Star Trek: Voyager: Natural Law   Rewatch 
July 26, 2018 2:15 AM - Season 7, Episode 22 - Subscribe

Chakotay and Seven crash-land Voyager's 8,347th shuttle within the lands of a primitive tribe. Meanwhile, Tom Paris is a soul in tension that's learning to fly, condition grounded but determined to try.

Memory Alpha again, naturally:

- In this episode Seven can briefly be seen sleeping outside a Borg alcove, as in VOY: "Human Error".

- Neil Vipond previously played Darok in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Once More Unto the Breach".

- Ivar Brogger previously played Orum in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Unity".

- Three-time Star Trek guest actor Albie Selznick was responsible for the Ventu movements and received credit as "Ventu" Choreographer in the end credits.


"Seven, are you all right?"
"I need your tricorder."
"Nice to see you, too."

- Chakotay and Seven of Nine


"I'm sorry to inform you, Mister Paris, but you have failed this examination. You will no longer be allowed to operate a vessel within Ledosian space."
"Something tells me that's not going to be a problem."

- Kleg and Tom Paris


"Well, if we have to be stranded somewhere, you couldn't ask for a better place."
"We wouldn't be stranded at all if you hadn't insisted on admiring the view!"

- Chakotay and Seven


Poster's Log:
This one could have been a lot more successful if the first three acts had been sped up. As it is, you're left wondering what the hell the point of this story is for far too long, the pacing muddles the character-development angle for Seven (and Chakotay? maybe? was there supposed to be one?), and I'm pretty sure that when I first saw it, I allowed my foreknowledge of the series wrapping up to lead to the assumption that everybody here was just marking time.

Which is a shame, because it's a good sci-fi set-up to address some good questions about colonialism, progress, and gosh I feel like we just had this discussion like three times already this season.

I suppose I would also be remiss if I failed to point out that this was a GOLDEN opportunity to ACTUALLY INTRODUCE the Chakotay/Seven real-actual-romance that they're going to foist upon us in "Endgame." But I expect some of us will have more to say about missed opportunities in the "Endgame" thread, so best not to exhaust that topic just yet!

And the less said about that B-plot, the better. At the end, I really expected Tom to whirl around to face the old guy and brandish a thing of Mentos at him. Maybe you remember those Twitter parody accounts that posted brief synopses of unmade Trek "season 8" episodes? One of them was called TNG_Season8 or something I think? Anyway, this felt like something right out of those. Like the writers were almost parodying themselves.

I *did* like the way they brought the B-plot back around to the A-plot. That bit of writing was satisfying in the same manner that I infer some people find unboxing videos satisfying.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
There are only three episodes left.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (6 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Particle of the Week: Tetryons again. Been awhile.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: We see another example of feedback pulse that is reasonably congruent with the game's depiction: the more energy they threw at it, the worse it got. Tetryon based weaponry also has an innate shield draining property in the game that is a reasonable take on how it's depicted here.

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: -29. They were going to shoot one, but Seven beat them to the punch.
* Crew: 136.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 16.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 3 games of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

Notes:
* On a smaller note, this doesn't depict Chakotay or Paris very well.

Altering a flight path without telling anybody isn't cool, and this habit might explain why Chakotay crashed so many shuttles over the course of the series.

Paris neither following local law nor respecting it after he got caught... well, I'm with Cheeses: that felt like a Mentos commercial at the end there. Gah.

In this story, neither of them come off as people who are fit to be ambassadors for humanity out in the stars. That sort of thing dates all the way back to TOS, but it's still pretty annoying.

* So, about that A-plot... Hooboy, strap in. :(

Previously in reviewing Star Trek Voyager, I complained about this paternalistic notion in the entire Trek franchise that all races follow a linear track of development and that it is wrong for different races come into contact with ideas and concepts that are too advanced for them because they will come to harm. I don't want to spend too much time on the central points I raised last time, although I can talk about them at greater length if anybody wants.

This time, I wanted to expand on this a bit instead.

So the Ventu have a couple key things going on:

- They're innocent and childlike to an extreme degree, both aping the visual styles of Chakotay and Seven and literally not using words to communicate. (Like, at first I was in favor of someone using sign language to mix stuff up a bit on Trek, but it makes them come across as even younger/simpler in this case because they clearly *understand* verbal communication, and simply do not use it themselves without any obvious reason why.)

- They're fine living in a jar, frozen in history. They can't escape. They can't advance. All the same, things are better in there than outside: they've got no war. No aggression. Their medicine is so effective it impresses the Doctor. The dudes outside the force field are kinda jerks, but they're nothing but great, even pulling the shuttle for Chakotay and Seven, (and what the hell on that one, show).

The first problem with this is that the Ventu are Noble Savages, and while it's tempting to dismiss that as okay because they're fictitious, Voyager's gone there with real people too - the way the Ventu are depicted is uncomfortably close to the 'rubber tree people' that Chakotay encountered early in the series, who were Native Americans who had somehow remained preindustrial on Earth. You know, a planet featuring holodecks, replicators and warp drive, they were still using rocks and sticks, and this was supposed to be great.

This is *intensely* and horribly racist, and the gist of it is that it's a way of justifying denying people things based on their race, while hiding behind putting them on a pedestal to deflect criticism. Like, if someone calls a white person out on this, they're either ungrateful or 'the real racist.'

It's a completely inexcusable element in any worldview.

The *second* problem that I've got with this story is the idea that technological advancement is inherently corrupting is anti-intellectual. I mean, that's the flip side of the whole Noble Savage thing: a yearning for things to be simpler and a rejection of the benefits of knowledge.

Star Trek goes there sometimes, and it always makes me deeply uncomfortable.

* Talking colonial stuff again.

One thing this episode does marginally better than Friendship One is acknowledge and - fleetingly - grapple with the responsibility Voyager bears in this situation. They bother to ask the question 'who are we to decide what's best for the Ventu?' which is, to their credit, at least a start.

Where they fail is simple: they asked themselves, and not the Ventu. A proper solution to the problem they caused called for sticking around and mediating this, which is not something the show was framed around. This is one place DS9 was simply structurally better equipped to do a good job handling what it means to be a technologically and militarily advanced culture in the middle of everybody else's problems: they were stationary for years, and that's what this shit takes. The second Chakotay broke protocol here, they should've been in this for the long haul. By making first contact with the Ventu, intentionally or not, and for taking down the force field, good idea or not, they became a part of that situation and abdicated their responsibility by bouncing immediately.

This is something else I'd think Chakotay would have some perspective on, as he's a Noble Savage who left that lifestyle behind. Like, on the one hand, I get why they wanted to have Seven grapple with this whole 'are they undeserving because they're low tech' question, but on the other hand, the brown guy actually grew up around this exact scenario why is he not talking more argybargle.

This is, again, classic Trek. DS9 escaped this sometimes, but TNG and TOS were full of it. However, VOY was still later in the queue in these, and it's hard not to wish they'd learned even a little better by now.

Anyway... yeah. This was a tough watch, (a first time one for me), and it was especially difficult to see them still doing this right in their final handful of hours.

Upon actually posting (as this was mostly written yesterday):

I suppose I would also be remiss if I failed to point out that this was a GOLDEN opportunity to ACTUALLY INTRODUCE the Chakotay/Seven real-actual-romance that they're going to foist upon us in "Endgame."

Right? Wasn't what I wanted to focus on for obvious reasons, but grrrr.
posted by mordax at 9:57 AM on July 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


A simple and perfect example of moronic Starfleet paternalism happens whenever a crewmember orbits or lands on a planet and refers to the inhabitants as "aliens". YOU'RE the alien, Starfleet! I don't think it happens in this episode, but often enough across every series. To be fair, I think Quark does this too, but he probably enjoys feeling superior.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:49 AM on July 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


Just dropping in somewhat randomly to say that even though I never watched much DS9, I enjoy the hell out of these threads.
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:09 PM on July 27, 2018 [2 favorites]




I'm back, watched the episode, and rested from RAGBRAI, so I've got a few thoughts. I mostly agree with mordax above; the Ventu were clearly interested in the visitors (and the Ventu girl in their technology, quite a bit), and unilaterally shutting them off from any more contact from members of their own species was pure paternalism. I did like the touch of their using sign language exclusively, although it's not clear whether they actually can speak; Memory Alpha has them as not being the same species as the Ledosians, although they're related.

I also have a bit more to say about the B story, because it relates to my own story a bit, and also points to another missed opportunity. Part of my drinking history was that I got two DUIs, and even though no one got hurt, there was very obviously the potential for that. Part of my sentence was drug/alcohol counseling, and one of the things that helped make that relevant was that all of the counselors were in recovery themselves. They knew all the bullshit rationalizations and excuses that people like me would come up with in the sessions and could counter them with their own experiences. Tom Paris isn't a drunk, but--and it's mildly flabbergasting that this never comes up in a plot centered around a piloting safety course--he caused the death of three fellow officers with a piloting error. It would have been nice for this to at least have been mentioned, and could have led to Kleg, the by-the-book piloting instructor, revealing that he'd had a similar incident in his own past. Kleg could have even helped Paris with his rescue stunt, and made the point that hot-shot, seat-of-your-pants flying wasn't justified around crowded spacedocks before passing him. (I may be more sensitive about it after having spent a week riding in and around thousands of other cyclists, which requires very different skills than tooling around the countryside by yourself, and also having suffered some close calls with cyclists who didn't know or care that RAGBRAI is a ride, not a race.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:37 AM on July 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


Tom Paris isn't a drunk, but--and it's mildly flabbergasting that this never comes up in a plot centered around a piloting safety course--he caused the death of three fellow officers with a piloting error. It would have been nice for this to at least have been mentioned, and could have led to Kleg, the by-the-book piloting instructor, revealing that he'd had a similar incident in his own past. Kleg could have even helped Paris with his rescue stunt, and made the point that hot-shot, seat-of-your-pants flying wasn't justified around crowded spacedocks before passing him.

I like this. Thanks for sharing your perspective, especially about something that personal.
posted by mordax at 8:07 AM on July 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


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