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Star Trek Voyager review – Workforce II

Summary: Season 7 presents us with a kinder gentler Voyager two parter. A view from the Isle of the Lotus. And for once working within the system works out.

Traditionally the Star Trek two parters have been action heavy special effects extravaganzas specializing in epic confrontations and terrible

star trek voyager Workforce

"My quarters... they look like a Star Trek fan here"

disasters. Episodes like Basics, Year of Hell, Scorpion, The Killing Game, Dark Frontier, Unimatrix Zero certainly fit that bill. Three of them involved the Borg, two of them featured the crew and the ship being taken prisoner and one of them featured the destruction of Voyager itself. But this season under new management, Voyager has featured a kinder and gentler two parter. Flesh and Blood had the essential trappings of the standard Voyager two parter but it was a much more character oriented show than any of the prior two parters. Workforce is essentially more in the tradition of episodes like One and Memorial and has far more in common with them than it does with Scorpion or Unimatrix Zero..

Normally Workforce might have run as a one hour episode with the ParisTorres and Seven subplots trimmed along with most of the special effects sequences and some of the action scenes and would have ended with the usual abrupt “30 seconds before closing time” ending that essentially occurs because the show has run out of time. And that would have been a shame and a waste because an effective if not particularly mind-blowing two part episode would have been replaced by another Prophecy or another Shattered, a poorly thought out and unfocused episode that possibly had potential but never got anywhere. The extra space of a two parter however allows the story to really be developed, it allows for the insertion of all those little subplots that round out an episode. And what special effects exist are mainly focused on establishing shots including some absolutely stunning and complex shots of the alien city and some striking footage of Voyager resting at the bottom of a crater. The space battles that occur are few and far between and not really the focus of the story.

But this doesn’t mean that Workforce isn’t a major and essential part of Voyager’s story. Voyager’s journey home has been modeled after Homer’s Odyssey. Voyager was thrown of course into the Delta Quadrant by the 24th century equivalent of a God. In Scorpion Voyager has found itself trapped between Scylla and Charbodis, represented by Species 8472 and the Borg. Which particular alien encounters in Voyager’s history could be said to represent the Cyclops, the Laestrygons or the Sirens is left as an excercise to the reader. But Workforce of course is linked to the Isle of the Lotus. For seven years Voyager has been on an obsessive quest for Earth, for home. More specifically it’s been Janeway’s obsessive quest but the real test of any quest is to present the hero with a way of surrendering the quest that in some ways is equal or even superior to continuing the quest. A chance to give up and enjoy some sort of illusory happiness.

Now it might not be all that shocking to see Chakotay or Paris and Torres partake of the lotus, after all they’re essentially people with short attention spans that focus on goals of some personal importance. They can be happy and do what they want just about anywhere. If the Voyager mission hadn’t come along, they would have found some other niche or gotten themselves killed in some other way. Janeway though is a bureaucrat and a bureaucrat is second cousin to a machine. She thinks only in terms of goals and purposes, which generally have nothing to do with her. What little happiness she gets out of life comes from merging her own identity with that of her position and mission until she can’t tell the difference between herself and her command. This has led her into completely sociopathic behavior but it also makes her virtually inflexible when it comes to accomplishing her goals. And this is why having her taste the lotus is far more shocking than for it to happen to any of the other crew members.

And yet here brainwashed and enslaved on an alien planet, for the first time in seven years of voyaging Janeway gets to be a human being. She has a job she enjoys, a relationship with real intimacy and a home of sorts. Though it may be based on false memories, it’s also more real than anything she’d done since leaving the Alpha Quadrant. The obsessive martyr complex, the sense of responsibility and the inability to tell where Kathryn Janeway ends and Captain Janeway begins are gone. In its place is a human being. And that tends to be a hero’s ultimate test, the choice to give in to human needs or to choose self-sacrifice and fight on for greater goals. Tuvok may not quite be able to adapt, despite his comprehension of humor “Yes it is funny because he did not understand how your species reproduces”, but just how easily Janeway adapts is shocking and that is what drives the episode. The seduction of the Lotus and the inability of Voyager’s crew members to be themselves.

We know that in the end, despite the odds, any episode involving the crew will end with them successful, surviving and possibly victorious. The inability of the crew to fail is practically a reflex by this point. It’s been a long time since there was a Star Trek episode with any real ambiguity about whether or not the crew will make it out or whether the ending will even be what they wanted. Voyager managed a few genuinely dark endings early on with Basics 2 and The Chute but since then we may not know what an upcoming episode will be about but we can usually take a good guess as to what the last 5 minutes will be, sight unseen. Workforce though takes away the crew’s identities and along with that allows for the suspension of disbelief and the possibility that the crew will fail and even that failure might not be such a terrible thing.

Contrary to the claims of the Borg Queen, being assimilated is not fun, but being part of the Workforce might not be such a bad thing. The end result is a fairly decent life and in the case of Janeway possibly even a better life than the one she had before. The rest of the crew doesn’t seem to be doing all that badly either. Paris was together with Torres again and would no doubt have married her (again) in due time. Seven had found the job she was born to do. This was a Brave New World and a world without Starfleet uniforms or the Federation Starfleet certainty in the optimistic outcome. For once the crew were just people like us, living from day to day and just doing their jobs with no higher goals or sense of invulnerability. With hard work and some terrible risks they pull off a happy ending but they’re not particularly confident or self-assured while doing it. They’re just people put in a bad situation, which in TOS was all that the crews were.

For those who expected Tuvok to just tell Seven what’s going on, then to have Seven communicate with the rest of the crew, set up a device to

star trek voyager Workforce

"Don't worry, in a few months I'll replace you with a hologram"

restore their memories and then have the crew working in tandem with Voyager try to escape; or in other words the conventional Voyager plot we certainly would have seen if this had aired as a one hour episode, here we instead got the exact opposite. Seven is confused and is on the trail of something and even ironically enough views the Workforce area as the interior of a Borg cube for one moment thereby experiencing the paradox of being reassimilated; but she’s a long way from knowing who exactly she is. Janeway has a few moments of bonding with Chakotay but when the test comes between her relationship, her life here on the Isle of the Lotus and her life on Voyager with Chakotay; she chooses the Lotus and betrays Chakotay in a flash.

Indeed none of the Voyager crew, except when B’Elanna as the original sailors of the Odyssey are forcibly dragged away, recover their original memories and identities until they’re back on Voyager. In fact once Chakotay is out of the game, most of the work of uncovering the conspiracy is actually done by a native junior psychiatrist and the equivalent of a police detective. Up until Janeway disables the chief generator, it’s they who uncover most of the dirt and really prod the chief psychiatrist into desperation. Seven encourages them to do what they do but in the end it’s not even the Voyager crew that saves the Voyager crew. Chakotay helps rescue B’Elanna and sows suspicion in Janeway but then is successfully brainwashed. Neelix does nothing particularly useful. The ECH and Kim have several running gun battles with enemy vessels and stay alive but don’t really accomplish very much. Janeway betrays Chakotay and then only really acts when the entire picture has been laid out in front of her at the very end. Paris glowers at people. Seven puzzles out a lot of the necessary information but it’s the classic detective suspended from the force for learning too much who actually moves things along. Unlike their Voyager personalities, none of them are really prepared to take charge and get things done and that is what makes the possibility of their success so ambiguous. Like Janeway they’re capable of doing more, but are too uncertain to take the challenge.

So contrary to the expected cliche we might have thought we’d get from the first part about the evil alien species that kidnaps and brainwashes people, we instead see a complex system that has both good and bad in it. And a system that in some ways mirrors the Federation. The people in charge, even the bad ones, have high ideals. There is the interspecies integration, a system that despite abducting and brainwashing workers also appears to run on merit and to provide a decent place to live at least by the standards of 95 percent of the world as it is today. There is corruption and abuse of power but we’ve also seen the same thing in the Federation. The Chief Psychiatrist who insists that his actions were all justifiable and for the greater good seems to mirror Admiral Dougherty from Star Trek Insurrection who insists that his forced evacuation of the Baku and alliance with criminals was for the greater good of the Federation. Indeed it’s easy enough to see the Chief Psychiatrist holding down a job with Section 31, possibly working on designing the changeling virus. Instead of giving us another alien of the week, Workforce presents an alternate Federation or quite possibly the Federation as it might have looked 200 years ago. Before there were transporters and replicators and white gleaming surfaces everywhere, post WW3 earth at the Birth of the Federation might have looked a lot like the Quaren homeworld with the same positive and negative aspects that would be carried along into its future.

And this only makes this particular Isle of the Lotus only more compelling as a potential alternative home to Earth because it’s not just some alien planet, in many ways it is an analogue of the Federation and home itself. The writers might have pushed their analogy further by giving it the sheen and clean look of 24th century earth but as it is the point comes across. And as in the Federation there are also higher powers who can correct the errors of the system, whereas with the usual aliens of the week, Voyager has to browbeat them into accepting the Federation solution. The Quarren already have a system in place and it is the Quarren who do most of the work in uncovering their own crimes. It’s also what makes it all the more disturbing. One of the horrors of the Borg focused on how close to home it hit, the Quarren homeworld also hits close to home because our world is currently closer to theirs than it is to the Borg. It’s also close enough to the Federation and us to have people both good and evil, all driven by ideals we can relate to. This makes a scene in which Roxann Dawson cuts from the sharp instruments lying on an operating table table to be used on their victim to the supposedly free and open corporate society of the bar into which the Doctor’s phrase “We’ll help him” follows seem all the more disturbing and downright chilling. “We’ll help him” has always been the Star Trek ideal and the implications of how that can be perverted and how vulnerable the Federation is to such a perversion makes the Quarren society problematic in a way that defies any easy resolution.

And Roxann Dawson’s direction indeed carries on from the Kroeker directed Part 1 very nicely and smoothly. She manages to combine the

star trek voyager Workforce

Get Foundation Imaging on the phone, we're going to need bigger explosions

talent for filming character oriented scenes she showed in Riddles with the work a peak Trek director is expected to do on a more epic episode like Workforce. Handing over the payoff for a two part episode to an amateur like Dawson was a definite risk but it clearly pays off. From the very effective use of shadows in the JanewayChakotay confrontation and especially the dermal regeneration scene (which also cleverly manages to save FX dollars and still look better than the FX scene would have) to the camera work on the quieter moments between her and Neelix; this is surprisingly professional work. It’s almost as shocking to see her be this good behind the camera as it was to see Avery Brooks turn out be better as a director than he was as an actor. It’s nice to see that in concord with TOS’s Leonard Nimoy, TNG’s Jonathan Frakes and DS9’s Avery Brooks; Voyager has produced its own professional director from among its cast.

So all in all, Voyager season seven has taken plenty of risks that didn’t pan out. Workforce however has taken a large number of risks that have. First setting a two part episode around a storyline that focused more on the characters and much less on the action and FX quotient. Secondly by putting much of the resolution of the story into the hands of the aliens and making them more complex than your usual Hirogen. Thirdly by actually letting Janeway be a human being ever so briefly and tempting her with the opportunity to step off the cross and into life (and of course letting the ECH demonstrate that Voyager would have done just as well without her.) And finally by avoiding most of the obvious and easy plot gimmicks and let the characters actually struggle to work things out, something we rarely see on Voyager. Appropriate enough in an episode entitled Workforce.

Next week: Seven of Nine as UPN’s obnoxious promo department has always wanted you to see her.

Star Trek Voyager review – Workforce I

Summary: A nicely arranged setup for an as yet unseen payoff.

It’s always hard to review the first part of a two part episode. Fortunately Voyager has gotten into the habit of airing both parts in one night. Workforce though is the exception and the task of reviewing it is made all the more difficult by the fact that Part 1 is mostly setup giving us the basics of the situation and shows us how it’s beginning to unravel. By this same point The Killing Game had already gone well into payoff territory but Workforce is playing out a more drawn out and complicated character oriented story and so it takes all this time just to set up the basics of the situation.

The limitations and complexity do, however, produce a certain amount of creativity in the style of the episode. As in The Killing Game, we

star trek voyager Workforce

Space Sydney 2429

skip over the attack to begin with a scene that features the crew already in their altered reality but unlike Killing Game’s gratuitous “Janeway as Klingon warrior” scene, Workforce begins with a gorgeous opening shot of the alien city and a lift ride into the depths of a factory that’s there only to give us a sense of the setting. This is a smart move because it makes the entire situation feel deeper and more real, instead of just the Voyager crew wandering around some redressed alien sets. Also unlike Killing Game, the crew doesn’t have either their memories or personalities suppressed but instead are the same people they are but with twisted memories and a view of the world colored by those memories. The result is all the more disturbing because they’re the people we know but yet they aren’t, in an ‘of the Body Snatchers’ sort of way.

This is clearly a Janeway story and so Janeway finally gets a relationship and a setup for the choice that will come. Janeway has always complained about being overburdened and has spent seven years walking around with a martyr complex. In Workforce she gets the chance to put that complexity aside and function as an ordinary person. While the happiness of the rest of the crew seems artificial and Stepford empty, it seems as if Janeway’s happiness might have a certain dose of reality and depth to it. Perhaps she really is better off and certainly happier not being in command. The entire Paris storyline does seem a bit hollow and a waste of time, on the contrary. Paris finds work in a bar, frankly who really cares. Torres seems lonely and the two reconnect. I’m not even sure that counts as character development. The scenes on the ship with the ECH are a nice piece of continuity with Tinker Tailor and only add to the tension of the episode. And the other touches of continuity including Janeway’s cooking and her conversations with terminals fit it nicely as well.

Tuvok has some nicely eerie scenes, for once his breakdown is correctly handled and the decision to intercut scenes of him being

star trek voyager Workforce

"Wouldn't it be easier to just pay them more money?"

brainwashed with Janeway and Co.’s daily routines and happy evenings makes for a decidedly creepy effect which turns up the already disturbing atmosphere up a few notches. The constantly vigilant guards patrolling in pairs, socialist realism posters and grey 21st century urban feel contrasted with the worker’s faux happiness are very effective. Allan Kroeker is one of Star Trek’s best directors, and in an episode mostly running on atmosphere, he does an amazing job of turning what could have been a fairly bland script into a dark and suspenseful episode. Between the brain washing disguised as immunizations and the happy multi-species work environment in which all workers are valued and the employers “really” care about their workers, this episode feels like a version of Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ updated for corporate America.

But it’s the human conventional touches rather than the SciFi stuff like the Minister’s view of the whole thing as a means of obtaining skilled labor and inability to comprehend Chakotay’s objections as anything except an attempt to obtain skilled labor for his own vessel that really makes this environment mirror the Borg circa TNG. But where the Borg concept put a lot of distance between us and them, Workforce hits disturbingly close to home. Where the Borg simply chose to represent the subservience of the individual to the group by completely erasing individuals and turning them into drones, the Workforce government instead chooses to sabotage the ships, pick up the refugees and brainwash them into believing they’re happy workers. In a sense they, like the Borg, are using similar tactics for a similar goal but they have no greater goals or greater inhuman ruthlessness; just petty mortal goals and the refusal to acknowledge the rights or even needs of the individuals they destroy. Like the Borg they insist the people are happier this way, like the Borg they refuse to see the evil of their actions but unlike the Borg they lack the excuse of being a cybernetic collective, instead they’re all too real and all too human and it’s difficult to describe which seems more horrific.

And so Part 2 will depend on keeping up this atmosphere, something fairly amateur director Roxann Dawson will hopefully manage to do, and keep the focus on the general system instead of mistakenly selecting individual villains to be lecturers as Critical Care did. The way Janeway’s choice is handled will also be important as well as the way the transition of the crew back to their older memories occurs.

Having Seven act as the instigator is clumsy and overlooks the fun of having her as the antagonistic efficiency expert, plus it mirrors the Killing Game storyline a bit too closely. But after Seven’s mind meld it also seems pretty inevitable. Chakotay and Tuvok doing all the work would be more interesting but ultimately the suspense only exists for about as long as the crew are in their new lives. Once they’re back to being the Voyager crew and “The Heroes”, most of the suspense and tension will collapse back to nothingness. And a final hope that the KimEMH command bickering will be kept to a minimum. Despite Kim’s actions in Nightingale and the EMH’s occasional self-absorption it’s ridiculous to think that either of them would use this situation to bicker over who’s in command. And considering Kim’s behavior in Nightingale it’s almost certain that he would come looking out of this more childish than ever and with only a few episodes left until the end of Voyager he won’t have much time to grow up.

Next week: Part 2. Robert Beltran has fun with makeup, Voyager blows up alien ships, Janeway has to choose between an adult relationship and her martyr complex.

Star Trek Voyager review – The Void

Summary: One of this season’s and Voyager’s best. Trapped and desperate Voyager has to choose between the ideals of the Federation and the predatory nature of the prisoners of the Void.

Along with the decline in quality and storytelling, one of the notable declines of the Berman created Star Trek spinoffs has been a decline in

star trek voyager void

All warp drive warranties null and void

moral logic, in the ability to understand the ethics of a situation and make moral choices while showing both sides of the argument. Voyager itself has far too often relied on shrill rhetoric completely disconnected from reality and Janeway’s set jaw to insist that X is the right choice without ever actually having a clear understanding of the issues. The result is a kind of tone deaf morality in which the heroes are right because they have a neat slogan and because they say they’re right. The problems themselves have no complexity or texture and there’s rarely any real doubt as to what the right choice is.

So The Void is even more surprising, not just because it accomplishes in one episode what Voyager never quite managed to pull off in its first two seasons, namely to show a Starship and crew in dangerous, unknown and hostile territory with their backs up against the wall and with the situation verging on real desperation. Not just because it’s one of the clear and outstanding winners of a mediocre season and not even because it manages to show and state in 40 minutes the key factors in building a Federation type alliance that Andromeda hasn’t managed to nail ever, despite this exact thing being the show’s premise. The Void is genuinely surprising because Voyager actually manages to pull off an episode without any soap opera histrionics and minimal personal storylines and instead just delivers a solid story that stands on its own. Even the generic JanewayChakotay arguments are cut short and the usual storyline clutter that appears in nearly every Voyager episode is also gone. Thus pared to the bone, Voyager manages to produce an intelligent, compelling episode set around space travel in the style of the Roddenberry Star Trek.

Voyager has done no shortage of anomaly episodes which is why we would expect that when Voyager is sucked into an anomaly that there would be some crew friction and then Seven and Co. would come up with some new technological trick and they would be out of there just in time for the credits. Instead, Void focuses not on the technological tricks but on survival because the ultimate solution to the Void doesn’t lie in technology but in cooperation and returning to the ideals of the Federation. For far too many episodes of the Berman Treks, our heroes encounter some aliens who don’t like our heroes and they clash. It can go on for years as on DS9 or for 40 minutes an episode as on Voyager but it’s ultimately just a throw away plot with one flavor of blackhats or another who have to be taught a lesson. Very rarely do we get an examination of the underlying conflict and application of Star Trek’s ideals to it (as in TOS’s Arena) in a situation that can’t just be resolved by a technolobabble gimmick. Instead, a moral choice has to be made, between the harder principled path or the predatory ends-justifies the-means solution.

And what is unique enough about Void is that this is one of the rare times in Star Trek where the principled choice actually makes more sense star trek voyager voidthan the unprincipled one. All too often Berman era Star Trek presents the moral decision as a burden, a hairshirt that has to be worn to prove the sainthood of our heroes. This is an attitude that comes from the complete incomprehension of Star Trek’s actual ideals. Kirk and Picard certainly weren’t saints, they were flawed men struggling for a better cause. This better cause wasn’t some Quixotic quest for the holy grail but the implementation and defense of a system that fostered mutual cooperation for common goals. A system that was both practical and capable. In the Void Janeway’s alliance is a much more practical and sane choice than the pirate choice namely because if Voyager turns predator that would just mean being trapped in the void and fighting a losing battle for survival. It might lengthen their survival rate by a week or a month or maybe even a year but the final result would still be inevitable. Every predator is eventually eaten by something else. The alliance solution on the other hand was a gamble and a definite risk in the beginning but in the long run it was the only realistic option for survival since it would boost Voyager’s resources with far less attrition and provide a realistic hope of escape.

There are times when the Federation seems naive, foolishly optimistic and just a weak system waiting to be taken advantage of and there are certainly times when Starfleet Captains have come off that way; but The Void reminds us what makes the Federation strong in the first place. The Klingons may make better warriors, the Cardassians may have better order and the Romulans better covert operations, the Borg may have larger numbers and more advanced technology but the Federation’s strength comes as a pooling of resources to create a greater union. From a predatory standpoint the Federation may seem weak and inefficient and its diplomatic and peaceful agenda proof of its weakness, but these things are the focal points of its strength and Void does an excellent job of demonstrating just how that works in a way that not even TOS or TNG have quite managed. The idea that Federation and Starfleet ideals are outmoded and need to be dropped to survive in a “harsher reality” has become common currency among a certain faction of fandom and it was the premise of DS9’s final seasons, The Void shows that it is in those harsher realities that the Federation needs its ideals the most.

While Janeway studying the Federation charter for loopholes as opposed to Starfleet regulations seems odd (would a Navy Captain study the

star trek voyager void

And Reddit rejoiced

Constitution in a crisis), it is a demonstration that the solution to the crisis came not from the regulations but from the very idealistic principles on which the Federation stands. Where Chakotay usually serves as the voice of reason trying to argue Janeway out of a short term blunder brought on by her megalomania and lack of basic common sense, in this case Janeway is arguing for long term survival and Chakotay arguing for short term survival. Tuvok’s position here seems a bit odd since despite his fascist leanings, you’d still expect a Vulcan and a security officer so attached to the letter of the regulations to stay on the side of principle. The addition of the Void creatures is a bit of a weak plot point and detracts from other possible stronger storylines. At least Void doesn’t make them the solution to Voyager’s problems, while they do repay the crew’s kindness and come in handy in the resolution; they’re not that crucial to it either. More time spent on the various races and personalities would have been preferable but fortunately, this time out, Seven’s “growth as a human being” material is so thin it was either mostly left on the cutting room floor or never really written in the first place. All in all, Void would have worked better as a two parter like Year of Hell giving time for the situation to really sink in and allowing more time to be spent on the different races and their integration into Voyager’s alliance. As it is, a lot of the material ends up being glossed over too quickly and we never really feel that Voyager’s situation is as desperate as it was in Year of Hell.

Mike Vejar’s direction is stunning as usual, though the special effects are noticeably weak. The anomaly effect looks like it could have come from TNG, the alien ships are not very memorable, and indistinct– all blending together. The final escape is also not very impressive. Janeway’s declaration about bigotry also rings false. After all, she was building an alliance with, as she put it, murderers and thieves. Does dislike of a parasitic native species covered in filth who are unable to communicate really convey how evil someone is? Too much of this episode is also borrowed from Night including the strange species which live in a dark starless space and the moral choice. Finally, while Neelix’s speech sounds very noble, he really has little in the way of resources and he essentially became Voyager’s all purpose errand boy, native guide and comic relief; not the best example of Voyager’s alliance. But then there’s no such thing as a flawless episode anyway.

Next week: Voyager’s crew get assimilated… but not by the Borg [for once].

Star Trek Voyager review – Prophecy

Summary: An uninspired patchwork episode composed of weak gags and an unfocused plot that goes nowhere and serves mainly as an excuse to show off some Klingon costumes in time for sweeps. The diagnosis is now clear, 7th season syndrome.

The saddest words ever said are, what might have been. And at times what might have been begins to look like it might become Voyager’s eulogy. The post-Prophecy

star trek voyager prophecy

Fifty Quatloos against the newcomer

watching party consisting of sour bread and chlorine water is definitely one of those times. It’s not that Star Trek in general doesn’t screw up their payoffs more often than not. Certainly every Star Trek fan can name half a dozen two parters in which the first part was far superior to the concluding second part. But Voyager just seems to have a special talent for it and a talent for doing it in the clumsiest way possible.

Voyager’s entire premise has rested on it being lost in the Delta Quadrant and completely cut off from Starfleet and the Alpha Quadrant species. So when it came time for the big sweeps episode in which Voyager contacts Starfleet that all the fans and viewers were looking forwards to; Voyager’s writers of course gave us a comedy routine co-starring Andy Dick that featured two EMH’s trying to figure out where the controls are. Now in retrospect Message in a Bottle had some funny bits in it, but with that episode Voyager’s writers turned their entire premise into a joke. If you’re expected to take Voyager’s plight seriously and their struggle to reach Earth at the centerpiece of the whole platter; then a payoff episode that takes this into account would have helped shore up Voyager’s already rickety premise.

But when all is said and done it’s a whole lot easier to justify Message in a Bottle than it is to justify the horrendously dreary Prophecy whose plot has about exactly 5 seconds worth of sense and even less time devoted to material that can actually hold your interest. It is as if the writers put some old Klingon episode videotapes into the VCR, took notes on what happened in those episode, tore off those notes and put them into a hat, picked them randomly out of a hat and turned that into an episode. And indeed the story and script credits for Prophecy, which feature more writers than the average UPN show has on staff, seems to bear that out. There’s the obligatory Klingon drinking scene, the obligatory duel, the obligatory nasty Klingon, the obligatory Klingons sitting in shadows and plotting scene. It’s like a Klingon clip show and like a clip show, Prophecy has no purpose except to kill 40 minutes without actually coming up with original material.

It’s always tough to come up with sweeps episodes and since Voyager has never featured real Klingons, the producers decided that since it’s the 7th season they can cash in their Klingon chit and do a Klingon episode. Unfortunately their attempt fell into the “overdrawn story check” category– this is when Star Trek writers churn out an uninteresting story which they think will work if it stars an important Trek alien. Essentially, they believe that an awful script will be liked by the viewers if instead of the Alien of the Week, it features Romulans, Vulcans, Borg or Klingons. And worst of all, the writers think that viewers are entertained just by having Klingons come on screen and do Klingon things, which avoids the need for actually having real drama or conflict in the episode. Just toss off some Klingon words, show Klingons getting drunk, talk vaguely about honor and show some Klingons getting into a fight.

The only flaw in the “overdrawn story check” is that it really is overdrawn. What turned the Vulcans, Klingons, Romulans and Co. into epic Star Trek aliens were the

star trek voyager prophecy

Yes the episode can get worse than this

actors who played them and the stories they were featured in. Putting pointy ears on some guy and sending him out to talk tonelessly about logic or putting another guy into a Klingon costume and have him bellow about honor is great for conventions. It’s a cute touch to put in an episode or two but it never substitutes for a real story. It certainly won’t save an episode that doesn’t have a good story to begin with. And so when the writers attempt to cash an “overdrawn story check”, it bounces and the result is a weak episode. Worse, overuse of the same aliens in this same way will eventually lead to the point where no one wants to see any of these aliens again because they’ve become associated with some very bad material. And if there is one single Star Trek species that has been endlessly abused in this way, it’s the Klingons.

So of course when it comes time for sweeps, the producers note that they’ve never featured real Klingons and so they decide, with network prompting, to do an episode featuring real Klingons. Of course there’s only so much money to go around, a Klingon episode would be perfect. But it has to take place on Voyager because shooting Klingon interiors could get expensive very quickly. It can’t involve battles because special effects are expensive, so we limit it to a short cheap battle at the beginning. So now that the story has to be on Voyager, we have to find a reason for the Klingons to be on Voyager all the time. What if they’re refugees? But why would refugees travel all the way to the Delta Quadrant and still keep going. Let’s say they’re dissatisfied with the current Klingon way of life and they’re on a quest for something. Maybe it’s religious. Something Voyager has what they want. This introduces the motivation and the reason for them to be on Voyager. But what does Voyager have that they want? Technology is too simple and easy. No it has to be something Voyager can’t give up or replicate. Say what about tying B’Elanna and her pregnancy into this. Remember that old episode idea pitch we were kicking around about aliens who listen to Chakotay’s teaching and think he’s like Jesus and remember that Dragon’s Teeth episode and we just combine the two. Let’s say the Klingons think the baby is their golden child and there are debates over faith and eventually some of them try and take over Voyager while B’Elanna reinforces her connection to her Klingon heritage. Perfect, it’s a winner. And let’s have a B story about Kim being sexually harassed by a Klingon woman and Neelix and Tuvok bunking together just like in college. It’ll be completely hysterical…and they say we don’t know Star Trek!

And so we take a story that no one would have paid attention to twice if it had involved the aliens of the week, add some Klingon uniforms and presto, a sweeps episode. But best of all, a cheap sweeps episode. Best of all a confused and unfocused episode pasted together from half a dozen story ideas that lumbers around from scene to scene like one of the photonic drunks from Fair Haven never having the faintest idea where it’s going. As a script Prophecy is at best a first draft, a script version that still doesn’t come together, where the stitching is obvious and a lot of work still needs to be done. Unfortunately if there’s one thing all the Star Trek series spin-offs 7th seasons have in common, is the dreaded 7th season syndrome. Prophecy may feature the Klingons suffering from a fatal disease, but the episode and the season itself suffers from a much more fatal disease. TNG had it, DS9 had it and now Voyager has it. The symptoms involve poorly thought out scripts, episodes that look like fanfic somebody accidentally filmed, episodes where everyone is completely out of character and episodes that have no point whatsoever. Basically this comes down to writer’s fatigue.

In a normal working day, you get up and go to work. In the early portions of your day, you’re still getting settled in, midway through you get comfortable and do your best work and towards the end you’re tried and just want to get out of here and do whatever it is you plan to do after hours. Now imagine that you still have to work after that until about midnight without any real supervision or quality control. Now that is essentially what Star Trek’s 7th seasons tend to look like. Shoddy work done by tired people who just want to get it over with. In this state of mind Lineage, Prophecy and driving your car off a cliff can seem like good ideas. In this state of mind a script doesn’t have to have any coherency, one scene doesn’t have to lead into another and symmetry is the first thing to go out the window. The key theme is just to get things done quickly with the first idea that comes to mind. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to fill the void. And so this is where an episode that features Dr. Crusher being haunted by an erotic alien ghost that sucks away her energy, or the episodes that feature Dukat rampaging around with glowing red eyes or some of this season’s Voyager episodes come from.

And so this week Klingons stumble into Voyager. They announce that they’re searching for their messiah who will rebuild the empire, yet their goal appears to be to

star trek voyager prophecy

"Why don't you people make up a new prophecy and go bug some other pregnant half-Klingon lady?"

meet and greet the messiah’s mommy and then go settle a planet decades away from the Empire while twice abandoning their only means of returning back home to the Empire and abandoning their messiah as well. Then it turns out they have a lethal virus gets past Voyager’s biofilters and the Doctor pronounces incurable and which the Doctor is then able to cure completely in a few hours. But of course they’re really here to serve as source material for gags and funny Klingon moments. Remember that joke about Kim being unlucky with women, well it gets even funnier when a Klingon woman pursues him. Remember that same joke on TNG, well it’s even funnier here. Oh and of course the always hysterical Neelix gets into the act. You haven’t lost all desire for food until you’ve seen Neelix making out with a Klingon woman three times his size. And the jokes just keep on coming. Too bad they even manage to make Message in a Bottle look like a comedic masterpiece.

But back to the plot, what is the plot again? Oh that’s right these Klingons think Torres’s unborn 3/4rs human fetus is the Messiah so naturally they blow up their ship and board Voyager for a short trip to a planet they can settle in the Delta Quadrant. Despite believing that the Federation is their sworn enemy, the Captain in no time at all risks all his crew’s lives on the assumption that Janeway will save them and once on Voyager puts his lives and their lives in her hands. Even the TNG Klingons wouldn’t trust Picard a fraction of that much. But on Voyager, the Klingons, like Q and the Borg bow before the self-importance of Janeway and humble themselves before her.

Then it turns out they have a virus for no particular reason. Then Paris agrees to fight a Klingon in a battle to the death, even though there’s no reason to believe he would be so stupid. Then Paris with a few days training turns out to be able to handle a trained Klingon warrior. Then that same warrior takes over the transporter room and nearly takes over Voyager by beaming its entire crew to the surface. If it was this easy to take over Voyager, why didn’t Neelix do it last week? Of course it all gets settled and the Klingons settle down on a planet decades away from home to which they can now never return. Of course this all means we won’t see them next week, which indeed is what really drives this plot. Sure actually having consequences to actions that occur in an episode and having some logic to it might be a nice idea. But hey who needs plot logic when you have Klingons. And next week there’s a spatial anomaly, I can’t wait. Can you?

Next week: There’s a spatial anomaly and ships firing on Voyager. Are they indeed up to no good? Will Voyager escape the anomaly or stay in there for the last 10 remaining episodes of the series. No one knows.

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