I mean the ingenious coup of the late eighties and early to mid-nineties. It was very simple. And it was this. Hiring fantastic actors for the lead roles. Kate Mulgrew (Captain Kathryn Janeway) and Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean-Luc Picard). Easily the two best actors from the entire franchise, hands down. (I use the term actor for both men and women, just so we’re clear).
The rest of the cast from Voyager are all excellent, each and every one of them. Robert Picardo (The Doctor), Roxanne Dawson (B’Elanna Torres), Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris) and Jeri Ryan (Seven Of Nine) stand out in particular. Every so often a line will come that will make you think ‘Hmm, could have been delivered a little better…’ but overall the quality on offer from this ensemble is top-notch. The cast of The Next Generation, on the other hand, are about fifty percent good, fifty percent not so great. I’m not going to name names, draw your own conclusions on that one.
When other actors perform alongside individuals such as Mulgrew and Stewart, they have to work harder to stay up at their level, and as such quality spreads down to the rest of the cast, and even to recurring characters and one-off guest stars.
This was a coup because it moved Trek away from the camp shite of the sixties with one smooth step. Yes, it was still Trek, it was still moral dilemmas, space adventuring and pseudoscience and engineering, but it was no longer the unconvincing sets, mincing characters and terrible acting.
Of course, I am biased towards the talented Mulgrew and think she is the best of the leads without a shadow of a doubt, but Stewart shines in his role, and even Avery Brooks (Benjamin Sisko) does well. I watch far less DS9 due to strongly disliking the show, but from what I’ve seen of Brooks his has his own strength and style. Mulgrew’s got more command presence in her little finger than he has in his whole body, I’m ‘with’ her in a way that I never am with Sisko…but I digress. Stewart on the other hand is even better in the movies that he is in the show, First Contact in particular. I think this is because you see Picard struggling against the biggest enemy in Trek, the Borg Collective. He has to come to terms with himself and his past, and nearly loses himself along the way, trying to balance his inner turmoil against the exterior conflict going on around him. It’s fantastic stuff, and frankly we don’t see enough of this in TNG itself. Only when the Borg are involved do we really get the nitty-gritty that sets science-fiction apart from other genres, and that’s a shame, because when TNG shows it, it shows it well.
Voyager, on the other hand, has plenty of this. Seeing good honourable people simply trying to do their best under the hardest and most trying conditions. Watching these people at their best, sometimes their worst, fighting the good fight and prevailing triumphantly over whatever trouble assailed them. That is the CORE of science-fiction. You don’t have that, you don’t have sci-fi. Of course, these dilemmas and dangerous crisis’ don’t have to happen every week, in fact it’s something of a relief that they don’t. But these elements must be there.
Naturally, I shall provide some examples. No sense making a point and not being able to back it up. I’m trying to avoid MASSIVE spoilers, but there will be some, so if you haven’t seen any of these episodes you know the drill: OMFG SPOILERZZZZZ). Here we go:
- Night: Janeway experiences massive self-doubt and guilt over some of her previous actions. The crew pulls together around her, but she seems intent on a path that may lead to self-destruction.
- Equinox, Parts I and II: Janeway encounters another Starfleet captain acting with extreme immorality and committing genocide. Fireworks ensue. She starts to confuse justice and vengeance, and her single-mindedness, usually an asset, starts to affect her judgement.
- The Fight: Chakotay is afraid of losing his mind to an outside alien influence after Voyager become trapped in ‘Chaotic Space’, and is reluctant at first to do what must be done. He has to overcome his fear for the sake of the ship and his friends. The way he doesn’t hide his fear but confronts it is admirable.
- Extreme Risk: Torres is falling down into a dangerous cycle of self-harm and unnecessary risk taking due to earlier events.
- Mortal Coil: Neelix starts to doubt his religion’s teachings after being brought back from the dead, and begins to become belligerent and unpleasant as his belief’s are turned inside out.
- Dark Frontier: Seven surrenders herself to the Collective to save Voyager, and has to confront the duality inside her, the fight between Humanity and the Borg.
- Flesh and Blood, Parts I and II: The Doctor finds himself at odds with Janeway over holographic rights to life (Other holograms, not his own life) and take extreme action.
- Nightingale: Kim comes face to face with the realities of command and discover’s he’s not as ready for the pressures and rigours as he thought he was.
- Meld: Tuvok’s sense of identity, his Vulcan soul, is fractured by an ill-advised mind meld to try to discover the motive for a murder.
- Thirty Days: Paris finds his sense of obligation and duty torn between loyalty to Janeway and Voyager and his desire to help an alien world from future disaster and destruction. Despite the fact that most of the aliens don’t want his help.
- Scorpion, Parts I and II: A bigger threat than the Borg appears with intent to destroy everything in the galaxy, Species 8472. Forced into an alliance with the lesser of two evils, Janeway and Chakotay find themselves for the first time at serious odds with each other over whose side to take in a war that could threaten everyone in the Milky Way.
- Warlord: Kes is inhabited by a murderous warlord and finds her sense of identity and self slowly stripped away by her new persona.
Striving and struggling to survive, courage, ingenuity and intelligence, brilliance and integrity, risky and daring action, violence or peaceful solutions, and resolution. This is where science-fiction and Star Trek in particular runs circles around every other genre out there in terms of variety and quality, and, to quote Queen Elizabeth the 1st, ‘it is marvellous in our eyes.’
I know this entry changed it’s focus slightly halfway through, but that’s just the way it evolved as I wrote. Anyway, hope you enjoyed!
Concerning repairs and the inability of the ship to stop at Starbases. Okay, here we go. The IMPLICATION is enough for me. I do not need to see every single bit of repair work they conduct or see them squaring away the supplies they acquire. Each episode takes place over either twenty four hours, or three or four days. There are exceptions, some episodes take place over a period of weeks or even months, but they are rare exception, usually two-parters. So, 365 days in a year, and each season of Trek encompasses roughly a year. Let’s average it out and say each episode takes three days to pass, and we have an average of 26 episodes per season. 3 x 26 = 78. So, 78 days of action, leaving 287 days of unseen events. (Roughly). Let’s make it 230 days including the occasional ‘long’ episodes. That is a heck of a lot of time for all sorts of other events to take place, some referenced in other episodes but not actually seen, characters mentioning encounters with aliens, perhaps battles or trouble they got into, perhaps peaceful encounters, exploring planets or shore leave they enjoyed. And in this time, repairs would be conducted, hull breaches fixed, ship’s systems enhanced or refitted. The implication is enough. Exposition is a wonderful thing and saves so much precious episode time for the good stuff like action and intelligent drama.
There is another very good reason, and one of critical importance, that Voyager looks relatively undamaged. Janeway’s an astute leader, this would be an obvious fact for her. Keeping Voyager looking tough and undamaged, at least on the outside, would be a very high priority for her, and she would be willing to use significant resources in that area. A ship with massive battle scars, damaged hulls, breaches hastily patched over from other encounters practically SCREAMS to other hostile types: ‘Hey! Come and get us! Another lot had a pop at us last week, maybe you’ll have more luck then they did!’ Screw that. Appearances are important when you have NO BACK UP. They are an island out there, the Voyager crew would know only to well that if the ship appeared intact with no major structural damage, hostile assholes might think twice before having a go at an attack.
This rule is not employed a few times, just enough for the reminder that they have to do all repair work themselves to stick. In Deadlock you see them repairing the ship after the danger has passed and they’ve found a safe spot to slow or stop completely and conduct repairs, go EVA, etc. In Demon they do almost run out of fuel and as the episode opens we see them searching for a source of deuterium. The plot that arises from this happens to be interesting and very well done, mimetic sentient fluid…you really have to watch it, its hard to explain. So the episode is not just a simple (and therefore not boring) search for fuel. It turns into something far more interesting. After the tumultuous events of ‘Scorpion’ in the following episode ‘The Gift’ opens with Voyager still infested with the Borg technology they were forced to install to go to war against Species 8472 and struggling to purge the ship’s systems of the virulent tech. In ‘Nightingale’ Voyager has landed on an uncolonised planet for a major overlay. By this point the ship had been in service for nearly seven years. It is an incredibly advanced starship. I think seven years is an entirely realistic time stretch before a long range explorer cruiser designed to hold its own would need its first major overlay. Any less than that…well, you’d have to question the competence of the ship’s designers.
You know, I don’t watch science fiction to watch people REPAIRING their ships. I don’t watch science fiction to watch a beautiful piece of starship technology slowly fall apart because an incompetent crew can’t keep it together! I don’t watch science fiction to watch a crew twiddling their thumbs whilst their vessel is sat in a Starbase or spacestation! Starfleet vessels are designed to be largely self-sufficient, except for occasional overlays at Starbases for refit, refuelling, etc. We know Voyager has a refinery aboard to produce important metals, it’s mentioned in Dark Frontier. We know they have the ability to mine, store and refine ore and precious gases, otherwise why the fuck would they search for them?
I am aware this is a sticking point with some fans. Fine. But it shouldn’t be. Damn, just enjoy the show. Science Fiction is riddled with such conceits to make the exiting plots run smoother.
We are a smart audience, we don’t need to be hand-held through all this repairing the ship shit. Otherwise, we’re reaching The Next Generation levels of mind-numbing, ‘tempted to look for the closest rafter to hang myself from’ levels of boredom.
Briefly to finish, I have to say I find the snide insinuations Ronald D. Moore made during his two-episode stint on Voyager offensive. If he thinks that is all audiences wants to see, he’s an idiot. Fine, Moore. You throw your toys out of the pram and sit in the corner and cry, whilst the other writers continue to do what made Voyager the best of the Treks. You whine and bitch because other writers have better ideas than you do. You got some nerve pal, criticising your colleagues like that. Artistic differences are fine, you don’t need to attack the people you work with so publicly. Everybody’s a fucking critic! (Including me dear reader, it has to be noted!) Sure, Voyager ain’t perfect, it ain’t flawless, but its exciting, its intelligent, and holy fuck is it good television. Ultimately, thank god Officer Dickhole didn’t stay aboard and ruin a great show. (If you don’t know what this last paragraph refers to, I recommend that you not to bother finding out. Such small-mindedness does not deserve any more attention than what little amount I have given it here).
The crew of the USS Voyager. They’re not to naïve, but neither are they too cynical. Their guard is up, their approach to first contacts is welcoming but at the same time wary, but never going so far as to be distrustful. They don’t take a new alien species word for it when they state that they have no ulterior motives or hostile intentions. Upon a First Contact or when an alien species helps them out, they are welcoming and open-minded. This is even true if the alien is a member of a species they have had conflict with before, basing opinions on the actions of the individual rather than generalising, which is so often counter-productive.
They’re not galaxy-weary or jaded, Janeway is particular warns Kim (and by extension, the audience) against becoming jaded in ‘Emanations.’ Its a great scene at the end of the episode, I hesitate to say its a speech because it’s not one as such, it’s a conversation, but the sentiment is clear and wonderfully expressed. In a less-eloquent nutshell, it’s the Trek mantra of ‘don’t take the wonders all around us for granted just because you see them everyday.’ But it’s very important to understand that these people are experienced. They seen and been through a lot, had experiences both good and bad. For everything wonderous out there, there is something equally horrific to match it. Voyager’s crew has seen these aspects of the galaxy, both before their odyssey and during it. So yes, there is an element of a strange blase attitude towards such momentous life events. Janeway says it best in ‘Deadlock’:
‘Mr. Kim. We’re Starfleet Officers. Weird is part of the job.’
It’s about balancing the sense of wonder with practicality and experience, and Voyager gets the balance just right. (NB, Kim and Kes are exceptions to this rule during the very early seasons because both are the young and inexperienced crewmembers aboard at the shows start, and are intended to be such. Having a crew of hardened veterans all round like Janeway, Tuvok, Chakotay, etc, might make for a more capable crew in the early years, but makes for less drama.)
I don’t mean the other crews are naïve, they aren’t. But they are to naive for my taste. So much of the trouble the Enterprise-D gets in is just really, really avoidable, and that’s really bugs me. I like a little cynicism in my protagonists, maybe its my penchant for sarcasm in humour, I don’t know. I like someone to be wry and cynical about a situation, especially to ease the tension. I can only take so much po-faced heroism (and I like and admire po-faced heroism) before I just need somebody to crack a joke, even if it’s a rubbish joke. No matter the situation, no matter how dire or how minor the danger is, there is room for a wise-ass remark at some points. Like in ‘Demon’ when Paris makes what Kim later refers to ‘that stupid joke about the bicycle’ or Janeway and Chakotay’s light-hearted exchanges before or during dangerous situations.
As always, I give plenty of examples to prove my point, so here are some for your consumption:
- The photonic lattice entities from ‘Heroes and Demons.’ They seem to kidnap two members of the Voyager crew, and the Doctor initially has little success in his attempts to communicate with them via the holodeck, but the crew discover the cause of the misunderstandings and realise the abductions were a response to perceived hostility from them towards the aliens, not the other way round. During some earlier experiments they beamed photonic matter onto the ship for analysis not realising they were sentient lifeforms, and in response to the kidnap of their people the lattice aliens take Kim and Chakotay. In a gesture of what can only be described as hopeful goodwill, Janeway has the Doctor release the two lifeforms onto the holodeck. They return to their people, and Kim and Chakotay are then returned, safe and well.
- Danara Pel, the Vidiian scientist whom the Doctor has a love affair with in ‘Lifesigns’. They rely on her help to get Janeway and Chakotay back aboard Voyager in ‘Resolutions’, despite their conflict with the Sodality. Pel comes through for them, even though the other Vidiians that arrive try to take Voyager.
- Acturus, from ‘Hope And Fear.’ When he first comes aboard, the crew are welcoming and pleased to have him along, he offers them help in decoding the heavily encrypted message sent by Starfleet several months earlier. (See ‘Hunters.’) However, there is a vein of caution among the senior staff which goes beyond cautious optimism. Janeway and Tuvok in particular do not take the alien simply by his word (and one could forgive them for doing so with so much at stake), but do give him the benefit of the doubt initially.
- The discovery of the wormhole in’ Bliss.’
This swaying between wonder and hopefulness to cynicism and doubt is most clearly seen when pertaining to one of Voyager’s key themes: the journey home. Early on, if even the faintest scent of getting home is caught, they are there and for it all the way, jumping headfirst into the chance. Then, they get burned a few times, and painfully. The wormhole in ‘Eye Of The Needle’, getting back to Earth but unable to stay because they are in the wrong timeframe in ‘Future’s End.’ And as the journey begins to have more importance than the destination and Voyager itself becomes home, the crew’s reaction to potential ways home changes. They are still happy and encouraged by the large jumps home they make in ‘The Gift’ (10,000 light-years) ‘Timeless’ (10,000 LY) and ‘Dark Frontier’ (20,000 LY), but the reaction to a what at first sight appears to be a direct route home becomes very cynical and even openly doubting. If something seems to good to be true they suspect that it is, rather than stubbornly hoping it’ll somehow work out. Compare the difference in reaction to a promising looking wormhole in Season 1’s Eye of the Needle’ to Season 5’s ‘Bliss.’ Wow. What a difference. Well fuck, the wormhole leads to Sector 001! I was half expecting Janeway to say something along the lines of ‘Hell! What an amazing coincidence!’ the first time I saw it. Her sarcastic statement of ‘Wormhole?’, the first line of dialogue in the episode, makes me smile every time I see it. The crew immediately suspects possible problems or subterfuge with the data they are receiving from sensors instead of immediately assuming ‘a way home woohoo!’ This turns out to be the correct attitude, as the wormhole actually turns out to be a HUGE. STARSHIP-EATING. CREATURE so caution was entirely warranted. (Of course, attitudes change when the creature starts manipulating the crew to force them into its maw, but that was the result of alien psychotropic effects and the main threat of the episode).
To summarise, I say: It is better to see too much than too little, as long as you keep an open mind. The crew aren’t wide-eyed rookies, but nor are they jaded old coots, the balance is struck just right.
A post doing pretty much what it says in the title. A description of Mystery Science Theater 3000 follows underneath the videoes if you’re curious.
Part 1 for your enjoyment:
And Part 2:
And finally, Part 3:
I’ve made it to Part 7 so far, probably more on the way, Part 8 under construction right now. If you watch and enjoy, please rate and comment, let me know what you think. Thanks!
If you haven’t seen MST3K, I can’t recommend it enough. If you like Science Fiction and comedy, (Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, Futurama, Red Dwarf, whatever does it for ya) you should watch Mystery Science Theater 3000, or MST3K as us MSTies call it. Mike Nelson (Or Joel Robinson, personally I prefer the mid-Season 5 onwards Mike Era) and his robot companions Crow T. Robot, Tom Servo, Gypsy and Cambot are trapped in space on a ship called the Satellite of Love and forced to watch cheesy movies by the Mads , a family of evil scientists and their various henchmen. They sit in a theater and proceed to wisecrack, or ‘riff’ over the movies as they play out, which is funny as hell and makes for much merriment. There’s Crow’s acid wit and child-like brutal honesty, Servo’s sarcastic comments and wonderful singing voice, and Mike’s scathing observations and cheerful demeanour. You might recognise the familiar Mike/Tom/Crow silhouette often used to promote the show. I’ve taken this format and applied it to something good rather than rubbish, using various wisecracks from the show and blended them with scenes from Voyager. (Blended them largely seamlessly, if I do say so myself). The MST3K team have embraced the idea themselves with the long-running Rifftrax.com, where they riff good movies as well as bad ones, but Rifftrax lacks the storylines of MST3K. In the original show, there are ‘host segments’ before, during and after the movies where we see the crew of the SoL (Satellite Of Love, remember) having various adventures and escapades, many of them fun, many of them wacky, some of them related to the movies they’re watching, and all of them enjoyable!
Yes, ten more. I could go on for many more. Here’s the next ten, anyway. Enjoy!
1. The people who conceived of and made Voyager seem to have some kind of camera in my brain which tells them what I want from science fiction, and they turned it into a tv show. I want a strong leader. I want a dynamic crew I can get emotionally attached to. I want a cool looking ship. I want adventure and action. I want exploration. I want new aliens. I want new worlds. I want danger. I want drama. I want humour. I want that important human element. I want to see people at their best, sometimes at their worst. I want thrills, and yes, spills. I want realistic portrayals of friendships, relationships, dilemmas and problems. I want interesting stories. I wanted all these things. And I got them all with Voyager.
I’m detecting epic amounts of Win in this sector.
2. Its not like other Star Treks. I love it when some TNG obsessives say that like its an insult. XD “>XD “>XD “>XD “>XD “>XD “>XD “>XD XD XD XD XD. Too fucking right its not like other Treks! Halle-frkkin’-lujah, I say. That’s not a criticism of other obsessive fans by the way, after all, I’m a Voyager obsessive. Swings and roundabouts, isn’t it? Licenses that stay on the same note die. Each Trek has been different from its forebears in one way or another, Voyager strays farther from the norm than the other shows. That’s another reason I love it.
3. The audio effects. I’m talking ambient noise of ships and worlds here, and the special effects generated by aliens, alien controls, the sounds of ships. I think Voyager has the edge here over other Treks because of the sheer variety on offer. I’ve always noticed these things very keenly in shows and films I like, too me, having good quality sound effects is almost as important as having a good story. It draws me into the world. Here are a few good examples: Species 8472’s bioship and species sounds. The deep thrumming and rumbling inside the bioship. The screeches of the creatures themselves as they attack or make violent and forcible telepathic communication with Kes. The ‘flyby’ effect of the bioships, which is the industry term for when starships or some other craft are seen flying by or within close proximity to the ‘camera’s’ position. (Who is going around filming all these starships anyway? 😀 ) The sound of the massive lifeform from ‘Bliss.’ It rumbles, it gurgles, the bioelectric pulses that constantly zap Voyager and Quatai’s ship as the search for a way out are tangible, they crackle sharply. The menacing tones of the Hirogen when they speak through the breath masks incorporated into their armour. The eerie wails of one member of the Think Tank’s crew, the electronic language of another. The intense and harsh language of the alternate-dimension aliens from ‘Equinox’. And, of course, Voyager itself. The constant thrum of the ship’s engines is so omnipresent during scenes aboard the ship that it becomes white noise, more noticeable in its absence than its presence. The sound generated by the warp core in Engineering is much better than the odd tone generated by the Enterprise-D’s core. And the Red Alert klaxon…Heavens to Murgatroyd, if the Red Alert siren from the Enterprise (Kirk’s and Picard’s) isn’t one of the dumbest fucking sounds I have ever heard, then I am a bloody penguin. Its almost comical in its inappropriateness. Voyager’s Red Alert klaxon, on the other hand, is damn cool. It sounds like it could really be used in some version of humanity’s future as an alert siren. Class. It would make crewmember alert to upcoming danger, instead of making them await a clown to enter and perform some manner of jumping, juggling trick. Insert circus music here: Do-do-doodle-do-do-doo-doo duh-duh…
4. The musical score. Scores are very much a product of their time and can age more quickly than sound effects, even special effects in some cases. However, the music on Voyager was excellent, and brilliantly composed. Themes relating to certain races or action going on on screen started to become prevalent in Season 3. These are hard to explain in words, but there are four or five action motifs which kick in at certain moments when the crew is embroiled in an action scene of one kind or another. These are not overused and consequently not employed in every episode, but you know them when you hear them. The Borg have certain music attached to them, a menacing theme with heavy notes and lots of drums and brass. The use of real-world music is also nicely done, particularly with the use of Tchaikovsky and Mahler Symphonies in ‘Counterpoint’, The Doctor’s love of opera (the opening to ‘Renaissance Man’ makes me laugh every time I see it), and Tom’s love of jazz and Rock & Roll.
And of course, the magnificent Opening Title. The best piece of Star Trek music ever, and close to being the best piece of Science Fiction music ever composed. It is equal in grandeur and beauty to the Main Title of the Star Wars movies (Return Of The Jedi has the best version of the six opening title scrolls) Voyager’s title sequence conjures feelings of majesty, exploration and intrepidity with images of breath-taking beauty, sweeping galactic vistas. There is even some sense of isolation amongst the expanse of the universe, a ship alone despite all the life and motion that surrounds them. Incredible opening sequence. The version of this music used in the show is wonderful, but there is a superior version on ‘The Star Trek Album’, available on iTunes. The front cover is a blue jumping to warp effect with yellow text for the album title. I really recommend this version of the piece, as it actually manages to improve upon an already superb piece of music.
5. Seven of Nine. This is not a criticism of Kes, I loved her character too, her innocence and child-like view of the galaxy was very refreshing, so all credit goes to her. But Seven’s arrival and nature brought an extra dynamic to Voyager that was missing from earlier seasons. Her gradual journey back to humanity from the cold and evil of the Borg was a brilliant facet of Voyager, and wonderfully realised. The relationship that developed between Janeway and Seven is one of the most realistic and well-portrayed friendships I’ve seen on Trek. The dynamic between them felt real and accurate. A mother-daughter, love-hate relationship, with the initial tension between them slowly, slowly dissolving into mutual respect and warmth as they solved differences, as each one started to understand the other. The fact that Seven came from the Borg emphasises why she is so different, a creature snatched from the grasp of the biggest threat ever to grace the Trek universe.
6. The Motley Crew. Ah, the motley crew. I like the way they’re not a bunch of goody two-shoes. They’re good and honourable people, but they have their foibles and their faults, and I like that. Janeway can be stubborn and unreasonable, Paris can be rebellious and disobedient, Seven can be confrontational and thoughtless, Tuvok can act arrogant and superior, The Doctor has projection issues (not with his emitters, necessarily) and can be pompous and self-important, Torres has a chip on her shoulder and is a serious self-doubter. This, along with their admirable qualities, of which there are many more, makes them 3-dimensional characters. I don’t need to go into their admirable qualities here, if you watch, you know. They’re brave, they’re tough, they’re smart, they’re honourable, they work as a team, they look out for each other, they can rely on each other.
Also, they’re not all Starfleet Officers, at least not originally. Now, I like Starfleet Officers, the organisation is one of the finest fictional militarys ever devised. But its nice to have some variety and spice in the crew. We have, of the ten recurring characters featured in Voyager’s run (that’s nine at a time):
- Three Starfleet Officers, two with long and distinguished careers, one freshly graduated rookie, (Janeway, Tuvok, Kim, respectively).
- One dishonourably discharged Starfleet Officer reinstated given a field commission of Lieutenant. (Paris).
- Two ex-Maquis crewmembers, one who used to be in Starfleet but resigned, one who only got to the second year of Starfleet Academy before a tumultuous departure. (Chakotay, Torres respectively).
- A holographic Chief Medical Officer, who qualifies as a Starfleet Officer. (The Doctor)
- An ex-Borg, liberated from the Collective who subsequently becomes part of the crew. (Seven of Nine).
- Two Delta Quadrant natives, who serve as guides and advisers to the crew, as well as cook, morale officer, ambassador, nurse, etc. (Neelix, Kes).
This is infinitely more interesting than having a ship full of people who are largely identical to each other, apart from physical appearance and gender. I’m not saying the people from Next Gen or The Original Series have no personality, take it easy, I’m not saying that at all. All I’m saying is that they are boring in contrast to Voyager’s crew. Picard even admits he’s dull in one episode, for Christ’s sake! Now, I’m not anti-Picard, he’s a good man, and a good leader…but Janeway certainly is not dull. And life with Janeway is never boring.
7. The pilot episode. The best opener in the history of Trek. First episode of TOS, ouch, and Pike is a knobhead. TNG’s ‘Encounter At Farpoint’ has aged horribly, but the plot does nicely emphasize the whole ‘we’re explorers, yay!’ mindset, which is good, but it’s quite slow in places. DS9’s ‘Emissary’ is also slow and dull, has the overwhelming problem of the irritating as hell characters, and the religious fluff all through it is tiresome and about as welcome as the plague at your front door. Which is to say, not welcome at all. Enterprise’s ‘Broken Bow’ has more promise, but its weaker than Voyager’s opener. ‘Caretaker’ is a great pilot, it has action, it has danger, it has dilemma, it has an interesting new crew and a great looking new ship, it sets up the characters and the premise of the show with deftness and panache, and it the only opener with a real sense of threat and peril to it. All in all, impressive. By the time I saw ‘Caretaker’ for the first time I had been a long time Voyager fan, probably two years or so, I remember Season 3 was being shown at the time on UK television on the BBC. A friend of mine lent me the VHS video (This was a long time ago and I haven’t seen her for some time, but Sue Tucker, if you’re ever reading this, thanks again!), so I already knew the show and its characters well by the time I saw the first episode. But it was nice to actually see the events I had heard referenced to, and I thought the pilot was great.
8. It broke the conventions I had come to associate with Star Trek over the years by actually being good. Really. Fucking. Good. Finally, a nice short point.
9. Recurring Extras/Crew Complement: (NB: This point is a direct copy and paste from another one of my posts, but I think I put my point across pretty nicely and had plenty good examples, and its very relevant to my point here, so I simply lifted it and put it in this post). This is very appropriate for Voyager’s situation and the closer bond between the crew. eg: Vorik, the Vulcan engineer, Joe Carey, Torres’s deputy, Samantha Wildman, the Science Officer, her daughter Naomi Wildman, (Scarlett Pomers, you are the best Child Actor EVER. Not annoying like Anakin Fucking Skywalker, not immature and whiny. Bravo, young lady), Icheb and the Borg children when they arrive. Even the named crewmen who have few lines, but are present simply for a sense of continuity in the tight-knit crew. Ayala, the other Maquis who beams onto the Bridge in ‘Caretaker’ along with Chakotay and Tuvok who becomes a senior Security Officer, Ashmore, a engineer seen in the background of many scenes, the officer assisting Kim in ‘The Killing Game’ to distract the Hirogen and who Janeway speaks to and supports in ‘Memorial’, Susan Nicolette, one of Voyager’s best engineers whom Torres’s frequently mentions and works with, Lang, a security officer who is assigned to the Bridge to shore up dwindling numbers as the crew is translocated one by one in ‘Displaced’ and is consequently seen as a Bridge Officer, presumably due to her actions in ‘Displaced’, Ensign Brooks, seen in ‘Caretaker’, ‘Displacd’, ‘Darkling’, ‘The Raven’ and ‘Year of Hell’, and and any number of unnamed but recurring extras. Its a nice touch to the show. (I’m sure we see more than one hundred and fifty over the course of the show, exceeding the crew complement, but as I’ve said, I care not a single jot for such small oversights). Cool bit of trivia, Ensign Brooks is played by Sue Henley, Kate Mulgrew’s stunt-double. I understand KM is a quite the ‘all her own stunts, just like Jackie Chan’ type, but she wouldn’t have been allowed to do everything!
10. The Delta Flyer. Hooo Nelly, any crew that builds and sleek, tough-as-nails hot-rod to fly around in is cool with me. Its like having a Ferrari in your garage. It was a shame when the first one got destroyed…but hey, its ok! They’re building a new one, hooray…which in ‘real world’ terms is blatantly just the interior set of the first Flyer with patent-pending ‘go-faster-red panels’ on the inside. Hee hee, awesome! I guess the Voyager crew got the design right first time around, and figured ‘Aw hell, let’s just rebuild the same ship again. It works and it looks funky.’ There is a whole episode called ‘Drive’ dedicated to the test-run of the new Flyer which involves them signing the craft up for an interstellar race, and any episode with a race in it is a winning recipe as far as I’m concerned! I like my sports.
11. Its the best because it just is. (I know, I said 1o not 11 points, but what the hey). As I said, Voyager is the best because it just is. End of.
Okay, part 2 done. Hope you enjoyed, whether you agree or disagree.
And also, the only Star Trek worth watching from start to finish. These are not all of my millions of reasons. But they are a great 10 reasons. Read on.
1. Captain Kathryn Janeway. My respect for this woman, and the real-life woman who portrays her, Kate Mulgrew, is unparalleled. BEST. CAPTAIN. EVER. She has many admirable qualities. Courageous. Intelligent. Direct. Tough. No-nonsense. A bit of a maverick. Not afraid to take chances. Daring. Unorthodox. Spirited. Gutsy. Intuitive. Inquisitive. Noble. Confident. Loyal. Demanding. Principled. A natural leader. Brash, but with the skills to justify that confidence. More accessible than the other captains, most likely because of her gender. More in tune with her crew. Charismatic. Protective. Caring. Stern when she must be. Takes care of her people. Also has those human flaws which make her all the more believable, all the more human. Flawed. Arrogant. Stubborn. Recalcitrant. Proud. Sometimes unreasonable. Prickly. A little big-headed on occasion. Trusts her head and her heart, which can lead to internal conflict. Sometimes self-righteous. Cocky. She doesn’t know how to disguise who she is, and she doesn’t try.
For all of these reasons and more, she is an admirable human being on every level. I could go on for pages and pages. I will restrain my urge to do so. The above paragraph is enough to demonstrate my respect for her. Star Trek Voyager is a great show. She makes it greater.
2. The setting. A Starfleet crew pulled against their will to the other side of the galaxy, literally, who then have to find a way home, seventy thousand light years away, seventy five years at maximum speeds. This takes the essence of what Star Trek is all about, strips away the crap and leaves only the best aspects to form the core plot. A plot that is omnipresent for the entire run, the only one of the Treks with a coherent and continuing plot-line, making it seem like a saga, rather than a series of loosely connected stories. The show does develop and change and eventually becomes more about the journey and less about the destination, the quest to reach home takes perhaps a passenger seat rather than a back seat, but it is always there. The ship becomes their home, their friends their family.
3. The exploration. They actually explore WHERE NO-ONE HAS GONE BEFORE. They don’t simply shuttle annoying ambassadors from one well colonised world to another, or run stupid cargo missions. I saw one episode of The next Generation where, if you can believe this, the main purpose of the mission and the main threat of the episode came from six cargo canisters that the USS Enterprise was shuttling from one world to another. (Insert derisory laugh here, the sort comedian Billy Connolly does when taking the piss). FUCK OFF! Medical supplies?! The flagship of Starfleet and its running SUPPLIES?! Six tiny little canisters? And one of them is FAULTY?! You call that a sound premise? That isn’t acceptable even as a sub-plot! Cargo canisters in a sci-fi show?! What is happening?! Where are the freighters, the small cargo haulers? I’m so glad the writers not only improved, but rewrote the book on what works and what definitely doesn’t for later episodes. The episode is saved by the presence of Reginald Barclay, I believe its Hollow Pursuits. He is in Voyager in later eps and therefore utterly cool in my books.
Everywhere the USS Voyager goes, every planet they set foot on, every step they take, every light-year they travel, every particle of air they breathe, every ray of sunlight they feel on their skin, (nearly) every alien species they encounter, every phenomenon they discover, every danger they triumph over, every sector of space they explore and chart, it is all unknown until they arrived, uncharted, discovered by them, seen first by them, because no-one from their homes has been there before. Exploration and discovery, two of the best objectives a life-form can devote their life to, taken to the extreme. Plus another admirable objective, protecting your home, your people, your crew, your friends, your family, and the universe you live in. From the Borg, from Species 8472, from crazy time-travelling megalomaniacs, from the Vidiians, the Hirogen, and many others. The records they set ain’t gonna be broken, I’ll tell you that much. Take that, every other crew ever.
And they don’t pussy foot around aliens. Voyager doesn’t provoke fights, when conflict occurs, it is usually they who are fired upon first. They strike first if the aliens are already enemies, and at no other time. But look out if you fire on them. Because they aren’t going to sit there and take it. You won’t see them trying pointlessly to keep a sanctimonious alien commander happy.
4. The enemies. Part of what used to turn me off Star Trek was the weak and extremely nonthreatening aliens with shit make-up. I only liked two of the enemies pre-Voyager: Cardassians are great enemies, I’ll give TNG credit for that. TNG holds the origin of the Borg, fair play, bravo to TNG. However, the Borg are not only a far more present and ever-menacing threat in VOY, the USS Voyager actually sticks it to them and takes them on. And actually does severe damage to the mighty Collective, greatest threat to everyone everywhere. And they actually look menacing in Voyager, instead of guys in rubber suits with pipes super-glued on and who look ill because of too much grey make-up. Borg: much better in Voyager. Hirogen: Big, scary, menacing, great make-up. Species 8472: Wow, huge, three-legged brick shithouse aliens. Vidiians: Chilling organ-harvesters, with a real sense of danger if you get caught by these guys. The show even features a lot of great ‘one-off’ aliens, the Devore, the Vaadwaur, the Swarm.
5. The welcome lack of Redshirts. The case of Ensign Ricky who dies almost immediately upon setting foot upon an alien planet or ship with monsters or hostile natives or a booby trap, whatever. I’m sorry but there is a distinct lack of any kind of care or leadership shown towards these men and women. Getting into danger is part of Starfleet life, yes, terrific. But its also the idea to get your people safely through it. Kirk neglects these members of his crew, these young men and women unlucky enough to get assigned aboard his ship and not be senior officers. He shows them no real care. It is also lazy story-telling. A death occurs to demonstrate the danger from a previously hidden booby trap or hostile spear-wielding natives. Taken in context of the lore, which sci-fi fans are known to do, that is a life that has been snuffed out simply to demonstrate a danger to the audience. A life is ended because of sheer incompetence and lack of care.
Looking at it from a leadership point of view, there is a fine line between protecting a member of your crew, and knowing when to step back and allow them to tackle a problem or danger themselves. And yes, Janeway crosses this line sometimes and moves into severe case of over-protectiveness-itis. From a leader, over-protectiveness is not necessarily an unattractive quality. In fact, it is a good thing. If I’m honest, I can think of a single example of the ‘pointless death’ scenario in Voyager, one example. A crewman is killed in the beginning of the episode One by a destructive nebula which destroys organic tissue. I think this was to save episode time. I’ll admit, lazy, but SOMETIMES a necessary evil to get on with the show, to show the absolutely lethal nature of the nebula. Not every bloody week though! There was no way his death could have been prevented, it was an unlucky incident, not a lack of care. Normally, as the crew has no access to reinforcements, deaths are seen and come about by enemy attacks or violent anomalies. Unfortunate yes, but explained and realistic given their situation.
Look at it this way: Which ship would you want to serve on?
USS Enterprise 1701: Not a ship I’d want to serve on if I planned to living past thirty. Which I DO.
USS Enterprise 1701-D (Picard’s ship): You’d die of fucking boredom if nothing else.
USS Enterprise 1701-E: Things are looking up here, but there’s still the overwhelming problem of the personalities of seventy-five percent of the senior staff.
Deep Space Nine: Do I really need to spell it out? I wouldn’t touch this ass-end of space on this train-wreck of a show with a light-year long barge pole.
USS Voyager: Yes please. I happily serve aboard this beauty. I’d take the dangers and the situation the ship is in, and I’d be honoured to serve under Captain Janeway.
6. The vessel. I’m not a tecnho-head who needs all the technology to be sound of science and all that crap, but the USS Voyager is the best looking ship by a considerable margin, has the best specs, is filled with the best crew, and looks the best in flight. And its not just a ship. Its their home. Oh, and also, in relation to exterior damage that they suffer during their frequent encounters with trouble: it would be repaired pronto. Janeway knows appearances are crucial, even if they’re not always to be trusted, and would not want to invite attack by other aggressive species by having damaged hull plating on her ship. They have the ability to recycle and replace damaged sections aboard Voyager, melt them down and reuse them, immediate repair after battle or damage of some other kind would be a high priority once the threat had passed or been dealt with. Some people say ‘Oh, but they don’t have Starbases to go to, so what the deal-?’ So…they don’t have to stop every few damn episodes at Starbases, hmm? GOOD! Who wants to see an episode where they sit in a Starbase and wait for repair or upgrades? That’s not exciting or interesting! They utilise alien ports on occasion, the Markonian Station and the station before the Nekrit Expanse spring to mind, and the crew are offered aid and assistance with repair from alien species that they help along the way, but I only need this to be implied. I don’t need to see it, and Voyager does not waste episodes on such unnecessary details. And why is the Enterprise always on its way from one Starbase or another? Seems that ship can’t spend more than five minutes alone without experiencing some kind of fault or needing a refit. AGAIN. Lucky for us there’s another crew out there having adventures, not sitting in stations twiddling their thumbs.
7. The story-lines. Some are unique and new, some are remakes of older formats. Voyager can do cerebral, and it can do action-packed. I won’t get deeply into this here, there’s plenty of blogosphere space left for that. To name a few of the best: The 37’s, Resistance, Deadlock, Death Wish, The Thaw, Sacred Ground, Future’s End, Scorpion, Scientific Method, The Killing Game, Hope and Fear, Night, Counterpoint, Bride of Chaotica, Dark Frontier, Equinox, Dragon’s Teeth, Blink Of An Eye, Good Shepherd, Unimatrix Zero, Workforce….and those are just a few examples. Voyager often breaks new ground, which is always a good thing, and sometimes retreads old ground or employs sci-fi cliche in its episode, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Point in fact: Season 7’s ‘Body and Soul’. There are many alien possession stories, but in this case one crewmember’s mind must house the mind of another to ensure his safety. The Doctor must hide inside Seven’s cortical array to prevent his deletion at the hands of hologram-fearing aliens. This has the unexpected side-effect of the Doctor finding himself in control of Seven’s body whilst she is aware of her perceptions, but has no control over them. This proves that a fresh take on an old cliche is nothing to flinch from, either as a writer or a viewer. Sure, there are some eps that don’t work so well, can think of two or three that I personally don’t enjoy a great deal, but they are an exception rather than the rule. And the rule is: Quality.
8. The crew. BEST. CREW. EVER. A crew actually worth investing emotionally in, a crew worth caring about. A closer bond that develops between them all, whilst still maintaining that important distance where it needs to be maintained. There is a real emotional resonance in a lot of the scenes, as befitting a crew that has grown closer due to their circumstances. The character arcs in Voyager span whole seasons, even the whole show. Notable instances of this are as follows: Janeway/Chakotay, Janeway/Seven, Janeway/Paris, Janeway/Tuvok, Paris/Torres, Paris/Kim, Doctor/Seven, Chakotay/Torres, Neelix/Kes. Watching these relationships change and grow over the years, the interplay and connections between them shifting in meaning, depth and texture was very rewarding, added an extra dimension to the show and and extra meaning behind their adventures and actions. Oh, and they’re the best looking bunch as well.
9. From a more technical standpoint, the special effects are cracking, and are standing-up very well to the test of time. The cheese factor of earlier Treks is happily missing from Voyager. Most exterior shots have close to photo-realistic levels of realism, alien effects (even the obvious ‘guys and gals with stuff on their foreheads’) have great make-up, the costumes of the more detailed and different aliens are great, Hirogen body armour looks like body armour not the fake, light-weight material that it is in reality, the make-up of the Vidiians is marvellous and some of the best I’ve seen on Star Trek. Even one off aliens are given a lot of care and attention, for example the Monoeans seen in ‘Thirty Days’, or the scientist Turot seen in ‘Counterpoint.’ And the Borg look a hell of a lot more menacing in Voyager. The increased darkness, strobe and flashing lights on the cubes helps with the sense of menace, but the Borg costumes are more far superior in this show. It doesn’t look like some dude with grey face paint and a black rubber suit with tubes stuck on it. (NOTE: If you want more proof or are interested in finding out more about the superior special effects, check out my ‘Star Trek Voyager and Thematic Continuity’ post, where I go into more detail about special effects and alien make-up, etc. I don’t want to repeat myself in lots of posts, its simpler to link.
10. The sense of humour. Wonderful normal and gallows humour is more prevalent in this show than in others, no doubt because of their location and situation. The show can, like other Treks, be po-faced and overly serious, but that is the tone that Trek takes with its story-lines. But the humour is still present and correct, and adds something extra to the show. And the comedy episodes occasionally seen in Trek, episodes that are meant to be funny, actually are funny. I like it when my favourite shows descend into temporary silliness, so the scenes from’ Bride of Chaotica’ with the crew camping it up like the Original Series crew, or the Doctor having to ‘take command’ of the ship and threatening an enemy vessel with an imaginary weapon Voyager does not actually possess in ‘Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy’ really hit the mark. This kind of wacky and totally left-field humour is welcome in anything, from The Simpsons, see episode ‘Homer Badman’ for a hilarious example, (See you in hell, CANDY BOY! You know the joke I mean…), at any given moment in any given episode of Futurama (best animated comedy ever) and at various points along both Red Dwarf and Mystery Science Theater 3000’s runs. Such instances of random humour are quite rare in Voyager, as opposed to the more frequent normal sense of humour, if such a word can be applied to such a subjective matter, but when they do crop up, lols abound.
To summarize the point of this blog: BEST. SHOW. EVER.
Some people say Voyager isn’t like the other Treks. To which I say this:
You think I’m biased?
You’re goddamn fucking right I am.