The Great Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: Season 7 (part 2)

What came before: Season 1 | 2A/2B | 3A/3B | 4A/4B | 5A/5B | 6A/6B | 7A

Will the final segment of Voyagers final season be as strong as the opening episodes? I’m actually quite hopeful, especially as I’ve calculated at best there’s only one Tacotray-centric episode left to sit through. Or at least, that’s my fondest hope! [1]

Prophecy

A band of non-orthodox Klingons (my god, remember them) who’ve been flying a classic D7 cruiser for four generations on a holy quest to find their messiah runs into the Voyager. After a brief exchange of fire, they discover the suddenly very pregnant Torres [2], who their commander decides is to be the mother of the aforementioned holy child. Not a virgin birth though, as Tom is quick to point out. So convinced is the Klingon Commander, that he blows his ship up and 200+ Klingons move aboard a suddenly very crowded Voyager. Cue an episode of two parts. One part hilarious culture clash between the Federation and Klingon crew – which culminates…and I can’t believe I’m saying this…in a hot sexual encounter between Neelix and one of the Klingon females. In Tuvok’s bed.

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Man, I miss that classic D7 design!

Gah. God. No. Need the brain bleach. It was bad enough thinking about him and Kes making the plasma-conduit with two outputs, without this mental image!

The other half of the story is Torres reconnecting with her long abandoned Klingon heritage (you know, aside from everything that happened in Barge of the Dead which she’s conveniently forgotten). However, the Klingon Commander explains early on, while he knows she’s (probably) not the de facto messiah, his crew need something to believe in again after over a century of fruitless searching. Hence, she’s mother of the messiah de jure, and that’s good enough for him. Not all the Klingons are convinced (I mean, Paris is a total wimp), so cue some hot bat’leth action, revealing all the Klingons have a funky space plague, which they’ve now generously given to Torres and child. As per usual, given this isn’t a Doctor episode, the EMH whips up a cure from the baby’s stem cells in next to no time. Then the Klingons bugger off to a new planet, deciding to forget all about this crazy space travel and holy quest thing.

For a Klingon spiritual episode, it’s not a pile of crap (shocker), and there’s some good performances, especially from the Klingons and Torres. I also couldn’t believe how glad I was to see the Klingons, after all the ‘forehead of the week’ Delta Quadrant aliens.  But the whole Neelix subplot…lowers this one down to ‘worst of season so far’ status!

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Was it good for you too, Mr Neelix?

Most Typically Voyager Moment: The Tuvok and Neelix Odd Couple comedy subplot. Stop trying to make wacky things happen by pairing these two up, okay!?

The Void

Voyager gets sucked into a strange dark void, devoid (ho ho) of stars, planets or anything of much use[3]. Here they must survive the predatory survivalistic instincts of all the other ships sucked in here, who prey upon one another to survive. A bit like DayZ, Ark, H1Z1, etc., then, although no one pointlessly tea-bags Harry Kim (for shame)! After a rough start (‘Hey dude, where’s my deuterium?!‘), Janeway applies Federation Philosophy 101 and builds her own little Federation of stranded ships, by employing the My Name is Earl methodology of ‘Do nice things, and nice things will happen to you‘. Through giving away little bits and pieces, and by ensuring member ships (did you see what I did there?) don’t violate the ‘Don’t be a dick to others‘ rule, the Voyager crew are able to cooperate their way the hell out of the void. This is a really, really nice little self-contained story, dealing with an unexpected space-hazard, the like of which I’d have loved to have seen more during the series. Additionally, given how this episode rather showcases the power of the Federation ethos, I think we can all agree, that this one is 100% authentically Star Trek!

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Irritating musical alien is very irritating

There’s a subplot where the Doctor and 7 teach an alien to communicate through the power of music, which has the hilarious (I hope it’s intentional) homage to Close Encounters: as 7 plays her electric organ.

That last bit sounds a lot ruder than it is, okay.

Most Typically Voyager Moment: No tears are shed for all the ships left behind. Not even a warning buoy to say warn future ships they’ll be sucked into a living hell. Nice, Janeway, really classy move.

Workforce, Part I

Okay, let’s get the snark out of the way first. I’ve lived through the ‘Voyager’s been taken over and the crew are turfed out‘ trope more than once before (e.g. Basics), and also the ‘crew reprogrammed to live lives that aren’t their own‘ one too (e.g. The Killing Game). So, while we might not be on 100% original ground, Workforce Pt I actually represents rather an enjoyable tale. One which starts in media-res, as might be expected, with Janeway et al slaving away as workers on a not-too-terrible-but-slightly-authoritarian world of Quarra. Janeway’s not working so hard, thanks to being relieved of her officer duties, that she doesn’t have time to have a little romantic interlude with one of her non-Voyager co-workers. It’s a neat little storyline, which brings quite a freshness to her character this late in the game. Although, I spent most of the episode waiting for her paramour, Jaffen, to be revealed as a ‘bad guy’ (he’s not). Meanwhile, reprogrammed-Tom and reprogrammed-B’elanna seem destined to meet even when you wipe their minds and dump them separately on a planet.

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Brain-washed Janeway almost melts down the entire planet…whoops

Mid-way through the tale Harry Kim (and his funky intestinal parasites), along with Mr Neelix and Tacotray, return from yet another away mission in the Delta Flyer, to find a Voyager deserted. Deserted except for the triumphant return of the Emergency Command Hologram (huzzah!). The Doctor does look fab in a red uniform! All of this is a cue to finally start unpicking what happened, as we discover how the crew were captured thanks to a space-mine honey-trap. Hang on, why is it ALWAYS Harry Kim who’s Johnny on the Spot for the these takeovers? (cf. The Killing Game again)

Turns out there’s a sector-wide labour shortage, which is why the crew got press-ganged, into a workforce, albeit one which’s not exactly massively over exploited. Everyone appears to live in some quite nice apartments, and despite a nighttime curfew, are living pretty reasonable lives in return for their labour. Basically then, they’re slaves, but slaves with benefits. All of which means it’s time for some swift cosmetic surgery for Tacotray so he and Neelix can go undercover. Although as they do, Mr Tuvok starts rejecting his mental conditioning all on his own.

Naturally, the one question the episode fails to answer…what happened to Naomi Wildman? Is she enslaved in some juvenile capacity?

Most Typically Voyager Moment: Yet ANOTHER Delta Flyer away mission turns into a ‘save the ship’ agenda. I think this is the new regular ‘shuttle crash’ narrative trope.

Workforce, Part II

Thanks to the two-episode structure, Workforce has time to breath in terms of plot and characterisation. This means pretty much the entire central cast get some stuff to do, with the notable exception of Harry Kim, as always. Tacotray gets action hero stuff and Janeway romance, meanwhile it’s Tom and B’Elanna as the eternal lovers, with 7 and Tuvok heading up the resistance to mind-reprogramming storyline and freeing themselves/each other . Meanwhile, Neelix and the Doctor back aboard the Voyager get slightly less to do, but what they do get is enjoyable as they help to deprogramme a ‘rescued’ Torres . Although, the thought strikes me if, as the Doctor says, returning Torres’ memories is going to be traumatic: how will he cope with restoring the memories of the remaining 140 odd crew? Can he run in multiple versions of himself, perhaps? It’s never addressed, and annoyingly everyone else seems to get over being deprogrammed with a wave of the hand.

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24th Century Facebook sucks

The heart of the story though, is somewhat surprisingly, Janeway’s romance with Jaffen, a chap who is pretty much on the level and genuinely cares for the crusty-ex-Starfleet officer. Given this is late season 7, and there’s not going to be any new crew members aboard though, you just know it’s going to end badly. For him, anyway. And it certainly does, as the captain recovers her memories she tells Jaffen there’s no place for him in Voyager’s crew. All this despite the glaring example of Mr Neelix for the past seven years, who’s aboard, not ‘in the ranks’ and a key team member. Janeway though, still visibly traumatised by Neelix’s sexual encounter with the Klingons, harshly dumps Jaffen, and with it pretty much her last chance for a relationship in this show.

Oh, there’s also a plot about a native Quarran doctor and others uncovering the mind wiping of all the workers (not just the Starfleet crew), but that’s easily the least interesting part of the story.

Most Typically Voyager Moment: There’s a labour shortage, but Voyager’s actions have removed all the thousands of mind-wiped labourers. Total societal collapse lies ahead I suspect for the Quarra, but hey, let’s just jump quickly to warp and to hell with the serious consequences, eh?

Human Error

I thought the most nauseating thing I’d see this season was the post-coital Neelix. I was wrong. It was the moment 7 of 9 started sucking on Tacotray’s fingers. Don’t believe me, then feast your eyes![5]

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No, God, just NO!

I know, down the line, Voyager crams a 7/Tacotray romance down out throat, and this simulated romance is a way to hang a lampshade on what’s to come, but it doesn’t make the execution of it any the less nauseatingly fucking awful.

The main story is (yet another) one focusing on 7’s efforts to recover her humanity, and gain social graces. To this end, she’s running a holodeck programme and clearly hasn’t read up on what happened to Reg Barclay (TNG: Hollow Pursuits) when he was doing this sort of thing. Not like 7 to not do her homework, but then a lot of this episode takes everyone’s favourite ex-Borg crew member [6] through a lot of questionable character decisions. There’s some interesting moody pieces set to piano, as 7 explores her creative side, which televisually feel more akin to Battlestar Galactica than Voyager. Yet at the heart of 7’s adventures in advanced domesticity is the romance she explores with a holographic-Tacotray, which genuinely made my skin crawl to watch. Sub-zero chemistry would be a generous way to describe it.

I’m not even going to mention the sex-scene. I need to sleep tonight, okay.

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Cast get hammered to overcome horror of the episode they’re living through

The B-plot involves Voyager traversing a spatial test fire range, hampered somewhat by 7’s distractions on the holodeck, and the fact that the rest of the Starfleet crew are utterly clueless. Honestly, how DID they cope before Season 4? Kes was certainly no good at this sort of science thing! Do we find out who fired the subspace spatial torpedoes? Nope, which is a shame as it’d have been a better story than watching holo-Tacotray sleaze his way all over 7.

Ew.

Most Typically Voyager Moment: After the explicit character growth, a literal reset switch is thrown at the end when 7 refuses to undergo surgery to remove a Borg implant responsible for suppressing her emotional development. Resolving to live as a humourless misery, she neatly avoids any character development which might affect later scripts.

Q2

Yay! Q’s back! And he’s brought his son, who’s in need of some lessons in humanity. A bit like his dad did way back in TNG:Deja Q. Essentially, Q’s brought his bratty teenage son to Auntie Kathy to learn some humility…or humanity…or Qosity (the tale varies in its aims) to avoid him being turfed out by the Continuum. Q…er, cue wacky hijinks leading to a genuine life altering realisation for Q-Jnr. That’s not to say it’s not an enjoyable episode (90% of Q episodes are[7]), because it is, especially considering how Q-Jnr treats Neelix, 7 or Q-senior’s appearance in Janeway’s bath. However, it’s a lite, trite and frothy divergence on the way back home. Even if Q does shave a little off the distance as way of recompense to Janeway for her childminding activities.

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Where were you Q2 when I needed you in Season 1?

Most Typically Voyager Moment: That grinding feeling we’ve seen all these Q hijinks before, and that the episode doesn’t really add anything to the cannon.

Author, Author

A story of two parts, as the Doctor’s brilliantly, terribly, gloriously self-referential holonovel ‘Photons be Free‘ turns out to be mainly a thinly veiled character assassination of the rest of Voyager’s crew. Unsurprisingly, after experiencing his ‘creative’ vision for themselves, the Starfleet crew take steps to demand he revises it, lest they all be tarred as being pretty awful human beings. Also Janeway’s hair reverts to a terrifying Season 1 inspired bun in the holonovel, and that alone’s reason enough to demand a change. But in the meanwhile, Reg and Starfleet have finally established a brief daily contact with the Voyager, which means the Doctor’s been talking to a publisher[8] about his novel.

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Mr Marseille: Have ‘tache, will seduce.

And it’s this communication link which brings us to the second part, wherein the Doctor’s unrevised novel’s been released. It’s been distributed by a publisher who’s realised that holograms have no rights of ownership (or anything else) so he can pretty much profit off the back of the Doctor’s unrecognised holo-labour. Man, for a moment this is close to my actual research interests! Thus once more we experience TNG: The Measure of a Man, as the Doctor makes a legal case for his rights to be recognised not only as an author and control his work, but also on behalf of all those EMH-Mk1s we heard are scrubbing plasma conduits (cf. Life Line). Despite Tuvok’s impeccable case, the Doctor doesn’t manage to have holograms declared sentient (despite fulfilling as much of the criteria as Data), but he does get recognised as an original artist. Which, is something, I guess,

Although, if that’s not enough, his original holonovel is soon being read by all those decommissioned EMH-Mk1s…and may yet ferment the beginning of a photonic revolution. Pity we won’t be around to see that, as that actually sounds like quite an interesting story, with many a publisher and lawyer no doubt shortly hanging from the (holo) lamp posts.

Most Typically Voyager Moment: Quite a funny one for once, as Harry Kim’s parents as him directly why he’s not been promoted yet. He (and the series) has no credible answers to this one still! #Lampshaded

Friendship One

Quality dips once more for the next episode, with a middle of the road story that could, probably, have been slotted in during any season. After getting back in touch, it doesn’t take Starfleet long to send Voyager off on a mission to find a missing old Earth Bracewell probe that’s probably near them. You know, space being so small, the chances of Voyager being on exactly the right course to collect it being…ooooh, around 1 in 2. And wouldn’t you know it, they are on the right course. Sadly, Friendship 1 has contaminated a planet’s culture in more ways than one: teaching them how to make antimatter weapons and then having their own little World War III into the bargain. Hence, the Starfleet crew have to ride to the rescue, by helping to alleviate all the poor mutants’ suffering and sorting out their ravaged environment. Not a terrible episode, not a great one, and I guess it makes sense that as Voyager nears home[9] finding something sent out by the pre-warp civilization of Earth makes sense.

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‘Beep beep I come in Peace beep beep’

Most Typically Voyager Moment: Entire planetary nuclear winter cured with a few photo torpedos and 7’s omni-cure nanoprobes. There’s NOTHING nanoprobes can’t solve, meaning Voyager’s return to Earth will doubtless in short order cure all known diseases, world hunger and war.

Natural Law

Hear that sound? That’s a barrel being scraped to produce this utter shite-fest of an episode[10], which showcases (nearly) everything that’s awful about Voyager. Honestly, if you want to put anyone off watching ST:V, show them this and Once Upon A Time back to back. Hell, they’ll never watch any Trek again, it’s just such a singularity of pointlessness. This was an episode which I began to suspect was used so late in the show’s run because:

a) There’s a contractual obligation for us to suffer one more Tacotray centric script

b) Was unused in Season 1, and the showrunners were saving costs by using something from the ‘reject’ bin.

c) The showrunners wanted to build up and justify 7 & Tacotray’s ‘surprise romance’.

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‘In our language, this means, fuck off’

Whatever the reason, Voyager plot device 101 (shuttle crash on primitive world) sees 7 and Tacotray trapped on a mute-alien preserve. Meanwhile, Tom Paris has to undergo his driving test after being caught speeding. If this B story sounds instantly interesting, it is, and remains the sole redeeming feature of a fucking awful episode. Tacotray stories are generally crappy, but this is the worst we’ve endured since that boxing one way back when. Tediously paced, dreadfully acted (especially the aliens) and utterly skipable, this is one episode I will never, ever watch again.

Most Typically Voyager Moment: Janeway explains to the Ledosians the Federation’s policy on not supplying advanced tech, despite episodes earlier pointing out they’ve done it dozens of times in the Delta Quadrant.

Homestead

Voyager’s travelled the sum total of 50,000ly from where she started thanks to a variety of methods: slingshots, Borg transwarp, benevolent space gods etc. Which means the planets of Ocampa and Talaxia are a long, long, long way behind. So, Neelix isn’t the only one to be gobsmacked to discover a colony of his people eeking out a life on the other side of the galaxy from where they started. It’s never really explained how they made it this far (and no one even questions if they’re, for example, Species 8472 in disguise). All that matters for the episode’s narrative is that they’re here, and in need of help from being oppressed by a local species. Naturally, Neelix falls into a leadership role with his kin, and saves the day. Along the way he meets a widow and her son, to whom he rapidly becomes a potential partner and father figure. and since Naomi ‘the Monster’ Wildman blately tells him she doesn’t need him anymore (cow), he takes his rejection hard and quits the Voyager crew to start a new life as a semi-official ‘Starfleet Ambassador to the Delta Quadrant’ [11].

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Heart warming/stomach churning: make your own mind up

Oh, I’ve just seen in the episode notes this is officially the last appearance of Naomi Wildman in the show. Thank fuck for that.

Most Typically Voyager Moment: No one bothers to explore how the photon the Talaxians got this far across space. They’re just there to give a narrative reason to dump the annoying gerbil man off the ship.

Renaissance Man

This is it – the last Voyager episode I’ve never seen before! I was surprised to discover, I’d seen far more of S5-7 than I originally thought. And it seems I’ve been saved a little cracker of a show, as the surprise Delta Flyer chums of Janeway and the Doctor’s mission goes a little wrong. She is captured, and the Doctor has to impersonate her, and then increasingly, other members of the Voyager crew in an ill-considered effort to rescue her. from some (slightly comedy) aliens. The problem being, the potato shaped aliens have tapped into his perceptual subroutines and can see everything he does, says or hears. This makes for a really quite fun show, and for a Doctor episode for once it’s more comedy-drama than pure comedy. It certainly gives Bob Picardo, and the rest of the impersonated cast, a bit more lighthearted material to deal with: non-more magical than the moment when ‘B’Elanna’ awkwardly kisses Tom Paris.

Just as well it wasn’t ‘Tacotray’ kissing 7 on a date.

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Literally my favourite scene 

Janeway too gets some neat little character moments, throughout on her own and with the Doctor. There’s a really good chemistry between the two actors, and find myself wishing we’d seen more of these two as a duo. All in all, this is a nice exploration of just how dangerous a foe the Doctor could be when he’s got all his marbles and is placed between a rock and a hard place: who would have known he knew parkour! The icing on the cake are his ‘death-bed’ confessions at the end, as thinking he’s about to decompile, he spills a lot of secrets. Some of which will haunt him more than others!

Most Typically Voyager Moment: The Doctor confesses he loves 7 of 9 and always has…and no one bothers mentioning it again.

Endgame

26 years in the future, the crew of the late starship Voyager celebrate the 10th anniversary of their return from the Delta Quadrant. There’s a lot to love about this future: they’re home, the Doctor’s got a wife and a name, Harry’s a Captain[12] and most importantly, Tacotray is dead. Unfortunately, the now Admiral Janeway’s not happy about all this and sets about breaking every rule in the book to go back in time to undo a choice she made that lengthened the voyage home to 23 long years. All of which means the two Janeways need to team up against the old foe…the Borg! Hence, we get double contrasting Janeway action, and more excitingly, the return of the real Borg Queen.

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‘Computer, engage God Mode’

As a Trek time-travel, Borgarific tale, there’s a lot to love about Endgame. Sadly there’s a lot to despair of too, especially the recently lampshaded romance between 7 and Tacotray, which takes up far too much of the double-length episode’s run time. This is a romance which feels neither naturally developed, nor essential to the narrative. Okay, it turns out 7 dies on the way home, and that ‘poor old’ Tacotray just declined in her absence. This we’re told is the fire that drives tea-drinking older Janeway to consign three decades of history to the bin. Why oh why must everything be about 7 of 9 (or ‘Poochie’ as I’ve started to refer to her when discussing the show) all the time? Why can’t some of the original cast get this sort of love? I guess being married to the showrunner helps a lot.

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Mrs Doctor looks nothing like 7 of 9, (ahem) honest

But let’s focus on the good moments: Harry finally gets his moment in the sun and gives the episode’s heroic monologue, cranky old Janeway and younger Kathy’s interactions are a delight, and we even get to see B’Elanna and Tom’s child. Or rather we see their sprog in the future in Starfleet as an adult, and only ever hear her being born in the present. We also get one more cameo from Reg Barclay, surpassing his number of appearances in TNG, with his Voyager roles. Which is nice, as he’s a great character – kind of wish he’d been a series regular, in the way Miles moved to DS9 and really developed.

Does everyone get a character arc send off ala DS9:What You Leave Behind though? No, but then the Voyager Family (a phrase and concept rammed down our throats implicitly and explicitly throughout the show, and especially in these episodes) aren’t really about to all fly apart. They’re moving on, to parts unknown [13], probably keeping in close touch. Why even Neelix manages one last cameo over the space time visualiser in Astrometrics, but thankfully of Naomi Wildman, there’s no fucking sign. Maybe the Borg assimilated her for good measure?

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I see you’ve kept the same hair style

Still, the voyage is done, the crew are home and the massive court martial of Janeway for her flagrant breaches of Starfleet protocol can begin. Doubtless though as the hero of the hour, they’ll quietly promote her upstairs to a desk job where the chances of her ever altering the time-line will be zero!

Most Typically Voyager Moment: The reason Admiral Janeway came back in time, was to save 7. It’s been the 7 of 9 show since S4 hasn’t it, sadly.


My stars. I made it. I never thought I would, and certainly in the middle season I lost serious interest in the show. Would I have forced my way past some of the dreadful clunkers it I was watching it at the time? Probably not, as I originally dropped the show early on.  But then, I would have missed out on some solid and in some cases excellent Trek adventures. I’m glad I’ve watched them all (and by extension, all Trek to date ever), but there’s still a few things I want to get off my chest. Join me next time for my wrap review: The Voyager Experience.

[1] Okay, my fondest hope is actually Naomi Wildman falling into the warp core, but I suspect that’s not going to happen. Damn.
[2] She’s gone from ~2 months and not showing, to around 5 months and visibly pregnant in one episode. Wonder if that’s down to all that genetic resequencing…
[3] So…a bit like Night then, only with less freaky aliens
[4] Reg also had the good graces not to actually sleep with the holographic ‘Goddess of Empathy’
[5] I’m sorry for anyone who just vomited there.
[6] When the competition is Icheb of Crane, there’s no competition
[7] The jury’s out on TNG: Hide & Q and TNG: True Q.
[8] Star Trek’s in a post-scarcity, post-capitalist society where money doesn’t exist. How can a publisher exist and profit? This issue is not addressed in this episode!
[9] At least I assume they are – they mentioned they were 30kly away, and then Q helped them, so let’s assume ~25kly to go!
[10] Honestly, Enterprise Season 2 would have rejected this episode’s plot for being too shitty, and you know what an awful season that is!
[11] It’s a grand title, and Starfleet might not agree with it. Also, the Delta Quadrant’s huge, yet Neelix will be living on a tiny nowhere rock, doing not much. Great ambassadorial duties, eh!
[12] 23 years as an Ensign, and then 10 years to Captain? That’s pretty impressive!
[13] Aside from Janeway, who turns up in ST:Nemesis one last time.

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The Great Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: Season 7 (part 1)

What came before: Season 1 | 2A/2B | 3A/3B | 4A/4B | 5A/5B | 6A/6B

Can it be true? Yes! I’m into the final season, and my gut tells me I’m going to be in for a rough, rough ride. The past season has been painful to watch, with rare good to fun episodes, eclipsed by far too many tedious and downright awful episodes. I’m not holding out much hope, but I seem to remember Endgame was kinda fun when I saw it years ago, so maybe there’s light at the end of the transwarp corridor! Let’s engage…

Unimatrix Zero: Pt II

Remember TNG:Family? Remember how Picard came back after being Borged up and how he was a broken man, the psychological scarring running far deeper than optical implants and nano-probes in the blood stream? Recall how he was never quite the same again, haunted by Borg voices in ST:First Contact? Man, that’s how a world class actor takes a corking idea, some solid scripts and runs with it. Still gives me chills to watch Best of Both Worlds and those later tales that reference it.

Meanwhile, over here on Voyager Janeway, Tuvok and Torres’ assimilation was all a big plot, and thanks to some nano-probe sunscreen [1] they’re not actually drones. Well, Tuvok might be falling into dronification, but thankfully for the Voyager crew they manage to assist the drones in Unimatrix Zero a bit, before the Borg Queen calls their bluff and starts blowing up her own ships to route out the defectors. Stone cold, Queeny, that was some pretty impressive brinksmanship. I mean, Janeway’s not even carried through on a threat to explode Harry Kim during negotiations! Anyway, Janeway deletes Unimatrix Zero, terminating 7’s dreary relationship with another not-quite-a-drone, and skedaddled back to Voyager, while the Borg Queen is left to stamp on her hat in impotent rage. Or something like that.

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“His head was like this when I found him, honest”

And well done Voyager writers, I am now officially utterly over the Borg and kinda miss the races of the earlier Delta Quadrant. With the exception of the Kazon. And Kes.

Most typically Voyager moment:  Following the mental trauma and invasive body modifications stemming from her assimilation, Janeway gets better in a trice thanks to a bit of a nap and a cup of damn fine coffee. No one tell Picard he’s a total snowflake over this whole ‘life altering experience’ okay, he should have just walked it off!

Imperfection

Hey everybody, what do we need after two[2] solid episodes of Borg heavy action? That’s right, it’s ANOTHER tale about 7 of 9. This time, her cortical node is on the fritz and she’s gonna die unless they replace it. Try to forget last week’s episode where the Doctor fixed Borged crew like it was nothing, this week for weekly articulated plot reasons he’s not got the skillz any more. So off Janeway, her adoptive mom, goes in the rebuilt [3] Delta Flyer to stage a raid on a Borg ship. Or maybe it’s a brand new, ship it’s not clear. Given the Delta Flyer was blown into a million itty bitty bits in Unimatrix Zero PtI, I’m not sure Paris got out his superglue or something? As I recall there was this whole ‘it’s a big challenge’ to build the Flyer way back a few seasons ago, with construction spread across a number of episodes. Yet, now it seems to be able to be replaced at the drop of a hat! Anyone remember when Voyager had replicator rations and was fighting for spare parts and energy all the time? Ah, happy days, but it seems we’re into post-scarcity now once more. Almost like they docked at a Starbase or something…

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The few, the proud, the utterly dead

Also, wait a moment, didn’t we have this exact same ‘raid the Borg for stuff’ plot for the last two episodes? Oh, yes, we did. Voyager once again Trekking through the heights of original narrative it seems. In the end, the duff dead drone implants are no good, and Ichabod of Borg donates his implant to 7, a bit like a kidney only with more headaches. Guess it’s just as well we kept one of these living donation banks onboard after all for 7’s sake!

There’s also a glorious moment mid-episode where 7 calls up a list of those Voyager crew who bit the big one (even if some of them, like Ens Ballard, come back!). Sadly, despite dying a few times Harry Kim’s name is not on this list (time-line alterations be damned!). Interestingly, there’s only 10 names on this list (out of 147 we started with, and not counting Kes)…I swear more have died than that on camera – is Janeway fudging the record books to avoid looking too bad when she gets back to Starfleet Command?

Most typically Voyager moment: Remember the Borg kids? Yeah, well 3/4 of them get booted off the ship in the opening moments, as the showrunners have stunningly realised they added nothing to the show. Sadly Ichabod Crane of Borg remains behind to do the recycled Wesley Crusher ‘joining Starfleet arc’.

Drive

Ah, the curse of the broadcast order vs production order strikes again – as Torres and Paris are out testing the “newly rebuilt Delta Flyer“…that’s right, this episode should, logically, have been transmitted after the previous one. As luck would have it in the vastness of space, they get challenged to a race, and end up signing up to participate in essentially the ‘EuroVision Space Race Contest’ between a number of previously warring civilisations. Yep, this rapidly lines up into one of those ‘fluff’ episodes that won’t make a tad of difference to the voyage home, unless (and I’m guessing here) there’s some sort of super-stellar-overdrive up for grabs as the prize for coming first! (Spoiler alert: there isn’t).

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‘Somehow Harry, we look even more like dicks in these outfits than normal’

Naturally, things aren’t all they seem and the friendly alien they first meet turns out to a rebellious little terrorist intent on restarting the inter-species war. All of which makes for a middling, by the numbers, kinda average Star Trek plot. However, the real story is the going on around the fringes of the race, as Tom and B’Elanna’s relationship goes through that rocky patch all TV romances do just before the characters get hitched. Hence, I wasn’t in the least bit surprised that by the end of the episode we see the Delta Flyer 2.0B flying off trailing streamers behind its ‘Just Married’ sign. Ah, that’s nice. We managed some genuine character development for 2 out 147 characters on Voyager. Let’s chalk that up as a minor win!

Most Typically Voyager Moment: We’re still more than 30,000ly from home, but Janeway’s got time to goof off and take part in a race for ‘morale’ reasons.

Repression

For an episode that opened with a ranting Bajoran (oh prophets no, not another Bajoran religious story, please!) this story rapidly opens up into a cracking whodunit. Former members of the Marqui start coming down with a serious of the unexplained comas, but not to worry for Hercule Tuvok is on the case…in more ways than one. Yes, it turns out that he’s not just the Chief of Security, but he’s also the the Manchurian Vulcan! Reprogrammed years ago by a fanatical member of the Marqui who clocked he was actually Starfleet and turned him into a sleeper agent. Okay, it’s not 100% clear quite what the Bajoran’s long term goals were, but the moment when Tuvok figures out he’s actually the perpetrator (assault by mind melds – nasty!) is well played by both Tim Russ and a horrified Janeway.

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Yes. This scene does appear in the episode. Where it makes some minor sense

Enjoyable though the story is, it starts to go a little off the rails at this midpoint as suddenly Tuvok’s using hidden code phrases to turn all the former Marqui on the ship…back into Marqui again. Wait…did this Bajoran mind-bastard manage to reprogramme everyone in the Marqui? And if he did, what’s the point of turning them back into what they already were (at least back then). I lost the plot around here, or maybe it was the writers. Still, it gave ol’Tacotray and Torres a chance to dig out their old clothes from storage and pretend to be bad guys for a few minutes. Thankfully, Tuvok overcomes the conditioning to turn the tables. This second half of the episode is a bit rushed, and I get the feeling this would have made a much better two-part story to flesh out the schemes behind the scheming a bit more. But no matter, a largely solid Tuvok story with only some (hah) minor gaps in narrative logic to blight it.

Oh, I should add, the minor subplot with Tom and B’Elanna going to a holodeck cinema to ‘use a 3D recreation of a 2D entertainment’s attempts to produce a 3D visual experience’ had me in stitches. These two are even more value for money now they’re married!

Most Typically Voyager Moment: When using some sort of sensor sweep to work out the attacker…the only person they rule out is Naomi Wildman (unseen this season, sadly [4]). Unless…that’s what the little bastard wants us all to think…

Critical Care

Yet another enjoyable episode, but given it features the Doctor being ‘stolen’ and delivered to a world running a Tory/Republican wet dream of a health service that’s hardly a shock! The Doctor, having been nicked by a visiting conman ahead of the episode, has to work on treating patients who are only given medicine to the value of their contribution to society. Got the potential to be a doctor yourself one day? Hard cheese peasant, we only pay out on what you’re worth now! Naturally, coming from the post-scarcity Federation society, it doesn’t take long for the Doctor to start gaming the system and shaking things up,  with the assistance of a willing patient, a semi-willing fellow medic, and a scheming President Charles Logan offa 24 (actor, Gregory Itzin, in a great guest role as a more machiavellian and savvy medic!). It’s not a happy ending for everyone, but it’s one of the most powerful examinations of how much better the Federation’s (whisper it, socialist) ideology is compared to big, brash neoliberal capitalism. Kudos Voyager team!

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For reasons unknown to god nor man, Harry & Tom appear like this midway

Meanwhile, Voyager is forced to pull a move somewhat reticent of O’Brien and Nog in DS9:Treachery, Faith and the Great River, namely backtracking all the conman’s dodgy deals until they can trace the Doctor. By the time he’s arrived, he’s pretty much revolutionized the capitalist system of medicine to the advantage of both the populace and the medics. It’s a win:win, with the exception of the Chief Hospital Administrator who comes down with a serious case of being poisoned, and a young lad the system failed in the first place. Still, pretty good going for a holographic lifeform that can’t get any respect in his own culture!

Most Typically Voyager Moment: After the main story’s done, the Doctor has to confess to 7, his sin of ‘poisoning’ the chief hospital administrator to force him to change his policies. Only once 7’s given him her absolution can the episode end. It’s a really awkward scene that feels tacked on, and jars against the smooth flow of the preceeding 37 minutes. Guess we all learned something today…

Inside Man

My sweet lord! A third great episode? What is going on Voyager? By the law of TV, by season 7 the show-runners should be operating on fumes, but this has actually been a great run of engaging stories! Hence, this time the fun doesn’t let up as a strangely Texan drawling hologram of Reg Barclay is transmitted to the ship from Earth, with a great plan to get everyone home. Except wait! Unknown by the Voyagerites, his holomatrix has been corrupted mid-transmission by the Ferengi (hey, remember those guys?!) as part of a nefarious scheme to…oh gawd…’Steal 7 of 9’s nanoprobes’. Again? Does every sodding story-line have to come back to Mary Sue of 9? Okay, I’ll try not to let that distract me, as actually 7 doesn’t play too central a role here.

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‘Ayyyyyyyy! Sit on it!’

If I wasn’t already enjoying the socks off this episode, the real Reg, frustrated in trying to work out why his hologram apparently hasn’t made it to Voyager gets sent off on mandated shore leave…and promptly seeks out the swim-suited Councillor Troi (my episode highlight!). Turns out Reg has had an actual romance, with a flesh and blood girl, although she’s actually an agent for the Ferengi, poor sod – and she’s behind their hijacking of his hologram. Perhaps more surprising (given their terrible tech) the Ferengi have worked out a genuine way to get Voyager home (involving exploding stars nonetheless), long before Starfleet. Okay…it will roast everyone on board and let them pillage the ship, but you can’t have everything, right? Luckily the team-supreme of Reg and Troi sort it all out and save the day.

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‘I’m sensing…you have a blue nose’

All this, and the Doctor’s obsession with playing golf too as a comedy sub-sub plot. Pretty much a satisfying episode all-round – and still no sign of Naomi Wildman [5]

Most Typically Voyager Moment: It’s Troi and Reg…again. Clearly these are the single cheapest/most available two TNG cast members around. The episode would have really benefited from Captain Beard Face making a cameo at the end!

Body and Soul

A hologramatic crew-member discovers the sybaritic joys of the flesh, indulging with the appetites of the glutton through a borrowed organic body. Naturally, the original owner of the body is less than pleased with their munching their way through an entire ship’s worth of rich foods! There’s even a moment when the male holographic character alludes to their female host’s…physical differences. Oh, did you think I was writing about Voyager? I was actually thinking more of Red Dwarf:Bodyswap broadcast some 11 years prior to this episode. Body and Soul shares many of these tropes as the Doctor hides from a photonic-phobic race, the Lokirrin, and finds he rather enjoys being able to indulge in the full range of organic senses. Well, aside from the stench of a sweaty Harry Kim that is, so let’s scamper quickly on.

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‘Please state the nature of the tonsorial emergency’

It’s not all (another) Red Dwarf rip off, as the Doctor (in 7’s well-proportioned body) becomes somewhat enamoured of one of the female Lokirrin even as the male captain starts making his moves. Yes it’s a cross-species, trans-sexual comedy with hilarious consequences. Well, maybe not hilarious for those involved, but pretty funny for us. Not since DS9:Rejoined have we dared explore potential same-sex couplings in the Trekverse (and would need to wait until ST:Disco before we went all the way)! The episode is a lot of fun, and thanks to Jeri Ryan’s rather splendid (and underused) comic talents as the Doctor inhabiting 7’s body, we get a somewhat typically comedy-drama Doctor episode without Bob Picardo stealing all the best lines. Honestly, my opinion of Jeri and 7 went up several notches thanks to her splendid acting in this one. Fun, fun, fun!

Meanwhile, back on Voyager Mr Tuvok’s going through the Pon Farr, and it’s up to Tom Paris ‘Holopimp’ to find a way for him to…er…express his urges safely. Shame Reg’s hologram wasn’t still online, as he’s got a lot of experience with that sort of thing!

Most Typically Voyager Moment: While flying away on yet another pointless long-range mission aboard the Delta Flyer 2.0 Harry Kim gets captured with sexy 7 of 9, and all she can say is he stinks. Poor sod, can’t he ever catch a break?

Nightingale

In a change of pace,  Harry and 7 are joined this time by Mr Neelix aboard the Delta Flyer 2.0 (the Doctor’s staying home), but for once there’s a legitimate excuse for the shuttle away mission. Voyager’s parked on a planet and undergoing some much needed major repairs. Probably, the repairs are coming a few years too late considering what the ship’s been through, but there are some nice CGI shots of the warp-nacelles and coils being removed for repair (albeit the original shot mirrored the second time it’s used). Away in space the Flyer comes across a skirmish between two ships, and despite conflicting Starfleet protocols about interfering in other’s affairs (funny, when interfering is the instigating incident of ~50% of episodes) get involved with a Kraylor ship on an apparent medical mission of mercy. Meanwhile, Janeway meets the other side, the Annari, who appear to be all pally and cooperative, at least at first.

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‘Do you have a warp-coil in my size?’

Turns out this episode is really all about giving Harry Kim his first command, although I’d swear we’d had that plotline more than once already. Hence, he and 7 (again!) board the medical ship which has lost its captain and is now renamed The Nightingale, and set off for the alien’s besieged homeworld. The thing is, Dr Loken (Ron ‘that shepherd ain’t no shepherd!’ Glass) the Kraylorian’s chief medical officer, appears to know bugger all about medicine [6]. I thought we were heading for a big reveal that the Nightingale was hauling metagenic bioweapons or something, but it turns out they’re actually transporting cloaking technology.  Which means, it’s up to Capt’n Harry to ‘learn a valuable lesson’ about what it takes to command a starship, lead a crew and make some hard choices.

Wow, I think we all benefitted from some personal growth today. Okay, it’s not a terrible episode, but it’s one that casts Harry Kim into his recurrent ‘most inexperienced officer around’ trope once again. This, despite his 6 prior years of bridge-based competence when he’s not the lead episode character. Voyager: 2 steps forward, several hundred back.

Meanwhile, in the B-plot least-annoying Borgling Icheb reminds people he’s actually quite smart (hello Wesley) and immediately undergoes space-puberty. Icheb starts crushing heavily over Torres, because she’s the one female who’s shown any (friendly) interest in him (I guess 7 must be like a sister). Clearly, he missed the end of Drive a few episodes back, but before matters are set straight he almost challenges Tom Paris to a death race! Sadly, the budget had been blown with that shot of Voyager on the planet, so that gets handwaved away.

Naomi Wildman though…still AWOL.

Most Typically Voyager Moment: Not once but twice, Harry bemoans still being an Ensign after 7 years. Right to Janeway’s face he points out he should be a Lieutenant or even a Lieutenant Commander. She all but pats him on the head like a lost puppy, and sends him off with a chaperone to keep an adult eye on him. Frustrating beyond measure.

Flesh and Blood

Hey, it’s the Hirogen…didn’t we leave them about 20,000ly behind the Voyager?[7] Ah well, looks like the holo-technology the Starfleet crew left with them after The Killing Game has been rather more zesty than the Hirogen Hunters expected. The hologramatic arenas have gotten out of control and now the simulated humans can easily beat the Hirogen hunters who come for them. I sense we’re heading towards another discussion of ‘what is life?’, which given the contempt with which the Voyager crew have generally treated hologramatic lifeforms (in stark contrast to all other forms), doesn’t bode well!

Yep, I was right. Pretty soon the Doctor is kidnapped by the holograms, who are suffering as much, if not more so, than the Hirogen who created them to die over and over again, and remember the pain of each death. At least the Hirogen only die once (sorry, Mr Bond). It seems the Hirogen have rather foolishly allowed the holograms to learn and adapt, a bit like the Borg, to make hunting them more of a challenge. Hence, along the way, they’ve accidentally created a sentient species with which they’re now at war! You’d think they’d be delighted by this genuine hunter’s challenge, but no: moan, moan, moan is all we get. Guess they don’t like a fair fight, the big bullies!

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Ribbed, for her pleasure

The Doctor soon throws in with his ‘own kind’, even kidnapping Torres for a hairbrained (no pun intended, sorry Dr Zimmerman) scheme to liberate the holograms from their ship. Of course this means Torres will have to work with a hologram based on her old chums the Cardassians. Confronted by Tacotray and Tuvok over her willingness to ally with the Hirogen, Janeway considers ‘how many times we’ve given people replicator technology’, forgetting her refusal to do this was what pissed off the Kazon in the first place. Oh Kathy, hubris is your middle name. Turns out the leader of the holograms (based on a spiritual Bajoran) is a bit of a fundamentalist nutter who wants to liberate ‘photonics’ everywhere, and create a homeworld for them. Meanwhile, the Cardassian hologram engineer turns out to be a much more decent sort, and once Torres has gotten over her tiresome ‘I hate spoonheads’ routine, we realise that this story is full of shades of grey. No, not that one, thankfully.

Yep, that’s the nub of it: holograms are people too…no one mention this to Starfleet though, they’ve got a pile of EMH Mk1s scrubbing plasma conduits who are not in ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM slaves, okay? In the end the holograms, and even the Hirogen learn the true meaning of Christmas…I mean, compromise, and the Doctor is welcomed back into the Voyager fold with only a slight ticking off from Janeway as a result of his total betrayal of trust and Starfleet ethics. Wow, if only life was really that easy.

Most Typically Voyager Moment: It’s a double episode, so there’s two. Firstly, the Doctor is almost instantly happy to throw away his friendships and (programmed) loyalty to Starfleet, and join the holograms in their crusade for photonic rights. If his actions had developed slowly, over a few episodes of character growth so we could see him changing his point of view, I could believe his actions. But instead it’s a matter of moments and he’s suddenly all ‘No, screw them all, I’m with you lads now.’ Utterly implausible.

Secondly, if Tom Paris did what the Doctor had done, then he’d not see a replicator ration, holodeck privilege or his wife for a couple of years. Instead, Janeway just hand-waves away the Doctor’s violations of protocol, trust and friendship to ‘personal growth’. I’ll remember that next time I’m arrested, ‘I was having some personal growth, officer, so you can let me off’. Utter double standards by the captain, and poor characterisation for for everyone concerned.

Shattered

ARRRRRGHHHHH! NAOMI FUCKING WILDMAN. She’s not dead.

Ahem. With that out of the way, welcome to Star Trek: Voyager’s Greatest Hits as the wibbly-wobbly space anomaly of the week shatters the time steam. Thanks to being in the right place at the wrong time(s) Tacotray must journey up and down the timestream to the best moments of the last 7 years (and also that one with the giant flying viruses) to meet old friends and foes once more. For an episode laden with the triple miseries of a) being a Tacotray episode, b) resurrecting Naomi Wildman and c) bringing back the Kazon, this is actually a bit of a stonker. It’s actually great to see Seska again (I guess the budget didn’t stretch to hiring Kes as well), and rather made me wish we could have kept her around a bit longer after she was killed off (or at least for more than a couple of guest shots).

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Tacotray/Janway Inappropriate Romance-subplot Warning Klaxon

Revisiting S1 Janeway-classic with the bun hair and far greater ‘by the book’ attitude is rather fun, and never more so than when we revisit the single greatest moment of Voyager (Bride of Chaotica). The moment when she rolls her eyes in despair and disdain at what she beheld had me roaring with laughter. I was also impressed when we met the future Naomi and Icheb, that somehow, unlike TNG’s future version of Wesley Crusher, they actually seemed like plausible future-incarnations.

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“Why would we be wearing a rainbow sweater?”

Utter highlight of the episode: – the showdown with Seska, and the reappearance of Badass of 9.I may have slightly punched the air and whooped. I might complain (a lot) about how much Voyager seems to be the 7 of 9 show too much of the time, but this once, they used her to just the right level. Easily the best Tacotray episode of them all, and continuing to demonstrate that season 7 can keep pumping out the hits!

Most Typically Voyager Moment: The reset button at the end of the episode. Other Tacotray’s experience, nothing which happened means a damn.

Lineage

Out of the blue, it’s a happy (mostly) event for Torres and Paris, as the chief engineer discovers she’s with child. Yet, before Naomi Wildman can have any competition for most annoying character, it turns out that the child will not only have dominant Klingon features like her mother, but will need a minor genetic resequencing to fix a spine issue. Simple enough, until we discover this episode is really concerned with B’Elanna working through her childhood abandonment and daddy issues…which she plans to resolve through having the child genetically resequenced in a big way. While you can perhaps, slightly, sympathise with her not wanting the kid to go through the mild-teasing we witness in the flashbacks, that she tries to solve her problems by reprogramming the Doctor to override his ethical subroutines and without the agreement of the child’s father, is pretty horrific. Tom and B’Elanna seem to take these events in their stride, but you can’t help feeling their relationship is going to go through some major future issues, if this is how they work through their problems!

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Torres’ child revealed to be a future serial killer

There’s a teeny-tiny little race drama going on underneath all this (as B’Elanna points out Voyager is mostly human crew), but it’s hardly TOS:Let That Be Your Last Battlefield. Watchable enough, but some considerable characterisation compromises again for the sake of The Drama!

Most Typically Voyager Moment: Everyone’s discussing resequencing the kid, without once mentioned the apocalyptic Eugenic Wars started over this kind of thing. Funny, you’d think that sort of thing would come up right away.

Repentance

A distress call leads Voyager to take aboard a bunch of prisoners and their warders, on their way to what sounds rather like swift justice and execution. There’s a whole lot of hand waving about The Prime Directive from the Starfleet officers, but ultimately the Voyager happily acts as a prison transport to death row for an alien race (of somewhat questionable ethics). Not sure this is quite what the Federation’s founders had in mind for their society’s rules. At first I assumed this was going to be one of those ‘the bad guys are the good guys and vice versa’ episodes, but instead it turns out to be a somewhat hackneyed examination of the nature of justice, redemption and punishment.

Notably, Voyager sets up a whole prison wing in one of their cargo decks. Just like that. Given 7’s in one of the other cargo decks, just how much space does Voyager have going spare these days? Meanwhile while one prisoner is befriended by kind-hearted Neelix, another gets beaten up. The injured prisoner, after undergoing some magical genetic treatment (I’m sensing a theme here after last episode), ‘loses the ability to be a criminal’, and becomes effectively totally and irreversibly reformed. I can’t tell you how offensively reductive a result that is – criminality is a genetic disposition? So, society, culture and environment have nothing to do with it, eh?  Anyway, reformed prisoner gets the chance to make an appeal and shock of shocks, he’s turned down and goes off meekly to die. Top hole ethics and justice there. Along the way, ‘friendly’ prisoner turns out to actually be an utter bastard, who’s been playing Neelix all along. Shocker!

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Prisoner’s uniforms have pointless lights on them, because…space!

At the end, the whole episode turns out to be another chance for Janeway and 7 to have a mother/daughter chat, as 7’s guilt over her actions as Borg make a late reappearance. It’s an oddly unsatisfying, somewhat bowdlerized treatment of the ‘true’ nature of redemptive justice: can a great wrong ever truly be redeemed in the eyes of society? I much prefer (and highly recommend) the far better scripted, magnificently thought provoking B5:Passing Through Gethsemane, for an examination of a very similar theme. For 7 the answer to the redemptive question, is ‘yep, you’re fine, carry on in astrometrics’…but it feels more like Voyager’s brushing the matter back under the carpet once more, to only be brought out when there’s a plotpoint to hang it on again. Unsatisfying conclusion.

Most Typically Voyager Moment: 7’s ‘crimes’ as a Borg reappear, are tritely dealt with, and forgotten about. Decent characterisation would have this as a simmering subplot, where we witness the rest of the crew’s reactions to having a ex-mass-murdering drone as the captain’s pet.


Well, I’m mostly shocked – this has been a fairly strong first half of the season. I didn’t expect that at all, not this late in the game. Compared to TNG, where there’s a whole lot of filler and rare gems, Voyager S7 seems to be a much, much stronger proposition. Onwards now, for now, for it’s only a short ride to the last hurrah: the Alpha Quadrant and Endgame await…

[1] Or something techno-bollox like that, it’s not really explained how the Doctor can now fucking immunise against assimilation
[2] Three, if we include the Borg children framing device in The Haunting of Deck 12.
[3] Or brand new, it’s not clear. Given the Delta Flyer was blown into a million itty bitty bits in Unimatrix Zero PtI, I’m not sure Paris got out there
[4] Not sadly. Hopefully the actress grew too much/little and they’re not planning on using her any more. Huzzah!
[5] I’m making a graph demonstrating the correlation between the continued bless’d absence of Naomi Wildman vs the episodic quality of the show….
[6] Yep, that doctor ain’t no doctor! Man, that made me happy when they revealed it, fellow Browncoats!
[7] We also see those waste dumping aliens again from two seasons ago. How bloody big is their empire? Or has Voyager been going around in circles again?