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Stardate 0011.27: Emperors and Nightingales

Plus: Trek News, Trek People, Trek This Week, Trek Analysis

By Michelle Erica Green     November 27, 2000

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

At last, UPN has put up its official synopsis and photos of 'Flesh and Blood,' the two-hour movie that will conclude Star Trek: Voyager's sweeps month. 'Janeway and the Voyager crew are shocked when The Doctor commits treason to help a group of renegade Holograms that have been enhanced, made adaptable and turned into combative prey for the Hirogen,' the network declares, adding that the Doctor's loyalty to his own kind inspires him to give Voyager's defensive information to the holograms.

Much of the plot of this episode has been spoiled by nowright down to the final scene when Janeway must confront the consequences of the Doctor's treachery, plus her own decision to give holographic technology to the Hirogen several years ago. Like 'The Killing Game,' 'Flesh and Blood' sounds fascinating and fun, with large moral stakes, but somewhat inconsequential in the arc of the seriesat least, it won't be getting Voyager close to home. Fans will watch to find out what becomes of the holograms, and to see whether Robert Picardo can top the excellent performances he's already given this season in 'Imperfection' and 'Critical Care.'

A teleplay has turned up online on a Geocities fan fiction site purporting to be the shooting script for 'Shattered.' It's more plausible-sounding than the 'story summary' posted on Geocities last week, which turned out to be admitted fan fiction, but there's still cause for suspicion about some of the new script's scenes. The structure looks sound, and the characters are bang-on...which, sadly enough, makes me suspicious rather than believing it's the real thing, because the show generally hasn't gotten the characters right in flashbacks.

My favorite moment is also the least plausible. Pre-first-season Janeway obliquely asks Chakotay whether they will be lovers in the years to come, to which he says there are some barriers they'll never cross, at which she takes his hand and promises she'll see him in the future. This is just the sort of thing I'd expect to find in 'Shattered' fanfic, but probably not in an actual Voyager episode. Everything we've heard about returning dead crewmembers, macroviruses, Seven as a Borg, Naomi as a grownup, Seska as a Cardassian, etc. is in there, so if it isn't real, someone should be commended for creating a fake I wish they'd filmed. And if it is real, I'd love to know how it ended up on a site full of fan stories about Janeway being sexually victimized.

The official site has identified an episode called 'The Void' as slated for production, but there is no word on the premisejust a list of the names of guest characters. TrekWeb, the most reliable Trek spoiler site on the Web, believes this may be a new title for the upcoming episode 'Federation,' in which Janeway must forge an alliance among distrustful aliens in order to save her ship.

TrekWeb has also posted the ostensible plots of most of the remaining Voyager episodes leading up to the concluding arc. Executive producer Ken Biller said in a recent interview that the ever-popular Q might return, and sure enough, TrekWeb says that in the episode 'Q Two,' the child born in 'The Q and the Grey' will ask his godmother Captain Janeway for assistance. I suppose this could be the episode that sends Voyager home, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Lest we haven't seen enough 'How far will Janeway go?' episodes, a spring sweeps month two-parter will focus on Janeway and her crew being forced to labor in an alien city in 'Workforce.' If this is the episode I think it is, the story break had Survivor overtones, with Janeway having to decide how much she was willing to compromise to protect her own interests. TrekWeb reveals that Seven will also explore extracurricular interests in 'Human Error,' where she gets a fantasy life (let's hope this isn't a rehash of all those 'Data gets a fantasy life' episodes crossed with 'Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy' and 'The Voyager Conspiracy').

And in case we haven't seen enough of the Doctor yet this season, he will script his holo-memoirs in 'Author,' which TrekWeb says may feature work by 'a little-known Series Five-co-creator.' The holographic disaster story 'The Temple' has apparently been renamed 'Godhead,' and will center on Tuvok's logical problems with Paris' latest creation.

Trek News: Blood, Sweat and Tears

UPN undoubtedly hopes fans will be enthusiastic about these new stories, because the overnight ratings so far this season have been decidedly unspectacular. According to TrekNation's Nielsens Database, the Troi-Barclay story 'Inside Man' scored only a 3.0, down four-tenths from the medical drama 'Critical Care' the week before. That puts the early sweeps month ratings on par with the sixth season's lowest-rated episode, 'The Haunting of Deck 12.' Last season's first sweeps episode, 'Dragons Teeth,' earned a 3.6 share. One would like to blame election coverage and the runaway success of West Wing for this bad news, but even Felicity did better in the time slot against 'Inside Man,' whose total ratings were a 4.2 rating/7 share.

At least 'Body and Soul' rebounded, bringing in a 4.6/7 for last week. These numbers are similar to those for 'Repression' less than a month earlier. Better still, Voyager finished ahead of Felicity, though that show's ratings are higher than the past year's. Fox' The $treet earned only a 3.6/5, finishing last.

As if Voyager needed any more bad news, TrekToday reports that Britain's TV Zone magazine has honored the series in its 2000 Awards for 'Worst Idea.' Though it came in second to Channel 4's entire scheduling, which required massive editing of shows, Voyager was cited for 'the story outlines for the entire sixth season.' ''Seven wrestles'; 'Tuvok goes a bit camp'; 'Borg kids learn how to be human'; but worst of all 'The crew goes to an Irish village. Twice'.' At least it didn't win the jms award for the most clichéd script, which went to Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, 'where every line has to be run through several checks to make sure it's turned up in at least three previous sci-fi series.'

Given that this is Voyager's final season, there is little threat of cancellation no matter how the show finishes in the ratings. But there has been concern that when Chris-Craft's station group's contract to carry UPN programming in major markets expires in January, much of the country might be left unable to see Voyager. Now that problem seems headed toward resolution. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which bought Chris-Craft's stations right out from under the nose of Viacom, said last week that his Fox Television would support an extended affiliation agreement with UPN. He also suggested that he might be interested in co-owning the network, which surprised few people, since most assumed he acquired the Chris-Craft station group with an eye on controlling UPN.

Murdoch told the Fox Entertainment Group, which he chairs, that News Corp. would consider buying an equity stake in UPN network if the UPN affiliation with the Chris-Craft stations is renewed in January. Chris-Craft's current management is negotiating the affiliation deal, since the $5.4 billion purchase of the stations by News Corp. has not been finalized.

Trek People: Hunters, Gatherers and Whiners

Starlog has reprinted portions of an interview given by Jeffrey Hunter, who played Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot 'The Cage.' Though NBC was unhappy with many aspects of the prototype episodeincluding Majel Barrett's Number One and 'the guy with the ears'they liked Hunter, who was a bigger star than William Shatner and had played Jesus Christ in King of Kings. But Hunter was otherwise committed when Roddenberry got around to casting 'Where No Man Has Gone Before,' and the rest is history.

Hunter died of a head injury in 1969, long before Star Trek found immortality in reruns, and subsequent tell-all books revealed the entire cast's perspectives on the show's success. Now Starlog has unearthed a January 1965 interview in which the actor expressed hope that the new series would sell and seemed genuinely to enjoy its futuristic perspective.

'It's a great format because writers have a free handthey can have us land on a monster infested planet, or deal in human relations involving the large number of people who live in this gigantic ship,' said Hunter. 'We run into pre-historic worlds, contemporary societies and civilizations far more developed than our own.' What intrigued him most was that Roddenberry based his ideas on scientific projections of things to come. At the time of the interview, Hunter expected to know within a few weeks whether the hour-long color show had been sold.

'The Cage,' which was later incorporated into the two-part episode 'The Menagerie,' featured quite a bit of sexual tension between Captain Pike and First Officer Number One, as well as Pike and Yeoman Colt. 'With all the weird surroundings of outer space, the basic underlying theme of the show is a philosophical approach to man's relationship to woman,' observed Hunter. That theme was explored to witty effect in a story in Jerry Oltion's 'Conflicting Natures' in the recent Enterprise Logs collection from Pocket Books.

Oltion also wrote a Christopher Pike novel in the Captain's Table series, Where Sea Meets Sky. Pike also starred in Marvel Comics' Star Trek: Early Voyages series. Hunter's 1965 remark, 'Except for the fictional characters, it will be like getting a look into the future and some of the predictions will surely come true in our lifetime,' seems prescient, though he died before the Internet, laser surgery or even the moon landing.

Hunter's co-star in The Cage, Leonard Nimoy, hosted a 1970s television series called In Search Of..., which examined paranormal phenomena including UFOs, ghost stories, weird police reports, urban legends and other things that sound like they would be right at home on the Fox network today. So it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Blair Witch executive producers Gregg Hale and Ben Rock want to revive the series, according to a Corona Coming Attractions report reposted on Cinescape Online.

The 1976 In Search Of... presented its information in documentary style, like many recent reality and paranormal specials. Corona says Nimoy won't be hosting the new version, though he recently recreated his role from the show on The Simpsons in an episode that also featured David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as Mulder and Scully. It's a pity, but I guess Jonathan Frakes has eclipsed Nimoy as a spokesperson for the paranormal in recent years.

After jokingly suggesting that he might like to kill off Kate Mulgrew's character a few weeks ago, Voyager executive producer Ken Biller took more direct aim at Robert Beltran in a new SFX interview, brought to my attention by Antony at Fandom's Star Trek Central. 'I think Robert Beltran should stop whining and do his jobprint that if you want!' announced Biller. 'He has his opinions, and he's entitled to his opinions, but he's getting paid a lot of money.'

Biller said the writing staff were getting tired of Beltran's complaints. He added, 'I speak to Robert Picardo several times a week...he comes in every day to work, and Kate Mulgrew comes in every day to work.' As for Beltran, 'I'm sorry that he's not happy doing what he's doing. But there's nothing I can do about it.'

I would suggest that Biller could give Chakotay back the personality he had five seasons ago and allow him to act like a first officer for a change, but it's getting a little late for that. Many of us are tired of Beltran's complaints, but we're even more tired of his invisibility on the series, which predates the whining. Looking back at Chakotay's role in seasons three and four, it's all too easy to understand why Beltran started to tune out. I find it hard to fault him for being honest, even if I'd happily trade my job and my salary for his.

Trek This Week: 'Nightingale' Plot Summary

Harry Kim and the crew of the Delta Flyer intervene in an alien battle and assist a Kraylor medical vessel with repairs. The decimated crew begs him to take commanda situation complicated by the discovery that Voyager has opened trade negotiations with the enemy Annari. Stressing the importance of the humanitarian mission to ferry medical equipment, Kim receives Janeway's permission to remain on the Kraylor vessel, which he renames Nightingale. Meanwhile, Torres tries to befriend Icheb, but the young ex-Borg believes she has developed a romantic interest in him and becomes concerned about its inappropriateness.

When the Kraylor cloak fails and Seven is wounded, Kim realizes that Doctor Loken knows nothing about medicine, and a great deal about cloaking technology. Loken insists that his mission, though military in nature, is still humanitarian: Without a cloak to get past Annari blockades, the people on his planet will die from lack of food and medical supplies. When a furious Kim orders the ship to reverse course, Loken relieves him of command.

Kim tells Seven that they should take an escape pod and leave. She asks whether he wants to abandon the Kraylor because the mission wasn't what he expected, or because being a captain wasn't what he expected. Back on the bridge, the ensign convinces the Annari blockade to let the scientists depart in escape pods. Then he tricks the Annari so he can maneuver Nightingale through the Kraylor defense perimeter, saving the ship. Kim notes in his log that his mission was a success, but he doesn't feel good about it.

Trek Analysis: The Ensigns of Command

Give Garrett Wang a halfway decent script and he never fails to come through. 'Nightingale' is a somewhat-less-than-halfway-decent script, yet Wang makes Kim's situation compelling despite the predictability of every plot twist. Poor Harry has been an ensign for seven years. He accepts that he can't have the many opportunities of the Alpha Quadrant in the Delta Quadrant, but it's easy to understand why he'd complain that, even in fantasy, Tom always gets to be Captain Proton while he's stuck being the sidekick. Kim's not bitter, but he wants to grow, and Wang does a lovely job capturing both the frustration and the unease of his position.

Unfortunately Kim's got Janeway as his role model. He does a spectacular job putting her in her place when she tries to put him in his, pointing out that she has repeatedly made choices similar to his own. Janeway's mocking of Kim's belief that he would have been promoted back home makes her come across very badly. She should be sympathetic, and grateful for his forbearance while Maquis criminals and rebels like Tom Paris get promoted. That line could have been played as a quiet realization, rather than a mother figure condescending to a young crewman who has just demonstrated exactly the reasons he's ready for more responsibility.

Icheb's belief that Torres is sexually harassing him, played as a drawn-out joke, is mean-spirited. Here's a kid entering puberty with no clue about what's normal behavior for humanoids, with the added complication of having recently been Borg. Torres ends up rolling her eyes and making a joke about Icheb's conflicted feelings, when she should be trying to find the poor kid a mentor who won't trigger his hormones. Icheb is one character for whom exploring sexuality on the holodeck wouldn't be such a bad idea.

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