Stardate 00007.14: The Mists of <i>Voyager</i> - Mania.com



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Stardate 00007.14: The Mists of Voyager

Spoilers for Voyager's seventh season; Avalon Rising; Beltran's Big Mouth

By Michelle Erica Green     July 14, 2000

As Star Trek: Voyager has wrapped its first episode of the season and moved on to the second, more rumors have leaked out about the plots of the early installments (Warning: Potential spoilers ahead! Skip down to avoid them!). We know from the official site at startrek.com that Susanna Thompson will be back as the Borg Queen. The Section 31 Website adds that in part two of 'Unimatrix Zero,' Janeway and her assimilated crewmembers successfully infect the Collective, forcing the Queen to kill thousands of drones in her effort to wipe out Unimatrix Zero. The rebel Borg help the Voyager crewmembers get back to their ship safely.

Steve Krutzler at TrekWeb has posted a number of descriptions for upcoming episodes, though some of them strain credulity. Then again, I was sure Alice had to be a joke until they actually filmed the episode. 'Imperfection' focuses on Seven of Nine, who must adapt to her experiences in Unimatrix Zero and help Janeway come to terms with having been assimilated. David Livingston is directing the episode.

In a later installment, Tom Paris apparently rebuilds the Delta Flyer and enters it in a sort of pod race--gosh, I wonder where they got that idea. Another rumor concerns the Holodoc taking on the Delta Quadrant equivalent of an HMO, which could make for an interesting commentary on 20th century medicine, or be just plain ludicrous.

The most interesting TrekWeb rumor concerns an episode in which Tuvok will investigate crimes against Maquis crewmembers. At this late date, it's hard to imagine who would have a grudge against the Maquis, particularly given that Torres now acts more Starfleet than the incompetents from 'Good Shepherd.' Hmmm...maybe that's part of the problem. The episode is reportedly titled 'Repression.'

In movie rumors, TrekToday points readers to Corona Coming Attractions, which first repeated J.G. Hertzler's statement that John Logan would write the script for Trek X. Now they're reporting on the supposed death of Data, which Brent Spiner has often said he thought would be necessary since his own aging face can't continue to stand in for that of the immortal android. Apparently Spiner has pitched the death of Data to the producers, who want to have the crew discover an unactivated android like Data so that they can bring Spiner back later.

IGN Movies has alleged that Logan will direct the new film as well as write it, but Logan has not directed previously, and it seems to be widely expected that Jonathan Frakes will helm this movie as he did the previous two. There's no official word yet from Paramount or Rick Berman, who continues to advise that the next film and the next series will be 'fresh and exciting.'

Trek Comics: Star Trek: Voyager-Avalon Rising

How do I love this comic? Let me count the ways...

Avalon Rising begins with the noble Janeway, Warrior Princess, carrying her trusted sword and wearing the cloak of Starfleet, in battle against the outlaw Chakotay. After defeating him in single combat, she offers his band of renegades a truce if they'll join her--not as serfs and cowherds, but as equals. At the conclusion of this tale, the storyteller pictures the beautiful long-haired queen and the handsome outlaw with the scar over his eye fading into the firelight...

And then, just when the romantic in me is sighing blissfully, the bard embarks upon another tale. In this one, a squire named Weylyn encounters a powerful wizard who needs to travel to the mysterious Blind Tower in order to contact his distant ship. As the squire escorts him to the court, the wizard complains, 'I'm a Doctor, not a crusader!' But he entertains Weylyn with tales about the criminal Paris who became a sailor, the were-woman Torres who became a shipwright, the ice maiden freed from an evil spell and the rest of the noble Janeway's motley crew.

Of course, the Doctor is really on an away mission, trying to shut down the technology left in the tower by a powerful race that died out decades earlier. Captain Janeway intercepted a message from the dying leader of that species, explaining that their hidden weapons will destroy the peaceful feudal society on the planet unless someone intervenes. Despite Prime Directive qualms, she agrees, not knowing that squires like Weylyn are victims to the brutal knights because they don't dare challenge the dictum that might makes right.

There's no question that the premise will be too goofy for some readers, not to mention the drawings of Janeway in Lady Pendragon's clothes and the Doctor wearing a crown with a Starfleet emblem. But if sword-and-sorcery epics hold any appeal, Avalon Rising is pure delight. The artwork by David Roach is stunning--lush forests on the planet, a dragon, a castle, a battle in space. There's even a typical comic harem, but it works in context, like the Dabo girls on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Best of all are the images of Voyager as a sailing ship--with Paris at the helm, Kim using an astrolabe, Torres adjusting the sails and Janeway looking over the prow with her hands on her hips. It's Voyager as archetypal quest narrative, with images that capture the breathtaking idealism of Starfleet's mission of exploration. Writers Janine Ellen Young and Doselle Young portray the characters at their most heroic, keeping the Doctor's trademark sense of humor and the captain's penchant for waxing poetic about the integrity of Starfleet. This is what the episode 'Muse' could have been if the show's writers had imaginations as broad as Young and Young.

Avalon Rising was clearly put together by people who love the romance underlying the series, even if it's been all but forgotten on the television show. I admit I'm a sucker for Janeway with long hair and great fencing skills, yet in her ordinary incarnation, she's still a shining example of what a Star Trek captain should be. This comic is nostalgic on two levels: for the sort of fantasy incorporated into old episodes like 'Shore Leave' and 'Spectre of the Gun,' and for the idea of Voyager as a series about exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new civilizations and boldly going where no one has gone before.

Trek People: Beltran's Big Mouth

Voyager's Chakotay, Robert Beltran, has never been quiet about his dissatisfaction with many aspects of Star Trek: Voyager--not even at the beginning, when he seemed genuinely attached to his character and his co-stars. Now he's being blunt about his disgust with the production and his disinterest in Chakotay. During his latest appearance in London, he made fun of the cast, ridiculed the writers, scoffed at sci-fi and objected to the producers' pandering to the lowest common denominator in the audience.

For fans who have complaints about Voyager's cliched plots and weak characterization, Beltran's comments are a breath of fresh air, and a nice break from other castmembers' cheery insistence every season that the show's just getting better and better, even as they sleepwalk through performances. But to people who don't appreciate hearing Trek criticized, especially not by someone who gets paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to appear on it, Beltran sounds like an unappreciative, selfish guy whose attitude seems unprofessional. Arguments exploded over the America Online chat boards, the fan newsgroups and various online sites this week about his comments and their aftermath.

Personally, I don't see how anyone can argue with the notion that the Borg have become the bore ('We are going to assimilate you.' 'Fine, put me out of my misery.') Nor is there any way around the observation that Chakotay's failures with women would humiliate any man. I had to laugh at his comment, 'My own personal writers write a lot more for me than the writers who write for Chakotay,' and how can anyone argue with, 'You know Star Trek is pretty much a formula show, and the episodes that we've seen on Voyager are pretty much variations of the same episodes from Deep Space Nine or The Next Generation'? All right, it's kind of odd to hear that comment from someone who brags about the fact that he didn't watch those shows, but that doesn't make it not true.

I didn't think it was a slam at Kate Mulgrew to say that things started going wrong with Voyager from the moment Genevieve Bujold quit-that sounds like a reflection on the producers' odd decision-making right from the beginning, when that disastrous casting choice almost derailed the entire show. And it's just honesty to note that the ratings have declined further and further, so the network's giving Seven of Nine credit for 'saving' the show is ludicrous and insulting to the other characters. 'When that happens, I check out right away and give as little as possible emotional involvement as I can. So I would have to say honestly that for probably the last two or two-and-a-half years, I haven't quite read a full Voyager script,' admitted Beltran.

I'm torn between horror at the unprofessionalism of this announcement and the desire to cheer at Beltran's passive resistance, since active resistance doesn't seem to have gotten Dawson or McNeill anywhere in terms of development for their characters, while it seems to have worked for Picardo mostly because the Doctor has such wit. Many fans are furious that Beltran suggested Chakotay could be killed off midway through the final season, but that doesn't seem any worse than Mulgrew suggesting Janeway go out in a coffin last year so the actress could have more private time than her expensive contract allowed. If anything, it's more comforting to hear Beltran ask to walk away because he's bored with the acting than Mulgrew--playing the first full-time female captain on Trek--complain that the role is taking too much time away from her husband.

But Beltran also pretended to call a drunk Mulgrew at home and ridicule her in front of her kids. And he was sarcastic about Picardo's sense of his own cleverness while at the same time observing that his cleverness has gotten Picardo better scripts. Beltran also dissed Shatner and the original series, which is just plain silly in front of a crowd of partisans. He got started on Klingon honor, and the series' science and the fact that he thinks the writers are brain-damaged. These are just not the kind of comments that fans want to hear when they pay substantial sums of money to hear an actor speak, and some of his co-workers would be justified in never speaking to him again.

Julia Houston at about.com's Star Trek site doesn't hesitate to give Beltran a piece of her mind. 'Attention, Beltran: Working as a team to keep things fresh despite formulas, working with the writers towards mutual understanding, taking what is written down for your character and building on it to create something more than what's on the page by fleshing out a character with non-speaking reactions and emotions, and doing your best to get along with the rest of the cast is an actor's job.' Can't argue with any of that. She also has a number of great suggestions about how Beltran could make Chakotay more interesting for viewers to watch, even if he's dissatisfied with the meager scripts.

Now, what's funny is that I don't have any real quibbles with Beltran's performances. Some of them look phoned-in, but I could say that about every single actor on Voyager--with the exception, oddly enough, of Garrett Wang, who gets dissed a great deal for bad Harry Kim scripts, but who's most impressive doing little things like playing a slightly 'off' Harry Kim on Barclay's phony ship in 'Pathfinder.' You can tell when Robbie McNeill is reading his lines off notes taped to a console. You can tell when Mulgrew wanted to rush home early, so she got the second unit to film her alone at the head of the briefing room table, while everyone else stuck around to film the group shots afterwards.

So, do we condemn Beltran for his forthrightness? Or do we consider the fact that if more of the actors had fought for their characters in a public forum, the producers might have been forced to take action before the ratings started plummeting? If Mulgrew had come out and blasted the Seven of Nine show--instead of taking polite but obvious swipes at Jeri Ryan, stating that she was good friends with everyone on the cast but the newest member, as she did at the UPN press junket a year ago--mightn't it have aroused her fans to write the producers complaining about Janeway's diminishing screen time? If Tim Russ, a fan of the original series, had screamed from a convention stage that Vulcans never acted the way Tuvok acts in 'Gravity,' mightn't he have inspired the fans to protest to Braga instead of just slamming the show on Internet message boards?

Sure, I wish Beltran were working harder to keep Chakotay interesting. I would, if I were getting paid what he gets paid to do the job. But at the same time, I sympathize with both his boredom and his willingness to complain in public forums about the problems on the Voyager set. Contrast his situation with two Deep Space Nine actors I interviewed recently--Philip Anglim, a mere guest star, who said his performances were bolstered by the spirit of idealism and perfectionism on that set, and series regular Armin Shimerman, who wept at the show's finale despite qualms with the writers over his character's development, because he loved the dedication of the people he worked with. That kind of commitment to quality has to start at the top, not with the actors...and Voyager has apparently never had it.

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