competently. He could destroy the ship just because he doesn't have the wisdom to see past the tactical subroutines that have been programmed into him and find a less-obvious solution.

This is a rare episode for Voyager: a bad Doctor episode.
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7/10
First things first...
26 January 2020
...I will concede that this movie was never going to actually "scare" me. While I love horror movies, I simply don't have the sort of mindset (or at least haven't had it since I was 12 and had trouble sleeping after seeing the first "Nightmare on Elm Street") to find myself viscerally frightened by a movie or TV show. I'm far more likely to be viscerally disgusted -- which is why I won't watch torture porn -- than frightened. So anything I have to say about this movie has to be understood in this context.

Having said that, the first time I watched this movie, 10 years ago, I really did start to get a sense of the tension and dread being built up. Some of the behavior of the characters made little sense (why not go to a public place for the night? or turn on actual lights rather than relying on the camera? or show the evidence to others? or even just decide that inexplicable and deeply unpleasant things happening demand to be taken seriously? looking at you, Micah) and that led to a sense of the director manipulating the audience by cutting off any avenue of escape by preventing the characters from finding relief, which in turn creates a sense of the inevitable. If they never leave their house/yard, at least not that the audience actually witnesses, well, yeah, it's going to feel suffocating and inexorable. That said, I do believe it works. Even if you have to suspend some belief and common sense, the movie accomplishes its goal, and does so with a nicely developing series of escalating phenomena. I can certainly see how people would find it disturbing, and could feel it myself (it wasn't going to scare me but that doesn't mean I'm insensitive to the effect.)

Unfortunately, the aspects I've mentioned also drag down the rating. It's just too manipulative, too much like cheating. I wanted to love it, because you always want to pull for the guy who makes a movie for $15K and hopes for the best. I liked it, even if I didn't really like the leads (especially Micah, who comes across as a stereotype to keep the movie going, which also feels like cheating, a little) and I do admire the director's combination of real creepiness while exercising a restraint that few horror directors seem to be capable of. My rewatch has left me with the same opinion as my original watch, so I feel comfortable in the consistency of my reactions to the movie as a whole/
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Star Trek: Voyager: Prophecy (2001)
Season 7, Episode 14
Klingons drinking the Kool-Aid
21 January 2020
Warning: Spoilers
What's a Klingon to do when he or she decides the government is corrupt and they need a new-age messiah? Jump on a ship and head toward the Delta Quadrant, turning a Klingon battleship into a generation ship. Somehow. I never got the sense that Klingon ships were quite as amenable to...domestication as a Federation ship. But there they are, 100 years later, and thriving (with the negligible exception of a deadly disease that kills them in their prime, obviously.)

It's an interesting look at how a culture changes, and doesn't change, over generations of isolation. Their captain seems positively contemplative by Klingon standards, and their Resident Rebel Leader seems perfectly comfortable with sneak attacks and stabbing people in the back (metaphorically.) I'm not sure the episode ever rose above its basic conceit, though. It spent most of its time focused on the one issue, the cult's prophecy, and we never really get to see the (imho) far more interesting issue of how the Klingon culture has been affected by both the atypically-messianic religious doctrines and the enforced isolation over four generations. It's not *bad*, strictly-speaking. It's just underwhelming given its potential.

One question did bug me: the Resident Rebel Leader was amazed at the powers of the modern Federation transporters versus their antiquated ones, with a specific (and plot-driving) emphasis on the fact that the Federation transporters could move large numbers of people, in a pinch. So the leaders set their ship to self-destruct in approximately 60 seconds under the impression that Voyager's transporters wouldn't be able to save most of them....? Seems overly suicidal, to say nothing of homicidal, and there wasn't even any guarantee they'd be among the few saved. In the absence of any reason to believe these Klingons were happy committing straight up suicide without even the honor of dying in battle, I'm going to call this a massive goof.
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Star Trek: Voyager: Repentance (2001)
Season 7, Episode 13
7/10
The most interesting aspect of this episode...
20 January 2020
...was actually the most predictable -- the number of reviewers upset that the episode chose to approach the issue from multiple tangents rather than just present it in the way the reviewers wanted.

Make no mistake (though, of course, angry narrowly-focused viewers will inevitably do so), this episode included a variety of perceptions and a variety of reasonable (if occasionally conflicting) arguments. From Seven's analytic counterpoint to the Doctor's programmed lack of objectivity, from Neelix's embracing of the issue of social inequality to the prisoner's behavior showing that sometimes people are guilty regardless of social problems, from the Neelix's argument for absolute objectivity to his concession to the logic of the prisoner's argument for subjective punishments (which he doesn't actually agree with, just concedes that the argument can be made), from the question of mental illness relative to the question of the safety of society, from the difficulty in imposing one's own system in cases of divergent justice systems, this episode brings them all to bear, and never settles resolutely on one side of any of these debates. The only real absolute is that the Federation opposes capital punishment in its own jurisdiction, and if that upsets a viewer, that viewer should probably have done more research on the history of Star Trek and the world-building that has been done since the original series. If you were surprised by *that*, you haven't been watching closely.

While this episode wasn't particularly profound, it definitely took great pains not to be preachy, making sure most of the conflicting opinions were allowed to go straight to the viewer without an attempt to compel one opinion or another. It's clear that most people getting upset are upset that the alternative views were presented as lucidly and free of excessive preachyness as the ones they themselves held. Like everyone else, I have my views on all the issues presented, and when the episode was over, I didn't feel in the least like the show confirmed or dismissed my own perspective, which is a nice accomplishment on such loaded issues.

Too many echo chambers atrophy our ability to see things clearly, and that's a real shame.
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Star Trek: Voyager: Memorial (2000)
Season 6, Episode 14
8/10
Provocative use of sci-fi to up the ante
11 January 2020
The concept of memorials to atrocities and war is, sadly, something humanity has become familiar with. We have come to understand that monuments aren't necessarily remembrances of good, but can be reminders of evil. What any fan of sci-fi should be able to appreciate is how this episode uses science fiction to actually accomplish something with a real-world idea, the concept of living memory (not unique to this episode in ST terms, of course, with the most famous example being the TNG episode, "The Inner Light".)

Though the show mentions Khitomer and Gettysburg, and one reviewer brings up the Holocaust, this episode appears to be most directly related to the My Lai massacre, one of the more horrific atrocities by soldiers against unarmed civilians in recent memory (and one of the most appalling cases of miscarriage of justice in the aftermath.) The episode's lack of subtlety in this regard actually serves a function, reminding us that even the so-called "good guys" can commit terrible things when pushed past their breaking point, and even in the midst of evil, there can be a lot of very scared desperate people who would never have dreamed they were capable of such things. It's a powerful reminder, and Janeway's reasoning for recharging the memorial is a compelling one in that regard.

Speaking of Janeway's decision, I think at least a couple reviewers weren't paying attention when she very clearly states that they will, in addition to powering the memorial, put up a warning buoy so others who approach will know what to expect if they come close, giving them the choice to experience the memories or, you know, say "Nah" and move on. Janeway had to the foresight to protect both the memories and those who might unwittingly approach the monument and be treated to the same experience. That issue was anticipated and written into the script.
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Star Trek: Voyager: Virtuoso (2000)
Season 6, Episode 13
7/10
A missed opportunity
11 January 2020
I suppose licensing the song (or any song, given that the Doc doesn't perform any music that's still under copyright) would have killed the budget, but I'm still disappointed that the Doc didn't choose Randy Newman's "Short People" at one of the concerts on the planet. Such is the tragic nature of the world that things like this don't happen.

Other than that, I found it an interesting, if somewhat pointless, episode. It doesn't really explore any aspect of the Doctor's development that hasn't already been explored. We've already covered the ground of the Doctor wanting more appreciation, of the Doctor asserting his individuality, of the Doctor seeking to live out his (day)dreams, etc. I did find it implausible that the Captain wouldn't put up more of a fight -- resigning one's commission isn't simply a matter of saying "I don't want to do this anymore" even in normal circumstances, and Janeway would have said so if any other integral officer tried, whether B'Elanna put Engineering at risk or Tuvok or Tom or any other officer with highly specialized skills tried to abandon Voyager. And the Doctor might even be the single most irreplaceable crew member, given how dangerous the Delta Quadrant has proven to be and how the next most capable "doctor" is essentially a field medic (we even saw not long ago how the Doctor insisted nobody else could do certain kinds of surgery in "Latent Image.) And being aboard Voyager tens of thousands of light years away from the nearest reliable source of help just magnifies the unlikelihood that Janeway would just go with the "friendship" argument for releasing the Doctor from his duties. Despite what the Doctor said, she certainly didn't let Harry Kim off so easily, and he's probably the least integral of the main cast officers (plus Seven, for that matter. He beats out Neelix, but only barely, since Neelix brings information about the region to the table, while Harry doesn't bring anything that one of the other officers couldn't also offer.)

So, a serviceable but not really meaningful episode on the fleeting nature of celebrity and fame. I'm just not sure Star Trek really needed to weigh in on this particular aspect of existence.

Also, I didn't care for the Doctor's rendition of "I've Been Working on the Railroad." He sings it just fine, I just prefer other interpretations. I just wanted to get that off my chest, because it's surely important that everyone hears my opinion on the matter. Right? Right....?
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Star Trek: Voyager: Dragon's Teeth (1999)
Season 6, Episode 7
7/10
The paradox of the enemy of my enemy
9 January 2020
Warning: Spoilers
One of the more interesting themes in Voyager, particularly since they encounter so many different hostile species, is the old aphoristic "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" philosophy. This, of course, is most prominently seen in the temporary alliance (and inevitable betrayal) involving the Borg against Species 8472, which one assumes -- given the later fall-out over that alliance, seen both in the attempted retaliation of Species 8472 and the alien who tried to turn Voyager over to the Borg as a revenge for the effect the alliance had on his species -- would give everyone on Voyager pause when it came to forming alliances against a common foe. Alas, circumstances in the Delta Quadrant have forced (or at least encouraged) Voyager to take chances, and once again, Voyager pays the price. All-in-all, not a necessary episode (as the issue was handled much more prominently and effectively with the aforementioned alliance with the Borg) but not a terrible one either...though it does bring up a point that's nagged at me the whole series, as well as in other ST series from time to time.

To wit, how is it that Voyager, and Federation as a whole, weapon and shield technology is almost never enough to win a battle on its own? They almost always need trickery, or technobabble, or just plain luck to survive any of their fights. I get that a series of "Voyager blows yet another alien ship apart with relative ease" episodes would quickly become boring, but it just seems ridiculous that technologically inferior opponents seem to be able to push Voyager to the brink of destruction every single time. The Kazon being able to do that was bad. A species whose technology is 900 years out of date being able to bring Voyager almost to a crash landing with weapons on small fighters just seemed ridiculous. Thirty or forty ships with badly outdated weapons technology is still just 30-40 ships with badly outdated weapons technology. Imagine 40 archers from 900 years ago massed together to take down a modern tank. You could put 10,000 archers together and they'd still hardly do any more damage than a single archer. This episode takes the whole "make sure the fights are exciting" directive to its ridiculous conclusion. Voyager can't even destroy these fighters apparently (despite what we saw on screen) because the dialogue makes it clear that the fighters were only disabled.
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Star Trek: Voyager: Barge of the Dead (1999)
Season 6, Episode 3
7/10
Klingon Hell, Human Bafflement
8 January 2020
I do so love a well-done surreal episode of Star Trek. Or of most tv shows, for that matter. But sometimes I wonder whether they're worth it, seeing as a sizeable portion of the viewers apparently start writing angry, scathing reviews without giving a moment's thought to what actually happened. People acting out-of-character during a surreal vision/dream? Not a goof. If everything went normally and characters behaved exactly how you'd expect a character to behave, there would be no point to the sequence being a dream or vision. A dream or vision that is indistinguishable for what passes for reality on a show...*that* would be baffling and odd. If Chakotay acts different from normal, or if the Doc can be harmed by physical weapons, it's actually consistent with the very premise.

As for the episode itself, I enjoyed the themes it tried to explore, and, for the most part, did so successfully. The main flaw in this episode is built into the format -- there wasn't enough time to give said themes full shrift, so we ultimately ended up with a conclusion that's less open to interpretation as somewhat incomplete. We can interpret what the episode is trying to drive at, but there simply wasn't enough connection between the behavior/dialogue and the resultant actions to have any particularly solid reason for our interpretations. Which is a pity, because it was a fascinating episode that developed a solid foundation for a character study, not only of B'Ellana but of the general Klingon psyche of the entire race, and the religious beliefs therefrom. I still rate it a solid 7 because it was worth watching; it just never quite closed the deal before the 40-some odd minutes ran out. It would have made a great 2-parter, but the topic itself, being so focused on one character in the ensemble, probably wasn't epic enough for the writers to sell it to the show-runners as worthy of having 2 episodes dedicated to it. Pity, because I can think of several episodes we could have done without if it meant this one got a continuation into the following week.
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Star Trek: Voyager: Survival Instinct (1999)
Season 6, Episode 2
8/10
A well-written episode
8 January 2020
As a character study as well as an exploration of the nature of the Borg versus individuality, this episode actually managed to revisit an oft-visited topic since Seven came onto the show (as well as during later TNG) without seeming like a rehash. Waiting for the twist actually kept me interested, and while the twist wasn't extraordinarily shocking or anything, it was very well-done and appropriate to the episode's themes, including the question of guilt.

My only tiny little objection: since Borg can clearly be out of range of the Collective's, well, collective thought -- that was a central premise of the episode, after all -- it seems to me that the logical course of action the trio should have taken was to get as far away from each other as possible. Somehow, I seriously doubt Seven's ad hoc quickfix would be stronger and range farther than the transmissions of the entire Borg collective. Why not pick three different vectors with large angles between them and start going as far as they could as fast as they could until the interlink was interrupted? It seems too obvious a solution for the script not to have at least technobabbled why it wouldn't work.
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Star Trek: Voyager: Juggernaut (1999)
Season 5, Episode 21
7/10
A fairly straightforward episode
5 January 2020
Though not particularly inspiring or clever (whenever a character on a TV show has a lesson or experience early on, you can bet the writers will make it somehow miraculously relevant by the episode's end unless they actually try to subvert expectations) episode, it was a solid "monster of the week" (the monster being the freighter and the danger it represents, not the literal monster here) episode. So instead of spending too much time discussing it, I'd rather discuss something that has been an ongoing issue in Star Trek since the beginning but seems to be especially prominent in Voyager...the bizarre reticence of the ST powers that be to feature suits of any sort -- EVA suits, biohazard suits, radiation suits, space suits in general, etc. Occasionally we'll get a suit when the alternative is simply impossible, like Paris and Torres being stuck out free-floating in the vacuum of space, but it's rare. It almost feels like a mythos vanity, as if the Star Trek bible doesn't like to show characters who aren't immediately identifiable as being from Star Trek via either uniform or general appearance. In this case, aboard a freighter contaminated with radiation and in need of decompression, the fact that there are no radiation suits or EVA suits with magnetic grips (it would seem that 24th century technology could devise a single suit for multiple types of dangers) just seems almost egregiously silly. Granted, a lot of the drama would have to be rewritten, but at least it would make sense contextually.

This is not a problem solely found in this episode or this series, but it is one that is accentuated by this particular episode more so than usual. It just nags while watching. Incidentally, it would have also been nice to offer even a technobabble explanation for why the time frame for inoculation was an issue in the first place, seeing as they could (and did) clearly inject more later, so what did it matter unless there was a severely limited supply for some reason?
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Star Trek: Voyager: The Fight (1999)
Season 5, Episode 19
3/10
When an episode is...
4 January 2020
...rated lower than the one where Paris and Janeway have slimy amphibian sex -- and seem remarkably blase about the whole thing when they are technobabbled back into human form -- you know you aren't winning love from the audience.

That's all I had to say. I just needed to point out that somehow this was a less-beloved episode than an episode involving Human-Salamander coital relations. That's...that quite an accomplishment.
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Star Trek: Voyager: Infinite Regress (1998)
Season 5, Episode 7
7/10
7 of...well, an awful large number
1 January 2020
The fun of these sorts of episodes, where one character is the primary focus of the plot and is given a chance to flex his/her acting muscles, is seeing how well the writers create opportunities with good writing, and how well the actor is up to the challenge of either doing justice to a good script or lifting a mediocre (or bad) script up. In this episode, the script was pretty decent, but not earth-shattering (see episode immediately preceding this one for an example of a great script that gave an actor a chance to match, and the actor pulled it off.) However, Jeri Ryan gave an almost-great performance. I say "almost" because her acting chops were never in question in this episode but, sadly, she doesn't really do voices. Which isn't a slam on her -- some people can do voices with amazing facility, others just aren't gifted at that particular skill, and there's only so much teaching can do to compensate for not being naturally adept at it.

In any event, Jeri Ryan absolutely does a fine job with the mannerisms and tics and behaviors of each individual personality/race. She may be eye candy, but she has the acting chops to rise above that, and the script was perfectly designed to let her show range and adaptability.

I do have a couple reservations about the script. First, once the Doctor identified the cause of the cube's destruction as a synthetic virus, every half-way awake viewer probably immediately knew that it was almost-certainly a deliberate infection designed as a weapon against the Borg, especially after hearing the history of the race involved and the nature of how the virus got aboard the ship. Yet it literally doesn't seem to even occur to any of Voyager's staff that this might be the case despite the fact that they literally helped take out Species 8472 with a similar plan, something that was referenced not 3 episodes back (presumably only weeks or possibly months ago in Voyager time) My other issues were: 1) Why did "blow that sucker up with photon torpedoes rather than beam it aboard" never seem to occur to them. It was obviously not well-shielded because they could beam it aboard, and this was prior to the Doctor declaring that it was too late to destroy it without harming 7; 2) That "can't escape because subspace" was ludicrous. If it could disseminate the virus so easily and unavoidably, it wouldn't even be necessary as a trap -- it could just go after all Borg vessels in subspace range, which meant that it wasn't so much a Trojan Horse as a continuous bomb.

Overall, it was a fun episode to watch, mainly for the chance to see an actor really put on a performance.
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Star Trek: Voyager: Extreme Risk (1998)
Season 5, Episode 3
5/10
Exceeding their grasp
31 December 2019
Warning: Spoilers
In theory, dealing with B'elanna's sense of survivor's guilt could make a fantastic episode in the latter day 1990s Trek continuum of TNG (later seasons), DS9, and Voyager. This is the sort of issue that makes for prime intense delving into real-world sorts of problems. Where this episode failed, however, was in being far too pat, as if the showrunners and writers were on a deadline and needed a B-plot post-haste. It had a promising enough start (though one does wonder how a safety protocols-less holodeck would simulate crashing into the ground at terminal velocity...push the holographic ground up with extreme acceleration to it reaches terminal velocity before it hits the holodeck ceiling 18 feet above?) But it never really tried to explore the issue with any particular insight. B'Elanna is apathetic. B'Elanna is withdrawn and defensive. B'Elanna is showing little regard for her safety. Yadda yadda. Then Chakotay has an extremely shallow conversation with her (basically "I understand how you feel, now shape up and play along") and B'Elanna, who seemed unmoved and unconvinced (rightly, really, seeing as Chakotay was about as deep and insightful as a Springer episode, including the manhandling of the guest) but suddenly decides she's back to caring and wants to risk her life. And Chakotay takes very little convincing to send a seemingly-suicidal woman onto a ship with three of the most important people on the ship, presumably on the assumption that his cheap pop psychology must have gotten through to her after all.

Concept? Intriguing. Execution? Mediocre and lazy. The concept deserved better, and more time spent on it.

How B'elanna knew what Chakotay was doing is an open question, since she wasn't on the bridge when Paris made the request for another hand or when Janeway sent Chakotay down there. (And since she kicked the Vulcan off the Delta Flyer when she arrived, that completely defeated the purpose of having an additional pair of hands...the net gain was zero.)
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Star Trek: Voyager: Demon (1998)
Season 4, Episode 24
6/10
Mixed feelings
30 December 2019
Warning: Spoilers
What we had here was a pretty good idea. A non-sentient bio-organic mimetic fluid on a world so inhospitable that it has literally never before encountered an intelligent lifeform (or any lifeform? one assumes so because there are, as far as we can tell, no other beings around that are obviously living creatures) Leaving aside for the second that this episode falls into the classic sci-fi cloning trap of assuming DNA contains short term memory, language, social graces, etc, the concept is nevertheless a compelling plot point to build a story around. The replicas raise questions of identity, self-preservation, and the power of sentience to appreciate its own existence. It's an interesting new take on old ideas in science fiction.

My primary problem is how the situation is resolved. The writers chose to create the central tension by making it a matter of either escape and harm a couple newly-sentient life-forms or....well, give them what they want. And here's where we come to a rather severe disconnect in how the episode treats the aforementioned issue of identity. The replicas clearly want to live, to explore their world as individuals. When Captain Janeway offers them a chance to increase their numbers by sampling the DNA of other Voyager crew, the philosophical and personal implications of such a resolution are every bit as compelling and staggering as the ones of the replicas, and it is just skipped over and Voyager leaves, with a few dozen replicas remaining on the planet. The idea of individuality is at the heart and soul of humanity -- Star Trek even makes it part of one of their most compelling aspect of universe-building in creating the Borg -- and it seems unlikely in the extreme that a significant number of Voyager's crew would willingly subject themselves to be duplicated in such a fashion. At the very least, they would likely require a *lot* of convincing, with plenty of existential angst involved. But the episode just brushes over this aspect despite it being necessary to make the plot believable and bring the issue to a full circle. And it strikes me as unlikely that Janeway would compel them rather than accepting their rejection of this proposal and blasting the ship's way off the surface, unhappy duplicates be damned. This ending was problematic enough for me that I was calling the entire episode's value into question despite the promising premise.

A question that has little to do with the plot -- the Demon-class planet is called the most hostile type of planet for humanoid life, which, unless the class covers a HUGE range of planets, is patently ridiculous. At least three of the planets in our solar system alone are measurably worse than the conditions described for this planet (Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus are all more deadly, with Jupiter being worse by an order of magnitude, not just degrees. Neptune and Uranus are pretty dangerous as well.) The fact that Tom and Jer...er, Harry felt okay leaving the back of the shuttle open to the environment while they wandered demonstrates this planet is relatively mild in terms of environment hostile to humanoids. All it would take is removing or amending a line of dialogue to fix this obvious flaw, but it still nags that any Starfleet officer, let alone a Vulcan, would be so wrong in his declarations.
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Star Trek: Voyager: Retrospect (1998)
Season 4, Episode 17
8/10
The galaxy is a complicated place
29 December 2019
...and try to examine this episode in terms of complexity.

While I understand the furor over the treatment of the (metaphorical) rape victim and the indications that it was an (unintentionally) false accusation, one of the most fascinating aspects of the evolution of Star Trek over its various incarnation and series is the way the underlying themes and plots grow both heavier and more complex. TOS was...well, it wasn't exactly the most profound and deep of series. It was groundbreaking, but still a product of its times, when there was far less freedom on TV to explore the more troubling aspects of the world. TNG gradually evolved from less-than-inspiring early seasons to become far more complex and insightful than TOS ever was (and that includes most of the early movies, Wrath excepted.) With DS9, they started pushing the envelope almost immediately, bringing in issues of society and religion, war crimes. slavery, genocide, terrorism, and...oh, all the usual things you'd expect from a station located on the precipice of continuous warfare. Voyager has continued the tradition of exploring issue in more depth, if unevenly so in the first 3 seasons. And then we have this episode...

The attempts from certain portions of society to minimize the suffering of rape, especially by blaming the victim or overreacting to anecdotes of false accusations make this episode a fraught one indeed. Despite saying, and believing, that the outcome here is a dangerous one, I actually think that the writers managed to make an intelligent choice. In TOS or at least 2/3rds of the run of TNG, the episode would have ended with the accused proven guilty, the accuser vindicated, and the world returned to its balance. It feels good, it feels right (unless you are one of those angry men who can't handle the fact that rape is a serious problem in this world and among our species) and nobody would have complained (except aforementioned men.)

But....the world, and the galaxy, apparently, is not a simple feel-good place. Humans are complex creatures. Due to her nature, Seven of Nine is more complex than most. She's dealing with a horrific past, a confusing present, and a future that promises to make dealing with her past even more horrific. And that's exactly what this episode is really about. Not the metaphorical rape that appeared to occur in this episode, but by the metaphorical *life-destroying* rape that absolutely did happen when she was a small child. It's not about a false accusation of rape, it's about a true accusation of rape. As she becomes more human, she has become more cognizant of the horror done to her. Just a few episodes ago, she considered being assimilated, and her life afterwards, to be the best thing that ever happened to her. But no human that thinks like a human would take that perspective. She's starting to think like a human, feel like a human, and that includes being appalled and angry at what was done to her, like any rape victim should and would.

This was a troubling episode, no question, with an apparently troubling moral. Beneath that apparent moral, I think, is a far more complex and meaningful one, though.
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Star Trek: Voyager: Prey (1998)
Season 4, Episode 16
7/10
7 of 9: The Teen Years
29 December 2019
As other reviews here clearly demonstrate by their insistence on taking sides and declaring absolutes, this was an episode fraught with difficult and complex decisions. On one hand, we have the Starfleet ideals (which, some people seem to be forgetting, aren't atypical of any Star Trek series, and captains like Picard and Sisko have made very similar decisions. Granted, Kirk might not be a great example of that, but TOS was less fraught with these sorts of situations, especially when Kirk could just punch and sex his way through the galaxy instead.) On the other hand, the practicalities of being alone out in space (which occurs for most Starfleet vessels, actually, not just Voyager...how many times does the crew of a given ship on a given series depend on being rescued by Starfleet rather than getting themselves out of the predicament du jour?)

I'm not going to bother taking a side here. I'm neither a Starfleet, nor a hapless extra just waiting for the command decisions that will get me killed, not a Twitter god with legions of fans anxiously awaiting my opinion on an issue brought up in some sci-fi episode from 20 years ago. I can go on about how ideals aren't ideals if you throw them away at every dangerous turn, or about how sometimes you have to just bite the bullet and do the safest thing, but I won't because reading the other reviews on the topic here has bored me to death with their declamations and certainties and barely-suppressed rage for some reason. Instead, I just want to take a moment to point out that 7 of 9 at the end of the episode sounded *exactly* like an angry teenager lashing out at her parents and trying to gain the moral high ground after doing something the parents disapproved of. Which is fair -- 7 has only been fully human for a very short time. And Captain Janeway did exactly what a parent should do in that situation -- refuse to argue the point because there's no way the teenager won't continue to feel like she (or he) is being picked on and treated unfairly, no matter how specious the argument might be. Regardless of how you feel about the rest of the episode and the decisions made, Janeway made the right call there.

Incidentally, Tony Todd should be in every episode of every Star Trek. We had a vicious, nigh-impervious alien species that wants to wipe out all other species on Voyager, and Candyman was still the scariest being on board.
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Star Trek: Voyager: Random Thoughts (1997)
Season 4, Episode 10
6/10
Yeah....no
28 December 2019
Warning: Spoilers
While watching the plot unfold and how Captain Janeway dealt with it, the title of this review was my main thought. She's big on Starfleet protocol. I get that. But nothing over the last 3.5 seasons suggests she'd *ever* leave a member of her crew to risk being lobotomized over a "crime" that was neither predictable nor parallel to anything in Starfleet's own law. Especially not when they're stuck 60,000 light years from home and caring for her ship and crew is paramount amongst her priorities. The Captain Janeway of literally every other episode would have been ordering every one of her officers to devise a way to break B'Elanna out with all necessary (but no more than necessary) force if they couldn't clear her name. At the very least, she would have ordered a transporter lock.

Other than spending the episode wondering if there was some subplot where the Captain suddenly developed dementia or something in this episode, it was a solid watch. Not a particularly subtle one, but that's the danger of trying to create a morality tale about thought crimes in a milieu where telepathy can and does exist in multiple species. It was a bit predictable -- since we already know the Voyager crew will win the day, it's pretty obvious that one of the locals was responsible -- but we at least got a really annoying and willfully stupid local gendarme to root against. It was a bit off-putting that Tuvok didn't call her out for lying about actually intending to let the Captain have a chance to investigate and prove B'Elenna's innocence. You'd think a logical creature like a Vulcan would point that out once it became apparent that the local cop never intended to hear new evidence.
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Star Trek: Voyager: The Gift (1997)
Season 4, Episode 2
6/10
Decent episode that had a couple problems...
25 December 2019
Warning: Spoilers
As a transitional casting episode, The Gift introduced us to one of the primary plot arcs for the next season or more, 7 of 9's sometimes-difficult reversion to being as fully human as her residual Borg implants will allow. The secondary plot, Kes leaving the ship (and show) actually seemed somewhat underdeveloped, with so little explanation that it almost felt like a hurried deus ex machina to help usher the character off as quickly and with as little fuss as possible. Aside from an emotional scene with Janeway, this particular plot had little power and less resonance.

In the 7 of 9 arc, I found a couple things troubling. One, Janeway (and the engineering people) was extremely negligent in keeping a close eye on *everything* 7 of 9 was doing. Posting some random yellow-shirt to hang around was hardly a believable security measure from Captain Janeway, given the treacherousness the Borg had displayed JUST ONE EPISODE AGO and the clearly-fervent connection 7 of 9 felt for the Borg even when disconnected from the Collective. It made no sense, especially when Janeway introduces 7 to the engineering group and implied that 7 was trustworthy and sincere and didn't need to be treated with suspicion (at least our lovely resident half-Klingon was smart enough to do so.) Another problem I had was how *terrible* Janeway was at argumentation. Though she references the danger 7 represented a couple times, she seemed to be speechless at 7's clearly fallacious arguments about how she's being treated. Janeway doesn't bother to point out that 7 had brought it on herself, or that there were clear differences between being thrown into the brig and being forcibly assimilated, or that the Borg had already demonstrated that they'd take Voyager without a second thought (a Borg should easily understand the logic there) or even that 7 was demonstrating why she shouldn't be immediately set free even as she stood in that cell. That was just bad writing and not in keeping with what we've seen of the character of Captain Janeway.

My last problem comes from the end of the episode, where we clearly made a time jump into the future. It was lazy. All of the sudden, Janeway feels 7 can be trusted, the Doctor has pared down her Borg physiology as far as he could, and 7 seems to be practically friendly. That's an awful lot of character development y'all just skipped over, buddies. Tacking that ending on made your jobs easier, to be sure, but it also worsened the series by taking the easy way out.

(Also, why did Tuvok not receive a security alert immediately after 7 took control of room in Engineering? He would never have turned those off -- he's Vulcan and meticulous about his job as Chief of Security. And, without any further information being shared as the situation is resolved, the captain is talking to him as though he'd been privy to everything that had been happening all along.)
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