Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 16, 2004)
Time for more adventures with Star Trek: Voyager. Only two more years of the series remain after this one, so let’s plow through Season Five’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.
Night: Voyager comes to the aid of a warring species as Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) reflects on the decisions she has made during their time in the Delta Quadrant and their outcomes.”
Trek series usually start each season with a big show, but that doesn’t occur with “Night”. Instead, its first half concentrates on the boredom of their trip through apparently empty space, and this allows it to present an intriguing look at the perils of peace. Unfortunately, the show abandons this psychological study for a ham-fisted environmental message in its second half.
Drone: “A transporter accident merges some of Seven of Nine's (Jeri Ryan) Borg nanoprobes with the Doctor's (Robert Picardo) 29th Century holo-emitter to create a 29th Century superborg.”
Trek likes to take a touchy-feely tone much of the time, and that negatively affects “Drone”. Our introduction to “One” feels more like an Afterschool Special most of the time. Unfortunately, we know the good times won’t last forever; guest stars come and go quickly. The viewer never takes One all that seriously since we know he’ll not last long. A Borg who presents less of a resemblance to Niles from Frasier would make this a better show as well.
Extreme Risk: “In order to retrieve a probe stuck in a hazardous atmosphere, Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) designs a new type of shuttlecraft named the 'Delta Flyer'. Torres (Roxann Biggs-Dawson) begins to exhibit reckless behavior by engaging in dangerous holodeck programs.”
“Risk” features the kind of structure Trek loves. One plot concentrates on a ship-wide problem, while the other deals with a character’s personal issues. Inevitably, the pair intertwine by the end, and they help rectify each other. This makes “Risk” rather predictable and less then engrossing.
In the Flesh: “The crew of Voyager discover a simulation of Starfleet Headquarters being run by Species 8472 being used to practice launching an assault on the Alpha Quadrant. With the aid of regular doses of drugs, Species 8472 are able to shape-shift into human form.”
Finally - a Season Five episode with an intriguing plot that advances the overall Voyager storyline. It grabs us early with its surprising vision of Earth and keeps us involved via its use of the deadly 8472. The show provides a solid piece of work,
Once Upon A Time: “While Voyager searches for the crew of the crashed Delta Flyer carrying Tuvok (Tim Russ), Paris and Ensign Wildman, Neelix (Ethan Phillips) must keep Naomi occupied. When it is discovered that Samantha is badly injured, he must decide how much he should tell her daughter.”
On one hand, I like the fact that “Once” gives us a look of life from the perspective of a youngster on the ship. However, that unusual element gets overwhelmed by both this show’s sappiness and its reliance on Neelix. Maybe before the series ends I’ll stop hating Neelix, but not today; he remains the show’s most annoying personality by a long shot.
Timeless: “Voyager uses new quantum slipstream technology in an attempt to get home, but a miscalculation causes the ship to crash into an ice planet. Fifteen years later, the sole survivors, Chakotay (Robert Beltran) and Kim (Garrett Wang), steal the Delta Flyer in an attempt to send a message back in time and avert the disaster, however, Captain Geordi LaForge is determined to stop them at all costs.”
”Timeless” suffers from the fact we know everything we see will be undone by its end. It’s not like we really think that Kim and Chakotay won’t fix things and get the ship back to life in the past. Despite the show’s fantasy component, it manages to present a reasonable amount of fun.
Infinite Regress: “After encountering a piece of Borg technology known as a Vinculum which connects drone's minds together, Seven of Nine begins exhibiting the personalities of people that she assimilated as a member of the collective. Soon, they become so strong that they may overwhelm Seven's own personality.”
Every once in a while, Trek likes to give its actors a showcase. “Regress” definitely functions that way for Ryan, who gets to exercise her acting muscles via a variety of characters. This often feels like a gimmick, as the story itself doesn’t muster much interest.
Nothing Human: “When an alien attaches itself to B'Elanna's nervous system, the Doctor enlists the help of a holographic recreation of the Cardassian Dr. Crell Mossett. She refuses all treatment when the Bajoran crew informs her that this doctor was responsible for sadistic war crimes during the occupation.”
During the first act of human, Crell presents as little more than semi-comic relief, a likeminded pal for the Doctor. However, the show soon deepens into something more philosophical as it explores the concept of medical ethics. This allows it to become thought-provoking and rich.
Thirty Days: “When Voyager encounters a planet entirely of water they discover that the forcefield maintaining its integrity is breaking down. Tom Paris directly disobeys orders in an attempt to save the planet, which results in him being demoted to Ensign and placed in the brig for thirty days.”
To say the least, “Days” features a tired story structure as Tom tells his tale in flashback. Granted, the knowledge that Paris will eventually do something that gets him tossed in the hoosegow provokes a little intrigue, but not much. This comes across as a pretty bland episode. The inclusion of another cautionary tale about the environment doesn’t help, as the show makes those parts less than subtle.
Counterpoint: “While traveling through Devore space, Captain Janeway must hide all telepaths on board in transporter stasis as telepathy is illegal under Devore law. After Voyager is repeatedly searched, the leader of the investigations requests asylum and wishes to defect.”
Janeway meets the perfect man - maybe. Much of “Counterpoint” proceeds in a standard manner, but the issues with Janeway’s new stud create some tension simply because we don’t know whether to trust him. Although most of the show seems somewhat bland, it culminates in an interesting manner.
Latent Image: “The Doctor discovers that his short-term memory has been altered with some events being deleted, so he launches an investigation into whom or what could be responsible. When he sets a trap and the culprit is caught, he is shocked at who it is and why they're doing it.”
I’ve always thought the Doctor was Voyager’s most interesting character, so I’m pleased to get episodes that focus on him. “Image” offers some intriguing philosophical questions and helps expand his personality adequately. However, much of it feels like one of those episodes that exists to let the actor strut his stuff. It presents some good mystery moments but is too overwrought.
Bride of Chaotica!: “Photonic energy life forms mistake the characters in Tom's holonovel for real people. The holodeck characters interpret this as an attack, and soon Dr. Chaotica tries to wipe them out. The only person that can stop him is Captain Janeway in the role of Queen Arachnia of the Spider People.”
Holodeck-centered episodes tend toward the cutesy side of the street, and that definitely occurs during “Bride”. It gets into an intriguing story element due to the photonic life forms, but it fails to explore them adequately. Instead, it exists mainly to dress up Janeway as Queen Arachnia and allow Mulgrew to camp it up in the role.
Gravity: “When Tuvok, Paris and the Doctor are pulled into a planet by its intense gravity and crash, they wait to be rescued. From their perspective, many weeks have passed with no contact from Voyager, while on board, only a few hours have passed as they plan a rescue attempt.”
If they wanted Tuvok to fall in love, did they have to choose an actress as annoying as Lori Petty? I suppose she does nothing wrong in the part, but I just don’t like her, and that makes it tough for me to swallow the story. Not that this would be much of an episode with someone else in her role, as it just acts as an excuse to let Tuvok have his own starring part.
Bliss: “The discovery of a wormhole leading directly to Earth elates the crew beyond belief, but Seven of Nine remains unconvinced that this is real. To help her cause, she recruits Naomi Wildman, the Doctor and an alien pilot named Qatai to stop the ship from entering.”
“Bliss” owes a hearty debt to Moby Dick, but it presents a pretty enjoyable show anyway. I could live without the increasingly large role of little Naomi, though. She’s not a terribly annoying child actor, but kids and Trek don’t mix terribly well. Nonetheless, “Bliss” offers a good twist on an old Trek formula.
Dark Frontier, Part 1: “After defeating a Borg ship, Captain Janeway decides to launch an attack to steal a transwarp coil to shorten Voyager's journey home. The Borg detects her plan, and access Seven of Nine's neural transceiver to deliver an ultimatum: re-join the collective or the ship and its crew will be assimilated. If she agrees, the ship will be guaranteed safe passage through Borg space.”
What’d I think of this episode? Check back in a couple of paragraphs when I look at Part 2.
Dark Frontier, Part 2: “After defeating a Borg ship, Captain Janeway decides to launch an attack to steal a transwarp coil to shorten Voyager's journey home. The Borg detects her plan, and access Seven of Nine's neural transceiver to deliver an ultimatum: re-join the collective or the ship and its crew will be assimilated. If she agrees, the ship will be guaranteed safe passage through Borg space.”
You know what’d be creative? A Borg episode with no emphasis on Seven. Of course, that’d be odd, so I don’t blame the series for exploiting her status. The show offers some decent exploration of her past but it doesn’t do much more than that. The interaction with the Borg acts to solidify her affiliation with Voyager, but the program fails to become terribly vivid or engaging.
The Disease: “Without medical clearance, Kim becomes involved in a love affair with a member of the Varo species. Problems arise when they become biochemically interdependent after the incident.”
Why do I hate Harry Kim? Because when he gets lucky with an incredibly hot babe, all he does is fret about his duties. Yeah, Harry sort of grows some nads as the episode progresses, but even those might be explained by the aforementioned “biochemical dependence”. He’s a drab character, which makes “Disease” a flat show.
Course: Oblivion: “After Paris and Torres tie the knot, the ship and its crew start to disintegrate on the molecular level.”
That synopsis doesn’t divulge the episode’s secret: it doesn’t involve the real crew of the Voyager. I’ll leave the rest a secret, but suffice it to say that this show falls into the category of “alternate reality”. These programs are like exhibition baseball: fun on their own but somewhat dissatisfying since they don’t really count.
The Fight: “While boxing on the holodeck, Chakotay is contacted by a telepathic species. However, prolonged communication may leave him insane or brain dead.”
Why must every Chakotay-centered program always include mystical visions of his elders? That element makes them somewhat one-note and tedious. “Fight” lacks a strong plot to overcome the general sense of déjŕ vu.
Think Tank: “Voyager is ambushed by a race known as the Hazari with no way of escape. Soon, an alien 'Think Tank' arrives with an answer to the ship's problem and all they ask in return is Seven of Nine.”
George Costanza as the leader of a Think Tank? As played, Jason Alexander seems to have chanted “serenity now” a few million times, for he makes his character almost absurdly subdued and soft-spoken. Still, the show’s got an interesting concept, even if it fails to explore it terribly well.
Juggernaut: “After encountering a damaged Malon freighter, a repair crew from Voyager tries to contain a toxic chemical leak that threatens a nearby inhabited planet. Before they embark on the mission, two crewmen from the ship warn them about the 'Angel of Decay' that wreaks havoc on board the ship.”
”Juggernaut” could have worked well due to its “race against time” plot. However, the show undercuts its positives with more heavy-handed environmental messages plus a cheap monster subplot. The program still has enough tension to keep it interesting, but it fails to reach its potential.
Someone to Watch Over Me: “The Doctor tries to introduce Seven of Nine to the concept of dating. After a disastrous first date the Doctor personally guides her, but he soon realizes that he is falling in love with her.”
Trek and comedy don’t always mix, which made the comedic bent seen during much of “Me” iffy. Surprisingly, the humor doesn’t bog down the show; its attempts at character development do. The Doctor’s growing affection for Seven renders the program inert and sappy.
11:59: “Captain Janeway relates the story of her distant ancestor Shannon O'Donnell during the construction of the Millennium Gate on Earth during New Year's Eve 1999. She must convince the last holdout, local bookstore owner Henry Janeway to approve the plan.”
Another showboat episode, “11:59” serves little purpose other than to let Mulgrew stretch her acting muscles. It had some potential to explore the inaccuracy of history, but it mostly acts as a sappy melodrama set in the past. It’s fairly dull.
Relativity: “When Voyager is destroyed 500 years into the future, Captain Braxton of the 29th Century Timeship Relativity contacts Seven of Nine to travel back in time and discover who planted the 'temporal disruptor.' However, she must do this without being discovered by the past Janeway.”
Virtually all time-travel stories run into problems of logic, but most don’t revel in those issues. “Relativity” does, and that helps allow it to prosper. The plot doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it doesn’t really try to do so. Instead, it provides a topsy-turvy that entertains in spite of - and occasionally due to - the silliness.
Warhead: “After Kim beams an alien missile onboard Voyager it links up to the Doctor's systems and requests that it is allowed to complete its mission of mass destruction.”
”Warhead” enjoys an interesting premise, as the crew has to negotiate with a bomb. However, the way this plays out leaves it in the same category as many other shows in which Trek crew must deal with a dire threat. It’s an average program.
Equinox, Part 1: “Voyager encounters another Federation Starship, the Equinox commanded by Captain Ransom, which was also abducted by the Caretaker. However, the Doctor exposes a terrible secret, and Captain Ransom steals Voyager's technology along with Seven of Nine and the Doctor as hostages.”
Season Five concludes with a cliffhanger. To be certain, it presents a nice twist along with a lot of action. I look forward to its conclusion in Season Six.
Unfortunately, the rest of Season Five leaves me less optimistic about subsequent programs. Season Four got a shot in the arm with the introduction of Seven, but Season Five feels like a lot of wheel-spinning. It’s hard to find bad episodes, but it’s also difficult to locate many real winners. The season seems ordinary and disappointing.