Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Voyager 2x1 "The 37s"


Due to the way UPN juggled the shooting schedule in the first three seasons of Voyager, there will always be some dispute about where some episodes actually lie.  For the record, I heartily endorse "Learning Curve" as the end of the first season and "The 37s" at the start of the second.  Thematically, this sequence works superbly on both accounts.  Since I'm talking about "The 37s" right now, I'll center my chatter on that one.

"The 37s" is in some respects a fairly random episodic adventure, one that calls to mind "Space Seed" and "The Neutral Zone" in that it's basically about a random group of individuals revived from suspended animation.  Yet this particular group has the antithesis of Khan within it, Amelia Earhart, specifically chosen by the producers as the clearest predecessor to the pioneering Janeway (first female captain of her own series), and it still stands today as a pretty nifty idea, one that has been overlooked in the show's legacy.  If you look at the episode only from this context, then it's already noteworthy, but there are other layers, still.

Earhart happens to parallel Janeway's situation, having made a deliberate decision that left her stranded on the other side of the galaxy.  Unlike Janeway, she's got her secret sweety, Fred Noonan, with her, while Janeway to this point in the series has left her fiance Mark behind and only occasionally thinks about him (at the midpoint of the series, he announces in a letter that he's moved on), even though he's an undercurrent for the character in case anyone's paying attention.  Janeway has Chakotay to rely on in the episode, and the season eventually draws a conclusion on the exact nature of their relationship (which was something of a disappointment for some fans, and may have affected the show's long-term popularity, though hardly anyone pines for Picard and Crusher's prolonged, doomed romance).

Anyway, the other half of the episode is the chance the crew has to settle down on the world Earhart and the rest of the 37s are about to call home with their genetic descendants.  It leads to a big moment where Janeway has given the crew the chance to decide for themselves, and in true Star Trek fashion everyone decides to stay.  It's one of the deepest moments of faith in the series, what sets it apart from what some fans expected (and got in the relentlessly bleak BattleStar Galactica, which never had more than a cult-sized audience) and how it fit the ideals originally envisioned by Gene Roddenberry in one of the most challenging circumstances possible.

If you really want to understand Voyager, this is one of the must-sees.

franchise * series * essential * character

Notable guest-stars:
Sharon Lawrence

Memory Alpha summary.

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