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Natural Law

By AntonyF
Posted at May 9, 2001 - 7:43 PM GMT

'Natural Law' - copyright Paramount Pictures Episode: #268
Story By: Kenneth Biller & James Kahn
Teleplay By: James Kahn
Directed By: Terry Windell

With only two more episodes left before the finale (don't I sound like a UPN trailer), I'm really surprised episodes like this are even conceived. At a time when every last moment of character development should be explored, when loose ends need to be tied up, we get a rather pointless story like this one.

While going to a conference, Chakotay and Seven are stranded on a planet. They manage to take some supplies with them when they have to abandon ship, but heavens forbid they might take a med kit. But of course it's Chakotay's injured leg is the plot device that allows him to be found by the Ventu. Ahh, the Ventu. It seems to me, proud of themselves with 'The Void' aliens, they writers had to go for another silent, innocent race. That's all well and good, and I have always said that Voyager needed to explore different cultures that maybe act and communicate in different ways, rather than the forehead-of-of-the-week shooting-at-the-ship aliens. But it seems too close to 'The Void', and isn't necessary now we're in the last few episodes.

Are the Ventu pretty strong too? Communicators must be pretty sturdy, after all they survived the destruction of a planet in 'Time and Again'. However a small rock on some soft soil is all that's needed to smash one into pieces in this episode! Chakotay is defenceless against these evil communicator-smashing aliens, and just when he thinks his skull is going to go the same way, they take him into their care and fix him up. It seems they're nice aliens after all. Ain't that sweet. Seven later catches up with Chakotay, but does her usual pouty-face routine over it all, so that she can have "character development" later on.

In space, Tom Paris is buzzing around the local space station. And what a cool space station it is. Obviously so much work went into creating the space station, for its use to be over in just a few seconds. A bit of a travesty I think. It seems that Tom Paris has to have flying less. Mildly amusing for about 10 seconds, especially considering I mentioned his arrogance last week, but after that rather boring. It's pointless filler… adding nothing to character development in the last few hours of the show. Why not tie up a loose end? What about some of the crewmembers we haven't seen for ages? The rest of the 'Learning Curve' crew people, Samantha Wildman, Joe Carey... oops, yes that last loose end was firmly tied up last week. On second thoughts, maybe it's not a good idea to bring characters back. Stick to the useless plot filler after all…

Back on the planet, it's pretty much business as usual. Seven has to go off in search of the technology. Obviously the Borg don't have a sense of direction, as she goes round in circles. Chakotay meanwhile is having a whale of a time communicating with the Ventu. As much as I think it's great for Chakotay to have a bit more of a role in an episode, why this one? It's like "He's an Indian, we'll put him in the woods." Okay, he might be more spiritual than some of the crew, a better communicator, and I think those are admirable qualities. But it's also rather predictable for him. They've continually not used him or dumbed him down. I think, personally, it's to make Janeway look better. If you had a 1st officer with the will and strength of Riker or Kira, Janeway would have looked incompetent and redundant a lot of the time. Make the first officer a character to use whenever you have an episode with a forest in ('Tattoo,' 'Nemesis' and now 'Natural Law'), and Janeway is suddenly more important.

I know Chakotay isn't the most popular character ever. I don't mind him, but can you blame viewers for not liking him? We should have seen more of Chakotay the Maquis officer. One that was stronger, more capable, and not in the shadow of Janeway. More like the Chakotay we saw back in season two, with episodes such as 'Manoeuvres.' Sadly the only time Janeway's lapdog gets off his leash is when the forest set is out for an airing.

On to Seven's "development." Well, we've seen all this before, and it doesn't require a lot of explanation. Seven acts icy, Seven doesn't agree, Seven doesn't want anything to do with whatever. Seven starts to warm to the situation, looks thoughtful a bit, and then we end the show. I just don't see how Seven looking changed, really reflects her being changed by the experience. We had a few comments about her now caring for the Ventu. Yeah, whatever. It was hardly a life-changing event anyway.

They couldn't even give us some sparks between Chakotay and Seven, which you think they would have done considering the finale episode 'Endgame.'

Needless to say it's all wrapped up nicely before the end. Seven even became rather good at speaking their language. I did enjoy how Jeri Ryan portrayed Seven's reluctance to use it first of all. However her fluency in it, I think, was stretched too far at the end.

It wasn't a big guest cast this week. I felt Robin Curtis Brown as Tom's flight instructor was very good, and was certainly above the talent of most Voyager guest stars. So why limit this guy to some stupid role? The only other notable guest star was Ivar Brogger as Barus. Instantly recognizable as the Romulan/Borg from 'Unity,' but he won't be remembered by Trek fans for this non-role.

So I've pretty much moaned about this episode constantly, and gone into the use of Chakotay in the show at large. But I don't actually hate this episode. I found it to be more watchable than I imagined after reading the script. It kept my interest going at an acceptable level, had a different alien race, and gave Chakotay some air time. If anything, previous Voyager episodes should have been more like this. However, it's just the timing of it all that annoys me. It's a weak story in terms of character development, and in the final hours of Voyager they should be getting every last drop of character development out of the show. That, sadly, is not the case here.

Next week: The writers continue their quest for racial purity before the ship returns home.

This is the latest in a series of special guest reviews AntonyF is writing of Voyager's 'Final Chapter'. Check back here soon for his review of 'Homestead,' the Voyager episode airing tonight.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

AntonyF is a freelance writer and interviewer, who will be known to some for running Star Trek Central until recently. He recently set up a new website, B5LR.com, dedicated to Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers.

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