Voyager In ReviewBy Fred Shedian
Posted at December 17, 1999 - 6:00 AM GMT
For those who believed I had fallen off the face of this planet we call Earth or built a time machine and moved to the future I am pleased to say none of those happened. However, during the last month my schedule has been filled with an automobile crash, the visiting of relatives, a busy work schedule and the observance of several interesting developments with Voyager. Therefor, in an effort to get back on track, I present this week's column.
Weeks ago, I talked about my hopes for this upcoming season of Voyager. In this column I stated that I believed without returning to the core values of Star Trek, the show would be doomed to have another poor year. Surprisingly, the excellent story telling we saw in the beginning of the season has more or less been maintained thus far. For those who are now fainting saying "Fred Shedian is actually saying something good about Voyager...twice in six months?" let me say this...you are right...I am.
To start, the episode "Survival Instinct" dealt with an interesting facet of Seven of Nine. Although on the surface this appeared to be another Borg/Seven episode, it actually became a story about three individuals who only wanted what all of us have...individuality. The acting by Vaughn Armstrong (2/9), Bertila Damas (3/9) and Tim Kelleher (4/9) were some of the best I have seen in a very long time. The desperation and desire they portrayed made the episode a quality one...an excellent change from the routine Borg invasions we saw in the fifth season.
Episode # 222, otherwise known as "Barge of the Dead" was an excellent character development story. We were able to see another side of Tores, the fight within her. This story did not involve Paris or a romance...but loyalty and family. In addition, our knowledge about Klingon beliefs was fascinating to say the least. Although it may not rank as one of the top three episodes for this season, is certainly a quality one.
"Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy" has to be one of the funniest episodes I have seen in a very long time. The development of Bob Picardo's character truly showed what a talented actor he is. While the Doctor grew as an individual, the crew grew in their acceptance of him as more than just a holographic projection with limitations. These types of episodes are Star Trek at it's best. I cannot wait for a followup to this excellent adventure....as I simply can't get enough of the "popping up pips."
The episode titled "Dragon's Teeth" was excellent...that is for everything except the ending. The development of this new enemy was done in such a unique way I honestly didn't know who were the good guys or the bad guys until the very end. Regretfully, the loss of two minutes to commercials made an impact on this adventure...ending very prematurely. This type of episode could have easily been made into a two part story...something I think would have given it more justice.
The Tom Paris centered episode "Alice" was....interesting? I must say that this is one of my least favorite episodes so far this season. The confusing plot and somewhat corny dialogue between Paris and the shuttle simply stretched the believability factor. The plot was plausible, but simply not applied as it should have been. Although I believe a character development episode for Paris by himself is needed, similar to "Barge of the Dead" for Tores, this simply was not it. With luck, the writers will try again later on in the season.
"Riddles" was the Tuvok episode I have been waiting to see since we last saw Captain Sulu. The excellent acting in this show has to make it one of the best character developing thus far. The insight into how a Vulcan would act if he was not logical has not been done successfully since the Naked Time several decades ago. With luck, the writers will attempt to come back to this episode...as I would love to see what else this Vulcan could do in the kitchen.
One episode I am sure will be remembered this season is "One small step." To say this tribute to many of this planet's space heroes was anything but moving would be a lie. Although I believe they could have/should have used someone else instead of Seven as a main character, the episode was handled with the proper grace, dignity and style we have come to expect from Star Trek. I tip my hat to Mike Wollaeger, Jessica Scott, Bryan Fuller and Michael Taylor for creating a very moving story.
"The Voyager Conspiracy" is an episode I would classify as "shoving Seven down our throats." This story would have fit better with either the Doctor or Data playing the confused individual. Jeri Ryan's acting here was good, however I simply do not believe the story led itself in the direction which was chosen. Overall this weak episode may prove to be one of the worst for the season...although the catapult was neat looking.
Finally we arrive at what will probably be another one of the top three episodes of the season, "Pathfinder." On the surface this appeared to be another attempt to raise ratings, however turned into anything but. For the first time, we were able to see Starfleet's attempts to contact Voyager. Back on Earth, we quickly learned that several attempts had failed. We also had our first look at the postwar Federation. The adventure brought us back to meet an old friend, Barclay. This is a character I have to say almost anyone on the planet can relate to in one way or another. His discussion about "feeling at home on the Enterprise" brought a tear to my eye, with me realizing how much I actually miss "those good old days aboard the 1701-D." Troi's addition to the episode was an added bonus, helping regenerate the familiar camaraderie we found whenever Barclay was seen. In the end, I must say I was pleased to see contact established with Starfleet. With an opened ended plot like this, I must ask....have we seen the end of Mr. Barclay or will he actually end up being the person who brings Voyager home? Before you laugh...did you actually think Rom would become Grand Nagus?
Another, shall I say fascinating, Star Trek event was "Ultimate Trek: Star Trek's Greatest Moments." I must ask...what in heaven's name were the folks at Paramount on when this concept was approved? There is no major anniversary in progress, no need for such a program. Beyond a completely pointless script, and the fact the bridge of Voyager was apparently the same bridge Kirk used (as seen in the very end), the only descent item I saw throughout the entire event was the tribute to DeForest Kelly. Attempts like this to generate ratings and income for the Star Trek franchise will be the show's undoing...something Paramount and Berman apparently have yet to figure out. With any luck, the next special was see will be to celebrate forty years of Star Trek...not Jason Alexander's futile attempt to fulfill a childhood dream.
So, after several weeks off, there you have it. My opinions about the Voyager season are still positive thus far, an event in of itself. I can only hope that episodes coming in the near future will be of the same caliber as those we have already seen. With the vast majority of the episodes keeping away from an armed conflict with "some" alien, I am happy to see the return of the central goal of Star Trek....hope. "Pathfinder" and "One small step" by themselves provide this.
Are we seeing the revitalization of the Star Trek franchise? Has Fred Shedian gone mad? Ask me in three months. On another note, this will be my final scheduled column for the remainder of this year. I currently do not foresee the time to write up another before the end of this decade. As such, I wish you and your families a very happy and safe holiday season and new year. With any luck, Y2K will have only been a passing fad....and if not...there goes the neighborhood.
I look forward to seeing you all next year. Until then....
Fred Shedian writes a weekly 'A Take On Trek' column for the Trek Nation.