The Great Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: Season 4 (part 2)

Okay, from here on – it should be downhill as I’m halfway through the seasons.  Although, since Voyager has very variable season lengths I’m not sure if I’ve passed the halfway episode mark.  But it must come soon, mustn’t it?  Read about the previous report over here.

Message in a Bottle

Okay, after the previous few episodes, here we have a stone-cold classic.  Thanks to the handy-dandy super-massive communications network tapped into by 7 of 9 (and a big hello to all you Hirogin out there), Voyager finally reaches communications range with Starfleet.  Albeit, one ship on the outer fringes of the Alpha Quadrant.  As its not responding, for some reason it’s easier to beam the Doctor’s complex programme all the way there than, say, a video message or something.  Not that I’m complaining as what follows is a mix of comedy and drama, that perhaps should be called Doctor Hard – as the Doctor, along with an EMH Mk2, have to rescue the USS Prometheus from its Romulan captors.

emh_mark_ii_and_i
EMH Mk 2: Now with 50% more holo-hair follicles

There is some other stuff going on, but the vast majority of the episode is left to Andy Dick and Bob Picardo to strut their stuff.  A real reminder that when Trek mixes comedy with the drama, it can turn out some of its best episodes.  I had, truth be told, seen this one a few times before, but it held up very well for another viewing.  Even Mrs Llama enjoyed watching it with me – high praise indeed!  And importantly, from this point forward – Voyager might still be 60,000ly from Earth (still?!?! Have they been not moving since Kes threw them forward in The Gift?) but there’s an increasing chance that Starfleet will be able to contact them again.

voyagercap1
Khaaaaaaan!  Well, one of his sidekicks

Just a shame 7 pissed off the Hirogin in the process of establishing the communication link.  That’s never going to come back to bite them, is it…

Hunters

I’ve been increasingly noticing that this season of Voyager has been extremely referential.  Okay, maybe this is the culture and media scholar part of me spotting that all cultural outpourings are palimpsest, reworkings of things that have come before.  Mostly Voyager has been drawing on TNG homages, but for the next couple of episodes it’s demonstrable the cinematic world of scifi.  So, first up is Voyager’s tribute to the movie Predator.

Ostensibly this episode’s main story is about the aftermath of last episode’s communicative contact with receipt and decoding of a battery of personal messages from Starfleet, via the Hirogin array(1*).  Cue my single favourite moment of the whole episode as Janeway reads her ‘Dear Kathy’ letter in abject silence while the camera slowly creeps towards her.  A nice piece of nuanced emotions play across Kate Mulgrew’s face in this scene.  It’s often been noted that TV acting is all about the facial close up, and here that maxim is expressed in spades.  Elsewhere, the funniest moment has to be Neelix being told he gets to be the ‘postman’ for the messages, since Starfleet lives in the 24th Century where apparently the ability to email documents direct to people’s personal computers has ceased to exist, while interstellar communication is commonplace. Yeah, I recognise the writers going “How can we ram it home that Neelix is utterly valueless?  Let’s give him a job that no one needs to do!

The action part of the plot is the full introductions of the predatory (HAH!) Hirogen hunters, who capture Tuvok and 7, and go into a long torture-porn homage of how they’re going to pull out their intestines and bones and display them.  Throughout this sequence no one asks the question I had burning in my mind: the Hirogin aren’t that advanced…how did they build the inter-quadrant communication array?  Was it in fact, built by some other super-advanced progenitor race who might have the kind of super technology based around harnessing black-holes that could take the Voyager home?  The fact no one asks this blinding obvious question, is a serious omission, and one that I’ll hold out minor hope for being addressed in later shows(2*).

hunters
Like all fanbois, this Hirogen wants unrestricted access to 7 of 9’s internal organs

Harry Kim, by the way, is once again poorly served by a tertiary subplot about wanting a letter from his mummy and daddy.  The writers just reminding us that despite obvious appearances, Naomi Wildman is not the baby of the crew.  With her accelerated aging, doubtless she’ll make Ensign before Kim too.  I like Harry, but clearly the showrunners hate him, as I can’t remember the last time he had something to do that wasn’t moaning about something,  mooning over 7 or being patronised by Janeway.

08a5
Inappropriate touching!!!

Prey

Monster-movie-mashup continues with…Alien.  It also continues the Hirogen arc, as two Hunters take on the most dangerous prey…man…borg…Kazon (HAH!)…oh okay, dodgy CGI species 8472.  Despite blasting the escaping fluidic alien with enough energy to kill even Neelix’s insufferable joie-de-vivre, it still manages to kick their armoured asses.  Cue Voyager picking up the injured Hirogen, played by the always wonderfully deep-voiced Tony Todd, and learning more about the hunter’s species and their ways.  Tony Todd for me immediately elevates anything he’s in regardless of the show’s quality, be it as the voice of Zoom in the Flash, CIA Director Graham in Chuck or importantly, Jake Sisko in DS9.  His addition to Voyager in this episode is no exception to the rule.

8472-prey
I forget…what’s the ship’s name?

But wait, I said this was Alien, not ‘let’s all learn more about each other and have enemies become friends’.  The aforementioned still-kicking 8472 (let’s call him Frank) manages to get slice his way into Voyager, causing Janeway to almost have a bout of apoplexy as she puts everything on alert and turns all the power up to 11. While the Voyager crew go on their bug-hunt, Frank keeps trying to open up singularity so he can pop back home into fluidic space.  I suspect opening a black-hole down on B deck’d do untold wonders for Voyager’s structural integrity and Harry Kim’s collection of dolls.  Notably, despite Frank’s hitherto celebrated powerfulness – no member of Voyager’s crew gets exed nor even grows the same facial mold as Harry Kim.  Odd that.

cbs_voyager_184_image_cian_419969_640x360
“Sarge, is this gonna be a standup fight, sir, or another bug hunt?”

Eventually, more Hirogen chums turn up, and the Alpha Hirogen escapes from sick-bay, engages in a spot of Greco-Roman wrestling with Frank, only for the pair of them to be beamed onto the Hirogen vessels by 7.  This flagrant breach of protocol and direct violation of the Captain’s orders by the ex-borg crewman, sees 7 severely slapped down by being sent to bed without supper for a week and no space pr0n.  Honestly, the writers really are doubling down on the ‘Voyager as a family, and Kathy as the mom’ meme this season.  Okay, 7 is actually restricted to the cargo bay (until such a time as the plot needs her not to be – I give it a week) with no computer access.  Not that I want to second judge Janeway’s increasingly erratic and Starfleet protocol-violating command decisions, but doesn’t Voyager have a perfectly functional brig for just such an occasion?

Retrospect

Okay, who had 3.34 secs before 7 was released? Yep, we couldn’t even keep her in the hold for a whole episode, as Retrospect focuses on her, which is rather poor planning on the showrunners’ part.  Then again, by now I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that the showrunners are idiots, so I accept this narrative decision with a shrug.  This episode is best described as ‘Raaaaaape innnnn Spaaaaaace’, as following an encounter with an alien arms merchant (Kovin)  7 of 9 gets a bit ‘hands on’ and punches his lights out.  Why, we all cry, as do the crew of the Voyager.  Thankfully we’ve got (untrained and unlicensed) psychotherapist simulation the Doctor on hand to take us back through 7’s repressed memories of an earlier encounter with Kovin where he…violated her.  Okay, this PG-12 TV, so no rape (or even mental rape, as we had with Troi back in TNG: Violations) is depicted, but he does “penetrate” her to remove her frequent McGuffin, Borg nanoprobes.  Hence, 7’s anger it seems stems from a genuine personal violation, at the hands of a suddenly very (understandably) defensive Kovin.

tumblr_inline_mstu8dqu9h1qz4rgp
Lie still my pretty, while I suck out your natural…fluids!

As things turn out, the accusation, despite all the initial evidence is a false one, and Kovin didn’t diddle 7’s assimilation-tubules (ooh-er) after all.  But since, pretty much everyone’s been after him, he flees in a tiny, crappy but heavily armed ship – which promptly blows up after he tries to fire all weapons on Voyager.  If only he’d opened the antimatter injectors to 120%, none of this tragedy would have happened.  When WILL people learn…  Cue the 7 discovering the ‘joy’ of remorse, and the Doctor asking Janeway to Ctrl+Alt+Del his operational subroutines so he can forget (no, you can’t, it’s all part of the human journey, Doc).  Shame he can’t drink or go on a vision quest, that’d soon sort him out.  Of course, we must remember that none of this tragedy would have happened if the crew had relied on their standard protocol for psychological trauma, a vision quest with Tacotray!  Although, for once, I’m glad we dispensed with this mystical bollox in a SciFi show, since as things goes it delivered a none too bad ‘did he do it’ mystery.

The Killing Game: PtI

Janeway’s a Klingon!  No, wait, she’s white suited Liza Minnelli running a bar during WWII for alien nazis(3*)!  Okay, despite the confusing cold open, it turns out that between episodes the Hirogen have gotten annoyed at being ignored for a whole story and have captured the Voyager.  Now they appear to be using the holodecks with a brain-washed crew to act out complex combat storylines on Kronos and WWII.  The crew’s memories of who they are have been wiped, although what is not explained is how they all now have detailed knowledge of the characters they are playing. Hirogen technology is nothing if not unexplained and variable in advancement.  Although, they clearly don’t have holodecks and must rely on the Doctor to patch up the crew when they’re injured during the simulations.

sainte-claire-cap-04
The most exciting moment all episode

Meanwhile in the ‘real’ world, only Harry Kim, the Doctor and an unspeaking NPC crew member who is likely to be red-shirted at any moment, are kept awake to keep the simulations and the ship running.  Poor old Harry, as I said earlier, he’s ‘enjoying’ one of the ‘Harry suffers misery’ plotlines, which will as per normal have no long term ramifications.  Meanwhile, in between Mademoiselle de Nerf serenading(4*) us like Lt Gruber from Allo Allo, and Neelix riding a bike around awkwardly (honestly he nearly falls off repeatedly) Janeway leads the French resistance in preparations for the arrival of the US Army.  Naturally, even this is all part of the Hirogen’s programme, although since they’ve taken the holodeck safety protocols offline there’s little surprise that something unexpected is going to go wrong.  Which it promptly does when ‘Capt’ Tacotray’s US Army division blows a hole in the side of the holodeck into the ship itself.  It makes for a dramatic closing shot, although I’m still not clear how they’ve expanded a single room to cover several decks without utterly compromising the ship’s structural integrity.  Also…how did Harry Kim and one NPC ensign do all this structural work?!  Guess we might find out in part two!

The Killing Game: PtII

Once again we run into Trek ‘difficult second episode’ syndrome.  It’s affected even the best stories over the years, even TNG: BoBW, the second part is seldom the match of the first.  Here in The Killing Game’s second episode, the interesting diversion we’ve taken starts falling apart at the scenes, rather like Voyager itself.  Honestly, the ship’s a total wreak, how will they ever fix it up enough by next week, I’ll never know (4*).  Essentially this one runs out its time with lots of back and forth, as Janeway and 7, with the help of Harry unmindwipe the crew, and then with the aid of a holographic army retake the ship.  Meanwhile, in the B-plot the Hirogen Commander and his second in command tussle over the ideological impasse they’ve reached – with the former wanting his species to hunt holographic prey, while the other feels this is a bad idea and they should stick to their good fundamentals. Like stalking, killing, skinning and boiling down for soup anyone they take their fancy too.

hirogen_nazi_killing_game_two
“And just what is it which makes you think we’re the bad guys in all this?”

Interestingly, like many Star Trek races before them, the Hirogen undergo narrative diminution in this story.  With the exception of the Kazon, who were always crap.  Anyway, in the Hirogen’s first appearances they were GIANTS, 7 foot tall and more.  There are a couple of big ones, but now they all appear to be of average height.  Guess there were a limited number of tall actors on call.  Additionally, they and their armour are no longer impressive.  A couple of rounds from a replicated replica of a WWII army rifle are enough to kill their Commander.  I’m sure in earlier episodes the Doctor went on about how biologically touch they were.  Next time they appear, I assume, they’ll be vulnerable to papercuts.  At the end of the day, Janeway brokers a truce, provides the holographic tech the Commander wanted (shame he didn’t live to see it in use) and remarks on “Casualties on both sides“.  Really?  No Starfleet crew appeared to die on screen, so am I to assume we’ve lost some redshirt NPCs who will be unmourned and unmissed?  My god, you don’t think they’ve killed off Samathana or Naomi Wildman do you?  I mean, they’ve not been on screen for ages – and that’d be terrible!

Okay, not terrible, risible.  That’s the word I’m looking for.

Vis à Vis

I almost choked on my tea when this episode opened, with Tom Paris remarking how “Nothing’s happened for weeks” and how he’s bored.  I guess we’ve had a major time skip to passover all the funerals and extensive space-dock time the Voyager must have had to end up looking all shiny and new.  Either that, or the writers weren’t talking to each other by this point in the show, and continuity had gone down the nearest Jeffrey’s tube!  Anyway, an alien flying an experimental super-warp (coaxial) drive ship turns up with a few problems, and poor old bored Paris who once again is slacking his duties gets assigned over there to help him sort through his problems.  Alarm bells were ringing doubly for me here.  When Tom was sloppy before, it was all actually part of an undercover mission, with it being later established that he’s reliably very good at his job – so chalk one to lazy retroactive characterisation.  Additionally, last time Tom started fucking around with advanced-warp drive technology…he become a lizard’s father.  So this all bodes really, really well for this story!

capture-1
“I never liked your hair style!”

Turns out, we’re back in film homage territory, with Voyager’s take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  The visiting alien, by the name of Steth, claims to be a test pilot and offers to take Tom on a ‘romp across the cosmos‘ (or words to that effect).  Tom’s having enough trouble at work and his relationship with B’Elanna, so he declines.  Shockingly the dodgy acting alien steals Tom’s likeness and dumps the transformed Starfleet officer aboard his discarded ship for ‘Mr Tom’s Wild Coaxial Warp Ride‘.  Cue not-Tom acting up on Voyager, swinging between romantic and then hyper-aggressive with his lady love, not to mention attempting to mack on to 7 too.  His odd behaviour doesn’t go unnoticed, and culminates during an interview with Janeway with him full on trying to strangle her!  Come off it not-Tom, why not Neelix?  Of course it’s all a ruse as he’s now stolen Janeway’s body, but thankfully transformed-Tom and other previous hosts turn up to put the record straight and jump everyone back into their own bodies.  Actually, I rather enjoyed this episode, partially because Tom is a great character and well acted, and additionally because we didn’t insist on partnering with Harry all episode.  And secondly because it was a solid slice of Trek soap-opera, which even (slightly) moves Tom and B’Elanna’s romance forward.  Although, one is left feeling that they only advance their relationship in the face of terrible traumas!

The Omega Directive

Sadly this is not the crossover with Galaxy Quest that the title hints at, for shame.  When every PADD and screen on Voyager suddenly gets the OSOD (that’s the Omega Screen of Death) Janeway and 7 must collude to save warp travel as we know it from the hyper-explody Omega particle.  So terrifying is this creation of science, that ONE particle alone wiped out warp travel in a space sector by kablooying subspace forever.  Oh noes!  Leaving aside how stupid it is for something that is (a) supposedly top secret and known to captains only and (b) is announced across the ENTIRE ship(6*)…there are a smattering of some good bits in this episode, but they’re as rarefied as the particles themselves.  Okay, yes it’s yet another ‘7 and the Captain’ two hander as one learns the limits of individuality, and the captain grows…older?  I dunno, Janeway hardly seems changed by these encounters.  Despite this, it’s a classic Star Trek romp against the dangers of the unknown/things man was not meant to know!

capture
Janeway’s curiously Omega symbol shaped conference table’s been a dead give-away for years!

Of course, dull alien species of the week has created millions of these particles which means the Voyager team get to totally ignore things like the Prime Directive or Starfleet ethics and rob them of it.  Remind me again why Janeway gets made an admiral at the end of all this, and Picard doesn’t?  While 7 wants to keep the particles as a pet (since they are the Borg’s idea of perfection), Janeway makes her flush them down the space toilet…but not before for a few seconds, the particles form into something..beautiful.  And that’s that, aside from even MORE 7 and the Captain in Master Di Vinci’s room (no John Rhys Davies, as he costs too much for a cameo)for a discussion on spirituality.  Don’t say that too loud girls, Tacotray will butt in, like he does whenever there’s a whiff of anything mystical!

Unforgettable

Oh sweet zombie jeebus, it’s another Tacotray story.  Is it really that time again already?  Can’t we have another one about Neelix suffering instead?  No, what we have is the Voyager coming across (ooh err) a mysterious bounty hunter lady (aka a tracer) from a race called the Ramuran, who’s had a torid love affair with everyone’s least favourite Native American Starfleet officer.  EW!  Anyway, Kellin explains that her race, the Ramuran, live such a closeted life that they have (somehow) evolved pheromones that make anyone they meet forget about them after a while. Hence, poor old Tacotray can’t remember anything about this apparent love of his life, but she knows all about him, right up to his food preferences, side he dresses on and his deep love of flamenco dancing.  That last one might be a fabrication, but I forget…

unforgettable_269
Tacotray is visibly soooo into her – not!

Tragically, just as Tacotray rekindles his forgotten romance, the aforementioned tracer-lady turns out to be on the run from her society herself.  And wouldn’t you know it, another tracer sneaks onboard and ker-zaps her with a memory wiping ray.  Oh the sweet, delicious and downright hilarious irony as now she forgets all about Tacotray, and he’s the one remembering for them both.  Or at least until she buggers off with the tracer, but not before they load a virus into Voyager’s computer core to wipe all electronic traces of them too.  But not all is lost, thanks to Neelix’s hot java, and Tacotray’s pencil and paper teen-diary, where in he writes down all the hot sexy times he had with Kellin, before he forgets her once more.  Aw, that’ll keep him warm on those long lonely nights before his inevitable, and repulsive, romance with 7 of 9 two or so seasons hence.

Can’t help that Kellin got the best deal.  Unforgettable?  Sheesh, I’d love to forget I ever watched this episode.

Living Witness

Whisper it.  This is one of the truly great episodes of Voyager, and perhaps unsurprisingly, centres on the Doctor (don’t they all?).  Or at least…a copy of him, and the crew.  It tells the gloriously distorted tale, 700 years after Voyager’s visit, of their impact on the planets of Kyria and Vaska.  I say distorted, because Janeway’s got action hair and evil black gloves, Tacotray’s had a collision with a henna party and the Doctor appears to have fused with Data.  It’s all a beautiful framing tale, where through a combination of deliberate propaganda, revisionist historical research and error, that the noble Starfleet crew have been painted as marauding warmongers in a historic simulation.  Kate Mulgrew in particular chews the scenery with delightful relish, but you can see pretty much the whole cast having fun playing their evil twins.  Mirror Universe, without the Mirror Universe if you will.  Best line of episode without a doubt simulated-Tom Paris’ retort to simulated-Neelix.

Watch your mouth, hedgehog!

Actually, I suspect that line wasn’t an historical artifact.  Due to shenanigans at the time of the ship’s encounter with the planets, a copy of the Doctor was stolen from the Voyager, and it is this which is reactivated to become the titular living witness.  Naturally, the Doctor slowly puts the museum’s curator and the record straight, but sadly this uncovers underlying simmering ethnic tensions between the two local sentient races.  Civil war breaks out, and just as we’re about to see how the Doctor can act to stop it…the episode jumps forward many generations to tell us in a brief coda how things all worked out.  It’s a nice but rather truncated ending to a fascinating examination of how history and your actions get distorted over time, especially when viewed through the prism of modern sensibilities.  Much as I enjoyed this one, I do wish they’d made it a two parter – more evil crew action, and a proper resolution to the Doctor’s story.  All the same, well worth your time spent watching it.

livingwitness_058
Evil-Janeway considers who to execute first.

Demon

Harry Kim gets some time in the limelight, although as normal, his ol’pal Tom Paris is along for the ride.  Voyager comes across a Y (AKA Demon) Class planet…a planet so deadly, even orbited it would eat the hull plates!  A type of planet so hostile to life, even 7 of 9 can’t strut about unharmed!  A type of planet that Starfleet have long wished to explore but lack the technology.  Hence, it takes all of 10 minutes before Janeway and crew have rubbed some Savlon on the hull plates of a shuttle, and vaselined up a couple of space suits so Tom and Harry can wander around on the surface unharmed and mine liquid deuterium.  And if that’s not enough fun, Voyager goes to Blue Alert (which does mean changing the bulb) and lands as well.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qa_gZ_7sdZg]

Hello?  Internal consistency called, and asked you to try and at least stay true to your own (wacked out) crazy physics logic!  Honestly, the episode spends so long telling us how deadly these types of planets are, and in minutes it’s all hand-waved away so we can go romping around the surface without a care in the world.  Unsurprisingly, once down there we end up with ANOTHER Harry Kim duplicate story, as a silver mimetic-space fluid (Tom, did you get more excited than I thought?) replicates the two crewmen.  Eventually, we find the originals, and it turns out the silver fluid just wants to be loved.  Or experience consciouness. One of them.  At which point Janeway says “Hey, let’s duplicate the entire crew, that’ll be a spiffing idea and won’t in anyway utterly breach the prime directive and violate every single person aboard’s essential self-identity“.

demon
Sunny with a slight chance of acid rain, and body duplication

Okay, okay, there’s a line about “Checking everyone’s cool with it”, but then seconds later the Voyager lifts off, leaving behind 130 odd duplicates.  Either Janeway’s the most persuasive speaker ever (hah, no evidence of that!) or the whole crew just goes “Okay, Captain.  I didn’t need to be unique anyway”.  Guess they’re all a real bunch of individuals.

One

I liked this better when it was called ENT: Doctor’s Orders.  No, honestly – I’ve seen this all before, ship has to pass through deadly-through-shields region of space, crew all go into stasis save for One (ho ho) immune character, said character starts going batshit crazy and hallucinates, day is saved by burst of speed out of death zone, it was all (mostly) a dream.

course-oblivion
Once again – Harry Kim’s main/only role is to be the face of suffering

Okay.  One was broadcast in 1998,  fully 7 years earlier than Doctor’s Orders, so for once it’s not Voyager that’s ripping off someone else’s plot.  However, given I saw the Enterprise episode not so long ago, this one felt really flat.  Speaking of flat, unlike Phlox, we are not treated to a naked Jeri Ryan wandering around the ship with the Captain’s pet dog (or Harry Kim, who I assume plays the role of Porthos).  Shame.  Anyway, it’s not a terrible episode, but since I’m already fed up with 7 of 9 centric episodes this season, I could have lived with any other member of the crew staying awake in her place.  Even Neelix, since his best episodes of his are those where he has to face his own inner fears without the ability to switch to cheerful denial through slavish servitude to the rest of the crew.  A missed opportunity.

Hope and Fear

Colour me shocked on a number of levels, as this was a pretty decent episode to round the season out!  Okay, it’s bookended by yet more scenes of Janeway and 7 of 9 in their sometime pseudo-maternal relationship working out together.  And yes, while 7 wears a slinky catsuit, Kathy wears a smock.  But the rest of the episode, not bad at all, and kudos for not giving us a cliffhanger but a done-in-one storyline.  This week the crew stumbles across an advanced federation ship, the USS Dauntless (NX-01A…er…isn’t that Enterprise?) after a superfriendly linguistic alien called Arturis (Ray Wise, another RoboCop alum) finally reconstructs the message from Starfleet received earlier this season via the Hirogen’s network.  Cue the discovery of a slipstream drive that could get the crew home.  For once, Janeway manages to look this gift horse in the mouth and gets ultra-suspicious of everything coming up Millhouse suddenly all at once.

janeway_and_seven_of_nine_after_velocity
Impractical AND Tasteless. Well done.

She’s right, because it turns out the Dauntless is actually Arturis’ ship, disguised by holograms.  Turns out his race got nommed  by the Borg, as a direct result of Janeway and co helping the assimilation-happy cyborgs overcome Species 8472.  Whoops!  Hence, while he’s not keen on 7 as a former drone, he positively hates Janeway and crew and had planned to drop them all in the lap of the Borg to see how much they like getting assimilated!  When his ruse is discovered, he manages to whoosh off, with Janeway and 7 aboard, but the Voyager rescues them just in time…and he’s the only one left to get assimilated.  Sadly, Voyager’s slipstream tuneup only gives them an extra 300ly (so, still 59,700ly to go then) before it essentially would have wreaked the ship.  Bet they’re wishing they’d not gotten rid of all those Borg add-ons from the start of the season now!

320x240
Starfleet’s all about the pointy now.  Disks are SO last generation.

There are, as this is Voyager, some clunky bits.  Torres and her engineering team have been giving the Dauntless a thorough going over, but somehow miss the GIANT SWITCH on the bridge that brings down the hologram disguise. Arturis also gives this soliloquy that frankly screams “For your consideration…“.  And yes, it is 7 and the Captain at the centre of the action.  That aside though, the story does manage to dovetail two of the major themes of the season: 7’s integration into the crew and the message  from Starfleet.  A long way to go, but this story gives me hope Voyager might not suck all the rest of the way home!


What have we learned this season?  Well, like S2 where every other episode had the sodding Kazon and/or Tacotray, this season has firmly been 7 of 9’s.  While, yes she IS more interesting a character than Kes…so too was Porthos.  She’s also rapidly in danger of becoming Voyager’s Wesley Crusher.  Unstoppable alien race? 7 of 9’s nanoprobes to the rescue!  Got an environment no one else can take? 7 of 9 rides to the rescue!  Need to explore the human condition, why it’s a 7 of 9 episode.  On and on and on.  I get that she’s shacked up with the showrunner, but for the love of Q, next season can we have some of the other crew get more of a time in the spotlight?  Harry Kim especially, but Torres and Tuvok, and to a lesser degree Neelix, have been especially poorly served and squeezed out of any narrative development in season 4.  Honestly, I’m struggling to remember anything Torres did of value, other than shag Tom, and she’s a great character – worthy of so much more.  Gah.   Well, maybe the lessons will be learned as we shift into S5.  But, unlike dupli-Harry on that Class-Y world, I’m not holding my breath.

1*: The first message is for Tacotray, and is surprisingly not a warrant for his arrest but a note to say “Hey there, DS9 plot’s wiped out all the Marqui. Soz, okay, byeee
2*: One thing I won’t hold out hope for, is an explanation as to how antimatter injectors can possibly be “opened to 120%“.  Science be praised! Perhaps, the answer is simply that Janeway is a big fan of Nigel Tufnel?
3*: Hang on! Is Voyager swiping plotlines from the future of Enterprise now?  Zero Hour Alien Nazi’s ahoy!
4*: Were the show runners trying to showcase Jeri Ryan’s singing talents to get her a record deal?  Because the singing is…very prominent in the episode, more so than the narrative required.
5*: Spoiler alert, by the next episode the Voyager is immaculate…almost as if this storyline never happened!
6*: Of course, were the captain aboard a starship incapacitated or dead when the Omega alarm goes off – does that mean the entire ship becomes locked in space and unable to go anywhere?  The more I think about this alert, the dumber it seems!

The Great Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: Season 4 (part 1)

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.

pariscannotstop7of9
Look out Tom, I think she wants to mate!  Torres will NOT be happy

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…?

The Gift

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.

images-1
“If they give me hair, please do not let them model it after yours, Captain.”

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!

shooting_the_gift
Kes?  Sorry, it’s all about sexy space-lady times now!

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).

picture-19
That’s it Tom grab hold of something…NO NOT THOSE!

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.

Nemesis

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.

kradin_commandant
Go on, who wants a big, french kiss?

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.

Revulsion

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.

Hands off the lady. No means no, creepazoid!
Hands off the lady. No means no, creepazoid!

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.

revulsion_202
The tension is palpable

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!

The Raven

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.

bomar_representatives
Somebody, somewhere, lost a bet

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.

kurs_der_voyager_durch_den_raum_der_bomar_
The most direct route…still doesn’t look ‘that’ direct

Scientific Method

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.

scientificmethod_040
I did NOT need to see that!!!

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”

04a5
Only two replicator rations a week? Luxury!

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.

capture
All this, and the new astrometrics lab comes on line too! Red letter stardate for sure

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…

st185
Good, solid, character driven stuff. Great performances too.

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!

capture
Now THAT’s what I call battle damage!

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!

Random Thoughts

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.

randomthoughts_032
Arnold Rimmer called, he wanted his uniform back, Chief Examiner!

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.

Concerning Flight

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.

320x240
So cringe worthy, you’ll want to watch Season 4 of Sliders instead.

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.

Mortal Coil

 

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.

mortal-coil-2
“Good news! You were dead and we had a great wake”

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*).

mortal-coil
Neelix’s nanoprobes attempt to spare him the misery of living through this episode. Heroes, every one.

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.

Waking Moments

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.

dream_waking_moments
The lucky ones – they don’t have to live through this episode

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.

Doctor WHeasel lives!

Finally, I’ve set up a WordPress site for my Doctor WHeasel audio adventures.  Since we’ve just been recommissioned for a second year of shows, I thought it was high time I used something better than the YouTube somewhat shonky playlist feature to group things together.

You can visit the site at: https://doctorwheasel.wordpress.com/ or by clicking the preview image below.  Enjoy!

capture

Submission

So, it’s finally arrived, the day that seemed at first infinitely far in the future, and in the last year crashingly close every day. Yesterday, I submitted my PhD thesis.  And after completing around half-a-tree’s worth of paperwork and forms, after four long years I finally find myself at somewhat of a loose end.

To say the feeling is weird, would be an understatement.  Certainly for the past year, if not two, I’ve woken pretty much every working day with a slight feeling of incipient panic that I need to be doing SOMETHING.  Yet, there’s also been that feeling that I’m forgetting something, that by doing Task X today, Task Y is being neglected, while hidden away from sight, Task Z lurks…waiting to trip me up when it suddenly becomes Task Right Bloody Now!

I anticipated yesterday was going to be a long day, I perhaps didn’t count on how long. In at 9am to spend three hours nurse-maiding a printer to run off the required submission copies, and running afoul of my university’s not well articulated format settings.  Spotting some minor errors that upon correction necessitated junking a copy of two as they utterly threw off the page settings.  I tried not to give into feelings of panic either, as the minutes ticked by – knowing the print unit closed around 2pm, and that I also required to get a physical signature off my supervisor for the submission form.  While he’s a great guy, my supervisor can prove hard to track down physically at times, and is also very forms-phobic.  I’m with him on that!  In the second decade of the 21st Century, why the fuck I need to collect a physical signature and submit physical thesis copies is maddening.  I have to submit an electronic copy anyway, as well.  Just one of many, many niggles about the university administration I’m coming away from this experience with.

Having bound the thesis, and following a long walk and a tram ride, tracked my supervisor down in the city centre campus (I’m based at the out of town campus).  Signed form, multiple abstract copies and bound thesis in hand I strolled to Stalag Luft Graduate Office.  Or Doctoral School. Or Graduate School…or honestly whatever name they’re calling themselves this week, they’ve rebranded about four times while I’ve been studying.  They’re also hidden away, on the fourth floor of an anonymous building, with a reception point…behind a security locked door.  Really weird that last one, you have to know who you want to see and ring to be allowed in…almost like the staff don’t want to interact with us students.  As up-front-customer service paradigms go, it’s not a winne.  Odd really, as when you do meet and talk to the staff, they’re lovely.  Perhaps they’ve had one shouty student too many over the years.

The hand in moment was…beyond anticlimactic.  Over four years of my life and thousands of hours of labour, dealt with in an exchange lasting less than thirty words.  Most of them me asking about viva arrangements.  And then it was all done, bar the viva of course.

Afterwards my supervisor took me for a pint, a chat about next career plans (I’m flexible, I’m available, I’m not sure I’m staying in this country) and initial viva tips.  My personal favourite “You know all those articles that tell you how to pass a viva?  Don’t read them!”  It was, to say the least, a really useful and enjoyable chat.

And then, all the Nottingham trams stopped due a traffic incident and I was stranded 5 miles from my car.  Okay, I could have caught the bus but I had a) no idea which bus to catch and b) no idea where said bus went from and c) really hate riding busses during flu season.  So, I walked the 5 miles across town, moor, riverside and express way in the gathering gloom and fog to my car, to drive home to the next phase of my life.

What exactly that’s going to be…I just don’t know for sure.  I do hope it involves less sitting in a cold, dark and somewhat damp house for hours on end on my own!

 

The Great Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: Season 3 (part 2)

And now we reach the dog-days of Season 3, and incidentally Kes’ time aboard the ship (yes, yes, I know she’s in it for a couple of episodes of S4).  Will I find an episode worse than Sacred Ground?  Will Harry Kim die again?  Will anyone let Tacotray be the episode lead again?  Sadly, I suspect the answer to all three is: probably yes.


Alter Ego

Harry Kim falls in love on the holodeck, and decides to become an emotionless emo-Harry, with the help of Mr Tuvok.  Or at least that’s the show’s opening.  Honestly Harry, are you some moody 15 year old who’s been dumped for the first time by a girl who you thought was special, but turned out just to be dating you because it made her friends laugh…or something.  Yeah, something like that.  Anyway, while Emo-Harry spends his time ‘retreating, suppressing his emotions and deconstructing the emotional context’, or as Tom rather succinctly puts it ‘being in denial’, Tuvok spends his time getting to know the fascinatingly witty, charming and sexy Marayna.  She seems too good to be true, given how much trouble the Doctor’s far more complex holo programme has at simulating genuine organic responses.  Hang on a minuet, has anyone checked if there are any Bynars aboard?

capture
Another of Tom Paris’ crimes against sentients & good taste everywhere

Actually, it turns out the crew end up literally referencing Elementary, Dear Data, with Marayna at first appears to be a super-intelligent programme, and then a puppet of this lizard lady who lives in the nearby spectacular nebula.  Turns out in a spectacular reversal, after cuckolding Harry, this alien has fallen in love with Mr Tuvok and can’t live without him.  After playing a spot of kal-toh, threatening the ship, Tuvok gives her the old ‘It’s you, not me’ speech and dumps her.  Still, in the process he does at least make friends with Harry – the other loneliest loser on the crew.

Also Neelix claims to have ‘done a lot of ethnographic research into the Polynesian culture’. Fuck off gerbil-lips, you mean you read it on Starfleetapedia(*).

Coda

Janeway does Groundhog Day (wait, I thought that was a later episode) that then turns into Cause and Effect and she and Tacotray keep dying and resetting.  Wait, it’s Edge of Tomorrow isn’t it, only with a fraction of the budget and much less of the interest.  Turns out Janeway might be dying and the devil (or an alien, or her father) tries to stick her in their matrix.  The whole episode is like the Voyager writing staff’s manatee tank just exploded and scattered random plot balls all over the place – it’s a shocking, badly underwritten crap-hole of an episode.  Skip over it with ease if I were you.

coda2
And I-ayyyyyyyye, will always love yooooou!

Blood Fever

Mr The Only Other Vulcan In Starfleet (Ens Vorik who having turned up just a few episodes was clearly waiting to be a plot hook) goes through space puberty, and accidentally (possibly) infects B’Elanna with the space horn.  So we get an episode where Vorik needs a cold shower, a crafty visit from Lady Palm and her five lovely daughters or hot pon-farrgasm, the latter of which Torres isn’t keen to give him.  On the other hand, she’s all for working out her own neurochemical imbalance (aka klingon-on-heat) with Tom Paris…who for once acts like a total gentleman.  Well mostly, he’s about to make the beast with two wrinkled foreheads when a seemingly calmed-down Vorik smacks him about the head, demanding to remake Amok Time.  In the end Torres and Vorik beat the raging sex hormones out of each other, and lie in a sated sweaty heap as Tom Looks on, trying to keep his legs crossed.

bloodfever
Literally Voyager at its sexiest!

There’s also a plot about some McGuffin mineral Voyager needs, and some aliens who are hiding under the surface of a planet who don’t want to be found.  Turns out they’re hiding from…the Borg!  Wow, things are beginning to look up already, and we don’t get Seven for at least another ten episodes yet.  I wonder if we’ll have to wait long for their introduction in Voyager?

Unity

No.  We had to wait a single episode, although tragically the arrival of TNG-era’s greatest bad guys is heralded with a Tacotray-centric episode.  While exploring the Nekrit Expanse (oh, thought we’d forgotten about that) Tacotray and Ens Soon-to-be-Dead crash land after getting lost and then detecting a Federation signal.  Turns out it wasn’t Voyager, but a load of Alpha Quadrant folks who have a community.  As suspiciously harmonious community, with lots of hair loss and the odd cybernetic implant.  Yep, they’re Borg who’ve been severed from the Collective and turned hippy.  Well, most of them, some remain all grouchy and they’re the ones responsible for shooting down Tacotray’s shuttle and killing off Ens Soon-to-be-Dead (off camera).

cbs_voyager_159_image_cian_358478_640x360
I. Have sat on a thumb-tack

Meanwhile, as Tacotray gets a temporary Borg implant (not like that sounds like a terrible idea, right), Voyager comes across the former drone’s cube a-drifting through space, and Borgish-Tacotray trying to turn its systems back on.  For some, poorly explained reasons, this will help the ex-Borgs.  Although unsurprisingly what it does do is switch the remaining Borg back on who…for no good reason…blow themselves up.  Eh?  Oh right, the former Borg have become a new Collective, or rather a Cooperative.  Bah, bloody filthy hippy Borg, I hope Species 8472 wipe them out!  Still, the Borg are now a part of Voyager, surely things are going to get better now!  Although, as Janeway points out, for all their dippy-hippyness, the new Cooperative were pretty quick to use Tacotray as a tool, so they might not be that great.

Darkling

You know, I’m sure by now the writer’s room know they can write an episode with lots for the lead character to do, and just throw it at Bob Picardo, who’ll effortlessly run with it.  This is one of those episodes, wherein the Doctor decides to tinker with his own basecode and give himself upgrades.  Not at all a callback to Khan and the augments, this is more about personality.  Unfortunately, he’s a doctor not a holo-programmer, and he ends up with a classic split personality, after some small, lecherous overtures.  Well, that’s what happens when you merge Gandhi, Lord Byron and T’Pau…a murderous, phantom of the Sick Bay.  Tragically, the Darkling Doctor forgets to grow the customary evil-twin Spock-beard, which is a massive oversight in Star Trek!

darkling
No Doctor, not the ‘bad’ touch!

Meanwhile, Kes starts making eyes at this incredibly dull alien she’s just met, and begins to make plans for a life away from Voyager.  She looks set to leave behind her gerbil-cheeked ex and the rest of the crew when…Darkling Doctor chucks her paramour down a deep, dark hole.  Now Kes, Doctor, now Kes!  It all comes right in the end, as a paper thin idea is given more life than it deserves through Picardo’s performance – honestly the local aliens are as flat and 2D as it’s possible to be.  Oh, and Kes, for no clearly explained reason she dumps her new love and chance for new adventures to stay on the ship.  Well, I’m glad we avoided any character growth there then!

darkling_170
The Doctor was pissed off with the alien’s acting too

Meanwhile…has anyone seen Samatha and Naomi Wildman since the start of the season?  Given the role they play later, they’re conspicuous in their absence.  Has Janeway confined them to quarters until Naomi can actually do something more interesting than drool over Harry Kim’s op’s console?

wildman

Rise

On paper ‘Tuvok and Neelix crash in a shuttle’ seems terribly familiar, after all you can hardly go an episode or two without running into the ‘Federation shuttle crash’ trope as an episode opener.  Yet, this soon opens up into a closed-room mystery as Tuvok and the gerbil-faced have to get an orbital elevator working, with the help of a few suspects…sorry willing helpers.  Naturally, once they’re many miles above the surface one of the supporting cast gets bumped off, just as he mutters “Rosebud!“.  Sorry again, “It’s on the roof”, a clue so Machiavellian in its complexity that it take Neelix seconds to crack “We need to look on the roof!” he declares.  Of course, it’s so simple even a child or a Talaxian could crack the code!

tumblr_nyw6xur61s1u8qbm6o1_1280
For Tuvok, any time, is disco time!

Actually, the whole episode is really a buddy comedy, with Tuvok’s emotionless logic playing off against Neelix’s gut instinct and hopelessly enthusiasm.  You’d think, having been merged into one entity a year ago, that these two would understand each other on a level like no one else.  But that would require Voyager to maintain some internal consistency and character development between episodes, so the traumatically life changing merging is now all long forgotten, except by continuity nerds like me. *ahem*

There’s a backstory involving the world’s lamest alien invasion, by piloting a dozen asteroids at a planet to scare off the locals, that reads pretty much out of the Scooby Doo ‘Old Man Withers’ Playbook’.  And one of the locals who, for no visibly explainable reason is a traitor to his race…but we don’t really explore that.  Anyway, all comes good in the end and Neelix even gets the girl!  Not that she sticks around…wow, sucks to be you Neelix!

Favourite Son

Oh. It’s a Harry Kim episode.  That’s good, he’s not had one since The Chute way back at the start of the season.  What am I saying?  It’s a Harry Kim episode…how long before he’s dead/replaced/married off to another species.  About 12 minutes is the answer, as Harry’s amazing new deja vu powers, combined with Trill-like spots, reveal him to be the cuckoo offspring of a race in the Delta Quadrant. “Yes, we impregnated your mother on Earth” they explain, without mentioning why a planet 70k light years away was (a) a sensible choice b) how they got there and back and (c) Apologising for the creepy-rape vibe that gives off.  Of course, being Harry, nothing’s as good as it seems, as sexy lady after sexy lady offers to “Be your wife, Dave”. No, wait, that’s Papa Lazaroo.  But indeed, we end up with Harry in bed with two lovely ladies, who helpfully offer to help him find a third.

320x240
Hello, big boy

Personally, I spent most of the episode shouting “They’re preying mantises, Harry!  They’ll sex you up and bite off your head!” – since the male:female ration on Taresia is 1:9, there’s clearly something funny going on.  And after he finds one of the other males sucked dry, we all realise this is a classic Freudian male castration fear tale e.g. women want you for one thing, and then they’re done with you.  Thankfully Harry uses his advanced BDSM knowledge to tie up one of his lusting mantis-women, and beat the other one unconscious with a jar of lube.  And then he, and the Voyager hightail it outta there before any more of the crew get their vital essences drained.  But not before Harry get’s beaten up by dozens of woman carrying symbolic penises, as he defends himself with only a tiny techno-phallus.

capture
Don’t worry Harry, it’s personality that counts

No,I’m not kidding, and I wish I was. This is EXACTLY how this episode plays out!  If they’d gone for laughs this episode, perhaps ending on Harry’s upset little sex-deprived face, and a sad trombone noise, I’d have loved it.  As it was, this felt like a storyline that 1960s TOS would have discarded as being too misogynistic!

Before and After

Shock me.  It’s an interesting Kes tale.  In this one she lives her life backwards from (practically) her death to her conception (and then forward a bit for good measure).  Each time she leaps back to earlier in her life, she gets to explore a bit of future Voyager; the most important bits being Tom and Torres romance (written explicitly for the first time) and the Year of Hell.  As Year of Hell is (probably) my single favourite Voyager episode, this probably helped me stomach the Kes plot.  Most of the story is made up of Kes’ life, and it’s only latterly that we reach the point of trying to work out the why of the mystery (chronoton particles, it’s always chronoton particles if it’s time travel – even I know that!).

c10d0f9468aea62f3147ab90fe6556bf
Come on Tom! Warm your hands up before playing with a woman’s elogium sac!

Oh, score another death for Janeway (and Torres) in the Year of Hell future, though neither of these demises comes to pass.  In fact, the only real outcome of this story on the overall narrative is that Kes gets a new, grown up 3 year old Oompa Loompa haircut.  That and a resolve to live in the now, which is probably a good thing, since she’s only got a half dozen episodes left as a show regular at this point.  Despite all that, I rather enjoyed the story – okay, it’s by no means as cunning as Babylon 5’s time-travel arc as we’re not really seeing much of the future that will happen, but it’s an enjoyable romp into the ‘what might be’ future of the ship.  Depressingly I noticed, that by age 9 (so Voyager season 8) the ship still isn’t home…

Real Life

Huzzah, it’s another Doctor centric episode, albeit one I have seen before.  It starts out with the Doctor having created the perfect (rather 1950s stylee) family on the holodeck so he can ‘improve himself’, because that worked out so well in the Darkling. Sadly, Kes and Torres call him on the cloyingly saccharine nature of the perfect life he’s created, and rewrite the programme to be more true to real life.  Cue a spouse with her own professional career rather than Suzy-homemaker (quelle horreur!), an adventurous tom-boy daughter rather than Princess Perfect, and a moody teenage son who’s into Klingon knives, rock and probably drugs(2*).  Naturally, for the Doctor who’s not really able to deal with all these complex emotions, it finally hits the fan when his daughter is mortally injured playing dangerous sports, so he turns the programme off and goes off into denial about the whole thing.  Until he’s persuaded by Tom that he’ll only grow as a person if he confronts the trauma, and experiences the family bond that comes through facing adversity together.  Honestly, as his daughter slips away my eyes got pretty moist.  Top flight acting performances here, and a great episode.  There’s a reason the Doctor’s the best character in the show, and this just reaffirms that.

picture-215
Damn, they’re annoying and hateful here…which makes the denouement all the more painful

Meanwhile, Tom Paris falls down a subspace hole and the Voyager spends the episode trying to get him back.  Thankfully, other than his encounter with the Doctor you’re safe to fast-forward over this bit, as it adds nothing vital to the narrative!

Distant Origin

What if dinosaurs were the first intelligent species to arise on Earth, only to leave for the Delta Quadrant (for no good reason) and mythologise their distant origins?  It’s a slightly daft idea, that makes for a rather good episode – and I’m saying that even though it’s technically a Tacotray centric one.  A lot of the first half of the show is shown from the perspective of Forra Gegen, a Voth archeologist who stumbles upon the bones of Mr Hogan (botched to death by Mr Neelix in Basics Pt II) and discovers genetic markers aplenty linking this mammalian species with his own.  Unfortunately, his research is hobbled by ancient religious doctrine that declares his research as heretical, so he has to sneak off and pursue the crew.  Cue a montage of him popping by a few locations from earlier episodes, in the nearest thing to a season long story arc Voyager’s ever attempted!  As the Voth are a bit more advanced than Starfleet, he’s able to wander around cloaked on the ship…for a bit, until he’s discovered and quickly kidnaps Tacotray, to hopefully dissect him.

distantorigin047
Swipe left.  SWIPE LEFT!

The fun half of the story ends here, as the rest of it involves humans and Gegen being put on trial by the Voth High Council for their heretical existence and research respectively.  Cue lots of impassioned speeches from Tacotray, before the whole human/Voth link is swept under the religious hegemonic carpet.  There’s also a deeply,deeply  implausible bit where the computer extrapolates, accurately, 65 million years of evolution to arrive at a single answer for how hadrosaurs became the Voth.  All the same, it’s a nice downbeat ending to the exploration of a nice idea, and one that surely would revolutionise human archeology – knowing that traces of the Voth must exist somewhere deep, deep on Earth.  But of course…it’s never, ever mentioned again.  Nor does Voyager remember to ask the Voth “So, any chance of explaining about this transwarp you’ve got so we can get home?” – honestly, there’s episodes where you beginning to think Janeway doesn’t WANT to get home quicker.

Displaced

One by one the Voyager crew are replaced by some befuddled, robed aliens who claim to have no idea why they’re there.  And then, before you know it, they turn out to be bad guys who steal the ship, leaving the crew behind on a planet with only their wits to survive on.  If this sounds sorta familiar, that’s because way back at the start of S3 the Kazon nicked the Voyager, and dumped the crew on a planet to survive on their wits.  Not really sure why another episode in the same season with the same basic premise made it through, although to be honest, the stealth invasion and space prison were actually a slightly more interesting hook than the Kazon desert world.  Anyway, after a few holographic shenanigans, and the discovery that there are 93 other races who’ve been Shanghaied into the space Gulag, Janeway and co get their ship back.  And that’s about it…oh, aside from yet more gentle developments in the Tom and B’Elanna love story, and the discovery that the Doctor’s mobile emitter has a mute function.  Not like he’s a living sentient being though, meaning the crew can now just shut him up when he gets too annoying.  There’s that grand Federation mutual respect for all sentient life again…not.

d0bed1c52e8ee68e895cc42a17371398
That bat’leth looks blunt as anything

Worst Case Scenario

Finally, Tacotray gets the stones to organise a mutiny with the help of the Maquis cremen and a few Federation turncoats.  I’d have been more shocked, and more drawn in to thinking this was actually happening, had it taken place during S1 or S2.  By now the Voyager’s just one big happy family, that I can’t even remember the last time anyone even mentioned there are two disparate crews aboard (plus gerbil features and dull-lass).  I had seen this one before, so I knew where it was going – an anonymously authored holonovel, that the bored Voyager crew soon get playing.  Turns out Tuvok wrote it years ago just in case the Maquis got all uppity, and then forgot about.  A lot of the episode is played, if not for laughs, but for light relief, as different crew members try out the programme – notably Tom Paris trying to find the Win conditions, only to be frustrated by the truncated ending.

worst-case-scenario
Arrhhh, it be Pirate Cap’t Tacotray, me hearties!

Of course, once he gets Tuvok to open up the authoring tools (guess Tuvok’s not fond of Creative Commons licences then) we discover that the late and mildly lamented Seska had left some booby traps in the programming behind.  Yes, once again we’re into ‘Holodecks are certain death with access to the entire ship’s computer systems’ territory.  If I were Starfleet Command, I’d rip those puppies out fleet-wide and get everyone to just read books or something.  They’re way too much trouble.  An enjoyable, if disposable romp without any lasting repercussions.  Oh, and in case you’re wondering what the real worst case scenario was – it was Captain Tacotray. Shudders.  Let’s hope that never comes to pass!

Scorpion, Pt I

The end of S3 of any Star Trek series is a momentous moment.  We’ve moved on beyond the getting to know you stories, we’ve done plenty of world building and with any luck we know the crew well enough to really feel the emotional sting when they hit the major jeopardy.  It’s no coincidence that ST:TNG The Best of Both Worlds PtI is one of the finest episodes of any series, let alone Trek, as it came at the end of S3.  The same with DS9 The Adversary – the pronouncement by the Founders that “You’re too late. We’re everywhere” in the Federation sent a chill down the spine.  Even the red-haired step-child of Trek, Enterprise, gave us ZEONs(3*) for the only time I’ve ever screamed “WHAT THE FUCK?!” at a TV screen.  Hence, as we reach Voyager’s S3 climax the hopes are high – after all drop your linen, and start your grinning – the Borg are finally here big time, and Voyager is about to get about 7 times(4*) as sexy.

kim_deformed
“Oh dear, looks like we need yet another Harry Kim. Ah well”

Okay, 7 doesn’t turn up until next season, and much of Scorpion PtI is about setting up Species 8472 as the Bigger Bad than the Borg.  That slightly annoys me on three levels.  One, it defangs the Borg as the Great Foe for TNG era Trek.  Two, they look a bit crap.  Three, there’s a bit too much lifted from Babylon 5 for my liking.  8472’s bio-ships look almost exactly like Vorlon cruisers(5*), and the whole Kes telepathic battles are right out of Lita Alexander’s playbook.  There’s also a whole lot of story beats here that are right out of BoBW too, with the casual invasion of the Borg cube, the Borg’s Wolf 359 moment (on the losing side this time) and even a captain teleported off her ship.  And yet, despite all this, I still quite enjoyed the episode – even if essentially it’s all prologue to PtII.  It’s just a shame Janeway couldn’t have signed off the season with a better line.  Her parting shot of “What’s happening?” is hardly going to go down in the history books quite like “Mr Worf…fire.“, is it! (6*)

vorlon-8472
Mighty familiar looking….

Oh yes, I’m not going to touch the excretable Leonardo da Vinci bits with Janeway.  Yawn.


And…wow, I survived another whole season and have found myself increasingly enjoying more of the the episodes than I expected.  Even Neelix and Kes ones, though I still find both their characters fecking annoying.  What have I learned?  Harry and Tacotray have been short handed on episodes this season (shame), while the Doctor has continued to shine.  Also, once Ens Vorik served his purpose in Blood Fever, we never, ever see him again.  Odd really, on a ship with only 148 crew…you’d think some of the background faces would get more familiar.  Oh yes, and I really like Janeway’s S3 pony-tail hair do, even if the bouffant bit is still way too OTT.  Roll on S4…even if I have to sit through Concerning Flight – blurgh!

q_thegray_079
Farewell S3 hair-do, you’ll be missed

* Look, if you read the research bits of my blog…you’ll know that I kinda know what ethnographic research actually consists of!
2* The last one’s implied, but I’m pretty sure the Doctor’s son is mainlining crystal Ghakk or something
3* Zero Hour Alien Nazis
4* See what I did there?
5* Even down to Fluidic space looking like red-hyperspace in the B5 universe
6* Oh just wow.  I had to go back and watch Riker give that command again.  Still gets me, 25 years on.  There’s a whole essay about the sub themes, tropes and motifs of BoBW that I’m not going into.

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.

capture
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!

valtane-dies-flashback
‘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.

voy-thechute15
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.

emhdiagnosticprogram
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.

capture
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.

voy-remember7
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.

320x240
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.

screencaps_voy_3s-2d-42-02-167-011
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.

capture
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!

capture
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.

1warlord_031
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…

q_and_q_mate
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?

big-virus-macrocosm
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!

fairtrade_083
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

The Great Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: Season 2 (part 2)

Okay, catch up with Season 1 and Season 2 (pt 1) and then on we go, with fair warning that three of the worst episodes of any Trek live in this half of the season (Resolutions, The Thaw and the mighty Threshold).

Alliances

Hey, you know what I’m really crying out for?  Another Tacotray and Kazon centric episode.  Boy oh boy I miss these ersatz klingons when they’re not on screen as much as I miss having ingrowing toenails.  Yet actually despite this baggage…this wasn’t a half bad episode, with a twist I didn’t totally see coming for once.  In fact a lot of it came down to the simple proposition: wouldn’t things be a hell of a lot easier if we didn’t stick to damned Starfleet protocols all the time?  It even brought to the fore the simmering (and underused) tensions between the Marquis and Starfleet personal, after a massive Kazon attack half wrecked the Voyager and killed Ensign Irrelevant.  Oddly though at his funeral, of the 147…sorry, 146 crew, only the full command crew plus two others turned up.  Guess only the senior ranks get to mourn, while everyone else fixes the ship.

sobras_surface
I know it was you Fredo!

Actually, about that.  The quite exciting opener has the Voyager utterly hammered by the kazon, and any show worth its salt (Battlestar Galactica, for example) would at least let the damage linger for sometime.  If only to show us what hardships and struggles the crew are going through to keep the Voyager flying, for example.  Yet once Ensign Nobody’s corpse has been shot out of the torpedo tubes(*) the ship seems…pretty much totally fixed.  Score another one for the amazing and omnipresent reset-switch.  Anyway the Voyager crew score an alliance (much to Janeway’s distaste) with the Trabe, the race that once enslaved the kazon.  And with a little help from the unwitting Federation almost manage to pull a Joey Zasa on the gathered First Majes.  Net result, the Kazon really, really hate ‘the Federations’ now, and Janeway smugly tells everyone it’s her way of the highway.

Particle beam of the week: Phaser (old school!)

Threshold

Oh grud, there’s no putting it off anymore.  Okay, despite being stuck in the Delta Quadrant with severely limited resources, power and engineering talent, Torres, Paris and Kim build a shuttle that can reach Warp 10 (aka infinite speed).  This means Tom Paris is everywhere in the universe at once.  Yes, even your house.  Having achieved seven impossible things before breakfast Paris hyper-evolves into the future form of the human race, a dumb lizard.  But not before kidnapping Janeway, sexing her hyper-evolved lizard self and spawning three lizardlings(2*).

And since we’re in an episode of miracles, despite only teeny-tiny DNA traces of Janeway and Paris being left behind in their lizard forms, the Doctor sorts them all out with a wave of a hand and single scene change.  And that’s all she wrote, bar a coy post-coital discussion between the captain and her helmsman as to who initiated their frenzied swamp copulation.  ‘In some species it’s the female who initiates the mating’ says Mrs Robinson…sorry, Janeway, as a thousand fanbois scrotums shrivel in fear.

tom-paris-kathryn-janeway-lizard-threshold-star-trek-voyager
Janeway and Tom have ridden the Warp 10 hyper-lizard pleasure express

Does Threshold deserve its reputation as one of (possible even THE) worst episodes of Trek?  Yes, yes it does.  Even for Star Trek the logical consitency of a shuttle on a small ship, doing what the massed scientists of the Federation can’t boggles the mind.  And this is BEFORE we get to the lizard transformation (and back).  It is however far more watchable, like a B-movie knowing the horror that we are about to witness, and laugh at the asinine plotting.  Which is more than I can say for If Wishes Were Horses and Sub Rosa which remain god-damned unwatchable as well as being bloody awful stories.  Fingers crossed I’ve now crossed the bottom threshold (hah) of Voyager’s stories and everything from this point on will at least be marginally better.

Particle beam of the week: Radiometric therapy

Meld

Another episode I’ve seen before, and unlike the preceding one not a bad little tale at all. Like Dwight Schultz’s guest appearance enlivened last season’s Projections, this time we get Brad Dourif turning in a fabulously coldly sociopathic/psychopathic turn as Crewman Suder.  The murder mystery is soon done with(3*), as Suder admits he did it because the other guy looked sideways at him.  Ouch.  After Tuvok performs a highly questionable mind meld, it’s time for the psychodrama as the resident cool Vulcan starts to come unglued.  I was impressed as Tuvok attempts to deal with the boiling desire to kill by replicating Mr Neelix on the holodeck and strangling him to death.  Finally, someone on the show is willing to give the viewing audience the scene we’ve always wanted – perhaps we could see this each week as Tuvok goes through his ongoing therapy?

voy-meld16
“Hey Mr Vulcan, put on a happy smilaaaargh”

As character studies go, this wasn’t a bad one.  It was also a fun little investigation into the abilities of Vulcans to repress their emotions.  I assume lots of them use the holodeck trick to murder in simulacrum those who annoy them.  Or at least I’m going to assume they do.  I suspect, given this IS Voyager that Mr Tuvok’s PTSD from this whole experience is going to go unreferenced after this point.  Sigh, shame, as again it would enrich the character who appears to have a ramrod up his arse.  Although, I do recall that we’ve not seen the last of Mr Suder…

Oh and there’s some crap subplot about Paris running a replicator ration gambling ring in Sandrine’s.  Couldn’t give too hoots about it, although it’s good to see the former lizard transwarp genius pioneer is back to being good old untrustworthy Tom again.  Almost like the previous episode never happened.  Perhaps I did dream Threshold after all!

Particle beam of the week: Radiogenic particle emissions

Dreadnought

Oh right, the other episode this season where Torres rescues a broken killing machine from deep space and fixes it right up.  That went so well last time, I could only assume this one will be a zinger too.  And it turned out, actually, that I rather enjoyed it, possibly at least in part because Torres is one of the characters that I quite like.  I wasn’t overly convinced by the rationale for the Cardassian missile being in the Delta Quadrant, as it’s feeling mighty Deus Ex Machina that “It was the Caretaker” is coming out as the excuse for pretty much every Alpha Quadrant object they come across.  Still, it’s a solid enough episode all in all, even if it’s not one that I’ll be rushing back to watch again.

dreadnought_at_warp
Like the episode, Dreadnought the missile is okay looking, just not that thrilling

In the background Tom Paris continues his descent into the ship’s resident bad boy, and that sneaky crewman Jonas continues to sell out the Voyager to the wannabe-Klingons.  It’s almost like Voyager is dipping its toe into serialised rather than episodic fiction!  W00t.

Particle beam of the week: Thoron Shock Emissions (ouch!)

Death Wish

Oh my lord, a genuinely great episode of Voyager that I totally enjoyed.  And all it took was Q (and Q2) to come to the Delta Quadrant.  This one has everything – totally over the top Q powers (“Let’s hide in the big bang!  No wait, as a Christmas ornament!“), a trial and a Will Riker cameo.  it also contains, after “Take that cheese to sickbay” my single favourite Voyager quote, and appropriately it’s from Q upon meeting the dreary Mr Tacotray

Facial art. Ooh, how very wilderness of you.

voy-deathwish28a
“Just think. We could leave Neelix here, and no one would ever find him”

Q, I have really missed you and am looking forward to your future Voyager appearances already.  I’m also impressed after bantering with Picard, getting punched by Sisko, that you decide to try and seduce Janeway.  Way to go man, and not at all coming across as a potential cosmic super-rapist.  Anyway, after the trial has Q2 allowed to become mortal he goes through with his plan to top himself (with the aid of Q) so as to shake the Q Continuum up a bit.  Which, considering how moribund they appear to be when we visit them during the trial, can only be a good thing.  So cracking dialogue, some great Qing and a downbeat ending, this episode went to show that Voyager can be, when it tries, a really enjoyable slice of Trek.  More like this please.

Particle beam of the week: Primordial baryonic particles (BANG)

Life Signs

The tl;dr version: the Doctor has a love affair with a hologram.  The longer version, the Doctor essentially cures death, by transferring the neuroelectric brain impulses of a dying Vidiian female (Pel) into a holographic body.  Nice to see all the sick-bay holoemitters can easily sustain two holograms at once, which makes me wonder why they don’t have two EMHs running around there normally.  The rest of the episode, is pretty much vanilla Star Trek – a non-human (the Doctor) learns about this Earth thing called love, while the non-hideous Pel hologram remorseless runs down the line “You only love me because my face is rotting off in this body!“.  Actually, that latter bit is true because Pel looks as terrible as all the other Vidiians.

8582905_star-trek-voyager-lifesigns-review_t37678a5b
“And if we use the dermal regenerator…oh, sorry, your nose just rotted off”

Anyway, aside from this yawnsome romance plot the only other highlights are the ongoing Skype between Marqui traitor Jonas and the Kazon, and Tom Parris pushing Mr Tacotray over on the bridge. Bad Tom, off to the brig with you to think about what you’ve done (aka Well done Tom, please do it again – falling on his arse is the most interesting thing Tacotray’s done all season).

Particle beam of the week: Neuroelectic impulses (I think)

Investigations

My irritation with Neelix reaches new levels of annoyance as we kick off this episode with the first appearance of A Briefing with Neelix.  I remembered this from the first time around, and if anything it possesses even more smug-faced gittery than I recalled.  Anyway, finally the grumpy Tom Paris storyline comes to a head as he leaves the Voyager to (spoiler alert) go undercover with the Kazon…although his spy craft seems limited to hacking their computers the second Seska and they leave the room.  Never heard of surveillance cameras Tom?  Hence, shockingly he’s rapidly found out and has to leg it back to Voyager with the name of the crewman who’s been supplying the Kazon with titbits of information over the past few weeks – Micheal Judas!  Sorry, I mean Jonas.  At least this bit of the story lets Tom do a spot of Kirkery action.

capture
Do it quickly, Jonas! It’s not like anyone will miss him

Meanwhile, the A storyline sees Neelix tracking down the spy on Voyager due to his hitherto unmentioned and rather basis journalistic ethics.  After stumbling across (planted) evidence that it’s Tom, the Captain has to explain her cunning spy plot.  Hilariously no-one told Mr Tacotray, so his sour reactions to Tom’s incompetence, poor time keeping and mild pushing would look natural.  He looks so genuinely pissed off when he finds out that I couldn’t help but giggle.  Now Neelix knows what’s really going on, his investigations out the spy and punt him into an unexpectedly conveniently open plasma relay.  PUFF!(4*)  There goes Jonas, well murdered Neelix.  Although to be fair, Jonas almost managed to murder everyone’s least favourite Talaxian earlier in the episode.  Close, but not cigar mate!

Particle beam of the week: Energised Warp Plasma (leaking)

Deadlock

With Tom back on board, looking well groomed and with ready access to a watch, the Voyager flies into a magic space cloud so as to avoid a hoard of rampaging Vidiians.  And like every mysterious space cloud we’ve ever seen in Star Trek’s many incarnations, this proceeds to basically fuck everyone’s lives up by duplicating the ship.  Before long Harry Kim’s dead (again), which is a bit rich as for the past half a dozen episodes or so he’s had bugger all lines or anything much to do.  Even in this episode, his only moments of glory are falling out into space (boom!) and then his quantum duplicate agonising over existential questions with a smugly grinning Janeway (who handwaves all his worries away as the credits need to roll).

janeway_meets_janeway
Go on, snog her!

In a plot slightly reminiscent of Red Dwarf: Demons and Angels, the two Voyagers end up working together to defeat both their mutual entanglement, and then a sudden cluster-fuck of Vidiians.  Actually, despite Harry Kim pratting himself to death, this is a half-decent and enjoyable episode.  The highlight of the episode – two Kathryn Janeways argue the finer points of who’s going to blow up their ship first.  I was amused that one of the Janeways appeared to be sporting the exactly same facial cut that Kate Mulgrew wears as Red in Orange is the New Black.  Anyway while dupli-Harry and a dupli-baby Naomi Wildman pop across to the non-explodey Voyager, we get to witness the massacre and organ extraction of most of the key cast members.  Well done you organ vampires, that was particularly unpleasant – especially as you all got blown up shortly afterwards.

Particle beam of the week: Proton beams

Innocence

is this our second shuttle crash this season as the plot setup?  This time it’s Tuvok and Ensign DOA, rather than Paris and Neelix.  But don’t worry, because there’s a load of kids there to keep him company during his journey of self discovery.  As things turn out, they’re not young, cute kids sent here to be eaten by a terrible unseen gribbly, but old, dementia riddled eldsters sent here to die a dignified death.  At the hands of a terrible unseen gribbly.

voy-innocence
Don’t worry – you’ll all be dead soon

I’m not sure if that makes it any better actually.  Anyway, Janeway and crew spent most of the episode dealing with the slightly odd Benjamin Button-race elders (youngsters) who have about eleventy-million taboos that the Voyager team keep breaking.  Eventually Janeway forces the issue, and we find out the truth about this backward aging race.  I guess this was supposed to give us insight into Tuvok the father, rather than the officer but frankly I’d rather watch Tom Paris turn into a lizard again, than endure a repeat viewing of this one.

Particle beam of the week: Atmospheric Electrodynamic turbulence (so…lightning?)

The Thaw

When I say the highlight of this episode is in the opening (Harry Kim playing his clarinet) then you know you’re in for an utter stinker.  Although, we do at least learn that the walls on Voyager are paper thin and not sound proofed, as Harry’s neighbours keep banging on the wall and pleading with him to knock off that awful din.  No wonder the ship nearly flies apart every time it gets shot – it’s made from balsa wood!

the_clown_and_company
Suddenly DS9 If Wishes Were Horses doesn’t look half so shite

Anyway, the plot revolves around the frozen members of a dead race who’ve been locked into a version of the Matrix that appears to have been ripped off from Patrick Trougthan’s Doctor Who.  Honestly, i thought I was watching the Mind Robber.  There’s a creepy clown (played by an utterly wasted Michael McKean) inside this simulated world, who doesn’t want anyone to leave because he’ll cease to exist.  So he keeps executing people to give them heart attacks in the real world.  Yeah, he’s not the most-compiled programme in the mainframe.  There’s a whole load of negotiating between the Doctor, Janeway and the Clown, and finally some subterfuge as the survivors are removed from the system under the latter’s red nose.   And then we fade out the spotlight as the Clown ceases to exist.  Probably the best bit of the episode, as the rest is utter dreck.  Also…did the Voyager crew just dump the survivors on their dead world?  Seems like a bag of arse if they did!

Particle beam of the week: Nothing. It was all a dream…

Tuvix

Fuck me.  Even Sisko would call this stone cold, and he once conspired, lied and murdered his way through the greatest episode of Trek there is.  Janeway executes Tuvix.  That’s the denouement of this tale, and I may never look at her the same way again.

capture
Her blood runs deep and cold

Okay, the rest of the episode is the usual Voyager daft, Neelix and Mr Tuvok are merged into a new being, thanks to the transporter and a magic space orchid.  No really, a flower.  Anyway, cue lots of scenes wherein the new being is not just the sum of his parts, he’s better than them.  He can cook better than Neelix, and he’s a better tactical officer than Tuvok.   Does this matter?  No, because Janeway (and Kes) decide they need their original crewmen and lover (5*) back.  Needs of the many (or the two) over the one then it is.  Good for the Doctor who refuses under the ‘do no harm’ stipulation in his programming.  And so there we are, in violation of Starfleet’s charter to “seek out new life”, Janeway uses the medical transporter to de-fuse the two merged beings and marches out of sickbay, a momentary look of doubt her only stoney-faced lapse.

tumblr_m6ryf83euh1qatnkmo1_400
Half Vulcan, half Talaxian…and a costuming nightmare

Typical Voyager cop out here, as I would have liked to hear Neelix and Tuvok’s reactions to the death of a sentient being just so they could come back.  But no, as per normal, let’s sweep any complex questions and emotional impacts under the carpet.  Random thought: Does Tuvix only wear the one uniform for all the weeks he’s aboard?  As it never changes from its freaky merged looking one throughout.

Particle beam of the week: Deeply confused transporter particle stream

Resolutions

I didn’t think it was possible but I think I’ve found an episode worse than Threshold.  Yeah, I know.  Janeway and Tacotray get abandoned on a planet to fare for themselves after getting bitten by a mysterious incurable bug, that only the local environment can stave off.  Cue much wilderness adventures, a monkey and Tacotray actually admitting that one of his classic “My people have a legend…” stories is a load of bullshit designed primarily to get Janeway into his log-cabin.  Yes people, there is a long, drawn-out moment of sexual tension between Janeway and her Number One afterwhich it is strongly…and I can’t underscore this enough…strongly implied that the pair of them make the shuttle-bay with two docking struts.

voy-resolutions27a
Oh gawd Kathy, no. Don’t do it!  He’s history’s greatest monster.

If that’s not enough we’re also forced to witness Janeway taking a bath (!) and another of Tacotray’s vision quests.  One was to many back in Tattoo, now they’re just taking the piss.

The B-story, such as it is, revolves around acting-Captain Tuvok agonising over ignoring Janeway’s last command, and searching out the Vidiians for a cure for the Captain.  Which in the end he does, they double cross him, but the Doctor’s old rotting-face squeeze sneaks the cure across and all’s well.  That is aside from the most awkward moment ever when Tacotray and the Captain return to the bridge and have to basically forget they shagged like wild animals in heat.  Luckily, this is Voyager so the big ol’reset switch means that by next week (just like Tasha and Data) never happened.  Tom Paris and now Tacotray, Janeway’s slowly turning into Kirk…Harry Kim better watch out, Captain Robinson might be knocking at his door next!

capture
Now in total denial

Particle beam of the week: Atmospheric Electrodynamic turbulence (so…lightning?)

Basics (Pt1)

I gotta confess to half enjoying this one – at least when we got to the showdown between the Kazon and the Voyager, finally some starship shooty action.  The basic plot sadly revolves around the Seska/Tacotray/Baby thing, with Voyager being led into a trap, that’s not a trap, while rescuing a Kazon warrior who’s actually the trap thanks to his explosive blood and amazing syringe hiding toenail.  Go watch it if you don’t believe me, 30mins in – how the hell does he pull something that long and thick out of tiny toe nail?

capture
That’s one hell of a splinter

Anyway, yah-boo-sucks to the Voyager crew as the Kazon capture the ship and rather than spacing the lot of them, dump them on a planet that’s a tad volcanic and inhabited by lizard men.  Luckily the (slightly less) murdery Mr Suder and the Doctor manage to stow away on the ship, and Tom Paris might just have escaped in a shuttle too, so I’m expecting some real Die Hard action in Pt2.

Come to think of it…where’s Naomi Wildman?  She wasn’t on the planet, so maybe there’s four people who can save the day.  Shame one’s a baby.  Oh and Kes’ amazing psychic powers which would have been totally useful in defending the ship are instantly forgotten about.  Nevermind, this was actually a half-decent season finalé (better than Learning Curve by a country light-year), and the bit where they accidentally project the Doctor into space cracked me up.

Particle beam of the week: Externalised holoemitters

And that’s it for season 2, and what have we learned?  That Janeway will sleep with or execute anyone, that Harry Kim barely gets any screentime for half the season and there has been far, far too much Tacotray/Kazon-centric plot.  Thank the maker after Basics Pt2, the Kazon are pretty much done with. Oh, and of course, if you want a cracking, funny yet intelligent episode – call Q.

Now having watched this season Janeway, Paris and Harry have gone up in my estimation, Neelix, Kes and Tacotray remain on my shit-list.  The rest…meh.  Think I might take a Luke Cake shaped break now before cracking on with S3.  See you on the Delta Flyer, y’all.

*To the traditional bagpipe version of Amazing Grace I assume
2*Who are cruelly left behind by Tuvok, who assumes a random planet in the middle of nowhere is the best place to leave the spawn of his commanding officer.
3*145 crew and counting
4*144 crew and counting
5*I’m assuming Neelix and Kes are intimate.  It’s sorta implied, but not very heavily.  I try not to think too much about it, as I ran out of fresh bed sheets last time *shudders*