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To be fair, you can see their point. This casting decision was transparently an attempt at cross-promotion between UPN's two biggest hits. More to the point, this wasn't Internationally Beloved Superstar Dwayne Johnson starring in this episode. At this point he was still just Quite Popular Wrestler "The Rock." And professional wrestling doesn't exactly have a sterling reputation as highbrow or even middlebrow entertainment.
It also didn't help that UPN chose to advertise the episode like this. So yeah.
But on balance, looking back on it now, this episode is okay. Not great, or even very good, but okay. A watchable, if unadventurous, example of 90s sci-fi television. (Not unlike Voyager itself, to be honest). Its treatment of combat sports (specifically pro wrestling, if we're being honest - Jeffrey Combs' character even promotes Seven as a dastardly foreign heel) is a lot better and more nuanced than you'd expect. Chakotay and others understand and champion the appeal of athletic contests like this. But as in real life, the amount of money made by this sport causes people to turn a blind eye to the corruption and harm that it causes.
Unfortunately, any moral ambiguity is torpedoed by the fact that human trafficking is involved. The moment people start getting kidnapped and enslaved, your nuanced discussion of the ethics of combat sports gets shoved out the airlock into the cold vacuum of NOPE. This isn't the only example of confused, inconsistent writing in this episode, either. How does the crew not know about the very popular red matches? Wouldn't that be one of the FIRST things you'd learn about Tsunkatse?
Still, I was deeply amused by the fact that Jeffrey Combs's monopoly on Tsunkatse essentially stemmed from his systemwide broadcast empire. I wonder if he put all the territorial Tsunkatse promotions out of business by poaching all their talent, too. Not only does this episode have the Rock, it has Space Vince McMahon! Mediocre as "Tsunkatse" may be, at least it has that.
And that's the bottom line, 'cause Maruhkati said so, if ya smell what the Mark is cookin'. (Sorry, I had to).
For those members of this community who aren't American, there are four major over-the-air, non-cable networks on U.S. television: NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX. There were originally three, and it was thought there wasn't any room for a fourth, but FOX took advantage of the NFL and the Simpsons to work their way in during the 1990s. This gave Paramount an idea. They'd been having a lot of success selling TNG and DS9 in syndication to individual stations. And hey, if the big shots were wrong about there being room for a fourth network, why not a fifth? Thus was born the United Paramount Network, and Voyager became its flagship show.
I was a young fan of Trek at the time. Even as a five year-old, I'd play Star Trek with my younger brothers, enlisting my bald father to play Picard. And as it happens, my local UPN affiliate also ran Deep Space Nine. So, like a lot of people, my family ended up watching UPN a lot, even if I was a bit too young to understand everything that happened in them when they first began. But also like a lot of people, I had no interest whatsoever in any of UPN's non-Star Trek programming. I remember seeing a lot of ads for Platypus Man and Shasta McNasty that basically amounted to "PLEASE DON'T CHANGE THE CHANNEL AFTER VOYAGER PLEEEASE." No dice. And we didn't even have cable at my house.
Then, in 1999, the WWF, riding an all-time high, decided to commission a second weekly show: WWF: Smackdown. Unlike their flagship Monday Night RAW, this one would be on network television. For the first time, I was able to watch wrestling. Despite the fact that I was about six years below WWF's target audience at the time, I was hooked pretty much immediately.
Most of this was because of one man: The Rock. I couldn't get enough of him. He was absolutely electric - handsome, charismatic, funny, and totally fucking badass. He could have committed a murder right in front of 12 year-old me and I would have told the cops I didn't see shit. I would practically pray for the deaths of his enemies. I can't even guarantee there weren't family members I didn't love as much as I loved the Rock.
Don't think I'm getting it off him, to be honest.
Have a trophy:
It contains more Smash Mouth than the last one, but not as much as the first one. I will spoil nothing else about it, except to say that about every three minutes, I was yelling "Goddammit" at the screen and laughing my ass off at the same time.
As it stands right now, I'm in "Fuck it, I've won already, let's see how much land I can blob for Japan" mode. Right now I have all of China, Korea, and Indochina, and I'm making inroads into Central Asia and India. I'm shooting to have the Empire stretch from the oil fields of the Caucasus to the sea.
It is honestly terrifying how much fun these detailed simulations of total bastardry are. It makes me question whether I'm really a good person.