Here it is, my most comprehensive review of the season. If you haven't read a single review I've written for Voyager's second season, you will still get a healthy dose of my opinion for every episode in this recap of the season. This recap is divided into two parts. First is the capsule review section in which I have briefly summarized my thoughts on each episode. As always, the rating scale is based on a possible four stars.
The second part of this recap is my lengthy general overview and analysis of the season, which looks at what the season as a whole has meant, and my thoughts on where the series as a whole is going. I hope you enjoy this review and hope you tune in for my next season of reviews!
Part 1: Capsule Reviews
The 37's — This was one of those shows that was okay, but it really aired at the wrong time. The issue of Voyager's homesickness was something that really didn't fair so well this late into the series. The use of Amelia Earhart as one of the characters brought to the other side of the galaxy from 1937 turns out to be rather pointless. The phaser battles and misunderstandings are pretty by-the-numbers, but at least the way the story deals with the issue of whether to end Voyager's journey is fairly decent.
Initiations — A return of the Kazon results in Chakotay being attacked by an adolescent on a "coming of age" mission. Robert Beltran turns in a good performance as Chakotay must argue philosophies with a smug Kazon brat. The cross-culture polemics are interesting and the further development of Kazon civilization is certainly welcome, even if they are a tad too similar to the Alpha Quadrant's very-equivalent Klingons. Some of the ending, involving the Voyager away team's temporary alliance with, and subsequent double-cross by, a Kazon party, is somewhat confusing. The plot isn't the best, but it all works out in the end.
Projections — A never-ending series of illusions involving the Doctor and his personal self-struggle makes for an awesome display of clever writing by Brannon Braga in what is, at the moment, the best episode the series has yet produced. The pairing of Lt. Barclay and Doc makes for some hilarious moments. Some brilliantly realized routines include Barclay and Doc's "control" over what is supposedly a holodeck simulation, including a "reset" to the beginning of the journey in a humorous recreation of "Caretaker." Despite its complexity, Braga makes sure no one will ever be the slightest bit confused by the layered story, which takes several very unexpected and witty twists.
Elogium — An uninvolving story with sparse character moments makes for the season's first (and not last) major tumble down the stairs into sub-mediocrity. Kes' "one-time" chance to become pregnant is dramatically manipulative and completely illogical. There are some decent Tuvokian moments when he talks to Neelix about being a father, but Neelix's reactions to parenthood are chock-full of clichés. The subplot involving the issue of procreation on board the ship is certainly relevant, but like the topic of "The 37's," this is an issue that should have been raised much earlier in the series. The idea of alien creatures beating up Voyager is a genuinely bad and painfully obvious "misunderstood lifeform" premise—yet the characters are so stupid they can't even figure it out.
Non Sequitur — When Harry's shuttle intersects an alien "time stream," he wakes up in an alternate reality where he lives on Earth and is now engaged. A potentially engaging premise is squandered on a teleplay that seems to be short on material—resulting in scene after scene to be drawn out into slow, heavy-handed exercises. Garrett Wang's performance is passable, though hardly impressive; on the other hand, Jennifer Gatti as fiance Libby is terrible, sabotaging any hope of chemistry between the two characters. The introduction of an alternate Paris sparks some interest—here he's just a loser. But just when things begin to get better, the ending drops an obvious, insipid revelation on us, involving a character named Cosimo and plenty of convenient, uninteresting technobabble.
Twisted — In Voyager's biggest failure to date (that is, until "Threshold" came along), a "distortion ring" intersects the ship and begins changing its configuration. We're treated to five bland, repetitive, pointless, boring, and silly acts comprising of characters walking around in circles commenting on the obvious. The episode's "denouement" features some ridiculous characterizations that just don't make any sense. There are hints that the distortion ring may be an intelligent communication attempt, but the episode never bothers to tell us. For that matter, it's completely unclear how the ship is even affected by the ring since after the Voyager is "destroyed" in one scene it's just fine in the next. Utter pointlessness for completists only.
Parturition — This is a character show, but it's a dumb character show with messages that seem to be aimed at the elementary school level. I liked the performances (particularly Kate Mulgrew) and the direction, but the plot leaves much to be desired. An entire main plot centering around Neelix's disapproval of Paris' possible feelings for Kes is lightweight to say the least—not the kind of character development I watch the show for. An angle involving some reptilian-like aliens is so unfocused and unimpressive that it's appalling.
Persistence of Vision — Some creepy visual motifs and general weirdness make for a fairly diverting show, even if not very well realized. There's a freshness here that was painfully lacking in the four episodes that preceded this one, so it was definitely welcome when it aired. The idea of alien mind-control is fun, as is the initial idea of Janeway going insane. But the script has narrative problems and jumps around from character to character and never really finds a real focus. The alien entity comes across as vague and underutilized, with motives that are never clear, which is too bad. The show also would've been better if it had remained focused on Janeway instead of giving Kes so much to do at the end. Pretty uneven, but kind of entertaining.
Tattoo — A good but not great show that opens the door to Chakotay's mysterious backstory with some effective flashback elements and cerebral storytelling techniques. The plot isn't spectacular, but it serves its purpose. The idea that the aliens of the week once inhabited earth is fairly interesting, even if a bit presumptuous. Some of the tricks the story uses to get to the end tread on shaky ground, like the hawk that attacks Neelix and the ridiculous Voyager-in-jeopardy angle (which is resolved with an equally ridiculous deus ex machina). At least it sometimes makes attempts at originality. I'll give it three stars...this time.
Cold Fire — This is an effective and even engrossing Kes show for four acts, but the other plot here—involving the introduction of the Nacine, the "Caretaker" race—grows increasingly lame as the show progresses. The ending is a concoction of cinema techniques, but has no real meaning, especially if you think about it for any length of time. From Tanis' motives, to Suspiria's stubbornness, to Torres' and Tuvok's hokey floating-in-mid-air-tricks, to Kes' emerging and subsequently subsiding mental powers, to Janeway's funny-looking ray-gun trap, there is a very high straining-of-credulity factor here. Plus, the show has no real consequences or developments, so it's hard to determine what it wants to convey.
Maneuvers — Seska's much-anticipated return leads to an exciting Kazon raid and the theft of a transporter unit from the Voyager. Chakotay's subsequent decision to chase down Seska himself without permission from the captain seems very Maquis-like, and Janeway's discussion with Torres on Chakotay's misguided decision is fairly well realized. The resulting action scenario and torture scenes prove to be engaging and fiery, as are the venomous confrontations between Seska and Chakotay. Only the show's rushed ending doesn't fare very well, when Janeway all-too-cleverly out-maneuvers the Kazon ships with some transporter silliness and then doesn't think to demand the Kazon turn traitorous Seska over to Voyager for her treachery.
Resistance — Now this was nice. Very good drama and classic Star Trek that takes some characters, throws them on a few sets, and lets things play out without worthless tech-plotting or gratuitous special effects. Joel Grey as the tragic, eccentric character Caylem who thinks Janeway is his daughter is absolutely wonderful. Kate Mulgrew again comes across as the series' most versatile and compelling presence, effectively playing a smart and compassionate heroine. Winrich Kolbe's direction is even-handed, balancing adventure and personal drama flawlessly. The angle involving Tuvok and Torres being held in a jail cell and the Mokra's torturing of Tuvok is handled just as well. Only the tired Voyager-in-jeopardy angle doesn't fit in, but, fortunately, it isn't stressed.
Prototype — A decent but average show in which Torres finds a robot and repairs it, only for it to kidnap her and demand that she build a prototype unit that can be reproduced into an army to fight an enemy race of robots. Nothing unexpected happens here—we have some decently performed addressals of the Prime Directive and Nature of Life clichés, but Biggs-Dawson is engaging throughout. The third act, however, almost undermines the show with stock battle scenes that feel so very worn out because of how many times they've been done so similarly this season.
Alliances — A compelling, series-impacting development that has a lot to say about the Delta Quadrant and Voyager's role in it. The show addresses many of Voyager's issues, including the Maquis/Federation clashes again, marked with Janeway heeding Chakotay's advice that they can't continue to do "business as usual." The idea of an alliance with the Kazon is quite intriguing, but when it falls through, the Trabe alliance seems even more realistic. But the Trabe's double-cross is a surprising turn of events, and says a lot about the lack of order in this region of space. The show slips up in the end, though, with a cut-and-dry answer that sides with Janeway's naive decision to follow Starfleet rules without question. It really rubs me the wrong way. But the show is still a good one for most of the way.
Threshold — Paris accelerates beyond warp 10 and consequently begins turning into a mutant, or, as the Doctor calls it, "evolving at an accelerated rate." A ridiculous, implausible episode that gets so silly with DNA tricks and infinite speed theory that it becomes positively laughable, but only after it turns positively boring and repetitive. McNeill does what he can with the material, but the show is such a self-contradictory mess that his efforts are futile. The conclusion, in which the Paris-mutant kidnaps Janeway and then takes a shuttle warp 10 to a planet where they both turn into salamanders, mate on instinct, and have "children," is so far beyond any realm of sensibility (and I can't stress this enough) that the only thing that I could possibly think as the events unfolded was "what the hell were they thinking when they wrote this?" The show actually gets worse with every viewing (and multiple viewings—make that any viewing—should be avoided if at all possible). One of the worst episodes in the history of the franchise.
Rating: zero stars
Meld — What initially appears to be the obligatory and inevitable "Tuvok gets emotions" episode has some interesting and relevant points about violence and its effects. Piller delivers another story with a reasonable amount of cerebral quality, this time surrounding the psychological characteristics of a Maquis crewman who suddenly kills another crewman in an act of random violence. Tuvok's obsessive search for a rational reason of why this killer did what he did is a very appropriate reaction. Cliff Bole's direction is nice, as is Tim Russ' performance; the episode's featured scene where Tuvok exhibits aggressive emotions manages to be skillfully stylized but not over-the-top. Some of the reasoning for Tuvok's troubles remains a tad unclear, but the ends justify the means.
Dreadnought — Another decent B'Elanna show, with "solid" being a key word, but "forgone conclusion" being two other key words. It's obvious what's going to happen from the beginning of this episode, and the only question becomes how it's going to happen. Unfortunately, like in "Prototype," nothing truly unexpected happens here, it's just a matter of connecting the dots from one point to the next as the episode unfolds. The premise is satisfactory and Biggs-Dawson performs nicely once again, but the bottom line is that the show doesn't have enough excitement or tension in it to really be much fun.
Death Wish — Q makes his first appearance on the newest of Trek series when another Q requests that he be permitted to kill himself. This is a truly compelling premise, especially when the show visits the metaphorical Q Continuum as the suicidal Q makes his argument for why he wants to die. One of the best examples of the Trekkian "human question" put to use in a very long time. Gerrit Graham is absolutely riveting in his passionate and charismatic guest appearance. The show exhibits very strong storytelling overall, except for some isolated sidetracking moments such as the lackluster "banter" scenes between Q and Janeway, and the somewhat silly "Forrest Gump"-like motif where suicidal-Q brings Will Riker and Isaac Newton on board the Voyager to "testify."
Lifesigns — Doc falls in love with a Vidiian medic who he temporarily gives a holographic body to. A fairly lightweight show, but a very agreeable show that's optimistic in its outlook. Performed with wonderful subtlety by Robert Picardo and Susan Diol, this is a pure character show that manages to put more humanity into Doc that we would've ever thought possible back at the start of the series. I still say that romances ride on their chemistry, and chemistry is something that these two characters have plenty of. The ending, where Doc proves that his love is more than superficial, works very well. It's a show that could've been schmaltzy, but it's simply pleasant instead.
Investigations — After weeks of interesting back-burner setup, Voyager's attempt at a long-term-built story involving an on-board traitor named Michael Jonas finally comes to an end. The episode centers around a rather annoying and incredulous investigation undertaken by Neelix. Tom Paris' erratic behavior is explained as a decoy to trick the spy into prompting Seska and the Kazon to kidnap Paris, where he can get more information about the spy's identity. The idea that Paris can infiltrate and escape the Kazon so easily is awfully convenient and tough to swallow. The show provides evidence that the Voyager writers are willing to try stories that build from previous episodes, but the resolution of the two plot lines is so anticlimactic that the whole thing is a disappointment.
Deadlock — Another one of Brannon Braga's high concept stories (of the variety that work) in which the Voyager is somehow cloned into two ships that occupy the same point in space and time. Filled with reams of technobabble, but, for once, it actually feels justified and believable thanks to some flawless line delivery by the actors. Many of the episode's details are interesting and even seem credible, turning potential implausibility into entertaining believability. The Vidiians return as a ruthless nemesis in a chilling display as they board one Voyager, which when self-destructed, destroys them all in a pulse-pounding pyrotechnic display. A terrific episode until you consider the ridiculous implications of severely damaging the Voyager and then having it repaired by the end of the show—something that prompts incredulity and hurts the meaning of the series' premise.
Innocence — When Tuvok's shuttle crashes, he encounters a group of children that he has to protect from an entity of death (or so the episode says). There are entirely too many failed attempts at cuteness here, and the episode seems to drag on with predictable filler scenes involving Tuvok hugging the kids to make them feel better and the "humorous" implications of a Vulcan baby-sitting non-Vulcan kids. Ha ha. Meanwhile, Janeway gets into a forced conflict with an alien race known as the Drayans over trespassing on their sacred grounds. Everything is, of course, connected here; the show's entire story brings everything together in the last five minutes of dialogue. And while I liked these last five minutes, it hardly warrants the show's first 40 minutes, which, in retrospect, seem contrived for the sake of forcing the episode's confrontation.
The Thaw — An atypical and effective mix of bizarre comedy and colorful weirdness makes for an episode that could've been hopelessly silly but instead manages to work up a reasonably interesting story with undertones that harbor surprising substance. The idea of the Clown being a representation of fear itself is an unconventional notion at the very least. Michael McKean manages to bring the right mix of goofy humor and menacing intensity to the role. The scenes between the Doctor and the Clown are funny and somehow effectively alternate with other scenes of people being decapitated via guillotine. The final 60 seconds of the show are particularly well-directed as Janeway confronts Fear and snuffs it out with clever trickery.
Tuvix — Tuvok + Neelix + transporter mishap = "Tuvix." Braga takes high concept to the extreme with a fairly stupid one-sentence premise that is milked for a reasonable amount of characterization and some controversial arguments. Still, well is not well enough—the show takes too long to get to its more interesting aspects. While the issues of (a) Kes having trouble getting over the loss of Neelix, (b) Tuvix's discovery of his feelings for Kes, and (c) Tuvix's initial fish-out-of-water dilemma are certainly relevant, this leaves too little time for the most compelling idea—that bringing back Tuvok and Neelix means killing Tuvix, who expresses a desire to live as an individual. Janeway's decision to "kill" Tuvix against his will is the show's most powerful notion...but the episode runs out of time and leaves this angle so unfinished that it's quite troubling. I guess just barely three stars is fair for this one.
Resolutions — This one had so much potential given the elements. Consider: The ship must face the prospect of going on without its captain and first officer. Consider: Two humans alone in an unknown environment with little hope of ever being rescued. There were so many opportunities here for decent character-building scenes between Janeway and Chakotay, but, aside from one genuinely personal story Chakotay tells the captain, there is nothing memorable done with the premise. The creators seem too afraid of damaging the series' status quo to take any risks or offer any interesting discussion. The story's setup is wasted on the activation of the reliable reset switch. There's also too much uninteresting filler like, for example, endless talk where Janeway states she doesn't like cooking but likes gardening, and an entire angle involving a monkey that is completely pointless—this filler could've been dropped easily had the writers had something worthwhile to say about Janeway and Chakotay's situation. The issue of Tuvok's unemotional captaincy is, in a word, mediocre.
Basics, Part I — All setup and no payoff makes for an entertaining cliffhanger installment in which Seska sets a trap for the Voyager, whose crew is ambushed by the Kazon in a hopeless battle. The episode ends with Culluh and the Kazon Nistrim marooning the Voyager crew on a desolate planet with no supplies or technology, and taking the Voyager as their prize. The idea of a worst-case-scenario come true is fun, and the action/adventure premise is enticing, but there are a number of problems here, including the whole idea of Janeway's foolhardy decision to put the Voyager in such danger over a child conceived out of such manipulated circumstances. You would think that after all of Seska's treachery, Janeway and Chakotay would've learned their lesson. Nope. As compensation, the episode throws the issue of Suder back at us, a character who will undoubtedly play a role in retaking the Voyager along with Doc and Paris. But is there a doubt in anyone's mind that the Voyager crew will retake their ship in part two? Sure, the show manages to get its hooks into us, I suppose, but without any hard character choices, it's mainly an exercise in pointlessness. Here's hoping part two is worthwhile.
Part 2: Season Analysis
First of all, this is not a Voyager-bashing column; I want to be as fair as possible to the series and offer relevant thoughts concerning my opinions. With that said, let me continue.
I'd be lying if I said I thought Voyager's second season was a particularly good one. I didn't find Voyager's first season to be that great, and upon its completion I was looking forward to seeing season two make the necessary improvements to turn Voyager into good science fiction, television, and Star Trek alike. But, alas, I was even more disappointed overall with this season of Voyager than I was with last. At least with the first season the series still felt fresh and new, and we were still getting to know the characters.
But with the completion of season two the show only seems to be getting more stale, just when it should be getting more interesting. I think the biggest problem is that the series still doesn't know where it wants to go or what it wants to do with its premise.
Ah, yes, the premise. Everything seems to come back to the premise.
A Federation starship all alone, comprised of an initially divided crew with two distinctively different philosophies of life, separated from their origins and element by some 70,000 light-years of vast and unknown space.
A premise indeed.
Why in the world have the creators chosen to take this premise—perhaps the most important and potentially most intriguing asset the show has—and do so little with it? It's a question I've asked myself many times over the past year and a half of the series' run, but I can never come up with an answer beyond the assumption that the creators have a lack of effort or desire for trying new things. According to the producers, the idea of being stranded in the Delta Quadrant was a way of forcing themselves to tell new stories and have new types of conflicts. Unfortunately, in the important respects, this has not been the case.
Sure we have some new friends like the Talaxians and the Ocampa, but aside from an occasional passing reference and the obvious presence of Neelix and Kes, there's virtually nothing we know about them as a people. Granted, there is an understandable reason why we don't know anything about them: Voyager is, after all, heading toward the Alpha Quadrant—away from the people of the Delta Quadrant; or at least away from those we met early in the first season.
We also have some enemies like the Kazon and the Vidiians. Funny how we see plenty of them despite the fact that Voyager is supposedly heading generally "out" of the quadrant as quickly as possible. You would think Voyager would be getting out of the Kazon's range by now, or at least getting away from the sects that we've been seeing all season. "Basics," the season finale, sums up a lot of the implausibility of the Kazon situation. Here's a show where, somehow, diverting the ship off course for a few days magically takes us into the very heart of Kazon territory. And strangely, a Talaxian convoy is even mentioned in the plot. How convenient. If the Voyager has mostly been headed at high speed in a direction away from all of this for so long, how is it we're suddenly back here within mere days? Because the Kazon angle is the direction the writers want to go right now, that's why.
And that's a problem. If the premise is meant to offer a sense of fresh adventure, which is what I was always led to believe, then Voyager needs to move on. Dwelling on the Kazon is not only implausible (a plausibility strain that could've been easily avoided with just a few carefully written lines of dialogue, by the way), but will ultimately be self-defeating in terms of storyline strength. Part of this is because they are too much the same type of threat as we've already seen in the other Trek series. The creators have basically taken the warrior-type setting of the Klingons and put a different spin on it. (Unfortunately, it's a distasteful spin at that—this season the Kazon have become boring, faceless, misogynic thugs with little entertainment value. I like villains that are fun to hate, not villains I hate because they annoy me.) The only true saving grace the Kazon have is the presence of the always-reliable Seska.
There are also the Vidiians, who are quite a bit more interesting in concept considering their motives. On the downside, the series hasn't taken a close look at them; they've mostly been used for the "bad guys of the week" in episodes like "Deadlock" and "Resolutions."
No, what we need is a different kind of enemy, not just a different enemy. The vast unknown of the Delta Quadrant would be much more compelling if there was something truly new and exciting out there, and Voyager needs to re-energize itself as a series with just that. Thinking in such terms of amazement, I am reminded of "Q-Who" from TNG's second season, in which Q hurls the Enterprise some 7,000 light years where the crew finds themselves faced with the Borg for the first time. That was new. That was frightening. That is what Voyager needs to do in its next season. I'm not saying we need to see the Borg again specifically—rather, just something inventive that would create a similar emotional and attention-grabbing response.
Still, I'm inclined to believe (based on what Voyager has done in 41 episodes) that we will not see such a thing happen in the near future, and probably not anytime down the road either. That brings me to my next point of what Voyager needs to work on if it wants to improve: Not being so set on maintaining the status quo. The series would be so much more interesting if the creators would allow the show to grow and develop, and not hit the reset switch at the end of every episode. Being all alone is a unique part of Voyager's premise, and just as the case of being in new, unknown space, the creators have still not effectively used the fact that Voyager is all by itself (and made up of two different crews) to their advantage.
Consider, "Alliances," in which Janeway and Chakotay clash schools of thought on how to handle the Kazon threat. The show explores the differences between Starfleet and Maquis thinking, and it could've said a lot about how Voyager should handle situations without the Federation crutch to lean on. As "Alliance's" events unfolded, the episode's conclusion made a major compromise that said a lot about the writers' unwillingness to do new things with Voyager's situation. Ask yourself, which is more impacting in dramatic terms: The notion that you have to change to fit new situations, or the notion that you have to stay the same to fit new situations? I'm inclined to say the former, but the episode claims the latter. As a result, the show has "naive" written all over it, and what could've been very striking and consequential in storytelling terms is instead quite lightweight and even presumptuous. And "Alliances" is just one of many cases.
"Deadlock" is another example. Here's a terrific action show in many respects...until you consider how silly the show is for thinking we won't notice that even though the ship was basically trashed during the events of the episode that it's practically repaired before the credits roll. Why not have the repairs take time over the next several months of new episodes? Why not have the damage actually have dramatic consequences in future episodes, leading the crew to think twice before getting into a battle or traveling through dangerous space? It wouldn't really be that hard to execute, but it could make all the difference in the world for driving home the point of Voyager's fragile nature of being stranded without the luxury of Federation supplies. Instead, the writers choose to simply ignore the issue, and that's just downright lame.
Just how long are we expected to care about Voyager's situation if nothing that happens in a show really means anything? If the writers can write one line of dialogue in substitution for what should be five episodes' worth of back-burner storytelling? I'm having trouble caring now. The more I think about "Basics," the more I realize how pointless it is, even as a cliffhanger. Why? Because I know that the Kazon will ultimately be subdued, yet the show didn't give me anything to ponder in terms of hard character choices like TNG's "The Best of Both Worlds" did.
Maybe the producers are worried about making story points from previous episodes pop up in new ones. Well, I say, that is the point of a series, isn't it? And if there's one show on TV that can afford to assume that its fans watch on a regular basis, it's a Star Trek show. Until the producers start treating the show like a series and assuming its audience has an attention span longer than ten minutes, Voyager will not realize its full potential or even close—and that's a waste.
Series-long issues and opinions aside, the other big reason Voyager was not successful this season is because of the inconsistency in the strength of its writing. Simply put, there were too many loser episodes this year. (A "loser," for the record, can be labeled for any episode rated at two stars or lower.) Voyager had eight such losers, three of which were actually below the two-star range. And the timing of the losers was not advantageous to the series, either. Whenever the season seemed to be heading into a stretch of halfway decent shows, along came a loser to undermine the effort. What is needed is a consistency in the writing—something along the lines of what DS9's fourth season has been. Even if Voyager's episodes weren't all outstanding, the season could surely have benefited if there had at least been a feeling of cohesion and consistent entertainment value from one week to the next.
Instead we have the all-too-frequent losers—and there are consistent reasons for Voyager's occurrences of losers. Let's start with "Threshold" and "Twisted." These were two episodes that were downright stupid in premise, absolutely boring in execution, pointless in character terms, and to top it off we had plenty of that wonderfully annoying and uninteresting Trekkian thing known as—you guessed it—technobabble. Why it is the Star Trek writers tend to depend on worthless technobabble as padding for their stories escapes me in the first place. I don't even pay attention to it anyway because it's almost never really relevant to the plot. But the idea of having two entire stories centering around bogus science and not decent plot- or character-driven developments completely falls beyond my comprehension. (On the other hand, "Deadlock" worked very well, even though it was wall-to-wall with tech-plotting. The key word there is "plotting," opposed to "sitting passively" as in the case with "Threshold" and "Twisted.") "Non Sequitur" was bad for other reasons, but it sure wasn't helped by having a conclusion that completely rode on arbitrary technobabble explanations.
Near the end of the season, it seemed that there was a decrease in the amount of the jargon, and that's one thing that the creators would be well advised to continue for all of next season. I'm not at all impressed by the "accuracy" of the "research" that goes into Trek's technobabble; I'm merely annoyed by it.
Also, a lack of decent characterization hurt a number of episodes. Loser examples: "Elogium," "Innocence," "Resolutions," "Investigations," "Non Sequitur," and "Parturition." Here were plots that had little going for them aside from potential characterization, but the writing didn't come through and the shows failed on both plot and character planes. Over the long haul, Voyager is doing okay in the character-building department. Not great, but okay—it could use some improvements in some areas, especially in the subtleties of individual personalities.
Janeway: She's well utilized as the ship's captain and probably the best balanced character overall, and Mulgrew does nicely in command situations. But the angle from "The Cloud" involving her personal relationship with the crew has been dropped altogether, and that's a terrible shame. The personal level is one of the important parts about the captain considering Voyager's stranded nature. Why did the writers abandon this?
Chakotay: We've seen more of his backstory and some insight into his spiritual background this season, which is good, but I also want to see this guy in action. He doesn't get much to do in most plots ("Maneuvers" being an exception) and as first officer he doesn't take much initiative. I still think he and Janeway need to be butting heads on Federation/Maquis philosophies more often, like they did in "Alliances."
Tuvok: A well, developed, performed, and (mostly) utilized character. "Meld" was nice. "Innocence" was not. He's a fountain of genuine-sounding advice for Janeway and is a great Vulcan when it comes to saying things that need to be said honestly, timely, and bluntly. Maybe it's easy to write for a Vulcan considering all the available backstory, but in any case the writers do a good job with him.
Torres: "Prototype" and "Dreadnought" were particularly good for her character, and Biggs-Dawson is an engaging performer. Too bad she also has to deliver 70 percent of the show's technobabble lines. Pretty good overall this season.
Paris: Not too much is done with this guy, but he's effective as an all-purpose-adventurer character. I know this sounds bad, but some of his best personal dialogue was at the end of "Threshold." That installment was so godawful that I wish he had said everything he said there in another show.
Doctor: The rather enlightening "Projections" and "Lifesigns" were both great. Doc's good for comic relief and the writers seem to know how to write him serious when the plot demands it. Still, I wish they would give him a name already! I find it hard to believe he is having that much trouble choosing a name. Also, what happened to the crew's attempts to make it so he could be projected outside the sickbay? There was one line in "Basics" about it being thus far unsuccessful, but other than that we hadn't seen the premise at all since "Persistence of Vision." It would be nice seeing Picardo outside the sickbay and holodecks for a change.
Kim: The most pointlessly underdeveloped character on the show. They writers have done nothing with this guy in two entire seasons. Wang carried one show all season—"Non Sequitur"—and he barely carried it, and it wasn't much of a show. The rest of the time he just stands behind his console, spouting the other 30 percent of the show's technobabble. He's such a non-factor in the series that if he died I would barely notice. This character needs to be seriously addressed and given something to do—now.
Kes: She's not bad from what we've seen of her, but she's restricted to such lightweight material that it's tough to really get a feel for what Jennifer Lien is capable of. "Cold Fire" was probably the biggest show she's had to carry, but it didn't amount to nearly enough. The issue of her mental powers constantly gets shoved under the carpet.
Neelix: This season Neelix went from questionably decent to downright bad. He's now my least favorite character—he's just too annoying. He's not funny or interesting. His actions are mostly defined by clichés. This was demonstrated in a number of shows, but in full force by "Investigations," a Neelix show where Neelix was worth about fifteen demerits. This is too bad, because the character seemed to have plenty of potential way back in "Caretaker." By the way, if he calls Tuvok "Mr. Vulcan" one more time, he needs to be vaporized with a phaser set at level 16. Or beamed into space. Or beamed into space and then vaporized.
Next season, Voyager should try teaming different combinations of characters. That might lead to some new development. In order for characterization to work, however, there needs to be some new plot workings and an improvement in the general way Voyager does things. In any case, Voyager needs to get the writing in gear, because that's what is holding back the show. Voyager has the same potential of any of the Trek series. The production values are terrific, the cast knows what it's doing, and the writers, despite their inability to turn the series into a cohesive whole, can still come up with winner stories well worth watching. I thoroughly enjoyed episodes like "Projections," "Death Wish," "Resistance," and others. But shows like this should not be rare exceptions to the rule.
Hey, I'm a completist. As long as it says "Star Trek," I'll almost certainly watch it. But even though I watch it, I can't really recommend Voyager to somebody who isn't a reliable Trek fan. It's a mediocre series with some noteworthy strengths. Maybe that will change next season, and maybe it won't. I hope it does, but only time will tell. All we can do is wait and see.