Sunday, 14 October 2012

Voyager Season Seven

Unimatrix Zero Part II written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky and directed by Mike Vejar

What’s it about: The Borg are gaining their independence…

Hepburn-a-Like: The Janeway/Borg Queen scenes continue to lack any tension or chemistry. They seriously need to rethink this hero/nemesis relationship because it has never been exactly riveting but now Mulgrew and Thompson sound like bored housewives who are trying to convince that their child is the more gifted one. Compare to the phenomenal Sisko/Dukat or Sisko/Eddington rivalries and see how well this sort of thing can be done. In these scenes the Queen is literally murdering thousands of people to make a point to Janeway that she will no longer allow even one silent drone to pollute the Hive but Kathryn barely batters an eyelid, apparently unmoved despite the Queen’s attempts at psychology. Surely we should feel something during these scenes? It feels like the Queen is ticking off a shopping list and Janeway is the bored nanny looking after the kids.

Tattoo: What is the point of giving Chakotay command of Voyager and now allowing him to take any tough choices?

EMH: There was one beat of genuine emotion in Unimatrix Zero Part II (which raised the score by a whole point) and that is when the Doctor realises that Seven has already experienced romance before he had tried to teach her the art of dating. He looks hurt that she would choose somebody else to explore this with but suggests that because they made it work she should give Axiom another chance. That’s a lovely bittersweet gift from the Doctor that touched me.

Borg Babe: In the middle of a crisis Seven has a domestic paddy with Chakotay questioning whether the people inside Unimatrix Zero are her friends. Perhaps the ice queen from previous seasons was more effective. I don’t understand the way this episode pans out for Seven. She seems to object to any idea of a romance between her and Axiom throughout and after a quick pep take from the Doctor she takes the decision to try and make it work. But lo and behold Unimatrix Zero is falling apart and she wont be able to spend any more time with him! Its hardly Romeo and Juliet, is it? The way the episode goes out of its way to keep them apart only to offer them a ‘tragic’ emotional parting at the last minute is the sort of clunky plot mechanics a ten year old would write.

Mr Vulcan: Its odd that it is Tuvok who is the most spiritually aware and mentally trained member of this insane away mission to succumb to the haunting voice of the Borg Queen. Is it just because he’s male and it gives Susannah Thompson a chance to breath seductively into his ear? Would that have been so out of place had it been Janeway or B’Elanna who are much likelier targets?

Spotted Dick: Neelix turns up on the Bridge simply because Ethan Philips needs to make a contractual appearance? Since when was he a Bridge officer and can people just fill in those roles willy nilly?

The Bad: Seconds into this episode (so that is literally seconds after the reveal that Janeway and company have been assimilated) we realise that our suspicions are confirmed and this is all a ploy. That’s right folks, they’ve even managed to find a technobabble explanation to prevent the Borg from utilising their one remaining strength as a baddie. Now they are completely impotent and can’t even assimilate successfully! There are no two ways about it…Mike Vejar is one of the most accomplished directors ever to work on Star Trek and the best of his episodes (Rocks & Shoals, Tacking into the Wind) are the best of Star Trek itself. Which is why I find myself troubled at how weak his direction is of this episode…compare the scenes of Janeway, B’Elanna and Tuvok infiltrating the Borg here to the exploration of the Cube in Scorpion. In the season three finale David Livingston managed to make the environment genuinely claustrophobic, strobe lit, dank, disturbing and visually stunning. It was a real shot of adrenalin for Voyager. Here Vejar makes it look as if the assimilated crewmembers are doing a bit of shopping in a green lit moodless shopping mall. In fact when they enter the central plexus it genuinely looks as though the three of them are entering a gay nightclub! These scenes are so boring with none of shock effects and visuals that make the best of the Borg set pieces work. Its almost as if Vejar is as tired and worn out as the Borg are themselves and watching the two of them limping home in Voyager’s last season is pretty sad. His other efforts this year (The Void, Repentance, Friendship One) would similarly lack his usual panache and I hope he found more fertile fields to plough on Enterprise. The Best of Both Worlds steals continue aplenty with a half face shot of Janeway in the process of assimilation and unlikely source visiting the Captain to give some tough advice in the crisis (in TBOBW its Guinan to Riker and here it is Tom Paris to Chakotay). Why are they still using the Voyager theme tune? In TNGs Descent we saw the Borg as individual units with their own minds and opinions and they failed to work on any level…so why are we watching the Borg in the Delta Quadrant walking the same path that will inevitably lead to the same inexcusable place that Descent took us? The Borg Queen has taken to speaking to little boys in order to assimilate people these days and convince him that he can have lots of friends in the Collective. I think this is supposed to be scary but its so dreary…put this species out of their misery. There seem to be something of Borg coup at the end of this episode which is something that nobody wanted (unless you enjoy everybody having a nice happy ending and in which case shame on you) but if you are at least going to suggest a development like then don’t completely avoid coming back to for the entire season and then pretend it never happened when the Borg return in the series finale! Enterprise really didn’t have a hope with this bunch making the creative decisions. As predicted there is a ‘Doctor comments on how easy it was to reverse the Borg assimilation’ voice over to round of the episode.

Moment to Watch Out For: I have always lauded the effects work on Voyager and on the whole they are pretty spectacular throughout this episode. Which makes the moment when Unimatrix Zero dissolves all the more noticeable…what a dreadful superimpose that is!

Result: A limp way to start the season with nothing new on offer to anybody who has suffered the first six seasons. The Borg are beyond a joke now and this plays out exactly as I predicted – like a watered down version of The Best of Both Worlds. The Janeway/Borg Queen scenes are a complete flop because psycho Kathy seems more interested in bringing down the Queen than saving the lives of millions of drones. The Seven/Axiom scenes lack any feeling because the actors share no chemistry and its clear that this romance is leading nowhere and will be wrapped up before the episode is complete. Which leaves the plot limping along with no surprises, no logic and no wit. Even Mike Vejar who can usually be counted upon to inject life into the potentially suckiest of episodes (Valiant) looks as though he has given up on Voyager and adopts Levar Burton’s point and shoot approach. The first episode attempted to seduce with some delicious visuals and the concluding part is up to the same tricks. The trouble is Voyager has been trying to excuse poor storytelling with stylish gift wrapping for a long time now and even cinematic effects can look stale after a time if there is nothing interesting to back it up. Its your last year Voyager and you cannot be cancelled at the end of season seven because you know this is where your journey ends. Stop placating the network and do something really daring for a change. Cheap tricks with the Borg are beyond a joke: 3/10

Imperfection written by Carleton Eastlake & Robert Doherty and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: Is Seven really going to die? What do you think?

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway’s ‘aye sir’ to Paris  in the middle of an action sequence is a novelty. Rather wonderfully Seven cuts through Janeway’s optimistic speech about never giving up by reminding her of the crewmembers that have died thanks to her choice to take short cuts through the Delta Quadrant to get home. Janeway admits that if she is having trouble accepting her condition it is only because she doesn’t want to lose a friend.

Borg Babe: Seven wishing to deactivate the Borg children’s alcoves is a lovely take on parents who wish to redecorate their kids rooms as soon as they have gone to university. At first I wondered if Seven shedding a tear was worthy of a pre titles cliffhanger but in hindsight it is a pretty significant leap for ward for the character to expressing herself so emotionally. Maybe her time in Unimatrix Zero did her some good after all? Oh no wait, its just her cortical implants malfunctioning. How dull. Still she does have the line ‘I believe I have already assimilated enough Starfleet training’ which makes me want to kiss her. I also loved the moment where she realised that she was being manipulated by the Doctor and Neelix in sickbay and sighed wearying and gave in to their strategy. To have B’Elanna of all people point out that Seven has made an impact on this crew really makes the point hit home for her. The initial Seven/Icheb scenes lack any chemistry between the two leads but Manu Intiraymi really surprised me at the climax by injecting far more feeling than usual into his portrayal and delivering the emotional hit the climax needed.

Spotted Dick: They’ve stopped pretending that Neelix is worth anything more than turning up when more interesting characters frequent the Mess Hall after hours and delivering flowers to sick patients. I’m not saying Neelix had the potential to reach Quark levels of quality but he had so much more promise than this in Caretaker. Seven asks Neelix if he doesn’t have more important duties to attend to than playing games with her and he simply answers ‘nothing that can’t wait’ when the real answer should have been ‘no.’ 

The Bad: Its with some surprise that I find myself feeling quite sad that the majority of the Borg children will be leaving Voyager in this episode. There were one of the best innovations of the sixth year (innovation might be too strong a word considering their dreadful introductory episode – diversions might be more appropriate) and the perfunctory way that they are dispatched here sees Voyager ticking off another chance at development. Whilst it is commendable that Icheb might want to advance himself by taking the Starfleet entrance exam…we’ve seen this story played out twice already with two far more interesting characters. Well Wesley Crusher isn’t that interesting but he is nice to look at whereas Nog’s journey from petty thief to confident cadet was expertly done. David Livingston is back directing the menacing atmosphere of a Borg Cube (because stalwarts Allan Kroeker and Mike Vejar didn’t know what to do with it in the last story) but even he can’t quite capture the power of similar scenes he directed in Scorpion. It show has been trying to recapture that moment of triumph ever since and has never quite managed it. The simulation of Seven’s death says everything you need to know about character drama on this show. If this played out for real then it would be a genuinely shocking moment for the show (plus lose the one reason to keep watching) but because even the casual viewer will have cottoned on to the fact that nothing ever changes on this ship you know as soon as they pretend that there is act that would completely destabilise the show like this you know that she will be revived later, cured by some miraculous technobabble or it will all turn out to be a hoax as it is here. The day that doesn’t happen and I might actually wake up and pay attention to Voyager again.

Moment to Watch Out For: The is one scene that crept up on me completely unexpectedly and proved that Voyager still has the ability to surprise every now and again. The relationship between Seven and B’Elanna has always been a turbulent one so when Seven hides from the Doctor’s clutches in Engineering and Torres discovers her the last thing I was expecting was a sensitive and thoughtful discussion on what the pair of them believe happens after death. Its really well played between Roxan Dawson and Jeri Ryan and just about the best scene in any episode since Muse last year.

Result: Heading off to find a Borg Cube so soon after the season opener? The trouble with Imperfection is that by this stage Seven has been thoroughly explored and the Borg have been completely castrated so both feel exhausted of potential and bit dull. Jeri Ryan remains the strongest performer on the show so this is still watchable and it has some nice moments but the overall effect is of a show that is still trying to recapture the moment she joined at the beginning of series four rather than moving on and telling fresh stories. Its not an effective portrayal of coping with a serious illness because we never get a sense that Seven is going to die or explore the emotional consequences of that. DS9’s Ties of Blood and Water managed to tackle its theme of facing a deadly illness wholeheartedly and managed to tie it into the unfolding arc and managed to say plenty about the Kira who wasn’t dying (Kira). In comparison Imperfection just feels like a string of average moments with the occasional sentimental spike. Its not a bad episode by any means (we have certainly seen much worse in the last seven seasons) but its not particularly inspired either. Its just sort of there – unmemorable and quietly forgotten but with enough realistic emotion to scrape a pass: 6/10

Drive written by Michael Taylor and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: Tom Paris has a new juvenile fantasy to bring to life…

EMH: The Doctor has taken to playing golf in sickbay because his holodeck time has been snatched by B’Elanna. Yes that’s how gripping this episode is!

Brilliant B’Elanna: More soap opera bollocks rather than a mature handling of the Tom/B’Elanna relationship. Nowadays instead of blowing up about being blown off she just calmly accepts that the latest fad is more important than she is. Slippery slope, I tell you… After she has a token chat with Neelix B’Elanna decides to go along with Tom to race and admits that she was ‘a little cross’ about him cancelling their weekend away. A little cross? You were talking about walking away from the relationship over the tiniest of problems. This is a couple that should not under any circumstances be getting married when something this facile makes you consider whether three years together has been a waste of time. They have one discussion about how fragile their relationship is and in the next scene they are driving off in their hot rod with JUST MARRIED scrawled on the back? Did I miss something really profound in between because on this evidence I think I am going to see a two page spread in a ‘heartbreaking true life stories’ magazine soon declaring ‘HUSBAND LEFT ME FOR SEXY COIL SPANNER’ or whatever next obsession Tom Paris comes up with. When Dax and Worf got married it meant something, when Odo and Kira separated it meant something…this is just a joke. Poor Roxan Dawson, she’s giving her heart and soul to this episode but the script is just abysmal. Also it does worry me that Tom Paris and B’Elanna only seem to be able to make big decisions about their future when their lives are in jeopardy. They decided to get together whilst running out of oxygen hanging in space and decide to get married when the Delta Flyer is set for imminent destruction. What is it going to take to get these two to decide to have a baby?

Parisian Rogue: Around this time last year we got to watch Tom Paris indulging his adolescent fantasies and building a sexy new spaceship (although the sexy part was questionable with Alice) and now we have to endure his love of racing too! He’s a character I find hard to believe in because he seems to be one part Starfleet drone and two parts 14 year old sex mad car loving geek. Depending on what each episode wants from him he will veer unrealistically between one and the other but the show wants to convince that he is predominantly both. I’m not saying that you can’t be a professional and enjoy yourself in your spare time. What I am saying is that the writers and Robert Duncan McNeill don’t have the skill to pull off these most basic of character traits side by side.

Forever Ensign: Oh bless, look how eager Harry looks to impress and attract Irina? He acts like a puppy that desperately wants its master to give him some attention. Hohoho! There’s that gag again about Harry always choosing the wrong girl! It just gets better and better every time I hear it. As soon as Harry admits his feelings for Irina the episode starts screaming SHE IS THE SABOTEUR at the top of its voice. It would have been an almighty surprise if she hadn’t turned out to be the villain of the piece but this being Voyager they don’t let me down.

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘This competition is just the sort of break we need…’ says Janeway forgetting that for the past four years the whole trip home has been is a series of ‘breaks.’
‘So we scrape shields occasionally!’ – what is it with Tom and B’Elanna and their godawful technobabble language when discussing their relationship. This is up there with classics like ‘no need to go to Red alert’ from Equinox and ‘I promise no more affairs with strange ships’ from Alice.
‘The only self I want to be is the guy that you’re in love with!’ ‘Wow I didn’t know you felt that way!’ Head hits hand over and over…. 

The Bad: Its possible that Voyager would have the facilities and spares to build a brand new Delta Flyer but it feels symptomatic of the shows bigger problems that even when it appears we have sacrificed a part of the series it can just be rebuilt between episodes without any cost. I don’t want to be accused of being a party pooper but reassigning 15 crewmembers to get the Delta Flyer ready for a space race? Again this is indicative of a show in crisis (or rather a ship not in crisis) because Voyager should be limping home, damaged and half dead where such a suggestion wouldn’t even be made let alone considered and consented. Doesn’t it always strike you that when Voyager engages with something like this race that there never seems to be anything else going on on the ship and everybody in all their various roles is involved? Its another reason why this doesn’t ever feel like a functioning ship. It was the same last year when everybody was obsessed with Fair Haven or enjoying the Tsunkatse matches… The Astrometrics laboratory is packed full of people watching the race (with only Tuvok trying to do his job!) so it makes me wonder who is flying the ship. I never thought I would say this but it would be hilarious if one of those Borg wormholes would open up and spit out a Cube to blast Voyager to piece when the entire crew have their pants down! Muse last year showed how something as delightful as theatre could be used to stabilise the politics of an entire world and it did so with real creativity and charm. Drive attempts to do the same thing with a Whacky Races competition and the results are as trivial and devoid of meaning as you would imagine. Its bloody funny watching Harry figure out that the fuel converter has been rigged to explode…that was my first thought when it was installed so naturally it took this crew until the last minute of jeopardy to figure it out. We don’t even get to see the wedding?

Moment to Watch Out For: ‘You’ve got that tough Klingon exterior. I didn’t think you liked the mushy stuff…’ Yep, this is deep stuff.

Result: Stargate SG-1 attempted a very similar episode to Drive called Space Race and it was an embarrassing farce that the writers of Voyager should have watched and steered well clear of emulating. I’m not sure how many more tricks Voyager can pull out of its bag before it starts handling its central storyline and engaging with its characters. We’ve had fantasies coming to life, psychotic spaceships, amnesia, conspiracy madness, mock Irish leisure resorts, dwarves who fall in love with music, space wrestling starring The Rock, Borg 90210, a Voyager business con and a haunted house story and that’s just in the past year! Now its time for Voyager to tackle Top Gear and for Tom Paris to turn into some awful Jeremy Clarkson style machismo character spewing testosterone all over the Delta Flyer. It tries to inject a little character by having Torres reconsider her relationship with Tom but as usual with this pair the handling of their domestic arrangement is only surface analysis. Reconsidering their relationship is hardly the best foundation for a marriage and the conversation that they have that wraps up their doubts is so awkward and unconvincing I’m not sure why they bothered. As usual the effects work is terrific but similarly the plot is predictably tired and lacking surprises and limps home to a not very interesting conclusion. This might have been a fun diversion if this show hadn’t been reduced to nothing but fun diversions. Unlike season six which at least offered some glimmer of hope every other episode season seven has kicked off in especially mundane style: 4/10

Repression written by Mark Haskell Smith and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: Somebody is attacking the Maquis members on the ship…

Tattoo: ‘I should have known he’d turn up again!’ says Chakotay of some random Bajoran Maquis member who is still in the Alpha Quadrant. Given the circumstances Voyager is in this line is as implausible as the twist itself. 

Mr Vulcan: I’ve got to the stage now where I cannot differentiate between Tim Russ playing Tuvok as a mindless automaton or whether he is simply bored to tears with this role. Throughout Repression both of these interpretations were very much in evidence. A good comparison with Russ is Rene Auberjonois as Odo because they have similar roles within their respective shows, don’t like showing their feelings and lack any kind of pretence. And yet Auberjonois takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions and devastatingly good performances over DS9’s seven year run but Russ simply looks like he doesn’t give a toss. I used to think his controlled performance was a skilful one but there is so little of anything but dull competence to how he delivers his lines at this point that I can only surmise that Russ (as he has publicly stated) was exhausted of this thankless role. Tuvok suggests that emotional involvements lead to unpredictable behaviour…nice one Tuvok! Suggesting that nobody has an emotional relationship with anyone just in case they wind up murdering each other!

Parisian Rogue: Tom Paris really has his head in the past, doesn’t he? So much so that I wonder if he ever spends any of his leisure time in the future. The cinema sequences look pretty cute but as usual there is no substance here beyond the looking pretty cute. Why do we never see him and B’Elanna doing stuff that she considers fun?

Forever Ensign: Watching Tuvok investigate Harry Kim is priceless. How anybody could think that this chump could be capable of anything but boring somebody into a coma is beyond me.

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘There hasn’t been any hostility between the Maquis and the rest of the crew for years!’ – yeah don’t we bloody well know it! Try not to point out the mistakes you have made during your run in the last season, Voyager!
‘At least we can rule out Naomi Wildman!’ – what a shame because that would have been a great twist!

The Bad: Tom Paris and B’Elanna find a Bajoran crewmember in a coma in their holodeck simulation of a 20th Century cinema – that’s a new one! Signposting the next attack by following a random crewmember into a dark and isolated location guts this scene of any tension. There’s even a shot of Tuvok coming from the Jeffries Tube as he pursues his victim rather gutting the surprise twist. More to the point how rubbish are comas as an attack? Why doesn’t Tuvok just kill them? Leave it this show to introduce a fun character like Chell in its first season (Learning Curve) and not have him return to the series until the last season for a one off appearance. By even attempting to stir up tension between the Maquis and the Federation in such a contrived matter only serves to remind us how this potentially dramatic and long term storyline was just dumped in favour of ‘goofy premise of the week.’ As soon as Tuvok starts spouting religious dogma you quickly realise that this isn’t going to be about anything significant but an emulation of other, better versions of this story in superior shows. He talks like this because that is how religious nut jobs happen to talk in poorly written dramas. I’m trying to get my head around this whole scenario but it really hurts when I do so bear with me…this Bajoran Maquis fanatic who is 35,000 light years on Earth has managed to send a transmission to Tuvok so he can incapacitate his former colleagues in a bizarre revenge effort because they wouldn’t listen to his ideas when they were all terrorists together. He implanted secret instructions in Tuvok’s head seven years ago to do so somehow knowing that this ship would be trapped in the Delta Quadrant and now thanks to their many leaps forward he can put his plan into motion. Can I just one question? Or rather the same question over and over? Why? Why? Why? Why? What is the purpose of his plan? There is no purpose. What is his motive? There is no motive. What can he possibly achieve? There is nothing to achieve. Its just a way of having something disruptive happen on the ship and to try and tie it in with a long defunct arc strand. To have this retarded bilge as the explanation beggars belief. I’ve gone beyond expecting any great intelligence from this show or any kind of satisfactory conclusion to any episode but this is in a whole new league of its own. Screaming hysterical Tuvok? Done before. Taking over the ship? Done before? A Maquis rebellion should have played out for real around season two/three and not left until the final season with such a diabolical plot device prompting it. It feels remarkably out of place coming four years too late when any tension from the situation has been bled away and was anybody convinced that this was how things were going to stay? It was bloody funny watching everybody (including the director) react to the scene where Chakotay asks Tuvok to kill Janeway so seriously. The way the music stabs at the scene, the close ups, the intensity of the performances…its just the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen! And its really funny because of it! They work their way through the Maquis members and take the ship back and everything is back to normal with no consequences for anybody. What the hell was the point of all this bollocks? Once again half the crew seem to be enjoying recreation time together on the holodeck including all of the senior staff. Who the hell is running the ship?

Moment to Watch Out For: Probably the best moment was when the end credits came up. Then I could start assigning blame.

Result: I tried to like this, I really did but it goes so beyond mentally handicapped it and saps any goodwill you might have by the end and leaves you dazed and confused that such a terrible piece of writing could ever make it to the screen. This is basically an episode of Tuvok, Life on the Streets where like Odo in The Alternative he is forced into the situation of having to track down himself. That idea was dodgy enough when DS9 made an attempt to realise it but Voyager sinks even lower but adding in obsolete arc elements, ridiculous twists and distinct lack of any intelligence. This is the last episode of Voyager to be directed by virtuoso director Winrich Kolbe and you can understand why…he must have charted this series going to the dogs over many seasons and after being handed this script must have thought enough was enough and his reputation was on the line! He does attempt all manner of camera and lighting tricks to heighten the tension but none of this penetrates when the story that is playing out is so goofy. Everything is thrown into the pot; religious zealots, zombie Maquis crewmembers, an emotional Tuvok, attempted mutiny…fun if you are the mood for something completely b-movie but played so straight by all the cast it is impossible to watch without laughing at them. Repression might have worked if everybody had played this story up and turned it into a camp classic but the resulting episode is Voyager at its most lobotomised and (ironically considering this adjective could sum up two thirds of its run) pointless: 2/10

Critical Care written by James Khan and directed by Terry Windell

What’s it about: The Doctor is kidnapped for a Snake Oil salesman…

Hepburn-a-Like: Brilliant, look at Janeway’s face when she tries to sort out the differences between a married couple whilst on the scent of the Doctor. Her lack of interest practically mirrored mine!

EMH: Being a good Doctor is part of the EMH’s being, it is literally programmed into his core. So I’m not sure what there is to be learnt by putting him into this scenario aside from the fact that he is willing to fight for a patients rights. There’s nothing new to be discovered so this episode isn’t taking a character angle, its resting its worth entirely on how this civilisation is presented and that is only by two rooms. I’m not trying to be harsh for the sake of it but I cannot imagine a single episode of DS9 where I didn’t at least learn something new and fresh about one of the regulars and the writers of that show certainly wouldn’t manipulate one of those characters into a situation that tells you something you already know about them. It feels like a waste of time. Time this show doesn’t have for much longer. Because the Doctor is so blasé about treating the sick and self assured when one of his patients is cured you know that there is a massive lesson coming his way. Its signposted all over his smug face. The feeling you get from healing somebody is infectious. As a result of the Doctor’s involvement sick patients are sent home to suffer…stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Doc!

Mr Vulcan: Tuvok is beyond rubbish as a security officer these days? If he isn’t committing the crimes himself (Repression) or completing missing an explosive device being installed into the Delta Flyer (Drive) he allows the Doctor to be stolen right under their very noses. I bet if somebody had the time (and the inclination because I certainly don’t) you could compile a massive list of criminal infractions that have occurred on Voyager over the years that would make this character completely defunct.

Parisian Rogue: This time around we see the result of Tom and Harry playing hockey in the holodeck. I get the fact that you have to have some off time to balance your working life but when was the last time we actually saw this pair at work? Has Voyager turned into a floating fun palace now?

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I’m going to expose you!’ ‘To whom? The people who employ me?’

The Good: You can guess that it will be the Doctor that the alien is offering up as a business proposition but its still a nice surprise and the most intriguing set up to an episode so far this year. Its always nice to see Gregory Itzin turn up in Trek and he gives a typically thoughtful performance. Fortunately there is nothing in place in British society that proclaims that if an individual is more valuable to society they will receive better care but there is always the method of paying for better care which kind of amounts to the same thing. Its not an ideal situation and its certainly something worth commenting on. Especially when you focus on poorer countries that offer very little if nothing to those who cannot afford it.

The Bad: Do you know for once I am not certain that a CGI landscape has lived up to its promise. The matte paintings were often problematical in that they looks gorgeous but you could really do much but track in on them. We’ve had a number of CGI landscapes that have offered much more scope to sweep in and explore in a very 3D way (the Borg City is a great example). But the opening moments of this episode whilst affording the chance to track and shuttle 360 degrees into the city looks distinctly cartoonish and fake. A shame because its these effects that are propping up Voyager at the moment. The energetic hospital sequences are shot in a very similar way to those of DS9’s Nor the Battle to the Strong but in that episode it was dealt in a far more sophisticated, economic manner plus had the claustrophobia of the approaching Klingon attack and the blistering character study of Jake to juggle. Haven’t we also done the conmen angle to death on this show too? Originality has truly gone right out the window now – Live Fast and Prosper offered a more intriguing set up within this premise but a weaker episode. Didn’t Concerning Flight play about with this exact plot of Voyager chasing stolen property? And Manuveres? Oh Manuveres…remember back then when this show was engaging and telling decent standalones and arcs? I don’t understand the ending at all – surely Dyseck realises that Chellick shouldn’t be a red patient because he runs the entire hospital! Is he such a drone that he cannot see that he has been deliberately infected and given a false identity? Characters behaving so stupidly to make a point does not a satisfying climax make! Its an overly simplistic ending to an overly simplistic episode.

Moment to Watch Out For: Neelix’s cooking is turning men into thieves these days! That’s some cuisine! The scene where he poisons Gar is without a doubt the finest in the episode. If he was written this well every week he would be in fine shape.

Result: This is hardly classic Trek but it is dealing with classic Trek philosophy and that at least makes it worth a watch. Which is definitely a step in the right direction for season seven. By having different floors in hospital that offer different levels of care depending on your affluence is about as simplistic as you could break this down without actually reaching out of the screen and shaking the audience to ensure the moral of the story goes in but it does at least make a valid point about the varying treatments you get depending upon how affluent you are. The plotting is extremely predictable and you can guess the rest of the episode about ten minutes in with the Doctor disobeying the rules that he finds unfair and then discovering that things are how they for a reason and even his little rebellion at the end turning those in charge into patients so they know what it feels like. I don’t quite understand the point of placing the Doctor in a scenario where we learn nothing new about his character because the setting and premise aren’t exactly enough to justify this diversion and the scenes aboard Voyager are typically dreary. Sentiment might have been enough to scrape a pass in the past but what I want is knockout Doctor episode in the vein of Latent Image or Tinker Tenor Soldier Spy. Fortunately it looks like that will be delivered in Flesh and Blood coming up but in the meanwhile this is the seventh under performer in a row (Imperfection was okay but still far from anything special) as Voyager limps its way to its climax: 5/10

Inside Man written by Robert Doherty and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: Is Voyager really going home this time?

Borg Babe: It’s a shame that it means nothing because the Reg hologram is a fake because him telling Seven that she has inspired millions back home and that she has given hope to everybody who has lost someone to the Borg is exactly the sort of stuff that Voyager should be handling in its last year. The impact on these characters and the impact on the Earth when they come home.

Parisian Rogue: At least Tom isn’t getting hopes up that they aren’t going to return home. Someone on this crew remembers the several dozen promise of a quick journey home they have already been tricked by.

Forever Ensign: Oh don’t get me started. Not only does Harry lack interest, development or appeal but he has also forgotten every single let down of this nature of the past seven seasons. He’s not realistic on any level, is he? I can barely be bothered to write about him anymore. He sits there at the climax looking depressed and about to tuck into some of ‘moms apple pie’ to cheer him up for not getting home again. Just fucking kill him, he’s a liability to the show.

Alien Empath: Bringing Troi back was never going to win me over but listening to her incessant psychobabble is beyond appeal now. Watching her try and threaten Leosa is laugh a minute, she’s hardly got the same menacing eyes as Sisko or the aggression or Worf.

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Its just my luck, right? Lose the hologram and the girl…’

The Good: The are a number of positives that rear their heads in the opening scenes including a mention of the mail that was coming from Starfleet (that was mentioned in Repression but we all know how well that turned out) and also a continuation of the Barclay storyline. Considering both Pathfinder and Life Line were two of the stronger episodes last year this is a good sign. The teaser promises that in a few days Voyager may very well be home and considering this is the last season it’s the one time you might actually believe it. Surely they wouldn’t try and pull off another ‘nearly made it’ when there is a dearth of good stories in the Delta Quadrant and lots of potential drama to be had back in the Alpha Quadrant?

The Bad: Isn’t this the season where Brannon Braga took a backseat so he could start planning Enterprise? I never thought I would say this but bring him back! Seasons five and six under his supervision might have had more bad episodes than you can shake a stick at but at least there were some good episodes tossed in just to make a change. Season seven to this point has literally been one underwritten nightmare after another and should give the audience a warning ‘Abandon hope all ye that enter here…’ Everything was going nicely for a couple of minutes until I saw ‘guest starring Marina Sirtis.’ What is it with Voyager trying to recapture past glories? They scored a massive hit with Pathfinder and since then we have had two sequels to that story featuring the same characters trying to please the fans in a similar way. Trouble is lightning only strikes once and then you have to innovate the idea otherwise you lose what was a good about it in the first place through overuse. The Borg are another great example. I hate to say it because I usually find him really fun but Dwight Shultz gives a really irritating performance as the Barclay hologram, strutting around the ship like a right know-it-all. The way he slurs his speech so dramatically makes him sound drunk! When he started making a speech about all the alien races they have survived it reminded me of how poor their execution was. The Vidiians were a potentially terrifying foe that made a number of striking appearances but were simply forgotten by Jeri Taylor when she decided to add more fun to the show. The Hirogen were misconceived, shallow thugs that were never going to amount to anything special. And as for the Borg…they went from powerful enemy on the run in Scorpion to teenagers and rebellious drones in the last couple of years bleeding them of all their menace. That’s not to mention Species 8471 that were defeated through diplomacy and the Kazon who were dumped at the same time as two of the greatest character this show has known. What a legacy. The insane premises get worse and worse this season – this episode is based on the principle that the three nomad Ferengi characters have bypassed a Reg Barclay hologram in order to trick Voyager into a specific location where they can steal Seven of Nine’s nanoprobes and sell them! Where do I start with the bad? For a start nobody does the Ferengi like DS9 and these three characters are all completely forgettable and pretty irritating. Secondly - the Ferengi have the technical skill to put all this in place? Thirdly – isn’t their an easy way of making profit in the Alpha Quadrant without trying to exploit the insanely over complicated situation with Voyager in the Delta Quadrant? Fourthly – who the fuck would want Borg nanoprobes anyway? Basically Voyager wanted a slice of DS9, didn’t they? Stories in the Alpha Quadrant are popular and Ferengi episodes were a hit with a certain crowd so they thought they could shove it all into one episode and hope that the average Star Trek fan would submit despite the nonsensical plot and ideas. Not this fan. It pretty much follows the same path as Repression with a message from the Alpha Quadrant springing a trap for the idiots on Voyager and it makes about as much sense. Somehow even the beach scenes are lacking because they pick the one day to shoot in the US when the sun isn’t out. I’m starting to wonder if the crew of Voyager are really easily amused…because the Reg hologram’s impression of Janeway isn’t very funny. Why does the Voyager even want to get home…there awaits a Federation that is supposedly putting itself together after a long bloody war with the Dominion whereas this ship has become a floating fun palace in a danger free zone. The Barclay/Leosa relationship lacks any believability – I refuse to believe there was ever a point where these two were together. What about the Scooby Doo way they find out the Reg hologram is a fraud? The Ferengi are such childish misogynists you see so they cannot resist programming their holograms the same way. As such the fake Reg starts trying to romance Seven of Nine to the Doctor’s dismay and when he pulls him up on it he goes nuts. So the Doctor reports this to Janeway…etc, etc. Seriously? The Ferengi are that dumb that couldn’t have just programmed Reg to behave how his counterpart does?

Moment to Watch Out For: The climax where the Ferengi are ‘defeated’ is such a damp squib I’m not sure why they bothered (the three of them just sigh in unison). Had we gone from the revelation of their plan to a Janeway voiceover saying ‘we’ve defeated the Ferengi but I wont bother telling you how’ it would have had exactly the same effect.

Fashion Statement: Troi has had her fair share of bad hairdos in her time but this has to rank pretty low. 

Result: Despite an annoying Reg hologram the first fifteen minutes of Inside Man are out and out the best thing about season seven so far and actually seem to be leading somewhere special with the possibility of the crew getting home and handling some of the long overdue character threads that that would entail. I should have known not to get my hopes up. It was around the point where the message gets beamed back to the Ferengi and you realise this episode is one long con and was merely an excuse to revel in pointless Barclay/Troi scenes on the beach. What is wrong with this show? Its like they know exactly where they need to be and what they need to be doing but continually snatch away from bothering in favour of something more facile. This might have worked had the norm on Voyager been that these sorts of episodes were decent character dramas and had real consequences for the series so this could have been a one off bit of fluff but this show has descended into nothing but fluff so there is certainly nothing here to make it stand out from the crowd. In fact the only emotion I felt in the second half of the episode was anger that they would toss such potential away. Its another example of Playschool ABC plotting boiling everything down to its most simplistic level and even worse the Voyager crew are made to look like complete saps for believing another con promising them a quick trip home. Worse, the audience is too. I’m not sure how you can go from promising so much and delivering so little but somehow Voyager always manages to find a way. Was anybody watching this show in its final season beyond hardcore Trek fans? Another disappointment: 3/10

Body and Soul written by Eric Morris, Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman and directed by Robert Duncan McNeill

What’s it about: Why is Seven getting drunk and coming onto women? 

EMH & Borg Babe: When the Doctor talks about the ‘miracle of creation’ he makes it sound rather poetic. Seven is very cheeky these days suggesting that they disable the Doctor’s vocal processors to make chasing comets with him a lot more tolerable! Whilst her portrayal of the Doctor is extremely broad and pantomimic (I don’t believe he is always quite this smug and facetious) it is always extremely funny and that covers a multitude of sins in my book. Ugh, somehow the Doctor in Seven’s body manages to make eating sound absolutely disgusting even when he is enthusing about it. She usually avoids foods that are rich because she does have a figure to maintain! The Doctor starts ranting in her body about how he was the only one who saw Seven’s true potential, blah blah blah…and all I could think was she is going to kill you when she gets her body back. Her accusation that the Doctor has been abusing her body is entirely accurate and its embarrassing to think that she was entirely aware the whole time! Unfortunately the Doctor falls for a woman whilst inside Seven’s body (which I rather suspect might have been the original titillating premise of this episode) and whilst it is hardly to Shakespeare’s level of gender mishaps it does provide more broad, smirksome humour.

Mr Vulcan: Much like Kira and Odo’s reconciliation was dealt with in You Are Cordially Invited as a minor subplot was bound to get some peoples backs up, Tuvok’s Pon Farr is also relegated to minimum screen time and mostly handled in a pretty silly way too. It does seem a little odd considering Vorik enjoyed an entire episode to deal with his puberty bursting free but perhaps this is one example when Voyager looked back and thought ‘been there, done that.’ I can’t make any promises on that score but just perhaps.

Parisian Rogue: I found Paris’ comment to Tuvok about his Pon Farr quite insulting. As the stand-in medic he should be offering sympathy but instead he offers another jibe at the Vulcan. Write this character out would you and then McNeill can direct the rest of the series! His ‘it’s the holodeck Tuvok, it doesn’t count’ philosophy of telling a married man to get his kicks in a fake environment is pretty offensive but at least Tuvok turns that around on him and asks ‘is that what you tell your wife?’

Forever Ensign: Any episode that will willingly make Harry Kim look this much of an idiot humorously gets my vote. He overreacts to being taken aboard an alien spaceship (calm down love, it happens every other week), completely fails to spot the fact that Seven is swaggering around like a man on heat (that’s Starfleet perception training for you!) and then gets accused of having really bad BO! Its official – Harry Kim is the new Adric! He makes an idiotic speech about being the senior officer and his captors completely ignore him because Seven is prettier.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘This device. What does it do?’ ‘That’s a standard food replicator’ ‘Can it be used to create bio weapons?’ ‘Not unless you count Mr Neelix’s Bolian soufflé!’
‘You became sexually aroused in my body!’
‘I prepared just the way you like it with no herbs or spices of any kind! Its practically tasteless’ – this episode also has a lot of fun taking the mickey out of Tuvok which I heartily approve of too.

The Good: Its quite shocking to admit but something unpredictable and unknowable happens at the beginning of this episode…in this relentlessly predictable season it is the ultimate refreshment! Just why is the Delta Flyer being towed into this much ship? Megan Gallagher is an actress that isn’t afraid to reappear in various Star Trek episodes and she’s always pretty good when she does appear. This isn’t quite as memorable as her turn in Little Green Men but she still does everything the plot requires of her and then some. There is quite a succinct point made that Seven would make quite a good hologram and the Doctor a good human and they could learn a great deal from each other in this situation.

The Bad: Its only when Robert Picardo is playing the Doctor again that you realise that the Doctor is in no way as over the top as Ryan is playing him. Its all for effect but what an effect. Megan Gallagher’s character just happened to be raised by a photonic? That’s lucky otherwise the Doctor might not have been able to sympathise with her. Much like Profit & Lace it takes a comic Star Trek style twist in order for them to consider a male/male kiss and somehow it loses its impact when it’s a male inside a females body. The same when it comes to Seven enjoying a massage from another woman. Why can’t Trek explore issues of homosexuality for real? If Doctor Who will happily flaunt it and that is supposed to be a family show why does an adult show shy away from it? Of course there has to be room for the token space fight even in an episode this irreverent.

Moment to Watch Out For: The last scene is an absolute gem with Seven actually taking something from this experience and sharing her new appreciation of richer foods with the Doctor in a very intimate way. Can’t all the episodes be about this pair? What’s that? The next episode is about Harry Kim…?

Fashion Statement: How hot is Seven when she lets her hair down? 

Result: A real coup for Voyager – a decent episode! Bestill my beating heart! Robert Duncan McNeill has directed two absolute belters previously (Unity & Someone to Watch Over Me) and one middling but interesting piece (Sacred Ground) and he comes up trumps here with a comic gem that allows Jeri Ryan the chance to really spread her wings and run with something gigglesome. Its one of those episodes where you have to try and put all rationality aside  (because the Doctor behaves outrageously and completely out of character) because the net result is so entertaining (trust me there have been times when characters have behaved intolerably and the situations have been contrived and this hasn’t been the case). Body & Soul has a lightweight A plot and a heavy B plot and some might complain that it should be the other way around but I don’t know if I could have handled an hour of Tuvok trying to resist his sexuality - Jeri Ryan coming on to Megan Gallagher is much more amusing. Its not the funniest Trek comedy but it still made me laugh a lot and in this wilderness of a season that counts for a lot. Somebody get Paris off the ship and force McNeill to direct the rest of the season. He’s one of the few directors that knows what makes this show work. There isn’t anything especially clever or interesting going on here (the plotting is as simplistic as the rest of this season so far and ultimately this amounts to the Doctor setting up two people that cannot see what is under their noses) but for the chuckles: 7/10

Nightingale written by Andre Bormanis and directed by Levar Burton

What’s it about: Harry Kim as Captain?

Hepburn-a-Like: Every time I think this episode is going to slip up it actually surprised me instead of annoying me! Janeway tells Harry that he had no justification for getting involved in somebody else’s conflict and I was all ready to rant about how Janeway does that all the time. Then Harry brings that very point up and she admits that she probably would have mimicked his actions! Bormanis should write more Voyager scripts, he seems to have his finger on the pulse of these characters and the their weaknesses and knows how to subvert them. When Janeway tries to defend her actions Harry dismisses it and Janeway cracks a joke. It’s a very satisfying scene, the complete antithesis of a similar moment between them in The Disease where he sounded like a naughty child and her the disappointed parent. Here they sound like two adults.

Brilliant B’Elanna: What is it about Torres that attracts teenage boys to her? First Vorik and now Icheb, the poor woman is like a magnet for adolescent hormones!

Borg Babe: Its rather embarrassing that Seven has to give Harry lessons on how to behave as a Captain when she has had no experience of it herself. What she does have is plenty of common sense. 

Forever Ensign: ‘The fact is if we were back home I would be a Lieutenant by now…’ Its nice to see Voyager and Harry himself acknowledge the fact that he is and always has been the lowest ranked senior officer on the ship. I can completely understand why this is the case but its still nice for the show to recognise how it has so severely neglected one of its main characters. Garrett Wang is extraordinarily good in the scene where he explains to Janeway that he has never had his own mission, he has always been an Ensign and he understands why things are the way they are. None of the histrionics I am used to when he has to emote, just a gentle dramatic strength. Colour me impressed. Oddly though the only point when Harry’s characterisation does come unstuck is when he tries to play ‘Captain’ because he doesn’t manage to pull it off with any gravitas, interrupts his staffs suggestions and double checks everyone’s work. It almost makes his arguments that he should be given a chance nonsensical and that’s a real shame. Its all a bit embarrassing when Harry starts having a paddy in the middle of a crisis because people are trying to rectify the situation without him ordering them to do so. The truth of the matter is that Harry is far too young and naïve to take the Captain’s chair permanently, anybody who says ‘I should have stuck to playing Buster Kincaid’ is proof of that. 

Spotted Dick: I love it when people attempt to do something new…everybody always sticks their two pennysworth in, don’t they? That’s fine, advice is often sought but when it comes to Neelix commenting on Harry’s command skill because he isn’t sure what he wants to eat…well in that case I would tell him to fuck off. 

The Good: Wow, is it a fact that Harry Kim episodes have to feature a devastatingly good effects shot at some point? The Chute in season three had that winding pull back from the window to reveal the prison ship was in space. The Disease opened on a detailed and expensive pan along the hull of a space ship that dived into a window and live action. Nightingale impresses within seconds with its unforgettable visual of Voyager having landed on a planet and the crew crawling over its surface. Its breathtakingly good. The opening scenes of Nightingale actually show a lot of promise with the Delta Flyer encroaching on a conflict and some really nice atmospherics as Harry and Neelix beam on board one of the ships.  There is an almighty explosion on the bridge of the Nightingale that knocked Seven off her feet that really made me jump!

The Bad: The whole Icheb/Torres subplot is a wee bit pointless and doesn’t generate much emotion beyond embarrassment. Sometimes a subplot can scrape by because it is so charming (DS9 usually got away with them that way) but this is clearly just filler. 

Result: Nightingale is a tale of two halves. The first 20 minutes are pretty good with an intriguing set up and a deft handling of Harry Kim’s character as he finally fights his corner and asks for more responsibility. Then the episode nose dives in the second half when Harry has to prove himself worthy of being a Captain and proves to be every bit as clueless as we always thought he was and then some. It shocked me how good Levar Burton’s direction was of this piece and he seems much more interested in creating an atmosphere through lighting and effects than previously. Again there is some very childish storytelling in evidence with the episode boiling down to Harry wants a chance to be Captain, Harry cocks it up and Harry learns the importance of a Captain’s role. I have to question the logic of attempting this episode when Harry’s independence will never again be addressed in this series but I guess even pointless, retarded development is better than nothing. A big blockbusting EMH adventure is up next and this is just an empty appetiser for a much tastier main course: 5/10

Flesh and Blood Part I written by Bryan Fuller and directed by Mike Vejar

What’s it about: The Doctor’s loyalties to Voyager are tested as Janeway’s mistakes come back to haunt her…

Hepburn-a-Like: Once again Janeway’s impulsive actions are the cause of the problem and I recall saying at the time that giving holographic technology to the Hirogen was a glib solution to their problems and went against the ‘holograms are people’ ethos that Voyager often promotes. Look at Janeway’s face when the Doctor appears on the viewer and tells her that the holograms come in peace. It screams of somebody who is pissed that a situation has gotten a whole lot more complicated than good vs. evil. The Doctor pointing out in no uncertain terms that Janeway giving the Hirogen holographic technology was a mistake is the second time in as many episodes that her decisions have been criticised. It’s a promising trend.

EMH: You wouldn’t even be considering this if they were flesh and blood…’ Cleverly this episode doesn’t take the usual cackhanded approach by signposting that this is going to be a Doctor episode by having a scene at the beginning that highlights just what the episode is going to be about. The Doctor doesn’t even gain focus until halfway through the first episode and that again is a very refreshing, unpredictable take on the usual action fare. He’s stolen because of his obvious sympathies towards holographic life but he does make a good point that perhaps B’Elanna might have made a better choice. It’s a fascinating situation for the Doctor to be trapped in because he is finally an equal amongst his peers and they need somebody with his talents…who wouldn’t be seduced by that? He can say he has a place on Voyager all he wants but you can see in his face how much he wants to stay. Loyalty is the only thing that ties him to his old life. Its clear that the Doctor is being manipulated but when the argument is this convincingly made (the blood that flies from his wound directly to the camera is really graphic) its hard to agree with his conclusions. In the same way that his argument that Janeway would be willing to listen to the holograms because she is the reason that he is as independent as he is today rings true. His decision to leave Voyager and be with his people is a massive moment for the Doctor and I can’t wait to see how that is dealt with.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Really? You’d be surprised how easy it is not to kill someone.’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Trading technology has been part of our life in the Delta Quadrant?’ – wasn’t Janeway adamant that this would not be the case in the early seasons?

The Good: The best Voyager pre titles sequence bar none featuring some lush location work, exciting music and a wonderfully shot slow motion death sequence with a Starfleet execution squad rising from a lake. As an example of how to get my attention at the beginning of an episode Flesh & Blood absolutely nails it. Mike Vejar has found his mojo again and I couldn’t be happier. Even better is the devastating shot when Seven turns off the holo projector and they find themselves in a massive hangar surrounded by Hirogen corpses. Voyager hasn’t flaunted some memorable imagery in an age. Its nice to see that Janeway’s actions in The Killing Game had some consequences even if the reveal is about three season too late. There seems to be one action sequence after another in the first episode whether they are on the ground or in space but for some reason (I think it has a lot to do with the soundtrack) they feel more immediate and deadly than usual. There really isn’t any room for the episode to breathe but for once that is a good thing, its like being punched in the gut over and over again – constant violent bursts that show how volatile this situation is. I have often complained that there have been a deluge of Alpha Quadrant races turning up in various forms in the Delta Quadrant to the detriment of the latters creative evolution but this one instance where I can completely go with it. Not just go with it but revel in the shots of dozens of different recognisable races all working together on the holographic ship. This is Federation technology after all so it makes perfect sense that they would build themselves in images from the database and where else are you going to see dialogue scenes between Bajorans, Cardassians, Klingons, Borg and Romulans? Iden is a fascinating character because of the shape he has been given, a Bajoran and the process of being murdered over and over when their belief structure is that you are given one life is bound to mess with your holographic head. Its no wonder he has developed a xenophobic hatred for the Hirogen but I don’t think anybody could have quite predicted how far he is willing to go. The Doctor being pursued through the forest is made up of some impressively dramatic POV shots. Where was this Mike Vejar at the beginning of the season?

The Bad: ‘What’s a Klingon weapon doing in the Delta Quadrant?’ asks Seven of Nine. Why not? Every other Alpha Quadrant species has turned up in Voyager in one form or another…why not the Klingons? Surely they wouldn’t be so outrageous as to try and pull off a whole Klingon episode on this show though? I would complain about the Hirogen turning up after so long and the unlikelihood of this considering Voyager has made several leaps away from their space since season four but I’m past caring about internal logic on this show by now. If they’re here and they’re being used well that’s fine…I wont waste any more time pretending that there is any consistency on the Delta Quadrant. Every time we meet the Hirogen they are belittled further. Last time they were playing fake war games on Voyagers holodecks (I wont go into detail but if you a full deconstruction of why I thought that was ridiculous check out the review of The Killing Game) and this time they are doing the same but even more embarrassingly the holograms have gained independence and are now hunting them! Its hard to know which Voyager alien race is the most impotent – the Hirogen, Species 8471 or The Borg but it is a hotly contested race.

Moment to Watch Out For: I love the cliffhanger because its not a typical moment of action or a TNG knock off but a striking character decision that cannot be retracted in the next episode and will have massive consequences (I hope) for the Doctor.

Anomaly of the Week: ‘There must be some fascinating anomaly nearby for the crew to explore!’ says the Doctor who wants to head off for two weeks in the other direction and expects the crew to wait for him to return! Is it just me or is Voyager having fun commenting on its failings this year? 

Result: Exceptional build up, Flesh and Blood Part I kicks some serious ass and then comes back for seconds! What is so delicious about this situation is that it is all of Janeway’s making and yet enough time has passed now that the conflict between the holograms and the Hirogen developed to a point where Voyager is merely a hunting ground for the two species to continue their fight on. They are caught in the wake of this fight but can’t really do anything to stop it. That means the episode proceeds unpredictably and with a strong adult tone throughout – its such a refreshing change from the nursery school storytelling of season seven thus far. Mike Vejar is back on form and gives one of his best ever polishes to a Trek episode providing plenty of dynamic action but also memorable imagery and enough scope for some strong acting moments too. It does strike me as telling that as soon as Brannon Braga relinquishes the ‘two part spectacular’ to another writer that the resulting blockbuster is actually rather good! The Doctor gets to make stand against Janeway in a very public way and the holographic rights thread that has run through the series reaches its apotheosis. Just when you think it can’t get any better even Neelix gets a good kick in! Flesh and Blood is near flawless as presented but gets one mark knocked off because this is the third time this season (a Maquis takeover in Repression, Harry Kim getting some development and now follow up from The Killing Game) where it feels as though the episodes have arrived far too late: 9/10

Flesh & Blood Part II written by and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: The Doctor has joined the holograms and B’Elanna has been kidnapped…

Hepburn-a-Like: I knew as soon as Janeway found out about the Doctor’s mutiny that she would be pissed and possibly even attempt to hunt him down, Ransome style. She seems to think that the holograms might have reconfigured his matrix when the truth of the matter is that the luxurious freedom that she has given the Doctor has led him to being able to make his own choices. Janeway actually takes the wrap for the Doctor’s behaviour and admits as much to him – this is the third episode in a row that has questioned her previous decisions. Finally somebody is looking at the consequences of her actions and she is coming to some dark decision about how bad they might have been. Maybe there is hope for the character yet.

Tattoo: Does Chakotay even have a role on Voyager anymore? He doesn’t do anything but contribute the most perfunctory lines throughout this story.

EMH: The one conclusion that this story does draw about the Doctor is that he is as flawed as any person and I rather like that.

Brilliant B’Elanna: Rather wonderfully B’Elanna tells the Doctor that he cannot switch allegiances on a sixpence and the Doctor reminds her that is exactly what she did when she joined the Maquis. By sticking Torres in the engine room with a Cardassian hologram we get the chance to see her deep rooted prejudices against the people and how she has learnt via her experiences on Voyager that they aren’t all evil. Its not exactly the riveting character drama of Duet which reached the same conclusion with much better characterisation, dialogue and performances but it is at least something. Its Torres’ scenes with Kejal that really make this episode worth watching; the relationship they form and the how she convinces her to make a stand against Iden is the most dramatically satisfying thing on offer.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘He’s exhibiting the first signs of megalomania’ ‘Well he wouldn’t be the first hologram with an ego.’
‘How can I punish you for being who you are?’

The Good: More excitement as this episode begins although not quite as gripping as the sequence which opened the first part with Voyager being shaken apart by lightning, sets being well and truly blown apart in a way that only David Livingston can relish and some nifty CGI effects as Voyager and the holographic ship face off against each other. The ship is dead in space and plunged into darkness – there’s nothing new in these scenes but they are at least atmospheric and in a way Flesh & Blood feels like it is trying to be the a ‘best of Voyager’ show tosses everything but the kitchen sink in and offering a glimpse at the series in a microcosm. And managing to be good! Whilst its marks the end of my good feeling towards this story the idea of heading around the quadrant and liberating all of the holograms is an imaginative one. When those holograms turn out to be mindless automatons that cannot support complex personality subroutines it becomes clear how unstable Iden really is. He killed a ship full of people for nothing. I rather like the idea of the engineer and the hologram heading off into the great unknown together. The staging of the Hirogen on the storm lashed planet being hunted by the holograms is powerful and it is during these scenes that the conclusion feels satisfying. Although watching the Hirogen running away and tossing rocks like kids in a playground is very funny considering their size! And nothing could have prepared me for the sight of Robert Picardo running with that massive gun!

The Bad: After the initial burst of excitement it is a shame that the energy levels drop for the first time in the story. Mike Vejar’s direction of episode one was a constant violent attack on Voyager but the second part crawls to a halt after ten minutes or so and the paucity in the storytelling reveals itself. The first episode was entirely satisfying because the it was leading up to the decision of the Doctor leaving Voyager and aside from dealing with the enormity of that decision there isn’t a great deal else going on or direction for the actual plot to go into. Having Iden make a switch to a religious nut who will go to any lengths to escape his oppressors takes the story down a typical Voyager easy route. There’s no real difficulty in the Doctor’s choice to return to Voyager because there is no way he could stay and live under this tyrants rule. It would have been far more interesting if the Doctor had had to make the choice rather than being forced to return. The sudden change in Iden’s character from calm leader to psychopath is hardly convincing either. Iden goes nuts when the Doctor suggests the study of organic culture when they reach their new world and yet every word he utters is from Bajoran religious beliefs. We reach no new conclusion about the Hirogen here. They are exactly what I said they were, brainless thugs with very little to offer as characters in a drama. They are just there to look menacing and get knocked down real hard. At the end of the story the holograms presence has become intolerable, Iden is taken offline and Torres and the Doctor are back on Voyager with no consequences for anybody. The Doctor doesn’t even get a chewing out. For a show that promised massive changes this is perhaps the ultimate letdown.

Moment to Watch Out For: For the sheer power of Kate Mulgrew and Robert Picardo’s performances the last scene is an absolute winner.

Fashion Statement: Check out Neelix’s jacket in the last scene. Its hideous.

Result: Not as successful as the first part because it wants everything to be right back to normal by the end and so it has to take its characters in unconvincing directions to make that happen. As a result Iden goes from a friend offering an olive branch to the Doctor to an uncompromising tyrant which guts the story of any drama because the Doctor’s choice to return to Voyager is made for him. My second issue is David Livingston’s direction which isn’t a patch on Vejar’s in the first instalment and so the story lacks the energy and dramatic impetus of its opening half. On the plus side there are some great moments with B’Elanna and Janeway. As usual with two parters it promises much more than it can ultimately deliver but taken as a package even with the deficient conclusion this is out and out the finest Voyager story in half a season. There has been a focus, dramatic drive and visual splendour that this show should be aiming for regularly rather than as an exception to the norm. Ultimately disappointing but very watchable despite that: 7/10

Shattered written by Michael Taylor and directed by Terry Windell

What’s it about: Chakotay leaps through time thanks to a temporal anomaly…

Hepburn-a-Like: Even the replicators are turning against Janeway this season because once she called it a ‘glorified toaster.’ If this keeps going I’m going to start feeling sorry for the woman! The Doctor informs the younger Janeway about the death of the ships original Doctor and being stranded in the Delta Quadrant…doesn’t that rather make her doubly responsible for events by being forewarned about them? More questions about Janeway’s past decisions…this time she is questioning her own future decision to strand Voyager in the Delta Quadrant. I wonder if this season will reach any positive conclusions about her Captainship during their time in the Delta Quadrant? If not its still fascinating to see so many people starting to wonder if she is fallible as she likes to make them believe. It does seem rather lame that Janeway can make a decision about preventing the Voyager trapped in the Delta Quadrant scenario from ever happening and then be turned around in a minute or two by a speech from Chakotay. Have the courage of your convictions woman!

Tattoo: He looks like he really doesn’t give a shit about any of this. Robert Beltran has resigned himself to the fact that Voyager is never going to be the vehicle he hoped it would be and so he limps his way through each episode praying for the end. Watch the way he enters the bridge around 11 minutes 50 seconds into the episode and tries to give a technobabble explanation about why he vanished in the turbolift. Clearly he has nothing but contempt for the vacuous dialogue he is being given to say.

EMH: ‘Its just another day in the life of an under appreciated EMH’ Clever, clever, clever…I genuinely thought the writers had completely forgotten about the Doctor’s humility in last weeks blockbuster when in fact this is an earlier version of the EMH from the past. This engaged me more than much of the rest of the episode because it was almost using its own lack of development on this show as a device to surprise the audience. Quite smart actually.
Mr Vulcan: In amongst all the time travelling we witness what appears to be Tuvok’s death! Is this actually his death or just a possible death? Does this episode know what its doing?

Parisian Rogue: Apparently they like having Paris around simply because his tastes are so unsophisticated.

Forever Ensign: Its really funny when Chakotay from the future and Janeway from the past discuss how Harry Kim is going to become one of their best people. Then head back to the bridge and see how nothing at all has changed for the character in seven years.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Listen Seska there’s some kind of temporal anomaly going on here!’ and she smacks Chakotay right around the face! The amount of times I have wanted to do this when I hear those makes this a clear highlight of the episode!
‘If we restore the timeline remind me to cancel Mr Paris’ holodeck privileges…’ Yes! Yes! Yes! Especially before season six…

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘The Delta Quadrant’s a death trap!’ It really isn’t, you know. In fact if you were in the Alpha Quadrant throughout the Dominion war it would be a much more dangerous place to live. Voyager would be one of those ships that was incinerated in the battle scenes in The Sacrifice of Angels more than likely.

The Good: I laughed my head off when Chakotay starts listing all the insane plots that could explain why there are crewmembers lying about unconscious! He should have just kept going for about five minutes to really drive the point home!

The Bad: Hang on…Chakotay has the liver of an 80 year old man and the kidneys of a 12 year old boy but the Doctor manages to solve all that with a chronoton infused serum that brought him back into temporal alignment. What the fuck does all this mean? This bollocks is preferable to characters actually talking about things that matter? Its not even decent science fiction that can be imaginative and mind blowing, its just long words strung together with no meaning pretending to be something technical. I don’t know why Janeway is afraid of anything they come across in their seven year stint in the Delta Quadrant because she keeps having members of her crew pop back in time and show her that things are hunky dory in the future. First Seven in Relativity and now Chakotay in Shattered! Given that we popped back to earlier, more interesting times in Before and After too this sort of thing is more than a little tired. Its great to see Seska back but unfortunately as this is a trip into the past it more like a reminder of how much fun things were in season two and what we are missing out on now. Older versions of Naomi Wildman and Icheb that manage to be more annoying than the younger versions? We’re straying into TNG’s Parallels now! The way Janeway and Chakotay simply walk from time zone to time zone with so little effort makes this a pretty slack sort of experience. It feels as if the whole point of this episode is to peek through these windows into the past rather than to tell a decent story with it. The macro virus effects are as shite as ever. Much as Chakotay’s speech about the effect that Delta Quadrant and Janeway will have on the crew is well delivered practically all of the development he talks about happens in Caretaker. What about the remaining seven seasons worth of episodes? Amazing that this is merely a bottle show and that as we walk around the standing sets of seven years worth of adventures the set designers don’t have to change a single thing. Funny that.

 Anomaly of the Week: Surely they must be running out of anomalies and side effects by now? We’ve had singularity mirrors (The Cloud), time travelling anomalies (Eye of the Needle), anomalies that effect the holodeck (Heroes and Demons), dark matter nebulae that snag alien lifeforms (Cathexis), reality bending anomalies (Projections), anomalies with swarms inside (Elogium), ones which roll through the ship (Twisted), anomalies that shield Voyager (Deadlock), nostalgia inducing anomalies (Flashback), distortions in the space time continuum (Future’s End), stellar phenomena that simply must be explored (Alter Ego), natural eddies that can rip apart space stations (Real Life), entrances into fluidic space (Scorpion), pulsars that Janeway suicidally tries to pilot the ship into (Scientific Method), temporal shockwaves (The Year from Hell), space folding in on itself (Vis a Vis), horrific skin blistering nebulae (One), probe eating gas giants (Extreme Risk), an ion storm (Once Upon a Time), coffee jumping waves (Nothing Human), the gaping maw anomaly that promises a way home (Bliss), the boxing anomaly (The Fight), a particle fountain (Alice), the ‘kitchen sink’ anomaly (One Small Step), the space sickness anomaly (Fair Haven), the getting stuck in orbit and becoming part of a planets mythology anomaly (Blink of an Eye), tantalising anomalies on long range sensors (Good Sheppard), the Kes anomaly (Fury), the alien lifeform trapped on Voyager anomaly (The Haunting of Deck Twelve)… When people say that space is big and empty don’t believe a word of it! They definitely should have had somebody writing a spotters guide to anomalies as the series continues…you could have had Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy style narration moments popping up all over the place to give them some historical context! Its become a long running joke that whenever they run out of tawdry quirks like WWE Wrestling and mock Irish towns that the show pulls out either an anomaly (odd how they all look pretty similar, isn’t it? They vary in colour but all basically look like floating wobbly things in space) or a time travel episode. I guess that makes Shattered the ultimate joke because it slaps the two together! If I could do you Voyager fans a deal – I will excise all the anomalies from the show and replace them with genuine character development for the entire cast and exciting, long running arcs that sees the Delta Quadrant as a living, breathing three dimensional space rather than a holiday camp to pass through. Which would you take? 

Result: A big fat spatial anomaly that leads to a time travel episode? If I just gave you that description you would know I was talking about a Voyager episode, right? If this were a DS9 episode you could have headed back into the series rich mythology and shown how these characters have changed over the years but unfortunately the crew of Voyager (pretty much) look and act exactly the same way now as they did in Caretaker and so it only serves to point how little development this show has afforded its cast. The episodes it chooses to visit verge from the awesome (Caretaker, Scorpion) to the utterly loathsome (Basics Part II, Macrocosm) and the oddly irrelevant (Bliss, The Bride of Chaotica) so it is a pretty good summation of the Voyager experience. I just have to question why we are visiting the past when there is still so much in the present to wrap up. Compared with the visually stunning, clever and imaginative Relativity from season five (which this more than a little attempts to emulate) Shattered is utterly vanilla and the only real fun is in figuring out whereabouts in time Chakotay has found himself. It doesn’t help that the former Maquis commander is the dullest character to have emerged from this series and plods through history with about as much personality as a mouldy old carrot. If you want to watch an episode that splits a ship into different zones like this and uses it as a character building exercise rather than irrelevant frippery than check out Farscape’s Through the Looking Glass. Don’t go pretending that you have a rich history to explore Voyager, the only point you can make about heading backwards in time is that we have had to endure episodes like this over and over: 4/10

Lineage written by James Khan and directed by Peter Lauritson

What’s it about: Tom and B’Elanna are expecting a baby…

Hepburn-a-Like: Torres has clearly thought through her argument when bringing the choice to the Captain to order the Doctor to remove her childs Klingon heritage. It’s the fifth episode on the trot that brings up one of Janeway’s previous decisions and called it into question and this time it is her handling of Seven of Nine that is brought to light.

Brilliant B’Elanna: B’Elanna Torres is wandering around the ship smiling at people, complimenting their work and basking in the glory of another glorious day in the Delta Quadrant. Either something is seriously with the universe (and look up any of Voyager’s previous personality distorting anomalies for a possible explanation) or she is pregnant. Fortunately for us it is the latter and thus begins the finest character drama of the last series (of several seasons actually) and the best exploration of one of this shows missed opportunities. When Torres spots the forehead ridges on the hologram of their baby you can see where this episode is going and how it will tie into B’Elanna’s character arc. It has been forgotten more than it has been explored but we have enjoyed a number of episodes where Torres has had to face up to her Klingon half and the darkness that dwells there (most notably Faces and Barge of the Dead) and whilst she has found some kind of peace within herself the last thing she wants for her baby is to have her go through the same turbulence in her life. When Torres takes to the holodeck and starts manipulating the hologram of her own baby to remove the Klingon genes it is the complete antithesis of a similar scene in Fair Haven where Janeway modified her boyfriend. Janeway’s kinky tinkering was vacuous, shallow and reputation destroying. This is tied into B’Elanna’s character, it says so much about who she is and how far she is willing to go for her baby and it is disturbing to watch at the same time. The words ‘save changes’ are utterly chilling. B’Elanna has been living with the fact that her father left 12 days after her argument with him and when she told him to do so. She thinks that if Tom has to live with two Klingons given their problems in the past he will find it to much and abandon them just as her father did. Dawson is phenomenal in these scenes, she actually broke my heart.

Mr Vulcan: ‘Offspring can be disturbingly illogical yet profoundly fulfilling. You should anticipate paradox’ Thus speaks Tuvok in his best scene in years.

Parisian Rogue: You know as soon as Tom promises to keep the pregnancy a secret that it will have already done the rounds on this ship twice over. Thank goodness Jadzia Dax isn’t a crewmember on this ship otherwise it would have been announced before B’Elanna even knew! Forget all the sitcom rubbish from Drive earlier this year – when Paris comforts his wife in their quarters after a hard day of taking everybody’s advice they feel like a real couple coping with massive news. I really hope they can keep this up this time. Rather than judging her for wanting to remove the Klingon aspects of their child Tom wants her to simply explain herself and why she feels so strongly about it. That’s a very mature reaction from somebody who is usually a very immature character. Tom fighting for his rights as the father is the most sympathetic portrayal of his character ever. Its something that I often seen overlooked in drama when the feelings of the mother are explored so deeply and I’m pleased to see Voyager bucking the trend. Tom admitting that he doesn’t want his family with B’Elanna to end with one child but hopefully three or four is really touching.

Forever Ensign: Even Harry Kim gets good scenes in this episode! That shocked me more than anything! It’s the way they manage to inverse that dreadful joke (Harry and his unfortunate love life) so that Harry is mocking Tom and his newly discovered ball and chain that makes this scene such a gem. Finally Paris is the butt of the joke and its about time.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I’m detecting another life sign!’ ‘Where?’ Wonderfully Voyager chooses the revelation of B’Elanna’s pregnancy as a gorgeous little dig at fatuous plots of old.

The Good: Its shocking to hear these characters talking about something as real as pregnancy because even if you just look back at the last handful of episodes all the discussion has been temporal mechanics, sentient holograms and body swaps. There isn’t a ounce of real life drama in any of it. To suddenly have this cast reacting to something as tangible and emotional as pregnancy makes them come to life in a very realistic way that is very refreshing. Janeway and Chakotay embracing and offering their congratulations to Torres is really nice viewing – can’t James Khan write every episode? I have often praised DS9 for taking hold of a thorny issue and having the distinct personality of each other crew chip in (sometimes arguing, sometimes discussing but always interesting) with their unique take on the problem. It’s a great way to add depth to the drama and to explore your characters with some fascinating dilemmas. Voyager proves in Lineage that it was perfectly capable of doing exactly the same thing if it wasn’t off diving into anomalies, whizzing about through time and enjoying space battles ad nauseum. Lineage strips away all the usual Voyager bangs and flashes and concentrates on one issue and has each of the characters offer their unique take on it. I feel as if I am repeating myself but it is extremely invigorating. Speaking as one half of a couple who are considering fostering children the way that everybody does chip in with their free advice is very realistic. The flashbacks are vital to the emotional core of this episode and it really helps that both Juan Garcia and Jessica Gaona really sell the awkward father/daughter moments. Talking about tamping with genetics of unborn children is a pretty controversial subject for Trek to tackle and all the better for it. Often in shows dealing with abortion and similarly emotive subjects it is all about the mother being given two choices and the drama coming from which she decides to take but Lineage pleasingly presents us with a mother who has already made up her mind and needs to be convinced otherwise by bringing her own prejudices to light. Parents have to air their feelings about their children to somebody, the good and the bad and B’Elanna listening in is painful to watch because nobody can accept that kind of criticism at that age.

The Bad: I am pleased that the writers waited until the Paris/Torres relationship was in some sort of fit state to make the pregnancy plausible but wouldn’t it have made more sense aesthetically if this storyline had played out in series four when Roxan Dawson was actually pregnant? The holographic baby hanging in space is terrifying.

Moment to Watch Out For: I wanted to say the dramatic climax between Tom and B’Elanna but somehow they manage to top even that with the final scene where she offers the role of godfather to the Doctor. Their shared reaction to the baby kicking will break your heart.

Result: A spanking new writer and a first time director and they produce an episode as outstanding as Lineage. There is definitely a point to be made there. This is real drama, gripping throughout and dealing with strong characters making tough choices. I would love for Voyager to be like this every week because it is like a peek into a window where the DS9 crew are handling these characters. What I found most interesting about Lineage’s plot was that it didn’t take any ridiculous jeopardy angle to force the story to evolve or conclude. It was all based on the decisions of the characters and their emotions. It’s a brave step for Voyager to take and it works wonderfully and for once there is nothing at all mechanical about the drama that is presented. It covers a wide range of issues from pregnancy itself, DNA manipulation, racism and (very refreshingly) the paternal side of the process and it does so with absolute honesty and sincerity. By the end of this story the performances of Roxan Dawson and Robert Duncan McNeill reach a series high and I was in tears as Paris begged for Torres not to make a decision that would change their lives together so dramatically. With Barge of the Dead, Muse and Lineage Voyager managed to rediscover B’Elanna Torres in its last two seasons and go some way to exploring why she was one of this shows greatest assets. A beautiful character drama and a total surprise, I wanted to give this a 10 because it is so good but there were a few shaky moments (I just don’t like hysterical screaming in drama - it rather defeats the object) but it scores a very healthy and top end: 9/10

Repentance written by Robert Doherty and directed by Mike Vejar

What’s it about: Voyager transports a number of prisoners on death row…

Hepburn-a-Like: Its an episode that has the opportunity to push Janeway into an extremely uncomfortable situation and focussing on what was her raison d’etre in the early season – strict adherence to the Prime Directive. Its easy enough to say but when you have to apply it to a situation as tasteless as this it is ripe for good drama. It’s the first time in an age that Kate Mulgrew has been able to get her teeth into some really meaty material and she runs with it.

EMH: There are moments where Repentance feels like an episode of The Big Questions (for anybody not in the know it is a panel show in Britain where they split the audience in two and throw an controversial issue at them and you watch them argue it out!) and the Doctor is the perfect character to argue against the idea of capital punishment and suggest the more liberal approach of life sentences and rehabilitation. Its so nice to see Voyager tackling such a thorny issue.

Borg Babe: Seven refuses to engage the Doctor emotionally on the topic of capital punishment because he has always suggested that she should be objective in an argument. I guess he forgot the clause that allows there to be an exception when you are passionate about the cause! It is a crying shame that it had to nanoprobes bollocks that forms the crux of her argument but Seven’s assertion that Iko should be given the same opportunities that she was when Janeway freed her from the Collective holds some weight. Janeway thinks that Seven still feels responsible for the violent acts she committed as a Borg drone and that she channelling her guilt through Iko – if he is found not guilty then the same sentence could be passed to her. That doesn’t quite hold up as well (because we have seen no evidence that Seven has ever felt remorse about her previous acts until now) but I appreciate the effort all the same. Seven feels awful because Iko is executed for his crimes and she got away Scot free but Janeway sweetly reminds her that she lost 20 years of her life to the Borg and that is punishment enough for anyone to bear.

Parisian Rogue: There’s a mention that Tom Paris began this show in prison…his character has been dumbed down so much since then I had forgotten!

Spotted Dick: Neelix gets close to some prisoners on death row…sounds loathsome, doesn’t it? However despite all the odds both the script writer and Ethan Philips underplay these scenes so instead driving home a heavy handed moral message these scenes are actually rather affecting. He’s known as the softest touch in the Quadrant so listening to the prisoners complaints is exactly the sort of thing that people have come expect from him but this time he backs up his moral stance with hard evidence. Neelix learns a hard lesson here about picking the right cause to fight and it’s a standout moment for the character when he walks away in disgust and leaves a man to his fate that we know isn’t going to be pleasant.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Its not justice, its revenge!’ – a fascinating viewpoint on capital punishment

The Good: An exciting beginning heralds a lot of promise for this episode featuring a bunch of prisoners and warders beaming onto Voyager and one of the criminals holding a knife to Seven’s throat. Tuvok shooting Iko through the Doctor (and allowing him a devastatingly witty quip) sees the episode continuing to deliver. The prison set is rather neat and pushes home the hopelessness of the prisoners futures (I especially love the little holes that appear in the forcefield so Neelix can feed the prisoners). I would have liked to have seen something like this set up a long time ago to deal with mutinous crewmembers but since that has never happened we’ll have to make do with a bunch of people we’ve never before instead. When the episode started offering a sympathetic view on murderers I had to start questioning whether I was still watching Voyager – this is the sort of uncomfortable material they usually deal with on DS9! As the episode progresses we head into race issues and how one race is far more likely to be convicted of crimes than the other and it crudely parallels the way coloured people were treated in the past (and in some case to this day). Whilst Iko’s complete personality switch is a little unrealistic his message to the family of the man he killed really adds a touch of poignancy to the climax. If you were the grieving parents of the victim you might not want to hear a repentant message but listening to the murderer apologise for what he has taken away from you might help you find some kind of peace.

The Bad: Just as this episode is bubbling along nicely along comes the ridiculous twist that Seven’s nanoprobes have magically turned Iko into a different man to the one that committed all of those terrible crimes. Using technobabble to make a moral judgement is not only dodging out dealing with these potentially fascinating issues but it’s a lazy way of forcing Janeway’s hand. How annoying. The standard Voyager space battle is about as unwelcome as ever. Do you think they just have a stamp in the office that has ‘ALIEN SHIP TURNS UP AND FIRES ON VOYAGER’ that they can just slam onto the pages towards the end of every episode? Considering Tuvok is the security officer consumed by logic and Chakotay is the ex con wouldn’t it have been more dramatic to have given them more of the moral debate rather than ignoring them completely?

Moment to Watch Out For: Unusually for Voyager it doesn’t take the easy route and Iko (despite seeking redemption) is still sent to his death. I certainly never saw that coming!

Orchestra: The music is extremely insistent in this episode but it doesn’t have much of a dramatic punch which means its kind of pleasant insistence which nobody wants to listen to

Result: A much better moral debate episode than Critical Care earlier in the season because it allows us to get up close and personal to some pretty unsavoury characters and gives them a sympathetic edge that gives the material some dramatic weight. What works against this story is how one sided it gets after a time – the message seems to be that all criminals are nice people at heart who have been misunderstood and you and I know that things are nowhere near as simple as that. The episodes focus loses its way over time and it is unclear which character this theme is suppose to be channelled through – the Doctor, Neelix, Seven and Janeway all get a thoughtful moment but it would have been much more powerful had they chosen one character allowed them to go on a more emotional journey. Saying all that I will applaud any Voyager episode that tosses aside action adventure (because they’ve done that to death) and tackles something with a bit more meat on its bones and whilst this bottle show doesn’t quite get it right it is putting an effort in rarely seen on Voyager in its later years. The intentions are good here but I’m not sure that the script has the balls to explore it darkly enough (Iko is repentant through a quirk of technobabble rather than anything emotionally substantial) and ultimately what we are left with as a reasonably watchable drama which shies away from being anything truly memorable : 6/10

Prophecy written by Mike Sussman & Phyllis Strong and directed by Terry Windell

What’s it about: A decrepit Klingon ship turns up in the Delta Quadrant!

Hepburn-a-Like: Just what Janeway needs – 200 plus sweaty Klingons plugging up Voyager’s arteries!

Brilliant B’Elanna: Didn’t Torres deny her Klingon heritage? All of a sudden she is indulging in some raucous storytelling for their benefit? Maybe its just Roxan Dawson’s unconvincing delivery of this scene that makes it so difficult to endure. Maybe its just that this episode doesn’t make any sense to me. 

Forever Ensign: Spare me the thought of Harry Kim being bitten by an aroused Klingon female that he is sharing his quarters with!

Spotted Dick: Neelix comes up with the brilliant scheme of asking people to double up in quarters with the Klingons. Would you volunteer? Here’s an idea for a new sitcom…Tuvok and Neelix as bunk mates! Think of the hilarious possibilities? No, I can’t think of any either… Does Neelix literally enjoy winding Tuvok up because I can think of no other reason why he would head into his quarters, put his feet up on his furniture and start singing Klingon drinking songs. Badly. Did you ever want to watch a scene where Tuvok has been barred from his own quarters because Neelix is getting down and dirty with a Klingon babe inside and they both come to the door in a dishevelled state? No, me neither.

The Bad: Why not have the Klingons turn up in the Delta Quadrant? Every other race from the Alpha Quadrant has (Ferengi, Romulans, Federation…) so why not make this episode to complete the set! Its another example of Voyager completely failing to find anything interesting to do in the Delta Quadrant though which has spectacularly managed to be a cavernous dearth of interesting worlds. Its not just that this is a complete sell out but the entire scenario is ridiculous – a bunch of pre Federation alliance Klingons seeing B’Elanna’s pregnancy as a prophetic sign that there is a union between the two races? That they have been travelling for four generations into the Delta Quadrant to discover her unborn child? Who is making this shit up? If you want to see science fiction go down the pan watch the scene where Neelix attempts to intervene between two overly theatrical Klingons fighting over food – its cringeworthy (although Neelix does get shoved across the room which counts for something). Why am I watching a bunch of Klingons squabbling over a baby that hasn’t even been born yet? What does this have to do with anything relevant on this show? Are they just making it up as they go along? DS9 has absolutely cornered the market as far as prophecies are concerned and we didn’t need this little side note on top of their sterling work. Ten minutes before the end of the episode the writers toss in a virus sub plot that comes from nowhere! They are literally making this up as they go along! At the end of the episode the Klingons decide to bugger off to another planet and get out of Janeway’s hair never to be heard from again. Oh bless there is a token action sequence during the climax which is trying to be Voyager’s version of The Way of the Warrior with the Klingons storming the bridge and engaging in a phaser fight with Janeway. Unfortunately there isn’t the budget, the space and a distinct lack of James Conway to make this even one tenth as effective. Its just another Voyager shoot’em up. What was the point of all this? I could understand if this was entertainment for its own sake but this is so far from that description I cannot understand the reason such an episode exists.

Moment to Watch Out For: I thought the idea of a Klingon vixen pursuing Harry Kim through the decks of Voyager in order to mate with him was bad enough but add in that Neelix steals this broad away from him and then has hot, sweaty sex with her and I am ready to reveal what I had for my lunch today.

Orchestra: Once upon a time David Bell was writing an incredible score for the epic Worf/Gowron fight in Tacking into the Wind. Now he’s scoring a pathetic honour fight between Tom Paris and token Klingon. How the mighty have fallen.

Result: A bunch of Klingons in the Delta Quadrant? B’Elanna’s baby is the answer to all of their prophecies? Neelix and Tuvok as bunkmates? Tom challenging a Klingon for his wife’s honour? Neelix getting his rocks off with a buxom Klingon babe? A really bad Way of the Warrior homage? What the hell is all this shit? After almost managing to pretend to be a decent show for a short run Voyager is back in the pits with this spectacularly stupid episode. Prophecy feels like the Voyager writers are having a paddy because they missed out on the Klingon bandwagon by setting their series so far away from the Empire and are trying to compensate by squeezing every Klingon cliché possible into 45 minutes. At least most of the episode is played for laughs (or at least I hope that it is…most of the material is really very daft so there is no other way to view it!) so it is b-movie watchable but throughout I was scratching my head thinking ‘why am I watching this?’ which has become my default Voyager setting. Prophecy says nothing about any of the Voyager crew. It says nothing about the Klingons. It fails to advance any plots or make much sense. Its just kind of there in the middle of the last season of Voyager as evidence of why this show has floundered so much throughout most of its run. Because it cannot quite shake the fact that it wants to be TNG. Voyager exists in a universe now where nothing makes any sense, there are no consequences and random elements can just turn up because. It has lost the plot: 2/10

The Void written by Raf Green & James Khan and directed by Mike Vejar

What’s it about: Voyager heads back in time seven years to its original premise…

Hepburn-a-Like: Surely we handled all of this ‘will Janeway share technologies?’ in season two? Its another example of the inconsistent characterisation of this woman (inconsistencies can be fine as long as they are part of a flawed character that is designed that way but with Janeway they make her seem so utterly righteous with each decision she goes back on it genuinely feels like the writers have forgotten their own ground rules with these characters). She condemned Seska for even suggesting that they trade technology and had Voyager stolen as a result. She then did a complete 180 and decided to give the Hirogen holographic technology which resulted in holographic torture. She’s been seen giving away replicator technology which could happily create weapons but when asked here if she is willing to trade in photon torpedoes she downright refuses because she doesn’t know what they will be used for. She’s all over the place! I love how Janeway throws her weight around and touts the marvellous abilities of her ship and then finds herself back with her tail between her legs when Voyager proves completely unable to escape the Void. Stick that in yer pipe and smoke it! Hmm…Voyager is running out of food and the ship that stole all of their equipment is packed to the gills with nutrition. Janeway in her divine wisdom decides to keep her morals intact and leave the food that isn’t there’s. Its nice to know that when they are starving to death she can keep her head held high. Janeway makes a speech about their principles keeping them alive and you just know that the writers are going to follow that up and prove her right. Its so irritatingly unrealistic and twee I just want to spit in her eye. Sometimes, just sometimes Voyager you have to get a little dirty to survive. Janeway’s idea to forge a secondary Federation within the Void is hilarious – finally the female Furher is going to have her own army of races to command! She even says the people who can join are ‘anyone who agrees to play by our rules!’

Borg Babe: Seven of Nine manages to rustle up a better meal with only a few weeks practice than anything Neelix has delivered in seven years! Seven’s method of communicating with Phantome might be ingenious but we’ve seen this sort of thing done better (TNGs Darmok and DS9’s Sanctuary). 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Vultures eat the dead, Mr Paris. We’re not dead yet.’
‘We may lose a little weight gentleman but we wont lose who we are…’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Good intentions are like deuterium reserves…they tend to get lost in the Void.’
‘Maybe the best way to get help is to give it?’ – oh fuck off Janeway!

The Good: Watching Voyager being tossed around like a rag doll is great fun!

The Bad: Now they are just taking the piss. Voyager is trapped in a region of space away from the safety of what they know (as a side note the fact that the Delta Quadrant is now ‘the safe place’ proves that this region of space didn’t quite work out as intended) and Janeway is forced to rely on her wits and forge alliances with other races in order to try and survive. Its not just that this is a blatant steal of Voyager’s original (and soon ignored) premise that is gob smacking – it’s the fact that nobody seems willing to comment as such. Is this a last ditch effort to try and get some mileage out of the ‘lost in space’ premise that has been there for the taking for seven years and completely skipped over? A Vaadwaur ship turns up a year and half after Dragon’s Teeth (which promised a rematch and a potential new recurring enemy for Voyager) – a one off mention isn’t quite what I had in mind when I said I was hoping for their return. It strikes me of Voyager trying to have its cake (as a show it doesn’t want to be serialised in any way) and eat it (by mentioning them again they are at least suggesting some kind of running storyline). Federation technology and supplies being stolen? Been there, done that. If there is a food shortage then why is Seven cooking a five course meal for four of the senior officers in the opening scene? This episode should have played out over two years right at the beginning of Voyager’s run before the show moved on to something even more interesting. Janeway manages to escape the Void because she showed kindness to a race of nomads and her alliance pulls together. Its so depressingly pleasant I might vomit. Shockingly Voyager makes all these new friends and alliances and we never hear from any of them ever again ‘Unfortunately we’re all heading in the opposite direction!’

Moment to Watch Out For: Phantome and the rest of his shampooed hair, muddy body stocking race and their bipetty boppety bong musical language has to be seen to be believed.

Teaser-tastic: An anomaly that sucks Voyager in like a tapeworm up a cats sphincter (seriously it looks like they are being sucked up a cats arse!), an area of space with no stars (Night) and a ship firing on them (again name your episode). Highly original stuff.

Anomaly of the Week: This week the anomaly has the honour of claiming the title of the episode. 

Result: Words fail me at the premise behind this episode. Voyager is sucked into a new dangerous region of space where Janeway is forced to make alliances to survive. What an unbelievable cheek! To be fair The Void had a pretty good chance of being a halfway decent instalment if it didn’t rip off the shows base premise quite so outrageously and characterise Janeway as such a Hitleresque hypocrite. The idea of trying to find one last corner of the Delta Quadrant that has some surprises up its sleeve is a good one but all this boils down to is familiar Trek moralising and countless action sequences. Even visually this is an unimpressive episode despite the fact that we meet a myriad of alien races and endure space battle after space battle. In both cases they are far less exciting than we have seen in the past (remember the days of Scorpion when the battles on this show were truly spectacular?) and do little to spice things up. Mike Vejar tries to shoot the Voyager sets in as dynamic a way as possibly but they are just too functional looking to offer anything visually appealing. There has now been 14 seasons of starship based drama boldly going where no man as gone before (with DS9 dropping the formula after 2 seasons for something more original I am discounting that show) and the idea has become stale and uninteresting. Voyager should be home by now and dealing with the myriad of fascinating consequences that development offers instead of reminding its audience of how it failed to live up to its original premise: 4/10

Workforce Part I written by Kenneth Biller & Bryan Fuller and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: Has Janeway found a life more appealing than that on Voyager?

Hepburn-a-Like: It sounds like I am damning her with faint praise but I genuinely believe that whenever Kate Mulgrew is asked to play a role other than Janeway it is always more exceptional than her usual role and Workforce is no exception. This is probably her most impressive and attention grabbing performance since 11:59. The initial mystery grabs you by the throat – is Janeway playing along or has she really lost her memory of who she is? Kathryn and Jaffen’s relationship is about a million times more effective than Janeway and Micheal’s last year despite the fact it is based on a false identity. Kate Mulgrew and James Read share a gentle, natural chemistry and it makes me long for Janeway to indulge in a relationship for real. You know these two are going to get along famously when he asks her out for a drink and she starts checking him out behind consoles! There is something rather wonderful about Janeway being stripped of her rank, the Prime Directive and her inhibitions and simply enjoying herself for a change. It’s a shame that she has to press ganged into slave labour and live like a battery hen but you can’t have everything! It would appear that whatever guise she is in Janeway is a dreadful cook. When she gets back to the Alpha Quadrant she should pick up some tips from Sisko. Snuggled under a blanket, stroking Jaffen’s face, Kathryn can’t remember a time when she last felt so comfortable. Suddenly there is an ominous feeling about big bad Voyager coming along to snatch her away from this life. When Jaffen asks her to move in with him she doesn’t even have to answer for the audience to know what her answer is going to be, it is written all over her face.

Tattoo: Chakotay’s face has been reconstructed more times than I care to remember! I’m surprised they manage to get it back to its usual shape every time!

EMH: What’s this? Following up on a good suggestion made in an earlier script? Will wonders never cease? Catching up with the Doctor in his ECH outfit is a lovely reminder of Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy and a nice glimpse of a show without the rest of the regulars and just Robert Picardo for company! I’d watch it! This isn’t simply a case of the Doctor’s ego getting out of control, he is left in command of Voyager with Janeway’s blessing when it becomes clear that it is too dangerous for the crew to stay on board. He’s enjoying his role so much that when Chakotay returns to Voyager he doesn’t want to relinquish command. It becomes something of an ego tug of war between the Doctor and Harry when Chakotay leaves the ship – an electronic commander with experienced command decisions programmed in or a human being capable of leaps of intuition? Whilst the latter has some merit its still Harry Kim and we all know how well his time in the big chair went last time (see Nightingale).

Borg Babe: If you were going to wipe Seven’s mind and give her a job then an Efficiency Monitor is just about the perfect fit!

Mr Vulcan: Tuvok is a riotous sort of fellow who belly laughs when he spots the logic in jokes! Can’t we just stay on this planet? These are genuinely more likable versions of all of the regular characters! Its unusual to see Tuvok in such an emotionally distressing state and even more unusual that a script allows Tim Russ to emote so both are massive plus points in my book. This episode paints a vivid enough picture of the regulars as new characters that Tuvok comes across as a delusion fanatic rather than Janeway’s closest friend.

Parisian Rogue: Nice to see that Paris reverts to type (or at least his original character spec) when he has his memory deleted and becomes a bit of a rogue again. Terminated from his job in a labour shortage and finding work at the local bar, this is a much more appealing Paris than we usually hang out with!

Forever Ensign: The Voyager poisoner is doing his rounds again (Neelix) and Kim is suffering from terrible stomach cramps after the Away mission from hell. Its about the same way I feel when moving away from the planetary storyline and catching up with Chakotay, Kim and Neelix.

Spotted Dick: I keep forgetting that they have Neelix’s ship at their disposal…that’s because they never use the thing! It’s a nice reminder that he is more than just the ships cook.

The Good: The opening FX shot is extraordinary good even for Voyager’s standards with a gorgeous pan across an art deco metropolis and blending seamlessly with live action as the workers descend stairs and begin their shift at work. If anything was going to get us involved with this story imagery as startling as this is the way to go. It’s the first world since the ocean planet in Thirty Days that has felt different from anything we have seen in the Alpha Quadrant. These glorious production values with a staggeringly vertiginous shot from inside the plant watching the workers milling about. It looks like Allan Kroeker has gotten over his Voyager fatigue too (as exemplified in Unimatrix Zero) and his camerawork throughout this episode is fluidic and dynamic (watch just after the title music as the camera dances around Janeway without halting for about a minute). The Away Team returning to Voyager dead in space is another memorable image – I don’t always like it when we come to the party late but Workforce has already set up an intriguing enough mystery by the time we return to Voyager after its attack that they get away with it. Its when we reach the cliffhanger that you realise how well this script has been crafted with all the plots converging to make a disquieting atmosphere. Janeway and Jaffen toast their relationship, B’Elanna is abducted, Tuvok is held down and tortured, Chakotay is on the run and Voyager is attacked! For once I genuinely want to know what happens next!

The Bad: I don’t know if I buy that every time the Voyager crew loses their memories (oh it’s a regular occurrence around these parts!) that Tom and B’Elanna always wind up attracted to each other anyway. It was a little hokey in The Killing Game and its just as unconvincing here. It would have been more fun had it been Seven and Paris because it would have caused much raising of eyebrows once this ordeal was over. 

Moment to Watch Out For: The show has pulled off its alternate scenario so well that it can paint Chakotay and Neelix as two thugs who are trying to abduct the heavily pregnant Torres down a dark alley. Her terrified reaction makes this scene a real winner. Its little details like this that mark this out as something different. 

Result: Another strong opening instalment of a two parter, I’m starting to wonder if Bryan Fuller and Kenneth Biller should have written all of the two hour Voyager spectaculars! Workforce is pretty honest about its reset from the start so it avoids that godawful cliché in the opening few minutes. There’s no way that we are going to spend the rest of the series on this planet or that Janeway, Seven and the others are going to continue working here. So there is the double mystery of how they came to be here and how they are going to escape. What the writers do that muddies the waters spectacularly is offer Kathryn a life that, whilst not idyllic, is one she enjoys and man to spend the rest of her life with. Suddenly there is an emotional stake in removing Janeway from this setting that makes it much more interesting to watch. You’ll be hard stretched to find a an episode of cult television with better production values than this one with some truly stunning scene imagery ranging from a planetary metropolis and orbital defences to some action sequences. This is one of those rare occasions where both engaging storytelling and expensive effects work comes together to create a winner. It’s a story that unfolds at a gentle pace which doesn’t feel slow because it is the detail and the fleshing out of this world and its unusual employment methods that makes this so interesting. The Janeway/Jaffen romance manages to strike all the right chords because of the chemistry between the actors and the sense that Janeway has needed a relationship of this nature for some time. Intriguing and beautifully realised, Workforce Part I is a terrific episode with lots to offer and I pray that it doesn’t all go to pot in part II: 9/10

Workforce Part II written by Bryan Fuller & Kenneth Biller and directed by Roxan Dawson

What’s it about: Will Janeway choose to return to Voyager?

Hepburn-a-Like: I could happily spend much more time with Kathryn and Jaffen as they exude a warmth that is very easy to watch. Watching her move in should be as agonising as the usual Voyager sitcom affairs but it really works – in a short space of time the writers have managed to build up a pleasant life for the good Captain on this planet. Kate Mulgrew’s quiet, understated anger when Chakotay tries to explain who she is is far more effective than her usual Hitleresque ranting. When all the fireworks are over there is still a goodbye between Kathryn and Jaffen to take care of. I object to her assertion that a Captain cannot fraternise with a member of her crew (couldn’t Jaffen simply be a passenger rather than a member of the crew?) but otherwise this is terrific scene because you can see that whilst Janeway has regained her old life she is about lose something special too. Even the parting scene on the Bridge is imbued with more emotion than usual with Janeway telling Chakotay that she isn’t sorry for a second that he came after her.

Tattoo: Was that a pause of jealousy from Chakotay when he realises that Kathryn is moving in with Jaffen? Too little, too late I’m afraid. You had the chance to follow this up after season two’s Resolutions and you have failed to do so for five entire seasons. The scenes between them as he tries to convince Kathryn of her life back on Voyager have a dramatic strength to them that I had forgotten could exist between these two. It might be the subdued lighting or perhaps it is the closeness that Kathryn is rediscovering between them but there is a certain frisson between Mulgrew and Beltran that I have felt in many a year.

EMH: The Doctor proves he was right to fight for command when he sifts through his memory for tactical advantages from previous battles. His photonic shockwave (firing a phaser at a torpedo to disable following ships) is pretty special. His ego is almost out of control now though and he asks Harry to start thinking about designing a new EMH so he can stay on as command advisor once the Captain has been returned to her rightful place!

Brilliant B’Elanna: Its nice to see the Doctor and Neelix talking about a slow rehabilitation back to her old life for Torres rather than her simply waking up as her old self again. Not only does this give Neelix a chance to shine doing what he does best (being super nice) but it reminds us of how far Torres has come since that grumpy engineer back in season one. It might sound like self gratification but Dawson’s direction of herself is far more feminine than we are used to seeing and it’s a tone that really suits the character. Having taken Torres through the journey of discovering herself means that the Doctor’s voiceover at the end where he informs that the rest of the crew have had the same treatment works because we have already experienced it. Normally all we would get is the voiceover. 

The Good: I have long said that I thought Voyager should have laid some roots down in the Delta Quadrant and spent a number of episodes (or even an entire season) in one system and fleshed out the area rather than always trying to get home. You could have character and story arcs, talks of people settling down, politics and romance. It could have been great. Workforce pretty much bears out how that could have been done and the results are pretty damn watchable – certainly more watchable than the duff filler episodes we have had to endure over the past couple of seasons. We pretty much start out where we left off with Voyager under bombardment and Chakotay fighting for his life – isn’t this much more exciting than another boring opener in the Mess Hall? Voyager is hiding away inside a giant crater on a moons surface! How cool is that? Did Fuller/Biller decide to toss in every fantastic idea they had into one two parter? Seeing the multi levels of the plant through Seven’s eyes is another smashing effect. There’s a terrific moment where Kathryn walks into her empty old apartment in the dark and picks up a cloth daubed in blood and slowly turns the lights on to find Chakotay injured in the corner. Voyager doesn’t slow down its action enough usually to make room for atmospheric moments like this. To learn that the threat to this community is the lack of workers and expose their insidious operation of ensnaring visiting ships and press ganging their crews into new identities and jobs is a really powerful ending. Its what I suspected all along but to see how high the conspiracy goes (the head honcho Doctor’s research is funded by the Ministry of Health) and cutting through all the layers of deception is very satisfying. Watching the scenes of the brainwashed crewmembers all coming together to try and bring down the conspiracy is absorbing. There is a touch of Battlestar Galactica Cylon paranoia to these scenes (despite the fact this was made before) where Kathryn, Anika and Tom discuss who they might really be. There’s more of the dizzying mix of space battles and action scenes on the surface which makes for a rousingly exciting finale. Watching the city’s power supply being extinguished makes for one last potent visual. 

Result: Whilst they have pull apart this fascinating setting in part two in order to get back to business as usual next week and that is unfortunate, Workforce Part II doesn’t drop the ball in the way Voyager conclusions usually do. Whereas Allan Kroeker’s direction of part one was all about making the setting as epic as possible Roxan Dawson goes for a more intimate approach (with lots of powerful two hander scenes) and the result is a drama that relies on its characters rather than plot tricks and remains involving throughout. Throughout this two parter it is like the writers are finally coming to realise how to portray these characters – Janeway indulges in a romance, Tuvok gets emotional, Torres is far more feminine than we are used to seeing, Chakotay is extremely pro-active, Neelix manages to be cute without being annoying and Harry Kim pulls a tactical moment of genius out of the hat! Why has it taken them so long to get these characters so right? More to the point can they keep it up? Workforce has been an intriguing experiment of the type that I thought Voyager should have been doing in its first year onwards…visiting interesting worlds and telling stories at a pace that allows for depth of character and intelligent detail. Once again the production values are gorgeous but this time around the director focuses on creating a strong atmosphere through lighting and generates a palpable mood. Workforce Part II only slips up when it has to tie everything up so quickly in the last five minutes but until then it is exactly how I would like Voyager to be every week. Beautifully acted and made with an intriguing set up, a memorable location and stuffed with decent character work. I like it a lot: 8/10

Human Error written by Brannon Braga & Andre Bormanis and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: Seven of Nine is exploring a romance…

Hepburn-a-Like: ‘We all make mistakes, Seven. I’ve even been known to make a few myself…’ The biggest understatement in Star Trek history but at least after her multiple criticisms this season it is nice to hear Janeway admit it.

Tattoo: Spare me the tedium of pretending that Seven has been holding a candle for Chakotay for some time. Not only does the suggestion denigrate her character to the nth degree because he is such a vacuous bore that anybody who fell in love with him would automatically lose any respect but there has never been an inkling that this might be the case and the lack of chemistry between Beltran and Ryan is painful and obvious. It feels like the writers trying to shoehorn in a new relationship at the last minute but because it feels as though it has literally come out of nowhere (at least romantic flutterings between Chakotay and Janeway would have foundations) its like last minute desperation. Beltran is so unbelievably stiff during the flirtatious scenes with Seven (and I don’t mean he has a tent in his trousers) which seems odd considering these moments where scripted to placate his whinings in the last year of the show. The only conclusion I can draw is that he isn’t an especially good actor. But then I came to that conclusion in Caretaker. You’d be hard pressed to find a break as lacking in feeling as the one between Seven and the fake Chakotay and yet it is scripted as if it is real. Beltran is so awful I was continually wincing as each line came out of his mouth.

EMH: There was a moments emotional depth when the Doctor is admonished for butting in on Seven’s personal life and his former feelings for her seem to rise to the surface again for a second.

Borg Babe: We’re so close to the end so I don’t understand why the writers are purporting to take risks with Seven and then pulling away as if it is going to ruin the show. Its been a long held complaint of mine that Voyager refuses to take the risk of truly developing its characters and that they like to offer the illusion of growth in strokes like pregnancy and removing Seven’s cortical implants and suggesting deeper social interaction with the crew and then revealing it to all be a holodeck simulation is another tedious example of that. In fact this episode could be held up in regard as Voyager’s ‘playing it safe’ creed in a microcosm by offering to take Seven to new places but resetting everything by the end of the episode so we don’t dare see any of this through or deal with the consequences. Its agonisingly frustrating. There is definitely something in the idea of Seven finding her regeneration a chore and something that ostracises her from the rest of the crew but surely this is something that should have been dealt with in, say, season five? The way Seven tries to give B’Elanna a gift for the baby is  beautifully done to highlight the awkward tension between both characters. This is a friendship I would have liked to have seen developed because any scene between Dawson and Ryan is usually comic or dramatic gold. Apparently Seven has been enjoying these simulations of a normal life since Unimatrix Zero was destroyed – that was 16 episodes ago and this is the first we see of it?

Mr Vulcan: There’s a scene where Tuvok and Seven discuss how they find social occasions similarly discomforting – check out a similar scene between Worf and Odo in DS9’s Crossfire which is a million times funnier and loaded with real character charm.

Forever Ensign: Harry gets Tom and B’Elanna a towel with a Starfleet insignia emblazoned on it. Well what else was he going to get them?

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Does this contain enough sodium chloride for your tastes?’ ‘It could use another 0.6 milligram’s’ – Seven and Chakotay’s flirtatious dialogue is so hot and horny I can barely contain myself.
‘You’re beautiful when you’re chopping…’ – Chakotay comes onto Seven as they chop a carrot together. I have never seen anything quite like this before!

The Good: The baby shower scenes have a nice relaxed chemistry about them even if they are hardly the most engagingly scripted of party scenes.

The Bad: Seven plays the piano. Could this go down in history as the least interesting pre-titles sequence ever? It’s a common failing of characters in Trek that they cannot interact in the real world and seek out the holodeck to play out their fantasies on. TNG, DS9 and VOY have now all played about with the idea. With Barclay in TNG his fantasies were comic masterpieces and exposed to the entire crew so that was fairly nicely done, if a little sadistic. On DS9 Odo ultimately does play out his rehearsal on the real Kira and they end up in a relationship together.

Moment to Watch Out For: That pointless, frustrating ending that sees the chance of Seven’s happiness cut off by the writers in a quirk of technobabble. Absolutely hideous, I think its meant to be tragic and it is but just not in the way the writers were thinking.

Fashion Statement: Seven looks so smoking hot in her red number that if any man touches her he is likely to spontaneously combust.

Anomaly of the Week: Energy shockwaves on the port bow! Just in case the episode isn’t exciting enough for you…

Result: Spare me the thought of Seven and Chakotay getting together! They’re just making this up as they go along, aren’t it? Moving away from this hideously unconvincing non-romance for a moment Human Error is stack up with further problems; the pointless technobabble fuelled subplot to appease the techie geeks in the audience that might be turned off by the mushy stuff, the absence of emotion in Robert Beltran’s performance, the sluggish pacing and the unwillingness to explore anything for real on this show. When the Doctor informs Seven that her implants are preventing her from exploring any romantic affiliations in the deeply unsatisfying climax the truth of the matter is that this is a metaphor for the writers who are rubbing their hands together with glee at the fact that they have managed to shove love scenes on screen for Seven but also kept the whole dalliance consequence free. Brannon Braga has been castrated by Star Trek and his storytelling has gone the same way. Jeri Ryan is trying her damdest to make this material work but even her sterling efforts cannot overcome the mountain of problems to make this remotely plausible. A Seven/Chakotay romance has never been on the cards and for all the scenes between them sink they may have well have used Neelix. A last minute attempt of Voyager suggesting development and then snatching it away – should I be more annoyed that the relationship they flaunt is hideous or the fact that they aren’t willing to see it through? I think I’m passed caring at this point. When even the ship bound Seven of Nine stories suck this is a show without hope: 2/10

Q2 written by Robert Doherty and directed by LeVar Burton

What’s it about: Aunt Kathy is forced to babysit Q’s son…

Hepburn-a-Like: Hilariously Janeway looks precisely like my husband when I drone on about my favourite genre shows in laborious detail as Icheb lists all of the epic adventures of Kirk’s five year mission. She seriously wants to close her eyes and have a doze. Q wonders if it isn’t too late to ask Jean Luc to be his sons godfather considering ‘Aunt Kathy’ is doing such a lousy job as godmother. Janeway’s suggests that she really doesn’t have the time to look after Q2 but in all honesty what else has she got on that can’t wait? Q suggests that Janeway is a mummy to the crew, taking the piss out of her constant droning on about how Voyager is one big happy family. Kate Mulgrew seems to be enjoying the more frivolous material this week and adopts every comedic pose in town to suggest her disapproval of Q2’s behaviour. I much prefer her looser portrayals of the character so I heartily approve, even if it does verge on pantomime.

Borg Babe: Rather wonderfully Seven fails to exhibit the slightest flicker of embarrassment when Q2 removes her clothes. I bet there were a few thousand straight Star Trek fans that wished those cargo containers were a few metres to the right!

Spotted Dick: Neelix tries to appeal to Q2’s better nature to offer humanitarian aid to sick worlds and has his vocal chords removed for his efforts! Q calls him Janeway’s ‘pet Talaxian’ when he gives them back to him. Why can’t Voyager be this funny every week?

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Scan, scan, scan…that’s all you people ever do! I’ve been through every deck on this ship and d’you know what I’ve seen? Bipeds pushing buttons! Bipeds replacing relays! Bipeds running diagnostics! When are you going to do something interesting?’ – at times Q2 sounds like he is writing one of my reviews!
‘Coffee, black’ ‘Make it yourself…’
‘Can I help you, kitchen rat?’ says Q2 to Neelix!

The Good: Q2 traps the entire crew in a 30 second time loop and condemns them to the same old routine over and over. Perhaps I have been in a 45 minute time loop of his making for the last seven seasons? Keegan de Lancie might not be the worlds best actor but like his father he is a fantastic entertainer and in a script that doesn’t ask him to do any great amount of soul searching he proves to be quite a find. I honestly think if they had gotten anybody to poke fun at this crew I would have approved. Q2 manages to be charismatic and silly whilst avoid many of the ‘stroppy teen’ clichés that can sink similar sort of characters on other shows. There’s something rather apt about Q2 bringing the Borg to the Voyager crew just as his father did with the TNG crew back in the day – like father like son!

The Bad: Make no mistake - despite my goodwill towards parts of this episode (because for once Voyager is having a chuckle at its own expense!) this still continues the descent and emasculation of the Q continuum that started in the abysmal Q and the Grey. Once upon a time Q was a powerful being that looked down upon humanity and turned up just to stir things up for a bit of fun. Now he admires humanity and seeks out a role model in Janeway to look after his son. It is not a shift in his favour. There are so many things that are wrong with that sentence I don’t know where to begin. They’ve dragged Q down from the heavens and made him act and react as one of us. It doesn’t help that John de Lancie is no longer attempting to perform in the role but turning up as a parody of what the character used to be. You could happily stick him an American sitcom and he wouldn’t have to adjust his performance one iota. Its so broad I was waiting for the studio audience to clap when he materialised. The Itchy/Q-ball exchange need never spoken of again. Icheb tries to teach Q2 to respect the laws of other cultures – could he be any more boring? By the end of the episode Q2 is desperately seeking the approval of his father and trying to save the only friend he has ever had – he’s human in all but name and dull as dishwater. The ‘we’ll accept his apology’ means this all boils down to a particularly tedious lesson of knowing when to admit you were wrong. I feel as though I’m in playschool again!

Moment to Watch Out For: In the shows best scene Q2 turns Engineering into a sleazy nightclub packed with drunken revellers and half naked alien dancers! Its excitingly shot and lit and for a moment feels like this episode might deliver the old school promise of a really fun Q episode.

Fashion Statement: Rather oddly Q seems to be an omnipotent being with a receding hairline! 

Result: The first ten minutes of Q2 are exactly what season seven has desperately needed – a bit of harmless fun! Engineering is turned into a nightclub, Seven is stripped nude and peaceful factions and encouraged into warfare. Oh and Neelix’s mouth is fused shut! Then it all goes horribly wrong. The episode seems to suggest that if Q2 follows Icheb’s example he will be a more rounded, constructive member of society. Its probably the biggest falsehood Voyager has ever perpetuated. All he will succeed in doing is becoming duller than dishwater and another Starfleet drone. And that’s the main problem with this episode; as soon as Q2 decides to settle down and do as he’s told the tone of the piece settles too and into something more akin to the usual preachy, monotonous Voyager. Like much of season seven it boils down to something far too simplistic and unengaging and this might have been better had the opening half’s antics had spiralled right through to the conclusion to make this a ‘best of Q style madcap piece. Once upon a time I looked forward to Q’s frequent visits and even found that his first appearance on Voyager was a joy. Six years on and his antics have worn very thin and you can’t help but hope this is the last we will see of him. Initially infectious but ultimately boring, Q2 remains resolutely average: 5/10

Author Author written by Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: The Doctor has created a new holoprogramme which is about to open a whole can of worms…

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway is literally holding back tears as she sees a live image of Earth sent via Starfleet and its probably the shows most emotional moment in years.

Tattoo: Are they punishing Robert Beltran for his barbed comments about his character and the show? He barely gets two lines in this entire episode!

EMH: Time for one last brilliant Doctor story before Voyager bows, a genre on this show that you can practically always (The Darkling and Warhead aside) always count on. His ego has grown to such monstrous proportions that the Doctor thinks it is okay to write a holodeck programme that shows all of his colleagues in an unflattering light and then have this published in the Alpha Quadrant. It will literally be the first vision of what life has been like in the Delta Quadrant for most people. As usual with the Doctor his heart is in the right place but his brain is barely connected. During the tedious ten minute introduction to his programme the Doctor drones on and on decked out in a Noel Coward-esque dressing gown and writing with a quill! His pretensions know no bounds! After experiencing the programme Janeway states that it feels like the work of somebody who feels oppressed whereas he has been given the sort of freedoms that no other hologram could ever dream of. That is the Doctor’s point, he’s one of kind whereas all of his ‘brothers’ should be treated the same. I do find it shocking that the Doctor who purports to understand human behaviour enough to create a syllabus in it for Seven wouldn’t have even considered how his friends would feel about this programme.

Borg Babe: Seven is a right nosy mare watching everybody’s conversations with their loved ones and commenting wryly on them. I’d have put her outside the lab with a smug grin on my face. Seven’s conversation with her Aunt is very touching and Jeri Ryan plays her apprehension with consummate skill.

Parisian Rogue: When Paris starts objecting to the Doctor’s insane programme B’Elanna wonders if he might be jealous because he is stepping on her husbands toes.

Forever Ensign: ‘When is she giving you a promotion?’ Sometimes I think they enjoy beating down on Harry Kim (who doesn’t?). When letters started pouring in Hunters he spent the whole episode mooching about because he was the last person to receive one and now there is a lottery to determine who is going to speak to their loved ones over subspace Harry picks out the highest number and longest wait time! Add to the fact that he has no promotion prospects and some people just don’t get any luck! Its wonderful to finally catch up with Harry Kim’s parents so we can see where this drippy sod came from and they actually seem like really lovely people. Really lovely people that created a monster.

Spotted Dick: Even Neelix is really well used here as he takes a much more subtle approach of telling the Doctor how much he loved the programme and questioning why he cares if he upsets half the crew. I wish he was always written with this much tenacity.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I believe your ego has received enough stroking for one day…’
‘Interesting plot twist. You get me out of sickbay so you’re free to give my patient a tonsillectomy!’
‘Your emitter isn’t a ball and chain. It liberates you.’
‘A replicator created this cup of coffee. Should that replicator be able to determine whether or not I can drink it?’

The Good: How wonderful for the crew to be able to spend 11 minutes a day being able to talk to their family, friends and loved ones. The show should probably have been at this point in series four (when they first made contact with Starfleet) and there should have been more tension amongst the crew over who gets to use those 11 minutes but I’ll take what I can get. The Doctor’s vision of how he was treating in the early days is brilliantly handled and played by all the cast who throw themselves into their roles with all of the gusto that made the similar scenes in Living Witness such a joy. Chakotay is a bullish Bajoran with a ridiculous tattoo splayed across his cheek (‘I don’t know how you think you are hologram but to me you’re just another piece of technology!’). Tom Paris (sorry Lieutenant Marseilles) a inveterate womaniser with a hideous moustache. Janeway is a black haired siren who rules the ship with an iron thumb and murders patients in sickbay in order to get the people she wants treated further up the priority list! Torres has had her Klingon half removed and has barred the Doctor from engineering. Tuvok (sorry Tulok) is a Vulcan thug with a ridiculous bushy beard! Harry Kim is a whining hypochondriac Trill (this is not that far removed from the irritating Harry we know…and at least if we were stuck with Harry the crew beat upon him some more!). The Doctor’s mobile emitter is a giant backpack that weighs him down like a ton of bricks (as a metaphor its hardly subtle but it does get the point across). Very cleverly we are introduced to each of these characters scene by scene and the person playing the Doctor changes too so they can all see his skewered perceptions of them all. As I was watching I kept thinking he was going to have an awful lot of questions to answer. Naturally the only person to escape this piece of work unscathed is Seven of Nine who the Doctor has always had a great deal of affection for (Someone to Watch Over Me) and becomes a preachy supporter of holographic rights. The irony of a holoprogramme about holographic rights being the catalyst for a court case discussing holographic rights is not lost on me. Beautifully the only way that they can prove that the Doctor is more than just a collection of photons the crew all step forward in the court case and tell their stories about what he means to them and how he has helped them to become better people. If that sounds twee then I have given the wrong impression, for once this is on the right side of sentimentality and skilfully done. At the end of this episode something has genuinely changed in the Star Trek universe. It may not be a blow for holograms everywhere but one hologram has been awarded the same artistic rights as any individual and that’s just a small first step. It means that a seam of episodes on Voyager has actually been leading somewhere and made an impact and that makes me smile. The final scene of the many EMH Mark 1’s working in the mines and discussing Photons Be Free is wonderfully zany and proves that (for the Doctor) this has all been worth it.

The Bad: It annoys the hell out of that this is all we will get of the crew talking to their families. After seven years away there must be so much to explore in this area and instead we spend the rest of the series indulging in standard Trek plots. Its obscene that something that would have been explored over several years on DS9 (always the most characterful of Trek shows) is shunting off into a tiny subplot in one episode on Voyager. Janeway’s speech about black peoples rights pushes the analogy a little too far for my liking and is the only reason that this episode doesn’t get full marks.

Moment to Watch Out For: ‘Don’t be ridiculous, that character isn’t you…’ The episode gets even better when the crew get together to knock an even more over the top holoprogramme about an overbearing EMH to show the Doctor how they are feeling when they see his programme. It’s a lesson well learnt and easily the best scene of a wonderful episode when Robert Picardo gets to play the slimy, vicious, predatory EMH. He’s got an appalling comb over, barely bothers to diagnose his patients and groans lustfully as he gives Seven of Nine a relaxing massage. 

Result: Despite being a mash up of A Measure of a Man, Living Witness, Hunters and Worst Case Scenario, Author Author is an extraordinarily good episode of Voyager and the last grasp at greatness before the disappointing final run of the series. You’ve got a brilliant central storyline about the Doctor’s madcap holoprogramme that paints the Voyager crew in a terrible light that features some wonderfully funny OTT portraits of the crew we know and love, a fantastic reversal when Paris gets his revenge on the Doctor and an important message as the question of holographic rights takes a turn for the serious. Bolstering that is the superb b plot featuring the chance for the crew to finally be able to contact their loved ones and say some of the things that they have been dying to say for years. The conversations between Tom and B’Elanna and their respective estranged fathers are especially touching. You can’t really go wrong with a Doctor episode and Picardo is at the top of his game (as ever) but this actually turns out to be more an ensemble piece and everybody (except Beltran who barely registers) is giving their all to make this a memorable drama. Funny, clever, emotional and poignant, Author Author is packed full of the sort of material I would like to see from Voyager every week. Fantastic: 9/10

Friendship One written by Michael Taylor & Bryan Fuller and directed by Mike Vejar

What’s it about: Voyager is given its first assignment from Starfleet since Caretaker…

Hepburn-a-Like: It is revealed that Janeway is the Captain to have made First Contact more times than anybody since James Kirk…but as she says it does help being the only Captain within 30,000 light years. When they do get home a hell of a fuss is going to be made of her, you just know it. At least she pauses for a moment at the end to mourn the loss of Carey.

Brilliant B’Elanna: There’s an attempt to explore the dangers of working for Starfleet and carrying a baby. It might not be the most gripping material ever but I do appreciate that they try and add a beat of character (Paris objecting to her going on the mission) and an extra layer of danger to the scenario (because he might not come home to his baby).

Spotted Dick: Neelix tells Verin that when he first stepped on board Voyager he found the crew to be arrogant know-it-alls and he still thinks they take themselves far too seriously. Trying to break down his defences by finding common ground. Clever bloke. It’s the first time we have had mention of the disaster that befell Talax in an age too. It adds a nice touch of continuity to the situation. 

The Good: I love the idea of Janeway and co being sent on a mission by the Starfleet from 30,000 light years away. They should have stayed in contact ever since they first got in touch in season four and then all of Janeway’s more questionable decisions would have excusably put to one side because she could have been said to have been under orders! They can be used to clear away all of the Alpha Quadrant junk that has strayed into the Delta Quadrant! The harsh, snowy landscape that the Away Team explore is beautifully photographed by Mike Vejar to make the conditions look as harsh as possible. We’ve really come a long way from those hideous soundstages with coloured backdrops! The make up of Verin and his people is impressively gruesome, certainly the nastiest we have seen since the Vidiians. I really like the pessimistic approach this episode takes to the Earth reaching out to its neighbours in space – Star Trek always makes space exploration an uplifting prospect (however one of Enterprise’s saving graces was that they chartered how dangerous space could be in those early years) and to see a probe reaching a planet and causing a disastrous mutation of its planet and people is pleasingly disparaging of the usual inspiring ethos. The aliens think that Starfleet sent them technology that they couldn’t understand so they would obliterate themselves because it is easier than invading them! At least the aliens manage to think their way out of this situation, all they have lacked in the past is the ability to put their ideas into action. Rather than having Voyager sweep in as the saviours of the planet they are merely the means of deliverance of a plan that has been cooked up for a while. I have to be honest the alien baby is shockingly realistic.

The Bad: It says something about the overarching strength of a series that I have watched the latter half of season seven entirely out of order and it hasn’t impacted the show one jot. Whilst placing End Game at the climax you can pretty much mix and match all the other episodes because there is very little development to distinguish an order. Imagine watching the final ten episodes of DS9 out of order? Carey is present? Lieutenant Carey of seasons one and two never to be seen since! Are they taking the piss? Leave it to Voyager to introduce a character, forget about him for five seasons and then bring him back right near the end just to kill him off! Perhaps seeing him again is supposed to induce a childish thrill and remembrance of the ‘classic days’ of Voyager (if there ever was such a thing) but its just another tired reminder that the creative staff on this show take incredible liberties. It feels like a very cynical move that a character should be brought back to silence critics just to kill him off. The woman who has lost all of her children to the probe I could take (indeed there was something rather grim about an artefact from Earth causing all of her babies to be born stillborn) but the cutesy blistered child that talks to Tom and Neelix is a step too far into blatant manipulation. Tom rushing to save the baby is basically a re-run of Bashir’s efforts in The Quickening except a million times less affecting. Ekoria felt like a real person struggling to take another breath to give her baby life – this is a unashamedly calculating subplot featuring a character we barely know. Why is it with these kinds of stories that there is always one dissenter whose voice carries further than those who want to let the heroes help. By the end of the episode the people have been cured, the planets environment restored and Voyager blasts off on another adventures. Its so inevitably twee and perfect (especially the godawful shot of the sun coming out) its enough to make you stop watching television and take up fishing.

Moment to Watch Out For: Odd that nobody seems to give a shit about Carey’s death about two minutes after it has occurred. Had this been a regular character this would have been given far more impact. It feels like the show is trying to be bold by killing somebody off but without it being somebody that counts it was never going to impact.

Teaser-tastic: I got a pleasing Blink of an Eye vibe from the intriguing teaser that sees Friendship One entering the atmosphere of a suspiciously Earth like planet. Is this going to be another clever-clever high concept episode to rival the season six classic? 

Result: The most vanilla episode of the season so far. There’s nothing exclusively wrong with Friendship One; its pleasantly scripted, pleasantly acted and pleasantly filmed but there is no part of it where it threatens to step into high gear and deliver anything memorable either. The set up is intriguing because it flies in the face of what we have come to expect from Star Trek (that space travel always yields positive results) but was there ever any doubt that Voyager’s motley crew wouldn’t be able to put this planet and its people out of its misery with a quirk of technobabble? Had this been DS9 I could envisage a far darker ending.  Bringing back Carey just to kill him off is such a pointless act – its not like we’ve seen anything of this character for five years. It would have had much more impact has Tom or Neelix been gunned down. Mike Vejar’s direction is as polished as ever but he can only film what has been written and without the ability to take risks or push the show into really disturbing areas he is merely polishing a turd. There have been far worse episodes of Voyager but there have been far better ones too: 5/10

Natural Law written by James Khan and directed by Terry Windell

What’s it about: Its time to protect the primitives…

Tattoo: Chakotay practically climaxes at the sight of natives on the alien planet and it looked set to be another tedious exploration of his native American roots.

Borg Babe: With the Seven/Chakotay scenes they are somewhat caught between a rock and hard place because it was so vomit inducingly awful in Human Error to recapture that ineptitude is to invite ridicule and yet to ignore that it ever happened looks even more ham-fisted. In other news Seven of Nine is befriended by apathetic primitive aliens that teach her how to appreciate nature. Somehow when this character was brought onto Voyager and began her long journey from drone to human I didn’t imagine quite that this was where she would end up. It’s the last episode devoted entirely to her character and by jiminy it’s a stinker.

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘There’s always time for warp dynamics but you don’t see natural beauty like this every day…’ – Chakotay is trying to sound romantic again. Somebody shoot him.
‘I’m planning to spend as much time with you as you need…’ – and all Tom wants to do is have fun with his friends. Jeez this is desperate stuff.

The Good: Some effects shots with the Delta Flyer. These reviews are starting to get predictable.

The Bad: I suppose a shuttle crash was inevitable this close to the end…it was one of those staples that Voyager relied on a little too often that was bound to rear its ugly head before the shows climax. Like time travel, crew members acting out of character and the Borg. Imagine how brave it would have been to have actually killed off Chakotay and Seven like this. To stick one in the face of critics like me but no with predictable results they wind up on another Earth like forest on another Earth like planet. So far so Innocence (the season two clunker). Tom Paris has to go back to piloting school so cue the oh-so-amusing scene where Neelix, Harry Kim and B’Elanna all catch up with him in a corridor and take the piss. I’ve seen this scene played out about ten times now over the course of the show and then somehow manage to get less funny every single time. The shot of Seven by the waterfall is shockingly bad – why couldn’t they have just filmed this little insert by a real waterfall? Especially if they have the money to whisk up an entire jungle in the studio. The scenes featuring the Ventu are the most snooze worthy this show has been all season. Literally nothing happens. Sincerity is a virtue but taken to this degree its like watching morally sound paint drying. I can’t believe the episode shoves in a ‘let’s get the Indians out of here so we can exploit the land’ moral at the end. It’s the most obvious place the show can go so naturally that’s where we head. Unbelievably the Tom Paris subplot isn’t actually about anything…as soon as its done filling out the episode nonsensically Janeway orders Paris back into action. We learn nothing about either Tom or the instructor and the subplot has no relevance to main plot at all. Have the writers on this show just given up and decided to stuff any old nonsense in to get to the end of the season?

Moment to Watch Out For: Seven accepting a blanket. It’s the most exciting thing that happens. The only moment I felt anything besides sheer borderm.

Teaser-tastic: A shuttle crash. That’s original.

Fashion Statement: The most interesting thing about Natural Law (yes I know I’m reaching…) is how Seven’s hair gets more and more untidy and unkempt as the episode progresses. It starts off in a neat little bun, then there are a few straggly strands, then most of it has fallen out and then it is hanging free and wild! She should always have it down, it looks great.

Orchestra: Its time to visit the natives again so the wood flute gets its annual airing.

Result: Surely there was something more exciting to do than have Chakotay and Seven (because we all know how well that pairing went down in Human Error) getting friendly with a bunch of natives whilst Tom Paris takes his driving test. The Chakotay plotline is like a poor amalgamation of Tattoo and Darmok whilst the sub plot featuring the worlds slowest driving instructor is reminiscent of Neelix’s nightmare in Someone to Watch Over Me. I don’t ask for much from this show and to be honest I don’t expect a great deal either so why do they keep churning up old Trek episodes in such a ponderous, seen that moral before fashion? There’s no pace, no excitement, no drama, no wit, no intelligence…when people clamour for Star Trek to return as a television series they have to remember episodes like this and pray that things never get this impotent again. Somewhere along the line Voyager stopped being a progressive show and started making hour long lectures – I haven’t felt this bored by anything since I was a kid in a classroom staring at the clock waiting for lunch to hurry up. This episode occupies the same position in the final season as DS9’s Tacking Into the Wind – where that was one of the finest every Trek episodes, Natural Law is one of the worst: 1/10

Homestead written by Raf Green and directed by LeVar Burton

What’s it about: Neelix leaves Voyager when he discovers a Talaxian colony that needs his protection…

Hepburn-a-Like: Janeway is willing to violate the Prime Directive to help a friend in distress. It’s a touching final gesture from a Captain to a man who has given her everything he has. I love the way Janeway gives Neelix an out in way that makes him feel that he is still of use to Voyager and allows him to go without ever saying he wants to.

Mr Vulcan: It pleases me to say that in the twilight of their doomed relationship (doomed in the sense that it never quite worked in the way that the writers devised…it never even got close to approaching the Odo/Quark family in adversity vibe) there is something touching to be said about how Tuvok and Neelix feel about each other. They might have annoyed the hell out of each other for seven years but familiarity has bred respect and their ‘hypothetical’ conversation sees Tuvok aiding Neelix in his plans to save the Talaxians. For Tuvok to say that Neelix is much more than just a cook and that he is one of the most resourceful individuals that he has ever known pulls at the heartstrings because its only during these farewell episodes where all the pretence falls away. I thought Neelix attempting to make Tuvok dance was another of those hideous moments of comedy that the show plummets to, I never thought it was setting up a touching final gesture from the Vulcan to his Talaxian friend.

Spotted Dick: Oh Neelix. Whether you found him to be a disappointment or not depends on whether you saw potential in his character in the first place. When I first watched Voyager’s run (on its first UK transmission) there was no doubt that he was one of my least favourite characters from any Star Trek incarnation. When I approached my marathon review rewatch I expected that opinion to hold but to my everlasting surprise I have found that by not expecting a great deal from the character has meant that he has been able to quietly astonish me on occasion. Don’t get me wrong there were all the horrors I remembered (his jealousy with Tom Paris, his odd relationship with Kes, his insistent perkiness and his deeply unfunny love/hate relationship with Tuvok) but there was also a gentle charm that could be relied on when the chips were down and the odd cherishable moment of depth (I can recall many a late night conversation in the Mess Hall when various crewmembers are having trouble sleeping). Ethan Philips has proven revelatory too; annoying (as an actor would be) when written that way but delivering when the writers decide to give the character something to do. Of all the Voyager characters, Neelix is the one I have re-evaluated the most for the better during this re-run of the show (whereas Janeway is by far the character who was re-evaluated for the worse). There have even been a decent number of Neelix-centred episodes in the first couple of seasons before the character seemed to have been forgotten (Jetrel, Fair Trade, Mortal Coil). Homestead proves to be a surprisingly poignant final hurrah for an unpopular character but for me it’s a pleasing curtain call for a mishandled but potentially great comic foil. He’s no Quark (to the nth degree) but he had it in him to be much better than he was.

We open Homestead with Neelix doing what he does best, entertaining and serving the crew and irritating Tuvok. It would seem the writers are trying to get the long term reviewer to remember all the worst times with Neelix as well as the best because his spasmodic dance at the jukebox is highly reminiscent of a similar scene that polluted the pre credits sequence in Warlord (the very thought of which brings me out in hives). His friendship and subsequent relationship with Dexa makes a lot more sense than anything he had with Kes (which at best felt icky because of the age difference and at worst brought Neelix’s hideous jealous streak) and it helps that Philips and Julianne Christie share a pleasant, gentle chemistry. If you are a cynical viewer than you might find Neelix acquiring a new Talaxian family a bit twee but its about as close to a happy ending that anybody gets on this show and given that it has always been in his nature to give it seems fitting that he should be rewarded at the end. Philips works beautifully with children (the best parts of The Haunting of Deck Twelve saw him telling a ghost story to the Borg children) because he can get down on their level without patronising them. Seeing his own people again is food for thought for Neelix, he hadn’t really thought about it before but its probably the last time we will ever see any of his people again. Its lovely that Chakotay and Harry Kim chooses to big Neelix up in front of Brax (the look on his face at his friends praise turns what could have been a potentially ropey moment into something much more poignant) and turns out to be the best thing either character does in the final season. He’s been saving a bottle of Talaxian wine for 15 years, a last touch of home that he wasn’t sure that he would ever open. Now keeping hold of a piece of Talaxia isn’t necessary because he has found something far more precious to replace it. As soon as he opens that bottle its clear that Neelix isn’t going to be warping off with his friends at the end of the episode. Naomi is too old to be put to bed and told stories to now…it’s a subtle reminder of how much she has grown up and doesn’t need Neelix in the same way. It makes the audience realise the draw of Dexa and Brax. His final choice isn’t a light one but it does make perfect sense. Neelix is now an Ambassador in the Delta Quadrant and one with a family of his own. If I were Ethan Philips I would be very happy to have exited the show (he gets cameos in the next two episodes but that’s all they are) on my own character drama rather than being shuffled into the pack with the rest of the cast in the disappointing End Game. 

The Good: The Delta Flyer skimming across the surface of an asteroid is way cool. There is no doubt that Voyager’s effects sequences kick some serious ass at this point. Who would have ever guessed that this was the same Rob LaBelle that played the irritating chump Kafar in False Profits. Amazing what a slap of latex can do. The chessboard patterned aliens aren’t the most incredible species that Voyager has stumbled across but its another example of the superb make up the show commands. I like the way the camera lingers on Neelix after the negotiations have failed, almost to highlight the sense of failiure he is feeling. For a while it looks like the Talaxians will be joining Voyager but that is just a red herring so we can manoeuvre Neelix into the position of standing up for the underdog. It works in exactly the same way it did for Rom in Bar Association, a man stepping out of his comfort zone and standing up against something that is wrong. 

The Bad: Rather than contrive an excuse for how Talaxians manage to turn up this many light years away from their home planet, Homestead instead chooses to ignore this plot hole completely and leave the audience to fume. There is a sense of predictability about this episode that renders any of its potential shocks null and void. Brax turning up on the Delta Flyer is immediately obvious, as is the fact that not everything is as it seems on the colony. The mechanics of the plot are all grinding into a position so that Neelix can pull out a gun a protect his newfound family.

Moment to Watch Out For: I was astonished at how much Neelix’s final walk through the ships corridors was, the crew all lining up to say goodbye to him. Its rare for Voyager to indulge in sentiment like this and for it not tip over the edge into syrupy mush (can you recall Once Upon a Time) but this is a very satisfying acknowledgement of everything Neelix has given the crew. Tuvok’s final gesture to Neelix (not too bold but just enough for him to remain in character) gave me a lump in the throat.

Fashion Statement: Right up to his last episode, Neelix’s sense of style borders on the ludicrous. He wears hideous multi coloured smocks which somehow manage to make Ethan Philips look far tubbier than is actually the case. 

Result: Whilst it comes about six and a half seasons too late and several gulps through space away from Talaxia, Homestead proves to be a surprisingly touching little character story for Neelix to be reunited with his people. There is nothing especially memorable about the direction of this episode (but with LeVar Burton helming it that is no great surprise) but since it is primarily a character drama that isn’t really a problem. There are some moments that are so cloying they get stuck in the throat (usually centring on Naomi Wildman as usual) but ultimately thanks to a script that has a clear vision of what it wants to achieve and a pleasingly shy and thoughtful turn by Ethan Philips Homestead overcomes its sugary goodness and provides some touching moments. The bitter irony of Voyager’s (lack of) wrap up and the very nature that his departure is handled over 45 minutes means that one of the shows least popular characters gets the best send off. This wont blow you away but if you turn the cynical part of your mind off it might quietly surprise you with its delicate sentiment: 7/10

Renaissance Man written by Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman and directed by Mike Vejar

What’s it about: How many Doctors are there in a Starship lost in the Delta Quadrant?

Hepburn-a-Like: What a shame that Janeway turns out to be the Doctor in disguise because for once I could actually get behind what her character was saying. Her angry rant about being tired of taking risks in order to get the crew home actually resonates. Maybe the writers should have been characterising her as the Doctor the whole time. I love how the crew start suspecting her of being an imposter when she starts asking odd questions…especially when our Janeway has behaved far more out of character than this on the long slog through the Delta Quadrant and they never suspected anything out of the ordinary.

Tattoo: Michael Vejar dances around the Captain and First Officer when Chakotay shows a rare bit of initiative and tricks Janeway into revealing that she isn’t herself. It’s a real moment of tension even if it does remind me of the cargo bay scene between them in The Voyager Conspiracy. Exposing Beltran as one of the weakest performers of this ensemble, I could barely detect any difference between his performance as Chakotay and his performance as the Doctor. Or should that be I couldn’t detect any effort.

EMH: In his own modest way the Doctor has come to realise that whilst at one point in his seven year life he would have killed to be human (ala Data) he has come to realise that it is far superior that he isn’t (ala Spock). The one character beat the emerges from this episode is that the Doctor wants to start socialising with Janeway, a position that she feels uncomfortable with but considers changing for him. The Doctor’s goodbye speech to the crew (including the revelation of his diary that lists all of Janeway’s most questionable decisions) when we know he is going to survive is very funny. Its obvious but its hilariously played by Picardo.

Brilliant B’Elanna: In comparison to Beltran, Dawson is all mechanical ticks and masculine detail when playing the Doctor. Paris almost winds up having a romantic dinner with the Doctor and Dawson really sells the comedy of the Doctor’s discomfort at having to endure a long romantic kiss with the Lieutenant. 

Forever Ensign: I couldn’t help but cheer when Harry Kim ended up locked up in the morgue.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You wouldn’t shoot a pregnant woman, would you?’
‘Mr Tuvok, I violated the most sacred trust between a physician and his patient. I told Mr Neelix about the cutaneous eruption on your…’ and ‘Ensign, at your recital last month I told Lieutenant Torres that your saxophone playing reminded me of a wounded Targ…’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Voyager can survive without a warp core…but not without a Captain’ – the Doctor trying to score brownie points after his subterfuge.

The Good: To this episodes credit it does manage to hide the Doctor’s secret for quite some time. I take my fun where I can the image of Robert Picardo talking with Kate Mulgrew’s voices gives the impression of a camp man that has been smoking 20 a day for the past 30 years. Well it made me laugh. Halfway through the episode the Doctor has been playing so many members of the crew it is as hard for him as it is for us to keep up with who he is supposed to be from one scene to the next. As we skip towards the conclusion its hard to figure who the Doctor will be next and that’s mildly diverting.

The Bad: How very odd to see Vorik turn up so close to the shows conclusion. Are they going to do something this character now? For a laugh they should have filled engineering with all the characters that were touted as possible semi regulars but never amounted to anything – Samantha Wildman, Carey, the Maquis members from Learning Curve and the social misfits from Good Sheppard. Remember when the good ship Voyager ominously entered Borg space? Recycling that plot for the R’Kall simply doesn’t cut the mustard. The alien make up this week doesn’t look that much different from that of last weeks one-shot species. Are the make up designers lacking inspiration? Are we honestly supposed to find the Hierarchy a menacing final threat to the Voyager crew? They are the daftest species they have ever encountered! Who else was disappointed when Chakotay and Kim were taking out of cold storage and we learn that they ‘just unconscious.’

Moment to Watch Out For: The Doctor leaps through walls! The Doctor fills the holodeck with thousands of clones of himself1 The Doctor can walk up walls, Matrix style! This is simply an excuse to do all the things with the Doctor that show hasn’t yet attempted…but to be fair I would rather watch daft fun like this than endure another hideous holodeck programme like Fair Haven.

Teaser-tastic: Possibly one of the dullest pre-titles sequences ever which tells you very little about the episode ahead and re-iterates the Doctor’s ego in a way that reveals nothing new.

Result: ‘Goodbye my friends! Speak well of me!’ Fun but entirely disposable so I guess that makes this the perfect representation of this show in its last gasp before the finale. What Renaissance Man turns out to be is a last chance for the cast of this show to let their hair down and get to have a go at playing the Doctor – Body and Soul Mark II if you like. The way the Doctor waltzes around the ship knocking out the crew and taking over the ship could be seen as a not so subtle metaphor for how Robert Picardo stole the limelight from his cast mates on so many occasions throughout Voyager’s run. Within this episode the characters that he mimics are a lot more fun than they have been in a while so perhaps the Doctor invasion should have occurred a lot sooner! With Mike Vejar directing there is the appropriate energy to make this sort of screwball comedy work and whilst I might have preferred something with a little more substance as the penultimate episode at this stage of the game I will happily settle for something that amuses. As usual Robert Picardo (or Robert Picardo impersonations in this case) equates entertainment. The Hierarchy are still rubbish, though: 7/10

Endgame written by Kenneth Biller & Robert Doherty (although the storyline reeks of Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky) and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: 10 years after Voyager returned to the Alpha Quadrant Admiral Janeway decides to head back in time and change how things turned out…

Hepburn-a-Like: Its nice that Kate Mulgrew gets to stretch her wings in the last episode and bring something new to the role that she has played for the last seven years. Her grey haired, embittered Admiral Janeway is a believable character and the scenes of her reminiscing with her old crew do have some chemistry to them. She’s a gentle authorative figure that gives lectures on the many foes that she encountered on her journey home through the Delta Quadrant. The scene where she tries to tell Tuvok that she is going away and might be able to make things right for him is very nicely performed by both actors, re-introducing the chemistry between the two characters that was abundant in season one but got lost in the intervening years. She thinks its a little late for marriage and considers it an indulgence of the young. Its interesting that in What You Leave Behind Sisko gets to become a God and in Endgame Janeway wants to play God…I know which one of them is more suited to the role. I realise how much she loves every member of her ‘family’ (because she’s gone on about it for the past seven years) but changing the lives of every single person on the Earth over a ten year period is a bit much to ask just to bring two crewmembers back to life and spare another from madness. What if entire wars spring up because of her tinkering? What if the return of Chakotay brings about some terrible catastrophe? Everybody looks reasonably happy in the future (except Tuvok but then he was never exactly a barrel of laughs) and so to poison all that with an alternative timeline seems a little grandiloquent on Janeway’s part to save a few lives. She’s never been known for coming up with the best schemes in the past but she has always tried to adhere to the revered Prime Directive and so to head of on a mission this mind numbingly stupid defies belief. Mind I’m in two minds as to whether this jaded ‘I don’t give a shit about the temporal Prime Directive’ is any a superior option to the rulebound (unless they go against what she wants to do) bug-up-her-butt matriarch that we are used to. Of course our Janeway takes the older ones option, even she can’t imagine another 16 years of this show! Janeway coming face to face with exactly the same situation as the one in Caretaker is this series coming full circle. She has within her grasp a way to return home but her first instinct (because it is something that gives the Borg a huge tactical advantage over their enemies) is to destroy (even her doppelganger is appalled at this suggestion). Its odd that it takes the deaths of one of her senior officers to make Janeway act (there are 21 others that are killed on the long journey home but really its Seven’s death that is prompting her) when she has already lost a fair number of crewmembers along the way. Shouldn’t she have gone back even further to the point where nobody had died and tried to get the ship home from there? Oh no wait because then Seven would never have joined Voyager and oh my word I’ve gone cross eyed. This kind of temporal bollocks gives me a headache!

Tattoo: Chakotay is dead. Let joy be uncontained! Its almost worth skipping forward 10 years just to be able to type those words. When we do head back in time and he reappears you can feel the quality of the episode shift downwards a gear, his dreary presence knocking us down into the usual Voyager tedium.

EMH: ‘It took you 33 years to come up with Joe?’ – and what, pray tell, is wrong with Joe? The Doctor is getting married to the foxiest babe in Quadrant who just happens to be flesh and blood. It looks like he has made quite a name for himself in the Alpha Quadrant as a hologram that truly went where no man has gone before. Of course none of this matters one jot because this entire timeline is erased to make room for a new one. So catching up on these developments was a big fat waste of time. End Game tells us nothing about ‘our’ Doctor and how he ended up. All the development he enjoyed over the years winded up climaxing on…nothing.

Brilliant B’Elanna: One of the few things I can compare DS9 and Voyager to and the latter comes out stronger is the two pregnancy storylines that they indulged in. Kira’s pregnancy came to fruition with some farcical sitcom antics between O’Brien and Shakaar that failed to raise a smile. Tom and B’Elanna’s is played out much more naturally with both actors well in tune with each other by now and making this feel like a special event. She has gotten used to the idea of raising her daughter on Voyager and finds it odd to think that she might be born in the Alpha Quadrant. I want to say that the pregnancy drama taking place during an action sequence is wholly original but even that played out along exactly the same lines with Samantha Wildman in Deadlock.

Borg Babe: Hang on I thought Seven found out that she couldn’t pursue romance because of some tongue-twisting technobabble? It was an irritating reset but at least it spared us scenes of Ryan and Beltran pretending that they are head over heels in love with each other which is about as convincing as the finales plot. Once again the writers conveniently forget what they have set up in the past and make up the rules as they go along. When they do explain this reset but it has the adverse effect of making the conclusion of Human Error even more pointless. Watching Seven and Chakotay kiss is about as erotic as geriatric pornography. The Ezri/Bashir romance angle in DS9’s Final Chapter might have been drawn out but at least it was a natural coming together of two characters and when they do come to terms with their feelings they leap into bed and have at it like a pair of crazed voles. Chakotay and Seven indulge in sickly wordplay and when she realises that she might lose him Seven decides to ‘change the parameters of their relationship.’ Oh yuck. Learning that they are at the eve of a great, defining battle had to reverse effect on Bashir and Ezri – they were at it like honeymooners! I know which couple I believe in more. Admiral Janeway tries to recruit Seven to her cause but she refuses, considering her death a small payment if it means the Borg threat is crippled. I preferred this woman when she was a selfish, morally bankrupt drone. She was much more fun back then. And even surprised on occasion.

Mr Vulcan: What a shame that Tuvok’s madness is contained to a defunct timeline because I could have seen this playing out over a couple of season had the production team had some balls.

Parisian Rogue: The one beat of character that really struck me as being real was Paris’ assertion that he doesn’t need to return to Earth because Voyager is his home now. He began this journey as a criminal and ended it as a husband and a father to be. It might have meant making the character less interesting but in terms of quality of life Paris has never had it better. Comparing his lack of excitement with Harry’s tail wagging at the thought of making it back to the Alpha Quadrant is very telling.

Forever Ensign (except in this alternative universe): Harry finally managed to obtain the rank of Captain and has been out on deep space assignments. This can only be explained by the dearth of decent officers caused by the Dominion War so men of less ability have to be promoted instead. Come on, it’s the last episode! You don’t think I’m going to start saying nice things about Harry now, do you? Of course none of this matters one jot because this entire timeline is erased to make room for a new one. So catching up on these developments was a big fat waste of time. Sometimes you really want a character to slip on a banana skin in the middle of a speech because it is so mind-fudgingly awful and Harry’s ‘maybe it’s the journey that matters’ definitely qualifies. You just need one character to laugh to make this a little self mocking but no they all raise their mugs to his cloying sentiment.

Spotted Dick: Its nice that we get to catch up with Neelix in the last episode. Like him or loathe he was a major part of this show for seven years and its only right that he should show up for the swansong. Obviously the crew like having an irritating buffoon in the kitchen since they replace the ever cheerful Neelix with the even more outrageous Bolian, Chell.

The Dysfunction King: Its always nice to catch up with Reg whether he is a geriatric version from a invalid timeline or not although I have to admit that after his stellar return in Pathfinder each subsequent appearance on Voyager was less special than the last.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I’ll answer all your questions once we’re back in the Alpha Quadrant!’ – older Janeway’s logic is impeccable, her timeline will be defunct and she will no longer exist so she’ll have nobody to answer to!

Dreadful Dialogue: ’23 years together made you a family…’ – at least they were consistent right up to the end.
‘Wherever I end up I’m going to make sure its within transporter range of you…’ – if we had known that Seven would wind up having conversations like this with Chakotay of all people perhaps we wouldn’t have been so keen to follow her journey.

The Good: The various make up jobs for the crew of Voyager 26 years in the future (than when we last saw them in Renaissance Man) are very accomplished. Whilst Tom has some rather ugly liver spots, B’Elanna, Janeway and Harry all look distinguished in their geriatric guises. Its lovely to have so many scenes set on Earth as well. Given that the Federation’s base of operations is so revered on TNG and VOY there was very little time spent on the planet. DS9 avoided it too for the most part but then they were highly critical of ‘paradise.’ Special effects are tops as usual and the near collision of Voyager and a Borg Cube (despite their groan-worthy reappearance again) is tensely done. Love Janeway’s armoured shuttle, that’s a lovely piece of design. That’s nothing compared to the armoured Voyager which finally looks like a genuine threat to the Borg. They should have introduced that years ago. They knock out a handful of Cubes as though they are swatting a fly.

The Bad: How could they possibly have got this so wrong? All the writers had to do was satisfyingly get the crew home at some point in the seventh season and spend a number of episodes dealing with their rehabilitation back on Earth. Even a brain dead in bred cretin could work that one out. Instead they take us 26 odd years into the future to a time 10 years after Voyager got home and give us the chance to see the crew catching up with each other now they are off leading their own lives. Had they chosen to just go down this route it would have been unsatisfying because we would never has seen how Voyager made it home (I assume they just limped their way back to the Alpha Quadrant) and how the crew found their homecoming. It would have failed to have answered so many questions that this show has been leading to in seven years. And yet because Janeway does go back in time and effectively erases this entire timeline out of existence that is unsatisfying as well – not only because there were some fine innovations (Chakotay dead, Tuvok nuts) but because the first half of this story is now pretty much irrelevant. None of it happened. Then after an episode of double Janeway’s (rehashing Deadlock) and Borg shenanigans (name your episode) they are catapulted through space thanks to a piece of technobabble that has never been heard of before and find themselves home. Hurrah! And the episode ends. What? I mean…fucking what? So we still don’t get to see how Chakotay, B’Elanna and Seven rehabilitated or the reunions with their families or Janeway face up to some of her questionable decisions…there is absolutely no closure to the series beyond the fact that the crew made it home. Its astonishingly weak – 90 minutes of rehashing old plots when there are some genuinely interesting and dramatic stories to be told. Its just makes me insane. It makes the entire 7 year journey feel completely pointless if this is all it was leading up to. What You Leave Behind may have failed to have dealt with Bajor joining the Federation but it gave satisfying closure to every one of its characters (including the myriad of semi regulars) and the Dominion war storyline. In comparison this isn’t even popcorn television, its just thin air. Dealing with nothing. Its unbelievable. Couldn’t they have forked out for a little location filming for the scene by Chakotay’s grave? It looks even more artificial than Tasha Yar’s did (and that took place in a cheesy holographic backdrop!). The scenes on the Klingon ship are flatter than a pancake – I wish we could skipped over these and moved on with the plot. Admittedly she hasn’t done the most spectacular job in the role but why depose Susannah Thompson and bring back Alice Krige in the role of Borg Queen for the finale? Suddenly the Ice Queen we have been used to has been replaced by a flirtatious carbon copy of the Queen we saw in First Contact and this time she’s purring in Seven’s ear. Imagine giving up coffee? The very thought! The final ignominy of the Borg is seeing the Queen clutching at parts of an exploding set as Janeway sits smugly stage right. This is the enemy that once threatened to bring down the Federation? Get out of town! Wouldn’t it have been so funny if Q had turned up at the climax and flung them back to the Delta Quadrant for cheating their own fate? I honestly believe that this two parter should have begun where it ends with Voyager riding back to Earth and spent the next two episodes dealing with their homecoming. That last shot is so tantalisingly promising it makes me sick that we never find out what happened next. Grrr…

Moment to Watch Out For: As much as it makes the Borg feel even more barren than usual, the effects triumph of the Queen being slowly amputated is gloriously achieved.

Fashion Statement: The uniforms in the future leave a lot to be desired. Whatever happened to those fabulous gunmetal grew uniforms sported on DS9? Now they look like they are wearing their pyjamas to work more than ever.

Anomaly of the Week: How many wormholes have Voyager encountered now? This one only leads back to the Alpha Quadrant because it’s the last episode – if it was anything but it would be more clogged-up than a u bend after Christmas dinner. Still at least it gives the crew to take the piss out of the ever optimistic Harry once again. That never gets old. Since this is the last episode they also toss in a temporal rift for old times sakes. 

Result: ‘There’s got to be a way for us to have our cake and eat it too…’ That’s the story of this shows life! There are many things wrong with this finale that I have discussed in length above but the cardinal error it makes is that just doesn’t have the ambition, the look and the tone of a series finale. It feels like another bog standard Voyager time travel two parter. As others have commented before Endgame is a mash up of several old Voyager episodes; a dangerous mission into Borg territory (Dark Frontier), matured characters coming back from the future to change the past (Timeless) and most importantly of all Janeway’s terrible choice to have to get her crew home or stop an enemy from exploiting technology (Caretaker). The fake Janeway infiltrating the enemy was handled in The Thaw and the pregnancy during jeopardy was done to much better effect in Deadlock (along with the duel Janeways). There’s nothing here that we haven’t seen before done better. Its such a shame because as usual with this show it has all the resources to be a genuinely great series and finale. The performances are fantastic (with Kate Mulgrew acting her heart out in two roles), the direction is imaginative (Kroeker back on form providing some energy where the script falters) and there is enough budget to make the ambitions settings and action sequences come to life. How a show can be so hampered by the weariness of its writers baffles me, there is just so little here to get excited about as we chalk up one Voyager cliché after another. I realised about ten minutes from the end that the show was going to climax with the ship getting home and none of the temptingly dramatic issues concerning their return to the Alpha Quadrant were ever going to be dealt with. I literally crumpled on the sofa…I have sat through seven seasons of extremely variable television with little but the promise of an exciting homecoming and even that was going to be denied to me. Worse than having to sit through some televisual excrement is that crushing feeling of disappointment that we weren’t actually heading anywhere important. False promises leading to damp squib of a conclusion. It’s a crushing final disappointment from a show that deserved to be to so much more: 4/10


Anonymous said...

Bully to you for sticking it out through a show you so clearly loathed.

Doc Oho said...

Not so much loathed as tolerated. When Voyager was good, it was very good...that just wasn't very often. There were spells in seasons two and five where the show threatened to fulfill its potential. So often though it resorted to undemanding, empty entertainment when it had the potential to be so much more. A shame.

ali said...
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