Delta Redux: A Voyager Rewatch: Investigations

By Last Updated: January 15, 2018Views: 2366

In the late 80s and early 90s there was this trend that I like to call “the camcorder episode” and almost every show did it regardless of genre. A camcorder episode was either entirely or partially shot from the point of view of a camera eyepiece as if you the viewer were filming the episode. The shot itself was usually bit grey, perhaps some static fuzz from time to time, and had triangular lines in the corners to indicate framing and the word “rec” flashing red at the bottom to indicate recording.

The premise of these shows was something like a home video or a character doing some kind of armature documentary or some such. Usually it starts off innocently but somewhere along the line something gets seen that shouldn’t be seen, maybe an argument or a crime, just something to justify the camera view.

The reason for these episodes was two-fold. One, the size of video cameras had gotten small enough that carrying one around was not a chore and they were cheap enough that people could actually afford one. This may seem strange now since most people these days essentially carry a high-def movie camera in their pocket but being able to have your own personal video camera was once a really novel idea.

The second reason for doing this kind of episode was simply a way to do something different. It changed up the typical three camera setup of most shows and just added nuance that spiced up the format of your TV show. Again, this may seem a bit quaint in a time where everyone can have their own YouTube channel and pretty much everyone films everything at all times, but there was a time where the idea of doing your own video documentation was kinda cool and different and TV shows tried to reflect that.

It must be noted that this is very much a product of its time and reflected the time period’s sensibilities and, let’s face it, technology. So it rather strange that an episode of Voyager would do a camcorder episode since it is set in the 24th century and you would imagine that technology would progress just a tad at that point.

“Recipes, music, jugglers – it’s sort of like a steady diet of dessert, which is fine. But pretty soon you want some meat and potatoes.” – Harry Kim

And not only technology but entertainment as well. Right now I have access to a plethora of programming including but not limited to TV, a DVD collection and the Internet which provides access to literally the entirety of all things ever created. But it seems the 24th century is so limited in entertainment that they have to watch Neelix’s morning video that is essentially the equivalent to access cable. Seriously, this had to be a punishment right? although running gag with the Doctor not being able to be on the show is pretty funny.

To be fair this was Voyager attempting to do something different and breaking up the typical format a bit – and kudos for effort – but execution leaves a lot to be desired.

But crappy Neelix programming aside Investigations does do something that Voyager generally does not do…follow up on minor ongoing plot lines in a unique way. For the last several episodes there has been a story-line involving Paris being a bit of an ass.  He’s been insubordinate, rude, gambling, drinking, and generally being unpleasant. But we find out in this episode it’s all been a ruse!  That’s right he’s been acting in order to flush out the spy on board Voyager going so far as to get himself kicked off the ship and captured by the Kazon to uncover the truth. Sure it’s all very convenient that no one searches him and they lock him in a room full of equipment he can use to escape but hell they paid off story-line so I’m not going to complain. And again, to be fair, Neelix doing his investigative journalism shtick does pay off in the end by uncovering the spy (sort of) and sure it’s a bit convoluted but at least it’s interesting. And I’ll take interesting over safe any day.

Still Neelix continues to be a problematic character. The show seems to really want him to be a major contributor to the overall dynamic but he just doesn’t have much more that jealous husband or guy who kinda cooks well. Every so often – and it happens a bit in this episode – he shows flashes of being an information gatherer and wannabe smuggler, and that’s great. If the show had just started him off as a Talaxian Han Solo I could buy him knowing the intricacies of the underworld…but as it is he just comes off a bumbling goober.

In the end Investigations is a run of the mill episode that is trying to be different. It attempts to experiment with format and converging storylines into a narrative that somewhat resembles an arc. So as I said kudos to the effort. But much like Neelix’s program…this episode is trying but there is not a lot there.

The journey continues.

Next Time On Star Trek Voyager

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