Star Trek Voyager Voyages: Season 1

Since Ro Karen of the Starbase 66 podcast has been micro-blogging her foray into one of our favourite fandoms (the Buffyverse) on G+, we thought we’d do the same for one of her’s, Star Trek: Voyager. We update these mini reviews on our G+ about once a week—whenever we finish off a disc.

Episode 1-2: Caretaker
On a mission to the Badlands, the USS Voyager, along with a Maquis ship, is stranded in the Delta Quadrant, more than 70,000 light-years from home by an incredibly powerful being known as “Caretaker.”

I’d never seen this episode so I’d never really understood what the Maquis were doing on board. Things make a little more sense now and the Chakotay/Janeway dynamic is kind of interesting at this point. Though you can tell he’s too much of a “nice guy” to ever really plot a mutiny—so what’s the point of his character then? If this had been made post-BSG, there’d have been more a Machiavellian power struggle between the two.

But the bigger flaw is in Tom Paris who is entirely unbelievable as a rogue. I had no idea he was supposed to be the Starbuck/Han Solo of the crew. Because, at his very core, Robert Duncan McNeill isn’t. His attempts at being rough-and-tumble and morally ambiguous are, frankly, absurd.

Neelix and Kess are less annoying than I remembered and Tuvok isn’t as bad a Vulcan as I remember. The Doctor hits the ground running though Janeway’s robotic swagger is a little bizzare.

As far as the episode itself goes, it’s far better than anything in the first two or three seasons of TNG. We’re on season 5 of TNG right now and this might actually be better than pretty much everything TNG has had to offer up to this point.

A solid Star Trek episode.

Episode 3: Parallax
Voyager is trapped in a quantum singularity’s event horizon, and Captain Janeway must decide between Lt. Carey and former Maquis B’Elanna Torres to be the new chief engineer.

Another good episode in the classic Star Trek style. Quantum physics and problem solving. Garrett Wang is a terrible actor as evidenced by his terrible headache acting. They already seem to be moving Tom Paris’s character away from rogue towards bumbling moron. A good move since he plays that role well. B’Elanna Torres makes a better crew rogue. This still leaves Chakotay in limbo as to his role in the ensemble. Again The Doctor is the best part of the episode.

Episode 4: Time and Again
Captain Kathryn Janeway and Tom Paris are sent back in time one day before an alien planet is annihilated. They attempt to stop the explosion that destroys the planet.

This episode starts off with a dialogue between Paris and Kim lifted from a Happy Days script where Fonzie is trying to get Richie to go on a double date with some hot sisters. It also ends with this dialogue. The title is a bit of a spoiler. Tom Paris continues to descend into idiocy which begs the question “Why is he on the away team?” other than Janeway was hoping he’d get red-shirted. Poor old Chakotay is stuck on the bridge wondering what he’s doing there. There’s a kid on this planet-of-the-week which was clearly bred in the same lab they get all annoying Star Trek kids from. Another good script surpassing anything in the first 4 seasons of TNG.

Episode 5: Phage
An organ-harvesting species known as the Vidiians steal Neelix’s lungs, leaving him to die.

I was just talking to the Starbase 66 crew about social commentary in sci-fi. Here’s some. Organ harvesting was the fear du jour in the mid-nineties. Topical. The Phage looks really gross. Leprosy is a perennial fear. Holographic lungs were a pretty original idea. Some great humanist moments between characters. The Doctor’s Data/Spock search for humanity is progressing nicely. Chakotay finally got to leave the ship though all he got to do on the away mission was be bitchy. On the second away mission Janeway takes charge (in a sort of charging in blindly bat-shit crazy kind of way). Why is Chakotay even on the show?

Episode 6: The Cloud
The crew enter a nebula to collect samples before realizing it is a living organism.

Sort of a Farpoint-esque episode involving a living nebula. Basically, ol’ bat-shit Janeway risks the crew for a cup of coffee. Chakotay finally has a role in the ensemble. He’s the spirit advisor for the crew! In a completely racist let’s just mix-up every American aboriginal tradition we learned from old westerns in a blender kind of way. But at least he has a purpose now. He helps ol’ bat-shit crazy find her spirit animal which is, wait for it, a frakking gecko. Anyway, even though they’re rationing the food replicators (no coffee for Captain Bat-Shit!), they’re running the holodeck at full-throttle. Lame plot, good character moments.

Episode 7: Eye Of The Needle
A micro-wormhole is discovered that leads to the Alpha Quadrant, and the crew make contact with a Romulan ship on the other side.

Romulans, time rifts, wormholes, humanism in times of war … this is about as Star Trek as you can get. This episode is basically the first in a long line of disappointments the crew will face trying to get home. I can see this being a bit of a problem when you know there’s seven seasons between now and getting home. You know how these episodes are going to end.

Episode 8: Ex Post Facto
Tom Paris is convicted of murder on an alien world, and his punishment is reliving the murder from the victim’s perspective every 14 hours.

Basically a remake of that TOS episode where Scotty is accused of killing a prostitute Kirk set him up with (Ah the social commentary!). And there must be a Riker episode like this. This time out it’s Tom Paris who still isn’t believable as a ladies’ man. But he is believable as the dolt who’d get himself in trouble on an away mission. Clearly his role is going to be “plot-driving liability” for the rest of the series. Anyway, I always like it when Trek hauls out the who-dun-it episodes. Janeway makes some bat-hit crazy faces. Good times.

Additional thoughts: Kes is a great character. Why they wrote her out instead of Chakotay is baffling me at this point. I say Chakotay instead of Tom Paris or Harry Kim because there has to be a Geordie and that’s Kim. A plot can always use “the boring guy.” Paris and Chakotay are fighting over the Riker scraps and Paris is actually winning due to his buffoon edge. At least he can drive the plot. Chakotay could have been deleted from every episode up to this point without changing anything—or anyone on the crew even noticing.

Though I can see why the producers want Neelix and Kes to have free-run of the ship (variety, plot driving), it seems absurd to me that the otherwise by-the-books Janeway allows them on the bridge. Ever. I guess it’s part of her bat-shit craziness. She likes their whimsy.

Episode 9: Emanations
Harry Kim is transported to an alien world at the same time a dead body [wrapped in web] arrives on Voyager.

Chakotay’s Native American lineage actually serves a purpose in this episode instead of being ham-fisted in. So much so you have to wonder just why they made this a Harry Kim episode. A classic philosophical (as in blatant religion-bashing) Trek clash-of-cultures story. Great performance by Jefrey Alan Chandler who delivers some truly absurd monologues totally convincingly. Still disappointed no giant spider showed up.

Episode 10: Prime Factors
A race that could shorten Voyager’s journey with a transportation device will not share its technology.

Another Harry Kim heavy episode, though he makes sense in his role here. It’d make more sense Tom Paris was hitting on the alien girl, but he’d have been happy to get jiggy with it on the planet she beams them to and, since he’s a moron, not mention the technology to Janeway. Ergo, no episode. Finally the Maquis/Starfleet crew conflict is showing its potential with Siska and Torres. Tuvoc gets more interesting. Janeway exists in a bubble all her own.

Episode 11: Prime Factors
Janeway and the other senior officers attempt to flush out a spy who is sending information to the Kazon.

And the interesting Maquis/Starfleet crew conflict is over before it started. Bye bye Siska, you were too interesting to be on the show. You were making Tom, Harry and Chakotay look bad. Good DS9-esque episode even if the Kazon are actually pretty boring adversaries.

Episode 12: Heroes and Demons
The holographic doctor must rescue crew members who were turned to energy in the Holodeck, by entering a holodeck program of Beowulf.

Robert Picardo gets to shine as The Doctor in this holodeck malfunction episode where placing a character on the holodeck actually serves a narrative purpose for his character. It adds another level of “out of water” to his fish out of water existence and gives him a safe environment to explore his latent humanity. The beginning of this episode must have had the Harry Kim haters rejoicing as it looks like a perfect excuse to write him out. But about mid-point you realize this isn’t the case. Actually, these last four episodes have made me appreciate Harry a little more. In the way that he’s really no less interesting than Geordie, he just doesn’t have a banana clip. Any TNG episode where Geordie loses the VISOR, he basically becomes a black Harry Kim. Maybe these four episode have just made me appreciate Geordie less. In other news, I’m convinced Kate Mulgrew was cast for her ability to cock an eyebrow. I don’t think she says a line without emphasizing it using some kind of saucy facial tick. She’s a hoot.

Episode 13: Cathexis
An alien mind takes over crew-members’ bodies, and Chakotay is left apparently brain-dead after something attacks his shuttlecraft.

This episode starts off with Janeway taking part in a holodeck novel. It’s a gothic romance which kind of makes no sense at all. Would she really choose that? It seems wrong for her character. It’s also not mentioned again in the entire episode. I was concerned this meant either the writing of the show is actually going to generally get sloppier for a while or we’re going to have to endure this silly charade for a while. The rest of the episode was a pretty good rehash of that old Star Trek trope: the alien consciousness taking over the crew. Chakotay’s gestalt first nations heritage gets some more screen time.

Episode 14: Faces
B’Elanna Torres is split into her human and Klingon halves by the Vidiians.

The Vidiians make a comeback in the second Phage episode. This one makes them one the most chilling Trek baddies with their face-grafting horror-show. The Kazon and the Borg and the Cardassians need to takes notes from these guys. I think it’s the fact the Vidiians are sort of innocently self-centered that makes them great adversaries. Like really polite Reavers. “The fanfic writes itself” as B’Elanna gets split into her human and Klingon halves and the Klingon half fireman carries the human half into a love cave. Mandi was upset about how weak and flinchy the human B’Elanna was, feeling it could be taken a statement on all human women. I could see her point but felt it was a natural response to the situation by her human half, as you could assume her Klingon side always took care of the perilous situations. Anyway, a sort of ham-fisted statement on being a mixed race female probably written by a white man (actually, it was: Kenneth Biller).

Episode 15: Jetrel
A member of the Haakonians, a race warring with the Talaxians arrives on Voyager, much to the dismay of Neelix, whose family was killed by them.

Another standard Star Trek trope: the atomic bomb / WWII allegory episode. Here we have a jew/Japanese hybrid (Neelix) confronting an Oppenheimer/Goebbels hybrid (Jetrel). Ethan Philips does some nice acting. Neelix really is a pretty good character, if a tad annoying. The romance between him and Kes is shown to be completely absurd in this episode though. There is beyond zero chemistry between the two. It would have been a better dynamic if they’d set Neelix up as Kes’ adopted father instead. It would have made more sense and they could still have cared about each other. Her aloofness would have made more sense then too. Anyway, another decent, if heavy-handed, episode. I feel like they shied too much away from the idea the Talaxians committed atrocities during the war as well. The Neelix being a conscientious objector twist was a little too pat.

Episode 16: Learning Curve
Tuvok trains several Maquis members who have not fully integrated into the Voyager crew.

A bunch of Maquis characters we probably never see again learn some lessons, as does Tuvok. Neelix pulls a Guinan. Janeway goes back to her Turn of the Wuthering Screw holo-novel meaning we’re going to have to endure more of this silliness in the future. Well, at least it redeems the writing in “Cathexis” a bit.

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