The Great Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: Season 5 (part 2)

I’m finding S5 of Voyager to be a real curate’s egg.  There have been some god-damned fucking awful episodes (largly any featuring Tacotray and/or Naomi Wildman centrally), but also some bloody awesome ones (usually featuring Tom, Harry or the Doctor).  Will this wild sine-wave ride from the sublime to the Once Upon a Time continue? Let’s press onwards!

Bliss

Despite an intriguing opening with an alien (Qatai) heading towards a mysterious cloud (the wonderful Trek alumnus W. Morgan Sheppard in yet another role), the episode proper commences with Naomi ‘Wesley’ Wildman and 7 of 9.  The pairing of these two predominantly in an episode has this season rapidly become the harbinger of incipient shite.  Thankfully half the episode is a normal 7 of 9 Story #3 (see footnote 3*. previous post), as the rest of the crew think they’re getting back to Earth through a wormhole.  Only Naomi (for whom Voyager is home), the Doctor (a programme) and 7 (who is wired differently in the head) are immune to the intense bliss that the giant space cloud we saw at the start sends out to attract its prey.  Part of me thought “Is this a remake of The Immunity Syndrome, from TOS?“, aka Spock vs the Giant Space Prawn.  It’s not, but there’s giant creature similarities – not to mention a bit of V’Ger vibe to the whole ‘swallowing the starship whole’.

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“Say, do you know V’Ger?”

If at this point you are thinking that 7 and Naomi, along with the alien, Wesley it up a storm to save the day.  Well done, you can skip on.  Nothing in this episode will ever matter again, and you’ve just saved yourself the 43 minutes I had to endure.  Although the moment where we Neelix about to be fantasy gangbanged (1*) (or so I assumed) by a gaggle of Starfleet Admirals opens up more questions than it answers.  As per usual with ‘it was all a dream’ Inception style episodes, naturally their first escape from the creature’s maw is a fake-out, and we have to go through it all again before they decide that’s enough and head off.  The episode then ends, somewhat oddly, as it began with Qatai heading back into the creature’s maw…because…I dunno.  It’s not clear.  Maybe he was the creature.  Maybe his bliss is finding the creature.  Maybe everyone on Voyager is dead now and the rest of the series a dream?  I wish.

Dark Frontier

Hmn, Netflix (on which I’m watching Voyager) has this as the merged single part feature length episode, so I can’t easily review parts I and II, so I’ll have to judge it as a whole.  It opens strongly, with an attack of the Voyager entirely from the Borg’s perspective.  Rather a novel idea, and one I’m surprised it took this long to think of.  It is, rather good, especially when Janeway does the hardest assed thing I’ve ever seen her do – namely beam an armed photon-torpedo inside the Borg probeship.  Huzzah, the Borg are back and they’re even less able to cope with Janeway and her space-family!

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‘Do you have any legs in my size?’

The rest of the story is 50% a rehash of Star Trek:First Contact (2*) as 7 of 9 is reclaimed by the Borg and their revitalised ersatz Queen (Alice Krige, was clearly too busy/expensive), and we get a similar tale to Data’s temptation to betray his loyalty to Starfleet.  The other 50% of the story is an expansion on 7 of 9 Story Archetype #1: Janeway as the surrogate mother competing with her adoptive mother, the Queen.  Here, for a change we see the secret origin of Anika Hanson, and her parents, exploring Borg space long before TNG encountered the cybernetic species.  Yeah, I know, this pisses all over the far superior TNG canon just to give 7 of 9 a credible rationale for being in the Delta Quadrant.

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Why didn’t anyone think to brief Picard on this threat?

Several late season Voyager tropes also rear their ugly heads in this tale.  Firstly, the Voyager adapts with no effort a transwarp core for the Delta Flyer.  Clearly, no one remembers earlier in the season when doing that for the Voyager killed everyone (except Harry and Tacotray).  The same technology now, not only allows the rescue of 7 from a Borg Unicomplex (of which, despite the name, there are more than one), but also zips the Voyager fully 20,000ly closer to home.  I make that almost halfway!  Another, trope is the continuing bowdlerisation of the Borg – oooooh what a threat…nah, Janeway can handle them with a souped-up shuttle.  And lastly, Naomi ‘Oh god why is she still alive’ Wildman plays a pivotal role…amplifying the mothers and daughters theme of the episode, as she clearly sees Janeway as granny, and 7 as her surrogate mother.  Despite Ens Samantha Wildman being still alive.  Inter-personal relationships in the 24th Century be all fucked up and shit, as I believe no one says.

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How I wish this wasn’t a dream

Perhaps the biggest let down of what is an okay storyline, is the ending which manages to pretty much telegraph what happens in Endgame. Okay, maybe that’s the lazy writing by the end of the seventh season, but the trope of Borg vessels popping out of transwarp corridors and going kaboom…I suspect this isn’t the last we’ll see of them.

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Borg: Some assembly required

Nor, the new Queen and her Borg…despite their space now being over 30,000ly behind (honestly, give it up and carry on assimilating the Delta Quadrant, why don’t you!).

The Disease

For at least the second time, a story opens with Harry Kim in bed with a sexy, sexy lady.  Man oh man, Libby is going to utterly dump him when the ship gets back to Earth.  Remember Libby?  Cos, by the looks of the beast with two-phaser banks that Harry keeps making with the hot alien chick, he’s utterly forgotten her.  Even better, in his post coital bliss Harry lets slip that a) He’s done things he never thought he’d do in bed (ew, fetch the brain bleach) and b) his alien squeeze’s race and humans look similar…but have genitals constructed on very different frameworks.  Yes folks, they’re dancing around the subject in the episode, but I’m calling it.  Harry shacked up with a Space-Chick with a Space-Dick…and liked it.  At least though, it gives Tom Paris the chance to run through the literary of bad women choices that Harry’s made, and when the resident bad boy of Starfleet is advising you on poor choices, you gotta know you’re doing something really wrong!

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To go where no man, has gone before

Essentially, post-sex Harry and his alien lady-love are now bonded for life…bonded so much that Ens Kim literally glows afterwards.  Now THAT’s what I call sexing Harry, kudos!  Sadly, the Xenophobic alien species she belongs too is less than happy with the coupling, and neither is Janeway.  Since Harry has almost certainly caught astro-herpes or something, and there’s a regulations book ‘3 inches thick’ *ahem* about ‘close encounters of the lewd kind‘, Janeway understandably blows her stack.  Were we to replace Harry with Tom in this escapade, then he’d be back in the bridge and demoted to Mr Neelix’s potwasher.  But because Harry’s Janeway’s substitute son (sigh, there’s that family trope again) she just gives him a ticking off and sends him to bed without any replicator rations.  Come to think of it, are they still worrying about replicator rations, I forget, that ‘desperately short of supplies’ storyline rather faded away post-S2.

It all comes good in the end (snigger) aside from Harry who is separated from his woman and has to get over her without any medication (shades of Elaan of Troyius), the xenophobes – whose ship blows up.  Still, it could have been worse.  He could have caught electric-gonorrhea – the noisy killer!  It’s a daft, fun little episode, albeit one where once again Harry’s staring plotlines are reduced to ‘naive teenager‘.  I mean, he must be almost 30 by now, stop treating like he’s 15!

Course: Oblivion

AKA the most depressing episode of Voyager you’ll ever watch, given pretty much 98% of what transpires on screen will never be known about or remembered by anyone in the Star Trek universe.  It is the literal definition of pointlessness and utterly nihilistic when you start thinking about it.  This episode opens with Tom and B’Elanna marrying, giving almost no hint of the existential horror that is about to unfold(3*).  Thanks to a hitherto unheard of space drive (not that this is a shock on Voyager, continuity never getting in the way of a story idea), the crew are closer than ever to Earth, when oh noes, the ship starts to deform and people start getting sick.  Turns out none of the crew or the ship itself are the Voyager we know, they’re all the entities who were cloned and left behind on the Demon world a season or so ago.  Turns out the new space drive would been okay on the real ship, but their weirdy fluid forms are being destroyed by it.

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Nah, it’s fine.  The Jefferies’ Tube has always looked like that, I’m sure.

The rest of the show turns into an examination of how the crew deal with almost certain death and crippling illness.  Watching Tom at his new bride’s death bed is heartbreaking, and lessened none the less by the reveal shortly afterwards that she wasn’t the ‘real’ Torres.  There’s a good argument in the show, that if it walks, talks and thinks like Tom, or Janeway or Harry…then it’s as indistinguishable from the ‘real’ crew members to actually be them.  Hence, as they one by one drop dead, it’s a shocker, even more so than the deaths in Year of Hell, since at least they get retconned away.  The closing moments of the show see Acting Captain Harry Kim desperately trying to launch a time-capsule detailing the lives and adventures of the USS Ersatz Voyager and reach the real Starfleet ship in time to get help.

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Harry needs a new skin-regime

It all fails, and we have a minute or so of the real Janeway and crew coming across the remains of…something that might have been a ship, none the wiser and just moving on with their lives.  Everyone we’ve watched struggle and suffer for the past 40 minutes is dead, and none of their lives mattered one jot.  Not even fake Naomi Wildman.  *sob*  Yes, a depressing tale, but well acted by the cast.

The Fight

Oh, it’s a Tacotray centric episode, which means as it rapidly devolves into mystic symbolism, family history and metaphor I stifle the first of many yawns.  Voyager strays into ‘chaotic space’ and some of the aliens living/trapped there make contact by ‘rewiring Tacotray’s brain’ so they can communicate with him.  30 minutes later this is still going on as my finger hovers over ‘fast forward’.  I think I enjoyed this sort of distorted reality thanks to super-advanced aliens in Far Beyond the Stars, as it gave the whole cast something fun to act against, not just one cast member.  Although, Bob Picardo turns in his usual stellar performance as a boxing doctor.

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Think he just messed his uniform

Fascinating fact: Starfleet Academy groundskeeper Boothby trained Tacotray to box.  Honestly, in between mentoring Janeway and Picard, and teaching young Tacotray the pugilistic arts – when did that man ever find time to mow the lawns?  Finally, this episode would have had more punch (see what I did there) had we EVER heard about Tacotray’s love of boxing before…rather than as per usual in Voyager’s lazy writing, another hitherto undiscussed personal interest.  Cf. Paris’ love for whichever historical period we’re visiting this week.

Think Tank

Nice cold opening on this one, as we witness a travelling intelligentsia cabal offering to save another species through their advanced knowledge…if only they’re prepared to pay the price.  Afterall, if salvation is a just one trade deal away, wouldn’t you be prepared to pay the price?  Unsurprisingly, this is the cleft stick situation Voyager soon finds itself in as the Hizari, a race of unstoppable bounty hunters, have been contracted by the Malon (hey, remember them!) to hunt the ship down.  Facing her own Kobayashi Maru, Janeway is rather surprised and only slightly suspicious when Kurros of the Think Tank approaches them to proffer a potential solution.  Turns out, they’ve solved a lot of unsolvable problems in the past, including curing the Vidiian phage (hey, remember that!).  The drawback, Kurros’ price includes 7 of 9 joining the Think Tank.

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“Why yes, it does have recreational uses as well”

The second the unwinnable scenario arose and the clever thinkers just happened to be there to offer a solution, I thought ‘set up’.  And I was right.  Turns out it’s not the Malon but the Think Tankers who’ve set all this situation up.  Just like Harry Kim, they’re lusting to get their hands on 7 of 9’s ‘implants’ and advanced Borg knowledge.  Thankfully Janeway outflanks them, and leaves them to get basically murdered as the Voyager warps away.  Bad ass Janeway, way bad ass.

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“So long, enjoy dying painfully…and WARP SPEED AWAY!”

I will say, Jason Alexander playing Kurros is wonderfully creepy and reasonable, all at the same time.  I much prefer the more subtly played villains in Trek, and while Think Tank’s a pretty much run of the mill ‘threat of the week’ episode, his performance helps make the whole thing a lot more memorable that the script deserves.  Well worth your time watching this one.  One final note, for some reason B’Elanna’s barely had a line the past couple of episodes – is Roxann Dawson busy doing something else right now?

Juggernaut

With a title like this, I thought we were going to have Warhead II: The Rewarheadening of something.  Turns out the titular vessel is actually a stricken Malon freighter.  Yes, them again.  They’re slowly becoming the mid-seasons Kazon-alike go-to dull antagonists.  This time the silly polluting sods have a stricken super-tanker that’s going to go kablooey and devastate everything in 3ly.  Hells teeth, that’s a big explosion…also…I assume the detonation will be travelling at warp speed, otherwise it’ll take millennia to fan out that far.  Cue a gritty tale for resident gritty lass B’Elanna who’s not had a line or an episode in a devil’s age, and this one lets us remember how much her and Tom love each other.

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Is it me, or did it just get hot in here?

Curiously it also gives Roxann Dawson a chance to strip down, and later strip off all together for a shower scene.  Not that I am in any way complaining about this.  The bulk of the episode is humanising the Malon. who we find out may be the galaxy’s greatest polluters, but they’re doing it so their home world can be a utopia.  There’s also a mutated monster (one of the crew) doing some lurking on the doomed vessel, just so we can see the extent of their sacrifice.  Something which is rather brutally rammed home at the end of the episode, when B’Elanna’s horrific radiation poisoning is cured with a quick injection, and her new-found Malon buddy is told ‘Sorry pal, you’re screwed’.  So much for Federation medicine then!

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Are those warp nacelles?

The biggest question of the episode is never addressed.  How the hell are the Malon still a problem after we jumped 20,000ly in Dark Frontier (or about 20 years of travel time)? Are they pals with the Borg or something? Screw the environmentally themed buddy drama, grab their super-warp drives and get back to Earth pronto!

Someone to Watch Over Me

The tl;dr version “7 of 9 gets dating advice from the Doctor, with hilarious consequences“.  Which, after the grim Juggernaut is probably just as well, we could do with some light relief.  This might be a light and frothy reworking of Pygmalion, as the Doctor coaches 7 in the ways of romance, but both Ryan and Picardo put in splendid comedic performances.  Although, the bit where they duet together is borderline painfully cringeworthy.  Notably Picardo’s singing live, and Ryan only lipsynching, which is odd as we know from The Killing Game she can sing.  Eventually, and not too shockingly, the Doctor falls for 7’s charms, but she ends up friendzoning him.  Ah well, not all romcoms end up well.  Fun little tale really.

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Make it stop! Sweet Jebus, make it stop!

Meanwhile Captain Janeway and Tuvok go off on an away mission, that’s off screen.  Tim and Kate clearly had a week’s holiday coming.  This leaves Neelix dealing with the one ultra-religious (and rule breaking) ambassador aboard Voyager to deal with.  More hilarious consequences ensue, capping off the lightest and most fun Voyager tale we’ve had in ages, with some genuine moments of character development.  More like this, and I’d start really liking this show!

11:59

AKA the secret origin of the Janeway family.  This episode epitomizes everything that frustrates me about Voyager.  Ostensibly it’s Janeway telling the tale of one of her most important ancestors, around the turn of the millennium (fully 7 months away at time of broadcast), who naturally happens to look like her.  It’s a somewhat The A Team kinda tale, as failed astronaut Shannon O’Donnel partners with local reclusive book shop owner Henry Janeway against the perfidious developers of something called The Millennium Gate.  This is apparently a significant historical construction in the Star Trek universe, as much as the Great Wall of China, despite no one ever mentioning it before or since on any show.  O’Donnel’s tale is rather turned on its head thanks to Neelix’s searching of Space-Ancestry.com and informing Janeway that her ancestor was far less important to space-exploration history and the construction of the Gate than she thought.  Which means, as we see in the past, the ‘evil’ developers are actually good guys trying to build something significant for all humanity.  Shame they’re all going to die in the Eugenics Wars shortly I guess.

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Is someone playing Civ on the Voyager?

The tale, trite as it is, and reminiscent of Ent: Carpenter Street in tone, is rather spoiled by constant flashing back to the present on Voyager as everyone tells their tales of famous family members in a big old cosy gathering.  Guess Starfleet discipline’s finally fallen apart on Voyager…until next week.  What especially irritates is twofold.  Janeway’s tale is vaguely interesting, but it’s not really enough to support a whole episode.  And secondly, some of the tales the other crew tell of their ancestors sound much more engaging.  With the exception of Tacotray, who fails to bore everyone with another tale of his sodding ancestors. I ended up wishing the showrunners had gone for a Short Cuts/22 Short Tales About Springfield style melange episode, showing us vignettes from all of these ancestral stories.  This would have helped flesh out the crew’s humanity, not to mention giving every actor the fun of playing something slightly off-tangent.  Another real missed opportunity to give us more about the whole crew, at the expense of fleshing out more of Janeway’s tediously noble history.

Oh, two other irritations – one nerdy, one just pure Voyager.  Harry Kim talks of ‘sleeper ships’ in the early 2200s…which is totally contradicted by Enterprise’s adventures in the 2150s.  And Tom ‘History Professor’ Paris turns out to know everything about every single period in human history, again.  Remind me again, is he the bad boy pilot with the heart of gold, or the resident Data-substitute?  Sigh.

Relativity

AKA: They Keep Killing 7 of 9, Don’t They?  Voyager once again takes inspiration from Red Dwarf, notably Stasis Leak, as 7 of 9 is recruited by Captain ‘Oh no, not him again’ Braxton from the 29th Century to go back in time to avert the destruction of Voyager from a hidden bomb.  Only, he’s already sent her back a few times, and she’s either died or failed each time.  This time he plucks her from her timeline moments before Voyager’s destruction (for the third time, from Braxton’s perspective), and returns her to just before Voyager is commissioned to find the mysterious device that will destroy the ship in around 5 years time(4*) during a Kazon attack (5*).  This means we get the fantastic shot of the Utopia Planitia space yards above Mars, where the Voyager is undergoing final construction.  For a lover of Star Fleet’s ships, this is a real nerd-porn moment!

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Is that a Steamrunner class I espy down the lower right? SQUEEEE!

The episode cracks along at a good pace as 7 is flipped around the timeline until we find out the bad guy is…Captain Braxton himself, who suffered a mental breakdown in the future-future and caused all the problems his past self is trying to sort out.  Told you this was clearly riffing on Stasis Leak!  “I’m the Captain Braxton from the double-double future, and this is where everything starts to get a bit complicated“.   Seems Braxton remembered, and is still really mad about, everything that happened in Future’s End.  Ouch, and I thought they’d cured all mental illness forever back in the 23rd Century (cf. WTOS:Whom Gods Destroy)???

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Totally cured!

In the end, as 7 has travelled in time too much (until, you know, next time we need a time-travel story) Janeway has to be sent back in time instead.  Yes, yet again it’s the 7 and Janeway save the day show.  Sigh.  Almost like the Picard and Data saviour duo in TNG.  All’s well in the end, and despite the slightly wibbly-wobbly nonsensical nature of most time-travel stories, it makes for a highly enjoyable tale.  Even if technically Harry Kim dies another three times in the episode!

Warhead

All’s quiet on the bridge nightshift, which means it’s time for a Harry Kim centric adventure…or, is it?  No, it’s a story about an artificially intelligent weapon of mass destruction, that forms a close bond with one of the crew…not Harry, but the Doctor.  What an original idea…or rather it might have been if Voyager hadn’t already had Dreadnought back in S2.  This time though, rather than an exploration of B’elanna’s sin’s past, we find ourselves in the Doctor story archetype 101 as we ask ‘What does it mean to be sentient?‘.  Which means once again the ‘oh so enlightened’ Federation officers suddenly get cold feet when a genuine ‘new life’ appears before them.  Quoting from the Starfleet first contact protocols (as amended by Janeway):

First Contact Rule 17F: If the lifeform is not organic, then you are fully at liberty to consider it non-sentient, and therefore not covered under the Starfleet charter to seek out and cherish new life forms.  Feel morally enabled to explode, enslave or dismantle it to further your own goals.

Rule 17G: The same applies to any androgynous species Cmdr Riker might accidentally procreate with.

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“If I said you had a beautiful plasma-conduit, would you hold it against me?”

Considering the next two episodes (no peeking ahead now) are all about the ethics of Starfleet vs enlightened pragmatic self-interest, this episode provides a very sharp, and critical, relief.  Anyway, quickly the story evolves into Doctor Story Archetype 102: Bob Picardo get’s to play eeeevil, as the missile holds Voyager hostage as it tries to carry out its original destructive, purpose.  Thankfully, despite a 7 of 9 saves-the-day effort, the scriptwriter remembers this episode started out focussing on Harry Kim (remember him?) and he talks the missile into true self-awareness, just in time to allow it to sacrifice itself to take down the remainder of its AI missile chums.  Not a bad story, and the Doctor is always enjoyable, but I really get the sense I’ve seen this all before now.

Equinox, Part I

AKA: Sliding Voyagers, as we find out what happens to a Starfleet crew dumped in the Delta Quadrant who don’t have Janeway’s adherence to the mores of the Federation, Harry Kim’s idealism and whatever the hell it is that Tacotray brings to the mix.  Probably something about medicine bundles, I suppose.  Yes, it’s time to meet the few remaining crew members of the USS Equinox, headed up by Captain Rudy Ransom, who unlike our regular heroes have forsaken those Prime Directives in a big way.  Which explains why, despite being limited to Warp 8, they’ve managed to skip across 35,000ly of space (hey, we’re halfway home!) in the same time as the good old Voyager.  Being in the Delta Quadrant, it’s been a while since we enjoyed the ‘Mad, bad and dangerous to know‘ Starfleet captain trope – TOS was full of them, and the other serieses haven’t exactly been shy to explore this idea either(6*).  Hence, there’s little surprise when the dodgy dealings of the Equinox crew quickly come to light – crystallizing some extra-dimensional aliens to make super-fuel…and aforementioned aliens are understandably pissed as hell at this.

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Did I mention I love Starfleet ships?

Cue the tiny crew of the Equinox running rings around the supposedly larger and better organised Voyager crew to nick off with their spare shield parts, leaving Janeway and crew the face the misdirected wrath of the aliens.  Remind me again Kathy, about how your well ordered ship and its crew’s adherence to Starfleet regulations makes you better?  Because from the evidence here, you were like a bunch of cadets against Ransom and crew.  And there were are…unlike last year a bit of a cliffhanger to go out of S5…

Oh. I should also mention, for no-sodding-narrative reason at all, Naomi Wildman get’s a scene in this episode.  Why?  Fucked if I know, it does nothing to advance the plot other than to remind us all that the hated brat is still breathing, and hasn’t been tastefully vapourised by a plasma conduit blowout.  Yet, I live in hope, but also fear as I know I’m getting closer to the monstrously awful addition to the crew of the liberated Borg children.  Is that S6 or do I get a period of grace until S7?  I’m not sure, and I won’t be checking ahead to find out!

There you go, that’s the 5th season put to bed.  A season of real highs (Bride of Chaotica, Timeless), utter lows (Thirty Days, Once Upon a Fucking Time) and missed opportunities to do something stunning (11:59).  Yet, I come away feeling it was a stronger season, sure Harry and B’Elanna got reduced to supporting cast, and Tom’s story arc makes no sense, but I felt most importantly, Tacotray got less screen time than ever.  And that can only be a good thing.  Bring on S6, and hopefully Naomi Wildman falling headfirst into the warp reactor!!!

1*: It’s at 23:22 onwards.  Go watch it.  I can wait.  Although you may never sleep again afterwards.
2*: Fun fact – I walked down the aisle with my new bride to the opening music to ST:FC.  Some of the guests knew what it was, including the vicar!  The rest, in blissful ignorance
3*: Unless, like me you spotted that Paris is wearing his Lt (jg) pips rather than his Ensign rank.  That’s a bit of a giveaway that not all is kosher here.
4*: I can only assume that this bomb hasn’t been found for 5 years by any engineers repairing Voyager’s extensive damage, due to a sorta bootstrap paradox – it wasn’t there in the past to find until this episode’s events, and then it was always there.
5*: The Kazon: about whom no one ever said “Hey, I miss the Kazon, I wish they’d come back again“.  Notably, there’s only exterior shots, so no actors get to play these ersatz Klingon-wannabes here.
6*: Off the top of my head at least cf. TNG: The Wounded, TOS: Whom Gods Destroy, TOS: Turnabout Intruder, TOS: The Doomsday Machine

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The Great Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: Season 5 (part 1)

Last time on Star Trek Voyager…  Well here we are again, happy as can be, only three seasons left to go before Janeway becomes a deranged Borg smashing Admiral, and Harry Kim gets any character growth.  Joke.  I’ve no hope left Harry will achieve any such thing, he’ll just keep on dying and being replicated for the remaining three years of the voyage home.  Right, no more prevaricating…on with the season!

Night

A rather lovely low key intro to the 5th season, which like Hope and Fear before it, actually addresses some of the longer term implications of the ship’s now 4 year+ voyage home.  As the ship crosses the Void, an extensive region of utter darkness for months on end, the crew are dealing with the boredom in their own ways.  Paris plays Captain Proton (1st appearance for a much loved holonovel), Harry plays his oboe (for the 2nd time) and Janeway…Janeway collapses into existential despair over her actions at the Caretaker’s array in the first place.  That the Captain is essentially sulking in her cabin like a moody teenager for weeks on end, says something about the Voyager crew’s mental fitness that is rarely addressed.  I know Starfleet only takes the best, but you really might expect a few more of them by now to have started suffering from all kinds of mental problems, that can’t be cured with a quick wave of the Doctor’s medical-bio-wand. Sorry, tricorder.

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Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I’m off to my cabin to eat gagh!

Bonus points to the episode for giving Neelix nihiliphobia, for once I’m utterly with old gerbil-features.  Naturally, the Doctor tells him to pull his socks up and get used to it.  Honestly, the Enterprise-D gets a councillor to help the Enterprise’s crew deal with the slightest worry, the Voyager get’s WWI style reactions to mental disorders.  It’s a wonder Harry Kim isn’t permanently shackled to his bed by now screaming “I died and then I wasn’t dead!” constantly, such is the paucity of the mental care of this vessel.

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This radiation is so bad, I forgot to wear any clothes

Sadly, halfway through this episode we encounter a Malon freighter captain who is using the Void to dump radiation, which is pissing off the humanoid lifeforms who live there no end.  This seriously pisses the Starfleet crew off, but as the Malon have access to a spacial-rift that could cut 2 years off their passage through the Void…they can’t just say “Naughty polluters” and call out Captain Planet.  Anyway, as something exciting is now happening, Janeway comes out of her sulk and in an effort to assuage her guilt over dumping the crew in the Delta Quadrant offers to stay behind to seal the rift, sacrificing herself so her crew can all get home AND the local Void population gets protected.  A win-win, rather than the win-lose at the Caretaker’s Array.  Naturally the crew tell her to naff off, and riding a wave of explosions they make it out of the void and into a whole new region of space, packed with systems.  New possibilities await now, and no doubt we’ll never see any of the old Delta Quadrant races we’ve seen to date now, like the Kazon, Vidiian or Borg!

Drone

I spoke too soon.

A classic Trek trope kicks this one off – a transporter incident!  For reasons that are, not well explained, the Doctor’s 29th Century mobile emitter and 7 of 9 make a baby Borg together.  Or at least that’s what seems to be the case.  Anyway, what with all this ‘seeking new live, and new civilisations’ Janeway let’s the sprog grow to term, and before you know it, 7 of 9 is teaching him how to be an individual and not a drone.  Yes, it’s 7’s plotlines from early S4 all over again.  Still One seems to be a nice enough chap, and integrates with the crew far more rapidly than 7, and even after he inadvertently calls in his Borg chums sides with the Starfleet crew, sacrificing his existence in the end so that Borg don’t keep chasing him for his hyper-advanced technology.

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This is what simply EVERYONE’s wearing in the 29th century, dah-ling

Sad.  Nice little story though, despite its resonances with last season.  And at least, surely this is the last time we have to deal with the Borg? Right?

Extreme Risk

For once the ‘on the edge, acting dodgy’ plot staple is awarded to Tom’s girlfriend, B’Elanna rather than Mr Paris himself.  Maybe this was written as a Tom plot, but the actors complained that it was time Torres had a centric story again to balance things out.  Whatever the answer, in this adventure Torres is being a bad, emo kind of girl.  Playing holodeck games with the safety protocols switched off. Quelle horreur!  Turns out she’s bummed out by the deaths back in the Alpha Quadrant of all the Marqui.  Hence she’s acting out like a moody teenager until the ship’s ersatzt councillor, Tacotray, calls her on it.

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“Screw this plot line…I’m outta here!”

There’s a b-story about the Delta Flyer, Tom Paris’ super shuttle racing into a gas giant against some aliens to recover one of voyager’s probes (I always thought they were pretty disposable, given the number Starfleet just chucks out, but oh no, Janeway gets all possessive over this one).  Naturally, B’Elanna has to come along and loh and behold, her extreme experiences come in handy in saving them all from being crushed.  And with the addition of some banana pancakes, Torres deep clinical depression is cured just like that.  Wow, Federation metal health treatment really is light years ahead of reality. (He added, very sarcastically).

In the Flesh

Meanwhile back at Starfleet Command…except it’s not!  That’s pretty much the strapline for this episode, where the Voyager runs across a space station set up with aliens cosplaying at being Starfleet officers at the San Francisco Academy.  Yes, Voyager has stumbled over the Pasadena Star Trek Convention and must face down an army of aggravated nerds once Janeway and crew start acting like total Buzz Killingtons and wreak things.

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Alien misses clear opportunity to suck Tacotray’s spinal cord out

Eh?  Oh, right, sorry.  Turns out, actually, this is Species 8472’s advanced simulation for invading Federation space…for…you know…reasons.  Okay, turns out half way through it’s all those nanoprobes the Voyager crew helped the Borg weaponise, are the casus belli this time.  Actually, it’s not too bad an episode, even given the large amount of screentime devoted to Tacotray and his love affair with one of the transmogrified fluidic space denizens.  I confess I was rather hoping he’d try to jump the bones of his ‘not really a lady’ love, only to have her dissolve all over him with icky biohorror goo.  Sadly, half-way through, once the ruse is up, it all turns into a spot of light diplomacy between the two different races with only the mildest of threats.  Even worse, this means that the new, uber-threat that replaced the nerfed Borg, Species 8472, have themselves been bowdlerised by Voyager.  It’s a pity that a terrifying cosmic threat…remains a terrifying cosmic threat (cf. The Shadows pretty much throughout Babylon 5)

Once Upon a Time

No one dies in this one.  There you go, I’ve told you everything to need to know to just skip past this one.

Still watching?  You glutton for punishment!

You just know from the outset, that any episode which opens with a long segment focussing on Scrappy-Doo analogue Naomi Wildman and her dippy-ippy Federation indoctrination holodeck programme chums, is likely to be godammned awful.  Moreover, this one features lots of surrogate father “Death is nothingness forever” Neelix in prime god-father caring mode, helping Naomi cope when her mum suffers a surprisingly non-fatal if nasty incident on an away mission.  However, by the time we reached this story I was still hurling chunks all over the carpet, thanks to the horrifically saccharine introduction.  Honestly, it reminded me of The Cost of Living, a near unwatchable TNG episode.  Why oh why must Trek go down the Cousin Oliver narrative route again?  Did we not learn with the sucky Alexander kid episodes(*)?

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Everything in this scene is utterly vile

Let me see if I can find SOMETHING to like about this episode?  Okay, it’s probably going to have to be sentient gerbil Neelix’s sudden remembrance of the plotline around the Metreon Cascade and his sister’s death.  That was good, much overdue, and well acted by Ethan Phillips, demonstrating once again that when you give even a lame character played by a good actor something worthwhile, that their acting talent shines through.  More pathos like this, of sins and losses past, and an exploration of Neelix suppressing it all in order to be the happy clown morale office, could so easily have made him the standout character of the show.  That the showrunners didn’t, is one of many reasons Voyager’s the weakest of the Trek series by a couple of megaparsecs.

Anyway, the rest of this abominable awful episode is concerned with Neelix trying to keep her mother’s possible demise secret from Naomi, and catastrophically failing when the precocious sprog enters the bridge during the attempted rescue and recovery mission.  This raises two big questions.  One: How the hell is a child allowed access to the most important and restricted parts of the ship?  Surely the ship computer could lock her out, under what is known in the Starfleet manual as The Wesley Requirement.  Two: What the utter FUCK has happened to Janeway’s hair in this episode?  Did she let 7 braid it during one of their frequent (I assume) off camera Mother/Daughter holodeck bonding sessions, and she’s not got the heart to tell the former drone that it looks utterly shite?

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Janeway – What. The. Hell.

That aside – you can skip this episode in good health and not miss anything much at all. In fact, go watch Threshold, it features a shuttle crash and while rubbish, is 1000% more enjoyable a watch than this monstrosity.

God help my sanity when the fucking Borg children come aboard too.

Timeless

Great Scott!  A decent episode, and more important a Harry Kim centric one.  I honestly cannot remember the last time the Eternal Ensign got to appear centre stage!  Although, this said, once again it seems Harry can’t be allowed to headline an episode alone, and gets partnered with Tacotray in this tale set 15 years hence.  It also falls victim to Harry Kim Trope 101: Harry Dies.  Honestly, he can’t catch a break, can he.

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Late-30s Harry has gone really grey

Anyway, 15 years in the future, future Harry and future Tacotray, along with future random-chick, find the ruins of the Voyager in the ice of a world on the edge of Federation space.  Turns out in the past (that’s the Voyager present day) Harry made a massive booboo when trying to assist with Voyager’s maiden quantum slipstream drive flight…killing everyone onboard.  But no worries, thanks to 7 of 9’s hitherto never mentioned (or ever mentioned again) temporal headchip, he can send a message back in time to avert catastrophe.  Just a couple of pickles in the ointment: the first message he sends back actually causes the disaster in the first place and…oh yes, he and Tacotray are on the run from the Federation – who are able represented in hot pursuit by cameo Captain Geordi LaForge(2*).  Still, at the end we’re 10 whole years (so ~10,000ly) closer to home, so it’s a bit of a rare win for the crew all round.

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The real reason the Voyager crashed…drunk astrogation!

The pointless and underdeveloped Tacotray romantic subplot (again?!) aside, there are numerous standout moments in this episode.  The Voyager crash is easily the best and most dramatic SFX I’ve seen on the show.  The slow-mo celebration inaugurating the Quantum Slipstream drive is a masterful celebration of the show (which, not incidentally, hit 100 episodes with this tale), and Garrett Wang gives his single best performance of the show to date – utterly convincing as older and present Harry as disparate people without the need for much makeup.  Tacotray…less so, given he appears not to have aged in 15 years.  Honestly, episodes like this make me glad i stuck with the show through dreck like Once Upon a Time!

Infinite Regress

Ah, it’s 7 of 9 again, this time in 7 of 9 Story variant #3: Something Borgy goes wrong and threatens everyone (3*).  This time, it’s a virus infected Borg vinculum that triggers off the latent memories of all the thousands of assimilated Borg to whom she used to be connected.  Before anyone can say ‘blatant opportunity for an actor to demonstrate their range’, 7’s been overwhelmed and starts cycling through all the personas.  So we get kiddie 7 playing games with sodding Naomi Wildman(4*), attempting to copulate Klingon stylee with B’Elanna and looking for a mother’s son lost at Wolf 359 among many other briefer cameos.  Joking aside, Jeri Ryan is pretty good in the different roles, even as I rather suspect the episode was written as an opportunity for the actress to cut loose from the uptight emotionless Borgette she normally has to play.

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Borg Tech: Where green isn’t just a lifestyle choice, it’s required

Anyway, turns out the vinculum is actually a sacrificial booby trap left by an alien race, who don’t take too kindly to Janeway and chums’ efforts to disentangle 7 from it.  They were rather hoping it would sink the Borg.  Hang on.  As of last episode we’re 10,000ly further away from the Borg than ever…how sodding far does their collective reach?  I thought Kes had shunted the Voyager well past Borg space in The Gift last season…and yet they’re still everywhere.  How come they’ve not conquered the entire Galaxy by now thanks to transwarp corridors, if they can quite literally pop out anywhere in the Delta and Alpha Quadrant they fancy?  Narrative inconsistencies, thy name is Star Trek.

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Connect 4: Alive and well in the 24th Century

That said, it’s an enjoyable enough episode.  At least it was until I drop kicked my TV in the closing scene as 7 of 9 bonds with emergent Mary Sue, Naomi Wildman.  Someone, get that kid assimilated or liquidated quick – she’s rapidly surpassing Tacotray as my trigger point for hating on an episode.

Nothing Human

Any episode that starts off with a clear shout out to that other famous holographic starship crew member, Arnold J Rimmer‘s slide-show lecture on his hiking holiday through Red Dwarf‘s Diesel Decks, warms me from the open.  Yes, things have got so bad aboard Voyager (clearly no Class B Gaseous Anomalies around to survey) that everyone’s sitting through repeat performances of the Doctor’s slideshow entitled “The Doctor: My Greatest Achievements To Date“.  Sadly, while this announces to the viewer ‘It’s a Doctor Episode!’, it quickly turns out it’s going to be a medical ethics one.  When B’Elanna get’s splurged and entangled by a non-humanoid alien that baffles the EMH, the Voyager crew (okay Harry…who despite being the most junior of officers is THE holo-programming whiz after B’Elanna) puts together another EMH.  Or rather they create an Emergency Medical Consultant in the shape of renowned exobiology specialist (and spoon-headed Cardassian) Dr Crell Moset to advise and assist.

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Honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference between the two!

Hands up anyone who’s seen any episode involving Cardassians and the Bajoran occupation who didn’t predict that the big reveal was going to be Dr Moset is essential Dr Mengele?  Anyone?  Anywhere?  Yeah, me neither.  Naturally, we then head off into a whole heap of debates contrasting saving Torres’ life vs using medical research collected through applied crimes against humanities (or sentients anyway).  The answer, unsurprisingly is, we probably shouldn’t but hey we saved B’Elanna let’s all brush this under the carpet.  Best we don’t give her survivor’s guilt or anything, that drops her back into the fragile mindset she had back in Extreme Risk or, hell, give Torres some character development outside of the ‘Toraris’ coupling.  Oh, while this is all going on, Janeway has a dull story about translating the squidgy alien’s language and getting him shipped back to his ‘people’.  But you can safely skip past all those scenes as they don’t amount to anything of any particular interest.

Thirty Days

So, it’s come to this.  5 seasons of character development of Tom Paris away from the ‘very naughty boy’ who came aboard at the start of the show, into a rounded adventurer and Starfleet officer.  Demoted in rank and stuck in the brig for 30 days, as he narrates a flashback letter to his father about what happened.  Long story short, he followed his conscience, breached Starfleet regs and disobeyed orders to do the morally right thing.  Had this been 7 of 9, she’d have got a slap on the wrist and a bit of a talking to.  Because it’s Tom ‘Whipping Boy’ Paris though, we get a demotion to ensign and a prison sentence.  It really feels out of character for Janeway to be quite this harsh, and demonstrates the clear favouritism operating under her command structure.  I know if I was in Starfleet, I’d really not want her as my commanding officer!

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Do NOT be around one of these guys with a cold

The actually framing story around Paris’ ‘misdeeds’, concerns a genuinely interesting stellar phenomena, in a slowly destabilising planet sized water ball and an alien race who inhabit it.  Enjoyable enough, although the aliens’ make-up job comes straight out of the ‘good enough, let’s not bother’ Voyager playbook.  The highlight of the episode comes early on when we (finally) meet the Delaney sisters, playing along with Tom and Harry in a Captain Proton holodeck adventure.  Some good gags, although as usual we watch Harry strike out in the dating game.  Additionally, would Torres be that happy that Tom’s off playing ‘games’ with these attractive twins?  Hmnnn.

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‘Please show us your proton, Tom’

Side note: I hear tell that Garrett ‘Harry Kim’ Wang has explained at conventions why the showrunners kept Harry as an ensign for Voyager’s entire run.  No, not incompetent world building (yes it is) but because ‘Someone has to be the ensign’ they told him.  Now Tom’s an ensign, surely this would be the perfect time to promote Harry?  Hah.  No.  No they don’t.  Honestly, this show makes me scream sometimes!

Counterpoint

Aha – an episode I’ve seen a few times for a change, down to it being a Kate Mulgrew ‘favourite’ pick in a few Star Trek retrospectives.  And while it’s not a bad Captain Janeway centric one, it’s hardly one of the most standout episodes of the show.  Voyager gets repeatedly boarded and inspected by members of the Devorian Imperium, a race of space-nazis hunting space jews.  Or telepaths, rather.  The creepy Inspector Kashyk later defects and works with Janeway to find the underground railroad…sorry, wormhole through which these poor telepaths can escape.  But *shocking musical sting* it turns out he’s a double agent, still loyal to the Imperium.  Luckily, Kathy, despite being drawn into a semi-romance with Kashyk never fully trusted him and had been running her own double bluff.  Or counterpoint, if you will.

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He was only obeying orders…can he help it though, if he loves it!?

Er…that’s about it.  While an enjoyable enough episode, I was never convinced for a moment that Kashyk was actually a turncoat.  He’s just soooo eager to help the telepaths all of a sudden, after being a literal moustache twirling villain in the earlier moments of the story, that his heel-turn fails to feel authentic.  Sadly, he also fails to execute Naomi Wildman as annoyance during his repeated inspections, so he loses points from me there too.

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This episode embodies everything that is wrong with Voyager.

During some routine diagnostics, the Doctor discovers Harry’s had an operation that he never performed.  Except he did, he just doesn’t remember it.  Turns out there was also another Ensign on the Voyager who the Doctor doesn’t remember too.  Before he can shout ‘Mind stealing aliens’, it turns out it was Captain Janeway who had his memory erased.  Why?  Because despite 7 seasons of Data on TNG, and 5 of the Doctor on Voyager, and decades of Starfleet searching out ‘new life forms and new civilisations’, when they pop up in their midst, they’re treated as little more than a replicator.  And when the Doctor gets the BSOD(5*), you just press the reset switch and start over.  Wow, way to utterly ignore all the high minded ethics the Voyager captain espouses in encounters with every other life form in the Delta Quadrant.

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If you have an ethical dilemma, for fuck’s sake, don’t go ask Neelix for advice!

Janeway’s justification for her actions, was the Doctor had a mental breakdown after he had to choose to save only one of two identically valuable and injured patients.  Hence, the reset.  When she restores his memories, not unsurprisingly he has a meltdown all over again.  Then, because this is how you treat mental illness on Voyager, they sit him a room for two weeks to talk to himself.  No, they don’t create a holo-recreation of history’s greatest thinkers, philosophers or psychoanalysts.  They just sit the Doctor, in an empty room, while bored crewmen and women sit and read books and let him rave, until a spot of poetry cures him.

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“Of course. Poetry cures mental illness”

Yep.  That’s the conclusion.  Massive psychological trauma can be cured by a ‘bit of an old sit and think’, and a spot of ‘hackneyed Hallmark poetry’.  The thing is, the idea that the Doctor has repressed memories, and that we lost a crewperson who NO-ONE ever mentions accidentally in the 18 months since she died, is actually a really interesting hook.  Bob Picardo, as per usual does wonders with it, but the payoff is wake and Janeway’s attitude is utterly implausible.  With 30 Days and this episode, I’m beginning to wonder if Janeway’s actually been replaced by an imposter.  If that turns out to be the case a few episodes on, I may revise my opinion of this episode.  But as it stands, it’s a trite resolution and a poor treatment of what could be a fascinating topic.  Because you and I know full well…we will NEVER…EVER mention that the Doctor had to overcome this difficulty again.  Just like Neelix, he’ll be back to his irascible, happy self next time.

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Janeway looks about as happy with this episode as I feel

Poor show, Voyager showrunners, poor show indeed.

Bride of Chaotica!

THIS episode made watching the preceding 4.5 seasons worth it.  Without a doubt this is the single most enjoyable, well scripted and polished story that the show’s produced, and it’s not (really) in the slightest bit serious.  Right in the middle of Ens Tom Paris’ latest Captain Proton holodeck adventure, a load of photonic creatures turn up – and taking their lead from the 1930s stylings of Proton’s adventures, turn themselves into a load of G-Men.  G-Men who wage a (losing) war against the evil of Doctor Chaotica, since to them it’s all very real, causing the Voyager to become immobilised.  Needless to say, hilarity soon ensues.

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Satan’s Robot: My new hero!

And for once, I mean that without a hint of sarcasm.  There are too many awesome moments to choose just one:  from the Doctor’s ‘President of Earth’, through to Chaotica’s reformed and moronic robot, to Janeway’s incredible ‘Queen Arachnia’, they’re all wonderful stuff.  Even Harry and Tom, largely playing the straight guys, have plenty to do with their screentime.  However, the true standout performer of the episode is Martin Rayner as Dr Chaotica, he chews the scenery like a pro, and even remembers to claw his hand as he falls into his own nuclear reactor.  Sorry, Proton’s destructo-ray.

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What out for her (bottled) pheromones!

The cast really demonstrate in this one their comfort with each other’s acting talents in the way they bounce off each other.  It’s a damned shame we don’t see the Janeway/Paris pairing more often as Mulgrew and McNeill really demonstrate a great onscreen partnership that’s very easy on the eye.  If only more episodes of Voyager were half as this decent as Bride of Chaotica!, these reviews would a lot easier to write!

Gravity

After the last episode, I wasn’t too keen to go into what looks like a dull ‘how Tuvok got his logic’ flashback centric episode (what is it with this guy and Flashbacks?).  We learn how kid-Tuvok was Billy-everyteen hot over some alien chick, and had to be sent to the equivalent of Vulcan reform school to get over himself.  And her.  The framing story though has a Voyager shuttle, containing Tuvok, Paris and the Doctor, crash into a planet (6*).  Tuvok soon runs into a feisty local, Noss (played by an excellent Lori ‘Tank Girl’ Petty), who replays the love story in reverse – only this time, Tuvok has to be the emotionally distant, logical teacher.  For a moment I thought ‘Oh gawd, this is mentoring Kes all over again‘!  But actually, the not-quite-love story of the pair, set against the efforts of the quartet to get off the planet, does make for a rather enjoyable explanation of what Tuvok tick.  In fact, I think this is the closest we’ve ever got to seeing just how much Vulcan’s struggle with their emotions.  At least until T’Pol starts sniffing Trellium-D.

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Teenage Tuvok was a real douche

Meanwhile, Voyager is hampered in her efforts to recover the crew who’ve dropped through a subspace ‘sinkhole’ caused by a gravitational anomaly.  It’s not quite Interstellar’s Gargantua, but it’s nice for once to see the speculative effects of gravitational time-dilation impacting on the show – time is passing much faster for the crashed crew than Voyager, which causes a bit of a hiccup in the rescue, albeit, not a big enough one to cause Harry more than a few seconds worry.  The episode ends with a rather touching mind-meld between Tuvok and Noss, who might not part as lovers as she hoped, but at least leave as something more than friends.  Rather an adult theme for what is at heart of a show about rubber foreheaded aliens and terrible captain’s hairdos.


And…we’re done on this half of the season.  Do join me in the next post where I’ll head in a glut of good episodes.  Well, Equinox Pt1 and Dark Frontier aren’t bad anyway…

* Okay, I’ll grant a Fistfull of Datas has its moments
2* Unsurprisingly LeVar Burton’s the episode’s director too.  Nice two for one deal there Paramount
3* The other two variants are of course #1: 7 learns about being human from Janeway and #2: 7 saves the day, Wesley style!
4* Can’t we have more than one episode off from her? I was praying in Timeless, that Harry wouldn’t change history – just to leave insufferable Naomi ‘Wesley Crusher’ Wildman dead and frozen forever.
5* Yes, we’re back at ripping off Red Dwarf again.  This time, it’s The Last Day and the ‘metaphysical dichotomy’ that stops Hudzen 10 in his tracks. If only he’d had some poetry about calculators to fall back on!
6* I’ve concluded that if we log how many time’s a ‘Voyager shuttle crashes’ is the inciting incident, we’d find about 40-50% of plotlines start that way.  If Starfleet and Voyager was real, no sane person would get into one of them, that’s for sure!