Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 30, 2004)
Wow - it feels like just last week that I finished watching Season Two of Star Trek: Voyager. Oh wait - I did just complete that set a few days ago! My tardiness with that review and an accelerated release schedule lands Season Three on my door quickly, so let’s delve into it - I want to finish this review before Season Four arrives!
This set includes Season Three’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.
Basics Part 2: “Voyager is captured by the Kazon and the crew are dumped on a planet in its early stages of evolution. As only Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) and Lon Suder (Brad Dourif) have evaded capture, it's up to them and the Doctor (Robert Picardo) to come up with a plan to retake the ship.”
Throughout the first two seasons, Voyager attempted to develop the Kazon as one of the major series’ baddies. Apparently “Basics” marked the end of that story for all real purposes. If that’s the case, I can’t say I’m sad to see the Kazon go, as they never turned into very compelling villains.
That said, “Basics” started the season fairly well. I didn’t much like the first half of the show during Season Two, and the “roughing it” parts on the planet weren’t terribly interesting. However, it was intriguing to see a little more of the troubled Suder character, and a show in which the Doctor has to work to save the ship can’t be too bad.
Flashback: “After falling ill to what appears to be a repressed memory Tuvok (Tim Russ) must perform a mind-meld with Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) in order to survive. The meld takes them back to when Tuvok was a junior science officer aboard the U.S.S. Excelsior under the command of Captain Hikaru Sulu (George Takei).”
With “Flashback”, we find our first Voyager guest appearance from a main member of the Original Series. (Season Two included a quick cameo from The Next Generation’s Riker, while Season One presented Deep Space Nine’s Quark.) I don’t think a Trek show’s featured an Original Series main cast member since Scotty popped up in Season Six of Next Generation. As far as I recall, none of the Big Seven made it into any of DS9’s seven seasons.
Did “Flashback” give us a satisfying exploration of one of those characters? Not really, but it’s fun. The show only represents Sulu as a memory of Tuvok’s, so it doesn’t give him anywhere to grow.
This makes the program gimmicky, but it remains entertaining. They recreate the elements of Star Trek VI nicely and make those elements interesting to see. It’s not great Trek but it’s enjoyable.
Trivia note: Takei’s appearance here means that only one of the Original Series’ Big Seven cast members never did a guest appearance in any of the subsequent series or the Next Generation movies. Nichelle Nichols failed to pop up anywhere that didn’t totally focus on the Original Series characters.
The Chute: “Paris and Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) are sent to an Akritian prison after being accused of a terrorist bombing.”
Starfleet members unjustly accused of a crime get sent to a prison from which escape seems impossible, and the others rush to save them. Not only is that plot pretty overdone in general on Trek, but it seems especially bizarre for them to run it right after the series reminded us of Star Trek VI, a movie that included a similar story. Add to that too much of Kim - Voyager’s most boring character - and “Chute” seems mediocre.
The Swarm: “Voyager encounters a region of space owned by a mysterious race of aliens that would take 15 months to go around. Upon crossing the boundaries, a swarm of ships attach themselves to Voyager's hull - an act which drains the ship's power supplies and threatens to destroy it.”
Too bad this episode doesn’t remake the campy 1978 disaster epic. It does offer a rare instance of two storylines that both succeed. The Doctor remains Voyager’s most entertaining character, and since Robert Picardo gets to play two roles here, the show seems even more fun. The bits with the aliens get less attention and seem underdeveloped, but they create a moderately unusual villain for Trek and provide nice action and suspense.
False Profits: “A pair of Ferengi is found masquerading as Gods to a culture still in its Bronze Age. It is discovered that they had arrived through the Barzan Wormhole, which leads back to the Alpha Quadrant, however, its Delta Quadrant end is highly unstable and always moving.”
Back on DS9, Quark brought some depth to the Ferengi, but this episode portrays them at their pure greedy best. It features some decent comedy and even shows Neelix in a rare fit of behavior that doesn’t annoy me. Some slight philosophical tendencies lie beneath the surface, but mostly this is just a fun romp with the Ferengi.
Remember: “After Voyager encounter a telepathic species, B'Elanna (Roxann Biggs-Dawson) starts having powerful dreams that depict the life of a woman and her lover in a time of great political and social upheaval.”
Plenty of Trek episodes featured seemingly advanced and benevolent species with dark tendencies, and “Remember” feels no different. The show mainly feels like a lead opportunity for B’Elanna, and it fails to become anything particularly engaging. It also pours on fascist allusions too thickly.
Sacred Ground: “Captain Janeway has to undergo a rigorous ritual in order to save Kes' (Jennifer Lien) life when she is knocked unconscious.”
While “Profits” hid some philosophical issues beneath comedy, “Ground” presents obvious attempts at intellectual and spiritual depth. They don’t succeed, mostly because the episode comes across as muddled mumbo-jumbo. The program seems entertaining enough as Janeway goes through the looking glass, but it doesn’t exhibit much dimensionality.
Trivia note: “Sacred Ground” offered the first Voyager episode directed by a member of its cast. Robert Duncan McNeill helmed this show. The prior two seasons did include shows directed by LeVar Burton and Jonathan Frakes, members of Next Generation, but no one from Voyager.
Future's End Part 1: “Both Voyager and a 29th century Federation Timeship, the Aeon, are pulled back in time to Earth in the late 20th century. The Timeship Aeon crashes in Arizona during the 1960's, while Voyager appears in orbit around Earth during 1996.”
Since we’ll see the conclusion to this two-part program soon, I’ll skip my opinion until then.
Future's End Part 2: “While trying to rescue Paris and Tuvok, Torres and Chakotay (Robert Beltran) are captured by a gang of weapons smugglers who believe that they are from the government.”
While “End” owes a big debt to Star Trek IV, it manages to stand on its own feet. Actually, I probably like it more than I do the overrated cinematic effort. The program imparts a sense of urgency and drama but also has a lot of fun with the era and seems quite entertaining.
Warlord: “An injured alien named Tieran (Leigh J. McCloskey) transfers his consciousness into Kes' mind moments before he dies. He then gains control over her and begins using her abilities to steal a shuttlecraft and return to his home world to attempt a political coup.”
DS9 occasionally displayed an alternate universe that I often felt existed just to give the actors an opportunity to ham it up. To some degree, “Warlord” comes across the say, for it feels slightly like a device to let Jennifer Lien broaden her talents. Despite that issue and the fact it’s tiresome to get a program in which the crew needs to rescue Kes so soon after “Sacred Ground”, this show seems good. Lien proves reasonably talented, and the piece offers enough drama to make it worthwhile.
The Q and the Grey: “Voyager encounters several supernovas in a small region of space. Time soon reveals that it is the after effects of a civil war within the Q-Continuum. Q (John de Lancie) appears and believes that the solution to the problem is for him to produce a child, and his mate of choice is Captain Kathryn Janeway. Matters are complicated when a jealous female Q (Susie Plakson) appears claiming that Q was her boyfriend.”
Trek series use Q as such an easy out so much of the time that I almost dread his appearances. In the early days, he was an interesting creation, but the series’ now get stuck with extreme stories that seem tough to accept. “Grey” goes for a high-concept pattern as well, which makes it moderately entertaining but too silly to work. It feels like a cheesy excuse to dress cast members in Civil War garb.
Macrocosm: “Janeway and Neelix (Ethan Phillips) return from an away mission to find Voyager adrift in space and the crew barely alive. They soon learn that the ship has been overrun by viral life forms that are rapidly growing in size.”
“Macrocosm” rips off the Alien films so blatantly I feel startled the Voyager folks had the nerve to make it. Heck, the show even includes a scene in which Janeway suits up for war ala Ripley toward the end of Aliens. Awkwardly structured with intrusive flashbacks, “Macrocosm” fails to take flight.
Fair Trade: “Voyager encounters a region of space named the Nekrit Expanse. Since Neelix has no knowledge about the space after this point, he tries to make himself feel useful to the crew by trying to obtain a map from an old friend named Wixiban (James Nardini), who uses him as a courier for illegal substances.”
Neelix is such a sucker! It’s obvious from moment one that Wix will be bad news, but Voyager’s most annoying member also is its dopiest. The focus on Neelix and the predictable nature of the story make “Trade” less than satisfying. The fact it often feels like an Afterschool Special about peer pressure and lying doesn’t help.
Alter Ego: “Ensign Kim asks Tuvok to teach him Vulcan emotional control techniques when he falls in love with a holodeck character named Marayna (Sandra Nelson). Kim soon becomes jealous when he sees Tuvok interacting with her behind his back as she tries to seduce him.”
”Ego” starts drably, mostly because it focuses on the series’ most drab character, Harry. However, it expands decently once Tuvok become more involved. It never truly takes off, but it offers some intrigue at its climax.
Trivia note: Robert Picardo directed “Ego”, which made him the second Voyager cast member to head behind the camera for a show.
Coda: “Captain Janeway repeatedly dies after she and Chakotay crash into a planet in what appears to be a time loop. Soon, her deceased father appears and tells her that she is dead and must accept her situation and move on.”
“Coda” gives us another moderately interesting but not exceptional episode. On one hand, it seems inevitable that we’ll learn some trick involved with Janeway’s apparent death, but on the other, the show pursues things in such a deliberate manner that we almost accept her demise. Actually, that’s not really true; there was no doubt that Janeway wasn’t still alive. The show makes the exposition of the cause more interesting, though.
Blood Fever: “Ensign Vorik (Alexander Enberg) expresses his desire to mate with B'Elanna during his Pon-Farr. After they get in a brawl over the matter, Torres begins showing signs of the Pon-Farr herself.”
“Fever” seems odd in its choice to feature a tertiary and very new character like Vorik so prominently. Does this signal that he’ll play a stronger role in future episodes? Maybe, but I think it’s weird that he pops up out of nowhere in recent shows. Where was he previously? In any case, “Fever” seems average, though it’s fun to get the hand-to-hand combat in its climax; a staple of the Original Series, we see little of it in subsequent Trek.
Unity: “During an away mission, Chakotay discovers a Federation hailing signature coming from an alien planet. After landing, he learns that all is not peaceful, and those helping him have not been entirely honest about their true origins.”
Hinted at in the prior show, “Unity” declares the entrance of the Borg as a force in Voyager. However, the folks met here offer a kinder, gentler Borg, which makes them interesting. I don’t know how these elements will progress, but “Unity” launches things well.
The Darkling: “When the doctor tries to improve his personality by incorporating the psychological profiles of famous and historical people, he is overwhelmed by their dark sides and begins exhibiting signs of a split personality, one the regular doctor, and the other dark and evil. Kes asks to leave Voyager when they encounter a race with vast knowledge of the region of space they are currently exploring.”
Normally I like episodes that focus on the doctor, but “Darkling” seems too silly. It comes across as too much of a transparent attempt to give Picardo something different to do, and the moments with Kes in love are awfully sappy. By the way, where was I when Kes and Neelix broke up? I remember her asking for space back in “Warlord”, but I thought that was the influence of Tieran. I don’t recall a formal break-up decree.
Rise: “Neelix is pushed to the limits when Tuvok's attitude becomes too much to bear while the pair is on an away mission to help evacuate a Nezu planet, which is being bombarded with asteroids.”
“Rise” resembles nothing more than a bad action flick. Replete with comic one-liners, it seems dopey and doesn’t add much. We some expansion of the relationship between Neelix and Tuvok, but otherwise the episode falls flat.
Favorite Son: “Harry Kim experiences strong senses of deja vu in an unknown region of space. He soon learns that he is native to this region and that he is T'Karian, not human.”
Inevitably, whenever a Trek series features a seemingly idyllic society, the cloud outweighs the silver lining. Combine this predictability with the dullness that is Harry and “Son” plods. Well, at least it features a lot of babes, including Kristanna Loken of Terminator 3.
Before and After: “Kes begins traveling backwards through time from the moment of her death. With each shift, she comes closer to a solution but she also grows months and years younger at a time.”
We’ve seen many episodes that deal with alternate or possible futures. However, “After” seems different in that some parts of it just might stick. For one, Kes finally has a decent haircut, and while she returns to the correct place and time, she maintains memories, which means the possibility of a lasting impact to her experiences. The show doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s fun to watch.
Real Life: “The Doctor decides he should create a holographic family in order to expand himself. When B'Elanna is disgusted by its unrealistic perfectionism, she alters the program to include random events and outcomes with interesting and devastating results.”
The show also includes a second plot about an external threat experienced by the ship, but it seems secondary. The Doctor’s family takes prime importance and offers a moderately compelling story. A lot of these attempts by the Doctor to become more human feel like rip-offs from the Data catalog, and this one goes for a particularly weepy conclusion. Still, I like the character and find most of his adventures to come across as illuminating.
Distant Origin: “An alien paleontologist discovers a common ancestral link between his people and humans. He believes that this proves that his people evolved on Earth and migrated to the Delta Quadrant millions of years ago, but his government is not as willing to believe his interpretation of the evidence.”
If nothing else, one must credit “Origin” as something different. We don’t see a living member of Voyager for quite a while at the start, as it focuses on the alien race. The show gets somewhat silly at times - dinosaurs in space! - but provides an intriguing concept and an unexpected conclusion.
Displaced: “One by one, the crew of Voyager goes missing and is replaced by strangers who claim they have no idea how they arrived. Soon, nearly the whole crew is gone, and there is no way of stopping the strangers from appearing and overrunning the ship.”
Another show in the “something different” category, “Displaced” also proves to be quite entertaining. It takes an unusual and creative scenario and requires the crew of Voyager to provide one of this season’s livelier programs.
Worst Case Scenario: “A holodeck program is discovered in which Seska (Martha Hackett) raises a Marquis mutiny on board. The ship is placed in danger when the program is altered and the author is seemingly powerless to stop it.”
The biggest problem with “Case” is that it tips its hand too early. The show starts with an interaction between Chakotay and Torres in which he spouts traitorous dialogue toward Janeway. Since we’ve seen so much affection and closeness between the pair, this makes no sense and immediately tips off the viewer that something’s wrong. However, it overcomes this flaw to turn into a fairly ingenious and clever show.
Scorpion Part 1: “Voyager finally enters Borg space, only to discover a threat more powerful than the Borg themselves.”
Like most episodes that function as the first part of two, “Scorpion” deals mainly with exposition. It does set up an interesting concept, and it progresses in an intriguing way. I look forward to its conclusion.
I couldn’t say that at the end of Voyager’s lackluster second season. That term left me quite indifferent toward the series, but Season Three definitely helped invigorate matters. In some ways, one might claim Season Three left the show with less distinctiveness. After all, it killed off one of the series’ main villains and apparently concluded the threat of major baddies. In their place, we found the Borg, who fall into the category of “old standby” characters from whom we mostly know what to expect.
In this case, I’ll take something tried and true but good over something more unusual but not very interesting. Voyager didn’t do much to redefine the parameters of Trek in Season Three, but it seemed entertaining and provocative, which was more than I expected.