24 March 2013

Voyager Season 6

Voyager Season 6 is a Bit All Over the Place
By Kristin Battestella

Despite building some steady work in Seasons 3, 4, and 5, Star Trek: Voyager’s Sixth Season overly relies on the Borg even further. Individual, one off quality episodes become overshadowed by Borg connections and create a confused, uneven vision for the season.

After facing her Starfleet demons, stranded in the Delta Quadrant Captain Katherine Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and her ship Voyager struggle against the Borg as the separated from the Collective Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) battles her own Borg troubles inside and out with good and bad results thanks to the ship’s holographic Doctor (Robert Picardo). Fortunately, the Federation hasn’t given up on Voyager, and technological advances make it possible for the ship’s growing family to communicate with earth – and just maybe help bring them home.

The “Equinox” two-parter concluding Year 5 and beginning Season 6 should have happened a lot sooner for Voyager, simply put.  Janeway is on the edge and confronted with Starfleet reaffirmations, role reversals, and moral conflicts with another desperate ship.  Voyager being not so nice and bright creates a lot of good to start the season, but this kind of in your face question of faith is happening far too late in the series. There are less than two seasons left and now we get the first good antagonist use of Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay in a long while.  Why did they ever toss out the Maqui angst if the crew’s rough patches are the best part? Longtime viewers also wonder why Tim Russ’ Vulcan Tactical Officer Tuvok doesn’t speak up in these critical situations.  The special effects and ship designs still look good now a decade on, and Trek audiences will see touches of Ronald Moore’s sensibilities, too. However, if we didn’t get this conflict sooner, than dang it should have lasted longer and left some lingering effects. Like any potential romance between the Doctor and Seven, all the angst from “Equinox” is dropped by the next episode. By time we get to more Janeway spotlights in “Good Shepherd,” the lower decks folks and their contrived shuttle mission just aren’t that interesting.  “Dragon’s Teeth” does some fine work in showing Voyager’s interference in the Delta Quadrant, but Janeway and company start a war and then move on their merry way. These no consequences storylines become increasingly iffy and obvious, and when there is quality on Voyager, it’s as if no one saw the series at this point. Memory Alpha barely has any background info on these later seasons of Voyager. This is an overall poor and simply un-received era of Trekdom, and it’s a shame when classic Trek shows like “Blink of an Eye” tackle fundamental planetary differences and Voyager’s influence on an entire society goes unseen.

Interesting Borg angles make their presence known early in “Survival Instinct,” but this Seven focus is intriguing compared to Voyager’s forthcoming Borg overkill.  “One Small Step” is a nice nod to the Alpha Quadrant past with some real growth for Seven, too, but the ball is dropped regarding Chakotay yet again. Likewise, “The Voyager Conspiracy” is a fun way to wonder about the possibilities of the show – it might have been damn interesting if these nefarious accusations on how Voyager got to the Delta Quadrant were true. Unfortunately, at this point, it’s too weird to suspect folks just because Seven has another malfunction, and spoilers, it’s all resolved by Janeway doing a Kirk talk down of her Borg anyway.  At this point in the series, the production really has nothing to loose, yet episodes often end with the safest answer possible.  And oh yeah, these ten year-saving jumps the ship makes from time to time on its way home? They are often afterthoughts in the Captain’s log. It’s a pity if you think about all Voyager’s lost potential, but thankfully, Robert Picardo is always delightful. From the fun and lighthearted “Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy” and the human emotion versus science and mathematics of “Virtuoso” to the touch too much The Next Generation feelings of “Memorial” and “Life Line” with guest Marina Sirtis, Picardo delivers on any and all ask of him. Unfortunately, “Tsunkatse” is one of those needless Seven in the arena with The Rock ‘televised fight to the death’ episodes that every series seems to pull out of its butt at some point.  Why, why why?

Although “Alice” also reeks of obvious parallels to Christine, it’s nice to see any outing with Robert Duncan McNeill as Tom Paris since it feels like we haven’t seen him in awhile.  I’m not sure why each of the characters have a bizarre dream, mixed mental, or reality bending episode at some point, either, and “Barge of the Dead” is a little too implausible. It’s tough for a Trek audience to get in touch with our Klingon spirit after being away from it for so long, but it’s nice to see Roxann Dawson and B’Elanna Torres again in “Muse,” too. “Fury,” however, is an awkward way to bring former regular Jennifer Lien back as Kes. It simply doesn’t go far enough in revisiting her previous relationships with Tuvok and Ethan Phillips as Neelix, and more should have been done with this pair in “Riddles.” Despite fine moments with the players, there is no mention of their Tuvix dilemma, and it feels like obvious Vulcan questions or holodeck solutions are not presented. “Tsunkatse” could have been a serious spotlight for Tuvok – a dutiful pacifistic with Vulcan strength and martial arts training forced to fight to the death for the safety of others – but all development of his character has unfortunately ceased in favor of too many seemingly useless off the mission episodes like “Fair Haven” and “Live Fast and Prosper.”  We need holodeck excuse episodes for Janeway to get it on? These humorous and offshoot shows feel so incomplete with only neat idea beginnings and voiceover resolutions before everyone goes on their way for the week.  When episodes end with scenes other than exterior shots of Voyager traveling on her long way home, it feels like neither the journey nor the destination are the focus of the series.  Then what the heck is Voyager supposed to be about?

“Pathfinder” is a very smart way to get both the ship and show back in touch with the Alpha Quadrant, yes. It’s great to see Dwight Schultz as Reginald Barclay again – someone Trek fans know and love. Then again, this turn might be weird for any viewers who didn’t see The Next Generation. Isn’t it amazing that after six years, Voyager is still trying to ride TNG’s laurels? For longtime Star Trek viewers trying to hang on with Voyager, these retread TNG elements are unnecessarily shoehorned in – pleasing as it is to see that Starfleet is trying to get our titular ship home.  Likewise, there are both positives and negatives to the introduction of the Borg children.  Yes, barely alien juveniles rescued from the Collective ala Seven have nice episodes with “Collective” and “Child’s Play,” but it is simply too late in the game to introduce recurring players, much less kids and Borg individual retreads when we have underutilized regulars. The spooky of “The Haunting of Deck 12” is well placed before the finale, but these Borg problems should have happened together in Season 5. Seven’s pros and cons in contrast with the difficulty for the kids could have been interesting and kept the family aspects of Voyager going.  Perhaps then we could have moved Year 6 on from dang Borg instead of using them as the show’s crux.  Now, it just seems like every child cliché is being tossed into Voyager. I mean, there is even a Borg baby that just frigging disappears! Sticking these episodes with more of Garret Wang’s weak Harry Kim alien women issues in “Ashes to Ashes” and the been there, done that of “Spirit Folk” makes for a serious mix of left over concepts and random attempts – and it’s all at the expense of any promise Season 6 might have had. No wonder no one was watching Voyager and waiting around for the handful of decent shows.  If the production clearly didn’t care, why should the audience?

Seemingly pointless single character episodes create a meandering tone to begin this second to last season of Voyager, and after the half hearted attempts to finish the season, the “Unimatrix Zero” finale seems to comes out of nowhere with more Borg contrivances and one hefty cliffhanger.  It’s been tough to conclude these seasonal reviews when they end each year in such an interconnecting way, but the plots aren’t leaving much return value anyway. I wish that they had done one miniseries Borg season and gotten it all over with, but the lack of cohesion here puts the writing on the wall for Voyager.  Fans of Janeway, Seven, and the Doctor can delight by picking and choosing their preferred episode, and Trek fans can tune in for the 24th century familiarities, but Voyager is past the point of attracting general science fiction fans or new audiences with this all over the place penultimate season.

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