A Briefing With Caillan: Perceptions, Part Two
By Caillan Davenport
Posted at December 9, 2000 - 10:36 PM GMT
[Note: This article was published in cooperation with Voyager Extreme.]
Whilst glancing over a few recent Trek Today headlines, I came across several rumoured episode titles for Voyager's latest season. Not wanting to loose my spoiler-free virginity, I didn't click the links, but the very titles gave me pause. "Shattered," "Prophecy," "Repentance" ?? Either there's some serious angst on the good ship Voyager, or they've hired J. Michael Straczynski to write the rest of the season. Whatever the real reason for these rather foreboding episode titles, you can guess that someone won't be happy about it.
The first instalment of this article ended on a favourite comment of mine - "Ever get the feeling that Voyager just can't win?" I'd wager that many fans of the show would echo that sentiment many times over. Let's take a look at what people out there on the net are saying about Voyager.
"RAMA," a poster at TrekWeb and The Trek BBS, feels that Voyager is often inconsistent, but recognises a stand-out episode when it comes along. This is what "RAMA" had to say about the series:
"When working with superior material, the show can go far past the warmed over "message" episodes that are mainly retreads of better TNG episodes. If the new series can be this daring, it will be better than any Trek."
A comment such a this recognises the faults of the series, but also acknowledges its high points. Often, however, this is swept aside in favour of snide comments without any supporting argument. One Internet denizen even went so far as to call Janeway a "raving drooling lunatic." It's no surprise, therefore, that they chose not be named in this article. Here we have two very different perceptions of Voyager, both critical, but the former is delivered with tact and respect. There is so much negativity on the Internet towards the show, but there is something to be said for the method of delivery.
Even one self-confessed "die-hard Voyager basher," Geoff Heald (better known at Section 31 as "spyone") said of "Critical Care" :
"There was nothing really wrong with this episode. I mean, I might be able to pick at some parts 'till they came unglued, but why bother? This episode had a decent story, was decently written, and was well acted. No huge glaring mistakes. No "why the hell do I watch this show?" moments. If all Voyager shows were as good as this one (or better), I for one would shut up."
Geoff makes a good point here - if Voyager lived up to expectations, there would be no need to pull it apart as much. But what are those expectations? Who has the lower expectations: the fans who love the show, or the critics have because they have lost faith in it? I hate to draw "Us vs Them" lines, but unfortunately, the Internet has a clear delineation between those who like the show, and those who don't. There is a group in the middle who move from side to side, but more often than not, it becomes an "Us vs Them" battle. It's sad that when we all do appreciate an episode, it's difficult to find a common ground.
Patrick Dodds, another poster from The Trek BBS, sums up his feelings on Voyager in this way:
"Sadly, Voyager IS the underachieving bright kid, who could have a great future if he'd just apply himself, but rarely does. One feels bad about ragging on him because he's just so likeable. That in many ways is how I feel about the show."
So, is Voyager likeable but mediocre? I have difficulty reconciling those two conflicting viewpoints; I don't generally tend to like things that are mediocre. But is Patrick on to something else here? He seems to give credit for the show's "heart," but not it's overall quality. This leaves us with Voyager as "lightweight" Trek - watchable, even likeable, but without looking at the deeper issues.
Again, this view misses the point slightly. Voyager does tackle the deeper issues - "Remember," "Living Witness" and "Latent Image" all spring to mind. Indeed, Voyager's standalone format lends itself extremely well to allegorical issues in the style of the original Star Trek. However, if I were to sum up the theme of the above comments I would have to use the word "inconsistent." Is this the word that epitomises Voyager as a series? Maybe.
I say this because there are plenty of critics and fans alike who don't think the quality of the show changes very much from season to season. A little deviation, perhaps, but not enough to make a difference. However, the dominant Internet view on Voyager is that it's simply not very good. Perhaps that's why it's so difficult to be a Voyager fan on the Internet - there is such a wave of negativity against the show, in snide comments, off-the-cuff remarks (and I'm not talking criticism here), that one can't help feel deviant: "other."
Are we all living out episodes of the series "Voyager Can't Win," as so aptly put by "Cureboy," another Trek BBS poster? I think the real problem a lot of the time is the mud-slinging that surrounds the series, such as the recent Beltran fiasco, and previously, the departure of Ron Moore. Personally, I try not to let that affect my judgement on the show itself, because that's what we should be looking at, not the Hollywood hoopla that accompanies it.
I appreciate that there are two ends of the spectrum, but sometimes it's good to know that a show as oft-reviled as Voyager can have some inspirational effects. I'd like to end on a quote from "Sister Casual" of The J-Team:
"Captain Kathryn Janeway exists now. I see her in the hallway where I work everyday. I brainstorm with her in the conference room ("Parallax"). I share a laugh with her in the cafeteria ("The Cloud"). I agonise with her over personnel in the office ("Good Shepherd"). I admire her when she makes the hard decisions, because I know she'll make them, no matter how difficult. She is all those wonderful working women out there in the world today.
I am Captain Kathryn Janeway. This is my show. This is my voice."
Voyager fans stand tall - there is a niche for you on the Internet, but you have to create it. Sensitivity, respect, and understanding will go a long way towards smoothing over the fan rivalries we have today. Sometimes we all need to remember that it's just a television show.
Starting in a couple of weeks, you will be able to find his 'A Briefing With Caillan' column series in our columns section. These columns are published in cooperation with Voyager Extreme>.
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