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

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


Alter Ego

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

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

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

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

Coda

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

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And I-ayyyyyyyye, will always love yooooou!

Blood Fever

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

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Literally Voyager at its sexiest!

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

Unity

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

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I. Have sat on a thumb-tack

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

Darkling

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

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No Doctor, not the ‘bad’ touch!

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

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

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

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Rise

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

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For Tuvok, any time, is disco time!

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

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

Favourite Son

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

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Hello, big boy

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

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

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

Before and After

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

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

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

Real Life

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

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

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

Distant Origin

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

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Swipe left.  SWIPE LEFT!

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

Displaced

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

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That bat’leth looks blunt as anything

Worst Case Scenario

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

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Arrhhh, it be Pirate Cap’t Tacotray, me hearties!

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

Scorpion, Pt I

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

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

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

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Mighty familiar looking….

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


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

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Farewell S3 hair-do, you’ll be missed

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

The Great Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: Season 3 (part 1)

Okay here we go into a season that says farewell to a lot of the initial tropes (Kazon, Vidiians, and the Doctor being stuck in sickbay), and pushes on towards the Borg.  Will this mean a season of transition towards something better, or more Threshold-like horrors?  Only time will tell…

Basics (Pt II)

Well hush my mouth!  Despite my prior comments, in the opening minutes we see good old Samantha Wildman and her babe in arms Naomi.  Looks like we won’t be relying on them to retake the ship, which means it’s all down to Mr ‘Kill em all and let God sort it out’ Suder and the Doctor.  Which actually makes for a pretty fair Die Hard-esque A plot to retake the ship, although I could have done without the fleet of Talaxians riding in to help save the day.  You notice they pointedly don’t take Neelix away with them, as he’s as much a pariah to his own race as he is to any sane viewers.

Meanwhile on planet wilderness, Mr Tacotray and Janeway appear to have forgotten utterly that in the previous story they were Mr and Mrs Frontier, and their previous survival skills have evaporated.  I mean, in Resolutions Tacotray was building a canoe with his bare-teeth and a pen knife.  In Basics he can’t even rub two sticks together to start a fire.  Make up your mind showrunners!  At least the lack of water on the rapidly destabilizing planet means we’re spared Janeway in another bath, although she seems hyper-keen to make everyone munch down on (potentially-toxic) insect grubs.

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In a more perfect universe, Hogan would order Neelix to pointlessly act as monster fodder

Anyway, after a few hilarious hijinks (Neelix essentially ordering Mr Hogan to his certain death, Seska falling prey to a particularly explodey console, Mr Suder’s heroic sacrifice) we get the ship back.  And that’s it for the Kazon stories.  You will not be missed, unlike Mr Suder who was ace.

Flashback

Ah the 25th Anniversary episode that isn’t the wonderful Trials and Tribble-ations.  From memory i remember this being a bit of a disappointment.  Rewatching it, I spent most of the episode wondering just how much original content there was vs reused ST: The Undiscovered Country shots.  Yes, it was cool seeing Captain Sulu and Commander Rand again, but on the other hand the main crux of the story – Tuvok has a nebula-space-parasite that makes him go all nostalgic…was eminently skipable.  Also, Janeway appears to not have read up on Kirk’s life much.  Ddd, when you have to assume it’s a given that his iconic life and often questionable command decisions would have been taught at the Academy.  If only to avoid making the same mistakes!

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‘He’s dead Jim…er, Captain’

The episode also ends with a nauseating ‘not-quite-breaking-the-fourth-wall’ exchange twixt Janeway and Tuvok, acknowledging that this was an anniversary celebration.

“But there are times when I think back to those days.  Of meeting Spock. Kirk and the others(*).  And am pleased that I was part of it.”

“In a funny way, I feel like I was a part of it too”

“Then perhaps you can be nostalgic for the both of us”

Certainly, no one’s gonna be nostalgic for this one Kathy!

The Chute

Haven’t I seen this one before?  No, wait this is Harry and Tom in an alien orbiting prison where there’s nothing but prisoners and no guards.  Wait, I have seen this before – it’s Harry 20 on the High Rock!  Anyway, while Harry and Tom try not to go slowly psychotic thanks to alien implants, and a mad justice system without appeals or the ability to quash charges (“You’re innocent…sorry, you still serve your sentence.  That’s just the law”), Janeway tries to winkle out who did commit the crime of which her crew have been convicted.  We also get to meet the hitherto unknown and explodey isotope of dilithium, paralithium.  After that stuff in Threshold, that makes the second new form of dilithium native to the Delta Quadrant.  And counting I suspect.

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Savour it – this is the most-macho Harry Kim ever manages to look in 7 years.

All comes right in the end, when we find out the purpose of the story is to drive forward the ‘best of chums’ subplot for Kim and Paris.  Although unlike Bashir and O’Brien, there’s no subtext going on!  Sorta enjoyable, which for Voyager means it’s almost an outstanding episode!

The Swarm

In an appropriately recurring theme, the Voyager strays into an area of space whose inhabitants don’t tolerate anyone passing through.  Akin to Star Trek Beyond, they fly thousands of tiny ships…although unlike Beyond, the result of Voyager passing through is less (spoiler alert) catastrophic.  That they first make their presence known is by stunning Paris and Torres in a shuttle is slightly odd, as later on they happily slaughter a ship of full of other beings.

In the far-more interesting subplot, after being on for a year and a half the Doctor manages to overfill his memory banks.  Consequently, he starts suffering from hologramatic alzheimer’s, with hilarious/tragic results as his faculties and memories start to fade.  A highlight of the episode is the holographic recreation of his creator, Doctor Zimmerman…also played by Bob Picardo, criticising all the opera and other junk that’s come to clutter up the Doctor’s files.  As the Doctor’s faculties fail more and more, it’s left to Kes to argue his case with the captain, who in a typically organic-favouring lifeform manner dismisses the needs of one her crew, simply because he’s made of hard light.

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Bob Picardo, working his way through all the uniform colours slowly

Okay, so the swarm ships are clamped on the hull, but if it was Harry Kim who needed attention, you can just bet he’d get it.  It’s things like this, along with the Federation’s treatment of Odo and Data, that make me think that despite their credo to ‘seek out new lifeforms’, that they’re pretty shitty at according new life forms with equivalency of existential rights when it comes down to it.  Anyway, the swarm are disbursed and thanks to a software patch the Doctor is saved (for now) but appears to have lost all his 2 years of memories.  But wait, just like B4 at the end of ST: Nemesis(2*), he starts humming a tune…and we realise there’s something still there.  Actually, since Nemesis was filmed 6 years after this episode, for once TNG ripped off Voyager.  How much of the Doctor was saved?  I’m guessing when we next see him, thanks to the almighty Voyager reset button the answer will be “All of him”.  Nothing ever changes much on Voyager…

Particle beam of the week: Poleron burst

False Profits

Great scott, it’s been some time since last season’s Death Wish, but here we are at another truly cracking Voyager episode.  Effectively a sequel to the TNG episode The Price, here we catch up with those loveable rogue Ferengi who ended up getting stuck in the Delta Quadrant the best part of a decade earlier.  Much of this episode is played for laughs, from Tom and Tacotray losing their shoes to a local scam artist through to Neelix’s finest moment in disguise as The Grand Proxy.  Not to mention the Ferengi themselves, who are played with great relish in their dealings with the hu-maans.  There is a moderate amount of jeopardy, when the Ferengi’s religious appropriation threatens to blow up in their faces (being burned at the stake, even I wouldn’t wish that on Neelix), but to be honest the only question I had watching this was “Are the Ferengi going to join the Voyager crew?“.  That would have been a great outcome, but sadly they get sucked down the destabilised wormhole to parts unknown.

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Looks like the structural integrity field’s about to collapse…

I must give a special shout out to the Ferengi’s temple handmaidens who clearly had availed themselves of the space-faring grub eaters high technology.  I mean, it’s the only way their costumes could have been constructed to withstand the…high tensile stresses they were clearly under.  I was glad this episode wasn’t in 3D as I’d have been forced to duck on more than one occassion.

Anyway, space ladies aside, after a few middling to duff episodes, this one was a pleasure to watch from beginning to end.  More like this one please!

Particle beam of the week: Verteron Beam

Remember

I spent the opening moments trying to work out if this was a ‘Harry Kim falls in love’ or a ‘Bellana has an odd experience’ episode, as these two seem to be recurrent tropes in the Voyager cannon.  It’s the latter, as Torres starts to experience vivid memories and dreams that are clearly not her own.  Easily the most nauseating moment, is right in the middle of a very erotic dream she wakes up in her quarters, in bed, in her night attire…to find a fully dressed Tacotray standing over demanding to know why she’s later for work.  And do you know what, she promptly starts to explain her sexy dreams to him.  TO TACOTRAY.  Gah, urgh.  Not since witnessing Janeway in a bath last season has my skin tried to crawl away as quickly.  I feel dirty, and in need of that bath now, sans Kathy!

Anyway, the rest of the episode is a thinly disguised allegory for the Nazi’s treatment of the Jews during WWII, with the visiting telepathic aliens, the Enarans, on Voyager standing in for the Nazis.  Torres effectively is remembering the guilty secrets of a woman who loved one of the space-Jews, and has carried the guilt of her culpability of her people’s crimes ever since.  It’s not exactly subtle, although to be fair Roxann  Dawson puts in a pretty great performance as both Jora Mirell and herself.

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Play that funky music, white Captain…

What little levity there is in the episode comes courtesy of a hair-down Janeway having a go with an Enaran musical instrument, that rather resembles the organsmatron from Woody Allen’s Sleeper.  What with Torres’ sexy dreams and this reference, it all amounts to a whole load of sexy subtext in this episode, that balances rather starkly with the core message of ethnic cleansing by an apparently benign alien race.  Not sure I liked the episode as a whole, but it was at least a challenging plot idea.  Shame the Enarans came out of nowhere, and were never heard from again, as with more build up and fall out, this episode could have had a really powerful punch.

Sacred Ground

Without looking up the guide to this episode, I suspect it’s going to be Tacotray centric, which sends a cold, cold icy chill of fear down my spine.  Turns out its even worse, it’s a Kes episode.  Let’s turn to Wikipedia and their one line episode description.

Kes is left comatose after contacting an energy field around a rock.

Wow,  Just pops doesn’t it.  Actually a large part of this episode is about Janeway going on a ‘mystic voyage’ to recover Kes’ p’agh, katra or some sort of mystic mumbo jumbo.  You know the sort of pseudo-new age carp that Trek loves, with lines like ‘Only when you know you know nothing, are you ready to begin‘ and the like.  Suffice to say, tragically, Kes Doesn’t die and Janeway comes back doubting that science can answer everything.  Look, in a universe where Commander Tacotray gets to take the spiritual and moral high-ground at the end of the episode, that’s not a universe I wanna live in.  Utterly awful episode.

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Waiting for a bus, or enlightenment.  Whichever comes by first I guess.

Future’s End (Pt I)

Finally, onto one of the Voyager episodes I’ve seen a few times, and have always genuinely enjoyed.  There’s a real The Voyage Home feel about this trip to 1996 to recover the time-lost Capt Braxton and his Time-Ship.  But the real treat is in the guest stars.  Sarah Silverman does a passable Gillian Taylor as she goofs off with the comedy paring of Tom and Tuvok.  Yet, the real star here is Ed Begley Jr, who (as Henry Starling) once again shows off his splendid comedy-drama stylings, bouncing off the Voyager cast, and especially Capt Janeway.

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Look at Janeway’s glee, she’s having a whale of a time. Wait, that’s ST:IV

Especial kudos to Janeway for slipping in the time-lost Spock’s line about using “Stone knives and bear skins” in her efforts to crack the Chronowerk’s primitive computer system.  Hey, this is the mid-90s, it probably had a blazingly fast AOL connection of 10kps!  Of course all of this espionage is just a prologue for the grand moment when Starling uses 29th Century Starfleet tech to  bugger up the Voyager, and nick off with the Doctor.  Bum-bum-bum, to be continued!

Future’s End (Pt II)

There are plenty of lose ends, and more comedy afoot here again, but for me it’s all second fiddle for finally giving the Doctor his mobile emitter and getting him out of sick bay.  Congrats, Trek showrunners you took 51 episodes to do something that Arnold J Rimmer could do in S1E01 of Red Dwarf!  Naturally, while this opens up the potential for what we can do with easily the best character in Voyager, there’s still the little matter of chasing down that missing time-ship, in a chase that owes more to Knight Rider in special effects quality than Trek.

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That incoming photon torpedo does not look like good news.

Easily the highlight of the episode is Henry Starling, having thwarted Janeway at every turn, activating the USS Aeon’s time drive as Janeway heroically manually launches a torpedo from Voyager’s crippled launching system.  Starling’s final words “Uh-oh!” manage to capture the essence of the phrase “Oh…shiiiiiiit” without having to call on the non-PG profanity.  Farewell Ed Begley Jr, you’ll be missed!  All in all a great action-comedy two-parter that’s banished the grim misery of Basics from my mind, and highly unusually for Voyager…there’s genuine ramifications for the Doctor that don’t get reset.  More like this ST:V!

Warlord

Oh sweet Jeebus, didn’t we just have a sodding Kes episode two weeks ago, and I’ve already got to endure another one?  Honestly, couldn’t they have accidently left her behind in 1996 or something and taken Rain Robinson on instead?  Anyway, a dying warlord foolishly takes over Kes’ short lived body through his magic fingers (I wish I was making it up) giving Jennifer Lien the chance to strut about like she’s doing Shakespeare in the park with an am-dram group.  Honestly, while she’s being all butch and warlordly, the cast are just hamming it up like it’s Christmas come early.  Once I got this thought into my mind, I couldn’t take a moment of the A-plot episode drama seriously.  I know I shouldn’t, but go watch this (obviously awful) episode and try not to think of it as third rate pantomime!

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Worst. Conference Table. Layout. Ever!

Anyway, Kes survives and despite Tuvok telling her that essentially ‘nothing will ever be the same again’, I’m assuming like all character changing moments none of this nonsense will ever be referenced again.  Oh, aside from her dumping Neelix…I think.  The script’s pretty opaque on this plot point, so I’ll have to see if this tiny nugget is raised next time.

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Yes, this is as downright fucking awful as it looks

The B-plot of the episode is the replacement of the dive bar Sandrine’s, with Neelix’s hedonistic beach paradise, complete with (not very) scantily clad babes and hunks.  Any tiny respect I had for everyone least’s favourite Talaxian vanished the second he put on a Hawaiian shirt and started dancing to a steel drum band just before the opening credits.  Actually, that’s a lie.  I lost any respect when it appear that he was being…deeply gratified…in the opening moments by person or persons unknown.  So there you go, lots of Nelix, lots more Kes: it’s an episode from hell to be sure!

The Q and the Grey

Thank the Maker, a Q episode, which is all the more welcome after the previous terrible episode.  Although it doesn’t open well with the whole bridge crew standing there applauding a star.  An actual star.  Boy, they really need to get out more!  The episode takes a shift for the better when Q and Mrs Q turn up.  Q wants to sire a child, and suggests that Janeway might be best as a mother.  Mrs Q naturally won’t have her ‘man’ knocking rank pips with any lower species.  So far, so good, as the episode looked set to be an inverse of Q-Less, with comedy tiffs aplenty between the not-so-happily married Qs.  At which point supernovas keep going off bang all around the ship…

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Making the Q with Two Backs

All of which means that now we get dragged into the Q Civil War, replete with the blues and grays of the US Civil War.  Which is about as exciting as a holonovel.  Yeah, that bland.  That we get some handwaved explanation of “This is how you perceive the Continuum” is all well and good, but it doesn’t explain the latter appearance of the Voyager crew dressed all in their re-enactment finest.  Tuvok looks especially delighted to be wearing the silly Union soldier hat.  Well done Voyager, I didn’t think you could manage it, but you made a Q episode boring.  Which is a shame, as De Lancie and Mulgrew have fabulous onscreen chemistry together.  Thus, it’s the writing at fault here, not the acting!

Still, Q does get his end away at the episode’s conclusion…

Macrocosm

I can hear the discussions in the writer’s room about this one.

I’ve got a great pitch!  Janeway does Die Hard on Voyager.  Just think about it, Kathy gets all sweaty in a little vest and retakes her ship from Alan Rickman!

Rickman said he wouldn’t do SciFi even if his life depended on it.  Also, didn’t we do Die Hard in space in TNG: Starship Mine.  And then again, and not as coherently, in Insurrection?

Okay, for European Terrorists let’s replace them with…oh I don’t know, giant viruses with tentacles.  But you know something better.  And they spread like flies.  That come out of giant boils on the neck.

That makes no sense at all, flies are bioorganic and viruses are more like crystalline life.

Look, it’s lunch in 10 minutes.  Let’s just pencil that all in, and we can worry about making it more plausible later.

Deal.  Now, what about an episode where Kes turns into an energy beast?

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Set phasers to ‘erotic action’

And that’s pretty much the episode.  50% of Janeway McClaning around the ship in her undies, and 50% anime tentacle henti.  Oh and the Doctor’s in there somewhere with his instant cure, and there’s a side plot involving Neelix becoming Voyager’s ambassidor with a race of ass-hat aliens who hate Kathy’s hips.  Actually, Neelix becoming an ambassador would be useful, were he to reach a point in space, beyond which his knowledge of space ran out.  But that’s never going to happen…

Fair Trade

Mr Neelix reaches the end of his usefulness.  Now, I might have argued that took place during the opening minutes of Season 1, but for some unknown reason the Voyager crew have kept the gerbel-faced annoyance onboard for the best part of three years.  Well, bad news for Mr Neelix, as Voyager pulls up to the edge of the Necrid(3*) Expanse, we reach the edge of space about which Neelix knows.  Just what will he be prepared to do to reassert his usefulness?  Well he’ll lie, cheat, smuggle narcotics and be an accomplice to murder.  Frankly, he shot up in my estimation at this point, as I was reminded we get two kinds of Neelixes in Voyager.  There’s the default, chipper annoyance mucking about in the mess hall or the holodeck (cf. Warlord).  And there’s the rarer, serious Neelix, that we first glimpsed in Jetrel, with the ominous and frankly quite dark backstory.  A former criminal you say. as well as fighting in the armed forces?  My, my Mr Neelix, I swear Garak would love to make your acquaintance!

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Neelix’s genuinely dark secret: He’s a terrible, terrible cook…but the Federation don’t know any better

I by far prefer these latter stories, and just wish as the case with Garak, that as we unfold the leaves(4*) of the complex beast that is Neelix we emerge with a changed character who no longer covers up who he really his with annoying buffoonery.  It’s Voyager, of course, so this is never going to happen.  Character development is out of the window unless you’re 7 of 9 or Janeway’s hair-do, more’s the pity.  As it is, I really enjoyed watching Neelix compound one mistake after another in his desperation to still be of use to the crew, and ending up so far out of his depth he’s willing to risk his life on one chance for redemption.  When he finally comes clean to the Captain, she warns there will be repercussions for his actions.  Whether there really are…I have my doubts.  But after a run of pretty mediocre episodes, we finally have a corker to close the first half of season 3.


Wait…I’m only halfway through this season?  Well, on the plus side it’s going out with a corker of an episode, after a pretty lameass run.  On the plus side though, no Tacotray-centric episodes and some half-decent character development for the much-loathed Neelix.  Fingers crossed S3.pt2 continues this upward tick!

*Neither of whom were IN this episode in anyway.  You’d think he’d at least name check his commanding officer on the Excelsior.
2*Yes, I’ll admit I made it all the way to the end of ST:Nemesis. Once.  And once only. Never again.
3*Aren’t they those undead robot things in Warhammer 40,000?
4*Both of them