"STAR TREK VOYAGER" Retrospect: (5.21) "Juggernaut"
When I first saw (5.21) "Juggernaut", I did not like it. Not at all. Who could like an episode in which one of the characters indulges in a temper tantrum throughout the entire story, while stuck in some space vessel leaking from radiation?
Mind you, I had been new to "STAR TREK VOYAGER", when "Juggernaut" first aired. It was the third or fourth episode of the series I had ever seen. After seeing it for a second time, I had revised my opinion of the episode. I still do not consider it as a favorite "VOYAGER" episode of mine. But I thought it was interesting and found myself sympathizing with the main character in this episode – Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres.
In "Juggernaut", Voyager responds to a distress call of a heavily-damaged Malon freighter. Torres, Neelix, Commander Chakotay, and the only two surviving Malons have six hours to stop a Theta-radiation fallout, which will destroy everything within a three light-year radius. The Away-team must clear the radiation, section-by-section, to reach the control room, and along the way they deal with unstable airlocks and the Vihaar, a Malon boogeyman who is more malicious than mythical. As for B’Elanna, she has to deal with an increasing bad temper that seemed to have gripped her.
As one who has spent so many years struggling to keep my temper in check and failing, I understood what B'Elanna was going through. Clearly, she was going through a bad day. It must have been frustrating to hear lectures from everyone about keeping her temper in check. Whenever someone said the same to me, my temper became even more explosive. And I saw the same happening to B'Elanna. Many of Voyager’s crew really did not understand her, did they? Especially Chakotay. It still amazes me that he and B'Elanna had been friends for so many years and he never really understood her. Sometimes I wonder if he ever wanted to try. Of the entire Voyager crew, it seems only Tom Paris and Neelix were capable of soothing her temper. Perhaps that was due to the fact that they seemed to accept B'Elanna as she was and did not try to change her. Janeway wanted her (and just about everyone else) to be the epitome of a Starfleet officer. Tuvok wanted B’Elanna to adapt Vulcan methods of dealing with her temper. Her other best friend Ensign Harry Kim seemed to have accepted her as she was . . . until she lost her temper and he did a fast disappearing act. And I never knew what Chakotay wanted her to be. Perhaps the ultimate Starfleet officer? The perfect Maquis freedom fighter? Completely Human? Who knows, but it seemed quite obvious he was never satisfied with her.
Some critics have complained that "Juggernaut" only showcased B'Elanna at her worst. They also complained that the episode never allowed her to save the day, using her engineering skills. Personally? Who cares??? This episode was about B'Elanna's personal psyche, not her skills as an engineer. Fans already knew that B'Elanna was a good engineer. The series has conveyed scenes of both her and Seven or Harry working on projects together with a great deal of success (and it's about time!). I suppose screenwriters Bryan Fuller, Nick Sagan and Kenneth Biller, along with director Allan Kroeker and the producers had intended this episode to be about B'Elanna's control or lack of control of her temper. Instead, I found myself realizing that very few people on that ship really understand her.
The story struck me as pretty good, although I have some doubts about the pacing. I must admit that I found it odd Voyager would encounter the Malon again (their first encounter happened in the season premiere – (5.01) "Night", especially after using the Borg transwarp conduit in (5.16) "Dark Frontier". Fortunately, the writers brought up that issue by having Voyager’s crew express surprise by the Malons' appearance. The pacing seemed a little off in the episode’s second half. And I could have done without the radiation "monster" lurking within the Malon freighter. It sounded like something right out of "ALIEN". And I would have prefer for B'Elanna to re-enact with the Malon core worker a little more, before she was forced to beat him senseless.
Aside from my few quibbles, I must admit that I have a higher regard for "Juggernaut" than I originally did. Despite some of the pacing and a few misguided plot points, I must commend the screenwriters for creating an interesting character study for the B’Elanna Torres character. And I have to admit that Roxann Dawson did an excellent job in continuing to carry the complexities of her character. Overall, I believe it was a pretty decent episode.