Star trek Voyager Voyages: Season 5

Star Trek Voyager, Season 5, kind of a mixed bag. Or perhaps the months-long, non-stop diet of replicator rations is finally beginning to take its toll on me. Here follows the good, the bad, and the often middle of the road…

Episode 95: Night

Voyager loses power traversing a dark region of space containing theta radiation.

This starts off as probably the best Voyager does Alien episode they’ve come up with so far. Then it gets weird and shifts into a heavy-handed allegory about pollution and ecology.

We also meet a new race of baddies called the Malon who are kind of Red Dwarf versions of something out of David Lynch’s version of Dune. They seem somehow out of place though being little more realistic in their motives than the usual Klingon-rehash warrior villains.

And finally, the new holodeck running gag for this season is Tom Paris’ Flash Gordon / Lost In Space style serial, Captain Proton . Campy and fun (I guess) but I always find it annoying when shows create old shows that never existed. It just feels like something Calvin (as in “and Hobbes”) would have come up with. Maybe it’s supposed to be an original creation by Tom Paris. That would explain why it’s so ridiculous. And Calvin-like.

Episode 96: Drone

The Doctor’s mobile emitter is damaged while beaming back from an away mission, merging with Seven of Nine’s Borg nanoprobes and the DNA of a male Ensign to create a 29th century Borg.

In this remake of the TNG episode “The Offspring”, Seven of Nine has the same experience as Data. Though the episode is coloured by this quibble, it’s the better of the two. J. Paul Boehmer’s performance as One really makes it. Also, the scene in which One dies is one of the most achingly poingant in Trekhistory.

[One has suffered life-threatening injuries]
One: [to Seven] I was never meant to be. As long as I exist, you are in danger. All life on Voyager is in danger.
The Doctor: We can talk about this later.
[proceeds to give an injection but is prevented by One's personal force field]
Seven of Nine: Allow the Doctor to proceed… Lower the force field!
The Doctor: His synapses are failing.
Seven of Nine: You must comply.
One: I will not!
Seven of Nine: You must comply! Please. You are hurting me.
One: You will adapt.
[dies]

Well, reading the script doesn’t do it justice. You really need to see Boehmer’s and Jeri Ryan’s performances. Anyway, we were both in tears.

Episode 97: Extreme Risk

B’Elanna purposely puts herself into increasingly more dangerous situations. Meanwhile the crew decides to build a new shuttlecraft, the Delta Flyer.

This is the “Kes gets a new haircut episode” for Voyager’s new shuttle. Well, that’s not exactly fair, it’s a pretty good episode but it’d be better without B’Elanna being emo. It’s all a bit pointless on a narrative level and is psychologically questionable as far as her character goes.

In other news, Tom gives the “Delta Flyer” Captain Proton flight controls which is half-awesome, half-absurd. I kind of like it. Reminds you not to take this show remotely seriously.

Episode 98: In The Flesh

The ship encounters a training facility for an alien invasion of Earth.

Ignore the absurd premise for a moment. Or, no. Let’s not ignore it. Species 8472 have created a massive Earth simulation to train operatives, disguised as humans, to infiltrate Starfleet command.

Two quibbles:
1) Why the hell not just invade the Alpha Quadrant and annihilate it in a surprise attack? Why the overly complex subterfuge? My guess is they’d stumbled upon a broadcast of the old Earth TV show V and thought it seemed like a pretty good idea.
2) Okay, so they’re training the incomprehensibly alien 8472s to play at being human. Who’s going to grade them on this? Everything we know about Species 8472 says they should not be able to pull this off at all. It’d be like wasps posing as kittens. Imagine a wasp walking around in a kitten costume and think about how convincing that’d be.

Anyway, go back to ignoring all that. It’s a pretty good episode. We spent the first half of the episode going out of our skull trying to figure where we’d seen Cmdr. Valerie Archer before. Mandi said she was someone “trashy and sneaky.” I could only come up with the trashy and sneaky Pam from True Blood. But, no, she was Ellen Tigh from BSG—trashy and sneaky.

Bonus quibble: Janeway does a great job acting as diplomat, actually forging a kind of peace with Species 8472, but DOESN’T BOTHER TO ASK THEM WHAT THEY’RE ACTUALLY CALLED.

Episode 99: Once Upon a Time

Neelix looks after Naomi Wildman when her mother is injured on an away mission.

I know I complain when they give some major bit of backstory to a character and then never mention it again, but I’m getting tired of Neelix whining about his dead family. I’m glad though that they’ve finally created a kid character in Star Trekthat isn’t absolute shit. I don’t necessarily want to see many more Naomi Wildman episodes, but her Harriet The Spy schtick is at least childlike and gives having a child on the ship a purpose.

The problem with Wesley was he wasn’t ever really a kid. Alexander was only there to be a “problem” for Worf to deal with and Jake seemed to be there so that no one would ask “Why doesn’t a space station have any kids on it?” I mean other than the obvious answer of “It’s in a frackin’ war zone.”

Anyway, this episode would have been better if Ensign Wildman had been on the away mission with a couple redshirts so you might have thought she was going to die and Neelix would have to take care of Naomi.

Though given Neelix’s creepy history with girls who develop at an accelerated rate, this seems like a dodgy plan.

Episode 100: Timeless

Fifteen years in the future, Chakotay and Harry Kim attempt to prevent the Voyager from crash-landing on an ice planet.

I dunno. Much like Tuvok’s mind-melds blowing up in his face, Harry’s new found confidence blowing up in his face is getting to be a tired plot device. Perhaps because cocky Harry is a douchebag. And also, Garrett Wang doesn’t play “hardened” very well. He does play “flustered nerd” extremely well though.

Anyway, the opening where they discover Voyager frozen in a glacier is pretty much one of the most awesome moments in the series so far.

Also, it’s kind of amusing that Geordie directed this one.

Episode 101: Infinite Regress

Seven of Nine experiences something akin to dissociative identity disorder.

This is the Jeri Ryan gets to show her acting chops episode. And, it turns out, she’s got ‘em. Her teenage character was especially convincing and her Vulcan character being just a little bit different from Seven’s usual stoicism was nicely subtle. A few times things feel a bit overdone, as if for a stage performance, but it’s a solid performance. Really highlights just how much Elisa Dusku didn’t do this kind of thing very well on Dollhouse.

Speaking of Tuvok’s mind melds never working out, his mind meld in this episode achieves absolutely nothing. If anything, he acerbates the problem.

Anyway, the biggest laughs came from the Borg “vinculum” which we thought was called the “thinkculum” and had to rewind the scene several times to decide they were saying “vinculum”. Which sounds like part of the urinary tract.

Episode 102: Nothing Human

A wounded alien is brought on board from a stranded vessel and attaches itself to B’Elanna Torres.

The good old Heavy Hand of Ethical Philosophy™ is back for this episode. This time it asks the question “should we use unethically obtained knowledge for the greater good?”

These Heavy Hand™ episodes, though clumbsy, are always good. I liked how the evil Nazi Cardassian Dr. Mengele Moset sounded a bit like Jimmy Stewart. I was a little disapointed that when the Doctor called him “inhuman” he didn’t say “I’m not human, I’m Cardassian. Your point is invalid.”

And also to point out that not using his research would mean that everyone he killed died in vain. If I’m ever vivisected to death by a mad scientist, and a cure for something is derived from that ordeal, please not that the cure BETTER DAMN WELL BE USED. Can I put that on my organ donor card?

Captain Crazypants makes an appearance at the end of the episode where she’s a complete and utter bitch to B’Ellana for no apparent reason. I’ll grant the writers credit for having act out negatively due to repressed anxiety over the ethical dilemma she’s faced. But it just seems inappropriately hostile and random. We’ll call that depth.

Episode 103: Thirty Days

Tom Paris disregards orders by helping an aquatic world and is demoted to Ensign.

The only problem I had with this episode is Tom’s daddy issues are boring. It’s too bad they insist on making this one of his defining nuggets of character development.

Anyway, Tom breaks the Prime Directive in order to save a ocean planet from its own people so Janeway demotes him to Ensign. Which means… nothing, really. Besides that I didn’t realize he wasn’t already an Ensign. He’s still going to be piloting the ship and going on away missions, right? Hell, Harry’s an Ensign and literally runs the ship half the time. Rank seems to mean nothing on Voyager.

Episode 104: Counterpoint

While passing through Devore space, Voyager is routinely searched for telepaths.

They’ve learned a few tricks about narrative over the years on this show. Both this epsiode and the last begin In medias res. It’s a nicely written and executed little cat’n’mouse story about hiding Jews from the Nazis with Janeway having an affair with a high-ranking Gestapo officer (Mark Harelik in a fine performance). Only it’s aliens and telepaths in space, of course.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure Tom got demoted for doing this kind of “getting involved in the internal politics of a civilization” thing last episode. Hey, if she wasn’t hypocritical she wouldn’t be Captain Crazypants…

Episode 105: Latent Image

The Doctor finds out that some of his memories have been blocked.

A good Doctor episode (as any Doc episode is) that really makes no logical sense. The premise is he lost a patient and if he retains those memories guilt causes him to to down-spiral into a nervous breakdown. All well and good but the solutions they come up with seem overly extreme and complicated ranging from wiping his memory to some really half-assed weeks-long psychotherapy sessions by untrained counselors like Captain Crazypants herself. They don’t really explain why his code couldn’t be altered just slightly so that he doesn’t dwell on thoughts of self-recrimination. I guess there’d be no episode in that case.

Anyway, it’s all moot since I assume this character defining trauma will never be spoken of again.

Episode 106: Bride of Chaotica!

Paris’ latest holodeck adventure The Adventures of Captain Proton takes an unexpected turn.

“Unexpected” turn? Not so sure about that given the holodeck’s track record for being a shit disturber. Anyway, they do this thing on Voyager where they start up a new Holodeck motif and then have it build up to a pay-off episode. I guess this is the Captain Proton pay-off episode.

Yeah, it’s okay I guess. Self-referential and amusing. Not terrible by any means, but I wanted it to be better than it was. Maybe because Martin Rayner’s performance as Dr. Chaotica is kind of blah verging on meh when he should have been fabulously flamboyant and chaotic.

Episode 107: Gravity

Tuvok and Paris crash on a planet stuck in a pocket of subspace, where they meet a female named Noss.

Mostly what you take away from this episode is Tuvok is kind of a jerk. As a youth he has to dope up his mind with meditation to keep from being a homicidal stalker and in adulthood he’s needlessly callous to other people’s feelings. He does however manage to pull off a halfway not-disasterous mind meld for once.

Otherwise I enjoyed this episode quite a bit for the following reasons: Lori Petty.

Episode 108: Bliss

A large organism telepathically deceives the Voyager crew into flying into its digestive chamber.

Yet another mind control episode. This one has the jankiest looking steampunk spaceship in it. It’s piloted by a guy named Qatai (Hey, it’s Blank Reg from Max Headroom!) who looks like he few in from the set of Red Dwarf or Hitchhiker’s Guide. I’m beginning to wonder if their set designer used to work for the Beeb.

Anyhoo… though played out, mind control episodes are always a good time and Naomi Wildman is still not making me want to sterilize the planet.

Episode 109-110: Dark Frontier

Janeway plans to steal a transwarp coil from a disabled Borg ship to shorten their journey home. Seven of Nine experiences memories of her past just before she and her parents are assimilated and plans to re-join the Borg collective. Janeway leads a mission in the Delta Flyer to rescue Seven from the Borg Queen.

Susanna Thompson puts in a goosebump-inducing performance as the Borg Queen. Better than Alice Krige, I think. Though we did spend the entire two-parter (finally they got around to making a two-parter one long episode) trying to figure out if Seven’s mom was supposed to have ended up being the Borg Queen. Nope. That would have been better. And less distracting. Just saying. Or maybe it’d have been too Luke and Vader. Whatever. It’d have been better than the impotent daddy drone reveal.

Captain Crazypants isn’t just wearing crazyshorts this episode. Full length trousers. Maybe a Crazyjacket too. A fanfic writing Crazyjacket and pantsuit combo.

Episode 111: The Disease

Kim finds love when the crew encounter a Varro generational ship that needs assistance repairing its warp drive.

Other than the character Tal inexplicably being the only member of her race to have an accent (glitch in the universal translator?) this was a pretty decent episode. The old Star Trek “all’s not perfect in paradise” trope. You know it. They revisit it in between temporal anomaly episodes. I didn’t really understand why Tal didn’t join the crew of Voyager other than Musetta Vander must not have been available for more episodes.

Bonus trope: El cockblock.

Episode 112: Course: Oblivion

After Torres and Paris get married, subspace radiation causes the crew and their ship to disintegrate.

This episode is one of those “It doesn’t matter, it’s not really the crew” episodes. At about the halfway point you realize you have no reason to care. So don’t and just wait it out.

Trope: Mirror universe (more or less).

Episode 113: The Fight

Chakotay lies in sickbay as he attempts to communicate with aliens through hallucinations.

Damn. Robert Beltran is kind of a shitty actor. I didn’t think he was. He doesn’t often have to do “pain” or “crazy” I guess.

Anyway, kind of a neat concept to the episode. Except it makes no sense the aliens would communicate with Chakotay in this psychic manner and then be so absurdly incomprehensible and vague.

Trope: Alien possession.

Episode 114: Think Tank

Voyager is being chased by the Hazari when a think tank offers assistance.

Jason Alexander is one of the most underrated actors of his generation. This was a very TOS episode. From all the set-dressings and props to the basic concept and dramatic struggle. In TOS it’d be Spock the alien would be demanding in exchange for their assistance instead of Seven with Kirk reacting pretty much the same way.

Trope: Nefarious alien with a secret agenda.

Episode 115: Juggernaut

The crew respond to a distress call from Malon escape pods contaminated with radiation.

Sadly the line “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch” is not uttered in this episode.

I’m undecided on this one. It’s pretty good. I enjoy the Malon more than any other adversary Voyager has encountered. Mostly because they’re not some macho warring race, just one that’s ethically at odds with the Federation. This makes for a more interesting conflict. Also their only reason for appearing on the show isn’t to be a tactically or technologically superior obstacle for Voyager and actually have their own reasons for existence.

Still, the episode stumbles at the end. The cat and mouse game with mythical Viharr turns out to be a kind of  Scooby-Doo plot. The monster is actually a deformed Malon. But there isn’t really any resolution or payoff, it just sort of ends.


Quibble: Not really a plot hole, but in an earlier episode Janeway offered a Malon technology which would help their home world deal with their theta radiation problem. He rejected it out of personal greed, being a waste disposal tycoon, and the Malon home world doesn’t hear a word of the plan. The Malon captain at the end of this episode is terminally ill from the effects of theta radiation and seemed like he would have been receptive to this offer. It’s never mentioned. Oh-kaay.

Episode 116: Someone To Watch Over Me

Seven of Nine explores dating with some help from the Doctor.

While watching this I was thinking “Why can’t there be more episodes like this?” and when it finished Mandi said, “Those were always the best kinds of TNG episodes.”

And it’s true. Borg and Romulans and explosions and photon torpedoes are all well and good, but these quiet little character episodes are where Star Trek shines. Plus, Scott Thompson doesn’t hurt.

Quibble: A heartbroken Doctor ends the episode signing the titular “Someone To Watch Over Me” which is fine. But seeing as he and the object of his desire (for one episode only!), Seven of Nine, sang an upbeat version of “You Are My Sunshine” together, it would have been a nice call-back to have him end the episode on a downtempo, torchy version of the song. Because, seriously, that song sung slow and plaintively is absolutely heartbreaking.

Episode 117: 11:59

Janeway reminisces about one of her Earth’s ancestors, Shannon O’Donnell from Indiana.

W… T… F… ?

Three things are good about the episode. 1) it’s a break from the regular formula; 2) It makes what turn out to be a few accurate predictions about millennial hysteria, and; 3) it shows how Voyager takes place in an alternate reality from our own. The “Millenium Gate”, or something like it, was not being built at the time of  the episode’s air-date (May 5, 1999). This year 2000 was more technologically advanced than ours (though not Shannon O’Donnell’s station wagon).

Episode 118: Relativity

Captain Braxton recruits Seven of Nine to stop Voyager being sabotaged.

As much as I question time-travel episodes, this one is as good a “time cop” story as anything I’ve seen. I’ve learned to just accept causality paradoxes without nit-picking them. Not much to say. Good episode.

Episode 119: Warhead

The crew rescue a device with artificial intelligence embedded in rock, but it then proceeds to take control of The Doctor and reveals itself to be a weapon of mass destruction.

I’m not going crazy am I? This was a TOS or TNG episode, right? Was it both? Drove me nuts all episode and I was half thinking I might have actually been remembering this episode itself.

Anyway, good tense episode. Sort like HAL from 2001 playing the bomb from Speed. Oh, and he possesses the Doctor which always good times.

Quibble: They ixnay a plan to just transport the bomb off Voyager because they couldn’t beam it far enough away for it to safely detonate. What happened to the words “wide dispersal”?

Episode 120: Equinox, Part 1

Voyager finds another Federation ship, the USS Equinox, under attack from flying nucleogenic lifeforms.

The obligatory season ending cliff-hanger with scary-ass aliens. These ones are something like a cross between a xenomorph and Slimer from Ghostbusters. Which is actually kind of comical.

This is also the second episode in a row where the Doctor is hi-jacked (not really, but close enough). Also we get the return of the duplicitous Federation officer trope.

And the spectacular return of Captain “Batshit” Crazypants. What gets ol’ Batshit really riled up? Other batshit starship captains. Lot’s of cross-crew UST which is bound to end in tears in Part 2.

We’ll wait and see. Then I’ll pass judgement.

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