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:
|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.)
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. "
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.|
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.|
My Favorite Voyagers