Movies Under the Sea: “The Hunt for Red October” (1990) & “Crimson Tide” (1995)

The Hunt for Red October (1990)

In November 1984, at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union creates a new nuclear submarine that runs silent due to a revolutionary propulsion system. The Russian submarine Captain, Marko Ramius (Sir Sean Connery), defects. His goal is taking it to the U.S. to prevent the Russians from using it to start nuclear war against the U.S. -Summary

Listen, I’m a politician which means I’m a cheat and a liar, and when I’m not kissing babies I’m stealing their lollipops. But it also means I keep my options open. -Jeffrey Pelt

Filming started in 1989, w/ the Cold War still going on, but was released in 1990 when the Soviet government announced that the Communist Party was no longer in charge. Producers went on with the release, but using a disclaimer that the story takes place in 1984 (when Tom Clancy’s novel was published). This is the movie debut of Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst who uses his brains (he writes books re: miliary history/speaks Russian) more than his brawn (though he holds the rank of Lt. Cmdr. in the Navy/graduated as a Marine). He is no pushover; Ryan speaks up for himself when it’s needed and doesn’t let others intimidate him. Alec Baldwin accepted the role of Jack Ryan (recently played by John Krasinski in the Amazon Prime series) b/c Harrison Ford turned it down. Kevin Costner turned down the role of Jack Ryan in order to make Dances with Wolves (1990). Director John McTiernan previously worked on Die Hard (1988); the same oversized teddy bear is in this movie. This movie starts out in Russian, then switches to English, as the political officer reads a passage from a book.

I miss the peace of fishing like when I was a boy. Forty years I’ve been at sea. A war at sea. A war with no battles, no monuments… only casualties. I widowed her the day I married her. My wife died while I was at sea, you know. -Capt. Ramius

Before filming, Sir Sean Connery spent time underway aboard the U.S.S. Puffer preparing for his role (Capt. Marko Ramius). He was given Commander status, and allowed to give commands while underway (w/ the Captain beside him). During filming, several actors portraying U.S.S. Dallas crewmen took a cruise off the coast of San Diego on the U.S.S. Salt Lake City a Los Angeles-class submarine. Cmdr. Thomas Fargo ordered his crew to treat actor Scott Glenn (Cmdr. Bart Mancuso) as equal rank, first giving reports to him, then give the same report to Glenn. The actor said he based his performance on Fargo: “whatever good happened in the performance, basically I owe to now Admiral Fargo, thank you sir.” Connery was in the Royal Navy before becoming an actor; Glenn spent 3 yrs. in the Marines.

[to himself, just before being lowered off a helicopter] Next time, Jack, write a goddamn memo. -Jack Ryan

[To himself, imitating Ramius] “Ryan, some things in here don’t react well to bullets.” Yeah, like me. I don’t react well to bullets. -Jack Ryan

Star Trek: TNG fans will will notice that Ryan’s wife Cathy is played (in one scene only) by Gates McFadden (best known as Dr. Beverly Crusher). After she rejoined TNG, Anne Archer took over the role; Cathy lost the English accent (which McFadden had used). James Earl Jones (Adm. James Greer) was the only actor to reprise his role in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994) where Ford takes over as Ryan. Jones also served in the Army as a young man. Fred Thompson (Adm. Painter) and Courtney B. Vance (Seaman Jones- another brainy guy) would go on to be part of the Law & Order franchise. The international cast includes Aussie Sam Neill (Capt. Borodin), Brit Peter Firth (Cmdr. Putin), Brit Tim Curry (Dr. Petrov), and Swede Stellan Skarsgard (Capt. Tupolev).

[1] It took a concept that is inconceivable to most people (living in a boat underwater with people trying to blow you up) and brought it up close and personal. The resulting suspense and excitement for this type of film is always extremely entertaining and this film delivers nicely.

[2] High tension and realistic (emphasis on that last word) depictions of modern warfare make for an excellent story.

[3] Baldwin, in what is and will probably be his career best role ever, shines as the intelligent and patriotic Jack Ryan, a thinking man’s hero. Connery lends incredible presence, as usual, to his interpretation of Ramius.

[4] The movie’s chief strengths are its moody lighting, its unrelenting pace, and especially its deep bench of acting talent. Connery suggests a note of uncertainty to Ramius that keeps the audience on its toes. For the longest time, we don’t know what he’s up to. Baldwin plays Ryan in a very realistic way that establishes his basically gentle, bookish nature but underscores the depths of his heroism as he pursues an increasingly dangerous path no one else believes in. Scott Glenn is terrific as a crusty U.S. sub commander…

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Crimson Tide (1995)

In the face of the ultimate nuclear showdown, one man has absolute power and one man will do anything to stop him.

-Tag line

When some Russian rebels take control of some ICBM’s, the Americans prep for battle. Among the vessels sent is the nuclear sub, USS Alabama. They have a new X.O. (second in command) in Cmdr. Hunter (Denzel Washington), who hasn’t seen much action. Capt. Ramsey (Gene Hackman) gives an order for a drill after a dangerous incident (fire in the galley) and Hunter disagrees w/ how Ramsey handled it. It’s obvious that Ramsey doesn’t think much of Hunter b/c Hunter is college-educated; Ramsey worked his way up. They’re given orders to attack, but when in the process of receiving another order, the ship’s communications are damaged (cutting off the full message). Ramsey decides to continue with their previous order, while Hunter wants to reestablish contact first. That’s when the two men’s philosophies of war collide… and the tension rises!

This is probably my fave action movie, though this isn’t a familiar genre for me. There is much to admire- the directing (by Tony Scott), acting, intensity, music, and a few moments of humor (provided by Quentin Tarantino- who punched up the script). Washington solidifies his star status by having equal billing w/ Hackman, as we see in the posters. Tension between them grows b/c of their differing ages, races, personalities and philosophies on war. The cast includes Viggo Mortensen (Weps- Hunter’s close pal), James Gandolfini (Dougherty), George Dzundza (Cob), Danny Nucci (Rivetti), Steve Zahn (Barnes), former child star Ricky Shroeder (Hellerman), and a very young Ryan Phillippe.

The early scenes do much to set up the main conflict of the film. For example when members of the crew discuss Carl Von Clausewitz, and his 1832 work Vom Kriege (“On War”), the intellectual showdown occurs between Ramsey and Hunter. This scene not only heightens the tension, but also reveals the different philosophies of these two men, what they believe in, why they are there. This short scene goes a long way to setting up why each of these characters are so unbending when the crisis presents itself.

Crimson Tide possesses one of the most intense moments in film: two great actors eye-to-eye, portraying characters absolutely certain of their actions, absolutely convinced that the other’s course will lead to disaster. Washington believes, with good reason, that Hackman is unfit to command because he is disregarding naval procedures. Hackman believes, with good reason, that Washington is disobeying an order and instigating a mutiny. A possible nuclear exchange and the deaths of billions hang in the balance.

The cast – all of them – are spectacular, and the directing is masterful. […] More than just a cautionary tale, this is a very human drama about who people become under extreme conditions, and how they work out problems to reach solutions, or fail to do so. If that final sentence sounds cryptic, then let it entice you to see the film so you can figure out what I mean for yourself.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Star Trek: Voyager” (Season 6)

Introduction

Long-time fans consider S6 to be one of the strongest of the series, along w/ S5. We get to see TNG characters- Barclay and Troi. I didn’t think the Borg children (aside from Echeb) were developed well; I wasn’t impressed w/ any the eps focused of these kids. It seems like the producers/writers just didn’t know what to do w/ them. As I’ve noted before, Trek doesn’t usually do very well w/ romance or children (aside from a few exceptions). The season finale is lackluster (if I’m being nice). As we’ve seen before, new aliens are introduced who could’ve been interesting villains (but then are never seen again). I liked the eps where the show makes fun of itself; VOY should’ve leaned on comedy more (as Robert Duncan McNeill commented on The Delta Flyers podcast). Oh and who could forget the famous fight (re: creative vision) between Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore!?

Season 6: Selected Episodes

Episode 1: Equinox, Part II

Cmdr. Chakotay: I don’t blame you for being angry, but you can’t compromise the safety of this ship to satisfy some personal vendetta.

Capt. Janeway: I appreciate your candor. Now let me be just as blunt: you’re right, I am angry. I’m damned angry. He’s a Starfleet captain, and he’s decided to abandon everything this uniform stands for. He’s out there right now, torturing and murdering innocent life forms just to get home a little quicker. I’m not gonna stand for it. I’m going to hunt him down, no matter how long it takes, no matter what the cost. If you wanna call that a vendetta, go right ahead.

Temporarily shielded from alien attack, Capt. Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) orders that their first priority is to find the Equinox, arrest Capt. Rudy Ransom (John Savage) and recover Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan). Cmdr. Chakotay (Robert Beltran) disagrees, but goes along w/ her plan. Janeway’s obsession to stop Ransom has been compared by long-time fans and critics to Capt. Picard’s obsession to stop the Borg in the TNG movie- First Contact. Janeway’s arguments w/ Chakotay really made me take notice; it’s been a while since a memorable interaction between them (as captain and first officer facing a problem).

The action and directing (by David Livingston) keeps things at a good pace. As many viewers thought, it’s a bit troubling to see Federation starships firing at each other. After the Voyager crew captures two of Ransom’s away team on a planet, Janeway brings Crewman Noah Lessing (Rick Worthy) into a cargo bay for questioning. She wants to know Ransom’s tactical status; he refuses to talk. Janeway threatens to lower the shields and turn the aliens loose on Lessing. Chakotay stands by for a while, thinking that she’s bluffing. Nope- she has become scary (no joke)!

“What’s happened to you, Kathryn?” Chakotay asks at one point. I wanted to ask the same question. I haven’t seen this Janeway before. She doesn’t answer to anyone. With no Starfleet watching over her shoulder, how could she be stopped if she continued down such a dangerous path?

…although Janeway pushes the envelope of her authority oh-so-far (as do the writers, really), there’s an awareness buried somewhere beneath Janeway’s madness- she simply wants what’s just. Unfortunately, the price is too high and she almost completely loses Chakotay’s confidence in the process.

-Jammer’s Reviews

The Equinox EMH (posing as The Doctor) keeps in contact w/ Ransom. The Doctor (Robert Picardo), on-board the Equinox w/ his ethical subroutines disabled, begins surgery on Seven to will extract info (which will destroy her brain). Ransom doesn’t want to do it, but says he has “no choice.” He already devalued the lives of aliens, but can he let a fellow human die?

Janeway finds the Ankari (the alien race that can summon their “Spirits of Good Fortune”), makes contact w/ the spirit-aliens, and agrees to turn over Equinox in exchange for her ship’s safety. (Sadly, the CGI used on these creatures has not aged well.) Tuvok objects, saying it will mean certain death for the Equinox crew. Janeway coldly replies: “I’ve already confined my first officer to quarters. Would you like to join him?” Wow, I was not expecting that!

Ransom decides to surrender to Janeway, but Lt. Maxwell Burke (Titus Welliver) stages a mutiny. In Part I, Burke had some interesting scenes with Lt. B’Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) which made him seem like a 3-dimensional character. Here, he just serves the plot and comes off as a sociopath. Burke and a few others are killed by aliens while trying to reach the shuttle bay. Ransom is killed when ship (heavily damaged by spirit-aliens) explodes. Five of his crew are brought aboard Voyager (incl. Lessing and Ensign Marla Gilmore- she helped Ransom after the mutiny). They’re stripped of rank and will get limited privileges, until they can prove themselves to their new captain/crew.

This was the first ep on which writer Ronald D. Moore worked, having transferred to the writers’ room after the end of DS9. He’d later rework this concept into Battlestar Galactica: Pegasus. While working on this ep, Moore had asked: “Is Janeway going to be captain forever, like a dictator? They should’ve put Janeway on trial.” The producers, incl. his friend/showrunner Brannon Braga, didn’t want to explore this issue. That’s why we get the reset button, not character continuity (as Moore wanted). The final scene on the bridge shows us that Janeway regrets how far she crossed the line. She admits quietly to Chakotay that he might’ve had good reason for his own mutiny. There is some nice symbolism of the fallen plaque; Janeway almost “fell down” herself in this story.

[1] In a way, “Equinox” is a comment on the entire series of Voyager itself. UPN and Paramount chose NOT to have Voyager become this “Lord of the Flies” in space. They chose NOT to make Voyager believe their own premise. Equinox is kind of like the Voyager that could have been…

[2] …if you remove the Doctor’s “ethical sub routines” surely he still retains friendships, loyalties and so on. Look at Equinox’s Doctor he stays loyal to his crew to the end. All too simple.

[3] I caught Janeway and Chakotay’s bust-up in the briefing room… It’s a great scene, and yet it signifies everything that was wrong with Voyager.[…] At the end of the episode, it’s all forgotten. Janeway offers no apology, and Chakotay doesn’t show even a small amount of resentment. Something that could have divided them for a few episodes, maybe even the entire season, was quickly glossed over.

-Comments posted on Jammer’s Reviews

Episode 2: Survival Instinct

Janeway: [reading the morning’s Security report] Hmm, some of these incidents ARE a little more serious, but on balance, I still think we did the right thing.

Tuvok: There is a third page.

Chakotay: Come on, Tuvok. After all the xenophobic races we’ve run into, don’t you find it just a little refreshing to meet some people who value openness and freedom?

Voyager docks at a space outpost with a variety of Delta Quadrant species. Eager for cultural exchange and friendly interactions, Janeway grants leave to the crew and the rolls out the welcome mat for visitors. Despite a few minor incidents, all seems to go well, until an alien approaches Seven holding Borg synaptic relays from her original unimatrix. Seeing them overwhelms Seven w/ images and memories of when she was last in contact with these items. This is the first of two eps written by TNG/DS9 writer by Moore.

Marika: I can’t wait to use my real name again.

Seven: There is nothing preventing you from doing so.

Lansor: Except that most of the time, I don’t know whether my name is Marika, P’Chan or Lansor. The names, the memories…

P’Chan: …the memories, even the thoughts flow from one to the other.

Marika: I can’t love or hate, or laugh…

MarikaLansor: …or cry without sharing it with them.

This ep is like a breath of fresh air- we see dozens of new aliens/costumes, three guest stars, and learn how assimilation (a traumatic violation) has affected them as individuals. The alien who brings the suitcase of Borg attachments is one of the MVPs of Trek- Vaughn Armstrong. The Bajoran woman, Marika Willkarah (Bertila Damas), served on the USS Excalibur– the ship was commanded by Riker in TNG: Redemption II (written by Moore). The youngest of this group, P’Chan (Tim Kelleher), is soft-spoken man who used to be caregiver for parents. In flashback scenes, we see Seven and these three Borg when they were separated (temporarily) from the Collective. While these Borg reflected on their previous lives, Seven got scared and told them to stop, as they were all Borg now. These three aliens (unlike Seven) were assimilated as adults.

Episode 4: Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy

[The Doctor has filed a formal grievance, along w/ a request to be made captain in the event of a catastrophic emergency]

Janeway: I don’t want anybody to be uncomfortable on this ship. I guess we should all try to be a little more considerate of his feelings.

Tom: Captain, he does it to himself. He’s Chief Medical Officer. Is it our fault that’s not enough for him?

The Doctor’s experiment with daydreaming gets out of control when an alien race compromises his program. The aliens consult their command (The Hierarchy) before attacking any passing ships. One of the aliens, mistaking the daydreams for reality, gets permission to attack. Upon realizing his mistake, he offers to help Voyager, but only if The Doctor is in command. 

The Doctor [in one of his daydreams]: Thank you for this opportunity, Captain. All I’ve ever wanted was to live up to my full potential, to hone all my skills, expand my abilities, to help the people I love.

This is just a funny/highly-rated ep w/ a core of seriousness (The Doctor, who is a hologram, wants more responsibility on the ship). Picardo gets to wear the command uniform (red color) and gets four pips on his collar. The Doctor can wow the crew w/ his singing and also save a life. All the women in the main cast are interested in him- LOL! We see a homage to a scene in Titanic (the hit movie that came out a year before) where The Doctor is painting Seven. This ep was written by Trek veteran Joe Menosky.

Episode 7: Dragon’s Teeth

Chakotay: [on seeing the hundreds of stasis pods of the Vaadwaur] Dragon’s teeth.

Janeway: “Dragon’s teeth?”

Chakotay: An old Greek myth. After a dragon was killed in a war, its teeth were spread out over the battlefield. They took root, and warriors sprung from the ground to continue the fighting.

Voyager is pushed into a sub-space corridor by the Turei (a xenophobic alien race), who claim ownership of this part of space. After refusing to allow the wiping of data re: the corridors, the ship lands on a nearby planet. Here (almost 900 yrs ago) the Vaadwaur (another alien race) sought shelter from a nuclear war by going into stasis pods, intent on waking up 5 yrs later. This ep may remind viewers of the premise of TOS: Space Seed; it was written by Michael Taylor.

Gedrin: I’m curious. Have you heard of us, the Vaadwaur?

Neelix: Um, I’m afraid there aren’t many records from that period, but “vaadwaur” is a word in the Old Tongue; it means, uh… “foolish.”

I thought the Vaadwaur makeup was unique/intricate; the costumes looked futuristic (but not in a hokey way). Seven wakes Gedrin (Jeff Allin), but his wife (sadly) lies dead in her pod. Gedrin seems like a good guy (but we can’t be sure); he says that his people traded and traveled great distances. Soon, more of the Vaadwaur wake up, incl. a warrior named Gaul (Robert Knepper); he was seen in TNG: Haven as the doctor who almost had an arranged marriage w/ Troi. The Vaadwaur claim they are the true owners of the corridors which they used for trade; the Turei attacked them so they could gain control.

Gedrin: You are not at all like the Borg I knew.

Seven: As a drone, I helped assimilate many civilizations. Now I have the opportunity to help reconstruct one. I find the experience… gratifying.

Neelix (in an useful role) remembers that the Vaadwaur were mentioned in ancient Talaxian legends; he does some computer searching and discovers that they were a race to be feared. These legends also match information Seven finds in the Borg database. Janeway has to decide which of the two aliens represent the greater threat, if the crew are to get off the planet. The Prime Directive is ignored and not even mentioned at any point. Some noted that the action scenes don’t make sense (but I’m not an expert in that area of Trek).

Episode 8: One Small Step

Janeway: As a Borg, you didn’t study the past- you ingested it. You’ve never really developed an appreciation for humanity’s history. Maybe this is an opportunity for you to do some exploring of your own.

Seven of Nine: Are you ordering me to join this mission?

Janeway: Let’s just say, I’m encouraging you to volunteer.

Voyager encounters a graviton ellipse, a phenomenon that emerges from subspace on rare occasions. The anomaly engulfed a vessel during a Mars mission in 2032; Chakotay is determined to retrieve the debris. Chakotay, Paris, and Seven take the Delta Flyer in, but when an asteroid strikes, Chakotay (obsessed with retrieving the module) disobeys Janeway’s order to leave. The Flyer is flightless as the ellipse prepares to return to subspace. This ep was written by four different people, incl. Bryan Fuller and Michael Taylor.

The Doctor reminisces about Arrakis Prime; Arrakis is the spice planet from Frank Herbert’s Dune novels. Buck Bokai, mentioned in one of the baseball discussions, is the fictitious baseball player best known in DS9. Guest star Phil Morris (who plays astronaut John Kelly) has literally grown up with Star Trek, and has played several supporting roles throughout his life, including one of the children in TOS: Miri, a Starfleet cadet in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, a Klingon bodyguard in DS9: Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places, and a Jem’Hadar soldier in  Rocks and Shoals. Beltran stated in an interview (on his website) that he was looking forward to filming this ep, as it provided a rare development of Chakotay’s character. His excitement turned frustration when the majority of the ep was given over to Seven’s character development.

Janeway: Space. Literally it means ‘nothing’ – a vacuum between stars and planets. But by the same token, it means everything. It’s what connects all our worlds – Vulcan, Qo’noS, Talax, Earth. Centuries ago, mankind sent its first wave of explorers into that void – astronauts like Mr. Kelly. They paved the way for the first colonies, the first starships, for those of us who’ve made space our home. We commend the spirit and the bravery of Lt. John Mark Kelly, as we commit his body… to space. He will not be forgotten.

As Seven listens to Lt. Kelly’s tapes we see her gradually change her attitude. …Seven begins to understand the concept of what it meant to be a true explorer and hero. She comes to appreciate sacrifice and selfless dedication exhibited by Kelley, as he states his mission isn’t a failure and continues to explore, with the clear realization the fruits of his labor would never be seen… She comes to realize that Kelley was an individual that chose to take this risk for the betterment of humanity.

-Excerpt from IMDB review

Episode 10: Pathfinder

Barclay: Ever since I… I left the Enterprise, things haven’t… haven’t been the same. It’s as if… I lost my family.

Lt. Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz) has found a new obsession- returning Voyager and her crew. When Enterprise visits Earth, Barclay reunites with his counselor/friend, Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), recalling the events leading up to his dismissal and ban from the research (The Pathfinder Project). This ep was written by David Zabel (a veteran of TV) and Ken Biller (writer/producer). This is the first of several eps featuring Barclay and Troi; many viewers commented that they had better story arcs in this series than on TNG!

Barclay: You know what I am always saying: If you can’t stand the heat…
Kim (hologram): Get out of the warp core!

Although Starfleet has adopted their new-style uniform for 3 yrs during the time, people can be seen outside Starfleet HQ wearing the older uniforms; it’s a recycled shot from DS9: Homefront. Richard Herd (who passed away in 2020) has played the recurring role of Adm. Owen Paris; he also played the Klingon L’Kor in TNG: Birthright. A shot of McNeill as Nicholas Locarno from TNG: The First Duty was used as the photo of Paris on Adm. Paris’ desk. Barclay’s holographic imagination of the main characters is based on how they looked before leaving the Alpha Quadrant. Janeway has her original (“bun of steel”) hairstyle, Chakotay and B’Elanna Torres are wearing Maquis leathers (not Starfleet uniforms). Neelix and Seven, who were added to the crew in the Delta Quadrant, do not appear (though Barclay’s cat is named Neelix).

Adm. Paris: Why the long face, Mr. Barclay?
Barclay: Because… because, it’s over, sir.
Adm. Paris: No, lieutenant. I’d say that Project Voyager is just beginning. Thanks to you.

This is a fun ep where we get to see Barclay as a hero- who would’ve imagined!? It’s important to the series (as a whole) b/c Voyager finally gets to talk to Starfleet- YAY! I like the relationship between Barclay and Troi; they are friends, but she also serves as a counselor to him (as on TNG). I liked the design of Barclay’s apt. in San Fran; he just needed to spend some time on decor. Troi still loves chocolate (Barclay offers her ice cream).

It is Broccoli’s multiplex infirmities that brought TNG to level human ground, in that he was probably the most realistic human character of that whole show- and his insecurities mix with his imagination to reveal a complex person. And in true Broccoli style, Schulz slams a home run in this Voyager episode. But there can be no Barclay episode without Counselor Troi, and her ability to set Barclay back on his feet.

-Excerpt from IMDB review

It was surreal, really weird. I didn’t get to work with any of the Voyager cast because all my scenes were on Earth with Dwight [….] The [production] crew was virtually the same as we had for two or three seasons, so I knew everybody and everybody knew me. And with Dwight, I was working with someone from The Next Generation, so it was almost as though I’d gone back in time. It was so strange, but so much fun. Of course, I got all depressed when it was over and I had to leave! [….] The crew on Voyager […] said to me, ‘We really miss you guys.-Marina Sirtis

Episode 12: Blink of an Eye

Chakotay: If there’s an intelligent species down there, we’ll be able to track their development, not just for days or weeks, but for centuries.

B’Elanna: Watch them discover new and better ways of beating each other over the head.

Chakotay: They won’t necessarily follow the Klingon model.

B’Elanna: As opposed to the human model?

Voyager is trapped in orbit above a strange planet where time passes thousands of times faster than in the surrounding galaxy. As the population of the planet evolves, Voyager becomes an integral part of their culture. Eventually, they develop technology that allows them to send someone to the “Sky Ship.” This ep was written by Joe Menosky from a story by Michael Taylor. TOS had an ep entitled Wink of an Eye where Scalosians, moving too fast to be seen or heard (other than a faint buzzing sound), board Enterprise and abduct Capt. Kirk.

Gotana-Retz: [singing a childhood prayer-song] Star of the night / Star of the day / Come to take my tears away / Make my life always bright.

This is listed as one of the “Ten Essential Episodes” of Voyager in the 2008 reference book Star Trek 101 by Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann. The storyline is largely the same as the plot of the 1980 novel Dragon’s Egg by Robert L. Forward, with some minor variations (EX: the lifeforms were on a pulsar, not a rapidly spinning planet, and the time differential was much greater). Obi Ndefo (Kelemane- the protector) previously played Drex, son of the Klingon warrior Martok, in DS9: The Way of the Warrior. The tall/handsome Korean-American actor, Daniel Dae Kim (DDK), plays astronaut Gotana-Retz; he’d later play the recurring role of Corporal Chang in Enterprise.

Gotana-Retz: Without the Sky Ship up above them, my people might lose interest in progress. There wouldn’t be anything left to reach for.

Seven of Nine: Perhaps they’ll miss Voyager so much, they’ll do everything they can to follow us.

I loved this ep- it was interesting, intelligent, and touching! I liked the varied settings, costumes, and set design (as the planet progressed). DDK gave a fine/memorable performance; some of you may know from Lost or the rom com 2019 Almost Be My Maybe (starring Allie Wong and Randall Park). I esp. liked DDK’s scene w/ Mulgrew in her ready room; they had some good chemistry. This was the only ep directed by Gabrielle Beaumont; she went on to do 7 eps of DS9.

[1] ..this was my favorite Voyager episode ever made. The story was perfect for an episode of Star Trek and the only thing disappointing about it was that it should’ve been a two-part episode giving more time to focus on the inhabitants of the world as they worship the “Skyship.” At times I even think this could’ve passed as a Star Trek Movie plot. […] This episode also should be noted for it’s greatness because although there was a small bit of conflict at the end, this episode focused more on problem solving rather than space battles. Also it didn’t rely on the return of old favorites (Borg, Q, etc.) to make it good.

[2] Fans of The Doctor will get an especially good kick out of this episode as he achieves some sort of humanity. It’ll give you a warm smile, much in the way Data’s quest for humanity did for many TNG fans.

For me, the ending is the best part of the episode. It’ll make you feel warm, happy and sad. An extremely great story that manages to put itself among the best of the Star Trek episodes.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Episode 20: Good Shepherd

Chakotay: There are always a few who don’t make it past their first year on a starship. Normally they’re reassigned, but in our case, maybe we should relieve them of duty and let them pursue their own interests. It certainly wouldn’t hurt general efficiency.

Janeway: They aren’t drones, Chakotay. We can’t just deactivate them.

In Seven’s report on ship-wide efficiency, she brings to the captain’s attention 3 “black sheep” crewmen who’ve slipped through the cracks. Mortimer Harren (former child actor Jay Underwood) is an overqualified/unenthused engineer, Tal Celes is the Bajoran w/ no confidence in herself, and her pal William Telfer is a hypochondriac. Seeking to guide her strays back to the flock, Janeway orders them to join her on an away mission to a Class T nebula in the Delta Flyer. Anxiety strikes when the know-it-all Harren gets sensor data wrong, Tal is plagued w/ worry, and an intrusive alien gives Telfer a real medical emergency.

Janeway: That’s the nature of space exploration. It’s unpredictable.

Mortimer Harren: Which is why I don’t like space exploration. Stumbling from star to star like a… a drunken insect careening toward a light source is not my idea of a dignified existence.

Some viewers compared this ep to Lower Decks on TNG (one of the few TNG eps I haven’t seen yet). While the Enterprise D ((TNG) was filled w/ the best and the brightest, not all the crew on Voyager come from the top of Starfleet Academy. Don’t’ forget that about 1/3 of them are former Maquis, too. Several viewers found Harren unlikeable, esp, b/c he acts disrespectful to Janeway; the actor did a fine job.

Episode 21: Live Fast and Prosper

Tom: Why didn’t we see this coming?

Neelix: Orphans! It’s the oldest gambit in the book!

Tom: I-I mean, if it’d been Harry, I could understand it, he trusts everybody; but you and me?

The Voyager crew is the victim of identity theft. A clever trio of con artists (claiming to be Janeway, Chakotay, and Tuvok) are making trades all over the quadrant and giving Voyager a bad name. When they skip out on the bill, the collectors demand payment from the real Voyager. Once Janeway has her doppelganger in custody, Neelix “accidently” lets her escape, allowing the real captain to run her own double-cross. 

Dala: The great Captain Janeway. Somehow I expected you to be… taller. I make a better you than you.

This is one of the few LOL eps of the series! The con woman, Dala (Kaitlin Hopkins), does a great impression of Janeway. I learned that Hopkins is the daughter of veteran actress Shirley Knight (wow)! Mulgrew and Hopkins have great chemistry in their scenes. This ep is directed by LeVar Burton- another reason to check it out.

Episode 22: Muse

Crash-landed on an alien planet while scouting for dilithium, B’Elanna finds herself held captive by Kelis (Joseph Will), a poet who believes her an “Eternal” sent from Heaven to be his muse. As she lay unconscious for days from injuries, he took her logs and wrote a (Greek-style) play- “The Away Mission of B’Elanna Torres,” which his starving acting troupe performed before a patron who wants more (in a week). B’Elanna strikes a deal: if he will retrieve some “winter’s tears” (dilithium), she will tell him more stories about “Shining Voyager, Far From Home.”

Kelis: [about the types of artifice in theater] Mistaken identity – a character who is someone else. Discovery – the moment when that identity is revealed. Reversal- a situation that turns from good to bad in a blink of an eye.

Chorus #1: [entering] Find the truth of your story, and you won’t need all those tricks. [to Torres] I don’t know how things are done across the Eastern Sea, but here, poets have become lazy. They rely on manipulation to move their audience. It wasn’t always that way.

This was one of my fave eps of the season; I’m surprised that many don’t like it! The teleplay was written by Menosky; I usually enjoy his work on Trek. Kelis’ theatre is based on a 5th c. BC Athenian theatre. The masks the actors use are really made to look like their characters. Veteran actors Tony Amendola and John Schuck (who appeared in TOS movies, DS9, and Enterprise) are part of the chorus seen mainly in the background. I’m sure they were quite impressed w/ this script (to take such small roles). Here is my fave scene below!

Kelis: Today, audiences want excitement… passion! Let me show you what I’ve done with Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay. [to his troupe] Let’s make a good impression on our visitor. [Tanis and Jero run through a scene]

Tanis: [as Janeway] Chakotay, why must I be denied what every other female officer on this ship can have?

Jero : [as Chakotay] Captain?

Tanis: The privilege of your touch. [they kiss; B’Elanna, aghast, doesn’t know what to say]

Episode 24: Life Line

Seven: [looking at Dr. Zimmerman’s profile] You bear a striking resemblance.

The Doctor: He used his own physical parameters as a model for my matrix. Can’t say I blame him. A doctor needs to inspire confidence in his patients. Compassionate eyes and a strong chin can go a long way.

The Pathfinder Project makes use of a pulsar and the MIDAS Array, allowing a data stream to reach Voyager (and Voyager to reply) every 32 days. Lt. Barclay sends a letter to The Doctor asking for a second opinion on Dr. Lewis Zimmerman, the eccentric genius who created the template for The Doctor’s program and is terminally ill (w/ no known cure in the Alpha Quadrant). After reviewing the medical record, The Doctor believes he can cure Zimmerman and convinces Janeway to risk sending him through the data stream. However, The Doctor finds his maker to be his most difficult patient, insisting The Doctor’s program is obsolete. Barclay recruits Troi to counsel them before Zimmerman’s time runs out.

Zimmerman: Reginald was right about you. You HAVE exceeded the sum of your programing. You’ve accomplished far more than I would have ever predicted but, let’s face facts, you never overcame the inherent flaws in your personality subroutines. You’re arrogant, irritable – a “jerk,” as Counselor Troi would say.

The Doctor: I believe she was describing YOU as well.

Zimmerman: Don’t change the subject.

This is another ep w/ Zimmerman, Barclay, and Troi (always like seeing her). Many viewers found it both humorous and touching, as we see Picardo does well in dual roles and we face w/ a serious issue (death). The almost father-son dynamic between Zimmerman and The Doctor comes off as natural (not annoying).

Episode 26: Unimatrix Zero, Part I

Simultaneously, as Voyager nears an alien outpost decimated by the Borg, Seven begins to dream vividly of an idyllic sanctuary where a few Borg can gather subconsciously- Unimatrix Zero.

[Janeway plans to save the drones in Unimatrix Zero]

Janeway: Chakotay… we’ve had our disagreements – and there have been times when I’ve chosen to proceed without your support – but this can’t be one of those times. I won’t do this without my First Officer.

Chakotay: The way I see it, risking the safety of Voyager is a small price to pay. We help these people, this could be the turning point in our battle against the Borg.

Janeway: I’m glad we agree, because I almost talked myself out of it.

Chakotay: Somehow I don’t think you were ever in danger of doing that.

Um, yeah, this IS the season finale! When I first saw it, I was disappointed (and a bit bored); on rewatch, it didn’t come off any better. The love interest for Seven, Axum (Mark Deakins), was so bland and boring! There is zero chemistry between Axum and Seven (who has thus far avoided romance). Several viewers joked that they’d seen more realistic/scarier Klingons doing cosplay than Gen. Korok (Jerome Butler). This is one of the cases where you have to wonder: “Do these actors you have a back-up job?” Also, how does Gen. Korok have a weapon (bat’leth) in this dream world? It doesn’t make sense; there are other goofs in this ep (which you can see for yourself).

“I May Destroy You” (2020) created by/starring Michaela Coel

The question of sexual consent in contemporary life and how, in the new landscape of dating and relationships, we make the distinction between liberation and exploitation. -Tagline for the HBO TV series

[1] Sexual assault story has never been told this way before. Groundbreaking stuff. A must see.

[2] It’s not meant to be Girlfriends or SATC and it doesn’t pretend to be. It’s not a sitcom or light comedy, it’s devastating at times, yet humorous.

[3] …this show is honest, heart-breaking, uplifting, funny and sad all at once.

[4] It’s definitely a hard show to watch but worth every moment. Love seeing a largely Black cast in a big network series too.

[5] To me, what it strikes similarity with is the Black Mirror. Almost each episode opens a certain problematic topic of the modern western world.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

There is much to discover in this HBO show (consisting of 12 eps, 30 mins. long). It’s dark (perhaps too much for sensitive viewers), multi-layered, and has some of the most unique characters you’ll see on modern TV. I esp. liked the scenes w/ the literary crowd, some of whom are quite problematic. Michaela Coel (now 32 y.o.) was sexually assaulted when she was making the second season of her comedy series Chewing Gum (2015) which provided the inspiration for this show. She turned down a $1M deal w/ Netflix for the series, as she would’ve lost ownership of the rights. Coel (named Michaela Boakye-Collinson) was born to Ghanaian parents and raised in Tower Hamlets by a single mother, a cleaner who became a NHS nurse. She attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (where she was awarded a scholarship named for Olivier). In 2013, Coel made her stage debut in Chewing Gum Dreams; in 2015, her sitcom Chewing Gum began on Channel 4 TV in the UK.

Arabella (Coel) is a 20ish writer in London working on her second book; her first book (comprised of her popular tweets re: millennial life) was published online. There are several fans who approach her on the streets, asking for a selfie and/or giving out praise. She lives in a humble flat w/ her friend, Ben (Stephen Wight), a quiet/white man who enjoys gardening. Arabella’s best friends are an aspiring actress, Terry (Weruche Opia), and an aerobics instructor, Kwame (Paapa Essiedu- the lead in Hamlet at RSC in 2016). These three pals (all of Ghanian heritage) have known each other for many years and talk about (almost) everything together a la SATC. Another old friend, Simon (Alm Ameen), works at a bank and lives in a fancy apt. w/ his gf of 8 yrs. Simon has a wild side; he plans a three-some and carries drugs (coke). Arabella is known for her partying ways, incl. sometimes using drugs. Some viewers were suspicious of Simon, guessing that he wasn’t going to be a good friend.

One night, Arabella takes a break from her novel to go out w/ Simon and a few others (on his b-day). It turns out that someone spiked her drink and assaulted her that night! The details are few and hazy; at first, she doesn’t want to admit something so terrible happened. Though disoriented, injured (w/ a forehead gash), and lacking sleep, Arabella goes to a meeting w/ her two literary agents. They’re worried re: her falling behind on providing chapters; they’re portrayed as typical white yuppie/liberals. Later, she goes to the local police station to report the crime; we see a few scenes not unlike those in Law & Order: SVU. The two cops on her case are considerate and professional women; they don’t act judgmental of Arabella.

The locations, sets, clothes, and accessories seemed true to life. Many critics and viewers commented that the city scenes looked like “the real London.” The scenes in Ostia, Italy were esp. shot well; Arabella is drawn to her on/off bf Biagio (Marouane Zotti). Though Biagio sells drugs, he seems to be supportive of Arabella (at first). (Coel said she took a vacation to Firenze after her assault and fell in love w/ the place and people.) Arabella wears a pink wig in the first few eps; this was purposefully chosen and dyed not suit Coel’s face/skin color. As the series progresses, the wig frays (symbolizing Arabella’s mental state). Casting directors question Terry about her hair (a wig) in a rather blunt manner; you can tell she is uncomfortable. Almost all of the characters are constantly on their smartphones. Later in the show, Arabella becomes huge on social media; her therapist asks if she really needs it. Kwame may or may not be addicted to a popular gay dating app (Grindr). One of his old friends (who is questioning his own sexual identity) worries about Kwame’s behavior. Kwame nonchalantly says that this isn’t Ghana, so he won’t be thrown off a building. This show is laced w/ dark humor (another element which sets it apart from US shows).

There are some flashback scenes where we see Arabella and Terry as H.S. kids (age 14); the casting of the kids was done very well. They support a male friend after he is (falsely) accused of attacking a white girl, Theo. In the present time, Theo is the head of survivors’ support group; though Arabella wants to know her better, Terry is still suspicious. Terry isn’t a “perfect” friend either, as we eventually discover. No one is totally a good or bad guy in this show! Kwame faces a difficult situation in the middle of the series; he’s not sure if this qualifies as sexual assault (so he Googles it). At first, he consented to hookup w/ a man, but then was forced into something else (w/o his consent). Arabella (thanks to a podcast) learns that her writing partner Zain (Hardip Gill) was “stealthing” when they slept together. She also didn’t give her consent; in fact, she hadn’t experienced this before. What did you think about Terry’s “wild” night w/ the two Italians- could that also be considered non-consensual? There isn’t always an easy answer!

“Odds Against Tomorrow” (1959) starring Harry Belafonte, Robert Ryan, Shelley Winters, & Ed Begley

Dave Burke (veteran character actor Ed Begley) is looking to hire two men to assist him in a bank raid: Earle Slater (Robert Ryan), a white/middle-aged ex-con, and Johnny Ingram (Harry Belafonte- also co-producer), a young/Black singer w/ a gambling problem. Ingram (who likes the finer things in life) is recently divorced from his schoolteacher wife, Ruth (Kim Hamilton), w/ whom he shares a young daughter. Burke arranges for Ingram’s creditors to put pressure on him. Slater (who has a quick temper) feels humiliated by his failure to provide for his devoted wife, Lorry (Shelley Winters), who works two jobs. The two men, though reluctant at first, eventually accept to do the crime. Slater loathes and despises Blacks; tensions in the gang quickly mount.

[after Slater insults Ingram]

Burke: Don’t beat out that Civil War jazz here, Slater! We’re all in this together, each man equal. And we’re taking care of each other. It’s one big play, our one and only chance to grab stakes forever. And I don’t want to hear what your grandpappy thought on the old farm down in Oklahoma! You got it?

Belafonte chose Abraham Polonsky (writer/director of Force of Evil) to write the script. As a blacklisted writer, Polonsky used the name of John O. Killens (a Black novelist/friend of Belafonte). In 1997, the WGA restored Polonsky’s credit. The director is Robert Wise (West Side Story; The Sound of Music); he used infra-red film in some scenes (to create a distorted feel).

This is the first film noir with a Black protagonist! The bartender at the jazz club is a young Cicely Tyson (her second film appearance); she passed away in early 2021. Noir icon Gloria Grahame makes a brief (yet important) appearance. The movie was praised highly by James Ellroy and influenced the work of Jean-Pierre Melville (a French director). The volatile chemistry between the three men is at the center of the movie. I liked the character development, on locations shots of NYC (incl. Central Park), and the slightly uneasy atmosphere. Jazz and Calypso music are played at the smoky club where Ingram performs.

[1] Good low budget heist film. Ryan’s character is one of the ugliest portrayals of a white racist in film. Belafonte’s character is one of the most multi-faceted and complex potrayals of an African American up until that time, and the performance doesn’t date at all. Wise keeps the pacing taut and the suspense high.

[2] Personally I found Belefonte’s contribution the most searing. He captures the role of the divorced father to a tee. The scene where he is awakened by his ex-wife after sleeping (ever so slightly) with is daughter is masterful. You can sense the longing in his heart for the nuclear family that once was.

[3] Wise wants to communicate a whole context, he wants to detail his characters to a fault. How many directors would dare that today? Robert Ryan’s part is very complex. First he seems friendly, but further acquaintance shows a lack of self-confidence (he’s getting old, he’s a washout, he wants to go for broke). And he is a racist. Rarely, this obnoxious feeling has been depicted with such wit.

-Excerpts from reviews on IMBD

Socially Conscious Noir: “Crossfire” (1947) starring Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, & Robert Ryan

Homicide Capt. Finlay (Robert Young) finds evidence that one or more of a group of soldiers is involved in the death of a middle-aged/kindly Jewish man, Joseph Samuels (Sam Levene). In flashbacks, we see the night’s events from different viewpoints, as Army Sgt. Keeley (a youngish Robert Mitchum) investigates on his own, trying to clear the sensitive/young Mitchell, to whom circumstantial evidence points. Then the real (and ugly) motive for the killing begins to dawn on both Finlay and Keeley. This was the breakout role for Robert Ryan, who played Montgomery, one of the experienced/jaded soldiers. Ryan didn’t like the negative aspects of his character- that resulted in him being typecast in villain roles. In real life, Ryan was a liberal progressive actively involved in the Civil Rights movement. A very young Gloria Grahame (who was loaned from MGM) plays a dancehall girl who meets Mitchell.

Finlay: Hating is always the same, always senseless. One day it kills Irish Catholics, the next day Jews, the next day Protestants, the next day Quakers. It’s hard to stop. It can end up killing men who wear striped neckties. Or people from Tennessee.

The film is based on Richard Brooks’ first novel, The Brick Foxhole (1945), written while he was a sergeant in the Marine Corps. One of the subplots dealt w/ homophobia, but that was changed to anti-Semitism. The decision was made by producer Adrian Scott (who purchased the rights) knowing that any depiction of homosexuality would not pass the Hayes Code. Brooks would write the screenplays for other notable noirs, incl. The Killers (1946) (uncredited), Brute Force (1947), Key Largo (1948), and Mystery Street (1950). Due to of the film’s tight (24 day) shooting schedule, it was able to beat the similarly-themed Gentleman’s Agreement to theaters by 3-1/2 months and stole some of its thunder. However, Oscar acclaim went to Gentleman’s Agreement, which won 3 out of its 8 noms, incl. Best Picture. Crossfire was overlooked; it had 5 noms. It has been suggested that one reason it didn’t win any Oscars was director Edward Dmytryk and Scott’s testimony before HUAC in late 1947. They refused to state whether they were, or had been, Communists and were subsequently blacklisted.

[1] Ryan, creates a fully shaded and frighteningly convincing portrait of an ignorant, unstable bigot; we see his phony geniality, his bullying, his resentment of anyone with advantages, his “Am I right or am I right?” smugness; how easily he slaps labels on people and what satisfaction he gets from despising them.

CROSSFIRE’s message seems cautious and dated now, though not nearly so much as GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT. […] The script seems afraid to mention any real contemporary problems. […] Still, it did take some guts to depict, immediately after World War II, an American who might have been happier in the Nazi army, and the movie’s basic premise is still valid.

[2] Crossfire is a “message” movie but it is also a cracking good drama, and that’s what I enjoyed about it. Plus the cast is dynamite – Roberts Preston, Mitchum and Ryan, and the beautiful Gloria Grahame. Mitchum doesn’t have a big a role as you might expect (the movie was released the same year as Out Of The Past in which he gives a much more substantial performance), but he’s always great to watch, and Robert Ryan steals the movie as a very nasty piece of work.

[3] As late as 1947, it was a big deal for a movie to announce that anti-Semitism existed, and that it was bad. (It was unthinkable, of course, for Hollywood to address the real subject of the book on which the movie was based- its victim was a homosexual.) Nevertheless, thanks to good writing and excellent acting, CROSSFIRE remains a persuasive examination of what we would now call a hate crime.

-Excerpts from IMBD reviews