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Monthly Archives: May 2001

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Star Trek Voyager review – Series finale Endgame

Summary: Voyager goes off the air with a finale that isn’t quite a bang but is a fitting farewell in keeping with its themes and tone.

Despite heading for a fifth series, Star Trek has only done two series finales before Endgame. That means there really isn’t a template

star trek voyager endgame

Janeway vs Janeway. We all lose.

established for the series finale just yet. On the one hand, we have TNG’s All Good Things…, which was a poignant look ahead at the future combined with a brilliant celebration of Star Trek’s ideals and a complex intellectual puzzle. On the other hand, we had DS9’s What You Leave Behind choose to do a conventional episode, wrapping the messy arcs and plot threads it had accumulated. Voyager’s finale Endgame on the other hand falls somewhere in between.

Unlike TNG, Voyager’s writers know this is their show’s last hurrah and that there will never be any further extension of the story. But unlike DS9, Voyager wasn’t overloaded with arcs that had to be wrapped up or apocalyptic struggles to be fought. So Endgame is a combination of the two styles. On the one hand there is a time warping premise to Endgame and a poignant look ahead at what time and history will do to its characters as on TNG. On the other hand the actual episode is less about time travel, than it is about using it as a vehicle to examine the characters and resolve the series and various character issues like DS9. The result is a finale that doesn’t aim high like TNG’s but also one that doesn’t overshoot and crash and burn like DS9’s. It’s an average finale that encompasses all the good and bad that was Voyager and by doing so serves as a valid representation of what the show was all about.

Endgame’s opening takes less of a page from TNG or DS9 than it does from the TOS films. Specifically Wrath of Khan. A scene of Voyager’s

star trek voyager endgame

San Francisco, just looking for a reason to shoot off fireworks

joyous celebration cuts to a falsely cheerful retrospective on a TV monitor and a bitter-aged Captain Janeway pacing the room. These are scenes that call up the TOS Genesis trilogy both visually and emotionally. Janeway and the Doctor chat in her apartment in a scene strongly reminiscent of Kirk and McCoy sans glasses. The Genesis comparisons only deepen as Janeway searches for a way to break Starfleet regulations to save former friends and crew members. Janeway herself no longer pilots a starship but has been bumped up to Admiral and looks forwards to teaching cadets. The crew has their reunions like an old group of Korean War vets who don’t seem to have that much in common anymore and Voyager is a museum from whose ready room you can see Alcatraz. Tuvok is in a mental asylum raving to himself and Chakotay and Seven are dead. And it took Voyager nearly two decades to get home.

Fans and viewers might have expected a long journey home ending with Voyager’s return, but the episode instead chooses to throw a

star trek voyager endgame

In the future all clothes will be replicated... and stupid

splendid reunion at them and then turn it into ashes. It’s a scene that takes a certain amount of guts. Voyager might have easily gone the conventional route, or at least closed with the return scene as a payoff. Instead the payoff shot shows Voyager returning to Earth in the company of the fleet. We’ve already seen the return home and we know it won’t solve all the problems or too many problems for that matter. Janeway’s real problem remains unspoken and it isn’t Tuvok’s disease or Seven’s death. Her real problem is only stated openly by Paris, that she was only satisfied when she was on Voyager. Voyager was home. Time stood still on Voyager.

Janeway has always been obsessed with doing the best job possible of getting her crew home. And so she decides to go back in time and risk the past, not for any particularly compelling reasons, but because she wants to do a better job if it than she did last time. She wants to see if she can get the floor cleaner and the cabinets shinier and the crew home in seven years instead of twenty-something years. Janeway has always been a perfectionist and obsessed with her performance. She’s lost plenty of crewmembers before, so why not prevent Voyager from entering the Delta Quadrant period? The device on her shuttle allows her to choose any point in space or time. Presumably because it would eliminate important parts of history, which Voyager changed. Captain Braxton and Q have said as much. Janeway herself states that these sixteen years featured major confrontations with the Borg Queen which helped them develop weapons and tactics that in the future allows the Federation to hold the Borg at bay. Is she throwing all this way just to rescue some friends? So are we to really believe that Voyager’s first seven years in the Delta Quadrant were important to galactic history but the succeeding sixteen years weren’t?

And here is at once the greatest strength of Endgame and its greatest weakness. Its strength lies in its depiction of Voyager’s future, but a

star trek voyager endgame

Let the slash fiction begin... and conclude

future that is merely used to engineer a bit of time travel that occurs at this point in time for no particular reason, except that Voyager’s seven years are up. Worse yet, Admiral Janeway seems to have no idea how to bring Voyager home except by taking them through the worst the Borg have to offer. Couldn’t she have found an easier way to bring Voyager home? If Voyager could get home by breaking the rules, who not ask Q to do it? The entire Borg plot becomes tacked on as a means of resolving the Borg, even though they have little relation to the basic plot. Which means we’re asked to swallow two gigantic whoppers. The first being Admiral Janeway’s choice and the second being the involvement of the Borg.

Despite the All Good Things… “flashbacks” like Janeway’s shuttle being pursued by Klingon warships, Janeway convincing aged crew members to let her go on one final mission, and Tuvok suffering from a degenerative mental disease, future Voyager worked. So does present day Voyager. Given plenty of time, Endgame showcases a “5 minutes from now” future of Voyager that has Tuvok realizing his disease is getting worse when he loses a game, Torres expecting her baby and Paris finally settling down and abandoning his last desire for adventure. Both the past and the future are rife with neat continuity references from Barclay missing a golf game with the EMH, Kim’s desire to be Captain and Torres’s daughter turning out to be a bigger Klingon than her mother and involved in Klingon politics to boot. The future isn’t detailed but Janeway shopping around for technology with a renegade Klingon noble in exchange for a seat on the high council is plausible and rings true. So do the lecture halls and reunions, a Voyager version of Veterans of Foreign Wars. Or Veterans of Delta Quadrant Attrition.

The failure happens when Endgame does what All Good Things… and Voyager’s own Timeless knew not to do, combine the past and the future. On board Voyager, Admiral Janeway is just a pest and her motivations are bizarre. Her claims that “family comes before strangers” is completely bizarre and un-Starfleet even if it’s nice to see Janeway finally come out and admit the philosophy that’s been behind criminal actions such as Tuvix and Scorpion. Her technology gifts make things too easy. Sure the Borg have become a bit too soft but the cheesy armor-all effect and super torpedoes that blow up entire cubes are just ridiculous. Meanwhile Present Janeway demonstrates that she can’t even stand or work with herself, let alone anyone else. Her desire to blow up the Borg transwarp conduit is noble, but wouldn’t it make more sense to escape first and get the technology back to Starfleet which can outfit a hundred ships with it and do the job better?

People may make noises about the Temporal Prime Directive, but I note the TPD hasn’t kept the EMH from wearing a piece of 27th century technology and trying to donate it to the Daystrom Institute. Why is this any different? Janeway is ready to throw away the TPD when it’s a question of Tuvok’s well-being and when it’s a question of the welfare of her crew, and this is a question of the survival of thousands of entire species. Essentially, then, both Janeways have irrational agendas that have more to do with their own personal psychological problems, than with Starfleet regulations and the greater good. Kirk in ST3 and Picard in All Good Things… broke the rules but Kirk didn’t care about Genesis. He was simply trying to rescue Spock and that meant violating the No Trespassing sign. Picard had evidence that if he didn’t act the universe would be destroyed. Janeway wanted to save 22 people and possibly doom billions and wipe out portions of galactic history doing it. It just doesn’t add up.

And that is Voyager’s legacy, pettiness. Even when taking on the Borg and challenging all space and time, Janeway seems petty. And she manages to make the Borg seem petty too. It’s family versus family. Janeway’s family on Voyager which has come to a fractured old age in the future and the Borg Queen’s collapsing collective family. Both believe Seven of Nine is part of their family. And more than anything this episode seems to come down to Seven of Nine again. She dies. Her death devastates Chakotay. Her death is the unique thing that causes Janeway to go back. The other 22 crew members are nameless and Janeway has already lost quite a few people before this. But by choosing to develop the actual Chakotay/Seven romance only at this late date, the entire notion that Chakotay was so devastated by her loss that he pined away for longing is simply implausible. And fans who follow the inside news will note Beltran’s attacks against the producers and that actors the producers don’t like often meet unfortunate ends.

But then if the producers had decided to kill off the character they might have gotten some mileage from it by killing him off during the

star trek voyager finale

Armor-All... Now for Starships

attempt to return to Earth. As it is there is little carnage and little real trial and risk. Future Janeway may die but that is to be expected. But to the crew, it is an episode that seems to carry less danger and risk than episodes like Dark Frontier or Year of Hell. You would think that the process of returning to Earth would be epic, but instead it seems very ordinary. It doesn’t even compare to Borg Voyager episodes like Scorpion or Unimatrix Zero. Eliminate the time travel and return-to-Earth element and you simply have a fairly conventional Voyager two-parter. The Borg Queen even falls for a variation of the same trick Janeway used on her in Unimatrix Zero. The collective must have a really poor memory to keep making the same mistake over and over again.

So what we have in Endgame is the fusion of a strong future episode, a strong view of Voyager 5 minutes from now and their clumsy combination in a weak and hackneyed plot that results in them getting home. But this is only fitting for a show that has suffered from poor plots and rushed resolutions throughout its run. Endgame has many of the same successes and failures as Voyager in general has had. With Endgame it attempts to produce a linear resolution and a character arc wrap-up and while it does a better job of this than the muddled DS9 series finale, it suffers from many of the same flaws. Confrontation for confrontation’s sake, implausible actions and behaviors and a finale that feels rushed to complete an artificial schedule that wasn’t properly planned for. But it also has gems that DS9’s finale lacks and those gems, those character moments, are what link Voyager’s past and present.

Next week: Nothing. Now the wait for Star Trek Enterprise begins.

Star Trek Voyager review – Renaissance Man

Summary: A “perfectly functional” episode that pretty much ties up the Doctor’s development and offers a somewhat decent adventure plot to boot. And it’s always fun to see the Doctor take Tuvok down a notch or two.

Renaissance Man isn’t a particularly inspiring episode but it is, as a Vulcan might say, “perfectly adequate.” It doesn’t measure up to

star trek voyager Renaissance Man

This is how the world ends...

the wild brilliance of Tinker Tailor, the episode it serves as a sequel to. But it does put the Doctor’s character under real pressure and creates genuine tension and conflict, something very few of the season’s adventure stories have managed so far.

Like Tinker Tailor, Renaissance Man’s villains are once again the Hierarchy race. And they use their ability to see what the Doctor sees to keep him under control. There is also the tension between the supervisor character and a more imaginatively-minded and kinder subordinate. But the episode, by attempting to recreate Tinker Tailor, misses the things that made that episode work. Where the office drone dynamic of Tinker Tailor provided a character we could relate to and linked him to the Doctor’s own troubles, Renaissance Man employs the aliens as stock characters: “bad alien” and “decent but spineless sidekick”. It’s been done more times than can be counted and Renaissance Man, unlike Tinker Tailor, brings nothing new to the table.

Indeed, the only reason for this stock relationship is to lead up to the predictable ending where the spineless alien will finally turn on his master. Worse, it’s the only reason the aliens are turned into renegades disconnected from the hierarchy. This makes the entire thing look ridiculous since basically Janeway is being held hostage by two fat guys, only one of whom is even any kind of threat. You don’t see Kirk or Picard or Sisko remaining imprisoned for long under these circumstances. But they seem to manage to produce complete chaos on Voyager. This is more than a little reminiscent of Janeway’s embarrassing struggle with two Ferengi.

On the Voyager end, though, the Doctor outwitting and even physically defeating most of the Voyager crew is certainly entertaining. The ECH once again makes a case for his abilities as he outwits Tuvok and then defeats him in hand to hand combat. He poses as three different officers, fends off Paris’s romantic overtures and knocks out Chakotay and Kim and stows them in the overhead compartment. He takes over and runs Voyager and watching him do it is fun, even if his complete capitulation to the kidnapper’s demands is a little odd. He may be fearful for Janeway’s safety but the ECH’s tactical scenarios should have told him that the best way to assure a hostage’s safety doesn’t rest in complete compliance with a kidnapper’s demands. The constant monitoring is an important tool for reinforcing the plausibility of his actions but it’s not quite enough.

Indeed, much of this episode seems to be setting up material for the series finale. That may be appropriate as Renaissance Man is the last episode before the finale but it seems weak and misplaced because the Doctor’s behavior and Janeway’s attitudes both seem a little odd. This is why arcs help set up changes in character behavior, instead of sudden changes occurring in the context of an episode. But it does serve to cap off the Doctor’s character development.

The EMH proclaims that he’s happy to be a hologram and doesn’t want to be human. He confesses his love for Seven and begins developing a friendship with Janeway. He demonstrates his ability to do just about anything and even gets to sing again. And considering that the reality is that the Doctor was always Voyager’s breakout character, far more so than Seven of Nine, and its main character as well, it’s only appropriate that he be assigned the next to last Voyager episode. Voyager’s Renaissance Man.

Next week: Voyager’s series finale. Hey, it made Mulgrew cry.

Star Trek Voyager review – Homestead

Summary: Neelix is inserted into a standard Western of a surrogate father, a family in risk of losing its homestead and a wandering man finding his destiny.

star trek voyager Homestead

In the Wild Talaxtian West

Star Trek has often been tagged with the somewhat inaccurate “Wagon Train to the Stars” label but generally the incidence of Western motifs has dramatically decreased along with Roddenberry’s presence in the franchise. Janeway’s gothic novel holodeck scenario was originally meant to be a Western in order to reflect Voyager’s dilemma, but apparently someone thought Bronte would appeal to the viewers more. So Homestead is one of the stronger reworked Voyager Westerns in some time. “Destiny” was even its original title.

There’s the insular community whose homes are about to be destroyed by the greedy mining company; the woman he’s attracted to and the child who views him as a father figure, which makes this a not particularly unpredictable story but LeVar Burton’s clean and strong visual direction and Ethan Phillips’s heartfelt performance compensated for that. More importantly, this Voyager episode had what few Voyager’s possessed since the early seasons, actual changes to the show resulting as a consequence of the events in the episode. Namely Neelix’s departure.

And the departure is managed far more smoothly and ably than one would expect. Homestead manages to bring the interplay between Neelix and Tuvok as close as possible while bringing Tuvok as close to Spock as he’s ever been. It’s no real coincidence that this episode begins with an invocation of the original first contact (a nice piece of continuity and development) between humans and vulcans. Or that it ends with Tuvok acknowledging the affirmative value of the non-Vulcan and Neelix, Voyager’s Delta Quadrant alien, rejoining his people as a Federation ambassador.

Unlike Kes’s departure, Neelix’s departure is unforced and reasonable. Every single scene from the tour with the aliens pointing out the ambiguous nature of his position on Voyager, his candle-lit dinner with the Talaxian female that causes him to realize how much he’s missed the company of his own people, and finally finding a child for whom he could be an actual father, instead of a babysitter. One could complain that it’s odd that these issues haven’t really been addressed before this, but that’s a general complaint about the show rather than this episode in particular.

The presence of the Talaxians all the way out here is questionable. It took Voyager seven years to make it to this point with several super-human assists. Even assuming that this generation of Talaxians left as children, the Haakonian conquest occurred 15 years from Voyager’s arrival at Talax which means that considering their detours and attempts at colonization, they would have had twenty years to make this trip. Considering that in that time they probably couldn’t have traveled more than 20,000 light years and Kes’s acceleration alone threw Voyager 10,000 LY ahead. Fan estimates placed Voyager as having traveled over 50,000 light years by Season 5 alone. Clearly the Talaxian presence is pretty hard to explain and some sort of explanation for a Delta Quadrant species in the Beta Quadrant should have been made.

For once, a Voyager episode manages to have a species’ xenophobia err on the side of caution, instead of being taken too far as in Friendship One, to the point where the aliens become completely unsympathetic. The Talaxian’s story about the death of her husband is just complex and detailed enough to serve as a nice touch. The details of the Talaxian’s technology is another nice touch, that kind of in-depth look at the technology of a wandering group of starships and an asteroid colony instead of just presenting CGI pictures is another nice departure from ordinary Voyager procedure. It helps make the reality of the colony and Neelix’s task more plausible and effective.

It would have been nice, though, if Neelix had shown more leadership and hadn’t needed to be bailed out at the end by the Delta Flyer. We already know the Voyager crew “can do anything”, this scene was needed to establish Neelix’s capabilities. After all, Voyager won’t be around when he has to deal with the same aliens again. But then Voyager is still saddled with the same paranoia of showing Janeway as being less than perfect at anything. The entire discussion of the Prime Directive is again ridiculous and out of place. The PD applies to pre-warp species. It does not apply to warp civilizations out of their solar systems, otherwise the Federation would be unable to do much of anything. Also the rights of ownership for the asteroid belt were not established.

If the alien miners indeed had a claim on the property, then Voyager might have been wrong to interfere once the aliens agreed to give the Talaxians enough time to evacuate. The Talaxians insist it’s their home but they may just be squatters. Just because someone chooses to live in your backyard, doesn’t mean it’s their property. We have two scenes that highlight the casual brutality of the aliens in question and they’re put in makeup that makes them look like hideous evil monsters but that’s just a lazy way of establishing rights and wrongs. We might as well put them in Dracula masks and have them chant “We are evil” over and over again to prove the same point. This might not have been so much of a problem if Voyager had only limited itself to mediation but once the Delta Flyer participates in the battle it would seem that Janeway has used armed force to take a side and it’s unclear if the side is really right or not.

The special effects look pretty good again demonstrating that if nothing else, Series V will probably have amazing visual effects. Tuvok’s dance step is played in just the right subtle way and so is Janeway’s offer to allow Neelix to leave and rejoin his people disguised as a practical ambassadorship. And we’re not burdened with a pointless B story about Paris forgetting how to tie his shoes or Kim losing his stuffed bunny in a turbo lift. Homestead may not be Voyager’s greatest episode but unlike Natural Law, it does belong as one of the series’ final episodes. Neelix may not be Voyager’s best character, but he needed a sendoff and Homestead is about the best one he could have gotten.

Next week: Another Doctor playing secret agent? Is this an occupational hazard?

Star Trek Voyager review – Natural Law

Summary: Another day, another shuttlecraft. Half the Voyager special effects budget is blown on one of the worst episodes of the season.

The poet has said, “The saddest words of tongue or pen are these: ‘It might have been’.” On Voyager the saddest words are, “What was the

star trek voyager Natural Law

There... that's where Craft Services is set up

point of making this episode in the first place?” And all too often when this question is asked, there is no answer except another bad episode from a show that already has far too many bad episodes to begin with.

The first half of Natural Law has all the dramatic and intellectual excitement of a half hour of static and noise. For those few fans hoping for a romance between Chakotay and 7 of 9, the opening classic fanfic hurt/comfort scenario might have suggested some possibilities but as awful as that possibility might have been, it’s better than what we actually got; which was nothing. Or technically speaking, worse than nothing. There are plenty of FX dollars which might have been put to better use on “Void”, but were expended on a B-story that has Paris going to alien driver’s ed.

One could ask why we need this storyline. One could also ask why we need the Ebola virus. It accomplishes nothing useful except for a weak attempt at humor whose payoff only comes in the final few minutes of this episode. After “Author, Author” had tried to make such a point of how Paris had matured since we first met him, this storyline makes a strong case for Paris being the same developmentally disabled adolescent he always was. The instructor may not be particularly flexible but instead of approaching the problem in a mature manner, Paris tried to lie to, wheedle and manipulate the instructor thereby proving the instructor’s worst notions about him to be true.

You have to wonder if there isn’t any character, any story on Voyager that needed to be told more than this one. I could think of half a dozen and so could most fans, especially considering that we’re a few episodes away from the finale which means this is all the character development we’re going to get. In light of this and in light of the fact that Paris has been on a solid fatherhood character development path for a while now, what was the point?

But as bad as the “Paris goes to driver’s ed” storyline may be, the first half hour of the “Seven of Nine learns the value of other cultures” story is even worse. Here, the writers attempt to avoid the possibility of having a bad story, by having no story at all. Instead Chakotay hurts his leg, Seven of Nine breaks a heel and loses her tricorder (why is she wandering around a forest in high heels anyway?) and they discover some friendly natives. Why are the natives so friendly and ready to give our characters the shirts off their backs, literally?

Well, there are no explanations given except that for lazy writers this is the cheapest and dirtiest way of shouting how wonderful and special a people the natives are, from the highest tower. As with the Ba’ku in Star Trek Insurrection, we’re supposed to believe that these people have amazing spiritual or cultural values that make them truly amazing. The writers fail to specify what these values are but they seem to involve smiling a lot, using sign language and giving lots of presents. And so of course Chakotay soon trusts the aliens absolutely.

This is a bit odd considering that he doesn’t know anything about their culture, species or whether or not their gestures mean “stay for dinner and we’ll cook you a nice meal” or “stay for dinner and we’ll cook you into a nice meal.” As friendly as they appear, leaving yourself at the mercy of a primitive society can be a bad idea, yet none of them actually take any precautions. But then the aliens aren’t real and neither is their culture, they’re two dimensional caricatures intended to make a political point. There’s no complexity or contradictions here. It’s not a primitive culture, it’s a primitive culture theme park courtesy of Disney where nothing can actually hurt you.

But this “noble savage” aspect of the natives drives what little in the way of a story this episode has. Which is that the natives are better off

star trek voyager Natural Law

"Do your wise and noble people have any hallucinogenic herbs to share?"

being cut off by the barrier from the rest of the universe. The episode denigrates the research team for arrogantly thinking they know what’s best for the natives and Chakotay challenges Seven demanding to know how she can think she knows what’s best for the natives. This is nice except that Natural Law is dedicated to the premise that the Voyager crew know what’s better for the natives more than anyone else, including the natives’ advanced cousins and the natives themselves!

The barrier was a piece of alien artificial technology. The result was to isolate the natives trapping them in a static, unchanging, primitive society for centuries. After a surface encounter with the native culture, Chakotay and Seven arrogantly assume that they have perfect knowledge of them and can make decisions for them. They praise the wonders of the native lifestyle ignoring the fact that this lifestyle is artificial and imposed by the barrier. And one wonders what the average lifespan is for the natives right now. Undoubtedly, a fraction of Chakotay’s or that of the writers so ready to praise such a lifestyle and so unready to adopt it. It’s almost amusing to see how many simple-living tales come out of Hollywood, a place as synonymous with simple living as the People’s Republic of China is with human rights.

Janeway, then, bizarrely presents the aliens with an ultimatum– ordering them to leave a planet in their own solar system. Of course she expects them to obey, as the Federation would no doubt obey if the Vulcans stopped by Earth and ordered them to leave the American continent. Unsurprisingly, they attack Voyager instead in a very restrained manner, indeed showing far more restrain than Janeway has. She and Chakotay claim to be doing it in the best interest of the natives but beyond a passing glance of their culture and a few words of their language, they know nothing of that culture. The natives themselves don’t get consulted on the subject. Their curiosity, their desire for knowledge and their fascination with Voyager’s technology are dismissed as aberrations that would interfere with their primitive way of life. Yet just about every action of the aliens suggests that they want more, yet is ignored as being counterproductive to maintaining their own primitive way of life; because the Voyager crew of course knows what is better for the natives than the natives know themselves. This is the ultimate arrogance, the ultimate colonialism, as the Voyager crew reduce the natives to children who can’t think or choose or decide for themselves.

Next week: Neelix finally goes to join his own people.

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