Okay, this will take the format of one ‘up’ point and then one ‘down’ point. I was inspired to do this by the Hero/Zero Up/Down formats found in PC Zone and PC Gamer magazines (UK editions, of course), so credit given where credit is due. These are just little niggling issues that I have with the show, like I’ve said before, its awesome but its not perfect, and its a nice way of showing that, despite my extreme partisan love for Voyager, I recognise that it has faults.
(I’m sure I’ll come up with more Ups/Downs, they will be added in due time).
New plots/storylines: The Brain in the Jar they keep at Paramount certainly does the job in coming up with fresh ideas.
Yup, some storylines are recycled. Some hostile spatial anomalies seem familiar, and a few of the storylines are rehashes of previous episodes. Though not always in a bad way, Season 6’s ‘Good Shepherd’ is far superior to ‘Lower Decks’. I have seen both, and Voyager’s is a much better story. And, like normal, they actually SHOW the action instead of pussing out at the end with TNG’s ‘oh btw, your friend got killed on the mission, god forbid we should actually show something exciting and perhaps even graphic on this show.’ That’s a cop-out.
The Hirogen. Damn, some of the most menacing aliens ever seen in Trek. I like the culture, the visual look of the aliens, the ‘prey’ doctrine that dicates much of their actions and ethics (or lack thereof). Oh, and not forgetting the big-ass guns they wield.
Under-used after ‘The Killing Game.’ A cracking sci-fi yarn, and the Voyager crew did defeat them in the end, but I still think the Hirogen would have attacked the ship again, despite the losses they suffered during this battle. They are nomadic and have massive territories, we see them again in Season 7’s ‘Flesh and Blood’, a welcome return and another fine two-parter. Voyager has crossed thousands of light years between these two episodes, largely thanks to the events of ‘Timeless’ and ‘Dark Frontier’, but the Hirogen could have conceivably reached the outskirts of the Alpha Quadrant in their endless search for prey. Still, we had them for a whole half of a season where they featured very heavily, and a guest appearance from a Hirogen in the mindless but fun ‘Tsukatse’, so its not all down.
The Overseers, aka the Hierarchy aliens. Those guys are almost as annoying as Ferengi. Almost.
Recurring extras, 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. 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!
The fluctuating crew complement. How many is it? Starting with 155 at the end of ‘Caretaker’, by the time of Season 5’s in ‘Dark Frontier’ the complement is listed as 143. Casualties totalling 12. Now, they lost people to the Vidiians, the Kazon, one unlucky soul in a shuttle crash (uh oh, shuttles!) the disconnected Borg from ‘Unity’, the aliens from Scientific Method (Svirani, I think they’re called, though they are never named on-screen), the Kyrians (One of the alien species from ‘Living Witness’, they are worthy of mention because they senselessly gun down and kill three of the engineering staff. One was perhaps revived later, or perhaps not), the destructive nebula from ‘One’, and, of course, to the Hirogen’s guns and blades. 12 seems slightly too low, it should be more like twenty or so. Its a small niggle, and Voyager is the hero ship so the writers have prerogative, but it vexes me. They acquire additional crew over the years, (Neelix, Kes, Seven, Borg children, Equinox survivors), but they would suffer casualties which they wouldn’t be able to replace in the dangerous space they journey through.
Fully fleshed out, intriguing and layered characters in the form of Kathryn Janeway, The Doctor, Seven of Nine, Tom Paris, B’Elanna Torres, Kes. (Tuvok is an odd ‘in the middle’ character here. He is both explored, then neglected. Odd.) The sub-plots and interpersonal relationships between the characters is deep, and great to watch as they develop and change over the years.
Underused characters, with potential and flavour of their own which is not fully realised in the form of Chakotay, Harry Kim, Neelix. Often Chakotay’s relevance overall is measured by his importance to Janeway, and their relationship, dependence on each other and friendship is an integral part of the show. Now, this is an important facet to his character, but he is still underused in other regards. He shines in the episodes that are dedicated to him, such as ‘Nemesis’ and ‘Natural Law’, and when he is left in charge in Scorpion, Part 2 when Janeway is badly wounded and put out of action for a few days, he proves he is up to the task. His actions (see the episode for details) I personally disagree with, 8472 were the greater threat, not the Borg, (I know, wow. They must be a hell of a threat to usurp the Borg’s crown) but he chooses his path and sticks with it. Much like Harry Kim, whose overall worth is measured by his friendship with Paris and their interactions.
Seven Of Nine.
The first silver catsuit. That looked uncomfortable for the woman. Sure, part of her appeal is sex appeal for boys of a certain age with the dicks, but she’s a great character too. The later outfits were much better. They got her out of the borg get-up to quickly. That was a mistake by TPTB. (The Powers That Be, the from-on-high producers who were worried that she’d be in the Borg get-up for too long. Sigh).
Same amount of technobabble jargon jargon crap bunch of bull crap as all the other shows.
Same amount of technobabble as the other shows. Grrrrrr. I understand the majority of it, I am interested as to what it means, so I find out and retain the information, but I don’t need it to be in the show. Other sci-fi manages just fine without it. I understand it is part of Trek, but tone it down a little, please.
Good episodes. About ninety percent of them. Mmm…maybe eighty five.
Not so good episodes. When Voyager strayed from what it did best, it would falter and stumble like a moth looking for a light. But by god, when it got it right, its the best sci-fi/drama/adventure in the universe. In the first season, it started off with a jog, built up to a run in the second, stumbled for a bit and nearly tripped, found its feet in the first half of the third and worked up into a fast sprint, and from there it was a strong sprint all the way to the finale.
As with anything of real class, quality sometimes runs headfirst into shoddiness, and the two have a nasty argument with lots of pushing and shoving, with quality ultimately prevailing due to artistic creativity. Without the Downs, how would we recognise the Ups?
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.