“Primal Fear” (1996) starring Richard Gere, Laura Linney, & Edward Norton

Sooner or later a man who wears two faces forgets which one is real. -Tag line

In Chicago, a 19 y.o. former altar boy, Aaron (Edward Norton- in his breakout role), is charged w/ the brutal murder of an archbishop. A well-known criminal lawyer, Martin Vail (Richard Gere), takes on his case pro bono. The prosecution is lead by Marty’s former colleague/ex-gf- Janet Venable (Laura Linney). Aaron was homeless before he was taken in by the religious leader; he’s shy, humble, and speaks w/ a stammer; this could make him look sympathetic to the jury. Marty is convinced that Aaron is innocent, but then he finds a disturbing video that shows Aaron may have had good reason to want the archbishop dead. One day, Aaron lashes out at Molly (Frances McDormand), the psychologist Marty hired to examine him; another personality (Roy) is revealed! With the trial underway, Martin can’t change Aaron’s (not guilty) plea; he tries to find a way to introduce his client’s mental condition.

[Marty is trying to woo Janet again]

Marty: Come on. Let’s go find a bar you can still smoke in.

Janet: Thanks for the invite, but I don’t like one-night stands all that much.

Martin: We saw each other for months.

Janet: It was a one-night stand, Marty. It just lasted six months.

I heard buzz about this film during the 1997 awards season; I never watched it until last week. The cast here is very strong, w/ everyone putting in a fine performance (incl. the minor players). I was (pleasantly) surprised to see Linney (who has great chemistry w/ Gere) and Andre Braugher (who plays Tommy, the PI/former cop). Maura Tierney plays Naomi, Marty’s legal secretary. John Mahoney plays DA Shaughnessy; he was Marty’s former boss. Look out also for a Jon Seda (ageless) as one of Aaron’s pals. The judge is played by Alfre Woodard. Director Gregory Hoblit is known for his work on legal and police dramas.

Marty: [sitting w/ journo in a bar] Why gamble with money when you can gamble with people’s lives? That was a joke. All right, I’ll tell you. I believe in the notion that people are innocent until proven guilty. I believe in that notion because I choose to believe in the basic goodness of people. I choose to believe that not all crimes are committed by bad people. And I try to understand that some very, very good people do some very bad things.

In the first act of the story, we see Marty as confident (bordering on arrogant) and publicity-seeking (followed by a journo doing a profile on him). He thinks his charm will convince Janet to see him again (though she isn’t having it); they flirt w/ and challenge each other. I liked all the scenes w/ Gere and Linney; they conveyed that they had a long relationship (which wasn’t all bad). In the end, we see Marty cut down to size and dejected (Gere’s breathing even changes, one viewer commented); he has been fooled by his manipulative client. Marty wanted so hard to believe in his client.

Marty: [while in Aaron’s solitary confinement room] I speak. You do not speak. Your job is to just sit there and look innocent.

I knew there was some big plot twist, but I thought Aaron and Roy would be two distinct personalities (but it’s Roy only)! Norton’s performance comes off as natural (you can’t see the acting); he gets to let loose in two particularly intense scenes. He worked several years in the theater, so knows how to use his body well (much is done w/ body language here). Norton is 26 y.o. in this movie, but he looks a bit younger (thanks to his haircut, speech, and mannerisms). Over 2,000 young male actors auditioned for the role of Aaron (wow) before Norton was chosen! Gere was so frustrated, so almost quit the movie, as the search continued. Though born in Boston, Norton was raised in the suburban DC area (Columbia, MD). I will check out more of his work; I’ve seen Rounders (w/ Matt Damon) and Birdman (which won some Oscars).

“Trial by Jury” (1994) & “The Juror” (1996)

Trial by Jury (1994) starring Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, Armand Assante, Gabriel Byrne, & William Hurt

For one juror, the question of guilt or innocence is a matter of life or death… her own. -Tag line

For those who’ve seen The Juror (see below), this film (which was released first) will seem very familiar! However, this story focuses more on the trial, rather than what happens outside the courtroom. Both individuals are (oddly) happy to appear for jury duty, as many viewers have chuckled at. The son here is younger and there is a supportive grandfather character (who lives upstate on a small farm). The fathers (ex-husbands to the protagonists) are barely mentioned; they’re absent from the daily lives of the sons. Both moms must survive under tremendous pressures and eventually take actions into their own hands (rather than relying on the authorities).

In NYC, Valerie Alston (Whalley-Kilmer) is a single mom/owner of a vintage clothing store called to participate in the jury of the trial of mobster Rusty Pirone (Assante). Just before the trail begins, the key witness for the prosecution is executed, along w/ the four police officers who were protecting him. The lead prosecutor, Daniel Graham (Byrne), is on a mission to get Pirone, and also the media’s attention. An alcoholic ex-cop, Tommy Vesey (Hurt), threatens to hurt Valerie’s son unless she says “not guilty.”

I enjoyed the parts w/ Byrne and his team of eager/ambitious prosecutors. Assante made a smooth/compelling villain (w/ a love of classic films and everything old-fashioned). Playing against type, freelance baddies Hurt (w/ waves in his blonde hair) and Kathleen Quinlan share a dysfunctional dynamic. The third act of the story is (obviously) inspired by the noir genre. I wasn’t a fan of the editing; this movie could’ve been shorter and more tightly put together.

You will feel Gabriel Byrne’s frustration as he tries to catch the mob boss and and work within the law only to have the legal system perverted by the influence of that mob. You will see how his character… could easily have gone in that direction.

-Excerpt from IMDB review

The Juror (1996) starring Demi Moore, Alec Baldwin, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, James Gandolfini, & Anne Heche

In upstate NY, Annie Laird (Moore) is a sculptor (clerk by day) raising a smart/observant 13 y.o. son, Oliver (Gordon-Leavitt) on her own. Annie is cautious, responsible, and busy (though doesn’t mind going to jury duty). She even comments to Oliver: “I need some excitement in my life!” Her closest friend is a carefree/single doctor, Juliet (Heche), who also shares a great rapport w/ Oliver. I liked the female friendship element in this story, thought the women seemed like opposites. Annie is one of the jurors chosen for the trial of Louie Boffano, who is accused of the murders of a rival mob family (incl. a 10 y.o. boy). A mysterious man dressed in black (Baldwin) bugs Annie’s (eclectic-looking) farmhouse; his friend/colleague Eddie (Gandolfini) keeps a lookout.

The next day at a gallery in NYC, Annie receives a check for $12,000, as she has finally sold some of her work. Outside this gallery, a man introduces himself to Annie as “Mark”- the art dealer who purchased the sculptures. He humbly asks her to go have coffee; they have a chat re: art vs. business (which I liked). When Mark explains that “art is used as a kind of currency” in Japan, Annie becomes indignant, saying: “I don’t want my work treated as currency!” Some critics/viewers said this was naive of Annie; after all, she is trying to transition to becoming an artist full-time. Annie decides to go out on a date with Mark, encouraged by Juliet, who thinks her friend is too reserved. Well, Mark (who had some serious issues- we will learn) reveals his true intent for getting close to Annie- she must declare that Boffano is “not guilty.”

To keep the viewer guessing, Baldwin’s face is kept mostly in shadow during the early scenes. There is a good amount of tension in this film, which keeps the viewer’s attention. There are some implausible moments and the editing could’ve been tighter. I thought Gandolfini did an esp. fine job; he was probably the most “normal” character (though still a baddie) in the movie. There are twists and turns, so you won’t be bored. I liked the (pivotal/intense) action scene between Baldwin and several mobsters. Like many viewers, I didn’t see the point in taking the story to Guatemala. We also never learn much re: Dr. Boone (Matt Craven)- is he Annie’s ex/Oliver’s father or just an old (platonic) pal? The final face-off is exciting, but also rather cliched (as seen in other action movies).

The role she [Demi Moore] plays here is, in a sense, the feminine counterpart of many Harrison Ford roles, the ordinary person elevated to heroic action by compelling circumstances.

Alec Baldwin… He fills the screen with his presence like something you can’t get rid of. He is so compelling you want to push him away or just give up. And he is charming-evil, but charming.

-Excerpt from IMDB review

“Malice” (1992) starring Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman, & Bill Pullman

Deception. Betrayal. Murder. Some things you never see coming. -Tag line

This is one of several thrillers made during the early 1990s set around husband and wife characters. The films incl. Deceived (1991), Shattered (1991), Mortal Thoughts (1991), Consenting Adults (1992), Unlawful Entry (1992), Presumed Innocent (1990), Guilty as Sin (1993), Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), and A Kiss Before Dying (1991). So far, I’ve only seen Consenting Adults (starring Kevin Kline, Kevin Spacey, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Rebecca Miller- wife of Daniel Day Lewis) and Sleeping with the Enemy (one of Julia Roberts’ first movies; it spawned 14 remakes internationally). I saw Malice (first time) last week; I never knew it was co-written by Aaron Sorkin (who also wrote A Few Good Men and created one of my fave TV shows- The West Wing)! It was originally intended to be filmed at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA (not Smith College). After reviewing the script, the college president declined, due to the serial rapist subplot. The movie was moved to Smith in Northampton; they only agreed as long as the college name was changed. In the opening, the little house that the young student lives in is the former residence of Pres. Coolidge.

This is the type of film that you have to see twice to get all that’s going on. On the first watch, it’s a compelling psychological thriller w/ twists and turns; the plot contains rape, murder, life-and-death trauma, and a deadly fight (all w/ in the first 45 mins). On the re-watch, you find the things you might’ve missed; it’s a chance to enjoy the terrific performances from the three leads- Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman, and Bill Pullman. There are brief appearances by Gwyneth Paltrow (a slacker student/one of her early roles) and Joshua Malina (a medical resident/old friend of Sorkin). Veteran actors George C. Scott and Anne Bancroft have small, yet pivotal, roles. Peter Gallagher plays the lawyer who holds some clues to Tracy’s (mysterious) past.

I’m the new guy around here and I want to make friends, so I’ll say this to you and we’ll start fresh. If you don’t like my jokes, don’t laugh. If you have a medical opinion, then please speak up and speak up loud. But if you ever again tell me or my surgical staff that we’re going to lose a patient, I’m gonna take out your lungs with a fuckin’ ice cream scoop. Do you understand me? -Jed explains to Dr. Robertson (after they operate on the college student/rape survivor)

Andy Safian (Pullman- looking youthful at 40) is an associate dean at a smal college outside Boston that’s being terrorized by a serial rapist. Tracy (Kidman- looking gorgeous as usual) is his younger wife who volunteers as an art teacher in the Pediatrics ward of the local hospital, St. Agnes. They’re newlyweds renovating a Victorian house and need $14K to overhaul its plumbing. Dr. Jed Hill (Baldwin- looking gorgeous also) is the hotshot new surgeon at St. Agnes and a former HS classmate of Andy’s. Jed needs a place to stay; Andy and Tracy need the extra money. Soon, Jed is living on the 3rd floor; his noisy date w/ his surgical nurse, Tanya (Debrah Farentino), is grating on Tracy’s nerves. The rapes continue; Andy is even considered a suspect! Andy’s detective friend, Dana (Bebe Neuwirth), convinces him to come to the police station to eliminate himself as a suspect. Meanwhile, Tracy comes home and collapses from pains to her abdomen (a possible ovarian cyst)!

I have an M.D. from Harvard, I am board certified in cardio-thoracic medicine and trauma surgery, I have been awarded citations from seven different medical boards in New England, and I am never, ever sick at sea. So I ask you; when someone goes into that chapel and they fall on their knees and they pray to God that their wife doesn’t miscarry or that their daughter doesn’t bleed to death or that their mother doesn’t suffer acute neural trama from postoperative shock, who do you think they’re praying to? Now, go ahead and read your Bible, Dennis, and you go to your church, and, with any luck, you might win the annual raffle, but if you’re looking for God, he was in operating room number two on November 17, and he doesn’t like to be second guessed. You ask me if I have a God complex. Let me tell you something: I am God. -Jed declares during the deposition

On my second watch, I saw that there were hints that Jed and Tracy knew each other from before. Jed and Tracy meet in the bathroom when Tracy drops her meds; she angrily asks: “What the hell are you doing here?” (in a tone that one doesn’t use w/ new acquaintances). Also, notice the looks of anger and jealousy when Tracy sees Tanya coming out of Jed’s room late at night. Fans of the noir genre will notice the noir-inspired choices made by the director (Harold Becker), esp. in the second half. This film is classified as a “neo-noir thriller,” according to Wikipedia. The sometimes haunting music (composed by Jerry Goldsmith) really sets the mood. This film harkens back- at times- to the Golden Age of Hollywood.

[1] …Baldwin’s mesmerizing performance is what stands out. Jed is charismatic, seductive, and as charming as a cobra as he weaves his spell over the Safians. Baldwin’s ability to jump from utterly charming to incredibly chilling in the blink of an eye is on full display here; it is truly the performance of a lifetime.

[2] It’s the uncertainties in the movie that make it one to remember. See it, you will not be disappointed! The background musical score is one of the most memorable that I have heard in any movie. Malice is a tale of arrogance, power, mystery, and deception, that must be seen and will be long remembered after the final credits roll.

[3] Alec Baldwin… is splendid as the doctor/villain [and what a smoothie he is]. His God “complex” speech is one of the highlights. Then there’s the delicious Nicole Kidman… What makes her performance stand out to me is that, as wild and evil as she can be, there’s also a vulnerability in her portrayal. You actually care what happens to her, even though you know she deserves to get caught. […] And Bill Pullman, being given a sort of wimpish character to play, brings it way up to the same level as the stronger characters with his performance. He does an outstanding job in this flick. 

[4] She’s [Anne Bancroft] like the spider with the fly with she’s talking with Kidman’s hubby who just doesn’t get the situation. Bancroft brings enormous power to this character.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“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!

“Star Trek: Voyager” (Season 4)

Introduction

What is this show all about? Honestly, it’s tough to say (even after binge-watching for over a month of quarantine)! The series changed direction and purpose somewhere during S2; S3 and S4 have proven often is that Voyager is a series that wanders. With its technical resources (budgets are obviously higher in S4) and mostly strong cast, I think it’s capable of being better. The status quo must occasionally be shattered. We have to feel like we’re going somewhere. We need more characters to be developed, as we’ve seen w/ Capt. Janeway, Seven of Nine, and The Doctor. I want to see this crew taking actions and living w/ the consequences. Characters need to evolve and learn from their pasts. With the end of S4 also came the end of Jeri Taylor’s executive producer duties. Brannon Braga took over the creative processes (becoming showrunner).

Paris and Torres relationship is getting more serious, but it comes across as under-developed; the actors are doing their best. Harry and Neelix have continued to be all over the place; they have their (few) moments, but then return to being annoying (b/c of how they are written). Tuvok needs more time onscreen and better dialogue; we know he can do a lot w/ little (though that’s not fair to the actor). Chakotay didn’t get much to do in S4; he mainly gives moral support to Janeway; the actor wasn’t happy w/ the quality of scripts. Ever since he and Janeway reached that agreement in Scorpion, Part II, Chakotay hasn’t given his opinion or insight, or shown much personality. I’d like to know what he’s really thinking, even if disagreeing w/ Janeway.

Also, the aliens need to be more interesting! The Delta Quadrant races exist solely for the sake conflict. The Hirogen were in 6 eps; they were the primary aliens of this season. Since the Hirogen were pack hunters, their purpose most of the time was to seek out and destroy the starship Voyager, which isn’t a fresh approach to alien encounters. Why can’t we see alien cultures who are peaceful and tell us a little something about humanity? Why are so many aliens stock villain types?

Season 4: Selected Episodes

Episode 1: Scorpion, Part II 

[suffering from neural damage, Janeway puts Chakotay in charge of the ship and the mission]

Janeway: [lying on what could be her deathbed] They’ll push you, they’ll threaten you, but they need you. They need this alliance. You have to make this work. I want you… to make this work. Get this crew… home.

To facilitate the Voyager/Borg alliance, the Borg assign Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) to communicate w/ Capt. Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and Lt. Tuvok (Tim Russ) while developing a weapon against Species 8472. Meanwhile, as the Doctor’s modified Borg nanoprobes successfully attack Ensign Kim’s (Garrett Wang) alien infection, Kes (Jennifer Lien) continues to experience a psychic link w/ Species 8472 (which gets strong and scary). Through Kes, Species 8472 learns the purpose of the alliance and attacks!

Chakotay: Seven of Nine said that we lacked the cohesion of a collective mind, that one day it would divide us and destroy us – and here we are, proving her point.

Janeway: I’ll tell you when we lost control of this situation, when we made our mistake. It was the moment we turned away from each other. We don’t have to stop being individuals to get through this; we just have to stop fighting each other.

The title refers to the Aesop fable re: the scorpion and the fox (or frog) which we learn in the S3 finale. The music here is intense and gives a sense of foreboding. Mulgrew is great (as always); her decision to ally w/ the Borg was just whoa! Her convo w/ Chakotay (Robert Beltran) in sickbay and then w/ Seven in the Ready Room are standout scenes. Chakotay thinks the Captain is mistaken; this is consistent w/ his Maquis roots.

Episode 2: The Gift

Janeway: [summarizing Tuvok’s report] I’ve got an Ocampan who wants to be something more and a Borg who’s afraid of becoming something less. Here’s to Vulcan stability.

Seven of Nine resists as her natural human physiology begins to regenerate. It’s up to Janeway to convince her to embrace her humanity and join the Voyager crew. Kes’ telekinetic powers grow to such a point that she can no longer control them; she decides she must leave the ship. 

[Janeway shows Seven of Nine the picture of a little girl]

Janeway: Do you remember her? Her name was Annika Hansen. She was born on Stardate 25479, at the Tendara Colony. There’s still a lot we don’t know about her. Did she have any siblings? Who were her friends? Where did she go to school? What was her favorite color?

Seven of Nine: Irrelevant! Take me back to the Borg!

Jennifer Lien leaving the series officially came about when the staff felt that Kes character arc had been taken as far as it would go; the actress was released from her contract. The entire cast was upset by this decision; they took Lien out to dinner and Mulgrew even drove her home. Garrett Wang stated that he was originally the one at risk of being fired, as he and (writer-producer) Rick Berman didn’t get along. Then, Wang was featured in People‘s 50 Most Beautiful People edition, so the producers decided to keep him and write Lien out instead. Ethan Phillips stated that another goodbye scene between Neelix and Kes was taped, but didn’t make it into this ep. This gift refers to Kes throwing Voyager closer toward Earth (9,500 light years or 10 yrs at maximum warp).

Episode 4: Nemesis

Cmdr. Chakotay’s shuttle is hit by enemy cross-fire and crashes on a planet in the midst of a war. One side (the Vori) befriends him and attempts to help him locate his shuttle. He finds himself quickly taking sides; when captured by the other side (the Kradin), he is reminded that every army has its own story. The teleplay for this ep was written by Kenneth Biller; I’ve liked most of his work so far.

This is a “bottle episode” where we follow Chakotay and a group of young Vori soldiers; one is a newbie hesitant about facing the enemy. While the Vori look like humans, the Kradin have a vicious/unpleasant look (despite their good intentions, as we eventually learn). The makeup of the Kradin resembles that of the Nausicaans from TNG: Tapestry, Fek’lhr from TNG: Devil’s Due, as well as the title character from Predator. The Kradin uniforms were reuses of the Mokra uniforms from the S1 ep Resistance.

[last lines]

Chakotay: I wish it were as easy to stop hating as it was to start.

I think this episode is really cool and brings up issues like propaganda, perspective, and brainwashing in times of war. I actually like the different speech. It is part of being able to hear how Chakotay is brought into this different world. The more he uses the language the more is on the side of the Vori. In the Trek universe this could be explained as maybe the universal translators don’t always get it 100% how the Federation would speak.

-Excerpt from IMDB review

Episode 6: The Raven

Amid Janeway’s negotiations w/ a xenophobic race of aliens (the Bomar) for passage through their region of space, talks are disrupted when Seven of Nine (believing herself summoned by the Borg) leaves Voyager to rejoin the Collective, heading into the aliens’ territory. The teleplay for this ep was co-written by Bryan Fuller (a huge fan of the ST universe); it was directed by LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge on TNG).

The Doctor: [to Seven] You could be experiencing some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Janeway: Makes sense. You were assimilated by the Borg. You’ve gone through an intense, prolonged trauma.

Seven of Nine: I was not traumatized, I was raised by the Borg. I don’t see them as threatening. Why would I experience fear?

Seven of Nine’s silver bodysuit was replaced by a more understated/less restrictive brown one; it also had a higher neckline. This story resembles TNG: Brothers, where Cmdr. Data, as the result of being summoned by his creator (Dr. Noonian Soong) takes over the Enterprise. We see Seven experience PTSD, we learn more re: her parents- the Hansons- who researched the Borg for several years.

There are times when Voyager feels like a cheap imitation of the TNG, and there are times when Voyager is good, fun and unique. This is one of the latter. This episode explores the re-adaptation of Seven of Nine’s humanity.

-Excerpt from IMDB review

…Neelix introduces her to the concept of eating food, which is milked for some engaging, low-key humor. (How do you teach someone how to chew and swallow? I’m not sure, but Neelix seems like an appropriate instructor.) Jeri Ryan is a joy to watch here.

These are the types of things that we need to see. Being (A) the new character on the series, and (B) the Voyager take on the humanity commentary and identity seeker—a character vital on any Trek series—are two things that make Seven a fountain of storytelling potential.

-Jammer’s Reviews

Episodes 8 & 9: Year of Hell, Parts I & II

Part I: Voyager enters the “Year of Hell” that Kes reported in S3 E21 (Before and After). A Krenim timeship, lead by Capt. Annorax (Kurtwood Smith), aims to rewrite regional history by selectively wiping out entire species of warp-capable humanoids from ever existing. Though many light years away, Voyager, in protecting itself w/ temporal shielding from a foe, becomes a fly in the ointment of Annorax’ plan for 100% restoration of the Krenim Imperium.

Part II: A year into the battle with the Krenim, a stripped down and barely functioning Voyager w/ a skeleton crew is leading an armada of various species’ ships against the timeship before more damage is done. Meanwhile, as “guests” of Annorax, Chakotay and Paris individually pursue solutions to the crisis from the other end.

[Janeway declines a watch Chakotay has given her as a birthday present]

Janeway: That watch represents a meal, a hypospray, or a pair of boots. It could mean the difference between life and death one day.

Whoa- can you believe how cool and gritty this show could be!? The teleplay was written by Brannon Braga (also co-EP) and his frequent collaborator, Joe Menosky. This was originally supposed to be the S3 finale; there were some minor rewrites, w/ many of Kes’s lines given to Seven of Nine. Braga ideally would’ve had this arc be one season long (UPN said no way); when he wanted to have it as 4 eps (Berman said no- he wanted to keep things episodic). This show’s writers didn’t have the freedom which DS9 had, unfortunately!

The intro narration by Janeway states: “Space, the great unknown. Only now we’re going to know it a little better.” This is a reference to the narration by Capt. Kirk during the intro of each episode of TOS. Seven of Nine tells Kim and Torres that the Borg were present when Zefram Cochrane launched his first warp-driven starship. She claims it is “complicated”- an acknowledgment of the events of Star Trek: First Contact, in which the Borg travel through time to assimilate humans. This is the first (continued) appearance of Janeway’s short hairstyle. Neelix (Ethan Phillips) wears the gold Starfleet uniform, having been commissioned as a security officer. Smith also played the Efrosian Federation President in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and DS9: Things Past. His right-hand man is Obrist, played by John Loprieno (One Life to Live).

Tuvok: …I have never understood the Human compulsion to emotionally bond with inanimate objects. This vessel has done nothing. It is an assemblage of bulkheads, conduits, tritanium. Nothing more.

Janeway: Oh, you’re wrong. It’s much more than that. This ship has been our home. It’s kept us together. It’s been part of our family. As illogical as this might sound, I feel as close to Voyager as I do to any other member of my crew. It’s carried us, Tuvok – even nurtured us. And right now, it needs one of us.

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. This story was inspired greatly by Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. The name “Annorax” was derived from the main character Pierre Aronnax; Paris compares Annorax to Captain Nemo (the antagonist of Verne’s story). This ep was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series. Ron Moore (a former writing partner of Braga) used this script as an example of how the series should’ve proceeded all along.

This is the only time we see Janeway relieved of command (momentarily) by The Doctor, on the grounds that she is suffering from Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Voyager is shown as being very damaged; acrylic sheets (similar to those used when the sets are in storage) was draped over most of the “clean” bulkheads, and then sprayed w/ charcoal dust to simulate the effects of many explosions. This resulted in many surfaces having a “wrinkled” look (which I noticed on my second viewing).

[1] It showed a nasty, dark side to Star Trek that had rarely been seen before, and was beautifully acted by nearly everyone. …the way this episode is shot, the sense of fear and terror that runs through it is magnificent and not something you would expect from Star Trek.

[2] This was another exciting episode where the crew actually get hurt, including the captain who is badly scarred in a fire. It was just a shame the story couldn’t have been stretched a bit longer as it was good to see the usually pristine Voyager battle-scarred.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Episode 14: Message in a Bottle

Seven of Nine’s discovery of a tenuous link to the Federation excites Janeway. When the normal method for sending messages proves inadequate, sending the Doctor (a hologram) might work. The Doctor beams over to the Prometheus (at the far edge of the Alpha Quadrant), a prototype starship captured by Romulans. The Doctor finds an ally in EMH-2, a new/untested prototype, played by Andy Dick (NewsRadio). EMH-2’s line “I’m a doctor, not a commando!” is a running gag which all doctors in various ST series have said. This ep introduces the Hirogen, a new alien race/adversary to Voyager crew.

Judson Scott (Romulan Commander Rekar) also played baddie roles in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and TNG: Symbiosis. Although the Dominion is referenced in several ST shows, this is the only reference the Dominion War outside of DS9 and Star Trek: Insurrection. This makes sense, since Voyager was stuck in the Delta Quadrant for the entire Dominion War. We see the (new/DS9-style) uniform that’s worn by Alpha Quadrant Starfleet personnel from now on. The crew of Voyager never wears the updated uniforms; this would’ve probably exhausted their limited replicator rations. The show runners probably wanted to keep the older (color on top) uniforms to differentiate from the cast of DS9.

[1] There is a lot of humor in this, but the serious nature of it involves a possible connection to Earth and home. There is some really fun byplay between the two holographic personages and this highlights this episode.

[2] This comedy ends in a success once the doctor returns to Voyager and tells Janeway that he contacted Starfleet in a short scene that’s extremely warm and touching.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Episode 15: Hunters

Through the vast Hirogen communications net (which we learned of in E14), Voyager crewmen receive unexpected letters from home. As many fans have noted, even on the late ’90s, computer networks were well-established. The mail wouldn’t need to be put on a stack of PADDS, but could’ve been distributed via something like an email server. Later, Tuvok and Seven get captured by the tall/intimidating aliens- the Hirogen- who live to hunt and collect trophies of their defeated prey. Tiny Ron (Alpha Hirogen) had a recurring DS9 role as Maihar’du, Grand Nagus Zek’s protective/silent servant. Since this teleplay was written by Jeri Taylor, we get an interesting story (w/ great Janeway/Chakotay scenes) .

[Janeway has learned that her fiancé has married somebody else]

Janeway: I guess I didn’t really expect him to wait for me, considering the circumstances, but it made me realize that I was using him as a safety net, you know, as a way to avoid becoming involved with someone else.

Chakotay: You don’t have that safety net anymore.

Janeway: That’s right. Then again, my life is far from uneventful here in the Delta Quadrant. It’s not like I would’ve had a chance to pursue a relationship, even if I HAD realized I was alone.

Chakotay: You’re hardly alone – and to my way of thinking, there’s still plenty of time.

Janeway: Plenty of time.

Chakotay learns that the Maquis have been decimated by the Cardassian/Dominion alliance. This is good stuff. The fact that all the Maquis back in the Alpha Quadrant are gone now undoubtedly hits the Maquis population on Voyager pretty hard. Chakotay’s reaction to this devastating news is an especially poignant moment.

The letter she receives is from her (former) fiance Mark… It’s not something that Janeway finds particularly surprising; it’s just that the fact it wasn’t surprising doesn’t make accepting the inevitable any easier. Her mention to Chakotay that the letter had such a “finality” was well said—perfectly said, in fact.

-Excerpts from Jammer’s Reviews

Episode 16: Prey

Chakotay: [of the Hirogen] From what I found in their database, diplomacy isn’t a part of their lifestyle. They don’t see us as equals. To them, we’re simply game.

Janeway: It’s time we convinced them otherwise, or like any cornered animal, we’ll show our teeth.

A Hirogen ship meets up with Voyager, but doesn’t attack; there is one severely injured survivor inside. In taking him aboard for treatment, the ship also acquires the successful attacker- a member of Species 8472 (yikes)! There is a look at Species 8472 walking along the ship’s hull; this is a rare shot for a ST show. The crew team up with the Alpha Hirogen (Tony Todd) to hunt it down, but circumstances bring out Janeway’s desire to apply compassion, which puts her in opposition w/ the Hirogen and also Seven of Nine. Todd played Worf’s brother Kurn (TNG and DS9); he also played the future Jake Sisko in DS9: The Visitor. The EV suits are the same ones seen in Star Trek: First Contact.

Although Janeway lectures Seven by saying “it is wrong to sacrifice another being to save our own lives,” that is what she did in Tuvix, where she forced him to sacrifice his life to restore Tuvok and Neelix. She defended that choice by stating that Tuvix was created as the result of a transporter accident and, therefore, less entitled to exist. This ep lets Ryan spread her wings; of course, Seven is freaked out by Species 8472, but she still has the guts to tell her real feelings to Janeway.

[Janeway has asked Seven of Nine to create a singularity, which Seven refuses]

Seven of Nine: I have agreed to remain on Voyager; I have agreed to function as a member of your crew. But I will not be a willing participant in my own destruction or the destruction of this ship.

Janeway: Objection noted. We’ll do this without you.

Seven of Nine: You will fail.

Janeway: And you have just crossed the line!

***

Chakotay: Is your body armor designed to handle rapid pressure fluctuations?

Alpha Hirogen: It can defeat most hostile environments. I once tracked a silicon-based life-form through the neutronium mantle of a collapsed star.

Tom Paris: I once tracked a mouse through Jefferies tube 32.

***

[last lines]

Seven of Nine: It is puzzling.

Janeway: What’s that?

Seven of Nine: You made me into an individual. You encouraged me to stop thinking like a member of the Collective, to cultivate my independence and my humanity. But when I try to assert that independence, I am punished.

Janeway: Individuality has its limits – especially on a starship where there’s a command structure.

Seven of Nine: I believe that you are punishing me because I do not think the way that you do. Because I am not becoming more like you. You claim to respect my individuality. But in fact, you are frightened by it.

Janeway: As you were.

***

The Hirogen here aren’t played anywhere near as over the top as the two Hirogen in “Hunters.” From the moment “Prey” begins, there’s almost a sense that the writers or director or somebody made a conscious effort to tone down the Hirogen to something that’s …well, watchable.

This is a solidly constructed, very focused story that transcends the lightweight nature typical of season four by addressing a moral issue and framing it in the context of a punchy action/adventure premise.

-Excerpts from Jammer’s Reviews

Episodes 18 & 19: The Killing Game, Parts I & II

Part I: The Hirogen capture Voyager, turning it into one big holodeck, and setting up several scenarios using the crew members as prey. The memories of the crew are suppressed by use of implants and they are given new identities consistent w/ the scenario. Only The Doctor is free to save Voyager

Part II: As Janeway, Seven, Kim and The Doctor struggle to free the minds of their shipmates, dissension looms between the Alpha Hirogen and his subordinates, particularly w/ Turanj. Janeway’s negotiation for a ceasefire w/ the visionary Alpha Hirogen becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back. As Turanj selects Janeway as his personal prey, the rest of the crew vie against Nazi forces in the ship-wide WWII holodeck simulation. 

Looks like Nazis aren’t played out (old news) in this show! The Hirogen have taken over Voyager and made it into an expansive Holodeck, spreading emitters over many decks. They’ve forced Ensign Kim to maintain this for them, but the emitters suck too much power from the ship’s main systems. The Hirogen shoot, stab, and shunt the crew to Sickbay; the Doctor has an assembly-line to patch them up. Some long-time fans consider this a fun story; others think it lacks subtlety.

The ensemble cast get to wear different hairstyles, period costumes, and (generally) look like they’re having a ball. Janeway is seen as a Klingon in the opening; later, Neelix gathers Klingons to fight the Nazis (which is glorious and hilarious)! Ryan displays her singing talents; she sings “That Old Black Magic” (published in 1942), as well as “It Can’t Be Wrong” (1943), an adaptation of “Charlotte’s Theme” from the soundtrack of Now, Voyager. Seven’s French name is “Mademoiselle de Neuf” (“Miss of Nine”). Dawson was in the final stages of pregnancy in S4, so her pregnancy could be used effectively here, w/o the necessity to film her from the chest up.

This was a good episode even if the WWII setting was a little cliché… at least the problems weren’t due to the holodeck safeties malfunctioning yet again. It also showed some nice character development in the Hirogens when their leader explains how he wanted to use such technology so they wouldn’t spend their lives scattered across the galaxy finding new prey to hunt.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

I would like to agree with those who see the episode as fun. I also think it’s very Trekkian, with its portrayal of the good guys as cleverly subversive, always the rebels. Americans have always pictured themselves as underdogs, fighting for freedom.

This is about as meta as its possible to get – the resistance on the ship mirrored with the resistance on the holodeck, Janeway and Seven’s conflict being played out, B’Elanna and Tom having a relationship – and actually there is some satisfaction in the different layers. Harry may have found his strongest role yet. And the whole thing looks gorgeous.

-Comment from Jammer’s Reviews

Episode 21: The Omega Directive

[Janeway is briefing her senior officers about the Omega molecule, its nature and its dangers]

Janeway: Omega destroys subspace. A chain reaction involving a handful of molecules could devastate subspace throughout an entire quadrant. If that were to happen, warp travel would become impossible. Space-faring civilization as we know it would cease to exist.

[…]

I don’t have to tell you what’s at stake. If a large-scale Omega explosion occurs, we will lose the ability to go to warp forever. We’ve got our work cut out for us.

Voyager’s sensors detect a rare particle capable of damaging subspace and nullifying warp travel. Under a classified directive known only to Starfleet captains and a few others, Janeway leads the ship on a mission to destroy all traces of that particle. Seven of Nine hesitates to destroy it, sharing the Borg reverence of it as the embodiment of perfection.

Janeway’s log entries are encrypted throughout this episode; she mentions Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan‘s Dr. Carol Marcus and the Genesis Device. This is the only time that any captain officially rescinds the Prime Directive! Seven tells Janeway that the Omega Particle means “perfection” to the Borg. Dawson went into labor during the production of this ep; we see Torres in Engineering towards the start, but she’s absent when Janeway briefs the senior officers during the special meeting about Omega.

[last lines]

Seven of Nine: For 3.2 seconds, I saw perfection. When Omega stabilized, I felt a curious sensation. As I was watching it, it seemed to be watching me. The Borg have assimilated many species, with mythologies to explain such moments of clarity. I’ve always dismissed them as trivial. Perhaps I was wrong.

Janeway: If I didn’t know you better… I’d say you just had your first spiritual experience.

…it’s just a solid stand-alone science fiction story that is sensibly written and sensibly executed. It’s entertaining and reasonably thoughtful, particularly with some of the characterizations that arise late in the story. As an episode of Voyager, it’s pretty original; watching the episode, I got the feeling that I hadn’t seen this story before.

I was thoroughly impressed and even moved by the effectiveness of Jeri Ryan’s performance and the writers’ ability to give her such good material. The way Ryan delivers these lines is poignant, showing Seven vulnerable, troubled, and emotional…

-Jammer’s Reviews

Episode 23: Living Witness

[first lines]

Janeway: [in the historical simulation] When diplomacy fails, there’s only one alternative: violence. Force must be applied without apology. It’s the Starfleet way.

When The Doctor’s back-up module is found, his program is brought on-line for the first time in 700 years. In the future, the Kyrian Museum of Heritage teaches a history that writes Voyager as playing a detrimental role in beginning their Great War w/ the Vaskans. The Doctor is the only living witness and sets the record straight, but the new “facts” give way to old tensions from the formerly warring races. The museum curator and The Doctor find themselves amidst violence and destruction! This ep was directed by Tim Russ; it’s very highly-rated and popular w/ fans.

[in the historical simulation]

Janeway: [on the brawl between her senior officers] Save it for the holodeck. We’ve got a war to fight.

Some sets here were also used in Star Trek: Insurrection (then in production), w/ the museum doubling as a Son’a ship. This is the only ep that establishes The Doctor as having a backup. The “inaccurate depiction” of The Doctor is similar to the android Data from TNG. The holographic warship has a Kazon ensign. None of the crew of the warship wear rank insignia on their collars or the combadges on their left breast. The normal gray undershirt worn beneath the Starfleet jumpsuit uniform has been changed to black, and many crew members wear black gloves. Some other differences include different hair (Janeway’s) and a tattoo in the style of the Maori on Chakotay. This ep will (no doubt) remind many of the mirror universe of TOS (Mirror, Mirror), TNG: Yesterday’s Enterprise, and/or several DS9 stories.

Quarren: You’re trying to protect yourself.

The Doctor: And so are you – from the truth! Isn’t it a coincidence that the Kyrians are being portrayed in the best possible light? Martyrs, heroes, saviors… Obviously, events have been reinterpreted to make your people feel better about themselves. Revisionist history – it’s such a comfort.

[1] This episode is about how cultures can come or fail to come to grips with the reality of their past. And how those misconceptions and lies can have a lasting crippling effect on the societies. It also demonstrates how difficult it can be to present the truth when you are addressing people who are investing in a more convenient narrative for their own peace of mind, regarding of the evidence.

It’s a great story topic for science fiction which isn’t very often told in an interesting way like the way we see it in this episode. This episode manages to be one of the more insightful and funny episodes of the series.

[2] Bold, edgy, creative and thankfully not so nice and touchy-feely like too many of the show’s other episodes.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Episode 25: One

Seven of Nine: Holodecks are a pointless endeavor, fulfilling some human need to fantasize. I have no such need.

The Doctor: What you need is some editorial skill in your self-expression. Between impulse and action, there is a realm of good taste begging for your acquaintance.

Yikes, this ep is going to come across as too real (nowadays in quarantine life)! An unavoidable poisonous nebula forces the entire crew into stasis chambers, except for The Doctor and Seven of Nine. She must fight her “collective” mentality to handle being alone for over a month, while combating ship-wide failures, an intruder, and her own fears of individuality and loneliness. The teleplay was written by series co-creator Jeri Taylor and directed by Biller (who was mainly a writer). This plot is similar to Persistence of Vision and Bliss, where The Doctor works closely w/ another crew member (Kes; Seven) while most of the crew is incapacitated.

[The Doctor and Seven are crawling through the Jeffries tubes, which are narrow.]

The Doctor: I’ll complain if I want to. It’s comforting.

We learn that Voyager has traveled 15,000 light years toward home (Earth). The stasis room was a redress of the cargo bay set; stasis units also appeared in Resolutions and The Thaw. The Doctor says: “If you had even the slightest sense of humor, you’d realize I was making a small joke;” Seven replies: “Very small.” This is reminiscent of a scene between Chekov and Spock in TOS: The Trouble with Tribbles. A holographic version of Torres says she joined the Maquis after Chakotay saved her life; this was established in Taylor’s novel Pathways.

[1] This was a good episode which gave Jeri Ryan to show a greater acting range as Seven starts to be effected by the solitude.

[2] Despite being almost a one-woman show, this is a pretty good episode. I particularly liked the conversations between her and the crew during the worst of the hallucinations- they were darkly funny. Worth seeing and unique. And, I appreciate the character development in Seven.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Humans are social creatures- and so, it would seem, are Borg (in a twisted manner of speaking). The transition from being part of the Borg collective to being an individual was difficult enough for Seven; now she’s faced with the prospect of being the lone individual in a high-pressure situation. It is more difficult than she could’ve imagined.

…I’ve found Seven of Nine to be the most believably and interestingly written character on the ensemble. Why is it the writers can’t do these stories for anyone else? Maybe it’s simply that Seven’s quest for individuality and humanity is an inherently interesting topic, and the writers can come up with good material for such a topic relatively easily. In that sense, then, Seven is an asset. They’ve been telling a story about her, which has evolved and taken slow, believable turns. It’s what is known as an “arc.” We need more arcs.

-Jammer’s Reviews

Episode 26: Hope and Fear

Janeway hasn’t managed to decrypt the message from Starfleet (earlier in the season). When the crew meet a friendly/intelligent alien, Arturis (Ray Wise), w/ a talent for languages/patterns, she invites him to take a look at the code. He quickly decodes part of the code, which includes a message about a new Starfleet ship that uses slipstream technology (which could get them home in mos)! It has been dispatched on auto-pilot and is waiting nearby; the U.S.S. Dauntless is fully operational and the crew goes about familiarizing themselves w/ it. Torres and her Engineering team make a replica of the slipstream drive for Voyager, so they can bring it along. Kim eventually discovers a strange piece of alien technology inside Dauntless; this isn’t a Federation ship. It turns out that Arturis wants revenge on Voyager for helping the Borg defeat Species 8472; his race was assimilated by the Borg. He kidnaps Janeway and Seven, then enters the slipstream, traveling toward Borg space! Chakotay and crew follows in Voyager, but they may not be able to go too far.

[1] She [Janeway] and Seven have a heated argument about Seven’s remaining in the Delta Quadrant. This is the one that really feels like a mother arguing with her teenage daughter. The daughter (Seven) wants her independence, or so she thinks, saying she has outgrown humanity, but Janeway knows that, realistically, she couldn’t care for herself out there, and besides, this is really about her fear of not being accepted on Earth.

[2] For me, this episode epitomized what Voyager could have been. What made DS9, or even TNG in a limited way, intriguing was how what they did was permanent: they weren’t warping off at the end of the day, leaving whatever problem behind. Voyager was king of this. Arturis is a tragic character, and there could have been some excellent episodes built off the premise of people trying to exact revenge on Voyager because of their actions, or even helping Voyager.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Basically, what we have here is a plot with pieces that are cobbled together out of unlikely coincidences and prior story events that have been twisted to fit the end result. And the reason for this end result to me seems motivated more by an obligatory need for the creators to revisit the “let’s get home” theme rather than to tell a real story.

…working in “Hope and Fear’s” favor is a great deal of stellar character work and some surprisingly effective closure. I liked, for instance, a lot of the motivation behind Arturis’ need for revenge (even if the methods of his revenge are extremely unlikely). The fact that Janeway’s negotiation with the Borg in “Scorpion” had negative consequences on other Delta Quadrant peoples is an interesting idea, and Arturis’ pointed accusation that Janeway can’t see beyond her own crew’s interests brings forth some valid observations. The use of the Borg collective as a dramatic device to bookend the season also works rather well.

Characteristically, this episode continues to capitalize on the growth of Seven as an individual. Seven fearing the prospect of living in a human society is both relevant and interesting. True, the repeated use of Seven continues to demonstrate how little the creative staff seems to care about the other characters, but it’s still great stuff in a vacuum.

-Jammer’s Reviews