Regular readers will note I’ve managed to hide no fewer than 2 jokes in its pages – albeit minor ones. And that’s not including the doubtless myriad of typos that are still in there too.
Guess this means I need to revise the other pages of this blog now to bring them up to date too. Now, I just need to either re-write the whole damned thing into a book – or start writing some papers from it…the labour never ceases!
Can it be, that I’m only two (longish) seasons away from finally having viewed the only Trek I’ve never watched in its entirety? Yes, yes I am, 120 episodes down and 35,000ly to go! I have survived the Vidiian and Kazon years. I’ve moved beyond Kes’ turgid tales. I’ve had my interest (mildly) piqued by the arrival of the Borg, and then crushed as they get nerfed beyond all recognition. I’ve enjoyed the courtship of Tom and B’Elanna, been surprised by warming to Harry Kim and frustrated by the uneven handling of Neelix. Come on! Is he a genuinely happy go-lucky can-do outer space twonk, or a deeply damaged veteran covering a fragile psyche with a facade of joy? Pick one, showrunners, don’t flaming alternate between them as suits the plot.
I am, however, still suffering through the Cousin Oliver experience filtered through the Wesley Crusher-like horror that is Naomi ‘I’m the Captain’s Assistant’ Wildman. I sense there will be much more of her to come in the remaining 52 episodes. Oh Great Maker, I’ve just noticed Fair Haven’s coming up soon…Voyager’s Up the Long Ladder!
Equinox, Part II
With the Doctor replaced on Voyager with Equinox’s ethically subverted EMH, and 7 also aboard the rogue Federation ship, things don’t look too great for Janeway’s crew. By and large this episode is rarely, for a Trek two parter, the better half of the story. We get to witness ‘our’ Doctor turned unethical to extract command codes from 7. We see Janeway impersonating Captain Ahab, in her pursuit of the great, white Captain Ransom (Moby Dick always being a touchstone for Trek). As a result we also see Tacotray display a set of balls, when Janeway starts breaching her own ethical code to get information from a captured Equinox crewmember. We also get some real insight into the sadness and loneliness of command for Ransom, who delves deeper and deeper into his own personal holodeck fantasy. There’s a moment at the climax of the episode where, knowing his life is done, that Ransome drops into his own personal heaven, just before he’s literally kicked out of existence with a boom.
It’s clear here we’re finally exploring some deeper and more complex relationships between Starfleet officers, and while the whole floaty dimensional alien threat is pretty poorly CGIed, that doesn’t dismiss that this is a rather more adult an adventure than we normally get with Voyager. The shades of grey are so thick you can cut them with a knife, which probably explains why the comedy stylings of Neelix or Paris are pretty much totally absent. A special tip of the hat goes to the Doctor and 7, as once again the most interesting and well-acted pairing on the ship as the mentor turns sadistic inquisitor…and the regrets that come once his ethical subroutines have been restored. Yes, this is an episode where the black and white Star Trek reductionism is for once shuffled off stage (I know, on DS9 everything was shades of grey) and the show is simply much, much better for it. More engaging, more exciting, and moreover more authentic feeling.
That said, we do, however, have to suffer through another public domain duet. Ah well, you can’t have everything. Now, if the rest of the season can be this multi-layered and compelling, S6 is going to be a belter. But I suspect, going on past experiences, there’s going to be a fair few narrative barrels left to be scraped yet.
I’ve decided this season to track how many times Voyager’s inciting incident is a shuttle crash, because by now it’s become a lazy, repetitive trope. It also seemingly suggests that 24th century shuttle travel is possibly the most dangerous means of transport available. Although, this episode opens with a Borg shuttle crash (Crash #1), which I guess is a slight variant. But lords-a-mercy, from this crash emerges 7 of 9, back in her assimilated days and some of her Borgy chums. The Borg quintet are suddenly cut off from the Collective, in a manner somewhat at variance with how the Borg’s hive-mind connection has been portrayed previously (cf. TNG: I, Borg), but hey, let’s just roll with it. Meanwhile in the present day, larks-a-plenty occur when Voyager is docked to essentially the Trek version of Babylon 5 (the Markonian Outpost), meaning aliens of every size, shape and colour (within the episode’s budget) are wandering around the decks. Before you get too excited about dealing with all these species, turns out this is just a route to getting the three remaining ex-Borg(1*) from the earlier crash aboard Voyager to stalk 7 for initially unknown reasons.
Eventually after a nanoprobe assault on 7, Janeway and crew discover the shared history of these ex-drones (the names are a dead giveaway), although 7 can’t quite place exactly what happened. Sadly, Tacotray’s medicine bundle is offline, and so the crew have to fallback on plain, old science to probe their memories. Turns out the ex-drones started re-asserting their individuality after the crash, but square old 7 of 9 reassimilated them to the Borg, against their free will. Years later they somehow (and this is really glossed over and poorly explained) escaped the Collective once again, ripped their implants out and fled a looooong way from Borg space. However, the three of them are still linked in a mental triad and their shared thoughts have driven them all half-potty. The Doctor, ignoring his hippocratic oath (!) offers to sever the connection, albeit at the cost of their lives: live one month as an individual, or a lifetime as part of the triad. Now, I’m not saying this is a bad episode, there’s some solid performances from the drones and given it paints 7 of 9 not in the greatest of lights, something her character desperately needs, it makes for a nice change of pace. However, it’s a bit of a downer ending as the three ex-drones slink off to slowly die, including one who stays aboard Voyager, who you know, we’ll never see again or even witness their unpleasant death. Which all means, the ending falls a bit flat.
Barge of the Dead
You know what everyone was crying out for? Yet another Klingon episode dealing with their mystical side, and featuring 7 and the Doctor’s close harmony on a drinking song. No, wait, what we needed was B’Elanna having a shuttle crash into the ship (Crash #2), and experiencing part hallucination, part mystical afterlife experience of the titular Klingon Barge of the Dead. Aboard this grim vessel is her mother, suffering for the sins of the child. Funny, I thought the Klingons were all about the Sins of the Father…but narrative consistency has rarely been Star Trek’s thing, has it! A third of the way into the episode B’Elanna wakes up in sickbay, to discover the preceding 15 minutes since the shuttle crash has taken place inside her head. Or have they?
Having previously demonstrated precisely zero interest in Klingon mysticism and spirituality, and being a creature of science, Torres makes a series of wild deductive leaps concluding that (a) mother is dead (b) her experiences on the Barge were ‘real’ and (c) if she doesn’t atone for her sins of not going to Klingon Church on S’Undach, mummy dearest will suffer in Gre’thor for all time. Okay, that sounds like some sane, sober and entirely rational logic there, Ms Chief-Engineer. As normal, the second anyone suffers a spiritual crisis, Tactray turns up and promptly tells her it was all psychosomatic. Wait? Mr ‘Voices of My Ancestors‘ and ‘Have you seen the Size of my Medicine Bundle‘ has suddenly gone all rational? Native American spirituality’s ‘real’, but Klingon religion’s a load of hooey? Nice even handed characterisation there scriptwriters, if Tacotray hasn’t got his mystical subplots, he’s got nothing! Additionally, did nobody think to check in with Mr ‘Death is Nothingness‘ Neelix at any point? He’s got previous with the old afterlife (as, I recall, has Janeway).
Anyway, B’Elanna petitions the captain to let her undergo a ‘death’ in sickbay, so she can go rescue her mother. At no point in the dialogue does anyone call out that Torres is clearly suffering a mental breakdown, displaying all the classic post-injury symptomology: sudden mania, irrational decision making etc. But rather than entertaining the (likely) possibility of this, they agree to bypass the Doctor’s ethical subroutines (2*) and recreate the hypoxia and trauma of the crash. B’Elanna transfers back to the Barge/suffers a neurological hallucination (take your pick) and after some Klingon mumbojumbo, agrees to be a proper Klingon from now on, and mummy goes off to be happy. I’d die laughing if, when on returning to the Alpha Quadrant, Torres discovers that her mum is still alive. Ha! Try explaining to the crew how they compromised their ethics, just to let you take a sanctioned medical voyage to tripout-city! So, have we learned more about Torres? Possibly. Will we see her new, zealotic zest for Klingon spirituality in later episodes? Going on past narrative experiences with Voyager, it’s a safe bet it’ll never be mentioned again. At least until (spoiler alert) she tells Tom she’s going to raise their baby ‘Klingon Orthodox’.
Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy
Having had his subroutines messed around with for three straight episodes, the Doctor unsurprisingly develops a rich, delusional private fantasy life wherein he’s the hero of the ship. Actually, this isn’t too far from the truth, as the Doctor IS the best character on the show, so I wonder if this is actually some sort of meta-commentary by episode writers Joe Menosky and Bill Valleyly. After a nauseating/hilarious (opinions will differ) combined operatic performance and medical treatment of Tuvok in his fantasies, in the real world he petitions Janeway to develop the Emergency Command Hologram (ECH). Burned after agreeing last episode to B’Elanna’s batshit-crazy request, she turns him down. Meanwhile, chubby aliens of the week (the Hierarchy) are spying on Voyager…via the Doctor, which means the information they’re working from is ever so slightly filtered through his fantasies.
The Doctor’s daydreams soon run away with him (a bit like that late season episode of TNG where Data discovers he can dream), and he has to be reprogrammed. But not until we’ve seen his fantasies laid bare on the holodeck. And I do mean bear, with respect to 7 of 9! All is well until the one of the Hierarchy contacts the Doctor to warn him of their imminent attack. Hence, hilarity and drama ensues as the Doctor has to bluff his way through a confrontation with the aliens, which he does with great success. Leaving 7 to give him a peck on the cheek, and an admonishment that she will NOT be posing for him. Great exit line, enjoyable if disposable episode.
I think I prefered this one when it was called Stephen King’s Christine. At a deep space junkyard (hey, there’s a name for a new show) Tom Paris buys a new shuttlecraft to tinker with. He calls it Alice, after the girl that got away, but pretty soon it’s clear the neural-interface it comes equipped with means he’s seeing the ship’s personality as a lovely lady. Naturally she wants him all to herself, and tries to kill Torres in a fit of jealousy. Tom saves her, but he’s still under Alice’s spell, and flees the Voyager to fuse as man and machine. How Borg of him. For once the episode ENDS with a shuttle crash, as Alice crashes into her own particle fountain, but not before Tom can be whisked to safety. It’s not a terrible episode, but then again aside from a bit of Tom and B’Elanna romance subplot, it’s never going to be referenced again.
This was possibly the best episode of Voyager I’ve seen in a long time, genuinely emotionally affecting with excellent acting turns from both Ethan Phillips and Tim Russ. Once again some of the crew are off in a shuttle. “Aha“, I thought, “Tuvok and Neelix are going to crash any minute…” Nope, turns out an invisible alien blasts Tuvok and puts him into a coma, a coma from which the Doctor cannot awaken him, but Neelix’s incessant, annoying interference can. But the Tuvok who awakens is brain damaged, and while he regains his sanity, he has lost his logic. Tuvok morns for his loss, and his old interests no longer engage him – hell, even Harry Kim can beat him at Kal-toh now, so you know things are bad! It takes a brief conversation for Neelix with 7 to reawaken in the caring Talaxian that the possibilities for Tuvok might not be as grim as they first appeared.
Seven “When I was separated from the Collective, I too was damaged. I was no longer connected to the hive mind; I lost many abilities that I had acquired as a drone. But I adapted.”
Neelix “Because Captain Janeway didn’t give up on you. She kept trying to help you.”
Seven “But not by restoring me to what I’d been; by helping me discover what I could become.“
A new Tuvok emerges, a man who loves cooking and smiling, and who genuinely and warmly reciprocates on the friendship that Neelix has long offered. There are certainly resonances with the earlier Tuvix, wherein the Vulcan and Talaxian were fused, albeit without direct reference(3*). Yet, this is where this deep friendship began. In a better and more continuity rich show, the linkage and character development between these two would have been more evenly handled. Yet, even in Voyager, this episode builds on some of the rich background that DOES exist between these characters, but is seldom deployed in its episodic narrative. Okay, the Doctor does find a magic wand to ‘fix’ Tuvok, but as with Tuvix, there is an unwillingness for the man he has become to ‘die’ to return to the Vulcan he was. And at the end, a slight acknowledgement that not all is lost in the miasma of logic and discipline once more. Yes, this is another episode that reminds me that with better writing, Ethan Phillip’s Neelix could have been the most complex and probable breakout character of the show. Next week he’ll be back to being an annoying tit again, like Tuvok’s new personality, the flowering of this more engaging characterisation is all too brief.
Aka ‘Voyager wakes up the space nazis, whoops’. After a brush with a super-space vortex full of space crap, and some grumpy aliens (the Turei), Voyager cuts out the middleman of shuttle crashes and lands itself on a devastated world. Here, it turns out a civilisation called the Vaadwaur lie in cryogenic slumber. Thanks to old 7 of 9, for whom Starfleet protocols are still just suggestion, the civilisation starts waking up and working with the Voyager crew. Janeway is a bit miffed, but given the Turei keep trying to bomb them from orbit, throws in with the apparently maligned sleepers. Yeah, you could spot the twist from a mile off in this one, long before the omniscient combination of Borg databases and Talaxian folklore (WTF?) reveals that the Vaadwaur were the bad guys, and this world was their last stand. Now they’re up and running again, they quite fancy borrowing (indefinitely) the Voyager to return to their space conquering ways.
A bit of an old skirmish commences, with Voyager, having landed, struggling to get back into orbit. Hey, maybe that’s why the shuttles are useful! Janeway, with the help of the one Vaadwaur good guy, jam the Vaadwaur defences and allow the slowly gathering Turei armada to rain down phaser fire. Despite this, some 53 Vaadwaur ships get away, and as Janeway sternly says to 7 “We haven’t seen the last of them“. Except this being Voyager, of course we bloody have. Not like they’re the Borg!
Janeway’s blastard favouritism of the ex-Borg comes through again, as given her actions reawoke and ancient danger totally against orders – 7 gets a simple slap on the wrist. If she’d been Tom Paris, she’d be in the brig and demoted to kitchen assistant. One rule for some, another for 7 of 9.
One Small Step
Way back in the early 21st an astronaut orbiting Mars is gobbled up by a funny glowing space lozenge (I think it’s a giant Locket). Cut to the 24th Century and Voyager comes across the same anomaly, and sends the reliable Delta Flyer in to investigate. It gets sorta stuck, and Tacotray get’s mortally wounded, or a slip disc (the show’s not clear) and spends most of the episode on his back looking mournful. 7 (who else) has to raid the 21st Century ship for the parts they need to repair the flyer (because as we know, the 16th Century hay-waggon has parts that can fix my car), and listens to the dying log of the NASA astronaut. A bit like TNG: The Royale, only nowhere near as much fun, or maybe DS9: The Sound of Her Voice. Also, a large chunk (at least 10 minutes) is just the guest actor wittering on as Tacotray and 7 listen and look serious. Epoch making, attention grabbing great TV it is not.
To add insult to injury, having recovered the astronaut’s body from the anomaly, Janeway fires it off into space in a funeral. Charming! Didn’t even replicate a set of bagpipes for the Doctor to play.
The Voyager Conspiracy
Aka “That one that’s a bit like Worst Case Scenario“. Except this time 7 of 9’s added some new processing power means she starts drawing lots of conclusions from multiple sources. Gosh, it’s just like my research, except with 7 it’s got more Photonic Fleas. Naturally, slowly turns into the Daily Mail and starts seeing conspiracies at every turn. First it’s Captain Janeway who’s behind stranding the Voyager deliberately in the Delta Quadrant. Then it’s all about Tacotray. She even manages to make Tacotray and Janeway distrust each other, when realistically the first thing they’d do is tell each other “7’s gone mad again“. I don’t really buy the sudden mistrust between the Captain and her first officer, after all this time. Earlier in the show’s arc, yeah, but now. Nah. Eventually this turns into yet ANOTHER Janeway as 7’s Mum episode, and love saves the day. Blurgh. Nice idea, but I could happily have skipped this one.
Oh Naomi Wildman’s in this a bit, but let’s pretend she isn’t okay. Also an alien with a Gravity Catapult or something, that hurls them “30 sectors” (what, we’re not using light years now?) nearer home.
Whisper it: This is a genuinely funny, affecting and enjoyable episode of Voyager! And all they had to do to achieve this miracle, was bring in two TNG favourites in the shape of Lt Reg Barclay and Councillor Deanna Troi. The framing story is Barcley, now working at Starfleet Command is falling back into obsession, this time partly with contacting the Voyager but also with interacting with a simulation of their crew. Honestly, Reg, did TNG:Hollow Pursuits not end with you getting over holo-addiction? Essentially, this is a TNG episode with the real Voyager crew only appearing briefly towards the end. Reg’s trials and tribulations to convince Starfleet that his wacked out engineering ideas, despite his odd lifestyle choices, are actually works of genius makes a strong and compelling narrative. We even finally get to meet the real Admiral Paris face-to-face too, which leads to a wonderful character moment for Tom.
Dwight Schultz and Marina Sirtis are just relaxed and confident in their guest performances, as you might expect given how long they’ve both played the roles. It really shows that with polished actor performances and a solid script Voyager can make for compelling TV. Honestly, I challenge any Trek fan to come away from this episode without a warm, satisfied glow! However, it’s fair to say S6 is certainly making gems such as Pathfinder fewer and far between. And after this highspot (both in terms of Voyager’s quest for home, and the show itself), we’re about to return to the race to the bottom…
The Voyager crew go through another space storm and have to ride out the boredom in yet another ‘popular’ holodeck simulation: Sandrine’s and Mr Neelix’s holiday zones clearly have lost their lustre, and no-one but Tom, Harry and the Delany-sisters are keen on Captain Proton. Hence, this time it’s the small Oirish (sic) town of Fair Haven where life and potatoes slow to a crawl, and it’s only enlivened by Janeway reprogramming one of the characters to be her sex-bot. When she deleted his wife, increased his education and changed his personality I thought “Why doesn’t she just use a sex-toy, like the rest of the crew, eh?“. Seriously, there’s some seriously poor ethical judgements here from Kathy, that if Harry Kim made them, everyone would be outraged. That the Captain can reprogramme an artificially intelligent simulation (you know, like the one who works for her in Sick Bay) to match her own romantic expectations, once more we must question just HOW enlightened is Starfleet, really?
However, there are two far more important questions that must be addressed in this truly dreadful episode. The first question is “Can Fair Haven be even worse than Once Upon a Time?“. The second question is ‘Does this episode constitute as racist a interpretation of the Irish people as Up the Long Ladder?‘. Tackling the latter one first, it is actually somehow even worse than Up the Long Ladder. Sure, no friendly Colleen offers to wash someone’s feet, but every single Irish cliche you can imagine (and a few more besides) are on screen. Not to mention, the crew all start talking in wildly terrible Oirish brogues too and affect cripplingly embarrassing stereotypical mannerisms.
It is bad. Really, really bad. Still not convinced? Consider this: If Fair Haven was set in sub-saharan Africa, would it have been okay for the crew to black-up and do ‘African’ accents? No, no it wouldn’t, and hence this episode is riven with poorly and deeply racially offensive Irish stereotypes. As to the second question: No. This episode is shite, but Once Upon a Time remains an unadulterated considered a crime against humanity.
Blink of an Eye
Voyager gets stuck above a world trapped in some kind of temporal bubble, where an entire civilisation rises in a few days. Naturally, trying to communicate with the accelerated race is more than a little problematic (not to mention a breach of the Prime Directive), as anyone going down would age years by the time they were beamed up again. Thankfully though, we have the Doctor and his mobile emitter to voyage and explore this strange race. Now, by this point, if you know your Trek like I do, you’ll be saying to yourself “Didn’t Kirk do this story already with a Sexy Lady?“. Yes, yes he did in the bloody-hell-it’s-almost-the-same-nameTOS: Wink of an Eye. The story this time though isn’t about a dying race needed to breed with strong, healthy Earthmen, but rather the effect on a civilisation of having a Spaceship locked in perpetual low orbit above them.
Eventually, the race reaches for the stars (which oddly, despite the accelerated planet timeline aren’t whirling above them madly) and boards Voyager to make first contact. Relative years later on the planet surface the aliens decide to start taking pot-shots at the ship, which means the crew must return the now time-lost astronauts and try and score a peace. It’s not a terrible tale, although just like Blink of an Eye the whole super-advanced time-line aliens falls down when you think about it (by the time a week’s gone by, they should have advanced to the level of the Q I think). On the other hand, it doesn’t mean a great deal to the overall voyage home.
Bonus marks for having the marvelous B5:Crusade, Lost and Hawaii 5-0 future-alumnus Daniel Dae Kim playing the astronaut who finally makes first contact!
Ah, another chance for the Doctor to sing his way(4*) through songs that exist only in the public domain, to avoid paying any royalty rights. Snarking aside, this is a belter of a comedy episode as the Voyager crew encounter a stuck up advanced race (the Qomar), who love mathematics but have never heard of music. Once the Doctor accidentally serenades them, their whole race gradually falls head over heels in love with his performances. Bob Picardo, as we’ve noted before, has a cracking voice, and coupled with his normal great comedy chops, this makes for an episode that actually had me laughing out loud in places for all the right reasons for once. There’s a lovely double edged sword to this episode, since as the Doctor deals with his increasingly ardent fans we get some knowing nods towards the more rapid end of the ‘Pasadena Star Trek Convention‘ types from Janeway.
Once again though we hit Voyager’s (and Star Trek) problem with rights and self-actualisation for artificial lifeforms(5*), as the Doctor decides to quit Starfleet to concentrate on his new found musical stardom. Janeway is more than a little pissed off, far more than (as the Doctor points out) if ‘Harry Kim fell in love with an alien woman’. Chance would be a fine thing eh Harry – a plotline AND a woman, no-way! Unfortunately, the Doctor finds that hope copying is killing music (!) as the Qomar replicate an improved version of the Doctor and don’t need the original. That’s right, Voyager is pro-copyright (shocker!). Poor old Doctor, he’s suddenly the iPhone 6 in an iPhone 7 world. Better not tell the Captain, or she’ll want to take the upgraded version along instead! Poor sod, back to the Voyager he goes to eat crow and resume his duties, where the joy of one fan letter is worth far more than the adulations of thousands.
Whoo, half-way through a season with two cracking episodes (Riddles and Pathfinder), a monstrously awful one (Fair Haven) and two comedy-drama Doctor-centric episodes (Virtuoso & Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy). I guess it could be much, much worse…and those Borg children are just around the corner now. Onwards we go!
1*: One of whom is played by Vaughn ‘Admiral Forrest from Enterprise’ Armstrong, who I kept waiting to tell Captain Archer to do something or mention the Vulcan High Command.
2*: Again! They don’t say this, but given his performance in the past couple of episodes it’s the only conclusion I can reach that justifies his decisions. Maybe they didn’t fix his programme that well when they got him back from the Equinox?
3*: On reflection I’d like to view this episode as a direct, thematic sequel to Tuvix, given it deals with the same two characters. That gives it more of a DS9 kind of feel, which can only be a good thing. Not quite Miles and Julian level friendship banter, but close.
4*: I’m not convinced it’s Bob Picardo singing all the time as his voice changes a bit in the live performances he gives on the Qomar homeworld
5*: I know we get back to this issue again in Author, Author in S7, where copyright absolutely does play a major narrative part. No one tell them about that monkey who took a photo!
Yes, I know, shocking. I’m writing about my PhD again, something I’ve not done for a long time. Why? Well, because essentially all of 2016 was writing, editing, revising, rewriting and then more editing. Oh and panicking, there was a quite a bit of that when I realised I wasn’t going to make my official deadline (thanks to family deaths, illness, general life events etc). Thankfully, and despite the usual scaling of Mount Administration, I got an extension through to Jan 2017. I was ready to submit before Christmas, but gave myself the first couple of weeks of the new year for a final proof-read and tidy before submitting on 18th Jan 2017.
Setting the Date
I kinda expected the viva would take place within about three months post-submission, since THAT’s what the university’s own regulations stipulate. And given I’ve had to keep to their administration rigid timetables myself, you’d expect the same to be true for their own efforts.
Yeah, I know. Anyone who’s spoken to me or read my earlier posts, knows that my professional opinion of the university’s administration layer is low, and my personal one is probably not repeatable in public. Hence, consider how much foul language I’ve used when finally I got the viva date set for 15th June 2017: 5 months post submission. This really wasn’t ideally, especially for applying for jobs where having had the viva could have made all the difference between securing paid employment and not even getting an interview. I really feel the university has damaged my potential future earnings and career by their poor speed of turnaround. Glad I had the opportunity to feedback on this in the recent PGR student survey, but this couldn’t make the viva happen faster.
I’ve been trying (and failing) to read 10 pages a day of the thesis in the build up to the 15th June. Certainly, once I hit May (the month, not the PM) I made a redoubled effort to try and get through the chapters again. I’ve probably eventually re-read it about three times fully, with one final skim through in the last couple of pre-viva days. It struck me as being not too bad at all, although I kept finding the odd niggling grammatical error. I know far worse theses have passed muster, as I’ve flicked through them over the years, so I wasn’t letting this stress me out. All the same it’s frustrating to realise that despite all the careful proofreading by me and Mrs Llama, these things still slipped through.
The Day Arrives
I was pretty calm, and relaxed about the approaching date, although my sleeping patterned had gone to hell. I partially attribute that to the light June mornings – I do not do well here, and Mrs Llama insists on leaving the bedroom door open to let more light flood in. Given a free hand for my own room arrangements, I’d be sleeping in a dark, dark hole all summer long!
On the day, I packed some water, a hat and my thesis and headed off into campus bright and early. I planned to hideout in the library for the morning, having a last skim of vital parts (research rationale, claim to knowledge, theory, results, conclusions). The viva was set for a 13.15-13.30 kickoff, so I had some time to collect myself and my ragged thoughts. The library was (mostly) nice and quiet, until 11am when schoolkids on an open day came tearing through excitedly looking for “The horror section”. I think they were disappointed by what they found! Meanwhile, I was struggling more and more to keep myself calm. I indulged in a few BJ Blazkowicz-style breathing exercises, chatted to the Wife and tried to dissuade myself of the notion that the last page I just skipped over would be THE bit I should have read more closely.
Shortly afternoon me, and my rising nerves, headed over to see my supervisor for a chat and lunch. Or in my case, some camomile tea – I do not like eating ahead of interviews or other stressful events as my stomach tends to throw a fit. ‘Lunch’ was just what I needed, in that in our talk about future papers we’re aiming to write I was nicely distracted. Then it was time to head to CELS101 (yes, Room 101, thank you NTU for that Orwellian additional fear factor!) and face my panel. Well, it was time, but the Independent Chair was a very much ‘by the rules’ kinda guy, and hence I had a loooong wait (20 minutes, it SEEMED long) before I came in and things began.
Your Starter for 10
The viva itself was actually as I had hoped. A conversation between relative peers, focussed on my research, approaches, thoughts, conclusions etc. I didn’t feel stressed, I was able to talk (mostly) clearly about what I’d done, why and how it was important. All credit to the External and Internal Examiners for that. There was a very interesting debate over my conceptualisation of activists and indeed my whole ethnographic-framing, and that was probably the nearest I came to having to make it a viva-defence. Did my best to take their points on board, while at the same time making my own thinking and perceptions clear. Eventually, we ran out of questions, followed by a chance for me to ask them if there was anything they should have asked. Yeah, like I’m going to say “Hey, you should REALLY have asked about this bit, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing“. I suggested they could have asked ‘What’s your perfect Sunday?’, but that was about it. I was excused while the examiners took a comfort break and then deliberated their decision. I glanced at my phone – the viva had only taken 65 minutes.
Congratulations, Dr Llama
I didn’t have long to wait. 2 minutes. And was greeted by the Chair almost immediately saying “Congratulations, Dr Johnson, we’ve recommended that the thesis be passed with no corrections“.
Despite THIS moment being what I’ve been working towards, hoping for, for over 4 years…to finally hear it was beyond a shock to the system. I remember muttering some thanks, shaking everyone’s hand and trying not to beam like a loony. I kept thinking “No corrections…not even Mrs Llama’s PhD got passed with that!“. No thesis is perfect, and there was a lot of really useful feedback and suggestions from the examiners on how to improve it for publication as a book, or preparing it for journal articles (I’m not quite sure which yet). They also wanted to tweak a single word in the title to “Better represent the depth and breath of your research“…wow.
A New Dawn
Writing this two days later…I’m still not quite sure it all happened, there’s still that slight doubt that I dreamed it all and I’m still waiting for the viva. But I’m not. Sure, I need the official letter to arrive and there’s (hopefully) an amusing hat-wearing related ceremony to attend next month to get the certificate. Nevertheless, to all intents and purposes I am now a Doctor.
There was time for a quick drink and a chat with the examiners and my supervisor, which was a great wind down. Nevertheless, I was bursting to go home and see Mrs Llama to share the moment with her. Needless to say, she was quite excited too and we went out to dinner to celebrate.
All that remains now, is I just need to find a paying job that’ll make all the struggle, effort and learning really feel like it was worthwhile! Stay tuned for that one…
I’m finding S5 of Voyager to be a real curate’s egg. There have been some god-damned fucking awful episodes (largly any featuring Tacotray and/or Naomi Wildman centrally), but also some bloody awesome ones (usually featuring Tom, Harry or the Doctor). Will this wild sine-wave ride from the sublime to the Once Upon a Time continue? Let’s press onwards!
Despite an intriguing opening with an alien (Qatai) heading towards a mysterious cloud (the wonderful Trek alumnus W. Morgan Sheppard in yet another role), the episode proper commences with Naomi ‘Wesley’ Wildman and 7 of 9. The pairing of these two predominantly in an episode has this season rapidly become the harbinger of incipient shite. Thankfully half the episode is a normal 7 of 9 Story #3 (see footnote 3*. previous post), as the rest of the crew think they’re getting back to Earth through a wormhole. Only Naomi (for whom Voyager is home), the Doctor (a programme) and 7 (who is wired differently in the head) are immune to the intense bliss that the giant space cloud we saw at the start sends out to attract its prey. Part of me thought “Is this a remake of The Immunity Syndrome, from TOS?“, aka Spock vs the Giant Space Prawn. It’s not, but there’s giant creature similarities – not to mention a bit of V’Ger vibe to the whole ‘swallowing the starship whole’.
If at this point you are thinking that 7 and Naomi, along with the alien, Wesley it up a storm to save the day. Well done, you can skip on. Nothing in this episode will ever matter again, and you’ve just saved yourself the 43 minutes I had to endure. Although the moment where we Neelix about to be fantasy gangbanged (1*) (or so I assumed) by a gaggle of Starfleet Admirals opens up more questions than it answers. As per usual with ‘it was all a dream’ Inception style episodes, naturally their first escape from the creature’s maw is a fake-out, and we have to go through it all again before they decide that’s enough and head off. The episode then ends, somewhat oddly, as it began with Qatai heading back into the creature’s maw…because…I dunno. It’s not clear. Maybe he was the creature. Maybe his bliss is finding the creature. Maybe everyone on Voyager is dead now and the rest of the series a dream? I wish.
Hmn, Netflix (on which I’m watching Voyager) has this as the merged single part feature length episode, so I can’t easily review parts I and II, so I’ll have to judge it as a whole. It opens strongly, with an attack of the Voyager entirely from the Borg’s perspective. Rather a novel idea, and one I’m surprised it took this long to think of. It is, rather good, especially when Janeway does the hardest assed thing I’ve ever seen her do – namely beam an armed photon-torpedo inside the Borg probeship. Huzzah, the Borg are back and they’re even less able to cope with Janeway and her space-family!
The rest of the story is 50% a rehash of Star Trek:First Contact (2*) as 7 of 9 is reclaimed by the Borg and their revitalised ersatz Queen (Alice Krige, was clearly too busy/expensive), and we get a similar tale to Data’s temptation to betray his loyalty to Starfleet. The other 50% of the story is an expansion on 7 of 9 Story Archetype #1: Janeway as the surrogate mother competing with her adoptive mother, the Queen. Here, for a change we see the secret origin of Anika Hanson, and her parents, exploring Borg space long before TNG encountered the cybernetic species. Yeah, I know, this pisses all over the far superior TNG canon just to give 7 of 9 a credible rationale for being in the Delta Quadrant.
Several late season Voyager tropes also rear their ugly heads in this tale. Firstly, the Voyager adapts with no effort a transwarp core for the Delta Flyer. Clearly, no one remembers earlier in the season when doing that for the Voyager killed everyone (except Harry and Tacotray). The same technology now, not only allows the rescue of 7 from a Borg Unicomplex (of which, despite the name, there are more than one), but also zips the Voyager fully 20,000ly closer to home. I make that almost halfway! Another, trope is the continuing bowdlerisation of the Borg – oooooh what a threat…nah, Janeway can handle them with a souped-up shuttle. And lastly, Naomi ‘Oh god why is she still alive’ Wildman plays a pivotal role…amplifying the mothers and daughters theme of the episode, as she clearly sees Janeway as granny, and 7 as her surrogate mother. Despite Ens Samantha Wildman being still alive. Inter-personal relationships in the 24th Century be all fucked up and shit, as I believe no one says.
Perhaps the biggest let down of what is an okay storyline, is the ending which manages to pretty much telegraph what happens in Endgame. Okay, maybe that’s the lazy writing by the end of the seventh season, but the trope of Borg vessels popping out of transwarp corridors and going kaboom…I suspect this isn’t the last we’ll see of them.
Nor, the new Queen and her Borg…despite their space now being over 30,000ly behind (honestly, give it up and carry on assimilating the Delta Quadrant, why don’t you!).
For at least the second time, a story opens with Harry Kim in bed with a sexy, sexy lady. Man oh man, Libby is going to utterly dump him when the ship gets back to Earth. Remember Libby? Cos, by the looks of the beast with two-phaser banks that Harry keeps making with the hot alien chick, he’s utterly forgotten her. Even better, in his post coital bliss Harry lets slip that a) He’s done things he never thought he’d do in bed (ew, fetch the brain bleach) and b) his alien squeeze’s race and humans look similar…but have genitals constructed on very different frameworks. Yes folks, they’re dancing around the subject in the episode, but I’m calling it. Harry shacked up with a Space-Chick with a Space-Dick…and liked it. At least though, it gives Tom Paris the chance to run through the literary of bad women choices that Harry’s made, and when the resident bad boy of Starfleet is advising you on poor choices, you gotta know you’re doing something really wrong!
Essentially, post-sex Harry and his alien lady-love are now bonded for life…bonded so much that Ens Kim literally glows afterwards. Now THAT’s what I call sexing Harry, kudos! Sadly, the Xenophobic alien species she belongs too is less than happy with the coupling, and neither is Janeway. Since Harry has almost certainly caught astro-herpes or something, and there’s a regulations book ‘3 inches thick’ *ahem* about ‘close encounters of the lewd kind‘, Janeway understandably blows her stack. Were we to replace Harry with Tom in this escapade, then he’d be back in the bridge and demoted to Mr Neelix’s potwasher. But because Harry’s Janeway’s substitute son (sigh, there’s that family trope again) she just gives him a ticking off and sends him to bed without any replicator rations. Come to think of it, are they still worrying about replicator rations, I forget, that ‘desperately short of supplies’ storyline rather faded away post-S2.
It all comes good in the end (snigger) aside from Harry who is separated from his woman and has to get over her without any medication (shades of Elaan of Troyius), the xenophobes – whose ship blows up. Still, it could have been worse. He could have caught electric-gonorrhea – the noisy killer! It’s a daft, fun little episode, albeit one where once again Harry’s staring plotlines are reduced to ‘naive teenager‘. I mean, he must be almost 30 by now, stop treating like he’s 15!
AKA the most depressing episode of Voyager you’ll ever watch, given pretty much 98% of what transpires on screen will never be known about or remembered by anyone in the Star Trek universe. It is the literal definition of pointlessness and utterly nihilistic when you start thinking about it. This episode opens with Tom and B’Elanna marrying, giving almost no hint of the existential horror that is about to unfold(3*). Thanks to a hitherto unheard of space drive (not that this is a shock on Voyager, continuity never getting in the way of a story idea), the crew are closer than ever to Earth, when oh noes, the ship starts to deform and people start getting sick. Turns out none of the crew or the ship itself are the Voyager we know, they’re all the entities who were cloned and left behind on the Demonworld a season or so ago. Turns out the new space drive would been okay on the real ship, but their weirdy fluid forms are being destroyed by it.
The rest of the show turns into an examination of how the crew deal with almost certain death and crippling illness. Watching Tom at his new bride’s death bed is heartbreaking, and lessened none the less by the reveal shortly afterwards that she wasn’t the ‘real’ Torres. There’s a good argument in the show, that if it walks, talks and thinks like Tom, or Janeway or Harry…then it’s as indistinguishable from the ‘real’ crew members to actually be them. Hence, as they one by one drop dead, it’s a shocker, even more so than the deaths in Year of Hell, since at least they get retconned away. The closing moments of the show see Acting Captain Harry Kim desperately trying to launch a time-capsule detailing the lives and adventures of the USS Ersatz Voyager and reach the real Starfleet ship in time to get help.
It all fails, and we have a minute or so of the real Janeway and crew coming across the remains of…something that might have been a ship, none the wiser and just moving on with their lives. Everyone we’ve watched struggle and suffer for the past 40 minutes is dead, and none of their lives mattered one jot. Not even fake Naomi Wildman. *sob* Yes, a depressing tale, but well acted by the cast.
Oh, it’s a Tacotray centric episode, which means as it rapidly devolves into mystic symbolism, family history and metaphor I stifle the first of many yawns. Voyager strays into ‘chaotic space’ and some of the aliens living/trapped there make contact by ‘rewiring Tacotray’s brain’ so they can communicate with him. 30 minutes later this is still going on as my finger hovers over ‘fast forward’. I think I enjoyed this sort of distorted reality thanks to super-advanced aliens in Far Beyond the Stars, as it gave the whole cast something fun to act against, not just one cast member. Although, Bob Picardo turns in his usual stellar performance as a boxing doctor.
Fascinating fact: Starfleet Academy groundskeeper Boothby trained Tacotray to box. Honestly, in between mentoring Janeway and Picard, and teaching young Tacotray the pugilistic arts – when did that man ever find time to mow the lawns? Finally, this episode would have had more punch (see what I did there) had we EVER heard about Tacotray’s love of boxing before…rather than as per usual in Voyager’s lazy writing, another hitherto undiscussed personal interest. Cf. Paris’ love for whichever historical period we’re visiting this week.
Nice cold opening on this one, as we witness a travelling intelligentsia cabal offering to save another species through their advanced knowledge…if only they’re prepared to pay the price. Afterall, if salvation is a just one trade deal away, wouldn’t you be prepared to pay the price? Unsurprisingly, this is the cleft stick situation Voyager soon finds itself in as the Hizari, a race of unstoppable bounty hunters, have been contracted by the Malon (hey, remember them!) to hunt the ship down. Facing her own Kobayashi Maru, Janeway is rather surprised and only slightly suspicious when Kurros of the Think Tank approaches them to proffer a potential solution. Turns out, they’ve solved a lot of unsolvable problems in the past, including curing the Vidiian phage (hey, remember that!). The drawback, Kurros’ price includes 7 of 9 joining the Think Tank.
The second the unwinnable scenario arose and the clever thinkers just happened to be there to offer a solution, I thought ‘set up’. And I was right. Turns out it’s not the Malon but the Think Tankers who’ve set all this situation up. Just like Harry Kim, they’re lusting to get their hands on 7 of 9’s ‘implants’ and advanced Borg knowledge. Thankfully Janeway outflanks them, and leaves them to get basically murdered as the Voyager warps away. Bad ass Janeway, way bad ass.
I will say, Jason Alexander playing Kurros is wonderfully creepy and reasonable, all at the same time. I much prefer the more subtly played villains in Trek, and while Think Tank’s a pretty much run of the mill ‘threat of the week’ episode, his performance helps make the whole thing a lot more memorable that the script deserves. Well worth your time watching this one. One final note, for some reason B’Elanna’s barely had a line the past couple of episodes – is Roxann Dawson busy doing something else right now?
With a title like this, I thought we were going to have Warhead II: The Rewarheadening of something. Turns out the titular vessel is actually a stricken Malon freighter. Yes, them again. They’re slowly becoming the mid-seasons Kazon-alike go-to dull antagonists. This time the silly polluting sods have a stricken super-tanker that’s going to go kablooey and devastate everything in 3ly. Hells teeth, that’s a big explosion…also…I assume the detonation will be travelling at warp speed, otherwise it’ll take millennia to fan out that far. Cue a gritty tale for resident gritty lass B’Elanna who’s not had a line or an episode in a devil’s age, and this one lets us remember how much her and Tom love each other.
Curiously it also gives Roxann Dawson a chance to strip down, and later strip off all together for a shower scene. Not that I am in any way complaining about this. The bulk of the episode is humanising the Malon. who we find out may be the galaxy’s greatest polluters, but they’re doing it so their home world can be a utopia. There’s also a mutated monster (one of the crew) doing some lurking on the doomed vessel, just so we can see the extent of their sacrifice. Something which is rather brutally rammed home at the end of the episode, when B’Elanna’s horrific radiation poisoning is cured with a quick injection, and her new-found Malon buddy is told ‘Sorry pal, you’re screwed’. So much for Federation medicine then!
The biggest question of the episode is never addressed. How the hell are the Malon still a problem after we jumped 20,000ly in Dark Frontier (or about 20 years of travel time)? Are they pals with the Borg or something? Screw the environmentally themed buddy drama, grab their super-warp drives and get back to Earth pronto!
Someone to Watch Over Me
The tl;dr version “7 of 9 gets dating advice from the Doctor, with hilarious consequences“. Which, after the grim Juggernaut is probably just as well, we could do with some light relief. This might be a light and frothy reworking of Pygmalion, as the Doctor coaches 7 in the ways of romance, but both Ryan and Picardo put in splendid comedic performances. Although, the bit where they duet together is borderline painfully cringeworthy. Notably Picardo’s singing live, and Ryan only lipsynching, which is odd as we know from The Killing Game she can sing. Eventually, and not too shockingly, the Doctor falls for 7’s charms, but she ends up friendzoning him. Ah well, not all romcoms end up well. Fun little tale really.
Meanwhile Captain Janeway and Tuvok go off on an away mission, that’s off screen. Tim and Kate clearly had a week’s holiday coming. This leaves Neelix dealing with the one ultra-religious (and rule breaking) ambassador aboard Voyager to deal with. More hilarious consequences ensue, capping off the lightest and most fun Voyager tale we’ve had in ages, with some genuine moments of character development. More like this, and I’d start really liking this show!
AKA the secret origin of the Janeway family. This episode epitomizes everything that frustrates me about Voyager. Ostensibly it’s Janeway telling the tale of one of her most important ancestors, around the turn of the millennium (fully 7 months away at time of broadcast), who naturally happens to look like her. It’s a somewhat The A Team kinda tale, as failed astronaut Shannon O’Donnel partners with local reclusive book shop owner Henry Janeway against the perfidious developers of something called The Millennium Gate. This is apparently a significant historical construction in the Star Trek universe, as much as the Great Wall of China, despite no one ever mentioning it before or since on any show. O’Donnel’s tale is rather turned on its head thanks to Neelix’s searching of Space-Ancestry.com and informing Janeway that her ancestor was far less important to space-exploration history and the construction of the Gate than she thought. Which means, as we see in the past, the ‘evil’ developers are actually good guys trying to build something significant for all humanity. Shame they’re all going to die in the Eugenics Wars shortly I guess.
The tale, trite as it is, and reminiscent of Ent: Carpenter Street in tone, is rather spoiled by constant flashing back to the present on Voyager as everyone tells their tales of famous family members in a big old cosy gathering. Guess Starfleet discipline’s finally fallen apart on Voyager…until next week. What especially irritates is twofold. Janeway’s tale is vaguely interesting, but it’s not really enough to support a whole episode. And secondly, some of the tales the other crew tell of their ancestors sound much more engaging. With the exception of Tacotray, who fails to bore everyone with another tale of his sodding ancestors. I ended up wishing the showrunners had gone for a Short Cuts/22 Short Tales About Springfield style melange episode, showing us vignettes from all of these ancestral stories. This would have helped flesh out the crew’s humanity, not to mention giving every actor the fun of playing something slightly off-tangent. Another real missed opportunity to give us more about the whole crew, at the expense of fleshing out more of Janeway’s tediously noble history.
Oh, two other irritations – one nerdy, one just pure Voyager. Harry Kim talks of ‘sleeper ships’ in the early 2200s…which is totally contradicted by Enterprise’s adventures in the 2150s. And Tom ‘History Professor’ Paris turns out to know everything about every single period in human history, again. Remind me again, is he the bad boy pilot with the heart of gold, or the resident Data-substitute? Sigh.
AKA: They Keep Killing 7 of 9, Don’t They? Voyager once again takes inspiration from Red Dwarf, notably Stasis Leak, as 7 of 9 is recruited by Captain ‘Oh no, not him again’ Braxton from the 29th Century to go back in time to avert the destruction of Voyager from a hidden bomb. Only, he’s already sent her back a few times, and she’s either died or failed each time. This time he plucks her from her timeline moments before Voyager’s destruction (for the third time, from Braxton’s perspective), and returns her to just before Voyager is commissioned to find the mysterious device that will destroy the ship in around 5 years time(4*) during a Kazon attack (5*). This means we get the fantastic shot of the Utopia Planitia space yards above Mars, where the Voyager is undergoing final construction. For a lover of Star Fleet’s ships, this is a real nerd-porn moment!
The episode cracks along at a good pace as 7 is flipped around the timeline until we find out the bad guy is…Captain Braxton himself, who suffered a mental breakdown in the future-future and caused all the problems his past self is trying to sort out. Told you this was clearly riffing on Stasis Leak! “I’m the Captain Braxton from the double-double future, and this is where everything starts to get a bit complicated“. Seems Braxton remembered, and is still really mad about, everything that happened in Future’s End. Ouch, and I thought they’d cured all mental illness forever back in the 23rd Century (cf. WTOS:Whom Gods Destroy)???
In the end, as 7 has travelled in time too much (until, you know, next time we need a time-travel story) Janeway has to be sent back in time instead. Yes, yet again it’s the 7 and Janeway save the day show. Sigh. Almost like the Picard and Data saviour duo in TNG. All’s well in the end, and despite the slightly wibbly-wobbly nonsensical nature of most time-travel stories, it makes for a highly enjoyable tale. Even if technically Harry Kim dies another three times in the episode!
All’s quiet on the bridge nightshift, which means it’s time for a Harry Kim centric adventure…or, is it? No, it’s a story about an artificially intelligent weapon of mass destruction, that forms a close bond with one of the crew…not Harry, but the Doctor. What an original idea…or rather it might have been if Voyager hadn’t already had Dreadnought back in S2. This time though, rather than an exploration of B’elanna’s sin’s past, we find ourselves in the Doctor story archetype 101 as we ask ‘What does it mean to be sentient?‘. Which means once again the ‘oh so enlightened’ Federation officers suddenly get cold feet when a genuine ‘new life’ appears before them. Quoting from the Starfleet first contact protocols (as amended by Janeway):
First Contact Rule 17F: If the lifeform is not organic, then you are fully at liberty to consider it non-sentient, and therefore not covered under the Starfleet charter to seek out and cherish new life forms. Feel morally enabled to explode, enslave or dismantle it to further your own goals.
Rule 17G: The same applies to any androgynous species Cmdr Riker might accidentally procreate with.
Considering the next two episodes (no peeking ahead now) are all about the ethics of Starfleet vs enlightened pragmatic self-interest, this episode provides a very sharp, and critical, relief. Anyway, quickly the story evolves into Doctor Story Archetype 102: Bob Picardo get’s to play eeeevil, as the missile holds Voyager hostage as it tries to carry out its original destructive, purpose. Thankfully, despite a 7 of 9 saves-the-day effort, the scriptwriter remembers this episode started out focussing on Harry Kim (remember him?) and he talks the missile into true self-awareness, just in time to allow it to sacrifice itself to take down the remainder of its AI missile chums. Not a bad story, and the Doctor is always enjoyable, but I really get the sense I’ve seen this all before now.
Equinox, Part I
AKA: Sliding Voyagers, as we find out what happens to a Starfleet crew dumped in the Delta Quadrant who don’t have Janeway’s adherence to the mores of the Federation, Harry Kim’s idealism and whatever the hell it is that Tacotray brings to the mix. Probably something about medicine bundles, I suppose. Yes, it’s time to meet the few remaining crew members of the USS Equinox, headed up by Captain Rudy Ransom, who unlike our regular heroes have forsaken those Prime Directives in a big way. Which explains why, despite being limited to Warp 8, they’ve managed to skip across 35,000ly of space (hey, we’re halfway home!) in the same time as the good old Voyager. Being in the Delta Quadrant, it’s been a while since we enjoyed the ‘Mad, bad and dangerous to know‘ Starfleet captain trope – TOS was full of them, and the other serieses haven’t exactly been shy to explore this idea either(6*). Hence, there’s little surprise when the dodgy dealings of the Equinox crew quickly come to light – crystallizing some extra-dimensional aliens to make super-fuel…and aforementioned aliens are understandably pissed as hell at this.
Cue the tiny crew of the Equinox running rings around the supposedly larger and better organised Voyager crew to nick off with their spare shield parts, leaving Janeway and crew the face the misdirected wrath of the aliens. Remind me again Kathy, about how your well ordered ship and its crew’s adherence to Starfleet regulations makes you better? Because from the evidence here, you were like a bunch of cadets against Ransom and crew. And there were are…unlike last year a bit of a cliffhanger to go out of S5…
Oh. I should also mention, for no-sodding-narrative reason at all, Naomi Wildman get’s a scene in this episode. Why? Fucked if I know, it does nothing to advance the plot other than to remind us all that the hated brat is still breathing, and hasn’t been tastefully vapourised by a plasma conduit blowout. Yet, I live in hope, but also fear as I know I’m getting closer to the monstrously awful addition to the crew of the liberated Borg children. Is that S6 or do I get a period of grace until S7? I’m not sure, and I won’t be checking ahead to find out!
There you go, that’s the 5th season put to bed. A season of real highs (Bride of Chaotica, Timeless), utter lows (Thirty Days, Once Upon a Fucking Time) and missed opportunities to do something stunning (11:59). Yet, I come away feeling it was a stronger season, sure Harry and B’Elanna got reduced to supporting cast, and Tom’s story arc makes no sense, but I felt most importantly, Tacotray got less screen time than ever. And that can only be a good thing. Bring on S6, and hopefully Naomi Wildman falling headfirst into the warp reactor!!!
1*: It’s at 23:22 onwards. Go watch it. I can wait. Although you may never sleep again afterwards.
2*: Fun fact – I walked down the aisle with my new bride to the opening music to ST:FC. Some of the guests knew what it was, including the vicar! The rest, in blissful ignorance
3*: Unless, like me you spotted that Paris is wearing his Lt (jg) pips rather than his Ensign rank. That’s a bit of a giveaway that not all is kosher here.
4*: I can only assume that this bomb hasn’t been found for 5 years by any engineers repairing Voyager’s extensive damage, due to a sorta bootstrap paradox – it wasn’t there in the past to find until this episode’s events, and then it was always there.
5*: The Kazon: about whom no one ever said “Hey, I miss the Kazon, I wish they’d come back again“. Notably, there’s only exterior shots, so no actors get to play these ersatz Klingon-wannabes here.
6*: Off the top of my head at least cf. TNG: The Wounded, TOS: Whom Gods Destroy, TOS: Turnabout Intruder, TOS: The Doomsday Machine
Last time on Star Trek Voyager… Well here we are again, happy as can be, only three seasons left to go before Janeway becomes a deranged Borg smashing Admiral, and Harry Kim gets any character growth. Joke. I’ve no hope left Harry will achieve any such thing, he’ll just keep on dying and being replicated for the remaining three years of the voyage home. Right, no more prevaricating…on with the season!
A rather lovely low key intro to the 5th season, which like Hope and Fear before it, actually addresses some of the longer term implications of the ship’s now 4 year+ voyage home. As the ship crosses the Void, an extensive region of utter darkness for months on end, the crew are dealing with the boredom in their own ways. Paris plays Captain Proton (1st appearance for a much loved holonovel), Harry plays his oboe (for the 2nd time) and Janeway…Janeway collapses into existential despair over her actions at the Caretaker’s array in the first place. That the Captain is essentially sulking in her cabin like a moody teenager for weeks on end, says something about the Voyager crew’s mental fitness that is rarely addressed. I know Starfleet only takes the best, but you really might expect a few more of them by now to have started suffering from all kinds of mental problems, that can’t be cured with a quick wave of the Doctor’s medical-bio-wand. Sorry, tricorder.
Bonus points to the episode for giving Neelix nihiliphobia, for once I’m utterly with old gerbil-features. Naturally, the Doctor tells him to pull his socks up and get used to it. Honestly, the Enterprise-D gets a councillor to help the Enterprise’s crew deal with the slightest worry, the Voyager get’s WWI style reactions to mental disorders. It’s a wonder Harry Kim isn’t permanently shackled to his bed by now screaming “I died and then I wasn’t dead!” constantly, such is the paucity of the mental care of this vessel.
Sadly, halfway through this episode we encounter a Malon freighter captain who is using the Void to dump radiation, which is pissing off the humanoid lifeforms who live there no end. This seriously pisses the Starfleet crew off, but as the Malon have access to a spacial-rift that could cut 2 years off their passage through the Void…they can’t just say “Naughty polluters” and call out Captain Planet. Anyway, as something exciting is now happening, Janeway comes out of her sulk and in an effort to assuage her guilt over dumping the crew in the Delta Quadrant offers to stay behind to seal the rift, sacrificing herself so her crew can all get home AND the local Void population gets protected. A win-win, rather than the win-lose at the Caretaker’s Array. Naturally the crew tell her to naff off, and riding a wave of explosions they make it out of the void and into a whole new region of space, packed with systems. New possibilities await now, and no doubt we’ll never see any of the old Delta Quadrant races we’ve seen to date now, like the Kazon, Vidiian or Borg!
I spoke too soon.
A classic Trek trope kicks this one off – a transporter incident! For reasons that are, not well explained, the Doctor’s 29th Century mobile emitter and 7 of 9 make a baby Borg together. Or at least that’s what seems to be the case. Anyway, what with all this ‘seeking new live, and new civilisations’ Janeway let’s the sprog grow to term, and before you know it, 7 of 9 is teaching him how to be an individual and not a drone. Yes, it’s 7’s plotlines from early S4 all over again. Still One seems to be a nice enough chap, and integrates with the crew far more rapidly than 7, and even after he inadvertently calls in his Borg chums sides with the Starfleet crew, sacrificing his existence in the end so that Borg don’t keep chasing him for his hyper-advanced technology.
Sad. Nice little story though, despite its resonances with last season. And at least, surely this is the last time we have to deal with the Borg? Right?
For once the ‘on the edge, acting dodgy’ plot staple is awarded to Tom’s girlfriend, B’Elanna rather than Mr Paris himself. Maybe this was written as a Tom plot, but the actors complained that it was time Torres had a centric story again to balance things out. Whatever the answer, in this adventure Torres is being a bad, emo kind of girl. Playing holodeck games with the safety protocols switched off. Quelle horreur! Turns out she’s bummed out by the deaths back in the Alpha Quadrant of all the Marqui. Hence she’s acting out like a moody teenager until the ship’s ersatzt councillor, Tacotray, calls her on it.
There’s a b-story about the Delta Flyer, Tom Paris’ super shuttle racing into a gas giant against some aliens to recover one of voyager’s probes (I always thought they were pretty disposable, given the number Starfleet just chucks out, but oh no, Janeway gets all possessive over this one). Naturally, B’Elanna has to come along and loh and behold, her extreme experiences come in handy in saving them all from being crushed. And with the addition of some banana pancakes, Torres deep clinical depression is cured just like that. Wow, Federation metal health treatment really is light years ahead of reality. (He added, very sarcastically).
In the Flesh
Meanwhile back at Starfleet Command…except it’s not! That’s pretty much the strapline for this episode, where the Voyager runs across a space station set up with aliens cosplaying at being Starfleet officers at the San Francisco Academy. Yes, Voyager has stumbled over the Pasadena Star Trek Convention and must face down an army of aggravated nerds once Janeway and crew start acting like total Buzz Killingtons and wreak things.
Eh? Oh, right, sorry. Turns out, actually, this is Species 8472’s advanced simulation for invading Federation space…for…you know…reasons. Okay, turns out half way through it’s all those nanoprobes the Voyager crew helped the Borg weaponise, are the casus belli this time. Actually, it’s not too bad an episode, even given the large amount of screentime devoted to Tacotray and his love affair with one of the transmogrified fluidic space denizens. I confess I was rather hoping he’d try to jump the bones of his ‘not really a lady’ love, only to have her dissolve all over him with icky biohorror goo. Sadly, half-way through, once the ruse is up, it all turns into a spot of light diplomacy between the two different races with only the mildest of threats. Even worse, this means that the new, uber-threat that replaced the nerfed Borg, Species 8472, have themselves been bowdlerised by Voyager. It’s a pity that a terrifying cosmic threat…remains a terrifying cosmic threat (cf. The Shadows pretty much throughout Babylon 5)
Once Upon a Time
No one dies in this one. There you go, I’ve told you everything to need to know to just skip past this one.
Still watching? You glutton for punishment!
You just know from the outset, that any episode which opens with a long segment focussing on Scrappy-Doo analogue Naomi Wildman and her dippy-ippy Federation indoctrination holodeck programme chums, is likely to be godammned awful. Moreover, this one features lots of surrogate father “Death is nothingness forever” Neelix in prime god-father caring mode, helping Naomi cope when her mum suffers a surprisingly non-fatal if nasty incident on an away mission. However, by the time we reached this story I was still hurling chunks all over the carpet, thanks to the horrifically saccharine introduction. Honestly, it reminded me of The Cost of Living, a near unwatchable TNG episode. Why oh why must Trek go down the Cousin Oliver narrative route again? Did we not learn with the sucky Alexander kid episodes(*)?
Let me see if I can find SOMETHING to like about this episode? Okay, it’s probably going to have to be sentient gerbil Neelix’s sudden remembrance of the plotline around the Metreon Cascade and his sister’s death. That was good, much overdue, and well acted by Ethan Phillips, demonstrating once again that when you give even a lame character played by a good actor something worthwhile, that their acting talent shines through. More pathos like this, of sins and losses past, and an exploration of Neelix suppressing it all in order to be the happy clown morale office, could so easily have made him the standout character of the show. That the showrunners didn’t, is one of many reasons Voyager’s the weakest of the Trek series by a couple of megaparsecs.
Anyway, the rest of this abominable awful episode is concerned with Neelix trying to keep her mother’s possible demise secret from Naomi, and catastrophically failing when the precocious sprog enters the bridge during the attempted rescue and recovery mission. This raises two big questions. One: How the hell is a child allowed access to the most important and restricted parts of the ship? Surely the ship computer could lock her out, under what is known in the Starfleet manual as The Wesley Requirement. Two: What the utter FUCK has happened to Janeway’s hair in this episode? Did she let 7 braid it during one of their frequent (I assume) off camera Mother/Daughter holodeck bonding sessions, and she’s not got the heart to tell the former drone that it looks utterly shite?
That aside – you can skip this episode in good health and not miss anything much at all. In fact, go watch Threshold, it features a shuttle crash and while rubbish, is 1000% more enjoyable a watch than this monstrosity.
God help my sanity when the fucking Borg children come aboard too.
Great Scott! A decent episode, and more important a Harry Kim centric one. I honestly cannot remember the last time the Eternal Ensign got to appear centre stage! Although, this said, once again it seems Harry can’t be allowed to headline an episode alone, and gets partnered with Tacotray in this tale set 15 years hence. It also falls victim to Harry Kim Trope 101: Harry Dies. Honestly, he can’t catch a break, can he.
Anyway, 15 years in the future, future Harry and future Tacotray, along with future random-chick, find the ruins of the Voyager in the ice of a world on the edge of Federation space. Turns out in the past (that’s the Voyager present day) Harry made a massive booboo when trying to assist with Voyager’s maiden quantum slipstream drive flight…killing everyone onboard. But no worries, thanks to 7 of 9’s hitherto never mentioned (or ever mentioned again) temporal headchip, he can send a message back in time to avert catastrophe. Just a couple of pickles in the ointment: the first message he sends back actually causes the disaster in the first place and…oh yes, he and Tacotray are on the run from the Federation – who are able represented in hot pursuit by cameo Captain Geordi LaForge(2*). Still, at the end we’re 10 whole years (so ~10,000ly) closer to home, so it’s a bit of a rare win for the crew all round.
The pointless and underdeveloped Tacotray romantic subplot (again?!) aside, there are numerous standout moments in this episode. The Voyager crash is easily the best and most dramatic SFX I’ve seen on the show. The slow-mo celebration inaugurating the Quantum Slipstream drive is a masterful celebration of the show (which, not incidentally, hit 100 episodes with this tale), and Garrett Wang gives his single best performance of the show to date – utterly convincing as older and present Harry as disparate people without the need for much makeup. Tacotray…less so, given he appears not to have aged in 15 years. Honestly, episodes like this make me glad i stuck with the show through dreck like Once Upon a Time!
Ah, it’s 7 of 9 again, this time in 7 of 9 Story variant #3: Something Borgy goes wrong and threatens everyone (3*). This time, it’s a virus infected Borg vinculum that triggers off the latent memories of all the thousands of assimilated Borg to whom she used to be connected. Before anyone can say ‘blatant opportunity for an actor to demonstrate their range’, 7’s been overwhelmed and starts cycling through all the personas. So we get kiddie 7 playing games with sodding Naomi Wildman(4*), attempting to copulate Klingon stylee with B’Elanna and looking for a mother’s son lost at Wolf 359 among many other briefer cameos. Joking aside, Jeri Ryan is pretty good in the different roles, even as I rather suspect the episode was written as an opportunity for the actress to cut loose from the uptight emotionless Borgette she normally has to play.
Anyway, turns out the vinculum is actually a sacrificial booby trap left by an alien race, who don’t take too kindly to Janeway and chums’ efforts to disentangle 7 from it. They were rather hoping it would sink the Borg. Hang on. As of last episode we’re 10,000ly further away from the Borg than ever…how sodding far does their collective reach? I thought Kes had shunted the Voyager well past Borg space in The Gift last season…and yet they’re still everywhere. How come they’ve not conquered the entire Galaxy by now thanks to transwarp corridors, if they can quite literally pop out anywhere in the Delta and Alpha Quadrant they fancy? Narrative inconsistencies, thy name is Star Trek.
That said, it’s an enjoyable enough episode. At least it was until I drop kicked my TV in the closing scene as 7 of 9 bonds with emergent Mary Sue, Naomi Wildman. Someone, get that kid assimilated or liquidated quick – she’s rapidly surpassing Tacotray as my trigger point for hating on an episode.
Any episode that starts off with a clear shout out to that other famous holographic starship crew member, Arnold J Rimmer‘s slide-show lecture on his hiking holiday through Red Dwarf‘s Diesel Decks, warms me from the open. Yes, things have got so bad aboard Voyager (clearly no Class B Gaseous Anomalies around to survey) that everyone’s sitting through repeat performances of the Doctor’s slideshow entitled “The Doctor: My Greatest Achievements To Date“. Sadly, while this announces to the viewer ‘It’s a Doctor Episode!’, it quickly turns out it’s going to be a medical ethics one. When B’Elanna get’s splurged and entangled by a non-humanoid alien that baffles the EMH, the Voyager crew (okay Harry…who despite being the most junior of officers is THE holo-programming whiz after B’Elanna) puts together another EMH. Or rather they create an Emergency Medical Consultant in the shape of renowned exobiology specialist (and spoon-headed Cardassian) Dr Crell Moset to advise and assist.
Hands up anyone who’s seen any episode involving Cardassians and the Bajoran occupation who didn’t predict that the big reveal was going to be Dr Moset is essential Dr Mengele? Anyone? Anywhere? Yeah, me neither. Naturally, we then head off into a whole heap of debates contrasting saving Torres’ life vs using medical research collected through applied crimes against humanities (or sentients anyway). The answer, unsurprisingly is, we probably shouldn’t but hey we saved B’Elanna let’s all brush this under the carpet. Best we don’t give her survivor’s guilt or anything, that drops her back into the fragile mindset she had back in Extreme Risk or, hell, give Torres some character development outside of the ‘Toraris’ coupling. Oh, while this is all going on, Janeway has a dull story about translating the squidgy alien’s language and getting him shipped back to his ‘people’. But you can safely skip past all those scenes as they don’t amount to anything of any particular interest.
So, it’s come to this. 5 seasons of character development of Tom Paris away from the ‘very naughty boy’ who came aboard at the start of the show, into a rounded adventurer and Starfleet officer. Demoted in rank and stuck in the brig for 30 days, as he narrates a flashback letter to his father about what happened. Long story short, he followed his conscience, breached Starfleet regs and disobeyed orders to do the morally right thing. Had this been 7 of 9, she’d have got a slap on the wrist and a bit of a talking to. Because it’s Tom ‘Whipping Boy’ Paris though, we get a demotion to ensign and a prison sentence. It really feels out of character for Janeway to be quite this harsh, and demonstrates the clear favouritism operating under her command structure. I know if I was in Starfleet, I’d really not want her as my commanding officer!
The actually framing story around Paris’ ‘misdeeds’, concerns a genuinely interesting stellar phenomena, in a slowly destabilising planet sized water ball and an alien race who inhabit it. Enjoyable enough, although the aliens’ make-up job comes straight out of the ‘good enough, let’s not bother’ Voyager playbook. The highlight of the episode comes early on when we (finally) meet the Delaney sisters, playing along with Tom and Harry in a Captain Proton holodeck adventure. Some good gags, although as usual we watch Harry strike out in the dating game. Additionally, would Torres be that happy that Tom’s off playing ‘games’ with these attractive twins? Hmnnn.
Side note: I hear tell that Garrett ‘Harry Kim’ Wang has explained at conventions why the showrunners kept Harry as an ensign for Voyager’s entire run. No, not incompetent world building (yes it is) but because ‘Someone has to be the ensign’ they told him. Now Tom’s an ensign, surely this would be the perfect time to promote Harry? Hah. No. No they don’t. Honestly, this show makes me scream sometimes!
Aha – an episode I’ve seen a few times for a change, down to it being a Kate Mulgrew ‘favourite’ pick in a few Star Trek retrospectives. And while it’s not a bad Captain Janeway centric one, it’s hardly one of the most standout episodes of the show. Voyager gets repeatedly boarded and inspected by members of the Devorian Imperium, a race of space-nazis hunting space jews. Or telepaths, rather. The creepy Inspector Kashyk later defects and works with Janeway to find the underground railroad…sorry, wormhole through which these poor telepaths can escape. But *shocking musical sting* it turns out he’s a double agent, still loyal to the Imperium. Luckily, Kathy, despite being drawn into a semi-romance with Kashyk never fully trusted him and had been running her own double bluff. Or counterpoint, if you will.
Er…that’s about it. While an enjoyable enough episode, I was never convinced for a moment that Kashyk was actually a turncoat. He’s just soooo eager to help the telepaths all of a sudden, after being a literal moustache twirling villain in the earlier moments of the story, that his heel-turn fails to feel authentic. Sadly, he also fails to execute Naomi Wildman as annoyance during his repeated inspections, so he loses points from me there too.
This episode embodies everything that is wrong with Voyager.
During some routine diagnostics, the Doctor discovers Harry’s had an operation that he never performed. Except he did, he just doesn’t remember it. Turns out there was also another Ensign on the Voyager who the Doctor doesn’t remember too. Before he can shout ‘Mind stealing aliens’, it turns out it was Captain Janeway who had his memory erased. Why? Because despite 7 seasons of Data on TNG, and 5 of the Doctor on Voyager, and decades of Starfleet searching out ‘new life forms and new civilisations’, when they pop up in their midst, they’re treated as little more than a replicator. And when the Doctor gets the BSOD(5*), you just press the reset switch and start over. Wow, way to utterly ignore all the high minded ethics the Voyager captain espouses in encounters with every other life form in the Delta Quadrant.
Janeway’s justification for her actions, was the Doctor had a mental breakdown after he had to choose to save only one of two identically valuable and injured patients. Hence, the reset. When she restores his memories, not unsurprisingly he has a meltdown all over again. Then, because this is how you treat mental illness on Voyager, they sit him a room for two weeks to talk to himself. No, they don’t create a holo-recreation of history’s greatest thinkers, philosophers or psychoanalysts. They just sit the Doctor, in an empty room, while bored crewmen and women sit and read books and let him rave, until a spot of poetry cures him.
Yep. That’s the conclusion. Massive psychological trauma can be cured by a ‘bit of an old sit and think’, and a spot of ‘hackneyed Hallmark poetry’. The thing is, the idea that the Doctor has repressed memories, and that we lost a crewperson who NO-ONE ever mentions accidentally in the 18 months since she died, is actually a really interesting hook. Bob Picardo, as per usual does wonders with it, but the payoff is wake and Janeway’s attitude is utterly implausible. With 30 Days and this episode, I’m beginning to wonder if Janeway’s actually been replaced by an imposter. If that turns out to be the case a few episodes on, I may revise my opinion of this episode. But as it stands, it’s a trite resolution and a poor treatment of what could be a fascinating topic. Because you and I know full well…we will NEVER…EVER mention that the Doctor had to overcome this difficulty again. Just like Neelix, he’ll be back to his irascible, happy self next time.
Poor show, Voyager showrunners, poor show indeed.
Bride of Chaotica!
THIS episode made watching the preceding 4.5 seasons worth it. Without a doubt this is the single most enjoyable, well scripted and polished story that the show’s produced, and it’s not (really) in the slightest bit serious. Right in the middle of Ens Tom Paris’ latest Captain Proton holodeck adventure, a load of photonic creatures turn up – and taking their lead from the 1930s stylings of Proton’s adventures, turn themselves into a load of G-Men. G-Men who wage a (losing) war against the evil of Doctor Chaotica, since to them it’s all very real, causing the Voyager to become immobilised. Needless to say, hilarity soon ensues.
And for once, I mean that without a hint of sarcasm. There are too many awesome moments to choose just one: from the Doctor’s ‘President of Earth’, through to Chaotica’s reformed and moronic robot, to Janeway’s incredible ‘Queen Arachnia’, they’re all wonderful stuff. Even Harry and Tom, largely playing the straight guys, have plenty to do with their screentime. However, the true standout performer of the episode is Martin Rayner as Dr Chaotica, he chews the scenery like a pro, and even remembers to claw his hand as he falls into his own nuclear reactor. Sorry, Proton’s destructo-ray.
The cast really demonstrate in this one their comfort with each other’s acting talents in the way they bounce off each other. It’s a damned shame we don’t see the Janeway/Paris pairing more often as Mulgrew and McNeill really demonstrate a great onscreen partnership that’s very easy on the eye. If only more episodes of Voyager were half as this decent as Bride of Chaotica!, these reviews would a lot easier to write!
After the last episode, I wasn’t too keen to go into what looks like a dull ‘how Tuvok got his logic’ flashback centric episode (what is it with this guy and Flashbacks?). We learn how kid-Tuvok was Billy-everyteen hot over some alien chick, and had to be sent to the equivalent of Vulcan reform school to get over himself. And her. The framing story though has a Voyager shuttle, containing Tuvok, Paris and the Doctor, crash into a planet (6*). Tuvok soon runs into a feisty local, Noss (played by an excellent Lori ‘Tank Girl’ Petty), who replays the love story in reverse – only this time, Tuvok has to be the emotionally distant, logical teacher. For a moment I thought ‘Oh gawd, this is mentoring Kes all over again‘! But actually, the not-quite-love story of the pair, set against the efforts of the quartet to get off the planet, does make for a rather enjoyable explanation of what Tuvok tick. In fact, I think this is the closest we’ve ever got to seeing just how much Vulcan’s struggle with their emotions. At least until T’Pol starts sniffing Trellium-D.
Meanwhile, Voyager is hampered in her efforts to recover the crew who’ve dropped through a subspace ‘sinkhole’ caused by a gravitational anomaly. It’s not quite Interstellar’s Gargantua, but it’s nice for once to see the speculative effects of gravitational time-dilation impacting on the show – time is passing much faster for the crashed crew than Voyager, which causes a bit of a hiccup in the rescue, albeit, not a big enough one to cause Harry more than a few seconds worry. The episode ends with a rather touching mind-meld between Tuvok and Noss, who might not part as lovers as she hoped, but at least leave as something more than friends. Rather an adult theme for what is at heart of a show about rubber foreheaded aliens and terrible captain’s hairdos.
And…we’re done on this half of the season. Do join me in the next post where I’ll head in a glut of good episodes. Well, Equinox Pt1 and Dark Frontier aren’t bad anyway…
* Okay, I’ll grant a Fistfull of Datas has its moments
2* Unsurprisingly LeVar Burton’s the episode’s director too. Nice two for one deal there Paramount
3* The other two variants are of course #1: 7 learns about being human from Janeway and #2: 7 saves the day, Wesley style!
4* Can’t we have more than one episode off from her? I was praying in Timeless, that Harry wouldn’t change history – just to leave insufferable Naomi ‘Wesley Crusher’ Wildman dead and frozen forever.
5* Yes, we’re back at ripping off Red Dwarf again. This time, it’s The Last Day and the ‘metaphysical dichotomy’ that stops Hudzen 10 in his tracks. If only he’d had some poetry about calculators to fall back on!
6* I’ve concluded that if we log how many time’s a ‘Voyager shuttle crashes’ is the inciting incident, we’d find about 40-50% of plotlines start that way. If Starfleet and Voyager was real, no sane person would get into one of them, that’s for sure!
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.
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.
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…
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*).
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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“.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Oh my are we here already? Almost halfway through, and it’s beginning to feel like a bigger mountain to climb than I thought. So big, that I’ve gone off and watched Enterprise Season One for a change of pace, mostly because I kept getting to Tacotray and Neelix heavy episodes. But time and the Delta Quadrant waits for no sentient, and so on we go once more.
Scorpion Pt II
Aka The One Where Sexy Hips Arrives. After last time’s slightly odd climax, we open up with the arrival of single most defining element of Star Trek Voyager. Go on, ask any member of the casual sci-fi watching public to tell you something about Voyager, and odds are they’ll say something like “That’s the one with the sexy robot chick with the big breasts“. There is no denying though, 7 of 9’s addition to the series does introduce some interesting new narrative possibilities and alters the character dynamics for the better. Although the less said about Tacotray’s sleazy romancing of her and the arrival of those sodding Borg children*, the better. Still feeling, as I did last episode, that Species 8472’s arrival Nerfs the Borg too much, as cubes are blowing up at the drop of the hat here.
There’s a good bit of tension in the episode as the Voyager’s shaky alliance with the Borg goes back and forth, with a highlight being Tacotray’s stone cold act of spacing all the drones (save for his future squeeze) into deep space. That’ll be one to tell the grandkids about. Tacotray also has (rarely) my favourite lines of the episode, as he tells the tale of the titular scorpion. It’s a perfect analogy for the Borg:Human alliance, so kudos to the writer(s). Meanwhile though, the trip to Fluidic Space had me turning my brain off (“Wait, if the vacuum is made of fluid, why doesn’t gravity just collapse everything to a singularity?“), and the resolution where the Voyager makes a superweapon that destroys most of Species 8472’s bioships makes about as much sense as the Borg cube exploding FOR NO REASON at the end of Best of Both Worlds II**. Ah well, we have a shiny new crew member through which we can explore the metaphorical human experience. Which probably means there’s another character whose POV we could probably dispense with, but how can we ever choose…?
Aka The One Where Kes Finally Fucks Off. In some respects it’s a shame that TV budgets wouldn’t stretch to keeping on Voyager’s whole crew once 7 had joined, although if the axe had to fall somewhere, I’m not sorry it fell on Kes. Although, losing Tacotray would have been perfect. I do wonder how the internal politics and discussions around the decision actually worked…
“Right, Jeri Ryan is one more mouth to feed, and we’re not made of money”
“Actually, we’re a TV network, technically we are, but that’d besides the point, we need to lose a character to break even this season. Who do we need to get shot of?”
“Well Harry Kim hardly does anything, but he’s ethnic, so we’d be crucified if we got rid of him. Same for Chakotay and Tuvok. Paris and Janeway are the star players, and the Doctor’s the breakout character.”
“What about Torres? I know she’s got that whole romance subplot with Tom going, but if we get rid of her he could be sexing up the Borg chick’s assimilation tubes before we know it!”
“Ew! Thanks for that image. But, nah, Roxann’s doing that director thing, so we’d best hold on to her. It has to be Kes then.”
“What about Neelix? Literally, no one, on the planet, likes Neelix.”
“Nah, he’s our melting-pot character. Everyone comes to Quarks…I mean 10 Forward…I mean the Mess Hall. Plus as he’s not Starfleet, there’s countless ‘I done fucked up’ storylines we can get out of him.”
“Right, screw you Kes, you’re outta here!”
Actually, half this episode rather than being about Kes’ oft forgotten about psi-powers and her subsequent exit, is the first of about 200 episodes focussing on 7 of 9’s relationship with Captain Janeway and her return to human society. Nice! They couldn’t have telegraphed the “Don’t call us, we won’t call you” to Kes any better, if they’d painted it on the door to her room! Still, at least nasty undead looking 7 is gone, and now hot space-babe 7 is here, as most of her prosthetics are jettisoned, making for an easier make-up job for Jeri, and tighter pants for the fanbois.
Meanwhile, Kes turns into Jason Ironheart, and kicks the Voyager 9,500 light year’s nearer home. The first significant distance they’ve achieved in three years. And all it took was one hyper-advanced and hyper-annoying OompaLumpa to hyper-evolve!(3*) There’s some weak plotting too in her departure. While her psychic mentor Tuvok gets to bid her farewell, and Neelix to a lesser extent, the Doctor, the single character she’s shared the most screentime with over three seasons barely appears, and certainly doesn’t get to say goodbye as he’s hardly in this episode. A small coda where he wistfully regrets this, or shares a bright memory and hope for Kes’ future would have been appropriate, but no, there’s no time for this. Why? because we need plenty of time for a long, long introductory shot of 7 in her sexy one-piece. Yeah, sexy cybernetic space babes over annoying space elves every time, it seems!
Day of Honor
In the pit of my stomach I realised this was gonna be a Torres/klingon heritage story, and in Star Trek’s history they can be of…variable quality. For every Sins of the Father there’s a Birthright or a Barge of the Dead. Turns out this is one of the good ones, as while the story focuses around B’Elanna’s special klingon festival (no pain sticks mind), thanks to a monumental fuck up in engineering, the warp core gets jettisoned. Is this the first time we’ve ever actually seen this happen? Given Geordi threatened he’d had to to it countless times, I’d be surprised if it is, but I’m damned if I can remember any other occasion. Anyway, the warp core doesn’t go boom after all, proving that Geordi is the better engineer here. The Caatati, who the crew had initially helped, knick off with it, and so Tom and B’Elenna try to get it back in a shuttle craft (since Voyager is pretty powerless).
The shuttle goes boom (a reoccurring theme) and Tom and B’Elenna end up drifting in space, and we finally realise this episode is not about klingon heritage, or even past crimes of the Borg, but it’s Shuttlepod One…only with romance not bromance. At its heart this is a sweet story, that deepens the relationship between Paris and Torres in an effective and believable way – as they float in space, slowly running out of air. It also, for once, demonstrates just how BIG space is when you don’t have ships ready to warp in and collect you. Nice episode, and my favourite of the season so far by miles.
This episode is awful. Just fucking awful. How awful? Well I stopped watching halfway through and couldn’t bring myself back to watch the rest of the episode for THREE DAMNED WEEKS. It’s all about Tacotray and some alien kidz doing their best Lord of the Flies impression. Oh yes, and they speak in this hilarious pigeon-english ripped right out of Mad Max III – I kept waiting for them to ask about ‘Captain Walker and the before times‘. Trek’s tackled the kidz gone rogue trope before, and much better (Notably in DS9:Valiant), so this episode brings nothing new to the table. In fact, I’d go as far to say that this is the single worst episode of Voyager I’ve seen yet. And remember, I’ve sat through Basics, Flashback, Threshold and Sacred Ground; so it’s not an honour I lightly bestow.
Oh, and the nemesis…total, and utter make-up rip off of Predator. If I’d been the network head, and accidentally seen this abomination of an episode, Voyager’d be on its way to cancellation city! What’s next, Species 8472 turns out to look like the Xenomorphs…?
Anyway, turns out Tacotray has been brain washed and most of what we saw was in his head, and it’ll take years for him to shake off the trauma of being used…or, you know, as normal we never, ever mention these events again. Yeah. It’s the latter one.
What starts out as looking like a Tuvok episode, turns out to be a B’Elanna and The Doctor one. After some early recounting of racial hate crimes against Tuvok by Harry and Tom, and his subsequent promotion to Lt Commander(4*), we move onto the main story. A drifting ship, crewed only by a lone, bargain basement Jeffrey Combsesque-lite “isomorphic projection” – that’s hologram to you and me. Naturally, I was shocked when the creepy-looking hologram with the serial killer vibe, turned out to be a serial killer. No, wait I wasn’t. I kept waiting for a twist that would raise this story above utter mundanity. There was a nice bit when the psycho hologram stuck its hand in Torres, but soon enough we’re back to “Don’t worry I’ve disabled all the holo-emitters…no wait he’s still out there…oh noes” territory of a sub-bargain basement horror story.
Meanwhile, Tom and B’Elenna’s share a romantic moment, and Tom for reasons unknown gets promoted to nurse. Because when you’ve limited staff aboard a starship, it’s always important to draft the primary helmsman away from his primary duties. No, made no fucking sense to me, and seems to exist only to give the Doctor someone to talk to in later episodes who’s not sick.
Actually, the B-story of the episode is all about Harry and 7, and is sort of enjoyable. It’s enjoyable for the moment where 7, recognising Harry’s stumbling romantic attempts, asks him outright if he “Wishes to copulate“. While it might be the line of the season, I’ve no idea why Harry, lover of Libby and random holo-ladies, should suddenly be written all over again as a stumbling, nervy virgin. Oh noes, big sexy lady is coming on to me, I just can’t deal with it. Well, I can’t deal with the inconsistent characterisation of Harry. It’s a bit late in the series to be writing him as this nieve!
Ah, this episode was bundled back in the 90s on VHS (whooo, ancient media formats) with Dark Frontier PtI & II, so was the only Voyager episode I actually owned. Hence, I know what’s coming here as we explore 7’s (aka Annika Hansen, mmn, bop) family history and assimilation by the collective. It’s the first entirely 7 centric story, so hopes were high for a corker, especially after the middling to fucking awful standard of the season so far. However, the opening clay modelling scene between 7 and the Captain (get used to this belaboured pseudo-mother/daughter trope) is a heavy handed metaphorical ‘identity creation at the hands of others’ scene. Gosh, I wonder what the rest of the episode is about…did Annika mould own creation or did the Borg sculpt her fully-formed from the human clay? I can almost hear the Voyager writing room staff toasting their own super-genius for this idea…sigh.
Fun fact: despite this scene being set in Master Leonardo’s Workshop, Voyager were too cheap to shell out for another guest appearance by John Rees-Davies
The rest of the episode harks back to TNG:Brothers, as 7 of 9 gets reset into Borg mode after suffering repeated dreams about a raven, by a mysterious signal. Said signal eventually turns out to be transmitted from her badly CGIed orignal Earth ship, the Raven, which she came into the Delta Quadrant in with her anthropologist parents. Okay, this is a big retcon for humans and Borg. Thought mankind first met them when Q hurled the Enterprise into the Delta Quadrant in TNG: Q Who? Nah, happened years before that off screen, by some nosy explorers and their incredibly fast ship (its literally 65,000ly from Earth – but no one ever quibbles this point). Anyway, 7’s daft parents get assimilated along with her daughter…aaaaaand scene.
There’s a subplot about the B’omar, winners of the 1997’s Worst Dressed Alien Race competition hands down, forcing Voyager to take the world’s stupidest route through their space – as everyone forgets space is 3-dimensional and they could just, you know, overfly the whole region. Naturally the B’omar get their vinyl in a twist about a Borg on board, and even more p-oed when Janeway just ignores their navigation advice and powers through their space to rescue 7.
We open with the Doctor giving Janeway a happy ending on the massage table. Okay, not quite, but there’s not a whole lot of laughs in this episode! It’s a nasty creepy tale, although I can’t feel helping we’ve seen this all before in TNG: Schisms. Unknown aliens, check. Crewmembers undergoing bizarre experimentation, check. Creepy horror vibe, check. However, while this episode is an early example of 7 of 9 as Wesley ‘Saves the Day/Deus ex Mechania’ Crusher syndrome, I will admit I rather enjoyed it. It’s perhaps a shame that the aliens turn out just to be another humanoid race with invisibility hats(5*), I rather liked the Lovecraftian horror of the non-humanoid, extra-dimensional aliens on Schisms. We lose another NPC crewmember (not lost one in a while), although her passing is rather ignored by the crew. No long emotional wake once we’ve resolved everything, as she clearly wasn’t that important. Cold, Voyager, stone cold.
Anyway, the highlight of this episode is…and I can hardly believe I’m writing this…was between Neelix and Tacotray. Both affected by bizarre mutations and accelerated aging respectively, they engage in a homage to Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremensketch.
Tacotray “I can barely move, thanks to my arthritic hips”
Neelix “Lucky bastard. In a couple of days my bones’ll fused and I won’t be able to move”
Despite 7 saving the day, there are some glorious moments from Janeway too as she goes all Bruce Willis on us again. That’ll teach those god damned aliens to stick loads of needles in her head! We also get more of the Tom and B’Elanna’s love story. Yep, the whole episode is more the kind of series I wish Voyager was, lots going on, plenty for all the regulars to get up to, and a threat that isn’t too easily defeated by augmented Borg-nanoprobes. Yeah, that one still rankles.
Year of Hell Pt I
*performs the happy dance* Okay, full disclosure. Before I started this comprehensive re-watch, Year of Hell was my single favourite episode(s) of Voyager. And after re-watching this episode, I can confirm that’s still not changed. There are…issues…big issues, I have with the ending, but I’ll address those in Pt II. Okay, part of the joy of this episode is finally…finally seeing The Voyager take the kind of punishment that we’ve not seen since the opening episodes, thanks to the Krenim and their chronal torpedos. There’s a nice nod to Yesterday’s Enterprise the first time the Krenim Timeship performs a temporal incursion, and Voyager shifts to a darker timeline. But once she’s got her chronal shields, then all hell really starts to break loose, as the battered little Starfleet ship starts to lose crew and her looks in equal measure. The end of the episode, with Janeway’s speech to the crew when she knows they have to pretty much abandon ship may be my single favourite Janeway moment yet. Short, sweet, heartfelt and resolute. Naturally, the hero cast remain behind.
The episode is also made even better by two things. Firstly, the foreshadowing of this terrible time from Before and After (shock, Kes was useful for something), but more importantly the appearance of Kurtwood Smith as complicated (albeit amusingly fanboi named) antagonist Annorax. His abduction of Paris and Tacotray sets up the more philosophical discussions of PtII, but his rationale for his actions in repeatedly altering the timelines are ones that make the situation more shades of gray, than black and white. Of course, knowing Trek PtIIs rarely live up to the promise of their opening episode, but the two parter is off to a dramatic start – and the shots of the escape pods flying away from Voyager at the end of the episode would have made for an incredible season finalé shot!
Year of Hell Pt II
“This is one year I’d like to forget. (beat) Time’s up“
Yeah, okay. Let’s address the Elephant in the holodeck first. This episode ends with the reset button to end all reset buttons for Voyager. A year’s worth of character growth and drama erased in a moment. And shockingly…Tacotray is one of the major victims here, as his and Paris’ time together aboard the Krenim timeship sees both of them mature in their relationship and outlooks. It annoys me no end as THIS is the Tacotray I could probably stomach more, a morally conflicted character who doesn’t just fit straight into the vanilla Starfleet mould. Needless to say, it’s Tacotray and Annorax’s interactions on the nature of time, the ethics of reshaping the future and on the subject of loss that for me form the centre of this episode’s strongest narrative. There’s also some wonderful stuff with the now blinded Tuvok and 7, in a more believable mentor/mentee relationship than Kes ever achieved. All lost on the winds of time…
Okay, stuff is still going on back on Voyager, as Janeway puts herself in harm’s way to keep her battered ship flying, even as she puts together another coalition to track down and nuke the timeship. Especial props to the makeup crew for her 3rd degree burns makeup – ouch!
The episode’s finalé is another outstanding Janeway moment, as the only person left aboard the Voyager and with the front of the ship torn off – she flys it, straight into the Kremin timeship! And then everything is reset. NOOOOOOOOO! One of my biggest problems with Voyager is there liberal use of the reset-switch, rather than risk character growth and more importantly showing the ship slowly looking…less Starfleet and more bespoke. Why get rid of the Borg modifications? Keep them, and any other ones you gain along the way. That way the ship that finally makes it back to the Alpha Quadrant and her crew will really show the pain and struggle they went through to reach home. But no, we’re back to ocean liner perfection and Mr Neelix still being alive. Sigh, can’t have everything. Still, Year of Hell is as damned close to a perfect Voyager episode as we’re going to get I suspect. Cracking stuff!
Since nothing eventful has happened in the last couple of episodes (sob) we get a Tuvok centric episode, as the Voyager visits the planet of the telepaths and…oh dear one of them picks up on B’Elanna’s violent impulses. In a call back to Justice, it turns out that the Starfleet crew should really have read the local law PADDs before they beamed down, as it turns out there’s no violent crime here on Lotus Eater V (or whatever the hell it’s called). Having caused the poor fellow to go apeshit, she is sentenseted to an engramatic purge (which sounds like as euphemistic a description for literally brainwashing, as enhanced interrogation is for torture). Naturally, while Starfleet is all for respecting local laws, Inspector Tuvok smells a space-rat and investigates, and it turns out on a planted where violent thoughts have been outlaws, that there’s a thriving black market trade in violent thoughts. Gosh, it was all a big metaphor for the war on drugs – criminalise something in society, and you just drive it underground.
I await Teresa May attempting to bring in the same doubleplus ungood thought laws in the UK in the coming months, eh? Actually, there’s a missed opportunity here – given that Federation society is always held up as utopian (aka bland), are there similar problems for their own citizens who miss the more…exciting days of the past? Sadly, any such philosophical questions are ignored, as it’s clearly the Mari who are entirely at fault in the narrative, and the Starfleet crew can assume a position of moral authority in their dealings with them. Sadly, this all too late for B’Elanna who’s given a swift brain enema (or the best part of one) to purge of her unclean thoughts. Tuvok saves the day and most of her brain, and on we trek. A half decent episode at best.
I have memories of watching this years ago. Bad memories of an episode to rival Threshold, Coda or Fair Haven(6*). Now I’ve also seen Nemesis, is this gonna be as bad or worse as S4’s bottom feeder of an episode? Actually, it’s not quite as bad as I remembered and that’s largely down to the wonderful ACTING talents of John Rhys-Davis who rises (hah) far above the script to deliver a truly memorable performance. Anyway, after yet another opening in Master Leonardo’s workshop with Janeway, the aliens of the week turn up and steal loads of Voyager’s technology. Most notably they make off with the ship’s CPU, the Doctor’s mobile emitter and also Leonardo himself. Hobbled by the theft Voyager limps to a trade world, where *shock* Leonardo think’s he’s travelled to the new world, and is wandering around thanks to 29th Century Federation technology.
Again, I’ve a sneaking suspicion that I’ve seen this plot before (holodeck characters out and about: Ship in a Bottle anyone?), but for the most part it’s a bit of a romp for Janeway. Considering most of her centric episodes are dreary and depressing thus far I can forgive her, although the bit where she and Leonardo take flight (urgh) on one of his flying machines is beyond cheesey. Yes, the episode is a waste of a good character actor, but by no means was this one anything like as bad as I remembered it. Thankfully.
From comedy, we move to even more comedy(7*) as everyone’s least favourite gerbil crewman, Neelix, dies and finds out there’s no afterlife, or at least no afterlife that will have him. Hilariously, Neelix, Tom and Tacotray are in a shuttle looking for protomatter when the Talaxian is deliberately targeted by the vengeful plasma storm and blasted backwards across the shuttle. Tacotray’s first reaction is to check the shuttle’s intact, and as an afterthought Neelix. Good to know Neelix ranks somewhere behind inanimate objects in the hierarchy of importance. Tragically, not knowing a good thing when they’ve got it, the Doctor uses 7 of 9’s nanoprobes to bring Neelix back from the dead, 18 hours after he shuffled off this mortal coil (hah). That this is possible, should send shivers down the spine of the viewer, as it suggests that the body, mind and soul remain entwined for a good day after death, meaning a swift cremation opens up all kinds of existential problems.
Naturally, having been dead, and seen nothing not even his dearly departed sister Alixia, Neelix’s simple faith in his race’s afterlife is irrevocably shattered. With this revelation, does he start to seize every day as if it were his last? Nah, he goes into a deep, spiralling existential crisis and emerges as a wet blanket bringing everyone down. Honestly, it’s like the crew have utterly forgotten Janeway’s afterlife experiences in Coda (heaven knows I’m trying to)! Any-hoo, like the audience, Neelix’s nanoprobes start losing the will to live and he drops back into a near death state, which only ANOTHER sodding vision quest with Tacotray can solve. Honestly, how is it that every ship in Starfleet doesn’t have a shaman in chief alongside their councillor, eh? Given the regularity with which this tired old deus ex machina is brought in to solve metaphysical crisis, you’d think they’d be de rigueur. Sadly, rather than solving Neelix’s crisis of faith, it instead drives him to try and vaporise himself with the transporter(8*).
This episode is also notable for the reappearance of Naomi Wildman, last seen as a babe in arms a year and a bit ago (Basics), and now about 5 years old(9*). Oh, she’s having trouble sleeping, which thankfully Neelix had been helping her with by telling her stories of the great Talaxian afterlife forest. Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth when he comes back from the dead with his faith utterly shattered. This episode is also notable as it took me three viewings to get through, one of which I fell fast asleep during. I think that was my favourite one. The solution that he has to keep on living just to help Naomi Wildman sleep is a fucking bleak one…honestly, that’s the sum total of your value to the crew, Neelix. Screw your need for faith or self-actualisation, suck it down and cheer up a sprog. Yeah, it’s a terrible, terrible episode that answers nothing nor is the decimation of Neelix’s self-belief ever revisited. Sheesh.
Everyone’s been having odd dreams, aside from Harry Kim, who’s continuing to enjoy his nightly scheduled wet dreams of 7 of 9. Can’t blame him(10*). And in every dream there’s a strange alien watching them like a perv. Well, aside from B’Elanna who’s on the nightshift and has been trying to have her regular hook-up with Paris. On the whole, elements of this episode are somewhat TNG: Schisms redux, even down to the crew reconstructing the image of the alien together. I’ll give the Voyager crew this though, they do at least rapidly recognise that if they’re all having bad dreams with aliens in them, then something is afoot. Perhaps there needs to be a standard Starfleet protocol where everyone reports bad dreams and then the ship jumps to Yellow Alert.
As might be expected with any story dealing with vivid dreaming, soon we’re questioning who’s awake and who’s dreaming…which means Tacotray get’s to roll out another of his mystical powers to save the day – lucid dreaming. Yes, two episodes in a row for the Native American’s vision quests to save the day – I can say, without fear of contradiction here – he has utterly become the Wesley Crusher deus ex machina of Voyager. And I continue to like him as a character, just as much as I like S1TNG Wesley. Hint: It’s a minus figure. Eventually, we get to the planet and the dreamers and Tacotray manages to stay awake (more than I managed during this episode) to pretty much threaten them all with orbital bombardment as an inducement to quit-it. Yep, top marks for a non-Starfleet approved solution there.
A nasty thought just hit me…what if I am still asleep in front of this episode and I never woke up? The horror…the horror…
*I’ve only seen bits of the Borg Children episodes, and I fear I’ll come to hate the episodes that centre around them with as much passion as I do the S1-3 Kes episodes.
**Which I watched last week, funnily enough. And yes, despite being a cracking TNG story, the end is a bit…weak.
3*You’ll note here I didn’t even use a picture of Kes to illustrate this story. That’s honestly how peripheral she actually is in her own, departure centric episode.
4*Take note, 3 seasons in and Tuvok gets a rank promotion. Later Tom gets demoted and then later promoted again, despite being a bit of an arse. Meanwhile for 7 seasons, Harry Kim remains an ensign. Yeah, that’s utterly credible isn’t it.
5*It might have been hats…it might not. The whole ‘how they’re invisible’ was never made that clear.
6*I know we’ve not made it as far as Fair Haven yet, but I remember it being utterly fucking awful. I suspect a second viewing will confirm this.
7*Well I laughed anyway.
8*This episode has the most death’s/near deaths of Neelix yet. It’s the show that keeps on giving.
9*Something which is handled with a hand-wave of ‘Oh her dad is a race of lumpy face aliens who age up to adulthood fast enough to make their kids interesting on a TV show’.
10*Harry can’t wake up from his dream..and the Captain bursts into his room. Oh dear Harry, hope the sheets aren’t being held aloft by too big a tentpole.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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(*).
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.
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.
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?
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).
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.
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!
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!
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?
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!).
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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 sameseason 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.
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.
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 PtIis 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.
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*)
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!
* 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.