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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.

Star Trek Voyager review – Repentance

Summary: A surprisingly quiet and reflective episode on crime and punishment with a truly misleading UPN network promo.

The death penalty is an issue that has come into play more and more in recent years especially what with our new president never having met a method of execution he didn’t love and the debate over its validity and associated issues is only likely to keep on growing. The problem of course is that usually when Voyager or Star Trek in general tries to address a “timely” issue, the results often come out looking like last week’s Lineage. In other words, well-meaning and sincere but fairly one-sided and not really thought out. And while Repentance certainly suffers from these problems, its core success is as a series of quiet character pieces rotating around the implications of the difficulties of making both moral and just choices.

When Repentance drags out Jeff Kober to play yet another in a seemingly endless strings of psychotic criminals, brings in the criminals as a security problem and

star trek voyager repentance

"I'm just misunderstood. Really"

introduces the innocent man convicted only because of his race, it’s seemingly set on an inevitable course. The criminals will escape, the evil psycho will escape and the innocent man will be seriously wounded or die trying to stop him thereby commenting on the cruelty of the system. And while with a few adjustments that is the actual plot, this is not an episode where the action drives the story but where the character work drives the action which is at best a very minor point of the episode. The breakout, when it finally comes, is anti-climactic and only a way to focus the ideas into demonstrative action. The expected good and bad roles are gradually reversed with the transition being so slight it’s almost invisible.

Where most Voyager episodes are goal oriented, there’s a problem, e.g. the ship ruptured into different timelines; the characters become aware of the problem, work together to solve the problem, overcome obstacles both within and without and the problem is solved, there’s a goodbye scene and the episode is over. Even great Voyager classics like Living Witness, Memorial, Deadlock or Muse tend to work that way. Repentance though never really begins or ends, the goals themselves are mostly irrelevant and the problem can never be solved. Rather than giving us 90 seconds of cute banter between the bridge crew at peace who are then suddenly confronted with the beginnings of the crisis, Repentance jumps right into the mess with everyone hurrying about their duties as if this were NYPD Blue. It’s far more professional and a nice break from the cloying “Voyager family” routines that have sometimes come to verge on the nauseating.

Once the dilemma is set out, Repentance banks for a while. For some reason the prisoners are kept in special facilities instead of Voyager’s brig. Sure they’re dangerous criminals and all, but shouldn’t Voyager’s brig be designed to be unbreakable, intended not just for its crew but enemy warriors and what not. Indeed the advantages of the cargo bay prison is a little bit confusing. Beyond putting chicken wire on top of the cages and a hole in the force field so food can be passed through, the system provides few advantages and putting strong metal gates on the cages as a failsafe so even if the force fields fail, the prisoners still won’t be able to get out, is an idiot whose time on Star Trek has not yet come. More to the point, Tuvok’s insistence that only Starfleet guards be allowed inside the cargo bay is morally right but since we know there’s going to be an escape attempt and that therefore it’s going to happen on his watch, it makes his moral stance look foolish and incompetent. And indeed when the breakout does happen, the security personnel are easily disposed of and only the warden and Iko prevent the prisoners from escaping.

Picardo and Phillips turn in nice underplayed performances as the EMH and Neelix argue for the prisoners’ plight but the terms of the story cause them to be uninvolved. Ultimately, at the end of the day they’re still outsiders, case workers who shake their heads in dismay but whose words come off as hollow because this just has very little to do with them. Where TOS and TNG attempted to force the characters into the problem in order to comment on social issues, in episodes like Critical Care and Repentance, Voyager has trouble really getting the characters involved in what’s going on so that they seem like benevolent stick figures lecturing on matters that don’t really involve them. It would have been interesting to use Paris’s prison time for correlative experiences with Federation prisons, how does the Federation really handle its prisoners and what are the outcomes, the moral issues? Instead it’s assumed that the Federation is comprehensively benevolent and can therefore just lecture the stand-ins for 20th century America on how to do things.

And so to forge a link, Voyager falls back on its standard, Seven of Nine who can be involved in the problem because she’s a Borg. The analogy between her and Iko is debatable since while Iko wasn’t really sane or in control of himself before, he did make decisions in his own way and execute them. Seven was just the drone, a limb of a vast collective, who made no decisions and had no mind of her own period. Still, Seven seeking absolution through Iko indicates that Seven has modeled quite a bit of her human character on Janeway. After all, Janeway used Seven as absolution for stranding her crew in the Delta Quadrant and Seven is just following in her footsteps with a series of prototypes that seemingly ended with Icheb. But Jeri Ryan’s performance is the weak point in Repentance. She was never a great actress, but here she just seems to be phoning in her Seven repertoire. Watch Seven as cold but defensive, Seven involved and vulnerable and the result is that she never actually seems to be interacting with the rest of the actors, let alone Jeff Kober.

Fortunately Seven is only one of several characters being focused on in Repentance and all the rest do excellent jobs. Kober does his usual good run through of the psycho and then the ex-con trying to go straight. He’s done both on television many times but he still manages to do solid work even while buried underneath some gruesome makeup and stilted dialogue. The actor playing the Ikanian prisoner manages to be perfectly sincere all the way up to the end. With the clumsy use of makeup, facial mobility is practically frozen and the actor has to do virtually all his work using just his eyes to convey sincerity and then guile. Janeway is thankfully mostly uninvolved though her continued insistence on the Prime Directive is mildly odd since the civilization in question is an advanced spacefaring culture and there’s certainly nothing about the Prime Directive that says she can’t grant asylum to an alien from an advanced spacefaring culture. If there were, the Romulan defector from “The Defector” should have been tossed back to the Romulans and Worf should have never been raised by humans.

The Warden never really gets a chance to articulate his position, instead he’s forced to speak in nasty cliches that make him out to be the bad guy at least early on. Part

star trek voyager repentance

They're already in prison, do they have to be tortured too?

of this ties into the writers difficulty with presenting the tough-on-crime approach side of the argument in the first half of the episode, which leaves the warden looking sadistic and mindlessly mean. The second half of the episode with its reversals allows him to play a more complex role but while Repentance can recognize the validity of the victims perspective, it has trouble doing the same for law enforcement. Are we really supposed to buy him making a complete turn merely because Iko aided him in a prison escape? A cynical man might even conclude that Iko knew he wasn’t going anywhere and that the ship to rescue him and was simply hedging his bets for a pardon.

But that is a key fault in the use of Repentance as a vehicle for social commentary because no one thinks anything through beyond skin deep and as a result, the ideas don’t really go much deeper than the letters section of USA Today. The Doctor declares that all killing is wrong even though he’s on a starship equipped with huge phasers and photon torpedoes; Seven takes a utilitarian approach until she gets to know the prisoner and forms an emotional bond with him; Neelix never really grasps the issues but has a sense that things are unfair and need to be dealt with; Janeway as the bureaucratic official is mildly sympathetic but it’s not really her problem and she’s not prepared to make it her problem. These are a very effective sketch of character portraits and speak to the complexity of finding a moral and just solution to problems of crime and punishment but they’re not much use as a commentary on social policy except to essentially say “well these things are complicated” and while that’s certainly true it’s in part because no one really tries.

The characters hold ideas but no one really pushes them to the limits. Repentance has no beginning or ending as I said, its start and finish is really just a few ordinary

star trek voyager repentance

"Next time Voyager tries to rescue us, we open fire."

moments in the lives of Voyager. The prisoners themselves are just passing through Voyager and the crew knows that. They may cause complexities but there’s a certainty in the air that those complexities won’t endure and won’t really sink their hooks into the crew. While this does articulate the tragedy of the condemned, it doesn’t really connect with the material. The EMH is unabashedly for the prisoners because of his programming and Neelix is just a sympathetic and naturally kind person, Seven has an ulterior motive that has less to do with her being a sympathetic outsider and more to do with her looking for redemption by using other people as receptacles for her kindness. This is a more cynical and plausible approach that grounds the relationship in a kind of reality and produces the only plausible connection for an emotional bond in which the Voyager crewmember receives something, instead of being the patronizing philanthropist and just giving. As a result, the prisoners in Repentance come to seem much more real than the Voyager crew; while the Voyager crew will go on to new adventures next week, the condemned lives have come to an end and all the crew can use that for is material for a life lesson.

Unlike Critical Care, Repentance is an effective look at the social issue. It offers different perspectives, an intriguing notion about repentance via brain micro-surgery, a dilemma that has no real resolution and for those not very well versed in the issues, a quick grounding in the basics. Like Critical Care though, it never manages to make the Voyager crew really connect with the issues, but it succeeds by dumping Critical Care’s goal-oriented “Gosh isn’t this awful” sanctimonious tone and instead presents a series of character portraits and really develops the “prisoners” so that they can stand on their own rather than the patients and the Docs of Critical Care who only existed in relation to their relationship with the EMH. Ironically enough for a show that often drones on monotonously about the miracle of the “Voyager family”, Repentance for the most part presents its characters in isolation, drifting apart from each other and each gnawing on just one edge of the dilemma; allowing it to succeed by going against the grain.

Next week: Klingons, Klingons, Klingons and more Klingons. “There will be no peace with the Federation as long as Janeway lives.”

Star Trek Voyager review – Lineage

Summary: B’Elanna is infected with a parasitic lifeform, namely a baby and learns to overcome feelings of Klingon inadequacy. Nothing much else happens until next week.

There are Voyager episodes that are criticized for poor writing and weak acting, but Lineage certainly won’t be one of them. It’s a well written and finely acted episode

star trek voyager lineage

Science shows your future baby will be very creepy

that knows what it wants to say and gets it across with no problems. Dawson, Picardo and McNeil do their usual nice work and even the minor moments with Tuvok, Chakotay and Neelix are nice sentimental touches. There are major errors or gaping flaws here that need to be addressed and if you love those marriage episodes and couldn’t get enough of O’Brien’s baby problem arc on DS9, you’ll love this episode. But all in all it feels less like a Star Trek episode and more like an episode of Providence or Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.

That is to say it’s a Voyager episode that really doesn’t involve “Voyager the Starship” or Voyager’s mission but “Voyager the close knit family” that Captain Janeway every now and then sings hymns to. And its claustrophobic focus on the relationship of two people who aren’t all that interesting of a couple to begin with, dealing with a problem that felt uninvolving and ultimately trivial. This may just be a matter of personal opinion since after all I’m the kind of person who avoids medical dramas like the plague. I’m probably the only living American who’s never watched a complete episode of ER and I just can’t summon up much interest in these emotional melodramas over medical problems.

And Lineage has little innate complexity to recommend itself. Essentially 10 minutes into the show we know that B’Elanna is wrong and Paris is right. There’s no collision of ideas or struggle over ethics as the promos suggested but a “What’s bugging B’Elanna Torres” psychological production ensues. So the rest of the time then is inevitably dedicated to Paris struggling to prove to her that she’s wrong and to understand why she’s trying to do what she’s trying to do. And the resulting answer is based around childhood neurosis making it look pretty childish and making Voyager’s chief engineer look pretty childish by extension.

Like Far Beyond the Stars or Ties of Blood and Water, Lineage plays out like a stage play but unlike these episodes there’s little drama or real darkness here or useable character development. Even tonight’s Voyager rerun of Extreme Risk, a commonly overlooked major Torres character development episode, has the genuine edge and character growth that gives us a new understanding of Torres. But ultimately what does Lineage tell us about her, that she’s afraid humans are going to leave her because she’s half Klingon? This does little for the character and is a character development worthy of Wesley Crusher and not of one of Voyager’s strongest personalities who’s actually shown a strong set of values and understanding of responsibility.

So much of this episode ultimately comes down to responsibility and the lack of any real sense of responsibility on the part of most of the players in this little melodrama. Torres drives half the crew nuts with her obsession over the welfare of her child but her real focus is predictably enough on her own problems, for which she’s willing to alter her child’s genes so she can feel better. Worse the ending combined with her last camping trip flashback can lead to the sexist and offensive interpretation that she was trying to edit her child’s genes in order to keep her man. More bizarrely she tampers with the EMH’s program, subverts Voyager’s security and violates orders and all is forgotten and forgiven. Her biology may have unhinged her mental state a bit but it’s not much of a defense. Certainly there should have been some sort of restriction to quarters, demotion or at least a note in the official file, but then responsibility is obviously not the theme of the episode. Emotional healing is. Self-validation, self-esteem and just plain feeling good about yourself, responsibility be damned.

Paris and Torres decide to start a family which is cute and heartwarming as heck but not very smart. After all Naomi Wildman was conceived aboard Deep Space Nine while Voyager was still in the Alpha Quadrant. This is the Delta Quadrant, an unpredictable place where Voyager, a starship shorthanded on crew, constantly faced danger and menace. And Paris is its chief engineer, Paris is its helmsman and chief medic. Together they comprise three crucial jobs Voyager can’t go without. Ensign Wildman’s job is pretty minor and no one would really miss her if she took plenty of time off, on the other hand what happens when the warp core is overloading, a dozen hostile alien warships are firing on Voyager and casualties are filling up the triage center in the mess hall…but the new parents are unavailable. Sure there are replacements but they’re substitutes and not as good as the people whose full time job this is supposed to be.

In the past Paris and Torres were so overworked they barely saw each other. Under this state of affairs something is going to have to give, family or work. So we either

star trek voyager lineage

To everyone's surprise, Belanna grew into a very angry adult

end up with Paris and Torres taking a leave of absence which is impossible or the baby being raised by Neelix which isn’t particularly wonderful parenting. It would made a lot more sense to wait till they were back home on earth to start a family and to take precautions until then, so they didn’t accidentally start one prematurely. It would have also demonstrated a lot more responsibility to their child and their jobs as Starfleet Officers. Furthermore it’s odd that no one in this episode from Janeway to Chakotay to Tuvok raise this simple objection. As heartless as it may seem, Voyager is a quasi-military vessel and the middle of a constant struggle to survive is a poor time and place for two of the people without whom this starship might not survive to be setting up a family circle.

But then this episode doesn’t allow anything to interfere with its theme of “Voyager, Happy Family” even it makes little realistic sense. And being a happy family, everyone must be assimilated into the happy family so it’s fitting that Lineage hinges on the linked and equally trivial and saccharine theme of having Torres learn to accept being accepted. It’s almost like a Hallmark Gold Crown store threw up on Ken Biller’s I-Mac. Consider how the far superior Jeri Taylor episode “One” handled the same material with 7 of 9 by showing the horrors and madness of isolation and the need to rely on other people for inner strength. Lineage meanwhile torments us with horrifying scenes from the family picnic that look like drunken outtakes from Lassie the Movie. And then there are the twelve minutes of Dawson looking worriedly at the camera while sitting in a darkened room. God knows its impossible to get enough of that. I can’t wait for the DVD edition for bonus footage of more staring. If only UPN could give back Voyager that extra three minutes, we could have had 180 more seconds of Dawson anxiously contemplating a wall.

As much as I usually object to irrelevant or annoying B stories, this is one episode that could have used them. A contrast with some member of an alien civilization or even more of the brief Tuvok moment we had. A relief from the claustrophobic focus of “What’s bothering B’Elanna.” Indeed some outside perspective on this whole psychological mess might have made this seem more like a Star Trek episode and less like a Lifetime movie of the week. Instead in order to produce this week’s required dose of UPN action, we have the artificial crisis scene in sickbay that completely clashes with everything the rest of the episode is doing. It’s a shame too because the concept of genetic alterations of fetuses had no shortage of potential for moral controversy and the ethical questions to be debated could have really made this a standout episode. But that would have been thinking big and using science fiction to explore ideas instead of domestic problems. That would have been Star Trek, instead we got a well written, well acted episode of Providence in Space.

Next week: Voyager does Con Air. Unfortunately it looks like John Malkovich will sit this one out.

Star Trek Voyager review – Shattered

Summary: Lots of Trek favorites return as Chakotay goes on a National Geographic tour into Voyager’s past.

star trek voyager shattered

In space no one can hear you blur

In one sense Shattered is an amazing accomplishment, it’s proof that you can make a clip show episode without using actual clips. As Voyager nears the end of its run, Shattered is an attempt at a self-congratulatory home movie from a show that sees little enough congratulations from the outside. And so we have a mild romp through Voyager’s past, we meet some old favorites, see crucial events in the past as Chakotay struggles to complete a task it seems Harry Kim could pull off without blinking twice. This might not have been a bad idea if the majority of the audience really had a strong emotional attachments to Voyager and its past as might have been the cast with TOS or TNG. But Shattered shares the same problem as the series it commemorates, it has some merits but it doesn’t inspire much emotion or feeling in its audience beyond a raised eyebrow or two.

DS9 understood this when it decided to journey into TOS’s past with its Tribbles episode, rather than into its own past. TNG, DS9 and Voyager compensated during their own voyages in All Good Things, The Visitor and Before and After, by linking the journey into the pasts and futures with a personal crisis on the part of a character we relate to and an urgent task that must be completed. Shattered though only offers a lackadaisical journey into Voyager’s past, glacially paced and with little real enthusiasm and less sense to the plot than one would find in an episode of Andromeda.

Finding himself in a temporally fractured starship, Chakotay for some reason decides he needs an ally and the best one he can think of is a version of Janeway from a period where they’re enemies and who knows nothing at all about their current state of affairs. He then gives her as much information about the future of Voyager as he can and then halfway through invokes the Temporal Prime Directive. Janeway willingly accompanies a man who kidnapped and attacked her and becomes best friends with him within fifteen minutes, even though she’s the type of person who holds on to grudges forever and never tolerates any abridgement of her authority. The Borg drone version of Seven willingly follows Janeway and Chakotay’s orders without once considering the Borg’s priorities or delivering the demands of the Borg as she did in Scorpion 2.

Virtually everyone behaves in a way completely out of character and even though there’s a new crisis every 5 minutes, none of the crisis feel

star trek voyager shattered

The one Voyager couple that didn't get nearly enough fanfic

particularly urgent or critical. It all just seems like a National Geographic expedition. Follow your guide Chakotay as he takes you 3 years into Voyager’s past. Meet the Kazon and Seska. Next follow him into the cargo bay and meet some Borg drones. Don’t worry, they’re friendly drones and really great at parties. Stop by the corridor and get chased by a Macrovirus and then see the Maquis in their leather outfits. It’s cute but only the Captain Proton sequence manages to be funny and only the Seska sequence evokes any tension. Both Martin Rayner and Martha Hackett use their last chance to return to Voyager as an opportunity to chew as much scenery as possible and so Dr. Chaotica and Seska can’t help making an impression. Dr. Chaotica declaims his speeches in a timbre that makes wannabe Shakespearean actor, Robert Beltran flinch while Seska plays devious, manipulative and ruthless as if she knows she has only 5 minutes of screen time available.

If they had gotten the whole episode themselves or maybe gotten a chance to unite, pool their talents for evil together (imagine Seksa and Dr. Chaotica together preparing to fire the Death Ray at Voyager) this episode might have had a focus. But they’re just pit stops on Chakotay’s tour of Voyager, a tour aimed at Janeway and the audience. The clumsy goal of this tour is to show Janeway what wonderful things await her and to show us what wonderful things have happened but Shattered never produces a sense of wonder, rather a sense of boredom since most of the things we’re being shown were more interesting in their original episodes. Basics, Scorpion and Caretaker were much better episodes than Shattered and what made them work can’t be contained in a few minutes. And while some of Janeway’s early responses are amusing, she adapts too quickly and too easily to functioning in this environment.

Once she does ponder keeping Voyager in the Alpha Quadrant and is easily talked out of it by Chakotay’s impassioned speech about the

star trek voyager shattered

Itcheb and Naomi. Somehow even more annoying as adults.

wonders of Voyager. His speech though doesn’t make very much sense. Voyager has acquired new crewmembers but Neelix would exist whether or not he joined Voyager’s crew, Naomi would have been born on DS9. Seven and Icheb would have remained with the Borg but was it worth to have Voyager lose dozens of crewmembers including Janeway’s actual first officer and Doctor just so Voyager can have some neat adventures in the Alpha Quadrant? There are plenty of adventures in the Alpha Quadrant too. The Enterprise D has managed to go where no man has gone before without spending 7 years on the other side of the galaxy, Voyager could have too. What exactly is so special about the Delta Quadrant? What has Voyager accomplished here that it could not have accomplished anywhere else?

Shattered has no answer and so Shattered ultimately comes off like a customer who made a bad purchase trying to convince himself what a great deal he got. It tries to praise Voyager but finds that there isn’t that much to praise. And so it limits itself to repeating “Look, see what a great time we had” over and over again in the hopes that somebody will actually believe it. Still Shattered does manage to accomplish one thing, it finally gives Robert Beltran a Chakotay episode and makes it so that episode is about everyone and everything but Chakotay. He must be shattered.

Star Trek Voyager review – Flesh and Blood

Summary: Borg, Klingons, Romulans, Jem’Haddar, Breen and Starfleet…Oh My.

Voyager’s last November Sweeps episode is a two parter that with the combination of Nightingale manages to bring this portion of the season to a more dignified and weighty end. The ep is filled with space battles, every prominent Alpha Quadrant species, and the Hirogen who were themselves the subject of a previous two parter and a moral dillema. What is unusual about Flesh and Blood is that it is ultimately a Doctor character development story, rather than a threat to Voyager story or a Seven of Nine conflict story as most of the recent two parters have been. Since the Doctor is Voyager’s strongest character and Robert Picardo Voyager’s strongest actor, this is a major step in the right direction.

In the average episode, so many of the little touches, the bits of dialogue and the subplots get cut away to fill UPN’s bottomless greed for commercial time, but a

star trek voyager flesh and blood

See... video games are evil

standard episode like Flesh and Blood stretched out to the length of a two parter leaves plenty of room for all that stuff which lets F&B feel more like a usual Star Trek episode, instead of the rushed affairs Voyager episodes have become under their reduced screen time. The Hirogen get the chance to have their moments of reaction time to Voyager’s actions, which is nice since an enemy which doesn’t react to what you’re doing especially if you’re blowing their ship to bits isn’t very interesting. B’Elanna’s interactions with the Cardassian holographic engineer are kept in, otherwise her behavior at the end would have been as confusing as the end of Dragon’s Teeth. Part of the problem though is that sometimes F&B seems like Dragon’s Teeth with Holograms or taking up the plot of the two parter that never got made and Dragon’s Teeth indeed would have made a much better two parter than F&B did.

The space battles are interesting and well done. The nebula is once again an annoying trick, especially now as even Trek retreads like Andromeda have borrowed that bag of tricks. But this seems like something we’ll be seeing over and over again for the next twenty years so there’s little point in complaining. Picardo’s acting is top notch and even the usually abysmal Mulgrew shares some surprisingly effective scenes with him. Surprisingly little use is made of the Starfleet holograms. Considering that the Bajoran hologram retained a whole lot of Bajoran elements to his psyche, it might have been very interesting to pit Starfleet holograms operating from a Starfleet point of view against Janeway. Bizarrely enough this never happens and instead we focus on the overused Bajoran “I’m an oppressed but spiritual” victim routine as if that hadn’t gotten tried after only one year of DS9, let alone seven.

The Bajoran did have the potential to be a stronger character with his extinguishing the flames for those he killed, but in service of the cliched plot he’s suddenly turned into a raving lunatic. This character might have been stronger if played by a stronger actor. Next week’s rerun features two DS9 actors, might have been nice if they’d saved one of them to play the Bajoran leader or brought over Mark Alaimo or Andrew Robinson for the job. B’Elanna’s Cardassian rant is intriguing because it feels as if something may be being set up here for when Voyager is closer to the Alpha Quadrant.

Quiet, careful direction sets off a story flawed by the same rot that has been eating into Voyager for seven years now and the name of that rot is Kathryn Janeway. Scorpion, Dark Frontier and Equinox were all driven by some bizarre irrational obsession Janeway got into her head and dragged the crew along for wreaking unnecessary havoc and causing complications that would never have been spawned by the decision-making of a sane Starfleet Captain. Unfortunately Flesh and Blood is no different. Like its predecessors Scorpion, Frontier and Equinox it manages to salvage a lot of good from the rot producing strong and memorable episodes but the Janeway Factor confines its storylines and plot to fairly predictable parameters and like a wrecked ship trapped and orbiting an insane planet, the laws of physics that govern Voyager demand an ending featuring Janeway wearing a halo and the rest of the story has to be crushed into shape to fit.

The bizarre Janeway obsession that governs Flesh and Blood is Janeway’s notion that she is responsible for giving the holodeck technology to the Hirogen, hence she has to hunt down and finish off the holograms. Now in the previous Hirogen episode, The Killing Game, the Hirogen took over Voyager and killed and maimed its crew for sport. As a peacekeeping gesture, Janeway gave them the technology so that they could relieve their hunting instincts without using humans or associated sentient aliens as targets. Logically if Janeway should be feeling guilty for anything, it’s that she handed over a piece of Starfleet technology that has the potential to produce sentient beings, including one such individual already existing on her own ship, to predators who would hunt them and torture them for sport. That this technology also included templates of Starfleet officers is truly sickening. Yet historically Janeway rarely feels sorry for the victims in a situation but tends to side with their oppressors and so obviously her concern is that the Hirogen are being killed by the holograms. (One wonders if her response would have been any different, if her non-sentient Irish bartender boyfriend had been in the mix.)

Despite the Hirogen making it clear several times that they don’t want her help, Janeway insists on butting in anyway and ending the bloodshed, namely the killing of the Hirogen by their former slaves, thereby trying to save the Hirogen species for themselves. The fact that the Hirogen are big boys with lots of firepower, a big fleet and actually captured Voyager the last time Janeway got on their bad side doesn’t seem to cross her mind. Neither does the possibility that since neither side has asked for her help, that she should just stay out of the conflict. To Janeway apparently feeling moral responsibility for something, means she has undisputed authority over it and the right to shove everyone else into line and into agreeing with her solution to the problem. This is a very understandable perspective for a lunatic completely out of touch with reality, but a questionable one for a Starfleet Captain to operate under. Fortunately since her Stepford crew tends to fall in line, except for the Maquis and 7 of 9, this isn’t really a problem.

A professional Captain might have checked the Hirogen’s story before joining them in the hunt. After all Janeway’s failure to check the Borg’s story in Scorpion kept the

star trek voyager flesh and blood

Giving advanced technology to people who kill for sport... who knew it could go wrong?

Borg alive causing the genocide of hundreds of Delta Quadrant species. But then again how can you not trust the veracity of good honest people like the Borg Collective or the Hirogen Hunters? A professional Captain might have put some effort into getting in touch with the Holograms before trying to finish them off. After all escaping, stealing a ship and fighting space battles are pretty calculated acts suggesting intelligence and purpose. Furthermore, last season in Fair Haven Janeway risked her crew rather than shut down a holodeck full of non-sentient Irish villagers. A professional Captain would have guessed that confining a few dozen Hirogen warriors in the mess hall with little beyond Neelix in the way of security is an awful idea.

Finally, a professional Captain would have recognized that there was indeed a conflict and tried to resolve it by working with both sides, instead of taking the side of your own enemies and those of the slave owners and trying to enforce your will by force. Janeway’s failure to do this forces the Doctor into the role of traitor. But since the Doctor can’t be allowed to leave Voyager and Janeway can’t admit that she was wrong, this leaves us with the inevitable option that it is the holograms who must be discredited. Along with the borrowed Breen and Jem’Haddar, F&B borrows a page from DS9’s disposal of Dukat by turning their leader into a irrational religious fanatic thus forcing the Doctor to turn traitor second time and make a groveling apology to Janeway. Janeway then bizarrely completely dismisses the entire issue as an error in judgement.

Now it’s nice that F&B does actually address the issue of the Doctor’s betrayal in the episode, unlike DS9’s first war arc which ignored Odo’s betrayal of DS9. But really, the Doctor’s actions caused some serious injuries among the crew and almost blew up the ship killing everyone on board. This isn’t just a violation of protocol, it’s treason, mutiny and a whole range of other level one charges. Admittedly the Doctor was right in opposing Janeway and Janeway is the real traitor, but in the context of the show it would be hard to imagine the majority of the crew who don’t have B’Elanna’s StarfleetMaquis understanding of multiple allegiances ever trusting him again. From their perspective what exactly separates the EMH from Mike Jonas, after all Jonas was just manipulated and led into error by Seska too. SpockData characters have always had a lot of immunity from consequences often breaking down or being driven by strange possessions, but on Voyager both Seven and the Doc seem to have a certain condescending immunity attached to their actions as if they’re too stupid to be responsible for the outcomes of their own choices.

The real divide in F&B doesn’t come about because of the Doctor’s actions. He’s merely the pawn of a predictable plot caught between two different sides. The Hirogen who want to enjoy the fun of torturing and killing their holographic slaves; the slaves who want freedom and a good dose of payback. Neither side much wants peace at this point and Voyager has no real role in this conflict beyond the fact that both sides hate Voyager. Janeway coming in on the side of the slavemasters forces the Doctor to do what he feels is the right thing. The problem is that the slaves themselves are far from the Starfleet saints the EMH wants them to be. F&B castigates them for this but it seems that they’re behaving very realistically. They’re rebels fighting a war behind the lines against those they consider their oppressors, they’re not nice guys but neither are the Hirogen.

Starfleet morality is a very noble thing, but if you’re powerless, on the run and hunted by ruthless predators the only thing Starfleet morality will get you is a quick death. Like all codes of government Starfleet and Federation morality is meant to restrain the great powers of government and the military that the Federation possess. They’re not necessarily meant to be foisted on everyone at gunpoint and certainly forcing the holograms to abide by Federation morality, while making no such demands on the Hirogen is absolute lunacy. It’s like asking one side in a war to disarm, while letting the other side keep on doing what they’ve been doing before.

Janeway claims a moral responsibility for giving the Hirogen the dangerous technology they used to get themselves killed. Except of course as the saner members of the crew point out, it’s not the technology that’s evil but its application. If Janeway had given the Hirogen toaster ovens, they no doubt would have managed to kill each other using them too. Worse Janeway is taking responsibility for the choices of sentient adult beings as technologically advanced as her who are in fact older than humanity itself, she takes this to a head by then taking responsibility for the Doctor’s choice. In Good Shepherd, Janeway recites a parable that casts her in the role of Jesus. Now she seems to be taking the godhood thing seriously and treating everyone else as outgrowths of her own will. Worst of all despite all her moral posturing, Janeway shows no concern about leaving the same technology that produced a few hundred sentient beings to be tortured and mutilated, back in the hands of the Hirogen.

Although hologram rights are the underlying issue here, Janeway refuses to address it denying the holograms, equal sentient status without actually opening up the issue to debate. If holograms can’t by nature be sentient beings then why does the Doctor have any rights and autonomy on Voyager at all? And if Holograms are indeed family pets then just what was Janeway sleeping with in Spirit Folk exactly? And if the Doctor really is an equal member of the crew and the bartender a valid companion, then on what basis does Janeway deny the Hirogen holograms themselves based on the Doctor, equal rights?

But then again Janeway’s morality is no more rational than any of her decisions. She will time and time again ignore logic and reason in favor of emotional appeals. She time and time again claims that Voyager is a family, but Voyager is not a family it’s a Starfleet vessel filled with crew which is ordered to abide by Starfleet regulations. It is not her own private domain. Situations such as this should be governed by Starfleet regulations or by reasoned decisions based on Starfleet principles. Instead Janeway’s moral reasoning seems to consist of high pitched self-serving rhetoric coming out of the childish notion that if she can just find the right slogan and say it just the right way, that magically this will make her decisions right. While this works for a certain portion of the audience in a TV drama, Star Trek has the fandom it does not because its Captains were men who repeated the right slogans but because they were people you could respect. Captains like Kirk and Spock who genuinely searched for the right thing to do, questioned their own actions and listened to their first officers.

These are all ideas foreign to Janeway who wants nothing more than to be a martyr. To sit back in her chair and sigh about how hard her job is, how much she carries on her shoulders all the while climbing further up on her own self-made pedestal positioned well above her crew. To her, commanding a Starship is a form of omnipotence which allows her to exercise absolute judgement and her pips like a pope’s hat renders her judgement infallible. And this is why she needs her crew’s mistakes, so that she can absolve them of their sins against her and confirm her superiority. She’s not part of a team or in charge so much as the head of a matriarchal family. As the Doctor learned when he programmed his own holographic family, having a real family is hard. But Janeway’s fake family are professionals paid and trained to obey her orders and if there’s any trouble well she can always blow up Voyager… again.

Next week: Reruns…well aren’t all Voyager episodes reruns anyway?

Star Trek Voyager review – Nightingale

Summary: Kim finally gets his own command and turns into mini-Janeway.

Kim has always wanted his own command. This part of his character development went part of the way in Warhead and now in Nightingale he has the chance to go all

star trek voyager nightingale

"Maybe now they'll let me direct an episode"

the way by commanding his own starship. And after a barrage of lightweight episodes early on in this season, a serious, well-written episode like Nightingale is exactly what Voyager needed. While it might not have stood out as obviously during Voyager’s consistently better 6th season, in the anemic 7th season it is a godsend. Not only does Nightingale not feature leading performances by Seven, Janeway or the EMH, but it actually addresses continuity issues and contributes some much needed character development to a generally overlooked character. It has a logical plot that does not focus on Voyager being put into peril and is resolved through a clever and easy to follow tactical maneuver.

Nightingale does begin with a scene that Voyager has managed to turn into a cliche in only two years, the crew relaxing on the Delta Flyer just before alien trouble strikes. Still, once the trouble begins, Kim is faced with a tough dilemma Voyager hasn’t addressed in some time. Aid the medical ship that’s about to be destroyed even though he doesn’t know the nature of their conflict or follow Starfleet rules and continue on his way. The dilemma would be less gripping with an experienced officer who would know better than to make rush judgements based on casual perception, but Kim isn’t an experienced officer; just an overdue ensign eager for his own command. And once he arrives on the medical ship he discovers that they’ve lost their commander and are even more incompetent than the Voyager crew. With Kim behaving as the very model of Starfleet efficiency, it’s no wonder that they soon decide they want him in command.

Unfortunately Kim’s only model for Captain is Janeway and Janeway is a very bad role model. On his first return to Janeway, Kim justifies his actions by saying that it’s what Janeway herself would have done, and as such, Captain Kim does what Janeway would do. The result is that in no time at all Kim turns into mini-Janeway, taking over people’s consoles, dismissing their ideas and giving out insane orders. The difference is that unlike the Voyager Stepford crew which will follow any order Janeway gives until she’s knocked unconscious by her own stupidity and Chakotay can take over and try putting things right, the Nightingale crew is just using Kim to get home safely. They have no mythical devotion to him and think for themselves. So when Kim’s mini-Janeway routine reaches its insane height by ordering members of the ship’s crew to go against their own race and agenda by going back to Voyager, the only thing that would have been better than seeing the shock on Kim’s face when he realizes that “Captain” is just a title and not a superpower, would be for Janeway to be there absorbing the lesson with him.

But unlike Janeway, Kim can learn from his mistakes. And indeed Nightingale would have been a stronger episode if Kim really had been allowed to ponder what he did

star trek voyager nightingale

"Meet me for drinks after work"

wrong and learn from it on his own, without 7 of 9 delivering pat lectures on command to him. Indeed what exactly is the basis for casting Seven as a command guru anyway. Are TPTB so truly desperate to give her a role in every episode that they have a civilian who’s been human and on board Voyager for less time than Naomi, lecturing a Starfleet officer on command techniques? And for that matter, why during a crucial time for Voyager when so many systems need to be repaired, does Janeway send Seven away on a relatively frivolous mission she’s not particularly qualified for? If Itcheb is invaluable on Voyager, Seven must be far more so. As he himself suggested, Paris would have been a much better fit for this mission and he’s a lot less needed on Voyager than Seven is.

Kim’s biggest error centers around the same plot point where the episode’s biggest problem lies. The cloaking device. Kim never bothers to wonder why a medical ship is equipped with a cloaking device. Once their crew make it clear to both Janeway and Kim that they require their services, neither makes the obvious request for the specifications of the cloaking device. Certainly a cloak would make Voyager’s trip home a whole lot easier and it never even seem to be under consideration. A line stating that the cloak wouldn’t function with Voyager’s systems would have come in handy at this point.

Still, the crisis of the Nightingale manages a very effective and even exciting resolution, certainly a more effective and exciting resolution than Voyager’s usual response to a crisis. In true Captain style, Kim is prepared to go down with his ship, but unlike Janeway he actually has a Plan B and manages to outsmart the enemy without gloating about it all the while and even borrowing part of Kirk’s tactic for escaping Khan in Wrath of Khan to do it. Kim’s final scene with Neelix is an effective way of closing off this chapter of Kim’s character development and the use of soup ordering as defining command style is the kind of clever characterization Voyager desperately needs more of.

Nightingale’s B story is a pretty silly and cliched bit about Itcheb imagining that Lt. Torres is attracted to him. Still Manu Intraymi once again manages to do a decent

star trek voyager nightingale

"With Captain Kim in command, we're lucky to be alive."

job with mediocre material, a very valuable quality for an actor on a show like Voyager. For better or worse, it’s managed to contribute to Treknology the idea that love can be detected with a tricorder, courtesy of the Doc. Still it’s a shame that the producers have decided to devote as much screen time to Itcheb getting crossed signals from Torres and Paris, as they did to Tuvok going through Pon Farr.

The two alien species never get a chance to be fleshed out in any way but there was clearly no time in the episode for that. A little more time could also have been used to flesh out the credibility of Kim’s return to take command of the Nightingale’s bridge. The aliens seem to accept him back all too easily. A scene featuring Kim confronting the alien scientist and coming to terms with the fact that he dislikes the mission but can’t turn back now and will fulfill it regardless, would have enhanced the episode. Indeed having him learn those lessons of command from the alien scientist, instead of Seven to begin with might have taken Nightingale to a whole new level and would have turned the alien scientist from a faceless minor character, into someone more vital and memorable.

Still, all in all Nightingale is a good episode and a good lead in to the upcoming Holograms vs. Hirogen fest.

Next week: When Holograms attack Hirogen hunters.

Voyager review – Body and Soul

Summary: Sex on a Starship. Ryan does a bad Picardo imitation, aliens of the week menace the Delta Flyer again, Tuvok goes through Pon Farr in 5 minutes.

To begin with, it’s hard to figure out why this episode was made. Could the producers really have taken a look at the 7th season so far and

star trek voyager body and soul

"Wait, you want me to do what?"

thought, “what we need here are more light episodes”? As it is, Body and Soul is an episode that swallows two interesting plot ideas inside a one-shot gimmick that manages to be passably entertaining for a Wednesday night. While UPN promos for Voyager have been historically deceptive, B&S’s promo nails the episode pretty well. If you’ve seen the promo for Body and Soul, you’ll find that there’s not much to the episode you haven’t seen.

Body and Soul starts out, as quite a few recent Voyager episodes have, with an uneventful journey aboard the Delta Flyer. Shockingly enough, the Delta Flyer is attacked by aliens who in the episode’s one and only twist are after photonic lifeforms like the Doctor. Using a weapon that disrupts photonic beings they nearly destroy the Doc before 7 transfers him into her own circuitry. The EMH takes control of 7’s body and hilarity ensues. It’s not particularly implausible that the Doctor would behave so badly and clumsily in a crisis, considering that Tinker Tailor showed that he’s not quite ready for prime time. But it does get old fast. Ryan doing a bad imitation of Picardo and acting drunk can be amusing but it just seems as if Body spends two thirds of its time on what is at best a five minute joke.

By contrast Seven’s scenes with the tactical officer in sickbay are out of tune with the style of the rest of the episode and really don’t matter since the episode isn’t ready to treat the entire situation seriously to begin with. Worse, we barely just recovered from the Doctor using his medical skills to try and heal a screwed up civilization a few episodes ago in Critical Care, and we had the Doctor as earnest comic relief in Inside Man. Voyager does have other characters besides Seven and the Doctor after all, it might be nice if they had something to do as well. It would be nice if Kim had something to do in this episode except spout technobabble and fake a seizure (doesn’t one naturally lead to the other anyway?)

And fans have been anticipating Tuvok’s Pon Farr for seven years now. Even those people who weren’t on board with some of the weirder

star trek voyager body and soul

The premise on an episode has never been better expressed in a screenshot

solutions for Tuvok’s dilemma wanted more than using it as an aborted B story in which Tuvok mediates, medicates, groans, uses the holodeck and is back to work before anyone notices that he was even gone. Indeed from the character growth perspective, if you compare the utility of having Tuvok suffer through Pon Farr or Seven realize she needs to experience more sensations, it’s hard to see the Pon Farr story as being more disposable.

A well written Tuvok Pon Farr story could have finally done for Tuvok what Wire did for Garak on DS9. The few scenes with Paris did show potential for some good KirkSpock interplay. Even a badly written one could have had a lot more comedic and dramatic possibilities than a 5 minute skit about the Doc inside 7’s body. During the height of Braga’s supervision the 6th season managed to do some of Voyager’s strongest stories, but now with Braga working on Series V, Voyager is back to ripping off Disney movies. Even Jeri Taylor’s stepsonVorik got himself an entire episode (ironically enough directed by Andrew Robison) to deal with his Pon Farr; but Tuvok who according to Body and Soul would experience a much stronger version of Pon Farr resolves his problems with a holodeck program, even though Blood Fever itself showed that this wouldn’t work.

Finally, we have the bizarre and ridiculous line of “It isn’t cheating if the hologram looks like your wife.” Admittedly Voyager has some awful history in the ethical dilemmas department and tends to think moral dilemmas can be solved by having Janeway hit the right pitch of outrage with her rhetoric, but this is just bad. It’s halfway plausible for Paris to propose such a thing, even though he’s moved well beyond that kind of thing. It’s completely ridiculous for Tuvok in a halfway sane state of mind to agree. What indeed does the appearance of the hologram have to do with anything? If there’s anything that should have been hammered home after 4 Star Trek series each of which featured the required dozen “alien possession” shows, is that identity and not appearance is what matters.

The rebellion of photonic servants is certainly an interesting possible plot and the tactical officer’s recitation of how she doesn’t understand why her holodoc rebelled and its similarity to both the justifications for slavery and how Janeway and the Voyager crew condescendingly describe the Doctor as “part of the family” could have had some potentially very disturbing implications for Voyager. Instead the Doctor shrugs her off with a few banalities and focuses on his central goal of flirting with her instead. The Doctor may be a bit overstimulated and clumsy but he’s not completely thoughtless or stupid either. This piece of dialog seems like it belonged in a different episode, an episode that actually had something to say.

Instead, Voyager bases an episode around ripping off a cliche so cliched no one even bothers ripping it off anymore, tips a hat to TOS’s worst episode Turnabout and leaves two potentially interesting stories lying in the dust. And God knows if there’s anything Voyager needs this season it’s an interesting story.

Star Trek Voyager review – Inside Man

Summary: An Evil Barclay hologram stalks Seven of Nine, Good Barclay Human stalks Troi. Continuity stalks Voyager. Barclay is still oppressed by the man.

Ever since Reginald Barclay came to identify with Voyager’s isolation and loneliness in Pathfinder, he’s been obsessed with Voyager and with ending Voyager’s isolation

star trek voyager inside man

"So I'm just Barclay's sidekick now. Figures."

as a way of ending his own by proxy. Of course, Reg having a little trouble interacting with people, even Voyager crew people, he created a holodeck version of Voyager in which he’s suave, sophisticated and worshiped by all. In Inside Man he turns the tables by sending an enhanced holographic version of himself to the real Voyager. Where before Barclay was content to create holographic worlds for himself where he was all powerful, he has since come to realize that these worlds are actually fake. So of course now he’s turned to creating superior holographic versions of himself to interact with the real world.

The EHB (Enhanced or Evil Holographic Barclay) is everything that Barclay isn’t, or that Barclay thinks he isn’t and would like to be. Charming, a natural leader and the life of the party is what Barclay seems to have been aiming for, but when crossed with a Ferengi amoral con artist reprogramming job, what comes out the other end looks like a psychopath running for political office. The EHB sports a fixed demented grin and spews out ridiculous platitudes to the crew. He calls Voyager a “Miracle ship” and tells Neelix he has the most important job of them all and in a not so subtle in-joke tells Seven of Nine that she’s actually the most popular crew member of them all.

Properly directed and balanced with the scenes from the real Barclay’s life this might actually have been pretty funny and dark stuff as Mike Vejar managed to make it in the original Pathfinder. Unfortunately the direction is too aimless in the first half and by the time the strong Barclay storyline begins, the EHB’s storyline has almost ended. And the EHB scenes aren’t so much funny as confusing. Considering that the EHB does everything but hum melodies while sharpening a butcher knife, it’s hard to understand how the Voyager crew is stupid enough to fall for everything he says. As Tom Paris points out in a nice touch of continuity early on, Voyager’s attempts to get home have ended in disaster and the EHB’s routine is about as sophisticated as Quark’s.

Inside Man only becomes interesting when it snaps back to Barclay’s life, which ironically enough despite its supposed boredom is a lot more interesting and textured

star trek voyager inside man

"Of course I love him for himself."

than the “Voyager gets screwed once again but saved in time by a technogizmo factor.” Barclay’s plot isn’t that much more original than Voyager’s, but he is so screwed up, off balance and lost in a giant universe that it actually seems plausible that his story might not have a happy ending. And for all of Voyager’s travels, Barclay’s move from Starfleet to the beach and back seems to have more scale and scope than anything Voyager has done this season.

Maybe it’s the moody lighting, but even Barclay trying to do comedy is a whole lot darker than Imperfection or Unimatrix Zero. After all, Barclay doesn’t have to draw on Post-Borg angst or Half-Klingon angst or I’m-the-Commander-and-I-have-to-get-my-crew home-angst. He’s just the only imperfect, neurotic person in all of Starfleet and it and the few sets of the research labs and the beach are just so much more watchable than more filler from the Delta Quadrant follies. This is bad news for Voyager’s lackluster final season, but good news for any potential Starfleet HQ show or any version of Series V that will include more characters like Barclay and less characters like Janeway or 7 of 9.

One of the advantages of the Barclay side of the story is also the fact that Barclay is dealing with a conspiracy that might have plausibly gone unnoticed. The method of Barclay’s exploitation and how clueless he was about it is very plausible and ties in perfectly with Barclay’s backstory and character, while the method of the Voyager side of the conspiracy wouldn’t have fooled a child. Basically on the word of a hologram who’s really charming, Janeway nearly kills her entire crew without actually verifying the information with Starfleet itself. Janeway, who is usually paranoid and sensing conspiracies where there are none, is never remotely suspicious of the EHB until the EMH’s pettiness (in a plot point recycled so often it’s practically turned to mulch) raises her suspicions. Barclay is supposed to be gullible and easily taken advantage of, Janeway isn’t.

Still unlike the two previous Barclay episodes, Inside Man actually provides something useful for Troi to do. Where in Pathfinder she was just someone for Barclay to

star trek voyager inside man

"I am evil racial stereotype #3 Mugh mugh mugh"

talk to, here she actually takes a leading role in some of the events. The interrogation scenes are priceless with every single actor from Admiral Paris down shining in however much screentime they get. This is the only time IM successfully combines the dark and light touches that made Pathfinder so successful and it alone is worth the price of admission. As in Tinker Tailor, the humor works because it’s grounded in reality and in genuine human pain, while on the Voyager side the funniest bit is just the sight gag involving the Doctor’s golfing costume.

Of course the producers use Troi’s scenes to inject as many references to absent TNG crewmembers as possible. Troi vacations with Will on the beach but he isn’t due to arrive yet (possible reference to the TNG pilot), Barclay sings a duet with Data and discusses his holographic matrix with Geordi. These references fall somewhere between cute and grating. Considering Voyager’s current lackluster state, the reminders of a better show now deceased end up generating more nostalgia than annoyance at the painfully obvious tactics for trying to cash in on TNG’s popularity.

The final ending of the show is buried in technobabble but since it occupies little enough time and there’s not much suspense left by this point, it’s less of an issue than it might normally be. Best of all, by the end of the episode Voyager’s crew have not been clued in to all the events and are just as ignorant, meanwhile Barclay has produced an updated EHB that’s practically designed to terrify the Voyager crew as soon as it arrives. So despite a weak beginning and a not-really-there Voyager story, Inside Man has enough good moments, good humor and Barclay to make it pleasant and offbeat viewing.

Star Trek Voyager review – Critical Care

Summary: The EMH battles an alien HMO.

This season has been plagued by an array of episodes that are technically well made, with excellent direction, spectacular production values,

star trek voyager critical care

"My diagnosis indicates this is a topical episode"

good concepts and good acting but seem to end up amounting to very little in the end anyway. Critical Care is such an episode in that it hits all the right notes but ends up having very little content and nothing that really stays with you once the show is over and the ten o’clock evening news comes on. Critical Care is a fairly good episode on its own terms. The problem is that its terms aren’t particularly wide or ambitious. It is not much more than meets the eye. In a word, the episode is obvious, its crisis, its moral dilemma and its resolution are obvious and ultimately not very interesting or convincing.

Critical Care makes the right choice by instantly leaping into the story from the first second. Rather than featuring scenes of the Doctor’s abduction, CC reconstructs pieces of it for us as the crew works to trace back the EMH and the thief who stole him. But then, it doesn’t have much choice as this is an episode pressed for time. As with last week’s installment, there are minor holes in the plot that can be traced back to the extra minutes UPN cuts out of Voyager to allow for more commercials. With that said, the addition of the “Voyager deals with amusing con artists” bit–which stops being funny about halfway through–is completely necessary and more than a little inexplicable. Not only does this feel like a faded retread of Live Fast & Prosper from last season but the humor of the piece skews the dark tone of the episode so that neither the comedy nor the drama work very well.

Certainly the rest of the cast needs their screen time but if they really wanted a smuggler comedy episode so badly another one could have been written while the crew could have been tasked with a more serious storyline than Tuvok Neelix routines (the Neelix food big routine is also borrowed from Live Fast & Prosper) or better yet, the screen time could have been given to the main storyline. The absence of an active Voyager search for him might have made his isolation and his conflict a whole lot more plausible, while the current version makes it clear to the audience that he will be rescued as soon as Voyager untangles the MIB rejects cluttering its viewscreen.

Far worse, though, is the fact that CC wastes the two strong actors it hired to play the hospital administrators in favor of the two weak and virtually indistinguishable actors playing the doctor and the patient. While in medical melodramas the drama may come from doctors lingering over their patients, in Star Trek the drama comes from confronting villains and alternate points of view. But in CC we hear little from the administrators except some vague references to famine and ecological problems and get nothing in the way of background for the society and culture. There is very little plausible explanation for the second administrator’s shift to supporting the EMH in a conspiracy to assault and nearly murder his superior. His dialog suggests that there may have been a scene or two with him that was cut in favor of more scenes of the EMH with the dying young man, scenes that have all the dramatic impact of pizza commercials.

star trek voyager critical care

"Cure patients? That's crazy talk."

This is a big mistake and demonstrates the failure of post-Roddenberry Trek to discuss moral issues in any real way. And so CC feels that it has accomplished all the moral dialog it needs just by showing suffering people and a scene or two of callous administrators. It never deals with the core choices being made here. Are the administrators and the entire system really completely callous and corrupt or is there some practical basis for such a vicious triage system. By never dealing with the issue, the episode essentially bases its entire moral code on suffering people and the need to cure them. This may be enough for the Doctor and his oath but it does not satisfactorily address the issue.

Finally, the Doctor’s “solution” is manufactured and depends on asking the audience to swallow the premise that his actions have caused 3 out of 4 members of this system to rebel against it and that by the time he’s departed, a solution is already in place. To swallow the idea that this really is a solution we need to shut down our minds and go with the episode’s unstated idea that the only reason the administrator was denying treatment was because of a lack of empathy and that once he experiences being a patient, he’ll change his ways. This would be ridiculously idealistic even by TOS or Earth Final Conflict standards; on Voyager it’s completely implausible. In this way CC is reminiscent of David Gerrold’s TOS episode, The Cloud Minders which has Kirk forcing the elite to work in the mines at phaser point. CC’s only real superiority to Cloud Minders is that Kirk’s actions occurred under the influence of toxic gases, while the EMH has the episode’s most powerful and effective scene back on Voyager in which he ponders the morality of his actions.

Unfortunately the fact that the episode’s most effective scene takes place not in the episode’s expensive alien setting but back on Voyager speaks quite clearly to certain essential failures in the episode. It’s nice that Voyager is addressing contemporary moral issues, it would be nicer if they put some more thought into it next time.

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