Sunday, 1 April 2012

Voyager - Season Three

Basics Part II written by Micheal Piller and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: Primitives and giant lizards…

Hepburn-a-Like: I love the tough Janeway who turns over rocks and orders her crew to eat the grubs that she finds underneath. As much as her commands must annoy in a non-Starfleet setting (especially since it is all her command decision that have led them to this fate) she is the sort of person you need if you are to survive tough conditions.

Tattoo: Can anybody with a Native American past really be this soft as shite? When he approaches the cavemen with his soft voice and his arms outstretched I was dying for one of them bury one of their wooden axes in his head.

EMH: Seska seems remarkably naïve in believing the Doctor when he feigns ambivalence at the change of command.

Spotted Dick: This is a situation where Neelix is extremely useful; surviving on his wits and whatever there is around to scavenge. Ethan Phillips reminds me of Sylvester McCoy in that he cannot convey anger remotely convincingly and when asked to do so he loses all credibility.

The Good: The best scenes are those between the Doctor and Suder where he has to try and convince the Betazoid that killing the Kazon isn’t murder but defence and Suder has to confront his demons. Its almost as if Piller wants the audience to see the potential in this character before the monstrous TaylorBraga machine wipes him out. When he is surrounded by corpses in Engineering Brad Dourif silently manages to convince that he is devastated that all of Tuvok’s good work has been undone. He is a killer again.

The Bad: Hogan is the first to die. Since he was a character who had strong opinions and provoked some character drama obviously he is the first to go. I guess from no on the extraneous members of the crew are all going to be faceless nobody’s that we don’t know…unless they want to focus on a particular character that we have never heard about before (Ashes to Ashes, Good Shepherd). When DS9 was under siege at the end of seasons five and the Dominion took over the writers took the bold step to have a six episode arc where Starfleet was no longer in charge of the station. Unfortunately the writers of Voyager are no where near as bold and they set up the elements in the first part that will wind up bringing back the crew in the second part. It renders the cliffhanger a joke because you know that things will be back to normal (minus all the best characters) at the end so what was the point of it all? Making the baby Cullah’s rather than Chakotay’s is a joke because once again Voyager is ducking away from dramatic possibilities and playing it safe. Chakotay has been trying to start a fire for ages and as soon as he has the bright spark idea of adding some of Janeway’s hair as kindling it starts within seconds…yeah, that’s realistic. Primitives and giant lizards, is that all they could come up with for the crew to face on the planet? Scenes of Neelix and Kes surrounded by (ugugug) cavemen are painful to watch, it feels as if we have entered B movie territory and leads to hilariously inept scenes of Chakotay being offered a cavewoman in exchange for his people and Tuvok and company appearing over a ridge with bows and arrows and spears to fight them! Follow that up with scenes of them hiding in a tunnel with a giant lizard ready to eat them and you have to wonder if Piller is even bothering anymore. This is some seriously lazy writing. The Kazon in control of Voyager is so ineptly handled – they walk around tricorder talking technobabble…its like the Starfleet crew isn’t even away! Why didn’t they start stripping the ship and mass-producing the technology? Or give it some personal touches? Or attack some of the Kazon enemies? Or anything? The volcano erupting is the final straw where this episode tips over from being bad to irredeemable – how many obstacles can they throw at the Voyager crew whilst they are stranded on the planet? If we had had to endure another week of this there would have been a tidal wave, ravenous pterodactyls and an earthquake! Oh give me strength…Chakotay saves one of the primitives from a volcanic eruption and suddenly they are all friends? This surely cannot get any worse? So Suder dies in heroic fashion shot in the back by a Kazon as he reaches out to touch the button that will sabotage the ship – what a crap and camp ending to a fantastic character. The defeat of the Kazon on Voyager is dealt with in two measly minutes? DS9 devoted a whole episode to the retake of the station! Seska dies through some terrible old bit of technobabble reaching out for her baby? Who the hell is thinking this shit up? If anybody deserved a true villains death it was Seska but I still have no good idea what happened to her other than there was a sudden flash of light.

Moment to Watch Out For: Cue scenes of Chakotay and Tuvok stabbing at nothing as they try and convince us they are inflicting pain on a lizard (which when we do see it is so unconvincing you wonder why they bothered).

Myth Building: Samantha Wildman survives the culling because she has a baby and Star Trek is so predictable that it wont separate a child from its mother (which again might have been the more interesting path to take). Unfortunately Wildman is the least impressive of the semi regulars and has shown very little character growth or interest in her appearances. Go figure that she’s the one who survives.

Result: You can almost feel the tiredness in the writing as Micheal Piller is asked to remove all the attractive elements he introduced in the second season. I have to question the logic of killing off every interesting recurring character in this show in the opening episode because it feels as though they are shutting their doors on the best elements of the first two seasons because they are embarrassed by them. Which would be fine if they were going to offer up something more interesting in its place but Basics II is a typical example of the lazy writing and crass storytelling of one of the worst ever seasons of Star Trek. Voyager’s crew throw rocks at cavemen and go ‘ugugug’, stab at an unconvincing CGI lizard with spears and Seska dies on Voyager in the most inexplicable and unconvincing write off I have ever seen for a main character in a drama show (I literally don’t have a clue what happened to her). One of the most embarrassing and irritating resets in the history of Trek, Voyager continues on its merry way and the series has lost everything that ever made it worth watching: 1/10

Flashback written by Brannon Braga and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: Tuvok tries to figure out why he keeps having a hallucination about a little girl…

Hepburn-a-Like: Amusingly Janeway is pissed off that Tuvok has never brought her tea to the Bridge whereas he reserved that favour for Sulu. Even though she recognises that the behaviour of Kirk would be admonished in the current Federation she wishes she had the chance to ride shotgun with that sort of officer just the once.

Tattoo: Why is Chakotay so chummy with Tuvok after he deliberately infiltrated his Maquis crew a couple of years ago and just last year was the mastermind behind a whole Tom Paris deception that left Chakotay completely out of the loop? Why don’t the writers on this show follow anything up? ‘Oh year sorry Chakotay I wrecked your quarters and slept with your spirit guide, but don’t worry you’ll have forgotten all about next week and we’ll be chums again.’
Brilliant B’Elanna:

Mr Vulcan: Tuvok is not used to experiencing anxiety but it is an emotion natural in any of us. If I were the Doctor I would tell him to embody this feeling as an example of emotional growth! On Voyager Tuvok trusts Janeway more than anybody else to rifle through his memories and see what is causing this schism. Ever since he has been in the Academy he has had to suffer egocentric human behaviour where they all think the rest of the galaxy should be like them. His parents forced him to go to the Academy and he felt compelled to adhere to their wishes but after encountering human prejudice he went back to Vulcan and spent an age in seclusion attempting to purge all of his emotions. Wow what a fun guy.

Spotted Dick: Neelix is becoming something a liability to the crew as he has begun experimenting with his food and hospitalising crewmembers! His story of sharing the history of every meal would be rather sweet if anybody else was telling the story but the way Neelix thrusts this information unwillingly on Tuvok makes him more annoying than ever. Plus the entire scene was set up for the weak gag with the ‘tragic ending’ to Tuvok’s breakfast. Ho hum.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘They were a little slower to invoke the Prime Directive and a little quicker to pull their phasers’ – maybe I should review the original series episodes too! They sound like more fun times than on the Enterprise D and Voyager!

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘My. Gooooodddddddd!’ – my one resounding memory of this episode was this horrendous bit of overacting from Takei.
‘Who the hell are you?’ – Sulu as written by JMS from Babylon 5.

The Good: Scenes of Tuvok desperately trying to get to sickbay before he collapses are filmed with a nauseous intensity that really sells his grip of fear. Sulu’s assertion that more goes on on the Bridge of a starship than carrying out orders and observing regulations should be applauded.

The Bad: How irritating that Sulu’s appearance in this episode should be spoilt by a credit 7 minutes in. Way to spoil the surprise. The Vulcans are such an emotionally stunted race – Tuvok tries to convince Kes that playing with kid’s building blocks is a mental exercise and he gets cross when they tumble down in a messy heap where to anyone else that would be the fun part! I cannot believe that they wasted the first twenty minutes of this episode on Voyager when they have George Takei waiting to take part! Trials and Tribulations spat the Defiant in the path of the Enterprise before the end of the pre titles sequence! Takei walks through the smoke on the Bridge of the Excelsior like a dog sniffing out a sausage! Visiting the Excelsior hardly feels special because the design of it isn’t that much of a leap away from that of Voyager! I don’t care what part Grace Lee Whitney played in the Original Series but I hope her performance was better than it is here. They would have been better substituting her for an animated block of pine – every word that comes out of her mouth is stilted, emotionless and utterly unconvincing. Janeway and Kim going dewy eyed at the thought of living back in the days of Kirk and McCoy is enough to make you want to self harm – especially Harry who dreams of what it would be like to live back in those unpredictable times. Kim you young chump, you wouldn’t last five minutes. When the meld starts to break down I started to get very confused…how can a memory start working against you like that? Rather than have a decent explanation for the memory such as a dark secret in Tuvok’s past the hallucination about the little girl turns out to be…a virus. Could this be any more underwhelming? If it was a real memory originally then there is no way to tell what really happened. Are you kidding me? What a lazy answer!

Moment to Watch Out For: The sophisticated model work for the Excelsior and the Klingon ship is very tasty although I have no idea how much was borrowed from the sixth Star Trek movie.

Anomaly of the Week: It’s our first proper anomaly for ages. Michael Piller pretty much eradicated them in the second half of series two for more interesting things but now the great BragaTaylor machine has restored the show to its factory settings it is natural that they start falling back on the dullest of Trek tropes. This is a special kind of time travel, nostalgia inducing anomaly, basically a plot device to return us to the past and see Tuvok on the Excelsior.

Result: DS9’s Trials and Tribulations has the crew heading back to the time of the original Enterprise, has them interact with the crew and enjoy a frolicking adventure with the Tribbles! Voyager’s alternative is an anomaly (yawn), a mind meld (yawn), loads of technobabble (yawn) and some hideously wooden performances from Takei and Grace Lee Whitney (eek!). As an anniversary story it should be less about Tuvok and more about nostalgia and where is all the humour that would have made this exercise worthwhile. Flashback is just another Voyager episode full of dull old clichés and wastes what could potentially have been the best episode this show has produced. The explanations at the end of the episode are so lazy you have to wonder why Braga even bothered. The sad truth is if it wasn’t for Deep Space Nine I think a bit more of this episode than I do (although still not that much) which is kind of the story of Voyager’s life: 3/10

The Chute written by Kenneth Biller and directed by Les Landau

What’s it about: Tom and Harry are stuck in the prison from hell…

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway’s subtlety in telling the two teenagers that they believe that they might have created the bomb and they are going to board them leaves something to be desired! Oddly she got quite peeved earlier in the episode for somebody wanting to do that to her. It least Chakotay points this out to her. Look at her face when she is called a coward, it looks like Janeway is going to wring the little terrorists neck.

Forever Ensign: I feel so sorry for Garrett Wang because I am sure he is a really nice fella but he really is lumbered with the most useless part in the Trek universe. Even Neelix is more tolerable because he is so bad he’s good but Harry Kim is just…bland. Wang is giving his all in this episode and there are a few moments when you see real fire in his eyes but the writers haven’t given him anything to play against – its just rallying against a load of mindless thugs. Even when he is tortured and pushed to the edge his character doesn’t develop…because there was no character to develop in the first place.

Parisian Rogue: Tom Paris likes playing it tough but he’s too much of a nice guy at heart to really pull it off.

The Good: I suppose I can’t complain too much about an episode that starts with Harry Kim being surrounded by a bunch of mindless thugs and being beaten up by all of them including his best friend. Because I’ve been waiting to see that for ages. The episode spends some time convincing you that the prison is 300 metres underground and that the government simply toss their criminals down the chute like so much waste…that’s a sound idea for a story but I wish we could have seen the bombing and the bigger picture surrounding it.

The Bad: I do like it whenever Trek gets down and dirty and this is a nasty little hellhole the designers have created but it strikes me that there is something wrong with a series when it feels as though it has produced an episode just to prove it can be dark and violent. What is the point of Zio and religious ramblings? A more dull character in Trek I cannot imagine! Two teenage terrorists – is this the best they could come up with? Its been said a hundred times before but in the perfect Federation of the 24th Century all prejudices have been forgotten…but at the same time same sex relationships seem to have been bred out too! Homosexuality is a Trek taboo that is rarely faced and usually botched when it is and the only couple I could say that were genuinely close to consummating their friendship into something else would be Bashir and O’Brien in the latter series of DS9 where they are practically living as a couple. However there has never been any indication that Tom and Harry are anything other than friends and there never would be again but there are a couple of moments in this episode where they look as if they are about snog each others faces off. Didn’t they learn last year that suggesting a relationship and then ignoring it would try the fans patience (Janeway and Chakotay)? Besides which if there was going to be a poster couple for homosexuality in Trek I really wouldn’t want one of them to be the dullest character in all Trek. The wrap up is very disappointing with Janeway storming the prison with ease and rescuing her crewmen – if it were that easy it could have been done at the beginning of the episode.

Moment to Watch Out For: There is a giddy effects shot as we see Harry rubbing away at the window to discover the prison is in deep space. It’s a stunning moment but the only one in the episode that made me really sit up and pay attention.

Fashion Statement: Harry looks a lot hotter with his hair hanging down – why does he slick it back like some bland automaton?

Result: Had this been a DS9 episode or even a TNG one it would have been the perfect excuse for a gripping character study but since this is Voyager all that we learn is…Tom and Harry are the best of friends and we knew that already. From a design standpoint the prison set is very well done and there is a great twist in the middle when we realise where the prison is located but that doesn’t excuse 45 minutes of dirty, sweaty nothingness. Oddly enough Janeway seems to have become something of the Rambo of the Delta Quadrant, spitting threats at enemies on the view screen and turning up gun cocked and ready to fire. It is not a shift in her favour. And spare me the thought of Tom and Harry getting it on – in parts The Chute feels as though it exists purely to keep the slash writers happy. A mildly visceral experience and a completely brainless one with an insanely sloppy ending: 4/10

The Swarm written by Michael Sussman and directed by Alexander Singer

What’s it about: The Doctor suffers memory degradation…

Hepburn-a-Like: I don’t understand this woman? Just like year she was preaching the Prime Directive as a creed that they have to cling onto with dear life if they are to escape the Delta Quadrant and now she is happily dismissing it because (and I quote): ‘I’m not about to waste fifteen months because we’ve run into a bunch of bullies!’ If I were a Maquis crewmember I would call her screaming hypocrite although I’m willing to bet we’ll be hearing about the all-powerful Prime Directive in a few episodes time. This isn’t so much bad characterisation as it is lazy – I get a real feeling on this show that they don’t keep track of what characters have said and done in the past and merely change their opinions to suit an episode. These people aren’t characters, their turning into plot devices. For some bizarre reason Janeway has a habit of talking like the Terminator this season – like some Hitleresque bully who thinks she can punch her way through whatever obstacles come in her way. She was like it in The Chute and she’s behaving exactly the same in this episode. I hope we shift away from this because she comes across as completely unlikable. In Resolutions just five episodes ago she was cowering under a table from a storm! Can’t we find a happy medium between that wimp and this fascist?

EMH: Robert Picardo never ceases to amaze me, now we learn that he can sing opera beautifully as well! Bless him, only the Doctor could create a holodeck programme singing with one of the greatest sopranos in the 22nd century and allow her ego free rein to question his ability to direct the orchestra! He can’t imagine anyone behaving in an arrogant and condescending way – that’s an obvious line but Picardo makes it very funny. Its only when his memories are threatened that you realise just how far the Doctor has come in the last two years – making friendships, falling in love and developing his own passions. When they meet Dr Zimmerman both the Doctor and Torres can see where he gets his charming personality from…and his hairline! He was developed as a short-term supplement to the medical staff with 1500 hours life in him tops but after being active for 2 years his memory simply cannot handle the extra activities he has incorporated. Since Zimmerman is pretty much the arrogant, thoughtless Doctor we encountered in Caretaker it is useful to compare the two characters and see how much we have come to like him.

Brilliant B’Elanna: Its nice that somebody has finally seen the potential of the Paris/Torres partnership and their casual flirting in the first scene is a joy. She says she would rather take her chances with Freddie Bristow but she smiles at the thought of an evening on the holodeck with Paris. Roxan Dawson is another performer who always gives her all and by sticking her in sickbay you have the two strongest actors on this show bouncing off each other in a very funny way (‘You are questioning my bedside manner?’).

Elfin Alien: Was it my imagination or was there a little tension between Kes and Torres when she implored the Captain to insist on a solution for the Doctor’s problems. That might have been something interesting worth exploring but do you know I don’t recall Kes and Torres ever talking before. Kes fighting for the Doctor’s survival is very sweet and continues to be one of the more fulfilling partnerships on Voyager. It will be sad when they dump her in favour of Seven of Nine – Seven might be a better character by after season after season of obsession with her it is easy to contract Seven fatigue. Kes rarely had an attention and so that problem never arose.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I’ve just had an unpleasant encounter with a mad woman on the holodeck.’
‘You’re supposed to be off during your off hours!’

The Good: Its lovely to be able to see the Jupiter Station where the Doctor was conceived, it gives his character some nice back story (okay it isn’t quite Necessary Evil good backstory but we’ll take what we can). The idea of the swarm as little leeches that attach themselves to your ship and suck the life out of it is very powerful – too bad we couldn’t have seen more of them.

The Bad: When the two alien beam onto the shuttlecraft and talk to each other in their own language its like some awful b movie we’ve stepped into! Okay so here is a great premise for a season – an area of space with a species that we don’t know anything about who really don’t like strangers violating their territory. What does Voyager do? Use it in one episode. No strike that, half an episode! When Voyager was lit up like a Christmas tree and attacked by the swarm I was laughing my head off…they can hardly take the higher ground and say that they weren’t warned! The swarm plot never has a chance to shine because every time something exciting threatens to happen we cut back to Kes trying to save the Doctor. If Harry can figure out so easily how the swarm can be defeated how comes nobody else has? Why do they have such a foreboding reputation when they can be brushed away like insects? And do we honestly have to have scenes of the aliens beaming aboard the Bridge for some lame action sequences just because that is what enemies do on Star Trek? Have you ever noticed how only one alien beams aboard at a time so one character can deal with them and it is only the regulars who get to fight (and they get one each!). I rather think somebody though up the wonderful idea of the leech ships attaching themselves to Voyager and the producers saw the effects sequences but forgot to put in any time thinking how this could be written in and out convincingly. I bet if you saw the script the conclusion reads: Harry Kim does something scientific and the techno buffs filled in the rest. The only damage that the ship suffers is that Janeway’s hair falls out of its bun.

Moment to Watch Out For: The swarm effects are nice but my favourite moment belongs to the increasingly impressive Robert Picardo who displays great sensitivity as he forgets everything about his life and declares ‘This is a sick man, this where sick people come.’ Congratulations Doc, you pretty much holding up this show on your own.

Fashion Statement: Don’t dress the Doctor up as Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice again please; he looks far better with hair and gigantic sideburns. What is up with the design of that alien that they rescue? He looks like a cross between Skeletor from He-Man and Bonnie Tyler!

Result: Voyager continues its aimless plod through series three with a story that has two storylines with great potential; one which is squandered on little screen time and the other that fails to convince due to the shows nature of ‘everything back to normal next week’. Entering a dangerous region of space is great idea that could have fuelled an entire season but this just seems to be an excuse to allow Janeway to act even more like thug and for some nifty special effects. The Doctor storyline is far more affecting because Picardo is simply too good to let this material suffer but the results of his breakdown are devastating and yet he is his usual self in False Profits. Aside from a few nice character moments the whole exercise seems utterly pointless. This season needs some focus – after the heavy arc elements of season two it now feels as if we are just drifting and the result is some pretty shallow action adventure tales that are superficially enjoyable but lack any meat. Once again the climax is insultingly simple: 5/10

False Profits written by Joe Menosky and directed by Cliff Bole

What’s it about: Two Ferengi have set up shop in the Delta Quadrant…

Hepburn-a-Like: Once again Janeway (after lecturing all and sundry last year that they need to cling onto the principles of the Federation) finds a way of defying the Prime Directive to suit her whims. Bloody hypocrite. I cannot believe that Janeway fell for Arridor’s ridiculous speech about the society crumbling when their Sages vanish as we have already seen exactly the response to such a miracle – they would adjust very nicely to the luxury of the Palace without their Masters to taunt them.

Spotted Dick: How telling that Ethan Phillips makes a far better Ferengi than he ever does as a Talaxian. For somebody who knows very little about Ferengi society Neelix manages to pull off his role as the Grand Proxy with a great amount of detail.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘We have to out Ferengi the Ferengi.’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘We can’t just leave the Ferengi there to continue exploiting those poor people!’ – oh shut up Tom you sound like Mary Poppins.

The Good: The best gag is the Sage Song man with his interchangeable eye patch which kind of tells you of the level of sophistication we are dealing with here. Although everybody’s severe lack of reaction to Neelix’s ‘I am the Holy Pilgrim’ comes a close second.

The Bad: While there is at least a good reason for Voyager to have two Ferengi in the Delta Quadrant I find it discouraging that they feel compelled to rely on Alpha Quadrant races…have they run out of ideas already? With Harry Kim getting excited about a wormhole that could take them home – its just Eye of the Needle with all the subtleties, isn’t it? All the extraneous characters seem to be comic buffoons out to make a quick buck without a brain cell to rub together between them – this is a shocking decline when compared with the DS9 Ferengi comedies where the characters are written as sharp, witty and incisive. Rob LaFelle as Kafar is the worst example, a dreadful written toady who changes loyalty at the drop of a hat. You can’t believe in a character like that and so it leaves the comedy hanging on little substance. You can trust a pair of wayward Ferengi to wind up exploiting a community but I cannot countenance a bloody idiotic civilisation that is held to ransom by such a ridiculous creatures – frankly they deserve what they get. A primitive but flourishing community brought to poverty, all they need to do is attack the Ferengi en masse and they can have access to a replicator and all the riches that have been stolen. The two actors playing the Ferengi characters are over the top without Armin Shimmerman’s ability to bring subtleties to the role and as such they are one-dimensional characters of little worth with dialogue that lacks conviction. I realise it is supposed to be the case but the design of the Sages Palace is horribly gaudy and when you add such tasteless characters to the set the whole piece feels like an original series disaster. I was shaking my head with despair when Neelix was throwing treasures at the Sages whilst they lunged at him with swords…its like we have skipped over into slapstick but the scene isn’t edited quickly enough so it feels like a laborious theatre fight and just as amateurish. There is much about this episode that reminds me of last years The Thaw of which it pales in comparison; Janeway is trying to outthink the menace to this society, she sends a crewmember in who is exposed and attacked and the two Ferengi even chuckle at the fact that they have won just as the Clown did last year. Perhaps if they had burnt Neelix this episode could be seen to have had a point but alas…

Moment to Watch Out For: Nothing leapt out at me unfortunately.

Result: Light, soulless and entirely disposable which seems to be the watchword for this season so far, False Profits is an empty comedy and having so many gimmick episodes in a row is start to annoy. There seems to be no structure to this season and no point, its just one standalone disaster after another which wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that these episodes are so insubstantial. I hate to keep reminding you guys but this is what we lost Seska, the Vidiians and Suder for? There are a couple of good gags but just as many that miss the mark and overall False Profits is an unsubtle farce that loses credibility even sooner than most Voyager episodes and shows that like TNG the only show that can get away with Ferengi comedies with any respect is DS9. The best comedy is grounded in character (The House of Quark is a recent example) but none of the Voyager crew learn a thing or take anything from this experience. Astonishingly there is another hastily written and idiotic ending which is starting to worry me: 3/10

Remember written by Lisa Klink and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: Torres starts experiencing some powerful dreams linked to a visiting species…

Hepburn-a-Like: She loves music and has always regretted that she never had the chance to play an instrument. Well you’ve got the time to learn now Kathryn! It appears that Lisa Klink is the only writer to remember what Janeway was like last season because suddenly she is gentle and unassuming and immersing herself in any alien culture.

Brilliant B’Elanna: With Kate Mulgrew being asked to act like an outer space Rambo it is literally down to Roxan Dawson and Robert Picardo to hold up this entire show. In episodes like Remember (which might be her signature episode in the series aside from Barge of the Dead) we see what an extraordinary actress she is and how far her ability can take her. Torres is experiencing the most sensual dreams in her life and they feel absolutely real and after confiding in Chakotay (considering she is usually such a private person about things like this) she threatens to kill him if he tells anyone. The way Dawson laughs like a schoolgirl whilst making love to Dathan and makes her bed as if it is the most natural thing in the world are just some of the little touches that convince you that she has always played this role. It is subtly different enough from B’Elanna to show her range. Torres is clever enough to recognise a narrative in her dream and that it is much more than just a fantasy, this is somebody’s experiences being passed down to her. Turning off the device which suppresses the dreams is both insane and understandable, if there dreams were as vivid as she makes out I too would want to see them through to the end. Dawson is so restrained as she plays Karenna holding back the tears as her father whispers poison in her ears about her lover and the way she subtly moves her head to expose him is jaw dropping.

Spotted Dick: Its great to see somebody using Neelix for something other than comic relief. He has researched the Enarans thoroughly and provides a wonderful evening for everybody on board the ship. For a moment I could see why they like having him around…but only for a moment.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You know this will only encourage me…’ ‘I hope so!’
‘We’ll remember…’
‘No apologies, no requests for forgiveness…just the truth.’
‘So that’s it? We just go on our merry way and nobody takes any kind of responsibility’ – hurrah for Torres for pointing out the greatest flaw in this series!

The Good: After Neelix decks out the Mess Hall in the colours of the Enaran flag and exotic music is pumped through the room it finally feels as if we are exploring a very different (no chairs!) culture. It only took three years! I love the scene where Karenna and Dathan can’t hold each other and so he simply touches her back and shares the memory of what he would do if he could. Its such an intimate experience that we just out of reach of and shows how this power can be used seductively. The explanation that Torres might be picking up stray thoughts and memories for the different Enarans on the ship is mildly convincing but the narrative is so structured and consistent she rejects that proposal outright. However I can think of half a dozen Voyager episodes where random things take place where that might have been a very worthy explanation. The role of Karenna’s father must have been a difficult one to cast because it required somebody who could be quietly convincing to his daughter and yet still clearly misguided and racist to the audience and fortunately Bruce Davidson is more than up to the task. He delivers a very chilling performance, especially in the second half of the episode. Interesting that he gives Karenna two contradictory explanations for the resettlement (that they want to go and that they are being forced to go because it is dangerous for them to stay) – politicians can charm all sorts of answers to explain atrocities. Its an awful dilemma to be trapped in – to choose between her father and a life with real prospects or her lover and a life on the run exposing the truth about the murders and it doesn’t surprise me for a second that she chooses the easier option. But that doesn’t make it any less powerful. The fade from Karenna screaming at Dathan’s murder to her teaching a group of children the propaganda she been brainwashed with is highly effective…showing that history really is written by the victors. The open ended last scene offers hope for the Enaran people as Torres shares her experiences with one open minded person who will hopefully spread the word over time…

The Bad: Despite its superb intentions and realisation you cannot escape the fact that Remember is a massive rip off of TNG’s Violations with a similar race visiting the ship and intruding in the minds of the crew. However it is the narrative of the memories that are important and in that respect this tale goes into much darker places. As soon as Janeway experiences the telepathic knowledge of music it becomes obvious where the dreams are coming from although the episode holds back that surprise even longer. It really makes me cross that this dramatic material is wasted on a dream episode when there could be a genuine arc set over six or ten episodes on a planet and all this terrific drama could be played out for real. Are they saying that the only way juicy material can play out now is to have it filtered through guest characters – that the regulars aren’t allowed to be characterised this powerfully?

Moment to Watch Out For: Almost as if to make up for so many rushed and shallow endings the climactic scene that sees B’Elanna confront the Enarans and accuse them of murder is beautifully performed by Dawson and drives home the horror of these genocidal secrets really well.

Teaser-tastic: The teaser is very nice because it convinces you for a second that B’Elanna might be on the holodeck but actually something far more invasive is happening.

Fashion Statement: Tuvok decides to wear something akin to a dressing gown to an ambassadorial function which I thought was an odd choice and Janeway is there in virginal white. Charles Esten is an absolute hottie as Dathan which only serves to make the sudden shock of his burned body more disturbing.

Orchestra: The music is superb in this episode – listen to the dark undercurrents after B’Elanna wakes up when Karenna’s face is cut. Its dark and dramatic and extremely refreshing especially the shocking scene where Dathan is executed.

Result: Finally after course after course of desert season three finally delivers something substantial! The one thing that really worries me about this otherwise stellar episode is that a bunch of people we have never seen before or since are more interesting than the regulars on Voyager. Roxan Dawson gives a career best performance in this episode, a truly remarkable turn as a woman who plays her part in genocide but also as B’Elanna discovering these dark secrets and wanting to expose them. It might be similar to a TNG episode in its structure but it has a painful moral behind the dream sequences that is well worth exploring and it features some stunning directional choices from Winrich Kolbe. Remember is powerful and addictive television and a healthy reminder of what this series can deliver when it pulls out all of the stops: 9/10

Sacred Ground written by Lisa Klink and directed by Robert Duncan McNeill

What’s it about: Janeway has to undergo a spiritual experience to save Kes…

Hepburn-a-Like: Probably her most interesting feature is Janeway’s dependence on rationality and science and this episode goes some way to making her question her beliefs. Her guide points out that she is fond of her ‘little devices’ and Janeway replies that they have always served her well. Impatient, tense and determined are three of the descriptions given by the three stooges who are waiting. Janeway did not come for personal enlightenment but that is clearly what she needs to experience in order to save Kes. Her sister was the artist and she was the scientist, whilst the other children were playing games she was doing maths problems (oh Kathryn!). She has always found solving a problem very satisfying and she needs prove that the spirits actually exist. Like most people, her expectations let her down. As a scientist she believes that with time, knowledge and tools she can find the answer to anything.

Tattoo: When his mother taught him the science underlying the vision quest he felt he felt disappointed and this is something I can completely empathise with. Whilst I find science fascinating in itself and what it teaches us about life I also find that it destroys so many mysteries and debases things that appear miraculous. A sky filled with pinks and yellows as the sun goes down. A venus fly trap. The ‘shhh’ noise when you open a fizzy drink. Those things were all magical to me when I was a little boy but when I learnt the science behind them they became much more mundane. Chakotay steps in the way of the Captain when she accepts the challenge to complete the ritual by not understanding it herself…its rather out of character on his part to question the wisdom of a spiritual quest.

Spotted Dick: Neelix is so frustrated to be unable to help Kes. I wonder if he would feel so bad if he knew she was going to dump him in a few episodes time? He is one of those annoying family members that gets in the way of the Doctor doing his job – I think he should consider sickbay out of bounds to everybody but the patient and the Captain. Ethan Phillips has real difficulty conveying anger, doesn’t he? Neelix’s little tirade at the people who are willing to let Kes die at the end of the episode is really rather embarrassing.

The Good: There quite a few nice directional touches from newcomer Robert Duncan McNeill but again I wish he could have had a more dynamic piece for his debut. Go watch Unity to see what he is really capable of.

The Bad: Dreary caves are starting to be as much a stereotype on Voyager as the fake looking studio planets were in the first two years of TNG. Give us something exciting to look at on an alien world! Neelix perving over Kes isn’t a great start to an episode and neither is the utter predictability of Kes saying ‘I just want to look…’ at a mystical shrine and suddenly being zapped. When you are about ten steps ahead of the writer that is not a good sign. This episode is a non starter because I never believed for a second that Kes wouldn’t be up and about in the next exciting instalment of Voyager! How sad to see an actor as good as Harry Groener shoehorned into such lacklustre role, you’re best off heading over to Buffy series three to see what this actor is capable of. Sacred Ground highlights another problem with Voyager and that is its alien species of the week – the issue is that we will never hear from these people again so they have to make a big impact with a good hook to lure the audience in (the Enarans were a great example last week). This race of quasi religious dullards don’t have a chance. Where DS9 scores in this field is that it deals with five races (Bajoran, Human, Cardassian, Klingon and Dominion with the odd Romulan piece too) and each episode that focuses on them adds to the overall mythology and interest of that species. DS9 tried the ‘species of the week’ for a couple of season but gave up after a while because they realised that it was better to evolve and deepen the races they have rather than risk failing with a new race. Alas Voyager was still introducing us to uninteresting new species right up until series seven. Occasionally they hit the spot and found something interesting (I liked the Vaadwaur in Dragon’s Teeth) but more often than not I was glad to leave these intergalactic non entities behind. I really sound like I am screwing over Voyager in favour of DS9 but the whole science versus religion debate has been handled in that series with far more interest than it is here (go and watch Emissary, In The Hands of the Prophets, Destiny, Accession…). I figured the woman fixing the light was Janeway’s guide before she uttered a word. Its return of the superimpose a character over an exterior landscape that was popular in the first season.

Moment to Watch Out For: Janeway putting her hand into the hissing basket. Probably the tensest moment in this episode.

Result: I appreciate the effort to examine Janeway’s character in more depth because so far this season she has been represented as a hypocritical bully but honestly couldn’t they have found a more engaging episode to apply it than this New Age mumbo jumbo? The episode has no pace, no excitement and no tension…but at least it has a point (well except Janeway would go on relying on technology for the rest of this shows life and never think about what she has learnt here). Kate Mulgrew gives a stellar performance and it is easy to see why it is one of her favourites as Janeway is really put under the microscope and all her ideals are questioned. Its probably the most depth her character would ever receive which says something for the remaining four and half years of this show to go. It seems to be all character or all shallow action on this show (see the next episode) and never the twain shall meet. I found this mundane and sporadically worth watching but a pretty dull experience overall. But then what do I know - my husband loves this episode: 5/10

Future’s End Part One written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: Voyager is trapped in the past…on Earth!

Hepburn-a-Like: Finally succumbing to the loneliness of deep space, Janeway decides to take up tennis again after having not played for 19 years.

Forever Ensign: Oddly considering his desperation to get back to Earth it is Harry who is kept aboard the ship whilst the others get to head down to the planet and explore.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘We could have worn our Starfleet uniforms. I doubt that anyone would have noticed.’
‘Your curves don’t look so good.’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘No way!’ ‘Way!’
‘We’re going to need some wheels!’
‘What the hell did you do to my computer! It is screwed up! The hard drive is wiped!’ – one of the worst delivered lines in this show. Ever.

The Good: Voyager responsible for a temporal explosion that will destroy all of Earth’s solar system in the far future and Braxton has come back in a time ship to prevent it happening – that is a wonderfully silly idea to hang this episode on. Pouring adverts and answer phone messages through the Bridge’s intercom is a great, quirky idea and Janeway’s look of horror when she realises that they have returned to Earth in a different time period makes the premise worth it on its own. The location work is nicely done if a little sterile in places – the director goes out of his way to show how clean and colourful LA is when I would have much preferred to have explored the seedier side of the location. The idea that the computer age of the late 20th century shouldn’t have happened is the one solid thing this show has to offer and has possibilities. The cliffhanger is quite nice but you have to wonder how Janeway is going to talk her way out of her temporal contamination in the second part.

The Bad: I wont deny that it is fun to have the Voyager crew having an adventure on Earth but I will say it is symptom of an increasingly worrying problem that once against sees the Alpha Quadrant relied on to provide the entertainment on this show. They really shouldn’t be setting the most hyped shows on Earth because it feels now that they have lost all interest in exploring the Delta Quadrant or making it in any way a region of space that is worth travelling in. Tom Paris seems to be an expert on pretty much anything this show needs him to be – perhaps they could turn it into a running gag (‘Mr Paris, you’re an expert on orbital tethers’ ‘Mr Paris you’re an expert on dwarves that have never heard music’ ‘Mr Paris you’re an expert on poor WWF rip offs’ etc, etc). He’s even an expert on b movies! Janeway mentions that she doesn’t know what her relations are up to in this century but then suddenly a couple of seasons when and episode calls for it she suddenly has full knowledge of Shannon O’Donnell. I would have thought there would have been far more material surrounding the crew actually finding its way back to Earth beyond Paris enjoying a sunbathe and Janeway discussing the future developments of the beach – this is the mission of the series fulfilled after all! Sarah Silverman is trying but she isn’t the most accomplished actress to have come from America and the way Rain Robinson is written like a pre pubescent teen means that I found her character far too melodramatic for my tastes. The scene with Neelix and Kes watching a soap opera proves that Star Trek has a real issue with writing out the superfluous regulars when the story doesn’t require them – the scene is pure padding and just there to justify Phillips and Lien’s inclusion in the episode. With jokes about the native species, keyboards and a deadpan Vulcan (not to mention a local babe who gets swept into the action) this isn’t so much an homage of Star Trek IV, it is entirely derivative of it. Harry Kim in charge of Voyager is every bit as dull as you can imagine.

Moment to Watch Out For: The truly diabolical scene where Rain Robinson pursues Tom Paris and Tuvok to complain about her wiped hard drive that leads to Paris screaming in an ultra melodramatic fashion: ‘Get down!’ This episode is really popular why exactly?

Teaser-tastic: For such a (at its best) fun episode the teaser is pretty awful, shot without much care, promising a lot and delivering so little.

Fashion Statement: The crew look awesome in civvies – although this is the third time this year that Janeway has been stuck into virginal white. Are the writers trying to tell us something? Chakotay’s hair looks brilliant and should have been kept that way, he looks much more handsome. And Tuvok deserves an award for his OTT bandana.

Anomaly of the Week: I thought it has been a couple of weeks since we had seen an anomaly burbling away on the viewing screen and this weeks a dullish grey affair that just so happens to be a distortion in the space/time continuum! Fortunately that is all it takes to get the crew back to Earth but in the wrong time period.

Result: Often claimed to be as good as Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Future’s End isn’t even close with its slack pace, uninteresting storytelling and shallow characterisation. Having a story set on Earth shows the dearth of attention-grabbing things to do in the Delta Quadrant and whilst visually this is a treat on the eyes I need a little more than some funky location work to convince me that this sort of superficial nonsense is the direction this show should be heading in. It makes a mockery of the series’ premise (nobody seems to care that they have ended up back on Earth) and Rain Robinson, Braxton and Starling are all either underwritten or overwritten but at no point especially interesting characters. Even David Livingston’s direction feels more laboured than usual with some awkward editing that blunts the effect of the action sequences. Sporadically entertaining but nowhere near as special as it seems to think it is, Future’s End was the point where I stopped buying the Voyager videos when they first came out in the UK: 4/10

Future’s End Part Two written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky and directed by Cliff Bole

What’s it about: More of the same – high jinks in 20th Century Los Angeles with very little point.

EMH: I was astonished to hear the Doctor mention his ‘recent memory loss’ – I thought the Voyager staff forgot about the events of episodes as soon as they are over? Having the Doctor leave sickbay is by far the best innovation of the third season (some would say it is the return of the Borg but all that shows to me is the desperation of the writers on this show) – he has been cooped up in one room for so long that storytelling possibilities for his character have been a tad desperate. Now he can get involved in the action…and so what do the writers do to exploit this new found ability? Have him turn bad (The Darkling) and create his own Brady Bunch on the holodeck! I hope they aren’t straining their brain cells too much there. It really worries me that somebody being able to walk out of a room could be an innovation but that’s how drab this show has become in its third year.

Parisian Rogue: Paris uses a lot of anachronistic terms like ‘secret agent’ which gives away that they aren’t in the right time so maybe he isn’t quite the expert that he thought he was. His flirtatious relationship with Rain borders on the pass the bucket because the chemistry just isn’t there and the episode is trying too hard to find cultural differences between the two characters. And Star Trek IV did it with far more aplomb. Why does Robert Duncan McNeill have such trouble shouting out lines like ‘Get down!’ and ‘Watch out!’ – he sounds ridiculously unconvincing.

Dreadful Dialogue: Some of this dialogue is so OTT it made me crease…
‘We are not from the Beast!’
‘You wouldn’t mind hanging with me a little longer?’
‘A black man and some bald guy!’ – these country hicks really are the most pointless characters.
‘I’ve never met anyone quite like you…and I don’t think I ever will’ – bleaugh.
‘Fate Tuvok? I wont accept that!’

The Good: Rain Robinson is slightly more palatable this time around because it is les about her overdone reactions to the weirdness that is happening and more about accepting the situation and trying to deal with her. Her backstory of looking up at the rings of Saturn as a child and thinking they were tiny rings of tiny jewels is slight but at least its something. Having the Earth outside filling the observation windows looks wonderful (although you might think you would see somebody staring out at it wistfully). There’s a brief moment when Chakotay and Torres talk about the possibilities if they are stuck in this time, it doesn’t go into the idea beyond ‘we’d have to get jobs’ but I appreciate the effort all the same.

The Bad: Janeway talks about having to engage the military if Voyager drops into orbit of the planet again…how wonderful would that be? I’m not at all keen on Starling as a villain because it feels like the emphasis is on the big name guest star rather than giving any credence to the character. We learn very little about his character beyond the fact that he wants to acquire advanced technology and he doesn’t even get any good lines. He’s just another dull opportunist who wants to profit in the present from developments in the future. Doesn’t Los Angeles feel very pristine in Star Trek? This could be a tourist information video for all the grim underbelly they forget to show. When the paranoid hicks turned up I thought I had wondered into the wrong and not in a good way…this is more like the camp nonsense that they peddle on The A-Team. With crushing inevitability the reset button is switched and none of this ever happened. If only. Temporal Prime Directive…what a load of bollocks.

Moment to Watch Out For: The dreadful action sequence at the climax with a hilariously camp close up on Paris’ face when he sees the truck screaming towards them, his unconvincing scream of ‘Jump!’ and the way both he and Rain throw themselves and roll onto the scrub like true action heroes when both of them had plenty of time to saunter away from the van before it is demolished. Then the shuttle appears and the truck goes up in an unspectacular effect that fails to convince. This scene is systematic of this two parter in general. There is another super camp close up on Starling when he shoots the time ship through the skyscraper window – it feels as if the director has just given up on trying to make this gritty and gone for the b movie feel.

Result: In their respective third seasons both Voyager and DS9 have a two parter set on Earth in the past with a huge amount of location work - one is superficial, unoriginal and bit of old fluff and the other is a riveting, biting social commentary packed full of tension and drama. Can you guess which show represents which? Future’s End is the ultimate ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…?’ Star Trek multi parter with everything from the ship travelling backwards to 20th Century Earth, the Doctor going walkies and the 29th Century time ship all vying for the top spot in that category. The trouble with ratings pleasers like this is that the writers have to find a way to bring these things together to tell a story that is worth telling and they just don’t have the talent to do that. There isn’t even enough mileage in the situation they have created and so the conspiracy nuts are added in a completely superfluous subplot. Overall Future’s End is pretty but pointless and considering it doesn’t achieve anything and only mildly entertains in spots it is a huge missed opportunity. I really wanted to go with the flow and just enjoy this but the script is put together with so little effort my critical faculties were rubbed up the wrong way. Someone drag Jeri Taylor out of the driving seat on this show, out of ten episodes this season I have only enjoyed one: 4/10

Warlord written by Lisa Klink and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: Kes is taken over by a war criminal…

Elfin Alien: Its great to see Jennifer Lien getting the chance to do something other than being wet but her ‘evil’ performance is one that chews the scenery and then some – its melodramatic, fun but never once entirely believable. Although she has been taken over by Tieron I genuinely think some of her complaints to Neelix that she isn’t allowed to have her own friends, that he has to involve himself in every part of her life and that she hasn’t experienced a romance with anybody but him come from her rather than him.

Spotted Dick: Neelix invites Kes to sickbay and serves her a load of grass and moss! Don’t you hate those fussing partners that suggest you go to hospital at the slightest ailment…that’s our Neelix!

The Good: I loved the scene where evil Kes storms the council chamber and blows away the current administration. Its so refreshingly dynamic (a signature of David Livingston’s direction) and unpretentious. No pointless talk, just action. Livingston employs some dramatic hand held camerawork for Tieron’s unmasking of Tuvok that makes the scene far more uncomfortable than it has any right to be.

The Bad: The first scene drags down the overall score of this episode by about 3 points by being the most terrifyingly awful thing I have ever seen. There is my aversion to Neelix being treated as a one dimensional buffoon which is probably never actualised in a more patronising manner than here. There is also my aversion to feet and the episode opens on Neelix’s horrid spotty webbed toes which is an even more nauseating image than Troi’s oily appendages that I had to gawp at a few episodes back. There is not one but two honking great close ups on them…obviously the director wanted to get his moneys worth considering they have gone to the trouble of putting prosthetics on Ethan Phillips’ feet! And finally there is the studio bound beach resort which is so utterly pointless and shallow it is systematic of this season as a whole, one which treats its audience as absolute fuckwads. Perhaps if they had filmed on a real beach this might have worked but this overlit, gaudy and vomit inducingly twee set fails to do anything but set my teeth on edge. There was nothing at all wrong with Sandrines but this takes the stomach churning nature of the Lord Burleigh programme and raises the stakes considerably. The trouble is this isn’t even worse holodeck programme the writers would be obsessed with the programme…that would come in season six. The episode’s idea of a villain possessing a member of the crew is stolen directly from DS9’s The Passenger. We have never seen Kes wrap her arms around somebody in sickbay before so the likelihood that she has been taken over by Nori’s husband is about 100% Its another dull humanoid Delta Quadrant species…I really wish they would use CGI to create something a little more exciting and creative. Why is it that regardless of the three crews – TNG, DS9, VOY – are absolutely pathetic when it comes to stopping security incursions. If the plot requires somebody to beam in/out or escape they always seem to rubbish at being able to stop them. Are they creating clones because they seem to be going through crew members like lemmings? As usual in order to show lesbian/gay action there has to be possession or alternative universes or Trill slugs to excuse the awkwardness Paramount might feel at promoting such a lifestyle! There is no chance for us to imagine that Kes will remain as Tieron’s host body because the episode is full of markers and get clauses. You have Tieron smelling the flower, Kes telling Tuvok that he is fighting him, Tieron allowing Voyager to go free and evil Kes struggling on the view screen as she gives Voyager a friendly warning. This isn’t a psychological struggle, these are little plot markers that will make the climax easier to swallow (apparently). Its another slight ending (lets just say crap) which sees a fleet we never get to see turn up and regain power, a couple of phaser blasts and Tieron’s reign is over. Its just far too easy and quick to work, it feels like the writer desperately trying to get back to the status quo in a hurry.

Moment to Watch Out For: When Kes starts invading Tuvok’s mind and suggesting he has repressed sexual feelings for her I certainly raised an eyebrow. Tieron clearly has no problems getting it on with a Vulcan bloke!

Result: I would rather watch something that is camp and melodramatic like Warlord than the bloated and shallow two parter that preceded it but that doesn’t mean that this is any good. Its mostly David Livingston’s directional touches that gives this episode its best moments but its worth mentioning Jennifer Lien’s chance to let rip with some surprisingly nasty moments. Warlord certainly has a some memorable scenes (most of those feature Kes/Tieron’s sexuality bursting free) but its another pointless visit to a planet we will never hear from again. This ship desperately needs to visit an area of space that allows it to tell ongoing stories because this standalones are some of the least impressive and season three is packed full of them. You sit there being mildly entertained for 45 minutes and afterwards think: ‘Why did I bother?’: 5/10

The Q and the Grey written by Kenneth Biller and directed by Cliff Bole

What’s it about: Q wants to have a baby with Janeway. Whose idea was that?

Hepburn-a-Like: Q tries a puerile attempt at seduction (her words, not mine) but you might have to wonder just what an omnipotent being could offer you between the sheets before you turn him down! The line ‘Q where have you taken me?’ is delivered so robotically I can’t help but wonder if they replaced Kate Mulgrew with a robot copy for these scenes. Mulgrew is trying so hard to give this material some meaning but she’s fighting a losing battle – watching her try so hard is like watching the crew trying to save the Titanic.

Tattoo: Was it my imagination or did Chakotay look a little jealous when Janeway suggested that Q wants to mate with her?

Mr Vulcan: Susie Q says that Tuvok makes nothing but negative suggestions and states the most predictable of Vulcan caution and she isn’t far wrong.

Parisian Rogue: He was once considered to be something of a rebellious youth but now Tom Paris spouts the usual Federation platitudes that you would expect from a raw young ensign. He’s getting almost as bad as Neelix for talking clichés (indeed there is a scene where Q asks Paris and then Neelix advice on Janeway and their responses are similarly dreary) and lacking an edge. Michael Piller went to some lengths to make him appear to be a bad boy last season but that was scuppered at the last minute and I cannot recall him having anything of note to do this season. Another wasted opportunity.

Forever Ensign: Another teaser where I wanted to put Neelix in a blender and turn him into soup – can’t they think of anything else to do with this character other than him being horribly over the top? I mean…wow!

Spotted Dick: Respectable, loyal and sincere – Neelix sure has a high opinion of himself!

Dreadful Dialogue: Basically the whole script but lines like ‘That two timing toad!’ definitely deserve a mention.

The Good: The bed that Q moves into Janeway’s quarters is a real eye opener. I wonder if there is a call for such hideous romantic gestures in real life. The pyrotechnic boys have great fun blowing the crap out of the period sets which is about as much of an endorsement as I will give this episode.

The Bad: Once again the Alpha Quadrant comes to this series rescue, surely things can’t be so dull in the Delta Quadrant that we have to rely on the continual presence of beings like Q. Just like it would with the Borg, this show manages to emasculate Q to the point of being a non entity. I mean what is the excuse for him returning this time? He wants a baby with Janeway? I can imagine some clever dick sitting around in the ideas sessions throwing that one out and Braga getting a hard on at the idea! Q mimicking Chakotay’s tattoo (but going one up of course) is not funny in the slightest. Confirmation that the hideous beach resort holodeck programme is here to stay until the end of the season. Once a powerful and unpredictable being, now Q is hanging out with Harry Kim and asking for love advice. How slack is the pace of this episode…its so slow its practically running backwards in spots. Why would Q be so lonely that he wants to copulate with Janeway. When he suggested in Q-Less that he enjoyed seeing the world through Vash’s eyes it was a touching revelation because I could imagine that after seeing everything more times than you can count to suddenly be able to experience wonder through another might be something to cherish. But to reduce Q to somebody who just wants a shag…its so juvenile and damaging. This was a perfect opportunity to explore the damage to the continuum done by Quinn’s suicide in Death Wish but instead the episode has far more important things to do like show off the budget by staging the American Civil War. What a waste of time and money. You can see precisely what they are going for but these scenes are so far off the mark it is laughable. Watching the Voyager stumbling over a hill with their guns cocked to rescue Janeway from the continuum might just be the nadir of this series – its inexplicable and farcical on so many levels it would take me several hours to list all the gaps in logic and credibility. How the hell can humans invade the continuum and take omnipotent beings hostage? Who thought up this rubbish?

Moment to Watch Out For: All that is wrong with this episode is realised in one little moment that could have been very funny but winds up cringeworthy. Mrs Q appears and calls Janeway a dawg – that’s funny but what we don’t need is Q boggle eyed and slack jawed staring at the camera and telling us it supposed to be funny.

Result: What the fuck? Turning Q into a lovesick jock who has decided he wants to part the waters of the Red Sea otherwise known as Kathryn Janeway? If that wasn’t bad enough then along comes his missus to turn this into some horrendous American sitcom. Compiling that you have scenes of the Voyager crew actually entering the Q continuum in some embarrassingly staged metaphorical fight scenes. Its not just that the dialogue is crass and uninteresting or that Q has been poisoned as a character or that the pace of this peace could be the cure for insomnia or that the continuum is no longer a place of mystery and possibilities…its all of these things and more. This is one of the worst ever Trek episodes because it treats its audience as absolute morons, it thinks we are all continuity obsessed inbreds who will take sloppy romantic sputum over an intelligently written comedy. Once upon a time Q featured in knockout comedies such as Deja Q and Tapestry but his day is clearly over – this is his worst appearance by some margin and it is irritating as hell to watch. Continues this seasons decline: 1/10

Macrocosm written by Brannon Braga and directed by Alexander Singer

What’s it about: Big bugs take Voyager…

Hepburn-a-Like: Turns out that Janeway’s pantomimic hands-on-hips pose is the worst insult possible in the expressive language of the Tak-Tak. That’ll learn her! Nobody is on the ship except her and Neelix and an alien menace…this is Janeway’s perfect chance to get rid of Neelix and have an alibi and she doesn’t take it!

Brilliant B’Elanna: There is an argumentative exchange between Tom and B’Elanna that is scripted straight out of the comedy Friends and signposts their upcoming relationship just as the sitcom does.

Spotted Dick: Because of his flair with first contact procedure Janeway is considering changing Neelix’s role from morale officer to ambassador. Can you imagine what your reaction would be if an alien species hailed you and your first sight of them was Neelix grinning at you? Nice to see the creatures give Neelix the welcome he deserves – breaking down the turbolift door and vomiting on him!

The Good: There was a lovely mention that Neelix only has one lung. I’m really not keen on the buzzing of flied so the noise of these creatures did make me shudder…that is until I saw them realised and then I laughed. Result – Janeway discovers both Harry Kim and Chakotay apparently dead with necks swollen as if to burst! But its not as champagne popping as it appears to be alas.

The Bad: In the first scene I thought I had wandered into a workshop for the emotionally challenged who have to express themselves through mime but it turned out to be an extremely bizarre alien language. Whilst I am all for trying out new forms of communication in Trek this is ridiculous. Surely Neelix isn’t still running that horrendous ‘Good Morning’ style news show? Of all the things the could have kept on this year that is what they choose? I enjoyed the POV shots of the creatures but they should have much faster and less like a cameraman wobbling up and down (think of the shots of the disembodied Chakotay in Cathexis – that is the sort of effect that was needed here). The little CGI dots of the tiny bugs look remarkably primitive for a show that boast a budget this big (they are no better than the green dots in Time and the Rani! ‘Killer bugs! They kill!’). How funny is the Doctor doing a waltz with the CGI bug?

Moment to Watch Out For: Dreadful CGI bugs and the horrendous beach holodeck programme…is this show trying to compound its awfulness?

Fashion Statement: Some people find Janeway and Picard stripping down into that dirty grey Starfleet vest sexy but watching the Captain sweating at the pits is not what I would call a good look for her.

Result: Janeway wanders the ship with a big gun fighting off big CGI insects. That’s about the size of it. Are we ever going to get something intelligent to watch this season? Macrocosm is over lit and under edited so the whole thing lacks the pace and atmosphere that might have made it work (go watch Juggernaut to see how this sort of thing should look) and literally feels as if a camera is just following Kate Mulgrew around the sets. Even the flashback sequence is duller than sitting through a lecture entitled ‘how to be a good traffic warden’ with unmemorable aliens and giving the main plot no sense of purpose. If you’re up for an hour of empty action then this is the perfect thing to stick on while you’re eating your dinner or concentrating on something more important (say knitting) but there is simply no substance to this adventure in any respect. Which is becoming depressingly apparent as the norm as this season continues: 3/10

Fair Trade written by Andre Bormanis and directed by Jesus Salvador Trevino

What’s it about: Neelix meets and old pal that he owes a debt to and gets himself into all sorts of trouble…

Hepburn-a-Like: Obviously Janeway didn’t learn her lesson from the Tak-Tak because its hands on hips action ahoy throughout this episode as she at her sternest. When she walks into sickbay with a black cloud over her head to lay into Neelix who looks so vulnerable (and bit pathetic) on the bio bed I was genuinely afeared for the tongue lashing he was about to receive. This is the acid tongued, no nonsense Janeway from the first season and I have missed her.

Parisian Rogue: How wonderful for Neelix to be able to go to Paris and ask about his troubled past although this does have the disadvantage of showing us how square he is these days. The flip side of that is the genuine character development between this pair which has gone from jealous rivals to trusted friends.

Spotted Dick: For once you do feel a little bit sorry for Neelix who is trying desperately to find other ways to make himself useful beyond his current role which is about to become redundant. If he listened carefully to Janeway in the last episode she told him that he would be ideal for the role of Ambassador so I’m not sure why he didn’t just talk to her. Still, feeling useless is a popular anxiety and I’m pleased to see that it offered Ethan Philips some dramatic material because he has had to suffer some of the worst comic drivel this year that has rendered his character redundant. This is the last point we can meet people from Neelix’s past and so its nice to take the opportunity to do so and to be reminded he had a life before being Janeway’s lapdog. Its quite easy to see that Neelix is being hoodwinked by Wixiban but it is entirely understandable how he gets himself deeper and deeper into strife. Turns out he used to be less squeamish about twisting the truth in the past and he admits that he is no longer what he used to be. Neelix volunteering to leave the ship once Janeway discovers his activities is very sweet but not as sweet as her admitting that he is part of a family now. You know that those were the words he was desperate to hear and he would put up with any punishment as long as he can stay with the people he loves.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I just took one step. A step that seemed perfectly reasonable. And that step led to another and another and before I knew I was involved in something I didn’t know how to handle…’

The Good: Bugger me this actually looks like quite an interesting place to visit – I thought we had done with all the appealing stop offs in the Delta Quadrant. The station itself is an impressively designed model and the interior is drenched in shadows and populated by all manner of well designed creatures. This is exactly the sort of sordid hole I could imagine Neelix hanging around in before he joined Voyager. Unusually for this show a guest actor gives an incredibly naturalistic performance and James Nardini is very convincing as Neelix’s old buddy Wixiban. There is a lovely FX shot that glides behind Voyager orbiting the station with the nebula lighting them both up. Because he didn’t own up straight away Neelix is trapped within a paranoid nightmare as everybody is investigating a crime that he aided and abetted. I like how the episode sinks Neelix into a deeper hole as Chakotay and Paris are arrested for the crime that he was a party to.

Moment to Watch Out For: Superb music, lighting, direction and effects means this episode ends of a genuinely tense and gripping climax with Neelix at his most brave and resourceful.

Anomaly of the Week: Hooray! This might be the one and only time that Janeway approaches an anomaly and does head straight in regardless of the consequences! Instead she says ‘it looks rather ominous to me.’ Its not really development but at least it is a slight display of common sense.

Orchestra: The score when Neelix is on the thieve for some warp plasma really highlights the drama of the scene.

Foreboding: Vorik is the first member of the crew that we have met beyond the regulars who has a life beyond one episode.

Result: What’s this? An actual character drama that is about one of the crew? We haven’t had one of those since Sacred Ground and as an added bonus it is a Neelix episode that doesn’t leave a bad taste in the mouth! Don’t tell me its going to go the whole hog and have an unpredictable storyline and an atmospheric location? Any episode that has Neelix inadvertently drug dealing has got to be worth a watch but I found him to be extremely well characterised throughout and his insecurities sensitively handled. Jesus Salvador Trevino (what a name!) skips over from Babylon 5 and for once has an impressive budget to play with and he gives this whole piece a dark and dappled look and frames the scenes very imaginatively. Shady deals, sordid pasts and genuine character development…Voyager should be like Fair Trade every week and the ship should visiting places like this far more often: 8/10

Alter Ego written by Joe Menosky and directed by Robert Picardo

What’s it about: Tuvok starts to enjoy the company of a holodeck character and Harry gets jealous…

EMH: At least the Doctor has the right idea by heading to Neelix’s party and snogging his way through all the ladies.

Mr Vulcan: Its any wonder that Vulcans have any children at all with all their logical deconstruction of love. ‘Lieutenant Tuvok you forgot to RSVP’ ‘That was not an oversight I assure you’ – has Tuvok been taking his witty pills this week because he is on form. When asked if he and Harry are friends Tuvok hilariously answers no in front of him! He declares Harry Kim’s responses as formulaic as a mathematical equation. Marayna can see right through Tuvok and his refusal to wear a garland, it is to allow himself the illusion of solitude and letting everybody know he would rather be somewhere else.

Forever Ensign: ‘Hi, my name’s Harry read me like a book Kim’ – you said it pal! Wouldn’t it have been wonderful for Harry to be desperate to fight of feelings for another man…instead it is for a holodeck character which is about as square as you can get on Voyager. So at least he is consistent. Its not even that he is so rubbish that he falls in love with nothing (literally nothing) but that he cannot even handle his feelings for something that is completely malleable. If it were me and it was a holodeck character that I fancied I would programme him to be horny as hell and get my end away. When Harry started going on about panicking in the face of Kes because she would know that he was embarrassment by Marayna’s company I gave up all hope for the character. He just doesn’t have a inch of interest in him. ‘Am I that p[predictable?’ he asks, predictably. Harry storms out of the holodeck when he sees Tuvok chatting with Marayna is blatantly stupid – why doesn’t he realise he can programme a Marayna of his own once everybody has gone home?

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You’re in love with a computer subroutine?’ – coming from Tuvok that is very funny.

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘I respected you! I trusted you! And you did this right behind my back!’ – oh Harry fuck off and die.

The Bad: Everybody is dressing up in Bermuda shorts and bikinis and heading to the beach resort holodeck programme for a Luau that Neelix is organising. Nope I didn’t just make that up. I don’t think the season has felt more shallow and completely event free. To give them their credit the beach resort looks so much better in the dark (hoho) but don’t you just crave a fleet of Jem H’adar ships to blast the crap out of Voyager and shove them out of their lackadaisical attitude. When Harry walks onto the holodeck and starts jealously acting out at Tuvok (‘Now I know why you wanted to keep me off the holodeck!’) I thought I had wandered into a trippy version of the Jerry Springer show. Jealous stares across the Bridge turn this into an episode of Dynasty. Unfortunately I have seen far too much Trek to find the scene where Marayna turns up in Tuvok’s quarters a surprise. As soon as he walked in the door that was the only direction this show could go in.

Moment to Watch Out For: The psychotic luau fight is appallingly executed by Robert Picardo and demonstrates how low this one can sink. It plays out like a camp farce but it is supposed to be deadly serious.

Anomaly of the Week: Uh-oh, its another stellar phenomena that is rarely seen and must be investigated at all costs. You know this is going to cause you nothing but trouble, Kathryn? They even laugh and joke about it on the Bridge (Paris says that he has his hands on the button to get them out of there in case anything goes wrong!). The only moments of tension in this episode is at what point the anomaly will attack and I could say I told you so. It comes at around 24 minutes in if you want to skip straight to that point.

Result: Some clever dick sat back one day and thought ‘I know, an episode where Tom and Harry fall out over a woman will be great fun because when Neelix and Paris were at loggerheads the show was at its height. Oh no wait lets make it Tuvok and Harry fighting over a woman with the former muscling in on the latters territory because that will show both characters at their best. It might just be the best episode of the season.’ They were wrong. What you have here is this show at its most apathetic with everybody heading to the holodeck for a knees up whilst Voyager scans and anomaly. So not clichéd in the slightest. It is Garrett Wang who I feel sorry for mostly – I have never seen an actor saddled with such vacuous bore of a character over a such a prolonged period of time. Harry is at his all time most pathetic in Alter Ego and given how pathetic he usually is that is quite a statement. Somehow Tim Russ and Sandra Nelson manage to rise above this episodes low ambitions and act their hearts out and it is their scenes together that deserve some respect. But on the whole this is another third season non entity, woefully misconceived and completely pointless: 4/10

Coda written by Jeri Taylor and directed by Nancy Malone

What’s it about:Oh my God! They killed Janeway!

Hepburn-a-Like: Kate Mulgrew can produce real magic when Janeway gets angry or hurt (Phage, Prime Factors, Fair Trade) but she is also capable of going way over the top and pushing things into melodrama and her gravelly rant at the end of this episode is a dreadful example of the latter (‘Somehow I don’t think it has anything to do with everlasting joy!’). Her being strangled acting leaves a lot to be desired too, she looks rather like she is experiencing quite a different prolonged sensation. You have to love the stiff military attitude of Starfleet Captains – Janeway dies twice in one morning and yet marches on the Bridge and says ‘I’d love to know what that was all about!’ Janeway’s father raised her to be a doubter and sceptic and she certainly lives up to that education when confronted with the apparent spirit of her father to tell her that she is dead. We learn that when her father died Janeway sunk into depression and it took her sister to drag her back into the real world. Janeway tells her father that she would rather be a part of her crews lives in spirit than not at all. She knows that he father always tried to make her make her own decisions and he certainly wouldn’t shield her from the reality of death.

Tattoo: Imagine having to head back to the ship with the Captains corpse? How would you try and explain that to the crew. No wonder Chakotay looks more fierce than ever when trying to resuscitate Janeway.

EMH: The casual in which the Doctor informs the Captain that she is to be euthanised and then calmly talks her through breathing in the poison slowly as she objects sees the character it his most menacing without ever having to raise his voice or act in a violent fashion. A shame they forgot about this come The Darkling.

Brilliant B’Elanna: Torres admits that when she first became Chief Engineer that she thought that Janeway had set her up to fail. She now knows that she was wrong and that Janeway saw a worthwhile person in her that she didn’t even see in herself. The gift that she gave Torres was that she is better and stronger than they think.

Mr Vulcan: It might feel overly sentimental to have Janeway watch the crews reaction to her death and their individual feelings of loss but in a season that has lost its way when it comes to why these people give a damn about each other it is a real shot of strong characterisation that is much needed. Tuvok’s (who rarely shows his feelings anyway) admission that he has lost a dear friend is probably the most touching of all.

Forever Ensign: Just when everybody is starting to get me to tear up Harry comes along with his story of overripe berries and I am reaching for the sick bucket. Get rid of this loser already! At least Janeway is balling her eyes out behind him.

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘You’re right! We have been here before!’ – Chakotay ever the robotic plot device.

The Good: The first scene is loaded with innuendo and since we never quite learn what the event was that everybody had a lot of fun with and that Janeway was especially good even though its been a while we will have to leave it to our imaginations! All we know is that Neelix and Janeway are conspiring to ensure that Tuvok is stuck on the Bridge the next time they do it…so clearly he wasn’t that great at it. Voyager should be playful like this more often even if it does turn out to be nothing but a talent night. The planet that they crash land has been terrifically realised with electric blue lightning slicing across the landscape and a blinding storm whipping up the leaves. Janeway following Kes about the ship until she realises that she is still alive is a nice reminder of her extra sensory powers – please do something interesting with them soon.

The Bad: This is something that has been pointed out far too often for me to make a big deal out of it but how many shuttles have they lost on this show now? They must have had as many of those babies and they had crew! Oi Taylor – don’t you dare throw away all the best elements of the series (such as the Vidiians) and then when you come to write an episode remind us of what we have lost! Its not worth having a battle in space if you aren’t going to give it any kind of context (something I have learnt from both Babylon 5 and Deep Space Nine) so when the Vidiian ship appears and begins blasting it is simply eye candy and completely irrelevant.

Moment to Watch Out For: The scene where the Doctor attempts to force euthanasia on Janeway is one of the highlights of season three. Its comes out of no where and is the last thing you would ever expect him to say and Kate Mulgrew’s panicked performance as he slowly puts her to death like a sick dog is a sight to behold.

Orchestra: The violins are working overtime when the Doctor attempts to revive the Captain in sickbay helping to give the moment some real significance.

Result: For a while it looks like this might be Voyager’s answer to Groundhog day with Janeway dying over and again in various spectacular ways but halfway through the episode it dumps that and attempts to be a character exploration. Both work to a reasonable extent but the trouble is they don’t belong in the same episode and compiling the problems is Jeri Taylor who cannot figure a way to tie this up satisfactorily so just goes down the evil alien route. There are good moments throughout (the return of the Vidiians for a brief cameo, the Doctor trying to kill Janeway) and for a season three episode it does at least try and focus on character and drive home how much this crew cares about their Captain. But its all rather disjointed and haphazardly put together and for every great bit there is a scene where you want to crawl behind the sofa and die (‘GO BACK TO HELL!’). Flawed but considering its neighbouring episodes, entertaining: 6/10

Blood Fever written by Lisa Klink and directed by Andrew Robinson

What’s it about: Pon Farr strikes Vorik and he attacks B’Elanna…

Brilliant B’Elanna: A violent, horny B’Elanna is a terrifying prospect to some and a very appealing one to others. Vorik’s proposal to Torres comes completely out of the blue to her although to be fair to the producers of this show we have seen him mooning after her in the background of several episodes this season. This is the first episode where I have felt Roxan Dawson has made a poor acting choice, when she bursts into the transporter room full of beans and runs around on the planet like a flea on a griddle she is clearly acting out of character. Given that this is Star Trek and things influence/taken over people every other week I would have sent her straight to sickbay to be examined. Dawson more than makes up for it when her secret is out and show throws herself wholeheartedly into the role of the horny Klingon who is trying desperately to control herself. I was astonished at the sudden chemistry between her and McNeill, you get a real sense that these two have been waiting for an excuse to jump each other for ages and finally giving in is the most satisfying thing for both of them. When Torres admits that she has wanted this for so long you believe her.

Mr Vulcan: Perhaps giving Tuvok the Pon Farr episode would have been too obvious (although pleasingly it is taken the piss out of in the superlative comedy episode Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy). Tuvok pretty much tells Tom Paris ‘Go and fuck her or she’ll die’ which makes me grin from ear to ear.

Parisian Rogue: The irony of Tom who would happily chase after and bed any of the female crewmembers on Voyager (and Harry Kim if he’s desperate) being trapped in a situation where a gorgeous sexual predator is gagging for him is almost too delicious to bear. He doesn’t want to take advantage of B’Elanna because for once he doesn’t want empty sex with her, he has genuine feelings for once and this isn’t the way he wants to start things.

Spotted Dick: Again you get a sense that Neelix was used to living a dangerous life before he joined this crew. He states that climbing mountain face with Starfleet technology almost takes the fun out of it. Bit of thrill seeker, perhaps?

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘For such an intellectually superior race Vulcans have a remarkably Victorian attitude to sex.’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘This isn’t about the gun! This is about sex!’ – what a rude line!

The Good: Nice to hear that there are some efforts being made to keep the ship at peak efficiency. One of the issues I have with this show is that no matter how hard a beating they receive the ship is (nine times out of ten) back to its tip toppiest condition in the next thrilling instalment. If the Pon Farr is a time when instinct and emotion dominate over reason you would think the Vulcans would love a break for a round of hot sweaty sex! For once a set piece that has clearly had a great deal of money spent on it really gives a sense of scale and energy – the vertiginous rock face that Paris, Torres and Neelix climb down is exceptionally realised. I’ve heard people call the Doctor’s treatment of holographic nookie offensive but I think given the resources to hand it is just about the perfect solution. Its not as if they can head back to Vulcan for an orgy, is it? There is a feeling of claustrophobia and desperation in the cave scenes that simply isn’t present in many episodes of this ilk that sees characters wandering about in caves. I never thought we would see scenes of Tom and B’Elanna literally rolling about in the mud and grinning as they pleasure themselves – it’s the sort of risqué storytelling this show could do with a lot more of. The final fight scene between Torres and Vorik is messy, bloody and really violent – great stuff!

The Bad: Was that an attempted rape scene at the beginning of this episode? I don’t know how comfortable I am with that in the Star Trek universe. Why did nobody question whether somebody deliberately sabotaged Neelix’s safety equipment to get rid of the little squit? I want to bring myself to care about Vorik but after get so badly burnt last year with Suder there just doesn’t seem to be any point in getting to know these secondary characters because once they have fulfilled their function they will never be heard of again. Isn’t it just swell that the two characters that stick her Naomi and Icheb, when the far more interested flawed characters like Suder and Vorik get promptly ignored. Compared with DS9 where the guest characters are treated as part of the family and allowed to flourish it is a shocking oversight and mistreatment to actors like Brad Dourif and Alexander Enberg. The aliens on the planet couldn’t be more faceless and are only there to cause the rock fall which separates Tom and B’Elanna from their comrades whilst she is on heat. Imagine if Torres has bitten Neelix and been stuck with him?

Moment to Watch Out For: For once the ‘lets forget it ever happened’ scene made me smile because the truth between these two is out. They know it, we know it and its only a matter of time.

Result: Once again B’Elanna Torres proves to be one of the most interesting, challenging characters on Voyager and Dawson helps to make this one of the third season highlights. It seems that whenever there is an episode about sex they bring in Andy Robinson (who is responsible for getting Tom & B’Elanna and Dax & Worf together) to direct – his only two assignments on Trek are this episode and Looking For Par’Mach in All the Wrong Places. It would be far too much to ask for Tom and B’Elanna to fall in love under the devices and this being Voyager it has to be some kinky alien sex practice that brings them together. The first half and hour is a remarkable amount of set up to get these two alone and horny but at least when the time comes the chemistry between the actors is seriously intense. It’s a show that builds to a cliffhanger that nobody was suspecting at the time and it came at the right time just before everybody abandoned the show. The Borg are back and whilst it is another example of the Alpha Quadrant coming to this shows rescue (okay I know the Borg were said to be based in the Delta Quadrant but this is a race that has been done and dusted back home), it is a sudden shock of excitement which is very welcome. Blood Fever is provocatively violent, sexy and emotional and its about time: 8/10

Unity written by Kenneth Biller and directed by Robert Duncan McNeill

What’s it about: Chakotay answers a distress call and winds up saving a colony of old enemies…

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway is practically salivating at the though of being able to visit a Borg ship and learn more about their technology but then she always has been mildly suicidal when it comes to marching into dangerous situations to gain scientific data.

Tattoo: Nice to see Chakotay having a bit of flirt with the young Ensign in the early scenes, proof that he isn’t a total bore. Mind you he later reveals with some pride that he is a vegetarian (not that there is anything wrong with that but coming from a world that relies on replicators rather than actual meat it is hardly much of a statement). He’s torn between his loyalty to the crew in the face of the insane idea of activating a Borg Cube and his feelings for Riley and her people after he has been linked to them. It’s the second episode in a row that reveals some powerful sexual chemistry for one of the regulars and Beltran and Lori Hallier manage to discover a relationship underneath all the ideas that gives this piece some heart. The thought of Chakotay as a genuine threat to the crew, shooting Torres and heading to the Borg Cube to activate it is enough to sell me on this episode alone and its probably the most interesting thing down with the character since his embarrassment over Seska.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Maybe the Borg were defeated by an enemy even more powerful then they were’ – how unlike Voyager to set up its season finale so powerfully.
‘Sometimes radical problems require radical solutions.’
‘They want us to reactivate a Borg ship?’ – Mulgrew absolutely nails that line.

The Good: McNeill stages an excellent phaser fight around some barrels and harsh lighting gives this an unusually gritty look for Voyager. There is a nicely paced scene where Tuvok discovers a ship in their flight path which is revealed to be a Borg cube dead in space. ‘Haven’t you ever thought about finding a nice M Class planet and putting down roots?’ – yes, thank you I have been saying that for three seasons! I really think that should have been an option for a season long arc at least with the crew settling on a planet and being forced to leave in the most dramatic of ways. Given how obsessed this show will become with the Borg over the next four seasons I think it is worth nothing that I feel this episode might be their most innovative use – we have never been aboard a dead Borg Cube before and the exploration scenes are remarkably tense because we are just waiting for it to activate and trap them inside. The dead Borg that falls through the piping is such an obvious scare tactic but no less surprising and spine tingling for it. Its one great visual shock after another with the held back effects shot of the colony nestled on the side of a mountain followed by Chakotay’s horror where he sees Riley’s bald being drilled into. People that were turned into Borg at Wolf 359 regaining their identity is such a great idea it surprises me that TNG never grabbed hold of it. What’s even more interesting is the idea that being a part of the collective gave these people a common ground and all their previous racist beliefs were forgotten and as soon as they regained their identity old conflicts emerged. Is this the only time it has been suggested that being a part of the Borg collective might have its advantages? Biller ups his game even more by turning the Collective into something that can be sensual and romantic with Chakotay and Riley exploring each others thoughts as well as their bodies. Chakotay’s trip inside the Borg mind offers an intriguing and nightmarish mixture of violence and beauty. The Borg Cube suddenly lighting up and its drones coming to life is held back to the last minute to give this show the dramatic conclusion it deserves. What an extraordinary effect the explosion is.

The Bad: Isn’t it sad that we are so used to the fate of unknown Starfleet officers on this show that the second the episode begins and Chakotay is in a shuttlecraft with ‘unknown Ensign’ we know that she is the victim of upcoming events. A shame because this one was pretty cute. Whilst it is a lovely idea that we should see various species from the Alpha Quadrant turned into Borg it once again highlights that there is very little that is uniquely interesting about the Delta Quadrant that the show (once again) needs to rely on elements from back home. Imagine a Vidiian Borg? Or a Kazon one?

Moment to Watch Out For: The Borg snapping awake on the Doctor’s operating table – one of the greatest shock moments in all of Trek up there with similar moments in TNG’s Genesis (the creature slams against the glass) and DS9’s Empok Nor (the Ensign smashing through the glass).

Orchestra: The music after the credits really draws attention to itself by being really good – the sort of good that music on Voyager never is. A dark, ominous sting greets the arrival of the Borg Cube.

Result: When does being part of the Borg Collective become the better option? Probably my favourite Borg episode of Star Trek Voyager because it does something completely surprising with the species, managing to humanise them without ever losing their ability to terrify. Its easily a highlight of the third season and deftly manages to juggle two equally surprising and tense plots. I think that Robert Duncan McNeill is a far better director than he is an actor and his moody and exciting realisation of this episode is top notch and a massive round of applause should go to David Bell whose music really helps to make Unity as atmospheric is possible. It is a great science fiction show with ideas that swing between imaginative and emotive and a fine character drama too with a conclusion that manages to surprise rather than disappoint. Suddenly the season has really stepped up a gear and reminded us what we have been missing for an age – some real tension and excitement. Lets hope they can keep it up: 9/10

The Darkling written by Joe Menosky and directed by Alexander Singer

What’s it about: The Doctor undergoes some personality surgery and it all goes horribly wrong…

Hepburn-a-Like: In her Academy days she was the acknowledged master of pulling an all nighter after leaving everything to the last minute.

EMH: We’ve seen Robert Picardo do scary before (Coda) and we’ll see it again (Living Witness) but there are as many times he gets this wrong as right and this is a particularly bad example (Warhead is another). Picardo is trying to go for an emotional intensity that sees him behaving in an almost childlike way but it provokes more laughs than chills. The stupid contact lenses don’t help him either. He slopes along the corridors like Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Elfin Alien: This might have been a great push that Kes’ character needed to move her on from Neelix and to give her a new lease of life but like everything else in this episode the romance is handled so ham fistedly. It doesn’t help that the two actors look so awkward saying the trite dialogue and share no chemistry but the romance is actually treated as a serious part of the plot making a silly show even more camp. It doesn’t help that the scene where Kes beams back aboard Voyager after her night with Zahir is so ridiculous – I have been that person head over heels I love but she walks through the ship as though she is still experiencing the orgasm! Tone it down Lien! Mind the writers need to cut the character some slack too – with both the Doctor and Tuvok chastising her for her late night date this all starts to feel a bit daytime soap opera. Surely Kes must be bored with her life on Voyager if the first handsome man that comes along can make her consider leaving the ship.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘What is the nature of the medical emergency – what a hollow excuse for a life!’

The Good: I wont knock the premise of this episode (the Doctor adding the personalities of famous historical figures to his programme but failing to realise that he will take their emotional intensity as well as their genius) because it is quirky and imaginative, it is the tone of the piece that they get so horribly wrong.

The Bad: I honestly didn’t think that the beach resort scenes could get any worse this year (especially after Alter Ego) but they have managed to prove me wrong with by including Byron and Gandhi in the programme. The guy playing Byron is absolutely dreadful. Its one of the least eventful and boring trailers in recent history with little more happening than Kes getting some love advice from the Doctor about her break-up with Neelix…and we all tune in for scenes like that, don’t we? Its one of the least convincing looking forest sets that we have seen for a while – stock rocks and trees highlighted by fake looking moonlight. It feels as though Kes and Zahir are walking around a soundstage rather than enjoying the night. I think it would have been more of a surprise if Zahir wasn’t attacked! He is marked as soon as he threatens the status quo on Voyager because we know nothing could possibly shake that up. We could have has a really messy bloody scene as the Doctor tears apart Gandhi and all the others but instead it is a comical and sanitised massacre that makes no impact whatsoever. The show tries to take on a psychological angle with Kes trying to get inside the Darkling’s head and highlight his insecurities about the Doctor and servile existence but it has all the depth of a counselling session with Deanna Troi (ie not a lot).

Moment to Watch Out For: The scenes of the Doctor dragging Kes along the cliff top with some of the most melodramatic music ever heard in a Trek episode is very close to being the worst episode of the season.

Result: Easily the least frightening and most comical take on Jekyll and Hyde I have ever seen with the Doctor shoehorned into a role that even Robert Picardo cannot salvage. What you have here is two plots – a mawkish and soap opera romance and a melodramatic and overly theatrical horror and they are bolted together in the most awkward fashion. Underneath all the camp menace there is supposed to be some development for Kes (wanting to explore new romances) and the Doctor (wanting to protect her) but it is lost under the weight of dreary ‘scare’ dialogue and some truly bizarre and underdone moments (the Doctor experimenting on the geniuses). Its such a shame that the show should plummet this low after an episode as strong as Unity but this shows that the Borg classic was a fluke: 2/10

Rise written by Brannon Braga and directed by Robert Scheerer

What’s it about: Tuvok and Neelix trapped in a confined space under stress. Yes, imagine the laughs.

Mr Vulcan: Rise is about as useful to Tuvok as the British were to Hitler in the Second World War, a complete spanner in the works of his development and taking him in a direction he has already flirted with and sinking him. He’s ridiculously stubborn, sneeringly superior and uses his rank almost as an expression of his ego. Sometimes it is necessary to step outside the box but Tuvok is so rule and logic bound he cannot see beyond the end of his own nose. When he chastises Neelix for keeping everybody’s spirits high the Talaxian should have cuffed him around the face for being so insensitive. Neelix is somebody who is used to living off his instincts and when he tries to convince Tuvok that something is wrong all he gets is a stony face and more rank pulling. Its enough to make you want to shove him out of the Tether and see if he really is emotionless or will scream on the way down. When Neelix says that he is filled with contempt and sarcasm, I agree. He can’t bear to lose and argument or fail to get the last word.

Spotted Dick: Neelix joining the away team does follow up on his wishes earlier in the season to find roles to make him feel more useful although considering his actions in Fair Trade I am left wondering if Janeway assigned him to Tuvok’s team as a penance. The Doctor sympathises with Neelix that Tuvok fails to acknowledge his genius either and offers him some advice to rein in his enthusiasm around the sour faced Vulcan. Frankly Neelix should put this into action all the time. I do feel sorry for Neelix in this episode because he really is trying his best with Tuvok, putting his knowledge to good use and making helpful suggestions. He manages to talk down a woman holding a knife to his throat and make her feel comfortable in a dangerous situation. If anybody need training for future Away Missions I would say it was Tuvok! His favourite sister, Alixia, was always taking him out to explore and whenever he thinks of her he thinks of adventure. Each evening he shares something about his day with his family, he conjures them up before his eyes. I was applauding when Neelix accused Tuvok of having no respect for him and ridiculing him openly – its about time he stood up to the arrogant son of a bitch.

The Good: You have to give Voyager credit where it is due (especially in this wilderness of a season) and the opening few minutes of Rise feature some attempts at kicking things off dramatically with some nifty special effects.

The Bad: When I talk about lifeless guest performers in the future think back to Rise and its monotonous guest cast. There is, without exception, some of the most robotic delivery you will ever hear in Trek. Upon seeing the rushes of the first days filming I’m surprised they didn’t go back and add a line about this being a planet of robots. The shots of the Orbital Tether rising into the atmosphere are very cute but not in an expensive way, it looks like some very cheap model work rather than CGI work. It is so obvious who the villain is for this episode, you know the one who hates enclosed spaces and needles and motes of dust flying in the air. The only hint they didn’t offer was a huge neon sign above his head saying BAD GUY. Don’t get me started on the effects atop the Tether with the badly imposed grey skies behind Tuvok.

Moment to Watch Out For: When the signposted baddie falls off the Tether and you see his podgy form wibble through the cloud. Finally a moment of (unintentional) enjoyment.

Result: You can see precisely what the production team were going for with this piece; a claustrophobic thriller and life or death struggle but the production team simply aren’t capable of making this as gritty or as exciting as it needs to be. Instead we get a plodding tale full of bland guest characters on another planet we will (thankfully) never hear from again and more irritating Tuvok/Neelix conflict. The writing staff were smart enough to see that Neelix’s clashes with Paris needed to be resolved but bizarrely fail to notice how this pairing is even more annoying. They seem to be under the impression that it is charming like the McCoy/Spock and Odo/Quark dynamics but they couldn’t be more wrong. It feels like the longest episode I have watched in this marathon with its strained soap opera elements, obvious twists, dreadful effects and forgettable guest performances and I could have happily skipped it. Sounds like much of the third season actually: 3/10

Favourite Son written by Lisa Klink and directed by Marvin V. Rush

What’s it about: Harry Kim discovers his home is actually in the Delta Quadrant!

Hepburn-a-Like: Watch Janeway as Harry says that he wants to stay on the planet…she can barely stop herself from laughing that he has been hoodwinked by this society!

Mr Vulcan: Tuvok knows the term Déjà vu and yet goes out of his way to baffle Mister Kim by terming it paradoxical state dependant associated phenomenon. What a twat.

Parisian Rogue: The only person who is jealous of Harry’s homecoming is Tom Paris who learns that the planet consists of 90% women. You can almost see him returning to quarters and drawing on the spots so he can beam down and say ‘hi honey, I’m home!’

Forever Ensign: For his aggressive act in the teaser Harry Kim should have been stripped of his rank and thrown in the Brig but this being Voyager he is back at his console at the end of the episode giving puppy dog eyes to Janeway. He could use this as an excuse whenever he decides to open fire on a ship he doesn’t like the look of – ‘But Mummy Janeway they are the enemy of my people that I have just discovered here in the Delta Quadrant!’ There are few scenes in Trek more amusing than watching Harry being chastised by Janeway and forced off the Bridge and watching his bottom lip go as he looks as though he is about to cry. Hilariously he heads to Janeway’s Ready Room and starts barking out apologies in a very stiff fashion and when his suspicions are confirmed he all but stares straight at the camera and coos ‘I was right!’ Turns out he used to dream he had super powers because he was such an average kid which is really funny because although the episode pretends otherwise it all turns out to be a con and he really is just an average kid. Say he did genuinely fall for this ridiculous charade, why then would he even consider heading back to Voyager and returning to Earth if this is his real home? Even in the face of hot sex with three different wives Harry’s loyalty is to his crew and his family back home! There is something disturbingly Freudian about Harry being asked to be tucked in a motherly fashion and then snogging the woman who obliges. Harry tries to pretend that he is into tying women up for fun and bashes one of the ladies over the head with a glass bottle, on the one hand I refuse to believe he would ever be that intriguing in bed and on the other…what a psychopath! Embarrassingly even Neelix is tugging on his cheeks in a cute fashion at the end of Favourite Son, the character has hit an all time low. He’s reliable, hard working, punctual and polite and Tom Paris’ role model apparently.

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Strange to think DNA fragments have been controlling my life…’
‘Their whole story about embryo implantation was a lie!’ – nice one, Chakotay.
‘That’s why there are no men here! They don’t leave with their embryos in stasis! They’re killed!’

The Bad: Spare me the thought that anybody would buy that Harry Kim was born in the Delta Quadrant, sent 70,000 light years to the left and raised as a human being. It is ludicrous and unbelievable it is astonishing that it ever made it off the drawing board (mind you I said that about Twisted, Threshold, Basics Part II, The Q and the Grey…so the Voyager writing staff are constantly defying my expectations. Just not in a good way). Its basically Odo’s backstory to a degree but his was given credence and handled intelligently by a continuing character arc that began in the pilot episode and when we finally meet up with his people made a whole lot of sense. With Harry this ‘revelation’ is dusted down for one lousy episode and then back tracked when the status quo needs to be restored. Why did they bother? As a spiritual sequel to Angel One this is a planet of women who are highly sexed and yet completely deadly – I thought we had left this kind of sexist nonsense behind us in the Original Series but here it is. Cue awful scenes of Harry and a fellow jock sharing their experiences about their desire to space travel. There is a random alien who keeps popping up to make sure there is some false jeopardy injected into this piece who will only open fire on Voyager if Harry is back on board. I can’t think of a better reason to dump the chump. It would have been so much more fun to have watched the males being bludgeoned to death during the ceremony, some needless bloody violence would at least have woken me up. Ugh, don’t you hate the ways that these episodes try and use science to back up their outlandish claims but when it comes to debunking it we go back to the same character that confirmed everything and discover that he missed something the first time he checked. It’s a lazy way of creating tension and then getting out of it. Plus have we ever seen a duller looking planet? Clearly the Terresians don’t go in for aesthetics. The psychotic babe that attacks Harry with the staff looks like she is enjoying her role a little too much. Harry has the nerve to compare this episode to Greek mythology…

Moment to Watch Out For: Neelix has a nightmare about a Hiroshima style massacre, Janeway has one about a psychotic knife wielding Victorian maid but can you guess what Harry Kim, the most interesting of all Star trek regulars, dreams about? His mother wiping his face when he has measles and telling him off for being a naughty boy! He actually dreams of his mom giving him orders like Janeway – even his subconscious is square! Why they didn’t get rid of Harry instead of Kes when the cast culling came around is beyond me. There is clearly nowhere to take this vacuous character and it is pretty cruel to watch Garrett Wang continue to straddle such a dead weight.

Result: One of the things I have noticed about the literature and DVD special features I have read/watched about Star Trek Voyager series three is that it is littered with comments like ‘that was one of our better episodes of the season’ as though the producers were constantly on the defence and something that turns out okay is actually a surprise because the norm is pretty dreadful. When even the producers responsible for the show can barely bring themselves to admit that a year of television is any good you know a show is in trouble. Why am I mentioning this when I am supposed to be reviewing Favourite Son? Because this episode is so completely horrendous that I cannot bring myself to slag off this show any more. Needless to say it is the third clunker in a row and the nadir of this wilderness of a season. I am honestly surprised that they managed to recover at all. This episode is so unconvincing it is such a shame that Harry didn’t return to the Bridge where the whole crew could have fallen apart laughing that he was fooled by such an obvious scam: 1/10

Before and After written by Kenneth Biller and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: Accidentally triggering an infection of chronoton particles at the end of her life, Kes starts living her life backwards…

Tattoo: Chakotay makes a log entry and sounds as though he is saying ‘dear diary’ in the way a teenage would. He really hasn’t got it to make Captain.

EMH: Turns out in this reality the Doctor chooses the completely unpretentious name of Dr Van Gogh. On her death bed he utters the words ‘you were the finest friend I ever had.’

Parisian Rogue: In this universe Tom Paris married Kes rather than B’Elanna and their daughter married Harry Kim. If you had told me that Tom Paris being Harry Kim’s father in law would be one of the more successful ideas of the third season I would have laughed in your face but somehow…it works. B’Elanna dying really hit Tom hard and is probably the only reason he ended up with Kes because she helped him through the pain.

Forever Ensign: Turns out that Kim’s son, Andrew, is even wetter than he is. Go figure.

Spotted Dick: Neelix is portrayed as being totally comfortable with Tom’s and Kes’ relationship which really pleases me. In all honesty I think that Neelix (B’Elanna aside) might be the best utilised character this year – he’s one of the few that I would say has actively improved during season three and been handled successfully. Here he is a Security Officer and has relinquished control of the Mess Hall.

Elfin Alien: Before and After does Kes a huge service because with her imminent departure this is an excellent chance to see how things might have worked out had she stayed with the ship after The Gift. The way Kes walks around in a dreamlike state and her daughter and grandson act awkwardly around her is really well done. I’ve seen people acting this uncomfortably around the elderly because they are a pale shadow of what they once were. Her relationship with Tom is so convincingly played that when she jumps to a point where B’Elanna is still alive and she and Tom embrace it is like she has been physically slapped. Its great to be able to see her childhood and meet her father, her birth and the episode takes the astonishing step to leap right back to her splitting cells in her mothers womb.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Its as though I came into existence at the moment of my own death…’
‘I think one day she’ll see the sun.’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘At the time I thought it was the happiest of my life but every day just got better and better…’ – I can handle some twee nonsense but Tom is a tad over the top here. They never rowed?
‘In all my years in Starfleet I have never come across a phenomenon quite like this!’ Janeway gasps but has clearly forgotten the time she and Tom Paris were evolved into newts and made love or the time when she experienced death several times over or when she met herself from a duplicate Voyager…I could go on.

The Good: Why is it that the best high concept ideas are often the simplest? Kes living her life backwards is stunning premise and since she can only reach nine years old there is only the need to push forward seven years and work backwards. I love the way the episode throws you in at the deep with no explanations as to what is happening and expects you to take massive changes in the show for granted. Ken Biller plays by his own rules and has Kes only remember the people she has seen as she heads backwards in time. Could you imagine if somebody said ‘we need to talk’ after you have declared your love to the woman who has just had a baby – I would be thinking ‘who’s the father?’ We see Voyager with massive gouges ripped out of the hull and battered corridors in the heart of the year of hell. This one of the few times Voyager promises and delivers – bravo. By excising B’Elanna and Janeway from the episodes for the first 30 minutes it makes their return when Kes leaps to the near future a small moment of triumph. You realise just how much they bring to the show. We witness their deaths as Krenim torpedo punches through the shields and throws them across the Bridge in a shower of sparks. What a menacing sight that glowing torpedo in the Jeffrey’s tube makes. I love the cut to the scene in Caretaker because it suddenly feels as though this show has some kind of mythology (plus the way Neelix looks at crazy Kes is hilarious).

The Bad: If Kes is living her life backwards then how comes the numerous times she mentions the phenomenon and gets the crew investigating it aren’t remember in their future? Surely when she woke up in her quarters her daughter should have said ‘oh God its those temporal particles again…’ Did they cover this and I missed it? Forgive me but was that baby coming out of her ass? Where precisely is the Ocampan pregnancy sac? The explanation and final scene is glib and too easy but who cares because for once the episode has been so rewarding.

Moment to Watch Out For: I felt that this episode was fully justified when they jump to Kes having her baby in a shuttlecraft. It’s a wonderful ‘oh shit!’ moment for the audience and the character.

Fashion Statement: The Doctor with hair isn’t half as comical as you would think it would be. I think I might prefer him that way! The sudden cut to Kes holding the baby without the old age make up reminds you of what a stunning young woman Jennifer Lien is and I love her hair like this.

Orchestra: The score for this episode is woefully inappropriate at times. When Kes heads for the torpedo it is more like we should be watching an 80s sports warm up montage the way the music jauntily bounces along.

Foreboding: Just the mention of the ‘Year Of Hell’ where Voyager was under constant attack by a race called the Krenim would have been enough to get my saliva glands moist but to actually experience a few minutes of left me with no illusion that exciting times were ahead. I’ll wait until that episode to let you how I found the actual experience but this is useful anticipation for future conflict and precisely what the show needs at this point. In this reality they lost Janeway, B’Elanna and Joe Carey during the year of hell. Since Kes does warn Janeway about the Krenim why doesn’t she run away at the beginning of The Year of Hell? From what I recall she actually provokes a fight rather than avoids one.

Result: This is the strongest Kes episode of her run and pleasingly it comes so close to her departure. Before and After is a thoroughly absorbing SF puzzle with a simple idea given the sort of lavish treatment that has been missing for much of this year. Its interesting to watch on lots of different levels; its great to see how the crew wind up in the future, it’s a thorough examination of Kes’ life and it engagingly offers glimpses of some exciting times ahead. The character dynamics are convincing and intriguing, the episode is paced beautifully so the jumps get faster and faster as we charge towards the climax and the attention to detail as we hop backwards through Kes’ life is meticulous. Even the effects are gorgeous. In every way Before and After delivers and as her last chance to be in the limelight completely Jennifer Lien gives her most memorable turn: 9/10

Real Life written by Jeri Taylor and directed by Anson Williams

What’s it about: The Doctor builds himself a holographic family and discovers all the heartache that comes with it…

Tattoo: Chakotay just seems to be around to spout technobabble these days. No wonder Robert Beltran turned into a whiny girl about his characters progress.

EMH: What’s irritating about this episode is that giving the Doctor a holo family is potentially a good idea and one that deserves to be explored beyond the ridiculous sitcom/farce/tragedy/emotional manipulation schizophrenia of this episode. Imagine if they had kept this going and had running storylines for the family, to imbue them with the sort of charm and personality that is given to the Doctor. It would have given him something other than being a competent medicine man to do! Asking for this show to take something that shows a glimmer of potential and run with it is like asking for sabre tooth tigers front molars. The ‘little woman’ calls the Doctor Kenneth so can we presume that is his name now? As irritating as they are in their hero worship (and you do literally want to chainsaw all of their heads off and yet try and keep them awake so they can experience it) I can understand the Doctor’s motives in trying to create the perfect family that makes him the centre of their world. Who wouldn’t want that kind of adoration? Is the Doctor really so deluded that he thinks he can change his family’s entire routine and say who they can and cannot see – who exactly wrote that treatise on paediatric care that he read?

Brilliant B’Elanna: Given all the tinkering he has been doing with his programme lately Torres feels happier giving the Doctor’s system little tune ups every now and again.

Parisian Rogue: Paris’ opening gambit when approaching Torres is ‘a beautiful woman shouldn’t have to eat alone’ which would have made me stick my fork in his eyeball. Come on Tom, I thought you were an expert with the ladies.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘No one has a family like this! This is a fantasy! You’re not going to learn anything from these…lollipops!’ – trust B’Elanna to cut to the chase!

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Maybe it’ll teach me some techniques on how to make your heart quicken’ ‘Its not a technical manual, Tom’ – why do characters in Trek make me want to vomit with their dreadful love talk? Head over to DS9’s Family Business to see how flirting should be done to a realistic level.

The Bad: I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to put this in the good or the bad section because it is a criticism but it isn’t about Voyager so I guess it belongs here anyway. The opening scenes remind me very strongly of the Enterprise with the mother’s robotic cheerfulness a perfect representation of Dr Bev and the two children different aspects of that walking swot Wesley Crusher! When they chug into the system with the destroyed Vostergi station why did nobody mention the Borg who they encountered just a few weeks earlier? In fact what is the point of this completely vacuous and unnecessary technobabble sub plot? Is it literally just filling up time and providing some false jeopardy? That Klingon rock music really is truly dreadful. Why is this piece so damn unsubtle? We go from a faultless we’re-almost-robots family that worship their father/husband (okay I’ll give them that one because they have to be this unrealistic to force B’Elanna to give the Doctor a reality check but it is still really overplayed) to the family from hell with a hysterical daughter, a son that is falling in with the wrong crowd and a wife who (gasp) doesn’t make the dinner! Isn’t there some sort of middle ground that would make this episode less cringeworthy on a moment by moment basis? Both the kids are extreme versions of the most irritating stereotypes (the whiner and the wild child). Some directors really don’t know how to hide their surprises and Trek episodes are full of moments when the characters are squeezed to the edge of a shot where there is a massive starscape/space on the set dominating the frame and you know there would be no reason to shoot that way except to show some sudden anomaly turning up/person appearing. The scene in the Mess Hall is a particularly bad (predictable) example. The blandest Klingon characters ever?

Moment to Watch Out For: For a moment Robert Picardo will break your heart as the Doctor can’t handle his daughter dying in front of him.

Fashion Statement: Does allowing fashionable extras only extend to senior officers on this ship? In Learning Curve Tuvok chastised a Bajoran ex Maquis office for wearing his earring because it was not Starfleet issue. I am willing to be believe that B’Elanna’s plait and hair band aren’t Starfleet issue either but he wont give her the same lecture because she would probably bite his arm off.

Anomaly of the Week: Natural Eddy’s in this area of space that can rip apart a space station. ‘I know’ says Commander Tattoo for Brain ‘Let head into one and harness its energy so we can have something nice for dinner next week’ ‘Great idea!’ says Captain ‘I’ve forgotten that every time we head into one of these things something goes hideously wrong’ Janeway. They head in. Something goes wrong. Dinner is burnt. Yawn.

Result: Oh Jeri Taylor you poor deluded woman is this really what you think people want to watch? One soap opera plot line that is so manipulative in its nature they could hold up cards that say CRINGE/LAUGH/CRY at the appropriate moments and it would be less subtle than the material on offer. And one completely pointless, technobabble polluted sub plot that has no relevance to anything and goes no where. It breaks my heart to see the Doctor wasted for the third time this season because Robert Picardo is such a fine actor (and he really gives this madness his all) but this isn’t the direction they should be taking him in (unless they are going to stick with it). In season three the Doctor has suffered Alzheimer’s, turned evil and gained a family and in all three cases it has been happily skipped over at the end of the episode with no lasting consequences. Don’t try and pretend that this holo character is a real person if everything that he goes through means nothing. The trouble is it is the same with the real characters on this ship too and what is their excuse? Real Life should have been the opening gambit in a new chapter in the Doctor’s life but instead it is a shallow and calculating piece that fails to convince thanks to its grotesque characterisation: 4/10

Distant Origin written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: When a human skeleton is discovered it seems that the Distant Origin theory might be proven and Voth history will change forever…

Hepburn-a-Like: ‘The males seem to be subordinate to that female…perhaps a Matriarchy?’ – a good point made by the Voth scientist. Janeway is initially (understandably) furious at the alien incursion on her ship and slips into her bully persona (she hovers menacingly over the bio bed) but as soon as she realises that these aliens have descended from Earth she can’t wait to get her teeth into a good scientific puzzle.

Tattoo: This is the second time in season three that Chakotay has made contact with an alien species and it has turned out to be one of the strongest episodes – perhaps there is more to his character than I thought (although they do a great job pretending otherwise most of the time). He suggests to Gegen that he is a scientist but I have seen nothing to support that in the three years since Voyager started. In Geger’s society mammals are considered to be a lower species but Chakotay has made a good impression on him. Since they have taken Voyager Chakotay stands side by side with Geger to face trial.

Brilliant B’Elanna: About a million times better than the turn-the-acid-in-your-stomach-deadly dialogue in Real Life, exploring Tom and B’Elanna’s flirting through the eyes of two scientists studying our species mating rituals is inspired. ‘Note how the female in her feigned antagonism encourages the male in his attempt to mate…’ Torres’ piss taking reaction to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bat’leth) is the sort of little moments DS9 fills its episodes with and we could do with more on Voyager.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Just stay calm and you wont hurt yourself!’ – a lovely spin on ‘I wont hurt you’, this episode keeps on finding ways to subvert the norm on this show.
‘That creature napping in sickbay is a dinosaur!’
‘The data isn’t in question. Your interpretation is’ – and thus so many arguments, factions or even wars are born.
‘When I open my eyes to this theory what I see appals me. I see my race fleeing your wretched planet, a group of pathetic refugees crawling and scratching their way across the galaxy. Stumbling into this domain. I see a race with no birthright. No legacy! That is unacceptable!
‘It would be in your best interest if I never saw you again…’

The Good: It is so clever the way this weaves together Voyagers continuity since Basics and having Dr find Hogan’s bones in a cave means that at least his death means something to the series rather than just for shock value (and I love the idea of human fossils being found on a planet and studied). Revisiting the space station from Fair Trade is another highlight. Told mostly from the point of view of a detailed and fascinating alien species, Distant Origin is a massive step up from the standard SF tales of season three. There are lots of little details added to make the Voth more unusual and realistic than usual including their clawed reptilian hands, the way their tongues whip out and grab bugs to eat and they fire poison darts when threatened. Make up is usually of a high standard on Trek but it is especially good here, you completely forget you are looking at reptilian species and just except their look as another species. If there are quirky attempts to film an episode to give it a truly alien feel then David Livingston is usually behind the camera and he seems to be the only Trek director determined to push the limits of how far Trek can go visually (both his dramatic high angles in Crossover and his tilted close ups in Distant Origin were criticised by the studio who prefer things to look a lot more safe and vanilla for being too controversial and wild). Its 12 minutes before we even glimpse any of the Voyager crew and it is quite telling that they are not missed because the alien characters are so engaging and the dialogue is rich and intelligent. Henry Woronicz gives a charming performance and is actually more likable than half of our regular cast and from the first time I watched this episode I have never forgotten Concetta Tomei’s husky voiced matriarchal turn as Odala. A terrific villain, worthy of a return appearance that never came. Suddenly we are watching a documentary on dinosaur evolution narrated by Janeway and the Doctor and its really nice to see the Voth given some sturdy background information. The staggering effect of Voyager beamed into the immense hold of the Voth vessel took me completely by surprise. Suddenly we are in horror movie territory as the ship is plunged into darkness and the crew are menaced through the corridors by the tongue clicking aliens. David Livingston is committed to making every one of these turns of genre work. The trial scenes are the dramatic backbone of the episode and as the evidence mounts against Geger he loses his temper and tells the Matriarch that the whole farcical affair is about keeping the Ministry in power and debunking a myth that could threaten their power. It takes the imprisonment of the entire Voyager crew and the seizing of their vessel permanently for Geger to come around to the Odala’s way of thinking it might just break your heart to see him forced to debunk his own theories. To a scientist there is no greater betrayal of your integrity.

Moment to Watch Out For: When the episode feels necessary to expose the Voth scientists to the crew of Voyager it is still told entirely from the point of view of the aliens and it feels threatening and claustrophobic. This is rather wonderful because I can imagine this whole scenario playing out from the point of view of the crew with the sudden reveal of the creatures in the Mess Hall being a climactic moment. Clever stuff.

Result: Tackling a subject as thorny as science versus religion is exactly what Trek does best and this tale of one man who is trying to uncover the truth of his peoples lineage is one of the finest episodes of Voyager because they are completely committed to the premise. Throughout the show takes unusual twists and turns from the imaginative exploration of the human race to the realisation that this race is a lot more powerful than our little ship, it is always looking for new ways to tell an old story. It looks for a moment that Chakotay’s typically optimistic speech is getting through to the Matriarch at the trial so imagine my surprise when Distant Origin doesn’t go for the usual schlocky Trek ending and strips Geger of his scientific credentials and buries the truth. It is a refreshingly downbeat ending to an already near flawless piece of science fiction. Remember, Unity, Before and After and Distant Origin make up tetralogy of standalone science fiction stories that prove that Voyage is still capable of producing magic in its third year: 9/10

Displaced written by Lisa Klink and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: An alien appears on Voyager and a crew member vanishes. And again. And again. Until the aliens outnumber the crew…

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway is smart enough to know that there is something fishy about the way the Nurians are slowly replacing the crew from the first from the first appearance.

EMH: The Doctor has never been completely cut off with the ship before and it makes him quite anxious.

Brilliant B’Elanna: Torres is still fighting her Klingon side and verging on the mildly psychotic but then she is flirting madly with Tom Paris so I guess these aggressive feelings would bubble to the surface with everything else as she loses control. She knows she is forthright and that she speaks her mind but she has never considered herself to be hostile as Paris describes her. She demands that Harry Kim confirms this about her in a way that suggests that he will be disembowelled if he disagrees. I do like the Torres/Paris relationship when it develops but these faltering early steps veer far to much into sitcom territory with exactly the same sort of trite, overdone dialogue and shallow characterisation you would expect in an episode of Friends.

The Good: Such a friendly way of taking over the ship, it kind of shows up all the other races that have gone in guns blazing because the Nurians actually do manage to kick them all off. As the ship is slowly relieved of her crew Kroeker exploits the empty sets to present a Mary Celeste style atmosphere.

The Bad: Another race of Delta Quadrant humanoids with silly hats, coming so soon after the Voth this is a major disappointment. The Nurians look so inoffensive compared to some of the other aliens they have met in the Delta Quadrant that it makes the crew look more goofy than ever as their prisoners. Janeway’s line that the rest of the crew are in ‘other settlements like this one’ is a budget saving line. Apparently Tuvok found ‘sheer cliffs’ and an ‘impassable river’ in his exploration surrounding the prison – that will save us having to go out on location then! Watch out for the dreadful backdrop as Janeway and company leave the compound. It might have been better to have held back the secret that the Nurians have committed this act of terrorism on other cultures too and left the revelation of the self contained biospheres to their unveiling. Since we have already been told about it there is no surprise. The worst snow bound environment Trek has ever offered us – it has never looked so polystyrene.

Moment to Watch Out For: And the award for Most Outrageously Wooden Performance goes to Deborah Levin as Ensign Lang who screams ‘Seal those doors!’ so unconvincingly whilst pointing with a crooked finger! Just watch the way she falls so melodramatically when she is phasered!

Fashion Statement: The less inspiring race of aliens for an age are in serious need of a good tailor.

Orchestra: Jay Chatterway goes nuts with his score to try and suggest that this is the most dynamic episode ever as Chakotay runs around the ship as the last remaining Starfleet presence on Voyager. Its loud and bombastic and quite enjoyable but he’s not fooling anybody if he thinks this is little more than exciting aesthetics rather than a compliment to an exhilarating episode.

Result: Almost the antithesis of Distant Origin, rather than flourishing with an original science fiction premise this is about as archetypal as Star Trek comes with lots of chases around the ship, people disappearing and a prison break. I said in the last episode that every DS9 episode, even the duds, are worthy because they add a piece to the overall puzzle of the setting and characters – well Displaced is the antithesis of that too being nothing more than 45 minutes of unoriginal filler without a purpose or anything to say about anybody. The crew are subjected to the nicest invasion ever before being thrown in the nicest prison they’ve been in so imagine the excitement this story generates. Even the climax is little more than a flourish of smug technobabble. Its well paced, well made (although there are times when it feels really cheap) and occasionally quite enjoyable but its also about as beige as Voyager comes like eating a main course of marshmallows rather than meat and two veg: 5/10

Worst Case Scenario written by Kenneth Biller and directed by Alexander Singer

What’s it about: One of Tuvok’s security programmes becomes a surprise hit on Voyager…

Tattoo: Casting Chakotay into the role of a mutineer is ridiculous because he is so monumentally wet there is no drive or swagger to his attempt to take the ship. I find Beltran such a wooden performer and given the sort of speeches he is asked to perform here he is even more unconvincing than usual.

Mr Vulcan: Everyone agrees that the thought of spending 70 years with Tuvok gives them a headache and an upset stomach. Tuvok is so boring that even when dealing with a mutiny he is lecturing Paris on procedures. I wonder what part of the manual those particular regulations are in.

Spotted Dick: In the programme Neelix turns rogue which goes to show how outrageously out of character these version are and the only reason Chakotay doesn’t allow Seska to shoot him is because ‘we’re still going to need a cook.’

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘With all due respect Mr Tuvok – loosen up!’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Besides Tuvok if you don’t finish the programme there might be a real mutiny on your hands!’ – cue canned laughter! We haven’t seen gags this bad since the original series!

The Good: At least we get to see Harry Kim get shot – his savage growl as he attempts to dive over his console is absolutely hilarious. I really enjoy the scene in the Mess Hall where everybody tries to chip in with their own opinion of how the programme should end. The dialogue flows beautifully and it is full of character (Tom/B’Elanna flirting, the Neelix/Tuvok rivalry).

The Bad: Talk about pointing out the shows flaws – you really shouldn’t be making a mockery out of the fact that there isn’t any tension in the show by having crewmembers enjoying a holodeck programme of a fake mutiny on Voyager. This should be what the show is really like. The scenes of Chakotay giving his coded messages on the Bridge are so laboured he may as well have winked directly at the camera and the takeover itself is shot in a very plodding fashion. It would have been lovely to have seen an attempted coup like this on the real Voyager in the first season and all the Starfleet crew rounded up in the cargo bay under guard but I am simply too cheesed off that this mockery is the alternative of real drama on this show that I cannot even enjoy this on an entertainment level. How exciting it is to be able to watch the same programme all over again. Clearly they still want to play about with characters like Seska so why did they write her out in the first place? Argghhh! Clearly there’s not a great deal going on aboard Voyager this week since everybody is obsessed with this new programme. So you are telling me that before her death Seska rewrote the ending of Tuvok’s holonovel to her own designs where she can control the doors to the holodeck and turn the safeties off and murder whoever is playing…this is so implausible! She predicted that she would turn into the villain of the series before she was outed and wrote this programme to mirror that? Talk about the crew that couldn’t shoot straight! They really come across a bunch of monkeys as Seska’s programme (remember she is dead) runs rings around them.

Anomaly of the Week: ‘And we wont be wasting time investigating every insignificant anomaly we come across…’ – why can’t this be the real Voyager?

Result: I can’t remember a time when I was this incensed by the amount of coincidences and implausibilities that an episode has been built upon. I really envy those people who can switch off their critical faculties and simply enjoy this sort of thing but I spent most of the episode screaming blue murder at the TV! Worst Case Scenario presents a situation that is so much more interesting than the usual happenings on Voyager the writers are practically screaming that they don’t have a clue what they are doing on the show. Not content with that they will do exactly the same thing again in season sevens The Void which mocks up how the shows premise should have been dealt with. Add to this shameless parody some stiff action scenes, bland performances and a general lack of care in the production (the characters could have been far more vicious and enjoyably sadistic) and you have an episode that annoyed me from the first second to the last. I can see what they were trying to do here but its further proof that there is so little of consequence happening in the Delta Quadrant that this is the best alternative and the execution is about a vanilla as it comes. The second episode in a row where we learn sod all about the characters – this show could literally swap casts with TNG and you wouldn’t notice: 4/10

Scorpion Part I written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: Voyager enters Borg space…

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway is bartering for a corner in Leonardo da Vinci’s study to paint and contemplate because being in his presence inspires her. She has to break the news that they are progressing into Borg space but tempers the news by telling the (very tense) crew that she has faith in each and every one of them. There is a gorgeous moment when Janeway tells Chakotay she doesn’t know what she would do without him. Janeway’s decision to create an alliance with the Borg is insane but these are insane circumstances and for once I feel that she has opened her mind to more extraordinary possibilities. She knows that the safe passage of Voyager is a small price to pay for what they are offering the Borg. Dramatically it is certainly a huge step in the right direction for the show.

Tattoo: Chakotay tells Janeway that sometimes she doesn’t know when to step back. It’s a good point and all of his objections are valid. But as the Captain says if they turn tail and run away they may have to face this situation again and this might be the only window of opportunity they get to travel safety through Borg space. What is really sad is that this material between Janeway and Chakotay is striking and emotive and as far as I recall it is the last time it is ever this good again.

EMH: How wonderful to see that the Doctor genuinely can innovate when the situation requires it. We often hear about his extraordinary catalogue of medical knowledge but now it is finally applied to a creative problem – Borg assimilation. Borg nanoprobes attach themselves to the blood so the Doctor thinks up a way of enhancing the immune system and create an assimilation antibody. Remember this for the second episode when they might be gaining a Borg crew member.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘This could be it Captain. Borg space.’

The Good: The latest holodeck craze is Janeway’s new obsession with Leonardo da Vinci which is about as original as all the others this show has touted but since it takes us to an atmospheric setting and allows us to spend time with John Rhys Davies (who is a fine actor by any standards) I shant complain too much. I love the set which is both packed with detail, massive and when it is lit up by candles and firelight it is incredibly evocative. The montage of the crew preparing for their first confrontation with the Borg is very well done with lots of kinetic camerawork and a feeling of optimism and ability. The telepathic visions that Kes has are a real portent of doom and the horrific mesh of heads and technology that we see is like some hellish death sculpture and is truly ghoulish. As Harry recounts as more and more Borg ships approach I was sinking into my seat and thinking ‘oh shiiiiit.’ There is a fearsome visual of the 15 cubes fleeing and Voyager being tossed about in their wake. I love the idea of them entering ‘Borg space’ simply because it is exactly what I have been hoping for since the beginning of this season – an area of space where they can continually encounter the same species and build up some mythology and story arcs (shame they ruin that at the end of The Gift but three episodes is better than none). A graveyard of torn apart Borg ships opens up a very frightening possibility – a race of beings even more powerful than the Borg. What a terrifying prospect. Harry Kim being eaten alive by alien tendrils is just the fate we all wanted for him. A cold and malevolent race that intends to destroy everything – just what this series needed! For once one of Chakotay’s parables is worth hearing and has a great moral (‘I can’t help it, he said. Its my nature’). This is a race that could effectively cripple the only force that has almost brought the entire Federation down. Helping them and giving the Borg an advantage is a very dangerous road to go down and makes the moral consequences of what Janeway is suggesting far more exciting than usual. The closing scene is no where near as powerful as the ending of The Best of Both Worlds but it does feature the very best set piece in this shows entire run – 6 bio ships combine forces to obliterate an entire planet and the wave of destruction destroys several Borg ships and throws Voyager tethered to the one remaining Borg Cube across space. We wont be seeing effects of that magnitude on this show again but lets bask in them while we can.

The Bad: Somebody has to say it but isn’t there a sense of déjà vu in having a tense encounter with the Borg in a single episode and then a big budget season three finale/season four opener? Running the three shows concurrently just goes to show how much Voyager borrowed from TNG and this episode placing is probably the most blatant example. Suddenly Janeway is asking hard questions about the crew again which she hasn’t done since the middle of season two which is another comment on how relaxed and bland things have become of late. Whilst they have been happily cruising through season three enjoying cocktails in that tedious beach resort programme nobody has thought about their isolation? This episodes biggest downfall is that after such an incredible build up Species 8472 are a pretty ineffective looking bunch (and rendered in CGI they look quite date now). You would think that effects would improve over time but Janeway superimposed inside the Borg cube is not a patch on Picard and the matte shot in The Best of Both Worlds. It looks completely fake.

Moment to Watch Out For: Visiting the damaged Borg cube is a great idea and the atmospherics (smoke dancing around the floor, strobe lighting, shadows with dead Borg leering and twitching from them) are electrifying.

Teaser-tastic: Blink and you’ll miss it but it looks spectacular. Briefly.

Orchestra: There is a brilliant horror movie theme as the crew explore the dead Borg Cube.

Result: Tense, brooding, exciting and epic, Scorpion is everything season three of Voyager should have been all along and offers great hope for the future of the show. Whilst there are similarities to The Best of Both Worlds at least they are trying to push the story along by adding an enemy that is even more powerful than the Borg. David Livingston has always been the standout director on Voyager and the one who tries to push the boundaries when it comes to give the show a dynamic visual look and here he is given the budget to go wild and the scenes on the dead Borg Cube are some of the most frightening in any Trek series. The special effects are glorious, the music is stirring and it genuinely feels as though the ship is in big trouble. Even the character dynamics feel fresh and exciting for a change and Janeway and Chakotay clash and make sparks fly. A stylish finale that caps off this dreadful season in spectacular style: 9/10

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