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Light-hearted Fun Starts Early With the Dalliance of "Drive"

Posted: 06:45:31 on October 19
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: Reviews - Voyager

Reviews Ex Deus

Written for TrekWeb.COM by 'O. Deus'

Voyager meets Dukes of Hazzard

Summary: Paris and Torres deal with their drives, Harry has another ill-fated romance and Voyager extras serve as comic relief.

After the Tragedy-of-the-Week feel of Imperfection and Voyager's Big Borg season opener, Drive's light comedic touch is a definite relief. The Paris and Torres relationship has a rocky one-dimensional history so bad it often aspires to being a soap opera and while Drive doesn't really break that trend it does a good job of making the process fun instead of childish and wearying in the way that episodes dedicated to the Paris/Torres relationship tend to be.

Paris has always been a 20th century kind of guy and so Drive abounds with 20th century references and material. The EMH plays golf, Neelix takes on the job of sportscaster and Paris has to win the race and get the girl at the same time. So while Drive is still completely predictable, it's actually fun too. Rather than pursuing the Paris/Torres relationship with the usual grim determination of a Honda Accord heading uphill, Drive turns it into a screwball comedy while Harry (in keeping with the Torture Harry premise of Voyager) is tossed into a film noir as he unknowingly romances a female secret agent out to sabotage the race. Winrich Kolbe's (one of Star Trek's top directors) smooth direction moves the episode along keeping up the light atmosphere and Harry's struggle with Eirina even features a few Noir effects. His intercutting between scenes of Paris and Torres and Harry and Eirina is one of the high points of the episode.

Most refreshing is the fact that Dawson gets to play something besides the angry, frustrated, one-note half-Klingon, and instead, a person whose responses aren't all that simplistic or predictable and who does things for reasons other than the completely obvious. RDM is still mostly stuck with the same old Paris but the closing material allows him to play the kind of sincerity the actor is clearly much more at home with, than the flippant cliche he's usually saddled with. While the pair doesn't really have the kind of chemistry that makes on-screen relationships work, both try very hard and the effort bears a certain amount of fruit. By the time the episode ends their relationship is probably on a better footing than at any time before. Best of all Drive's light note and focus on the race makes the entire thing feel less like a Paris/Torres episode and more like a Voyager episode with a Paris/Torres subplot.

Or at least that's the way it's supposed to feel because really, despite the waste of lots of FX dollars and some beautiful work by Foundation Imaging, the race itself doesn't actually matter. On that point, at least Drive is pretty straight-forward from the outset. The entire thing begins with a drag race and the entire crew from Janeway down never treats it as anything other than a frivolous amusement. The threat to Paris and Torres and the peace is taken about as seriously as it would be on Captain Proton. But then as with the actual Captain Proton episode, the whole plot is besides the plot. Voyager has mostly given up doing straight-forward TNG episodes some time ago and where TNG would have focused on the politics of the alien races and the need to keep the peace, Voyager uses it as background for a romantic comedy. Still, you can't help but wish that they'd saved the special effects for an episode where it would really count.

While the basic premise of diplomacy, betrayal, relationships and sabotage of Drive seem to come from TOS' Journey to Babel, Drive isn't going for originality or consistency or serious drama. As a comedic episode that moves along quickly and resolves a prickly character arc it works. It's not a great episode, just a fun one and that's all it was ever meant to be.

Next Week: Voyager crewmembers from the past and the future phaser each other a lot.


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By Anonymous Coward (anon@ym.ous) at 13:46:00 on October 22
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I don't care what anyone says, this episode was great. Looking past the thin Paris/Torres romance and all, I think this episode was refreshing and fun. And there's nothing I love better than some disgustingly good cgi effects. I don't think this episode should be knocked at all, and praised for its originalty (phantom menace?). It was cute. I'm very pleased that they at least closed up Tom and B'Lanna's relationship, by marrying them in the last ten minutes of an episode. Now there will be no more wasted episodes on them! You know, it's less than a season left until ending anyway, good they got it out of the way. Blah blah, babble babble.

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Three Weddings are a Funeral (and Neelix commentary)
By Anonymous Coward (anon@ym.ous) at 10:33:58 on October 20
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I didn't like the episode that much because it couldn't decide (or "they" -- the writers -- couldn't decide) what it would be about. Tighten the focus on Paris and Torres a bit more and it would've been better.

As for this wedding business... The ceremony between Tom and B'lanna in Course: Oblivion was adequate -- and beautiful. It wasn't the real Tom and B'lanna... and yet, it was. Doing it again, even differently, would've been rehash waiting for fresh criticism for us. Instead of the "Just Married" scene at the end, however, I think it would've been sweeter or cuter to show the newly weds doing what married people do when they marry: Tom watch TV and having B'lanna bring him a drink while she's trying to clean their suite with the kids hanging on her legs. Still you could've shot three variations of a wedding scene and they all would've, well, died in our imagination.

What blows me away is that Neelix is so neglected!!! Not only do we have immense talent in Ethan Phillips, but Neelix is a mystery. His sportscasting was great, and his occasional probing into characters a la the mysterious bartender type (dare I say Guinan?) is healthy. He's the only Delta Quadrant resident permanently on the show (Seven is human -- lest we forget), but he's relegated to story telling and helping Naomi and simple things like that.

If I wrote for the show, I'd come up with something that shows a forgotten side of Neelix or perhaps his race, the Talaxians, which is brought forward by the passage of time, alien influence, or even the light of a yellow sun... something darker, powerful, threatening if opposed by the crew, beneficial if harnessed... something Neelix doesn't understand, Tuvok can't tap, Seven can't identify... I don't know what; just a general idea I had.

Or better still... Voyager is aprehended, impounded, and imprisoned by YAAR (yet another alien race) which has one weakness: the thrill of risk taking and gambling. Write it however you want... but Neelix saves the day through a card game or something clever -- bluffing, caniving, and shadow diplomacy. I think of Harry Anderson's (of Night Court fame) appearance on Cheers as the underhanded swindler who cleverly saved face for Sam and the bar on occasion. I'd love to see a mighty armada and its militant forces brought down by the wit and wisdom of our favorite Delta Quadrant razor-back.

There's a lot that Neelix can do that no other character could successfully pull off and leave us with some sweet, decidedly satisfying memories!

So listen up, Voyager writers: BRING BACK NEELIX!!!

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That was a race?
By Anonymous Coward (anon@ym.ous) at 09:57:36 on October 20
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That race had all the excitement of a bunch of big school buses lumbering about. This is what they call 'high speed' racing in the 24th century? Yikes! All the racer ships (Delta Flyer included) moved with the precision and agility of pregnant cows.

And, hello? Wedding Ceremony?! Where was it?
I've never bought this romance from day one. Tom is always a complete jerk to B'Elanna. He whines and complains and bosses her around. "I'm the pilot!" WHATever! He has no respect for her in his daily life. B'Elanna deserves better. This is by the far the least credible relationship on the ship. Heck, even Janeway and Chakotay's past "relationship" was more believable. There's just no chemistry.

And what's up with puffy Tom Paris anyway? Has he been infected by the Riker Chubby Virus? I swear I saw a girdle under his racing uniform.

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Uh, Guys...
By Anonymous Coward (anon@ym.ous) at 19:44:25 on October 19
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It was REALLY boring! It wasn't a great episode. It was predictable as all get out. You knew what was going to happen before it happened.

Another recycled script. That tread looks awfully worn...

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Flawed Episode
By CaptainO () at 16:11:22 on October 19
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There are certain things in an episode such as this that demand to be delivered. One such thing is action. Another such thing is a wedding scene.

The appeal to those who like Voyager are it's characters that we've come to know and like for their little quirks. However, there is a point where their quirks become so predicatble that the audience is calling the shots before they happen. Characterwise, this light bit of fluff is by-the-numbers.

But this episode tried to inject some serious political tension into a supposedly light episode. It was distracting and had no place in the story. A whole episode could have centered around the bombing scheme, especially considering the events in the Middle East. "Drive" came off as disjointed and uncertain, and it was certainly not as exciting as a race episode. It wasn't even exciting for Tom and B'Elanna, because they obviously found time to comment about their relationship and Harry's relationship.

The final insult was depriving the audience of a wedding scene. Television wedding scenes have been the hallmark of emotion and sometimes genuine tension, and each of Star Trek's previous incarnations has given us a wedding scene. This was Voyager's opportunity to show that their crew was family, instead of a ridiculously cheesy shot of the Flyer to close the episode.

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