Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway
Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay
Tim Russ as Lt. Commander Tuvok
Robert Picardo as the Doctor
Roxann Dawson as Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres
Robert Duncan McNeill as Lieutenant Tom Paris
(Seasons 4-7) Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine
(Seasons 1-3) Jennifer Lien as Kes
Ethan Phillips as Neelix
Garrett Wang as Ensign Harry Kim
Although not exactly unsuccessful, Star Trek: Voyager is a show that people either love or hate. Here are the arguments:
Voyager is the best Trek series because it brought Star Trek back to its episodic, exploratory, idealistic roots.
Voyager is the worst Trek series because it had no continuity or even plan beyond the crisis of the week.
Personally, I can see good points on both sides. The pilot brings us the tale of a starship being marooned eighty years away from Earth. An interesting concept. One that absolutely nothing is done with. With the exception of the replicators being turned off and food being collected from planets they visited by away teams, life on Voyager doesn’t seem any more difficult than life on the Enterprises. this brings me to the main problem with this show: it’s basically a copy of The Next Generation. That is barely a figure of speech. A typical Voyager episodes is about helping the rocky-headed aliens of the week or dealing with a mass of stuff that can do just about anything as long as the word “anomaly” appears enough in the script.
What this show should have done is actually show us what life away from home is like. That means making it easier for everyone to collapse under pressure, having the crew struggle to keep from running out of equipment needed to keep Voyager running, and perhaps situations that truly challenged the long-held principles of the Federation.
I can pinpoint the very episode where this show permanently turned away from this. In addition to marooning the crew, it is also stuck with a Maquis crew that’s also marooned. Reluctantly, the Maquis crew join Voyager because more people working towards getting home mean a greater chance for all. Created in Deep Space Nine, the Maquis are renegade humans who refused to leave their homes when their planets were given to the Cardassians as part of a treaty. Logically, this would create grumbling if not mutiny. But no. After Chakotay and Torres insist that they will never be Starfleet puppets, they almost immediately fall into line. The first season finale involves rank-and-file Maquis finding it difficult to play by Starfleet’s rules. They finally agree to do things by the book. From that moment, Voyager’s approach became take no risks, make no changes to the Trek formula, and do nothing that even makes any long-term impact.
But unlike many critics of this show, I’m not about to bitch excessively about missed opportunities. Voyager is what it is. And what it is can be quite entertaining. The characters (except, of course, for the annoying Neelix) are quite enjoyable. A woman is in captain’s chair for the very first time. Kathryn Janeway is a reasonably likeable leader. femine but not stereotypically weak. It’s a nice touch to give her a side project as a novelist. Chakotay was pretty good in the first season. Misuse and then neglect reduced him to a guy who sits next to Janeway on the bridge. Same with Tuvok, who serves well as Janeway’s confidante and friend in the first season only to be overlooked later. Regardless, Tim Russ plays a Vulcan just as well as Leonard Nimoy did. B’Elanna and Tom are occasional misfits who mature into good people and eventually get together. The Doctor is probably the best character on the show. He’s a holographic doctor who’s turned on when the designated doctor is killed. The Doctor was never meant for continuous use and ends up discovering what it means to be human. Robert Picardo breathes life into this character with a healthy amount of cynicism and curiousity. Harry Kim is a fine rookie with a lot to learn… for a while. He loses credibility after a few years pass because he’s still acting like he’s fresh out of the academy.
And of course, the most famous character of them all: Seven of Nine. Seven replaces the rather forgettable Kes in the fourth season. She’s a Borg Collective who is rescued by the Voyager crew and her individuality is restored. Like the Doctor, she’s trying to become human because it seems that while you take a Borg out of the Collective, you can’t take the Collective out of a Borg. The reason Seven is the most famous character is because she’s used so often. She basically became the mascot of the show on UPN; if memory serves, the commercials called her “the Borg babe.”
UPN. Ugh. Other than Star Trek shows and WWE Smackdown!, did anyone watch any show on that channel for any length of time? I remember being grossed out whenever I tried to watch that crappy channel.
Back on topic. Voyager’s true strength is in individual episodes. They provide good space action, character drama, and some of the best effects of the time. Yes, there were some awful episodes like Threshold. But prior Treks had And the Children Shall Lead,Genesis, and Let He Who Is Without Sin… At the same time, this series has great episodes like Death Wish and Scorpion, Part I,the latter of which is the episode that brings the Borg into Voyager. While this was an indication that the writers were running out of ideas, the Borg proved to be a welcome addition. None of the other villains were particularly great, although the Vidiians were kinda cool.
So long as you accept this show for what it is, it might have merited a seven if not for the fact that the arrival home is royally botched. It’s literally the last seconds of the last episode before it happens. And after all the building up, too. Janeway had that novel I mentioned, and a fiance at home as well. Tuvok, Tom, and Harry talk about family they haven’t been able to see because they’ve been lost. Will the Maquis do prison time or be forgiven in light of their acts of service on this voyage? This is the sort of stuff we needed to see. Instead, the last line is, “set a course… for home.”
My verdict on Voyager: passable and nothing more.
Overall: 6 out of 10