April 25 2024

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Retro Review: Displaced

6 min read
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Crewmembers from Voyager are replaced by confused Nyrians, though Janeway suspects a sinister motive.

Plot Summary: As Paris and Torres argue because he’s pressuring her to explore her Klingon side, a befuddled alien appears in the corridor. When Torres takes him to Sickbay, the crew realizes that Kes disappeared at precisely the same instant the alien arrived. Torres goes to study the problem but Kim disappears while they discuss her personal life. Such incidents continue all over the ship every nine minutes, forcing the crew to keep the curious Nyrians in a cargo bay while they try to figure out what has caused the replacements. Janeway is concerned about the lack of security remaining on the ship, and when Torres discovers that the transports don’t appear to be a natural phenomenon, the Nyrian assisting her attacks the nearest officer. An angry Torres is transported immediately and finds herself among the crew in a sunny locale where everyone proves to be healthy, well-fed, but trapped. As one of the few remaining crewmembers, Chakotay learns of the attack and begins to sabotage Voyager, transferring the Doctor into his portable emitter just before being sent to the Nyrian prison, where a leader tells Janeway and the others that they will be cared for but the Nyrians require their ship. Tuvok finds that the natural-looking barriers around their enclosure are artificial, and soon a different alien steps through a hidden portal. Once Torres reprograms the Doctor’s emitter so that he can search for other such passages, Janeway is able to find a Nyrian control room. She and Tuvok hack into the system and find the device to transport back to Voyager, using it to take the Nyrians now controlling Voyager’s bridge into an arctic environment. The Nyrians surrender and agree to let all the aliens imprisoned in their respective environmental pods contact their home planets, allowing Voyager to depart peacefully.

Analysis: So much is silly about “Displaced” that I feel silly watching it, though I have the impression the writers thought they were making the crew look good. “Hey! We’ll come up with a gimmick to get the ship in big trouble and show how individual skills and teamwork save the day!” It feels like a show for the kiddies, with a toothless alien and some of the most contrived flirting since…well, the episode before. For the third week in a row, Janeway loses control of her ship. Certainly that happened to Kirk and Picard on occasion, but given this track record, it’s a real wonder that the impending mutiny in “Worst Case Scenario” is only virtual. One can rationalize that it’s a string of bad luck, running into a space tornado, then dinosaurs in space, and now the stupidest space kidnappers we’ve ever encountered, given that Riker and LaForge had more trouble with the “not smart” Pakleds. At what point would any reasonable crew start to ask when the captain will spend more time trying to get them home and less investigating aliens and spatial anomalies? If Janeway’s going to take the trouble to make sure the Nyrians send all their other prisoners back to their home planets, which is arguably Federation interference in something that’s been going on in the Delta Quadrant for some time, shouldn’t she see whether there are any allies among those she has just rescued – someone with knowledge of Borg space or where to find the engine components she usually risks the ship to siphon out of space tornadoes? It’s hard not to feel like she’s made to look incompetent because that’s the only way the writers can come up with stories to tell, dragging out months on end of space travel toward Earth, when it’s apparent that the crew should spend less time flirting and creating holographic families in lieu of testing intruder alarms. Really, Tuvok, after dinosaurs snuck onto your ship undetected, you didn’t work on the sensors so that if Kes got swapped with someone from a different species, a signal would go off on the bridge?

I understand that it’s hard to come up with ways for the crew to be pro-active every week. The other series have lots of natural reasons for their crews to be taking the initiative – forging long-term alliances, negotiating treaties, stopping conflicts, finding ways to share local space, investigating the frontiers of science, making discoveries that would benefit lots of people besides themselves. Voyager’s lost-in-space hung-hero premise means that a majority of crew behavior is going to take place in reaction to things that happen to them, many of which they might prefer to avoid in favor of a quiet stretch of space with nothing but Neelix’s briefings to generate excitement. Since these are mostly Starfleet officers who went looking for adventure and excitement, let’s assume the bulk of them are fine with Janeway stopping to investigate random phenomena and help out aliens they’ll never see again. That doesn’t mean they won’t have typical human emotions when faced with situations like the entire crew being abducted one by one and whisked off to who knows where. Forget that nobody panics and screams, which we can assume that Starfleet and Maquis alike are strong enough to resist. Nobody tries to set up a private force field using equipment outside of their areas? Nobody steals a phaser and tries to make a Nyrian talk to see if they know what’s really going on? Nobody gets on a shuttle to see whether what happens on the ship also happens off the ship? Apparently everyone is mindlessly going on about his or her duty, unless it’s Torres, who’s too busy going on about her crush on Paris to get on top of the situation in Engineering. On this second watch, Paris/Torres feels as contrived as Taylor Swift/Tom Hiddleston, and while it’s working to Paris’s advantage, purging his bad-boy image while he repeatedly saves everyone, it’s turning her into something worse than a Klingon cliche; she’s the stereotypical woman who can’t concentrate on her job when she likes a boy.

If really good plots were driving the stories and the character fluff took place in the background, I’m sure it would bother me less. But the Nyrians make less sense the more we learn about them. Instead of developing their own spaceships, they’ve developed top-notch transporter technology to steal ships from other races. Clever, but aren’t there rumors about ships going missing in that part of space, like the Bermuda Triangle? Do the Nyrians wait around for new tech to show up the way the space worm in The Empire Strikes Back waited around for ships to fly into craters on its asteroid? Apparently the Nyrians see themselves as kindly since their M.O. is to whisk crews away painlessly (I gather that Chakotay is one of the rare exceptions who tried sabotage) and park the abducted space sailors into well-tended zoos, but this seems extremely inefficient and dangerous, since presumably species that build better spaceships are pretty good with technology in general. It’s shocking that Janeway is the first to break out. Are we supposed to believe the Nyrians caused the plague that killed whoever was in Voyager’s habitat before, or they just didn’t see it coming? Why take on the expense of keeping captured species alive if you’re just going to let them die off later? Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep one or two crewmembers captive on the ships in case there’s a problem with the machinery that only a builder could repair? This storyline is even more facile than the contrived romance, and it makes the Nyrians look pathetic as an adversary, meaning there’s no strong sense of the crew’s intelligence or teamwork when they work together to defeat the Nyrians. Despite being overly gullible at first in trusting the aliens, Chakotay comes off looking best, since he appears to be having so much fun sabotaging Voyager. It’s impossible to believe these people will be prepared to face the Borg; no wonder the writers decided to sidestep those deadly adversaries for so long.

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