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 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.
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 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.
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.