Star Trek: Voyager
Second Season Recap
For episodes airing from 8/28/1995 to 5/20/1996
Series created by Rick Berman & Michael Piller & Jeri Taylor
Executive producers: Rick Berman & Michael Piller & Jeri Taylor
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
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
To see the rankings and 10-scale ratings for this season's episodes, click here.
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.
Previous: Season 1
Next: Season 3
49 comments on this post
Tue, Oct 27, 2009, 8:31am (UTC -5)
I also felt that this season was disappointing after a very good first sesason (at least, when cmopared to other series' first seasons).
Wed, Dec 9, 2009, 4:08pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 2, 2010, 3:57pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 16, 2010, 10:38am (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 30, 2010, 10:41am (UTC -5)
Mon, May 10, 2010, 1:11pm (UTC -5)
Sun, May 30, 2010, 6:46am (UTC -5)
Voyager's second season was largely a collection of 26 stand-alone episodes, with only the Michael Jonas arc creating a thematic link between 5 or so episodes.
So comparisons between these two shows is fair because they are part of the same franchise. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Voyager, and I can remember a time when I might have said Voyager was my favourite trek show, but since the DVD releases it's easy to spot all the flaws in the series.
DS9 is a much better series, imo.
Tue, Nov 16, 2010, 11:30am (UTC -5)
Tue, Nov 16, 2010, 3:09pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Dec 12, 2010, 3:30pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 11, 2012, 2:46pm (UTC -5)
If his sole purpose is to be a foil to Tuvok, this idea fails miserably. It seems that the Trek writers just tried to find two opposite characters and give them dialogue with no apparent purpose. Tuvokis one-dimensional, with the only dimension being "seriously boring" or "boringly serious." Neelix is just a bumbling goofball. Neither character causes the other to grow, and there is no comic relief provided by their interaction. Compare their relationship to that of McCoy and Spock or Riker and Data.
I would rather sit through an entire Ferengi episode on DS9 rather than watch Neelix for 2 minutes.
Tue, Mar 20, 2012, 2:43pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 4, 2012, 11:22am (UTC -5)
Thats what Voyager tries to do...not well...
Star Trek is Star Trek...it doesnt need long arcs, or lots of character development. Its about the stories, the ideas, all told for that week, and then next week, new ideas, new challenges, just like TOS. In this respect, Voyager succeeds, however, the premise lends itself to arc stories, so I think Voyager is good Star Trek, bad story telling, given its premise....
Fri, Apr 13, 2012, 1:39pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Apr 17, 2012, 3:50am (UTC -5)
Tue, Jan 15, 2013, 1:48pm (UTC -5)
quite good also: Basics, non sequitor, resolutions, cold fire, prototype, dreadnaught...
overall, despite some uneven patches....I found this one of the freshest an dmost creative seasons in Trek.
Wed, Jan 16, 2013, 2:08pm (UTC -5)
Season 2 does look better in retrospect, if only because the show never improved significantly. The baseline had been set. For the rest of its run, each season would produce about eight episodes with sub-2.5 ratings (the same as TNG's 22-episode 2nd season, for the record). While Landon is correct to point out the high spots -- "The Thaw" could be added to the list, too -- Voyager would be defined not by its rewarding gems but by its punishing lows. (That, and its overhyped promos.) The pattern started in Season 2, and that's why "fresh" and "creative" don't easily attach to that year of the show.
Thu, Jan 17, 2013, 7:55am (UTC -5)
Wed, Sep 18, 2013, 2:37pm (UTC -5)
TNG: 7 : DS9 1/2 -- TNG's 2nd worse season, DS9 at about its middle, S1 was okay, S2 significantly better.
DS9 3 : VOY 1 -- DS9 at its most mediocre, not offensive, but not terribly original or engaging either; VOY delivers, certainly not its best season, nor a season better than DS93, but the best 1st season of any series except TOS.
DS9 4 : VOY 2 -- the starkest contrast; DS9's best overall season, though not containing the very best episodes of the series; VOY's worst season easily, but not worse than the worst seasons of TOS, TNG or ENT.
DS9 5 : VOY 3 -- Both seasons of transition: DS9 begins hyperserialising its format, with some success and some serious problems; VOY begins moving away from its plot-oriented storylines and focusing more exclusively on character.
DS9 6 : VOY 4 -- The "final forms" of the series: DS9 has some good moments and some awful moments, showcasing its greatest strength, continuity: VOY also showcases its greatest strength, character, especially with its new cast member.
DS9 7 : VOY 5 -- the reversal of DS94/VOY2-- DS9's worst season and VOY's best: DS9 falls on its face with its continuity obsession and religious apologism: VOY excels with a strong character drive and a "family theme" which glues the series together.
Interesting to me, anyway.
Fri, Jan 31, 2014, 7:48am (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 16, 2014, 9:20am (UTC -5)
Thu, Feb 20, 2014, 4:53pm (UTC -5)
Granted, "Deadlock" was inexcusable. But there were plenty of episodes that actually attempted continuity. "Basics" ties into "Meld", "Maneuvers", "Alliances" and, in a way, "Investigations." The previous episode "Resolutions", ties into "Lifesigns", "Deadlock", and (briefly) "Faces."
There were a couple of episodes that were one-offs ("Threshhold", "Twisted", "Innocence") but even DS9 at its most serial did this, too.
The problem is that Voyager picked bad main villains (the Kazon) and had some sketchy logic/lack of explanations as to why the ship wasn't yet out of Kazon space. Why not mention the 12-week detour "Resolutions" caused?
Ultimately, the Voyager writers punted on continuity in subsequent seasons. That's too bad, because some of the ideas weren't bad. I kind of liked the idea of less-advanced bad guys with superior numbers pursuing Voyager for its technology. And Seska in the mix was entertaining.
Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 5:16pm (UTC -5)
This. THIIIIIIS... It's been a while since I've directly addressed a Jammer comment, but I have to spit this back; Jammer is "inclined to say the former [you have to change]" and as "a result, the show [is] 'naïve." So, if the show doesn't do what you expect or want it to, it is naïve. This is every major Voyager criticism neatly packaged into ironically presumptuous idea.
Tue, Aug 26, 2014, 9:49am (UTC -5)
That said, I recognized (for the most part) that it is MY problem. If people enjoyed VOY for what it was... it's not my place to say it or they are wrong. The ratings can say that without me, but then I'm not an expert as to why the ratings declined and DS9's ratings declined as well and they went the opposite track.
I WILL say though that I think you picked a bad statement to make your point. It is quite literally a fact that stiff brittle things break while flexible things do not.
Janeway finding ways to adapt while teetering on the edge of, but not giving up her ideals would simply have been more interesting/less naive than a statement to the fact that not changing at all is the way to adapt to new situations, when the definition of adapt quite literally disagrees.
Tue, Aug 26, 2014, 11:14am (UTC -5)
I don't disagree, but it was simply too early in the show for her to do this; by the time we got to Scorpion, there would be no ground left to cover in bending (or breaking) her ethical stance. It would be similar to ITPM (although many don't agree with me, here), in that Sisko's profession of moral compromise fell flat because we had already seen his ethics plummet in the six years leading up to it.
Sun, Jan 18, 2015, 4:58pm (UTC -5)
On the other hand, it's still an improvement over season 1 of Voyager I think.
More importantly, despite failing at times, or even failing more often than not, I have to give credit to the fact that they at least tried and took risks. There isn't much in the way of "boring" here; even their failures like Threshold were spectacularly out there. There were a few attempts at long-lasting storylines, some of which worked (Seska) and some didn't (the mysteeeerrious traitor).
And a lot of the stories, for better or worse, did not take the easy way out. The Thaw avoided the technobabble plague and had a unique, dark ending. Regardless of the reset button, Deadlock pulled no punches. Meld gave us an unrepentant serial killer as part of the crew. Tuvix showed the moral problem in all of its brutal details.
In brief, despite being an overall disappointment, there were quite a few high points to make it worthwhile. I have to give them credit for that.
Thu, Mar 26, 2015, 1:31pm (UTC -5)
It would had been better if season 2 opened up with Alliances and was more like that episode. The episode is not perfect, but he did a good job dealing with it themes. The Kazon and Vidiian made great villians.
Thu, Mar 26, 2015, 1:52pm (UTC -5)
Alliance - They should had opened the season with this one.
Deadlock - This would had been a good episode to come on after Alliance.
Projection - A nice character episode and Robert Picardo is just a great actor.
Resistance - A nice stand alone episode to lighten things up.
Meld - A good Tuvok episode that also goes with the theme of the show.
Dreadnought - another nice standalone episode that features Torres.
Death Wish -
Parturition - A nice standalone light episode. Tom Paris is another one of my favorite character. It's just a shame they took away his edge to quickly.
Tuvix - A nice moral debate episode.
Life Sign - A nice way to somewhat humanize the vidiian.
Like I said before the Kazon and Vidiian made effective bad guys for season 2. Hogan, Sudar, and Jonas made effective recurring character. It's a shame they got rid of Joe Carey. They probably could had been used a little bit better and I love that moment when Hogan snapped on Janeway. I liked Seska more in season 1.
I'm giving these episodes honorable mention for touching on Element to goes into Voyager premise and for showcasing my favorite characters even.
ColdFire - For meeting another Caretaker.
Elogium - for the element of introducing a pregnant crewmember.
The 37's - For the subplot of the crew finding an ideal planet that they can settle in.
Prototype - Torres is my favorite character.
Investigation - I like the idea of the Jonas arc, but not exactly all of the execution.
Resolution - The theme of Voyager having to go out it alone without Janeway and Chakotay.
Basic - I like the idea of the Voyager crew being stranded on a planet. I wish it was a three parter with all of part being being about The Voyager crew being stranded on the planet with part 3 being about Paris retaking Voyager.
If season 2 consist of these episodes and themes.
Thu, Aug 13, 2015, 7:16am (UTC -5)
The 37's, 4.00
Death Wish, 4.00
The Thaw, 4.00
Persistence of Vision, 3.00
Cold Fire, 2.50
Basics Part I, 2.50
Non Sequitur, 1.50
Total points: 78.50
Again, I'm not surprised it ranks higher that DS9 season 2 and wouldn't be surprised if it ranked higher than TNG season 2. Now we'll see what happens during season 3. (where DS9 took off)
Sat, Jan 16, 2016, 8:17am (UTC -5)
If it shows one thing it is that Voyager has the capacity to make exceptional viewing. But it doesn't consistently hit those heights - indeed it often undershoots badly. We had some arc elements this year but I can't help thinking these were really the wrong arcs - not least because the Kazon really don't make fantastic villains. Everything seems to be in place for the next step forward, but I wonder if we'll get there...
Fri, Feb 5, 2016, 2:16am (UTC -5)
The better episodes tended to be about Tuvok, B'Elanna and the Doctor who were not so content with themselves, the other crewmembers or their situations and thus had more interesting challenges and potential for growth.
Sun, Jun 18, 2017, 4:55pm (UTC -5)
Famous last words.
Thu, Sep 28, 2017, 1:38pm (UTC -5)
The 37's: 1.5 (-1)
Initiations: 2.5 (-0.5) [I said 3, but I think the plot really doesn't hold together, and the character stuff for Chakotay is okay but not great]
Projections: 3.5 (-1) [I keep going back and forth in my mind on whether this is a 3 or 3.5 -- I like it a lot but I think Jammer overrates it]
Elogium: 1 (-0.5)
Non Sequitur: 2 (=)
Twisted: 1 (=)
Parturition: 1.5 (-0.5)
Persistence of Vision: 2 (-0.5)
Tattoo: 2 (-1)
Cold Fire: 2.5 (=)
Maneuvers: 2 (-1)
Resistance: 3.5 (=)
Prototype: 2.5 (=)
Alliances: 1.5 (-1.5)
Threshold: 0.5 (+0.5)
Meld: 3.5 (+0.5)
Dreadnought: 2.5 (=)
Death Wish: 3.5 (=)
Lifesigns: 3 (-0.5)
Investigations: 1 (-1)
Deadlock: 3 (=)
Innocence: 3 (+1)
The Thaw: 3.5 (+0.5)
Tuvix: 3 (=)
Resolutions: 3 (+1)
Basics, Part 1: 2 (-0.5)
So the season averages out to around 2.36, which is (surprisingly) pretty similar to season 1. This belies the real split in the season: up to Threshold, the season average is about 2, which is terrible, with only two eps I'd actually classify as "good" (Projections and Resistance), and then the last 11 eps or so average around 2.85, which is very good, with several strong shows. Michael Piller, before leaving the show's staff, said that he thought that by the end of season two the show had started to find itself (before veering off in another direction), and I think that's partly true; the only real failure is Investigations in this period, and I pretty much like everything else except for the season finale. I guess that maybe Innocence and Resolutions, which Jammer rates much lower than I do, might be worse than I think, but I still think I mostly ended up liking them and considering them moderately successful, and I think the other 3-3.5 star shows are all strong. If there was any indication of following up on the damage in Deadlock it'd be a 3.5 for sure from me. The shows I haven't commented on (yet) -- Projections, Meld, Death Wish, The Thaw, and Tuvix -- are all somewhere in a nebulous region from 3 to 4 stars in my mind, most closer to 3, but a few of which I could see *maybe* going to 4 if I examine them more closely; most of them are near the end of the season, of course. So the season ends up redeeming itself to a degree in the final string of eps, but the season was really crashing and burning before that point.
Character-wise, I think that Tuvok and the Doctor come out looking the best of the crew, each of them having two strong episodes (Meld/Innocence, Projections/Lifesigns) and bringing a lot to most episodes where they play more supporting roles. Chakotay gets a lot of material, but of the major eps I'm only really sold on Initiations and Resolutions, and those only somewhat. I can sort of appreciate what they were trying to do with Tattoo even if I think it backfired, but I think Maneuvers and the rest of the Seska arc this year just made him look stupid and clueless. Janeway fares pretty well mostly but there are already signs of wear and tear on character consistency in terms of her decisions and the like, and I maintain that Alliances was actually a really bad episode, whose "good but flawed" reputation is hugely overstated. Neelix is mostly a disaster this year, with Elogium, Parturition and Investigations being the biggest demerits; I'm not actually opposed to the character all the time (e.g. I like Fair Trade which I watched recently), but this year is particularly bad for him; the main time in which he was a positive was when he formed a part of Tuvix. Kim is mostly a blank and the one Kim episode (Non Sequitur) told us basically nothing about him; the other most significant thing he did was die and be replaced in Deadlock, and that -- having him be the locus of a bizarre SF plot machination and allow other, better-drawn characters to react to it -- seems to be the best use of the character. (See also his role in The Thaw, which is mostly to be "hostage.") Paris got both Threshold and the confused, dumb go-nowhere "arc" for the character, and I think his best material was still in Non Sequitur, which buoyed that show. Cold Fire suggested that there is somewhere interesting for Kes to go, but stopped far short of actually going there (and let's not talk about Elogium) so mostly her role is to be pleasant and to be an important figure in the Doc's development. Torres admittedly only has average (rather than good) shows, with the kind-of-similar Prototype and Dreadnought, but I think that she still manages to carry them pretty well and is generally a good presence. I guess my overall ranking of how well the characters were handled this year is something like (from best to worst): Tuvok, the Doctor, Janeway, Torres, Kes, Chakotay, Paris, Kim, Neelix. I'm giving the edge to Tuvok over the Doctor partly because I know (spoiler) that the Doctor will end up getting more focus than Tuvok in the series overall, and so I want to appreciate Tuvok here.
I will say that I think that the "season arc" -- involving the Kazon, Seska, Paris' plot, etc. -- is pretty much a failure. I thought that Maneuvers was weak, and then Alliances and Investigations were each worse than the last. Basics was a mild step up, but not *that* big of one. I think it's no wonder that the show moved away from this kind of arc storytelling, which of course is a shame...but yeah, they actually *were* pretty demonstrably bad at it. And yeah, the one-offs were also frequently terrible, but they did produce many good to great eps. I'm negative on this season, but I'm very glad for having rewatched Projections, Resistance, Meld, Death Wish, Lifesigns, Deadlock, Innocence, The Thaw, Tuvix, and Resolutions, and I have fondness for Initiations, Cold Fire, Prototype, Dreadnought. Most of the rest of the season I'm happy with some parts of some episodes, with a few exceptions. The end of the season really is pretty promising. I do also see how my view -- in which I feel much better about Resolutions and Innocence than Jammer -- would end up leaving me with a better impression of the end of the season than he had.
Thu, Sep 28, 2017, 1:40pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Nov 13, 2017, 3:09am (UTC -5)
Actually, he did die in Deadlock... but I can't blame you for not noticing ;)
Wed, Aug 29, 2018, 7:48am (UTC -5)
Mulgrew is wonderful as a strong, intelligent captain, with Janeway second only to Picard in my estimation. Great casting, selling a strong female captain to Star Trek fans about as well as anyone possibly could have.
It's was as great for sci-fi (science/math) type little girls as Lt Uhura was for African American kids, back in the day. I know Whopee G talks about how she told her mom there was a black woman on TV and she wasn't a servant!! This was the same for me - there was a woman in Star Trek, and she wasn't wearing a ridiculously tight or short outfit, and she was in charge! Of everyone!
Sure, the writers let me down a few times, not treating Janeway with quite the respect they did Picard (Threshold, really???), but mostly, this was wonderful.
This aspect gets close to no attention here, and that's ok, I'm not criticizing. We've each got our own focus. But the Delta quadrant wasn't the only thing new and fresh about Voyager.
I will always love it for those fresh aspects, for the many great eps and memorable characters, and for doing my "always really good at, and always really interested in science and math" female heart, good.
Janeway, and B'Ellana, all in one series. When Janeway says, in one ep, that she used to be a science officer - so great. Subtle, forgettable and not noticeable to many, I'm sure. But not to me.
Voyager was a success overall. And am really enjoying my "many years later" rewatch.
Wed, Oct 2, 2019, 1:40pm (UTC -5)
Well I didn't mean to take a summer hiatus from posts, but life happens that way sometimes. Anyway, I'm back with my write-ups for VOY S2 and DS9 S4 and will be diving into the following seasons directly. Looking forward to more lively debates!
VOYAGER SEASON 2
No. | Title | (x/10) | [Jammer +/-]
**** | Exceptional (must watch)
1. The Thaw (9.5) [+1]
***.5 | Excellent (truly enjoyable)
2. Meld (8.5) [+.5]
3. Death Wish (8.5) [=]
*** | Good (solid instalment)
4. Tuvix (8) [=]
5. Resistance (8) [-.5]
6. Lifesigns (7.5) [-.5]
7. Alliances (7.5) [=]
8. Dreadnought (7) [+.5]
9. Deadlock (7) [=]
**.5 | Okay (problems, worthwhile)
10. Innocence (6) [+.5]
11. Prototype (6) [=]
12. Resolutions (6) [+.5]
13. Manœuvres (6) [-.5]
** | Watchable (not good, not awful)
14. Cold Fire (5.5) [=]
15. Basics I (5.5) [-.5]
16. Investigations (5) [=]
17. Parturition (4.5) [=]
18. Non Sequitur (4.5) [=]
19. Persistence of Vision (4.5) [-.5]
*.5 | Poor (annoying)
20. Initiations (4) [-1.5]
* | Terrible (do not watch)
21. Tattoo (3) [-2]
22. Threshold (3) [+1]
Average : 2.4885 stars (6/10) [-2.5]
Season Shape (10pt scale):
Voyager's second season is notorious. Many reviewers (especially those that don't care for the show in general) view it as by far the worst of the seven. I'm reserving judgement till the end here, but I'm more interested in parsing out why that perception persists. In raw numbers, S2 is about the same as S1—of course, in my viewing, I reintegrated the holdover episodes “Elogium,” “Twisted,” “Projections” and “The 37s” into season 1. “Projections” was a great EMH story, but I think the Doctor does fine in S2 without it. “The 37s” was *meh*, but I think it's more functional as a season finale than an opener. The other two holdovers were fucking terrible—worse, in fact, than any of the remaining S2 episodes in my opinion including “Threshold.” So in realtime, we had a mediocre opening, one good Doctor episode, and two horrible episodes front-loaded onto the season. That's bound to make a viewer exasperated. To compound matters, the remaining episodes that make up the beginning third of the season are no better than *meh* themselves and frequently quite bad.
The real problem with this season is that it has the inverse issue that DS9's third had. That season had SIX really shitty episodes, but none of them were connected to the central arc, namely Odo's inevitable slide towards the Founders and the apposite political fallout. The “arc” stories which book-ended the season and peaked with the memorable “Improbable Cause” were no worse than fine and in many cases sublime. Voyager S2 has its sublime moments—more, I'd argue than DS9's 3rd—however, these are not stories connected to the main Kazon arc. “The Thaw,” “Meld,” and “Death Wish” are superb stories that have basically nothing to do with the Kazon, save the involvement of Suder in the finale. Of the remaining good (3-star) stories, only “Alliances” is connected to the arc, and for me denotes its high point. But that story had its problems, too. All of the remaining Kazon stories are okay at best and frequently tedious. Throw in a couple of shitty stories like “Tattoo” and “Threshold” and it's very difficult to remember the season's high points. There was one other arc (Michael Jonas) woven into the season, connected to the Kazon, which was built-up effectively, but ended on the low end of “watchable.” The irony of all this is that Voyager's second season is *actually* more serialised than any previously-aired season of Trek, including DS9 thus far. But the execution of the serialised material was so poor that that this approach was largely abandoned hereafter and DS9 became the vehicle series for arc-storytelling.
And this is sad to me, because Voyager's early strengths were improved upon—all of the main cast, Chakotay's racist backstory and Neelix' continued...personality notwithstanding—were enhanced. The most redeeming aspect of “Threshold” was the effect it had on Paris' character! The great stories this season had the philosophical chops to go toe-to-toe with TNG; if the show had been that—strong characters engaging in interesting Trek dilemmas while they made their way home—I think it would have been remembered differently. But the producers were intent on having the show be gritty...er, some of the time, and the conceptualisation of the recurring bad guys was too bland to sustain this approach.
Of course this brings up the elephant in the room. Jammer gets right to it in his recap:
“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?”
I have two thoughts about that: The first is that reading TV guide interviews in the 90s and absorbing the hype adds all kinds of unnecessary layers to the task of confronting and critiquing the art before us. That's why I do not intend to review Discovery any time soon. There's just too much crap swirling around the internet to address the series on its own terms. Voyager was “supposed” to be all of these things and failed to measure up, I guess. But I was 8 years old in 1996. I watched TNG with my grandfather and when Voyager aired, I found it to be a worthy sequel that gave me most of what I liked about TNG with some differences. While I think I've proved that I'm going to be just as critical of this series as I have thus far been of DS9, I don't harbour the animosity that so many reviewers I respect, including Jammer, the Agony Booth, and SFDebris, seem to, having absorbed the show concurrently with the marketing abomination that was Rick Berman and UPN. My second thought is that, as I've made clear in numerous reviews now, the notion that there are “two distinct crews with two distinctively different philosophies of life” is a premise that comes entirely outside of the show itself. No episode of TNG, DS9 or Voyager has ever demonstrated that the Maquis have a coherent philosophy of any kind. Attempts by the writers to make the Maquis crewmembers live up to this forced premise nearly always fail because no philosophy was ever developed for them that made any sort of sense. That said, I think the writers made some interesting decisions with the Maquis this season. I'll get to it (and you thought the Season 1 recap was long).
At some point around TNG's fourth or fifth season (which just so happened to be Gene Roddenberry's final trip around the Sun), the series lost much of its mise-en-scène, by which I mean the music became bland, and the pacing of stories required much more dialogue to fill out the runtime. Think of a story like “Time Squared,” and the most memorable aspects of that weird sci-fi tale are shots of the Enterprise in swirling rainbow clouds or Picard scrutinising his doppelgänger. There's a sense in these early episodes (to say nothing of TOS) that these impossible sci-fi premises which defy explanation are wondrous and mesmerising. Without those elements, it comes to the writers to “explain” what the fuck is going on. And thus is born the infamous crutch known as technobabble. Voyager is littered with the stuff and so far, it has added nothing to the series. That said, I think the kvetching about it is a little much. DS9's early seasons had what I called the “DS9 Banality Syndrome (DBI),” which is endless blathering about personal bullshit that feels plagiarised from a Writing 101 class. That dialogue is equally useless as the technobabble on Voyager, but gets a pass because it's (ostensibly) about character instead of the plot. The irony is that Voyager's tech-heavy scripts are salvaged by its character elements. “Threshold” is bad, but it's not as bad as “Cathexis” (which was equally as brain-dead) because there's a redeeming character journey for Tom for us to latch onto amid the skull-fuckery lizard baby divide-by-zero story. I would much rather re-watch “Threshold” or “Deadlock” than “Initiations,” which had no technobabble to speak of.
There is a running theme of pitting traditional TNG ethics against the pragmatic considerations demanded by the Voyager's circumstances. The theme isn't developed yet, but it is nascent; Torres questioning the PD in “Prototype;” Chakotay getting on Janeway's case in “Alliances;” Tuvok considering capital punishment in “Meld;” Quinn begging for state-assisted suicide in “Death Wish;” Doc's possible sentience in “Lifesigns,” and of course, there's “Tuvix.” In general, Voyager has a very firm hand on Trek morality. “Death Wish” fits nicely into higher-being stories like “The Survivors,” and “Tuvix” does more with the transporter accident trope than any of the series has since the first season of TOS. There is a pernicious criticism of Voyager that it rehashes tired elements from TNG, but I challenge you to show me how the aforementioned stories repeat any lessons or takes from TNG or TOS. The lessons are, for the most part, fresh or reconsidered.
If you look at the episode list from this season, there are essentially 3 types: the nuts-and-bolts stories, the Kazon arc stories, and the philosophical Trek stories. The best of these by far have been the philosophical stories—and in many cases, the philosophical elements from the nuts-and-bolts stories. We know that the relative failure of the Kazon will lead to Voyager largely dropping its arc stories from now on, so the question becomes, what will take up the slack in future seasons?
I'll repeat briefly that the entire concept of the Maquis was a huge mistake on the part of the Trek writers, poorly thought-out, contrived, inconsistent, contradictory, and frustrating as hell. Whether by design or (more likely), in relinquishing to the unsolvable puzzle this presented to the show, the Voyager writers have reduced the Maquis label to something akin to a fraternity. The Voyager Maquis are, as a group, a bit more violent and prone to fits of emotion (c.f. “Meld”), and they share kinship simply for having lived as an outcast group for a time (c.f. “Alliances” and “Resolutions”). I know some will read this as rationalisation, but I sincerely believe that going any further with the Maquis would have required leaning in to the conceptual problems I have outlined at length, and that would have been to the detriment of the show and to the franchise. Comparing Voyager to nuBSG, splinter groups like the Sons of Ares or the Gemenese zealots have their own in-Universe raisons d'être which (mostly) make sense within the established history of that series, whereas the Maquis do not. Thus, when those cultural conflicts surface amidst the existential scenario on nuBSG, we can see how human nature would prolong and reproduce these conflicts despite seeming so petty in context. On Voyager, this would be too absurd to accept.
The “Bad” Guys
As I said, the Kazon arc is rather meticulously structured—it's just not good. Continuity and serialisation do not necessarily make good stories. The idea of starting out with “Initiations” (the first Kazon story of the season with or without the S1 holdovers) is rather smart. Here we meet a sect of Kazon who are at odds with the Nistrim and Seska. So, we delay the payoff from “State of Flux,” we create further tension, and we have the opportunity to explore the species' backstory in isolation from the season's plot. The structure is great; but the content is abysmal. It's a lazy collection of clichés, grunting and Klingon-lite. This improves slightly in the next chapter, “Manœuvres,” in which Seska's influence over the Nistrim leads to machinations of an alliance between the sects, all in an attempt to seize and control the Voyager. The arc reaches its zenith with “Alliances,” in which the backstory with the Trabe, Neelix' ostensible function in the show, Janeway's character flaws, and the complicated Chakotay/Seska story all meet and set the show on its inevitable course. “Basics” has so far fallen back on action/plot elements with the more interesting character and social issues largely pushed to the side. “Basics I” needed to be much more than it was, not only a spectacle, but a culmination of all the material that led to its creation. What is going on with Seska anyway? What's her plan to get back the AQ with this Kazon in tow? What does it mean for Caligula and his orange men to have finally overcome the Voyager and positioned themselves to exact revenge on the Trabe and the other sects? Well, “Basics” seems to invested in cliché action story bullshit to answer these questions, but final judgement will have to wait for S3.
Nothing this season does as well with them as “Faces,” but we get a reasonable and oblique look at their culture through Denara Pel in “Lifesigns.” While her reaction to her sudden holographic de-phage-ing was telling, that episode did not find a way to make her sympathetic AND quintessentially Vidiian the way, say, Jarok was portrayed in “The Defector,” fully Romulan AND sympathetic. It would have been better to show her interact with other Vidiians, not least of which in “Resolutions.” The advantage the Vidiians have over the Kazon is that they are genuinely threatening and viscerally creepy. The way they casually harvest alt. Samantha Wildman in “Deadlock” is very disturbing. And it does feel reasonable that Janeway and Chakotay would rather be exiled on planet sexy monkey time than allow the Voyager to contact them. But aside from a couple of future cameos, this is the end of them. Shame.
With the exception of the Clown and the Trabe, none of the one-off villains (Augris, the Roe-bits) are particularly memorable. The Clown was a tour-de-force and great success both in conception and execution. The Trabe helped flesh out the Kazon arc somewhat, but much more could and should have been done with them to make the ongoing story more interesting. The rest served their plot functions at best.
Characters (in order from best to worst):
Janeway's characterisation is the strongest this season, building on the successful introduction of the character in season 1. I thought the little glimpses into Janeway's vulnerabilities were especially effective, such as in “Persistence of Vision,” “Deadlock” and “Resolutions.” There are also signs of her increasing pragmatism. She maintains a strong Federation ethic (“Death Wish,” “Prototype,” “Meld”), but when it comes to her crew and its unique mission, we see that she has begun to bend the rules. She deals with outlaws in “Resistance;” she attempts a military alliance in, erm, “Alliances”; she murders a sentient lifeform in “The Thaw” and arguably in “Tuvix.”
Though not the best episode of the season, I think the centrepiece is definitely “Alliances.” The Kazon arc is at its most deftly-crafted, there's a crucial shift in Janeway's character for the rest of the series, and the Trekkian questions are woven into the fabric of the ongoing story. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself here, but there is going to be a lot to say in comparing Sisko to Janeway, and the sacrifices each make of their own souls. Sisko...sort of...sacrifices his “self respect,” eventually, in order to save lives. Janeway sacrifices her principles (eventually) in order to save *her people's idealism*. As I said, she fears the slippery slope. The cliffhanger has got to be a major blow to her confidence and her self-righteousness. We will see where this leads.
Pretty much every episode has at least one hilarious EMH scene. In many cases, especially early on in the season, these are the most redeeming features of the stories. With “Projections” moved to S1, the most substantial Doc story is “Lifesigns,” which I think did a decent job of continuing and developing the themes from “Heroes and Demons.” Instead of a fully holographic character engaging in some light romance, unbeknownst to anyone else, we have moved on to an organic being, housed within a hologram, and the EMH's mentee/friend Kes offering her counsel throughout the process. It's also significant to see how the Doctor has grown as an individual by the time of “The Thaw,” when he's capable of witty subterfuge against the Clown.
Tuvok is probably the MVP of the season. He held things together in the incredibly shaky “Cold Fire” and “Innocence,” both of which would have been total failures without his presence. We are introduced to Tuvok's dark side in “Cold Fire,” and begin to explore it in the excellent “Meld.” It's also hinted at in “Innocence” that Tuvok has a rather extensive academic knowledge of emotions—more-so than Spock, who was part human, did. This hint won't be fully fleshed out until Season 5. “Resistance” also establishes a the beginnings of a relationship between Tuvok and Torres that will also get development further along.
Torres was generally well-handled this season, “Persistence of Vision” notwithstanding. The threads connected to her backstory and internal conflict are woven into otherwise nuts-and-bolts tales in “Prototype” and “Dreadnought.” We discover that Torres' skills as an engineer stem from her trauma, which was explored in “Faces” last season. She channels her self-loathing into her work. Unlike Geordi, who probably flocked to engineering in an attempt to remain anonymous (he lacks confidence, so this way his work speaks for itself—it isn't flashy), or Miles, who simply seems to have “working class labour” built in to his DNA, Torres needs her energy to go somewhere. She needs to hit something, or someone. So it may as well be a hammer. But of course, the Roe-bit she created had to be destroyed, Basic Instinct-style, and the Dreadnought missile also had to be destroyed. It doesn't matter whether she creates to save a race or destroy an enemy, her creations always seem to end in tragedy. Methinks the trauma will continue.
If you want a complete summary of my problems with Chakotay's backstory, the reviews of “Initiations” and “Tattoo” will provide. I assume most of you are familiar with the botched sourcing the producers used for him. And the credulity and/or laziness that went into adopting that research accounts for much of the racism in the development here. But I tend to blame Michael Piller for the character's true failings. The vague Native American stuff was just a convenient, very 90s vessel for him to explore this fetish for earthy back-to-nature subcultures. There are natural conflicts between societies which choose to reject technological advancement and the Federation, whose economics and social philosophy depend upon technologies which eliminate material scarcity. But that's not what Chakotay or his “people” represent; Chakotay is a self-help book, a new-age cultural appropriation, whitewashed and filtered down to the most superficial elements for the benefit of the overworked and stressed-out Me-Generation folks at home. This will reach its zenith with “Insurrection,” Piller's final creative project for Star Trek. I'll talk more about it there.
On the other hand, the continuation of the Seska material is pretty good. Her pattern of betrayal continues well beyond her defection from the Voyager, manipulating Chakotay's macho back-to-nature ego via sci-fi rape, and leading his crew into a trap. There's also something darkly weird in the fact that Janeway also manipulates him throughout the Michael Jonas subplot, preying on his resentment of Paris to oust the mole. I don't question Janeway's pragmatism per sae, but the fact that the followup to all this is their budding romance in “Resolutions” is interesting and, well, kind of weird.
As I said, the character work from “Threshold” is what keeps the episode from falling all the way to the bottom for me (well, that and I'm not offended by DEGREES of messed up fake science). Tom's daddy issues are hardly original, but they fit his personality and serve to carry the character forward. He has a purpose on the Voyager. And hey, now he's the crew's only hope of ending their exile. The real problem for Paris this season is that a lot of his character material outside of “Non Sequitur” and “Threshold”--which were not good stories—revolved around his subterfuge in the Michael Jonas plot. Those bits were kind of interesting, but they ended up not meaning much to his character other than the acknowledgement that Janeway had learnt to trust him with a delicate mission. His confession in “Investigations,” while interesting on its own, is especially frustrating for its lack of follow-up.
Seska was almost always entertaining when on screen. Martha Hacket managed to turn otherwise cringey material between her and Caligula into semi-entertaining villainy, and she always felt substantially more dangerous to the Voyager than the Kazon themselves in her chaturbate cam calls to Jonas. But given the excellent set-up we had for her back in “State of Flux,” the writing definitely let her down this season. We can (pretend to) hope that things go better for her in the continuation of “Basics.”
Like Troi, Kes is often present but unused. However, I think she makes small but important strides this season, questioning her loyalty to Neelix and realising the potential breadth of her mental abilities. What we eventually see emerge is a character who still yearns for growth and adventure, but is paradoxically terrified of change. She rejects Thanos' offer to join the exulted Ocampa in “Cold Fire;” she violates her own conscience to plead for the restoration of Tuvok and Neelix in “Tuvix;” and she is the catalyst for the rescue of Janeway and Chakotay in “Resolutions.” “Cold Fire” showed us why this might be, as lurking within the kind and gentle soul we know is a dark and powerful creature who would destroy the very people she loves.
As a supporting character, Harry is fine. The one episode that was about him, “Non Sequitur,” succeeded only insofar as it accidentally revealed that he is attracted to suffering. I don't mean in the joke way that Harry is the show's punching bag (although considering he's already died three times, that's a valid issue), but rather that the character seems to be most meaningful in improving the lives of the people he's around, most notably Paris. Kim's best episode is probably “The Thaw,” which managed to weave some character insights into the madcap masterpiece; Harry is embarrassed by how much he misses home, by how this infantilises him in the eyes of the crew. So, his lack of lines in other episodes (a technical flaw, make no mistake) can be interpreted as intentional reservedness for fear of being judged. The kid needs a major shake-up, though.
Sigh...the “Parturition”/”Investigations” resolution to the Paris/Neelix feud, though mostly unpleasant to watch, was a positive step in shedding the character of his shittiest quality, that pubescent and grating jealousy. His egoism is clearly alive and well throughout, however, making him the most unpleasant character on the screen most of the time. No attempt is made all season to return to the potent spring of character possibilities set up in “Jetrel.”
So, S2 is not a good season, but it isn't awful either. There are some genuinely great stories and the characters are progressing nicely, but the series' attempts at telling long-form stories are a major nuisance. If it is to improve, it needs to focus on its strengths and develop a new way of creating momentum from episode to episode.
Wed, Oct 2, 2019, 2:24pm (UTC -5)
And to be fair I could levy the same criticism of DS9 S2, which is that the episodic concepts are often really lacking. As others have mentioned, what DS9 at least capitalizes on is that even in the weakest episode they are moving forward on several fronts, building up the world, teasing about the Dominion, giving us encounters with Dukat, and so forth. So at least parts of even the bad episodes feel like you're getting value, especially so on a rewatch where you see how those pieces are going to fit in later. That's a good writing technique, even if sometimes the actual writing didn't work out very well.
By the time of VOY S2-3 I think it was clear to me that they basically had nothing to say. When the series first aired, I viewed bringing on Seven of Nine as a cry for help, like "we need a shakeup, something to bring in new ideas!" And we could easily tell that she basically supplanted everyone else as the series lead. As fate would have it that was a good thing, but still, you could sort of tell they knew something was very wrong, hence the need to fire someone and switch things up. That they would change their minds based on a People Magazine article sort of clues us in on the level of 4D chess they were[n't] playing.
So Elliott, you may well be right that the reason it's hard to like VOY S2 is how the good episodes fit into the season's structure. I think that's a really good detail pickup, actually. But I think your observation that the best episodes (Meld, The Thaw, Death Wish) aren't part of the main arc is more than just coincidence; they were uttlery uninspired in terms of the show's direction and had to pray for random good ideas to come along. They sometimes did, but not enough. I'll also point out that these three in particular were written by Michael Pillar and Joe Menosky, rather than the brunt of the episodes which were written by Braga, Jeri Taylor, and a few others. Pillar's scripts are just better (although not always his ideas), and Menosky is a long-tested Trek writer. So sure, the guy who wrote Best of Both Worlds may occasionally be able to write you a great one, but that's a really bad foundation for a series that needs to be able to run on its own steam.
Wed, Oct 2, 2019, 3:11pm (UTC -5)
I think I'd argue that of Death Wish, The Thaw and Meld, that Meld is the one that is (relatively) a Voyager-specific story. Not necessarily "quintessentially Voyager," but I do think that it relies both on the specifics of Tuvok's character and on Voyager's isolation in terms of how to deal with a murderer on board. By contrast, Death Wish feels like it needed to be a Trek story and *probably* not on TNG, because it needed to almost step outside Q's TNG arc in order to be able to evaluate it from the outside...but that again doesn't require it to be a *Voyager* story. The Thaw doesn't even really have to be Trek, let alone Voyager, but then I'm not complaining.
Thu, Oct 3, 2019, 6:22am (UTC -5)
At the same time, I do very much understand the concerns regarding the lack of a sense of progress given that Voyager is still dealing with the same groups of people we met all the way back in Caretaker, Phage and State Of Flux (the Kazon-Nistrim and -Ogla, Vidiians, Talaxians) when the ship is supposed to have been hurtling towards the Alpha Quadrant at maximum warp for 2 years. And I agree with the consensus that the season's strongest episodes are standalones. But I love the Michael Piller sensibility to this season. It's the swansong for Voyager's original Taylor-Piller vision before the show drifts for a year (S3) then is rebooted (S4).
Thu, Oct 3, 2019, 5:14pm (UTC -5)
They did try their hand at a season-long arc with the Kazon and the mysterious traitor. It may not have been a good showing (the traitor part in particular felt completely awful to me), but they were experimenting there.
As William said, Meld does fit with the unique concept of being away from any other support from the Federation. Other episodes that work with the Voyager conceit include Resolutions, Alliances, 37s, the Samantha part of Elogium, and (sigh...) Threshold. And after mentioning the last one, needless to say they weren't all winners...
The writers did try some bold ideas I think, including Tuvix, Deadlock, and, ugh, again... Threshold. It wasn't just uniform blandness and making episodes via checklist, they were trying to come up with something to say! Or at least the premise of some of them seemed that way.
The writers did seem to go for one last push at setting up the characters according to the bible they were given. Chakotay got one strong push with the Indian nonsense in Tattoo. Paris being a flirt and a rogue gets brought up with his spat with Neelix. They tried to make the Ocampa more interesting than just a little pixie girl with Cold Fire. They pushed Kim's youthfulness and homesickness front and center with Non Sequitur. Of course, the main theme of all of these is that they ALL failed. And seemed to be part of why characterization essentially stalled for most people on the show afterward, since everything they started with ended up crashing and burning so spectacularly. But they were still trying here.
Essentially, I'd say S2's fault is a lack of execution, not a lack of attempt. This seemed to lead to an aimless S3 before the show got retooled into Star Trek: Seven of Nine (guest starring Janeway and the Doctor).
Thu, Oct 3, 2019, 10:02pm (UTC -5)
I'm not so sure we disagree as it may boil down to what we mean by "having ideas'. I would consider having a bunch of mediocre notions as "not having ideas" even though strictly speaking they may be unique or deltra-quadrant specific in some manner. Like, the 'Kazon arc' is unique and deliberate, I guess, but it sucks. And it didn't just suck in execution, it sucked by definition. That was never going to bear fruit and never could, because the Kazon are garbage. Right from the pilot, which by the way I liked when it first aired, I knew I never wanted to see them again. My opinion on this is much like Elliott's about the Maquis: a largely abortive idea that it was best dispensed with sooner rather than later. So while you're right that spending some of S2 on them was 'innovative' in a kind of abstract way I don't consider that to be a sign of having ideas. It's more like "well we already began developing this so I guess we'll do more of it." I can't think of a single thing the Kazon did in any episode that was remotely interesting (or plausible, at a certain point). Aside from Seska, who I liked *despite* the Kazon - not because of them - they had nothing going for them story-wise. I personally call that "no ideas".
One thing I like that posters here do is to ask about whether an episode is show-specific, or more Trek-specific (William B just did this, and Elliott has done in the past), and if you look at VOY S2 episodes I don't know how many I would qualify as even being VOY-specific in that way. I could go through a list quickly:
-The 37's: definitely VOY specific, but frankly a dumb idea.
-Initiations: Kazon (by definition a bad idea, and henceforth to be implied)
-Projections: a great idea, and a good use of a VOY-specific holographic character.
-Elogium: Kes-specific, I guess? Not a good idea. Similar to The Child, maybe, but without asking as many questions.
-Non Sequitur: VOY-specific in that it had to be about lost people. I guess I could call this one a good high-concept idea that just failed in execution, as you say.
-Twisted: a Trek idea, could have been on TNG; not that interesting and objectively a bit silly and gimmicky.
-Parturition: Boring idea
-Persistence of Vision: A TNG-ish idea but kind of neat, I guess. Not sure I'd call it 'interesting' but it's something.
-Tattoo: terrible idea.
-Cold Fire: Actually a throwback to the pilot is a good idea. So I'd agree this one is botched execution.
-Resistance: a boring idea, actually, whose execution far exceeded the premise.
-Prototype: Not VOY-specific but I actually like the premise in the abstract. I'd call it a good Trek idea.
-Meld: Perfect VOY episode concept-wise
-Dreadnought: Don't know how this idea makes any sense or why it should have been done; the execution is probably middling.
-Death Wish: let's face it, it was reaching for a Q episode like DS9 did, but just doing it much better. "Let's bust out Q" is an early version of what later became "let's bring in the Borg". We debated on that thread a lot but although I like the episode a lot I think its premise is terrible.
-Lifesigns: I guess it's a nifty sci-fi idea, other than it's not really about holographic existence vis a vis what does the body contribute that photons can't. Not sure how I feel about this one in terms of my premise.
-Investigations: Not interesting
-Deadlock: an episode that if it was on TNG would be a "I guess I'll watch this one since I haven't done in 3 years" kind of episode.
-Innocence: Whoever pitched this and sold it must have been crafty.
-The Thaw: awesome weird concept.
-Tuvix: good concept, medium execution.
-Resolutions: Actually a better premise than its play-through would suggest. Sort of like TNG's Attached, maybe.
-Basics part 1: Kazon.
Putting aside their execution, I'd say out of all of these, purely on paper, I'd say 9-10 actually sound like interesting ideas (even though some failed in execution). The others sound like bad ideas on paper, even though a few turned out much better than they ought to have. Out of those 9-10, probably only 3-4 (Like The Thaw, and Projections) sound like "wow! neat idea!" ideas; the others are 'hm, kind of cool, I guess." This isn't strictly a fair comparison, but if we're comparing 'trying nifty ideas and failing' I think TNG S1 is a good guide for how to try neat stuff and often fail. Episodes like Where No One Has Gone Before, The Last Outpost, Justice, The Battle, Datalore, 11001001, When the Bough Breaks, Coming of Age, Heart of Glory, and even The Arsenal of Freedom, are all really great sci-fi ideas. I don't just mean pretty neat; I mean worthy of great TV. The fact that many of these were weak in writing and execution is too bad, but even Justice (a great prime directive attempt at an episode) has a fantastic idea in there that just turns out to be anemic in execution, although not terrible by any means. I know I don't like it, but I can see how the idea has lots of merit. In VOY S2 I really don't see the merit in many or even most of the concepts. They are even bad on paper. That's sort of what I mean.
I probably agree with you that my objection fits even better to S3, but I think it was already evident to me when the series first aired that S2 was really have a problem giving me a concept I was excited about. Take TNG's Disaster, by no means hailed as a great one, but look at the concept: a plot contrivance causes the crew to be split up into unlikely teams, and we have unusual people in leadership (or child-birthing) situations and get to see how they act under pressure. Great idea, actually! On paper it's a perfect recipe for fun new stuff, just like Conundrum also was. The execution of both is also very good IMO but that's not really the point. You could tell the writers knew how neat their concept was; I never really got that from many of the VOY S2 eps. Just my opinion, anyhow.
Mon, Oct 7, 2019, 12:15am (UTC -5)
"But I think your observation that the best episodes (Meld, The Thaw, Death Wish) aren't part of the main arc is more than just coincidence; they were uttlery uninspired in terms of the show's direction and had to pray for random good ideas to come along."
As I alluded to, I disagree with the framing of this idea. The show's "direction" didn't have to be substantially different from TOS' or TNG's, except with this ongoing plot to get back home. The writers chose to attempt a semi-serialised arc, but their subject could hardly have been worse. That's a creative failure, yes, but it's not for a lack of ambition or ideas--the Trek ideas are there, evident in those good episodes. It was all just...unfortunate.
Mon, Oct 7, 2019, 12:42am (UTC -5)
"As I alluded to, I disagree with the framing of this idea. The show's "direction" didn't have to be substantially different from TOS' or TNG's, except with this ongoing plot to get back home. The writers chose to attempt a semi-serialised arc, but their subject could hardly have been worse. That's a creative failure, yes, but it's not for a lack of ambition or ideas--the Trek ideas are there, evident in those good episodes. It was all just...unfortunate."
Ah, just to clarify, I didn't mean by "show's direction" that it should have been more long-arc driven. I meant just in terms sort of everyday sense of "hey, what are we excited to do with our show?" Like, if you had a show like this one I imagine you'd be busting with all this cool stuff you'd love to portray, especially with a new crew, a new unexplored region of space where you can introduce anything without violating canon, and so forth. All of the objections we've heard writers make about the canon being a shackles virtually wouldn't apply. You're right that as a basic show concept making it like TOS or TNG isn't a wrong decision in itself, format-wise. But if that was the extent of their vision in terms of *actual content* then that is certainly a creative failure.
Tue, Sep 14, 2021, 9:29am (UTC -5)
My gut tells me TNG has less outright bad episodes in its first two seasons, and that TNG's mediocre episodes during this period are more interesting than Voyager's. TNG has an austere, elegant quality that just seems classier than Voyager, resulting in its junk having aged a bit better.
I would also say we're more forgiving to TNG by dint of its place in history. It was making mistakes and correcting problems which Voyager should have learned from.
But who has more masterpieces in its first two seasons? I'd say TNG has about six or seven. Voyager has similar numbers: "Eye of the Needle", "Prime Factors", "Projections", and arguably "Tuvix", "Deadlock", "Lifesigns", "Death Wish" and Emanations".
So about the same.
Tue, Sep 14, 2021, 10:27am (UTC -5)
Enjoying your comments.
What's interesting is that I think your comment reverses the more common comparison. TNG's "The Measure of a Man" and "Q Who" are (IMO deservedly) ranked so high that they really blow anything Voyager produced in s1-2 out of the water, according to common reckoning; but conversely, TNG season one's ongoing doldrums and season 2's extreme unevenness usually lead to Voyager s1-2's more middling fare get favourable comparisons. I tend to agree that TNG's weird-bad early material ages a bit better in some ways, often so interesting.
Tue, Sep 14, 2021, 5:58pm (UTC -5)
>TNG's "The Measure of a Man" and "Q Who" are (IMO deservedly) ranked so high...
I have to disagree with you about that I think "Death Wish" is the best Voyager has to offer, definitely a 10/10 episode for it's philosophical value. Season 2 also had "Tuvix" another fine episode, 8/10.
I think the first two seasons of Voyager easily match TNG even if we're just considering the best episodes.
I find it ironic that two of the very worst episodes of Voyager, "Twisted", and "Threshold" are in the same season as the best.
Tue, Sep 14, 2021, 6:11pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Nov 14, 2022, 2:04am (UTC -5)
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