Oh my are we here already? Almost halfway through, and it’s beginning to feel like a bigger mountain to climb than I thought. So big, that I’ve gone off and watched Enterprise Season One for a change of pace, mostly because I kept getting to Tacotray and Neelix heavy episodes. But time and the Delta Quadrant waits for no sentient, and so on we go once more.
Scorpion Pt II
Aka The One Where Sexy Hips Arrives. After last time’s slightly odd climax, we open up with the arrival of single most defining element of Star Trek Voyager. Go on, ask any member of the casual sci-fi watching public to tell you something about Voyager, and odds are they’ll say something like “That’s the one with the sexy robot chick with the big breasts“. There is no denying though, 7 of 9’s addition to the series does introduce some interesting new narrative possibilities and alters the character dynamics for the better. Although the less said about Tacotray’s sleazy romancing of her and the arrival of those sodding Borg children*, the better. Still feeling, as I did last episode, that Species 8472’s arrival Nerfs the Borg too much, as cubes are blowing up at the drop of the hat here.
There’s a good bit of tension in the episode as the Voyager’s shaky alliance with the Borg goes back and forth, with a highlight being Tacotray’s stone cold act of spacing all the drones (save for his future squeeze) into deep space. That’ll be one to tell the grandkids about. Tacotray also has (rarely) my favourite lines of the episode, as he tells the tale of the titular scorpion. It’s a perfect analogy for the Borg:Human alliance, so kudos to the writer(s). Meanwhile though, the trip to Fluidic Space had me turning my brain off (“Wait, if the vacuum is made of fluid, why doesn’t gravity just collapse everything to a singularity?“), and the resolution where the Voyager makes a superweapon that destroys most of Species 8472’s bioships makes about as much sense as the Borg cube exploding FOR NO REASON at the end of Best of Both Worlds II**. Ah well, we have a shiny new crew member through which we can explore the metaphorical human experience. Which probably means there’s another character whose POV we could probably dispense with, but how can we ever choose…?
Aka The One Where Kes Finally Fucks Off. In some respects it’s a shame that TV budgets wouldn’t stretch to keeping on Voyager’s whole crew once 7 had joined, although if the axe had to fall somewhere, I’m not sorry it fell on Kes. Although, losing Tacotray would have been perfect. I do wonder how the internal politics and discussions around the decision actually worked…
“Right, Jeri Ryan is one more mouth to feed, and we’re not made of money”
“Actually, we’re a TV network, technically we are, but that’d besides the point, we need to lose a character to break even this season. Who do we need to get shot of?”
“Well Harry Kim hardly does anything, but he’s ethnic, so we’d be crucified if we got rid of him. Same for Chakotay and Tuvok. Paris and Janeway are the star players, and the Doctor’s the breakout character.”
“What about Torres? I know she’s got that whole romance subplot with Tom going, but if we get rid of her he could be sexing up the Borg chick’s assimilation tubes before we know it!”
“Ew! Thanks for that image. But, nah, Roxann’s doing that director thing, so we’d best hold on to her. It has to be Kes then.”
“What about Neelix? Literally, no one, on the planet, likes Neelix.”
“Nah, he’s our melting-pot character. Everyone comes to Quarks…I mean 10 Forward…I mean the Mess Hall. Plus as he’s not Starfleet, there’s countless ‘I done fucked up’ storylines we can get out of him.”
“Right, screw you Kes, you’re outta here!”
Actually, half this episode rather than being about Kes’ oft forgotten about psi-powers and her subsequent exit, is the first of about 200 episodes focussing on 7 of 9’s relationship with Captain Janeway and her return to human society. Nice! They couldn’t have telegraphed the “Don’t call us, we won’t call you” to Kes any better, if they’d painted it on the door to her room! Still, at least nasty undead looking 7 is gone, and now hot space-babe 7 is here, as most of her prosthetics are jettisoned, making for an easier make-up job for Jeri, and tighter pants for the fanbois.
Meanwhile, Kes turns into Jason Ironheart, and kicks the Voyager 9,500 light year’s nearer home. The first significant distance they’ve achieved in three years. And all it took was one hyper-advanced and hyper-annoying OompaLumpa to hyper-evolve!(3*) There’s some weak plotting too in her departure. While her psychic mentor Tuvok gets to bid her farewell, and Neelix to a lesser extent, the Doctor, the single character she’s shared the most screentime with over three seasons barely appears, and certainly doesn’t get to say goodbye as he’s hardly in this episode. A small coda where he wistfully regrets this, or shares a bright memory and hope for Kes’ future would have been appropriate, but no, there’s no time for this. Why? because we need plenty of time for a long, long introductory shot of 7 in her sexy one-piece. Yeah, sexy cybernetic space babes over annoying space elves every time, it seems!
Day of Honor
In the pit of my stomach I realised this was gonna be a Torres/klingon heritage story, and in Star Trek’s history they can be of…variable quality. For every Sins of the Father there’s a Birthright or a Barge of the Dead. Turns out this is one of the good ones, as while the story focuses around B’Elanna’s special klingon festival (no pain sticks mind), thanks to a monumental fuck up in engineering, the warp core gets jettisoned. Is this the first time we’ve ever actually seen this happen? Given Geordi threatened he’d had to to it countless times, I’d be surprised if it is, but I’m damned if I can remember any other occasion. Anyway, the warp core doesn’t go boom after all, proving that Geordi is the better engineer here. The Caatati, who the crew had initially helped, knick off with it, and so Tom and B’Elenna try to get it back in a shuttle craft (since Voyager is pretty powerless).
The shuttle goes boom (a reoccurring theme) and Tom and B’Elenna end up drifting in space, and we finally realise this episode is not about klingon heritage, or even past crimes of the Borg, but it’s Shuttlepod One…only with romance not bromance. At its heart this is a sweet story, that deepens the relationship between Paris and Torres in an effective and believable way – as they float in space, slowly running out of air. It also, for once, demonstrates just how BIG space is when you don’t have ships ready to warp in and collect you. Nice episode, and my favourite of the season so far by miles.
This episode is awful. Just fucking awful. How awful? Well I stopped watching halfway through and couldn’t bring myself back to watch the rest of the episode for THREE DAMNED WEEKS. It’s all about Tacotray and some alien kidz doing their best Lord of the Flies impression. Oh yes, and they speak in this hilarious pigeon-english ripped right out of Mad Max III – I kept waiting for them to ask about ‘Captain Walker and the before times‘. Trek’s tackled the kidz gone rogue trope before, and much better (Notably in DS9:Valiant), so this episode brings nothing new to the table. In fact, I’d go as far to say that this is the single worst episode of Voyager I’ve seen yet. And remember, I’ve sat through Basics, Flashback, Threshold and Sacred Ground; so it’s not an honour I lightly bestow.
Oh, and the nemesis…total, and utter make-up rip off of Predator. If I’d been the network head, and accidentally seen this abomination of an episode, Voyager’d be on its way to cancellation city! What’s next, Species 8472 turns out to look like the Xenomorphs…?
Anyway, turns out Tacotray has been brain washed and most of what we saw was in his head, and it’ll take years for him to shake off the trauma of being used…or, you know, as normal we never, ever mention these events again. Yeah. It’s the latter one.
What starts out as looking like a Tuvok episode, turns out to be a B’Elanna and The Doctor one. After some early recounting of racial hate crimes against Tuvok by Harry and Tom, and his subsequent promotion to Lt Commander(4*), we move onto the main story. A drifting ship, crewed only by a lone, bargain basement Jeffrey Combsesque-lite “isomorphic projection” – that’s hologram to you and me. Naturally, I was shocked when the creepy-looking hologram with the serial killer vibe, turned out to be a serial killer. No, wait I wasn’t. I kept waiting for a twist that would raise this story above utter mundanity. There was a nice bit when the psycho hologram stuck its hand in Torres, but soon enough we’re back to “Don’t worry I’ve disabled all the holo-emitters…no wait he’s still out there…oh noes” territory of a sub-bargain basement horror story.
Meanwhile, Tom and B’Elenna’s share a romantic moment, and Tom for reasons unknown gets promoted to nurse. Because when you’ve limited staff aboard a starship, it’s always important to draft the primary helmsman away from his primary duties. No, made no fucking sense to me, and seems to exist only to give the Doctor someone to talk to in later episodes who’s not sick.
Actually, the B-story of the episode is all about Harry and 7, and is sort of enjoyable. It’s enjoyable for the moment where 7, recognising Harry’s stumbling romantic attempts, asks him outright if he “Wishes to copulate“. While it might be the line of the season, I’ve no idea why Harry, lover of Libby and random holo-ladies, should suddenly be written all over again as a stumbling, nervy virgin. Oh noes, big sexy lady is coming on to me, I just can’t deal with it. Well, I can’t deal with the inconsistent characterisation of Harry. It’s a bit late in the series to be writing him as this nieve!
Ah, this episode was bundled back in the 90s on VHS (whooo, ancient media formats) with Dark Frontier PtI & II, so was the only Voyager episode I actually owned. Hence, I know what’s coming here as we explore 7’s (aka Annika Hansen, mmn, bop) family history and assimilation by the collective. It’s the first entirely 7 centric story, so hopes were high for a corker, especially after the middling to fucking awful standard of the season so far. However, the opening clay modelling scene between 7 and the Captain (get used to this belaboured pseudo-mother/daughter trope) is a heavy handed metaphorical ‘identity creation at the hands of others’ scene. Gosh, I wonder what the rest of the episode is about…did Annika mould own creation or did the Borg sculpt her fully-formed from the human clay? I can almost hear the Voyager writing room staff toasting their own super-genius for this idea…sigh.
Fun fact: despite this scene being set in Master Leonardo’s Workshop, Voyager were too cheap to shell out for another guest appearance by John Rees-Davies
The rest of the episode harks back to TNG:Brothers, as 7 of 9 gets reset into Borg mode after suffering repeated dreams about a raven, by a mysterious signal. Said signal eventually turns out to be transmitted from her badly CGIed orignal Earth ship, the Raven, which she came into the Delta Quadrant in with her anthropologist parents. Okay, this is a big retcon for humans and Borg. Thought mankind first met them when Q hurled the Enterprise into the Delta Quadrant in TNG: Q Who? Nah, happened years before that off screen, by some nosy explorers and their incredibly fast ship (its literally 65,000ly from Earth – but no one ever quibbles this point). Anyway, 7’s daft parents get assimilated along with her daughter…aaaaaand scene.
There’s a subplot about the B’omar, winners of the 1997’s Worst Dressed Alien Race competition hands down, forcing Voyager to take the world’s stupidest route through their space – as everyone forgets space is 3-dimensional and they could just, you know, overfly the whole region. Naturally the B’omar get their vinyl in a twist about a Borg on board, and even more p-oed when Janeway just ignores their navigation advice and powers through their space to rescue 7.
We open with the Doctor giving Janeway a happy ending on the massage table. Okay, not quite, but there’s not a whole lot of laughs in this episode! It’s a nasty creepy tale, although I can’t feel helping we’ve seen this all before in TNG: Schisms. Unknown aliens, check. Crewmembers undergoing bizarre experimentation, check. Creepy horror vibe, check. However, while this episode is an early example of 7 of 9 as Wesley ‘Saves the Day/Deus ex Mechania’ Crusher syndrome, I will admit I rather enjoyed it. It’s perhaps a shame that the aliens turn out just to be another humanoid race with invisibility hats(5*), I rather liked the Lovecraftian horror of the non-humanoid, extra-dimensional aliens on Schisms. We lose another NPC crewmember (not lost one in a while), although her passing is rather ignored by the crew. No long emotional wake once we’ve resolved everything, as she clearly wasn’t that important. Cold, Voyager, stone cold.
Anyway, the highlight of this episode is…and I can hardly believe I’m writing this…was between Neelix and Tacotray. Both affected by bizarre mutations and accelerated aging respectively, they engage in a homage to Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch.
Tacotray “I can barely move, thanks to my arthritic hips”
Neelix “Lucky bastard. In a couple of days my bones’ll fused and I won’t be able to move”
Despite 7 saving the day, there are some glorious moments from Janeway too as she goes all Bruce Willis on us again. That’ll teach those god damned aliens to stick loads of needles in her head! We also get more of the Tom and B’Elanna’s love story. Yep, the whole episode is more the kind of series I wish Voyager was, lots going on, plenty for all the regulars to get up to, and a threat that isn’t too easily defeated by augmented Borg-nanoprobes. Yeah, that one still rankles.
Year of Hell Pt I
*performs the happy dance* Okay, full disclosure. Before I started this comprehensive re-watch, Year of Hell was my single favourite episode(s) of Voyager. And after re-watching this episode, I can confirm that’s still not changed. There are…issues…big issues, I have with the ending, but I’ll address those in Pt II. Okay, part of the joy of this episode is finally…finally seeing The Voyager take the kind of punishment that we’ve not seen since the opening episodes, thanks to the Krenim and their chronal torpedos. There’s a nice nod to Yesterday’s Enterprise the first time the Krenim Timeship performs a temporal incursion, and Voyager shifts to a darker timeline. But once she’s got her chronal shields, then all hell really starts to break loose, as the battered little Starfleet ship starts to lose crew and her looks in equal measure. The end of the episode, with Janeway’s speech to the crew when she knows they have to pretty much abandon ship may be my single favourite Janeway moment yet. Short, sweet, heartfelt and resolute. Naturally, the hero cast remain behind.
The episode is also made even better by two things. Firstly, the foreshadowing of this terrible time from Before and After (shock, Kes was useful for something), but more importantly the appearance of Kurtwood Smith as complicated (albeit amusingly fanboi named) antagonist Annorax. His abduction of Paris and Tacotray sets up the more philosophical discussions of PtII, but his rationale for his actions in repeatedly altering the timelines are ones that make the situation more shades of gray, than black and white. Of course, knowing Trek PtIIs rarely live up to the promise of their opening episode, but the two parter is off to a dramatic start – and the shots of the escape pods flying away from Voyager at the end of the episode would have made for an incredible season finalé shot!
Year of Hell Pt II
“This is one year I’d like to forget. (beat) Time’s up“
Yeah, okay. Let’s address the Elephant in the holodeck first. This episode ends with the reset button to end all reset buttons for Voyager. A year’s worth of character growth and drama erased in a moment. And shockingly…Tacotray is one of the major victims here, as his and Paris’ time together aboard the Krenim timeship sees both of them mature in their relationship and outlooks. It annoys me no end as THIS is the Tacotray I could probably stomach more, a morally conflicted character who doesn’t just fit straight into the vanilla Starfleet mould. Needless to say, it’s Tacotray and Annorax’s interactions on the nature of time, the ethics of reshaping the future and on the subject of loss that for me form the centre of this episode’s strongest narrative. There’s also some wonderful stuff with the now blinded Tuvok and 7, in a more believable mentor/mentee relationship than Kes ever achieved. All lost on the winds of time…
Okay, stuff is still going on back on Voyager, as Janeway puts herself in harm’s way to keep her battered ship flying, even as she puts together another coalition to track down and nuke the timeship. Especial props to the makeup crew for her 3rd degree burns makeup – ouch!
The episode’s finalé is another outstanding Janeway moment, as the only person left aboard the Voyager and with the front of the ship torn off – she flys it, straight into the Kremin timeship! And then everything is reset. NOOOOOOOOO! One of my biggest problems with Voyager is there liberal use of the reset-switch, rather than risk character growth and more importantly showing the ship slowly looking…less Starfleet and more bespoke. Why get rid of the Borg modifications? Keep them, and any other ones you gain along the way. That way the ship that finally makes it back to the Alpha Quadrant and her crew will really show the pain and struggle they went through to reach home. But no, we’re back to ocean liner perfection and Mr Neelix still being alive. Sigh, can’t have everything. Still, Year of Hell is as damned close to a perfect Voyager episode as we’re going to get I suspect. Cracking stuff!
Since nothing eventful has happened in the last couple of episodes (sob) we get a Tuvok centric episode, as the Voyager visits the planet of the telepaths and…oh dear one of them picks up on B’Elanna’s violent impulses. In a call back to Justice, it turns out that the Starfleet crew should really have read the local law PADDs before they beamed down, as it turns out there’s no violent crime here on Lotus Eater V (or whatever the hell it’s called). Having caused the poor fellow to go apeshit, she is sentenseted to an engramatic purge (which sounds like as euphemistic a description for literally brainwashing, as enhanced interrogation is for torture). Naturally, while Starfleet is all for respecting local laws, Inspector Tuvok smells a space-rat and investigates, and it turns out on a planted where violent thoughts have been outlaws, that there’s a thriving black market trade in violent thoughts. Gosh, it was all a big metaphor for the war on drugs – criminalise something in society, and you just drive it underground.
I await Teresa May attempting to bring in the same doubleplus ungood thought laws in the UK in the coming months, eh? Actually, there’s a missed opportunity here – given that Federation society is always held up as utopian (aka bland), are there similar problems for their own citizens who miss the more…exciting days of the past? Sadly, any such philosophical questions are ignored, as it’s clearly the Mari who are entirely at fault in the narrative, and the Starfleet crew can assume a position of moral authority in their dealings with them. Sadly, this all too late for B’Elanna who’s given a swift brain enema (or the best part of one) to purge of her unclean thoughts. Tuvok saves the day and most of her brain, and on we trek. A half decent episode at best.
I have memories of watching this years ago. Bad memories of an episode to rival Threshold, Coda or Fair Haven(6*). Now I’ve also seen Nemesis, is this gonna be as bad or worse as S4’s bottom feeder of an episode? Actually, it’s not quite as bad as I remembered and that’s largely down to the wonderful ACTING talents of John Rhys-Davis who rises (hah) far above the script to deliver a truly memorable performance. Anyway, after yet another opening in Master Leonardo’s workshop with Janeway, the aliens of the week turn up and steal loads of Voyager’s technology. Most notably they make off with the ship’s CPU, the Doctor’s mobile emitter and also Leonardo himself. Hobbled by the theft Voyager limps to a trade world, where *shock* Leonardo think’s he’s travelled to the new world, and is wandering around thanks to 29th Century Federation technology.
Again, I’ve a sneaking suspicion that I’ve seen this plot before (holodeck characters out and about: Ship in a Bottle anyone?), but for the most part it’s a bit of a romp for Janeway. Considering most of her centric episodes are dreary and depressing thus far I can forgive her, although the bit where she and Leonardo take flight (urgh) on one of his flying machines is beyond cheesey. Yes, the episode is a waste of a good character actor, but by no means was this one anything like as bad as I remembered it. Thankfully.
From comedy, we move to even more comedy(7*) as everyone’s least favourite gerbil crewman, Neelix, dies and finds out there’s no afterlife, or at least no afterlife that will have him. Hilariously, Neelix, Tom and Tacotray are in a shuttle looking for protomatter when the Talaxian is deliberately targeted by the vengeful plasma storm and blasted backwards across the shuttle. Tacotray’s first reaction is to check the shuttle’s intact, and as an afterthought Neelix. Good to know Neelix ranks somewhere behind inanimate objects in the hierarchy of importance. Tragically, not knowing a good thing when they’ve got it, the Doctor uses 7 of 9’s nanoprobes to bring Neelix back from the dead, 18 hours after he shuffled off this mortal coil (hah). That this is possible, should send shivers down the spine of the viewer, as it suggests that the body, mind and soul remain entwined for a good day after death, meaning a swift cremation opens up all kinds of existential problems.
Naturally, having been dead, and seen nothing not even his dearly departed sister Alixia, Neelix’s simple faith in his race’s afterlife is irrevocably shattered. With this revelation, does he start to seize every day as if it were his last? Nah, he goes into a deep, spiralling existential crisis and emerges as a wet blanket bringing everyone down. Honestly, it’s like the crew have utterly forgotten Janeway’s afterlife experiences in Coda (heaven knows I’m trying to)! Any-hoo, like the audience, Neelix’s nanoprobes start losing the will to live and he drops back into a near death state, which only ANOTHER sodding vision quest with Tacotray can solve. Honestly, how is it that every ship in Starfleet doesn’t have a shaman in chief alongside their councillor, eh? Given the regularity with which this tired old deus ex machina is brought in to solve metaphysical crisis, you’d think they’d be de rigueur. Sadly, rather than solving Neelix’s crisis of faith, it instead drives him to try and vaporise himself with the transporter(8*).
This episode is also notable for the reappearance of Naomi Wildman, last seen as a babe in arms a year and a bit ago (Basics), and now about 5 years old(9*). Oh, she’s having trouble sleeping, which thankfully Neelix had been helping her with by telling her stories of the great Talaxian afterlife forest. Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth when he comes back from the dead with his faith utterly shattered. This episode is also notable as it took me three viewings to get through, one of which I fell fast asleep during. I think that was my favourite one. The solution that he has to keep on living just to help Naomi Wildman sleep is a fucking bleak one…honestly, that’s the sum total of your value to the crew, Neelix. Screw your need for faith or self-actualisation, suck it down and cheer up a sprog. Yeah, it’s a terrible, terrible episode that answers nothing nor is the decimation of Neelix’s self-belief ever revisited. Sheesh.
Everyone’s been having odd dreams, aside from Harry Kim, who’s continuing to enjoy his nightly scheduled wet dreams of 7 of 9. Can’t blame him(10*). And in every dream there’s a strange alien watching them like a perv. Well, aside from B’Elanna who’s on the nightshift and has been trying to have her regular hook-up with Paris. On the whole, elements of this episode are somewhat TNG: Schisms redux, even down to the crew reconstructing the image of the alien together. I’ll give the Voyager crew this though, they do at least rapidly recognise that if they’re all having bad dreams with aliens in them, then something is afoot. Perhaps there needs to be a standard Starfleet protocol where everyone reports bad dreams and then the ship jumps to Yellow Alert.
As might be expected with any story dealing with vivid dreaming, soon we’re questioning who’s awake and who’s dreaming…which means Tacotray get’s to roll out another of his mystical powers to save the day – lucid dreaming. Yes, two episodes in a row for the Native American’s vision quests to save the day – I can say, without fear of contradiction here – he has utterly become the Wesley Crusher deus ex machina of Voyager. And I continue to like him as a character, just as much as I like S1TNG Wesley. Hint: It’s a minus figure. Eventually, we get to the planet and the dreamers and Tacotray manages to stay awake (more than I managed during this episode) to pretty much threaten them all with orbital bombardment as an inducement to quit-it. Yep, top marks for a non-Starfleet approved solution there.
A nasty thought just hit me…what if I am still asleep in front of this episode and I never woke up? The horror…the horror…
*I’ve only seen bits of the Borg Children episodes, and I fear I’ll come to hate the episodes that centre around them with as much passion as I do the S1-3 Kes episodes.
**Which I watched last week, funnily enough. And yes, despite being a cracking TNG story, the end is a bit…weak.
3*You’ll note here I didn’t even use a picture of Kes to illustrate this story. That’s honestly how peripheral she actually is in her own, departure centric episode.
4*Take note, 3 seasons in and Tuvok gets a rank promotion. Later Tom gets demoted and then later promoted again, despite being a bit of an arse. Meanwhile for 7 seasons, Harry Kim remains an ensign. Yeah, that’s utterly credible isn’t it.
5*It might have been hats…it might not. The whole ‘how they’re invisible’ was never made that clear.
6*I know we’ve not made it as far as Fair Haven yet, but I remember it being utterly fucking awful. I suspect a second viewing will confirm this.
7*Well I laughed anyway.
8*This episode has the most death’s/near deaths of Neelix yet. It’s the show that keeps on giving.
9*Something which is handled with a hand-wave of ‘Oh her dad is a race of lumpy face aliens who age up to adulthood fast enough to make their kids interesting on a TV show’.
10*Harry can’t wake up from his dream..and the Captain bursts into his room. Oh dear Harry, hope the sheets aren’t being held aloft by too big a tentpole.