Star Trek Voyager Voyages: Season 2

We’re at the end of Season 2 already. I think it took us a year to get this far in our TNG rewatch. Just sayin’.

Episode 17: The 37’s
A group of humans from the 1930s is found in stasis on an abandoned planet, including the lost Amelia Earhart.

And the fanfic writes itself. I guess they were tired of trying to insinuate some UST between Chakotay and Janeway so they decided to pull out the stops with some of the most palpable on-screen sexual chemistry on any Star Trek show. Janeway and Amelia Earhart never get it on—except with their eyes and hungry, quivering lips—but you can see their imaginations racing. Tackleberry from Police Academy guest stars and, not to speak ill of the dead, puts in a crap performance. The set up for this episode is pretty much the same as “Space Seed”. I think it starts with Janeway’s Turn of the Screw holodeck novel but I can’t remember because I think I’m willfully ignoring these bits.

Fun fact: This episode was meant to be the finale for Season One. It wasn’t for some reason I can’t be arsed to look up.

Episode 18: Initiations
Chakotay encounters a Kazon youth who is on an initiation rite; to earn his name by killing an enemy or to be killed in the attempt.

There’s a lot of speculation about why Robert Beltran got so pissy about his stint on Voyager. I’ve heard it was because he didn’t end up being the leading man he was supposed to be. I think it’s actually because with Voyager the producers took Roddenberry’s original “Wagon Train to the Stars” concept to heart. It starts off in the “badlands” and, due to their situation of being stuck 75 light years from home, the crew really are pioneer explorers in a way the crew of the various Enterprises never were—they’re actually on a “trek” where they need to pick up provisions on the way and be entirely self-reliant. Anyway, the point I’m coming to is the Kazon are a completely insulting caricature of “injun braves” right out of some archaic John Wayne movie. And this episode really highlights it. Coupled with Chakotay’s “white man’s vague idea of First Nation’s spiritual practices” ceremonies, I figure Beltran was beginning to feel a little like, “Fuck all you pale-faces” by about this point. Anyway, not a bad episode which is sort of combination of the film Enemy Mine and the short story “The Ransom of Red Chief” and any TNG episode where someone gets stuck somewhere with an enemy and they learn to appreciate each other.

Episode 19: Projections
The Doctor becomes delusional after an accident, causing him to believe that he is a flesh-and-blood person and his time on USS Voyager is a holodeck program.

So far The Doctor is getting all the interesting episodes. This one is basically a remake of the TNG episode “Frame of Mind.” The idea of UST between him and Kes (at least in The Doctor’s mind) was an interesting development. I feel like this is only time it’s addressed though. At least it seems to be entirely abandoned in the very next episode when it should have popped up again.

Episode 20: Elogium
Space-dwelling life-forms cause Kes to enter the Ocampan fertile phase called Elogium, putting pressure on her relationship with Neelix when she wants to have his child.

It’s Pon Farr time for Kes. This is one of the “Neelix needs to get defenestrated” episodes when he goes into two different types of hysterics (jealous rage and protective worry). The relationship between him an Kes really starts to feel pedo and creepy in this episode. To the point I may have barfed in my mouth at more than one point. The Doctor gives Kes a foot massage with zero UST. Disappointing. Apparently I’m a Doc/Kes shipper. What I am not is a Chakotay/Janeway supporter. They seemed to be trying to insinuate some sexual subtext in the plot involving space triops in a mating frenzy but, after seeing Janeway burn up the screen with Amelia Earhart, it just seems silly.

Episode 21: Non Sequitur
Harry Kim wakes up in 24th century San Francisco with no record of him on Voyager.

Say what you want about Harry Kim being a wet towel, but his personality really drives plots that would not play out otherwise. Here we have Kim stuck in a time rift where an alien race is trying to get him to “play along” and embrace this alternate universe / alternate history where he never set foot on Voyager and has a pretty good life back in Frisco. If this were Tom Paris, he’d just have said “Fuckin’ eh! I’m back home! And I’ve got a hot girlfriend and a clarinet!” and leave it at that.

But because this is Harry Kim, he feels duty bound to get back to his original timeline. Of course, this makes no sense from the standpoint of everything Star Trek has lead me to believe about time and alternate universes. For one, he wouldn’t have “abandoned” his friends on Voyager, there’d still be a Harry Kim there, right? And secondly, what happened to the Harry Kim in this timeline? Did he get sent to Voyager and go through a similar WTF is going on episode? There’s no mention of that so we have to assume not.

But, okay, let’s just accept there’s only one Harry Kim to be shared in all the universes. The idea of Harry Kim feeling duty-bound to setting timelines right isn’t very dramatic. If it were Tom Paris then that’d be some character growth for him. There’s also no sense of urgency. If Kim doesn’t get back, so what? He gets to lead a pretty awesome life. To make this episode “good” instead of “well, that wasn’t bad” would be that Time or Space was unraveling because of his space-time displacement or something. Or that everyone on Voyager in the other timeline was going to die if he didn’t go back. Because, you know what Harry? They’re probably doing just fine without you.

Episode 22: Twisted
A region of space distorts the interior of Voyager.

Though the physics, quantum or otherwise, are not really explained, I like this kind of Trekepisode.The ship can be completely rearranged from one second to the next yet everything hooks up perfectly and no one’s body gets quantumly spliced or mangled. Just go with it. This is character time where many a slash fic dynamic is set up for the ‘shippers. Didn’t this happen on the Enterprise though?

Note to Starfleet Captains: STOP FLYING INTO COSMIC GAS CLOUDS! I know they look interesting, but don’t do it. Just don’t do it.

Episode 23: Parturition
Neelix and Tom Paris fight over Kes, but are sent on an away mission together.

The Neelix/Kes/Tom triangle storyline comes to a head. Hopefully it gets abandoned here. Neelix and Tom get their classic adversaries stuck in a cave until they learn to appreciate one anotherepisode. Still the only palpable chemistry between Kes and anyone is with The Doctor who so truly achingly yearns for her it’s actually painful to watch. I don’t buy that Tom Paris is even superficially attracted to her (I suppose it is suggested on the episode that he’s only attracted to unobtainable women) and Neelix’s affection for her is only believable if you take her as an object for him to jealously covet. This could be an interesting dynamic to explore (I bet they don’t), I feel like Neelix has such potential for a cunningly duplicitous hidden darkside (I bet he just gets sunnier).

Episode 24: Persistence of Vision
The crew experience hallucinations brought on by an alien that put them into a trance-like state.

More fodder for the ‘shippers. One of those Trek episodes where a powerful alien being forces the crew to dredge up subconscious desires from their psyches. I guess John De Lancie wasn’t available for a Q cameo. Biggest missed opportunity in the series so far has to be when The Doctor is projected (or whatever they do) into Engineering, he appears as being only about 12 inches tall. He grumbles, “What a spectacular feat of engineering.” Someone should have said, “I’d say it’s more like a foot.” Anyway, Janeway’s Turn of the Wuthering Brats holo-novel arc finally pays off. Hopefully it’s now abandoned.

Note: I thought Robert Duncan McNeill might not have been able to play Tom Paris as if he were actually attracted to Kes because he’s not a very good actor and is totally gay. Apparently not. He has a wife and three kids (according to Memory Alpha) so is bi-sexual at best (bi-sexual is best, BTW). Also Gay-or-Straight.com says he’s only 54% gay and that’s the final word on that.

Episode 25: Tattoo (Wherein Voyager takes a turn for the complete bullshit).
Chakotay encounters non-humans that have the same tattoo on their foreheads that he has.

That one-line synopsis is a little inaccurate. It should read Chakotay meets the aliens that invented the spiritual beliefs of his make believe tribe (and apparently all other First Nations peoples, instantly devaluing the heritages of all aboriginal cultures on Earth) and makes peace with his dead father (who we didn’t know he had a problem with) in a rather arbitrary, borderline nonsensical way. Fucking terrible episode. Fittingly, given the episode title, the sets looked like Fantasy Island. I can only guess they Rick Berman came into a production meeting one day and said, “Hey, I just found the old Fantasy Island sets. We’ve gotta use them!”

And someone said, “Okay, what kind of story can we tell around the word ‘tattoo’?”

And someone else said, “Chakotay’s got a tattoo!”

And someone else, Maybe Brandon Braga, said, “We could get Ricardo Montalbán to play his father! The fans will eat that shit up.”

And a voice of reason said, “How’s his dad going to be in the Delta Quadrant?”

And Berman said, “Flashbacks! And we’ll make him a surly teenager. Like if he was a werewolf pining over a girl who’s in love with a vampire.”

And someone said, “Or should we make him overly earnest like Wesley?”

And then Braga fired that person for using The W word in a production meeting and said, “Surly teenager is always a solid move in Star Trek. People love it. Especially when their acting is substandard at best. But that Werewolf and vampire shit is stupid. That’d never fly.”

And Berman said, “I didn’t mean literally. It was a metaphor for how surly and bummed out he is. And we can’t afford Montalbán.”

And then Braga must have said at that point, “I feel like this script writes itself. Hell, we don’t even need a script. Let’s just film it bareback.”

Episode 26: Cold Fire
An Ocampan helps Kes with her mental abilities as the crew encounter a being who appears to be the Caretaker’s female counterpart.

One of the most laughably cheesy episodes yet. Truly terrible. But enjoyable for the constant unintentional hilarity. Especially the scene where Kes melts Tuvok’s melon. Commercial break. Hey, Tuvok’s okay! The Doctor is a miracle worker. Actually, he’s a doctor, not a miracle worker. One thing I really love about Voyager is how they constantly call-back to McCoy’s famous line and it actually works. Beverly could never get away with it. Anyway, I have an idea to recut the episode using audio from a 1960’s anti-drug PSA.

Episode 27: Maneuvers
Kazon Nistrim board Voyager and steal a transporter module in an attempt to unite the Kazon sects.

And the hits just keep coming. Fuck. I feel like nobody had a clear idea what they wanted the Kazon to be. In this episode they’re basically Klingons. Actually, it would have been far more interesting if there’d just been Klingons in the Delta Quadrant who’d lost touch with their brethren in the Alpha Quadrant. Some interesting possibilities there. Instead the Kazon just come off as cheap knock-offs with truly stupid moss-and-fungus hair-dos (hair-don’ts, actually). Anyway, the whole crux of the episode is to get Seska back into the mix only now they’ve taken her from an interesting, philosophically pragmatic foil to the “Starfleet way” and turned her into a saturday morning cartoon villian. She was only short a mustache to twirl and train tracks to tie Chakotay to. Also, instead of giving her something interesting to do as an adversary, they just have her rehashing the Lady MacBeth role that the Duras sisters did first and better. So now we have Cardassians as well as Kazon are standing in for Klingons.

Episode 28: Resistance
A mission to acquire Telerium goes wrong causing Tuvok and B’Elanna to be captured and believed to be with the resistance.

So, after three completely dire episodes, three episodes that make you regret buying the box-set just a little bit, they blindside you with a stone cold killer. This is what Star Trek is supposed to be. Good script (Lisa Klink, Michael Jan Friedman and Kevin J. Ryan), great performances (Joel Grey! and Kate Mulgrew), decent production values and clearly some attention actually being paid to the direction (Winrich Kolbe) and cinematography. The episode has even got the classic Trek trope of being an allegory for political situations here on Earth—in this case the planet was obviously inspired by Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan under the Taliban circa 1995. So it’s also interesting to look at the episode as being a propaganda piece for the upcoming war. This is also one of the great Janeway episodes where she gets to shine as a fascinating character, not just a slightly random, grumpy captain. Mulgrew really does do conflicted emotion extremely well, something, for example, Robert Beltran was incapable of expressing in “Tattoo”.

Episode 29: Prototype
The crew find and repair a robot that was adrift in space only to find themselves in the middle of a war when B’Elanna is abducted.

Other than the robot looking a bit too much like the “Fish, plankton, sea greens… protein from the sea!” guy from Logan’s Run (as in he looks like shit), this episode was pretty good. Though sort of a rehash of every other Star Trek episode that’s ever used a robot, android or A.I. as a springboard to explore existential questions about what it means to be alive, it wasn’t bad at all. The B’Elanna episodes are always pretty good since she’s both tough and stoic but also completely governed by her emotions. This gives her a lot of room for character exploration, unlike one-notes Harry, Chakotay and Tom.

Episode 30: Alliances
Janeway attempts to form an alliance with the Kazon to improve Voyager’s standing in the Delta Quadrant.

I think I’ve figured it out. The main reason the Kazon are so unsatisfying as baddies is that since so much is always being made about how they’re vulnerable because petty rivalries prevent them from uniting, why the hell hasn’t everyone else in the Delta Quadrant allied against them and neutralized these outlaws? Their ships are kind of lame and their numbers are minimal. Anyway, that aside, this is one the more interesting Kazon episodes so far. It turns out they’ve been done wrong by the Trabe, who used to enslave them generations ago. A pretty well-done, though blatantly obvious, allegory for Israelis and Palestinians. You know, that kind of political thing Star Trek likes to do every now and then. And by “now and then” I mean all the damn time.

Episode 31: Threshold 
Tom Paris breaks the transwarp threshold in the Shuttlecraft Cochrane, designed to reach warp 10, but there are some peculiar side effects.

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: This episode features an actually a pretty great performance by Robert Duncan McNeill. Though not quite as good as John Hurt’s in The Elephant Man, while being pretty much the same thing. Long story short, Paris and Janeway turn into two armed salamanders, mate and have babies. Let’s read that sentence again. Okay, now that we’ve letthat sink in, uncomfortably, let’s think about the greater ramifications of this event which I’m sure will never be referenced again. The Paris/Janeway pairing is so horrendously creepy I really feel like Paris shouldn’t have been able to serve on the bridge for a few months. And when he came back they should not have been able to make eye-contact for the rest of the trip. Also, I wonder what the Prime Directive says about leaving genetically mutated human salamander babies behind on a Class M planet. Probably doesn’t cover that specifically. And Chakotay was probably too creeped out to care anyway.

Episode 32: Meld
In order to quell the temper of a Voyager crew member, Tuvok performs a mind-meld.

I like how this synopsis refers to Brad Dourif’s psychopathic rage disorder as a “temper.” So anyway, as you’d expect, Tuvok goes completely bonkers and becomes a bit of a problem resulting in the second episode in a row where someone berates Janeway from behind a force field in sick bay. What this really means is, like McNeill last episode, Tim Russ gets to do some acting. Though his performance is nearly as enjoyable as any time Nimoy got to break-out of Spock’s character, he’s perhaps outshone by Dourif”s chilling portrayal of a Betazoid sociopath. It was refreshing to see a character in the Star Trek universe not motivated to evil acts by greed or ambition or misplaced idealism, but just out of plain, random craziness. You’d expect to see more of that with all the exploring Starfleet does, but they never seem to. I found the episode absolutely riveting but Mandi exclaimed “Well, that was stupid” as the credits rolled and further stated it was “borrrrrinnng” by way of explanation. Well, each to their own.

Episode 33: Dreadnought
A highly advanced Cardassian AI missile that had been reprogrammed by B’Elanna Torres is found in the Delta Quadrant.

This is a bit of a rehash of various Trek episodes. Most notably the TOS episode “Doomsday Machine” and I feel like a few TNG episodes I can’t place. Another notable reference is, of course,2001: A Space Odyssey with B’Elanna playing a cat-and-mouse game with the Dreadnaught’s version of HAL. This is the second B’Elanna episode in a row where she has to kill her A.I. baby. I would assume this becomes a trend for her character. Though the episodes are continuing to get better on the whole, I feel increasingly like the series could have been called Star Trek: Rince and Repeat.

Episode 34: Death Wish
The crew encounter a member of the Q Continuum seeking to end his immortal life.

The Starbase 66 kids were just talking about this episode on their recent immortality episode. As Karen pointed out, why the Q suddenly wear grey lipstick is… baffling. But it’s a great philosophical episode in the classic Trek style and one of the more entertaining Q episodes. The John De Lancie Q calling Janeway “Kathy” was probably my biggest laugh of the week.

Episode 35: Lifesigns
The Doctor helps a Phage-ridden Vidiian woman.

This is the second episode in a row to deal with a person’s right to choose when they die. I noticed this that they’d lump episodes with similar themes or plots together a lot of the time in TNG too. I wonder why they do that. “Welp. It worked last week…” Anyway, it’s a good episode. The idea of implanting a person’s consciousness into a holographic body opens a wealth of possibilities. Which I suspect are never explored in future episodes. I also fear Doctor “Schmullus” having a bonafie love-interest is the coffin nail for any Kes/Doctor UST. In fact, they seem to have forgotten Kes is the most interesting character in the show and are almost purposely making her as boring as I remembered her now. “Sorry, you were making Chakotay look bad.”

Episode 36: Investigations
The crew try to flush out the traitor on board who has been talking to the Kazon Nistrim.

Aside from the entertaining “A Briefing with Neelix” device, this is a seemingly anticlimactic end to the Michael Jonas arc. Actually, it’s as good a “flush out the mole” episode as Star Trek was ever able to pull off, but you never really get an explanation for Jonas’ motives for spying for Seska which is unsatisfying. He’s just a bad egg it seems.

Mandi’s theory is he wanted to get in Seska’s pants, I thought he was just supposed to be a disgruntled Maquis (though disgruntled about nothing in particular). Neither option is given any screen time and though I’m usually against having things clumsily spelled out for the audience, I needed a little help understanding this guy. There seemed to be zero incentive for him to be collaborating with the Kazon. Another notable aspect of the episode is it’s one of their classic teases for haters who were watching the show in its first run. Specifically, Tom Paris haters who must have been overjoyed when it looked like he was being written out.

Of course, those of us who have seen later seasons, know this wasn’t the case. A great number of plots so far have actually been spoiled by knowing who stays on the show. Still, it must’ve been a real tease every time Chakotay, Tom or Harry got stuck in a time rift or left behind on a planet. “Yay! They finally wrote that boring shithead off! … ah shit! Yeah, of course they rescue him…”

Fun fact: “The then-Prince Abdullah, now King Abdullah II of Jordan, a fan of the show, appears as a non-speaking character.” Well, that’s… privilege.

Episode 37: Deadlock
A duplicate Voyager is created after it passes through a spatial scission.

I think this is one of my favourite mirror universe episodes in Trek. Perhaps because it’s not a true (ergo not as hokey a) mirror universe. Like all quantum-based episodes, there’s loopholes in the science a light-year wide so you just have to accept everything they tell you at face value. If you do, it’s a pretty tense scenario. And, boy oh boy, does the fanfic write itself in this one. I swear the two Janeways were leaning in for a kiss. And just to prove they decided to make Kes more boring, the two Kesses do not.

Hater tease: Hary Kim haters get their hopes up in this one. Too bad, he actually fares pretty well considering.

Episode 38: Innocence
Tuvok crash-lands on a moon and finds children who have been abandoned.

This is a rehash of the TNG episode “Disaster”. Proving once again that not only do Star Trekproducers have vats of annoying child actors hidden somewhere, they still don’t know how to write for children. It takes these kids a few commercial breaks to mention they’re terrified of the monster in a nearby cave that killed their companions. This central concern of these happy-go-lucky tykes apparently isn’t worth mentioning right off the bat, instead they’re petulant and demanding about food and amusement in a way I can only assume is meant to be cute. Anyway, Tuvok makes assumptions about the situation Spock never would have which proves once again he’s kind of a terrible Vulcan.

Episode 39: The Thaw
The crew find aliens mentally connected to a computer that has created a being that feeds on their fear.

I don’t think even TNG did as much of a throwback to campy TOS episodes as this. Not that it’s a bad episode, but it’s shit like this that gave Star Trek a bad name from the beginning. Still, the ever-fantastic Michael McKeon does a great job channelling Ceasar Romero’s The Joker and Janeway gets to deliver some spectacuarilly batshit crazy lines at the end. Entertaining drivel.

Major plot hole quibbleThey’d already established in previous episodes that the Doctor can bring people back from heart attacks but apparently everyone forgot he can do this.

Episode 40: Tuvix
A transporter accident merges Tuvok and Neelix into a new person.

I didn’t expect “Tuvix” to be a really good episode. I thought it was just the punchline to “What do you get when you cross Star Trek and Cheez Whiz?” This might be one of the best Voyager episodes so far; perhaps one of the best Trek episodes ever. What an ethical conundrum. This here good folks is what sci-fi is all about, not the half-baked faux-Shakespearean intrigue they’re trying to do with Seska and the Kazon. Brilliant.

Episode 41: Resolutions
Janeway and Chakotay must be quarantined on a planet after they contract a disease.

So now Janeway can’t look Tom Paris or Chakotay in the eye on the bridge anymore. Except that we know full well this is one of those episodes which will conveniently be forgotten just like the slug babies episode. Captain Crazypants does get to shine here being all crazypants trying to talk sense to a monkey. Good times.

Sundry quibbles: There are a few things I didn’t buy about the episode, most of them surrounding Chakotay. One is I have never believed there is an “angry warrior” needing to be soothed in him anywhere. Not even in his past. And second, I don’t really believe he’d really fancy Janeway even from a pragmatic (stuck on a planet for the rest of their lives) standpoint. If this had been a Janeway/Tuvok paring, I’d have bought it and I think it might have been a bit more interesting. At the very least, they needed a few years to get here, not a few weeks.

But then you couldn’t have the Tuvok dealing with a near-mutiny on the ship sub-plot (in which Harry Kim gets a lot more interesting in a Felix Gaeta kind of way). Which begs the question, “Would Janeway have left Tuvok in command?” And the answer of course is “No way in hell.” She’d have seen the potential for mutiny a mile off. But then, what other choice did she have? Captain Neelix? Why not? Makes as much sense as him being morale officer because he just decided to be.

Episode 42: Basics, Part I

Seska and the Kazon-Nistrim take control of Voyager and maroon its crew on a primitive planet.
This is the first time I’ve taken the Kazon seriously as adversaries. Pretty good for the “half-baked faux-Shakespearean” stuff, I guess.

Three quibbles: First, I don’t think Janeway would have let Chakotay go after his child. At no point was this ever anything but an obvious trap by Seska.

Second, I don’t really believe Chakotay would go after the kid. Even after his vision quest with his father’s spirit, he didn’t seem to care. It would have been nice if he’d shown enough passion to persuade Janeway into doing something so stupid as going after a baby they didn’t even know for sure was his.

Thirdly, since we all know they’re on Voyager in Season 3, they’re not going to be permanently marooned on the planet. So that’s a bit of a cliffhanger fail. Obviously Suder (It was great to see him back though!) is going to redeem himself by saving them and will probably sacrifice himself in the process. Yawn.

Bonus quibbles

A: After establishing they could not project the Doctor anywhere but in the med lab, whose idea was the commedia dell’arte sequence of beaming him into space in the middle of the battle? WTF?

B: This episode would have been a good outcome for the Jonas arc. Instead his whole subterfuge was kind of pointless.

Overall impressions of Season 2

I’m surprised to find Janeway is in the running for my favourite captain. For serious. Firm, fair and fallible, she can be pragmatic and iron-willed yet is truly compassionate. She’s a complex human being in a way that even Picard never really was.

Garret Wang’s delivery has improved beyond painful to watch and Robert Duncan McNeill is finding his feet as Tom Paris, creating a character that is a bit more nuanced than he first appeared.

It’s too bad they’ve bungled Chakotay’s character by trying to make him a Zen warrior and an angry renegade without giving him scripts that allow this dichotomy to work. Instead both aspects cancel each other out and all we’re left with is cold porridge. Now and again Beltran shows he has the acting chops to pull off that kind of complex character, but he’s got nothing to work with.

But mostly I just want to bitch about something I’ve been meaning to bitch about for a while. Why in the name of all that’s holy are the episodes on the DVD listed by production number and not episode number? That is all.

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One Response to Star Trek Voyager Voyages: Season 2

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