The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
Forget what I said before
about 'Voyager'; it stinks


February 24, 2000
By Franklin Harris

I apologize. A few weeks ago, I suggested you give "Star Trek: Voyager" another chance. By so doing, I am responsible for subjecting you, my loyal readers, to some of the worst television since the cancellation of "My Mother the Car."

What I thought was an upturn in "Voyager's" quality in recent weeks turned out to be a mere hiccup -- a lucky accident.

Just in time for the February ratings sweeps, UPN unleashed a barrage of gimmicky episodes calculated to bring in short-term ratings. The biggest atrocity -- and, believe me, it was hard to top the Feb. 16 episode's bratty Borg teen-agers -- was "Tsunkatsa."

"Tsunkatsa" is the episode long-time "Trek" fans have dreaded. It's the infamous "wrestling episode," guest-starring World Wrestling Federation superstar The Rock.

Now, I'll let you in on a little secret: I watch WWF wrestling.

There. I've said it.

And The Rock is certainly one of the most entertaining wrestlers around. (Wrestlers who speak in complete sentences easily impress me, and the WWF has excelled lately at cultivating "superstars" with microphone talent.)

But the idea of The Rock guest-starring on "Star Trek" excites me about as much as the thought of Capt. Janeway showing up on "Smackdown!" to wrestle the bulked-up she-male, Chyna.

Basically, the folks at UPN and Paramount decided they needed a sweeps-week gimmick to boost "Voyager's" sagging ratings. So, they booked The Rock as a guest star and, as soon as his signature was dry, had "Voyager's" writers build an episode around him.

The result was "Tsunkatsa," a one-trick episode in which the much-hyped guest star only appears for five minutes of poorly staged combat. (The "Voyager" folks could have at least watched an episode of "Smackdown!" to see how it's done!)

The rest of the episode gives us Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) playing the Karate Kid to an extraterrestrial Mr. Miyagi and just enough contrivances to keep what passes for the plot together.

The bad news is that the gimmick worked. The ratings for "Tsunkatsa" were the best for a "Voyager" episode in a year. So, I guess we can expect more of the same.

Again, I apologize if you sat through any of this because of me.

I'm sorry. I'm very, very sorry.

And "Star Trek: Voyager's" writers aren't the only folks leaving me unimpressed of late. Chris Carter, creator of "The X-Files," is proving once again that he is making up his alien invasion/government conspiracy saga as he goes.

Take Feb. 13's installment, "Closure," for instance.

In this episode, FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) finally discovers what happened to his sister, Samantha, after she was abducted years earlier.

I won't spoil the episode for those of you who'll have to catch it in repeats, but I will say that the resolution, while not directly contradicting what we've learned before, is a bit jarring.

But the fact that Carter would decide to play the Samantha card now, before tying up other loose ends, tells me that he has lost his grip on his series and his characters.

It's Mulder's search for his sister, not an abstract crusade for the truth about the paranormal, that drives him. So, what is his motivation going to be from here on?

But the "conspiracy" episodes are almost always lackluster, and "The X-Files" got back on track with Sunday's monster-of-the-week episode, cleverly shot to mimic an episode of "Cops."

You have to love the scenes where Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) barely hides her embarrassment as Mulder expounds on werwolves and the paranormal, talking matter-of-factly to the "Cops" cameraman as if he were a police officer describing the mechanics of a drug raid.

And a "Cops"/"X-Files" crossover is a much better sweeps gimmick than UPN's "Star Trek: Voyager"/"Smackdown!" fiasco.

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