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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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(*)?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!