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.
Okay here we go into a season that says farewell to a lot of the initial tropes (Kazon, Vidiians, and the Doctor being stuck in sickbay), and pushes on towards the Borg. Will this mean a season of transition towards something better, or more Threshold-like horrors? Only time will tell…
Basics (Pt II)
Well hush my mouth! Despite my prior comments, in the opening minutes we see good old Samantha Wildman and her babe in arms Naomi. Looks like we won’t be relying on them to retake the ship, which means it’s all down to Mr ‘Kill em all and let God sort it out’ Suder and the Doctor. Which actually makes for a pretty fair Die Hard-esque A plot to retake the ship, although I could have done without the fleet of Talaxians riding in to help save the day. You notice they pointedly don’t take Neelix away with them, as he’s as much a pariah to his own race as he is to any sane viewers.
Meanwhile on planet wilderness, Mr Tacotray and Janeway appear to have forgotten utterly that in the previous story they were Mr and Mrs Frontier, and their previous survival skills have evaporated. I mean, in Resolutions Tacotray was building a canoe with his bare-teeth and a pen knife. In Basics he can’t even rub two sticks together to start a fire. Make up your mind showrunners! At least the lack of water on the rapidly destabilizing planet means we’re spared Janeway in another bath, although she seems hyper-keen to make everyone munch down on (potentially-toxic) insect grubs.
Anyway, after a few hilarious hijinks (Neelix essentially ordering Mr Hogan to his certain death, Seska falling prey to a particularly explodey console, Mr Suder’s heroic sacrifice) we get the ship back. And that’s it for the Kazon stories. You will not be missed, unlike Mr Suder who was ace.
Ah the 25th Anniversary episode that isn’t the wonderful Trials and Tribble-ations. From memory i remember this being a bit of a disappointment. Rewatching it, I spent most of the episode wondering just how much original content there was vs reused ST: The Undiscovered Country shots. Yes, it was cool seeing Captain Sulu and Commander Rand again, but on the other hand the main crux of the story – Tuvok has a nebula-space-parasite that makes him go all nostalgic…was eminently skipable. Also, Janeway appears to not have read up on Kirk’s life much. Ddd, when you have to assume it’s a given that his iconic life and often questionable command decisions would have been taught at the Academy. If only to avoid making the same mistakes!
The episode also ends with a nauseating ‘not-quite-breaking-the-fourth-wall’ exchange twixt Janeway and Tuvok, acknowledging that this was an anniversary celebration.
“But there are times when I think back to those days. Of meeting Spock. Kirk and the others(*). And am pleased that I was part of it.”
“In a funny way, I feel like I was a part of it too”
“Then perhaps you can be nostalgic for the both of us”
Certainly, no one’s gonna be nostalgic for this one Kathy!
Haven’t I seen this one before? No, wait this is Harry and Tom in an alien orbiting prison where there’s nothing but prisoners and no guards. Wait, I have seen this before – it’s Harry 20 on the High Rock! Anyway, while Harry and Tom try not to go slowly psychotic thanks to alien implants, and a mad justice system without appeals or the ability to quash charges (“You’re innocent…sorry, you still serve your sentence. That’s just the law”), Janeway tries to winkle out who did commit the crime of which her crew have been convicted. We also get to meet the hitherto unknown and explodey isotope of dilithium, paralithium. After that stuff in Threshold, that makes the second new form of dilithium native to the Delta Quadrant. And counting I suspect.
All comes right in the end, when we find out the purpose of the story is to drive forward the ‘best of chums’ subplot for Kim and Paris. Although unlike Bashir and O’Brien, there’s no subtext going on! Sorta enjoyable, which for Voyager means it’s almost an outstanding episode!
In an appropriately recurring theme, the Voyager strays into an area of space whose inhabitants don’t tolerate anyone passing through. Akin to Star Trek Beyond, they fly thousands of tiny ships…although unlike Beyond, the result of Voyager passing through is less (spoiler alert) catastrophic. That they first make their presence known is by stunning Paris and Torres in a shuttle is slightly odd, as later on they happily slaughter a ship of full of other beings.
In the far-more interesting subplot, after being on for a year and a half the Doctor manages to overfill his memory banks. Consequently, he starts suffering from hologramatic alzheimer’s, with hilarious/tragic results as his faculties and memories start to fade. A highlight of the episode is the holographic recreation of his creator, Doctor Zimmerman…also played by Bob Picardo, criticising all the opera and other junk that’s come to clutter up the Doctor’s files. As the Doctor’s faculties fail more and more, it’s left to Kes to argue his case with the captain, who in a typically organic-favouring lifeform manner dismisses the needs of one her crew, simply because he’s made of hard light.
Okay, so the swarm ships are clamped on the hull, but if it was Harry Kim who needed attention, you can just bet he’d get it. It’s things like this, along with the Federation’s treatment of Odo and Data, that make me think that despite their credo to ‘seek out new lifeforms’, that they’re pretty shitty at according new life forms with equivalency of existential rights when it comes down to it. Anyway, the swarm are disbursed and thanks to a software patch the Doctor is saved (for now) but appears to have lost all his 2 years of memories. But wait, just like B4 at the end of ST: Nemesis(2*), he starts humming a tune…and we realise there’s something still there. Actually, since Nemesis was filmed 6 years after this episode, for once TNG ripped off Voyager. How much of the Doctor was saved? I’m guessing when we next see him, thanks to the almighty Voyager reset button the answer will be “All of him”. Nothing ever changes much on Voyager…
Particle beam of the week: Poleron burst
Great scott, it’s been some time since last season’s Death Wish, but here we are at another truly cracking Voyager episode. Effectively a sequel to the TNG episode The Price, here we catch up with those loveable rogue Ferengi who ended up getting stuck in the Delta Quadrant the best part of a decade earlier. Much of this episode is played for laughs, from Tom and Tacotray losing their shoes to a local scam artist through to Neelix’s finest moment in disguise as The Grand Proxy. Not to mention the Ferengi themselves, who are played with great relish in their dealings with the hu-maans. There is a moderate amount of jeopardy, when the Ferengi’s religious appropriation threatens to blow up in their faces (being burned at the stake, even I wouldn’t wish that on Neelix), but to be honest the only question I had watching this was “Are the Ferengi going to join the Voyager crew?“. That would have been a great outcome, but sadly they get sucked down the destabilised wormhole to parts unknown.
I must give a special shout out to the Ferengi’s temple handmaidens who clearly had availed themselves of the space-faring grub eaters high technology. I mean, it’s the only way their costumes could have been constructed to withstand the…high tensile stresses they were clearly under. I was glad this episode wasn’t in 3D as I’d have been forced to duck on more than one occassion.
Anyway, space ladies aside, after a few middling to duff episodes, this one was a pleasure to watch from beginning to end. More like this one please!
Particle beam of the week: Verteron Beam
I spent the opening moments trying to work out if this was a ‘Harry Kim falls in love’ or a ‘Bellana has an odd experience’ episode, as these two seem to be recurrent tropes in the Voyager cannon. It’s the latter, as Torres starts to experience vivid memories and dreams that are clearly not her own. Easily the most nauseating moment, is right in the middle of a very erotic dream she wakes up in her quarters, in bed, in her night attire…to find a fully dressed Tacotray standing over demanding to know why she’s later for work. And do you know what, she promptly starts to explain her sexy dreams to him. TO TACOTRAY. Gah, urgh. Not since witnessing Janeway in a bath last season has my skin tried to crawl away as quickly. I feel dirty, and in need of that bath now, sans Kathy!
Anyway, the rest of the episode is a thinly disguised allegory for the Nazi’s treatment of the Jews during WWII, with the visiting telepathic aliens, the Enarans, on Voyager standing in for the Nazis. Torres effectively is remembering the guilty secrets of a woman who loved one of the space-Jews, and has carried the guilt of her culpability of her people’s crimes ever since. It’s not exactly subtle, although to be fair Roxann Dawson puts in a pretty great performance as both Jora Mirell and herself.
What little levity there is in the episode comes courtesy of a hair-down Janeway having a go with an Enaran musical instrument, that rather resembles the organsmatron from Woody Allen’s Sleeper. What with Torres’ sexy dreams and this reference, it all amounts to a whole load of sexy subtext in this episode, that balances rather starkly with the core message of ethnic cleansing by an apparently benign alien race. Not sure I liked the episode as a whole, but it was at least a challenging plot idea. Shame the Enarans came out of nowhere, and were never heard from again, as with more build up and fall out, this episode could have had a really powerful punch.
Without looking up the guide to this episode, I suspect it’s going to be Tacotray centric, which sends a cold, cold icy chill of fear down my spine. Turns out its even worse, it’s a Kes episode. Let’s turn to Wikipedia and their one line episode description.
Wow, Just pops doesn’t it. Actually a large part of this episode is about Janeway going on a ‘mystic voyage’ to recover Kes’ p’agh, katra or some sort of mystic mumbo jumbo. You know the sort of pseudo-new age carp that Trek loves, with lines like ‘Only when you know you know nothing, are you ready to begin‘ and the like. Suffice to say, tragically, Kes Doesn’t die and Janeway comes back doubting that science can answer everything. Look, in a universe where Commander Tacotray gets to take the spiritual and moral high-ground at the end of the episode, that’s not a universe I wanna live in. Utterly awful episode.
Future’s End (Pt I)
Finally, onto one of the Voyager episodes I’ve seen a few times, and have always genuinely enjoyed. There’s a real The Voyage Home feel about this trip to 1996 to recover the time-lost Capt Braxton and his Time-Ship. But the real treat is in the guest stars. Sarah Silverman does a passable Gillian Taylor as she goofs off with the comedy paring of Tom and Tuvok. Yet, the real star here is Ed Begley Jr, who (as Henry Starling) once again shows off his splendid comedy-drama stylings, bouncing off the Voyager cast, and especially Capt Janeway.
Especial kudos to Janeway for slipping in the time-lost Spock’s line about using “Stone knives and bear skins” in her efforts to crack the Chronowerk’s primitive computer system. Hey, this is the mid-90s, it probably had a blazingly fast AOL connection of 10kps! Of course all of this espionage is just a prologue for the grand moment when Starling uses 29th Century Starfleet tech to bugger up the Voyager, and nick off with the Doctor. Bum-bum-bum, to be continued!
Future’s End (Pt II)
There are plenty of lose ends, and more comedy afoot here again, but for me it’s all second fiddle for finally giving the Doctor his mobile emitter and getting him out of sick bay. Congrats, Trek showrunners you took 51 episodes to do something that Arnold J Rimmer could do in S1E01 of Red Dwarf! Naturally, while this opens up the potential for what we can do with easily the best character in Voyager, there’s still the little matter of chasing down that missing time-ship, in a chase that owes more to Knight Rider in special effects quality than Trek.
Easily the highlight of the episode is Henry Starling, having thwarted Janeway at every turn, activating the USS Aeon’s time drive as Janeway heroically manually launches a torpedo from Voyager’s crippled launching system. Starling’s final words “Uh-oh!” manage to capture the essence of the phrase “Oh…shiiiiiiit” without having to call on the non-PG profanity. Farewell Ed Begley Jr, you’ll be missed! All in all a great action-comedy two-parter that’s banished the grim misery of Basics from my mind, and highly unusually for Voyager…there’s genuine ramifications for the Doctor that don’t get reset. More like this ST:V!
Oh sweet Jeebus, didn’t we just have a sodding Kes episode two weeks ago, and I’ve already got to endure another one? Honestly, couldn’t they have accidently left her behind in 1996 or something and taken Rain Robinson on instead? Anyway, a dying warlord foolishly takes over Kes’ short lived body through his magic fingers (I wish I was making it up) giving Jennifer Lien the chance to strut about like she’s doing Shakespeare in the park with an am-dram group. Honestly, while she’s being all butch and warlordly, the cast are just hamming it up like it’s Christmas come early. Once I got this thought into my mind, I couldn’t take a moment of the A-plot episode drama seriously. I know I shouldn’t, but go watch this (obviously awful) episode and try not to think of it as third rate pantomime!
Anyway, Kes survives and despite Tuvok telling her that essentially ‘nothing will ever be the same again’, I’m assuming like all character changing moments none of this nonsense will ever be referenced again. Oh, aside from her dumping Neelix…I think. The script’s pretty opaque on this plot point, so I’ll have to see if this tiny nugget is raised next time.
The B-plot of the episode is the replacement of the dive bar Sandrine’s, with Neelix’s hedonistic beach paradise, complete with (not very) scantily clad babes and hunks. Any tiny respect I had for everyone least’s favourite Talaxian vanished the second he put on a Hawaiian shirt and started dancing to a steel drum band just before the opening credits. Actually, that’s a lie. I lost any respect when it appear that he was being…deeply gratified…in the opening moments by person or persons unknown. So there you go, lots of Nelix, lots more Kes: it’s an episode from hell to be sure!
The Q and the Grey
Thank the Maker, a Q episode, which is all the more welcome after the previous terrible episode. Although it doesn’t open well with the whole bridge crew standing there applauding a star. An actual star. Boy, they really need to get out more! The episode takes a shift for the better when Q and Mrs Q turn up. Q wants to sire a child, and suggests that Janeway might be best as a mother. Mrs Q naturally won’t have her ‘man’ knocking rank pips with any lower species. So far, so good, as the episode looked set to be an inverse of Q-Less, with comedy tiffs aplenty between the not-so-happily married Qs. At which point supernovas keep going off bang all around the ship…
All of which means that now we get dragged into the Q Civil War, replete with the blues and grays of the US Civil War. Which is about as exciting as a holonovel. Yeah, that bland. That we get some handwaved explanation of “This is how you perceive the Continuum” is all well and good, but it doesn’t explain the latter appearance of the Voyager crew dressed all in their re-enactment finest. Tuvok looks especially delighted to be wearing the silly Union soldier hat. Well done Voyager, I didn’t think you could manage it, but you made a Q episode boring. Which is a shame, as De Lancie and Mulgrew have fabulous onscreen chemistry together. Thus, it’s the writing at fault here, not the acting!
Still, Q does get his end away at the episode’s conclusion…
I can hear the discussions in the writer’s room about this one.
“I’ve got a great pitch! Janeway does Die Hard on Voyager. Just think about it, Kathy gets all sweaty in a little vest and retakes her ship from Alan Rickman!”
“Rickman said he wouldn’t do SciFi even if his life depended on it. Also, didn’t we do Die Hard in space in TNG: Starship Mine. And then again, and not as coherently, in Insurrection?”
“Okay, for European Terrorists let’s replace them with…oh I don’t know, giant viruses with tentacles. But you know something better. And they spread like flies. That come out of giant boils on the neck.”
“That makes no sense at all, flies are bioorganic and viruses are more like crystalline life.”
“Look, it’s lunch in 10 minutes. Let’s just pencil that all in, and we can worry about making it more plausible later.”
“Deal. Now, what about an episode where Kes turns into an energy beast?“
And that’s pretty much the episode. 50% of Janeway McClaning around the ship in her undies, and 50% anime tentacle henti. Oh and the Doctor’s in there somewhere with his instant cure, and there’s a side plot involving Neelix becoming Voyager’s ambassidor with a race of ass-hat aliens who hate Kathy’s hips. Actually, Neelix becoming an ambassador would be useful, were he to reach a point in space, beyond which his knowledge of space ran out. But that’s never going to happen…
Mr Neelix reaches the end of his usefulness. Now, I might have argued that took place during the opening minutes of Season 1, but for some unknown reason the Voyager crew have kept the gerbel-faced annoyance onboard for the best part of three years. Well, bad news for Mr Neelix, as Voyager pulls up to the edge of the Necrid(3*) Expanse, we reach the edge of space about which Neelix knows. Just what will he be prepared to do to reassert his usefulness? Well he’ll lie, cheat, smuggle narcotics and be an accomplice to murder. Frankly, he shot up in my estimation at this point, as I was reminded we get two kinds of Neelixes in Voyager. There’s the default, chipper annoyance mucking about in the mess hall or the holodeck (cf. Warlord). And there’s the rarer, serious Neelix, that we first glimpsed in Jetrel, with the ominous and frankly quite dark backstory. A former criminal you say. as well as fighting in the armed forces? My, my Mr Neelix, I swear Garak would love to make your acquaintance!
I by far prefer these latter stories, and just wish as the case with Garak, that as we unfold the leaves(4*) of the complex beast that is Neelix we emerge with a changed character who no longer covers up who he really his with annoying buffoonery. It’s Voyager, of course, so this is never going to happen. Character development is out of the window unless you’re 7 of 9 or Janeway’s hair-do, more’s the pity. As it is, I really enjoyed watching Neelix compound one mistake after another in his desperation to still be of use to the crew, and ending up so far out of his depth he’s willing to risk his life on one chance for redemption. When he finally comes clean to the Captain, she warns there will be repercussions for his actions. Whether there really are…I have my doubts. But after a run of pretty mediocre episodes, we finally have a corker to close the first half of season 3.
Wait…I’m only halfway through this season? Well, on the plus side it’s going out with a corker of an episode, after a pretty lameass run. On the plus side though, no Tacotray-centric episodes and some half-decent character development for the much-loathed Neelix. Fingers crossed S3.pt2 continues this upward tick!
*Neither of whom were IN this episode in anyway. You’d think he’d at least name check his commanding officer on the Excelsior.
2*Yes, I’ll admit I made it all the way to the end of ST:Nemesis. Once. And once only. Never again.
3*Aren’t they those undead robot things in Warhammer 40,000?
4*Both of them
Okay, catch up with Season 1 and Season 2 (pt 1) and then on we go, with fair warning that three of the worst episodes of any Trek live in this half of the season (Resolutions, The Thaw and the mighty Threshold).
Hey, you know what I’m really crying out for? Another Tacotray and Kazon centric episode. Boy oh boy I miss these ersatz klingons when they’re not on screen as much as I miss having ingrowing toenails. Yet actually despite this baggage…this wasn’t a half bad episode, with a twist I didn’t totally see coming for once. In fact a lot of it came down to the simple proposition: wouldn’t things be a hell of a lot easier if we didn’t stick to damned Starfleet protocols all the time? It even brought to the fore the simmering (and underused) tensions between the Marquis and Starfleet personal, after a massive Kazon attack half wrecked the Voyager and killed Ensign Irrelevant. Oddly though at his funeral, of the 147…sorry, 146 crew, only the full command crew plus two others turned up. Guess only the senior ranks get to mourn, while everyone else fixes the ship.
Actually, about that. The quite exciting opener has the Voyager utterly hammered by the kazon, and any show worth its salt (Battlestar Galactica, for example) would at least let the damage linger for sometime. If only to show us what hardships and struggles the crew are going through to keep the Voyager flying, for example. Yet once Ensign Nobody’s corpse has been shot out of the torpedo tubes(*) the ship seems…pretty much totally fixed. Score another one for the amazing and omnipresent reset-switch. Anyway the Voyager crew score an alliance (much to Janeway’s distaste) with the Trabe, the race that once enslaved the kazon. And with a little help from the unwitting Federation almost manage to pull a Joey Zasa on the gathered First Majes. Net result, the Kazon really, really hate ‘the Federations’ now, and Janeway smugly tells everyone it’s her way of the highway.
Particle beam of the week: Phaser (old school!)
Oh grud, there’s no putting it off anymore. Okay, despite being stuck in the Delta Quadrant with severely limited resources, power and engineering talent, Torres, Paris and Kim build a shuttle that can reach Warp 10 (aka infinite speed). This means Tom Paris is everywhere in the universe at once. Yes, even your house. Having achieved seven impossible things before breakfast Paris hyper-evolves into the future form of the human race, a dumb lizard. But not before kidnapping Janeway, sexing her hyper-evolved lizard self and spawning three lizardlings(2*).
And since we’re in an episode of miracles, despite only teeny-tiny DNA traces of Janeway and Paris being left behind in their lizard forms, the Doctor sorts them all out with a wave of a hand and single scene change. And that’s all she wrote, bar a coy post-coital discussion between the captain and her helmsman as to who initiated their frenzied swamp copulation. ‘In some species it’s the female who initiates the mating’ says Mrs Robinson…sorry, Janeway, as a thousand fanbois scrotums shrivel in fear.
Does Threshold deserve its reputation as one of (possible even THE) worst episodes of Trek? Yes, yes it does. Even for Star Trek the logical consitency of a shuttle on a small ship, doing what the massed scientists of the Federation can’t boggles the mind. And this is BEFORE we get to the lizard transformation (and back). It is however far more watchable, like a B-movie knowing the horror that we are about to witness, and laugh at the asinine plotting. Which is more than I can say for If Wishes Were Horses and Sub Rosa which remain god-damned unwatchable as well as being bloody awful stories. Fingers crossed I’ve now crossed the bottom threshold (hah) of Voyager’s stories and everything from this point on will at least be marginally better.
Particle beam of the week: Radiometric therapy
Another episode I’ve seen before, and unlike the preceding one not a bad little tale at all. Like Dwight Schultz’s guest appearance enlivened last season’s Projections, this time we get Brad Dourif turning in a fabulously coldly sociopathic/psychopathic turn as Crewman Suder. The murder mystery is soon done with(3*), as Suder admits he did it because the other guy looked sideways at him. Ouch. After Tuvok performs a highly questionable mind meld, it’s time for the psychodrama as the resident cool Vulcan starts to come unglued. I was impressed as Tuvok attempts to deal with the boiling desire to kill by replicating Mr Neelix on the holodeck and strangling him to death. Finally, someone on the show is willing to give the viewing audience the scene we’ve always wanted – perhaps we could see this each week as Tuvok goes through his ongoing therapy?
As character studies go, this wasn’t a bad one. It was also a fun little investigation into the abilities of Vulcans to repress their emotions. I assume lots of them use the holodeck trick to murder in simulacrum those who annoy them. Or at least I’m going to assume they do. I suspect, given this IS Voyager that Mr Tuvok’s PTSD from this whole experience is going to go unreferenced after this point. Sigh, shame, as again it would enrich the character who appears to have a ramrod up his arse. Although, I do recall that we’ve not seen the last of Mr Suder…
Oh and there’s some crap subplot about Paris running a replicator ration gambling ring in Sandrine’s. Couldn’t give too hoots about it, although it’s good to see the former lizard transwarp genius pioneer is back to being good old untrustworthy Tom again. Almost like the previous episode never happened. Perhaps I did dream Threshold after all!
Particle beam of the week: Radiogenic particle emissions
Oh right, the other episode this season where Torres rescues a broken killing machine from deep space and fixes it right up. That went so well last time, I could only assume this one will be a zinger too. And it turned out, actually, that I rather enjoyed it, possibly at least in part because Torres is one of the characters that I quite like. I wasn’t overly convinced by the rationale for the Cardassian missile being in the Delta Quadrant, as it’s feeling mighty Deus Ex Machina that “It was the Caretaker” is coming out as the excuse for pretty much every Alpha Quadrant object they come across. Still, it’s a solid enough episode all in all, even if it’s not one that I’ll be rushing back to watch again.
In the background Tom Paris continues his descent into the ship’s resident bad boy, and that sneaky crewman Jonas continues to sell out the Voyager to the wannabe-Klingons. It’s almost like Voyager is dipping its toe into serialised rather than episodic fiction! W00t.
Particle beam of the week: Thoron Shock Emissions (ouch!)
Oh my lord, a genuinely great episode of Voyager that I totally enjoyed. And all it took was Q (and Q2) to come to the Delta Quadrant. This one has everything – totally over the top Q powers (“Let’s hide in the big bang! No wait, as a Christmas ornament!“), a trial and a Will Riker cameo. it also contains, after “Take that cheese to sickbay” my single favourite Voyager quote, and appropriately it’s from Q upon meeting the dreary Mr Tacotray
“Facial art. Ooh, how very wilderness of you.“
Q, I have really missed you and am looking forward to your future Voyager appearances already. I’m also impressed after bantering with Picard, getting punched by Sisko, that you decide to try and seduce Janeway. Way to go man, and not at all coming across as a potential cosmic super-rapist. Anyway, after the trial has Q2 allowed to become mortal he goes through with his plan to top himself (with the aid of Q) so as to shake the Q Continuum up a bit. Which, considering how moribund they appear to be when we visit them during the trial, can only be a good thing. So cracking dialogue, some great Qing and a downbeat ending, this episode went to show that Voyager can be, when it tries, a really enjoyable slice of Trek. More like this please.
Particle beam of the week: Primordial baryonic particles (BANG)
The tl;dr version: the Doctor has a love affair with a hologram. The longer version, the Doctor essentially cures death, by transferring the neuroelectric brain impulses of a dying Vidiian female (Pel) into a holographic body. Nice to see all the sick-bay holoemitters can easily sustain two holograms at once, which makes me wonder why they don’t have two EMHs running around there normally. The rest of the episode, is pretty much vanilla Star Trek – a non-human (the Doctor) learns about this Earth thing called love, while the non-hideous Pel hologram remorseless runs down the line “You only love me because my face is rotting off in this body!“. Actually, that latter bit is true because Pel looks as terrible as all the other Vidiians.
Anyway, aside from this yawnsome romance plot the only other highlights are the ongoing Skype between Marqui traitor Jonas and the Kazon, and Tom Parris pushing Mr Tacotray over on the bridge. Bad Tom, off to the brig with you to think about what you’ve done (aka Well done Tom, please do it again – falling on his arse is the most interesting thing Tacotray’s done all season).
Particle beam of the week: Neuroelectic impulses (I think)
My irritation with Neelix reaches new levels of annoyance as we kick off this episode with the first appearance of A Briefing with Neelix. I remembered this from the first time around, and if anything it possesses even more smug-faced gittery than I recalled. Anyway, finally the grumpy Tom Paris storyline comes to a head as he leaves the Voyager to (spoiler alert) go undercover with the Kazon…although his spy craft seems limited to hacking their computers the second Seska and they leave the room. Never heard of surveillance cameras Tom? Hence, shockingly he’s rapidly found out and has to leg it back to Voyager with the name of the crewman who’s been supplying the Kazon with titbits of information over the past few weeks – Micheal Judas! Sorry, I mean Jonas. At least this bit of the story lets Tom do a spot of Kirkery action.
Meanwhile, the A storyline sees Neelix tracking down the spy on Voyager due to his hitherto unmentioned and rather basis journalistic ethics. After stumbling across (planted) evidence that it’s Tom, the Captain has to explain her cunning spy plot. Hilariously no-one told Mr Tacotray, so his sour reactions to Tom’s incompetence, poor time keeping and mild pushing would look natural. He looks so genuinely pissed off when he finds out that I couldn’t help but giggle. Now Neelix knows what’s really going on, his investigations out the spy and punt him into an unexpectedly conveniently open plasma relay. PUFF!(4*) There goes Jonas, well murdered Neelix. Although to be fair, Jonas almost managed to murder everyone’s least favourite Talaxian earlier in the episode. Close, but not cigar mate!
Particle beam of the week: Energised Warp Plasma(leaking)
With Tom back on board, looking well groomed and with ready access to a watch, the Voyager flies into a magic space cloud so as to avoid a hoard of rampaging Vidiians. And like every mysterious space cloud we’ve ever seen in Star Trek’s many incarnations, this proceeds to basically fuck everyone’s lives up by duplicating the ship. Before long Harry Kim’s dead (again), which is a bit rich as for the past half a dozen episodes or so he’s had bugger all lines or anything much to do. Even in this episode, his only moments of glory are falling out into space (boom!) and then his quantum duplicate agonising over existential questions with a smugly grinning Janeway (who handwaves all his worries away as the credits need to roll).
In a plot slightly reminiscent of Red Dwarf: Demons and Angels, the two Voyagers end up working together to defeat both their mutual entanglement, and then a sudden cluster-fuck of Vidiians. Actually, despite Harry Kim pratting himself to death, this is a half-decent and enjoyable episode. The highlight of the episode – two Kathryn Janeways argue the finer points of who’s going to blow up their ship first. I was amused that one of the Janeways appeared to be sporting the exactly same facial cut that Kate Mulgrew wears as Red in Orange is the New Black. Anyway while dupli-Harry and a dupli-baby Naomi Wildman pop across to the non-explodey Voyager, we get to witness the massacre and organ extraction of most of the key cast members. Well done you organ vampires, that was particularly unpleasant – especially as you all got blown up shortly afterwards.
Particle beam of the week: Proton beams
is this our second shuttle crash this season as the plot setup? This time it’s Tuvok and Ensign DOA, rather than Paris and Neelix. But don’t worry, because there’s a load of kids there to keep him company during his journey of self discovery. As things turn out, they’re not young, cute kids sent here to be eaten by a terrible unseen gribbly, but old, dementia riddled eldsters sent here to die a dignified death. At the hands of a terrible unseen gribbly.
I’m not sure if that makes it any better actually. Anyway, Janeway and crew spent most of the episode dealing with the slightly odd Benjamin Button-race elders (youngsters) who have about eleventy-million taboos that the Voyager team keep breaking. Eventually Janeway forces the issue, and we find out the truth about this backward aging race. I guess this was supposed to give us insight into Tuvok the father, rather than the officer but frankly I’d rather watch Tom Paris turn into a lizard again, than endure a repeat viewing of this one.
Particle beam of the week: Atmospheric Electrodynamic turbulence (so…lightning?)
When I say the highlight of this episode is in the opening (Harry Kim playing his clarinet) then you know you’re in for an utter stinker. Although, we do at least learn that the walls on Voyager are paper thin and not sound proofed, as Harry’s neighbours keep banging on the wall and pleading with him to knock off that awful din. No wonder the ship nearly flies apart every time it gets shot – it’s made from balsa wood!
Anyway, the plot revolves around the frozen members of a dead race who’ve been locked into a version of the Matrix that appears to have been ripped off from Patrick Trougthan’s Doctor Who. Honestly, i thought I was watching the Mind Robber. There’s a creepy clown (played by an utterly wasted Michael McKean) inside this simulated world, who doesn’t want anyone to leave because he’ll cease to exist. So he keeps executing people to give them heart attacks in the real world. Yeah, he’s not the most-compiled programme in the mainframe. There’s a whole load of negotiating between the Doctor, Janeway and the Clown, and finally some subterfuge as the survivors are removed from the system under the latter’s red nose. And then we fade out the spotlight as the Clown ceases to exist. Probably the best bit of the episode, as the rest is utter dreck. Also…did the Voyager crew just dump the survivors on their dead world? Seems like a bag of arse if they did!
Particle beam of the week: Nothing. It was all a dream…
Fuck me. Even Sisko would call this stone cold, and he once conspired, lied and murdered his way through the greatest episode of Trek there is. Janeway executes Tuvix. That’s the denouement of this tale, and I may never look at her the same way again.
Okay, the rest of the episode is the usual Voyager daft, Neelix and Mr Tuvok are merged into a new being, thanks to the transporter and a magic space orchid. No really, a flower. Anyway, cue lots of scenes wherein the new being is not just the sum of his parts, he’s better than them. He can cook better than Neelix, and he’s a better tactical officer than Tuvok. Does this matter? No, because Janeway (and Kes) decide they need their original crewmen and lover (5*) back. Needs of the many (or the two) over the one then it is. Good for the Doctor who refuses under the ‘do no harm’ stipulation in his programming. And so there we are, in violation of Starfleet’s charter to “seek out new life”, Janeway uses the medical transporter to de-fuse the two merged beings and marches out of sickbay, a momentary look of doubt her only stoney-faced lapse.
Typical Voyager cop out here, as I would have liked to hear Neelix and Tuvok’s reactions to the death of a sentient being just so they could come back. But no, as per normal, let’s sweep any complex questions and emotional impacts under the carpet. Random thought: Does Tuvix only wear the one uniform for all the weeks he’s aboard? As it never changes from its freaky merged looking one throughout.
Particle beam of the week: Deeply confused transporter particle stream
I didn’t think it was possible but I think I’ve found an episode worse than Threshold. Yeah, I know. Janeway and Tacotray get abandoned on a planet to fare for themselves after getting bitten by a mysterious incurable bug, that only the local environment can stave off. Cue much wilderness adventures, a monkey and Tacotray actually admitting that one of his classic “My people have a legend…” stories is a load of bullshit designed primarily to get Janeway into his log-cabin. Yes people, there is a long, drawn-out moment of sexual tension between Janeway and her Number One afterwhich it is strongly…and I can’t underscore this enough…strongly implied that the pair of them make the shuttle-bay with two docking struts.
If that’s not enough we’re also forced to witness Janeway taking a bath (!) and another of Tacotray’s vision quests. One was to many back in Tattoo, now they’re just taking the piss.
The B-story, such as it is, revolves around acting-Captain Tuvok agonising over ignoring Janeway’s last command, and searching out the Vidiians for a cure for the Captain. Which in the end he does, they double cross him, but the Doctor’s old rotting-face squeeze sneaks the cure across and all’s well. That is aside from the most awkward moment ever when Tacotray and the Captain return to the bridge and have to basically forget they shagged like wild animals in heat. Luckily, this is Voyager so the big ol’reset switch means that by next week (just like Tasha and Data) never happened. Tom Paris and now Tacotray, Janeway’s slowly turning into Kirk…Harry Kim better watch out, Captain Robinson might be knocking at his door next!
Particle beam of the week: Atmospheric Electrodynamic turbulence (so…lightning?)
I gotta confess to half enjoying this one – at least when we got to the showdown between the Kazon and the Voyager, finally some starship shooty action. The basic plot sadly revolves around the Seska/Tacotray/Baby thing, with Voyager being led into a trap, that’s not a trap, while rescuing a Kazon warrior who’s actually the trap thanks to his explosive blood and amazing syringe hiding toenail. Go watch it if you don’t believe me, 30mins in – how the hell does he pull something that long and thick out of tiny toe nail?
Anyway, yah-boo-sucks to the Voyager crew as the Kazon capture the ship and rather than spacing the lot of them, dump them on a planet that’s a tad volcanic and inhabited by lizard men. Luckily the (slightly less) murdery Mr Suder and the Doctor manage to stow away on the ship, and Tom Paris might just have escaped in a shuttle too, so I’m expecting some real Die Hard action in Pt2.
Come to think of it…where’s Naomi Wildman? She wasn’t on the planet, so maybe there’s four people who can save the day. Shame one’s a baby. Oh and Kes’ amazing psychic powers which would have been totally useful in defending the ship are instantly forgotten about. Nevermind, this was actually a half-decent season finalé (better than Learning Curve by a country light-year), and the bit where they accidentally project the Doctor into space cracked me up.
Particle beam of the week: Externalised holoemitters
And that’s it for season 2, and what have we learned? That Janeway will sleep with or execute anyone, that Harry Kim barely gets any screentime for half the season and there has been far, far too much Tacotray/Kazon-centric plot. Thank the maker after Basics Pt2, the Kazon are pretty much done with. Oh, and of course, if you want a cracking, funny yet intelligent episode – call Q.
Now having watched this season Janeway, Paris and Harry have gone up in my estimation, Neelix, Kes and Tacotray remain on my shit-list. The rest…meh. Think I might take a Luke Cake shaped break now before cracking on with S3. See you on the Delta Flyer, y’all.
*To the traditional bagpipe version of Amazing Grace I assume
2*Who are cruelly left behind by Tuvok, who assumes a random planet in the middle of nowhere is the best place to leave the spawn of his commanding officer.
3*145 crew and counting
4*144 crew and counting
5*I’m assuming Neelix and Kes are intimate. It’s sorta implied, but not very heavily. I try not to think too much about it, as I ran out of fresh bed sheets last time *shudders*
Right, here I go again – ploughing onwards into the first full (US) length season of Voyager. I feel I should glance ahead a little to see what horrors await me, but I already know one of them…it’s called The 37s…
This was the second Voyager episode I ever watched, after Eye of the Needle. A bit random order perhaps, but this was the episode that cemented for me that I wasn’t going to be a regular viewer of this show. And I say that as someone who watched all four seasons of Enterprise first time round. In this episode Tom Paris’ hitherto unknown love of the 20th Century (pay attention, this is interest is going to pay off in spades later) comes to the fore when a 1930s Earth pickup-truck is found floating in deep space. For reasons that are never accurately explained. Or they were and I’d just glazed over in horror.
Brioi 1 “Hey, let’s abduct lots of random humans and then fly them 70,000 light years away.“
Brioi 2 “But what about this vehicle we scooped as well. Shall we dump it on the way?“
Brioi 1 “Nah, let’s wait til we get to the destination and then drop it into a stable orbit. That’s the ticket.“
Brioi 2 “Excellent, now we can activate the anal probes without a problem.“
Other ‘exciting’ stuff happens this episode, Voyager lands, the crew think about staying behind** and Janeway’s hair’s on the verge of changing. But none of them compare to the central concept of the episode of Amelia Earhart in Space. Terrible idea then, terrible idea now, and given this was supposed to be the last S1 story – the fact it nicks the central plot point from the TNG S1 finale The Neutral Zone (only without the dead cool bit with the Romulans) hardly a shining beacon of originality. Ah well, on we go – fingers crossed the next episode sucks less.
Particle beam of the week: Rust…erm, well that or nothing
Oh sweet Jebus it’s a Tacotray centric episode focusing on the Kazon. *sob* It took me four sessions to get through this turgid ‘Maybe we’re not all so different’ parable. The lame Klingon-wannabe Kazons weren’t great last season, and I hear they’re a big feature of S2. Someone…kill me now. I read in the notes on this one that this episode came about because they felt they’d ‘underused’ Tacotray last season. This really, really does not bode well for the next 6 seasons.
Particle beam of the week: Ginandtonicum. (I had to get through this somehow)
Hello, are we doing all one word episode titles this season? Anyway, thank the Divine Treasury, we finally get to a decent episode again. Frankly just having Bob Piccardo and Dwight Schultz bounding off each other for the whole episode made the ride an absolute delight. Two actors with great comedy drama chops, clearly working well together. Okay, okay so the whole plot was a bit Remember Me (easily my favourite Bev episode) with a touch of Ship in a Bottle (holodeck…in the holodeck?) and yeah, I spotted it was ‘all a dream/holodeck glitch’ a mile off. But that didn’t stop Projections being an enjoyable scifi comedy tale. I hope ST:Discovery doesn’t go all grimdark and forget Trek needs to be funny sometimes! Bonus points as the Doctor flashes back to the events of Caretaker for the line:
The Doctor “The array you discovered is controlled by an entity you will come to know as the Caretaker… or, Banjo-Man.“
Banjo-man. Nailed it. To top it all off the episode goes nicely existential as the Doctor begins to realise he’s growing beyond a simple emergency response programme. Character growth that actually sticks (Mr Neelix take note, and then please throw yourself headfirst into the garbage disposal).
Particle beam of the week: Subspace radiation surge
First you’re up, and then there’s a Kes episode. In this adventure, the Voyager encounters a flock of deep space-sperm (DSS) whose emissions penetrate(!) the notoriously leaky Starfleet deflectors to send Kes into heat. Tragically, none of the other races on board are affected, so we’re spared the discovery of Harry Kim being a (probable) virgin. As Neelix tries to deal with his girlfriend suddenly going all broody, a sweaty disheveled Kes drops two bombshells. Firstly OompaLoompa reproductive coupling takes 6 days***, and secondly it only happens once. Which means as a race, Kes’ people are not only cursed with a 9 year life cycle but a rapidly diminishing population (unless twins are a much, much more frequent thing than they are for humans).
Shades of Galaxy’s Child too as the space-sperm try to hump the Voyager, which (sorry) is the only the sex we get all episode. Although Kes does take us verbally through all the foreplay necessary for her race to reproduce, which seems a real group effort. And with that diminishing population, is going to be a real problem real soon. Oh, and some brilliant outdated attitudes from Neelix as he tells Kes “But if you have a child, you’ll have to give up your medical studies“. Gah! Overall though, a dull and utterly skipable episode, although I was left with the takeaway thought that if Tuvok has 4 children and vulcan’s only mate every 7 years…are they 28years apart in age? Or do vulcans have clinical, logical sex in between each pon farr****?
And to cap the episode off, vaguely appearing background character Samantha Wildman…announces she’s got a bun in her replicator. Oh no…
Particle beam of the week: Photon discharges & Plasma residue (Ooh, er. I’d get the Doctor to look at that)
Another one I’ve not seen before and I’m spotting a trend this season, as each lead character gets a spotlight episode. This week it’s perpetual ensign and (probable) virgin Harry Kim. Actually scratch that last bit, since he wakes up with his girlfriend. In bed. On Earth. I was more shocked by the former than the latter. After the Doctor’s episode I was suprised we were into another ‘Everything you know was a lie’ story, but at least this one didn’t turn out to be another holodeck malfunction.
Essentially the episode is actually It’s A Wonderful Life Harry Kim, as we find out what Harry (and Tom’s) life would have been like had he not gone on Voyager. For Harry, aside from attending that business meeting-dream where he’s forgotten his homework (but thankfully his trousers) life seems pretty sweet. A great job, a chance at promotion (!) and a busty (if needy) fiancé. Luckily the guy in the local coffee shop explains everything
Time Alien “Hey sorry Kim, you crashed into our timestream and went kablooey and well… here you are then. More sugar?“
But things look a lot worse – for Tom “Marseille” Paris. It’s not so much his alcoholic life in France and his lost chance at redemption, but oh sweet cheeses, that waistcoat. Why is it all the casual clothing in the 24th Century is so awful. When he helps Harry try and reset the timeline honestly, if he’d just said “Anything but this waistcoat” I’d have accepted it as rationale enough. Actually, all that to one side, I rather enjoyed this episode and it’s already clear there’s a great chemistry between Tom and Harry that thankfully the show does build on. In the end everything’s fine and dandy…although given how hot Libby looks…do you really think she’s gonna wait 7 years Harry?
Particle beam of the week: Tetreon plasma & polaron scan (2:4:1 discount)
A cold trickle of fear runs down my spine as this one opens on a surprise (3rd) birthday party for Kes. Not another Kes episode so soon, please! Thankfully not, as it’s more of an ensemble show this time. As all the fun members of the senior bridge crew and the Doctor enjoy the festivities, it’s left to Billyvok-no-mates and Harry “You had the last episode” Kim to man the bridge. Pretty soon though another mysterious cloud appears ahead of the Voyager (oh gawd, not more space-sperm!) and that’s when all the folded-space hijinks begin. Stand out early dialogue as Tuvok goes all Muppety over the com as the space-time starts getting all twisted
Mr Tuvok “Bridge to holodeck one. We’ve encountered a strange phenomena (do do-do do -da) phenomena (do do-do do -da)“
Meanwhile in the background the ongoing (and dull) Neelix-Kes-Paris love triangle simmers away as the B plot. What will the Delaney sisters say Tom? It’s really only setting up the next episode (Parturition), so does’t really go anywhere. I confess I burst out laughing as dear old Tacotray reports to the Captain on his exploration of the ship: “That’s not all, we lost Mr Neelix too. We turned a corner, and he was just gone“. And a world rejoices.
In the end it turns out that the cloud/space-time ring was trying to communicate with Voyager. Just like that time those aliens came aboard Red Dwarf, did a jigsaw, broke two legs and wiped everyone’s memories. Not content with leaving a massive dump of data for Voyager’s crew (that is never mentioned again, so it was clearly useless) they copy everything in the ship’s databases. Even Paris’ collection of highly risque, and highly illegal Tholian porn. Still, when push came to shove, it was nice seeing the Voyager crew face their own no-win scenario and just giving in to fate.
Particle beam of the week: Warp core shock pulse!
The long simmering (okay, since last episode) tensions between Paris and Neelix over Kes burst out into a pasta-laced scrap in the mess hall, but luckily there’s a mysterious planet with spurious vegetation signs for the two of them to go explore together. One crash later, and it’s time for the classic bonding between two foes in the face of adversity. Although I liked this story more when it was The Ascent. As they struggle to bring up alien-baby Neelix learns Paris is a loser trying to make something of himself, and Paris learns Neelix is a git…sorry, I mean an insecure git. Despite the shuttle crashing onto an alien’s breeding area, everything works out for the best in the end. Although that leaves just one question: if the Voyager is so low on food they’ll risk a mission to a hell-world to pick some veg up, where is Neeliz getting such varied supplies to cook with from? Surely the mess hall should be awash with jacket potatoes and beans every night now!
Highlight of the show, easily Mr Neelix reeling off his vile random food of the week to which Paris simply replies with a dismissive wave of his hand “Whatever!“, like the sulkiest of space-teens. Classic, unlike the rest of this episode which is utterly skipable.
Particle beam of the week: Trigemic vapours (containing everything a reptile baby needs!)
Persistence of Vision
Holy hades, we’re only up to episode 8 and we’re into the third ‘Reality isn’t what you think it is!’. This time it’s not time-aliens or malfunctioning holodecks, but a sneaky invisible telepathic bastard (a Bothan*****) onboard who keeps mesmerising everyone with visions of their missing loved ones. Including Harry’s girlfriend Libby, who we don’t see cos they couldn’t be bothered paying the actress from Non Sequiter to come back. Paris’ daddy issues make a reappearance, as despite what he’s told us, he’s missing dear old dad more than he’s been letting on. I rather enjoyed the early part where Janeway’s holonovel characters try to seduce and/or kill her.
Anyway, as the crew all start staring into space, Torres decides to use a resonance burst to block the psionic energy from the ship. Cos that worked out so well in Twisted! Okay, not a shock burst, but surely they’re pretty much the same thing, right – both all about the warp core going slightly overloady? While as this technobabble was going on I noted that the engineering sensors are explicitly mentioned as being able to detect psychic energy. Sure that’ll come in handy once Kes goes off her rocker later on (although dollars to latinum, it won’t get mentioned again). Pretty sure Starfleet might have mentioned that psychic energy could be picked up by tricorders and the like before. Speaking of things never to mention again, I’m also going to skip over the fantasy sex scene between Torres and Tacotray. Gah, no, pass the brain bleach someone!
Overall though, a bit of a naff episode, only slightly enlivened by Janeway’s offer to lobotomize, imprison or surgically alter the captured Bothan, only for him to be ‘Not really there at all’. Did this episode happen, or did I hallucinate 42 minutes of this dreck? You decide for yourselves!
Particle beam of the week: Massive bioelectric (psychic) field
An episode I remember watching years ago and hating because it centred on Tacotray, and native american space-aliens. Sadly, not the borderline racist lot in The Paradise Syndrome (“I! Am! Kirok!“). Anyway, here I am years later watching it, and I hate it because it’s centered on Tacotray, and invisible native american ‘sky spirits’. Once more it’s all a big misunderstanding between the aliens and the Voyagerians…and we’re on our way pretty much none the wiser.
Highlight of the episode is Henry Darrow (aka that guy offa The High Chaparral) who is pretty cool, in an episode that made me wish I was watching Sub Rosa. Yes, it’s that bad. At least that episode had Bev/ghost sex to brighten up a terrible plotline. Oh okay, the Doctor gets a cold to help with his bedside manner, by appreciating human suffering. His warning about not letting anyone else use the holographic tissues (“OMG, I walked out of medbay and now all my snot’s just in my pocket!“) amused me. Although, frankly the Doctor should just have watched this episode, and he’d have soon discovered what true suffering is all about.
Bonus Tacotray picture – at the end of the episode moments before when a passing bird deposits its own special ‘anti-thoron’ emission on his face. This almost made up for an episode that took me four long sessions to get through – it was just so turgid that it almost makes me look forward to the next one. Which centres around Kes. Oh lord, what deities have I offended?
Particle beam of the week: Anti-Thoron
After coming across another Caretaker’s array, Kes learns to harness her emerging psychic abilities to boil a cup of coffee, kill all the Voyager’s airponics(6*) vegetable garden and blow up Mr Tuvok’s head ala scanners. Well, almost – I was rather hoping Voyager was going for a horror vibe, but sadly it wasn’t to be. I spent most of the episode wondering why, given we were told the Caretaker’s other array was filled with 10,000 Oompa Loompas, why we only ever see one of them on screen (Tanis, played by Matthew Sykes/Ambassador Soval actor Gary Graham). After Kes’ powers get quite interesting, the typical Voyager reset switch is hit at the end of the episode as it turns out she can “Only use them when Tanis was helping her“. Jason Ironheart and Talia Winters it is not, as the psychic genie is put well and truly back in the box. A real shame as the writers could just as easily had Kes swear off using her powers with a firm vow, lest she boil the rest of the crew’s heads. It’s not wonder she eventually turns into a space crazy energy beast in a couple of seasons, all that pent up psychic energy has to go somewhere.
Amusing thought of the episode – as Kes is experiencing/leaching all the life out of the airponics bay, she clearly looks like she’s having somewhat of a sexual experience. If that’s the case, and her draining of the life around her is a side effect of the Oompa Loompa mating process – Mr Neelix got off lightly in Elogium! Anyway, this was another episode I’d never seen before, and pray I’ll never see again!
Particle beam of the week: Plasmic energy field
A really short opening teaser which reveals Tacotray’s off duty garb to be some sort of horrific knitted jumper (from his granny?), and the announcement that somehow here in the Delta Quadrant there’s a Starfleet signal being transmitted. So that’ll be the only member of Starfleet in the quadrant not on Voyager then I guessed (Seska). Shockingly my rather simple deduction defeated the Voyager crew for the first third of the episode, reminded me why they’re crewing a tiny survey vessel and not the flagship of the fleet. To add insult to injury (this is the THIRD Tacotray centric episode of the season – he’s getting more than anyone else) the sodding klingon-lite kazon turn up to steal stuff. All of which means Tacotray has to go rogue to try and outfox Seska, and ends up getting space-raped for his trouble. Okay she ‘extracts his DNA and impregnates herself with it’, so maybe she doesn’t do the physical act but hell it’s still a major personal violation, and yet its one that’s hand waved in the last 30 seconds of the show. I actually felt sorry for him, and THAT doesn’t happen very often at all.
Anyone else think Seska rounds off the episode Dr Claw style? “I’ll get you next time Chakotay…next time!” Oh and finally, since he violated every rule in the Starfleet manual, Tacotray gets a mild slap on the wrist “I’m putting you on report, if that even means anything anymore” says Janeway, knowing full well it means bugger all. At the very least she could have had him publicly flogged in the mess hall, the crew must be starving for some entertainment after 10+ months in the Delta Quadrant with only gothic holonovels for company!
Worst. ‘Allo ‘Allo Remake. Ever. This week Janeway gets left behind on an ‘exciting’ undercover mission, and is mistaken by a local resistance looney for his (probably) dead daughter. Within a minute of seeing this I concluded ‘He’s going to get killed saving her life, and his whole family are dead, dead, dead’. Colour me not shocked when exactly this happens. There’s some other plot about some technobabble McGuffin we’ve never heard of before suddenly being essential for the warp-reactor, which is why the Voyager crew came to Nazi-analogue world in the first place. Only bright spot, Kes doesn’t appear all episode. Totally, utterly and completely skipable story with no ramifications for anyone that matters (e.g. the core cast). Meanwhile left behind, the Mokra occupation of the Alsaurians continues unabated.
Particle beam of the week: Nothing. Boo!
In an intriguing opening Torres rescues something from deep space, and then with the help of Harry ‘Not done much lately’ Kim effects a RoboCop homage to reactivate it. As I watched it I shouted “Aha! It’s Dreadnought, when she rescues that Cardassian AI missile…” only to discover that Dreadnought was actually later this season, and essentially continues B’Elanna’s reactivation of death machines motif. Anyway, turns out the robots – which are somehow actually worse quality in appearance than anything that ever appeared in 1960s Doctor Who – are surprise surprise mild mannered terminators. Actually, if these robots had been used in Captain Proton’s holonovels, the audience would have thought they looked crap.
Even better, these sub-Kryton mechanoids are locked in an eternal war with other, almost identical robots…having both killed off their creator races. Only not eternal since they can’t make new ones (and hence Torres could change the balance of power with her techy tech), and will probably wipe each other out soon. I think there were some moral questions been raised here about artificial life and its rights to procreate, and even some Frankenstein allegories twixt Torres and Unit 3947, but I might be being too generous. At least Torres learns a valuable lesson about not fucking about with mysterious alien tech until…oh, four episodes time.
Kes factor: One scene, pouring coffee. YES! At least that’s a good point to consider.
Particle beam of the week: Chromodynamic Energy Discharge (antibiotics needed?)
Okay that’s the first half of season 2 down – coming up soon, the rest of the season including the near legendary Trek episode which even Sub Rosa bows to in terms of awfulness!
* Shouldn’t this be The 37s? Apostrophe abuse. In space.
**None of them. Not one. Out of a crew of 147. Surely Neelix’s food and Tacotray and Paris’s relentless sharking of the lower ranks would have seen someone jump ship?
***How do they go to the bathroom during this…no wait, don’t think about that – it’s too filthy to imagine!
**** “Indeed. I appear to have climaxed. How satisfactory”
*****Did George Lucas know about this cross-franchise appearance?
6* Airponics!? Is this even a thing or is hydroponics just too old hat for the 24th Century?
Now that Netflix has all of Trek I’m happily (re)introducing Mrs Llama to the wonders of TOS. But that means I need something to watch on my own, when I’m working in the kitchen. Aha, Star Trek Voyager, the series I love to hate and the only Trek series I’ve never seen all of. Yes, I’ve even watched all of Enterprise (I liked S3-4). So here goes an irregular series as I watch through all 7 seasons.
God help me, even Threshold, Tattoo and Fair Haven.
This starts well, and then they leave DS9. Oh the painful dialogue – especially that between Tom Paris and the Betazoid officer on the shuttle over. Good to see Janeway’s hair have a ‘coolant leak’ from the get go, and go everywhere…as it does for the next 7 seasons. I’d forgotten about the folksie people on the Caretaker’s array, reminiscent of the awful Space Oirish in TNG’s Up the Long Ladder, but thankfully they shuffle off screen quickly. As terrible as I remembered it? A bit, although I confess at this point (given how mind numbing AWFUL Encounter at Farpoint* is) I was willing at the time to give the show some slack. In retrospect, there’s a lot that’s going to be wrong with the whole series in a microcosm here. For example there so much clunky or downright cheesy beyond belief dialogue and the pacing is all over the shop. After part one licks along at a fine action pace, introducing characters and their quirks, suddenly the last half an hour of part two seems to be a sprint to set up the show’s status quo. Marqui as crew? Check! Mr Neelix and Kes on for the ride? Check? Janeway as the mother of a family of misfits? Check!
Particle beam of the week: Coherent Tetryon.
2nd episodes of post-TNG shows tend to be weak, and this one is no different. Essentially the Voyager spends the episode looking in a mirror. Before using the charged particle beam of the week to escape (Dekyon). Forgettable.
Time and Again
A spot of post/pre-apocalyptic timeline accidental manipulation (or is it one of those darned predestination paradox loops, I hate those!) with the Voyager coming across a planet wiped out by a ‘in no way nuclear energy but yeah there’s the parallels’ incident. Before we know it later-day lizard-baby power couple Tom and Kathy fall back a whole DAY in time and essentially find out it’s all their fault. Cause before effect. Against the odds, I quite enjoyed this one despite the first appearance of that Voyager trope ‘the end of episode reset button’. First mention of the Delaney sisters. Also first hint of Kes’ spooky Oompa Loompa psi-powers.
Particle beam of the week: Polaric.
Or as they should have called it They Stole Neelix’s Lungs! Despite introducing the curious virus-ridden, organ harvesting, latex jigsaw-mask wearing Vidiians, this episode is a glacial paced, weakly dialogued, Neelix/Kes centric snore fest. The only redeeming feature is that Bob Piccardo (Doctor) gets more screen time. Given I can’t stand Neelix, I was shouting “Turn off life support, he’ll thank you for it!” within 10 minutes of the episode starting. My the end of the episode, I was begging my nurse to do the same for me. Fun fact: Oompa Loompas only live 9 years. Despite his transplant from Krs, Mr Neelix is going to need some new lungs in less than a decade then, cos I don’t think the aging of those organs is going to slow down!
Particle beam of the weak (sic): Super weedy phaser beam.
Ah, the first episode I’ve never seen before (tells you how fast I dropped this show originally). As days stretch to weeks, shipboard morale starts to drop and the captain frets about what to do. Hence, it’s unsurprising Janeway’s coffee addiction rears its ugly head for the first time in the pre-credits sequence. Honestly, I thought she was about to murder Neelix when there wasn’t any available (sigh). However, Neelix slightly redeems himself by critiquing Janeway (and the crew’s) determination to investigate every potentially destructive anomaly along the way, in a scene that presents Kes and himself as Voyager’s peanut gallery. Not sure this idea lasts though, although his role as self-appointed Morale Officer does (sigh*2). While Janeway worries about power drains, meanwhile taking a note from the Will Riker playbook Tom Paris sets up an (energy leaching) PG French brothel. Tacotray also shares with the Captain his (miraculously unlost during Caretaker) bundle of junk, as the ship manages to almost kill a giant space monster. An orb experience it is not.
Particle beam of the week: Sleezium poolcueium. Oh okay, it’s nucleonic.
Eye of the Needle
Coincidentally, this was the very first Voyager episode I ever saw (followed by The 37s). Verteron radiation leads the Voyager to a wormhole too small even for Harry Kim’s ego to slip through. But just maybe they can send a call to help. Overall it’s not a bad story idea, but the episode pacing once again is glacial. Also Tuvok’s role all episode is simply to be the bearer of bad news in the transporter room ‘Sorry guys, he’s from the past’ followed later by ‘Oh like wow dudes, he died years before he could send our email’. Shame he didn’t mention that earlier so they could set up a back up to send the messages anyway. Finally, the Doctor’s B story culminates with him asking for a name…something that never pays off! Sheesh.
Particle beam of the week: Transporter matter stream (disappointingly).
Ex Post Facto
Hello Dr Apgar and the Kregier Waves. Oh sorry, this isn’t the rather fine TNG episode A Matter of Perspective, but a Voyager episode, so no chance of Riker punching anyone stylishly then. Like that story, most of this is told from a post-hoc recounting. Tom Paris is also at this point still being written like Riker Jnr, making me think this script is a TNG reject rejigged (the sleazy film-noir dialogue from Paris is especially Riker). Anyway, the feathered aliens’ risibly hilarious head-gear aside, my favourite moment of the episode is when Not-Dr-Apgar introduces Tom and Harry to his much younger Not-Mrs Apgar with ‘They come from the other side of the galaxy’ to which she responds with a dispassionate ‘Hello’. Followed by serving them all leftovers, the frosty mare, because that’s how we great impossible adventurers from beyond the stars. Leftovers. Honestly, you can just feel the (lack of) drama oozing from every pore of this one. Oh wait, this is an Inspector Tuvok episode…I do hope there aren’t too many more of these!
Particle beam of the week: None! (I feel bereft!).
There’s nothing like hosting an episode in your first season that deals with the cheerful subject of death, the afterlife and the rotting of corpses into a new super element. More importantly, this episode marks the first (but not the last) time Harry Kim dies. The somewhat odd alien culture and the death rituals are interesting (although how did they historically dealt with death before they could pop bodies through subspace vacuoles, is not explored), although they come across as slightly mad bastards “My Family all voted that I should die, as it would be more convenient for them” explains wobble-fore-headed character of the week to Harry as he wraps himself in what appears to be a kitchen roll funeral shroud. Stay classy Vhnori! Meanwhile the Voyager does precisely NOTHING to get Harry back, other than hang around long enough for his corpsicle to plop back onto Deck 9. Oh sure there’s some hand-waving around the Torres stopping the Warp Core from going all explodey, but that doesn’t bring Harry back. Still, we should be grateful we were saved Neelix’s views on the afterlife (spoiler alert: there’s a later episode all about this) and Mr Tacotray’s medicine bundle and spirit animal doesn’t get a look it. And then with a hearty slap on the back from Janeway, Harry heads off to look for his next death!
Particle beam of the week: There wasn’t one again. *sob*
Aka that one where they could have gotten home, but turns out the prime directive’s a bitch in reverse. Janeway gets a scarf, Harry goes on a space date (and doesn’t die) and Seska gets a bit rules-breaky (hint hint for next week). Not a bad story, but the episodic nature of Voyager plays against it here. Let’s have one go to use the amazing tech to get home…fails and then let us never speak of it again. In a half decent series Torres would be sweating over the Trajector tech for the next two years in an effort to overcome the problem. But nope, no work, give up – that’s the Starfleet way!
Particle beam of the week: Neutrino envelope.
State of Flux
Watching this and knowing about the Seska revelation in advance, I couldn’t help thinking this would have made a great S1 finalé, much better than the soft touch Learning Curve that’s for sure. Build Seska up all season as a great secondary character and then BOOM she’s been a Spoon-head all along! Or failing that, given she’s the second of Tacotray’s crew who was a government agent, I’d have had one of the Marqui revealed as working for another Alpha Quadrant power each week. Keep it up until you realise only Old Tattoo himself was the only legit Marqui on the ship after all. Play it for laughs, because honestly this show needs to laughs. After all, it’s been weeks since anyone harvested any of Neelix’s extraneous body parts! Oh wait, the fact that a side effect of a badly adjusted food-replicator is that it’ll merge your body with the nearest wall gave me a chuckle. Perhaps replicators should all come with a big sign <CAUTION: Ordering Earl Grey Hot MAAAAY Melt Your Body Into the Wall> The Kazon are in this again, and once again come off like a Klingon tribute act on a bad hair day.
Particle beam of the week: Nucleonic radiation.
Heroes and Demons
Oh lord, I remember this one – more LARP event than Shakespeare in the Park. I remember this one being shite, despite the Doctor playing such a prominent part. A bit of a curate’s egg too as it introduces the holonovel, which sure gives us all those fabulous Captain Proton episodes. But also gives us Concerning Flight and Fair Haven. Sweet maker, am I really going to have to watch those Sub Rosesque episodes again? The opening five minutes couldn’t have been a more bare bones introduction to the threat of the week: “Let’s beam aboard some space energy“, “Harry Kim’s gone missing”, and “Damn you space energy and holodecks – you’re even more dangerous than food-replicators. Probably“. Additionally, I know the hologrid runs on some kind of odd energy feed independant to the rest of the ship (raising questions as to how did the space energy get into an isolated system anyway) but surely with 147 people using it day and night for recreation that’s got to have some kind of drain on the (severely depleted) main power systems? Or is it just running on a set of super-big AA batteries…which once they’re gone…they’re gone. No one tell the Doctor, the med-bay imagers might be running on the same system! In the end thought, this episode with its cod-thespian acting was as terrible as I remembered it. Took me three sittings to get all the way through!
Particle beam of the week: Photonic (so…a light beam?)
Oh gawd, another holonovel opening. This does not bode well…until Cmdr Tacotray turns up totally brain dead. Huzzah! Now I’d have argued he’s been that way since The Caretaker, but everyone on the Voyager crew seems to get a bit upset. Cue an episode with such ‘highlights’ as an Native American prayer wheel (with magnetic stones), possessions left, right and centre and Harry Kim stroking off in a meeting because the episode’s boring the hell out of him too. The acting’s better than Heroes and Demons, but the plot isn’t. Another one to grit my teeth and endure. Are we at Year of Hell (pt1) yet? What is noticeable is that a secondary crewman (other than Torres’ sparing partner in engineering) is introduced alongside the main cast. Yes I suspect Lt Durst will have a long and happy supporting role in this series…or die a quick and crunchy death just to prove we ‘do’ still kill ‘redshirts’ (aka goldshirts now). Sadly Cmdr Ghost saves the day from a possessed Tuvok, and is then the sodding medicine wheel helps Voyager safely escape the eeeeevil nebula. Blurgh.
Particle beam of the week: Magneton burst.
Paris, Torres and good old Lt Durst are off on a mission, when Torres gets split into klingon and human halves. No, not with a chainsaw, but by some kind of funky Vidiian technology. You know, like Capt Kirk got split up by a transporter in The Enemy Within. And yes, just like that both halves need each other to survive. Actually, hats off to Roxann Dawson who makes an excellent fist of playing the two halves of her personality – especially the klingon version. It’s just a shame after (spoiler) the klingon half is killed, the Doctor quickly patches her up and restores her hybrid status quicker than you can say “Reset switch”. Oh and hats off also for lt Durst who (spoiler) gets his face ripped off so doesn’t need to wear them any more. Seeing his cheerful mug added to a Vidiian is a far creepier body-horror event than old Neelix’s lungs. He also wins the first ‘Delta Quadrant Horrific Death’ award! Well done. Damn though, I guess after Seska and Durst, we better introduce some more secondary crew we can kill off now to make the cast seem vulnerable. Well aside from Harry Kim who must be due to die again soon. Paging Ens Wildeman in the meantime…
Particle beam of the week: Er…nothing, other than those freaky Vidiian scalpel guns.
Oh goodie, a Neelix centric episode. Only way the premise for this one could annoy me more, would be if it involved Neelix and Tacotray trapped in a turbo lift for the whole episode, talking about their feelings. Anyway the plot, a space Nazi (who in-no-way is representative of the US dropping the atomic bomb on the Talaxians…I mean Japanese) called Jetrel comes along and tries to undo all that explodey evil. “I’m a scientist!”, Oppenheimer…sorry, Jetrel wails, “I never thought anyone would drop the bomb…metreon cascade!”. Nah, no allegories here, just straight up Haakonian on Talaxian recriminations. And then, despite all my skepticism and downright loathing on Neelix, Ethan Phillips delivers a performance so dripping in authenticity and pathos that I felt my eyes growing moist (honestly, that speech to Jetrel about the aftermath – just woah!). Wow, did not expect that from a Voyager episode. Even more so, they side-stepped the happy ending – everyone vapourised on Rinax by the cascade stays vapourised, including Neelix’s family. I guess that means after this wonderful burst of character growth that next episode Mr Neelix is going to be a changed Talaxian, and changed for the better too.
Particle beam of the week: Metreonic radiation.
Goddammit it Voyager, Neelix is back to his ol’ chipper self from many a merry “Top of the morning to you Mr Vulcan” again, pissing away all the good feelings I’d developed for him and the show in a matter of seconds. Actually this isn’t a bad episode, as a load of Marqui (doubtless soon to be horribly killed or never seen again) extras learn the joy of cooperation from Tuvok. Who also learns a lesson from his students too. Blurgh, pass the sick bucket matron, this one’s way to saccharine for me. Okay, I’ll accept the line about “Take this cheese to sickbay” does save it from being total drek. Just. Oddly this is the S1 finalé. Was Voyager cut short by a writers strike or did they just run out of coffee? Either way it’s an oddly inconsequential note to bow out on, hardly sets the pulse racing for more action in S2.
Particle beam of the week: High-energy plasma (bit dull!)
That’s season one done with, and what did I learn? Well, I learned that Mr Neelix can in the write writer’s hands be a great character, and given his actor that shouldn’t be a shock. Sadly, I fear there’s more of the hateful perky-morale officer twonk Neelix ahead than there is deeply troubled and rather interesting conscientious objector Neelix to come. And I’ve not even gotten to Tattoo yet (yes, sorry Learning Curve fans, I think Tattoo is the episode I’m looking forward to the least!)
*”Farpoint station, even the name sounds mysterious.” Troi. No. No it bloody doesn’t.
It might have escaped most people’s notice, but for the past five months I’ve been cranking out weekly adventures of everyone’s favourite time-travelling weasel. For 9 (!) years I’ve been cranking out puppet videos, a lot of which have been reviews of one of my all time most beloved shows (Doctor Who). But of late I’d been finding it hard to balance the time it takes to write, record and produce them, with real life. Not to mention where once I could freely film in our under-renovation house, now we’ve finished most renovations I can’t really go sticking stuff all over the walls any more. One day I may go back and film again, one day.
But over Christmas a new/old friend of mine (Elliot) and long time weasel fan kept on nagging me to do more stuff. To perhaps branch out into new adventures of the Time-Weasel, and if filming was too much work – why not audio adventures. Oh and hey, I could play them on my weekly radio show. I wasn’t convinced at first, as I’d rather lost the creative spark thanks to ploughing on with the PhD. Yet, as I sat over the holiday period suffering my annual Christmas flu (every. bloody. year) the idea continued to tickle my creative gland (cf. Pratchett) and I produced what I thought was a rough cut episode with an unspecified incarnation of the good Doctor, and a new companion Advick Goose.
And stab me vitals, if Elliot didn’t run with it. The audio is somewhat shonky to say the least as I thought I was using a stereo mic, but hand’t realised Audacity had defaulted to using my webcam’s mic. It’s not a bad mic for conversations over the net but it leaves a lot to be desired.
Anyway, the weeks went on and I kept cranking out the episodes. Finding the time can be a challenge some weeks, but having the weekly deadline hanging over my head does rather motivate me. Clearly my creative muse needs deadlines to function I’ve discovered. I also invested in a new condensing mic, which has significantly improved the audio quality. It can’t do anything about the acting quality but just compare later episodes and you’ll find everything’s a lot crisper these days!
From the second story onward I’ve been working on developing the soundscape. Telling a story in audio only narrative is interesting as you need to cram a lot more exposition into the character’s dialogue, and I can’t just rely on a funny visual gag to move the plot along. Sound effects and background sounds though can fill in that gap, to keep the story moving and explain what’s going on in the characters’ world(s) without everyone stopping every few minutes for lines like “Look at that line of robots coming slowly down that gravel hill, shooting at people!”
Well, maybe not every time – but it does help. Stylistically I’ve made a few changes as well as the series has progressed (we’re hitting episode 15 this week – 1 more than Doctor Who cranks out in a good year, or 14 more than they can manage in 2016). A lot of the earlier episodes have my best ‘Radio 4’ voice introducing them, as though they were part of a more mainline radio station than Radio Wandsworth. I began to run out of witty things for him to say, so in the most recent couple of stories I dropped the idea. It was also for reasons of timing – I aim for around a 5-6 minute adventure, but recently that’s expanded a bit to around 8-9 minutes for some episodes. So, losing the extra introduction gave me back 30 seconds to use on storylines.
I am keeping the narrator though, as sometimes I need scene setting that character voices alone can’t do, but also it allows me to add a slight meta-narrative to the whole thing by commenting on my own (weak) plotting and (half-baked) dialogue. In this week’s episode though (The Empty Hive pt 1) I’ve dropped him at one point where he’d normally appear, as it made enough sense tonically through sound effects and dialogue not to use him. Seems to work on listening to it myself, and doubtless my millions** of listeners will be able to work it out.
Doctor WHeasel’s most recently completed adventure introduced another new concept – guest actors. I’ve tried using guest voices in the past on my videos, but it’s never really worked that well. Certainly Mrs Llama has made her feelings on the subject clear “I CAN’T act!” she’s cried on many occasions, batting away the proffered script and microphone with uncharacteristically vehement aggression. I don’t claim to be able to act myself either (I make daft voices), but thankfully I did manage to find not one, but three willing volunteers among my friends to record lines. It was fantastic to hear my scripts being brought to life by other people – as they took a very different approach to the characters than I’d anticipated. In fact one character totally changed inside my head, and ended up being written rather differently in later episodes as a consequence of the actor’s interpretation. Hopefully, future adventures will have more guest cast too – although the practicalities of getting them to re-record a line that didn’t quite work when I’m editing an adventure on a Saturday morning can be…challenging.
Last week I took one final step into the media tart world, by appearing live on Elliot’s weekly show. I had fun (although the 8hrs of travelling to get there an back…was a bit knackering). Hopefully I can do more appearances later this year, although don’t ask me to do the weasel live – there are bits where I have coughing fits doing the voice that are – tastefully – edited out of the finished shows. I may write a bit more about the creative process in a future post.
For now though, don’t forget you can listen weekly just after 3pm on Wandsworth Radio (via the Interwebs) to the further adventures of Doctor WHeasel and Advick Goose. And of course via SoundCloud soon after the show. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do putting them together. And if you don’t…why have you read this far down this blog?
*Don’t ask. I’m working on it, and stressed as hell.
**Elliot said his show got around 4,000 listeners. I’ve no idea if that’s still true!
Well December just flew by with a whole heap of analysis and coding, along with a very useful meeting with my supervisory team. I even found time to catch up a little bit on my reading, although my to-read pile seems to get higher by the day. I suspect I’ll barely have dented it by the time I get to the end of the PhD. And that end, is nigh. 2016 is the final year of my PhD and the end of September my absolute deadline. When I started the date on my university card seemed impossibly far into the future, and yet now it feels ominously close. It’s already giving me sleepless nights worrying about getting everything done in time. During the day, well that doesn’t seem quite so impossible but it’s still giving me the collywobbles.
Continuing to enjoy my new job as it moves into its third month, perhaps not moving forward as fast as I’d hoped on some aspects, but I think that’s down to my enthusiasm to crack on with work. After 4 years of largely only having to motivate myself, it’s taking a bit of getting used to, to once again rely on other people to do things. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say how much I look forward each week to my day of non-PhD work – as it feels more than ever like I’m doing something more concrete a lot of the time.
Was quite excited when my two worlds of work and research collided and I heard about the launch of the White Rose University Press this week. With my research hat on, I’m very interested in the role of university presses as a counter to industrial scale publishing hegemony. With my job hat on, I’ve an interest in how these sort of presses function on a practical and operational level. Now if I could just afford the time and money to go to the University Presses’ conference in Liverpool this year, I could find out more – but that’s not going to happen. Not unless I want a lot more sleepless nights worrying about lost time!
It struck me today I wanted to talk more about the TV shows I’m currently regularly watching, and a hint of those I’m looking forward to in the near future. And if we’re living in a golden age of television, in the middle of the autumn season, it seems a perfect time to do so. In alphabetical order…
Sorry, I swear I had something for this.
Officially the only show in our house that Mrs Llama makes me close the doors and windows to watch to avoid traumatizing the neighbours & their children. I say they’ve got to learn about booze filled sweartastic spy-fi fiction at some point. We’ve agreed to differ. Potentially after I muttered “Holy shit-snacks” under my breath. Possible high point in this show remains (possibly) the Bob’s Burgers crossover…
Or as it’s referred to by me Arra’ (in my best mockney accent). Green Arrow’s never been a comic book favourite of mine (despite his years of association with my favourite Green Lantern), but this show really grabbed me when I started watching it early in its second season (the Wife was away from home for long periods of time and I wanted something I could watch that she wouldn’t care about). At times it’s a bit shlocky, but most of the time it delivers on the money comic book action and snappy dialogue. Not to mention fabulous fan-boy squee moments for the long time DC fan that I am. Also getting Constantine on it in S4 may have made my year (bring him back!). Oh, one tip – don;t mention the words “Thea Queen” in Mrs Llama’s hearing…she may explode. Also, my love for John Barrowman grows each time he appears in this show (which so far this year has been not enough!).
The Big Bang Theory (More4)
I came to this before it got really popular, and as a geek I rather like the multiple nods to my life style, experiences and people. Honestly, I could identify people I’ve known/know just like Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Raj. And the girls, even Penny. I can certainly remember a number of ‘hot’ non-geek girlfriends standing around at LARP/gaming events over the years, looking equal parts baffled, pitying and annoyed. At it’s best this show was tightly scripted and delivered, but now it seems to be rather circling the drain and I hate to admit it, but this season I’ve been reading my tablet more than watching the episodes. Mrs Llama seems to enjoy it still, so I’ll be sitting through it for now, but it’s a pale shadow of its hey day, especially now Ross and Rachel…sorry Penny and Leonard have gotten married.
The Blacklist (Sky)
I’m a James Spader fan from Boston Legal days, so this show easily had me hooked in with it’s Alias/24/Chuck/Burn Notice kinda vibe. And it’s certainly delivered in terms of a thrill ride with reversals of fortune and unexpected twists. For me, while Spader is most certainly the stand out star, it’s Ryan ‘Tom’ Eggold who keeps impressing me – from his early phoenix-like transformation, to his current undercover exploits. Solid, enjoyable, exciting – and generally over all too soon each week. And if you’re very, very lucky, Spader will deliver one of those monologues that only he (and Frank Underwood) can.
Bob’s Burgers (Comedy Central)
As a long time King of the Hill fan it’s frustrated me no end that this family centric, realistic (well compared to say Simpsons, Family Guy and American Dad) animated comedy hasn’t been shown over here. Thankfully it is now (all be it from S3…what about S1&2 eh?), and even more shocking, Mrs Llama loves it too. Currently I can’t wait for my weekly double bill of the Belchers, and it might just be the show I’d binge watch if it was on a streaming service. But as it isn’t I have to accept a double helping each week.
Half way through watching this, months after everyone else. Difficult to watch as Mrs Llama finds it all too scary so I have to wait for her to be out. A damned (see what I did there) shame it got canned, as Matt Ryan is totally convincing in the role. And given it’s adapting the Damnation Crusade storylines from the early Hellblazers I know so well, I’m really pleased by how they taken the plotlines and run with them. If Preacher can be half this good an adaptation, I’ll be happy. Still, at least they let him finally smoke on Arrow.
Doctor Who (BBC)
Yes. Obviously. I think I’ve said more than enough about this over the years, and my life long love for the show. I’ll just say here that I love Peter Capaldi in the role, S9 has been stunning and just as I came to love Clara… she went and faced that sodding bird. Probably the major argument for me in favour of the TV licence.
The Flash (Sky)
Okay, if I had to cut this list of current shows down a bit. Flash would stay on it. If I had to cut it down to less than 5 shows. Flash would still be on it. If I had to choose between it and Doctor Who…arg…don’t make me, I’m not sure I could honestly choose. And given the latter recently made a nod towards Cisco in The Flash’s naming of villains…well there’s hardly any separation between the two (even less with spin off Legends of Tomorrow starting Rory ‘Rip Hunter’ Williams as a time-traveler). This show manages to outdo its parent show Arrow by being fast paced (naturally), action packed (of course), tightly plotted (indeed) and with scripts that just zing. Helped along by a great cast, and an awful lot of fan-boy content, that they manage to carry off with aplomb. I love this show, and it’s a real high spot of my week watching it. Just so long as Prof Ivo stays dead and ‘Vibe’ keeps far, far away from Detroit, I’m sure it’ll run and run. And I’ve not even mentioned Tom Cavanagh’s scene stealing Harrison Wells (both of him).
Have I Got a Bit More News For You (BBC)
Now in its 50th season it might be a format that’s creaking, wheezing and groaning more than the TARDIS in a heavy fog, but there are still quite a few weeks when this show still manages to be the cutting edge of satirical comment in the UK. That we don’t have more intelligent but funny shows like this and dross like Strictly…don’t get me started on the bread & circuses argument again. It might never quite hit the heights of the Angus era again, but 80% of the time well worth the watch. And then there are the weeks Paul/Ian just coast on autopilot. Wish they’d just show the longer version as it hangs together better when it’s a little rawer and less packaged.
Jessica Jones (Netflix)
I may be wrong but I think David Tennant is playing an evil version of the Doctor in this show. I’m only 5 episodes in, but that’s my conclusion. While not quite as sublime as Daredevil this show is still one of the strongest parts of the MCU by a long way. I just can’t shake the feeling that Jessica reminds me of Mrs Llama in some ways – the determination, stubbornness and the jeans addiction more than the PTSD after being mind-controlled though. Another definite candidate for the ‘just one more episode before I go to bed’ catagory.
Justice League (Unlimited)
Aka what I watch at lunchtimes at home. Possibly the finest iteration of the DCAU, or maybe the DCU fullstop. If only Guy Gardner had played more (or indeed any) role in it!
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Sky)
If only Panorama or Question Time could be this coherent. This show is very much something I wish we had an analogue of in the UK. Since the end of Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, and Colbert’s defection to chat show hosting, this remains my primary USA centric satirical show…all be it with a surprisingly excellent crusading journalistic bent. It generally manages to make me laugh and explode with rage in equal measure at the inequities of the world. And obviously it’s never better as when fellow Brit John turns his lens back on Queen & Country. I remain eternally fascinated by how other cultures view us here on our tiny, parochial island. Also the theme tune was my ringtone for the best part of a year. If you’re not watching this – you should be.
Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
Mrs Llama started watching this a while ago, but decided after a half dozen episodes that it was “too samey”. I’ve just started watching it, and frankly I’m loving it. Funny, dramatic and touching – and as a long time veteran of Prisoner Cell Block H fills that hitherto unremarked on ‘Women’s Prison’ hole in my life.
Er, maybe I should rephrase that! Anyway the cast is great, but my stars is Captain “Red” Janeway the best thing in this in a country mile. I can almost forgive Kate Mulgrew for STV:Threshold. Almost. I’m only halfway through the 1st season at the moment, so this one should keep me occupied for a few months to come yet, which is great, as I’m really enjoying the characters and plotlines, and I remain surprisingly unspoiled about most of the plot. Not all mind you, but enough!
Peep Show (Channel 4)
I was a latecomer to Mark and Jez. In fact I’d more or less avoided watching it over the years, pegging it as one of those comedy for trendy people. Then I saw a show or two…and realised how wrong I was. Hence in the gap between S8 and S9, I’ve watched all of the available episodes. At least twice. And also brought Mrs Llama around to appreciate it (she’s less than keen on embarrassment based comedy normally). Worryingly she’s started to identify traits of Mark that she shares, which may case me (and I’m not sure about this) as Jez. Lord I hope I’m not Jez, but I do own a military-camo jacket that wear an awful lot…
Les Revenants (aka The Returned) (More4)
This show is usually watched in my house in a double bill with the Walking Dead. One set of zom…walkers will devour you, and the others will stand around looking morose and making deeply existential statements while hanging around the Lake Pub or the top of the (broken) dam. It is very, very French, deeply mysterious, utterly unactionpacked (yes, even more talking than TWD S2) and moody as hell, and I love it. Victor remains the creepiest child on this or any other planet, even if he has gotten a little taller in S2. And Lena…oh Lena… I do hope they manage to wrap up the storylines without giving everything away this season! Anyway, best watched late night or before dawn for the correct ambiance of despair coupled with flashes of hope. I just wish they’d kept the French title.
Parks and Recreation (Amazon)
Another show I’ve come to late (indeed after it’s finished), which is currently filling in the ‘Easy, watchable, comedy’ choice when myself or Mrs Llama can’t agree what to watch or fancy something lighter of an evening. Yes, Lesley Knope is annoying…but that’s the point, right? The rest of the ensemble cast is great, and as a big fan of the (US) Office it’s great to have something rather in the same vein. Usually has me hooting with laughter more than once an episode (and not always at Chris Pratt leaping over a fence/into a pit etc).
Robot Chicken (Comedy Central)
How can I not love a show where people use toys to mock SciFi shows and culture. A bit like Python – some sketches are brilliant. Some are terrible and go on for weeks. Thankfully the whole show is so brief that’s rarely a problem. Fingers crossed they show the DC Heroes special shortly over here, as previous ones have been excellent. A good show to stick on when I can’t think what I want to watch before I head to bed! Also there’s no truth I’ve been keeping my own pet chickens away from watching this!
Forgot this one first time around! South Park’s been one of those shows that when it first came on, I watched a bit but was never really in to. Although I still consider the film one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen at the cinema (especially THAT opening song). But in the last decade I’ve found myself watching it more and more, and realising just how sharply satirical the show has come – far outstripping its more bawdy infancy. The last couple of seasons in particular have offered one of the most powerful examples of popular critiques of the neoliberal consumerist, media-obsessed culture we in the west exist within. And it’s still incredibly funny (and possibly more so). CtPa Town & pretty much anything Randy Marsh gets involved in especially. Long may it continue to tweek the nose of authority and celeb obsessed culture!
I love Supergirl.
Let me rephrase that, before Mrs Llama arrives to slap me. I love Supergirl in the comics ever since she died in COIE (my first exposure to her), but mainly thanks to Peter David’s immortal run on her title in the 90s. Hence I was hoping this show would rock. And then I saw the trailer…and my grin became a little more strained. Okay it’s far from terrible, and it may yet surprise and dleight me, but right now it’s one of those shows I watch when I’m doing something else. I’ll probably give it the whole season…maybe…but not sure if it’s renewed if I’ll watch on to another season. Which is a shame as Melissa Benoist is utterly nailing Supergirl’s characterization…she just needs some better scripts/plotting. And also don’t get me started on super-handsome-stud Jimmy Olsen!
Toast of London (Channel 4)
I thought I was the only person watching this on the planet for the first season. Far too rude for Mrs Llama, but I thought it was hilarious, weird and refreshing – not to mention being somewhat of a terrible thespian myself, there’s a kinship twix me and Toast that drew me in. Then it won an award, and I realised other people could see how great this show was. Sure dark, possibly deranged and even disturbing. But never staid nor formulaic. Well done Matt and Arthur. But not you Clem Fandango!
The Walking Dead (Fox)
There have been times when I’ve asked myself do I want to keep on watching a show that at times can be bleak and unremittingly depressing as TWD. And then Carol goes on another of her knife-centred rampages and I remember why. I’d be hard pressed to say whom is my favourite character at times, as they’re all pretty flawed portraits of humanity…but then, that’s hardly a surprise when we’ve seen what they’ve gone through. Despite the odd dip, and Carl centric plotline, this show seems to be currently going from strength at the moment. If I could just shake this tune out of my head… Sorry Bryony!
You, Me and the Apocalypse (Sky)
With a cast to die for (Rob Lowe and Mathew Baynton especially, but not exclusively), this is a black comedy that is definitely getting more into the darker regions of funny as time passes. End of the world comedies aren’t new, but this show is weaving a fabulously tangled and yet interlinked story around a group of (seemingly at first) unlinked strangers in the face of Armageddon. There’s only a couple of weeks to go, and I’m looking forward to finding out just how everyone ended up in that bunker (no spoiler, they tease more each week). This is the sort of stuff BBC or Channel 4 should be producing…but have missed the boat. Highly recommended and surely in line for an award nod somewhere sometime?
Coming Soon (or what I’m looking forward to in 2016): Legends of Tomorrow, Better Call Saul (S2), Luke Cage, Preacher, House of Cards (S4), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (S2), The Man in the High Castle, Outlander (S2) and probably rewatching all of Breaking Bad over the Christmas break.
Is it too soon to start frothing about the new Star Trek show too?
And here we are once more at the two week catch up – and what an eventful couple of weeks it’s been.
Started my p/t job this week with the Mercian Libraries Collaboration. I was excited before I started…which was unusual for a new job, normally I’m quite nervous and full of apprehension the first day, but I was just champing at the bit to get stuck into this one. Lovely first day, meeting with various people at Leicester who I used to work with (and most of whom didn’t realise it’d been 3.25 years since they’d seen me). Lots of very familiar faces, and a handful of new ones. Felt very welcomed, and that’s not even going to be my office home for the long term*. Lots to get into, read about and bring myself up to date on, and even have the use of the Project Room as my office – well, when no one else’s booked it! But I rather like the nomadic existence, which is just as well as a lot of this job is going to be about being on the road certainly for the early days. Now I just need to find out where my tech and work mobile are coming from and I’ll be totally good to go. All in all, a very positive commencement – I almost regret I’ve only the 1 working day a week to give to this!
Now if I can just stop myself saying Meridian or Mercenary when people ask me whom I’m working for, I’ll be happy. Mrs Llama just keeps shouting “MERCIAN!” at me, as though she’s just escaped off the set of The Last Kingdom.
Went into campus at the crack of dawn one morning, to pick up the new software key for Nvivo. During the 30 minutes I was on site I met an academic friend, printed off dozens of pages and admired the new central building (The Pavillion). Not bad. And then was home before 9am!
The big job of the past couple of weeks has been finishing off the second of the two coding frameworks I’ve been building. So the code books are all written, and the definitions are all in place. Now in the process of creating then in NVivo (and reteaching myself NVivo as I’ve forgotten bits of it). Which means next week – all is go for the full coding phase!!! Much excitement and celebration at this point.
Following a discussion on FriendFace and Chitter this week about where Linked.In harvests the rather random suggested contact names from (seems it’s largely from the app which sneakily scans your GMail unless you remember to block it), went on to explore the wonders of endorsements. Which thanks to a number of chums means I now have some VERY interesting skills on my profile. There’s a lot of interesting debate too around the dissonance between what your connections perceive as your skill base vs what you know are your actual skills. I’ve done some rearrangement on my skills, to try and highlight a bit more the things I’m rather better at professionally…still not 100% sure what the Hades the skill Library is anyway!
Mrs Llama tells me she likes to randomly endorse people for skills in the hope they might return the favour, so I’ve been doing that as well. Feels rather akin to FriendFace’s poking of old mind you me. Anyway, feel free to endorse me for something…or should I say something that’s not Activated Sludge (you know who you are!).
Other odds and sods
Filled in an AHRC survey about changes to PhD funding. Delighted to see they want to move to a 4 year standard…wish they’d done that with me.
Tried filling in another survey about gaming/gambling research from some local scholars. Gave up on about question 746. Not the best example of questionnaire design I’ve come across, and a strong argument for using a different methodology IMHO.