Voyager Limps into Its Seventh and Final Season
By Kristin Battestella
After all its ups and downs, cast changes, and 75,000 light years from earth trials and tribulations, Star Trek: Voyager somehow goes even further off the deep end and apathetically rushes thru its seventh and final year.
Captain Katherine Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and the lost in the Delta Quadrant starship Voyager are close enough to home to signal Starfleet, and the crew anticipates returning to earth with both excitement and uncertainty. The holographic Doctor (Robert Picardo) must fight for photonic rights while ex-Borg drone Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) struggles with attachments to her Borg past. Pilot Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) and Chief Engineer B’Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) face difficulties with their Human and Klingon courtship while alien friends and foes old and new disturb Voyager’s final approach towards home.
With all its action, Borg, and multiple places both real and virtual, “Unimatrix Zero Part II” opens the season with a confusing, all over the place, and far-fetched load of iffy. Folks are able to be assimilated and completely restored problem free and with no after effects yet “Imperfection” adds more Borg happenings and it is all so inconsistent. The Borg kid storylines are fortunately resolved, and Manu Intiraymi as Icheb creates a nice family dynamic for Seven. I’d like to think he’s Wesley Crusher as he should have been, but it’s too late in the series to waste yet another character like this. Dwight Schultz as Barclay and Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi also return for the uneven “Inside Man.” The novelty of old friends and Ferengi hijinks wears off quickly, and it’s weird that after all this time, Voyager is still reaching for Alpha Quadrant clichés. I still think an unknown character should have been used for the ‘phone home’ Pathfinder connection, otherwise these Next Generation names takeover and ultimately don’t help Voyager. Likewise, the big “Endgame” double episode series finale is a letdown. Unlike The Original Series’ cut short five year mission, here we have an obvious conclusion for a series ending – the only worthwhile reason to see Voyager now is to see Voyager get home. Unfortunately, too much time is wasted on cliché dialogue and time travel. Instead of delivering on all of Voyager’s potential, the finale feels like an afterthought with no homecoming pay off whatsoever. Longtime fans may very well be angry at this unfulfilling, “That’s it?” conclusion.
Kate Mulgrew does fine work in Janeway’s efforts to stick to her Federation morals in “The Void,” but the interesting alien prospects and opportunity for Voyager to get some real damage so close to home is gone easy peesy by the next episode. Though fine photography and dark filming add some seriousness, Voyager repeatedly uses this trapped in a dark anomaly thing way too many times. Thankfully, the “Workforce” two-parter gives everyone his or her moment. Time is taken to get the whole ensemble involved – rather than leaving the flawed characters along the wayside – and this is how the show ought to have been all along. It’s a big arc that’s not Borg related! Yes, the subject matter becomes dry – this is an idea stretched too long and not well thought out in the end. Once again, all of Voyager’s problems are resolved with a handshake and no consequences. Pity. “Q2” also has some fun thanks to the cast, but surprise, surprise we’ve seen the unruly kid Q treatment before. I take this episode as definitive proof that the production team is merely going thru the motions, filling an episode order, and tossing anything at viewers ahead of the finale. Q gives Janeway specifications to shorten Voyager’s journey but refuses to take them all the way – and we never get an exact count of how many years his information takes off the trip. Once a long time ago, this light year clock was so important to Voyager’s identity and its Starfleet ship lost in space premise. Now, however, they don’t care, and by default, neither does any remaining audience. Way to drop the ball on the one yard line! “Friendship One” almost redeems Voyager with its mission from Starfleet to find a lost probe, but the pre-prime directive consequences and aftermath are dropped completely – after all, the show would be over in five more episodes, no time to do anything significant, oh no.
Once again, Robert Picardo stands out in the lovely “Critical Care.” There’s Trek dilemma and some commentary on today and “Flesh and Blood” is a supersized hologram escapade, too. The evil holograms and stereotypes on the photonic versus organic parallels may be typical, but the Doctor is always good fun. “Body and Soul” has nice moments between the Doctor and Jeri Ryan’s Seven as the Doctor, but most of the episode is just too awkward. Seven’s appearances have become increasingly gimmicky by this point. The girl stands out in a crowd and viewers notice when she is standing on the bridge just for the sake of being there. Her tossed in one or two lines techno babble appearances often have nothing to do with plot, and you noticed the absence of more qualified players at her forced in presence. Where other regulars hardly appear, Seven never misses an episode. “Human Error” is so wrong in so many ways. Not only do we see yet more familiar TNG concepts like holographic addiction and rights of the crew, but Seven is getting it on with a holographic Chakotay? Oiy. “Author Author,” by contrast, does a fine job of hinting at the reception the Doctor will receive at home, and his slightly off holonovel is a fun mirror way to depict Voyager. We have seen these kinds of character on trial shows and alternative simulations before, oh yes indeed, and fine player performances are hampered by Voyager’s now overly convenient contact with Starfleet. Again, wasn’t the point of the show supposed to be that an Admiral or a JAG weren’t handy? Ethan Phillips’ exit as Neelix in “Homestead” and the Doctor’s dénouement in “Renaissance Man” are charming little shows, finally. Sadly, they come too late for Voyager.
“Shattered” is also a weird time travel attempt revisiting scenes from the series’ past thanks to Voyager’s barely there First Officer. Robert Beltran’s Chakotay has been the wooden bane of this series, we know. Why do they go there? The wool is pulled over him yet again, and this repeating, one trick Maqui stuff is beyond old. Unfortunately, “Repression” erroneously reduces Tim Russ’ Tuvok to Vulcan misuses and excuses. So much more could have been done with Tuvok, indeed. His pon farr –the Vulcan of Vulcan issue we’ve been waiting for- is relegated to a blink and you miss it B storyline in “Body and Soul.” Ironically, “Nightingale” tries to strengthen Garrett Wang’s Harry Kim by making an onscreen acknowledgement of how he’s been screwed for the past seven years – and then screws him again. Robert Duncan McNeill and Roxann Dawson as Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres also internally diss Harry Kim in “Drive,” but it is nice to see the couple have their moments in “Lineage” and “Repentance,” too. These sci-fi death penalty dilemmas and the Klingon pregnancy woes in “Prophecy” get unfortunately lost in the shuffle of Voyager’s too little too late.
I feel like I’ve been overly critical of Voyager’s run, but there was a lot to criticize. The consistency and quality problems of Deep Space Nine ballooned into glaring flaws in this subsequent spin off. Star Trek got worse thanks to Voyager, not better as a new series should do for its franchise. Viewers and fans can’t even ignore this installment because it is the one that drove the franchise into the ground thanks to it’s under developed characters, overuses of aliens and science fiction standards, and overall short sightedness. Though tolerable thanks to a few shining players and episodes, I’ve long been ready for Voyager to end. Despite it’s rehashing of common 24th century pieces and plots, the merely basic SF at best here often doesn’t even resemble what one expects from Star Trek. Where there was once such promise, Voyager ends with no backbone, and that’s a damn shame. Casual audiences looking for a touch of non committal Trek, science fiction background noise, or a few hours in which you don’t really have to pay attention too much can take Voyager’s final season for what it is, meh.