Everyone can now breathe a sigh of relief, not only because Voyager was on the air this week in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Orlando, Portland and Baltimore, but because people in those cities will still have many months of WWF Smackdown! after Voyager concludes on May 23.
According to Variety, the United Paramount Network and affiliate owner Chris-Craft took their negotiations down to the wire, but on Jan. 16, they agreed to an 18-month deal that will keep UPN programming on the Chris-Craft stations until the end of next season. It is expected that during that time, the FCC will approve a bid by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp to buy the stations from Chris-Craft.
What does this mean? Well, for one thing, UPN may have to report to both Viacom and News Corp. as owners, as the network did with Chris-Craft and Viacom when the two companies jointly owned UPN. Murdoch, who's already an executive at Fox, has expressed interest in sharing ownership of UPN. 'We are a supporter of and believer in UPN, and, hopefully, its biggest affiliate,' News Corp. exec Peter Chernin told Variety early in January. UPN recently added MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch to its lineup, and will begin to air Sunday night XFL football games when the league begins play in coming weeks.
Whether there will still be a UPN to air the fifth Star Trek series remains uncertain, since the much-hyped but not-yet-in-production show seems certain to be delayed by actors' and writers' strikes. Executive producer Rick Berman has said the new series may not begin broadcasting until fall 2002. But recent Viacom acquisition CBS and original Trek network NBC have both expressed interest in the upcoming series, so it will certainly find a home somewhere.
Anyone despondent over the possibility of a year with no new Star Trek -- the first since The Next Generation began airing 15 years ago -- can take heart from the news that William Shatner is about to get a new show. In addition to playing a giant head on 3rd Rock From the Sun, the actor plans to star in William Shatner's Full Moon Frightshow. Again according to Variety, the program is the brainchild of Full Moon Universe, which produced The Puppet Master, Oblivion (starring George Takei), Arcade (starring John DeLancie), and Subspecies (starring Shatner's daughter Melanie). Shatner would host a syndicated program introducing previously released Full Moon features.
Trek Spoilers: Lineage
For the second time in two months, a Voyager script has been leaked to the internet, though this time it's circulating via e-mail rather than on-again, off-again posts on fan web sites. When a reader of this column sent me a copy, I couldn't help reading it. Like the 'Shattered' script that showed up previously -- and proved to be real -- the 'Lineage' script scans authentically. I can't swear that it's the real thing, but if it's not, Paramount should hire the writer to keep track of continuity in other Voyager episodes. It covers everything Startrek.com's press release says it will, and fulfills most of the spoilers that have floated around about the episode.
Skip down if you don't want to know!
In the early pages, Seven of Nine -- demonstrating her usual sensitivity -- announces in earshot of everyone in engineering that Torres is pregnant. Tom and B'Elanna are initially thrilled, because they want children but expected to have difficulty conceiving naturally since Klingons and humans are often incompatible. Their joy quickly turns to concern when the Doctor says the fetus has inherited a spinal deformity from her mother, but he fixes it with prenatal surgery.
However, Torres becomes increasingly anxious after learning that her child will inherit forehead ridges and other signs of Klingon heritage. She believes her daughter will suffer the same way she did as a child, and asks the Doctor to remove the Klingon genes. The Doctor refuses; Janeway backs his decision; Paris becomes angry that Torres would even consider taking such a step. They are all inclined to dismiss Torres' pleas as hormonal outbursts. Paris, deciding he and his wife need some breathing room, crashes on Harry's couch for the night.
In the morning, just after Tom and B'Elanna make up, the Doctor summons them with the announcement that he was wrong -- he does need to alter the genetic makeup of the fetus or incompatible genes will threaten its life. While Torres rushes to sickbay for surgery, Paris asks Seven and Icheb to help him understand what's wrong. They discover that the Doctor's program has been altered, then find themselves locked out of sickbay, where Torres is having unhappy flashbacks of her parents' marriage breaking up because her father couldn't cope with two Klingon women. Tom manages to stop the surgery, convincing B'Elanna that he would never leave her and will love not only this daughter but any other little Klingons they produce. She weeps, and they live happily ever after, at least this week.
My initial reaction to this script is to be pleasantly surprised, despite my loathing of Torres' hysterical behavior. I'm going to withhold judgment on the ending until I see the episode. Roxann Dawson has saved terrible scenes before. Even though most post-fourth-season outings for Torres have shown her as a mewling, pathetic creature who values her man above her self-esteem, I may be so pleased to see her given something meaty to do that I'll recover from the B'Elanna Version of the Inevitable Trek Father Complex, from which every major character in memory has suffered except fatherless Naomi Wildman.
I'm more interested in the beginning of this script, which, like 'Tuvix,' raises a lot of timely issues. When Torres argues with Janeway about her right to change the fetus' genetic makeup, she scores major points by pointing out how human-centric Starfleet is. According to her, about 90 percent of Voyager's crew is human; if that's the norm, someone should have filed a lawsuit against Starfleet decades ago. Torres also says that by taking out Seven's Borg implants, Janeway did essentially the same thing to her favorite protégée as Torres wants to do for her child. It's another good argument, even though Janeway rightly points out that Seven was already human before assimilation.
But we keep being given the impression that it is always preferable to be human. 'Everybody's human,' Kirk tells Spock in one of the late movies, which Spock rightly believes is an insult. On Deep Space Nine at various times, Quark, Odo and Worf all lost ties to their own cultures and were welcomed as fellow 'humans.' Worf, at least, was allowed to express Klingon rage and violent impulses -- he killed the chancellor. But Torres keeps being treated by her crewmates as if her Klingon side were a disease. Not only her father, but most of Federation culture treats Klingon norms as pathological. It's ironic that Torres fears she may lose Paris, when he comes closest to accepting her as a Klingon, even if he refuses to spend the night when she's in a temper. Chakotay and Janeway have both ripped into Torres over behavior that either she or they attributed to her Klingon side. No wonder she fears abandonment.
Througout 'Lineage,' Torres resists labeling the baby. Initially she doesn't want to know the sex, let alone the genetic makeup. But once she realizes she has the power to alter her child's genes, she seems to feel a parental responsibility to do so. The episode seems to believe that this is a violation, but doesn't address the larger underlying issues. We know in the post-Khan era, it's illegal to enhance the brainpower of a child, as Bashir's parents did with him. How far do these laws go? If humans were shown to have demonstrably greater brain capacity than Klingons, then could Torres request genetic alteration? If the fetus didn't have Klingon genes but did have Down's Syndrome, would anyone refuse genetic resequencing, even though the offspring's personality would change as a result? Couldn't even the spinal 'correction' be construed as a demonstration of intolerance for differently-abled people, like DS9's Melora?
The script evades the biggest ethical question of all, which is whether the fetus is legally a baby as everyone keeps calling it. In a universe where artificial wombs make pregnancy unnecessary in many cases, do the parents have any rights over their genetic material? Torres suggests that she believed herself incapable of becoming pregnant with a hybrid without medical assistance. Could she elect to terminate this accidental pregnancy, or do the rights of the gestating fetus supersede the rights of the parents to decide whether or not to reproduce? What if she had been raped, and didn't want a child to exist mingling her genetic material with that or her rapist, even if she didn't have to carry the fetus to term? What if an alien had impregnated her, as in the Next Generation episode 'The Child,' when Worf suggested that Troi should have an abortion for the safety of the crew, but Picard supported Troi's right to choose?
I wouldn't expect Trek to tackle a volatile issue like abortion head-on. It's nice to see an episode that at least touches on the incredible complexities that technology won't erase. One wonders whether the Prime Directive would prevent a doctor from forcing an expectant mother to have corrective surgery like the kind Torres has for the spinal curvature if she refused for religious reasons. Surely this has all been legislated by the 24th century, but Janeway doesn't attempt to cite precedent, she merely backs her Doctor's orders...and the Doctor doesn't offer any compelling ethical debate, just insists that parents can neither know nor control what their children might become, no matter how they might try.
Could Janeway arrest Torres for what she tries to do? Even if she's willing to excuse the parental transgression, what about the fact that Torres performed surgery on the Doctor against his will? On the one hand, that shows a terrifying lack of respect for the individuality not only of her unborn daughter but of her fellow crewmate. On the other hand, the Doctor's a hologram, Janeway's already had him reprogrammed once, and the Doctor has more than once tried to impose his own ethical standards on his patients -- which, considering that he is the only doctor on board, is deeply troubling.
If he didn't believe in treating scars that weren't medically a risk, it's unlikely anyone on the ship could obtain cosmetic procedures.
It'll be interesting if this 'Lineage' script turns out to be a fake, or an early draft. It sure has made me think, for which I am grateful regardless.
Trek This Week: Shattered Plot Summary
A chronoton surge from an anomaly shatters Voyager into 37 different time frames, ranging from before its launch to decades afterwards. Chakotay is hit by a bolt of power from the overloaded warp core as the disaster strikes. Torres beams him to sickbay, where the Doctor treats him with a chronoton serum. Realizing that he's in an era before the Doctor got his mobile emitter, Chakotay heads to the bridge. But the crew there exists in the days before the ship launched, so Janeway thinks he's a Maquis saboteur and has him sent to the brig.
Escaping through a temporal barrier, Chakotay goes to engineering, where Seska and the Kazon have taken control. Chakotay hides from her by crossing another temporal barrier, returning to sickbay, where he asks the Doctor for a hypo of chronoton serum. Back on the bridge, Chakotay takes Janeway hostage, then injects her with the serum so he can pull her through the barriers and show her the future he has seen but she hasn't yet.
In astrometrics, however, Janeway and Chakotay find crewmembers
unrecognizable to either of them. Naomi Wildman and Icheb, now adults, claim the captain and first officer died 17 years ago in the aftermath of the temporal anomaly. They have a detailed sensor map of the ship, but no way to move between temporal barriers. Chakotay suggests finding Seven for help, and takes Janeway into a cargo bay swarming with Borg drones. A still-assimilated Seven explains that Borg cubes emit chronoton fields to keep all sections in temporal sync; she suggests Voyager could do the same to bring them all back to the moment of the initial surge. Janeway believes Voyager's bio-neural circuitry will transmit a chronoton field across temporal barriers. She and Chakotay head to sickbay while Seven devises a plan to modify the warp core to initiate the field.
As he prepares serum for the gelpacks, the Doctor gives away the fact that they've been stranded in the Delta Quadrant. This troubles Janeway while she heads through the ship, evading macroviruses and sweet-talking Chaotica into helping her. Finding Torres and Ayala in the era right after Voyager's stranding, Janeway is further distressed to learn that they blame her for the predicament. After witnessing Tuvok's death from radiation poisoning, she tells Chakotay she wants to return Voyager not to his present but to her own, before the launch, to avoid making the same mistakes. Chakotay warns her that for every death she prevents, she'll also be destroying a lot of happy endings.
To thwart Seska in engineering, Janeway recruits crewmembers from several different eras and gives them serum so they can pass through temporal barriers. As Seska takes the captain hostage and prepares to kill her, Seven strides in to grab the Cardassian in a choke-hold. The crew finishes preparations to put the ship back in temporal sync, then Janeway orders everyone back to their respective sections. She asks Chakotay just how close they get in the future, but he says only that there are some barriers they never cross.
After the surge, Chakotay finds himself in engineering moments before the original surge. He orders Torres to reroute all power to the deflector dish, which diverts the chronoton burst. When Janeway asks Chakotay what just happened, he says the Temporal Prime Directive prevents him from telling her. For revenge, she reveals that she knows the location of his hidden liquor stash, joking that the Temporal Prime Directive prevents her from explaining how she found out.
Trek Analysis: Revisiting History, Again
Just when I thought Janeway and Chakotay had turned forever into mindless drones, the writers throw 'Shattered' at us and remind us what they were like years ago. I have no confidence that this delightful nostalgia will continue; like 'Coda' and 'Scientific Method,' I expect them to throw off the effects within hours, especially since Chakotay's the only one who's supposed to remember what happened. Which doesn't make all that much sense to me. After the initial chronoton surge, Torres from Chakotay's own era is still in engineering to send him to sickbay, which would lead one to believe that the shattering effect happened in a different time. But if the chronoton serum rather than the initial surge gave him the unique ability to move between barriers, I don't see why he was the only one who could remember anything afterwards, like Kes in 'Before and After.'
But that's not really important, or at least I don't really care. This episode makes about as much sense as time-travel stories 'Future's End,' 'Year of Hell' and 'Relativity,' which means not much, but enough. More importantly, it has humor and continuity with previous seasons -- so much so, in fact, that I'm surprised Chakotay never reminds Janeway of her statement about how time travel dilemmas give her a headache. I suppose I could spend all day trying to figure out how Icheb and Naomi survived for 17 years with enough food and power to operate the sensors, despite being cut off from the mess hall and their quarters, but why bother? I'd rather think about the warm, loving feeling this episode conveys towards Voyager, despite Janeway's concern that they seem to have had a pretty bleak time in the Delta Quadrant.
I used to be a shameless Janeway/Chakotay fan, but for the past two years I really haven't cared because there hasn't been enough chemistry between them to raise an eyebrow about. 'Shattered' doesn't just send them back to the first season chronologically; it sends them back to the days when Janeway used to check out Chakotay's butt when she was walking behind him and vice versa. She trusts him implicitly almost from the start, which would seem unrealistic if we hadn't seen her do exactly the same thing in 'Caretaker.' She doesn't question her decision to make him her first officer even when she questions the choices that landed the crew in the Delta Quadrant. And when Chakotay gives her the speech about how the crew has become family, for once it actually rings true -- we've seen it, with Icheb and Naomi, with Paris and Torres, with Tuvok and Janeway. Usually Chakotay gets left out of the equation because she treats him with such disdain. Not this time.
Of course it's delightful to see Seska and Chaotica again, to hear talk of helmsman Stadi, to watch the Doctor roll his eyes at the mention of anomalies. I wish they'd gotten in some mention of Kes, though that wouldn't have meant much to pre-launch Janeway. It doesn't really matter. I will remember only the J/C scenes. They way he keeps using his body to block her path, as she did to him in 'Caretaker,' posturing aggression, getting much too close together for that to be the only thing they're feeling. The look on her face when she realizes she loaned to Chakotay her treasured copy of
Dante's Inferno, given to her by her fiancé. The uncertainty in the turbolift about whether she wants to know anything -- professional or personal -- about their future. The decision in engineering that she does want to know their fate as a couple, Temporal Prime Directive be damned. Her vague disappointment when she can offer only a handshake after he says there are barriers they never cross.
For heaven's sake, Chakotay, you're almost home. And as Seska points out, you're not getting any younger. If you still want to cross the barriers, now would be a good time to let her know.