Monday, July 4, 2016

Episode Review - Tsunkatse (Voyager, Season 6)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.

Episode Overview – (Star Trek: Voyager: Season 6) While on some much needed shore leave, members of the Voyager crew discover “tsunkatse”, a sort of mixed-martial arts combat sport. Meanwhile, Seven of Nine and Tuvok are captured by the producer of the games, who forces Seven to fight in his arena. The crew must then attempt a rescue as Seven finds herself in a fight to the death.

Episode Score – 6/10. This was a fairly routine episode. The story is a rehash of the typical “forcing a character to fight against their will”. It is not poorly done, but when you compare it to a similar DS9 two-episode story (“In Purgatory’s Shadow” and “By Inferno’s Light”), it is very superficial. So while this is a good episode, it does not give us anything special beyond a reason for then-WWF (now WWE) fans to watch the Rock in his first acting role.

Relevance – 2 points. The Hirogen have been used before, and the Hirogen character played by veteran Trek actor J G Hertzler adds another dimension to this species. The species responsible for tsunkatse (the Norcadians) show up again in the form of Mezoti, one of the child drones taken aboard by Voyager in the next episode, “Collective”.

Continuity – 2 points. Story continuity, check. Nothing contradicts anything. The fact that in the next episode we see Mezoti, a Norcadian, makes sense since we are still in the same region of space. Character continuity, check. Everyone acts within established parameters. Seven and Tuvok go on a survey mission for their shore leave, everyone thinks they’re nuts, etc. Universe continuity... hold on there. The Hirogen acts the way we would expect him to act, and I would add that this character, while unnamed, definitely adds depth to this alien race. Where I have an issue is that in the audience, there are several aliens who are background aliens in Deep Space Nine. Have to ding them for that.

Character Development – 1 point. Yet another Seven of Nine episode, but this does not do a whole lot to develop her character. She shows allegiance to her crewmate and continues to butt heads with B’Elanna. Beyond this we learn that many members of the crew enjoy a good old fashioned MMA fight. That’s it for character development.

Social Commentary – 1 point. The best I can figure is that this episode makes reference to mankind’s fascination with combat sports. Since the times of the Coliseum in Ancient Rome, we have loved blood sport entertainment. This theme is only lightly touched upon. While professional wrestling is all theatrics, we do have MMA organizations such as UFC, and boxing is still a major attraction, yet rarely is a person’s life threatened. Any commentary on the legitimacy of such combat sports is buried in the vessel of the plot to make a Seven of Nine focused story.

Cool Factor – 2 points. The guest stars make up the cool factors for this episode. If you are a professional wrestling fan, you appreciated the Rock as the intimidating Pendari Champion. This was the first acting job for Dwayne Johnson (although to any WWE/WWF fan he basically was the Rock in prosthetics, right down to the Rock Bottom finisher and the raised eyebrow). This was also a deliberate cross-pollination of UPN products, as in addition to Voyager they were also aired WWF Smackdown. I am giving the second cool factor point to having J G Hertzler and Jeffrey Combs making their first Voyager appearance after having established popular secondary characters in DS9. This is also the first time that the two actors appear in the same scenes on a Trek episode. Combs plays Penk, the Norcadian producer of the sport (and Combs’ fifth Trek character), while Hertzler plays the unnamed Hirogen veteran (also his fifth character).

Rank – Lieutenant (14 points). This is a fun episode. Nothing too serious, nothing too revealing. A good mid-level quality episode with some cool features. Wrestling fans will likely get a little more out of it, but it has some good moments for all.

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