Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Seventh Season Recap"

For episodes airing from 10/4/2000 to 5/23/2001
Series created by Rick Berman & Michael Piller & Jeri Taylor
Executive producers: Rick Berman & Kenneth Biller

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

In brief: A competent job of doing primarily Voyager business as usual, featuring an ending that goes out more with a routine whimper than a risky bang.

And, one last time, here it is in annual summer-tradition style — the Voyager season roundup, rehash, and all-around recap-and-commentary article. It's the most comprehensive overall look at Voyager I'll make this year, and the last official Jammer Review for Voyager I'll probably ever be posting. How did season seven fare? What was done well? What was FUBAR? Read on to find out. As usual, part one has a short review of each episode; part two has the general commentary on the Big Picture. Fasten your seat belts, because this jet is taking off...

Part 1: Capsule Reviews

To see the rankings and 10-scale ratings for this season's episodes, click here.

Unimatrix Zero, Part IIAir date: 10/4/2000. Teleplay by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky. Story by Mike Sussman and Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky. Directed by Mike Vejar.

Much like the final episode, the season's premiere is a good example of the Voyager legacy — beautifully produced action-adventure TV without the logic, freshness, or character insight to make a true lasting impact. There are so many plot absurdities here they're hard to count, the most egregious being the way the crew go undercover to be willfully assimilated/mutilated by the Borg, something that's dismissed outright in comic-book terms. Meanwhile, the Borg have basically been reduced to routine street thugs, featuring a Queen who serves no purpose beyond that of a narrative tool, and a network with worse security than Windows 95. The most interesting aspect of the episode — that of a civil war that will "change the Borg forever" — is rendered obsolete by the lack of any consequences as demonstrated in "Endgame," so I'm not so sure what we're supposed to take from the BS-laden "Unimatrix Zero" other than another hour of impressive production design and admittedly well-staged action.

Rating: **1/2

ImperfectionAir date: 10/11/2000. Teleplay by Carleton Eastlake and Robert Doherty. Story by Andre Bormanis. Directed by David Livingston.

A key component in Seven's brain begins shutting down, and the result is a sincere and well-acted terminal illness allegory. Yes, Seven's Quest For Humanity is pretty much a Voyager cliche by this point, but there's a good reason the writers keep going back to it, which is that these stories are relatable to real life. The performances are good — particularly a notably understated turn by Manu Intiraymi as Icheb — and so is the dialog, including a scene where Seven and Icheb discuss dependence vs. independence, and another where Seven and Torres discuss the possibility of an afterlife. The encounter with Hard-Headed Aliens and the resulting chase through the junkyard is yet another gratuitous Voyager Action Insert, but so it goes.

Rating: ***

Drive Air date: 10/18/2000. Written by Michael Taylor. Directed by Winrich Kolbe.

It's the first in what would be a season-long family arc for Torres and Paris, one that I personally found quite gratifying. After years of virtually ignoring the relationship, the writers decide to finally tackle this couple head-on and put them at the most crucial juncture of their relationship to date. The result is a marriage that would be aptly revisited several times later in the season. Larger consequences aside, "Drive" is almost too by-the-numbers, with a thin and predictable subplot about the attempted sabotage of a peacekeeping racing event. Harry Kim figures into this subplot in a way that only reinforces how much of a gullible goof he is, as if the writers are underlining his chumpiness intentionally.

Rating: **1/2

RepressionAir date: 10/25/2000. Teleplay by Mark Haskell Smith. Story by Kenneth Biller. Directed by Winrich Kolbe.

In one of the most woefully contrived and pointless plot exercises in recent memory, Tuvok becomes the instrument of a Maquis mutiny orchestrated from the Alpha Quadrant, for crying out loud. It begins as a halfway plausible Tuvokian investigation, but then quickly degenerates into a ridiculous mess that wants to pretend the writers actually care about the Maquis storyline, long ago abandoned. Teero, the Bajoran guy pulling the strings from afar, has absolutely no useful or believable motive to instigate a mutiny on Voyager. None. The fact that Tuvok could be mind programmed seven years earlier to be Teero's unwitting pawn is way beyond implausible. The Vulcan mind meld is used here in spectacularly absurd ways, to essentially reprogram former-Maquis crew members to "help them remember" where their loyalties lie. Do I even have to mention that all of this is resolved in the magically inane final five minutes with absolutely zero consequences whatsoever? Ugh.

Rating: *1/2

Critical CareAir date: 11/1/2000. Teleplay by James Kahn. Story by Kenneth Biller & Robert Doherty. Directed by Terry Windell.

In another of the Voyager writers' somewhat rare attempts to tackle a social issue, the Doctor is kidnapped to an alien hospital that uses twisted ethics and prioritizing for determining the treatment of its patients. A good but not great social commentary, "Critical Care" does a good job showing the bureaucratic absurdity of HMO-type organizations, and has an ice-cold pragmatic system that places value on life in terms of an individual's overall perceived worth to society. The episode has a lot of good individual moments and points, although the ending seems somewhat unsatisfying and uninformative, reducing the whole problem of a society down to the hospital administrator, who is put through the somewhat obvious irony of becoming a patient in his own hospital. Though an overall solid effort, the story doesn't tackle with much insight the issue of whether the larger problems presented here are or aren't fixable.

Rating: ***

Inside ManAir date: 11/8/2000. Written by Robert Doherty. Directed by Allan Kroeker.

After our visits to the Alpha Quadrant twice last season in "Pathfinder" and "Life Line," both with excellent results, this third outing with Barclay & Co. is a major disappointment of wasted potential and uninspired storytelling. The episode boils down to a Ferengi plot to use the Pathfinder array to trick Voyager into venturing through a spatial anomaly so the Ferengi can get their hands on Seven's nanoprobes and sell them for huge profit. Yes. The use of Barclay this time around is, at best, a rehash of certain issues in "Pathfinder," and, at worst, the writers making fun of him instead of sympathizing with him. Meanwhile, we've got the whole issue of the Voyager crew being manipulated into thinking they've got a safe shortcut to the Alpha Quadrant, which is a bad story device because (1) it's already been used too many times, and (2) it succeeds only in making our characters look foolish. (You'd think after "Hope and Fear" the crew would know better.) No, thanks.

Rating: **

Body and SoulAir date: 11/15/2000. Teleplay by Eric Morris and Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman. Story by Michael Taylor. Directed by Robert Duncan McNeill.

Silly high-concept done entertainingly, in which Jeri Ryan must play Seven under the influence of Doc's program. Light and inconsequential, the episode basically boils down to whether we're amused by Ryan's gleefully over-the-top performance as Doc in a human body. Well, I was amused. I was also impressed by the more subtle nuances within the otherwise unsubtle Ryan performance — which, by the way, is exactly right since the Doctor's outgoing expressiveness all but requires that he would be anything but subtle about his experiences here. Aside from some "hologram rights" thematic backdrop for "Flesh and Blood," the plot is basically insignificant filler that lets Ryan take Doc's role and run with it. A successful example of a show that puts all its eggs in one high-concept's basket.

Rating: ***

NightingaleAir date: 11/22/2000. Teleplay by Andre Bormanis. Story by Robert Lederman & Dave Long. Directed by LeVar Burton.

Harry Kim as a captain? Say it ain't so. The problem here is that the episode tries to pass Harry off as someone we should respect when he does nothing to earn our respect. He exudes an annoying air of arrogance that's self-defeating, he micromanages needlessly, and it takes Seven kicking him in the ass before he shapes up. Sorry, but respect must be earned. "Nightingale" is perfect evidence of one of this series' biggest failures: the inability for it to develop its supporting characters (especially Harry) in gradual, believable ways. By throwing us such ham-fisted Harry actions, the story doesn't really give us a sampling of Harry's abilities but instead examples of why he shouldn't even be in the captain's chair in the first place. I've long been annoyed with the lack of Harry's development, and this pedestrian last-ditch attempt to provide him with a new challenge only punctuates the lost cause. I'm not sure what's more at fault here — the episode or the series at large.

Rating: **

Flesh and BloodAir date: 11/29/2000. Part I: Teleplay by Bryan Fuller. Story by Jack Monaco and Bryan Fuller & Raf Green. Directed by Mike Vejar. Part II: Teleplay by Raf Green & Kenneth Biller. Story by Bryan Fuller & Raf Green. Directed by David Livingston.

Though not as centrally important, one question on the mind of "Flesh and Blood" is similar to one at the heart of Steven Spielberg's A.I. released earlier this summer — what sort of human responsibilities do we have toward artificially intelligent beings that we create? That's a tough question, because it's hard to define "sentience" in the terms of extremely elaborate programming. The cans of worms are abundant, but I'm heartened by the fact that this year the writers try to deal with them (here and in "Author, Author") rather than sweeping such questions under the rug in favor of holodeck tomfoolery (see last year's "Fair Haven"/"Spirit Folk" travesty). My solution: Don't create artificial sentient-like beings if you're not prepared to deal with the ethical consequences (although the Hirogen get around that by maintaining that there's simply not an issue here, which is a valid position of its own). All that said, "Flesh and Blood" uses some of these issues as a backdrop for a Voyager action movie with a lot to recommend. The Doctor's willingness to be drawn into this plight is both understandable and commendable, and Picardo puts in a typically good performance. Many of the guest players are pretty good, too. Probably the most subtly interesting aspect of the story is the way Iden, the holographic terrorist leader, cannot overcome his programmed predisposition for violence, whereas Kejal, the holographic Cardassian engineer, is able to grow beyond those programmed instincts. While I'm not so sure I agree with all of the messages that "Flesh and Blood" puts forward, its ability to spark some entertaining sci-fi debate makes it worthwhile.

Rating: ***1/2

ShatteredAir date: 1/17/2001. Teleplay by Michael Taylor. Story by Mike Sussman & Michael Taylor. Directed by Terry Windell.

This year's Anomalous Time Plot, in which Voyager is shattered into various timeline pieces and only Chakotay might be able to put the ship back the way it should be. The plot, like most time-manipulating episodes, makes no sense — which is to be expected — but what's peculiar here is how mundane, repetitive, and talky the story allows itself to get, using so many unnecessary alternate-timeline versions of various characters and a slew of references to old episodes for no good reason ... unless we're supposed to be playing Name That Episode from our living rooms. Chakotay's ongoing interaction with a Janeway from the past is a saving grace of sorts, but the episode doesn't take full advantage of the idea and needlessly spends time watching Chakotay interact with Seska and engage in repetitive scenes where he must explain to other characters what's going on ... and then later explain some more. It's not terribly unpleasant, but it's certainly not interesting. The Humpty Dumpty of time-travel shows.

Rating: **

LineageAir date: 1/24/2001. Written by James Kahn. Directed by Peter Lauritson.

Quiet-ish and with smaller human problems instead of bigger galactic ones, "Lineage" is not your typical Voyager action outing. It is, rather, a well-executed character drama that focuses on relevant relationship issues. I'll grant that not all viewers tune in to Voyager for this, but every once in a while you need to explore the characters with genuine focus without resorting to needless plotting. That's exactly what "Lineage" does, by diving into B'Elanna's troubled past and tying it into her and Tom's future. The pregnancy, as I've said before, is an apt symbol for these two characters finally becoming something Voyager has been in need of for a long time — the basis for a true, front-and-center nuclear family that is founded in and grows in the Delta Quadrant. B'Elanna's torn-between-cultures identity has rarely been depicted with more clarity and immediacy than here, where she fears the Klingon blood in her and the baby will eventually tear her new family apart, much like it did her childhood family. The episode benefits from rational dialog, good acting, and a straightforwardness that avoids the temptation of obvious plot distractions or contrivances. The show succumbs to excessive melodrama at the end, but remains a moving character outing nonetheless.

Rating: ***1/2

RepentanceAir date: 1/31/2001. Teleplay by Robert Doherty. Story by Mike Sussman & Robert Doherty. Directed by Mike Vejar.

It's the death penalty issue, done with a certain degree of thoughtfulness and a significantly lesser degree of subtlety (which is to say not much). It's the classic "contemporary issue with a sci-fi twist" treatment, which is accomplished here through Seven's nanoprobes (groan), which give the contemptible convict Iko a conscience where he never had one before. Arguments of responsibility are both explicit and implicit as Iko undergoes a stunning transformation. Most clearly shown here is how the death penalty is rooted more in emotional responses than logical ones, which is perhaps why society at large should not be carrying it out (completely aside from all the flaws in a system that claims to be just and impartial but cannot presume to make such claims). "Repentance" has numerous flaws (certain arguments exist in a fantasy world where the usefulness of the message is skewed by sci-fi convenience), but in the final analysis the episode is actually about something, which is part of what makes Trek what it is.

Rating: ***

ProphecyAir date: 2/7/2001. Teleplay by Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong. Story by Larry Nemecek & J. Kelley Burke and Raf Green & Kenneth Biller. Directed by Terry Windell.

Don't forget your Klingon decoder ring. Not that you'd need it, since the hollowly concocted prophesying in this episode allows for the widest of interpretations in order to hold Torres' baby up as a Klingon messiah. (With a little more effort, perhaps Janeway could've been recognized as the Kuva'Mach, even without being Klingon or pregnant. Okay, maybe not.) This episode is simply a mess, featuring a score of disjointed cliches from the Delta and Alpha quadrants alike. There's no discipline here, and I'm convinced the episode came together by jamming together at least two independent story ideas. Or twelve. The final two acts in particular cause viewer whiplash, jumping aimlessly and implausibly from an honorable Klingon swordfight to a deadly plague to a Voyager takeover with the usual lousy-shot bad guys. In trying to do everything, it ends up doing very little. The emotional core is largely absent.

Rating: **

The VoidAir date: 2/14/2001. Teleplay by Raf Green & James Kahn. Story by Raf Green & Kenneth Biller. Directed by Mike Vejar.

In the season's most unintentionally ironic episode, the writers decide to create a premise that represents just about everything Voyager as a series probably could have (and should have) represented from day one. They do this by pulling the ship into a starless void with no resources, where trapped ships pummel and steal from each other for survival. Well, this of course is what the Delta Quadrant itself could've been about (albeit to a lesser extent). To stack an irony atop another irony, history repeats itself when Janeway decides that sticking to Starfleet ideals is what will help Voyager create alliances making an escape possible. That was a troublesome and naive turning point for the series back in second season's "Alliances," where the situation was very different (and less tuned for such Starfleet-esque thinking), but here it makes sense because being the friendly one is a viable way to get attention. Indeed, given the situation, it's the only viable option for escape. While I find it pretty silly that no one aside from our gallant crew had the sense to think of any of this before (cooperation — what a novel concept!), it does a good job showing the classic Trek ideal in action.

Rating: ***

Workforce, Part I — Airdate: 2/21/2001. Written by Kenneth Biller & Bryan Fuller. Directed by Allan Kroeker.

"Workforce" is very simply a good and well-executed sci-fi adventure concept. It's fresh and mysterious, dropping our characters into strange situations and making us witnesses to a gradually evolving mystery. The construction of that mystery is revealed at just the right pace; we know something is askew even as the characters themselves — whose memories have been tampered with — do not. Outstanding production values do a fine job of creating the active-but-arid essence of this highly industrialized world through the use of well-placed special effects, convincing set design, and good editing. Also commendable is the apt use of our reprogrammed characters, who retain many of their own personality traits. Seven is most appropriate as an "efficiency monitor," and Janeway's emerging relationship with a coworker hints at the simple pleasures that seem to be lacking in her life as a captain. And there's a subtle, effective message behind the plot, where this society is almost insidious in its devotion to employment, in a Borg drone sort of way.

Rating: ***1/2

Workforce, Part IIAir date: 2/28/2001. Teleplay by Kenneth Biller & Michael Taylor. Story by Kenneth Biller & Bryan Fuller. Directed by Roxann Dawson.

Taking part one to its inevitable conclusion, part two is highly efficient plot maneuvering (with a lot of it, expertly paced), its wisest choice being that it gives us a guest character who is on "our" side in trying to uncover the conspiracy. Even when bureaucracy renders him powerless, he's not an idiot. Meanwhile, the best character angle in play is the sweet interaction between Paris and Torres, who are unaware that they are, in fact, married in their actual lives. Paris feels a need to protect Torres even while being completely unaware of their marriage on a conscious level, which is reassuring. Other plot aspects, like Chakotay trying to get through to Janeway, are effective but less memorable. The ending falls short of satisfaction by being too cut-and-dried and by too simply brushing aside the issues of the memory alteration. Also lost in the shuffle is part one's eerie message of drone-like workforce existence.

Rating: ***

Human ErrorAir date: 3/7/2001. Teleplay by Brannon Braga & Andre Bormanis. Story by Andre Bormanis & Kenneth Biller. Directed by Allan Kroeker.

It's not the worst episode of the year, but it's certainly the biggest disappointment. Parts of this story are so engrossing, so intriguing, so well-realized that we want the writers to see the story through to its logical conclusion — one that would make Seven realize she's not quite who she thought she was. Nope: She's a Borg drone with a built-in emotion inhibitor that doubles as the show's plot-resetting device. "Human Error" is the epitome of pointless Voyager status-quo mandates and the type of repeating time loops many characters seem trapped inside as a result. Once again Seven has a chance to grow and doesn't. Once again the audience is cheated with an incredulous plot contrivance pulled from thin air. Even though "Endgame" would have Seven change her mind and undergo the procedure Doc proposes here, it's too late by then because few results of any interest play out on the screen. The ending of this episode, even given the "Endgame" development, is still utterly inexplicable and gutless — perhaps even more so. I'm left to wonder whether pairing Chakotay and Seven in the finale was done only because Robert Beltran challenged Brannon Braga to do it.

Rating: **

Q2Air date: 4/11/2001. Teleplay by Robert Doherty. Story by Kenneth Biller. Directed by LeVar Burton.

I forgot to mention in my original review of "Q2" that the teenage Q premise wasn't even original — it was done in TNG's sixth-season episode, "True Q." And it was done there much better, I assure you. Here, being a Q is reduced to the dumbest variety of sophomoric parlor tricks, where Q Jr. decides omnipotence is handy for throwing a party in engineering or making all of Seven's clothes vanish. Yippee. Little of this story is funny, and even less of it is thoughtful; the show's biggest miscalculation is that it thinks our characters should be teaching the mighty Q silly human lessons like the importance of the nuclear family or owning up to responsibility. If I wanted that, I'd watch an after-school special. The Q are supposed to be teaching us. The ending borders on nonsensical, with a trial unconvincingly thrown in as if somewhere along the line a rule was written saying the Q Bench must always show up to physically sit in judgment of somebody. This, along with "Repression," sinks to the bottom of the seventh-season barrel.

Rating: *1/2

Author, AuthorAir date: 4/18/2001. Teleplay by Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman. Story by Brannon Braga. Directed by David Livingston.

The last great episode of Voyager, in which wit and insight play a key role in a story about Doc writing a holographic novel that becomes the center of controversy over the similarities (and noted differences) the fictionalization has when compared to the Voyager crew. It's a brilliant premise that plays like the best elements of "Worst Case Scenario," "Living Witness," and the various "hologram rights" shows, and would've been the ideal sendoff starring vehicle for Doc (if not for the needless "Renaissance Man"). Sharp dialog and attention to the nature of the characters makes for an engaging dissection of personalities and attitudes. The comic high point comes when Paris decides to give Doc a taste of his own medicine by reprogramming the holo-novel; the jokes and performances are inspired. The episode turns into a "rights of the artificial" courtroom-like premise when Doc learns that he has no rights as an author because he's a hologram — which is savagely ironic given the subject of his holo-novel. The subplots involving other characters having scheduled chats with family members prove to be surprisingly enlightening and perfect to fill the time in between Doc's scenes. The ending strikes me as sane: Doc's status as an author cannot be ignored, but nor is Starfleet quick to grant all holograms the legal status of people.

Rating: ****

Friendship OneAir date: 4/25/2001. Written by Michael Taylor & Bryan Fuller. Directed by Mike Vejar.

A middling affair which serves as this year's attempt to be "One Small Step," except without the genuine sense of reverence for space exploration. There's an over-reliance on cliches here, particularly in the hostage standoff between Janeway and the "bad guys," who are supposed to be sympathetic but whose motivation as written is suspect, to say the least. The alien leader is written with little subtlety or willingness to hear reason, while other members of the alien race are reasonable. Poor Joe Carey meets his long-deferred demise in what proves to be an arbitrary hostage killing with zero emotional payoff whatsoever. How cynical. The show's overall message is okay: Consequences Can Come Unexpectedly. But then unfortunately Janeway's final line about how exploration shouldn't cost any lives is among the most ill-thought-out lines of dialog ever written on this series.

Rating: **1/2

Natural LawAir date: 5/2/2001. Teleplay by James Kahn. Story by Kenneth Biller & James Kahn. Directed by Terry Windell.

The year's most uneventful episode, in which Chakotay and Seven engage in — not sexual escapades — but the most reliable of all Voyager cliches: the Shuttle Crash. They then find themselves trapped in an alien cultural preserve with a primitive people, and the episode spends a lot of time watching Chakotay's attempts to communicate with them. It's not annoying, but it's certainly not compelling. Meanwhile, Janeway & Co. attempt to negotiate with some aliens, who finally of course open fire on Voyager, etc. The B-story about Paris going to traffic school is a waste of bandwidth. To say this episode bides its time is putting it mildly. By the time we get to the "issue" there's no time to flesh it out. It's perhaps worth noting that it's hard to step wrong when you don't attempt to do much of anything at all. Wake me up when we get there...

Rating: **

HomesteadAir date: 5/9/2001. Written by Raf Green. Directed by LeVar Burton.

Neelix meets a colony of Talaxians (how did they get out here?) and through a series of events finds that he has a chance to offer his talents as an all-around good person and build a new life with them. While the alien miners here aren't exactly villains from the Cinema School of Kitten-Drowning Manipulation, they aren't exactly subtle either, as they threaten a young boy and intend to blow up the Talaxians' home in the interests of making a few bucks. Neelix & Co. step in to help the Talaxians save themselves. "Homestead" is not great or remotely groundbreaking, but it sends Neelix off with a palatable dose of dignity. Neelix's silent departure and Tuvok's farewell gesture turn out to be surprisingly affecting.

Rating: ***

Renaissance ManAir date: 5/16/2001. Teleplay by Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman. Story by Andrew Shepard Price & Mark Gaberman. Directed by Mike Vejar.

A mostly needless exercise in Doc redundancy where our multitalented Holodoc must pretend to be various members of the crew in order to complete a secret mission (stealing the warp core) for aliens who hold the captain hostage. Yes, another hostage plot. The kidnapping and operation-in-secret premise is a flimsy excuse for the undercover work — pretty much the way these things usually go — but the plot manages to move along at a good clip, offering up enough gags to be fun without falling into too much tedium. Still, in a season where many of the characters are devoid of any sort of reasonable development, do we really need another average action/adventure plot? The two kidnappers seem frankly incapable of being the threat they claim to be to the captain, particularly since one of them eventually helps Doc turn the tables on the other. Oh well — any episode that features Janeway talking to voices in her head is at least worth a look.

Rating: **1/2

EndgameAir date: 5/23/2001. Teleplay by Kenneth Biller & Robert Doherty. Story by Rick Berman & Kenneth Biller & Brannon Braga. Directed by Allan Kroeker.

The series finale is the typically watchable Voyager "event," complete with Big Budget and Big FX; more Borg; Paradoxical Time Travel; a Will-They-Get-Home Premise; and an ending with lots of 'splosions and inevitably hollow comeuppance. There are things that are impressive and rare, like the awesome sight of a Borg transwarp hub. The future timeline is established with a reasonable amount of care and interest. Does it all add up to anything? Yes and no. Yes, there are some good ideas in here, like Janeway in conflict with a time-displaced version of herself, and her struggle over whether to take the way home that sits in front of her or to help strangers (a la "Caretaker"). No, in that the whole premise has a time-paradox loophole that negates the dramatic power and indeed the very need for Janeway's difficult decisions, allowing everybody to have their cake and eat it too (most notably the writers). In the meantime, the Borg are a joke, their Queen is an even bigger joke, and the (non)aftermath once Voyager arrives in the Alpha Quadrant doesn't begin to scratch the surface of any of the real issues that were interesting about the crew returning home in the first place. Entertaining? Well-made? Yes. Satisfying? Well-envisioned? No.

Rating: **1/2

Part 2: Season Analysis

Like in previous years, I might as well start this thing out by quoting myself.

One year ago, in my season six recap, I wrote:

"Since Voyager is in fact heading into its last season and the creators know this, they might be motivated to deal intelligently with the issue of Voyager returning to the Alpha Quadrant. Touches like Admiral Hayes' curiosity about the Maquis in 'Life Line' give me a glimmer of hope for a season that, if not for the expectation of Voyager returning home, I would write off as doomed by precedent to become 'Season Four, Part IV.' We may have given up on the Delta Quadrant, but there's still quite a bit of potential here in going back to the Alpha Quadrant. Voyager's track record doesn't have me enthused, but hope springs eternal."

Disappointingly, all I can report is that getting home was scarcely a factor beyond the two-hour finale for the series. And in "Endgame," getting home was the only part of the issue. Being home meant nothing, because zero screen time was devoted to the idea. In the Alpha Quadrant, Voyager emerges from a Borg sphere after being inside it and blowing it up (how does that work?); Janeway says, "We did it"; roll credits, end of series.

Gee, thanks for all the wonderful insights on the matter.

Not that it comes as a huge surprise.

Call it "Season Four, Part IV," I guess.

A year ago I would've called this the worst possible scenario for dealing with the issue of Voyager returning to the Alpha Quadrant. I probably should've just called it the most likely scenario. As season seven roared on and the news and spoilers rolled out onto the Web and into magazines, it became increasingly obvious that Voyager getting home was going to be held for the final episode and, indeed, the final minutes of the final episode. At a certain point it probably just becomes too late or inconvenient to deal with larger issues. The audience expects the series to end on a climactic bang, and if getting home wasn't that bang, what could it be?

It really isn't surprising that the Voyager creators didn't plan out a second dramatic bang so that we could get the ship home earlier in the season and deal with those questions that were the most tantalizing. I'm frankly not appalled that the series ended without any insight, because I really wasn't expecting any. If nothing else, Voyager is consistent. The series is television at its most basic, existing to fill screen time, sell advertising, and entertain viewers. All very necessary things, mind you, and things Voyager probably did adequately. But what's missing is the series' ability to take it one step further — to challenge the audience with new ideas, to challenge the characters with fresh problems and perspectives. Now that it's over, I think I finally know what Voyager the series is. It's a stage, pure and simple, for telling Trek stories in the most traditional and safest of confines. It's not a series about new perspectives, original ideas, or challenge. It's not a series that usually stops to ask tough questions. It's a series run by those who, for whatever reason, believe that growth and challenging expectations are asking too much of the audience ... creators who believe an audience will not stand for something different in their Trek. Who knows — maybe they're right.

Of course, this all goes back to my long-held stance on the series, which is that it has forever ignored its own premise and promise. You know the drill, because I've said the same thing every year for what seems like, well, forever. (Do not fret; this year's rehash will be brief.) From the standpoint of a Broader Perspective, Voyager might as well be the Time Loop Trek Series. The characters are mostly stuck in time, destined to forever repeat their overall experience without growing or changing. Even when hypothetically stuck for 30 more years on a starship, it's hard to imagine, based on the evidence we've seen, that many of the characters are or would be different from who they were when the journey started in "Caretaker." Janeway has her Starfleet ideals (which she either observes or discards when convenient), and "Endgame" proposes that an additional 16 years in the Delta Quadrant would turn Janeway into a bitter cynic. But why should we believe that? Seven years hasn't changed Janeway much at all, and in essence she's already gone through most everything her future self probably could; she's already lost at least one or two dozen crew members. It's only when she hypothetically loses Seven of Nine that she becomes more hardened and less idealistic. Unfortunately, that's not a statement about Voyager as a family; that's a statement about Janeway's personal relationship with one individual ... not to mention that it's all hypothetical anyway. BFD.

The same problems that have plagued this series in past years were still evident in season seven. Look no further than Harry Kim, the series' most egregious symbol of the series' biggest problem. Here's a guy who was straight out of the academy, who got conned by Quark in the very first episode, and who had a lot to learn. Who is he today? Practically the same damn guy, making what looks like freshman mistakes, laughable when he tries to play captain, intentionally held up as the writers' eternal chump of the series in episode after episode, like some sort of cosmic joke. Why hasn't this guy grown up over the past seven years? The reason: Because Voyager in its broad strokes would rather be about static archetypes than evolving characters. Janeway is the Leader, Seven and Doc are Human Proteges, Tuvok is the Vulcan, Harry is the Court Jester, Neelix is the Kind Soul, etc. Many of these people haven't changed much at all, because they're icon types instead of people.

Granted, some have changed. Doc and Seven have always been on a continuing journey of learning about humanity. Seven never quite went as far as I'd hoped, thanks to cowardly, non-committal reset-button plots like "Human Error" (and she seemed stuck in that time loop, repeating lessons rather than learning from them) — but she at least had the mission. Doc might be the best character on the show. He was a clean slate when first activated in "Caretaker," and now he's a man with passions and hobbies, opinions and personality, and has even taken up a cause for his fellow holograms. His cause grew out of a thematic concept this season that I never thought could've worked as well as it did. After years of stupid holodeck hijinks, the Voyager writers finally managed to take a holodeck idea and make something interesting by asking if Doc would take a stand on holograms being exploited (see the standouts "Flesh and Blood" and "Author, Author"). Yes, it represents a massive can of worms and debatable arguments that can be shot down, but it still makes for interesting storytelling.

This year also spent some time finally addressing Paris and Torres' relationship, which was quite frankly way overdue. A lot of people scoff at Paris/Torres (including former executive producer Brannon "Voyager is not a relationship series" Braga), but I think their presence is important in demonstrating what may be the only recognizable bigger theme this series has left — that of a developing family aboard a starship whose crew is out of touch with their families back in the Alpha Quadrant. When you have a crew stuck on a starship for what could be a bulk of their lives, you can't just pretend that life consists of reporting for duty every morning and talking about shields and transporters. There has to be a sensibility away from the Starfleet life that says these people are going to be human beings with life goals apart from their jobs. That has often been an important ingredient lacking on this series (because no one truly believes they're stuck on this ship, or if they do they're fine with it). But this season's willingness to explore Torres/Paris is a saving grace that should not be underestimated.

To those who say Trek should just be a stage for a starship and a crew that "boldly go," I pose the question: Then why bother having a fresh and extreme premise? Why pretend that getting home is important or that resources are limited? Why not just send these people off on a deep-space mission and be done with it? (In short, Voyager writers: You made your bed; now lie in it.) I will admit that I've had my own biases and hopes for what Voyager as a series could've been, but if they're giving us a mission statement of sorts (two crews, alone in the unknown, overcoming differences, reevaluating perspectives, living in a survival situation, etc., etc.), they should probably use it to gain some sort of insight into the human condition. But Voyager isn't often an exploration of the human condition; it's more an exploration into the ways the creators can resolve a new (or old) plot, or assemble an action sequence.

At the outset of this season, the big behind-the-scenes change was that Brannon Braga was out (busy working on Enterprise development) and Kenneth Biller was in. Anti-Bragites were ecstatic. I was unmoved. Voyager has long been an unchangeable mass of the Status Quo, a series far more focused on the individual episode to have any sort of sweeping change brought about by a new head writer. Anyone expecting a new Voyager from Biller probably was fooling themselves. We certainly didn't get much that was out of line with what came before.

On the level of the individual story, season seven seemed to be a steady diet of competence. There were fewer big losers this season than in many if not most seasons ("Repression" and "Q2" go down as the biggest losers, yet I didn't feel a need to break out the one-star rating), and at the same time only one episode I'd qualify as truly excellent ("Author, Author"). And, of course, there were a lot of shows falling into the categories of decent, middling, and mediocre, and a few good standouts. Sadly, well less than half the shows fell into the category of something I'd solidly recommend.

On the whole, Voyager served the general purpose of TV for viewers, which is to entertain for an hour at a time, but without taking us to many places of genuine wonder. If I sound a little unenthused by that observation, it's because I am. The freshness just isn't there. After watching the way Deep Space Nine went through a war and challenged the very survival of the Federation — taking its characters to extremely hard places in the process — watching a crew go head-to-head with the Borg again and again (by getting themselves assimilated on purpose, etc., no less) feels like an unconvincing comic book. Where's the originality and conviction in such recycled plotlines?

Biller's biggest contribution to the Bigger Picture (aside from any and all workplace operating styles, irrelevant to this article) seems to be that he was open to the idea of exploring the aforementioned Torres/Paris relationship (especially in the sleeper standout "Lineage") that Braga apparently did not want to touch. That's a good thing, in my view.

Other than that, season seven looked a lot like season six to me, especially in its clueless regard to using supporting characters. Chakotay is still a bland cipher with practically no reason for being, his biggest show being the unarresting time story, "Shattered," and his arbitrary last-minute relationship with Seven seeming more motivated by behind-the-scenes chest-thumping (Robert Beltran basically dared Brannon Braga to do it, and Braga obliged) than anything remotely within the parameters of either character. Tuvok is perhaps the most appallingly overlooked character, an individual who had great potential in the early seasons when he was Janeway's close friend and confidant. Now he gets to star in absurd vehicles like "Repression," where his Super Vulcan Mind Powers are exploited as a way-beyond-ridiculous plot device. Aside from a good line or moment here and there, I'm exceptionally disappointed in how Tuvok turned out; he's just "the Vulcan" instead of a well-rounded character, something he easily could've been. The fact that Tim Russ makes Tuvok the best-performed Vulcan since Leonard Nimoy's original Spock only highlights the lost potential. Meanwhile, Neelix gets a good sendoff in "Homestead" but otherwise has been another character largely without direction or meaning. And don't get me started on Harry "one of the franchise's all-time worst regular characters" Kim; as far as I'm concerned, the less said — or seen — about him, the better. None of this analysis should come as a shock, since I've made these cases before.

So was season seven a success or a failure? I guess that depends what your definition of this series is. As a whole, I certainly can't call it anything close to a success because this season staked out very little new territory, answered almost no questions about what being in the Delta Quadrant or what getting home meant (which was the beyond-obvious gold to be mined this year, but was left untouched), and was content to do what this series has always done best and/or worst: business as usual. I only recommended 11 out of 24 episodes this year, which is hardly an impressive hit-to-miss ratio. Yet I can't call the season (or the series) a complete failure because it often did what it set out to do with great skill, telling individual sci-fi or character stories that stand on their own as reasonable hours of television, and sometimes with enough style or substance to be worthwhile. Unfortunately, when it comes down to it that's not enough, because I think we ultimately want more than middle-of-the-road routine in the broader strokes of our Trek franchise. It's especially disappointing because Voyager had what was arguably the best premise of any Trek series, but squandered it to rehash a formula we've seen played out for years.

And the disappointing stock-issue adventure ending resolves very little of any significance, unless you were just dying to see the Borg get blowed up real good again — which I for one was not. In so many ways, "Endgame" is the ultimate statement for Voyager, the perfect microcosm: It's a great-looking action/adventure outing that can be fun and offer up some interesting sights and even compelling ideas, but it's too often contrived, artificial, unbelievable, and a disappointing cheat to those of us who think the show could and should offer more than the mastery of the superficial. It has skill, but little depth. Such is Star Trek: Voyager, the perpetual Trekkian underachiever, which now is over.

But the Trek franchise continues — and immediately, it would have it. At the end of next month, the latest entry to the franchise, the prequel series Enterprise, premieres. I will be watching it. And I will be reviewing it, staying on the Trek reviewing beat for a while longer. If you too are on board for Enterprise, I'll see you there ... and soon.

Previous: Season 6

Season Index

31 comments on this review

smeos - Mon, Apr 7, 2008 - 10:15pm (USA Central)
My favorite episode of Voyager was 'Equinox', because it was a small glimmer of what Voyager could have been. Namely, a constant fight for survival where sometimes morals and ideals had to take a back seat to practicality. The kill or be killed mentality that was used on DS9 made for great television. After all what's more dramatically satisfying, perfect people doing the right thing? Or flawed and desperate people trying to do the right thing but sometimes coming up short?
Jamie - Wed, Apr 30, 2008 - 10:57am (USA Central)
I have been re-watching Voyager on Spike for some time now,and I must concur with the general analysis here. It was a series that could have been so much more--a DS9 or even a Battlestar--if the writers had realized what a good cast they had and what a potential vehicle for good,allegorical storytelling the show was.It was better than Enterprise(by that time it was as if nobody gave a damn at all).
The previous poster mentioned the episode Equinox as a template for what Voyager should have been dealing with,but I guess the writers were just too afraid of upsetting the kiddies by making the crew anything less than unrealistically perfect. Shame.
Alexey Bogatiryov - Sun, Mar 1, 2009 - 11:33pm (USA Central)
Jammer, did you ever thing that Voyager should have been more like BSG? Maybe Moore made BSG as a response to being denied a strong role on Voyager. The cynical and gritty - tough style of BSG would have fit Voyager's situation better. I agree that Equinox showed where Voyager could have gone. Maybe Bragga was a Trek idealist at heart.
Jake - Fri, Apr 3, 2009 - 11:57am (USA Central)
Personally, I've always thought Braga let his success on TNG (& that Hugo he won for co-writing TNG's finale) go to his head.
This is why he & the other Voyager writers basically spent Voyager's run trying to dementedly recreate "Yesterday's Enterprise" & "The Best of Both Worlds" in another form.
Charlie - Sun, May 17, 2009 - 2:31pm (USA Central)
I just watched Equinox on Youtube. I agree that Voyager's tone should have been more like that. I don't condone Ransom's actions, but Janeway was incredibly naive & simplistic by not placing herself in his shoes & just condemning him outright.
Ransom: "It's easy to cling to principles when you're on a ship with its bulkheads intact manned by a crew that's not starving."
Janeway: "It's never easy, but if we turn our back on our principles we stop being human."
She might as well have said, "Well, the show's production staff is obviously more obliging to us."
As Jammer pointed out elsewhere, any extreme damage Voyager takes becomes a non-issue by the end of the episode.
It's a pity that the show was never given the power & nuance it could've had (Lessing & Gilmore would've certainly made encore appearances had Equinox been a TNG or DS9 installment).
Will - Fri, Jan 1, 2010 - 4:07pm (USA Central)
If you think about it, a Star Trek series needs seven seasons. Two to get going, three to be really good and one or two final seasons to start going downhill again. I've seen this trend with TNG and VOY (DS9 being an honourable exception), and I was beginning to see this trend with ENT (well, I don't like the fourth season, but the fanbase sure did). Who knows? If ENT had continued, so might this trend.
Charlie - Mon, Jan 4, 2010 - 11:25am (USA Central)
I fail to see how TNG's final season was any worse than DS9's (here come those rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth DS9 fans with their intricate excuses for why saying something like that is unacceptable).
Will - Wed, Jan 20, 2010 - 11:07am (USA Central)
I think it's a real shame that Kenneth Biller maintained the Status Quo of Rick Berman and Brannon Braga. I hoped that he would take the series in a completely different direction and really leave a creative mark on it. But no. He might as well have stayed in his supervising producer position for all the "change" he brought to Voyager. When a new executive producer took over on Doctor Who, the series would always change and look different under each producer. The series would become darker or lighter, scarier of funnier. With Star Trek, and Voyager in particular, nothing new came with the coming and going of Executive Producers. Such a waste.
Mart - Thu, Jan 21, 2010 - 3:14pm (USA Central)
I think the remark on Voyager playing to viewers who don't want anything different in their Trek may be close to the mark why Voyager was so dissapointing.

Consider DS9, the most different Trek, and the backlash from a vocal part of the fans:

- It's a static location, not a starship!
- Ongoing story arcs? It's a soap opera!
- Respectful treatment of spirituality? Trek should be about science, not religion!

So, we get Voyager and Enterprise. And the story suffers, because there is only so many ways you can rehash TOS.
DeanGrr - Wed, Feb 24, 2010 - 11:24pm (USA Central)
In thinking about Jammer's assertions that Star Trek Voyager, and Star Trek Enterprise were not well developed as serial shows, with indepth characters and an overall story arc viewers would care about, I offer the following thoughts:

Even though Star Trek DS9 is often considered the best written and crafted series, with complexity, character flaws and conflict, politics and religion, even failings of the Federation explored, when I come home from a hard day, I want to imagine a better world, and I find I watch Star Trek: Next Generation and Star Trek Voyager far more than DS9, or a story like Battlestar Galactica: Reimagined.

I have sat down and watched Bonanza, a Western from the 60's, and the single episode stories, where characters are archetypes, the good guys win and there are happy endings, is a formula that I can still see in Star Trek Enterprise in 2005. Is this a bad thing? It is a throwback to an earlier era of television, whereas we live in more complex times, and it can be argued viewers expect more complex, serialized and realistic storylines and characters. My parents grew up in the 50s and 60s, a time when jobs like that of a policeman or politician were seen more as archetypes, and where books and magazines were less common, nevermind the information provided by cable television or the Internet. People generally knew their neighbours, had closer connections to family, and traditions and authority in general were just beginning to be challenged.

Even now as I watch Enterprise, the use of allegory and (sometimes) corny alien masks seem somehow out of place when realistic drama and even sitcoms can discuss social issues like gender, abortion or the environment. The writing for Voyager and Enterprise was not always as crisp or witty as that for say, Stargate Atlantis or Joss Whedon's Firefly, but the main differences were the threads of tolerance, compassion, high principles and respect for life in all its forms.

Branon Braga has mentioned a "Mythology of Star Trek", and my interpretation of this is that the themes of universal love, tolerance and sacrifice for higher principles helps give Star Trek meaning beyond just being an entertaining TV show. I have heard an appeal by a producer of another Scifi show to allow people to take what they want and need from an artistic creation; that if a story helps people to learn, to love, to heal, to build friendships then what matters most is that the story lived and not who is right or wrong. If Star Trek is about tolerance, then it's great that we have Star Trek Voyager, as well as a darker version, DS9, and other creations like Battlestar or Firefly. IDIC.

Regards, Dean
Jason - Tue, Apr 27, 2010 - 6:37am (USA Central)
Having recently just ploughed through all seven seasons box-sets (in a fairly short period), I have to say that Season Five was the highlight (easily).

Also I think I can (now) safely list my favourite characters :-

1) The Doctor (bit of a no-brainer)
2) Tuvok
3) Seven of Nine
4) Janeway
5) Neelix (controversial I know)


And (just for fun), my bottom three...

1) Chucky (Mr Go Native)
2) Paris (Mr Cliché)
3) Torres (Little Miss Angry)
karatasiospa - Thu, May 6, 2010 - 6:18am (USA Central)
Many peple especially star trek fans , whether they liked voyager or not, believe that Voyager was, in contrast with DS9, a "true" Star Trek, that means that it remained faithfull to star Trek's principles.
In my opinion they are wrong, deeply wrong. Making a caricature of TNG is not the same as staying "true" to star trek principles. Using the same themes again and again (time travel, mysterious space phenomena, allien of the week), themes which were allmost exhousted after 79 TOS apisodes and 178 TNG episodes is just boring. True some of these themes can still be used creatively but nothing like that happened in Voyager. The alien of the week was just one more humanoid with just a litle different nose or ears. "Future's End" was a descent story but nothing like "city at the endge of Forever" or "Yesterday's Enterprise, or "Past Tense" or even " Time's Arrow".
So what they could have done? they could follow the original premise of the series and put this crew and its starfleet principles in front of the challenge of surviving in a totally uknown territory and of making a desperate journy back home. They could give us new life forms really new and challenging. But they didn't. The choose the easy and safe solution.
I 'm not ssying that Voyager was a bad series. Not at all. It was certainly much better that later series like Andromeda or Stargate. But it was (at least until Enterprised was released) the most inferior trek series and a dissapointment becouse it had great potential which only rarely was realized.
karatasiospa - Thu, May 6, 2010 - 6:31am (USA Central)
And something more. How much Voyager respected Trek's princiles when in Tuvix Janeway killed anew life just becouse she wanted her friend Tuvok back, In Equinox she was ready to torture a man and in Endgame she changed all history and eliminated millions of lives just to get back Seven of Nine? I believe that Voyager in some episodes (not all) violated the famous Roddenberry's vision much more than DS9 did.
Bad Horse - Thu, May 6, 2010 - 3:52pm (USA Central)
These days, I wonder if any Trek series would survive for long if it incited this level of web rage. 2001 doesn't seem like so long ago that the producers would just tell the fans to take a hike because the ratings are good enough. And now it seems that DS9 has gotten its long-overdue props, while Voyager languishes deep in fan hell. Of course, DVD has a big part to play in that, but really, isn't the ratings mindset why network TV is dying?
alvinc - Wed, May 26, 2010 - 6:45pm (USA Central)
I think Bad Horse (the thoroughbred of sin?) has an important point. The ratings mindset translating to the death of network TV.

Still, I enjoyed Voyager. Not as immensely as perhaps I would have liked. On more than one occassion, I've been rather frustrated with the lack of exploration into the setting and characters they had. I would have liked to see Christie Golden's books (of Voyager after its return) realized on screen.

I have been a Trek fan for decades. TNG was a great series to me, and I can watch any single episode of it and usually enjoy it sufficiently, and for the great ones enjoy it immensely.

I warmed up to DS9 eventually, and have become very fond of it. But let me be honest... I love DS9 because it's Babylon 5 in the Federation universe.

I thought Voyager did well in the formula of episodic TV. But my disappointment was that the premise and the cast could have done a lot more. I think it's fine just as it is. But with that cast and setting, I think it would have been a great candidate for longer reaching story arcs.
karatasiospa - Sun, Jun 13, 2010 - 6:05am (USA Central)
I think that the fact that Voyager was episodic was one of its problems. I mean after 79 TOS episodes and 178 TNG episodes ( a total of 257 episodes) how many more episodes anyone can make with the alien of the week or Temporal/spatial anomalies etc? there is a limit to the stories that can be written in this way. Not to mention that we didn't see any interesting aliens (besides species 8472) just caricatures like the Kazon and the Hirogen. Ofcourse the episodic format is not an excuse for the inconsistencies in the characters or for Janeway killing Tuvix.
Fabian - Mon, Jan 10, 2011 - 8:24pm (USA Central)
After seeing most of the Voyager episodes, I would say that the most important of Voyager was its 4th season. You had excellent shows made here such as Scorpion Part II, Prey and the two-parter Year of Hell. Even Ronald B. Moore said that he thought Voyager should have been more like the episode Year of Hell where Janeway took great risks--by defying the Doctor's commands to step down from her post and chose to die with Voyager by deliberately ramming it into the Krenim time-ship. She was truly on the edge in that episode...but in most Voyager episodes, the ship is one happy family and few things ever go wrong which is just not realistic when your'e alone in the Delta Quadrant. Even Captain Ransom in the Equinox broke the Prime Directive because his crew were starving and his ship was only a survey vessel--not a fully equipped starship like Voyager. Maybe that's why Janeway could obey the Prime Directive while Ransom couldn't--she had a massive starship with huge food and military reserves unlike Ransom. Janeway should have followed Neelix's advice to Tuvox in the fisr season show "Learning Curve" to 'bend' the rules a bit if the situation demands it but not 'break' it outright as Tom did in "Thirty Days." The producers should have given the viewers more situations of Janeway taking life and death decisions such as in 'Year of Hell.' Season 4 should have reset Voyager on a new course and the producers missed the opportunity.

By the way, Jammer recommends 11 of the shows in its season 7 but 'Flesh and Blood' was a two-parter, so that would mean 12 episodes...out of 26 episodes in Voyager's final season. Still a mediocre record for its producers. If you total all of Jammer's 3 stars reviews (and higher 3.5 or 4 stars) and add 1 more for the second part of Flesh and Blood, you get 84 episodes out of Voyager's total of 172 episodes or only 49%. Hardly an earthshattering record...though I would have given 3 stars to Future's End Part II. It was somewhat interesting.

My favourite Voyager characters are:
1. The Doctor
2. Seven of Nine
3. Belana Torres (a standout actress)
4. Tom Paris
5. Captain Janeway

My least favourite actors:
1. Ensign Kim (he never really grew into the show)
2. Chakotay (was good/great in Scorpion, Nemesis, The Equinox, Unity, Workforce but somehow the #2 guy in the starship remains a mystery to most viewers...which is not a good thing. Maybe an error on the producer's part but I don't really like this situation. Yes he was loyal to the Captain but surely we needed to see how Chakotay would have led Voyager if he was in charge more often. But no, the producers didn't want to take risks or break with convention.)
3. Neelix (He was ignored in most Voyager episode scripts. One wonders why he remained in the show at all except to cook the crew's meals. And yet he did save the ship from destruction in 'Investigations' and had fairly decent outings in 'Fair Trade' and 'Homestead' when he exited Voyager.)

The only X character is 'Tuvox.' Tim Russ played him well as a senior Vulcan officer in Voyager. Tuvox seemed to have important roles in the first part of the series (Alter Ego, etc) but later in the second part of the show, his role seems to have been dimished far too much. Don't know what to make of him.
Fabian - Tue, Jan 11, 2011 - 10:05pm (USA Central)
3 Minor Corrections to my previous post.

I meant to say that the most important year of Voyager was its 4th season when Seven of Nine replaced Kes. And, of course, Ronald D. (not B.) Moore argued later that Voyager should have taken more risks and played more episodes such as the two-parter Year of Hell. Unfortunately, TPTB missed the chance. Sometimes, I wonder how a gripping show like the Year of Hell was even made where Janeway rejects the Doctor's command to step down and decides to literally go down with the ship at the episode's conclusion. That was quite gripping.

Secondly, I meant to say that Janeway should have followed Neelix's advice to Tuvox in the first season episode closer "Learning Curve" to 'bend' the Federation's rules a bit if the situation demands it. Her minor interference in saving Neelix's life in Homestead doesn't count since the Talaxians there knew about Voyager's existence and were a space faring people already. But TPTB had other views. Finally, Tuvox's role in Voyager diminished (that's the right word) as the show progresssed. Sure he had a good role in recalling his prior life in Workforce which sets in motion the plot there but he was mostly underused as a senior Voyager officer--a bit like Chakotay...even though Tim Russ was an excellent actor.
Ospero - Tue, Feb 15, 2011 - 1:26am (USA Central)
Voyager was by no means a bad series - but it was often aggravating. This was a time when Babylon 5 and DS9 re-defined what stories SF series could tell - and just as B5 spawned the mediocre Crusade, DS9 had to compete with its little sister show (and suffered from middle-child syndrome as a result).

Most of the main characters have gone through more (and more believable) development in the six books released up to now in the Voyager Relaunch (the Christie Golden books mentioned by alvinc were just the start) than they did over the entire length of Voyager's run. And I don't mean this as an endorsement of the books (though I do like them, Full Circle and Unworthy in particular), but as a criticism of the series. This setup had a lot of potential, and virtually all of it went to waste. How disappointing.
V - Fri, Feb 17, 2012 - 11:29am (USA Central)
Love voyager when I was barely watching it on tv.

Love DS9 when I was watching it on netflix, cant stop playing 1episode to the next. (I felt the same for ENT).

The discrepancy is the chatacter arcs in DS9 may get you confused when trying to understand the series as a whole. Whereas voyager, I can watch anytime I want and be entertained.

TNG got me hooked on TV and watching 1 episode after another. AND have thought-provoking messages. AND I care sooooo much about each and everyone of the cast.

Voyager could've been so much more. As a woman, romance should've been J/C hands down, tom/bellana if course was done good but could've been even better, 7/doc or 7/kim that someone suggested was not a bad idea. If kim was allowed to grow, it would've been perfect. Love Tuvok, the ignored a talent right there. They could've made him the anchor for Captain J like it insinuated from the start just as picard was TNG's anchor and Kira was for DS9.
DeanGrr - Thu, Feb 23, 2012 - 1:16pm (USA Central)
I've been watching my Voyager collection lately, and was thinking about the critical commentary on it. Voyager definitely comes across as TOS updated for the 90s, as you mentioned earlier, Jammer. Even a 60s Western like Bonanza has a lot in common with VOY and ENT, with its character archetypes and standalone episodes.

As a ritual, I'd watch this and TNG after school, and whatever this says about me as a viewer/critic, I did watch it as Berman intended: I loved the moral and scifi concepts the show depicted, or at least aspired to, and the cast became, as corny as it sounds, a family I invited into my living room each week.

When I read critical reviews here, or a blog such as "Asking the Wrong Questions", what comes across is a desire for novelty, flash, shock or surprise, the kind of techniques Joe Menosky lamented in "The Muse". Stories, to my understanding, are there to teach as much as entertain and I've welcomed the role models shown in Star Trek.

However, as others have alluded to, Star Trek has become heavily watered down and themes recycled, especially after stopping the acceptance of unsolicited stories, with which Michael Piller probably saved Voyager. Taken on its own terms, Voyager has many entertaining stories, and some interesting ideas about adhering to principles, individuality and sentience. I'm glad they had a few bombs, such as "Threshold" and "Vis a Vis", which gave a good laugh and reminds me not to take things too seriously.

As an aside ...

I'm not sure what the future holds for TV given that seasons are half what VOY was. There has definitely been a trend for more intense, gritty, realistic drama and detailed characters, which may in no small part be a result of the Internet age. As technology both connects and isolates us, people may look for dramas to show realistic, detailed characters, plots and worlds, as a kind of reaction to the anonymity of modern life. I know this may be controversial, and it may be stretching, but I've been puzzled about the desire for complex, developed characters and stories, when tv itself is art, or entertainment, and an escape from reality.
Latex Zebra - Wed, May 16, 2012 - 5:06am (USA Central)
The writers could have brought Voyager home a few episodes before the finale and still had the actual story of how they got home saved for a big massive last episode.
I doubt there was a person alive watching the program that didn't know they would get home in the end.
So why not, 4 episodes before the end have an episode that starts with the subtitle - A few years from now! And then an episode that deals with some emotional issues of their return. There are so many ways a decent writer could tell this story and the only spoiler would be the fact that that character survived. Which most of us expected them all to do anyway.
Captain Jim - Thu, Jun 21, 2012 - 9:38pm (USA Central)
Will said, "If you think about it, a Star Trek series needs seven seasons. Two to get going, three to be really good and one or two final seasons to start going downhill again."

I certainly agree with the "two to get going part." TOS was an exception, of course, and I'm not sure Voyager really fit the pattern exactly either. But TNG was pretty mediocre until season three. DS9 didn't introduce the Dominion until season three, and that was a turning point, IMO. I even think that Enterprise improved greatly in its third season, with the whole Xindi subplot but, regrettably, most of its audience had quit watching by that point.

Latex Zebra said, "I doubt there was a person alive watching the program that didn't know they would get home in the end."

Actually, on the DVD commentary, they say that, for a long time, they planned to not bring them home. They were going to play up the whole thing about "the journey" being what's important, not "the destination" (Kim's speech in the final episode).
Voyager#1 - Thu, Oct 11, 2012 - 8:44am (USA Central)
I liked Voyager from the start and to this day it's still my favorite. I guess the idea of trying to get home was exciting instead of the exploring space theme. I also loved the characters the best of any trek series. Don't get me wrong, Picard and Data are still my top favorite, but other than that I found the rest of TNG crew unexciting. DS9 was even worse- didn't like ANY of the characters it had to offer. NONE. I wanted to like them but... And of course Voyager had it's hits and misses on characters but I liked the Doctor, Seven, Torres, Paris, Tuvok, and get this, sometimes Neelix (sometimes).
FS - Wed, Nov 7, 2012 - 12:41pm (USA Central)
Voyager was entertaining. Beside a few episodes, you rarely feel like you just wasted an hour of your time to watch it. And for a now "old" TV show, it looks very good. The effects were nice. The ships could move and fire at the same time, which wasn't always the case in TNG. But it is true that a lot of its potential was wasted. The idea of two crews (that shouldn't get along well) lost in space trying to get home just sounds better suited to arcs and continuity instead of reset-button episodes. While not damaging the exterior of the ship, they could have had more recurrent problems with some systems. And it would make more sense to have the transporters offline at the beginning of some episode and have to do without them instead of just losing them a few seconds before you could fix everything with a good beam out (well, if Harry ever got a lock). The results are the same, but there is more continuity and you can build some challenge too. Or introduce a miracle technical solution coming from a Delta quadrant species if you really want things to be perfect on Voyager (it did feel like a cruise ship way too much. That was good for TNG, less for Voyager).

If they wanted everybody to be a big family faster and avoid major conflicts, then the Maquis should have been a transport ship crew and not rebels. It does makes sense in a way for them to be so friendly in the latter seasons, but they underused the tension before that. Or never had any memorable event that would make everybody best buddies. Sure some tensions existed and the Seska situation happened, but she wasn't a true Maquis anyway. And sometimes I think they took good ideas and made them happen too early or too late in the series (like the Equinox, it should have been before Voyager started the big jumps across space)

And really the big thing about Voyager is the characters. Some of them are better than their TNG counterparts (like the Doctor is more interesting than Dr. Crusher, even if his stories are more like those of Data) but those that are worse and just way way worse (Harry Kim for one). Harry had a few moments, but most of the time he was there to say bridge technobabble, to be the fool or to be Tom Paris' Milhouse. They really should have taken a few things from Paris like the love for the 20th century and give it to Harry to help him have some character. Talking of Paris, he was an okay character (he did have a story arc too!) but he was used in so many different situation that made little sense (why send the chief pilot to sick bay duty instead of taking a science guy to be the nurse or a Maquis. But I guess they didn't even have field medics in the Maquis). His concept was simple and had potential after all (Han Solo in Star Trek).

For the other characters, Janeway wasn't always consistent (they could have used that to explain future Janeway in Endgame, how she already started bending some rules), but she was alright. But the problem was that her 2 highest ranked crewmembers were almost never doing anything. In TNG, Riker had the away mission duties to make him do something, but in Voygaer Chakotay pretty much had nothing to do most of the time (a few speeches and rare episodes). He had a clear backstory that gave him potential, but it was just there and nothing special happened. Especially in the latter seasons. Tuvok was better than Chakotay, but he was really underused. He was interesting, and it would have been nice to see him more focus on him when he is in Vulcan-mode (Many of the Tuvok episodes are about Tuvok not being Tuvok/Vulcan-like if I remember correctly). Instead of just looking at character trying to be human, why not focus on being happy at not being human even if surrounded by human? Tuvok was preparing the phasers and leaving the bridge with a phaser in hand most of the time we saw him during the last few seasons...

Really, many of the characters could have been good. They pretty much all had a little something that could make them interesting (Even Harry as the fresh ensign, but that didn't went very well). And I do think some of them were very good too. Like the Doctor (beside the fact that I find it strange that he got emotions so quickly compared to Data without any extraordinary program manipulation) and Seven of Nine (maybe overused, but worked well). B'Elanna was a nice character too (and a show focusing on her was usually a good one), even if she wasn't used to her full potential (but the pregnancy of the actress in S4 didn't help. At least it was good reason to underuse her). Even Neelix and Kes could have been much more interesting. But Neelix was mostly relegated to comic relief and Kes was written off.

And I also find it strange that for a series where the crew can't be changed there wasn't a better use of recurring guest characters. TNG did it well with Chief O'Brien and Nurse Ogawa. I know that production reasons explain a lot of it, but the show was made for that. Voyager did ok on that front with Naomi Wildman and Icheb, but it could have been interesting to have more character of that type (like expanding on Mother Wildman). I also wonder who is in charge on the bridge when all the main characters are together in the briefing room or the mess hall.

Voyager is a nice show, that's for sure, but its biggest problem is that some of the flaws are visible and if you decide to think about the show, you won't miss them.
AshP - Tue, Dec 17, 2013 - 2:23pm (USA Central)
I'm currently on a mission to watch every episode of Star Trek. I'm not watching in any particular order, mainly starting with my favourites.

TNG was such a good show that even though I only finished the full series this year, I felt a real loss and was sad it ended. Even if the latter seasons did have a habit of being a bit too monster of the week.

With Voyager I remember really enjoying it, but on rewatch I'm left a bit empty. I'm a quarter through season 6 and it just seems that much of it is TNG with a different crew and less regard for characters. Janeway has become really annoying with her constant swapping and disregard for the Prime Directive as and when it suits (And I'm still disgusted at her murder of Tuvix).

in Equinox she was especially awful, becoming a would be torturer and throwing away everything we knew about her because... screw it.

I agree that Voyager really missed its potential. It needed stronger arcs. One big bug bear for me is how the Marquis/ starfleet issue was handled. It seemed apart from a few minor instaces that these rebels with a cause integrated so seemlessly that it made the initial premise pointless. Instead of the Kazon, the real conflict should have been the Marquis/ starfleet. If I were to plot the series I'd likely do something like this:

Season 1- dealing with the loss, the newness of it all, and a strong conflict between Marquis and Starfleet.

season 2- More episodes dealing with the previous conflict, as well as the realisation that they are living on basics. Season 2 SHOULD have ended, or at east involved a Marquis rebellion- imagine the position that would place Torres and Chakotay? Instead of a Kazon take over it should have been Marquis.

Season 3-4- should have dealt with the ship having to survive more basically, more quests for fuel and food, Voyager hould have been getting rid of the Holodecks by this stage.

Season 5 should have had the ship becoming more battered and bruised, running almost always in gray mode. Areas of the ship out of bounds, unusable and damaged. Voyager should be a bit more broken. Even take the Doc offline for several episodes.

Season 6 - should have been more about survival and getting home at all costs, more questions about what is the right thing, more along the lines that the Equinox went through- just what is acceptable. The ship is on its last legs, will it even survive another episode? Kill off a main crewmember not for shock value but because that is what would happen- heck, the pilot killed off nearly all the senior staff.

Season 7- They should get home early in the season and the rest of the time spent acclimatising to the Alpha Quadrant, what did these people do once they got home? how were they affected?

Actually, maybe even just make it a 6 or 5 season show.

Voyager was always too clean and even when it was nearly destroyed like in Deadlock, it was clean and shiny by the next week.
Paul - Wed, Dec 18, 2013 - 10:55am (USA Central)
@AshP: I agree in concept, but the creators didn't even need to go as far as you did.

Season 2 was Voyager's only real attempt at continuity, but it didn't work because a) the Kazon were boring bad guys and b) There were too many logical gaffes (like the absurd plot to get Paris kidnapped by the Kazon). Instead of improving on execution, the creators essentially gave up and went for "TNG in the Delta Quadrant."

That didn't work because the characters on Voyager weren't nearly as good and because the show wasn't new or fresh conceptually. Voyager does have its moments, but its best character work (aside from the Doctor and Seven) is usually found in episodes that didn't really happen (like Kim in "Timeless" or most of the cast in "Before and After").

One thing that I could never understand is why the show didn't explore more of the characters' pasts. Granted, having a relative stop by -- like in "The Icarus Factor" -- would have been difficult. But with all the flashbacks we see dating back to "Caretaker", why not see more that went back further? Why not show how Torres and Chakotay met in the Maquis? Why not relive Paris's capture? Why not show what Janeway was doing before she took command on Voyager?

There are a few episodes where we see characters' pasts ("Tattoo", "Barge of the Dead", "Gravity", "Flashback", and "Thirty Days".) But so much was left unsaid. Given the expansive backstories of characters like Data, Worf, Riker, Sisko, Picard, Kira, O'Brien, Bashir, etc., you figure Voyager could have done more.
Niall - Fri, Dec 20, 2013 - 3:59pm (USA Central)
You see, this is why season 2 is my favourite season in terms of tone - the continuity of the Kazon/Seska plot plus great individual episodes like Resistance, The Thaw, Deadlock and Persistence Of Vision. Of course, continuity doesn't make sense when you consider that the Kazon would have had to have been chasing Voyager for 2 years at warp 9 point whatever. But very little about Voyager does make sense.

What I actually like about seasons 1-2 is that the show wasn't trying to be "fun", which it was very much so from season 3 onwards. When you think about episodes like season 1's Prime Factors and State Of Play, Voyager doing those episodes any time after season 3 is inconceivable due to the shift in tone.
Hector Nuno - Sat, Jan 11, 2014 - 1:11am (USA Central)
Star Trek Voyager, in my opinion it stands as the worst of the Star Trek shows.

Yes I would even take Enterprise over Voyager, at least Enterprise had a premise and characters that improved over time, and at the very least utilized its location and setting every once in awhile. Personality, and sadly, seeing the plans the writers had prepared for Season 5, I do believe that it would have redeemed the series. At the very least it deserved 7 years far more then Voyager did.

Now let me clarify that I do not believe it was terrible as many Voyager haters do. There were good episodes and I love the Doctor, even if his journey was just a rehash of Data from TNG.

My discontent for Voyager stems from one simple fact. If you watched 'Caretaker' and 'Endgame' back to back, you would have missed absolutely nothing of consequence. Aside from 7of9 appearing and Kes/Nelix disappearing, there really wouldn't be any questions for the audience to ask about anything.

Compare that to TNG and DS9, where the beginnings and ends are virtually indisguishable. In the end, Voyager always kept to the status quo to its
last second of screen time, and its characters and stories suffered greatly from that.


Janeway: As far as I am concerned she should be court-martialed for everything she did in the Delta quartet. Instead she's promoted to admiral in Nemesis.

She really needed to loosen up in the series, both as a character and from her principles as a captain. Instead the show practically worshipped her, and constantly prized her choices and leadership. When in reality she is probably the most incompetent captain in star fleet history.

Look no further then the first episode, where she doesn't even understand the simple idea of a timed fuse. Instead using her own flawed judgment, and hers alone, rarely factoring in others. Ironically, she becomes the Voyager greatest enemy and threat, had it not been for the writers Voyager would not have survived a month under with her leadership.

The Doctor: The only character who ever came to life in my opinion, and while he was a data rehash, it was one that I welcomed and enjoyed. Even in the worst episodes, Picardo always found a way to impress me and keep me invested.

Neelix: Imagine Jar Jar Binks, Seasons 1-2 Wesley Crusher, and the TNG Feregeni all merged into one character to capture my feelings for him.

7of9: The only other character I enjoyed, but was blatantly overused and once again never changes, or learns, from her many repeated and tiresome lessons. With every step forward taken with her, there were two steps taken back.

Harry/Paris/Chakotay/Torres/Kes: Who are they? I'm literally not sure who they were, and why they were even in this series to begin with.

Tuvok: I liked Vulcans and Tim Russ, and that's all I can really say about Tuvok. Easily the most underutilized asset this show had.

As for the series itself, my favorite episode is Timeless. Episodes like scorpion, Equinox, and Year of Hell never impressed me, because while they told good stories the consequences were minimal to nonexistent.

In conclusion, Voyager to me is a mediocre and underwhelming series with one of the most wasted casts I've ever seen in television. So much potential all washed away and wasted, had Voyager been fully realized, I'm not sure where it would rank. But at the very least it would have measured more when compared to TOS/TNG/DS9/ENT, instead of looked down upon constantly.

I'm sure many would disagree with me, but this is just my opinion. You're entitled to your own, just as I am to mine.
Paul - Mon, Jan 13, 2014 - 10:18am (USA Central)
@Hector Nuno:

I agree with a lot of what you said, though I think you're a little overly harsh on the characters.

Paris and Torres were fairly well developed. Torres was sort of all over the map at times and Paris was only used well in spots ("Thirty Days" was an unheralded standout). But they were better used than most everyone else.

The fact is, Voyager tried to develop all of the characters early in its run but largely gave up with some characters (Chakotay, Tuvok) or just did a terrible job with others (Kim, Neelix).

As far as Janeway, I mostly agree. Star Trek seemed pretty set on lionizing its captains in both Voyager and Enterprise. Janeway's actions didn't really stand up to scrutiny and Archer's petulance made it hard for him to be a "man of destiny." In both cases, the creators overcompensated, which just showed how much they were missing the mark.

Making Janeway an admiral for "Nemesis" and then saying that she was "one of the most decorated officers in Starfleet history" in "Endgame" was just ridiculous. I'm sure the creators looked back on Kirk, his cowboy style and his celebrated career. But Voyager actually had a scene (in "Flashback") where Janeway explained to Kim how starfleet captains had changed.

It's a great scene, actually. But it could have been an instance where Janeway could have said that "In our current situation, we are more like a Starfleet crew 100 years ago." That would have been a great moment -- and maybe it would have justified Janeway's actions over the next six seasons.

Of course, Voyager missed an opportunity there, which was par for the course.
Caine - Thu, Jan 30, 2014 - 4:56pm (USA Central)
So, another Trek series comes to an end.

To me, this series has been a big disappointment

The technical side of the show was great: costumes and make-up, visual and special effects, sound and music as well as scenography and props. All stellar.

The creative aspects of the show is a whole other story, giving us a very mixed stew of quality - unfortunately far too often leaning towards a big bowl of fail.

It's not as if the WHOLE show featured a lack of continuity, an abandonment of basic premises, a huge amount of plot holes, bad dialog and bad characterization ... but MOST of the show did. That's a shame, because much of the talent on-screen was worth much more than what they got to Work with.

Despite the fact that I found most of the show frustrating, I actually (after seven seasons) ended up caring a bit about some of the characters.

In the end, though, Voyager stands out among other Star Trek shows as the show with the biggest wasted potential due to its overall low quality of storytelling.

I'm sad to say that Voyager, to me, is the worst Star Trek show (yes, I liked "nterprise" better).

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