Season 4 of Star Trek: Voyager starts off on a good, although ridiculously high-heeled, foot.
Episode 69: Scorpion Part 2
Voyager must pass through Borg space, but the arrival of a new species causes problems. Janeway and Tuvok work with the Borg and meet Seven of Nine as they work on developing a weapon against Species 8472 in exchange for safe passage through Borg space.
The Seaons 3 cliffhanger, “Scoprion, Part 1”, was all about the vaguely absurd Species 8472. “Part 2″ is all about Seven of Nine who hits the ball out of the park within two seconds of appearing on screen. Even if you can’t help but speculate that surely The Borg would have amputated those cumbersome bosoms. C’mon now, they’re just not efficient. Neither is that steel thong and camel-toe combination. But there’s just something riveting (pun intended) about the character, even before she begins the journey of regaining her humanity.
If we had to lose Kes, who’s really beginning to show her true potential as a Whedonesque wunderkind, Seven is a suitable replacement. Probably why no one laments that Kes left the show. Which is kind of sad since I feel like she unfairly gets lumped in with Tasha Yar—whose death was a case of old fashioned good riddance.
Anyway, Species 8472 continue to be pretty bad-ass in a “Meh, I don’t really care” sort of way. It’s clear now they were really were just a vehicle to get Seven of Nine on board Voyager. So, though both parts 1 and 2 are actually good episodes from a sheer adrenalin standpoint, “Scorpion” feels almost as contrived as the episode they wrote just to give Kes got her new hairstyle. I’m still baffled by that. Why did she need new, less-interesting hair?
Ultimately this two-parter wasn’t as pointless as all that (since Kes only has one more episode to get mileage out of her new hair), but I can’t help feeling they could have written Seven into the show in a less sensationalist way. Though maybe I wouldn’t have wanted them to. That sculpture of mutilated Borg bodies was pretty awesome.
Episode 70: The Gift
Kes’ mental abilities develop to a point where they endanger Voyager.
Or more accurately:
Kes plays Gary Mitchell in the “Where No Man Has Gone Before” episode of TOS.
This is a not quite as good a send-off episode as Janeway got when she didn’t actually leave the show. But it’s a better episode overall. What’s most annoying is Kes’ powers are pretty frickin’ AWESOME in this episode and it’s a tease they didn’t milk them for just a few episodes more. Of course, it’s all Seven all the time from here on in, so it’s an abrupt exit stage left for Kes.
Actually this episode is pretty much all about Seven and her futile resistance to her own humanity anyway. Makes perfect sense. Kes is only going through a highly dramatic, complex change at the core of her very being so you might as well give half the screentime to the blonde with the bigger boobs. I think there was supposed to be a parallel in their situations for the audience to compare and contrast, but if so, it didn’t really work.
Not so awesome as Kes’ new abilities is Tuvok’s complete inability to do anything Vulcan very well. Yet again a mind-meld fails. He really is the Worf of Vulcans. He’s lucky that weirdo Vorik is around to make him look good. I mean, it’s not like Neelix would know the difference.
Speaking of Neelix, Kes exploding in a ball of light? No big deal apparently.
Episode 71: Day of Honor
B’Elanna tries to observe the Klingon Day of Honor after the warp core is lost.
Speaking of Worf, actually worse at being a Klingon is B’Elanna. Where Worf was always too enthusiastic about a culture he over-romanticized and didn’t really understand, B’Elanna willfully avoids it. For some reason Tom has a problem with this. Which leads me to believe he’s never watched those boring Klingon-heavy TNG or DS9 episodes.
Jeri Taylor wrote this one which means two things: 1) Romance! and 2) her son, Vorik, gets more screen time. Dude’s mannerisms are so weird I was convinced he was responsible for the warp core leak (or whatever it was). Nope. He’s just an awkward weirdo.
Noteworthy: Tom Paris actually manages to far out-douchebag Han Solo with his response to the line “I love you.”
Episode 72: Nemesis
Chakotay helps fight in an alien war.
Apparently there’s only a finite amount of titles Trek writers are allowed to use. This is a pretty great concept and almost well-executed. The twist at the end needed just a little bit of tweaking to make it hit on all cylinders. But perhaps there just wasn’t quite enough time to tie up every loose end in a satisfying manner. It made me think it would have made a pretty good (non-Star Trek) stand alone movie or book.
Episode 73: Revulsion
A hologram contacts Voyager and the Doctor is excited to meet another hologram.
Apparently there’s only a finite amount of titles horror writers are allowed to use. The title is apt though. You definitely feel revulsion for Leland Orser who does one of the the best Norman Bates in space impressions you’re likely to see. Gripping episode. It even made me forget for a moment that, obviously, neither The Doctor or B’Elanna are going to die.
Also guaranteed to inspire revulsion is Harry Kim’s gingy sub-plot crush on Seven of Nine. I guess it was a natural development for his character, but who thought anyone would want to witness it? Anyway, Jeri Ryan is better at playing Vulcan than Tim Russ. Or Jolene Blalock, for that matter. I’m not sure she’s actually playing a Borg since she acts unlike any of the previously liberated Borgs. But it makes for great Nimoy-esque eyebrow cocking humour. Who doesn’t enjoy that?
Episode 74: The Raven
Seven of Nine experiences Borg flashbacks as she attempts to become more human.
I keep waiting for this Janeway/Seven UST that I keep hearing about to show up but I’m convinced it’s only in people’s heads. Janeway is clearly acting towards Seven in a purely motherly capacity. Apparently Johnathan Rhys-Davies is no longer available for the Leonardo DaVinci holodeck program.
Episode 75: Scientific Method
The crew have unexplained illnesses as they are closely observed by unseen intruders.
Animal testing is the theme that gets the heavy hand in this episode. Well done though. Really makes you hate scientists. Due to events in the plot, Janeway is extra batshit crazy in this one. Like drunk Colonel Tigh crazy. Good times.
Episodes 76-77: Year of Hell
Part 1: Voyager creates a new Astrometrics Lab, which maps a new course that brings them into contact with a Krenim temporal ship that can erase things from history.
Part 2: A badly damaged Voyager hides in a nebula as a skeleton crew attempts repairs; meanwhile the Krenim commander proposes a compromise to Chakotay and Paris.
Given how much people talk this one up, I had high hopes. Well, the problem with putting things on pedestals is how far the fall is.
Right off the top, I can think of three three strikes against this episode.
1) Red Forman. Yeah, sure, Kurtwood Smith does a fine job. And I shouldn’t let this performance from a year before That 70’s Show even debuted be marred by his tenure as one of TVs most iconic dads.
But the timeline has been altered irrevocably. The Kirtwood Smith we now know may not be the Kurtwood Smith of 1997, but our Kurtwood erased the previous Kurtwood’s existence and I can’t take the new one seriously in this role played by the old Kurtwood. If that makes sense?
2) But Kes explained all this to them! Did they just forget? True, it’s implied she shies away from personal details of her experience of the “Year of Hell”, but they make it very clear she gives Tuvok all the important tactical details about the Krenim and their weapons. I could even buy the temporal shock-wave wiped their memory of this, but that’s never addressed. It’s a massive continuity error.
3) This is clearly where J.J. Abrams got the idea for the plot of his Star Trek. Red Forman is basically Nero and “The Weapon” is basically the red-matter time-changing mining ship thing. Again, I shouldn’t judge this episode based on Abrams’ crappy movie, but the timeline has been altered. It’s unfortunate since this episode is far better written than Abrams’ script. At least, you actually understand Red Forman’s motivations even if, seriously, 200 fracking years is enough time for even the craziest mofo to get over the death of his family. At least enough to stop waging a series of insane galactic genocides.
There’s an obvious 4th strike as well.
Perhaps when these episodes first aired you might have thought maybe the rest of the series would be like this. Unlikely since in 1997, that’s not how TV series rolled. But this is just another episode where you flat-out know things are going to be tied-up in a nice little bow by the end of Part Deux.
And they are. Complete temporal reset button. You just wasted two hours watching something that didn’t matter.
This leaves only some minor quibbles about missed opportunities.
In Kes’s version of “Year of Hell” B’Elanna dies and Kes is there to comfort Tom. It would have been great to see how, in her absence, Tom completely falls apart. Or a bunch of other call-backs to that original episode showing how the absence of Kes, and Seven’s presence, change things. Instead, they seem to almost entirely ignore the original episode making it even more pointless and now solely about Kes getting a new hairstyle.
Finally, and this isn’t a criticism of the episode per se, but people always go on about how, “This is what the whole series Voyager should have been.”
No. No it shouldn’t have.
Aside from the obvious comparisons to something else that came later, BSG, and any structural flaws inherent to the rinse and repeat concept of narrowly escaping imminent destruction at the hands of a stronger adversary every episode, it was just kind of… meh.
Episode 78: Random Thoughts
Torres is arrested while visiting a world of telepaths where violent thoughts are a crime.
Tuvok employs his one solution to any problem, the Vulcan mind meld. Surprisingly, it kind of works this time. Prohibition is the allegory in this one. Decent standard Trek fair.
Episode 79: Concerning Flight
Aliens steal several key components of Voyager, which are retrieved with assistance from a holographic Leonardo Da Vinci.
In one of the hammiest character performances of his career playing hammy characters, Johnathan Rhys-Davies reprises his role as the historical Leonardo (DaVinci, not DiCaprio).
Anyway, it’s one of the more absurd plot constructions so far. The ship’s computer gets stolen (apparently it’s not actually essential to things like life support or artificial gravity) and Leonardo inexplicably gets use of the Doctor’s mobile emitter (Okay, it’s explained. But absurdly).
Hijinks ensue. An escape is made on a clearly late-20th century hang-glider. Silly.
Episode 80: Mortal Coil
Neelix dies in an attempt to sample proto-matter from a nebula. Seven of Nine believes she can revive him using Borg nanoprobes, but Neelix finds it hard to adjust, particularly given that he has no memory of an afterlife of any kind.
Star Trek rips silly religious beliefs about the afterlife a new asshole in this one. Usually the writers are fairly balanced in these episodes and offer at least a token alternative theory to offer a spiritual explanation.
But not here. Neelix has just been a galaxy-class chump and when it’s lights out, it’s lights out.
No one even bothers to suggest he simply doesn’t remember an afterlife because maybe you can’t bring those memories back from the dead. They just let him tailspin into a crisis of faith then get annoyed with him for being moody. Which actually seems out of character for almost everyone.
Interesting, since humans have supposedly moved beyond religion in the twenty-whatever century yet every character seems to have some sort of vague religious belief that gets alluded to at some point. Except Neelix. Apparently the most “living in the moment” character on any Trek show ever is now doomed to perpetual existential crisis. At least until next episode when this character development is swept under the rug and never spoken of again.
Regardless, it’s a good episode weaving a cautionary tale of how believing in silly myths will ultimately fuck you up. Mandi fell asleep in the middle.
Episode 81: Waking Moments
The crew of Voyager start to have dreams from which they cannot wake, and only Chakotay can save them.
Yet another rehash of the dream warrior / psychic intruder trope with a touch of TNG’s “Frame of Mind” thrown in for good measure. But no subspace anomaly creating a temporal-loop which turns out to be a holodeck malfunction in the end. Which is almost disappointing. I’m hoping they work up to an episode where they just mash every damn Trek cliché into one pulpy mess.
Bottomline: Don’t let my grumbling decieve you, it’s a pretty good episode.
Episode 82: Message in a Bottle
The Doctor’s program is sent to an advanced Starfleet vessel via a vast ancient communications network, but he soon discovers that only he and the ship’s own EMH remain to fight against Romulans who have taken over the ship and are attempting to return to Romulan space with it.
There is absolutely now way, no fracking way, Janeway would send the Doctor to his near-certain death on a mission with such little hope of success. No way.
But thank god she does because it means a Doctor-heavy episode and a surprisingly entertaining cameo by Andy Dick.
In other news, Janeway gets dumped by that douche in the bad sweater and Chakotay starts humping her leg before the dear John letter is even cold. Thus resuming some of the most WTFUST scenarios in any series ever. And I thought they’d finally dropped that.
Episode 83: Hunters
A transmission from Starfleet Command gets held at a Hirogen relay station and Janeway sets course to retrieve it.
Whoever thought the Hirogen were a good idea needs to have their copies of the Predator movies confiscated. Or, actually, they need be forced to watch them carefully so they can see where they went wrong.
The Hirogen are like a Red Dwarf version of the Predator aliens written by 12 year olds. A new low inVoyager adversaries.
Worse, they have the whiff of “recurring character” about them. Silly.
Episode 84: Prey
Voyager rescues a Hirogen survivor who tells them a new kind of prey is on the loose.
Species 84whateverthefuck Vs. Hirogen: Whoever wins, we lose…
…Because we had to watch this piece of shit episode.
Saving grace: Seven of Being Completely Right Vs. Captain Crazypants. As far as saving graces go it’s fairly sizable but, seriously, these two episodes feel like they were written on bring your kids to work day.
Episode 85: Retrospect
After experiencing unsettling hallucinations, Seven of Nine is hypnotized by the Doctor whose analysis reveals a trader may have extracted Borg technology from Seven without her consent.
It’s so obvious Seven’s repressed memories are actually those of her assimilation into the Borg, the episode is a bit of a slog. It’s actually so obvious that you start speculating what the real twist is going to be. But no. It’s just the painfully obvious twist that’s telegraphed from the pre-credits teaser.
Episodes 86-87: The Killing Game (parts 1 & 2)
The Hirogen implant devices into the crew making them believe they are characters within the holodecks being used for hunts.
The Hirogen go from crappy to awesome in two seconds flat. They also lose about a foot and a half to their height. Maybe this was a band of midget Hirogen.
Anyway, you can’t go wrong with a Star Trek Nazi episode. Especially when Janeway’s dressed as Marlene Dietrich. She should wear that suit more often. And that 1940s haircut too.
They play up some nice parallels between their real life on voyager and their holographic life in the French resistance. I feel like the Maquis should have been the resistance and the Starfleet crew should have been the Americans, but oh well. Then it’d have been Chakotay dressed like Marlene Dietrich and that would have looked like this which would have been inexcusable.
Also, there was no “the resistance is futile” joke. For shame.
Still, one of the best episodes yet (though hopefully the very last we see of the Hirogens).
Episode 88: Vis à Vis
An alien shuttle with a prototype propulsion system suddenly appears and requires assistance. Paris is restless and volunteers to help the pilot, Steth, repair the shuttle.
Not a bad shape-shifter episode. You know what would have made it even better though? Cut out all the Tom Paris being emo and B’Ellana being a shrew stuff. I was happy when the writers cut the UST short and just got them together already, but I fear now we’re going to be subjected to lover’s quarrel of the week. I don’t care if they’re having problems making a relationship work. That’s not character development, it’s just soap opera.
All I want are shape shifting sociopaths and some pretty coaxial warp effects.
Episode 89: The Omega Directive
Janeway undertakes the Omega Directive, an order to destroy the Omega molecules, even if it means violating the Prime Directive.
My understanding of the Prime Directive is that they’re not allowed to interfere with pre-spacefaring cultures. The aliens in this episode are pretty technologically advanced. I feel like this is a different directive Janeway is breaking. But I don’t know. I’m not the type to read up on the Prime Directive so I can quote the text verbatim it every time it’s broken.
Anyway, that’s my quibble about a pretty absurd episode about absurd particles that form an absurd sentient disco ball that Janeway absurdly kills to piss Seven off. Absurd.
Episode 90: Unforgettable
An alien female from a cloaked ship asks for Chakotay by name and requests asylum on Voyager from her people.
Candyman played a Hirogen a few episodes ago and now Virginia Madsen makes an appearance. I’d place bets on which Candyman actor will make an appearance next except… I have no idea who else was in that movie.
Anyway, this episode is BALLS no matter how attractive she’s meant to be. It’s nice to have a break from the Chakotay/Janeway WTFUST, but the whole premise surrounding a race of aliens that generate an amnesiac field is too absurd.
I spent the whole episode waiting for the twist where it turns out to be a lie and she’s actually a space spy. Because that would have been interesting. Predictable, but interesting. This twist doesn’t come and all we have is a really boring, somewhat absurd love story where nobody does anything that makes sense. Pointless and forgettable.
Episode 91: Living Witness
A Kyrian museum curator 700 years in the future hopes a Voyager relic containing a copy of the Doctor can confirm their version of history.
If they didn’t camp it up just too far over the line in the the Kyrian holodeck simulation of the Voyager crew, the first half of this episode might have been entertaining. Or at least amusing and not deathly painful to watch.
Janeway’s ultra-butch haircut is fun, but everyone’s Snidely Whiplash mustache twisting is just embarrassing. It’s too silly to make us think it might be a (dreaded) mirror-universe episode but not far enough into hallucinogenic bizzaro world to be humorous. Ultimately, the heavy handed “history is written by the victor”/Middle-East politics allegory message of the episode is destroyed by the mediocre camp of Janeway’s black leather villain gloves.
I blame Tim Russ who directed this stinker. He must have wanted to show us that the guy behind Tuvok can be “wacky”.
Episode 92: Demon
Tom Paris and Harry Kim take a shuttle down to an extremely inhospitable planet to obtain fuel.
This is kind of the Kes gets a new hairstyle episode for Harry. Instead of just retooling his character over time to be more confident and edgy (that is to say “character development”), they have him explain this completely out of nowhere change in his character to Tom in a turbolift. Whoa-kay.
Once that’s all spelled out for us, it’s a pretty damn fine Trek episode in the TOS tradition. Away mission, dangerous planet, mysterious goings on, unfathomable alien intelligence…. Finally a good episode after a chain of linked turds.
Episode 93: One
Seven of Nine is left alone on Voyager when a nebula’s deadly radiation forces the rest of the crew to stay in stasis and the Doctor’s hologram projectors are disrupted.
There’s always something slightly off about stories where a character ends up in isolation and goes bonkers. Usually I question the time frame. It takes Seven under a month to go off her biscuit. Sure, yes, they set it up that since being cut off from the Borg Collective she’s more susceptible to crippling loneliness, and they work in some techie explanations but couldn’t they have made it longer. Three months? A year?
Anyway, she battles adversaries who don’t actually exist without much of a pay-off from a story-telling perspective. It seems to me a nebula-sized missed opportunity that she didn’t start assimilating the crew into a new collective while they were in stasis. It would have been gripping. And the implications down the line could have been interesting. Oh well.
Episode 94: Hope and Fear
Paris and Neelix return from a mission with a passenger named Arturis who knows more than 4,000 languages. He manages to decode a message from Starfleet that could lead to a way home.
Leland Palmer from Twin Peaks is, surprise, not all he seems to be and is, surprise, just a creepy, bereft, blubbering maniac.
Also, surprise, the amazing new tech they find can’t get them home by the end of the episode. One of those enjoyable episodes where you know exactly how everything is going to play out. Comfortable in its absolute lack of surprise and tension. Well, at least this season closer isn’t a cliff hanger.
There is, however, a nice dialogue between Janeway and Seven which is clearly lifted from some mom and teenage daughter drama. She says:
I realize that I’ve been hard on you at times. But it was never out of anger, or regret that I brought you on board. I’m your Captain. That means I can’t always be your friend. Understand?
Substitute “Mother” for “Captain” and you’ve got a goddamn episode of 7th Heaven. Take that you Janeway/Seven shippers!