The Cynics Corner

Star Trek: Voyager

The Seventh Season in Review

by David E. Sluss

5 July 2001

 
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THE BOTTOM LINE
: Voyager went out, not with a bang, and not with a whimper, but with a shrug.

CYNICS CORNER RATING: 6.5 (D)

 

Part I: The Season in General

In its final season, Voyager finally took some baby steps toward late-Twentieth Century television storytelling. It's just a bit late, but in fairness this season did present some character arcs (including the Quickstart Family of Paris and Torres and the Doctor's year-long awakening to the struggles faced by holograms), a bit of ongoing plot development (such as the improving standards of communication with Starfleet), and even a couple of stories that don't seem to have been produced by Star Trek Script Generation software. There were also no episodes this season that I would characterize as out-and-out howlers; sure, "Repression" and especially "Q2" were close, but have you watched "The Fight" or "Spirit Folk" lately? I didn't think so...

Having said that, I think there were a lot of missed opportunities this season, a lot of chances that could have been taken but weren't. At various points in the season, I wanted to say to the staff, "Who chopped your balls off?" This was, after all, the last season. Voyager movies are doubtful. At least a couple of the cast members were complaining publicly about how lousy they thought the writing was. So why didn't Voyager push the storytelling envelope instead of just nudging it? Why did so few events happen that had any consequence? Why didn't they rub out Chuckles in tragic fashion, to stick it to Robert Beltran, if for no other reason? I can't help but think that Voyager's Powers That Be, or the folks upstairs at Paramount and/or UPN, just don't have the stomach for anything innovative. If anything, news of the next series, Enterprise, whose casting sheet reads like a Trekkie's wet dream, only bolsters the point.

Because DS9 ended only two years ago, it seems natural to compare the series' respective final seasons, and the approaches the creative staffs took. Specific issues and episodes aside, the bottom-line difference is that DS9 tried - they failed in a lot of ways, and there were a number of real dogs in DS9's seventh season, but the effort was there. Voyager took a different tack, churning out consistently bland, safe, and mediocre episodes. By setting their expectations so low, and hoping the audience would as well, they managed to avoid complete failure, but that doesn't make for a respectable television production.

Still, a stirring final episode would have made up for some of that, but unfortunately "Endgame" wasn't it. Even though I wasn't really surprised, I couldn't help but feel a sense of "I watched this show for seven years for that." This episode, and this season, and this series could have been so much more.

Before we get to the individual episodes, and the Fourth (and final) Annual Cy Awards, let me say that in some respects I will miss Voyager. It was the first series I reviewed (beating DS9 by a few weeks in the fall of 1997), and while it was rarely that good a series, it provided plenty of fodder for four years worth of biting commentary here at the Cynics Corner. So, a tip of The Cynic's hatchet to the staff of Star Trek: Voyager - Thanks for writing my reviews for me!

 

Part II: Autopsies of Individual Episodes

You know the drill. I'll make a few comments about each episode, and assign each a Cynics Corner Rating, which in some cases has changed from the rating I gave when I first reviewed the episodes. 

 

"UNIMATRIX ZERO, PART II": I rated this one marginally higher than Part I, only because most of the stupidity in the conclusion had its origins there. Though wholly predictable, the idea that unassimilating yourself is as easily as changing your socks is yet another nail among many that Voyager nailed in the Borg Collective's coffin over the years. The lack of follow-up to the Borg insurrection was too expected to be disappointing; I guess we're to assume that the rebels were even more inept than the Queen and her stooges.

Cynics Corner Rating: 5.0 (unchanged)

 

"IMPERFECTION": A lot of fans raved about this episode, but I still don't see it as being all that terrific. In its favor is a great performance by Manu Intiraymi as Icheb, in possibly the only worthwhile appearance of the character. Against it is yet another surly alien race attacking the ship for no particular reason and a lot of cavalier behavior by Captain and crew regarding the Borg, especially in light of the previous episode). Sorry, fans, I'm standing pat.

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.0 (unchanged)

 

"DRIVE": I called this show "a harmless puff piece," and while that's still true, I suppose we have to give the Voyager staff credit for moving along the Paris-Torres relationship in this episode and throughout the season. Having said that, the episode is wholly predictable and has standard fare cliches such as the failure of the Flyer's warp core ejector.

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.5 (unchanged)

 

"REPRESSION": Our annual Viva Maquis show is a contrived mess of an episode, that hinges on an unlikely premise, namely that the desperate and ragtag Maquis would have actually tossed out a member who was dabbling in mind control. The mechanics of Teero's control of Tuvok never made any sense, and the cure, being speechified by Janeway, doesn't pass the laugh test.

Cynics Corner Rating: 4.0 (unchanged)

 

"CRITICAL CARE": A good-old-fashioned Original Series Allegory about the evils of HMOs. Even though it's about high time that Star Trek retired this tired old device, this episode would have had some promise, if only it had been executed with a bit of subtlety. As it is, the show goes out of its way to make sure that even the least observant of viewers can figure out who the bad guy is: an ugly fellow who takes his orders from a computer -- a Star Trek stock character.

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.5 (unchanged)

 

"INSIDE MAN": Clearly the worst episode of the "Pathfinder" arc, it makes you wonder, with DS9's Ira Steven Behr no longer at the Star Trek offices, who is it that has a woody for Ferengi? We might wonder the same about Marina Sirtis...

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.5 (down from 7.0)

 

"BODY AND SOUL": Pretty awful stuff. Picardo's acting was off. Ryan's acting like Picardo was off. Ponn Farr, which in the days of Spock was a life-threatening condition, comes across as being no worse than a migraine, one that can be relieved by an elaborate jerk-off. Pass.

Cynics Corner Rating: 4.5 (down from 5.0)

 

"NIGHTINGALE": I guess the existence of a crew so desperate for leadership that they want Harry Kim as a captain is a novel idea, but let's face it, Garrett Wang can barely carry a decent episode, much less a mediocre one. Even the set design, usually a high point, is poor, as the recycling of old DS9 props and Voyager's own quarters is barely disguised. And the Icheb-Torres sitcom material is best forgotten.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.0 (unchanged)

 

"FLESH AND BLOOD": This was our big Fall Sweeps movie? As part of this season's "holograms of the galaxy unite!" subplot, this show is weakened somewhat by the fact that the issues surrounding the status of sentient holograms are blunted, since Iden is portrayed as a complete nut.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.5 (unchanged)

 

"SHATTERED": Only on Voyager: a retrospective episode focusing on the worst things about the series, such as the Kazon Years, "Macrocosm," and Chaotica schlock. And a space anomaly that links up not only a quarter-century of time but 70,000 light years of space is pushing it, even by Voyager standards. One anomaly that never gets explained: if technology can't pass between timeframes, why can Chuckles' communicator?

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.0 (unchanged)

 

"LINEAGE": The high point of the season, and probably in the top five or so of the series. This episode had a lot of potential pitfalls, but somehow Voyager's writers managed to avoid them. Instead they managed to present actual drama and tough choices not mitigated by arbitrary technobabble or other contrivances. The "weird science" aspects of Torres's genetic simulations is a bit eye-rolling, and the guest actors in the flashback are mediocre at best, but this was a laudable outing for Voyager.

Cynics Corner Rating: 9.0 (unchanged)

 

"REPENTANCE": An sleep-walking allegory on capital punishment, which presents the issues in a completely predictable way in a Doctor/Seven debate, and then stacks the deck by portraying all of the alien guards as brutal thugs. Even by Starfleet's apparently low standards, Voyager's security personnel performed abysmally.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.5 (unchanged)

 

"PROPHESY": Pretty much what I've come to expect from a Klingon Klaptrap episode. Still, despite the geldings Voyager has administered to the Borg, the Hirogen, Species 8472, and other races over the years, the de-balling of the Klingons in this episode, which posits that Klingons view knocking down an opponent three times as an honorable victory, is shocking.

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.0 (down from 6.5)

 

"THE VOID": Despite the recycled feel of many of this episode's elements, this episode is a winner if only for the fact that it presented in microcosm a view of what this series should have been like from Day One: A crew with limited resources in hostile space, forced to ally with alien races and to question their principles. Sure there's the usually idiocies, like a space anomaly just three light-years across that seems to suck in ships on a daily basis, but the actual exploration of Voyager's premise, however fleeting, was appreciated.

Cynics Corner Rating: 8.5 (unchanged)

 

"WORKFORCE": A decent, if unoriginal, change of pace episode. There are things that make you wonder, though, like why a society with a labor shortage and a high level of technology can't automate the rather menial tasks Janeway and the other workers were assigned to and how "Annika Hansen" could have been running around Quarren for weeks without regenerating.

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.5 (up from 7.0)

 

"WORKFORCE, PART II": Pretty good, as "Part II" episodes go in Star Trek. Nevertheless, the reset button hit is pretty significant, and there's really not a good justification for Janeway leaving Jaffin behind.

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.5 (unchanged)

 

"HUMAN ERROR": A crock. An hour-long exercise in contrivance and technobabble that allows Seven to explore her emotions for sixty minutes, but then arbitrarily forces her to stop in the end. In light of "Endgame," which resurrected the Seven/Chuckles romance, and whose storyline had to be known when this episode was produced, why was this reset necessary?

Cynics Corner Rating: 4.0 (down from 5.0)

 

"Q2": Having murdered the Q Continuum concept in "The Q and the Grey," Voyager returns to molest the corpse. 'Nuff said.

Cynics Corner Rating: 3.5 (down from 4.0)

 

"AUTHOR, AUTHOR": I was in the distinct minority in not being floored by this episode. I still think it was something of an unfocused mess, and that the issues presented were old Star Trek saws that didn't give us anything new. Oh, well.

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.5 (up from 7.0)

 

"FRIENDSHIP ONE": There's not much here to recommend. The characters are walking cliches, the solution is questionable, and a Starfleet Captain pontificates that exploration isn't worth the loss of a single life. What the hell?

Cynics Corner Rating: 6.5 (unchanged)

 

"NATURAL LAW": An episode clearly written by the Star Trek Script Generation software. Let me know when the service pack is available...

Cynics Corner Rating: 5.0 (unchanged)

 

"HOMESTEAD": A decent enough episode, and with only two episodes remaining, the writers had the guts to actually do something substantive with one of the characters.

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.5 (unchanged)

 

"RENAISSANCE MAN": Once again, a "Doctor show" that most people seemed to like but that I wasn't all that impressed with. I didn't think it was that funny, and in a lot of ways it seemed to be little more than a reworking of "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy."

Cynics Corner Rating: 7.0 (unchanged)

 

"ENDGAME": My original summary still applies: A big "Up yours" card from Voyager's staff to Voyager's viewers. The end of this series is a disgrace, no two ways about it.

Cynics Corner Rating: 4.5 (down from 5.0)

 

Part III: The Cy Awards for the Seventh Season of Star Trek: Voyager

Let's begin with our musical number, dedicated to the long-suffering Voyager fans who really thought this season would be different. Hit it, boys!

"Pie in the Sky"
(sung to the tune of "Eye in the Sky" by The Alan Parsons Project)

Don't think drivel's easily made.
Don't cry, Berman Biller got paid.
They've talked a lot of big talk before
But Voyager stayed down on the floor.
And why not?
That's how it goes
'Cause Paramount knows you'll still watch it.

Don't watch Voy-a-ger with your brain.
They've got male demos to gain.
They've heard the accusations before
And they reply by promising more.
And who knows?
Could this be the year?
Were six season's tears worth the weeping?

But it's just pie in the sky
Laughing at you.
They know you don't mind.
They are the makers of dreck
Calling it Trek.
Loyal fans they find.

And you don't need to watch any more to see that
They know you don't mind.
   (Laughing at you)
They know you don't mind.
   (Laughing at you)
They know you don't mind.
   (Laughing at you)
They know you don't mind.
   (Laughing at you)

They showed false illusions most weeks.
Looked good, lots of F/X for Sweeps.
They found plenty of fools like before
Who thought that there just might be some more
Believing
Some of the facts
While Paramount flacks were deceiving

But it's just pie in the sky
Laughing at you.
They know you don't mind.
They are the makers of dreck
Calling it Trek.
Loyal fans they find.

And you don't need to watch any more to see that
They know you don't mind.
   (Laughing at you)
They know you don't mind.
   (Laughing at you)
They know you don't mind.
   (Laughing at you)
They know you don't mind.
   (Laughing at you)

But it's just pie in the sky
Laughing at you.
They know you don't mind.
They are the makers of dreck
Calling it Trek.
Loyal fans they find.

And you don't need to watch any more to see that
They know you don't mind.
   (Laughing at you)
They know you don't mind.
   (Laughing at you)
They know you don't mind.
   (Laughing at you)
They know you don't mind.
   (Laughing at you)

[sniff] Am I crying? Let's give the band a big hand, and good luck with your future enterprises, fellas.

And now, let's get to the awards.

 

NEW GEOGRAPHY OF THE YEAR: Historically this has been a fiercely fought contest between numerous worthy nominees, but this year things were different, because in large measure Voyager's writers seem to have belatedly begun to keep track of Voyager's progress, its proximity to Earth, and the low probability that the vessel can keep running across the same races every year. Still, a few episodes made the cut:

"Flesh and Blood": Voyager encounters holodeck-equipped Hirogen, approximately 30,000 light years away from the Hirogen who received the technology from Voyager three years ago.

"Homestead": Talaxians fled their war-torn world and wound up establishing a colony 40,000 light years from Talax, only 20 years or so after the war.

"Renaissance Man": The unimpressive Surveillance Fatties are apparently part of an empire that spans at least 6,000 light years.

And the winner is... "Homestead." Since the colony was wiped out by Surly Alien reinforcements a month after Voyager left, Ensign Samantha Wildman will accept the award on their behalf.... Oh, she's not here either? Try looking backstage, if you know what I mean...

 

WEIRD SCIENCE OF THE YEAR: In this era of cloning, genetically modified corn, and chimpanzees engineered to write TV scripts, we naturally turn to Star Trek to comfort us with meaningful allegories of science gone awry. Several episodes of Voyager gave us science too bizarre to be true and thus made us feel better about the state of our own world. Now let's feel good about our nominees:

"Repression": in which we learn that if you stand in a room, you will "displace photons" and leave behind an afterimage that can be viewed days later. So behave yourself.

"Critical Care": in which we discover that injecting a person with a vial of someone else's blood will make scanners think he's someone else.

"Flesh and Blood": in which Voyager once again presents the important computer science lesson that when you download a file, you remove it from the host computer. Pornographers, beware!

"Lineage" in which we learn that a person with no medical training can remove a gene or two from a DNA profile, and extrapolate a perfect blond-haired, blue-eyed child.

"Friendship One" In which Borg nanoprobes miraculously restore genetic code subjected to centuries of mutation, even without a normal DNA sample to work from.

And the winner is "Lineage." Remember folks, don't try that at home!

 

LAUGH LINE OF THE YEAR: The nominees are:

Harry Kim: "Holodeck safeties were online" ("Repression")

Admiral Paris: "Captain Janeway knows better than to take her ship into such a dangerous anomaly" ("Inside Man")

Captain Janeway: "We have a Prime Directive to follow." ("Repentance")

And the winner is Admiral Paris! Of course that's a small consolation for not getting to say a single word to your son in the rushed finale.

 

DISCONTINUITY OF THE YEAR: It's been said that those who forget history are condemned to repeal it -- or something. [cue canned laughter] Voyager's writers have repealed the laws of history repeatedly over the years, and this season was no exception. Here are your nominees:

"Drive": in which the writers confused Paris with his clone Nick Locarno, claiming that Paris had been expelled from the Academy.

"Inside Man": in which Barclay and his boss Pete nearly came to blows arguing about whether it was possible to send a hologram via the data stream, forgetting that the Doctor had done so in last year's "Life Line."

"Body and Soul": in which a holographic hand-job cured Ponn Farr, contradicting the failure of this treatment in "Blood Fever."

"Flesh and Blood": in which Janeway offers Iden and company, super-advanced holograms based on the Doctor's template, sanctuary in Voyager's computer, contradicting "The Swarm" and a number of other episodes which hinged on the fact that ship's computer can't store another hologram like the Doctor.

"Author, Author": in which the Doctor's defense team forgets to cite a case which was directly on point, namely Data's court victory which gave artificial sentient life forms legal rights, in The Next Generation's "The Measure of a Man."

And the winner is: "Body and Soul!" I hear a lot of one-handed clapping...

 

EUNUCHS OF THE YEAR: You know, this award is one of the jewels of our evening. You'd have to be nuts, or dumb as a sack of potatoes, not to see that we juggle a lot of balls to make sure we find the right nominees for this award, which honors the most complete alien emasculation of the season. So let's cut to the chase, shall we? Your nominees are:

The Klingons, for whom honorable battle to the death has been transformed into a Phys-Ed class ("Prophesy").

The Q Continuum, now composed entirely of buffoons and imbeciles, apparently ("Q2")

The Borg Collective, who somehow managed to surpass the simple-mindedness of past seasons, for which they a Lifetime Achievement award last year ("Endgame")

A hearty "snip, snip" for our winners, the Klingons!

 

WELFARE RECIPIENT OF THE YEAR: As you know, Star Trek's Welfare Program is a fake-based initiative that rewards certain emeritus actors with superfluous roles, thus keeping them off public assistance. This year's most worthy recipients are:

Cyia Batten as Irena ("Drive") although any Ziyal would have worked in the role.

Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi ("Inside Man"); if Star Trek 10 is delayed any longer, you'll have to ditch the bathing suit.

Martha Hackett as Seska ("Shattered"); those pictures you have of Berman must be really nasty.

John deLancie as Q ("Q2") double-dipping thanks to a child care credit.

Josh Clark as Joe Carey ("Friendship One"); for the third year in a row! And last year's winner! I'm rooting for you, especially since you just missed Admiral Janeway's rescue of The Family.

And the winner is, ooh, an upset! John deLancie! And I hear you're already on Andromeda's pad. Good for you!

 

VOYAGER CLICHE OF THE YEAR: We had to change our by-laws to accommodate all of this year's nominees. So go to the fridge while we read the list, and by the time you get back, we should be ready to name the winner:

Surly Forehead Aliens attack the ship for no particular reason; Janeway waits until the shields fall to 50% to shoot back ("Survival Instinct," "Repentance," "Natural Law")

The Doctor's stolen and he can't be backed up! ("Critical Care," "Flesh and Blood," "Renaissance Man")

Crew members break the eccentric laws of a hard-headed alien society ("Body and Soul," "Natural Law")

Janeway's "I trusted you and you let me down" speech ("Flesh and Blood," "Human Error")

Holodeck malfunction ("Shattered")

Temporal anomaly ("Shattered," "Endgame")

Spatial anomaly ("Inside Man," "Shattered," "The Void")

Security personnel strolling casually to the scene when called (most episodes)

Disaster strikes, but fortunately someone was away from the ship ("Workforce")

Unauthorized shuttle launch ("Q2")

Unauthorized shuttle crash ("Natural Law," "Homestead")

"Small world" story involving the discovery of Alpha Quadrant people/artifacts in the Delta Quadrant ("Lineage," "Friendship One")

Bad things happen to people who go to conferences ("Natural Law," "Renaissance Man")

Everybody got their chips and dip? The winner is: The Doctor's stolen and he can't be backed up!

 

And now, let's get to tonight's big awards. Since the Cynics Corner Ratings pretty much give it away, let's dispense with these awards first:

WORST EPISODE OF THE YEAR: "Q2" with honorable mentions for "Repression" and "Human Error."

BEST EPISODE OF THE YEAR: "Lineage" with an honorable mention for "The Void."

 

Oh, dear, we're running out of time. What say we dispense with gender segregation in our acting awards?

WORST PERFORMER OF THE YEAR: There's a certain amount of praise that's earned when you speak out about the evils that you see around you. While most of Voyager's cast just went with the program and talked the party line, our winner spoke at length about the problems with this series, noting many things that have been the bread and butter of our complaints at the Cynics Corner for years. That's commendable. But not even trying to do your job and then boasting about it is not. Robert Beltran, come on down - from your high horse.

BEST PERFORMER OF THE YEAR: Our winner has performed her role admirably and professionally over the years, never once appearing to do less than her best. This year was no exception. Saddled with a character that often wasn't taken seriously and was put into preposterous situations, she nevertheless defined the word "trooper." So let's hear it for ... Kate Mulgrew! [astonished gasp from the gallery] Hey, so what if she failed the Fox & Friends trivia contest?

 

[Piano plays "As Time Goes By"]

And now, folks, it's time for us to leave Star Trek: Voyager behind. It made us laugh, and made us cry - usually inappropriately, but those are the breaks. But most importantly, it always gave us plenty to talk about. And isn't that what we're all here for? Well, sure, there's the open bar, too...

Thank you, and good night.

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