4.25.2013

Captain's Blog pt. 13: Voyager (overview)


I haven't seen every episode of this series. That makes it a little difficult to do an overview/ best-of-Voyager blog, doesn't it?

I could do what I'm planning for DS9, i.e. outsource the task to someone better qualified. Or I could try to Frankenstein together a one-stop-shopping for all your Voyager needs from Memory-Alpha, screencaps, and the like. But both of those options seem like more trouble than they're worth. So, let's try something a little different here: I'll admit my deficiencies as your Voyager tour guide up front (hello!), give you the basics as I understand them, providing hyperlinks for those who want more info, and then next time I'll give you 30 episodes that are memorable to me. Not a best-of, just thirty of my personal favorites. (I've seen at least 100 of its 172 episodes, so I'm not completely in the dark.) Sound good?

Let's start with the general set-up, in case you're wholly unfamiliar with the show: The USS Voyager is chasing the Val Jean, a Maquis ship. Both ships are captured by a fairly ridiculous super-alien, "The Caretaker," and brought to the Delta Quadrant, some 70,000 light years from Federation space. After dispatching the Caretaker and assessing their predicament, they combine their crews onto the Voyager and begin their long journey back to the Alpha Quadrant. Seven seasons and countless trips back and forth through time later, they make it.

And there you have it.
Does it make the most of this set-up? Opinions are divided. Personally, I feel plenty of episodes utilize the concept pretty well, but plenty, unfortunately, do not. (Again, not having seen the whole series, please put quotes around my use of plenty.) The perception that the series does not exploit its unique conceit as much as it could have or should have is probably a fair one. I suppose it has this in common with Enterprise.

Two more things it has in common with Enterprise are particularly good special f/x


(as evidenced by the credits, here)

and a very likeable main cast.

(from l to right) Captain Janeway, Cmdr. Chakotay, Lt. Paris, Ensign Kim, Lt. Cmdr. Tuvok, Neelix, and The Doctor. Not pictured, Seven of Nine, but we'll get to her.
Also not pictured: B'Elanna Torres.
And Kes. She wasn't in every season, which is good for me, as I wasn't a fan of the character.
Additionally, it had some recurring characters that were used to great effect, most notably:

 Naomi Wildman.
Though really it's Naomi's interaction with Seven of Nine that I like more than Naomi herself. The character herself is inoffensive enough. But she works well with Seven, and their scenes together are pretty fun.
And Icheb is great. Perfect representation of an eager to please, highly capable, awkward adolescent.
Let me get this out of the way up-front. My main obstacle to Voyager is Neelix.

Ethan Phillips, aka Pete from Benson:
Seen here with the rest of the cast, including Odo (far right) from DS9. If it were up to me, a Trek series would be developed for every other Benson cast member as well.
Occasionally, Trek will produce a make-up job so ridiculous to me that it decimates my ability to suspend disbelief or enjoy myself. Neelix is that character on Voyager to me. (Occasionally Trek produces a fatal combination of ridiculous make-up and concept; Odo and Quark are those characters to me and this explains the bulk of my resistance to DS9.) I feel kind of bad about this, as Ethan Phillips does a good job, and they generally wrote Neelix pretty well. I just can't look at the dude. This is on me, not the series. (Similarly, I like the performances of Rene Aubjeronois and Armin Shimerman just fine; I just can't stand Quark and Odo.)

THE CAPTAIN

Portrayed by Kate Mulgrew, a distinguished lady of the stage and screen who first crossed my radar as Councilwoman Janet Eldridge on Cheers.


Captain Janeway usually hovers around the bottom of the list of Trek Captains on polls. For the record, she is my third favorite after Kirk and Picard. I like the way she handles things; she exudes a calm and competent air. She's guided by a strong but flexible moral compass, and she exudes both warmth and coolness in equal measure. Her relationships with the other characters are pleasantly subtle; likewise, her interactions with the aliens of the Delta Quadrant.

I'm not sure exactly what it is about Janeway that some find so grating. This defense of the character is a welcome read:

"This is why (...)I think Janeway is an amazing character; because the show chooses to deal with the question of a female captain by not making it a question. (...) I don’t particularly want Amazonian warriors or supermodels with gadgets and leather catsuits as role models for women and girls like myself in sci-fi media. I want women, who just happen to be women, who do the exact same job a man would do in their place, and who don’t have to constantly defend their choices or techniques because of their gender—because nobody in their world gives a damn about their gender."

Amen. Well, I've got nothing against leather catsuits. But I think a great deal of the trouble is the expectation in audience-member's heads that they have to defend or attack preconceived notions of "feminism." How exhausting. And so self-important. I don't like Janeway because of what she/ Voyager says or doesn't say about feminism; I like her because she's a strong leader, intelligent, fair, and pleasant. The kind of Captain anyone in his or her right mind would want to follow. I generally find it loathsome when people say of Presidents or public officials "He/ she is the kind of person you just want to get a beer with." But it's perfectly acceptable for Starfleet Captains.

Anyway, rock on, Captain Janeway. And a chapeau to Kate Mulgrew.


THE REST OF THE CREW

The relationship between Chakotay and Janeway is handled well. Robert Beltran was quite outspoken about his dissatisfaction with both the way the series progressed and the way his character was handled. Too bad.
He'll always be Hector from Night of the Comet to me.
Tuvok (Tim Russ) Janeway's most trusted advisor. Vulcan with a family back home and an interest in meditation and sumo wrestling. (Russ, by the by, is directing Star Trek: Renegades, if it escapes the oblivion of pre-production.)

Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeil) starts the show as the brash young whippersnapper who loves fast cars and gadgets and chafes against expectations re: his being an Admiral's son.
His anti-authoritarian streak is explored pretty well. He's also the ship's resident holo-programmer:
In the show's later seasons, he marries B'Elanna Torres, (Roxann Dawson) the ship's half-human half-Klingon engineer.

Torres is given plenty of room to move and grow over the course of seven seasons, and it was nice to see a romance blossom organically between the two characters.

Same for Garrett Wang, who plays Harry Kim, ship's operations officer. 


Well, same as in "gets plenty of room to move and grow over the seasons," not that a romance blossoms organically between himself and Tom. But, the actors have good chemistry, and Harry is a welcome addition to any storyline. 

Seems like a pretty cool dude in real life, as well. (With Nichelle Nichols)
And of course, Voyager features the best Trek doctor of them all according to online polls: The Doctor. (Yes, that's his name. He chooses the name "Joe" in the alternate timeline of the series finale, but presumably this is erased once Janeway re-sets the temporal playclock, as Trek Captains are wont to do.)

Voyager perhaps more than any other Trek gets into the nitty-gritty of holographic lifeforms. Not surprisingly, since The Doctor is the franchise's first holographic lifeform. (Well, not counting Dr. Moriarty and his ladyfriend. And possibly a few others. Okay, the first holographic cast regular - how's that?)
I'm not sure I agree with the results of that poll, (when do I ever...) but Robert Picardo undoubtedly brings his A-game to the material. (His in-character response to winning that poll: "I am delighted to dedicate the - I hope substantial - cash award to my research in Holographic Sex Surrogacy.") 

Audiences responded well to him, as did his castmates. He had good chemistry in particular with Seven of Nine, but really, he worked well with everyone.


Like Spock in TOS or Data in TNG, there were times when I thought they were overusing the character or stretching his "skill set" a bit, but undoubtedly, the show would have been much poorer without the contributions of Mr. Picardo. 

And last but not least, Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine, who joined the cast in Voyager's fourth season. And quickly became the series' most popular (and divisive) character. 


She was popular and divisive for pretty much the same reason.
The catsuit - which necessitated shutting down production for a half hour anytime she had to use the bathroom - overshadowed all the writers and Ryan herself did with the character, which is too bad. (They came up with some technobabble about how the suit had to look the way it did to protect Seven's physiology once her Borg exo-plating had been removed. They eventually got rid of the high collar once it became clear the attire was damaging Ryan's carotid artery.) Of particular note is the episode where The Doctor hides out in her cortical implant to avoid detection from a holographic-averse alien race. The set-up allows Ryan to do a spot-on Picardo impersonation as well as display some amusing annoyance with the way The Doctor is going about things.

Nevertheless, her appearance precipitated many predictable nicknames among fans, "Seven of Boobs," "Barbie of Borg" and "36D of 9," etc. and it was widely speculated that she was brought on board to boost ratings through less than intellectual means. Jeri Ryan had this to say: 

"I knew exactly what I was in for when I had my first costume fitting. Clearly my character was added to the show for sex appeal, which remains the one way to get attention very quickly. I don't think it's the only way to get viewers to watch strong women, but it worked. "

I will say, she's definitely a strong character (both a "strong female character" and a "character with a strong arc") and added something of real value to show. The expression "more than just a pretty face" (or perhaps more than just a skintight bodysuit) applies both to her character and the actress herself. (To read more of Jeri reflecting on the role that made her famous, here's a good interview.)


Jeri Ryan's high-profile divorce from one-time GOP golden boy Jack Ryan is the stuff of political legend here in Illinois and played a direct role in our current President's path to the White House. How many Trek personnel can you say that about?

Why the GOP doesn't play the "Borg" card more is beyond me, but pretty much everything they do confuses me, so that's par for the course.
ALIEN SPECIES

Each Trek show has at least one alien species associated with it more than any other. Voyager had perhaps the most amount of new species introduced, but its signature alien is arguably Species 8472, "the only race known to intimidate the Borg." 


They did some interesting things with these guys, but I felt they were under-explored. The concept of "fluidic space" was cool, though.

Also, The Hirogen, a nomadic hunting race with whom the crew tussled a few times.

NEXT:
My Favorite Voyagers

23 comments:

  1. Doing this series hammered home some of the areas where I stand apart from the Trek hivemind. (I use that term affectionately) Whereas I find the cast from Voyager to be really likeable and fairly well-developed, the consensus opinion seems to be they were neither. (Ditto for Enterprise.)

    I agree with the criticism of Voyager (Enterprise, too) that it failed to capitalize on its investment; both shows could be collapsed into fewer seasons and fat trimmed, etc.

    This is interesting to me, as I see "DS9 is the best sci-fi show ever" as often as I see "Bah! Enterprise/ Voyager blow..." An opinion as bizarre to me as, I'm sure, my overall positive opinion on Voyager/ Enterprise ("Insurrection," as well) is to most people.

    Ah well! McMolo! Stands! ALONE.

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  2. I met all the Voyager cast at one time or another. I ran Ethan Phillips's official fan club, in fact. Got a tour of the Voyager and DS9 sets at Paramount. Garrett Wang is indeed a cool guy. I took him to Foxwoods when he did a con in the area. Went out to dinner with him and Ethan when I was in L.A./Hollywood back in '97. Good times.

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    1. I'm glad to hear that re: Garrett. I'd hate to discover he was a dick.

      That's really cool you got to meet them and interact with them like that.

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  3. My personal history goes like this: when the show premiered, the town I live in did not have a UPN affiliate. Hence, I had no ability to watch the show. This was at the height of my fandom for Trek, so it drove me a little insane for there to be AN ENTIRE SERIES that I could not watch. I would see the occasional episode when I was out of town and happened to be near a tv showing it; but this probably amounted to half a dozen episodes.

    At some point toward the end of DS9's fifth season, I lost interest in it and stopped watching, so by the time Tuscaloosa finally got a UPN affiliate, I didn't care anymore and opted to just not watch Voyager at all. (The reasons for both of those things are complicated and would interest nobody but me. Not true; they don't even interest ME very much.) The common opinion seemed to be that I'd made the wrong choice regarding DS9, but the right choice big-time regarding Voyager.

    So, a few years back, when I decided to run through every episode of every Trek series in preparation for the J.J. Abrams movie, I had really low expectations going into Voyager.

    Imagine my surprise, then, when I enjoyed the hell out of it. It's my third-favorite of the series, in fact. There are some really bad episodes -- including the unfortunate series finale -- and the execution never lived up to the concept, but overall, I really dug it.

    Favorite character? Easily Janeway. Picard will always be my favorite captain, but Janeway is a close second. This was not changed one iota by seeing Kate Mulgrew speak at a convention. Not true; she was so awesome, it nearly put Janeway over the top into first place.

    I also love The Doctor, of course. And, unexpectedly, Seven Of Nine. I expected to hate her, because she'd always struck me as being such blatant eye-candy pandering. And she IS that, but that's not all she is. I found myself getting over that fairly quickly and instead just enjoying Jeri Ryan's performance.

    And then there's also that awesome opening theme music by Jerry Goldsmith! That might be the single best theme for any of the shows.

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    1. Very glad to hear there's a fellow Janeway fan out there. I really grew to admire the way she handled things as I watched the show. I seriously have to sit down and watch this whole series. But, I like to keep some Trek for the proverbial rainy day, and as always there's a thousand other things to get to. I hold out some hope that Baby Evelyn will take to the show, and we can maybe watch it together. (That might drive her Mom insane, though, so let's keep that one quiet...)

      Jeri Ryan is perhaps the only statuesque blond bombshell I feel kind of bad for. That's probably not true; I can think of more. But she's obviously (from this show alone, but elsewhere, too) a gifted actress with real sensitivity and intelligence, and she's been dragged through the mud with the whole Governor Ryan fiasco, and has to constantly answer questions about her physique, as well. I was reading that she only started attending conventions once security could be provided, since she had stalkers.

      Why are people such dicks? The eternal question.

      Anyway! I like the cast a lot.

      Am I correct in inferring if Janeway is your second favorite and Picard your first that Kirk is third? Or is it possible your list has him even lower than third? (insert "KHAAAAN" clip here...)

      Reading about how Tuscaloosa didn't have a UPN affiliate reminds me how hard these things are to truly explain to the younger generation(s.)

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    2. No, you've sussed out my ranking correctly: Kirk is in fact third. And don't get me wrong; I love Kirk. I just think I probably love Picard and Janeway a bit more. That might or might not change depending on what Chris Pine continues to do with the role (although part of wonders if his version of Kirk shouldn't be counted separately, since he is -- technically -- a different person). I'm undecided on where to rank the other two, although I would tentatively put Sisko at the bottom. Which is not to say I dislike Sisko; far from it.

      Regarding Jeri Ryan: your post was actually the first I had ever heard of her being involved in a big-time political scandal. I knew she had had to hire private security because of stalkers, but I assumed that was strictly related to perverted Trekkies. In any case, yeah, I agree: it's a shame. She's a good actor, and seems really cool as well. She probably deserved a much better career than she has had.

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    3. That scandal was a huge deal round these parts; it's difficult to gauge how much press it received elsewhere.

      For what it's worth, I consider the two Kirks (or three or four, if we want to include the New Voyages/ Phase II guys) as wholly separate Captains.

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  4. It just hit me what I found off-putting about Voyager, triggered by the notion of it not making the best use of its concept. That's the thing - it didn't do anything at all with the concept. Lost on the other side of the galaxy, the space they moved through was pretty much exactly the same as the space moved through by any other Trek series. Nothing distinguished it. You could have transplanted almost everything from Voyager to any other Trek show, from planets to aliens to missions, and it would be the same. The only thing that Voyager had to distinguish it was the main premise, and nothing about that premise was really different in execution.

    So, yeah, they were stranded far from home. After the initial set-up, nothing about that set-up ever manifested as anything more than a veneer of self-pity parties from time to time. The other series dealt with much the same premise of the "only ship in the quadrant" having to deal with threats on its own. I mean, if you're going to make a big deal about the Voyager being so far from Fed space, why not do something to make it truly different? Maybe make space itself different, as in Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, where the laws of physics differed the further from the galactic core you went. I'll concede this aspect of the show may not be all that important to some, and is mostly there to explain why the NextGen or DS9 crew don't take care of whatever problem arises.

    Another thing that bugged me a little was that everything on the ship looked exactly like what you'd expect from a Trek ship. At first, sure, that's fine. It struck me the show may have been more interesting if the main ship wasn't a state-of-the-art Fed ship, but more of a bucket that you could see becoming more cramped and rundown as the series went along. Had they shown the Voyager starting to show true wear that couldn't be fixed except in Fed space, that might have been interesting. As it was, there wasn't anything about the appearance of the ship and its crew that lent the show a sense of urgency or inevitability.

    Kate Mulgrew I ended up liking more than I did when Voyager was on the air. When the show was first airing, I remember discussing it with friends, and my feeling was that Mulgrew always looked like she was on the verge of tears every episode or so. After a while, though, her performance grew on me, until now I like it.

    I laughed when I read about your aversion to Neelix. Initially, I hoped he would only be on the show for brief arc. Then, when the realization hit me that he was there for the long haul, I had a sinking feeling. Besides the ludicrous and grating character design, I could not shake the memory of the actor being in Benson. The performance always seemed to contain at least an echo of the dimwitted sitcom character. I'll also say that when I first saw the doctor from Enterprise, my reaction was a groaned "not another Neelix!" I never saw the use of Neelix, regardless of the fact that they cobbled together a backstory and brought him up front in the story from time to time.

    Seven of Nine I also saw referred to as Two of 36D (my guess C is more accurate, but that's neither here nor there). A fairly intriguing character, but I was so sick of the overuse of the Borg in Trek by that time that I could never muster much interest.

    Chakotay I liked, but I felt the character was gradually neutered. I wish he'd been more hard-edged, and given more to do.

    All this said, I think I should give the show another look. There was a lot about it that...well, I won't say I hated it, but it left me feeling very "meh." Maybe that would change if I took a look now.

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    1. I've still got some 70-odd episodes to watch and never feel particularly motivated to sit down and power through them, so I can relate to some extent. The episode that turned the corner for me was "Thirty Days." Once I saw that one and really liked it, I thought, oh, okay, there's something I can enjoy in this set-up. That opened up the series to me.

      Actually, the very first Voyager I saw, I think, was "Equinox pt. 1." There's a great scene in that one where the renegade Captain is holo-dreaming of life back home, and I got a real sense of anguish from it. It probably helped that I was homesick as hell and living in Dayton at the time; that brought it more immediately home to me.

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    2. I totally agree with Jeff regarding Voyager's weaknesses regarding failing to live up to its concept.

      In a better version of the show, they would have not been able to take any shortcuts back to Earth, and the series would have concluded with them all just having to make themselves okay with that. No reason why that version of the show couldn't have worked. After all, those folks got into their career for the exploration! And what an opportunity that was.

      So, yeah, I totally agree that the series failed to live up to its concept. But if you just let your eyes go cross and ignore that fact, there's still some enjoyment to be had.

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  5. I probably lean more towards Jeff in my feelings about Voyager(echoed also by my significant other). I found the cast likeable but it always seemed to me like they were unsure where they were going with the characters. Chakotay was a cardboard cutout, IMO, and I really feel that there was so much they could have done with that character (whether it was a failure of the actor or the writing is unclear to me). The only characters that I really felt were solid to me were Paris, the Doctor, Torres and later, Seven of Nine (yeah, I expected to dislike her as well but was pleasantly surprised). I feel that the actress had a good way of rising above the material given to her as I also agree that the Borg were just pathetic in Voyager [overused, neutered (and Species 8472 annoyed the crap out of me. Always struck me as more of a "ooooooh, we're edgy, we're making a villain that is scarier than the Borg!), etc]. I gave up on Voyager initially when the only characters that I felt had great potential (and I liked where they were going with them) were killed off IN THE SAME episode!!!!!!!!! Anyways, much more I could say. Don't really disagree with what you have but Voyager left me flat. Came back to it later and it felt much the same, so I just couldn't stick it out. Unlike Enterprise, where I came back to it and really found it hit its stride in the last season-and-a-half.

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    1. Which 2 killed-off characters are you referring to?

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    2. One more thing: I understand what you mean about Species 8472. It's the whole "beat up Worf" trope. It's a shortcut to making them badass, a show-don't-tell moment. (i.e. "How do we get across the threat this race poses? I KNOW - LET'S HAVE THEM BEAT UP WORF.") I've probably mentioned this more than once before; I'm terrific at repeating myself.

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    3. Repeat away -- it's a very valid point.

      I thought the best villains on Voyager were the aliens who stole body parts all the time. Those dudes were creepy and gross in a way that Star Trek typically isn't. Sadly, they went away pretty quickly.

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  6. I understand and sympathize to a certain extent with Borg fatigue. Voyager takes the cake with this particular Trek phenom with 15 or 16 episodes (Borg appearances, here, defined as non-Seven, as obviously that would skew the count somewhat.) I've always felt there's a misperception about their "overuse" in TNG; I mean, they appear in 6 episodes (and 1 movie, sure.) that's a meager 3% of episodes that feature the Borg.

    I started thinking this a few years back when someone somewhere (I think it was at the soccer pub, of all places) was complaining about the Borg two-parter that ends season 6/ begins season 7 of TNG. "SIGH. The Borg? AGAIN?" Dude! The Borg are cool, what do you want? I prefer Borg storylines to Klingon ones, if the truth be told. (I have a distaste for alien culture episodes that resemble Old Earth tribal conflicts. Far be it from me to criticize Ronald Moore, the go-to guy for all things Klingon on TNG, and I love a lot of Klingon episodes. But whenever an alien race starts to get into civil wars, why is there always a royal bloodline? Or a chosen one/ prophet, etc.? Anyway. I'll save that for my TNG write-ups.) And definitely to Cardassian/ Bajoran/ Dominion episodes. But, that's just me.

    I understand these Voyager reservations you mention, and it's odd that we see things like the Delphic Expanse in Enterprise, where timespace goes all screwy and normal readings can't be trusted, and that's so close to home, yet 70,000 light years away, like you say, things are more or less as familiar as anything else in Trek. Ah well.

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    1. I did think the Borg were overused in TNG, despite how few episodes devoted to them in that series, for one specific episode: I, Borg. As soon as they started to humanize them, I'd had enough. They were much better as inscrutable, implacable opponents. But, as in most things Trek, they had to be detailed to a degree that stole their mystique. They became the zombies of the Trek milieu.

      As for the Klingons, yeah, I feel you on that whole tribal rivalry and royal line stuff. That's my beef with them, too. Well, one of my beefs. As we've discussed before, my biggest beef with Klingons is what you mention with Worf - Klingons are the paper tigers of the Trek universe. For a species and culture so based on warriors, they seem pretty ineffectual in combat. They're "all Wrestlemania all the time," as you've characterized them, and that seems doubly true when you think about it more - their fighting ability seems about as effective and punishing as pro wrestling. They should all stride into battle in tights and a cape. Make them more like TOS Klingons, more like Kang than Gowron, and I'm on board with more Klingon stories.

      Plus, they focused way too much on Gowron. Not only did I find the character boring, but the way they did the make-up on the actor made him appear popeyed to me, almost like Marty Feldman without the wandering eye. This isn't a commentary on the actor's physical appearance, which would be lame, but on the character and make-up design. It was very distracting.

      I did like how Voyager essentially tied up the series as well as the Borg.

      I actually kind of liked Species 8472, except for how they were not only immune to the Borg, but tough as hell to everyone else. Why not make them impervious the Borg, but not all-'round badasses? Sort of the mongoose to the Borg's cobra (or the weasel and the basilisk); the mongoose couldn't do too well against, say, a dog, let alone a lion or some such.

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    2. Oh, and while I'm thinking about it...it seemed bizarre to me that they created yet more hostile aliens who were at least as advanced as the Federation, and more so in some instances. Did we really need the Cardassians and the Dominion, when the Romulans had been so underutilized?

      And if we had to have the Cardassians, could they have been more distinct? They seemed like a mash-up of Klingons and Romulans. Why not just use those races instead?

      The Dominion was a big yawn for me, too. That's saying something, since on paper Odo's species seemed really interesting.

      And how is it that the Cardassians and the Dominion were so powerful, with tough ships and vigorous warrior cultures bent on expansionism, yet they somehow escaped our notice until DS9?

      Even more grating were the Bajorans. They were yet another funny-nosed alien species, the kind that would be the basis of an episode about some ethical dilemma, but became a major Trek series fixture. The worst part is they were about as bland as you get on Trek. And they had a leader so oily and unlikable that I wished they'd chucked her out an airlock.

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    3. You just nailed most of my problems with DS9.

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  7. While I do have sentimental feelings toward "Voyager" and agree there were some truly outstanding episodes ("Timeless", "Year of Hell", ect.) I sadly have to agree with the majority of fans that "Voyager" (particularly the later seasons) and especially "Enterprise" contributed to the general decline of Trek on TV, where too much emphasis was placed on the forehead alien of week and chicks strutting around in tight catsuits.

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    1. I like both shows, but I don't think there's any doubt that you're correct that both contributed mightily to Trek fatigue. There's a huge amount of sameness to them all, both thematically and visually. Even DS9, which had some major differences, FELT basically the same. The frequent flatness of the lighting, the musical approach, the impossible task of trying to make aliens that looked distinct from one another.

      Whenever the next series happens, I hope that the producers will take advantage of how much more cinematic television can look these days, and go for an approach that is more interesting visually. And maybe a bit more challenging thematically, too. I love all of the post-TNG series to one degree or another, but they all felt a bit on the safe side.

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    2. That's pretty much it, isn't it? That sameness. Once the visual and sound design of the franchise solidified around TNG season 4, a similar streamlining process happened with the stories and character arcs and themes. I give Enterprise a lot of credit for breaking out of the box, visuals-wise, but they didn't blow out and head to any new conceptual hills, unfortunately.

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  8. Yeah, I think you guys have hit it on the head: there were so many episodes of "Voyager" and "Enterprise" where all you basically had to do was change a few lines of dialogue and they become TNG episodes. I have to give DS9 a lot of credit for at least trying something different (rather than "Wagon Train" to the stars it was "Gunsmoke" in space, with the station playing the role of Dodge City),but even that show bowed to peer pressure by bringing in the USS Defiant as the setting for several episodes. As good as some individual episodes of virtually all the spinoff shows could be, it was blatantly apparent that none of them could hold a candle to the trailblazing creativity of TOS.

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  9. Bryan, the two characters that Vandi and I enjoyed that we really thought had potential were the Cardassian infiltrator (a nice female villain, although she was used poorly in a few episodes) and the serial killer character (now THERE was a great idea totally underused - how do you incarcerate a character that far from home/what do you do with him? So much wasted potential).

    As for DS9, I think the Cardassian angle is wonderful and I heartily disagree that they're a mash-up of Romulans and Klingons. And the Bajorans are much, much more than funny-nosed aliens in my book. But Vandi and I will hit on why they work for us when we write the DS9 stuff.

    BRAD

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