WARNING: Innocents beware: spoilers for VOY's "Innocence" abound.
In brief: Some nice character moments for Tuvok, with a so-so story.
Written by: Lisa Klink (teleplay); Anthony Williams (story) Directed by: James L. Conway Brief summary: Tuvok's shuttle crash-lands on a moon -- and as Voyager tries to find and recover him, Tuvok comes face to face with three mysterious children convinced that they've been sent to the moon to die.
"Innocence" strikes me as the sort of show that started off as a "hook" in some brainstorming session: "hey, wouldn't it be neat if we have a race that ages backwards?" Now, if treated in the right manner that sort of premise can be amusing (take a look at _The Once and Future King_ if you don't believe me), but it needs to be a pretty interesting treatment to get past the basic implausibility of it happening. While "Innocence" did have a lot of strong character moments with Tuvok and a good performance from Tim Russ backing it up, the story itself really wasn't expanded much beyond that selfsame "hey, wouldn't it be neat" concept -- and as a result, it didn't feel like it did much afterwards.
Starting from the end (as would seem to make sense for a story such as this), I actually found the "revelation" somewhat more pleasant than several people I've talked to. Yes, there are gobs of implausibilities, ranging from the question of why the kids didn't "de-age" all the way back to infants to issues of exactly how births are handled in that species (ouch!). However, from the earlier scene with Tuvok finding clothes in the cave and the repeated reference to energy leaving the Drayans' bodies when they die, I was expecting another "kids evolve into beings of pure energy" ending, which struck me as substantially weaker and more cliched a choice. As such, when I found out it was actually a "de-aging" idea, I was actually a bit relieved.
Moving backwards ... the Drayans themselves didn't make much of an impression with me, mostly because they were given very little definition. Okay, so they appear to be somewhat anti-technology -- yet they have no problem with shuttles that appear to be a match for Voyager's shuttles, complete with weaponry. Apart from that, we know that they consider the particular moon Tuvok crashed on to be sacred territory, and we know that "their aging process is reversed". Did we find out anything else? Nothing that stuck with me, which meant that most of the scenes between Janeway and Alcia felt like running in place.
The meat of the show was the interactions between Tuvok and the "children" (who, strangely enough, were referred to as such many times by the Drayans -- more on that later). Although a few scenes were certainly set up solely for the "let's frustrate Tuvok" angle (the "we promise to be good" scene cutting to the kids running around like maniacs, for instance), there was a nice balance set up here. Occasionally it's nice to remember that Tuvok *is* a parent, and his eventual devotion to Tressa was a good way to mirror the devotion he must feel for his own, now fatherless, children. (Besides, the best reminder that he was a parent was the wordless raised index finger when Corin got whiny -- that "don't push me" gesture and glare said it all. Teachers use it too, after all. :-) )
Of particular interest were three scenes. The scene where Tuvok teaches the kids some rudimentary emotional control was, if you'll pardon the cliche, fascinating -- reminiscent of _Dune_'s "Litany Against Fear" in a few ways, perhaps, but an interesting glimpse nonetheless into *how* Vulcans are trained to behave the way they do. The second scene of major appeal was Tuvok teaching the children to meditate. The meditation itself was nothing much to speak of, but the questions raised about Tuvok's own children were well worth watching, and a simple "if Vulcans don't feel anything, does that mean you don't love them?" spoke volumes in the response it engendered. (Elani's response of "I bet they miss you, too" was perhaps a little too much like some exchanges with Data in TNG, but it did the trick nonetheless.) Finally, the "lullaby" scene worked really well for me, mostly because it was one of the first times Tuvok really did begin to commit to the children. (I frankly thought he also had a pretty decent singing voice, but since I define "decent" as "better than mine" I have a pretty wide range. :-) )
There's actually not that much else to tell. "Innocence" tried to draw parallels between extreme age and extreme youth in terms of simplicity of thought, and in that I think "Innocence" lost. However, "Innocence" also gave us a better look at Tuvok, quite successfully, and that's something I have to value.
So, some shorter thoughts:
-- This is the second script Lisa Klink's done for VOY; the first was "Resistance". Even though this story wasn't particularly solid, the script felt good -- between this and "Resistance", Ms. Klink seems to be shaping up rather well.
-- I liked Chakotay's first-contact-gone-wrong story. Accidentally propositioning the ambassador -- hey, could happen to anyone, right?
-- I really do have to wonder why the three "kids" kept referring to themselves and being referred to by other Drayans as "children". Assuming that there's a universal translator being used (which there should be), isn't it supposed to translate *definitions*? In terms of chronological youth, these folks *aren't* children and shouldn't be called such -- they only seem to be children by their size and physical maturity. That felt slightly dishonest to me.
-- You'll note that there is absolutely no sign of the slightest damage, despite the events of "Deadlock" just a single episode ago. Hmph.
-- Given what happened the *last* time Janeway and Paris flew off in a shuttle together, you'd think they might be wary of that particular pairing. (I now apologize for making everyone think of "Threshold".)
-- I'm a little puzzled by some of Harry's sensor readings. He said there were only 2 life-forms detected; weren't there still Drayan search parties around?
-- Lastly, one "solution" that Tuvok should have suggested once Tressa was the only child left was that she sleep in the shuttle. There's room for two easily enough in there, and if the shuttle's securely locked it would strike me as difficult for much of anything to happen.
That's about it. "Innocence" was a mixed bag, but the good character work with Tuvok was enough for me to outweigh some major story problems. Not by much, but enough. So, summing up:
Writing: Good Tuvok/children interactions; the rest was mostly means to an implausible end. Directing: No complaints -- a few moments were successfully eerie, and others were touching. Acting: Good work from Russ and surprisingly decent work from the kids; nobody else really had that much to do. OVERALL: 5.5, I think. Okay, but probably won't age well.
NEXT WEEK: A rerun of "Maneuvers".
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) firstname.lastname@example.org "My attachment to my children cannot be described as an emotion. They are part of my identity -- and I am ... incomplete ... without them." "I bet they miss you, too." -- Tuvok and Elani Copyright 1996, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.