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

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

Message in a Bottle

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

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

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

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Khaaaaaaan!  Well, one of his sidekicks

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

Hunters

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

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

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

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

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

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Inappropriate touching!!!

Prey

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

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I forget…what’s the ship’s name?

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

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

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

Retrospect

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

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

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

The Killing Game: PtI

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

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The most exciting moment all episode

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

The Killing Game: PtII

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

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

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

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

Vis à Vis

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

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“I never liked your hair style!”

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

The Omega Directive

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

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

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

Unforgettable

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

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Tacotray is visibly soooo into her – not!

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

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

Living Witness

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

Watch your mouth, hedgehog!

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

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Evil-Janeway considers who to execute first.

Demon

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

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

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

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

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

One

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

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

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

Hope and Fear

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

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Impractical AND Tasteless. Well done.

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

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

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


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

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

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

Oh my are we here already?  Almost halfway through, and it’s beginning to feel like a bigger mountain to climb than I thought.  So big, that I’ve gone off and watched Enterprise Season One for a change of pace, mostly because I kept getting to Tacotray and Neelix heavy episodes. But time and the Delta Quadrant waits for no sentient, and so on we go once more.

Scorpion Pt II

Aka The One Where Sexy Hips Arrives.  After last time’s slightly odd climax, we open up with the arrival of single most defining element of Star Trek Voyager.  Go on, ask any member of the casual sci-fi watching public to tell you something about Voyager, and odds are they’ll say something like “That’s the one with the sexy robot chick with the big breasts“.  There is no denying though, 7 of 9’s addition to the series does introduce some interesting new narrative possibilities and alters the character dynamics for the better.  Although the less said about Tacotray’s sleazy romancing of her and the arrival of those sodding Borg children*, the better.  Still feeling, as I did last episode, that Species 8472’s arrival Nerfs the Borg too much, as cubes are blowing up at the drop of the hat here.

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

There’s a good bit of tension in the episode as the Voyager’s shaky alliance with the Borg goes back and forth, with a highlight being Tacotray’s stone cold act of spacing all the drones (save for his future squeeze) into deep space.  That’ll be one to tell the grandkids about.  Tacotray also has (rarely) my favourite lines of the episode, as he tells the tale of the titular scorpion.  It’s a perfect analogy for the Borg:Human alliance, so kudos to the writer(s).  Meanwhile though, the trip to Fluidic Space had me turning my brain off (“Wait, if the vacuum is made of fluid, why doesn’t gravity just collapse everything to a singularity?“), and the resolution where the Voyager makes a superweapon that destroys most of Species 8472’s bioships makes about as much sense as the Borg cube exploding FOR NO REASON at the end of Best of Both Worlds II**.  Ah well, we have a shiny new crew member through which we can explore the metaphorical human experience.  Which probably means there’s another character whose POV we could probably dispense with, but how can we ever choose…?

The Gift

Aka The One Where Kes Finally Fucks Off. In some respects it’s a shame that TV budgets wouldn’t stretch to keeping on Voyager’s whole crew once 7 had joined, although if the axe had to fall somewhere, I’m not sorry it fell on Kes.  Although, losing Tacotray would have been perfect.  I do wonder how the internal politics and discussions around the decision actually worked…

“Right, Jeri Ryan is one more mouth to feed, and we’re not made of money”

“Actually, we’re a TV network, technically we are, but that’d besides the point, we need to lose a character to break even this season.  Who do we need to get shot of?”

“Well Harry Kim hardly does anything, but he’s ethnic, so we’d be crucified if we got rid of him. Same for Chakotay and Tuvok.  Paris and Janeway are the star players, and the Doctor’s the breakout character.”

“What about Torres?  I know she’s got that whole romance subplot with Tom going, but if we get rid of her he could be sexing up the Borg chick’s assimilation tubes before we know it!”

“Ew! Thanks for that image.  But, nah, Roxann’s doing that director thing, so we’d best hold on to her.  It has to be Kes then.”

“What about Neelix?  Literally, no one, on the planet, likes Neelix.”

“Nah, he’s our melting-pot character.  Everyone comes to Quarks…I mean 10 Forward…I mean the Mess Hall.  Plus as he’s not Starfleet, there’s countless ‘I done fucked up’ storylines we can get out of him.”

“Right, screw you Kes, you’re outta here!”

Actually, half this episode rather than being about Kes’ oft forgotten about psi-powers and her subsequent exit, is the first of about 200 episodes focussing on 7 of 9’s relationship with Captain Janeway and her return to human society.  Nice! They couldn’t have telegraphed the “Don’t call us, we won’t call you” to Kes any better, if they’d painted it on the door to her room!  Still, at least nasty undead looking 7 is gone, and now hot space-babe 7 is here, as most of her prosthetics are jettisoned, making for an easier make-up job for Jeri, and tighter pants for the fanbois.

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

Meanwhile, Kes turns into Jason Ironheart, and kicks the Voyager 9,500 light year’s nearer home.  The first significant distance they’ve achieved in three years.  And all it took was one hyper-advanced and hyper-annoying OompaLumpa to hyper-evolve!(3*)  There’s some weak plotting too in her departure.  While her psychic mentor Tuvok gets to bid her farewell, and Neelix to a lesser extent, the Doctor, the single character she’s shared the most screentime with over three seasons barely appears, and certainly doesn’t get to say goodbye as he’s hardly in this episode.  A small coda where he wistfully regrets this, or shares a bright memory and hope for Kes’ future would have been appropriate, but no, there’s no time for this.  Why? because we need plenty of time for a long, long introductory shot of 7 in her sexy one-piece.  Yeah, sexy cybernetic space babes over annoying space elves every time, it seems!

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

Day of Honor

In the pit of my stomach I realised this was gonna be a Torres/klingon heritage story, and in Star Trek’s history they can be of…variable quality.  For every Sins of the Father there’s a Birthright or a Barge of the Dead.  Turns out this is one of the good ones, as while the story focuses around B’Elanna’s special klingon festival (no pain sticks mind), thanks to a monumental fuck up in engineering, the warp core gets jettisoned.  Is this the first time we’ve ever actually seen this happen?  Given Geordi threatened he’d had to to it countless times, I’d be surprised if it is, but I’m damned if I can remember any other occasion.  Anyway, the warp core doesn’t go boom after all, proving that Geordi is the better engineer here.  The Caatati, who the crew had initially helped, knick off with it, and so Tom and B’Elenna try to get it back in a shuttle craft (since Voyager is pretty powerless).

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

The shuttle goes boom (a reoccurring theme) and Tom and B’Elenna end up drifting in space, and we finally realise this episode is not about klingon heritage, or even past crimes of the Borg, but it’s Shuttlepod One…only with romance not bromance.  At its heart this is a sweet story, that deepens the relationship between Paris and Torres in an effective and believable way – as they float in space, slowly running out of air.  It also, for once, demonstrates just how BIG space is when you don’t have ships ready to warp in and collect you.  Nice episode, and my favourite of the season so far by miles.

Nemesis

This episode is awful.  Just fucking awful.  How awful?  Well I stopped watching halfway through and couldn’t bring myself back to watch the rest of the episode for THREE DAMNED WEEKS.  It’s all about Tacotray and some alien kidz doing their best Lord of the Flies impression.  Oh yes, and they speak in this hilarious pigeon-english ripped right out of Mad Max III – I kept waiting for them to ask about ‘Captain Walker and the before times‘.  Trek’s tackled the kidz gone rogue trope before, and much better (Notably in DS9:Valiant), so this episode brings nothing new to the table.  In fact, I’d go as far to say that this is the single worst episode of Voyager I’ve seen yet.  And remember, I’ve sat through Basics, Flashback, Threshold and Sacred Ground; so it’s not an honour I lightly bestow.

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Go on, who wants a big, french kiss?

Oh, and the nemesis…total, and utter make-up rip off of Predator.  If I’d been the network head, and accidentally seen this abomination of an episode, Voyager’d be on its way to cancellation city!  What’s next, Species 8472 turns out to look like the Xenomorphs…?

Anyway, turns out Tacotray has been brain washed and most of what we saw was in his head, and it’ll take years for him to shake off the trauma of being used…or, you know, as normal we never, ever mention these events again.  Yeah. It’s the latter one.

Revulsion

What starts out as looking like a Tuvok episode, turns out to be a B’Elanna and The Doctor one.  After some early recounting of racial hate crimes against Tuvok by Harry and Tom, and his subsequent promotion to Lt Commander(4*), we move onto the main story.  A drifting ship, crewed only by a lone, bargain basement Jeffrey Combsesque-lite “isomorphic projection” – that’s hologram to you and me.  Naturally, I was shocked when the creepy-looking hologram with the serial killer vibe, turned out to be a serial killer.  No, wait I wasn’t.  I kept waiting for a twist that would raise this story above utter mundanity.  There was a nice bit when the psycho hologram stuck its hand in Torres, but soon enough we’re back to “Don’t worry I’ve disabled all the holo-emitters…no wait he’s still out there…oh noes” territory of a sub-bargain basement horror story.

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

Meanwhile, Tom and B’Elenna’s share a romantic moment, and Tom for reasons unknown gets promoted to nurse.  Because when you’ve limited staff aboard a starship, it’s always important to draft the primary helmsman away from his primary duties.  No, made no fucking sense to me, and seems to exist only to give the Doctor someone to talk to in later episodes who’s not sick.

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The tension is palpable

Actually, the B-story of the episode is all about Harry and 7, and is sort of enjoyable.  It’s enjoyable for the moment where 7, recognising Harry’s stumbling romantic attempts, asks him outright if he “Wishes to copulate“. While it might be the line of the season, I’ve no idea why Harry, lover of Libby and random holo-ladies, should suddenly be written all over again as a stumbling, nervy virgin.  Oh noes, big sexy lady is coming on to me, I just can’t deal with it.  Well, I can’t deal with the inconsistent characterisation of Harry.  It’s a bit late in the series to be writing him as this nieve!

The Raven

Ah, this episode was bundled back in the 90s on VHS (whooo, ancient media formats) with Dark Frontier PtI & II, so was the only Voyager episode I actually owned.  Hence, I know what’s coming here as we explore 7’s (aka Annika Hansen, mmn, bop) family history and assimilation by the collective.  It’s the first entirely 7 centric story, so hopes were high for a corker, especially after the middling to fucking awful standard of the season so far.  However, the opening clay modelling scene between 7 and the Captain (get used to this belaboured pseudo-mother/daughter trope) is a heavy handed metaphorical ‘identity creation at the hands of others’ scene.  Gosh, I wonder what the rest of the episode is about…did Annika mould own creation or did the Borg sculpt her fully-formed from the human clay?  I can almost hear the Voyager writing room staff toasting their own super-genius for this idea…sigh.

Fun fact: despite this scene being set in Master Leonardo’s Workshop, Voyager were too cheap to shell out for another guest appearance by John Rees-Davies

The rest of the episode harks back to TNG:Brothers, as 7 of 9 gets reset into Borg mode after suffering repeated dreams about a raven, by a mysterious signal.  Said signal eventually turns out to be transmitted from her badly CGIed orignal Earth ship, the Raven, which she came into the Delta Quadrant in with her anthropologist parents.  Okay, this is a big retcon for humans and Borg.  Thought mankind first met them when Q hurled the Enterprise into the Delta Quadrant in TNG: Q Who?  Nah, happened years before that off screen, by some nosy explorers and their incredibly fast ship (its literally 65,000ly from Earth – but no one ever quibbles this point).  Anyway, 7’s daft parents get assimilated along with her daughter…aaaaaand scene.

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Somebody, somewhere, lost a bet

There’s a subplot about the B’omar, winners of the 1997’s Worst Dressed Alien Race competition hands down, forcing Voyager to take the world’s stupidest route through their space – as everyone forgets space is 3-dimensional and they could just, you know, overfly the whole region.  Naturally the B’omar get their vinyl in a twist about a Borg on board, and even more p-oed when Janeway just ignores their navigation advice and powers through their space to rescue 7.

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

Scientific Method

We open with the Doctor giving Janeway a happy ending on the massage table.  Okay, not quite, but there’s not a whole lot of laughs in this episode!  It’s a nasty creepy tale, although I can’t feel helping we’ve seen this all before in TNG: Schisms.  Unknown aliens, check. Crewmembers undergoing bizarre experimentation, check. Creepy horror vibe, check.  However, while this episode is an early example of 7 of 9 as Wesley ‘Saves the Day/Deus ex Mechania’ Crusher syndrome, I will admit I rather enjoyed it.  It’s perhaps a shame that the aliens turn out just to be another humanoid race with invisibility hats(5*), I rather liked the Lovecraftian horror of the non-humanoid, extra-dimensional aliens on Schisms.  We lose another NPC crewmember (not lost one in a while), although her passing is rather ignored by the crew.  No long emotional wake once we’ve resolved everything, as she clearly wasn’t that important.  Cold, Voyager, stone cold.

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I did NOT need to see that!!!

Anyway, the highlight of this episode is…and I can hardly believe I’m writing this…was between Neelix and Tacotray.  Both affected by bizarre mutations and accelerated aging respectively, they engage in a homage to Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch.

Tacotray “I can barely move, thanks to my arthritic hips”

Neelix “Lucky bastard.  In a couple of days my bones’ll fused and I won’t be able to move”

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Only two replicator rations a week? Luxury!

Despite 7 saving the day, there are some glorious moments from Janeway too as she goes all Bruce Willis on us again.  That’ll teach those god damned aliens to stick loads of needles in her head!  We also get more of the Tom and B’Elanna’s love story.  Yep, the whole episode is more the kind of series I wish Voyager was, lots going on, plenty for all the regulars to get up to, and a threat that isn’t too easily defeated by augmented Borg-nanoprobes.  Yeah, that one still rankles.

Year of Hell Pt I

*performs the happy dance*  Okay, full disclosure.  Before I started this comprehensive re-watch, Year of Hell was my single favourite episode(s) of Voyager.  And after re-watching this episode, I can confirm that’s still not changed.  There are…issues…big issues, I have with the ending, but I’ll address those in Pt II.  Okay, part of the joy of this episode is finally…finally seeing The Voyager take the kind of punishment that we’ve not seen since the opening episodes, thanks to the Krenim and their chronal torpedos.  There’s a nice nod to Yesterday’s Enterprise the first time the Krenim Timeship performs a temporal incursion, and Voyager shifts to a darker timeline.  But once she’s got her chronal shields, then all hell really starts to break loose, as the battered little Starfleet ship starts to lose crew and her looks in equal measure.  The end of the episode, with Janeway’s speech to the crew when she knows they have to pretty much abandon ship may be my single favourite Janeway moment yet.  Short, sweet, heartfelt and resolute.  Naturally, the hero cast remain behind.

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

The episode is also made even better by two things.  Firstly, the foreshadowing of this terrible time from Before and After (shock, Kes was useful for something), but more importantly the appearance of Kurtwood Smith as complicated (albeit amusingly fanboi named) antagonist Annorax.  His abduction of Paris and Tacotray sets up the more philosophical discussions of PtII, but his rationale for his actions in repeatedly altering the timelines are ones that make the situation more shades of gray, than black and white.   Of course, knowing Trek PtIIs rarely live up to the promise of their opening episode, but the two parter is off to a dramatic start – and the shots of the escape pods flying away from Voyager at the end of the episode would have made for an incredible season finalé shot!

Year of Hell Pt II

This is one year I’d like to forget. (beat) Time’s up

Yeah, okay.  Let’s address the Elephant in the holodeck first.  This episode ends with the reset button to end all reset buttons for Voyager.  A year’s worth of character growth and drama erased in a moment.  And shockingly…Tacotray is one of the major victims here, as his and Paris’ time together aboard the Krenim timeship sees both of them mature in their relationship and outlooks.  It annoys me no end as THIS is the Tacotray I could probably stomach more, a morally conflicted character who doesn’t just fit straight into the vanilla Starfleet mould.  Needless to say, it’s Tacotray and Annorax’s interactions on the nature of time, the ethics of reshaping the future and on the subject of loss that for me form the centre of this episode’s strongest narrative.  There’s also some wonderful stuff with the now blinded Tuvok and 7, in a more believable mentor/mentee relationship than Kes ever achieved.  All lost on the winds of time…

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

Okay, stuff is still going on back on Voyager, as Janeway puts herself in harm’s way to keep her battered ship flying, even as she puts together another coalition to track down and nuke the timeship.  Especial props to the makeup crew for her 3rd degree burns makeup – ouch!

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Now THAT’s what I call battle damage!

The episode’s finalé is another outstanding Janeway moment, as the only person left aboard the Voyager and with the front of the ship torn off – she flys it, straight into the Kremin timeship!  And then everything is reset. NOOOOOOOOO!  One of my biggest problems with Voyager is there liberal use of the reset-switch, rather than risk character growth and more importantly showing the ship slowly looking…less Starfleet and more bespoke.  Why get rid of the Borg modifications?  Keep them, and any other ones you gain along the way.  That way the ship that finally makes it back to the Alpha Quadrant and her crew will really show the pain and struggle they went through to reach home.  But no, we’re back to ocean liner perfection and Mr Neelix still being alive.  Sigh, can’t have everything.  Still, Year of Hell is as damned close to a perfect Voyager episode as we’re going to get I suspect.  Cracking stuff!

Random Thoughts

Since nothing eventful has happened in the last couple of episodes (sob) we get a Tuvok centric episode, as the Voyager visits the planet of the telepaths and…oh dear one of them picks up on B’Elanna’s violent impulses.  In a call back to Justice, it turns out that the Starfleet crew should really have read the local law PADDs before they beamed down, as it turns out there’s no violent crime here on Lotus Eater V (or whatever the hell it’s called).  Having caused the poor fellow to go apeshit, she is sentenseted to an engramatic purge (which sounds like as euphemistic a description for literally brainwashing, as enhanced interrogation is for torture).  Naturally, while Starfleet is all for respecting local laws, Inspector Tuvok smells a space-rat and investigates, and it turns out on a planted where violent thoughts have been outlaws, that there’s a thriving black market trade in violent thoughts.  Gosh, it was all a big metaphor for the war on drugs – criminalise something in society, and you just drive it underground.

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

I await Teresa May attempting to bring in the same doubleplus ungood thought laws in the UK in the coming months, eh?  Actually, there’s a missed opportunity here – given that Federation society is always held up as utopian (aka bland), are there similar problems for their own citizens who miss the more…exciting days of the past?  Sadly, any such philosophical questions are ignored, as it’s clearly the Mari who are entirely at fault in the narrative, and the Starfleet crew can assume a position of moral authority in their dealings with them.  Sadly, this all too late for B’Elanna who’s given a swift brain enema (or the best part of one) to purge of her unclean thoughts.  Tuvok saves the day and most of her brain, and on we trek.  A half decent episode at best.

Concerning Flight

I have memories of watching this years ago. Bad memories of an episode to rival Threshold, Coda or Fair Haven(6*).  Now I’ve also seen Nemesis, is this gonna be as bad or worse as S4’s bottom feeder of an episode?  Actually, it’s not quite as bad as I remembered and that’s largely down to the wonderful ACTING talents of John Rhys-Davis who rises (hah) far above the script to deliver a truly memorable performance.  Anyway, after yet another opening in Master Leonardo’s workshop with Janeway, the aliens of the week turn up and steal loads of Voyager’s technology.  Most notably they make off with the ship’s CPU, the Doctor’s mobile emitter and also Leonardo himself.  Hobbled by the theft Voyager limps to a trade world, where *shock* Leonardo think’s he’s travelled to the new world, and is wandering around thanks to 29th Century Federation technology.

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

Again, I’ve a sneaking suspicion that I’ve seen this plot before (holodeck characters out and about: Ship in a Bottle anyone?), but for the most part it’s a bit of a romp for Janeway. Considering most of her centric episodes are dreary and depressing thus far I can forgive her, although the bit where she and Leonardo take flight (urgh) on one of his flying machines is beyond cheesey.   Yes, the episode is a waste of a good character actor, but by no means was this one anything like as bad as I remembered it.  Thankfully.

Mortal Coil

 

From comedy, we move to even more comedy(7*) as everyone’s least favourite gerbil crewman, Neelix, dies and finds out there’s no afterlife, or at least no afterlife that will have him. Hilariously, Neelix, Tom and Tacotray are in a shuttle looking for protomatter when the Talaxian is deliberately targeted by the vengeful plasma storm and blasted backwards across the shuttle.  Tacotray’s first reaction is to check the shuttle’s intact, and as an afterthought Neelix.  Good to know Neelix ranks somewhere behind inanimate objects in the hierarchy of importance.  Tragically, not knowing a good thing when they’ve got it, the Doctor uses 7 of 9’s nanoprobes to bring Neelix back from the dead, 18 hours after he shuffled off this mortal coil (hah).  That this is possible, should send shivers down the spine of the viewer, as it suggests that the body, mind and soul remain entwined for a good day after death, meaning a swift cremation opens up all kinds of existential problems.

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“Good news! You were dead and we had a great wake”

Naturally, having been dead, and seen nothing not even his dearly departed sister Alixia, Neelix’s simple faith in his race’s afterlife is irrevocably shattered.  With this revelation, does he start to seize every day as if it were his last?  Nah, he goes into a deep, spiralling existential crisis and emerges as a wet blanket bringing everyone down. Honestly, it’s like the crew have utterly forgotten Janeway’s afterlife experiences in Coda (heaven knows I’m trying to)!  Any-hoo, like the audience, Neelix’s nanoprobes start losing the will to live and he drops back into a near death state, which only ANOTHER sodding vision quest with Tacotray can solve.  Honestly, how is it that every ship in Starfleet doesn’t have a shaman in chief alongside their councillor, eh?  Given the regularity with which this tired old deus ex machina is brought in to solve metaphysical crisis, you’d think they’d be de rigueur.  Sadly, rather than solving Neelix’s crisis of faith, it instead drives him to try and vaporise himself with the transporter(8*).

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

This episode is also notable for the reappearance of Naomi Wildman, last seen as a babe in arms a year and a bit ago (Basics), and now about 5 years old(9*).  Oh, she’s having trouble sleeping, which thankfully Neelix had been helping her with by telling her stories of the great Talaxian afterlife forest.  Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth when he comes back from the dead with his faith utterly shattered.  This episode is also notable as it took me three viewings to get through, one of which I fell fast asleep during.  I think that was my favourite one.  The solution that he has to keep on living just to help Naomi Wildman sleep is a fucking bleak one…honestly, that’s the sum total of your value to the crew, Neelix.  Screw your need for faith or self-actualisation, suck it down and cheer up a sprog.  Yeah, it’s a terrible, terrible episode that answers nothing nor is the decimation of Neelix’s self-belief ever revisited. Sheesh.

Waking Moments

Everyone’s been having odd dreams, aside from Harry Kim, who’s continuing to enjoy his nightly scheduled wet dreams of 7 of 9.  Can’t blame him(10*).  And in every dream there’s a strange alien watching them like a perv.  Well, aside from B’Elanna who’s on the nightshift and has been trying to have her regular hook-up with Paris.  On the whole, elements of this episode are somewhat TNG: Schisms redux, even down to the crew reconstructing the image of the alien together.  I’ll give the Voyager crew this though, they do at least rapidly  recognise that if they’re all having bad dreams with aliens in them, then something is afoot.  Perhaps there needs to be a standard Starfleet protocol where everyone reports bad dreams and then the ship jumps to Yellow Alert.

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

As might be expected with any story dealing with vivid dreaming, soon we’re questioning who’s awake and who’s dreaming…which means Tacotray get’s to roll out another of his mystical powers to save the day – lucid dreaming.  Yes, two episodes in a row for the Native American’s vision quests to save the day – I can say, without fear of contradiction here – he has utterly become the Wesley Crusher deus ex machina of Voyager.  And I continue to like him as a character, just as much as I like S1TNG Wesley.  Hint: It’s a minus figure.  Eventually, we get to the planet and the dreamers and Tacotray manages to stay awake (more than I managed during this episode) to pretty much threaten them all with orbital bombardment as an inducement to quit-it.  Yep, top marks for a non-Starfleet approved solution there.

A nasty thought just hit me…what if I am still asleep in front of this episode and I never woke up?  The horror…the horror…

*I’ve only seen bits of the Borg Children episodes, and I fear I’ll come to hate the episodes that centre around them with as much passion as I do the S1-3 Kes episodes.
**Which I watched last week, funnily enough.  And yes, despite being a cracking TNG story, the end is a bit…weak.
3*You’ll note here I didn’t even use a picture of Kes to illustrate this story.  That’s honestly how peripheral she actually is in her own, departure centric episode.
4*Take note, 3 seasons in and Tuvok gets a rank promotion. Later Tom gets demoted and then later promoted again, despite being a bit of an arse.  Meanwhile for 7 seasons, Harry Kim remains an ensign. Yeah, that’s utterly credible isn’t it.
5*It might have been hats…it might not.  The whole ‘how they’re invisible’ was never made that clear.
6*I know we’ve not made it as far as Fair Haven yet, but I remember it being utterly fucking awful.  I suspect a second viewing will confirm this.
7*Well I laughed anyway.
8*This episode has the most death’s/near deaths of Neelix yet.  It’s the show that keeps on giving.
9*Something which is handled with a hand-wave of ‘Oh her dad is a race of lumpy face aliens who age up to adulthood fast enough to make their kids interesting on a TV show’.
10*Harry can’t wake up from his dream..and the Captain bursts into his room. Oh dear Harry, hope the sheets aren’t being held aloft by too big a tentpole.