The Great Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: Season 3 (part 1)

Okay here we go into a season that says farewell to a lot of the initial tropes (Kazon, Vidiians, and the Doctor being stuck in sickbay), and pushes on towards the Borg.  Will this mean a season of transition towards something better, or more Threshold-like horrors?  Only time will tell…

Basics (Pt II)

Well hush my mouth!  Despite my prior comments, in the opening minutes we see good old Samantha Wildman and her babe in arms Naomi.  Looks like we won’t be relying on them to retake the ship, which means it’s all down to Mr ‘Kill em all and let God sort it out’ Suder and the Doctor.  Which actually makes for a pretty fair Die Hard-esque A plot to retake the ship, although I could have done without the fleet of Talaxians riding in to help save the day.  You notice they pointedly don’t take Neelix away with them, as he’s as much a pariah to his own race as he is to any sane viewers.

Meanwhile on planet wilderness, Mr Tacotray and Janeway appear to have forgotten utterly that in the previous story they were Mr and Mrs Frontier, and their previous survival skills have evaporated.  I mean, in Resolutions Tacotray was building a canoe with his bare-teeth and a pen knife.  In Basics he can’t even rub two sticks together to start a fire.  Make up your mind showrunners!  At least the lack of water on the rapidly destabilizing planet means we’re spared Janeway in another bath, although she seems hyper-keen to make everyone munch down on (potentially-toxic) insect grubs.

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In a more perfect universe, Hogan would order Neelix to pointlessly act as monster fodder

Anyway, after a few hilarious hijinks (Neelix essentially ordering Mr Hogan to his certain death, Seska falling prey to a particularly explodey console, Mr Suder’s heroic sacrifice) we get the ship back.  And that’s it for the Kazon stories.  You will not be missed, unlike Mr Suder who was ace.

Flashback

Ah the 25th Anniversary episode that isn’t the wonderful Trials and Tribble-ations.  From memory i remember this being a bit of a disappointment.  Rewatching it, I spent most of the episode wondering just how much original content there was vs reused ST: The Undiscovered Country shots.  Yes, it was cool seeing Captain Sulu and Commander Rand again, but on the other hand the main crux of the story – Tuvok has a nebula-space-parasite that makes him go all nostalgic…was eminently skipable.  Also, Janeway appears to not have read up on Kirk’s life much.  Ddd, when you have to assume it’s a given that his iconic life and often questionable command decisions would have been taught at the Academy.  If only to avoid making the same mistakes!

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‘He’s dead Jim…er, Captain’

The episode also ends with a nauseating ‘not-quite-breaking-the-fourth-wall’ exchange twixt Janeway and Tuvok, acknowledging that this was an anniversary celebration.

“But there are times when I think back to those days.  Of meeting Spock. Kirk and the others(*).  And am pleased that I was part of it.”

“In a funny way, I feel like I was a part of it too”

“Then perhaps you can be nostalgic for the both of us”

Certainly, no one’s gonna be nostalgic for this one Kathy!

The Chute

Haven’t I seen this one before?  No, wait this is Harry and Tom in an alien orbiting prison where there’s nothing but prisoners and no guards.  Wait, I have seen this before – it’s Harry 20 on the High Rock!  Anyway, while Harry and Tom try not to go slowly psychotic thanks to alien implants, and a mad justice system without appeals or the ability to quash charges (“You’re innocent…sorry, you still serve your sentence.  That’s just the law”), Janeway tries to winkle out who did commit the crime of which her crew have been convicted.  We also get to meet the hitherto unknown and explodey isotope of dilithium, paralithium.  After that stuff in Threshold, that makes the second new form of dilithium native to the Delta Quadrant.  And counting I suspect.

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Savour it – this is the most-macho Harry Kim ever manages to look in 7 years.

All comes right in the end, when we find out the purpose of the story is to drive forward the ‘best of chums’ subplot for Kim and Paris.  Although unlike Bashir and O’Brien, there’s no subtext going on!  Sorta enjoyable, which for Voyager means it’s almost an outstanding episode!

The Swarm

In an appropriately recurring theme, the Voyager strays into an area of space whose inhabitants don’t tolerate anyone passing through.  Akin to Star Trek Beyond, they fly thousands of tiny ships…although unlike Beyond, the result of Voyager passing through is less (spoiler alert) catastrophic.  That they first make their presence known is by stunning Paris and Torres in a shuttle is slightly odd, as later on they happily slaughter a ship of full of other beings.

In the far-more interesting subplot, after being on for a year and a half the Doctor manages to overfill his memory banks.  Consequently, he starts suffering from hologramatic alzheimer’s, with hilarious/tragic results as his faculties and memories start to fade.  A highlight of the episode is the holographic recreation of his creator, Doctor Zimmerman…also played by Bob Picardo, criticising all the opera and other junk that’s come to clutter up the Doctor’s files.  As the Doctor’s faculties fail more and more, it’s left to Kes to argue his case with the captain, who in a typically organic-favouring lifeform manner dismisses the needs of one her crew, simply because he’s made of hard light.

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Bob Picardo, working his way through all the uniform colours slowly

Okay, so the swarm ships are clamped on the hull, but if it was Harry Kim who needed attention, you can just bet he’d get it.  It’s things like this, along with the Federation’s treatment of Odo and Data, that make me think that despite their credo to ‘seek out new lifeforms’, that they’re pretty shitty at according new life forms with equivalency of existential rights when it comes down to it.  Anyway, the swarm are disbursed and thanks to a software patch the Doctor is saved (for now) but appears to have lost all his 2 years of memories.  But wait, just like B4 at the end of ST: Nemesis(2*), he starts humming a tune…and we realise there’s something still there.  Actually, since Nemesis was filmed 6 years after this episode, for once TNG ripped off Voyager.  How much of the Doctor was saved?  I’m guessing when we next see him, thanks to the almighty Voyager reset button the answer will be “All of him”.  Nothing ever changes much on Voyager…

Particle beam of the week: Poleron burst

False Profits

Great scott, it’s been some time since last season’s Death Wish, but here we are at another truly cracking Voyager episode.  Effectively a sequel to the TNG episode The Price, here we catch up with those loveable rogue Ferengi who ended up getting stuck in the Delta Quadrant the best part of a decade earlier.  Much of this episode is played for laughs, from Tom and Tacotray losing their shoes to a local scam artist through to Neelix’s finest moment in disguise as The Grand Proxy.  Not to mention the Ferengi themselves, who are played with great relish in their dealings with the hu-maans.  There is a moderate amount of jeopardy, when the Ferengi’s religious appropriation threatens to blow up in their faces (being burned at the stake, even I wouldn’t wish that on Neelix), but to be honest the only question I had watching this was “Are the Ferengi going to join the Voyager crew?“.  That would have been a great outcome, but sadly they get sucked down the destabilised wormhole to parts unknown.

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Looks like the structural integrity field’s about to collapse…

I must give a special shout out to the Ferengi’s temple handmaidens who clearly had availed themselves of the space-faring grub eaters high technology.  I mean, it’s the only way their costumes could have been constructed to withstand the…high tensile stresses they were clearly under.  I was glad this episode wasn’t in 3D as I’d have been forced to duck on more than one occassion.

Anyway, space ladies aside, after a few middling to duff episodes, this one was a pleasure to watch from beginning to end.  More like this one please!

Particle beam of the week: Verteron Beam

Remember

I spent the opening moments trying to work out if this was a ‘Harry Kim falls in love’ or a ‘Bellana has an odd experience’ episode, as these two seem to be recurrent tropes in the Voyager cannon.  It’s the latter, as Torres starts to experience vivid memories and dreams that are clearly not her own.  Easily the most nauseating moment, is right in the middle of a very erotic dream she wakes up in her quarters, in bed, in her night attire…to find a fully dressed Tacotray standing over demanding to know why she’s later for work.  And do you know what, she promptly starts to explain her sexy dreams to him.  TO TACOTRAY.  Gah, urgh.  Not since witnessing Janeway in a bath last season has my skin tried to crawl away as quickly.  I feel dirty, and in need of that bath now, sans Kathy!

Anyway, the rest of the episode is a thinly disguised allegory for the Nazi’s treatment of the Jews during WWII, with the visiting telepathic aliens, the Enarans, on Voyager standing in for the Nazis.  Torres effectively is remembering the guilty secrets of a woman who loved one of the space-Jews, and has carried the guilt of her culpability of her people’s crimes ever since.  It’s not exactly subtle, although to be fair Roxann  Dawson puts in a pretty great performance as both Jora Mirell and herself.

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Play that funky music, white Captain…

What little levity there is in the episode comes courtesy of a hair-down Janeway having a go with an Enaran musical instrument, that rather resembles the organsmatron from Woody Allen’s Sleeper.  What with Torres’ sexy dreams and this reference, it all amounts to a whole load of sexy subtext in this episode, that balances rather starkly with the core message of ethnic cleansing by an apparently benign alien race.  Not sure I liked the episode as a whole, but it was at least a challenging plot idea.  Shame the Enarans came out of nowhere, and were never heard from again, as with more build up and fall out, this episode could have had a really powerful punch.

Sacred Ground

Without looking up the guide to this episode, I suspect it’s going to be Tacotray centric, which sends a cold, cold icy chill of fear down my spine.  Turns out its even worse, it’s a Kes episode.  Let’s turn to Wikipedia and their one line episode description.

Kes is left comatose after contacting an energy field around a rock.

Wow,  Just pops doesn’t it.  Actually a large part of this episode is about Janeway going on a ‘mystic voyage’ to recover Kes’ p’agh, katra or some sort of mystic mumbo jumbo.  You know the sort of pseudo-new age carp that Trek loves, with lines like ‘Only when you know you know nothing, are you ready to begin‘ and the like.  Suffice to say, tragically, Kes Doesn’t die and Janeway comes back doubting that science can answer everything.  Look, in a universe where Commander Tacotray gets to take the spiritual and moral high-ground at the end of the episode, that’s not a universe I wanna live in.  Utterly awful episode.

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Waiting for a bus, or enlightenment.  Whichever comes by first I guess.

Future’s End (Pt I)

Finally, onto one of the Voyager episodes I’ve seen a few times, and have always genuinely enjoyed.  There’s a real The Voyage Home feel about this trip to 1996 to recover the time-lost Capt Braxton and his Time-Ship.  But the real treat is in the guest stars.  Sarah Silverman does a passable Gillian Taylor as she goofs off with the comedy paring of Tom and Tuvok.  Yet, the real star here is Ed Begley Jr, who (as Henry Starling) once again shows off his splendid comedy-drama stylings, bouncing off the Voyager cast, and especially Capt Janeway.

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Look at Janeway’s glee, she’s having a whale of a time. Wait, that’s ST:IV

Especial kudos to Janeway for slipping in the time-lost Spock’s line about using “Stone knives and bear skins” in her efforts to crack the Chronowerk’s primitive computer system.  Hey, this is the mid-90s, it probably had a blazingly fast AOL connection of 10kps!  Of course all of this espionage is just a prologue for the grand moment when Starling uses 29th Century Starfleet tech to  bugger up the Voyager, and nick off with the Doctor.  Bum-bum-bum, to be continued!

Future’s End (Pt II)

There are plenty of lose ends, and more comedy afoot here again, but for me it’s all second fiddle for finally giving the Doctor his mobile emitter and getting him out of sick bay.  Congrats, Trek showrunners you took 51 episodes to do something that Arnold J Rimmer could do in S1E01 of Red Dwarf!  Naturally, while this opens up the potential for what we can do with easily the best character in Voyager, there’s still the little matter of chasing down that missing time-ship, in a chase that owes more to Knight Rider in special effects quality than Trek.

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That incoming photon torpedo does not look like good news.

Easily the highlight of the episode is Henry Starling, having thwarted Janeway at every turn, activating the USS Aeon’s time drive as Janeway heroically manually launches a torpedo from Voyager’s crippled launching system.  Starling’s final words “Uh-oh!” manage to capture the essence of the phrase “Oh…shiiiiiiit” without having to call on the non-PG profanity.  Farewell Ed Begley Jr, you’ll be missed!  All in all a great action-comedy two-parter that’s banished the grim misery of Basics from my mind, and highly unusually for Voyager…there’s genuine ramifications for the Doctor that don’t get reset.  More like this ST:V!

Warlord

Oh sweet Jeebus, didn’t we just have a sodding Kes episode two weeks ago, and I’ve already got to endure another one?  Honestly, couldn’t they have accidently left her behind in 1996 or something and taken Rain Robinson on instead?  Anyway, a dying warlord foolishly takes over Kes’ short lived body through his magic fingers (I wish I was making it up) giving Jennifer Lien the chance to strut about like she’s doing Shakespeare in the park with an am-dram group.  Honestly, while she’s being all butch and warlordly, the cast are just hamming it up like it’s Christmas come early.  Once I got this thought into my mind, I couldn’t take a moment of the A-plot episode drama seriously.  I know I shouldn’t, but go watch this (obviously awful) episode and try not to think of it as third rate pantomime!

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Worst. Conference Table. Layout. Ever!

Anyway, Kes survives and despite Tuvok telling her that essentially ‘nothing will ever be the same again’, I’m assuming like all character changing moments none of this nonsense will ever be referenced again.  Oh, aside from her dumping Neelix…I think.  The script’s pretty opaque on this plot point, so I’ll have to see if this tiny nugget is raised next time.

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Yes, this is as downright fucking awful as it looks

The B-plot of the episode is the replacement of the dive bar Sandrine’s, with Neelix’s hedonistic beach paradise, complete with (not very) scantily clad babes and hunks.  Any tiny respect I had for everyone least’s favourite Talaxian vanished the second he put on a Hawaiian shirt and started dancing to a steel drum band just before the opening credits.  Actually, that’s a lie.  I lost any respect when it appear that he was being…deeply gratified…in the opening moments by person or persons unknown.  So there you go, lots of Nelix, lots more Kes: it’s an episode from hell to be sure!

The Q and the Grey

Thank the Maker, a Q episode, which is all the more welcome after the previous terrible episode.  Although it doesn’t open well with the whole bridge crew standing there applauding a star.  An actual star.  Boy, they really need to get out more!  The episode takes a shift for the better when Q and Mrs Q turn up.  Q wants to sire a child, and suggests that Janeway might be best as a mother.  Mrs Q naturally won’t have her ‘man’ knocking rank pips with any lower species.  So far, so good, as the episode looked set to be an inverse of Q-Less, with comedy tiffs aplenty between the not-so-happily married Qs.  At which point supernovas keep going off bang all around the ship…

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Making the Q with Two Backs

All of which means that now we get dragged into the Q Civil War, replete with the blues and grays of the US Civil War.  Which is about as exciting as a holonovel.  Yeah, that bland.  That we get some handwaved explanation of “This is how you perceive the Continuum” is all well and good, but it doesn’t explain the latter appearance of the Voyager crew dressed all in their re-enactment finest.  Tuvok looks especially delighted to be wearing the silly Union soldier hat.  Well done Voyager, I didn’t think you could manage it, but you made a Q episode boring.  Which is a shame, as De Lancie and Mulgrew have fabulous onscreen chemistry together.  Thus, it’s the writing at fault here, not the acting!

Still, Q does get his end away at the episode’s conclusion…

Macrocosm

I can hear the discussions in the writer’s room about this one.

I’ve got a great pitch!  Janeway does Die Hard on Voyager.  Just think about it, Kathy gets all sweaty in a little vest and retakes her ship from Alan Rickman!

Rickman said he wouldn’t do SciFi even if his life depended on it.  Also, didn’t we do Die Hard in space in TNG: Starship Mine.  And then again, and not as coherently, in Insurrection?

Okay, for European Terrorists let’s replace them with…oh I don’t know, giant viruses with tentacles.  But you know something better.  And they spread like flies.  That come out of giant boils on the neck.

That makes no sense at all, flies are bioorganic and viruses are more like crystalline life.

Look, it’s lunch in 10 minutes.  Let’s just pencil that all in, and we can worry about making it more plausible later.

Deal.  Now, what about an episode where Kes turns into an energy beast?

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Set phasers to ‘erotic action’

And that’s pretty much the episode.  50% of Janeway McClaning around the ship in her undies, and 50% anime tentacle henti.  Oh and the Doctor’s in there somewhere with his instant cure, and there’s a side plot involving Neelix becoming Voyager’s ambassidor with a race of ass-hat aliens who hate Kathy’s hips.  Actually, Neelix becoming an ambassador would be useful, were he to reach a point in space, beyond which his knowledge of space ran out.  But that’s never going to happen…

Fair Trade

Mr Neelix reaches the end of his usefulness.  Now, I might have argued that took place during the opening minutes of Season 1, but for some unknown reason the Voyager crew have kept the gerbel-faced annoyance onboard for the best part of three years.  Well, bad news for Mr Neelix, as Voyager pulls up to the edge of the Necrid(3*) Expanse, we reach the edge of space about which Neelix knows.  Just what will he be prepared to do to reassert his usefulness?  Well he’ll lie, cheat, smuggle narcotics and be an accomplice to murder.  Frankly, he shot up in my estimation at this point, as I was reminded we get two kinds of Neelixes in Voyager.  There’s the default, chipper annoyance mucking about in the mess hall or the holodeck (cf. Warlord).  And there’s the rarer, serious Neelix, that we first glimpsed in Jetrel, with the ominous and frankly quite dark backstory.  A former criminal you say. as well as fighting in the armed forces?  My, my Mr Neelix, I swear Garak would love to make your acquaintance!

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Neelix’s genuinely dark secret: He’s a terrible, terrible cook…but the Federation don’t know any better

I by far prefer these latter stories, and just wish as the case with Garak, that as we unfold the leaves(4*) of the complex beast that is Neelix we emerge with a changed character who no longer covers up who he really his with annoying buffoonery.  It’s Voyager, of course, so this is never going to happen.  Character development is out of the window unless you’re 7 of 9 or Janeway’s hair-do, more’s the pity.  As it is, I really enjoyed watching Neelix compound one mistake after another in his desperation to still be of use to the crew, and ending up so far out of his depth he’s willing to risk his life on one chance for redemption.  When he finally comes clean to the Captain, she warns there will be repercussions for his actions.  Whether there really are…I have my doubts.  But after a run of pretty mediocre episodes, we finally have a corker to close the first half of season 3.


Wait…I’m only halfway through this season?  Well, on the plus side it’s going out with a corker of an episode, after a pretty lameass run.  On the plus side though, no Tacotray-centric episodes and some half-decent character development for the much-loathed Neelix.  Fingers crossed S3.pt2 continues this upward tick!

*Neither of whom were IN this episode in anyway.  You’d think he’d at least name check his commanding officer on the Excelsior.
2*Yes, I’ll admit I made it all the way to the end of ST:Nemesis. Once.  And once only. Never again.
3*Aren’t they those undead robot things in Warhammer 40,000?
4*Both of them

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