Sunday, September 10, 2017

Voyager 5x10 "Counterpoint"

rating: ****

the story: The ship faces a series of inspections as Janeway develops an interesting relationship with the man tasked with carrying them out.

what it's all about: "Counterpoint" is one of those episodes that doesn't seem important but somehow draws attention to itself anyway, a clear example of the strength of episodic storytelling.  And yet it actually is important, the more you think about it.

Nothing that happens here has long-term ramifications.  If you never saw it you'd still understand the gist of what happens during the course of the series.  The aliens don't appear again.  No character has a major turning point or breakthrough.

And yet...It's kind of Voyager, as envisioned, in a nutshell, a ship stranded far from home forced to endure things no other Starfleet vessel is likely to experience from alien cultures it happens across, and still upholding its ideals.  In this case, shepherding embattled peoples to safety.  This was a crew constantly at the mercy of the cultures it came across, and space it couldn't easily decide to avoid if there proved to be a problem with those cultures.  The crew sought the shortest route home.  Sure, it made plenty of stops along the way, but in the grand scheme of things, if it had to take the whole original projected length of time to get home, those detours mean nothing.  They add to the crew's morale, which has infinite worth.  They get to pretend they're still an ordinary Starfleet crew.  But with complications, obviously.  Not going around problem space is justified in the same way investigating stuff is justified: if they can negotiate their way through the problems, they still uphold their Starfleet ideals, which again is the whole point of the series.

All that being said, "Counterpoint" is also an excellent examination of Janeway herself, demonstrating her cleverness in much the same way Kirk used to bluff his way through problems.  Except, Janeway's bluffing is a lot more elaborate than coming up with a fake weapon.  Again, if Voyager was all about proving the worth of Gene Roddenberry's original vision, then its solutions would necessarily mirror the kinds we'd seen before.  Kirk is an inescapable precedent; theoretically every captain that followed him would at some point have to demonstrate the same kind of cleverness he used. 

And all that aside, it's just a well-put-together episode, fully in command of itself, which is exactly what you want from a classic.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - A great way to sell Voyager to a casual fan.
  • series - It demonstrates what the premise looks like on a routine basis.
  • character - Janeway shines as she outwits a man who thinks he's outsmarted her.
  • essential - This is how episodic storytelling is done.
notable guest-stars:
Mark Harelik
Randy Oglesby
Alexander Enberg (Vorik)

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