Here I am, on the downward curve towards Voyager’s last cliffhanger finalé, and if the first half of this season is anything to go by, I’m going to be on a rollercoaster of a ride through highs and utter lows before then.
Harry, Neelix, Tacotray and Tom are all on a long range shuttle mission in the Delta Flyer…can a crash be far away? Nope, we land easily and instead zoom in on It-couple Tom and B’Elanna having some much needed coupling as they watch a freshly replicated TV – despite Picard saying TNG:The Neutral Zone that humanity had evolved beyond the need to watch stuff. Being Voyager, it’s not long before Tom seems to get sucked into the action on the TV (hey, maybe this stuff is dangerous!). Then the rest of the Delta Flyer’s crew get flashbacks to some great ground war, where they’re on the losing side in an effective shellacking, and emerge on the other side back in reality with effectively PTSD. At this point I thought we were off into a Vietnam War analogue, ‘You weren’t there man, you don’t know what I’ve seen!‘. But no, it’s not quite that. Meanwhile as the rest of the crew also start falling victim to the hallucinations, Janeway et al trace them back to a memorial on a quite pleasant green world. Nothing like the hell hole of the visions.
Naturally, it turns out that 300 years ago this was the war zone which everyone’s been dreaming about. It seems a rather unpleasant little incident occurred here, and the survivors erected a monument that literally beamed their experiences into space. So, a memorial which forces you to remember events you knew nothing about (or indeed had any stake in), but a monument which is also somewhat on the fritz. Cue much agonising and moralising around the conference table about repairing it, so the original intent of its creators can be respected. This argument is weighed against the immensive invasion of privacy, denial of freewill and lasting psychological damage these horrific images cause to innocent passers by. Naturally, Janeway, the most ethically dubious captain in Starfleet, opts to repair the moment and subject all comers to inadvertent horror, hand waving away any trauma for future races with “We’ll leave a warning buoy“. Remind me again someone why she was promoted to Admiral?
I think that this was a non-too subtle ‘remember the holocaust‘ message episode (again), although the war images don’t quite mesh, hence my Vietnam impressions. Not a terrible episode, but once again a really, really poor command judgement from Janeway. Kirk would have just photon-torpedoed the memorial to save others…you know, the greater good. And I wasn’t clear…who erected the monument? The winners? The losers? Were any losers even left?
It’s the all-star Voyager WWF (WWE?) tie in episode, featuring The Rock… and multiple-Trek alums J.G ‘Martok’ Hertzler and Jeffrey ‘I’ve Played Everything’ Combs. Never knew the last two were star wrestlers. On shore leave 7 and Tuvok get abducted by fight arrangers, with 7 pitted against their best fighters in a battle for both the Starfleet crew member’s lives. Definitely shades of DS9: By Inferno’s Light in the set up, wherein Worf fights the Jem’Hadar to a standstill, while Mr Garak tries to escape.And at least it’s not another episode where Tacotray shows off his boxing skills!
But I digress. The central plot, comprises Hertzler’s character (a Hirogen) training 7 to fight, because he himself will eventually face her and he wants a ‘worthy prey’. Given Hertzler’s acting chops, this comes across as a strong central narrative, with the actual tsunkatse matches well fight-choreographed. Naturally Voyager saves the day so 7 doesn’t have to kill the Hirogen…although she was going to. For an episode that’s clearly not going to be referenced again, it’s a pretty solid entry in the series.
There’s a subplot about Neelix getting massive sunburn and his efforts to treat it. Why, Great Maker, why? Did the writers feel the need to include this to give Ethan Phillips a few lines? He pops up often enough as a central character. Maybe they were just having a bit of a laugh, as this plotline is yet again a chance to wheel out a stinky Telaxian homemade folk medicine. Le sigh. What’s more later on Neelix’s character gets totally assassinated by the writers, given his bloodthirsty cheering of the tsunkatse match is in direct opposition to all the earlier (good) episodes where we see how much he’s been traumatised by the violence of his military experiences. As per usual, in lame-ass Voyager style, past characterisation is discarded to fit the needs of a minor plot point. Appalling, as the PTSD aspects of Neelix’s backstory are easily, for me, the strongest element of any character on the show, so to crulley ignore them is shocking. And yet, par for the course for Voyager.
Ah, the episode where Voyager didn’t so much jump the shark, as reverse back over it three or four times in rapid succession. Yes, if Cousin Oliver syndrome wasn’t already written large in Naomi ‘Child of Satan’ Wildman, why not have the ship adopt a load more kids. Ex-Borg kids at that. Looks like Voyager is about to become a generation ship, without all the fun sexy times that normally precedes it.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. A game of cards is rudely interrupted by a Borg cube’s arrival, but despite managing to capture all of the crew (with the exception of Harry Kim who hid in the Delta Flyer’s chemical toilet), not all appears space-kocher. Turns out this is a Borg crew who caught the space-swine-flu and died off, aside from a handful of younglings. Now cut off from the Collective, they try to threaten, bargain and ultimately steal enough of Voyager’s tech to get back home. Sadly, as 7 of 9 works out, the Collective have given them up as a bad lot, and officially abandoned them.
Yeah, we all know where this is going don’t we. Voyager promptly adopts them, as having one ex-Borg aboard was never going to be enoigh conflict to drive future drama. Sigh. One of the Borg kids dies, so there’s some small comfort. But I fear this episode has all but trashed what little good will has been engendered for me in watching through Voyager as a whole. Here’s hoping the next episode is a total cracker that rekindles my love for the show.
Oh sweet baby Jebus. I was wrong.
If you loved Once Upon a Time, clapped with glee as Borg kids were added to the show or even once seriously uttered the words “I wish they’d bring Kes back“…then you’ll love this episode.
If, like the rest of the sane universe, you hated the Oirish accents and racial pandering in Fair Haven, prepare to be horrified beyond measure as we go back to that holographic town with its cast of ‘delightful’ characters. Only this time…they’re getting self aware thanks to…yes, you guessed it…a holodeck malfunction.
Hell’s teeth, I thought we were past that lame ass story hook by now.
Funny, I play a lot of computer games, and no matter how much I dick around, never once have any of the AI characters realised I’m acting out of character and become self-aware that they’re in a simulation. You’d think 24th Century computer programming might be able to cope with this, but three centuries of computing improvements seem to have caused more problems than they’ve solved.
Anyway, tl:dr: the crew eventually come to accommodation with the Fair Haven folk…but it’s never made clear if they’re going to shut everything down, wipe the computer core and pretend it never happened afterwards…but the implication is they are. Nice (not)! Onwards and upwards, and screw the holographic lifeforms it seems. Did TNG: Ship in a Bottle teach us nothing?
I really wish I could forget this episode ever happened as easily.
Most typically Voyager moment: The Captain and crew discuss erasing the newly self-aware holograms, right in front of the Doctor, like they don’t view hard-light beings as lifeforms at all. Yes, once again Starfleet’s mission to seek out new life continues, provided that new life isn’t something they’ve accidentally created themselves.
Ashes to Ashes
A shuttle turns up carrying the late Ens Lyndsay Ballard, who perished some years before, and has been resurrected as a member of the Kobali race. Naturally, given she’s a undead girl, Harry Kim makes a play for her – since, as Tom Paris points out, his type is always the weird ones (holograms, borg, and now necrophilia – the final frontier!). In between Harry’s stumbling courtship, Lyndsay tries to reintegrate into the crew and her old life, but even after some cosmetic surgery from the Doctor (“My specialty is hair, despite appearances to the contrary“) her tastebuds, mind and attitudes remain more Kobali than human. Yes, we’re (sorta) back in TNG: Suddenly Human territory, as Lyndsay is really a Kobali now and needs to kiss her old life (and Kim) goodbye.
Meanwhile, the B-plot deals with the tiresome ‘Bringing up Borgy’ plotlines with the wretched Borg kids and Naomi Wildman, combined into a narrative shit sandwich we’re forced to choke-down around the dreary Harry Kim main plot. Out the airlock with the lot of them, and 7 too, since at this point she’s in danger of becoming a background character in her story arc, with the increased focus on sprogs of Locutus.
I never knew I had it so good with just Naomi Wildman on board!
Most typically Voyager moment: after Lyndsay is invited to dine in the Captain’s cabin, Harry admits in six years this has never happened to him. Six years, on a ship with 147(ish) crew, and serving as the bridge ops officer all that time…and not once Janeway invited him to dinner? Me thinks there’s more behind Harry’s inability to get promoted than at first glance. Maybe Janeway just plain hates him, and hence the lack of dinner invites. Bet even Tom “Bad Boy” Paris has dined with Kathy a few times!
Special mention: Janeway burns a roast in the replicator…I can’t even begin to work out how she managed that.
Borg Kidz or Naomi Wildman or both? That was my fear as this episode started, and yes, while it does focus on the Borg Bratz, mostly the story follows the only moderately bearable one, Icheb-Wesley Crusher. We open on a science fair in the mess hall…a fucking science fair. If I wanted to watch Good Morning Miss Bliss or Grange Hill I’d do so, give me some space action in my Trek for frack’s sake! Never had a science fair in Battlestar Galactica, and they had thousands more kids in the fleet…
*ahem* I digress. Icheb’s invented some incredible wormhole detecting tech (‘cos all the clever, well training professionals on Voyager are nothing compared to one child), and so with him centre stage there’s little surprise when his parents make contact. Turns out their desolate farming planet is a bit close to a Borg transwarp-conduit, and gets harvested every few years, so they all lie low and try not to get too technologically appetising. Hence a not-that-appealing-when-you-live-on-a-starship farmstead vibe permeates the world, something which Icheb with his super-science really doesn’t grok.
From here it’s into the old mother-hen instincts narrative which are a Voyager constant (given the whole ‘crew=family’ paradigm at the show’s heart), only this time it’s not the Janeway/7 dynamic but 7/Icheb. The Borg Sprong doesn’t want to leave the ship initally, but then warms to his parents (including Mr Mark “I’m in Everything” Sheppard as his father) and their agrarian (but with funky gene-resequencing technology) lifestyle.
And wouldn’t you know it; that mysterious genetic high-tech on their Borg ravaged world turns out to be the episode’s Chekhov’s phaser: Icheb was bred for war. In fact he’s the patient zero responsible for the plague which wiped out the Borg cube’s population after his parents left him in space as a honey-trap. Nice folks! So nice, that given this golden opportunity…his parents use him as a living biological weapon once again. Man, Christmas at the Icheb’s is gonna be super awkward!
Sure, Voyager saves the day, and Icheb choses (understandably) to stay with the crew, with 7 clucking over him like a proud mother hen. Overall though, it’s not a terrible episode, and Mark Sheppard puts in his requisite excellent acting in his guest turn. But I can’t help feel it’s a wasted opportunity to get rid of some of the Borg baggage.
Most typically Voyager moment: Either reset at the end of the episode or the “that’s everything wrapped up nicely at the end of act 2…duh duh duh…surprise!” with Icheb’s parent’s heel-turn.
After an episode focusing on 7’s relationships with the Borg kidz, we head into one where the initial focus is on her relationship with the rest of the crew. I imagine this continued narrative focus on Voyager’s Borg Princess, must really have pissed off the rest of the cast, consider how fewer central storylines they all get. Except Tacotray, because, fuck him, okay? Anyhoo, 7’s decided to piss everyone on the ship off by giving them all efficiency ratings Mostly though, this opening is to shift focus onto the tale of three never-before-seen-on-a-tiny-ship Voyager NPC characters. That’s right…it’s TNG:Lower Decks – the Voyager Years. Or if you prefer STV:Learning Curve (hey, remember season 1 anyone…). Yeah, we’re into recycling, recycled storylines now – man, how did this get another season after this?
Except…and here’s where I must silence my inner cynic. When Janeway ‘The Good Shepherd’ takes the three ‘lost lambs’ on a mission to try and bring them back up to Starfleet standard (which invariably goes wrong), things didn’t quite go as I expected. Okay, yes there’s a little alien threat that they have to work together to beat, and yes everyone of them learns from the experience to be more than they were. However, all three of Telfer, Celes and Harren are really interesting characters, and I’d love them to stick around as secondaries (like Vorik or Suder have been), given they add some much needed fresh dynamic to the show. However, I suspect we won’t ever see them again, which is frustrating, as I actually found, against my initial judgement, that I rather enjoyed this episode. A real refreshing change after the recent run of lame stories, with some much needed mixing in of new ‘hero’ characters on the ship.
Oh, one final note. Must Janeway be right every time? It gets real old, real quick. Maybe the aliens were the bad guys after all…
Most typically Voyager moment: On a ship of ~140 people…how has it taken 6 years for anyone to notice these three crew are borderline useless? It’s almost like the 1st Officer has been neglecting his annual crew evaluations (highly likely) or that all the section heads have just been covering it up (probable for Harry at least).
Live Fast and Prosper
Stap me vitals – after a run of terrible shows, we’ve just had a half decent episode, and then we get an utter stonker of a story! I nearly fainted from the shock. Live Fast and Prosper tells the tale of three Voyager impersonators (including a ‘Lt Tuvok’ who gets a bit too method in his acting) who pose as Starfleet officers in order to con other spacefarers out of their goods in order to ‘join the Federation’. Naturally, the real Starfleet crew eventually discover that someone is blackening their good names when they start getting complaints from some of the scammed aliens. Although, it turns out, Tom and Neelix were also scammed by the same aliens weeks ago. They managed to buy some dodgy malfunctioning tech for the galley, whilst having the Delta Flyer’s databases illegally copied into the bargain.
There’s some excellent guest performances from the fake Voyager crew, who really sell the whole act pretty well. The ersatz Captain and crew even have hilariously poor fanboi quality Starfleet uniforms, although they got the ears and hair right. Fake Tacotray’s tattoo got a bit carried away, mind you. Naturally, the only way to win the day is for the real Janeway to pull off a massive deception of her own, involving the Doctor in drag, Tom Paris in a tube and Mr Neelix getting clobbered from behind. That last one’s a bit unfair!
The B-plot is Tom and Neelix, upon learning they’ve been scammed, trying to prove they’ve ‘still got it’ in terms of chicanery and slight of hand. Although, their efforts to scam the Doctor fall rather afoul of his ‘enhanced optical subroutines’. Nice to see the two old rogues getting the chance to be a bit more rogish again, without anyone suffering massive amounts of angst or getting demoted. This whole episode is a joy to watch, and the final scene especially left me with a big grin on my face. It was the perfect sign off to a heist story. Wonderful to know the Voyager cast CAN still pull off a cracker, if they’re given much better quality material than they usually get to work with!
Most typically Voyager moment: If there was one, I didn’t spot it. This was a story that felt more like a well polished DS9 episode. And as a bonus 7 barely gets a line! More like this please!
This may be the most meta-textural episode of Voyager yet! After another shuttle crash (hey, it’s been a few episodes since they used this overtired trope) Torres has to collaborate with a pre-warp civilizations playwright to tell the tales of Voyager. Interestingly, the playwright is so poor he has to nick all his ideas out of the vessel’s memory banks, and latterly Torres herself. If this episode isn’t a metaphor for how Voyager’s screenwriters are struggling for ideas, I don’t know what is. Moreover, there’s lots (and lots) of talk about how stories are constructed, the tricks writers employ, the structure etc., within the episode’s narrative. So yeah, it appears the screenwriter is writing about his writing craft through the medium of the playwright’s voice. Hence, it comes across a bit like a first year film student attending screenwriting 101, while trying to be clever and witty, and failing on both counts. As a result the story itself is nothing much to write home about (hah!).
That said, it’s by no means a terrible episode, but nor is it a great one. Indeed, given nothing which happens during this adventure will ever get mentioned again, means skipping this one would result in you missing nothing of value. Oh, and Harry Kim walked 200 miles during this episode, yet his uniform was still near immaculate (his hair is mildly ruffled though). Guess he doesn’t sweat then?
Most typically Voyager moment: After affecting the culture and development of the planet through the inspiration stemming from the play, Torres beams out in full view of a few hundred people. Hello, major Prime Directive violation! Anyone? No, that’s right, why worry about utterly disrupting yet another civilisation’s natural development. Not like it’s the Federation’s foundations or anything…
This episode opens with Janeway and Tuvok sharing a rather nice little scene concerning his ‘dark’ secrets. But it’s all misdirection, because, that’s right…the Ocampan bitch is back! Yes, Kes returns and she’s mega-grumpy at being cut in favour of bringing 7 of 9 on the show, and uses her super-psychic powers to kill Torres, nick warp energy and then jump back in time to the 1st Season and try and change history. Turns out she’s pissed off at Janeway and co for encouraging her to develop her power and thinks she’d have been better off never leaving Ocampa in the first place. Ah, the regrets of your teenage years eh? You know what Kes, I agree with your beef: I too wish you’d never joined the crew, you annoying elf-pixie thing.
Actually, the episode’s not too terrible, and makes the most of an intriguing time-travel premise, even if the explanation of ‘Oh, Kes now has time travel powers’ when she’d really only had telekinesis before is lacking in the extreme. Can we all just hug a warp-reactor and travel in time?! For a one-shot return of an old character, it not only gives Kes a chance to be centrestage once more, but also for all the crew to pretend to be six years younger. This is easier for some than others. For Janeway it’s accomplished with the return of the S1-bun hair do, Tom Paris gets a haircut, and for Neelix it’s achieved by acting like an annoying tit with not an ounce of self awareness or visible character growth. Actually, scratch that, this IS how he’s still being written, at least 50% of the time. Sigh.
Surprisingly Naomi Wildman’s mum, having been absent onscreen for about three years (unlike her sodding progeny) plays a key role in this episode in helping Janeway unravel the time-disruption plot. Welcome back Ens Wildman, now can you just confine your sprog to her quarters for the rest of the journey home so we don’t have to put up with episodes she features in?
Anyway, thanks to disruptions in the timeline, and Tuvok having a nervous breakdown when the revised-past crew get to the present day and Kes’ explosive arrival, Janeway is ready for her: with a prerecorded message from her sweet, innocent self. It’s all a bit Deus ex machina, but at least at the end Kes leaves, hopefully this time never to darken our turbolifts again. Just a shame she didn’t take the Borg Children with her. This may, for me, be the most engaging Kes-centred episode there’s been. Clearly we needed the character to be written with a bit more edge, rather than fawning over everyone in her sing-song accent!
Most typically Voyager moment: While I can accept Kes’ super-psi-powers let her leap across huge distances in space…how she found the Voyager in a vast, vast universe is never addressed. ‘Just because’ is hardly a satisfying answer. She’s not a Q!
Any episode that opens with Reg Barclay talking to the Doctor’s creator, Dr Zimmerman, has huge comedy potential! Turns out this episode not only features the Doctor being ’emailed’ back to the Alpha Quadrant to help his ailing creator, but was co-written by Bob Picardo himself – apparently the only Voyager episode where a cast member does this! Naturally, where there’s Lt Barclay, there’s also a swift and very welcome appearance by Councillor Troi, reminding us of the better days of Trek. Thankfully this tale IS a better day of Trek, with some genuine philosophical questions being asked about the nature and value of holographic life, and some great performances all round.
That said, there’s some pretty horrific revelations too, as all the Mk1 EMH’s have been decommissioned as medics and assigned to scrub plasma conduits. Pretty damn brutal for a Federation which seeks to cherish ‘new life forms and new civilisations’, but embraces slavery of non-organic life. Cf. TNG:Measure of a Man for a similarly disturbing example of Federation brutality. I’m beginning to think the Romulans have had a point all along!
Bob Picardo’s dual roles as the cantankerous Zimmerman and the helpful Doctor are beautifully contrasted, and this is a solid and enjoyable tale. Interestingly the Doctor mentions he’s been away from Voyager (due to the irregular inter-quadrant email he’s been transmitted on) for over three weeks: does this mean next episode the Voyager will have no Doctor to help them? Can Tom Paris and a tube of germolene really stand up to the very worst the Delta Quadrant has to offer? Tune in to find out, next week!
Most typically Voyager moment: A brief mid episode scene between Janeway and Tacotray where they admit nothing much is happening back on the ol’ Voyager homestead. Nothing? NOTHING? The Delta Quadrant has gotten suspiciously quiet if you ask me. What’s next. tales around the campfire and a mug of warm cocoa? Oh and Tom, pack that germolene away again would you, there’s a good ensign.
The Haunting of Deck Twelve
The good news: As the ship is forced to drop into a spooky darkness, Ethan Philips puts in a nuanced performance; telling a tale about a space entity which escaped from a nebula and is now haunting Deck Twelve of Voyager. The bad news: he’s telling it to those damned Borg children, and probably Naomi Wildman. Essentially the space entity takes over the Voyager and plays havoc with the ship (and gives Majel Barrett the chance to play the bad guy), until Janeway dumps it into another nebula. Turns out it was ‘stored’ on Deck Twelve. There is an effort at a PG ‘haunted house’ vibe throughout – albeit nothing like as bad (or as enjoyable) as Event Horizon (shame!). Do the kids believe Neelix? Do they fu…actually, no, they don’t, but the sting in the tale…it was true after all! Poor old Neelix, everyone thinks he’s a bullshitter it seems, even though that one about the pixie girlfriend was actually true! But all the same, it’s pretty much a ‘meh’ story, which you can happily skip without missing out on anything you’re not seen a thousand times before.
Most typically Voyager moment: Yes, the Doctor, despite having been away for three weeks in the prior episode, is here throughout. They should really have set this one during his absence for even a hint of narrative continuity!
Unimatrix Zero, Part I
Just what we need for a rip-roaring season climax, yes it’s the return of the once Uber Trek foe, the Borg. Having been thoroughly nerfed in earlier Voyager episodes, this time they’re all buggering off to Silicon Heaven. Well, if it’s good enough for all the calculators, it’s gotta be good enough for 7 and her chums. Yes, it seems like some of the Borg while they’re in their napping vestibules are floating off to a virtual environment that’s way better than life as a drone. And it turns out one of them has had the most drippy romantic relationship with 7 in the past, which somehow she’s utterly forgotten. Man, that’s gotta be a right slap into the ocular implant for that fella! Oh, and remember back in TOS when they used to smear vaseline across the lens every time a pretty lady came aboard the Enterprise? Well, that’s pretty much what the bucolic, agrarian fantasy of Unimatrix Zero looks like too.
The Ersatz-Borg Queen is back, and still not played by Alice Krige. She’s not keen on Unimatrix Zero, mainly ‘cos it means her Borgy children are skipping away from that central hive-mind mentality by which she puts so much store. I would love to report that an episode about the Borg, sans the horrific Borg children, was one that left me all a tingle, especially at the climax when (shock!) Janeway, Torres and Tuvok get assimilated. You thought it was traumatic when Picard get Borged up, well I guess we ain’t seen anything yet. Although, my gut tells me Janeway’s Borgification will get hand waved away next season!
Most typically Voyager moment: Tom Paris gets promoted back to Lt and is Harry Kim bitter? Yes, yes he is, as he even vocalises his disgust at Tom jumping up the ranks when he’s had nothing (not even dinner with the captain) in six years. Doubtless, next season Tom will get demoted/promoted again, and still Harry’s career goes nowhere. Man, he really needs to get back to Earth.
Well, that took a lot longer to get through than I planned. Hopefully I can zip through the final season in a matter of weeks. Even faster if they kill off Naomi and the Borg Children (and perhaps cripple Tacotray ala Capt Pike) quick off the bat. What delights lie ahead? I dread to think, but going on the sporadically terrible/awful nature of the latter half of Season Six, I’m not going to hold out much hope of being wowed! But onwards, I must go!
 That’s a bit like the time I rated all my friends…wonder why they all stopped talking to me?
 A remake of a remake. Man, this one’s going to be fresh and original, isn’t it?!
 I say probably, because I’ve had a perception filter installed, and I now can’t physically see her on screen any more. This is to prevent my constant retching everytime she appears.
 I make no apologies for the direct Red Dwarf references once more!