“The Object of Beauty” (1991) starring John Malkovich & Andie MacDowell

A romantic comedy about the fine art of thievery. -Tag line

Two Americans living the good life in London find their romantic relationship challenged by a sudden lack of funds. Jake (John Malkovich), a commodities broker, is unable to pay the bills (b/c of a strike that holds up a cocoa shipment). So, he suggests that Tina (Andie MacDowell) file an insurance claim on her little Henry Moore statue. This statue is the only item of value that she owns- her sense of security. One day, the statue suddenly disappears from their posh hotel room! They are begin to doubt each other and the strength of their love.

Tina: You’ve always said when it comes to food, shoes, and sex, price is no object.

Jake: Good shoes are important!

I cam across this on IMDB TV when I was looking for movies w/ John Malkovich (after seeing Dangerous Liaisons). The writer/director is an American, Michael Lindsay Hogg, who worked on music videos, TV (incl. Brideshead Revisited), as well as movies. Tina’s best friend, Jenny (Lolita Davidovich), is also American; she was married to Cint Eastwood and is the mother of Scott Eastwood. The hotel’s investigator Victor Swayle (Bill Paterson) goes on a little power trip. Paterson is a veteran character actor who recently appeared as the father in the hit TV show- Fleabag.

Jake: I am on the verge of something very lucrative, so for you to even be talking about dishonoring one of my checks, really puts me in a very sweaty mode.

The statue is taken by the deaf/mute hotel maid- Jenny (Rudi Davies). She knows this is wrong to do, but later explains that the statue “spoke to me.” Jenny (only in her 20s) lives in a tiny flat w/ her teen brother (who is in danger of becoming a criminal). As some viewers noted, Jenny is at the heart of the story and the only likeable character. It’s also rare to see a (working-class) person have a well-developed arc in a movie.

This movie is for those of you who enjoy character development and quirky humor. There is fun chemistry between Malkovich (who loves fashion) and MacDowell (who looks great in all the fashions as a former model); they joke around and seem to have fun together. If you like fashion, you may notice the Armani suits and Manolo Blahnik shoes. Siskel and Ebert both liked this movie (two thumbs up). I really liked the ending- it was sweet and funny!

[1] The film is an underhanded, cynical, satirical poke at American materialism…

[2] The chemistry between the two of them reminds one of William Powell and Myrna Loy. If they had picked up the pace a bit, they would have had a real classic comedy here. This film is highly watchable, though.

[3] My favorite not-to-be-missed extremely funny scene? John Malkovich’s “Jake”, in a moment of depressed exasperation, talking aloud to himself composing his own obituary.

[4] You will enjoy this film much more if you pay attention to the irony of the value placed by different characters upon this Henry Moore sculpture. It is worth nothing to some, only money to others, an emotional commitment to another, and an object of aspiration to one other. All of these perspectives speak to each other, and it is a very interesting conversation.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“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).

“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

“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!