Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 4, 2005)
With its seventh season, Star Trek: Voyager comes to a close. Apparently it became a tradition for Trek series to discontinue after seven years. The original program only made it through three seasons, but each of the first three spin-offs - Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager - finished following their seventh years. To date, the fourth spin-off - Enterprise - is in its fourth season; it remains to be seen if it’ll last for another three.
Anyway, back with Voyager, let’s get down to the meat of the matter. In this review, I’ll cover Season Seven’s 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.
Unimatrix Zero, Part 2: "The away team must infiltrate the Borg Collective and execute their plan to undermine them, even though it may destroy Unimatrix Zero forever."
The conclusion to this two-part episode finishes with a whimper. The story boasts potential with its tale of Borg rebellion and Voyager staff undercover in the cube. Unfortunately, it focuses too much on Seven’s limp romance and never ignites.
Imperfection: "Rebi (Cody Wetherill) and Azan (Kurt Wetherill) are reunited with their home worlds, and leave the crew of Voyager. Mezoti (Marley McClean) is offered the chance to stay with Rebi and Azan, and accepts their invitations to live with them. Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) is placed in a life-threatening situation when her Borg implants begin to malfunction. The only way she can survive is if they can find replacement parts from a living drone. With Icheb (Manu Intiraymi) now the last of the remaining Borg children on the ship, he volunteers to offer his implants through a risky procedure that may cost both of their lives."
Does “Imperfection” exist for any reason other than to show a weepy Seven? I don’t think so. Trek series always loved their characters with limited emotional palettes. Those personalities gave the shows the chance to explore feelings in various ways, but they mostly presented the chance to get the characters to act atypically. That’s the main point of this show, even if it has some more philosophical potential at its heart.
Drive: "Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) and Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) volunteer to enter a race that symbolizes a peace treaty between four warring groups. However, the race's peaceful intentions are undermined with plans of sabotage and murder. B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Biggs-Dawson) feels she is nearing the end of her relationship with Paris. However, they work things out with surprising results."
I hoped “Drive” might just be a slice of fun as the crew tries to win a galactic race. Unfortunately, the program gets bogged down in the Tom/B’Elanna melodrama as well as the bland sabotage plot. It loses any flavor of excitement it might have conveyed.
Repression: "Former members of the Maquis fall victim to a spate of mysterious attacks on board Voyager. Tuvok (Tim Russ) is placed in charge of the investigations, and soon makes some remarkable discoveries."
”Repression” might be a great mystery… if the story didn’t follow such obvious paths. Since we figure out where it’ll go pretty quickly, it lacks intrigue. The show ends up as a dull one.
Critical Care: "The Doctor (Robert Picardo) is abducted from Voyager and forced to work in a hospital where patients are treated based on their social status."
Some of Voyager’s best shows happen when they focus on the Doctor, and “Care” offers another solid program. Like many of the better Trek episodes, it looks at a philosophical dilemma. Granted, it’s a fairly narrow take without a ton of room for interpretation, but it’s provocative enough to be interesting.
Inside Man: "A hologram of Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz) is sent to Voyager bringing news that the ship can be returned home in a matter of hours through a 'geodesic fold.' However, the crew becomes suspicious of the holographic Barclay's intentions after seeing him exhibit strange behavior.
Usually I don’t care for episodes that feature Barclay, but “Man” twists things enough to prosper. For one, it’s fun to see him act unusually via the hologram’s programming, and the show also creates an intriguing mystery.
Body And Soul: "While in the Delta Flyer The Doctor, Harry Kim and Seven of Nine come under attack for transporting a hologram through Lokirrim space - an act which is strictly forbidden. To hide the doctor, Seven of Nine downloads him into her cybernetic implants shortly before they are taken to a Lokirrim holding cell. On board Voyager, Tuvok enters Pon Farr."
Trek series love episodes that require characters to act unusually, and that comes to the forefront here. The theme works pretty well, as Ryan does a nice take on the Doctor. The storyline becomes secondary to the fun.
Nightingale: "While Voyager stops for maintenance, Kim, Seven and Neelix (Ethan Phillips) use the Delta Flyer to search for dilithium, when they come across a war between two alien races. After receiving a distress call from a damaged ship claiming to be on a humanitarian mission, Kim is offered his first chance at commanding a vessel of his own."
As long as Neelix exists, Harry will never be Voyager’s worst character. However, he’s the show’s blandest personality, and that factor hobbles “Nightingale”. The story’s not so hot anyway, but Harry’s milquetoast presence robs it of much spark.
Flesh And Blood, Part 1: "The crew of Voyager find a Hirogen training facility, and discover that the hologram technology they gave the Hirogen several months ago was modified to the point where the Holograms are smarter and more cunning than their hunters. The Doctor is abducted by a band of Holograms that escaped from the Hirogen facility and is asked to join them in forging a new life as independent 'photonic beings.' The crew of Voyager must ally with the Hirogen to find the Doctor and re-capture the renegade Holograms. After a confrontation with the Hologram ship, Voyager is disabled and B'Elanna is abducted, with the Doctor's help, to aid the Holograms in their plight."
For my thoughts about this episode, move ahead to the next synopsis.
Flesh And Blood, Part 2: "Voyager secretly trails two Hirogen ships in pursuit of the renegade Hologram ship. Iden (Jeff Yagher), the band's self-appointed leader, begins showing signs of delusional behaviour when he considers himself as the 'Saviour of his people,' and believes that his people will worship him as a God in their new settlement. With Voyager and the Hirogen ships trailing close behind, the Doctor and Torres must find a way to disable the ships and the holograms before they come under attack from the Hirogen, and before Iden can execute his plan."
Usually one expects something semi-epic from these two-part episodes, but “Flesh” stays mostly with a generally philosophical bent. It looks at the nature of existence and whether holographic beings deserve the same kinds of rights and freedoms as organic forms. Unfortunately, we’ve had enough of this topic by now, as we’ve seen plenty of Doctor-oriented shows with the same theme. It goes farther than usual but gets carried away with a plot connected to religious zealotry and fails to turn into anything out of the ordinary.
Shattered: "After Voyager passes near a spatial rift, Chakotay (Robert Beltran) is injured in Engineering, leaving his body in a state of temporal flux. After receiving treatment in sickbay, he inadvertently gains the ability to pass through rifts in time that are scattered throughout the ship, enabling him to walk into different stages of Voyager's history over the past seven years."
An episode in which a Trek crew flops from one reality or time period to another’s not anything new, but “Shattered” gives the theme a nice twist. Chakotay and Janeway zip around from one period to another with such random abandon that the program moves swiftly and turns into a lively and creative show.
Lineage: "After receiving the news that she is pregnant with Tom Paris' child, and after learning that the child will have dominant Klingon features, B'Elanna has flashbacks to when she was a child, remembering how difficult her life was because of her Klingon heritage."
I’m glad Voyager is almost at an end so I never have to see any more of B’Elanna’s Klingon heritage. That theme got old a long time ago, and “Lineage” brings little new to the table. I guess the pregnancy adds to the character arcs of B’Elanna and Tom, but frankly, knowing that the series only has 14 more shows to go, it feels gimmicky.
Repentance: "Voyager is placed in an ethical dilemma when they encounter a damaged transport ship carrying prisoners. It is revealed that some of the prisoners are being jailed because of their species, and the social misconceptions surrounding them."
Often episodes that look into societal issues - in the series’ mildly veiled way - come across as heavy-handed. That doesn’t happen here, as “Repentance” actually gets into some topics connected to crime and punishment in a surprisingly rich manner. It doesn’t attempt any true answers, but it provides a thought-provoking exercise.
Prophecy: "Voyager encounters a generational Klingon ship. When the crew of the ship beam over to Voyager after a warp core explosion, they believe that either B'Elanna, or her child is their saviour as foreseen by their religious scrolls and prophecies."
This episode occasionally skirts with some intriguing issues connected to religious concepts. However, it mostly feels like an excuse to bring back old-time Klingons. More recent series tend to favor the more neutered form of Klingon, so it’s moderate fun to be reminded of the classic form. Otherwise this is a fairly average show.
The Void: "Voyager is pulled into an empty layer of subspace where ships are forced to attack each other and steal supplies for survival. The ship's only hope for survival lies in forming alliances with other ships who wish to escape 'The Void.'"
I should probably find “The Void” to be smug and condescending. It really emphasizes the principles of Starfleet, which are a good thing in the abstract but can seem pompous in reality. However, this episode pursues them in a clever way and makes its points without becoming too tough to take.
Workforce, Part 1: "The crew of Voyager carry out their normal lives as workers on an industrial planet called Quarra, totally unaware of their time on Voyager or their situation in the Delta Quadrant."
For my thoughts about this episode, head to the next synopsis.
Workforce, Part 2: "Chakotay must convince Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and the other crew members of their past lives on Voyager. Matters are complicated when Chakotay is exposed and taken for interrogation.”
Ralph Malph as an insidious doctor? That piece of casting is the most intriguing part of the otherwise fairly dull “Workforce”. The episode feels like one of the many Trek shows that exists mainly to allow the actors to stretch their skills. The two-parter includes some moderate entertainment but doesn’t ever threaten to become a strong piece.
Human Error: "When Seven tries to perfect her social skills on the holodeck, her hobby quickly becomes an obsession, which leads her to neglect her duties, placing Voyager in great danger."
You can tell that Voyager is close to its conclusion since episodes like “Error” work to move along various character arcs. This one pushes Seven’s human side, and I get the feeling more of that sort of material will appear as the show comes to an end. It’s not a very interesting exploration of the topic and works more as a soap opera than anything else.
Q2: "Q (John de Lancie) places his son in the care of Captain Janeway for a week, hoping that she will be able to teach him a sense of discipline. However, his powers and his recklessness endanger the crew and test Janeway's patience"
Various Trek series nearly overdid Q episodes, but it’s been a while since his last visit, so he comes as a welcome addition here. “Q2” benefits from the casting of de Lancie’s son as Q’s son. The younger de Lancie displays his dad’s sense of smarminess and mischief, so he really feels like a chip off the old Q. The episode gets a bit too touchy-feely, but it’s mostly a fun exploration of its theme.
Author, Author: "A means of direct communication is established with Voyager allowing each crew member to speak with family and friends. The Doctor sends a holo-novel for publication based on a lost Starship with a doctor who is treated like a slave, which causes controversy among the members of the ship."
“Author” is half fun, half-heavy-handed. The fun parts come in its first half as we watch the Doctor’s goofy holonovel thinly based on the Voyager’s crew. The heavy-handed elements appear when we get into the definition of humanity. It’s a generally good show despite the overwrought elements.
Friendship One: "With regular communications to the Alpha Quadrant established, Starfleet send a mission to Voyager: retrieve a 21st Century probe sent from Earth called 'Friendship One.'"
At its core, “Friendship” possesses an intriguing subject matter as it views the effects of spacecrafts launched and later lost through the cosmos. Too bad that factor plays only a minor role as the story mostly concentrates on the usual touchy-feely “let’s be friends” theme. It’s a predictable tale we’ve seen many times.
Natural Law: "Chakotay and Seven of Nine are left stranded on an alien planet when they crash into a planet inhabited by primitive tribes. Voyager is prevented from finding them by a mysterious energy barrier surrounding them."
Given the fact we just learned of Seven’s romantic interest in Chakotay, wouldn’t you think an episode that finds that pair stranded together might explore the topic? “Law” doesn’t, as it prefers to involve itself in a banal tale of a primitive culture. And why does the series always stick Chakotay with these tribes that seem awfully similar to his own ancestors? It’s an unfortunate form of stereotyping that’s odd for a Trek series. At least the subplot in which Paris takes pilot lessons offers some comic relief.
Homestead: "When Voyager discovers a settlement of Talaxians on an asteroid caught in an industrial conflict, the crew manage find a new home for the population. When an armed conflict between the mining operations and the re-settled Talaxians erupts, Neelix is offered a chance of a new life away from Voyager within the colony."
Barring some radical change, this should be the last Voyager episode to concentrate on Neelix. It makes me very happy to know I’ll not have to deal with the series’ most annoying character any longer, though “Homestead” seems determined to irritate as it includes so many of his kind. No, they’re not as grating as Neelix, but they’re not much better.
Renaissance Man: "The Doctor must impersonate various crew members when Captain Janeway is abducted and held hostage for Voyager's warp core."
With so little time left in the series, I might expect something more oriented toward character resolution from “Renaissance”. However, it essentially presents little more than a lively adventure. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It does put the Doctor in an awkward spot at the end, but it doesn’t do much else to further the various character arcs. Instead, it’s simply a fun escapade.
Endgame: "After a decades-long journey to reach the Alpha Quadrant, Admiral Kathryn Janeway makes a bold decision to change the past in an attempt to undo the toll taken on the crew during their arduous journey home."
With “Endgame”, Voyager reaches its conclusion. I wish I could say this program offers a truly satisfying finale, but it’s only a moderate success. On one hand, it lets the series finish with a literal and figurative bang, and it’s one of the very few Voyager episodes that almost feels cinematic.
However, it doesn’t wrap up the various characters in a strong manner. Perhaps that makes it more realistic, but I’d have liked a more conclusive resolution. This one feels a bit nebulous and tentative. It’s a good episode and one of the season’s best, but just not as memorable as I might prefer.
The same can probably be said for Voyager as a whole. I enjoyed the seven seasons of the series, and I think its detractors came down too hard on it. The show clearly had its flaws and was never as enjoyable or endearing as its predecessors. It was the most erratic of the first three post-TOS series. (Honestly, I think TOS was the least consistent of all the shows through Voyager, but it had a charm and energy the others couldn’t match, and that balanced the relatively high percentage of flawed episodes.)
The best that could be said for Voyager is that it presented a generally enjoyable roster of Trek adventures. The worst aspect of the series was that it never created a genuine tone of its own. Too often it felt like Next Generation with some minor twists. It did develop and improve as it progressed, at least to a degree. It peaked in its third and fourth seasons and never returned to those heights during its final three years.
I did enjoy Voyager, but with the possible exception of Enterprise - which I’ve never watched - it’s my least favorite of the series. Don’t take that as condemnation of the show, however, as mediocre Trek is still pretty good, and enough solid material appeared during Voyager’s run to make me mildly sad to see it go.