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.
Okay, going from best to worst (and btw, take a look at my blog name and gravatar if you’re not sure what way I’m going to go here).
If your sensibilities towards your favourite captain are easily offended and you get mad if someone is rude about them, (I know I do, hehe.) then I suggest you either stop reading right now or bear in mind that this is my opinion and I am entitled to it, and keep reading. And my opinion is right. ;)
1: Janeway. The best captain. Tough, courageous, intelligent, gutsy, charismatic, confident, daring, unorthodox, intuitive, noble, protective, a natural leader, justifiably brash, and she practically bleeds authority. She even has rough edges, like arrogance, stubbornness, and a touch too much self-assurance on occasion. Much like real people have flaws. Not to mention that the real-life woman Kate Mulgrew is the best actor out of the lot of them by a considerable order of magnitude. The best captain, hands fucking down. Also, and this is coming from a heterosexual woman, she’s the best looking one of the lot of them.
(Insult HUGE GAP here between 1 and the rest of the list, similar to the kinds of gulfs that separate galaxies in this immense universe we live in). I think that illustrates how strongly I feel about this matter.
2: Original Series/movies Kirk. This lad’s got some pizzazz, he’s ballsy and brave. Still, I have some questions over his ability to keep any member of his crew not on the senior staff alive…
3: Picard. This man’s way to soft for my liking. Not what I want or expect from my science fiction heroes. Being cerebral is fine and admirable, but I want some badass attitude and some pizzazz as well as that. This guy has NIL, nadda. He doesn’t exhibit forcefulness often enough, which is a shame, because when he does, he’s a real leader, reaching similar heights to Janeway and Kirk. Sure, he’s a professional, but at the cost of his guts. Just tell the Romulans to go to hell man, they do the same to you! Grrrrrrrr. He may be third on my list, but he is certainly second in terms of acting ability. The real life man, Patrick Stewart, is almost at good as Mulgrew in the believability department.
4: Kirk from the new movie. Yup, he’s perhaps a bit young, but he’s got a style and method all his own, which is quickly established in the movie. I think Chris Pine gave a fine performance. Although he does get beaten up a bit too much for my liking. I thought he had advanced combat training? Sheesh. You don’t see Janeway and Picard having their asses handed to them, they’re usually the ones delivering the punishment when necessary. Also, Pine is the second best looking one of the bunch.
5: Archer. He’s to easily led, is easily offended and loses his temper WAY to easily.
6: Sisko. Wow, what a fucking dick. He’s a whiner and skin-peelingly annoying, he looks so miserable most of the time I would reach inside the screen and give him a hug if I didn’t think he was such an idiot. There’s simmering, and then there’s just being a complete arse. He is the latter. However, I have nothing against Avery Brooks, for the record. He seems like a nice guy. If I don’t like a character I’m not going to hold it against their real-life counterpart. That’s just deeply weird.
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!
I see no reason to go into great detail on this, because 1 : ITS FUCKING OBVIOUS, look into your quantum theory, and 2: I can’t be arsed to go into huge detail because it shouldn’t be bloody necessary.
Okay, quick and to the point:
After reading various comments around the Internet, gotta add my own to this pointless ‘debate.’ Anyone who thinks that the new film (which is great) somehow effects the canonical escapades of the VOY, TNG, TOS and DS9 crews is a FUCKING MORON. They’re not going to piss all over forty years of canon and stories for the sake of one film. I wouldn’t give a crap if DS9 was erased because its fucking rubbish, but neither it nor the other shows are changed by the movie. They set it in a different reality. Job done. Problem fucking solved. The destruction of Vulcan, which appears in later movies of TOS era, clearly indicates that it is a different universe. Sheesh. This is clearly indicated in several places in the film.
Everybody clear? Good.
If you want more ordered and less random reasons, check my other posts regarding Voyager. These are ten reasons that didn’t really go with the other lists, which I felt like posting.
Now, in no particuar order…
1. There’s an episode where they get temporarily transported back in time to the Big Bang, the beginning of the universe, and a few seconds later find themselves on a Christmas tree as one of the decorations. If you don’t know which episode that is…tough. I’m going to make you figure it out. Heh Heh. ;)
2.There’s an episode where Janeway has to fly Voyager between TWO COLLAPSING NEUTRON STARS. Sorry for the shouting, but that is FUCKING AMAZING. Its one of those seat-of-the-pants, thinking on the feet, last resort, all or nothing acts that I like so much.
3. Hirogen Nazis. Big aliens running the halls in Nazi uniforms with Mausers, holographic American and Resistance fighters in Voyager’s corridors, a fully-fledged battle going on between the crew of Voyager allied with the Americans against the Hirogen allied with the Nazis. Marvellous chaos!
4. The plan from ‘Unimatrix Zero’ is one of the most batshit crazy plans I have ever heard of! I love it! It is Star Wars levels of craziness, diving headfirst into a garbage chute/flying towards a Star Destroyer full pelt/catapulting self off gangplank to catch lightsaber craziness! I find it laudable because:
- As it is Janeway’s idea, she goes on the mission herself, regulations can take a flying leap.
- Tuvok and Torres volunteer to go with her despite the craziness of the scheme.
- The crew deems it a risk worth taking to deal the Borg a great big punch in their collective faces. (Forgive the pun, I hate puns!) That’s extremely brave, so good for them.
5. That scene in ‘Dragon’s Teeth’ where Voyager battles squadrons of Vaadwaur ships in-amongst the ruins of a decimated city.
6. They discover that the rumoured (and often poo-pooed) alien abductions and sightings claimed by many eye-witness accounts from the twentieth century did in fact happen for real. Many people that had mysteriously disappeared never to be seen again were taken from Earth by an unseen alien race called the Breori. The crew of Voyager discover these peoples ancestors living in an advanced human colony on the other side of the galaxy, over three hundred thousand of them, along with some people from the thirties (hence the episode title) still in stasis. Great episode. Also, the Ford truck floating in space, their first clue as to the presence of humans in the area, is pretty funny.
7. The whole episode of ‘Counterpoint’, from start to finish.
8. The fact that the only painfully camp acting in Voyager (what I call Shatner-ing) comes in ‘Bride Of Chaotica’, and is entirely intentional on the cast’s part.
9. The whole episode of ‘Dark Frontier’, start to finish. Particularly the encounter between Janeway and the Borg Queen. Fucking hell, how brave have you got to be to walk into the Borg’s lair, the heart of the Collective? Answer: VERY. I mean…wow.
10. The last shot of the show is the most poignant closing shot of all the finales, given Voyager’s overall story arc.
Btw, the Big Bang/ Christmas Tree episode? It was Season 2’s ‘Death Wish.’