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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 Unimatrix Zero Review

There are few things in life more insubstantial than a dream and few more artificial than the Borg. Ever since they were introduced in the Next Generation there isn’t a weapon that Starfleet hasn’t tried to use against them. Phasers, photon torpedoes, anti-matter spreads have all been tried and in the long run have failed. Whatever is thrown at the Borg, the Borg adapt to. Whatever weapon can be thought of the Borg can counter drawing from their seemingly infinite reserve of captive minds and stolen technologies. Yet there is no empire so strong it cannot fall from within and no dictatorship so totally in control of its subjects’ minds that it cannot fall prey to their desire for freedom. The Borg are the ultimate totalitarian state, the logical cybernetic extension of Zamyatin’s Science Fiction classic “We” where citizens are known by a number or Orwell’s “1984” in which the human mind is just another tool of the state. And so it is almost inevitable that despite all their conquests and their power the Borg fall prey to the one weapon they cannot resist, the weapon that totalitarian regimes throughout human history have fallen prey to, a dream.

The Borg are technology and power personified. They have no other identity besides technology and power and no goal besides gaining more and better technology and star trek voyager unimatrix zero 1power. There is no escape from such a society, not even the possibility of protest or dissent because if you cannot think, you cannot dissent. But much as people do in the real world, thousands of drones with a specific mutation have found an escape from their real lives through dreams or rather through a collective dream of freedom in an unspecified forest where they can be as they once were before the Borg assimilated them. While the collective holds their bodies in eternal slavery, the souls of those drones are for a time free. When everything has been taken from them, their freedom, their bodies and even their minds; they are rebelling in the only way that they can by finding a tiny space for themselves where they can for a moment be outside the control of the slave state. This rebellion of Unimatrix Zero though is a passive one and like many passive rebellions seems doomed from the start. The name itself too is a curiously Borg-like one for a group trying to rediscover their natural selves or perhaps not. Zero is at once seemingly empty and powerless to the Borg obsessed with acquiring quantities of things but in a sense contains all quantities of numbers within it. The name signifies that by tapping into the dream the drones have tapped into a source of power far greater then the collective, a source of power that unlike the Borg is unlimited because it contains within it all possibilities. This dream, the entire concept of finding possibilities through dreaming is what Star Trek has been all about.

Of course hope begins with hopelessness and so from the beginning we move about Borg corridors that seem darker and far more frightening without any human presence, no Starfleet crewmembers giving us hope of an escape or even a human perspective. We are in the home of the Borg the way it normally is, the way the drones exist in it day after day and year after year. No one to talk to, nothing to think about, nothing to see but the daily routine in the space going equivalent of an industrial plant with no home to go to or family or weekends to relieve the monotony of pure labor. Like a medieval castle the adobe of the Borg Queen is dark and gloomy, full of men in metal and black clothing walking their rounds and their ruler mysterious and cunning placed directly at the center of her web. At first the shots of the massive Borg complex seem to reinforce their invulnerability and their power but slowly as we learn of the rebellion within the complex it seems more like a precarious fortress isolated and under siege. As the Borg Queen marks drone position after drone we realize that a war is being fought, but unlike all wars the Borg have fought before, this one does not take place in reality but in a collective dream, the closest thing the Collective has to a soul. It is a showdown between technology and power against hope and freedom fought in the soul of the Borg for the soul of the Borg. The Borg have met the enemy and they are them.

Aboard Voyager Seven dreams for the first time and never having entirely left the Borg collective behind her, Seven fears the dream. Like the Borg she understands that the dream cannot be contained within the boundaries of sleep and contains revelations that threatens the integrity of the life she made for herself. Like the rebelling drones Seven is more human in the dream of Unimatrix Zero but she is also less human than they are, less prepared to completely free herself of everything the Borg have done to her. On Voyager Seven has accepted a modicum of humanity, she has come to care about people, learn to deal with them but she hasn’t really opened herself up to the possibilities of being human and so she remains suspended between being human and being Borg. Only in the dream can she allow herself to be called by her real name, Anika. Only in the dream can she experiment with reclaiming her human heritage. But when threatened with a real relationship she retreats from the dream and demands that she be called by her Borg name again. For the first time a plausible emotional relationship is presented for her and she predictably retreats. Seven is a character who for better or worse has developed right before our eyes. When comparing her with the Seven of “The Gift” she seems to have come very far, but among other things, Unimatrix shows us how far she has to go and that the potential is in a sense already being expressed within her.

While the drones are dreaming of a better life, everyone on Voyager is going about the very real business of surviving in the Delta Quadrant (occasionally) according to

star trek voyager unimatrix zero

Some Assembly Required

Starfleet ideals. Janeway answers a distress call to a destroyed colony that she has come too late to save. When she hears about the “distress call” from the Unimatrix drones she sees it as the chance to save all the colonies and the planets the Borg threaten. A weakness in the Borg can be exploited and possibly even the entire collective can be brought down and so mixing Starfleet ideals and her own special brand of cunning and vengeance Janeway comes up with a plan quite similar to the one she employed in her previous confrontation with the Borg Queen. (So similar in fact that the Queen comments on it before Janeway and Co. meet their untimely fates.) In a meeting managed through Tuvok’s unique version of AT&T Janeway meets with the closest thing the drone rebellion has to a leader and convinces him to change his rebellion from passive to active. Once again Janeway ventures into the Borg lair and though this time she knows enough to leave Seven behind, she seems to have discarded most of the techniques that worked somewhat in Dark Frontier. The result is her capture and assimilation and the assimilation of Torres and Tuvok. When we see Janeway, Torres and Tuvok at the end as drones their appearance is quite shocking but Chakotay’s planned getaway and Janeway’s original refusal to initially take them along robs this scene of the impact of Picard’s assimilation in Next Generation’s “Best of Both Worlds.”

In Best of Both Worlds, the Enterprise has been tricked, Picard mutilated and transformed and Earth doomed. The forces of good seemed and were confused and in disarray while in Unimatrix Zero it is clear that there is a plan operating here, a dangerous plan but one in which Janeway and Co. are in control for now. If the script had done a better job of hiding this, Unimatrix could have ended on a much stronger note than it did. That is a common problem for this episode that has the vision, the suspense and the plot but somehow seems a bit listless at times in comparison to Scorpion or Dark Frontier. A good deal of time is spent on Seven but she is excluded from any direct participation in the events of the final act, which makes those scenes seem like a waste of time. From the perspective of the two parter this will eventually become it might work, but here and now as a one hour episode the Seven material relegates her to the three P’s of the Kes role. Namely psychic powers, personal growth and passivity. It didn’t work that well with Kes and it works even worse with Seven of Nine who isn’t remotely built for that kind of role.

More problematically the Borg Queen is relegated to cartoon villain scenery chewing. While Thompson does an excellent job of maintaining ironic distance and the attitude of a powerful leader, the medieval castle analogy hits too crudely close to home when she paces the room, holds conversations with drones, threatens them and mutilates them. She seems not particularly in control or possessed of the kind of knowledge and power she radiated in Dark Frontier. All in all she’s much closer to the Queen Arachnia of Captain Proton and considering that Janeway had already duplicated the Captain Proton trick assault in Dark Frontier, repeating it with a few assimilations for shock value seems like a bad idea. The Queen’s offhand comment to Harry has so much more effect then all the scenes of the Queen examining mutilated Borg heads. This entire concept is based on demonstrating the complete cruelty and evil of the villain but with the Borg this is completely beside the point. The Borg are beyond good and evil, beyond petty ego trips or torture for fun and pleasure. These “Borg Yorrick” scenes take us back in a bad way to “First Contact” and Krige’s Borg Queen played as a refugee from the cast of Chicago or a Bond Movie.

Where Dark Frontier managed to merge the Seven story and the story of the Borg, to show the Borg Queen as the representation of a greater and powerful force with plans stretching into the past and the future; Unimatrix Zero gives us the strong story of the rebellion of the drones, a few brief and hurried scenes on Voyager and a Borg Queen about as plausible as Queen Arachnia. When comparing Seven’s experience in the assimilation chamber and what that did to make the Borg terrifying again with the Borg Queen pacing around and delivering stock evil empress lines to her subjects it is clear that the writers have once again made the mistake of humanizing the Borg too far and too fast. It is fascinating to look at a drone and wonder about his dreams, to see them as individuals hiding terrible secrets beyond even the reach of their own conscious minds, but this has to be combined with recognizing the power and dread of the Borg and the fact that we are dealing here with something that transcends normal regimes and rulers. The two can be combined but it requires careful work and steady steps.

In a very large sense all of the Borg stories have been leading up to this moment since Hugh innocently stepped on the screen in “I. Borg.” “Descent” parts 1 and 2 looked at Borg drones liberated from the collective and tried to merge that into an unfortunate Lore as Charles Manson story serving as one of the Borg’s worst moments yet and a perfect example of exactly what was to be avoided. In “Unity”, Voyager’s first Borg episode we looked at former drones forming a different kind of collective (something that may well be the long term outcome of Unimatrix.) In Scorpion we looked at the Borg taking a severe beating and their downfall seemed plausible even if Janeway’s actions were not. In “Dark Frontier” the Borg were somewhat reduced in stature but it was clear that Janeway’s overconfidence was a mistake and she paid the price only temporarily outwitting the Borg through ingenious gadgetry and desperation. In Unimatrix though Janeway seems far too casual about engaging the Borg, treating them like just another Delta Quadrant enemy. Even if her plan is to be assimilated that only adds to how casually she treats the matter. Her act can either be seen as foolhardy and contemptuous of the Borg’s power or a brave and risky sacrifice. With little focus on her plan beyond the usual meetings and Janeway-Chakotay bickering it seems more like the former than the latter. The Borg may have been weakened but are they really that weak? And if they are so much of the drama just leaks away.

All along a Borg revolution was in the pipeline and while Unimatrix handles the material far better then TNG’s Descent, Unimatrix Zero still leaves much to be desired. Common complaints about two part episodes and cliffhangers are that they come with a strong first part and a weak conclusion. Unimatrix though seems far more geared towards the conclusion then the first part and consequently seems rushed and sparse. The concept of Unimatrix Zero is probably the best possible idea for a Borg revolution anyone could have come up with. The rendering of Seven’s story and the Unimatrix is very well handled and would have worked much better in a different episode intended to set up Unimatrix and the Borg revolution. Voyager’s infiltration has a shocking cliffhanger to leave the fans with but overall seems like everything we’ve seen before. Janeway and Chakotay arguing about her safety and her initiative and their level of trust in each other. A mostly unnecessary trip by Janeway to the Unimatrix, material that would have worked better if Tuvok alone or the Doctor had made the trip. The scenes of the drones fleeing attacks by other drones seem a bit silly. (Since they can alter their appearances at will they should be able to easily defend themselves instead of behaving like extras in a horror movie.) A plan to infiltrate a Borg cube to do some damage, Voyager going head to head with a cube that looks suspiciously like a futuristic crate, a plan going horribly wrong inside the cube, people we care about falling into the hands of the Borg. This is all stuff we’ve seen before and weak direction and a haphazard script don’t manage to make it look fresh or new. In the end Unimatrix is a good episode, but not a great episode. Normally this might be enough but a story so many years in the making with such major implications for the whole Star Trek universe needed to be so much more.

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