Thursday, January 26, 2012

Star Trek: Voyager, Season Seven

And here we are, the final season of Star Trek: Voyager. It's something of a mixed bag, much like the series itself, and for a final season I think it could have been handled better. Obviously, this is just armchair quarterbacking a decade later, but these are just my reactions to the honest work of others. Or as they call it today, blogging. Let's soldier through it.

1. Unimatrix Zero, Part II (my rating: 3 out of 5)
Kind of more of the same from last season's finale.

2. Imperfection (3/5)
This episode is a really good showcase for Icheb, a character I'd like to see more of. I'm actually more interested in the next generation of characters than I am in the main cast. Someone needs to put a show together with Icheb, Naomi Wildman, Nog, and Jake Sisko, or something. Jeri Ryan is quite nice in this one. I'd really like to see her doing more now than ending up on shows like Shark.

3. Drive (1/5)
Harry and Tom enter a sub-warp race, predictable plot twists, and Tom and B'Elanna getting together, because why not pair the two most boring characters? Eh.

4. Repression (1/5)
Robert Beltran's pretty good on this completely unnecessary return to the Maquis...well, "story" obviously isn't the word I want there, is it? "Arbitrary motivation"?

5. Critical Care (3/5)
The Doctor is kidnapped again, but there are some interesting ethical discussions here.

6. Inside Man (3/5)
As much as I like seeing Reg Barclay, this episode where a Barclay hologram stolen by Ferengi is used to attempt to steal Borg nanoprobes didn't do as much for me as other appearances he's made. I'm also getting over the writers' infatuation with nanites as some sort of plot-healing magic. Dwight Schultz is great, as ever.

7. Body and Soul (4/5)
This episode is hilarious because of Jeri Ryan. I love the idea that the Doctor is forced to download his program into Seven's Borg implants, and then he's able to experience physical sensations like eating. Ryan is marvelous, and her impression of Robert Picardo's performance as the Doctor is hysterically good.

8. Nightingale (2/5)
It is nice to finally see Harry get put in a leadership position, because I still think there was much more potential for both actor and character than we ever get to see on this show. I could have done without Seven giving him heavy-handed moral lessons about leadership, though. Chakotay, maybe, but Seven rings false. I also could have done without Icheb's sudden crush on B'Elanna. Ugh, B'Elanna.

9. Flesh and Blood (4/5)
I don't think it's a home run, but I do like a lot of what happens on this feature-length episode. Here we're exploring one of the biggest themes on this show, which is what constitutes sentience and humanity, and this episode isn't afraid to really delve into the conflict. The idea that Hirogen holograms have rebelled against their masters is an intriguing one; they can have a concept of freedom and individuality, and want to escape into space to explore their own lives. They firmly put Captain Janeway in the wrong on this one, in my opinion, and I'm glad the Doctor calls her on her inability to think of the possibility that holograms could also be people. It rings a little hollow, since a) Janeway has encountered sentient photonic life in "Bride of Chaotica!" and b) she fell in love with a twee Irish stereotype hologram. I can't decide if the point gets muted or not by having Iden, the leader of the holograms, turn into such a fanatic.

10. Shattered (2/5)
More time travel. At least Chakotay has something to do in this episode, but like a lot of science fiction plots on Trek, Farscape later did it better. I am beyond caring about Seska at this point.

11. Lineage (2/5)
The story is actually handled well, but it does bother me that B'Elanna's apparent hatred of her Klingon ancestry is only ever a part of her character for the sake of plot convenience.

12. Repentance (1/5)
The wife tells me this was a really good episode, but I honestly have a hard time even remembering it. I'm looking at the description right now on Wikipedia and I barely remember it.

13. Prophecy (3/5)
You know, I was surprised by how much it made me smile to see an old Klingon D-7. I made a model of a D-7 back in junior high. I made the Enterprise, too. Always wanted to make a Romulan Warbird, but I guess that was never in the cards. Wonder if I could find one now, one from the original series. Anyway, on to this episode. Every time I see Klingons I'm surprised by how much I miss them and am glad to see them back (real Klingons, not B'Elanna Torres, who is only a Klingon when it motivates a story). Damn, Ronald D. Moore, you made me love Klingons after all. And who could replace Moore as the keeper of the culture? This episode has six credited writers. I like how these older Klingons, still enemies of the Federation, come to believe that B'Elanna's unborn child is a prophesied savior of the Klingon Empire. Good Klingons on this episode, too, and I always like to see Sherman Howard on TV.

14. The Void (4/5)
What a neat episode. I wish we could spend a whole half-season in the Void, seeing all of these new lifeforms and watching Janeway make all of these alliances. I hate how these things are always just one-off episodes and they don't build. Really neat stuff. The idea of Fantome's species communicating through specific musical sound sequences is really intriguing. And I like that Jonathan Del Arco got to play Fantome, since "Descent" was such a lame return for Hugh compared to the classic "I, Borg."

15. Workforce, Part I (1/5)
16. Workforce, Part II (1/5)
Shouldn't we be wrapping up individual plot threads by now? After the surprising vibrancy of "The Void," here we grind the season to a halt with a not-very-interesting story that's mainly a heavy-handed metaphor about workers' rights. I like the love story between Janeway and James Read (always like him), and seeing Don Most was kind of a kick.

17. Human Error (3/5)
Nice try at a personal, character-building story, although instead of just seeing Seven try human interaction on the holodeck, they have to add in the fake drama of the holo-addiction angle. And Chakotay, really? I'm sorry that we didn't get to see Seven and the Doctor together, but okay, Chakotay's not bad, he's just barely a character. The writers seemed to lose interest in him somewhere in the fourth season.

18. Q2 (5/5)
A nice final appearance from Q, though the way he's aged here makes me too aware that I was in 6th grade when TNG premiered. I like John de Lancie's son, Keegan, as Q's son. You kind of know where the story is going, but it's enjoyable getting there. I wanted to see Q2 stay human and hang out with Icheb and Naomi (wherever the hell she is) and end up in Starfleet Academy together. I had more fun imagining that show than I'm having watching Voyager.

19. Author, Author (4/5)
Another episode exploring the Doctor and any claims he has to humanity. It's irritating for almost the first half, but when they finally get to the issue of what rights the Doctor has as a creator or an artist, that's the interesting stuff. Nice ending, too. "Q2" and "Author, Author" both feel like a show that's tying up its story threads. There should have been more of this.

20. Friendship One (1/5)
More Prime Directive crap.

21. Natural Law (1/5)
Even more Prime Directive crap. Guys, the Prime Directive is not an interesting plot motivation now matter how much you think it is. And are Seven and Chakotay together now, or what's going on?

22. Homestead (5/5)
This is a beautiful way to end Neelix's story; not only does he get to be with other Talaxians, but he gets the one thing that's most been missing from his life: a family. This is one of the few episodes this season that makes me think someone was paying attention to characterization. I'm also glad Neelix's ambassadorial status is made official by the Federation. I know there are only two more episodes left, but I'd hate to think that this was the end of Neelix's affiliation with the Federation. He deserved a nice send-off, and he got it. And I even teared up when Tuvok said his goodbye. What a lovely moment. How can there be an episode this lovely and then the episodes surrounding it are just filler and burn-offs of old scripts?

23. Renaissance Man (2/5)
This belonged on a previous season. It's a good enough plot, mostly, but as the second-to-last episode it just feels like filler.

24. Endgame (3/5)
And this is how they went out... Hm. What I liked: the tense stuff between Admiral Janeway and the Borg Queen (Alice Krige again), the way Admiral Janeway uses a pathogen to defeat the Borg, Starfleet finally being able to utilize the Borg conduits, the makeup (the only old age makeup I've seen on a Star Trek series that didn't look utterly ridiculous), Neelix's cameo, Miral Paris, and Tuvok's storyline. What I didn't like: yet more goddamn time travel, the idea that the underdeveloped and new Seven/Chakotay romance is already so passionate that her death could destroy him, no Icheb or Naomi Wildman, and the ending. This episode just kind of whisks past everything, trying to do so much in one shot that the end just comes off as abrupt. The whole series just sort of stops. It feels incomplete without at least getting to see these people we've followed really come home. I'm not asking for a half-hour of saying goodbye, I just would have liked some sense of what happened to everyone when they got home. Jeez, let's see Harry reunite with his girlfriend or Reg Barclay and the Doctor shaking hands or Tuvok see his wife again or something to let us emotionally connect with the end of this journey. And what the eff happens to Icheb? Or Naomi?

I don't feel satisfied at the end of this. Like I said, it just sort of stops and then it's over. It's not like the potential wasn't there with the series, it just always feels like the writers and producers don't really care and aren't paying enough attention. Because of Rick Berman's and Paramount's resistance to serialization, there's just no build on the characters, there's no through-arc, and there's no emotional pay-off or resonance at the end. I honestly think they cared more about milking the damn franchise than about telling a story, which is a real shame, because I love Star Trek and Deep Space Nine was such a high note.

Missed opportunities abound. Oh, well.

Moving on, I guess it's time to start Enterprise.


Tallulah Morehead said...

Not having watched a Voyager episode since the show went off the air, after reading your reviews (we don't always agree, far from it, but I enjoy reading your insights nevertheless. Discussions between people who all exactly agree are boring anyway.), I went back and rewatched Endgame, which somehow I still had on an old VHS tape deep in a closet, three weeks ago. I remembered liking it.

Rewatching it was like a dash of cold water in the face. The show was not how I remembered it. I found myself deeply bothered by the time paradox problem: Why hadn't Janeway encountered her older self the first time through? No logic to that.

I always like the Borg, so anytime they feature heavily, I'm pleased, but on the whole, my estimation of that episode dropped considerably on rewatching it a decade on. Which makes me wonder, if I were to rewatch the whole series now, I wouldn't like it less now also.

One thing that did not drop was my admiration for Jeri Ryan's Seven-of-Nine. For me, as I said I in earlier comments, the show began to work for me only when her character was added to the cast. I had utterly forgotten she even had a romance with Chakotay. I had a vague memory of Janeway becoming his squeeze, but no. Memory plays me false again.

I certainly agree that Jeri Ryan has not been well-utilzed in the years since. Even that David Kelley high school series she was on didn't give her much meat to work with. It seems like all casting people remember is how well she filled out her Borg/Federation outfits, and not how well she filled out her character's reality.

I had forgotten Tom Paris and Blah-na Torres became an item and parents. I've spared neither of them a thought in a decade.

Funny about your wish that we'd seen Tuvok reunite with his wife. You are right, of course, (I am reminded of Pauline Kael's carp about Return of the Jedi, that Han Solo has to be the only major movie hero to regain his sight after being blinded OFFSCREEN!) but I know the reason not seeing Tuvok's marital reunion didn't bother me then and didn't bother me now is that Tuvok's wife never rang real to me. It's not like we had flashbacks to their relationship. It's not like we ever even saw her. (Unless we did, and I've forgotten), so that character-motivation device never had any urgency or reality for me. I was never fully sure Tuvok's wife wasn't stuffed in the apple celler, or a figment of his imagination or soemthing. (If I mentioned this before, forgive me for bragging twice, but my brother has been the diretcor of photography on a couple very low-budget films that Tim Russ directed, and my brother speaks highly of him, and likes him a lot.)

Anyway, thanks for taking me back through Voyager's arc without my having to sit through the darned thing again. I think I'll rewatch Lost instead.

Good luck on Enterprise. I jumped ship near the end of the second season. It's the only Star Trek series I have not seen every episode of. I had just reached the point where, after watching Star Trek since 1966, I had had enough of it, and just couldn't take anymore. For me, Enterprise really did not work. I'll be curious to see what you think. Don't skimp on the plot details after mid-season 2, because I truely paid no more attention to it, and have absolutely no idea at all what happened after that. They were just buildng up to a war with no suspense to it, being a prequel, so we know the Federation wouldn't be losing it.

Bob Rutledge said...

I have a feeling Mr. Frog will like Enterprise. Just a guess, of course, but his views on Star Trek seem to parallel my own, and as I've said before, Voyager was, IMO, the nadir of the franchise. It just (in large part for the reasons listed in the conclusion) never jelled. For me.

Plus, Enterprise has Scott Bakula. :)

Jason said...

Frog, you can still get a Romulan bird-of-prey model. Behold:

Semaj said...

I will say this again. Watch the first episode of Enterprise and watch the last episode of season 2 and then going into season 3 and onward. I'd skip the rest.

BTW, I just re-watched "The Thaw" what a great episode.

I still think it was wrong of Braga to date Jeri Ryan during the shows run. Bit of a conflict there.

BTW, have you seen what Jennifer Lien looks like today? She looks very different. It is a shame she didn't go on to do bigger things and pretty much left the business.

Lee said...

I'm really looking forward to your take on Enterprise. I watched it a couple of years ago and after you wade through the dumbness of season 1 and 2 I actually really came to love these characters.

It's a shame how it all ends but I'll wait to see your take :)

MC said...

It wasn't until you broke Voyager down that I realized just how much it depended on time travel.

SamuraiFrog said...

Tallulah: I see a lot of criticisms of Seven of Nine from the time it was on, and I think people make a mistake putting the blame on Jeri Ryan herself. She really rose above the confines of a show that didn't quite know what to do her, basically put her on for prurient commercial reasons, and shoved a lot of development aside to focus on her. I do think she was ultimately a very good character, and a large part of that is Jeri Ryan's consistent acting skill. My real problems with the show will always be aimed at the producers and writers.

Why did I never think of "Blah-na Torres"? Good one! And completely accurate.

I think we saw Tuvok's wife a grand total of twice; once in a communication when the ship gets closer to the Gamma Quadrant, and once as a holographic re-creation so that Tuvok can pon farr, which I just don't want to think about, really. They made more of his being a father, especially in the first couple of seasons, but dropped that in the fourth season, I think. Tim Russ seems like a nice guy.

I think I still need a year or two on Lost, but that's another show I'd like to sit with and view as a whole. There were a lot of problems I had in the middle, though I admit a lot of it was my own frustration.

You know, even though I actually skipped most of Star Trek while it was on, I got really tired of it around the time Enterprise came on, too. Plus that was the exact time I was beginning college and moving into my apartment, so I was too busy to try and keep up with the first few episodes, so I just gave up on it. It didn't help that I had been so supremely disappointed in Star Trek: Insurrection a couple of years earlier. It's been long enough that I've been having so much fun catching up to everything. Even with episodes I've been disappointed in, I'm enjoying myself.

Bob: I want to like Enterprise. Of course, I wanted to like Voyager, too, and I really only liked certain elements or characters. But I'm excited to start watching it, and certainly part of that is the presence of Scott Bakula. Quantum Leap is in my top 10 of favorite TV series of all time.

Jason: Thank you! And look at the bird design, it's so beautiful. Looks like I'm saving up for a treat...

Semaj: Yeah, but Kate Mulgrew was also dating Winrich Kolbe. But yeah, all of it seems like a big conflict of interest to me. Of course, it seems like the whole reason Jeri Ryan was put on the show was for cheesecake, anyway, so it's not like they weren't going to focus on her.

Speaking of the writers, I have never wanted to see Battlestar Galactica more than I do now, just because of so many of the criticisms Ronald D. Moore had about Voyager. I think I'll hit Galactica after Star Trek, it's also on Netflix.

I have seen Jennifer Lien. I think it's a shame that her experiences on Voyager seem to have killed her interest in acting, because I'll maintain until I die that she was one of the best actors on that show.

Lee: I know I saw the premiere and maybe one other episode back in 2001, so I'm going into this blind. I'll have my first post up when I'm done. All I really know for sure is that I love Porthos. I remember him the clearest... man, I want a dog.

MC: Entirely too much. Time travel is to Voyager what holodeck malfunctions were to TNG.

Tallulah Morehead said...

Rewatching Lost after you've seen how it ends is essential to understanding the show, because then, from the pilot on, you can go "OH! I know what's happening here now. That isn't 'Dave,' it's The Smoke Monster trying to talk Hurley into jumping off a cliff."

When 10 year old Ben sees his mother at the window (just after an alarm goes off signalling the sonic fence is down, so the monster can get into Dharmaville), you now know it's the monster trying to lure Ben out to meet The Others, the beginning of a lifetime of manipulating Ben into becoming his personal hitman. Creepy.

The scene where Locke, with his leg broken, meets "Christian Shepherd" in the cave, who leads him to the donkey wheel and further goads him into turning it, and when Locke asks about being told he will have to die there, "Christian" says: "Well that's why they call it 'sacrifice'," it is just mysterious, and seems like The Island guiding him to do what he must first time through. But the second time through, you know it's The Smoke Monster, this evil thing, lying to him, manipulatng him through Locke's own desire to help everyone and be a hero, to lure him into suicide so the monster can steal his body, and suddenly it's a whole lot creepier. And when you can follow it through, you'll see that the idea that Locke must die comes from The Smoke Monster. Poor Locke was really a chump.

And where does Locke's compass come from? Locke gives it to Richard, who gives it to Locke 50 years later, then Locke travels back 50 years and gives it Richard who gives it to Locke who gives it to Richard who gives it to Locke, etc. unto eternity. The compass has NO point of origin.

At least all the time travel is anti-paradox. What happens in the past is what always happened in the past. Sayid always shot Little Ben.

Also, a CLOSE at the big wheel in The Lighthouse where all the candidates over the years are written next to their numbers, they have a close-up of where it says "23 Jack," and next to it is "22Moorehead."

OMG! I was a "candidate"! (Though how indiscreet of Jacob to give my real age.)

But if you wait too long, you'll forget so many intricacies, that you'll be missing stuff again.

It did sag in the middle, specifically Season 3. They didn't know how long the show was going to run or how much they'd have to stretch out their storyline, so Season 3 had some waste-of-time episodes where they are really just spinning their wheels. Everything about Nikki & Paolo for instance, or the idiot episode that was all about how Jack got his tattoos (Who cares why?) and what they mean.

But when, near the end of season 3, they struck the deal with ABC to limit it to three more seasons, with fewer episodes each season, and suddenly time-waster episodes were over, and it moves so much faster. Season 5 was my favorite. I've actually watched the whole series twice since it went off the air.

But if you are streaming it rather than renting the discs, and the final season streamed does not include the bonus 8 minute eilogue The New Man in Charge, then rent the disc with the season finale, because the never-broadcast epilogue is not only fun, but it's just answers, answers, answers. In a great sly joke, a character in it shouts at Ben: "We deserve ANSWERS!"