Star Trek: Voyager: Counterpoint   Rewatch 
December 24, 2017 8:27 AM - Season 5, Episode 10 - Subscribe

Thoughtcrime doubleplusungood!

Memory Alpha prefers Tchaikovsky over Mahler, but if you really want to get down, you can't go wrong with the old Ludwig Van:

- The original pitch for this episode – written by Gregory L. Norris and Laura Van Vleet, based on a screenplay of Van Vleet's, and entitled "The Hiding" – was focused on Seven of Nine. The refugees were hiding in Voyager's landing struts and, when Voyager was forced to land, Seven risked her life to take the refugees into neutral space in a shuttlecraft, against Janeway's orders. The two pitchers were delighted with the changes made to their pitch by Michael Taylor, in particular the focus on a love story for Janeway. Janeway's romantic stirrings, however, were originally to have been with someone quite different from Kashyk. "The original 'love interest' was one of the people who were being victimized," offered Joe Menosky. "We just turned it on its head."

- Story editor Nick Sagan was involved in the pitching of the original plot concept, which he referred to as "one of the pitches I took for Voyager." He went on to say, "The writers pitched it to me as this story about aliens hiding on Voyager. The big part I think [was] trying to find the hook of it, so I pitched it to [executive producer] Brannon [Braga] as 'The Diary of Anne Frank on Voyager'. I could see at least six different ways of that playing out, and I think creating those tantalizing possibilities is a huge part of pitching for Star Trek."

- Both Kate Mulgrew and Michael Taylor were of the opinion that this point in the series seemed a fitting time for Janeway to have a romantic liaison. Taylor offered, "It's about time Janeway had a romance, and a romantic partner worthy of her [....] [Kate Mulgrew] had been asking for some sort of romance, and when it came along, she saw that it was right for her character." Mulgrew herself commented of the episode, "This was, at long last, a story about the woman under the scientist."

"You created false readings!"
"That is the theme for this evening, isn't it?"

- Kashyk and Captain Janeway

"Prax, do you have the telepaths?"
"I have cargo containers...filled with vegetables!"

- Kashyk and Prax

"Federations, Imperiums. Why do you people feel such a need to align yourselves with monolithic organizations?"

- Torat

Poster's Log:

I'm posting this today because I'm traveling for Christmas, and for the same reason I'll make this relatively brief. It's an episode with an interesting premise, but with a really glaring flaw that would have been easy to fix. Voyager smuggling people through an area of space, both some of their own and refugees from another species, past a paranoid and oppressive government is a good plot, especially with the complications that a) the technical process of doing so is starting to have negative consequences for the smuggled, and b) Janeway is starting to get close to one of the baddies.

Here's the problem, though: they're space Nazis. There's no way of getting around that, between the black uniforms, their being dickish during their repeated inspections, and the threats of "relocation." Especially with the dude in charge trying to be all slick and charming while his thuggish, lantern-jawed second in command is playing the hard-ass, their names may as well be Shmukat and Shamar. The comment from Nick Sagan above about this being Anne Frank in space confirms it. This is hugely problematic for two reasons: it means that Janeway fell for a space Nazi (and even that could have been averted by her making it clear that she never really fell for him at all, it was all part of her act), and it also makes it extremely unlikely that Kashyk would have swept it all under the rug to keep from looking bad. Totalitarian regimes are totalitarian from top to bottom, and it's highly unlikely that Kashyk's superiors would have let this go; he could have salvaged the operation by delivering both the ship and the people responsible for the telepaths evading capture. The simple fix for both of these things? Make them not-Nazis, just a nation that believes that people should have the privacy of their own thoughts, no exceptions. That would open the can of worms of the fact that the Federation, that allegedly near-perfect society, can't guarantee the same thing since they allow Betazoids full rights without restriction, but that might have made for an interesting debate. And it wouldn't have been so creepy when Janeway fell for the guy. (I also have to say that I wasn't crazy about the casting choice for Kashyk; he always seems to have a half-smirk on his face, even when he's begging for asylum. Say what you will about Marc Alaimo, but he could sell Dukat being sincere when he needed to.)

Poster's Log, supplemental: pity that they didn't pick the Nutcracker Suite for the Tchaikovsky selection, given the timing of this rewatch.
posted by Halloween Jack (6 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, I think Jack has this one about right in terms of the difficulty involved here. I think I've mentioned before how popular culture really, really, needs to stop with the Nazi obsession since it benefits no one including writers too lazy to think more broadly. I won't belabor that point, but all that was needed here was to make the Devorans just a little less jackbooted in their initial inspection to better sell the conflicts here. There was no need to have Prax's boys go full on thug when being a more polite or disciplined police force would have worked better in building the later story elements.

In concept, I didn't have a problem with Janeway conditionally falling for a maybe defector from the regime, but the initial set up never made that seem an entirely plausible possibility. That did perhaps provide a little better pay off for Janeway's switcheroo at the end, but had they started with Kashyk dressing down Prax for bad behavior and toned things down at the start then the possibility of Kashyk's response being an honest one in his faux defection would have played more convincingly, especially since having him and Prax do a good cop/bad cop routine that was echoed in Kashyk and Janeway' good astronomer/bad astronomer encounter with Torat would have been a nice subtle way to hint at Janeway's awareness of things without overstating it to be definitive.

The episode works pretty well aside from that. It's one of the better plotted shows in terms of maintaining suspense and complexity of events. Though they do sort of rely on misdirection at the end in allowing Voyager to leave and in not really making clear exactly where Tuvok, Vorik, and Jurot were during that final inspection since they weren't with the refugees. (Two more shuttle craft down too, but that's how Voyager rolls I guess.) Janeway's justification about skirting the Prime Directive seems now like that's something Braga and crew have settled on as a defining characteristic for her which they intend to keep looking at since it's come up a couple times this season already and will come back again, not just with the Prime Directive but the whole attitude of deciding what's best in the moment and figuring out the consequences later. We'll, I'm sure, come back to that idea again.

The "seduction" scene itself worked pretty well in the sense of what aspect of Janeway's personality they sort of emphasized in building the potential attraction. The sciency bit about counter point and Kashyk and her working out the wormhole's location did seem to carry the kind of excitement that would charm her, while the story about the girl would possibly go towards making her wanting the story to be true, but being doubting more due to the simplicity of it. It was a nice episode for Mulgrew, with a number of good moments of depth for her to show in Janeway that can be read as carrying multiple emotions. It's also nice to see another episode where Janeway gets the best of the bad guys by her wits in a way that isn't entirely technobabble.

I like the episode a good deal, but with some regret over the caveat Jack mentioned since better nuance there would have really nailed this one down much better. Still, watching the episode wasn't the worst way to spend christmas while stuck at work. I'm gonna hope the episode next Monday rings in the new year as successfully. (Glances ahead, sees Bride of Chaotica, on the that part of the schedule, is pleased.)
posted by gusottertrout at 2:25 AM on December 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

I saw Mark Harelik (Kashyk) during intermission at a classical music concert at UCLA back in 2003 or so. We had a moment of eye contact and I only just barely prevented myself from saying "Enjoying the counterpoint?"

I kind of wish I had said it, but I think famous (-ish) people deserve to have a nice night out without someone making it weird.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 9:56 PM on December 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

I only just barely prevented myself from saying "Enjoying the counterpoint?"

XD ...he probably would've just stared blankly at you.

We might remember Mark Harelik as the deceptively terrible tennis player from that one Seinfeld episode.

I'm on the same page as Jack and Gus w/r/t the episode's ambition and execution. I give it kudos for doing something bold and different. And the result was memorable and engaging, though it had some leaks that could've used plugging. (Sometimes I wonder how often the issues we've seen with this show are attributable to just being rushed.)

Borrowed Star Wars Name Tally: 5 (Gree, Botha, B'omar, Quarren, Kashyk)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:05 PM on December 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

We might remember Mark Harelik as the deceptively terrible tennis player from that one Seinfeld episode.

He was also Davis Lynch the millionaire who invested in Sandpiper Air and wooed Helen on a season of Wings.
posted by Servo5678 at 10:33 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Particle of the Week: No clear winner.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: The Devore have a sector in the Delta Quadrant of the Star Trek Online map, but I don't recall ever meeting any.

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 2. Used one here.
* Crew: 135.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 9.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 1 game of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

* Again with the Nazis.

Here's the problem, though: they're space Nazis.

The worst part is, this is a recurring theme - I'm reminded of how quickly Voyager teamed up with the Trabe.

I guess the one thing I'll say is: they're playing this smarter than they used to. Back in the day, they would've just shot their way through - see the Year of Hell. This time? They tried to play it sneaky, which was considerably smarter. Janeway playing Kashyk was decent.

Totalitarian regimes are totalitarian from top to bottom, and it's highly unlikely that Kashyk's superiors would have let this go; he could have salvaged the operation by delivering both the ship and the people responsible for the telepaths evading capture.

Yep. The idea they could cover this up after so much other sensor data had been gathered was pretty ridiculous - this looks like a chance for Prax to finally take Kashyk's job, IMO. (Dude's gotta be dreaming of a Klingon promotion, given the way his boss talks to him.)

* The music was distracting.

I really couldn't get past the constant use of classical music throughout. It was too heavy-handed for me.

So.. yeah. This wasn't as bad as some of these episodes have been - the transporter buffer thing and the resolution were reasonably clever, but it's another case of the writing team not really thinking about the implications of what they laid out.
posted by mordax at 11:34 PM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I may have missed something but it seemed odd that they would keep encountering the same inspection team. Presumably the inspection ship would be patrolling one region and would be too busy stopping and inspecting other ships to keep chasing after Voyager, and Voyager would be passing through multiple regions and dealing with multiple inspection teams. Unless they were going more or less in circles as part of a humanitarian mission ... but they have same refugees the whole time so it's not like they're making multiple trips to pick up and drop off ... I'm confused.

Re Tuvok etc.
* First part of show: Tuvok is not on the bridge when Voyager is hailed by the Space Nazis. Everyone is already hidden before the hail. Tuvok and Vorik are shown emerging from hiding with the refugees
* When Space Nazis hail for the last inspection, Tuvok - to my great alarm - is on the bridge. The cargo bay is clear per Seven which suggests prep for boarding is complete. It's not always clear how the view screen works - if other ships see only the captain or also nearby crew. Not sure where Tuvok et al would have been able to hide between hailing and boarding given that they just materialize on board.

Also, Tuvok and Kashyk interacted during Kashyk's time on Voyager. So Kashyk should have known that Tuvok and other telepathic crew members must be around somewhere.

After the big dramatic kiss scene, after Kashyk leaves, Janeway's expression changes. It's small and I'm not good at reading expressions but I wondered if it was meant to suggest that she went with the seduction bit to ensure he would think she was no longer suspicious of him. Still, when she told Kashyk where the wormhole and Benari were, I totally believed she was blinded by love and was like NO NO NO NO.
posted by bunderful at 6:31 PM on January 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

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