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The Maquis Return in "Repression", But Poor Execution and Abrupt Conclusion Wastes Opportunity

Posted: 00:16:10 on October 26 2000
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: Reviews - Voyager

Reviews Ex Deus
"Repression"
Written for TrekWeb.COM by 'O. Deus'

For all the years Voyager has been in the Delta Quadrant, Tuvok has been suspicious of a Maquis revolt. In Worst Case Scenario it was Tuvok who even started a holographic simulation of what might happen if the Maquis attempted to take over Voyager. As the paranoid and borderline fascist security officer Tuvok has acted to protect Voyager from the Maquis threat and now ironically enough it turns out that the Maquis threat comes from Tuvok himself. This is an interesting notion and unfortunately it's about the only interesting notion in the whole episode.

In part this is because the subject matter just isn't all that gripping. Voyager's premise of Maquis working together with Starfleet was a basic error because while the Maquis were relevant in the Alpha Quadrant where their politics vis a vis the Federation's peacemaking with Cardassia meant something, in the Delta Quadrant they're just guys who like to wear leather under their combadges. Without the Bajorans, Cardassians and the DMZ around, any episode involving the Maquis has a distant, remote feel to it. Worse yet, Repression feels like it should have been a first or second season episode, or as if it were written by someone whose impressions of Voyager are fixed from around those seasons. Its entire notion of Maquis paranoia and tension which might have served to smooth out a Maquis integration storyline years ago seems fairly retrograde by the seventh season. Finally, Repression makes the key, stunning mistake of being a detective story where the real culprit is out of reach, out of touch and out of communications range leaving the episode a story without any accessible villains and making it a generally uninvolving display.

From a charming beginning featuring Paris and Torres trying to watch 3D movies on the holodeck to the early investigation, Repression manages to generate a certain paranoid resonance by drawing out the mystery so that it actually seems intriguing. Voyager has never had a really good detective story, despite several lackluster attempts, and for the first twenty minutes Repression seems almost ready to provide one. The Maquis in the Delta Quadrant may not be the most compelling subject matter but the notion of buried tensions on board Voyager or some deep dark secrets in the Maquis past had plenty of potential for a good story. However once Repression begins to veer away from the actual mystery and towards yet another "Tuvok InnerConflict Story(TM)", it becomes doomed to feature scenes of Tuvok desperately scrabbling at his face as if he is trying to dig his brain out with his fingernails. Twenty minutes of Tim Russ staggering about in a frenzy, twitching his face as if there are ants under his skin and wandering around with a glazed psychotic expression might be entertaining at a Halloween party but closeup shots of Tuvok's frenzied expression don't make good dinner entertainment and contrary to what Russ and the director may have thought, they make really poor drama.

In Star Trek, Spock\Data characters such as Spock, Data, Worf or Odo have been unique, intriguing but potentially dangerous. They were marked by their restraint contrasted with inner personal conflicts. They were also marked by a high standard of acting. Voyager on the theory that more is [more], has 3 Spock\Data characters on board and also has Tim Russ; and where Nimoy, Spiner or Auberjonois might have chosen restraint or dignity, Tim Russ chooses to act like a raving psycho for 15 minutes. Where a restrained performance from Russ might have helped redeem at least a portion of the episode, instead the suspense in Repression hinges on just when Tuvok will stop acting crazy and put an end to the whole mess.

While many of the early Spock\Data episodes that emphasized the potential of Spock\Data characters to go a little loony without being responsible for their actions were gripping and original, since then there seems to have been hundreds of episodes involving Spock\Data characters going nuts. ALL THREE of the last three TNG movies have featured a plot in which Data goes off his rocker in a way that makes him threatening or useless to the crew. In Generations, Data's emotion chip prevents him from stopping Soran thereby allowing the kidnapping of Geordi and all the resulting events. In First Contact Data betraying the crew or not was the climax of the movie. In Insurrection it was the premise. We've had more than a few episodes in which the EMH went haywire and threatened Voyager. And now we have Repression, which rather than choosing to at least explore the Maquis or tensions on Voyager, instead hinges the plot on Tuvok going batty. Where TNG's Manchurian Conspiracy pastiche had the sense to focus the plot not on Geordi overcoming himself, but the crew stopping him in time, Repression expects us to focus on what's going on behind Tuvok's face instead.

This worked halfway well with one of Voyager's top actors, Robert Picardo in Warhead, but even there the onus was on the moral debate between him and Kim and the notion of Kim's command abilities. Repression has nothing as tangible to pin Tuvok's transition onto except Janeway tossing out meaningless cliches (and Mulgrew is Voyager's worst actor). Are we really supposed to believe that the brainwashing that overcame the power of a Vulcan mind and of a Starfleet officer and forced him to commit numerous crimes and rebell against the Federation was completely snapped just by Janeway telling him that he's in control of his own actions.

Admittedly the notion of using a Vulcan as a Manchurian Conspiracy brainwashing generator is interesting and Voyager has been teasing us with a Maquis revolt for quite some time, only to deliver one now in the seventh season. But ultimately characters who do things while brainwashed aren't particularly interesting. They're just robots who stride around and aren't responsible for their actions and for the consenquences of their actions. The Maquis rebellion isn't remotely interesting because Chakotay and Torres aren't themselves and aren't responsible for what they're doing. A real Maquis rebellion early on in Voyager's history at the end of which Starfleet and Maquis would have been forced to realize that they need each other and must continue being allies for a common goal might have been interesting, but what Repression has to offer is silly.

On the plausibility front, are we really supposed to buy less than a dozen people taking over Voyager and subduing its crew... and two people then subduing them and taking it back all in a very short time. Janeway ignores Tuvok's call to Chakotay even though she knows that Tuvok has been mind controlled into mind melding with them and that those crew have now seemingly recovered and are back on duty. Without so much as a struggle Janeway allows her ship to be taken over, herself to be imprisoned in the brig and nearly killed.

All said, the only good points of this episode are a demonstration of what Voyager might have been like commanded by Maquis and a competent Captain and the Maquis plan to dump the Starfleet personnel on a world to start their own colony.

Wonder what they would have called it.

TREKWEB TALKBACK

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I think....
By Brikar () at 16:30:58 on October 28
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I did like this episode, and I think the true flaws in it are minor, with the exception of the ending. I didn't watch it while it was on, and instead recorded it. After I watched the ending, I seriously rewound the tape because I thought I'd missed something. "Wait, what?" I believe were my exact words. But throughout the rest of the episode, I was entertained. The first twenty minutes I think were some of the best minutes I've seen on Voyager, right up there with those suspenseful moments of the very best of Voyager: "Scorpion, Part 1", when Janeway is on the Borg ship as the planet below is being destroyed. I even liked the Maquis revolt, even though it was a result of brainwashing. It may not seem cool to the rest of you, but it DOES fit with the rest of the episode since the whole point was that Tuvok was brainwashing the crew. The only two things I found truly bad was the test of Tuvok's loyalty (I liked this scene better when it was in an episode called "Descent, Part Two") and the... well, NON-EXISTENT ending. There was nothing there. One moment, Tuvok is ready to kill Janeway. He fires the phaser. Granted, nothing happens, but I think that was because Chakotay never really meant for Janeway to be killed anyway. And then, as soon as the room clears, Tuvok melds with Chakotay, and the two of them take the bridge right like that. Torres just doesn't seem like the kind of character who would stand for that kind of crap. So why does she just stand there when Chakotay says "don't move!"? And what about the two or three other Maquis on the bridge? I think if one or two of the raving Tuvok scenes had been cut out and the time allocated to a more concrete resolution, not so many people would be so upset with this episode.

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Regression
By Anonymous Coward (anon@ym.ous) at 21:33:53 on October 26
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I truely believe that this episode could have been one of the best VOY episodes ever, the only problem was the writers had no idea why any of this should be happening or how they were going to end it. I mean is this Bajoren guy just insane? How in the univerce can you have a rebellion with out anybody to rebel against? How did Tuvok suddenly get that guy out of his head? How did he know the phaser was out of power (or did he hope it did have power)? How did 12 people take over Voyager? How did 2 people retake over Voyager? What was the point of this episode???? By the profits! I've been one of Voyagers biggest defenders but this is the worst written episode of Star Trek ever.

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Repression of writing skills?
By Muely () at 19:31:29 on October 26
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This episode had some opportunities to go beyond the typical Voyager episode. Of course Tuvok was the perp, that was obvious by the second commercial break. Come on, the doctor couldn't figure out the neck and shoulder contusions came from a vulcan pinch? He can sing and dance, but he can't figure that one out? Anyway, this episode would have been a better arc rather than a one episode head scratcher.

Tuvok putting people into commas could have been worked into some other useless episode, they seem to have a lot of those, maybe into a 7o9 episode a year or two ago, and it's triggered by some random event and it's simply ignored. Then they start getting regular messages, and they could have spent some time explaining what Tiro's intentions were, and show the crew in revolt. In fact, if they had say 3 episodes where Voyager was under the Marquis command, I think this idea would have been great, kind of like the start of the 5th season of DS9, where the station was occupied.

Voyager's problem is that the writers spend too little time exploring some of these ideas. They are of the mind that each episode should be able to stand on it's own, and to a degree they should. But don't have a revolt build for 58 minutes of the show only to have it deflated in the last minute and the captain just say Ok, thanks for my ship back and leave it at that. If you are going to explore an idea like this, take the time, it would be worth it (and a change of pace for once).

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Um... huh?
By Anonymous Coward (anon@ym.ous) at 18:42:09 on October 26
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Now, I liked the episode reasonably fine BUT... the biggest head scratcher was this: Why in hell did this Bajoran zealot send this signal at all? What does he care? The Maquis in the Alpha Quadrant are all DEAD and even at Voyager's current course and speed they have quite a few years left before they reach home, as far as the mind control guy is concerned (We, the viewers, on the other hand may have a decent idea of when... or if... they get home) So in all reality, what does that guy care? Did he just feel like being a punk ass? What was the point of that? Will it be revisited again? Anyone have any thoughts?

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Useless Review...
By Imbarkus (imbarkus@mindspring.com) at 18:28:59 on October 26
URL: http://imbarkus.home.mindspring.com/library/trek.html | User Info
That spends more time rambling on about other Trek shows and how the episode should have happened earlier in the series, than it does reviewing the actual episode.

Complain that Russ plays that he is struggling with his conditioning for most of the episode, and then complain that his victory seems to have come without a struggle. Wha?

State that the Maquis rebellion has no meaning in the Delta Quadrant, and then want the Maquis villain to be centered on the ship, in the Delta Quadrant. Huh?

This was no mystery show, O Deus. It had the trappings, but an astute viewer (or perhaps reviewer) would have noticed the cues from the director's choices--the steadicam angle over Tuvok's shoulder when he investigates the crime scene, the clear choice to telegraph to the audience symptoms of Tuvok's struggle. We knew of Tuvok's guilt before he did. Not the modus operandi of mystery--this was a suspense story. Would the crew's trust in each other end up destroying them? Who would realise in time that it was Tuvok? Well, Tuvok did. Nice twist in my book. Was it in time? Just barely.

Furthermore I rather like the mad Maquis zealot twist. An inventive way to make the "Maquis rebellion" plot twist work on Voyager, continuing thematic threads laid out in "Life Lines"--what is forgotten or forgiven on Voyager may not be at home. Old wounds still run deep near the badlands.

Biggest flaw of "Repression?" Too much time given to detective red herring, not enough to the various uprisings. But the best quality of the episode, especially true in the "shoot Janeway" scene, is that it was unpredictable. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the review to which I am replying.

'Nuff said.



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Ethics, Morals, Brainwashing...
By Anonymous Coward (anon@ym.ous) at 12:21:32 on October 26
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Let me explain this. I'm sitting on my couch, watching Voyager. It's 9:53, PM. I'm waiting for the dramatic theme music and "TO BE CONTINUED" flashed in front of my eyes. It's 9:57. I'm seeing the scene that was in the promo. Finally. It took them an ENTIRE HOUR to get to the Maquis revolt. For some reason, this should've been a two-part episode, instead of the next episode being another ethical/moral Doctor episode. I can't help bu feel as if they're knocking down crew dilemmas one by one. First Seven, then Torres/Paris, then Tuvok...and anyone else offended by Regression when they were talking about harvesting a drone's cortical node? I sorta viewed that as Voyager's commentary on fetal tissue harvesting. Maybe that was intentional or not. Question, here:why the heck would Chakotay distrust Tuvok if Tuvok and everybody else has been programmed into accepting the revolt. Sorry, that's not how a Brainwashed person would act.

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Mulgrew Bashing
By Anonymous Coward (anon@ym.ous) at 11:56:49 on October 26
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You know what I am getting tired of...all the Kate Mulgrew bashing that goes on.... Give me a freakin break. She's a very competent actress and I love her as Captain Janeway (can't imagine anyone else). She's done a very good job so far and has managed to portray a starfleet captain with some highly interesting attributes versus those of Picard, Sisko or Kirk.

Give the lady a break and get on with your life already...

Sheesh!

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Actually, I thought it was one of Voyager's best
By Jabara Eris (jabaraeris@yahoo.com) at 10:17:16 on October 26
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Why did everybody hate "Repression" so much? I came away thinking it was one of the absolute BEST Voyager episodes ever made -- and I've seen every one!

Before anybody accuses me of being a brain-dead Voyager groupie, I am quick to admit that I consider Voyager to be the absolute worst of the four Trek series, and I go into an episode expecting it to be typically mediocre.

Which is why I was so pleasantly surprised by "Repression."

Yeah, Tuvok's sudden ability to break free of the brainwashing wasn't explained really well, but I could live with that because -- by not letting the viewer know that he had come to his senses -- it created a tense situation and joltingly sudden resolution. Not everything that happens behind the scenes has to be explained, folks. That's what our imagination is for!

As for the rest of the episode, I was shocked to find myself totally drawn into the plot because I find most Voyager storylines to be real yawners. I actually found myself literally on the edge of my seat, wondering how the situation was going to be resolved and whether to expect a two-parter episode.

I have to admit that maybe I liked the episode so much because I'm a bit fanatical about Bajorans and their theology, and I've always been highly fascinated by the Maquis. So you can imagine my delight at encountering a plot containing an overzealous Bajoran who's both a Vedek and a never-say-die Maquis!!! Yes, we found out very little about this unusual character, but having an unresolved mystery can add spice to a story, and I feel that was the definite case here.

The icing on the cake for me was the little tidbits of trivia that popped up throughout the episode. I learned the Maquis had Bajoran temples in their colonies in the Badlands. I found out the Maquis actually kicked out people for being too radical. I learned about a previously unmentioned Bajoran religious holiday, and I got some official Bajoran language to go with it. I found out Tuvok's son is an interesting lad with a taste for music. And so on.

All in all, the thought going through my head as I watched the closing credits was, "Now, this is Star Trek! How come it took so long for the writers to remember how to do this?"

"Repression" was to me one of the top-five best Voyager episodes, and I can only hope we see more of this kind of writing before the series grinds to a halt next year.

Voka a Bentel,
(May you walk with the Prophets),

Eris

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I write for a couple reasons...
By Steve Krutzler (s_krutzler@trekweb.com) at 00:28:06 on October 26
URL: http://trekweb.com/brittandsteve | User Info
1. I liked the show immensely until the final 60 seconds, despite the Maquis unbelievability, admittedly bad Russ acting, implausibility in take-over, and anachronism. I though the "mystery flavor" directing etc. was well done and the semi-new score kept me involved.

2. The entire show just falls apart with what has to be one of if not THE WORST ending ever to a Star Trek episode (and I don't remember half VOY's episodes for obvious reasons so I could be forgetting some bad ones). I mean, they didn't even MAKE THE EFFORT to explain what the hell happened. No explanation for Tuvok's recovery. No explanation for the Zealot's purpose. Janeway is cracking jokes as Chakotay, who for all she knew almost killed her, says she can have her ship back. God, how retarded. The utter lack of even a BADLY WRITTEN ending is replaced with NO ENDING! It's literally as if whoever the hell wrote the teleplay (and a certain someone who is supposed to go over all the scripts and make sure that maybe they don't suck before going into production) just ran out of time in the end and said, "ah, screw it..."

After a relatively suspensful build-up for 40 minutes of footage (an amazing feat for this show I'm sure many of us can agree), the resolution (or lack thereof) made me question yet again why, when setting my VCR meticulously so I can watch West Wing and Law & Order, I don't just say "ah, screw it..."

And maybe somebody on the writing staff should go back to story composition 101 (id est RESOLUTION!).

(To those who will bash me saying I always bash Voyager-- nota bene my praise in the last two weeks (i think it was the last two weeks) of Drive and especially Imperfection. Thank you.)

---

-Steve Krutzler
==V/-/== Rocks.

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