1.20.2018

We Did Not Count Tomorrows, We Took What We Could and Ran: Chapter and Verse


Bryan: When I first contacted Bryant about the possibility of doing a listen-through of the Springsteen catalog, I'd only heard up through 2002 (The Rising) or so. (And of that, I only really knew the material up through 1987's Tunnel of Love.) My interest in Springsteen had run cold over the years, but sometime last year I listened to the Live '75 - '85 set. And I remembered just how huge a Bruce fan I was in those mid-80s years. The more I listened, the more memories came back (scattered throughout this series of posts), and the more I found to enjoy.

Tonight we get to the end - on a project that I wasn't even aware existed when this project first began, namely:
(2016)

Bryan: This was a companion album to Bruce's autobiography Born to Run. You can do that sort of thing when you're a musician - and you should! Criminally few do, though. So I'll just put that out there: if one day you're a famous enough musician to be releasing a memoir, put out something like Chapter and Verse alongside it.

Bryant: Here's my capsule review of Born To Run:

This is a great autobiography, and I'd say that for the most part I was much more captivated by the sections that weren't about the music. That's not to say that Bruce fails to be engaging when he's discussing his work and his career. He's got some great insights and anecdotes. But you can tell that to some extent, he feels like he said everything he had to say about most of the songs in the process of writing, recording, and performing them.

Where the book really sings is in its stories of life outside the recording studio, especially his early, pre-fame years. I don't mean the story of his first two albums (although yes, that, too); I mean the EARLY early years, like his childhood. He's got some great stories about growing up in a family of Italian immigrants, mixing with other groups and being spoiled by his grandmother and being electrified by seeing rock stars (first Elvis, later The Beatles) on television. Teaching himself to dance because he knew girls liked to dance, and even if you sucked at it it would earn you time with the opposite sex; smart kid, that Bruce Springsteen.

Perhaps the best chapter is one involving his pre-recording-contract band driving to California to play some gigs there and try to make a name for themselves. It's an amusing journey in some ways, and a harrowing one in other ways, and you'd watch the hell out of a movie that was made out of the story. Don't be shocked if somebody does that eventually. There are also a number of great stories involving Springsteen's father, whose presence looms very large for most of the book. So does the presence of Patti Scialfa, once she shows up; it's clear that this lady probably saved Bruce's life and career in more ways than one, on more than one occasion.

It's a great read, and if you're inclined to do so, you could do worse than check it out on Audible, where there's an unabridged version read by the author.


Bryan: Here's some remarks on the "new" tunes on Chapter and Verse.

"Baby I" (by the Castiles)

Bryan: 3/5 I love early glimpses of stuff like this. Reminds me in spirit of that first disc of the Beatles Anthology. Not particularly enjoyable listening but interesting - definitely would find room for these on some Ultimate Bruce Mix for ambience/ contrast / history.

Bryant: Oh, wow, this was an original?!? Shit, I just assumed it was a cover of some song I'd never heard. (I listened to these five songs cold and then looked them up to see what Wikipedia said about them.) As you say, this is nothing you'd get much enjoyment out of divorced from the context of what/who it is. But it sounds like credible stuff to my ears, and that says a lot. 2/5

"You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover" (by the Castiles)

Bryant: This isn't much of a performance, especially vocally, but ... damn, you can kind of hear the energy that made these guys a popular bar band. I can't swear to it, but I think I've heard the original version (written by Willie Dixon, performed by Bo Diddley). Or perhaps one of the many covers. This one isn't great, but it's far from the worst thing I've ever heard. 1.75/5 

Bryan: 2.5/5 Totally agree on the bar band ambience to this one.


"He's Guilty (The Judge Song)" (by Steel Mill)

Bryan: 3.25/5 This one's kinda cool. I dig it.

Bryant: I'd love to be able to listen to this with no knowledge of who it was. I probably wouldn't like it. But I do know who it is, and whether that's influencing my feelings or not, I kind of love this. You might can even scratch the "kind of." Having read the chapter of the autobiography in which they take that trip out to California, I now kind of want to see a movie made in which this song is the triumphant finale. 2.5/5


"The Ballad of Jesse James" (by the Bruce Springsteen Band)

Bryan: 3/5 Sheesh - this is a tough slog, but what strikes me is how much it sounds like a Black Crowes outtake. 

Bryant: This is very credible Southern-inspired rock. And while it does sound like Springsteen's writing to my ears, it also sounds NOTHING like what his first album would end up sounding like ... or any of the many that came after it. (You can say the same of "He's Guilty," too.) That's fascinating to me. It almost seems like we got our hands on that Ur-Kindle and peeked for a few minutes into the career of some other level's Springsteen. And hey, it ain't bad! 2.5/5 

"Henry Boy"

Bryan: 2/5 Kind of dig this one, too. Too many early Bruce songs have this kind of verse melody/ delivery, though. But that's the challenge of this unreleased stuff, since he cannibalized/ casserole'd it for all the stuff that made it onto albums over the years. 

Bryant: I mean, this is just an early version of "Rosalita," isn't it? (I say "just," but no diminishment is intended.) And I hear some echoes -- pre-echoes, perhaps -- of "Blinded by the Light" as well. I guess that's (as you intimate) just kind of what Bruce sounded like circa spring 1972. I'm okay with that. 2/5

~
Bryan: Total 13.75 Avg. 2.75 I'm happy to have this collection of home movies.

Bryant: Total 10.75, average 2.15  I'd happily have listened to a full two-disc set of stuff from this era. And you just KNOW such a thing could have been done.

Bryan: Absolutely. And probably still will be, thankfully. I suspect we've by no means heard the last from the Springsteen Archives. And speaking of, before we do the Final Rankings, Bryant was kind enough to write up these thoughts on:

(2015)

Bryan: Take it away, sir!

Bryant: Okay, so with this set, discs 1 and 2 are just The River. Disc 3 is The Ties That Bind, an album (you already know this, but just so you know what the disc itself represents) that Springsteen almost released but didn't. Some of it made its way onto The River, some of it did not. Discs 4 and 5 are Blu-rays, and Disc 6 is a mess of outtakes, some of which are familiar, some of which are not. I’m going to only score the audio discs, and I’m going to split those up, since one of them is an assembly of a would-be album, and probably ought to be judged that way.

Here goes:

Disc 3 – The Ties That Bind

(1)  “The Ties That Bind” – A lot of these songs are songs from previous releases, of course, so I thought I’d have a little fun by not consulting my previous scores and just judging them from the mindset I’m in this morning. Might be instructive for me, if nothing else.  Anyways, I am 99.9% positive that this is a different take of this song than what ended up on The River, so a different score makes sense if so. I’ll go with 2.75/5.

(2)  “Cindy” – I like this a lot, although it kind of goes nowhere. 2.5/5

(3)  “Hungry Heart” – I think this is the same take as the River version, but I swear to God it sounds ever so slightly slower to me. Am I imaging things? Maybe not. This version runs 3:28, whereas the one on The River runs 3:19. WTF?!? I’m giving this a mere 5/5 out of sheer confusion.

(4)  “Stolen Car” – This is pretty good, but I don’t think it’s got the pathos that the real version has. So I’m giving it a 3/5, and if that’s more than I gave the River version, then I need to rescore The River.

(5)  “To Be True” – Not the best version of this song I’ve heard, but it’s alright. 2.5/5  Sounds like a demo, which is true of this entire “album” so far. That might be why it never got to the release stage of things back in the day.

(6)  “The River” – This is basically the same song as the one on the album that bears its name, but, and correct me if I’m wrong, I think this is a different take. Still great, though. 5/5

(7)  “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” – Well, now I feel better about some of this, because this is absolutely a different version of this particular song. More of a honky-tonk feel to it. I don’t like it as much as the Gene Simmons soundalike version, but I do like it as its own thing. 2.25/5  Bruce’s vocals are good, and I like the echoey quality, which I assume is a byproduct of wherever it was recorded.

(8)  “The Price You Pay” – 2.75/5

(9)  “I Wanna Marry You” – 2.5/5

(10)  “Loose Ends” – I remain of the opinion that this is a heck of a song. 3.5/5 Sounds a little rough here, but still a winner in my book.

Overall – 31.75 total, 3.18 average. Pretty respectable, but it’s buoyed significantly by the two classics that ended up on The River.


Disc 6 – The River outtakes

(1)  “Meet Me in the City” – This is kind of like “Out in the Street” except I like it better. 2.5/5 I wonder if my scores reflect that?

(2)  “The Man Who Got Away” – Okay, so, this isn’t like the second coming of “Light My Fire” or anything like that, but what kind of madman keeps this sitting in a vault for 25 years? Name rhymes with Truce Greenscreen, that’s who. 2.5/5

(3)  “Little White Lies” – This rocks. 3.25/5 Unreleased for such a period of time that it could have damn near rented a car. (Bryan: I love this one. A more cleaned-up version could even be knocking on 4.5 to 5/5 out of territory for me. What the frak, Bruce?)

(4)  “The Time That Never Was” – I thought for a while that this might be a new favorite, and while it didn’t end up being that, I do like it. 2.75/5

(5)  “Night Fire” – Take those marbles out of your mouth, Bruce! His vocals here are awful.  I kind of dig the song, though. 2.25/5

(6)  “Whitetown” – This is alright, but both the production and the performance are lacking. 2/5 It’s not bad, though; I can imagine it growing on me.

(7)  “Chain Lightning” – Great guitar riff at the beginning, and when the bass kicks in it’s even better. The song never manages to really go anywhere from here, though, so it ends up not fulfilling the promise it seems to have. 2.25/5

(8)  “Party Lights” – Steve seems to be exerting himself on this one, which is fine by me.  It’s not a great song, though. I find it to be guilty of your “We Built This City” rule. 2/5 (Bryan: See here for full details.)


(9)  “Paradise by the ‘C’ ” – A studio version of a live staple. Not a bad little tune. Nonessential, but a lot of fun. 2.5/5

(10)  “Stray Bullet” – This is a rather beautiful performance. Clarence, in particular, does a great job. But I like everything in this one. 3.5/5 I’m being a little conservative with that score, too; I thought about going higher.

(11)  “Mr. Outside” – This is just Bruce dicking around in front of a recording device of some sort. But as far as that sort of thing goes, this is fun. 2.25/5

(12)  “Roulette” – A furiously great riff right up top on this one. Is this the same version as appears on Tracks? I think so. I wonder if I’ll give an identical score? If not, I think that’s okay; after all, context and proximity do undoubtedly influence things like that. It fucking rocks, so I’m going with 4/5. If I were Vladimir Putin, I’d make it mandatory for Russian bands to cover this song at least once per year, because that would be funny.

(13)  “Restless Nights” – 3.25/5

(14)  “Where the Bands Are” – I’m pretty sure we’re entirely at the end of the songs we’ve not heard before, but that’s okay, let’s press on and score these anyways. 2.5/5 for this one.

(15)  “Dollhouse” – What the hell are they saying in the backing vocals? I am assuming it is “gopher Lynn” and unless you can prove me wrong, that’s how it is staying.  2.5/5

(16)  “Living on the Edge of the World” – 2/5

(17)  “Take ‘Em As they Come” – 2.25/5

(18)  “Ricky Wants a Man of Her Own” – This sort of thing does happen, no doubt about it. 2.5/5

(19)  “I Wanna Be With You” – 3.25/5 Another Gene Simmons impersonation.

(20)  “Mary Lou” – 2.25/5

(21)  “Held Up Without a Gun” – 2.5/5

(22)  “From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)” – 3.75/5

Overall – 58.5 total, 2.66 average. That’s not a terrific score, but I think this “album” of outtakes is awfully enjoyable. I wish it was a little more widely available; burying it inside a $100 box set is kind of a dick move. I guess Bruce got to eat, though.


FINAL
RANKINGS

Bryan:

Lucky Town 2.15
Greetings from Asbury Park 2.19
Magic 2.27
The Ghost of Tom Joad 2.44 
American Beauty 2.56
Working on a Dream 2.71
Chapter and Verse 2.75
In Concert / MTV Plugged 2.82
Tracks 2.83
Chimes of Freedom 2.86
Wrecking Ball 2.86
Blood Brothers 2.88
Human Touch 2.9
The Promise 3.08
Book of Dreams 3.1
Hammersmith Odeon, London 3.1
The Rising 3.3
Devils and Dust 3.36
High Hopes 3.39
The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle 3.43
Live in New York City 3.5
Loose Ends 3.63
Greatest Hits (New Tracks Only) 3.65
We Shall Overcome: The Pete Seeger Sessions 3.67
The River 3.71
Tunnel of Love 3.8
Darkness on the Edge of Town 3.82
Live ’75 - ‘85 4
Live in Dublin 4.11
Born to Run 4.41
Nebraska 4.5
Born in the USA 5.4

Bryant:

Human Touch 1.7
American Beauty 2.00
Hammersmith Odeon, London '75 2.04
Lucky Town 2.15 
Chapter and Verse 2.15
Working on a Dream 2.23
The Ghost of Tom Joad 2.46
Magic 2.46
Devils and Dust 2.48
Book of Dreams 2.58
The River outtakes 2.66
Chimes of Freedom 2.69
In Concert / Mtv Plugged 2.75
Greetings from Asbury Park 2.75
Wrecking Ball 2.77
Tracks 2.81
High Hopes 2.83
Blood Brothers 2.9
The Promise 2.99
The Rising 3.1
Live in Dublin 3.22
Tunnel of Love 3.35
We Shall Overcome: The Pete Seeger Sessions 3.37
Greatest Hits (New Tracks Only) 3.38
The River 3.39
Live in New York City 3.48
The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle 3.68
Live ’75 - ‘85 3.7
Loose Ends 3.92
Born to Run 4.35
Darkness on the Edge of Town 4.4
Nebraska 4.63 
Born in the USA 4.88

~
Bryan: This concludes our album by album overview of the Springsteen discography. There'll be a Table of Contents type post with all new remarks on each album still to come, but that's just good housekeeping. As of this writing, Bruce is on Broadway doing his thing and makes the occasional interesting live appearance at the "gathering of the youths."

Fun version of "Glory Days" with the guys in Phish here.

Here's hoping there'll be cause for a few more of these write-ups. Thank you, Bryant, for accompanying me on this musical journey, and thank you, out there, for reading. To rock and roll!

1.15.2018

Star Trek: Voyager (Season One)


Back when I was doing the Captain's Blogs, I did a few quick posts on Voyager that are fine for what they are, but I've always wanted to watch the show beginning to end and re-do the rankings I too-hastily-assembled five years ago. To that end I started watching the show on my lunch break last October and only yesterday * reached the end of season one. On this timetable, I should have some spiffy new rankings sometime around summer 2019. 

* Well, "yesterday" when I wrote this intro. Which was just about a month two months ago. Like Voyager, we bounce back and forth between past, present, and future!




Couple quick things:

- I consider the season six Voyager episode "Blink of an Eye" to be an A+. This may change over the course of the re-evaluation, but at the onset, this is my instrument calibration. (I decided not to put actual grades with each episode; rankings seemed enough.)

- While I prefer having all the cast/crew information in one place, gathering it all slows the pace of these posts considerably. Target Date Summer 2019 could too easily turn into summer 2029. (Heck, it still might.) I'll likely mention a lot of the info just the same. 
 
- I decided not to read any of the other overviews out there or buy the curiously overpriced Voyager Companion. Going to fly solo on this with no evidentiary support or research of any kind beyond whatever I half-ass google when typing up the post. I have a notion I'll end up with more or less the same favorite episodes, but I'm curious to see if watching them all in order will alter it any.

- All plot summaries from the show's wiki. My guess is you know the basic set-up and characters. My further guess is - like every Trek fan I've ever met - you have opinions as to why the show was never as successful as TNG and perhaps even why or how it never fully embraced its premise. Good! I am happy to have you here. Or maybe you're just casually familiar with Voyager; all good, too. Let us begin.



SEASON ONE

15. 


A member of the Haakonians, a race warring with the Talaxians, arrives on Voyager, much to the dismay of Neelix, whose family was killed by a weapon of mass destruction this particular individual devised.

Let's get this out of the way up front: I just can't with Neelix. The more I watch of the series, the worse I feel about this. Ethan Phillips gives it his all. The cast work well with him. The writers use him well (for the most part). And here in "Jetrel" both actor and character get several chances to shine. But man. This episode is probably pretty good; it's not them it's me. I'm not the guy to properly evaluate this - I just can't with this guy.

Trek vet Jason Sloyan as Jetrel.

14. 


Tuvok trains several Maquis members who have not fully integrated into the Voyager crew.

You know, it's perfectly valid to explore this sort of thing - and not just valid but a stated intention of the show - the whole Maquis vs. Federation conflict. But it's just not very interesting to me. I try to keep this first season in perspective with whatever else was going on over on DS9. I wasn't watching either show at the time, nor have I seen more than a season or two's worth of episodes, but it and Voyager were produced concurrently for most of the 90s. The episode of DS9 that aired the same week as "Learning Curve" was "Shakaar." Which (hey!) I've never seen. Anyway - maybe there was some interest to this whole dynamic for fans watching these episodes as they came out, I couldn't say, but for me it falls flat.

As does Tuvok's "Galileo Seven" storyline where he must both teach and learn from his recruits once things go from simulated to actual peril.

I'm not sure why "Learning Curve" was chosen to end the first season - someone who has the DVD probably knows for sure from either the featurettes or the commentary track - except perhaps it re-enforces one of the show's central premises: the isolation of the Delta Quadrant and the kind of engineering problems a starship might have without any starbases around. Unfortunately, though - and I hope unintentionally - it re-enforces another conceit of the series: a manufactured problem running through a set piece / countdown until solved by magical technobabble. 

Also, Tuvok says cultural ornamentation is anti-Starfleet?



At some point, someone doesn't give a circassian fig about something. I'll try and note these things as I go along. Then again, the internet probably has this well-mapped.


13. 

B'Elanna Torres is split into her human and Klingon halves by the Vidiians.

The Vidiians are introduced in "Phage," coming up a bit later. Alien species weren't really Voyager's forte. I'll see if this watch-through changes that opinion, of course - I'm keeping an open mind. The Vidiians - a doomed race of science-smart, ethics-indifferent space lepers who are hunting Voyager for their electrolyte-rich Alpha Quadrant bio-matter - are okay enough for recurring villains, I suppose. 


As for the episode itself, it has two Trek tropes in one: 1) B'Elanna struggling between her alien and human halves, and 2) some wonky magical science with implications that undermine the basic premise (namely why don't the Vidiians just cure themselves with all this magic science at their command?) Neither of these things are dealbreakers, just well-trodden ground.

12. 


Tom Paris is convicted of murder on an alien world, and his punishment is to witness the murder from the victim's perspective every 14 hours.

Directed by LeVar Burton. A Trek-trial episode, with perhaps too much in common with "A Matter of Perspective" (TNG) and "Court Martial" (TOS). Trek-court episodes are always a little off (see "Wolf in the Fold"), but they can be a lot of fun, to0 (see TNG's "Devil's Due" and "Wolf in the Fold" again.) This one not so much, though.



"Ex Post Facto" was the 8th episode of the show's 16-episode (15 if you count "Caretaker" as one, which I do) 1st season. Again, I wasn't watching at the time, but if I had been, would I have been puzzled by the lack of urgency the show had in distinguishing itself - and the Delta Quadrant - as its own endeavor? Probably. I think the show could have used a Star Blazers sort of tag at the beginning or end ("Hurry, Star Force! Planet Earth has only so-many-days left!") Ron Moore, one of Voyager's writers and later the co-creator of BSG, might have thought so, as BSG later utilized such a tag to great effect throughout its run. 
(He didn't join the Voyager staff until 1999, but hey, he still might have thought so!)

11. 


A shuttlecraft with Chakotay and Tuvok aboard is attacked; Chakotay is left brain-dead, while Tuvok begins acting strangely. An unknown force begins controlling crewmembers.

Here's more Delta Quadrant casserole of TNG ("Conundrum") and TOS ("Spock's Brain,") oddly enough one of two callbacks to "Spock's Brain" in Voyager's 1st season. It's perfectly fine but just a couple of things:

- The Doctor can put "consciousness" in and out of people? Okay. I can squint at this and make it work, I guess - it makes sense that Federation science would only grow from the days of "Return to Tomorrow" and "What Are Little Girls Made Of" and perhaps all of that ended up in The Doctor's program. Still, though.

- Kes is already being used as the Counselor Troi empathy-cypher, 11 episodes in. Speaking of Kes, I used to really dislike her. I can't really understand why now. Not only is she perfectly fine - if used a bit generically when in Troi-mode - she's a vital member of the cast. Kudos to Jennifer Lien.


Not the greatest taste in men.

- The music cues seem off in this one. Is it just me?

- First appearance of the Captain's holodeck program - playacting the governess of an English manor. Not the most exciting part of the show for me, but a subtle component of her character that I like. In general, I like what Voyager does with the holodeck.




10. 


Janeway and the other senior officers attempt to flush out a spy who is sending information to the Kazon.

I've mentioned my lack of interest in the Maquis, but I'm riveted compared to my interest in the Kazon, a group of Klingon-types introduced in the pilot who dog Voyager in hit and run attacks hoping to steal their technology.

Lt. Seska's defection from the crew to the Kazon and her big reveal re: her origins is fine. (At first.)
But these guys - just, no. Not only are they fourth-rate Klingons, their visual is ridiculous.

The technobabble is strong with this one: neosorium signatures, cytological diagnostics, pyrocite replacements, you name it. I do like the idea of a replicator malfunction leading to fatal subspace mayhem.

9. 


An organ-harvesting species known as the Vidiians steal Neelix's lungs, leaving him to die.

I'm torn between (Troy McClure voice) "They BURGLED Neelix's LUNGS!" and "The Talaxian's Lungs Are Missing..." for the tagline, so there's both of them.

Here's the other "Spock's Brain" pastiche (even an ion propulsion trail) except instead of Nimoy and groovy women with brain-and-pain machines who live underground, it's Neelix and... the Vidiians.

Progress... yay?

The Doctor refers to Neelix's lungs as too complex to replicate. Not like Klingon spinal cords, I guess! But okay. Talaxians are Delta Quadrant species, so hey. It opened the door for Neelix to be fitted with holo-lungs, so that's cool. The show doesn't know it yet, but it is its holo-imaginings that will be its legacy.


8. 


Voyager is trapped in a quantum singularity's event horizon, and Captain Janeway must decide between Lt. Carey and former Maquis B'Elanna Torres to be the new chief engineer.

I was just reading something about how black holes may not actually exist. They might, they might not. They're not something as quantifiable as stars or comets, etc. This isn't exactly news to me - I think I knew there was some uncertainty - but it made me think about discovering they didn't exist would terminate an entire era of sci-fi, much as discoveries of the moon (and Mars) brought definitive ends to earlier eras.


This isn't quite the story to hang such epoch-pondering thoughts upon, but it's a decent episode and a sensible 2nd episode of the series: re-enforcing the premise while getting the cast quickly into position so you know where to find them and what their job is during the big countdown-crisis inevitably on its way. This is a Torres episode, so this is about the girl who never felt at home anywhere in the Alpha Quadrant finding herself now that she's a gazillion light years from it. Not the most original arc, I grant you - most of Voyager's aren't, really, save the Doctor's, and perhaps Janeway's.

7. 


A race that could shorten Voyager's journey with a transportation device will not share its technology.

An interesting inversion of the whole prime directive dilemma in Trek. This has some nice moments in it, particularly with Tuvok and with Harry Kim. While we're here, the show really wants you to like Harry Kim. Which is pretty easy, actually - Garrett Wang is kind of effortlessly likeable and the more the other characters go out of their way to sing the character's praises, the more you say, hey! I like Harry Kim, too!

"Who, me?"
"Yes, me."
You need Harry Kim on that wall! Or down on the surface, romancing the ladies, as is the case here. 

This is actually a Janeway episode more than a Harry Kim one, but just some general praise for Harry "Bang Machine" Kim. Women want him, and men want to be him!

Sorry, Captain.

6. 

While searching for a missing Maquis ship with a Starfleet spy aboard, USS Voyager is swept away to the Delta Quadrant, more than 70,000 light-years from home, by an incredibly powerful being known as the Caretaker.

In January 1995 when this two-parter aired to kick off the series, I was working an ill-fated electrician's assistant job in Dawson, Georgia. I was trying to remember why I didn't watch this at the time, and I honestly don't remember. Which is odd - I have a strange obsession knack for remembering this type of thing. At any rate, I was not one of the 21 million people who tuned in. I only saw it for the first time 14 years later when Voyager became my go-to 3 am show during a mercifully brief bout of insomnia I had in 2009. (Incidentally, when I turned the corner on the show; prior to this I'd been pretty indifferent to Voyager. Insomnia will erode your resistance to just about anything.)

Anyway, this time around I enjoyed much more than I remembered. It's a solid piece of storytelling and sets up the show quite well. That Voyager almost immediately settles into an Alpha Quadrant of the Week approach should not be held against it. (Season 1 could definitely have used a few episodes like BSG's "33.") All in all, the Berman era of Trek did a more-than-decent job with its pilots for Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. Better, arguably, than "Encounter at Farpoint" did. That's not a comment on the quality of that story (which is perfectly fine and perhaps a bit underrated), just in how effectively it communicated what the series-to-come would actually be like/ about.

This raises a further question about whether the Berman Factory might have gotten their assembly line a little too perfect. Robert Beltran has certainly expressed that opinion over the years. But, we have plenty of time and no particular hurry.


5. 


Investigating a planet just devastated by a polaric explosion, Janeway and Paris are engulfed by a subspace fracture and transported in time to before the accident.

This episode must have been picked to be the third of the season to re-assure the audience that in spite of the crew being 70,000 light years from home, the audience could still count on the same kind of planet/ species/ episode of the week sort of Trek fun. With familiar faces in ridged-face make-up like Joel Polis. 

Olde Towne Tavern! Olde Towne Tavern! (Also Jerk Store.)

I'm torn on this aspect of the show. Was it just a matter of playing it safe? If so, can its lack of interest in rewriting the playbook (despite a premise that not only allows it but would seem to encourage it) or challenging the audience with new character dynamics be considered a failure? (I like the characters fine, but let's face it: there wasn't much going on, dynamics-wise, that didn't exist prior to Voyager in other Treks.) 

I guess what I'm getting at is that everytime I think "Here's the reason the show wasn't the success it could have been," I'm struck by a) the fact of the show's actual success (I don't know why I stubbornly persist in my delusion that seven seasons and finding a perennial streaming and download audience and new generations of fans, etc. does not equal success-any-way-you-define-it), and b) that if the point was to walk a specific line to re-assure the mid-90s Trek-viewing audience that the show would deliver a reliable product within established parameters, can I really hold that against the show? I might prefer it to have gone about itself a little differently, but it's like arguing with a Ferrari for not being a Cadillac. (Or something like that.)

Whatever the case, this isn't a bad one. 


If 70s Burger King and 70s Houston Astros joined forces for fashion.
Voyager had - for its time - the hands-down best special fx on TV. I'll find a better spot to discuss that in more detail, though.

This is two episodes in a row where Paris has to learn "effect" can precede "cause" in quantum mechanics / subspace microfractures. (Airdate-order, I mean, not in this countdown.) Also: first mention of The Delaney Sisters. We don't see them in "Time and Again" or for most of the times they're mentioned, but this is the first glimpse into Tom's (and Harry's, eventually) infatuation with Megan and Jenny.

4. 


The crew enter a nebula to collect samples before realizing it is a living organism, but not before injuring it.

Here's another fairly traditional Trek. I've taken to calling these episodes "Trek casseroles" in my notepad. (If I haven't mentioned that yet, it'll likely appear sooner or later and I'll have forgotten to footnote what it means. So here.) 

The nebula looks cool enough. A nice mix of old-and-new-Trek design.
Tom continues to corrupt Harry with his hedonistic holodeck ways. (First series appearance of Tom's Marseilles pool hall.)

3. 


Harry Kim is transported to an alien world at the same time as a dead woman's body arrives on Voyager.

I might be underrating this one. It's an interesting set-up (Voyager collides with one alien culture's death-and-afterlife belief system) and it's the kind of thing I like Trek to do: approach our cultural conditioning in an oblique but accessible sci-fi way.  It's a little uneven, but inoffensive. 


2. 


A micro-wormhole is discovered that leads to the Alpha Quadrant, and the crew make contact with a Romulan ship on the other side.

There are a few very cool things going on in this episode (having to compensate for the size differentials caused by the wormhole, the temporal tragedy of Telek R'mor, the Back to the Future II/III bit, are the ones I made note of,) But man - the whole hotshot pilot threads the starship through an impossible course, "threading the eye of the needle" is just so unexciting. Was it ever exciting, in any Trek, anywhere? Has anyone ever said "Man! Sulu piloted the shit out of the Enterprise in (that one episode)?" It's odd to me that they felt the need to have stuff like this in every incarnation of Trek.

But it was a different world in the mid-90s, and I'll try not to gripe about Trek-tropes. At least until the show gets to 2000. Why then? Because Galaxy Quest came out in 1999. (Not to mention Free Enterprise.) Let's use that as a dividing line of when Trekdom became a little too self-aware (for better or worse) to really get away with a certain range of things in an unironic way.


1. 


The holographic doctor must rescue crew members who were turned to light energy in a Holodeck simulation of Beowulf.

I haven't spent too much time on The Doctor in this post. He's a great part of every episode, for sure, but he shines particularly in this one, where he has to enter a holo-fantasy that has been co-opted by a strange life form. 


There's a little in common with "Emergence" (TNG) in this episode, which is an episode I personally love but many do not. So it goes. And I really like watching Picardo play The Doctor. It's definitely one of the entire franchise's best marriages of actor to role. 

The Doctor's search for a name is a running feature of the show. I think it'd have been great had he chosen Beowulf as a result of this episode, officially entered it, had doubts later and been ribbed about it here and there over the next 7 seasons. But hey.

~
As of this writing, I'm up to "Lifesigns" in season two. Hopefully this means we'll see a Season Two breakdown sooner rather than later.

Hope to see you then.