Monday, 28 May 2012

Voyager Season Four

Scorpion Part II written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: The alliance between the Federation and the Borg is underway…

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway is furious once she wakes up and realises that Chakotay has circumvented her orders.

Tattoo: Whilst Chakotay is behaving entirely in character by wanting to boot the Borg off of Voyager (he never wanted the alliance in the first place) I still couldn’t help but think what a bastard he was for disobeying Janeway’s express wishes. Since this is Voyager and there is no way that Janeway will be written out (no matter how ill she is made to look) I am willing to bet she is going to chew him out something rotten when she gets better. At least he is conflicted in the decision and he tells Janeway on what could be her deathbed that she is more than just a Captain to him.

Mr Vulcan: Both Tuvok and the Doctor have moments of dry humour in this episode – don’t tell me they are developing too! I can’t handle this! ‘The Nano Probes were successful…if not prompt.’

Borg Babe: This is where Voyager becomes the Seven of Nine show! And why not? She’s far more interesting than two thirds of the regular cast and manages to show real character growth and what’s more she is played by the phenomenally good Jeri Ryan. In the coming season I will suffer from Seven fatigue as I do think they focused on her character too much to the detriment of others but that isn’t a problem at the moment. Having a spanking new character join is exactly what the show needs to give it a lift and regardless of how shallow shoving a Borg drone into a cat suit is, the character really works and has made me pay attention to Voyager again. I love Seven’s introduction as the tubes snap away and she steps out of the smoke and shadows and declares ‘I speak for the Borg’. At this point you think how the hell can this drone become one of the crew? Ryan plays the drone icy cold just as she should be without a hint of emotion. Seven makes a wonderful observation that every action and decision they make is debated and conflicted – perhaps they could do with a little Borg uniformity.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘They’ll push you. They’ll threaten you. But they need you.’
‘There are two wars going on; the one out there and the one in here and we’re losing both of them.’

The Good: Just about the most surprising thing I could imagine happening is the Borg agreeing to work with Janeway to fight Species 8472 and I was basking in that moment because it is not often that this show can genuinely floor me. Janeway seems shocked when the Borg suggest a weapon of mass destruction to defeat Species 8472 – has she forgotten who she is dealing with? Turning a cargo bay into part of a Borg Cube is such a fantastic idea I am running out of superlatives – it really feels as though the show is moving along with some style. Its astonishing that the Borg would sacrifice their vessel (in a bloody great explosion – yee-hah!) in order to preserve the knowledge of the nano probes. The script is continually unpredictable with the Borg being blown out into space in an awesome visual effects sequence and then Voyager is forced into fluidic space. I honestly had no clue where this story was going and that sense of giddy thrill is like a slap in the face after season three. We learn that this was just deserts for the Borg who started this war themselves by attempting to conquer fluidic space and assimilate Species 8472 but didn’t count on them being stronger they were. The Borg consider them the apex of civilisation and that their superior technology would have greatly benefited theirs but instead of assimilating them they opened a door to normal space. The Bio Ships tearing through the bubbling, green fluidic space offers the chance to do a completely new type of visual. Proving themselves to be without honour, the second Species 8472 are defeated the Borg attempt to take over the ship and terminate their alliance with the Federation. We end the episode with the ship damaged and perverted with Borg technology and a Borg drone separated from the Collective…and we open the next episode in exactly the same place without everything ship shape and hunky dory again! Colour me impressed!

The Bad: Harry Kim is brought back from the brink of death by some technobabble wizardry by the Doctor, how disappointing on both counts. With Kes’ shocking hallucinations they are trying to make Species 8472 into something truly frightening but I’m just not buying it because they look too fragile and the CGI effects are strong enough to convince. By taking the sting out of the Borg (they are made to look like pussy cats as their ships are torn apart) and not replacing them with an even scarier race, Voyager has denied Trek of its primary nasties which wasn’t necessarily a good move.

Moment to Watch Out For: The last surprise comes when Chakotay links to Seven using the same technology from Unity – can Voyager really be turning a corner if they can even remember past episodes and use them in a surprising and imaginative way? 

Result: Dynamic visuals, gripping character conflict, an awesome new regular and show that feels as though it is genuinely moving forward – this is the rarest of things on Trek; a concluding part that manages to be better than the first! Its like somebody has flicked a switch and suddenly the show is firing on all cylinders; the script is exciting and genuinely unpredictable with some very dramatic twists and the conflict between Janeway and Chakotay makes for blistering viewing. What could be seen as a ratings ploy actually gives the series a real sense of purpose and drive and although the Borg may be emasculated because of this story (TNG had done a pretty good job of that by the end of their run) it is wonderful to have a returning presence in a show that was starting to feel like variety week. Scorpion Part II is one of the finest Voyager episodes and great choice to show people who suggest that this show cannot match up to the others. If only Species 8472 were more effective this would have been perfect: 9.5/10

The Gift written by Joe Menosky and directed by Anson Williams

What’s it about: Seven becomes a member of the crew and Kes departs…

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway has always been the zealous type to attack a problem without doubting herself but when it comes to changing a person from what they are into what you want them to be that is a different matter altogether. Janeway figures if she can reach Anika inside Seven then half the battle is over but what she forgets is that even though she is a part of the Borg collective she is literally stripping somebody of their identity. I’m not sure where the line is drawn in how far Starfleet Captains can go but I’m certain we are near the mark here. Chakotay mentions it is the only life she has ever known and questions if they have the right to take that from her but Janeway is adamant. When all the Starfleet bravado is stripped aside and Janeway has to face up to the fact that Kes wants to leave the ship, Kate Mulgrew is devastatingly good. Her retrained tears really make for affecting viewing.

Brilliant B’Elanna: There are instant sparks between Seven and B’Elanna which continue for many years to come I am pleased to say.

Borg Babe: The Doctor sums up Seven’s situation succinctly when he says there is a battle going on insider her body between the biological and the technological and he truthfully says he doesn’t know which is going to win. Clearly Seven is frightened of having her human side dominate her personality and demands that they leave her on the nearest planet for the Borg to collect. Her parents were explorers who fancied themselves as explorers but wanted nothing to do with Starfleet. Janeway tells Seven that she does understand what the security and strength of a unified will without doubts must have been but she is part of a human collective now. Individuals yes, but they live and work together. The scenes between Janeway and Seven are loaded with tension and I loved Seven’s cold ‘I’ll kill you’ when Janeway lets down the force field and steps into the security cell. This will certainly be a relationship to watch. We get to see Seven demand her freedom, try and effect an escape of her own, her criticise humanity for keeping her prisoner and finally hurt herself to prevent this transformation back to a human being. Finally she realises she has no choice but to surrender to it. She can’t bear the silence, the fact she can only hear one voice in her head.

Spotted Dick: There is a gorgeous scene between Kes and Neelix which craps all over their awful sitcom handling in the past. If they had always been written for with this much respect it could have been a fascinating relationship. Neelix suggests he was holding her back all these years but Kes wont accept that saying she would never come as far as she has without him.

Elfin Alien: And so we say goodbye to Kes prematurely to make way for Seven of Nine. Whilst I understand the purpose of keeping the number of regulars the same I think it would have been more prudent to have written out Harry Kim, Chakotay or Neelix because it is clear from this episode alone that she had more to offer than that bunch of non entities. Kes’ extra sensory powers are starting to grow out of control and she can see past the sub atomic into a new realm, a new reality. The scenes between her and Tuvok trying to focus her powers remind me of the best scenes of Cold Fire. She doesn’t know what is happening to her but that is what makes it so exciting. What a shame that when the character returns in season six it is handled so ineptly.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I’ve got an Ocampan that wants to be something more and a Borg who’s afraid of becoming something less. Here’s to Vulcan stability.’
‘You have imprisoned us in the name of humanity. Yet you will not grant us your most cherished human right! To choose our own fate. You are hypocritical. Manipulative’ – wow this is the sort of sizzling character drama this show has been missing!

The Good: Its worth mentioning again because it is probably the only time that it happens in the shows history but Voyager was damaged at the end of Scorpion Part II and covered with Borg technology and at the start of The Gift it is still damaged and covered in Borg tech! In any other show this would be normal for consequences to spill from one episode to another but for Voyager this is what we call a minor miracle. Perhaps it was slightly undignifying for somebody as beautiful as Jeri Ryan to be introduced in two episodes as a colourless, techno freak but the stages of her recovery are remarkably well done with the make up getting softer with each stage of the episode. I was so scared that her recovery would be dealt with in a ‘Dr Crusher has turned me back to normal with her usual skill’ way and I never would have thought Voyager would have devoted an entire episode to integrating Seven’s human side. Already this character is a bringing a detailed and realistic new approach to the show. There are several effects moments that took me entirely by surprise such as Kes looking into Seven’s mind and discovering the Borg node attached to her brain and the sudden cut to Seven’s POV when she spots the Starfleet communication node. Its very appropriate that before she leaves that Kes gets some lovely moments with those characters who were closest to her; Janeway, Neelix, the Doctor and Tuvok. Nice to see an effects shot loaded with meaning and Tuvok lighting a candle for Kes by the window is a poignant way to end the episode.

The Bad: How many times can Janeway re-iterate that the crew of Voyager is a family. We get it already. Kes’ gift to the crew that has sheltered her for the last three years is to fling the ship out of Borg space – it’s a touching parting gift but does rather spoil this run of episodes and the feeling that the show is becoming more serial based. The party’s over folks and we’re back to normal Voyager next week.

Moment to Watch Out For: The dramatic sweep through the cargo bay that finally lands on Seven of Nine almost fully recovered and dressed up in a cat suit that screams ratings winner. Suddenly the boys perk up and thing this might be a great leap forward for the show after all. 

Result: This is the only chance we get to explore Kes’ extraordinary powers and the drama and excitement that Seven brings to the ship at the same time and it makes for an intoxicating blend. Once again Voyager feels as if it is genuinely moving forward with the departure of Kes (not a decision I agree with since there were about five regulars that were far more boring) and the introduction of Seven being a bumpy, difficult road to begin with. Like TNG, the end of season three and the first two episodes of season four are a high point for the series and it is great to see Voyager performing this spectacularly after a moribund third year. With Kes, Seven and Janeway the focus Star Trek has never been so dominated by women and you begin to wonder why not because this is a damn exciting episode that accomplishes a great many things with sensitivity. Voyager should always be this good: 9/10

Day of Honor written by Jeri Taylor (didn’t we get rid of her?) and directed by Jesus Salvador Trevino

What’s it about: B’Elanna has the day from hell…

Hepburn-a-Like: Still trying to reach out to Seven and give her an identity, she tries to suggest she go by her given name but her designation has all she can ever being remember being called.

Brilliant B’Elanna: I love it when Torres is in a bad mood and add to that her distaste of working with Seven of Nine and we are on our way to kick starting an enjoyable episode! Its interesting to see that B’Elanna still thinks she has some swing when it comes to Chakotay because of their history together but he dismisses her wishes and tells her that she will be working with Seven. With the Caatati devastated by the Borg it didn’t need to be said that Seven felt the hand of her race on their culture but B’Elanna feels the need to point it out to her face anyway. For a second she seems quite unlikable and it’s a nice feeling, after being ambivalent about most of the crew throughout season three it is great to feel something for one of them even if it is negative. The more time she spends away from the Alpha Quadrant, the less hateful the Klingon traditions feel. Perhaps she is feeling as though she needs to grasp hold of something individual this far away from home. When she first met Tom she thought he was an arrogant, selfish pig but now she thinks he is a stubborn domineering pig!

Borg Babe: A momentary look of discomfort on Seven’s face when the Caatati tell the Bridge crew that most of their race were assimilated by the Borg suggests having a Borg crewmember was the best step forward for this series.

Spotted Dick: Neelix quite sweetly brings Blood Pie (ugh, sounds even worse than his usual muck!) to B’Elanna  and it’s a reminder that whilst he is very thoughtful sometimes he is a bit dim. I’m sure that everybody must realise by now that Torres isn’t especially proud of her Klingon side. His offer to let her take out all her ill feelings on him so they wont effect the rest of the crew is brave and cuddlesome – are they making a concerted effort to ensure Neelix is more likable this year? He has always thought that traditions are good things worth preserving.

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘I can’t imagine a time I wouldn’t have found you fascinating’ – Taylor just cannot write dialogue!

The Good: Is this the last time that we see Vorik? Whilst it seems a shame that genuinely interesting characters like Suder get kicked to the kerb I am actually impressed (kind of shows you how desperate I am here) that a guest star has managed to make it from one season to the next. Bravo!

The Bad: Jeri Taylor just isn’t Ron Moor when it comes to writing for the Klingons and the opening ceremony of eating from the heart of a Targ is more like an episode of Come Dine With Me. The early scenes between Tom and B’Elanna are a bit too like an episode of Friends for me, forced characterisation  that doesn’t come naturally to the actors. He pushes her into facing who she is, she pushes back and lots of clichéd dialogue ensues (‘If this is how you treat people who try and be your friends…’ ‘Fine!’). The Caatati are a little like the Vidiians (you know, the ones you got rid of Taylor!) except nowhere near as exciting and with blander makeup and a less interesting backstory. Way to go. I was hoping that they wouldn’t go down the obvious route of having the Caatati crossing paths with Seven but its as inevitable as B’Elanna completing the Day of Honor ritual. Alan Altshuld has underplayed the role of Lumas to a snoozable degree until that point and then he lets rip with melodramatic anger that makes for an unintentionally funny moment. How could any race be so ungrateful with regards to the aid Voyager has given them that they would attempt to steal their warp core? Another shuttle bites the dust – surely they must have run out by now? One of the more embarrassing aspects of Voyager is how it blatantly explains things to its audience to drive its point home. Janeway says ‘unexpected acts of kindness is one of things that define us as human beings’ when DS9 would simply show an act of unexpected kindness and let the audience figure it for themselves (see the end of Body Parts). Show, don’t tell. We cut to a scene with Tom and B’Elanna floating in space with their backs to each other? Surely this is the one circumstance where you would be clinging on to each other for dear life – rank and feelings be damned! Its only when they share each others oxygen that they turn to face each other. When the idiot Caatati says that they want to take out their frustration on Seven was that a vague rape reference? I cannot believe that Janeway gave the Caatati their technology after their unreasonable bullying tactics! Kirk would have kicked the crap out of them!

Moment to Watch Out For: Watch Tom and B’Elanna trying to embrace wearing those bulky spacesuits is very funny. Their confessions to each other would be much more effective if they weren’t caught in the most clichéd situation imaginable. Dawson and McNeill are trying so hard to emote but the very nature of the scene is working against them.

Fashion Statement: I realise it does accentuate all of her curves Seven seriously needs to get out of that ridiculous figure hugging suit. It looks as though it has been designed by a particularly horny pre pubescent fan of the show and lacks any kind of elegance or style. Her breasts are so apparent during any scene that she features it is astonishing that she doesn’t collapse under the weight of them in that metallic suit! 

Result: Character conflict and development? Dost my eyes and ears deceive me? A shame it couldn’t have been packaged into a better episode but credit where it is due, this is the fourth episode in a row that wants to push the show onwards towards something a bit more interesting. Jeri Taylor is the worst kind of writer to be handed this sort of episode because she writes such obvious sitcom dialogue (‘Why is it that we have to be beamed into space in environmental suits before I can initiate first contact procedures?’ – groan) and surface characterisation where something a little deeper is required (Rene Echevarria would go nuts with this episode). As a result Day of Honor is always on the verge of being a good episode but often shies away from the important material and focuses on nonsense like ejecting the warp core. In the end they have to strip away the ship and the crew in order for Tom and B’Elanna to admit how they feel for each other (I genuinely think there would have been too many distractions otherwise) and whilst they are hardly the most of couples it is wonderful to Voyager embarking on this kind of long term relationship. The Caatati are dreadfully written and realised and Voyager should have flung the refugees back to the Borg. Flawed with some exciting possibilities but considering Trevino’s outstanding direction of Fair Trade this is a visually unexciting episode: 4/10

Nemesis written by Kenneth Biller and directed by Alexander Singer

What’s it about: Chakotay at war!

Tattoo: Isn’t it strange that as soon as you extract Chakotay from Voyager he becomes an interesting character (Initiations, Manuveres, Revolutions, Unity) but when we are on the ship he practically blends into the wallpaper? He fits in just fine amongst these boys and their war offering a sympathetic angle of their enemy and explaining that people say terrible things about people they fear. He refuses to take up arms against an enemy he doesn’t understand but he sympathises with their fight and compares it to his own against the Cardassians. The moral of the story is hammered home in quite a nice way at the conclusion as Chakotay comes face to face with the Kradin ambassador after being manipulated into despising his species. He wishes it was as a easy to stop hating somebody as it is to start. Remember that kids, things aren’t always as they seem.

Parisian Rogue: Why does one character always spout some heroic nonsense about leading a team on a suicide mission to save the regular that has gone AWOL? Its such empty dialogue, just there to fill space. Besides what ever happened to Paris and Chakotay’s rivalry and friction? It seems to have been resolved off screen at some point which is a lazy waste of an interesting dynamic.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘They had you so mixed up they could have convinced you your own mother was a turnip!’

The Good: The dialogue in this episode shows that the writer has really thought through this culture in some detail before setting down to hammer out the script. Footfalls (distance), colours (a form of identification), fathom (understand), defenders (army), sphere (planet), new lights (dawn), nullify (kill), trembles (scared), descend (go to heaven), glimpses (eyes), fleet colours (Starfleet uniform), fast walk (run), glimpse wide (eyes open), suffice (satisfy), brightly greeted (happily welcomed). Star Trek has a better than average track record of matching up their studio forest scenes with the real thing and in Nemesis it is seamless. Its nice to see real guns with shells spitting from them during the action scenes rather than phasers. It gives the shoot outs more of a sense of genuine warfare than the usual magic show of pretty lights.

The Bad: The opening scenes are very awkwardly directed. Its all very well shooting through trees but you still have to be able to see what is going on! We don’t know where we are or who these people are…and we can’t see what’s happening either! When we cut to a similarly shot sequence 15 minutes into the story it is fine because all the basics have been covered. Its getting a bit beyond a joke now with how many shuttles Voyager has lost, somebody really should make a joke about it like they did with the naming of them on DS9. At least by acknowledging the fact that there is an unlimited supply gives us the nod that the producers know they are taking the Michael. Unfortunately it is a little too easy to figure out that the ‘Ambassador’ who is willing to help Voyager track down Chakotay is one of the Kradin. I wouldn’t have even packaged that as a surprise since it is the most obvious route to take the story. Things become far too simple and clichéd when we start dealing with old men being dragged to extermination camps and children trying to send letters to their family – all that early promise has bled into a most predictable climax.

Moment to Watch Out For: With fighters screaming across the sky and attacking the settlement I was starting to feel I had wandered into an episode of Stargate but it sure looks good.

Fashion Statement: A colony of young, angry, buff lads – if I were going to crash a shuttle anywhere this might be my chosen spot! I can’t fathom why but when he gets into combats Chakotay looks more like he is wearing pyjamas than ever.

Orchestra: David Bell’s dramatic scores have seeped into the show since series three but this is the most vivid example yet with some of the hunting scenes given real atmosphere thanks to the music. I can’t wait until we reach the point that he joins DS9 because he really gets the chance to flourish on the sister show. 

Result: Kenneth Biller’s name isn’t one that is held up high in fan circles but for me he is the most unusual writer on the Voyager staff because he often writes the quirkiest, most memorable episodes (Tuvix, Before and After and Nemesis all stick in the mind for positive reasons). This is a simple, focused drama with some skill gone into the creation of the language these boys speak and a rare chance to for Chakotay to do something other than sit on the Bridge blend into the background. Nemesis works best for its first 20 minutes as we are sucked into the deception along with Chakotay but as soon as Voyager turns up things take a more predictable turn. You could almost take this as a treatise on Voyager as a show because war is very rarely black and white but this show often is without any moral ambiguity whatsoever so of course Chakotay is duped into believing that is the case. By the end of the episode a lot of my early good will had been swept aside and it had gone down the familiar Voyager plug hole of mediocrity but I will still champion this piece for its first half in at least trying to do something a bit different: 6/10

Revulsion written by Lisa Klink and directed by Kenneth Biller

What’s it about: The Doctor meets another of his kind who has some dark secrets…

Hepburn-a-Like: The first time Janeway met Tuvok he dressed her down in front of three Admirals – not exactly the conventional way to start a lifelong friendship!

EMH: Its interesting to meet another hologram that hasn’t had the luxuries afforded to him that the Doctor has enjoyed so we can compare their lifestyles and see just how much better things have become for the Doctor since Caretaker. When he was activated he was treated as little more than a talking tricorder and he had to ask for the privileges that he deserved. Slowly there has been a shift in the crews perception of the Doctor – no longer a tool but functioning member of the crew. When the Doctor says it took him a few days to master the social graces I would swap days and replace it with seasons but it does remind me of how fabulously rude he was in those early days. I seem t be comparing this episode rather a lot with DS9 but that is because I have seen different elements done with so much more skill on the sister show: when Laas asked Odo to leave in season seven’s Chimera it was a tempting, heartbreaking choice that our favourite Shapeshifter had to make but when the Doctor is asked to leave Voyager in Revulsion by the nut job hologram its absolute joke. One you can take seriously and give some thought to, the other is just words filling up time. Hmm perhaps that is the difference between the two shows?

Brilliant B’Elanna: Tom and B’Elanna have been avoiding each other ever since they admitted how they feel about each other and when they try and discuss it here it winds up with the two of them snogging outside the Mess Hall! Its nice to see this relationship continuing even if it doesn’t have half the depth or passion of any of the relationships on DS9 (Sisko/Kassidy, Dax/Worf, Kira/Odo).

Borg Babe: Seven of Nine is still trapped inside that ridiculous ratings winning silver cat suit which Jeri Ryan somehow manages to overcome and focus on her performance. She wastes no time in blaming her humanity reasserting itself as the reason for errors in her work.

Mr Vulcan: Janeway seems to be promoting people at random on Voyager these days (I guess that there isn’t that much to do on their long slog home) and has chosen Tuvok this time round. I’m not sure why because he hasn’t done anything spectacular of late that would earn him that commission! Still I enjoyed his little speech, especially when he commented that he has tolerated rather than enjoyed the company of some of the people in the room.

Parisian Rogue: Tom Paris serving as the Doctor’s new nurse? Hey, that might just work…

Forever Ensign: This is the episode that seals the deal as far as Harry being a useless chump is concerned…he had the chance to get down and dirty with Seven of Nine but instead chose to run away little a frightened little boy. Surely this guy cannot be any more wet? Every time Harry gets angry or upset like he does in sickbay when Tom cracks some Borg jokes I always want to slap him around the face with a wet halibut. I can’t decide whether it is Garrett Wang’s performance or the character but he is so earnest about everything you just want to make him do something really bad to make sure he is definitely a human being. Only Harry Kim would have midnight inspiration about reconfiguring astrometric projectors! Most normal guys just have a wank. There’s only one reason I can think of for Harry not to peel off his clothes in an instant and get it on with Seven and that is if he carried secret affections for one of the male members of the crew. I’m starting to wonder…

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Nevertheless I am willing to explore my humanity…take off your clothes.’
‘This could get tedious…’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Voyager isn’t all Jeffries Tubes and Cargo Bays, you know’ – someone fetch me a bucket…
‘I’m going to have to de-activate you…’ – is somebody actually thinking up this dialogue or is it being spat out of the cliché machine?

The Good: Leland Orser is one of those actors that turns up in everything and has played his fair share of serial killers in his time (his turn in The Bone Collector was memorable) and he gives a fine, twitchy performance as the hologram from hell in this episode.

The Bad: When you open a show with your main guest character hauling a body through the ship and trying to wipe the evidence of the walls it doesn’t come as any great surprise that he turns out to be the bad guy! I might have introduced the hologram as desperately trying to send out the distress signal as if there was still somebody on the ship trying to get him, perhaps that might have been more convincing. Regardless – I never once thought that this twitchy character wasn’t the killer. The recounting of the story when Tuvok had to spend a whole day working with his console saying ‘Live Long and Prosper’ says just about everything that you need to hear to prove that the DS9 crew have a much more natural chemistry – its forced, unfunny and overdone. You just know that when the Doctor heads over to a console at B’Elanna’s command that the hologrammatic fish is going to be alive and well and signposting the fruit loop holograms return. Storytelling should never quite be this predictable.

Moment to Watch Out For: The best moment for me was when the hologram turned on B’Elanna and reminded her of all the disgusting habits that human beings are prone to. Orser’s performance is fabulously twitchy and it feels as though the episode is on its way to saying something.

Orchestra: Hurrah for David Bell whose score is trying its damdest to give this episode the atmosphere it needs. I love the vivid stings as B’Elanna struggles to turn the hologram off as he pierces her stomach with his hand. His work at the climax builds things to a dramatic crescendo which would otherwise be a hologram walking slowly towards B’Elanna.

Result: I have a feeling that Revulsion should be better than it is considering it gives most of its screen time to the Doctor and B’Elanna (my favourites of this cast) and puts them into the spaceship equivalent of Bates Motel. Also Seven of Nine offers her body to Harry Kim. Its all a bit obvious from the word go so it makes the characters look a bit daft that they can’t see what is blatantly obvious to the viewer and there aren’t enough atmospherics to keep the slight story afloat (compare with DS9’s The Darkness and the Light which sold its horror story on a very menacing atmosphere). My biggest problem with this episode is that there is nothing particularly clever about the set up (a murderous hologram) or the solution (shove a cable in its chest) and it never quite finds out what it wants to say about the hologram/human divide. The lighting and music are doing most of the work and Leland Orser has a fair stab of creating a memorable psycho, its just a shame the script gives him so little to work with. There a few nice character moments that help this pass amiably but after Revulsion there really is no hope for Harry Kim: 5/10

The Raven written by Bryan Fuller and directed by LeVar Burton

What’s it about: Seven nicks a shuttlecraft and heads off to learn something about herself…

Hepburn-a-Like: DaVinci was always a great inspiration to Janeway when she was younger, a prolific artist and a scientist as well. Janeway really has nobody to blame but herself for Seven’s rogue behaviour in this episode and how it affects her negotiations with the Bomari since she was the one who insisted they try and re-assert her humanity. Now that isn’t quite working out and she is an embarrassment she sends her crew out to stop her by any force necessary. The message here seems to be act like us or we will destroy you. Janeway the Furher is back in business. Janeway’s other contradiction seems to be that she will try to negotiate with alien species for passage through their space but as soon as those relations break down she throws respect out the window and uses force to bully her way through. She’s an odd one, for sure. Sometimes I really admire her flawed behaviour (to err is human after all) and at others I think she is the work of writers who cannot consistently give her any kind of consistent characterisation. ‘You’ve left me choice!’ she barks ‘I don’t have time for this…target their weapons array!’ What a nutter.

Borg Babe: I have noticed a streak of deadpan humour emerging in Jeri Ryan’s performance that reminds me very much of Leonard Nimoy as Spock – that sense that only we know how funny they are because they simply don’t get the joke. When she sticks the clay on the statue and claims that artistic leisure time is truly unproductive laughter stumbled from my mouth. Imagination, creativity and fantasy all await her and like a child she has to face these incredible experiences for the first time. Seven gently reminds Janeway that she was not traumatised by the Borg, she was raised by them and there is no need for her subconscious to now turn them into bogeymen. Watch Seven eat for the first time is a very funny scene and Ryan derives a great deal of humour from the slightest of facial expressions. I do find it odd that the writers would make Seven quite this vulnerable so early in the season – I seem to recall she is an ice cold bitch for much of season four but at this stage she already seems to be fully human already. Whilst you sympathise with her recounting of her ‘mama and papa’ being taken by the Borg it feels as if she has already come as far as she needs to. So why the sudden backtrack in subsequent episodes? Did the writers fail to plot out her development in the series? Seven’s parents were revolutionaries that had some controversial theories. I hope we get to learn more about them.

Forever Ensign: Harry’s little cameo is quite amusing. He discovers a padd belonging to Seven that describes his behaviour as ‘easy to predict.’ That’s what I’ve been saying all along!

Spotted Dick: Neelix disagrees that pleasure is irrelevant and that a good meal is much more than just satisfying culinary requirements. There is a wonderful moment of discomfort when Seven reveals that a small freighter of Talaxians were assimilated by the Borg and the look on Neelix’s face suggests just this once he isn’t quite sure how to react. 

The Good: The imagery of the Seven running through a Borg Cube in slow motion away from a screaming raven is genuinely disturbing. I thought we were in for some more duller than dishwater aliens with the Bomar until the course they have plotted through their space for Voyager was shown – I realise that the shortest way from one point to another is by no means the most interesting but this is ridiculous! Surely this is the first time one of Neelix’s meals has caused a reaction so strong it has broken somebody out in Borg spikes and forced them to beat him up? Its great to see some flashbacks to Seven’s childhood and the moments when her parents where taken by the Borg. I still love the DaVinci set (especially when it is lit atmospherically by candles) – its so much better than that horrendous Hawaiian holodeck programme last year.

The Bad: Seven’s little rebellion against the crew as she heads of the shuttle bay is remarkably similar to Data’s in Brothers except it isn’t directed with half as much dynamism. Its not often that you get an effects shot on Voyager that fails to make the grade but the wreck of the Raven looks suspiciously like it was put together in a hurry with Seven and Tuvok superimposed on a flat plate shot. Is it just me or does this episode feel a little low budget? The last few episodes have felt as though they are recouping the money spent on the Borg two parter the introduced Seven and also saving cash for the Year of Hell extravaganza to come. The episode overruns so there isn’t the time for Janeway to chew out Seven in the way that she deserves for her actions here so we get a token ‘learning about your parents might encourage your imagination’ speech and off they warp into the great unknown.

Moment to Watch Out For: The very funny moment where Tuvok beams onto the shuttle and does a weird clutching dance with Seven in which I believe is supposed to be a fight.

Orchestra: After David Bell’s incredible score for Revulsion how routine does Dennis McCarthy’s music sound in this episode? It’s a little too quiet for its own good during the action scenes and fails to inject any kind of pace into the turgid way these scenes are shot, it feels like beige wallpaper covering a bland room.

Result: I don’t think LeVar Burton is one of the better examples of an actor who has skipped from actor to director because his work seems to move so ponderously and unless he is given a character drama to handle (which doesn’t require much pace) his episodes are usually pretty dreary. The Raven works to an extent because Jeri Ryan is so good at draining every nuance from a script and bringing it to the screen and there are some enjoyable scenes as Seven explores art and eating for the first time but when it tries to be an action show it fails to muster any excitement. The climatic revelation explaining the imagery of the raven is almost good enough to excuse this ponderous exercise because it does add detail to Seven’s background. The Bomar join the Caatati and the long list of truly forgettable alien races in the Delta Quadrant – I think somebody should write a guide of which alien species to avoid because this lot will bore you to death. It would seem that after the initial dramatic developments of season four we are back into normal Voyager territory – standalone stories that pass an hour but don’t linger in the mind. The only difference I can see is that the episodes themselves are a fraction better than the last season but the last four episodes are seeing the show running on the spot and not going anywhere fast. You’ve proven you can evolve and surprise, Voyager, so get back to it: 5/10

Scientific Method written by Lisa Klink and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: The crew begin mutating/acting out of character/experimented on…it’s the ABC of Star Trek episodes!

Hepburn-a-Like: If I thought Janeway was scary before this episode I was very much mistaken. Deprive this woman of sleep and she becomes an irrational, violent, feral woman with little rationality. She’s terrifying and the make up team do a fantastic job of making her look desperate for a lie down and a deep sleep. I guess anybody would get a little tetchy with giant needles sticking out of their head. Once the alien has been exposed Janeway prowls around the security field like a hungry animal that hasn’t eaten in days – Kate Mulgrew is clearly having a ball playing the Captain’s insecurities turned up to the nth degree.

Brilliant B’Elanna: There is a lovely moment where B’Elanna gives Seven a lecture about playing by the rules on the ship and she realises just how brainwashed she has become by Janeway and her views. It starts out aggressively but winds up being quite a gentle scene between them. I wondered why Tom and B’Elanna were acting so covertly when they could just leave their amorous activities until after work until I slowly came to realise that everybody was acting a little bit out of character. Those first few violent months of lust in a relationship are exciting and I could understand them trying to clinch every moment together as possible but to go as far as breaking protocol? Not this bland bunch! Again the writers go for the easy gag with Tom and B’Elanna arguing over who should enter the briefing room first so they don’t look suspicious. It’s the sort of dialogue you would expect in Saved by the Bell not Star Trek.

Forever Ensign: Is this the season of insulting Harry Kim? Firstly we have his complete failiure to bed Seven of Nine in Revulsion, then he described himself as predictable in The Raven and now Tom Paris refers to him as the most upstanding Ensign in Starfleet! Clearly the writers are aware that this character is walking cardboard so why don’t they do anything about it? This would have been the perfect episode to have shown Harry pushed to the limit but clearly the aliens considered him too boring to experiment on.

Spotted Dick: He’s even more spotty than usual…

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Sorry! These lab rats are fighting back!’ – that’s so hokey it works!

The Good: Seeing Torres and Paris snogging through the eyes of an x-ray scanner is seriously gruesome, what started out as a tender moment becomes quite disturbing. The same with watch Chakotay’s coffee run down his throat and into his stomach. Its strange how much more effective a good visual can be – the evil hologram in Revulsion was trying to disgust us with his lurid descriptions of human functions but actually being able to see what is going on under the skin repulses in a much more visceral way. How funny is Janeway being shaken up by the Doctor during her relaxing massage? Already this feels better directed than The Raven with this disconcerting low angel shot. There’s a great shot of a crewmember leaving a turbolift with a horrible device strapped to his head unbeknownst to him.

The Bad: I think the scene in sickbay between Chakotay and Neelix is supposed to be a laugh riot as they compare each others ailments and sit there in the most ridiculous make up. I didn’t laugh, did you?

Moment to Watch Out For: There’s a great moment where Furher Janeway starts ranting about everybody getting a little to comfortable of the ship and demanding that Tuvok whip them all back into shape. Something tells me that this isn’t the insomnia talking.

Anomaly of the Week: Its been ages since we’ve had a good anomaly to have a moan about and unfortunately these pulsars don’t qualify because they are introduced briefly during the teaser and then aren’t mentioned again until the climax where Janeway goes suicidal (again this is hardly a stretch because her standard persona activates the self destruct every third week) and pilots the ship towards them. So they are a useful plot point on that count and don’t get in the one so that’s one up for a decent anomaly. ‘I don’t think you realise you are not in control here anymore!’ Go you wonderful psychopath! 

Result: Scientific Method is amiable filler but little more and it is starting to concern me that the best material is being saved for the two part spectaculars and the rest of the season will be hokey TNG knock offs. The crew being experimented on is reminiscent of Genesis (without the shock make up) and Janeway’s psychotic behaviour is only a few steps away from the Federation warlord we saw in evidence on multiple occasions during season three. I don’t want to sound too harsh because this is basically a very competent piece of television with some gorgeous effects and nice set pieces but I think this series should be stretching itself a little more. One of those intense DS9 character studies would slip into this season beautifully right about now but season four seems determined to make every episode an ensemble piece with nobody is getting a memorable slice of the action. Certainly I have lost track of what Tuvok, Harry Kim and Chakotay bring to the series. The idea of an invisible threat that can prevent the crew from discovering them is a frightening one but the lack of any revelation as to why they are doing this chalks up another uninteresting Delta Quadrant species. These aliens are just there because this is the sort of story the writers wanted to tell and beyond their experimentation there is no evidence that they exist beyond it. This is the sort of thing I would turn on if I wanted to watch a distinctly average slice of Star Trek and there is nothing wrong with that every once and a while. I just wish we could get on with some juicy storytelling and leave these unchallenging concept episodes behind: 5/10

The Year of Hell Part I written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: Someone is tinkering with time and as a result Voyager is about experience twelve months of hell..

Hepburn-a-Like: ‘Unless you have something a little bigger in your torpedo tubes I’m not turning around…’ You see what an uncompromising Federation Nazi this woman has become? She doesn’t need to be deprived of sleep for four days to make her irrational, it comes to her naturally. Maybe her experiences in the Delta Quadrant have hardened Janeway but week on week in season four it seems like she has abandoned those Federation principles she was banging on about so much in the first two seasons and would again when the story requires it. You could almost say all the horror they face in this two parter is all down to her unreasonable bullying tactics. What’s wonderful about all this is that Janeway is full of arrogance and bluster when the Krenim ship is a pathetic scout ship but when it turns into a warship she is angry and terrified – a worthy lesson in being polite to people methinks! After a while you have to question Janeway’s belief that working together as a single family unit is such a good idea since it seems to be making the situation worse for everybody. She loses track of the time so much that she doesn’t realise that it is her birthday.

Tattoo: Why is it that Chakotay ever becomes a independent character in episodes written by Braga and Menosky? The last time he expressed an opinion (I know I can’t believe it either), Nemesis aside, was in Scorpion almost ten episodes ago! These writers enjoy having the Captain and the First Officer at loggerheads and it’s a fine dynamic. I just wonder why they don’t exploit it more often.

EMH: The Doctor having to shut a door on two crewmen to save the ship is a ridiculously hammy cliché but given that his entire sense of self is build around healing people it is easy to sympathise with his anger as he tries to live with that decision. 

Mr Vulcan: Whilst it is tragic seeing the ship slowly wounded beyond repair it is not until Tuvok is blinded by the detonation of a chronoton torpedo that you really feel the personal effects of these attacks. He develops a nice rapport with Seven and its great to hear them both bitching about the many flaws of co-habiting with humans!

Parisian Rogue: In the middle of a crisis Paris ingeniously thinks to model their defences on the Titanic which sank and killed the majority of its crew. Nice one, Tom.

Forever Ensign: When Harry says he is a true sports aficionado, make that geek. This guy is even square in a crisis. Since Tom and B’Elanna are trapped in a room together this might have been a great time for them to talk about her relationship with his best friend. To show how damaged Harry is by these events his hair falls out of place slightly – there’s no character to chip away at so they have to dishevel his image slightly.

Spotted Dick: Neelix the Security Officer? Things must be desperate…

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘If I told you to count the stars in the cosmos would the task ever be complete?’
‘You have the Bridge. What’s left of it…’
‘He’s trying to erase us from history!’
‘Determination alone isn’t going to hold this ship together…’

The Good: The opening effects shot as Androvax irons out the timeline of an entire planet, turning it from a metropolis to a lush landscape is quite extraordinary. Kurtwood Smith is a real acting coup for Voyager and I have always enjoyed his turn as the cantankerous Red in That 70s Show and he brings a real sense of importance and cohesion to an episode that could so easily get lost in its twisting timelines. What’s great about this character is that there is a solid personal motive behind what he is doing which makes him a sympathetic figure whilst simultaneously being terrifying. He is in a league of his own especially compared to non entities like the Caatati and the Bomar and even when he has manipulated time to a point where the Krenim control vast regions of space he still deems it a failiure because one of the outer colonies where his wife was lost has not been restored. There is an intensity to Smith’s performance, Androvax is a man that is driven and consumed by a purpose and you have to wonder if he will ever be able to give up his Godlike role. I was right! All that fiddling and technobabble in the previous less important episodes so they can reveal the Astrometrics Array, fusing of Starfleet and Borg technology so they can navigate a circuitous route home via the stars. Think of the nebulae and anomalies they will be able to find with this baby! I like the very subtle way the guy playing the Krenim warrior goes from a mouse screaming at a lion before the shockwave hits to a smug dictator afterwards – the shift in his performances tells you everything you need to know about what has happened. I love how badly they destroy the sets after the first Krenim attack with the Bridge and the Ready Room in pieces and scattered with rubble and twisted furniture. Ingeniously the story manipulates Kes’ replacement, Seven, into playing out the same scenes from Before and After with the unexploded chronoton torpedo and the Mess Hall is once again a triage centre. At least the writers haven’t forgotten everything about the prelude episode. The systematic way the writers destroy the ship and the crews morale is very convincingly done and makes for gripping viewing – can we have the ship almost destroyed every week? The idea that the temporal shielding that protects them actually maintains their destructive state when the Krenim Imperium is depleted is a rather cruel circumstance. Their own ingenuity might turn out to be their undoing.

The Bad: The Doctor’s speech at the opening of the lab is funny (mostly it is the look of horror on Mulgrew’s face as he keeps on going and her reaction to being called to the Bridge) but there is another reference about them becoming a family. Janeway later tells Chakotay that she isn’t going to break up the family. She promised that she would never give the order to break up this family. We get it already, Braga. Umm…doesn’t anybody remember Kes’ ominous warning about the Krenim last year – she returned to the ship with a portent of doom about this year and news of the death of the Captain! Either travelling backwards through your own timeline is a common occurrence on this ship (and given the amount of anomalies they breeze through I wouldn’t be surprised), the characters have the memory span of a goldfish (again a possibility) or the writers just forgot. Any of these is pretty unforgivable. As soon as the story started taking risks I stated fearing that everything would be back to normal next week thanks to some form of anomaly. Voyager is not known for its willingness to take risks and seeing the ship in such a state of disrepair is about as far from the norm as you can get. Tuvok blinded? Wouldn’t it have been wonderful had they hadn’t rewritten that development – it would have opened up many dramatic possibilities for the Vulcan Security Chief.

Moment to Watch Out For: It’s special effects pornography as Voyager destroys the Krenim ship and explosions burst along their hull – the show hasn’t been this exciting since Scorpion!

Fashion Statement: Janeway has had her hair cut short and whilst it isn’t as stylish as it will be in season five it still looks rather fetching. Its certainly more feminine which has to be an improvement – perhaps Mulgrew finally managed to wear the producers down! Grease up his hair, smear some dirt on his face and give some stubble and Chakotay makes a nice bit of rough.

Anomaly of the Week: ‘A massive build of temporal energy! It seems to be some kind of temporal shockwave!’ 

Result: Shocking, exciting and nightmarish, The Year of Hell encapsulates everything I expect from Voyager on a weekly basis but get about twice a season. I refuse to complain about a piece of drama that drags the crew through a hedge backwards and devastates half the ship in the process because it is such a fascinating process of destruction to watch. What strikes me as especially good is the characterisation on display, particularly from Janeway, Tuvok, Seven and the Doctor. We get to see how they really cope in extreme circumstances -  people who are usually very amiable under perfect conditions aren’t especially nice when things get rough and those who are usually difficult prove extremely helpful. Its clear the budget has been sucked out of the surrounding episodes into this spectacular production and Kroeker’s direction is full of visceral flourishes that make the experience all the more uncomfortable. The cliffhanger was inevitable, it was just a matter of time of how much of a battering Janeway was willing to let the ship take before she split up her precious family. It doesn’t make the shot of the escape pods spitting from the remnants of their once proud ship any less poignant. This is exactly the sort of thing Voyager should have been trying a long time ago because it really encapsulates the feeling of terror of being one ship alone in a hostile Quadrant. I would have loved to have seen this story take place over an entire season with the ship getting more and more desperate but as a compromise I will happily accept this phenomenal episode: 9/10

The Year of Hell Part II written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky and directed by Mike Vejar

What’s it about: Repairing Voyager proves to be a nightmare for the crew as Chakotay is seduced by Annorax’s power…

Hepburn-a-Like: There is a wonderful physicality about Kate Mulgrew’s performance this week. Now the sets are empty and damaged she can use the space and suggest a frantic drive forcing Janeway on. As things go from bad to worse she gets the feeling that Voyager is testing her. You have to admire the bravery of a woman who is willing to leap into a burning room that will roast her alive to ensure that he ship stays in one piece. Janeway is always banging on about Voyager being their family home but I often find that actions speak louder than words and this was the first time since Basics when the ship was torn from her that I felt she had a connection with it. Its almost as poignant as the moment Sisko takes one last look around the Defiant before it is torn to shreds in The Changing Face of Evil (but of course there is no reset in DS9. The ship is gone. Never mind the replacement that turns up two weeks later). Unfortunately showing this act isn’t enough and before the episode is over Janeway is explaining to the audience that the ship is the home which has sheltered their family – argh! Trust you audience to see these things, Braga, don’t hammer the point home with a sledgehammer. Janeway’s threat to deactivate the Doctor permanently if he relieves her of command really hits home because it shows that she will literally do anything to save her ship and crew. Janeway is running entirely on instinct now and refuses to obey the Doctor’s orders. It’s a scene that is loaded of tension because of how casually she treats his advice – it’s a hard reminder of how she used to mistreat him when he was first activated. Janeway saying goodbye to Tuvok is a genuinely poignant moment because it really feels like this is the last time she is going to see him and the image of her alone on the Bridge is as potent as a pipe.

Tattoo: Just when I was saying that Chakotay had lost his way the writers come along and make him a cult worshipper of a man with Godlike powers! Its not a shift in his favour and I was waiting patiently for the script to hit me with its ‘he was pretending all along so they could escape’ which never came. No, he really is as daft as he appears. Beltran fails to convince on any level and when I read recently that he felt contempt for how the writers used his characters I could actually sense that in this episode. The script seems to suggest that Chakotay has the ability to perceive the moods of time but it plays out in a way that he was simply charmed and had his ego stroked by an old man. When he starts playing about with simulations I was convinced he was perfectly stupid. He believes that by removing the comet that forced them into Krenim space Voyager would be restored back to its original condition before the attacks. Clearly he hasn’t been watching The Aztecs of late because as the Doctor says you can’t rewrite a single line of history. Did he honestly think the only relevant thing that comet did was to divert Voyager’s course home? Change the slightest thing and you effect everything that ever went on around it. I wouldn’t play around with Annorax’s toys at all, playing God is a messy business and you have to be willing to accept the consequences. The thought of somebody as simple as Chakotay is presented here changing the fate of entire worlds is horrifying.

Borg Babe: Seven makes a damn good point about her newfound individuality. Just a few episodes back she was asked to explore her new life to the full but when it comes to expressing an opinion she is told to button her mouth up. She knows the Captain’s logic is flawed and is willing to say so – I think the ship is definitely going to be a better place with her on board. 

Forever Ensign: Harry leaving Janeway on Voyager is surprisingly restrained when I was expecting tears and cuddles from his surrogate mommy.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘It is offensive. Fortunately taste is irrelevant’ – it looks like Seven has the same ability as Odo to cut through all the pretence and say things as they are. This is how she describes Neelix’s pureed ration cube with Talaxian spices drink!
‘Target Voyager…put Janeway out of her misery.’ 

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Either we maintain our command structure or we settle or differences that old fashioned way’ – this scene between Chakotay and Paris is so strained I feared it might buckle! ‘Either you do it my way or I’ll kick you in’ is what he is basically saying and he sounds like a right spooner.
‘I thought we were working to avoid more destruction!’ – Chakotay you nob jockey any changes you make will cause destruction somewhere…

The Good: When Annorax says that the buffet he has laid on consists of foods you wont find anywhere else in the galaxy he literally means it. I love the idea of a spread of food from cultures he has erased from time. Its using the idea altering history to imaginative effect. He chooses to tell them after they have began eating that they are devouring the last remnants of a civilisation. I mentioned it in the first episode but it is actually revealed in the conclusion – Annorax working towards saving his wife is a laudable if misguided goal. Mind you there is a flaw in that too because there is no guaranteeing that his wife will still be his wife is he has fiddled about the timeline so much. I’m glad Annorax got a happy ending because somebody needed to. This viewer certainly didn’t.

The Bad: Taking refuge in nebulae is stating to become a cliché all of its own – the Enterprise did that in The Best of Both Worlds Part II, Odo hid away in one in Vortex, the Defiant tried to shield location in one in Starship Down… Mind the resulting effect is the atmospheric purple smoke filling up Voyager so its not all bad. It breaks my heart to see that Robert Beltran and Robert Duncan McNeill were chosen to face off with Kurtwood Smith’s Annorax because they are two of the weakest performers in a mixed regular cast. McNeill makes Paris far too stubborn and don’t get me started on Beltran hero worship of their host! It’s a shame because I think Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan (Seven would be able to see the logic in improving planets) would have done a much better job. As a result these scenes are pretty flat despite Smith’s efforts to make them work. Annorax should have realised after his first crazy attempt to play God that the whole idea is ridiculous – the likelihood of being able to reset everything with that many variables to handle is insanely unlikely. He might dress it up as civilisations that have never existed but it is murder, plain and simple. It would have been so much braver to have kept Janeway scarred for the rest of the episode, a permanent reminder of their lost security. A damaged Voyager forges a coalition with two other races and they travel together in a convoy…why is this treated as a throwaway development when this is exactly how the show should evolve? I don’t give a shit if they had a studio that was requesting the show maintain its tone in order to help syndication or whatever other bollocks is pulled out the excuses draw to explain why this show never progresses. The Year of Hell presents a gripping scenario and authentic development for this show in a very positive direction and what do they do at the end of the episode? The reset button is flicked and none of it ever happened in the first place. Its so bollocks clenchingly thick its one of the few Star Trek endings that makes me physically shake with anger.  Its proof that all this show wants to be is a light entertainment show and not a drama worth investing your time in.

Moment to Watch Out For: The budget breaking effects shot of Voyager colliding with Annorax’s ship. Glorious.

Anomaly of the Week: ‘Our condition has left us vulnerable spatial anomalies…’ I don’t know why they should bother you, Kate, you usually dive headlong into them anyway! 

Result: And with painful whiplash we hit the ground and are reminded that this Star Trek Voyager after all. Part II is directed by Mike Vejar so by default there is going to some highly atmospheric and classy moments (watch as the camera swoops around Annorax’s bridge as he plans to wipe out another planet) but it’s the script that dive bombs spectacularly and is unable to maintain the spiral of madness from the first episode. Kurtwood Smith is the best thing about the scenes on his ship because the dialogue lacks conviction and logic and Paris and Chakotay couldn’t be characterised any more awkwardly. The Voyager scenes are better but only because of the ruthless Janeway moments – its basically an exercise in running on the spot because the writers have already taken the show to its limits by the end of the last episode and the only way this story could progress is by destroying the ship. Which they do with agonising predictability and all of the great work done to push Voyager into difficult times is undone and everything is lovely again. What a load of sweaty arse crack. Words fail me that that Braga and Menosky could see the potential of this set up and pull away from it. Vejar excels but he was fighting a losing battle with the script: 5/10

Random Thoughts written by Kenneth Biller and directed by Alexander Singer

What’s it about: Tuvok gets to explore his dark on a planet where there is no violence…

Hepburn-a-Like: ‘We can’t pick and choose which laws we’ll respect and which we can’t…’ Pot. Kettle. Black! I cannot believe those words came out Janeway’s mouth who at the beginning of the last story told a race warning them to back off that she wouldn’t because they have better firepower! I really wish I could get a handle on how this woman thinks; with Sisko and Picard it is easy because they work to a set of principles and when they break them it is acknowledged but with Janeway she seems to chop and change her mind every week as to how she wants to behave. Its not really fair to blame the character, lets blame the writers who fail to portray her consistently.

Brilliant B’Elanna: It was only going to be a matter of time that B’Elanna’s aggression was going to get her in trouble. The look Torres gives Nimira when she is carted off to be held looks like she is having another murderous thought!

Mr Vulcan: He has grown accustomed to speaking aloud but Tuvok is a very skilled telepath. Tuvok is enjoying a perfectly civil conversation with the Chief Examiner when he decides to make a racial slur telepathically, its interesting to note. I hate to keep harping on about missed opportunities (actually no I don’t because its rather fun to imagine a show we never got) but if Tuvok had remained blind as a consequence from the Year of Hell (I’m still bitter…) it would have been great to see how he coped with the anger of losing his sight in this episode which explores similar themes. Instead of giving him a reason to be angry the episode chooses to remind us of the anger that apparently bubbles beneath the surface of Tuvok’s cool exterior all the time that hasn’t been mentioned since Meld in the middle of season two. There is no point in bringing out these interesting character flaws every 50 episodes or so – I don’t think his restrained rage is ever mentioned again after this. Why do these types of episodes end up with Tuvok and another man sweaty and exhausted and lusting after each others violent thoughts? Maybe there is another secret about Tuvok we have yet to discover…

Parisian Rogue: Neelix has some fun winding Paris by stating the fact that now he is involved with B’Elanna he cannot avail himself of the beautiful women they meet on their travels! For a moment I thought I was back in the Year of Hell Part II as Paris suggests a prison break on the planet to Chakotay who slaps down his idea. Its about as convincing as the revolution was in the previous episode. I don’t know if McNeill has trouble acting emotionally or if the writers give him too much ropey dialogue but this hasn’t been a great year for his character who seems to become more sitcom each week. The very idea that he would suggest this because they are a race of pacifist who wont fight back is enough to toss him in the Brig to cool down for a few days!

Spotted Dick: Poor Neelix, he hasn’t been with anybody since Kes (that doesn’t come as a great surprise) and the first woman whose eye he catches winds up dead. And after she promised to tug on his whiskers too! Some people just don’t get any luck. The juxtaposition of having Neelix rallying to B’Elanna’s defence just seconds before his new beau is violently stabbed to death because of her is almost comical. 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Apparently outlawing violent thought hasn’t made it go away. All you’ve done is force people to share it in back alleys.’

The Good: You can see immediately the effect that Voyager’s crew has had on this society through some very economic storytelling – the Chief Examiner mentions that there is no crime because of their telepathy, B’Elanna has a bad reaction to bumping into somebody and then that violent response is repeated in another citizen with homicidal results. It might seem like ABC plotting but it very quickly lets you get a handle on the situation so we can explore its dark possibilities. The cross cutting interrogations of the various crewmembers who were on the surface during the attack is nicely done and saves the bother of having to listen to each of them being interviewed. I’ve seen it done more humorously elsewhere but its still a useful device. Gwynyth Walsh gives a wonderfully crisp and humourless performances as Chief Examiner Nimira and I was completely unaware that she was the same actress who played B’tor in various Trek Klingon episodes. She’s one of those actresses who brings real intensity to the role and whenever she is on screen you have to watch her. I love how her arrogance turns into guilt, criticising Voyager’s penal methods and then having to return cap in hand to ask for Tuvok’s help. The idea of making all violent thoughts illegal seems silly at first but when it comes to a race that communicates entirely through their thoughts it is no different from making a violent action illegal on Earth. Random Thoughts goes beyond the mere concept of the piece (which makes a pleasant change because half the time with these episodes a clever idea seems to be enough) and tackles the scary idea of horrific emotions and violent thoughts being sold illegally on a black market for those who want to experience them. The security personnel are authorised to perform memory extraction too which has more than a touch of 1984 about it – what’s to say any of these people chose to live in a harmonious society and maybe all of their violent thoughts have been erased.

The Bad: Braga isn’t writing this week so the budget suddenly plummets and we are back to stock Star Trek alien planet sets in a studio. They haven’t been used in a while so somebody probably thought they could do with an airing. There is a very odd moment where Tuvok and Janeway discusses the merits (or otherwise) of this societies low crime rate and they are staring at their padds in an effort to look as if they are desperately trying to find a way out of this for B’Elanna. The resulting effect looks like Mulgrew and Russ had fallen out and couldn’t bear to look at each other (otherwise known as the Tom and Lalla syndrome). It is amusing that there are so few genuinely horrific moments in Voyager that they have to source current films to provide the visuals for Tuvok’s dark thoughts. Somehow I don’t think that would have been a problem on DS9.

Moment to Watch Out For: Seven of Nine I could kiss you! In an episode full of little nuggets her criticism of the Voyager crew ignorance of other species is the charmer. She states (and I quote): ‘You make contact with alien species without sufficient understanding of their nature. As a result Voyager’s directive to seek out new civilisations often ends in conflict.’ Somebody give that woman a medal! Of course Neelix has some vomit inducing retort about exploration being worth it but the point still stands. It seems that even in the episodes where Seven isn’t the dominant character (which to be fair isn’t that often for the remaining three and a half seasons) she pops up with some fantastic words of wisdom. 

Result: The idea of people enjoying violent thoughts as a drug is quite a dark subject for Voyager to tackle and to their credit it is done rather well. This society is told in very broad strokes but it is established quickly enough to allow us to slip beneath the veneer and see what violent acts are festering underneath. The same applies to Tuvok who once again is revealed to be containing some unpleasant emotions beneath that Vulcan calm that I personally feel could do with unleashing more often. In a way it is just as formulaic Trek as most of the episodes this year but what elevates it is the sudden moments of shock violence (including some gripping sequences inside Tuvok’s mind) and a script that makes some interesting observations (especially Seven’s take on the Federation’s creed). The performances are strong this week with all the regulars on form and this some strong support from Gwynyth Walsh (sans make up) and Wayne Pere. It might be a little controversial but I think I would have preferred this to be the two parter rather than The Year of Hell because it has a much more interesting premise and could have used the time to flesh out its world and characters more (I would have loved to have seen the effect of mass violent thoughts on the populace) and for all Braga’s fireworks and heavy emotion in the previous story there isn’t a cheat at the end of this episode. A quietly powerful piece: 8/10

Concerning Flight written by Jimmy Diggs & Joe Menosky and directed by Jesus Salvador Trevino

What’s it about: Umm…‘Shall I beam DaVinci back to the ship?’

Hepburn-a-Like: With these kinds of stories the writers usually try and say something about the characters (in my recent review of Our Man Bashir I discussed how it revealed that Bashir enjoyed playing the life of his friend Mr Garak and how the Cardassian tailor objected to having his career parodied) and I have just finished Concerning Flight but I fail to see what it is trying to explore in Janeway. The Master/pupil relationship is ignored for the most part and she doesn’t seem to want to achieve anything for a reason, just for the kicks of hanging out with DaVinci. Which is fine but we know she enjoys hanging out on the holodeck because she has been doing it ever since the days of drippy Lord Burleigh. Kate Mulgrew is game in this episode and its one of her more likable turns in season four but I just can’t figure out what it is trying to say.

Tattoo: I was laughing my head off as Chakotay tries to be a hardnut negotiator! What a joke! ‘There’s the door. Goodbye.’

EMH: The Doctor is once again trapped in sickbay and in a mildly amusing sequence tries to extract the latest gossip from Seven. The story she relates would have been great fun to watch. 

Forever Ensign: Was that supposed to be sexual tension between Seven and Harry in Astrometrics? The two sort of bump into each other when disagreeing and share a momentary glance…but I didn’t buy it for one second. I wonder why this potential pairing was dropped considering they have played about with it a few times in favour of the even more unlikely Seven/Chakotay nonsense. Mind it does give Seven the chance to be wonderfully bossy (‘Now. Or you should leave’) which is always a laugh.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Earthquakes and idiots! Florence be damned.’
‘He is the perfect Prince! Intelligent but not overly so, in awe of my talent but not threatened by it and above all and most importantly his purse is inexhaustible!’ – DaVinci’s ideal patron!
‘Observe the construction. Like the veins and arteries of a great animal. This is the way to build, using nature as your guide!’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Fire at will!’ ‘I have the will but not the means, Captain!’ What?
‘I feel like we’ve just been mugged!’ – is this actually being written?
‘They are mid air on what seems to be a crude gliding apparatus!’ – trust Tuvok to take all the poetry out of the moment.

The Good: It’s a brilliantly distinctive opening to an episode to Captain Kathryn Janeway and Maestro Leonardo DaVinci being assaulted with insults but wouldn’t it be great if they could have mirrored that with an identical scene taken place in the Mess Hall with Neelix being bombarded with bread rolls and plates of Leola root stew? John Rhys-Davies is a more charismatic and interesting performer than half of the regulars on this show and I would have loved to have seen him become a semi regular ala Vic Fontaine in DS9. Since he has use of the mobile emitter in this adventure they should have enforced a time share with the Doctor!

The Bad: I’m sure there is a fantastic tale to be told of Voyager being ‘mugged’ and the crew heading on a wild goose chase trying to get the components back but it needs to be told in a far more exciting and humorous way. Somehow they can even make a treasure hunt seem boring. What it needs is the visual panache and naughtiness of a show like Farscape, imaginative camera techniques and fast editing. This is all so stale. Like playing hunt the key with your gran. Of all the characters that happens to come to life from the stolen computer core and make use of the mobile emitter…it is the holodeck of the moment! Had we been in season six it would have been one of those dreadful mock Irish Fair Haven characters. On Memory Alpha there is a fascinating quote from Joe Menosky where he states he didn’t care how Leonardo made it off the ship and into the real world – he just wanted the adventure to begin. That’s bollocks for a start, of course you need a logical reason for why otherwise the whole story is based on an idiotic premise that is inexplicable. He states that enforcing the reason for the mobile emitter being stolen pushed the story in entirely the wrong direction – then make the most of it and do something interesting with it! Grrr…so many Voyager writers blame the fact that it is a shared responsibility for the storylines that pulls the stories in too many directions and they wind up making no sense (indeed its one of the reasons Ron Moore couldn’t stick around – too many cooks, not enough brains) but if you are handed a restriction you don’t like then make something up to smooth it over! You are supposed to be a writer after all! I’m not saying that Tau is the least effective villain that Voyager has ever offered us (that would still have to be the mutating Tom Paris in Threshold) but he is an uncharismatic, one dimensional nomad who turns up whenever the story needs a shot of adrenalin (which he fails to provide). I’m confused as to why Janeway is so obsessed with getting this DaVinci back to the ship since she could just take the computer core and make another. I hardly think he could do any damaged and what’s to stop them making another holographic DaVinci when they’ve gone. I’m confused! What does all this mean? Or surely she could just nab the mobile emitter, turn him off and get to work in getting the computer core back and then turn him back on again afterwards. Instead she chooses to take him with her and let him distract her all the way! Watching her trying to explain a site to site transporter to DaVinci is played so seriously it is hilarious! What were they on writing this? You got imagine some poor Admiral in Starfleet reading up this adventure in befuddlement once they get back to the Alpha Quadrant: ‘And then there was this metal bird waiting for us at the top of the hill…’ How rubbish is it that we don’t get to see the glider materialise in the cargo bay? We could have seen it crash straight into some containers in a spectacular stunt!

Moment to Watch Out For: The flying sequence is a rare example of Voyager heading out on location and offers a glorious moment of genuine sentiment as Janeway and DaVinci take off into the sky!  Its warm and tender and pitched just right – I wish the whole episode had been like this.

Result: Even DS9 with its doe eyes for Vic Fontaine didn’t try anything as ridiculous as this! I just cannot get my head around the logic of Leonardo DaVinci thinking that an alien city is America and being able to negotiate with people from centuries in the future. Even if you buy into the lazy excuse that he sees everything as the period he comes from (which I don’t) how do the aliens understand him? Its such a bizarre set up (and it has Joe Menosky’s fingerprints all over it) its almost watchable on a switch your brains off level and Rhys-Davies is such a joy as the bombastic Maestro it almost papers over the canyons of illogic. I’m not sure what the episode is trying to say about Janeway’s character and there moments when she acts in a terminally stupid manner despite Kate Mulgrew’s efforts to entertain. Ultimately I couldn’t really get a handle on any of this, its neither successful as a treasure hunt, a character study or a quirky adventure…it just sort of exists making no sense but to fill 45 minutes with some warm performances. If it wasn’t for the glorious flying sequence this would score at least two points lower. More DaVinci please, less plodding madness: 5/10

Mortal Coil written by Bryan Fuller and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: Neelix dies! What more do you need to know?

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway almost tickled Neelix’s whiskers as she jokes with him after he has been revived and it is a sweet chemistry that I have never really felt between them before. More please. 

Borg Babe: As the discussions about death ensue Seven considers her own mortality now she has been disconnected from the Borg but tells Tuvok that he memories will always exist within the Borg Collective so she has attained a certain immortality. Neelix’s apology to Seven and the way he tenderly tells her she has made a great addition to the crew is rather lovely. 

Forever Ensign: Brilliantly Harry Kim even speaks in clichés in Neelix’s vision quest!

Spotted Dick: We learn a little more about Talaxians and their beliefs in life after death. They go to the Great Forest which is filled with sunlight and all the people that you are gathered there to watch you sleep. Its nice seeing Neelix in a paternal role and whilst it would cough a truly loathsome episode in season five (Once Upon a Time) its another side the furry fella that we don’t usually get to see. I like the way that he is slightly uneasy around Seven whilst still trying to make her feel at home, no matter how hard he tries to play the convivial host he is a little scared of her. He took great comfort in the fact that all his dead friends and family would all be together again one day and is horrified to learn that it was all a lie. I genuinely believe if you did experience what Neelix does and had foreign matter swimming around in your system you would feel as if you aren’t yourself anymore and would question what you have become. It feels as though all the certainties in his life have been torn away from him and what is left is a frightening man trying to rediscover himself. The three items he brings to his vision quest remind him of his sister, Kes and the customs of his people. 11 years ago he saw his world destroyed and his family killed and all that has kept him going is knowing that he would see them again one day. He thinks he can’t live without that hope and tries to kill himself but his love for Naomi is too strong. Its twee for sure but considering Neelix has gone to such a dark place nothing but a massive burst of sentiment would drag him out of it.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘He’s dead!’ – I’m only including it in this section because I’m sure there was a collective cry of joy when this episode aired. What I find really disturbing is that as I have progressed through season three and season four Neelix has actually been one of the more appealing characters in the ensemble. He’s mostly overwritten and overplayed but there is a gentleness and amiability to his character that I don’t find in walking cardboard cut outs like Chakotay, Kim and Paris. Of all the characters to go I wouldn’t choose Neelix. I know, its shocked me too!

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Neelix you’ve just returned from the dead. Take it easy on yourself’ – that’s almost as bizarre a line as ‘Get the cheese to sickbay!’
‘I few days we almost lost a member of our family’ – Okay, okay, okay I get it! You a freaking family! Now stop going on about it! You’re the most irritating family since The Brady Bunch!
We’re your family now!’ – fuckaduck!

The Good: Firstly it is great for the Kazon to get a mention as proof that Voyager hasn’t quite forgotten its own continuity and secondly the joke about them being too indistinctive to be assimilated was a peach. Allan Kroeker provides a memorably surreal and creepy vision quest for Neelix to walk through with all the issues raised in the story being visualised and revealing what his subconscious has been telling him all along. That he should be dead, he should commit suicide. The last shot of Naomi in the Great Forest is charming.

The Bad: Why do the writers feel the need to point out that this episode is about Neelix by him suddenly becoming flavour of the month in the pre credits sequence? Its like they don’t trust us to think that he is invaluable without showing us. Seriously, every bugger and his dog needs him for something in the opening five minutes! It would a far better jolt to the system had he fallen ill in the course of a normal episode. If you treat the audience like idiots you get an idiotic audience. I’m so naughty always comparing this show with DS9 but opening an episode in the Mess Hall doesn’t have the visual splendour or wit of an episode that opens at Quark’s and Naomi Wildman just isn’t as cute as Molly O’Brien. Once again I am confused about the logic of this episode – if a member of the crew has been declared dead isn’t it a perversion to inject them with Borg nanoprobes and bring them back to life like some freakish parody of Frankenstein’s monster? Putting aside the whole thorny subject of raising the dead why has this only been mentioned now one of the regulars have died because there have been a number of minor crewmen who have suffered fatalities throughout the course of the season since Seven was brought on board. In its own way this is a ridiculous a premise as Concerning Flight had. How fucking stupid is Chakotay? Does he even have a brain filling up his skull? Not only does he agree to let Neelix come with him to the holodeck to discover what went wrong with the experiment when he should be resting but he also lets the scenario play out to the moment of his death without any thought to the emotional consequences! What a lousy Commanding Officer! I hate to be grim but if Neelix had just hung himself nobody would have known until it was too late. You just know we’ll never hear about Neelix’s trauma again after this episode – just a mention that he is in therapy would be nice.

Moment to Watch Out For: Seven’s attempt at chit chat with Ensign Wildman and the Doctor is a thing to behold. 

Result: Astonishing to think that besides Seven’s transformation in The Gift this is the first character study of the fourth season and we are almost halfway through it. I’m really pleased they allocated an episode this dark to Neelix because it feels like an absolute age since he last to cope with something beyond a Leola root stew. For the most part Ethan Phillips gives a sensitive performance and manages to put an awkward spin Neelix’s usual cheer which is quite uncomfortable to watch. Its when Phillips tries to convey anger that I’m not convinced and unfortunately that guts the climactic scenes of this episode. I’ve heard people really give Mortal Coil a pounding favouring the brainless extravaganzas that this season favours but it actually has more to say than a hundred Killing Games. It feels almost DS9 in how Bryan Fuller takes the subject of death and explores it through various characters and their different cultures. Pleasingly there is no satisfactory answer given but lots of possibilities. Astonishingly the writing staff let this episode play out without any shoehorned jeopardy plots to distract and the result is quite an affecting piece. Its not the best character drama I have seen Trek serve up but it’s a good step in the right direction and well above average in this middling season: 7/10

Waking Moments written by Andrew Bormanis and directed by Alexander Singer

What’s it about: So forgettable I can barely remember. Maybe I dreamt it.

Parisian Rogue: What on Earth is all that utterly functional, pointless dialogue about where he and B’Elanna are going to visit on the holodeck next all about? The writers on this show have absolutely no idea where this couple is heading, do they? They’ve made the decision to bring them together (hurrah development) but now they are stuck having the most clichéd and characterless of conversations because there is no where to take them.

Spotted Dick: The only dream I would have liked to have seen (so naturally it’s the one we don’t) is Neelix being boiled alive in a pot of his own Leola root stew!

The Bad: I’m on the verge of giving up on this show if its doesn’t try and do something more interesting with its main cast than this idiotic concept of the week. Harry Kim getting off with Seven of Nine in secret (featuring the less sensual kiss of all time), Tuvok heading to the Bridge naked, Paris crashing a shuttle and Janeway killing her crew whilst a weird alien looks on. Its another boring ensemble piece in exactly the same vein as Scientific Method (just swap weird symptoms for bad dreams and its practically the same episode) where they don’t bother to use the idea to truly probe the characters (ala Meld) but just prick at the surface. The teaser is so utterly functional and lacking in sparkle that it could just sum up the majority of Voyager’s run. There’s so little happening on Voyager at the moment that Janeway calls a meeting of the senior staff so they can all talk about their dreams! Remember when TNG did this episode (Night Terrors) – at least they bothered to have Troi floating in a green cloud with her bottom filling the screen! Remember when DS9 did this episode (If Wishes Were Horses) – and it was packed with amusing vignettes and told us something about the characters? Now its Voyager’s turn and it add nothing to the mix, just a stagnant walk through the dreams of these stagnant characters. The scene where the crew all assemble to make up the fact of the alien has a similar feel to the holodeck scene in Schisms as the TNG tried to put together the monster in their dreams. Except the holodeck scene was excitingly and atmospherically directed. This is just blah. Chakotay dreams of hunting a deer in the corridors of Voyager…this is a dream episode of goodness sakes – get of the damn ship! Plus putting one incongruous item on the standing sets does not constitute a dream. How about some funky editing or imaginative camerawork? These sequences are filmed in exactly the same way as this show is always filmed. Even the alien is dull looking and his scrap with Chakotay can barely fall under the description of a fight. A minor tussle perhaps. The basic premise is that on A Nightmare on Elm Street with a sinister figure luring people into a sleep realm where he exists – so why isn’t really frightening? Why does a creature that exists in dreams feel as tiresome as the Caatati and the Bomari and all the other dull aliens this year? When the initial dreams play out I would have laid money on the fact that there would be an awkward conversation about Tuvok being naked in his dream and Seven genuinely requesting Harry to help her out in a Jeffries Tube. Predictably, depressingly I was right. More abysmal dialogue as Neelix, Harry and B’Elanna try and goad Tuvok into admitting his dreams (when Harry Kim is being sarcastic about you then you have some serious problems). Robert Beltran’s brilliantly overdone ‘Am I awake? Are you sure!’ when he wakes up in sickbay exposes his inability as an actor. So are you trying to tell me that the whole crew are so used to aliens taking over the ship they all have exactly the same dream about it? It just goes to show that Star Trek is even more dull when it is told inside these characters heads! 

Result: Take standard Trek plot A (bad dreams) and add standard Trek plot B (aliens board the ship) and get out of that situation with standard Trek plot device C (create a diversion and conjure up some technobabble) and add in ‘I can’t believe you’ve tried to use that hoary old twist again’ (‘I’m still asleep!’) and you have Waking Moments…To call this episode functional is to give that word a disservice. It’s a clichéd premise that has already been flogged to death in Trek (season two’s Projections did the same kind of labyrinthe dream plotting with much more efficiency) and the tone, pace and style of this episode is almost an exact replica of Scientific Method a few episodes back. Voyager desperately needs to get out of this rut of telling tedious ensemble pieces and start looking at its characters individually in some depth because it is fast turning into a ship of vacuous Trek stereotypes. The most uncharismatic aliens board the ship and are easily quelled and we head on our merry way with just a little time to have another of those interminable ‘we’re really awake this time!’ scenes. I’m starting wish Janeway really did crash the ship into Annorax’s in The Year From Hell if this is the best Voyager can cough up in its fourth year: 2/10

Message in a Bottle written by Lisa Klink and directed by Nancy Marlowe

What’s it about: ‘They wanted you to know…you’re no longer alone’ ’60,000 light years seems a little closer today.’

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway started letters home about a year ago – one to her family and one to Mark – an now she has the opportunity to finish them since they might be able to reach their loved ones.

EMH: Robert Picardo and Andy Dick make a gorgeous double act, a pair of useless EMH’s trying to bring down a Romulan threat and save the brightest new Federation starship. Like all the best comic acts they compliment each other whilst having completely different personalities that clash all the time. The closest parallel I can think of (although it is a little grandiose) is the 2nd and 3rd Doctor coming together in The Three Doctors. A violently turbulent but ultimately very effective partnership. I would suggest that the Doctor doesn’t ever put himself up for ships detective because he walks past two corpses as he notices a scorch on the wall! His programme is now considered obsolete and the new EMH recognises him by his beady eyes and terrible bedside manner! Its fascinating to compare one EMH to another and I realised just how much this character has been developed (just not for a long while – most of his development occurred in series two and the first half of series three) and he has done plenty of things that a normal hologram would never have the opportunity to do (travel in time, roam the ship, having romances…). At the same time technology has moved on in the Alpha Quadrant (they don’t use ‘leeches’ anymore) and the Doctor doesn’t understand the full range of medical tools. I’d say he’s had the better deal. The EMH2 boasts that the Prometheus has holographic equipment built into every deck so he has free reign of the ship so the Doctor counters that with mobile emitter that allows him to leave the ship!

Brilliant B’Elanna: Isn’t it funny how the camera suddenly favours close ups of B’Elanna rather than long shots and that she is wearing an open uniform these days? She’s also put on a bit of weight around the face and spends a great deal of time hiding behind consoles! In one shot can literally see Roxan Dawson’s stomach! Suddenly that transporter pregnancy on DS9 doesn’t seem like such a bad idea, does it?

Borg Babe: Seven’s rather wonderful response to the Hirogen threat of cutting their communications is to send a feedback pulse and knock him out. Well she is right, he wasn’t responding to diplomacy!

Spotted Dick: Why is Neelix only brushing up on American cuisine in case they get back home? He should have said I made them an extra strong vindaloo! Its great to see him thinking ahead though and trying to find ways that he could contribute back in the Alpha Quadrant.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You’re just…you’re rude!’ – you can count on Torres to say it how it is.
‘Doctor something just went offline!’ ‘Specifically?’ The secondary gyrodyne relays in the propulsion field intermatrix have depolarised!’ ‘In English?’ ‘I’m just reading what it says here!’ – technobabble gags always had the spot for me!
‘Two holograms alone! Romulans on the one side, Starfleet on the other! Alarms beeping everywhere!’ ‘EMH2, newborn but filled with courage!’ ‘EMH Mark I armed with years of experience!’ ‘Together they emerged triumphant!’ ‘The End!’

The Good: A Starfleet vessel found in the Delta Quadrant? Finally a concept that is worth getting excited about! Oh no wait its in the Alpha Quadrant…excitement over. The idea that Seven has located a relay point that can extend their sensors all the way home is a fascinating one and sees season four finally push the show in the right direction towards home. I kept wondering what the twist of this episode would be…a time distortion effect or a fake ship but no for once things are exactly as they appear to be! The idea of sending the Doctor as a messenger all the way to the Alpha Quadrant is ingenious and it really feels quite special that those back home will know that their loved ones are still alive. The episode makes you believe it is going along one path and then its suddenly as if Voyager is gatecrashing a completely different show (let’s call it Prometheus) in which the Romulans having taking over the title ship and killed half the crew! Shockingly (and perhaps predictably) this show looks and feels far more exciting than Voyager! Its fascinating to have a completely new set design for the Prometheus (its so light!) and by the end of the episode you really wish we could transfer everybody from the (functional but dull) Voyager sets over to this ship. Its fascinating to learn that since the advent of the Dominion war Starfleet ships now have a built assault mode. A ship that splits into three separate dart like warships! Why would we ever need to return to the flying toilet lid after seeing that? Loved the mention of the Dominion and how the writer manages to skip over the conversation about the war (‘Long story’). Its almost DS9 like to introduce a new element to the series (the Hirogen) in an episode that excitingly offers a very different sort of progress. Bravo on that count although I will save my discussion of the Hirogen for the upcoming episodes. I love the fact that the Doctor’s story about being from the Delta Quadrant is so absurd the Romulans don’t believe him! I think more Voyager episodes could do with that kind of slack jawed refusal to admit the implausibilities of the plots! The Doctor discovering the helm and uncaringly tossing away an unconscious Romulan officer is very funny. With glorious effects and Federation and Romulan ships blasting away you might be forgiven for thinking you have stumbled in on a DS9 season six or seven episode! Brilliantly the EMH2 fires a torpedo at the wrong ship…confirming that Romulans are on board the Prometheus! Voyager was declared lost 15 months ago but the Doctor set the record straight – bloody hell actual honest to good development! Whoo-pee! Families will be contacted and they wont stop until they can figure a way to get Voyager home (which is beautifully picked up in season six’s Pathfinder – I shame that couldn’t be this years Pathfinder but all the same…). The last scene is genuinely touching – this is how good this show can be when it wants to be!

The Bad: All the Romulans are utterly bland, show little character or the quiet menace I associate with the species. They could have tied this show brilliantly in with DS9 with having Bashir be the new EMH programme (as was touted in Dr Bashir, I Presume) – it really feels as though they have missed a trick. As funny as he is Andy Dick’s character is utterly implausible as a replacement programme – he’s even more irritating than the Robert Picardo one was back in season one! Still it could be worse…imagine a Gates McFadden programme! Run for the hills! It’s a shame to cut back to Voyager halfway through the episode because things were chugging along very nicely without the regular cast! As my husband in a true moment of geekdom pointed out there is a goof in this episode that relates to Living Witness later in the season. In this episode Tom Paris asks Harry Kim to design a new Doctor for sickbay so he can escape and yet in Living Witness there is talk of a backup EMH programmed that is stole – if there is a backup why would they need to build a new Doctor? I did tell him he was a saddo and then he pointed out that I have reviewed over 250 Star Trek episodes in less than a year. How rude.

Myth Building: This episode is set at some point before In the Pale Moonlight because the Romulans haven’t joined the war yet.

Result: Why can’t Voyager be this good every week? Message in a Bottle is a delightful hour of comedy hi-jinks and a genuine sense of Voyager being shoved wholeheartedly into the future. Both the idea of being able to communicate with home and the introduction of the Hirogen are massive bonuses but the real delight here is in watching Robert Picardo and Andy Dick spar as the EMH’s take on a Romulan incursion of a spanking new Federation vessel. The story never gets too heavy thanks to the witty dialogue and light direction (its not often you see a female directors name on a Star Trek episode and perhaps after this that should be rectified) and for once all the ideas that are being tossed around are both original and highly entertaining. Add in some gorgeous new sets for the Prometheus, characters thinking about what they will do when they get home and a sly DS9 reference you have an episode that works on practically all counts. My criticisms are the Romulan fodder is vanilla ice cream bland and there were too many stop offs on Voyager when the fun stuff was all going on on the Prometheus but when an episode can be this fluffy and determined to see the show develop I really cannot complain. This was the sort of episode they were knocking out every week in the second half of series two, I hope its not too long before we get another of this quality. Even the title is brilliant: 9/10

Hunters written by Jeri Taylor and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: Letters from home! Oh, and the Hirogen but who cares about them…

Hepburn-a-Like: Once they know that Starfleet is trying to get in touch all the usual chumps like Harry Kim and Chakotay are excited that they will be able to get home and Janeway seems to be the only sensible to remember that we have been here before and they might be disappointed. There is a gorgeous moment from Kate Mulgrew as she reads the letter from Mark smiling at his introduction and then her face gradually dropping as she reads the content. I have never wanted to know what a letter said so badly! Mark held out hope that she was alive longer than most people did but was forced to start living his life again, meeting people and letting go of the past. About four months ago he married a woman he works with and now they are very happy. She knew he would eventually move on with his life but there was such a finality to his letter that really shook Kathryn.

Tattoo: There’s a wonderfully awful moment when Chakotay tries to explain how the array is powered which exposes that he really doesn’t have the Tom Baker ability to make technobabble sound convincing.

EMH: Because of his role in Message in a Bottle the Doctor wonders if he will become quite the hero when he gets home, the EMH that assured Voyager’s safe journey to the Alpha Quadrant! Seven rather wonderfully puts him in his place and suggests he will be deleted and the latest EMH update will be installed in his place! Talk about putting a pin to an ego!

Brilliant B’Elanna: Her blind anger at the news of the Dominion wiping out all of her friends is a powerful moment. I can’t believe how suddenly the conditions for these characters have changed and we have gone from the sort of sickly sitcom romance between Tom and Torres a few episodes back to real drama. Here we see Tom comforting B’Elanna over her devastating news from home and gone is all the horrendous sitcom romance dialogue and they are talking about how they really feel about each other. They better keep this up.

Borg Babe: D’you know I seem to remember Seven being examined in some detail in season four but aside from her opening episodes she has slipped quite effortlessly into the crew very little consequence. Seven is given pause for thought when Janeway reminds her that she may have family on Earth, it is something that had never occurred to Seven.

Mr Vulcan: Neelix is astonished that Tuvok wants to finish his tactical review before reading his letter from home! It confirms what I have always believed that Tuvok does a lot of his brooding for show and the second people are out of the way he behaves like a normal person. The second Neelix pisses off Tuvok picks up his letter.

Parisian Rogue: Its fascinating to hear Paris mention the Rehab colony because I had forgotten that that was how we were introduced to him! He was supposed to be this series’ bad boy, wasn’t he? When did he become another bland Starfleet drone? I think it was just after his ‘Tom goes rogue’ arc in season two, the last time any of these characters were especially interesting! Can de-evolve as a character? At least his admission that what he has on Voyager is so much better than anything he had back home is a nice one. But the point still stands. Its reminded me that aside from Seven there is nobody on this ship generating any conflict anymore.

Forever Ensign: Harry is like a dog without a bone waiting for his letter to arrive. Am I the only person who wanted there to be a letter for everybody else but not Harry or is that too cruel? Torres tells the little gimp that he might as well wear a badge that says ‘I’m in love with Seven’ because everybody sees it except him.

Spotted Dick: Neelix gets a great role in being the official mail carrier – who wouldn’t want that job? Although before long he is annoying again by reading the content of some peoples letters and being irritatingly pompous when it comes to rumours. 

The Good: Making this episode’s goal first contact with home in over four and half years gives the crew some tangible to fight for this week. Chakotay makes a great point (I know – I was shocked too!) that people may have done their mourning and moved on with their lives. This might be the only point in this shows history that Voyager rides DS9’s coat tails but the news that the Marquis have  been all but wiped out is a direct link to the developments in season five’s For the Uniform, By Inferno’s Light and Blaze of Glory.

The Bad: The opening scene is supposed to show a communication from Starfleet reaching Voyager but it doesn’t have quite the imagination to pull it off so it looks instead like clips from the title sequence. Such a shame that after their introduction last week the Hirogen turn out to be so uninteresting. They are basically Klingon copies (not unlike the Kazon except without the melodrama and the Sects) with an emphasis on fighting, honour and grim decorations! There is a very good reason this arc does not extend beyond four episodes because this is a pretty empty species without much to be discovered. The idea of the Hirogen completely gutting their victims is horrible but the rubbery skin suit that Janeway examines is not in the slightest bit convincing. The Seven/Tuvok scenes really bug me because they distract from first episode to deal with character development all season. Its devastating enough to hear this news that Mark has moved on and found someone else and what it means for Janeway but it would have been even more effective had we been able to see his reaction when he found out that she was alive. That goes for the rest of the crew. I would have dumped the Hirogen nonsense and split this episode in two – one half dealing with the families reactions back home and one half dealing with the crew. That would have been an absolute classic. What’s more frustrating is that this news leaves Janeway a chance to pursue a romance (ideally with Chakotay regardless of protocol) which is never seized upon. That’s Voyager, throw up interesting ideas and then never do anything with them! Who does she end up pursuing? A custom made holodeck character! An electronic male whore! The Hirogen are so huge its almost a joke – I just couldn’t take them seriously. I thought I had wandered into an episode of The Goodies! They’re so rubbish they can’t even hold on to two hostages for ten minutes…they get wiped out in less time! Hardly the new ‘Big Bad…’ Trust stupid, silly, idiotic Voyager to threaten to develop its show by making contact with home and then snatching it away at the end of the same episode. Bloody Jeri Taylor, I bet she thought there was too much growth for the show! This angers me even more than The Year of Hell reset because this meant something important to the show. It proves that they aren’t interested in truly exploring these characters but just feeding us little titbits each season. How frustrating.

Moment to Watch Out For: Enjoy the delicious discussion about home because they wont last long.

Myth Building: Is it my imagination or does the Hirogen array look just like the Caretakers one?

Result: A tale of two halves (I’m not complaining – that Jeri Taylor can write half a good episode is pretty shocking), Hunters balances the exploration of the crews feelings about going home with our first meeting with the Hirogen. Its astonishing how the possibility of contact from home turns these Star Trek ciphers into real people with lives back home which they miss and fear. Suddenly this show is actually talking about something important. What I love is how excited everybody is to hear from their loves ones but most of the news is heartbreaking – loves have moved on, friends are dead and the Alpha Quadrant is in the grip of a fierce war that is slaughtering millions. Where Hunters bombs is in trying to add a jeopardy plot to these fascinating developments and the second half of the episode is a very dull meeting with the new ‘Big Bad’ of the Delta Quadrant. The Hirogen have nothing new to offer aside from their size and their grunting dialogue and slapstick designs fail to make an impression. Besides you know we will be warping away from their space shortly because this show has no desire to explore any new race in any great detail so there is no point in getting attached to them. Lumbered with a cartoon villain, Hunters only achieves mild greatness when it could have been the standout episode of the year. It gets things completely the wrong way round at the climax by confirming the return of the Hirogen and cutting short the communication with home. It frustrates me that this show can get it so right and so wrong in the same episode: 6/10

Prey written by Brannon Braga and directed by Allan Eastman

What’s it about: A wounded Species 8472 (they really need to think up a better name for these aliens!) seeks refuge on Voyager…

Hepburn-a-Like: You know Janeway always says all the right things about opportunities and showing compassion when approaching an enemy ship but there is something about Seven’s conviction that makes her sound a bit naïve and dumb. Plus she’s shockingly didactic when she is proved right about her hunch (its like she has activated Kryten’s ‘smug mode’ from Red Dwarf!) but a parting shot by Seven keeps her in her place. Janeway attempts to teach Seven that sometimes it is necessary to show compassion to a species even when they are your bitterest enemies and tries to illustrate this with a tale from her childhood about a wounded Cardassian. Since when were they deadliest enemies? Coming from Kira this story would have had some punch but from Janeway it’s a bit meh. Apparently a single act of compassion can put you in touch with your own humanity…a nice moral but for some reason Janeway is too flexible with her own rules to be a convincing teacher. Besides Janeway was more than happy to work with the Borg in Scorpion to wipe out Species 8472 – what a screaming hypocrite the woman is! Janeway tries asking, then appealing to Seven’s better nature and finally makes it an order. Its glorious to see her get so wound up she can’t get her own way! There’s a glorious shot of the Furher Janeway marching into Seven’s cargo bay with her hands clasped behind her back ready to dish out some punishment! She needs to remember that she encouraged this individuality so actually she is to blame!

EMH: Whilst it is amusing to think of the Doctor having to practice being polite with Kes in order to make the crew feel at ease (something that he found painful incidentally) but I do find it unusual that Zimmerman created the EMH without any of the social graces.

Borg Babe: The Doctor makes a good point that Seven is a lot like him when he was first activated. I hope she never loses that acerbic wit though because it is all part of her charm. I’m glad Seven told Janeway that she refuses to help the dying creature to get home. Its nice to have somebody on board this ship with an ounce of individuality. Janeway is wrong you know, that is the thing that makes her most human – her prejudice and stubbornness. She’s so busy trying to justify her own decisions she cannot see it. Her eventual decision to beam both the Hirogen and Species 8472 off the ship is the smartest thing I have seen anybody do in this whole episode – it really isn’t their problem and they are compromising themselves by getting involved. I love her role as thorn in Janeway’s side, I hope she keeps it up!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You should know I’m a hologram and can’t be bent, spindled or mutilated so don’t bother trying!’
‘I think you are punishing me because I do not think the way that you do!’ – spot on love! She’s got the hang of these primitives!

The Good: Leave to Tony Todd to try and find some subtleties in the least profound Star Trek species ever created! He’s never going to succeed but he’s the one actor to try. The opening scenes are rather wonderful with the Hirogen hunting a member of Species 8472 into an asteroid belt. Its odd how whenever this show pretends that it isn’t Star Trek Voyager (the way the teaser follows two characters we have never before is very similar to Distant Origin and almost as strong) that it gets rather good! As soon as the crew realise that the Hirogen were hunting Species 8472 and there is one on board the episode suddenly steps a level and everybody is taking this threat very seriously. I love the moment when artificial gravity is ‘compromised’ and Tuvok floats calmly into the air. If in doubt break out the space suits and the giant weapons with torches because they suddenly make the ship a far more striking place. The Star Trek VI steal of having zero G blood hanging in the air is a lovely touch. The Hirogen blasting Chakotay and Tom and then trying to murder Species 8472, Tuvok pumping bolts into the Hirogen – this is exciting stuff!

The Bad: Species 8472 are still woefully conceived and design and since this is only their first outing since their introduction it probably wasn’t wise to see one of them so weak and hunted. These are the creatures that nearly brought down the Borg? There really is nothing restrained at all about the Hirogen is there? They boil up their victims for dinner and Braga is not above using shock tactics to even when they are dead in the amusing sequence where he finds a decapitated head! There is something of the exploration of the Borg Cube about these scenes exploring the attack Hirogen ship except they are no where near as atmospheric or frightening. I’m not sure if it was wise to show the Hirogen in such a weak state on their sophomore outing either – it took a season and a bit before we saw a weak Jem H’adar (Hippocratic Oath) and even then they were quite scary and there’s a reason why they stuck around and the Hirogen didn’t! When Tuvok starts having Kes style flashbacks of the creature you know that Brannon Braga has run out of tricks. Even the central dilemma of Seven having to save the race she hates is a direct steal from Worf’s decision not to save the Romulan in The Enemy only no where near as effective.

Moment to Watch Out For: A cut to Engineering where Roxan Dawson is so heavily pregnant it is a joke that they are bothering to hide it anymore! As shite as Species 8472’s design is (their floppy little arms make them the campest aliens in the Delta Quadrant) the shot of one of them crawling along Voyager’s hull is pretty impressive.

Orchestra: An unusually strong score for Dennis McCarthy who has gotten a little predictable at this stage, really punctuating the action with some strong notes and stirring excitement.

Result: Perhaps by turning one badly designed misconceived monster against another cancels their flaws out because for the most part Prey works as the atmospheric thriller it wants to be. Mind you I think Allan Eastman has something to do with that and his direction is a cut above what I have come to expect from this show. It reminds me of David Livingston’s direction in season two when he was still excited about Voyager; pacy and dramatic with some visual stunning moments. Don’t get me wrong it doesn’t have anything deep to say in the slightest, in fact Hunters was far important in respect of the shows ‘arc’ but this is much more successful as an hour of entertainment because it doesn’t have an illusion other than to provide some exciting moments and visceral thrills. None of it is entirely original though – it plays out like a ‘best of Star Trek action moments’ with steals from The Undiscovered Country, First Contact, The Enemy and even Voyager’s own Scorpion and Distant Origin. The Hirogen continue to be as dull as sin and why they have chosen to humanise Species 8472 (previously billed as the show’s most badass villains) baffles me. But the atmosphere is almost enough to pull this one through although I doubt if I will be as kind next time (with The Juggernaut and The Haunting of Deck Twelve still to come which try to pull off a similar trick I know that to be true!). Its gripping in parts but also derivative so we’ll call this one a: 7/10

Retrospect written by Lisa Klink and directed by Jesus Salvador Trevino

What’s it about: Seven is violated by a weapons dealer…

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway makes quite an impressive barterer in the first scene, giving away some dodgy old chips in favour of a weapon that could make them a powerful force in the Quadrant! Her management style however is lacking – at least from the audiences point of view – what was the point of that fantastic scene at the end of Prey if at the beginning of the next episode Seven is forgiven and can go back to her normal duties? They’ve established that the tradition disciplinary actions will not knock Seven into the shape of a Starfleet drone so Janeway has to consider a stronger punishment in order to force her to comply. Yep, sounds like a Borg ship to me!

EMH: The Doctor, like Garak, replies to feelings of anger with a devastating quip rather than a left hook. He understands that most species wont reach his high standards and so he tries to be tolerant of them and accept them for what they are! Its rather sweet how the Doctor sticks up for Seven when Tuvok suggests she may have been making her story up. They are beginning to develop a friendship that would endure until the end of the series with the Doctor mentoring her in humanoid behaviour and slowly falling for her charms.

Borg Babe: So it couldn’t be that Seven attacked Kovin because he was a misogynistic, bullying pig…no there has to be some ridiculous scientific reason for her striking him and we discover in laborious fashion what happened.

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Our investigation has suddenly turned into a manhunt!’ – this should be a really exciting line but there is nothing exciting enough happening to warrant it!

The Good: Its quite nice to meet a race that think that Voyager is the least sophisticated they have ever seen rather than the other way around. In the first two seasons everybody treated it as though it was a modern day wonder when I was expecting to see more stylish technology in the Delta Quadrant.

The Bad: I’m not certain why the pre titles sequences ends on a cliffhanging note since Micheal Horton’s Kovin was acting in such a patronising way he deserved a punch on the nose! If anything there should have been celebratory music! I’m having real problems this year with finding any great originality in this show and the scenes of Seven remembering her ordeal are extremely reminiscent of similar scenes in TNG’s Schisms. Have they simply run out of plots and are just doing the TNG rounds? Is this supposed to be some kind of rape allegory? Because having Borg implants removed from Seven against her will doesn’t quite cover it…in fact its so oddly inoffensive I find the implications of the theme quite offensive. The flashbacks should have been disturbingly shot in dark, cramped sets but instead feel as though we are watching regular Voyager through a blue hazy lens. Seven simply doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about and yet the Doctor manipulates her into expressing at anger her violation – its almost a violation of medical practices surely to deliberately wind up your patients so? Surely this is the job of a counsellor? Plus to have scenes played out publicly where anybody could walk in and in such a casual manner? Kovin’s reaction when the evidence stacks up against him is pure nonchalance (he steps backwards and goes ‘No….no….no…’). That is one dodgy actor. The Doctor suddenly backtracking when the evidence goes against Seven is a joke, he was the one that pushed and pushed… I think he should have an overhaul once this sorry little tale is over to touch up his ethical subroutines. The final action scene is so ponderous and pointless it has clearly just been included because the studio likes a spaceship blowing up in every episode. Irritatingly the episode doesn’t even bother to confirm whether Kovin was guilty or innocent – we assume the latter but then we don’t get an adequate explanation or exploration for why Seven suffered the flashbacks that she did. Instead the episode wants to focus on the Doctor and his poor decisions! This is just sloppy, sloppy writing. Who is script editing this show?

Result: I was discussing this episode with my husband and I could not remember a single thing about it and now I know why having just watched it. The opening scenes suggests a screwball tale of Voyager trying to obtain superior weapons technology and I think had they gone down that route this could have been a lot of fun. Instead it’s a slothenly, slightly offensive rape allegory with a drawn out plot that could have been wrapped up in ten minutes and tedious scenes of Seven trying to learn how to feel violated by such actions. I can imagine that this was one of those ‘let’s stick that one in to pad out the season’ episodes that nobody really gave much of a damn about because there is a real feeling of tiredness in the writing and execution. Retrospect wants to be a hard hitting episode but Seven’s shoulder shrugging despondence and the flatly directed investigation scenes means we plod plod plod to a limp conclusion. If you want to see how this sort of thing can be done well, go watch TNG’s Violations: 3/10

The Killing Game Part I written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: ‘Allo ‘Allo vs. Predator?

Hepburn-a-Like: Well now this is a turn up for the books. Kate Mulgrew looks extremely comfortable embodying the role of Katrine, the almost androgynous bar owner and leader of the French resistance. It’s a chance for her drop all that restricting Starfleet protocol and allow her to charm the audience.

Tattoo: Amazing, Chakotay is even more of a bore as a holodeck character. Who would have thought it possible?

Brilliant B’Elanna: Hurrah! We finally get a look at Roxan Dawson’s pregnancy instead of tucking her away behind consoles and lab coats (or not bothering to do either and just blatantly showing it without explaining it!). Boo! It just so happens that the character that Tom Paris is playing is her old sweetheart from long ago! I think the writers have forgotten the sort of fun you can have with these episodes…again why not make Harry Kim the ex lover? Or Chakotay? Something a bit different? Instead what plays out is a dribbling subplot about her American sweetheart that would be enough to make the romance fans let go of their breakfast.

Borg Babe: There’s absolutely no reason why Seven and Janeway’s long running feud should bleed into this programme and pay out between the French characters. It would have been more fun to perhaps give one of the more neglected characters this season Seven’s role – does Harry Kim even exist anymore?

Parisian Rogue: Hah! Remember before when I complained that whatever subject matter the writers wanted to explore that Paris was suddenly an expert in that field…are they having a laugh at their own expense in this episode? Within the holodeck programme, as a completely different character he is now an expert in the French town they are visiting! I would like to think that this is a dig but experience has taught me that this just a lazy writer who can’t quite get out of the habit. Made me chuckle.

Forever Ensign: Every now and again we meet up with a sweaty, greasy Harry Kim for about 30 seconds to reminds us that he still exists. It looks as though he has been playing tarmac wrestling with one of the Hirogen. He does get beaten up a little bit so that’s fun. 

The Good: Ask a set designer to conjure up an alien city then you get the usual stock Trek interior exterior sets (usually featuring a lot of triangles or hexagons to make it a little more spacey) but ask them to bring to life WWII France and suddenly they come alive with inspiration. The sets for Katrine’s is exquisitely detailed and atmospheric and they also have a fair stab at turning the Paramount backlot into a cinematic rendition of the streets of France. I was thrilled to see Neelix being shot at and Seven was a vision of beauty emerging with her own gun in possibly the episodes best sequence. We’re not used to such sunny locations and breathless action in Voyager and it is the ultimate refreshment. Janeway’s ready room looks a lot more exciting with bloody skulls and weapons hanging from the walls! She should keep them! Tuvok with a Tommy gun? Yes please! The destruction of the Nazi HQ is a top notch effect, Janeway and Seven are imposed in front of the effect seamlessly.

The Bad: Here are today’s lessons…
Lesson One – Never turn Janeway into a growling, snarling Klingon. It might have worked with Avery Brooks in Apocalypse Rising but then he is a pretty growling, snarling actor at times so the glove fits! It doesn’t automatically mean that all leading actor/resses can manage it. I wonder if this was on the drawing board when they decided to make Janeway an empowered female Captain. ‘I know lets give her fangs, a lumpy forehead and a ton of muscle and she can go ‘ug ug ug’ a lot!’ It feels less like ‘ooh what’s going on?’ and more ‘what is Voyager trying to pull this week to avoid getting back to the main storyline?’
Lesson Two – Don’t introduce a new ‘Big Bad’ and treat them so disrespectfully. Introduce them in an episode when they aren’t the least interesting thing about it (that goes for Message in a Bottle and Hunters), take some time to give them an interesting backstory (they are just scavenging nomads) and don’t allow their capture of the ship to take place off screen! Finally once they have got the ship don’t attempt a ludicrous plot of having them transform the crew into various different species (when there are is enough multi cultural differences on this crew to keep them as they are) and play out war games in the holodeck to learn more about them. Just kill them, get their ship and move on. Plus I really don’t understand why the Hirogen were a bunch of backward, primitive, grunting thugs in their first three stories and suddenly we are introduced to a sophisticated, charming member of their race. The Hirogen leader here reminds me of the hyper intelligent Gremlin from Gremlins 2 who takes the brain potion and dazzles with a rendition of New York, New York! It feels as if the writers haven’t sat down and decide exactly what this species is going to be like and just made it all up as they’ve gone along. Compare and contrast to the Borg for TNG and the Jem H’adar for DS9 that remained pretty consistently and instantly memorable from the outset. Watching the Hirogen breaking open one of Neelix’s French sticks as though he has watched too many episodes of ‘Allo ‘Allo (wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies were inside?) is farcical. The Hirogen – don’t mess with them or they’ll snap your bread sticks in half! Instead of enhancing Voyager’s weapons array the Hirogen decide to enlarge their pleasure facilities? What is this race on? The idea of one Hirogen trying to change the ways of his entire species is laudable but since we never see the species again after this episode (at least until series seven if I’m much mistaken) its entirely pointless. Don’t bring up the possibility if you’re not going to do anything with it! It would be like the end of season five of DS9 suggesting a huge war a’coming and then opening season six going ‘well that was a pretty hard war, is that a temporal anomaly coming out of the wormhole?’
Lesson Three – Don’t have too much of a good thing. There is barely enough plot here to sustain one episode so whoever thought of stretching it out for two should be whipped a few times so they don’t do it again.
Lesson Four – When you are writing a quirky tale where your main characters are playing different parts, remember that! A change of location, different fashion…but these are essentially the same characters.
Lesson Five – Stop making your main characters look so easily duped! How many times has Voyager been besieged and the crew duped? The Kazon managed it, the Vidiians, the Hirogen, soon another Federation ship would subdue them too! Dammit I thought Starfleet were supposed to be the best of the best!
Lesson Six – Stop copying your own plots! The crew subdued and helpless with two characters on the ship trying to resist…its Basics Part II all over again!
Lesson Seven – Don’t turn Neelix into a Klingon. Just don’t.
Lesson Eight – Think through your cliffhangers. How does a simulated explosion rip through into the ship? Surely that is impossible even with the safeties off. And why do we care that several decks of the ship are exposed? At least the crew can escape now! I’m baffled as to why this moment was chosen to end the episode. Plus the fact that the episode is ending without a resolution means we have to put up with a second. Joy.

Moment to Watch Out For: Neelix gets shot in the back. Best scene of the episode.

Fashion Statement: Seven of Nine in a slinky dress (that’s almost a parody of her original catsuit) singing a sultry number is probably enough to keep a certain demographic extremely happy. She looks absolutely beautiful. I love Janeway in a shirt with her hair coiffured, what a classy bird. J. Paul Boehemer makes for a pretty hot Nazi! 

Anomaly of the Week: Episodes like this make me miss the old ‘anomaly’ episodes. Strange how nostalgic the current garbage can make the old garbage. 

Result: I’m starting to wonder about the Brannon Braga’s sanity. He has apparently unlimited funds (according to the look of this episode) and the scope of a two part story and this is what he wastes it on? The Killing Game is bound to popular because it throws the regulars in different roles and has a lot of action and style but its possibly the most brainless episode of the year with enough holes in the (saggy) plot to make a small canyon. I’m really confused as to why so much time was invested in the French Resistance story when it has absolutely nothing to do with anything and its all played out totally straight as if this is the show we normally watch week in, week out. The characterisation lacks any substance and for the most part it is only slightly looser versions of their regular characters and the Hirogen continue to be the ultimate bores of the Delta Quadrant. Why should we give a damn about this species when there is no consistency to them, no defining features and no longevity. They are just space thugs and this episode attempts to dress one of them up as something more and fails. This might have made an intriguing one part story but setting this belly button fluff over two episodes is interminable. Visually this is stunning and it has some nice action sequences but somewhere along the line the writers have lost their minds: 5/10

The Killing Game Part II written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky and directed by Victor Lobl

What’s it about: More of the same with a lame conclusion…

Hepburn-a-Like: Are we really supposed to think that Janeway has a new nemesis in the Hirogen Leader? A Moriarty to her Holmes? They try and suggest that this is a cat and mouse game but nobody is doing anything remotely smart and their dialogue scenes together are functional and lack any sparkle. Compare with Janeway’s scenes with Kashyk in Counterpoint next year and you’ll see what I’m getting at. That’s how good this could be.

Tattoo: The mere thought of listening to Robert Beltran trying to play a butch American war hero is enough to make me howl but to see it in practice with lines like ‘listen honey, this is war!’ had me in stitches! ‘You’re a gung-ho kind of girl, aren’t you?’ Hahaha!

Brilliant B’Elanna: ‘Not the movie…but I do remember the kiss!’ Oh vomit, Paris and Torres play out a romantic scenario that’s going to make nobody’s heart bleed. I still don’t understand why we are watching this scenario play out when apparently we should be focussing on getting the ship back. Why are these scenes relevant? ‘There’s never been anybody else but you…’ pass me the bucket. Actually it has just occurred to me…how is B’Elanna pregnant in the holodeck? Did they get the Doctor to surgically add a baby? How much more ridiculous can this story get?

EMH: ‘Oh by the way Doctor we gave the Hirogen technology so they could create and torture a load of holograms. I hope you’re okay with that.’

Spotted Dick: Can you imagine anything more annoying than Neelix drunk made up as a Klingon. These scenes are as painful as they are supposed to be funny. Its probably the worst performance Ethan Phillips ever gives in the show – so far over the tip he’s gone right over the rainbow! Plus Neelix makes a damn ugly Klingon!

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Loosen up, baby doll. The War’s almost over…’ – no more 20th Century slang please, Tom.

The Good: The one scene in this whole episode that did impress me was when Janeway was being hunted through the ship. It’s the only point I felt anybody was in any real jeopardy and Mulgrew plays these moments for real. A small consolation is that the sequel to this story, Flesh and Blood, is far superior but we have to wait until season seven for that.

The Bad: Nazi’s firing on the decks of Voyager…its like one of those old TOS episodes where they went down the rabbit hole and did some really surreal stuff except this is played deadly straight and thus sucks all the charm out of it. Every scene is so predictable…Tom meeting Harry and not knowing him, Tuvok suspecting Seven. There isn’t a single moment that can’t be foreseen. Its not even as if Janeway does anything particularly clever to defeat the Hirogen take back her ship so once again these space thugs are the wettest bunch of villains we have seen so far in the Delta Quadrant. Seven was right in Hunters when she said the only thing formidable about them is their size. Its certainly not their intellect! Even the Kazon thought to toss Janeway and her crew off the ship (mind you that brings back memories of Basics Part II so lets not go there…). Spare me the Hirogen/Nazi parallel – on the one hand you’ve got a frightening fascistic group hell bent on dominating the world on the other you’ve got a bunch of daft lizards who would have trouble flying a ship on autopilot. I don’t understand the point of trying to turn the Hirogen way of life into a fake by using holograms – what exactly does that achieve? Haven’t we established on this show that holograms have feelings too? I think the Hirogen Second should murder his clearly fruitloopy Leader and get back out there to do some more raping and pillaging. If he were in charge this would be a lot more fun – no holodeck bollocks, just a straight action adventure with lots of juicy space fights. I can’t believe I’m rooting for the character who is there to be a spanner in the works! Frankly I can’t believe it took him until ten minutes before the finale to turn on his Leader! Had Janeway flushed them all out into space and patted her hands as though she had done a good days work I would have been much more impressed but the compromise they reach is insulting. They’ve just been torturing your crew for the past couple of weeks, disfiguring and impregnating them and you just let them go on their way with some of your technology… You picked a fine time to lose your backbone, Janeway! When the Klingons leapt into the Nazi occupied France programme I thought I had taken a dose of mind altering drugs. Somebody get Brannon Braga away from the typewriter! And tie up Joe Menosky and put him in a cupboard while you’re there! This is the same team that brought us Scorpion? Piss off! Just like in those cheesy old films the villains falls from a great height to show his fall from grace. What’s on the other side? ‘Captains Log…the damage to Voyager has been extreme but never fear gentle viewer because it will all be back to normal next week.’

Orchestra: The one person who deserves kudos is David Bell who provides a really hearty score that was so dynamic I almost got excited a few times. I would love to listen to the score independent of the episode because such quality music shouldn’t be hampered by these cartoon antics.

Result: Its basically the same as part one but take out the well executed action scenes and period detail – so basically the only things that made it worth watching! The whole point of this two parter is for Janeway and company to boot the Hirogen off the ship from a takeover that we never originally saw? The status quo was always going to be maintained so it was just a matter of sitting through the gunplay and melodrama and waiting for things to get back to normal. Some people might call this entertainment, I call it treading water when there are far more interesting things to do. DS9’s mid season two parter saw a the Dominion threat reach Earth, the Voyager epic is the regular cast farting about playing ‘Allo ‘Allo. Victor Lobl makes it all look pretty but if you want to see what this director can really do check out DS9’s In the Pale Moonlight where he is given a much smaller budget and shows infinitely more skill. The Killing Game proves there is nowhere for Voyager to go and nothing particularly interesting is ever going to take place in the Delta Quadrant, the best we can hope for is quirky episodes like this to see us through to season seven. Dreadfully dull: 3/10

Vis a Vis written by Robert J. Doherty and directed by Jesus Salvador Trevino

What’s it about: Tom Paris is having a mid life crisis…

Tattoo: When precisely did Tom Paris and Chakotay make up? They went from bitter rivals in the first season to uneasy allies in the second season (during Paris’ faux tardy period) and then all of sudden they are the best of chums without explanation. Their conflict in Caretaker was extremely engaging – I wish the writers were brave enough to keep it up. It would be like just forgetting the Odo/Quark rivalry and having them being super nice to each other all the time.

EMH: The Doctor is written like a total chump when he realises that Tom has an inferiority complex when it comes to his superior abilities.

Borg Babe: Has Robert J. Doherty ever watched an episode of Voyager. The characterisation is all over the place – after being told off for ignoring the chain of command and telling Janeway she will never be like her and always express her individuality suddenly she is giving lectures to other people about familiarising themselves with Voyager’s hierarchy?

Parisian Rogue: It would appear that in the future the Alpha male still can’t resist getting under the hood of a car and tinkering! Of all the regulars I would definitely put Tom Paris in that category! In fact I’m not sure when I have seen Robert Duncan McNeill look more comfortable in his role than the motor pornography that kick starts this episode. I don’t buy that Tom is getting restless on Voyager…he’s been fine for the past four seasons and has found himself a girlfriend, a best friend and just a few episode back he was telling Harry Kim that what he has on Voyager is far better than anything he could ever find at home. It strikes me that the writer decided undermine all that for the sake of this one episode. Its out of character and pointless for a one episode interlude – if we had seen some build up and this had gone on for perhaps half season (like when he went ‘bad’ in season two) I might have bought it. And he and B’Elanna have had the shortest honeymoon period ever. They’re already rowing about wanting to spend time apart! Well Tom is and that’s another moment of inconsistent characterisation. Their fight is hideous daytime soap dialogue again (‘You’re overreacting!’ ‘I’m not overreacting! There is obviously something going on I you refuse to admit it!’ ‘If you can carry on an adult conversation without all the histrionics!’) – I hope they realise people don’t speak in this way beyond Australian soap operas. How piss poor is the ‘drunk’ scene with Tom and Seven? McNeill doesn’t even bother to inject the scene with any humour. Like the rest of the episode it just isn’t trying. Tom learns to appreciate his role on Voyager again – It’s a Wonderful Life it aint.

The Good: In her few seconds as the baddie Kate Mulgrew has more fun than McNeill does in the whole episode. Suddenly a completely different episode seems possible…

The Bad: What happened to all that Hirogen damage to the ship from the last episode? Did they clear it all up before this one began? The show opens with Tom Paris under the hood of a classic car and the episode is about the hottest vehicle in the Quadrant – you see what they did there? Blimey this show has lost all sense of subtlety. I know I’ve been asking for character development all season but Tom Paris’ obsession with mechanical parts wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. Still its not all bad…at least its not season six’s Alice which takes Tom’s lust of vehicles to a whole new level of bad. Watching Robert Duncan McNeill try and act bad is almost as bad as Alexander Siddig in DS9’s The Passenger, he plays every line as though he is auditioning for a hissable panto baddie (‘I’ll never be half the healer you are!’). Considering how often entities jump into peoples bodies around here you would think that the regulars would know the out of character signs displayed (Possessed Tom doesn’t know how to get to sickbay but Harry thinks this hilarious, he is courteous to Chakotay, sucks up to the Doctor and tries to romance B’Elanna – classic signs!). It takes Tom actively threatening Seven before anybody suspects there is something wrong. Irritatingly the episode cuts away from what could have been its best scene – Tom attacking Janeway and instead we wander back in moments later when he is throttling her in the most inept fashion! Its quite the funniest thing all season! Talk about a bad choice of fresh writer - just look at the episodes Robert J. Doherty penned after this one: Bliss, Riddles, Tsunkatse, Ashes to Ashes, Lifeline, Imperfection, Critical Care, Inside Man, Repentance, Q2 and Endgame! I’ve never seen such a list of middling to poor episodes grouped together! Hilarious – we haven’t had an easy wrap line like this one in ages: ‘The Doctor has figured out a way to return us all to our right bodies!’ Umm, how exactly? Like the way he de-evolved you and Tom in Threshold?

Anomaly of the Week: ‘It looks like space is being folded in on itself!’ – the closest we have come to the faithful anomaly all season! It just doesn’t feel like Voyager without them. 

Result: Is this really one of the best seasons of Voyager? The only difference I am seeing between seasons three (possibly the worst season of Star Trek) and four is that the episodes this year are marginally better (ranking 4s and 5s rather than 2s and 3s with the odd winner thrown in for good measure). Aimless, incoherent storytelling, inconsistent characterisation and a complete absence of intelligence, that’s how I would sum this show up since Michael Piller jumped ship. This is another dud and this time it appears that the writer has never seen an episode of Trek before in his life. Seeing a new writers name should be a cause for celebration but Vis a Vis plays like a watered down version of every other possession story with some particularly out of character moments for practically all of the regulars. The sex changing alien woman is just bizarre because the show seems to want to flirt with the idea of homosexuality (the male flirts outrageously with Tom and she seems very interested in Seven) but doesn’t have the balls to go through with anything to make it in anyway memorable. There’s nothing original to see here, nothing deep, nothing especially entertaining and with McNeill camping it up as Steth it’s a stupefyingly weak episode to add to this years failures: 2/10

The Omega Directive written by Lisa Klink and directed by Victor Lobl

What’s it about: Has Voyager discovered the infamous Omega molecule?

Hepburn-a-Like: I almost cheered when Chakotay said that Janeway makes a reasonable argument but that she isn’t a reasonable woman! Why can’t he be this succinct every week? For once Janeway thinks outside of the box and pulls the senior staff in on the big secret. The Omega Device seems tailored to suit Janeway’s character because she has always been a keen scientist but I wish it had been something more exciting for her to get passionate about.

Tattoo: I can’t believe they gave Chakotay the line ‘I always believed that Starfleet was run by duty crazed beaurocrats!’ when he is the worst example of that kind of rigid dogma on the ship! In the last few episodes there has been an alarming amount of transference self description!

Brilliant B’Elanna: Torres is missing from her one scene because Roxan Dawson is off having her baby. Finally she can take an active role in the season!

Borg Babe: Opening in Seven’s alcove on the cargo bay it was only at this point that I realised that introducing Seven to this show has changed nothing on Voyager as far as the show itself is concerned. True it has introduced a little more conflict because of her acerbic remarks and rebellious attitude but ultimately the show is still producing exactly the same sort of shows as it was in its third year. When Worf moved onto DS9 it came with an advent of political change, a greater action content and a strong focus on the already established regulars. It felt as though the show had shifted a gear from good to excellent. So it does make me wonder was she merely an addition to titillate the audiences? Since when did Seven start to call people ‘six of ten’? Omega is infinitely harmonious but complex and represents perfection to the Borg and Seven is similarly beguiled by its properties. 

Forever Ensign: Brilliant, almost as if to highlight how nothing in the slightest has changed for Harry in an entire year he can be seen in the Mess Hall playing Kalto with Tuvok in exactly the same manner as he was in Alter Ego at this point in season three. Get a girlfriend man! At least he won this time with Seven’s help. Harry’s ridiculously hopeful guess as to what Janeway is being secretive about says everything you need to know about this naïve character. Seven demoting Harry is a moment that might make you smile.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The final frontier has some boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed…’

The Good: The secrecy surrounding the symbol that appears on all the screens on the Bridge means this is probably the best pre titles sequence in an age. Janeway’s caginess leads you to believe this might be something quite exciting. The molecule only existed for a fraction of a second but it wiped out 126 scientists and opened up dangerous subspace ruptures. Should they get out of control warp travel would be impossible and space travel would cease to exist. To lose the ability to go to warp forever is quite a frightening prospect for this crew because it would mean they would have to limp their way home and it would take countless generations to make it back to the Alpha Quadrant, if ever. Tying Omega to the creation myth does add to its interest, had they revealed that this was the molecule that kick started the universe it would have given this episode more of a boost but they merely flirt with the idea.

The Bad: To learn that the Omega Directive is all about a deadly particle of matter is a little anti-climactic. Couldn’t it have been a super weapon or a deadly ship or something that we could get excited by? What’s next weeks episode going to be about? A deadly DNA strain? Season four really has been the year of the unmemorable alien and Allos is another boring example. A shame that this all powerful Omega molecule is represented by nothing more than a harsh blue spotlight. Its hardly the most visually arresting threat Janeway has ever come across. The effects shot of the molecule leaking through to the planets surface is quite poor. Does there have to be an obligatory space chase in every single episode?  They seem to include one in every episode this season whether it is needed or not, as if they think the audience wont feel satisfied unless one is included.

Moment to Watch Out For: Seven shows some character growth by doing as she is told rather than what she wants.

Orchestra: The weakest composer on Trek that I can remember, Paul Baillargeon instils every episode he scores with the same kind of wishy washy fantasy music that adds very little oomph or atmosphere. Which is odd since he provides one of my all time favourite scores in The Siege of AR-558 but that is an exceptional one off. You can basically take his music from this episode and transplant into any of his others (go listen to the soundtrack to DS9’s When it Rains and it is identical). 

Result: The Omega Particle feels like its halfway there to becoming a good episode but it never really gets out of orbit. Its extremely talky but considering the topic of conversation is technobabble heaven its hardly anything to get thrilled about. But at least the episode is about something rather than just digging up long dead Trek clichés and the reverence with which Janeway and Seven hold the Omega molecule is almost enough to suggest something truly devastating might happen should they discover it. What would have helped this episode would have been to have escaped Voyager for a little while but this is the fourth primarily ship bound episode in a row and the show is starting to feel claustrophobic. In some ways I wished that Janeway had made the whole thing up to get the crew worked up and pass another week of perpetual travel through the Delta Quadrant go by more swiftly. The Omega Directive feels like Voyager is trying again but its not quite hard enough: 5/10

Unforgettable written by Greg Elliot & Michael Perritone and directed by Andrew J. Robinson

What’s it about: Chakotay falls for a mysterious alien that already knows him…

Tattoo: A Chakotay romance almost seems like a contradiction in terms. The guy is a robot, plain and simple and all of his actions are fairly mechanical so to suggest that there is a heart beating underneath all that New Age mysticism and Starfleet procedure is a joke. Hampering the already plainly written episode is the fact that Robert Beltran and Virginia Marsden share no chemistry whatsoever and despite what is coming out of their mouths there is a constant impression that they would rather be elsewhere. Beltran makes the plea ‘don’t go’ with all the passion of a Speak’n’Spell reading poetry.  Look at him acting tough in the Brig, grabbing that guy by the shirt and pretending to breathe heavily…

Forever Ensign: The way they keep harping on about Harry and Seven it seems as though they are going to develop a romance between the two. Odd that it never seems to happen. I beg of you to watch the scene where Harry offers advice on which security team to work with, you’ll never see such bland dialogue played by two unconvincing actors.

Spotted Dick: A late night conversation between Neelix and Chakotay should be very sweet…although we did see something similar in the season when half the crew were suffering from insomnia. The main drawback is Robert Beltran, he just isn’t convincing as the lovesick Commander despite Ethan Philips giving a warm performances. His advice that Chakotay doesn’t trust his own feeling for Kellin and is projecting them onto her is surprisingly thoughtful for the cartoon Talaxian.

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘This is Commander Chakotay! Who are you?’ – I don’t know if it was the delivery but that line was bloody funny and made me spit out my cheerios!

The Bad: There must be a more interesting way to start an episode than to have some random ships engaged in fighting on the viewscreen. In fact didn’t Basics Part I start with a ‘Chakotay I need your help!’ message? If Vis a Vis and Unforgettable are anything to go by I am now banning any new writers joining the staff – we’ll stick with the Braga’s and the Taylor’s because no matter how bad their stories are…they aren’t this bad. The idea of a race that once you have seen you forget as soon as you look away is a good one but only when that race is called the Silents. When used to tell a dreary romance its just a plot contrivance. I wonder if Kellin’s people were Star Trek fans and that was why they chose to stick on a pair of Spock ears and pretend she was from another species. Did anybody care that the Tracers had found Kellin? Janeway should have handed her over and we could have gotten on with something more interesting – although given the evidence of this season I can’t guarantee that. We get our standard space fire fight about halfway through the episode so the writer can tick that off his checklist. 

Result: Now this really is the limit! They were just asking for trouble with that title, weren’t they? The biggest problem with Unforgettable is that we know how Voyager works as a show now so there was always going to be a clunky twist that reveals that all is not what it seems and we’ll never hear from Kellin ever again. So whilst we’re being driven to insomnia with the passionless, comatose romance scenes there is an added feeling of despondence that we just don’t care anyway because its never going to be relevant to show. If you compare and contrast (I like doing this, don’t I?) with DS9’s His Way (which aired on the same week as Unforgettable) and you can see a show that has style, humour and genuine character development and not only that but bringing two of the regulars together in a way that impacts the rest of the series. That’s how to do it. It feels as though Robert Beltran has given up trying on the show that has him tied in for another three years and every moment with Chakotay is one that is likely to make your eyelids heavy. There’s underplaying and then there’s phoning it in and this is a tedious example of the latter. Where’s the cuteness that would make this work? Why aren’t Chakotay or Kellin remotely likable? Why am I still putting myself through this? This is tedium of the highest order the weakest episode yet of a terribly inconsistent year of Trek: 1/10

Living Witness written by Bryan Fuller, Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky and directed by Tim Russ

What’s it about: Step on board the warship Voyager for more torture, executions and genocide…

Hepburn-a-Like: Tucked into a Starfleet uniform and some dominatrix black gloves, Janeway finally drops the pretence of being a civilised human being and admits that she is a Nazi dictator! Its what I’ve been saying all along! Frankly some of her methods here aren’t that far removed from the Janeway we usually get and her sledgehammer tactics to get people to comply with her wishes are spot on! Just goes to show you can get the emphasis right but the details wrong! Either way Kate Mulgrew has great fun chewing up the scenery as Furher Janeway! I love the way that Janeway refuses to let her crew have all the fun and when there is an execution to be had she’s right in there pulling the trigger and relishing the corpse falling to the floor. Making the parallels with Hitler complete there is a myth about Janeway’s ‘personal Almanac’, obviously the Starfleet version of Mein Kamph! She deals with squabbles amongst her crew with a phaser blast to the console! Janeway prefers to attack the general population rather than simply targeting military outposts, its far more effectively. In reality the death of Tedrin is a ‘tragic, needless death’ rather than at the hands of the  bloodthirsty Nazi Janeway which is nowhere near as fun!

Tattoo: Typically the least interesting ‘bad’ character is Chakotay whose performance is barely different from normal (ie not very good). I guess that’s why they gave the massive tattoo on his face to make at least appear visually that there is a difference.

EMH: What a sinister version of the Doctor plugged into the medical console with freaky, cat like eyes! Robert Picardo could teach Beltran and the other a good deal about playing menace, he underplays it but his calm anger is spine chilling. He steps into a inadequately acted scene in sickbay shows his fellow slouches how it is done by attempting the dissolve the prisoners optic nerve. Emphasising just how different the Doctor is to his crew, here he is centuries after they have all died still going strong and forced to new a new path in life. He wonders if he is going to have to live his life as a holographic Rip Van Winkle but instead is exploited as a living witness to the events that took place in the past.

Brilliant B’Elanna: A shame that Roxan Dawson was away this week so she could be with her baby because a murderously aggressive Torres would have been a joy to watch. That Doctor states she had a vulnerability that made her quite endearing.

Borg Babe: In this version of history Seven is still a Borg drone and is only woken up when Janeway requires an assassin to do her dirty work. There are number of other drones they have assimilated into the crew and Janeway lets her increase their numbers when there is a boarding.

Mr Vulcan: The massive eared, sinister Tuvok is much more fun than the usual dour get we have to hang with. This is the sort of character I would have liked Tuvok to have developed into if they had allowed the Meld storyline to evolve. Someone who smiles sadistically when people are being tortured.

Parisian Rogue: There’s real tension between Paris and Chakotay, fist fighting in a staff meeting! This is how it should have been since Caretaker! Way to show us what we’ve been missing out on!

Forever Ensign: Harry Kim as a violent bully is so extreme I was almost horny when he was on screen! This is definitely the way to go with this character.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The best way to bring down a ruler is to make his people suffer!’ – Janeway gets lots of camp, evil statements like that that are a joy to listen to. ‘Defeat/genocide…why quibble semantics?’ is another powerhouse line in the same vein.
‘Watch you mouth, hedgehog!’
‘History has been abused! We keep blaming ourselves for what happened in the past!’

The Good: The way the story cuts to a lesson being explained to a class in a museum is beautifully done because it is exactly at the point where we want to see some prime destruction! They say that history is written by the victors and here is an episode that shows a menacing slant on the Voyager crew from the point of view of a race they encountered on bad terms. It’s an outstanding premise for a show and probably the most original piece of the entire season. Voyager now is a warship with a compliment of over 300 soldiers that went around attacking worlds to exploit them for resources to try and get them home. Tim Russ shows great skill in his direction of the episode especially in the transition scenes from the evil Voyager to the museum – in an early scene we slide back from an effects shot that pauses to show it on a viewscreen and later he pans across a room to show the observers watching from one of Voyager’s windows. It’s a visual creativeness that we aren’t used to on this show. Being set centuries after the end of the show is intriguing – I wish we could have learnt something of Voyager’s eventual fate. Its fascinating to me because my husband is very much of the opinion when he walks around museums that state as fact how things were in the past through a few insignificant artefacts that there is no way of ever knowing if that is the truth. History as we know it has been magicked up through the surviving evidence but the chances are the many events that are taught in school could have been very different had the emphasis been different. I’m pleased that a Voyager episode is provoking this kind of intelligent questioning as it proves to me that it is still capable of producing something with substance. I even like the scenes that see Quarren working in a simulation of Voyager, watching him work alone in the confines of Engineering shows what a great space that set is to film in when it isn’t being ignored in favour the latest ridiculous plot. Henry Woronicz gives a thoughtful performance as Quarren and manages in a short space of time to make him a likable and yet flawed character. Somehow the Doctor’s appalled reaction to the psychotic versions of the crew make it even more amusing! Events have been re-interpreted to make this race feel better about themselves, the only ones who can’t see are the Kyrrians. What’s even funnier is that as soon as the Doctor rewrites the programme t show what really happened (and thus what would happen in a normal Voyager episode) its nowhere near as entertaining! The episode also throws light on how damaging it can be if you do start rewriting history, centuries of peace can turn into war when the foundations of a culture are thrown into a new light. The attack on the museum is shocking and Russ employs an impressive to cut to the morning so we can survey the wreckage in the dawn light. Even a small touch such as focussing on the tricorder during the attack so we know where it is when the Doctor and Quarren don’t (and it’s the vital piece of evidence that could stop the fighting) is well thought through by Russ. The clever ending that hops forward into the future once again offers hope for the future of these people and a happy ending for the backup Doctor.

The Bad: Do you remember the Red Dwarf episode Angels and Demons? Living Witness reminds me desperately of this. You have the normal, holier than thou, goody two shoes Voyager crew (you know the one we spend every week with) and then their sadistic, evil, completely irredeemable counterparts making an appearance here. There is no middle ground, it goes from one angelic extreme to a demonic other. Somewhere between these two sets is where you’ll find the DS9 crew with lots of shades of light an dark (some call it ambiguity) and as such the are far more interesting than the Voyager crew that have no flaws and thus are loaded with them. Don’t get me wrong I think Living Witness is a classic episode but it strikes me as odd that the writers should have to leap from one extreme to the other in order to make an entertaining episode of Voyager, it kind of exposes where the show is going wrong in the character department. I thought Voyager didn’t have a back up? Or did they construct after the Message in a Bottle debacle.

Moment to Watch Out For: All the scenes set on Voyager are top notch and its not often I get to say that!

Fashion Statement: Janeway’s fierce spiky haircut in the simulations makes her look like the ultimate feminist lesbian!

Result: Take a fun, interesting premise (a race remembers Voyager as a ship of villains), one of the best regulars (Robert Picardo on great form), a strong political stance (proving that people don’t want their established version of history to be altered) and work in some delicious ‘evil’ alternatives of the crew and a director who is sweating blood to make the show visually and emotionally effective and you have a Star Trek masterpiece. I call it Living Witness! Given Robert Duncan McNeill’s astonishing direction of Unity and Time Russ’ work here on Living Witness directing is clearly where their talent lies and I would happily lose both Paris and Tuvok if it meant we could have episodes of this quality on a regular basis. It pleases me that Voyager can still produce gold like this because I was starting to wonder and Living Witness is a stunning episode sandwiched by two of the worst. Voyager was lucky that the Doctor was on hand to set the record straight but it makes you wonder how many established historical events were corrupted by the victors (or the victims) to paint an ugly picture of the past. Frankly this would have made a far better two parter than The Killing Game because there is so much more of this culture and the malevolent crew to explore and the sweeping reforms in Kyrrian society almost feel rushed confined to 45 minutes but regardless this is still an impeccably written, powerful piece that makes its point well and provides top class entertainment as it goes. It’s the best episode of Voyager since Scorpion Part II: 10/10

Demon written by Kenneth Biller and directed by Anson Williams

What’s it about: Voyager has run out of fuel but fortunately there is a Demon class planet nearby…

Tattoo: Don’t Chakotay and Seven dally in a little romance in season seven? You would never know that he had desires for her the way he talks to her! 

Forever Ensign: Is this the ‘Harry Kim gets assertive’ episode of the year? They crop up sporadically when its been an entire season since we focussed on the non entity (other thrilling examples include The Disease in season five and Nightingale in season seven). Unfortunately Garret Wang doesn’t have the charm to make it seems cheeky enough so he comes across as a petulant child and boasting in the corridor to Tom about standing up for himself reminds me of wimpy boys in the playground boasting about talking back to the school bully when you know in reality it was quite different. Harry suggests that when he joined Voyager he was pretty green, young, inexperienced and acting totally naïve which I can follow precisely but then he goes on to mention how all the things he has been through (back from the dead, fighting the Borg, etc) has changed him and made him more assertive and adult. Oh fuck off Harry. You’re the same chump you ever was and this blinding character revelation holds no weight because there has been no evidence of it at all this season. Garret Wang’s ‘I belong here! I don’t want to leave!’ should have seen him written out of the show, hottest Asian television actor or not (not my view but apparently it saved his job).

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Captain I find I might be able to help!’ ‘Harry the bicycle thing was a joke!’ – again I cannot believe a human being is writing this atrocious dialogue. At least Harry mention it is a stupid joke.

The Good: Go with me here…its not the worst premise for a show I’ve ever seen. I mean the idea of getting off the ship (hurrah!) into a hostile environment can only be a good thing, right? Whilst erring on the side of the first season TNG studio alien worlds there is at least an attempt to make this planet look volcanic and hostile and the lighting is exceptional.

The Bad: Its taken them four years to run out of fuel? Surely that should have happened at some point in the first or second season? Its been such an easy ride for this crew slouching their way home in comfort that it almost seems churlish to bring up the issue at a point where we know it is going to be irrelevant in the next episode. Harry is such a chump he somehow manages to fall into a small pool of mercury – if I were Tom I would have headed back to the ship and confirmed his death while I had the chance. Then he was just stupid once his own suit is compromised to keep trying to save his idiotic friend. Let them both die, the show wont lose anything. Whoever conceived of a sitcom with Neelix moving into sickbay and annoying the hell out of the Doctor ought to be covered in strawberry jam and left to the mercy of hungry ants. Neelix is trying to get to sleep and the Doctor deliberately goes about his daily chores to annoy him so Neelix decides to start a sing along to distract him – oh how ticklesome! Look at how low we’ve sunk in order to get some entertainment. Its not quite as abysmal as Enterprise’s A Night in Sickbay but that was absolutely unwatchable but its still forced, unfunny and utterly pointless. What the hell is Vorik doing in this episode? He hasn’t been seen since season three! McNeill and Wang’s lack of oxygen acting has to be seen to be believed. Janeway works tirelessly to prevent Tom and Harry being left behind…is she mad? And did anybody not believe that the terrible twosome weren’t duplicates? After a season embarrassingly bad aliens Voyager faces the threat of an evil silvery goo this week! We never think that the ship wont escape the planet so the suggestion otherwise is pointless. They really need to think of new ways other than pure action to put these characters in peril because I just don’t buy it. I don’t understand how Janeway could ever agree to have the entire crew duplicated to live out their life on this inhospitable planet! Its absolutely ridiculous! How did she get everybody to agree to that? How would anybody feel about another version of yourself out there living in hellish conditions? Its ridiculously stupid and improbable. The ending where the duplicate crew are left on the planet is begging for a sequel and unfortunately it’s the one time you’ll wish they hadn’t bothered.

Moment to Watch Out For: Voyager landing on the planet looks cinematic but since that is the purpose of the entire episode it ought to be. 

Result: The overdue premise is merely an excuse for some nifty effects work and set design and whilst the episode scores highly on those points it loses more for its horrendous characterisation (Harry Kim is growing some balls? Give me a break!) and daft, burdensome storytelling. Its one of those rare episodes that manages to combine a flaccid main storyline and an awful subplot too – I’d like to say that Neelix and the Doctor having a bitch fight in sickbay is not the standard I have come to expect from this show but given the past two seasons it is precisely the sort of diabolical material I have come to fear. I fail to see what the point of the ‘Voyager has run out of fuel’ plot because as ever we know that they will be chugging along at warp again next week without a thought for their trials here. Its an extended jeopardy narrative with duplicates thrown in for good measure but since both have already been done (marginally) better this year there’s no interest to be found. Last week it was tough, thoughtful storytelling but now we’re back to Voyager ploddage and with two episodes left before the end of the season it doesn’t look as if season four is going to go out on a high. Even worse, Demon spawns a sequel that somehow manages to be even worse: 3/10

One written by Jeri Taylor and directed by Kenneth Biller

What’s it about: Seven is left alone on the ship and succumbs to the madness of solitude…

Hepburn-a-Like: There’s an instinct in Janeway, something inside her that believes Seven wants to be redeemed and to prove herself and she is taking a massive gamble by leaving her in charge of the crew. Indeed they have locked horn over how reckless Seven can be this season so this must feel like an ever greater risk.

Borg Babe: Watching Seven trying to make small talk with Harry and B’Elanna is cringeworthy because she is so lacking in the social graces that she asks a personal question and doesn’t even wait for the answer before she moves on, interrupting the person talking! To help her get through this experience Seven creates an efficient daily routine a bit like Odo does on DS9 to get over the fact that he longs to be with his people. Gloriously Seven integrates her technobabble problem into her social graces lesson with the Doctor much to his chargin! Jeri Ryan adjusts her performance subtly to suggest Seven’s growing isolation and vulnerability. That cold, icy Borg attitude is replaced by that of a little girl who is afraid of the dark and its extremely endearing. The thought of imagining somebody that frightens her is more terrifying to Seven than being left on her own, its another negative effect of her individuality. Seven makes a very brave choice to keep the crew alive and cut life support to the ship and take her own life. It’s the ultimate sacrifice and it hope it is enough to convince the crew that she is on their side. Seven approaches the crew once they have awoken because she now understands the value of spending time with people socially after such a terrifying experience alone.

Forever Ensign: Wow Garrett Wang really is a bad actor, isn’t he? He cannot even taunt convincingly! Watch Kate Mulgrew, she shows you how it is done! 

The Good: The idea of shoving the entire crew into suspended animation and leaving only the Doctor and Seven awake for a month is such an appealing notion (no Harry, no Tom, no Chakotay…oh bliss!) I wish they had had the guts to have this take place over four episodes to close the season! Astonishing how interesting Voyager feels when there is nobody about spouting functional dialogue, its just a dark, empty space full of menace. Suddenly even boring technobabble jeopardy sequences on Voyager are quite exciting because there are only two people to deal with them! Whispering crewmembers haunt Seven through the soulless corridors of the ship in a disturbing sequence. The warp core turning a shade of Borg green is a nice hallucinatory effect. Love the Borg pursuing Seven through Voyager’s corridors, the green lighting gives the ship a wonderfully creepy hue. When Seven wakes up at the end I was convinced that it would all be an illusion as it always seems to be when this sort of thing happens and was pleased that just this once Voyager ducked out of being clichéd!

The Bad: I have to be honest – nobody does especially good ‘poisoned by the nebula’ acting, especially Mulgrew who sounds like she is enjoying herself a little too much. If Paris has left his stasis chamber and is unconscious for a while how comes he doesn’t have any of the lesions that the others suffered in the pre titles sequence? Minus points for superimposing Seven in an unconvincing snowy wastes backdrop. Trajis knows a little too much about Seven’s psychological state to be anything other than a projection of her fears. You never at any point think this is an actual character because his behaviour and dialogue is purely there to frighten Seven. His lingering voice following her through the corridors is almost as camp as Garak frightening O’Brien in Empok Nor but that has a creepier setting and is directed with more atmosphere.

Moment to Watch Out For: I really love the shot of Seven in Engineering when the camera pulls away dramatically as the Doctor finally vanishes and she is finally all along. It’s the most helpless we get to see Seven all season and Jeri Ryan conveys that horror superbly.

Anomaly of the Week: Yay! An honest to God nebula with horrific properties! I thought we were never going to see one again its been so long! For a moment I was starting to wonder of this was the Demon crew from the episode with the same name since they all started acting just like Harry and Tom did on the transporter pad. It might have been quite clever that they fooled you into thinking that was a one parter but was in fact a double episode (although a second episode of Demon doesn’t bear scrutinising!) but nope things are exactly as they seem of course. Janeway is damned if she going to be stopped by a nebula, don’t you know!

Foreboding: Seven talks about being severed from the Borg for two hours and I believe we get to experience that in the only Ron Moore script for Voyager, Survival Instinct in season six.

Result: Again there is nothing original in this episode, we have seen an empty ship bound show time and again and the way the various Trek shows can feel more claustrophobic with nobody about but there is an atmosphere and tension to this piece that is missing from much of the rest of the season that elevates One considerably. Anything that gives Robert Picardo and Jeri Ryan the lions share of the action is doing something right and both actors acquit themselves beautifully. It makes me long for a show where the two of them head off in next years Delta Flyer and we follow their sitcom antics instead of the monotonous crew of Voyager. My only issue is the very nature of the show means that not a great deal happens and because there is nobody around to discuss Seven’s isolation complex with we can’t dig too deep beneath the surface. But I wont complain too much because it is a show that jettisons most of what makes this show suck (the majority of the cast) and for a Jeri Taylor script it is well above average: 7/10

Hope and Fear written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: A new ship? A message from Starfleet? A way home?

Hepburn-a-Like: Finally Janeway has come to realise that these glimpses of hope to get home aren’t exactly what they seem. Whilst her modestly stupid crew all get excited at a carrot dangled in front of them Janeway steps back and wonders if all of this is just a little too perfect. Furher Janeway is back and when Seven reveals that she doesn’t want to live on Earth she pretty much informs her that she is a human being and she is coming. I realise this is fear on Seven’s part and she should make the trip but there is something about Janeway’s unwavering force that really bugs me. People should be allowed to make their own choices in life otherwise they just become mindless drones like the Borg with a hive leader that does all their thinking for them. She even starts swaggering at her when she highlights the deficiencies in her argument and character! Seek Heil Janeway!  I wonder how many other races Janeway has caused to suffer through her decisions as she races home through the Delta Quadrant?

Brilliant B’Elanna: She jokes that as ex Marquis and ex Borg, she and Seven will be outcasts together on Earth. I get the impression that if only they could put aside their aggressive attitudes that these two could be great friends in the Miles/Julian vein. But alas the writers never go down that path.

Borg Babe: Even in a game of sport Seven doesn’t like to lose and her rivalry with Janeway bubbles over as she is taken down by Janeway. Chakotay suggests that the pupil is outgrowing the mentor but I think Janeway just doesn’t like having her orders and opinions questioned. Seven is quite forceful in her opinion but sometimes a little creative tension is good for a command structure. Seven wonders whether she will adapt in sector 001, a single drone amongst billions of individuals. The prospect of becoming a drone was not appealing which is definitely a step in the right direction.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The only thing that’s missing is chocolates on the pillows…’

The Good: I love the idea of a living universal translator simply because the study of language and how it differs from race to race is so fascinating. The opening scenes of this episode suggest something very exciting is going to happen with the message from Starfleet finally decrypted and a treasure map found. What are they being pointed towards and why? Hope and Fear seems to be following up on the potential suggested in Hunters and its about time. Even better is the idea of a new Starfleet ship being sent to the Delta Quadrant and the possibility of a move onto a completely new bunch of sets for the rest of the show. After four years of the claustrophobic Voyager sets a change of scene would be most welcome. The Dauntless is stylish, bright, functional and kick ass – shows up Voyager for the limp toilet bowl that it is! I especially love the raised set and camp electric globe for the engine core.

The Bad: Whilst it is nice to see Janeway and Seven doing something fun on Voyager for a change wasn’t there a few TNG episodes that started with Picard and Guinan playing exactly the same game? Are they not even bothering to disguise the similarities now? As soon as Arcturus wonders why Janeway isn’t more excited by the discovery of the ship warning bells sounded – none of this is going to be as innovative as promised and the crew are walking into a trap. The idea that Arcturus could have designed such an elaborate trap is absolutely ridiculous – designing a Starfleet ship, faking the massage…surely there was a simpler way of taking his revenge on the Voyager. Just plant a bomb near the wrap core and watching them turn into pretty fireworks! With no holodecks and only one shuttle craft I should have realised that they would have never moved permanently to the Dauntless – that would have cut out two of their three storytelling possibilities! There’s a very odd montage with voiceovers from Janeway and Seven which almost seems to confirm that this show now belongs to them and the rest of the cast are just superfluous. Arcturis’ plan seems to be full of holes – his fabulous new Starfleet ship is a bit like one of those ghosts that turn up on Scooby Doo that when you give a little tug on the mask reveal some bit part player in the episode! Give this technology a little inspection and a hologram is revealed! Ray Wise as Arcturis makes an unconvincing villain because he is far to quiet and uncharismatic to make an impact. His dialogue is serviceable but unmemorable and his plan was never likely to succeed. In this season of underwhelming adversaries he ranks somewhere in the middle but that isn’t exactly high praise. If this bald headed non entity had brought Voyager what an undistinguished end it would have been! So no new ship, no help from Starfleet, no way home and no slipstream drive…so this was basically one big fat waste of time and the status quo is resumed. Ugh.

Moment to Watch Out For: The hilarious cartoon moment when Arcturis finds himself surrounded by the Borg. Sums this episode up beautifully.

Result: An episode that promises a great deal and delivers practically nothing, Hope and Fear is one of the weakest season finales because it suggests innovation and development and irritatingly snatches them away. Hope and Fear provides some entertainment in its possibilities for the most part but this is the point where all the stops should be pulled out (remember last years Scorpion?) but ultimately proves to be a disappointing end to a disappointing season. The characterisation is basic (Seven is scared to go home, Janeway is a dictator, Arcturis is out for revenge) and the scheme that the villain has concocted lacks any conviction. I’m willing Voyager to do better than this in season five because it seems to have given up trying to be an individual show in its own right and is happy to coast along mimicking TNG episodes and giving its cast scant opportunities to test themselves. Hope and Fear is the perfect example of what Voyager has become – mildly entertaining, shallow and refusing to push itself into any challenging corners. A real vanilla conclusion to the season: 5/10

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