Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 21, 2004)
After a break of three months, we get another package of DVDs for Star Trek: Voyager. This set includes Season Two’s 26 programs. These shows will be discussed in the order broadcast, which is also the way in which they appear on the DVDs. The plot synopses come from http://www.tvtome.com – thanks to them for their good work.
The 37's: “After discovering a 1936 Ford truck from Earth floating in space Voyager discovers a series of cryo-statis chambers containing abductees from Earth during the 1930's, including Amelia Earhart (Sharon Lawrence) and her navigator.”
Normally, Trek series launch their seasons with big, almost movie-like episodes. That doesn’t happen for year two of Voyager, as “37’s” opens the term with a pretty low-key episode. Actually, it seems a little more serious than I anticipated, as I first thought it’d be little more than a comedic enterprise; it’s hard to see the resurrection of Amelia Earhart as much more than fodder for nuttiness. The show presents more depth than that, but it still comes across as a pretty lackluster way to start Season Two.
Initiations: “A young Kazon trying to earn his name and place among his people kidnaps Chakotay (Robert Beltran).”
Although it follows a fairly predictable path, “Initiations” has its moments. It seems darker than most episodes due to the intensely savage nature of the group encountered by the Voyager. One mistake comes from the casting of Aron Eisenberg as Karden; although the various series often used actors in more than one role, Trek fans saw way too much of him as DS9’s Nog to accept him in another part. Nonetheless, the show works pretty well.
Projections: “When the Doctor (Robert Picardo) is activated during a Red Alert, he learns that the ship has been abandoned, and that only B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Biggs-Dawson) and an injured Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) are left on board. Soon afterwards, Lt. Barclay (Dwight Schultz) appears and tells him that his entire time on Voyager is an elaborate simulation, and he's really a holo-engineer by the name of Zimmerman on Jupiter station in the Alpha Quadrant, who has been trapped on a holodeck for six hours. If he does not destroy Voyager's warp core and end the program soon he will die.”
To date, the Doctor has been Voyager’s most interesting crewmember. However, that doesn’t make “Projections” a great show, mainly because of its genuine predictability. For an episode with an alternate reality to work, it must offer an acceptable alternate reality, and the concept that the Voyager doesn’t exist seems much too far-fetched. As such, we know the whole thing will be nothing more than a fantasy, and that undermines it. In addition, “Projections” suffers from a very dull conclusion.
Elogium: “When the crew of Voyager investigate a cluster of space-borne life forms, Kes (Jennifer Lien) is forced into a stage in her life known as the 'Elogium.' This is the only time in her life when she can have a family.”
While “Elogium” looks at some serious issues, it does so with little depth. The crew confront the ethics of parenting while lost in space, but the show ends up as little more than an excuse to get the ship laid. It gives us too much of the ever-annoying Neelix and not enough real substance.
Non Sequitur: “Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) arises one morning to find he is back in San Francisco on Earth with his girlfriend Libby. In order to help him restore reality, he enlists the help of a shady figure in France by the name of Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill), who has no idea who Harry is.”
Only two episodes after “Projections” seems awfully soon for another alternate reality program. It doesn’t help that Harry seems radically less interesting as a character than the Doctor; he’s a bland dud. Nevermind that the story largely plagiarizes Generations. “Sequitur” is something of a flat show.
Twisted: “A spatial distortion ring begins to reconfigure the internal layout of Voyager. With the crew unable to get to vital systems, and the captain injured after coming into contact with the anomaly, the ship is slowly twisted as the ring implodes and endangers the crew.”
Superficially, I suppose “Twisted” provides some echoes of “Elogium” due to the presence of an invasive space form. However, “Twisted” proves substantially more interesting. It seems unpredictable and fairly clever as it follows a path toward a surprising conclusion.
Parturition: “When Neelix (Ethan Phillips) and Paris find themselves trapped on a planet dubbed 'Planet Hell', they become the unwilling parents of an infant alien that is near death. In the meantime, a ship appears and begins attacking Voyager.”
In the best of circumstances, Neelix seems annoying. A jealous Neelix becomes even less appealing. An episode that focuses heavily on his antagonistic relationship with Paris falls even lower on the food chain. A show in which that pair parents a creepy alien reptile… well, let’s just say this won’t go down as classic Trek.
Persistence of Vision: “Captain Janeway starts seeing characters and objects from her holo-novel around the ship. Soon afterwards the crew begins entering a catatonic state one by one, while only Kes and the Doctor remain unaffected.”
“Vision” presents a pretty interesting story. It starts down one path and evolves into something moderately surprising. I thought the crew got affected by the intruder a little too easily, but the show nonetheless works well.
Tattoo: “Upon discovering a cultural symbol drawn in the ground on a planet that was used by his ancestors to 'heal the land', Chakotay tries to contact the beings his tribe called the 'Sky Spirits.'”
For the best parts of “Tattoo”, we get some decent backstory for Chakotay’s early life and various choices. Unfortunately, it depends too much on the mystical mumbo-jumbo that usually seems to surround his stories and it fails to work terribly well in that regard. On the other hand, the B-story in which the Doctor gives himself the flu to better understand his patients seems fun, even though it ignores experiences in “Projections”; here the Doctor agrees that that he’s never felt pain, but such an occurrence happened in the earlier program.
Cold Fire: “The crew of Voyager make contact with the Caretaker's mate, Suspiria. Kes meets with the descendants of other Ocampa on Suspiria's array that left the homeworld over 300 years ago. Soon, her mental abilities begin to grow to a point where she can no longer control them, and nearly kills Tuvok (Tim Russ) in the process.”
When I first started to watch Voyager, I had a feeling I’d not like Kes, but I was wrong, as she presents a fairly interesting character. Unfortunately, Kes-centered programs also tend to feature a lot of Neelix, but they still fare pretty well. This one helps develop her personality and gives us a little more about her past. It also slightly furthers the series’ main premise, that of the Voyager’s attempts to get home.
Maneuvers: “After Voyager detects a Federation probe, the Kazon-Nistrum attack and steal some transporter technology. Chakotay interprets this as a personal attack, and is then captured.”
It seems that the Kazon are shaping up as the Voyager’s primary foes, and this episode helps develop that trend. The return of a traitor also makes the program more interesting than most, especially since she provokes Chakotay into possible insubordination. It’s a pretty entertaining episode.
Resistance: “Tuvok and B'Elanna are captured and imprisoned after an away mission to obtain a chemical vital to Voyager's systems from a black market go wrong. Janeway is knocked unconscious and is rescued by a man who believes that she is his daughter.”
Joel Grey always annoyed me, and he seems cloying and obnoxious as ever via his guest stint here. Not that “Resistance” would be a good episode without him. It seems to exist mainly as a showcase for Mulgrew to show some sensitive range, and it doesn’t offer a compelling experience.
Prototype: “After finding and repairing a robot found drifting in space, B'Elanna is abducted and forced to design a new prototype or Voyager will be destroyed.”
In a universe with a realistic artificial life form like Data, why does everyone seem so impressed by a cheesy outcast from Metropolis? The crudeness of this episode’s robots undermines it, as they seem too basic to buy as advanced in any way. The show doesn’t have much else going for it, as it seems somewhat plodding and silly.
Alliances: “In order to stop attacks from the Kazon, Captain Janeway finds herself being forced to make an alliance with the more powerful Kazon sects. When negotiations fail, their only chance is to ally themselves with the race that used the Kazons as slaves in the past called the Trabe.”
Although it features a little more Neelix than I’d like, “Alliances” provides a satisfying show. It furthers the overall story arc of the series and does so with drama and intrigue. We see a variety of subplots unfold, and it all comes across well.
Threshold: “Tom Paris begins evolving into a higher organism after achieving warp 10 in an experimental shuttle.”
At times, “Threshold” comes across more like a cheesy Fifties monster movie than an episode of Trek. It goes down some interesting paths, but the tackier moments moderately undermine it. The show also rectifies its dilemmas awfully easily.
Meld: “In order to help out Lon Suder, a psychopath who killed a crewmember, Tuvok performs a mind meld. Soon after he begins showing violent tendencies, which develop until he loses control.”
Sometimes Trek creates shows with little discernible purpose other than to allow a particular cast member the chance to shine. Here Tim Russ gets his chance, with an otherwise fairly pointless episode about Tuvok. It’s a gimmicky program that doesn’t go much of anywhere.
Dreadnought: “When Voyager encounters a Cardassian missile ship in the Delta Quadrant named 'Dreadnought', B'Elanna must disarm it before it destroys a planet with millions of innocent people.”
A little too much of a 2001 vibe comes through in the lackluster “Dreadnought”. It’s an episode I felt like I should have liked, as it concentrated on a somewhat tense action plot, but it fell short of becoming anything more than average. The thinking computer behind the Dreadnought had too much Hal in her for this episode to come across as much more than a bland show.
Deathwish: “A suicidal Q (Gerrit Graham) threatens the future of the Q-Continuum after he requests asylum aboard Voyager.”
Q inevitably shows up on all Trek series, though at least Voyager demonstrated some restraint; DS9 brought him on-board during its first half-dozen episodes, whereas this series waited until its 33rd show for his first guest spot. This one focuses on two Qs - the “real” one (John de Lancie) and another member of the continuum. It works pretty well as an episode. “Deathwish” looks at some philosophical issues and wraps them up a little too neatly, but it seems like a fairly good entry overall.
Lifesigns: “After receiving a Vidiian patient who is about to die from the Phage, the doctor transfers her consciousness into the ship's computer and creates a holographic body. He soon finds himself becoming deeply attracted to her.”
Some parts of “Lifesigns” help advance the series’ overall story, mainly through some espionage as well as Paris’ continuing decline. However, most of the show focuses on the gimmicky story about the Doctor’s romance. It’s fairly lame.
Investigations: “After weeks of erratic behavior, Tom Paris leaves Voyager and joins a Talaxian convoy.”
This show helps pay off Paris’ storyline, and in an unfortunately predictable manner. Nothing about “Investigations” comes as a surprise, though it clearly hopes to catch us off-guard. It doesn’t, and the prominent presence of Neelix makes this a less than satisfying show.
Deadlock: “An accident in a plasma cloud duplicates Voyager after they are attacked by the Vidiians. During the aftermath, the ship is severely damaged, Ensign Wildman's baby dies and Harry Kim is sucked into space through a hull breach.”
That synopsis doesn’t tell enough of the story, for all of this occurs within an alternate universe. Or we go to an alternate universe after this happens; I’m not sure which, and I don’t think anybody else does. This leaves me with two minds about “Deadlock”. One on hand, it’s one of the more dramatic and impressive Voyager episodes I’ve seen. On the other, alternate universes are always such a cop-out; they allow us to see large-scale events and have them mean nothing as we return to zero when they conclude. “Deadlock” is a quality show, but it deserves an asterisk by it.
Innocence: “When Tuvok crashes on a moon, he discovers three small children who believe they are about to die.”
The concept of Tuvok having to care for emotional kiddies seems almost as gimmicky as the alternate universe. Precocious moppets usually mean crummy episodes, but “Innocence” actually has its moments. Tim Russ plays Tuvok to such deadpan perfection that his moments of frustration become entertaining. On the other hand, we get stuck hearing him sing a traditional Vulcan ditty, and it ain’t too pretty. “Innocence” remains spotty.
The Thaw: “The crew of Voyager encounters a planet that has recently entered an ice age. They discover a series of stasis chambers where a small group of people are mentally connected to an artificial environment that turned horribly wrong.”
When did “Thaw” totally lose me? When B’Elanna and Harry enter the aliens’ dreamstate and discover a place that resembles Cirque du Soleil - only more annoying. It gets worse from there, as the dream characters fight them. Ugh - chalk this one up as an unpleasant and tedious show.
Tuvix: “A transporter accident merges Tuvok and Neelix into one new being who calls himself 'Tuvix.'”
This episode had potential, but it failed to live up to it. The show presented some intriguing philosophical concepts but muddled them with bland melodrama. It gets points for ambition, though, as it attempts something unusual and doesn’t cop out at the end.
Resolutions: “When Captain Janeway and Chakotay contract an incurable virus they are left on a planet that shield them from its effects. While Janeway searches for a cure, she begins to form a deeper relationship with her first officer. Onboard Voyager, Tuvok, who is now in command, faces a near mutiny.”
Abandoned crew, potential mutiny - shouldn’t all of this make “Resolutions” a crackling episode? Maybe, but instead, the show offers little more than a touchy-feely exploration of bonding. We watch Janeway and Chakotay start to deal with some of their sexual tension, but in a miserably bland way, and the treatment of the reactions on the ship seems no more compelling.
Basics, Part 1: “Voyager is taken over by the Kazon-Nistrum, and the crew are dumped on a planet in its early stages of evolution.”
Other Trek series liked to end their years with big shows, and they often used cliffhangers. Oddly, Season One of Voyager took the opposite approach, so I’m happy to see the series go a more intriguing way for the conclusion of Season Two.
Maybe “Basics” will take flight in Part 2, but the first segment seems a bit flat. It includes some good action sequences, but it also makes it patently obvious who’ll help save the day in Part 2. Who knows - maybe I’ll encounter surprises when Season Three arrives and I check out the conclusion. However, right now it seems pretty lackluster.
Similar sentiments greet all of Voyager’s Season Two. This is a generally unexceptional sequence of Trek. Part of the problem stems from the series’ inability to develop much of an identity of its own. The first season set up an interesting Lost in Space vibe, but that doesn’t get a lot of play during the second year.
Instead, Voyager feels like little more than another version of the usual space explorers, except it lacks many compelling dynamics. Janeway seemed interesting in Season One but she doesn’t continue that development, and the crew interactions usually seem bland and without much to keep us interested. Even relationships probed in the first year - like that between Paris and Kim - gets left aside here. Season Two has some moments, but the whole seems fairly flat and the series doesn’t do much to advance its overall arc.