Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Nemesis"

Even a blind bird catches a worm every now and then. Kenneth Biller does a fairly good job with this script. While it does suffer from some heavy handed social commentary-choosing the wrong character for it, if you ask me--and features a climactic twist that may make the viewer feel cheated over the other four acts, but it is an entertaining episode.

Chakotay crashes yet another shuttle on a planet while on a survey mission. It is well passed the point they should let him fly one of those things. He is picked up by a group of soldiers from the vori, a human looking species who are fighting a brutal war with the Kradin, a very blatant knock off the Predators. In fact, much of this episode channels famous action films. The ’nemesis” comes from Predator and Chakotay often channels Rambo as he finds himself deeper into the conflict.

The Vori explain the Kradin use biological weapons, slaughter civilians, ignore religious burial rituals, engage in slave labor, use women as sex slaves, too--every stereotype you can think of one side in a conflict would say to dehumanize the other. It takes a while for Chakotay to move from passive observer in the war to active combatant, but as he witnesses the soldiers he is with slaughtered and a village he takes refuge in be destroyed, the war with the kradin becomes his war.

The problem is that it is all an illusion. The kradin are--at least we are lead to believe,--the good guys in spite of their alien appearance. None of what Chakotay experienced was real. He was kidnapped, drugged, and put through a simulation to turn him into a soldier xenophobic against the Kradin until he is finally rescued by Tuvok. In the end, Chakotay confesses he still hates the Kradin for the atrocities he has seen them commit, even if they were not real.

I have a couple things to compliment before picking nits. One is the production values. “Nemesis’ is a small scale action movie that reminds me of those mid to late ’80’s action films wherein the reluctant hero is called to battle because his buddies or some innocents are killed by a ruthless enemy. This being over the top VOY, biller decides to throw in both. The second point is the use of wartime lingo. At first I was annoyed by it, but as I noticed Chakotasy beginning to use it, too, I figured out it was a deliberate bonding exercise. A way of allowing chakotay to connect with his new compatriots. By the end, I thought it was clever instead of annoying. Language is a very powerful tool for connecting people.

That said, I question whether Chakotay was the best choice. Throughout the first two acts, he is reluctant to fight or even accept the Kradin are as evil as the Vori claim. The idea is he has a firm grip on Federation ideals and therefore desires to seek a peaceful solution. But Chakotay is not Federation. He is Maquis. The maquis have taken up arms to defend their homes against the Cardassians. The Maquis describe the Cardassians in much the same terms as the Vori desribe the Kradin and rightfully so. So while Chakotay ought to be reluctant to become involved in a war that is not his, I doubt his maquis mindset would take a backseat to federation ideals when lecturing the Vori on how they need to view their enemy as people, too. Using another character would have been best. Tom or Harry, perhaps.

It is probably easy to feel unfairly manipulated by “Nemesis.” you realize in the final act all the death and destruction witnessed up until that point was imagined. Once you learn the Predator-looking aliens are the good guys, your are supposed to feel guilt over your prejudice. Chakotay’s illusion did present them as sadistic brutes. But I really hate when someone tries to force a guilt trip on me in order to push a social agenda. Such may not bug you, so make up your own mind. I like “Nemesis” overall, but it is still a middle of the pack episode when considering what it tries to do and how it goes about it.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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