Star Trek: Voyager – S02E23, The Thaw

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The Thaw is a very strange episode. It starts well, in a very classic way, and the finale is amazing, but for the most part I had the irresistible urge to smash the TV screen by throwing things at it. Let’s talk about the plot of the episode.

The USS Voyager arrives at a planet where there are clear signs of a civilization that ended due to a huge environmental catastrophe. Harry Kim, however, receives an automatic communication from the surface and soon discovers that there are very faint signs of life. Apparently, at least some of the inhabitants of the ancient trading colony of Kohl (this is the only information Neelix has about this place) are hibernated in a stasis chamber from which they planned to wake up fifteen years after the catastrophe. But something clearly went wrong because nineteen years have passed already… what to do?

Janeway cannot stand still, so she orders to beam aboard five hibernation pods containing three living humanoids, albeit in stasis, and two corpses, apparently killed by some sort of shock. Among the survivors, here’s Viorsa (Thomas Kopache), just seen in the message received by Kim. This discovery leads the captain to order Kim and Torres to enter the system that keeps the three alive, a sort of Matrix in which things have probably gone very badly. And then… the adjective that best describes the following twenty-five minutes of the episode is cringeworthy. The virtual world in which the inhabitants of the planet have taken refuge for fifteen years (at least that was the plan) is a room with absurdly dressed circus jugglers and a continuous background music capable of tearing your ears out.

Leaving out the details, Fear has taken over the virtual world, and it’s an actual character interpreted in a totally over the top way by Michael McKean. This leads to the amazing finale that (almost?) made me reevaluate the whole: Janeway defeats Fear with a simple trick, she rescues two of the survivors of the catastrophe (will they be able to rebuild an entire civilization?), and the final dialogue with the lights fading out is terribly effective.

Fear: “What will become of us – of me?
Janeway: “Like all fear, you eventually… vanish.
Fear: “I’m afraid.
Janeway: (whispered) “I know…

Is this last part enough to raise my opinion on The Face of Fear? I’m afraid not… I have no desire to rewatch this episode, and if I were to do it I think I would go straight to the final scene with an amazing (for once) Kate Mulgrew and with a really good choice of direction. It occurs to me that perhaps the circus setting is a tribute to the original series with some characters who seemed to come out of a nineteenth-century circus of scammers (such as Mudd from The Filter of Venus, first season), but still not enough . Also of note are other intelligent dialogues on fear during the episode, on the fact that it is not a completely negative feeling because we also need fear to decide what to do in life … but between the soundtrack and the very theatrical interpretation of the extras, I think that I will not relate to this episode again! Hi!

PS:  The Delta Flyers podcast shout out: The episode dedicated to The Thaw is nothing short of exceptional. McNeill and Wang had a very special guest, none other than the director of the The Thaw (as well as director of photography of the whole series), Marvin V. Rush. It was fascinating to find out that some Cirque du Soleil artists were hired as extras, that an orchestra with sixty members was used for the soundtrack, and that Rush himself was inspired by Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 (1963). As a consequence, the episode respects a sort of emotional continuity, but it deliberately breaks physical continuity (because it’s mostly set in a dream or, as Rush defines it, a video game).


Episodio precedente: Innocence

Episodio successivo: Tuvix


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