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Stardate 0011.13: Selling Seven

Plus: Trek People; Trek This Week; Trek Analysis; Trek Books

By Michelle Erica Green     November 13, 2000

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

Fans of Star Trek murder mysteries, rejoice. For months now we've been hearing rumors that in an upcoming Star Trek: Voyager episode, Tuvok will make contact with his adult daughter and the two will solve a crime together. Now, actor Tim Russ tells The Trekker Newsletter that an upcoming episode deals with Voyager confronting the death penalty when the ship makes contact with criminals being transported to their place of execution. Though Russ doesn't elaborate much, set reports indicate that Seven of Nine develops a relationship with one of the condemned. The episode is called 'Repentance.'

We know from the original Trek episode 'Journey to Babel' that at one time Vulcans had a form of execution called 'tal-shaya,' considered merciful because the victim died rapidly of a broken neck. Spock says it's an ancient tradition, suggesting that it is no longer used to punish criminals, yet he recognizes it at once in practice and believes his father would be capable of carrying it out. In that era, visiting Talos IV is still a capital crime in the Federation, and many of the worlds Kirk visits execute their prisoners, though Kirk suggests Starfleet frowns on the practice.

Star Trek: The Next Generation criticized the death penalty obliquely in 'Justice,' when Wesley Crusher was sentenced to die for violating a mundane taboo, and 'Angel One,' where a female leader planned to execute male rebels. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine explored the topic repeatedly, in excellent episodes like 'Things Past' and 'Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night,' offering a fairly even-handed perspective on the ethical issues involved.

Voyager's 'Remember,' in which Torres experienced the recollections of a woman from an alien world, featured a grisly execution sceneone of the franchise's most overt political statements. Yet Janeway threatened to turn criminals over to a deadly system of justice in 'The Chute,' and seemed to believe Captain Ransom and his crew deserved to die for their crimes in 'Equinox,' nearly killing one herself before Chakotay intervened. It's hard to draw any conclusions about the beliefs of the Voyager producers based on previous installments.

Information about Trek Series V is still under close wraps, though people on the Voyager set have heard intimations that it will be set in the era just after the Vulcans landed in Star Trek: First Contact. This would seem to confirm rumors that the show will focus on the birth of the Federation. Last week TrekWeb reposted a Hollywood Reporter story claiming that NBCthe network of the original Star Trekmay already be in talks to carry the show.

An NBC representative said only that the network has told Paramount, 'If a Star Trek series becomes available, NBC would definitely be interested in it.' The Hollywood Reporter added that the Fox network expressed interest in the series several months ago. Brannon Braga and Rick Berman must be thrilled.

Trek People: Mulgrew Mildew

The December issue of Starlog magazine features an interview with Kate Mulgrew, in which she takes shots at Robert Beltran for not trying hard enough. Then she announces that she now plays Janeway nearly identical to Mulgrewand she can't remember what she did for most of the past season.

Asked about her co-star's well-publicized criticisms of the show, Mulgrew says that it is the responsibility of the actors 'to raise the stakes, to raise the bar. If certain actors choose not to do that, then I would say that is their problem. You can take any line, any beat, and make it golden.' She claims that it is easy 'to fall into a kind of lethargy,' but adds, 'I, myself, have never done that. With the way we're paid, I don't understand giving into malaise.'

How does she avoid it? Mulgrew says she has chosen to 'minimize' the action in her performances and to think of Voyager as a workshop for herself. 'I have a real freedom from the constrictions that I may have felt before...in terms of trying to define her through the writers,' she claims. 'For many years...I was a strict adherent to the style of writing, down to the pauses, the beats. I have thrown that away.' In short, it sounds like Mulgrew's method for avoiding malaise is to put minimal effort into playing the character as scripted.

Beltran has taken a lot of flak for admitting he doesn't always read scripts in which his character doesn't have much to do. Mulgrew may read the scripts, but 'I can't remember too much of what I did last year without prompting.' When prompted, she can't remember much she liked. Not 'Fair Haven' or 'Spirit Folk,' in which Janeway got the romance that Mulgrew had begged for. Not 'Fury,' which brought back the much-missed Kes. Is Mulgrew happier with the most famous figure on the show? 'She's a kind of one-note character, Seven of Nine, and within that one note, anyone would be hard-pressed to find a symphony,' dismisses the actress.

Certainly, Seven of Nine was brought onto the show as a marketing ploy, and her promotion at the expense of other charactersparticularly Janeway and Chakotayhas always rankled. But a one-note character? In the past three seasons, Seven of Nine has transformed from a conceited, angry Borg into a multidimensional character who has discovered all sorts of aspects of being humansome cliches, to be sure, but some wrenching stuff like losing a family member ('Drone') and trying to find a kindred spirit ('Someone to Watch Over Me').

I am quite sympathetic to the frustrations Mulgrew must feel at not having gotten the same depth of character development. She refuses to admit them as directly as Beltran, but Mulgrew's ongoing pleas for Janeway's death (repeated once more to Starlog) make them apparent. However, it is not fair to Jeri Ryan to write off Seven of Nine as 'one-note.' Ryan looks like she's giving a hundred percent every single episodeI don't enjoy her dominating the screen so often, but Ryan clearly isn't playing herself. I don't see how anyone dares reduce her work to 'one-note.'

Mulgrew launched a well-publicized campaign to work fewer hours when she renegotiated her seventh-season contract, and several of her co-stars have mentioned during public appearances that she often gets directors to let her shoot her scenes first. She may say she wants Janeway to go out with a bang, but one thing's just as clear from Mulgrew's interviews as from Beltran's: she wants out, period. It's all too easy to see the lethargy, to hear the malaise.

Trek This Week: 'Inside Man' Plot Summary

A holographic Reg Barclay arrives via data stream with a plan to get Voyager to the Alpha Quadrant, using a geodesic fold triggered in the Alpha Quadrant. The Doctor has concerns about the high radiation levels during transit, but the crew works to reinforce the shields and prepare inoculations. They have no way of knowing that back at Pathfinder headquarters, the real Barclay is near-hysterical because his hologram has gone missing. No one suspects that the Barclay hologram has been stolen and altered by a group of Ferengi who want to extract and sell Seven of Nine's nanoprobes.

While Voyager prepares for the journey home, Barclay visits Deanna Troi, who picks up on his suspicion that his ex-girlfriend has something to do with his professional woes. The woman admits she was spying for the Ferengi, and helps the Pathfinder scientists find the ship that has been intercepting their transmissions. When the real Barclay tricks the Ferengi into collapsing the geodesic fold, the holographic Barclay tries to kidnap Seven in an escape pod, but Janeway has them beamed back aboard. While Voyager puzzles over the program's flaws, Troi and Riker set the real Barclay up with a nice girl.

Trek Analysis: Tools of Acquisition

This episode starts strongly, though it offers one of those get-out-of-the-Delta Quadrant-free cards that Paris rightly points out have never worked before. Janeway is willing to take a lot on faith for the possibility of coming home in triumph. We get to see a nice performance from Dwight Schultz as both Barclays, as we have often seen Robert Picardo play two DoctorsI'm sorry they never played their planned golf game, because I expected the Doc to pinpoint the deception before Starfleet. The red herring diagnostic, in which we learn Voyager's crew can't detect holographic alterations, makes Torres look silly and leads to the letdown in which Voyager must be saved from outside.

There's also a letdown in the scene in which Barclay tells Seven that she's famous on Earth. He explains that she is the only Borg to have escaped and regained her humanity, despite incredible odds, which gives hope to everyone who ever lost someone to the Borg. What about Picard? I hoped Seven would jolt with the realization that she may hold the key to saving thousands of Federation citizens assimilated by the Borgbut it gets dropped to rush the plot along and makes her, too, look silly as a dupe of the hologram.

The writers play their hand too early, revealing the hologram has been hijacked by the Ferengiyet another disappointment, to find the stakes so low, a crisis caused by a species largely used for comic relief rather than a serious threat to Starfleet. The suspense would have been magnified had we not learned for whom the hologram was working until the very end. It would have been a more dramatic episode if it were indeed the Romulans, as Barclay suspects, and it would tie in nicely with the never-resolved events of 'Message in a Bottle.' How did the Ferengi find out about Seven of Nine, anyway? Probably they were selected so they could say, 'I bet she gives great oo-mox.' Reg is funnier doing impressions of Janeway and Tuvok.

It's always delightful to see Deanna Troi, who has a better sense of humor and reacts more like a real person in these guest appearances than she usually did on The Next Generation. It's also nice to see Harkins and Paris, who will presumably be around when Voyager finally does get homeat least, they'd better, or it will be a really annoying point of discontinuity. I'm starting to get aggravated about Harkins' lack of respect for Barclay, which ends up causing more problems than it solves. There's obviously a lot of incompetence at Pathfinder if a Bajoran fanatic could attach a message for Tuvok to one data stream, and the Ferengi could intercept two more.

Trek Books: What Deep Space Nine Leaves Behind

In the months since Deep Space Nine left the airwaves, Pocket Books has published some first-rate novels in the timeframe of the series. Some, like the Rebels series, were set during the show's run. Others, like the Millennium trilogy and A Stitch in Time, took place in the aftermath of the finale.

Now Pocket Books editor Marco Palmieri is talking about the new series of DS9 novels launching in May 2001, which pick up on the station where the series left off. The first book is set three months after the events of the television finale, 'What You Leave Behind,' and introduces the characters who have stepped in to replace O'Brien, Worf and Odo in the vacant engineering, tactical and security positions. Colonel Kira remains in command following the loss to the Prophets of Captain Sisko, so a fourth new character will be introduced as well.

Though Palmieri told me months ago that he wanted to create a major character who was gaysomething none of the televised shows have ever done, though Pocket Books has introduced both gay and hermaphroditic officershe told Cinescape recently only that they had 'decided to create four new faces who will shake things up a bit.' Each will come from a different planetone a species that has been seen on Star Trek before, but not DS9.

The first pair of books, Avatar, are by S. D. Perry, who wrote two excellent stories in Palmieri's collection The Lives of Dax. The third book, Abyss, involves the secret society Section 31 and was written by former DS9 writer David Weddle, who co-wrote the television episode that created Section 31. Late in the year, Pocket will release the much-anticipated two-volume Klingon postwar saga by J.G. Hertzler, who played General Martok on the show.

Palmieri, who has already planned Deep Space Nine novels well into 2002, told me he sought continuity and told Cinescape that he wanted to bring a fresh perspective to the series. 'For Deep Space Nine, the reset button has been dismantled,' he promised. Presumably that means that, unlike the wonderful Millennium books, we won't be seeing Sisko in flashbacks about what might have been, nor will O'Brien and Worf decide they're bored on Earth and Qo'nos respectively and head back to the station. As for Odo, we may eventually find out what he has been teaching the Founders, but Palmieri says he wants the emphasis to be on the station and the new characters, not the folk who've left them behind.

I greet this news with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I'm very excited about seeing Kira in command, something I've wanted to see for a long time...but not at the cost of Sisko's life or his presence on the station. This is the dilemma with first officers, solved brilliantly by Peter David in New Frontier by giving Mac and Shelby both their own ships. But the DS9 television writers have taken Sisko out of the Trek universe fairly decisively, so it's not an option here. Sisko had much of his most interesting interaction with Worf and Jadzia Dax, characters who are also gone. Will that mitigate the loss or make it worse?

Kira's romance with Odo was something that fascinated me for years before the pair actually fell in love, so I did a lot of screaming when he announced that he was leaving for good. It still doesn't entirely make sense to me that he would do something so decisive, so close to the end of the war with the Foundersthat is something I would like to see explored in a novel, Odo's thought processes as the war neared an end. As for Kira, who took many months to realize Odo loved her and even longer to realize she reciprocated his feelings, how will she deal with his absence? They have been friends for many years, and in some ways he has served as her moral compass. She may have command, but with Jadzia dead, Odo gone and Sisko out of reach, she's going to be very lonely.

No sooner did we have to contemplate Bashir dating Ezri Dax than we learned he would have to live without Miles O'Brien, his best friend and companion for virtually all his off-duty interests. That opens up possibilities for the lovers, since Ezri won't have to compete for Julian's attentions, but I'd still expect him to be sad for awhile. Their best mutual friend, Garak, is also gone. Ezri has never been comfortable being a joined Trill, and Bashir has never been comfortable being an enhanced human, which gives them a certain amount in commonmaybe not enough to keep them together, though. I wouldn't mind seeing trouble in paradise.

Not only Garak but most of the supporting castDukat, Damar, Rom, Leeta, Winn, Weyoun and many othersare far away from the familiar settings of DS9. There's a lot of continuity disrupted, a lot of familiar faces missing, and with the war over, a lot of space to rebuild. I'm having a hard time believing it won't be something of a letdown to revisit DS9 with so much lost, but I'd love to be pleasantly surprised. I appreciated the realism of the losses in the war story, so big changes became inevitable. I just hope what's left behind lives up to what was there in the first place.

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