Sunday, 11 March 2012

Voyager - Season Two

The 37s written by Jeri Taylor & Brannon Braga and directed by James L. Conway

What’s it about: Janeway lands the ship and discovers Amelia Earhart. I’m not making it up, I swear!

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway is such a nutter; she cannot wait to land the ship and strut her funky stuff on the planet. Wouldn’t it have been easier to send a reinforced shuttle? She talks with some enthusiasm about Earhart’s attempt to fly around the world and it would appear she has discovered something of a kindred spirit. Janeway’s dilemma is whether she should make the decision for the entire crew to leave or to open the idea of settling on this planet to a vote. Unfortunately that blinding revelation comes 36 minutes into the episode and leaves no time to deal with it. But don’t worry we got to see a car floating in space so that’s compensation. Janeway looks thoroughly disappointed that Earhart chooses to stay on the planet – this might have been a very interesting relationship to explore.

Tattoo: Is he in this episode? Oh yeah he takes the aliens from behind which raised an eyebrow but other than that he didn’t register.

Parisian Rogue: There had to be someone on the ship whose hobby was antique vehicles and it might as well be Paris. When Harry Kim asked if it was an early hover car Paris should have lamped him.

Forever Ensign: Harry is the only crewmember we hear vocalise his willingness to stay on the planet. What a shock!

Spotted Dick: Neelix is only in one scene. That’s a plus.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I think you’ll find that’s manure!’ is not a line I ever expected to hear Janeway say.
‘I suggest we increase the ventilation in the cargo bay before we are asphyxiated!’
‘Am I leading the crew on a forlorn mission with no hope of success?’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘What I’m going to tell you is hard to believe…even preposterous…’ – Janeway should have opened the episode addressing the viewer with that line.

The Good: The juxtaposition of having an old Ford truck in a cargo bay on Voyager is so odd that the resulting imagery is slightly beguiling. Janeway and Torres jumping behind the console when the engine backfires is really funny! Skipping past why we are landing Voyager on an unnamed planet the visual effects are very strong with the ship tearing through the atmosphere and bouncing to a halt on those teeny tiny landing struts. The shot of the Away Team shaded by Voyager’s massive toilet seat is peculiar but you have to give them points of pulling something off as quirky as this. The bi-plane on location is another great find, the writers are really taking this madness to an extreme level but the visuals are superb. It’s marvellous to see clouds through the windows of the observation lounge. There’s a very nice gunfight on location that sees Tuvok and Chakotay trapped in a ravine under fire. Setting up the big revelation that nobody is going to leave by having Janeway walk into a cargo bay to see who is there is well done…its just a shame that the cargo bay isn’t full.

The Bad: I’m no expert but if a car had been flying around in space would you really be able to start its engine again? Who thinks up this crazy shit…oh yeah Brannon Braga! Imagine the pitch meeting ‘Okay so Voyager is cruising through space where they come across an old truck hanging in space and when they get it on board they pick up an SOS signal in Morse code from a nearby planet where Amelia Earhart is chilling out!’ Any reasonable person would do their best Alan Sugar impression and say ‘you’re fired’ but no they jumped all over it and in a way you have to kind of admire that they did. However as we head into a season that flaunts some outrageous concepts (yeah Tom and Janeway lizard babies I’m looking at you) this is a warning that this show is about fall off the rails. Finding the cryo pods with the 20th Century folk inside is a little too like The Neutral Zone for my tastes. And then discovering Amelia Earhart is a step too far into insanity for me - I understand the idea was to team up two strong female explorers but the million hoops of logic it bypasses to get them together is extraordinary. There seems to be an expert on Voyager to fill in the gaps of every possible plot contrivance and so we learn Paris loves cars and Janeway is au fait in Earhart’s story. Given that one set of aliens abducted Voyager and another set abducted Earhart and friends does that mean there are aliens taking people all the time and Janeway is going to discover all manner of confused 20th Century mysteries in her time? ‘Captain we’re picking up a distress call from an ocean planet…it’s the crew of the Marie Celeste!’ This episode eats up its time with the most pointless and tension free hostage situation committed to television and then rushes the scenes where the crew have to make a decision whether to stay on the planet or not. Ignoring the character angle in favour of all the loopy ideas is very, very wrong and symptomatic of Voyagers greatest sin. Shockingly the writers spend more time pondering on whether the 37s will stay behind than the crew. The trouble is even at this early stage you know that everybody aboard Voyager is such a sap they will all choose to stay on board Voyager rather than settle on the planet which I don’t find remotely feasible. What about the Marquis members unhappy with Fuhrer Janeway’s etiquette enforcement? Or Neelix who hates the idea of heading into every anomaly? The idea is that the full compliment of crew is supposed to show solidarity for their mission to get home but what it actually achieves is to show the audience that the cast and writers of this show aren’t remotely convincing.

There is something very telling in the Star Trek Voyager companion where Jeri Taylor expresses her disappointment that this episode did not close the end of the first season but opened the second. As compensation she is at least pleased that they opened season two with the show with the best production values. Not the best story or the best acting…the best production values. And this is the woman who is to take over running the show in series three. Nice to know we’ll have plenty of pretty looking but hollow stories to enjoy.

Imagine…just imagine if they had stayed behind and dared to have a season long arc set on this planet with relationships set up and rules to be made and drama to be had? Wouldn’t that have been so exciting to see Janeway and her crew settle into an environment that had its own rules of conduct? But nope lets hop back into Voyager and off to the next anomaly…

Moment to Watch Out For: The final shot of Voyager leaving the sun kissed planet and being observed by the humans looks gorgeous.

Teaser-tastic: You just know Voyager is back when they discover an old banger flying around in space!

Fashion Statement: If I were Earhart I would be more inclined to believe Janeway’s ludicrous story about being abducted by aliens and more concerned that the haircuts in the future are so horrendous. Seriously Kathryn, cut it short and let it down…you’ll look so much better.

Anomaly of the Week: ‘There are no sign of wormholes or temporal anomalies in this region of space’ – Woohoo!

Result: Visually I don’t know if Star Trek has ever looked so good. Intellectually however this episode is the pits. Brannon Braga was right when he said The 37s should have been a two parter because condensing the issues raised in this story leaves about two and a half minutes to deal with the juicy character stuff once all the important ratings grabbing stuff is out of the way (the truck in space, the bi-plane, Earhart). The plot holes are phenomenally huge and I’m surprised Tuvok’s head didn’t explode with the illogic on display. Even with all the money this show has clearly had poured into it is still made to look cheap by all the talk about the beautiful cities that look like Earth that we never get to visit! What we do get to see looks expensive and pretty but beneath this gloss there is nothing but Brannon Braga and Jeri Taylor scratching their heads trying to figure out how to make this all work. And failing: 4/10

Initiations written by Kenneth Biller and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: Chakotay ends up on the run from the Kazon with a disgraced young warrior…

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway tries to flatter Neelix by telling him his meals are becoming a highlight of every day whilst chomping down on his latest disgusting concoction.

Tattoo: Any episode that opens on Chakotay searching for his father’s spirit 70,000 light years from home is getting us off on the wrong foot. He refuses to show hate in his eyes to the Kazon children he is paraded in front of…he is a gentle man from a gentle people. Chakotay gets annoyed with Kar that he seems ungrateful every time he keeps saving his life and tells him to keep that lack of gratitude to himself. Chakotay tries his damdest to find common ground between him and Kar but the real difference between his uniform and Kar’s name is that one is earned in a safe Starfleet building where no one is in any real danger the other is earned by putting a life on the line to protect territory. That’s a bridge that can never be built between these two. His decision to allow Kar to kill him to earn his name is both brave and very stupid and raises more questions about this miraculous ability to bring people back from the dead than any great character strength.

Spotted Dick: Watching Neelix sloughing in the Captain’s chair on the Bridge is enough to make you feel nauseous. What has Star Trek come to?

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘If we meet again I will not hesitate to kill you’ is Kar’s way of saying thank you to Chakotay.

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Don’t worry Captain! You can count on me to keep those nefarious Kazon at bay!’ – its like they want Neelix to be annoying!

The Good: Its nice to be able to see the POV of a Kazon ship for a change rather then just having them show up and be bullied by Janeway. Chakotay’s 360 back flip manoeuvre in the shuttlecraft looks impressive and whilst the shuttle itself is quite cumbersome it sure blows the crap out of the Kazon ship! When the Kazon vessel looms over the shuttlecraft it’s the first time they have felt threatening, it looks huge in comparison. The idea of the Kazon killing their young that fail in battle after honouring their return is obscene and works dramatically when Kar holds back tears at his reunion with his Razik. When given the chance to kill Chakotay the children reach for the phaser like kids in a sweet shop and it goes to show just how young they breed fear and homicidal instincts in their young. Blissfully the end of the episode allows Kar to claim his name without jumping through medical miracles and avoiding sentimentality – a minor miracle for this show.

The Bad: Aron Eisenberg is fine as Kar but he has made his stamp so strongly on the character of Nog it feels abnormal to see him in another role that is so out of his usual character. Not content with looking like the Klingons and acting like the Klingons the Kazon also have moodily lit ships adorned with weapons…like the Klingons. It’s a real shame they didn’t make more the dilemma that Chakotay has of either killing Kar or himself because it is ripe for drama but much like The 37s this episode seems determined to duck the tough choices and go straight to the adventure element. Wasn’t Kes a prisoner of the Kazon and beaten by them? Surely that is worth some examination.

Moment to Watch Out For: I cannot have been the only person willing Kar to murder the sleeping Chakotay and sparing us from six more years of bland characterisation.

Teaser-tastic: I got the shock of my life when I saw Nog in Kazon makeup spitting threats at Chakotay.

Fashion Statement: B’Elanna’s is really growing and it’s pretty wild in this episode but they soon get her look just about right.

Result: Plenty of action and adventure, including a couple of fine shoot em ups in space and some more glorious location work, Initiations is thoroughly enjoyable if never spectacular episode of Voyager. I would have gone all out and written out the rest of the crew entirely and centred the entire drama around Chakotay and Kar. It’s a nice relationship between our First Officer and the disgraced Kazon lad and there is some decent chemistry between the actors. Cutting back to Voyager every five minutes slows down the pace of the episode and drags you away from what should be a gripping Fugitive style pursuit. If it weren’t for his commitments to DS9 it would have been very cool to have a Kazon child as a permanent presence on Voyager for Chakotay to mentor. Anything to make this guy a little more interesting: 7/10

Projections written by Brannon Braga and directed by Jonathan Frakes

What’s it about: The Doctor questions the nature of reality…

EMH: Abandoned and alone, the Doctor completes terminating his programme. I felt really sorry for the guy as somebody tried to force their way into Sickbay – you realise how isolated and unprotected he is down there. Whilst this is an illusion the idea of setting up a remote holo-projection system on other areas of the ship so the Doctor can have autonomy is a great idea. It’s a shame it took them another year to get this problem sorted. Imagine being trapped like a hamster in a cage and suddenly being let free…the liberation must feel incredible. The Doctor bleeding and feeling pain are new sensations for him. At least the Doctor can see through the deception of being asked to destroy the ship (sorry I mean the projection) – why is it that that the only fake person on this ship is the one who behaves like a real one? The Doctor admits that he finds Kes beautiful and he has always longed to tell her. An interesting thread that comes from this episode is the Doctor questioning the nature of his own reality which is something that flesh and blood people think about all the time. He is become more self aware by the episode.

Spotted Dick: ‘What’s it like to stare death in the face Kazon!’ screams Neelix as he throws fruit at one of the troopers hiding behind a table. This little rat needs to die – he doesn’t convince on any level! ‘Missed me!’ My God he is annoying! Why does he start grunting and groaning like an orang-utan?

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Computer…delete Paris!’ – imagine if we could do this with the whole crew! ‘Computer delete Kim!’ – how long have I waited to hear those words?

The Good: Harry Kim is found dead over his console. I will try and contain my excitement. The Kazon took the entire crew…except Neelix! This episode is precisely funny in places. The Doctor being able to shut down the rest of the crew in exactly the same way they used to so casually turn him off is some nice pay off. Holograms within holograms – Brannon Braga tries to bamboozle us into submitting to his crazy situation.

The Bad: The Kazon successfully attacked Voyager? How embarrassing for them. Projections points us in exactly the right direction with crushing predictability when the Doctor picks up no life signs from B’Elanna but full life signs from himself. I have never been the biggest fan of Barclay although I have to concede it was such a relief to have a less than perfect human being working on the Enterprise but his turning up on Voyager is another example of this show not being able to leave the Alpha Quadrant behind and create anything original enough to sustain the interest in the Delta Quadrant. In the same way that we have already met Romulans and Amelia Earhart, Barclay’s inclusion (illusion or not I’m talking on a creative level) reveals a show that doesn’t trust its own innovations to the Trek universe. The fact that Barclay is behaving like rational human being and not a schizophrenic loser is another big sign that none of this is real. To hear the Doctor sum up the ridiculous premise of Caretaker is a joy to behold (‘Known as the Caretaker…or as you will come to know him – banjo man!’). Unfortunately Chakotay is the last person that I would want convince me that Barclay had duped me – he’s the least believable person on the ship!

Moment to Watch Out For: Why do all these type of episodes always end with one last attempt to convince the viewer that everything has returned to normal before revealing that its another illusion. All you have to do whenever a show attempts this kind of reality twisting tale just check the running time and if there is five minutes to the episode you’ll know that they are trying to trick you again. Buffy rather wonderfully broke the rules on that when they finished the episode Normal Again with her still in the mental asylum having been lost in the Sunnydale illusion but with Voyager you know it is going to follow the formula with dreary inevitability.

Teaser-tastic: Potentially the dullest teaser on record, the Doctor is activated and discovers the ship is empty.

Fashion Statement: Surely Janeway should be convinced to have a haircut by now…her hairdo explodes after the Kazon attack and she looks like a bad drag act.

Anomaly of the Week: We haven’t seen an anomaly for four episodes so of course one had to show up sooner or later! What a dull explanation for all this goofiness.

Foreboding: Once again Voyager never throws away an idea that could be used later and the scenes showing Barclay trying to convince the Doctor that he has become obsessed with the Voyager programme are mirrored almost exactly with Barclay in the Doctor’s place in Pathfinder in season six. How comes everybody knows who Barclay is here but they have all conveniently forgotten him come the later episode?

Result: These reality-bending shows are tenapenny these days and every show has had a stab from The X-Files (Field Trip) to our very own Doctor Who (Amy’s Choice) and Voyager’s attempt is worthy but unconvincing because it pushes things too far into disbelief. There is no point where you will ever buy into the fact that Voyager is a simulation (if only) and the Doctor a human who is testing conditions of isolation in deep space and so the illusion is shattered about 20 minutes into the episode. However there are lots of little touches that make this worth watching from the punch the air moment the holodoc turns off Janeway and deletes Kim (bliss!) to the authentic reconstruction of his first moments in Caretaker. The net result is a fun waltz around the ship with Bob Picardo (which is always a joy) that just doesn’t happen to have a scrap of authenticity to it: 6/10

Elogium written by Kenneth Biller & Jeri Taylor and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: Kes enters puberty and has to make a touch decision…

Hepburn-a-Like: As Captain she doesn’t have the luxury of pairing off and she wants to get back home before Mark decides to give her up for dead.

Tattoo: When Chakotay catches two officers snogging in a turbolift he calls it an indiscrete display of shipboard fraternisation but then he is bound to bitter considering Janeway will never come knocking and Seska has left the ship. He brings his suggestion to the Captain to start regulating people’s personal lives and thankfully she laughs off the suggestion.

Elfin Alien: It’s the first episode to spotlight Kes and its hampered by the fact that she continues to date Neelix even after he behaves so childishly. Ocampan puberty usually happens between the ages of four and five but Kes fertilisation sac has been forced to grow early due to the proximity of the swarm. If Kes is every going to have a baby it has to be now. Kes asserting that the Doctor is a real person to her and asking for some fatherly advice is more pleasing subtext between these characters. Kes isn’t sure she has finished growing and so how can she help someone else to grow?

Mr Vulcan: Tuvok found the experience of fatherhood far more overwhelming then he expected and he believes only the most committed should become parents. As illogical as it sounds having children is much more rewarding than they seem and his children occupy a large portion of his thoughts.

Spotted Dick: Neelix’s jealousy of Kes and Paris’ friendship is really overplayed by both the writers and Ethan Philips and the net result is an even more annoying Neelix than usual. Which most people might find an impossible idea but somehow they achieve it. He does nothing but get in the Doctor’s way and complain in Sickbay whilst he is trying to do a diagnostic and when kicked out he heads straight to the Captain to set the holograms rights back to where they started. Neelix would be honoured to father Kes’ baby but he worries about her safety because she is so young. You would think that after giving him this option his jealousy of Tom Paris would flitter away but no it only takes a few episodes before he is sniping at him again. Oddly enough the episode makes far more of a song and dance about whether Neelix wants to be a father than it does about Kes having her one chance to have a baby. Whilst he must be conflicted, it seems very selfish to be thinking of yourself at a time like this. Even when it comes to the Doctor massaging her feet to stimulate the pregnancy Neelix is seething with jealousy. After Kes has made her decision the episode still focuses on Neelix’s feelings.

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘It appears we have lost our sex appeal, Captain’ – can you believe that Brannon Braga bought the pitch for this story on the basis of this dreadful Tuvok line alone?

The Good: Kes eating the bugs is a moment to make your skin crawl (even if they do repeat the same material twice). The creatures swimming outside the windows make for a crazy new visual. I did like the questions that Kes’ situation brought to light about how the ship would continue to function unless the crew started procreating if it really does take 70 odd years to get home. They would have to build an entire community aboard the ship. Although it does make me wonder why these questions haven’t come up before.

The Bad: Watching a sweaty and feral Jennifer Lien prostrating on the Doctor’s desk is not really my idea of fun or good Star Trek. Argh, imagine being stuck to Neelix for that many days? Why don’t Neelix and Kes share quarters? If the writers were scared about the idea seeming pervy why have them in a relationship discussing pregnancy in the first place? Harry Kim hasn’t done a single thing of note for about seven episodes – why is this guy even around? The CGI slugs fail to convince as they start humping the nacelles, the graphics look extremely primitive. As somebody who has a stomach churning aversion to feet watching the Doctor massage Kes’ feet I was holding my stomach! Just like The 37s this episode leaves its most important issue until the very last scene and doesn’t deal with it at all. Cutting out the drama in favour of the spectacle would be this shows downfall but this is probably the worst example. The reset button with Kes’ elogium at the end is an insult to the viewer after putting them through this episode. Ending an episode about pregnancy with the shock announcement of a pregnancy kind of blunts the surprise.

Moment to Watch Out For: Sometimes I wonder if I have skipped into an alternative universe where nothing makes sense and the freakishly cringeworthy scene where Neelix leaps on the ever-hungry Kes and picks her up as she starts scoffing down his flowers certainly qualifies.

Anomaly of the Week: As soon as they come across the latest anomaly Chakotay wants the chance to study them at close range…and Janeway concurs! Do these people have really short memories? I realise they are supposed to be explorers but even when they are 70,000 light years from home and prey to all manner of unknown nasties? Their willingness to drift along poking their nose into every gas cloud and lifeform that’s going makes them all appear really dumb. When the creatures start pulling in Voyager you just want to tell them it serves them right and leave them to rot inside the swarm.

Result: A memorable episode for all the wrong reasons. When somebody pitched an idea of televising an alien going through accelerated puberty via stuffing her face and having her feet massaged there had to be somebody there to laughing their head off and saying it was a crazy idea. Problem one is that Neelix and Kes are not a remotely believable sexual couple. Problem two is there is another boring as sin technobabble subplot about alien slugs trying to hump Voyager to get in the way of dealing with the provocative main storyline. Problem three is that the sensitive subject matter is dealt with in a comical and absurdly flippant manner. Problem four is that the episode focuses far too much on Neelix’s needs and not Kes’. Problem five after bringing up the idea of a generational ship this idea is taken no further. I could go on all day like this. My biggest issue is that by all intents and purposes Kes has an abortion at the end of this episode and it is skipped over with no psychological ramifications whatsoever. It is the most shocking example of the idiocy of fighting against character progression yet and was enough to drive me to clench my fists in its offensive insensitivity on the subject. This isn’t the worst episode of Voyager but there are few examples that I can think that highlight how badly it realises and handles its themes. Lacking the brains to intelligently explore such a bold concept and the balls to deal with its consequences, Elogium is Voyager at its most neutered: 2/10

Non Sequitur written by Brannon Braga and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: Harry is back on Earth and he is determined it is an illusion…

Forever Ensign: A fascinating peek into the life of Harry Kim on Earth is ruined by the fact that it is Harry Kim that we are examining. He’s so completely bland that rather than greet his girlfriend with a kiss and a smile he becomes stiffer than ever and starts treating her like an alien abductor! I realise she is an alien abductor but that’s not the point…you would think he would at least show some gratitude to be home considering he is the one who yearns for it the most. Imagine how interesting this episode could have been if it had been the same premise but focussed on Janeway and Mark instead. You just knew Harry would have model spaceships and all the certificates of his achievements in his house, didn’t you? In this reality Harry’s request to transfer to Voyager was denied and he was seconded to Starfleet Engineering instead to design ships. When Harry asks Libby to pretend that she hasn’t told him that she loves in a long time and to say it like she really means it I was convinced for possibly the first time that this buy has blood pumping through his veins and not technobabble. Would Harry really give a great position on Earth and a chance to spend his life with his fiancé and parents (they probably occupy as much affection from Harry) for the sake of Danny Bird and Tom Paris? I don’t buy it. What if Danny Bird is happy on Voyager and meets a woman, falls in love and has kid? What might Harry be denying him by denying himself? The biggest sin this episode commits is by having Harry so determined to return to Voyager especially when you think that the life that he leads over the next seven years stills absolutely still with little pleasure. How much more interesting would it be if he wanted to stay and was forced to go back? But you really can’t expect this show to take character risks like that.

Parisian Rogue: This ruffled version of Tom Paris pretty much mirrors the original from the pilot, you know before he was castrated by this shows writers. I very much liked his new backstory of accepting Janeway’s offer but winding up in a bar fight with Quark and being arrested by Odo! Trouble as soon as Harry tells Paris that he will only ever be a loser and a drunk in this reality you know he will step up to the plate and help him out. How much more refreshing if for once Voyager didn’t play the schmaltz card and have someone turn out to be a right bastard and stay that way.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Why does everyone say relax when they’re about to do something terrible?’

The Good: There is a glorious view of San Francisco from outside Harry’s bedroom window and its great to be able to see inside the living quarters of a relatively normal person on Earth. I really appreciate the efforts they go to to dress up the Paramount back lot and make it look like a thriving city. Skipping over to Marseilles to Sandrines is a clever way of saving money and using an establish (and perfectly fitting) set. Whilst I take great exception to how the revelation of Harry’s situation is so casually revealed in a street café chat, I really like the idea that this isn’t an illusion but a genuine scrambling of the timelines. It means whatever Harry does in this timeline has consequences. I chuckled at the thought of Harry trying to correct things and winding up on Earth before sentient life existed. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have him so far away? Love the shot of the runabout squeezing through the closing security doors.

The Bad: I’m not sure why they chose to open the episode with the Janeway voiceover inside Harry’s head because that tells us within two seconds that this is an illusion. Libby turns out to be beautiful; a teasingly sensual and relaxed girlfriend who is exactly the sort I would hope would iron out Harry’s needy and inflexible ways. Troi was supposed to be the character who was originally supposed interrogated Harry? I would laugh her out of the room! How embarrassing to have to wear that anklet walking around the streets? Couldn’t Starfleet have designed something a little less obvious? Isn’t sad that you know the exact point in which Tom Paris will bowl in and rescue Harry?

Moment to Watch Out For: The action sequence that sees our faithful Ensign climbing down fire staircases and running through the streets pursued by Starfleet security. There is a sudden, awesome, high shot as Harry tears around the corner and the music is quite attention grabbing.

Teaser-tastic: Harry Kim wakes up in bed with a beautiful young lady on Earth…what the hell?

Fashion Statement: It’s a shame that Harry gets dressed up straight away because he actually looked pretty cute in civvies.

Anomaly of the Week: Naturally as soon he senses a problem Harry asks if there have been any reports of temporal anomalies. See, the boy is learning!

Result: Credit where it is due, the opening act of Non Sequitur is so out of the ordinary for Voyager and refreshingly unpretentious that you relax into the episode immediately. Whilst I question the idea of using Harry for this episode it is fantastic to finally see this sort of day in the life of a character on Earth. What I find troubling is that Harry who has been the most earnest member of the crew to want to return to Earth would so willingly fight to return to Voyager even after being told that the timeline he has found himself in is real and not an illusion. He doesn’t hesitate in the slightest. It doesn’t have a whiff of believability to it and spits all over any giddy excitement he might have in the future when they have the potential to return the ship home. This only strengthens my belief that this episode should have belonged to Janeway who would have returned to Voyager with the responsibility to get her crew home. Visually this episode is a triumph and there is a great action sequence that the series needed after four of the last five episodes being confined to the ship. An unusual episode because there is so much that is good about it but in focussing on Harry the Chump Brannon Braga wastes his pretty decent premise: 6/10

Twisted written by Kenneth Biller and directed by Kim Friedman

What’s it about: Nothing. An anomaly. Big woo.

Hepburn-a-Like: Shockingly this is the first (and hopefully only) occasion that Janeway comes across as a big Nancy when she starts fainting all over the place going ‘my eyes…’

Tattoo: Chakotay chews out Tuvok in a very public way. I would have phasered the big tattooed face Jessie. Apparently there has been resentment between Tuvok and Chakotay for him being elevated to First Officer over the Vulcan but if that is true I have seen no evidence of it whatsoever. I sometimes wonder if these writers are just making this all up as they go along, adding character quirks and problems which simply have never been there.

Forever Ensign: I have honestly never known such a sickly sweet character in my entire life. At first begging to be let of the Bridge like a eager puppy for walkies and then so proud of telling somebody what to do in the corridors (look at his face as the guy walks off), he’s too much syrup than I can bear.

EMH: The Doctor is there for Kes’ birthday surprise in case of any medical emergencies but I think he just likes being groped by Sandrine.

Alien Elfin: Whilst it is nice to see some affection for Kes (one of the few people on this ship that I would show affection for), this scene has been done on TNG before (DS9 just dressed up O’Briens birthday as a party without the element of surprise) and highlight what a randy older man Neelix is.

Spotted Dick: After being asked to be the father of Kes’ child, Neelix is still jealous when Paris gets Kes a birthday present. Because the anomaly of the week has deposited Kes and Neelix on deck eight Neelix makes the (somewhat offensive) suggestion that Kes has been to all of the quarters on that deck.

The Bad: B’Elanna walking from Engineering to someone’s quarters where a crewman is in his boxers is painful. Who the hell is that random bloke who we have never seen before and keeps bumping into everybody? After spending half an hours worth of screen time wandering around the ship aimlessly, Chakotay figures that the phenomenon has caused a radical rearranging of the ship. No shit Sherlock. Janeway’s discordant alien speak is hilariously dreadful. Are you kidding me? They all stand there and let the anomaly wash through them and it was never a threat to them in the first place? So this whole episode was entirely pointless?

Moment to Watch Out For: The scene where Harry Kim grabs Janeway’s ass whilst she is being sucked into the anomaly and she lets off some suspicious groaning sounds!

Anomaly of the Week: Just in case Janeway didn’t get the message she has the fact that they have encountered and unusual phenomenon over and over again. At least Tuvok attempts to go around and only when it is clear that he cannot he chooses to go through it.

Result: Twisted consists of the entire crew wandering around the corridors of Voyager. No seriously, that’s it. If this is the most imaginative method of restricting an episode to the ship then this show is in trouble. Last year they gave us bottle shows like Jetrel but the best they can manage here is Neelix fuming with jealousy and getting advice from Chakotay and Harry Kim exploding with delight when Janeway compliments him. Watching Twisted is like being given an Easter Egg (hooray another episode of Voyager) but upon opening the wrapper finding no chocolate inside – there is no intelligent discussion, no characterisation, no themes, no creativity and not even a pretty set piece (which is usually a given on this show). It makes me wonder if this episode was even written but filmed live with the actors told to just wander the sets and make it up as they go along. Excruciatingly boring and completely without merit: 0/10

Parturition written by Tom Szollosi and directed by Jonathan Frakes

What’s it about: Those silly lads Paris and Neelix are still playing tug of war with Kes…

Elfin Alien: After me protesting all over the joint about Neelix being unreasonably jealous about Kes we open this episode with her flirting like mad with Paris and falling into his arms breathlessly. Whilst there is an innocent explanation for that Kes does rather look like she is enjoying herself. Kes getting weepy on the ship rather than trying to help feels like a massive step backwards for her character. Well after Elogium we couldn’t go much further backwards…but add a little baby step to that.

Forever Ensign: Ever the square, he keeps hearing his mother telling him to practice the clarinet and so he has replicated himself one. Just for once wouldn’t it be nice to hear him admit something like ‘I was just dreaming of my girlfriend naked’ just so we could hear the guy say something normal. Everything seems to come back to trying to impress the Captain or an oddly incestuous relationship with his mother (what with him trying to replicate being in her womb each night).

Parisian Rogue: He never saw it coming but now he does think he is in love with Kes. You have to question his taste in friends though – if I fancied probably the only taken woman on the ship the last person I would be talking to about it would be Harry Kim unless Paris wanted to have his moral compass overhauled. It’s a wonder Pairs has any sense of self esteem let alone his runaway ego considering even his father refused to play favourites with his at the Academy.

Spotted Dick: Taking a close relationship to a new level, Neelix is now stalking Kes around the ship to make sure she isn’t up to any naughties. What a creep.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I am a Doctor. Not a voyeur. I’m programmed to be discreet.’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Forget what I said Neelix. You’re not its godfather. You’re its godmother’ – I was drowning in dreadfulness by this stage!
‘I respect you, Neelix’ – coughs up bile…

The Good: Nice to see that the series hasn’t quite forgotten its roots and Voyager is running low on supplied and is desperate need of stocking up. It doesn’t make up for how painful the majority of this episode is but the apology scene is nicely performed by both Ethan Phillips and Robert Duncan-McNeill.

The Bad: Footage of Jem H’adar ships being used in Voyager? Quite aside from it being extremely cheap to reuse footage it actually makes no sense whatsoever for there to be any information on Voyager about Dominion ships. The shamefully manipulative scenes that sees Tom and Kes having to have dinner together in the Mess Hall left me shaking my head with the daytime soapiness of it all. Follow up the horrid food fight with scenes of Neelix and Tom scowling their way through a briefing that is going to see them working together and Kes stropping her way around Sickbay because of these silly boys and you might start to understand the sophistication of what is on display here. If you thought the baby look unrealistic hatching wait until you see it shivering. Unnatural Selection took the Picard/Pulaski conflict and put one of the characters in danger which helped them to bond – the Voyager solution to the same problem is so vomit inducingly twee and unbelievable you have to wonder why just once (when it does it all the time) it didn’t look over its shoulder and take some advice from its sister show?

Moment to Watch Out For: if I thought Twisted was the nadir of Voyager I hadn’t betted on the abysmal food fight scene between Paris and Neelix in this episode. If there was anything that this show desperately needed not to be at this point, this was it.

Fashion Statement: Big, big thumbs up for allowing Kate Mulgrew to let her hair down. She looks gorgeous and so much more approachable.

Result: The more this Paris/Neelix nonsense continues to dribble on the more Voyager is starting to feel like a sitcom. A bad sitcom. I’m not sure what has happened since the beginning of season two because anything good that came out the shows first year (and there were some real highpoints) seems to have been tossed out the cargo bay and replaced by a show full of cardboard characters in absurd situations. This episode does Paris and Neelix no favours whatsoever making the former appear like the ships hooker and the latter an overbearing parent rather than a lover. Can you imagine anything more unsubtle than the pair of them crash landing on a planet and having to overcome their odds to help a cute wickle baby to be born? It’s enough to make you want to give up television and take up fishing. Just when you think things can’t possibly get any more stupid the phoney looking alien baby rears its head out of an egg and then all bets are off as to how far this can plummet. Even the space battle looks lame. I really remember the second season being a lot stronger than this but this is television at it’s most retarded. Voyager badly needs to get out of this rut: 2/10

Persistence of Vision written by Jeri Taylor and directed by James L. Conway

What’s it about: The crew start succumbing to fantastic visions…

Hepburn-a-Like: How lovely to see Janeway laying into Harry…shame its suppose to indicate that she is out of sorts but its still very refreshing to watch Ensign Chump flinch. Janeway looks a picture of Mark and can barely hold back the tears – this is very healthy material and should have come a lot sooner in the shows run. Plus she’s getting her rocks off in the holodeck so I guess that doesn’t count as cheating. The reason Janeway’s delusions are so effective are entirely down to the understated horror in Kate Mulgrew’s performance. Thank goodness Kes in nearby to prove that Janeway hasn’t gone stark staring mad! I don’t think I have ever been on the same wavelength with Janeway as when she orders coffee ice cream to relax. It must be extremely painful for her to be taunted by cries of her dog and Mark calling out for her. When Mark suggests that someone else is in her thoughts is he talking about her latest holodeck whore or Chakotay? Janeway wonders if Mark has vowed to stay faithful to her and if she should do the same with no hope of getting home.

Tattoo: Naturally Chakotay is so boring we never getting to see his fantasy because its probably skipping through the jungle with his spirit guide.

Brilliant B’Elanna: Well well well…B’Elanna has certainly been hiding that little crush on Chakotay well, hasn’t she? While it is a really irritating that this bombshell is dropped from no where and never heard from again it does make for an eye opening sex scene between the two (at least until Torres screams ‘YES!’ which is really funny!).

Parisian Rogue: For Tom this experience is like a good dose of therapy and he finally gets the chance to tell his dad (even if he is only an illusion) to get out of his life. His self-esteem is actually quite very low and he believes that he is born to fail but he is trying his damdest to pull his life together.

Mr Vulcan: Dreams of being on Vulcan and back in touch with his wife.

Spotted Dick: It’s a minor miracle of our time that Neelix appears in an episode and not once did I want to reach in and strangle him! In fact I one point I even laughed with him as he tries to remain chipper whilst crazy Janeway makes odd suggestions about lunch (‘would you like a cup with flowers on it?’).

The Good: I had completely forgotten that they attempted to the install the holo-emitters in this episode and what a great ideas it is. Of course they should have thought of this halfway through season one but points for effort all the same. The tiny Doctor and giant Janeway shouldn’t be funny but it is. Early scenes of Janeway going dolally are the most fun we have had on this show for ages. I rather like the idea of a race of aliens who not only try and make themselves looks more sinister than they actually but also tell Voyager to bog off when they want to encroach on their space. Not only that but this a species manages to have an emotional impact on the entire crew by making them all see somebody they desire (Paris sees his Dad, Janeway sees Mark, Kim sees Libby and Tuvok sees his wife). Kes’ horrible pussy nightmare turned my stomach and I literally jumped with joy as she forced horrible ruptures all over Neelix no matter how overplayed it was. Even the last little magic trick (‘I’m not really here’) works for me even if it does skip over any awkward explanations.

The Bad: The two actors playing Lord Burleigh’s children are still extremely wooden. Space battles on Voyager are limited and static at this point in its history and whilst it would never reach the dynamism of DS9 during the Dominion War they would improve greatly in the latter seasons. Naturally the whole thing is technobabble induced and technobabble solved but for once it’s given us such a good time it doesn’t really matter.

Moment to Watch Out For: The terrific shock moment when (top actress) Carolyn Seymour is waiting outside Janeway’s quarters with a ruddy great knife ready to attack her and the sudden cut to sickbay with a urgent turn by Kate Mulgrew.

Result: Its true that TNG has done several ‘crew menaced by their nightmares’ episodes before but they always turn out rather well and Voyager’s take on the scenario scores massively because it focuses a lot of its scares on Janeway. If there’s a lot of Kate Mulgrew in an episode, its usually a winner. Actually James L. Conway has a lot to do with it as well and he brews some lovely chills as he highlights the period details against the futuristic backdrop. Its very interesting to read that Paramount objected to this episode because what they wanted was more aliens and action because this is exactly the sort of character led psychological drama that makes the show come alive. I guess they just wanted a nice safe little SF show rather than a cutting edge drama. I found this episode to be an effective taste of glory for the season that has spiralled into banality and hope that there might still be some life in these characters: 8/10

Tattoo written by Michael Piller and directed by Alexander Singer

What’s it about: You know I’m still not sure…

Tattoo: This is one of those very rare times I will advocate that it would have been more efficient to have had a child on board the ship because the kid playing Chakotay is far more charismatic and interesting in this than our First Officer manages to be in seven seasons. Plus he really is the spit of Beltran. Apparently Chakotay came out of his mother upside down which sure explains a lot! As a child he didn’t want anybody to choose his way for him. So it was Sulu who was responsible for lumbering us with Chakotay! I’ll save my bile for when he shows up in this series. The idea of Chakotay being trapped between two worlds, that of the Federation and his Tribe and never belonging to either one lacks the punch of better attempts at this sort of thing (B’Elanna, Odo, Worf).

EMH: I am entirely behind the Doctor in his tough attitude on Samantha Wildman – I have known my fair share of pregnant women and all of them have suffered discomfort and I could happily split them into two camps, those who put up with it and get on with things and those who try and to take advantage. To encourage the former is perfectly fine in my book. He found it so hard to find an opener to break the ice he has restored his ‘Please state the nature…’ when his programme is activated. He’s tired of the whining amongst the crew every time one of them falls ill and so adjusts his programme to give himself flu to show how you can battle through even when you feel dreadful. Unfortunately (or should I say predictably) it all goes horribly wrong and he is forced to suffer longer than he intended and learns the lesson of being nicer to his patients.

Spotted Dick: Is found on the forest floor with blood gushing from his eye. One of the highlights of the episode.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘She is far more devious than I ever suspected!’ – the Doctor on Kes!

The Bad: It seems odd to me that the guest characters are off on location whilst the regulars are stuck in a studio. Why is it that nobody in Star Trek seems to get on with their father? The Sisko/Jake/Joseph chemistry is a real rarity.

Moment to Watch Out For: Bird attack! Its really naff the way they try and mix stock footage with scenes of Chakotay waving his arms about but at least the eagle tries to peck Neelix’s eyes out.

Fashion Statement: The purpose of this episode seems to be to show the audience where Chakotay got his tattoo (it’s the title of the episode after all). It just goes to show the real effort that was being put into this series at the time. He wears it to honour his father who wears it to honour his ancestors.

Anomaly of the Week: Not an anomaly, this week Voyager is being sucked into a cyclone!

Foreboding: Sacred Ground plays out a similar kind of situation for Janeway in season three and manages to be just as a boring is Tattoo.

Result: This is pretty drab stuff. Not only is Chakotay not an interesting enough character to hold up this kind of episode but it is also another reminder that elements of everybody’s lives on Voyager illogically seems to have wound up in the Delta Quadrant before them. The flashbacks to Chakotay as a teenager should be useful but since we already know what a dullard he turns into they don’t really add much to character. The pace is slothenly and there is very little in the way of action or probing drama to keep you interested. If there was a single episode that exposed how misguided Chakotay’s native American background and how little Robert Beltran brings to the role it is this one. I couldn’t remember a single thing about this episode (except for the body double Chakotay butt shot) and now I know why – it is a piece of drama that is trying to find meaning where there is none whilst running on the spot: 3/10

Cold Fire written by Brannon Braga and directed by Cliff Bole

What’s it about: Kes turns to the Dark Side…

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway’s reaction to the reputation of Voyager as a ship of death is sheer horror. She clearly had no idea of the rumours and lies that are being spread from the races they have done battle with so far.

Elfin Alien: Jennifer Lien gives a lovely performance in this episode and it affords her far more opportunities than Elogium did because she gets to remain in character. One of the very few characters arcs that are running through the second series is Kes’ ever-growing extrasensory power and it is great to see them coming to the forefront of an episode. Being able to listen in on the thoughts on Voyager would be an exceptional gift – you could nose in on anybody’s secret thoughts! Kes is excited at the news of meeting another Ocampan since she surely must have given up hope of ever seeing any of her species again. When Kes is told that she brought some life to a cold and barren place I found myself nodding in agreement. She is both excited and frightened at the prospect of meeting an Ocampan who has fulfilled his potential because it means that it is definitely possible for her. Kes is actually pretty terrifying as she makes Tannis bleed from his eyes and mouth at the conclusion – I really wish we could have seen more of this darker side of her character.

Mr Vulcan: Tuvok the party pooper of the galaxy wants to teach Kes to inhibit her giggles. You have got to love Tuvok’s style – at the news of hearing that they might be able to find the Caretakers mater he suggests creating a poison that could debilitate the creature just in case it gets hostile. If they took this approach more often they might actually get somewhere in the Delta Quadrant! One of the few times when Tuvok’s lack of emotion comes in handy, after Kes almost kills him he jumps up from his medical bed and tells her to think of this as a lesson and a warning rather than bearing a grudge.

Spotted Dick: After half a season of Neelix giving daggers to Tom Paris for existing in the same space time continuum as Kes it is the most refreshing change to see him encouraging Kes’ mental training with Tannis rather than getting jealous. His admission that he would leave Voyager to be with Kes is exactly the sort of selfless act that he should be making all the time. It’s a very sweet moment.

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘She wants to destroy the ship!’

The Good: The unusual narrated opening and ‘ten months later’ caption leads you to believe that this is going to be something monumental. When the rock that the Caretaker turned into starts having a paddy it confirms it. Watch the camerawork as Kes and Tannis walk around the hydroponics bay, it is the epitome of fluidity. Forcing the flowers and vegetables to mature is a simple but effective trick that connects to the audience because it is enhancing life. How lovely to see Neelix tossed across the Mess Hall.

The Bad: You do have to feel sorry for this crew who constantly get their hopes up every time they think that they are going to make it home. Their disappointment when it doesn’t pan out is slowly becoming one of the series clichés. Oddly we never hear from the female Caretaker again.

Moment to Watch Out For: There are three beautifully realised scenes where Kes gets to explore her mental powers. The scene where Tannis trains Kes to heat up the liquid in the cup – the effects are simple but very effective and it suggests that these powers could be used to harm as well as help. Her screams when she forces boils to rupture on Tuvok’s face are spine tingling. And finally the unforgettable moment Kes is surrounded by a corona of fire and causes all the flowers to wilt and burn. For Voyager which is far more used to dealing with space battles and phaser fights these scenes are much more sensual effects that have an emotional impact.

Result: Such an odd episode because they dress it up as an important arc piece when actually it focuses more on Kes and her continuing education. When it focuses on her character it is very good indeed and there are a number of impressive set pieces. The return of the female Caretaker however is a massive disappointment and should have been left for a season finale later in the shows run. Her logic in wanting to destroy Voyager is fatally flawed and it seems that she acts that way simply because it would create some jeopardy for this episode. Its typical of Voyager to not trust in its characters to carry the show through and the conclusion that sees unconvincing CGI creatures, the Engineering crew hanging from the ceiling and Janeway being tortured by a little girl is woefully inadequate. What should be the most important moment in this show since the pilot is relegated to a five-minute appearance at the end of the episode. A game of two halves then but ultimately a disappointment. Take out the female Caretaker and this would have easily have scored an 8 and been the best episode of season two to date but as it is: 6/10

Manuveres written by Kenneth Biller and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: Seska’s back and Chakotay is more embarrassed than ever…

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway feels personally slighted by Chakotay’s public display of defiance by stealing a shuttle and she makes the excellent observation that it is more than a little self indulgent for him to assume that this whole raid has been about him. Kate Mulgrew’s performance as Janeway, when she expresses her quiet disapproval of Chakotay’s actions and puts him on report, is spellbinding.

Tattoo: Whilst this show tries to show Chakotay as a man consumed by revenge Robert Beltran simply isn’t charismatic enough to pull it off. His defection opens up lots of possibilities with Janeway and Torres so the exercise is still very worthwhile. Seska thought that after serving under Janeway for so long would have made Chakotay soft but all he need was a little slap to get his Marquis heart beating again. She was almost much more interested in the information he could provide her with than Chakotay himself. Bloody, beaten and poisoned – I find it really hard to sympathise with this man even when he is tortured!

Slimy Seska: After disappearing for almost half a season Seska makes a very welcome return to the show. She dropped a wonderful bombshell before she defected (that she was a Cardassian infiltrator to Chakotay’s Marquis terrorist cell) which prepares us for the awesome moment she appears on the view screen with her true, much more villainous looking physiognomy. Starfleet, Marquis and Cardassian expertise – that’s a pretty intimidating combination of training and talents. With Seska whispering in his ear Cullah is finally becoming a villain worthy of Janeway. You have got to love how she uses her manipulative feminine wiles to pull his strings and get things going her way in this Quadrant. Flattery, devotion and sex – Chakotay always thought Seska had a lot to offer a man.

Brilliant B’Elanna: After the revelation that she might quite fancy Chakotay in Persistence of Vision the opening scene of this adventure sees the two of them flirting outrageously with each other in the turbolift. Torres used to think that Seska was her best friend and she gives Chakotay some good advice about controlling his bruised emotions whilst trying to bring her down. Janeway is right; Chakotay is lucky to have such a loyal friend and B’Elanna once again proves how perceptive she is about people’s feelings. Finally all that Marquis training is coming in handy and she performs some very un-Starfleet manuveres.

Mr Vulcan: I was very pleased to see Janeway chew Tuvok out for allowing Chakotay to steal a shuttlecraft – it’s about time she laid down the law at how relaxed security seems to be on this ship.

Spotted Dick: There is a very funny (and entirely pointless) moment when Neelix dramatically states ‘It could alter the power amongst the sects!’ as if addressing the audience directly.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Once Seska’s through with you…she’s gonna kill you.’

The Good: A huge round of applause for the most dynamic action sequence ever seen on Voyager with Seska using Federation tactics against them. A Kazon ship punches a hole in their shields and a shuttle slips through and stabs into the hull like a knife in their belly and out pour soldiers firing like mad. It’s bold and takes the crew of Voyager (and the audience who are more used to lethargic enemies in the Delta Quadrant) entirely unawares. The shuttle sticking through the wall of the cargo bay looks very expensive. It is such a shame that the Kazon are so dull because the writers try and do some fairly new things with the species like having Cullah attempt to unite all the various sects to bring down Voyager. The Kazon floating through space probably shouldn’t look as comical as it does but how brilliant is the idea of using what would normally be harmless Federation technology to execute people. Having two ex Marquis members on either side of this conflict comes to fruition as we enjoy Chakotay and Seska playing a game of cat and mouse with the roles shifting all the time.

The Bad: As soon as they recognise a Federation signal the first thought on this crews mind should have been Seska and yet nobody seems to make the connection. Even when the Kazon seem to constantly outmanoeuvre Voyager neither Janeway nor Chakotay still figure out the truth and it takes her appearance on the view screen to put two and two together. ‘It’s as if they know our access codes!’ cries the First Officer, oblivious. And later ‘I should have known you’d be involved!’ After bigging up Cullah so well the scenes of the other sects demanding the command codes once again makes him feel impotent.

Moment to Watch Out For: The final scene which pulls the rug up from under Chakotay so brilliantly I actually gave Seska a huge round of applause! Her bombshell that she is pregnant with his baby is worthy of a cheap daytime soap but it gives the show such a delicious boost I don’t really care.

Orchestra: There’s a nice juicy score as Chakotay’s shuttle sneaks up on the Kazon ship.

Result: What’s this? Meaty action sequences? Juicy character development? The return of an excellent foe? Halfway through the season Voyager suddenly jolts awake with this powerful game of cat and mouse between Chakotay and Seska. What I really love is how personal this all feels – Chakotay feels slighted by Seska, Janeway feels insulted by Chakotay, B’Elanna tries to defend her friends actions…this is where we should have been at the beginning of this season. What’s more the misguided situation with the Kazon finally feels as if it’s going somewhere and with Seska to guide him Cullah feels like a genuine threat as he damages Voyager and tortures Chakotay. There is some vibrant direction from David Livingston, stylish effects work and even the music is doing far more than usual to keep things perky. No more daft filler episodes please, this is exactly the sort of thing this show needs to be doing week in, week out: 8/10

Resistance written by Lisa Klink and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: Trapped on a hostile planet, Janeway is saved by a strange old man who thinks she is his daughter…

Hepburn-a-Like: I have recently purchased a Trek review book that describes Kate Mulgrew’s performance as more of a competent middle manager rather than creating an interesting character in her own right which I find very unfair. It feels as though if you haven’t come from a Shakespearean background then you aren’t worth a fig in the eyes of some people. Episodes like Resistance show what a smart move it was to rush Mulgrew into the role after Bujold abandoned it and she gives a sensitive and heartbreaking turn as Janeway trying to escape the planet and protect this poor, pathetic man who has looked after her. Look at Janeway’s face when she realises that Caylem has been writing to his (probably dead) wife for so many years in the hope that one day he can give her the letters – it is a shattering moment and she goes from insisting he stay behind to giving him a chance to see if his wife is still alive. Neither Sisko or Picard could have pulled this off so sympathetically. When he is shot dead Janeway gives him an incredible gift; as he slips away she pretends that she is his daughter and that his wife is alive and received his letters. Caylem dies with such contentment on his face and it’s so beautifully played by both actors you might just shed a tear before the episode is out.

Mr Vulcan: The combination of the ultra calm Tuvok and the ultra aggressive B’Elanna is one that screams of untapped potential and yet it is a relationship that is practically ignored over the seven years of the show. We hear Tuvok screaming in agony as the Mokra break him in some discomforting moments. When he is returned to his cell in a very battered state Torres cannot understand how is mistreatment can’t make him angry enough to fight back. Tuvok wisely states that by resisting their bullying tactics and revealing nothing they are fighting back. Its such a shame that Tuvok would be so badly castrated in later seasons, he is proving to be one of the most thoughtful characters in season two.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘So much tragedy for one man to bear…’

The Good: The Mokra are paranoid and hostile and have little use for democracy. How wonderful to meet a no nonsense species like this in the Delta Quadrant, finally it feels like there might be a little danger lurking in this Quadrant. Whilst I remain unconvinced that Joel Grey gives one of the best performances in Trek of repute the way the writers approach the character is fascinating. At first it feels almost like Steven King’s Misery as Janeway looks terrified as this gentle man sweeps her injured into his home and starts claiming she is his daughter returned home at last. Then Janeway starts to sympathise when she realises that he is just a sad old man who has lost all of his family to this militaristic regime. Once again we hear that Voyager has a devastating reputation in the Quadrant and you can almost feel Michael Piller’s return pushing for a more arc-based show that builds on the episodes so far. It would not last long so enjoy it whilst it lasts – Brannon Braga and Jeri Taylor are waiting in the wings to toss all Piller’s good work out the window and move the show into standalone hell. The reveal that Caylem’s wife and daughter have both been dead for years comes as no surprise but it isn’t any less touching to see him cowering away from the knowledge he refuses to believe.

The Bad: Caylem jumps into action to save Janeway’s contact and makes a fool out of himself in front of the Mokra – it’s a scene that should be devastating but its far too ineffectively played to make any impact. I don’t want to be the sort of person who recognises details like this…but I guess I’m a sad case like all the other Trekkies – the graphic of satellites around the planet is exactly the same as the one from DS9’s Battle Lines.

Moment to Watch Out For: Janeway posing as prostitute made me sit up and pay attention! Whilst she might not be the obvious choice to play this sort of role I was impressed by the Captains ability to put her dignity aside for the chance to leave this miserable planet.

Teaser-tastic: The teaser is tightly directed on a very cheap set and yet seems all the more tense for it.

Myth Building: Finally somebody thinks to capitalise on the drama of running out of resources in the Delta Quadrant and Janeway and co are forced to trade on a hostile planet in order to keep the ship running. Even better they get the technobabble out of the way in the first five minutes and surrender the rest of the episode to the crewmembers stuck on the planet. More like this please.

Result: Often cited as the best episode of the season because of Joel Grey’s nuanced performance, Resistance doesn’t quite reach that lofty status and it is Kate Mulgrew’s performance that makes it work for me. It is an episode with an interesting set up and a strong emotional core and whilst that shouldn’t be enough to make a classic episode (as that should be the norm) but in this wilderness of a season I will happily take this. The Mokra aren’t an especially memorable race of thugs but they behave in such a way that it provokes some real drama from the regulars who are trapped on the planet and gives Chakotay a rare example of showing is teeth. Mulgrew seems to appreciate being let off the leash of a character usually bound by Starfleet rules and regs and play some meaty drama instead and she gives the episode a touch of class that would have otherwise be missing. Not a classic but a well-done intimate tale that shows how good Voyager can be when it ignores technobabble in favour of drama: 8/10

Prototype written by Nicholas Corea and directed by Jonathan Frakes

What’s it about: Voyager discovers a robot floating in space…

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway seems to enjoy hiding behind the Prime Directive to avoid making tough choices and even though Torres argues a sterility parallel to the robots desire to procreate she still seems to want to enforce Federation law on the Delta Quadrant. ‘Unfortunately extinction is often the natural end of evolution’ she states in a well-written scene that just happened to make my blood boil.

Brilliant B’Elanna: This is one of the first episodes to focus on Torres (which on its own is always a good sign) that doesn’t feel the need to highlight her aggressive tendencies and have her obsessing over a puzzle as a scientist.

Forever Ensign: When Harry was waving his hands into front of the robots eyes and picking up its arm like a rag doll I really wanted it to come alive and grab his neck! The chemistry between B’Elanna and Harry in the Engineering scenes is nice (its great to see her calling him Starfleet again).

Spotted Dick: I think I have begun to see a purpose for Neelix beyond serving food to the crew. In Learning Curve he provided advice for Tuvok, Guinan style, in what turned out to be one of the best scenes of the episode and he pulls the same trick of with B’Elanna here. The thing with Guinan was that they new to keep her in the background for the most part because it made her moments all the more potent when they came along. Neelix could happily provide the same role on Voyager and it is in these moments where he uses his experiences to advise the crew that he shines the most. The trouble is he is a regular character and one that is supposed to be vaguely comical so naturally he chews up far too much screen time than is necessary. But it is worth noting in these moments of piquancy that when the character works, he really works. They just don’t get it right very often.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Who are we to swoop in, play God and then continue on our way without the slightest consideration for the long term effects of our actions?’
‘We terminated the builders.’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘My God what have I done!’ – unfortunately not even Dawson can pull off that line.

The Good: Not only do they manage to bring the technobabble down to an understandable level for once (mostly through the use of metaphor) but Roxan Dawson is so engaging as the psyched up B’Elanna she pretty much single handedly drags you into the episode. I love the linear nature of the story – the automated units kidnap B’Elanna to build the prototype, Janeway attempts to talk, no answer, Janeway opens fire, Voyager gets severely crippled to force B’Elanna to agree to break the Prime Directive. It’s a clear progression of events very nicely executed by Jonathan Frakes. TNG is acknowledged directly when Torres tells the automated unit about Data and how he lives the life of a sentient lifeform. When the Cravic units show up and open fire on the Prelor we are treated to some fine battle sequences. Looking at their argument logically for a moment the automated units were designed for fighting and when the two factions called a truce they would no longer be needed and feared their extinction which made the builders their enemy. Whilst genocide is a pretty extreme solution you can see how this situation came about in their mechanical minds.

The Bad: Why are Janeway and Torres whispering to each other in the last scene?

Moment to Watch Out For: However tacky it might be I love the moment of Frankenstein joy when the prototype unit comes to life and Torres does everything but say ‘Its alive!’

Teaser-tastic: The teaser is famously known as the only thing of worth in this episode and whilst I don’t subscribe to that view it is attention grabbing from the first moment. The POV of a robot floating towards Voyager, seeing the transporter from its POV and then to have Janeway, Tuvok and Torres staring out directly at the audience and the robot focus in on a display of itself are all fine directional touches from Jonathan Frakes.

Fashion Statement: A lot has been said about the design of the automated units but I was brought up on Doctor Who where dodgy designs could be tenapenny. The face plat is pretty bland but I have seen much worse and I really like the polite vocals of the machine. Plus the scene where its ugly mug fills up the view screen trying to look menacing is worth the admission price of watching this episode alone!

Result: An episode with a bad reputation that really doesn’t deserve it, Prototype is a clichéd storyline but its pulled off with a lot of style and the added bonus of a whole lot of Roxan Dawson who could pull off pretty much any subject matter. It tosses everything into the mix including more Prime Directive red tape, a robotic revolution and an automated unit war and doesn’t stop building a picture of this conflict until the last scene. There is some imaginative camerawork and feisty action sequences to keep things ticking over but the best thing this has to offer is seeing so much of Torres who seems to have vanished into a black hole for most of the season. Personally I would happily spend an episode with her having an argument with herself for 40 minutes: 7/10

Alliances written by Jeri Taylor and directed by Les Landau

What’s it about: Can Voyager bring together the various Kazon sects and their enemies?

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway is determined to keep hold of her principles even when all the arguments for abandoning them make very good sense. Her response to a crewmember questioning her decision is that she will destroy the ship before she sees any part of it fall into Kazon hands. It is not a democracy ship and she refuses to run Voyager on consensus. How humbling for the Captain to have to contact Seska with her tail between her legs and go back on her word about forging alliances with the sects. In her naiveté to take things at face value Janeway turns away from her negotiations with the Kazon and instead chooses to ally herself with the Trabe. Her eventual downfall is almost inevitable but you so badly want her to learn this lesson it is very satisfying. Unfortunately Janeway takes her cack-handed approach to and failiure to make use of this opportunity as a reason to suggest that the rules of the Federation are the best (damn) allies they can have. Poor naïve woman.

Tattoo: It has taken him long enough but when Chakotay approaches Janeway and tells her that they are on their own in this Quadrant and they need to start changing in order to survive which might mean bending the rules a little. He makes Janeway realise that she has to do what she can for the best interests of the crew and if she is actually doing that by sticking so rigidly to Starfleet rules.

Mr Vulcan: I cannot remember the last time we saw Janeway lean so heavily on Tuvok for support and advice and it is such a strong relationship it baffles me as to why not. Tuvok brilliantly compares their potential pact with the Kazon to the Federations first steps of peace with the Klingons and that something good might come to this – a potential stability to the Quadrant.

Spotted Dick: Even Neelix is dragged into the plot and treated intelligently. Will wonders never cease? He’s practically offering sex in order to be able to bend the ear of the Maj of the Pommar.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Starfleet works well in the Alpha Quadrant. Not here.’
‘I find you nothing but a hypocrite Captain. Allying yourselves to the greatest villains this Quadrant has ever known.’
‘Its clear you have no understanding of the harsh realities of this part of space.’

The Good: Probably the best opening to any Voyager episode with the ship under heavy fire from Kazon raiders and a stifling sense of panic as we sweep through the ship to various locations and see what a beating they are taking. There has been four attacks in two weeks and they have lost three crewmembers to the Kazon. A rare funeral scene leads to some of the ex Marquis members (who have been so quiet for so long) to finally question Janeway’s decision to go to war with the Kazon rather than form an alliance with them. The proposal to form a pact with the Kazon, not to give them technology but protect them if they are in danger is an intriguing one. There is a sudden change of location to a sleazy nightclub and perhaps for the first time we feel as if we are somewhere exotic and different in the Delta Quadrant. It’s a lovely feeling. The introduction of Michael Jonas is another of those characters who is slipped into the show invisibly (like Seska) who turns out to be more important than he first appears. His running storyline (which starts here) of working behind the scenes on Voyager for Seska is a superb running subplot. An armada of Kazon ships approaches Voyager in a powerful ‘oh shit’ moment. Everything the Kazon have has been stolen from the Trabe seems unfair at first until you begin to understand that the Trabe used to keep the Kazon in deliberate slavery when they were a powerful force in the Quadrant. To turn the Kazon into a victim of their circumstances is a bold move and another excellent step this episode takes. I’m so happy that Janeway’s attempts at negotiation fail so spectacularly – how dull would it be to have Federation arbitration bring stability to the Delta Quadrant. And how gratifying to have the allies she has chosen be the ones to break their word so spectacularly. Thanks to the events of this episode they are more vulnerable than ever and have even more enemies in the Delta Quadrant. Lovely.

The Bad: With all the Kazon sitting around the table with their crazy beehive hairdos it feels more like a meeting of the Womens Institute than peace negotiations.

Moment to Watch Out For: The awesome moment when the Trabe ship appears at the window and blasts the conference table to smithereens hoping to take the leaders of the various Kazon sects with it! It’s not entirely surprising but by God is it spectacular. Voyager should be offering up punch the air moments like this every week.

Myth Building: With new regular crewmembers turning up to make the ship feel like it has a cast beyond its regulars (Hogan and Jonas) and continuing narratives returning, this just so happens to be the best the series has been since…oh wait last years Prime Factors/State of Flux. Michael Piller favoured an increasing sense of desperation amongst the crew and a regular guest cast of less than perfect characters like Suder and Seska and it’s exactly what this show needs to be. It breaks my heart to think that Jeri Taylor (who wrote this episode so she can see the benefits of this approach) and Brannon Braga (who would write the next dismal episode) think this is not the way the show should be going and get rid of all this by the beginning of next season. No tension, no character, no drama. And place of episodes like Manuveres and Alliances next year around the same point we have Rise, Favourite Son and The Darkling. What a pair of idiots.

Result: Opening with some dynamic action and closing with an unforgettable set piece, Alliances with its tough characterisation and gripping arc plot screams of Michael Piller’s superb approach to the show. Dissention in the ranks and strong discussion of Janeway’s dogged determination to stick to Starfleet rules are both very welcome and should have made themselves aware halfway through the first season, not the second! Alliances is packed full of memorable moments and sees the show developing in a very satisfying way, giving the Kazon some extra depth and adding an extra element to the conflict that really stirs things up. Whilst there would a period of confidence for this show during series four and five it would never again be as interesting as it is during the latter half of the second season and whilst that is great for now it makes me sad for the remaining five seasons of the show. Given what the show becomes the sad truth is this feels too good to be an episode of Voyager: 9/10

Threshold written by Brannon Braga and directed by Alexander Singer

What’s it about: Paris becomes a lizard, kidnaps the Captain, turns her into a lizard and they make lizard babies. Did I just write that sentence?

Hepburn-a-Like: ‘Nothing will be beyond our reach!’ says Janeway like some ranting Doctor Who villain. It seems that with the possibility of infinite velocity within her grasp she finally shows her true colours as wanting to become the Fuhrer of the Delta Quadrant. Spare us the thought of Janeway and Paris getting jiggy with it and Janeway suggesting that she initiated the lizard foreplay!

Parisan Rogue: Poor Robert Duncan McNeill is saddled with this stinker of an episode and no matter how good episodes centred on his character would be in the future (actually not that great – Alice!) the audience could never quite get rid of the nasty taste in the mouth this episode left them with. Janeway suggesting that Tom Paris’ name will spoken in the same breath as Neil Armstrong and Zefron Cochrane is so absurd it made me laugh out loud. Talk about tempting fate for a character. When he was a boy his father used to tell him that he was special and that he would do something significant and all he ever heard from teachers and friends was that Tom Paris is going to do something important when he grows up. I understand why somebody like Paris would want to get his names in the history books to prove everybody who thinks he is a waster wrong. McNeill was never the strongest performer on this show but he can usually hold down any quiet scene (he also has a nice sarcastic streak) but when he is asked to show any extreme emotion he usually fails to convince and his hysterical ranting in this episode is about as bad as it gets. His father said that crying is a sign of weakness but Paris never believed that. Why Paris starts telling the Doctor about losing his virginity whilst he is dying is beyond me – it makes me think the Braga didn’t know how to characterise Tom’s reactions and just went for the lowest tone possible. ‘Pepperoni!’ he screams one minute and ‘Kiss me!’ the next. It’s all very bizarre. After they have mad lizard sex Janeway puts Paris in for a commendation so it does go to show that it never hurts to have sex with the boss.

Spotted Dick: Is surprisingly well versed in warp theory after having served two years on a freighter. It’s nice that these things have been mentioned before. Oh wait, they haven’t? Well its lucky that this bit of character insight is gleamed in an episode that requires it.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I had no idea what they just said’ says Neelix speaking for the audience as Harry Kim and Tom Paris get ridiculously excited over a bout of technobabble.

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘He could be anywhere in the universe!’ shouts Harry Kim. Yeah nice Harry, that was rather the point.
‘I feel I must warn you…while he is Tom Paris, he is becoming something else as well’ – with dialogue this sharp this could have been written by Noel Coward.

The Good: Am I the only one who thinks it is very funny that Janeway tells Paris that he might suffer a brain haemorrhage when he crosses the threshold and so ‘I’d like to send Ensign Kim instead.’ Bloody hilarious.

The Bad: Forgive me for not being a science geek…but why would you want to coexist in every point in the universe simultaneously? Why would you want to go everywhere in the wink of an eye? There would be no achievement in getting somewhere, no hope for something better. You would literally be God. Or Q. What’s the point of that? Neelix says ‘Wow!’ but I say ‘Yaaaaawn…’ If Tom Paris came back from infinite velocity with all the information they should ever need about this sector of space then surely there should be no troubles or surprises ahead for Voyager – they will know who to avoid and basically make Neelix’s role redundant. The stupidity of these people is beyond me – they attempt to shit all over science then act surprised when it has consequences. Didn’t TNG not only go beyond Warp 10 before without any of these creature feature consequences (Where No One Has Gone Before) and also give a perfectly sound ecological reason why going beyond a certain warp speed was inadvisable? I don’t usually mind a show ignoring its own continuity if it is for the good of a story but for this? I don’t mind the odd moment of graphic horror but there are no circumstances on this Earth that I would want to see somebody spit out their own tongue again – its jarringly horrible and completely unnecessary. Scenes of Paris trying to talk without a tongue feel as thought they are targeted at insulting death and dumb people they are so offensively bad (plus he clearly still has a tongue). When mutant Paris breaks free of his restraints and runs amok in Engineering I could not believe the low budget way they suggested this bedlam with a couple of random phaser shots firing across a blank screen! This easily goes down as the stupidest ending in any Trek episode and ignoring the fact that Paris kidnaps Janeway and turns her into a lizard because he wants to make babies with her (I didn’t say it would be easy but try to ignore that part) but that somehow the Doctor takes these two lizards and magically manages to de-evolve them back into exactly how they were before. I have heard of some overly simplistic Trek solutions (there’s one episode of TNG where Picard says ‘Dr Crusher has managed to fix us up with her usual skill or something as bogglingly simplistic as that) but this is insulting to the nth degree. He de-evolved them? How exactly? Is it that easy to force the evolution of a species? Brainless trash. That is what we are going to become in the future – those lizards? Argh!

Moment to Watch Out For: Obviously the terrible Paris and Janeway lizards coming out of the bushes after having mad lizard sex. Drivel, drivel, drivel.

Teaser-tastic: Given that Tom Paris is a regular character and this series aversion to consequences we know that as soon as the shuttle blows up he is on the holodeck. And that’s kind of shame because it means this series has lost the ability to surprise.

Foreboding: Michael Jonas turns up in this episode and reminds us all that a decent running plot is still being threaded through this season. Brannon Braga stated categorically that he didn’t like reminders of arc threads spoiling what were otherwise fine episodes. To quote Quark from The Circle: ‘Hahahahahahahahahahahaha! Goodbye.’ This guy really doesn’t have a clue.

Result: When Paris starting ranting at Janeway that turning into a mutant is the best thing that has ever happened to him and that she is just jealous I thought we had hit rock bottom to how low this show could sink. But then came the lizards. After a Michael Piller inspired episode of the series that saw the potential of this show realised in its entirety they follow that up with Brannon Braga’s unique approach almost as if to give us the chance to make the comparison. This show is in trouble. Its not just the terrible science, appalling characterisation, embarrassing plot twists, dreadful make up and offensive ending that sticks in the throat, what really hurts is that Braga actually thought he could get away with this sort of thing unscathed and bitch about the reaction in hindsight. When B’Elanna says ‘You’re dead!’ in the teaser she might have well have been talking about the series after this episode. Not quite as bad as Twisted because this is at least so bad it’s entertaining (whereas Twisted was just mind numbingly dull) but I can’t imagine the show sinking much lower than this b movie Trek: 1/10

Meld written by Micheal Piller and directed by Cliff Bole

What’s it about: Tuvok turns killer and he likes the feeling…

Hepburn-a-Like: I drew a sharp breath when Tuvok suggesting to Janeway that they execute Suder rather than throw him in the Brig. Whilst I knew that she would never consider such an action (even Janeway isn’t that psychotic as to start executing members of her limited crew) but it does throw up the possibility which is terrifying to consider.

Mr Vulcan: I understand somebody as logic bound as Tuvok needing a reasonable motive for Suder’s crime. It highlights his lack of understanding of human behaviour thought that he does not consider ‘I didn’t like the way he looked at me’ as a good enough reason when to anybody else a flash of anger could easily be provoked by such an action. Again you can understand the logic of Tuvok wanting to mind meld with Suder because he thinks that it will give the Betazoid some peace in his mind and he will be able to understand why he murders people but lacking the human intuition for such things you know that the sharing of their minds will involve a trade off. If Suder gains some of Tuvok’s inner peace then of course Tuvok will be infected by Suder’s inner turmoil. Tim Russ adjusts his performance with slight twitches of anger just after the Meld and even Janeway can notice Tuvok playing anxiously with his hands as he gives his report. Seeing Tuvok struggling with his dark feelings proves just how restrained Tim Russ’ performance is every week (seeing him use his face and voice so expressively just feels wrong) and also what a great performer they are wasting in such a role. He finds the unleashing of his violent impulses disturbing but it is clear from his face that he also finds it attractive (perhaps as Suder says that it is because it doesn’t require logic).

Killer on Board: Brad Dourif is too good at these sorts of roles and casting him as a psychotic Betazoid is a stroke of genius. His shifty behaviour does make him a character it is genuinely uncomfortable to watch and being a Betazoid he also knows how to crawl under the skin of people emotionally. He’s a great character and so naturally this was exactly the sort that the Braga/Taylor team wanted killed off as soon as they took over because God help it if this show was actually interesting. Had he remained on board I am sure that he would have been both a useful ally and a frightening time bomb of a killer. He doesn’t like Starfleet but that is not the reason he kills people. There is a delicious moment where Suder tells Tuvok that he has thought about killing him in a very calm, rational manner.

Parisian Rogue: Paris having the nerve to re-programme the computer to be a co-conspirator in his gambling con is hilarious (‘Try you luck again!’ she says!). Another Piller motif is having running storylines threading through the season and I like how what appears to be a light subplot in Meld is actually a beginning step of a much larger narrative thread that see Tom going rogue. I bet Paris loved playing the bad boy to his old rival Chakotay.

Spotted Dick: As annoying as he is in trying to cheer Tuvok up, Neelix does have a point that all Vulcan traditions are dreary and rather dull. Except for Pon Farr of course. Can you imagine if we cut to a scene of the crew of Voyager half naked and covered in grease chasing each other about? Makes me giggle just to think about it!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I guess I’m lucky the Federation doesn’t execute people.’
‘If we don’t get home soon he’ll be in that room a long time Mr Tuvok.’
‘In a way a mind meld is a form of violence. Penetration, your will dissolving mine.’
‘Liar! He has killed and you know he deserves to die!’

The Good: The lighting in this episodes is really good, so much so that when I realised this episode was next I instantly remembered the scene where Tuvok discovers the body with the strip of light highlighting his eyes and the scene in his quarters after the meld which is bleached in shadows and all this without putting the episode on yet. As soon as the Doctor announces that the crewman has been murdered my mind started reeling as to how they would deal with the punishment if it turned out to be one of the crew…but hang on this is Voyager so it has to be some lame external influence. Oh wait – it is a member of the crew? Hoo-boy! This is going to take some sorting. Good on Piller for taking that sort of risk with a character and shaking up the dynamic of the show to such a degree. I love how this takes the Columbo route of latching onto the murderer straight away and allowing Brad Dourif and Tim Russ to play about with the dynamics between their characters. Suder explaining that he can observe the violence inside of him without getting too close is as good an explanation for Vulcan techniques as I have ever heard. Tuvok as a sweaty spectre of darkness in his quarters is a memorable image. When was the last time we saw an anomaly?

The Bad: Next year Tuvok will be fighting off Harry Kim for women and arguing lots with Neelix. After the potential revealed here it is agonising to think how the character would be wasted. It’s a shame that when the Doctor says that the battle for Tuvok’s sanity may never be won that we know this is Star Trek and he will back to his old self next week.

Moment to Watch Out For: Two scenes jump out as some of the best we have seen yet on Voyager. Watching Tuvok throttle the life out of Neelix is frankly one of the most enjoyable moments of television I have ever witnessed (although how much braver would it have been if it was real). And the second meld which sees Tuvok mentally raping Suder and Suder moaning as he enjoys it. It’s almost too uncomfortable to watch as Tuvok throws Suder away as if he has just reached a climax.

Teaser-tastic: Tom Paris is gambling and fleecing the crew, Neelix is talking about naked festivals and there is a dead body in Engineering – Piller knows how to make this crew interesting. It’s only during the second half of the second season that they actually feel like a thriving community.

Orchestra: Even the music takes on a darker, more emotive tone in this episode – especially during the Meld sequences.

Result: And now we have a Michael Piller episode that follows a Brannon Braga one which reveals the quantum leap in quality between the two writers and their approach to the series. Piller really sees the potential in this series, looking at the long term effects of being so far from home and having to make up their own rules to tough situations. Meld is dark and intense and exactly the sort of uncomfortable drama that I love to watch. It introduces a brilliant new character in Suder, opens up a massive can of worms for Janeway and gives Tuvok his best character study in the shows entire run. Sticking Brad Dourif and Tim Russ in a room together and affording them some powerful material is far more interesting than any of the action adventures we will get next year. This is a character that could have run and run and allowed us to explore the darker side of humanity, capital punishment or even played a plot where one of the crew fell for the charming killer. Voyager wont be taking these sorts of risks anymore (What’s that you say? Humanising a Borg drone in a cat suit? That’s not a risk - that’s a ratings ploy!) and that really makes me sad. But that’s not a fault of Meld which is a series highlight: 9/10

Dreadnought written by Gary Holland and directed by Levar Burton

What’s it about: An unstoppable missile heads towards a planet…

Hepburn-a-Like: There’s some nice rapport that builds between Janeway and the First Minister of Rakosa. First he is suspicious of their intentions thinking that they sent the missile to attack them but when the Ship is damaged trying to stop the device he starts to come around. The last option Janeway has is to use the ship to collide with the missile before it hits the planet which is an incredibly selfless if insane solution given it will trap the crew in one place. To save 2 million lives though, it isn’t really a tough choice. Janeway looks genuinely touched when the First Minister tells her she has made a friend. When he thinks it is the end Paris thanks the Captain for everything she has done for him.

Brilliant B’Elanna: She talks about Dreadnought as though it is her own child, getting into its guts and reprogramming it to work for the Marquis. Torres sent the missile off to destroy a Cardassian depot without consulting Chakotay and all he said (in that damn soft voice of his) was that he was hurt that she didn’t tell him. So now she feels responsible for any destruction it causes. How embarrassing for Torres to hear her own voice as a computer drawl blasted across the Bridge threatening Janeway. Talk about the past coming back to bite you in the butt. Its fascinating that now she has adjusted to a Starfleet vessel that her old life as a terrorist should be so embarrassing to her – it proves that had she had a better lot in life and mixed with the right people she would never have taken that course.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘When a bomb starts talking about itself in the third person I get worried!’
‘Oh I’m hurt you don’t trust me.’
‘We don’t have time to debate this Chakotay.’

The Good: The Doctor is still trying to find the right name and Ensign Wildman suggesting a few for her unborn child and unfortunately the Doc has researched them all and they are all dictators, swear words or something equally as unpleasant. A self guided tactical missile sounds exactly like the sort of Cardassian weapon that the Marquis would steal and turn to their own purposes. It is adaptive, evasive and armed with its own internal weaponry. The Michael Jonas plot continues apace as he warns Seska of Dreadnought and suggests she tries to get hold of it for her own purposes. Once again Voyager’s reputation precedes them and Janeway learns that the rumours are that she has threatened many races since they arrived in the Delta Quadrant (I guess opening a dialogue with ‘There’s a missile heading towards your planet on a parallel course to our Ship’ isn’t the most diplomatic of approaches!). Being the DS9 junkie that I am I find the set design for Dreadnought gorgeous and the lighting in particular is very moody. Silly B’Elanna forgets that she mentions that the missile is adaptive so of course it has the ability to lie to her about shutting its systems down – while it makes the Chief Engineer look a little daft its still a great moment. Levar Burton’s dizzying direction as the camera swings around in an arc as Torres talks to the missile is excellent, especially when the missile cuts off the chatter as it approaches the planet. Torres cleverly tries to reassert the Cardassian computer and Dreadnought has something of a nervous breakdown as the two personalities try to override each other.

The Bad: Because it is such a fine episode I am willing to let it slide but what are the odds of this Cardassian missile that B’Elanna knows so intimately winding up being catapulted across the galaxy by the same Godlike lifeform that stole Voyager?

Moment to Watch Out For: ‘Doctor, I forgot about you’ ‘How flattering.’

Foreboding: Paris is still getting under Chakotay’s skin, this time turning up for a meeting late and with messy hair. Trust Chakotay to get so wound up over a simple human error and surely this is all leading somewhere? As soon as Torres points out that people have been talking its clear that it is.

Result: A gripping race against time to save a planet from destruction, Dreadnought offers Roxan Dawson the chance to play cat and mouse with herself and as usual she excels. Its typical of Voyager that its most fearsome opponent so far turns out to be a piece of technology but since B’Elanna is on the inside trying to outthink herself it makes the abundance dialogue count for something. There is something delicious about Dawson’s performance that reveals a darker side to B’Elanna, one where she likes the odds being so high and the challenge coming with such a price. Its one of those rare beasts where the technobabble makes sense because the premise is so effectively simple and it is great to see Torres trying so many approaches in attempting to stop the weapon and how it continuously outfoxes her and the fact that the device is so chirpy sounding and polite makes it a far more menacing opponent. Another well written, impeccably performed drama in the strong second half to the season: 8/10

Death Wish written by Michael Piller and directed James L. Conway

What’s it about: Janeway has to decide between suicide or imprisonment for a member of the Q…

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway’s first reaction to hearing there is a Q on board is to go to red alert and then when facing the possibility of lesbianism being the only form of comfort when the men all disappear she is appalled. She is really not having a good day acting as frisbee being tossed between the two Qs. Clearly nobody has ever told her that she is angry when she is beautiful. She doesn’t like being called ‘Madam Captain’ but I think it really suits her harsh look! I cannot believe that Janeway actually tries to convince Sir Issac Newton about their situation on a spaceship in the future 75,000 light years from Earth. What did she expect him to say ‘okay I’m with you so far…’ I understand that Janeway cannot take something as suicide lightly but doesn’t the Federation practice the right of free will for its citizens? Surely then the decision is not hers to take – she merely has to decide whether to grant him free will and then he will decide whether to take his life or not. By trying to make Janeway understand in her own terms the suffering he has gone through Q2 suggests she think about what her life as an explorer would be like if there was nothing left to explore. When Q offers Janeway the chance to spend her life with him I feel it is his desperate need to be able to see the universe through the eyes of a humanoid. It demonstrates exactly what Q2 was saying that there is nothing left to explore and the only alternative Q can think of is to see it afresh through a mortals eyes. Janeway herself has an aversion to suicide. In its basic terms she sides with the needs of the one over the needs of the many but her incredibly humanistic (and sacrificial) ruling feels right.

Mr Vulcan: Vulcans approve of suicide and Tuvok is the consul chosen by Q2 to assist in his case. Isn’t it great hoe logic bound Tuvok is the one person who can surprise Q2 by arguing his case while at the same time not agree with it.

Elfin Alien: How lovely to turn the tables on Kes’ nine-year lifespan and make it seem like a blessing and not a curse.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Torres to Janeway – all the men have disappeared!’
‘I guess that’s what we get having a woman in the Captains seat.’
‘Will you send him to prison for all eternity or will you assist in his suicide plan?’
‘They’re afraid of me because they’re afraid of the unknown.’
‘Without Q there would have been no William T Riker at all and I would have lost at least a dozen really good opportunities to insult over the years.’
‘For us the disease is immortality.’
‘This is my final gift to my people…’

The Good: At least in Q’s case it is entirely plausible that he can turn up in the Delta Quadrant unlike B’Elanna’s missile in the last episode. Gerrit Graham gives such a warm performances as Q and I love Samantha from Bewitched style hand flourishes when he performs his tricks. Q2’s enigmatic, provocative dying speech is hideously melodramatic and therefore very funny. Micheal has great fun with the possibility of going anywhere with the Q and has Voyager witness the birth of the universe (‘you could be the origin of the humanoid form!’), they are reduced to the size of sub atomic particles and hung on a Christmas tree! It is a fantastically fun tug of war that softens up the audience for the deeper discussion that comes later. As the Q have evolved over the years they have sacrificed many things along the way, things like mortality, manners and a sense of purpose. Each loss is a new vulnerability. A suicide would be an interruption of the Continuum and change the very nature of Q. Who else could Q chose as an independent advisor on all things Q but himself (and naturally he flatters himself profusely!). Tuvok makes a great argument in the Q Continuum outlaws suicide but practices Capital Punishment when they amount to the same thing the only different being that one is enforced and the other is a choice. Qs choice of witnesses are great fun – a hippie, Sir Issac Newton and Commander Riker. Looks like both the Doctor and Q2 were both up the tree when the apple fell on Newton’s head – I bet they had a great laugh together! He was also responsible for saving one of Riker’s ancestors so I’m guessing there are a lot of frustrated women out there who will call for his suicide. Isn’t it great how they went to the trouble of shoving all four actors inside that that cramped meteor set – Janeway looks especially perturbed which is all the funnier. Qs one redeeming feature is that he isn’t a liar…even if he did introduce the Federation to the Borg. There is nothing left to say or do now everything has been experienced by the Q, that is Q2’s torture, he has nothing new to experience except death. Q sounds almost proud that it was his defection that gave Q2 the idea to deviate from the norm and to do something different. De Lancie’s performance shifts slightly once Q2 has taken them to the continuum and you can see that while he knows he has lost he also has been given a great deal to think about. Q gives Q2 the poison he needs to commit suicide because he recognises that the continuum did scare him back into line and that he didn’t have his friends bravery.

Moment to Watch Out For: Q offering Janeway a ride home if she rules in their favour. It sounds like something she would never be interested in but since she was the one that got them stranded in the Delta Quadrant in the first place and the look on her face when she sees the Earth out of the window suggests that things aren’t quite that simple.

Result: Omnipotence is bollocks, that’s what Death Wish reveals and it does so in a hugely entertaining and thoughtful way. John de Lancie and Gerrit Graham whip up a real atmosphere of fun provides some real belly laughs (see Sparkling Dialogue). Micheal Piller’s script illustrates takes a controversial subject matter and treats it with as much depth and consideration it deserves and places Janeway in a tough position (especially once Q has offered to take them home). Janeway and Tuvok visit the continuum and seeing for themselves what an agonising bore immortality must be is one of the most extraordinary sequences in the entire Trek canon. This is my husbands personal favourite Voyager episode (a show he used to love but then I introduced him to DS9) and he happily uses it as an example of why people should give this show a chance. It’s a effortlessly watchable, beautifully acted and gives you something to think about. By far the best episode of Voyager to this point and easily one of the best Q episodes because it actually explores the concept so ingeniously: 10/10

Lifesigns written by Kenneth Biller and directed by Cliff Bole

What’s it about: The Doctor falls in love…

EMH: He’s an incredibly sophisticated computer simulation even if he says so himself. When Denara asks the Doctor about his life all he has to tell her is a list of surgical procedures he has performed – there is nothing personal about his programme and nothing that he does for pleasure. Bless him, the Doctor thinks that his programme is malfunctioning because he is suffering lapses in concentration and it takes Kes to point out that he is in love. It stands to reason that he wouldn’t figure that because as an EMH it would never be included in his programming. He wants to be confident in his decisions and figures that this might not be the best time for him to explore these feelings. I love how Kes beams like a cheeky schoolgirl throughout her discussion of love with the Doctor. Interesting that the Doctor makes the situation extremely awkward by admitting his feelings for Denara but it is only once he has been turned that he feels awkward. I think it is rather wonderful that the Doctor admits he would love Denara no matter what she looks like because of who she is.

Brilliant B’Elanna: She still has nightmares about what the Vidiians did to her and now the Doctor wants to cut out a piece of her brain and give it to one of them?

Parisian Rogue: When asks what his problem has been over the past few weeks Paris admits that his problem is Chakotay – how he doesn’t let him do his job, trust his judgement or take any initiative. He says they might as well put the ship on autopilot for all Chakotay allows him to do his job! In the very next episode we find out this has all been a big con but for the moment I think Tom does have a point. When do these people get a chance to be creative and show a little autonomy? Paris shoving Chakotay across the Bridge is a great scene but this being Voyager and all…it has to be a ruse, doesn’t it? Prolonged character conflict on this show? The very idea!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘By the way Denara there is something I wanted to tell you. I am romantically attracted to you and wanted to know if you feel the same way’ – smooth Doctor, very smooth.
‘Mr Paris, I assume you’ve had a great deal of experience being rejected by women…’

The Good: Imagine after years of skin growths and operations to see your face back as it originally was and they capture the shock and joy of the moment very well here. Trying to cure the phage has become an obsession with the Vidiians and many of the politicians and scientists have never developed compassion for the people that keep them alive. Its fascinating to be able to see these people from a compassionate point of view when there is no danger from Denara (although it does follow the predictable Trek pattern of trying to humanise all their scariest aliens). Susan Doil manages the impossible and makes the Vidiians genuinely sympathetic and shares engaging chemistry with Robert Picardo. The scene where she laughs for the first time in ages and thanks the Doctor for bringing that out of her is very sweet. Finally after weeks of spilling out Voyager’s secrets Michael Jonas finally grows some balls and demands that if Seska doesn’t contact him he wont help them anymore. Good lad. One way or another Seska plans to take Voyager…and I can’t wait until we get to that episode!

The Bad: Tom Paris’ excuses are starting to make him sound like Mr Lucas from Are You Being Served and I’m sure that isn’t the idea! The Tom goes rogue subplot exposes a massive flaw in the Star Trek universe in general – his behaviour is considered riotous and unacceptable because his hair hangs a little loose and he has an opinion? On any other show this would be standard behaviour and it just shows how uptight Star Trek is. As soon as the Doctor tells Kes that he is creating a holographic body to store her synaptic patterns I can’t have been the only person who thought this would soon descend into a Trek romance? Why precisely did the Doctor need to go to all the efforts of showing us the body being reconstructed a layer at a time aside than to show off some effects? Neelix turns up for an entirely perfunctory scene on the holodeck. Thank goodness the Doctor didn’t keep the name Schmalus because it is really dreadful. The Mars programme is so very Tom Paris but it isn’t the Doctor and he looks awkward in such a setting. Clearly the Doctor and Kes are not great studies of humanoid behaviour because it is obvious simply by the way she standing back quietly that the hologram Denara has poisoned herself.

Result: This is a cute filler episode that is fun while its on but it wont give you anything to think about afterwards. It takes some very sloppy writing to bring down an episode fronted by Robert Picardo (and believe me they do try in future seasons) and fortunately this is scripted with a lightness of touch that sails you through to the end without ever gripping you once. The Doctor is the last person you would imagine having a romance so that makes him the best choice and his tragic misunderstanding of courtship rituals provides some good laughs. The Tom Paris subplot is interesting and looks like it leading somewhere and Seska pops up to tell the audience there is plan to capture Voyager. Are we going to have an entire season with Voyager being run by Seska and the Kazon? That would be too exciting for words! Lifesigns is like drinking a sweet drink under a warm blanket, sugary and comforting: 5/10

Investigations written by Jeri Taylor and directed by Les Landau

What’s it about: The worst thing imaginable strikes Voyager…Neelix has begun his own daytime chat show!

Hepburn-a-Like: Interesting that Herr Janeway is very happy for Neelix to spread good word through his chat shows but the second he has wind of a real news story she has a look of thunder about her. She wanted propaganda, not news.

Tattoo: Learning that the Captain was happy to embarrass him with Tom’s rowdy behaviour to put on a good performance and that she didn’t trust him enough to him in her confidence should be all the excuse a real ex Maquis should need to stage a mutiny on the Ship. But now he’s such a weak man he just sulks.

Parisian Rogue: He wants to escape the Ship before he completely destroys his reputation amongst the crew. It took Neelix a while to realise it but he was too caught up in first impressions, overlooking his bravery because he mistook it for brashness. Ignoring his courage because he saw it is arrogance. Resented his friendliness because he mistook it for licentiousness.

Spotted Dick: Its quite sweet to hear Neelix rallying behind Tom after their complicated history. Neelix clearly doesn’t hold a grudge when he makes up with people. He tries to hold out a hand to Tom and hopes that his decision has had nothing to do with him. The cuddle between the two characters is actually rather heart-warming. He might be irritating as your mother interrupting you every time you are trying to masturbate but he is right about the comm. Logs and had he not kept pushing like he did Jonas may never have been exposed.

Forever Ensign: Of all the people to tell Neelix that he doesn’t like all the frosting on his chat show it is Harry Kim. We learn that he was editor of the student newspaper for a year and discovered the power of journalism when he wrote an editorial on the breaking news about the Maquis.

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘How could someone do that!?’ – its not so much the line but the incredulous way Ethan Philips says it.
‘That would put Neelix in a potentially dangerous situation’ – and that is a bad thing?

The Good: Its something of a double edged sword with the Tom goes rogue storyline being nothing but subterfuge. On the one hand it is fantastic that the writers have been willing to spend this long pulling off this con, its not the sort of bluff they would ever try again in the future. On the downside it means that tension on board Voyager is as rare as we all thought and when it does arise its actually fake. How clever of Jonas to stage an accident where he can be seen as a hero to drive away suspicion of his nefarious activities. Although those plasma burns are pretty nasty. Seska is such a deliciously melodramatic villain (in the best possible way) it is a shame she can’t be in every episode whether she is needed or not! She gives this series kick up the rear every time she turns up. The Doctor popping up to hound Neelix provides some moments of laughter.

The Bad: A Briefing with Neelix is supposed to make you feel good because it is the more uplifting and optimistic view of everything that happens on the Ship. Why then does it have completely the reverse effect? Watching these scenes of sugary tediousness is like having your private parts smeared jam and covered with ants. In theory I can understand what they were going for with this (a fun take on Ships operations) but I bet they never knew it would be this irritating. And what were the ratings? One, Kes. You could say that Neelix sniffs out the story that somebody wants to leave Voyager but he’s basically told it is the case by an old friend. Cue Neelix asking who it is when the answer (if he had been paying attention over the last few weeks) is obvious. Because Tom is kidnapped as soon as he leaves and handed over to Seska it is easy to smell a rat, with crushing inevitability you realise before it is revealed that this was the purpose of his defection. Seska talks about the Nistrome taking Voyager and taking over the Quadrant sector by sector which is such a terrific idea that it frustrates me that the poisonous team of Taylor and Braga are about to bring the only really fun thing about this show to an abrupt close. The next season could have seen the crew of Voyager without a Ship, struggling to survive in a Quadrant where their own technology is being used against them. Oh what’s the point of dreaming. Rather than simply coshing him with a spanner Jonas picks up a laser scalpel and advances on Neelix very slowly – is he trying to be caught? What the fuck did Neelix think he was doing transmitting that Tom was a traitor without consulting the Captain? Did he genuinely believe it would lend him some journalistic credence? This episode is really badly paced with a slow first half leading to a conclusion that has to rush through Tom’s action on the Kazon ship and Jonas’ unmasking on Voyager with insipid briskness. Gah – Neelix is made to look like such a chump screaming ‘What is this force field for?’ What sort of journalist would he have made not realising what is staring him in the face? Rather than having the series deal with the uncomfortable task of dealing with a criminal like Jonas, Jeri Taylor sees fit to kill him. Heaven forbid there were any tricky situations to handle.

Moment to Watch Out For: The fight between Neelix and Jonas which I think is supposed to be really exciting but features such delights as Neelix crawling across the Engineering floor and shaking his prey like a hysterical rat! Even the music cannot decide the tone of this scene, trying to be both exciting and frothy. Very odd.

Fashion Statement: Hogan is really cute, another plus for the latter half of the second season. So naturally the Taylor/Braga abomination are going to get rid of him at the beginning of season three too.

Result: Forgive me but it almost feels as though Jeri Taylor wants to prove herself right to the fans about the disappointing nature of running arc plots and recurring characters…forgetting of course that they usually work a charm unless she is writing them. After watching this episode it feels like something of a wasted opportunity because you can see exactly what this could have been – a hard-hitting journalistic investigation into the traitor on board the Ship bringing to a head the plotlines which have been bubbling beneath the surface for the past four or five episodes. What it lacks is that darker edge that would have given it a real shot of adrenalin, Les Landau directs the piece like it is literally a Murder She Wrote episode with a lightness of touch which doesn’t sit well with momentous events like Tom leaving Voyager and Jonas being exposed as a traitor. This is Chakotay’s final indignity where he is kept out of something as momentous as the Tom Paris subterfuge – clearly Janeway doesn’t trust him. Neelix is just too much of a jolly fellow to make a decent hard-bitten journalist and both his chat show entries and the way he talks to himself encouragingly (‘I’ll show him higher obligation! It’s the job of a journalist to be independent!’) also sink from what should have gripping thriller. Ultimately the reset button is pressed and all the tense undercurrents that have been playing out are removed and the whole piece feels more like an Enid Blyton mystery than a Star Trek drama. Disappointing: 5/10

Deadlock written by Brannon Braga and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: Two Voyagers in danger…

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway makes the somewhat skin crawling suggestion that the baby belongs to all of them because it is the first child born on Voyager. Finally Janeway gets to butt heads with someone rulebook bound, officious and fanatical…herself! I love those moments of nonsense that they add in these kind of duplication episodes to convince that they are who they say they are…in Deadlock’s case it is a tale of Janeway walking home in a thunderstorm when she was younger because she lost a tennis match. Just a few episodes ago Janeway was all set to blow up the ship and now she’s up to it again! Still at least this episode has fun in tricking us that the wrong Voyager will be destroyed. When one Janeway tells another that she knows how stubborn she could be and she wont even bother trying to change her mind about destroying the ship I was laughing myself silly.

Brilliant B’Elanna: I love how Torres doesn’t let a few devastating explosions stop her from doing her job and when she encounters fallen masonry that obstructs her path she gives it a hefty shove and continues her waltz around Engineering.

The Good: I’m extremely impressed that Wildman manages to survive the Braga/Taylor culling but then this is Star Trek and no matter how much they object to recurring characters they couldn’t quite bring themselves to murder a child’s mother. Its nice that Wildman’s baby brings some characterful remarks from the dullest regulars; Tuvok has learnt that pregnancy and patience come hand in hand over the years and Chakotay’s dad had a saying that home is wherever you happen to be. Transporting the baby out of the womb is one of those times when Trek technology yields a fantastic idea. For the first time since the show began the damage to Voyager looks serious and the way the director allows for a pause of calm before rocking the ship with another explosion is a great way of upping the tension. The idea of two Voyagers existing with one leeching off of the other (however inadvertently) is probably the best Brannon Braga idea of the season. Credit where its due – he takes the tension leaking idea of the two ships as a reset button and does something far more interesting with it in having one ships proton bursts being the cause of the other ships destruction. Even the metaphor is pretty good for once, Siamese twins trying to draw energy from the same heart. There are a number of cuts between the two Voyagers where you are left in doubt which one you are on thanks to some strong direction. That is two of the most hideous look Vidiians we will ever see…they are even more grotesque than usual and their ship spreads an ominous shadow over Voyager as they approach. They are such strong villains it makes me want to weep to think that this is the last time we will ever see them. Scenes of them walking through the ship and shooting people down and cataloguing their organs for later extraction are some of the most chilling yet on this show with the Doctor trying to save the baby proving to be particularly tense. Janeway gets one of her best ever moments as she welcomes the Vidiian pirates to the ship just seconds before the self destruct sequence tears through both of their ships.

The Bad: How many children is Ensign Wildman planning on having? She’s huge! It is a waste of time Tuvok listing all the damage around the ship because in the next episode regardless of how bad things get here it will be operating at full power once again. Usually Trek is great superimposing two of the same characters together for a conversation (a similar scene between the two Kira’s in Crossover is effortlessly achieved) but the two Janeway’s look oddly stilted talking to each other. Somewhat creepily one of them looks like she wants to snog the other one! In some ways this episode dodges a dramatic bullet in having Janeway decide to blow up the damaged ship in order to save the pristine one…just what exactly do the second crew have to say about this sudden martyrdom? The idea of having the damaged Voyager being the one that survives this skirmish works for this episode but you can see no signs of this weeks troubles at the beginning of next weeks episodes. A troubling sign.

Moment to Watch Out For: The deaths of Ensign Wildman’s baby and (even more excitingly) Harry Kim are very powerful moment but they are when this episodes problems kick in. It is unfortunate that the format of Trek means we know that a regular character like Harry wont be killed two thirds into the second season (more’s the pity) and so when he dies the reset switch is inevitable. And low and behold Kes vanishes as soon as you witness these deaths leading to the salvation of both characters.

Teaser-tastic: Is this one of the longest ever pre titles sequences? Its just over seven minutes long! Its all go on Voyager as Wildman has complications with her pregnancy, the Vidiians are on the prowl, explosions rock the ship and they enter the first anomaly in an age!

Anomaly of the Week: A portent of doom as Janeway orders the ship into the nearest anomaly to shield them from the hunting Vidiians.

Result: With Manuveres and Deadlock to his name David Livingston has carved a name for himself as the most dynamic action director on Voyager and the opening fifteen minutes of this episode is a breathless run from one fatalistic set piece to the next. We have never seen anything quite like the moment when the Bridge is consumed by flames and the ceiling caves in and for once you feel that the crew genuinely might not survive this. But of course this being Voyager there is an anomaly and a quantum duplication effect to put things right by the end of the episode. Still I don’t mind about the reset switch this time round, Deadlock is a fast paced, action packed delight for the most part and it allows the Vidiians to do what they do best – scare the pants off us! Boosted by some strong ideas (Braga really had to prove himself after Threshold), unforgettable moments (‘Welcome to the Bridge’) and chance for Janeway to square off against herself, I was gripped from beginning to end by this tense episode: 9/10

Innocence written by Lisa Klink and directed by James L. Conway

What’s it about: Tuvok crash lands on a planet where he has to protect three children…

Hepburn-a-Like: When she was the science officer she always used to envy the Captain’s privilege of making first contact with new races and new she finds going in blind to be the most exciting part. When diplomacy fails Janeway uses force to get her own way. So much for the Prime Directive.

Mr Vulcan: Tuvok does an uncharacteristically emotional thing at the beginning of this story by giving the dying crewman a glimmer of hope that somebody will miss him as he dies. The look of embarrassment on his face as the kids wrap their arms around his legs mirrored my own…surely we aren’t in for a whole episode of Tuvok showing these children his parenting skills? Vulcan parents never shield their children from the truth because they feel it will hinder their emotional growth. Has anyone ever thought to ask why Vulcan control their emotions to such a degree…to not feel fear or love or anything of things that make life worthwhile is a very strange way to live your life. I fail to understand how Tuvok feels superior to other people since he is the one who is only going to live a half life. His children are well behaved and he feels incomplete without them. He never understood the practice of telling children stories of ferocious creatures in order to lull them to sleep!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘We often fear what we do not understand. Our best defence is knowledge.’

The Bad: What is up with the boring humanoid races we keep meeting in the Delta Quadrant? It surely doesn’t cost that much money to design a new alien costume…just sticking a dark veil over somebody’s face doesn’t cut it with me. I would even prefer the return of those fishy Ambassadors from Manhunt than this! The Drayans must be one of the least interesting species we’ve ever encountered on Trek and their main distinguishing feature is that they spend their lives looking dour and displeased with everything. There seems to be a lot of emphasis on the Doctor not having a name this year that you would think they would satisfy the audience by the end of season by having him choose one but alas it is not meant to be. At least name he does choose come the end of the series is one of considerable charm and intelligence (it also just happens to be my name). You can see why Tuvok is the tactical officer when his brilliant plan to get the children to safety is to hide them behind a barely concealed bush! We shouldn’t really be cheering when two of the children are taken, should we? Spare us the thought of trying to make a battle in space between Janeway and Drayans exciting (‘We’re on their turf and they have every advantage!’) – they are so boring they probably don’t even know how to fire a gun! As you can imagine even their weaponry only fires warning shots rather than doing any real damage. With crushing inevitability everybody steps out of the forest in time for the twist at the conclusion – few Trek episodes feel this contrived. How exactly does a reverse ageing process work? It comes from nowhere and with no foreshadowing and so its hardly what you can call a revelation. More of nail of exposition banging the coffin lid shut on this episode. ‘He took care of us even when we didn’t behave as well as Vulcan children’ – oh vomit.

Moment to Watch Out For: Tuvok singing. Such an emotive song for such a rigid man.

Result: Whose smart idea was it to have an episode based entirely around Tuvok having to cope with a bunch of wayward children? Next thing you know it will the Doctor with a Brady Bunch style family! Tim Russ to good an actor to make this a total misfire and manages a few moments of cuteness as he tries to adapt to the kids unruly behaviour but those touches of levity are far outweighed by irritating moments when you want him to phaser all the kids and end his suffering! If watching an episode of Supernanny in the Star Trek mould with a bizarre twist at episodes close is your idea of fun knock yourself out but after last weeks dynamite this is staggeringly weak in comparison. This is one of those episodes that are tossed into the mix to make up the right numbers for the season. Next week see Tuvok handle a pair of Ferengi children who refuse to learn the Rules of Acquisition in Vulcan Supernanny: 3/10

The Thaw written by Joe Menosky and directed by Marvin V Rush

What’s it about: Janeway has to take on an emotion…

Hepburn-a-Like: When the Clown is disappointed at Janeway’s attempts to defeat him she takes it as a personal mission to bring him down. She has known fear and thinks it is a very healthy thing most of the time. It warns her of danger, reminds her of her limits, protects her from carelessness…she has learnt to trust fear.

Forever Ensign: With a mind full of technical details and ideas, the Clown knows that he needs to keep Harry hostage because he might just think of a way to rescue his prisoners. He knows how much Harry misses Libby and how he thinks of Janeway as a substitute mother (I’m glad somebody finally acknowledged that). Harry likes to take care of himself and hates to feel like the baby on the crew and to exploit that fear the Clown brilliantly turns Harry into a newborn wearing a Starfleet uniform and chucks him about for some fun! Any episode that can take the piss out of Harry Kim so spectacularly is a winner in my book! When he was nine his parents took him to a colony that had had a radiation disaster and they visited a hospital where he saw some terribly sick and dying people.

EMH: Naturally one of the best weapons they have in an artificial setting is to send in their own artificial Doctor to sort the Clown out and he manages to diffuse Harry’s near death (boo hiss) with his brilliant deadpan humour. He knows how to bring a party to a halt because he doesn’t get out very often.

Spotted Dick: Even Neelix gets a great moment when they take the piss out of his expert knowledge of the Quadrant as Harry Kim steps in with some time elated technobabble to save his ass.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘How is that possible?’ ‘I cut off their heads!’
‘We’re his canvas. His blocks of marble. With us he practices his ghastly art.’
‘How about “There’s no place like home! There’s no place like home!” Try clicking your heels together three times…oh but your legs are restrained aren’t they? Just like that little girl you saw on the operating table...’
‘What does fear seek at the end of the ride?’
‘I’m afraid…’ ‘I know…

The Good: Something so simple as Harry Kim playing his clarinet and his neighbour banging on the wall feels so real it is the sort thing this series usually skips over. Fancy slaving yourselves to a machine that brings you desires to life in a mental landscape. Even I know enough about human psychology that most of the negative the emotions can dominate the positive ones and to have those negative emotions manifest themselves visually is a terrifying prospect. Even more insanely Tuvok suggests sending in two of their own crew into this mental landscape in the pods where two people have been killed! Are they insane? I love the scenes in the virtual world with a passion bordering on insanity…I honestly don’t care that the sets look like something a Saturday morning kids TV show is filmed on or that the various creatures are midgets with masks, women in body stockings, terrible monster costumes and a clown – these scenes are filmed with such brio and energy and creativity that there is always something quirky to look at. They really show up how slackly filmed Voyager can be usually. Watching Harry Kim being dragged to the guillotine and having his neck feathered dustered before the chop is simply delightful. The answer to the usual technobabble in this world is to do a little technobabble dance! Whilst I don’t think that Micheal McKean is the ideal casting to portray Fear simply because he is more of an entertainer than an actor but it doesn’t matter one jot because he is so much fun in the role and he makes scene a joy that this one example of miscasting that works a treat. The giant Starfleet badge made me howl with laughter – the Clown takes the piss with real passion! The thought of being scared to the point of a heart attack is very frightening…but the thought of being scared by such a jolly and unpredictable setting really crawls under the skin. Its almost an embarrassing way to die and who wants to die like that? The Clown plays about with you for a while and then he plucks a memory of fear and recreates it in his surreal setting…brrr. When the Captain offers a cloaking device the Clown scoffs that he already has one and magicks a cloak out of nowhere. Watching the various elements of the Clowns world vanishing and wondering if he will notice is great fun. This is a world where if you scream for mercy because one of your friends is going to be killed the inhabitants will scream along with you and make it meaningless. Discussing how fear can produce pleasure touches on some very interesting psychology.

Moment to Watch Out For: The ending where the fake Janeway talks Fear to his death by making him very afraid…

Orchestra: One of my favourite scores for any Star Trek episode. When the scenes are on Voyager and they are trying to reactivate the sleepers the music is dark and foreboding. During the Clown sequences the music takes on a festival atmosphere with a deliciously sadistic edge.

Result: One of my all time favourite Voyager episodes because it goes for something completely bonkers and imaginative, The Thaw is a visual and emotional treat that just happens to be bloody entertaining throughout. The episode quickly becomes a race against time to beat an emotion which is probably the most Joe Menosky concept yet in Trek. Michael McKean’s Clown is in turns childish, unpredictable, sinister and psychotic…he is one of the finest guest characters in Voyager because simply cannot guess what he is going to do next. Marvin Rush shows up a lot of the usual Voyager directors by giving this episode a unique visual feel and energy and ensuring there are lots of quirky things to look at and it also sports one of the best musical scores. Add to that a great number of scenes where Harry is tortured, the Doctor at his finest and one of the best endings ever and you have a devilishly fun piece. Probably the most extreme Marmite episode and I can fully understand if this isn’t to everybody’s taste but I have seen it many times and it still makes me grin from ear to ear throughout. It does make me smile how anal Trek fans hate this, however: 10/10

Tuvix written by Kenneth Biller and directed by Cliff Bole

What’s it about: A transporter accident turns Tuvok and Neelix into one person. No I’m being serious!

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway has been reading old letters of Tuvok’s and she can hear his voice when she reads them…and she has also grown very fond of Neelix. Kathryn dreams about being with Mark and its so real and then when she wakes up and its just a dream she is terribly discouraged. In those moments it is impossible to deny just how far away he really is and one day she may have to accept that he isn’t part of her life anymore. I was shocked by this sudden moment of character development and Kate Mulgrew is so good at these moments of quiet intimacy. Tuvix suggests that it is not the Captains choice that he should die but she stresses that she is talking on behalf of the two people inside of him that cannot voice their opinion. She believes that both Tuvok and Neelix would give their lives to save another. I have no doubt that the choice to murder Tuvix was a tough one but for once I was pleased that Janeway made a decision and stuck to it no matter how it made her look in the eyes of the crew.

Elfin Alien: Kes tries to cope with the loss of her lover and her mentor but finds it difficult when their replacement is declaring his love for her (even though he knows it is illogical). At first she was angry but then she realised that he was trying to comfort her and she does think he is a wonderful person even though she doesn’t have feelings for him.

Spotted Dick: Were they trying to make us fall in love with Tuvix by making Neelix this irritating in the first scene? I really wish somebody would give him a clout every time he tries to cheer people up. Quark realises that the best way to make people happy is to offer them alcohol or sex but Neelix has this incessant feeling that by acting so upbeat will infect other people when nine times out of ten it has the opposite effect. Mind you he does have a point about whether there is a regulation about having fun whilst on a mission.

Forever Ensign: Scenes that begin with Harry Kim playing his clarinet are all very well but they seem to think this substitutes for character development. I would rather cut to a scene with him getting friendly with somebody in his quarters…just something to prove that he isn’t as square as he seems.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I am who I am Mr Neelix. It is impossible for me to be more or less like myself.’
‘It’s the best theory I’ve heard so far. It’s the only theory I’ve heard so far.’
‘Alright everybody out!’ ‘On whose authority?’ ‘Chief of Security or Head Chef – take your pick!’
‘I don’t want to die.’
‘Doesn’t anyone see that this is wrong!?’

The Good: It just goes to show that something might have sounded ropey on paper (and ‘a transporter accident that ends up melding Tuvok and Neelix together’ definitely counts) can be made to work if executed well. Tom Wright is so sympathetic and likable in the part that it doesn’t matter that this is the most ludicrous plot device since Threshold (I detect the hand of Brannon Braga in there somewhere). Wright is one of those actors (like Rene Auberjonois) who can work wonders with his eyes and in every scene he is in I am drawn to him. By removing two of the most badly written characters of this show Kenneth Biller does them both a great service because we finally get to see what Tuvok means to Janeway and Neelix means to Kes. According to the Doctor Tuvix contains Tuvok’s irritating sense of intellectual superiority and Neelix’s annoying ebullience. As an amalgamation of the two characters Tuvix brings out the best in them – you have Tuvok’s organisation in Neelix’s kitchen and Neelix’s sense of joy in Tuvok’s deliberations. Interesting to see the crew doing such an awful job of making dinner…perhaps there is something to Neelix being useful to have around after all. The sudden cut to Janeway sitting alone in her lounge and walking through to the Bridge has never carried such weight. It is deeply uncomfortable to watch Tuvix making Janeway’s decision public on the Bridge, he is trying to embarrass her to force her to change her mind. He tries to appeal to his friends and when nobody speaks up in his favour he tries to run but is dragged back by security officers. Its painful to watch his downfall and I love the feeling of discomfort the audience is made to feel about his execution.

The Bad: An episode that begins with Tuvok and Neelix foraging for flowers…wow they really know how to capture your interest on this show. The most cheerful song that Neelix could find in the Vulcan database is a funeral dirge and if I never have to listen to his rendition of it again it will be too soon. If Tuvok and Neelix’s patterns have merged shouldn’t he be the size of two people? Otherwise where did the other half of both characters go?

Moment to Watch Out For: When the Doctor refuses to take Tuvix’s life against his will she goes through the procedure herself and all the time Tuvix looks her straight in the eye so she knows what she is doing. You could cut through the atmosphere with a knife.

Fashion Statement: I love the jazzed up version of the Starfleet uniform with the Neelix swirls added…perhaps they should adopt that look for everybody? There is a moment when Kes visits Janeway in her quarters and she is wearing a silk dressing gown and it is probably the softest we have seen her character yet.

Result: Like The Thaw Tuvix takes an insane premise and executes it brilliantly and thanks to a agreeable performance by Tom Wright this proves to be one of the most controversial dramas of the year. Tuvix turns out to be an imaginative tactical officer, a humorous advisor and a superb chef…why on Talax would they want Tuvok and Neelix back? Kenneth Biller has written a script that is very serviceable to the regular characters on Voyager and there are some wonderful moments of depth for Janeway and Kes that took my breath away. It’s the ending that everybody talks about though…where the Captain forces Tuvix at gunpoint to sickbay and murders him. So many people have discussed the rights and wrongs of this act that it seems churlish to bring it up again but there is certainly enough scope for both sides of this argument. Any episode that can cause so much of a storm is definitely doing something right and it’s a shame that Voyager would never again rock the boat in quite the same way. Another very strong showing for the latter half of season two: 8/10

Resolutions written by Jeri Taylor and directed by Alexander Singer

What’s it about: Marooned on a planet, Chakotay and Janeway make a life together…

Hepburn-a-Like: Serving as the Captain of Voyager has been the most extraordinary experience of her life and as her goodbye message is broadcast to the entire ship you can feel their sense of loss. I never knew the Captain was such a scaredy cat, screaming out for help at the merest rustling of a bush! Even when Chakotay urges her to accept their position (rather quickly if you ask me…maybe he likes the idea of bunking up with Janeway) she stresses that she has to keep trying although there might come a day when she does give up. Every time he makes a personal touch to the shelter Janeway resists it. She was always a child of the 24th Century even when he parents forced her to go backpacking to keep in touch with their pioneering roots. The scenes after Chakotay admits how he feels show Kathryn at her most relaxed and you feel a genuine sense of dread as Tuvok returns to shatter their happiness.

Tattoo: With so much technology at their disposal and enough food to last them forever Chakotay really doesn’t count his excursion on the planet with Kathryn as roughing it. When rushing to her rescue Chakotay can barely keeps his eyes away from the Captain’s naked flesh the dirty beggar!

Mr Vulcan: Tuvok admits that he cannot feel the loss of their comrades as the crew does and fails to understand what purpose it would serve if he did! Kes tells Tuvok that she hasn’t missed her father as much since she met him and he is honoured by the comparison.

Forever Ensign: Oh Harry, Harry, Harry…you are hardly what I call mutiny material and trying to stir up trouble for the new Captain is hardly the best way to carry favour. I think Harry is actually very scared that he wont be patted on the head every time he gets something right anymore. Whilst it is lovely to see him expressing himself so strongly (usually he kicks back on the Bridge and presses a few shiny buttons) surely there is no way Harry can think that his abusive behaviour on the Bridge is in anyway acceptable? If I were Tuvok I’d shove him in the Brig for an extended period anyway. As soon as Harry realises he isn’t getting anywhere with his midnight plea he starts threatening him with mutiny and then sulks like a baby throwing his toys out of a pram. Its all a bit sad.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Is that really an ancient legend?’ ‘No, but that made it easier to say.’

The Good: Stripping the two characters of rank and all that Starfleet pomp and circumstance just goes to show what good chemistry Robert Beltran and Kate Mulgrew have. I really don’t understand why they would want to throw this away. Janeway’s makeshift bath with molten rocks underneath looks like it could be very luxurious. The designers really go to town on the forest set and it is one of the most convincing examples in Trek (compare to something like DS9’s Hippocratic Oath which feels as though it has been shot in a studio) – there are times when you’ll swear they are actually outside. The massage scene is beautifully acted and you’ll swear they are about jump into bed together. Did they or didn’t they? We’ll never know but I certainly hope both them got some satisfaction together.

The Bad: The premise for this show really rubbed me up the wrong way because we know that this series isn’t going to whisk off without Janeway and Chakotay with Tuvok as Captain and so the entire exercise seems utterly pointless. There does at least have to be a plausibility to a show even when the reset is bound to thrown at some point but Resolutions lacks credibility from the off. Besides why do we even need an episode where Janeway and Chakotay express and conclude their feelings for each other…its not as if there has been an ounce of sexual chemistry between the two in the entire run to this point. Beyond that how dare Jeri ‘I don’t want character development when there are fun TNG rehashes to be told’ Taylor dismiss something as interesting as the Captain and the First Officer having feelings for each other when it could lead to some pretty dramatic storylines? The whole thing sticks of a rotten approach to Star Trek and a rotten approach to drama. Harry does make some succinct points about bargaining with the Vidiians but did it really take until 0100 hours to think those two points up? Scenes of Janeway asking ‘what is it?’ and ‘what happened to the sky?’ to a monkey when it is perfectly clear there is a storm brewing do not show the character at her best. The plotting is deficient as well – having Tuvok back peddle and agree to contact the Vidiians before Janeway’s equipment is ruined means we know precisely how they will be saved. There isn’t even the possibility that she will have to give up on their freedom. Shockingly there isn’t a single mention of their feelings on the planet once they return to Voyager and we never about it again. What a crock of shit.

Moment to Watch Out For: Whilst it is brave of Chakotay to admit his feelings for Janeway why can’t he just tell her that instead of another dreary native American folk tale?

Fashion Statement: Tuvok’s dressing gown makes him look like some camp Vulcan dictator so obviously the designer had read the script thoroughly and saw that was precisely how he was characterised this week.

Myth Building: Every time there is mutiny in the air Hogan seems to be involved. No wonder his cards were marked.

Result: Imagine if they had had the guts to keep Janeway and Chakotay on this planet and Tuvok in charge of Voyager for an entire season? Series three might actually have been worth watching then! Resolutions is a tale of two halves with the best scenes happening on the planet as Janeway and Chakotay warm to living with each other and accepting their feelings for one another. Against that you have tedious scenes of Harry Kim having a major paddy on Voyager and a final scene that puts a massive stamp on any character development this episode (and the show) might have achieved. Beltran and Mulgrew share some wonderful scenes but this show is about to switch into the hands of people who resist the sort of material that brings out the best in them. What could have been potentially groundbreaking and something that no Trek show could pull off (a relationship between Picard and Riker, ugh!) turns out to be the starting pistol for Voyager’s descent into stalling its characters. Its also a limp final appearance of the Vidiians. A shame: 5/10

Basics Part I written by Michael Piller and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: Seska finally shows her hand and takes Voyager…

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway knows that Seska is capable of manipulating Chakotay with her cry for help and yet the viewer knows they are going to try even though it might be a trap.

Tattoo: No matter what role they try and throw him in I just cannot find it in myself to find Chakotay interesting. Actually that’s lie, I did think he worked very well last week when coming out to the Captain about his feelings towards her. Whenever they try and give him dramatic material he’s just so…wet. I’m surprised Seska ever fell for him considering his lack of oomph when it comes to making a decision. He needs to decide whether to rescue the baby…easy, of course you do. No, he needs to spend five minutes chatting with his dead father about the problem. Even when he shoves Tierna against the wall he doesn’t convince – go and watch Sisko doing the same thing in Past Tense Part II and see how its done.

EMH: Janeway makes a big mistake by telling the Doctor that his advice is always welcome on any topic…that statement will come back to haunt in the years to come!

Spotted Dick: Having Neelix on board is finally proving worthwhile as he vouches for the veracity of Tierna’s route to rescue the baby.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You must scare easily Federation.’
‘A fitting end for a people who would not share their technology.’

The Good: Its wonderful to see Suder back and to see how his Meld with Tuvok had some effect on him. That’s dangerously close to development and I would suggest they snuff it out as soon as possible. Then Seska turns up to air Chakotay’s dirty laundry all over the view screen again! Wonderful stuff, must have been written by Michael Piller (please don’t go!). To give him his credit Piller pulls in lots of different elements from the season (Tierna from Manuveres, Chakotay’s father introduced in Tattoo, Suder from Meld, Seska’s assertion that she is going to take over the ship from Investigations) and really makes you feel as though this season has been leading to this point. The idea of using holographic mirrors on the hull is such a strong idea they should have made it a permanent feature on the show – just think of all the fun they could have had projecting Klingon and Romulan ships towards potential enemies! Its easy to see how the Voyager crew were taken in by Tierna, as the Doctor says an hour later and he would have been dead from his injuries. Not only is he a suicide bomber but he was willing to die beforehand just to pull this off. The scene in Suder’s quarters is all you need to watch to see why he should have been kept as a semi regular (Gaaaaaaaah! BragaTaylor monster what is wrong with you?) – whilst he puts on a pretext of calmness when Janeway refuses to give him an answer he is right in her face (her quiet ‘excuse me’ is remarkably dramatic). Neelix tentatively delivering the food is a real Silence of the Lambs moment as Suder sits in the darkness with only his eyes staring madly at his visitor. Voyager suffers a massive systems failiure in the middle of an attack whilst surrounded by three Kazon ships…for once you wonder how on Earth they are going to get out of this one. The image of Seska and Cullah walking onto the Bridge as Janeway and her crew are held at gunpoint is something I have longed to see and I’m so glad they saved it for the finale. When Janeway tries to discuss what happens now they have been captured she gets smacked around the face.

The Bad: Saying all the nice things about the various elements of the season coming together if I were to write a scene where a man goes on a native American Indian spirit quest to tell his father that his DNA was stolen and impregnated by his ex lover and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be the father…well lets just say I would probably be redirected to Jerry Springer. As each episode airs now I am seeing possibilities for a more interesting show – what if Tierna remained aboard Voyager as a semi regular to dog Janeway’s steps and question her decisions (and get up Neelix’s nose)? Three Talaxian ships? Are you kidding me? Can’t you conjure up three Vidiians ships? Isn’t this the third time Janeway has set the self destruct sequence this year? She’s going to get a reputation for being suicidal! After such a skilfully laid out scheme it seems a little remiss for the warlike Kazon to dump the Voyager crew on the planet. I would have executed the lot of them. Ooh imagine that…continuing this show with Seska and Cullah as the leads! Paris in a shuttle, the Doctor and Suder on the ship…everything is in place for a fantastic conclusion...why is it so damn shite then? Oops getting ahead of myself! I thought there were 150 odd people on board Voyager…there only seems to be 30 odd on the planet.

Moment to Watch Out For: What’s this? Voyager having fun in the middle of a battle sequence? Will wonders never cease! The Doctor being accidentally beamed into space during a shoot out is absolutely hilarious (even if the FX aren’t quite up to the job) and following that up with Tierna’s terrifying suicide explosion crippling the ship leads to a superb conclusion.

Orchestra: Have you ever noticed that it is during action sequences where Trek composers really come alive? Go listen to the music as the Kazon storm the Bridge…it shows you what we are missing out on during the duller episodes.

Result: There is so much going on in Basics that it was over before I knew it and that is not a feeling I get often with Voyager. Michael Piller has written an awesome ‘get out of that’ departure script that ties in lots of elements of the season and ends on a real dramatic high. The Suder stuff is exceptional and the question of Tierna’s loyalty hangs in the air until that spectacular moment when he plays his hand. There are some real pyrotechnics as Voyager takes on what feels like the entire Kazon fleet and if the landing on a planet footage is reused I don’t mind…its still great special effects. This is Voyager standing on its own two feet and delivering a spectacular finale (it wont happen again – some people cite Scorpion as a renaissance for Voyager but bringing back the Borg is a ratings ploy, nothing more) and you better enjoy the elements it has built up over the last two years in this episode (Seska, Suder, the Kazon) because by the end of this two parter they will all be gone. Surely a finale as strong as this can only lead to bigger and better things: 9/10

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