[VOY] Lynch's Spoiler Review: "Dreadnought"

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Timothy W. Lynch

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Feb 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/18/96
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WARNING: Unstoppable spoiler information lurks below for
VOY's "Dreadnought".

In brief: Not overly deep, but nothing particularly problematic either.
An hour's pleasant diversion.

======
Written by: Gary Holland
Directed by: LeVar Burton

Brief summary: When a Cardassian-turned-Maquis weapon
unexpectedly shows up in the Delta Quadrant and threatens a peaceful
planet, it falls to B'Elanna Torres to try to stop the monster she had a
hand in creating.
======

"Dreadnought" is the sort of race-against-the-clock episode that you
could find in almost any series that tries to build suspense. It's very
plot-driven, with very little emphasis on character -- and as soon as
the plot is wrapped up, so is the show (almost to the millisecond, in
this case). There's nothing particularly wrong with a plot-driven
show; they often tend to be a little less deep (unless the plot is
something that runs over a great many episodes), but they can still
work and be diverting. That's about the way I'd categorize
"Dreadnought": no big deal, but fun.

What character work there was centered on Torres and on her feelings
of guilt over the creation (or rather, re-creation) of Dreadnought. This
again falls under the heading of "diverting, but not much beyond that";
although I don't recall any particular wrong notes being sounded in
Torres's reactions, there were also very few notes that just sounded so
*right* as to make everything worth the trip. A few lines like Kim's
"and I bet [Dreadnought] doesn't spend much time worrying about
what it could have done differently" definitely helped make up for
more pedestrian scenes like the Paris/Torres "gee-I'm-really-worried-
and-here's-why" exposition-fest, so on the whole it was certainly
positive -- it just wasn't exactly earth-shattering.

Beyond that, the only character with any significant questioning going
on was Paris, and I'm mostly reserving judgment there so far. This is
the second week in a row that Paris seems to be doing something
more suited to his "I am rebel, hear me sneer" persona from the first
season than his "I'm going to redeem myself" persona that we've seen
much of this year. If this is leading up to something significant for
him (such as a more major confrontation with authority), then these
may end up being nice lead-ins. If not, they may end up feeling like
wastes of time and abrupt character alterations. Right now I'm not
overly impressed ... but I'll wait and see.

That more or less leaves the plot. While once it gets going, it pretty
much works, I have a few plausibility bones to pick with the premise.
For instance, it's incredibly convenient that absolutely *everything*
works aboard Dreadnought except for the information about where it
actually is. When the Maquis ship and Voyager were taken in
"Caretaker", they had much more significant damage which did *not*
include those sensors; this felt like a plot convenience. Similarly, I'm
not entirely certain why Dreadnought was taken in the first place; if I
remember "Caretaker" correctly, the Caretaker was deliberately
grabbing ships in the hope of finding a "compatible biomolecular
pattern" with whom he could procreate. An unmanned missile strikes
me as an exceptionally unlikely place to find such a pattern, and the
Caretaker certainly seemed capable enough to be able to tell before
grabbing them.

That aside, much of the rest of "Dreadnought" worked well. The
attempts to track it seemed sensible; Voyager's ease of finding it made
sense, given that Dreadnought was working from defensive plans
Torres had given it. Torres's initial attempts to convince Dreadnought
that its scheduled attack was in error were sensible enough, and the
fact that Dreadnought lied through its metaphorical teeth to her because
of past instructions she'd given it was great fun. (I was reminded
ever so slightly of Data in "Clues", lying to Picard because of orders
Picard had given him; in this case, the sense was more one of "damn,
I did my work a little too well" than one of mystery, but that's okay.)
The warning from the missile and subsequent failed feint also worked;
they were hardly surprising, especially the latter, but they were done
in plausible ways. (I also liked the speculation that Voyager's new
breed of photon torpedoes might work, even though they didn't.)

Once the preliminaries were out of the way, the plot focused on
growing desperation; both Torres's on board Dreadnought and
Janeway's in trying to help the Rakosan people through Minister
Kellan. In both cases, as in most of the show, I thought it came off
reasonably well, but also thought it was nothing I hadn't seen before.
The attempt to dissuade fighters from a hopeless cause is almost a
staple of stories like this (semi-recent genre examples being the Wolf-
359 battle in TNG's "The Best of Both Worlds" and the Narn/Shadow
battle in B5's "The Long, Twilight Struggle"); B'Elanna's near-
success getting to key circuits fouled by backup circuits was also
familiar; and the decision to destroy Voyager for the sake of the planet
was expected, but still powerful.

The last act and a half or so was, perhaps not unexpectedly, the most
powerful section of the show. Dreadnought's conclusion that Torres
wasn't being coerced, but had willingly changed loyalties was
somewhat chilling -- and despite myself, I found the decision to
destroy Voyager and its implementation somewhat affecting. The
Janeway/Chakotay/Tuvok exchange in particular worked well, with
Janeway suggesting a large antimatter explosion directly in front of
Dreadnought, Chakotay's "To work, it would take more than all our
photons put together", and Tuvok's "Or, more to the point, it would
take a warp-core breach" hit well; Tuvok's dispassionate noting of that
fact lent the scene just the right air of finality. I also enjoyed Torres's
concurrent quest to destroy Dreadnought from within, combining the
tactic of creating an identity crisis (reminiscent of Kirk talking myriad
computers to death) with a 2001-esque journey into the core. I can't
say looking back that any of it was so stunningly done as to linger on
forever after, but it all worked -- and it kept me drawn in at the time,
which is after all the point. (Tuvok's insistence on staying on board
as Janeway prepares the ship's last run was also appreciated, even if
Janeway gave in so easily one wonders if she wanted Tuvok dead
after his insults in "Meld". :-) )

There were a few elements of the plot that I had difficulty with,
however. Chief among them was Janeway's ease of setting the self-
destruct -- she both implemented and countermanded it by herself.
That's not just a breach of past continuity, it's damned stupid thinking
in a strategic sense; all it would take is the captain going nuts to cost
Starfleet one ship. Apart from that, it's mostly nitpicks, which I'll
include below with other short points. Nitpicks first:

-- if Torres had managed to disable the security codes, why was she
still insisting that she couldn't make it back to the missile if beamed
away? Granted, the backup systems proved her right shortly
thereafter, but that's not the point.

-- why didn't she *finish* the early detonation she was trying to bring
about? There was no real sign that Dreadnought had managed to
block her in that attempt, so far as I remember; so why not do it?

And now, a few other short points:

-- I appreciate the continued use of Jonas feeding information to
Seska, but we do need to see some kind of payoff on this before
*too* much more time goes on.

-- The "baby names" scene at the start of the episode was pretty much
a waste of time. I've certainly seen far worse moments (such as most
of "Threshold"), but it felt like obvious filler.

-- I definitely enjoyed the reason Dreadnought didn't fulfill its original
mission against the Maquis. It does seem somewhat Cardassian to
design everything so well and then screw up the detonator. :-)

-- The shot of Dreadnought moving to intercept the approaching
Rakosan fleet felt like CGI. Anyone know for sure? (It seemed very
smooth, which is what gave me that impression.)

That pretty much covers it. It's not a memorable enough episode to
go back and watch several times over, but "Dreadnought" was a
pleasant hour -- a few glitches, but nothing really major enough to
cause a big problem. So, wrapping up:

Writing: Some plausibility problems at the outset and a few gaffes
here and there (such as the self-destruct issue), but solid on the
whole.
Directing: Nothing earth-shattering, but effective.
Acting: Roxann Biggs-Dawson did a fairly good job, as did Mulgrew
-- but for a show this plot-driven, the importance of the acting
is often minimized.

OVERALL: A 7, I think; pleasant but uneventful.

NEXT WEEK:

Q -- and I don't mean 007's gadget specialist.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
tly...@alumni.caltech.edu
"When a bomb starts talking about itself in the third person, I get
worried."
-- Paris (after having just seen "Dark Star"?)
--
Copyright 1996, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...
This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net
compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the
author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.

Ted McCoy

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Feb 18, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/18/96
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In article <4g6acl$k...@gap.cco.caltech.edu>,

Timothy W. Lynch <tly...@alumni.caltech.edu> wrote:
>WARNING: Unstoppable spoiler information lurks below for
>VOY's "Dreadnought".

>What character work there was centered on Torres and on her feelings
>of guilt over the creation (or rather, re-creation) of Dreadnought.

This was the part of the episode I enjoyed the most, especially the insights
into some of the early clash between Torres and Chakotay. In many ways, the
Dreadnought seemed a reflection of Torres's more reckless days as a terrorist,
and considering that circumstances have forced Torres to function as a
Starfleet officer (leaving much of her Maquis background behind), this reminder
seemed fairly appropriate. All a bit routine, I suppose, but it was
pleasantly diverting at least.

>Beyond that, the only character with any significant questioning going
>on was Paris, and I'm mostly reserving judgment there so far. This is
>the second week in a row that Paris seems to be doing something
>more suited to his "I am rebel, hear me sneer" persona from the first
>season than his "I'm going to redeem myself" persona that we've seen
>much of this year.

I find "Tom the rebel" to be more believable than "Tom the redeemable,"
personally -- and *much* more interesting. Not to mention that I could do
with a little more conflict on this show.

On the other hand, consistency would've been nice. The writers really need
to establish more of a motivation for this change in Tom's behavior.

>The last act and a half or so was, perhaps not unexpectedly, the most
>powerful section of the show. Dreadnought's conclusion that Torres
>wasn't being coerced, but had willingly changed loyalties was
>somewhat chilling -- and despite myself, I found the decision to
>destroy Voyager and its implementation somewhat affecting.

Honestly, I found myself losing interest towards the end of the show. Nothing
particularly new was happening, and, even, though I wasn't entirely certain
how the missile was going to be stopped, I never doubted that Voyager would
survive the episode, with the result that Janeway's self-destruct-the-ship
scenes played as mere filler material. At least, that was my reaction.

>And now, a few other short points:
>
>-- I appreciate the continued use of Jonas feeding information to
>Seska, but we do need to see some kind of payoff on this before
>*too* much more time goes on.

I wish the character weren't so dull. Scheming trouble-makers are so much more
interesting when they have three-dimensional characterizations, with complex
and believable motivations. (Examples: Londo, Morden, and G'kar on B5;
Gul Dukat, Kai Winn, and Garak on DS9; half a dozen folks on The X-Files;
even Q on TNG and Seska on Voyager, sometimes.)

Perhaps Jonas was given some more substantial character development in one of
the episodes that I missed? Because something more than I've seen is
definitely needed here. (As an example of how this sort of thing can be done
wrong, I'd point to the incident at the end of B5's first season in which
a crew member suddenly reveals himself as a traitor by shooting Garibaldi.
The traitor does his deed, is discovered, and leaves the show -- all with the
barest minimum of character insight. A horribly wasted opportunity, and I have
a suspicion that Jonas's eventual fate will be just as tedious. And, just to
cover my ass, this wasn't intended as an attack against B5, as B5 tends to do
this sort of thing right more often than not, at least as far as recurring
characters are concerned.)

>-- The shot of Dreadnought moving to intercept the approaching
>Rakosan fleet felt like CGI. Anyone know for sure? (It seemed very
>smooth, which is what gave me that impression.)

Okay, now I'm confused. When Voyager started, I thought the official word
was that, aside from a model for Voyager, all of the fx would be cgi. Anybody
know for certain?

One problem that bugged me: if the Cardassians have access to weapons as
powerful as this Dreadnought, how come they weren't used against the Dominion,
or against the Klingons? Seems to me that a cloaked Dreadnought could be
especially. The entire backstory with the Dreadnought was far too contrived
and implausible.

>Writing: Some plausibility problems at the outset and a few gaffes
> here and there (such as the self-destruct issue), but solid on the
> whole.

Yup. Routine and even a bit tedious at times, but generally diverting.
Points off for being a bit too contrived for my tastes.

>Directing: Nothing earth-shattering, but effective.

Some of the scenes on the Dreadnought were played especially well, IMHO.

>Acting: Roxann Biggs-Dawson did a fairly good job, as did Mulgrew
> -- but for a show this plot-driven, the importance of the acting
> is often minimized.

Actually, I thought Biggs-Dawson made some of her scenes on the Dreadnought
seem slightly less boring than they actually were. If the acting had been as
tired as the writing, I probably wouldn't have sat through the entire last
act of the episode.

>OVERALL: A 7, I think; pleasant but uneventful.

Yikes, awfully generous. I'd give it a 5.

>NEXT WEEK:

>Q -- and I don't mean 007's gadget specialist.

Hmm, you're thinking of the winged serpent maybe? (Heh, that'd be cool.
Sounds like a premise for a seaQuest episode.)


Ted

Maria Vrzoc

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Feb 19, 1996, 3:00:00 AM2/19/96
to
On 18 Feb 1996, Ted McCoy wrote:

> I find "Tom the rebel" to be more believable than "Tom the redeemable,"
> personally -- and *much* more interesting. Not to mention that I could do
> with a little more conflict on this show.
>
> On the other hand, consistency would've been nice. The writers really need
> to establish more of a motivation for this change in Tom's behavior.
>

They seem to be working up to giving Paris a reason to leave Voyager and
join the Talaxian convoy in the future. And, when Neelix suspects there is
a traitor on board, who else makes the perfect candidate?

M. Vrzoc
(vr...@uwindsor.ca)

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