It's no secret that Star Trek is a social phenomenon that has engaged many people from all persuasions of life. From those that merely like the programs to others that ill-advisedly try to squeeze into a 7 of 9 style cat suit to attend a Sci-Fi convention: Star Trek really popular.
Or, at least it used to be. You see, The Original Series had that holy trio of Kirk, Spock and Bones that just worked. The stories kind of grew out of this friendship, appearing to be daring, exciting and most importantly enjoyable. Whilst both Next generation and Deep Space Nine started slowly, both series gathered speed after their a couple of seasons. They offered a mix of terrific new foes, genuinely interesting characters and some standout stories. It looked like the Trek Universe could do no wrong.
That was until Voyager started; part way through Deep Space Nine's run. The reason de'etre for Voyager was simple: How do you recapture those lost viewers from the Next Gen era, and how do you gain more viewers over and above the Star Trek norm? The answer was Voyager: A series that casts a crew and ship way out into the furthest reaches of the galaxy, with no way back. The crew, a mix of anti-federation bandits and Starfleet officers, have a lifetime of travel inorder to rejoin Federation space, and make it back home. Voyager was no longer clinging to the vestiges of po-faced federation tradition, especially with half the crew made up from “Al Qaeda” modeled federation protestors. A series whose stories are not shackled to a faux religious stasis like DS9 nor entrenched in stale Federation/Klingon/Romulan political inertia. Voyager was to be Trek, but with a hint of Mad Max and piracy on the high seas. Sound's good, doesn't it?
Well, it wasn't. Instead we get re-hashed pretentious ethical plots, plodding character development and yet more “spatial anomalies”. The low points are only magnified by some very engaging episodes, making you ask why there could not have been more of them. Trek's knack of putting together truly spectacular two-parters, for example, is present in the form of Emmy award winning Dark Frontier. While searching for a piece of Borg technology that will shave years of voyagers journey home, the Borg make contact with 7 of 9. In exchange for 7 of 9 rejoining the Borg Collective, the Borg promises to leave Voyager alone on their journey. While most of the crew express disappointment at the apparent traitor, Janeway is determined to reclaim the wayward 7 of 9. Whilst the Borg are again used as the ultimate foe at least they do present some menace this time, rather than a watered down gag they are often portrayed as. Jerry Ryan actually gets some acting to do as the lithe 7 of 9, proving herself to be one of the better cast members, and not just set dressing. Kate Mulgrew as Janeway is shown to be a far better action orientated captain than either Picard or Sisko, appearing to relish the excitement of fighting the deadly Borg.
Another Star Trek staple is time travel, and a season would not be complete without a time travel story or five. Relativity is one of the better ones, with the superb Bruce McGill as captain Braxton. An intruder travels back in time to plant a temporal bomb on board Voyager, and it is up to Janeway and co to find the bomb before it destroys the ship. There is a humour in this episode that is lacking in many Trek stories which is a refreshing change. Relativity not only ratchets up the tension, but also has a far better script that never stops to allow you to probe the paradoxical story.
Timeless has some fantastic effects of Voyager crashing into an ice planet, giving Harry Kim (??) something more to do than his usual “technobabble converter” remit. 11.59 is another one of the other superior episodes, which takes place in 2000 and one that points to a trend. In each case, whether it is the Captain Proton 1950's b/w rip offs, or alternate timelines, the episodes that work really well are those that aren't mired in the turgid Voyager universe. Even the action packed Borg two-parter may as well be a different world so different is the pacing. I have chosen some good episodes to write about above, but a whole season is made up from twenty four episodes and there are many more prosaic episodes than good ones. Someone to Watch Over Me is a woeful episode that is by turn embarrassing and boring except a very funny line toward the start of the episode that promises much, but delivers little. Night again starts off well and edgy, but degenerates into a plodding episode with a needless ethical twist. Amazingly, season 5 is one of the better Voyager seasons, but that doesn't mean that this boxset offers anything for anyone other than the diehard Trekker.
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