A Briefing With Caillan

By Caillan Davenport
Posted at November 9, 2000 - 2:22 PM GMT

One of the most exciting things about the Internet is the exchange of ideas. Thanks to websites, Usenet, Bulletin Boards and e-mail, the Internet is a truly interactive experience. You can read an article, send feedback to the writer, and then discuss it with others - after all, everyone has an opinion. So in this "Special Two-Part Event Edition" of this column (spot the marketing straight from UPN), I'll be looking at different attitudes, perceptions and views of Voyager that can be found on the Internet. This week I'll be looking at "The Critics."

I wandered along to Myrkr the other day to take a look at their redesigned site. Aesthetics aside, I was intrigued by an article entitled "Keep 'em coming back for more." Within ten seconds of the page loading, I was confronted by an emotionally scarring image of the USS Voyager from "Year of Hell." (The scene where half a deck goes up in flames...the horror of it all.) This tragic photograph bore the heart-warming caption: "Unfortunately, this didn't actually happen to the U.S.S. Voyager. Darn." Call it a hunch, but I knew that I wasn't going to like this article very much.

As I read on through this editorial from the pen of Sam Wiley, I found glowing praise of my other favourite science fiction series, "Babylon 5," but rather less enthusiastic comments about Voyager. (I'm unashamedly pro-Voyager, if you hadn't quite caught that yet.) I needed extra quantities of Janeway-strength coffee to get me through phrases such as "It's just a collection of mediocre stories," and "no core, no essence." By the end, I had to use my B'Elanna Torres-patented "Repair all the damage before the next episode kit" [TM] to repair the holes my eyes had burnt into the monitor. That's certainly one perception at work. (And I don't recommend getting that kit, by the way - it may work on the show, but I have horrible blotches on my monitor.)

Next stop on my tour was the world-renowned Cynics Corner. Whilst some of you are probably wondering how I made it out of there alive, I had a hilarious time, as usual, indulging myself in "The Cynics Corner Preview of the Seventh Season." (For those of you are wondering, I don't live in the US, and so season seven is a long way off for me.) Although The Cynic is never exactly complimentary of the series, I do find his reviews absolutely hilarious, probably because I collapse in guffaws before I have time to take offence.

Needing a little Voyager enthusiasm, I headed off to Delta Blues, where Jim Wright pens his infamous "Wright-Up" reviews. (On a side note here, I nearly caused another foreigner like myself to have a cardiac arrest when I revealed that I didn't read his lengthy transcripts the minute they were posted. "But why not?" they cried, obviously aghast that I hadn't lived up to my status as a card-carrying Voyager uber-fan. Simply put, I'd prefer to see the episodes without knowing every line in advance. Hopefully those of you who use spoilers as food-substitute can understand this.) Preferring not to spoil myself silly, I headed for a review of an episode that I myself had recently seen - "Spirit Folk."

While I don't think that this episode will be winning awards anytime soon, I don't think it was as dreadful as many people make out. (I still get that little voice in my head saying - "It's BAD, Caillan.") Call it a guilty pleasure - I had a good laugh watching the offering, despite its inherent and obvious silliness. One of Wright's comments particularly stood out: "I do like Trek when it (insert appropriately reverent music here) Means Something. I don't expect that every week, though. Sometimes a show has to be given the freedom to not take itself so seriously." I couldn't agree more. "Spirit Folk" every week equals very bad news. "Spirit Folk" once a series, not too bad. After all, "Deep Space Nine" had "Profit and Lace" and I'm still getting over those particular nightmares.

Anyway, after this obligatory detour to the world where Voyager is actually a good show, I headed off towards Fandom's Star Trek Central. (Another aside: why are Trek columnists falling over themselves to mention "Andromeda" in their editorials? Oops, I just did. From the Creators of the Trek Nation: Slipstream Web: Charting yet another Frontier. [/end Boss-induced propaganda]) Whilst wandering through the site, I happened upon the first edition of "Subspace Echoes," by staff writer Ariel. She immediately endeared herself to me by stating that she wanted Janeway to die a slow and painful death - in her first sentence, no less. Later bon mots such as "pathetic series" did nothing to increase my love for this column. Sometimes I wonder who is watching Voyager with their eyes closed - the hear-no-wrong fans or the see-no-right critics.

Here we come to the crux of the issue: Voyager has always been a series highlighted by contentious debate. I've often thought that the "everyone is entitled to their own opinion" conclusion was a bit of a cop-out in terms of argumentative writing, so here we have it. Voyager is a fitting addition to the Trek canon, and a damn good series in its own right. Yet after journeying along the endless river of negativity, one can't help but feel like jumping ship. There are so many negative comments out there that it's possible to feel disheartened and overwhelmed. My advice to Voyager fans: don't give up. Stand up for what you think, and no matter how many people may disagree with you, continue to fight the good fight. However, stand back a bit on occasion and reflect on the show - look at what works and what doesn't. You'd be doing the show a disservice if you didn't.

And to the other side of the coin - Voyager isn't a perfect. It has significant flaws - I, for one, felt that much of Season Six was lacklustre - I think that the show went through a golden age in Seasons Three and Four. But sometimes that's the way the cookie crumbles. My plea here: don't always dismiss episodes out of hand - look for the little details, the little nods to continuity and characterisation that only the fans seem to see.

In order to further this investigation, in part two I'll be examining posts made on several prominent Trek bulletin boards, and looking a little deeper at attitudes towards Voyager. I think it'll be interesting to see how both "sides" express themselves.

For now though, I'll leave you with a thought from "Cureboy," a poster at the Trek BBS - "Ever get the feeling that Voyager just can't win?"

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Caillan Davenport is moderator of the TrekBBS General Sci-Fi forum and is editor of the J-Team newsletter.

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.